Biden is prepared to cut Assad some slack where there are obvious benefits to U.S. interests in the region

October 19, 2021

By Martin Jay

Source

Ten years after protesters in an obscure Syrian town demonstrated for change, a direct challenge to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, half a million Syrians dead and a 100,000 missing, finally the West is accepting the legitimacy of the regime and its leader.

It started with the Gulf Arabs, who have decided that Assad is worth more as an ally – both as a useful expert on defying the odds and suppressing an entire uprising but also for his Midas touch with the Russians who GCC leaders might have to turn to one day, if a new Arab Spring sweeps across the Peninsular.

But then inevitably Joe Biden, whose approach to the Middle East is to have as little to do with it as possible in preference for a foreign policy agenda focussing on China, is following through with this initiative to bring Assad in from the cold once and for all. Intense lobbying in recent month by, in particular the UAE and Saudi Arabia in Washington have paid off and we are witnessing the first tentative steps towards a normalisation of relations with the Syrian leader.

You might have missed the signs as they were not seized upon by western media. The lifting of sanctions against a businessman associated with Assad, followed just recently by allowing Syria to facilitate a gas and electricity to Lebanon – from Egypt, via Jordan and Syria – in what has been called “energy diplomacy” – are clear indications that Biden is prepared to cut Assad some slack where there are obvious benefits to U.S. interests in the region.

It would be hard to imagine that two key decisions in the regime’s favour – Interpol allowing Syria arrest warrant rights and for the WHO to give Syria a seat on its executive board – were not given the tacit approval of the Biden administration. Given that Interpol now is obliged to arrest anyone of the thousands of Syrian dissidents living around the world, or that Assad’s Syria today is a country of people starving while billions of dollars of drugs are being manufactured there, the shift is significant.

Pragmatism seems to be kicking in. The West has lost its own proxy war against the Syrian dictator and there is a general feeling now of working more with Assad and cutting our losses. The war is over, except for Idlib province where Russia fights Turkey-backed extremists and perhaps ten years later the general public who vote in western leaders have educated themselves and learnt a few of the nuances of the ten year battle to overthrow Assad, dressed up as a war against terror; these days, there are pockets of online pundits in both America and the UK who understand that Assad’s forces were allies in fact with the West, in their war against Al Qaeda and its affiliates – a nuanced detail regularly over looked or not even understood by MSM in America.

But what could Biden gain by signalling this shift and stopping short of going the full nine yards himself and lifting all sanctions? Or rather, is it more what he won’t lose?

Lebanon’s meltdown, which saw just this week a total blackout of electricity, is part of it. As Iran wasted no time sending fuel to this tiny country which in recent months has undergone massive shortages and long lines at the pumps, Biden does not want to be the U.S. president whose tenure in office is tarnished by letting Lebanon fall into the abyss and become a full-on Iranian colony, to join Syria, Iraq and Yemen as a fully signed up member of the axis of resistance to U.S. hegemony.

Yet it was a perceived threat to America’s hegemony which assisted the Muslim Brotherhood attempted overthrow of Assad in the first place, which is where this all started. Assad himself must be delighted with how history has done a full circle on him. Despite a country with a destroyed economy and people on the brink of starvation, politically perhaps at his lowest point, he has to only look to the future to see where all this is heading. In recent days, King Abdullah of Jordan made some headlines for having a secret overseas stash of a mere hundred million dollars (small change compared to his Gulf neighbours). He also telephoned President Assad, a man who he had defamed quite spectacularly before and wooed him, talking of the “brotherly” countries and signalling to the Syrian leader that he was ready to welcome him back as a friend and a neighbour. And so, with Syria almost certainly destined to be reinstated at the mother of all talk-lunch-sleep shops, otherwise known as the Arab League, it is probably only a matter of time before Biden moves up a notch the sanctions relief, hoping that this new Syria strategy will give him leverage with the Iranians at the negotiating table in Vienna over the so-called Iran Deal. This is the real story, in reality. Biden badly needs to stop sinking in the Iranian quagmire and showing some peripheral support for Syria is expected to earn him some points. It’s as though we’ve gone back to 2007 with Nancy Pelosi and her “let’s use Assad to control people we don’t normally talk to” approach which almost got the Syrian president “buddy” status in Washington. Almost.

Pakistani Regional Influence is on the Rise

11.10.2021 

Author: Vladimir Platov

IMR

In recent months in the wake of the events in Afghanistan, Pakistan has conspicuously increased its regional influence, a fact noticed not only by the most active international actors, but also by Pakistan itself.

Thus, on September, 22 at a business conference in Islamabad Pakistani Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Ahmed Chaudhry highlighted the increased regional importance of his country pointing out that under Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan has now become a global decision-maker. To support his claim the Minister stressed out that Pakistan is taking an active part in Taliban’s efforts to form an inclusive Afghan government (banned in Russia) and is engaged in connecting Gwadar and Karachi with Central Asian countries by rail via Mazar-i-Sharif as part of the implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. In addition, the government has initiated 1,100 various projects involving other countries as well.

After a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan the US has found another reliable communications channel with Taliban via Pakistan. It became another venue in addition to Doha where under the auspices of CIA office in Central Asia talks with Taliban on the US military withdrawal were held. In an effort to establish a line of communication with Taliban CIA decided to turn to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) which has close ties with the militant organization and had previously helped the US to facilitate contacts with it.

Beijing also decided to turn Pakistan into its foothold in the region so that it could, among other things, check US regional influence thus becoming a leading investor in the country’s economy. For that reason Chinese investors have funneled more than $70 billion into Pakistani economy.

Meanwhile, Pakistan can capitalize on its close ties with Taliban helping the US and CIA not only to escape the Afghan trap with dignity, but also to punish the culprits who had killed the US military personnel in Kabul airport during the evacuation. To achieve this goal without Pakistani intelligence’s aid will be a difficult task. China also takes interest in Pakistan’s mediation services regarding not only ensuring stability in Afghanistan but also expeditious recognition of Taliban regime in the West. In early September, to address these matters General Faiz Hamid, the head of Pakistani intelligence, visited Kabul to discuss with Taliban leaders security issues as well as economic and trade engagement thus becoming the first top foreign official to set foot on Afghan soil after Taliban seized power in this country.

At the same time on September, 13 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was quick to announce that the US administration intends to assess Pakistan’s role in supporting the radical movement of Taliban as well in the events in Afghanistan. The US authorities are set to look at “what role Pakistan has played over the last 20 years” amid the events in Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover, he said. Washington will also take up the issue of what role, from the US perspective, Pakistan “has to play in the coming years and what it will take for it to do that”. During his speech the Secretary of State said that actions of Pakistan in many cases “are in conflict with” US interests although at some points the interests of the two powers converge. Blinken stressed out that the US cooperates with Pakistan on a range of issues regarding counterterrorism.

With Taliban’s grip on power now secure, the political significance of Pakistan has clearly swelled. Let’s recall that Pakistan was one of the three countries (the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) that had recognized Taliban government in 1990. It also was the last to sever official ties in 2001. For more than two decades Pakistan provided injured Taliban leaders with shelter and medical care. Many Afghans who joined the movement were educated in Pakistani religious schools. For the first time in its history, Pakistan has gained global influence since such important countries as Russia, China and the US rely on its active participation in helping the interested parties in Afghanistan to engage in mutual cooperation as a new political landscape in Central and South Asian region emerges, which is a matter of interest for them.

Pakistan’s significantly increased importance was also visible during the last SCO summit as Islamabad, along with Iran, China and Russia, took an active part in debating Afghanistan’s political future. And this is understandable since Islamabad remains the only regional actor that has a direct sway on Taliban.

It should also not be forgotten that control over Taliban in Afghanistan is vital for Pakistan itself since it wants to stave off Taliban’s merging with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (banned in Russia) or with other Taliban militants present in the country who are in control of mountainous federal territories. Such coalition would entail the creation of a gigantic Pashtunistan, a threat to Pakistan’s very existence.

Proving this point in Islamabad on September, 12 General Faiz Hameed, the head of Inter-Service Intelligence, hosted a meeting of chiefs of intelligence services of Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Iran and China. The participants discussed the situation in Afghanistan, exchanged views on what was going on in the country and also discussed measures needed to ensure “lasting peace and stability” in the region. According to Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan, participants “were unanimous that peace in Afghanistan is vital for security, stability and prosperity of the entire region”. He said that the region-wide approach and the active role of Pakistan in this process will help to both realize the potential of the republic, and resolve problems of mutual interest.

Meanwhile it is not coincidence that Pakistan, fearing that Afghan destabilization will have a “ricochet” effect on it, is simultaneously maneuvering within the coalition Pakistan — Qatar — Turkey. So now the Pakistani intelligence is trying to determine how deep is the rift between the parties and what it could mean both for Islamabad and the region as a whole.

Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

‘Normalization’: Betrayal of Palestine by Arab Regimes No Easy Road

October 1, 2021

Anti-normalization protest in Tunisia. (Photo: Via Twitter)

By Iqbal Jassat

Pinning Palestinians down while applying harsh measures of violent repression accompanied by a fanatical settler movement of arch-racists given free rein to attack and plunder, is a notorious game Israel has elevated to a daily ritual.

In fact, the routine of inflicting war crimes has all the hallmarks of a rogue regime entirely caught up in a misplaced belief that to engage in ethnic cleansing is a religious obligation.

Conflating Judaism with a racist political ideology of Zionism has been part of a strategy designed to deceive, distort and divert. It has its roots in the First Zionist Congress held on the eve of the 19th century.

That this is well documented and widely known is not in dispute. Indeed, awareness of Zionism’s goal to dismember and dislodge Palestinians from their centuries-old homeland, and forcibly impose thereon a foreign entity known as Israel, has always been a bedrock for resistance.

Israel has thus always been considered an enemy thrust upon a native population through the most horrific forms of terrorism. The memories of Deir Yassin remind the world of bloody massacres committed by Zionist terrorists who didn’t spare hundreds of villages to colonize Palestine.

That more than seven decades later the expansionist goals of Zionism are still being pursued at a great human cost to successive generations of the indigenous Palestinian population, is reflected in daily atrocities.

None of these facts, as attested to by historians as well as organs of the United Nations, are contested, although Israel and its supporters seek to distort and malign commentators who speak truth to power as antisemitic.

Yet, against this background of terrorism and current conditions siege, occupation, killings and mass imprisonment – recorded and broadcast via mainstream media for all the world to witness – it is bizarre that a handful of Arab regimes have broken rank with Palestine’s freedom struggle.

And at a time when even Haaretz describes atrocities by Israel as a pogrom:

“Residents of the Palestinian communities in the southeastern West Bank have experience with settler attacks – when they graze their flocks, work their fields, or even have a picnic on their own land. But they cannot recall an attack like the one experienced Tuesday by the small communities of Khirbat al-Mufkara, al-Rakiz and al-Tuwani. On Simhat Torah, dozens of young Jews, most of them masked, conducted what can only be described as a pogrom.”

The treachery associated with what has become known as “normalization” is an outrageous manifestation of betrayal and collaboration. Limited to the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, these regimes have in effect confessed that the protection of their shaky thrones counts for more than legitimate rights of the Palestinians.

As unelected self-imposed despots fearful of democratic values, they have bargained that “normalization” with the usurper of Palestine will “guarantee” safety and protection for them. In other words, just as Egypt has done, these oligarchs have outsourced their intelligence networks and security apparatus to Israel, knowing full well that in doing so, they have abandoned Palestine.

Though the abnormality of implicit recognition of an illegal colonial enterprise has been in sharp contrast to countless Arab League resolutions, the deal of “normalization” pushed by Trump and vigorously backed by the Biden administration has exposed these leaders as surrogates of western imperialism.

The case of Bahrain’s role in the “Abraham Accords” reveals the soft underbelly of Arab dictatorships. Besides being financially dependent on its neighbors, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain’s alliance with Israel is designed to entrench its power and crush any resistance to authoritarianism or efforts towards freedom and democracy.

In 2011, during the onset of the Arab Spring uprisings, Saudi Arabia sent troops to Bahrain to suppress anti-government protests. This trend continues today by Israel equally committed to maintaining the status quo and preventing the success of any popular uprisings.

In this context, one may justifiably condemn Bahrain’s gross insensitivity and abject abdication of Palestine’s freedom struggle as treacherous.

Showcasing Israeli war criminal Lapid’s visit to Manama, where he is set to open the embassy flying Israel’s flag, is utterly outrageous. This follows the opening of a Zionist embassy in Abu Dhabi; another embassy will likely be established in Rabat. Sudan thus far has reportedly said that it has no plans yet to open an embassy in Khartoum.

Not surprising therefore that the Arab street across these capitals have vowed to end “normalization”. The iron-fisted grip held by Arab despots notwithstanding, human rights movements (many banned and leaders exiled) have declared their outright rejection of America’s much-vaunted Abraham Accords.

Stirrings in Sudan are becoming more vocal despite Khartoum’s attempts to silence critics. In Bahrain the main opposition group, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society declared Lapid’s trip as a “threat”, saying, “This is provocative news and this trip is completely rejected, and he (Lapid) should not set foot on Bahraini soil.”

Their message is clear: “Any (Israeli) presence on Bahraini soil means incitement.”

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

Canadian Company Financing “Israel”-UAE Collaboration

October 2, 2021

Canadian Company Financing “Israel”-UAE Collaboration

By Staff, Agencies

In June of this year, the story of how Dubai Ports World was helping to squash opposition to the “Israeli” Zim shipping company in a small Canadian town caught the interest of many progressives worldwide. Lest anyone think this was an isolated incident, Canadian media recently highlighted another saga of Canada-UAE-“Israel” partnership.

This time around, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is taking center stage as the head of the advisory committee to Toronto-based AWZ Ventures. According to a CBC article, “AWZ Ventures finances “Israeli” surveillance technology systems, including facial recognition and crowd detection systems and services that deliver comprehensive information on individuals in real time.”

The media focus now is that AWZ Ventures is facilitating the sale of this “technology to the United Arab Emirates – a country with a troubling human rights record”. [No mention of “Israel’s” “troubling human rights record”, mind you.]

Again, as with the Zim story, the finer details are bizarre. Not only does AWZ Ventures have former Mossad, CIA and MI5 figures on its advisory board, it is also opening a subsidiary in the UAE. And heading up this new subsidiary will be the former Canadian diplomat and representative to the Palestinian Authority, Katherine Verrier-Frechette.

The new company, aptly dubbed AWZ Horizons, will also be helping to promote the sale of this “Israeli” technology “to other countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, and countries in North Africa.” This seamless transition from Canadian diplomatic envoy to high-level cybersecurity merchant speaks volumes about the “neutrality” of Canadian foreign policy.

AWZ Ventures itself is an interesting study. Along with the notable international figures, Richard Fadden, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service works for the company. And former Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day is also reportedly involved.

Fadden, one of the few who was quoted by Canadian media, said: “A lot of this technology is useful in fighting terrorism and that was my main interest,” he said. “Some of the technology that has been developed helps develop a sense of what’s going on, on the one level on social media, so you can accumulate information…”

In July of this year, AWZ Ventures also entered into an official partnership with the “Israeli” War Ministry and its “Directorate of Defense Research and Development” [MAFAT] and launched Awz X-Seed. The goal of this new spin-off will be to invest in “pre-seed” and “inception” stage companies in the “Israeli” entity developing innovative security technologies. According to Stephen Harper at the time: “Together, Awz and MAFAT will uniquely evaluate and develop early-stage technologies, creating a model that is unmatched anywhere.”

It was also noted that the “Portfolio companies will further benefit from Awz Ventures’ business development offices in Canada, the US, and UAE that will support the companies in expanding their global client base.”

So, to sum up, a Canadian-based company with an advisory board headed by a former Canadian PM and full of former spies, is marketing “Israeli” cybersecurity and surveillance technology to dictatorial Arab regimes. And even partnering with the “Israeli” regime to help develop more of the same.

The detrimental use of these technologies has been well-documented in recent years, the most notable case being a possible link in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Journalists and human rights activists, including from Amnesty International, have reportedly been targeted by repressive governments with the aid of these “Israeli” surveillance tools.

However, the media parameters that focus only on the sale of these “Israeli” technologies to despotic regimes are flawed. The “Israeli” government’s “troubling human rights record” is also relevant, and the fact that their security and defense innovations are field-tested on Palestinians and Arabs is well-known. And the “Israeli” entity’s abuse and torture of Palestinian prisoners is also well-known, as was evidenced by the recent treatment of the Gilboa 6 after being re-captured.

As the Dubai 2020 Expo is finally underway, with an “Israel” pavilion spearheaded by the “Israeli” entity’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we must be clear on who is powering and financing this unholy alliance of “Israeli” apartheid and Arab reactionary regimes. Western governments and capital interests are fully complicit in these violations of Palestinian and Arab human rights.

Foreign Minister Faysal Mikdad: ‘Change’ in International Attitude Towards Syria

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360° on 

https://media.thecradle.co/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/01213020/FADt0VQWQAAsWEX.jpg

Esteban CarrilloForeign and Expatriates Minister Faysal Mikdad confirmed a ‘change’ in the international political environment towards Syria in comments to Syrian media on 30 September.

Mikdad’s comments come amidst an opening of reconciliation between West, Gulf states and Syria

In comments to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), Mikdad said that “the change has reflected the achievements of the Syrian Arab Army, in cooperation with allies and friends, on the ground in the war against terrorism.”

On 20 September, Mikdad led a Syrian delegation to a UN meeting in New York, where he also met with Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Felix Plasencia Gonzalez, on strengthening bilateral ties between Syria and Venezuela.

Regarding the General Assembly meetings, Mikdad said that while some countries, referring to the United States, continue to practice ‘economic terrorism,’ there was nonetheless a clear ‘retreat’ of the ‘hostile stance’ on Syria.

The Foreign Minister, appointed by Bashar al-Assad in November 2020, added that while Syria welcomes the “openness to the return of normal relations” with the UN and Western nations, he made clear that Syria “will not submit to pressures nor accept any political conditions.”

He also expressed optimism and the prospect of improved relations and cooperation with Syria and its Arab neighbors, following talks held between Syria and Egypt at the New York General Assembly.

In recent years, a number of Arab states, many of whom stood against Syria during the US and Gulf backed war, have sought rapproachment with Damascus.

With the UAE currently leading reconciliation efforts between Gulf Arab states and their allies, even Saudi Arabia reopened secret lines of communication between itself and Damascus, hoping to rectify ties.

Meanwhile, a number of developments between Jordan and Syria have advanced the increased diplomacy and economic cooperation between the two.

Jordan announced on 27 September that the Jaber–Nassib border crossing between itself and Syria will be reopened two days from the date for both freight and travelers.

On 29 September, this main border crossing was opened as planned, and direct flights to Damascus resumed.

Lebanon’s General Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim told The Cradle last week that he ‘totally’ is in favor of ‘open borders with Syria.

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Israeli Aggressions Against Iraq: From Subversions to Normalization Attempts

September 30, 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

By Ali Jezzini

The Israeli occupation has attempted to destabilize Iraq since the sixties. How is the Israeli Occupation trying to infiltrate Iraqi society?

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Iraqi Society has been a target for pro-normalization Propaganda in Past years

On the 24th of the current month, a conference was held in Erbil, the capital city of the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The conference of “Peace and Reclamation,” called for the normalization of relations with the Israeli occupation under the shady slogans of peace and establishing civil society organizations.  

The conference, organized by the New York-based Center for Peace Communications (CPC), was called “an illegal gathering” by the Iraqi government. The CPC is an organization that openly calls for the normalization of relations between the Arab states and “Israel”.

For a foreign observer, the story might look like it started here, and one might think, isolating the Iraqis from their national and cultural context, that this reaction is just a mere prejudice from the Iraqis in the face of something they ignore or never have experienced. But is it the case? 

A History of Sabotage 

Despite Iraq not sharing a direct border with Occupied Palestine, the country was a target for countless Israeli aggressions during the last century. Even before the foundation of the Israeli entity in 1948, contact has been made as early as the thirties through the Jewish agency with some Kurdish groups in northern Iraq. In the forties and fifties, simple contact was transformed into real military espionage committed by Kumran Ali Bedir-Khan a Kurdish leader with close ties to “Israel”.

These espionage attempts continued throughout the sixties as well until the rebellion started in autumn 1961 in northern Iraqi regions. Eventually, a larger scale training and supply operation to the insurgents in the north was launched following Kurdish leaders from the Kurdish democratic party (KDP) meeting with Israeli officials during that year. 

Israeli attempts to destabilize the country go back to at least the sixties when the Israelis intervened with the help of the SAVAK, the former Shah of Iran intelligence Agency, to assist the militants of the KDP led by Moustafa Barazani. The insurgents agreed on this supply training Israeli operation in 1963 following their initial hesitation. There were reports about unidentified arms cache in the region, and  Mossad agents never found any difficulty accessing the northern zones in Iraq to fuel the insurgency.

In August 1965, the Israelis provided a training course code-named Marvad (carpet) for Peshmerga (the military force of Barazani at that time). Israeli-backed militias not only destabilized the region and attacked Iraqi military personnel and installations, but also civilian infrastructures. Attacking the Kirkuk oil field which produced a large portion of Iraq’s Oil at that time was one of these attacks.

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  • Mustafa Barzani accompanied by Israeli Occupation President Zalman Shazar in the Occupied Lands,1968
  • Following the Shah of Iran signing the 1975 Algier agreement with Iraq, Israelis objected to the Shah and called it a “betrayal to the Kurds.” This abandonment led to the KDP’s demise and a subsequent de-escalation of the violence in the north, although contacts with “Israel” were maintained afterward.  

    The first official acknowledgment of the Israeli occupation’s aid to the insurgency dates to September 29 1980 when Prime Minister Menachem Begin disclosed that “Israel” had supported the Kurds (KDP) “during their uprising against the Iraqis in 1965–1975.” Begin added that “Israel” had sent instructors and arms but not military units.

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    Israeli Field Hospital Helping the insurgency in Northern Iraq between 1963-1973

    In 2004, the Israeli media reported on meetings between Masud Barzani (who would become president of the KRG in 2005 ), Jalal Talabani (who would become president of Iraq in 2005 and serve in that office until 2014), and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Relations continued to flourish as the PUK became entangled with this illegal normalization according to Iraqi Legal code 111 of 1969 in its 201st article.

    Such actions reached their peak after the Iraqi president and head of the PUK Jalal Talabani, shook hands with Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, in 2008. In 2015, “Israel” reportedly imported as much as three-quarters of its oil from the Kurdistan region in Iraq, providing a vital source of funds as Kurdish Peshmerga to finance its militia.

    Normalization as a division method

    As a part of its “Peripherical alliance” strategy, the Israeli occupation tried to sow division in the societies surrounding it. It tried to ally itself with every ethnic or religious minority in the Arab world as well as surrounding states like Turkey or the Shah’s Persia. The objective of this article is not to bash Kurds as ethnicity in any way. For instance, many Kurdish factions resisted colonialism and Zionism such as the PKK who fought the Israeli occupation in 1982. Kurdish factions in general, have been a target of Israeli subversive actions, due to the complexity of the Kurdish national cause that the Israelis tried to exploit.

    For the first time, this time publically at least, the normalization efforts have been extended to wider sectors of the Iraqi society outside of the “Periphery doctrine.” These efforts have intensified with the recent normalization wave that included UAE, Bahrain, and other countries like Morocco. New faces have appeared on the scene in parallel with such normalization such as Wisam al-Hardan’s The head of the Awakening Groups and Sahar al-Tai, among having called to normalize with “Isreal” following the previously mentioned states’ model. “The UAE and Saudi Arabia are backing these efforts” according to Iraqi Popular Mobilisation forces

    Haaretz Israeli newspaper mentioned another level of normalization that is happening mainly on social media. Besides the older Facebook and Twitter page “Israel in Arabic” that was launched in 2011, another Facebook page was created in 2018 called “Isreal Speaks in Iraqi (dialect)” to target Iraqi society specifically. The article says that many operate under the cover of linking Iraqi jews to their heritage and introducing “Israel” to the Iraqis.

    The article mentions the page admin stating that the 2003 war opened up new channels of communication with Iraqis, this communication has been made easier with the signing of the normalization deals with UAE and other countries. Iraqis with second passports are being brought to Israel with the pretext of “tourism” since 2018, which the organizer claims to be independently done from her work for the occupation government as an administrator of the page. The page publically calls for normalization and launches polls to investigate the views of the general audience.

    The stumbling project

    The Iraqi government and various political parties expressed their firm rejection of the “illegal” meetings that were held by some tribal figures in the city of Erbil in the Kurdistan Region, which called for the normalization with “Israel.” Arrest warrants have been issued against the participants of the “Peace and Reclamation” conference in Erbil. One of the main speakers of the conference Wissam al-Hardan has been suspended from his post as the head of the “awakening movement”.

    In the light of these reactions, a general popular rage is engulfing Iraqi Streets while activists on social media called for all participants to be held accountable for the crimes committed according to Iraqi law. Iraqis haven’t forgotten not only the injustice of the Israeli occupation against their Palestinian and Arab brethren but the role Israelis played in insinuating and calling for both major wars launched by the US against their country in 2003. A war whose devastating effects are still evident today.

    بيحان وحريب بيد «أنصار الله»: مأرب أقرب إلى السقوط

    Update:

    الخميس 23 أيلول 2021

    اليمن

    رشيد الحداد

    بيحان وحريب بيد «أنصار الله»: مأرب أقرب إلى السقوط
    تزامنت العملية مع الاحتفالات بذكرى «ثورة 21 أيلول» في صنعاء (أ ف ب )

    صنعاء بسيطرتها على كامل مديرية بيحان في محافظة شبوة شرقي اليمن، تكون قوات صنعاء قد نجحت في فصل المحافظة كلّياً عن جارتها مأرب، وهو ما يعني بقاء خطّ إمدادات وحيد وعسير أمام قوات عبد ربه منصور هادي، وذلك من اتّجاه محافظة حضرموت. ومن شأن هذه التطوّرات، والتي تُوّجت في الساعات الماضية بسيطرة الجيش و«اللجان الشعبية» على مديرية حريب، أن تُذلّل عراقيل كبيرة أمامهما للتقدّم نحو مدينة مأرب من جهة الجنوب، وأن تعبّد الطريق للسيطرة على قطاع صافر النفطي من أكثر من اتجاه وبأقلّ الخسائر الممكنة. ولعلّ أكثر ما يبدو لافتاً في تطوّرات اليومين الفائتين التنسيق عالي المستوى بين «أنصار الله» والقبائل، والتي لا يفتأ موقفها يتحوّل لغير صالح التحالف السعودي – الإماراتي

    نفّذ الجيش اليمني و«اللجان الشعبية»، خلال اليومين الماضيين، عملية عسكرية خاطفة انتهت بالسيطرة على كامل مديرية بيحان، الواقعة في محافظة شبوة، شرقي البلاد. العملية الجديدة التي جاءت عقب تفاهمات واسعة مع قبائل بيحان، أربكت حسابات التحالف السعودي – الإماراتي في المحافظة الغنية بالنفط، وأصابت التشكيلات الموالية له بالصدمة، بالنظر إلى أن الهجوم استند إلى تكتيك عسكري جديد باغت القوات الموالية للرئيس المنتهية ولايته عبد ربه منصور هادي، وأجبر خمسة ألوية عسكرية مدججّة بمختلف أنواع الأسلحة الحديثة على التخلّي عن مواقعها ومقرّاتها الرئيسة، والانسحاب باتجاه مناطق أخرى من شبوة، فضلاً عن محافظة مأرب. وأفادت مصادر قبلية، «الأخبار»، أن العملية انطلقت خلال الساعات الأولى من فجر الثلاثاء من ثلاثة محاور ممتدّةٍ من جنوب شبوة إلى جنوب شرق مأرب، موضحة أن الجيش و«اللجان» انطلقا من أسفل عقبة القنذع التي سيطرا عليها الشهر الفائت، ليصلا إلى قرية شقير ويفرضا سيطرتهما على مفرق السعدي الاستراتيجي الواقع بين المحافظتَين، مضيفة أنهما تمكّنا، بتسهيلات من قِبَل قبائل بيحان، من السيطرة على كامل مديرية عين ليقطعا خطوط الإمداد العسكري الخاصة بقوات هادي وميليشيات حزب «الإصلاح» المتواجدة في مديريتَي الجوبة وحريب جنوب مأرب.

    ونفت المصادر وقوع أيّ مواجهات دامية في معظم مناطق محور بيحان العسكري، الذي كان يضمّ خمسة ألوية عسكرية وقوات الأمن الخاصة التابعة لحزب «الإصلاح»، مُبيّنة أن «الألوية 26 ميكا، 19، 153، 163، 173، بالإضافة إلى خمس كتائب متفرّقة كانت ضمن محور بيحان، انسحبت من مواقعها وأخلت معسكراتها وغادرت باتجاهات متفرّقة عقب اقتراب قوات صنعاء من مقرّاتها».

    وتابعت المصادر أن «معظم المواقع العسكرية التابعة لقوات هادي في بيحان سقطت من دون قتال، باستثناء مواجهات محدودة أدّت إلى سقوط عدد من القتلى من الطرف الآخر، فيما تمّت السيطرة الكاملة على مواقع الساحة ومسور والوادي ومليب وغنية ولحمر وموقس والدهولي العسكرية، ودخلت قوات صنعاء منتصف نهار الثلاثاء مدينة بيحان من دون أيّ مقاومة تُذكر». من جهتها، أفادت مصادر من قبيلة المصعبين الشبوانية، «الأخبار»، بتسلّم القبيلة إدارة الملفات الأمنية والخدمية والإدارية لمديرية بيحان من الجيش و«اللجان»، لافتة إلى أن «تفاهمات قبلية جرت مسبقاً مع حركة أنصار الله تقضي بمنح أبناء بيحان حق إدرتها وتأمينها بعد تحريرها من عناصر القاعدة الذين حاولوا خلال الأيام الماضية إنشاء معسكرات خاصة بهم في عدد من مناطق المديرية، بتواطؤ من ميليشيات الإصلاح في عتق عاصمة المحافظة»، متابعة أن «قوات صنعاء قَدِمت إلى بيحان بطلب من عدد من زعماء القبائل، بعدما كادت المديرية تتحوّل إلى إمارة جديدة للمئات من مسلّحي القاعدة الذين فرّوا الأسبوع الماضي من معاقلهم السابقة التي سقطت تحت سيطرة الجيش واللجان في مديريتَي الصومعة ومسورة في البيضاء»، لتخوض قبائل بيحان قبل أيام مواجهات معهم عقب قيامهم باستحداث مواقع لهم في مناطق تابعة للمديرية.

    معظم المواقع العسكرية التابعة لقوات هادي في بيحان سقطت من دون قتال


    وبعد سيطرتها على كامل مديريتَي بيحان وعين الواقعتَين غربي شبوة على الحدود الجنوبية الشرقية لمديريتَي حريب والجوبة التابعتَين لمحافظة مأرب واصلت قوات صنعاء تقدّمها في عدّة مسارات. ووفقاً لمصادر محلية، فقد تمكنت مساء الثلاثاء من نقل المعركة إلى شرق مديرية عسيلان النفطية القريبة من قطاع صافر النفطي الواقع شمال مدينة مأرب حيث استطاعت بمشاركة قبائل بيحان السيطرة على مناطق النقوب، وحيد بن عقيل، الهجر، مفرق الحمى، والسليم، الواقعة إلى الغرب من مديرية عسيلان، فيما لم يُعلَن إلى الآن استكمال السيطرة على هذه المديرية الاستراتيجية التي تتجاوز مساحتها 3000 كلم. وفي المسار الآخر، دارت مواجهات عنيفة بين قوات صنعاء وميليشيات «الإصلاح» المتمركزة على حدود مديريتَي عين في شبوة وحريب في مأرب مساء الثلاثاء، استُخدمت فيها مختلف أنواع الأسلحة، وانتهت بسقوط 70% من المديرية الواقعة جنوب شرقي مأرب، ومقتل العشرات من عناصر «الإصلاح»، وعلى رأسهم مدير المديرية المحسوب على «الإخوان»، ناصر القحاطي المرادي، مع عدد من مرافقيه. كما شنّت قوات هادي المتواجدة في بعض مناطق مديرية مراد جنوبي مأرب، هجمات مباغتة على مواقع تتمركز فيها قوات صنعاء في مديرية العبدية المجاورة لحريب، وعزّزت تواجدها في محيط مدينة الجوبة في محاولة منها للدفاع عنها.

    ومن شأن عملية تحرير بيحان، بحسب خبراء عسكريين، تمكين قوات صنعاء من «فصل محافظة شبوة عن محافظة مأرب كلياً، وقطع أيّ إمدادات عسكرية لقوات هادي ومليشيات الإصلاح قادمة من جنوب مأرب إلى بيحان والعكس». كما من شأنها «منْح الجيش واللجان فرصة التقدّم من غرب مديرية عسيلان إلى مديرية جردان الواقعة في نطاق شبوة، والتي تربط المحافظة الأخيرة بمنطقة العبر التابعة لمحافظة حضرموت، لتُغلق آخر منافذ مأرب من اتجاه الشمال، وهو ما سيتيح لها إمكانية السيطرة الكاملة على الطريق الدولي الرابط بين حضرموت ومأرب، ويسهّل سيطرتها على قطاع صافر النفطي من أكثر من اتجاه وبأقلّ الخسائر». وفي مواجهة ذلك التحوّل العسكري، عمدت قيادات حزب «الإصلاح» إلى إعلان حالة النفير العام في مدينة مأرب، واستحداث خطوط دفاع في محيط مدينة عتق، التي تُعدّ معقل «الإصلاح» البديل لمأرب منذ آب 2019.

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    MBZ is performing a U-turn that could reshape the Middle East

    Profile picture for user David Hearst

    15 September 2021 10:57 UTC

    David Hearst

    David Hearst is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He says Middle East Eye is funded by “individual private donors” but he won’t name them. He said that his organisation is not funded by Qatar – or any other state or group – and is here to stay. He appears as a commentator on the Middle East for Al Jazeera English and Alaraby TV, TRT, Masr Al-Aan TV.

    For years, Emirati foreign policy has been a disaster. Now, on the anniversary of the fundamentally flawed Abraham Accords, a rethink is underway

    Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed is pictured in Berlin in June 2019 (Reuters)

    The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has triggered an earthquake that has travelled across the Gulf. The tectonic plates that defined who did what to whom in the region are shifting. 

    Alliances that only a year ago seemed to be set in concrete are cracking. The vacuum created by the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has been felt just as keenly in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv as it has in Kabul.

    The clearest sign of swaying buildings and buckling tarmac are the pledges and significant amounts of money being promised by the de facto leader of the UAE to Turkey, states that are vigorous competitors for regional influence.

    It is pragmatism, not a fundamental change of heart, that is causing the latest handbrake turn in Abu Dhabi’s foreign policy

    And Turkey has not been the only sign of the apparent U-turn in UAE policy. Shortly after his recent meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Tahnoun bin Zayed, UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed’s brother and security chief, flew to mend fences with Qatar.

    Only a year ago, the UAE was urging Saudi Arabia not to lift the blockade of Qatar. This latest visit is a recognition that the blockade was a spectacular failure. Qatar has emerged as US President Joe Biden’s strongest partner in the Gulf, and the one on whom he depended for evacuating Afghans and communicating with the Taliban.

    How different from the start of the blockade, when Qatar was painted as a refuge for terrorists and Islamists, and former US President Donald Trump tweeted his approval of the Saudi action. 

    Billions promised

    Erdogan is keeping the transcript of his recent telephone conversation with MBZ close to his chest. Only a trusted few know what the crown prince promised. According to my sources, MBZ offered Erdogan more than $10bn in investments.

    Unlike the military side of the government of Sudan, or indeed President Kais Saied in Tunisia, Erdogan is not being made to wait long for the money to arrive. The Dubai-based courier Aramex is reportedly in talks to buy the Turkish delivery company MNG Kargo.

    There is much secrecy in Ankara, but one thing is clear: the momentum for this reset is coming from Abu Dhabi. Erdogan is wary, and the foreign policy establishment in Turkey is sceptical. Both have good reason for caution.

    UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Ankara on 18 August 2021 (Turkish Presidency)
    UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Ankara on 18 August 2021 (Turkish Presidency)

    This was the state that, according to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, spent $3bn attempting (and very nearly succeeding) to topple Erdogan on 15 July 2016. Cavusoglu did not name the UAE, but it was clear who he was referencing when he mentioned “a Muslim country”.

    The same state funds neoconservative Washington think tanks that regularly debunk Erdogan and his ability to sustain the lira. It competes for influence with Turkey in Syria, Yemen, Libya, the Horn of Africa, Egypt and Tunisia. It was the brains behind, and one of the funders of, the counter-revolution that toppled former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi – and it has tried repeatedly to rearrange the furniture in Tunisia, Sudan and Yemen. Emirati planes at one point provided air cover for renegade general Khalifa Haftar’s ill-fated attempt to recapture Tripoli.The UAE’s military interventions have led to disaster – not stabilityRead More »

    It has also created armies of “electronic flies” to condition public opinion through social media. The UAE’s interventions far beyond the Gulf have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East. 

    Turkey has long been on the receiving end of this. So why would a leopard on a mission to hunt down political Islam and render it extinct, change its spots? It is not a question that can be convincingly answered.

    Nor is this the first attempt at a kiss and make up: the UAE made a similar overture to Ankara when it thought Hillary Clinton would become US president. When Trump won, this was instantly dropped. It is pragmatism, not a fundamental change of heart, that is causing the latest handbrake turn in Abu Dhabi’s foreign policy. The sceptics in Ankara are right to be cautious. 

    Nevertheless, it could still be happening. The flood of signals coming out of Abu Dhabi towards Erdogan and Turkey mostly take place in private forums, and the message is consistent, even if you don’t believe it.

    ‘Strategic reassessment’

    According to people with knowledge of these conversations, top UAE officials claim to be conducting a “strategic reassessment” of foreign policy.

    It starts with Biden. The UAE noted two features of its changed relationship with Washington since his administration came to power: the first was a consistent message from the new US administration to “de-escalate” tensions in the Middle East. The second was the unpredictability of US foreign policy. 

    The new policy, then, is apparently to spread influence through economic cooperation, rather than military intervention and political competition

    This was surely already apparent under Trump, when he refused to bomb Tehran after Iran and its Iraqi proxies sent armed drones to cripple two Saudi oil facilities, temporarily halving crude production. If ever Saudi Arabia and the UAE felt unprotected by the US military umbrella, it was then.

    Coupled with this, they claim, is a hard-headed assessment of what the UAE has actually achieved. Its interventions have indeed beaten the Muslim Brotherhood back as a political force in EgyptTunisiaYemenSyria, and partly in Libya. But the cost of the UAE’s secular jihad is enormous.

    Three of these countries are in smoking ruins, and the other two, Egypt and Tunisia, are nearly bankrupt. What has MBZ gained for the billions of dollars he has invested in Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi?

    The new policy, then, is apparently to spread influence through economic cooperation, rather than military intervention and political competition.

    Saudi-UAE rift

    They don’t say it, but when questioned, there is clearly also coolness with Riyadh. One emissary claimed that the UAE delayed its pullout from Yemen for a year to allow Saudi Arabia to end the war with the Houthis, but it is clear that Yemen is a sore point between the two military allies.

    Saudi Arabia recently announced a series of moves to weaken Abu Dhabi, the latest being the pullout of Al Arabiya and parent media company MBC from Dubai. It has clamped down on tax-free goods from an Emirati free trade zone, as well as insisting that foreign multinationals base their headquarters in Riyadh rather than Dubai. There is a lot more sibling rivalry to the brotherly relations between the two Gulf countries these days.

    MBZ meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah in 2018 (Bandar al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace/AFP)
    MBZ meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah in 2018 (Bandar al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace/AFP)

    Publicly, the UAE’s licensed political analysts are hinting at a different set of regional priorities. Political scientist Abdulkhaleq Abudulla tweeted that the main message from Washington was that the US would not defend the Gulf. “And the Arab Gulf states are at a crossroads; how should they adapt to the post-America Gulf stage?”

    Spot the notable absences from this list: Saudi Arabia and Egypt, its closest allies in 2013.

    Abraham Accords lose value

    Abu Dhabi is not the only signatory of the Abraham Accords which is reassessing the value of a pro-US bloc in the Gulf. One year on from the signing in Washington, the Abraham Accords are losing their shine. A year ago, they seemed to have so much going for them. It was a marriage of brains and brawn, the military might and technological superiority of Israel with the dollars of the Gulf.UAE-Israel deal: Abraham accord or Israeli colonialism?Read More »

    It was a way of bypassing the Palestinian conflict, without the need for messy, time-wasting things like negotiations, elections or popular mandates. The accords were a solution imposed from above – a fait accompli, which the Arab masses would have to live with.

    But like the megacities of Saudi Arabia, the accords were built on shifting sands. 

    They had two fundamental flaws. Firstly, they depended on individual leaders – not states – meeting at first in secret as their drivers. This means that when two key players were removed from the picture – Trump and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – the project itself lost sponsorship and momentum. 

    The other problem was that they were all about the relationship between regional states and the US. They did not address the fundamental problems of relations between the key regional actors themselves. 

    The UAE’s motive for moving closer to Israel was to cement its relationship with Washington. Recognition of Israel was always a means to an end, not the end in itself. 

    Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed sign the Abraham Accords in 2020 (AFP)
    Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed sign the Abraham Accords in 2020 (AFP)

    For Israel, on the other hand, the Abraham Accords were all about cementing its own security by increasing its regional influence. It fundamentally misread Arab intentions by conceiving of normalisation as a military and diplomatic safety net for its own continued existence.

    Zvi Barel, writing in Haaretz, observed: “The kaleidoscopic shifting of international relations will require Israel to examine its place in the newly-forming alignment. The idea that there’s a pro-U.S. bloc that provides Israel with a military and diplomatic safety net and acts alongside it as an informal coalition against Iran, is beginning to fall apart.”

    Regional realignment

    The US not only supplied the carrots and sticks necessary to coerce states such as Sudan to join the accords, by removing it from its list of terrorist states. It was the very reason for the accords themselves.

    The Emiratis, being quick off the mark, have seen the future shape of the post-oil world. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has yet to reconcile himself to the US military absence. Maybe he will now that Biden has just withdrawn his Patriot missiles from the kingdom and lifted the bar imposed by two of his predecessors to confidential documents on allegations of Saudi government links to two of the 9/11 hijackers

    It has taken eight long years for the penny to drop. But if indeed it has, this realisation presents a genuine opportunity to reshape a post-American Middle East

    Unlike MBZ, MBS harbours personal grudges. He cannot forgive Erdogan for the role he played in keeping the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the agenda in Washington. In so doing, Erdogan permanently damaged MBS’s international reputation, making a repeat trip to London and the US impossible for the future Saudi king.

    MBS’s psychology – for all its modernist patina of posing as a reformer – is still rooted in his Bedouin past. Being the future king, he considers and treats his people as his property. He is their lord and master. Deals with other states are made by him alone. He decides whether his kingdom will recognise Israel or whether, as is now the case, he could turn to Israel to provide him with missile defence systems.

    Although all of these moves are brittle and by nature reversible, given that they are triggered by events outside the region and not within it, there could be light at the end of this dark, dark tunnel of permanent intervention. If regional actors themselves can establish a working relationship with each other – and no more than that is required – stability will not depend on a small group of despots. How will US disengagement shape the Middle East?Read More »

    Relations between regional powers are more likely to represent state interests, rather than the personal ones of their leaders. That in itself would be progress, if indeed any of this comes to fruition. 

    MBZ’s decision to reassess his foreign policy has to be genuine and not a temporary swerve. He is right to reassess his foreign policy. It has been a disaster, a complete waste of his money. It has weakened once strong states, such as Egypt, and caused massive refugee flows. 

    It has taken eight long years for the penny to drop. But if indeed it has, this realisation presents a genuine opportunity to reshape a post-American Middle East.

    The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.David HearstDavid Hearst is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He is a commentator and speaker on the region and analyst on Saudi Arabia. He was The Guardian’s foreign leader writer, and was correspondent in Russia, Europe, and Belfast. He joined the Guardian from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.

    The Dogs Bark But the Flotilla Embarks For Lebanon: US Fails To Harm Hezbollah’s Reputation

    SEPTEMBER 5, 2021

    The Dogs Bark But the Flotilla Embarks For Lebanon: US Fails To Harm Hezbollah’s Reputation

    By Mohammad Youssef

    Hezbollah’s initiative to bring ships of Iranian fuel to Lebanon has prompted Washington and its allies to kick start actions to sabotage the step or to lessen its positive effects on Lebanon and the Lebanese.

    The US administration is heavily involved in the Lebanese affairs and following up attentively daily politics in the country, yet all this to no avail.

    The US Congress delegation to Lebanon last week expressed dismay over the Iranian fuel supplies saying that Lebanon is not in need for Iranian petroleum and provoking Saudi Arabia to play a role in blocking Tehran’s help and replacing it by a Saudi one.

    In another position, the delegation described Hezbollah as a cancer that should be eradicated. This reflects Washington’s rage and frustration from the influential role the party is playing in Lebanon as well as in the region.

    First, the US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea has mocked the step and did not take it seriously when Hezbollah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced it. The head of American diplomacy made consultations and wrongly concluded this is not serious enough, but when Sayyed Nasrallah announced the shipment was on its way she was heavily shocked about her hasty calculations.

    Second, the American delegation in an arrogant blackmail threatened there will be sanctions against those who deal with Iran to import oil, and some Lebanese parties mistakenly, or with bad intentions, started to talk about international sanctions though they know for a fact it is only Washington, due to its animosity to the Resistance, and complete bias to ‘Israel’, may impose such sanctions.

    Third, the American embassy in Lebanon has become a kind of oil agency that dictates on the distributors the directives on when, where and what quantities of gasoline they would distribute to the stations. According to reports, lists of distributors and distribution places would first arrive to and be approved by the embassy before the process of distribution takes place.

    Fourth, the American embassy has recently and repeatedly scorned many of the pro US NGO’S for their failure to confront Hezbollah or to gain influence in the party’s areas. Dorothy Shea expressed her resentment and frustration that not much has been done so far, and it is not enough at all to influence the party followers or supporters.

    Fifth, the black propaganda that is being orchestrated and designed in the embassy to distort the party’s reputation, to tarnish its image, and to demonize it in the eyes of the Lebanese and to hold it responsible for all what Lebanon and the Lebanese are going through has come into a complete failure. New plans and more campaigns are in the making now to make up for previous failures.

    Sixth, in the same vein, Washington is urging its gulf allies especially Saudi Arabia and UAE to take the initiative from Hezbollah and send supplies to the tormented country so they would earn good reputation that could be later translated into political influence and thus ballots to be casted during the next parliamentary elections.

    Seventh, the pro-US gulf countries that are heavily involved in Lebanon and the Lebanese politics are not encouraged enough to send money and supplies because they are not pretty sure this would reach to their proper receivers. In Lebanon, the pro-West, pro-Gulf camp is very notorious for its corruption, malfunction, and its trust unworthiness.

    Meanwhile, Hezbollah continues, as planned, its efforts on many levels to alleviate the suffering of the people. Aside from the fuel shipments coming from Iran, the party has launched a series of many vital and very important projects that make people life easier; this includes electricity, water, health and medical facilities, along with streets repair and educational services.

    To sum up, Washington with all its tools in the region and the country are waging a relentless war against all those who oppose its hegemony and its imperialist colonialist policies. Thankfully and hopefully, it is losing, and they are winning.

    This is going to show us, sooner or later the writing of a new chapter where the US hegemony loses and our people achieve more independence, prosperity and freedom away from Washington sinister plans and conspiracies.

    Back to the future: Talibanistan, Year 2000

    Back to the future: Talibanistan, Year 2000

    August 31, 2021

    by Pepe Escobar for The Saker Blog and friends

    Dear reader: this is very special, a trip down memory lane like no other: back to prehistoric times – the pre-9/11, pre-YouTube, pre-social network world.

    Welcome to Taliban Afghanistan – Talibanistan – in the Year 2000. This is when photographer Jason Florio and myself slowly crossed it overland from east to west, from the Pakistani border at Torkham to the Iranian border at Islam qillah. As Afghan ONG workers acknowledged, we were the first Westerners to pull this off in years.

    Fatima, Maliha and Nouria, at home in Kabul

    Those were the days. Bill Clinton was enjoying his last stretch at the White House. Osama bin Laden was a discreet guest of Mullah Omar – hitting the front pages only occasionally. There was no hint of 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, the “war on terror”, the perpetual financial crisis, the Russia-China strategic partnership. Globalization ruled, and the US was the undisputed global top dog. The Clinton administration and the Taliban were deep into Pipelineistan territory – arguing over the tortuous, proposed Trans-Afghan gas pipeline.

    We tried everything, but we couldn’t even get a glimpse of Mullah Omar. Osama bin Laden was also nowhere to be seen. But we did experience Talibanistan in action, in close detail.

    Today is a special day to revisit it. The Forever War in Afghanistan is over; from now on it will be a Hybrid mongrel, against the integration of Afghanistan into the New Silk Roads and Greater Eurasia.

    In 2000 I wrote a Talibanistan road trip special for a Japanese political magazine, now extinct, and ten years later a 3-part mini-series revisiting it for Asia Times.

    Part 2 of this series can be found here, and part 3 here.

    Yet this particular essay – part 1 – had completely disappeared from the internet (that’s a long story): I found it recently, by accident, in a hard drive. The images come from the footage I shot at the time with a Sony mini-DV: I just received the file today from Paris.

    This is a glimpse of a long-lost world; call it a historical register from a time when no one would even dream of a “Saigon moment” remixed – as a rebranded umbrella of warriors conveniently labeled “Taliban”, after biding their time, Pashtun-style, for two decades, praises Allah for eventually handing them victory over yet another foreign invader.

    Now let’s hit the road.

    KABUL, GHAZNI – Fatima, Maliha and Nouria, who I used to call The Three Graces, must be by now 40, 39 and 35 years old, respectively. In the year 2000 they lived in an empty, bombed house next to a bullet-ridden mosque in a half-destroyed, apocalyptic theme park Kabul – by then the world capital of the discarded container (or reconstituted by a missile and reconverted into a shop); a city where 70% of the population were refugees, legions of homeless kids carried bags of cash on their backs ($1 was worth more than 60,000 Afghanis) and sheep outnumbered rattling 1960s Mercedes buses.

    Under the merciless Taliban theocracy, the Three Graces suffered triple discrimination – as women, Hazaras and Shi’ites. They lived in Kardechar, a neighborhood totally destroyed in the 1990s by the war between Commander Masoud, The Lion of the Panjshir, and the Hazaras (the descendants of mixed marriages between Genghis Khan’s Mongol warriors and Turkish and Tajik peoples) before the Taliban took power in 1996. The Hazaras were always the weakest link in the Tajik-Uzbek-Hazara alliance – supported by Iran, Russia and China – confronting the Taliban.

    Every dejected Kabuli intellectual I had met invariably defined the Taliban as “an occupation force of religious fanatics” – their rural medievalism totally absurd for urban Tajiks, used to a tolerant form of Islam. According to a university professor, “their jihad is not against kafirs; it’s against other Muslims who follow Islam”.

    I spent a long time talking to the Dari-speaking Three Graces inside their bombed-out home – with translation provided by their brother Aloyuz, who had spent a few years in Iran supporting the family long-distance. This simple fact in itself would assure that if caught, we would all be shot dead by the Taliban V & V – the notorious Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Taliban religious police.

    This is how bombed-out Kabul looked like in 2000

    The Three Graces’ dream was to live “free, not under pressure”. They had never been to a restaurant, a bar or a cinema. Fatima liked “rock” music, which in her case meant Afghan singer Natasha. She said she “liked” the Taliban, but most of all she wanted to get back to school. They never mentioned any discrimination between Sunnis and Shi’ites; they actually wanted to leave for Pakistan.

    Their definition of “human rights” included priority for education, the right to work, and to get a job in the state sector; Fatima and Maliha wanted to be doctors. Perhaps they are, today, in Hazara land; 21 years ago they spent their days weaving beautiful silk shawls.

    Education was terminally forbidden for girls over 12. The literacy rate among women was only 4%. Outside the Three Graces’ house, almost every woman was a “widow of war”, enveloped in dusty light blue burqas, begging to support their children. Not only this was an unbearable humiliation in the context of an ultra-rigid Islamic society, it contradicted the Taliban obsession of preserving the “honor and purity” of their women.

    Kabul’s population was then 2 million; less than 10%, concentrated in the periphery, supported the Taliban. True Kabulis regarded them as barbarians. For the Taliban, Kabul was more remote than Mars. Every day at sunset the Intercontinental Hotel, by then an archeological ruin, received an inevitable Taliban sightseeing group. They’d come to ride the lift (the only one in town) and walk around the empty swimming pool and tennis court. They’d be taking a break from cruising around town in their fleet of imported-from-Dubai Toyota Hi-Lux, complete with Islamic homilies painted in the windows, Kalashnikovs on show and little whips on hand to impose on the infidels the appropriate, Islamically correct, behavior. But at least the Three Graces were safe; they never left their bombed-out shelter.

    Doubt is sin, debate is heresy

    Few things were more thrilling in Talibanistan 21 years ago than to alight at Pul-e-Khisshti – the fabled Blue Mosque, the largest in Afghanistan – on a Friday afternoon after Jumma prayers and confront the One Thousand and One Nights assembled cast. Any image of this apotheosis of thousands of black or white-turbaned rustic warriors, kohl in their eyes and the requisite macho-sexy stare, would be all the rage on the cover of Uomo Vogue. To even think of taking a photo was anathema; the entrance to the mosque was always swarming with V & V informants.

    Finally, in one of those eventful Friday afternoons, I managed to be introduced into the Holy Grail – the secluded quarters of maulvi (priest) Noor Muhamad Qureishi, by then the Taliban Prophet in Kabul. He had never exchanged views with a Westerner. It was certainly one of the most surrealist interviews of my life.

    Qureishi, like all Taliban religious leaders, was educated in a Pakistani madrassa. At first, he was your typical hardcore deobandi; the deobandis, as the West would later find out, were an initially progressive movement born in India in the mid-19th century to revive Islamic values vis-à-vis the sprawling British Empire. But they soon derailed into megalomania, discrimination against women and Shi’ite-hatred.

    Most of all, Quereishi was the quintessential product of a boom – the connection between the ISI and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party during the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad, when thousands of madrassas were built in Pakistan’s Pashtun belt. Afghan refugees had the right to free education, a roof over their heads, three meals a day and military training. Their “educators” were semi-illiterate maulvis who had never known the reformist agenda of the original deobandi movement.

    On the Afghanistan-Iran border at Islam qilla

    Reclined on a tattered cushion over one of the mosque’s ragged carpets, Qureishi laid down the deobandi law in Pashto for hours. Among other things he said the movement was “the most popular” because its ideologues dreamed that Prophet Muhammad ordered them to build a madrassa in Deoband, India. So this was Islam’s purest form “because it came directly from Muhammad”. Despite the formidable catalogue of Taliban atrocities, he insisted on their “purity”.

    Qureishi dabbled on the inferiority of Hindus because of their sacred cows (“why not dogs, at least they are faithful to their owners”). As for Buddhism, it was positively depraved (“Buddha is an idol”). He would have had a multiple heart attack with Thailand’s Buddhist go-go girls, dancing topless at night and offering incense at the temple the morning after.

    Doubt is sin. Debate is heresy. “The only true knowledge is the Koran”. He insisted that all “forms of modern scientific knowledge came from the Koran”. As an example, he quoted – what else – a Koranic verse (the Koran, by the way, in its neo-deobandi, Talibanized version, forbade women to write, and allowed education only up to 10 years old). I could not help being reminded of that 18th century French anonymous – a typical product of the Enlightenment – who had written the Treaty of the Three Impostors – Moses, Jesus and Muhammad; but if I tried to insert the European Enlightenment into (his) monologue I would probably be shot dead. Basically, Qureishi finally managed to convince me that all this religious shadow play was about proving that “my sect is purer than yours”.

    Village elders in Herat

    Play it again, infidel

    Talibanistan lived under a strict Kalashnikov culture. But the supreme anti-Taliban lethal weapon was not a gun, or even a mortar or RPG. It was a camera. I knew inevitably that day would come, and it came on Kabul stadium, built by the former USSR to extol proletarian internationalism; another Friday, at 5 pm, the weekly soccer hour – the only form of entertainment absent from the Taliban’s Index Prohibitorum apart from public executions and mango ice cream.

    Jason and me were lodged at the VIP tribune – less than 10 US cents for the ticket. The stadium was packed – but silent as a mosque. Two teams, the red and the blue, were playing the Islamically correct way – with extra skirts under their trunks. At half time the whole stadium – to the sound of “Allah Akbar” – run to pray by the pitch; those who didn’t were spanked or thrown in jail.

    Jason had his cameras hanging from his neck but he was not using them. Yet that was more than enough for a hysteric V & V teenage informant. We are escorted out of the stands by a small army of smiling, homoerotic brotherhood, those who were then referred to as “soldiers of Allah”. Finally we are presented to a white-turbaned Talib with assassin’s eyes; he’s no one other than mullah Salimi, the vice-Minister of the religious police in Kabul – the reincarnation of The Great Inquisitor. We are finally escorted out of the stadium and thrown into a Hi-Lux, destination unknown. Suddenly we are more popular with the crowd than the soccer match itself.

    At a Taliban “office” – a towel on the grass in front of a bombed-out building, decorated with a mute sat-phone – we are charged with espionage. Our backpacks are thoroughly searched. Salimi inspects two rolls of film from Jason’s cameras; no incriminating photo. It’s now the turn of my Sony mini-DV camera. We press “play”; Salimi recoils in horror. We explain nothing is recorded on the blue screen. What was really recorded – he just needed to press “rewind” – would be enough to send us to the gallows, including a lot of stuff with the Three Graces. Once again we noticed the Taliban badly needed not only art directors and PR agents but also info-tech whiz kids.

    Carpet-weaving at the Herat bazaar

    In Taliban anti-iconography, video, in theory, might be allowed, because the screen is a mirror. Anyway, later we would know from the lion’s mouth, that is, the Ministry of Information and Culture in Kandahar: TV and video would remain perpetually banned.

    At that time, a few photo-studios survived near one of the Kabul bazaars – only churning out 3X4 photos for documents. The owners paid their bills renting their Xerox machines. The Zahir Photo Studio still had on its walls a collection of black and white and sepia photos of Kabul, Herat, minarets, nomads and caravans. Among Leicas, superb Speed Graphic 8 X 10 and dusty Russian panoramic cameras, Mr. Zahir would lament, “photography is dead in Afghanistan”. At least, that wouldn’t be for long.

    The 11th century Ghazni minaret with, on the foreground, a Taliban military base

    So after an interminable debate in Pashto with some Urdu and English thrown in, we are “liberated”. Some Taliban – but certainly not Salimi, still piercing us with his assassin’s eyes – try a formal apology, saying this is incompatible with the Pashtun code of hospitality. All tribal Pashtun – like the Taliban – follow the pashtunwali, the rigid code that emphasizes, among other things, hospitality, vengeance and a pious Islamic life. According to the code, it’s a council of elders that arbitrates specific disputes, applying a compendium of laws and punishments. Most cases involve murders, land disputes and trouble with women. For the Pashtun, the line between pashtunwali and Sharia was always fuzzy.

    A Kuchi nomad caravan going south towards Kandahar.

    The V & V obviously was not a creation of Mullah Omar, the “Leader of the Faithful”; it was based on a Saudi Arabian original. In its heyday, in the second half of the 1990s, the V & V was a formidable intelligence agency – with informers infiltrated in the Army, ministries, hospitals, UN agencies, NGOs – evoking a bizarre memory of KHAD, the enormous intel agency of the 1980’s communist regime, during the anti-USSR jihad. The difference is that the V & V only answered to orders – issued on bits and pieces of paper – of Mullah Omar himself.

    Rock the base

    The verdict echoed like a dagger piercing the oppressive air of the desert near Ghazni. A 360-degree panoramic shot revealed a background of mountains where the mineral had expelled all the vegetal; the silhouette of two 11th century minarets; and a foreground of tanks, helicopters and rocket launchers. The verdict, issued in Pashto and mumbled by our scared official translator imposed by Kabul, was inexorable: “You will be denounced in a military court. The investigation will be long, six months; meanwhile you will await the decision in jail”.

    Once again, we were being charged with espionage, but now this was the real deal. We could be executed with a shot on the back of the neck – Khmer Rouge style. Or stoned. Or thrown into a shallow grave and buried alive by a brick wall smashed by a tractor. Brilliant Taliban methods for the final solution were myriad. And to think this was all happening because of two minarets.

    To walk over a supposedly mined field trying to reach two minarets was not exactly a brilliant idea in the first place. Red Army experts, during the 1980s, buried 12 million mines in Afghanistan. They diversified like crazy; more than 50 models, from Zimbabwe’s RAP-2s to Belgium’s NR-127s. UN officials had assured us that more than half the country was mined. Afghan officials at the Mine Detention Center in Herat, with their 50 highly trained German shepherds, would later tell us that it would take 22,000 years to demine the whole country.

    My objects of desire in Ghazni were two “Towers of Victory”; two circular superstructures, isolated in the middle of the desert and built by the Sassanians as minarets – commemorative, not religious; there was never a mosque in the surroundings. In the mid-19th century scholars attributed the grand minaret to Mahmud, protector of Avicenna and the great Persian poet Ferdowsi. Today it is known that the small minaret dates from 1030, and the big one, from 1099. They are like two brick rockets pointing to the sheltering sky and claiming for the attention of those travelling the by then horrific Kabul-Kandahar highway, a Via Dolorosa of multinational flat tires – Russian, Chinese, Iranian.

    The problem is that, 21 years ago, right adjacent to the minarets, there was an invisible Taliban military base. At first we could see only an enormous weapons depot. We asked a sentinel to take a few pictures; he agreed. Walking around the depot – between carcasses of Russian tanks and armored cars – we found some functioning artillery pieces. And a lone, white Taliban flag. And not a living soul. This did look like an abandoned depot. But then we hit on a destroyed Russian helicopter – a prodigy of conceptual art. Too late: soon we are intercepted by a Taliban out of nowhere.

    The commander of the base wanted to know “under which law” we assumed we had the right to take photos. He wanted to know which was the punishment, “in our country”, for such an act. When the going was really getting tough, everything turned Monty Python. One of the Taliban had walked back to the road to fetch our driver, Fateh. They came back two hours later. The commander talked to Fateh in Pashto. And then we were “liberated”, out of “respect for Fateh’s white beard”. But we should “confess” to our crime – which we did right away, over and over again.

    The fact of the matter is that we were freed because I was carrying a precious letter hand-signed by the all-powerful Samiul Haq, the leader of Haqqania, the factory-cum-academy, Harvard and M.I.T. of Taliban in Akhora Khatak, on the Grand Trunk Road between Islamabad and Peshawar in Pakistan. Legions of Taliban ministers, province governors, military commanders, judges and bureaucrats had studied in Haqqania.

    Haqqania was founded in 1947 by deobandi religious scholar Abdul Haq, the father of maulvi and former senator Samiul Haq, a wily old hand fond of brothels and as engaging as a carpet vendor in the Peshawar bazaars. He was a key educator of the first detribalized, urbanized and literate Afghan generation; “literate”, of course, in Haqqania-branded, Deobandi-style Islam. In Haqqania – where I saw hundreds of students from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan indoctrinated to later export Talibanization to Central Asia – debate was heresy, the master was infallible and Samiul Haq was almost as perfect as Allah.

    He had told me – no metaphor intended – that “Allah had chosen Mullah Omar to be the leader of the Taliban”. And he was sure that when the Islamic Revolution reached Pakistan, “it will be led by a unknown rising from the masses” – like Mullah Omar. At the time Haq was Omar’s consultant on international relations and Sharia-based decisions. He bundled up both Russia and the US as “enemies of our time”; blamed the US for the Afghan tragedy; but otherwise offered to hand over Osama bin Laden to the US if Bill Clinton guaranteed no interference in Afghan affairs.

    Turn left for the Ministry of Foreign Relations – at the time only recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE

    Back in Ghazni, the Taliban commander even invited us for some green tea. Thanks but no thanks. We thanked Allah’s mercy by visiting the tomb of sultan Mahmud in Razah, less than one kilometer from the towers. The tomb is a work of art – translucid marble engraved with Kufic lettering. Islamic Kufic lettering, if observed as pure design, reveals itself as a transposition of the verb, from the audible to the visible. So the conclusion was inevitable; the Taliban had managed to totally ignore the history of their own land, building a military base over two architectural relics and incapable of recognizing even the design of their own Islamic lettering as a form of art.


    All pictures taken from The Roving Eye Video Archives. Pepe Escobar, 2000

    Yemen Defense Forces Not Far From Recapturing Whole Marib – Report

    September 1, 2021

    Yemen Defense Forces Not Far From Recapturing Whole Marib - Report

    By Staff, Agencies

    Yemen’s allied defense forces decisively escalated their counterattacks on Saudi Arabia’s allies in Marib, the capital of a hugely strategic west-central Yemeni province of the same name, and are reportedly on the verge of recapturing the whole city.

    The Yemeni army and Popular Committees were reported on Tuesday to have advanced as far as the city’s “government buildings.”

    The advancements were made possible, despite heavy Saudi bombardment of the flashpoints in the city from above, Yemen Press Agency reported. It came after the forces successfully pushed back against the kingdom’s allies there, namely Riyadh-backed militants and al-Qaeda terrorists, the outlet added.

    The terrorists, it added, have been forced to abandon their positions and beat a retreat towards the city’s administrative buildings.

    The Yemeni forces “are not far from” reestablishing Sanaa’s sovereignty over the city, Yemeni media sources noted.

    The two sides are now engaged in intense confrontation “using heavy weaponry,” local sources noted.

    The Saudi-led coalition, meanwhile, tried to shift the Yemeni allies’ attention away from their pending victory by trying to create diversionary clashes in other places. It, however, failed in its bid, the Yemeni outlets said.

    The locals said the coalition’s forces had suffered considerable human and material losses during the developments. “A large number” of the enemy’s military commanders were either killed or injured during the advances, they announced.

    The coalition invaded Yemen in March 2015 in a self-proclaimed bid to restore power in the country to Saudi Arabia’s favorite officials.

    Seven years on, however, it is still nowhere close to realizing that avowed aim.

    The invasion has, meanwhile, killed tens of thousands of Yemenis in the process. The military aggression and a simultaneous siege of Yemen has also turned the Arab world’s already poorest nation into the scene of, what the United Nations has deplored as, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

    The Yemeni forces have invariably retaliated heavily against the war, striking targets that lie as far as the capital of the kingdom itself and its war ally, the United Arab Emirates.

    Pledging never to lay down their arms until Yemen’s complete liberation, the forces have been focusing on Marib and its surrounding province’s recapture for many months now.

    Given its strategic location, the province’s liberation is expected to open the floodgates of further victories for the Yemenis.

    According to Yemen’s Ambassador to Tehran, Ibrahim al-Deilami, the war in Marib is currently underway in “more than 50 fronts.”

    The Yemeni counterblows have managed to fully liberate as many as nine of the province’s 14 districts so far.

    Al Mayadeen: Death Toll on Al-Anad Airbase Attack Rises

    August 30, 2021

    Source: Al Mayadeen

    By Al Mayadeen

    STC forces attacked the Al-Anad airbase, killing 49 people and wounding 65 more. The Houthi movement has continued to attack the base.

    Lahij governorate's al-Anad airbase, where the STC troops are stationed
    Lahij governorate’s al-Anad airbase, where the STC troops are stationed.

    Today, Al Mayadeen sources reported that more than 100 people were killed and wounded as a result of a missile attack on the al-Anad Saudi coalition military base in the Lahij governorate. Some wounded are in critical condition.

    It was reported by a Yemeni medical source that 49 people were killed in the attack and 65 were injured. The number of missing people whose corpses were torn was not included in the final death toll.

    Three ballistic missiles fired from the al-Hawban area in Taiz, southwest of Yemen, struck the al-Anad base, according to military leaders of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council.

    The military leaders of the STC forces accused the Sana’a government forces of continuing to attack and bomb the al-Anad base, which the STC utilizes as a base for its troops, while STC spokesperson Mohammed Al-Naqib did not rule out the absence of Houthi-Brotherhood cooperation in the operation.

    It is worth noting that the Saudi coalition’s targeting of al-Anad, an important air and military base, is the second after it was hit in 2019 by a drone that targeted a military parade. Several high-ranking military leaders in President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s forces were killed, including the Deputy Chief of Staff, Major General Saleh Al-Zindani.

    ‘Forever war’ benefiting Afghans? Follow the money

    August 23, 2021

    Whoever bought Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and other US defense stocks made a literal killing

    By Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

    After 20 years and a staggering US$2.23 trillion spent in a “forever war” persistently spun as promoting democracy and benefiting the “Afghan people,” it’s legitimate to ask what the Empire of Chaos has to show for it.

    The numbers are dire. Afghanistan remains the world’s 7th poorest nation: 47% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the Asian Development Bank. No less than 75% of the – dissolved – Kabul government’s budget was coming from international aid. According to the World Bank, that aid was responsible for the turnover of 43% of the economy – one that was mired in massive government corruption.

    According to the terms of the Washington-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February 2020, the US should continue to fund Afghanistan during and after its withdrawal.

    Now, with the Fall of Kabul and the imminent return of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, it’s becoming clear that applying financial soft power tactics may be even more deadly than a mere NATO occupation.

    Washington has frozen $9.5 billion in Afghan Central Bank reserves and the International Monetary Fund has canceled its lending to Afghanistan, including $460 million that’s part of a Covid-19 relief program.

    These dollars pay for government salaries and imports. Their absence will lead to the “Afghan people” hurting even more, a direct consequence of inevitable currency depreciation, rising food prices and inflation.

    A corollary to this economic tragedy is a classic “take the money and run” caper: Former president Ashraf Ghani fled the country after allegedly packing four cars with $169 million in cash, and leaving $5 million on the tarmac of Kabul airport.

    That’s according to two witnesses: one of his own bodyguards and the Afghan ambassador in Tajikistan; Ghani has denied the looting allegations.

    Ghani’s plane was denied landing in Tajikistan and also Uzbekistan, proceeding to Oman until Ghani was welcomed in the UAE – very close to Dubai, a global Mecca of smuggling, money laundering and racketeering.

    The Taliban have already stated that a new government and a new political and economic framework will be announced only after NATO troops are definitively out of the country next month.

    The complex negotiations to form an “inclusive” government, as repeatedly promised by Taliban spokesmen, are de facto led on the non-Taliban side by two members of a council of three: former President Hamid Karzai and Ghani’s eternal rival, the leader of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah. The third member, acting in the shadows, is warlord-turned-politician and two-time prime minister Hekmatyar. Gulbuddin

    Karzai and Abdullah, both vastly experienced, are regarded by the Americans as “acceptable,” so that may go a long way in terms of facilitating future, official Western recognition of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and restored multilateral institution funding.

    Yet there are myriad problems including the very active role of Khalil Haqqani, who leads the Taliban Peace Council Commission while on a “terror watch list” and under UN sanctions. Not only is Haqqani in charge of Kabul’s security; he’s also side by side with Karzai and Abdullah in the discussions to form an inclusive government.

    What makes the Taliban run

    The Taliban have been operating outside of the Western banking system for two decades now. The bulk of their income comes from transit tax on trade routes (for instance, from Iran) and fuel levies. Profits from opium and heroin exports (domestic consumption not permitted) reportedly account for less than 10% of their income.

    In countless villages across the deep Afghan countryside, the economy revolves around petty cash transactions and barter.

    I received a copy of a high-level Pakistani academia-intelligence paper examining the challenges facing the new Afghan government.

    The paper notes that “the standard route of development to be followed will be very pro-people. Taliban’s Islam is socialist. It has an aversion towards wealth being accumulated in fewer hands” – and, crucially, also an aversion to usury.

    On the initial steps towards development projects, the paper expects them to come from Russian, Chinese, Turkish, Iranian and Pakistani companies – as well as a few government sectors. The Islamic Emirate “expects infrastructure development packages” at costs that are “affordable by the country’s existing GDP.”

    Afghanistan’s nominal GDP in 2020 was $19.8 billion, according to World Bank figures.

    New aid and investment packages are expected to come from Shanghai Cooperation Organization member nations (Russia, China, Pakistan) or SCO observers (Turkey and currently Iran – scheduled to become a full member at the SCO summit next month in Tajikistan). Inbuilt is the notion that Western recognition will be a Sisyphean task.

    The paper admits that the Taliban have not had time to evaluate how the economy will be the key vector deciding Afghanistan’s future independence.

    But this passage of the paper may hold the key: “In their consultations with the Chinese, they were advised to go slow and not rock the boat of the Western world system by talking too soon about state control of capitalism, interest-free economy, and de-linking from the IMF-based financial system. However, since the West has pulled back all the money from the Afghan exchequer, Afghanistan is likely to apply for short-term aid packages against their resource base.”

    IMF-NATO as brothers in arms

    I asked Michael Hudson, an economics professor at the University of Missouri Kansas City and Peking University, how he would recommend the new government to act. He answered, “For one thing, embarrass the hell out of the IMF for acting as an arm of NATO.”

    Hudson referred to a Wall Street Journal article written by a former IMF advisor now with the Atlantic Council as saying that “now, since recognition is frozen, banks all over the world will hesitate to do business with Kabul. This move provides the US with leverage to negotiate with the Taliban.”

    So this may be going the Venezuela way – with the IMF not “recognizing” a new government for months and even years. And on the seizure of Afghan gold by the New York Fed – actually a collection of private banks – we see echoes of the looting of Libya’s and seizure of Venezuela’s gold.

    Hudson sees all of the above as “an abuse of the international monetary system – which is supposed to be a public utility – as an arm of NATO run by the US. IMF behavior, especially regarding the new drawing rights, should be presented as a litmus test” for the viability of a Taliban-led Afghanistan.

    Hudson is now working on a book about the collapse of antiquity. His research led him to find Cicero, in In Favor of the Manilian Law (Pro Lege Manilia), writing about Pompeus’s military campaign in Asia and its effects on the provinces in a passage that perfectly applies to the “forever war” in Afghanistan:

    “Words cannot express, gentlemen, how bitterly hated we are among foreign nations because of the wanton and outrageous conduct of the men whom in recent years we have sent to govern them. For, in those countries, what temple do you suppose had been held sacred by our officers, what state inviolable, what home sufficiently guarded by its closed doors? Why, they look about for rich and flourishing cities that they may find an occasion for a war against them to satisfy their lust for plunder.”

    Switching from the classics to a more pedestrian level, WikiLeaks has been replaying a sort of Afghanistan Greatest Hits , reminding public opinion, for instance, that as far back as 2008 there was already “no pre-defined end date” for the “forever war.”

    Yet the most concise assessment may have come from Julian Assange himself:

    “The goal is to use Afghanistan to wash money out of the tax bases of the US and Europe through Afghanistan and back into the hands of a transnational security elite. The goal is an endless war, not a successful war.”

    The “forever war” may have been a disaster for the bombed, invaded and impoverished “Afghan people,” but it was an unmitigated success for what Ray McGovern so memorably defines as the MICIMATT (Military-Industrial-Counter-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think Tank) complex. Anyone who bought stocks of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and the rest of that crowd made – literally – a killing.

    Facts are indeed dire. Barack Obama – who presided over a hefty Afghan “kill list”  throws a birthday party and invites the woke nouveaux riches. Julian Assange suffers psychological torture imprisoned in Belmarsh. And Ashraf Ghani mulls how to spend $169 million in the Dubai rackets, funds some say were duly stolen from the “Afghan people.”

    The Persian Gulf is Once Again at the Center of Western Provocations

    17.08.2021 

    Author: Viktor Mikhin

    IRN52345

    As part of a concerted effort to pressurize Iran ahead of the expected resumption of nuclear talks in Vienna, Washington and its European allies appear to be using a mysterious and not entirely understandable attack on an oil tanker operated by Israel to extract additional concessions from Tehran.   In doing so, says the well-informed Iranian newspaper Ettelaat, they are unwittingly playing into the hands of an Israeli scheme aimed at railroading the very nuclear deal that Washington and the Europeans are supposedly trying to revive. The controversy over the recent attack on the Israeli Mercer Street continues unabated, and the US and Britain rushed to bring the issue even to the UN Security Council. However, they failed to reach a consensus on Iran there.

    In this connection, it may be recalled that an Israeli ship was attacked off the coast of Oman on July 29 while it was sailing from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to the Port of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. An oil tanker operated by Zodiac Maritime, owned by Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer, was reportedly attacked by suicide drones. A Zodiac Maritime spokesman said two crew members, British and Romanian nationals, died in the attack. The attack, for which Tel Aviv, London, and Washington instantly and unsubstantiated accused Iran, marked the beginning of a coordinated diplomatic campaign against Tehran at a time when nuclear talks on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal had stalled after six rounds of painstaking negotiations in Vienna. The last round of talks in Vienna was completed more than a month ago, and differences over how to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) are still unresolved. The US has steadfastly refused to lift all sanctions imposed by the Donald Trump administration and to give assurances that it will not withdraw from the JCPOA again, as it did in the past. The sixth round was also held when a transfer of power in Iran connected with the June 18 presidential elections, in which Ebrahim Raisi won a confident and predictable victory.

    In a separate statement, US CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said that based on the fact that “the vertical stabilizer is identical to those identified on one of the Iranian UAVs designed and manufactured for the one-sided kamikaze attack, we could assume that Iran was actively involved in the attack.”  In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the G7 countries (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States) condemned Iran for the attack. “This was a deliberate and targeted attack and a clear violation of international law,” the statement said. “All available evidence points to Iran.” There is no excuse for this attack.   Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh instantly responded that the G7 condemnation consisted of unfounded accusations. “Israel is likely to be the real culprit behind the attack,” the spokesman added. “For experts and those who know the history of our region, it is nothing new that the Zionist regime is scheming such plots,” Said Khatibzadeh emphasized.

    Sensing a change of plans in Tehran, the US and its European allies launched a diplomatic campaign to intimidate Iran into returning to the talks in Vienna without any new demands. Washington’s main concern was that the negotiating team of new President Ebrahim Raisi would return to Vienna with new spirit and demands, amounting to a reversal of the American progress made in the last six rounds. This concern is not groundless: the Tehran Times, which presents the official point of view, reported that the Iranians were even considering, among other options, abandoning the results of the Vienna talks under Hassan Rouhani. The same newspaper, citing official sources, concludes that Tehran may reject the results and set a new agenda for negotiations with the West to resolve the remaining issues in a new format and spirit.  This is why the US, in an apparent attempt to influence the plans of the Iranian ayatollahs, has sought to increase diplomatic pressure on Iran since the end of the sixth round. They have threatened and are threatening to withdraw from negotiations, openly opposed to lifting all sanctions, and have even prepared new oil sanctions against Iran.

    Then there was the incomprehensible attack on Mercer Street, which the US and its allies saw as a gift to exert further pressure on Iran. While the hype surrounding this attack is still going on, the known provocateur, Britain and its allies, in a spirit of high probability, have concocted several stories about the hijacking of commercial ships off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf of Oman. Once again, they have accused Iran, without evidence and with impudence, of playing a role in these events. How can we not recall the dirty work of London and its notorious international organization Médecins Sans Frontières in accusing Damascus of the use of poisonous substances?

    Iran fully understands the ulterior motives behind this drama, which the West has habitually turned into a farce. Iranian officials warned the West not to engage in dirty propaganda games to gain concessions. Commenting on the alleged attempted seizure of a ship in the Gulf of Oman, the Iranian Embassy in Britain stated on Twitter: “To mislead the public around the world for diplomatic gain in New York is not fair game.” But this unfair game can lead to the opposite result. The US and Britain have enlisted Israel’s help in their campaign of putting pressure on Iran, which is likely to have unintended consequences for them.

    “We have just heard a distorted statement about the Mercer Street incident. Immediately after the event, Israeli officials blamed Iran for the incident. That’s what they usually do. This is a standard practice of the Israeli regime. Its purpose is to divert world attention from the regime’s crimes and inhumane practices in the region,” said Zahra Ershadi, the charge d’affaires ad interim of Iran’s permanent mission to the United Nations. She made the remarks after a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on the recent oil tanker incident in the Gulf of Oman.

    Israel’s ambassador to the US and the UN, Gilad Erdan, threw aside his restraint and revealed some of these targets. He said that Israel would ultimately like to see the current regime in the Islamic Republic of Iran overthrown. “In the end, we would like [the government] to be overthrown and [for] regime change to take place in Iran,” Gilad Erdan said when asked about Israel’s strategy toward the Islamic Republic, according to the Times of Israel. The statement was made after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s blunt remarks that Tel Aviv allegedly knows for a fact that it was Iran that attacked Mercer Street.

    Regardless of Israel’s goals for Iran, the current approach of London and Washington is unlikely to produce results, as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has unequivocally and firmly made it clear that the West is unlikely to succeed in intimidating the Iranians and the country’s leadership. Moreover, no one will force the Iranians to give up their legal rights and freedoms.

    Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” .

    Bin Zayed’s Adviser: Gaza’s Suffering Is Due to Hamas, not “Israel”!

    August 12 2021

    Source: Al Mayadeen

    By Al Mayadeen

    Senior Adviser to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi proclaims that Gazans suffer because of “Hamas” rather than “Israel,” expressing concern over Iran’s power.

    Adviser to UAE Prince: Hamas Occupies Gaza, not
    Ali Al Nuaimi, Senior Adviser to the prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammad Bin Zayed

    In an interview with an Israeli newspaper, Ali Al-Nuaimi, senior adviser to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohamed bin Zayed, denounced the Palestinian resistance in Gaza.

    During an interview with “Israel Today“, Nuaimi expressed that “One of the biggest errors in this narrative, which I saw repeated over and over in the media, was the way they speak about [the] Gaza [Strip] as if it’s occupied by the Israelis. It’s not: It’s controlled by Hamas.”

    “It is time to liberate Gaza, which was hijacked by Hamas to serve Iranian goals,” Al-Nuaimi said in an interview marking the one-year anniversary of the normalization of Emirati-Israeli relations, adding that “the Palestinian people in Gaza are suffering because of Hamas, not because of the Israelis.”

    He discussed the international sentiment surrounding the crimes of the Israeli occupation during  Seif Al Quds battle, which sparked worldwide outrage, with thousands demonstrating on the ground and using electronic campaigns on social media, stating that “We also have to fight the war of propaganda – one that the Israelis lost in this last round of fighting between Israel and Hamas. I saw narratives coming from not only the Middle East but the West too, which represented a shift.”

    After questioning him on the harsh criticism directed at “Israel” on social media in the Emirates, Al-Nuaimi stressed that “many of us condemned Hamas”, justifying “in Israel, too, there were people who opposed the war, so that is not an indication, but rather says what some of the people in the Emirates think. It’s hard to overcome history, but we want to open people’s eyes and show them things they haven’t seen over the last 40 or 50 years.”

    The Israeli publication expressed admiration for Al-Nuaimi’s responses, commenting that “these brave responses were given by a senior official in an Arab country.”

    Ariel Kahana, the journalist who conducted the interview, divulged that he previously met Al-Nuaimi a year ago, as Kahana was one of the Israeli journalists accompanying the first Israeli delegations to the UAE on August 31, two weeks after former US President Donald Trump announced the UAE-“Israel” agreement to establish relations.

    Al-Nuaimi: Iran wants to be a world power

    Answering the question of how to treat Iran, the adviser responded by expressing concern that the international community does not speak in “one voice on Iran”, detailing that “when we speak with our European friends about the invasiveness and aggression of Iran in Arab states, we hear that they ‘understand our concerns.’ But we don’t need someone to understand our concerns, rather we need someone to act according to international law and respond to those violating other countries’ sovereignty.”

    Concerning the UAE’S opinion of the US and Iran returning to a nuclear agreement, Al-Nuaimi expressed that returning to the nuclear agreement as it used to be would not solve the problems, accusing Iran that it “never honored the agreement or the commitments, in any respect.”

    Al Nuaimi: There is no “going back” on UAE-Israeli relations

    Bin Zayed’s adviser remarked of his country’s connection with the Israeli occupation, “the ties being forged between us are not political or just between governments. These are comprehensive ties in every respect. This is a normal relationship that is growing. “

    “There is discussion and dialogue, and I know the media will paint it as a crisis. But it isn’t,” he said of the UAE’S position on Israel’s revision of the gas transfer arrangement from the Emirates to Europe via “Israel”. 

    He reassured the journalist that “a disagreement on one issue will degrade ties. This is not the case.”

    US Preventing Political Solution in Yemen – National Delegation

    August 12, 2021

    US Preventing Political Solution in Yemen – National Delegation

    By Staff, Agencies

    The head of the Yemeni National Delegation Mohammad Abdul Salam stressed on Wednesday that the United States is preventing a political solution in Yemen from being reached.

    “US intervention in Yemen led to the violation of national sovereignty through brutal aggression, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE were brought in to execute this aggression” Abdul Salam said in a tweet.

    He pointed out that the US imposed a stifling siege on the Yemenis, which resulted in disasters that affected all aspects of life, pointing out at the same time that US worked to activate al-Qaeda and Daesh [the Arabic acronym for ‘ISIS/ISIL’ terrorist group]. “We believe that Saudi Arabia is only the face of the aggression against Yemen, and that the UAE is working behind it,” the head of Yemen’s National Delegation and the Ansarullah spokesman went on to say.

    Abdul Salam further stressed the need to create a joint administration from the people of Marib Governorate, to maintain security and stability, and to expel al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorists. The initiative requires commitment to share with other provinces oil and gas and to repair the Safer-Ras Issa pipeline.

    The initiative also requires ensuring freedom of movement, releasing all kidnapped people, compensating those affected, and returning the displaced from Marib, he added.

    In earlier remarks following the appointment of the new UN Envoy to Yemen, Abdul Salam stressed that United Nations only works in the context of the countries of aggression and works within the allowed margin. He pointed out that “the problem is not in changing a person or not. The problem is that countries of aggression do not have a decision to stop the aggression and establish peace.”

    Al Mayadeen: Israeli Team Present at Dubai Explosion “انفجار استهدف فريقاً إسرائيلياً”.. الميادين تنشر وثيقة سرية حول ميناء جبل علي

    August 11, 2021

    Source: Al Mayadeen

    By Al Mayadeen

    Al Mayadeen obtained a classified document which has revealed information about the Jebel Ali explosion in Dubai, previously clouded by media censorship.

    Al Mayadeen disclosed a classified document concerning the Dubai explosion which occurred on July 7, 2021 in Jebel Ali. 

    The explosion occurred inside a ship container docked at the Dubai port. Due to the complete media blackout which prohibited journalists and photographers from documenting the explosion site, not much was to be acknowledged since. 

    However, the classified document obtained by Al Mayadeen addresses the “who and how,” exposing the presence of a team of 6 Israelis on site of the explosion. 

    It was reported that 3 Israelis were killed, and 2 were severely injured.

    As for how the site was ‘cleaned up,’ some bodies were buried while others were shipped back to their ‘home’ countries under the patronage and protection of the police due to the highly delicate nature of the situation. 

    It was also noted that residents within a 50km radius of the explosion site felt the magnitude of the explosion. 

    “انفجار استهدف فريقاً إسرائيلياً”.. الميادين تنشر وثيقة سرية حول ميناء جبل علي

    الاربعاء 11 اب 2021

    الميادين نت

    وثيقة سرية صادرة عن شرطة دبي تكشف أن انفجار ميناء جبل علي، الشهر الماضي، وقع نتيجة انفجار قنبلة في إحدى الشحنات المركونة في المرفأ، وأدى إلى مقتل 3 إسرائيليين وإصابة آخرين.

    حصلت الميادين على وثيقة سرية صادرة عن شرطة دبي، بخصوص انفجار ميناء جبل علي، في 7 تموز/يوليو الماضي، ومصنفة بـ”الهامة جداً”. 

    وأشارت الوثيقة إلى “وجود فريق إسرائيلي مكوّن من 6 أفراد لحظة وقوع الانفجار في الميناء”، والذي نجم عن “انفجار قنبلة في إحدى الشحنات المركونة في المرفأ”. 

    وأكدت الوثيقة “مقتل 3 إسرائيليين وإصابة 2 بجروح بالغة” نتيجة الانفجار، ليتم بعد ذلك “دفن بعض الجثث ونقل البعض الآخر إلى بلدانه بإشراف الشرطة بسبب حساسية الموقف”.

    وذكرت الوثيقة أن السكان على بعد 50 كلم “شعروا بالانفجار الذي أدى إلى تدمير كامل الشحنات القريبة منه”، فيما منعت وسائل الإعلام من “تغطية الأخبار أو تصوير مكان الحادث أو إرسال صور أو إعداد تقارير”. 

    وتحدثت وكالات دولية عن سماع دوي انفجار في إمارة دبي نتيجة “أسباب غير معروفة”، الشهر الماضي، وأفاد سكان منطقة جبل علي بـ”اهتزاز منازلهم جراء قوة الانفجار”.

    RECENT UAE PORT EXPLOSION TARGETED ISRAELI SQUAD, THREE WERE KILLED: LEAKED DOCUMENT

    11.08.2021

    Recent UAE Port Explosion Targeted Israeli Squad, Three Were Killed: Leaked Document

    The July 7 explosion at Jebel Ali Port in the United Arab Emiratis (UAE) targeted an “Israeli squad” of six members, the al-Mayadeen TV reported on August 11, citing a document by Dubai Police.

    According to the official document, that was recently leaked to the Beirut-based channel, the massive explosion, which unleashed a shock wave through the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai, was not the result of an accident. The explosion was in fact caused by a “bomb” that was hidden inside one of the containers at Jebel Ali port.

    This claim is in line with early footage from the explosion site, which revealed that the explosion erupted aboard the Comoros-flagged OCEAN TRADER cargo ship that was at the time loaded with dozens of containers and anchored at the port.

    In the leaked document, Dubai Police reports the death of three of the Israeli quad’s members and the injury of two others.

    “Some of the bodies were buried and others were transferred to their countries under the supervision of the police due to the sensitivity of the situation,” the document reads.

    The document, which is yet to be verified, didn’t provide any details on the Israeli squad or the nature of its work in Jebel Ali Port. The UAE stepped up its security cooperation with Israel and allowed trade with Israeli companies in the wake of the 2020 peace accord.

    The information revealed by the al-Mayadin will not likely get verified any time soon. However, the available information from open sources indeed indicate that the explosion at Jebel Ali was not simply an “accident”.

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    Tunisia Stands Against the Muslim Brotherhood

    By Steven Sahiounie

    Global Research, July 30, 2021

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20210725_2_49334130_67331243-1536x1004-400x261.jpg

    All Global Research articles can be read in 51 languages by activating the “Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version). 

    Visit and follow us on Instagram at @crg_globalresearch.

    ***

    The only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring in 2011 is going through a process of strategic correction. Tunisian President Kais Saied announced late Sunday he was firing the prime minster, Hichem Mechichi, dismissing the parliament, and assuming executive authority under Article 80 of the constitution.  The speaker of Parliament, Rachid Ghannouchi, declared the actions amounted to a coup.

    Saied announced that he was assuming the public prosecutor’s powers and stripping lawmakers of immunity, while assuring Tunisian rights groups on Monday that he remains committed to civil liberties and the democratic process, and that the changes will be temporary.

    The crisis stems partly from an economy which never improved, and the COVID pandemic which has hit Tunisia hard.  The main cause of the crisis is a political power struggle between Saied, Mechichi and Ghannouchi which has split the country into two camps: those who want Tunisia to maintain a secular based government, and those who follow Radical Islam as a political ideology.

    On Sunday, demonstrators across Tunisia called for the dissolution of Parliament, which gave Saied the green-light to take action based on the will of the people.

    Videos posted to social media showed crowds cheering, honking, ululating and waving Tunisian flags after the president’s actions Sunday night.

    By Monday afternoon, Saied had fired the defense minister and acting justice minister. On Wednesday, Saied revealed shocking allegations against Ghannouchi’s party, Ennahda, that they accepted money from foreign governments, which amounts to a crime against democracy in Tunisia. Additionally, Saied has identified 480 persons who have defrauded the government of billions of Tunisian dinars.  He has promised to hold all accountable.

    Mr. Saied was elected in 2019, and many Tunisians hoped he could turn things around, seeing him as a fresh political outsider. However, since taking the helm he has been locked in a fight with Mechichi and Ghannouchi.

    What is Ennahda platform and leadership?

    According to western mainstream media, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, Ennahda is a moderate Islamist party.

    Likewise, the same media calls the group which holds Idlib, Syria as the ‘moderate rebels’, when in fact they are the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

    Anger toward Ennahda has mounted over the past year as the pandemic hit the country and its economy and a movement against police brutality gained steam. Angry citizen activists called for the dissolution of parliament, which is controlled by Ennahda’s highly unpopular leader Rachid Ghannouchi, who has been its president for 38 years.

    Ghannouchi wrote, “The Islamic government is one in which: 1- supreme legislative authority is for the shari’a, which is the revealed law of Islam, which transcends all laws. Al-Ghannouchi, R. (1998). “Participation in Non-Islamic Government”.

    Critics, lawyers and politicians have accused Ennahda of forming a secret organization that has infiltrated security forces and the judiciary. Ennahda was relaunched during the Tunisian revolution in 2011.  The party was accused of being behind the 2013 assassinations of Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, two progressive political leaders of the leftist Popular Front electoral alliance.

    Ennahda was founded in 1981 by the Islamic cleric, Rached Ghannouchi.  The party is part of the global network of the Muslim Brotherhood. The party’s decline in popularity continued into mid-2016, and has now hit rock-bottom with the present corrective action undertaken by Saied.

    The role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 2011 Arab Spring

    Ghannouchi has remained a steadfast follower and member of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Ghannouchi attened a global Muslim Brotherhood conference in Istanbul in April 2016, and has continued to serve Islamist and Brotherhood-affiliated organizations in Europe, as a high-ranking member. Most notable is his involvement with a Dublin-based center ECFR, and the designated terrorist organization, the International Union of Muslim Scholars.

    Most worrying is Ghannouchi’s ties to Islamist and violent extremist groups, both in Tunisia and around the world.  Leaders of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar al-Sharia group in Tunisia (AST) attended meetings at Ghannouchi’s home in 2011 at which he allegedly advised them to encourage AST youth to infiltrate Tunisia’s national army and National Guard.

    In a leaked video, Ghannouchi also claimed that his Ennahda party had previously met with AST leader Seifallah Ben Hassine. In 2014, Ben Hassine was sanction-designated by the United States and United Nations for his links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and his implication in various terror attacks, including the assassination of Tunisian security forces and political figures, as well as the September 2012 AST attack on the US Embassy in Tunis. Ben Hassine died in a US airstrike in Libya in mid-June 2015.

    Many compare Egypt’s histories with Tunisia.  In 2011 Egypt had a popular revolution which saw Mubarak step-down.  The US engineered a vote which put a Muslim Brotherhood leader, Morsi, in power. However, the Egyptian people took to the streets once again, in a corrective change, and the current leader stepped into the leadership role.  Many western analysts bemoaned that the fledgling Egyptian ‘democracy’ was squandered with the ouster of Morsi. The Egyptian people made a political correction: they decided the Muslim Brotherhood regime of Morsi was more brutal than that of the previous authoritarian leader, Mubarak.

    Western governments such as the US and UK, and to a lesser extent Germany, are very close to the Muslim Brotherhood in their own land, and wanted to install, at any cost, like regimes across the Middle East.  Places such as: Libya, Syria, Egypt and Tunisia.  The west recognizes that the Muslim Brotherhood works well in coordination with Israel, and does not present a threat to Israel, or the occupation of Palestine.

    What country’s currently struggle against Muslim Brotherhood?

    Al Jazeera, the Qatar state news channel, said on Monday the security services had shut-down their bureau in Tunis.  Qatar, and their media, are politically aligned with Ennahda.   Qatar and Turkey are both run by Muslim Brotherhood regimes.

    Currently in Libya, there is a civil war raging against those who support the Muslim Brotherhood, and those who wish to maintain a secular form of government.  It is not surprising that the US is on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood there, along with Qatar and Turkey, while Russia supports the secular side.

    In Syria, the US-NATO war against the Syrian people which began in 2011 and has raged for 10 years, pitted the US backed Muslim Brotherhood terrorists against the only secular government in the Middle East.  The US and the Muslim Brotherhood lost the war, but not before destroying the country, and killing hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians.

    What will Biden’s position be on the Tunisian crisis?

    The current Tunisian crisis presents a major test for the Biden administration.  If Saied is seen as usurping power, and against democratic principles, we may see Biden square off in support of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ennahda.  Already we have a warning from the State Department, “Tunisia must not squander its democratic gains,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, said in a phone call Monday with Mr. Saied, while encouraging him “to adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights.”

    “Tunisia is the last ember of the Arab Spring, now snuffed out,” Said Ferjani, an Ennahda member of Parliament, said in an interview, calling on President Biden to demonstrate his commitment to democracy.

    While the US and her allies might be on the Ennahda side, the opposing side is formidable.  Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two biggest powerhouses of the Middle East, join the UAE and Syria in welcoming the Tunisian president’s strategic correction, and the public denouncement of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    *

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    This article was originally published on Mideast Discourse.

    Steven Sahiounie is an award-winning journalist.

    هُيام «الضعفاء» بالنموذج الإسرائيليّ

    الجمعة 30 تموز 2021

    وليد شرارة

    Visual search query image
    لا تقيم إسرائيل اعتباراً فعلياً للدول الأعضاء في «نادي معجبيها»، مثل فرنسا (أ ف ب )

    تأتي زيارة وزير الأمن الصهيوني، بيني غانتس، واجتماعه مع نظيرته الفرنسية فلورانس بارلي، ضمن مساعي حكومة الاحتلال إلى احتواء التداعيات السلبية لفضيحة برنامج «بيغاسوس» الذي أنتجته شركة «إن إس أو» الإسرائيلية، والذي استُخدم من قِبَل المغرب للتجسّس على هاتف الرئيس الفرنسي إيمانويل ماكرون، ورئيس وزرائه السابق إدوارد فيليب، و15 وزيراً ونائباً ومسؤولاً سياسيّاً. البيان الصادر عن وزارة الدفاع الفرنسية بعد الاجتماع، يشي برغبة في تجاوز التداعيات السلبية المذكورة، إذ يشدّد على ضرورة تقديم إسرائيل «التوضيحات التي تطلبها فرنسا، والأساسية بالنسبة إلى الثقة والاحترام المتبادل بين البلدين»، وإطلاع المسؤولين في هذا البلد «على مدى معرفة الحكومة الإسرائيلية بأنشطة زبائن إن إس أو». الارتباط العضوي بين الشركة المشار إليها والأجهزة الأمنية والعسكرية الصهيونية، لم يكن خافياً على العديد من الخبراء والصحافيين الفرنسيين، في السنوات الماضية، أي قبل «الفضيحة» الأخيرة. فهذا لوي إمبير في «لوموند»، يشير في مقالة بعنوان «برنامج بيغاسوس: مجموعة إن إس أو في قلب القوة الناعمة الإسرائيلية»، إلى أن «الشركة المنتِجة للبرنامج والحكومة الإسرائيلية تعملان يداً بيد لبناء تحالفات جديدة، وخدمة مصالحهما على المستوى الدولي». لم تكن الأجهزة الأمنية الفرنسية غافلة عن هذه الحقيقة، وطلب «توضيحات» من قِبَل رسميين فرنسيين يعكس حرصاً على الحفاظ على التعاون المتعاظم في الميادين التكنولوجية والأمنية مع الكيان الصهيوني، باعتباره مصدر إلهام في كيفية خوض «الحروب الجديدة»، الموجّهة أساساً ضدّ السكان والحركات الشعبية، نتيجة لخبراته المتراكمة في هذا المضمار في فلسطين المحتلّة ولبنان. هو «نموذج» يُحتذى بنظر قطاعات وازنة من النُّخب السياسية الفرنسية والغربية، وكذلك بالنسبة إلى زبائنه التقليديين من أنظمة فاسدة ومستبدّة في جنوب العالم، ومنه العالم العربي. لكن، وفي مقابل هذا الحرص على العلاقات مع «الدولة – النموذج»، فإن اللافت هو أن الأخيرة لا تقيم اعتباراً فعلياً للدول الأعضاء في «نادي معجبيها»، باستثناء الولايات المتحدة وروسيا والصين، كونها دولاً قادرة على ردّ الصاع صاعين في حال تجرّأت إسرائيل على استخدام منتجاتها التكنولوجية للتجسّس عليها.


    حبٌّ من طرفٍ واحد


    قيام إسرائيل ببيع برنامج «بيغاسوس» للمغرب لكي يستخدمه الأخير للتجسّس على المسؤولين الفرنسيين، يُعدّ تطوّراً يستحقّ التأمّل فيه، لأنه يكشف تحوّلاً في طبيعة التحالفات التي تنسجها تل أبيب وفي نظرتها الفعلية لِمَن تعتبرهم حلفاء من «الدرجة الثانية». محاولات إسرائيل للتجسّس حتى على أهمّ حلفائها، ليس بالأمر الجديد. جميعنا يذكر قضيّة الأميركي جوناثان بولارد الذي اعتُقل سنة 1985 بتهمة التجسّس على بلاده لحسابها. الجديد هو بيعها برامج تجسّس لدول أخرى تعمل على تطوير علاقاتها معها، كالمغرب مثلاً، دون التأكُّد من عدم استخدامها ضدّ حلفاء آخرين، كفرنسا مثلاً. يعزو فردريك مورو، الخبير الفرنسي في شؤون الدفاع، في مقابلة مع «لوموند»، عدم اكتراث إسرائيل لردّ الفعل الفرنسي أو الأوروبي تجاهها، إلى قناعتها بأنه سيكون في غاية الضعف. ولا شكّ في أن هذا الرأي يتضمّن الكثير من الوجاهة لأن التحوّلات البنيوية، السياسية والاجتماعية، التي شهدها الكيان الصهيوني في العقود الماضية، وطغيان التيارات الفاشية القومية والدينية على المشهد السياسي فيه، كان لها أيضاً أثر كبير على الفهم السائد للوضع الدولي وللتحالفات. العالم من منظور هذه القوى، بات غائباً أكثر من أيّ حقبة سابقة، وموازين القوى الفجّة هي التي تحكم تعامل أطرافه بعضها مع بعض، صراعاً وتقاطعاً وتحالفاً. إسرائيل لا تحترم إلّا الأقوياء، وهم في حالتنا الولايات المتحدة وروسيا والصين، وتتجنّب استفزازهم. أمّا الآخرون، فهي تتعاطى معهم، وكما أظهرت «الفضيحة»، وفقاً لأولوياتها الظرفيّة.

    لم تَعُد قوّة إسرائيل «الناعمة» تستند إلى ادّعاءاتها بكونها «واحة ديمقراطية» في محيط من البرابرة

    وما فعلته مع فرنسا، لن تتردّد في تكراره في المستقبل مع دول كالمغرب والإمارات والسعودية إذا اقتضت مصالحها المتغيّرة ذلك. لا تحالفات ثابتة، أو على الأقلّ تجنّباً للتأزيم، إلّا مع الأقوياء. هي لم تراعِ الاندفاعة الفرنسية غير المسبوقة حيالها في السنوات الماضية، والتي فصّلها الباحث والصحافي الفرنسي، جان ستيرن، في سلسلة مقالات على موقع «شرق 21» عن اللوبي الإسرائيلي في بلاده. فشركة «إلبيت» الإسرائيلية تساهم في إنتاج نظام «العقرب»، وهو في قلب استراتيجية القوات البرية الفرنسية في العقود القادمة، و»يسمح بتطوير قيادة رقمية واحدة تعتمد على وصلة مشتركة تسمح للجنود المنتشرين في الميدان وكذلك للأدوات العسكرية الجديدة، مثل الطائرات من دون طيار والروبوتات، بأن تكون متّصلة في وقت واحد لتستبق بالتالي ردود فعل العدو». أمّا الشركات الفرنسية العاملة في حقل التكنولوجيا الرقمية، فـ»جميعها تريد الموساد عندها»، بحسب العنوان الحرفي لإحدى مقالاته في السلسلة المشار إليها آنفاً، والتي يتحدّث فيها عن مدى إعجاب الشركات الخاصّة وصناعات الدفاع الفرنسية، بإنجازاته في المجالات التكنولوجية، خاصّة برنامج «بيغاسوس». وهذه المقالة نُشرت في 26 نيسان الماضي، أي قبل «الفضيحة»، ما يضعنا أمام هُيام من طرف واحد يقابله عدم اكتراث، إن لم يكن ازدراء من الطرف الآخر.



    جاذبية نموذج السيطرة والتنكيل والقتل


    لم تَعُد قوّة إسرائيل «الناعمة»، أي جاذبيتها، تستند إلى ادّعاءاتها بكونها «واحة ديمقراطية» في محيط من البرابرة و/أو الأنظمة المستبدة. فقدت هذه السردية الحدود الدنيا من الصدقيّة على نطاق الكوكب. جاذبيتها اليوم تستند إلى خبراتها ومعارفها في ميدان القوّة الخشنة، والتي اكتسبتها من خلال حربها المستمرّة على الشعب الفلسطيني وشعوب المنطقة وقواها المقاومة. وحتى كاتب صهيوني «معتدل» كيوفال هراري يعترف بذلك في مقالة كتبها بعنوان: «سنستطيع قرصنة البشر قريباً»، يعتبر فيها أن «الضفة المحتلّة هي حقل تجارب بالنسبة إلى الإسرائيليين حول كيفية بناء ديكتاتورية رقميّة. كيف نستطيع التحكُّم بـ2,5 مليون من السكان عبر استخدام الذكاء الاصطناعي والبيغ داتا والطائرات المسيّرة والكاميرات؟ إسرائيل رائدة في مجال الرقابة والسيطرة: تقوم باختبارات ميدانية، ومن ثم تصدّرها نحو بقية العالم». وعلى الغالب، فإن هذه الخبرات وما تتيحه من قدرات أمنية وعسكرية وتكنولوجية، لأطراف تعتبر الشعوب أو قطاعات معتبرة منها، مصدراً رئيساً للتهديد، هي بين أبرز الاعتبارات التي تُفسّر هيامها بالنموذج الإسرائيلي.

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