Blowback: Taliban target US intel’s shadow army

August 29, 2021

The Kabul Airport bombing shows there are shadowy forces in Afghanistan, willing to disrupt a peaceful transition after US troops leave. But what about US intel’s own ‘shadow army,’ amassed over two decades of occupation? Who are they, and what is their agenda?

by Pepe Escobar with permission and special and first posting for the new website The Cradle.

Blowback: Taliban target US intel’s shadow army

So we have the CIA Director William Burns deploying in haste to Kabul to solicit an audience with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, the new potential ruler of a former satrapy. And he literally begs him to extend a deadline on the evacuation of US assets.

The answer is a resounding “no.” After all, the 31 August deadline was established by Washington itself. Extending it would only mean the extension of an already defeated occupation.

The ‘Mr. Burns goes to Kabul’ caper is by now part of cemetery of empires folklore. The CIA does not confirm or deny Burns met Mullah Baradar; a Taliban spokesman, delightfully diversionist, said he was “not aware” of such a meeting.

We’ll probably never know the exact terms discussed by the two unlikely participants –  assuming the meeting ever took place and is not crass intel disinformation.

Meanwhile, Western public hysteria is, of all things, focused on the imperative necessity of extracting all ‘translators’ and other functionaries (who were de facto NATO collaborators) out of Kabul airport. Yet thundering silence envelops what is in fact the real deal: the CIA shadow army left behind.

The shadow army are Afghan militias set up back in the early 2000s to engage in ‘counter-insurgency’ – that lovely euphemism for search and destroy ops against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Along the way, these militias practiced, in droves, that proverbial semantic combo normalizing murder: ‘extrajudicial killings,’ usually a sequel to ‘enhanced interrogations.’ These ops were always secret as per the classic CIA playbook, thus ensuring there was never any accountability.

Now Langley has a problem. The Taliban have kept sleeper cells in Kabul since May, and much earlier than that in selected Afghan government bodies. A source close to the Ministry of Interior has confirmed the Taliban actually managed to get their hands on the full list of operatives of the two top CIA schemes: the Khost Protection Force (KPF) and the National Directorate of Security (NDS). These operatives are the prime Taliban targets in checkpoints leading to Kabul airport, not random, helpless ‘Afghan civilians’ trying to escape.

The Taliban have set up quite a complex, targeted operation in Kabul, with plenty of nuance – allowing, for instance, free passage for selected NATO members’ Special Forces, who went into town in search of their nationals.

But access to the airport is now blocked for all Afghan nationals. Yesterday’s double tap suicide-car bombing has introduced an even more complex variable: the Taliban will need to pool all their intel resources, fast, to fight whatever elements are seeking to introduce domestic terror attacks into the country.

The RHIPTO Norwegian Centre for Global Analyses has shown how the Taliban have a “more advanced intelligence system” applied to urban Afghanistan, especially Kabul. The “knocking on people’s doors” fueling Western hysteria means they know exactly where to knock when it comes to finding collaborationist intel networks.

It is no wonder Western think tanks are in tears about how undermined their intel services will be in the intersection of Central and South Asia. Yet the muted official reaction boiled down to G7 Foreign Ministers issuing a mere statement announcing they were “deeply concerned by reports of violent reprisals in parts of Afghanistan.”

Blowback is indeed a bitch. Especially when you cannot fully acknowledge it.

From Phoenix to Omega

The latest chapter of CIA ops in Afghanistan started when the 2001 bombing campaign was not even finished. I saw it for myself in Tora Bora, in December 2001, when Special Forces came out of nowhere equipped with Thuraya satellite phones and suitcases full of cash. Later, the role of ‘irregular’ militias in defeating the Taliban and dismembering al-Qaeda was feted in the US as a huge success.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai was, to his credit, initially against US Special Forces setting up local militias, an essential plank of the counter-insurgency strategy. But in the end that cash cow was irresistible.

A central profiteer was the Afghan Ministry of Interior, with the initial scheme coalescing under the auspices of the Afghan Local Police. Yet some key militias were not under the Ministry, but answered directly to the CIA and the US Special Forces Command, later renamed as the infamous Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

Inevitably, CIA and JSOC got into a catfight over controlling the top militias. That was solved by the Pentagon lending Special Forces to the CIA under the Omega Program. Under Omega, the CIA was tasked with targeting intel, and Special Ops took control of the muscle on the ground. Omega made steady progress under the reign of former US President Barack Obama: it was eerily similar to the Vietnam-era Operation Phoenix.

Ten years ago, the CIA army, dubbed Counter-terrorist Pursuit Teams (CTPT), was already 3,000 strong, paid and weaponized by the CIA-JSOC combo. There was nothing ‘counter-insurgency’ about it: These were death squads, much like their earlier counterparts in Latin America in the 1970s.

In 2015, the CIA got its Afghan sister unit, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), to establish new paramilitary outfits to, in theory, fight ISIS, which later became locally identified as ISIS-Khorasan. In 2017, then-CIA Chief Mike Pompeo set Langley on an Afghan overdrive, targeting the Taliban but also al-Qaeda, which at the time had dwindled to a few dozen operatives. Pompeo promised the new gig would be “aggressive,” “unforgiving,” and “relentless.”

Those shadowy ‘military actors’

Arguably, the most precise and concise report on the American paramilitaries in Afghanistan is by Antonio de Lauri, Senior Researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute, and Astrid Suhrke, Senior Researcher Emerita also at the Institute.

The report shows how the CIA army was a two-headed hydra. The older units harked back to 2001 and were very close to the CIA. The most powerful was the Khost Protection Force (KPF), based at the CIA’s Camp Chapman in Khost. KPF operated totally outside Afghan law, not to mention budget. Following an investigation by Seymour Hersh, I have also shown how the CIA financed its black ops via a heroin rat line, which the Taliban have now promised to destroy.

The other head of the hydra were the NDS’s own Afghan Special Forces: four main units, each operating in its own regional area. And that’s about all that was known about them. The NDS was funded by none other than the CIA. For all practical purposes, operatives were trained and weaponized by the CIA.

So, it’s no wonder that no one in Afghanistan or in the region knew anything definitive about their operations and command structure. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), in trademark infuriating bureaucratese, defined the operations of the KPF and the NDS as appearing “to be coordinated with international military actors (emphasis mine); that is, outside the normal government chain of command.”

By 2018, the KPF was estimated to harbor between 3,000 to over 10,000 operatives. What few Afghans really knew is that they were properly weaponized; well paid; worked with people speaking American English, using American vocabulary; engaged in night operations in residential areas; and crucially, were capable of calling air strikes, executed by the US military.

A 2019 UNAMA report stressed that there were “continuing reports of the KPF carrying out human rights abuses, intentionally killing civilians, illegally detaining individuals, and intentionally damaging and burning civilian property during search operations and night raids.”

Call it the Pompeo effect: “aggressive, unforgiving, and relentless” – whether by kill-or-capture raids, or drones with Hellfire missiles.

Woke Westerners, now losing sleep over the ‘loss of civil liberties’ in Afghanistan, may not even be vaguely aware that their NATO-commanded ‘coalition forces’ excelled in preparing their own kill-or-capture lists, known by the semantically-demented denomination: Joint Prioritized Effects List.

The CIA, for its part, couldn’t care less. After all, the agency was always totally outside the jurisdiction of Afghan laws regulating the operations of ‘coalition forces.’

The dronification of violence

In these past few years, the CIA shadow army coalesced into what Ian Shaw and Majed Akhter memorably described as The Dronification of State Violence, a seminal paper published in the Critical Asian Studies journal in 2014 (downloadable here).

Shaw and Akhter define the alarming, ongoing process of dronification as: “the relocation of sovereign power from the uniformed military to the CIA and Special Forces; techno-political transformations performed by the Predator drone; the bureaucratization of the kill chain; and the individualization of the target.”

This amounts to, the authors argue, what Hannah Arendt defined as “rule by nobody.” Or, actually by somebody acting beyond any rules.

The toxic end result in Afghanistan was the marriage between the CIA shadow army and dronification. The Taliban may be willing to extend a general amnesty and not exact revenge. But to forgive those who went on a killing rampage as part of the marriage arrangement may be a step too far for the Pashtunwali code.

The February 2020 Doha agreement between Washington and the Taliban says absolutely nothing about the CIA shadow army.

So, the question now is how the defeated Americans will be able to keep intel assets in Afghanistan for its proverbial ‘counter-terrorism’ ops. A Taliban-led government will inevitably take over the NDS. What happens to the militias is an open question. They could be completely taken over by the Taliban. They could break away and eventually find new sponsors (Saudis, Turks). They could become autonomous and serve the best-positioned warlord paymaster.

The Taliban may be essentially a collection of warlords (jang salar, in Dari). But what’s certain is that a new government will simply not allow a militia wasteland scenario similar to Libya. Thousands of mercenaries of sorts with the potential of becoming an ersatz ISIS-Khorasan, threatening Afghanistan’s entry into the Eurasian integration process, need to be tamed. Burns knows it, Baradar knows it – while Western public opinion knows nothing.

كيف تواجه المقاومة خطة بومبيو لتنقذ لبنان؟

 العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط _

بعد ان تأكد لأميركا انّ عدوانها على سورية ومحور المقاومة فشل في تحقيق أهدافه بعد حرب كونية اعتمدت «استراتيجية القوة العمياء» التي تقوم على الإرهاب والتدمير، انقلبت في العام ٢٠١٨ الى العدوان الانتقامي الإجرامي بالحرب الاقتصادية التي عوّلت عليها لمنع مكونات محور المقاومة من استثمار الانتصار وإطلاق عملية إعادة البناء لا بل وترمي الى التجويع والتركيع وتفجير المجتمعات من الداخل لتحيل الانتصار الذي تحقق الى جثة لا روح فيها. وبذلك تنتقم أميركا ومن معها في الإقليم ممن منعها من النجاح والانتصار وألحق بها هزيمة استراتيجية ستتوالى ارتداداتها السلبية على أميركا وموقعها وعلاقتها الدولية لزمن ليس بالقصير.

وفي إطار العدوان الأميركي بالصيغة الجديدة اعتمدت أميركا «قانون قيصر» لتحاصر سورية في إطار ما تسمّيه «عقوبات” أميركية ضدّها، أما لبنان فقد وضعت لتدميره وإسقاط مقاومته ما أسمي «خطة بومبيو» ذات المراحل الخمسة التي تبدأ بالفراغ السياسي وتنتهي بعدوان «إسرائيلي» ضدّ المقاومة يعوّل عليه لتفكيك هذه المقاومة ونزع سلاحها في حرب تكون مسبوقة بدفع لبنان الى الانهيارات الثلاثة المالي والاقتصادي والأمني.

كان الاطمئنان الأميركي لنجاح خطة تدمير لبنان الخماسية المراحل شبه تامّ خاصة أنها اتكلت في تنفيذها على لبنانيين يتولون مقاليد الدولة العميقة في كلّ مفاصلها السياسية والإدارية والمالية والاقتصادية والدينية، وهي تملك سيف إرهابهم بفرض العقوبات عليهم ومصادرة أموالهم التي نهبوها من خلال توليهم السلطة والهيمنة في تلك الدولة.

وبالفعل كان لأميركا ما تريد عندما وضعت «خطة بومبيو» موضع التنفيذ في ربيع العام ٢٠١٩ عندما جاء وزير خارجيتها آنذاك جورج بومبيو الى لبنان لإطلاقها والتقى تباعاً بكلّ «الأشخاص اللبنانيين القياديين» الموكل إليهم أمر تنفيذها، وفي هذا الإطار كانت استقالة سعد الحريري في خريف العام ٢٠١٩ إثر «ثورة الست سنتات على الواتس أب» وما تبعها من إغلاق المصارف وحبس أموال المودعين وتتالي الانهيارات التي أكدت أنّ المراحل الثلاث الأولى من خطة بومبيو تتحقق بنجاح.

امام هذا الواقع أدركت المقاومة انها تتعرّض لحرب من نوع جديد وأنها امام تهديد جدي، او بشكل أدقّ أمام حرب شاملة عليها وعلى بيئتها وكلّ من يرى فيها سيفاً للدفاع عن لبنان وحقوقه، تهديد لا يتعلق بموقع او ملف عابر، بل تهديد وجودي يتصل بأصل وجودها واستمرارها تهديد يتمثل في هجوم تنخرط فيه مواقع دينية وسياسية واقتصادية ومالية وإعلامية وفكرية، تهديد يكاد يكون في صيغته وحجمه وتعدّد عناوينه غير مسبوق منذ ان نشأت.

هذا التهديد ألزم المقاومة بوضع خطة دفاع متكاملة ومتدرّجة تعتمد مبادئ الاحتواء والتعطيل حينا وقواعد إطلاق البدائل حينا اخر والبقاء على أتمّ الجهوزية العسكرية والميدانية في كلّ المراحل والحالات، ومن هنا كان موقف المقاومة حيال الفراغ السياسي حيث انها تمسكت بحكومة سعد الحريري في خريف ٢٠١٩ ورفضت استقالتها لكنها لم تستطع الإبقاء عليها لأنّ الحريري كان ينفذ خطة موضوعة ويقوم بما طلب منه في إطارها. كما أنها رفضت استقالة حسان دياب وتمسكت به فلم تستطع إبقاءه أمام الضغوط التي فرضت عليه، وقدّمت كلّ التسهيلات في سبيل إنجاح مصطفى أديب ثم سعد الحريري ثم نجيب ميقاتي في تشكيل الحكومة لكنها لم توفق حتى الآن في مسعاها لأن القرار الأميركي بالفراغ الأمني كمرحلة مفتاحية من مراحل خطة بومبيو لا يزال ساري المفعول وسيبقى تشكيل الحكومة الجديدة متعذراً طالما انّ القرار هذا مستمرّ، وطالما انّ أميركا تدرك بأنّ تشكيل الحكومة يعني نقضاً للفراغ السياسي والشروع بوقف أو إفشال خطة بومبيو.

بيد انّ المقاومة التي ليس بيدها أمر التشكيل ولا يعود اليها القرار به تجد نفسها من غير اقتدار على معالجته، فإنها في الوقت عينه تجد نفسها قادرة على إفشال الخطة الأميركية من أبواب أخرى. منها الأمن والاقتصاد، وطبعاً التصدي لـ «إسرائيل».

وفي حين قام المولجون بتنفيذ خطة بومبيو بأكثر من استفزاز وتحرّش لإحداث التفجير الأمني في أكثر من مكان وموقع على الأرض اللبنانية، لم يكن آخرها حوادث الجية وخلدة وشويا، فإنّ المقاومة تعاملت مع الأحداث تلك بصبر وروية مع إحالة الأمر لصاحب الصلاحية القانونية في المعالجة أيّ الدولة، وتمسكت بشعار أنّ الأمن مسؤولية الدولة مع الإبقاء على جهوزية تمكن من الحسم إذا وصلت الامور الى محلّ لا يبقى متاحاً للدفاع عن النفس إلا طريق واحد هو الفعل الشخصي.

اما على الصعيد الاقتصادي والمالي فقد وقفت المقاومة على حقيقة مرّة هي انّ اللبنانيين بأنفسهم وفي ظلّ منظومة الاحتكار والسيطرة والهيمنة والفساد والوكالات الحصرية هم من قاد البلاد الى الانهيارين المالي والاقتصادي وأنتج بيئة العوز والفقر والجوع، وبادرت الى فعل من شأنه أن يخط شعار كسر الحصار الأميركي ويفتح أبواباً للبنان لا تستسيغ ولا تتقبّل أميركا فتحها لما فيها من انقلاب استراتيجي على صعيد الاقتصاد اللبناني.

لقد كان قرار المقاومة باستيراد النفط الإيراني رغم ما تفرضه أميركا عدواناً على إيران بما تسمّيه العقوبات، كان هذا القرار فعل تحدّ وشجاعة وقوّة يُفهم أميركا ومن معها بأنّ هناك بدائل للطرق التي تقطعها، ويكون وظيفة قرار المقاومة بشأن النفط واستيراده من إيران ليس تأمين كلّ احتياجات لبنان من النفط، وهو أمر يفوق طاقات المقاومة ويبقى في الأساس مسؤولية الدولة، والمقاومة لم تدّع يوماً بأنها ستحلّ محلّ الدولة، بل يكون القرار كسراً لحصار أميركي وإفهام أميركا انّ المقاومة القادرة في الميدان عسكرياً للدفاع عن لبنان وعن نفسها هي قادرة على إيجاد البدائل التي تعطل مفاعيل حصارها.

وهكذا تكون المقاومة التي تفلتت حتى الآن من محاولات جرّها الى الفوضى والانهيار الأمني، والتي تبادر لكسر الحصار والتخفيف من سلبيات الانهيار المالي والاقتصادي ومع البقاء في أعلى جهوزيتها وقوتها العسكرية تكون قد أرسلت رسالة قوية لكلّ من يعنيه أمر خطة بومبيو تخطيطاً وتنفيذاً ونتائج، مفادها انّ الخطة فاشلة وستضيف الى الفشل الأميركي في الحرب الكونية على المقاومة فشلاً آخر لأنها لن تصل الى تحقيق مبتغاها بشأن المقاومة ولن تفتح الطريق أمام «إسرائيل» لشنّ عدوانها وتفكيك المقاومة خاصة بعد ان تلقت الرسالة من مزارع شبعا بتثبيت قواعد الاشتباك التي تحمي لبنان ومقاومته.

ومع هذه الحقيقة الإيجابية تبقى هناك سلبيات تتصل بمعاناة الشعب اللبناني الذي لا تعبأ أميركا به بل فرضت عليه الوقوف بطوابير الذلّ أمام محطات المحروقات والصيدليات الخ… والأكثر إيلاماً في هذا المشهد انّ من ينفذه على أرض الواقع هم لبنانيون ممّن ارتهنتم أميركا وهدّدتهم بنفوذهم وأموالهم ومصالحهم فانقلبوا الى ذئاب ينهشون مواطنيهم ويحتكرون الدواء والبنزين والمازوت والغاز وقد يحتكرون غداً الرغيف مع السلع الغذائية… كلّ ذلك لتحصيل المال الحرام لجيوب العملاء وإرضاء أميركا في تنفيذ خطة تدمير لبنان من أجل تدمير المقاومة التي أثبتت قوّتها وأكدت أنها عصية على ذلك.

وعليه نقول إنّ المواجهة على أرض لبنان حتى الآن بين أميركا ومن معها من أدوات محلية او أجنبية من جهة وبين المقاومة ومحورها من جهة أخرى لم تلحق الضرر بالمقاومة ولا يبدو أنها قادرة على النيل منها في ظلّ إبداعات المقاومة في الأداء الدفاعي، لكنها أدّت الى إنزال الفظائع والمآسي بالشعب اللبناني الذي جعلته أميركا طريدة مباشرة لإرهابها الاقتصادي وضحية للفراغ السياسي وهدّدته في أمنه وماله وعيشه، وضع أنتجه الفكر الأميركي الشرير وصنعه بأيد لبنانية عملية. وضع لن يتوقف كما يبدو إلا عندما تقتنع أميركا بأنّ عدوانها لن يحقق أهدافه، أو أن يتراجع اللبنانيون الذين تتخذهم أميركا أدوات تنفيذية عن لعب هذا الدور الخسيس.

* أستاذ جامعي ـ باحث استراتيجي

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ماذا بعد التشكيلة الوزاريّة الحريريّة الكيديّة… والاعتذار؟

*أستاذ جامعي – خبير استراتيجي
 العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط _

عندما رشّح سعد الحريري نفسه لرئاسة لحكومة بعد أن دفع عبر حلفائه حكومة حسان دياب للاستقالة وأفشل مصطفى أديب في مهمة تشكيل حكومة وفقاً للمبادرة الفرنسية، ظنّ الحريري أنّ الظرف مؤاتٍ له ولحلفائه في الداخل ومناسب لمن يعمل بإمرتهم في الخارج، مؤات لصياغة وضع يستفرد به مع حلفائه بحكم لبنان بواسطة «مجلس إدارة» يُقصي به الأكثرية النيابية عن الحكم عبر مصطلح اختصاصيّين ويرمّم عبره العلاقة مع السعودية ويستعيد موقعه وموقع أبيه في تلك المملكة الغاضبة عليه اليوم.

لكن حسابات الحريري اصطدمت بالواقع المركّب داخلياً وخارجياً، ففي الداخل واجه الحريري صلابة من رئيس الجمهورية الذي لم يؤخذ بالضغط والتهويل ولم يرعبه الحصار الاقتصادي الأميركي الضاغط، ولم يفتّ من عضده ما قام به البعض لإحداث انقلاب داخلي أو تحميله مسؤولية عرقلة تشكيل الحكومة وتسليم الأمر والحكم لسعد الحريري ومَن معه في الداخل ومَن يديره من الخارج.

لقد تمسّك رئيس الجمهورية بنصوص الدستور وأحكامه الناظمة لتشكيل الحكومة والتي تعطيه حق المشاركة الفاعلة في تشكيل الحكومة خلافاً لما أراده الانقلابيّون من عمل مغاير لروح النص الدستوريّ وحرفه، وأفشل سعيهم إلى جعل توقيع رئيس الجمهورية لمرسوم تعيين الوزراء وتشكيل الحكومة عملاً آلياً إلزامياً لا موقع لإرادة الرئيس فيه قبولاً أو رفضاً.

أما خارجياً فقد وجد الحريري أنّ رهانه على متغيّر ما في الموقف السعودي منه، هو رهان خاطئ وتأكد له بشكل قاطع أنّ الصورة التي عاشها يوم اعتقاله قبل 4 سنوات على ولي العهد السعودي لا تزال هي هي لا بل اشتدّت قسوة عليه. تأكد له ذلك بعد سلسلة من الوساطات الخارجية العربية والدولية فشلت كلها في حمل السعودية على مراجعة مواقفها من سعد الحريري الذي بات مطروداً من «نعيم مملكة الخير» ولم تفلح الوساطات الإماراتية أو المصرية أو الفرنسية أو الأميركية في ثني السعودية عن موقفها السلبي الحادّ منه والذي أبلغته للوسطاء والمتضمّن القول إنّ سعد الحريري شخص سعودي الجنسية أساء لوطنه مالياً وسياسياً وعليه أن يؤدي الحساب قبل أي تقييم آخر للعلاقة به، وبالتالي عرف جميع الوسطاء أنّ باب السعودية مقفل بوجه سعد إلى إشعار آخر إنْ لم يكن إغلاقاً أبدياً.

هذه الخيبة وفشل الرهانات دفعت سعد الحريري الذي كلف بتشكيل الحكومة بعد أن «فاز بأصوات تكاد لا تتعدّى نصف أعضاء مجلس النواب وليس فيهم إلا أقلية مسيحية جعلت البعض يطعن بما يسمّونه «الميثاقية» في التكليف لكون الكتلتين المسيحيتين الأساسيتين استنكفتا عن تسميته، هذه الخيبة حوّلت الحريري من سياسي مكلف بمهمة عاجلة تتضمّن تشكيل حكومة إنقاذ لبنان إلى «سائح سياسي» يهدر الوقت وهو يستمرّ باحثاً عن طرق ينقذ بها نفسه حاضراً ومستقبلاً، وبدل أن تشكل الحكومة في أيام قليلة وتنصرف إلى العمل أهدر الحريري ما يقرب من الأشهر التسعة سائحاً جوالاً في الخارج وزائراً ظرفياً للبنان بحيث أنه أمضى معظم المدة في بلاد الوساطات والاغتراب بعيداً عن لبنان وهمومه، مهلة قفز فيها الدولار الأميركي من 6500 يوم تكليف الحريري إلى 20000 ألف ليرة اليوم. وترسّخ أكثر الانهيار المالي والانهيار الاقتصادي وتهدّد الأمن والسلم الوطني، أما الحريري فقد كان باحثاً في سياحته السياسيّة عن رضا السعودية، ومرتاحاً إلى دعم حلفائه في الداخل الذين لهم حساباتهم الشخصية في الموضوع حسابات منعت الحريري عن الاعتذار.

لقد استفاد الحريري من خلوّ الدستور من نص على مهلة قصوى للتشكيل يسقط بعده التكليف، واستفاد من وضعه داخل طائفته باعتباره «الأقوى تمثيلاً فيها» بحيث لا يجرؤ أحد على قبول المهمة إنْ لم يرضَ الحريري بذلك، كما استفاد من خشية أطراف داخلية من فتنة سنية شيعية إذا أزيح الحريري من غير رضاه عن مقعد رئاسة لحكومة أو تشكيلها، كما استثمر في علاقات تربطه ببعض الخارج الذي يرى مصلحة في وجود الحريري رئيساً للحكومة، استفاد من كلّ ذلك واتخذ من التكليف والتشكيل رهينة بيده يبتز بها حتى يحقق مصالح له ولحلفائه على حساب المصلحة الوطنية ومصالح الشعب.

ومن جهة أخرى تكامل تصرف الحريري مع خطة بومبيو الموضوعة ضدّ لبنان، لا بل شكل في تصرفه ذاك الوجه الآخر للحصار الأميركي الذي ارتكز إلى فساد الطبقة السياسية اللبنانية وتسبّب معه بالانهيار الاقتصادي والمالي بعد الفراغ السياسي، وبعد 9 أشهر من المماطلة والتسويف واثر تنازلات كثيرة قام بها الطرف الآخر من أجل الإنقاذ، قدّم الحريري تشكيلة حكوميّة انقلب فيها على ما كان اتفق عليه خلال الوساطات السابقة ووضع رئيس الجمهورية بين حلين سيّئين أو سيّء وأشدّ سوءاً، حيث إنّ الموافقة على تشكيلة الحريري كما وردت من غير نقاش وتفاهم أو اتفاق مع الرئيس يعني تخلي الرئيس عن الصلاحية وإطاحة بالدستور وإنشاء أعراف جديدة غير دستورية في الموضوع، ثم من يضمن ألا يستقيل الحريري بعد تعيينه وأن يمتنع بعد ذلك عن تصريف الأعمال كما هي عادته ويستمرّ الفراغ السياسي الذي أسّس له الحريري قبل سنتين؟ أما رفض التشكيلة صيانة للصلاحيات وتطبيقاً للدستور والتسبّب باعتذار الحريري سيعني استمرار الفراغ مع احتمال تسارع الانهيار المتعدد الأشكال.

في المحصلة لم يكن سهلاً على رئيس الجمهورية اتخاذ القرار بالقبول مع هذه الهواجس، كما لم يكن سهلاً عليه رفض التشكيلة مع ما يعني دفع الحريري إلى الاعتذار، كما يشتهي الحريري نفسه لأنه يخرجه «بطلاً طائفياً» على أبواب الانتخابات النيابية. والحريري الذي أيقن أنّ السعودية لن تفتح بابها له يعرف أنّ الحكم بالنسبة إليه مستحيل مع غياب الرضا السعودي، وأنّ مهلة الأشهر الطويلة التي استهلكها لم يكن يعالج فيها العقبات الداخلية بل جلها كان من أجل معالجة الغضب السعودي.

وعليه نرى أنّ ما فعله الحريري من تقديم التشكيلة الوزارية إلى رئيس الجمهورية وبالشكل الذي حصل وما تبعها من مواقف وتصريحات أطلقها مع إعطائه الرئيس مهلة 24 ساعة للإجابة، إنما هو فعل كيديّ يشكل فخاً للرئاسة وكميناً للبنان كان يتوخى منه الحريري صنع بيئة الاعتذار ليخرج بطلاً، لأنه يعلم جازماً أن ليس ميشال عون قائد الجيش السابق ورئيس الجمهورية الحاضر وصاحب المواقف الصلبة، ليس ميشال عون من يُفرَض عليه شيء بالأمر الواقع وتطاح بصلاحياته الدستورية، لذلك كان ينتظر الحريري الرفض وكان يحضر للاعتذار المؤكد الذي تأخر سبعة أشهر.

والآن وقد حصل الاعتذار ووضع لبنان أمام خيارات صعبة تتراوح بين الطموح بالحلّ وبين الرعب من الانفجار، فإنّ السؤال كيف نتلمّس طريق الحلّ؟

اعتقد أنّ الحلّ السريع بعد كلّ ما حصل لن يكون إلا عن طريق إيجاد صيغة دستوريّة ما لتفعيل الحكومة الحالية، وفقاً لقاعدة «الضرورات تبيح المحظورات»، وتوكل إلى هذه الحكومة رعاية الشأن الاقتصادي لمنع الجوع، ومتابعة الوضع الأمني لمنع الانفجار، إجراء انتخابات نيابية قبل موعدها بأشهر عدة مع مبادرة رئيس الجمهورية بالموازاة مع ذلك لإطلاق حوار وطني يكون بمثابة مؤتمر تأسيسي لتحديد مستقبل لبنان. هذا إذا نظرنا إلى الأمور بجدّية وعقلانية… وإلا فلننتظر انفجاراً لا يصمد بعده إلا من هيّأ لنفسه ما يحميه ويمنع الأخطار العظمى من النيل منه.

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Zarif: Netanyahu Meets Same Fate of Anti-Iran Co-Conspirators in History’s Dustbin

June 3, 2021

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Zarif made the remarks in a Thursday tweet, comparing Netanyahu’s fate to that of other major anti-Iran figures in the US, who were the Israeli PM’s close allies in his plots against Tehran, including former US President Donald Trump, his former national security advisor John Bolton, and his secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

“Netanyahu has joined the disgraceful journey of his anti-Iran co-conspirators—Bolton, Trump and Pompeo—into the dustbin of history,” Iran’s foreign minister said.

Zarif asserted that Iran continues to stand tall, pointing out that the same fate has been repeated for Iranians’ ill-wishers over several millennia, adding, “Time to change course.”

According to a statement by the UN General Assembly, as of January 13, 2021, ten member states were subject to the provisions of Article 19 of the Charter, namely Iran, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Libya, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Under Article 19 of the Charter of the United Nations, members whose arrears equal or exceed the amount of their contributions due for two preceding full years lose their voting rights.

The Charter also gives the General Assembly the authority to decide “that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the member,” and in that case a country can continue to vote.

The top Iranian diplomat also published his previous letter to Guterres, in which he conveyed Iran’s “strong dismay” over his announcement, saying the decision is “fundamentally flawed, entirely unacceptable and completely unjustified” due to Washington’s illegal sanctions on Iran.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is fully committed to fulfill[ing] its financial obligations to the United Nations and will continue to make every effort to settle the arrears in the payment of its financial contribution to the UN and other international organizations as soon as the underlying imposed conditions, i.e. the US unlawful unilateral coercive measures, is removed,” Zarif’s letter read.

Zarif’s tweet came after earlier in the day, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the country’s payment of its UN membership dues has been made possible through a South Korean bank and the debt will be paid soon.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has always promptly acted to pay its membership dues to the United Nations, and the problem that arose last year was due to the blocking of the payment route by the United States,” Khatibzadeh told IRNA.

He said the United Nations Secretariat is completely aware of the details of the issue, which he said was not Iran’s fault whatsoever.

According to Khatibzadeh, in negotiations with the UN Treasury, Iran had proposed to transfer the money from its financial resources in South Korea, and it was decided that the Treasury try to remove barriers to the money transfer and pursue acquiring a permit from OFAC (the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control) for the transfer.

“The permit was recently issued and the way for withdrawing the membership dues from Iran’s account in the [South] Korean bank and transferring it to the UN account in Seoul has been paved, and this payment will be made soon,” he added.

Source: Iranian Agencies

Blockbuster: Biden Rolling Back Israel’s ‘Free Ride,’ Ready to Recognize Palestinian State

Plans for ‘reset’ of PA ties include rollback of Trump policies legitimizing settlements, $15 million in COVID-related aid to Palestinians

Times of Israel: The Biden administration will reportedly push for a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines, with mutually agreed upon land swaps, reinstating US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to more traditionally held positions than those of former president Donald Trump.

memo titled “The US Palestinian Reset and the Path Forward,” which was revealed Wednesday to the Abu Dhabi-based The National, also showed that the Biden administration is planning on announcing a $15 million aid package in coronavirus-related humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians as early as this month.

Drafted by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr, the memo also details plans to roll back various Trump policies that Washington believes made reaching a two-state solution more difficult, such as US legitimization of the settlement enterprise.

Amr recommends in the memo that the White House back a two-state framework “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps and agreements on security and refugees.”

Hady Amr, now US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs, speaks at the Brookings Institute, where he was a fellow, on December 3, 2018. (Screen capture/YouTube)

While behind closed doors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has participated in peace negotiations based on the 1967 lines, publicly the formula is not very popular in Israel, particularly among the right wing, which is expected to further expand in the Knesset after next week’s election.

The memo discusses “rolling back certain steps by the prior administration that bring into question our commitment or pose real barriers to a two-state solution, such as country of origin labeling.”

The memo was referring to a last-minute policy change announced by Trump’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo, which requires all US exports from the settlements to be labeled as having been “made in Israel.”

Since 1995, US policy had required products made in the West Bank and Gaza to be labeled as such. That directive was republished in 2016 by the Obama administration, which warned that labeling goods as “made in Israel” could lead to fines. Prior to the Oslo Accords, however, all products manufactured in these areas were required to mention Israel in their label when exporting to the United States.

The Pompeo order went into effect in December, but manufacturers were given a 90-day grace period, until March 23, to implement the change.

“As we reset US relations with the Palestinians, the Palestinian body politic is at an inflection point as it moves towards its first elections in 15 years,” the new memo reads. “At the same time, we [the US] suffer from a lack of connective tissue following the 2018 closure of the PLO office in Washington and refusal of Palestinian Authority leadership to directly engage with our embassy to Israel.

The Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization, pictured in 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trump closed the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s diplomatic mission in Washington in 2018, against the backdrop of the PA’s boycott of his administration following the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In 2019, the Trump administration shuttered the US consulate in Jerusalem, which served as the de facto embassy to the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. The mission was folded into the US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem and the previous position of consul-general was dissolved.

Before the Trump administration began tightening the screws on the PA in 2018 for refusing to engage with its peace efforts, the United States was the single largest donor country to the PA.

The US paid hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the PA’s creditors, such as the Israeli state utility companies from which the Palestinians purchase water and electricity. They paid for training for the PA’s security forces and numerous infrastructure projects.

Washington also gave hundreds of millions a year in funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency — known as UNRWA — which is in charge of administering the daily needs of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants across the Middle East.

The memo, which was passed along to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, highlights UNRWA in particular as one of the organizations the Biden administration plans to back in order to aid the Palestinians.

Israel accuses UNRWA of perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, criticizing the agency’s practice of extending refugee status to millions of descendants, rather than only to the original refugees as is the norm with most refugee populations worldwide.

Then-US president Donald Trump (L) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas leave following a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

Noting major economic disparities between Israelis and Palestinians, the memo states that the Biden administration is “planning a full range of economic, security and humanitarian assistance programs [for Palestinians], including through UN Relief and World Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).”

“State and USAID are working towards a restart of US assistance to the Palestinians in late March or early April,” the memo says, adding that the COVID-related humanitarian relief package will be announced beforehand.

The memo reveals the administration’s plans to “take a two-fold approach of maintaining and ideally improving the US relationship with Israel by deepening its integration into the region while resetting the US relationship with the Palestinian people and leadership.”

It notes Amr’s “listening sessions” with senior officials in the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry who “welcomed the restart of US-Palestinian relations.”

The United States consulate building in Jerusalem, March 4, 2019. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Notably, those two offices are controlled by Blue and White ministers Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi who hold more moderate public stances on the Palestinian issue than Netanyahu and his Likud party. Gantz and Ashkenazi have taken pride in their efforts to block Netanyahu’s West Bank annexation plans last year.

One section of the memo likely to please both sides of the political spectrum in Israel is its support for expanding the normalization agreements brokered by the Trump administration between Israel and its Arab and Muslim neighbors.

However, Amr also writes of using such agreements “to support Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and improve the quality of life for the Palestinian people.” Netanyahu has sought to divorce the normalization deals from the Palestinian issue, arguing that the peace deals prove that Israel can expand its diplomatic ties in the region without making concessions to the Palestinians.

As previously pledged by Biden officials, the memo floats the idea of reopening an independent consulate akin to the one that served as the de facto mission to the Palestinians and operated out of the western part of Jerusalem until 2019. Doing so would signal US recommitment to a two-state solution, the document says. However, no final decisions have been made yet on the matter.

Benny Gantz (left) and Gabi Ashkenazi of the Blue and White party arrive to give a joint a statement in Tel Aviv on February 21, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The memo notes the Biden administration’s commitment to engaging the international community via the UN and the Middle East Quartet, which consists of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia.

The document notes the upcoming Palestinian legislative elections in May and presidential elections in July, adding that it has been 15 years since Palestinians have been able to elect their representatives.

“But the implications of an election remain uncertain: the collapse of a power-sharing agreement after the prior elections led to the Hamas takeover of Gaza [in 2007],” the memo says, noting the PA request that the US push Jerusalem to allow elections to take place in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, but not stating Washington’s position on the matter.

“We are analyzing the evolving situation and will propose a US posture together with the inter-agency,” the memo reads.

The lack of position on elections is likely to disappoint Ramallah as Palestinian officials have been lobbying Washington in recent weeks to come out in support of the democratic process, sources familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel.

Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Joe Biden after their meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, March 10, 2010. (AP/Bernat Armangue)

Amr recommends the Biden administration push the PA to clamp down on incitement while also calling out Israeli settlement expansion on land that Palestinians hope will be part of their future state.

The memo reveals that talks are underway with the PA leadership aimed at altering Ramallah’s controversial payment of stipends to Palestinian security prisoners, including those convicted of terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

The altered policy currently being discussed in Ramallah would base the stipends on prisoners’ financial need rather than the length of their sentence, senior Palestinian officials told The Times of Israel in January.

The Biden administration will also seek to boost Palestinian institutions. “This includes strengthening civil society, media watchdogs and other elements of the fourth estate, such as emphasizing to the [Palestinian Authority] the need to protect civil society through the reductions of arrests of bloggers and dissidents,” the memo reads.

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Blinken Talks the Talk, but Will He Walk the Walk?

During his 24 years as a senior foreign correspondent for The Washington Times and United Press International, Martin Sieff reported from more than 70 nations and covered 12 wars. He has specialized in US and global economic issues.

Martin Sieff

March 8, 2021

Biden has so far made no move whatsoever to rein in the continued bold and potentially very dangerous US military exercises with allies right up to the very borders of Russia.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s March 3 speech at the US State Department should be warmly welcomed around the world, especially in Caracas and Tehran: It does indeed mark a highly significant shift in US foreign policy and deserves to be taken at face value: But it does not address fundamental policy conflicts with Russia and China that Biden inherited from his predecessors – and not just Donald Trump. And it is these far bigger, unaddressed issues that may very well yet propel the world into a nightmarish thermonuclear war.

Blinken in his speech made an acknowledgement that his predecessors Mike Pompeo, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton would never have been capable of – and that John Kerry was never allowed to admit.

Blinken openly admitted that there had been US efforts to topple governments by force that Washington was critical of. He further openly acknowledged that some of those efforts had failed and that they had badly discredited the cause of democracy and the United States itself around the world.

“We will incentivize democratic behavior, but we will not promote democracy through costly military interventions or by attempting to overthrow authoritarian regimes by force. We tried these tactics in the past. …they haven’t worked. They have given democracy promotion a bad name and they have lost the confidence of the American people. We will do things differently,” Blinken said.

There is every reason to believe that Blinken was sincere in his commitment to forswear efforts at regime change in both Iran and Venezuela.

First, the very day before his important speech, Blinken held a telephone conversation with Venezuelan opposition politician Juan Guaido, whom Trump, Pompeo and then National Security Adviser John Bolton farcically tried to promote as the legitimate president of Venezuela. US allies around the world, especially in Europe and Latin America have been humiliatingly led by the nose to publicly support this absurd contention, akin to incredibility to claiming that Venezuela’s great Angel Falls flow up not down, or that the World is Flat.

No details of what Blinken discussed with Guaido have yet emerged at this time of writing but it is very clear what the secretary of state’s message was: Like so many previous corrupt and vanity-filled dupes eager to grab the coattails of America’s imagined New Rome global imperium, Guaido was told he was going to be thrown under the bus.

This move is clearly demanded by US pragmatic interests. If there is one lesson that Wall Street and its US government servants have followed for the past 150 years since the rise of John D. Rockefeller and J. P Morgan: It is to back Winners and throw Hopeless Losers to the wolves.

Guaido certainly counts as a Hopeless Loser: He has gained no discernible political, popular or military support within Venezuela, despite the continuing suffering caused by the ongoing US economic war launched against Caracas by President Joe Biden’s old boss and close friend Barack Obama in 2014 and then enthusiastically intensified by Trump and Pompeo.

Does that mean the economic war against Venezuela will end? Certainly not. Blinken himself, like his master, President Biden supported it 100 percent during the Obama administration. And the new administration, already the source of Republican wrath for its domestic economic and social policies, will not casually open up a new front where it can be attacked as wimps.

Like brutalized children, liberal Democrats have been terrified of such accusations ever since Senator Joe McCarthy accused them of “losing China ” (China was never theirs to lose) and being soft on communism back in 1950.

Also, ending the economic war on Venezuela would require decisive and original action and Blinken, like Biden and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, has owed his long, slow, steady rise precisely to following the golden rule of liberal Democrats since the days of party presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson in the 1950s: Never take a strong, sustained position on anything , good or bad. Even when you see a policy is leading you off the edge of a cliff, just slow it down a bit and still tumble over the cliff to your political doom. Never dare to actually stop, or reverse any disastrous course of action.

These simple principles determined the endless foreign policy fiascos of Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama and even to some degree Bill Clinton.

Clinton was led by the nose, though reluctantly, to bomb Serbia and risk needless confrontation with Russia by his secretary of state Madeleine Albright and her lifelong mentor, Russia-phobic former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Blinken’s foreswearing of any effort at direct regime change therefore appears to be part of a policy that while initially appearing moderate will never lead to anything truly constructive.

Blinken, like Biden and Sullivan, wants to restore US participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran for no better reason than that they all supported it and helped negotiate it in the first place for Obama.

However, the new administration has already made clear it does not dare risk driving Saudi Arabia into China or Russia’s arms. Blinken’s speech may indeed lead to the return of US participation in the JCPOA, something America ‘s European allies and the Iranians would both welcome. But it looks unlikely so far to lead to anything else.

Also, so far, Biden has so far made no move whatsoever to rein in the continued bold and potentially very dangerous US military exercises with allies right up to the very borders of Russia. Yet if these moves had been carried out by the Russian Air Force and Navy off the shores or close to the territories of the United States, they would provoke complete outrage.

Similarly, the US armed forces are plunging ahead, secure in both administration and bipartisan congressional support, to step up military deployments in the Western Pacific openly proclaimed as containing China within the two Island Chains of the great ocean.

Blinken’s speech should indeed be welcomed as a positive first step towards reducing global tensions: But it is far too early to celebrate whether he will continue to walk the walk even while he talks the talk.

New US admin stands for same grotesque & brutal policies against Venezuela, shows just how little they actually CARE for people

moi

Eva Bartlett

Mar 4, 2021, RT.com

Venezuelan non-president, Juan Guaido, is back in headlines after the new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called him to discuss America’s favorite talking points: “a return to democracy” via “free and fair elections.”

I’m sure the irony will not be lost on those who question the legitimacy of the US election that saw Biden take power.

Anyway, you would have to have been offline or in a coma for the past couple of years to not be aware of some key facts about ‘interim president’ Guaido and US “concern” for Venezuelans.

Venezuelans didn’t vote for Guaido to be president, he hasn’t even stood for president. Venezuelans voted for Maduro. America can huff and puff and whine, but that won’t change the reality.

Guaido named himself ‘interim president’, to the support of only roughly 50 countries – leaving a glaring nearly 150 countries not recognizing this Western-groomed stooge as Venezuela’s leader.

Further, Guaido not only isn’t president of the country, he is no longer president of the National Assembly. As a result, recently, even the EU dropped its recognition of Guaido as interim president. He is a Western-groomed thug who fully backs America’s aggression and sanctions against his own country.

Venezuela’s election process has been recognized as transparent and effective, with former US President Jimmy Carter in 2012 calling it “the best in the world.” On the other hand, Venezuelan opposition, as well as Western nations, have interfered with and attempted to sabotage elections.

As for America’s grave “concern” for Venezuelans, the US in February 2019 staged a “humanitarian aid” delivery via Colombia (“aid” which contained nails and wire, likely meant for opposition barricades), blaming Maduro for “burning food & medicine,” when in fact the trucks were burned by “opposition” supporters. That same month, President Trump threatened military intervention against Venezuela.

The US allegedly sabotaged Venezuela’s power grid in March 2019 (and then blamed the Maduro government for the power failure).

And two former US Special Forces soldiers were in May 2020 arrested in a failed invasion (with the goal of capturing Maduro) which allegedly the Trump administration and Guaido himself were involved in.

President Maduro blamed the August 2018 drone assassination attempt on Colombia and elements in the US. The US was also linked to the kidnapping and coup against former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

But aside from those and many other provocations against Venezuela, it is the brutal sanctions against the country that is a clear indicator of just how little America cares for the people.

As many have already surmised, the Biden administration is a continuation of the previous admin’s policies, and Blinken is the new Pompeo. They even sound the same.

  • Blinken to Ukraine’s foreign minister: “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” “Russian aggression...”
  • Pompeo to the same“support for #Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is ironclad,” “Russia and its proxies’ intransigence, aggressive actions...”
  • Blinken on Crimea: “Russia’s invasion and seizure,” “we call on Russia to end its occupation,” “#CrimeaisUkraine” (newsflash: it’s not, and there was no invasion).
  • Pompeo on the same: “#Crimea is #Ukraine,” “We call on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea.

And of course, their American speak on Guaido is also the same, with both Blinken and Pompeo feigning concern for the lives of the Venezuelan people.

Flogging a dead horse named Guaido

The guy just isn’t popular in Venezuela, not now, not back in early 2019 when America & allies tried to foist him onto Venezuelans.

When I traveled to Venezuela in March 2019, aside from documenting the lack of chaos that Western pundits and media insisted was ongoing at the time, I also tried to find evidence of the massive support the same pundits and media claimed Guaido had.

I had seen on various occasions massive demonstrations of solidarity with President Maduro, the man who average Venezuelans support, particularly impoverished indigenous and Afro-Venezuelans who are conveniently ignored by Western media.

On March 30, I spent a good chunk of the day riding around on motorcycle taxi trying to find pro-Guaido protests which had been advertised, instead at designated sites and times finding none, a trickle, or pro-Maduro protesters instead.

Later the same day, I saw another massive pro-Maduro demonstration.

In encounters with Venezuelans during my few weeks in Caracas, I met people who made clear they didn’t support Guaido and what they were fighting for.

In a hilltop community, one such man told me:

We are poor people, but we are proud, we have dignity. We are fighting against Imperialism, against rich people that want our country, that want us as slaves, that want our oil, our water. But we will win.

The governments of the United States and other nations want to tell everybody that we are starving, we are dying in the streets, we are being oppressed by our government. But we’ve never been more free than now, in spite of all the problems we do have.”

He and others spoke of the extreme racism and discrimination Afro-Venezuelans and indigenous Venezuelans faced before Chavez came to power.

Before, we were treated like nothing, we were treated only as workers, that was it. Say to your governments, this isn’t a fight against Maduro, this is a fight against the people that are trying to be free.”

I won’t even repeat some of the unbelievable racist slurs they were subject to.

Some months later, back in Ontario, I met Ronald Abache, an Afro-Venezuelan who attended a lecture I gave. During the question period, he was so articulate about racism in Venezuela, “very alive, but hidden under class status,” that I asked to record his words.

In 1999, for the first time ever in any country in South America, a law was passed to not discriminate against people of color. People that never had a voice now have one and will never give it up again. You can go to the remotest area in my country and everybody can read. Everybody knows their rights and knows that their voice counts.”

He also challenged the opposition to answer one question:

What would they do different? What is their plan? If they’re planning to go back to those great old days (sarcasm), the people are not having it. Two million militias, old people, young people, everybody knows what the United States is doing. My mother is 70, she’s about to join the militia!

These are just some of the people marginalized by Western media and politicians. The ones who claim concern for Venezuela.

As Mr. Abache noted, Venezuelans themselves aren’t going to accept US hegemony, not only the leadership. I got a powerful sense of that in the demonstrations I observed and from the people I spoke with.

The new Biden administration may want to pressure Venezuela into compliance, but the people won’t accept that.

RELATED:

US is manufacturing a crisis in Venezuela so that there is chaos and ‘needed’ intervention 

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Why Israel is joining the Pentagon’s ‘Arab Nato’ لماذا تنضم “إسرائيل” إلى القيادة المركزية الأميركية

Israel’s inclusion in Centcom will further harm the Palestinian cause, drive a wedge between Arab states and raise the heat on Iran

Flags of the US, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are projected on the ramparts of Jerusalem’s Old City in celebration of Israeli normalisation deals with the UAE and Bahrain, 15 September 2020 (AFP)
Jonathan CookJonathan Cook, a British journalist based in Nazareth since 2001, is the the author of three books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is a past winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His website and blog can be found at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net

Jonathan Cook

2 February 2021 12:21 UTC 

With none of the usual fanfare associated with such a momentous decision, the Pentagon announced last month a major reorganisation to bring Israel – for the first time – inside its military command in the Middle East alongside the Arab states.

Until now, Israel has belonged to the US military’s European command, or Eucom, rather than the Middle Eastern one, known as Central Command, or Centcom. The decision effectively jettisoned the traditional wisdom that Israel’s inclusion in Centcom would increase friction between the US and Arab states, and would make the latter more reluctant to share intelligence or cooperate with the Pentagon. 

Those concerns were felt especially keenly when the US had large numbers of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Back in 2010, David Petraeus, then Centcom’s commander, expressed fears that the price of too-overt military collusion with Israel could be exacted on US forces stationed in the region. 

But Israel’s long-standing goal has been to force the Pentagon to restructure Centcom, and pressure had mounted from pro-Israel lobby groups in Washington in the final months of the Trump administration. The decision looked very much like a “parting gift” to Israel from President Donald Trump as he stepped down.

Military ‘normalisation’

Israel’s formal transfer to Centcom has not yet taken place, but the move was cemented last week with the first visit to Israel by General Kenneth McKenzie, the current head of Centcom, since Joe Biden entered the White House. Alongside Israel’s military chief of staff, Aviv Kohavi, McKenzie planted a tree – officially to mark the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat but symbolically representing a new era in their strategic partnership. 

The decision to bring Israel inside Centcom is best viewed – from Washington’s perspective – as the culmination of efforts to push the Arab states into public ‘normalisation’ with Israel

On Friday, after a meeting with the US general, Benny Gantz, Israel’s defence minister, issued a statement praising the Pentagon’s reorganisation, saying it would “afford Israel opportunity to deepen cooperation with new regional partners and broaden operative horizons”.

The decision to bring Israel inside the US military command in the Middle East is best viewed – from Washington’s perspective – as the culmination of efforts to push the Arab states into public “normalisation” with Israel. 

Military normalisation can now be added to the political, diplomatic and economic normalisation that formally began last September when two Gulf states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, signed the so-called Abraham Accords with Israel. Morocco and Sudan have also announced their own peace deals with Israel, and other Arab states are likely to follow suit once the dust settles with the incoming Biden administration. 

Since the signing of the Abraham Accords, the UAE has been forging strong trading ties with Israel and has helped to establish the Abraham Fund, designed to finance the infrastructure of occupation Israel has used to deprive the Palestinians of statehood. When flights to Dubai were launched in November, Israeli tourists poured into the UAE to take advantage of the new friendly relations and escape lockdown restrictions back home. 

In fact, it is widely reported that such visits have become one of the main ways Israel has imported new variants of Covid-19. Last week, Israel effectively closed its borders – except to General McKenzie – to keep the virus in check. 

Growing confidence

On the face of it, Israel’s desire to move into Centcom – a kind of Middle East Nato covering several Arab states with which Israel still has hostile relations – appears counter-intuitive. But, in fact, Israel will make major strategic gains. How Gulf states became business partners in Israel’s occupationRead More »

It will align US security interests in the region even more closely with Israel’s, at the expense of its Arab neighbours. It will aid Israel’s continuing efforts to crush the national ambitions of the Palestinians, with many Arab states’ either explicit or implicit cooperation. It will accentuate political tensions within the bloc of Arab states, further weakening it. And it will help to build pressure on recalcitrant Arab states to join the broader consensus against Israel’s one remaining significant regional foe: Iran.

It is significant that Washington’s long-standing concern about Israel’s presence in Centcom damaging US relations with the Arab states has apparently evaporated. 

Once, the US was careful to distance itself from Israel whenever the Pentagon got deeply mired in the region, whether it was the US Gulf war of 1990 or the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. Those calculations no longer seem relevant.

The move demonstrates a growing US confidence that the Arab states – at least those that matter to Washington – are unperturbed about being seen to make a military accommodation with Israel, in addition to political and economic engagement. It underscores the fact that the oil-rich Gulf states, alongside Israel, are now the key drivers of US foreign policy in the region and suggests that the most important, Saudi Arabia, is waiting for the right moment to sign its own accord with Israel. 

Move out of the shadows

Israel, it is expected, will continue to conduct military exercises in Europe with Nato countries, but will soon be able to build similar direct relations with Arab armies, especially those being rapidly expanded and professionalised in the Gulf using its oil wealth. 

US Marine Corps General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. (L), Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), shakes hands with Saudi military officers during his visit to a military base in al-Kharj in central Saudi Arabia on July 18, 2019.
US General Kenneth McKenzie (L), commander of US Central Command (Centcom), shakes hands with Saudi military officers on 18 July 2019 (AFP)

As the Israeli scholar Jeff Halper has noted, Israel has shown how effective it is at translating its military and security ties with armies and police forces around the world into diplomatic support in international bodies. 

The Middle East is not likely to be different. Once Israel has become the linchpin of more professionalised armies in the region, those states dependent on its help can be expected to further abandon the Palestinian cause.

Regional divide-and-rule

Another dividend for Israel will be complicating Washington’s relations with the Arab region. 

Not only does Centcom operate major bases in the Gulf, especially in Bahrain and Qatar, but it leads the proclaimed “war on terror”, with overt or covert operations in several Arab states, including Iraq and Syria. 

With Israel inside Centcom, the US and its most favoured Arab states are also likely to be more directly implicated in Israel’s major military operations against the Palestinians, such as the repeated ‘wars’ on Gaza

It will be harder for the US to disentangle itself from Israel’s own openly belligerent operations, including air strikes, in both countries, that are conducted in flagrant violation of international law. Tensions between the US and Baghdad have in the past escalated over Israeli air strikes in Iraq, with threats to limit US access to Iraqi airspace.  

With Israel inside Centcom, the US and its most favoured Arab states are also likely to be more directly implicated in Israel’s major military operations against the Palestinians, such as the repeated “wars” on Gaza. 

This will pose a significant challenge to the region’s cooperative institutions such as the Arab League. It is almost certain to drive an even deeper wedge between pro-Washington Arab states and those accused of being on the wrong side of the “war on terror”.

The result could be a regional divide-and-rule policy cultivated by Israel that mirrors the decades-long, disabling divisions Israel has generated in the Palestinian leadership, most pronounced in the split between Fatah and Hamas.

Anti-Iran front

The biggest bonus for Israel will be a more formal alliance with Arab states against Iran and shepherding more ambivalent states into Israel’s orbit. 

That appears to have been the purpose of the recently well-publicised reconciliation between the UAE and Saudis on one side and Qatar on the other, achieved in the dying days of the Trump administration. One of the chief causes of the lengthy blockade of Qatar related to its insistence on maintaining political and economic ties with Tehran.

the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Hossein Salami (R) watching a launch of missiles during a military drill in an unknown location in central Iran
Head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hossein Salami (R), watches missiles being launched during a military drill in central Iran on 15 January 2021 (AFP)

Israel’s aim is to force the Biden administration’s hand in continuing Trump’s belligerent anti-Iran policy, which included aggressive sanctions, assassinations and tearing up the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran signed by Barack Obama. That deal had given inspectors access to Iran to ensure it did not develop a nuclear bomb that might neutralise the strategic clout Israel gains from its nuclear arsenal.

Once Israel has become the linchpin of more professionalised armies in the region, those states dependent on its help can be expected to further abandon the Palestinian cause

Inside Centcom, Israel will be able to work more closely with Gulf allies to sabotage any efforts inside Washington to revive the nuclear accord with Tehran. That point was underscored last week when an online security conference, hosted by Tel Aviv University, was attended by two Gulf ministers.

At the conference, Kochavi, Israel’s military chief of staff, issued an unprecedented public rebuke to Biden over recent statements that he wished to revive the nuclear deal. Kochavi called the agreement “bad and wrong strategically and operatively”, claimed that Iran would launch nuclear missiles at Israel once it had them, and declared that a go-it-alone attack by Israel “must be on the table”. 

Bahrain’s foreign minister, Abdullatif al-Zayani, observed that Israel and the Gulf states would have a better chance of preventing any US conciliation towards Iran if they spoke in a “unified voice”. He added: “A joint regional position on these issues will exert greater influence on the United States.” 

That view was echoed by Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s foreign affairs minister.

Middle East bogeyman

In a sign of how the Biden administration is already fearful of taking on a broad Middle Eastern alliance against Iran, the new president’s pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said last month it was “vitally important” to consult with Israel and the Gulf states before re-entering the deal.Is the UAE plotting with Israel against Palestinian refugees?Read More »

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, desperate to bolster his electoral fortunes and deflect attention from his looming corruption trial, has every incentive to prise open that chink. 

Ensuring Iran remains the Middle East’s number one bogeyman – the focus of western hostility – is in the joint interests of an Israel that has no intention of ending its decades-old obstruction of Palestinian statehood and of Gulf states that have no intention of ending their own human rights abuses and promotion of Islamic discord.

Mike Pompeo, Trump’s departing secretary of state, planted a landmine last month designed to serve Israeli and Saudi interests by highlighting the fact that a number of al-Qaeda leaders have found shelter in Iran. That echoed the Bush administration’s – in this case, entirely fanciful – claim of ties between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein as a pretext, along with non-existent WMD, for the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

With Israel’s arrival in Centcom, the lobbying for a repeat of that catastrophic blunder can only grow – and with it, the prospects for renewed conflagration in the Middle East.

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

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition

“ميدل إيست آي”: لماذا تنضم “إسرائيل” إلى القيادة المركزية الأميركية

المصدر: ميدل إيست آي
11 شباط 12:24

إن انضمام “إسرائيل” إلى القيادة المركزية الأميركية سيزيد من إلحاق الضرر بالقضية الفلسطينية وسيدق إسفيناً بين الدول العربية ويزيد من حدة التوتر مع إيران.

صورة تجمع ماكينزي بغانتس وكوخافي خلال زيارته

كتب جوناثان كوك مقالة في موقع  “ميدل إيست آي” البريطاني قال فيه إن البنتاغون أعلن الشهر الماضي عن إعادة تنظيم كبيرة لإدخال “إسرائيل” – لأول مرة – داخل قيادتها العسكرية في الشرق الأوسط، القيادة المركزية الأميركية ، إلى جانب الدول العربية، وهذا القرار الخطير لم يحدث أي من الضجة المعتادة.

وأضاف: حتى الآن، تنتمي “إسرائيل” إلى القيادة الأوروبية للجيش الأميركي، أو ، بدلاً من القيادة في الشرق الأوسط، المعروفة باسم القيادة المركزية . لقد تخلص القرار بشكل فعال من الحكمة التقليدية القائلة بأن إدراج “إسرائيل” في القيادة المركزية الأميركية من شأنه أن يزيد الاحتكاك بين الولايات المتحدة والدول العربية، وسيجعل الأخيرة أكثر إحجاماً عن مشاركة المعلومات الاستخباراتية أو التعاون مع البنتاغون. فقد تم الشعور بهذه المخاوف بشكل خاص عندما كان للولايات المتحدة أعداد كبيرة من القوات في العراق وأفغانستان. في عام 2010، أعرب الجنرال ديفيد بتريوس، قائد القيادة المركزية الأميركية آنذاك، عن مخاوفه من احتمال دفع ثمن التواطؤ العسكري الصريح مع “إسرائيل” على القوات الأميركية المتمركزة في المنطقة.

لكن هدف “إسرائيل” الطويل الأمد كان إجبار البنتاغون على إعادة هيكلة القيادة المركزية، وقد تصاعد الضغط من جماعات الضغط المؤيدة لـ”إسرائيل” في واشنطن في الأشهر الأخيرة من إدارة الرئيس دونالد ترامب. وكان القرار يشبه إلى حد كبير “هدية وداع” لـ”إسرائيل” من ترامب أثناء تنحيه.

تطبيع عسكري

وأوضح الكاتب أنه لم يتم الانتقال الرسمي لـ”إسرائيل” إلى “سنتكوم” بعد، ولكن تم تعزيز هذه الخطوة مع أول زيارة الشهر الماضي إلى “إسرائيل” من قبل الجنرال كينيث ماكنزي، الرئيس الحالي للقيادة المركزية، منذ دخول الرئيس جو بايدن البيت الأبيض. إلى جانب رئيس أركان الجيش الإسرائيلي، أفيف كوخافي، زرع ماكنزي شجرة، رسمياً بمناسبة العيد اليهودي لتو بيشفات، لكنها تمثل رمزياً حقبة جديدة في شراكتهما الاستراتيجية.

وبعد اجتماع مع الجنرال الأميركي، أصدر بيني غانتس، وزير الأمن الإسرائيلي، بياناً أشاد فيه بإعادة تنظيم البنتاغون، قائلاً إنه “سيوفر لإسرائيل فرصة لتعميق التعاون مع شركاء إقليميين جدد وتوسيع آفاق العمل”.

وقال الكاتب إن قرار إدخال “إسرائيل” داخل القيادة العسكرية الأميركية في الشرق الأوسط – من وجهة نظر واشنطن – يعتبر تتويجاً لجهود دفع الدول العربية إلى “التطبيع” العلني مع “إسرائيل”. وأضاف: يمكن الآن إضافة التطبيع العسكري إلى التطبيع السياسي والدبلوماسي والاقتصادي الذي بدأ رسمياً في أيلول / سبتمبر الماضي عندما وقعت دولتان خليجيتان، الإمارات العربية المتحدة والبحرين، ما يسمى بـ”اتفاقات إبراهيم” مع “إسرائيل”. كما أعلن المغرب والسودان عن اتفاقيات السلام الخاصة بهما مع “إسرائيل”، ومن المرجح أن تحذو دول عربية أخرى حذوها بمجرد انتهاء الغبار مع إدارة بايدن.

وتابع كوك: منذ توقيع اتفاقات إبراهيم، أقامت الإمارات علاقات تجارية قوية مع “إسرائيل” وساعدت في إنشاء صندوق إبراهيم، المصمم لتمويل البنية التحتية للاحتلال الذي استخدمته “إسرائيل” لحرمان الفلسطينيين من إقامة دولة. وعندما تم إطلاق الرحلات إلى دبي في تشرين الثاني / نوفمبر، تدفق السياح الإسرائيليون على الإمارات للاستفادة من العلاقات الودية الجديدة والهروب من قيود الإغلاق في الوطن. ويُقال على نطاق واسع إن مثل هذه الزيارات أصبحت إحدى الطرق الرئيسية التي استوردت بها “إسرائيل” أنواعًا جديدة من  فيروس كوفيد -19 الشهر الماضي، إذ أغلقت “إسرائيل” حدودها فعلياً – باستثناء استقبال الجنرال ماكنزي – لإبقاء الفيروس تحت السيطرة.

ورأى الكاتب أنه في ظاهر الأمر، فإن رغبة “إسرائيل” في الانتقال إلى “سنتكوم ، وهو نوع من حلف شمال الأطلسي في الشرق الأوسط يغطي العديد من الدول العربية التي لا تزال “إسرائيل” لديها علاقات عدائية معها، تبدو غير بديهية. لكن في الواقع، ستحقق “إسرائيل” مكاسب إستراتيجية كبيرة. وستعمل على مواءمة المصالح الأمنية الأميركية في المنطقة بشكل أوثق مع مصالح “إسرائيل”، على حساب جيرانها العرب. وسوف تساعد جهود “إسرائيل” المستمرة لسحق الطموحات الوطنية للفلسطينيين، مع تعاون العديد من الدول العربية سواء بشكل واضح أو ضمني. وسيزيد من حدة التوترات السياسية داخل كتلة الدول العربية، ويزيد من إضعافها. وسيساعد على زيادة الضغط على الدول العربية المتمردة للانضمام إلى إجماع أوسع ضد العدو الإقليمي الوحيد المتبقي لـ”إسرائيل”: إيران.

وقال الكاتب “إن من الأهمية بمكان أن قلق واشنطن الطويل الأمد بشأن الوجود الإسرائيلي في القيادة المركزية الأميركية الذي يضر بعلاقات الولايات المتحدة مع الدول العربية قد تبخر على ما يبدو. فذات مرة، كانت الولايات المتحدة حريصة على إبعاد نفسها عن “إسرائيل” كلما غرق البنتاغون بعمق في المنطقة، سواء كانت حرب الخليج الأميركية عام 1990 أو غزو العراق واحتلاله عام 2003. هذه الحسابات لم تعد موجودة. فقد أظهرت هذه الخطوة ثقة الولايات المتحدة المتزايدة في أن الدول العربية – على الأقل تلك التي تهم واشنطن – غير منزعجة من أن يُنظر إليها على أنها تقدم تسوية عسكرية مع “إسرائيل”، بالإضافة إلى المشاركة السياسية والاقتصادية. إنه يؤكد حقيقة أن دول الخليج الغنية بالنفط، إلى جانب “إسرائيل”، أصبحت الآن المحركين الرئيسيين للسياسة الخارجية الأميركية في المنطقة، وتشير إلى أن أهمها، المملكة العربية السعودية، تنتظر اللحظة المناسبة لتوقيع اتفاقها الخاص مع إسرائيل”.

وأضاف: من المتوقع أن تستمر “إسرائيل” في إجراء التدريبات العسكرية في أوروبا مع دول حلف الأطلسي (الناتو)، لكنها ستتمكن قريباً من بناء علاقات مباشرة مماثلة مع الجيوش العربية، وخاصة تلك التي يتم توسيعها بسرعة واحترافها في الخليج باستخدام ثروتها النفطية. ومن المحتمل أن يخرج الضباط الإسرائيليون قريباً من الظل ويقومون بتدريب الجيوش الإماراتية والسعودية وتقديم المشورة لهم كجزء من أدوارهم المشتركة في القيادة المركزية. إن خبرة “إسرائيل” الخاصة، التي تعتمد على عقود من المراقبة والسيطرة والقمع للفلسطينيين، ستكون مطلوبة بشدة في دول الخليج التي تخشى المعارضة الداخلية أو الانتفاضات.

وكما أشار الباحث الإسرائيلي جيف هالبر، أظهرت “إسرائيل” مدى فعاليتها في ترجمة علاقاتها العسكرية والأمنية مع الجيوش وقوات الشرطة في جميع أنحاء العالم إلى دعم دبلوماسي في الهيئات الدولية. ومن غير المحتمل أن يكون الشرق الأوسط مختلفاً. فبمجرد أن تصبح “إسرائيل” العمود الفقري للجيوش الأكثر احترافاً في المنطقة، يمكن توقع أن تتخلى تلك الدول التي تعتمد على مساعدتها عن القضية الفلسطينية.

فرّق تسد 

ورأى الكاتب أن المكاسب الأخرى لـ”إسرائيل” ستكون تعقيد علاقات واشنطن مع المنطقة العربية. إذ لا تقوم القيادة المركزية الأميركية بتشغيل قواعد رئيسية في الخليج فقط، وخاصة في البحرين وقطر، ولكنها تقود “الحرب على الإرهاب” المعلنة، مع عمليات علنية أو سرية في العديد من الدول العربية، بما في ذلك العراق وسوريا. وسيكون من الصعب على الولايات المتحدة أن تنأى بنفسها عن عمليات “إسرائيل” العدائية العلنية، بما في ذلك الضربات الجوية، في كلا البلدين (سوريا والعراق)، والتي تتم في انتهاك صارخ للقانون الدولي. 

وأضاف: تصاعدت التوترات بين الولايات المتحدة وبغداد في الماضي بسبب الضربات الجوية الإسرائيلية في العراق، مع تهديدات بتقييد وصول الولايات المتحدة إلى المجال الجوي العراقي. لكن بوجود “إسرائيل” داخل القيادة المركزية الأميركية، فمن المرجح أيضاً أن تكون الولايات المتحدة والدول العربية المفضلة لديها أكثر تورطًا بشكل مباشر في العمليات العسكرية الإسرائيلية الكبرى ضد الفلسطينيين، مثل “الحروب” المتكررة على غزة. سيشكل هذا تحدياً كبيراً للمؤسسات التعاونية في المنطقة مثل جامعة الدول العربية. ويكاد يكون من المؤكد دق إسفين أعمق بين الدول العربية الموالية لواشنطن وتلك المتهمة بالوقوف في الجانب الخطأ من “الحرب على الإرهاب”.

وخلص الكاتب إلى أنه يمكن أن تكون النتيجة سياسة “فرق تسد” الإقليمية التي ترعاها “إسرائيل” والتي تعكس الانقسامات التي دامت عقوداً، والتي عطلتها “إسرائيل” في القيادة الفلسطينية، والتي تجلّت أكثر في الانقسام بين حركتي فتح وحماس.

الجبهة المناهضة لإيران

وأوضح الكاتب أن المكافأة الأكبر لـ”إسرائيل” ستكون تحالفاً أكثر رسمية مع الدول العربية ضد إيران ورعاية دول أكثر تردداً في فلك “إسرائيل”. ويبدو أن هذا الأمر كان الغرض من المصالحة التي تم الإعلان عنها أخيراً بين الإمارات والسعوديين من جهة وقطر من جهة أخرى، والتي تحققت في الأيام الأخيرة لإدارة ترامب. فمن الأسباب الرئيسية للحصار المطول على قطر إصرارها على الحفاظ على العلاقات السياسية والاقتصادية مع طهران. وتهدف “إسرائيل” إلى إجبار إدارة بايدن على مواصلة سياسة ترامب العدائية المناهضة لإيران، والتي تضمنت عقوبات صارمة واغتيالات وتمزيق الاتفاق النووي لعام 2015 مع طهران الذي وقعه الرئيس باراك أوباما. وقد سمح هذا الاتفاق للمفتشين بالدخول إلى إيران للتأكد من أنها لم تطور قنبلة نووية قد تكسر النفوذ الاستراتيجي الذي تكسبه “إسرائيل” من ترسانتها النووية. 

وتابع الكاتب: داخل القيادة المركزية -سنتكوم، ستكون “إسرائيل” قادرة على العمل بشكل أوثق مع حلفاء الخليج لتخريب أي جهود داخل واشنطن لإحياء الاتفاق النووي مع طهران. فقد أصدر كوخافي، رئيس أركان الجيش الإسرائيلي، توبيخاً علنياً غير مسبوق لبايدن بشأن التصريحات الأخيرة التي قال فيها إنه يرغب في إحياء الاتفاق النووي. ووصف كوخافي الاتفاق بأنه “سيء وخاطئ استراتيجياً وعملياً”، وادعى أن إيران ستطلق صواريخ نووية على “إسرائيل” بمجرد امتلاكها، وأعلن أن هجوم “إسرائيل” بمفردها “يجب أن يكون على الطاولة”.

وأشار وزير خارجية البحرين، عبد اللطيف الزياني، إلى أن “إسرائيل” ودول الخليج ستكون لها فرصة أفضل لمنع أي تسوية أميركية تجاه إيران إذا تحدثت “بصوت موحد”. وأضاف: “الموقف الإقليمي المشترك بشأن هذه القضايا سيكون له تأثير أكبر على الولايات المتحدة”. وكرر هذا الرأي أنور قرقاش وزير الخارجية الإماراتي.

وفي إشارة إلى كيف تخشى إدارة بايدن بالفعل الدخول في تحالف شرق أوسطي واسع ضد إيران، قال انتوني بلينكين، وزيرة الخارجية الأميركي، الشهر الماضي إنه من “المهم للغاية” التشاور مع “إسرائيل” والخليج قبل العودة إلى الاتفاق النووي.

رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي بنيامين نتنياهو، اليائس لتعزيز ثرواته الانتخابية وصرف الانتباه عن محاكمته التي تلوح في الأفق بالفساد، لديه كل الحافز لفتح هذه الفجوة، وذلك لضمان أن تظل إيران البعبع الأول في الشرق الأوسط – محور العداء الغربي – في المصالح المشتركة لـ”إسرائيل”، التي لا تنوي إنهاء عوائقها المستمرة منذ عقود للدولة الفلسطينية، ودول الخليج التي لا تنوي إنهاء انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان وتعزيز الانقسام الإسلامي.

مايك بومبيو، وزير خارجية ترامب، زرع لغماً أرضياً الشهر الماضي مصمماً لخدمة المصالح الإسرائيلية والسعودية من خلال تسليط الضوء على حقيقة أن عدداً من قادة تنظيم القاعدة وجدوا ملاذاً في إيران. وردد ذلك صدى ادعاء إدارة الرئيس جورج بوش الإبن – الوهمي تماماً – بوجود روابط بين “القاعدة” وصدام حسين كذريعة، إلى جانب أسلحة دمار شامل التي لم تكن موجودة، لغزو العراق واحتلاله عام 2003.

وختم كوك تحليله بالقول إنه “مع وصول إسرائيل إلى القيادة المركزية، فإن الضغط لتكرار هذا الخطأ الكارثي يمكن أن ينمو فقط، وتنمو معه احتمالات تجدد الحرب في الشرق الأوسط”.

ترجمة بتصرف: هيثم مزاحم

SAA Kills and Injures 16 Turkestan Islamist Party Terrorists North of Hama

ARABI SOURI 

Turkestan Islamist Party terrorist group - Syria - الحزب الاسلامي التركستاني

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) killed and injured 16 terrorists of the Turkestan Islamist Party in the northwestern countryside of Hama, central Syria.

The army units spotted a group of anti-Islamic Turkestan Islamist Party terrorists in the Al-Ghab Valley heading to their makeshift posts to attack Syrian Army posts in the area and targeted them with a guided-missile.

Local sources confirmed the killing of 7 terrorists at least and the injury of 9 others at the time of writing this report.

Turkish Madman Erdogan imported tens of thousands of radical terrorists from regions where his Muslim Brotherhood global radicalization groups operate, mainly in Central Asian countries all the way to the Chinese Xingyang Province of Muslim majority. The Turkestan Islamist Party is one of the backbones of these terrorist groups the Turkish pariah Erdogan uses in his regional influence spreading which spans from west China to Germany and from the Caucasus to north and western African countries.

The Syrian Arab Army and the Russian Aerospace Forces have increased their levels of readiness recently and resumed targeting the posts of terrorist groups sponsored by Turkey and the USA in Idlib and Hama provinces especially after the latest deadly attacks by ISIS and its affiliates against buses in the region. In the past week, the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out successful strikes against command centers, tunnels, and weapons depots in northern Idlib countryside, while the SAA targeted terrorist gatherings in the southern countryside of the province.

Terrorist groups designated as such by the United Nations Security Council are not included in the Moscow, Astana, and Sochi ceasefire agreements in which the Turkish regime of Erdogan is a signatory and he has not only failed to meet his commitments as per these agreements for the past 2 years, he has instead beefed up the terrorist groups operating under his command in northern Syria regions and sent thousands of Turkish army soldiers to serve as human shields between his terrorists and the Syrian Army units on Syrian territories.

Worth noting that Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s secretary of state delisted the Turkistan Islamist Party from the US list of terrorist groups last November 2020, despite the UNSC maintaining them as one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations with terrorist activities in a number of countries.

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GIDHR to Biden: Put an End to the War on Yemen

GIDHR to Biden: Put an End to the War on Yemen

By Staff, GIDHR.org

On the Global Day of Action for Yemen, the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights addressed US President Joe Biden urging him to put an end to the war on Yemen.

Dear President Joe Biden,

We, in the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights [GIDHR], are writing to you to offer our congratulations on your election.

We are, also, writing to bring to your attention the unprecedented crisis in Yemen due to the war launched by Saudi and Emirati led coalition.

Targeting civilians

The Saudi and Emirati led coalition directly target Yemeni residential neighborhoods, schools, markets, leaving civilian casualties, without being held responsible for their crimes. It is estimated that, until November 2020, more than 100,000 Yemenis [including thousands of children and women] were directly targeted and killed.

These attacks are blatant violations to the international law which guarantees protecting the lives of civilians and children during armed conflicts. They also amount to be described as war crimes, whose perpetrators and those who ordered the attacks should be prosecuted.

Imminent Catastrophe

The high levels of food insecurity and acute malnutrition which knock on the Yemenis’ doors are alarming, especially with the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. Many people lost their jobs what to lead to an increase in the population rate who lost the ability to secure their needs, and an increase in the rate of those who need humanitarian aid.

The designation of Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation by the former US secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, raised the concerns of worsening the famine and the humanitarian conditions in the country.

In this context, Mark Lowcock, the director general of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, called for the decision to be reversed. He warned the UN that “the likely humanitarian impact of the US decision would be a large-scale famine on a scale that we have not seen for nearly 40 years.”

David Beasley, the UN food chief, described the situation as “literally a death sentence to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of innocent people, in Yemen”.

The systematic destruction of farms, fisheries, sewage, sanitation plants and much more had brought more suffering to the Yemeni people. UN reports estimate that two-thirds of Yemenis are already hungry and half of them do not know what their next meal is. Quarter the population suffer from malnutrition, ranging from moderate to severe, including more than two million children.

Blockade and siege

For nearly six years, Yemenis have been facing a blockade on all their ports, preventing humanitarian aid, food, medications, fuel, and any other goods from entering the country.

The blockade has been contributing to the humanitarian disaster which the Yemeni people are facing.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that 131,000 Yemenis have died from indirect causes such as lack of food, health services and infrastructure. All these causes are results of the Saudi and Emirati led war on Yemen, their direct targeting of civilians and the blockade they are enforcing, starving millions and killing tens thousands of Yemenis.

Recommendations:

We are aware of your statements to end US support for Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen. Hence, we urge you to:

  • End the US support of Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen as soon as possible.
  • Stop the arms sales to Saudi Arabia and United Arabic Emirates.
  • Pressure the international community and the coalition, especially Saudi Arabia and United Arabic Emirates, to end the blockade enforced on Yemeni ports.
  • Hold the perpetrators and the instigators of the war crimes committed against the Yemeni people accountable and refer them before fair trials.
  • Compensate the victims of this war.
  • Reconstruct Yemen.

Yours sincerely,

Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights [GIDHR]

Pompeo’s Last Stand

Ph.D., Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest.

Source

Philip Giraldi

January 21, 2021

The neocons and the media demand tough talk and even tougher action from their candidate and Pompeo is already running hard to oblige them.

Pompeo's Last Stand - TheAltWorld
© Photo: REUTERS/POOL New

It is finally over. Joe Biden has been inaugurated President of the United States while his predecessor Donald Trump has retired to Florida. Trump intends to remain the driving force in the Republican Party but there are many in the GOP who would like to see him gone completely and the national media is obliging by depriving him of a “voice,” cutting him off from his preferred social media. The Democratic Party’s top “megadonor” Israeli film producer Haim Saban goes one step farther, recommending that all the media stop reporting on Trump and his activities, thereby taking away his platform and making him disappear politically speaking.

Prior to the inauguration, which proceeded protected by an unprecedented display of military and police, there had been so much going on in and around Washington that other serious developments worldwide were not getting the attention that they merited. President Donald Trump was impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors” relating to his alleged encouragement of the January 6th rioting at the U.S. Capitol building, but to my mind the recent travels and meetings involving Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could turn out to be far more damaging to America’s long-term interests. One wonders why Pompeo was engaging in frenetic activity with the Administration that he represented being about to vanish in a few days, but the answer is perhaps obvious. Trump and Pompeo want to lay a foreign policy mine field for the Joe Biden White House, locking the new administration into policies that will prove difficult to untangle.

Pompeo has been most active in four areas: Iran, China, Cuba and Yemen. Iran, as has often been the case with the Trump Israeli-driven policy in the Middle East, has been the principal focus. The Trump Administration has consistently responded to Israeli and also Saudi perceptions of the threat from Iran to the entire region, even though those claims were generally based on self-interests and deliberately falsified intelligence. Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran signed in 2015 and has been waging incrementally expanded economic warfare against the Iranians for the past three years. It has collaborated with the Israelis on assassinations and air attacks on primarily civilian targets in Syria and Lebanon.

During Trump’s last two weeks in power there was much talk about the possibility of a U.S. attack on Iran. The Israeli military was on alert and there was a surge in attacks on Syria, frequently using Lebanese airspace. One incident in particular on January 6th used U.S. intelligence to enable multiple bombing attacks on targets inside Syria, killing 57. Pompeo reportedly dined publicly in a well-known Washington restaurant Café Milano on the day after the carnage to discuss the “success” with Israel’s head of Mossad Yossi Cohen.

The public meeting with Cohen was a sign from the Trump Administration that the U.S. supports Israel’s bombing campaign against claimed Iranian targets in Syria. If Biden wishes to change that, he will have to do so publicly, earning the ire of Israel’s friends in the Democratic Party and media. And more was to come. Last Tuesday, Pompeo gave a speech in which he accused al-Qaeda and the Iranian government of being “partners in terror” , constituting an “axis” of terrorism. He further claimed that al-Qaeda has a “new home base” and a “new operational headquarters” built for it in Tehran, an assertion that ran counter to the intelligence collected by U.S. counterterrorism officials, who said there was no evidence to support such a claim. In fact, the Intelligence Community has long asserted that al-Qaeda is fundamentally hostile to Shi’ite Iran and that the Iranians return the favor. In other words, Pompeo is either lying or making something up that will be an impediment if Biden tries to improve relations with Tehran. Pompeo also went so far as to declare that Iran is the “new Afghanistan” for al-Qaeda, which is meant to imply that Iran is now its home base and safe haven. There is also no evidence to support that claim.

The Trump Administration has also included Cuba on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, based on nothing whatsoever, apparently as something of a throw away item to shore up support from the rabid Cuban exile community in Florida. So too the decision to designate the Houthis of Yemen as terrorists to give a parting gift to the Saudis and the UAE. Yemen is suffering from famine and the terror designation will have a drastic impact on imports of food and medicine, condemning many Yemenis to death. Daniel Larison opines that the “Houthi designation is by far the worst thing that Pompeo has done as Secretary of State, because if it is not quickly reversed it will lead directly to the deaths of tens and possibly even hundreds of thousands of people. It takes severe cruelty to look at a war-torn, famine-stricken country that depends heavily on outside aid and imports and then choose to suffocate the survivors with additional economic warfare. That is what Pompeo has done, we shouldn’t forget that.”

And, incidentally, the United States gains absolutely nothing from killing thousands of people in Yemen, but that is not all. Pompeo has also opened the door to new problems with China. His easing of the longstanding restrictions on contacts between American diplomats and Taiwanese has been described by the State Department as a strong gesture of support for the democratic government and “ally” in Taipei. It overturns more than forty years of “strategic ambiguity” which has prevailed since Richard Nixon traveled to Beijing and recognized the communist People’s Republic of China as China’s only legitimate government, to include over Taiwan by implication. The so-called “One China” principle states that Taiwan and China are part of the same China with the U.S. recognizing, though not necessarily endorsing, that the PRC has a historic claim to sovereignty over Taiwan.

Apart from locking in policies that Biden will find hard to shift, Pompeo also has a secondary motive. It is widely believed that he would like to run for president in 2024. He will need the support of the Israelis and their powerful domestic lobby as well as the Cubans in Florida and it does not hurt to show him playing hardball in the Middle East and against an increasingly vilified China. The so-called neocons, who have again become influential in the Republican Party and the media, demand tough talk and even tougher action from their candidate and Pompeo is already running hard to oblige them.

Baghdad on the Potomac: Welcome to the Blue Zone

Via The Saker

Baghdad on the Potomac: Welcome to the Blue Zone

January 19, 2021

The star of the Joe and Kammy Regime Change Show

The season opening of the Joe and Kammy Regime Change Show could not be a more appropriate roomful of mirrors reflecting the self-described US “political elite”.

During the 2000s, I came face to face with Baghdad’s Green Zone multiple times. I always stayed, and worked, in the hyper-volatile Red Zone – as you may check in my 2007 book Red Zone Blues.

We knew then that blowback would be inevitable.

But still, we could never have imagined such a graphic simulacrum: the Green Zone fully replicated in the heart of imperial D.C. – complete with walls, barbed wire, multiple checkpoints, heavily armed guards.

That is even more significant because it ends a full “new world order” geopolitical cycle: the empire started bombing – and cluster bombing – Iraq 30 years ago. Desert Storm was launched in January 17, 1991.

The Blue Zone is now “protected” by a massive 26,000 plus troop surge – way more than Afghanistan and Iraq combined. The Forever Wars – which you may now relieve through my archives – have come back full circle.

Just like an ordinary Iraqi was not allowed inside the Green Zone, no ordinary American is allowed inside the Blue Zone.

Just like the Green Zone, those inside the Blue Zone represent none other than themselves.

The D.C. Blue Zone map

And just like the Green Zone, those inside the Blue Zone are viewed by half of the population in the Red Zone as an occupying force.

Only satire is capable of doing poetic justice to what is, de facto, the Potemkin inauguration of a hologram. So welcome to the most popular president in history inaugurated in secret, and fearful of his own, fake, Praetorian Guard. The Global South has seen this grisly show before – in endless reruns. But never as a homegrown Hollywood flick.

When in doubt, blame China

Meanwhile, trapped inside the Blue Zone, the White House has been busy compiling an interminable list of accomplishments.

Multitudes will go berserk relieving the appalling foreign policy disasters, courtesy of American Psycho Mike Pompeo; debunking the official narrative partially or as a whole; and even agreeing with the odd “accomplishment”.

Yet close attention should be paid to a key item: “Colossal Rebuilding of the Military”.

This is what is going to play a key role beyond January 20 – as Gen Flynn has been extremely busy showing evidence to the military, at all levels, of how “compromised” is the new Hologram-in-Chief.

And then there’s the rolling, never-ending November 3 drama. Blame should be duly apportioned. Impeachment, digital witch hunts, rounding up “domestic terrorists”, that is not enough. “Foreign interference” is a must.

Enter Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe, adamantly stating that “the People’s Republic of China sought to influence the 2020 U.S. federal elections.”

Ratcliffe was referring to a report sent to Congress on January 7 by the DNI’s Chief of the Solutions Division, or analytic ombudsman Barry Zulauf, side by side with an assessment about “foreign interference”.

A legitimate question is why it took them so long to finish this report. And it gets wackier: the full intel on the report about foreign interference was scotched by none other than CIA higher-ups.

The ombudsman states that the groups of analysts working on Russian and Chinese interference used different standards. Russia, of course, was guilty from the start: a categorical imperative. China had the benefit of the doubt.

Ratcliffe actually states that some analysts refused to blame Beijing for election interference because they were – what else – Never Trumpers.

So Langley, we’ve got a problem. Pompeus “We Lie, We Cheat, We Steal” Minimus is CIA. He qualifies the Chinese Communist Party as the greatest evil in the history of mankind. How would he not influence his minions to produce, by any means necessary, any instance of Chinese election interference?

At the same time, for the Dem Deep State faction, Russia is perpetually guilty of…whatever.

This rift inside the Deep State roomful of mirrors delightfully reverberates the Blue Zone/Red Zone schism.

Needless to add, in both the ombudsman’s report and Ratcliffe’s letter, there is absolutely no hard evidence of Chinese interference.

As for Russia, apart from election interference – once again, no evidence – the Dem Deep State Dementia apparatus is still busy trying to blame Moscow also for 1/6. The latest gambit centers on a MAGA chick who may have stolen Pelosi’s laptop from her office at the Capitol to sell it to the SVR, Russian foreign intel.

The whole Global South – Baghdad’s Green Zone included – just can’t get enough of the greatest show on earth. Do they sell bananas in the Blue Zone?

Pompeo Cancels Final Trip Abroad after European Leaders Refuse to Meet With Him

Alahednews

Pompeo Cancels Final Trip Abroad after European Leaders Refuse to Meet With Him

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cancelled his Europe trip at the last minute on Tuesday after Luxembourg’s foreign minister and top European Union officials declined to meet with him, European and US diplomats familiar with the matter said.

The extraordinary snub of the top US diplomat, first reported by Reuters, came days after the storming of the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, an unprecedented attack on American democracy that stunned many world leaders and US allies.

Pompeo, a close ally of Trump, had sought to meet Jean Asselborn in Luxembourg, a small but wealthy NATO ally, before meeting EU leaders and the bloc’s top diplomat in Brussels, three people close to the planning told Reuters.

But the initial plan to go to Luxembourg, which had not been officially announced, was scrapped after officials there showed reluctance to grant Pompeo appointments, a diplomatic source said. The Brussels leg was still on until the last minute.

But the thin itinerary of Pompeo’s final visit to Brussels raised questions about the merit of the trip. There were no meetings on his schedule with EU officials or any public events at NATO. A third diplomatic source said allies were “embarrassed” by Pompeo after the violence in Washington last Wednesday that left five dead.

Trump encouraged his supporters at a rally earlier that day to march on the building that houses the Senate and the House of Representatives while lawmakers were certifying Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 election victory. The Republican president claims, without evidence, that the election was stolen from him.

Pompeo condemned the violence but made no reference to the role that Trump’s baseless claims played in galvanizing the march on the Capitol.

Appalled by the violence, Luxembourg’s Asselborn had called Trump a “criminal” and a “political pyromaniac” on RTL Radio the next day.

Luxembourg’s foreign ministry confirmed the previously planned stop there was cancelled, but declined to give further details. The EU declined to comment.

The US State Department, in a statement, attributed the cancellation to transition work before Biden takes office on Jan. 20, even if Pompeo had been reluctant until recently to unequivocally recognize Biden’s win. The State Department declined further comment on European officials’ rejection of meetings with Pompeo.

In Brussels, Pompeo was due to have a private dinner with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday evening at Stoltenberg’s private residence, before meeting Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes, whose country is a NATO ally.

One of the sources said the lack of any public events at NATO was another reflection of European officials questioning the point of the trip. It was not immediately clear why Pompeo sought to go to Brussels so near to the end of Trump’s term.

The cold shoulder was a contrast with Pompeo’s previous visits to Brussels, which is home to NATO and EU headquarters, over the past three years, where he has given keynote speeches on US policy and met the EU’s chief executive, even as Europe balked at Trump’s foreign policy.

In 2018, Pompeo said in Brussels that Trump’s ‘America First’ policy was reshaping the post-World War Two system on the basis of sovereign states, not institutions such as the EU.

EU officials, who say they were exhausted by Trump’s unpredictability, are eager to build fresh ties with Biden.

One source, while explaining why Pompeo chose to remain in Washington, cited his eagerness to roll out planned foreign policy tasks until the end of the term and help keep the continuity of government.

For nearly three years, Pompeo proved a loyal executor of Trump’s unconventional style.

His tenure did not include obvious successes in such long-standing US foreign policy challenges as reining in the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, ending the US war in Afghanistan or containing an increasingly assertive China.

Nevertheless on Jan. 1, Pompeo kicked off a daily Twitter thread, saying the United States was “much safer” today than four years ago thanks to what he saw as the foreign policy accomplishments of the Trump administration.

He said he would showcase the results. “Over the coming days, I’m going to lay out the mission set, the huge wins, personal stories, and a lot more. Just me, Mike,” he said.

The tweets, along with some of his foreign trips, have been largely seen as part of his bid to lay the groundwork for his much-anticipated 2024 run for the Republican nomination for president.

Israel & United States Unite Efforts In Large-Scale Strikes On Iranian Infrastructure In Syria

South Front

The first two weeks of 2021 have, so far, been marked by an incredible increase in Israeli activity in the skies over Syria.

The most intense strike took place on January 13 morning hitting multiple Syrian and Iranian-affiliated targets in the province of Deir Ezzor, including the underground base of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Corps near al-Bukamal.

The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Israeli strikes have killed 57 and wounded another 37. Pro-government sources confirmed only 5 casualties.

The airstrikes were so numerous that even Abu Yatem al-Katrani – the commander of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) 4th Brigade was killed in an airstrike.

The Israeli operations were carried out with the assistance of the United States – it provided intelligence and Israeli struck on them. Former CIA Director, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was reportedly discussing the airstrikes with Yossi Cohen, chief of Israel’s spy agency Mossad.

The US support of Tel Aviv’s aerial raids is a clear message to Iran, and is a very open support to Israel’s undeclared war against Iran, which it has been waging in Syria since hostilities began.

All of the airstrikes in the first two weeks of 2021 are the most significant by Israel, and over all, since the beginning of the war in Syria. They were so significant, that Damascus even accused Tel Aviv of carrying out the strikes in very open support of ISIS militants which the Syrian Arab Army is hunting.

Meanwhile, there appears to be a sense of urgency, or a sense of danger in the air, as the United States reinforced its troop positions in the Omar oil fields with artillery pieces and other equipment.

The US troops, together with their local proxies also hold frequent drills in the area, to keep ready, for some future unknown escalation.

Prior to New Year’s Eve, Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated, in what Tehran claimed to be an elaborate Israeli operation.

Additionally, since around the same time, a farewell strike on Iran has been expected from US President Donald Trump, and the general chaos in the US ahead of Joe Biden stepping into office has been used by Israel as a chance to inflict as much damage as possible on Tehran and its allies.

Russia, at the same time, appears to also be preparing for an escalation of some sort, by building up its forces and is lying in wait.

Israel appears dead set on continuing its crusade against Iran and its allies in Syria. An urgency is felt, since Biden is unlikely to support Tel Aviv as much as Trump did, and every possible chance should be used. This is all in spite of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removed the photo of Donald Trump from his Twitter, but all is fair in love and war.

Finally, both the American and Russian forces appear to be biding their time, waiting for an escalation that, with tensions at the breaking point appears closer than ever.

The year began with terrorist attacks in Syria, increased Israeli strikes, Iran threatening against any aggression against it, and the two most significant players in the face of Moscow and Washington are expecting an escalation, and no amount of preparation would be enough for the incoming storm.

US nuclear submarine comes in close contact with Iranian anti-submarine chopper: video

Iran ends massive war games in Strait of Hormuz, issues stern warning to enemies: photos

BY NEWS DESK 2021-01-14

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:00 P.M.) – A U.S. nuclear submarine was spotted making close contact with an Iranian military chopper this week, in a new escalation in the Persian Gulf region.

In a video released by the Iranian media and shared on social media, the U.S. nuclear submarine can be seen making close contact with the Iranian anti-submarine helicopter, the SH-3D, in the Persian Gulf waters.

The video, which is shared below, was allegedly take on Thursday, January 14th, in the Persian Gulf; however, the U.S. and Iranian forces have yet to comment on this close approach.

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More War by Other Means: Sanctioning the Wife of Syria’s President Makes No Sense to Anyone

By Philip Giraldi, Ph.D.
Source: Strategic Culture

January 7, 2021

More sanctions, by all means. More grief and suffering and more people around the world wondering what exactly the United States is doing.

I am a recipient of regular, usual weekly, emails from the Department of the Treasury providing an “Update to OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) and Blocked Persons.” OFAC is the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is tasked with both identifying and managing the financial punishments meted out to those individuals and groups that have been sanctioned by the United States government. A recent update, on November 10th, included “Non-Proliferation Designations; Iran-related Designations.” There were ten items on the list, names of Chinese and Iranian individuals and companies. Those who are “Specially Designated” on the list are subject to having their assets blocked if located in the United States and are also not allowed to engage in any financial transactions that go through U.S. banking channels. As many international banks respect U.S. Treasury “designations” lest they themselves be subjected to secondary sanctions that often means in effect that the individual or group cannot move money in a large part of the global financial marketplace.

The complete SDN list is hundreds of pages long. The Treasury Department defines and justifies OFAC’s mission “As part of its enforcement efforts, OFAC publishes a list of individuals and companies owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, targeted countries. It also lists individuals, groups, and entities, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers designated under programs that are not country-specific. Collectively, such individuals and companies are called ‘Specially Designated Nationals’ or ‘SDNs.’ Their assets are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.”

In reality, of course, OFAC’s sanctions are highly political. They are clearly a form of economic warfare, particularly when entire sectors of a nation’s economy are blocked or a part of a government itself is listed as has been the case with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Force. Wave after wave of “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran have made it difficult for the country to sell its only major marketable resource, oil, and it has been locked out of most normal financial networks, making it difficult or even impossible to buy food and medicines.

In many cases sanctions have no practical effect but are rather intended to send a message. There have been new sanctions directed against Moscow and Russian government officials have been sanctioned due to their alleged involvement in activities that the United States does not approve of. The sanctions are imposed even though those “specially designated” have no assets in the U.S. and do not engage in any international financial transactions that could be blocked or disrupted. In those cases, the federal government is sending a message to whomever has been sanctioned to warn them that they are being watched and their behavior has become a matter of record. It is basically a form of intimidation.

Whether sanctions actually work is debatable. The example of Cuba, which was sanctioned by the U.S. for nearly sixty years, would suggest not. Some would argue that on the contrary countries with totalitarian regimes would actually improve their behavior if their citizens could travel freely and welcome visitors, providing evidence that foreigners do not pose a threat justifying a police state.

Within the United States government, it is largely accepted that the most powerful advocate of the sanctions regime is Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who has been the driving force behind recent sanctions directed against both China and Iran. If that is so he might well be challenged on one of the most bizarre and basically pointless applications of sanctions in recent years, targeting Asma the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as her family that lives in London and are British citizens. Per Pompeo’s statement on the new sanctions “The Department of State today is imposing sanctions on Asma al-Assad, the wife of Bashar al-Assad, for impeding efforts to promote a political resolution of the Syrian conflict pursuant to Section 2(a)(i)(D) of Executive Order 13894… Asma al-Assad has spearheaded efforts on behalf of the regime to consolidate economic and political power, including by using her so-called charities and civil society organizations.”

But the real kicker is Pompeo’s condemnation of Asma, of Syrian origin but English born and raised, is how he involves her family. Her father-in-law Fawaz is a renowned cardiologist at Cromwell Hospital in South Kensington who was educated in England and has lived there for decades. “In addition, we are sanctioning several members of Asma al-Assad’s immediate family, including Fawaz Akhras, Sahar Otri Akhras, Firas al Akhras, and Eyad Akhras as per Section 2(a)(ii) of EO 13894. The Assad and Akhras families have accumulated their ill-gotten riches at the expense of the Syrian people through their control over an extensive, illicit network with links in Europe, the Gulf, and elsewhere.”

Inevitably, no evidence is provided to support any of the allegations about Asma al-Assad and her English family. Asma’s charities are for real in her war-torn country and she is highly respected and admired by those who know her and are not influenced by U.S. and Israeli propaganda.

In reality, the United States has been trying hard to overthrow the Syrian government since 2004 when the Syria Accountability Act was passed. Much of the heat in Congress behind the passage of the act was generated by the Israel Lobby, which wanted to weaken the regime and reduce its ability to represent a viable military force possibly capable of regaining the occupied Golan Heights. Be that as it may, the United States has been hostile to the country’s government and has frequently called for regime change. To bring that about, the U.S. supported al-Qaeda linked terrorist groups operating against Damascus and American soldiers continue to occupy Syrian oil fields in the southeast portion of the country. The Syrians have also been subjected to waves of sanctions that have done grave damage to their economy. American and Israeli concerns have sometimes been linked to the presence of Damascus’ allies Hezbollah and Iran, both of whom have military units based inside Syria, but the simple fact is that neither Iranians nor Lebanese in any way threaten the vastly superior American and Israeli forces present in the region.

One has to ask why, given the realpolitik playing out in the Middle East, Washington and Pompeo feel compelled to go after Asma al-Assad and her family, apparently to include absurdly blaming relatives living for many years outside of Syria for fueling the war. More sanctions, by all means. More grief and suffering and more people around the world wondering what exactly the United States is doing.

Trump’s disgraceful end

January 9, 2021 – 12:10

By M.A. Saki

It was too late for Americans, especially most of his fellow Republicans, to realize how dangerous Donald Trump was. 

I cannot forget remarks by Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, an expert in global thought and comparative philosophies, who said that “Trump is the most dangerous man in the world.”

On Wednesday, Trump provoked assault on the Capitol in a last-ditch effort to overturn the results of the November 3 election in which he lost with a rather large margin.  

According to CNN, in his first presidential debate on October 1, Trump refused to condemn White supremacists and blamed what he called “antifa and the left” for violence and told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

At last, his Proud Boys, a mob of fanatics, caused mayhem by storming and capturing the Capitol, violently disrupting the ceremonial electoral count. The move by the fanatics came as a severe blow to the heart of democracy that the U.S. has been boasting of.

Trump has been repeatedly claiming that the U.S. presidential election looked like an election in a third world country. But, in fact, it was Trump himself who behaved like a dictator in a third world country as he refused to admit losing the election. 

It is very difficult for the liar-in-chief to admit defeat and resist his egoism. He proved that he is ready to push the United States toward a crisis in order to please his egoism.

Just prior to the elections, he kept claiming that he will win the presidency for a second term otherwise the votes are rigged.

Trump’s entire presidency was filled with numerous lies. He has no principles. In addition, the self-centered president shows no respect to democracy, freedom of expression, human rights, etc. By inciting his supporters, who attacked the Capitol building, he crucified democracy and the rule of law in the U.S. and showed complete disregard for those who had not voted for him.

If the American Constitution had not restrained Trump, he would have acted more irresponsibly and recklessly at home and abroad.

His unprecedented sanctions against Iran under the name of the “maximum pressure” campaign are in violation of international law. The sanctions have pushed millions of Iranian citizens to the verge of poverty and instead made a small percentage of Iranians millionaires because of skyrocketing inflation. This will remain in the memory of Iranians forever. His reckless order of assassinating Iran’s Major General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in January 2020 reminded the people of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria which ignited the First World War. 

Also, his move in recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the stolen Golan Heights and moving the U.S. capital to Jerusalem in violation of UN Security Council resolutions are some other examples of the illegal moves that the Trump administration should be ashamed of.

Trump picked Mike Pompeo as his secretary of state, who according to Professor Adib-Moghaddam, “continued to pursue an essentially ideological foreign policy, driven by a distinctively irrational approach to world politics in general and Iran in particular.” 

Actually, from the very beginning, Trump was unfit for the post of president. However, a great majority of Republicans in Congress, especially in the Senate, kept supporting him just for partisan interests. 

Regardless of certain extremist senators such as Ted Cruz and a considerable number of lawmakers in the House of Representatives who still repeat Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, finally it was realized that the person that the Republicans supported for four years based on party lines dealt the greatest blow to the Republicans themselves. And fortunately, he is being forced, of course legally, to leave the White House in disgrace.  

PA/PA

US Labels Illegal Jewish Settlement Products as ‘Made in Israel’

December 24, 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: File)

The US has started to label products from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as “Made in Israel”. Washington claims that this is to mark goods in accordance with import laws and regulations.

In a statement published yesterday by US Customs and Border Protection, it called for the accuracy of the labeling on products from territories held by Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Gaza to be “consistent with the United States’ foreign policy approach.”

Under the new ruling, all products made and packaged in the areas controlled by Israel and its military – including those in the West Bank formerly held by the PA – are to be marked as Israeli-made. The areas mentioned include the West Bank’s Area C, where around 150,000 Palestinians live under Israel’s full control.

The order came into effect yesterday and follows last month’s landmark visit to a settlement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Prior to Pompeo’s visit, he announced that the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against illegal settlement goods will be branded as “anti-Semitic” by the US.

The labeling of goods from Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories has long been a debated issue. Prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the US required all products from those areas to mention Israel. Since 1995, however, products from the West Bank and Gaza have been required to be labeled from those territories; two years later, they were allowed to have the joint label of “West Bank/Gaza”.

In 2016, under President Barack Obama, it was ruled that wrongly labeling settlement goods as “Made in Israel” could lead to fines being levied.

Even though the new ruling has now come into effect, importers have been given a 90-day grace period to implement the changes to their labels.

This new development ensures that consumers who want to buy products from the Palestinian territories and not Israel or its settlements can do so more easily. Nevertheless, such labeling gives US legitimacy to the settlements, all of which are illegal under international law.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Persian Gulf in the US and Israel’s Sights

By Viktor Mikhin
Source: New Eastern Outlook

SLM

After more than three years of diplomatic tensions and a hostile media campaign against each other, it seems that Saudi Arabia and Qatar finally decided to settle their relations. Political scientists and experts around the world are now wondering what finally motivated the two rivals to put their differences behind them and start a policy of rapprochement.

In this regard, it should be noted that in June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — commonly known as the “Arab Quartet” — severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposed a complete blockade on the tiny emirate of the Persian Gulf. These countries, led by Riyadh, closed their airspace, land and sea routes to Qatari planes, cars and ships, prompting Doha to use Iranian airspace. Kuwait, a country stuck in the middle of a dispute between its neighbors, tried diligently to reconcile the opposing sides, and even the “great peacemaker of the Persian Gulf” — now deceased Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah — entered the case, but to no avail.

In the end, however, Kuwaiti mediation efforts seem to have brought fruit. Kuwaiti Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammad Al Sabah spoke on Kuwaiti State Television to read a statement about the split between Qatar and the Arab Quartet:  “Recently, fruitful discussions took place. All parties expressed their interest in unity and stability in the Persian Gulf and Arab countries, as well as in reaching a final agreement that will ensure lasting solidarity”.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia welcomed Kuwait’s efforts, while Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE, which boycotted the emirate along with the Saudis, remain silent. Some news reports suggest that Riyadh has broken off the ranks of these allies to normalize relations with Qatar under US pressure. Bahrain, Egypt, and the UAE are not members of the normalization agreement that the Saudis intend to sign with Qatar. Some Arab media reported that normalization would begin with a bilateral agreement between Riyadh and Doha, followed by Manama and Cairo. The UAE’s stance is still unclear, even if they tend to be reluctant to pursue this issue in the waterway of Saudi Arabia.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani expressed the Qatari optimism regarding the solution of the Persian Gulf crisis, adding that the Emirate has a strong positive attitude towards any initiative that brings peace to the region.  Moreover, Saudi Arabia also expressed optimism that the three-year crisis would soon be resolved. Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said at a conference of the International Institute for Security Studies in Manama, Bahrain, that “significant progress” has been made in resolving the crisis that began in 2017.

Although the details of the deal between Qatar and Saudi Arabia have not yet been made public, political analysts and experts in the region have rightly placed the event in the broader context of “boiling tensions” between Iran, on the one hand, and the United States and Israel, on the other. It should be recognized that the current US president Donald Trump is still defending his advantages to the very last, resorting to all visible and invisible methods. Initially, a plan to launch a military strike on the alleged nuclear facilities of Iran was revealed. In this connection, there was even a secret meeting in the White House, where Trump asked his military and advisers about such a possibility. However, the military, accustomed to a quiet and peaceful life, with the situation with Iran, which has modern air defense equipment and missiles, which can easily cover all US bases in the region with a barrage of fire, has somewhat cooled the fervor of the belligerent president. But, nevertheless, the American President’s advisors, among which is the senior advisor of the White House Hasid Jared Kushner, Trump’s favorite brother-in-law, constantly keep buzzing in the President’s ears about the impending threat to America from “bearded Iranian ayatollahs”.

Finally, a solution was reached – Jared Kushner and his team rushed to Saudi Arabia and Qatar to negotiate in a region bubbling with tension and hatred towards Israel and the United States after the despicable assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who had recently worked on the COVID-19 issue.   The delegation included Ambassadors for the Middle East Avi Berkowitz, Brian Hook and Adam Boler, Executive Director of the American International Development Finance Corporation.  Incidentally, the senior advisor and his team have recently been actively involved in negotiations to normalize relations between Israel and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan. Officials said in public speeches that they would like to promote and sign more such agreements before President Donald Trump transfers power to President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.

American officials believe, and the US media sometimes write, that Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the deal with Israel will encourage other Arab countries to follow their example. But the Saudis don’t seem to have reached such a milestone deal, and officials in recent weeks have focused on other countries concerned about Iran’s regional influence as a unifying factor.

Kushner’s trip took place shortly after the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh by unknown attackers, whose hand was allegedly pointed by the Israeli Mossad and the American CIA. In fact, a few days before the murder, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Saudi Arabia and met with Mohammed bin Salman, joined by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Given that Joe Biden has repeatedly announced his intention to join an international nuclear pact with Iran, Mohammed bin Salman and Benjamin Netanyahu fear that the future White House master will pursue a policy toward Iran similar to that adopted during Barack Obama’s presidency, which has sharpened Washington’s ties with its traditional regional allies and, in particular, with Israel.

Therefore, there is no doubt that the deal between Qatar and Saudi Arabia will be directed against Iran, although it is not yet clear how it will affect the Iranian-Qatari relationships. Both parties to the deal — Qatar and Saudi Arabia — have not yet gone into detail and, for example, the Qatar embassy in Tehran has refused to comment on any details of the agreement. Yet this deal may not be sufficient to safeguard Qatar’s national interests, especially if it pushes the emirate away from Iran, which has opened its airspace and sea routes to Doha over the past three years. This new arrangement between Riyadh and Doha is obviously of direct relevance to the US, but it is most likely related to Iran, because the situation in the region has not only not changed as a result of thoughtless policies of Washington, but has further strained the situation.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia are still in a state of competition in many countries, such as Libya and Syria. When Qatar was under blockade, it sought support from other countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, and therefore, if the Qataris damaged their previous relations by getting closer to the Saudis, there would be very high risks for Doha, the Tehran Times stressed. The newspaper also noted that the establishment of relations between Doha and Riyadh can never be in Qatar’s favor, as Saudi Arabia still does not recognize the role of Doha in regional issues and both countries are fiercely competing in Egypt.

Iran welcomed Kuwait’s mediation efforts to end the three-year crisis between Qatar and the Arab Quartet. But Tehran seems to be closely monitoring the situation in the region in light of US and Israeli efforts to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic.  Iran seeks to strengthen ties with Qatar and other Arab states in the region, but it also seeks to make it clear to those states that it does not accept any restructuring aimed at harming its interests.  “We welcome understandings in the Persian Gulf announced by Kuwait. Iran’s longstanding policy is diplomacy, good neighborly relations & regional dialogue. We hope reconciliation contributes to stability and political & economic development for all peoples of our region,” Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted a few hours after Kuwait issued a statement saying that ”fruitful negotiations“ had been held between all parties to the conflict.

Undoubtedly, the situation in the Persian Gulf is far from any settlement. And even if Riyadh’s Doha settles its difficult relations, the most important question remains — the relations of the United States and Israel with Iran and their futile efforts to change the state system in this Islamic Republic.

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

خطة بومبيو تلفظ أنفاسها و لبنان لن يتنازل…؟

العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط

ظنّت أميركا أنّ لبنان الذي قادته بمؤامراتها وبفساد معظم مسؤوليه، وأوصلته الى حال الوهن الشديد ودفعت به الى قاع الانهيار المركب، انهيار مالي واقتصادي وسياسي وقبل ذلك وأهم من ذلك انهيار أخلاقي لدى معظم من يتولى شأناً عاماً فيه، ظنّت أميركا انّ لبنان الذي هذا حاله سيكون طيّعاً بيديها مستجيباً لإملاءاتها مستعداً للتنازل عن حقوقه ليقدّم ما أسمته «هدايا لترامب في أيامه الأخيرة» ويقتطع من لحمه ودمه أجزاء ليعوّض بها على ترامب خسائره التي لم تعوّضها كما يبدو حلقات التطبيع المتتالية من المشرق العربي الى مغربه.

ومع الظنّ هذا كان هاجس يسكن النفس الخبيثة ويشغل البال الأميركي، هاجس المقاومة في لبنان التي استطاعت في العام 2000 ثم في العام 2006 ان تصنع للبنان وللمنطقة ولمحور المقاومة انتصارات جاءت خارج السياق الكوني العام، اذ في الوقت التي نكست فيه الرؤوس أمام القطب الواحد بعد انهيار القطب الآخر دولياً أيّ الاتحاد السوفياتي وتزاحمت الدول والكيانات على الباب الأميركي طلباً للرضا وتقديماً لأوراق اعتمادهم تابعين وعملاء لأميركا، كانت المقاومة ومحورها تبدي شيئاً آخر وتتمسك بحقوقها وبعلانية تجاهر بأنها لن تتنازل عن حقوقها الوطنيّة وعن فلسطين وحقوق شعب فلسطين، وفي الوقت الذي أسمي «عصر أميركا الذهبي» عالمياً، العصر الذي عملت فيه أميركا بالقوة الصلبة وانتشرت في الخليج واحتلت أفغانستان والعراق في هذا الوقت سجلت المقاومة ومحورها النصر في لبنان وكسرت استراتيجية القوة الصلبة ثم لوت ذراع العاملين بالقوة الناعمة في لبنان وإيران في العام 2008 و2009، ثم أفشلت العمل باستراتيجية القوة الإرهابية العمياء في سورية.

وأميركا مسكونة بهذا الهاجس، لأنها تعلم أنّ حصادها في أيّ مجال سيكون مهدّداً وانتصارها لن يكون مستقراً وأنّ ما تريد لن يتحقق ما لم تكسر شوكة المقاومة ومحورها، ولذلك تقوم أميركا اليوم بأبشع أنواع التصرفات الوحشية والعدوانية ضدّ إيران وسورية ولبنان في إطار ما تسمّيه «سياسة الضغوط القصوى» وهي تؤمل أن تكسر المقاومة وتزيح خطرها وتتخلص من الهواجس التي تشكلها، فهل الهدف الأميركي ممكن التحقيق في المنطقة عامة وفي لبنان خاصة؟ وهل لبنان سيصل الى يوم يرى فيه انّ التنازل عن حقوقه بات أمراً لا مفرّ منه، وان أميركا تخيّره بين التنازل أو الانتحار والموت والانحلال والدمار؟

قبل الإجابة لا بدّ من التذكير بما تريده أميركا من لبنان ولا بدّ من استعادة لائحة الطلبات الأميركية المفروضة على لبنان وهل لبنان قادر على تلبيتها؟

تريد أميركا من لبنان ما يمكن تصنيفه تحت عنوانين، المطالب الأميركية الخالصة، والمصالح «الإسرائيلية» الخاصة، أما في الفئة الأولى فإنّ أميركا تريد أن يكون لبنان قاعدة أميركيّة تلعب دور الباب الغربي لمنطقة الشرق الأوسط، وأن لا يكون لها في النفوذ فيه شريك إقليمي أو دولي مهما كانت علاقة هذا الشريك بأميركا، أما في العنوان الثاني فإنها تريد إعطاء «إسرائيل» ما تطمع به في الجو والبر والبحر والتنازل لها عن 1800 كلم2 من المنطقة الاقتصادية اللبنانية، كما والتنازل عن الحدود البرية الدولية، والقبول بالاحتلال لمزارع شبعا ومنح «إسرائيل» حصة في مياه الليطاني، وأخيراً توطين نصف مليون لاجئ فلسطيني فيه.

هذه هي المطالب الأميركية – الإسرائيلية من لبنان، وتعتقد أميركا انّ بإمكانها انتزاع ذلك عبر مَن يعملون بإمرتها في الداخل بشرط أن تنجح في تعطيل قدرات المقاومة وعزلها ثم الحرب عليها وإسقاطها، ولذلك وضعت أميركا الخطط وحشدت العملاء من الداخل والإقليم، وأوكلت إليهم مهامّ وزعت عليهم لتحقيق هدف واحد هو “إسقاط المقاومة»، لأنّ هذا الإسقاط هو الممر الإجباري الوحيد لحصول أميركا و»إسرائيل» على ما يريدون في لبنان.

ومن عميق أسف نجد أنّ أميركا و»إسرائيل» وجدت في لبنان من العملاء والتابعين وفي كلّ القطاعات الإعلامية والسياسية والاقتصادية وبدائع المجتمع المدني والمنظمات غير الحكومية (NGO.S) ما جعلها مطمئنة الى انها ستحقق أهدافها وان المسالة مسالة أسابيع أو أشهر.

بيد أنّ الظنّ الأميركي كان شيئاً والنتائج في الميدان جاءت على شكل آخر، وإذا دققنا في نتائج الهجوم الأميركي الأخير الذي ينفذ وفقاً لخطة بومبيو2019 والتي تسبّبت في الفراغ السياسي والانهيار الاقتصادي والمالي للبنان والتهويل الأمني، نجد أنّ أميركا وبيد محلية لبنانية توصّلت الى إيلام الشعب اللبناني وتسبّبت عبر الفاسدين الذين ترعاهم وكانت قد وزعتهم على كلّ القطاعات… تمكنت من تجويع أكثر من نصف الشعب، إلا أنها لم تتمكن من المقاومة التي عرفت كيف تحصّن ذاتها وتحمي قدراتها العسكرية وتستمرّ في قوّتها التي ترعب «إسرائيل» وتالياً ترعب كلّ من تسوّل له نفسه انتزاع حق من حقوق لبنان، وبقيت «إسرائيل» تعيش حالة رعب جعلت جنودها يخشون من «الطفل حسين» الذي لاحق دجاجته حتى الشريط الشائك عند الحدود فأرعب العدو حتى جعله يطلق النار، لكن رصاصه لم يخف الطفل.

إنّ المقاومة ومجتمعها وحلفاءها في لبنان يعلمون ما تريد أميركا و»إسرائيل»، ويعرفون خططهم، ويدركون أنّ كلّ فاسد في الدولة هو عميل تابع للعدو بعلمه وقصده أو من غير علم، وفي الوقت ذاته يعلمون أن ليس بإمكان أميركا ان تصنع أكثر مما فعلت أو أن تستمرّ في خطة بومبيو الإجرامية والخبيثة وهي خطة لن يبقى متاحاً العمل بها أكثر من الأيام الثلاثين المتبقية لترامب وجلاده بومبيو. وتستطيع المقاومة أن تقول بعدها أنها حققت نصراً جديداً بإسقاط خطة بومبيو ومنعت أيّ تنازل من لبنان عن أيّ من الحقوق الوطنية. وكما انتصرت في العام 2000 و2006 سيكون النصر المنتظر مع الأيام الأولى للعام 2021.

أستاذ جامعي – باحث استراتيجي

James Jeffrey’s Confessions: Syria is the gift that continues to give to us, we are in control of northeastern Syria. Erdogan retreats under threat (2) اعترافات جيمس جيفري: سورية الهديّة التي تستمرّ بالعطاء لنا نحن المسيطرون فعلياّ على شمال شرق سورية.. وأردوغان يتراجع تحت التهديد (2)

**Please scroll down for the English translation**

نضال حمادة

نستكمل الجزء الثاني والأخير من المقابلة التي أجراها المبعوث الأميركيّ الخاص السابق الى سورية جيفري جيمس مع «المونيتور».

يقول جيفري جيمس يجب الفصل بين أردوغان وتركيا، وستكون أكبر التحديات التي يواجهها بايدن هي الصين وروسيا وكوريا الشمالية وخطة العمل الشاملة المشتركة الإيرانية والمناخ. هؤلاء هم الخمسة الكبار. المرتبة السادسة هي تركيا، حيث إنّ تركيا لها تأثير مباشر على اثنين من المراكز الخمسة الأولى: إيران وروسيا، وهذا له تأثير على الإرهاب رقم ثمانية أو تسعة.

ويضيف: تركيا دولة مهمة للغاية في الناتو يقع رادار الناتو في قلب نظام الصواريخ المضادة للصواريخ الباليستية الذي يواجه إيران في تركيا. لدينا أصول عسكرية هائلة هناك. لا يمكننا فعلاً «القيام» بالشرق الأوسط أو المؤتمرات الحزبيّة أو البحر الأسود من دون تركيا. وتركيا خصم طبيعي لروسيا وإيران.

ويتابع: أردوغان مفكر كبير في أساليب الحكم. حيث يرى ما يجذب يتحرّك، الأمر الآخر بالنسبة لأردوغان هو أنه متعجرف للغاية ولا يمكن التنبّؤ بما يفعله، وببساطة لن يوافق على حلّ يربح فيه الجميع. ولكن عندما يكون في عجلة من أمره – وتفاوضت معه – فهو ممثل عقلانيّ..

لذا، إذا رأى بايدن العالم مثل الكثير منا الآن، منافسة قريبة من الأقران، تصبح تركيا مهمة للغاية. انظروا إلى ما فعله (أردوغان) للتوّ خلال ثمانية أشهر في إدلب وليبيا وناغورني كاراباخ. كانت روسيا أو الحلفاء الروس هم الخاسرون في الثلاثة.

يصف جيفري أردوغان فيقول: أردوغان لن يتراجع حتى تظهر له أسنانك، هذا ما فعلناه عندما تفاوضنا على وقف إطلاق النار في تشرين الأوّل/ أكتوبر 2019، كنا مستعدّين لسحق الاقتصاد التركي.

هذا ما فعله بوتين بعد إسقاط الطائرة الروسيّة لقد أرسل الروس الآن إشارات قوية مرتين إلى الأتراك في إدلب.

يجب أن تكون مستعداً، عندما يذهب أردوغان بعيداً، لقمعه حقاً والتأكد من أنه يفهم ذلك مسبقاً. الموقف التركيّ ليس صحيحاً أبداً بنسبة 100 %. لديهم منطق وحجج معينة من جانبهم. نظراً لدورهم كحليف مهمّ وحصن ضدّ إيران وروسيا، فإنّ الأمر متروك لنا على الأقلّ للاستماع إلى حججهم ومحاولة إيجاد حلول وسط.

حول رغبة ترامب في مغادرة القوات الأميركية المنطقة يقول جيمس جيفري: الرئيس غير مرتاح لوجودنا في سورية. كان منزعجاً جداً مما اعتبره حروباً لا نهاية لها. هذا شيء لا ينبغي أن ينتقد بسببه. أسقطنا الخلافة (داعش) ثم بقينا. ظلّ ترامب يسأل، «لماذا لدينا قوات هناك؟» ولم نعطه الإجابة الصحيحة.

إذا قال أحدهم، «الأمر كله يتعلق بالإيرانيين»، فربما كان سينجح. لكن الأشخاص الذين كانت مهمتهم معرفة سبب وجود القوات هم وزارة الدفاع. وقد أعطوا الإذن (من الكونغرس) لاستخدام القوة العسكريّة، نحن هنا لمحاربة الإرهابيين.»

أعتقد أنّ سبب سحب ترامب للقوات كان لأنه سئم من تقديم كلّ هذه التفسيرات لسبب وجودنا هناك. كان هناك وعد ضمني له: يا رئيس، لا شيء خطأ، نحن نعمل مع الأتراك، ونعمل مع الروس. ومن ثم يحصل على هذه الكوارث.

لم أبلغ الرئيس بذلك. لقد فعل بومبيو ذلك وقدّم له الحجة، وركز على إيران. لكن ترامب كان غير مرتاح لهذه القوى، وكان يثق بأردوغان. سيواصل أردوغان طرح هذه القضايا حول حزب العمال الكردستاني، وسيستجوب الرئيس الناس، ويجب أن يكونوا صادقين ويعترفوا». بالطبع، الأمر أكثر تعقيداً من ذلك. الحروب معقدة، ويضيف: لقد شرحنا الأسباب للرئيس لكنه يستمع أيضاً إلى أردوغان. أردوغان مقنع تماماً بالنسبة له.

في وزارة الخارجية، لم نكشف للرئيس عن عدد القوات في سورية. إنها ليست وظيفتنا. لم نحاول خداعه. لكننا كنا نعطيه أرقاماً أقلّ بكثير من الأرقام الفعليّة، لذلك عند التحدث إلى وسائل الإعلام والكونغرس، كان علينا توخي الحذر الشديد وتجنبها. بالإضافة إلى أنّ الأرقام كانت مضحكة. هل تحصي الحلفاء الذين لا يريدون الكشف عن هويتهم هناك؟ هل تشمل ثكنة التنف؟ هل تحسب أن وحدة برادلي تأتي وتذهب؟

كنا خجولين لأنّ الرئيس أعطى الأمر بالانسحاب ثلاث مرات. كانت الضغوط مستمرة والتهديد بسحب القوات من سورية. شعرنا بالضعف الشديد وربما شربنا القليل من الخوف لأنه كان يعني الكثير بالنسبة لنا. أتفهّم مخاوفه بشأن أفغانستان. لكن المهمة في سورية هي الهدية التي تستمرّ في العطاء. نحن وقوات سورية الديمقراطية ما زلنا القوة المهيمنة في شمال شرق سورية.

كان الأكراد يحاولون دائماً جعلنا نتظاهر بأننا سندافع عنهم ضد الجيش التركي. وحثوا قوة المهام المشتركة، على الرغم من اعتراضاتي، على البدء في إقامة نقاط استيطانيّة على طول الحدود التركيّة.

James Jeffrey’s Confessions: Syria is the gift that continues to give to us, we are in control of northeastern Syria. Erdogan retreats under threat (2)

Nidal Hamada

We complete the second and final part of the interview that former U.S. special envoy to Syria Jeffrey James gave to Al-Monitor.

Jeffrey James says Erdogan and Turkey must  be separated, and Biden’s biggest challenges will be China, Russia, North Korea, Iran’s JCPOA and climate.

“Turkey is a very important NATO country, and NATO’s radar is at the heart of the anti-ballistic missile system that confronts Iran in Turkey.” We have enormous military assets there. We can’t really “do” the Middle East, party conventions or the Black Sea without Turkey. Turkey is a natural opponent of Russia and Iran.

“Erdogan is a great thinker in governance.” Where he sees what attracts he moves, the other thing for Erdogan is that he is too arrogant and unpredictable as to what he is doing, and simply won’t agree to a win-win solution. But when he’s in a hurry, (and I negotiated with him), he’s a rational actor.

So, if Biden sees the world like so many of us now, a close-up competition, Turkey becomes very important.   

“Erdogan won’t back down until you show him your teeth, that’s what we did when we negotiated a ceasefire in October 2019, we were ready to crush the Turkish economy,” he said.

The Russians have now sent twice strong signals to the Turks in Idlib.

You must be prepared, when Erdogan goes away, to really suppress him and make sure that he understands it in advance. The Turkish position is never 100% true. They have certain logic and arguments on their part. Given their role as an important ally and bulwark against Iran and Russia, it is up to us at least to listen to their arguments and try to find compromises.

“The president is uncomfortable with our presence in Syria,” said James Jeffrey. He was very disturbed by what he considered endless wars. This is something that should not be criticized for it. We brought down the caliphate (ISIS) and then we stayed. Trump kept asking, “Why do we have troops there?” and we didn’t give him the right answer.

If someone said, “It’s all about the Iranians,” maybe it’s going to work. But the people whose job it was to find out why the troops were present was the Ministry of Defence. They have given permission (from Congress) to use military force, we are here to fight terrorists.”

I think the reason Trump pulled the troops out was because he’s tired of providing all of these explanations of why we’re there. There was an implicit to him: President, nothing is wrong, we are working with the Turks, we are working with the Russians. And then he gets these disasters.

I didn’t report it to the President. But Trump was uncomfortable with these forces, and he trusted Erdogan.

At the State Department, we have not disclosed to the President the number of troops in Syria. It’s not our job. We didn’t try to fool him.

We were shy because the president gave the order to withdraw three times. Pressure was continuing and the threat of withdrawing troops from Syria. We felt very weak and maybe even drunk a little fear because it meant so much to us. I understand his concerns about Afghanistan. But the task in Syria is the gift that continues to give. We and the Syrian Democratic Forces are still the dominant force in northeastern Syria.

The Kurds were always trying to make us pretend that we would defend them against the Turkish army. They urged the Joint Task Force, despite my objections, to start establishing outposts along the Turkish border.

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