Mustafa Al-Kadhimi: The Iraqi PM Who Did Nothing

September 14 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Abdullah Musawi

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been in office for more than two years, a full year longer than his predecessor, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who stepped down after civil unrest swept the country in October 2019.

Amid the on-going political deadlock and uncertainties surrounding his potential successor – and, indeed, the highly-contentious formation of a new government – it is worth reflecting on Kadhimi’s leadership and how he has impacted Iraqi politics. Importantly, what has Kadhimi achieved during his tenure, aside from managing to keep himself out of the fray?

Kadhimi’s proactive predecessor

Economist and former vice president Adil Abdul-Mahdi was appointed as prime minister of Iraq in October 2018, five months after the country’s parliamentary elections. At the time of his ascension, Iraq’s infrastructure and economy were in tatters from the war against ISIS that had officially ended a year earlier.

The liberation of Iraqi and Syrian territory from the self-proclaimed “Caliphate” had dealt a blow to US plans for the region. Washington has historically sought to keep borders shut between Iran and the Mediterranean, and ISIS’ defeat had not only cleared the Syrian-Iraqi border, but the two states had militarily cooperated to achieve this. By some, this was viewed as a catalyst for Baghdad to politically shift away from US influence.

This shift was particularly noticeable in a string of strategic decisions initiated by Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet. In what the US clearly viewed as an act of defiance – but which many Iraqis simply saw as being in their sovereign, national interest – the Iraqi government opened its borders with Syria and declined to participate in sanctions against neighboring Iran.

When Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) bases were bombed in 2019, Abdul Mahdi did the unthinkable: he publicly revealed that the perpetrator was Israel. These kinds of details are usually kept under wraps in US-dominated Iraq, and the Americans were furious.

Moreover, the violation of Iraqi airspace renewed Baghdad’s quest to obtain advanced S-400 air defense systems from Russia. The Iraqi government’s desire to control its own airspace – an indispensable part of its national security – was instead met by a threat of sanctions from Washington.

Since the 2003 US invasion and occupation, the reconstruction of Iraq’s power grid has been outsourced to US companies who have systematically neglected the grid while making billions in profits. To break this American chokehold on Iraq’s national electricity network, Abdul-Mahdi personally signed a $14 billion strategic deal with German company Siemens to rebuild the country’s electricity grid.

This deal faltered under US pressure and never materialized. But it was the signing of a strategic deal with China that would prompt Washington to draw a red line which would ultimately lead to Abdul-Mahdi’s downfall.

The Iraq-China partnership included an oil-for-reconstruction deal that would circumvent an existing US construct in which all revenues from Iraqi oil sales are deposited in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY).

The deal with China would enable Baghdad to circumvent US financial controls and allow Iraq to make strategic decisions with less threat of US coercion. In 2020 for example, the administration of former president Donald Trump threatened to cut Iraq’s access to its Federal Reserve accounts if US troops were expelled from Iraq. The Iraqi parliament had recently passed a resolution demanding the withdrawal of US military forces in response to their illegal and extrajudicial assassinations of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi deputy head of the PMF, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.

If the strategic partnership with Beijing was implemented, Iraq would have become a key node within China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This would have radically altered Iraq’s economy from one that exports cheap unrefined oil and imports expensive commodities to a nation that refines its own natural resources and exports high value products.

Under Abdul-Mahdi’s lead, and despite the war-depleted coffers with which he began his tenure, Iraq was making moves to assert its sovereignty, regenerate key instratructure and service sectors, protect its territorial integrity, strengthen diplomatic relations with immediate neighbors, and build the foundations of a new economy.

In contrast to today’s rising concerns over food security, during Abdul-Mahdi’s year in office, Iraq became self-sufficient in wheat and other strategic crops. Despite a much average oil price of $56.99 per barrel in 2019, poverty rates never reached the scale Iraq faces at this moment.

How did Mustafa Kadhimi become PM?

The protests in October 2019 that forced Abdul-Mahdi to step down were mainly led by working-class supporters of populist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, an enigma in Iraqi politics. Protesters then quickly began displaying posters of candidates to replace the PM, among these, a certain Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Yet at the time, Kadhimi, who directed the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, was virtually unknown to the Iraqi public. After a chaotic five-month period with two failed attempts to pick a prime minister, Kadhimi – the Sadrist bloc’s first choice – was sworn into office in May 2020.

His ascension to the top seat was made possible by a carefully-constructed deal struck between Iraq’s various power brokers. For the Sadrists, he was the ideal candidate who could serve their interests under the guise of an ‘independent technocrat.’ This relationship became more explicit when Kadhimi called Sadr the “leader of the resistance” and defended Sadrist politicians against corruption allegations.

Kadhimi’s nomination was agreed upon by Iraq’s anti-US political factions based on several hard conditions: that, as prime minister, he would organize early elections, expel all foreign military forces from Iraq, and expose the factions that had killed protesters during the 2019 civil unrest.

Initially, the PMF factions consisting of Kataeb Hezbollah and other anti-US parties, vehemently opposed Kadhimi’s nomination, claiming he was a “US puppet.” It has been reported that these factions came to terms with his nomination after their allies in Iran advised them that no further delays in the government formation process were feasible.

Immediately after Kadhimi came into office, pro-western, Gulf-sponsored media such as Al-Hadath and Al-Hurra started polishing his image by presenting him as the savior of Iraq.

In one of his first public appearances, Khadimi called his brother to inform him that he would not tolerate the use of their relationship for personal benefit. To his detractors, it was pure theater: to cast himself on a national scale as an anti-nepotism and anti-corruption figure. They pointed out that Kadhimi, a Shia, was equating his actions to that of Ali Ibn Abi Talib – one of Shiism’s, and Iraq’s, most revered religious personalities – declining his brother’s (Aqeel Ibn Abi Talib) request for money. This was one of the many, many photo ops that would mark Khadimi’s time in office.

What if anything, has Kadhimi achieved?

All strategic decisions made by Abdul-Mahdi that could have positively altered the course of Iraq’s economy and international relations, were overturned by Kadhimi. Any serious efforts by the previous government made in quest of real autonomy were abandoned.

Under the new prime minister, the China deal was set aside and Kadhimi instead proposed to enter a ‘strategic partnership’ with Jordan and Egypt that would essentially amount to handing over Iraq’s oil wealth in exchange for basic commodities, while indirectly normalizing with Israel.

Over the same period, he signed an $8 billion deal in the White House with General Electric, the very same US corporation that had reaped billions of dollars in profits since 2003 by sabotaging the reconstruction of Iraq’s electrical grid.

Under Khadimi’s watch, the construction of the Grand Faw Port was outsourced to a defunct South Korean corporation, while ignoring a lucrative Chinese proposal. This move, for all practical purposes, killed a strategic project that should have been a game changer for the Iraqi economy.

As of today, hardly any progress has been made in the construction of the port that was to become one of the top ten global ports. This is a realm that the Chinese have mastered as part of their ambitious BRI project to connect shipping and transportation routes throughout Asia. But Kadhimi gave it to the Koreans.

During Kadhimi’s tenure, for extended periods, Iraq’s government has neglected to pay salaries to millions of civil servants. This was unprecedented in the country’s post-2003 history, despite the various calamitous crises Iraq has faced in the past 19 years.

In yet another violation of the agreement that brought him into office, Kadhimi did not expel US troops from Iraq, but rather, provided them with an opportunity to re-brand their “boots on the ground.” While a few US soldiers departed, around 4,000 military personnel remain in Iraq in “advisory roles” – that number provided courtesy of the prime minister’s office.

But the move that perhaps struck hardest at Iraqi people’s daily lives was Kadhimi’s support for devaluating the Iraqi dinar. In December 2020, the Iraqi government, following World Bank instructions, devalued the dinar by 23 percent against the US dollar.

For a country that relies heavily on imports, this meant a steep hike in consumer prices. Overnight, millions of Iraqis were plunged into poverty. As of today, the rate of the dinar has not been restored, despite the fact that oil prices have skyrocketed to over $100 per barrel.

It is clear that rather than serving Iraqi interests, Kadhimi is following the US playbook. From his relations with regional states, to his choice of strategic economic partners, to his servitude to western-led austerity proposals, the prime minister has yet to take a step that benefits a sovereign Iraq.

A US asset in Iraq

How is it that a little-known Iraqi journalist suddenly found himself helming Iraq’s intelligence service in 2016, then assumed the country’s most powerful political position a mere three years later? Who exactly is Mustafa Al-Kadhimi? 

Prior to his appointment as prime minister – and shortly before that, his intelligence post – Kadhimi was only known to Iraqis as a mid-level journalist.

From 1999 to 2003, he worked as director of programming for Radio Free Europe’s Iraq service, and held this position throughout the entire buildup to the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq. Radio Free Europe was founded in 1949 as a CIA front organization to disseminate US propaganda during the Cold War.

After the invasion, Kadhimi directed the Iraq Memory Foundation (IMF), an organization set up by Kanaan Makiya, an Iraqi “dissident” who collaborated with and enjoyed a direct relationship with the White House and Pentagon.

The IMF collected Iraqi government archives and relocated them to the US before and during the occupation – essentially, natives performing the duties of US intelligence.

The IMF was originally founded during the 1990s as the ‘Iraq Research and Documentation Project’ with a 1993 grant from the Bradley Foundation, a far-right organization that funds projects that promote US exceptionalism, free markets and other US interests. In the years after the invasion of Iraq, former President George W Bush called the group his “favorite foundation.”

In 1994, the IMF received a bridging grant from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US organization founded in the 1980s by then-president Ronald Reagan, known for furthering US strategic interests by destabilizing countries and organizing coups under the guise of promoting democracy.

In the intervening decades, NED has funded and directed the activities of civil society groups and media outlets in countless countries around the world, seeding US narratives and priorities at the local level, everywhere.

In 1991, NED co-founder Allen Weinstein said: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” Between 2004 and 2006 the IMF, while directed by Kadhmi, was awarded $5.1 million in Pentagon contracts and $1 million from seized Iraqi state funds.

In addition to joining the IMF, Kadhimi also took part in founding the Iraqi Media Network (IMN) in the first year of the US occupation of Iraq. The IMN was founded by the Coalition Provisional government’s military occupation, led by USB official Paul Bremer, often referred to as the architect of Iraq’s post-invasion, fractious political structures.

With an initial budget of $100 million, the founding of the IMN was based on a white paper created by the US Department of Defense’s (DOD) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Near East and South Asian Affairs.

Rather than being run by professionals with experience in running media outlets, IMN was overseen by a department of the US DOD that specializes in spy-ops. The IMN top brass were to coordinate with US  Central Command (CENTCOM) to identify what infrastructure was to be preserved and what infrastructure was to be bombed.

Kadhimi’s career also entails doing work for the Humanitarian Dialogue Foundation (HDF), an organization founded in 2008, based in the UK, and run by Hussain al-Sadr – a relative of Iraqi powerbroker Muqtada al-Sadr.

The HDF was yet another organization that promoted “peace” between the different ethnic groups in Iraq while being based in a country that was actively occupying Iraq. Furthermore, Kadhimi worked for a weekly magazine that at the time was run by current caretaker President of Iraq Barham Saleh. These early relationships would play a vital role later on in his career.

A checkered past and an uncertain future

Up until this moment in his life, there have been no mention of any academic credentials. It is reported that later in 2012, Kadhimi obtained a bachelor’s degree in law at a private university in Baghdad. It is noteworthy that he was 45 years of age when he obtained the degree.

Shortly thereafter, Kadhimi began to write for Washington DC-based Al-Monitor, an English-language media outlet that reports on the region, where he worked as both columnist and Iraq editor between 2013 and 2016.

This is his last known position before being named director of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service in 2016. Some Iraqis allege that he received this sensitive posting because of US pressure on Iraq’s then-prime minister, Haider Al-Abadi.

Reflecting on this checkered past, it is clear that Kahdimi – from early on in his career – was groomed into becoming a US asset. He was neither an important Iraqi political personality who rose in the opposition ranks against the former regime of Saddam Hussein, nor did he have a remarkable academic career that could have transformed him into a skilled and able technocrat.

Instead, Kadhimi looks to have ascended to his prime ministership by virtue of being a presentable ‘benign figure’ – unlikely to be rejected by either side of the Iraqi political spectrum – who could quietly serve US interests. Since Washington’s influence in Iraq has diminished from its earlier heights, Kadhimi’s task mainly consists of maintaining the status-quo and preventing political developments that benefit Iran and other US regional adversaries.

Since Abdul-Mahdi stepped down, Iraq has effectively been economically and politically paralyzed. Almost two and a half years of Mustafa al-Kadhimi in office has produced only more poverty and increased external meddling in Iraq.

Despite his clear desire to renew his tenure within a future government formation, it remains unclear what Khadimi’s political future will look like. This will be decided by the outcome of the current political crisis. Muqtada al-Sadr, the US, and neighboring Persian Gulf are trying to keep him in office. Iran remains neutral, but its Iraqi allies want Kadhimi out.

Bogged down in a proxy war with Russia in the Ukraine, and facing a western economic downturn, the US cannot afford a new escalation in West Asia. Any Iraqi conflict, after all, would further drive up oil prices and speed up the global economic meltdown.

Washington, therefore, opts to preserve the status quo; a paralyzed Iraq with an unimpeded oil flow. That way, Iraq, with its enormous military and economic potential, stays out of the regional balance of power struggle that could threaten US-Israeli interests. For this role, Mustafa Kadhimi, the Iraqi prime minister who did nothing, is ideal.

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

For 18 months, as ISIS advanced, the US did nothing to stop them

September 02 2022

Source

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By William Van Wagenen

In 2017, US and allied Kurdish forces bombarded the city of Raqqa, the bastion of ISIS in Syria and the de-facto capital of the terror group’s self-proclaimed caliphate.

Concurrent to this, US forces conducted massive air strikes on the Iraqi city of Mosul, to support Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces against ISIS there too.

But the US-led campaigns in Mosul and Raqqa falsely suggest that the US and ISIS were implacable enemies. These battles created the perception that the US was committed to fighting Al-Qaeda and its various splinter groups, in a continuation of the so-called “War on Terror” begun by the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11.

Supporting ISIS’ territorial advances

However, a closer look at events in both Iraq and Syria paints a very different picture: The US and its allies, both directly and indirectly, colluded with ISIS to attain specific geopolitical objectives. The terror group that captured the world’s attention in 2014 was in fact a vital and valuable tool for US policy planners.

Evidence of this is rife. In June 2014, when ISIS fighters swept across the Syrian border to first capture Mosul, the largest city of its caliphate, the US military monitored the ISIS convoys crossing from Syria using drones and satellite systems, but took no action to bomb them.

Earlier, in an October 2013 visit to the White House, then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had warned Obama administration officials that, “The weapons provided to those killers in Syria have been smuggled to Iraq, and those wolves that came from different countries to Syria are now sneaking into Iraq.”

Maliki’s warnings were spot on. He took his case to Washington because it was clear – even then – that weapons the US and its allies were the pumping into Syria were being passed from so-called “moderate rebels” to Al Qaeda and other extremist militants.

Then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk, who worried about a possible ISIS advance even on Baghdad at the time, described fellow US officials advocating the policy of allowing ISIS to take Mosul as “completely out of their minds.”

Two months later, ISIS fighters coming from Syria in the west, and Mosul in the east, assaulted the Sinjar region of Iraq, home to the Yazidi religious minority. Within the course of a few days, ISIS fighters massacred thousands of Yazidi men and boys, while enslaving some 7,000 Yazidi women and children.

The US looks the other way

At the time, US President Barack Obama claimed he would act to avert a “potential act of genocide” against the Yazidis, but then turned a blind eye to the ensuing ethnic cleansing.

Although the US president approved limited air strikes to reverse ISIS’ advance on Erbil – the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Northern Iraq (where US oil companies and diplomats were based) – Obama simultaneously refused to bomb ISIS militants to prevent the massacre of Yazidis in the village of Kocho, despite desperate pleas from US-based Yazidi activists to do so.

In yet another example of blatant US military inaction, on 20 May, 2015, ISIS conquered the Syrian city of Tadmur at the site of ancient Palmyra, famous for its Roman ruins, thereby paving the way for the terrorist organization to push closer to Damascus.

Once again, US military planners had ample opportunity to bomb ISIS convoys advancing across the open desert from Raqqa on route to assault the UNESCO World Heritage Site, but chose to watch instead.

The following year, the LA Times reported that:

“As Islamic State [ISIS] closed in on Palmyra, the U.S.-led aerial coalition that has been pummeling Islamic State in Syria for the past 18 months took no action to prevent the extremists’ advance toward the historic town — which, until then, had remained in the hands of the sorely overstretched Syrian security forces. The U.S. approach in Palmyra contrasted dramatically with the very proactive U.S. bombardment of Kobani during 2014-15 on behalf of U.S.-allied Kurdish militias fending off a furious Islamic State offensive.”

How can these contradictions be explained? Why did US planners allow ISIS to grow and expand in Mosul, Sinjar, and Palmyra for 18 months between 2014 and 2015, only to conduct two brutal military campaigns, causing massive civilian suffering, to defeat the terror group in Raqqa and Mosul in 2017? In the fight against ISIS, whose side was the US really on?

Backing terrorists to regime-change Syria

The answer lies partly in US policy toward the Syrian government of President Bashar Al-Assad. Washington initially wished to use ISIS as leverage to oust Assad from power, as part of a broader effort at regime change that had started long before. Once ISIS was no longer useful to this end, US planners turned against the group, as has been the norm whenever US assets pass their expiry date.

To accomplish this regime-change, the US and its allies partnered with Jihadi-Salafis, including from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, to launch a dirty war on the Syrian state in 2011, attacking Syrian police, soldiers and security forces under the cover of the anti-government protests that initially appeared to be part of broader region-wide Arab uprisings.

The early anti-government protests in Syria, including the first protests in Deraa in March 2011, were also orchestrated by US planners, with assistance from activists of both liberal and Islamist orientation, including from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Sarouri trend.

With the help of allied intelligence agencies in the region, the US pumped billions of dollars of weapons and aid to Salafist militant groups in Syria in subsequent years, hoping these militants could successfully topple the Assad government on the US and Israel’s behalf.

Achieving this goal relied in part on establishing what US intelligence analysts described as a “Salafist principality” in the majority Sunni regions of eastern Syria (Raqqa and Deir Ezzor) and western Iraq (Mosul). Destroying the Baathist Syrian state by dividing the country along ethnic, religious and tribal lines had been a goal of US neoconservative planners since at least the 1990’s.

After an intra-jihadi civil war, ISIS as an organization emerged as the most powerful faction in the broader US-backed Salafist insurgency, and in 2014 established the desired Salafist principality, or caliphate, with Raqqa and Mosul as its two main strongholds.

Funneling weapons to terrorists

Though US-backed Persian Gulf sheikhdoms supported ISIS directly, according to admissions from US Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, Washington’s support for the terror group, and its sister organization, the Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda’s Syrian subsidiary), was indirect.

US support for ISIS (and Nusra) came in the form of money and weapons channeled through what was formally known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Weapons were then passed on to, or captured by, ISIS and Nusra. US planners simply had to flood the country with weapons, then turn a blind eye to where the weapons would certainly end up.

Though allegedly composed of deserters from the Syrian army fighting to establish a secular, democratic state, in fact the FSA never existed as a real army, but instead functioned largely as brand adopted by many of the Salafist militant groups fighting on the ground. The most capable of the Salafist militants fighting under the FSA banner would then graduate to fight for the more respected Jihadi groups, whether ISIS or Nusra.

Prominent FSA groups whose fighters eventually defected to ISIS in significant numbers include the Farouq Brigades in Homs, Liwa al-Hajar al-Aswad in Yarmouk camp, the Ahfad al-Rasoul Brigades, the Military Council, the Revolutionary Council, and Liwa al-Sa’qa in Deir al-Zour, and Saqour al-Sham in Idlib.

Fighters from these Salafist groups, and the western and Gulf weapons funneled to them through the FSA leadership, therefore formed the foundation upon which both ISIS and the Nusra Front were built, and which finally enabled ISIS to establish the Salafist principality in Iraq and Syria desired by US planners.

The FSA brand provided a secular facade to the Salafist and Al-Qaeda dominated insurgency, allowing US and allied countries to publicly justify providing military support to the insurgency, while feigning opposition to the Al-Qaeda groups.

Western media and think tank analysts claimed this military aid was going to help the “Syrian people” resist a dictator, even though the groups comprising the insurgency had little popular, support, generally fought alongside and in support of the Al-Qaeda groups, and broadly terrorized most Syrians with their sectarian ideology and hatred of religious minorities.

Assisting ISIS in Syria

After conquering Mosul in June 2014, ISIS crossed back into Syria to conquer Deir Ezzor province, with the help of local FSA brigades.

According to Samer al-Ani, an opposition media activist from Deir Al-Zour, several fighting groups affiliated to the US-backed Military Council quietly assisted ISIS in the assault on the province. Al-Ani warned that “money being sent through members of the [US-backed] National Coalition to rebels in Deir Ezzor risks going to ISIS,” and that “these groups pledged loyalty to ISIS four months ago, so this was not forced as a result of ISIS’s latest push, as happened elsewhere. Such collaboration was key to the takeover of Deir Ezzor in recent weeks, especially in areas where ISIS could not defeat the local forces so easily.”

Assistance from local FSA factions allowed ISIS to quickly capture a string of strategic towns and cities along the Euphrates River, including Al-Bukamal on the Iraqi border, followed by Al-Shuhayl (known as Nusra’s capital), Al-Mayadeen, and much of Deir Ezzor city itself. This allowed ISIS to expel Nusra from the province.

ISIS relied on FSA factions not only for manpower but also for weapons. Newsweek reports that according to a report by UK-based Conflict Armament Research, ISIS obtained much of their “arsenal as a result of former President Barack Obama’s support for rebels in Syria,” and that these weapons “included a powerful anti-tank missile launcher bought from a Bulgarian manufacturer by the U.S. Army and wielded by ISIS only weeks later.”

Al-Jazeera reported in July 2013 that according to the ISIS commander for Aleppo province at the time, Abu Atheer, “we are buying weapons from the FSA. we bought 200 anti-aircraft missiles and Koncourse anti-tank weapons. We have good relations with our brothers in the FSA.”

Konkurs missiles were provided to FSA groups via the CIA’s regional allies, while the US intelligence agency trained FSA fighters in the use of these weapons in Jordan and Turkey starting in November 2012. When asked about the CIA training, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney simply said, “We have stepped up our assistance, but I cannot inventory for you all the elements of that assistance,” and that “We have provided and will continue to provide substantial assistance to the Syrian opposition, as well as the Supreme Military Council.”

ISIS was able to acquire US and Gulf supplied weapons so quickly because, in many instances, FSA commanders had secretly pledged allegiance to ISIS. Such FSA commanders were therefore able to deliver weapons from the US-backed Supreme Military Council (SMC) to ISIS almost immediately upon receiving them.

Syrian oppositionist news website Deir Ezzor 24 notes for example that FSA commander Abu Seif Al-Shaiti of Ahfad Al-Rasoul attended a meeting in Turkey with western and Gulf intelligence officials where he pledged to fight ISIS in exchange for a large shipment of new weapons.

ISIS then put him on a wanted list as a result. Instead of fighting ISIS, Abu Seif simply pledged allegiance to the organization and delivered all the weapons to the ISIS leadership that he had received from his former western and Gulf sponsors.

US policy makers were aware of this phenomenon, but chose to look the other way, suggesting they were satisfied that their weapons were ending up with jihadists, be they Nusra or ISIS.

In 2015, The Cradle columnist Sharmine Narwani asked US Central Command spokesman Lieutenant Commander Kyle Raines about why Pentagon-vetted fighters’ weapons were showing up in Nusra’s hands. Raines responded: “We don’t ‘command and control’ these forces—we only ‘train and enable’ them. Who they say they’re allying with, that’s their business.”

A full year after Obama declared the US military would “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS, the organization was at the height of its power, controlling some 50 percent of Syrian territory, including the strategically important Yarmouk refugee camp at the door step of Damascus.

Patrick Coburn of the Independent reported in September 2015 that “the majority of the 17 million Syrians still in the country live in government-controlled areas now threatened by ISIS. These people are terrified of ISIS occupying their cities, towns and villages because of its reputation for mass executions, ritual mutilation and rape against those not obedient to its extreme variant of Sunni Islam.”

Russian airpower obstructs US plans

In the fall of 2015, both ISIS (from its strongholds in Deir Al-Zour and Raqqa) and Nusra (in Idlib and Aleppo) were threatening to conquer Damascus and raise their respective black flags over virtually the entire country.

At this critical juncture, the Syrian government formally requested intervention from Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to help thwart ISIS’ significant advances by directing Russia’s Air Force to strike the terror group’s capabilities and manpower.

Despite accelerated CIA shipments of TOW missiles to the FSA and Nusra, it quickly became clear that the tide of the war would soon turn as a result of Russian airpower. The Russian bombing campaign targeted the Salafist insurgency broadly, including ISIS, enabling the Syrian army and allied Iranian-backed ground forces to make crucial gains.

Had Washington been serious about fighting ISIS, US warplanes would have unleashed a massive bombing campaign against ISIS in 2014 and 2015, as the danger of Damascus falling, and the possible massacre of large numbers of its inhabitants, both religious minorities and Sunnis who supported the government, was very real.

Instead, despite the terror felt by millions of Syrians, US planners showed their real intentions by viewing the brutal ISIS advance toward Damascus with approval. In a private meeting with members of the Syrian opposition, Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that the US had welcomed the 2015 ISIS advance on Damascus, to use it as leverage to force Assad step down from power.

As Kerry explained, “that is why Russia came in. They didn’t want a Daesh [ISIS] government and they supported AssadAnd we know this was growing. We were watching. We saw that Daesh [ISIS] was growing in strength. And we thought Assad was threatened. We thought we could manage that Assad might then negotiate. Instead of negotiating, he got Putin to support him.”

US policy pivots

Shortly after the announcement of the September 2015 Russian intervention, US planners realized that any effort to topple the Syrian government via their jihadi proxies would now likely fail. The leverage that the ISIS threat gave US planners against the Syrian government would soon dissipate due to Russian bombs. Washington had few options left and quickly pivoted, abandoning their ISIS card.

The US bombing campaign which was previously limited to blocking any ISIS advance only in Kurdish areas, now intensified and transformed into a concerted effort to defeat ISIS militarily.

The US began to heavily invest in their budding partnership with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to give the US new boots on the ground in the conflict. Rebranded by the Pentagon as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), these US-backed Kurdish forces agreed to participate in Washington’s campaign to conquer as much territory (then under ISIS control) as possible, before Russian and Syrian forces were able to do so.

This arguably created a “race to Berlin” dynamic resembling the competition between Allied and Soviet forces to conquer Germany from the Nazis in the Second World War.

While initiating the campaign to defeat ISIS in Raqqa, the US still welcomed any progress the terror group might make against the Syrian government.

As an example, when Russian and Syrian forces were able to retake Palmyra and liberate it from ISIS in March 2016, the LA Times noted this of White House officials:

“[They have] difficulty publicly lauding advances against Islamic State by Assad and his allies, including the Russians and Iranians, after years of calling for Assad’s fall” and that the Russian success in combating ISIS created a “dilemma” for US planners, because “Washington has endeavored to portray the battle against Islamic State as a project of the United States and its allies, while accusing Moscow of attacking ‘moderate’ rebels instead of the extremists. Palmyra seems to embody an alternative narrative.”

US dissatisfaction at the defeat of ISIS in Palmyra was also expressed by State Department spokesperson Mark Toner at a press briefing in March 2016, when Toner refused “to laud” the Syrian and Russian effort to liberate the city.

With ISIS in decline, the US decided instead to take over large swathes of northeastern Syria from the terror group, including the country’s major energy and grain producing regions, to provide Washington with new leverage against Damascus, which desperately needed these resources to successfully govern and rebuild the country once the war ended.

US control of these crucial areas would also exacerbate and help maintain the already existing and crushing US economic sanctions on Syria, in the hope of impoverishing Syrians to spur them to turn against the Assad government.

Conquest masked as liberation

US and Kurdish forces ultimately succeeded in capturing Raqqa from ISIS in October 2017 while effectively destroying the city and killing large numbers of civilians in one of the most vicious military assaults in recent memory.

The US military-funded think tank, the Rand Corporation, noted the “shocking level of destruction” caused by the US-SDF assault on Raqqa. As a result, in only four months of fighting, “Raqqa endured the most structural damage by density of any city in Syria,” while “60 to 80 percent of it was estimated to be uninhabitable.”

According to the Rand researchers, “the battle for Raqqa is a cautionary tale about civilian harm in 21st-century conflicts.” Much of the death and destruction resulted from the decision to encircle the city, which prevented the creation of civilian exit corridors, followed by airstrikes and artillery bombardment of heavily populated urban areas, effectively burying civilians in the basements of their destroyed homes.

When a ceasefire was finally reached, causing civilians to think they would be evacuated in bus convoys, US planners allowed the remaining ISIS militants to be evacuated instead, after any benefit to civilians by allowing the ISIS fighters to escape had largely already been lost.

The BBC reported on a “secret deal that let hundreds of IS [ISIS] fighters and their families escape from Raqqa, under the gaze of the US and British-led coalition and Kurdish-led forces who control the city,” and which included some of ISIS’ “most notorious members.” Presumably, this would allow US planners to resurrect the ISIS card if needed in the future.

US and Kurdish forces then pushed to the eastern side of the Euphrates River, blocking the advance of the Syrian army, which had successfully defeated ISIS with Russian help in Deir Ezzor and reached as far as the western side of the river.

US and Kurdish forces continue to occupy Raqqa and northeast Syria at the time of this writing in 2022. The US military presence on Syria’s eastern borders also replaces ISIS’ role to impede Iraqi-Syrian relations, and importantly, to impede an Iranian land route all the way to the borders of occupied Palestine.

ISIS’s invasion and occupation of key swathes of territory across northern Syria and Iraq served to delineate the borders of areas Washington seeks to control. The US then championed its Kurdish allies to “liberate” those territories.

“This is conquest masquerading as liberation,” writes Assyrian writer Max Joseph.

The US military presence also allows Washington to directly control Syria’s strategically important agriculture, oil, and electricity producing regions previously under ISIS control. In this way, the Syrian government is still denied crucial access to the resources needed to rebuild the country and feed its population in the face of crippling US-imposed economic sanctions.

And the US plunders those resources liberally, in broad daylight. In August, the Syrian oil ministry reported that the US and its Kurdish foot soldiers “steal up to 66,000 barrels every single day from the fields occupied in the eastern region,” accounting for 83 percent of the country’s daily production.

Pressure from Washington against the Syrian government has therefore been maintained, with the Kurdish-led SDF now fulfilling ISIS’ previous role in implementing US foreign policy in West Asia.

The rise and fall of Muqtada al-Sadr…again

While Muqtada al-Sadr may be this week’s biggest loser in Iraq, the country’s battle for influence is still in full swing

September 01 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By The Cradle’s Iraq Correspondent

On Monday at noon, Kazem al-Haeri, a prominent Shia authority (marjaa) in Iraq – particularly among supporters of firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr – announced his retirement and urged all ‘believers’ to follow the Leader of the Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Within Haeri’s two-page statement, he addressed the influential position of Muqtada al-Sadr – whose Sadrist bloc garnered the most votes in Iraq’s October 2021 election – and accused the wildly popular cleric of possessing neither the religious knowledge nor the ability to lead the Shia sect or the people of Iraq.

In response, Sadr made two decisions: the first, was a tweet to announce his retirement from Iraqi politics. Although he has regularly (nine times) ‘retired’ since 2013, this time it was under the guidance of a religious figure he could absolutely not ignore.

For Haeri is the religious heir to Muqtada’s father Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, one of the most influential Shia authorities in Iraq’s recent history. Before his untimely assassination along with two of his sons in 1999, the elder Sadr had urged his followers to obey Kazem al-Haeri in his stead.

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Although in the intervening 23 years, Muqtada has garnered the widespread support of his father’s followers to become the most powerful Shia political figure in Iraq today, he is not Mohammad Sadeq’s designated religious heir, and so Haeri’s public set down was significant.

Baghdad on fire

On Monday evening, hours after Sadr’s Twitter resignation, Baghdad fell into violent chaos when Sadrists stormed the capital’s Green Zone, leading to 30 dead and almost 200 injured security forces and rioters.

Sadr’s quick resignation had in fact been a smart move to prevent his movement from splitting in half: he feared one group would stay loyal to him, while the second would obey his father’s successor, Haeri.

Haeri’s statement would not be the only blow to Sadr’s ambitions. Despite his vast number of Shia followers, Sadr has recently been beset by a series of political setbacks.

In June, after months of unsuccessfully struggling to form a coalition government with his winning parliamentary bloc, Sadr attempted to shake up the Iraqi political scene by ordering his political bloc to quit.

The resignation of his deputies from parliament did not reap the desired results. Iraq’s judiciary gave him the cold shoulder, refusing to provide legal backing for Sadr’s controversial move. And his political opponents slapped right back at him – step by step, tweet for tweet, street by street.

Not only did Sadr fail to dissolve parliament and put in motion a process for new elections, but his calls for other Iraqi parties and movements to relinquish their weapons were rejected.

A nail in Sadr’s coffin?

Sadr’s major second decision on Monday was executed through his party’s armed wing, Saraya al-Salam (Brigades of Peace, ironically). It is inconceivable that the mobs of armed Sadrists who stormed the Green Zone later that evening were part of a spontaneous action. In actuality, Sadr was sending Iraqis a mixed message: while he is withdrawing from commanding his bloc’s political leadership, he is in effect leaving it in the custody of Saraya al-Salam, which will ultimately take direction from Muqtada himself.

The Sadrists rapidly moved to demonstrate that they still maintain the upper hand in Baghdad – despite their leader’s resignation – with a show of force in the city’s high security Green Zone, where Iraq’s government buildings and foreign embassies are mainly located.

The most prominent of the Sadrists on the street that night was the general supervisor of Saraya al-Salam, Tahseen al-Hamidawi, a long-time fighter who participated for years in battles against US occupation forces in Iraq.

The role of Saraya al-Salam in transferring its militants from the neighborhoods of Sadr City, al-Shaab, and Ur neighborhood, east Baghdad, to the Green Zone was crystal clear on Monday night.

Not only did these fighters engage in armed confrontation in the heart of Baghdad, they also moved to the city’s outskirts to torch the headquarters of some Popular Mobilization Units (PMU or Hashd al-Shaabi ) such as Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and the State of Law coalition of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In addition, during the clashes, rockets were fired at the US embassy and pictures of Iranian leaders were burned.

The Sadrists were clearly trying to provoke the PMU into armed confrontation, but the latter exercised a uniform discipline that left the former clashing with Iraqi government forces instead.

Although regional and foreign media tried to frame these clashes as a Shia-on-Shia fight between Sadists and pro-Iran PMU groups, this was never the case, as Sadr himself later clarified in his statement the following day.

The conflagration that night picked up steam quickly, spreading to Basra, the economic capital of Iraq, and to the provinces of Maysan, Dhi Qar, and Diwaniyah.

The clashes between Saraya al-Salam and Iraqi security forces spilled into Tuesday morning, as in Iraq, each person has his own clan and tribal extension, and any crisis tends not to remain confined between political parties once the bloodshed begins.

This was not a good look for Sadr and his supporters. They were fighting, killing, and injuring Iraq’s own forces, and had not succeeded in drawing his opponents into the street. Muqtada had to stop the clashes, and quickly.

A source close to both Ayatollah Ali Sistani – Iraq’s leading Shia authority – and Sadr, tells The Cradle that Sistani’s son, Mohammed Ridha, called Muqtada to arrange a meeting with his father.

In their meeting, Ali Sistani, the Shia cleric whose famous fatwa led to the creation of the PMU after ISIS invaded Iraq, urged Sadr to stop the carnage at once.

Following their conversation, on the afternoon of 30 August, Sadr aired a televised statement demanding that his supporters end their siege of Baghdad’s Green Zone. He further thanked the PMU for their restraint and for not participating in the clashes.

Humbled by his miscalculations, Sadr referred to himself as an “ordinary citizen” and disavowed his own Saraya al-Salam militia by calling their actions “shameless.”

What now?

Iraqis recognize that what is happening now is merely an attempt to calm the situation, and that at least the immediate risk of renewed fighting has been removed.

While it is true that Sadr’s political rival parties were calling for calm, they too have been prepped for an internal fight. These parties hold Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi responsible for allowing the escalation, and have hinted that he has benefited from widespread Iraqi support for their security forces during the clashes, as he rigorously pursues a second term in office.

The ongoing fragility of Iraq’s political impasse demands tangible, radical solutions implemented by a transitional government that tackles the issues of the Electoral Commission, the electoral law, the overlapping of powers, and constitutional loopholes. These are urgent items agreed upon by all political parties.

In public, the official demands of the two rival Shia camps focus on the way the state is run, but in truth, it is a battle for influence in the government and the state.

According to well-informed sources, several Iraqi armed movements, particularly Iraq’s Hezbollah Brigades and the Badr Organization, are working on reorganizing inter-Shia talks to reconcile their differences and reach a win-win solution palatable to all.

Although Sadr has stepped away from politics – at least for now – he was able to send several messages this week: he confused Iraq’s various regional influencers, reestablished himself as an important militia leader, and in his resignation speech, managed to win the sympathy of some of his opponents.

Winners and losers

Despite scoring some important points, Sadr and his movement are likely the biggest losers from this week’s events in Iraq.

First, Sadr has consistently demanded that Iraqi militias (PMU), mainly the Iranian-backed variety, hand over their weapons to the government, fearing they might be used internally and not against ISIS or foreign occupation forces. Instead, Monday’s events plainly showed the country that the only militia using their bullets on Iraqis were Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam.

Regionally and internationally, Sadr has been a hard nut to crack – an unpredictable powerhouse with a lot of people-power inside Iraq. Muqtada has fought both the Americans by gun and the Iranians by politics, and his statements against both can flip from one day to the next.

If Sadr keeps his word and maintains his distance from politics, this will create a domestic vacuum that both the US and Iran will be eager to fill.

Given that Iraq’s Shia demographic represents more than 60 percent of the country’s population, and Haeri has asked Mohammad Sadiq a-Sadr’s followers to obey Iran’s supreme leader in his stead, Iran may at first glance have the upper hand in this contest.

An Iraq unswayed by US diktats is, after all, more likely to ease its restricted borders, engage more heavily in trade and diplomacy with its immediate neighbors, and play nice with the region’s Axis of Resistance, which wields influence from Beirut and Damascus to Tehran and Sanaa.

The only genuinely popular Shia leader in West Asia who does not share Iran’s political worldview, at least in recent times, is Muqtada al-Sadr. His exit from Iraq’s political scene makes room for the Resistance Axis’ foreign policy and economic development vision to grow, with less fear of internal breaches and more coordination against common external enemies.

The US and its Persian Gulf allies, however, will not stop seeking influence over Iraqi decisions. Their efforts to sow discord between Shia political parties has succeeded in recent years, and whether knowingly or unwittingly, Sadr was instrumental in realizing this schism.

Only time will tell how this picture progresses. Sadr remains a highly unpredictable figure inside Iraq with a strong support base, and one who is not known for sticking to his word.

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

Author

Attacks on gas field in Iraqi Kurdistan force US contractors to leave

The Iraqi Kurdistan debt currently stands at about $38 billion as oil exports accounted for 85% of the region’s budget

August 30 2022

(Photo Credit: Azad Lashkari/Reuters)

ByNews Desk 

Several missile attacks on a gas field in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) prompted US contractors working on the field’s expansion project to leave, spreading frustration in the region about increasing its revenue and offering a slight alternative to Russian gas.

Reuters published an exclusive story on 30 August claiming the Khor Mor field expansion project was suspended at the end of June following three missile attacks. The project is operated by Pearl Petroleum, owned mainly by Abu Dhabi’s Dana Gas and its affiliate, Crescent Petroleum.

IKR government sources said that workers from Exterran Corp of Texas resumed work last month. However, two more missiles struck the site on 25 July, forcing the company to leave again without setting a return date.

The UK-based agency said that no severe damage was caused by the attacks, as current operations were not halted. However, the expansion project, which includes building a new pipeline to Turkey at a later stage, has been suspended until the region is safe.

Khor Mor is one of the largest gas fields in Iraq, and the plan to expand it aimed to boost production in the face of a massive need to generate electricity and end daily blackouts.

It also aims to export gas to Turkey and Europe once the local market’s needs are met. The project is partially funded through a $250 million agreement with the US International Development Finance Corporation.

Exterran Corp became the third company to suspend operations since attacks began targeting the field on 21 June, after two Turkish sub-companies, Havatek and Biltek, had already suspended operations.

The Khor Mor is located near a buffer zone between the Iraqi army, Kurdish forces, and Shia militias, from which the first rocket attacks were launched.

Earlier in May, an unidentified missile attack launched from Nineveh province targeted an oil refinery in Erbil, causing only material damage.

Due to the lack of cooperation, Reuters reported some areas where neither the Iraqi army nor the Kurdish forces can enter, leaving a security gap that allows armed militias to operate freely.

“Khor Mor has many capabilities for the Kurds. We are under attack from all sides. The future is not entirely clear,” a Kurdish official told Reuters.

The setback for gas plans comes when the oil sector, the region’s financial lifeline, is also in trouble.

Industry and government sources said Exterran Corp had suspended operations for security reasons, and not due to the ruling.

Reuters said that any further delay in investing in the sector would significantly impact the Kurdistan Regional Government, which is facing an economic crisis in an already unstable region due to the instability in Iraq.

Algeria ready to provide Lebanon with fuel: Energy Minister

Due to severe fuel shortages, Lebanon’s last running power station is set to be forced out of service on Friday afternoon

August 26 2022

Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayyad. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

ByNews Desk

Lebanon’s Energy Minister Walid Fayyad says Algeria is ready to provide the country with fuel for its electricity plants, and is willing to do so through Sonatrach, the North African country’s state-owned oil company.

“The country ready to help us in securing fuel oil is Algeria, and I met with [their] Minister of Foreign Affairs… we are preparing for a future visit to Algeria,” Fayyad said on 26 August.

“The agreement with Iraq will secure us 40 thousand tons, but we [still need] 110 thousand tons in order to secure… electricity from other countries,” the energy minister added.

Fayyad went on to say that the ministry has reviewed a decision by Lebanon’s state-owned power company, Electricite du Liban (EDL), to partially increase the supply needed for the country’s power grid.

However, the decision is awaiting approval from Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati.

Under the current situation, Lebanese citizens are forced to rely on private generators, as they usually do not receive more than one hour of electricity a day from Lebanon’s power plants.

According to Fayyad, the remaining 110 thousand tons of fuel that Lebanon needs will secure a daily nine hours.

Alongside the crippling economic crisis that Lebanon faces, the country has been dealing with severe fuel shortages.

Lebanese media reported this week that the Al-Zahrani power station, the country’s last running power plant, will be shut down on the Friday afternoon due to the depletion of its fuel supply.

Earlier this month, Mikati met with the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, Mojtaba Amani, and agreed to an offer of “free fuel” from Iran, an official close to Mikati told The Cradle.

Despite the agreement, however, the Prime Minister-designate has failed to provide the documents necessary for initiating the process to receive the Iranian fuel.

Moreover, Lebanon is still waiting for the fruition of a US-sponsored gas deal to import electricity into the country through Jordan and Syria. The deal, however, has failed to materialize due to a US refusal to provide a sanctions-waiver for the countries and states involved.

It has also stalled due to the reluctance of the World Bank in financing the agreement, a reluctance that it has failed to provide a clear reason for.

Hezbollah implements travel ban over tense regional issues

August 26 2022

Resistance fighters were asked to stay put in Lebanon over the maritime dispute with Israel and growing political instability in Iraq

Members of Hezbollah take part in Ashura commemorations in a southern Beirut suburb. (Photo credit: Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

ByNews Desk- 

Hezbollah has implemented a travel ban on all its members due to growing tensions with Israel and the current political situation in Iraq.

The ban is deemed unusual, as many pilgrims had already booked travel tickets and reserved seats to visit Iraq’s holy sites.

The situation between Hezbollah and Israel remains tense as a result of a maritime dispute over oil and gas exploration rights in the Mediterranean sea.

The row over the Karish gas field escalated in June and has since drawn international attention.

Negotiations between Israel and Lebanon are mediated by the US state department, under the oversight of US senior advisor for energy security Amos Hochstein.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has warned that a response would be imminent should Israel fail to respect the interests of the Lebanese people and that the group would stand up “in defense of our resources of oil and gas.”

In addition, the current political situation in Iraq likely contributed to the decision, as large numbers of supporters travel to Iraq to commemorate the forty days of martyrdom of Imam Hussein in Karbala.

Iraq has been experiencing a ten-month-long political deadlock with mass mobilizations in the country’s capital.

Supporters of the Coordination Framework (CF) demand the formation of a new government by the current parliament, while Sadrist supporters call for a dissolution of the parliament and fresh elections.

While the Sadrist movement was able to win 73 out of 329 seats in the October 2021 election, Muqtada al-Sadr failed to create a coalition government, leading to the resignation of his MPs.

Iraq’s judicial court resumed its activities on Wednesday, following mobilizations of Al-Sadr supporters around its headquarters. The country’s top court has announced it would hold a session on dissolving Iraq’s parliament, despite previous statements that it is not within its jurisdiction.

How the US controls Lebanon’s energy supply

Far from helping Lebanon solve its acute energy crisis, the US is leveraging Egypt’s gas supply to pressure Beirut over US-brokered maritime border talks with Israel

August 19 2022

By Yeghia Tashjian

Consider the chaos in Europe today caused by a sudden reduction in Russian gas supplies.

Now imagine the catastrophic state of Lebanon’s energy sector after two years of fuel shortages, limited foreign currency with which to purchase new, urgent supplies, and US-sanctions on Syria impeding Lebanon’s only land route for imports.

US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea intervenes in all of Beirut’s energy decisions Photo Credit: The Cradle

After decades of stalled reforms, Lebanon is running out of time and money.

In June 2021, a lifeline was handed to the country in a deal struck with Baghdad to supply two Lebanese power stations with Iraqi fuel. The agreement, which was due to expire in September 2022, has recently been extended for one year.

But while there are short and long term solutions available to remedy Lebanon’s energy crisis, the two main options are both monopolized by US policymakers with stakes in regional geopolitics.

The first option involves transporting fuel to Lebanon via the Arab Gas Pipeline (AGP), whereby Egypt will supply gas through Syria. Although the proposal was originally an American suggestion, this fuel route requires US sanctions waivers that have not yet been approved by Washington.

The second option is for Lebanon to extract its own gas supply from newly discovered fields off its coastline. This too depends entirely on US-mediated, indirect negotiations with Israel to resolve a maritime dispute over the Karish gas field in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Accessing its own gas supplies will go a long way to guarantee Lebanon’s own energy security, while providing the state with much needed revenues from exports.

However, the success of either project depends largely on the status of US-Lebanese relations at any given moment. The two options are also inextricably linked to each other: Washington is pressuring Beirut to compromise with Tel Aviv on the maritime border dispute before agreeing to “green light” Cairo’s gas exports via Syria, which is in turn heavily sanctioned by the US’s “Caesar Act.”

While Washington is playing a leverage game, Lebanon is slowly collapsing.

Gas from Egypt

Under the agreement signed with Cairo, 650 million cubic meters of natural gas will be exported annually via the AGP. As it turns out, the actual supply of gas, as per the World Bank’s conditions, awaits US approval to exclude Egypt from sanctions imposed on the passage of goods through Syria.

The AGP is already a functioning pipeline that has supplied Lebanon with Egyptian gas in the past, but operations were halted in 2011 when Syrian pipelines were damaged during the country’s armed conflict.

Under the deal, Egypt will pump gas through the pipeline to supply Lebanon’s northern Deir Ammar power plant, which can then produce 450 megawatts of electricity – adding four hours of additional electricity supply per day. It is a modest but necessary improvement over the barely two hours of electricity currently provided by the state.

The World Bank has pledged to finance the deal on the condition that the Lebanese government implements much needed reforms in the electricity sector, which has created tens of billions of dollars in public debt.

The Syrian equation       

For the Syrian government, the arrangement is perceived as a diplomatic victory as it confers ‘legitimacy’ to the state and represents a step toward its international rehabilitation. The AGP deal was also hailed by Syrian Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources Bassam Tohmy as one of the most important joint Arab cooperation projects.

According to Will Todman, a research fellow in the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the agreement is “a win for the [Bashar al-]Assad government. The deal represents the first major move toward Syria’s economic integration with the region since Arab Spring protests shook Syria in March 2011, halting previous integration efforts.”

However, due to US Caesar Law restrictions, no concrete progress has been made over the past months. Amman and Cairo have both requested guarantees from Washington that they will not be subject to sanctions – to no avail. US President Joe Biden has yet to make a final decision on whether the plan will be considered a violation of sanctions on Syria.

Linking the Egypt deal with Israel talks

In order to create a certain interdependency in the region to minimize the possibility of new conflicts with Israel, the US is attempting to link the Egyptian gas deal with the ongoing, indirect, maritime negotiations between Tel Aviv and Beirut.

Amos Hochstein, the State Department senior adviser on energy security, who acts as chief mediator on the disputed maritime border between Lebanon and Israel, said after arriving in Beirut on 14 June that the US side will look at the final agreement between Egypt and Lebanon to evaluate the sanctions compliance of the natural gas project.

This means that Washington is linking the fate of the gas deal to the maritime dispute with Israel to exert additional pressure on Lebanon.

On 14 October, 2020 – just two months after the Beirut port blast which severed the primary transportation route for seaborne Lebanese imports – Lebanon and Israel began the long-awaited US-mediated talks to demarcate their maritime borders, under the supervision of the UN.

The framework agreement announced by both countries at the time was the most serious attempt to resolve the maritime dispute and secure gas drilling operations through diplomatic means.

However, there are many challenges that can slow or even derail these negotiations.

According to Lebanese estimates, the country has 96 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and 865 million barrels of oil offshore, and is in urgent need to begin drilling to save its ailing economy.

Israel is also in hurry to resolve this dispute as it wants to finalize the negotiations before September 2022, when the Karish gas rig is expected to begin production. The concern is that if a deal is not signed by then, Hezbollah may take action to halt Israel’s extraction altogether – until Lebanon is able to extract its own fuel from those waters.

Resolution or conflict

Last month, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah reiterated warnings against Tel Aviv in the event that Lebanon is prevented from extracting its own resources in the Med. “When things reach a dead-end, we will not only stand in the face of Karish… Mark these words: we will reach Karish, beyond Karish, and beyond, beyond Karish,” he cautioned.

Initially, Lebanon took a maximalist position on its maritime borders with Israel: the main dispute was around the percentage both countries should share in the disputed 860 square kilometers, which covers Lebanon’s offshore gas Blocks 8, 9 and 10.

It is worth mentioning that Lebanon does not enter these negotiations from a position of strength and is in dire economic need to unlock foreign aid and begin the flow of potential gas revenues.

Meanwhile, the arrival this summer of the British-based Energean, an oil and gas exploration company, which will begin a drilling operation close to the Karish gas field, has sparked tensions between both countries, prompting US envoy Hochstein to race back to the region on 13 June.

In order to provide Lebanon with some much-needed leverage and accelerate negotiations, Hezbollah dispatched three drones towards the Karish gas field on 2 July. The operation sought several results: to test Israeli military responses to the drones, to scare off the private company contractors working on the rig, and to motivate both Tel Aviv and Washington to step up and strike a deal.

The operation achieved its goals. Israel’s military now can’t rule out the possibility that the Lebanese resistance movement will launch additional attacks on the gas field in the near future, or provoke Israel in a different manner – if the maritime dispute is not ironed out, and soon.

Beyond the Mediterranean Sea

The negotiations have also been impacted by international developments, chiefly, the war in Ukraine and the growing energy crisis in Europe. Sweeping western economic sanctions on Moscow’s economic interests have dried up Russian exports to the continent, driving Europe to seek alternative sources of energy, few of which are readily available.

In May 2022, the US and EU unveiled a plan to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels and in June, the EU and Israel signed an agreement to export Israeli gas to Europe. These external factors have further motivated the US and Israel to hasten the negotiation process with Lebanon, all of which are overshadowed by the aforementioned US pressure on the Lebanese government.

Energy expert Laury Haytayan believes that linking Lebanon to regional energy projects makes it harder for Lebanon to go to war with Israel. Haytayan told The Cradle: “Lebanon needs gas, Israel needs stability, and the US wants to give both what they want.”

It is important to recognize that a final maritime demarcation agreement also means defusing the tensions on the Lebanese-Israeli border, which may require a broader US-Iranian agreement, something that is unlikely in the short term.

If the gas deal is successful and the US approves the Egyptian energy exports, the move will only increase US leverage over Lebanon when it comes to future negotiations on energy security.

It is in Lebanon’s interest to ensure that one party, the US, does not continue to hold all the cards related to its vital fuel needs. A recent offer from Iran to supply the country with monthly free fuel was tacitly accepted by Lebanon’s prime minister and energy minister, but needs work. Other states have offered to build power generation plants to enhance the nation’s infrastructure and efficiency.

But with Lebanon so deeply affected by Washington’s whims – and punishments – it isn’t at all certain that the country can steer itself to these more independent options.

The US and Israel have never been this highly incentivized to solve the maritime dispute. If the deal fails, Hezbollah may proceed with military action, especially before the conclusion of political ally President Michel Aoun’s term this Fall.

Furthermore, the gas issue may turn into a contentious domestic political issue ahead of Israel’s November parliamentary elections. In that instance too, a military conflict between Israel and Hezbollah may be triggered.

The only solution is to strike a deal, get gas flowing, and avert war. Will saner minds prevail, or will the region’s high-stakes geopolitical competition continue to escalate blindly? More importantly, can Washington bear to allow Lebanon the breathing space after three years of severe economic pressure to control Beirut’s political decisions?

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

Goodbye, Trafalgar Square: Celebrating Freedom in Europe

August 16, 2022

Source

A Look Forward to 2035 by Batiushka

England

Following the 2034 collapse of Britain and the popular overthrow of its millennial Establishment after nearly two decades of political turmoil, England moves ahead. Last week international arrest warrants were issued by the new People’s Government for the detention of the elderly war criminals Blair (Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq), Cameron (Libya, Syria and the Yemen) and Johnson (the Ukraine), who are all believed to be in hiding, cowering from justice somewhere in Florida, where they are now being hunted down.

As regards internal changes to the English Capital, just today the following changes have been announced by the People’s Government in London, the Capital of England, part of its programme of ‘Re-Englanding England’, also known as ‘Debritainisation’.

England Square

Today, exactly two hundred years after ‘Trafalgar Square’ in London was given the name of an Arabic-named Cape in Spain, the Square is to be renamed ‘England Square’. The statue of Nelson on its column is to be replaced by a statue of the effective founder of England, King Alfred the Great, known as ‘England’s Darling’, ‘The Truthteller’ and ‘The Lawgiver’. It will then be known as ‘Alfred’s Column’. A spokesman for the People’s Government said that it in no way wished to denigrate Nelson, whose tactical genius and personal bravery are undoubted, but Demilitarisation is an inherent part of Debritainisation. The statue will be removed to the English Museum, formerly called ‘The British Museum’. This has plenty of empty space, since so many of its artefacts, looted from around the world by British imperialists mainly since the eighteenth-century, have been returned to their countries of origin.

At the same time the four lions around the base of Alfred’s Column will also be sent to the English Museum as part of the policy of Demilitarisation, that is, as part of the policy of the removal of aggressive symbols of imperialist militarism. They will be replaced by four female figures, personifying Motherhood, Peace, Justice and Freedom. The four plinths for statues on England Square, at present occupied by three statues (the fourth plinth is empty) of the German King George IV and the imperialist militarists, Napier and Havelock, are also to be sent to the English Museum. They will be replaced by statues of literary and social geniuses of English history, known as ‘The Four Williams’: William Langland (1332-1386), William Shakespeare (1564-1616), William Blake (1757-1827) and William Cobbett (1763-1835).

As readers may know, Langland wrote a visionary English-language poem and allegory called ‘Piers Plowman’, in which he denounced the corruption of the medieval Catholic Church and praised the simple faith of the people. As for Shakespeare, he was the most brilliant poet of the English language and a very perceptive psychologist, who described in detail the good and bad in human nature and their motivations. Blake was the visionary poet and artist who opposed the appalling exploitation of his age and wrote the new English National Anthem, ‘Jerusalem’, in which he denounced the ‘dark, satanic mills’ of the so-called ‘Industrial Revolution’, that is, of the mass exploitation of industrial workers. Cobbett was a politician who struggled for social justice and wrote against the collectivisation, or privatisation, that is, just plain theft, of the common land in England, euphemistically called the ‘Enclosures’. He constantly campaigned against corruption and poverty and in favour of rural prosperity and freedom.

As for the busts of the three imperialist Admirals, Jellicoe, Beatty and Cunningham, in England Square, they are also to be sent to the English Museum and be replaced by busts of three well-known poets: a soldier (Wilfred Owen), a merchant sailor (John Masefield) and an airman, John Gillespie Magee (author of ‘High Flight’). They are in memory of the sacrifices of ordinary men, ‘the lions led by donkeys’, in the imperialist wars of the British past. The statue of Charles I on the south side of England Square, usurped and then beheaded by a clique of grasping merchants, will be retained. However, the statues in front of the National Gallery, of the Scottish King James II and of the slave-owning colonist George Washington, will be sent to the English Museum and be replaced by statues of the two Patronal Saints of England, St George and St Edmund.

The Square of the Peoples

Meanwhile, there will also be changes to the statues outside ‘Parliament’, renamed ‘The House of the People’ since the abolition of the House of Lords, to that in the Guildhall, and to the twelve statues in Parliament Square, now renamed ‘The Square of the Peoples’. Outside the House of the People, the statue of Cromwell is to be replaced by a statue of an Irish peasant, at least 200,000 (10% of the population) of whom the brutal thug Cromwell had massacred. In the Guildhall the statue of Thatcher is to be replaced by the statue of a Yorkshire coal-miner. Both old statues are to be taken to the English Museum to protect them from vandalism.

In The Square of the Peoples, nine of the present twelve statues are also to be removed. These are, in anti-clockwise order: the statue of Churchill, replaced by that of an English child orphaned by bombing in the Second World War; that of David Lloyd George by an injured World War One Welsh soldier; that of the South African Prime Minister Smuts by a Boer woman from a British concentration camp during the Boer War; that of the British Imperialist Prime Minister Palmerston by that of a Russian peasant-soldier from the British invasion of Russia (the so-called ‘Crimean War’); that of the British Imperialist Prime Minister Smith-Stanley (the Earl of Derby) by that of a Chinese woman suffering in the so-called, British-caused ‘Opium War’ (Genocide of China); that of the British Imperialist Prime Minister Disraeli by that of a Bulgarian peasant-woman, oppressed by the Ottomans whom Disraeli immorally supported; that of the British Imperialist Prime Minister Peel by that of a starving Irishwoman from the Irish Potato Famine; that of the British Imperialist Prime Minister Canning by that of a Scottish crofter, removed by force from his land which was stolen from him in the so-called ‘Highland Clearances’; that of Lincoln by that of a Tasmanian Aborigene, representing the treatment of North, Central and South American Natives, Australian Aborigenes, genocided Tasmanians and Maori, all as a result of British ‘colonisation’ (land-theft). The statues of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Millicent Fawcett will remain as symbols of the striving for freedom of Africans, Indians and of women, who were freed from Victorian oppression and the deprivation of rights.

Europe

The new English People’s Government, elected by over 85% of the electorate according to the new proportional democracy, is keen to depose the old tyrants and celebrate the victims of tyranny. It has come to our knowledge that parallel events are about to occur not only in newly-reunited Ireland and newly-independent Scotland and Wales, but also in the newly-freed countries of the former EU. This follows last month’s sacking of the EU headquarters in the Berlaymont building in Brussels. Everywhere in Western Europe the flags of freedom are beginning to flutter defiantly.

In Paris the Arc de Triomphe in Paris is to be renamed ‘L’Arc du Peuple’ (‘The People’s Arch’) and Napoleon’s bloody battles are to be removed from it. Rome, Brussels, Vienna, Berlin, Madrid, Lisbon – all are reviewing names of streets, statues and monuments. As for the English Government, it has already joined the new Confederation of Free European Nations (CFEN), a loose structure which will meet in various European Capitals. It was originally suggested by the paternal Russian government and has been formed to replace the old centralised EU and its unelected bureaucrats and tyrants.

15 August 2035

Breaking News:

It has just been announced that Antony Blair has been captured by the Free American Police after being found hiding in a hole in the ground near a farmhouse outside Miami. Blair was shown in a photograph with a full beard and hair longer than in his familiar appearance. He was described by police officials as being in good health despite his 82 years. The details of his double trial, which is to take place in Belgrade and then in Baghdad, have not yet been determined. The local police call their prisoner ‘Vic’, which stands for ‘Very Important Criminal’. Officials said that Blair whined to them after his arrest: ‘I am innocent, I did not do anything, I was only following orders from the White House’.

US base Al-Tanf in Syria targeted with drone attack

15 Aug 2022

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

The so-called International Coalition claims it thwarted an unmanned aerial systems attack near a US occupation military base in Syria.

The drone attack on US occupation Al-Tanf base in Syria

The US occupation military base in Al Tanf in Syria, which is located on the Iraq-Syrian border, was targeted with a drone attack, news sources reported on Monday.

The attack was carried out by the Iraqi Resistance drone unit, the Iranian news agency Mehr quoted an Iraqi security source as saying.

The Iraqi source indicated that the Iraqi Resistance targeted the US occupation base in Al Tanf using several bomb-carrying drones, Mehr reported.

The so-called International Coalition said it thwarted an “unmanned aerial systems [UAS]” attack near a US military base in Syria, with no casualties or material damage reported.

“Operation Inherent Resolve forces, in coordination with our Maghaweir al-Thowra [MaT] partners, responded to an attack by multiple unmanned aerial systems in the vicinity of Al-Tanf Garrison at approximately 6:30 a.m.,” the coalition said in a statement.

The so-called coalition claimed that its forces “successfully engaged one UAS preventing its impact. A second UAS detonated within a MaT forces compound resulting in zero casualties or reported damage.”

In response, Major General John Brennan, the commander of the coalition, claimed that “such attacks put the lives of innocent Syrian civilians at risk and undermine the significant efforts by our Partner forces to maintain the lasting defeat of ISIS [Islamic State].”

Brennan added that the “coalition personnel retain the right to self-defense, and we will take appropriate measures to protect our forces.”

According to Rudaw, “There have been at least 11 rocket and drone attacks against sites housing American forces in Iraq and Syria this year.”

Syrian air defenses confront Israeli aggression on Tartus

The attack on the US occupation base in Syria comes hours after the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) confirmed that Syrian air defenses intercepted “hostile targets in the sky of Tartus and in the air of the Qalamoun mountain range near the Lebanese border.”

Earlier, Al Mayadeen correspondent in Damascus reported that three explosions were heard in the sky of the Syrian city of Tartus.

Our correspondent added that the Syrian air defenses engaged Israeli missiles targeting positions in the vicinity of Tartus, noting that the aggression was carried out by Israeli warplanes from over Lebanese territory.

In a statement, a military source said that “the Israeli enemy carried out at 20:50 today a missile aggression, targeting some points in Damascus countryside using southeastern Beirut’s air space and coinciding with another one targeting some points southern Tartous using the Mediterranean airspace.”

“The aggression led to the death of three soldiers, the wounding of three others,” the source indicated.

US reviews Israeli plans for strikes against Iranian targets in Syria

According to current and former US officials, “Israel” secretly coordinates with the US on many of the airstrikes it conducts in Syria.

Behind the curtains, current and former officials say that for several years, many Israeli missions have been reviewed in advance for approval by senior officials at US Central Command and the Pentagon.

This means that the formal coordination was previously unknown, and the secrecy surrounding it demonstrates how Washington has sought to support its Israeli ally.

The US review, according to the Wall Street Journal, mainly focuses on Israeli missions in eastern Syria that pass close to the US occupation’s Al-Tanf base.

What is the US doing in Syria?

Besides being an occupation that backs armed groups for its own operations and agenda in the region, the US occupation forces continue to steal Syrian oil by smuggling it from their bases in Syria to their bases in Iraq.

Convoys of tens of vehicles, including tankers loaded with stolen oil from oil fields occupied by US forces in Syria, are frequently seen crossing toward northern Iraq, in addition to trucks loaded with military equipment.

US troops loot 84 oil tankers from Syria, smuggle them into Iraq

On Sunday, SANA reported that the US occupation forces in Syria looted 89 oil tankers from Syria and smuggled them into Iraq through illegal crossings.

A convoy of 89 oil tanks left from Al-Yaarubiyah, Al-Hasakah Governorate, using the illegal border crossing of Al-Mahmudiyah in northeastern Syria to get to Iraq, SANA also said on Saturday.

The United States has been for years supporting militias against Damascus, and the US-backed forces are currently occupying parts of the provinces of Al-Haskah, Deir Ezzor, and Raqqa, where the largest Syrian oil and gas fields are located.

The actions carried out by the United States constitute state piracy with the aim of plundering Syria’s oil resources and depriving the Syrians of their own resources amid a harsh economic situation caused largely by the occupiers, the Americans themselves.

In late July, a convoy of 35 vehicles with tankers loaded with stolen Syrian oil that the US occupation forces control, as well as several covered trucks, traveled through the unauthorized Al-Mahmudiyah crossing, which was allocated by the US occupation forces more than two years ago to steal Syrian oil, one day after they smuggled 14 tankers loaded with Syrian oil.

US Occupation Base Targeted with Drones

August 15, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

News sources reported that the US occupation’s military base of al-Tanf, located along the Iraqi-Syrian border, was targeted by drones on Monday morning.

An Iraqi security source said that the operation was carried out by the Iraqi Resistance drone unit.

The source emphasized that the Iraqi Resistance targeted the US base in al-Tanf using several explosive-laden drones.

No further information has yet been published regarding the possible number of casualties and damages caused by the operation.

This is not the first time that this US occupation base has been targeted.

S. Nasrallah Warns ‘Israel’ against Miscalculation: We’ve Reached End of Line, Ready for All Options

August 9, 2022

Marwa Haidar

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Warned the Zionist entity against any miscalculation towards Lebanon, stressing that Hezbollah has reached “the end of the line” regarding the issue of gas and maritime border.

Addressing mourners in Beirut’s southern suburb (Dahiyeh) on Ashura Day, Sayyed Nasrallah affirmed that the Lebanese resistance group is fully ready to confront all options, in response to Israeli threats and in a clear message that Hezbollah is prepared for war.

Sayyed Nasrallah hailed what he called the legendry steadfastness of Gaza’s people and resistance in face of Israeli aggression, voicing full commitment to Palestine as the central cause of the nation.

His eminence also voiced sympathy and support to Nigeria’s Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and people of Bahrain, Yemen and Syria.

Sayyed Nasrallah also warned Iraqis against foreign schemes.

Ashura and Nigeria

Sayyed Nasrallah started his speech by offering condolences for Imam Mahdi (a.j.), the lord of the age, and all Muslims over martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (a.s.).

Talking via a video link, Sayyed Nasrallah renewed allegiance to Imam Hussein, noting that “throughout 40 years, we haven’t abandoned him, and we will never do so.”

He voiced sympathy with Nigeria Shia cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been for years subjected to repeated crackdowns by Nigerian authorities.

“Ashura is the day when we shall voice support to all those who are oppressed. We voice sympathy with Sheikh Zakzaky, along with his supporters.”

Palestine and Bahrain

The Hezbollah S.G. then stressed that Palestine is the central cause of the nation, praising those who were martyred and injured to defend the occupied country.

“Palestine is the central cause. We don’t expect mercy from the US, but we address those who claim they are Arabs. To be Muslims or Arabs is to support oppressed people.”

“We feel proud of the martyrs and resistance fighters over their legendry steadfastness. We renew our commitment to this affair.”

Sayyed Nasrallah, meanwhile, slammed Bahraini regime over normalizing ties with the Zionist entity, and over attacking Ashura ceremonies across the Arab island.

“One of the ugliest parties who normalized ties with Israel is the regime in Bahrain who proved that it doesn’t tolerate a black flag,” he said referring to flags raised during Ashura ceremonies.

“We recall the oppression of people of Bahrain, whose rights are stolen by their treacherous rulers who are embracing the enemies of this nation.”

Yemen, Iraq and Syria

Sayyed Nasrallah then reiterated the Lebanese resistance group’s stance towards Yemen.

“In the day of oppressed (Ashura) we reiterate that we stand by the people of Yemen who have been for years tirelessly fighting for their dignity and confronting tyrants.”

“People of Yemen are real personification of Karbala and supporting them is a duty.”

The Hezbollah S.G. also urged Iraqis to solve their disagreements, calling on them to foil schemes set by the nation’s enemies.

On Syria, Sayyed Nasrallah said the country has overcome the universal war launched by many international regional sides, but stressed that the blockade represented by the US Caesar Act.

His eminence also praised Iran, describing the Islamic Republic, led by Supreme Leader Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei, as the heart of the Axis of Resistance.

In this context, Sayyed Nasrallah recalled sacrifices made by martyrs Qassem Suleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis who were martyred by a US strike in Baghdad in 2020.

In Lebanon, Another Account to Settle

On Lebanon, Sayyed Nasrallah was very clear, as he responded to Israeli threats and warned the occupation regime against any miscalculation.

“The Lebanese are the only people who decide their fates and make their decisions. Throughout 40 years we have confronted all forms of challenges including wars, blockades and assassinations.”

“We look forward to a free and powerful Lebanon that is capable to defend its dignity and to invest its wealth. We look forward to Lebanon which is capable of cutting off any hand that would extend to its wealth.”

Meanwhile, his eminence called on Lebanese sides to exert joint efforts in a bid to form a government and to cope with current crises, urging officials to feel the pain of the Lebanese citizens.

On the issue of gas, oil and maritime border, Sayyed Nasrallah said Hezbollah will see the responses to the Lebanese State’s requests in the coming days.

Addressing resistance supporters, and especially resistance fighters, Sayyed Nasrallah said they should be ready for all options.

“We are dealing with this battle with utmost level of seriousness. I say to the Israelis and the Americans (US administration): Lebanon will never tolerate stealing its wealth.”

“We have reached the end of the line and we will keep up on this way.”

On the other hand, Sayyed Nasrallah responded to Israeli remarks regarding the “messages” behind the last 3-day aggression on Gaza.

“Yes, I was watching the latest developments in Gaza and the message was delivered. We have seen heroism and steadfastness in Gaza as well as the unity of its resistance factions. Gaza managed to impose its own equation of deterrence. As for Lebanon, there is another account to settle.”

In this context, his eminence warned: “any aggression on any person in Lebanon won’t go unpunished. We remind you that we are the lovers of Imam Hussein (a.s.) who once said ‘Humiliation, never!’.”

Source: Al-Manar English Website

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Sayyed Nasrallah: Hezbollah Stronger than Ever, Serious and Ready for Any Scenario

August 09, 2022

By Al-Ahed News

Hezbollah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech on the Day of Ashura in which he conveyed messages all across the region, affirming mainly the readiness, capabilities, and preparedness of the resistance against any aggression, and renewing that Lebanon would never concede any of its rights and resources.

Sayyed Nasrallah reminded the enemies that “We are the lovers and followers of the Imam who stood on the same day like this one during which he rejected any kind of humiliation.”

At the end of the massive Ashura March that Hezbollah organized in Beirut’s Southern Suburb [Dahiyeh] on Tuesday morning, the Resistance leader underlined that on the day of defending the dignities, “I tell you and I tell all the Lebanese people, especially the people of the Resistance, and mainly the resistance fighters, that we have to be ready and prepared for any scenario.”

At the beginning of his speech, Sayyed Nasrallah thanked the mourners and the participants in the Ashura commemorations, telling them: “Today, you express your loyalty, love, and faithfulness as you did over the past 40 years, no matter how harsh the circumstances were.”

The Hezbollah leader started the speech by sympathizing with to the Nigerian people who have been shot by the regime forces while commemorating Ashura mourning procession, and condoling with Nigerian leader Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky on this massacre.

Then Sayyed Nasrallah set the standard of humanity, Islam, honor, and for those who claim Arabism, which he identified as the stance towards Palestine, and what happens there and against its oppressed people.

“The Palestinian people fight in Gaza and Nablus, impose their equations, and affirm that resistance is their sole way,” His Eminence said, renewing commitment to the Palestinian cause and supporting the resisting Palestinian people.

Additionally, he said we are proud of the Palestinian resistance fighters and martyrs, but questioned the stance of those who claim to be Muslims regarding the blood that was shed in Palestine. His Eminence then affirmed Hezbollah’s stance being at the forefront of confronting the Zionist enemy.

Slamming the Bahraini regime, Sayyed Nasrallah termed it as the ugliest among those who normalized ties with the ‘Israeli’ occupation entity as it doesn’t tolerate the presence of the Hussaini banners while it allows the Zionists to tour in the kingdom.

Moving to praise the Yemeni people’s patience and defiance, Sayyed Nasrallah said: “On the Day of Ashura, we renew our unending support to the Yemeni people regardless of anything [consequences].”

“The Yemenis don’t skip any of the Ummah’s occasions despite the blockade, pain and wounds they are suffering from; the Yemeni people are the true representation of Imam Hussein [AS]’s Karbala, and we believe that supporting them is the most urgent duty in this world.”

Regarding the unrest in Iraq, the Hezbollah leader hoped that the Iraqi people solve their internal disputes to save their country from what is being plotted against it, cautioning as well that there are countries and peoples who are besieged in Gaza, Syria, and Yemen with the aim of being forced to surrender.

As for the Islamic Republic of Iran, Sayyed Nasrallah said it will remain the strongest power of Islam and the Axis of Resistance, recalling on this day the prominent martyr Qassem Soleimani and his brother martyr Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

On the local level, Sayyed Nasrallah said “In Lebanon we are facing the blockade and the sanctions, and we will keep looking forward to a better future for a strong, free, and dignified Lebanon,” warning that the hand that will touch our wealth will be cut, as it was cut when it touched the Lebanese soil.

Meanwhile, Sayyed Nasrallah advised the Lebanese officials to experience the people’s pain to be able to ease it, and called for forming a true government that has authorities to shoulder the responsibilities whether a president of the republic was elected or not.

As for the indirect negotiations on the maritime border demarcation and the disputed gas and oil in the sea, Sayyed Nasrallah said: “In this battle, we are serious to the maximum level, and as I addressed the Americans in the past, who present themselves as mediators but they are not, I tell the ‘Israelis’ that from now on, Lebanon and its people would never forgive looting their resources. We’ve reached the end, and let nobody test or threaten us.”

“In the coming days we wait the enemy’s response regarding Lebanon’s demands over the maritime border demarcation,” His Eminence underlined, lecturing the enemy that “Lebanon and its people won’t accept from now on looting its wealth, and we are ready for any scenario.”

As Sayyed Nasrallah noted that the Resistance has received the messages that were wanted to be conveyed in the war on Gaza, he added that “we have seen the defiance in Gaza, and we in Lebanon have another account to settle [with the ‘Israeli’ enemy].”

“The resistance is stronger than any time before,” the Hezbollah leader told the enemy, advising it not to commit any mistake against Lebanon and its people. “The enemy has to recognize the side it is facing and that there is in Lebanon a resistance that has proven it can defeat the army that was referred to as ‘invincible’.”

We have received some reports in the past days that plans to assassinate Islamic Jihad and Hamas leaders, and other Palestinian resistance factions’ figures outside Palestine, including Lebanon, Sayyed Nasrallah warned, answering such threat by the following warning: “Any attack against any person in Lebanon won’t go unpunished and won’t go unanswered.”

By the end of his speech, Sayyed Nasrallah voiced Lebanon and the Lebanese people’s rejection of looting their wealth, violating their sovereignty, and imposing things against their will.

“We foresee the promising future that has been shaped by the victory of the blood against the sword,” Sayyed Nasrallah concluded.

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Iran FM Terms Revenge for Gen. Soleimani as ’Absolute Responsibility’

Jully 23, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said revenge for the assassination of Iran’s celebrated anti-terror commander Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani is among the “absolute responsibilities” of the foreign ministry and other concerned organizations.

Amir Abdollahian made the remarks in an interview broadcast on state television Thursday evening while elaborating on the Sayyed Ebrahim Raesi-led administration’s foreign policy.

“The issue of General Soleimani will never be forgotten. The issue is so deep that even [Russian President Vladimir] Putin pointed to the important position and role of General Soleimani during his meetings with the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and the Iranian president,” the top diplomat said.

The foreign ministry, Amir Abdollahian noted, has beefed up a committee that follows up on international issues, adding that the judiciary branch is also seriously pursuing the case.

“We consider avenging the blood of Martyr Soleimani in legal, international, and political arenas and deem following up on the issue in all its aspects as our absolute responsibility,” he asserted.

General Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard [IRG], and his Iraqi trenchmate Hajj Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units [PMU], were martyred along with their companions in a US drone strike on January 3, 2020.

The strike near the Baghdad International Airport was authorized by then-President Donald Trump.

The two noted anti-terror commanders were tremendously respected and admired across the region for their instrumental role in fighting and decimating the Daesh [Arabic for ‘ISIS/ISIL’] Takfiri terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

In other remarks during the interview, Iran’s foreign minister said Saudi Arabia has shown readiness to advance the ongoing talks from security to the political sphere, after progress in the previous five rounds hosted by the Iraqi government.

He said the two sides have reached some agreements, including on re-opening embassies in their respective countries.

“Last week we received a message from Iraqi foreign minister [Fuad Hussein] saying that the Saudi side is ready to move the phase of talks from a security one to a political and public one,” said the minister.

“We also expressed our readiness to continue talks at the political level so that it leads to the return of Iran-Saudi Arabia ties to the normal level.”

Riyadh decided to sever diplomatic relations with Iran back in January 2016 after its embassy in Tehran was stormed by protestors who were enraged by the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.

There was no change in Riyadh’s confrontational policy towards Tehran until 2021 when it signaled an inclination to mend fractured ties with the Islamic Republic.

Biden in Jeddah: mending fences, not building bridges

President Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia will likely end in face saving gestures, but no major geopolitical concessions

July 12 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Kristian Alexander and Giorgio Cafiero

Before 2019, never had a US president referred to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a ‘pariah’ on his campaign trail. Joe Biden’s Saudi-bashing as a presidential candidate, plus a host of other delicate issues, have fueled significant friction between the White House and Riyadh.

Today, relations between the US and Saudi Arabia are probably at their worst since the events of September 11, 2001, stymied by a major trust deficit in the relationship between Biden’s White House and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS).

By the same token, the Biden administration views Saudi Arabia as a critical partner in the Persian Gulf and continues to sign massive arms deals with the kingdom.

For all the rhetoric on Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose brutal murder MbS is said to have sanctioned, team Biden never imposed state-level sanctions against Saudi Arabia, nor on the crown prince himself.

Meanwhile, the administration praises the role of Riyadh in the Arab world’s trend toward normalization with Israel.

Within this context, Biden’s first presidential trip to West Asia – in which he will go to Israel, the occupied West Bank, and Saudi Arabia this week – will be important to White House efforts to mend fences with Riyadh and salvage this decades-old partnership.

In a US mid-term election year that will likely lead to significant gains for his Republican opposition, Biden seeks to score major foreign policy points in Jeddah that can be used for domestic consumption back in Washington this summer.

Incentivizing Biden to convince the Saudis to increase their oil production are the millions of US motorists struggling with high gas prices and the many average American voters grappling with generational high inflation.

Energy prices are therefore extremely important to Biden’s controversial trip to the kingdom. Yet, this month’s summit in Saudi Arabia is unlikely to give Americans much relief at the gas pump between now and the elections in November.

Shifting the narrative from oil to peace

Determined to ensure that the US public does not tie this tour’s success specifically to a Saudi oil production hike – which could easily result in the Biden administration’s humiliation – the White House message is that this visit to Jeddah largely concerns peace in the region.

As Biden wrote in the Washington Post, avoiding a future in which the region is “coming apart through conflict” is of “paramount importance” to the White House, and he will “pursue diplomacy intensely – including through face-to-face meetings – to achieve our goals.”

According to Biden, if the region comes together through “diplomacy and cooperation” there is a lower chance of “violent extremism” threatening US national security or “new wars that could place new burdens on US military forces and their families.”

This trip comes at a time in which there is a fragile truce in Yemen, where the Saudis and Emiratis have waged a devastating seven-year war. Although the conflict remains unresolved, the drastic reduction in violence and increased humanitarian assistance to the war-torn country have given millions of Yemenis desperately needed relief.

The truce in Yemen has been possible in part because of Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member support, which makes it easier for Biden to justify his visit to Jeddah. After all, it was the Khashoggi affair and the conflict in Yemen that ‘Biden-the-candidate’ cited as reasons for his ‘pariah’ treatment of Riyadh.

Thus, moving toward a settlement to this conflict, in which the last two US presidents were heavily involved in escalating, helps Biden save face as he makes this trip. If the president leaves the kingdom with some guarantees from the Saudis about their commitment to future truce extensions, that could be interpreted as a win for Biden.

“The US administration is beginning to realize that President Biden can’t just ignore Saudi Arabia and that it’s in the best interest of the two countries to start working together, not just to reduce oil prices and pressure on US consumers, but also to further the stability of the Middle East and contain [the Iranian] threat whether in Lebanon or Yemen,” Najah Al-Otaibi, an associate fellow at the Riyadh-based King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, said in an interview with The Cradle.

Expanding on her point, Al-Otaibi said that “Saudi Arabia has recently agreed to extend the United Nations-mediated ceasefire with Yemen, and Prince Mohammed [bin Salman] played a critical role in this move, according to Biden’s officials who thought it is a step forward to solving the conflict.”

Last month, Biden clarified that, for him, bolstering Israel’s security was a major motivation for the trip to Saudi Arabia. Despite some speculation among pundits that Saudi Arabia will soon join the Abraham Accords, this is highly doubtful, especially with King Salman still on the throne. However, with MbS “the reformer” as future king, normalization between “the Land of the Two Holy Mosques” and Israel is all the more likely.

Insecurity and an ‘Arab NATO’

Even if Riyadh remains outside the Abraham Accords, there is much that Saudi Arabia can do to make it easier for other Arab-Muslim countries to normalize with Tel Aviv, and for the kingdom’s allies, already signatories to the Abraham Accords, to build on their overt relations with the Israelis.

While in Jeddah, Biden will likely push the Saudis to take some more baby steps toward a de facto normalization with Israel, even if it remains unofficial. One way for the kingdom to do so would be by granting permission for Israeli planes to transit Saudi airspace on their way to the UAE, Bahrain, and other countries.

Other avenues could include bolstering involvement by Israeli technology firms in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, Saudi–Israeli military cooperation, and more visits by high-ranking Israeli officials to the kingdom that could build on former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s November 2020 visit to Neom.

Shoring up US–Arab partnerships in preparation for the increasingly likely scenario that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks with Iran will collapse in acrimony is a high priority for Biden.

Against the backdrop of Iran’s nuclear advancements as negotiations further stall, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states attending the GCC+3 summit are preparing for a post-JCPOA future in which friction between the US and Israel, on one side, and the Islamic Republic, on the other, appears set to intensify in the coming weeks and months.

“I think Iran, not oil, is the main issue as Iran moves closer and closer to having all the parts it needs to put together a nuclear bomb,” David Ottaway, a Middle East fellow at the Wilson Center, told The Cradle. “Only a revival of the Iranian nuclear deal can stop that trend, and nobody is optimistic about that happening now.”

Although Riyadh and Tehran have been in direct talks via Baghdad since April 2021, the Saudi leadership wants assurances from team Biden that Washington remains committed to the kingdom’s security regardless of the fate of the 2015 nuclear accord, and that the US will work with its Arab allies to counter Iran in regional hotspots, such as Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

Yet, mindful of the little trust Saudi officials have in the Biden administration, it is difficult to imagine the US president gaining enough confidence from Riyadh during this upcoming trip vis-à-vis Iran-related issues. As Ottaway told The Cradle:

“I suspect [Biden] will declare another US commitment to defending the kingdom from its foreign enemies, but after Trump’s failure to take any action after Iranian attacks on Saudi oil facilities in 2019, he needs to say or do something to back up [what are] just words.”

In recent weeks, there has been much discussion about an Arab NATO that includes Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other US-friendly Arab states. Biden will seek to advance this initiative as the west and its allies and partners in West Asia remain worried about Iran’s regional foreign policy agenda.

“[Biden] wishes to reaffirm the historical strength and enduring reciprocity of the alliance, but also to press Riyadh on cooperating more on the energy side – particularly as the US moves as well to create a region-wide defense platform, the so-called Middle East NATO,” Sean Yom, an associate professor at Temple University, pointed out in an interview with The Cradle.

“There is, however, one sticking point that will probably cause a difference: the Saudis continue to desire a strong US presence in the Gulf, one that can police Iran and intervene in a potential militarized conflict, whereas Biden clearly is continuing his predecessors’ anti-interventionist stance,” added Yom.

Nonetheless, many experts have doubts about an Arab NATO ever manifesting into a real alliance, and expect the initiative to remain merely conceptual. This assessment accounts for the opposition of some Arab states to an open military coordination with Israel, as some GCC states, like the Sultanate of Oman, do not want to join an alliance aimed at weakening or intimidating Tehran.

There are also logistical hurdles which would make it difficult for these state militaries to integrate in a NATO-like manner.

“Biden’s plan for a US-backed ‘Arab NATO’ of GCC states plus Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan seems as unlikely to succeed as Trump’s Middle East Strategic Alliance, which never got off the ground,” Ottaway says.

Virtue-signalling human rights

Although Biden’s administration has determined that the moral costs of this presidential trip do not outweigh the perceived benefits, the Khashoggi affair remains a delicate issue – though significantly less so now than in the immediate aftermath of the grisly murder in October 2018.

MbS wants the US government to drop the Khashoggi issue, but elements within Biden’s party maintain that any interaction between him and the crown prince would be “profoundly disturbing.” To placate more progressive politicians, high-profile media pundits, and human rights activists who criticize Biden for “legitimizing” MbS on this trip, the president will seek some human rights concessions, like those which his administration secured at the start of his presidency.

If Biden is successful on this front, he could return to the US claiming that his visit to the kingdom helped advance, rather than hinder, the cause of human rights. Such an achievement would help Biden save face and tell his base that he did not abandon certain principles or so-called ‘American values’ by meeting MbS in the Saudi kingdom.

“His campaign trail rhetoric, like all political campaign rhetoric, was never going to bear much resemblance to executive policy and official diplomacy,” cautioned Yom. “But I do think Biden will exit the meetings by claiming that he squarely put human rights concerns, and potentially even democratic awareness, onto the agenda for Riyadh.”

Yet, whether the Saudi leadership feels it is under sufficient pressure to release any political prisoners, or provide liberties to some recently released Saudis who are banned from traveling, remains to be seen.

From the perspective of the Saudi government, the US and other western governments are inappropriately virtue signaling when raising human rights concerns in the kingdom. The view from Riyadh is that these issues are internal issues that do not concern Washington or European capitals.

Saudi and other Arab officials will often point to US sins in Iraq or police brutality against African-Americans to highlight elements of hypocrisy on the part of US politicians lecturing the Saudi government on the human rights front.

MbS reportedly “shouting” at US national security adviser Jake Sullivan after the high-ranking official brought up the Khashoggi case underscores the effect of these discussions on the leaders of Saudi Arabia.

The grander geopolitical picture 

Biden will visit Saudi Arabia amid a period of increasing east–west bifurcation and intensifying great power competition. Although neither China nor Russia is on the verge of replacing the US as security guarantor of Saudi Arabia or any GCC states, US influence in the Gulf has declined with Beijing and Moscow gaining greater clout at Washington’s expense.

Biden’s trip to Jeddah aims to reassert US influence in the Persian Gulf and attempt to prevent Riyadh and other Arab capitals from moving closer to the Chinese and Russians. An objective of Biden’s is to bring GCC states back into the geopolitical orbit of the west, while slowing down the growth of their partnerships with Beijing and Moscow.

“There were undeniable hiccups in the relationship last year, relating to halting support to the Yemen war, aggressive rhetoric against MbS, and more scrutiny on arms sales,” Yom explained.

“Fundamentally, none of these factors perturbed the great structural core of the US–Saudi alliance, built upon mutual perceptions of energy security, sovereign protections, and regional hegemony. But those hiccups were enough to make the decision-making circles in Riyadh a bit uncomfortable, enough at least to entertain Russian and Chinese overtures for military and energy cooperation.”

The White House and the entire US foreign policy establishment have grave concerns about Sino–Saudi ballistic missile cooperation and the extent to which the Chinese and Emiratis are making their defense and security relations more robust.

It is safe to say that while in Jeddah, team Biden will make it clear that the US will withhold future military assistance if GCC states move militarily closer to China. The extent to which such pressure has any impact on Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s relationships with Beijing remains an open question.

Nonetheless, team Biden must understand that this visit will occur against the backdrop of serious tensions between the US and Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has grown frustrated with many aspects of Washington’s agenda in the Biden era.

The Saudi government’s view is that Biden is an ’Obama 2.0’ – a perspective that is not unreasonable when mindful of how many Obama administration veterans, including Biden himself, are serving in the White House.

By moving closer to China and Russia, the Saudis are sending a message, loud and clear, to Washington that Riyadh has other options on the international stage as the world moves towards multipolarity with more Arab statesmen perceiving the US as a power that is withdrawing from West Asia.

Riyadh can exaggerate the extent to which the kingdom has grown closer to Beijing and Moscow to gain leverage over the US and secure more concessions from Washington. That is likely to continue, and Biden would be making a mistake in placating the Saudis in every instance to merely try to stop Riyadh from tilting closer to China and Russia.

Simultaneously, Saudi Arabia is showing itself to be increasingly confident and Biden’s visit to the kingdom will add to Riyadh’s sense of being emboldened, giving the Saudi leadership more reason to pursue its own interests in ways that sometimes align more closely with Beijing and Moscow’s foreign policy objectives than those of western powers.

Despite these geopolitical tensions, the Biden administration and Al-Saud rulers both value Washington and Riyadh’s decades-old partnership, and neither side wants to abandon it. Much anger and a significant trust deficit, however, have built up between these two countries.

Biden will not be leaving Saudi Arabia later this month with all these issues resolved. But the dialogue in Jeddah has the potential to begin a process of mending fences.

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

Anti-normalization Countries Resist The Arab-‘Israeli’ Alliance

July 9, 2022 

By Staff, Agencies

Amid a push by the US and the ‘Israeli’ occupation regime to build an anti-Iranian coalition in the region, a report suggested that a number of Arab countries are against such an alliance.

Washington and Tel Aviv are pushing Arab countries for the realization of a military pact to counter alleged threats from Iran.

Citing unnamed sources, Reuters said the plan is on the agenda of US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to the occupied territories and Saudi Arabia in mid-July.

According to the sources, the plan seeks to “build a network of radars, detectors and interceptors between Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, with the help of ‘Israeli’ technology and US military bases.”

However, it highlighted the resistance of some Arab countries, including Iraq, Qatar, and Kuwait, against such a plan due to their relations with Iran and also because of rejecting any ties with the ‘Israeli’ occupiers.

Starting from the tenure of former President Donald Trump, Washington has tried to convince a number of Arab countries to publicly announce the normalization of ties with the ‘Israeli’ regime.

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco were among the first countries to toe the line, facing strong condemnations from Palestinians who denounced the move as a “stab in their back.”

Using baseless accusations against Iran, Washington is now trying to force some other regional states to side with the Zionist entity.

Iraq, however, is one of the countries that has clearly voiced its opposition to ‘Israel’ as it recently adopted a law criminalizing any sort of ties with the regime.

In late May, Iraq’s parliament approved a law making it illegal for the country to ever normalize its relations with the Zionist occupation regime.

Back in 2020, the UAE and Bahrain entered United States-brokered so-called “peace deals” with the ‘Israeli’ regime. Some other regional states, namely Sudan and Morocco, followed suit.

Reports suggest that Saudi Arabia is the next country that may embark on normalization. Analysts suggest the direct flight of Air Force One from Tel Aviv to Jeddah during Biden’s upcoming trip as a symbolic act can be interpreted within this framework.

PALESTINIANS ‘ARE NOT ANIMALS IN A ZOO’: REDEFINING THE ROLE OF THE ‘VICTIM INTELLECTUAL’

JULY 1ST, 2022

Source

by Ramzy Baroud

DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF GHASSAN KANAFANI, AN ICONIC PALESTINIAN LEADER AND ENGAGED INTELLECTUAL WHO WAS ASSASSINATED BY THE ISRAELI MOSSAD ON JULY 8, 1972.

Years before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, U.S. media introduced many new characters, promoting them as “experts” who helped ratchet up propaganda, ultimately allowing the U.S. government to secure enough popular support for the war.

Though enthusiasm for war began dwindling in later years, the invasion began with a relatively strong popular mandate that allowed President George W. Bush to claim the role of liberator of Iraq, the fighter of “terrorism” and the champion of U.S. global interests. According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll published on March 24, 2003 – just a few days after the invasion – 72% of Americans were in favor of the war.

Only now are we beginning to fully appreciate the massive edifice of lies, deceit, and forgery involved in shaping the war narrative, and the sinister role played by mainstream media in demonizing Iraq and its people. Future historians will continue with the task of unpacking the war conspiracy for years to come.

Consequently, it is also important to acknowledge the role played by Iraq’s own “native informants”, a group that the late professor Edward Said labeled as “willing servant[s] of imperialism”.

Thanks to the various American invasions and military interventions, these “informants” have grown in number and usefulness to the extent that, in various Western intellectual and media circles, they define what is erroneously viewed as “facts” concerning most Arab and Muslim countries. From Afghanistan to Iran, Syria, Palestine, Libya, and, of course, Iraq, these “experts” are constantly parroting messages that are tailored to fit Western agendas.

These native informants are often depicted as political dissidents. They are recruited – whether officially via government-funded think tanks or otherwise – to provide a convenient depiction of the “realities” in the Middle East and elsewhere as a rational, political or moral justification for war and various other forms of intervention.

VICTIM INTELLECTUALS

Though this phenomenon is widely understood – especially as its dangerous consequences became too apparent in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan – another phenomenon rarely receives the necessary attention. In the second scenario, the “intellectual” is not necessarily an “informant”, but a victim, whose message is entirely shaped by his sense of self-pity and victimhood. In the process of communicating that collective victimhood, this intellectual does their people a disfavor by presenting them as hapless and having no human agency whatsoever.

Palestine is a case in point. The Palestine “victim intellectual” is not an intellectual in any classic definition. Said refers to the intellectual as “an individual endowed with a faculty for representing, embodying, articulating a message, a view, an attitude, philosophy or opinion”.  Gramsci argued that intellectuals are those who “sustain, modify and alter modes of thinking and behavior of the masses. They are purveyors of consciousness”. The “victim intellectual” is none of these.

In the case of Palestine, this phenomenon was not accidental. Due to the limited spaces available to Palestinian thinkers to speak openly and truly about Israeli crimes and about Palestinian resistance to military occupation and Apartheid, some have strategically chosen to use whatever available margins to communicate any kind of messaging that could be nominally accepted by Western media and audiences.

In other words, in order for Palestinian intellectuals to be able to operate within the margins of mainstream western society, or even within the space allocated by certain pro-Palestinian groups, they can only be “allowed to narrate” as “purveyors” of victimhood. Nothing more.

Those familiar with the Palestinian intellectual discourse, in general, especially following the first major Israeli war on Gaza in 2008-9, must have noticed how accepted Palestinian narratives regarding the war rarely deviate from the decontextualized and depoliticized Palestinian victim discourse. While understanding the depravity of Israel and the horrondousness of its war crimes is critical, Palestinian voices that are given a stage to address these crimes are frequently denied the chance to present their narratives in the form of strong political or geopolitical analyses, let alone denounce Israel’s Zionist ideology or proudly defend Palestinian resistance.

Much has been written about the hypocrisy of the West in handling the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine war, especially when compared to the decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestine or the genocidal Israeli wars in Gaza. But little has been said about the nature of the Ukrainian messaging as compared to those of Palestinians: the former is demanding and entitled, while the latter mostly passive and bashful.

While top Ukrainian officials often tweet statements instructing Western officials to “go f**k yourselves” or similar, their Palestinian equivalents are constantly begging and pleading. The irony is that Ukrainian officials are attacking the very nations that have supplied them with billions of dollars of arms, while Palestinian officials are careful not to offend the same nations that support Israel with the very weapons used to kill Palestinian civilians.

One may argue that Palestinians are tailoring their language to accommodate whichever political and media spaces that are available to them. This, however, hardly explains why many Palestinians, even within “friendly” political and academic environments, can only see their people as victims and nothing else.

NOT JUST VICTIMS

This is hardly a new phenomenon. It goes back to the early years of the Israeli war on the Palestinian people. Leftist Palestinian intellectual Ghassan Kanafani, like others, was aware of this dichotomy. Kanafani contributed to the intellectual awareness among various revolutionary societies in the Global South during a critical era for national liberation struggles worldwide. He was the posthumous recipient of the Afro-Asian Writers’ Conferences Lotus Prize for Literature in 1975, three years after he was assassinated by Israel in Beirut, in July 1972.

Like others in his generation, Kanafani was adamant in presenting Palestinian victimization as part and parcel of a complex political reality of Israeli military occupation, Western colonialism and U.S.-led imperialism. A famous story is often told about how he met his wife, Anni in South Lebanon. When Anni, a Danish journalist, arrived in Lebanon in 1961, she asked Kanafani if she could visit the Palestinian refugee camps. “My people are not animals in a zoo,” Kanafani replied, adding, “You must have a good background about them before you go and visit.” The same logic can be applied to Gaza, to Sheikh Jarrah and Jenin.

The Palestinian struggle cannot be reduced to a conversation about poverty or the horrors of war, but must be expanded to include wider political contexts that led to the current tragedies in the first place. The role of the Palestinian intellectual cannot stop at conveying the victimization of the people of Palestine, leaving the much more consequential and intellectually demanding role of unpacking historical, political and geopolitical facts to others, some of whom often speak on behalf of Palestinians.

It is quite uplifting and rewarding to finally see more Palestinian voices included in the discussion about Palestine. In some cases, Palestinians are even taking center stage in these conversations. However, for the Palestinian narrative to be truly relevant, Palestinians must assume the role of the Gramscian intellectual, as “purveyors of consciousness” and abandon the role of the “victim intellectual” altogether. The Palestinian people are indeed not animals in a zoo, but a nation with political agency, capable of articulating, resisting, and, ultimately, winning their freedom, as part of a much greater fight for justice and liberation throughout the world.

Raisi: Normalization of Relations Will Not Bring Security to Zionist Regime

June 28, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi says normalization of relations with a number of regional Arab countries will not bring security to the Zionist regime of the “Israeli” entity.

Raisi made the remarks in a joint presser with the visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Tehran on Sunday.

“During this meeting, we discussed trade and political and economic relations [between the two countries], and decided to boost economic ties. We discussed the rail connection between Shalamcheh [in Iran] and [Iraq’s] Basra [port], which can play a great role in facilitating trade between the two countries. We also discussed facilitation of monetary and banking relations between Iran and Iraq,” he said.

Reflecting on the efforts made by the Zionist regime’s official during past years to normalize relations with some Arab states in the region, Iran’s chief executive said, “The efforts made by the Zionist regime to normalize relations with regional countries will by no means bring security to this regime.

“We and Iraq believe that peace and tranquility in the region depends on all regional officials doing their parts, and normalization [of relations] with the [Zionist] regime and the presence of foreigners in the region will solve none of the regional people’s problems,” Raisi said.

Highlighting the importance of relations between Iran and Iraq and the role played by the two countries in regional developments, Raisi said, “We stood by people of Iraq when the country was going through dire straits and will continue to stick together. This friendship and relations will never go cold and will further develop on a daily basis. There is no doubt that the visit by Mr. Kadhimi and his accompanying delegation can be a turning point in development of relations between the two countries.

He said that during his meeting with Kadhimi they discussed the existing relations among regional countries, adding, “We believe that dialog among regional countries can solve regional problems, [but] the presence of foreigners in the region only creates more problems and does not help solve those problems.”

Back in 2020, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed United States-brokered agreements with the entity to normalize their ties with the regime. Some other regional states, namely Sudan and Morocco, followed suit soon afterward.

Spearheaded by the UAE, the move has sparked widespread condemnations from the Palestinians as well as nations and human rights advocates across the globe, especially within the Muslim world.

Other regional countries have also been fraternizing with the entity, including Saudi Arabia, which received a visit by the regime’s former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November 2020.

Earlier this month, Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei said the Arab governments that chose to normalize relations with the “Israeli” entity against the will of their people will end up being exploited by the occupying regime.

Elsewhere in the presser, the Iranian president said the two sides have underlined the need for establishing a durable ceasefire in Yemen, lifting the economic blockade, and facilitating intra-Yemeni talks as the solutions to the existing problem in the impoverished country.

“Undoubtedly, we consider the continuation of this [Saudi-led] war fruitless and believe that this war has no outcome but the suffering of the people,” Raisi said, emphasizing that ceasefire can be a “step towards resolving issues in Yemen.”

Saudi Arabia launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with its Arab allies and with arms and logistics support from the US and other Western states.

The objective was to reinstall the Riyadh-friendly regime of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and crush the Ansarullah resistance movement, which has been running state affairs in the absence of a functional government in Yemen.

While the Saudi-led coalition has failed to meet any of its objectives, the war has killed hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Kadhimi, for his part, said that during his talks with Iranian officials, the two sides discussed bilateral historical, cultural, and religious relations.

The Iraqi premier added that Baghdad attaches great importance to its relations with Tehran on the basis of common interests.

He noted that Iran and Iraq agreed to make further efforts to serve their nations’ interests and boost trade ties.

Kadhimi said Iran and Iraq also agreed to set a timetable to facilitate the huge annual Arbaeen procession.

He added that while Iranian pilgrims have already been able to receive visas at Iraqi airports, it is now possible for a specific number of Arbaeen pilgrims to obtain visas through border crossings.

The Iraqi prime minister said, “We also discussed major regional challenges and agreed to make a joint effort to help establish stability and calm in the region. We also talked about fateful issues facing the regional nations. We decided to support the Yemen ceasefire and agreed to support dialogue in Yemen in order to put an end to a war that has brought a lot of suffering to Yemeni people.”

Some Replies to Some Comments on Recent Articles

June 26, 2022

Source

By Batiushka

1. Errors

I do apologise for the rare error which comes from not checking the text enough times. For example, Kuleba is of course the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, not the Minister of the Interior. Thank you, readers, for any factual corrections!

2. Why did the Russian Revolution happen, if everything was going so well before 1917?

There never was a Revolution. It is a myth of Western/Soviet history. But there was a mutiny of the ruling class, effectively a revolt of the uprooted, English- and French-speaking elite, or aristocracy, against Russia. They had great wealth and so they wanted what comes next – power. The people, apart from the bread and circus mob, did not follow, but were too weak and disorganised to resist. The mutiny was organised, abetted and aided by foreign powers, above all by the British from their Embassy in the then capital in Saint Petersburg.

Empires always use the same techniques. Just as the Romans had their client-states and proconsuls or governors (in Jerusalem it was Pontius Pilate) and took the children of the local elite hostage by ‘educating’ (= indoctrinating/ westernising) them in their home capitals and main cities, so did Imperial Britain, and today so does the USA. Local treachery goes a long way when you give all the traitors in the capital a lot of dollars (remember how they flew planes stuffed with billions of dollars into Baghdad?) and some infrastructure (as in a recent classic case, Kiev in 2014). However, do not blame foreign powers entirely – no foreign power can do anything if there is not local treachery. But you can always find locals who will sell their souls for a mess of pottage/dollars.

3. Nazism

Although back on 29 March, in my very first writing for The Saker, What Does Nazism Mean?, I explained what Nazism is, there is still confusion. In speaking of Nazism in the Ukraine, the Russian Federation is not speaking of Nazism as a phenomenon that existed for twelve years during the Third Reich and was marked, by other things, by its persecution of the Jews. Nazism, and so denazification, is something far greater, far more ancient, far more profound.

Nazism is the millennial ideology of the (imagined) Superiority of the Western/Westernised World, the ideology of the ‘master race’. It began with the First Reich of the Carolingians of 800-1806, the foundation act of the Western ‘Middle Ages’. And it was repeated in the Second Reich of the Prussian militarists of 1871-1918, long before the Third Reich. Thus, we can call also the Normans Nazis, the Crusaders Nazis, the Conquistadors Nazis, British merchants in India – Nazis. The largely British genocide of Native Americans was a Nazi act, as was the Belgian genocide of the Congolese, as was the Japanese genocide in Chinese Nanking, as was the Hitlerian holocaust of the Slavs (30 million), as was the US genocide of the Vietnamese. Today the USA and its UK/EU/Canadian/Australian etc vassals, ‘the Collective West’, are the Fourth Reich.

Yes, it is true that throughout history probably all countries or ethnic groups or tribes or clans have at some point attacked another country in order to try and grab its resources. The vital difference here is that Western attacks are not one-offs out of greed. They are institutionalised, systematic, justified as part of a millennial ideology, and they are global. Various words have been used to justify this Nazi ideology, from Catholicism to Protestantism, from Spanish to British, from German to Israeli, from freedom to democracy, and from American to Woke. It is all the same thing, still the same evil banditry and brutal thuggery of organised violence behind the excuse. The ‘Cancel Russia’ bookburning of the 2020s is just as Nazi as Hitler’s bookburning of the 1930s. It is the same Anti-Culture of the same Anti-Civilization. Whatever tag you want to give it, ‘Western’, ‘Nazi’, ‘European’, ‘American’, ‘Woke’, it is ultimately all the same Satanism.

This is why the conflict in the Ukraine, which could so easily have remained a purely local affair in the Donbass and been over in 2014, spread to the whole of Novorossija (the east and south of the ‘Ukraine’) and has spread throughout Eastern and Western Europe. Russia’s primary task, indeed mission, and many of us knew this from the very outset and indeed have believed in it all our lives, is to free Europe of ‘Nazism’, to ‘denazify’ Europe. (China can deal with Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Australia and, quite easily, Africa; Russia may deal, quite easily, with Latin America. As for the USA and Canada, like Israel, they will have to be quarantined, isolated and left to rot until they decontaminate themselves, like corpses which over time only leave bleached bones.

This denazification will hopefully chiefly be political, economic and ideological – but it may in some cases also have to be military, as in the Ukraine. This is what Operation Z is about. In writing these very words, I am very modestly taking part in Operation Z and you, in reading these words, are also taking part in Operation Z. Z is the Great Liberation. We have been waiting for this moment all our lives, whether we realised it or not.

4. What are the sources for the article about Russia before the ‘Revolution’, Myths from the Past and the Third Incarnation of Russia since 1721?

There are few sources in English. This is deliberate. Few things resembling the truth about Russia get written or translated – which is of course part of the systematic censorship of Russia. The bibliography below represents only the tip of the iceberg, therefore I would rather call it an essential reading list:

In Russian:

The Diaries of Nicholas II, in 3 Volumes, ed. S. V. Mironenko, Moscow, 2013

Alferiev E. E., Tsar Nicholas II as a Man of Strong Will, New York-Jordanville, 1983

Belousov P. (compiled), The Tsar and Russia, Otchij Dom, Moscow, 2017 (Contains reprints of many important articles by Solonevich, Nekrasov, Obruchev, Obolensky, Pavlov, Tikhmenev, Stremoukhov, Zajtsev and others)

Bokhanov A. N., Rasputin, the Anatomy of a Myth, Moscow, 2000

Bokhanov A. N., Nicholas II, Moscow, Veche, 2008

Borisiuk A. A., The History of Russia Which They Ordered To Be Forgotten, Moscow, Veche 2018 (2nd edition). (Statistical Facts)

Brazol B.L., The Reign of Tsar Nicholas II in Facts and Figures (1894-1917), New York, 1959

Dolmatov V., The Sovereign, Twenty Three Steps Up, Dostoinstvo, Moscow 2015

Fomin S., Gregory Rasputin, An Investigation, 9 Volumes, Moscow, Forum, 2007-2015

Gubanov V. (compiled), The Holy Tsar Nicholas II and the New Russian Martyrs, Stavros, Moscow, 2004

Kapkov K.G., The Spiritual World of Emperor Nicholas II and His Family, Moscow-Livadia, 2017

Kobylin V. The Anatomy of a Betrayal, the Sources of the Anti-Monarchist Conspiracy, Saint Petersburg, 1998 (reprint)

Mirek A., The Emperor Nicholas II and the Destiny of Orthodox Russia, Spiritual Enlightenment, Moscow, 2013

Mironova T., From Beneath the Lie, Vesti, Saint Petersburg, 2005

Multatuli P.V., The Foreign Policy of Emperor Nicholas II (1894-1917), Moscow, 2012

Multatuli P.V., Myths and the Truth about the Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II, Ekaterinburg, 2013

Multatuli P.V., Nicholas II, The Way of the Cross, Smolin, Moscow, 2013

Multatuli P.V., Emperor Nicholas II, The Man and the Monarch, and, Emperor Nicholas II the Martyr, Veche, Moscow, 2018

Multatuli P.V., Emperor Nicholas II, The Tragedy of a Misunderstood Sovereign, Smolin, Moscow, 2018

Oldenburg S. S., The Reign of Nicholas II, Saint Petersburg, Petropol, 1991 (reprint)

Platonov O., Nicholas II, His Life and Reign, Saint Petersburg, 1999

Platonov O., Nicholas II in His Secret Correspondence, Algorithm, Moscow, 2005

Platonov O., A Life for the Tsar, Rodnaya Strana, Moscow, 2015

Reshetnikov L., To Return to Russia, Moscow, 2013

Shargunov Archpriest A., The Miracles of the Royal Martyrs, 2 Volumes, Moscow, 2000

Shargunov Archpriest A., The Tsar, Zlatoust, Moscow, 2013

Zhevakhov N.D. Memoirs, Saint Petersburg, 2014

In English:

Den L., The Real Tsaritsa, Nabu Public Domain Reprints, Undated

Maylunas A. and Mironenko S., A Lifelong Passion, Nicholas and Alexandra, Weidenfeld, London, 1996 (Their Correspondence)

Nekrasov G., Nicholas II as Military Commander, Sovereign Journal No 5, Royal Russia, 2017

Rogger H., Jewish Policies and Right-Wing Politics in Imperial Russia, Berkley, 1986

Romanova Olga Alexandrovna, 25 Chapters of My Life, Librario, Kinloss, 2009 (reprint)

Vorres I., The Last Grand Duchess, Olga Alexandrovna, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1964

Wilton E. and Sokolov N., The Last Days of the Romanovs, General Books, Memphis, 2012 (reprint)

In French:

Chavelsky G., J’ai Vecu La Fin de la Russie Imperiale, Editions Singulieres, Sete, 2011. (A very good translation and a portrait of the traitors surrounding Tsar Nicholas, written by one of them)

Gilliard P., Le Tragique Destin de Nicolas II et de sa famille, Payot, Paris, 1929

Jacoby Jean, Le Tsar Nicholas II et la Revolution, Fayard, Paris, 1931

Joukoff Archpriest B. (compiled), Nicolas II, Le Dernier Empereur Orthodoxe, Villemoisson, 2015

Loupan V., Nicholas II, Le Saint Tsar, Syrtes, Paris, 2001

5. Who am I?

I am the Russian Orthodox rector of a very large parish in Europe. I have served in many countries in Western Europe and have lived in Russia and the Ukraine. I have also worked as a lecturer in Russian and European history and politics. Enough said.

الكارثة قادمة ما لم تقم حكومة جديدة وتسارع العمل

السبت 25 حزيران 2022

 ناصر قنديل

يعرض كثيرون لعمر الحكومة القصير سبباً للاستخفاف بما يمكنها وما يجب عليها فعله، وما لا يجوز لها إلا أن تفعله، لأنهم لا يقيمون حساباً للجواب الذي يقدمه الواقع على سؤال من نوع: ماذا سيحدث في مسار تفاقم الانهيار خلال أربعة شهور؟

في أربعة شهور إذا تركت أمور البلاد لحالها، سيكون أكيداً أن يواصل الدولار خطه التصاعدي فيقفز كل شهر عتبة جديدة حدها الأدنى خمسة آلاف ليرة ما يعني أن يبلغ مع نهاية الشهور الأربعة 50 ألف ليرة، فهل يحتمل لبنان واللبنانيون هذا التصعيد الذي ينتظرنا واقعياً؟

في أربعة شهور سترتفع حكماً أسعار المواد الأساسية بما يزيد عن نسبة تأثير ارتفاع سعر الدولار، سواء بتأثير التفاقم في أزمتي الطاقة والحبوب وتأثير ذلك على أسعار القمح والنفط، واستطراداً الخبز واشتراكات مولدات الكهرباء واكلاف النقل، وعموما سنكون أمام زيادة أسعار تزيد عن 100%.

في أربعة شهور ستتحول رواتب الموظفين بفعل عاملي ارتفاع الدولار وانهيار القدرة الشرائية للرواتب، إلى معادل ثمن صفيحة بنزين عندما يقارب سعرها المليون ونصف مليون ليرة، فتتوقف عجلة الدولة وإداراتها وتنهار المؤسسات التربوية والصحية، وتقفل مؤسسات خاصة تنازع البقاء، وتخرج الناس الى الشوارع وينفلت حبل الأمن وتقع الفوضى.

الذين ينامون على حرير الانتظار، ويقيسون قدرة البلد على التحمل بقدرتهم، لا ينتبهون ان شعار الانتظار حتى تتم الانتخابات الرئاسية، قد يعني عملياً القرار بالذهاب الى الكارثة، حيث احتمال أن تحول ظروف البلد دون إنجاز الانتخابات، بسبب الفوضى والفلتان الأمني، وصعوبة جمع مجلس النواب، إضافة للتسليم بأن الأمور بلغت حداً يفوق طاقة الانتخابات الرئاسية على معالجتها.

السؤال هو ماذا تستطيع حكومة الشهور الأربعة أن تفعل، مشروع حكماً، انطلاقاً من تجربة ما مضى، فلماذا نتوقع أن تستطيع حكومة محكومة بعمرها القصير وبالتوازنات ذاتها التي رافقت سابقتها الشبيهة بها عموماً، ما لم تستطعه تلك؟

الجواب هو في برنامج مختصر وواقعيّ على مقاس الحكومة يأخذ بعين الاعتبار المعادلات التي تحكم حركتها، وفي طليعته إقرار الموازنة العامة ومن ضمنها تعديلات الرواتب والأجور، وإقرار الاتفاقية مع صندوق النقد الدولي ليس لأنها عصا سحرية، وهي ليست كذلك حكماً، بل لأن الرقم الضئيل لمساهمة الصندوق قياساً بحاجة لبنان لا يمنحه فرصة تفاوضيّة لفرض شروط تفجيريّة على لبنان، ويتيح بالمقابل فتح الطريق لخلق مناخ إيجابي لوضع خطط الخروج من الأزمة المالية والمصرفية، بجواز مرور دولي، على السكة، انطلاقاً من خطة هيكلة القطاع المصرفي، وتوزيع الخسائر كما أقرها الصندوق، أي كما أقرتها حكومة الرئيس حسان دياب، وانتفض عليها تحالف نيابي مدعوم من كل من مصرف لبنان وجمعية المصارف وكبار المودعين.

الجواب بوضع أولويّة إنهاء ملف ترسيم الحدود البحرية فوق الطاولة، وفق ما توصل اليه التفاهم الرئاسي، وفي طليعته ربط العودة للمفاوضات بوقف استخراج الغاز من جانب الكيان من حقول بحر عكا، ووضع قرار البدء بالتنقيب في حقل قانا على الطاولة، وتوفير التغطية السياسية اللازمة لاستحضار معادلة الردع التي تمثلها المقاومة، لضمان التجاوب مع شروط الحد الأدنى المقبولة لبنانياً.

الجواب ببدء خطة للكهرباء تستفيد من الحاجة الأميركية لتظهير دور الوسيط المقبول في الترسيم عبر رفع الحظر عن جر الغاز من مصر والكهرباء من الأردن عبر سورية لرفع ساعات التغذية، والإسراع لتلزيم استثماريّ لمشروع توليد الكهرباء مع تأمينها حتى تجهز المعامل، وإعطاء الأفضلية لمن يضمن السداد بالليرات اللبنانية، ومثلها لمصافي النفط والغاز سواء في الزهراني او في طرابلس، بغض النظر عن جنسية الشركات العارضة.

الجواب بتجديد وتطوير الاتفاق مع العراق، سواء لتوريد كميات من الفيول، أو لوضع خط نقل النفط من كركوك الى طرابلس عبر سورية، بالاستفادة من سابقة جر الكهرباء والغاز، ومعلوم حجم الفائدة الاقتصادية لهذا الأنبوب للبلدين.

إن حكومة جديدة، ولو مثلت امتداداً عبر رئيسها وأغلبية أعضائها للحكومة السابقة، تستطيع اذا توافرت إرادة سياسية بالحد الأدنى من الشعور بالمسؤولية أن تمنع تفاقم عناصر الانهيار، بل بدء مسار السيطرة على هذا الانهيار، وتوفير المناخات المطلوبة لمقاربة استحقاق رئاسة الجمهورية في ظروف تتيح تحوله إلى نقطة بداية لمسار النهوض.

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Belarus reveals mass executions of Iraqi refugees by Polish soldiers

22 Jun 2022

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

Belarus says it informed an Iraqi delegation of the details of an investigation concluded about mass executions and secret burial of Iraqi refugees killed by the Polish army.

Iraqi migrants at the Belarus-Poland border

The Investigative Committee of Belarus said that an Iraqi delegation visiting Minsk was handed over evidence and information about the mass and secret executions of Iraqi refugees by Polish soldiers on the Polish side of the border with Belarus.

According to a statement published on the website of the Committee, a meeting was held with the Iraqi delegation in the Committee’s central office.

During the meeting, the Iraqi side was informed of the details of the investigation concluded about mass executions and secret burial of refugees killed by the Polish army.

The Iraqi side also received information on the progress and results of the investigation into the crimes against humanity, propaganda for war, and willful endangerment of others, as well as details related to violations committed by officials in Poland such as illegal acts including deportation, cruelty, torture and deliberate failure to provide assistance that led to the death of refugees from West Asian countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

The statement mentioned that these crimes had been assertedly committed on the basis of race, nationality, nationality, and religion.

According to the statement, “Belarusian investigators documented criminal actions committed against 135 Iraqi citizens, who were physically injured as violence was used against them by Polish security forces.”

The Investigative Committee of Belarus is also investigating three cases related to bodily harm and illegal expulsion from the EU to Belarus, which led to the death of Iraqi citizens.

It is noteworthy that in February 2023, the International Criminal Court in The Hague will look into the statement of Belarusian human rights activists on the genocide of migrants in Poland.

On January 25, Poland’s border guards announced the start of construction of a 186-kilometer (115-mile) fence at the border with Belarus after thousands of migrants from West Asia streamed to the border in an attempt to cross into the European Union.

كرد سوريا.. في خدمة من؟

الأربعاء 15 حزيران 2022

حسني محلي

السؤال الأهم هو: لماذا تتخذ القيادات الكردية هذه المواقف المتناقضة؟ ولماذا لا تستخلص الدروس من كل أخطائها؟

بعد التهديدات التركية بالتوغل في الأراضي السورية شرق الفرات وغربه، بذريعة طرد مسلحي وحدات حماية الشعب الكردية من الشريط الحدودي مع تركيا، عاد الحديث من جديد عن حوارات كردية مع دمشق بهدف التصدي للجيش التركي في هجومه المحتمل.

قرار وحدات حماية الشعب الكردية لا يتخذ في القامشلي بل في جبال قنديل.

 ومع أن المعلومات ما زالت ضئيلة لجهة نتائج هذه الحوارات، إلا أن الجميع يعرف أن قرار هذه الوحدات لا يتخذ في القامشلي، بل في جبال قنديل، حيث قيادات حزب العمال الكردستاني التركي، الذي بات يسيطر على الحركة الكردية السورية بعد إقصائه الأحزاب والمنظمات والمجموعات الكردية الوطنية وغير الوطنية، بما فيها تلك الموالية لمسعود البرزاني؛ حليف الرئيس التركي رجب طيب إردوغان. 

ومع المعلومات التي تتحدّث عن تأجيل العمل العسكري التركي بعد زيارة وزير الخارجية الروسي سيرغي لافروف لأنقرة واعتراضه عليها، تراجعت في الوقت نفسه حدة التصريحات الكردية التي كانت تتحدّث عن ضرورة العمل العسكري المشترك مع الجيش السوري، وهو ما يعكس تناقضات القيادات الكردية بشقّيها: السوري أولاً، والتركي ثانياً. والشق الثاني هو الأهم بغياب إرادة الطرف الأول في اتخاذ القرارات التي تخدم الشارع الكردي السوري أولاً، والدولة السورية تالياً بتوجهاتها الجديدة إلى الحل الشامل لما يسمى القضية الكردية، فقيادات قنديل التي غادرتها بسبب القصف التركي المتوالي ترى في مسلحي وحدات حماية الشعب الكردية، وأغلبيتهم الساحقة من السوريين، ورقة مهمة تساوم بها كل الأطراف الإقليمية والدولية بعد انتكاسات الحزب المسلحة في تركيا.

وقد نجح الجيش وقوات الأمن التركيان المدعومان بآلاف المليشيات الكردية الموالية لها في إنزال ضربات مؤثرة في مسلحي حزب العمال الكردستاني، بعد أن استخدم الجيش طائراته المسيرة بكثرة، في جنوب شرقي البلاد وشمالي العراق، وعلى طول الحدود التركية مع العراق وإيران وسوريا. 

قيادات قنديل وبغياب زعيمها عبد الله أوجلان المسجون منذ شباط/فبراير عام 1999، يبدو أنها قد نسيت أو تناست أن من اختطف أوجلان من العاصمة الكينية نيروبي وسلّمه إلى تركيا، هو الاستخبارات الأميركية بالتنسيق مع الموساد الإسرائيلي.

 كما أنها نسيت أو تناست كيف ارتعشت خوفاً، عندما قال الرئيس الأميركي السابق دونالد ترامب في  29آذار/مارس من عام  2018″إن القوات الأميركية ستغادر سوريا قريباً جداً، وتترك الأطراف الأخرى تهتم بالأمر”، وقصد بذلك الحرب على داعش ثمّ التهديدات التركية باجتياح المنطقة. وهي نسيت كذلك أو تناست أن ترامب هو الذي أشعل الضوء الأخضر للرئيس إردوغان، الذي أمر الجيش التركي بالتوغّل، شرق الفرات، في التاسع من تشرين الأول/أكتوبر عام 2019، (وهو نفس اليوم الذي غادر فيه أوجلان سوريا قبل 19 عاماً بعد أن بقي فيها 15 عاماً)، لتسيطر على الشريط الحدودي، بين تل أبيض ورأس العين (نحو 100 كلم) وتطرد المسلحين الكرد من المنطقة. 

ونسيت كذلك أو تناست أن الجيش التركي كاد يسيطر على الشريط الحدودي السوري مع تركيا سيطرة كاملة، شرق الفرات، لولا تدخّل موسكو وإرسال القوات الروسية إلى المنطقة، وتسيير دوريات مشتركة مع الجيش التركي في المنطقة. 

وهي أيضاً نسيت أو تناست أنها السبب في اجتياح الجيش التركي في كانون الثاني/يناير عام 2018 منطقة عفرين والسيطرة عليها تماماً، بعد أن رفضت التنسيق والعمل المشترك مع الجيش السوري لمنع الجيش التركي من القيام بمثل هذا الاجتياح. 

ولم تستخلص كذلك الدروس اللازمة من حواراتها مع الرئيس إردوغان بهدف حل المشكلة الكردية في تركيا وسوريا معاً، إذ أخفقت كل هذه الحوارات، ليس في حل المشكلة الكردية وحسب، بل في تخلية سبيل زعيم الحزب، عبد الله أوجلان، وهو في سجن انفرادي في جزيرة إيمرالي القريبة من إسطنبول. 

ولم يكتف إردوغان بذلك، بل أمر بوضع الزعيمين المشتركين لحزب الشعوب الديمقراطي (الجناح السياسي لحزب العمال الكردستاني) صلاح الدين دميرطاش، وفيكان يوكساكداغ، وعدد آخر من قيادات الحزب، ورؤساء البلديات والآلاف من أنصار وأتباع وكوادر الحزب في السجون على الرغم من سيطرة هذا الحزب على الشارع الكردي.

وتبيّن استطلاعات الرأي أنه قد يحصل على 12٪ من مجموع أصوات الناخبين في تركيا، وعددهم نحو 60 مليوناً. 

وعودة إلى مواقف قيادات قنديل، يبدو أيضاً أنها قد نسيت أو تناست كيف نسّقت مع أنقرة للعمل المشترك، ما بين عامي 2013 و2015، حيث زار زعيم حزب الاتحاد الديمقراطي الكردستاني السوري صالح مسلم تركيا مرات عدة، والتقى القيادات التركية التي طلبت إليه التمرّد على دمشق، فرفض ليكون ذلك الموقف الإيجابي الوحيد له ولرفاقه، ولكن بعد أن جاءت القوات الأميركية إلى شرق الفرات لتساعدهم في حربهم على داعش، وهو ما استغلته القيادات المذكورة لتدخله في حساباتها الخاصة، التي اعتقدت أنها ستساعدها في إقامة كيان كردي مستقل شرق الفرات.

وأياً كانت التسمية خصوصاً بعدما سارع عدد من العواصم الغربية ولا سيما باريس، وبرلين، ولندن، بل وحتى “تل أبيب” لدعمها وفق حساباتها الخاصة، ومنها تشجيع قيادات “قسد” الكردية على تكريد المنطقة، وتطهيرها عرقياً بسكوت وتواطؤ من القيادات العربية في “قسد”. ومن دون أن تستذكر القيادات المذكورة مواقف واشنطن والعواصم الغربية، التي اعترضت على استفتاء مسعود البرزاني على استقلال كردستان العراقي في أيلول/سبتمبر عام 2017، وهو ما اعترض عليه إردوغان “الحليف الإستراتيجي للبرزاني”.

ويبقى السؤال الأهم وربما الوحيد: لماذا اتخذت وتتخذ القيادات الكردية كل هذه المواقف المتناقضة؟ ولماذا لا تستخلص الدروس اللازمة من كل أخطائها، ومن تاريخ الحركة الكردية في تركيا وسوريا والعراق بل ومن إيران كذلك؟

يتذكر الجميع كيف كان الكرد وما زالوا ورقة تلوّح بها الأطراف الخارجية في تآمرها على دول المنطقة التي دعمت كرد الدول الأخرى، فيما حاربت كردها داخل حدودها. كما استعدى الكرد بعضهم بعضاً في هذه الدول الأربع، ودخلوا في صراعات مسلحة ودموية فيما بينهم، تارة من أجل المصالح والسلطة، وتارة أخرى خدمةً لأطراف خارجية، كما هي الحال في تحالف مسعود البرزاني مع أنقرة، تارة ضد الراحل جلال الطالباني، وتارة أخرى ضد حزب العمال الكردستاني التركي وزعيمه عبد الله أوجلان. ومن دون أن يخطر في بال البرزاني وأمثاله، أن العواصم الإقليمية والغربية لم تفكر، ولن تفكر في حقوق الكرد، بل استخدمتهم وتستخدمهم وستستخدمهم إلى الأبد لتحقيق أهدافها الخبيثة، التي تستهدف دول المنطقة وشعوبها برمتها، وفي مقدمهم الكرد، ومعهم العرب، والفرس، والأتراك، وغيرهم. 

وهذا ما تحقّق للعواصم الغربية والإقليمية بفضل الدور الذي أداه ويؤديه الكرد في العراق، والآن في سوريا التي لولا تآمر القيادات الكردية (الماركسية سابقاً) في شرقها مع المحتل الأميركي والأوروبي، لما وصلت الأمور إلى ما وصلت إليه في المنطقة وسوريا خصوصاً، ولولاها لما تذرعت تركيا بهم لتتوغل في الشمال السوري وتسيطر على 9٪ من مجمل الأرض السورية. 

كذلك فإن الواقع المفروض شرق الفرات بدعم أميركي، هو مبرّر كافٍ لأنقرة لتبقى في المناطق التي تسيطر عليها قواتها بالتنسيق والتعاون مع عشرات الآلاف من مسلحي ما يسمّى “الجيش الوطني” المعارض و”النصرة” وحليفاتها الإرهابية. 

وتتحدث المعلومات هنا باستمرار عن حسابات تركية للاستفادة منهم حين اللزوم ضد الكرد، سواء في داخل تركيا أو في الشّمال السوري، وقد يكون ذلك ما قصده ترامب عندما قال في آذار/مارس عام 2018 “سنغادر سوريا ونترك الأطراف الأخرى تهتم بالأمر فيما بينها”. وفي اتصاله الهاتفي بإردوغان في 24 من كانون الأول/ديسمبر عام 2018 قال: “لقد أنهينا مهمتنا وسوف ننسحب من هناك وسوريا كلها لك”!

ويبقى الرهان في جميع الحالات على التطورات المحتملة ليس في سوريا فقط وتوتّراتها مع تركيا، بل على الخريطة السياسية التي يراهن البعض عليها كنتيجة لزيارة الرئيس بايدن للسعودية في 15 من الشهر المقبل، ولقائه زعماء الخليج، ومصر، والأردن، والعراق، وهو ما سينعكس مباشرة على مجمل معطيات المنطقة، وأهمها: الملف النووي الإيراني، والوضع في سوريا وانعكاسات ذلك على كل الحسابات بصورة مباشرة أو غير مباشرة. فعسى ألا يكون الكرد مادتها الحارقة، التي ستحرقهم، وتحرق كل الذين عاشوا ويعيشون معهم منذ مئات السنين بكل أيامهم الحلوة والمرة. وعسى أن يستخلص حكام دول المنطقة بدورهم، وخصوصاً في سوريا والعراق وإيران الدروس الكافية من كل ما عاشته، وتعيشه دولهم والمنطقة عموماً، ويسدوا الطريق على الأعداء الذين يعرفهم الجميع، وخصوصاً الكرد ومنذ أكثر من مئة سنة على الأقل!

إن الآراء المذكورة في هذه المقالة لا تعبّر بالضرورة عن رأي الميادين وإنما تعبّر عن رأي صاحبها حصراً

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