Christian Zionism’s Waning Influence on Presidential Politics

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Earlier this week I participated in a podcast with the people at We Hold These Truths, the Christian, pro-peace organization noted for its opposition to Christian Zionism. The discussion focused largely on the presidential campaign and particularly the January 18 speech given by Donald Trump at Liberty University.

Liberty is the university in Lynchburg, Virginia that was founded by Christian Zionist pastor Jerry Falwell, and today his son, Jerry Falwell Jr., continues to serve as its president. So we’re talking, in other words, about a school steeped in the ideology of Christian Zionism–or at least certainly it’s founder was. But the odd thing about Trump’s speech on January 18 is that not once was Israel even mentioned that evening–not by Trump, nor by Falwell Jr. either in the lengthy introduction he gave Trump. Nobody talked about Israel the entire evening!

I have written previously about evaporating support for Israel among evangelical Christians, and particularly among younger evangelicals, and all of us who participated in the podcast took Trump’s appearance at Liberty, and the absence of any expressions of support for the Jewish state, as kind of a sign of the times–an indication that Israel is fast losing its friends. You can click here to access the full podcast.

Today Terrorism Is Our Common Worry

An Open Letter to Western Youth From Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei

Source

In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

To the Youth in Western Countries,

The bitter events brought about by blind terrorism in France have once again, moved me to speak to you young people.  For me, it is unfortunate that such incidents would have to create the framework for a conversation, however the truth is that if painful matters do not create the grounds for finding solutions and mutual consultation, then the damage caused will be multiplied.

The pain of any human being anywhere in the world causes sorrow for a fellow human being.  The sight of a child losing his life in the presence of his loved ones, a mother whose joy for her family turns into mourning, a husband who is rushing the lifeless body of his spouse to some place and the spectator who does not know whether he will be seeing the final scene of life- these are scenes that rouse the emotions and feelings of any human being.  Anyone who has benefited from affection and humanity is affected and disturbed by witnessing these scenes- whether it occurs in France or in Palestine or Iraq or Lebanon or Syria.

Without a doubt, the one-and-a-half billion Muslims also have these feelings and abhor and are revolted by the perpetrators and those responsible for these calamities. The issue, however, is that if today’s pain is not used to build a better and safer future, then it will just turn into bitter and fruitless memories. I genuinely believe that it is only you the youth who by learning the lessons of today’s hardship, have the power to discover new means for building the future and who can be barriers in the misguided path that has brought the west to its current impasse.

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It is correct that today terrorism is our common worry.  However, it is necessary for you to know that the insecurity and strain that you experienced during the recent events, differ from the pain that the people of Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan have been experiencing for many years, in two significant ways.  First, the Islamic world has been the victim of terror and brutality to a larger extent territorially, to greater amount quantitatively and for a longer period in terms of time. Second, that unfortunately this violence has been supported by certain great powers through various methods and effective means.

Today, there are very few people who are uninformed about the role of the United States of America in creating, nurturing and arming al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their inauspicious successors.  Besides this direct support, the overt and well-known supporters of takfiri terrorism- despite having the most backward political systems- are standing arrayed as allies of the west while the most pioneering, brightest and most dynamic democrats in the region are suppressed mercilessly. The prejudiced response of the west to the awakening movement in the Islamic world is an illustrative example of the contradictory western policies.

The other side of these contradictory policies is seen in supporting the state terrorism of Israel.  The oppressed people of Palestine have experienced the worst kind of terrorism for the last sixty years.  If the people of Europe have now taken refuge in their homes for a few days and refrain from being present in busy places- it is decades that a Palestinian family is not secure even in its own home from the Zionist regime’s death and destruction machinery. What kind of atrocious violence today is comparable to that of the settlement constructions of the Zionist regime?

This regime- without ever being seriously and significantly censured by its influential allies or even by the so-called independent international organizations- everyday demolishes the homes of Palestinians and destroys their orchards and farms.  This is done without even giving them time to gather their belongings or agricultural products and usually it is done in front of the terrified and tear-filled eyes of women and children who witness the brutal beatings of their family members who in some cases are being dragged away to gruesome torture chambers.  In today’s world, do we know of any other violence on this scale and scope and for such an extended period of time?

Shooting down a woman in the middle of the street for the crime of protesting against a soldier who is armed to the teeth- if this is not terrorism, what is? This barbarism, because it is being done by the armed forces of an occupying government, should not be called extremism? Or maybe only because these scenes have been seen repeatedly on television screens for sixty years, they should no longer stir our consciences.

The military invasions of the Islamic world in recent years- with countless victims- are another example of the contradictory logic of the west. The assaulted countries, in addition to the human damage caused, have lost their economic and industrial infrastructure, their movement towards growth and development has been stopped or delayed and in some cases, has been thrown back decades.  Despite all this, they are rudely being asked not to see themselves as oppressed.  How can a country be turned into ruins, have its cities and towns covered in dust and then be told that it should please not view itself as oppressed? Instead of enticements to not understand and to not mention disasters, would not an honest apology be better?  The pain that the Islamic world has suffered in these years from the hypocrisy and duplicity of the invaders is not less than the pain from the material damage.

Dear youth! I have the hope that you- now or in the future- can change this mentality corrupted by duplicity, a mentality whose highest skill is hiding long-term goals and adorning malevolent objectives.  In my opinion, the first step in creating security and peace is reforming this violence-breeding mentality.  As long as double-standards dominate western policies, as long as terrorism- in the view of its powerful supporters- is divided into “good” and “bad” types, and as long as governmental interests are given precedence over human values and ethics, the roots of violence should not be searched for in other places.

Unfortunately, these roots have taken hold in the depths of western cultural policies over the course of many years and they have caused a soft and silent invasion.  Many countries of the world take pride in their local and national cultures, cultures which through development and regeneration have soundly nurtured human societies for centuries.  The Islamic world is not an exception to this.  However in the current era, the western world with the use of advanced tools is insisting on the cloning and replication of its culture on a global scale.  I consider the imposition of western culture upon other peoples and the trivialization of independent cultures as a form of silent violence and extreme harmfulness.

Humiliating rich cultures and insulting the most honored parts of these, is occurring while the alternative culture being offered in no way has any qualification for being a replacement.  For example, the two elements of “aggression” and “moral promiscuity” which unfortunately have become the main elements of western culture, have even degraded the position and acceptability of its source region.

So now the question is: are we “sinners” for not wanting an aggressive, vulgar and fatuous culture? Are we to be blamed for blocking the flood of impropriety that is directed towards our youth in the shape of various forms of quasi-art?  I do not deny the importance and value of cultural interaction.  Whenever these interactions are conducted in natural circumstances and with respect for the receiving culture, they result in growth, development and richness.  On the contrary, inharmonious interactions have been unsuccessful and harmful impositions.

We have to state with full regret that vile groups such as DAESH are the spawn of such ill-fated pairings with imported cultures.  If the matter was simply theological, we would have had to witness such phenomena before the colonialist era, yet history shows the contrary.  Authoritative historical records clearly show how colonialist confluence of extremist and rejected thoughts in the heart of a Bedouin tribe, planted the seed of extremism in this region.  How then is it possible that such garbage as DAESH comes out of one of the most ethical and humane religious schools which as part of its inner core, includes the notion that taking the life of one human being is equivalent to killing the whole of humanity?

One has to ask why people who are born in Europe and who have been intellectually and mentally nurtured in that environment are attracted to such groups?  Can we really believe that people with only one or two trips to war zones, suddenly become so extreme that they can riddle the bodies of their compatriots with bullets?  On this matter, we certainly cannot forget about the effects of a life nurtured in a pathologic culture in a corrupt environment borne out of violence.  On this matter, we need complete analyses, analyses that see the hidden and apparent corruptions.  Maybe a deep hate- planted in the years of economic and industrial growth and borne out of inequality and possibly legal and structural prejudice- created ideas that every few years appear in a sickening manner.

In any case, you are the ones that have to uncover the apparent layers of your own society and untie and disentangle the knots and resentments. Fissures have to be sealed, not deepened. Hasty reactions are a major mistake when fighting terrorism which only widens the chasms. Any rushed and emotional reaction which would isolate, intimidate and create more anxiety for the Muslim communities living in Europe and America- which are comprised of millions of active and responsible human beings- and which would deprive them of their basic rights more than has already happened and which would drive them away from society- not only will not solve the problem but will increase the chasms and resentments.

Superficial measures and reactions, especially if they take legal forms, will do nothing but increase the current polarizations, open the way for future crises and will result in nothing else.   According to reports received, some countries in Europe have issued guidelines encouraging citizens to spy on Muslims.  This behavior is unjust and we all know that pursuing injustice has the characteristic of unwanted reversibility.  Besides, the Muslims do not deserve such ill-treatment.  For centuries, the western world has known Muslims well- the day that westerners were guests in Islamic lands and were attracted to the riches of their hosts and on another day when they were hosts and benefitted from the efforts and thoughts of Muslims- they generally experienced nothing but kindness and forbearance.

Therefore I want you the youth to lay the foundations for a correct and honorable interaction with the Islamic world based on correct understanding, deep insight and lessons learned from horrible experiences.  In such a case and in the not too distant future, you will witness the edifice built on these firm foundations which creates a shade of confidence and trust which cools the crown of its architect, a warmth of security and peace that it bequests on them and a blaze of hope in a bright future which illuminates the canvass of the earth.

Sayyid Ali Khamenei

8th of Azar, 1394 – 29th of Nov, 2015

Read Ayatollah Khamenei’s first letter to the youth in the west here.

Drunk on Hate and Mad at the World

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Israel’s Diplomatic Wars of Aggression

By Richard Edmondson

Israel these days seems to be increasingly at odds with a good portion of the rest of the world. In just the past few months it has quarreled with:

  • Spain over arrest warrants issued for Netanyahu and six other Israeli officials for the 2010 attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla;
  • Sweden over comments by its foreign minister who has called for an investigation into extrajudicial executions of Palestinians;
  • college campus student groups supporting the BDS movement;
  • academic associations who have issued calls for academic boycotts of Israeli universities;
  • Brazil over its refusal to recognize an Israeli ambassador who hails from the right-wing Israeli settler movement;
  • The EU over labeling of products from Israeli settlements.
  • The UN over Ban Ki-moon’s recent criticism of the settlements

And really, if truth be known, Israel is probably not too happy just now with Italy either, which recently received Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on a state visit, resulting in a number of agreements between the two countries’ energy sectors as well as cooperation on a future high-speed rail project. Naor Gilon, the Israeli ambassador to Italy, complained that Rouhani was being treated like “the king of the world.”

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Zvi Zameret accuses Wallström of ‘ignorance and arrogance’ and suggests she might meet a violent end

War with Sweden

All in all, Gilon’s comments would have to be viewed as rather tame, however–at least by comparison. For some of the statements issuing from Israelis now, particularly those aimed at Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, are positively chilling in their level of malice expressed, and frankly it might behoove the Swedish official to consider hiring a bodyguard at this point, if she hasn’t already done so.

As I noted in an article five days ago, Wallström is now regarded in Israel as “public enemy number 1” (the Jerusalem Post’s words, not mine) because of remarks she has made critical of Israel, including a recent call for an investigation into extrajudicial killings of Palestinians.

Now it seems there may be those in Israel hankering for the foreign minister’s blood–literally. If you haven’t read my article, Swedish Media Target Country’s Foreign Minister Following Her Remarks on Israel, I suggest you do so as it will place what follows into greater perspective. One day after posting that article, I became aware of two other articles, one by blogger Richard Silverstein and the other by Jonathan Ofir and posted at Mondoweiss, both of which discuss what appears to have been a scarcely veiled threat on Wallström’s life by a former Israeli official.

The comment was made by Zvi Zameret, a former official in the Israeli Ministry of Education, in an op-ed piece he wrote for an Israeli newspaper owned by Nevada casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. In the article, Zameret waxes lyrical on the 1948 assassination of Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte, and then goes on to suggest that Wallström might meet a similar fate. Here is a bit from Silverstein’s commentary on the matter:

Zvi Zameret, the former director for instruction for the Israeli education ministry has written an op-ed in Makor Rishon, Sheldon Adelson’s pro-settler newspaper, praising the 1948 assassination of UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte by Yitzhak Shamir’s Lehi gang. Zameret accuses Bernadotte of being an anti-Semite and claims that his views originated in a Swedish society that was suffused with this perspective.  He claims that ridding the world of the Swedish Count was necessary to protect Israel’s new existence.

He wends his way through a long historical discourse involving material already well-known related to Bernadotte’s proposals, which were rejected by Arabs and Jews alike.  Then he brings us up to the present day by alleging that remarks of the current Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom, demanding that Israel be held accountable for the 160 Palestinians killed over the past two months in the latest Intifada, stem from the same well of Swedish anti-Semitism.

Silverstein says Zameret “hints that Wallström herself should share a similar fate to Bernadotte” and then gives us a direct quote from his article as per its English translation:

“What do the things I have mentioned attest about Bernadotte? [They indicate] covert anti-Semitism, ignorance and arrogance, collaboration with senior elements in Israel [Hebrew University President Judah Magnes] and interests that play a decisive role. Has anything changed in the Swedish DNA in the decades following Bernadotte’s death? Nothing has changed.

The Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom, in the covert anti-Semitism which characterizes her, along with her ignorance and arrogance, and anticipation of the interests of her future Muslim voters–she too is attempting to battle against the basic foundation of the State of Israel.  I am certain that her intentions will be defeated, just as were those of the disreputable Count Bernadotte.

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Count Folke Bernadotte

Bernadotte was assassinated by Lehi, also known as the Stern Gang, the same Jewish terrorist group that carried out the Deir Yassin massacre. Zameret’s glorification of his murder doesn’t seem entirely lucid or rational–during World War II Bernadotte negotiated the release of 31,000 prisoners from German concentration camps, including a large number of Jews. After the war, he became the UN Security Council’s unanimous choice, in a vote on May 20, 1948, to try and mediate a settlement in the Palestine-Israeli conflict.

His murder took place September 17, 1948, carried out by a four-man team of assassins. The Stern Gang had been around since 1940. Its stated goal was to terminate the British mandate in Palestine and set up  a “new totalitarian Hebrew republic,” and one of its members, Yithak Shamir, ended up becoming an Israeli prime minister. It was Shamir, in fact, who ordered Bernadotte’s assassination. The man who actually pulled the trigger, Yehoshau Cohen, later became a close confidante of David Ben Gurion and was never charged in the case.

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Margot Wallström

In October of 2014, shortly after Wallström took over as foreign minister, Sweden became one of the first Western countries to recognize Palestinian statehood. Wallström called it “an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination”  and added that “We hope that this will show the way for others.”

In November of last year, shortly after the Paris terror attacks, Wallström suggested that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians could be helping to fuel terrorism. She followed that up with a comment in December about Israeli “extrajudicial executions,” and this month called for an investigation of Israel.

“Whether Zameret advocates Wallstrom’s demise explicitly or implicitly is hardly important,” comments Silverstein. “Even if you accept the argument that he isn’t explicit, clearly the reason Bernadotte failed in his mission is that Jewish terrorists assassinated him.  When you say you wish her intentions to be defeatedjust as his were, the line between murder and political defeat becomes exceedingly murky.”

Boycott Sweden! say Israeli Mayors

But of course it isn’t just Zameret. Lots of people in Israel despise Wallström and have “vociferously attacked her contentious words,” as an article here puts it. And this apparently applies to a good many Israeli officials. The same article goes on to give us the low-down on a “boycott movement” launched by 15 Israeli mayors and aimed at Sweden. The mayors were planning to attend a conference in the Scandinavian country in March, but recently announced they have cancelled, while former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has also called for a boycott of Ikea.

War With Spain

In November of last year, a Spanish judge issued arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and six other officials in connection with Israel’s 2010 raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, a violent episode in international waters which resulted in the deaths of 10 people.

The warrants were issued by Judge Jose de la Mata, and in  effect meant that should any of the seven officials set foot on Spanish soil they would be subject to arrest.

“Spain is just the latest member of the international community to accuse Israel of war crimes and pursue Israeli officials over the affair,” the Jerusalem Postreported at the time. And that is indeed correct. Both South Africa and Turkey had previously issued similar warrants.

Predictably, the Israeli government expressed hostility and outrage.

“We consider it to be a provocation,” said an Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson. “We are working with the Spanish authorities to get it cancelled. We hope it will be over soon.”

What do you suppose the words “working with Spanish authorities” might imply? Did it include issuing threats? Whatever it was, it took only two months to accomplish. The arrest warrants were in fact cancelled, according to a report published January 13 by the Adelson-owned Israel Hayom newspaper.

War with Brazil

Brazil, on the other hand, seems to be showing a little more resilience. According to a report here, “Israel and Brazil remain at loggerheads five months after Brazil refused to recognize Israel’s appointment of a right-wing settler as its next envoy to the South American country.”

“Settlers are Zionist agents that the world cannot accept, they steal others’ land, they are an insult to Brazil, to the government, and to millions of Brazilians with roots in the Arab world,” said Brazilian parliament member Carlos Maron.

Maron isn’t alone. A group of 40 retired Brazilian diplomats signed a statementagainst the appointment of Dani Dayan, who lives in the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Shomron, in the Occupied West Bank. Dayan is an advocate of the settler movement and has made no secret of his views, having widely published articles in the mainstream media, including the New York Times.

“We consider it unacceptable that the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has publicly announced the name of the person he intended to appoint as his country’s new Ambassador to Brazil before submitting it, in accordance to the norm, to our Government,” said the diplomats. The announcement of Dayan’s appointment was reportedly posted initially on Twitter rather than being communicated directly to the Brazilian government.

The statement continues:

This rupture with a diplomatic practice seems to have been on purpose, an attempt to establish facts, since the appointed, Dani Dayan, between 2007 and 2013, was the President of the Yesha Council, responsible for the settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal by the international community, and has already declared himself contrary to the creation of the Palestinian State, which counts on the support of the Brazilian Government and was already recognized by over 70% of the UN member States.

Reportedly a group of 200 Brazilian academics have also endorsed a boycott of Israel. Netanyahu has refused to withdraw Dayan’s nomination or to appoint someone more acceptable to the Brazilians. If the Brazilian government stands its ground, it will mean a de facto end to diplomatic relations between the two countries.

War with the EU

On January 18, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council reaffirmed requirements that export products from the Israeli settlements be labeled as such. More or less as with Sweden, Spain, and Brazil, the EU’s action has prompted cries of Israeli outrage. Netanyahu pronounced his unwillingness to “accept the fact that the EU labels the side being attacked by terror,” while ‘Justice’ Minister Ayelet Shaked called the EU measure “anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.”

Likewise, opposition party leader Isaac Herzog (supposedly a liberal) compared it to the “Zionism equals Racism” resolution passed by the UN in 1974, while Yair Lapid, another opposition party member, denounced the EU for “capitulating to the worse elements of jihad.”

War Against the BDS Movement

In summer of 2015, ‘Justice’ minister Shaked announced she was preparing lawsuits against BDS activists. The announcement was reported at the time by theTimes of Israel in a story which also mentions that Shaked has expanded one of the departments within her ministry in order to “push ahead with the program as soon as possible.”

Ministry officials believe that legal circumstances present the option of suing activists for damaging Israeli trade, and for discrimination and racism, based upon laws as they currently exist in various countries, the report said.

So far as I’m aware, no lawsuits have been filed against individual activists, however Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home Party, seems to be generally in support of the idea of striking back in some manner at the BDS movement.

“Let it be clear to any company or organization that’s considering boycotting us: We will hit back. We will attack our attackers. We will boycott our boycotters,” Bennett said.

“The boycott weapon is a double-edged sword,” he added. “If you’re thinking of boycotting Israel, keep in mind that there are tens of millions of Israel supporters around the world — Jews and non-Jews — with considerable buying power and boycott power. Whoever boycotts Israel will be boycotted. Whoever hits Israel, will be hit back. We will no longer remain silent.”

Bennett’s comments about the “tens of millions of Israel supporters around the world” are perhaps salient. Also last summer, Adelson hosted an anti-BDS summit in Las Vegas with the aim of establishing and funding “successful strategies for countering the wave of anti-Israel activity on college campuses.” Held at the billionaire’s Venetian hotel on the Vegas strip, the conference was attended by a number of wealthy Jews, including Haim Saban.

“The key decision reached at the conference was that there would be a concerted effort to curtail BDS,” reported the Jerusalem Post.

Though Netanyahu did not attend, a letter from him was read aloud to the conference participants. “De-legitimization of Israel must be fought, and you are on the front lines. It’s not about this or that Israeli policy. It’s about our right to exist here as a free people,” the letter stated.

Reportedly the Israeli government intends to allocate NIS 100 million, or roughly $25.2 million, to the anti-BDS effort.

War Against Academic Associations

At a business meeting held in November, members of the American Anthropological Association voted overwhelmingly (88.4 percent) in favor of a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. A similar measure was passed that same month by the National Women’s Studies Association Executive Committee. These aren’t the first boycott actions taken by academic organizations in the US. The American Studies Association, The Association for Asian American Studies, and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association have all passed academic boycott measures against Israel. And this is just in the US.

Measures have also been passed by academic organizations in Brazil, South Africa, Canada, the UK, and, of course, in Palestine, and probably elsewhere. And perhaps most recently a group of 71 British doctors have called upon the World Medical Association to expel the Israeli Medical Association. The physicians have accused Israeli doctors of “medical torture” on Palestinian patients and want to see a ban on joint projects with Israeli universities.

On January 20, the Science and Technology Committee of the Israeli Knesset held a meeting to discuss the issue (H/T Helvena). A press release on the discussion which took place can be found here on the Knessett’s website. One of those who gave input at the meeting was Peretz Lavie, president of Technion, or the Israeli Institute of Technology.

“We have no complaints against the global academic leadership; our problem is the campuses,” Lavie said. “Initially it was insignificant campuses, but it quickly spread to leading campuses in the United States.”

When Lavie says he has “no complaints against the global academic leadership” he is probably referring to the Association of American Universities, which on January 14, in response to the vote by the Anthropological Association, re-issued an earlier statement in opposition to academic boycotts. The AAU is an organization whose leadership consists of the presidents and chancellors of the 60 universities (in both the US and Canada) that are its members. Membership is by invitation only. The group’s statement opposing boycotts was initially released in 2013 in response to the boycott actions taken by the American Studies and Native American and Indigenous Studies associations.

The group’s re-release of that canned statement from more than two years ago was described by the Jerusalem Post as “a blow to the BDS movement.”

“Students who are exposed to this activity will be the next generation`s senators, and therein lies the great danger in the long term,” Lavie went on in his testimony before the Science and Technology Committee.

“In its report, the American Anthropological Association referred to us as universities of apartheid and decided to conduct a survey on whether the Israeli academia should be boycotted. We have to reach all 12,000 members of the Association. It is a symptom, and if we do not act now, it will spread. There must be one entity that will concentrate all the efforts related to this issue,” he added.

Another person who gave testimony was Ze’ev Feldman of the Israel Medical Association. It was Feldman who informed the committee of the recent statement by the 71 British doctors.

”The sword of the boycott is being raised on the Israeli scientific-medical community,” he said.

Ariel University Chancellor Yigal-Cohen Orgad asserted that Israel has “a real problem with governments, including western governments that encourage boycotts,” while Professor Zvi Ziegler warned, “We are unable to stop anyone with our meager resources.”

Several committee members are also quoted, including Chairman Uri Maklev:

“There is no doubt that the academic boycott phenomenon is expanding and is connected to the financial and consumer boycotts on Israel. Economic and commercial boycotts are associated with politics, but an academic boycott by educated and moderate people has a very strong effect.”

But rather than calling for an end to the settlements, most of the committee members seemed to be of the opinion that the Israeli government needed to devote more resources to fighting the boycott movement. The one exception to this was Arab Knesset member Basel Ghattas:

The world considers the settlements to be illegitimate. You can think differently from the entire world, it is your right, but it is also the world`s right to take measures in order to force you to establish two states.

War with the UN

On October 1, 2015, Netanyahu gave a speech before the United Nations General Assembly that was marked by a 45-second segment during which he paused and projected hostile glares out at those present:

On January 26, 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon broke the UN’s “deafening silence” and, in a rare display of courage, issued a scathing criticism of Israel’s settlement policies.

Progress towards peace requires a freeze of Israel’s settlement enterprise.

Continued settlement activities are an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community.  They rightly raise fundamental questions about Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution.

I am deeply troubled by reports today that the Israeli Government has approved plans for over 150 new homes in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

This is combined with its announcement last week declaring 370 acres in the West Bank, south of Jericho, as so-called “state land”.  These provocative acts are bound to increase the growth of settler populations, further heighten tensions and undermine any prospects for a political road ahead.

The inevitable furious response came quickly, with Netanyahu excoriating the UN chief for helping to “stoke terror.”

“There is no justification for terrorism,” he said. “The Palestinian terrorists don’t want to build a state; they want to destroy a state, and they say that proudly. They want to murder Jews everywhere and they state that proudly. They don’t murder for peace and they don’t murder for human rights.”

He went on to assert that the UN has “lost its neutrality and its moral force, and these statements by the Secretary-General do nothing to improve its situation.”

latuff_inciteIt seems Israel is now at war with the UN as well.

A Lack of Imagination?

Perhaps most striking in all this is the Israeli lack of imagination–or at least that is one way of looking at it. Nowhere in his hostile comments aimed at his various enemies on the global stage does Netanyahu give the slightest indication of having once thought about halting the settlements and pulling back to Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 borders. Ditto with the other Israeli officials quoted above, with the lone exception of the Arab Knessett member. It is almost as if the idea has never even occurred to them.

If that  is the case, one could perhaps ascribe all of this to a lack of imagination. Certainly at this point, after 68 years of oppression, is probably does indeedrequire considerable imagination to conceive of how the two peoples could live at peace. But of course it wasn’t always so. And had Israel, starting in 1967, respected the people of the West Bank, and above all else respected their space rather than crowding them in with settlements and walls and soldiers, a peaceful resolution to the conflict probably could have and would have been achieved by this time.

Yet even now, it isn’t too late. Though it would be politically difficult, Israel coulddismantle its settlements (anything is possible when the national will is present) and pull back to the pre-1967 borders–basically the terms of the Arab Peace Initiative proposed back in 2002. If necessary, and it probably would be for a lengthy period of time, UN peacekeeping troops could be deployed along the border.

But Israel’s response to the Arab Peace Initiative was to call it a “non-starter,” and that seems to be its position today as well. And not only is there little prospect of dismantling of presently-existing settlements, but we see even a refusal to halt the construction of new ones. All of which would suggest that Ban Ki-moon is correct and that the settlement enterprise raises “fundamental questions about Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution.”

Or in other words, Israel has no intentions of making peace.

Certainly it’s possible that things could change, and that a new slate of leaders could arise in Israel with the imagination necessary to see the wisdom of complying with international norms of conduct. And that is what its more liberal Jewish supporters in America seem to be hoping for. But failing this, Israel’s wars with the rest of the world are likely to grow in stridency and ferociousness, and at some point could expand from the realms of diplomacy and/or covert operations fully outright into the military arena.

The Crimes of NATO and the United States

The Crimes of NATO and the United States

Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ

30th January, 2016
 
 
 
 
 
Today, Ratko Mladić, Radovan Karadžić and Vojislav Šešelj are in the Hague prison. “The most fair court in the world” – the Hague – accused the former leader and former military leader of the army of Republika Srpska, for crimes against humanity and called them “the most bloody dictators of the late twentieth century”. However, the European Themis has obvious problems with memory, eyesight and hearing. Because, how does one explain that those responsible for the death of millions of people are not sat next to the “Serbian criminals”? Namely, the top leadership of NATO, who have unleashed over the last 20 years, several bloody conflicts, which they diplomatically called “peacekeeper wars”.
Afghanistan, 2011 – The victim of a mistaken NATO airstrike 
This section being dedicated not only to NATO crimes but also the United States of America is not accidental. Being one of the founding members of a military bloc and its main driving force, as well as having their representatives as the leaders of majority committees to the headquarters of NATO, the US often acts as a main initiator of the military operations.
 
STATISTICS FOR NATO’S “PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS”
Yugoslavia
  • Dead – 5,700 people, including 400 children
  • Wounded – nearly 7,000 civilians, 30% of them children
  • Missing – 821 people
  • Excess mortality as a result of deterioration of conditions of existence not estimated
 
 
Afghanistan
 
  • Dead – 35,000 people
  • Refugees – 500,000 people
  • As well as the aggravation of inter-ethnic conflicts, terrorist attacks, increased drug trafficking
 
 
Iraq
 
  • During the war in Iraq over 1 million Iraqis were killed – this is a greatest loss in modern history. A quarter of them women and children.
  • During the operation, NATO forces used forbidden weapons, namely white phosphorus.
 
 
Libya
 
  • Killed more than 20,000 people (military and civilians)
 
  • Refugees – more than 350,000 people
 
In August 2011, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen claimed that the actions of the aviation of NATO forces in Libya caused no civilian casualties.
Libya, 2011 – Doctors help child who suffered from wounds in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata
LIST OF NATO’S CRIMES
1. DECEIVING THE WORLD COMMUNITY
Someone wise once said, “Anyone who has once proclaimed violence as his method must inexorably choose lying as his principle”. The US alone, or via the use of NATO forces, have started all military conflicts with deception, distorting the true reasons of the start of hostilities.
Vietnam
The incident in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964 may serve as the beginning of the great American fraud, which unleashed the bloody campaign of Vietnam, which began due to the fact that North Vietnamese speedboats, allegedly, attacked the United States fleet. After 40 years, the U.S. government declassified archival military documents from which it became clear that the cause of the beginning of the Vietnam campaign was shamelessly fabricated (mywebs.su/blog/1310.html). Following the Tonkin incident, the bombing of settlements in Vietnam resulted in thousands of victims among the civilian population.
 
Vietnam, 1 January 1966 – Women and children hide in a ditch from the intense shelling 
The countries of former Yugoslavia
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the Alliance began to feverishly look for a reason for their continued existence. The main one was the so-called “peacekeeping mission” when NATO entered in the resolution of ethnic conflicts, pursuing purely personal goals (especially the extension of their influence). As, for example, in the Balkans, when they invaded the region, and directly participated in the escalation of ethnic wars.
The military action of NATO against the former Republic of Yugoslavia, marking the beginning of the modern operations unit, is an example of flagrant violations of all norms and legislation, including the Organization of the North Atlantic Alliance (beta-press.ru/article/34). First of all, NATO violated its own Charter, the Washington Treaty, the 1st article of which stipulates that members of the Alliance must “settle all international disputes in which they may be involved in by peaceful means in such a way as not to endanger international peace, security and justice, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations”. The 6th article of the Treaty was also grossly violated, which states that the competence of NATO is limited to the territory of member countries of the Alliance, and Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia were not members of NATO. What can we say about the 7th article of the Washington Treaty, which clearly stipulates that the Alliance recognizes “the responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security” (nato.int/cps/ru/natolive/official_texts_17120.htm).
 
 
American TIME magazine on September 11, 1995 was published under the title “Bringing the Serbs to heel. Massive bombing opens the door to peace”
NATO’s aggression against the former Yugoslavia almost negated all UN peacekeeping missions. The main reason for the invasion of the bloc in the Balkan country became its steadfast refusal to the ultimatum of NATO to concede its territory to the military forces of the Alliance. The condition of the Alliance meant nothing other than hard intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and a threat to its territorial integrity. All of these actions violated the 1st article of the UN Resolution of 1974: “Aggression is the use of armed force by a state (group of States) against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another state or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, as set out in this definition” (politics.ru/articles/database/global/pravoviie_dokumentii/rezoliutsiia_generalnoij_assamblei_oon_%C2%ABopredelen.shtml).
The best thing about the crimes of the U.S. and NATO in Yugoslavia was, the once the best friend of the West, dissident and human rights activist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, comparing the actions of the Alliance with Nazi crimes: “The worst thing that is happening today is not even the bombing of Serbia, while it is difficult to pronounce, – the most terrible thing is that NATO has transferred us into a new era. Just as Hitler once was, playing another adventures, withdrawing Germany from the League of Nations… USA and NATO removed the UN system of collective security, the recognition of the sovereignty of states. They started a new era: who ever is stronger, will crush. It’s scary…” (aif.ru/politics/article/comments/53043).
Iraq
The U.S invaded Iraq under the pretext of the presence of weapons of mass destruction, namely bacteriological (anthrax) (newsru.com/world/05feb2003/powellun.html). An additional reason was already familiar by that point – the fight for democracy. “Democratization” of Iraq has cost the lives of a million civilians (excluding losses for the military). “The dictator” Hussein was publicly executed, and weapons of mass destruction, which allegedly threatened the world, were never found. Later, in 2004, the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted the published data, which marked the beginning of a bloody war, were, to put it mildly, “inaccurate” or simply falsified. “When I did a report in February 2003, it was based on the best information which was provided by the CIA. Unfortunately, over time, it became clear that the sources were inaccurate and wrong and in some cases, deliberately misleading. I’m deeply disappointed and I regret it” – Powell told the press (aif.ru/politics/article/comments/53043). He is sorry.
 
Iraq, 2003 – A father carries his mutilated, dead daughter after NATO’s bombing 
2. THE USE OF PROHIBITED WEAPONS
Vietnam
They used Napalm bombs – a weapon that is an incendiary, flamethrower mixture. As gelled gasoline, Napalm literally burnt them alive. Later, in 1980, the UN adopted the Convention on the prohibition of certain types of weapons, the 3rd Protocol would read that the use of incendiary weapons, including Napalm, against civilians is a crime. But during the Vietnam war these bombs had already killed and affected hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese.
8 June 1972 –  9 year-old Kim Phuc (center) flees from a Napalm bombing on the highway near Trang Bang. This photo went around the world and raised a storm of protest against the criminal policy of the USA in Vietnam
The countries of former Yugoslavia
In military operations against that country, NATO used weapons that were banned by the Nuremberg Charter and Geneva and Hague conventions. Firstly, in Yugoslavia, shells with a low concentration of uranium were used. This kind of weapon is not only highly accurate, but radioactive and highly toxic, and is dangerous to humans and the environment. Secondly, NATO used so-called cluster bombs – weapons of indirect fire, explosive projectiles, prohibited from the later “Ottawa process minefield” (icbl.org/intro.php). The peculiarity of this weapon is that the explosion occurs only in 50% of cases. Other bombs can lie for years in the ground, activating only in case of accidental contact.
Iraq
The Iraqi venture was marked by a number of high-profile crimes of the Alliance. Torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison stirred up the whole world…
Iraq, 2004 – Americans are photographed in the background of a dumped pile of naked prisoners in Abu Ghraib 
There was violence against civilians (murder, rape, robbery). And, of course, the use of one of the most dreaded types of incendiary chemical weapons, white phosphorus, (during the battle for Nasiriyah in April 2003, as well as the assaults on Fallujah in April and November 2004). This type of weapon, which burns the body and dissolves the flesh to the bone, was banned by the UN Convention on certain weapons in 1980, but the US never ratified it.
Photos of casualties from the use of white phosphorus we will not publish, because it is indeed a very scary sight.
Libya
There is information, which the leadership of NATO stubbornly refuses to acknowledge, that during the conflict in Libya, the military also used cluster bombs and white phosphorus, as was the case during the operations in Yugoslavia and Iraq (oko-planet.su/fail/failvideo/videoweapon/86827-nato-ispolzovalo-klasternye-bomby-v-livii-hotya-otricaet-eto-smotrite-sami.html). Also there is a possibility that NATO dumped uranium dust – a radioactive substance, banned by UN Convention, on Iraqi facilities (voltairenet.org/Voennye-prestupleniya-NATO-uchenye). Finally, many sources claim that in Libya, NATO used mustard gas in combat, a toxic substance “tested” during the years of World wars, and prohibited under various conventions as it is extremely dangerous (newsland.ru/news/detail/id/778279).
 
3. THE ARMS RACE
One of the main NATO crimes is pulling the world into a new arms race era. NATO is not only placing missile defense systems on the European continent, but also heavily increasing its nuclear capabilities. By the way, the official military doctrine of the Alliance recognizes the right to use nuclear weapons – the kind of weapons banned in 1996 by the world court (beta-press.ru/print.php?id=34), because it can lead to the destruction of humanity. Today, if we add up full military potential of the country-members of the bloc, NATO has 60% of the world’s nuclear arsenal.
The countries of the Alliance from year to year are increasing their military capabilities under the pretext: to “force protection, mobility, and high efficiency” (beta-press.ru/print.php?id=34). They spend huge money on it. For example, the military budget of the EU is about 11%. The spending for defense in the USA and Canada is growing. In the conditions of crisis, this money could go to peaceful humanitarian purposes, who preach to the West for medical services and education, on the development of social policies and environmental protection. But NATO needs a strong army to establish fully and definitively their hegemony in the world.
WHY DOES NATO START MILITARY CONFLICTS?
Americans themselves like to say that they are people of practical storage. They, like anyone else, know how to count money. And like all of history, humanity has fought over resources – be it gold, timber, or oil, and today, Americans aim to establish their influence in all strategically important regions of the planet. Petroleum countries have recently found problems with democracy and their mandatory dictator leader. It is in these countries that NATO tries to dominate, with the help of the world community, or by simply ignoring their opinion. As they say, morality in business is the concept of losing. So was Iraq and so was Libya. And in turn – Damascus.
The Expert Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, Sergey Karaganov, characterizes the current policy of the NATO countries – a priori cannot be a guarantor of stability and security in the world: “For example, Europe has officially announced that one of the main objectives of its policy – the access of European companies to the African market and resources. At any cost! It, above all, affects the interests of China, who, incidentally, are assessing the situation in the Middle East, having serious levers of pressure on Europe, and have not yet said their weighty word. This concerns Russia: in Guinea, the Europeans are already trying to remove RUSAL, “LUKOIL” from Côte d’Ivoire… And in the battle for Africa, the Europeans need to turn the Mediterranean sea into a “NATO Lake”. To solve this problem, Syria could become another Algeria (newsland.ru/news/detail/id/984811/).
So NATO, in this business scheme, is just a means to achieve the goal.

Palestinian youths get 15 years in prison for stone throwing they denied. Only jews are allowed to throw stones

Palestinian youths get 15 years in prison for stone throwing they denied

29 January 2016

Ali Shamlawi

Five Palestinian youths, known as the “Hares boys,” after their home village in the West Bank, have concluded a nearly three-year military trial by agreeing to a plea deal with Israeli occupation authorities.

They will each serve 15 years in prison.

Ali Shamlawi, Muhammed Kleib, Muhammed Suleiman, Ammar Souf and Tamer Souf, all 16 and 17 when they were arrested in March 2013, were charged with 20 counts of attempted murder.

Israel alleges they threw stones on a highway that connects Israeli settlements in the central West Bank to Tel Aviv and other towns in present-day Israel.

The young men all maintained their innocence and said that the Israeli accusations were based on confessions extracted by torture.

A settler crashed her car into a truck, causing significant injury to her three young daughters. The woman claimed she had crashed the car due to Palestinians throwing stones. There were no eyewitnesses.

Earlier this year, one of the girls, 4-year-old Adelle Biton, died of pneumonia, which is believed to have become fatal due to the neurological damage she sustained in the accident.

As part of the deal, the young men’s families will also pay a total of $39,000 that will be given to the family of Adelle Biton.

Stone throwing in israel carries a jail sentence, unless of course you are jewish

Embedded image permalink
 Unequal laws
Muhammad Kleib

The deal concludes one of the most protracted prosecutions in a military court system that maintains a nearly 100 percent conviction rate and relies largely on plea bargains.

Under Israel’s two-tiered legal system, only Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are subject to military trials.

Israeli settlers are subject to Israeli civilian courts which typically treat them much more leniently in the rare cases where they are brought to trial for attacks on Palestinians.

“The Hares boys case reflects the shortcomings of the Israeli military system that includes prolonged legal proceedings and a harsh interrogation process,” Bashar Jamal, a spokesperson for Defense for Children International-Palestine, told The Electronic Intifada.

Jamal noted that nearly 700 Palestinian children are arrested and prosecuted in Israel’s military court system each year.

Ammar Souf

“The comparison between the application of justice in the Hares boys case and the Dawabsha family is critical. The perpetrators of the Dawabsha family are still free,” Jamal continued.

Last summer, a firebomb was thrown into the Dawabsha family home in the occupied West Bank village of Duma, killing 18-month-old baby Ali and fatally injuring his parents Riham and Saad.

Forced confessions

In the hours and days after the accident, Israeli forces mounted raids on the village of Hares, near Nablus, and searched houses looking for teenagers.

For nearly three years, the Hares boys maintained that they had not been throwing stones on the day of the car accident.

A plea deal was offered to the five boys soon after they were charged but, on the recommendation of attorney Labib Habib, they decided to go to trial.

But when Adelle Biton died, the boys and their families feared their chances of being cleared had worsened.

Her death meant that the boys’ charges could be raised to manslaughter, and result in even longer sentences.

Muhammad Suleiman

As evidence against the boys, the prosecution relied on forced confessions and insurance claims made by 20 Israeli drivers that their cars had been pelted by rocks that day.

After they were arrested, the boys had all signed confessions, which they immediately recanted, saying they had been extracted by torture and threats.

Ali Shamlawi appeared before the Israeli military court less than a month after his arrest and told the judge that he had been beaten, choked and forced to sign a confession in Hebrew while one hand remained cuffed to the chair.

Shamlawi’s mother told Al Jazeera English that her son had been kept in solitary confinement for two weeks, denied sleep and psychologically pressured to confess by threats against his mother and sister.

In 2013, Defense for Children International–Palestine reported that three quarters of Palestinian child detainees endured some kind of physical violence during their arrest, transfer or interrogation.

Tamer Souf

Israel’s B’Tselem human rights group has also found that Palestinian children are systematically subjected to torture and violence, including threats of rape against them or family members, by Israeli interrogators, in order to force them to confess to stone throwing.

Attorney Habib told The Electronic Intifada that ordinarily he would not have recommended the plea deal.

“But because of the military court and the general incitement in the country we thought that we don’t have any chance for a fair trial, that’s why we took the decision,” he said.

Politicians including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seized on Adelle Biton’s death as an opportunity to condemn Palestinians and declare that “stones are lethal weapons.”

In recent months, Israel has ramped up its criminalization of stone throwing.

Israel’s occupation laws permit up to 20 years imprisonment for Palestinians accused of stone throwing in the West Bank. However most sentences are for less than a year.

This summer, Israel’s parliament amended its penal code to allow for the imprisonment of alleged stone throwers for up to 20 years, bringing the country’s criminal laws into closer alignment with the occupation regime in the West Bank.

In September, Israeli police expanded their use of snipers against Palestinian protesters, including alleged stone throwers.

Images courtesy of Hares Boys.

Female prisoners in israel’s gulags subjected to violence, sexual harassment and denied medical treatment

Female prisoners endure hard situation inside Israeli jails

Sexual harassment is form of the unethical Israeli violence practiced against the female prisoners

Fifty-eight Palestinian female prisoners including seven minors are being held in Israeli jails are enduring hard conditions, a Palestinian Authority (PA) lawyer said on Friday.
The lawyer said: “Some of the prisoners concede their right to stand before the court in order to avoid the miserable journeys to the Israeli courthouses.”

Days of Palestine, West Bank –Fifty-eight Palestinian female prisoners including seven minors are being held in Israeli jails are enduring hard conditions, a Palestinian Authority (PA) lawyer said on Friday.

Hanan al-Khatib, the lawyer working with the PA Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs said that the youngest female prisoner is 14-year-old Kariman Swidan from the West Bank village of Azzun.

According to Al-Khatib, five of the female prisoners were wounded by the Israeli occupation forces before they were arrested and they are denied proper medical treatment.

In addition, Al-Khatib said: “The female prisoners are being held in miserable conditions”, noting that the Damon Prison, which was recently reopened, lacks electrical equipment.

“There is also a problem with overcrowding cells as each one has a total of 17 beds and just one toilet,” the lawyer said.

She noted that the prisoners are afraid of diseases and pollution, and there are already cases of infections among prisoners.

About the journey of the female prisoners to the courts, Al-Khatib said: “The prisoners are transported in cold cars, and the trip takes long hours, even days to the courthouse where the prisoners have to wait for long hours in the cold.”

She added: “Some of the prisoners concede their right to stand before the court in order to avoid the miserable journeys.”

Al-Khatib warned that the prisoners are suffering from great psychological pressure, a form of which is sexual harassment, and that many of them need medical assistance.

 

 

There are big changes underway in Saudi feudal dictatorship, perhaps a real “Arab Spring”

  There are big changes underway in Saudi Arabia

The House of Saud is crushing dissent and cutting benefits at home, while intervening militarily abroad. Why? Here’s everything you need to know:

Are the Saudis nervous?
Very. The royal family feels threats from within the country and without, as the price of oil plunges, the predominantly young population grows restless, and Saudi Arabia’s bitter rival, Shiite Iran, seeks to expand its influence throughout the region. The Saudis were also deeply alarmed by the Arab Spring, which saw long-established regimes crumble; the U.S.’s nuclear deal with Iran; and the rise of ISIS. Since King Salman took the throne a year ago, Saudi authorities have intensified government repression to a severe degree. New counterterrorism legislation, enacted shortly before he took power, defines terrorism as any act with criminal intent that undermines public order, as well as any “deviant thought” that questions Wahhabism, the fundamentalist sect of Sunni Islam that dominates all aspects of Saudi life.

What is the impact of this law?
Any form of dissent is being prosecuted as a crime. Executions are at a two-decade high, with more than 150 public beheadings in 2015 and 47 in just the first week of this year — including the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric (see below), an act that led Iran to sever diplomatic ties. For urging Saudi society to be more liberal and secular, prominent blogger Raif Badawi was flogged, and his lawyer was jailed for defending him. When the lawyer’s wife complained on Twitter about his arrest, she was jailed, too.

Who’s pushing this crackdown?
A new group of leaders. The House of Saud has been led by elderly sons of modern Saudi Arabia’s founder, Ibn Saud, for many decades. But King Salman, 80, has chosen not to name one of his younger half-brothers as his likely successor. Instead, he appointed his son Mohammed bin Salman al Saud, 30, as deputy crown prince and defense minister — and Mohammed is clearly the real power behind the throne. Unlike the older, U.S.-educated generation, Mohammed went to a Saudi university, has had little exposure to Western culture, and has “a reputation for arrogance and ruthlessness,” says Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution.

What has Mohammed done?
The young prince plunged straight into a war in Yemen. “The previous, cautious diplomatic stance of older leaders within the royal family is being replaced by a new, impulsive policy of intervention,” said a report from the German foreign intelligence service BND. Saudi Arabia is locked in a struggle with Iran for primacy in the Middle East. The rise of a Shiite government in Iraq brought that country firmly into the Iranian camp, and Lebanon was already there. The conflict in Syria has become a proxy war between the Assad regime, backed by Iran, and militias funded by the Saudis. So when Shiite Houthi militants toppled the Yemeni government, Mohammed moved in swiftly to prevent his country from being bookended by Shiite powers. Saudi airstrikes have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians, but the prince has been undeterred.

What about domestic policy?
Mohammed says he plans sweeping, market-based economic reforms. For 80 years, the Saudi economy has been based almost entirely on oil revenue. High oil prices brought in enormous wealth, which enables the government to fund a generous welfare state without levying any income tax. Most actual work is done by foreigners — a vast army of nearly nine million immigrants from South Asia and the Middle East who serve some 18 million Saudis. Saudis are employed largely in the bloated public sector, many of them drawing fat salaries for little work. But this model is becoming unsustainable. People under 25 make up more than half the population, and there aren’t enough jobs for them as they reach working age. Worse, the collapse in oil prices — from $115 a barrel in 2014 to under $35 now — means there isn’t enough money flowing in to sustain benefits at such generous levels.

Why not?
In the past, when oil prices have fallen, the Saudis have cut production to raise them. But this time, they’ve kept pumping with abandon. The goal is to preserve Saudi market share by driving higher-cost oil producers — notably the U.S. fracking industry — out of business. But the sharp drop in revenue requires painful cuts to the subsidies and expense accounts that so many Saudis rely on.

How will Saudis react to those cuts?
That’s one of the things worrying the royal family. The Saudi people have long had a tacit agreement with their rulers: In return for a cushy life and generous benefits, they put up with an almost total lack of political freedom or say in their own government. Many Saudis are rich enough to skip off to Bahrain or Dubai for the weekend, where they can drink alcohol and the women can shed their burqas. Most, though, are middle-class, and around one-fifth are actually poor, and if Mohammed makes good on his pledge to replace the free health care with an insurance-based system and partially privatize education, they will suffer. “With a decline in social spending and a reduction in subsidies,” says analyst Alberto Gallo, “comes the risk of rising domestic turmoil.”

The oppressed Shiite minority
The Saudi regime said it executed Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr for terrorism, but critics said the real reason was his activism in organizing the Shiite minority and denouncing the House of Saud. Shiites make up 15 percent of the population in Saudi Arabia, and they are strongly discriminated against. They are excluded from the cushy government jobs, and Saudi television and Saudi clerics routinely spread anti-Shiite propaganda. For three years, activists in the oil-rich eastern province of al-Ahsa, abutting Shiite-majority Bahrain, have been protesting, sometimes violently. “You are now standing on top of oil fields that feed the whole world,” Shiite activist Fathil Al Safwani told the BBC. “But we see nothing of it. Poverty, hunger, no honor, no political freedom, we have nothing.” By executing Nimr, the House of Saud sent a clear signal that nothing will change; indeed, even complaining about anti-Shiite discrimination will get you beheaded.

Refugee crisis, illegal wars, support of terrorists, antagonism of Russia, all part of the USA’s plan to weaken Europe

Instead of blaming the victims, Europe should stop the illegal wars that created the migrant crisis

© Ognen Teofilovski / Reuters

Europe is on a dangerous, slippery slope of increasing xenophobia and racism engendered by the influx of refugees. Denmark’s new confiscation law is a sign of the brooding, baleful climate.

But the real answer to the problem is dealing with Europe’s support for Washington’s criminal wars. In other words, citizens of Europe should be addressing the root cause of the problem, not reacting to the symptoms. We should be shaming the villains, not blaming the victims.

We should be demanding legal sanctions and prosecution of government leaders over what are gross violations of international law.

European governments stand accused of war crimes, yet we allow them to get away with mass murder. Then when we incur secondary problems such as the massive displacement of refugees from wars and conflicts – that our governments have fomented – we illogically and cravenly focus on blaming the victims of our governments’ criminality.

Part of the public shaming of the villains would involve holding those European members of the US-led NATO military alliance accountable to international law. Individual government and military leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against peace. The inculpating evidence is out there. The fact that European governments have waged dubious overseas wars – with impunity – is the real shame and root of the problem.

Wars in former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine, as well as drone assassinations in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, plus covert military operations in Mali, Niger and Ivory Coast have all involved complicity of European member states. Britain and France in particular have been most prominent in carrying out US-led NATO military interventions, both overt and covert, as in Libya and Syria, respectively.

The countless millions of people displaced across Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa are a direct result of European militarism in conjunction with that of Washington. Even the French intervention in Mali and Central Africa Republic are questionable under international law. Both were launched without United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Over the past five years, Libya perhaps represents the most egregious case of illegal war conducted by NATO and its European members, including Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy in addition to Britain and France. Along with the US, these countries violated a UN mandate to bomb Africa’s most prosperous and stable country into a bloody shambles. Thousands of civilians were killed in the seven-month US-EU blitzkrieg, culminating in the brutal murder of leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Libya was ransacked into a failed state, over-run by illegally armed extremist groups, and it was European governments who authored the descent into barbarism. Where are the calls for justice for these atrocious crimes in so-called civilized, law-abiding, Nobel-prize-winning Europe?

Yet last week, American and European military chiefs were calling for even more military intervention in Libya and Syria. This declaration of military intervention – regardless of its stated purpose of “fighting terrorism” – is in itself an act of illegal aggression under international law; according to respected war crimes lawyer Christopher Black, speaking to this author. So, where was the public outrage and calls for prosecution over this flagrant bout of more criminality by our European governments and their American ally?

Even where countries have not been directly hit by NATO’s military, such as Eritrea, Sudan and Cameroon, refugees coming from such places are doing so largely because of the lawless gateway-to-Europe that Libya was turned into by NATO’s destruction.

This week we see the Danish parliament voting into law measures which allow its police to confiscate assets of asylum-seekers worth more than $1,400. The move has caused international controversy out of concern that the Danish authorities are infringing on human rights.

The Danish law is only one in a litany of grim signs that Europe is becoming an increasingly hostile place towards refugees. Countries like Hungary, Slovenia, Poland and Austria are closing their borders. Even formerly more open Germany and Sweden are restricting the intake of refugees and sending many back to where they came from.

On one hand, it is understandable that residents in different countries are alarmed by the surge in the numbers of foreign nationals. Especially when the foreigners are visibly different in color, dress and religious practice. Let’s cut to the chase. Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East are of concern for many Europeans.

The spate of sex assaults in German and Swedish cities allegedly carried out by “Arab-looking young men” has fueled a popular backlash. But there is a danger of hysterical over-reaction that feeds political interests of racist groups. A French magazine cartoon depicting the little Syrian boy who died from drowning as a grown-up sex attacker is a despicably irresponsible incitement.

So too is tarring refugees as “terrorist sympathizers”. Following the jihadist terror attacks in Paris on November 13, there has been a dramatic rise in anti-Muslim hate assaults reported in Britain and France. The Paris terrorists may have infiltrated with the droves of Syrian refugees into Europe. But surely the real focus should be on why and how these jihadists went to Syria in the first place. And why are millions of people being displaced from that country.

This week it was also reported that asylum-seekers in Britain are being forced to wear brightly colored wristbands in order for them to qualify for food handouts. The visible form of identity has led to the wearers being abused on the streets, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Comment: Apparently no one in the UK learned anything from the lessons of the Nazis in Germany. There is surely a better way for someone to qualify for food than to make them a walking target for xenophobic racists.

Previously, asylum-seekers in the British town of Middlesbrough had their house doors painted red by a local authority. Again, the discrimination led to attacks by racist thugs.

Whether officially or unofficially, Europe is becoming a racist, xenophobic fortress. Given the continent’s own history of war, displacement, fascism and genocidal persecution it should be deeply troubling that it is once again on a slippery slope to such nihilistic mentality. It is doubling worrying when we hear apologists for hard-line measures against refugees talking about “preserving European blood and culture.” Given Europe’s millennia of migrations, what “pure blood” is there to talk of apart from malign mythical notions?

To compare Europe to a sinking boat overloaded with teeming migrants is also asinine and irresponsible. Europe’s intake of one million refugees last year amounts to 0.2 per cent of its total 500 million population. Denmark’s intake of 21,300 asylum-seekers last year constitutes less than 0.4 per cent of its national population.

Europe’s refugee “crisis” is turning into an irrational, xenophobic panic that is not justified by facts. It is misleading people into dangerous political territory of persecution, racist discrimination and ultimately fascist societies that infringe on all our rights as citizens.

But far more importantly, the misplaced hysteria over refugees is a distraction from the real issue. Which is that European states are complicit in illegal wars of aggression and covert regime-change interventions.

Political leaders like Britain’s David Cameron and France’s François Hollande, as well as Nicolas Sarkozy before him should be prosecuted in an international court for crimes against peace. European citizens not holding their rogue governments to account is the real problem.

Shame the villains, don’t blame the victims. If we don’t stand up to lawless tyranny, then we are its next victims.

Unholy Alliance Between Zionism And Wahabism Exposed

Saudi King Abdullah with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu

Unholy Alliance Between Zionism And Wahabism Exposed

JNN 31 Jan 2016 New York : The apparent Israeli-Saudi alliance, even though hidden from the masses for now, matches the interests of the US in the Middle East and Western Asia. Washington hopes that this will weaken anti-Israeli feelings in the Arab and Muslim world, create a reliable counterweight in the region to a possible strengthening of Iran, and isolate to the extent Shiite groups.

However, the absence of diplomatic relations does not prevent unofficial contact between Israeli and Saudi representatives. Recently there have been frequent media reports on meetings between representatives of the two states and there have even been claims that the Saudis are ready to provide Israel with an air corridor and air bases for rescue helicopters, tanker aircraft and drones (unmanned aircraft systems – UAS) in case Israel decides to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. Some of these reports have been denied by officials but others have nevertheless been confirmed.

In particular, according to information of a Jerusalem Post correspondent citing diplomatic sources of both countries, since the beginning of 2014 there have been as many as five secret meetings between the Saudis and Israelis, in India, Italy and the Czech Republic. Reports appeared in the Arab press that senior members of the Israeli security forces, including the head of Mossad, secretly visited Riyadh and held discussions there with their Saudi equivalents. Apparently there were even negotiations between the then director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, with senior officials of the Israeli secret services in Geneva.

On June 5, 2015 Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Dore Gold met Saudi met with General Anwar Majed Eshki at a conference in Washington, when the latter presented his strategic MER plan. Key highlights of this document are devoted to establishing cooperation between the Arab countries and Israel and the need for joint efforts to isolate the Iranian regime.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia commissioned prince and media magnate Al-Waleed bin Talal to start a dialogue with the Israeli intellectual community with the aim of reestablishing contact with the neighbouring country. Prince Talal called on all inhabitants of the Middle East, which were torn apart by war, to end their hatred of the Jewish people. He also declared that his visit to Jerusalem signifies the beginning of ‘peace and brotherliness’ between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Arab media reported that Saudi Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi confirmed that his country is ready to export ‘black gold’ to any place in the world, including Israel. Saudi Minister pointed out that the majority of the Arab world does not see any obstacles to trade relations. In August 2014 the head of the Saudi Foreign Ministry Prince Saud Al Faisal declared at the world assembly of Islamic scholars in Jeddah: “We must reject planting hatred towards Israel and we should normalize relations with the Jewish state.” Dore Gold, mentioned above, told the news agency Bloomberg: “Our standing today on this stage does not mean we have resolved all the differences that our countries shared over the years. But our hope is we will be able to address them fully in the years ahead and Riyadh can become a strategic partner of the Jewish state”.

It should be noted that this mobilization of contacts between representatives of Saudi Arabia and Israel has been taking place on the eve of and after the signing of the agreement between international mediators and Iran on the latter’s nuclear program. Tel-Aviv called the agreement ‘a historical mistake’ and Riyadh perceived it as a direct threat to its national interests. It is no coincidence that the Saudi King and some of his direct counterparts in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) decided not to participate in the summit of this regional organization on May 14, 2015 in Camp David (in the US). Soon after, on June 18, 2015 at the St Petersburg Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Saudi Defence Minister and son of Saudi King Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud. The King himself is expected to come to Russia on an official visit before the end of this year. In other words, Riyadh made it clear to Washington that the deal with Iran is forcing the Saudi leadership to look for new allies. Time will tell whether these steps are more to do with a genuine desire of the Saudis to diversify their foreign relations, or they are simply a lever to put pressure on the US administration.

The US had to react quickly to the aggressive declarations and actions of its strategic allies and regional partners. Washington assured both Riyadh and Tel-Aviv that the IAEA and American special services will keep a tight watch on Teheran implementing all the conditions of the agreement signed in Vienna and that the sanctions on Iran will only be lifted gradually. The GCC countries were promised to receive supplies of new modern weaponry in increasing amounts and on preferential terms. In the very near future the question of creating a common anti-missile system for the GCC as a whole will be resolved. This system will cover the Arab Peninsula with a ‘reliable shield’ from a possible attack by Teheran. The US also supported Saudi Arabia in its bombing of Shiite rebels in Yemen. In order to support the air operation of the coalition led by Riyadh the US fueled the Saudi fighter aircraft and provided intelligence and equipment. It was even reported that Israel, at the request of Washington, also provided its intelligence data on Yemen to the Saudis.

In order to calm the Israelis following the deal with Iran, Washington promised to increase its annual financial aid to Israel for the entire 10-year duration of the implementation of the ‘Vienna Pact’ – by around one and a half billion US dollars. The US additionally accepted responsibility to finance the further development of the Iron Dome anti-missile system and to increase Israel’s missile supplies, which were depleted following last year military operation in Gaza. The Israeli air force will also get a squadron of the latest F-35 fighter-bombers on favourable terms. At the same time, in the near future joint exercises will be held with the air forces of Israel, the US and several European countries for the first time in six years. These exercises will include perfecting ‘missile attacks and bombing raids on targets located in far-off countries’.

The Gulf monarchs are clearly not ready to share power, natural resources or finances with representatives of their large Shiite communities. The apparent Israeli-Saudi alliance, even though hidden from the masses for now, matches the interests of the US in the Middle East and Western Asia. Washington hopes that this will weaken anti-Israeli feelings in the Arab and Muslim world, create a reliable counterweight in the region to a possible strengthening of Iran, and isolate to the extent possible radical islamist Sunni and Shiite groups. The US, it would seem, is happy to see several centers of power at once (Israel, Turkey, Egypt, the Gulf monarchies and Iran) jostling or in competition with each other but dependent on Washington, with Riyadh together with Tel-Aviv assigned the role of regional gendarme. The Saudis’ counterinsurgency operations in Bahrain and Yemen and the support for opposition fighters in Syria confirm this thesis.

Israeli Relations with Wahabi Gulf Monarchies

Israel is quietly working to improve ties with Gulf monarchies after recent tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran in hopes of halting Iran’s influence in the region.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has anointed Dore Gold, the director-general of the foreign ministry to lead outreach, to take advantage of the Gulf’s disdain towards Tehran, just weeks after the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Iran was attacked by extremists.
“Clearly there’s been a convergence of interests between Israel and many Wahabi Arab states given the fact that they both face identical challenges in the region,”Gold told The Wall Street Journal.

Quoting unnamed sources, the Journal reported that Israel is also motivated by the July nuclear deal carved out between Iran and the U.S and its allies. Netanyahu had openly fought the deal and criticized President Barack Obama for negotiating with nuclear Iran.
“What we have seen in the past six months is an intensification of the relationship [with Wahabi Arab states],” a senior Israeli official told the Journal. “Israel is on the same side.”

Israeli energy minister Made a secret visit to Abu Dhabi

Israel’s energy minister returned Monday from a visit to Abu Dhabi, where he met with several officials to discuss shared concerns over Iran, the Islamic State and other matters, a TV report said.

The Likud party’s Yuval Steinitz, who until recently also served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s point man on matters relating to Iran’s nuclear program, made the trip under “heavy security,” Channel 2 reported, and his office declined to confirm that it had taken place.

The report noted that Israel, the Gulf principalities and other Wahabi Arab states have several “shared concerns.” It added that the trip took place just as the international community began implementing the nuclear deal with Iran, marked by a lifting of economic sanctions.

Coincidentally or otherwise, an energy conference was taking place in Abu Dhabi, with Iranian representation, as Steinitz visited. There was no report of any contact between Steinitz and Iranian officials. The Iranian leadership constantly refers to hopes for the demise of Israel, and acknowledges arming and funding terror groups such as Hezbollah that seek to destroy the Jewish state.

In November, it was reported that Israel was opening an office in Abu Dhabi to facilitate its work there with the UN’s International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Israeli diplomat Rami Hatan was said to be preparing to leave for Abu Dhabi to head the office. An Israeli official described the move as a “diplomatic breakthrough.”

In January 2009, Israel had cast its vote for Abu Dhabi as the site of IRENA’s headquarters (over rival contender Germany) with the explicit condition that IRENA’s presence in the Gulf state would allow Israel to open an official, publicly acknowledged diplomatic office there.

Still, a senior United Arab Emirates official said Israel’s new office in Abu Dhabi did not signify any change in her government’s attitude toward the Jewish state. Maryam Al Falasi, director of communications at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, issued a statement saying that “any agreement between [the International Renewable Energy Association] and Israel does not represent any change in the position of the UAE or its relations with Israel.”

Dore Gold, the Foreign Ministry director general, was in Abu Dhabi in November for IRENA’s 10th annual meeting.

Saudi King Abdullah with Israeli President Benjamin NetanyahuJNN 31 Jan 2016 New York : The apparent Israeli-Saudi alliance, even though hidden from the masses for now, matches the interests of the US in the Middle East and Western Asia. Washington hopes that this will weaken anti-Israeli feelings in the Arab and Muslim world, create a reliable counterweight in the region to a possible strengthening of Iran, and isolate to the extent Shiite groups.

However, the absence of diplomatic relations does not prevent unofficial contact between Israeli and Saudi representatives. Recently there have been frequent media reports on meetings between representatives of the two states and there have even been claims that the Saudis are ready to provide Israel with an air corridor and air bases for rescue helicopters, tanker aircraft and drones (unmanned aircraft systems – UAS) in case Israel decides to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. Some of these reports have been denied by officials but others have nevertheless been confirmed.

In particular, according to information of a Jerusalem Post correspondent citing diplomatic sources of both countries, since the beginning of 2014 there have been as many as five secret meetings between the Saudis and Israelis, in India, Italy and the Czech Republic. Reports appeared in the Arab press that senior members of the Israeli security forces, including the head of Mossad, secretly visited Riyadh and held discussions there with their Saudi equivalents. Apparently there were even negotiations between the then director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, with senior officials of the Israeli secret services in Geneva.

On June 5, 2015 Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Dore Gold met Saudi met with General Anwar Majed Eshki at a conference in Washington, when the latter presented his strategic MER plan. Key highlights of this document are devoted to establishing cooperation between the Arab countries and Israel and the need for joint efforts to isolate the Iranian regime.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia commissioned prince and media magnate Al-Waleed bin Talal to start a dialogue with the Israeli intellectual community with the aim of reestablishing contact with the neighbouring country. Prince Talal called on all inhabitants of the Middle East, which were torn apart by war, to end their hatred of the Jewish people. He also declared that his visit to Jerusalem signifies the beginning of ‘peace and brotherliness’ between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Arab media reported that Saudi Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi confirmed that his country is ready to export ‘black gold’ to any place in the world, including Israel. Saudi Minister pointed out that the majority of the Arab world does not see any obstacles to trade relations.

In August 2014 the head of the Saudi Foreign Ministry Prince Saud Al Faisal declared at the world assembly of Islamic scholars in Jeddah: “We must reject planting hatred towards Israel and we should normalize relations with the Jewish state.” Dore Gold, mentioned above, told the news agency Bloomberg: “Our standing today on this stage does not mean we have resolved all the differences that our countries shared over the years. But our hope is we will be able to address them fully in the years ahead and Riyadh can become a strategic partner of the Jewish state”.

It should be noted that this mobilization of contacts between representatives of Saudi Arabia and Israel has been taking place on the eve of and after the signing of the agreement between international mediators and Iran on the latter’s nuclear program. Tel-Aviv called the agreement ‘a historical mistake’ and Riyadh perceived it as a direct threat to its national interests. It is no coincidence that the Saudi King and some of his direct counterparts in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) decided not to participate in the summit of this regional organization on May 14, 2015 in Camp David (in the US). Soon after, on June 18, 2015 at the St Petersburg Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Saudi Defence Minister and son of Saudi King Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud.

The King himself is expected to come to Russia on an official visit before the end of this year. In other words, Riyadh made it clear to Washington that the deal with Iran is forcing the Saudi leadership to look for new allies. Time will tell whether these steps are more to do with a genuine desire of the Saudis to diversify their foreign relations, or they are simply a lever to put pressure on the US administration.

The US had to react quickly to the aggressive declarations and actions of its strategic allies and regional partners. Washington assured both Riyadh and Tel-Aviv that the IAEA and American special services will keep a tight watch on Teheran implementing all the conditions of the agreement signed in Vienna and that the sanctions on Iran will only be lifted gradually. The GCC countries were promised to receive supplies of new modern weaponry in increasing amounts and on preferential terms.

In the very near future the question of creating a common anti-missile system for the GCC as a whole will be resolved. This system will cover the Arab Peninsula with a ‘reliable shield’ from a possible attack by Teheran. The US also supported Saudi Arabia in its bombing of Shiite rebels in Yemen. In order to support the air operation of the coalition led by Riyadh the US fueled the Saudi fighter aircraft and provided intelligence and equipment. It was even reported that Israel, at the request of Washington, also provided its intelligence data on Yemen to the Saudis.

In order to calm the Israelis following the deal with Iran, Washington promised to increase its annual financial aid to Israel for the entire 10-year duration of the implementation of the ‘Vienna Pact’ – by around one and a half billion US dollars. The US additionally accepted responsibility to finance the further development of the Iron Dome anti-missile system and to increase Israel’s missile supplies, which were depleted following last year military operation in Gaza. The Israeli air force will also get a squadron of the latest F-35 fighter-bombers on favourable terms. At the same time, in the near future joint exercises will be held with the air forces of Israel, the US and several European countries for the first time in six years. These exercises will include perfecting ‘missile attacks and bombing raids on targets located in far-off countries’.

The Gulf monarchs are clearly not ready to share power, natural resources or finances with representatives of their large Shiite communities. The apparent Israeli-Saudi alliance, even though hidden from the masses for now, matches the interests of the US in the Middle East and Western Asia. Washington hopes that this will weaken anti-Israeli feelings in the Arab and Muslim world, create a reliable counterweight in the region to a possible strengthening of Iran, and isolate to the extent possible radical islamist Sunni and Shiite groups. The US, it would seem, is happy to see several centers of power at once (Israel, Turkey, Egypt, the Gulf monarchies and Iran) jostling or in competition with each other but dependent on Washington, with Riyadh together with Tel-Aviv assigned the role of regional gendarme. The Saudis’ counterinsurgency operations in Bahrain and Yemen and the support for opposition fighters in Syria confirm this thesis.

Israeli Relations with Wahabi Gulf Monarchies

Israel is quietly working to improve ties with Gulf monarchies after recent tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran in hopes of halting Iran’s influence in the region.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has anointed Dore Gold, the director-general of the foreign ministry to lead outreach, to take advantage of the Gulf’s disdain towards Tehran, just weeks after the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Iran was attacked by extremists.
“Clearly there’s been a convergence of interests between Israel and many Wahabi Arab states given the fact that they both face identical challenges in the region,”Gold told The Wall Street Journal.

Quoting unnamed sources, the Journal reported that Israel is also motivated by the July nuclear deal carved out between Iran and the U.S and its allies. Netanyahu had openly fought the deal and criticized President Barack Obama for negotiating with nuclear Iran.
“What we have seen in the past six months is an intensification of the relationship [with Wahabi Arab states],” a senior Israeli official told the Journal. “Israel is on the same side.”

Israeli energy minister Made a secret visit to Abu Dhabi

Israel’s energy minister returned Monday from a visit to Abu Dhabi, where he met with several officials to discuss shared concerns over Iran, the Islamic State and other matters, a TV report said.

The Likud party’s Yuval Steinitz, who until recently also served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s point man on matters relating to Iran’s nuclear program, made the trip under “heavy security,” Channel 2 reported, and his office declined to confirm that it had taken place.

The report noted that Israel, the Gulf principalities and other Wahabi Arab states have several “shared concerns.” It added that the trip took place just as the international community began implementing the nuclear deal with Iran, marked by a lifting of economic sanctions.

Coincidentally or otherwise, an energy conference was taking place in Abu Dhabi, with Iranian representation, as Steinitz visited. There was no report of any contact between Steinitz and Iranian officials. The Iranian leadership constantly refers to hopes for the demise of Israel, and acknowledges arming and funding terror groups such as Hezbollah that seek to destroy the Jewish state.

In November, it was reported that Israel was opening an office in Abu Dhabi to facilitate its work there with the UN’s International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Israeli diplomat Rami Hatan was said to be preparing to leave for Abu Dhabi to head the office. An Israeli official described the move as a “diplomatic breakthrough.”

In January 2009, Israel had cast its vote for Abu Dhabi as the site of IRENA’s headquarters (over rival contender Germany) with the explicit condition that IRENA’s presence in the Gulf state would allow Israel to open an official, publicly acknowledged diplomatic office there.

Still, a senior United Arab Emirates official said Israel’s new office in Abu Dhabi did not signify any change in her government’s attitude toward the Jewish state. Maryam Al Falasi, director of communications at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, issued a statement saying that “any agreement between [the International Renewable Energy Association] and Israel does not represent any change in the position of the UAE or its relations with Israel.”

Dore Gold, the Foreign Ministry director general, was in Abu Dhabi in November for IRENA’s 10th annual meeting.

Any excuses, were they carrying knives? israel’s war on Palestinian farmers, shepherds

Israeli forces open fire on Palestinian farmers, shepherds in Gaza

Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian farmer in northern Gaza

Israeli forces open fire on farmers, shepherds in Gaza

Palestinians harvest a field of cucumbers on the outskirts of Gaza City (AFP/File)

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli forces deployed at the borderline between the Gaza Strip and Israel opened fire at a group of Palestinian farmers and shepherds who were in nearby agricultural lands. Witnesses told Ma’an that the group was forced to leave the area after the forces opened fire east of the city of Khan Younis. No injuries were reported.An Israeli army spokesperson was looking into the reports but had no immediate information.Israeli military forces have opened fire on Palestinian farmers near the border at least four times this month, one of whom was injured on Friday.Forces have also entered the besieged enclave and carried out levelling and excavation activities at least three times over the last two weeks, and on one occasion detained two fishermen and seized their boat, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.Palestinian farmers and fishermen face frequent fire from Israeli forces inside of or near the military-imposed “buffer zone.”

While the exact limits of the zone are often unclear, they are enforced by live fire on both land and seaside borders of Gaza.The Israeli army often says in such circumstances that the use of live fire is necessary to deter potential “security threats,” a policy that has in effect destroyed much of the agricultural and fishing sectors of the impoverished strip.

Weekly report on israel’s terrorism against the State of Palestine

PCHR Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations in the oPt (21 –27 January 2016)

Israeli violations of international law and international humanitarian law in the oPt continued during the reporting period (21 –27 January 2016).


photo: Hebron – Group of Palestinian Civilians at Israeli Checkpoint.

Israeli attacks in the West Bank & Gaza:

Shootings

Israeli forces have continued to commit crimes, inflicting civilian casualties. They have also continued to use excessive force against Palestinian civilians participating in peaceful protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the majority of whom were youngsters. Occupied East Jerusalem witnessed similar attacks. During the reporting period, Israeli forces killed three Palestinian civilians, including two children, in the West Bank. Moreover, they wounded 22 civilians, including three children; 12 of whom, including a child, were wounded in the Gaza Strip while the remaining others were wounded in the West Bank. Concerning the nature of injuries, 11 civilians were hit with live bullets and 11 others were hit with rubber-coated metal bullets.

In the West Bank, Israeli forces killed three Palestinian civilians, including two children, and wounded 11 others, including two children also. Five of the wounded persons were hit with live bullets and five others were hit with rubber-coated metal bullets.

Incursions

During the reporting period,Israeli forces conducted at least 73 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and four ones in occupied East Jerusalem.During these incursions, Israeli forces arrested at least 47Palestinian civilians, including seven children. Elevenof these civilians, including four children,were arrested in East Jerusalem.

Among the arrested were Hatem Qafisha (56), PLC member representing the Change and Reform Bloc of Hamas movement, and engineer Essa al-Ja’bari (49), a leader in Hamas movement and former Minister in the 10th Palestinian Government. Both of them were arrested from their houses in Hebron.

Efforts to create a Jewish majority

In the context of house demolitions and demolition notices issued on grounds of non-licensing construction works, on 22 January 2016, Dabash family was obliged to self-demolish their house in sour Baher village, southwest of occupied Jerusalem, under the pretext of non-licensing. They self-demolished the house to avoid paying the fine demolition costs to the Israeli municipality. It should be noted that the 80-square-meter house was built 20 years ago. The Israeli forces imposed fines on the family several times for building without a license, but a final decision was taken to the Israeli court to oblige the family self-demolish the house on 24 January 2016.

On 23 January 2016, Israeli forces accompanied by special forces and police officers moved into a number of neighbourhoods in Silwan village, south of the Old City in East Jerusalem. They distributed notices to owners of a number of residential buildings and commercial facilities to refer to the municipality.

On 27 January 2016, Israeli municipality vehicles demolished an underconstruction house in al-Sal’ah neighbourhood in al-Mukaber Mount village, southeast of occupied Jerusalem. The house belongs to Mousa Surri, who was finishing the house to move in along with his family within the coming weeks. The house cost him NIS 130,000.

On the same day, Israeli municipality vehicles demolished a house belonging to the family of Kefaya al-Resheq, north of occupied Jerusalem. The house sheltering 19 family members was demolished in favour of establishing Road 21 that has been planned for since the 90s.

Restrictions on movement

Israel continued to impose a tight closure of the oPt, imposing severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem. The illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, which has been steadily tightened since June 2007 has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli authorities impose measures to undermine the freedom of trade, including the basic needs for the Gaza Strip population and the agricultural and industrial products to be exported. For 9 consecutive years, Israel has tightened the land and naval closure to isolate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, and other countries around the world. This resulted in grave violations of the economic, social and cultural rights and a deterioration of living conditions for 1.8 million people. The Israeli authorities have established Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shaloum) as the sole crossing for imports and exports in order to exercise its control over the Gaza Strip’s economy. They also aim at imposing a complete ban on the Gaza Strip’s exports. The Israeli closure raised the rate of poverty to 38.8%, 21.1% of which suffer from extreme poverty. Moreover, the rate of unemployment increased up to 44%, which reflects the unprecedented economic deterioration in the Gaza Strip.

Settlement activities

On 21 January 2016, Israeli forces demolished an agricultural room, a wells and pillars to establish a livestock barrack, west of Beit Oula village, west of Hebron. The demolition was carried out under that no permit was obtained from the competent authorities in the Israeli Civil Administration and the abovementioned utilities are located in area (C).

On 22 January 2016, Israeli forces informed the residents of Karma village, east of Doura, southwest of Hebron, of levelling a road under the pretext that it was located in area (C). It should be noted that the abovementioned road was the only way out of the village for Palestinian vehicles after Israeli forces had closed the main entrance to the village for years.

Recommendations to the International Community:

PCHR emphasizes the international community’s position that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are still under Israeli occupation, in spite of Israeli military redeployment outside the Gaza Strip in 2005. PCHR further confirms that Israeli forces continued to impose collective punishment measures on the Gaza Strip, which have escalated since the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, in which Hamas won the majority of seats of the Palestinian Legislative Council. PCHR stresses that there is international recognition of Israel’s obligation to respect international human rights instruments and the international humanitarian law, especially the Hague Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land and the Geneva Conventions. Israel is bound to apply the international human rights law and the law of war sometime reciprocally and other times in parallel in a way that achieves the best protection for civilians and remedy for victims.

In light of continued arbitrary measures, land confiscation and settlement activities in the West Bank, and the latest 51-day offensive against civilians in the Gaza Strip, PCHR calls upon the international community, especially the United Nations, the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention and the European Union – in the context of their natural obligation to respect and enforce the international law – to cooperate and act according to the following recommendations:

1. PCHR calls upon the international community and the United Nations to use all available means to allow the Palestinian people to enjoy their right to self-determination, through the establishment of the Palestinian State, which was recognized by the UN General Assembly with a vast majority, using all international legal mechanisms, including sanctions to end the occupation of the State of Palestine;

2. PCHR calls upon the United Nations to provide international protection to Palestinians in the oPt, and to ensure the non-recurrence of aggression against the oPt, especially the Gaza Strip;

3. PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to compel Israel, as a High Contracting Party to the Conventions, to apply the Conventions in the oPt;

4. PCHR calls upon the Parties to international human rights instruments, especially the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to pressurize Israel to comply with their provisions in the oPt, and to compel it to incorporate the human rights situation in the oPt in its reports submitted to the concerned committees;

5. PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to fulfil their obligation to ensure the application of the Conventions, including extending the scope of their jurisdiction in order to prosecute suspected war criminals, regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator and the place of a crime, to pave the way for prosecuting suspected Israeli war criminals and end the longstanding impunity they have enjoyed; 6. PCHR calls on States that apply the principle of universal jurisdiction not to surrender to Israeli pressure to limit universal jurisdiction to perpetuate the impunity enjoyed by suspected Israeli war criminals;

7. PCHR calls upon the international community to act in order to stop all Israeli settlement expansion activities in the oPt through imposing sanctions on Israeli settlements and criminalizing trading with them;

8. PCHR calls upon the UN General Assembly to transfer the Goldstone Report to the UN Security Council in order to refer it to the International Criminal Court in accordance with Article 13(b) of the Rome Statute;

9. PCHR calls upon the United Nations to confirm that holding war criminals in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a precondition to achieve stability and peace in the regions, and that peace cannot be built on the expense of human rights;

10. PCHR calls upon the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council to explicitly declare that the Israeli closure policy in Gaza and the annexation wall in the West Bank are illegal, and accordingly refer the two issues to the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel to compel it to remove them;

11. PCHR calls upon the international community, in light of its failure to the stop the aggression on the Palestinian people, to at least fulfil its obligation to reconstruct the Gaza Strip after the series of hostilities launched by Israel which directly targeted the civilian infrastructure;

12. PCHR calls upon the United Nations and the European Union to express a clear position towards the annexation wall following the international recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders, as the annexation wall seizes large parts of the State of Palestine;

13. PCHR calls upon the European Union to activate Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which provides that both sides must respect human rights as a precondition for economic cooperation between the EU states and Israel, and the EU must not ignore Israeli violations and crimes against Palestinian civilians;

Fully detailed document available at the official PCHR website.

 

 

 

Russia and Syria Expand Cooperation in War Against Terrorism

Russian and Syrian Defense Ministers Expand Cooperation in War Against Terrorism

Russian Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu and Syrian Defense Minister General Fahd Jasem al-Freij

(By Ziad Fadel, SyrianPerspective) ~ When defense ministers meet face to face in Moscow, you know the subject is critical.   General Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Defense Minister, could have easily called his Syrian counterpart, Lt. General Fahd Jaasim Al-Furayj, and talked over the telephone or even on secure lines. 

But, this subject demanded the highest level of secrecy in a world in which all conversations are vulnerable to eavesdropping.  SyrPer has learned from one its sources that this meeting was planned to coincide with the Geneva-III conference which, as we believe, will result in no immediate end to the conflict.  In fact, that position is bolstered by Stefan Di Mistura’s own statement that the talks will not conclude for 6 months.

Russia is not willing to simply wait for the exiled Syrian opposition to gather its senses and bring a unified position to the table.

There are other developments which have to be addressed.

My source wrote that the Russian government is deeply concerned about Turk movements north of Jaraablus and Al-Manbij where the Syrian Kurdish forces are planning a final assault to seize those towns from ISIS.

That is the first area of concern.  The second, according to Wael, is the timing for the SAA and RuAF assault on Jisr Al-Shughoor.  General Shoigu is pushing the Syrian High Command to finish off Kinsibba as soon as possible despite weather delays and the grotesque geography of the area.

The third area of concern is a rapid deployment of new weapons systems the Syrians have not seen before and which, the Russians believe, will bring the battle more quickly to an end.  The SAA, however, has to be trained to use the new ground equipment and the 2 generals discussed the logistics of absorption and training.

Most importantly, the Russian military is preparing to counter Turk movements in northern Syria which they view as essentially designed to appease the Saudi monkeys as far as 2 conditions are concerned:

  • 1: ISIS must not be defeated by the Kurds and
  • 2: Turkey must establish a salient inside Syria in which terrorists like Ahraar Al-Shaam, Jaysh Al-Fath and Alqaeda/Nusra can operate freely with a claim to Syrian territory.

This last condition is extremely dangerous because it will require Turkey to use its air force over Syrian territory which will trigger the use of Russia’s vaunted S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, not to mention Syria’s own formidable array of Russian-made missiles.

We are looking at the start of a bigger war and the Russians wanted to make their position clear to the Syrian Army’s high command.  I am told that a separate coordination group would be established to deal with the new stressors in the north.

That Turkey is participating in this crack-pot scheme hatched by the inept, simian Saudis is testimony to the insanity of Erdoghan.

With his country floundering economically after the imposition of Russian sanctions and the Kurds champing at the bit to establish their own de facto state, one would think Erdoghan might temporize, or even, balk at the idea of involving his country in an existential battle with the one nation Turkey has never defeated in battle despite 18 bites at the apple.

This insanity will play out for all to see.  It is this kind of mental derangement which brings about military coups d’etat.  We are all awaiting General Necdet Ozel’s next move.

Wael says that the Saudis have vowed to compensate Turkey for any economic losses.  But, the Saudis are nearly broke.  They have terminated plans for a new health policy in the country because of a diminution in funding.  As I wrote before, the Saudi Ministry of the Interior has alerted 12,000 Saudi students that they would not be receiving financial assistance for studying abroad for the near future due to a budget deficit.

The war in Yemen is starting to cost this kingdom of apes billions of dollars for equipment and mercenaries – forgetting the cost of supporting tens of thousands of terrorists in Syria.  The Saudis must have seen Erdoghan coming.

In the dark hallways of this stage are the Iranians who have yet to flex their muscles.  This will be quite a scene.

Farcical Syrian “Peace Talks”: Dead on Arrival

Farcical Syrian “Peace Talks”: Dead on Arrival

By Stephen Lendman

syrian peace

Talks are orchestrated to fail. Mainstream and much alternative media misreporting continues calling five years of US naked aggression against a nation threatening no one a “civil war.”

There’s nothing “civil” about it. Syria was invaded, Washington using ISIS and other terrorist groups, enlisting fighters from scores of countries.

Obama didn’t wage war to quit. He wants regime change, Assad and loyalists around him ousted, an Israeli rival eliminated, Iran isolated, pro-Western puppet governance installed, Syria transformed into a US-controlled vassal state, likely balkanized for easier controlled, its people ruthlessly exploited.

Obama bears full responsibility for genocidal mass slaughter, horrific destruction, cities, towns and villages turned to rubble, the severest refugee crisis since WW II from all US post-9/11 imperial wars.

How can there be peace in Syria when achieving it defeats Washington’s agenda?

How is conflict resolution possible with US/Saudi-backed terrorist groups, cutthroat killers responsible for horrific atrocities, largely representing the opposition?

It’s unclear if they intend coming or if showing up will be their tactic to make nonnegotiable, impossible to agree on, demands, not engage in serious talks.

It appears Washington, key NATO partners, Israel and Saudi-led Gulf States orchestrated a farcical scenario, fantasy talks doomed to fail, Assad wrongfully blamed.

Arab League/UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura represents them. His Friday comments weren’t reassuring, saying:

The (Saudi-backed) High Negotiations Committee (HNC terrorist groups) decided to participate in the Geneva talks after receiving American and United Nations guarantees.

What precisely he didn’t explain or if “participation” means showing up to subvert talks. Security Council Res. 2254 is the agreed on format.

It calls for opposing sides to convene in January under UN auspices – initiating a political process toward establishing “inclusive and non-sectarian governance” within six months by Syrians alone.

The aim is drafting a new constitution (likely not much different from the overwhelmingly approved current one in February 2012 by national referendum), as well as holding new elections in 18 months.

Mistura saying he “has good reasons to believe (the HNC is) actually considering (coming) very seriously” to enable “discussions” to begin Sunday doesn’t indicate he’s sure of anything – let alone what’ll happen going forward under conditions as they unfold.

At best, whoever shows up (if anyone) representing the HNC won’t negotiate, only talk to UN officials – insisting Russian and Syrian anti-terrorism targeting ceases, including against towns held hostage by ISIS and other terrorist groups, demands made to subvert, not facilitate discussions.

The New York Times disgracefully characterized their demands as “press(ing) their humanitarian case to the public,” calling cold-blooded killers “moderates,” ignoring their barbarism, operating as US proxies, waging terror war, committing high crimes against peace.

US/Saudi-backed HNC terrorists are headed by Syrian traitor Riad Hijab, serving as coordinator. He lied, calling talks “a Russian and Iranian” plot, “a disaster for the region.”

Washington, Turkey and Saudi Arabia conspired to prohibit Syrian PYD Kurds from participating, their fighters playing a key role against terrorist groups in northern areas.

Russia calls restoring peace and stability to Syria impossible without their involvement, Sergey Lavrov saying:

How can we talk about political reforms in Syria, ignoring the leading Kurdish party, quite a mighty power that, by the way, actively opposes terrorism on the ground, including ISIS?

“Not inviting this group (is) a most serious mistake,” a deliberate effort to subvert talks before they begin.

De Mistura represents Western and Saudi-led regional interests, not what’s best for long-suffering Syrians.

His orchestrated talks are a prescription for failure.

 

Music to my ears, terrorists in Syria killing each other

ISIL & Nusra Terrorists Clash Fiercely in Qalamoun Barrens

Local Editor
TerroristsISIL and Nusra Front (Qaeda branch in the Levant) clashed fiercely on Friday in Qalamoun barrens, what left a number of militants either killed or injured, well-informed sources told Al-Manar.

The clashes started when Nusra terrorists launched an attack to regain control over the sites that were captured by ISIL during Thursday’s confrontation between the two sides.

The sources added that ISIL managed to control one of Nusra’s miltiary camps in the area.

It is worth noting that the two terrorist groups are still occupying a narrow area in Qalamoun barrens after Hezbollah and the Syrian army controlled most of it in a large scale campaign in 2015.

The terrorist sites are besieged from the different sides by the Syrian army, Hezbollah and the Lebanese army that targets the militants’ movements in Arsal barrens on daily basis.

USA hiding images of their barbaric torture in Abu Ghraib

Pentagon delays release of images of tortured Afghan, Iraqi prisoners despite court order

The American military has again delayed the publication of images of torture in US prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were supposed to be released on Friday under a court order. The American Civil Liberties Union requested the photographs over 10 years ago, after the scandal surrounding Abu Ghraib broke. Back then, the media released pictures showing the abuse and humiliation of detainees at the facility in Baghdad. The Pentagon agreed to release just 10 percent of the requested two thousand images, but that hasn’t happened.

The USA’s “moderate” headchopping terrorists make it to the party in Geneva

Middle East Online

Main Syria opposition en route to crunch Geneva peace talks
Complexities of conflict, involving tangled web of moderate rebels, Islamist fighters, Kurds, jihadists and regime forces, pose huge challenge.
Middle East Online

No face-to-face talks are expected

GENEVA – Representatives of Syria’s largest mainstream opposition umbrella group were set to arrive in Geneva on Saturday evening, allaying fears they would boycott UN-brokered talks aimed at ending the country’s brutal civil war.

A delegation from the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) was preparing to leave Riyadh, spokesman Monzer Makhous said.

“We will be arriving this evening in Geneva,” he said, adding that HNC chief Riad Hijab would join the delegation later in the Swiss city.

The announcement came after the group late Friday grudgingly relented to Western and Saudi pressure to attend the talks, the biggest push to date to chart a way out of Syria’s nearly five-year war.

The HNC representatives will be arriving a day late for the UN-backed talks.

On Friday, a 16-member delegation representing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime held nearly three hours of preliminary talks with UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura.

HNC had long refused to join the talks without an end to bombardments of civilians and an agreement on relief reaching hundreds of thousands of people stuck in besieged Syrian towns.

But their about-face does not mean the situation on the ground has improved.

On Saturday, the Doctors Without Borders charity said at least 16 more people have starved to death in the besieged town of Madaya since an aid convoy entered earlier this month, bringing the number who have died of starvation there since December to 46.

Several dozen more residents of the town are in “danger of death” because of severe malnutrition, the group known by its French acronym MSF warned.

“This is the 21st century and we have children who are dying from hunger, and the world is watching,” HNC member Hind Kabawat lamented to reporters in Geneva late Friday, explaining that the group was coming to press for immediate action on the humanitarian front.

While the HNC’s decision to send a delegation to Geneva is certainly a positive step, breakthroughs in the negotiations are regarded as slim.

In a sign of the challenges ahead, the HNC said in a tweet its delegation was going “to participate in discussions with the @UN, not for negotiations.”

A source close to the HNC however said the group was sending 17 negotiators and 25 others to the talks.

Backed by external powers embroiled in Syria’s war, the talks are seeking to end a conflict that has killed more than 260,000 people and fuelled the meteoric rise of the extremist Islamic State group.

But the complexities of the conflict, involving a tangled web of moderate rebels, Islamist fighters, Kurds, jihadists and regime forces backed by Moscow and Iran, pose a huge challenge, experts say.

“There is every reason to be pessimistic, and there is no realistic scenario in which a breakthrough would be reached,” said Karim Bitar, an analyst at the Paris-based Institute of International and Strategic Relations.

For now, no face-to-face talks between the opposition and the regime are expected. Instead “proximity talks” are envisioned whereby de Mistura will shuttle between the participants.

The UN envoy was to meet with HNC delegates “perhaps tomorrow” (Sunday), HNC spokesman Makhous said.

The HNC did not announce who it would send to Geneva, but it had earlier said that a future delegation would include women and members of religious minorities.

In a controversial move, the alliance had earlier named Mohammed Alloush, member of the Army of Islam rebel group, as its chief negotiator, but souces hinted he was not among those travelling to Geneva on Saturday.

Syria’s civil war has destabilised the already restive Middle East and drawn in regional powers like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey but also the United States and Russia.

It has also forced millions of Syrians from their homes, many of them into neighbouring states and further afield, causing a major political headache for the European Union which received more than one million migrants in 2015.

The desperation spurring so many to attempt the perilous journey across the Mediterranean has had devastating consequences for many.

On Saturday, at least 33 migrants, including Syrians, drowned off Turkey when their boat sank while trying to cross to Greece — joining more than 200 others who have perished on that route since the beginning of January.

Female Syrian Army Recruits Undergo Training

Defending their country from foreign-backed terrorists? Or propping up a brutal dictator who “kills his own people”? You decide.

The Syrian peace talks were set to begin tomorrow, but according to a Reuters report released earlier today, the talks have been “derailed” by an announcement from the “Syrian opposition” that they intend withdrawing. One opposition group says it will “certainly” not be in Geneva on Friday, while another says it might be in the city but would not attend the talks, so it’s hard to say really for sure what’s going to happen.

What seems clear, though, is that the West is applying a great deal of pressure for terrorists to be seated at the table, while Syria, Russia, and Iran are equally resisting that pressure. Why foreign-backed mercenaries should be included in discussions to determine Syria’s future is of course a question no one has adequately addressed.

Syria’s Base Wars

 

January 30, 2016 (Ulson Gunnar – NEO) – Since 2011, Syria has fought desperately to hold itself together as a single, unified nation. Threatened from the beginning by the “Libya precedent,” Washington and its regional allies have openly conspired to divide up Syria as a consolatory objective upon failing to topple Damascus outright.

US policymakers, some of whom had previously played a role in laying out invasion and occupation plans for Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, have published numerous op-eds and entire policy papers regarding the planned partition of Syria.

It was hoped that the Syrian government could be pushed from Damascus and sent fleeing to Syria’s western provinces of Latakia and Tartus. From there, the US hoped to create a Saudi-Qatari-Turkish dominated central state with a Kurdish territory linked up with US-backed Kurds in northern Iraq. Forever divided against itself, Syria would never again function as a powerful ally of nearby Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah or Russia and distant China.

Russia’s intervention in Syria has all but prevented Damascus from falling. And while the Western media has attempted to claim the intervention has made little difference, so successful has it actually been that attempts by Turkey to establish its long-sought after “safe zone” in northern Syria have also all but evaporated.

Syrian troops backed by Russian airpower have moved from Latakia along Syria’s border with Turkey toward the now much reported-on A’zaz-Jarabulus corridor while another force pushes north from eastern Aleppo toward the Turkish border. Elsewhere, Syrian forces are securing Damascus, pushing Western-backed militants over their southernmost border with Jordan and pushing east toward Raqqa itself.

What is left? 

What has been left for the US and its regional allies is a possible attempt to invade and occupy Syria’s northeast. The US has already been allegedly carrying out ground operations in this region supposedly in support of “Kurdish” and “Arab” forces that make up what it calls the “Syrian Democratic Forces.”

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Friday that Russian experts had “arrived to explore” the Qamishli airport’s “readiness and to check what is needed to develop and use it” near the Turkish border. The report added that Russian warplanes were expected to use the airport in the “coming days and weeks.” Qamishli is located south of the Turkish border town of Nusaybin.

The US has even allegedly begun constructing, or rather restoring, an airstrip within Syrian territory. The BBC in its report Syria conflict: ‘US expanding air strip’ in Kurdish north claimed:

Satellite imagery appearing to show the US expanding a formerly disused air strip in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria has been seen by the BBC. 

The images, from the security analysts Stratfor, show a runway near the town of Rmeilan being extended from 700m (half a mile) to 1.3km. 

That would make it more suitable for a larger aircraft such as a Hercules. 

A spokesman for the US Department of Defence said its small team in Syria needed “occasional logistical support”.

The US inviting itself into sovereign Syrian territory and creating a military base to supply its ground forces operating there without UN Security Council approval or invitation by the Syrian government sets a dangerous and unacceptable precedent. But assuming the United States has no interest in actually upholding the very international law it attempts to justify its numerous extraterritorial adventures with, what options does Syria have to head off what is a well-documented conspiracy to strip it of its own sovereign territory and expand from there toward Damascus itself?

The answer can be found in Qamishli, Syria, teetering near the Syrian border with Turkey and only 50 miles west of the US’ alleged airstrip in Rmeilan. Qamishli is the site of what is alleged to be a growing Russian presence, including a burgeoning airbase.

The International Business Times reported in their article US Forces Setting Up Base In Northern Syria Near Russian Forces In Qamishli Airfield: Report that:

…Russian experts had “arrived to explore” the Qamishli airport’s “readiness and to check what is needed to develop and use it” near the Turkish border. The report added that Russian warplanes were expected to use the airport in the “coming days and weeks.” Qamishli is located south of the Turkish border town of Nusaybin.

It would be the check to America’s latest, and perhaps final move in an overarching game the West has been sorely losing in Syria.

Check or Checkmate?

Russian forces, if they are indeed setting up in Qamishli, will establish a permanent bastion in Syria’s northeast. When inevitably Syrian forces cut off terrorists from their foreign supply routes and reestablish control over Syria’s largest cities back west, they will be able to reenter the northeast of their nation in force with Russian backing up to and including onto the doorstep of any illegal US occupation. There would be little the US could do to stop this, and no strategic or tactical means of “holding” territory already under the control of Syrian-Russian forces.

The US in this scenario is reduced to a trespasser coming up to an occupied house, unable to do anything else but leer through the window. While the US would surely be trampling the flowerbed outside the home, it would be unable to access anything of value within it.

Syria and Russia are displacing US ambitions to occupy Syria with physical forces that once in place will be difficult to remove. The US will come to the bargaining table with its “Syrian Democratic Forces” operating at the fringe of Syrian territory, with a Russian airbase standing between it and Syria’s interior. Meanwhile, the lion’s share of military victories against both Al Qaeda forces masquerading as the West’s “moderate fighters” and the “Islamic State” (IS) itself goes to Russia and Syria, not the US.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the US and its allies to explain just what they are actually even doing in Syria besides perpetuating the war for as long as possible. It is clear that the only progress being made in Syria against the forces of extremism is being made by the long-chastised Syrian government and their Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese allies. It is also clear that remaining hurdles preventing the final restoration of peace and order in Syria is the US and its regional allies who insist on propping up armed groups opposed to the Syrian government, and direct threats and undermining by the US itself aimed at Damascus.

It should be abundantly clear that the US has lost the political war, the proxy war and now possibly checked in the “base war” as well. How much more the US wants to lose before withdrawing from yet another quagmire of its own creation depends on how much credibility the US believes it can still afford to lose as it pursues hegemony openly in front of an increasingly aware global public that has begun effectively fighting back.

Ulson Gunnar, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Sheikh Miskeen: Syrian Army’s Most Important Southern Front Victory to Date ~ [Report by RIA Novosti correspondent, Videos]

Syrian Free Press

SAA-Sheikh Miskeen


(SputnikNews-RIA Novosti) ~ Earlier this week, the Syrian army, supported by Russian military aviation and pro-government militia, successfully liberated the strategic southern Syrian border town of Sheikh Miskeen. The town’s capture, a Russian reporter embedded on the ground suggests, is possibly the most important victory on the southern front to date.

The town, located in Syria’s Daraa province near the Jordanian border, previously served as a ‘launch pad’ for militant operations in the area, and as a vital crossroads between Damascus in the north and the Jordanian border to the south.

Fierce battles for the town raged for nearly a month. Miraculously, government forces managed to capture it with minimal losses.

A RIA Novosti correspondent became one of the first journalists to enter the city, only a day after its liberation, and managed to speak with the commanders of the army’s assault detachments, getting the scoop on this, one of the most successful operations of the Syrian army on the southern front to date.


Sheikh Maskin completely liberated [Army commander]

“The town of Sheikh Miskin is just one hour’s drive from Damascus,” correspondent Mikhail Alaeddin writes. “In every direction, one can enjoy the view of the snow-capped peaks of the Golan Heights…If not for the war, one could imagine this place as an option for a nice, quiet family holiday”.

“But today’s trip was not a tourist excursion. Sheikh Miskin is completely destroyed. Apart from the army, there is not a living soul here. Even animals seem to have abandoned this place.”

© AFP 2016/ STRINGER A picture taken on January 26, 2016 shows artillery casings on the ground after Syrian pro-government forces retook the town of Sheikh Miskeen in southern Daraa province from rebel forces Read more: http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/20160128/1033860402/sheikh-miskeen-liberation-report.html#ixzz3yjdivd1s

A picture taken on January 26, 2016 shows artillery casings on the ground after Syrian pro-government forces retook the town of Sheikh Miskeen in southern Daraa province from rebel forces ~ (© AFP 2016/ STRINGER)

“Fierce battles for the city raged for 28 days. Twelve terrorist groups, including the famous al-Nusra Front and Daesh, forgot about their differences and united to try to keep control of the town at all costs.”

“It’s easy to understand the militants’ motivation,” Alaeddin explains. “The city sits at the intersection of government roads connecting Damascus, Daraa and Qunaitra. It is also the shortest and most convenient way to get supplies on the southern front. These same roads were used by terrorists, who shipped reinforcements and ammunition into the area from Jordanian territory.”

“Back in early December, we visited the front line, which was then 70 meters from the town. Then, the terrorists were attempting to assault army positions in order to cut off what at the time was the only road linking Damascus with the south of the country. Today, the canvas is painted a different color.”

 “Arriving at the central square,” the journalist writes, “journalists happened upon the division commander – Brigadier General Samir Uasilya. He led the storm of the town, and now stood, explaining something to his officers on a map on the hood of a car. When he finished, he found a couple of minutes to speak to the media about the assault.”

“We caught the enemy by surprise. Yesterday we began our assault from the north side of the town. The enemy did not expect such a rapid advance from that direction. We were able to break through to the troops advancing from the east. From the air, we got a lot of help from precision strikes by Russian aircraft,” the commander said, unable to hide his smile.

“At the beginning of the assault,” Alaeddin noted, “there were an estimated 2,500 thousand fighters. Within a few hours over a hundred were eliminated. Syrian officers said that the gangs’ leaders managed to escape to Jordan, while the less important militants retreated to neighboring towns. The army, for its part, faced minimal losses, thanks to careful preparation and elaborate planning ahead of the attack.”

Syrian pro-government forces celebrate on a street in the town of Sheikh Miskeen in southern Daraa province on January 26, 2016 after they retook the strategic town from rebel forces

Syrian pro-government forces celebrate on a street in the town of Sheikh Miskeen in southern Daraa province on January 26, 2016 after they retook the strategic town from rebel forces ~ (© AFP 2016/ STRINGER)

“One of the main sights of the city today was the height, named after Mohammed Fares, the commander of the assault detachment which liberated it from the insurgents.”

“Fares is a hero – there is no doubt about it,” detachment commander Aqeedah Hauazim told Alaeddin. “He and his boys, receiving the order to capture the height, immediately left for the area. The outcome of the assault on the city depended on him. From the height, the whole town is in the palm of your hand. The enemy might have detected the offensive from the north and hit back with heavy guns. Fares took a small group with him in the night and attacked the enemy position. The fight was terrifying, but the weather helped. The guys climbed to the height undetected during the heavy rain, but then came under attack from all sides, and my detachment was among those that came to the rescue.”

Fares was wounded, Hauazim noted, but stayed on the battlefield until reinforcements arrived. Before losing consciousness, he managed to give his last order: “Keep the height at all cost – it is the key to the city.” 

“The soldiers,” Alaeddin notes, “complied with the commander’s orders.”

“Walking from the height to the depths of the city, it’s hard not to look at the villas with marble columns and arches. Apparently, before the war, they looked beautiful and rich, and the land around them was not earth pitted by shells, but green gardens with orange and olive trees.”

A photographer walks in the neighbourhood of Jobar, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus, on January 23, 2016

A photographer walks in the neighbourhood of Jobar, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus, on January 23, 2016 ~ (© AFP 2016/ ABD DOUMANY)

“One can only walk through the city in the center of the road. Retreating, the militants mined almost all the houses here. On the side of the road one comes across unexploded shells and ‘tricky’ boxes. From different corners of the city, one can hear powerful explosions – this is the work of the engineers. The officer told us that some of the devices must be destroyed in place; otherwise, they might detonate at the slightest touch.”

“Listening to the stories about the war’s exploits, journalists unexpectedly approach the former headquarters of one of the al-Nusra Front brigades in a school, where in the playground they saw a horrible scene: dozens of new graves and two deep trenches, apparently dug for the new dead. The only calming thought is the fact that the pits are filled with militants, and not soldiers or civilians; the number of graves confirms the army’s word about the enemy’s losses.”

SAA-Sheikh Miskeen-3

“The liberation of Sheikh Miskin,” Alaeddin concludes, “is a great success for the Syrian armed forces, significantly raising their morale. Officers are ready to move on, to break through with their men to the city of Daraa, to fight to liberate the entirety of the southern province, and the country as a whole. The impression here is that the soldiers, exhausted by five years of war, have gotten a second wind, and the finish line for this ‘tragic marathon’ is not far away now.”


SOURCES:
SputnikNews from RIA Novosti correspondent
Submitted  by  SyrianPatriots 
War Press Info Network at:
https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/sheikh-miskeen/
~

Assad must – finally – turn his sights on Islamic State

Interesting article from an Assad foe indicating a change of heart

TELEGRAPH VIEW

The site of the car bombing in a bus station in Jableh 
The site of the car bombing in a bus station in Jableh  CREDIT: SANA/SANA

The series of suicide bombs that have struck at the heart of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime demonstrates that the Syrian government still has a long way to go before it can declare victory in the country’s bitter civil war. So far in the five-year conflict, it has suited the president predominantly to target relatively moderate opposition groups that seek to unseat him. Neither he nor his Russian backer, Vladimir Putin, has focused military efforts on the fanatics of Islamic State (Isil).

This could prove to be a grave misjudgment. Moscow, in particular, will be deeply concerned that the targets of the attacks included the port city of Tartous, where the Russians have a naval base, and Jableh, a town further north, where they have an airbase. Isil, meanwhile, has its own reasons for wanting to carry out high-profile attacks such as these. While its fiefdom in Syria remains largely unchallenged, the same is not true in Iraq, where the government has recaptured territory from the terrorists. After retaking Ramadi, the capital of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, at the turn of the year, Iraqi forces are now preparing to liberate the equally vital city of Fallujah. The even bigger prize of Mosul awaits.

If Iraq succeeds, Isil may have to concentrate its resources in Syria. There it profits by fomenting the conflict; sectarian tensions were running higher than ever after the latest bombs. But the same explosions have made the truth inescapable to Mr Assad. Like everyone, he is threatened by the warped ideology of Isil. He must now, finally, turn his sights on the group. Were he to do so, the future of the Islamists’ so called Caliphate really would be in doubt.

More here

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