Afghanistan, the Forgotten Proxy War

Part I

July 3, 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of when the United States’ first military assault against Afghanistan with the CIA-backed Mujahideen began. It would be a mistake to treat the present-day conflict as being separate from the U.S. intervention that began in 1979 against the then-government of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Afghanistan was not always known as the chaotic, ‘failed state’ overrun by warlords as it is now; this phenomenon is a product of that U.S.-led regime change operation. The article below, originally published on March 30, 2019, summarizes and analyzes the events that transpired during and after the Cold War years as they relate to this often misunderstood, if not overlooked, aspect of the long war against Afghanistan. 

When it comes to war-torn Afghanistan and the role played by the United States and its NATO allies, what comes first to mind for most is the ‘War on Terror’ campaign launched in 2001 by George W. Bush almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks. And understandably so, considering that the United States and its allies established a direct “boots-on-the-ground” military presence in the country that year. Not only that, but during the Bush-Cheney years, there was an aggressive propaganda campaign being played out across U.S. media outlets which used women’s rights as one of the pretexts for the continued occupation. The irony of this, however, is not lost on those who understand that the conflict in Afghanistan has a long history which, much like Syria, stretches as far back as the Cold War era — especially when it was the United States that provided support for the Mujahideen in destabilizing the country and stripping away the modernizing, progressive economic and social gains, including Afghan women’s emancipation, which the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) had fought for. With the overthrow of the independent Soviet-aligned PDPA government, the Taliban emerged as a powerful faction of the Mujahideen; the U.S. would develop a working relationship with the Taliban in 1995. The war was never truly about women’s rights or other humanitarian concerns, as Stephen Gowans explains:

“Further evidence of Washington’s supreme indifference to the rights of women abroad is evidenced by the role it played in undermining a progressive government in Afghanistan that sought to release women from the grip of traditional Islamic anti-women practices. In the 1980s, Kabul was “a cosmopolitan city. Artists and hippies flocked to the capital. Women studied agriculture, engineering and business at the city’s university. Afghan women held government jobs.” There were female members of parliament, and women drove cars, and travelled and went on dates, without needing to ask a male guardian for permission. That this is no longer true is largely due to a secret decision made in the summer of 1979 by then US president Jimmy Carter and his national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to draw “the Russians into the Afghan trap” and give “to the USSR its Vietnam War” by bankrolling and organizing Islamic fundamentalist terrorists to fight a new government in Kabul led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan.

The goal of the PDPA was to liberate Afghanistan from its backwardness. In the 1970s, only 12 percent of adults were literate. Life expectancy was 42 years and infant mortality the highest in the world. Half the population suffered from TB and one-quarter from malaria.”

Moreover, and contrary to the commonly held belief that the conflict in Afghanistan started in 2001, it would be more accurate to say that the war started in 1979. As a matter of fact, the Carter Administration’s 1979 decision to overthrow the PDPA and destabilize Afghanistan is at the root of why the country is in the state that it continues to be in today.

Afghan women during the PDPA era vs. Afghan women today.

The Cold War – a new phase in the age of imperialism

The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan’s military welcome their Soviet counterparts

The 1979 to 1989 period of the Mujahideen onslaught is often referred to as the ‘Soviet-Afghan War’ because of the Soviet army’s heavy involvement. Although it is true that they were heavily involved, it is not an entirely accurate descriptor because it completely ignores the fact that it was a war that was actually crafted, instigated, and led by the United States. In what was also known then as the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the years from 1978 to 1992 are inextricably linked with Soviet history — but not because it was a Soviet “invasion” of Afghanistan and that the West had to intervene to stop it, as U.S. imperialist propaganda would have us believe. The Carter administration had already begun the planning, recruitment, and training for the Mujahideen in 1978 and had launched the attack on Afghanistan months before the Soviet army militarily intervened near the end of 1979. Also, the “Afghan trap” alone did not cause the dismantling of the Soviet Union; however, it was related. But more on that when we look at the Gorbachev years. Nevertheless, the destruction of Afghanistan was declared as a final blow to the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union’s 1991 dissolution was celebrated as “the victory of capitalism over communism” by the United States. To begin to understand the conflict in Afghanistan, it is important to examine the context in which it began: the Cold War.

In the early 1900s, Vladimir Lenin observed that capitalism had entered into its globalist phase and that the age of imperialism had begun; this means that capitalism must expand beyond national borders, and that there is an internal logic to Empire-building and imperialist wars of aggression. Lenin defines imperialism as such:

“the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.”

It should be clear that imperialism is not just merely the imposition of a country’s will on the rest of the world (although that is certainly a part of it). More precisely: it is a result of capital accumulation and is a process of empire-building and maintenance, which comes with holding back development worldwide and keeping the global masses impoverished; it is the international exercise of domination guided by economic interests. Thus, imperialism is less of a cultural phenomenon, and more so an economic one.

Lenin also theorized that imperialism and the cycle of World Wars were the products of competing national capitals between the advanced nations. As he wrote in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, World War I was about the competition between major imperialist powers — such as the competing capitals of Great Britain and Germany — over the control of and the split of plunder from colonies. Thus, finance capital was the driving force behind the exploitation and colonization of the oppressed nations; these antagonisms would eventually lead to a series of world wars as Lenin had predicted. During the First World War, the goals of the two imperial blocs of power were the acquisition, preservation, and expansion of territories considered to be strategic points and of great importance to their national economies. And during the Great Depression, protectionist measures were taken up by Britain, the United States, and France to restrict the emerging industrial nations — Germany, Italy, and Japan, also known as the Axis states — from access to more colonies and territories, thereby restricting them from access to raw materials and markets in the lead up to World War II. In particular, the two advanced capitalist industrialized powers of Germany and Japan, in their efforts to conquer new territory, threatened the economic space of Britain, the U.S., and France and threatened to take their territories, colonies, and semi-colonies by force — with Germany launching a series of aggressions in most of Europe, and Japan in Asia. WWII was, in many ways, a re-ignition of the inter-imperialist rivalry between the Anglo-French bloc and the German bloc, but with modern artillery and the significant use of aerial assaults. It was also a period of the second stage of the crisis of capitalism which saw the rise of Fascism as a reaction to Communism, with the Axis states threatening to establish a world-dominating fascist regime. For the time being, WWII would be the last we would see of world wars.

At the end of WWII, two rival global powers emerged: the United States and the Soviet Union; the Cold War was a manifestation of their ideological conflict. The Cold War era was a new phase for international capital as it saw the advent of nuclear weapons and the beginning stages of proxy warfare. It was a time when the imperialist nations, regardless of which side they were on during WWII, found a common interest in stopping the spread of Communism and seeking the destruction of the Soviet Union. By extension, these anti-communist attacks would be aimed at the Soviet-allied nations as well. This would increase the number of client states with puppet governments acting in accordance with U.S. interests who would join the NATO bloc with the ultimate aim of isolating the Soviet Union. It should also be noted that the end of WWII marked the end of competing national capitals such that now, financial capital exists globally and can move instantaneously, with Washington being the world dominating force that holds a monopoly over the global markets. Those countries who have actively resisted against the U.S. Empire and have not accepted U.S. capital into their countries are threatened with sanctions and military intervention — such as the independent sovereign nations of Syria and North Korea who are, to this day, still challenging U.S. hegemony. Afghanistan under the PDPA was one such country which stood up to U.S. imperialism and thus became a target for regime change.

In addition to implementing land reforms, women’s rights, and egalitarian and collectivist economic policies, the PDPA sought to put an end to opium poppy cultivation. The British Empire planted the first opium poppy fields in Afghanistan during the 1800s when the country was still under the feudal landholding system; up until the king was deposed in 1973, the opium trade was a lucrative business and the Afghan poppy fields produced more than 70 percent of opium needed for the world’s heroin supply. These reforms in 1978 would eventually attract opposition from the United States, which had already embarked on its anti-communist crusade, providing backing to reactionary forces dedicated to fighting against various post-colonial progressive governments, many of which were a part of the ‘Soviet Bloc’ — such as the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua who mounted violent opposition to the Sandinista government. Despite having gained independence on its own merits, Afghanistan under the PDPA — much like other Soviet-allied, postcolonial successes such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Syria, Libya, and North Korea — was seen as a “Soviet satellite” that needed to be brought back under colonial domination, and whose commodities needed to be put under the exclusive control and possession of the United States. Not only that, but it was considered a strategic point of interest that could be used to enclose upon the Soviet Union.

In order to undermine the then-newly formed and popular PDPA government, the Carter administration and the CIA began the imperialist intervention by providing training, financial support, and weapons to Sunni extremists (the Mujahideen) who started committing acts of terrorism against schools and teachers in rural areas. With the assistance of the Saudi and Pakistani militaries, the CIA gathered together ousted feudal landlords, reactionary tribal chiefs, sectarian Sunni clerics, and cartel drug lords to form a coalition to destabilize Afghanistan. On September 1979, Noor Mohammed Taraki — the first PDPA leader and President of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan — was assassinated during the events of the CIA-backed coup, which was quickly stopped by the Afghan army. However, by late 1979, the PDPA was becoming overwhelmed by the large-scale military intervention by U.S. proxy forces — a combination of foreign mercenaries and Afghan Ancien Régime-sympathizers — and so they decided to make a request to the USSR to deploy a contingent of troops for assistance. The Soviet intervention provided some much-needed relief for the PDPA forces — if only for the next ten years, for the U.S. and Saudi Arabia “upped the ante” by pouring about $40 billion into the war and recruiting and arming around 100,000 more foreign mercenaries. In 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev would call on the Soviet troops to be withdrawn, and the PDPA was eventually defeated with the fall of Kabul in April 1992. Chaos ensued as the Mujahideen fell into infighting with the formation of rival factions competing for territorial space and also wreaking havoc across cities, looting, terrorizing civilians, hosting mass executions in football stadiums, ethnically-cleansing non-Pashtun minorities, and committing mass rapes against Afghan women and girls. Soon afterwards in 1995, one of the warring factions, the Taliban, consolidated power with backing from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. On September 28, 1996 the last PDPA Presidential leader, Mohammad Najibullah, was abducted from his local UN compound (where he had been granted sanctuary), tortured, and brutally murdered by Taliban soldiers; they strung his mutilated body from a light pole for public display.

A renewed opium trade, and the economic roots of Empire-building

U.S. troops guarding an opium poppy field in Afghanistan.

After the fall of Kabul in 1992, but some time before the Taliban came to power, the reactionary tribal chiefs had taken over the Afghan countryside and ordered farmers to begin planting opium poppy, which had been outlawed by the Taraki government. Prior to that, the Pakistani ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency) set up hundreds of heroin laboratories at the behest of the CIA so that by 1981, the Pakistani-Afghan border became the largest producer of heroin in the world. Alfred McCoy confirms in his study, “Drug Fallout: the CIA’s Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade”:

“Once the heroin left these labs in Pakistan’s northwest frontier, the Sicilian Mafia imported the drugs into the U.S., where they soon captured sixty percent of the U.S. heroin market. That is to say, sixty percent of the U.S. heroin supply came indirectly from a CIA operation. During the decade of this operation, the 1980s, the substantial DEA contingent in Islamabad made no arrests and participated in no seizures, allowing the syndicates a de facto free hand to export heroin.”

It is apparent that by putting an end to the cultivation of opium poppy, in addition to using the country’s resources to modernize and uplift its own population, the independent nationalist government of the PDPA was seen as a threat to U.S. interests that needed to be eliminated. A major objective of the U.S.-led Mujahideen — or any kind of U.S. military-led action for that matter — against Afghanistan had always been to restore and secure the opium trade. After all, it was during the 1970s that drug trafficking served as the CIA’s primary source of funding for paramilitary forces against anti-imperialist governments and liberation movements in the Global South, in addition to protecting U.S. assets abroad. Also, the CIA’s international drug trafficking ties go as far back as 1949, which is the year when Washington’s long war on the Korean Peninsula began. The move by the PDPA to eradicate opium-poppy harvesting and put an end to the exploitation brought about by the drug cartels was seen as “going too far” by U.S. imperialists. A significantly large loss in opium production would mean a huge loss in profits for Wall Street and major international banks, which have a vested interest in the drug trade. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that money-laundering made up 2-5% of the world economy’s GDP and that a large percentage of the annual money-laundering, which was worth 590 billion to 1.5 trillion dollars, had direct links to the drug trade. The profits generated from the drug trade are often placed in American-British-controlled offshore banks.

The rationale behind the PDPA’s campaign to eradicate the opium poppy harvest was based not only on practical health reasons, but also on the role played by narcotics in the history of colonialism in Asia. Historically, cartel drug lords enabled imperialist nations, served bourgeois interests, and used cheap exploited slave labour. Oftentimes, the peasants who toiled in these poppy fields would find themselves becoming addicted to heroin in addition to being, quite literally, worked to death. Cartels are understood to be monopolistic alliances in which partners agree on the conditions of sale and terms of payment and divide the markets amongst themselves by fixing the prices and the quantity of goods to be produced. Now, concerning the role of cartels in ‘late-stage capitalism’, Lenin wrote:

“Monopolist capitalist associations, cartels, syndicates and trusts first divided the home market among themselves and obtained more or less complete possession of the industry of their own country. But under capitalism the home market is inevitably bound up with the foreign market. Capitalism long ago created a world market. As the export of capital increased, and as the foreign and colonial connections and “spheres of influence” of the big monopolist associations expanded in all ways, things “naturally” gravitated towards an international agreement among these associations, and towards the formation of international cartels.

This is a new stage of world concentration of capital and production, incomparably higher than the preceding stages.”

International cartels, especially drug cartels, are symptoms of how capital has expanded globally and has adapted to create a global wealth divide based on the territorial division of the world, the scramble for colonies, and “the struggle for spheres of influence.” More specifically, international cartels serve as stewards for the imperialist nations in the plundering of the oppressed or colonized nations. Hence the mass campaigns to help end addictions and to crack down on drug traffickers which were not only implemented in Afghanistan under the PDPA, but in Revolutionary China in 1949 and by other anti-imperialist movements as well. Of course, the opium traffickers and their organized crime associates in Afghanistan saw the campaign against opium poppy cultivation, among other progressive reforms, as an affront; this made them ideal recruits for the Mujahideen.

But why the “breakdown” in the relationship between the U.S. and the Taliban from the early 2000s and onwards? Keep in mind that, again, the members of the Taliban were amongst the various factions that made up the Mujahideen whose partnership with the United States extends as far back as the late 1970s; and it was clear that the U.S. was aware that it was working with Islamic fundamentalists. The human rights abuses committed by the Taliban while in power were well-documented before their relations with the U.S. soured by the year 2000. What made these relations turn sour was the fact that the Taliban had decided to drastically reduce the opium poppy cultivation. This led to the direct U.S. military intervention of 2001 in Afghanistan and the subsequent overthrow of the Taliban; the U.S. used the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as a pretext even if there was no proof that the Taliban had a hand in them or had been in contact with Osama bin Laden at all during that time. The U.S. would soon replace the Taliban with another faction of the Mujahideen that was more compliant with the rules that the imperialists had set out. In other words, the Taliban were ousted not necessarily because they posed a significant challenge to U.S. hegemony as the PDPA had, or because of their treatment of women — nor were they hiding Osama bin Laden; it was because they had become more of liabilities than assets. It is yet another case of the Empire discarding its puppets when they have outlived their usefulness due to incompetence and being unable to “follow the rules properly” — not unlike the U.S. removal of military dictator Manuel Noriega who was staunchly pro-American and who, in collaboration with fellow CIA asset and notorious cartel drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, previously sold drugs for the CIA to help finance the anti-communist campaign in Central America.

George W. Bush visits Hamid Karzai, who participated in the Mujahideen in the past and led the puppet government that replaced the Taliban.

By 2002, and as a result of the 2001 intervention, the lucrative opium poppy production had seen a huge boom once again. In 2014, Afghanistan’s opium poppy production made up 90% of the world’s heroin supply, leading to a decrease in opium prices. And according to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the opium production in Afghanistan increased by 43% to 4,800 metric tons in 2016.

Although the United States has always been one of the top producers of oil in the world, another reason for establishing a permanent U.S. military presence in Afghanistan was to gain control over its vast untapped oil reserves, which the U.S. had known about prior to 9/11. Oil is yet another lucrative commodity, and ensuring that Afghanistan had a compliant government that would acquiesce to its demands was important for the U.S. in this aspect as well. Naturally, the nationalist government of the PDPA was also seen as a threat to the profit-making interests of U.S. oil companies, and any nation that was an independent oil producer (or merely a potential independent oil producer, in Afghanistan’s case) was seen as an annoying competitor by the United States. However, Afghanistan would not begin its first commercial oil production until 2013, partly because of the ongoing geopolitical instability, but also because opium production continues to dominate the economy. Plus, it is likely that neither the monarchy nor the PDPA realized that there existed such vast untapped oil reserves since there were very limited volumes of oil (compared to the higher volumes of natural gas) being produced from 1957 to 1989, and which stopped as soon as the Soviet troops left. Later, reassessments were made during the 1990s; hence the U.S. ‘discovery’ of the untapped petroleum potential. But, when intensive negotiations between U.S.-based oil company Unocal and the Taliban went unresolved in 1998 due to a dispute over a pipeline deal that the latter wanted to strike with a competing Argentine company, it would lead to growing tensions between the U.S. and the Taliban. The reason for the dispute was that Unocal wanted to have primary control over the pipeline located between Afghanistan and Pakistan that crossed into the Indian Ocean. From this point on, the U.S. was starting to see the Taliban as a liability in its prerogative of establishing political and economic dominance over Central and West Asia.

In either case, oil and other “strategic” raw materials such as opium are essential for the U.S. to maintain its global monopolistic power. It is here that we see a manifestation of the economic roots of empire-building.

*

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Continued in Part 2.

Originally published by LLCO.org on March 30, 2019. For the full-length article and bibliography, click here.

Janelle Velinais a Toronto-based political analyst, writer, and an editor and frequent contributor for New-Power.org andLLCO.org. She also has a blog at geopoliticaloutlook.blogspot.com.

All images in this article are from the author; featured image: Brzezinski visits Osama bin Laden and other Mujahideen fighters during training.

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How the West’s War in Libya Has Spurred Terrorism in 14 Countries

The Saker

May 09, 2019

[this analysis was written for the Unz Review]

Introduction

It is sometimes helpful not to look at any one specific issue in detail, but rather make a survey of ongoing processes instead. The resulting picture is neither better nor worse, it is simply different. This is what I want to do today: to take a bird’s eye view of our suffering planet.

Putin trolls the Empire

It is all really simple: if the Ukrainians will give passports to Russian citizens, and we in Russia will be handing out passports to the Ukrainians, then sooner or later will will reach the expected result: everybody will have the same citizenship. This is something which we have to welcome.

Vladimir Putin

It appears that the Kremlin is very slowly changing its approach to the Ukrainian issue and is now relying more on unilateral actions. The first two measures taken by the Russians are maybe not “too little too late”, but certainly “just the bare minimum and at that, rather late”. Still, I can only salute the Kremlin’s newly found determination. Specifically, the Kremlin has banned the export of energy products to the Ukraine (special exemptions can still be granted on a case by case basis) and the Russians have decided to distribute Russian passports to the people of Novorussia. Good.

Zelenskii’s reaction to this decision came as the first clear sign that the poor man has no idea what he is doing and no plan as to how to deal with the Russians. He decided to crack a joke, (which he is reportedly good at), and declare that the Ukrainian passport was much better than the Russian one and that the Ukraine will start delivering Ukrainian passports to Russian citizens. Putin immediately replied with one of his typical comebacks declaring that he supports Zelenskii and that he looks forward to the day when Russians and Ukrainians will have the same citizenship again. Zelenskii had nothing to say to that 🙂

Zelenskii finally finds something common to Russia and the Ukraine

I have been thinking long about this “a lot in common” between Ukraine and Russia. The reality is that today, after the annexation of the Crimea and the aggression in the Donbas, of the “common” things we have only one thing left – this is the state border. And control of every inch on the Ukrainian side, must be returned by Russia. Only then will we be able to continue the search for [things in] “common”

Vladimir Zelenskii

Well, almost. He did eventually make a Facebook post in which he declared that all that Russia and the Ukraine had in common was a border. This instantly made him the object of jokes and memes, since all Russians or Ukrainians know that Russia and the Ukraine have many old bonds which even 5 years of a vicious civil war and 5 years of hysterically anti-Russian propaganda could not sever. They range from having close relatives in the other country, to numerous trade and commercial transactions, to a common language. The closest thing to a real Ukrainian language would be the Surzhik which is roughly 50/50 in terms of vocabulary and whose pronunciation is closer to the south Russian one than to the Zapadenskii regional dialect spoken in the western Ukraine and which is used (and currently imposed) by the Ukronazi junta in Kiev.

The malignant manatee threatens the planet with fire and brimstone

We have Pompeo, a malignant manatee looking to start wars in which he will not risk his flabby amorphous ass also parading his Christianity. Bolton, a mean sonofabitch who belongs in a strait jacket, at least doesn’t pose as someone having a soul. And the Golden Tufted Cockatoo, too weak to control those around him, preening and tweeting. God save us.

Fred Reed

The term “malignant manatee” is not from me, the brilliant Fred Reed came up with this one, but I can only fully endorse it because it fits. Perfectly. And our malignant manatee sure is on a roll! Just this week he managed to threaten VenezuelaIran, and even Russia and China together. I think that it is high time to declare that Pompeo is a bona fide nutcase, a dangerous, arrogant and ignorant psychopath whose crazy statements represent a direct threat to the entire planet. Not to say that his pal Bolton is any less crazy. Now combine these two rabid thugs with the spineless “Golden Tufted Cockatoo” (to use Fred Reed’s equally hilarious but accurate characterization) and you see that the planet is in big, big trouble.

Turns out that Putin is a crypto-Zionist and an Israeli puppet.

Here I won’t even bother with any quotes. The alternative Internet/blogosphere has, again, been hit by a wave of articles declaring that Putin is Netanyahu’s puppet and a crypto-Zionist. I have debunked that nonsense in the past (see here and here) and I won’t repeat it all here. Besides, what this surge in “Putin the Zionist” propaganda is, is not so much the result of a gradual realization about the true agenda or Putin himself as much as it is, yet again, a desperate scramble for clicks. I already discussed that recently too (see here). I will just reiterate my conclusion here: clickbaiters are never experts and experts are never clickbaiters.

Frankly, to all those who email me and ask “Is it really true? Putin is an Israeli puppet? He helps Netanyahu in Syria, does he not?!” I would suggest simply looking at what the Israelis and Zionists write about Putin (for starters, you can click herehere or here). Even better, ask the defenders of Putin the crytpo-Zionist to explain the hysterically anti-Putin campaign the US legacy Ziomedia has been engaged in for the past years! But don’t hold your breath for an answer – since Russia has comprehensively foiled all Israel’s many plans for Syria, it takes a remarkable determination not to see that Putin is hated by Neocons and Zionists alike, and for good cause, I would add.

Oh, and Putin is a crypto-Muslim too!

Yes, besides being a crypto-Zionist, Putin is also a crypto-Muslim. This latest nonsense usually comes from Alt-Right circles who can forgive Putin his friendliness to Israel, but not to Islam. These are the folks who believe that Putin is not a real defender of the “White Race”. They are opposed by those who believe that Putin and the Moscow Patriarchate will somehow jump-start the “Christian West”. We are talking about some hardcore “single-issue” folks here whose main disagreement is whether Jews or Muslims are to be hated (and feared!) most.

[Having had to deal with both groups myself – I have been accused of being a Jew, a Jew lover and a Muslim and a Muslim lover many times! – I know that reasoning with these folks is a total waste of time. Their paranoid hatred is completely incompatible with any fact-based and logical discussion. Besides, by arguing with them you threaten their income and livelihood – which due to their lack of expertise depends entirely on their ability to generate clickbait revenue. If you do engage with them, they will call you a Jew-lover or an Islam-lover and that’s it. Not worth your time IMHO].

The quasi-comical truth is that the Alt-Righters don’t get Russia *at all*. They keep transposing their narrow horizons on a nation with which they have absolutely nothing in common, not even religiously or racially (even if they think otherwise). Hence their love-hate relationship with Putin: on one hand, they would love to have a champion like Putin (Ann Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos do not qualify), but on the other, they hate Putin for not endorsing their racist and fascist agenda. Truth be told: Russia has no use for these intellectual midgets.

Russia is “selling out” to the Taliban?

Well, since we are making a (tongue-in-cheek) “inventory” of all of Putin’s (and even Russia’s) sins, let’s include cozying up to the Taliban (who even agreed to put on Saint George’s Ribbons!) and… … and what exactly is happening here?

How about trying to bring peace back to Afghanistan? You know – the same thing Russia is doing in Venezuela, in Syria and elsewhere. This implies talking to the other side, and even striking smiling poses when asked by the press.

Needless to say, the thugs running the AngloZionst Empire have accused Russia or aiding and even arming the Taliban. And why not? This is no more ridiculous than saying that Saddam and Iran are helping al-Qaeda, or than saying that Russia “hacked” DNC computers, or told Maduro not to run for his life. Hey! We are living in “Skripal times” and the rules of evidence have changed to “highly likely” – so why not claim that Russia is also selling out to the Taliban (maybe even on Netanyahu’s orders?).

In the meantime, Russian soldiers are busy ducking missiles…

Yep, apparently unaware that their Commander-in-Chief is a puppet of both Israel and the worldwide Islamic Ummah, Russian servicemen are ducking missiles in Syria. The latest attack saw them shoot 36 missiles (and one targeting drone) out of the sky. This is good news, of course, but this just goes to show that these (US and Israel backed) Islamists shooting these missiles have not been informed that the Russian military in Syria is here to help Netanyahu and Trump. Somebody should probably tell them 😉

Conclusion: just one more crazy and terrifying week, with many more to come

I tried to be a little tongue-in-cheek here, but the reality is that what is taking place before our eyes is both absolutely insane and most terrifying. Why? Because the world is now ruled by a most dangerous gang of ignorant thugs who are very rapidly losing their grip on our planet and who is simply neither intellectually equipped to understand, nor deal with this very complex and rapidly changing situation.

What we are seeing is a full-spectrum collapse of the unipolar world and its gradual, but also inexorable, replacement with a multi-polar world in which things like “speaking with your adversaries or even enemies” becomes the norm rather than the exception. Even more importantly, this is a world in which US threats always fall on deaf ears simply because nobody takes the US seriously anymore. While the US military probably has the capability to re-invade Grenada or “bring democracy” to the inhabitants of the North Sentinel Island – no adults in the room will be impressed (least of all the Iranians!).

It is this quiet indifference which enrages the likes of Pompeo, Bolton or Trump – for all their narcissistic chest-thumping – they are, and will forever remain, the ultimate losers – folks who simply couldn’t get *anything* done. Even more terrifying is their sense of total impunity. If Obama was “democracy with a human face” then Trump is “democracy with a simian face” – not much better.

When I think that a “Golden Tufted Cockatoo” (to use Fred Reeds wonderful image) has the authority to press the nuclear button I feel terrified. I also realize that the survival of the human species will depend on Putin and Xi and their ability to gradually disarm or neutralize the US threat without triggering a nuclear war.

These are truly terrifying times. If you are not terrified, then you are delusional.

But if being terrified is a natural and absolutely normal reaction, we need to overcome it and fearlessly resist. Like Maduro does, surrounded by his men.

This refusal to be afraid, even while being terrified, is how we will eventually defeat the Empire!

Venezuela is, by far, the weakest link in the chain of resistance to the Empire. But look at these faces! All I can say is this: may the courage of the kids protecting not only Maduro, but also the sovereignty of their country, be an inspiration to us all, no matter how terrified we are.

UPDATE: turns out that it was not Russia or Cuba which are responsible for the failed coup. According to Neocon US Senator from Florida, Venezuela regime change crusader Marco Rubio, it’s the Chinese! I wonder whom the US leaders are going to blame next? Any guesses?

Resistance report: Trump decides not to reissue waivers while Syrian fuel crisis reaches critical stage (with response to Andrew Korybko)

April 25, 2019

Resistance report: Trump decides not to reissue waivers while Syrian fuel crisis reaches critical stage (with response to Andrew Korybko)

by Aram Mirzaei for the Saker Blog

It has become clear by now that Washington is seeking yet another war in the region. The Zionist servants in Washington have made great efforts this year to “put pressure” on the Resistance axis. They have for months raised the stakes with their aggressive rhetoric about the “outlaw, terrorist supporting Iranian regime”.

The “maximum pressure” campaign escalated in 2019. Washington declared IRGC a terrorist organization, putting it alongside the Islamic State and Boko Haram. This designation provides Washington with a legal basis for attacking the IRGC, according to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, a legislation originally written to provide an excuse for the invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11.

Continuing on their path from last year, with the US withdrawal from the JCPOA (Nuclear deal), “maximum pressure” campaign by the White House, Treasury Department, and State Department accelerated this week with the announcement that the United States would force China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey to cease all imports of Iranian oil or face severe U.S. sanctions. The said goal is to cut to zero all of Iran’s oil exports. According to arguably the biggest and most despicable idiot in Washington, Mike Pompeo, this is aimed at forcing Iran to “behave like a normal country”. A normal country? What exactly is a “normal country?” Is that a country that has capitulated and accepted humiliation? A country that has given up on its independence and does everything and anything Washington orders them to do? Are Saudi Arabia and Israel “normal countries?” They know as well as we do that this maximum pressure campaign won’t lead to the Islamic Republic’s capitulation, but it could very well lead to war.

To support their claims, Idiot Pompeo and his friends in Washington are selling the idea that Tehran is in league with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, because they really can’t come up with other examples of HOW Iran actually supports terrorism, which it in fact isn’t. In a speech at the Heritage Foundation, Idiot Pompeo said:

“Today we ask the Iranian people: Is this what you want your country to be known for, for being a co-conspirator with Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda?”

It really doesn’t matter for the large and vastly ignorant population of the US that Iran is actually a Shia nation with a longstanding hostility towards Terrorist takfiri outfits such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Nor do they remember that Trump, the White House fool himself correctly claimed during his presidential campaign that Obama created ISIS in Syria.

Washington and its Zionist masters in Tel Aviv aim to provoke Tehran into a first strike so that they have not only legal basis for an attack on Iran but also the legitimacy to engage Iranian targets.
Tehran has threatened to block the strait of Hormuz if Iran is not allowed to use it, and Washington has vowed to respond in such a case. You can see where this is going.

Disinformation from within is on the rise as the Syrian fuel crisis reaches new levels

Simultaneously with Washington’s aggression towards Iran, US sanctions on Syria have also accelerated. Washington’s economic siege of Syria is supposed to apply pressure on the Syrian government to return to the Geneva peace process. This is a very sick and ironic policy of Washington’s as it is Washington and its vassals that have for 8 years claimed that the Syrian government engages in “siege and starve tactics” to subdue its population. As a result of Washington’s blockade on Syria, the country is facing its worst fuel crisis for many years. It has been clear for long that the Zionist Empire and its vassals cannot win in Syria, as their influence over the course of the war has been fading ever since Moscow stepped in four years ago, so now the policy has shifted from fighting to achieve victory, to obstructing any kind of victory for Syria and her allies, resorting to obstructing any kind of resources or help from entering the country. This was clear when Washington threatened to sanction anyone who would dare to help in Syria’s reconstruction, and the fact that Iranian oil shipments to Syria are blocked at the Suez Canal. So what is it that Washington really is going to achieve here?

The only result of these sanctions, and any of Washington’s sanctions for that matter will be a prolonging and worsening of the humanitarian crisis in Syria. The Western media are quick to spin articles on how Syrians living under President Assad are getting fed up with the government, while the actual case, as in the case of Iran, is a growing animosity and awareness towards the despicable sanctions that Washington and its allies impose on them. Because who really suffers from these sanctions imposed on Syria and Iran? Is it the government or the people that can barely even afford to buy bread anymore?

The fuel crisis has however created another situation that gives cause for a bigger concern than what the Zionist empire is plotting. Scrolling across Twitter, I stumbled upon an article written by Andrew Korybko in which he questions why the Oil-Rich Russians aren’t providing Syria with fuel amid this fuel crisis. It’s a fair question in my opinion but his explanation is somewhat troublesome and even worrying. Korybko wants to portray this crisis as an opportunity for Moscow to politicize the situation and compel Syria into submission. Moscow is supposedly withholding any kind of help for Syria in an attempt to push Syria to accept Moscow’s draft constitution and push Iran to withdraw from the country, thus leaving Moscow as the sole power in charge of Syria. Korybko explains this move as Moscow’s “revenge” for Assad’s supposed “humiliation” of Moscow when his government refused to implement the Russian written draft constitution in 2017, something that Putin allegedly has “never forgotten”. Korybko argues that

“every one of the many growing differences between Russia and Syria can be traced back to that moment when Moscow caught Damascus completely off guard by presenting this surprise document to it at the same time as it gave this proposal to the so-called “rebels” that also attended the event, which was an unthinkable affront to Syria’s dignity and “face” even though it was “well-intended” and meant to revive the stalled peace process.”

Why would Moscow wait two years before it decides to “punish” Damascus for refusing this offer? In these past two years Moscow has helped to liberate more than half the country since those days in early January 2017. Korybko fails to offer any further explanation for this claim.

Korybko then moves on to claim that the September incident in which Zionist planes caused Syria’s air defence to accidentally shoot down made Putin “so furious with Assad” that he refuses to speak to him and instead dispatches Defense Minister Shoigu to deliver messages. This is quite a bizarre way of seeing it. Putin is not known to be an emotionally driven politician that would let his feeling guide his strategic choices. What sort of evidence does Korybko have for this very bold claim?

Korybko then speculates that the latest message could have been a “reminder” about President Putin’s insistence that Assad complies with the constitutional changes that Moscow presented two years ago. Korybko finishes his article with a final speculation that Moscow could even seek to replace Assad for his insolence.

Firstly, I must say that Korybko seems to be on a mission to connect Putin with the Zionist empire, in doing so he seems to forget that Moscow is not Washington. Yes, Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah share different goals and interests that sometimes come into conflict with each other, but Korybko seems to forget that this is how true alliances work. Washington has no allies, it has vassals and slaves, we should never forget that.

Secondly, why on earth would Moscow after 8 years seek to replace Assad? This would be absolute madness on Moscow’s part. But lets play with the idea that this was the case, who would they replace him with? Who else would guarantee that Syria doesn’t fall into the hands of Washington’s cut-throat friends? That would be counter-productive for Moscow’s efforts these past 4 years on the ground. Korybko fails to answer this.

Finally, if Putin really was angry with Assad over the September incident, why would he publicly lay the blame on the Zionist state? He didn’t shy away from holding Erdogan personally responsible for the shooting down of the Russian SU-24 back in late 2015.  Instead Moscow immediately gave Damascus the S-300 missile system and began training Syrian forces on how to use it.

The biggest danger of disinformation campaigns does not come from the mainstream media in the West, but from people who supposedly stand on our side.

 

Pakistan in the Crosshairs of New US Aggression

Pakistan in the Crosshairs of New US Aggression

Pakistan in the Crosshairs of New US Aggression

With events escalating quickly in Kashmir it’s incumbent to ask the most pertinent questions in geopolitics.

Why there?

And, Why Now?

Why Kashmir?

India and Pakistan are both making serious moves to slip out from underneath the US’s external control. India has openly defied the US on buying S-400 missile defense systems, keeping up its oil trade with Iran and developing the important Iranian port at Chabahar to help complete an almost private spur of the North South Transport Corridor.

Pakistan, under new Prime Minister Imran Khan is trying to square accounts with China over its massive investment for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) known as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It has also been at the forefront of multiple rounds of talks spurred by the Russians and Iranians to forge some kind of peace in Afghanistan.

And the Trump administration cut off US aid to Pakistan for not being sufficiently helpful in the fight against terrorism. This opened up a war of words between Trump and Khan who reminded Trump that the little bit of money the US sent Pakistan nothing compared to the losses both economic and personal.

If there was ever the possibility of peace breaking out between India and Pakistan it would be in the context of stitching the two countries together through China’s regional plans as well as solving the thorny problem of continued US and NATO occupation of Afghanistan.

Anything that can be done to flare up tensions between these two adversaries then serves the US’s goals of sowing chaos and division to keep the things from progressing smoothly. Khan was elected to, in effect, drain the Pakistani Swamp. His, like Trump’s, is a tall order.

And at this point it looks like he’s still willing to give it a go as opposed to Trump who is simply revealing himself to be a thin-skinned version of Barack Obama, albeit with a distinctly orange hue.

But, still why right now?

Because Trump is distracted with his latest love affair with himself – taking credit for a Korean peace process that will proceed with or without him at this point. All he can do is slow it down, which is exactly what his Secretary of State has been doing since last year’s meeting in Singapore.

And that leaves people like John Bolton and the rest of the worst people in D.C. to go to work undermining an entire region of the world.

Last weekend’s terrorist attack was a planned provocation to produce the very outcome we have today. Jaish-e-Mohammed have too many direct and indirect links to Bush the Lesser era programs and Saudi Arabia to be ignored.

This attack happens just days after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman comes rushing in to save Pakistan’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves with promises of $10 billion to build a refinery of Saudi oil at the (now Chinese) port of Gwadar.

There are no coincidences in geopolitics. Timing is everything.

It reminds me of the flare up in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2016. Then Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Azeri leader Ilham Aliyev on a Wednesday and by Sunday a nearly twenty-year peace was broken.

National Security Advisor John Bolton is desperate to keep Trump from pulling half of the troops out of Afghanistan. After a disastrous “Let Make War on Iran” conference in Warsaw two weeks ago, Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were reeling from having obtained no support outside of those already committed to such a plan.

Europe roundly said no, other than willing satrap Poland, still hoping Daddy Trump will save them from the mean old Nordstream 2 pipeline.

As Alistair Crooke pointed out recently, Bolton is putting pressure on Pakistan to forge a peace agreement with the Taliban which somehow allows for the US to maintain all of its troop presence there.

Washington is now embracing Pakistan (with Saudi Arabia and UAE writing the cheques). And Washington looks to Pakistan rather, not so much to contain and disrupt the Taliban, but to co-opt it through a ‘peace accord’ into accepting to be another US military ‘hub’ to match America’s revamped military ‘hub’ in Erbil (the Kurdish part of Iraq, which borders the Kurdish provinces of Iran). As a former Indian Ambassador, MK Bhadrakumar explains:

“What the Saudis and Emiratis are expecting as follow-up in the near future is a certain “rebooting” of the traditional Afghan-Islamist ideology of the Taliban and its quintessentially nationalistic “Afghan-centric” outlook with a significant dosage of Wahhabi indoctrination … [so as to] make it possible [to] integrate the Taliban into the global jihadi network and co-habitate it with extremist organisations such as the variants of Islamic State or al-Qaeda … so that geopolitical projects can be undertaken in regions such as Central Asia and the Caucasus or Iran from the Afghan soil, under a comprador Taliban leadership”.

Bolton was also able to get Trump to agree to pull most of the troops out of Syria, leave just enough behind to call in airstrikes to protect what’s left of ISIS and relocate the rest to Iraq.

Trump gets to say he fulfilled a campaign promise, and everyone’s plans for War with Iran stays on schedule.

So, if I’m right (and there’s no guarantee that I am) what purpose does poking a fight between India and Pakistan serve?

Many, unfortunately.

1. One it sells the regional chaos angle about the need to continue the War on Terror.

2. ISIS is gone but we still have to fight Iran.

3. It punishes India for daring to get off the reservation.

4. It reminds Khan just how tenuous his hold on power is.

5. It is a warning to China that the US will risk everything to not lose the Heartland.

Add in the proximity to the Trump-Kim meeting as well as the fractious trade talks with China and you have an orgy of related news all at the same time to drive the point home.

Bolton, the Brits, France and Netanyahu were willing to risk World War III in Syria to create a false flag event in which Russia attacked a NATO target – the downing of the IL-20 ELINT aircraft last September.

Do you not think these insane animals wouldn’t risk a nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India to blow up (literally) China’s plans to win the biggest prize in geopolitics?

If you don’t then you haven’t been paying attention.

Both Imran Khan and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi need to keep their heads here. Modi has an election coming up later this year. I’m sure the calculus was that he would jump at the opportunity to burnish his cred with voters by lobbing a few bombs inside Pakistan. For Khan, this is the first real test of his leadership and he has to resist the siren’s call of the Saudi’s money to balance all sides of the equation while de-escalating this situation as quickly as possible.

One thing is for certain, we haven’t seen the last of this.

Photo: Flickr

حرب كشمير بواجهة هندية ـ باكستانية وتورّط دولي مكشوف!

مارس 1, 2019

د. وفيق ابراهيم

تَحوّلَ النزاع الهندي الباكستاني على منطقة كشمير الفاصلة بينهما مشروع حرب فعلية قد تشعل أكثر من شبه القارة الهندية.

لا شك أنّ هناك أسباباً هندية – باكستانية للصراع لم يجد أحدٌ له حلاً حتى الآن لكنه التزم بعد اندلاع حرب كبيرة بين طرفيها في 1972 بحدود الأمر الواقع في إطار هدنة مضبوطة، فما الذي استجدّ حتى يتحضّر البلدان لمواجهة واسعة؟

تصل مساحة كشمير الى 86 الف كلم مربع تقريباً تسيطر الهند على 65 في المئة منها تقريباً والباقي لباكستان كما تحتوي على غالبية إسلامية مقابل أقلية بوذية.

للتوضيح فإنّ انفصال الولايات الإسلامية في الهند بمسمّى جديد هو باكستان كان يُراد منه انفصال كامل الأقليات الإسلامية في شبه القارة الهندية، ونتيجة للبعد الجغرافي عن باكستان بقي ملايين المسلمين في أنحاء أخرى من الهند واحترب البلدان للاستحواذ على كشمير المنطقة الحدودية بينهما.

وكان التوتر السياسي يندلع على كشمير بين الفينة والأخرى لكنه لم يصل ومنذ 1972 إلى مرحلة حرب مكتفياً باشتباكات حدودية محدودة جداً تقتصر على مشاركة قليل من الجنود المنتشرين على حدود كشمير بين البلدين.

لجهة الأسباب الداخلية فإنّ جزءاً هاماً من «الإسلام المتطرف» ذي الجذر القاعدي موجود في باكستان وخصوصاً في كشمير ونما في مئات المراكز الاسلامية التي أسّستها السعودية ولا تزال تموّلها حتى تاريخه بمشاركة إماراتية ودعم من منظمة طالبان من مراكز نفوذها من أفغانستان المحاذية.

فرَفدَ هذا الاتجاه المتطرف التيارات الإسلامية في كشمير التي تعمل على تحرير القسم التي تسيطر عليه الهند فيها.

هناك فريق رابع تولى تقديم التسهيلات اللوجستية وحرية الحركة للتنظيمات الإسلامية وهي المخابرات الباكستانية التي لا يزال الغرب يتهمها حتى الآن بدعم القاعدة وطالبان في أفغانستان وتتهمها الهند حالياً بتوفير ظروف مناسبة لشنّ ضربات على القوات الهندية في كشمير وحتى داخل الهند.

لقد شكلت هذه التحالفات الغطاء الداخلي للعملية التي نفذها تشكيل إرهابي يُدعى «جيش محمد» مستهدفاً فيها كتيبة للجيش الهندي في مركز انتشاره في كشمير وأدّت الى مذبحة موصوفة.

ما أغضب نيودلهي ليست المذبحة فقط، إنما السلوك الباكستاني المتراخي الذي لم يمنح الهجوم الإرهابي الاهمية التي يستحقها.

واكتفت بشجب الهجوم والتعهّد بالتحقيق لكشف الفاعلين وهم معروفون سلفاً من أجهزتها، مشكلين جزءاً من بنية إرهابية تنتشر في معظم الجزء الباكستاني من كشمير.

لذلك حاولت الهند تنظيم ردّ عسكري يستبقُ فكرة مواصلة الهجمات على قواتها، فكانت الغارة الجوية الهندية على مواقع «جيش محمد» وتبيّن انّ باكستان كانت تتوقع مثل هذا الردّ فجابهته بشكل صارم الأمر الذي دفع بالبلدين لحشد قواتهما على حدوديهما في كشمير في حركات تصعيدية قد تتدحرج نحو حرب بين بلدين نوويين، وتعهّدت باكستان بإعادة طيار هندي أسقطت طائرته مقابل توقف الاستنفار الهندي.

تكشف هذه التفاصيل انّ أقساماً من المخابرات الباكستانية تعمل بإيحاء خارجي قابل للمضاعفة إذا كانت الهند العدو التقليدي هي المستهدف.

والسؤال هنا، لماذا يستهدفُ هذا الإيحاء الخارجي لمخابرات اسلام أباد الهند؟ وماذا فعلت؟

لم تفعل الهند ما يعادي علاقاتها الإقليمية والدولية، لكنها استمرّت بشراء النفط من إيران في حركة كسر للمقاطعة الأميركية التي تمنع العالم من علاقات اقتصادية طبيعية مع طهران، وهذا استفز الأميركيين ولم يتمكّن ولي العهد السعودي محمد بن سلمان في زيارته الأخيرة للهند من إقناع حكامها بشراء نفط سعودي بسعر تشجيعي مقابل وقف شراء النفط الإيراني.

أما السلوك الهندي الأهمّ الذي يستفزّ دوائر القرار في واشنطن فيتعلق بانفتاح الهند على روسيا والصين في مؤتمر يُهيّئ لتحالف جديد ترى فيه واشنطن «المكوّن العالمي الوحيد» الجدير بمجابهة الامبراطورية الأميركية المتراجعة.

هذا ما دفع بالبيت الأبيض إلى بناء خطة من مستويين: زعزعة الاستقرار الداخلي الهندي بواسطة الإسلام المتطرف الذي لا يصيبه في كشمير فقط، بل داخل الهند أيضاً حيث تنتشر أقليات إسلامية كبيرة.

فكانت بداية الخطة في هجوم جيش محمد في كشمير وبذلك يكسب الأميركيون على مستويين: إضعاف الهند داخلياً والاستمرار في تشويه علاقة الإسلام بالأديان الاخرى، والعالم عموماً.

من جانب آخر، يواصل الأميركيون عبثاً محاولة الحدّ من الصعود الصيني بمفاوضات تتحسّن وتسوء إلا انها لا تستطيع كبح الاندفاع الصيني نحو حلف مع الهند وروسيا يبدو ضرورياً لكسر أحادية التسلط الأميركي على العالم.

فهل يجد الأميركيون ضرورة لخلق ظروف مؤاتية لتفجير حرب كبيرة بين الهند وباكستان؟

الموضوع جدير بالانتباه لانه يندرج في إطار إشعال الأميركيين لكامل الحروب في العالم.

أليست واشنطن من احتلّ افغانستان والعراق وسورية وقسماً من أميركا اللاتينية، وتستعدّ لمغامرة عسكرية في فنزويلا، وهناك ليبيا المدمّرة وتونس المتأرجحة ومصر المتدهورة والسودان الذي يتحضّر لحروب أهلية، أليس الأميركيون من ينشر الصواريخ في شرق أوروبا؟

يتبيّن أنّ على روسيا والصين مهمة وقف مشروع الحرب الباكسانية الهندية بمفاوضات معمّقة لأنها حرب أميركية تستهدفهم أيضاً وتقع في مواجهة حدودهم السياسية وأمنهم الداخلي.

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Mr Bolton’s Long Game Against Iran – Pakistan Becomes Saudi Arabia’s New Client State

Mr Bolton’s Long Game Against Iran – Pakistan Becomes Saudi Arabia’s New Client State

Mr Bolton’s Long Game Against Iran – Pakistan Becomes Saudi Arabia’s New Client State

The Wall Street Journal has an article whose very title – Ambitions for an ‘Arab NATO’ Fade, Amid Discord – more or less, says it all. No surprise there at all. Even Antony Zinni, the retired Marine General who was to spearhead the project (but who has now resigned), said it was clear from early on that the idea of creating an “Arab NATO” was too ambitious. “There was no way that anybody was ready to jump into a NATO-type alliance,” he said. “One of the things I tried to do was kill that idea of a Gulf NATO or a Middle East NATO.” Instead, the planning has focused on ‘more realistic expectations’, the WSJ article concludes.

Apparently, “not all Middle Eastern nations working on the proposal, want to make Iran a central focus – a concern that has forced the US to frame the alliance as a broader coalition”, the WSJ recounts. No surprise there either: Gulf preoccupations have turned to a more direct anxiety – which is that Turkey intends to unloose (in association with Qatar) the Muslim Brotherhood – whose leadership is already gathering in Istanbul – against Turkey’s nemesis: Mohammad bin Zaid and the UAE (whom Turkish leadership believes, together with MbS, inspired the recent moves to surround the southern borders of Turkey with a cordon of hostile Kurdish statelets).

Even the Gulf leaders understand that if they want to ‘roll-back’ Turkish influence in the Levant, they cannot be explicitly anti-Iranian. It just not viable in the Levant.

So, Iran then is off the hook? Well, no. Absolutely not. MESA (Middle East Security Alliance) maybe the new bland vehicle for a seemingly gentler Arab NATO, but its covert sub-layer is, under Mr Bolton’s guidance, as fixated on Iran, as was ‘Arab NATO’ at the outset. How would it be otherwise (given Team Trump’s obsession with Iran)?

So, what do we see? Until just recently, Pakistan was ‘on the ropes’ economically. It seemed that it would have to resort to the IMF (yet again), and that it was clear that the proximate IMF experience – if approved – would be extremely painful (Secretary Pompeo, in mid-last year, was saying that the US probably would not support an IMF programme, as some of the IMF grant might be used to repay earlier Chinese loans to Pakistan). The US too had punished Pakistan by severely cutting US financial assistance to the Pakistani military for combatting terrorism. Pakistan, in short, was sliding inevitably towards debt default – with only the Chinese as a possible saviour.

And then, unexpectedly, up pops ‘goldilocks’ in the shape of a visiting MbS, promising a $20 billion investment plan as “first phase” of a profound programme to resuscitate the Pakistani economy. And that is on top of a $3 billion cash bailout, and another $3 billion deferred payment facility for supply of Saudi oil. Fairy godmothers don’t come much better than that. And this benevolence comes in the wake of the $6.2 billion, promised last month, by UAE, to address Pakistan’s balance of payments difficulties.

The US wants something badly – It wants Pakistan urgently to deliver a Taliban ‘peace agreement’ in Afghanistan with the US which allows for US troops to be permanently based there (something that the Taliban not only has consistently refused, but rather, has always put the withdrawal of foreign forces as its top priority).

But two telling events have occurred: The first was on 13 February when a suicide attacker drove an explosives-laden vehicle into a bus that was transporting IRGC troops in the Sistan-Baluchistan province of Iran. Iran’s parliamentary Speaker has said that the attack that killed 27 members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was “planned and carried out, from inside Pakistan”. Of course, such a provocative disruption into Iran’s most ethnically sensitive province may mean ‘nothing’, but perhaps the renewed inflow of Gulf money, fertilizing a new crop of Wahhabi madrasa in Pakistan’s Baluch province, may be connected – as IRCG Commander, General Sulemani’s stark warning to Pakistan suggests.

In any event, reports suggest that Pakistan, indeed, is placing now intense pressure on the Afghan Taliban leaders to accede to Washington’s demand for permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

The US, it seems, after earlier chastising Pakistan (for not doing enough to curb the Taliban) has done a major U-turn: Washington is now embracing Pakistan (with Saudi Arabia and UAE writing the cheques). And Washington looks to Pakistan rather, not so much to contain and disrupt the Taliban, but to co-opt it through a ‘peace accord’ into accepting to be another US military ‘hub’ to match America’s revamped military ‘hub’ in Erbil (the Kurdish part of Iraq, which borders the Kurdish provinces of Iran). As a former Indian Ambassador, MK Bhadrakumar explains:

“What the Saudis and Emiratis are expecting as follow-up in the near future is a certain “rebooting” of the traditional Afghan-Islamist ideology of the Taliban and its quintessentially nationalistic “Afghan-centric” outlook with a significant dosage of Wahhabi indoctrination … [so as to] make it possible [to] integrate the Taliban into the global jihadi network and co-habitate it with extremist organisations such as the variants of Islamic State or al-Qaeda … so that geopolitical projects can be undertaken in regions such as Central Asia and the Caucasus or Iran from the Afghan soil, under a comprador Taliban leadership”.

General Votel, the head of Centcom told the US Senate Armed forces Committee on 11 February, “If Pakistan plays a positive role in achieving a settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the US will have opportunity and motive to help Pakistan fulfill that role, as peace in the region is the most important mutual priority for the US and Pakistan.” MESA is quietly proceeding, but under the table.

And what of that second, telling occurrence? It is that there are credible reports that ISIS fighters in the Deir a-Zoor area of Syria are being ‘facilitated’ to leave East Syria (reports suggest with significant qualities of gold and gemstones) in a move to Afghanistan.

Iran has long been vulnerable in its Sistan-Baluchistan province to ostensibly, secessionist factions (supported over the years by external states), but Iran is vulnerable, too, from neighbouring Afghanistan. Iran has relations with the Taliban, but it was Islamabad that firstly ‘invented’ (i.e. created) the Deobandi (an orientation of Wahhabism) Taliban, and which traditionally has exercised the primordial influence over this mainly Pashtoon grouping (whilst Iran’s influence rested more with the Tajiks of northern Afghanistan). Saudi Arabia of course, has had a decades long connection with the Pashtoon mujahidin of Afghanistan.

During the Afghan war of the 1980s and later, Afghanistan always was the path for Islamic fundamentalism to reach up into Central Asia. In other words, America’s anxiety to achieve a permanent presence in Afghanistan – plus the arrival of militants from Syria – may somehow link to suggest a second motive to US thinking: the potential to curb Russia and China’s evolution of a Central Asian trading sphere and supply corridor.

Putting this all together, what does this mean? Well, firstly, Mr Bolton was arguing for a US military ‘hub’ in Iraq – to put pressure on Iran – as early as 2003. Now, he has it. US Special Forces, (mostly) withdrawn from Syria, are deploying into this new Iraq military ‘hub’ in order, Trump said, to “watch Iran”. (Trump rather inadvertently ‘let the cat out of the bag’ with that comment).

The detail of the US ‘hub encirclement’ of Iran, however, rather gives the rest of Mr Bolton’s plan away: The ‘hubs’ are positioned precisely adjacent to Sunni, Kurdish, Baluch or other Iranian ethnic minorities (some with a history of insurgency). And why is it that US special forces are being assembled in the Iraqi hub? Well, these are the specialists of ‘train and assist’ programmes. These forces are attached to insurgent groups to ‘train and assist’ them to confront a sitting government. Eventually, such programmes end with safe-zone enclaves that protect American ‘companion forces’ (Bengahazi in Libya was one such example, al-Tanaf in Syria another).

The covert element to the MESA programme, targeting Iran, is ambitious, but it will be supplemented in the next months with new rounds of economic squeeze intended to sever Iran’s oil sales (as waivers expire), and with diplomatic action, aimed at disrupting Iran’s links in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

Will it succeed? It may not. The Taliban pointedly cancelled their last scheduled meeting with Pakistani officials at which renewed pressure was expected to be exerted on them to come to an agreement with Washington; the Taliban have a proud history of repulsing foreign occupiers; Iraq has no wish to become ‘pig-in-the middle’ of a new US-Iran struggle; the Iraqi government may withdraw ‘the invitation’ for American forces to remain in Iraq; and Russia (which has its own peace process with the Taliban), would not want to be forced into choosing sides in any escalating conflict between the US, Israel and Iran. Russia and China do not want to see this region disrupted.

More particularly, India will be disconcerted by the sight of the MESA ‘tipping’ toward Pakistan as its preferred ally – the more so as India, likely will view (rightly or wrongly), the 14 February, vehicle-borne, suicide attack in Jammu-Kashmir that resulted in the deaths of 40 Indian police, as signaling the Pakistan military recovering sufficiently confidence to pursue their historic territorial dispute with India over Jammu-Kashmir (perhaps the world’s most militarised zone, and the locus of three earlier wars between India and Pakistan). It would make sense now, for India to join with Iran, to avoid its isolation.

But these real political constraints notwithstanding, this patterning of events does suggest a US ‘mood for confrontation’ with Iran is crystalizing in Washington.

Photo: Flickr

We’ve seen the west’s approach to Venezuela before – in Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, need I go on?

Instead of pleading with those who will not support him, the self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela might want to take a closer look at who his foreign friends are

By Robert Fisk

February 13, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –    The closest I ever came to Venezuela, many years ago, was a transit connection at Caracas airport. I noticed a lot of soldiers in red berets and a clutch of goons, and it reminded me, vaguely, of the Middle East.

Now, sitting in the rain squalls of the wintry Levant, I flick through my newspaper clippings of our recent local autocrats – Saddam, Assad, al-Sisi, Erdogan, Mohammed bin Salman (you can fill in the rest for yourself) – and I think of Nicolas Maduro.

The comparisons are by no means precise. Indeed, it’s not the nature of the “strongmen” I’m thinking about. It’s our reaction to all these chaps. And there are two obvious parallels: the way in which we sanction and isolate the hated dictator – or love him, as the case may be – and the manner in which we not only name the opposition as the rightful heir to the nation, but demand that democracy be delivered to the people whose torture and struggle for freedom we have suddenly discovered.

And before I forget it, there’s one other common thread in this story. If you suggest that those who want presidential change in Venezuela may be a little too hasty, and our support for – let us say – Juan Guaido might be a bit premature if we don’t want to start a civil war, this means you are “pro-Maduro”

Just as those who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq were “pro-Saddam”, or those who thought the west might pause before it supported the increasingly violent opposition in Syria were labelled “pro-Assad”.

And those who defended Yasser Arafat – over a long period a super-terrorist, a super-diplomat and then a super-terrorist again – against those who would oust him as leader of the Palestinians, were abused as “pro-Arafat”, “pro-Palestinian”, “pro-terrorist” and, inevitably, “anti-Semitic”. I recall how George W Bush warned us after 9/11, that “you are either with us or against us”. The same threat was made to us about Assad.

Erdogan has used it in Turkey (less than three years ago) and it was a common line in the forgotten 1930s used by none other than Mussolini. And now I quote Trump’s US secretary of state Michael Pompeo on Maduro: “Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side … either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem.”

You get the point. Now is the time for all good people to stand alongside the United States, the EU, the nations of Latin America – or do you support the Russkies, Chinese, Iranian headbangers, the perfidious Corbyn and (of all people) the Greeks? Talking of the Greeks, European pressure on Alexis Tsipras to conform to the EU’s support for Guaido – proving that the EU can indeed bully its smaller members – is a good argument for Brexiteers (though far too complex for them to understand).

But first, let’s take a look at our favourite tyrant, in the words of all who oppose him. He’s a powerful dictator, surrounded by generals, suppressing his people, using torture, mass arrests, secret police murders, rigged elections, political prisoners – so no wonder we gave our support to those who wish to overthrow this brutal man and stage democratic elections.

Not a bad precis of our current policy towards the Maduro regime. But I am referring, of course, word-for-word, to the west’s policy towards the Assad regime in Syria. And our support for opposition democracy there wasn’t terribly successful.

We were not solely responsible for the Syrian civil war – but we were not guiltless since we sent an awful lot of weapons to those trying to overthrow Assad. And last month the notepad of US national security advisor John Bolton appeared to boast a plan to send 5,000 US troops to Colombia

And now let’s tick the box on another Maduro-lookalike – at least from the west’s simplistic point of view: the military-backed elected field marshal-president al-Sisi of Egypt, whom we love, admire and protect. Powerful dictator? Yup. Surrounded and supported by generals? You bet, not least because he locked up a rival general before the last election. Suppression? Absolutely – all in the interest of crushing “terrorism”, of course.

Mass arrests? Happily yes, for all the inmates of Egypt’s savage prison system are “terrorists”, at least according to the field marshal-president himself. Secret police murders? Well, even forgetting the young Italian student suspected by his government to have been allegedly tortured and bumped off by one of Sisi’s top Egyptian cops, there’s a roll call of disappeared activists.

Rigged elections? No doubt about it, although al-Sisi still maintains that his last triumph at the polls – a cracking 97 per cent – was a free and fair election.

President Trump sent his “sincere congratulations”. Political prisoners? Well, the total is 60,000 and rising. Oh yes, and Maduro’s last victory – a rigged election if ever there was one, of course – was a mere 67.84 per cent.

As the late sage of the Sunday Express, John Gordon, might have said: it makes you sit up a bit. So, too, I suppose, when we glance a bit further eastwards to Afghanistan, whose Taliban rulers were routed in 2001 by the US, whose post-9/11 troops and statesmen ushered in a new life of democracy, then corruption, warlordism and civil war.

The “democracy” bit quickly came unstuck when “loya jurgas”, grand councils, turned into tribal playpens and the Americans announced that it would be an exaggeration to think that we could achieve “Jeffersonian democracy” in Afghanistan. Too true.

Now the Americans are negotiating with the “terrorist” Taliban in Qatar so they can get the hell out of the Graveyard of Empires after 17 years of military setbacks, scandals and defeats – not to mention running a few torture camps which even Maduro would cough to look at.

Now all this may not encourage you to walk down memory lane. And I haven’t even listed the sins of Saddam, let alone our continuing and cosy relationship – amazing as it still seems – with that Gulf state whose lads strangled, chopped up and secretly buried a US-resident journalist in Turkey.

Now just imagine if Maduro, tired of a journalist critic slandering him in Miami, decided to lure him to the Venezuelan embassy in Washington and top the poor guy, slice him up and bury him secretly in Foggy Bottom. Well now, I have a feeling that sanctions might have been applied to Maduro a long time ago. But not to Saudi Arabia, of course, where we are very definitely not advocating democracy.

“Now is the time for democracy and prosperity in Venezuela,” quoth John Bolton this week. Oh, yes indeed. Maduro runs an oil-soaked nation yet its people starve. He is an unworthy, foolish and vain man, even if he’s not Saddamite in his crimes. He was rightly described by a colleague as a dreary tyrant. He even looks like the kind of guy who tied ladies to railway lines in silent movies.

So good luck to Guaido. Palpably a nice guy, speaks eloquently, wise to stick to aid for the poor and fresh elections rather than dwell on just how exactly Maduro and his military chums are going to be booted out.

In other words, good luck – but watch out. Instead of pleading with those who will not support him – the Greeks, for example – he might take a closer look at who his foreign friends are. And do a quick track record on their more recent crusades for freedom, democracy and the right to life. And by the way, I haven’t even mentioned Libya.

This article was originally published by The Independent“-

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 The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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