South Front

On February 13, the Syrian Air Force conducted a series of airstrikes on ISIS hideouts in the area of Kiribat al-Hosn in the Damascus desert. The airstrikes reportedly came in response to a recent increase in the activity of ISIS cells in this area.

The Damascus desert as well as the desert areas near the US-occupied al-Tanf zone are still a safe haven for a few hundred ISIS-linked militants. Just last week, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) eliminated a group of 6 ISIS members involved in a reconnaissance operation near the administrative border of al-Suwayda province.

The situation in the desert area may deteriorate even further if the SAA and its allies do not employ the measures needed to neutralize this threat.

Meanwhile, reports appeared that the SAA has sent reinforcements to southern Syria. The reason for the deployment givem by some pro-government outlets is the reinforcement of SAA positions near the Golan Heights, where Israeli strikes recently took place. However, the very same forces can be used to secure the countryside of al-Suwayda in the event of the growing ISIS threat from the desert.

In the Idlib de-escalation zone, the SAA conducted one of the most intense shellings of militant positions since the start of the year. According to pro-opposition sources, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies came under fire in al-Lataminah, Lahaya, Maarkaba, al-Buwaydah, Qalaat al-Madiq, al-Hwaiz, al-Twinah and al-Hurriyah in northern Hama as well as Sukayk, Khan Shaykhun and al-Tamanah in southern Idlib.

The Syrian state media said that the strikes were a response to violations of the ceasefire regime by militant groups. In turn, militants accused the Assad government of violating the de-escalation deal.

It should be noted that Russia has recently toughened its attitude towards the de-escalation zone issue. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov officially stated that that the Idlib agreement is only a temporary measure and “no agreement suggests the endless preservation of this terrorist nest in Syrian territory”.

The US-led coalition is working to establish a permanent military base in southwestern Iraq, near the country’s border with both Syria and Jordan, the Iraqi al-Maalomah news outlet reported on February 13 citing a source in the province of al-Anbar. This would not be the first attempt of the US military to fortify its presence in this part of the country. In November 2018, a commander of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units revealed that the coalition had tried to occupy the H3 airbase, known as Abu Rida al-Baldaui, in western al-Anbar.

These actions are a part of the wider effort to establish an infrastructure allowing the US military to control key highways linking Syria and Iraq. On February 3, US President Donald Trump openly declared that despite the Syria withdrawal, US forces will remain in Iraq in order to watch Iran.

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Get over it: Asia rules

February 09, 2019

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

Get over it: Asia rulesGet over it: Asia rules

New book helps explain why the 21st Century will be the Asian Century

The greatest merit of Parag Khanna’s new book, The Future is Asian, is to accessibly tell the story of a historical inevitability – with the extra bonus of an Asian point of view. This is not only a very good public service, it also blows out of the water countless tomes by Western “experts” pontificating about Asia from an air-con cubicle in Washington.

Asia hands from the West tend to be extremely protective of their extra-territoriality. In my case, I moved to Asia in 1994, and Singapore was my first base. In time I found out – along with some of my colleagues at Asia Times – nothing would ever compare to following the ever-developing, larger than life Asian miracle on the spot.

Khanna has always been in the thick of the action. Born in India, he then moved to the UAE, the West, and is now a resident in Singapore. Years ago we spent a jolly good time in New York swapping Asia on-the-road stories; he’s a cool conversationalist. His Connectography is a must read.

Khanna found a very special niche to “sell” Asia to the Western establishment as a strategic adviser – and is very careful not to ruffle feathers. Barack Obama, for instance, is only guilty of “half-heartedness”. When you get praise from Graham Allison, who passes for a Thucydides authority in the US but would have major trouble understanding Italian master Luciano Canfora’s Tucidide: La Menzogna, La Colpa, L’Esilio, you know that Khanna has done his homework.

Of course, there are a few problems. It’s a bit problematic to coin Singapore “the unofficial capital of Asia”. There’s no better place to strategically follow China than Hong Kong. And as a melting pot, Bangkok, now truly cosmopolitan, is way more dynamic, creative and, let’s face it, funkier.

In 1997 I published a book in Brazil titled 21st: The Asian Century, based on three years of non-stop on-the-road reporting. It came out only a few days before the Hong Kong handover and the collapse of the baht that sparked the Asian financial crisis – so the book’s argument might have been seen as passé. Not really; once the crisis was over, the development push by the Asian tigers was overtaken by China. And 10 years later, slightly before the Western-made global financial crisis, the road to the Asian Century was more than self-evident.

Khanna hits all the right tones and multiple overtones stating the case that the Asian century “will…” begin when Asia crystallizes into a whole greater than the sum of its many parts”. It’s already happening, and it’s a wise choice to set the point of no return towards an Asia-led new world order at the first Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit in May 2017 in Beijing.

Yet throughout the book Khanna feels the need to take immense pain showing frightened Anglo-American readers that China won’t lead the Asian future; there will be no “Chinese tianxia, or harmonious global system guided by Chinese Confucian principles”. And that offers room for references to the push by the US and its allies to “deter China”, or the push by “Japan, India, Australia and Vietnam” to “counter China aggression”. Not to mention credit to the pathetic notion of “clash of civilizations”. But, on a whole, Khanna nails it. “By joining BRI, other Asian countries have tacitly recognized China as a global power – but the bar for hegemony is very high.”

No East and West

Within the scope of an article, and not a book, it’s possible to show that this epic story is not about hegemony, but connectivity.

First of all, there’s no East and West; as Edward Said has shown, this is essentially inherited from Eurocentrism and colonialism, starting way back when the Ancient Greeks situated the western borders of Asia in the eastern Mediterranean.

Asia, the term, comes from the ancient Assyrian assu – which means rising sun. A clear distinction between East and West was stamped by the end of the 3rd century, at the time of Diocletian, when the Roman empire was cut in half following a meridian from Dalmatia to Cyrenaica, a partition confirmed at the death of Theodosius 1 in 395 AD.

The East then organized itself around Constantinople while the West was divided and regarded as Europe, a distinct unity under Charlemagne (800 AD). What’s interesting is that in contrast with China – self-defined as the center of the world – neither the Roman Empire nor Islam saw themselves as such, admitting the existence of other quite populated worlds: China and India.

The notion of a “continent” only came up in the 16th century, based on the tri-partition Europe-Asia-Africa made by the Greeks in the Eastern Mediterranean, adopted by Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and ratified by the “discovery” of the New World: the Americas. So once again, “continent” is a Western invention.

Eurasia is essentially a giant, elliptical, unified space. Crack geographers tend to see it to the north – from Central Asia up to the northwest of India – as the realm of caravan routes, Silk Roads, cosmopolitan oases, steppes and deserts crisscrossed by nomads.

To the south, it’s a sort of monsoon “shawl” draped over a unique ocean; maritime routes through straits; and cosmopolitan ports and warehouses.

Southeast Asia enjoys a unique status, squeezed in a historical and cultural pincer movement between two major forces, constituted in an independent manner from one another as two major civilizations; India to the west and China to the northeast.

The inner logic of all this immense space is mutation, trade exchanges, and migrations. So Eurasia is essentially unified as two major “on the move” spaces; continental and steppe (on horseback), plus maritime (via navigation). Historically, between these two corridors, we find the creative hubs of civilizations and more durable empires: China, the Indian world, Persia/Iran, the Arab world, the Byzantine-Ottoman empire.

Hard node of history

In one of his exceptional books, French geographer Christian Grataloup conclusively shows how Eurasia is a geo-historic entity – exhibiting a “system of inter-relations from one end to another”. Yes, it’s all about connectivity, as the Chinese are stressing with the New Silk Roads or BRI.

Already by the 15th century, every society in Eurasia exhibited the same presence of cities, writing, monetary exchange. So it’s possible to conceive a common history, from the Mediterranean to Japan, for over two millennia. Grataloup’s intuition is breathtaking. “This is the hard node of world history”.

Historically, it’s all about the confluence of eastern routes in the north, the Silk Roads at the center, and southern routes, mostly the Spice Route. In the central segment of the major axis, decisive innovations occurred; the first villages, the first forms of agriculture, writing, the birth of the State. As the great Mongol caravan empire, built around the Silk Roads in the 13th century, fractured, while societies in the extremities of Eurasia developed maritime power.

Khanna offers myriad details on the key fact; that the Eurasian space is finally being rearranged, rebuilt via economic development, along transversal axes configured as economic corridors; the result of a modernization process that started in Japan in the second half of the 19th century to expand to all of East and Southeast Asia, then China, and finally India. The genius of the BRI project is to make it happen.

The Chinese ambition to be the economic leader of the Eurasia ensemble – by land and by sea – is a unique development in the region’s history, combining the continental approach of the Mongol empire of the steppes, or the Russia empire, with the maritime approach of the West, especially via the British Empire.

But contrary to Western imperialism, it’s all based on economy and culture. So, China will have a lot of work mastering the art of soft power. Time though is on the BRI side; the horizon is 2049 – not profits in the next quarter. Maritime routes in the north like the Arctic Silk Road, and via the South China Sea and Indian Ocean to the south, will envelop Eurasia, which will articulate itself in the center over high-speed rail and highway corridors of the New Silk Roads and the upgraded Trans-Siberian links.

They call it Euro-Asia in Beijing, and they call it Greater Eurasia in Moscow. The whole process is historically inexorable, already forging the future – call it Asian or Eurasian.

هل العراق على مشارف الاستقلال الفعلي؟

فبراير 6, 2019

د. وفيق إبراهيم

هناك اضطراب سياسي حادّ في العراق يسبق عادة مرحلة «عمل» البندقية، منعكساً على شكل صراع حاد بين ثلاثة أنواع من القوى الداخلية، تأثرت بتصريح للرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب، قال فيه إنّ قوات بلاده باقية في العراق لمراقبة إيران والمنطقة.

يُعبّر هذا الموقف عن ميل أميركي الى تصعيد الصراع الأميركي ـ الإيراني في بلاد ما بين النهرين، لكن هناك من يرى فيه، تمركزاً استعمارياً يضبط الأوضاع في سورية والعراق بقواعد ذات مقدرات تكنولوجية وحربية استثنائية، ولهما مهمتان: منع التنسيق بين العراق وسورية، وحراسة الخليج من السعودية حتى حدود اليمن من أي اختراقات من جهة حدود العراق في محافظة الأنبار، هذا بالإضافة الى الدور الأميركي التقليدي الذي يعمل كما يقول، على منع «التفرّد الإيراني في العراق السياسي».

العراق إذاً، هو التمركز العسكري الاساسي للأميركيين في الشرق يلعبون من خلاله دور «العين الثاقبة» التي ترصد حتى أدنى التحرّكات من أعالي اليمن الى لبنان، وتدمّرها.. ما يعني أنّ الإمبراطورية الأميركية ترى في الشرق «ميداناً» ترابط قواتها «التأديبية» في وسطه، ولا تأبه لقوانين وأنظمة إلا بمدى علاقتها بمصالح «الكاوبوي الأميركي».

ماذا عن الداخل العراقي؟

أليس هو المعنيّ بمجابهة «الوظائف» التي منحها الأميركيون لأنفسهم في بلادهم؟

لم يعد الانقسام بين القوى السياسية في «أرض السواد» يحمل الطابع الطائفي والعرقي في الصراعات السياسية: فمواقف رئيس الحكومة الحالي عبد المهدي أكثر التباساً وغموضاً من مواقف رئيس الجمهورية «الكردي» برهم صالح الذي يطالب بإلغاء اتفاقية معقودة في 2008 تجيز للأميركيين ضرب الإرهاب.

هناك داخل القوى الكردية، من يؤيد الدور الأميركي مقابل فئات ترفضه، وكذلك بالنسبة للتركمان الذين يتعلقون بالأميركيين لخشيتهم من النفوذ التركي في مناطقهم.

ولم يخجل رئيس البرلمان العراقي محمد الحلبوسي في المجاهرة بأنّ الأميركيين في العراق محاربون ضدّ الإرهاب «ونحن بحاجة إليهم».

توجد قوى أخرى في الوسط والجنوب «تنوّه» بالدور الأميركي في محاربة الإرهاب، وتعتبر أنّ عملية انتحارية حدثت في منطقة القائم القريبة من الحدود مع سورية دليل على وجود إرهابي كبير في العراق!

في المقابل يوجد طرفان عراقيان وازنان يرفضان الوجود الاستثماري الأميركي في بلادهم ويعملان على إنهائه، إنما بوسيلتين مختلفتين.

حركة «سائرون» الصدرية الاتجاه ومعها ائتلاف دولة القانون والبناء و»مشروع عربي» لخميس خنجر إلى جانب عشرات التنظيمات الأخرى تعمل على إسقاط اتفاقية الـ 2008 في مجلس النواب، وهذا يعني وجوب رحيل الأميركيين من العراق «سلماً».

أما القوة الثانية فهي الحشد الشعبي ومتفرّعاته في عصائب أهل الحق الخزعلية والحساء والفتح العامرية والنصر..

هؤلاء يجزمون بأنّ إمكانية ترحيل الأميركيين عن العراق شبه مستحيلة بالطرق القانونية، ويجوز هنا برأيهم الجمع بين رفض قانوني نيابي يُلغي اتفاقية 2008 إلى جانب عمل شعبي مقاوم يجعل الأميركيين يحسبون ألف حساب قبل إطلاق تلك التصريحات الترامبية وتساويهم بآل سعود الذين يتلقون الصفعة الأميركية تلو الأخرى ويصمتون ويدفعون مئات المليارات.

العراق إذاً إلى أين؟

يجب الإقرار بأنّ الإجماع الداخلي على مقاومة الأميركيين نسبي، ما يستدعي البحث عن الأسباب، فتظهر فجأة على أنها اختلال في الثقة بين المكونات العرقية والطائفية، فانطلاقاً منها، يلعب الأميركي والسعودي والتركي والقطري بشباك الفتنة الداخلية معرقلين مشروع إجماع وطني على مسألتين: تحرير العراق من مستعمريه الأميركيين، وإعادة وبنائه على أسس وطنية سليمة.

لكن دون هذين الهدفين تنبثق ضرورة ابتداع مشروع سياسي موحّد يضع العراقيين من مختلف المذاهب والأعراق ضمن مساواة في السياسة والاقتصاد والاجتماع، فتزول التحفظات ورعب المكوّنات من بعضها بعضاً.

ويُصاب الأميركيون عندها بذعر حقيقي ولا يطلقون مثل هذه التصريحات الترامبية العنترية.

للإشارة فإنّ لدى «التحالف الدولي» عشر قواعد عسكرية في العراق بينها أكبر قاعدتين جويتين في المنطقة، بالإضافة إلى نحو عشرين «ألف جندي غربي» بينهم سبعة آلاف أميركي كما يؤكد البنتاغون، وإحدى هذه القواعد الجوية هي الأحدث والأفعل في منطقة الشرق الأوسط، لذلك فإن الصراع في العراق ليس مع الإيرانيين الذين لا يمتلكون جندياً واحداً في العراق ولم يبنوا قواعد فيه، وهذا يدفع إلى توجيه الصراع الداخلي مع الأميركيين حصراً، وباللغتين القانونية والشعبية المقاومة..

فإذا كان الجيش الأميركي غزا العراق في 2003 بمئتي ألف جندي، ولم يتمكن من ضبطه، فكيف بوسعه الاستمرار بعشرين ألفاً إذا اتفقت القوى العراقية على مقاومته، لمصلحة بلادها فقط، وفي إطار تحالف مع سورية وإيران ينعش المنطقة ويعزّز دورها الاقتصادي والعالمي جاعلاً الهيمنة الأميركية منحصرة في إطار ضيق؟


South Front


China To Build 4 Nuclear Aircraft Carriers In Effort To Catch Up To US Navy: Report


China is to build 4 nuclear aircraft carriers in an attempt to catch up to the US Navy, according to experts cited by the SCMP.

Beijing is presumably expected to have 6 aircraft carrier battle groups by 2035, after modernization of the People Liberation Army’s (PLA) Navy was turned into a priority.

They would be 6, because currently China has 1 with the Liaoning aircraft carrier and another one the Type 001A undergoing sea tests.

In comparison the US has 11 aircraft carrier battle groups.

Similarly to the US, the nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are expected to be equipped with electromagnetic launch catapults.

“All of China’s new carriers were expected to be equipped with electromagnetic catapults similar to those used by the United States, the experts said. The US’ electromagnetic aircraft launch system, known as EMALS, can launch more aircraft more rapidly than the older diesel systems,” SCMP reported.

The SCMP cited several Chinese military experts, some with close ties to the PLA. This followed the announcement of the PLA’s plan in January to transform the army into a modern force, by shifting its focus away from land-based fighting. It plans to boost its navy, air force and new strategic units focused on emerging hi-tech threats such as cyberwarfare.

According to Wang Yunfei, a naval expert and retired PLA destroyer naval officer, said: “China’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with [EMALS-like systems] are expected to join the navy by 2035, bringing the total number of carriers to at least six – although only four will work at the front line. The country needs to keep developing until it is at the same level as the United States.”

Construction of the first carrier equipped with such an electromagnetic launcher is the Type 002, a diesel-powered aircraft carrier whose construction began in 2018.

He said that there would no budget cuts even in the face of an economic slowdown and the trade war with the US.

“Even if the economic downturn has an effect, we can adjust proportions in total military expenditure to make sure naval modernisation keeps going,” Wang said. “For example, we can cut the number of new tanks.

“The budget for military modernisation will not be cut, even if [Beijing] decided to [use force to] reunify Taiwan. In a war scenario, [Beijing] may reduce spending on things like infrastructure, but it would increase military expenditure.”

Another cited expert was Song Zhongping, a television military commentator in Hong Kong. According to him China’s fleet of aircraft carriers would “expand to reflect its global standing.”

“The Type 002 – a conventionally powered carrier with an EMALS-like system – may become the only one of that kind of aircraft carrier, because China will next build multiple nuclear-powered aircraft battle platforms,” Song said.

Despite that, Song said China’s overall strength would remain limited by a lack of combat experience.

“China’s aircraft carrier technology and its carrier-based fighter jets will be developed to match the same generation of their American counterparts, but hardware build-up is only part of the picture,” he said.

“The standard of warships’ crew training and damage control have remained key shortcomings of the PLA Navy, because they has not had as much real combat experience as the Americans.”


Memories Of The Days Of Struggle & Revolution

By Mokhtar Haddad

Iranian journalist Seyed Ismail Alawi Yakana is a revolutionary who lived through the days of the Islamic Revolution. Because of his participation in the struggle against the Shah’s regime, he spent nearly three years in the SAVAK prisons.

He was also an activist during the revolution and educated a number of its men.

During the period of the sacred defense, he was present as a journalist and a fighter along the frontlines. He was responsible for reporting on the sacred defense for an Iranian newspaper during those days. Today, he still works in the same field, seeking to spread the values of the Islamic Revolution and the sacred defense among the new generation.

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution, Al-Ahed website met with Seyed Ismail Alawi to ask him about the days of struggle and victory.

Q: How would you describe the Islamic Revolution, which you lived through?

A: I must talk about the start of this revolutionary movement and its peak. There are things that led the people to resent and oppose the former regime.

The incident involving the publication of an article that was offensive to Imam Khomeini in late 1977 in a regime-run newspaper was the spark that ignited this popular resentment and anger toward the Shah’s regime.

It is true that Imam Khomeini’s uprising began in 1963, after which he was exiled. But the peak of the popular movement and the start of the final drive that eventually led to the overthrow of the tyrannical regime began after the publication of the offensive article. But before that, there was revolutionary activity by activists, which was suppressed by the Shah and his police system.

Following the publication of the article, the residents of the holy city of Qom rose against this abusive measure. The Iranian people regard the holy city of Qom as a religious symbol. The revolutionaries were religious and the revolution was of religious nature. All the people had religious tendencies.

The demands of the religious revolutionaries represented the demands of all the Iranian people and even the rest of the elites and sects in society.

The former regime had such an experience. On June 4, 1963, when Imam Khomeini was arrested and the scholars were insulted, the next day they carried out a major uprising in Tehran and across various cities. The struggle was ongoing, but the regime was suppressing it.

It is true that the regime suppressed the June 5, 1963 uprising. But the revolutionaries formed a revolutionary nucleus for the political or armed struggle. In the early 1970s, we witnessed the regime’s crackdown on the revolutionaries. But the revolutionaries did not retreat.

Then, in the mid 1970s, the political struggle escalated in universities and mosques.

In late 1977, after the publication of that offensive article, the Shah’s regime was surprised by the reaction of the people.

I remember even some of the revolutionaries believed that revolutionary action needed extensive work. But when the people rose up, everyone was surprised with the speed.  Some did not expect the people to overthrew the Shah that quickly.

Q: Why did the Islamic Revolution accelerate?

A: First, the Shah’s regime did not pay attention to the demands of the people. But there is another important point which is the love for Imam Khomeini. The Iranian people loved Imam Khomeini. This was thanks to God Almighty.

Q: The Shah’s regime was dependent on America and the West. Even Carter, who visited Iran during the regime’s final last months, described the country as the island of stability. Why did the monarchy collapse?

A: The former regime was the front line, countering the influence of the former Soviet Union with the support of the West. During the Cold War, they considered Iran an important state for them. And the Westerners were supporting the Shah.

When the West wanted the help of its allied countries, including the countries in the NATO alliance, it was done through the Shah’s regime since it was trusted by the West and was regarded as the region’s policeman.

The Shah relied on this support and thought that in case of any popular movement he would be fully supported.

Q: In this context, we see that in the final days of the Shah’s regime, Washington sent its special envoy, General Robert Huyzer. What was this man’s mission in Tehran?

A: America sent General Robert Huyzer to maintain the Shah’s regime and carry out a military coup as it did in the fifties. This is all documented, even in the memoirs of this American general.

Huyzer was tasked with supporting the Shah and maintaining his regime. Before that the American spies who used to work in the US Embassy in Tehran had prepared for him all the polls and statistics for him to carry out the mission.

But he saw that the armed forces were not prepared to carry out this mission and massacre the people, so his mission failed.

Many members of the armed forces, including Air Force officers, joined the people.

Q: But America came up with new plans to target the revolution.

A: Using several schemes, Washington wanted to deter the Islamic Revolution because the victory of the revolution had damaged the interests of Washington in the region.

The Islamic Revolution was inspiring to the people. The Zionist enemy was occupying Islamic countries. During that stage, we saw an Islamic awakening that was confronting the Zionist plan. Therefore, we see that the Islamic Revolution has become the inspiration for the resistance, revolutionaries and the people in the region.

This led to growing concerns by the Zionists and the Americans. Washington became concerned about the future and the fate of the Zionist entity.

I remember that in the first months of the revolution’s victory there were rallies in which they were asked to go to Palestine to support the Palestinian people.

We saw the “Israeli” Embassy in Tehran transformed into the Palestinian Embassy in the first week of the Islamic Revolution.

Therefore, we saw that the Americans and the Zionists carried out many plans in the first months of the revolution’s victory in order to limit the revolution to slogans and internal issues. Therefore, they activated the separatist movements such as the events in Kurdistan province in which Saddam’s regime and other regional regimes played a large role. But these projects failed.

After the failure of this project and the revolutionary forces overcoming the internal problems, they came up with another plan, which is to impose Saddam’s war on Iran.

Q: Why did Imam Khomeini from the start of his uprising raise slogans greater than Iran, like supporting the Palestinian people against the Zionist enemy?

A: This is due to the cultural and religious nature of the Islamic Revolution. It was not only focused on internal issues or economic issues. This revolution had wide and comprehensive goals and visions. Imam Khomeini’s first speech during the sixties in the holy city of Qom and the beginning of the uprising is the most evident proof of this. He raised issues such as the Muslim awakening and confronting the colonial and Zionist schemes, etc.

Q: How did you enter the revolutionary work and why did the Shah’s regime arrest you?

A: Religious circles were directly related to the revolution and the revolutionaries. When a person participates in the activities in the mosque, Hussainiya or places where the Holy Quran was taught, his sense of fighting the corrupt regime of the Shah strengthens since Islam and the Quran both stress the importance of standing up to the oppressor. We saw that the policies of the Shah’s regime were contrary to the teachings and objectives of Islam.

When I started the revolutionary work I was 15 years old during which I experienced this atmosphere. I met the leaders of the revolution during those days, including Ayatollah Khamenei, martyr Ayatollah Beheshti and engineer Mahdi Bazarkan. We learned and were inspired by them. So, I entered the revolutionary work. We worked in the mosques and Hussainiyas, spreading the ideas of Imam Khomeini and distributing His Eminense’s statements and messages.

Then we founded a revolutionary student group. We were, then, arrested by the SAVAK and spent about three years in prison.

In prisons, revolutionaries were subjected to the most severe forms of torture. There were people in the SAVAK who specialized in the implementation of systematic torture.

In 1971, the Shah established a joint committee between the SAVAK and the police to counter sabotage as he claimed. The committee had a very scary prison that housed the revolutionaries who were arrested. They were also tortured.

I was detained for a while in that prison.

Q: What sort of relationship did the SAVAK have with the Mossad and the CIA in confronting the revolutionaries?

A: It is natural that there be a relationship between the SAVAK and the Mossad and the CIA because the Shah had a close relationship with the United States and the Zionist entity. So, both the Mossad and the CIA used to transfer their security experiences to the SAVAK.

As you know, some of our revolutionaries used to go to Palestine and Lebanon for training. So the Mossad sent these people’s information to the SAVAK.

Q: Do you have some memories of the last days before the victory of the revolution and the day Imam Khomeini returned to the country?

A: I was one of the members of Imam Khomeini’s reception committee. I was in the third circle to safeguard the security of the Imam. We were positioned in the Paradise of Zahra (PBUH) cemetery where Imam Khomeini was supposed to deliver a speech honoring the revolution’s martyrs. We were there for 10 nights and days. We had concerns of acts of vandalism that might be carried out by the regime during the Imam’s reception ceremony.

And I remember one of the brothers, a Lebanese revolutionary. His name was Shaher. He trained our group, which was made up of 100 people, in order to maintain the security of the Paradise of Zahra (PBUH).

Imam Khomeini’s reception was historic. Millions of people lined up from Maharabad Airport to Freedom Square and Revolution Street until the Paradise of Zahra (PBUH). It was the final victory of the revolution. I still remember the happiness and joy on the faces of the people that day.

Venezuela Crisis: U.S. Has Painted Itself Into Corner

South Fronts



Venezuela has the dubious fortune of being located on the continent of South America, which the United States has treated under the so-called “Monroe Doctrine” as its exclusive zone of political, economic, and military influence. In practical terms it meant that whenever a Latin American government pursued a policy at odds with Washington’s preferences, it would be subjected to measures ranging from economic sanctions to outright military invasion.

Latin America became one of the many battlefields of the Cold War when several countries sought to leave the US shadow and align themselves with USSR. The US retaliation was harsh, and included the support for the brutal military coup in Chile, training of “death squads” in Honduras and El Salvador, support for the so-called Contras in Nicaragua, not to mention the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Once the Cold War was over, however, a relative peace settled over the region, with Cuba remaining the only hold-out against US power. Even the coming to power of soft Marxist “pink wave” governments in Venezuela and Bolivia did not seem to overly ruffle Washington’s feathers. But the current escalation of the US campaign against Venezuela suggests a revival of US activism in the region.

“Energy Dominance”

One might as well cut to the chase and state the obvious: Venezuela is not only a member of OPEC, it is also a country with the world’s largest known oil reserves dwarfing those even of Saudi Arabia. It is no coincidence that pretty much every country that has been on the US “hit list” in the last decade or so—Libya, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Venezuela—is a major producer of hydrocarbons. Given that the global economy is utterly dependent on steady provision of hydrocarbons, US political control over these countries means a stranglehold over major industrial competitors to the United States, namely the EU and China. It also creates US jobs, once US oil companies establish control over the country’s oil fields. At the very least, should the effort to place the country under indirect US control fail, plunging it into chaos removes a competitor to struggling domestic US oil producers.

Monroe Doctrine Returns

The timing of the US escalation closely follows the visit by Russian Tu-160 strategic bombers to Venezuela during which the possibility of creating a Russian military base in the country was discussed by some media outlets. Given that Russia has by now established through the Syrian example that once Russian troops arrive in a country they are unlikely to leave no matter how great the US pressure, Washington may have decided to step up the pressure in the hopes of not only Russia but it’s other major competitor, China, from establishing themselves more firmly in the country. Russia’s Rosneft already has considerable presence in the Venezuela, assisting it with the development of its oil potential, and China has also made a number of investments in the country, though its economic footprint remains modest. Moreover, the US aggression against Venezuela sends a signal to the nearby Nicaragua, also a country facing increasing US political pressure, against pursuing a project of building a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans with China’s support.

Thus far US actions consisted of economic sanctions and apparent coordination of coup attempts to be carried out by elements within Venezuela’s military and security forces. It is still difficult to make out what the Trump Administration’s recognition of Juan Guaido, the President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, as the country’s “interim president” was supposed to represent. Even by the standards of Trump’s current foreign policy team of Pompeo and Bolton, “recognition” of a claimant to supreme executive office who does not actually occupy said office is unprecedented. Not even in the case of Syria, where the US has been far more directly involved in attempting to overthrown its legitimate government, was any opposition leader “recognized” as the official representative of the country itself. Therefore one may conclude Guaido’s “recognition” was supposed to follow the military coup which Guaido probably promised and Washington clearly expected. It is also difficult to say whether Guaido overestimated the degree of his support within the military or outright lied to his American sponsors. Either way, the US intelligence community has once again failed at providing an accurate assessment of the situation within a country, as Venezuela’s military rallied around President Maduro.

Bay of Pigs 2

United States has thus painted itself into a corner. Guaido’s recognition, which was moreover coordinated with the bulk of Latin America’s countries and with the European Union (which likewise points to a wider though failed conspiracy to overthrow Venezuela’s government) cannot very well be walked back. Maduro’s continued presidency has now become a challenge to US power at least as great as Assad’s. One can therefore expect stepped up US efforts to overthrow Venezuela’s government, though it remains to be seen how far the US is willing to go. An outright US military invasion appears unlikely at the moment. The most recent such effort has been in Panama during the George H.W. Bush administration, a far smaller and easier to control country. There is no evidence of US intelligence services training Venezuelan expats in the manner of the “Bay of Pigs” invasion force or the Nicaraguan contras. However, Venezuela is bordered by two countries ruled by far-right politicians closely allied to the United States, Brazil and Colombia. In the wake of the failed US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and with the US military retooling itself for great power confrontations, the US modus operandi in the past several years has been to use proxy armies. These may take the form of non-state actors funded and armed by US intelligence agencies or of friendly states, as in the case of Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Yemen. One could readily imagine the Yemen model used against Venezuela, but this time with a “Brazil-led” coalition doing Washington’s dirty work.

Bargaining Chip?

Last but not least, one must consider the possibility of Venezuela being treated as a bargaining chip in some sort of negotiation with Russia and/or China in the delineation of the great powers’ spheres of influence. This would mark a de-facto return to the policy of compensations wherein the balance of power is preserved by major powers ceding parts of their empires to others in exchange for gains elsewhere. Thus, for example, Washington could approach Moscow and  offer a “Venezuela for Syria” or even “Venezuela for Ukraine” bargain. While not out of the realm of possibility, it remains a difficult course of action to imagine for two reasons. The first is that there is little awareness of the limits of US power in Washington itself. The expectation is still of powering through any opposition. The second is that even if the offer were made, it would probably not be accepted in Moscow. Apart from the cost to Russia’s international image, the US at this point has very low credibility and trustworthiness.

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الأميركيون والروس عاجزون عن الجمع بين الترك والكرد؟

يناير 29, 2019

د. وفيق إبراهيم

اصطدمت مساعي الأميركيين في شمال سورية بحائط تركي مسدود يرفض أيّ دور للكرد في الشمال والشرق، لأنه بداية لمشروع الدولة الكردية المستقلة، التي تهدّد وحدة الكيان التركي نفسه كما يزعم.

في الإطار نفسه لم تتمكن روسيا من إقناع الرئيس التركي أردوغان بضرورة التخلي عن منظمة النصرة الإرهابية في محافظة ادلب وضواحي حلب وحماة.

هنا يتذرعُ «الرجب» بضرورة القضاء المسبق على المشروع الكردي ما يعني إرجاء أي حل للانتشار العسكري التركي في سورية الى المراحل النهائية من المفاوضات.

هذان الرفضان التركيان يهدّدان فعلياً المشروع الأميركي في الانسحاب من سورية والتنظيم المسبق للأدوات البديلة التي يريدها «البنتاغون» في منطقة تمتدّ من الحدود الشمالية حتى الجنوبية والشرقية مع العراق.

لم ترفض انقرة ما عرضه عليها المستشار الرئاسي الأميركي بولتون في زيارته الأخيرة لها، كان يحمل خارطة ملوّنة لمناطق الشمال والشرق السورية تبدأ بمنطقة حدودية من جرابلس حتى المالكية والقامشلي شرق العراق تشكل منطقة آمنة برعاية الجيش التركي وبعمق يتوغلُ ثلاثين كيلومتراً داخل سورية، على أن تليها منطقة للتحالف الدولي «العربي» تكون فاصلة بين النفوذ التركي الحدودي والكانتون الكردي الذي يُفترض أن يصل الى حدود العراق جنوباً وشرقاً وتنتصب على مقربة منه قاعدة التنف الأميركية التي قد تتراجع مئات الأمتار فقط بضغط روسي، لكنها تحافظ على مهمتها من داخل حدود العراق وهي عرقلة التعاون السوري – العراقي من طريق الانتقال البري.

روسيا بدورها عرضت على أردوغان الخروج من إدلب وعفرين مقابل ضمان تسوية سياسية للمشروع الكردي، مع حق الجيش التركي بملاحقة «اي معتدٍ» على أراضي بلاده بالتوغل حتى الـ 15 كيلومترات داخل الحدود السورية، وهذا ما تلحظه اتفاقية «اضنة» في 1998 حول ملاحقة الإرهابيين من حزب العمال الكردستاني بموافقة من الطرفين الموقعين سورية وتركيا.

لكن التطرّف العثماني الأردوغاني تشبث بمضامين اتفاق اضنة انما مع رفضه المطلق لضرب جبهة النصرة أو سحب قواته من محافظة إدلب ومنطقة عفرين مركزاً على أن هذا الأمر مرتبط بالحل النهائي للأزمة السورية، ما يكشف التلازم بين عدوانيته العسكرية وطموحات بلاده السياسية المصرّة على دور ملحوظ في المؤسسات السياسية السورية الجديدة من خلال الاخوان المسلمين والتركمان السوريين وما تسميه «معارضة معتدلة» تتنقل بين أنقرة وتل أبيب وتدعو الى مصالحة وتطبيع كاملين مع الكيان الغاصب.

هذا الرفض التركي فرض على روسيا الإعلان الصريح بأن أنقرة لا تلتزم كلياً باتفاق إدلب الناتج عن مؤتمرات آستانا التي تجمع روسيا وتركيا مع إيران، ويجنحُ موقف موسكو الى المزيد من رفض هذا الدور التركي المفضوح الذي يريد الاستفادة من كل عناصر الأزمة السورية، فيأخذ من الأميركيين شيئاً ولا ينسى «دغدغة» الروس مستعملاً أهمية بلاده في سورية فيتدلّع لمزيد من الابتزاز.

اما مع إيران فيؤدي أردوغان دور الحريص عليها من الهجوم الغربي الأميركي الخليجي الذي يستهدفها محاولاً شراء صمتها في الميدانين السوري والعراقي.

ويواصل الأتراك استعمال منظمات الإرهاب متخلّين عن داعش المهزومة لمصلحة «النصرة» التي انتشرت بالقوة العسكرية في مناطق كانت تديرها منظمات موالية لتركيا تحت نظر ورعاية المخابرات التركية والوحدات العسكرية والأقمار الاصطناعية الأميركية والتحالف الدولي.

اما مظاهر الازمة بين كل من روسيا وأميركا مع الاتراك فواضحة في الإعلان الروسي عن هذا الخلاف وتوقف العروض الأميركية التي كانت تتهافت على اردوغان الى جانب اشتباكات اندلعت في محافظة دهوك الكردية العراقية بين متظاهرين أكراد هاجموا معسكراً تركياً في منطقة شيلادزي احتجاجاً على قصف الطيران التركي لمناطق أكراد العراق في المنطقة، للإشارة فإن المتظاهرين الذين سقط منهم قتلى وجرحى اجتاحوا المعسكر ودمّروه، علماً ان هناك قاعدة أميركية في المنطقة نفسها كانت تتابع ما يجري باهتمام وصولاً الى حدود التشجيع.

يدلّ هذا الخلاف على صعوبتين غير مستحيلتين: الانسحاب الأميركي السريع من شرق سورية وبداية التعثر في أدوار مؤتمر استانا.

لكن البديل عنهما ليس بعيداً وبإمكانه رعاية انسحاب أميركي سريع وتطوير للدور الروسي في آن معاً، هذا ما لاحظته موسكو وتعمل على إقراره، إنما وسط استياء أميركي واضح، لقد اعتبر الروس أن ما يضمن ضبط المشروع الكردي هو الدولة السورية القادرة على احتواء المطالب الذاتية في مناطقهم في «بعض» الشرق وقسم من الشمال مع حقهم باستعمال لغتهم الكردية الأم الى جانب العربية في الإدارات والتعليم. وفي هذا الصدد هناك مفاوضات تبدأ في اليومين المقبلين بين الطرفين للتوصل الى اتفاق نهائي بإمكانه خفض منسوب التوتر الكردي عند الترك. هذا إذا كان الأمر صحيحاً، أما لجهة اتفاق «اضنة» فأنقرة هي التي دمّرته، بفتح حدودها لمئة ألف إرهابي دخلوا سورية ودمّروها برعاية المخابرات العالمية منذ 2012، لذلك تعرض دمشق انتشار جيشها في المناطق الحدودية بشكل يضمن أمن سورية وتركيا على السواء، وقد ترضى بشكل مؤقت بنشر قوات روسية إذا شعر الأتراك بحاجتهم اليها في هذا الوقت بالذات للمزيد من الاطمئنان.

الدولة السورية اذاً هي الحل لكل من تركيا والكرد وروسيا وإيران، لكن الفريق الأميركي الاسرائيلي وبعض العربان يرون أن الاستمرار في إنهاك سورية «فرصة» لتجديد الهيمنة الأميركية في المنطقة وهؤلاء حالمون لأن الزمن لا يعود الى الوراء ودمشق تجتاز الأميال الأخيرة في رحلة الألف ميل التي اثبتت ان سورية المستقرة القادرة حاجة استراتيجية لكامل منطقة الشرق الاوسط.

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