Russian military is no joke either: Shock waves across US?

21 Mar 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

Ruqiya Anwar 

When it comes to the Ukraine crisis, US citizens are stressing: “We don’t have a dog in the fight.”

The crisis in Ukraine is raising considerable anxiety and rising global uncertainty. It appears that neither war nor heavy economic penalties would bring a sustainable solution to the current situation, which extends beyond Russia and Ukraine. The only way out is through diplomacy. That possibility was squandered when the US and NATO, in response to Russia’s concerns, limited NATO’s eastward expansion.

However, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The special military operation will strive to “denazify” Russia’s sovereign neighbor, its mission is to protect citizens who have been bullied and subjected to genocide for the past eight years. And to do this, Russia will work to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine.

Even as President Joe Biden imposes more sanctions and promises a greater response that could draw retaliation from Moscow, there is little interest among Americans for a US involvement in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. President Joe Biden has been criticized by a faction of the Republican Party for opposing Putin’s plans for Ukraine, with some even suggesting that Russia has the right to invade. 

As history has shown, economic sanctions would only harm innocent civilians, particularly women and children. The rising oil costs owing to the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the economic sanctions the West has imposed on Russia are affecting the entire world, particularly the poor nation-states.

With the general public’s memories of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and subsequent Taliban takeover still fresh, much of the worry on both the right and left is centered on the US avoiding military involvement in Europe. Members of the House Freedom Caucus have indeed been particularly loud in their opposition to US intervention in Ukraine, and stressed that “In the Ukraine conflict, we don’t have a dog in the fight”. There should not be a single American soldier killed there. There should not be a single American bullet fired there.

Significantly, Ukraine has no legitimate reason to be a member of NATO, and NATO, as a Cold War relic, may have no present purpose or goal. Getting involved in a military crisis is not in the best interests of the United States.

Similarly, many Americans prefer that the US stay out of the crisis, the escalating violence, and political ramifications are already hitting their budgets. As traders reacted to geopolitical tensions, the price of oil, which has been climbing for the past year, hit an eight-year high this week. According to experts, if US lawmakers pass another round of sanctions, gas prices will certainly rise considerably more.

Moreover, the restriction on wheat or metals, on the other hand, might push the worst spell of inflation in decades even higher. Consumers in the United States will pay more for gasoline and other necessities as commodity prices rise, leaving less money for discretionary expenditure. As costly as another European conflict would be inhuman and economic terms, the financial strain would fall disproportionately on the lower and middle classes in the United States.

Furthermore, the US economic growth could be cut by 1% as a result of tougher sanctions on Russia. Stock market turbulence can also have a psychological impact, undermining consumer confidence and reducing expenditure, thus, slowing down US economic growth. Sanctions implemented by the United States and other countries may worsen inflation in the United States, and stock prices in the United States have collapsed already.

Consumer pricing and consumer confidence in the United States are likely to be affected by the sanctions. Gas prices in the United States have reached new highs, and Biden warned that they will go up even more.

Notably, the issue of “who are they?” lies at the heart of much of the doubt about America’s intervention in Ukraine. Who are they to lecture about national sovereignty and international law when they have a significant history of invasions and interventions? Who are they to set themselves up as paragons of freedom and human rights, given the record of slavery and discrimination, their foreign record of supporting sympathetic tyrants, and the continued injustices of American life? People on the left frequently pose such concerns. Only about one out of every three Americans can locate Ukraine on a map of Europe.

Biden’s presidency is already on the verge of collapsing. His approval rating has dropped to 41%. His grip on the White House is already tightening. Therefore, Presidents in such dire trouble have a history of suffering crushing defeats in midterm elections during their first term.

The US and Europe have already become major victims of the crisis, both economically and geopolitically, and the worsening of the conflict could spell disaster for the continent and the world. Europe, as the continent that saw two previous World Wars erupt, must demonstrate greater foresight and courage in stepping up its efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

Day 20, a few short updates

March 16, 2022

Putin made an important speech today which the Russians officials are in no hurry to translate.  So here is a machine translation from Boris Rozhin (aka Colonel Cassad): (only partial extracts from the full transcript, emphasis added by me, Andrei)

The operation of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine is developing successfully, strictly in accordance with plans.

The tactics of the Russian Defense Ministry in Ukraine have fully justified themselves, everything is being done to avoid civilian casualties. Before the operation began, Moscow offered Kiev to withdraw troops from Donbass, but they refused. All the tasks set will certainly be solved.

If Russian troops had stopped at the borders of the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, this would not have been the final solution, it would not have removed the threat to Russia.

Russia is not going to occupy Ukraine.

There was no task to storm major cities.

The strike on Donetsk on March 14 is a bloody terrorist attack.

Russia will not allow Ukraine to remain a springboard for anti-Russian actions.

The whole planet has to pay for the ambitions of the West, the myth of the “golden billion” is collapsing.

The West is trying to convince its citizens that their difficulties are the result of Russia’s actions, but this is a lie.

Sanctions against the Russian Federation are hitting the Europeans and Americans themselves, “it is not necessary to shift from a sick head to a healthy one.”

The US and the EU actually defaulted on their obligations to Russia, freezing its reserves – now everyone knows that the state’s reserves can simply be stolen.

Russia – unlike Western countries – will respect the right of ownership.

Arrests of foreign assets of the Russian Federation and business – a lesson for Russian entrepreneurs, there is nothing more reliable than investments at home

We now know who cowardly betrayed their partners and failed to fulfill their obligations to employees.

Trying to “cancel” Russia, the West has torn off all the masks of decency.

I am sure that after blocking the accounts of the Russian Federation in the West, many countries will convert their reserves into goods, which will increase the deficit.

It is obvious that the current events draw a line under the global dominance of Western countries both in politics and in the economy.

Moreover, they themselves question the economic model that has been imposed on developing countries in recent decades. Yes, in general, the whole world.

I emphasize that the sanctions obsession of the United States and its supporters is not shared by countries where more than half of the world’s population lives. It is these states that represent the fastest growing, most promising part of the global economy, including Russia.

The “empire of lies” of the West is powerless against truth and justice, Russia will continue to bring its position to the whole world

The West relies on the fifth column, national traitors, such mentally are there, in the West, and not in Russia. The West is trying to split our society, speculating on combat losses, on the consequences of sanctions.  The people will be able to distinguish patriots from scum and traitors and just spit them out like a fly that accidentally flew in. The natural self-purification of society will strengthen our country.

***

I would just add “better late than never”!

In a very different style, I found the video below on this website: https://www.brighteon.com/a51d063f-a8da-48b2-b3d6-95d783940a98

Finally, here is the usual Readovka map, to “use with caution” and don’t make too much of it:

US Sanctions Are Crime against Humanity, Affect Most Vulnerable People – Iran Envoy

February 15, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

Iran’s envoy to the United Nations Zahra Ershadi denounced as “crime against humanity” the imposition of sanctions against the nation, saying such unilateral restrictive measures have put the lives of vulnerable people at risk by hampering their access to medicine.

Ershadi, deputy permanent representative of Iran to the world body, made the remarks at the UN Commission for Social Development.

She complained that illegal sanctions have made it very difficult for vulnerable groups in countries such as Iran to access basic medical items and thus put their lives at stake.

The Iranian envoy further noted that the import of medicines as well as medical equipment and hygiene products have been severely hindered by restrictions on foreign exchange resources.

The illegal measures have a direct negative impact on the lives of the most vulnerable Iranian citizens, including women, children, and patients, she said, adding that many children have died as a result of such inhumane bans.

“As our president stated in his address to the UNGA session, unilateral sanctions against the Iranian people, particularly sanctions on medicine and humanitarian items, are criminal acts on par with crimes committed against humanity. Those who sanction countries should not go unpunished for such heinous crimes,” Ershadi asserted.

“As the representative of a country whose people are subjected to the most brutal form of economic terrorism and illegitimate unilateral coercive measures by the United States, I call for the complete and immediate lifting of all unilateral coercive measures including sanctions in order to ensure the full achievement of economic and social development and enable the targeted countries to repair their economies while guaranteeing the well-being of their people in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

She further noted that despite the sanctions, the Iranian government has managed to provide poor and vulnerable people with special financial packages and social and economic rehabilitation programs, in addition to devising economic support measures, especially for small businesses.

The government, she said, has also prepared medical treatment programs for about 4 million legal and illegal Afghan refugees.

Back in May 2018, the US began to unilaterally impose sanctions against Iran after the former left the Iran agreement, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].

The US, under former president Donald Trump, launched what it called a maximum pressure campaign against Iran at the time, targeting the Iranian nation with the “toughest ever” sanctions.

Although Trump failed to reach its professed goals with his maximum pressure campaign, the bans have badly hurt the Iranian population.

The sanctions, preserved under the Joe Biden administration, have restricted the financial channels necessary to pay for basic goods and medicine, undermining supply chains by limiting the number of suppliers willing to facilitate sales of humanitarian goods to the country.

Iran has repeatedly denounced the sanctions as an act of “economic war”, “economic terrorism”, and “medical terrorism.”

Will the US reignite a ‘Syrian revolution’ to punish Russia in Ukraine?

The US and its allies have already set the scene for Revolution 2.0 in Syria.

The question is whether their plan is to extract concessions from Russia over Ukraine, or to go full out and risk a West Asia-wide conflagration

By Abdel Bari Atwan

February 11 2022

The US and its allies are set to re-ignite the Syrian battlefield to deter Russia in Ukraine.Photo Credit: The Cradle

With new political, military, and economic tensions escalating between the United States and its NATO allies on the one hand, and China, Russia, North Korea and Iran on the other – including the Taiwan front in East Asia, and Ukraine in central Europe – we are now witnessing accelerated plans to activate new crises in West Asia, from Syria to Iraq to the war on Yemen.

Let us leave the situation in Iraq and Yemen aside, temporarily, and focus on Syria. The country has experienced an atmosphere of relative calm, or rather a ‘stalemate,’ in the past few years, after the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) regained more than 70 percent of its territory.

This period of calm has also seen the decline of the so-called Syrian opposition, both politically and militarily, in the city of Idlib and its vicinity, as well as in other areas in northeastern Syria, currently under the umbrella of US forces.

There are, however, several international and regional indications that the dormant Syrian ‘opposition’ is on its way to being reactivated again.

***

It is likely this reactivation may appear in a more ferocious form than the militancy that was unleashed at the beginning of the Syrian crisis in March 2011. Numerous indications of this have already emerged:

First, Russian foreign intelligence on Tuesday unveiled US plans to support armed groups in Syria, and ‘Islamic’ extremists in particular, to intensify their attacks against Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces in Tawaz, while igniting and encouraging ‘peaceful’ protests deep within Syria.

Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) reported that US government agencies are “planning to task extremist ‘sleeper cells’ in Damascus…and Latakia province [by] staging pinpoint attacks against Syrian law enforcers, and Russian and Iranian military personnel.”

Russia’s Deputy Envoy at the UN Gennady Kuzmin told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that “The problem of terrorist threats in northeastern Syria is pressing. The US troops that are illegally deployed there cannot bring order. Or they don’t want to.”

In what appears as a reference to the mass ISIS jailbreak in Hasakah from a US-controlled area in late-January, Kuzmin added that “the atmosphere of a power void and impunity around the US forces’ deployment areas serves as a nourishing ground for terrorists of all stripes.”

The second indicator points to the statement issued by the Russian Intelligence Service, which says that the US administration is seeking to maintain its military presence in northeastern Syria, prevent the stability of Syria, rehabilitate the leadership of the Syrian opposition, and unite its ranks, Kurdish or Arab.

The US plan will be carried out through the exploitation of the current decline in economic conditions, basic services, and a significant weakening in the price of local currency, due to the suffocating US blockade.

According to the statement, the US will launch a “vast media campaign” on Arabic-speaking social media to incite Syrians to again take to the streets and squares, in the capital Damascus, and the cities of Aleppo, Homs and Latakia to push the regime to use the ‘violent’ iron fist in the face of ‘peaceful’ protests.

In other words, a re-play of the Deraa scenario in early 2011.

The third indicator was the two-day conference that took place last Saturday in Qatar’s capital city, Doha, which re-united various Syrian opposition figures on the subjects of reform and the future of Syria.

The conference – a culmination of a series of workshops held in a selection of European capitals – was launched by the renegade former Syrian prime minister, Riad Hijab, and included the representatives of Qatari, Arab, and international research centers, as well as more than 60 Syrian opposition figures.

Qatari authorities provided full support for this seminar, which Al Jazeera and its sister channels covered with remarkable intensity.

The fourth indicator relates to Algeria’s multiple efforts to hold an Arab summit in which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will participate, and Syria’s seat in the Arab League will be restored. These efforts have failed, in part because Qatar has been the most fierce opponent to the rehabilitation of Syria at the Arab League.

And finally, fifth, is the out-of-the-blue assassination of the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, at the hands of US special forces in Turkish controlled areas in Syria.

Al-Quraishi was attacked in his home, in the north of Idlib, in an attack that has no documented audio or image evidence, similar to the previous assassinations of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and, before him, Osama bin Laden – but entirely unlike the execution of Saddam Hussein and the killing of his two sons.

This ‘assassination’ may, of course, just be a cover for the new US plan to restart covert communications with and support for radical Islamist militants, while publicly suggesting that the US continues to target them as ‘terrorist organizations.’

***

Quraishi’s sudden killing in Syria during the dangerous stand-off between NATO and Russia raised some questions in Washington as well. Former US Air Force Special Operations Joint Terminal Attack controller, Ethan Brown, pondered aloud in The Hill about “its “timing and the curious proximity to the crisis in Ukraine.”

Brown asks whether “the execution of a [US] military operation outside of a declared was zone in the Middle East…is somehow a credible deterrent to Russian actions elsewhere.” Then straight-out declares: “Make no mistake, the two unique situations are intertwined.”

On Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Erik Kurilla, tapped to be the next commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), told the Senate Armed Services Committee that if Russian invades Ukraine, it could create broader instability in West Asia, including Syria.

This week, the Israelis struck Syria heavily again, just two weeks after the Russians and Syrians launched their first joint jet patrols over the Syrian-Israel border. This time, Moscow reacted strongly, calling Tel Aviv’s actions “a crude violation of Syria’s sovereignty” that “may trigger a sharp escalation of tensions.”

The escalation in Syria, likely connected to Washington’s Ukraine strategy, has already started. The question is whether the protagonists will merely stage some events as a threat – or go all out.

***

The Syrian opposition launched its first ‘movement’ 11 years ago in Doha, and it seems that the attempt to revive it will also take place in the same place.

The official statement of the meeting outlined its “aims to try to find mechanisms of action to promote the performance of the opposition and discuss how to get the political transition out of the current global warming.”

“The Biden administration wants 2022 to be the year of qualifying Syrian opposition forces to be ready to replace the regime in any change that may occur,” Syrian opposition media outlet Orient Net stated in a report broadcast two months ago.

The report also revealed that US Deputy Secretary of State Eitan Goldrich had met with Syrian opposition leaders in Istanbul, Qamishli, and Gaziantep late last year to prepare for the new US scenario in Syria.

Will this new US plan work in Syria? Has the suffocating US blockade on Syria, imposed for this purpose 11 years ago, reap its harvest? Will this attempt fare any better than the first? Will funding come from Gulf financiers themselves? And how will the axis of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and Syria respond?

We leave the answer for the coming weeks and months.

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

Security Council: Russia, China Lash out at Unilateral Sanctions by US, Allies

February 8, 2022

Russia and China lashed out in the UN Security Council at unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and other countries and groups.

The United States and its allies clashed with Russia and China in the UN Security Council on Monday over the usefulness and impact of UN sanctions.

Russia, which holds the council presidency, chose the topic of the meeting: “preventing humanitarian and unintended consequences of sanctions.”

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky, who chaired the meeting, said many sanctions regimes interfere with plans for state-building and economic development, pointing to Central African Republic and Sudan and calling the measures on Guinea Bissau “anachronistic.”

The Security Council needs “to take greater heed of what the authorities of states under sanctions think” and be more realistic in setting benchmarks to lift them to make sure they don’t turn into “a mission impossible,” he said.

For her part, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield claimed that sanctions are “a potent tool” that “make it harder for terrorists to raise funds via international financial systems,” and have slowed development of “certain capabilities” in North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Britain’s deputy ambassador James Kariyuki said the value of UN sanctions was “proven” in Angola, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone where “they helped end conflict and support the transition to peace and democracy and were then lifted.”

Russia’s Polyansky took special aim at sanctions imposed outside the UN by countries or groups, which “remain a serious impediment for full-fledged functioning of humanitarian exemptions,” citing problems with contractors, carriers, cargo insurance and bank transactions.

He also said Russia proceeds from the understanding that only UN sanctions “are legitimate,” and that broader use of unilateral sanctions “undermines the norms and institutes of the international law.”

Polyansky said “secondary sanctions of major Western powers create a `toxic vibe’ around Pyongyang” that discourages cooperation even in areas not touched by international restrictions. He also cited what he called the “war of sanctions” against Russia’s ally Syria, which has very negatively affected its economy, as well as US sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela.

China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun called unilateral sanctions “extremely harmful” and expressed concern that a few countries “have been flinging them about left, right and center, in a frenzy so much so that they seem to be addicted to them.” He said these measures “have thrown a spanner in the works of economic and social development and scientific and technological progress of the targeted countries.”

Source: Agencies

Imam Khamenei Hails Iranian Producers’ Struggle amid Sanctions as One of the Greatest Acts of Worship

Jan 31 2022

By Staff, Agencies

Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei said the enemies are waging a war against Iran’s economy in order to bring it to collapse and pit the people against the establishment.

“The goal of the enemies in this war has been the collapse of the Iranian economy; that was their intention. Now, the collapse of the economy was, of course, a prelude in order to set the people against the Islamic Republic by destroying the Iranian economy and to carry out their malicious political intentions in this way,” Imam Khamenei said in an address to a group of Iranian producers and entrepreneurs in Tehran on Sunday.

His Eminence hailed Iranian producers, entrepreneurs and workers as “officers” of the battle against the enemies’ economic war.  

“The country’s stronghold of production and economy is alive; thank God, it is standing. The army that stood against the enemy – the officers of this holy defense – were the entrepreneurs and capable economic managers. Its warriors were also workers. The workers were the sincere and earnest warriors of this battle. You and all economic actors share in this honor of preserving the country’s economy,” the Leader said.

Imam Khamenei reiterated his oft-repeated line that officials should not tie the country’s economy to the results of negotiations currently underway in Vienna to remove US sanctions on Iran.

His Eminence described production as struggle in the path of Allah, which is known as the principle of jihad in Islam.

“The resistance of the producers against the attack on the economy and the enemy’s efforts to prevent the sale of oil and gas and cut foreign exchange resources and against its plans to block Iran’s foreign trade is in fact jihad and one of the greatest acts of worship,” Imam Khamenei underscored.

The enemy’s plans to “conquer the production stronghold” of Iran as part of its economic war on the country have failed,” His Eminence added.

“In this onslaught on the country’s economy, there were problems in people’s livelihoods, but the production sector did not come to its knees, and a US State Department spokesman explicitly stated a few days ago that the policy of maximum pressure had led to the tragic defeat of the United States.”

Imam Khamenei was apparently referring to US State Department spokesman Ned Price who said last Tuesday that the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, initiated by the Trump administration and maintained by the Biden administration, has been an “abject failure.”

The Leader underscored that Iran’s economy needs a leap in production to overcome problems and remain immune to internal and external shocks.

“A jump in production leads to improved economic indicators such as sustainable employment, export boom, foreign exchange earnings and lower inflation. It leads to national self-confidence that is a guarantor of national dignity and security.”

Ayatollah Khamenei touched on Iran’s great potentials and vast possibilities as acknowledged by domestic and foreign experts, saying “if efficient, hard-working and caring managers use these capacities correctly, the situation will certainly be many times different.”

He said the cause of economic problems in the country is not solely the sanctions, but wrong decisions and dereliction on the part of officials are behind many of the problems.

Imam Khamenei also said he is generally not opposed to the participation of foreign companies in Iranian projects, but believes domestic knowledge-based companies can meet the country’s needs in large industries such as oil.

“Therefore, it should not be assumed that the advancement of technology in various industries depends only on the presence of foreign companies,” he said.

Thousands of small and medium-sized knowledge-based companies have been established in Iran in recent years, but the knowledge-based nature of large industries has been neglected, His Eminence added.

“The ability and knowledge of talented young people should be used in this field, just as whenever young people were trusted and given tasks from developing coronavirus vaccines to precision missiles, they really shone,” Imam Khamenei said.

“Our talented young people have also done outstanding work in the field of nanotechnology, stem cells and biotechnology and shown that ‘Iranian youth can’.”

Lebanon is ‘held hostage by Iran’, yet coercion from the Gulf suggests otherwise

January 7, 2022

This picture taken on January 3, 2022 shows a view of a screen displaying a televised speech by the head of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah, airing during a memorial service marking the second anniversary of a US drone strike that killed the top commander of the Iranian revolutionary guard corps (IRGC) Qasem Soleimani alongside Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, at a hall in a school in the southern suburb of Lebanon’s capital Beirut. [ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images]

A common trope over the past decade has been the notion that Lebanon has been “held hostage” by the Hezbollah movement and its chief backer, Iran. This is based on concerns of the growing political and military power of Hezbollah, which along with the Amal Movement has been part of the Lebanese government since 2005 with the support of their ally President Michel Aoun. Claims of 100,000-strong trained fighters within its armed ranks, also mean it is larger than the Lebanese military and is the country’s most powerful armed group.

Such beliefs have been reinforced largely over the movement’s ability to consolidate power in the absence of strong state institutions while managing to avoid accountability and responsibility over its actions. Hezbollah’s alleged role in the assassination in former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and the acquittal of three members over their involvement is a case in point. More recently, the investigation into the Beirut Port blast has stalled due to Hezbollah and Amal boycotting cabinet meetings in protest over the perceived bias of the investigating judge, Tarek Bitar. Earlier calls by Hezbollah supporters for him to be removed led to intercommunal clashes with Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) militiamen. It was some of the worst street violence witnessed in the capital in years, leaving at least seven dead, all of whom were from the Shia community, sparking credible fears of a return to civil conflict and upending a fragile peace, although Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah vowed he would not be baited into civil war.

While it is understandable for segments of Lebanon’s sectarian society to view the country as being under the firm grip of an Iranian-supported Shia movement given its modern history which has had a lasting impact on the contemporary confessional political order, this idea is also rooted in deep-seated “othering” of the once-marginalised Shia Lebanese community who were and are still seen as an Iranian fifth-column.

This perception dates back well before the establishment of the modern Lebanese nation-state, where under four centuries of Sunni Ottoman rule, the Lebanese Shia (historically and colloquially known as the metwali) were discriminated against over alleged loyalties to Persia. After the end of French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon in 1943, the Shia were essentially excluded and underrepresented from the power-sharing arrangements between the Maronites and the Sunnis when they established the National Pact. It was following the activism of the charismatic cleric Sayyid Musa Al-Sadr in the 1960s and 70s that the Shia became more assertive of their rights and religious identities with the community becoming further empowered after the signing of the 1989 Taif Accord, both politically as there was more equitable distribution of powers for the country’s Muslim political elites, and militarily, as Hezbollah was the only militia allowed to keep its arms after the civil war ended.

OPINION: Lebanon may be independent, but it still depends on too many other states

Therefore, with this context in mind, one can appreciate the concerns about the political ascendency of the Hezbollah, the community it represents and the influence exerted in Lebanon of its main supporter Iran. These feelings will become more pronounced during and after the general and parliamentary elections scheduled this year, amid a worsening economic meltdown and potential for further social unrest. Yet while both Western and Arab media tend to focus on the idea that Lebanon is being held hostage by Iran via Hezbollah, the discourse is one-sided and there is relatively scant attention paid to the fact that the Gulf Arab states, headed by Saudi Arabia, have been pressurising and weighing in on the Lebanese government, undermining the country’s supposed independence in the process.

Riyadh has had a long history of playing an influential force in Lebanese politics, often supporting Hezbollah’s political rivals and acting as a protector of Sunni interests to counter those of Iran’s.

Speaking of hostage-taking, it is ironic to note that it was the Saudis who audaciously kidnapped an acting head of state, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri in 2017, who was coerced into announcing his short-lived resignation from Riyadh. It was later revealed that he was “verbally intimidated and beaten” during his detention.

The recent diplomatic fallout in October between Beirut and Riyadh, however, has resulted in concerted efforts to force the Lebanese government into making political concessions in order to mend and maintain important strategic relations.

Following remarks which surfaced by the then-Information Minister George Kordahi criticising the Saudi-led war on Yemen, the Saudis expelled Lebanon’s ambassador, recalled its own ambassador and banned all imports at a critical time when Lebanon was grappling with an economic crisis. Fellow Gulf states, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE were also quick to summon their ambassadors in solidarity. Despite insisting that he wouldn’t step down over the row, Kordahi resigned last month, likely owing to external pressure and the potential devastating consequences for the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese expats working in the Gulf who send vital remittances back home.

READ: Remembering the Great Famine of Mount Lebanon (1914-1918)

While Kordahi’s resignation may have had a cooling effect on the crisis, tensions clearly remain in light of Nasrallah’s comments earlier this week regarding the Saudis and King Salman, accusing Riyadh of exporting the ideology of Daesh, specifically referring to the monarch as a “terrorist”. The remarks were an apparent response to calls by King Salman the week before for an end of “terrorist Hezbollah’s” influence over the state.

Rather than defend a coalition member within his own government, Lebanon’s Sunni Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned Hezbollah, distancing the government from the comments. This was echoed by dual-Saudi citizen Hariri who insinuated that the only threat to Lebanon is “the one who wants the state of Lebanon to remain hostage to the state of Iran”.

The Lebanese government appears keen on appeasing Riyadh and its Gulf allies out of a rational fear of political and economic retribution, which has included the Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi ordering the deportation of Bahraini oppositionists and the announcement of an interception of “nearly 9 million Captagon tablets” smuggled in citrus fruits destined for the Gulf. “We want to send a message to the Arab world about our seriousness and our work to thwart evil from harming our Arab brothers,” Mawlawi insisted. He followed these political gestures by ordering the removal of posters deemed offensive to King Salman from the predominantly Shia areas of southern Beirut. In its attempts to salvage ties with the Gulf, the compliant Lebanese government risks allowing the latter to utilise their leverage further as the elections near.

At the strategic level then, the actions undertaken by the Saudi-led bloc are little to do with offensive comments by Lebanese politicians and leaders. Rather these have been shrewdly exploited in an attempt for the Saudis to play catch-up in trying to expand their own influence while steering the country away from Iran through Hezbollah. There may be compelling arguments that Hezbollah undermines Lebanon’s national sovereignty, however these often overlook or fail to recognise that it was Hezbollah that protected and reasserted Lebanon’s territorial integrity when the south was under foreign Israeli occupation. This may seem like harking back to the past, but it remains the biggest strategic threat to Israel to this day, having amassed an arsenal of “hundreds of thousands of short-range rockets and several thousand missiles that can reach deeper into Israel“, providing a modest and credible deterrence against the prospects of any repeat invasions or a major flareup at the border.

As a fragile state with a history of foreign meddling and patronage from multiple actors, it would be disingenuous to use alarmist rhetoric that Lebanon is being “held hostage” by any one party or regional power. In reference to Hezbollah, this is based on an over-arching legacy of the civil war but also on prejudices against a formerly marginalised community that had historically never been a major player in the affairs of the country, now with unprecedented power and clout. Beirut, we are constantly being told, is under the firm control of Iran (apparently as Baghdad, Damascus and Sanaa are too) yet challenging this narrative are the Gulf states who seem to be the ones calling the shots and who, according to Nasrallah, are in effect holding some 350,000 Lebanese expats “hostage”. In reality, it is the outdated, corrupt political system that has taken Lebanon hostage, a system which will unlikely be reformed as long as people identify and vote along sectarian lines. The country is in the all too familiar position of having to balance relations with foreign rival powers while maintaining the delicate balance on the ground among its diverse communities who are currently facing an unprecedented economic crises.

OPINION: The last time Iraq was free of foreign interference was during the Abbasids—even then it was short lived

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

The EU, Globalization and the Road to Serfdom

December 28, 2021

By Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

PART 1

It might be a good idea to start with some theoretical clarifications. Firstly, nationalism should not be confused with national sovereignty. Nations which are effectively ruled by outside agents – from Greece to Honduras – are not sovereign; they are colonies or vassals of some larger agency. And since they are not sovereign, the cannot be democratic, since decision making, and policies have been abrogated to an external ruling power. Secondly, nationalism: the term which in general is generally regarded as the all-weather bête noire by the orthodox left, can be and often is aggressive, racist, imperialistic, and so forth. But this is only half the story and there are ample reasons to believe that this view is both simplistic and narrowly focussed; ‘nationalism’ can be either a reactionary or a radical/progressive force, depending on the local and political circumstances. This is simply an historical fact. The latter phenomenon is particularly true of those nations which struggled under the yoke of imperialism – from Vietnam to Algeria both ex-French colonies – and who actively engaged in national repeat, national, liberation struggles involving a broad coalition of political forces

However, according to the conventional wisdom of the hyper-globalists both nation states and the whole concept of national sovereignty are now defunct. Their reasoning is based upon the following premises. 1.Most products have developed a very complex geography – with parts made in different countries and then assembled somewhere else – in which case labels of origin begin to lose their meaning. 2. Markets when left unfettered will arrive at optimal price, allocative, and productive efficiency. 3.This means that capital, commodities and labour should be free to move around the globe without let or hindrance to achieve these goals. 4. Any barriers to this process – capital controls, trade unions, exchange rate controls, welfare expenditures, minimum wage legislation, wages and even public goods – will result in price and allocative distortions. Q.E.D.

Such globalization has come to be seen and defined by its proponents as the ‘natural order’, almost a force of nature; an inevitable and inexorable process of increasing geographical spread and increasing functional integration between economic activities. This current orthodoxy goes by various other names, Washington consensus, market liberalisation, neo-liberalism and so on and so forth. In fact, there is nothing ‘natural’ about this stage of historical development, since the whole phenomenon has been politically driven from the outset. (Of which more later).

It is important to note, however, the difference between contemporary imperialism in its present stage – i.e., globalization – and the classical imperialism of pre-1914 vintage that Hobson, Lenin, Bukharin and Rosa Luxemburg were writing about. Classical imperialism was characterised by a shallow integration manifested in arms-length trade in goods and services through independent firms and international movement of portfolio capital and relatively simple direct investment. Note also that the British state granted Charters to investment entities such as the East India Company and the British South Africa Chartered Company to ‘develop’ (exploit) these colonial possessions. Thus, even at this early stage the British state actively intervened to facilitate and open up markets for British capital in India and Africa. This was the liberal epoch trade of the 19th century. Full-on globalization did not develop, however, due to inter-imperialist rivalries and mercantilist policies being carried out by the competing imperial powers (which eventuated in WW1). The opening up and liberalization of markets – which did not at that time occur – was and still is the conditio sine qua non for the development of full-blown globalization, which even today is nowhere near total.

This generalised retreat from a classical liberal colonialism began with the First World War and lasted until the early 1970s. This statist phase of the global economy was universalized in the west after the aftermath of WW2 in the form of social-democracy and the welfare state. Suffice it to say that this period is long gone having been systematically deconstructed by the present neo-liberal counter-revolution which began circa 1979. The neoliberal phase really got going in the 1980s. This was the time of the Washington Consensus a set of ideological prescriptions based upon archaic Ricardian trade theory (comparative advantage) to be followed to the letter and by all and sundry. It was argued that this would result in an economic nirvana attendant on the removal of distortions to the market mechanism brought about by welfare capitalism. To repeat: the tripod on which neoliberalism is based consists of 1. The free-movement of labour and ‘flexible’ labour markets, 2. the free movement of capital and commodities which in essence means the loss of control of monetary policy, exchange rate policy and capital controls. The neo-liberal regimen also involves 3. downward harmonisation of wages and working conditions, involving fixed term contracts, zero-hour contracts, the weakening or in the case of the United States, the virtual elimination of trade unions, stagnant wages, structural unemployment, which in turn leads to increased indebtedness which benefits the rentier class, and ongoing and deepening structural inequality. This is sometimes called austerity, but this is putting the horse before the cart. Austerity is the effect not the cause of liberalised financial, labour and commodity markets.

The present stage of neo-liberal imperialism differs from the classical stage insofar as we currently live in a world of deep integration organized primarily within and between geographical and complex global production networks as well as other mechanisms. Moreover, a new factor became apparent in this Brave New World – financialization. There has been a massive increase in both the size and scope of financial markets, with money moving electronically around the world at unprecedented speeds, generating enormous repercussions and instability. The system of unlimited fiat currencies mainly used for purely speculative purposes is resulting in ongoing asset price bubbles particularly in stocks, bonds and property, as well as other financial instruments, e.g. derivatives.

To wit:

  1. The surge of bank loans to Mexico in the 1970s – Th tequila crisis.
  2. The bubble in stocks and Real Estate in Japan – 1985-89
  3. The 1985-89 bubble in stocks and property in Norway, Finland and Sweden
  4. The bubble in real estate, stocks and currencies in East Asia in 1992-97
  5. The bubble in over the counter (OTC) stocks in the US, including hi-tech start-ups
  6. The 2002-2008. The property bubble in the US, UK, Spain, Ireland, Iceland and Greek sovereign debt. (Manias, Panics and Crashes – Kindleberger and Aliber – 2011)

Additionally, the global institutions, which emerged from the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, the IMF, GATT/WTO, World Bank, and increasingly central banks around the world, play a crucial role of the construction of trade policies, co-ordination, guidance, as well as providing and enforcing legal statutes designed to keep the globalist ship afloat. But it should be understood that these institutions are highly politicised and ideologically driven and not disinterested arbiters of the common weal. This is amply illustrated by the recurring breakdowns in the various rounds of trade liberalization talks conducted by the WTO when what are perceived by the developing world (with some justification) as being unfair trade agreements foisted on the them by the more affluent and controlling developed states nations who control voting procedures. In passing, it should also be noted that the EU represents a regionalised version of these global institutional structures, the ECB, EC, Council of Ministers, Eurozone Finance Ministers, European Round Table of Industrialists and so forth. Moreover, there exists a revolving door – in career terms – between state institutions and private corporations. N.B. the ease of which big-time globalist financial honchos such as Henry (Hank) Paulson, Steve Mnuchin and Mario Draghi glide effortlessly between the leading US investment bank, Goldman Sachs, and the US Treasury Department and ECB.

Power to shape/control this system is concentrated in the hands of states and/or the newly emergent Transnational Corporations (TNCs). Of course, there is not going to be a simple answer to this as the relationship between these two pillars of modern imperialism is both fractious and permanently mutating. The received wisdom, as put forward by the various spokespersons for globalization, ranging from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) OECD, and IMF, to the globalist house journals – Financial Times, The Economist and Wall Street Journal – of the global Transnational Uberklasse is predictable enough. Namely that the state is always in a subservient position vis-à-vis the dominant TNCs.

This perhaps would qualify as a procrustean effort to make the facts fit the theory. Contrary to the image of the all-powerful TNC demanding fealty and obedience from prostrate states, the relationship is somewhat more symmetrical; corporations and states are always to a certain degree joined at the hip.

‘’ … they are both competitive and competing, both supportive and conflictual. They operate in a fully dialectical relationship, locked into unified but contradictory roles and positions, neither one nor the other partner completely able to dominate.’’ (Picciotto, S. 1991 The Internationalisation of the State – Capital and Class 43.43-63)

The widespread notion that a TNC can simply up sticks and move lock, stock and barrel to a more compatible venue if its home base no longer suits it purposes is fanciful in the extreme. All TNCs have home bases, national HQs. Here is where global strategy is determined; here is where top-end R&D is carried out; here is where design and marketing strategies take place; here is where the domestic market is situated and where long-term domestic suppliers are located; here is where overseas operations are conceived planned and carried through; here is where AGMs of the Corporations takes place with published accounts circulated to all shareholders; here is where the local workforce, at all levels, is recruited; here is where the political bureaucracy and the above mentioned institutions are situated and amenable to lobbying. Picking an obvious example, the US defence industries, Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman are all based domestically and are not going to move out anytime soon.

It is unquestionably true that TNCs and states often have divergent goals: TNCs’ primary function is to maximise profits and enhance shareholder value, whereas the economic role of the state should be to maximise the economic welfare of its society. But although this conflictual relationship exists, states and TNCs need and lean on each other in a variety of ways. States might wish that TNCs are bound by allegiance to national borders – and in many ways they are (see above) – but total allegiance is not an option in a liberal capitalist economy. Indeed, it would be true to say that some states regard TNC (activities) as being complementary to their foreign policy. Here economic issues merge with geopolitical imperatives. For example:

‘’American political leaders have believed that the national interest has also been served by the foreign expansion of US corporations in manufacturing and services. FDI has been considered a major instrument through which the US could maintain its relative position in world markets, and the overseas expansion of TNCs has been regarded as a means to maintain America’s dominant world position.’’ (Gilpin, R. 1987 – The Political Economy of International Relations.)

On the other hand. Businesses, Corporations, TNCs, have always needed the state to provide the necessary infrastructure without which their operations would not be possible. This infrastructure includes what are sometimes called ‘public goods’ the built environment of roads, railways, airports, ports, canals, health services, education at all levels, a legal system, a centralised government with the power to tax and spend, as well as control monetary policy by a central bank, various procurement policies – in the US particularly involving the Military Industrial Complex – publicly funded research, which played an absolutely vital role in the development of the internet and Silicon Valley. In addition, there have been a range of cultural and political goods – the media for example – some of which were provided by the state, the BBC and public service broadcasting, and some by the market, newspapers and commercial television, albeit privately subsidised.

In short, the relationship between TNCs and states is complex and symmetrical and does not conform to the simplistic ‘Me Tarzan, you Jane’ globalist trope. In fact, the relationship has betimes been the other way around. During the post-war period both Japan and South Korea were at pains to block Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from overseas TNCs entering their economies, principally by operationalising import controls. This notwithstanding the fact that both countries were export orientated. The reasoning behind this policy was that the type nation-building mercantilism being which has been and is still the only way out of under-development could not work in an open liberalised economy. Similarly, Chinese development included inward FDI by overseas Corporations, BUT this time around the state-TNC roles were reversed. Automobile firms wished to invest in China for the simple reason of access to the world’s largest growing market which served as a powerful incentive for these firms to enter. But the Chinese government, consistent with its state-capitalist, mercantilist policies had complete control over such entry and adopted a policy of limited access to foreign firms. It is customary to imagine that TNCs always have the upper hand in the bargaining process, but this time it was different. Auto TNCs whose experience had conditioned them to play off states against each other, were subjected to the humbling experience of China who – given its control of FDI entry – was able to play off one TNC against another.

In fact, the East Asian development model – which for want of a better label I will call, state-capitalist mercantilism – has been successful in enabling states such as China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and possibly Thailand, and Malaysia to claw their way out of the trap of underdevelopment. This nation-building developmental strategy was first outlined by the German economist Freidrich List. The policy advocated imposing tariffs on imported goods while supporting free trade of domestic goods and stated the cost of a tariff should be seen as an investment in a nation’s future productivity – worked and was operationalised in the 19th century by both Germany and the United States, with a view to breaking British industrial and trade hegemony, which it did. As for free-trade, that was a policy strictly for the losers who to this day stay under-developed. It is also worth adding that the East Asian development bloc did not seek permission from the imperialist behemoth to carve out their own place in the sun.

We can say, therefore, that ultimately the negotiating relationship and outcomes between states and TNCs will depend on the relative bargaining strength in any specific instance. It is argued that if nation states are capable of so much why does the record show that they have achieved so little.

Well, South Korea was about equal to Tanzania in terms of all the economic, social and cultural indictors in the 1950s when it was just recovering from the Korean war.

South Korea is now one of the developing world’s long-term success stories. The country is now classified by the World Bank as a high-income economy, with PPP income exceeding $29,000.00 in 2010. Korean consumer electronics and other goods – auto-vehicles, Kia and Hyundai – have become synonymous with high quality and low price. Even more impressive is Korea’s achievements in social development, in education, and health. Life expectancy is now over 75 and the country’s HDI was placed 26th in 2004. As was the case in Japan inward investment was discouraged in favour of an infant protection industry and export led growth. Exports in such sectors as consumer electronics and auto-vehicles, and more recently in high technology have grown at an extraordinary rate. One very important reason for this has been a national strategy that has favoured the promotion of increasingly sophisticated exports and technology. Strong financial incentives for industrial firms to move up the value chain of skills and technology were built into most of the government’s policies. These policies included:

1. Currency Undervaluation: The effective exchange rate favoured cheaper exports and more expensive imports – an overt mercantilist approach

2. Preferential access to imported intermediate inputs needed to produce export goods

3. Targeted infant industry protection as a first stage before launching an export drive.

4. Tariff exemption on imports of capital goods needed in exporting activities

5. Tax breaks for domestic suppliers of inputs to exporting firms, which constitutes a domestic content incentive

6. Domestic indirect tax exemptions for successful exporters.

7. Lower direct taxation on incomes gained from exports.

8. The creation of public enterprises to lead the way in establishing a new industry.

9. The setting of export targets for firms.

(Todaro and Smith – Economic Development – 2009)

These policies were, of course, and still are, the exact opposite of the Ricardian free-trade comparative advantage model and are an anathema to any orthodox economists.

Herewith a development comparison Tanzania/South Korea.

Tanzania:

GDP, US$47,652 – GDP per capitaUS$857 – Education Expenditure US$1678.9, Govt Health Expenditure per capita US$24

South Korea:

GDP = US$1,411,042 – GDP per capitaUS$27,535 – Education Expenditure US$ 289,283.4 -Govt. Health Expenditure per capita US$159. (countryeconomy.com)

I think this is enough and don’t wish to labour the point, the gap is self-evidently enormous. But now the subsidiary question arises: what explains the divergent paths of development for two countries starting at the same point?

Well, according to the conventional wisdom ‘‘the incidence of wealth is only weakly related to the way in which the sovereign power of the state is exercised and is much more closely aligned to the ways in which states are aligned with the circuits of global capitalism.’’ Wrong! Political agency has everything to do with economic and social development, ‘‘and the way in which the sovereign power of the state is exercised.’’ If this were not the case East Asian development strategies would never have worked. Modernisation and development requires/required the indispensable political prerequisite of a modernising, nation-building ruling stratum which mobilises the whole nation in this revolution from above. This pattern has always been almost without exception the historical experience of capitalist development.

Such political and state institutions together with modernising class forces have/been and are, notably weak or even absent in what we generally refer to as the under-developed or developing world. ‘States’ (and I use this term advisably) such as Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo lack the political and social modern(ising), structures and institutions as we understand them which might bring about economic and social development. Crucially, the class structure of these societies is dominated by a comprador bourgeoisie, a self-aggrandising, self-serving elite whose interests are intertwined with the imperial overlord in the ongoing exploitation and looting of their own country. We also know that such nations are stuck in the production of raw materials and agricultural products – low value-added, low research-intensive, low-productivity, primary commodities – all of which are both price and income inelastic and have had a tendency toward price stagnation and decline in the long run – a structural deterioration in their terms of trade. (Oil may be an exception to this, but oil prices are notoriously volatile.) Thus, the unequal and increasing gap between the higher income and lower income countries. But is this the end of the matter? Well from a rigidly structuralist point of view it would seem to be. History, however, is an open ended and semi-voluntaristic process – as the famous quote goes, ‘Men make history, but do not do it as they please’ – and a number of possibilities for fundamental structural changes exist. But for real change to take place both economic and political/ideological conditions must be present.

‘’History has shown that the vicious circles of poverty and underdevelopment can be effectively attacked only by qualitatively changing the production structures of poor and failing states. A successful strategy implies an increasing diversification away from sectors with diminishing returns (traditional raw materials and agriculture) to sectors with constant and increasing returns (technology, intensive manufacturing and services) creating a new and more complex division of labour and new social-economic structures in the process. In addition to breaking away from subsistence agriculture, this will create an urban market for goods, which will further induce specialization and innovation, bring in new technologies, create both alternative employment and the economic synergies that unite a nation state. The key to economic development is the interplay between the sectors with increasing and diminishing returns in the same labour market.’’ (How Rich Countries got Rich, Why Poor Countries Stay Poor – Erik Reinert).

Thus, if you wish to bake a cake these are the ingredients. But comprador bourgeoisies and their imperial sponsors have other priorities and preoccupations, nation-building and economic development are not among them.

PART 2

Turning to the EU the regional prototype for the globalization project, it was Patrick Buchanan, an American conservative who once correctly stated in ‘The American Conservative’ that the US Congress ‘is an Israeli occupied zone’’ by which he meant of course that Israel and the Israeli Lobby, both external and internal, has had a huge input into the framing and operation of US foreign policy. In a similar vein the EU is also occupied territory under the tutelage of US imperialism. (This process of blatant meddling in European affairs by the US-CIA started with ‘Operation Gladio’ in the late 1940s) but the perceived enemy was not merely Soviet communism, but also sotto voce European social and political theory and practise, notably, Gaullism and social-democracy, both of which have long since been politically cleansed with the EU being reconfigured as neo-liberal, and (since the alignment of the EU security structures have been aligned with NATO) neo-conservative vassal states overseen and represented by odious little Petainist/Quisling occupation regimes. This is only too apparent when the fawning behaviours of May, Macron and Merkel vis-à-vis the US are observed. Whenever the US master says jump, the Europeans will reply ‘how high’ And this is even more pronounced by the newly arrived Eastern European states. A group which Dick Cheney once described as the ‘new Europe.’ By which meant the political force which was operationalised to fundamentally change the political direction of the EU in the late 20th century. Euro-widening was meant to prevent euro-deepening, and it worked a treat.

The ongoing Americanisation of Europe carries with it the toxic values of liberal individualism, market liberalisation, structural inequality, a philosophy of winner takes all, and a rapacious/murderous imperialism. A nightmare Hobbesian world of a ‘war of everyman against everyman’; John Stuart Mill also weighed in with considerable disdain writing ‘I confess I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on; that of trampling, crushing, elbowing, and treading on each other’s heels, which forms the existing type of social life are the most desirable lot of humankind … (J.S.Mill – Principles of Political Economy).

The Americanisation process has been going on for the last half century. It degrades Europe, causes it to regress, forces it to abandon everything in its progressive past contribution to the capitalist stage of production the antidotes which it allowed it to resist the liberal poison and promote democracy and equality despite it.

‘’Old Europe’’ has nothing to learn from ‘’Young America.’’ There will be no progress possible on any European project as long as the US grand strategy is not foiled.’’ (The Liberal Virus – Samir Amin)

One particular crisis in the EU – the unfolding to the denouement of the Greek debacle – has presented an archetypal learning curve for an understanding of the structural problems involved in the EU and occasioned a virtual industry of copious tracts which purport to explain the crisis, and I have no wish to repeat the whole sorry tale here. I would say, however, that if Syriza was in earnest in taking on the Troika it would have required not just an imaginary backing of a long-defunct and toothless euro social-democracy, but also a withdrawal from the euro – certainly a leap into the unknown. Assuredly this would have been a high-risk policy – and no-one should be under the illusion that there is any easy way out. The trouble is that social-democracy has vanished into history; the soft-options specialists. The SPD (Germany) PS (France) PASOK (Greece) PSOE (Spain) are political organizations which might (occasionally) refer to themselves as social-democrats, or even on occasion ‘socialists’ but of course they are nothing of the sort. ‘By their works shall thee know them.’

And,

‘’ … Syriza’s strategy was not only long-run but also attempted to incorporate the social virtues of Europe’s once dominant social-democratic heritage. What Syriza did not adequately understand, however, was that heritage was now history, buried deep under the refuse pile of new neo-liberal values.’’ (Looting Greece – Jack Rasmus)

Now we have Varoufakis going on to declare that the ‘nation is dead’. Well, that is certainly true of Greece, which is now to all intents and purposes a colony with the grotesque spectacle of Syriza now playing a governing role in a regime that at one time it stridently opposed. The assertion that nations as such are no longer sovereign – a statement which is wrong both theoretically and empirically – but has a limited application. Truth be told some states are more sovereign than others, and the sovereign nations call the shots vis-à-vis the vassal/colonies which are not sovereign. (One wonders if the United States, or Israel or indeed Syria which has been engaged in physically defending its sovereignty for some time, are not sovereign. I think they are, but Mr Varoufakis may wish to differ) Greek sovereignty and democracy disappeared when the Troika and EU finance ministers and French and German banks forced the surrender and took over the running(-down) of the Greek economy. But this was inevitable in a liberal internationalist globalist economy; open borders will simply mean that TNCs will be free to exploit the productive resources of any country in the world – particularly labour – in order to maximise their economic power at the expense of society’s. In other words, societies with open markets, will be unable to impose any effective controls to protect themselves from the rapacious incursions of TNCs as Polanyi pointed out long ago.

So, what does the ‘supra-national’ solution offer other than comforting words.

Try the following.

‘’DiEM2025 stands today as an attempt to learn the lessons of defeat, and to prepare for future struggles for building a stronger network, not of globalists, but left-wing internationalists whose strategies for advance include the dislocation of imperialist economic chains, as well as real progress in building the capacities of national societies to strengthen democracy and provide for the well-being of their nations.’’

All of which strikes this writer as a series of clichés and meaningless abstractions. Please note, the dog-eared phraseology, ‘learn the lessons of defeat’ ‘prepare for future struggles’ ‘strengthen democracy’ and ‘provide for the well-being of their populations.’ You might as well throw in motherhood and apple pie whilst you’re at it.

Then comes the dawn of realization that ‘a future Labour government which -assuming of course that the next government will be Labour – attempting to carry out its declared programme of bringing some elements of the economy under national control ‘’will come under the assault not only from the EU, but also Washington.’’ Really! Never occurred to me that! What does a Labour government do in this hypothetical situation? Surrender, Syriza style. No, we apparently need a Europe-wide supra-national strategy based upon what policies exactly? We must assume, according to the orthodoxy, that the nation state is either dead or dying, an article of faith of the globalist left and the Washington Consensus. Ergo, the policy the ‘left internationalists’ is one of inter alia ‘strengthening democracy’ – all very noble. But provided that the neo-liberal tripod of the three freedoms of movement – capital, labour, commodities – remains in place, political change will not take place. And provided the institutional infrastructure of globalized capitalism – the IMF, WTO, World Bank, the EU are overseeing and enabling the neoliberal project economic and political change will not take place. It is not the shackles of nationalism that give rise to the bureaucratic monstrosity which is the EU but precisely the opposite. The neo-liberal imperatives of open borders, liberalized markets, flexible labour markets and freedom of movement of labour, capital and commodities, might have had something to do with it. Unless these political/ideological roadblocks are addressed the status quo will continue and continue to deteriorate.

In terms of alliance building, political convergence between states cannot be constructed at regional (for example the EU) or even less so at global levels even if it is not achieved firstly at the level of nations. Because whether we like it or not, nations define and manage concrete realities and challenges, and it is only at these levels that changes in the social and political balance of forces to the advantage of the popular classes will or will not occur. Changes at the regional and global level may reflect national advances and certainly facilitate them – but nothing more.

In order to stop the onward march of globalist neoliberalism governments and state must regain control of their economies. There is no single way to achieve this critical goal, but without it hemispheric co-operation will remain little more than an empty rhetorical flourish. Moreover, everywhere electorates are looking to governments to be a counterweight to footloose corporations. It is this intuitive perception to rein-in markets that will increasingly occupy centre-stage between pro and anti the coming decade. For social-political movements the nation-state continues to be the chosen instrument for the organization of society. However much social institutions will have to adapt to new global pressures, what is not in doubt is that the nation-state remains the crucible for equality seeking movements the world over. Efficiency, profitability and competitiveness have not won the hearts and minds of the peoples worldwide.’’ (States Against Markets – Boyer and Drache)

Reform of the EU, which I understand to be the goal of the campaign of pro-EU aligned leftist factions, fails to take into consideration the fact that the EU cannot be reformed since its whole ideological structure and constitution is built upon neo-liberal technocratic assumptions which can clearly be identified in the interior belief-systems of the bureaucracy and consequently the daily practise and deliberations of its internal institutions. Being explicitly designed on a neoliberal model which was cemented by legal statutes have made such changes impossible.

‘’Any belief that the EU can be ‘democratised’ and reformed in a progressive direction is a pious illusion. Not only would this require an impossible alignment of left movements/governments to emerge simultaneously at the international level. On a more fundamental level, a system that was created with the specific aim of constraining democracy cannot be democratised. It can only be rejected.’’ (Thomas Fawzi – Lexit Digest)

Reinforcing the conservative structure of the EU’s political institutions, and here I have in mind the European Parliament, are dominated by two powerful blocs.

1. An alliance of political parties, centre-left and centre-right which form the usual centrist mish-mash, the extreme centre, as it has been called. This centrist bloc is composed predominantly of euro-enthusiasts and who command a working majority in the European parliament and other EU institutions. 2. The geo-political alliance – i.e., the infusion of members of the ‘New Europe’ into the EU, who were generally very pro-American and fanatically Russophobic, this along with the parallel expansion and incorporation of these new states into NATO has served to undermine some of the earlier Gaullist and social democratic traditions in Europe.

It seems clear, therefore, that the pro-EU bloc which dominates the political, economic and strategic agenda of the EU, in addition to the permanent institutional structures which are mandated to carry out existing policies, will continue to do so for any foreseeable future despite the pipe-dreams of the ‘left-wing internationalists’. Even Varoufakis has admitted that this approach is frankly ‘utopian’ – and if this is the case, the Remainer left can only play games and give a leftish veneer in an attempt to reform what they apparently believe is an unstoppable historical development (globalization). (Lexit Digest)

Having said all this the final outcome of this imbroglio may include elements of piecemeal reform and/and or outright rejection, which is what usually happens. We shall see. But it would be useful perhaps to have an open dialogue between all parties involved rather than highly partisan and misleading attempts to smear and shout down opponents – and we are all guilty to a degree in this respect – who may have something positive to offer.

Maduro to Al Mayadeen: We will not abandon Palestine

December 26, 2021

Net Source: Al Mayadeen

By Al Mayadeen

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro says, in an interview for Al Mayadeen, that the Venezuelan people resisted fierce attacks launched by US imperialism and its allies, and discusses relations with some countries, including Iran and Syria.

Maduro to Al Mayadeen: We will not abandon Palestine

In an exclusive interview with Al Mayadeen, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro noted that 2021 was the first year in which Venezuela registered economic growth since “the beginning of the criminal imperialist US sanctions,”  adding that this growth was the result of Venezuela’s economy which produces food, goods, products, and services. The country has witnessed growth in its industries, trade, and its domestic market as a result of the Venezuelans’ continued effort.

Maduro considered that the people of Venezuela resisted the fierce attacks launched by the US imperial power and its allies around the world, “but we held on and resisted.” Maduro highlighted that the people of Venezuela did not suffice themselves with resistance, rather the important goal they sought after was to achieve progress by way of a collective effort through the stimulation of all economic sectors.

The Venezuelan President revealed that he finds inspiration in Venezuela’s heroic history, stressing the need to believe in the people in order to motivate its sense of pride and ameliorate its strengths, both spiritually and morally. Maduro added that when the individual sees a greater historical cause embodied in himself, he will ascend to the level of the difficulties and challenges that face him.

Al Mayadeen Exclusive | Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro: I find inspiration in #Venezuela’s heroic history. @NicolasMaduro pic.twitter.com/VFv1klL5IW— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) December 26, 2021

According to Maduro, the people of Venezuela were no less than heroes before the challenges they faced, and he as a President had to be up to par with this heroic people. He also needed to have great faith and patience, as well as trust in the future, to rise up to the challenge and enter the battle.

The Venezuelan president pointed out that the late Cuban president, Fidel Castro, had always said that one must fight in all circumstances, fight until the last breath.

Commenting on opposition leader and US favorite Juan Guaido, Maduro described him as a sort of a “political Frankenstein” who was defeated, adding that “imperialism thought that Venezuela was its property” and that it had the ability to appoint a president for the country, through its colonialist comportment.

Nicolas #Maduro on #JuanGuaido: He was a kind of a political “Frankenstein” who was defeated. @NicolasMaduro #Venezuela pic.twitter.com/xKBqt4MYLD— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) December 26, 2021

He further clarified that the people of Venezuela confronted imperialism, and told its leaders and its Guaido that they shall not pass, and indeed they did not.

Maduro called for abandoning imperialism and its Frankenstein in the swamp, stressing that during the previous US administration, Trump appointed a High Commissioner called Elliott Abrams to rule over a “colony called Venezuela,” in accordance with Trump’s neo-colonialist and imperialist perspective.

However, Maduro noted, Abrams was “so shameless that he wrote my wife, asking her to divorce me,” and told her that they would allow her to take her family out of the country. He also added that Abrams asked him to “betray the people of Venezuela, Bolivar’s cause, and Chavez’s legacy, and to hand Venezuela over to US imperialism.

Al Mayadeen Exclusive | Nicolas Maduro: They wanted me to betray the people of #Venezuela#Bolivar’s cause, and #Chavez’s legacy, and to hand Venezuela over to #US imperialism. @NicolasMaduro pic.twitter.com/GvbAAL930v— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) December 26, 2021

According to the Venezuelan President, imperialism’s plans ran into the reality of the high Bolivarian ethical values “that we uphold.” Venezuela also witnessed surprises, which revealed the bravery of many people in this world, such as resistance factions, and movements of solidarity, and heads of states and governments, “that provided us with support and defended us.”

Every traitor of Venezuela is now in history’s ash heap

During his interview for Al Mayadeen, Maduro noted that he had always felt that Venezuela was not alone. At the UN, he said, they [Venezuela’s enemies] tried on numerous occasions to avoid recognizing the legitimacy of our government, and they were beaten by support from the vast majority of governments. He expressed his pride in the world’s solidarity and resistance movements, and their leaders.

Maduro emphasized that he knew who the traitors were, and where to find them, saying that those that attempt to interfere in Venezuela’s affairs will dry out and wither. Each traitor to Venezuela has gone to the ash heap of history, like Lenin Moreno and Mauricio Macri. But, he said, it is best to talk of things beneficial to our peoples, “instead of remembering that trash.” 

Al Mayadeen Exclusive | Nicolas Maduro: Each traitor to #Venezuela has gone to the ash heap of history. @NicolasMaduro pic.twitter.com/lePbDDPpQl— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) December 26, 2021

Venezuela’s President commented on the elections, saying they were exemplary, and some of the monitors were witnesses to our electoral system being the safest and most progressive in the world. He also highlighted that this election was the 29th in the 21 years since the Bolivarian revolution, and marks the 27th victory, and said “ we are a true power,” a power that is always renewing itself in its discourse, in its plans, and its leadership.

Regarding his country’s commitments and challenges, he emphasized the need to meet them. Every time a victory is achieved, Venezuela performs a comprehensive review, accompanied with self-criticism, and studies future plans, he added, stressing that before the year’s end, the plans will be ready for 2022, 2023, and 2024.

According to the Venezuelan President, his country is not living on its past glories, as with every victory they learn their lessons, and find renewed energy and strength for the future; everything is meticulously planned. The secret to building a revolution, he went on to say, lies in self-criticism, which they always do, as they remain vigilant 24 hours a day.

Facing the end of 2021, Maduro declared that he is currently enjoying the sweet taste of victory, and is readying himself to sacrifice and work to achieve new victories in the coming years, and that the National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela are a new body built to be part of this nation. 

The armed forces, he said, raised the banner of independence and fighting imperialism, the banner of freedom, the banner of the great liberator of America, Simon Bolivar. 

Discussing late Venezuelan leader and former President Hugo Chavez, Maduro told Al Mayadeen that he was a great military leader in whom one could find all the elements of comprehensive leadership. He considered that Chavez was the one who restructured the armed forces, giving them a new code based on resistance. He emphasized Venezuela’s armed forces role as the backbone of the revolution and the pillar of democracy and its existence.

The Venezuelan leader saw that imperialism devotes millions of dollars to buy off soldiers in many countries around the world, recruiting them so that they would organize military coups by using them as they did in Paraguay, Bolivia, Honduras, and Chile. Commander Chavez, he said, severed this relationship the United States had with Venezuela and said his country has sovereign military forces, which are the backbone for peace, stability, and democracy in Venezuela.

Chavez’s decision was a great shock

Maduro reminisced on the words of former President Chavez when he had to undergo complex surgery and said that if anything should happen that would impede his ability to perform his duties as president, then Maduro should assume responsibility.

He considered Chavez’s decision to be a great shock because he [Maduro] knew very well that when Chavez thinks of something and makes a decision, it is because he expects that something will happen, clarifying that “us revolutionaries” are obliged to deal with any conditions forced upon them, and as revolutionaries, they must be ready for battle, ready to surmount pain, injury, and grief, and that is what happened.

He expressed his satisfaction for the loyalty he showed Chavez’s legacy, and his honoring of the oath he swore before him and continuing to be in the frontlines of the confrontation, holding the banner of victory, of Venezuela.

Discussing his wife, Maduro said Cilia Flores is first and foremost, a leader from our country, and has had her own history. He added that she was a member of Parliament, a director in the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, and an Attorney General of Venezuela at one point, clarifying that she is firm in her opinions and resolute in her utterances, with people calling her the “first fighter.”

He declared that Flores continuously fights for children, the youth, and for Venezuelan women, and expressed his great pride to be her husband.

We will not abandon Palestine

On the Palestinian cause, President Maduro stressed that no one in the world dares to ask Caracas to abandon Palestine. “We cannot accept such demands. It is a sin to simply think about abandoning Palestine or leaving it by itself.”

“Palestine is humanity’s holy land, and we have the Palestinian land in such high regard. We hear the name ‘Palestine’ loud and high,” Maduro affirmed, condemning the Israeli occupation’s crimes against Palestinians, saying “Israel” would pay for them one day.

The Venezuelan leader sent a message to the Palestinian people, in which he affirmed Venezuela’s, the Venezuelan people’s, and the leader Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution’s support for Palestine. He reiterated his neverending total support of Palestine as Venezuela loves Palestine, all its people, and all its factions.

“We wish Palestine well, and we have cooperation agreements with it – agreements that are going very well. We would like to give more for Palestine,” President Maduro said, calling on the peoples of the world, all of its leaders, all Arabs, and all Islamic leaders not to leave Palestine alone.

He voiced additional support for Palestine, saying it deserved unwavering and fearless support from all world leaders, saying “Palestine is crying out for help; Palestine is asking for your support, crimes are committed against it every day, and its youth are killed every day.”

Al Mayadeen Exclusive | Nicolas Maduro: #Palestine is crying out for help; Palestine is asking for your support, crimes are committed against it every day, and its youth are killed every day.#Venezuela@NicolasMaduro pic.twitter.com/40AGYxyd4C— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) December 26, 2021

Commenting on the latest events in occupied Palestine, namely the Israeli crimes, violations, and abuses, Maduro said the occupation’s crimes were indescribable, and are unmatched in this world, reaffirming his support for the Palestinian people, concluding by dedicating “a big kiss to the heart of Palestine.”

Syria will rise again with Assad

President Maduro talked about Syria and its president Bashar Al-Assad, describing him as a courageous, heroic, fighting man who has a beautiful family and a wonderful people, expressing his regret over what happened to Syria, saying it was “destined to endure a criminal terrorist war.”

Maduro affirmed that the Syrian people have suffered a lot throughout the last 11 years, and they knew how to preserve and win. The Syrian Arab Army, alongside the unified Syrian people and President Bashar Al-Assad, will make Syria rise again and fully liberate it, he declared. 

“The Arab world; the whole world will be amazed at how Syria will resurrect in the following years,” Maduro added.

Moreover, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry will undertake several initiatives in 2020 to reactivate cooperation between Arab countries and Latin America to establish links on both monetary and financial levels, the Venezuelan leader announced.

A lot of things could happen in the coming years between Venezuela and the Arab world, he emphasized, divulging his belief that it will happen.

“I want to use this interview with Al Mayadeen to call on all the leaders, peoples, and investors to invest in Venezuela,” he said.

The leader called his country the land of opportunities, which offers all constitutional and legal guarantees for investments in oil, gas, petrochemicals, tourism, gold, diamonds, iron, steel, aluminum, and foodstuffs.

I thank God for meeting Qassem Soleimani

Speaking about Iran, Maduro said relations with the Islamic Republic have always been really good, “Whether with former President Ahmadinejad, former President Hassan Rouhani, or now with President Ebrahim Raisi.”

Maduro said he agreed on several new plans with President Raisi, and the intergovernmental committee of both countries is working on these new projects which include networking and cooperation between Iran and Venezuela.

The Venezuelan president also voiced his admiration for Iranian Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, describing him as a man of great wisdom and great intelligence.

He revealed that former Quds Force commander martyr Major General Qassem Soleimani visited Venezuela between March and April 2019. “We were in the midst of the electrical crisis launched by the imperialists of the north against Venezuela’s electrical network,” touching on the conversation the two figures had on several areas of cooperation, including electricity. Maduro confirmed that all matters discussed between them went on to be implemented.

The Venezuelan President praised Major General Soleimani, “He was a smiley, optimistic man, and I thank God for ever meeting him.”

He further said, “Soleimani combated terrorism and the brutal terrorist criminals who attacked the peoples of the Axis of resistance. He was a brave man.”

He stressed the importance of learning from these horrific crimes, such as the crime of assassinating martyr Soleimani. “Is this a world we want, where we witness the White House issuing an order to kill a hero of the struggle against terrorism in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon?”

The world must raise its voice again, he underscored, “in condemnation of the murder of the people’s hero, Major General Soleimani.”

President Nicolas Maduro concluded by thanking Al Mayadeen for the attention it gives to peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean and for constantly covering its news on social media, not to mention its cooperation with the Venezuelan TeleSur TV channel.

“We must make more effort toward our spiritual, cultural, and political unification, and we must learn from the struggle and path of each one of our countries,” he concluded.

Rania Khalek interviews Prof. Seyed Mohammad Marandi on JPCOA

TUESDAY 21 DEC 21

RANIA KHALEK 

This video describes the status of the negotiations on the JPCOA but is broader than that.  It also demonstrates how the USA negotiates.

  • 0:00 Intro
  • 1:20 What has been achieved, why hasn’t there been a restoration of the nuclear deal yet?
  • 9:02 US and Europe want to keep sanctions in place
  • 16:36 Who is being constructive vs obstructing the talks?
  • 20:25 Why should Iran even resume talks?
  • 29:10 Does Iran see a difference between Trump and Biden?
  • 32:29 Iranian liberals as extensions of the West
  • 35:53 Is war between Iran and the US inevitable?
  • 43:53 Consequences of the US Assassination of Qassem Suleimani
  • 58:57 The Gulf States reevaluate their relationship with Iran
  • 1:06:24 Iranian domestic politics under Raisi

Germany’s Traffic Light Coalition Blinks Green for NATO Hostility to Russia

December 17, 2021

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

Finian Cunningham

Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages

If there is a new traffic light in Berlin it’s showing no stops for further U.S. and NATO aggression in Europe.

The new German coalition government headed up by Chancellor Olaf Scholz is only one week in power but already the signals are pointing to Berlin being more amenable to U.S.-led NATO hostility towards Russia.

The “traffic light” coalition (based on party colours) comprises the Social Democrat Party led by Scholz in partnership with the Greens and pro-business Free Democrats. Scholz gave an inaugural address to the Bundestag this week as the new chancellor having replaced Angela Merkel of the Christian Democrats after her 16 years in power.

Following Merkel’s reign, which was hallmarked by stability and her dominant personal style, all eyes will be on the new government in Berlin and its impact on transatlantic relations. Scholz, who is relatively unknown, and his administration could hardly be met with a more challenging time given the heightened tensions between, on the one hand, the U.S.-led NATO military alliance and the European Union, and on the other, Russia.

Berlin’s new foreign minister Annalena Baerbock (who takes over from Heiko Maas) brings to her post a more vociferous, critical position towards Russia. Baerbock, a leading Green lawmaker, announced this week that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany is being put on hold due to alleged Russian aggression towards Ukraine. The pipeline was already being held up since completion in September by an industrial certification process. But now Baerbock has introduced a geopolitical factor to cancel the project. Before her ministerial post, she was known as a trenchant critic of Nord Stream 2, opposing it because she provocatively claimed, it allowed Russia to “blackmail Europe”, and also apparently on environmental grounds. Ironically, the alternative to Russian gas supply would be the import of American shale gas which is more expensive and dirty owing to its environmentally destructive extraction method. In her latest Nord Stream 2 pronouncement, the German foreign minister is sounding remarkably like U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in linking the project’s future to tensions over Ukraine and putative Russian invasion plans.

Baerbock has also been a long-standing advocate of expanding NATO eastwards and of closer transatlantic ties with the United States.

This eastward expansion of the military alliance is exactly what has caused apprehension in Moscow which views the bloc as threatening Russia’s national security from the potential for advanced positioning of nuclear missiles on Russian borders. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has urged U.S. President Joe Biden as well as British and French counterparts to implement legal guarantees to safeguard Russia’s security. Those guarantees would include a prohibition on NATO’s further eastward expansion to include membership access for former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia.

With Baerbock as Germany’s top diplomat, it is likely that Russia’s concerns will be given short shrift. As the strongest political force in the European Union, a more hardline German policy will ramify across the entire EU and reinforce the position of Russophobic members like Poland and the Baltic states.

As for the new chancellor, 63-year-old Scholz was formerly the finance minister in Merkel’s last coalition government. That administration was robustly supportive of the Nord Stream 2 partnership with Russia. Under Merkel, Berlin rebuffed Washington’s objections to the pipeline saying that it was a sovereign matter for Germany. Scholz himself had in the past spoken out against American meddling over Germany’s energy policy. The Biden administration appeared to respect Berlin’s independence on the issue by dropping threats of sanctions against participating companies. That background might suggest that the chancellor’s office would hold Baerbock’s foreign ministry in check.

However, the recent escalation of tensions over Ukraine fuelled by Washington’s claims that Russia is planning to invade the country has hardened Germany’s stance towards Moscow, in particular on the issue of expanding economic sanctions as “severe consequences” for alleged Russian aggression. Moscow has repeatedly dismissed the U.S. claims of invasion plans, but disconcertingly Germany and the rest of the EU have gone along with Washington’s narrative, accepting dubious American “intel” as if good coin, reminiscent of the WMD propaganda leading up the war on Iraq. That paradigm shift suggests a premeditated, orchestrated objective for the U.S. The Europeans have been suitably suckered into the ploy. And, at last, the Nord Stream 2 project is within target of Washington’s policy torpedoes.

In his address to the Bundestag this week, Scholz called for “constructive dialogue” with Russia to “stop the spiral of escalation”. He also called for “mutual understanding”. That may sound like an enlightened policy of diplomatic engagement. But then, disappointingly, Scholz vowed that Germany would “speak with one voice with our European partners and transatlantic allies”. That means Berlin is henceforth deferring to the position of Washington and Kiev in terms of determining response to the accepted narrative of “Russian aggression”.

Whatever the shortcomings of Merkel – she was no radical critic of Washington – but she at least was capable at times of exerting a modicum of independence. Her unwavering support for Nord Stream 2, for example, despite American pressure. Also more recently, it has emerged that Merkel reportedly blocked supplies of NATO weapons to Ukraine much to the annoyance of the Kiev regime.

Olaf Scholz does not come across, at least so far, as a strong leader. His mealy-mouthed talk about “sharing one voice” with the U.S. and “partners” like Ukraine, as well as his ready acceptance of spurious allegations about Russian aggression, indicate that the new Berlin government will be a pliable tool for Washington’s policy of hostility towards Russia.

Historically, it is ominous that the first German overseas military action since 1945 occurred in 1999 under an SPD-Green coalition. That was when Germany joined in the NATO bombing of Serbia. These parties are coalition partners again at another crucial time for Europe.

If there is a new traffic light in Berlin it’s showing no stops for further U.S. and NATO aggression in Europe.

Biden threatens Russia with dire sanctions if it attacks Ukraine

December 12, 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

By Al Mayadeen Net

US President Joe Biden says the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine is not an option.

US President Joe Biden threatened that Russia would pay a “terrible price”

US President Joe Biden said he has clearly warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against invading Ukraine, threatening that Russia would pay a “terrible price” and face devastating economic consequences.

In Delaware, Biden told reporters that the possibility of sending US forces to Ukraine was “never on the table.”

Earlier, Biden said the United States would provide additional defense aid to Kiev beyond what it currently provides and support NATO allies in the Alliance’s eastern flank.

“The idea the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not on the cards right now,” Biden stressed. “We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO allies under Article Five. It’s a sacred obligation. That obligation does not extend to… Ukraine.”

Russia has the right to defend its security

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier that Moscow pursues a peaceful foreign policy but has the right to defend its security in the medium and long terms.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his talks with US President Joe Biden, the Russian President added that his recent online meeting with US President Joe Biden was “open and constructive.”

“The conversation was open, substantive, and constructive… We have the opportunity to continue this dialogue, it seems to me… this is the most important thing,” Putin stressed.

Kremlin described the talks as “frank” and said the Russian President requested Washington to provide guarantees NATO would not continue its eastward expansion.

The Biden administration had prepared $200 million worth of aid to Ukraine over the past few weeks but postponed it to give diplomacy a chance for a possible easing of tensions between Kiev and Moscow. 

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IRG Chief Commander: Military Option against Iran off the Table

Dec 3, 2021

By Staff, Agencies 

The top commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRG], Major General Hossein Salami, confirmed that his country has managed to wear down the enemy and deprive it of the so-called military option against the country.

During his visit to the southwestern Ilam province on Thursday, Salami said the military option against Iran is off the table, as the country has become too powerful to fall victim to foreign aggression.

“The Leader’s vision was to wear down and undermine the enemy and this craft blocked the enemy’s approach and removed every option from the enemy’s table,” he said in a speech, referring to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei.

He further stressed that the enemy has instead resorted to economic warfare and sanctions against Iran.
“The Islamic, Revolutionary Iran of today is powerful and any enemy knows that this territory is not to be occupied…and now they have resorted to economic war and sanctions,” the top commander said.

His remarks came amid the seventh round of talks between Iran and the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear deal in Vienna, aimed at removal of cruel and draconian sanctions on Iran.

Crimes without Punishment – Ever

November 25, 2021

A protest against US military aid to Israel. (Photo: File)
– Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East. Among his recent publications is his 2008 book, The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press). He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. 

What a chamber of horrors the third millennium has been so far in the Middle East, without even a quarter of it having passed.  Iraq, Syria and Yemen on a scale unimaginable even at the high point of imperialism in the 19th century. An estimated 300 children under five dying every day in Yemen from malnutrition, Palestinians shot dead in their occupied country every day, Lebanon and Syria slowly strangled by US sanctions, Iran threatened with military destruction and the revelation of yet another massacre by the US, in Syria, where “about” 70 women and children were killed at Baghuz by bombs dropped one after the other to make sure that no-one escaped.

There is no suggestion that anyone should be punished for yet another ‘mistake.’  This is where thousands of years of drawing up covenants to make the world a safer place have ended up:  back where we started,  the law of the jungle.

This is what the guardians of ‘western civilization’ have given to the world just in the past three decades:

Two wars on Iraq, the ‘cradle of civilization’ shattered by the cradle of a violent hamburger junk culture, millions killed or displaced. Libya, the most developed country in Africa, pulled up by its roots, uncounted thousands killed, the leader of its 1969 revolution slaughtered as Hillary Clinton cackled with glee like one of the witches around the cauldron in  Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. Syria torn to pieces, ancient cities and markets destroyed, and half a million killed. In Yemen, more than 230,000 dead, with 43 percent of prematurely born babies dying because of the lack of medical equipment and a genocidal famine – 75 percent of children are suffering from acute malnutrition –  continuing even as fresh supplies of weaponry are dropped off in the Saudi kingdom by the US and Britain. Iran,  Syria and Lebanon targeted with economic sanctions: in occupied Palestine, in Syria and in Iran the Zionist state continues its murderous march through history.

Not one of the global criminals responsible for these massive crimes against humanity has been punished.  They play golf or roam the world picking up millions for their speaking engagements and their ‘philanthropic’ foundations. Not one word of contrition or remorse has been spoken by any of them for the lives they have ended or ruined. Not even the death of children has forced admission of guilt out of them.  Others have been punished for lesser crimes but not this gang. They are completely remorseless.

Imagine the reaction if these crimes were committed in Europe and white people were being slaughtered or driven out of their homes, out of their countries and drowning in their thousands as they tried to escape across the seas.

Well, between 1939-45 it did happen and those responsible were hanged at Nuremberg. We have no Nuremberg now but we do have an International Criminal Court (ICC) which does punish the architects of war crimes and crimes against humanity – as long as their skin is the right color. With the exception of pale-skinned Balkan Serbs charged after the breakup of Yugoslavia, all those hauled before the ICC have been brown or black.

The tsunami of death and destruction which began rolling across the region when Napoleon landed in Egypt in 1798 shows no sign of receding.  Almost no country from the Atlantic coast of West Africa down to the Arab Gulf has avoided being swamped by it and many have been swamped several times.

The prime beneficiary of all of the above in the past century has been the settler state implanted in Palestine after 1918. Israel is the heart and soul of US foreign policy. Indeed, US foreign policy is no more than the Stars and Stripes draped over the interests of the Zionist state.

Take Iran as an example. After the death of Ayatullah Khumayni, Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami sought to repair relations with the US. They offered investment concessions, diplomatic rapprochement and a political pathway into a region of critical interest, central Asia. Iranian society is conservative and God-fearing, rather like the US itself, but as long as Rafsanjani and Khatami refused to drop Iran’s righteous defense of the Palestinians, nothing else counted. Even in the ‘moderate’ Khatami’s time, economic sanctions were tightened, paving the way for the election of the ‘hardliner,’ Mahmud Ahmedinejad.

The attempted strangulation of Iran and Syria through war, assassination and sanctions necessarily involves Lebanon, Hezbollah’s home base.  Since the 1980s Hezbollah has successfully fought off all attempts by Israel – backed to the hilt by the US of course –  to destroy it.  Far from being weakened, Hezbollah has gone from strength to strength, militarily and as a Lebanese political party. The lesson learned by the US and Israel is just that they have to try harder,  to tear Lebanon apart if that is what it takes to destroy Hezbollah.

The latest provocation through Israel’s agents took place in Beirut on October 14, in the predominantly Shia neighborhood of Chiyah, bordering predominantly Maronite Christian Ain Rummaneh, where the ‘bus massacre’ of 27 Palestinians on April 13, 1975, was the trigger pulled to start the civil war.

This time snipers positioned on rooftops shot at Amal and Hezbollah supporters as they moved towards the Palace of Justice in Al Tayouneh to hold a vigil calling for the removal of Tariq al Bitar as the judge appointed to investigate the Beirut port explosion on August 5, 2020, on the grounds that he is running a heavily politicized inquiry heading towards a preordained conclusion, that this was a crime committed by Hezbollah.

Holding Hezbollah or Syria responsible for the crimes they have not committed was first tried after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. Initially, four ‘pro-Syrian’ generals were imprisoned for four years before an international tribunal took over the prosecution and released them for lack of evidence. It immediately pointed the finger at Hezbollah, eventually finding one person, Salim Ayyash, guilty of “involvement” on the sole basis of tapped phone calls made through communications networks known to have been completely penetrated and manipulated by the Zionist state.

The tribunal cleared Hezbollah’s leadership. What this actually means is that if the leadership did not order the assassination, no senior figure in the movement would have carried it out.   Nasrallah and Hariri had differences but a good working relationship and it is virtually unthinkable that Nasrallah would ever have sanctioned such a heinous act.

The only beneficiaries of this monstrous act were the US, Israel and their agents in Lebanon.  Syria was embarrassed internationally and had to withdraw its remaining forces from the Bika’a valley. Lebanon was thrown into the chaos that gave birth to the rise of the anti-Syrian/pro-Saudi, US and Israel March 14 alliance.

Hezbollah produced intercepted reconnaissance footage showing that Israel had been tracking Hariri with drones wherever he went for years and was flying an AWACS plane and another reconnaissance aircraft over Beirut at the precise time of the assassination.  One of its agents had been located at the scene of the killing only the day before.   None of this circumstantial evidence was ever followed up by the tribunal.    Israel and the US have shed buckets of blood in Lebanon over many decades, have between them committed the most atrocious crimes, but the tribunal never even considered them as suspects.

The snipers waiting on the top of apartment buildings in Tayouneh on October 14 killed seven people, one a woman shot dead in her own home. Not just on rooftops, however, but on the ground, the demonstrators were surrounded by militiamen waiting to ambush them with guns, knives and even rocks.   Despite denials by Samir Geagea (Ja’ja), the head of the fascist/sectarian Maronite Christian Lebanese Forces (LF), the armed men were clearly LF and acting on his orders.   Of the 19 arrested, several quickly implicated him.

Geagea is one of the most murderous individuals in Lebanese history, which says a lot given the bloody track record of many others. During the civil war (1976-1989) he killed rivals within his own Maronite Christian ranks as well as Palestinians and other enemies outside them.  In 1994 he was sentenced to four life sentences for the assassinations of former Prime Minister Rashid Karameh (1987), National Liberal Party leader Dany Chamoun (1990), Falangist (Kata’ib) head Elias al Zayek (1990) and the attempted assassination of Defence Minister Michel Murr (1991).  In 1978 he and Elie Hobeika, at the behest of Bashir Gemayel, then head of the Falangists, led 1200 men in an attack on the north Lebanon family home of Tony Frangieh, leader of the Maronite Marada (Giants) faction.  Geagea was wounded and had to be taken away before Frangieh, his wife and three-year-old daughter were killed.

In the 1990 attack, Dany Chamoun’s wife and two of his sons were also killed.   If there is any poetic justice in any of this shedding of blood – including entirely innocent blood – it lies in the 1982 assassination of Bashir Gemayel and the car bombing murder in 2002 of Elie Hobeika, Israel’s leading henchman in the Sabra and Shatila massacres of 1982.

Geagea himself served eleven years of four life sentences before being released under amnesty after the assassination of Hariri and allowed to take up the leadership of the LF. His brutality is a powerful weapon in the hands of Israel and the US, whose ambassador, Dorothy Shea, has been open in her interference in Lebanese politics.

US economic sanctions against Lebanon have one primary target, Hezbollah; one secondary target, Syria; and one-third target, Iran. How many Christians die defending ‘Christian Lebanon’ is not an issue for the US and Israel any more than the number of Muslims who die fighting them.  All they want is the chaos that will further their ambitions.  They tore Lebanon apart before and they will do it again, mercilessly, ruthlessly, callously, without a care for the innocent blood of thousands that will be shed.

Whatever cause Samir Geagea thinks he is serving, the piecemeal destruction of Lebanon, indeed of the entire Middle East, is primarily about the protection of Israel.  However, Israel is not as safe as it used to be or it might think it still is. It is confronted by enemies who have not backed off one meter from the struggle to liberate Palestine.  Israel has tried hard to destroy them. Up to now, it has failed, so it is getting ready to try again. While planning/contingency planning is a constant, Israel now appears to be actively preparing for a massive military strike that would target  Iran’s nuclear plants and missile capacity.

In September the Zionist chief of staff, Avi Kohavi, said plans for such a strike had been “greatly accelerated.” The military has been given an additional $1.5 billion to buy aircraft, drones and ‘bunker buster’ bombs that would probably include the USAF’s new 5000 lb. (2,267 kg.) GRU-72 Advanced 5k Penetrator, which would be aimed at Iran’s underground nuclear installations. Anticipating a simultaneous war with Hezbollah, Israel has also been carrying out extensive military exercises in northern occupied Palestine, coordinated with all emergency civil services to deal with an expected crisis on the domestic front once the missiles start falling. Israel is clearly planning for a big war, and can be expected to throw everything into this attempt to crush its principal enemies once and for all.

Unlike the white settlers in South Africa, the Zionist leadership sees no writing on the wall, no indications that history is not on their side even as it builds up against them.  No more than Netanyahu does Naftali Bennett have any intention of giving anything back to the Palestinians except the smallest fragments of municipal responsibility. Like Netanyahu, he sees no need to negotiate, no need to give anything away.  Why would he, when in the last resort Israel even has nuclear weapons to destroy its enemies? This is the question to which there can be no answer until the day comes when Israel faces the reality that even its conventional weapons are not sufficient to destroy its enemies.

All appearances to the contrary, unlimited US economic and military support has been a curse for Israel. It has created the illusion of power. Israel is like a plant with shallow roots. Only as long as the US keeps watering it, can the plant thrive. There is no permanent, unbreakable bond between states and all appearances to the contrary, there never will be between Israel and the US. Slowly, Americans are waking up and Israel’s incessant pleading is already beginning to fall on deaf ears, as the public becomes more aware of Israel’s criminality and as congressmen and women (mainly women) are emboldened to speak out. The time may come when the US can no longer afford Israel. The time may come when public opinion has changed to allow a US government to treat Israel as it treats other states.

US economic and military aid has had the same effect on Israel as steroids have on a bodybuilder. The 97-lb weakling is now the neighborhood bully swaggering down the street with pumped-up muscles. He smacks people around or they run in fright but Hezbollah and Iran are not running. They are standing firm and preparing to defend themselves. In any case, in the next war, Israel will take damage it has never experienced before, to the point where so many Jewish Israelis will just want to get out that Israel as a Zionist state is likely to crumble from within and die of its own contradictions.  Is this what it is going to take for peace to become possible?

Tourism is returning to Syria which is great news for the people and the world

Nov 14, 2021, RT.com

moi

by Eva K Bartlett

The wonders of Damascus, Aleppo and Palmyra are finally opening up to the world again after a decade of Western funded war.

Tourism is finally, slowly, beginning to return to Syria, from Jordan and further afield. Naturally, the governments that fueled terrorism in hopes of toppling Syria’s government are not happy about this development.

I haven’t seen much reporting on this momentous turn of events so far. However, one article I came across mentioned, “international tour agencies have started advertising trips to Syria for later this year and into early 2022,” writing that tours were booking quickly, from the UK and Germany.

This, albeit slow, return of tourism is a good thing—for the shattered economy and the tourists. Before the war, around 8.5 million tourists visited Syria in 2010. With its ancient cities and UNESCO heritage sites like Palmyra, Krak des Chevaliers, old Damascus, and old Aleppo, among others, Syria is a historian’s dream. Over the years, Syrians I’ve encountered frequently told me they wished tourists would return and, now, they can. Even I would like to return as a tourist, not a journalist, to just enjoy traveling across the country, taking in its amazing and ancient culture.

Beautiful Syria

While my fifteen visits to Syria since 2014 have been to report on events on the ground, and to refute the brazen lies of war propagandists in Beirut, Istanbul or still further abroad, I have also had the chance to see much of the country.

It would take far more room than I have here to write about the interesting experiences and beautiful things I’ve seen there (in addition to the tragic testimonies taken), so I’ll just choose a few and suggest those interested to browse the videos in my Syria playlist and likewise those of my colleague Vanessa Beeley, who lives in Syria.

Many who haven’t visited or studied Syria mistakenly assume it is all desert, but it is a rich tapestry of lush coastal regions, mountains, vast forests and lakes as well. During a six month stay last year, I had the chance to join an exploration group to hike and to camp in Latakia’s forests.

When I returned in March last year, I re-visited Aleppo, where city’s historic souks were being painstakingly restored. I saw a little more reconstruction than I had in previous visits, although the Western sanctions against Syria target reconstruction, in addition to crippling the economy and causing the devaluing of the Syrian pound—because that’s how America likes to help Syrians.

At the incredible Aleppo citadel a year prior, I spent an afternoon wandering around, speaking with people, seeing families enjoying themselves, couples holding hands, kids playing, youths dancing…This freedom of movement and enjoyment of life was impossible under the rule of the terrorists whom the West dubbed “rebels”.

Visiting Syria will be not only a fascinating touristic experience, but a profoundly moving one, with each encounter ramming home how terribly the Syrian people have suffered during the war.

In Aleppo last March, I met a man traumatized by the torture he had endured by these Western-backed mercenaries, kept in underground prisons, often in solitary confinement. These underground prisons were common in areas terrorists occupied around Syria.

When I visited the Old City of Homs after its liberation in 2014, the destruction its ancient churches was still fresh.

Volunteers have planted a garden in the courtyard of the burned St. Mary’s Church in Homs. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS
Volunteers have planted a garden in the courtyard of the burned St. Mary’s Church in Homs. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS

Similarly, in 2014 when I visited ancient Maaloula (where Aramaic is still spoken) just following its liberation, the damage to its ancient monasteries and homes was visible, soot still on walls from fires terrorists set.

Unique altar from around 325 AD smashed by plundering terrorists.
Terrorists mortared the dome of Sts. Sergius et Bacchus church.
Cave where terrorists holed up.
Nusra & co-mortared and looted church in the 4th century A.D. Monastery of Sts. Sergius et Bacchus
Terrorists mortared the dome of Sts. Sergius et Bacchus church.
Where Virgin Mary statue once stood.
Clifftop vantage from which to terrorize villagers below.

In 2016 when I revisited, much restoration had been done.

When I went back in September 2018, during the Festival of the Cross, I attended mass and joined the celebrations afterwards, where men carried others on their shoulders, swigging Arak in the main square, and entire families climbed up the mountainside to celebrate late into the evening, fire spinners creating mesmerizing blazes.

A friend from the village, Abdo Haddad, summarized the importance of the Festival of the Cross:

“Tonight we are celebrating the finding of the cross that happened 1700 years ago. This celebration is represented by putting fire on top of the mountains, from Jerusalem to Constantinople, to tell the people in Constantinople that the cross was found. Maaloula is the only place in the world that is still celebrating this custom. The only time that this custom stopped is when the so-called rebels and other ‘revolution’ people in Syria invaded Maaloula, and instead of putting fire on top of the mountain, they put our houses on fire.”

Had terrorism succeeded there, or across Syria, a rich culture and history would have been erased.

The City of Jasmine

During much of my time last year in Syria I was in Damascus, and I walked around the city daily, getting to know it like I had never had the time to before.

In Damascus, there is ancient history, culture and art everywhere you walk. Fragrant jasmine & bright bougainvillea adorn walls and archways. You can catch a concert at the beautiful Opera House, first class seating, for the equivalent of a dollar.

No, most Syrians can’t afford this now thanks to the shattered economy, but they used to be able to.

Walking around the city you can encounter musicians sitting on the remnants of a historic column and playing for the enjoyment of locals, likewise find oud players, and at night find youths gathered in a central Old City park, playing guitar and singing.

While wandering along the historic Straight Street, you pass endless shops selling handmade crafts and antiques. You’ll find artisans carrying on historic traditions, carving wood, hammering intricate patterns of inlaid silver, creating incredible wood and shell mosaics to adorn furniture, weavers, glass blowers and more. Elsewhere, you’ll find herbal medicine shops with items I can’t even name in English, stores with beautiful pyramids of spices, and the historic markets near the beautiful Umayyad Mosque.

And while most of my encounters have been in Arabic, you will find some English speakers, some due to the nature of their work, others because they have lived abroad. Many will tell you that they support their president, and why.

In the winding back lanes you’ll see men delivering fresh milk by bicycle, kids playing football, and encounter residents eager to talk with foreigners again, equally eager to emphasize that media has been lying about events in Syria. Some are happy to show you around their old Damascene homes (damaged by terrorists’ mortars).

In the many antique shops of the old city, you’ll find exquisitely-carved furniture, ornate chandeliers, and shop owners keen to speak to tourists again, inevitably speaking longingly of how good it was in Syria before the war.

A recent report on a visit to Syria by twelve Jewish New Yorkers, who had left the country some decades ago, revealed they were welcomed by the city residents with open arms, with one of the visitors saying, “We went to shops in every place. They got to know us and said to us, ‘Welcome, this is your country, why aren’t you coming back? Look what happened to the country, please come back.’”

Given the monstrous war propaganda against Syria and Syrians this past decade, people might be surprised by the warm reception the US-based Jews got but that’s the thing about Syrians: they by and large don’t do sectarianism. That was foisted upon them by truly sectarian, tyrannical, entities like Saudi Arabia.

In my many visits to Syria, I’ve had countless encounters with Syrians telling me how they share holidays with their friends of other faiths. And if you visit Syria over Christmas and New Years, you’ll find Muslims going to the holy Christian sites in Old Damascus, and posing for photos in front of Christmas trees in al-Qassaa. Likewise, during ‘Eid holidays, you’ll see streets filled with Muslims and Christians, celebrating and eating together.

After so many years of being terrorized by terrorist mortars, missiles and snipers, as Syrians around the country were, Syrians in Damascus are finally able to walk their streets without fear of being maimed or murdered. The current terrorism they face is the West’s war on the Syrian economy.

Moving On

On Tuesday, the UAE’s foreign minister met with President Assad, in Damascus, another sign of the thawing of relations from countries that turned their backs on Syria. This follows Jordan’s reopening of its Syrian border and resumption of tourism.

The US, predictably, is crying about this turn of events.

Annoyed that countries are renewing ties with Syria, wretched Western politicians continue to make allegations about Syria that have been refuted, like a chemical attack in Douma, or repeating the initial lies about Syria: lies about peaceful protests and a revolution in the country, long-exposed lies that they should be ashamed to utter in 2021.

But, no matter how much hypocritical US representatives denounce Syria, those sociopaths who backed terrorism in Syria have lost the war, and Syria will re-build. backed terrorism in Syria have lost the war, and Syria will re-build. So, yes, it is a very good thing for Syrians that foreign visitors will return to that beautiful country and put money into its economy. And for the tourists: the only real thing you will be disappointed in if you visit Syria is your time there coming to an end.

RELATED LINKS:

Syria playlist (youtube)

SYRIA: My Published Articles From and on Syria (2014-2021)

There are positive developments on the ground in Syria, but for America it’s sanctions and suffering as usual

A Western-backed war couldn’t destroy Syria, now sanctions are starving its people

Liberated Homs Residents Challenge Notion of “Revolution”

Devastation…and Inspiration: Recalling Liberated Ma’loula

Overcoming Savagery and Treachery, Maaloula’s Heroic Defenders Fight for the Future

The Terrorism We Support in Syria: A First-hand Account of the Use of Mortars against Civilians

University Hospital, Damascus: Meeting Victims of Western-backed Mortar and Rocket Terrorism

Deconstructing the NATO Narrative on Syria

Syria: NOT A Revolution! (video)

Olive Harvest Season: Another Palestinian Struggle against “Israel’s” Eco-Terrorism

Nov 13 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

By Rasha Reslan

Traditionally a festive season, this year’s olive harvest is once again overshadowed by Israeli vandalism and assaults, resulting in low yields due to the devastating impacts of the Israeli eco-terrorism.

The olive harvest season is yet another Palestinian struggle in the face of the colonial Israeli entity.

It could and should have been a seasonal family celebration. It could and should have been a peaceful encounter with nature. It could and should have been a harvest in the grove, where trees are tightly enrooted and extend as deep as Palestinian ancestors. It could and should have been the annual olive oil harvest season…

Instead, it is yet another Palestinian struggle in the face of a colonial Israeli entity.

“Israel” could not care less about mankind; would it care about an olive tree?” – Abed from the occupied West Bank.

Every year, the olive harvest takes place in Palestine in October and November. Unfortunately, it is not the usual harvest festival, as Palestinian farmers face a triple challenge, particularly in the occupied West Bank, according to a recent report published by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“My olives bear the brunt of Israeli aggression.” – A 60-year-old Palestinian woman from Salem village, east of Nablus city.

The triple challenge

The first is Israeli settlers, guarded by occupation forces, escalating their daily assaults against Palestinian farmers and their property. The second is “Israel” imposing access restrictions on farmers whose groves are located behind the separation barrier and close to Israeli settlements. The last is “Israel’s” acts of ecological terrorism that have long-lasting effects on climate.

“When I was a first-grader, I used to walk to school on footpath amid green plants at an olive orchid with my brother. As I became a freshmen student, the olive orchid was razed and an Israeli settlement was built in its place. “- Mohammad from Raba, a village in the West Bank village.

The nightmare season

To no one’s surprise, this harvest season too was disrupted by Israeli settlers, who physically assaulted farmers, vandalized or set fire to their trees, or harvested and stole their produce.

Last month, Israeli settlers committed daily assaults against Palestinians harvesting their olive season. In the West Bank, 365 Israeli settlers attacks were reported. This year, almost 8,000 olive trees have already been uprooted, although the season is not over yet.

“Life’s work disappeared in a second.”- Fouad from Raba.

“It’s like watching your children being cut down in front of you.”

Furthermore, ICRC data revealed that “over the period of one year (August 2020 – August 2021) more than 9,300 trees were destroyed in the occupied West Bank.”

“Here is what our eyes saw: a barren land, and dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of dead olive trees.” – Mona from the occupied West Bank.

“My uncle had a stroke at the sight of the trees being cut in front of him,” Mona added.

According to a study published in 2012 by the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ), Israeli occupation forces have uprooted 800,000 Palestinian olive trees in the West Bank since 1967.

In an exclusive interview for Al Mayadeen English, Lobby and Advocacy Director at the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) Moayyad Bsharat said that the UAWC has organized a yearly campaign to help Palestinian farmers in their olives harvest season, adding that 250 volunteers from several Palestinian universities have participated in this year’s campaign.

Bsharat further stated that 95 Israeli attacks against Palestinians have been reported during the campaign.

He also commented on “Israel’s” decision to designate UAWC among five other Palestinian organizations as “terrorist”, saying, as a Palestinian agricultural institution, we have been subjected to persecution and incitement campaigns by Israeli organizations for more than ten years. 

“The occupation and its settlers have a racist colonial project in the region, which is not restricted to plundering, confiscating, and occupying the land, but extends to uprooting the Palestinians entirely from it.”

“I mean, this classification presents “Israel” as a rogue entity against international law. If you review the Security Council’s definition of terrorism, you will find it embodied entirely in the occupation and its settlers. It is the one who kills children and women, arrests innocent civilians, and demolishes homes …”, he stressed.

“For us, the Israeli occupation’s decision is an intense expression of the size and importance of the work we are doing, and this is a renewed affirmation that we will pursue our mission and will not leave the Palestinian farmers who are facing the occupation on their own,” Bsharat concluded.

“I cannot enter my land” 

“I have 20 Dunams of olive trees. I cannot enter my land. The Israeli occupation forces prevent us from passing; they assault us whenever they see us in the area. They steal our water and vandalize our trees. I am in constant fear of losing my land and my tress.”

Palestinian farmers are deprived of their basic right to access their land, except for a few days a year. Meanwhile, Israeli permit approval rates have been diminishing over the years. The year-round restrictive access regime in these areas, which impedes essential agricultural activities, has continued to have an impact on olive productivity and value.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the approval rate fell from 71% of applications in 2014 to 37% in 2019. The rate further declined in 2020 to 24%. Furthermore, the Israeli authorities issued new standing regulations in September 2019 that limit the number of days farmers can access their land.

No other income 

Many Palestinian families rely on olive trees for their primary source of income, and vandalized trees mean less income and fewer opportunities for Palestinian families in general, and children in particular. The entire olive sector, including olive oil, table olives, pickles, and soap, is worth over $100 million per year, according to Oxfam International.

According to UN figures, olive trees cover approximately 48% of agricultural land in the West Bank and Gaza. Olive trees account for 70% of fruit production in Palestine and approximately for 14% of the Palestinian economy. 93% of the olive harvest is used to make olive oil.

“I don’t have any other income. I was counting on this harvest season to provide food to the table and to admit my son to college. After the Israeli settlers uprooted my olive trees, I cannot afford anything. My son just lost his hope of going to the university.”- Moaed from the West Bank.

West Bank trade remains largely isolated from global markets due to restrictions imposed on the movement of goods to, from, and within the occupied Palestinian territory, according to a July 2011 study by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

“My loss is so devastating to my family and my co-workers. I could not export our virgin olive oil because of the Israeli harsh restrictions. It is so hard for us to accept this nightmare.”- Zakaria from the occupied West Bank.

“We are the olive trees”

“Our relationship with the olive trees is untypical. It is not just a tree. It is part of my childhood memory,” explains a smiling Abed under an ancient 12-meter olive tree.

“Olive trees are a constant reminder that the danger is nearing us. The colonial entity aims to uproot our identities and construct a new identity which is different from ours”, Abed sighs.

In an exclusive interview for Al Mayadeen English, the young Palestinian man, speaking emotionally, added that “Israel” wants to erase his memories and banish him from existence, affirming that the Palestinian olive tree is a symbol. 

“We are the olive trees. It symbolizes how the colonial Israeli entity wants to uproot Palestinians and expel them from their own land, just like it uproots an olive tree; “Israel” wants to kill me in the same way it kills an olive tree and builds a new future on our past”.

Abed commented on the famous photo of an old Palestinian woman holding onto an olive tree, by saying that this Palestinian woman is not holding onto the tree because it is a tree. “The olive tree symbolizes her childhood, her first love, her first family gathering, her roots, and her fear of being uprooted from her land.”

“The Olive tree is so important since it represents our Palestinian identity. It is directly related to our land, our steadfastness, and our resilience”. 

“And just as they uproot our olive trees and we replant them, we will liberate Palestine and return to Palestine, all of Palestine,” he concluded.

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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Raisi: US Efforts to Impose Hegemony Have ‘Failed Miserably’

September 22, 2021

Raisi: US Efforts to Impose Hegemony Have ‘Failed Miserably’

By Staff, Agencies

Iranian President Sayyed Ebrahim Raisi said the US efforts to impose hegemony on other countries have “failed miserably,” and that Washington’s hegemonic system lacks credibility.

Raisi made the remarks during the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly via video conference on Tuesday night, in his first address to the main policy-making organ of the world body since taking office last month.

“This year, two scenes made history: one was on January 6 when the US congress was attacked by the people and, two, when the people of Afghanistan were dropped down from the US planes in August. From the Capitol to Kabul, one clear message was sent to the world: the US’ hegemonic system has no credibility, whether inside or outside the country,” Raisi told the UN General Assembly.

“What is seen in our region today proves that not only the hegemonist and the idea of hegemony, but also the project of imposing Westernized identity have failed miserably. The result of seeking hegemony has been blood-spilling and instability and, ultimately, defeat and escape. Today, the US does not get to exit Iraq and Afghanistan but is expelled,” he added.

The Iranian president further noted that Washington is using sanctions as a “new way of war” against other nations, stressing that the US sanctions against the Islamic Republic during the coronavirus pandemic are “crimes against humanity.”

“Sanctions are the US’ new way of war with the world countries. Sanctions against the Iranian nation started not with my country’s nuclear program; they even predate the Islamic Revolution and go back to the year 1951 when oil nationalization went underway in Iran,” Raisi said at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly.

“Despite the fact that the Islamic Republic was keen from the outset to purchase and import COVID-19 vaccines from reliable international sources, it faced inhumane medical sanctions. Sanctions, especially on medicine at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, are crimes against humanity,” he noted.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian president stressed that Tehran has been adhering to its nuclear commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] while Washington violated the 2015 landmark accord‎, stressing that the US so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran has failed.

“Today, the whole world, including the Americans themselves, have admitted that the project of countering the Iranian people, which manifested itself in the form of violating the JCPOA and was followed by the “maximum pressure” and arbitrary withdrawal from an internationally recognized agreement, has totally failed,” Raisi said.

“We want nothing more than what is rightfully ours. We demand the implementation of international rules. All parties must stay true to the nuclear deal and the UN Resolution in practice,” he added.

Raisi also said that Iran has “no trust in US promises,” and wants all anti-Tehran sanctions to be removed at once, noting that the Islamic Republic considers the nuclear talks useful only when their ultimate outcome is the lifting of all unilateral sanctions.

Lebanon to Prevail Despite US-‘Israeli’ Efforts to Sabotage Its Resistance

 July 27, 2021

Visual search query image

By Mohammad Youssef

Lebanon is a country which is crisis-bred. The state is plagued with a series of Isms; sectarianism, confessionalism, and nepotism. This has brought the whole political system into complete paralysis. Ever since its establishment under the French mandate Lebanon has suffered from deep structural dilemmas.

The elite or the founding fathers of the state has prescribed a recipe that rendered it vulnerable to all kinds of problems and calamities.

The country of the elite that was introduced once as Switzerland of the orient is suffering now from a myriad of very serious problems; political, economic, social, financial and monetary ones. Researchers and scholars have designated Lebanon crisis as one of the worst in the world in the last 150 years.

Lebanon imports everything and rarely exports any. The budget deficit is immense. The price of basics whether food, medication and fuel is skyrocketing. The value of the Lebanese lira to dollar is dwindling dramatically; hence most of the consumed materials come from abroad, dollars should be paid at a time when the country is running out of the hard currency. As the value of the dollar is going up, the Majority of the Lebanese families cannot afford the basics. More segments of the society are joining the poverty underline.

On the state level, most of the governmental sectors are on the verge of collapse.

The state as earlier mentioned has been established as a corporate business investment to serve a very limited elite and few families. People has no value or any worth to them, they could simply lock down their business without any consideration to the sufferings of the people.

What is worth mentioning is that the structural ailments of the Lebanese political system that has been created and shepherd by the Western countries are not the only cause for its ominous crisis; what exacerbated the situation is the continuous American siege against Lebanon which was culminated by the sanctions against Lebanon and Syria.

The US administration has a single goal; guaranteeing the Zionist entity security and eliminating any threat or obstacle to its settlement expansionist occupation plots. Because of its triumphant resistance, Lebanon nowadays represents an existential threat to US-‘Israeli’ plots against Lebanon and the region. As the US and ‘Israel’ tried every aspect possible to eliminate this threat to no avail, they are trying now to weaken it by pressuring the people on every level in an attempt to plans a wedge between the resistance and its supporters.

Once again be assured, the US-‘Israeli’ efforts to sabotage the resistance strength will not work.

Indeed, the situation is very difficult, and the hardships are many, nonetheless the resolve and determination to confront is very willful obstinate. A new stage of challenges are on the run but we will not run out of faith. No threats without opportunities. We will face and resist, and we will definitely get the best. They will fail, we will prevail, God willing.

Al-Assad’s Vow and Syria’s Comeback

15 July 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

By Rasha Reslan

Ahead of the Syrian President’s much-awaited inauguration speech, here is a quick review of how al-Assad stepped in and boosted his country’s stature and resources during his first term, despite a global military war and extreme economic sanctions.

Recent victory in the latest elections has further emboldened al-Assad
The recent victory in the latest elections has further emboldened al-Assad

On Saturday, July 17, Bashar al-Assad will begin his new term as Syria’s President, setting his policies for 2021-2028.

On May 27, the Syrian government’s official Twitter account posted: “The Syrians had their say. Bashar al-Assad wins the presidential elections of the Syrian Arab Republic after obtaining 95.1% of the votes at home and abroad.”

The victory achieved in the latest elections has further emboldened al-Assad, the President who managed not only to defeat a global conspiracy against his country but also to bring Syria back to life, against all odds and despite one of the world’s most brutal decade-old wars.

Al-Assad’s First Term: The Survival of the Fittest

During the period between 2014-2021, the conspiracy plan against Syria rapidly escalated. Hundreds of foreign fighters and armed groups sprung up, and it did not take long before the conflict turned into more than just a battle between the Syrian army and terrorist groups. Certain foreign powers took the anti-government side, supporting it with money, weaponry, and armed groups, and as the wreaked chaos worsened, the grip of western-backed extremist organizations, such as “ISIS” and “al-Qaeda”, tightened. 

Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad didn’t flee his country. On the contrary, he got off to a fresh strong start. By most measures, he stood with his country, despite gloomy clouds and rumbling storms. His overall strategy booted terrorist groups out of major Syrian cities. On the personal level, al-Assad always scores high for his attributes, as most Syrians like the way he conducts himself as president.

Terrorist Groups Fall in Syria

At its height, as terrorist groups held about a third of Syria; al-Assad, the Syrian army, and Syria’s allies redefined victory in a thundering War on Terror. The so-called “US-led global coalition” carried out airstrikes and deployed “Special Forces” in Syria, providing financial and logistical support for the terrorist groups since 2014. 

US-backed terrorist groups in Syria
US-backed terrorist groups in Syria

Syria’s key supporters have been Russia and Iran, while Western powers and several Gulf Arab states have backed terrorist groups in varying degrees over the past decade.

By December 2017, terrorist groups started to suffer key losses in Aleppo, Raqqa, and other strongholds. In 2018, the focus of the campaign against the terrorists shifted to eastern Syria. In 2019, they lost their last bastion in eastern Syria, in Baghouz village, after which Syria declared victory over terrorism.

Today, the country is almost clean from armed groups except for the presence of dormant cells along the border with Iraq and in Idlib (a city in northwestern Syria).

US Sanctions:  A Trifling Opening Shot

US support for terrorist groups in Syria was a shot in the dark, and as it failed to win the military war on Syria, they initiated a new type of war represented by Caesar sanctions. 

In mid-June 2020, the US government announced the implementation of the “Caesar Act” with a flurry of sanctions. Yet a closer look at the 15 sanctions by the US Department of State and the 24 sanctions by the Department of Treasury reveals a brutal plan to destroy Syria’s economy and inflict utmost suffering on its people.

A Desperate Plan within a Failed One

Apropos the US military and economic war on Syria, there is much more yet to come. Syria and its allies have succeeded in defeating the flurry of sanctions aimed at stopping the al-Assad government from reconstructing Syria. They also buried a US plan to change the demography of Syrian and divide the country. 

Rebuilding Syria’s Future 

The main question remains: How will the future of Syria unfold? At the dawn of al-Assad’s new term, Syria continues to stand strong and united. Furthermore, the Syrians have high hopes that their President will take effective actions in the course of boosting the economy and achieving overall prosperity, despite the US sanctions.  

Besides, al-Assad exerted strained efforts to reconstruct his country, focusing on projects with the highest likelihood of significant economic returns and benefits to quality of life. In other words, al-Assad, side by side with his people, is conveying a clear message to the world which declares the end of the global war on Syria; al-Assad will remain in power, treading the path of Syria out of all the challenges and crises. Syria’s allies also plan to be on hand as al-Assad rebuilds Syria to help it rise from the ashes, by handling the security and economic threats imposed on Syria.

The Second Term: Defying the Odds

To put things into perspective, the last election witnessed al-Assad securing almost 95.1% of the votes, so this cannot but be seen as a sign of strength for Syria and al-Assad himself, as well as his electoral campaign.

Today, the elections had taken place, and Syria has come out victorious, with an insistence on maintaining its vital role, considering that al-Assad plans to finance the infrastructure that the terrorist groups have been targeting and bombing for the past 10 years.

The Syrian President will also tackle the US sanctions on Syria, aiming to accelerate economic growth, strengthen society, and encourage youth empowerment.


What is Syria?

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