Beggaring Europe: switching cheap Russian gas for expensive American LNG

EU steps to significantly reduce Russian gas imports will see Europe newly dependent on much pricier US liquefied natural gas

June 15 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Daoud Baalbaki

Europe’s dependency on Russian natural gas has been a contentious issue for European Union (EU) policy makers for decades. Dozens of policies have been proposed over the years to diversify the continent’s gas supply, or to switch to green energy sources in order to minimize reliance on Russian gas.

There are only two ways to transport natural gas – via pipelines, or by liquifying the gas, transporting it as cargo, then re-gasifying it at the destination. Both processes require time and considerable infrastructure investment.

Pipelines: In 2021, Russian natural gas accounted for about 46 percent of the EU’s total natural gas imports with an amount of 155 bcm (billion cubic meters). Figure 1 shows that Russian pipelines provided about 41 percent (about 139 bcm) of these gas imports to the EU over the same period.

Norway is Europe’s second-biggest natural gas supplier, followed by pipelines from North Africa and Azerbaijan.

LNG: Imports of LNG constitute about 21 percent of total European natural gas imports.

Figure 2 shows the sources for the LNG shipments that were imported by the EU in 2021. It is important to note that the United States represents the main supplier for LNG to the EU, and is likely to be the main beneficiary if Russian gas pipelines cease operations. The US only commenced exports of LNG to the EU in 2016, but rapidly reached 22.3 bcm in 2021, representing 23 percent of all LNG exports from the US.

Europe’s dependency

Before the conflict in Ukraine, Russia was still a major supplier for LNG in Europe with about 20 percent of the total LNG imports (equivalent to 16 bcm). This means the EU imported a total of 155 bcm of natural gas from Russia annually – 139 bcm via pipelines and 16 via LNG. This accounts for almost half of all European natural gas imports.

This strategic failure in achieving independence from Russian natural gas was mainly due to lack of a coherent and unified strategy among EU members. As shown in Figure 3 the dependency on Russian natural gas varies from one European country to another.

Countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Hungary are fully dependent on Russian natural gas, while the countries that import the largest quantities like Germany, France, Italy Poland, and Greece are semi-dependent, and countries like Portugal are quasi-independent.

With intense pressure from Washington, this issue of over-reliance on Russian resources became further securitized following the conflict in Ukraine. Even after the west announced sanctions on Russian imports, the EU imported 39 billion euros worth of fossil fuel from Russia, until as recently as mid-May.

Reducing reliance on Russia

According to a Flash Eurobarometer survey for the European Commission (EC), 85 percent of Europeans believe that the EU should reduce its dependence on Russian gas and oil as soon as possible to support Ukraine. Meanwhile the EC, international agencies, and independent think tanks have proposed short term plans to decrease the EU’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels by the end of 2022.

The main three short term plans are the EC’s REPowerEU Plan under which two-thirds of Russian gas (101.5bcm/155bcm) could be replaced by next winter; the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) ten-point plan which proposes a one-third (50bcm / 155bcm) reduction of the Russian natural gas imports, finding alternative sources, and switching to renewable energy; and economic think tank Bruegel’s plan which says, in theory, the EU should be able “to replace Russian [gas] flows entirely,” even in the short term, by calculating Europe’s spare gas import capacity. Realistically, however, Bruegel calls for a reduction (86 bcm/155 bcm) by possibly switching electricity production to nuclear and coal, while applying energy saving policies.

What’s the plan?

Essentially, what these plans all have in common is a call for the EU to diversify its natural gas imports portfolio, switch to renewable energy, and apply policies for energy saving. Of the aforementioned plans, the REPowerEU strategy appears to be the most feasible.

The plan suggests cutting Russian natural gas imports to 101.5 bcm from 155 bcm in 2021 – in theory, by increasing non-Russian gas supply by 63.5 bcm, and reducing gas demand by 38 bcm.

To increase non-Russian gas supply by 63.5 bcm, the plan assumes the following can be achieved:

  1. Increase non-Russian LNG imports by 50 bcm
  2. Increase non-Russian pipeline imports by 10 bcm.
  3. Increase biomethane production by 3.5 bcm.

Complimentary to this, they also recommended reducing gas demand by 38 bcm. For this, they proposed 4 points:

  1. Energy savings to cut demand by 14 bcm
  2. Rooftop solar power to reduce gas demand by 2.5 bcm
  3. Heat pumps to reduce gas demand by 1.5 bcm
  4. Deploying wind and solar in the power sector to reduce gas demand by 20 bcm.

The first problem with the EC study is that it expects the demand for gas in Europe in 2022 to remain the same as in 2021. Studies shows that the continent may need around 20-25 bcm more than in the same period last year. So, the target gas requirement is actually 121.5 – 126.5 bcm – not just replacing the Russian imports of 101.5 bcm.

Increasing non-Russian LNG

By far the most important metric here is the EU’s current regasification capacity. As mentioned above, when imported as LNG, the liquified gas needs to be regasified by specialized plants in ports in order to be reinjected into pipelines. All combined, the EU countries had around 74 bcm spare regasification capacity last year.

The problem is that about half this spare capacity is concentrated in Spain and Portugal, which are linked to the rest of the EU with a pipeline of just 7.5 bcm/year capacity. Therefore, the EU has insufficient re-gasification plants to import an additional 50 bcm of LNG.

The proposed solution is to use the UK (now, officially outside the EU) – which has around 29 bcm spare regasification capacity – as a land bridge to import LNG and then reexport it to the EU via pipelines. In this scenario, the EU may succeed in importing an extra 50 bcm of LNG.

But even if Europe overcomes the regasification obstacle, is there enough LNG supply in the world to cover the demand?

Switching dependency from Russia to the US 

Due to many export plants struggling with technical and feed gas issues during the year, global LNG export capacity actually declined in 2021, despite the continued rise in capacity in the US. At the beginning of 2022, it was estimated that the LNG global export capacity will increase by some 43 bcm if all plants that had technical issues and shutdowns were to come back online.

In the second quarter of this year, the International Energy Agency’s gas market report estimated that the EU’s LNG imports may increase by a maximum of 25 bcm and that 65 percent of this quantity will be supplied by the US.

If this transpires, US LNG exports will increase by a whopping 19 percent, making it the global leader of LNG exports overnight. Meanwhile, Africa, Europe, Central and South America and Eurasia will have smaller contributions to global LNG supply growth in 2022, while the supply of the Asia Pacific and West Asian regions are expected to decline.

If we take Qatar as an example, despite its leading role in LNG markets and close relations with western states, Qatar is unable to supply Europe with extra large quantities in the short term because it suffers from a lack of spare LNG export capacity. Furthermore, over 70 percent of these exports are sold to Asian buyers via long term contracts. Europe would have to wait until 2024-25 to be able to count on Qatari LNG supplies.

This high-level demand for LNG projected by Europe will saturate the market and increase the competition for flexible LNG cargoes. In order to attract more LNG cargoes, spot prices in Europe should be $2-3/MMBtu higher than the Asian markets. This is leveling now at $35/MMbtu for the rest of 2022 which is more than five times their five-year average.

The bottom line is that it will be impossible for the EU to increase their LNG imports by the crucial 50 bcm milestone. Even if the EU overcomes the technical issues represented by the regasification capacities and the interconnections between the EU countries and Britain, the supply in the global LNG market simply cannot meet the demand.

Although Europe may receive an extra 25 bcm of LNG, it will come attached to a very high price tag, while prices in North America will be largely unaffected. The US is the big winner in this scenario, raking in exorbitant profits while establishing itself as the world’s biggest LNG exporter.

Where are the non-Russian gas pipelines?

Norway: As the main non-Russian gas supplier of natural gas to Europe via pipelines, Norway’s total capacity of supply is 94.3 bcm per year. Only 86.3 percent of this capacity was used in 2021, theoretically leaving 12.9 bcm of spare annual capacity.

However, in the first two quarters of 2022, the pipelines have been working close to effective full capacity, and this capacity is expected to be lower in the summer, as previous records indicate.

North Africa: The other source of pipeline natural gas to Europe is via three pipelines from North Africa: The Medgaz pipeline from Algeria to Spain, the Trans-Mediterranean Pipeline (also known as Transmed which carries Algerian gas from Tunisia to Italy), and the Green Stream pipeline, from Libya to Italy. A fourth pipeline, the Gas Pipeline Maghreb-Europe (GME), runs from Algeria to Spain via Morocco, but has not been used since 1 November 2021, following the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Algeria and Morocco that August.

The flow in Medgaz pipeline to Spain can increase by around 2 bcm, after increasing its capacity.  These extra quantities can cover a part of the quantities that have been delivered via GME in 2021. However, Algeria has also recently suspended trade ties with Spain over the latter’s decision to side with Morocco over the disputed Western Sahara territory, which has exacerbated tensions between Rabat and Algiers.

The Transmed pipeline to Italy has around 10 bcm spare capacity, but recent analysis shows that Algeria will not be able to offer additional gas quantities since reaching its production capacity and needing to address its own growing domestic demand.

Exports in Libya ranged around 5 bcm before 2020 but declined to 3.2bcm in 2021. A recovery can offer the extra 1-2 bcm, but ongoing political instability in Libya can offer no such guarantees.

As a result, North Africa is not foreseen to provide any extra-large quantities of gas to Europe in 2022.

Azerbaijan: In 2021, the EU started receiving natural gas from Azerbaijan via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). The capacity of TAP is around 11 bcm, and flows in 2021 totaled 8.1 bcm, meaning there is extra capacity of around 2.5 bcm.

Overall, the EU plan is based on making a year-on-year increase of 2-3 bcm from Azerbaijan, 2-3 from Algeria, and 4-5 bcm from Norway. These appear to be achievable with regards to the pipelines’ spare capacities, but ambitious in terms of gas production quantities for the suppliers.

Trading dependencies

This European demand for non-Russian gas will mainly be covered by the United States which is the only player that stands to gain economically. It is therefore in Washington’s interests that Europe converts a big part of its gas imports from Russian pipelines into LNG. It is also why the US has remained determined for years to stop the Russia-to-Germany NordStream 2 pipeline from becoming operational – which it succeeded in doing in February, as tensions over Ukraine worsened.

As the US has its own independent pricing system, it is not affected by the international gas prices, which are expected to rise significantly in the European and Asian markets, bringing instant value to LNG production activities in the US.

The EU plan to cut two-thirds of its Russian gas imports and replace it elsewhere – by the end of 2022 – is very optimistic. Closer scrutiny shows it will come with a very high cost – around five times the price that Europe used to pay. Whichever plan the EU implements, Europe will have to acknowledge that it will be neither an energy independent or politically independent continent for the foreseeable future.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Lavrov x two

May 30, 2022

Source

Introduction by Amarynth

This posting contains one recent interview and one recent address by Mr Lavrov.  One is extensive and the second contains a few comments not included in the first.  One is directed to an international audience (more specifically the Arab world) and the other to a domestic audience.  Why should we look at these very carefully, and why do we post them on the Saker Blog?   Mr Lavrov is arguably one of the best diplomats in the world today.  In that role, he is a pleasure to read or listen to.  But, that is not the main reason.  He has a fine facility with language and explains exactly Russia’s position and further, the world position in its process toward multipolarity and a new financial system in a pragmatic realpolitik style, undergirded by an encyclopedic knowledge of world affairs.

Sidebar:  While Mr Lavrov is speaking to the Arab countries, his counterpart in China, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, is speaking to all of the smaller Pacific island countries (PICS).  Comparing the welcome that these statesmen receive, it is beginning to clarify that the other geopolitical axis (which we roughly and in shorthand refer to as Zone B)  of this war for the world is active and up and running.  Mr Lavrov mentions the organizations.   It is then worthwhile to mention that BRICS is expected to grow by at least two countries during the next general meeting.  It is expected that Argentina will be next, which will then start including the new Latin American groupings such as Celac (The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) or ALBA-TCP.  Thus we see a coalescence of countries around the principles of international law, the true principles in the UN Charter, and a world community built on cooperation and collective values, instead of one ruler of the world.

First up is an interview with RT Arabic, clearly for an international audience.

Second up is remarks to the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation, clearly a domestic audience.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with RT Arabic, Moscow, May 26, 2022

Question: Your recent visit to Algeria and Oman generated a lot of interest. What can you say about its results? Why did you decide to visit these states?

Sergey Lavrov: We communicate with all interested countries. As for this tour, it was planned long ago. The programme of my visits and their timeframe were coordinated some time ago.

In Algeria, I had good, lengthy talks with President of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra. We emphasised that for many years our relations were based on the Declaration on Strategic Partnership that was signed by our presidents in 2001. Since then we have intensively developed our strategic ties as partners in many areas. It is enough to mention our regular political dialogue, trade (it went up by several percent in 2021 to exceed $3 billion despite the pandemic), the economy, joint investment, our work in the OPEC+ and the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, extensive military-technical ties and cultural and humanitarian exchanges.

We concluded (at the prompting of Algeria) that our relations are reaching a qualitatively new level. This should be reflected in a document that is already being drafted. We hope to sign this document when President of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune visits Russia at the invitation of President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

We appreciate that the countries of the Arab world are refusing to follow in the wake of the West and are objectively assessing the events in Ukraine and refusing to join the anti-Russia sanctions. They understand that the current situation was caused by the flat refusal of our Western colleagues to reach an accommodation on equal and indivisible security in our common region.

As for Oman, this was the first visit since its new Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said acceded to the throne. The Sultan received me with good grace and devoted much time to me. I was particularly grateful to his Majesty for this gesture (the protocol of the Sultanate of Oman does not envisage communication with ministers in this format). Our detailed talks showed that we have a good potential for developing trade and economic ties. We want to raise them to the level of our trust-based political dialogue. We have many opportunities in energy and ICT and interesting cultural projects. A half-year exhibition of Islamic Art in Russia ended in the National Museum of Oman last March. This museum and the Hermitage have been closely cooperating since 2015. Both museums display their own expositions on each other’s territory.

These two planned visits to both countries at the planned time were useful, in my view.

Question: What about a top-level visit?

Sergey Lavrov: I have already said that during a telephone conversation with President of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune, President of Russia Vladimir Putin invited him to visit the Russian Federation. Now we are preparing the documents required for this visit.

Question: And what about Oman?

Sergey Lavrov: No top-level visits are envisaged for Oman for the time being. We are planning to develop practical cooperation, make it more intensive and productive.

Question: Will there be additional agreements on military cooperation?

Sergey Lavrov: Our military-technical cooperation with many countries develops according to their wishes. We are always ready to examine ways to strengthen their defence capabilities. We consider them as we receive relevant requests.

Question: We are talking about Algeria, which also produces both gas and oil. The OPEC+ countries have shown firmness about the previously agreed positions within the organisation on the parameters of oil production and pricing on the oil market. Do you have confidence in the stability of your partners’ position?

Sergey Lavrov: We have discussed our further cooperation not only within OPEC+ but also the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), where Russia and Algeria are also included. All OPEC+ and GECF members without exception publicly affirmed their commitment to the agreements reached in these formats and their intention to continue working in this direction in order to stabilise the energy market.

Question: Where will you visit next?

Sergey Lavrov: The next visit will take place very soon. On May 31 and June 1, based on my invitations, I plan to visit Bahrain first. Later, on June 1, Riyadh will host a regular meeting of the Russia-GCC Foreign Ministers Forum. This forum has been around for a long time. Due to the pandemic, there was a break in our meetings. Now our friends have proposed resuming them. In addition to the Russia-GCC meeting, there will also be bilateral meetings with almost all members of this organisation.

Question: How do you find Arab countries’ position on the Ukrainian crisis?

Sergey Lavrov: Just now, answering the previous question, I said that all Arab countries have a responsible position. This proves that they rely solely on their national interests and are not ready to sacrifice them for the sake of anyone’s opportunistic geopolitical adventures. We have mutually respectful relations. We understand the vital interests of the Arab countries in connection with the threats to their security. They reciprocate our feelings and understand the threats to the security of the Russian Federation that the West has been creating right on our borders for decades, trying to use Ukraine to contain Russia and seriously harm us.

Question: Do you think these countries will continue to pursue this policy, despite the pressure from the West, particularly, from the Anglo-Saxon alliance?

Sergey Lavrov: The arrogance of the Anglo-Saxon alliance has no limits. We are offered evidence of that every day. Instead of delivering on their obligations under the UN Charter and honouring, as is written in this charter, the sovereign equality of states and abstaining from interfering in their domestic affairs, the West churns out ultimatums every day, issuing them through their ambassadors or envoys to each, without exception, capital not only in the Arab world but in other regions of the world as well, and, in so doing, blatantly blackmailing them, citing some subjective situations. The West is directly threatening their interlocutors, saying they will regret failing to join the sanctions against Russia and will be punished for this. It is blatant disrespect for sovereign countries. The reaction of Arab countries and almost all other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America that we are seeing shows that these countries do not want to disregard their national dignity, running errands, in a servile manner, for their senior colleagues. This situation is yet another example of colonial thinking. The habits of our Western colleagues have not vanished. In their traditional style, the United States and Europe are still preaching the colonial customs they adhered to at a time when they could dictate to all others. It is wrong and regrettable, and flies in the face of the historical process, which objectively shows that a multipolar world is taking shape now. It has several centres of economic growth, financial power and political influence. Everyone understands now that China and India are fast-growing economies and influential countries, just like Brazil and other Latin American countries. The tapping of Africa’s enormous potential of natural resources has been held back by the colonialists during the period of neo-colonialism as well, which is not over yet. That is why Africa is also making its voice heard. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Arab world is objectively one of the pillars or one of the centres of a multipolar world that is being shaped now.

Question: We are talking about good relations between Russia, China and India. Can these countries form an alliance against US hegemony?

Sergey Lavrov: We never form alliances against anyone and never make friends with someone against others. We have a ramified network of partner organisations established many years ago. I will mention the organisations established after the Soviet Union’s disintegration. These are the CIS, the CSTO, the EAEU and the SCO on a broader geopolitical plane. The SCO has established and is developing close ties with the EAEU and as part of the linkage of Eurasian integration projects with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. The EAEU and the PRC have signed an agreement. The linkage of these integration projects is embracing more and more territories. Thus, in addition to EAEU-SCO cooperation, these organisations have memorandums on cooperation with ASEAN. The Greater Eurasia project (or the Greater Eurasia Partnership) should embrace the whole of Eurasia. President of Russia Vladimir Putin spoke about this at the Russia-ASEAN summit six years ago. It is based on the processes on the ground and has a Eurasian dimension.

Many countries of the Arab world are interested in establishing partner relations with the SCO that represents all other leading sub-regions of our enormous common continent. These are efforts to build constructive and positive (not antagonistic) alliances that are not aimed against anyone. They are gradually acquiring a global character, which is reflected in the development of the BRICS Five (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Our Saudi friends and Argentina are interested in it. Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero expressed his country’s desire to become a full member of BRICS.

BRICS is preparing for a regular summit. It will create an outreach format in which a dozen developing nations will take part. These processes are underway. We know that our Western friends have many phobias and complexes of their own superiority and infallibility. But they are also paranoid. The West sees opposition and a threat to its domination in any process in which it does not take part and which it does not control. It is time to get rid of these manners and customs.

Question: What about the recent Russia-China military exercises? What do they show?

Sergey Lavrov: This is the continuation of our cooperation aimed at enhancing security in this region. They supplement regular military undertakings: drills and training sessions with counterterrorism aims, efforts to strengthen the security of our common borders within the SCO. Russia-China bilateral military cooperation already has a long history. This is not the first year that we are holding events in the zone of our common borders where our security interests directly overlap; we do it regularly. They show that both Russia and China have a responsible attitude to fulfilling these tasks.

Question: Despite the evidence cited by Russia, the development of biological weapons by the United States in Ukraine has not evoked any concern in the West. What should be done for the world to understand how dangerous this is? The Arab press writes about the historical importance of Russia’s efforts to show how these laboratories operate.

Sergey Lavrov: This is a direct violation of the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons. Enjoying support of all countries except the US, we have long been advocating the formation of a universal transparent verification mechanism within its framework that would allow all states to be sure that no participants of the Convention violate it. The United States has simply blocked this initiative since 2001 (for more than 20 years). Now it is clear why it occupies this position. During all these years, the Americans have been setting up their military bio laboratories all over the world. The Pentagon’s unit – the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) – is in charge of these activities. In developing a network of such laboratories, the Pentagon is focusing on the post-Soviet space and Eurasia. Available information shows that these laboratories have been or are being established along the perimeter of the Russian Federation and closer to the PRC. We initially suspected that the experiments made in these laboratories were not entirely peaceful and innocent. When the Russian Armed Forces and the militias of Donetsk and Lugansk liberated Mariupol during the military operation, they discovered laboratories left by the Americans in a rush. The Americans tried to get rid of documents and samples but didn’t destroy all of them. The samples of pathogens and the documents found there clearly pointed to the military character of these experiments. It is clear from the documents that there are several dozen such laboratories in Ukraine. We are pursuing two goals. First, we will convince the UN Security Council to take seriously the information we presented to it (you noted that the overwhelming majority of the developing nations do take it seriously). Second, we want this information to lead to specific actions that must be taken under the Biological Weapons Convention. It requires that the United States explain what it was doing there. We held five special briefings in the UN Security Council, one of them quite recently. We will work to make the US take specific actions proceeding from its commitments under the Convention. We will also analyse additional information about the involvement of other countries in these experiments and military bio laboratories in Ukraine. According to some sources, these are Great Britain and Germany.

Question: If you don’t mind my asking, where are other similar laboratories located in the vicinity of Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: No, I don’t mind. There are such laboratories in Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Central Asian countries. Russia and these countries have been analysing these problems both bilaterally and at the CSTO. We are signing (or have signed, or are preparing) memorandums on interaction in biological security with practically all CSTO and other CIS countries.  These documents stipulate that the signatories will inform each other of how biological programmes develop in each country.

What is important is transparency, which makes it possible to ascertain that these programmes have no military dimension, since this is prohibited under the Convention. These memorandums imply that the parties will pay mutual visits and familiarise themselves with the activities conducted by these laboratories.  In addition, it is stipulated that there should be no military representatives of any third party at the biological facilities in each of our countries.

Question: How are these countries motivated in having such laboratories? Will this bring them any material or political benefits?

Sergey Lavrov: The USSR pursued a large-scale biological programme. After the Soviet Union joined the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, this programme was stripped of its military aspects, but the scientific value of the biological research is retained.  We all remember the state in which this country was in 1991, when the USSR ceased to exist. We faced the problem of preserving the Russian Federation’s integrity. There were no state reserves to repay the national debt or even to purchase the basic necessities for the Russian population’s everyday life. At that time, our Western partners “hopped to it,” as we say, offering their services in all areas of life. They penetrated all spheres of the newly independent states, sending their advisers and advice-givers. Today we are experiencing the aftermath of those times. Major changes have occurred. There are no Soviet republics, which became independent overnight. They had no experience of independent international activity. But now all of this is a thing of the past. All the post-Soviet republics have consolidated their stand, asserting themselves as absolutely sovereign, independent states.  They decide what partners to choose on their own. We have agreements with them to the effect that the commitments assumed within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, and the Eurasian Economic Union should be fully respected by other countries interested in developing relations with all post-Soviet states. We discussed the problems that all of us encountered during the emergence of the new statehood.  Various agencies exchange information about the risks involved in this sweeping cooperation with foreign countries in sensitive spheres. Biology is, of course, one of these spheres.  There is awareness that we have a unified biological security space. The CSTO’s purview includes security issues that are directly related to public health and the environment.  We will continue our constructive cooperation based on these statutes.

Question: Turkey and Italy have proposed a plan for organising talks between Russia and Kiev. Is Russia ready to continue the talks, which have not yielded any results lately?

Sergey Lavrov: We pointed out on numerous occasions that our Western colleagues want to use Vladimir Zelensky and all citizens of Ukraine to the last Ukrainian, which has become proverbial, to damage Russia as much as possible, to defeat it on the battlefield. This has been openly declared in Washington, Berlin, London and especially loudly in Warsaw. Poland has proposed that the Russian world must be destroyed like a “cancer” which is a deadly threat to the whole world. I would like to look at this world as it is represented by our Polish neighbours. For many years Russia has tried to explain why NATO’s eastward expansion and the drawing of Ukraine into the bloc are unacceptable to us. They listened to us but did not comprehend what we said.

When the coup was staged in 2014, the [Ukrainian] opposition trampled on the agreements reached despite the EU’s guarantees. The EU proved unable to force the putschists to respect the signatures of France, Germany and Poland. In 2015, the war in Donbass unleashed by the new Ukrainian authorities, who seized power in the coup, was stopped. The Minsk agreements were signed and guaranteed by France and Germany. All these years we called on Kiev to honour its commitments. Since the West had the decisive influence on it, we also worked with the Europeans and Americans, appealing to their conscience. Regrettably, they have no conscience.

Instead of forcing Kiev to implement the agreements, which should have been done through a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk, the West tried to justify Zelensky and his team, even when they said publicly that they would never talk with “those people,” although this is stipulated in the UN Security Council resolution approving the Minsk agreements. They said that they would never implement the Minsk agreements or give a special status to these republics. At the same time, they adopted laws that prohibited the Russian language in education and media. Media outlets were shut down. The Russian language was even prohibited in everyday life. Only the Ukrainian language was allowed as the medium of interaction between people in Ukraine.

Moreover, Vladimir Zelensky stated that those who feel Russian must go to Russia. He said this in September 2021. We drew the attention of some Western countries, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the relevant UN bodies to these aggressively Russophobic and racist statements made in the spirit of the neo-Nazi policy which was gaining a foothold in the Ukrainian legislation. They did not react in any way. Some officials sometimes called for respect for international commitments. But Zelensky doesn’t give a damn about international commitments or the Constitution of Ukraine, which guarantees the rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine. They showed no respect for the Constitution and international conventions and adopted a lot of anti-Russian laws.

As for Russia’s readiness for talks, we have already explained why we couldn’t sit on our hands any longer. What we found on the Ukrainian army positions during the special military operation proved that we were barely in time with starting it, because Ukraine’s Plan B was to be enacted on March 8. A huge group of the Ukrainian armed forces, which was deployed on the contact line with Donbass by mid-February, planned to attack and occupy these territories in flagrant violation of the Minsk agreements and the UN Security Council resolution.

I have no doubt that had they succeeded the West would have turned a blind eye to these violations, just as it pretended not to notice Kiev’s disregard for all the agreements during the previous eight years.

When the Ukrainian authorities proposed negotiations several days after the operation began, we agreed immediately. We held several in-person rounds of talks in Belarus, trying to understand Ukraine’s position and what it wants to achieve at the talks, because we had presented our approach. After several rounds were held in Belarus and online, the idea of meeting in Istanbul was put forth, and the Ukrainian delegation brought, for the first time, written proposals signed by the head of the delegation to the meeting we held on March 29. We analysed these proposals, reported our opinion to President Putin and told our Ukrainian colleagues that we were ready to proceed on that basis. Since they didn’t present a complete agreement but only its individual provisions, we used them to quickly draft an agreement that was based on the Ukrainian proposals and turned it over to the Ukrainian delegation. The following day a flagrant provocation was staged in Bucha, where dead bodies were found in the streets three days after Russian troops had left the city, after three days of peaceful life. We were accused of killing those people. You remember what happened next.

The West adopted a new package of sanctions, as if it had been waiting for it to happen. The Ukrainians said that they had reviewed their position and would reformulate the principles underlying the agreement. Nevertheless, contacts between us continued. The latest draft agreement, which we submitted to Ukraine nearly a month ago, is gathering dust. If you ask who wants to hold and is ready for talks, Vladimir Zelensky said in an interview the other day (he does this almost every day) that he is ready for talks, but they must be held between himself and Vladimir Putin, because there is allegedly no use doing this at any other level. He said the talks should be held without any intermediaries and only after Ukraine resumed control of its territory as of February 23, 2022. Anyone can see that this is not serious. But it suits the West to keep up this unreasonable and unsubstantiated obstinacy. This is a fact.

The West has called for defeating Russia on the battlefield, which means that the war must continue and that increasingly more weapons must be provided to the Ukrainian nationalists, to the Ukrainian regime, including weapons that can hit targets in the Russian Federation. It is such weapons that Vladimir Zelensky demands publicly. We have issued most serious warnings to the West that it is, in fact, fighting a proxy war against the Russian Federation with the hands, bodies and brains of the Ukrainian neo-Nazis, which can become a major step towards an unacceptable escalation. I hope that the remaining reasonable forces in the West are aware of this.

As for Turkey and Italy, Turkey doesn’t have a plan. At least nobody has presented it to us, although President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has noted on many occasions that Turkey is ready to provide a venue just as it did in Istanbul on March 29.  In fact, it was a useful contact. For the first time the Ukrainians presented their vision of a peace agreement on paper in response to our numerous requests, which we accepted and translated into the legal language. I have told you what happened after that. President Erdogan stands for peace and is ready to do all he can to bring it about. But Vladimir Zelensky has said that he doesn’t need intermediaries. That’s his business. He is as fickle as the wind: first, he rallied the support of all the G7 countries, and now it appears that former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is creating an advisory group at Kiev’s request that will provide proposals on security guarantees for Ukraine in the context of a peace settlement.

I would like to remind you that initially the Ukrainians’ concept was to draft a comprehensive agreement which would include Ukraine’s pledge not to join any blocs or have nuclear weapons, as well as guarantees of its neutral status. It would also stipulate the guarantor countries’ guarantees that will take into account the security interests of Ukraine, the Russian Federation and other countries in the region. As I have mentioned, Kiev is moving away from that concept. If Andreas Fogh Rasmussen has been recruited to formulate certain “guarantees” in a narrow circle of the Ukrainian regime’s Western sponsors and to subsequently try to submit them to Russia, it is a path that leads nowhere.

Question: Is this a non-paper? Just an initiative of former [NATO] officials?

Sergey Lavrov: We are looking into this now. This has already been promoted as a breakthrough step. The same applies to the Italian initiative.  Luigi Di Maio is quite active in the media landscape promoting the Italian four-point initiative. All we know about it is that it can bring the long-awaited peace, and not just suit both Russia and Ukraine, but launch something like a new Helsinki process, a new agreement on European security, and that it already enjoys the support of the G7 and the UN Secretary-General. I don’t know whether this is true, or to whom he has shown it. No one has sent us anything. All we can go by is speculation, descriptions of this initiative as they appear in the media.

But what we have read (if it is true, of course) makes us regret that the sponsors of this initiative show so little understanding of what is happening or knowledge of the subject, the history of this matter. Allegedly, it says that Crimea and Donbass should be part of Ukraine, which should grant those regions broad autonomy. Serious politicians who want to achieve results, not just grandstand to impress their voters, cannot be proposing such things. Donbass could have returned to Ukraine a long time ago if the Ukrainian regimes (Petr Poroshenko, and then Vladimir Zelensky) had fulfilled the Minsk agreements and granted a special status to the people that refused to accept the coup. The package included the status of the Russian language. However, instead of granting that status, Ukraine banned the Russian language. Instead of unblocking economic ties, Poroshenko announced a transport embargo on those regions, making retirees travel many kilometres to receive their pension benefits.

This Italian initiative you asked me about – as reported by the media – also calls for launching a new Helsinki process, in addition to reconciliation between Russia and Ukraine, to ensure the safety of everyone and everything.  Our colleagues in Rome came to their senses too late. The Helsinki process has given a number of important gains to the world, to our region, to the Euro-Atlantic region, including declarations signed at the highest political level, at the OSCE summits, in particular in Istanbul in 1999, in Astana in 2010 – declarations on indivisible security. Those documents said security can only be equal and indivisible. Further elaborating on this, they said all participating states have the right to be or not to be a party to treaties of alliance, but no country can join any alliances or otherwise strengthen its security if it affects the security of any other state. The third component of this formula is that no country, no organisation in the OSCE area will claim to dominate security issues.

Anyone familiar with the situation in Europe understands that Western countries have been grossly violating the key components of that commitment by strengthening their security in violation of Russia’s right to its own security. They claim that only NATO can call the tune in this region, and no one else. We have tried to make those beautiful political words become reality, to make them work rather than keep them on paper signed off by the presidents of the United States and European countries. We proposed making that political commitment legally binding. As far back as in 2009, we proposed an agreement to NATO countries. They said they wouldn’t even discuss it because only NATO could provide legal security guarantees. When we asked about the OSCE’s role, they said those were just political promises and slogans. That showed how Western politicians treat the signatures of their presidents. But we did not stop there.

We made another attempt last year. In November 2021, President Vladimir Putin instructed his team to draft new documents to agree with the United States and NATO on the principles that would be approved by all at the highest level. We drafted those treaties and transferred them to Washington and Brussels in early December 2021. Several rounds of negotiations followed. I met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. We were told that we could discuss the arms control agenda, but NATO expansion was not our business or anybody’s business, for that matter. When we again quoted their commitment not to strengthen their security at the expense of others, they dismissed that as immaterial. What mattered was NATO’s so-called open door policy. We have warned them repeatedly – in 2009, then in 2013, 2014 (when a coup d’état occurred in Ukraine), and in 2015 (the Minsk agreements). All these years, we have been telling our Western colleagues that it will end badly because they continue to ignore our legitimate interests and rudely tell us no when we ask them to take us into consideration – not somewhere tens of thousands of kilometres away, but right on the borders of the Russian Federation. This arrogance, this air of being exceptional, this colonial mentality (I can do anything and you will do what I tell you) is not manifested only in their attitude to our interests.

Remember 1999, when the United States suddenly decided that Yugoslavia, lying 10,000 kilometres away from its coasts, posed a threat to its security? They bombed it to dust in a heartbeat. They used OSCE Mission leader William Walker from the United States to loudly declare that several dozen corpses discovered in the village of Racak were a crime against humanity. As it turned out later, these corpses were not civilians, but militants who were disguised as civilians and scattered around the place.

The same setup was used in Bucha near Kiev on April 3. It works regardless of whether the public finds it convincing or not. They didn’t need to convince anyone. They bombed Yugoslavia, created an independent Kosovo violating every OSCE principle in the process and then said it would be like that from then on.

They said no after the referendum in Crimea. According to them, self-determination in Kosovo is a good thing, but self-determination in Crimea is not. This is being done as if nothing were wrong. No one is even blushing, although it’s a shame for Western diplomacy which has lost its ability to provide elegant explanations for their grossly reckless moves.

In 2003, the United States decided that a threat was coming from another country located 10,000 kilometres away and produced a vial with what I think was tooth powder. Poor Colin Powell later lamented that he had been set up by the intelligence. Several years later, Tony Blair, too, said it was a mistake, but nothing could be done about it. Nothing can be done about it. They bombed the country killing under a million civilians. Until now, Iraq’s integrity has not been restored. There are enough problems there, including terrorism, which did not exist there before. Indeed, Iraq and Libya were authoritarian regimes, but there were no terrorists, ongoing hostilities, or military provocations.

Libya is on that list, as well. In 2011, President Obama said that they would be “leading from behind” Europe.  France, the most democratic nation in the Old World (freedom, equality, fraternity), led the NATO operation to destroy the regime. As a result, they destroyed the country. It is hard to put it back together now. Again, the French are trying to do so as they come up with initiatives, convene conferences and announce election dates. All in vain, because, before going in, they needed to think about what would become of Libya after the West ensured its “security” in that country.

I’m citing this example not to say: they can, but we can’t. That would be simplifying matters. What I’m saying is that the Western countries believe that the entire world is part of their security, and they must rule the world.

As NATO was crawling up to Russia’s borders, it told us not to be concerned about it, since NATO is a defensive alliance and does not threaten our country’s security. First, this sounds like a diplomatic effrontery. We must decide for ourselves on our security interests, just like any other country. Second, NATO was a defensive alliance when there was someone to stand up to like the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. There was the Berlin Wall between Western and Eastern Europe. Everyone was clear about the line of defence. After the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union ceased to exist, any lieutenant with basic training knew there was no longer any such thing as a defence line. All you need to do now is live a normal life based on shared values and a common European space.

We put our signature under multiple slogans including “from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean,” “from Lisbon to Vladivostok,” and “we are brothers and sisters now.” However, they retained their military nature as they continued to move the “line of defence” closer to our borders. We have just had an in-depth discussion on the outcomes of this policy. In recent months, the NATO Secretary General and warmongering politicians like the British Foreign Secretary have been publicly stating that the alliance must have global responsibility. NATO must be in charge of security in the Pacific. This may mean that next time NATO’s “defence line” will move to the South China Sea.

Not only NATO, but the EU leaders also decided to “play soldiers.” Ursula von der Leyen, who is rivalling EU top diplomat Josep Borrell in terms of bellicosity, claimed that the EU must be in charge of security matters in the Indo-Pacific region. How are they going to accomplish this? They keep talking about an EU “army.” No one will let them create this “army” as long as NATO exists.

To all appearances, no one is going to even reform NATO. They are going to turn this “defensive alliance” into a global alliance claiming global military dominance. This is a dangerous path that is definitely doomed to failure.

Question: To what extent are these developments affecting the Russian army’s presence in Syria?

Sergey Lavrov: We are present in Syria at the request of the legitimate President of the Syrian Arab Republic and the legitimate government of that country. We are there in full compliance with the principles enshrined in the UN Charter and are addressing the tasks set by UN Security Council Resolution 2254. We will stick to this policy and support the Syrian government in its efforts to fully restore Syria’s territorial integrity. The armed forces of the countries that no one had invited to Syria are still deployed there. Until now, the US military, which has occupied a significant portion of the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, is openly building a quasi-state there and is directly encouraging separatism taking advantage of the sentiment of a portion of the Kurdish population of Iraq. Problems are arising between the various entities that unite the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds. All of that intensifies tensions in this region. Of course, Turkey cannot stay on the sidelines.

We want to address these issues solely on the basis of respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are talking to the Kurds. We have channels which we use to communicate with all of them. We encourage them to take a closer look at recent developments where the United States promised something to someone and then failed to deliver. Starting a serious dialogue with Damascus and agreeing on arrangements of living in a single state is a much more reliable approach even from these purely pragmatic considerations, not to mention international law.

Of course, Russia will continue to provide humanitarian aid. The United States is trying to keep the crisis situation unchanged and to encourage the sides to resume hostilities. The notorious Caesar Act is designed to strangle the Syrian economy. We see that a growing number of Arab countries are starting to understand the utter futility of this policy and are interested in resuming relations with Syria. Recently, the UAE restored its embassy’s activities in full. A number of Arab countries have never withdrawn their embassies from Damascus. Preparations are underway for a summit of the League of Arab States, which I discussed with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. The vast majority of the League members (as far as we can tell from our contacts) are in favour of a solution that will make it possible to resume Syria’s full Arab League membership.

Refugees are another issue. The UN mediators are trying to get involved in this matter, but the United States and the compliant Europeans are doing their utmost to make the return of these people impossible. Remember when Syria held a conference in Damascus a couple of years ago to raise funds and make it possible for the refugees to return, the Americans went out of the way to keep everyone from attending this conference. Not everyone listened to them and about 20 countries, primarily Arab countries, as well as the People’s Republic of China and other countries, took part in it.

The UN showed its weakness by refusing to participate in that conference and only sending its representative in Damascus to sit there as an observer. That decision hit the United Nations’ reputation hard because its Resolution 2254 explicitly calls for the return of refugees. Both the UN Secretariat and the Secretary-General personally have an obligation to contribute to this directly. Until recently, the European Union held its own conferences on refugees (and they were not devoted to creating conditions for their return, but to raising money to pay the host countries). The purpose of those conferences was to make the current situation permanent and prevent any chance of positive developments in Syria. Yet, the Secretary-General did not just send representatives to them, but participated in these conferences as a co-chair. We have been pointing out that serious misinterpretation of his direct responsibilities.

As for the process that is taking place in Geneva, including the Constitutional Committee, its Drafting Commission – I keep in touch with Geir Pedersen, who represents the UN as a mediator in this process. He visited Russia not long ago. We also communicate through our mission in Geneva. There is an agreement that the next meeting of the Drafting Commission will begin at the end of May. I believe that President Bashar al-Assad’s recent decision to grant amnesty to Syrians charged with terrorism-related crimes was an important positive step. As far as I understand, a lot of work has been done, and the amnesty was announced. It will be a good chance to see how it goes. Geir Pedersen as well as many of our Western colleagues said Bashar al-Assad should take some steps. Okay. Whatever prompted the Syrian president’s decision, he did take a step. Let’s reciprocate now. Let Geir Pedersen talk to the opposition and those who control it, and persuade them to show some constructive action in this regard.

Question:  Is Russia keeping the same number of troops in Syria?

Sergey Lavrov: We have not had any requests from the Syrian government. If any such decisions are deemed expedient, they will be implemented. The numbers on the ground are determined by the specific objectives our force is tasked with there. It is clear that there are practically no military objectives left, but only ensuring stability and security. As for the remaining military objectives that the Syrian army is working for, with our support – there is the terrorist threat in Idlib, and it has not gone anywhere. Our Turkish friends and neighbours are trying, as they are telling us, to fulfil what presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed on a few years ago. As we all see, things are going hard. This objective remains on the agenda. However, thanks to the actions by our contingent and the Syrian armed forces, we have not seen any provocations from Idlib lately targeting the Syrian army strongholds or our bases in Syria.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 38th meeting of the Foreign Ministry’s Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation, Moscow, May 27, 2022

Colleagues,

We are holding a regular meeting of the Foreign Ministry’s Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation. The meeting is taking place against the background of the special military operation in Ukraine, which is being conducted in connection with the tasks set by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, tasks involving the protection of civilians, the elimination of the Ukraine-posed security threats to the Russian Federation, and the denazification of this kindred country whose people have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of a regime which encourages extreme neo-Nazi sentiments and practices.

You see the United States and its satellites double, triple and quadruple their efforts to contain Russia with the use of a broad range of tools, from unilateral economic sanctions to utterly false propaganda in the global media space. Popular Russophobia has taken on an unprecedented scale in many Western countries, where, to our regret, it is nurtured by government circles.

Under these circumstances, it is of crucial importance that the foreign policy course approved by President Vladimir Putin is based on a broad national accord and supported by the key political forces of Russia and the leading public and entrepreneurial associations. We also feel daily the support from all Russian regions. This country is witnessing the consolidation of all healthy and patriotic forces. This is an important aspect of the present stage.

Colleagues,

At our last meeting, we discussed regions’ cultural diplomacy. The recommendations that we approved have made it possible to give a new impetus to international cultural ties maintained by Russian regions and expand the geographical reach and range of partners (of Russia’s republics, regions and territories). But the situation has changed since that time: the West has declared a total war on us and the entire Russian world. No one is concealing this any longer.

The cancel culture directed at Russia and all things Russian is reaching the apogee of absurdity. Russian greats, including Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy and Alexander Pushkin, are banned. Russian cultural figures and artists representing our culture today are persecuted.

It may safely be said that this situation is here to stay. We should be ready to accept the fact that it has revealed the West’s true attitude to those fine-sounding slogans concerning human values and the need to create a united Europe, a “common European home” stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, which were put forward 30 years ago after the end of the Cold War. Today we see the true worth of all these empty words.

Let us not become self-complacent. Under the current circumstances, we need a detailed analysis of the Foreign Ministry’s effort to promote cooperation with civil society, including at the level of regions.

A sufficiently effective system of collaboration between the Foreign Ministry and non-profit organisations focusing on international issues has been established. For example, the recent assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy has clearly demonstrated the high expert potential of scientific diplomacy. Our joint work has made it possible to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the highly intricate and complex developments in the world.

That said, the presence of NGOs from regions at international venues is insignificant. However, the inclusion of certain regional NGOs in Russian delegations to the UN General Assembly has been a success. This experience shows that this partnership has a promise. We would like to make it regular and broad in nature.

I would like to highlight a number of priority areas concerning interaction with civil society institutions:

1. Mobilising Russian NGOs’ capabilities to promote recovery and to provide humanitarian aid to residents of the DPR and the LPR, as well as the liberated Ukrainian territories.

2. Engaging public diplomacy channels for outreach activities with constructive international partners, including stepping up efforts to debunk fakes about the special military operation and promoting our views in social media and the blogosphere.

3. Using NGO resources, in particular, regional associations of entrepreneurs and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to minimise the consequences of unilateral sanctions, and to promote ties with the friendly countries, primarily, our allies and like-minded partners in the CSTO, the SCO, the CIS, the EAEU and BRICS.

On a separate note, regional consultative mechanisms with the participation of top executives from national cultural associations are working productively. Clearly, this helps maintain inter-ethnic and inter-religious peace and accord. I think broader use of this set of tools should be made in order to strengthen business ties with the expat communities’ countries of origin, primarily in the CIS.

4. Working with our compatriots residing abroad is particularly important. They are at the forefront of dealing with the phenomenon known as Neanderthal Russophobia. Our foreign-based communities are facing unprecedented pressure and are being discriminated against on national and linguistic grounds. In spite of everything, our compatriots are holding their own and bravely defending their right not to sever contacts with the Motherland even in the most challenging times. The Immortal Regiment drive that took place in over 80 countries, including the United States and Europe, clearly showed it. Our duty is to continue to support our compatriots, and we count on the regions’ proactive moves in this regard.

It is gratifying to know that many regions, in particular, Moscow, St Petersburg, Tatarstan, Crimea, the Altai Territory and the Yamalo-Nenets and Khanty-Mansi autonomous areas (the list goes on) are effectively working with the Russian expat communities and their coordinating bodies. The most recent examples include the Moscow Government holding, in conjunction with other regions, round table discussions on the topic “Interactions with compatriots abroad at the regional level.” Such events took place in certain regions, in particular, Kaliningrad in late March, and Khabarovsk and Vladikavkaz in April. More such meetings will be held this year. We strongly support these initiatives and will sponsor such events. We are ready to provide advice to our colleagues from non-governmental organisations on the corresponding issues. We will update them on the situation of their compatriots, including instances of their legal rights being violated.

5. The developments in Ukraine confirm the importance of continued efforts to counteract the falsification of history and glorification of Nazism. The absurd content of modern Ukrainian school textbooks is a case in point. However, the problem is not limited to Ukraine. The West does not stop trying to pit the peoples of the former Soviet Union against each other through a biased interpretation of historical facts.

The other day the German government approved plans for a World War II and the German Occupation of Europe documentation centre. At first glance, this concept raises serious questions regarding its historical truthfulness. The planned centre is structured not only to downplay the Soviet Union and the Soviet people’ decisive role in defeating German Nazism, but also to play down the crimes committed by the Third Reich against the Soviet people. These themes are not indicated in the planned expositions. The plans also contain language that seeks to equate German criminals to liberators of Europe. This is yet another step within the policy adopted by modern Berlin which seeks to rewrite the history of World War II and to rehabilitate the Third Reich.

It is important to focus on preserving the common chapters of history, primarily, the Great Patriotic War, and to promote shared memories of the war and the fallen war hero search movement, as well as the ongoing CIS historians’ dialogue on existing platforms.

Proper resources and staff are required in order to overcome these challenges, and the broad involvement of NGOs that should be issued targeted grants and subsidies to this end as well. Let’s not forget about this, either.

Many Russian regions are addressing these issues adequately, including through the use of extrabudgetary sources. We are ready to support this work and supplement these initiatives with increased funding from the federal budget.

In conjunction with Rossotrudnichestvo and the Civic Chamber, we will continue to help the regions use public and people’s diplomacy in the interest of promoting our foreign policy.

Yemen moves to criminalize normalization with Israel

May 30 2022

Officials from the National Salvation Government say the move is in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle

ByNews Desk

Yemen’s National Salvation Government (NSG) has moved to introduce a law proposal that will criminalize all means of normalizations of ties with Israel.

According to the Al-Masirah television network, Yemeni Prime Minister Abdulaziz bin Habtoor is in the process of passing a law that will prohibit any form of contact with Israel.

Habtoor remarked: “We stand by the side of the Palestinian nation and their struggle in the face of Israeli threats to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the occupied al-Quds city.”

He added that the Israeli provocations at Al-Aqsa Mosque are an attempt to “illustrate their dominance” following their numerous normalization deals with other Arab states.

The news come just a week after the Iraqi parliament approved a bill criminalizing any form of normalization or dealings with Israel, with the 275 attending members of parliament unanimously voting in favor of the law.

“This law, which was unanimously voted by the voters, represents a true reflection of the will of the people, a brave national decision, and a position that is the first of its kind in the world in terms of criminalizing the relationship with the Zionist entity,” Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hakim al-Zamili, said in a statement.

Seconds after the law passed, the Iraqi parliament members stood up and chanted: “No, no to normalization! No, no to Israel! Yes, yes to Iraq!”

A week prior, on 17 May, Algerian lawmakers submitted a similar appeal to their parliament, looking to criminalize the normalization of ties with Israel, including the prohibition of travel or direct contact with Tel Aviv.

The draft contains seven articles, with the first seeking to “criminalize normalization with the Zionist entity.”

Article 2 forbids any form of governmental or public contact with Israel. Article 4 prohibits travel between the two states and prevents the entry of any Israeli passport holders to Algeria.

The document is still being revised by the first chamber of parliament alongside the Parliamentary Initiatives Office of the National People’s Assembly.

Blinken Plays With Fire With Morocco and Algeria. Can Trump Stop This Crazy Arms Race and Prelude to War Though?

May 17, 2022

By Martin Jay

Source

The more the West pours money into the Ukraine, the more the UN and its member states have to bang on this drum which is really the worst setback Morocco could imagine over the incendiary subject of Western Sahara.

Lavrov’s visit to Algiers to shore up support for Ukraine war has shown how ineffective and dangerous Blinken’s moves are in the region. Some might argue he is making an already dangerous situation between Morocco and Algeria worse.

Is the Biden administration looking to start a war between Algeria and Morocco? At first glance, this may seem a little far-fetched as a scenario but it’s a valid enough question when you study the movements and statements of its diplo supremo Anthony Blinken. Just recently, the secretary of state jetted into Morocco for a few hours to pay his respects to the kingdom’s dapper foreign minister, before swiftly leaving to visit Algeria, Morocco’s arch enemy based on the latter’s support for the Polisario movement in the disputed Western Sahara. Leading up to the final days of Trump’s period in the White House, the former president signed a decree officially acknowledging (by America) Morocco’s claim that the disputed territory is a legitimate sovereign part of the kingdom. Until that point, relations between Algeria and Morocco were icy, but cooperative.

Biden has always opposed this move by Trump but is limited in what he can do to turn it around. On the one hand, Morocco has always traditionally had good relations with Washington and he doesn’t want to be the first president to jeopardise that; on the other though, his own political views are at odds with the idea of a country colonising another one regardless of the circumstances and is aligned to what many in the United Nations would prefer: some sort of democratic diligence to decide the outcome, probably a referendum.

In the summer of 2021, eight months after Biden took office, the Algerians decided that the situation needed a radical rethink, confident that a dithering Biden wasn’t going to overturn the Trump decision, neither on paper nor in gesture. The Algerians cut off one of its two gas pipelines which crossed Morocco territory before it reaches Spain causing mayhem as this pipeline effectively allowed Madrid to sell on to Morocco natural gas.

Six months later, the worst possible thing for Rabat, which was hoping to exploit the Trump decision, happened. The Ukraine war began, which for Morocco, was not good news as, quite apart from wheat imports being affected, it shifted backwards a more modern idea beginning to emerge that the Rabat elite had about occupied countries around the world. The Moroccan upper classes were beginning to think that the world was getting used to them – East Timor, Taiwan, West Bank and Gaza, Kashmir, Transnistria, Northern Cyprus – and that with the help of the U.S., the Western Sahara would slowly but surely metamorphosise into Moroccan Sahara. Perhaps it would take a generation. But it was a wait worth waiting for, the mindset in Rabat believed. Occupations hadn’t become cool as such; more that people are becoming dumber, media sloppier and the UN sensationally ineffective – an organisation most associate with sex scandals and corruption rather than being an international arbiter of disputes which it once was during the reign of Morocco’s Hassan II (who made the decision to incorporate Western Sahara into Morocco proper in 1975 when it was abandoned by its former colonial power Spain).

But the Ukraine invasion by Russia has sparked a new impetus in the UN, breathing new life into the once somnolent ‘no colonisation’ mantra. And the more the West pours money into the Ukraine in a blatant attempt to topple Putin, the more the UN and its member states have to bang on this drum which is really the worst setback Morocco could imagine over the incendiary subject of Western Sahara, or Moroccan Sahara if you like.

Biden can’t save the situation, that’s clear. But to some, it may seem that he is actually making matters worse. He wants to keep good relations with Rabat (he may even think that the king can fund his next presidential bid in 2024) but he desperately needs to find both a solution to the Trump problem and to get Algerians on board with the delusional idea that America can crack the hegemony whip and Algeria will stand to attention and show some respect. The visit at the end of March to Algiers was a clear example of how deluded the Biden administration is in this part of world and how its own meddling threatens to take the crisis between Algeria and Morocco to a new level. The visit was hilariously mistimed and misjudged in that Blinken actually believed that with an endearing speech he could actually just win over the Algerians, who would presumably just throw their relationship with Russia in the bin, give Europe more natural gas and basically stop backing the Polisario militants in Western Sahara.

If none of this were to happen but just merely a silence would follow, perhaps Biden could have salvaged some political gravitas out of it. But in the event, it had the opposite effect. The Algerians merely cranked up their relations with Russia to the next level and within merely 48 hours, there were even reports circulating on social media that Moscow would help Algeria’s support for the Polisario. The preposterous suggestion by Blinken triggered a response by the Algerians who immediately contacted Moscow and – presumably – invited Sergei Lavrov to come to Algiers on 10th May, calling for more investment from Russian companies and talking up the 3bn dollars of trade between the two countries. They also reduced their gas sent to Spain in their second pipeline by 25% as an act of solidarity with Russia, presumably.

This reaction by Moscow and Algiers puts Morocco in a very difficult position as it realises that Biden’s people do not have the diplomatic skills to find a compromise which puts the Western Sahara dossier in a place where Rabat is happy, finds a solution to cooling tensions and getting a sensible energy deal from Algeria for both Europe and Morocco. None of the above, Anthony but thanks for trying. Whether Morocco’s foreign minister Nasser Bourita likes to admit it or not, he, like most of Rabat and the Palace are all standing in line with the Gulf Arab states, waiting for 2024 when Trump comes back for the great reset. Everything that the blithering Blinken touches seems to turn toxic blinding everyone near to him. He is arguably the most dangerous man in U.S. politics who belongs to a different period in time when the U.S. really was the sole superpower and could wield such power around the world. Pity the Moroccans who are charmed by his diplomatic endearments and refinements. They will soon learn that strong words often don’t come from a strong stomach.

FM Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 30th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy

May 16, 2022

Moscow, May 14, 2022

Mr Lukyanov,

Mr Karaganov,

Colleagues,

I am glad to be here again, at this anniversary assembly. Last time, we met in this room on October 2, 2021. But I have an impression that this was in a totally different historical epoch.

I would like to congratulate you on the 30th anniversary of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy. Its activities are a fine example of Russian expert involvement in the foreign policy process. From the very start, the Council has brought together professionals, including politicians, state officials, journalists, academics, and entrepreneurs.  Throughout these years, this has ensured an effective and rewarding combination of practical experience and impeccable knowledge of the subject matter. Therein lies the key to comprehending the most complex international processes, particularly at stages like the present one. Advice, analytical materials, and debates (occasionally heated debates involving a clash of opinions) are of much help to us. We invariably take them into consideration in our foreign policy activities.

It is a cliche to say that this meeting is taking place at a historical turning point. I agree with the experts (Mr Karaganov and Mr Lukyanov have written a lot about this), who say that we again have to choose a historical path, like we did in 1917 and 1991.

The external circumstances have not just changed radically; they are changing ever more profoundly and extensively (though not becoming more elevated, unfortunately) with each passing day. And our country is changing along with them. It is drawing its conclusions. The choice we have taken is made easier by the fact that the “collective West” has declared a total hybrid war against us. It is hard to forecast how long this will last. But it is clear that its consequences will be felt by everyone without exception.

We did everything in our power to avoid a direct conflict. But they issued a challenge and we have accepted it. We are used to sanctions. We have been living under one or another form of sanctions for a long time now. The surprising thing is a surge of rabid Russophobia in almost all “civilised” countries. They have thrown to the wind their political correctness, propriety, rules, and legal norms. They are using the cancel culture against all things Russian. All hostile actions against our country are allowed, including robbery. Russian cultural figures, artists, athletes, academics, businesspeople and just ordinary citizens are exposed to harassment.

This campaign has not bypassed Russian diplomats. They often have to work under extreme conditions, occasionally with a risk to their health or life. We do not remember anything like the current massive and synchronised expulsion of diplomats happening even in the grimmest Cold War years. This is destroying the general atmosphere of relations with the West. On the other hand, this is freeing up energy and human resources for work in the areas with which our country’s future development should be associated.

In accordance with the demands of the times, we are carrying out our professional duties conscientiously and to the fullest extent. There are no traitors among our diplomats, although such attempts have been made from abroad and within the country. We do our best to defend the rights and interests of Russian citizens abroad. When the West hysterically reacted to the beginning of our special military operation and all flights were cancelled, we immediately helped Russians who were abroad at the time to return home. The routine consular services to Russians (of which there have always been many) are provided as always. It is clear that the situation demands that the diplomatic service works in a special regime. This is required by the new tasks set by the country’s leadership to protect national interests.

This is not only and not so much about Ukraine, which is being used as an instrument to contain the peaceful development of the Russian Federation in the context of their course to perpetuate a unipolar world order.

The Americans started preparing the current crisis long ago, right after the end of the Cold War, having decided that the way to global hegemony was then open. NATO’s eastward expansion has been one of the key components of such a course. We tried hard to convince them not to do this. We showed where and why our red lines are drawn. We were flexible, ready to make concessions and look for compromises. All this proved futile. President Vladimir Putin reminded us of this once again in his speech on May 9 on Red Square.

Today Western countries are ready to oppose Russia, as they now say, “to the last Ukrainian”. At first glance, this is a very convenient position, especially for the United States, which is managing these processes from across the ocean. At the same time, they are weakening Europe by clearing its markets for its goods, technologies and military-technical products.

In fact, the situation has many layers. Russia, the United States, China and all others realise that it is being decided today whether the world order will become fair, democratic and polycentric, or whether this small group of countries will be able to impose on the international community a neo-colonial division of the world into those who consider themselves “exceptional” and the rest – those who are destined to do the bidding of the chosen few.

This is the aim of the “rules-based order” concept that they have sought to introduce into general circulation for years. No one has seen, or discussed, or approved these “rules”, but they are being imposed on the international community. As an example, let me quote a recent statement by US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, who called for a new Bretton Woods framework and said that the United States would practice “the friend-shoring of supply chains to a large number of trusted countries” that shared “a set of [liberal] norms and values about how to operate in the global economy.” The hint is absolutely clear: the US dollars and the “benefits” of the international financial system are only for those who follow these American “rules.” Dissenters will be punished. Clearly, Russia is not the sole target, all the more so as we will fight back. The attack is aimed at all those capable of conducting an independent policy.  Take, for example, Washington’s pet Indo-Pacific strategy, which is directed against China. In parallel, it seeks to firmly and reliably harness India to the US and NATO. In the spirit of the Monroe doctrine, the United States wants to dictate standards to Latin America. The inevitable question is whether the Americans are really able to follow the key principle of the UN Charter, which states: “The Organisation is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.”

The “rules-based order” envisions neither democracy, nor pluralism even within the “collective West.” The case in point is the revival of tough bloc discipline and an unconditional submission of the “allies” to Washington’s diktat. The Americans will not stand on ceremony with their “junior partners.” The EU will finally lose all attributes of independence and obediently join the Anglo-Saxon plans to assert the unipolar world order, while sacrificing the Europeans’ quality of life and key interests in order to please the United States. Just recall how Victoria Nuland defined the EU’s place in Washington’s plans to reformat Ukraine in her conversation with the US Ambassador in Kiev in December 2013, at the height of the Maidan riots. Her prediction came true in its entirety. In security matters, the EU is also blending in with NATO, which, in turn, is making increasingly louder claims about its global ambitions. What defensive alliance? We are being told and assured to this day that NATO’s expansion is a defensive process and threatens no one. The Cold War defence line ran along the Berlin Wall – concrete and imagined – between the two military blocs. Since then, it has been moved east five times. Today, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and others are telling us that NATO has a global responsibility to solve security problems, primarily in the Indo-Pacific region. As I understand it, the next defence line will be moved to the South China Sea.

It is being insinuated that NATO as the vanguard of the community of democracies should replace the UN in matters of international politics, or at least bring global affairs under its sway. The G7 should step in to run the global economy and from time to time invite benevolently the extras the West needs at this or that moment.

Western politicians should accept the fact that their efforts to isolate our country are doomed. Many experts have already recognised this, even if quietly and off the record, because saying this openly is “politically incorrect.” But this is happening right now. The non-Western world is coming to see that the world is becoming increasingly more diverse. There is no escaping this fact. More and more countries want to have a real freedom to choose their development ways and integration projects to join. An increasing number of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are refusing to abandon their national interests and to pull chestnuts out of the fire for the former parent countries. An overwhelming majority of our partners, who have felt the effects of Western colonialism and racism, have not joined the anti-Russia sanctions. The West, which President Putin described as the “empire of lies,” has not been considered an ideal of democracy, freedom and well-being for a long time. By plundering other countries’ material assets, the Western countries have destroyed their reputation of predictable partners who honour their commitments. Nobody is safe from expropriation and “state piracy” now. Therefore, not just Russia but also many other countries are reducing their reliance on the US dollar and on Western technologies and markets. I am sure that a gradual de-monopolisation of the global economy is not a distant future.

We have taken note of Fyodor Lukyanov’s article published in the newspaper Kommersant (on April 29, 2022), in which he writes, with good reason, that the West will not listen to us or hear what we have to say. This was a fact of life long ago, before the special military operation, and a “a radical reorientation of assets from the west to other flanks is a natural necessity.” I would like to remind you that Sergey Karaganov has been systematically promoting this philosophy by for many years. It is perfectly clear to everyone that the process has begun and not on our whim – we have always been open to an equal dialogue – but because of an unacceptable and arrogant behaviour of our Western neighbours, who have followed Washington’s prompting to “cancel Russia” in international affairs.

Forging closer ties with the like-minded forces outside of what used to be referred to as the Golden Billion is an absolutely inevitable and mutually driven process. The Russia-China relations are at their all-time high. We are also strengthening our privileged strategic partnerships with India, Algeria, and Egypt. We have taken our relations with the Persian Gulf countries to a whole new level. The same applies to our relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as other countries in Asia-Pacific, in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

We are fully aware of the fact it is at this juncture, which perfectly lends itself to be called a turning point, that the place for Russia and all other countries and forces in the future international architecture will be determined.

We believe the aim of Russia’s diplomacy is, on the one hand, to act with great resolve to fend off all adversarial attacks against us, while, on the other hand, to consistently, calmly and patiently reinforce our positions in order to facilitate Russia’s sustained development from within and improve the quality of life for its people. There is much to be done, as usual. We always have a packed agenda, but in the current environment we are witnessing a serious shift in the mindsets of many of our comrades in all spheres of Russia’s life. This makes meetings held by the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy especially useful because they help nurture ideas which make their way into Russia’s foreign policy.

Aux armes, citoyens: dissecting the stage-managed French elections

April 27, 2022

Macron’s second presidency was as calculatingly managed by France’s liberal elite as his first. As the country’s economic and geographic schisms widen further, yesterday’s Yellow Vest protests will seem like a tea party by comparison.

Emmanuel Macron now has a second term, courtesy of France’s urban elites. But the magnitude of the problems he faces, both domestic and external, will ensure indefinite strife in the country. Photo Credit: The Cradle

Macron’s second presidency was as calculatingly managed by France’s liberal elite as his first. As the country’s economic and geographic schisms widen further, yesterday’s Yellow Vest protests will seem like a tea party by comparison.

The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar,  

In the end, it happened exactly like the French establishment designed it. I called it last December in a column here at The Cradle.

These are the essentials: Certified Arabophobe Eric Zemmour, who is of Algerian origin, was manufactured by key establishment players of the Institut Montaigne variety to cut off the populist right-wing candidacy of Marine Le Pen. In the end, Zemmour’s electoral performance was dismal, as expected. Yet another candidate pulled off a miracle intervention and was even more useful: ambitious egomaniac opportunist and so-called progressive Jean-Luc Melenchon.

‘Le Petit Roi’ Emmanuel Macron generates less than zero empathy across France. That explains the huge voter abstention of 28 percent in the second round of votes.

The numbers tell the story: There are 48,803,175 French citizens registered to vote. Macron got 18,779,809 votes. Marine Le Pen got 13,297,728 votes. Yet the most eyebrow-raising performance was by the Abstention/Nullified/Blank candidate: 16,674,963 votes.

So the president of France was re-elected by 38.5 percent of voters while the real second place, Absention/Nullified/Blank got 34.2 percent.

That implies that roughly 42 percent of registered French voters bothered to hit the polls basically to bar Le Pen: a brand that remains toxic in vast swathes of urban France – yet hardly as much as before – and even with the whole weight of oligarchic mainstream media engaged in Two Minute Hate campaign mode. The five oligarchies who run the so-called ‘audiovisual landscape’ (PAF, according to the French acronym) of campaign messaging are all Macronists.

Madam Guillotine meets the working classes

Who, in fact, is this illusionist Petit Roi that qualifies at best as a messenger of transnational plutocracy?

From the bowels of the system, arguably the sharpest verdict comes from Mathieu Pigasse, informally referred to in Paris as “the punk banker” because of his infatuation with the British punk-rock band The Clash.

When Macron was a mergers & acquisitions banker at Rothschild & Company, Pigasse was working for the opposition, Lazard Freres. It was Macron who convinced Nestlé’s interests to be handled by Rothschild, while Pigasse was representing Danone.

Pigasse also happens to be one of the major shareholders of Le Monde – which used to be a great newspaper up to the 1980s and now is a shallow carbon copy of the New York Times. Le Monde is Macronist to the core.

Pigasse defines Macron as “the purest product of French elitism, in terms of the Parisian microcosm.” Although Macron is a provinciale from Amiens, he perfectly fit into the Parisian beau monde, which is in itself a quite rarefied, and yes, equally provincial universe, like a village where everyone ‘that matters’ knows everyone.

Pigasse also identifies the establishment characters who invented Macron and placed him at the top of the pyramid – ranging from avowed eugenicist Jacques Attali to Serge Weinberg (ex-CEO of Sanofi), Francois Roussely (ex-president of EDF) and Jean-Pierre Jouyet, a former minister under disgraced former President Nicolas Sarkozy and then number two at the Elysée Palace under the supremely incompetent Francois Hollande.

Attali, incidentally, describes Macronism as a “pro-European modernization, engaged, liberal and optimist. That corresponds to a center-right of modern France” – and then Attali himself gives away the game – “which is not necessarily the whole of France.”

“Not necessarily the whole of France” in fact means the majority of France, if one bothers to leave a few tony Paris arrondissements to talk to people in Pas-de-Calais, Bourgogne or the Var. This ‘real’ France identifies the “social market economy” extolled by Attali and promoted by Macron as a gigantic fake.

It would be too easy to paint the current national divide between, on one side, the elderly and the very young carrying a diploma, living in comfort; and on the other side, the 25 to 60 year olds, without higher education and barely making ends meet. That is, the working class masses.

It is more nuanced than that. Still, the two most important factors in this election are that close to one third of voters didn’t even bother to show up – or nullified their vote (even here in Paris). And that the gullible Melenchon horde handed it over to Le Petit Roi, assuming their leader will become a de facto ‘prime minister.’

The working classes will be literally exterminated throughout another five years of hardcore neoliberalism. France’s until recently stellar social welfare system will be decimated. Retirement age will be extended to 65 years old. Smaller pensions will be barely enough to live on. The super-wealthy will pay much lower taxes while the common worker will pay much higher ones. Education and healthcare will be privatized.

France will merrily catch up with the fast decaying casino capitalism of the US and UK. And don’t forget further travel restrictions and food and fuel shortages.

Islamophobia will not dissolve into a mellow woke rainbow. On the contrary: it will be instrumentalized as the perfect scapegoat for serial Macronist incompetence and corruption.

Meanwhile, in Azovstal…

If we add the spectacular performance of the Absention/Nullifed/Blank candidate plus people who didn’t even bother to vote, we have something like a silent majority of 30 million people who instinctively feels the whole system is rigged.

The winners, of course, are the usual suspects: the BlackRock/McKinsey/Great Reset/weapons industry/EuroNazicrat axis. McKinsey virtually run French government policy – bordering on fiscal fraud – a scandal corporate media did everything to bury. For his part, Blackrock CEO Larry Fink, a very close ‘consultant’ of the Elysee Palace, must have popped a few extra bottles of Krug.

And then, there’s France as Great Power. Leader of great swathes of Africa (fresh from receiving a punch in the teeth from Mali); Leader of West Asia (ask the Syrians and Lebanese about it); Leader of the Great Resetting EU; And deeply embedded in the NATO war machine.

Which bring us to the top invisible story before this election, totally buried by corporate media. Yet Turkish intelligence picked it up. The Russians, for their part, have kept themselves deliciously mute, in their trademark ‘strategic ambiguity’ mode.

Denis Pushilin, the head of Donetsk People’s Republic, confirmed once again early this week there are roughly 400 foreign ‘instructors’ cum mercenaries – from NATO – huddling in the bowels of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, with no way out.

Turkish intel maintains that 50 of them are French, some of them high-ranking. That explains what has been established by several Russian sources – but not acknowledged at all by Paris: Macron has placed a flurry of frantic phone calls to Putin to set up a “humanitarian corridor” to extricate his valuable assets.

The measured Russian response has been – once again – trademark geopolitical judo. No “humanitarian corridor” for anyone in Azovstal, be it Azov neo-Nazis or their foreign NATO handlers, and no bombing them to oblivion. Let them starve – and in the end they will be forced to surrender.

Enter the still unconfirmed yet plausible Macron directive: no surrender by any means.  Because surrendering means giving Moscow on a silver plate a series of confessions and all the facts of an illegal, secret operation conducted by the ‘leader of Europe’ on behalf of neo-Nazis.

All bets are off when – and if – the full story breaks out in France. It might as well happen during the upcoming war crimes tribunal to be set up most probably in Donetsk.

Aux armes, citoyens? Well, they have five years down the road to hit the barricades. It may happen sooner than we think.

Algeria: Dotting the I’s in France’s colonial history

April 22 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

By Karim Sharara 

France’s colonial history is a barbaric one that extends from the 16th century until the liberation of Algeria in 1962. Millions of people have died, countries have had their wealth plundered, and France still refuses to recognize its dark past.

France’s 132 years of colonial presence in Algeria resulted in the deaths of millions of people and the plundering of the country’s riches

It wasn’t completely unlike Macron to deny that Algeria was ever a nation. It was surprising to hear such a statement uttered against a sovereign country in what is supposed to be a post-imperialist world order (evidently not so), but to say outright that a country that France had occupied for over a century and whose culture it helped destroy was truly flabbergasting.

You can take the colonial out of the colony but not colonialism out of the colonial, the mentality indeed persists.

It seems somewhat perplexing that France, whose Zemmours, Le Pens, and Macrons are all radically attempting to preserve what they consider to be essential to French identity by coercing Muslims into conforming, are also denying the identity of the very country they occupied, whose riches they stole, whose people they killed and posed next to their decapitated heads neatly arranged on spears, and whose culture and identity they transformed by force and coercion.

How did France’s colonial history begin and unfold, and what led it to its 100+ year occupation of Algeria?

France’s colonial empire

France’s earliest trials at colonialism happened during the 16th and 17th centuries and were part of the ongoing competition that was taking place at the time between European powers (France, Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal), the main goal of all of whom was to find new routes to the East Indies in an effort to secure these routes for themselves in an attempt to monopolize the spice trade.

France first began its incursions into North America with the establishment of small colonies. The presence of French missionaries, coupled with colonization efforts, further exacerbated matters as they upset the sociological makeup by drawing Native American men into Christianity with promises of land, and then telling them they must cultivate crops, which to their societies was women’s work. These “redefinitions of manhood prompted many women to resist Christianity” and generated conflict within their communities.[1]

The Caribbean was also a region where competing European powers constantly clashed with one another. By 1697, France had colonized portions of North America stretching to the Caribbean and snatched Hispaniola (modern-day Haiti) from Spain in that same year. Most of the island’s indigenous population had died during Spain’s incursion for gold. France turned their colonies into plantations for sugar, coffee, and spice, and used slave labor on the islands, to such an extent that by the late 18th century, slaves outnumbered European colonists by 8 to 1, thus greatly transforming the demographic makeup of the region.

Amid the struggle for global empire-building between France and Britain, the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) took place between the two powers and their allies in Europe. The war resulted in a decisive win for Britain and a loss for France and Spain, and the 1763 Treaty of Paris saw a number of land exchanges in order to appease Britain. France ceded all of Canada in order to retain the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe and their valuable sources of sugar and remained somewhat inactive until after the French Revolution of 1789 and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte who returned to the task of empire-building.

France’s imperial incursions into West Asia and North Africa date back in large part to the year 1798, as Napoleon was rising in power and conquered Egypt, and then continued on when the French Empire later colonized Algeria in 1830.

After his successes in Italy, which culminated in the Treaty of Campo Formio, Napoleon turned his attention to the British Empire, France’s perennial enemy, and tried to see whether a landing on the British isles was possible; after two months of planning, he found that it was not, as the British Navy was far superior to the French. However, one thing Napoleon could do to harm the British would be to threaten their trade with India.

Napoleon’s fascination with Egypt

Another end goal envisioned by Napoleon would follow the occupation of Egypt, whereupon he would send a force to the Kingdom of Mysore in South India in order to reinforce them, as they were also enemy of the British and were fighting against their presence in India[2].  

For Napoleon, this mission also held a personal dimension, as the 29-year-old general (in 1798) had been a longtime fan of the Orient, and he always referenced Alexander the Great and Egypt in his writings and conversations. “Thus, the idea of reconquering Egypt as a new Alexander proposed itself to him, allied with the additional benefit of acquiring a new Islamic colony at England’s expense.[3]

Although Napoleon’s ships were being pursued by the British Royal Navy, he successfully evaded them, managed to land on Egypt’s shores, and defeated the Mamluk army in the Battle of the Pyramids. However, Napoleon’s armies suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of the British Navy only days later, which resulted in the decimation of Napoleon’s ships, left him stranded in Egypt, and ended his dreams of conquering West Asia. After a three-year campaign and a series of defeats, Napoleon went back to France and launched his coup d’état, leaving him in power[4].

Algeria’s story begins

France’s aspirations of colonization in the MENA region would be left unachieved until after Napoleon’s fall, and during the reign of Charles X. Although Algeria had stood by France during its difficult times, when it was shunned by all of Europe in the 1790s, Algeria had lent it money and allowed it to receive supplies from its ports. Both countries’ relations were somewhat constrained during France’s three-year invasion of Egypt, as the Ottoman Sultan requested that Algeria declare war on Egypt, which it did, but relations returned to normal as soon as the invasion was over.

Despite Algeria’s good relations with France, Napoleon had (prior to his fall) been looking for a reason to invade it because of its strategic position, the superiority of France’s fleet, and his want of a colony on the Mediterranean to strengthen France’s position. He threatened Algeria repeatedly over the years on a number of different occasions, but the plans to invade it never materialized, as he was busy with campaigns in Europe. Nevertheless, some of his commanders did go to Algeria in the early 1800s to scout it and assess how best to capture it.

The main reason behind France’s invasion of Algeria is that France did not wish to repay its debts to the Algerian Dey and Algeria’s Jewish merchants (who had come to the Dey complaining that France is refusing payment). The debt had been accumulated by France during its invasion of Egypt in 1798. France only used an incident that took place between the Algerian ruler and France’s consul (who was implicated in the affair and had received payment from the merchants in exchange for helping secure a portion of their debt, none of which found its way back to the Algerian treasury), in order to launch the war against the country and occupy it in 1830, during the reign of Charles X[5]. The incident in question came to be known as the Fly Whisk incident.

The merchants had promised France’s Foreign Minister and its consul in Algeria a portion of the funds if they managed to secure payment of France’s debts to them, which in fact happened. However, the merchants were also indebted to the Algerian state, but by the time they were paid, France paid them directly, and not through the Algerian treasury. Moreover, one of the merchants had secured French citizenship, and another Italian citizenship, and so the Algerian state was unable to pursue them for payment. 

France’s consul, as French newspapers revealed at the time, was paid two million Francs by the merchants in return. When Algerian authorities caught wind of the news, they knew the consul, who is thought to have made up the incident, was in on it, and was refusing to cooperate with Algeria in order to avoid France having to repay its debt[6].

The occupation

During the course of Algeria’s 132-year struggle for independence, nearly 5 million people were killed, and hundreds of thousands were injured. It took France nearly 70 years to gain control of Algeria after it first occupied it on July 5th, 1830, and Algeria only gained its independence after fighting a fierce war in which nearly 1.5 million Algerians lost their lives.

As far as the looting of Algeria went, France made sure to profit off the land as best it could. Even though the Treaty of Surrender signed between Algeria’s last Dey, Hussein Dey, and France included a condition that Islamic endowments not be violated, France realized that these endowments may become a source of income and confiscated them and looted them in 1843.

France’s colonial administration went a step further in 1871, enacting the Indigenous People Law, which helped them plunder Algeria’s resources by granting European settlers ownership of the lands, while Algerians working them only received 20% of the production. The Algerians could also only travel after seeking permission from colonial authorities and had their movements restricted.

Another law issued by colonial authorities was the Cremieux Decree in 1870, which turned Muslim Arabs and Berbers effectively second-class citizens, while Algeria’s Jewish population was granted French citizenship.

In terms of precious metals, more than 110 tons of Algeria’s gold and silver were stolen by the French, which are estimated today to be worth over $180 billion in today’s money.

France only recognized Algeria’s war of independence as an actual war in 1999. Today’s France, however, is still dragging its legs in recognizing Algeria’s right to reparation. In 1961, before gaining their independence, Algerians took to the streets of Paris to protest a curfew imposed on them, but a French crackdown turned the protest into a massacre, with more than 200 people being killed and scores of bodies being dumped in the Seine River.

Today, France continues to treat its Muslim population as second-class citizens who must conform, by force, to a very restricted idea of French identity. Instead of accommodating them, France is trying its best to exclude its citizens, just as it tried to force Algerians to conform to its own norms. The reasoning before was that of the White Man’s Burden, backwardness, cultural inferiority, or any number of excuses. Today, these excuses have all been repackaged under a nifty new branding called French identity.

Sources:

  • [1] Benjamin, Thomas, and Macmillan Reference USA Staff. “Encyclopedia of Western colonialism since 1450.” (2007).
  • [2] Amini, Iradj, “Napoleon and Persia”, Iran, vol. 37 (1999), British Institute of Persian Studies, p. 109-110.
  • [3] Said, Edward. “Orientalism Penguin Books.” (1978), p. 80.
  • [4] Roberts, Andrew. Napoleon: A life. Penguin, 2014, p. 188-230.
  • [5] Abu al-Qasim Sa’d Allah, Muhadarat fi Tarikh al-Jaza’ir al-Hadith (Bidayat al-Ihtilal), Al-Jaza’ir: Al Sharikah al-Wataniyyah li-n-Nashr w-at-Tawzi’, p. 13-33
  • [6] Mubarak bin Muhammad al-Mili, Tarikh al-Jaza’ir bayn al-Qadim w-al-Hadith, vol. 3, n.d, Maktabat al-Nahdah al-Jaza’iriyyah, p. 271-276.

Mind tricks: Why resistance to Israel and imperialism are called ‘Shia causes’

April 20 2022

The Arab and Muslim street remains firmly opposed to western imperialism and Israel. So their Arab Sunni rulers began calling all resistance ‘Shia.’

By Omar Ahmed

Would Sunni Arab monarchs be able to continue conspiring with the west and Israel without labelling those who resist collaboration as ‘Shia?’Photo Credit: The Cradle

The past several decades have seen the political ascendency of Shia Muslims in West Asian geopolitics. While initially ignited by Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979, it was the aftermath of the illegal US invasion of Iraq in 2003 which accelerated this political shift by paving the way for Iraq’s Shia majority to govern.

A year after US troops occupied Iraq and overthrew its Sunni president Saddam Hussein, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, fearing a growing influence of Iran among Iraq’s Shia majority and their regional coreligionists, coined the phrase “Shia Crescent.” This so-called ideological belt, it is hypothesized, runs from Tehran through several Arab capitals, including Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut, and later Sanaa.

The idea has been criticized as it treats the Shia as a monolith and greatly exaggerates the extent of control or influence Iran exerts over the region.

Tehran’s efforts to forge ties with friendly governments, powerful political parties, and militia forces are arguably based on pragmatism and self-interest rather than sectarian ideology. Among the state and non-state actors that provide Iran with its regional strategic depth – and therefore, influence – are Sunnis, Druze, Christians, Alawis, Zaidis, and other non-Shia populations. This alliance is more commonly – and accurately – known as the Axis of Resistance and its fundamental tenet is opposition to both western imperialism and the Zionist project, and a desire for self-determination.

Axis of Resistance

With Tehran at its nexus, this network consists of both state and non-state actors. Notable Shia factions include Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and Afghan and Pakistani brigades.

Sunni Palestinian resistance movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad are also considered to be a part of the axis, and an armed affiliate of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Resistance Brigades (also known as Saraya), is composed of Sunnis, Maronite Christians and Druze. At the state level are the mostly Zaidi, Ansarallah-led, de facto government of Yemen and the Alawite-dominated government of Sunni-majority Syria.

While not part of the axis per se, Sunni-majority Algeria has also consistently opposed Zionism and could strengthen its ties with Iran, especially in light of growing tensions with neighboring Morocco whose government has recently aligned with Israel.

Traditional western-aligned Sunni Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have all expressed their own concerns about this Shia-majority, ‘Iran-led’ axis, and along with Israel have opposed the Resistance Axis. It is due to these mutual interests that there have been several proposals for a “Sunni-Jewish alliance.”

Arab normalization with Israel

This new public alliance tangibly materialized in 2020 with the signing of the Abraham Accords and the normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE, Sudan, Morocco and Bahrain (the latter is a Shia majority nation ruled by a Sunni royal family). Certainly, it ended years of speculation that there were indirect, covert ties between Tel Aviv and several Arab states.

However, it is important to differentiate between the policies of these governments and the popular sentiments among their citizens. According to an opinion poll carried out between 2019-2020 by the Qatar-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS), the majority of the Arab world (88 percent) opposes any normalization with Israel. This includes the Persian Gulf: “Refusal to recognize Israel is proportionally the highest in the Gulf region,” the report found.

Nevertheless, last month’s Negev Summit ushered in an unprecedented level of security cooperation between Israel and Arab states and may be a precursor to an ‘Arab-Israeli NATO‘ equivalent intent on confronting the Axis of Resistance, especially over heightened fears of a nuclear-powered Iran, should efforts in Vienna to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) fail.

The Palestinian issue

After the humiliating and resounding failures of pan-Arab nationalism to liberate occupied Palestine following the Six Day War in 1967, Egypt lost its position as the leader of the Arab world. This was cemented after Egypt made peace with Israel under Anwar Sadat in 1979, the same year as Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

As one of, if not the most pressing and long-standing Arab and Muslim issues of our time, the Palestinian cause was essentially abandoned by the Sunni Arab leadership, only to be championed by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its regional allies. Symbolically, the first statesman to visit revolutionary Iran was Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat who was given keys to what was once the Israeli diplomatic mission-turned Palestinian embassy, as it remains to this day. “We shall liberate the land of Palestine under the leadership of Imam Khomeini,” Arafat declared during his historic visit.

Significantly, during the 1990s, Iran’s support to Palestinians was not merely diplomatic but military too, as Iran has consistently been the main patron of Palestinian armed resistance factions Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), something acknowledged by the movements themselves.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, itself established with the help of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has also been instrumental in assisting Palestinian factions in training and developing weapons capabilities. Early last year, IRGC Aerospace Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh stated, “All the missiles you might see in Gaza and Lebanon were created with Iran’s support.”

‘Iranian-backed’ doesn’t make these ‘Shia causes’

Well before the Abraham Accords, there were signs that a regional narrative was being developed to aid Arab autocrats in breaking with the popular causes of the Arab/Muslim world, namely resistance to Zionism and western imperialism.

Two years after King Abdullah’s ‘Shia crescent’ narrative began to be employed, the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war broke out. Although a historic ‘Arab nation’ victory against Israel was achieved that year, in a new public turn, the Arab League and the Saudis in particular were instead scathing in their criticism of Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah for what they said was an unprovoked and irresponsible conflict.

We have now reached an epoch, whereby vocal or material support for a plethora of resistance efforts in West Asia is seen as being ‘Shia’ or even ‘Persian’ rather than Arab or Muslim causes. These include the central issue of Palestine, as after all at the crux of it – that is to say armed struggle – it is only the Resistance Axis that now provides support where it materially matters.

The Palestinian cause has not always been a ‘Shia’ cause, argues Hussain Abdul-Hussain of the pro-Israel Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who alludes to the anti-Palestinian sentiments in South Lebanon before the rise of Hezbollah. He claims – a criticism parroted by the pro-west Sunni monarchs – that Iran “found in Palestine a good tool to undermine the sovereignty of Arab Sunni governments” and to win over support from “Arab Sunni masses.” This assessment disregards the fact that even before the revolution, under the rule of Iran’s Shah, Iran’s religious and secular opponents were popularly pro-Palestine and opposed the Shah’s support of Israel.

Who else will oppose Zionism and western imperialism?

In Iraq, there is a lingering threat from pockets of ISIS remnants and legitimate grievances about continuing US military presence, which is likely to continue for years to come. Both of these threats to Iraqi sovereignty have been targeted by “Iranian-backed Shia militia,” many who are an integral part of Iraq’s armed forces in the form of the PMUs. Ironically, these anti-ISIS forces were in fact initiated by a religious ruling from within Iraq, independent of Iran’s diktats.

The world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, is in Yemen which has been bombed and besieged almost relentlessly for seven years by a US/UK-backed and armed, Saudi-led coalition. Yemen’s resistance to this foreign aggression is led by the Ansarallah movement and its allied Yemeni armed forces. Here too, the Arab Sunni monarchs’ narrative has played a nefarious role, labelling Yemen’s resistance as ‘Shia,’ where in fact they are mainly Zaidis, who are in many ways closer to Hanafi Sunnis and who pray in Sunni mosques. As Iran and its regional axis support anti-imperialism, they are naturally more aligned to the Yemeni resistance, who are almost always now labelled as ‘Iran-backed’ or ‘Shia’ for their resistance against decades of exploitation and subjugation by Saudi Arabia.

For the divisive case of Syria, supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state against the aggressions of hostile states has also been cast as a ‘Shia’ cause, despite the fact that Syria’s Shia community – not to be confused with the Alawites – form a very small minority in the majority-Sunni country. Yet when contextualized as an important actor in the Axis of Resistance, in particular as a transit point between Iran and Lebanon and occupied Palestine, the sectarian designation becomes apparent.

The common denominator for these conflicts is that there is an opposing force to the Axis of Normalization and its US backer. It has become imperative, especially for the burgeoning Sunni Arab-Israeli alliance, for these forces to be deliberately cast as ‘Iranian-supported Shia proxies’ in order to dampen their own populations’ support for popular resistance.

Arab and Muslim populations everywhere would otherwise likely support operations to purge western military interventionism and Israel’s aggressions from West Asia. But say ‘Iran,’ ‘Persia’ or ‘Shia’ and the Arab Sunni elite manage to confuse and quash mass popular resentment of their own malign behaviors.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Four signs that a US-Gulf ‘divorce’ is in the making

The rapid-fire ‘messages’ directed at Washington from old Persian Gulf allies are brutal, and strongly suggest that the days of US hegemony are done

March 20 2022

In all the geopolitical salvos issued left and right last week, nothing was less expected than the visit of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to the UAE. It is a strong sign of the Persian Gulf’s dissatisfaction with its US ally.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Abdel Bari Atwan

If any good has come out of the Ukraine war for the Arab world, it is the diminished status and influence of the US in West Asia. Washington is losing many of its traditional allies in the region, especially in the Persian Gulf, and this trend looks like it will accelerate.

Four recent developments illustrate this.

First, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s visit to the UAE on Friday. The warm welcome laid on for him by its leaders was a slap in the face of the US administration, its strongly stated objections to the visit, and its sanctions aimed at de-legitimizing the Syrian government.

Second, the growing defiance of US hegemony by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, OPEC’s two largest oil producers. Most notable was their rejection of US President Joe Biden’s pleas to increase oil production in order to push down prices and provide extra supplies to enable western sanctions of Russian oil and gas imports.

Third, the failure of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit – on Washington’s behalf – to Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, where he conveyed veiled threats to the two countries should they fail to toe the western line on Ukraine, join in imposing economic sanctions on Russia, or break their oil production agreements with it.

Fourth, Saudi Arabia’s invitation to China’s President Xi Jinping for an official visit and Riyadh’s openness to pricing its oil sales to Beijing in yuan. This signals that the kingdom and possibly other Gulf states may be willing to join the new global financial system Russia and China are developing as an alternative to the western one.

Of the four developments, the reception accorded to President Assad in Abu Dhabi and Dubai was the clearest sign of this Gulf rebellion against the US and its domination. The visit didn’t need to take place now; that it did shows more about the mood in the Gulf centers of power than anything else.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have reportedly declined to receive US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who is keen to follow up Johnson’s visit to try to succeed where he failed.

Instead, in a snub seen around the world, the UAE’s foreign minister Sheikh Ahmad Bin Zayed visited Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. The public show of bonhomie they displayed was bound to rub salt into the American wound.

The timing of Assad’s trip – on the 11th anniversary of the start of the US-led war on Syria aimed at toppling its government, and three weeks into the Russian invasion of Ukraine – and the UAE’s indifference to the angry US reaction, are further signs of the start of divorce proceedings with an abusive partner that fleeces and cheats on its allies.

Assad’s visit to the UAE provided important gains for both countries and their leaders. It broke Syria’s official isolation in the Arab world and heralded the breaking of the US embargo imposed on the country. This caps a broader process of Arab ‘normalization’ which is set to see Damascus regain its membership of the Arab League and role in collective Arab decision making, and take part in the Arab summit to be held in Algiers in November.

This bold step also benefits the UAE in many ways. It helps offset the hugely negative impact on its image that resulted from its signing of the so-called Abraham Accords and enthusiastic courtship of the Israeli enemy.

Building bridges of trust and cooperation with the Axis of Resistance via Syria, Iran’s closest ally, could also help the UAE and Saudi Arabia find ways out of their quagmire in Yemen. It may be no coincidence that Riyadh is proposing to host an all-party Yemeni dialogue and has officially invited the Houthi Ansarullah movement to take part.

In short, what we are seeing today are manifestations of a revolt against US hegemony in the Arab world by the axis of Arab ‘moderation’ led by the Egyptian-Emirati-Saudi trio. It is open for other Gulf and Arab states such as Iraq, Algeria, and Sudan to join should they wish. This new axis may take clearer shape at the Algiers summit in the fall.

The process of Arab normalization with Israel is bound to slow down. It is the most grievous error that normalizing countries – old and new – could have made, and should be halted completely. But there is optimism in this regard, as turning against the US also implies turning against Israel.

Meanwhile, Assad’s presidential plane, which over the past decade has only flown to Moscow and Tehran, looks set to do a lot more traveling in the coming weeks and months. Its next destination after Abu Dhabi could be Riyadh or Cairo, despite the best efforts of the US to bar its way.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

‘No to Normalization’: Jordanian, Algerian Coaches Pull Out of Bahrain Sports Event

March 20, 2022

Jordanian and Algerian kickboxing coaches pulled out of an international seminar in Bahrain due to Israeli participation. (Photo: via Social Media)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff

Jordanian kickboxing coaches Mohammed Saud and Ibrahim Saraqma pulled out of the ‘Development Seminar and Coaching Workshop’, underway in Bahrain, due to the Israeli participation in the event, Al Jazeera and other Arabic-speaking media reported on Saturday.  

Saraqma, the Algerian coach for ‘full contact’ and kickboxing, communicated his decision through a Facebook post. 

“I declare my decision to pull out from the international tournament for trainers underway in Bahrain because of the presence of a delegation from the Zionist entity with us in the room,” he wrote in reference to the Israeli delegation. 

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fbrahim.tunsi.7%2Fposts%2F10228002412315804&show_text=true&width=500

Saraqma added, “No to normalization.” 

The Jordanian civil society organization “Itharak” – meaning “move” – which fights normalization between Jordan and Israel, commended the Jordanian coach Saud for his decision to boycott the event, tweeting: 

“Coach Mohammed Saud is a new Arab champion whose name is added to the list of honorable Arab athletes who have taken such honorable stance in international platforms in solidarity with Palestine and in rejection of normalization with the (Israeli) occupation. Thank you coach Mohammed.” 

These boycotts are not the first rejection of normalization with Israel. Prominent examples include decisions by Algerian and Sudanese judokas – Fethi Nourine and Mohamed Abdalrasool – to reject sparring with Israeli athletes during the Japan Olympics in July 2021.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

‘Hypocrisy Does Not Begin to Describe It’: Baroud on the Ukraine Crisis and the Changing Global Order (VIDEO)

March 17, 2022

Watch Ramzy Baroud’s full interview with Mark Seddon below. (Photo: PDD, Supplied)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff

In a wide-ranging interview with Palestine Deep Dive (PDD), Mark Seddon discusses with distinguished Palestinian journalist and author, Dr. Ramzy Baroud, the unfolding crisis in Ukraine through the eyes of the Palestinian people.

While examining what seems to be emerging on the global geopolitical stage, Baroud also highlighted the hypocrisy of the international community, as well as the mainstream media in their response to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine in comparison to their response, or lack of it, to Israel’s ongoing 74-year occupation of Palestine.

“People have the right to defend themselves against military occupation, period. Under any circumstance, regardless of the geopolitical nature of that conflict, and regardless of who’s involved in that conflict,” Baroud said. 

“We are still buried in this massive dichotomy in which we Palestinians can’t even protest without being accused of being anti-Israel or anti-America or anti this or that, compared to what is happening in the Ukraine within the matter of hours. In fact, even before the invasion took place. When the Russian forces were amassing at the Russia-Ukraine border, the condemnations were coming from all over Europe, all over North America. Of course, we have to face the reality that the international community does not have fair and just standards in its view of international conflicts.”

Commenting on the United Nations General Assembly vote, which saw 35 member states, including South Africa, India and China, abstaining from condemning Russia’s actions, Baroud said:

“I think geopolitics has a lot to do with it. (…) To give you an example, I was in Africa quite recently, and I visited several countries and became somewhat familiar with the political tussle that is happening in Africa itself.(…) African countries are very, very wary of the nature of the fight that is underway in Africa. South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, and other countries do not want to see this happening. They want a more balanced bipolar world.”

When asked about the possibility of a new Cold War situation in Europe, with a revival of the Non-Aligned Movement, Baroud said:

“I think it’s very possible. Of course, we understand that there are so many moving pieces here, but if indeed, even if a stalemate is achieved, in other words, if NATO does not get its way in Ukraine and in Eastern Europe, and some kind of a compromise is made, will definitely embolden other countries to start negotiating (for themselves) a new political contract.”

Regarding the double standards currently displayed by Western politicians and media, Baroud said: 

“I think we need to revisit the term double standards or hypocrisy. It just does not even begin to tell half of the story regarding what’s happening in Palestine. What the West, what the Americans are condemning right now regarding Russia’s military action is exactly what Israel has been doing as a matter of course, in Palestine every single day. What’s happening in Yemen. These millions of poor people are starving, fighting cholera, fighting bombs falling on top of them.”

Baroud went on criticizing social media censorship of pro-Palestinian content, and describing the double-standards by international institutions, such as the International Criminal Court, FIFA or the International Olympic Committee. 

In highlighting the inherent racism in Western media coverage on Ukraine, Baroud said: 

“That’s really the mindset of the racist. I know that this is a term that people are very careful using, but if this is not outright racism, I don’t know what is. The thing about a racist mentality is that you never see your own fault, and you always project that on someone else.”

(The Palestine Chronicle, PDD)

How the Ukraine crisis impacts middle east politics

4 Mar 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen

Robert Inlakesh 

The Ukraine crisis complicated the situation in the middle east [West Asia] for many parties allied with the US, as “Israel” and the UAE find it more difficult to balance their relations between their Patreon and Russia.

The problem for “Israel” is, that if they pick a fight with Russia at any point, this could be extremely detrimental to them

The ongoing war in Ukraine, which is being framed as a marker for the beginning of the ‘New Cold War’ between East and West, is already taking its toll on Middle East politics and for the likes of “Israel” and the United Arab Emirates, this spells potential disaster.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine on February 24, when Russian forces officially announced their ‘special military operation in the Donbas’, Middle East powers have all had their relationships put to the test. “Israel” is perhaps the most reported on, as it is directly part of the Western camp, and its hesitancy to aggravate Russia has been telling, but beyond this, there has also been a big question mark around which side the Arab regimes will take too.

In the case of “Israel”, after releasing careful statements during the early days of the war, about Ukraine’s sovereignty and pledging to support its people, without mentioning Moscow at all, they then went a step further in the recent United Nations General Assembly vote, condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Currently, Tel Aviv maintains a close relationship with both Moscow and Washington, but it has made it clear at this point that when push comes to shove it is the United States’ interests they will defend over the interests of Russia.

So far this has not meant a fully-fledged feud between the two sides, but for sure the Israeli arming of the Ukrainians and their backing of NATO’s argument has not aided relations. It is likely Moscow is still trying to use the Israelis as a go-between for diplomatic efforts, but the problem for “Israel” is, that if they pick a fight with Russia at any point, this could be extremely detrimental to them. A hostile Russia, combined with a hostile Iran, both in Syria, could mean major trouble.

For the United Arab Emirates, which aspires to become a regional powerhouse and attempts to balance its relationship with pretty much every key international player, it has too, run into a major problem. Its relationship with Washington, although tight, is now being put to the test and the fact that it abstained at the UNGA vote is a message that Abu Dhabi seeks a clear middle-ground position between the US and Russia. But just as its normalization deal with the Israeli regime has now put it in the middle of a tug-of-war between Tel Aviv and Tehran, the Ukraine crisis has placed it in a similar position between Washington and Moscow. The UAE wants it all, US weapons, but a close relationship with China and Russia, Israeli economic cooperation but also trade with Iran. This could spell disaster if it decides to cross the line, of one of the many sides, at any point.

Saudi Arabia is a key US ally, the current crisis – due to US sanctions on Russia – has sent the prices of oil to a high not witnessed since 2012. Riyadh has been expected, as has the UAE, to pump more crude oil in order to lower the oil prices and balance the market, but so far that has not happened. Instead, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman is allegedly demanding the US Biden administration recognise him as the de-facto ruler of the Saudi regime and offer more direct support for Riyadh’s devastating war on Yemen, according to Reuters reports.

Although the US and its British allies in London have been directly supporting the Saudis offensive war in Yemen, Riyadh evidently does not like Joe Biden’s public appearance as being an anti-Saudi president. The KSA voted against Russia in the General Assembly, the US also launched airstrikes on Yemen when Russian forces began their offensive in Ukraine, but now seems to be the moment of truth when it comes to US politics. We will now see just how convincing Washington’s statesmen are, although many people are asking why this issue wasn’t resolved before as the US had been warning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine for weeks.

The issue of US relations with the Gulf countries is really key here, as from the get-go the United States has been attempting to bring them on the side, specifically Qatar. The US clearly needs an alternative supply source for oil and gas to Europe, if it is going to maintain its crushing sanctions on Moscow. But the problem still remains, an issue that Doha has itself pointed out, there is no one nation that can be the alternative here. 

Then we have Iran and the ongoing talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), or the nuclear deal, which seems to have been moved in a more positive direction. The United States has significantly changed its tone from that of last year, it’s purged many of the more hawkishly anti-Iran voices from its negotiating team and the Ukraine crisis may prove to push the US into an agreement on this front.

The difference between President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump, is that they represent two different camps in the United States; Biden, the liberal imperialists, and Trump, the neoconservatives. The neoconservatives seem to be hawkishly focused on attacking China and Iran, whilst caring less about Russia and their focus on NATO is also not as intense as the liberal imperialists. Whereas the liberal imperialist camp are much more inclined towards strengthening their ties with the EU and NATO, making Russia a real target, whilst their line on China and Iran is still hawkish, they approach these issues differently.

We are now seeing the liberal imperialist agenda in full swing. If the Biden administration wants to relieve some of the burden he has placed on the shoulders of his European allies, reviving the JCPOA may serve as a good gesture towards them. The European powers want to do business with Iran, but under the Trump administration, none of them dared to step out of line on this front. The potential Iran nuclear deal revival would be a good thing for both the Europeans and the Iranians. 

All the points mentioned above barely scratch the surface of the entire picture; not going into the testing of Algeria’s and Turkey’s relationships with Russia, both of which are being heavily tested over both nations being presented with the possibility to provide part of the answer to the severing of oil and gas supplies from Russia to Europe. Yet, one thing is clear from what has been noted above, the absolute mess that the two camps – one aligned with the Democrats and the other the Republicans – have caused on the world stage. This is a real test of Washington’s diplomatic and strategic talent, one which it seems to be failing at so far.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

South Africa’s ‘Direct Action’ Threat against Israel Raises Expectations

February 20, 2022

South African Minister of International Relations Mrs. Naledi Pandor (Photo: TWAS, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Iqbal Jassat

South Africa’s ANC-Led government has renewed its pledge of solidarity with Palestine by adding the new phrase “direct action”.

The fresh commitment by Minister of International Relations Mrs. Naledi Pandor has been welcomed by the country’s solidarity movements backing Palestine’s freedom struggle.

Though Pandor did not elaborate on the type of “direct action” being envisaged, she pitched her forthright comments by referring to recent human rights reports on Israel which she described as “well-documented apartheid practices of Israel”.

Pandor made her remarks in Parliament during the State of the Nation (SONA) debate.

Her unequivocal condemnation of apartheid Israel following a controversy generated by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent acceptance of “credence” by Israel’s new envoy to Pretoria, may be construed as an attempt to clear the air.

It also follows a stinging rebuke by the African Union chair Moussa Faki Mahamat who is seeking to justify his unilateral acceptance of Israel’s observer status, criticized countries for opposing it yet retained diplomatic relations with Israel.

Though Mahamat didn’t name any country, it was clear that he referred specifically to South Africa. Pandor has not only been vocal in expressing South Africa’s opposition to it, she has been leading efforts to revoke Israel’s observer status.

Her arguments supported by Algeria and a number of AU member states, revolve around the AU charter which rejects colonialism, racism and illegal occupation. By specifically singling-out Mahamat as the person responsible for granting Israel observer status, the stage was set for acrimony between the two.

“We have vehemently, as South African, opposed the granting of [African Union] observer status to Israel by the chair of the African Union Commission. Our objection stems from our own constitution and its values and the African Union charter that rejects colonialism, racism, and illegal occupation of the land of others,” she stated.

Despite her moves to revoke Mahamat’s decision, the AU suspended a debate on it and instead formed a committee to study the issue. Effectively by kicking the can down the road, the tension and division within the AU will continue to simmer.

Though South Africa since the end of apartheid and the dawn of democracy has been seen as a heavyweight in continental affairs, Mahamat saw fit to point out the paradox of diplomatic ties on the one hand and opposition to observer status, thus making a case of double standards.

Does it follow then that Pandor’s parliament address which talked of “direct action” was also to overcome accusations of duel standards? This can be gleaned from her remarks that diplomatic relations with Israel cannot be used by anyone as a reason for bringing Israel into the African Union.

“Our governing party resolutions directed us to downgrade our embassy in Israel. We withdrew our ambassador [from Israel] as part of this process of downgrading, and we are considering further measures to indicate our significant dismay at the continued apartheid practices of Israel against the long-suffering people of Palestine.”

So while the spat with the AU remains unresolved, what is clear is that guns have been drawn. The shoot-out is on hold until the committee appointed to probe Mahamat’s decision meets sometime in the future.

In the meantime, while Pandor’s threat of “direct action” is the subject of speculation, it is expected that just as South Africa awaits it being translated into substantial departure from current diplomatic relations, so too will Palestinians.

After all, the recent compelling findings by Amnesty International on Israel Apartheid, make it equally obligatory for countries to abide by international conventions on the crime of apartheid. Direct action?

– Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the South Africa-based Media Review Network. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com

Will the US reignite a ‘Syrian revolution’ to punish Russia in Ukraine?

The US and its allies have already set the scene for Revolution 2.0 in Syria.

The question is whether their plan is to extract concessions from Russia over Ukraine, or to go full out and risk a West Asia-wide conflagration

By Abdel Bari Atwan

February 11 2022

The US and its allies are set to re-ignite the Syrian battlefield to deter Russia in Ukraine.Photo Credit: The Cradle

With new political, military, and economic tensions escalating between the United States and its NATO allies on the one hand, and China, Russia, North Korea and Iran on the other – including the Taiwan front in East Asia, and Ukraine in central Europe – we are now witnessing accelerated plans to activate new crises in West Asia, from Syria to Iraq to the war on Yemen.

Let us leave the situation in Iraq and Yemen aside, temporarily, and focus on Syria. The country has experienced an atmosphere of relative calm, or rather a ‘stalemate,’ in the past few years, after the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) regained more than 70 percent of its territory.

This period of calm has also seen the decline of the so-called Syrian opposition, both politically and militarily, in the city of Idlib and its vicinity, as well as in other areas in northeastern Syria, currently under the umbrella of US forces.

There are, however, several international and regional indications that the dormant Syrian ‘opposition’ is on its way to being reactivated again.

***

It is likely this reactivation may appear in a more ferocious form than the militancy that was unleashed at the beginning of the Syrian crisis in March 2011. Numerous indications of this have already emerged:

First, Russian foreign intelligence on Tuesday unveiled US plans to support armed groups in Syria, and ‘Islamic’ extremists in particular, to intensify their attacks against Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces in Tawaz, while igniting and encouraging ‘peaceful’ protests deep within Syria.

Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) reported that US government agencies are “planning to task extremist ‘sleeper cells’ in Damascus…and Latakia province [by] staging pinpoint attacks against Syrian law enforcers, and Russian and Iranian military personnel.”

Russia’s Deputy Envoy at the UN Gennady Kuzmin told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that “The problem of terrorist threats in northeastern Syria is pressing. The US troops that are illegally deployed there cannot bring order. Or they don’t want to.”

In what appears as a reference to the mass ISIS jailbreak in Hasakah from a US-controlled area in late-January, Kuzmin added that “the atmosphere of a power void and impunity around the US forces’ deployment areas serves as a nourishing ground for terrorists of all stripes.”

The second indicator points to the statement issued by the Russian Intelligence Service, which says that the US administration is seeking to maintain its military presence in northeastern Syria, prevent the stability of Syria, rehabilitate the leadership of the Syrian opposition, and unite its ranks, Kurdish or Arab.

The US plan will be carried out through the exploitation of the current decline in economic conditions, basic services, and a significant weakening in the price of local currency, due to the suffocating US blockade.

According to the statement, the US will launch a “vast media campaign” on Arabic-speaking social media to incite Syrians to again take to the streets and squares, in the capital Damascus, and the cities of Aleppo, Homs and Latakia to push the regime to use the ‘violent’ iron fist in the face of ‘peaceful’ protests.

In other words, a re-play of the Deraa scenario in early 2011.

The third indicator was the two-day conference that took place last Saturday in Qatar’s capital city, Doha, which re-united various Syrian opposition figures on the subjects of reform and the future of Syria.

The conference – a culmination of a series of workshops held in a selection of European capitals – was launched by the renegade former Syrian prime minister, Riad Hijab, and included the representatives of Qatari, Arab, and international research centers, as well as more than 60 Syrian opposition figures.

Qatari authorities provided full support for this seminar, which Al Jazeera and its sister channels covered with remarkable intensity.

The fourth indicator relates to Algeria’s multiple efforts to hold an Arab summit in which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will participate, and Syria’s seat in the Arab League will be restored. These efforts have failed, in part because Qatar has been the most fierce opponent to the rehabilitation of Syria at the Arab League.

And finally, fifth, is the out-of-the-blue assassination of the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, at the hands of US special forces in Turkish controlled areas in Syria.

Al-Quraishi was attacked in his home, in the north of Idlib, in an attack that has no documented audio or image evidence, similar to the previous assassinations of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and, before him, Osama bin Laden – but entirely unlike the execution of Saddam Hussein and the killing of his two sons.

This ‘assassination’ may, of course, just be a cover for the new US plan to restart covert communications with and support for radical Islamist militants, while publicly suggesting that the US continues to target them as ‘terrorist organizations.’

***

Quraishi’s sudden killing in Syria during the dangerous stand-off between NATO and Russia raised some questions in Washington as well. Former US Air Force Special Operations Joint Terminal Attack controller, Ethan Brown, pondered aloud in The Hill about “its “timing and the curious proximity to the crisis in Ukraine.”

Brown asks whether “the execution of a [US] military operation outside of a declared was zone in the Middle East…is somehow a credible deterrent to Russian actions elsewhere.” Then straight-out declares: “Make no mistake, the two unique situations are intertwined.”

On Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Erik Kurilla, tapped to be the next commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), told the Senate Armed Services Committee that if Russian invades Ukraine, it could create broader instability in West Asia, including Syria.

This week, the Israelis struck Syria heavily again, just two weeks after the Russians and Syrians launched their first joint jet patrols over the Syrian-Israel border. This time, Moscow reacted strongly, calling Tel Aviv’s actions “a crude violation of Syria’s sovereignty” that “may trigger a sharp escalation of tensions.”

The escalation in Syria, likely connected to Washington’s Ukraine strategy, has already started. The question is whether the protagonists will merely stage some events as a threat – or go all out.

***

The Syrian opposition launched its first ‘movement’ 11 years ago in Doha, and it seems that the attempt to revive it will also take place in the same place.

The official statement of the meeting outlined its “aims to try to find mechanisms of action to promote the performance of the opposition and discuss how to get the political transition out of the current global warming.”

“The Biden administration wants 2022 to be the year of qualifying Syrian opposition forces to be ready to replace the regime in any change that may occur,” Syrian opposition media outlet Orient Net stated in a report broadcast two months ago.

The report also revealed that US Deputy Secretary of State Eitan Goldrich had met with Syrian opposition leaders in Istanbul, Qamishli, and Gaziantep late last year to prepare for the new US scenario in Syria.

Will this new US plan work in Syria? Has the suffocating US blockade on Syria, imposed for this purpose 11 years ago, reap its harvest? Will this attempt fare any better than the first? Will funding come from Gulf financiers themselves? And how will the axis of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and Syria respond?

We leave the answer for the coming weeks and months.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

أفريقيا تلفظ إسرائيل

انتكاسة «مؤّقتة» لجهود العضوية: أفريقيا تلفظ إسرائيل… إلى حين؟

الثلاثاء 8 شباط 2022

يُلاحظ أنّ علاقات إسرائيل ممتدّة في شرق أفريقيا وغربها مع اختراق في شمالها (أ ف ب )

محمد عبد الكريم أحمد 

بعد جهود مضنية لتحقيق مكسب قبولها عضواً في الاتّحاد الأفريقي، تلقّت إسرائيل صفعة غير هيّنة على هذا الصعيد، بعد قرار الاتحاد تعليق قرار رئيس مفوضيته إقرار تلك العضوية، وإحالة الأمر إلى لجنة مختصّة ستكون نيجيريا والجزائر، اللتان عارضتا علناً القرار المذكور، متصدّرتَين عضويّتها. وعلى رغم ما يعنيه ذلك التطوّر من انتكاسة لجهود إسرائيل الساعية إلى مأسسة حضورها وتعميقه في هذه القارّة، إلّا أن تل أبيب لن تَعدم الأمل على ما يبدو؛ إذ ستسلك سبل ترغيب عديدة في سبيل استمالة الدول الرافضة عضويّتها، مستفيدةً من حضور فقي، الذي تعهّد بالمضيّ قُدُماً في عملية إدخال تل أبيب إلى الندوة الأفريقية

علّق الاتحاد الأفريقي (6 شباط) النقاش (أو التصويت) المٌتوقَّع حول سحْب قبول عضوية إسرائيل مراقِباً في المنظّمة الإقليمية، والذي كان بادر به موسى فقي، رئيس مفوضية الاتحاد، في 22 تموز 2021، وذلك تفادياً لتصويتٍ هدّد بانقسامٍ غير مسبوق داخل المنظّمة المكوَّنة من 55 دولة، وفي مناسبة قمّتها العشرين، منذ تأسيسها خلَفاً لـ”منظّمة الوحدة الأفريقية” (2002). وأكد ديبلوماسيون مطّلعون أن طلب إسرائيل “قد عُلّق حالياً، وستتكوّن بدلاً من ذلك لجنة لدراسة المسألة”، على أن تُقدِّم نتائجها للقمّة المرتقَبة العام المقبل. وتتكوّن اللجنة من ستّة أعضاء أبرزهم نيجيريا والجزائر اللتان عارضتا علناً قرار فقي، إضافة إلى رواندا وجمهورية الكونغو الديموقراطية، بينما اقترحت جنوب أفريقيا ضمّ نيجيريا، وطلبت الكاميرون (من أبرز الداعين إلى قبول عضوية إسرائيل) إشراكها أيضاً.

الاستجابة الإسرائيلية: خيبة أمل لمدّة عام

حظي قبول إسرائيل مراقِباً في الاتحاد الأفريقي قبل نحو سبعة أشهر، بترحيب إسرائيلي كبير، فيما أحدث صدمة في الأوساط العربية والأفريقية في ضوء اتّخاذ القرار بشكل مباغِت تماماً، على رغم ملاحظة التمدُّد الإسرائيلي في أفريقيا طوال السنوات الأخيرة. وأجمع خبراء إسرائيليون، آنذاك، على إيلاء الدولة العبرية أهمية كبيرة لعضويّتها في الاتحاد، بدافعٍ من تحصيل “الاعتراف الرسمي” (بعد تحقيق أهداف استراتيجية على الأرض في غير ملفّ)، واستعادة وضعها الذي حُرمت منه بضغوط ليبية في العام 2002. ورأت الخارجية الإسرائيلية، في بيان يوم القرار، أن “قبول إسرائيل مراقباً مصلحة واضحة للجميع؛ (إذ) سيسهّل زيادة التعاون بين إسرائيل والدول الأفريقية”، “بما يتّسق مع التغييرات في الشرق الأوسط”.

قد تتمكّن تل أبيب من استمالة عدد من الدول الأفريقية المُوقِّعة على بيان رفض العضوية لتغيير موقفها


لكن من الواضح أن إسرائيل لم تسعَ إلى مجرّد تحصيل مكسب شكلي، بقدر سعْيها إلى مأسسة نفوذها في القارة، وتوسيع اختراقاتها لتصبح أكثر مباشرة وعلانية وقدرة على الانخراط في ديناميات العمل الجماعي الأفريقي. وتدلّل على ذلك مبادرةُ الدولة العبرية، عبر رئيس الوزراء نفتالي بينيت ووزير الخارجية يائير لابيد (الذي وصف منتصف كانون الثاني الفائت غياب إسرائيل عن الاتحاد الأفريقي بـ”الانحراف التاريخي”)، منذ نهاية كانون الثاني، إلى مضاعَفة جهودها لضمان عدم فقدانها وضْعها الجديد، ومواجهة الجهود المضادّة التي قادتها جنوب أفريقيا والجزائر لإبطال القرار. وعلى سبيل المثال، فقد اشتغل لابيد، عبر محادثات مع الرئيس السنغالي ماكي سال (رئيس الاتحاد الأفريقي في دورته الحالية خلَفاً للكونغولي فيليكيس تشيسيكيدي الذي صاغ علاقات متينة بين إسرائيل وبلاده، ولمّح فقي في بيان مهمّ إلى دوره الرئيس في مسألة قبول عضوية تل أبيب)، ثمّ رئيسَي توغو وبوروندي، لضمان حصول بلاده على غالبية الثلثين في التصويت الذي كان مرتقباً وقتها.

استجابة مفوضية الاتحاد الأفريقي

استبق فقي، قمّة رؤساء دول الاتحاد، بدفاعه المستغرَب عمّا أصبح يوصف بـ”قراره المثير للجدل”، محاجِجاً بأن خطوته تلك يمكن أن تكون أداة في “خدمة السلام”، داعياً إلى “نقاش هادئ”، وقائلاً إن “التزام الاتحاد تجاه سعي فلسطين للاستقلال يظلّ ثابتاً ولا يمكن إلّا أن يزداد قوة”. في المقابل، وعد الرئيس النيجيري، محمد بخاري، نظيره الفلسطيني المشارِك في قمة أديس أبابا، بأن نيجيريا “ستواصل دعم السلام والتقدُّم، في الوقت الذي تحافظ فيه على مبادئ العدالة”. وعلى إثر صدور قرار التعليق، ردّ رئيس المفوضية ببيان مُطوَّل (صدر بالفرنسية والإنكليزية فقط )، استهلّه بتذكير الدول الأعضاء بانتخابه قبل نحو عام رئيساً للمفوضية لمدّة أربعة أعوام، ثمّ تأكيد “احترامه للمبادئ الأساسية للاتحاد وقانونه التأسيسي والمصالح الوطنية لدوله”، مُدافِعاً بأنه “كممثّل قانوني للاتحاد، فإن تحرُّكه يلتزم بمقرّرات هذا القانون”. وذهب إلى تحليل البنود المُحدِّدة لصلاحياته، مبرّراً بها قبوله عضوية إسرائيل منتصف العام الماضي، مُذكِّراً بأنه “شخصياً عارض لسنوات كثيرة اعتراف بلاده بدولة إسرائيل”.

كذلك، قدّم فقي عرضاً “دعائياً” للوجود الإسرائيلي في القارّة الأفريقية، و”اتفاقات التعاون المشترك” في مجالات كثيرة، نافياً عنه تهمة تسبُّبه بانقسام أفريقيا، بتعداده الدول الـ44 التي تقيم علاقات ديبلوماسية مع إسرائيل (في تجاهُل مستهجَن للفرق بين حسابات العلاقات الثنائية، وبين عضوية إسرائيل في الاتحاد، وما تعنيه من تدخُّلها في كثير من الملفّات الأفريقية الجماعية). وإذ وصف قراره بأنه “لم يكن ينمّ عن أيّ توجّه شخصي”، فقد عدّه متناغماً مع خيار الاتحاد و”المجتمع الدولي” بأكمله، لا سيما الأمم المتحدة، والمتمثّل في الاعتراف بـ”حلّ الدولتين” ودعمه، قبل أن يشيد بجهود الرئيس الفلسطيني، محمود عباس، وجهود مصر “التي اعترفت بإسرائيل وتبادلت السفراء معها قبل وقت بعيد”. واستطرد متسائلاً: “هل نحن أقلّ ثقة في منظّمتنا إلى درجة أنه لا يمكننا تخيُّل إمكان لعبها دوراً، وإن كان صغيراً، في حلّ صراع يهمّنا سياسياً وشعورياً؟”، مستغرِباً، بنبرة لا تخلو من التضليل، إنكار الدول الأعضاء “قدرة الاتحاد على تحدي إسرائيل ودفعها لاحترام الحقوق الأساسية للشعب الفلسطيني ووقف أعمال العنف ضدّه والاعتراف صراحة بحقوقه، بما فيها حقه في إنشاء دولة وطنية عاصمتها القدس الشرقية، كما أكدْت لمندوب إسرائيل وقت تقديم أوراق اعتماده؟”.

من الواضح أن إسرائيل لم تسعَ إلى مجرّد تحصيل مكسب شكلي بقدر سعْيها إلى مأسسة نفوذها في القارة


يتّضح من بيان فقي، الذي عزّز في حقيقة الأمر أدلّة قفْزه فوق السبل المتّبعة لاتّخاذ قرارات مماثلة كما في حالات دول مثل تركيا وكوريا الشمالية وغيرهما، أنه ثمّة جنوح إلى تبنّي الموقف الإسرائيلي وتبريره، وربّما العمل – في بقيّة العام المقبل قبل تقديم اللجنة المقرِّرة توصياتها – على حلحلة مواقف بعض الدول الرافضة، بالتنسيق مع تل أبيب وعدد من “دول الواجهة” الأفريقية، والتي تسعى للاستفادة من الدور الإسرائيلي في ملفّاتها الملحة (كما في حالة تدخُّل القوات الرواندية المدَّربة والمجهَّزة إسرائيلياً في جهود الاتحاد الأفريقي لمواجهة الإرهاب شمال موزمبيق).     

ماذا بعد؟

بقراءة خريطة علاقات إسرائيل الأفريقية، يلاحَظ أنها ممتدّة في شرق أفريقيا وغربها، مع اختراق في شمال القارة. ويصاحب هذا الحضورَ تنسيقٌ أمني واستخباراتي وصل في الشهور الأخيرة إلى مستويات غير مسبوقة في ملفّات الأزمة الإثيوبية، والترتيبات الأمنية في جنوب البحر الأحمر (بخاصة بعد تدريبات عسكرية مع الإمارات والبحرين بتنسيق أميركي نهاية عام 2021)، و”مواجهة الإرهاب” في شمال موزمبيق وغرب أوغندا، والتحوّلات السياسية في عدد من دول غرب أفريقيا، والصلات المتنامية مع السودان (الذي لم يوقّع على بيان تعليق قرار فقي)، فضلاً عن توقعُّات بدور إسرائيلي بالغ الخطورة في الأزمة الليبية في العام الجاري، لعدّة اعتبارات أبرزها العلاقات العميقة مع نظام أبو ظبي (الذي تتطابق خريطة نفوذه في القارة الأفريقية مع خريطة نظيره الإسرائيلي بشكل واضح).

في المقابل، فإن الحضور الإسرائيلي في منطقة أفريقيا الجنوبية، التي قادت دولها خطوة تعليق القرار إلى جانب الجزائر، يظلّ في حدوده الدنيا، بالنظر إلى هيمنة جنوب أفريقيا الاقتصادية والسياسية التقليدية في الإقليم، واعتبارات قدرات جوهانسبورغ في الصناعات المتقدِّمة ومن بينها الصناعات العسكرية؛ مما يرفع من حدّة حساسيتها تجاه أيّ اختراقات إسرائيلية “في دائرة تأثيرها التقليدية”، مع ملاحظة تراجُع صادراتها إلى إسرائيل في الأعوام العشرة الأخيرة من قرابة بليون دولار (2012)، إلى نحو 200 مليون دولار فقط في عام 2020، أغلبها معادن ثمينة، وتراجُع صادرات الدولة العبرية إليها في الفترة نفسها من نحو 400 مليون دولار (2012) إلى نحو 175 مليون دولار (2020)، مثّلت الآلات والمعدّات المتطوّرة ما قيمته 29 مليون دولار منها.

تبْقى مسألة قبول عضوية إسرائيل من عدمه مفتوحة على احتمالات شتّى، من بينها تمكُّن تل أبيب من استمالة عدد من الدول الأفريقية المُوقِّعة على بيان رفض العضوية لتغيير موقفها، عبر تقديم دعم عسكري وأمني ملموس لها في الشهور المقبلة، فضلاً عن توظيف صلاتها بقوى دولية وإقليمية بارزة في الشأن الأفريقي، لتحقيق هذا الهدف. كما أن استمرار فقي رئيساً للمفوضية، يعني استمرار توظيفه جهوده وسياساته لصالح الغاية نفسها، والتي بات يعتبرها “شأناً شخصياً”، وفق ما أكده بيانه الأخير، الذي لم يُجِب على تساؤلات رئيسة تتعلّق بحيثيات اتّخاذ القرار بشكل مباغت، وفي ذروة موجة التطبيع بين إسرائيل وبعض الدول العربية، وعشيّة الاحتفال بذكرى “ثورة يوليو”، أُمّ الثورات الأفريقية، والتي حالت تاريخياً دون تحقيق الكيان العبري الكثير من تطلّعاته في القارّة.

Apartheid unwelcomed in Africa: “Israel” could lose observer status in AU

Feb 1 2022

Net Source: Israeli media

By Al Mayadeen

The African Union’s Executive Council will take a vote this week on whether or not to grant the Israeli regime observer status, which requires a majority vote.

The African Union’s executive council will convene in Ethiopia on Wednesday

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid are spearheading an Israeli diplomatic push to ensure that “Israel” does not lose observer status in the African Union, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Following opposition by some African countries to the African Union chairman’s unilateral decision to grant “Israel” observer status, the AU’s Executive Council will convene in Addis Ababa for a vote to revoke its status.

Bennett has spoken with the President of Senegal on the matter, and Lapid with his counterpart in Togo and Burundi, among others, in order to gain their support.

In order for the motion to revoke “Israel’s” status to be revoked, two-thirds of the 54  AU member states would have to vote for it. It is possible that the vote may not pass, or be postponed indefinitely, according to the Israeli daily.

Read more: International Lawyers Challenge The African Union To Revoke “Israel’s” Observer Status

The African Union was founded in 2002, and “Israel” was granted observer status with its inception, but was ousted in 2003 following a campaign by Libya.

South AfricaSudanAlgeria, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana were among the countries that opposed “Israel” gaining observer status, whereas Morocco and Chad established diplomatic relations with “Israel” in recent years.

Algeria: Granting “Israel” Observer status could lead to AU’s division

Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra had rejected in August the statements of African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, who insisted on granting “Israel” observer status to the pan-African organization.

Lamamra stated that Mahamat’s statement is an attempt to defend his move without recognizing the repercussions, pointing out that such a stance may lead to the African Union’s division.

A group of international lawyers and researchers have launched a legal complaint with the African Commission on Human and People’s rights in September, in order to have “Israel’s” observer status in the African Union (AU) revoked. The complaint was filed on the grounds that the Israeli government is guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and apartheid.

Read more: Prominent Israeli Author: Apartheid more befitting term for “Israel”
 

The document was provided 133 pages of evidence against “Israel”, which utilized witness testimonies from victims of “Israel’s” latest military operation waged against the Gaza Strip. As a result of the 11-days of aggression on Gaza in May, roughly 270 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians according to Human Rights Watch.

Solidarity with Palestine in Stadiums: When Sports and Politics Conjoin

January 4, 2022

Chants of solidarity show that sports can’t be separated from politics and losing a game by withdrawing for political reasons can be a powerful victory.

Fans wave the Palestinian flag during the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 group C football match between Morocco and Palestine at the Al-Janoub Stadium in the Qatari city of Al-Wakrah on December 1, 2021. x Photo by Karim Sahib, AFP via Getty Images

YOUSEF M. ALJAMAL

Palestinian football history is rich and goes back to British Mandate Palestine when the Palestinian national team played against Australia’s football team in Sydney on July 2, 1939. Interestingly, at the time, nine years before the creation of Israel, the entire Palestinian team comprised of Jewish players and Australia won 7-5. Today, Palestinian sports unions and clubs are scattered across major Palestinian cities such as Jaffa, Gaza, Jerusalem, and Haifa.

Despite suffering a serious blow in 1948 due to the establishment of Israel and the takeover of many Palestine’s sports facilities by the Israeli authorities, Palestinian sports remained alive over the years with sports taking a particular political taste. Sports has never been separated from politics especially after Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

The scenes of football fans waving the Palestinian flag in stadiums at local, regional, and international tournaments have become familiar across the globe. To the disappointment of people who call for separating sports from politics, this does not seem possible. Supporters of various teams have turned stadiums into platforms to voice their support for the Palestinian people and their struggle for freedom and statehood. In some cases, they have received punishments and restrictions from sports bodies such as UEFA for doing so.

In response to imposing a fine penalty on the Green Brigade, one of the team’s ultras groups raised money to pay the fine imposed by UEFA and an additional 176,000 British pounds to support Palestinian charities. The Scottish Celtic fans in Scotland have repeatedly expressed their support for the Palestinian cause by raising Palestinian flags especially when their team is playing against an Israeli one. Celtic fans are also known for their pro-Palestine chants.

Palestinian players and sports people have always been a target for Israel.

In fact, Israel also knows that sports can’t be separated from politics. Israel’s former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu published a video calling on the Iranian people to revolt against their own government, when Iranians took to the streets in 2018. He asked them, “Can you imagine how hard it is to stop Ronaldo from scoring a goal? I used to play soccer, let me tell you, it is almost impossible, but the Iranian team just did the impossible. To the Iranian team I say, you showed courage on the playing field, and today, you are sharing the same courage in the streets of Iran.”

Palestinian players and sports people have always been a target for Israel. In 2009, Israeli forces arrested Palestinian footballer Mahmoud al-Sarsak, while he was on his way to the West Bank from the Gaza Strip. They held him under the “Unlawful Combatants Law,” which allows Israel to hold prisoners without charge or trial. After three years under arrest, al-Sarsak gained his freedom after going on a three-month-long hunger strike.

Palestinian sports infrastructure and players have also been targeted by Israel. In 2009, Israel bombed Al Ahli Sports Club in a refugee camp, Al-Nusierat, and during the Great March of Return (GMR), on April 4, 2018, Israeli snipers shot Palestinian footballer Mohammed Khalil in the knee, ending his career. In fact, dozens of Palestinians who were rendered amputees by Israeli forces during the GMR protests formed an amputee football team.

Israel has made it almost impossible for Palestinian teams from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to play against each other during national tournaments. This has prompted Palestinian sports officials to complain against Israel to FIFA. Israel has lifted some of these restrictions, but many of them are still in place, rendering it almost impossible for Palestinian players to compete freely.

During the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, a number of Arab players chose to withdraw from competing rather than compete against Israeli players. Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine was sent home and had a 10-year ban imposed on him as punishment for his withdrawal, which effectively ended his career.

Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool did the same when he had to compete against Tohar Butbul – whom Nourine had refused to play with – citing solidarity with the Palestinian people. The stance of these athletes reveals the huge gap between the political and popular levels in the Arab world, and it further explains the importance of sports and the impossibility of separating it from politics.

More recently, at the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup held in Doha between November 30 and December 18, increasing solidarity with the Palestinian people was expressed by football fans. During the Tunisia-Egypt game, Palestinian flags were visible. The Algerian football team and its fans were very vocal in support of Palestinians, raising the Palestinian flag during their matches.

Following winning the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup, Algeria’s fans and team raised the Palestinian flag. Following the Algeria-Morocco matchHoucine Benayada, Algeria’s national team player who wrapped the Palestinian and Algerian flags over his body, said, “We do not play for any bonus, we play for these two flags.” Madjid Bougherra, the Algerian team’s coach, dedicated his country’s victory to the Palestinian people, adding, “We dedicate the Arab Cup to the Palestinian people and our people in Gaza.” In the streets of Gaza, Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate Algeria’s championship.

Read:

Algeria’s coach: We dedicate the Arab Cup to Palestine and Gazans

18 Dec 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

By Al Mayadeen Net

Algeria wins the 2020 Arab Cup championship after winning against Tunisia 2-0, and the Algerian coach dedicates the win to Palestine.

Following the final whistle, Algeria’s coach Madjid Bougherra dedicated the win to Palestine.

Algeria’s national football team grasped the 2021 Arab Cup championship held in Qatar after winning 2-0 over Tunisia’s national team in the extra time.

In front of 60,456 fans present at Al Bayt stadium in Doha, Amir Sayoud scored Algeria’s first goal in the 99th minute of extra time, followed by Yacine Brahimi’s second goal in the 125th minute, crowning their country as Arab champions.


هدف أمير سعيود 🇩🇿 🤯#مونديال_العرب | #FIFArabCup
pic.twitter.com/s1RgTHHXUG— مونديال العرب (@Arabcup21) December 18, 2021

After the final whistle, the Algerian coach Madjid Bougherra said “We dedicate the Arab Cup to the Palestinian people and our people in Gaza.”

Brahimi was named the best player in the championship and received the Golden Ball award for his outstanding performance.

Algeria maintains no diplomatic ties with the Israeli occupation regime and has long been an outspoken and avid supporter of the Palestinian cause.

Last week, Algeria’s national football team celebrated its win over Morocco in the Arab Cup while waving high the Palestinian flag and kufiya.

Algerian athletes boycotting “Israel”

Three Algerian football stars boycotted Friday a match that gathered “legends” in Doha over the participation of an Israeli coach on the sidelines of the 2020 Arab Cup in Qatar, reported Quds News Network.

Rabah Madjer, Rafik Saïfi, and Rafik Halliche were among players on the FIFA Arab Legends’ formation who were supposed to face the FIFA World Legends in a friendly exhibition match.

However, the three Algerians decided not to take part in the match upon Israeli coach Avram Grant’s participation with the World Legends team.

The Israeli coach has previously managed English club Chelsea as well as “‘Israel’s’ national team” between 2002-2006.

Algeria defends Palestine in the Olympics

It is noteworthy that in late November, Algerian Judo champion Fethi Nourine announced his retirement, two months after the International Olympic Committee suspended him from competitions for 10 years on account of his withdrawal from the Tokyo2020 Olympics to avoid facing an Israeli opponent, in solidarity with Palestine.

“I know that international federations have always colluded with Zionist terrorism, especially the International Judo Federation, and perhaps the best evidence is that my punishment remains the same even after filing an appeal,” Nourine stressed.

He affirmed that he “will never stop supporting the Palestinian cause, no matter what.”

Nourine also mentioned that he does not regret his decision and that he is proud of it.

The Algerian champion said he will take advantage “of every opportunity to expose the zionist entity and defend our rights in Palestine.”

The Reconquest: In 2022 elections, an Algerian Islamophobe wants to purge France from ‘the Muslim peril’

December 09 2021

French Islamophobe and presidential candidate Eric Zemmour is electrifying the far-right with his racist polemics. Himself a Berber Jew from Algeria, Zemmour means “noisy horn” in Arabic. Photo Credit: The Cradle

An Algerian Jewish ‘demonizer’ of Arabs and Islam is the new political protagonist electrifying France’s 2022 presidential elections

By Pepe Escobar

In sharp contrast with the morose political environment across Europe, the French presidential election – against all odds – is now set to become the most enthralling polls to watch in 2022.

Just when everyone from Normandy to the Cote d’Azur seemed all but resigned to suffer a second bout of Macronism, polemicist-turned-politician Eric Zemmour came up with a lurid plot twist.

It took him less than a week. On Monday, 29 November, Zemmour officially announced he would run in the elections. He played full De Gaulle, reading his own speech to the sound of Beethoven, and in front of an old-school microphone surrounded by books.

Then Zemmour announced the name of his new political party: ‘Reconquete’ – named after the seven century-long Christian battle to expel the Moors from Iberia, finally achieved in 1492.

For Zemmour and his eager acolytes, it’s all about reconquering France once again from the Muslim enemy.

Then, on Sunday, 5 December, he held his first rally as a candidate in front of over 10,000 people. No current French politician is able to draw such a crowd.

The next day’s headlines were all about uninvited protestors, one of whom lunged at Zemmour and held him in a headlock on his way to the podium, and scuffles between his supporters. But in Zemmour’s book, this was a triumph: stepping beyond his trademark, well-known incendiary proposals, he managed to transition from pundit to presidential hopeful overnight.

Now all bets are off. The Zemmour saga, of course, offers parallels with the rise of Trump in 2016, who also shifted from media to politics. It is rabidly anti-immigration, and pits fervent nationalism against what is described by conservatives across the west as ‘Islamo-leftism’.

That talk show pulpit

Even in France, most people don’t know that the Zemmour presidential run started at a somewhat secret dinner in Paris last June.

The crème de la crème of the French establishment were there, including Count Henri de Castries, 66, a former luminary of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA), the alma mater of virtually everyone that counts in Parisian circles of power.

De Castries is a former CEO of insurance giant AXA, at the board of directors of Nestlé; president of the Bilderberg Club; and head of the corporate-financed think tank Institut Montaigne – which virtually ‘invented’ a certain Emmanuel Macron in 2017 after Francois Fillon, favorite to win the nomination for the Right, was destroyed by a leak over his wife’s dodgy employment duties.

If Fillon had won the presidential election in 2017, de Castries would have been Defense Minister.

At the dinner, Zemmour unleashed two political grenades:

The first: “We must prohibit non-French first names.”

The second:  “The central issue before us, for the next presidential election and the next 30 years, is Muslim immigration.”

It may have taken six months, but since last summer Zemmour’s irresistible ascension carried an aura of inevitability, even drawing attention from an anxious Elysée Palace, where functionaries duly noted that, on an ideological and cultural level, Zemmour was dictating the whole agenda of the French Right.

Zemmour’s regular pulpit at CNews – the French answer to Fox News – was reaching at least one million viewers every night. He had become the darling of mega-magnate Vincent Bolloré, who owns a Murdoch-style media empire. Bolloré’s Vivendi conglomerate owns Canal+ group, which includes Cnews; 27 percent of Lagardere, which owns Europe 1, Paris Match and Le Journal du Dimanche; and Hachette Livre, which owns publishing houses, Grasset and Fayard.

Bolloré, who is not a snotty Parisian but a ‘provincial’ from Britanny, was fascinated from the start by Zemmour’s social ascension – of the kind only found in sports or music. A similar journey in the intellectual sphere is virtually non-existent in hyper-coded France.

The Arabophobe

Zemmour comes from a Jewish Algerian family of modest means which settled in St Denis, a ‘hot’ Paris suburb. He built his persona – and his impact on the Paris beau monde – with Cartesian rationalism. Underneath it all lies an unmistakable class complex: he craves approbation from intelligentsia notables.

Zemmour is a complex character, but he is also usually reduced to his monothematic obsession: The ‘Muslim Peril.’ At the same time, he favors assimilation, and has nothing against Muslims who become full republicans.

Zemmour took some time to find his political niche. Les Republicans party – of former President Nicolas Sarkozy – is too soft and amorphous. Far-right superstar Marine Le Pen always collects 20 percent of votes in the first presidential round just to fail breaking the glass ceiling in the second (that’s one of the worst kept secrets in France; because of her fascist father, and because she’s not part of the elite).

Now, the financial elite has identified a golden path straight out of Lampedusa’s The Leopard (“everything must change so everything remains the same”). Macron remains their boy. Zemmour is being used – by ‘invisible’ banking donors – to outflank Marine Le Pen from the Right and allow Macron an easy re-election.

And even if Zemmour does not win in 2022, what matters is that Marine Le Pen will definitely be buried and the path will be open for a unified conservative movement closer to its cherished ‘values,’ led of course by Zemmour.

Zemmour, however, faces a very serious problem: how to enlarge his electorate beyond Trumpian angry white males. Trump was a billionaire and a communication beast, so that was easier. Zemmour is an awkward class defector who blossomed in the very small, incestuous Parisian media-literary milieu.

Inside the Zemmour family, identity was always a crucial theme of debate. General De Gaulle was the supreme entity – including his admiration of Jews, “sure of themselves and dominating.” Zemmour’s father, Roger, used to speak Arabic and play cards in the bars of the Goutte D’Or neighborhood.

Zemmour, a Berber family name, means ‘noisy horn’ in Arabic, while its derivative, Ezmour, is the name of the male olive tree in the Berber (Amazigh) language, mainly in Algeria. Zemmour always refers to himself as a Berber Jew. He refuses to be called an Arab, emphasizing that “the Berbers were colonized, massacred and persecuted by the Arabs, Islamized by force.”

And here we approach the heart of the enigma: Zemmour is essentially an Arabophobe, and very specifically against Arabs from the Maghreb. He never refers to Persian Gulf Arabs, and especially Wahhabis and Salafi-jihadis – denoting scarce knowledge of historical Islam and its perversions by western empires. He seems to be illiterate on Shia Islam in the arc of resistance, the Islam of Sufism in Central Asia, and the soft, tropical Islam of Indonesia.

In France, it’s taboo to openly discriminate against Arabs. That’s why Zemmour promoted ‘Islam’ as his portmanteau term to essentially demonize Arabs from the Maghreb.

A hero in a Balzac remix

To understand Zemmour, one must read Balzac. To his credit, Zemmour is a dying breed: a product of literary culture. He grew up buried in Alexandre Dumas and Balzac – the latter’s Lost Illusions is his ultimate reference.

Since he was 11, Zemmour pictured himself as Lucien de Rubempré, the hero of Lost Illusions: that’s when he decided he would become a journalist and author. The Balzacian masterpiece concentrates all his passions: history, journalism and literature. Rubempré is a poet who becomes a journalist and dreams of writing historical novels.

Of all of Balzac’s memorable heroes, Zemmour chose a seducer that overcompensates his modest, provincial origins by a tremendous panache. His critics, though sharply identify him with another Balzac character, Rastignac, the ultra-ambitious one who is obsessed with becoming wealthy and a government minister. That’s not exactly correct: Zemmour would rather linger in a perpetual blaze of glory instead of becoming just a cog in the bourgeois machine.

Seven years ago, way before Trump, there were already rumblings of a Generation Zemmour popping up in France: those who were feeling the heat when faced with the combined blitzkrieg of the European Union, immigration, and globalization.

This is the bulk of Zemmour’s electorate: bourgeois conservatives, victims of globalization, and the declassified popular classes, those who really lost with the globalist open borders. They offered Zemmour the chance to become the spokesperson of the shattered Right.

Not even Marine Le Pen could play that role, because she’s considered too “populist” by the bourgeois, and on top of that, she invested too heavily in her de-demonization process to be accepted by the establishment.

As for Sarkozy, he was too ‘bling bling’ for the families of old France. Zemmour, with his ‘son of the periphery swagger’ and the classic cultural baggage of a very good student, was clever enough to identify the opening.

Dynamiting himself?

Zemmour may not be a Virgin Mary groupie. But when he published his book French Destiny, in 2018, he had to admit, in front of a fervent Catholic audience, that “he is convinced that one cannot be French without being deeply impregnated by Catholicism, its cult of images, the pomp, the order installed by the Church, this subtle mélange of Jewish morals, Greek reason and Roman law, but also the humility of servants.”

This is as close as one gets to the Zemmour creed.

What makes the Zemmour story eyebrow-raising across all the lands of Islam – from Northern Africa to West, Central and South Asia – is that he defines the “enemy not as political Islam, Islamism, jihadism or Islamic radicalism: the enemy is Islam” (my italics).

He charges, without proof, that ‘hatred of France’ is consubstantial to this religion. Islam is incompatible with secularism, democracy, a secular Republic. Islam is incompatible with France.”

That’s exactly what he repeated this past Sunday during his first speech as a presidential candidate: a clash of civilizations redux.

His catalogue of propositions includes no Muslim first names to be adopted in France; “social measures of national solidarity” only for the French; the expulsion of all foreigners who have committed crimes (at least 15,000, as it stands); to close French borders if necessary; and to stop the migration inflow – as many as 400,000 a year, including legal asylum seekers. He explicitly wants students from Africa and the Maghreb to have no access to student grants.

Zemmour wants to limit legal immigration to a minimum. He maintains that Islam is a “civilization very far apart from ours.” He mercilessly blasts Macron, accused of wanting to “dissolve France into Europe and Africa.” Macron explains that a woman may also be a father, but Zemmour says: “I don’t agree. I want children to have a father and a mother.”

That’s where Zemmour’s Islamophobia morphs with his critique of ‘Islamo-Leftism’ and the woke-ism nebulae encompassing race theory, gender studies, post-colonialism, intersectionality, identity politics and cancel culture. That’s the privileged terrain where he could get further traction with the France of traditional values.

CNews have extolled Zemmour as The Dynamiter. Yet he runs the risk of dynamiting himself, self-cornered in an Islamophobia trap of his own making as he aims to re-found the French radical right and ‘reconquer’ the Republic.

It may be too early, but he did not get the electoral bump he expected after entering the ring. As it stands, he’s out of the second round, neck to neck with the perennial Marine Le Pen and largely overtaken by another woman, Valerie Pecresse, a Sarkozy disciple with a dominatrix streak who’s selling the union of the ‘respectable’ Right and her capability of getting rid of Macron for good.

Yet never underestimate the immensely ambitious, self-described Berber Jew who aims to ‘reconquer’ a Republic fighting an Islamophobic jihad.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian People Celebrated in Climate of Betrayal, Harrowing Violence

Dec 3, 2021

Since the General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II) to partition Palestine into two separate

Source: Al Mayadeen

Hana Saada

After 74 years of the unjust division of the Palestinian land, the UNGA and the UNSC continue to refrain from taking any solid actions in the interest of the Palestinian people and their cause, on that regard, the declaration of the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine appears to be a mere voice act that does not contribute to improving the situation of this people.

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was celebrated, on Monday, in a context marked by harrowing crimes committed by the Zionist regime, the intensification of the Zionist settlement operations in Palestine, and the persistent blockage of the peace process, exacerbated by the normalization of relations between the Zionist entity and some Arab countries, dubbed as a betrayal to the Palestinian cause.

Monday, 29 November 2021 marks the 44th observance of the United Nations (UN) International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. In 1977, the United Nations selected the date of November 29 for the celebration of the “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”. This date, given its significance and importance to the Palestinian people, is based on the UN General Assembly’s call for the annual celebration of the resolution on the partition of Palestine.

Adopted on November 29, 1947, this resolution is intended to create Arab and Jewish states in this ‘disputed territory’. Since then, the Palestinian people continue to lose territory to the Zionists, while the living conditions of the Palestinians have deteriorated more and more amid poverty, denial of fundamental freedoms through the systemic discrimination and subjugation, forcible evictions, and demolition orders of Palestinian property in the neighborhoods of Sheik Jarrah and Silwan. This culminated, more recently, in spurring violence that claimed the lives of innocent women, children, and the elderly during the 11-day offensive on the Gaza Strip that began on May 10, amounting to war crimes. There was a deliberate intention by the Zionist occupation forces to inflict more casualties among the civilians to push the Palestinian people to accept the existence of the Zionist Entity.

A total of 243 Palestinians, including 66 children and 39 women, were killed during the Zionist attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip on May 10. Clashes erupted, on May 13, across the occupied territories because of the Zionists’ attacks and restrictions on Palestinians in the Eastern part of Al-Quds, Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as a Zionist court’s decision to evict 12 Palestinian families from their homes in favor of Zionist settlers.

The decision on the forced displacement is itself, a war crime and aggression against humanity, transforming the Zionist judiciary into a barbaric tool to pass racist Zionist expansion agendas to the detriment of the Palestinian civilians.

The tension moved to Gaza on May 10, leading to a military confrontation between the Zionist forces and the Palestinian resistance groups, where the Zionist warplanes have caused an unprecedented scale of destruction in the Palestinian homes and infrastructure.

Palestinians are also victims of repeated military attacks, claiming the lives of several innocent civilians (men, women, and children), especially in the Gaza strip, which has been under a strict blockade for 15 years.

The Zionists are committing violations against worshipers in Al-Quds “Jerusalem” by preventing them from accessing places of worship, at the top of which, Al-Aqsa Mosque, the world’s third-holiest site for Muslims, resorting to an excessive force against them in a way that threatens their lives and most likely leads to death. In the holy month of Ramadan, at least 305 people sustained varying injuries as the Zionists stormed the Esplanade of Mosques in East Jerusalem and attacked Palestinians who were on guard to prevent raids by Jewish settlers.

The Zionist Entity is committing crimes of apartheid and persecution against Arabs in the occupied territories, with a view to maintaining the domination by Jewish Zionists over Palestinians.

The Zionist regime has become the sole governing power alongside extremely-limited Palestinian self-rule, where the Zionists are methodically highly-privileged, while Palestinians have been dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas… these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

Noting that the Apartheid system was a policy of racial segregation and discrimination enforced by the white minority government against the black majority in South Africa from 1948 until 1991.

The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid defines apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group and systematically oppressing them”. The 1998 Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court (ICC) adopts a similar definition.

For its part, Human Rights Watch’s 213-page report, entitled: “A Threshold Crossed,” states that Palestinians are suffering from the Apartheid; 

“Denying millions of Palestinians their fundamental rights, without any legitimate security justification and solely because they are Palestinian and not Jewish is not simply a matter of an abusive occupation,” said Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director.

“These policies, which grant Jewish Israelis the same rights and privileges wherever they live and discriminate against Palestinians to varying degrees wherever they live, reflect a policy to privilege one people at the expense of another.”

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People marks the recognition of historic injustice suffered by the valiant Palestinian people in their legitimate struggle to recover their stolen rights. It has traditionally constituted an opportunity to recall the Palestinian cause that has not yet been resolved, as well as the sufferings of the Palestinian people who have not yet recovered their inalienable and immutable rights as defined by the General Assembly (GA), namely; the right to independence and national sovereignty, and the right of Palestinians to return to their homes and recover their properties.

This year, the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People comes at a time when the Palestinian cause has experienced a dangerous slippage, marked by the signing, at the end of 2020, of “normalization agreements” between the Zionist entity and four Arab countries.

The Palestinian cause taken hostage:

In 2020, a watershed year for the Zionists’ diplomatic integration into the Arab world, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco have normalized their relations with the Zionist entity, within the framework of the “Abraham Accords”.

This is a political error, a betrayal of Al-Quds, al-Aqsa mosque and the Palestinian cause, and a stab in the back of the Palestinians. For the latter, such normalization with the Zionist Entity encourages the occupation forces to commit more violations against the Palestinian people, paving the way for more aggressive war and the expansion of Zionism, Judaization, and colonization of Palestinian land.


It is in this wake that a vast outpouring of international solidarity with the Palestinian people was launched, in particular, in countries that have normalized their relations with the Zionist entity through demonstrations, sit-ins, and protests against these agreements.

Morocco and Palestine

Morocco, whose king is the Chairman of the El-Quds Committee, normalized its relations with the Zionist Entity on December 10, 2020, in exchange for the recognition by former US President Donald Trump of the kingdom’s alleged “sovereignty” over Western Sahara.

This barter was condemned, in the strongest term, throughout the world and especially by Algeria and the Moroccan people who took to the streets for several days to express their rejection of this agreement, organizing demonstrations often repressed by the regime in place.

More recently, the Makhzen regime and the Zionist entity inked a framework agreement aimed at strengthening the security cooperation between the Moroccan and the Zionist intelligence services, nearly one year after the normalization of their relations, amidst broad popular disagreement. A move dubbed as shameful and disgraceful by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

Algeria and Palestine

President Tebboune urged, in a speech delivered on the sidelines of the celebration, in Algeria, of this International Day, the international community to assume its historic responsibilities towards the practices of Zionist occupation aimed at undermining the building of the sovereign Palestinian state, while reiterating Algeria’s unwavering and firm support for the struggle of Palestinian people to recover their stolen rights. He stressed, once again, with a well-articulated position, his rejection of all forms of normalization with the Zionist Entity, deploring the four Arab countries’ scrambling to normalize relations.

“We have noticed a kind of scramble (a mad rush) towards normalization. This is something we will never participate in, nor bless. Palestine’s cause is sacred, and we will not give it up,” the Algerian President said.

He repeatedly expressed the country’s preparedness to invite all Palestinian groups to a comprehensive meeting in Algeria. Tebboune’s words were applauded by Palestinians and Algerians alike, who have a long history of intertwined solidarity.

Palestinian factions praised President Tebboune for his government’s strong opposition to any bids aimed at establishing ties with the Zionist Entity, calling on Arab rulers to follow suit and reject all forms of normalization. 

There is no doubt that when Algerian President Tebboune called the Palestinian cause “sacred”, he was truly speaking on behalf of the Algerian people whose history is marked by resistance against colonial powers. Algerians remain stick to their pro-Palestine stance, considering the Palestinian cause the mother of all causes. Their beliefs about national sovereignty and the right for countries to determine their own destiny are central, firmly committed to the principles of a sovereigntist governing ideology, based on their national pride, far away from any quid pro quo deals, capable of exercising foreign pressure on their country. 

In 1988, noteworthy, when Palestine declared its independence, Algeria was the very first country worldwide to officially recognize its statehood. This decision further contributed to the deeply-rooted Algerian-Palestinian relations. Even when other Arab states, notably those which signed the “Abraham Accords” last year, dropped their pan-Arab commitments to the Palestinian struggle, Algeria has stood by the cause.

For its part, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas hailed Algeria’s principled positions, describing the signing, by the Moroccan regime, of several agreements, particularly in the security and military spheres, with the Zionist enemy as an unjustified act whatever the pretext or the objective.

For the Hamas movement, the normalization and signing of agreements between Rabat and the Zionist Entity “would lead the Zionists to commit more crimes against the Palestinian Arab people and to the violation of their legitimate rights to freedom, independence and return “.

Gantz in Rabat

The agreement was inked in a visit to Rabat by the Zionist Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, received by Morocco’s Minister Delegate to the Head of Government in charge of the National Defense Administration Abdellatif Loudiyi. The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding which launches officially the security cooperation in all its aspects (operational planning, procurement, research, and development) between Morocco and the Zionist entity, according to media close to the Moroccan military circles.

It should be noted that demonstrations against normalization were scheduled in Morocco on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The Moroccan Action Group for Palestine organized a popular sit-in, Sunday, in front of the parliament headquarters in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, in solidarity with the Palestinian defenseless people and confronting the agendas of Zionist penetration in the region.

The group said, in a statement, posted on Saturday, that the popular sit-in, organized under the slogan “With the resistance against normalization with the Zionists,” comes on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, and within the framework of the continuous popular mobilization in support of the Palestinian struggle under the slogan “The Moroccan people: Palestine is a national issue.”

The sit-in, added the same source, “confirms the established historical positions in confronting the Zionist occupation and all its tools, and facing the Zionist intrusion agendas to sabotage the region.”

However, Moroccan security forces prevented the popular sit-in. The president of the Moroccan Observatory against Normalization with the Zionist Entity, Ahmed Ouihmane indicated, in a statement to the Algerian news agency, that the Moroccan security forces prevented, by force, this popular sit-in.

Different protests were organized in Morocco coinciding with the afore-mentioned visit of the Zionist war criminal to create official channels between the intelligence and security services for the two parties. Protesters assured their full adherence and attachment to the support of the Palestinian people and the overthrow of all forms of normalization.

The protests were subject to dispersal using force, under a heavy security siege, amid the participation of human rights defenders, supporters of the Palestinian cause, and the presence of the media. 

This year celebrations constitute a new opportunity for many free countries and brave peoples to express their unwavering and coherent support for the Palestinian people, calling on the international community to translate its words into actions in the face of the dangerous escalation in the Palestinian territories and the UN to honor its commitments.

Epilogue

To this end, the whole world is also called upon to exert real pressure on the Zionist Entity… the enemy of humanity with a view to putting an end to its systematic violation of human rights and enforcement of discrimination against the Palestinian people. Besides, the UN and its member states should take appropriate actions as 74 years since the General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II) to partition Palestine into two separate states, no concrete actions have been taken so far. 

Instead, the hope of achieving sustainable political settlements is fading away with an entity blatantly showing disdain for international human rights law, including two key international human rights instruments, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on Socioeconomic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), both of which have as their first Article, the Right to Self-Determination, as well as a continuous disrespect of internationally adopted provisions and principles in this direction.

The UN should be held accountable for its evident lack of action in recent years. It lost its credibility for non-abide by the adopted resolutions and turning a blind eye to the Zionists who blatantly flout the relevant UN resolutions, laws of international legitimacy, and international terms of reference, and deny agreements in an attempt to impose the status quo policy, and hamper the building of the sovereign Palestinian state.

This organization is called to honor its commitments to defend international law and order, work to hold the Zionist occupation accountable for the overruns and violations committed, ensure international protection, and stave off attacks and violations against the Palestinian people and their sanctities.

The international community, on the other hand, should re-evaluate its relationship with the Zionist Entity, establish a commission of inquiry to investigate systematic discrimination and repression in Palestine, transcend rhetoric, deploy further efforts in defense of the Palestinians inalienable rights and bring Zionists into compliance with international law.

Palestinian leaders should put on the shelf their domestic rifts, creating a united front aimed at addressing the onus fallen on their shoulders. A favorable atmosphere should be created to address the catastrophic ordeal the Palestinians are passing through. Palestinian national unity stands to be the only basis for achieving the hopes and legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people in defeating and thwarting the Zionist schemes that hide behind the titles and slogans of normalization, as well as its perfidious policies aimed at displacing the Palestinian people through creeping Judaization and illegal settlement and forcefully altering the Palestinian religious and historical landmarks.

Finally, addressing ourselves, our collective conscience should react to concrete and permanent actions, not momentary reactions as events unfold!The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

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