Tag Archives: Iran

It’s Curtains for US in Syria: Russia, Iran Owe Big Thanks to Erdogan

The scenario agreed on behind the curtains through months of confidential exchanges, often one-on-one, between the Russian and Turkish leaders regarding north-eastern Syria is entering a critical phase of implementation on the ground with the agreement between the Kurds and the Assad regime.

We have a complex scenario where on the one hand the Turkish army and the Syrian opposition units loyal to Ankara are relentlessly continuing their southward offensive expanding control over Syria’s border regions populated by the Kurds. According to Turkish President Recep Erdogan, 1000 sq.kms. of territory previously under Kurdish control have been “liberated.”

On the other hand, following up on the agreement with the Kurds, the first columns of Syrian government forces have moved into the north of the country toward the Turkish border.

Prima facie, Damascus is challenging the Turkish offensive — as it should — and, in principle, a confrontation can ensue. But things are never really quite what they appear on the surface in Syria.

A clash between the Turkish and Syrian forces is simply out of the question. That is not how the game is being played. A Turkish Defence Ministry statement on Monday disclosed that the military chief Gen. Yasar Guler and his Russian counterpart Gen. Valery Gerasimov were in contact on the phone and discussed the “security situation in Syria and recent developments.”

No further details have been divulged but the picture that emerges is that Russia proposed and Turkey agreed that Russian units will be patrolling between Turkish and Syrian forces in northern Syria after the withdrawal of the US troops from the area.

Accordingly, Moscow’s Defense Ministry has revealed that its military police in the Kurdish town of Manbij have begun patrolling along the Syria-Turkey border and interacting with Turkish authorities. Russian troops entered Manbij town with the Syrian government forces on Monday.

More importantly, through Russian mediation, Ankara and Damascus will prefer to agree on dividing the zones of control in northern Syria. That is to say, things are broadly moving in the direction of what the Adana Agreement of 1998 (over the Kurdish question) between Turkey and Syria had envisaged, namely, that the security of the Syrian-Turkish border will be a bilateral affair between Ankara and Damascus.

In the given situation, Turkey’s imperative need is to prevent a contiguous “Kurdistan” emerging on its borders. The so-called “safe zone” aimed at frustrating the US plans to create a Kurdistan in Syria akin to what it succeeded in creating in Iraq in the Saddam Hussein era.

Arguably, there could be congruence of interests between Ankara and Damascus on this score. (Tehran too has common interests with its two neighbours in this regard.)

Indeed, for Damascus all this is a bonanza insofar as the “deliberate withdrawal” (as Pentagon put it), or, more accurately, the inevitable eviction of the US troops in the northern regions of Syria triggered by the Turkish incursion, enables it to reoccupy parts of the northeast regions, especially those parts that are well-endowed with water resources and hydrocarbon reserves, which the American military had designated as its exclusive zone.

For President Bashar al-Assad, this is a great leap forward in the fulfilment of his pledge to reclaim control of entire Syria. (See the Euronews commentary Damascus is looking stronger than ever’: What next for Syria as Kurds join forces with Assad?)

As for the Kurds, they have nowhere to go but to settle with Damascus. They are simply no match for the highly professional Turkish army.

Clearly, the Turkish incursion and impending offensive against Kurds has made continued American military presence in northern Syria untenable and Russia has leveraged the situation to bring about the agreement between Kurds and Damascus.

Having succeeded in this endeavour, Russians have taken Turks into confidence. Unsurprisingly, President Recep Erdogan is nonchalant about the agreement between the Kurds and Damascus and has shrugged off the Syrian troop movements close to Turkey’s borders. He evasively referred to Vladimir Putin’s assurances.

In the final analysis, the Americans are paying a heavy price for being clever by half — stringing Turkey along in the recent years while methodically consolidating the ground for the creation of an autonomous Kurdistan on its borders, apart from arming and training the Kurdish militia to shape up as a regular army.

Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring in Northern Syria has reportedly advanced to a 1000 square kilometers area

Erdogan gave a long rope to the Americans to hang themselves, literally. When he struck, the contradictions in the US policy got exposed overnight — the game plan to balkanise Syria and overthrow Assad; the Faustian deal with a terrorist group that has been bleeding a NATO ally; and the geopolitical agenda to sever Iran’s axis with Syria and the Levant.

Suffice to say, with the eviction of the US forces from northern Syria, the Turks have achieved something that Russia and Iran (and Damascus) all along wished for but couldn’t attain. From this point onward, Russia and Iran will prevail upon Ankara to reconcile with Damascus.

The US has belatedly understood that Turkey has summarily terminated its 8-year old intervention in Syria to overthrow the Assad regime. The vitriolic reaction by Trump and US defence Secretary Mark Esper (here and here) is self-evident.

But the threat of US sanctions will not deter Erdogan, as the spectre of Kurdistan on its borders threatened Turkey’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and there is no scope for compromise when national security is under threat. By the way, the Turkish domestic opinion is overwhelmingly supportive of Erdogan.

Turkey was uncharacteristically patient with the US, hoping that the latter would give up the nexus with YPG (Kurdish militia) once the fight against ISIS got over. It is not Trump so much as the Pentagon that is responsible for the breakdown in trust between Turkey and the US. Like on most foreign policy issues, Washington had two policies on Syria — Trump’s and the US security and defence establishment’s.

The US has no locus standii under international law to keep a permanent military presence in Syria and when Trump first announced the troop withdrawal, it should have been implemented. But, instead, the Pentagon undercut Trump’s decision, whittled it down and finally ignored it altogether.

Erdogan knows that the US will huff and puff but will get used to the “new normal” in Syria. Europe won’t have an alibi either, as Russians will never allow ISIS to surge in Syria. Trump is reportedly deputing VP Mike Pence to travel to Turkey to seek a “negotiated settlement” — whatever that may mean in tackling the fait accompli that Erdogan has created.

At UN Session, US Empire In Decline And Global Solidarity On The Rise

As the United Nations General Assembly conducts its fall session, Popular Resistance is in New York City for the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet. Themes of the mobilization are connecting militarism and climate change and raising awareness that the United States regularly violates international laws, including the United Nations Charter. These laws are designed to facilitate peaceful relationships between countries and prevent abuses of human rights. It is time that the US be held accountable.

The People’s Mobilization arose out of the Embassy Protection Collective after the US government raided the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC last May in blatant violation of the Vienna Convention to install a failed coup and arrested Embassy Protectors even though they were in the embassy with the permission of the elected government of Venezuela. This was an escalation of US regime change efforts – the coup failed in Venezuela but the US recognized the coup leader and started turning Venezuela’s assets over to him anyway. Members of the Collective sought to bring the message that it is dangerous for the world and a threat to the future of all of us if the US continues on its lawless path.

Join the Embassy Protection Defense Committee to organize around the federal prosecution of the final four Embassy Protectors and donate to their legal defense. Take action here.

We participated in the Climate Strike on Friday where our messages about the impact of US militarism on climate were well-received. On Sunday, we held a rally in Herald Square and on Monday, we held a public event: “A Path to International Peace: Realizing the Vision of the United Nations Charter.” We need to build an international people’s movement that complements work the Non-Aligned Movement and others are doing to bring countries together that are dedicated to upholding international law and take action together to address global crises.

In front of the United Nations after the rally and march with our message (By Yuka Azuma).

The US Military is a Great Threat to our Future

We wrote about the connections between militarism and the climate crisis in our newsletter a few weeks ago so we won’t go too deeply into those details here. The US military is the largest single user of fossil fuels and creator of greenhouse gases on the planet.

It also leaves behind toxic pollution from burn pits and weapons such as depleted uranium (DU). The use of DU violates international law, including the Biological Weapons Convention. As described in David Swanson’s article about a new study, which documents the horrific impact of DU on newborns in Iraq, “…every round of DU ammunition leaves a residue of DU dust on everything it hits, contaminating the surrounding area with toxic waste that has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, the age of our solar system, and turns every battlefield and firing range into a toxic waste site that poisons everyone in such areas.”

The US military poisons the air, land, and water at home too. Pat Elder, also with World Beyond War, has been writing, speaking and organizing to raise awareness of the use of Per and Poly Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) by the military across the US and the deadly effects it has. Elder states that the military claims to have “sovereign immunity” from environmental laws. In other words, the US military can poison whomever and wherever it chooses without risk of legal consequences.

As scary as the climate crisis and a toxic environment are, another existential threat is a nuclear war. The US military is upgrading its nuclear weapons so it can use them. The US National Security Strategy is “Great Power Conflict” and the new National Security Adviser to Trump, taking John Bolton’s place, Robert C. O’Brien, advocates for more military spending, a larger military and holding on to US global domination. These are dangerous signs. How far is the US military willing to go as US empire clings to its declining influence in the world?

In “Iran, Hong Kong and the Desperation of a Declining US Empire,” Rainer Shea writes, “There’s a term that historians use for this reactive phase that empires go through during their final years: micro-militarism.” Alfred McCoy defines micro-militarism as “ill-advised military misadventures… [that] involve psychologically compensatory efforts to salve the sting of retreat or defeat by occupying new territories, however briefly and catastrophically.”

Micro-militarism is on display in Venezuela, where the US has been trying for two decades to overthrow the Bolivarian Process without success. It is on display in US antagonism of Iran, a country that has never attacked the US and that upheld its end of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. When the US called for countries to join its escalation of military presence in the Straits of Hormuz, there was little enthusiasm from European allies. And when the US tried to blame the attack on Saudi oil refineries on Iran, even Japan refused to go along. Now, Iran is participating in INSTEX, a mechanism for trade that bypasses institutions controlled by the US.

Micro-militarism is manifested in the US’ failed attempts to antagonize China. With KJ Noh, we wrote an Open Letter to Congress, explaining why the Hong Kong Human Rights Act must be stopped as it will further entangle the US with Hong Kong and Mainland China, providing a foundation for US regime change campaign there. As China celebrates 70 years as the Peoples Republic of China, which ended over a century of exploitation by imperialists, it is in a very strong position and indicates it has no interest in caving in to US pressure. Instead, China is building its military and global relationships to rival US hegemony.

Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese at the People’s Mobe Rally (Photo by Ellen Davidson).

Holding the US Accountable

Micro-militarism is a symptom of the ailing US empire. We are in a period where the US military and government behave in irrational ways, consuming US resources for wars and conflicts that cannot be won instead of using them to meet basic needs of people and protection of the planet. The US is blatantly violating international laws that make regime change, unilateral coercive measures (aka sanctions) and military aggression illegal.

The US is conducting economic terrorism against scores of nations through illegal unilateral coercive measures (sanctions).  In the case of Cuba, the economic blockade goes back nearly six decades since the nation overthrew a US-backed regime there. The US blockade cost Cuba $4.3 billion in 2019, and close to $1 trillion over the past six decades, taking into account depreciation of the dollar. In Iran, sanctions have existed since their independence from the Shah of Iran’s US dictatorship in 1979 and in Zimbabwe, sanctions go back to land reform that occurred at the beginning of this century. The United States is conducting ongoing regime change campaigns in multiple nations among them Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran and now Bolivia.

The US is also abusing its power as the host country of the United Nations by ordering diplomats out of the country for spurious reasons and curtailing the travel of diplomats of countries the US is targeting. This week, the US ordered two Cuban diplomats to leave the United States. The reason was vague; i.e., their “attempts to conduct influence operations against the US.” This undefined phrase could mean almost anything and puts all diplomats at risk if they speak in the US outside of the UN. We expect this is one reason diplomatic representatives from some of the countries that planned to participate in the Monday night event stayed away.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza was the first Foreign Minister to be sanctioned while he was in the United States on official business.  Arreaza was sanctioned on April 25, just after he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly as a representative of the Non-Aligned Movement denouncing the US’ attempts to remove representatives of the sovereign nation of Venezuela from the UN.

On July 30, the US imposed sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif saying he was targeted because he is a ‘key enabler of Ayatollah Khamenei’s policies.’  Does that mean the Foreign Minister was punished for representing Iran? When Zarif came to the UN for official business this July 14, the US took the unusual step of severely restricting his travel, limiting him to travel between the United Nations, the Iranian UN mission, the Iranian UN ambassador’s residence, and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Traditionally, diplomatic officials were allowed a 25-mile radius around Columbus Circle. The US said Zarif “is a mouthpiece of an autocracy that suppresses free speech” and suppressed his freedom of speech in response.

As the United States becomes more brazen and ridiculous in its attempts to stay in control, it is driving other countries to turn away from the US and organize around it. There are growing calls for the United Nations to consider leaving the US and reestablish itself in a location where the US cannot sanction people for its own political purposes. Perhaps there is a need for a new international institution that does not enable US domination.

Civil society panel at the Path to International Peace event (by Ellen Davidson).

People are Uniting For Peace, Security and Sustainable Development 

The US’ actions point to the need for peace and justice activists to build an international network to demand the upholding the rule of law. Popular Resistance and its allies are contributing to the formation of that transnational solidarity structure through the new Global Appeal for Peace.

This July, delegations from 120 countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) united to oppose US policy against Venezuela and demand an end to sanctions as part of The Caracas Declaration.  NAM was founded in 1961 and the UN General Secretary described the importance of the movement highlighting that “two-thirds of the United Nations members and 55% of the world’s population” are represented by it, making it the second-largest multinational body in the world after the UN.

From August 29 through September 6, 38 countries and hundreds of foreign and local companies participated in Syria’s 61st Damascus International Fair despite the threat of US economic sanctions against corporations and countries that participated. The Damascus International Fair is considered the Syrian economy’s window to the world, re-started in 2017 after a 5-year hiatus due to the war against Syria. Despite a NATO bombing of the Fair in 2017, people kept coming and the Fair has continued.

Countries are also working to find ways around US economic warfare by not using the US dollar or the US financial industry to conduct trade. China is challenging the US by investing $400 billion in Iran’s oil and gas industry over 25 years and has added $3 billion investment in Venezuelan oil in 2019. Russia has also allied with Venezuela providing military equipment, and porting Navy ships in Venezuela as well as providing personnel. France has called on the EU to reset its relationship with Russia, and Germany and Russia are beginning to work together to preserve the Iran nuclear agreement.

The Global Appeal for Peace is uniting people to demand of our governments in their interactions with all nations – for the sake of world peace, international security and peaceful co-existence  – to respect the principles of the United Nations Charter and to follow and defend international law. The Global Appeal urges people to immediately join this initiative and help redirect the world toward an era of global stability and cooperation.

Sign on to the Global  Appeal for Peace: Take action to tell your government to respect and uphold the United Nations Charter as a tool for maintaining peace, guaranteeing human rights and protecting the sovereignty of nations.

We seek to build a transnational movement that is multi-layered. People and organizations from civil society representing different sectors, e.g. laborers, academics, doctors, lawyers, engineers, as well as representatives of governments impacted by violations of international law by the United States, need to join together. The seeds of such a network have been planted and are sprouting. If this transnational network develops and the rule of law is strengthened internationally, we will be able to achieve the goals of peace, economic sustainability, and human rights and mitigate the impacts of a dying empire gone rogue.

Watch part of the People’s Mobe Rally here:

 Watch the People’s Mobe March here:

Watch the “Path to International Peace” here:

Houthi Attack on Saudi Oil Fields:  a False Flag?

On Saturday morning, September 14, 2019, a few drones – were they drones or long-range missiles? – hit the Saudis most important two oil fields, set them ablaze, apparently knocking out half of the Saudi crude production but measured in terms of world production it is a mere 5%. Could be made up in no time by other Gulf oil producers – or indeed, as the Saudis said, by the end of September 2019 their production is back to ‘normal’ – to pre-attack levels.

The financial reaction was immediate. Saudi stocks fell, the oil prices rose, then settled and later fell again. It was an immediate reaction of major banks’ algorithmic speculation with about 10,000 operational hits a second. A trial for larger things to come?

The Yemeni Shiites, the Houthis, immediately claimed credit for the attack, saying they sent some ten “suicide drones” to the major Saudi oilfields and processing center. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, immediately and without a shred of evidence, blamed Iran for the ‘terror attack’.  Immediately more economic sanctions were imposed on Iran (Trump proudly said, the most severe ever put on a country), for an occurrence they had nothing to do with. The Saudis, as if confused, held off on accusations. And as of this day, they refrain from accusing Iran. And this despite the fact that there is no love left between SA and Iran which would make blaming Iran an easy feat.

Also immediately following the attack, a high Iraqi Government official assured that the attack was launched from Iraqi soil, not from Yemen. But shortly thereafter Iraqi officials vehemently denied that they had anything to do with this attack. Yet, the launch location Iraq was “confirmed” by the leading Iraqi analyst based in the US, Entifadh Qanbar, President and Founder of the Future Foundation. The Asia Times says, he follows closely developments in his home country, and he has many associates feeding him with information that has proved more than once to be accurate. [Apparently], his information about the attack coming from Iraq is backed by prior history and by Pompeo’s clear declaration.

Here is the thing: Pompeo was never clear from where the attack was launched. He just blamed Iran. He then later, following Qanbar’s statement, joined the chorus, also saying the attack was launched from Iraq, that it was not originating from Yemen. Later the location was further defined as close to the Iranian border, from a “territory held by Iran sympathizing rebels”. No matter what, Iran remains the villain.

The Asia Times further reports, [It] is growing more certain that the attacks on the Khurais oil fields and the Abqaig oil processing center in Saudi Arabia were launched from southern Iraq and not from Yemen by the Houthis. This was made clear by Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who said: “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

If it all sounds like a big fabricated confusion, it’s because it is a big fabricated confusion. Iran is singled out; fingers pointing to Iran (except, miraculously those of Saudi Arabia), like a sledgehammer hitting Iran, again and again. The mainstream media loves it. Today, a week after the attack, most nobody remembers the Houthis claiming responsibility. It was Iran. Period. The media blitz won.

But let’s look at this more carefully. The Saudis have about a 70-billion-dollar annual military budget, an armada of US missile defense systems – quite a sizable budget for a country that is studded with US military bases, receives permanent US military and logistics support, technical advice and on the ground defense systems, plus bombs and missiles delivered from the US, UK and France. How come the US-UK-France backed Saudi defense was unable to detect this, albeit, sophisticated drone (missile?) attack? Some say, too sophisticated for the Houthis? Doesn’t that raise some questions?

Who wins? Yes, the table is turning and the Houthis are now on the winning side. And they clearly have taken strength. Yemen has lost tens of thousands of people, including thousands and thousands of children through bombs, famine and diarrheal diseases, including a massive cholera epidemic, in an unjust and unprovoked war that started in early 2015, carried out by Saudis as a proxy for the Washington and Pentagon handlers.

Many of the debris of weapons you find on the ground in Yemen say ‘Made in USA’ – which would lead you to conclude that America is at war with Yemen, not the Saudis. Yemen occupies a strategic geographic and geopolitical location and must not be ruled by a people-friendly government, let alone by a socialist leaning government, as the Houthis are. Besides, Yemen may have huge deep off-shore oil reserves.

Isn’t it logical that the Houthis hit back to defend themselves to eventually reach an end to the war and its indescribable atrocities? Isn’t it weird that the misery and tens of thousands of Yemeni deaths in an unjust and purely criminal aggression instigated by the US, carried out by Riyadh and lasting already for more than 4 years, that this monstrous aggression pales in the mainstream media, as compared to two blazing Saudi oil fields?  Doesn’t that say a lot about our programed-to-the-core western brains, our sense of humanity, what’s left of it?

The biggest winner may be Washington. They have a new devastating blame on Iran – more sanctions, more justification to launch a direct confrontation against Iran, possibly through Israel, or the NATO forces; the “neutral” international killing machine, an amalgam of spineless Europeans and Canada, who love to dance to the tunes of Washington, hoping to get some crumbs of the loot at the end of the day, before the empires falls.

But there is more. Almost unrelated, but if you look closer the dots click and connect. And that’s where the ‘false flag’ comes in. It is indeed very possible that the attack, by drones or missiles was launched out of Iraq – either directly by US forces, or by US-trained terrorist groups. The US has countless military bases in Iraq. A false flag; i.e., an attack at one of the major energy resources the world still uses to economically survive – hydrocarbons – will definitely enhance the planned ‘new’ economic crisis that is ‘over-due’ and has begun trickling down the melting pillars of western social infrastructure – unemployment on the rise (the real figures), to hit the western world in full swing in 2020 and counting, a financial crisis sustained by astronomical energy prices.  What better scenario to shuffle more wealth from down to up, from the poor to the rich? This attack on the Saudi oil fields may be just the beginning of more to come. Wall Street is trained in capitalizing on “crisis oil”.

In parallel with this Houthi or non-Houthi attack, according to many economists’ assessments, a crisis worse than 2008 / 2009, has indeed already been launched, as worldwide GDP growth is already slowing way beyond expectations. The year 2020 and the following years, may perhaps go down in history as the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It may also be the last one under the current western fiat money system.

But how to construct the crisis? The dollar hegemony is faltering rapidly.  Trust in the US economy is in freefall. The smart heads of neoliberal thinking, FED, IMF, ECB, are at a loss of finding the ‘right solution’, but yes, the principle of looting the poor for the benefit of the rich must go on. In the last ten years, enough hard and social capital has been accumulated – social welfare, pensions, health services, public education and infrastructure, social and physical – for the kleptocrats to shuffle some trillions upwards, and let the working class start from scratch again. The example Greece is a demonstration in a crystal ball. The IMF, ECB and European Commission (EC) are to be proud of their achievement.

There is confusion and uncertainty. The FED just lowered the interest rate by 0.25% down to a range of 1.75% – 2%, with Chairman Jerome Powell’s incoherent explanations, clearly under pressure from President Trump, who wants to be reelected next year – hoping to defer a major crisis. At the same token, the lead interest in other western countries are adjusted to reflect the FED’s decision. In Switzerland, where the Swiss Franc is one of the assets of refuge in cases of crisis, the Central Bank just decided to leave interbank rates at minus 0.75%, in line with other western central banks.  Listening to central bankers, there is not going to be any significant change in low or minus interest rates in the foreseeable future. An economic aberration if ever there was one!

People – bank on it! Borrow and invest at no cost like there is no tomorrow. Help building the bubble of debt – when it bursts, you know what happens – and burst it will. It’s just a matter of time.

Yet, there seems to be an indecision – indicating a major dollar crisis is looming, but nobody quite knows how ‘major’ and how it will pan out and where; quite unusual for these heads of wisdom, running the financial globe’s kingdom.

Madame Christine Lagarde, changing ship from the IMF to the ECB (European Central Bank), the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, and the former New York Federal Reserve Bank chiefBill Dudley, hinted that the United States might have to give up her dollar dominance, the backbone for her world hegemony – and let it be replaced by a kind of Special Drawing Rights (SDR), in which the dollar might still have a dominant role, but, albeit, it would no longer be seen as an untrustworthy fiat Ponzi scheme.

The decadent dollar would be hidden among the other currencies of the basket, presumably the British Pound, the Euro, the Japanese Yen and the Chinese Yuan if the pattern of the current IMF SDR basket was to be followed. The hegemonic power of the dollar might be hidden, so that the world’s “worries” vis-à-vis the western dollar dominated economy, could be at least partially and temporarily mitigated (see Will the IMF, Federal Reserve, Negative Interest Rates and Digital Money Kill the Western Economy?

What does all that have to do with the Yemeni attack on the Saudi oil fields? Everything.

The reduction of the Saudi crude production, cut in half, though amounting only to 5% of world production, would under normal circumstances hardly affect significantly the world petrol price  unless it becomes the subject of speculation, which it obviously will, a justified “high risk” speculation. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and others are experts in the matter, doing the bidding for the FED, IMF, ECB, BIS – the western instruments behind the dollar system – let it milk as much as it can before biting the dust, letting it shuffle as much as it can from the bottom to the top, as is usual for a manufactured economic crisis. Mind you, they ALL are, and have been, manufactured for at least the last 100 years.

While the uncertainty about (western) global interest rates prevails  a major attack on a couple of Saudi oil fields is an ideal reason for letting oil prices skyrocket. It could make for an ideal ‘false flag’; a win-win for Washington: sustaining the manufactured economic crisis with an attack on major oil fields (maybe the first of others to come) and a good new reason to blame ran, another good reason to go to war with Iran. But will the Trump Administration dare?

In today’s world, economic progress is still measured in linear GDP output which, in turn, depends largely on available (and affordable) energy. Once the hydrocarbon damage or shortage is known or predictable in terms of escalating oil prices — pundits claim it could exceed the100 dollar mark — decisions on how to deal with interest rates are much easier. Combine this with ongoing trade wars, real wars in the Middle East and elsewhere, economic strangulations left and right, regime change efforts, refugee issues, and you have the perfect scenario for the next crisis.

To this you may add the Soros-driven massive around-the-globe climate hype, but I mean a ferocious climate propaganda machine, the highly publicized “Greta Crowd”, the “Friday for Future” school strike movement, and more, much more, prompting a special UN Climate Conference – 23 September. As Carla Stea from Global Research pointedly asks: Has the UN become a Wall Street Asset?.

All of this with the specific objective of collecting enormous sums of special ‘climate taxes’, for everything that moves and that our usual climate “scientists” are connecting with global warming, or more politically correct “climate change”. There is talk about the revival of some kind of the infamous “carbon fund”. Most of day-in-day-out manipulated westerners will happily pay the extra “fee” to clear their minds of ‘guilt’ and go on with life. Never mind, that climate change is a natural phenomenon and is primarily nature-driven, as Mother Earth has done for the four billion years of her existence.

This fits well with the attacks on the Saudi oil fields – who knows, others may follow – as the destruction, or disruption of the flow of vital hydrocarbon energy resources serves the Bigger Picture; i.e., bringing about a major worldwide economic depression. And by now we know that every recession-depression brings more misery to the poor and makes the rich richer.

So, cui bono is as usual the western corporate military and financial elite. Therefore, a false flag attack on the Saudi Oil fields — of course, with the Saudis in collusion — is not as far-fetched as one might believe at first glance. Last Saturday’s attack may be just the first one of a series of misdeeds on the Middle Eastern oil industry to drive oil prices up — a solid support to the well-prepared financial crisis.

This is first-rate economic terrorism. The dollar may survive a few years longer, while the children of Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua – you name it – will continue to be exposed to man-made misery no end. Let’s stop this criminal western shenaniganism now!  Let’s disconnect our economies from the west, of those who are aware and awaken, and turn to the East, where the future is.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

The War That Could Change the World

It is tempting to say that war with Iran is inevitable, and that may certainly be so, but this terrible situation has become a political and media game. A deadly game to be sure, but a game nonetheless. The people who cling to the notion that they have “leaders” to protect them are little more than fools, and this fact alone may lead to a disastrous end to this game of war, as the fools are the ones that allow carnage in their name.

Who in their right mind could in the past have ever envisioned a president “tweeting” about blowing up the world, or threatening to wipe an entire country off the map, women, children, and all? War today is more like a video game played by kids than anything else, as the bulk of the population does not consider the fact that those slaughtered in their name have families, picnics, and soccer games too. This indifference to sheer brutality and murder is astounding, and the weak and empty minds of the masses continues to deteriorate.

The situation with Iran in my opinion is dire. I personally think that this war will take place in the near future, regardless of what ridiculous rhetoric is spewed from the complicit media. This troubles me beyond imagination, but I think this is being planned and orchestrated at the highest levels, meaning above the political idiocy of Trump.

As I attempt to analyse this situation, and figure out the real incentive of those in power, it still eludes me. I know that war is always sought and always important to the power structure of this country and its military industrial complex, but this time the risk of world involvement and mass slaughter seems more possible. This makes me wonder why any war with Iran, whose allies are Russia and China, would be advantageous to the powers that control the U.S. It all seems senseless. Oil is not enough in my opinion to risk such devastating results, so something else is in play here.

I hope I am wrong about any inevitable war with Iran, but the longer this cat and mouse game continues, the more likely a mistake will be made, and a world war could be the possible outcome. This is more dangerous than anyone seems to realize, especially the brain-dead American public, and they are the only ones who can stop this insanity. Irony at this level is impossible to imagine.

Any war with Iran could easily turn into global nuclear war. What is worth that kind of risk? What possible motivation could drive those in power to such an end? I continue to ponder this question, but no logical answer comes to mind. Maybe it is just that the human race has run its course, or maybe all sanity is now lost. Either way, we are doomed if this senseless, and egotistical game of death continues.

Canada’s Role in US Empire

While France, Germany, Russia and China seek detente, Canada is increasingly part of the US-Saudi Arabia-Israeli axis stoking conflict with Iran.

Canada recently seized and sold $30 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 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.

While not much discussed by Canadian media or politicians, this is a substantial development. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi called the seizure “illegal” and in “direct contradiction with international law” while a spokesperson for Iran’s Guardian Council, Abbasali Kadkhodaei, accused Canada of “economic terrorism”. A senior member of Iran’s parliament said the country’s military should confiscate Canadian shipments crossing the Strait of Hormuz.

In a right side up world, the Iranian asset sale would lead to various more legitimate seizures. Relatives of the Lebanese Canadian el-Akhras family Israel wiped out, including four children aged 1 to 8, in 2006 are certainly at least as worthy of Canadian government-backed compensation. Ditto for Paeta Hess-Von Kruedener, a Canadian soldier part of a UN mission, killed by an Israeli fighter jet in Lebanon in 2006. Or Palestinian Canadian Ismail Zayid, who was driven from a West Bank village demolished to make way for the Jewish National Fund’s Canada Park.

In Haiti there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of individuals whose family members were killed at peaceful protests by a police force paid, trained and politically supported by Canada after US, French and Canadian troops overthrew the country’s elected president in 2004. Ten months after the coup I met a young man in Port-au-Prince who fled the country after armed thugs searching for him came to his house and killed his aunt. Before the coup Jeremy had been a journalist with the state television, which was identified with the ousted government. Should US or Canadian assets be seized to compensate him?

There are hundreds of Canadians and countless individuals elsewhere who have been victimized by Israeli, Canadian and US-backed terror more deserving of compensation than the Americans paid with Iranian assets for what Hamas and Hezbollah purportedly did decades ago. Should Israeli, US and Canadian government assets be seized to pay them?

It’s insightful to look at the double standard — approved by the Supreme Court — from another angle. In 2012 that court refused to hear a case against Anvil Mining for its direct role in Congolese troops killing 100, mostly unarmed civilians, near its Dikulushi mine in Katanga in October 2004. After a half-dozen members of the little-known Mouvement Revolutionnaire pour la Liberation du Katanga occupied the Canada-Australian company’s Kilwa concession, Anvil provided the trucks used to transport Congolese soldiers to the area and to dump the corpses of their victims into mass graves. The company also published a press release applauding the Congolese military’s dastardly deed. Though the company was managed from Montréal and its main shareholders were Vancouver’s First Quantum and the Canadian Pension Plan, the Québec Court of Appeal and Supreme Court concluded the survivors had to pursue remedies in either the Congo or Australia.

The Canadian media has devoted little attention to the seizure of Iranian assets. But, Forbes, Sputnik, Xinhua and a host of Iranian media have covered the story. At least three Iranian newspapers put it on their frontpage.

The Trudeau government’s failure to speak against the asset seizure, delist Iran as a “state sponsor of terror” or repeal Stephen Harper’s Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act puts further lie to its commitment to a “rules based international order”. It is also another broken promise. Before the 2015 election Justin Trudeau told the CBC, “I would hope that Canada would be able to reopen its mission [in Tehran]. I’m fairly certain that there are ways to re-engage [Iran].” But, don’t expect NDP foreign affairs critic Guy Caron or the media to ask why Canada hasn’t re-established relations with the nation of 80 million. By breaking his promise to restart diplomatic relations with Iran Trudeau has empowered those hurtling us towards a major conflict.

Will Americans Let Trump Start World War III for Saudi Arabia and Israel?

On Saturday, September 14th, two oil refineries and other oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia were hit and set ablaze by 18 drones and 7 cruise missiles, dramatically slashing Saudi Arabia’s oil production by half, from about ten million to five million barrels per day. On September 18, the Trump administration, blaming Iran, announced it was imposing more sanctions on Iran and voices close to Donald Trump are calling for military action. But this attack should lead to just the opposite response: urgent calls for an immediate end to the war in Yemen and an end to US economic warfare against Iran.

The question of the origin of the attack is still under dispute. The Houthi government in Yemen immediately took responsibility. This is not the first time the Houthis have brought the conflict directly onto Saudi soil as they resist the constant Saudi bombardment of Yemen. Last year, Saudi officials said they had intercepted more than 100 missiles fired from Yemen.

This is, however, the most spectacular and sophisticated attack to date. The Houthis claim they got help from within Saudi Arabia itself, stating that this operation “came after an accurate intelligence operation and advance monitoring and cooperation of honorable and free men within the Kingdom.”

This most likely refers to Shia Saudis in the Eastern Province, where the bulk of Saudi oil facilities are located. Shia Muslims, who make up an estimated 15-20 percent of the population in this Sunni-dominated country, have faced discrimination for decades and have a history of uprisings against the regime. So it is plausible that some members of the Shia community inside the kingdom may have provided intelligence or logistical support for the Houthi attack, or even helped Houthi forces to launch missiles or drones from inside Saudi Arabia.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, immediately blamed Iran, noting that that the air strikes hit the west and north-west sides of the oil facilities, not the the south side that faces toward Yemen. But Iran is not to the west or northwest either – it is to the northeast. In any case, which part of the facilities were hit does not necessarily have any bearing on which direction the missiles or drones were launched from. Iran strongly denies conducting the attack.

CNN reported that Saudi and US investigators claim “with very high probability” that the attack was launched from an Iranian base in Iran close to the border with Iraq, but that neither the U.S. nor Saudi Arabia has produced any evidence to support these claims.

But in the same report, CNN reported that missile fragments found at the scene appeared to be from Quds-1 missiles, an Iranian model that the Houthis unveiled in July under the slogan, “The Coming Period of Surprises,” and which they may have used in a strike on Abha Airport in southern Saudi Arabia in June.

A Saudi Defence Ministry press briefing on Wednesday, September 18th, told the world’s press that the wreckage of missiles based on Iranian designs proves Iranian involvement in the attack, and that the cruise missiles flew from the north, but the Saudis could not yet give details of where they were launched from.

Also on Wednesday, President Trump announced that he has ordered the U.S. Treasury Department to “substantially” increase its sanctions against Iran. But existing U.S. sanctions already place such huge obstacles in the way of Iranian oil exports and imports of food, medicine and other consumer products that it is hard to imagine what further pain these new sanctions can possibly inflict on the besieged people of Iran.

U.S. allies have been slow to accept the U.S. claims that Iran launched the attack. Japan’s Defense Minister told reporters “we believe the Houthis carried out the attack based on the statement claiming responsibility.” The United Arab Emirates (UAE) expressed frustration that the U.S. was so quick to point its finger at Iran.

Tragically, this is how U.S. administrations of both parties have responded to such incidents in recent years, seizing any pretext to demonize and threaten their enemies and keep the American public psychologically prepared for war.

If Iran provided the Houthis with weapons or logistical support for this attack, this would represent but a tiny fraction of the bottomless supply of weapons and logistical support that the U.S. and its European allies have provided to Saudi Arabia. In 2018 alone, the Saudi military budget was $67.6 billion, making it the world’s third-highest spender on weapons and military forces after the U.S. and China.

Under the laws of war, the Yemenis are perfectly entitled to defend themselves. That would include striking back at the oil facilities that produce the fuel for Saudi warplanes that have conducted over 17,000 air raids, dropping at least 50,000 mostly U.S.-made bombs and missiles, throughout more than four long years of war on Yemen. The resulting humanitarian crisis also kills a Yemeni child every 10 minutes from preventable diseases, starvation and malnutrition.

The Yemen Data Project has classified nearly a third of the Saudi air strikes as attacks on non-military sites, which ensure that a large proportion of at least 90,000 Yemenis reported killed in the war have been civilians. This makes the Saudi-led air campaign a flagrant and systematic war crime for which Saudi leaders and senior officials of every country in their “coalition” should be held criminally accountable.

That would include President Obama, who led the U.S. into the war in 2015, and President Trump, who has kept the U.S. in this coalition even as its systematic atrocities have been exposed and shocked the whole world.

The Houthis’ newfound ability to strike back at the heart of Saudi Arabia could be a catalyst for peace, if the world can seize this opportunity to convince the Saudis and the Trump administration that their horrific, failed war is not worth the price they will have to pay to keep fighting it. But if we fail to seize this moment, it could instead be the prelude to a much wider war.

So, for the sake of the starving and dying people of Yemen and the people of Iran suffering under the “maximum pressure” of U.S. economic sanctions, as well as the future of our own country and the world, this is a pivotal moment.

If the U.S. military, or Israel or Saudi Arabia, had a viable plan to attack Iran without triggering a wider war, they would have done so long ago. We must tell Trump, Congressional leaders and all our elected representatives that we reject another war and that we understand how easily any U.S. attack on Iran could quickly spiral into an uncontainable and catastrophic regional or world war.

President Trump has said he is waiting for the Saudis to tell him who they hold responsible for these strikes, effectively placing the U.S. armed forces at the command of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Throughout his presidency, Trump has conducted U.S. foreign policy as a puppet of both Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, making a mockery of his “America First” political rhetoric. As Rep. Tulsi Gabbard quipped, “Having our country act as Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not ‘America First.’”

Senator Bernie Sanders has issued a statement that Trump has no authorization from Congress for an attack on Iran and at least 14 other Members of Congress have made similar statements, including his fellow presidential candidates Senator Warren and Congresswoman Gabbard.

Congress already passed a War Powers Resolution to end U.S. complicity in the Saudi-led war on Yemen, but Trump vetoed it. The House has revived the resolution and attached it as an amendment to the FY2020 NDAA military budget bill. If the Senate agrees to keep that provision in the final bill, it will present Trump with a choice between ending the U.S. role in the war in Yemen or vetoing the entire 2020 U.S. military budget.

If Congress successfully reclaims its constitutional authority over the US role in this conflict, it could be a critical turning point in ending the state of permanent war that the U.S. has inflicted on itself and the world since 2001.

If Americans fail to speak out now, we may discover too late that our failure to rein in our venal, warmongering ruling class has led us to the brink of World War III. We hope this crisis will instead awaken the sleeping giant, the too silent majority of peace-loving Americans, to speak up decisively for peace and force Trump to put the interests and the will of the American people above those of his unscrupulous allies.

Iran: A Club of Sanctioned Countries in Solidarity Against US Economic Terrorism

PressTV Interview – transcript

Background links:
https://ifpnews.com/iranian-mps-propose-formation-of-club-of-sanctioned-countries
https://www.newsweek.com/russia-china-iran-fight-sanctions-1458096

Excerpts:

An Iranian parliamentary faction has come up with the idea of establishing a club of sanctioned countries for concerted action against the US economic terrorism.

The chairman of the Parliament’s faction on countering sanctions, Poormokhtar, gave a report on the formation of the faction and its activities, as well as the ongoing efforts to establish the club of sanctioned countries. Iran’s FM, Zaraf, said this would be enhancing the already existing alliance of Russia, China, Syria, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela against US economic terrorism.

PressTV:  Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela are among the nations that have come out against the United States’ use of sanctions to enforce its foreign policy around the world. In what ways can they fight these US sanctions as a group?

Peter Koenig: Brilliant idea!  Solidarity makes stronger and eventually will attract other countries who are sick and tired of the US sanction regime, and since they have the backing of Russia and China, that’s a very strong alliance, especially an economic alliance. The sanction regime can only be broken through economics, meaning decoupling from the western monetary system. I said this before and say it again, at the risk of repeating myself.

After all, China is the world’s largest and strongest economy in Purchasing Power GDP measures which is the only comparison that really counts. I believe this solidarity alliance against US sanctions is certainly worth a trial.

And personally, I think it will be a successful trial, as more countries will join, possibly even non-sanctioned ones, out of solidarity against a common tyrant.

The countries in solidarity against sanctions, in addition to ignoring them — and the more they ignore them, the more other countries will follow-suit — that’s logical as fear disappears and solidarity grows.

For example, Iran and Venezuela, oil exporting countries, could accompany their tankers by war ships. Yes, it’s an extra cost, but think of it as temporary and as a long-term gain. Would “Grace I” have been accompanied by an Iranian war ship the Brits would not have dared confiscating it. That’s for sure.

PressTV: Many of the US sanctions have led to death of civilians in those particular countries. At the same time, sanctions have also led to the improvement of these countries to the point where domestic production in various fields advanced. Don’t sanctions become country-productive to US aims?’

PK:  Of course, the sanctions are counter-productive. They have helped Russia to become food-self-sufficient, for example. That was not Washington’s intention and less so the intention of the EU, who followed Washington’s dictate like puppets.

Sanctions are like a last effort before the fall of the empire, to cause as much human damage as possible, to pull other nations down with the dying beast. It has always been like that  starting with the Romans through the Ottoman’s. They realize their time has come but can’t see a world living in peace. So they must plant as much unrest and misery as possible before they disappear

That’s precisely what’s happening with the US.

Intimidation, building more and more military bases, all with fake money, as we know the dollar is worth nothing – FIAT money – that the world still accepts but less and less so, therefore military bases, deadly sanctions, and trade wars. Trump knows that a trade war against China is a lost cause. Still, he can intimidate other countries by insisting on a trade war with China or that’s what he thinks.

PressTV: The more countries US sanctions, illegally, more people turn against the US: doesn’t that defeat the US so-called fight against terrorism and violence?

PK: Well, US sanction and the entire scheme of US aggression has nothing to do with fighting terrorism, as you know. It’s nothing but expanding US hegemony over the world, and if needed, and more often than not, the US finances terrorism to fight proxy wars against their so-called enemies, meaning anybody not conforming to their wishes and not wanting to submit to their orders and not letting them exploit – or rather steal – their natural resources.

Syria is a case in point. ISIL is funded and armed by the Pentagon, who buys Serbian produced weapon to channel them through the Mid-East allies to Syrian terrorists, the ISIL or similar kinds with different names — just to confuse.

Venezuela too – the opposition consist basically of US trained, financed and armed opposition “leaders” – who do not want to participate in totally democratic elections – order of the US – boycott them. But as we have seen as of this day, the various coup attempts by the US against their legitimate and democratically elected President, Nicolás Maduro, have failed bitterly, and this despite the most severe sanctions regime South American has known, except for Cuba, against whom the US crime has been perpetuated for 60 years.

So, nobody should have the illusion that Washington’s wars are against terrorism. Washington is THE terrorist regime that fights for world hegemony.

Exit John Bolton, But Will That Mean An End To His Failed Foreign Policy?

Leon Neal, Getty Images

Many who oppose the aggressive foreign policy of the United States under President Donald Trump, which has resulted in record numbers of bombs dropped, regime change operations against Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran and Hong Kong, the abusive use of unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) and record military budgets, cheered when uber-hawk, John Bolton was removed as the National Security Advisor.

Bolton undermined Trump numerous times such as when Trump wanted to get out of Syria and sought negotiations with North Korea and Iran. Bolton led Trump into regime-change operations in Nicaragua and Venezuela, both of which backfired.

The firing of Bolton is an opportunity for Trump to make a major course correction on foreign policy as the 2020 election heats up. The escalation of military aggression and regime-change actions that have occurred in the Trump era have been inconsistent with his previous campaign statements, which indicated he opposed never-ending wars, nation-building, and interventions abroad and wanted to focus on fixing problems at home in the United States.

Trump has long expressed skepticism about US foreign intervention in activities that he has labeled as “nation-building.” During the presidential election campaign, Trump criticized the war in Iraq, claiming he opposed George W. Bush’s Iraq War at the time and accused Bush of lying about the presence of weapons of mass destruction. In October 2015, he criticized US interventions saying, “We’re nation-building. We can’t do it. We have to build our own nation. We’re nation-building, trying to tell people who have [had] dictators or worse for centuries how to run their own countries.”

In December 2016, before his inauguration, Trump said that the policy of “intervention and chaos” must come to an end. He pledged to “build up our military not as an act of aggression, but as an act of prevention. In short, we seek peace through strength.”

Trump has opportunities to take another course, one that is more consistent with his rhetoric. Chairman Kim of North Korea said he was open to another meeting with President Trump on September 10, the next day, Bolton was fired. Shortly after the firing of Bolton, Secretary of State Pompeo gave the green light for Trump to meet with the President of Iran without preconditions at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in a few weeks. The firing of Bolton may not be enough, Iranian officials have refused any meeting until sanctions are lifted. After Bolton’s firing, President Hassan Rouhani said Trump “should distance itself from ‘warmongers’” after the dismissal of Bolton.

When it comes to Latin America, Trump has been silent, especially about his failed coup in Venezuela. Trump’s previous National Security Advisor, H. R. McMaster, strongly recommended to President Trump not to pursue a military option in Venezuela when Trump suggested it in 2017. He explained that Latin American governments were against foreign intervention in the region. John Bolton gave contrary advice when he dubbed Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba the “Troika of Tyranny” and gave Trump bad advice by urging a strategy of escalating intervention in Venezuela, recognition of a failed coup government and military threats.

When Bolton was fired, the New York Times reported:

Mr. Trump also grew disenchanted with Mr. Bolton over the failed effort to push out President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. Rather than the easy victory he was led to anticipate, the president has found himself bogged down in a conflict over which he has less influence than he had assumed. The political opposition backed by the White House could not turn Venezuela’s military against Mr. Maduro and has been stuck in a stalemate for months.

President Maduro has consistently expressed his willingness to meet with President Trump, despite the brutal economic war, military threats and recognition of the fraudulent Juan Guaido. Trump knows that Maduro is solidly in place as the president of Venezuela. US efforts to undermine his re-election in May of 2018 failed, the multiple coup efforts with Juan Guaido have failed, Venezuela exposed a series of terrorist plots the US was backing and there is little support for military intervention. In addition, because of Trump’s threats, Venezuela has strengthened its relationships with China and Russia, bringing them into Latin America in ways they have never happened before and squeezing out US interests.

John Bolton has put Trump in a trap in Venezuela. Trump has two choices: continued his failed strategy of regime change which has become a quagmire or stop interfering in the internal affairs of the sovereign nation of Venezuela. Once Trump recognizes that Venezuela is an independent nation he can have a diplomatic relationship with the country as exits between most nations. It is time to give up on the embarrassing failed Bolton strategy and pursue a new approach of non-interference and diplomacy.

For most of its history, the US and Venezuela have been allies. It has only been during the eras of Clinton through Obama and the Bolton-era during the Trump administration that the US has been in conflict with Venezuela. Trump can now reverse those mistaken policies and put the United States back on a constructive track.

With Strikes Against Iran, Netanyahu Risks Jeopardising his Closest Alliance

Every Israeli prime minister – not least Benjamin Netanyahu – understands that a military entanglement with Hezbollah, Lebanon’s armed Shia movement on Israel’s northern border, is a dangerous wager, especially during an election campaign.

It was Shimon Peres who lost to Mr Netanyahu in 1996, weeks after the former prime minister had incensed Israel’s Palestinian minority – a fifth of the population – by savagely attacking Lebanon in a futile bid to improve his military, and electoral, standing.

Lebanon proved a quagmire for Ehud Olmert too, after he launched a war in 2006 that demonstrated how exposed Israel’s northern communities were to Hezbollah’s rockets. The fallout helped pave Mr Netanyahu’s path to victory and his second term as prime minister three years later.

Mr Netanyahu has faced off with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah for the full 13 years he has been in power. But unlike his political rivals, he has preferred to play a cautious hand with his Lebanese opponent.

Which makes a recent spate of drone attacks by Israel across the region, including in Lebanon, all the more surprising, even in the context of a highly contested election due to take place next Tuesday. During the campaign, Mr Netanyahu has been buffeted by yet more corruption allegations.

According to the Israeli media, two drones dispatched over Beirut late last month were intended to destroy Iranian-supplied equipment that would allow Hezbollah to manufacture precision-guided missiles.

It was the first such Israeli attack on Lebanese soil since a ceasefire ended the 2006 war. Hezbollah and Israel have preferred to flex their muscles in neighbouring Syria, weakened after more than eight years of war.

The attack outraged Lebanon’s leaders, with Mr Nasrallah warning that Hezbollah would shoot down any Israeli drones encroaching on Lebanese airspace. He also vowed revenge, which finally came a week ago when Hezbollah fired at an Israeli military vehicle carrying five soldiers close to the border. Israel said there were no casualties.

That was followed by Hezbollah shooting down an Israeli drone in southern Lebanon early on Monday. The Israeli army confirmed it had been on a “routine mission” when it fell in Lebanese territory.

In retaliation for last week’s attack, Israel shelled Hezbollah positions, a clash Israeli media described as being a “hair’s breadth” from escalating into all-out war.

Neither Israel nor Hezbollah appear to want such an outcome. Both understand the likely heavy toll in casualties and the damaging political consequences.

Nonetheless, Mr Netanyahu appears to be stoking a fire he might ultimately struggle to control – and not just in Lebanon. Around the time of the Beirut attack, Israeli drones were also in action in Iraq and Syria.

First, Israel hit a building near Damascus, killing two Hezbollah operatives. According to Israel, they were working with Iranian forces to prepare a drone attack on the Golan Heights, Syrian territory annexed by Israel in violation of international law.

Then a day later, more Israeli drones – apparently launched from Azerbaijan – targeted depots housing Iranian weapons close to the Iraqi-Syrian border.

There have been reports of half a dozen such attacks since mid-July. They are the first known Israeli strikes on Iraq’s territory in four decades.

The running thread in these various incidents – apart from Israel’s violation of each country’s sovereignty – is Iran.

Until recently, Israel had launched regular forays deep into Syrian airspace to target what it said was the transport through Syria of long-range precision missiles supplied by Iran to Hezbollah, its Shia ally in Lebanon.

Hezbollah and Iran view this growing stockpile of precision weapons – capable of hitting key military installations in Israel – as a vital restraint on Israel’s freedom to attack its neighbours.

Over the past year, Israel’s ability to hit missile convoys as they pass through Syria has narrowed as Bashar Al-Assad has regained control of Syrian territory and installed more sophisticated, Russian-made air defences.

Now Israel appears to be targeting the two ends of the supply chain, from deliveries dispatched in Iraq to their receipt in Lebanon. In the words of Mr Netanyahu, Iran “is not immune anywhere”.

The US has not taken kindly to Israel’s actions in Iraq, fearing that a local backlash could endanger the 5,000 troops it has stationed there and push Iraq further into Iran’s arms. In response, the Pentagon issued a statement condemning “actions by external actors inciting violence in Iraq”.

So what is Mr Netanyahu up to? Why risk provoking a dangerous clash with Hezbollah and alienating his strongest asset, a supportive US administration headed by Donald Trump, at this critical moment in the election campaign?

The answer could be that he feels he has little choice.

The same weekend that Israel launched its wave of attacks across the region, French President Emmanuel Macron engineered an unexpected visit by Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to the G7 summit in Biarritz.

It was part of efforts by Mr Macron, and Europe more generally, to encourage Mr Trump to repair relations with Tehran after the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear agreement last year and reimposed sanctions. Mr Netanyahu has taken partial credit for the administration’s tough stance.

Now he has been jolted by Mr Trump’s apparent willingness to reconsider, possibly to protect shipping lanes and oil supplies in the Gulf from Iranian disruption, just as the US president seeks re-election.

Any U-turn would conflict sharply with Mr Netanyahu’s agenda. Domestically he has long presented Iran as the ultimate bogeyman, hell-bent on gaining a nuclear bomb to destroy Israel. His strongman image has been built on his supposed triumph both in reining in Tehran and recruiting the Trump administration to his cause.

If Mr Trump indicates a readiness for rapprochement with Iran before polling day, Mr Netanyahu’s narrative is sunk – and the corruption allegations he faces are likely to take a stronger hold on the public imagination.

That was why, as he headed to London last Thursday, Mr Netanyahu issued a barely veiled rebuke to Mr Trump: “This is not the time to talk to Iran.”

It might also be why a report in the New York Times last week suggested that Israel is contemplating a risky, go-it-alone strike on Iran, something Mr Netanyahu has reportedly been mulling for several years.

Certainly, he has every interest in using attacks like the recent ones to provoke a reaction from Iran in the hope of pre-empting any US overture.

It is a high-stakes gamble and one that risks setting off a conflagration should Mr Netanyahu overplay his hand. These are desperate times for Israel’s longest-serving but increasingly embattled prime minister.

• First published in The National

Both Israel and Hezbollah Imagined a Horrid Black Hole and Stopped

There are rare moments in history, when even the most determined enemies can suddenly recognize the futility of battle. Sometimes, just for a moment or two. Sometimes, for longer. Such moments of sanity may save thousands, even millions human lives. And, such moments are not expressions of weakness or cowardice; on the contrary; they are embodiments of courage.

I want to believe that what happened at the Lebanese – Israeli border in August 2019, was precisely one of those such rare moments of sanity.

It changes nothing in terms of the big, geopolitical picture: Israel is a Western outpost in the Middle East. It is tormenting the Palestinian people, illegally occupying the Golan Heights, bombing Syria, and antagonizing Iran.

But an important point was established: there are limits! Israel will not go ‘all the way’, risking self-annihilation, and the annihilation of the entire region. This fact alone gives a fragile but at least some hope for a better future of this long-suffering territory.

*****

What prompts me to write the above?

At the end of August, it appeared that Israel had lost its mind. It attacked, without warning, four countries simultaneously, within just 24 hours: Iraq, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. It used drones full of explosives, as well as fighter jets.

Palestine and Syria have been attacked, regularly, for years and decades. Iraq, still de facto under US occupation, was quite a different story. There, a group of outraged lawmakers, ‘exploded’, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the US, and calling the Israeli attack a ‘declaration of war’.

Lebanon, too, did not remain silent. Israeli drones damaged the media center of Hezbollah in Beirut. They also attacked a communist Palestinian faction in the Beqaa Valley. For years, the Israeli air force has been violating Lebanese airspace, during the bombing raids of Syria. But this time it was different. This was an attack against a neighboring, sovereign state.

Even the Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri, an enemy of Hezbollah, and a man who holds double citizenship (Saudi and Lebanese), protested, asking the United States and France for protection. The President of Lebanon called it out rightly, a declaration of war.

The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, went live on television, and in a chilling statement promised a ‘measured response’.

At that point, it became clear that the entire region could soon be consumed by flames.

During coverage of the event, on both Press TV and RT, I warned against the enormous danger: Israel was attacking every armed Shi’a group in the region, and was only stopping short of attacking Iran itself. A few more assaults like these, and the entire region could explode, dragging into the conflict countries like Saudi Arabia, on the side of Israel, and Iran, on the side of Syria, Palestine and Hezbollah. Realistically, that could lead to the annihilation of entire areas and nations.

*****

In that period of time, I drove to, and managed to enter the border region. I first arrived at the city of Naqoura on the Mediterranean coast, and then drove all the way to the Lebanese border with the occupied Golan Heights, following the so-called Blue Line, controlled by UNIFIL.

At several places on my right, the huge Israeli border wall was now clearly visible. UNIFIL patrols consisted of armored vehicles, manned mainly by indifferent looking Indonesian soldiers. Some were taking selfies, with Israel behind them. For the United Nations, there seemed to be no urgency in the region. In fact, right after the Israeli attacks, the UN began discussing the possibility of cutting the number of UNIFIL soldiers, as well as the UNIFIL budget.

As always when visiting this border, what appeared striking to me was the proximity of Israeli and Lebanese villages; tens of meters only, in some areas.

*****

What followed, was a chilling, tense silence.

Then, about one week after the Israeli attacks, Hezbollah retaliated.

I was called by a TV station, asked to analyze events. As I spoke, journalists were getting the latest news from the border.

Hezbollah fired anti-tank rockets at an Israeli vehicle patrolling near the Blue Line. It hit an Israeli tank (other reports said ‘armored vehicle’). According to Hezbollah, all Israeli soldiers inside the vehicle either died or were injured. Allegedly, among the casualties, was an Israeli top-ranking commander – described as ‘a General’.

Those who are familiar with Israeli tactics for Palestine and the Golan Heights know that Israeli ‘retaliations’ in such scenarios, include the bombing of civilian targets, and the destruction of houses or entire blocks of houses.

Entire Lebanon held its breath.

This time it became clear that Hezbollah was not going to back down. And Lebanon in general obviously has reached the point when it was ready to confront Israel, if that was what it would take to maintain its dignity.

I spoke to many Lebanese people. They were frightened, concerned, particularly if they had family and children. But they were also surprisingly calm. “If this is what fate brings, then so be it!”

Then, quickly, events became bizarre and confusing:

Israeli newspapers, including the Jerusalem Post, began quoting the Israeli Defense Forces, who were claiming that ‘Yes, an attack against Israel took place, but there were no Israeli casualties.’

Almost simultaneously, Israeli-leaked videos began appearing on YouTube and elsewhere, showing Israeli soldiers carrying injured buddies to helicopters. Later, these very clips were blocked by YouTube itself, for “violating terms and conditions”.

A few days later, the entire discussion generally stopped, at both ends.

Israel ‘retaliated’ promptly. In the most peculiar way, too: it fired around one hundred rockets into Lebanon. But all the rockets landed in fields. No target was hit. Meaning: it was decided not to aim at any targets, considering the Israeli capacity to hit with great precision. More exactly: it was decided to make sure that no target would be hit. In the end, nobody was killed, and no one injured.

As I wrote above, villages, several towns and settlements are constructed right near the border line. Both Israel and Hezbollah have enormous firepower. If they wanted to, they could inflict tremendous damage and losses of lives on each other.

For some reason, they decided not to.

*****

I think this is what happened:

By attacking four countries simultaneously, Israel miscalculated. Iraq and Lebanon were not ready to accept the humiliation and barefaced attacks against their territories.

There were clear signals sent in Tel Aviv’s direction. And Netanyahu understood.

For days after the Israeli attacks, Hezbollah and Israel faced each other, in chilling defiance, separated only by a concrete wall, and by the inept UNIFIL troops. Both sides were aiming at each other great arsenals of missiles and other weaponry.

One wrong move, and the entire region could go up in flames. One tiny, erroneous move, and who knows how many lives of innocent people would be lost.

I believe, or perhaps I want to believe, that both sides suddenly imagined a huge ‘black hole’ – what this part of the world could become. They envisioned smoke, destruction and death; inevitable if they would not decide to immediately back down.

At the last moment, they did. They backed down. I don’t know how, who made the decision first. Were they communicating, even coordinating the de-escalation?

It was what, in Asia, we call ‘saving face’.

Shots were fired. Most likely, no one died. Halas!

Was an Israeli ‘general’ killed? I don’t know. Actually, I do not want to know. I am absolutely fine with the outcome: no full war in the Middle East. For now, this is the best we can get.

Of course, this should be just the beginning. The insanity has to end. I am not convinced that it will. But what happened at the end of August 2019 clearly indicates that it could.

Unfortunately, we are living in a world when only strength guarantees survival. If
Hezbollah was not as strong as it is now, Israel would most likely not have thought twice; it would have overrun the entire Lebanon, in order to destroy its Shi’a adversary inside it.

But Hezbollah is strong.

And also, we have just learnt that there are at least some ‘boundaries’ which Israel is not willing to cross. In brief: Netanyahu is brutal, but he is not suicidal. For now, Lebanon, Israel and the rest of the Middle East, have survived. For now.

• First published by NEO – a journal of Russian Academy of Sciences