US Duplicity over Golan Demolishes Posturing on Crimea

US Duplicity over Golan Demolishes Posturing on Crimea

US Duplicity over Golan Demolishes Posturing on Crimea

In a controversial snub to international law, the United States signaled last week that it is moving to officially recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israeli territory. If the US does so, then it forfeits any moral authority to sanction Russia over allegations of “annexing Crimea”.

In its annual US State Department report, the section dealing with the Golan Heights reportedly refers to the contested area as “Israeli-controlled”, not “Israeli-occupied”. The change in wording deviates from United Nations resolutions and international norm which use the term “Israeli-occupied” to designate the land Israel annexed from Syria following the 1967 Six Day War.

Israel has occupied the western part of the Golan since 1967 as a spoil from that war. In 1981, Tel Aviv formally annexed the Syrian territory. However, the UN Security Council in 1981, including the US, unanimously condemned the annexation as illegal. The resolution mandates Israel to return the land to Syria which has historical claim to the entire Golan. The area of 1,800 square kilometers is a strategic elevation overlooking the northern Jordan Valley.

If Washington confirms its recent indications of recognizing the Golan as officially part of Israel, the development would mark an egregious flouting of international law.

But what’s more, such a move totally prohibits Washington from posturing with presumed principle over the issue of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula which since 2014 voluntarily became part of Russia.

Just last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated accusations against Russia of “annexing” Crimea. Pompeo insisted that US sanctions against Moscow would be maintained until Russia “returns Crimea to Ukraine”.

“The world has not forgotten the cynical lies Russia employed to justify its aggression and mask its attempted annexation of Ukrainian territory,” he said. “The United States will maintain respective sanctions against Russia until the Russian government returns control of Crimea to Ukraine.”

Last year, Pompeo’s State Department issued a ‘Crimea Declaration’ in which it was stated that, “Russia undermines a bedrock of international principle shared by democratic states: that no country can change the borders of another by force.”

Claims by Washington and the European Union of “illegal annexation” of Crimea by Russia are the central basis for five years of economic sanctions imposed on Moscow. Those sanctions have contributed to ever-worsening tensions with Russia and the build-up of NATO forces along Russia’s borders.

Those claims are, however, highly contestable. The people of Crimea voted in a legally constituted referendum in March 2014 to secede from Ukraine and to join the Russian Federation. That referendum followed an illegal coup in Kiev in February 2014 backed by the US and Europe against a legally elected president, Viktor Yanukovych. Historically, Crimea has centuries of shared cultural heritage with Russia. Its erstwhile position within the state of Ukraine was arguably an anomaly of the Cold War and subsequent break-up of the Soviet Union.

In any case, there is scant comparison between the Golan Heights and Crimea, save, that is, for the latest hypocrisy in Washington. While Crimea and its people are arguably historically part of Russia, the Golan Heights are indisputably a sovereign part of Syria which was forcibly annexed by Israeli military occupation.

The illegality of Israel’s occupation of Golan is a matter of record under international law as stipulated in UNSC Resolution 497.

There is no such international mandate concerning Crimea. Claims of Russia’s “annexation” are simply a matter of dubious political assertion made by Washington and its European allies.

The latest move by Washington towards recognizing Golan as part of Israel – in defiance of international law – comes on the back of several other recent developments.

US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham made a tour of Israeli-occupied Golan last week in the company of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pointedly transported by an IDF military helicopter. Graham said following his tour that he would recommend the Trump administration to officially recognize the area as under Israeli sovereignty.

Currently, there is legislation going through both the US Senate and House of Representatives which is aimed at declaring the entire Golan as Israeli territory.

The stark shift in pro-Israeli bias in Washington under the Trump administration is consistent with the White House declaring at the end of 2017 that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Again, that move by President Trump overturned international consensus and UN resolutions which have stipulated Jerusalem to be a shared capital between Israel and a future Palestinian state, to be worked out by (defunct) peace negotiations.

Why Washington has taken up the Golan issue as a prize for Israel at this time is not precisely clear. It could be seen as the Trump administration giving a political boost to Netanyahu for next month’s elections.

There has been previous speculation that Trump is doing the bidding for a US-based oil company, Genie Oil, which is linked to his administration through his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family investments. The New Jersey company has a subsidiary in Israel, is tied to the Netanyahu government, and has long been aiming to drill the Golan for its abundant oil resources.

The Golan move could also be retribution meted out to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over his country’s historic defeat of the US-backed covert war for regime change. The nearly eight-year war was also covertly backed by Israel which sponsored jihadist militia operating out of the Golan against the Syrian army. Having vanquished the US regime-change plot, thanks to crucial military support from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, the payback could be Washington stepping up Israeli claims to annex the Golan.

But whatever the background explanation is, the initiative by Washington to legalize the annexation of Golan by Israel is a brazen violation of international law. In doing so, the US is officially sponsoring war crimes and theft of Syria’s sovereign territory. Or as the Crimea Declaration would put it: “changing the borders of another country by force” – supposedly a “bedrock principle” that Washington continually sermonizes about to Russia.

Crimea and Golan are different issues of territorial dispute, as noted already. Nevertheless, the duplicity of Washington over Golan makes its posturing on Crimea null and void. If the Europeans meekly go along with the US move on Golan, then they too should shut their mouths and their moralizing sanctions over Crimea.

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Tragicomedy of Errors

March 17, 2019

by Jimmie Moglia for The Saker Blog

Tragicomedy of Errors

The sublime Plato said that the soul has a trinitarian composition – a very coarse soul in the belly, a loving one in the chest and a reasoning third in the head. The soul is immortal, though women have only two souls, for they are missing reason.

But a father attending the Council of Macon (585 AD), from across the banks and shoals of time, answered, “Plato you speak like an idolater.” And the very same council with a majority of votes, assigned to women a trinitarian and equally immortal soul.

Nevertheless neither Plato nor the Council addressed the issue of individuals who lost their souls, or maybe never had one. As an instance, those who plotted, organized and attempted to carry out the current coup in Venezuela are soul-less creatures – or if they have one, it’s a soul of shit.

Their spiritual fiber, if any, could be surmised from their background, antecedents, demeanor and physiognomy. For you have only to look at Trump’s special counsel for Venezuela and say to yourself, “Here comes the devil, in the likeness of Elliot Abrams.”

The bulk of Mike Pompeo suggests a lack of understanding that dainty bits make rich the ribs but bankrupt quite the wits. Bolton is the physical and verbal embodiment of obnoxiousness. With his ridiculous personal threats against the head of a foreign, noble and independent country, – almost as old as the United States – he has confirmed his credentials as an arrogant, vainglorious, diabolic and dangerous imbecil. And completely unaware that it will come to pass that every braggart shall be found an ass. As for Pence, and he is but an auxiliary and complementary purveyor of nonsense.

Looking at them from the outside and listening to their babble, an impartial observer must conclude that the nature of obsessive lies rests in the incomprehension of things. Otherwise, even a modest understanding would prompt them to lay aside their irksome mask of dissimulation.

And by assenting, consenting and authorizing the despicable charade, from a beacon of some kind of hope Trump has transformed himself into a prince of darkness. For it takes an almost immeasurable flexibility of conscience in pretending to make America great by stealing another nation’s oil, minerals and natural resources.

Maybe he was persuaded to believe that conscience is but a word that cowards use, devised by some to keep the strong in awe. Or he shrewdly realized that by promising no involvement in foreign wars or their equivalent, he could open the eyes of expectation. And in the scale of human feelings, emotions and excitement, delivery is definitely duller than hope, hence of lesser impact than promises.

Some may question my qualifications for so unflatteringly describing the Washington quadrumvirate of plotters. To them I’d respond that emperor Caligula made a senator out of his horse. But that did not change the nature of the horse, once he became a senator.

As a humble chronicler of events, I hesitate to tell my twenty-five readers what they already know about Venezuela. But in the instance, the information, or rather the confirmation, comes from a direct source. For I follow a European group, self-explainingly called NO-NATO. Considering the apocalyptic portrait of Venezuela given by NATO’s bosses and acolytes, and the dramatically conflicting information available from other unaffiliated parties, the group decided that the best way to solve the riddle was to listen to an unbiased envoy who traveled on site and reported accordingly.

This “special envoy” travelled to Venezuela as a tourist and visitor.

Even without her report we knew already of the small but vociferous comprador class of Venezuela and their progeny. Namely, those who commute from Venezuela to Miami for the weekend – the idle and sometimes-dangerous nonsense generators, who flourish wherever men and women are tired of the truth.

The chief profession of this class is to do nothing, followed by long periods of rest. Incidentally, when Trump, to berate Venezuela, proclaims that the US will never be a socialist state, he is mistaken. For what better definition of socialism can there be, than that applicable to a class whose only necessary requirement for living in idle luxury is to exist? In this respect, the US holds and cherishes one such class. Therefore the US is indeed a socialist state.

Here are some notes from our envoy’s report.

In Mid-February, she flew and arrived safely at Caracas airport, which – she says – looks no different from any other similar airport, and safely travelled to downtown. Life appeared normal with no war-fever in the air, though the people appear to be “permanently mobilized.” Two million of them have enrolled into the Bolivarian militia, ready to defend their country.

On Feb 23rd 2019 she joined a massive pro-Maduro demonstration. “A sea of red jerseys and red caps. Youth… of every age paraded in a mile long line under a scorching sun. Following and taking-in the length of the procession, it was easy to perceive the peaceful and cheerful firmness of the Bolivarian people. One woman said to me, “Here are the Chavez’ people. He did not die and now he has become millions.” An activist, wearing sun glasses made to resemble Chavez’ eyes, held a placard that said, “The UN must stop the aggression against Venezuela.”

In a long speech from the podium, without apparent or noticeable security measures, president Maduro announced the breaking of diplomatic relations with Colombia. And he added, “Against all this hatred, we want peace, but with independence. Does Trump want to use humanitarian aids to invade us? We are the ones who defend humanitarian rights and the international law, which prohibits interference to disrupt the life of other countries. Yes there is a crisis. But have we perhaps reduced the social missions, have we taken away pensions or eliminated food subsidies? – What if the puppet Guaidò and his ilk were to rule here? Can you imagine?””

“Later, at a conference called “Assembly of the Peoples” I spoke with Ramon, who lives here but is originally from Spain. He said, “The hatred against the poor, here in Venezuela, reminds me of what my grandparents in Spain told me about the civil war: when the Republic introduced a series of rights for the whole population: schools, voting, trade unions. The upper classes developed a deep hatred against the poor who, organized by the trade unions, began to obtain some rights. The middle class saw this as a loss of their standing in society. It’s the same here in Venezuela during the last years.

The hatred does not even come from the most powerful capitalists – they are in Miami. It comes from the middle class itself.
When Chavez became president, for the first time in the history of the country, he gave eight million Venezuelans an identity card. Before that move, those millions officially did not exist. They couldn’t have a bank account, nor the right to a state subsidy nor could they vote. Before Chavez only the rich and the middle class went to university. With Chavez, they had to share schools and universities with people whom they rated as their inferiors. They did not like it one bit.””

Along the streets, market stalls sell food-items, fruits and vegetables. Prices are on par with Europe. But it is not here that Venezuelans on minimum wage do their shopping. Their needs are addressed by a public system called CLAP (Comités Locales de Abastecimiento y Producción = Local Committees of Provisions and Production.) Monthly or bi-weekly, the system supplies packages of food to 6 million households, with distribution entrusted to the condos. The cost for each supply package is minimal though it may not be enough.

Conversation with woman met on a bus.

This is a short exchange with Eliana, who, getting off the enormous and very crowded (but always free) bus, directs herself towards the subway station ‘La Hoyada.’ “We will do everything not to end like Syria or Libya” – she says.

Outside the station, people are gathering. They wear the red Chavist shirt. Among them, Eliana recognizes and waves at one of the founders of the Bank for the Development of Women (Banco de Desarrollo de la Mujer), where Eliana works.

“Inside the metro station Mr. Andrade (of Portuguese family, who grows potatoes at Merida, in the Andean area,) explains to me why in this emergency period, the transport service is free, “to try to help the people, during this crisis.”

Inside the train, I notice the lack of avid smartphone readers. Few have one and exhibiting is considered tasteless.”

I only reported parts of the report. The reader can compare with the official output from the controlled US media and draw his conclusions.

The reader will be equally aware of the nation-wide electrical black-out of Venezuela, occurred on Mar 7, 2019. Mr. Jorge Rodriguez, Venezuelan Vice President for Communications, has given a pretty exhaustive explanation of the three-fold stages of the terrorist act in a video (link at the end of article for those interested).

That it was a CIA planned operation is beyond question. Particularly meaningful, I think, is the relative little care the CIA took, to hide its involvement. Indeed, two minutes and forty seconds after the attack, that cesspit of inhumanity, senator (!) Marco Rubio, – (in)famous for threatening Maduro to resign or ending up like Gheddafi shown dying in a picture – issued the following tweet,

“Alert. Information about a total electrical blackout affecting the whole of #Venezuela. 18 of the 23 (Venezuelan) states and the district of the capital are now affected by total black-out. The main airport has no energy and the reserve generators have failed. The #MaduroRegime is a complete disaster.” (ALERTA: Informes de un apagon completo en todo #Venezuela en este momento. 18 de los 23 estados y el distrito capital se enfrentan actualmente a apagones completos. Aeropuerto principal tambien sin energia y generatores de respaldo han fallado. #MaduroRegime Es un completo desastre.)
How could he know that the reserve generators had failed?

Almost simultaneously broadcast, here is Guaido’s, “Venezuela knows that the light will return with the cessation of the usurpation. Let’s move on. During my tour in the South, we sought support to address this crisis. We will defeat the blockade of progress with mobilization. See you next Saturday in the streets! (Venezuela tiene claro que la luz llega con el cese de la usurpacion. Sigamos adelante. Durante nuestra gira en el sur, buscamos apoyos para atender esta crisis. El bloqueo al progreso lo vencemos com movilizacion. Nos vemos el sabado en la calle!)

Mike Pompeo’s was more laconic, “No food, No medicine. Now no power. Next, no Maduro.”

The electrical “desastre” was to be the 9/11 of Venezuela. It failed. Perhaps we can say Maduro 2 – Abrams 0.

By the way and as we know, efforts at unseating Hugo Chavez while alive have a long history. For example, some may remember Pat Robertson, fundamentalist Christian guru and patron of the “Jews for Jesus” movement. He promoted on national TV the idea that the US military should directly “take out” (sic) Hugo Chavez.

And here is a document produced by an organization called Canvas (Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies), founded in 2004 in Belgrade (Serbia). Financed by the US government, CANVAS trains youth operatives to be deployed in countries where the US plans a regime change. Among CANVAS’ first ‘products’ was a movement called “Generation 2007.” Its objectives were to foment and create disorders against Hugo Chavez and his plans to relieve poverty by re-directing the oil profits to the needs of the nations. Guaido’ was a trainee in that movement. As you can see from the following document, recently released, even then the CIA sought the Venezuelan electrical grid as a target.

“Key to Chavez’s current weakness is the decline in the electricity sector. There is a grave possibility that some 70% of the country’s electricity grid go dark as soon as April 2010. Water levels at the Gurie dam are dropping, and the Chavez has been unable to reduce consumption sufficiently to compensate for the deteriorating industry. This could be the watershed event, as there is little that Chavez can do to protect the poor from the failure of that system. This would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate. At this point in time, an opposition group would be best served to take advantage of the situation and spin it against Chavez and towards their needs. Alliances with the military could be critical because in such a situation of messy public unrest and rejection of the presidency, malcontent sections of the military will likely decided to intervene, but only if they believe they have sufficient support. This has been the pattern in the past three coup attempts. Where the military thought it had enough support, there was a failure in the public to respond positively (or the public responded in the negative), so the coup failed.”

An old Italian proverb that says “The devil builds the (black) pots, but forgets (to build) the lids.” It means that when someone decides to practice evil (like the devil), plans are made, lies are told, people and facts are manipulated. But something often happens to foil the plan. The truth comes out, or the wrongdoer is punished, or the plans fail.

That seems the case with an event occurred on Mar 14, 2019. When two Russian pranksters, Vladimir Kutznetsov and Alexei Stoliarov, set up a formidably comical telephone call, directly with Guaido’ (youtube link at end of article). In which the caller was supposed to be nonetheless than the president of Switzerland, Mr. Maurer. The call lasts about 13 minutes. A necessarily short summary does not do justice to the irresistibly comical charge of the whole episode.

In the video, the voice in English, speaking from the Switzerland of pretense, is supposed to belong to the Swiss president. But the accent is too Russian, and I do not think it could have deceived even the otherwise gullible Guaido’. In turn, Guaido’ replies and speaks in Spanish (transcribed in the video). That voice is definitely Guaido’s, as is his bare ass, immortalized by a picture taken during an earlier anti-Chavez demonstration (see article “In Praise of Shamelessness.”). I speculate that a Spanish interpreter was involved on the pranksters’ side to translate the words of the simulated Swiss president.

After congratulating Guaido’ on his assumption of the Venezuela presidency, ‘Mr. Maurer’ wants to discuss the Venezuela’s arrangements and forthcoming new relations with the Swiss banking systems. He says to have contacted Marshall Billingslea, US Treasury’s assistant secretary for Terrorist Financing. Mr. Maurer suggests that all Venezuelan accounts in Switzerland are terrorist-linked, hence illegal and should be frozen. Does Guaido’ agree? Yes, Guaido’ replies.

At minute 4.14 ‘Mr Maurer’ discloses that Maduro transfers his money to a company called ‘Tender First’, owned by a Kazak man called Nurlan Baidild. Does Guaido’ know him? No, says Guaido’.

Has Guaido’ appointed a Venezuelan ambassador to Switzerland? Yes, Guaido’ replies, Ms. Marta Alejandra Aristiguieta.

‘Mr. Maurer’ advises Guaido’ that various lengthy procedural steps are involved in freezing international accounts, but the situation is urgent. There is a risk that Maduro’s and Venezuelan funds may be transferred to Russia or China. Would Guaido’ agree to transfer these assets into a temporary personal account, to prevent the funds from disappearing?

Guaido’ agrees. And then comes the dessert of the interview. Does Guaido’ know that the Russian opposition leader is Alexei Navalni, who also studied at Yale? No, sais Guaido’. ‘Mr. Maurer’ probes further. Once officially installed as president, would Guaido’ recognize Navalni as interim president of the Russian Federation?

“We are going to evaluate all the options” – replies Guaido’ – but yours is an interesting proposal.”

Apparently, after the call, Guaido’ immediately made public the information about the freezing of Venezuelan funds in Switzerland. Which prompted the pranksters (always pretending to be Mr. Maurer,) to send an email to John Bolton, suggesting that it was unwise for Guaido’ to go public with this sensitive information. Bolton replies with an email agreeing it was an error and will talk with Guaido’ accordingly. Bolton’s email is shown in the video, but there is no way of confirming its authenticity.

Informed about the prank and asked for his opinion, Evo Morales, authentic president of Bolivia is said to have replied, “Guaido’ es un burrote.” (Guaido’ is an ass).

Apparently, Guaido’ is currently free to roam around in Venezuela. A naive observer may conclude that there is enough material and evidence to arrest him on a charge of treason and promoting terrorism.

Still, Machiavellianly speaking, Guaido’ is now the metaphorical representation of a “dead man walking.” For his killing could be the excuse for a US invasion. The CIA is known for having done worse. We must therefore assume that, by not arresting Guaido’, the Maduro administration knows best.

Time to wrap up and tie together the threads of the story.

The still pending attempt to rape Venezuela is historically meaningful and factually instructive. For the field of battle where the US is (or has been) most successful relies on the bi-dimensional representation of events. That is, a media stage featuring Good versus Bad, where their monopoly of images, and therefore of the imagination, is eminently successful. A splendid confirmation – American style – that nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so. Where thinking is conducted on the people’s behalf by the media monopoly. Hence the miracle of converting victims into allies, however temporarily.

Nevertheless, while taking the above for granted, the quadroika of evil also assumed an impenetrable fog, spread by them and by the fake news generators. But the view is clearing, some new light illuminates palpable and cumbersome realities, which fear and the penumbra of reason have allowed for too long to remain unsaid, unthought, hidden and invisible.

Account of the terrorist act on the Venezuelan electrical system:

Pranksters Video:

صراع الجنرالات في تل أبيب في زمن النصر الاستراتيجي للمقاومة…!

مارس 16, 2019

محمد صادق الحسيني

تقطع المصادر المطلعة على أجواء غرف عمليات محور المقاومة من طهران إلى غزة بأنّ الصاروخين اللذين حطا رحالهما في تل أبيب ليسا من عمل المقاومة في شيء…!

نفس المصادر تشتبه بقوة بأنّ سيناريو ما كان يحضّر لتفجير الأوضاع على الجبهة الجنوبية لفلسطين المحتلة بهدف وضع فصائل المقاومة هناك بين المطرقة والسندان لاستفزازها بهدف جعلها مادة انتخابية لخدمة أحزاب الكيان الصهيوني…!

وفي هذا السياق فقد أفاد مصدر أمني أوروبي غربي مخضرم، تعليقاً على موضوع إطلاق الصواريخ على تل أبيب، بما يلي:

1 ـ انّ عملية إطلاق الصاروخين على تل أبيب، مساء الخميس 14/3/2019 كانت عملية منسّقة بين جهات مخابراتية فلسطينية وجهات معينة في الأجهزة الأمنية والعسكرية «الإسرائيلية».

2 ـ تمّ تنفيذ العملية من خلال بضع أفراد فلسطينيين من قطاع غزه، مقابل المال، حيث كلفت العملية حوالي ثلاثة ملايين دولار.

3 ـ قام عملاء لأجهزة مخابراتية فلسطينية بشراء الصواريخ من عناصر قريبين من جبهة المقاومة دون علم قياداتهم بالموضوع.

4 ـ الدوله العميقة في «إسرائيل»ـ أيّ الأجهزه الأمنية، على علم بكلّ التفاصيل جميعها… بدءاً بإيصال الأموال، التي استخدمت في ترتيب العملية، الى غزة مروراً بالأشخاص الذين باعوا الصاروخين وصولاً إلى الخلية التي نفذت عملية الإطلاق.

5 ـ كان هدف العملية، حسب من خطط لها، هو إلحاق الأذى الانتخابي بنتن ياهو ولكن الرياح أتت بما لا تشتهي السفنُ.

إذ كان من المفترض، حسب الخطة، أن تسقط الصواريخ في المدينة وتوقع خسائر مادية وبشرية كبيرة مما سيضطر نتن ياهو الى شنّ حرب واسعة على غزة، تلك الحرب التي ستكبّد «إسرائيل» وجيشها خسائر كبيرة دون تحقيق أيّ من الأهداف «الإسرائيلية».

6 ـ لكن سقوط أحد الصاروخين في البحر والآخر في منطقة مفتوحة دون وقوع خسائر قد أدّى إلى فشل الخطة وتحويل النتيجه لصالح نتن ياهو الذي قرّر الردّ بشكل محدود ومدروس ليخدم حملته الانتخابية فقط ودون التورّط في مواجهة واسعة مع قطاع غزه.

وتابع المصدر الأمني… انّ البيان الذي تمّ تداوله باسم «حركة المقاومة العربية لتحرير فلسطين»، هو بيان مفبرك من قبل جهات أمنية «فلسطينية» وبالتنسيق مع جهات أمنية «إسرائيلية»!

في هذه الأثناء فإنه تمّ في الآونة الأخيرة تسجيل حملة في وسائل الإعلام «الإسرائيلي»، خاصة «ديبكا فايل» تركز على موضوع قوات حزب الله على جبهة الجولان بقيادة علي موسى دقدوق… يربط من خلالها «الإسرائيلي» الموضوع بالجنرال سليماني ودور مدّعى لدقدوق في تدريب قوات الخزعلي في العراق، ويشيرون الى احتمال قيام القوات الأميركية في سورية والعراق بعمل استباقي ضدّ قوات حزب الله العراق وعصائب أهل الحق….

حيث يتمّ التركيز على انّ قيادة هذه التنظيمات في أيدي الجنرال سليماني والسيد حسن نصرالله والشيخ قيس الخزعلي…

وتضيف هذه المصادر بأنّ كلّ هذا يحمل رسائل لا يجوز إهمالها أو الاستهانة بها…!

فهذا الهجوم الإعلامي المكثف على حزب الله والمقاومة وحشد المعلومات المتضاربة المليئة بالأفخاخ والتي يروّج لها موقع «ديبكا الإسرائيلي» تعود أسبابها بنظر المراقبين إلى ما يلي:

ـ زيارة بومبيو المقبلة للمنطقة وتحديداً الى لبنان…!

ـ قانون ضمّ الجولان الذي سيناقش في الكونغرس قريباً.

ـ تهديدات نتن ياهو بضرب ناقلات النفط الإيرانية وقيام 11 زورق بمهاجمة ناقلة إيرانية في باب المندب، بتاريخ 7/3/2019، والتي تمّ إنقاذها بواسطة تدخل مغاوير القوة البحرية الإيرانية وتمكّنت من مواصلة سيرها بشكل طبيعي تحمل 150 ألف طن من النفط .

طبعاً الزوارق كانت تحمل قراصنة تقوم بتشغيلهم «إسرائيل» والولايات المتحدة في تلك المنطقة.

هذا يعني ممارسة شكل جديد من أشكال الحرب ضدّ إيران…!

فهل تتجه المنطقة إلى تصعيد تحت السيطرة الهدف منه إنقاذ نتن ياهو من السقوط نحو الهاوية..!؟

ام انّ ثمة جهات دولية وأميركية عليا باتت مقتنعة بأنّ ايام نتن ياهو باتت معدودة وينبغي التخلص منه ومن عصابته الحاكمة لصالح عصابات جنرلات أبيض- أزرق لتبدأ دورة جديدة من العنف والنهب الصهيوني الاحتلالي لفلسطيننا الحبيبة تحت عنوان جديد…!؟

في كلّ الاحوال شعبنا الفلسطيني ومن ورائه محور المقاومة سيكونان بالمرصاد لمثل هذه الألاعيب ولن يسمحا لصواريخ انتخابية مشبوهة ان تكون هي من تحدّد ساعة المواجهة مع عدوهما التاريخي والوجودي..!

لن نكون أول من يشعل الحرب ولكن لن نسمح للعدو ايضاً أن يدحرجنا الى حيث يريد وفي اللحظة التي يريد..!

ولسنا طعماً انتخابياً لأيّ زمرة من زمر حربه القذرة..!

واليد العليا ستظلّ لنا لا سيما ونحن في زمن الهجوم الاستراتيجي والاحتفال بالنصر بعد النصر.

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله…

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Rubio’s Gloating Betrays US Sabotage in Venezuela Power Blitz

Rubio’s Gloating Betrays US Sabotage in Venezuela Power Blitz

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 14.03.2019 | WORLD / AMERICAS

Rubio’s Gloating Betrays US Sabotage in Venezuela Power Blitz

US imperialists are so desperate in their regime-change predations over Venezuela, they seem to have a problem controlling their drooling mouths.

The latest orgy of American gloating was triggered by the massive power outages to have hit Venezuela. No sooner had the South American country been blacked out from its power grid collapsing, senior US officials were crowing with perverse relish.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio – who has become a point man for the Trump administration in its regime-change campaign in Venezuela – was a little too celebratory. Within minutes of the nationwide power outage last Thursday, Rubio was having verbal orgasms about the “long-term economic damage”… “in the blink of an eye”. But it was his disclosure concerning the precise damage in the power grid that has led the Venezuelan government to accuse the US of carrying out a sabotage.

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez noted how Rubio, in his tweeted comments “three minutes” after the power outage, mentioned failure of “back-up generators” in Venezuela’s main hydroelectric plant, known as the Guri Dam, located in Bolivar State. The dam supplies some 80 per cent of the Venezuelan population of 31 million with its electricity consumption.

Rodriguez mockingly ascribed “mystic skills” to Rubio because the Florida Republican senator appeared to know the precise nature of the power failure even before the Venezuelan authorities had determined it.

The Venezuelan government has since claimed that the failure in the electric grid was caused by a cyber attack on the computer system controlling the Guri Dam turbines. Caracas said it will present proof of its claims to the United Nations.

Apart from Rubio’s apparent insider information, there are several other indicators that Venezuela’s latest turmoil from power blackout was indeed caused by US sabotage, and specifically a cyber attack.

The South American country has experienced recurring power cuts over recent years due to economic problems and Washington’s sanctions. But the latest outage was widespread – at least 70 per cent of the country – and sustained for more than four days, rather than being rectified within hours. That scale of disruption suggests an unprecedented event, way beyond intermittent problems of maintenance.

The duration of the blackout in the capital Caracas and other major cities also indicates that the nature of the problem was difficult to reverse, which would be consistent with a cyber attack on the power grid. “It was a kill-shot,” says American political analyst Randy Martin.

Furthermore, US officials like President Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton as well as “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams have been warning that Washington is seeking new ways to pile pressure on Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro to stand down.

Abrams was caught out last week in a prank phone call made by two Russian entertainers posing as Swiss President Ueli Maurer in which Abrams openly advocated crushing the Venezuelan banking system in order to topple the government in Caracas. The American envoy, who was convicted over the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s for sponsoring terrorism to sabotage Nicaragua, appeared to balk at using overt US military power against Venezuela. That suggests Washington was persuaded on the efficacy of cyber warfare to inflict social chaos and incite popular anger against the Maduro government.

The immediate reaction by Washington officials and the US-backed political opposition in Venezuela was to blame the Maduro government for the power disorder. The failure was flagged up as a sign of “incompetence” and “mismanagement” of the oil-rich country by the socialist administration. Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has declared himself the rightful president with Washington’s blessing, conveyed the logic of blackmail when he declared, “the lights will come back on when usurper Maduro is gone”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also weighed in with repulsive gloating within hours of Venezuela’s power crisis. Pompeo tweeted: “No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro.”

The delight openly displayed by Washington officials in regard to aggression against Venezuela has broken new ground in terms of the brazenness of US imperialism.

Only a few weeks ago, Bolton announced that the objective for seeking regime change in Venezuela against the elected President Nicolas Maduro was for US corporations to seize the South American state’s vast oil wealth – reckoned to be the largest known reserves on the planet, far exceeding those of Saudi Arabia.

Such is Washington’s unbridled lust for Venezuela’s natural resources that its imperialist advocates are falling over themselves with naked lies and crimes.

When a US Trojan Horse aid convoy was blocked from entering into Venezuela from Colombia last month, American politicians and media immediately blamed the Maduro government for sabotaging the effort. An aid truck was set alight on a border crossing on February 23. US Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Rubio, as well as CNN, condemned the Venezuelan authorities for “callous” destruction of vital aid delivery to its long-suffering people. It turns out, as even the New York Times has now admitted three weeks later, that the aid truck was torched by US-backed opposition supporters on the Colombian side of the border.

The obscenity of American imperialism is that it has inflicted huge social misery in Venezuela from years of sanctions and illegal confiscation (theft) of billions of dollars in assets belonging to the nation. Then it has the audacity to mount a charade seeming to deliver humanitarian aid.

The latest twist to this sadistic game played by Washington is turning the lights off across the entire nation, in homes, hospitals, airports and schools, among other essential services, and attempting to lay the blame on the Venezuelan government.

We may, however, be thankful for Washington’s overweening arrogance and criminality. Because, as Marco Rubio’s rash remarks concerning the latest power outage show, the American gangsterism towards Venezuela is being exposed for the naked aggression that it is.

US-based political analyst Randy Martin, in comments for this column, says that what Washington is doing to Venezuela is tantamount to the “rape of democracy”. “American imperialism has no longer any shame,” he said. “It used to rape countries under the cover a seedy alleyway of false excuses and hollow claims of righteousness. Now it has its trousers around its ankles and trying to rape Venezuela right on the global Main Street.”

Is a War With Iran on the Horizon?

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ICH

The Trump Administration Is Reckless Enough to Turn the Cold War With Iran Into a Hot One

By Bob Dreyfuss

March 12, 2019 “Information Clearing House” – Here’s the foreign policy question of questions in 2019: Are President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, all severely weakened at home and with few allies abroad, reckless enough to set off a war with Iran? Could military actions designed to be limited — say, a heightening of the Israeli bombing of Iranian forces inside Syria, or possible U.S. cross-border attacks from Iraq, or a clash between American and Iranian naval ships in the Persian Gulf — trigger a wider war?

Worryingly, the answers are: yes and yes. Even though Western Europe has lined up in opposition to any future conflict with Iran, even though Russia and China would rail against it, even though most Washington foreign policy experts would be horrified by the outbreak of such a war, it could happen.

Despite growing Trump administration tensions with Venezuela and even with North Korea, Iran is the likeliest spot for Washington’s next shooting war. Years of politically charged anti-Iranian vituperation might blow up in the faces of President Trump and his two most hawkish aides, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, setting off a conflict with potentially catastrophic implications.

Such a war could quickly spread across much of the Middle East, not just to Saudi Arabia and Israel, the region’s two major anti-Iranian powers, but Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and the various Persian Gulf states. It might indeed be, as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested last year (unconsciously echoing Iran’s former enemy, Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein) the “mother of all wars.”

With Bolton and Pompeo, both well-known Iranophobes, in the driver’s seat, few restraints remain on President Trump when it comes to that country. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, President Trump’s former favorite generals who had urged caution, are no longer around. And though the Democratic National Committee passed a resolution last month calling for the United States to return to the nuclear agreement that President Obama signed, there are still a significant number of congressional Democrats who believe that Iran is a major threat to U.S. interests in the region.

During the Obama years, it was de rigueur for Democrats to support the president’s conclusion that Iran was a prime state sponsor of terrorism and should be treated accordingly. And the congressional Democrats now leading the party on foreign policy — Eliot Engel, who currently chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin, the two ranking Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — were opponents of the 2015 nuclear accord (though all three now claim to havechanged their minds).

Deadly Flashpoints for a Future War

On the roller coaster ride that is Donald Trump’s foreign policy, it’s hard to discern what’s real and what isn’t, what’s rhetoric and what’s not. When it comes to Iran, it’s reasonable to assume that Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo aren’t planning an updated version of the unilateral invasion of Iraq that President George W. Bush launched in the spring of 2003.

Yet by openly calling for the toppling of the government in Tehran, by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement and reimposing onerous sanctions to cripple that country’s economy, by encouraging Iranians to rise up in revolt, by overtly supporting various exile groups (and perhaps covertly even terrorists), and by joining with Israel and Saudi Arabia in an informal anti-Iranian alliance, the three of them are clearly attempting to force the collapse of the Iranian regime, which just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

There are three potential flashpoints where limited skirmishes, were they to break out, could quickly escalate into a major shooting war.

The first is in Syria and Lebanon. Iran is deeply involved in defending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (who only recently returned from a visit to Tehran) and closely allied with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite political party with a potent paramilitary arm. Weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu openly boasted that his country’s air force had successfully taken out Iranian targets in Syria. In fact, little noticed here, dozens of such strikes have taken place for more than a year, with mounting Iranian casualties.

Until now, the Iranian leadership has avoided a direct response that would heighten the confrontation with Israel, just as it has avoided unleashing Hezbollah, a well-armed, battle-tested proxy force.  That could, however, change if the hardliners in Iran decided to retaliate. Should this simmering conflict explode, does anyone doubt that President Trump would soon join the fray on Israel’s side or that congressional Democrats would quickly succumb to the administration’s calls to back the Jewish state?

Next, consider Iraq as a possible flashpoint for conflict. In February, a blustery Trump told CBS’s Face the Nation that he intends to keep U.S. forces in Iraq “because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is the real problem.” His comments did not exactly go over well with the Iraqi political class, since many of that country’s parties and militias are backed by Iran.

Trump’s declaration followed a Wall Street Journal report late last year that Bolton had asked the Pentagon — over the opposition of various generals and then-Secretary of Defense Mattis — to prepare options for “retaliatory strikes” against Iran. This roughly coincided with a couple of small rocket attacks against Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and the airport in Basra, Iraq’s Persian Gulf port city, neither of which caused any casualties.  Writing in Foreign Affairs, however, Pompeo blamed Iran for the attacks, which he called “life-threatening,” adding, “Iran did not stop these attacks, which were carried out by proxies it has supported with funding, training, and weapons.” No “retaliatory strikes” were launched, but plans do undoubtedly now exist for them and it’s not hard to imagine Bolton and Pompeo persuading Trump to go ahead and use them — with incalculable consequences.

Finally, there’s the Persian Gulf itself. Ever since the George W. Bush years, the U.S. Navy has worried about possible clashes with Iran’s naval forces in those waters and there have been a number of high-profile incidents. The Obama administration tried (but failed) to establish a hotline of sorts that would have linked U.S. and Iranian naval commanders and so made it easier to defuse any such incident, an initiative championed by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, a longtime opponent of war with Iran.

Under Trump, however, all bets are off. Last year, he requested that Mattis prepare plans to blow up Iran’s “fast boats,” small gunboats in the Gulf, reportedly asking, “Why don’t we sink them?” He’s already reinforced the U.S. naval presence there, getting Iran’s attention. Not surprisingly, the Iranian leadership has responded in kind. Earlier this year, President Hassan Rouhaniannounced that his country had developed submarines capable of launching cruise missiles against naval targets.  The Iranians also began a series of Persian Gulf war games and, in late February, test fired one of those sub-launched missiles.

Add in one more thing: in an eerie replay of a key argument George Bush and Dick Cheney used for going to war with Iraq in 2003, in mid-February the right-wing media outlet Washington Times ran an “exclusive” report with this headline: “Iran-Al Qaeda Alliance may provide legal rationale for U.S. military strikes.”

Back in 2002, the Office of Special Plans at Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, under the supervision of neoconservatives Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, spent months trying to prove that al-Qaeda and Iraq were in league. The Washington Times piece, citing Trump administration sources, made a similar claim — that Iran is now aiding and abetting al-Qaeda with a “clandestine sanctuary to funnel fighters, money, and weapons across the Middle East.”  It added that the administration is seeking to use this information to establish “a potential legal justification for military strikes against Iran or its proxies.” Needless to say, few are the terrorism experts or Iran specialists who would agree that Iran has anything like an active relationship with al-Qaeda.

Will the Hardliners Triumph in Iran as in Washington?

The Trump administration is, in fact, experiencing increasing difficulty finding allies ready to join a new Coalition of the Willing to confront Iran. The only two charter members so far, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are, however, enthusiastic indeed. Last month, Prime Minister Netanyahu was heard remarking that Israel and its Arab allies want war with Iran.

At a less-than-successful mid-February summit meeting Washington organized in Warsaw, Poland, to recruit world leaders for a future crusade against Iran, Netanyahu was heard to say in Hebrew: “This is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.” (He later insisted that the correct translation should have been “combating Iran,” but the damage had already been done.)

That Warsaw summit was explicitly designed to build an anti-Iranian coalition, but many of America’s allies, staunchly opposing Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear accord, would have nothing to do with it. In an effort to mollify the Europeans, in particular, the United States and Poland awkwardly renamed it: “The Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East.”

The name change, however, fooled no one. As a result, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo were embarrassed by a series of no-shows: the French, the Germans, and the European Union, among others, flatly declined to send ministerial-level representatives, letting their ambassadors in Warsaw stand in for them.  The many Arab nations not in thrall to Saudi Arabia similarly sent only low-level delegations. Turkey and Russia boycotted altogether, convening a summit of their own in which Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Iran’s Rouhani.

Never the smoothest diplomat, Pence condemned, insulted, and vilified the Europeans for refusing to go along with Washington’s wrecking-ball approach. He began his speech to the conference by saying: “The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.” He then launched a direct attack on Europe’s efforts to preserve that accord by seeking a way around the sanctions Washington had re-imposed: “Sadly, some of our leading European partners… have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions. We call it an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.”

That blast at the European allies should certainly have brought to mind Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s disparaging comments in early 2003 about Germany and France, in particular, being leaders of the “old Europe.” Few allies then backed Washington’s invasion plans, which, of course, didn’t prevent war. Europe’s reluctance now isn’t likely to prove much of a deterrent either.

But Pence is right that the Europeans have taken steps to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In particular, they’ve created a “special purpose vehicle” known as INSTEX (Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges) designed “to support legitimate trade with Iran,” according to a statement from the foreign ministers of Germany, France, and Great Britain. It’s potentially a big deal and, as Pence noted, explicitly designed to circumvent the sanctions Washington imposed on Iran after Trump’s break with the JCPOA.

INSTEX has a political purpose, too. The American withdrawal from the JCPOA was a body blow to President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and other centrists in Tehran who had taken credit for, and pride in, the deal between Iran and the six world powers (the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia, and China) that signed the agreement. That deal had been welcomed in Iran in part because it seemed to ensure that country’s ability to expand its trade to the rest of the world, including its oil exports, free of sanctions.

Even before Trump abandoned the deal, however, Iran was already finding U.S. pressure overwhelming and, for the average Iranian, things hadn’t improved in any significant way. Worse yet, in the past year the economy had taken a nosedive, the currency hadplungedinflation was running rampant, and strikes and street demonstrations had broken out, challenging the government and its clerical leadership. Chants of “Death to the Dictator!” — not heard since the Green Movement’s revolt against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection in 2009 — once again resounded in street demonstrations.

At the end of February, it seemed as if Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo had scored a dangerous victory when Zarif, Iran’s well-known, Western-oriented foreign minister, announced his resignation. Moderates who supported the JCPOA, including Rouhani and Zarif, have been under attack from the country’s hardliners since Trump’s pullout.  As a result, Zarif’s decision was widely assumed to be a worrisome sign that those hardliners had claimed their first victim.

There was even unfounded speculation that, without Zarif, who had worked tirelessly with the Europeans to preserve what was left of the nuclear pact, Iran itself might abandon the accord and resume its nuclear program. And there’s no question that the actions and statements of Bolton, Pompeo, and crew have undermined Iran’s moderates, while emboldening its hardliners, who are making I-told-you-so arguments to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader.

Despite the internal pressure on Zarif, however, his resignation proved short-lived indeed: Rouhani rejected it, and there was an upsurge of support for him in Iran’s parliament. Even General Qassem Soleimani, a major figure in that country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the commander of the Quds Force, backed him. As it happens, the Quds Force, an arm of the IRGC, is responsible for Iran’s paramilitary and foreign intelligence operations throughout the region, but especially in Iraq and Syria. That role has allowed Soleimani to assume responsibility for much of Iran’s foreign policy in the region, making him a formidable rival to Zarif — a tension that undoubtedly contributed to his brief resignation and it isn’t likely to dissipate anytime soon.

According to analysts and commentators, it appears to have been a ploy by Zarif (and perhaps Rouhani, too) to win a vote of political confidence and it appears to have strengthened their hand for the time being.

Still, the Zarif resignation crisis threw into stark relief the deep tensions within Iranian politics and raised a key question: As the Trump administration accelerates its efforts to seek a confrontation, will they find an echo among Iranian hardliners who’d like nothing more than a face-off with the United States?

Maybe that’s exactly what Bolton and Pompeo want.  If so, prepare yourself: another American war unlikely to work out the way anyone in Washington dreams is on the horizon.

Bob Dreyfuss, an investigative journalist and TomDispatch regular, is the founder of TheDreyfussReport.com. He is a contributing editor at the Nation, and he has written for Rolling StoneMother Jones, the American Prospect, the New Republic, and many other magazines. He is the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2019 Bob Dreyfuss

 

Video: Venezuela Blackout: Cyber Attacks, Sabotage and Political Horror Movies

During the past few days, Venezuela was suffering a major blackout that left the country in darkness. The crisis started on March 7 with a failure at the Guri hydroelectric power plant, which produces 80% of the country’s power. Additionally, an explosion was reported at Sidor Substation in Bolivar state.

Since then, the government has been struggling to solve the crisis with varying success.

President Nicolas Maduro says that the blackout is the reason of “the electric war announced and directed by American imperialism.” According to Maduro, electrical systems were targeted by cyberattacks and “infiltrators”. He added that authorities managed to restore power to “many parts” of the country on March 8, but the restored systems were knocked down after the country’s grid was once again attacked. He noted that “one of the sources of generation that was working perfectly” had been sabotaged and accused “infiltrators of attacking the electric company from the inside.”

Communication and information minister Jorge Rodriguez described the situation as “the most brutal attack on the Venezuelan people in 200 years”. He also described the situation as the “deliberate sabotage” on behalf of the US-backed opposition.

In own turn, the US continues to reject claims accusing it of attempts to destabilize the situation in the country. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even claimed that Washington and its allies would not hurt the “ordinary Venezuelans.” According to him, what’s hurting the people is the “Maduro regime’s incompetence.”

“No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro,” Pompeo wrote in Twitter, adding that “Maduro’s policies bring nothing but darkness.”

Unfortunately, the top diplomat did not explain how wide-scale economic sanctions imposed to wreck the country’s economic should help the “ordinary Venezuelans”.

The State Department attitude was expectedly supported by US-proclaimed Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaido, who recently returned to country after an attempt to get more foreign support for US-backed regime change efforts. Guaido accused the “Maduro Regime” of turning the blackout during the night in a “horror movie” with his “gangs” terrorizing people.

Another narrative, which recently set the mainstream media on fire, is the alleged Cuban meddling in the crisis. According to this very version of the event, “forces of democracy” were not able to overthrow the Venezuelan government because its political elite is controlled by Cuban intelligence services. President Donald Trump even said Maduro is nothing more than a “Cuban puppet.”

Taking account already existing allegations about the presence of Hezbollah and Russian mercenaries in Venezuela and an expected second attempt to stage US aid delivery provocation on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, it becomes clear that chances of US direct action to bring into power own political puppet are once again growing.

The February attempt to stage a provocation failed and make a final step toward a regime change by force failed after it was publicly revealed that the US-backed opposition was intentionally burning “aid trucks” to blame the Maduro government. Furthermore, the military backed Maduro, and the scale and intensity of protests across the country were not enough to paralyze the government.

The blackout in Venezuela was likely meant to bring the country into disorder and draw off army and security forces. Therefore, an attempt to stage a new provocation to justify a foreign intervention to overthrow the Venezuelan government could be expected anytime soon.

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The Heart of the US-Saudi Relationship Lies In the Kushner-Prince Friendship

By Mohamad Bazzi, The Guardian

The new Democratic majority in Congress is unraveling the many ways that Donald Trump’s administration has been beholden to Saudi Arabia since its earliest days. In a report last month that got lost in the crush of other news, House Democrats detailed how top Trump administration officials, including Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner, pushed to provide the Saudi government with technology to build nuclear power plants. That could put Saudi Arabia on the path to developing nuclear weapons, and further destabilize the Middle East.

Kushner’s role is particularly troubling because, as the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, he has cultivated and shored up the relationship between Trump and the ruthless Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The Kushner-Prince Mohammed friendship is at the heart of the US-Saudi relationship today, and it is one reason that Trump has tried to shield the crown prince from blame for the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump and Kushner, both used to shady real estate deals, adapted quickly to Saudi Arabia’s system of patronage and clientelism: unwavering support from the Trump administration for the promise of weapons sales and other business deals.

The project to sell nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia began in late 2016, during the presidential transition, when a group of retired US generals and national security officials coalesced around Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser. Even after Flynn was fired in February 2017, other White House officials revived the plan, despite objections from administration lawyers who worried that the proposal could violate US laws intended to stop nuclear proliferation. And the idea is still alive: Trump met last month with the CEOs of several private nuclear power companies who sought his help in building power plants in the Middle East.

While most attention has been focused on Flynn’s role, Kushner is entangled in several conflicts of interest around the Saudi project, according to the 24-page report from the House oversight and reform committee. One of the potential beneficiaries of a Saudi nuclear deal is Westinghouse Electric, which is owned by a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, a real estate company that recently bailed out Kushner and his family’s company in their ill-fated, $1.8bn purchase of a Manhattan office tower at 666 Fifth Avenue.

The alliance between Kushner and Prince Mohammed has consequences for US policy: Trump ignored a deadline last month to submit a report to Congress on whether the crown prince was personally responsible for Khashoggi’s murder and dismemberment at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, as US intelligence agencies concluded. But like Trump’s previous attempts to shield the prince from blame for Khashoggi’s killing, this one will backfire. By defending Prince Mohammed so strongly, Trump has made the crisis worse and has emboldened a tougher response in Congress.

Soon after Trump was elected, the Saudi crown prince and his advisers targeted Kushner as their gateway into Trump’s inner circle. They realized that Kushner was vulnerable because of his business dealings, lack of knowledge of the Middle East and eagerness to negotiate a peace agreement between ‘Israel’ and the Palestinians. Trump’s “inner circle is predominantly dealmakers who lack familiarity with political customs and deep institutions, and they support Jared Kushner”, a delegation of Saudi officials sent to the US by Prince Mohammed in November 2016 wrote in a presentation that was later published by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.

The Saudis hooked Kushner on that visit, and by March 2017 he had arranged a formal lunch for Trump and Prince Mohammed at the White House, where the prince received a grand reception normally reserved for heads of state. Kushner then convinced Trump to make Saudi Arabia the first stop of his maiden foreign trip as president in May 2017. By that point, the Saudis realized that Trump craved flattery and respect, and they gave him an extravagant welcome with multiple banquets and displays of fealty. It’s no surprise that Prince Mohammed later boasted, according to the Intercept, that Kushner was “in his pocket” and had provided information about rivals in the Saudi royal family.

Kushner has been particularly vulnerable because of his family’s purchase of the tower at 666 Fifth Avenue in 2007, at the height of the real estate market that crashed a year later. For the past two years, Kushner Companies has been negotiating for a bailout on the property with investors from China and Qatar, who had close ties to both governments. But those deals collapsed as investors worried about the extra scrutiny generated by Kushner’s role in the White House.

Last spring, Kushner Companies reached a tentative deal with Brookfield Asset Management, which is one of the world’s largest real estate companies, for a 99-year lease on the troubled office tower. At the same time as Brookfield’s property arm was making its deal with the Kushners, another Brookfield unit announced its $4.6bn purchase of Westinghouse Electric, a bankrupt nuclear services company that was part of the consortium vying to build power plants in Saudi Arabia.

That purchase needed the approval of the Trump administration: it was subject to review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which includes senior officials from nine US government agencies. The deal required US approval because Canadian-based Brookfield is a foreign company that was seeking to buy an American firm in the nuclear industry. In the past, the committee required some foreign companies to abandon or make changes in their proposed deals. But Brookfield’s takeover of Westinghouse Electric was approved, and the deal closed on 1 August.

Saudi leaders conveyed to Trump – and Kushner – that they too value family loyalty and financial interests above all else.

On 3 August, Brookfield’s property unit announced it had closed its deal with Kushner Companies and that it would be paying the rent for the entire 99-year lease upfront: an infusion of about $1.1bn that would help the Kushners pay off a large portion of $1.4bn in mortgages due in February 2019. Without a deal, those looming mortgage payments could have forced the Kushners to sell the Fifth Avenue tower at a significant loss.

It’s unclear if Kushner’s business interests played a role in the US approval of Brookfield’s acquisition of a nuclear company. But these conflicts underline the Trump administration’s entire approach to Saudi Arabia and its allies. With his blind support for the reckless crown prince, Trump has dropped the pretense that the US-Saudi alliance is more than a transactional arrangement based on oil, weapons deals and some perceived security interests.

On 16 October, the same day that the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, arrived in Riyadh to meet with the Saudi king and crown prince over Khashoggi’s fate, Saudi officials deposited $100m in funds that had been pledged to the Trump administration in August to help stabilize parts of Syria liberated from Daesh [the Arabic acronym for terrorist ‘ISIS/ISIL’ group]. American diplomats were unsure when the money would arrive until it suddenly appeared in US accounts.

The timing of the funds was a signal to Trump in the deal-making language he understands: the kingdom would continue to honor its financial promises and business commitments to the United States if Trump cooperates in the crisis precipitated by Khashoggi’s murder. Saudi leaders conveyed to Trump – and Kushner – that they too value family loyalty and financial interests above all else.

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