What Really Happened in Iran? Wave of Protests in 100 Cities

A fuel tax hike set the country ablaze and triggered a social backlash

Global Research, December 09, 2019

On November 15, a wave of protests engulfed over 100 Iranian cities as the government resorted to an extremely unpopular measure: a fuel tax hike of as much as 300%, without a semblance of a PR campaign to explain the reasons.

Iranians, after all, have reflexively condemned subsidy removals for years now – especially related to cheap gasoline. If you are unemployed or underemployed in Iran, especially in big cities and towns, Plan A is always to pursue a second career as a taxi driver.

Protests started as overwhelmingly peaceful. But in some cases, especially in Tehran, Shiraz, Sirjan and Shahriar, a suburb of Tehran, they quickly degenerated into weaponized riots – complete with vandalizing public property, attacks on the police and torching of at least 700 bank outlets. Much like the confrontations in Hong Kong since June.

President Rouhani, aware of the social backlash, tactfully insisted that unarmed and innocent civilians arrested during the protests should be released. There are no conclusive figures, but Iranian diplomats admit, off the record, that as many as 7,000 people may have been arrested. Tehran’s judiciary system denies it.

According to Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, as many as 200,000 people took part in the protests nationwide. According to the Intelligence Ministry, 79 people were arrested in connection with the riots only in Khuzestan province – including three teams, supported by “a Persian Gulf state,” which supposedly coordinated attacks on government centers and security/police forces.

The Intelligence Ministry said it had arrested eight “CIA operatives,” accused of being instrumental in inciting the riots.

Now compare it with the official position by the IRGC. The chief commander of the IRGC, Major General Hossein Salami, stressed riots were conducted by “thugs” linked to the US-supported Mujahedin-e Khalq (MKO), which has less than zero support inside Iran, and with added interference by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Salami also framed the riots as directly linked to “psychological pressure” from the Trump administration’s relentless “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. He directly connected the protests degenerating into riots in Iran with foreign interference in protests in Lebanon and Iraq.

Elijah Magnier has shown how Moqtada al-Sadr denied responsibility for the burning down of the Iranian consulate in Najaf – which was set on fire three times in November during protests in southern Iraq.

Tehran, via government spokesman Ali Rabiei, is adamant:

“According to our information, the attack on the consulate was not perpetrated by the Iraqi people, it was an organized attack.”

Predictably, the American narrative framed Lebanon and Iraq – where protests were overwhelmingly against local government corruption and incompetence, high unemployment, and abysmal living standards – as a region-wide insurgency against Iranian power.

Soleimani for President?

Analyst Sharmine Narwani, based on the latest serious polls in Iran, completely debunked the American narrative.

It’s a complex picture. Fifty-five percent of Iranians do blame government corruption and mismanagement for the dire state of the economy, while 38% blame the illegal US sanctions. At the same time, 70% of Iranians favor national self-sufficiency – which is what Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has been emphasizing – instead of more foreign trade.

On sanctions, no less than 83% agree they exerted a serious impact on their lives. Mostly because of sanctions, according to World Bank figures, Iranian GDP per capita has shrunk to roughly $6,000.

The bad news for the Rouhani administration is that 58% of Iranians blame his team for corruption and mismanagement – and they are essentially correct. Team Rouhani’s promises of a better life after the JCPOA obviously did not materialize. In the short term, the political winners are bound to be the principlists – which insist there’s no possible entente cordiale with Washington at any level.

The polls also reveal, significantly, massive popular support for Tehran’s foreign and military policy – especially on Syria and Iraq. The most popular leaders in Iran are legendary Quds Force commander Gen. Soleimani (a whopping 82%), followed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (67%) and the head of the Judiciary Ebrahim Raisi (64%).

The key takeaway is that at least half and on some issues two-thirds of Iran’s popular opinion essentially support the government in Tehran – not as much economically but certainly in political terms. As Narwani summarizes it, “so far Iranians have chosen security and stability over upheaval every time.”

‘Counter-pressure’

What’s certain is that Tehran won’t deviate from a strategy that may be defined as  “maximum counter-pressure” – on multiple fronts. Iranian banks have been cut off from SWIFT by the US since 2018. So efforts are intensifying to link Iran’s SEPAM system with the Russian SPFS and the Chinese CIPS – alternative interbank paying systems.

Tehran continues to sell oil – as Persian Gulf traders have repeatedly confirmed to me since last summer. Digital tracking agency Tankertrackers.com concurs. The top two destinations are China and Syria. Volumes hover around 700,000 barrels a day. Beijing has solemnly ignored every sanction threat from Washington regarding oil trading with Iran.

Khamenei, earlier this month, was adamant:

“The US policy of maximum pressure has failed. The Americans presumed that they can force Iran to make concessions and bring it to its knees by focusing on maximum pressure, especially in the area of economy, but they have troubled themselves.”

In fact “maximum counter-pressure” is reaching a whole new level.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi confirmed that Iran will hold joint naval drills with Russia and China in the Indian Ocean in late December.

That came out of quite a significant meeting in Tehran, between Khanzadi and the deputy chief of the Chinese Joint Staff Department, Major General Shao Yuanming.

So welcome to Maritime Security Belt. In effect from December 27th. Smack on the Indian Ocean – the alleged privileged territory of Washington’s Indo-Pacific policy. And uniting the three key nodes of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.

Khanzadi said that, “strategic goals have been defined at the level administrations, and at the level of armed forces, issues have been defined in the form of joint efforts.” General Yuanming praised Iran’s Navy as “an international and strategic force.”

But geopolitically, this packs a way more significant game-changing punch. Russia may have conducted naval joint drills with Iran on the Caspian Sea. But a complex drill, including China, in the Indian Ocean, is a whole new ball game.

Yuanming put it in a way that every student of Mahan, Spykman and Brzezinski easily understands: “Seas, which are used as a platform for conducting global commerce, cannot be exclusively beneficial to certain powers.”  So start paying attention to Russia, China and Iran being quite active not only across the Heartland but also across the Rimland.

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This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from OneWorld

As Yemen Starves, Billions in Donor Funds Fill the Coffers of International Aid Agencies

By Ahmed AbdulKareem

Source

Of the billions of dollars pouring into Yemen from international donors, only a trickle is actually reaching the people who need it the most reports Ahmed AbdulKareem.

SANA’A, YEMEN — The phenomenon of mercenarism in the impoverished Arab country of Yemen is not limited to the foreign fighters joining the Saudi-led coalition for money, but also includes UN relief organizations, international agencies, and their local partners who are ultimately denying Yemenis the food, healthcare, money and other aid they urgently need. Regardless of their goodwill.

According to a recent report, every ten minutes a child under the age of five dies from extreme hunger in Yemen, while six newborn babies lose their lives every two hours as a result of the continued deterioration of the health situation in the country. This, at a time when the country is riddled with aid agencies.

There are 22 million Yemenis in need of relief, including seven million at risk of starvation, and nearly two million children on the verge of dying from malnutrition according to UN reports, despite the massive sums of money allocated to Yemen from both the international community and regional organizations.


Moreover, 100,00 people die every year in the country as a result of diseases and epidemics, most of them children. Now, four years after the flow of donor funds into the war-torn country, these diseases and epidemics are increasingly emerging where aid, particularly medical assistance, was supposed to prevent their expansion.

According to United Nations Development Program (UNDP), poverty in Yemen has jumped from 47 percent of the population in 2014, before the war began, to a projected 75 percent by the end of 2019. That figure betrays the reality on the ground and suggests that donor money is simply not reaching Yemenis in need.

In 2018, the UN praised international donors for raising large amounts of money to tackle Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. Almost all of the $3 billion pledged has been either received by the UN or formally committed. In 2017, when the first pledging conference for Yemen was held, 94 percent of the pledges, $1.1 billion, was fulfilled, according to the UN.

However, this year, the United Nations announced that humanitarian needs in Yemen for this year amount to $2.96 billion, $2.1 billion of which has already been collected, while other countries pledged the remaining amount.

Where does the aid money go?

The United Nations annually declares and approves a public response plan involving local authorities including Yemen’s National Authority for the Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Recovery (NAMCHA).

By investigating official documents of the annual public response and its actual outcomes, as well as tracking the flow of millions of dollars of supplies and funds from aid programs, it becomes apparent that most donor funds go to the coffers of UN relief organizations and international and local NGOs. In other words, more than seventy percent of the aid is stolen off the top.

That money is distributed to dozens of UN agencies, international organizations and local NGOs. The largest recipients include the World Food Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

According to budget lists in the UN’s annual public response, 15-20 percent of grants are taken in the form of dues before they reach Yemenis. Then, an additional 45-60 percent of the grants go to relief organizations to cover operating and support expenses.

Yemen Food Aid

he scant food supplies of a displaced family hangs on the wall of a home in Lahj, Yemen, Feb. 11, 2018. Nariman El-Mofty | AP

Moreover, a review of the UN budget shows that grant money allocated to Yemen has been wasted on projects that are not a part of the UN’s annual public response plan. That money is supposed to go towards serving the needs of Yemenis based on research by civil society organizations and local authorities.

At a time when hundreds of residents, mostly women and children, die every day due to shortages of food and medicine, millions of dollars are being funneled into reproductive health projects such as the International Child Welfare Organization’s reproductive health project with a budget of $4,592,632 to distribute contraceptives and educational sex dolls.

The Yemeni minister of public health and population, Taha al-Mutawakel called on the United Nations and humanitarian organizations to clarify the fate of funds allocated to Yemen. Al-Mutawakel bemoaned how aid money has been squandered on cars and services instead of alleviating the sufferings of Yemenis. “Stop shedding tears for our children who get killed, whilst there is no credibility whatsoever in your international reports and they do not help assuage this tragic situation, he said from inside the Sabeen Maternal Hospital in the capital Sana’a.

 We are not demanding toys and video game consoles, but we are calling for incubators and other related devices to give children the right to life.”

 

Relief agency corruption trickles down to Yemen’s locals

Further analysis of public documents shows that a portion of aid money goes to the accounts of UN relief organizations via its procurement policy. Those organizations often allot excessive amounts of money to buy imported products, yet often end up buying those products from local markets or from abroad at lower prices than specified in their detailed humanitarian plan.

For example, in 2019, the World Food Program (WFP) budget included money to purchase 70 million liters of diesel at 92 cents per liter, for a total cost of $64.5 million. However, the domestic market price for diesel in just 75 cents per liter and the organization buys the diesel from Yemen Oil Company at the local price according to official agreements which have been reviewed by MintPress. That disparity means that a staggering $21,700,000 will end up in WFP coffers.

Relief organizations that have diverted donated food, medicine, fuel and money from desperate Yemenis amid their country’s five-year war also receive significant financial benefits by leveraging currency exchange rates. The procurement process and projects carried out by many of these organizations are paid for in local currency, not in U.S. dollars. In this way, organizations save substantial sums of money by engaging in a sort of currency speculation.

In addition, organizations workers have been caught selling relief items to local merchants who then trade them on the black market. Two merchants, as well as eyewitnesses, confirmed to MintPress that they were sold relief items bearing the WFP’s logo by the organization’s workers. Some residents engage in the sale of these items out of desperation and the need for money for medical treatment or to pay rent according to residents who spoke to MintPress.

Moreover, the scant food aid which millions of Yemenis rely on for their daily sustenance often doesn’t reach people until it is already expired, by that time often crawling with worms and cockroaches because of lack of proper storage facilities, constant power outages, or long hours in transport. Rotten food aid is sometimes burned as it is not fit for human consumption. To make matters worse, coalition forces have bombed bridges linking Yemen’s main port in Hodeida with Sana’a, the capital city, which has meant trucks loaded with vital supplies have to take other routes adding many hours to the journey.

Yemen Aid

The aftermath of a Saudi airstrike on a truck carrying UN World Food Program aid in Saada, February 11, 2019. Photo | Ali al- Shorgbi

Current conditions on the ground are seriously hindering the delivery and distribution of aid as the Saudi-led coalition is enforcing a commercial blockade on sea and air routes into the country, and placing restrictions on relief supplies where aid is subject to long inspection delays and in some cases, rejected altogether. The fate of the rejected aid is not known.

Inflated salaries and internal waste

Aid money isn’t just being squandered away on expired food and operating expenses. Some relief organizations, which often do not provide detailed financial reports on how aid money is spent, are riddled with financial mismanagement, corruption and nepotism. Donor money often goes to pay the inflated salaries of senior staff of international organizations, particularly to UN relief agency workers. The salary of just eight staff at the World Food Program in Yemen amounted to around $50 million.

According to the outcomes of a project for internally displaced people (IDPs) implemented by the UNHCR, the percentage of staff salaries, expenses and additional petty cash, which included the hiring of cars and houses for staff, makes up 64.3 percent of the project’s total budget. Just 35.7 actually went to IDPs. The salary of the manager for another UNHCR project implemented by the CARE organization reached $15,500 per month, although his contract stipulates a salary of $9,500 per month. Other documents showed his salary at $11,500 per month.

Yemen’s National Authority for the Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Recovery (NAMCHA) said there has been a deliberate waste of humanitarian aid funds allocated to the people of Yemen which amounts to a total of $4.2 billion, despite the humanitarian needs the Yemeni people not being met in 2019.

The United Nations has admitted to some incidents of corruption by aid workers, including a case in which a dozen of its aid workers enriched themselves from the billions of dollars in donated aid flowing into the country as well as from financial mismanagement.

In one particularly egregious case uncovered by the Associated Press, UN World Health Organization (WHO) employee Nevio Zagaria, an Italian doctor, arrived in Yemen in December 2016 after a four-year stint in the Philippines to lead the agency’s humanitarian efforts in Yemen. According to the AP’s investigation, the WHO’s Yemen office under Zagaria was riddled with corruption and nepotism.

Zagaria brought in junior staffers who worked with him in the Philippines and promoted them to high-salary posts that they were not qualified for. Two of them – a Filipino university student and a former intern, were given senior posts but their only role was to take care for Zagaria’s pet dog.

Even American organizations, whose work in Yemen carries an heir of exceptionalism since the United States in the largest single supplier of lethal weapons, information, and experts to the Saudi-led Coalition, has given Yemenis little more than crumbs. For example, in two projects implemented by American World Communities Organization, as well as a project from the American Mercy Corps, only 25 percent of aid went to people in need, while 75 percent went to the organizations and their workers.

The loss of donor funds by organizations is not without precedent. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) froze more than $239 million of funds intended for Syrian aid programs due to significant fraud after it investigated 25 reported cases, some two-thirds of which were directly related to outright theft and fraud. As in Yemen, most of the $5.5 billion in American aid was distributed through the United Nations and a host of partner organizations.

The simultaneous funding of war and aid

Areas along the frontline of Yemen’s ongoing war, such as the country’s western coast as well as border areas, are a priority for many relief organizations. Yet those organizations often provide little in the way of humanitarian support and instead have been found to be gathering intelligence or recruiting new fighters on behalf of the Saudi-led coalition, according to local residents. Many relief agencies have paid huge sums of money to the heads of local tribes. Two Yemeni tribal leaders, known locally as sheiks, told MintPress on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject, that they received payments from Mercy Core as an incentive to carry out secret tasks for the Coalition. The nature of those tasks was not revealed.

According to documents reviewed by MintPress and interviews with employees of relief organizations as well as eyewitnesses who spoke to MintPress, many organizations are working with groups classified by the United States as terrorists, including Ansar al-Sharia, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). For Example, the American Mercy Core allegedly contracted Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen’s Abyan province through an unauthorized Somali merchant to supply the group with foodstuffs and money.

Last week, authorities in Sana’a detained a number of U.N. humanitarian workers accused of spying, including two Jordanians who have since been released. Authorities accuse UN relief organizations of funding and conspiring with intelligence services to secretly target Yemenis, along with importing expired drugs and withholding fuel shipments.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that two of its citizens conducting a humanitarian audit in Yemen were released and later flown home. The World Food Program, for its part, said that none of its workers were being held by authorities in Sana’a.

Amongst the largest donors and financiers of U.N relief organizations are the very same countries participating in the war on Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and supported by the United States.

Saudi Arabia United Nations Donation

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presents a donation to the UN’s Antonio Guterres during a meeting about Yemen, March 2018. Dennis Van Tine | IPx

Most of these organizations’ workers have political loyalty to ousted president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, or to the UAE or Saudi Arabi.

As a result of the lack of neutrality of a number of organizations, many Yemenis have not only been denied humanitarian aid, the risk to aid workers working in the country has grown. Last week, UN Deputy Humanitarian Chief Ursula Mueller warned the Security Council that attacks on aid workers have escalated in Yemen.

Corruption undermines the trust of civilians and donors

A number of Yemenis that spoke to MintPress said that they are not receiving any humanitarian assistance. Fatima, a 45-year-old mother of four, said she had not received food or medicine from aid organizations in four years. Fatima suffers from Inflammation of the spinal cord and relies on aid to get by. “No organization has helped us, where does the money go?” she asked.

Yemenis activists say that relief organizations, including UN organizations, are making a fortune in Yemen, asking the UN and international agencies to provide financial reports on how hundreds of millions of dollars that have been poured into Yemen since 2015 have been spent.

For its part, NAMCHA has called for the formation of an international committee to investigate the corruption of international organizations working in Yemen. However, the UN puts much of the blame on the Houthis, saying they have diverted donated food, medicine, fuel and money from desperate people over the course of the country’s five-year war.

The UN accuses the Houthis of corruption and stealing food and medicine for its own use. Yet most of the money squandered during humanitarian operations has been lost in the financing of marginal projects, procurement, transport and the distribution of medicines, food, and building materials, responsibilities which lie exclusively with relief organizations according to Transparency International.

The corruption of international relief organizations, as well as the bias they seem to harbor, undermines the trust of Yemen’s civilians on multiple levels. War-weary people don’t trust aid agencies to provide assistance and local authorities don’t trust the principled rhetoric around impartiality. Ultimately, this leads to donors not trusting that their money will reach the people who need it most.

القتلة الاقتصاديون!….| د. بسام أبو عبد الله

د. بسام أبو عبد الله

اختياري لعنوان مقالي اليوم مقصود مقصود، لكن ليس بهدف القول بأن كل من يعمل في الشأن الاقتصادي هو مجرم وقاتل كما قد يعتقد البعض، معاذ الله، لأنه في هذا القطاع هناك شرفاء كثر كما غيره من القطاعات،

ولكن أنا أعرف ويعرف الكثيرون أن هناك في القطاعات الاقتصادية من هم أكثر من قتلة، لا بل مجرمون مستعدون لتدمير بلدانهم وشعوبهم من أجل أنانيتهم، أرباحهم الفاحشة على حساب الفقراء والمساكين، وهناك من هو قولاً واحداً، إن أحب ذلك أو لم يحب، متآمر على بلده وشعبه، ويلعب بقوت الناس ما يعتبر تهديداً للأمن القومي للبلاد، وحساب أمثال هؤلاء يجب أن يكون عسيراً.

قبل شهر من الآن كان سعر صرف الليرة السورية مقابل الدولار قد وصل إلى 650 ليرة سورية، ومنذ ذلك الوقت وحتى الآن فقدت الليرة نحو 46 بالمئة من قيمتها ليصل سعر الصرف إلى حدود الألف ليرة سورية، وهو أمر ليس له سبب اقتصادي أبداً حسب رأي المختصين الذين سألناهم، وقبل يومين عاود سعر صرف الليرة ليهبط إلى 850 ل.س مقابل الدولار، ولا أدري حتى ساعة نشر مقالي كم سيهبط أو يصعد، وخاصة أن التبدلات أصبحت تحدث بالساعات وليست بالأيام، وكأن ما يحدث قضاء وقدر، لا إمكانية لوقفه، وخاصة أن الحالة تحولت إلى قضية خطرة للغاية، أثرت في الأسواق فتوقف بيع المواد، وارتفعت الأسعار بشكل جنوني من دون أي ضابط، وحصلت الفوضى الاقتصادية التي تشبه إلى حدّ كبير الفوضى التي كان الإرهابيون يعملون على إحداثها بعد كل تفجير، أو عملية إرهابية، إذ كان يرافقها إعلام معادٍ، ليزيد التأثير النفسي، ويؤدي إلى انهيار المعنويات، وإضعاف الثقة بالدولة، ودفع الناس دفعاً نحو الخوف واللجوء إلى حلولهم الخاصة، الأمر الذي يدفع الأمور نحو الفوضى التي تمس حياة الناس وقوت يومهم، وثباتهم وصمودهم.

سؤال مشروع يطرحه كل مواطن سوري على نفسه، وعلى المعنيين والمختصين، ماذا حدث بعد زيادة الرواتب الأخيرة شيء غريب عجيب؟ وكأن هناك من ينتظرنا حتى يفرغ الفرحة البسيطة التي شعر بها المواطنون السوريون إثر هذه الزيادة، وكأن هناك من يقصفنا فوراً، حتى لا نرتاح ولو للحظة، وكأن هناك طابوراً خامساً وسادساً يدار من غرفة عمليات مركزية تعطيه التعليمات فوراً، لأنه ليس معقولاً ما يحدث ويتطور بسرعة لإحداث الفوضى الاقتصادية، وهو ما يريده ويعمل عليه أعداؤنا وخصومنا، ويبقى سؤالي مشروعاً: الأعداء والخصوم معروفون في الخارج، ولكن ماذا عمن هم في الداخل! لا تقولوا لي: الوضع في لبنان! وغيره الكثير من الأسباب المبررة والمفهومة، والتي يمكن أن نعددها جميعاً، إلا أن أحداً لا يستطيع حتى الآن أن يقول لي: ماذا عن حيتان الفساد والاحتيال المالي، وذوي الارتباط الخارجي، الذين لم يعودوا يخجلون، ولا يوجد لديهم أدنى ارتباط وشعور بالوطن وشعبه وجيشه!
تذكروا أيها السادة أن في هذه اللحظة هناك من يستشهد في إدلب من جنودنا وضباطنا، وهناك من يقاتل بشرف وإباء وكرامة، دفاعاً عن سيادة سورية واستقلالها وعزتها، كي نعيش جميعاً رافعي الرأس، ولولا هؤلاء الأبطال لكنتم أيها الفاسدون الجشعون في مكان آخر، أفلا تشعرون وتحسون أن هناك وطناً لابد من دعمه، وشعباً بطلاً لابد من الوقوف إلى جانبه، وليس ابتزازه كالإرهابيين.

في عام 2004 نشر الخبير الاقتصادي الأميركي جون بيركنز كتاباً شهيراً بعنوان: «اعترافات قاتل اقتصادي» وترجم الكتاب لثلاثين لغة في العالم من ضمنها اللغة العربية تحت عنوان «الاغتيال الاقتصادي للأمم»، ويكشف بيركنز أن القتلة الاقتصاديين هم رجال محترفون يتقاضون أجراً عالياً مقابل قيامهم بخداع دول العالم، وابتزازها عبر التقارير المالية المحتالة، والانتخابات المزورة والرشاوى والجنس وجرائم القتل بهدف إقراضها، ثم العمل على إفلاسها لتصبح أهدافاً سهلة حين يطلب منها خدمات مثل القواعد العسكرية، التصويت في الأمم المتحدة، بيع ثرواتها بأسعار لا تحقق المصالح الوطنية، وهؤلاء يعتمدون على الرشوة باليد الأولى، والمسدس باليد الأخرى في حال عدم التعاون، وأرجو أن ننتبه إلى كلمة «رشوة» التي استخدمها بيركنز، وهؤلاء هم الأخطر لأنهم قابلون للبيع والشراء، أي إنهم مستعدون للخيانة.

ما من شك أن لمن يتابع التاريخ الأميركي فسوف يجد أن بيركنز كان ينفذ سياسة أسس لها وزير الدفاع الأميركي السابق روبرت ماكنمارا الذي سقط في حرب فيتنام، وأدرك أن القوة العسكرية ليست ذات جدوى، وأن القصف الجوي لن ينتج لأميركا شيئاً فانقلب باتجاه آخر، ليترأس البنك الدولي عام 1968، وليظل فيه حتى عام 1981 ليرسم من هناك سياسة أخرى اسمها «التطويع الاقتصادي» أي العمل على خنق الدول المنافسة لأميركا، وفي عهد رونالد ريغان انتقلت أميركا إلى سياسة اسمها «الإنهاك الاقتصادي» وهي السياسة التي أسس لها ماكنمارا نفسه من خلال كتاب نشره بعنوان: «مائة بلد وملياران من البشر.. أبعاد التنمية» ونشره عام 1973، وطبقت هذه السياسات ضد الاتحاد السوفييتي، الذي لم يسقط عسكرياً إنما اقتصادياً، وكذلك في دول أوروبا الشرقية.

في عهد الرئيس دونالد ترامب عادت أميركا إلى الأسس التي وضعها ماكنمارا بعد إخفاق سياسات المحافظين الجدد في الغزو العسكري أيام جورج بوش الابن، من خلال سياسات فرض العقوبات الاقتصادية وتطويرها باتجاه ما سموه «العقوبات الذكية» وهذا ما نجده الآن تجاه سورية، إيران، فنزويلا، كوريا الديمقراطية، كوبا، روسيا، الصين… إلخ.

ما أود إيصاله بوضوح شديد أن الحرب الاقتصادية هي أخطر أنواع الحروب، وأن مواجهتها لابد أن تتمتع بالصرامة والشدة، وفي الوقت نفسه المرونة والذكاء والتعاطي الاستباقي قبل وقوع الأزمات، والأهم ملاحقة القتلة الاقتصاديين الداخليين، الذين يجلس بعضهم في أبراج عاجية، ويتاجرون علينا بالوطنية والإخلاص، ولكنهم يرتشون ويفسدون، ويتاجرون بكل شيء من دون أدنى إحساس بالمسؤولية، وهؤلاء القتلة ليسوا بعض التجار ورجال الأعمال فقط، بل شركاؤهم الموجودون في أكثر من مكان وموقع، ومحاربة هؤلاء تحتاج إلى «هيئة أركان اقتصادية» تقود على مدار الساعة كل تفصيل وتدقق وتحلل التطورات كلها، لأن قناعتي ما زالت راسخة بأن الشعب والجيش والقائد الذي يهزم أعتى مؤامرة في التاريخ، قادر على التعامل والتعاطي بحزم مع القتلة الاقتصاديين ومن وراءهم، وكونوا واثقين بذلك.

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The Unfinished “Coup”: the End of the Netanyahu Era and the Political Earthquake Ahead

Image result for The Unfinished “Coup”: the End of the Netanyahu Era and the Political Earthquake Ahead

It seems that the end of the Netanyahu era is finally upon us, but it is likely to be longer and uglier than expected.

This time, nothing seems to work. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has tried every trick in the book to save his political career and to avoid possible prison time. But for Israel’s longest-serving leader, the honeymoon is certainly almost over.

It is an “attempted coup,” is how Netanyahu described his indictment on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust by Israeli Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, on November 21. Netanyahu’s loyalists agree. On November 26, a few thousand Likud party supporters gathered in Tel Aviv, under the title “Stop the coup,” to express their anger at what they see as a massive conspiracy involving Mandelblit, the media, various state institutions, and “disloyal” Likud party members.

Netanyahu’s main Likud party rival, Gideon Sa’ar, received much of the ramzverbal abuse. Sa’ar, who almost faded into oblivion after leaving the Knesset in 2014, emerged once more on Israel’s political scene following the April 2019 elections. Netanyahu’s failure to form a government then was compounded by a similar failure to cobble up a government coalition after the second general elections, held within a few months in September.

Since 2014, no one dared challenge Netanyahu’s reign over the Likud. “There was no need to do so,” wrote Yossi Verter in Haaretz on November 29. Netanyahu “brought them to power, time after time. But few things happened since then.”

It is because of these “few things” that Sa’ar dared to challenge Netanyahu once more. What is significant about Sa’ar’s leadership challenge is not the possibility of him unseating Netanyahu, but the fact that the “king of Israel” no longer commands the type of fear and respect that he has painstakingly espoused over a decade of nearly uncontested rule.

As soon as Sa’ar called for new Likud primaries, Netanyahu’s political minions, such as Foreign Minister, Yisrael Katz, and other heavyweight politicians – Nir Barkat, Miri Regev, among others – pounced on Sa’ar, describing him as “disloyal.” The Tel Aviv protesters had far more demeaning words for the rebel Likud member. However, despite the deafening screams and the name-calling, Netanyahu conceded, promising on November 23, that he would set up and face a party leadership challenge within weeks.

Embattled Netanyahu has no other options. Although he may still come out in the lead should the primaries be held on time, he cannot afford deepening existing doubts within his party. If he fails to ensure his legitimacy within his own Likud party, he could hardly make the case of being able to lead all of Israel following a possible third general election in March.

However, Sa’ar is not Netanyahu’s biggest problem.

The picture for Netanyahu – in fact, for all of Israel – is getting more complicated by the day. The Israeli leader has successfully managed to coalesce his own political and family interests within the collective interests of all Israelis. “I’m doing everything required to ensure the government’s and cabinet’s work is getting done in all the ways required to ensure the safety of Israel’s citizens,” he told a reporter on November 23, insisting that he is still carrying out his duties as a Prime Minister “in the best possible way, out of supreme devotion to Israel’s security.”

Desperate to hang on to power for as long as possible, Netanyahu still employs the same political discourse that helped him unify many sectors of Israeli society for over ten years. But that ploy is no longer reaping the intended result. For one, Netanyahu’s main rival in the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) Party, Benny Gantz, has neutralized the Prime Minister’s success in manipulating the term “security,” for he, too, is an advocate of war, whenever and wherever war is possible.

Netanyahu’s last war on Gaza on November 12, where the Israeli army killed 34 Palestinians, including women and children, is a case in point. During the short-lived destructive war, Gantz was busy trying to form a government, as Netanyahu had already failed that task. Resorting to war, Netanyahu tried to send three messages, all intended for Israeli audiences: one to Mandelblit, to postpone the indictment; the second to Gantz, to reconsider his decision to block him from taking part in a future government, and the final one to the Israeli public, to remind them of his own supposed ability to reign in “terror.”

But all has failed: Gantz announced his inability to form a government on November 20, preferring failure over extending a lifeline to Netanyahu, whose indictment was imminent. Indeed, the Attorney General’s decision arrived on November 21, making it the first time in the history of the country that a Prime Minister is indicted while in office. Worse, Blue and White widened its lead significantly over the Likud, according to a public opinion poll commissioned by Israel’s Channel 12 television, which was published on November 26.

But what other languages, aside from that of war – in the name of security – and haphazard accusations of political conspiracies, can Netanyahu possibly employ during this period? Such tactics often worked in the past. In fact, they worked so well that the entire Netanyahu political doctrine was designed around them. Now, the Israeli leader has run out of ideas, and is quickly running out of allies as well, not only from without, such as his former ally and the head of Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Lieberman, but from within his own party as well.

The reason that Netanyahu is still in power after all the setbacks and outright failures is the fact that his rivals are yet to mobilize the necessary votes and public support to oust him for good. It will certainly take more than Gantz alone to dislodge stubborn Netanyahu from office, for the latter has consolidated and entrenched his rule through an intricate system of political patronage that runs deep through many facets of Israeli society.

With this in mind, it seems that the end of the Netanyahu era is finally upon us, but it is likely to be longer and uglier than expected. While it remains true that a fundamental change in Israel’s political system will neither deliver peace and justice to Palestinians – or stability to the region – it could potentially constitute the equivalent of a political earthquake within Israel itself, the consequences of which are yet to be seen.

Feature photo | Protesters stand near a banner showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during rally calling for his resignation, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Nov. 30, 2019. Oded Balilty | AP

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. His last book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London) and his forthcoming book is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is http://www.ramzybaroud.net.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

«Israeli» Prosecution Lists 333 Witnesses in Bibi Graft Cases

«Israeli» Prosecution Lists 333 Witnesses in Bibi Graft Cases

By Staff, Agencies

The “Israeli” entity’s attorney general has officially submitted his indictment of “Israeli” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Knesset [the “Israeli” parliament], laying out a sweeping case in which an estimated 333 witnesses, including wealthy friends and former aides, could be called to testify.

“Israeli” Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit sent the indictment to the Knesset on Monday, setting the clock ticking on a 30-day period during which Netanyahu can seek parliamentary immunity from prosecution as a Knesset member.

Mandelblit said that Netanyahu’s trial will be held at the al-Quds [Jerusalem] District Court and that a date – not yet made public – has been set for the proceedings.

The prime minister was charged with bribery, fraud and breach in three corruption cases, dubbed Cases 4000, 2000 and 1000.

In a decision that could delay the formal indictment of the premier by several months, the Knesset’s top legal advisor ruled that the currently dormant Knesset House Committee must decide whether to grant Netanyahu parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

The House Committee has been nonfunctional due to ongoing political disarray after inconclusive elections in April and September and the failure of Netanyahu and his main challenger, Benny Gantz, to secure a ruling majority in the legislature.

In a Twitter post, Netanyahu dismissed the large list of witnesses.

“When there is a real case, you don’t need 333 witnesses, and when there’s no real case, even 333 witnesses won’t help,” he wrote.

The ruling raised the likelihood the “Israeli” entity will be heading to elections for the third time in under a year.

A new election would not only buy Netanyahu additional time in office, it would also give him the opportunity to secure a more sympathetic parliament.

Israel’s political system has been in disarray for the last year, in large part because of Netanyahu’s legal woes.

Two elections held this year ended in deadlock. Neither Netanyahu, nor Gantz, the leader of center-left Blue and White political alliance, had enough support in parliament to form a cabinet.

An opinion poll recently revealed that more than half of settlers in the occupied territories believe Netanyahu must quit after being indicted on a series of corruption charges.

According to the survey conducted by Channel 13 and published last Friday evening, 56% said the charges leveled against Netanyahu were too much for him to continue as the “Israeli” primer, while 35% said he needed not to step down and the remaining 9% of the respondents said they didn’t know.

“Israeli” lawmakers have less than a month to organize a coalition and select a candidate who could lead a 61-majority in the 120-seat legislature. There are strong indications that the legislators will not succeed, which means Israel will have to hold elections for the third time this year.

Hashd Shaabi: ISIL Exploiting Unrest in Iraq, Carrying out Attacks

Iraq's PMF forces during battles west of Mosul

December 2, 2019

Iraq’s Hashd Shaabi paramilitary force said that Isil Takfiri group is exploiting the unrest taking place in the country to carry out attacks in several areas.

In a statement, Hashd Shaabi, also known as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), said that 6 fighters of its fighters were martyred and 17 others were injured as they confronted ISIL attacks.

“Several areas which were cleansed earlier have been subjected to repeated attacks by ISIL terrorists who have been trying to exploit the unrest and deteriorated security situation in the country,” the Hashd said in a statement.

“Fierce battle took place yesterday in Diyala province, leading to the martyrdom of six of our heroes and the injury of 17 others including the Brigade 20 commander,” the statement added.

Terrorists have been trying to infiltrate into Imam Weis in Diyala during the previous days, the statement noted.

It warned, meanwhile, that several movements of ISIL operatives have been spotted in Salahuddine, Anbar, Kirkuk and Baghdad surroundings in a bid to take control of these areas.

Source: Agencies

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القرار الوطني المستقل ….بقلم د. بثينة شعبان

بقلم د. بثينة شعبان

في خضم الأحداث في الوطن العربي سواء أكانت أحداثاً انتخابية في تونس والجزائر مثلاً أم حراكاً كما هو الحال في السودان ولبنان والعراق تتردد عبارة «القرار الوطني المستقل» ورفض التدخلات الأجنبية على لسان جميع الأطراف.

والحقيقة أن معظم المعارك التي خاضتها بلدان عربية مختلفة وغير عربية أيضاً كإيران وفنزويلا وبوليفيا وتشيلي هي حول القرار الوطني المستقل لأن ما نشهده من شراسة الدول الاستعمارية السابقة والتي مازالت استعمارية ولكن بطرق مختلفة كعادتها ضمن سياستها القديمة «فرّق تسد» منذ قرون هو محاولة وضع اليد بالقوة الغاشمة حيناً وبأساليب أخرى على ثروات الشعوب وإثارة الفتن الطائفية والسياسية بين أبناء هذه المجتمعات. وفي الوقت الذي أُدرك به أن القارئ تعب من تشخيص مثل هذه الحالات ويرغب باقتراح حلول تمكنه من العيش الآمن والعمل الكريم والهادئ في بلاده فإني أقول إن التشخيص لأحوال بلداننا لم يكتمل أبداً لأننا لسنا الوحيدين الذين نكتب تاريخنا ولسنا الوحيدين الذين نغذي عقول أطفالنا وأبنائنا بالقناعات والقيم التي نرغب أن يحملوها. وليس لدى أي بلد من البلدان المستهدفة اليوم رواية واحدة عن أي حدث مرّ به أو كارثة أصابته أو خطوات متعثرة قام بها، ذلك لأن أحداً من الذين عاشوا تاريخاً حقيقياً لم يساهم في كتابته ولم يرغب حتى بسرد مذكراته خوفاً من الإساءة لشخص أو عائلة أو مدينة أو قضية، وبهذا بقي الجميع أشخاصاً وبقي التاريخ شخصانياً أيضاً وبقيت رواية هذا التاريخ مختَلفَاً عليها ومتأرجحة جداً، ورغم كل الطمع في ثروات الوطن العربي وموقعه الجغرافي فلا شك أن المستوى الذي انحدر إليه الأمن والخدمات والعيش في هذه البلدان لم يكن فقط بسبب وجود مخططات استعمارية ولكنه كان أيضاً بسبب عدم مواجهة تلك المخططات بالحذاقة نفسها وآليات العمل ذاتها التي يستخدمها أعداؤنا وخصومنا. اليوم كل بلد عربي يحتفل بذكرى استقلال من أواسط القرن الماضي، ولكن لا توجد هناك قراءة دقيقة لما تمّ فعله بعد هذا الاستقلال ولا للثغرات التي تمكّن العدو أن ينفذ من خلالها، كما لا توجد قراءة واحدة أو متّفق عليها لأي حدث تاريخي مرّت به هذه البلدان ما يجعل أي تقييم لأي عنصر من عناصر الحياة مجرد وجهة نظر، ويختفي الفرق بين من يعلمون ومن لا يعلمون مع أن السؤال الإلهي واضح وصريح في القرآن الكريم «هل يستوي الذين يعلمون والذين لا يعلمون» وأيضاً كما قال سبحانه «إنما يخشى اللـه من عباده العلماءُ». ومع ذلك نجد الآلاف من الطاقات المهاجرة وتلك التي لم تهاجر، غالباً لا تجد لنفسها منفذاً لتعمل في المجال الذي تبدع فيه وأحياناً تجاوباً مع حجج إدارية واهية لا علاقة لها بالعلم والإنجاز والتميّز، ففي الوقت الذي وضع الإنسان القانون كي يضبط إيقاع حياته وعمله وكي يتمكن من التفريق بين الغثّ والسمين وبين العطاء من جهة والسلب والانتهازية من جهة أخرى؛ فإن البعض في بلداننا قد حولوا بعض القوانين إلى أصفاد تمنع العجلة من الدوران وتضع الغث مكان السمين تجاوباً مع قوانين وأعراف ومخططات لم تدّع يوماً أنها توصل أي مجتمع إلى الازدهار والتميّز.

المشكلة أننا نحسن تقليد الغرب في كلّ ما يضيع وقتنا ويقضي على المفيد من تاريخنا وزراعتنا وصناعتنا وغذائنا؛ فنجري وراء كل ما أنتجه الغرب حتى وإن كان يتعارض مع طبيعة عيشنا ونقاط قوتنا والجغرافية التي ننتمي إليها، أي إننا بعد الاستقلال لم نضع الأسس لمراحل جديدة تشخّص بالضبط ما أراده المستعمر من بلداننا وتردّ عليه بالعمل لا بالقول، وتضع الرؤى والإستراتيجيات التي تضمن نقلة نوعية تؤسس لثقافة مجتمعية وطنية بعيدة كلّ البعد عن وجهات النظر المندسّة التي خلفها لنا العدو وزرعها ويعمل على سقايتها باستمرار في حاراتنا وقرانا ومدننا وبين ظهرانينا حيثما كنا، وإلا كيف يقتل الأخ أخاه بحجة الإصلاح وكيف تنقلب الفتن إلى فتن طائفية لا مستفيد منها إلا المستعمر ذاته بعد أن غيّر أساليب وطرائق استعماره من استقدام الجيوش إلى غرس المبادئ والأفكار في أذهان الأجيال بما يخدم خططه ودون أن يكلّف نفسه عبء تحشيد الطاقات أو استقدام القوى العسكرية؟ ذلك لأننا لم نؤمن بمبدأ الحوار ومعالجة الاختلاف مهما عمق وعظم من خلال الحوار وليس من خلال إقصاء الآخر أو تهميشه أو توجيه التهم إليه، وذلك أيضاً ودائماً نتيجة تغليب المنفعة الشخصية على المصلحة الوطنية العليا، وذلك أيضاً نتيجة الاستعانة بأقلّ الطاقات كفاءةً لاعتبارات شخصية أيضاً وإقصاء القادرين على خدمة الأوطان بطريقة فذة، إذا كان الجميع مؤمنين أن مصلحة الوطن فوق كل اعتبار فلن تقود خلافاتهم مهما عظمت إلا إلى مصلحة الوطن في جميع المجالات،

حين بدأت الحرب على سورية قلت إن المستهدف الأول في هذا البلد هو قراره الوطني، وحين اتخذت الجامعة العربية عقوبات ضد سورية أصبح واضحاً أن الذين اتخذوا هذا القرار لا يملكون قرارهم المستقل حتى في بلدانهم، واليوم وبعد تسع سنوات رأينا كرة الثلج تتدحرج حتى على البلدان التي موّلت الحرب على سورية، وسلبوها حتى مظهر القرار المستقل والكرامة الوطنية، ولا أعلم لماذا لم يمتد إعجاب هؤلاء بالغرب إلى آليات عمله وحواراته الدائمة ومؤسساته والاتفاق دوماً على الأرضية المشتركة مهما بلغت الخلافات الأولية بينهم، أو لا نراهم يجتمعون عبر المحيط ليناقشوا وضع لبنان ووضع العراق والحراك في هذين البلدين؟ كما يجتمعون دائماً للتآمر على سورية، في حين لا يتمتع العرب بمثل هذه المرونة والاجتماع لمناقشة كلّ صغيرة وكبيرة حتى يتوصلوا إلى الطريق الأسلم في إدارة البلاد.

ولا شك أيضاً أن المستهدف اليوم في أكثر من بلد عربي هو القرار المستقل ونبذ التدخلات الأجنبية؛ فهل فعلاً توصل القائمون على إدارة البلاد إلى هذه المرحلة من الوعي أم إنهم يقولون ما يرضي الناخبين والجماهير دون العمل الحقيقي على إرساء ركائزه وأسسه؟ إنه لمخاض عسير ذلك الذي يخوضه أكثر من بلد عربي، وإن الوعي والصبر والعمل الحقيقي والصادق والوطني أسلحة لابدّ منها في هذه المعركة المصيرية.

وأنا أرى الإخوة في لبنان والعراق في الساحات يزعمون أن الحل هو استقالة الحكومات! أتساءل هل فكروا ما الخطوة التالية وكيف يمكن لاستقالة ما تبقى من أمل في حفظ النظام أو ردع الفوضى أن تكون مساعداً على خلق وضع أفضل وخدمات تلبي طموحات الجماهير؟ قد لا يخطر لهم ببال أن الهدف الأساس من تأجيج المشاعر بهذه الطريقة هو استهداف أركان الأمل بقرار وطني مستقل، وقد لا يخطر لهم ببال أن هناك من يدرس خطواتهم وتحركاتهم ويوجهها بما يخدم أهدافه بعيداً عن مصالحهم ومصالح أوطانهم وشعوبهم، لا اختلاف أبداً في الحاجة إلى الإصلاح والارتقاء في الأداء في جميع بلداننا العربية، ولكن كيف ومتى يمكن أن نصل إلى هذا دون أن تُختَطَف المشاعر البريئة ويتم تسخيرها لزيادة معاناة هذه الجماهير وحرمانها من التوصل إلى قرار وطني مستقل أو المحافظة على بعض الذي تمتلكه منه، لأننا وكما نرى فإن أول المستهدفين هم من حاولوا تثبيت خطواتٍ خجولة نحو قرار وطني مستقل.

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