The Debate – Failed US Mideast Plans


USA, The Superpower That Fought Itself—And Lost

The Superpower That Fought Itself—And Lost

by William J. Astore

131210-N-VC599-169 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 10, 2013) Ships from the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group simulate a strait transit. The strike group is conducting a pre-deployment evaluation. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert/Released)

When it comes to the “world’s greatest military,” the news has been shocking. Two fast U.S. Navy ships colliding with slow-moving commercial vessels with tragic loss of life.  An Air Force that has been in the air continuously for years and yet doesn’t have enough pilots to fly its combat jets.  Ground troops who find themselves fighting “rebels” in Syria previously armed and trained by the CIA.  Already overstretched Special Operations forces facing growing demands as their rates of mental distress and suicide rise.  Proxy armies in Iraq and Afghanistan that are unreliable, often delivering American-provided weaponry to black markets and into the hands of various enemies.  All of this and more coming at a time when defense spending is once again soaring and the national security state is awash in funds to the tune of nearly a trillion dollars a year.

What gives?  Why are highly maneuverable and sophisticated naval ships colliding with lumbering cargo vessels?  Why is an Air Force that exists to fly and fight short 1,200 pilots?  Why are U.S. Special Operations forces deployed everywhere and winning nowhere?  Why, in short, is the U.S. military fighting itself — and losing?

It’s the Ops Tempo, Stupid

After 16 years of a never-ending, ever-spreading global war on terror, alarms are going off in Asia from the Koreas and Afghanistan to the Philippines, while across the Greater Middle East and Africa the globe’s “last superpower” is in a never-ending set of conflicts with a range of minor enemies few can even keep straight.  As a result, America’s can-do military, committed piecemeal to a bewildering array of missions, has increasingly become a can’t-do one.

Too few ships are being deployed for too long.  Too few pilots are being worn out by incessant patrols and mushrooming drone and bombing missions.  Special Operations forces (the “commandos of everywhere,” as Nick Turse calls them) are being deployed to far too many countries — more than two-thirds of the nations on the planet already this year — and are involved in conflicts that hold little promise of ending on terms favorable to Washington.  Meanwhile, insiders like retired General David Petraeus speak calmly about “generational struggles” that will essentially never end.  To paraphrase an old slogan from ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” as the U.S. military spans the globe, it’s regularly experiencing the agony of defeat rather than the thrill of victory.

To President Donald Trump (and so many other politicians in Washington), this unsavory reality suggests an obvious solution: boost military funding; build more navy ships; train more pilots and give them more incentive pay to stay in the military; rely more on drones and other technological “force multipliers” to compensate for tired troops; cajole allies like the Germans and Japanese to spend more on their militaries; and pressure proxy armies like the Iraqi and Afghan security forces to cut corruption and improve combat performance.

One option — the most logical — is never seriously considered in Washington: to make deep cuts in the military’s operational tempo by decreasing defense spending and downsizing the global mission, by bringing troops home and keeping them there.  This is not an isolationist plea.  The United States certainly faces challenges, notably from Russia (still a major nuclear power) and China (a global economic power bolstering its regional militarily strength).  North Korea is, as ever, posturing with missile and nuclear tests in provocative ways.  Terrorist organizations strive to destabilize American allies and cause trouble even in “the homeland.”

Such challenges require vigilance.  What they don’t require is more ships in the sea-lanes, pilots in the air, and boots on the ground.  Indeed, 16 years after the 9/11 attacks it should be obvious that more of the same is likely to produce yet more of what we’ve grown all too accustomed to: increasing instability across significant swaths of the planet, as well as the rise of new terror groups or new iterations of older ones, which means yet more opportunities for failed U.S. military interventions.

Once upon a time, when there were still two superpowers on Planet Earth, Washington’s worldwide military posture had a clear rationale: the containment of communism.  Soon after the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 to much triumphalist self-congratulation in Washington, the scholar and former CIA consultant Chalmers Johnson had an epiphany.  What he would come to call “the American Raj,” a global imperial structure ostensibly built to corral the menace of communism, wasn’t going away just because that menace had evaporated, leaving not a superpower nor even a major power as an opponent anywhere on the horizon.  Quite the opposite, Washington — and its globe-spanning “empire” of military bases — was only digging in deeper and for the long haul.  At that moment, with a certain shock, Johnson realized that the U.S. was itself an empire and, with its mirror-image-enemy gone, risked turning on itself and becoming its own nemesis.

The U.S., it turned out, hadn’t just contained the Soviets; they had contained us, too.  Once their empire collapsed, our leaders imbibed the old dream of Woodrow Wilson, even if in a newly militarized fashion: to remake the world in one’s own image (if need be at the point of a sword).

Since the early 1990s, largely unconstrained by peer rivals, America’s leaders have acted as if there were nothing to stop them from doing as they pleased on the planet, which, as it turned out, meant there was nothing to stop them from their own folly.  We witness the results today.  Prolonged and disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Interventions throughout the Greater Middle East (Libya, Syria, Yemen, and beyond) that spread chaos and destruction.  Attacks against terrorism that have given new impetus to jihadists everywhere.  And recently calls to arm Ukraine against Russia.  All of this is consistent with a hubristic strategic vision that, in these years, has spoken in an all-encompassing fashion and without irony of global reach, global power, and full-spectrum dominance.

In this context, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the full scope of America’s military power.  All the world is a stage — or a staging area — for U.S. troops.  There are still approximately 800 U.S. military bases in foreign lands.  America’s commandos deploy to more than 130 countries yearly.  And even the world is not enough for the Pentagon as it seeks to dominate not just land, sea, and air but outer space, cyberspace, and even inner space, if you count efforts to achieve “total information awareness” through 17 intelligence agencies dedicated — at a cost of $80 billion a year — to sweeping up all data on Planet Earth.

In short, America’s troops are out everywhere and winning nowhere, a problem America’s “winningest” president, Donald Trump, is only exacerbating.  Surrounded by “his” generals, Trump has — against his own instincts, he claimed recently — recommitted American troops and prestige to the Afghan War.  He’s also significantly expanded U.S. drone strikes and bombing throughout the Greater Middle East, and threatened to bring fire and fury to North Korea, while pushing a program to boost military spending.

At a Pentagon awash in money, with promises of more to come, missions are rarely downsized.  Meanwhile, what passes for original thinking in the Trump White House is the suggestion of Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, to privatize America’s war in Afghanistan (and possibly elsewhere).  Mercenaries are the answer to Washington’s military problems, suggests Prince.  And mercs, of course, have the added benefit of not being constrained by the rules of engagement that apply to America’s uniformed service members.

Indeed, Prince’s idea, though opposed by Trump’s generals, is compelling in one sense: If you accept the notion that America’s wars in these years have been fought largely for the corporate agendas of the military-industrial complex, why not turn warfighting itself over to the warrior corporations that now regularly accompany the military into battle, cutting out the middleman, that very military?

Hammering a Cloud of Gnats

Erik Prince’s mercenaries will, however, have to bide their time as the military high command continues to launch kinetic strikes against elusive foes around the globe.  By its own admission, the force recent U.S. presidents have touted as the “finest” in history faces remarkably “asymmetrical” and protean enemies, including the roughly 20 terrorist organizations in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of operations.  In striking at such relatively puny foes, the U.S. reminds me of the mighty Thor of superhero fame swinging his hammer violently against a cloud of gnats. In the process, some of those gnats will naturally die, but the result will still be an exhausted superhero and ever more gnats attracted by the heat and commotion of battle.

I first came across the phrase “using a sledgehammer to kill gnats” while looking at the history of U.S. airpower during the Vietnam War.  B-52 “Arc Light” raids dropped record tons of bombs on parts of South Vietnam and Laos in largely failed efforts to kill dispersed guerrillas and interdict supply routes from North Vietnam.  Half a century later, with its laser- and GPS-guided bombs, the Air Force regularly touts the far greater precision of American airpower.  Yet in one country after another, using just that weaponry, the U.S. has engaged in serial acts of overkill.  In Afghanistan, it was the recent use of MOAB, the “mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear weapon the U.S. has ever used in combat, against a small concentration of ISIS fighters.  In similar fashion, the U.S. air war in Syria has outpaced the Russians and even the Assad regime in its murderous effects on civilians, especially around Raqqa, the “capital” of the Islamic State.  Such overkill is evident on the ground as well where special ops raids have, this year, left civilians dead from Yemen to Somalia.  In other words, across the Greater Middle East, Washington’s profligate killing machine is also creating a desire for vengeance among civilian populations, staggering numbers of whom, when not killed, have been displaced or sent fleeing across borders as refugees in these wars. It has played a significant role in unsettling whole regions, creating failed states, and providing yet more recruits for terror groups.

Leaving aside technological advances, little has changed since Vietnam. The U.S. military is still relying on enormous firepower to kill elusive enemies as a way of limiting (American) casualties.  As an instrument of victory, it didn’t work in Vietnam, nor has it worked in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But never mind the history lessons.  President Trump asserts that his “new” Afghan strategy — the details of which, according to a military spokesman, are “not there yet” — will lead to more terrorists (that is, gnats) being killed.

Since 9/11, America’s leaders, Trump included, have rarely sought ways to avoid those gnats, while efforts to “drain the swamp” in which the gnats thrive have served mainly to enlarge their breeding grounds.  At the same time, efforts to enlist indigenous “gnats” — local proxy armies — to take over the fight have gone poorly indeed.  As in Vietnam, the main U.S. focus has invariably been on developing better, more technologically advanced (which means more expensive) sledgehammers, while continuing to whale away at that cloud of gnats — a process as hopeless as it is counterproductive.

The Greatest Self-Defeating Force in History?

Incessant warfare represents the end of democracy.  I didn’t say that, James Madison did.

I firmly believe, though, in words borrowed from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, that “only Americans can hurt America.”  So how can we lessen the hurt?  By beginning to rein in the military.  A standing military exists — or rather should exist — to support and defend the Constitution and our country against immediate threats to our survival.  Endless attacks against inchoate foes in the backlands of the planet hardly promote that mission.  Indeed, the more such attacks wear on the military, the more they imperil national security.

A friend of mine, a captain in the Air Force, once quipped to me: you study long, you study wrong.  It’s a sentiment that’s especially cutting when applied to war: you wage war long, you wage it wrong.  Yet as debilitating as they may be to militaries, long wars are even more devastating to democracies.  The longer our military wages war, the more our country is militarized, shedding its democratic values and ideals.

Back in the Cold War era, the regions in which the U.S. military is now slogging it out were once largely considered “the shadows” where John le Carré-style secret agents from the two superpowers matched wits in a set of shadowy conflicts.  Post-9/11, “taking the gloves off” and seeking knockout blows, the U.S. military entered those same shadows in a big way and there, not surprisingly, it often couldn’t sort friend from foe.

A new strategy for America should involve getting out of those shadowy regions of no-win war.  Instead, an expanding U.S. military establishment continues to compound the strategic mistakes of the last 16 years.  Seeking to dominate everywhere but winning decisively nowhere, it may yet go down as the greatest self-defeating force in history.

Reprinted, with permission, from TomDispatch.

TomDispatch regular, William Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and history professor.  His personal blog is Bracing ViewsFollow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower WorldCopyright 2017 William J. Astore

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الأربعاء 09 آب

عمر معربوني – بيروت برس – 

ليس  سرًّا وقوف الولايات المتحدة الأميركية خلف الهجمة التي تتعرض لها المنطقة، وهو الأمر الذي بدأ مع انتقال ملف المنطقة من فرنسا وبريطانيا العام 1957 بعد انتهاء مفاعيل العدوان الثلاثي على مصر، حيث بدأ بالتبلور في عهد ايزنهاور ما يسمّى بمشروع كيسينجر (ايزنهاور – حلف بغداد) او خطّة كيسينجر(ايزنهاور – حلف بغداد) الهادفة الى اعادة تقسيم المنطقة على اسس مختلفة عن الناتج الذي حصل بموجب اتفاقية سايكس – بيكو التي قسّمت المنطقة الى كيانات سياسية بصيغتها الحالية لضمان أمان كامل ومستمر ومستدام للكيان الصهيوني الذي نشأ عام 1948،

جمال عبد الناصر وجون فوستر دالاس

 في حين أن مخطط كيسينجر (جون فوستر دالاس) جاء بسبب المواقف التي اطلقها الرئيس الراحل جمال عبد الناصر بعد ثورة الضباط الأحرار في مصر عام 1952 والتي تجاوزت في انطلاقها الواقع المصري الداخلي لتعلن مواقف واضحة من قضية فلسطين بعد مرور اربع سنوات فقط من نشوء الكيان الصهيوني، ولندخل عصرًا جديدًا هو عصر المقاومة بعد ان استطاع الإستعمار اخضاع المنطقة بنتيجة التبدلات الناشئة عن الحربين العالميتين الأولى والثانية.

النموذج الأول لثلاثية الجيش والشعب والمقاومة في عصر المقاومة العربية ما بعد نشوء الكيان الصهيوني بدأ في مصر بعد بدء العدوان الثلاثي عام 1956، حيث كنا امام تلاحم كبير تمثل في مشاركة الجيش المصري القتال مع مجموعات المقاومة الشعبية المدعومة من عموم الشعب المصري.

واذا تتبعنا مسار المواجهات منذ ما بعد تطبيق اتفاقية سايكس بيكو، لوجدنا ان الجيوش العربية لم تستطع مواجهة الهجمات الناتجة عن الغزو الخارجي لأسباب مختلفة وعانت من الهزائم المستمرة لأسباب مختلفة ايضًا لا مجال لذكرها هنا، وهي اسباب معروفة للباحثين والمهتمين ولعموم الناس ايضًا وعنوانها الأساس هو تبعية انظمة بعض هذه الدول وكونها اصلًا كيانات وظيفية ارتبطت وظيفة نشوئها بتأمين الأمان للكيان الصهيوني، في حين ان المحطات التي تشاركت فيها حركات المقاومة مع الجيوش واتّسمت باحتضان غالبية قطاعات الشعب كان ناتجها مشرّفًا وترك بصمة مضيئة في تاريخ العمل المقاوم وخصوصًا في لبنان دون تجاهل دور الحركات الفلسطينية المقاوِمة بمختلف مراحلها.

في لبنان، ودون تجاهل الدور الذي لعبته جبهة المقاومة الوطنية اللبنانية الذي شكّل لسنوات رأس حربة في مواجهة الغزو الصهيوني وأخرج جيش الكيان من بيروت ومناطق متعددة من لبنان، إلّا ان تجربة المقاومة الإسلامية المنبثقة من حزب الله، وهو الحزب الذي تأسس بعد اجتياح الجيش الصهيوني للبنان عام 1982، كانت التجربة المستمرة والأكثر نجاحًا لتصل هذه الأيام حد توصيفها بالمدرسة المتكاملة في بعديها المجتمعي والعسكري.

تمايز تجربة حزب الله كان حول قدرة الحزب وضع معاييرغاية في المرونة لمواكبة المراحل والقدرات الكبيرة في استيعاب الدروس والتعلم السريع من التجارب اليومية واعادة تكييفها بما يؤمن اعلى مستويات الصلابة والقدرة على تحقيق الأهداف، وهو ما يرتبط في الحقيقة حول قدرة الحزب على بناء مجتمع مقاومة وليس مجرد بيئة حاضنة، اضافة الى قدرته على الإنفتاح على باقي قوى الشعب اللبناني حيث يمكن القول وفي ظروف مختلفة متباينة ان من يناصر الحزب هم شعب المقاومة، مع التذكير ان من دعم يمثل شريحة كبيرة من الشعب اللبناني وليس عموم الشعب اللبناني ولكن هذه الشريحة تمثل في بعدها المباشر شعب المقاومة الذي نعنيه عندما نتكلم عن ثلاثية الجيش والشعب والمقاومة.

Image result for ‫25 ايار عام 2000‬‎

حتى 25 ايار عام 2000 يوم خروج آخر جندي صهيوني من لبنان، يجب علينا ان لا ننسى ان “اسرائيل” استطاعت بناء ما يسمى بـ”جيش لبنان الجنوبي” الذي انيط به دور حماية الحزام العازل الذي كانت “اسرائيل” تعول عليه كثيرًا، ولكنه تهاوى مع تهاوي جنودها وعملائها تحت ضربات المقاومة المتلاحقة التي استمرت 18 عامًا اعتمدت خلالها انماطًا مختلفة من القتال اوجعت جيش العدو وأجبرته على الخروج ذليلًا.

حينها كما اليوم كنا امام فئة رفضت اي شكل من اشكال المقاومة ونادت ولا تزال بمقولة “قوة لبنان في ضعفه”، وهي المقولة التي لم تُنتج إلّا الكوارث للبنان وسيادته، حيث كنا دائمًا امام سيادة منقوصة.

في العام 2006 ومع بدء العدوان الصهيوني على لبنان، كان الإنقسام حول المقاومة في أوجِه خصوصًا بعد المرحلة التحريضية على المقاومة وسوريا التي تلَت اغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري وظهور الموقف السعودي من المقاومة الى العلن، حيث تم اتهام المقاومة بالفئة المغامِرة وحيث اعلنت كونداليزا رايس من لبنان وبحضور رئيس الحكومة اللبنانية انذاك فؤاد السنيورة وشخصيات 14 آذار “الشرق الأوسط الجديد” الذي يتساقط هذه الأيام كمشروع هيمنة تحت ضربات المقاومة ببنيتها المختلفة سواء كانت جيوشًا او حركات مقاومة.

مع بدء الهجمة على سوريا وفشل العدوان على لبنان وفيما بعد على غزةـ اوجبت الظروف مشاركة المقاومة اللبنانية الدفاع عن سوريا في معركة استباقية تهدف لحماية لبنان، خصوصًا بعد ظهور الحركات التكفيرية الى العلن واعلانها عن مشاريعها المذهبية التي تخدم المشروع الأميركي علنًا وفي سياق واضح المسارات.

وحتى لا نطيل، من المعروف موقف قوى في لبنان كانت ولا تزال جزءًا من مشروع “الشرق الأوسط الجديد”، جيّشت ولا تزال تحت عناوين السيادة ضد المقاومة في ابعاد مختلفة منها سلاح المذهبية الذي بدأ يفقد قدرته خصوصًا بعد الإنجازات الكبيرة التي حققتها المقاومة في سوريا ولبنان.

علاقة المقاومة بالجيش اللبناني بدأت تأخذ شكلها المميز في عهد الرئيس العماد اميل لحود وخصوصًا خلال عدوان تموز 2006، حيث تبلورت علاقة ضمنية تكاملية ادّت دورها في حماية لبنان، وكان للعماد ميشال عون حينها دور كبير في صياغة ثالوث الجيش والشعب والمقاومة طبعًا مع شخصيات وطنية كثيرة من مختلف الفئات.

لحود في معلم مليتا

المهم في تجربة المقاومة المزدوجة بمحاربة الكيان الصهيوني والإرهاب التكفيري هو النتائج التي وصلنا اليها بما يرتبط بحماية لبنان والمنطقة.

في الجانب المرتبط بلبنان، قاتلت المقاومة كوحدات نظامية كبيرة كان مفاجئًا فيها ظهور العتاد والآليات والسلاح المختلف بشكل فجائي في مسرح العمليات، وهو ظهور يرتبط بمحاربة الإرهاب ولا علاقة للوحدات التي شاركت فيه بمحاربة جيش الكيان الصهيوني حيث لا احد يستطيع تحديد اماكن المقاومة ولا مرابضها ولا اسلحتها ولا اي شيء يرتبط بقوتها، وهو العامل الأهم والأخطر على الكيان المذعور هذه الأيام من نتائج عمليات المقاومة وقدراتها.
الكلام عن استراتيجيا دفاعية ليس عيبًا ولكنه يصبح شبهة عندما تتم المطالبة بالتخلي عن مكامن القوة التي تملكها المقاومة ودمجها بالجيش اللبناني الذي يمكنه ان يحارب الإرهاب بكفاءة عالية اثبتتها التجارب، ولكنه للأسف لا يستطيع كجيش نظامي بعدده وعدته وتسليحه ان يواجه الجيش الصهيوني وهو أمر تتحمل مسؤوليته اميركا ودول الغرب منذ عقود حيث الحظر المستمر على تسليح الجيش وتجهيزه.

وفي حين ان تجربة محاربة الإرهاب في سوريا والعراق لم تؤدِّ الغرض منها إلّا بتكاتف الجيوش والقوات الرديفة الناشئة بسبب الحرب، سواء من خلال تجربة الحشد الشعبي العراقي او من خلال وحدات الدفاع الوطني واللجان الشعبية في سوريا، وهو الأمر المطلوب تعميمه وتنظيمه في لبنان لا العمل على إلغائه، وعلى سبيل المثال لا الحصر فقد شكلت التجربة المتمثلة في نشوء وحدات الحرس الشعبي في رأس بعلبك والقاع مثالًا على الضرورة التي تحتّم العمل على الحفاظ على اي مكمن للقوة يضيف للبنان المناعة والصمود في وجه اي تحدٍ سواء كان العدو الصهيوني او التكفيري او اي شكل من اشكال الخطر.

لهذا، فإن اي بحث بالإستراتيجيا الدفاعية لا ينطلق من تعزيز مكامن القوة للبنان هو طرح مشبوه هدفه إلحاق لبنان بمشروع الغرب وتقديم خدمات مجانية للعدو الصهيوني وللإرهاب كأداة من ادوات الغرب، وحتى يحين الوقت للكلام الجدي عن الأمر فإنّ الكثير من الإستراتيجيا الدفاعية تتم ترجمته عملانيًا في الشراكة الضمنية بين الجيش والمقاومة ومن خلفهما شعب المقاومة الذي يضم الغالبية من شعب لبنان، وهو ما يدل عليه ميزان القوى المتبدل صعودًا لمصلحة مشروع المقاومة على حساب مشروع الهيمنة والتبعية.

(*) كاتب وباحث في الشؤون العسكرية.

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Donald of Arabia: Trump in the Middle East

Not since Ibn Batuta, travelled the Middle East in the 14th century has anyone set out with higher ambitions that Donald Trump. Batuta, a Moroccan Muslim traveller and scholar, had a few things in common with Trump. He reached what is now Saudi Arabia. He went to Jerusalem. He even had a keen eye for nubile ladies – there were a few wives, not to mention a Greek slave girl to be groped. But there the parallels end. For Ibn Batuta was sane.

Yet now we know that Trump thinks he’s touching the three monotheistic religions because he’s going to Riyadh, Jerusalem and then the Vatican (not quite in the Middle East but what’s a hundred miles for a guy like Trump). A few problems, of course. He can’t go to Holy Mecca because Christians are banned and the old king of Saudi Arabia represents a head-chopping Wahabi autocracy some of whose citizens have paid for – and fought alongside – the dreaded Isis which Trump thinks he is fighting.

Then when he goes to Jerusalem, he will meet Benjamin Netanyahu who hardly represents world Jewry and plans to go on thieving Arab lands in the West Bank for Jews, and Jews only, whatever Trump thinks. Then he’ll turn up at the Vatican to confront a man who – great guy though he may be – only represents Roman Catholics and doesn’t much like Trump anyway. Ibn Batuta was away from home for around a quarter of a century. Thank heavens Trump’s cutting that back to three days.

Of course, he’s no more going to be talking to “Islam” in Saudi Arabia than he is “Judaism” in Jerusalem. The Sunni Saudis are going to talk about crushing the “snake” of Shia Iran – and we must remember that Trump is the crackpot who shed crocodile tears over the Sunni babies killed in Syria last month but none for the Shia babies killed in Syria a few days later – and hope they can re-establish real relations between their execution-happy kingdom with the execution-happy US. Trump might just try to read UN rapporteur Ben Emmerson’s latest report on the imprisonment of human rights defenders and the torture of “terror” suspects in Saudi Arabia. No. Forget it.

Anyway, the king is no imam. Any more than Netanyahu is a rabbi. But Jerusalem will be a great gig because Trump will be able to ask Netanyahu for help against Isis without – presumably – realising that Israel bombs only the Syrian army and the Shia Hezbollah in Syria but has never – ever – bombed Isis in Syria. In fact, the Israelis have given medical aid to fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra, which is part of al-Qaeda which (maybe Trump has heard of this) attacked the United States on 9/11. So maybe the Vatican will be a relief.

Of course, Trump might have dropped by Lebanon to meet Patriarch Beshara Rai, a Christian prelate who at least lives in the Middle East and who might have been able to tell Trump a few home truths about Syria. Or, since Trump would be “honoured” to meet the Great Leader of North Korea, he might even have shocked the world by dropping by for a couple of hours with Bashar al-Assad. At least Ibn Batuta got to Damascus.

But no, Trump is searching for “friends and partners” to fight “terrorism” – something which has never, of course, been inflicted on Yemen by Saudi Arabia or on Lebanon and the Palestinians by Israel. Nor will it be mentioned by the boys and girls of CNN, ABC and all the US media titans who will – in the interest of promoting their importance by pretending that their President is not mad – grovellingly follow their crackpot President around the region with all the usual nonsense about “policies” and “key players” and “moderates” (as in “moderate Saudi Arabia”) and all the other fantastical creatures which they inject into their reports.

Oh yes, and Trump also wants to bring “peace” to the Holy Land. And so he will move from the king of head choppers to the thief of Palestinian lands and end up with the poor old Holy Father who is wisely giving the President only a few early-morning minutes before his weekly general audience. Since the Pope described Trump’s views as “not Christian” – an unsaintly thing for Pope Francis to say of a mentally ill man – and Trump called the Pope’s words “disgraceful”, this is not going to be a barrel of laughs.

But then again, the Pope shook the hand of the Sultan of Egypt only a week ago, the equally saintly Field Marshal President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, whose coup overthrew an elected president and who now “disappears” his enemies. Trump should be a piece of cake after that. Ibn Batuta, by the way, got as far as Beijing in his travels but was never “honoured” to meet the “smart cookie” who was ruling in Korea (which did actually exist in the 14th century).

But being a verbose chap, Ibn Batuta did record his homecoming in these words: “I have indeed … attained my desire in this world, which was to travel through the Earth, and I have attained this honour, which no ordinary person has attained.” That’s a real “honour” by the way. But you couldn’t fit Ibn Batuta into a tweet.

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

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For Allies & Foes Alike, All Roads Lead to Moscow

By Finian Cunningham

March 13, 2017 “Information Clearing House” –  “RT” – In the same week that the United States sent thousands of additional troops to Kuwait for deployment in Iraq and Syria, Russia was busy pursuing a heavy-duty diplomatic deployment.

The contrast speaks of a paradigm-shift in geopolitics. Russia has become the main player in the future of the vital Middle East region, where the US and its European allies formerly claimed to be the lynchpin powers.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow.

The next day, it was Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s turn to be greeted in the Kremlin. The meeting in Moscow confirms the restored relations since the fatal Turkish shoot-down of a Russian fighter jet over Syria in November 2015.

Full Re-engagement: Syrian crisis and megaprojects to dominate Erdogan, Putin meeting 

Photo published for Syria debacle & megaprojects dominate Erdogan’s Russia visit — RT News

Syria debacle & megaprojects dominate Erdogan’s Russia visit — RT News

The presidents of Russia and Turkey have held a meeting in Moscow on Friday, putting behind a 16-month-old crisis in bilateral relations. High-profile infrastructure projects and the Syrian crisis…

Russia can rightly claim to have gained the respect of virtually all the countries in the Middle East, ranging from allies and foes alike. Syria and Iran, longtime allies, have expressed gratitude for Moscow’s military intervention in Syria to salvage that country from a nearly six-year war, while, at the same time, states normally thought of as US clients, such as Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, have also paid their respects to Russia over its principled use of military force to stabilize the restive region.

The latter countries are particularly significant, given that they have backed proxy forces in Syria that have been fighting against Russia’s ally, the Syrian government of President Assad. Israel and Saudi Arabia are also implacably opposed to Iran, another key Russian ally.

But here is a measure of Russia’s kudos in the region. When Israel’s Netanyahu came to Moscow this week – his third visit in 16 months – he was reportedly put in his place by Putin over a remark he had made comparing Iran to ancient Persia, claiming it was trying to “destroy Jews.” Putin wagged his finger and told the Israeli leader to “stop dwelling in the past” and instead deal with a “changed world”. The bumptious Netanyahu was suitably quietened by the admonishment.

It’s hard to imagine any other international leader commanding that kind of deference.

Putin to Netanyahu: Don’t judge Iran by 5th century BC, we live in a different world 

Other countries in the Middle East that have recently sought renewed contact with Russia include Egypt, Libya, Qatar, and Bahrain.

The remarkable thing is how Russia has been able to garner the respect of such a diverse range of states with such divergent political and religious outlooks, some vehemently opposed to each other. Yet, in Russia, they all find a reliable gravitational center.

American political commentator Randy Martin says that the leadership displayed by Russia stems from a fundamental difference in how the US operates. He says that Moscow genuinely wants to build peace and development in the region, whereas Washington has always been motivated by selfish reasons of hegemonic dominance.

Says Martin: “Russia under Putin is trying to build relationships, regional development, multilateralism and peace-making. Russia understands that the only viable future for itself and others is to create a stable, multi-polar international order. And Russia is showing true leadership by demonstrating a principled tolerance of others.”

The commentator added: “It is instructive to contrast Russian military intervention and subsequent diplomacy with that of the US. Everywhere the US has been involved in has imploded in relentless violence and failure. That’s because Washington is only interested in exploiting the oil-rich region ultimately for its own strategic ends. By contrast, Russia has a real stake in the region’s future as a neighbor and partner.”

After witnessing a series of destructive US-led wars across the region, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya, it seems the Russian government has made a strategic resolution that the apocalyptic dynamic had to stop, not just for its own sake, but for the world at large. Syria was the line in the sand.

BREAKING: Assad: No one invited US to Manbij, all foreign troops in Syria without permission are ‘invaders’ 

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Through the principled use of military power, Russia’s intervention in Syria has put out the flames of a conflict that was threatening to engulf the entire region. While Washington and its clients who backed regime-change have cause to be displeased with Russia’s intervention, nevertheless, there can at least be a tacit acknowledgement that it was Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, who brought the madness to an end.

That newfound respect for Russian power has materialized in the sponsorship of peace talks on Syria by Russia and Turkey. Both countries brokered a ceasefire in December, which has largely held, to facilitate two rounds of negotiations between the Assad government and the Syrian opposition. Those talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, have now paved the way for rebooted peace negotiations in Geneva next week under the auspices of the United Nations.

In his meeting with Erdogan in Moscow this week, Putin noted that the talks in Astana were the “first time ever that the conflicting parties in Syria came to the negotiating table.” He added that “this tangible result” was grounds for “cautious optimism for a full-fledged political settlement.”

Of greater significance, Putin referred to Russia’s bigger strategic picture. He said that the political talks marked the “start of the process of rebuilding Syria and others countries in the region.”

The bedrock principle laid down by the Russian leader is respect for sovereignty. That applies to Russia’s allies as well as their foes. Moscow is saying that if the conflict-torn region is to have any future then, at a minimum, each and every player must have a modicum of respect for sovereignty. The dark days of zero-sum, regime-change intrigues against others must end.

Through its commendable stand in the Mideast, Russia has shown that it is a power that can be trusted, whereas the US and its European allies have been fatally compromised through their own unscrupulous, treacherous scheming. Not even supposed allies have confidence that Western powers can be trusted in the long-run.

The case of Turkey and Israel – both ardent allies of Washington – coming to Moscow this week to pay homage to Putin shows that they realize that Russia, despite their political differences, has become the indispensable player in the region. Washington, London, and Paris are like yesterday’s men.

Randy Martin, the political commentator, says that the consummate difference between Russia and the US is due to the former’s profound understanding of war and peace.

Russia knows the cost of war, and so appreciates the price of peace,” says Martin. “Given the vast destruction and pain that Russia endured through war over the past century, perhaps no other country on the planet has a better understanding of the importance of making peace. By contrast, the US has never experienced the suffering of war the way Russia has. The US only knows how to incite war and inflict suffering.”

This fundamental distinction appears to be why Russia has emerged as a reliable leader in the war-torn Middle East and beyond. It is a power that others can respect.

It’s those that don’t respect Russia – Washington and its surrogates in Europe – who accuse Putin of being an aggressor, who are showing their true colors. Their accusations are projections of their own aggressor-status. Russia is putting an end to their warmongering through genuine world leadership – and that is why they jealously slander Putin as an aggressor.

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

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