Imam Khamenei: The Sacred Defense Proved to The World That the Iranian People Won’t Surrender

 September 22, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei received on the eve of Sacred Defense Week, a number of the commanders and veterans from the Sacred Defense along with the families of martyrs in the Imam Khomeini Hussainiyah in Tehran.

Other Sacred Defense veterans who live in various parts of the country also joined this meeting via teleconferencing from centers in the various provinces.

Imam Khamenei said on Wednesday that the victory of the Islamic Revolution was not an impermanent political failure for the United States but a threat to the empire of the domineering system, stressing that “The Sacred Defense proved the fact that protecting the country and [achieving] deterrence can be achieved through resistance, not surrender.”

His Eminence underlined that the resistance raised the morale and self-confidence of the people and, at the same time, taught the enemy to reconsider its calculations and include the Iranian nation’s power and resistance.

“The military invasion against the country after the [Islamic] Revolution was not unexpected. It is true that Saddam launched the attack, but behind Saddam was global arrogance,” he said.

“The Sacred Defense is an exciting, eventful and fruitful juncture. The era of Sacred Defense is one of the events that have an effect on our yesterday, today and tomorrow,” he said. “Therefore, the veterans [of the war] should be given attention and respect.”

According to the Imam Khamenei, the Iranian nation had a new message for the world during the era of the Islamic Revolution and the imperialist countries did not want anyone to hear that message.

“They wanted to smother the voice of the Iranian nation in the throat,” he said. “They wanted to show that if anyone rises against the US, they will be suppressed.”

Imam Khamenei also said that the enemies were angry because of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which “was not in line with the policies of Western and Eastern powers.”

He recalled that all countries in that era were either pro-West or pro-East and no independent nation existed at the time.

“It was not at all tolerable for a country outside of this [bipolar] system to come and speak its mind. It was unbearable for them that a nation is not afraid of America,” the Leader of the Islamic Revolution went on to say.

Imam Khamenei also noted that the revolution brought about events in the world that “perhaps we were not aware of all of its dimensions at that time, but they knew what had happened.”

His Eminence further underlined that the great power of the Islamic Revolution, the leadership of the late Imam Khomeini, and the distinct characteristics of the Iranian nation turned the threat of war into an opportunity.

Another objective of the domineering system was to bring the Iranian nation to their knees, subvert the Islamic Republic, and change the fate of the Iranian nation, Imam Khamenei said, adding that their ultimate goal was to make the Iranian nation a lesson for other nations and destroy the resistance.

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MBS: Despot in The Desert

July 31, 2022 

Nicolas Pelham- The Economist

No one wanted to play football with Muhammad bin Salman. Sure, the boy was a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family, but so were 15,000 other people. His classmates preferred the company of his cousins, who were higher up the assumed order of succession, a childhood acquaintance recalls. As for the isolated child who would one day become crown prince, a family friend recounts hearing him called “little Saddam”.

Home life was tricky for bin Salman, too (he is now more commonly known by his initials, [MBS]. His father, Salman, already had five sons with his first wife, an educated woman from an elite urban family. MBS’s mother, Salman’s third wife, was a tribeswoman. When MBS visited the palace where his father lived with his first wife, his older half-brothers mocked him as the “son of a Bedouin”. Later, his elder brothers and cousins were sent to universities in America and Britain. The Bedouin offspring of Prince Salman stayed in Riyadh to attend King Saud University.

As young adults, the royals sometimes cruised on superyachts together; MBS was reportedly treated like an errand boy, sent onshore to buy cigarettes. A photo from one of these holidays shows a group of 16 royals posing on a yacht-deck in shorts and sunglasses, the hills of the French Riviera behind them. In the middle is MBS’s cousin, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire investor dubbed “the Arabian Warren Buffett”. MBS, tall and broad-shouldered in a white t-shirt, is pushed to the farthest edge.

Fast forward to today, and MB has moved to the center of the frame, the most important decision-maker in Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy but MBS’s 86-year-old father, though nominally head of state, is rarely seen in public anymore. It has been clear for several years that MBS is in charge. “In effect,” a former Saudi intelligence agent told me, “King Salman is no longer king.”

At first glance the 36-year-old prince looks like the ruler many young Saudis had been waiting for, closer in age to his people than any previous king – 70% of the Saudi population is under 30. The millennial autocrat is said to be fanatical about the video game “Call of Duty”: he blasts through the inertia and privileges of the mosque and royal court as though he were fighting virtual opponents on screen.

His restless impatience and disdain for convention have helped him push through reforms that many thoughts wouldn’t happen for generations. The most visible transformation of Saudi Arabia is the presence of women in public where once they were either absent or closely guarded by their husband or father. There are other changes, too. Previously, the kingdom offered few diversions besides praying at the mosque; today you can watch Justin Bieber in concert, sing karaoke or go to a Formula 1 race. A few months ago, I even went to a rave in a hotel….

But embracing Western consumer culture doesn’t mean embracing Western democratic values: it can as easily support a distinctively modern, surveillance state. On my recent trips to Saudi Arabia, people from all levels of society seemed terrified about being overheard voicing disrespect or criticism, something I’d never seen there before. “I’ve survived four kings,” said a veteran analyst who refused to speculate about why much of Jeddah, the country’s second-largest city, is being bulldozed: “Let me survive a fifth.”

The West, beguiled by promises of change and dependent on Saudi oil, at first seemed prepared to ignore MBS’s excesses. Then, in late 2018, Saudi officials in Istanbul murdered a Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, and dismembered his body with a bone saw. Even the most pro-Saudi leaders turned away.

…. After Putin invaded Ukraine in February, the price of crude shot up. Boris Johnson was on a plane within weeks. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, previously a sworn enemy of the crown prince, embraced MBS in Riyadh in April. War even forced America’s president into a humiliating climbdown. On the campaign trail in 2020 Joe Biden had vowed to turn Saudi Arabia into a “pariah”. But on July 15th he went to make his peace with MBS– trying to avoid shaking MBS’s hand, he instead opted for a fist bump that left the two looking all the chummier. Even critics at home acknowledged MBs’s victory. “He made Biden look weak,” said a Saudi columnist in Jeddah. “He stood up to a superpower and won before the world.”

For MBS, this is a moment of triumph. His journey from the fringe of a photograph to the heart of power is almost complete. He will probably be king for decades. During that time, his country’s oil will be needed to sate the world’s enduring demand for energy.

A kingdom where the word of one man counts for so much depends utterly on his character. The hope is that, with his position secure, MBS will forswear the vengefulness and intolerance that produced Khashoggi’s murder. But some, among them his childhood classmates, fear something darker. They are reminded of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a one-time modernizer who became so addicted to accumulating power that he turned reckless and dangerous. “At first power bestows grandeur,” a former Western intelligence officer told me, of MBS. “But then comes the loneliness, suspicion and fear that others will try to grab what you grabbed.”

During the early years of MBS’s ascent, I was vaguely aware of him as one prince among many. I probably wouldn’t have paid him much attention if an old contact of mine hadn’t joined his staff. His new boss, my contact said, was serious about shaking things up. He arranged the meeting at a faux-ancient mud-brick village on the outskirts of Riyadh in 2016. As my Economist colleagues and I approached, the gates of MBS’s compound suddenly slid open, like a Bond-villain’s lair. In the inner chamber sat MBS.

Reform has often been promised in Saudi Arabia – usually in response to American hectoring – but successive kings lacked the mettle to push change through. When the Al-Saud conquered Arabia in the 1920s, they made an alliance with an ultra-conservative religious group called the Wahhabis. In 1979, after a group of religious extremists staged a brief armed takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Al-Saud decided to make the kingdom more devout to fend off a possible Islamic revolution, as had just happened in Iran. Wahhabi clerics were empowered to run society as they saw fit.

The Wahhabis exercised control through the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, otherwise known as the religious police. They whacked the ankles of women whose hair poked through their veil and lashed the legs of men who wore shorts. The arrangement suited the House of Saud. Wahhabism provided social control and gave legitimacy to the Saudi state, leaving the royals free to enjoy their oil wealth in the more permissive environments of London and Paris, or behind the gates of their palaces.

I’m loth to admit it now, but as the prince talked in Riyadh about his plans to modernize society and the economy, I was impressed by his enthusiasm, vision and command of the details. He gave what turned out to be accurate answers about how and when his reforms would happen. Though he was not yet crown prince, he frequently referred to Saudi Arabia as “my” country. We arrived at around 9pm. At 2am, MBS was still in full flow.

MBS was affable, self-assured, smiling. His advisers were more subdued. If they spoke at all, it was to robotically repeat their master’s lines. Yet when MBS left the room to take a call, they started chatting animatedly. As the prince re-entered, silence fell.

Like many in those early years, I was excited about what MBS might do for the kingdom. When I returned to the capital a few months later I saw a number of men wearing shorts. I kept looking over my shoulder for the religious police, but none came – they had been stripped of their powers of arrest.

As crown prince, MBS introduced a code of law so that judicial sentencing accords with state guidelines, not a judge’s own interpretation of the Koran. He criminalized stoning to death and forced marriage. The most overt change involved the role of women. MBS attacked guardianship laws that prevented women from working, travelling, owning a passport, opening a business, having hospital treatment or divorcing without approval from a male relative. In practice, many Saudi women have found these new rights hard to claim in a patriarchal society, and men can still file claims of disobedience against female relatives. But MBS’s reforms were more than cosmetic. Some clerics were jailed; the rest soon fell into line.

For foreigners, Riyadh is less forbidding these days. “I’m afraid I’ll be caught for not drinking,” a teetotal businessman told me. “There’s cocaine, alcohol and hookers like I haven’t seen in southern California,” says another party-goer. “It’s really heavy-duty stuff”.

When MBS first entered public life, he had a reputation for being as strait-laced as his father, rare among royals. That quickly changed. Many of the people interviewed for this article said that they believe MBS frequently uses drugs, which he denies. A court insider says that in 2015 his friends decided that he needed some r&r on an island in the Maldives. According to investigative journalists Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck in their book “Blood and Oil”, 150 models were recruited to join the gathering and were then shuttled “by golf cart to a medical center to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases”. Several international music stars were flown in, including Afrojack, a Dutch dj. Then the press blew MBS cover.

Thereafter, the prince preferred to unwind off the Red Sea coast. At weekends his entourage formed a flotilla by mooring their yachts around his, Serene, which has a driving range and a cinema. According to a former official, “dj MBS”, as his friends called him, would spin the discs wearing his trademark cowboy hat. The yacht is only one of the luxuries MBS has splurged on. He also bought a £230m ersatz French chateau near Versailles, built in 2008 (the meditation room doubles as an aquarium). He is said to have boasted that he wanted to be the first trillionaire.

We put these and other allegations in this article to MBS’s representatives. Through the Saudi embassy in London, they issued a broad denial, saying “the allegations are denied and are without foundation.”

MBS’s loosening of social mores reflects the values of many of his youthful peers, in Saudi and beyond – as does his taste for the flashier side of life. Yet despite the social revolution, the prince is no keener than Wahhabi clerics on letting people think for themselves. Shortly before lifting a ban on women driving in 2018, MBS’s officials imprisoned Loujain al-Hathloul, one of the leaders of the campaign for women’s rights. Her family say jailers waterboarded and electrocuted her, and that Saud al-Qahtani, one of MBS’s closest advisers, was present during her torment and threatened to rape her. [A un investigation found reasonable grounds to believe that Qahtani was involved in the torture of female activists. Qahtani allegedly told one of these women: “I’ll do whatever I like to you, and then I’ll dissolve you and flush you down the toilet.”] Hathloul was charged with inciting change to the ruling system. The message was clear: only one person was allowed to do that.

MBS is ruthlessly ambitious – he reportedly loved reading about Alexander the Great as a teenager – but he also owes his rise to some extraordinary twists of fortune. Succession can be an unpredictable affair in Saudi Arabia. The monarchy is only two generations old, founded in 1932, and the crown has so far moved from brother to brother among the founding ruler’s sons. That has become harder as the prospective heirs age. MBS’s father wasn’t tipped to be king, but after his two older brothers died unexpectedly in 2011 and 2012, he was catapulted up the line of succession.

When Salman became the heir-designate aged 76, he needed a chief of staff. Most courtiers expected him to choose one of the suave, English-speaking children of his first wife. Instead he appointed a son who spoke Arabic with a guttural Bedouin accent. [MBS has learned English fast since then: when we met in 2016 he sometimes corrected his translator.]

The choice to elevate MBS was less surprising to those who knew his father well. Salman had dedicated himself to his job as governor of Riyadh rather than chasing more lucrative commissions, and was a stickler for 8am starts, even in his 70s. He was known as the family disciplinarian, not averse to giving wayward royals a thwack with his walking stick or even a spell in his private prison. He clearly saw something of himself in his sixth son. MBS might love video games, but he was also a hard worker and keen to advance.

MBS put few limits on what he was prepared to do to achieve control. He earned the nickname Abu Rasasa – father of the bullet – after widespread rumors that he sent a bullet in the post to an official who ruled against him in a land dispute [Saudi officials have previously denied this rumor]. He was fearsome in private, too. “There are these terrible tempers, smashing up offices, trashing the palace,” says a source with palace connections. “He’s extremely violent.” Several associates describe him as having wild mood swings. Two former palace insiders say that, during an argument with his mother, he once sprayed her ceiling with bullets. According to multiple sources and news reports, he has locked his mother away.

It’s hard to say how many wives he has; officially, there’s just one, a glamorous princess called Sara bint Mashour, but courtiers say he has at least one more. MBS presents his family life as normal and happy: earlier this year he told the Atlantic magazine that he eats breakfast with his children each morning [he has three boys and two girls, according to Gulf News – the eldest is said to be 11]. One diplomat spoke of MBS’s kindness to his wife. But other sources inside the royal circle say that, on at least one occasion, Princess Sara was so badly beaten by her husband that she had to seek medical treatment.

We put this and other allegations in this piece to MBS’s representatives, who described them as “plain fabrication”, adding that “the kingdom is unfortunately used to false allegations made against its leadership, usually based on politically [or other] motivated malicious sources, particularly discredited individuals who have a long record of fabrications and baseless claims.”

MBS finally got a taste of political power in 2015 when Salman became king. Salman appointed his son deputy crown prince and minister of defense. One of MBS’s first moves was to launch a war in neighboring Yemen. Even America, the kingdom’s closest military ally, was told only at the last minute.

There was an obvious obstacle in MBS’s path to the throne: his cousin, the 57-year-old heir-designate, Muhammad bin Nayef. Bin Nayef was the intelligence chief and the kingdom’s main interlocutor with the CIA. He was widely credited with stamping out al-Qaeda in Saudi after 9/11. In June 2017 bin Nayef was summoned to meet the elderly king at his palace in Mecca.

The story of what happened next has emerged from press reports and my interviews. It seems that bin Nayef arrived by helicopter and took the lift to the fourth floor. Instead of the monarch, MBS’sagents were waiting. Bin Nayef was stripped of his weapons and phone, and told that a royal council had dismissed him. He was left alone to consider his options. Seven hours later, a court videographer filmed the charade of MBS kissing his cousin, then accepting his abdication as crown prince. King Salman kept a back seat throughout. Bin Nayef is now in detention [his uncle, who also had a claim to the throne, apparently intervened to try and protect bin Nayef, but was himself later detained]. The staged resignation – an old trick of Saddam Hussein’s – would become MBS’s signature move.

That was just the warm-up act. In October 2017 MBS hosted an international investment conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. At “Davos in the desert”, the likes of Christine Lagarde, Son Masayoshi and other business glitterati listened to MBS’s pitch for Saudi Arabia’s post-oil future, including the construction of Neom, a new $500bn “smart city”. The event was a hit. Diplomatic grumblings about the war in Yemen or the fate of America’s security partner, Muhammad bin Nayef, faded.

The gathering was also an opportunity to invite back royals who were often abroad. Once the foreigners had left, MBS pounced. Hundreds of princes and businessmen were swept up. According to a biography of MBS by Ben Hubbard, a New York Times journalist, one of them realized something was amiss only when they got to their hotel room: there were no pens, razors or glasses – nothing that could be used as a weapon.

MBS held the detainees in the Ritz-Carlton for several weeks [the Marriott and other hotels were also commandeered to house the overflow]. Prisoners’ phones were confiscated. Some were said to have been hooded, deprived of sleep and beaten until they agreed to transfer money and hand over an inventory of their assets. All told, MBS’s guests at the Ritz-Carlton coughed up about $100bn.

Even royals previously thought untouchable, such as the powerful prince who ran the national guard, got similar treatment. Princess Basma, the youngest child of the second king of Saudi Arabia, was jailed for three years without charge or access to a lawyer; after being released she still had to wear an electronic ankle bracelet, according to a close associate of hers.

The crushing of the royals and business elite was billed as a crackdown on corruption – and undoubtedly it netted many corruptly acquired assets, which MBS said would be returned to the Saudi treasury. The methods, however, looked more like something from a gangster film than a judicial procedure.

Interrogations were overseen by Saud al-Qahtani, who reported directly to MBS whenever a detainee broke and gave out their bank details. [All the allegations in this piece concerning Qahtani were put to him via his lawyer. No response was given.] Qahtani had installed himself as one of MBS’s favored henchmen, though earlier in his career, he’d plotted against Salman and his son, trying to sideline them with rumors that Salman had dementia. Qahtani was so loyal to the former faction that he’d named his son after his then boss. According to a former courtier, on the day of the old king’s funeral the two men had it out: MBS slapped Qahtani in the face. Later, MBS let Qahtani prove his worth and brought him on to his staff. Qahtani duly named his younger son Muhammad.

On paper, Qahtani was a communications adviser, a former journalist who understood Twitter and used an army of bots and loyal followers to intimidate critics on social media [his office included giant screens and holograms that staff used for target-practice with laser guns]. In practice he was entrusted with MBS’s most important and violent missions – the ones that established his grip on power.

His remit extended far beyond Saudi’s borders. In 2016 he kidnapped Prince Sultan, a minor royal who had been bad-mouthing MBS. MBS offered his jet to fly Sultan from Paris to Cairo – instead, the plane was diverted to Saudi Arabia. According to Hope’s and Scheck’s book, Qahtani posed as Captain Saud, an airline pilot, though surprisingly one who had an expensive Hublot watch.

Even people who have nothing to do with politics have become afraid to speak near a functioning mobile phone

With rendition strategies like this, and the cash tap shut off, even royals who weren’t inside the Ritz-Carlton felt the pressure to divest themselves of ostentatious assets. The father of the Saudi ambassador to Britain put Glympton Park, his beloved 2,000-acre estate in the Cotswolds, up for sale. Riyadh’s jewellers did a roaring trade pawning the diamonds of lesser royals. “It’s like the Romanovs selling their Fabergé eggs,” said an adviser to an auction house.

Many commoners rejoiced at the downfall of their entitled elite. Princes and princesses who once lived off huge handouts began looking for jobs. Their titles became irrelevant. Unable to afford the cost of irrigation, their green ranches became desert again. Banks turned them away. One financial adviser recalled his response to princes trying to get credit on the strength of their royal status: “You call yourselves princes, but they say there’s only one prince now.”

The Ritz-Carlton episode was just one element of an extraordinary project of centralization. MBS yanked control of various security services back from the princes. He took charge of Aramco, the semi-autonomous state oil company. He installed himself as boss of the sovereign-wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund. “He destroyed all the powerful families,” says a retired diplomat. By late 2017, law, money and security in Saudi all flowed directly from him.

Among those who lost out were the fellow princes who had pushed a young MBS to the edge of the family photo on the yacht all those years ago. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, in the center of that shot, surrendered part of his $17bn wealth. As the shakedown widened, MBS’s elder half-siblings put up their yacht for sale. Many of his cousins were locked up. “Payback time,” one victim said.

While MBS was squeezing the elite at home, he was forging some important friendships abroad.

MBS and Donald Trump, who was elected president in 2016, had a lot in common. Both had the hunger of the underdog and loathed the snooty policymaking establishments in their countries; they reveled in provocation. The historic compact, by which Saudi Arabia provided oil to American consumers and America guaranteed the country’s security, had frayed in recent years. Barack Obama’s hurried exit from Iraq in 2011 and his nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 had left Saudi Arabia worried that it could no longer rely on American protection. America’s development of its own shale-oil reserves had also reduced its dependence on Saudi oil. Then Trump and MBS got cozy.

With the Trump administration’s tacit [and sometimes explicit] support, MBS set about treating the entire Middle East much as he did Saudi Arabia, trying to push aside rulers whom he found to be inconvenient. He announced a blockade of Qatar, a tiny gas-rich state to the east of Saudi Arabia. In 2017, angered by Lebanon’s dealings with Iran, MBS invited the prime minister, Saad Hariri, a long-time beneficiary of Saudi patronage, on a starlit camping trip. Hariri turned up, had his phone confiscated and soon found himself reading out a resignation speech on tv.

Both moves ultimately backfired. But Trump’s Middle East adviser, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, did little to discourage such antics. Together, he and MBS dreamt up a new regional order over WhatsApp, calling each other “Jared” and “Muhammad”. Their rapport was so great that, at Kushner’s prompting, MBS started the process of recognizing “Israel”. His father, still officially king, put a stop to that.

MBS visited America in March 2018, hanging out in Silicon Valley with Peter Thiel and Tim Cook, and meeting celebrities, including Rupert Murdoch, James Cameron and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. Many people were keen to meet the man who controlled a $230bn sovereign-wealth fund. To his frustration, they were less willing to reciprocate by investing in the kingdom.

That October the intercontinental bonhomie came to an abrupt halt. I was due to go to a conference in Turkey that month. A Saudi journalist I knew, Jamal Khashoggi, got in touch to suggest meeting up: he was also going to be in Istanbul, for an appointment at the consulate. Khashoggi was a court insider whose criticisms of MBS in the Washington Post and elsewhere had attracted much attention. He seemed to be making more effort than usual to stay in touch. While I was at the conference a friend of his phoned me: Jamal still hadn’t emerged from the consulate, he said. By the time I got there, Turkish police were cordoning off the building.

The full story soon came out in leaked intelligence reports and, later, a un inquiry. A Saudi hit squad, which reportedly coordinated with Saud al-Qahtani, had flown to Istanbul. As they waited for Khashoggi to enter the consulate, they discussed plans for dismembering his body. According to tapes recorded inside the consulate by Turkish intelligence, Khashoggi was told, “We’re coming to get you.” There was a struggle, followed by the sound of plastic sheets being wrapped. A CIA report said that MBS approved the operation.

MBS has said he takes responsibility for the murder, but denies ordering it. He sacked Qahtani and another official implicated in the intelligence reports. The fallout was immediate. Companies and speakers pulled out of that year’s Davos in the desert; the Gates Foundation ended its partnership with Misk, an artistic and educational charity set up by the prince. Ari Emanuel, a Hollywood agent, cancelled a $400m deal with the kingdom.

The crown prince seems to have been genuinely surprised at the animus – “disappointed”, says an associate. Hadn’t he committed to all the reforms the West had been asking for? Perhaps he had underestimated the outcry provoked by going after a well-connected international figure, as opposed to a royal unknown outside Saudi Arabia. Or perhaps he understood Western governments’ priorities better than they did themselves. They had done little when Muhammad bin Nayef, their partner in battling terrorism, had disappeared; they had shrugged at reports of torture in the Ritz-Carlton, and at MBS’s reckless bombardment of Yemen. Why did they have so much to say about the killing of a single journalist?

Three years after the Khashoggi killing, Davos in the desert opened with the singer Gloria Gaynor. As images of smiling children flashed up on a giant screen behind her, she broke into her disco anthem, “I Will Survive”, asking the audience: “Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?”

The chief executives of private-equity giants BlackRock and Blackstone were back, as were the heads of Goldman Sachs, SocGen and Standard Chartered. Even Amazon sent a representative despite the fact that its boss, Jeff Bezos, owns the Washington Post, the paper that employed Khashoggi. Meanwhile, Qahtani was creeping back into favor at the royal court – although he had been implicated by the un for Khashoggi’s murder, a Saudi court took the decision not to charge him.

MBS revitalized the near-dormant sovereign-wealth fund, pumping tens of billions of dollars into tech, entertainment and sports, to create a softer, more appealing image of Saudi and co-opt new partners. In April 2020, the fund led a consortium to buy Newcastle United, a premier-league football team [the deal took 18 months]. The following year it launched an audacious bid to create Saudi’s own golf tour, the LIV series, hoping to lure players with a prize pot of $255m, far larger than that of American tournaments. At the first LIV tour this year, some top players boycotted the event, others went for the cash.

Joe Biden has proved tougher to woo. Soon after becoming president, Biden withdrew American military support for the war in Yemen. He wouldn’t talk to MBS, insisting that communications go through King Salman instead. He didn’t even nominate an ambassador to Riyadh for 15 months. The chat everywhere was that Saudi-American relations were in a deep freeze. Then, in February 2022, MBS had a stroke of luck: Russia invaded Ukraine.

In the days after war broke out, Biden himself tried to call MBS. The crown prince declined to speak to the president. He did take Putin’s call, however. The two men were already close. MBS had personally brought Russia into an expanded version of the OPEC cartel in order for Saudi Arabia to keep control of global oil production. Putin cemented the friendship in 2018 at the g20 summit in Buenos Aires, which took place weeks after the Khashoggi killing. While Western leaders shunned MBS, Putin gave the Saudi ruler a high-five before sitting down next to him.

MBS’s defiance of America seems to have paid off. After months of evasion, Biden reluctantly agreed to meet MBS in Jeddah in July, on the prince’s own turf and his own terms. The visit gave MBS recognition but did little to rebuild relations. There wasn’t even a concrete assurance of increasing oil production.

Some in the American foreign-policy establishment remain hopeful that MBS could become a helpful partner in the region, pointing to his recent retreat from confrontation with Qatar and his eagerness to find a diplomatic exit from Yemen. Perhaps, they say, he is maturing as a leader.

This seems optimistic. MBS’s disastrous campaign in Yemen was ostensibly in support of the country’s president but in April, hours after being summoned to a meeting and offered Arabic coffee and dates, Yemen’s president was reading out a resignation speech on tv. MBS took it upon himself to get rid of him personally – suggesting that his mode of international diplomacy remains as high-handed as ever. “What they’ve learned”, says one foreign analyst, “is don’t murder journalists who dine regularly with congressmen in the United States.”

The West has taught MBS something else, too – something that autocrats the world over may draw comfort from. No matter the sin, they would argue, if you sit tight through the odium and fury, eventually the financiers, the celebrities, even the Western leaders, will come running back. At 36, MBS has time on his side. Some observers fear that he may become only more dangerous as oil reserves start to decline and the treasure trove shrinks. “What happens when he’s a middle-aged man ruling a middle-income country and starts to get bored?” asks a diplomat who knows MBS personally. “Will he go on more adventures?”

Earlier this year, I visited an old friend in his office in Saudi Arabia. Before we started talking, he put his phone in a pouch that blocks the signal, to prevent government spies from listening in. Dissidents do that kind of thing in police states like China, but I’d never seen it before in Saudi Arabia. It isn’t just people involved with politics who are taking such precautions: most Saudis have become afraid to speak near a functioning mobile phone. People used to talk fairly openly in their offices, homes and cafés. Now, they are picked up for almost nothing.

As we chatted over the whir of his office air conditioning, my friend reeled off a list of people he knew who had been detained in the past month: a retired air-force chief who died in prison, a hospital administrator hauled away from his desk, a mother taken in front of her seven children, a lawyer who died seven days after his release from prison. “These people aren’t rabble rousers,” my friend said. “No one understands why.”

Officially, the government says it has no political prisoners. Rights groups reckon that thousands have been swept up in MBS’s dragnet. I’ve covered the Middle East since the 1990s and can’t think of anywhere where so many of my own contacts are behind bars.

Few ordinary Saudis predicted that when MBS was done trampling on the elites and the clerics, he would come for them next. Bringing Saudis into the modern, networked, online world has made it easier for the state to monitor what they are saying. A Red Crescent employee called Abdulrahman al-Sadhan used to run a satirical Twitter account under a pseudonym. In 2018 MBS’s agents arrested him and held him incommunicado for two years. American prosecutors later charged two former Twitter employees with allegedly handing over the real names behind various accounts to a Saudi official – al-Sadhan’s family believes that his name was among them. [The trial of one employee is ongoing; he denies passing on information to Saudi officials.]

On the face of it, MBS has nothing to worry about. Public opinion polls – if they can be trusted – suggest he is popular, particularly with younger Saudis. But there is a growing sense that discontent is brewing beneath the surface. MBS has broken crucial social contracts with the Saudi populace, by reducing handouts while, at the same time, dispensing with the tradition of hearing the feedback of ordinary people after Friday prayers.

It isn’t hard to imagine some of the issues they’d raise if they had the chance. Many people are struggling as the cost of living rises. When other governments were cushioning their citizens during the pandemic, MBS slashed fuel subsidies and tripled vat. Unable to afford the cost of pumping water, some farmers left crops to wither in the field. Fees for permits and fines have spiraled, too. Though MBS speaks eloquently about the country’s youth, he is struggling to find them jobs. Unemployment remains stubbornly stuck in double digits. Half of the jobless have a university degree, but most white-collar workers I met on MBS’s mega-projects were foreign.

Saudi Arabia’s attempts to diversify its economy – and so compensate for the long-term decline of oil reserves – isn’t going well either. The pandemic delayed plans for a rapid increase in international tourism. Extorting billions of dollars from your relatives may not be the best way to convince investors that the kingdom is a liberal haven.

The young prince has reversed even the baby steps towards democracy taken by previous kings. Municipal elections have been suspended – as a cost-cutting exercise, explains the supine press. The Shura Council, a consultative body of 150 people, has only met online since the pandemic [other institutions have gathered in person for months]. “I wish I had more of a voice,” said one member. Whenever I mentioned the prince, his leg twitched.

A frequent visitor to the royal court says MBS now gives the impression of someone who’s always thinking that people are plotting against him. He seems to be preoccupied with loyalty. He fills key posts either with young royals, foreigners with no local base to threaten him or people he has already broken. A government minister, Ibrahim Assaf, was one of those locked up in the Ritz-Carlton – two months later MBS sent him to the World Economic Forum as his representative. A senior executive on one of his construction projects is someone who says he was tortured in one of his prisons. “He went from being strung naked from his ankles, beaten and stripped of all his assets to a high-level project manager,” says a close acquaintance of the man.

All remain vulnerable to MBS’s tantrums. Saudi sources say he once locked a minister in a toilet for ten hours. [The minister later appeared on tv blabbering platitudes about the prince’s wisdom.] A senior official I’ve spoken to says he wants out. “Everyone in his circle is terrified of him,” says an insider. And that could make it hard for him to govern a country of 35m people effectively. Former courtiers say no one close to MBS is prepared to offer a truthful assessment of whether his increasingly grandiose schemes are viable. “Saying no”, says one, “is not something they will ever do.”

If MBS has a mission beyond extending his power, you might expect to find it in Neom, the city he promised to build in the desert. Neom would be nothing less than “a civilizational leap for humanity”, he said in 2017. Head-spinning details followed. The city’s food would be grown on hydroponic walls on a floating structure. It would be powered by the world’s largest green-hydrogen plant. Thousands of snow-blowers would create a ski resort on a nearby mountain. One day it would have driverless cars and passenger drones.

According to the official timetable, the main city would be completed by 2020. Further districts would be added by 2025. The prince’s tourism minister, Ahmed al-Khateeb, dismissed rumors that the timetable was proving over-ambitious. “Come see with your eyes and not with your ears,” he urged. So, I went.

Finding Neom was the first problem. There were no road signs to it. After three hours’ drive we came to the spot indicated by the map. It was bare, but for the odd fig tree. Camels strolled across the empty highway. Piles of rubble lined the road, remnants of the town bulldozed to make way for the mighty metropolis.

The designated area is nearly the size of Belgium. As far as I could tell, only two projects had been completed, MBS’s palace, and something Google Earth calls “The Neom Experience Centre” [when I drove to see it, it was obscured by a prefabricated hut]. The only other solid building I could see was a hotel constructed before Neom was conceived: The Royal Tulip. A poster in the lobby urged me to “Discover Neom”. But when I asked for a guide the hotel manager cursed my sister with Arabic vulgarities and tried to shoo me away. There was no sign of the media hub with “frictionless facilitation”, “advanced infrastructure” and “collaborative ecosystems” promised by the Neom website. Neom’s head of communications and media, Wayne Borg, said he was “out of Kingdom at present”.

The hotel restaurant was teeming with consultants – all the ones I met were foreign. I later found a Saudi project manager. “We think we’re about to start working, but every two months the consultants coin a new plan,” he told me. “They’re still doing plans of plans.” There was a kind of manic short-termism among these foreigners. Many were paid $40,000 a month, plus handsome bonuses. “It’s like riding a bull,” one of the Neom consultants told me. “You know you’re gonna fall, that no one can last on a bull longer than a minute and a half, two minutes, so you make the most of it.”

Despite the high salaries, there are reports that foreigners are leaving the Neom project because they find the gap between expectations and reality so stressful. The head of Neom is said by his friends to be “terrified” at the lack of progress.

Eventually, I found a retired Saudi air-force technician who offered to drive me around the city for $600. He took me to a sculpture standing in the desert with the words, “I love Neom”. A short way farther on we found a new stretch of tarmac, said to mark the edge of the dream city. Beyond it, the lone and level sands stretched far away.

Old Way, New Way

July 14, 2022

By Dmitry Orlov and posted with permission

The hardest part of living through a time of wrenching change is that nobody particularly bothers to inform you that the times have changed and that nothing will be the same again. Certainly not the talking heads on TV, who are often the last to know. You have to figure it out for yourself if you can. But I am here to help.

It all has to do with energy. Not with technology—that’s incidental; not with military superiority—that’s fleeting and largely imaginary; certainly not with any sort of political or cultural self-righteousness—that’s delusional. There is no substitute for energy. If you run low, you can’t switch to running your industrial economy on fiddlesticks. It just shuts down. What’s worse, energy sources are not even particularly substitutable for each other. If you run low on gas, you can’t just switch to coal or to dried dung, even if you are up to your neck in it. Modern industry runs on oil, natural gas, and coal, in that order, and they can be substituted for each other in very limited ways.

Furthermore, energy has to be very cheap. Oil has to be about the cheapest liquid you can buy—cheaper than milk; cheaper even than bottled water. If energy isn’t cheap enough, then all the energy-hungry industry that runs on it becomes unprofitable and shuts down. That’s the stage at which we are now in much of the world. So, what happened?

Once upon a time the US produced most of the oil in the world. But then the prolific wells in West Texas ran out and Saudi Arabia took over as the biggest oil producer. But the US wasn’t about to take that sitting down and hatched an ingenuous plan: Saudi Arabia will sell its oil for printed US dollars, then take most of those dollars and give them back to the US by “investing” it in US “debt”. Everybody else who needed oil had to figure out a way to earn US dollars to buy it, and any US dollars they had left over after buying oil also had to be used to buy up US debt just because: “Nice economy you have there! Now we wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to it, would we?”

Indeed, a few people didn’t get the message (Saddam of Iraq, Qaddafi of Libya) and got their countries bombed. And a whole lot of other defenseless countries got bombed just to keep the others scared. But then Syria, which refused to get the message too, asked the Russians for help. The Russians helped Syria, and now nobody is afraid of the US any more. Meanwhile, the US became spoiled by all this free money, grew fat, lazy, degenerate and weak and amassed the hugest pile of “debt” (in quotes because there is no question of ever repaying it) in all of human history.

In the meantime Russia, being the largest energy-producing country in the world, decided that it has had enough. Under the old scheme, Russia exported its resources cheaply, spend 1/3 of the revenue on imports and allowed 2/3 to leak out of the country, quite a lot of it also used to buy US “debt”. It couldn’t do anything about this right away, and so it spent the last decade developing its military to a point where now the US/NATO are afraid to go near it and its economy to a point where it doesn’t need much of the imports, at least not for a few years. And then a silly thing happened: the US confiscated Russia’s holdings of US “debt,” making everyone in the world take notice and start dumping it—even the Japanese!—sending the entire financial scheme into a tailspin.

Meanwhile, Russia has started to switch from selling its energy exports for dollars and euros, which then leave the country, where they can be confiscated, to selling them for rubles, which stay inside the country. Do you want to buy some Russian energy? Well, figure out how to earn some rubles! And if your own anti-Russian sanctions prevent you from doing so—well, la-di-da, whose fault is that? Also, given that there is now a worldwide energy shortage, the Russians asked themselves: Why sell lots of oil and gas for a little money when you can sell less of them for more money?

These are not projected developments; they are happening now and in real-time. “Hostile nations” (which is all of the West) now need rubles to buy Russian natural gas and there is a plan to extend this scheme to oil exports. And just a couple of days ago Russia’s finance minister, Anton Siluanov, announced that there isn’t much point for Russia to export anything for dollars or euros since Russia doesn’t need them for anything and advised exporters to start using barter arrangements instead. Barter is rather inconvenient, but if offering dollars (or euros) just gets you punched in the teeth, then that’s all there is left.

What sorts of barter arrangements? Well, for instance, there is a very nice gigantic chemical plant in Germany, the Ludwigshafen Chemical Complex in Germany, owned by BASF, that is about to shut down due to a shortage of its main feedstock, which is Russian natural gas. That equipment could be crated up and shipped off to Russia in exchange for some energy products, fertilizer and other key supplies that the Germans will need to keep body and soul together over this coming winter. Are anti-Russian sanctions in the way? Well, la-de-da again! They are not Russia’s problem; somebody else has to find a way around them.

Meanwhile, lots of dead ideas, systems and institutions are piling up in the West. Dead is the Green New Deal (a scheme concocted by people who know neither physics nor even arithmetic) and the Great Reset, and Build Back Better (whatever that was), and the rules-based international order, and Mutual Assured Destruction (if you ask for it, Russia will destroy it, but how mutual is that?). And we are all standing by, waiting for a shout of “Timber!” when the dollar/euro/yen debt pyramid begins to topple.

The world is also waiting with bated breath for a whole lot of pompous but useless busybodies to disappear from public view. Dumping that pompous blowhard Boris Johnson was a good start, but what about Scholz, Macron, Duda, von der Lyin’, Zelensky and a whole host others? Biden is in a category of his own, since it clearly doesn’t matter who is the US president or even if there is one.

The world has changed, but social reality hasn’t yet caught up with political and physical reality. This is the summer of anticipation. The winter of discontent is next. Come next spring, we will all be living on a strange and different planet.

To read my other articles, please subscribe at https://boosty.to/cluborlov.

‘Rublegas:’ the world’s new resource-based reserve currency

The Russian ruble is sitting pretty right now, having regained its pre-sanctions value and set to become a major commodity currency.

April 01 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

Rublegas is the commodity currency du jour and it isn’t nearly as complicated as NATO pretends. If Europe wants gas, all it needs to do is send its Euros to a Russian account inside Russia.

By Pepe Escobar

Saddam, Gaddafi, Iran, Venezuela – they all tried but couldn’t do it. But Russia is on a different level altogether.

The beauty of the game-changing, gas-for-rubles, geoeconomic jujitsu applied by Moscow is its stark simplicity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s presidential decree on new payment terms for energy products, predictably, was misunderstood by the collective west. The Russian government is not exactly demanding straightforward payment for gas in rubles. What Moscow wants is to be paid at Gazprombank in Russia, in its currency of choice, and not at a Gazprom account in any banking institution in western capitals.

That’s the essence of less-is-more sophistication. Gazprombank will sell the foreign currency – dollars or euros – deposited by their customers on the Moscow Stock Exchange and credit it to different accounts in rubles within Gazprombank.

What this means in practice is that foreign currency should be sent directly to Russia, and not accumulated in a foreign bank – where it can easily be held hostage, or frozen, for that matter.

All these transactions from now on should be transferred to a Russian jurisdiction – thus eliminating the risk of payments being interrupted or outright blocked.

It’s no wonder the subservient European Union (EU) apparatus – actively engaged in destroying their own national economies on behalf of Washington’s interests – is intellectually unequipped to understand the complex matter of exchanging euros into rubles.

Gazprom made things easier this Friday, sending official notifications to its counterparts in the west and Japan.

Putin himself was forced to explain in writing to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz how it all works.

Once again, very simple: Customers open an account with Gazprombank in Russia. Payments are made in foreign currency – dollars or euros – converted into rubles according to the current exchange rate, and transferred to different Gazprom accounts.

Thus it is 100 percent guaranteed that Gazprom will be paid.

That’s in stark contrast to what the United States was forcing the Europeans to do: pay for Russian gas in Gazprom accounts in Europe, which would then be instantly frozen. These accounts would only be unblocked with the end of Operation Z, Russia’s military ops in Ukraine.

Yet the Americans want the war to go on indefinitely, to “bog down” Moscow as if this was Afghanistan in the 1980s, and have strictly forbidden the Ukrainian Comedian in front of a green screen somewhere – certainly not Kiev – to accept any ceasefire or peace deal.

So Gazprom accounts in Europe would continue to be frozen.

As Scholz was still trying to understand the obvious, his economic minions went berserk, floating the idea of nationalizing Gazprom’s subsidiaries – Gazprom Germania and Wingas – in case Russia decides to halt the gas flow.

This is ridiculous. It’s as if Berlin functionaries believe that Gazprom subsidiaries produce natural gas in centrally heated offices across Germany.

The new rubles-for-gas mechanism does not in any way violate existing contracts. Yet, as Putin warned, existing contracts may indeed be stopped: “If such [ruble] payments are not made, we will consider this to be the buyers’ failure to perform commitments with all ensuing implications.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov was adamant that the mechanism will not be reversed under the current, dire circumstances. Still that does not mean that the gas flow would be instantly cut off. Payment in rubles will be expected from ‘The Unfriendlies’ – a list of hostile states that includes mostly the US, Canada, Japan and the EU – in the second half of April and early May.

For the overwhelming majority of the Global South, the overarching Big Picture is crystal clear: an Atlanticist oligarchy is refusing to buy the Russian gas essential to the wellbeing of the population of Europe, while fully engaged in the weaponization of toxic inflation rates against the same population.

Beyond Rublegas

This gas-for-rubles mechanism – call it Rublegas – is just the first concrete building block in the construction of an alternative financial/monetary system, in tandem with many other mechanisms: ruble-rupee trade; the Saudi petroyuan; the Iran-Russia SWIFT- bypassing mechanism; and the most important of all, the China-Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) design of a comprehensive financial/monetary system, with the first draft to be presented in the next few days.

And all of the above is directly linked to the stunning emergence of the ruble as a new, resource-based reserve currency.

After the predictable initial stages of denial, the EU – actually, Germany – must face reality. The EU depends on steady supplies of Russian gas (40 percent) and oil (25 percent). The sanction hysteria has already engineered certified blowback.

Natural gas accounts for 50 percent of the needs of Germany’s chemical and pharmaceutical industries. There’s no feasible replacement, be it from Algeria, Norway, Qatar or Turkmenistan. Germany is the EU’s industrial powerhouse. Only Russian gas is capable of keeping the German – and European – industrial base humming and at very affordable prices in case of long-term contracts.

Disrupt this set up and you have horrifying turbulence across the EU and beyond.

The inimitable Andrei Martyanov has summed it up this way: “Only two things define the world: the actual physical economy, and military power, which is its first derivative. Everything else are derivatives but you cannot live on derivatives.”

The American turbo-capitalist casino believes its own derivative “narrative” – which has nothing to do with the real economy. The EU will eventually be forced by reality to move from denial to acceptance. Meanwhile, the Global South will be fast adapting to the new paradigm: the Davos Great Reset has been shattered by the Russian Reset.

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

Why does Turkey have 38 illegal bases in northern Iraq?

January 28 2022

The illegal Turkish military presence in Iraq is a blatant violation of that country’s territorial integrity. While Ankara claims it is a national security priority, it actually uses this military cover to influence and manage Iraqi and regional affairs

By Erman Çete

Almost 100 years after the Treaty of Ankara (1926), Iraq-Turkey relations remain fraught. Despite various disputes over water rights, territorial violations, unlawful oil trades, and alliances, the overriding reason for tensions remains the problem of Kurdistan.

Today, media headlines across Turkey continue to reflect the nation’s antagonism with the armed groups of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) inside Iraq, a neighboring state in which the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) launch military operations with impunity.

But despite the repeated protests of the Iraqi government over these violations of its sovereignty, Turkish presence and operations in northern Iraq continue unabated.

In May last year, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar visited the Turkish military base Biliç Hill Base in northern Iraq to supervise Turkish troops deployed for an ongoing operation against the PKK.

Furious about the visit, Baghdad summoned the Turkish diplomatic envoy in Baghdad to express displeasure at Akar’s presence inside Iraq without providing prior notice.

Official numbers concerning the presence of TSK in northern Iraq are unclear. According to an Anadolu Agency article back in 2017, TSK had a battalion in the Bamarni Airport, near Duhok, as well as commando units in Kani Masi and Begova in northern Iraq.

In accordance with Ankara’s goal of unilaterally creating a 40km-deep security belt in northern Iraq, TSK has established new bases in the Iraqi regions of Hakurk and Metina.

One source claims that the number of Turkish troops in Iraq has risen to over 10,000, but a news outlet aligned with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) says there are only 2,000 troops, with approximately 500 of them mechanized units in Bamarni, and 400 of them from Bolu Commando Brigade in Kani Masi.

It also claims that there are 130 Special Forces as liaison officers in Erbil, Zaho, Dohuk, Batufa, Sulaymaniyah, and Amadiya. In the town of Simele, Turkish intelligence units are reinforced with new recruits, while military tanks, recently updated by Israel, are deployed in Bashiqa base.

In a rare move, Turkey’s Directorate of Communications published a map in 2020 which showed the positions of Turkish troops in northern Iraq. The map has since been removed.

According to the map, from Zakho to Hakurk in the west–east axis and from Avashin to Erbil in the north–south axis, Turkey has 38 military posts or bases in northern Iraq.

Source: Turkey’s Directorate of Communications, 2020

Bargaining chips in northern Iraq and wars on terror

It is quite significant that pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) news outlets portray Iraqi resistance against the US presence – many of them pro-Iran – as an indirect threat to Turkey.

Moreover, it appears that the US has given Turkish military operations a green light inside Iraqi territory, but attempted to create a schism between the PKK and its Syrian militia affiliate, the People’s Defence Units (YPG), with which Washington has common cause – to Turkey’s detriment.

Ankara, which enjoys cordial diplomatic and robust economic relations with Iran, can be just as opportunistic. According to the US’s former Syria special representative James Jeffrey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had personally told him twice that he too “considers Iran a threat.”

Such expressions reflect a constant principle within Turkish foreign policy: If you have problems with the west, turn to the east to create bargaining chips.

In this regard, Turkish hard power instruments in Iraq and Syria work against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), developing elements of pressure against Damascus and Tehran, and creating new opportunities to negotiate with Washington.

A new era for Turkey

During the 1980s, Turkey stepped into a new era marked by two intertwined developments.

The first development occurred when the Stabilization Decisions of 24 January 1980 changed the country’s existing economic model. The external debt of Turkey during the 1970s had triggered a ‘balance of payment’ crisis. The Turkish bourgeoisie desperately needed both foreign exchange and to transform import-substitution industrialization into an export-oriented economic policy.

Second, the dissolution of the USSR and the end of the Cold War created a sense of opportunity for Turkey. Neo-Ottomanism entered the Turkish political scene when the newly established Central Asian and Caucasian republics were seen as ‘Turkic hinterland’ for the post-Soviet order.

Today, among left-wing circles inside Turkey, it is still widely believed that the 12 September 1980 coup d’état was initiated to apply these economic policies.

As a result, the Turkish state re-evaluated its foreign policy in two broad ways: via the economic prism – diversifying export destinations to bolster and transform the economy; and via identity politics, transforming Turkey from a ‘secular’ state and society into a country in which Turkish and Islamic identities were promoted forcefully by the putschist government of the 1980s.

Turgut Ozal, the first post-coup prime minister, and later the eighth President of the Republic of Turkey, implemented these policies to ‘re-orient’ the new Turkey.

Mixed occasionally with both pan-Turkist and pan-Islamist ideologies, neo-Ottomanism became increasingly attractive for Turkey in furthering its economic and political visions.

It is no surprise then, that Erdogan views Ozal as his role model for Turkey. Both figures bind export–growth economic policies with proactive foreign policy adventures.

Along with other neighbors of Turkey, northern Iraq was now being viewed as strategically significant in this new political context. Iraq was the bridge through which Turkey could reach the Persian Gulf. Turkish state and foreign policy were thus restructured along this line in the early 1990s.

The First Gulf War, according to Ozal, was an opportunity for Turkey’s new foreign policy realignments. The president went on to join the US-led anti-Saddam Hussein coalition and began publicly championing the theme of a ‘Greater Turkey’ as the protector of Turkomen and Kurds in northern Iraq.

Although the Turkish army and foreign ministry resisted Ozal’s efforts, Ankara allowed the Poised Hammer force – an aviation unit consisting of American, Australian, British, Dutch and French troops – to deploy in Silopi, Şırnak and operate on Turkish soil.

In the meantime, Turkey continued its armed operations against the “terrorist threat of the PKK,” alongside efforts to legitimize its presence in northern Iraq, which are assessed by the Iraqi government as illegal.

There were two large operations in northern Iraq in the 1990s. In 1995, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) launched Operation Steel, during which over 35,000 Turkish troops crossed the border.

The second operation, in 1997, was Operation Hammer, and it had two goals: to destroy PKK camps and to strengthen the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) against the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the Kurdish civil war.

The anti-PUK strategy overlapped with the PUK’s so-called ‘pro-Iranian’ stance. This was another reason for Turkey to support the KDP against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and occasionally against the PUK, and it has been the repertoire of the Turkish state ever since.

Alongside irredentist claims over Iraq, Turkey began to exploit the post-Soviet world around it, exporting cheap and relatively high-tech Turkish goods to new destinations assessed as crucial areas.

The tide turned in 2008. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), with its neo-Ottoman figures like former Prime Minster Ahmet Davutoglu, reversed the Turkish course in Iraq. Ankara started to handpick Sunnis to take under its wings, and to develop solid relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Energy cooperation, particularly oil and natural gas investments, were primary motivations for both these governments. In 2004, Turkey’s exports to Iraq were less than two billion dollars, but by 2013, it had risen over 10 billion dollars, and the destination was the KRG, in particular.

Turkish construction companies earned lucrative contacts in the KRG. Erbil Airport was built by Cengiz İnsaat, which is owned by one of Erdogan’s closest allies, Mehmet Cengiz.

In 2014, despite the protests of Baghdad, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) started to sell its oil through Turkish ports.

The new Turkey makes a retreat

After 2016, however, Turkish policy towards northern Iraq underwent a re-assessment.

One of the reasons was due to domestic political shifts. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) acquired strong support in the June 2015 general elections, and AKP lost its majority for the first time in 13 years, bringing an abrupt end to the AKP’s so-called ‘Kurdish opening.’

There were strong clashes between pro-Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) forces and Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in southern parts of Turkey, which paved the way for a return to the old counter-insurgency TSK tactics in regard to the Kurdish question.

Then, on 15 July 2016, a failed coup d’état triggered a further restructuring of the Turkish state.

Another reason for the change in Turkish policy towards Iraq was that foreign policy failures and disappointments had taken their toll on Ankara.

The Arab Spring and the Muslim Brotherhood’s brief regional ascendence were snuffed out in Egypt and Tunisia, sending shockwaves throughout the Turkish government, and ending the rise of the Turkish model of a modern Muslim state throughout West Asia.

The Syrian government, with its allies Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia, held its ground and the US-backed regime change operation in Syria fell apart.

The so-called ‘Friends of Syria’ group splintered into Qatar-Turkey vs. Saudi Arabia-UAE, and started to fight each other.

The outward flows of Syrian refugees heightened tensions within Turkish society, and fueled both anti-AKP and anti-refugee sentiment.

Importantly, the YPG occupation of northern Syria, and its partnership with the US ‘anti-ISIS’ coalition supported by the PKK, created a ‘national threat’ for the Turkish government.

Turkey then set about modifying its policy on Syria. The result was a retreat from the aim of toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the more humble goal of “eliminating the terror corridor alongside [Turkey’s] southern border.”

The paranoia of ‘Iranian influence’

As a result of its hard power policies over the years, Turkey has been denied access via Syria and Iraq to the lucrative markets of the Persian Gulf’s Arab states. These policies include Turkey’s too-cozy relationship with Iraq’s KRG, as well as its economic and sometimes military competition with Iran in Iraq.

Soaring inflation in Turkey also decreased the competitiveness of Turkish goods in regional markets, and the Iraqi government’s protective policies have slowed down Iraq–Turkey trade volume. At the same time, Iranian trade with Iraq began to increase.

Strategic calculations have also played their part. Turkey’s eagerness to wipe out Kurdish militias from northern Iraq’s Sinjar region has caused tensions with both Baghdad and Tehran.

When TSK launched a military operation against the PKK in Gara, northern Iraq, in February 2021, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU, or Hashd al-Shabi) deployed forces in the Sinjar area against Turkish troops.

Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have also been training anti-PKK Iraqi politician Osama al-Nujaifi’s Hashd al-Watani forces in a Turkish base in Bashiqa, near Mosul. In Sinjar, a tacit alliance between the PMU and PKK-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) confronted the TSK-backed Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

For Turkey, this confrontation represents an unholy alliance between Iran and the PKK. When Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, criticized Turkish operations in northern Iraq, then Turkish envoy Fatih Yıldız hit back, saying Masjedi should be “the last person to lecture Turkey.”

Ambitious goals, ambiguous future

Today, officially and firstly, TSK claims that its troops and bases are in northern Iraq for ‘fighting against terrorism’ and maintaining national security.

Secondly, as in the case of Bashiqa, Turkey lays claim to Iraqi Sunnis and legitimizes its assets by exploiting the sectarian fragmentation of Iraqi politics.

Thirdly, as long as the US remains in Iraq and maintains its ‘countering Iran’ policy in West Asia, Turkey will present its policy towards the KRG as a counterbalancing act against the so-called ‘Iranian influence.’

It appears that the KRG, and Sinjar in particular, will be the current focal point for the quarrel between Iran and Turkey. As a distant aim, in the event of the fragmentation of Iraq, Turkey would likely explore the annexation of northern Iraq, where it believes it has historic claims.

With respect to the Iraqi government, options against Turkey’s breaches of sovereignty and territorial integrity are limited. Ankara will remain as a big trading partner for Baghdad, with a staggering trade deficit to the detriment of the latter.

Turkey’s deep reach inside the KRG and warm relations with the ruling Barzani family will allow it to use northern Iraq as a bargaining chip with Baghdad in the post-US era – both unilaterally, and for the benefit of its NATO alliance.

Lastly, the recent thaw between Turkey, some Gulf states, and Israel may force Baghdad to accept the Turkish fait accompli in northern Iraq.

In short, Turkish troops in northern Iraq are useful for three things: Influencing the Kurdish question and directly tackling its PKK problem; boosting Turkish regional ambitions; and establishing a bargaining chip with its western allies.The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Iraq’s Agriculture Reaps the Despoiled Seeds of US Meddling

October 5, 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

By Farah Hage-Hassan

The poisonous effects of American interference and failed policies are still affecting Iraq’s agricultural sector today. Here’s how.

Visual search query image
  • Decades of US interference have plagued Iraq’s agricultural sector
  • “You lied!”

    Those were the screams of former US Army veteran Mike Prysner echoing in the lecture hall during a speech by George W. Bush, and the lasting trauma still resonates in the ears of millions of Iraqis and Americans today, almost two decades later.

    From a full-scale invasion under the pretext of overthrowing Saddam Hussein to the insurgence of ISIS, Iraq has been plagued with endless wars and destruction. This invasion and endless interventions aggravated the marginalization of sectors in Iraqi society and allowed the internal state of Iraq to crumble under sectarianism and violence.

    The lasting effects of the US policies are especially present within the aftermath of the agricultural sector among others. Farmers across the country continue to be displaced and doubt remains overcast on Iraq’s environmental capabilities and the future of agricultural development.

    American invasion 

    One of the many false pretenses for the heavily documented war was the alleged harboring of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell infamously claimed that the US was aware of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and their role in terrorism. Powell’s bold statements and deceptive assertions regarding the evidence that was available have ultimately haunted the US for what has become known as the very public “campaign of lies” the US tricked global citizens into believing.  

    For over 7 years, Iraq was invaded and bombed by the US and the coalition of the willing, not to mention their use of white phosphorous munitions. Although they claimed that white phosphorus was used whilst fully considering the incidental effects on civilians, the secondary effects on Iraq’s agriculture were most definitely not taken into account.

    Deliberate destruction

    The invasion and destruction that accompanied the war did not only permanently damage arable lands with mines and cluster ammunition, but the suspension of government agricultural institutions and irrigation projects also caused disastrous results to the population.

    From 2002 to 2008, agriculture’s contribution to the country’s GDP has decreased from almost 9% to 3.6% due to challenges created by war, social instability, and institutional and economic concerns. 

    Visual search query image
  • Agriculture, forestry, and fishing, value-added, % of GDP (Source: World Bank)
  • In a final blow after causing significant damage to the agricultural sector, the US secured its monopoly over the Iraqi farming industry and the future of agriculture by issuing Order 81. The Order was described as an attempt to “rebuild” Iraq’s agriculture industry by the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, Paul Bremer.

    What was Order 81?

    After Coalition Provisional Authority Order 81 was implemented, farmers were forbidden from conserving, distributing, or propagating harvested seeds, resulting in a dependency on big businesses such as Monsanto, Cargill Inc., and Dow Chemical. As a consequence, Iraq has only been able to meet 4% of its seed demands since 2005. These distributors are known to patent their seeds and collect fees without considering if crops were proven to contain their proprietary genetic information.

    Monsanto, an agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation founded in 1901, is notorious for its contribution to the neutron initiators inside the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, as well as for producing Agent Orange. The US military used Agent Orange in Vietnam during the infamous operation Ranch Hand, destroying crops and ultimately causing half a million Vietnamese children to be born with birth defects and millions of others left with cancer and other serious health conditions. 

    Dying of thirst

    Reconstruction efforts in Iraq also targeted the distribution of safe drinking water. 

    Millions of dollars were lost in the attempt and efforts failed, with only one-third of the objectives reached in the context of providing safe drinking water. 

    Iraq’s infrastructure was heavily bombed in the 1990s after the US-led coalition conducted massive airstrikes on the region during the gulf war. Water and sewerage treatment facilities were heavily damaged. As people suffered from a lack of access to clean water, diseases multiplied.

    The US war has critically aggravated the water crisis. Water is scarcely passing through the Tigris and Euphrates as is, causing contaminated water to reach crops, and in turn poisoning much of the population. The UN Security Council described the effects of the war as returning Iraq to the “pre-industrial age”, and warned of the imminent catastrophe that would hit the Iraqi population. 

    The Tigris River is bordered by Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. Along with the Euphrates, they create a river system that encircles Mesopotamia known as the Fertile Crescent. The Tigris is an important source of transportation and irrigation, with a history dating back to the earliest known civilizations.

    Visual search query image
    Tigris River (Global Atlas)

    Scorched earth

    The catastrophic insurgence of ISIS ripped Iraq’s already suffering sectors into developmental and economic shreds. 

    The US policies created a weak state that resulted in the marginalization of considerable sectors of Iraqi society. ISIS militants, armed partially with CIA-funded weapons, developed into one of the goriest terrorist organizations of our time. 

    The world watched in horror as ISIS became globally renowned for unspeakable atrocities like beheadings, kidnapping of women and children, and numerous suicide bombings and terrorist attacks that not only affected the Middle East but many western countries, especially Europe. 

    ISIS used the burning tactic to terrorize inhabitants, laid landmines, and destroyed agricultural equipment. IEDs were frequently utilized to fortify their defense. They attempted to meticulously carry out a form of ecocide, as their “scorched earth” tactics took hold. Oil wells were set on fire and thousands of civilians came close to suffocation and others suffered respiratory complications.

    In a final effort to devastate their targets, they booby-trapped escape routes, barns, and pump stations. 

    The presence of the terrorist group forced agricultural workers and farmers to evacuate their farmlands during the bloody conflicts. Numerous families retell their experiences of being forced to abandon their farming communities when ISIS militants surrounded the area in mid-2014. The same families who evacuated their homes reported returning to their homes post-ISIS and finding them heavily booby-trapped. Numerous families have lost children and relatives after bombs inexplicably detonated on their properties. 

    A glimpse of hope

    Away from the nightmares that haunt Iraq, as one of many initiatives, Iraq’s holy shrines have begun to establish massive farms for relying on agricultural production and providing national agricultural products that are distinguished by quality, as well as meat at subsidized prices.

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  • Farms administrated by the Imam Hussein Holy Shrine (Website)
  • Agricultural cities are being established to provide the cultivation of wheat, barley, yellow corn, fodder, jet, and cattle, as well as raising sheep and cows.

    Despite the seemingly irreversible effects of America’s assaults and intrusion on Iraq’s wellbeing have undoubtedly damaged the country, things can still be turned around. With Iraq’s Parliamentary elections looming, the crucial vote of the youth may have the power to carry Iraq out of decade-long darkness and into the light. 

    Iran, Hezbollah and Lebanon – No Strings Attached!

    August 26, 2021

    Iran, Hezbollah and Lebanon – No Strings Attached!

    By Staff

    The relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia has always been eye-catching for regional observers.

    For decades observers have seen the Middle East through the prism of a Saudi-Iranian cold war. During the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, Gulf States particularly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, lent more than $37bn to Saddam Hussein’s war effort.

    According to a report by The Economist, this binary view of a “proxy war” has outlived its usefulness—because the Saudis lost. They failed to build a deep well of support in other Arab countries, settling for ineffective chequebook diplomacy with fickle politicians and warlords. Iran is undeniably the strongest foreign actor in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

    The Saudis still fight a rearguard action in Yemen, but their six-year war against the Yemeni Ansarullah revolutionaries, has been all in vain. Diplomats from the Gulf curtly describe several Arab states as “outside the Arab fold”, The Economist report explained.

    It was a victory for Iran, not to mention, for the Axis of Resistance – which according to many includes resistance factions in Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Yemen.

    Lebanon, a small Middle Eastern country, has been an important outlet to Mediterranean for many Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia. It is also home to the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah.

    In the past year, the country has been plagued with a suffocating economic crisis. Life in Lebanon is defined by petrol queues, lengthy blackouts and growing hunger. Lebanon’s bankruptcy stems from decades of misrule by the political class.

    Hezbollah, founded in the 1980s, resisted the “Israeli” entity for its occupation of south Lebanon. Many Lebanese, regardless of sect or political persuasion, saw this as a legitimate struggle. The group’s popularity soared after the “Israeli” withdrawal in 2000, and stayed high even after war with the entity in 2006, which began with the capture of two “Israeli” soldiers. Arabs of all stripes cheered it for giving the “Israeli” entity a bloody nose, a feat no Arab state had managed in decades.

    The Lebanese Resistance movement has not only protected Lebanon militarily, but it has attended to the medical and social needs of the all Lebanese.  

    Today, with the worsening of the economic situation in Lebanon, Hezbollah and its allies promoted the notion of a resistance economy in Lebanon. In April, Hezbollah trumpeted the Sajjad card, a ration-card scheme named after the 4th Shia Imam Ali ibn Hussein Zein al-Abidin [AS] that offers discounts to participants.

    However, the indignities that define life in Lebanon have not spared anyone. Pharmacy shelves are bare: expats visiting for the summer stuff their suitcases with medicines, not only prescription pills but even basics like paracetamol that are unavailable in the country. Petrol stations, if not closed, have hours-long queues that snake for blocks.

    The situation has been getting even worse no thanks to the Western siege, which Hezbollah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has repeated in various speeches.

    To the West, the “Israelis” and the locals, Sayyed Nasrallah offers more than empty words. In a televised speech during the 2006 “Israeli” aggression on Lebanon, the Resistance Leader told his viewers to look out to sea. Moments later a missile slammed into an “Israeli” destroyer off the coast, damaging the vessel and killing four sailors.

    Sayyed Nasrallah supported peaceful anti-government demonstrations in 2019 and endorsed economic and political reform. However, His Eminence cautioned protesters from being infiltrated by a fifth column on the payroll of foreign embassies.

    As for the economic crisis, Sayyed Nasrallah urged the Lebanese to bypass the Western siege and look east to Asian powers such as China, which stand ready to pour billions into Arab economies despite howls of outrage from the Americans.

    Hezbollah remains the “Israeli” entity’s strongest Arab foe. Generals in Tel Aviv acknowledge that another war with the group would be painful. Aside from a few brief border skirmishes, however, it has not fought the entity in 15 years.

    The Resistance Leader at various occasions reiterated the unconditioned Iranian support to the Hezbollah, Lebanon and the Lebanese. Most recently, His Eminence thanked Iran for its willingness to aid Lebanon with its oil and gas crisis. Sayyed Nasrallah further welcomed UNCONDITIONED aid from any country provided that it would ask nothing in return from Lebanon.

    The first Iranian ship carrying fuel sailed last Thursday. It has been followed by a second ship days after… more ships are expected to come.  

    “A second ship will set sail in the next few days, and it will be followed by others,” Sayyed Nasrallah said. “We will continue this process as long as Lebanon needs it,” His Eminence said. “The aim is to help all Lebanese, [not just] Hezbollah supporters or the Shia.”

    ‘Coward, Savage’ US Assassinated ISIL’s No.1 Enemy: Zarif

    September 28, 2020

    zarif

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iranian were not brought to their knees in spite of tough economic pressures exerted by the United States against the country.

    Speaking on Monday in a ceremony of honoring martyrs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the eight years of Sacred Defense, Zarif addressed US authorities and added, “You (US) are criminals against humanity and today, you are claiming the human rights? You are coward and savage but could not bring Iranians to their knees.”

    While respecting and honoring the families of martyrs of the Foreign Ministry and commemorating the name and memory of all martyrs of the Islamic Revolution, Sacred Defense and nuclear scientists as well as martyrs of defenders of holy shrines especially former IRGC Quds Force Commander Lt. Gen. Suleimani and his comrades who were assassinated by the US terrorist forces in Iraq, he reiterated, “In spite of tough and cruel US sanctions imposed against the country, Iranians were not brought to their knees in the current economic war.”

    The minister said that Washington assassinated ISIL terrorists’ number 1 enemy.

    Addressing the families of martyrs, Zarif said, “Today, in this critical regional and international situation and in spite of irregularities, martyrs with their sacrifice bestowed dignity and grandeur to the Islamic Iran and did not allow others to insult noble people of the country during these years.”

    He pointed out that martyrs brought dignity and pride for Iran and were it not for their braveries and courage, the country would have given in the battlefield during the eight years of the Sacred Defense.

    Elsewhere in his remarks, Zarif pointed to the eight years of Sacred Defense and said, “During Iran-Iraq war, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was heavily supported by other countries both financially and militarily and today, these countries are claimant of human rights which is ridiculous.”

    SourceIranian Agencies

    Imam Khamenei: Sacred Defense Established Security in Iran, Enemies Will Pay Dearly If They Invade Country

    Imam Khamenei: Sacred Defense Established Security in Iran, Enemies Will Pay Dearly If They Invade Country

    By Staff, Agencies

    Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei says Iran’s decisively victorious defense against foreign-backed forces of Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hussein proved that invading the country is a “very costly” undertaking.

    “When a nation shows that it has the diligence and power to defend itself and delivers a crushing response to invaders, invaders would then think twice before perpetrating any incursion against this country and its people, and realize that such an act of aggression would be very costly for them,” the Leader said on Monday.

    Imam Khamenei made the remarks via video-link during an even held in the capital Tehran to honor one million veterans of the country’s 1980-88 war against Saddam’s invading forces.

    Successful engagement in the war, therefore, awarded the country its current level of security, the Leader noted, enumerating the rewards of the Sacred Defense.

    The name signifies Iran’s eight-year-long struggle under the leadership of the late founder of the country’s Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini against the Iraqi aggressor.

    The Leader said the defensive struggle also equipped the Iranian people with a sense of self-belief in its ability to fend for itself and put it on a course of technological and scientific development because it had to wade into many new areas to be able to buttress its defensive activities.

    The war taught us that “some things that appear to be impossible, are actually possible,” Imam Khamenei stated.

    While specifying the actual goal of the warmongers as being destruction of the country’s Islamic Revolution and its Islamic establishment, the Leader noted that Saddam and his Ba’ath party were just being used as “tools by powers, such as the United States, that had suffered serious blows from Iran’s Revolution.”

    Others, like the Soviet Union, the Western military alliance of NATO, as well as some other Western and even European countries also contributed to the war because they were “concerned” about the emergence of a new phenomenon in the region that had been founded upon religion, Imam Khamenei said.

    Documents that surfaced afterwards showed the US had entered some agreements with Saddam before the war, the Leader remarked, adding that during the war too, Washington would generously provide the former Iraqi dictator with intelligence and arms support.

    Imam Khamenei reminded how weapon-laden vessels would dock at regional ports to shore up the invading forces against Iran on a daily basis during the wartime.

    Imam Khomeini, however, identified the main forces lying behind the war well, and aptly advised that the Iranian nation to join the Armed Forces in fighting the invaders, the Leader said.

    Imam Khomeini’s addresses at the time were marked by “truthfulness, innocence, acuity, and decisiveness,” while his leadership style featured appropriate discernment of the requirements of the battle’s different stages as well as proper moralizing of the Iranian servicemen, Imam Khamenei recalled.

    His leadership of the country during the war was also “very prudent,” Imam Khamenei said, noting how his innovative wartime strategies would help the Armed Forces outflank the enemy at various stages.

    In the meantime, Imam Khomeini brought about a “massive popular mobilization” during the war, helping recruit all the potentials that were being offered by the full spectrum of the country’s population into the battle, the Leader remembered.

    This helped many potentials that lay latent in many people at the time to come to the fore, leading to emergence of many exceptional military, intelligence, and other leaders among the people, Imam  Khamenei said, citing the example of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps [IRGC], and many others.

    The Leader said despite some attempts at casting doubt over Iran’s victory in the war, it should be known that the country’s triumph is “as bright as the sun” as neither did it lose a handspan of its soil, nor did its leadership take a single step back.

    This is while the former monarchical regime’s reign was marked by regular unauthorized intervention of foreigners, including during the World Wars, Imam Khamenei noted.

    The Leader said Sacred Defense constitutes part of the country’s national identity because it amounted to supreme manifestation of popular involvement.

    The warfare, on the other hand, also betrayed the true and made-up face of the Western world to the Iranian people because it saw the entire Western front pool their forces to deny Iran everything and fortify its enemies to the limit, Imam Khamenei said.

    The Leader recalled how the Western countries would outfit the aggressors with chemical weapons, thus going back on all of their pro-human rights claims

    Imam Khamenei finally called for the promotion and preservation of the memory of the heroic struggle, especially through creation of rich textual materials that could yield many other instances of content, such as plays and motion pictures.

    Prior to the Leader’s remarks, Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri briefed the participants on the country’s ongoing and pending plans to honor the memory of the war.

    He unveiled a stamp printed out to honor the war’s 40th anniversary, and announced that the country would be inaugurating as many as eight Sacred Defense museums over the upcoming days.

    “We are determined not to allow the distortion of the history of the Sacred Defense that is an invaluable resource for the next generation of the country’s independence, esteem, and pride,” the military chief said.

    Related

    From Wuhan to Baghdad with Trump and Bush

    Source

    May 11, 2020  

    by Lawrence Davidson

    I have been writing these analyses for ten years. Really not a great amount of time, but enough that you see leaders ignorantly repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. You also notice that most of the media, and almost all of the citizenry, appear not to notice the repetitions. Just such a rerun is now playing itself out. 

    Part I—Covid-19 and the Wuhan Lab Claim

    According to a New York Times (NYT) article, President Trump and his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, have begun pressuring the U.S. government’s intelligence agencies to come up with evidence that the Covid-19 virus originated in a Chinese lab in Wuhan—specifically, that city’s Institute of Virology. 

    Let’s state up front that there is no reliable evidence that this is the case. As the NYT puts it, “Most intelligence agencies remain skeptical that conclusive evidence of a link to a lab can be found, and scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt from animal to human in a non-laboratory setting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebola and SARS.” This is also the opinion of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s own top infectious disease expert. 

    Alas, this is not what the Trump-Pompeo duet wants, or needs, to hear. What they want and need is something to support their already stated position that the Covid-19 virus is a “Chinese virus.” Thus, Trump told a reporter on 30 April that, while there were many theories about how the virus originated, he took the Wuhan lab contention seriously. He claimed that he had personally seen “intelligence that supported the idea” and that “we have people looking at it very, very strongly. Scientific people, intelligence people and others.” He then stated that he was “not allowed” to share the intelligence. Pompeo followed up in a 3 May ABC interview by describing the evidence as “enormous.”

    It has also become apparent that Trump would like to tie the World Health Organization (WHO) into the Wuhan lab theory. “Administration officials had directed intelligence agencies to try to determine whether China and the World Health Organization hid information early on about the outbreak.” This seems to be the result of the president’s personal dislike of the WHO. He believes it has praised China’s fight against the pandemic more strongly than his own quasi-efforts. So annoyed has he become that he cut off U.S. aid to the organization in the midst of its fight against Covid-19—an almost universally condemned act. 

    In the end Trump seems to think that nothing less than evidence supporting the Wuhan lab conspiracy theory will help shift popular attention away from his own abysmal failure to react to the pandemic in a timely fashion. So it doesn’t matter if the president is corrupting the intelligence agencies for personal political advantage, or that “the odds are astronomical against a lab release as opposed to an event in nature.” That is the state of our knowledge according to assessments based on science. What the president is demanding is a world that accords with his personal needs. It’s the latter he expects the intelligence agencies to serve. 

    Part II— Nuclear Weapons in Iraq Claim

    Where have we heard this sort of demand before? Well, how about during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq?

    Back in late 2002 and early 2003, George W. Bush was planning an invasion of Iraq. His public reason for doing so was the assertion that the country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. The real reason went beyond that charge and involved a long-range plan for “regime change” in the Middle East—a thoroughly implausible goal. However, Bush’s initial, obsessive need was a way to rally the American people behind his planned war. Why Iraq? Bush seems to have had a hate-filled preoccupation with Saddam Hussein and a desire to finish the job his father began with the First Gulf War. Or, maybe, as he claimed, it was because God told him to do it

    At first he tried to connect Saddam Hussein to the 11 September 2001 attacks on the U.S. Though he never gave up on that stratagem, the lack of evidence made it difficult to shift popular attention, already fixated on Osama Bin Laden and Afghanistan, onto Saddam Hussein and Baghdad. However, the nuclear weapons gambit appeared to have more potential, not because there was any hard evidence for the charge, but because supposedly reliable witnesses, in the persons of mendacious exiled anti-Saddam Iraqis, kept whispering to Bush and others in the administration that the nuclear story was true.

    So, what we had was (1) a U.S. leadership cadre who were itching to revolutionize the Middle East, (2) informants who, in order to precipitate the overthrow of Saddam, were willing to tell the tale of alleged atomic weapons, and (3) a president with enough of a personal grudge against Saddam to use anything in support of his desire to invade Iraq.

    Bush proceeded to put pressure on the U.S. intelligence agencies to find evidence for the nuclear weapons claim. In essence, this pressure threatened to politicize and contaminate the White House’s normal source of intelligence. When the CIA and its military counterpart, the Defense Intelligence Agency, did not come through in this regard, Bush went so far as to create a shadow operation: the “Office of Special Plans (OSP),” staffed mainly by rightwing amateurs, to find him a nuclear “smoking gun” that would justify invasion.

    Simultaneously, the U.S. insisted that the United Nations send in arms inspectors to scour Iraq for evidence of a nuclear weapons program. None of this resulted in the required evidence. This so frustrated President Bush that on 19 March 2003 he launched the invasion of Iraq without any proven reason to do so. This, by the way, constituted a war crime under international law. The president did have the expectation that, once in occupation of the country, American troops would surely find those nukes. They did not. 

    Bush ended up blaming his appalling mistake, which led to the death and injury of tens of thousands, on “faulty intelligence.” He never admitted that the intelligence at fault was his own. 

    Part III—Conclusion

    What do Donald Trump and George W. Bush have in common? They are both know-nothing Republican leaders. (You can get Democrats like this too. They are just less common.) They are know-nothing in the sense that neither of them know the difference between their own desires and objective reality. If Trump needs a Wuhan lab to shift blame from his own failings, then there must be a lab out there and it is the job of the intelligence agencies to find it. If George W. Bush needs Iraqi nuclear weapons to justify his obsessive desire to invade that country and depose Saddam Hussein, then they must be out there and it is the job of the intelligence agencies to find them. Both Bush and Trump, and a whole lot of their staff, were/are caught up in delusions. And, tragically, they both had/have the power to spread their respective delusion, like a “virus,” to large segments of a historically ignorant American public. 

    Now, if this writer can recognize the similarity between these two men and brand the connecting events described here for the delusional episodes they are, you would think that at least some of the media folks bringing us the “news” could do so as well. And maybe in the privacy of their offices and studies they do see the connection and its dire potential. But they are having a hard time translating that into public knowledge. One can only wonder why! As long as that is the case, most of the general public, focused on their local affairs, will not be able to recognize the danger such irresponsible behavior represents, and will once more be dragged along in whatever perilous direction their present muddled leaders take them. 

    Lawrence DAVIDSON | West Chester University, Pennsylvania ...

    Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

    لماذا يفشل الغرب في مواجهة إيران؟

    العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط

    منذ أن نجحت الثورة الإسلاميّة في إيران في إقامة دولة مستقلة فعلياً تحوّلت إيران إلى عقدة للغرب الاستعماريّ لا يطيقها ويبحث عن أيّ وسيلة تقود إلى إنهاء هذه الظاهرة التي شكلت كابوساً للغرب عامة ولأميركا و«إسرائيل» خاصة. ولم يحاول الغرب التعايش مع هذا المتغيّر الدولي بل رأى أنّ الحلّ الوحيد له هو الإجهاز على هذه الدولة قبل تفاقم خطرها المتمثل بما أطلق عليه «تصدير الثورة» واجتياح الفكر التحريري الاستقلالي جيران إيران أولاً، وفي طليعتهم دول الخليج التي تشكل محميات للاستعمار يحكمها عبر عائلات تتحكّم بها وتمكّنه من وضع اليد على نفطها ومالها.

    ولأجل التخلّص من النظام الإسلامي في إيران شنّت الحرب عليها من قبل صدام حسين بتوجيه أميركي وتمويل خليجي خاصة السعودية التي أفهمها الأميركيّون أنّ بقاء هذا النظام في إيران يشكل خطراً على العائلة المالكة في السعودية وكلّ العائلات المالكة في الخليج.

    بيد أنّ إيران رغم حالة التفكّك والتضعضع الذاتي التي كانت عليها في الأشهر الأولى لانتصار الثورة، استطاعت ان تصمد وتستوعب الهجوم العراقي رغم أنها خسرت أرضاً في البدء وتكبّدت خسائر فادحة، لكنها صمدت واستعادت أرضها وقبلت بإنهاء الحرب من دون أن تتمكّن من معاقبة المعتدي، لكن أميركا لم ترضها تلك النتيجة وتحت عناوين وذرائع شتى فرضت عليها تدابير كيدية أسمتها عقوبات رغم عدم انطباق التسمية على الحقيقة القانونية لتلك التدابير. ومنذ 32 عاماً وحتى الآن ترزح إيران تحت وطأة ما يسمّى عقوبات متنوّعة منها ما هو أحادي كتلك التي تفرضها أميركا، ومنها ما هو جماعي خارج مجلس الأمن كتلك التي يفرضها الاتحاد الأوروبيّ وأميركا، ومنها ما هو دولي أممي كتلك التي تفرض بقرار من مجلس الأمن بضغط أميركي.

    لقد لجأ الغرب إلى العقوبات التي من شأنها أن تخنق إيران وتجعلها تتراجع عن سياستها الاستقلاليّة، وعن دعمها لحركات التحرّر والمقاومة في العالم ومنعها أيضاً من امتلاك مصادر القوة (العسكرية والاقتصادية والعلمية) لإبقائها دولة من العالم الثالث وسوقاً استهلاكية لسلع الغرب وفرض التبعية الاقتصادية بعد السياسية لمجموعة المنتصرين في الحرب الثانية.

    لكن إيران سفّهت أحلام محاصريها وثبتت على سياستها الاستقلالية، رغم ما أحدثته الحرب الاقتصادية من شرور وأضرار في الداخل الإيراني، لا بل حققت إيران رغم الحصار قفزات في مجال القوة الإنتاجية والصناعية يكاد المراقب يقول معها إنّ إيران وصلت إلى المستوى الذي زرع اليأس في النفس الاستعمارية وأفهمها انّ إسقاط إيران بات حلماً لا يُدرَك.

    لقد طوّرت إيران نفسها بشكل تكاملي متعدّد الاتجاهات وفي كلّ المجالات التي تميّز الدول المتقدّمة في العالم المعاصر، سواء في ذلك على صعيد السلع الاستهلاكية المعيشية وقد حققت فيه شبه اكتفاء ذاتي بلغ 85% او في المجالات العلمية والصناعية، وقد طرقت بنجاح الباب النووي السلمي ووصلت أيضاً إلى مستوى مَن يطلق الأقمار الصناعيّة ويضعها بنجاح على مدار تشغيلي استثماري، او على صعيد البنية التحتية خاصة في مجالات النقل والكهرباء والاتصالات والخدمات العامة، والأهمّ كان في مجال التصنيع العسكري الذي تمارس فيه القوى العظمى احتكاراً صارماً وتمنع مشاركتها فيه، لكن إيران عرفت كيف تلج مجاله وتؤمّن لنفسها ولقواتها المسلحة من جيش وحرس ثوري وتعبئة شعبية ما يلزمهم من السلاح والذخيرة المتطوّرة التي تمكّنهم من تأمين دفاع موثوق محكم عن إيران أرضاً وشعباً ونظاماً وثروات، كما ويمكّنها من مؤازرة الحلفاء في ممارستهم لحق المقاومة والدفاع المشروع عن النفس. وهنا يطرح السؤال كيف نجحت إيران حيث فشل الآخرون؟

    بكلّ تأكيد نجحت إيران في المواجهة طيلة السنوات الـ 41 من عمر ثورتها، أما سبب النجاح برأينا فهو عائد إلى عوامل تميّز الواقع الإيراني من وجوهه كلها، عوامل تضافرت بشكل ليس من شأنه تخطي الصعوبات والمآزق بل من شأنها أيضاً أن ترتقي بإيران إلى مصاف الدول الكبرى في نظام عالمي قيد التشكل على أساس المجموعات الاستراتيجية، حيث تتجه إيران اليوم لتكون نواة مجموعة استراتيجية تفرض نفسها في النظام العالمي الجديد ويمكن ذكر أهمّ عوامل القوة هذه:

    1

    ـ العامل الفكري العقائدي الديني. أقامت إيران نظامها السياسي على أسس دينية عقائدية، تتفتح فيه على مقولة إنشاء الدولة المستقلة القوية الممهّدة للإمام المهدي، وباتت العقيدة الدينية حافزاً للتضحية والإقدام والتطوّر خلافاً لما جعلها آخرون من المسلمين عامل تخلّف. فالإسلام الحركيّ الذي تعمل به إيران هو إسلام يقود الحياة ويطوّر المجتمع وينافس من أجل الرفاه دون انحراف إسلام محفز وليس مثبطاً. ويضاف ذلك إلى طبيعة الإنسان الإيراني المتميّز بالصلابة وطول النفس والعناد والإصرار على النجاح والتمسك بالحقوق.

    2

    ـ العامل السياسي: اعتمدت إيران نظاماً سياسياً متماسكاً تحتلّ الإرادة الشعبية الصلب والأساس في إنتاجه وتجديد السلطة عبر انتخابات نزيهة تجعل منه منتجاً شعبياً وتجعل الشعب مدافعاً عنه يرفض أيّ مسّ فيه، لأنه نظامه الذي اختاره ويجدّد أشخاصه بإرادته، هذا في الأصل؛ أما في الهيكلية فالنظام السياسي الإيراني نظام قوي متماسك قائم على المؤسسات المنفصلة والمتعاونة والتي يراقب بعضها بعضاً في حدود الدستور ويعمل في ظلّ قيادة رشيدة تجمع الديني إلى السياسي في أدائها فيطمئن الشعب إلى حكمتها وقوتها والتزامها بالدستور وفلسفته وأحكام الشريعة الإسلامية ومقاصدها.

    3

    ـ العامل الجغرافيّ الطبيعيّ. تمتلك إيران موقعاً جغرافياً ومساحة وثروات طبيعية تجعلها في موقع الاستغناء عن الآخر بنسبة عالية من دون أن يكون الآخر بموقع الاستغناء عنها اقتصادياً او سياسياً. وهذا العنصر مكّن إيران من النجاح في سياسة الاكتفاء الذاتي اقتصادياً والوصول إلى موقع التأثير دولياً وإقليمياً في المجالات الأخرى.

    4

    ـ العامل الاستراتيجي التحالفي. في هذا العامل أمرأن الأول طبيعة الخيار الإيراني في تقديم الدعم وإنشاء التحالفات دولياً والثاني النجاح في تشكيل محور المقاومة الإقليميّ. فإيران تبني تحالفاتها على أساس دعم قضية حق لرفع ظلم، وتقيم علاقة مع الأشخاص والمكوّنات الذين يؤمنون بعدالة هذه القضية ويستعدّون للدفاع عنها وخير مثال هنا موقفها من قضية فلسطين التي جهد الآخرون في إبعادها عنها ففشلوا. وهنا التباين بين إيران ودول الغرب الاستعماريّ التي تقيم التحالف انطلاقاً من المصالح الفردية والذاتية التي تريد اقتناصها من الآخرين. ففي الحالة الإيرانيّة يكون التكتل أو المحور او التحالف انطلاقاً من المبادئ التي تجمع المتحالفين ولذا تقيم تحالفاتها على مبادئ وحقوق وقضايا عادلة ثم تبحث في الأشخاص الذين يخدمونه. وبهذا أنشات إيران شبكة تحالفات متفاوتة السقوف أهمية وتأثيراً، أولها محور المقاومة يليها التفاهم مع روسيا والصين، وبعدها العمل في منظومة شنغهاي الاقتصادية وغيرها. وتوصف السياسة الإيرانية بأنها أخلاقية إنسانية لا غدر فيها، وحليف إيران مطمئن، في حين يوصف أداء الغرب باللاإنساني أو اللاأخلاقي وحليفه قلق.

    هذه أهمّ العوامل التي منحت إيران مناعة وقوة وقدرة جعلتها تستعصي على الحرب والحصار وفرضتها لاعباً إقليمياً مركزياً وطرفاً دولياً لا يمكن تجاوزه وأبعدت ضمن المنطق والمعقول شبح الحرب عنها، وأكسبتها قدرة تمكنها من المسّ بهيبة أميركا الدولة المتصدّية لقيادة العالم. وعليه نرى مع وجود إيران هذه نستبعد حرباً تشنّها أميركا او «إسرائيل» على محور المقاومة، ونرى أنّ الأشهر والسنوات المقبلة ستحمل ترهّلاً وتراجعاً في صفوف أعداء إيران مترافقاً مع تقدّم إيران وحلفائها بشكل حثيث نحو تحقيق أهدافهم الاستراتيجية الكبرى خاصة لجهة المحافظة على الاستقلالية الوطنية وحمل الآخرين على التسليم بها ونصرة قضية فلسطين وصولاً إلى تحصيل حقوق شعبها وليس من فراغ يحتفل بيوم القدس العالم سنوياً وبشكل ثابت.

    *أستاذ جامعي – خبير استراتيجي.

    US REWARDS FOR HEZBOLLAH LEADERS’ HEADS: HOW DO THEY AFFECT THE ORGANISATION?

    Posted on  by Elijah J Magnier

    By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

    The US government offers financial rewards to those who help arrest a Hezbollah leader or who reveal details of their activities that enable the US to disrupt them. These rewards vary from five to ten million dollars. Thus far, no one has been able to obtain a single dollar of these awards from the US administration since 1985, when Hezbollah officially came into existence in Lebanon. How are the organisation and its leaders affected by these tempting millions offered by Washington?

    There is no doubt that the “Axis of Resistance” in Lebanon is operating outside the American system. Hezbollah possesses no property outside Lebanon, and no bank accounts in any local bank inside or outside the country, notably not in any western countries. Family members and children of Hezbollah leaders are not present in western countries, therefore they are outside the US’s blackmailing orbit. Hence, the decision to place Hezbollah leaders on the US terrorist list and confiscate their “non-existent” funds is not much more than an ostentatious display by which the US aims to self-advertise itself as the world’s policeman. 

    Washington believes that announcing the names of Hezbollah leaders could give impetus to America’s allies in Lebanon. But the US’s allies in Lebanon are too weak – although persistent and holding at least some leverage – to confront Hezbollah in the first place. Most importantly, US sanctions cannot possibly be effective in a country like Lebanon – or in other countries under the “Axis of the Resistance” umbrella because they are sovereign states outside direct US control and the “Axis of the Resistance” is far from being weak.

    This takes us to Iraq, an “Axis of the Resistance” stronghold, during the 2018 parliamentary campaign.  Before the elections the US Presidential envoy against ISIS, Ambassador Brett McGurk, visited National Security Minister Faleh Al-Fayyad in his office in Baghdad. McGurk complained that Fayyad had met with Sheikh Muhammad Kawtharani, a Hezbollah official on the US terrorism list.

    Al-Fayyad replied:

    “It is not permitted to interfere in internal Iraqi affairs, nor with what an Iraqi citizen does. Sheikh Kawtharani is an Iraqi citizen, and America has no authority or jurisdiction over us to dictate who we can or cannot receive.”

    Sources in the “Axis of the Resistance” confirm, in fact,  that “Sheikh Muhammad Kawtharani was never a military leader but part of the political bureau. By virtue of his studies and the presence of his father, a scholar and jurist, in Najaf for many years, Sheikh Mohammed was born and raised in the holy city. Sheikh Kawtharani married an Iraqi woman from Baghdad, mastered the language and the Iraqi mentality, which made him very successful in managing the Iraqi file and communicating with Iraqi leaders. He had spent time in Saddam Hussein’s prisons and was a close companion of Sayyed Abbas Al-Mousawi, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah assassinated by Israel in 1992. He was able to forge close relations with Iraqi leaders during their presence in Lebanon in exile as refugees in the days of Saddam Hussein’s authority. He is the Hezbollah official who knows Iraq best, from the Marjaiya in Najaf to every single political member from Erbil to Basra.”

    “Sheikh Kawtharani has no enemies among Iraqi leaders because his way of dealing with them is never condescending; he does not impose his agenda or conditions on them. Rather, his objective is to unite Iraqi groups on mutually agreed decisions and to listen to their complaints when they find it difficult to communicate with each other. He is a coordinator and a mediator, one of the most difficult functions to serve – especially among Iraqi Shiite parties”, said the source.

    “America knows that Sheikh Kawtharani does not work within the security-military apparatus of Hezbollah, but is the Assistant to Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah for Iraq affairs.

    Sayyed Nasrallah is the leader of the” Axis of Resistance “and enjoys excellent relationships with Palestinians, Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis, and various leaders in different countries. Therefore, the US wanted to obstruct his return to Iraq in order to prevent Iraqi Shiite solidarity, especially following his success in reunifying the Iraqis after the assassination of the Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani”, according to the source.

    Shiite parties were not satisfied with the choice of President Barham Saleh of Adnan al-Zurfi as prime minister. Iraq was facing serious domestic unrest between Shiites, Sunnis and the Kurds. By selecting Mr Mustafa Kazemi, the tension was de-fused with the help of Sheikh Kawtharani and the Iranian leadership who mediated to help the Iraqis find the most suitable candidate for all.

    The source asserts that “Sheikh Kawtharani has better relations with most Iraqi politicians than any Iraqi or non-Iraqi leader or personality. This is what allowed him to work to support Iraq; US financial rewards of $10 million will not prevent him from travelling to Iraq when he so desires.”

    As for the American financial rewards, generally speaking, they create a positive outcome for every Hezbollah official: the higher the amounts offered by the US on one’s head, the more prestige one accrues. This raises the wanted leaders to a privileged social status in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Palestine, because threatened US punishment is understood to indicate US fear, proof of a Hezbollah leader’s power to annoy the US and its administration.

    These rewards have not harmed Hezbollah at all over the 35 years of their existence. But internally, the higher the amount, the more important the “wanted” Hezbollah leader is in relation to other Hezbollah officials. The wanted leader’s financial compensation increases, and additional budgets, guards and security members are allocated to protect him. Multiple cars are at his disposal, and more than one apartment is offered for his convenience and security. Precaution in selecting an apartment includes the presence of an electric elevator that reaches the underground basement, to cover his arrival, departure, and movements in and out. 

    The US rewards incite jealousy among those Hezbollah officials who have not yet attained the distinction of having a US reward on their head. Those with a lower reward wish the US could offer more millions on their heads for them to gain a higher position in society!

    Those officials higher on the US list of terrorist rewards become weightier and gain additional powers. Their credibility and influence with foreign political leaders and allies during their contact or meetings increases, so that allies brag about contacts and pictures taken next to them. 

    Long ago, the US put Imad Mughniyeh on its list and placed a reward on his head. He then reached the level of Military Commander in Chief of Hezbollah and Deputy Assistant Secretary-General of the Jihad Council. This is but one example of promotion thanks to US targeted opposition.

    If the US decides to target leaders placed on its terrorist bounty list, Hezbollah’s response then becomes more significant because they become part of a new equation of deterrence. Thus, what US officials imagine as harsh punishment for Hezbollah leaders actually becomes a source of direct reward within the Hezbollah system and society! It is but one more example of the way in which the US’s desire to punish and eliminate is turned to advantage and even privilege in a system and culture they do not understand.

    Proofread by:  C.G.B and Maurice Brasher

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    Copyright © https://ejmagnier.com   2020 

    Full speech about Imam Mahdi and the West’s moral failure against coronavirus

    Full speech about Imam Mahdi and the West’s moral failure against coronavirus

    source 

    April 14, 2020

    The following is the full text of a televised speech delivered on April 9, 2020 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, on the occasion of the 15th of Sha’ban.

    In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

    All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and peace and greetings be upon our Master Muhammad, and upon his pure household

    May the auspicious 15th of Sha’ban be a blessed eid for all you dear brothers and sisters, the entire Iranian nation and all Muslims and all liberated people in the world. Unfortunately, I do not have the opportunity to meet with you up close and I have to speak to you from a distance, but this is an experience in itself. Today, I will say a few things about the Imam of the Age- may our souls be sacrificed for his sake- and I will raise a few points about the current issue of the country, but first of all, let us send greetings to the Imam of the Age:

    Greetings be upon you Imam of the Age, greetings be upon you God’s firm pledge, greetings be upon you God’s promise – such promise whose fulfillment He guaranteed – greetings be upon you the hoisted flag, and you the manifestation of knowledge, of protection, of vast mercy and of inviolable promises.”

    The following section of the holy ziyarah “Al-e Yasin” is full of love: “Our greetings be upon you when you rise and re-appear at the behest of God and when you put on the veil of disappearance. Our greetings be upon you when you engage in recitation and tafsir.”

    Perhaps, there have been few historic eras during which humanity was in as much need as the present time for the existence of a savior. This holds true for both elites who feel this need consciously and the masses of the people who feel the need as well, but unconsciously. Everyone feels the need for a savior, a Mahdi. Everyone feels the need for the hand of divine power, for an infallible Imam, for purity and for divine guidance. We know of few historic eras during which there was so much need for this lofty truth.

    Today, after having experienced various schools of thought and various philosophies – ranging from communism, western liberal democracy to the current form of democracy in the world, with the oversized claims that they make – humanity does not feel at ease. Despite all the astonishing scientific breakthroughs which have completely changed the way of life, humanity does not feel happy. Humanity suffers from poverty, disease, perversion and sins. It is afflicted with injustice, inequality and deep and growing class rifts. Humanity is subject to the abuse of power at the hands of big powers. They abuse science and natural discoveries, the capabilities discovered in nature. Humanity is faced with all these. These things have caused humans, throughout the world, to feel exhausted and to feel the need for a liberating hand.

    Billions of people throughout the world are suffering. Some people might have prosperity, but they are not really tranquil. Humanity suffers from anxiety, and scientific breakthroughs and various developments have not managed to bestow bliss on humanity. Of course, human intellect is a great blessing. Similarly, experience is a valuable blessing. These are God’s blessings and they can solve many problems in life, but there are some knots that cannot be untied with these tools.

    An example is justice. The issue of justice cannot be resolved with today’s advanced science and technology. Its knot cannot be untied with them. Today, injustice is fed by science. In other words, advanced science is at the service of injustice and warmongering. It is at the service of occupying others’ lands and of dominating nations. So, science cannot untie such knots. These things require a spiritual and divine hand and the powerful hand of an infallible Imam. It is he who can do these things. Therefore, his great mission is to administer justice. This has been pointed out in many prayers and ziyarahs.

    The administration of justice is something that cannot be achieved by anyone other than the hand of divine power which is manifested by the Imam of the Age. And the kind of justice that Hazrat is expected to administer is not particular to one specific area, rather it covers all aspects of life:  Justice in power, wealth, health, human dignity, social status, spirituality, the possibility for growth and in all other dimensions of life. These are the things that are expected to be established by the Imam of the Age (may our souls be sacrificed for his sake) and by Allah’s favor, this will happen. All people- including elites and those who can understand events and the masses of the people some of whom might be preoccupied with their daily life and therefore are unaware of the developments in the world– have this need, either consciously or unconsciously.

    All religions have promised a big “faraj” and a great divine movement at the end of history, which is of course not the end of history. When the era of the Imam of the Age begins, the real world and the real life of humanity begins to take shape. However, all religions have promised an end to the current condition of life that we have today. Therefore, this is a need, but in order to channel this need and render it fruitful, we have been asked in Islam to anticipate his re-appearance. This “anticipation” is beyond a mere sense of need. They have said that we should anticipate. Anticipation means hope. It means believing in a definite future. So, it is not just a mere belief. Anticipation is constructive. Therefore, in our narrations and teachings, the anticipation for this big faraj enjoys a high position. Later on, I will expand on this anticipation.

    In a towqi’ [holy edict] of the Imam of the Age to Ibn Babawayh– Ali ibn Babawayh– he quotes the Holy Prophet (God’s greetings be upon him and his household) as saying “The best action that my Ummah can take is to anticipate the faraj.” There is a narration by Imam Musa ibn Ja’far which says, “After knowledge and understanding, the best course of action is anticipation for the faraj.” The Arabic word “ma’rifah” means monotheism and understanding divine truths. The Commander of the Faithful (greetings be upon him) says, “Anticipate the faraj and do not lose hope in the spirit of God.” It says that we should anticipate and we should not lose hope of divine spirit, mercy and assistance.

    So in anticipating the faraj, there is dynamism and action. Well, this has been said about anticipating the re-appearance of the Imam of the Age. It is evident that anticipating the faraj means anticipating the re-appearance of the Imam of the Age. However, this is one manifestation of the anticipation. When the Holy Prophet says, “The best action that my Ummah can take is to anticipate the faraj” this reflects on all the problems that might occur to us in life. We should not become disappointed when confronting problems and we should anticipate a faraj, knowing for certain that it will materialize. The anticipation for the faraj is a faraj in itself. There is a narration by Hazrat Musa ibn Ja’far which says, “You should know that the anticipation for the faraj is a faraj in itself.” So, the anticipation for the faraj is a kind of opening for us as it liberates us from a state of despair and desperation which might force one into doing strange things. Well, this is what it means.

    When the Holy Prophet and the Imams said this, it means that Mohammad’s (God’s greetings be upon him and his household) Ummah never becomes disappointed at any incident in life and that it always waits for the faraj. Well, anticipation does not mean sitting idle and fixating one’s eyes at the door, rather it means preparing oneself, taking action and feeling that there is an end that can be achieved and for that, one should work hard. We who anticipate the faraj and the re-appearance of the Imam of the Age (may our souls be sacrificed for his sake) should work to that end. We should work hard on the path of establishing a Mahdawi society. We should get close to the Mahdawi society as much as we can because the Mahdawi society is the society of justice, spirituality, understanding, brotherhood, camaraderie, science and dignity.

    There is one point about the anticipation: anticipating the faraj is different from showing impatience and setting a timeline – for example by saying to ourselves that such and such an incident and difficulty should come to an end at such and such a time or that Hazrat should re-appear in such and such a day. This anticipation for the faraj does not mean showing impatience and being restless.

    This anticipation means preparing oneself. Showing impatience and being in a rush are among the forbidden things. There is a narration which says, “God will not hurry up if His servants hurry up.” If you are in a rush, this does not mean that God will make hasty decisions because of you. No, there is a time and a reason for everything and things will be done based on divine providence. As I mentioned before, the anticipation for the faraj means both the re-appearance of the Hazrat and the opening after big difficulties: the opening after difficult incidents that involve everyone such as the incidents that occur today in the world which disappoint many and force others into suicide. However, when there is the anticipation for the big opening, this will not happen as one knows that such incidents will surely come to an end.

    Well, there is another point here: the tranquility resulting from the anticipation and one’s self-confidence – as a result of which individuals feel calm and undisturbed – could be strengthened with prayers, with supplication and by speaking to God. “For without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction” [The Holy Quran, 13: 28]. Now, we are in the month of Sha’ban and after that, we have the month of Ramadan. There are numerous duas and various prayers and speaking to God without any interceder is very valuable. And speaking to the infallible Imams (greetings be upon them), who are the closest people in the whole world to Allah the Exalted, will give one tranquility and peace of mind. Remembrance of Allah the Exalted opens our path, gives us joy and attracts divine mercy.

    Surely, the millions of hands that were raised last night will bear fruits. Last night, millions of people succeeded in familiarizing their hearts with God, in connecting with Him, in holding up one’s hands and in speaking to Him. Without any doubt, the results of this action will show themselves both in individuals themselves and in the whole society and many blessings will ensue. These were the points that I wished to discuss about the issue of the re-appearance, the faraj and the uprising of the Imam of the Age. Of course, many things can be said in this regard, but for today, this much is enough.

    As for the current issue of the country – the coronavirus outbreak – well, this is an epidemic and a test. It is a test for the whole world: for both governments and nations. Governments are tested in this incident and so are nations. It is indeed a very strange test. Of course, enough has been said about the statistics, the very good measures that have been adopted and the recommendations of officials. The IRIB has also had a good performance, to be fair, in this regard. I do not want to speak about these matters, but I have certain other points to raise:

    One point is that the Iranian nation has had a brilliant performance in this test. During the coronavirus test and during this pandemic, is modern pandemic, the Iranian nation shone brightly. First of all, the peak of this national glory belongs to the medical staff of the country. I have spoken many times and I would like to reiterate again the significance of their work and the value of their self-sacrifice, including that of physicians, nurses, laboratory experts, radiologists, medical assistants in health centers, public services divisions, the sections in charge of research, and management inside the Ministry of Health and outside it – the managers active in this area. The peak of this glory belongs to them. They placed their lives and their health at the service of the people. This is very significant and magnificent.

    They endured the pain of being away from their family. Many of them did not see their family even during Nowruz holidays and they suffered from sleeplessness and psychological pressures resulting from treating patients in a critical state. They welcomed all these things and therefore, a good memory of the medical staff and system of the country will be engraved in the minds of the Iranian nation. This is a good and happy memory left behind at this point in time by the medical, nursing and treatment society of the country.

    As well as them, we should mention volunteers: those who were not part of the medical staff, but who entered the arena voluntarily. Jihadi clergy and students, thousands of diligent basijis throughout the country and the masses of the people presented such valuable services that are beyond description. On the one hand, such services make one really happy and on the other hand, they make one feel grateful.

    We should mention the Armed Forces as well. The Armed Forces truly utilized all their power of construction and creativity. They placed all their resources at the service of the task which even included scientific resources, scientific discoveries and the manufacture of medical instruments and medical equipment for hospitals and clinics as well as other goods and instruments which were at the disposal of the Armed Forces. They did their best to utilize their power of construction and creativeness in the area of science and pragmatism.

    Later on, new capacities were discovered and it became clear that there are numerous capacities inside and outside the Armed Forces while we had been unaware of them beforehand. Youth appear on television and explain the things that they have built, but we did not know of them before. These are the new discovered capacities.

    The people’s cooperation has also created beautiful, fascinating and astonishing scenes and they can be seen everywhere. I would like to cite instances of this popular cooperation. Of course, these are not all the cases, rather these are the ones that have been reported to me: in Sabzevar, for example, they have launched the plan “A sacrifice for every neighborhood”: the people in the neighborhood gather together, sacrifice an animal and give the meat to the needy in that neighborhood. This is a very essential, important and interesting plan for feeding the needy. In Yazd, the mother of a martyr has enlisted the help of several ladies in order to turn their houses into sewing workshops with the purpose of producing masks and giving them to the people for free. In Nahavand, a group of ladies who used to bake bread and send it to the frontlines during the Sacred Defense Era have become active again in order to control the disease and help fight it. In Khuzestan, the clergy have set up groups to disinfect the people’s houses. In Shiraz, local well-established personalities speak to the owners of different properties – such as the owners of houses and shops – so that they will not receive their rent or give a discount and delay the payments during the outbreak, thus helping local shopkeepers. In Tabriz, the head of the seminary has entered the arena on the ground to offer help. In another city, a hezbollahi candidate for the parliamentary elections, who was not elected, has decided not to close down his committee so that he can organize activists at the service of a jihadi movement and of fighting the coronavirus.

    Of course, these examples are based on a few reports available to me, otherwise, there are hundreds or rather thousands of examples like this in different shapes throughout the country, some of which I have also cited in my previous speeches. It is important to pay attention that these are signs of the depth and the influence of Islamic culture in the hearts of our people. This is contrary to the claim of those who unfortunately tried to humiliate Iranian culture– Islamic-Iranian culture– in the past two decades in order to divert the attention of the people towards the western lifestyle. However, despite their wishes, this is not the case. Fortunately, this feeling of Islamic thinking and Islamic culture is a very strong and firm feeling in our people.

    Western culture and civilization showed their mettle as well! Well, our national television showed some of the things that happened in western countries, in Europe and in the US, but some of them were not broadcast because this is the information that we receive and therefore, we are aware of it. The west displayed its cultural products as well. In some western countries– in Europe and the US– it so happened that governments confiscated masks and gloves belonging to another government while they were being transferred in order to use them for themselves. This happened in European and American governments. And the people there emptied the stores in a short time, in the space of one, two hours- as they were anxious to fill their fridges and they emptied the shops. They showed the whole world on television the empty shelves in the stores. Our television showed it as well. And there were some people who fought with one another over toilet paper. There were also long rows of people trying to buy guns. It was broadcast on television that the people were lining up to buy guns because they felt insecure and felt the need to buy guns in this sensitive period of time. We can also refer to their prioritization of patients: their preference not to treat the elderly. They said, “It is not necessary for us to bother treating the elderly, the disabled and the like who suffer from various conditions and ailments considering the restrictions that we have.” These are the things that have happened there.

    Some people in those countries have committed suicide out of fear of the coronavirus and of death. This is the conduct that some western nations have shown. Of course, this is a logical and natural consequence of the philosophy ruling over the western civilization, which is an individualistic, materialistic and secular philosophy. Even if there is belief in God in that philosophy, it is not based on correct, towhidi and deep tenets. This is another issue.

    I would like to add that a western official said a few days ago that the “Wild West” has been revived. This is what they say. When we say that there is a spirit of wildness in the west which is not incompatible with their perfumed and neat appearances, some people express their surprise and deny it. Now, they themselves are saying this! They say that such behavior is a symbol of the Wild West being revived.

    Another dimension of this issue is the public behavior of our dear nation in acting on the recommendations. One can see that the people are really acting on what the National Anti-Corona Headquarters announces in a definite manner. Of course, they might announce something while they have doubts and the people might conclude that it is not necessary to do it, but when something is announced in a definite manner and they feel that they should do something, they cooperate with officials on the recommendations that they issue.

    One example is this year’s “sizde-bedar” ceremony. Nobody would have believed that the people would cancel it, but they did. The people did not attend sizde-bedar. This shows that the people have accepted public discipline in confronting this disease in the true sense of the word. Of course, this should continue. This public discipline should continue to exist and the decisions announced by the National Anti-Corona Headquarters – as the Headquarters is the first-tier organization in charge of this task – should be taken seriously and acted upon.

    Another dimension of the issue is that coronavirus is clearly a grave problem for today’s humanity. It is a big and dangerous outbreak that has occurred to humanity, but compared to other problems, it is a relatively small matter. We have been witness to many problems in the world and in our own country, which were not less important, rather more important than this recent malady, including the fact that Saddam’s planes dumped chemicals on our country 32 years ago– on exactly the same days that coronavirus has now entered our country. They killed thousands of people in our cities and in their own cities and they did so with mustard gas and the like. This happened and of course, all big powers in the world supported and helped Saddam on that day. Some of these so-called civilized and advanced countries gave him chemical substances and weapons and until today, none of them has answered for the crimes that they committed back then.

    And that criminal Saddam, behaved towards our people and his own people in Halabja in the same manner, because he felt that the people of Halabja might be cooperating with the soldiers of the Islamic Republic, he killed them on the streets in a brutal manner. Well, these things have happened. During the two world wars, millions of people were killed as well. In the case of the coronavirus, it is said that one million-plus individuals have been infected and some have lost their lives. However, in the first and second world wars which occurred in Europe with an interval of about 20 years, several million people were killed. I do not remember exactly how many, but I know that tens of millions of people were killed during those wars.

    During the Vietnam War too, which was waged by the US, many people were killed and the same is true of other wars. Just recently, many people were killed and martyred during the attack that the US and others launched in Iraq. These cases have been frequent. Therefore, when we think about the recent matter, we should not ignore the other important incidents that have always occurred in the world and we should know that at the very moment, millions of people are under the pressure of oppression at the hands of big powers and enemies in the world and they are deeply suffering. The people in Yemen, Palestine and many other parts of the world are under pressure. Therefore, the issue of coronavirus should not make us forgetful of the plots of enemies and of arrogance and we should know that the enmity of arrogance is based on the essence of the Islamic Republic.

    If someone thinks that we should not show enmity so that they will not show us enmity either, this is not true. The essence of the Islamic Republic is the principle of Islamic democracy and this is not acceptable, understandable and tolerable to them! This is another point.

    I will tell you that officials in the National Anti-Corona Headquarters are working seriously. We receive the reports in this regard and we are aware of their activities. They have also come up with certain plans for underprivileged classes, but I wish to stress and recommend that executive officials should implement the plans for helping these classes as soon as possible and in the best way they can, God willing.

    However, the people are also responsible. There are some people who really find it very hard to make ends meet and they cannot manage their daily affairs. The people whose hands are open and who are financially well-off should begin extensive activities in this regard.

    We read in the holy dua “Shajarat-un Nubuwwa”: “Feed me so that I can help- by means of what you bestowed on me with Your Grace- those who are deprived of your bounties and blessings to a large part, as you provided me with Your shelter.” This is one of the necessary tasks that should be carried out, in particular because the month of Ramadan is imminent. The month of Ramadan is the month of giving alms, making sacrifice and helping the needy. It will be such an excellent move to launch a big movement in the country for charitable purposes and offering pious help to the needy and the poor. If this happens, there will be a good memory of this year in the minds of the people.

    In order to prove our love for the Imam of the Age, we should create scenes and reflections of the Mahdawi society. As I mentioned before, the Mahdawi society is the society of justice, dignity, knowledge and assistance. We should realize these things within the scope of our capability in our life. This will help us get closer to that ideal society.

    The last point that I would like to raise is that in the absence of public meetings in the month of Ramadan – as this year, we are deprived of these very valuable public meetings which are places for making dua, speaking to one another and supplicating to God – we should not forget about acts of worship, praying and showing humility towards God. We can do the same things and show the same humility in our own homes, when we are alone or when we are among our family members and our children. Of course, there will be some television programs as well which can be benefitted from. And we are obliged to do so.

    I also have one word of advice for officials and for young activists in the arena of science and technology. Two things should not be forgotten: one is the issue of “surge in production” which is vital for the country. We should pursue the issue of production in the country at any cost and we should help production witness a surge in the true sense of the word. And another is the issue of manufacturing the many things that we need and doing laboratory wok. By Allah’s favor, the youth in laboratory sections will pursue this matter.

    I ask Allah the Exalted to bestow salvation on the Iranian nation. May God gladden the immaculate soul of our magnanimous Imam, that He associates the pure souls of our dear martyrs with the Holy Prophet, that He will realize the big dreams of the Iranian nation and that He hastens the re-appearance of the Imam of the Age- may our souls be sacrificed for his sake- God willing.

    Greetings be upon you and Allah’s mercy and blessings

    Looking at the Military Aspects of Biological Warfare

    MARCH 14, 2020

    THE SAKER

    The 20th century has seen a seemingly countless number of military conflicts, ranging from small local clashes, to at least two world wars. The same 20th century saw a huge efforts by major powers to develop three types of so-called “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD): Atomic, Bacteriological and Chemical (ABC). All of these WMD were initially seen as very effective and very frightening, yet there were only used in a few, limited occasions.

    Ask yourself, why is that?

    The reason is simple: while the US could nuke Japanese cities with impunity in 1945, and while the Anglo powers developed at least THREE plans to wage a total war against the Soviet Union (details in this article), they never dared to implement them.

    Again, ask yourself, why is that?

    I am a total medical ignoramus, and I have nothing to say about the nature of SARS-CoV-2, I am a military analyst and one of my two areas of specialization (besides planning nuclear forces) was operational art, that is the level of military operations above tactical, but under strategic: you can think of it as what connects the tactical means to the strategic goals. You can also think of it as the level at which combined arms (above division level) formations are brought together in something similar to an army corps. This is exactly the level at which the used of WMD would be the most likely to happen. Yet, if you look at the typical Soviet/Russian or US manuals discussing operational art you will notice that it is always assumed that the other side will initiate the use of WMD (even in secret documents).

    Again, ask yourself, why is that? Is it only a type of political correctness showing that “we are the good guys” and “they are truly evil”? To some degree, yes, but not only.

    I submit that all three cases have the same explanation: WMD are very tricky to use, and when used, they can result in absolutely truly cataclysmic political consequences. Take for example the (completely fake) reports about the Syrian government using chemical weapons against the Takfiris: they made no sense to any military analyst simply because 1) they brought no advantage to Damascus and 2) everybody knew that as soon as this latest “new Hitler” would be accused of using chemical munitions, the Empire would seize this pretext to strike at Syria.

    True, the Takfiris *DID* develop chemical weapons, apparently, they did try to use them here and there, with no special result to show for, and recently they seem to have poisoned themselves (according to Russian reports). Besides, the very real stocks of Takfiri bioweapons were used as proof of Syrian government attacks (how insanely stupid is that?). So for these Takfiri nutcases, there are no real political consequences. As for their public image, following many hours of video-taped atrocities, you can be sure that they don’t care one bit what the “kafirs” and other “crusaders” think…

    Same deal for Saddam Hussein who, aided by the “international community” (mostly the Empire, the USSR and France), did use chemicals against his own population and against Iran, but since he was “our son of a bitch” he was under ZERO risk of retaliation. But when the Empire turned on him, he did not dare to use his WMD against anybody.

    Why?

    Because the US-led forces would not be stopped by a chemical attack. And because any such attack would give the US and the rest of the anti-Iraqi coalition a “license” to use whatever weapon or technology against Iraq they wanted, including tactical nukes.

    The truth is that there are very few military scenarios in which the use of WMD makes sense, this is true for all three of them, but this is especially true for biowarfare which is the hardest of them to control.

    Here I have to, again, remind everybody that war is never an end by itself, but only a means towards an end, and that end is always POLITICAL. Going in just to kill people and even bombing a country back to the stone age does NOT qualify as a political goal. If you prefer, the political goal is what ought to be defined as “victory”. So, again, “destroying all enemy ships” or “pulling off a decapitating anti-leadership strike” are NOT political goals.

    There are several countries out there which are capable of developing bioweapons. In fact, most biolabs could manufacture a simple bioweapon using commonly found agents. But labs don’t get to decide to engage such weapons. That decision is clearly one which can only be taken at the national command center level and only following a compelling argument by military and scientific specialists. Finally, no responsible government would ever order the use of WMD if it felt that there is a risk of retaliation, both military or political.

    Finally, in the case of SARS-CoV-2 and of all the other epidemics/pandemics we see situation where the infection is not confined to the original infection site but goes global.

    As far as I know, and please correct me if I am wrong, but I know if no virus which has been successfully deployed against a specific target and then remained contained to that target. In other words, the risk of “collateral damage” from bioweapons is pretty close to infinite (at least potentially).

    Yes, in theory, a country could develop a new virus, or weaponize an known one, and then develop a vaccine and then vaccinate its armed forces or even its entire population. But that would amount to placing a huge sign on the White House saying “Yes, we done it!”: political suicide.

    Now, the VAST majority of comments here have focused on the possible medical aspects of this pandemic, which is fine and which I have nothing to contribute to. But I ask you now to look at the MILITARY and, therefore, POLITICAL, dimensions of this crisis and ask yourself cui bono?

    Seems to me that China and Russia did very, very well. The crisis is pretty much under control in China, and in Russia it is both limited and confined. The fact that neither the Chinese nor the Russians have any delusions about the “private sector” and the fact that these societies perfectly understand that a powerful government is needed to respond to this type (and many other) types of crisis helped them. No such luck for the deluded United States which has less than 950’000 hospital beds in the entire country and whose president seems to believe that Walmart and Amazon can deliver respirators to those in need.

    In fact, the USA is a country which can LEAST afford a real pandemic, so why would the US leaders decide to unleash a weapon against comparatively MUCH better prepared countries while itself is one of the most vulnerable on the planet?

    How about the fact that the situation in Europe looks absolutely awful? Yes, I know, the Idiot-in-Chief did not even bother to consult with the USA’s so-called “allies” before declaring his (confused) 30 day ban on travel between the US and the EU. But it is one thing to have no manners and not understand diplomacy, it is quite another to be the party responsible for tens of thousands, possibly even millions, of dead amongst your so-called “allies”.

    So it boils down to this: do we believe that the real leaders of the AngloZionist Empire (not the clowns in the White House, obviously) insane enough to still try to pull off such an operation?

    Frankly, I will not say “no”. I will admit that this is possible.

    But, as I like to remind everybody, possible is NOT the same as “likely” and it dramatically different from “established”.

    In conclusion:

    1. So far, all we have are speculations and guesses.
    2. We also know that irrespective of how “good”/”bad”/effective the SARS-CoV-2 virus is, using ANY WMD is fantastically dangerous both politically and militarily.
    3. And we know of no modern cases of a successful and limited viral bioweapon attack (bacteria and spores are rather different from that point of view)

    Now this is my request to all the commentators:

    Since we have discussed the biomedical aspects of SARS-CoV-2 ad nauseam, let’s stop for a while and let’s now ONLY discuss the political and military implications of a deliberate use of SARS-CoV-2 against China (or any other country).

    There are two more things I would like to share with you.

    First, I looked at the tweet of the Chinese official who declared that the SARS-CoV-2 might have come from the USA. I believe it is this one:

    First, I looked at the tweet of the Chinese official who declared that the SARS-CoV-2 might have come from the USA. I believe it is this one:

    It refers to this GlobalResearch article: https://www.globalresearch.ca/china-coronavirus-shocking-update/5705196 . In turn, the GlobalResarch article references a GlobalTimes article: https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1180429.shtml . This latest article refers to the website ChinaXiv http://chinaxiv.org/home.htm (I think!). So what we have is a Chinese official, referencing a Canadian outlet, which references a Chinese source which itself bases its reports from a website clearly close to the Chinese government.

    Now, unlike most folks in the West, I trust the Chinese government infinitely more than ANY western regime, but even I can see that once the China-bashing campaign swung to a totally new level once the SARS-CoV-2 panic began, the Chinese had a major political interest to point a finger right back at the USA.

    In fact, I would argue that NO government out there wants to be blamed for this latest disaster and that the finger pointing is not going to stop, especially if a US politician dies from respiratory complications.

    The other thing which will inevitably grow is panic. So far, relatively few people in the West have died, but most specialists agree that this crisis is far from over, especially not in the EU and USA where the epidemic it is still on the ascent. Right now, the general public in the West reminds me of a guy falling from a skyscraper and who, passing the 10th floor, thinks “so far, so good”. Friends, it *WILL* get worse, even if only 1 or 2 percent of the infected people die. I loathe both Merkel and Jonhson, but compared to the flag-waving “best Idiot-in-Chief in the galaxy”, they come across as almost honest politicians (at least and only in this case).

    Finally, I want to post an extremely interesting interview by the Russian version of RT of the Academician and Chief Senior Pulmonologist of Russia, Aleksandr Chuchalin. This interview is EXTREMELY interesting and contains a wealth of important statements which, considering who is making them, I would be willing to take to the bank. One problem, this interview is only in Russian:

    And here is my special request to all Russian speakersif you can, could you please either 1) find the interview in English, maybe just a transcript or, if not, could you please translate as much of that interview as possible and post your translation in the comments section (or send it to me for posting)? If you cannot translate it all, at least post a summary of the most interesting points?

    I wish I could do it myself, but I am really exhausted and, besides, there is a lot of medical terminology I don’t really understand. My wife does, but she is also exhausted. This is why I ask for your help (ребята – если честно, то просто сил нет, помогите если можете!).

    That’s it for me for today.

    The Covert Financial War Against Hezbollah: Lebanon’s Money Trail

    February 27, 2020

    by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

    The new Lebanese Government has been pre-destined to fail; and for no wrong doing on its part. Actually, PM Diab formed the cabinet on the 22nd of January 2020, and as I sit down to write this on the 26th of February, I would have to say that, irrespective of the conditions upon which Diab was chosen to be the new PM, he has not yet had the chance to prove his worth or otherwise.

    The popular street anger that emerged in Lebanon on the 18th of October 2019 has forced former PM Hariri to resign. Among other reform requests, the protesters demanded a cabinet comprised of new non-political faces, and Diab’s cabinet as well as Diab himself, are technically-speaking indeed new on the Lebanese political arena. But even before Diab formed the new cabinet, he himself was touted to be a Hezbollah supporter, and this made him unacceptable by the protestors. And after he named his cabinet members, more such claims were made; and I am not in a position to assert them or otherwise.

    In a series of articles that were published on my blog, https://intibahwakeup.blogspot.com/2020/02/lebanons-dilemma-revolving-identity_27.html, I focused on the on-going Lebanese unrest from an identity-based perspective and the conflict of loyalties. But money, as some say, makes the world go round.

    This article is not intended to address history as such and/or Diab’s alleged loyalties. It is rather about what is behind the money trail that has been part-and-parcel of all political developments in Lebanon ever since 1975 and before.

    When the Lebanese Civil War broke out in 1975, the exchange rate of the Lebanese Lira (LL) to the US Dollar (USD) was in the vicinity of 3 LL to 1 USD . And, even though the war devastated the country whose economy was primarily underpinned mainly by tourism and banking services, the Lebanese economy did not seem to suffer, at least significantly. There were times when certain commodities were hard to find, but that was mainly due to transport-related problems caused by road closures, and not due to economic conditions that stood in the way of their availability.

    The LL remained strong, but eventually slipped and took a minor dive towards the end of 1984. By September 1984, the exchange rate was 5 LL to 1 USD. Even though that 5:1 mark generated panic, in hindsight, it reflected further fiscal strength of the LL given that this landmark happened more than nine whole years into the war. And, between 1984 and 1990 or so, it slipped to 1500 LL to 1 USD.

    There was much turmoil during this period and many retirees and ex-pats lost their life-long savings. As for those still at a working age, they suffered severely until their wages were eventually indexed and the LL maintained its 1500-1 ratio to the USD for a very long time; actually till the time the recent uprisings commenced just 3 months ago.

    In hindsight, there is no mystery or divine intervention behind the rather strong Lebanese economy during the first 9 years of the Civil War and which kept the exchange rate steady.

    The buck stops with war money and the war money trail.

    Seven years into the Lebanese Civil War, Israel invaded Lebanon and the PLO was forced out. Two years later, the LL began to slump.

    Coincidence? Perhaps not.

    During the first few years of the Civil War, Lebanon lost its traditional “golden age” sources of income, but it was inundated with war money.

    The main donors were Gaddafi, Saddam and Saudi Arabia.

    Some would argue that the CIA made heavy investments, and this is quite possible. But the CIA and similar agencies, including the Mossad, had their individual operatives. On the other hand, Gaddafi, Saddam and Saudi Arabia were sponsoring whole armies; so to speak.

    Virtually all Left wing Lebanese political parties sent delegations to Libya seeking financial support. This includes what was referred to in Lebanese political terms as political “shops”. Some of those “shops” were comprised of small groups with a dozen fighters. They all came back with millions of USD, some with tens of millions.

    The Saudis were very keen to finance the emerging Salafist militia (even though they were not referred to as such back then) because those militia were fighting the Right wing “Christian infidels”. At the same time, they were happy to finance those same “Christian infidels” because they were fighting the Communists (who were party to the Lebanese political Left).

    Saddam, the Iraqi Baathist, on the other hand was very keen to sponsor any group that stood up against the rival Syrian Government of the other Baath Party faction.

    The Kuwaitis, Gulfies and Qataris played more or less the same game as that of the Saudis.

    All up, there were huge sums of war money pouring into Lebanon. Adding to that was what the Lebanese ex-pats sent their families and what they invested into their savings. The Lebanese banking system found alternatives to tourism and foreign investment, and the economy remained prosperous despite the devastating civil war that was destroying much of what the eye could see.

    But the Lebanese political parties and “shops” were not the only recipients of “brotherly” aid and not the largest ones either. By far, the biggest recipient was the PLO in all of its branches and subdivisions.

    Whilst most of the monies “invested” in the Lebanese Civil War were spent on munitions, operatives on the ground were canvassed, employed as mercenary fighters with most generous pay. One would not zero out the possibility that the Lebanese banking system benefited from those transactions.

    Throughout the first decade of the Civil War years of Lebanon, there was no shortage of money or jobs for those prepared to literally cut throats for a living. Pragmatically-morbid as this may sound, war money and its willful recipients kept unemployment levels low and the economy buoyant.

    Now, was the initial slump of the LL exchange rate in 1984 a direct result of the expulsion of the PLO and its associated funds from Lebanon? No one can answer this question with reliable economic accuracy. That said, the timing of the events begs the question.

    What we do know is that between 1984 and the year the war ended in 1989, the LL slumped from 5:1 USD, to 1500:1 USD.

    As the Civil War eventually came to an end in 1989, Rafiq Hariri emerged on the scene as a savior. He made huge investments in rebuilding certain aspects of the Lebanese infrastructure. The self-made billionaire, Lebanese by birth, but a dual national of Saudi Arabia, who eventually became Lebanon’s PM, bolstered the economy not only by bringing in his own investments, but also by presenting and ensuring a strong Saudi regional backup to his ventures.

    Hariri also established the philanthropic “Hariri Foundation” which sponsored tens of thousands of Lebanese youth to receive tertiary education at home and abroad.

    Hariri also created jobs as he rebuilt downtown Beirut, and certainly his American style election campaigns injected millions of dollars into the streets.

    Hariri resurrected the confidence in the Lebanese economy and the LL. As a result, the LL maintained its exchange rate of LL 1500 to 1 USD and the Gaddafi/Saddam war funds were superseded and made redundant by the “peace” Hariri/Saudi funds. In any event, by then, the demise of Saddam was just around the corner.

    The Rafiq Hariri money injections replaced the lost PLO war money, which in turn replaced the original Lebanese golden age economy pillars of banking and tourism that supported the Lebanese economy during its “golden age”.

    When Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in 2005, change was on the horizon.

    His son, Saad, carried his legacy and continued to fund his father’s initiatives at all levels.

    When the war on Syria began, with the help and facilitation of Saad Hariri, the Saudis and Qataris injected huge sums of money into Lebanon in order to lure jihadi recruits, arm them and send them into Syria. The northern city of Tripoli was the main hub for this influx. And, because Tripoli had its own internal conflict between Bab el Tabbana fighters who were loyal to the then Hariri/Saudi/Qatari camp in their fight with the Alawite fighters of Jabal Mohsen, money kept flowing in.

    In the most dire of situations therefore, in peace and in war, the Lebanese economy has always had a lifebuoy.

    Furthermore, the Lebanese Government was able to receive international aide and grants, especially after major escalations. All up, in the so-called Paris 1, 2 and 3, together with the so-called Cedar 1 fundraisers, the plan was to provide Lebanon with USD 17 Bn to be provided according to a schedule that terminates in 2025. The fund providers were the EU, the USA and the Arab oil states. It is not clear how much has already been received.

    The Lebanese people cannot see where these funds have gone to, and now the government has repayment commitments to make and which it cannot meet and this is public knowledge.

    What is pertinent here, is that all war funds have now run dry, with the exception of the Iranian aid to Hezbollah. That aid however, never really had a significant effect on the economy in the past, and it is not expected to have one now either.

    Gaddafi and Saddam are long gone, the Saudis are no longer in partnership with the Qataris, but neither party is sponsoring any warring entity in Lebanon at the moment. Hariri’s Saudi Oger giant construction company has gone bankrupt, and even though Saad Hariri is believed to have quarantined at least a billion dollars for himself, he has closed all charity organizations, electoral offices and payments to his loyal troops.

    But this is not all, even the scheduled “legitimate” foreign aid has stopped, and that was before the recent street uprising.  https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/lebanon-to-receive-no-foreign-aid-before-government-is-formed-say-diplomats-1.8260216

    The situation now is much more untenable for current PM Diab, because he knows that it would be pointless of him to even try to approach the well-financed Arab states seeking help, so he is not even trying.  https://www.mtv.com.lb/news/مــحــلــيــات/1022176/لماذا_يتريّث_دياب_في_طَرق_الأبواب_الخارجية؟

    There is no doubt at all that all benefactors that have traditionally been assisting Lebanon are quite aware of the corruption and theft, and they must be growing sick and tired of being constantly asked to give more; especially that they know beforehand that their funds will be squandered. Ironically however, many of them did not worry about the fate of their funds when they were financing warring factions. Nonetheless, they are employing the issue of corruption to hold back on providing loans and finance to Lebanon.

    For the first time in its history, neither the Lebanese people nor the political parties or government are receiving any lifeline funds.

    To add insult to injury, Lebanese banks have implemented draconian measures to limit withdrawals. The figures have improved slightly, but the withdrawal limit is still around USD 200 a month. Even if one has millions invested, he/she has to stop at this limit. This includes businesses and as a result many employers have had to dismiss their workforce. As if this alone is not bad enough, it is preventing hundreds of thousands of Lebanese expats from sending money to their savings accounts and relatives at home. Expat money had always been one of the corner stones of Lebanese economy.

    Any of the above factors can alone cripple the back of a country’s economy; let alone all combined. And even if Diab was clean as a whistle and willing and able to stamp out corruption and move forward, to say that he is not allowed to succeed is not a far-fetched statement to make. One does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to see that the different economic strangleholds imposed currently on Lebanon did not line up accidently.

    What does not meet the eye here is that Lebanese people are deliberately being squeezed into the corner of poverty, even starvation, so that they revolt. But the main target of inducing this anger is not to affect reform against corruption, but rather to inflame the anti-Hezbollah passion in order to disarm it and keep Israel safe from its rockets.

    Because the Axis of Resistance has been victorious, corruption is now used by its enemies to cripple Lebanon economically in order to bring Hezbollah to its knees and provide Israel with it has not been able to achieve by force.

    The big irony here, is that none of the politicians who are corrupt and have been named to have thieved from the public purse is a Hezbollah official. Admittedly though, Nabih Berri (leader of Amal) and Gibran Basil (son-in-law of President Aoun) have been named as highly corrupt, but they are allies of Hezbollah, not members; and there is a big difference. The list of corrupt officials however, includes virtually all officials from all traditional Lebanese parties and dynasties; not Hezbollah.

    And even though protestors in the streets are demanding reform and the return of stolen funds and chanting out “Killon Yani Killon” (ie “all of them means all of them”), the anti-Hezbollah/Syria/Iran fervor is very specifically high on their agenda.

    They have been playing videos showing thugs carrying Hezbollah flags and chanting Shiite slogans, attacking the peaceful demonstrators. If Hezbollah wanted to attack the demonstrators, would it be so unsavvy to carry flags? But ironically, no one questions the identity of those thugs and who is really behind them. Such videos are further inflaming the sentiments and the calls for disarming Hezbollah. This is exactly what Israel wants. This is social engineering 101, but some even moderate-thinking Lebanese are now reiterating that disarming Hezbollah is part-and-parcel of the reform needed.

    Lebanon is not under any Western sanctions as such. It is under siege, a covert siege, a covert financial war against Hezbollah and the way out of it requires wisdom and diligence.

    Egypt’s Former President Mubarak Died, He Shared Erdogan’s Hatred of Syria

    February 25, 2020 Arabi Souri

    Husni Mubarak Egypt former president

    Former Egyptian President Husni Mubarak died today, he completed 91 years most of it betraying his country, Palestine, and most importantly betraying Syria. He was ousted by his people in early February 2011 in what was a genuine demand by the people that was used by the US in its Colored Revolutions project.

    We only remember the former dictator for his bad deeds, we can’t find something in his career that can be remembered in a positive way, maybe positive for those who he was serving, but by the end of his days they didn’t reward him properly, on the contrary, they used him as one of the disposable cards in their hegemonic plans around the world, he’s just another pawn used by the US and betrayed by them when his services are no longer needed.

    The purpose of this post is merely to highlight a previous post we’ve done here based on a testimony by a credible journalist who witnessed one of the very ugly betrayals of Mubarak during his life against Syria.

    Husni Mahali, Turkish career journalist witnessed a meeting between Mubarak and former Turkish President Süleyman Demirel. The meeting was supposed to be held to mediate between Syria and Turkey at that time, and it was because of the Kurds.

    Turkey reached in the year 1998 the height of its war, literal war, against its own people of Kurdish origins, those who only found refuge in Syria from a country known for their genocides and massacres. The Turks wanted the head of the Kurdish leader Ocalan who was hosted in Syria and amassed NATO’s 2nd largest army at Syria’s northern borders.

    That time, Syria had a very bad enemy on its eastern borders, he was Saddam Hussein, had already a British satellite state Jordan in the south, Israel up halfway in Lebanon to its west and the last thing we needed was a Turkish invasion from the north. That time Russia was not even on the map and the Russians were struggling for their food, literally.

    Here came Mubarak to mediate and his mediating was a betrayal for Syria to stand down at its northern borders while he instigated the Turks to invade Syria. The Turkish leadership that time were smart and were patriotic, they didn’t want a bloodbath in northern Syria, only they wanted to stop the PKK attacks. Once late Syrian President Hafez Assad allowed Ocalan to leave Syria the Turks stood down and didn’t listen to the instigations of their ally Mubarak that time.

    Imagine if someone like the madman Erdogan was in charge of Turkey during those days!

    Much details in the former post, to avoid repeating I invite you to check it in the following link and watch the video of Mr. Mahali detailing Mubarak’s ugly betrayal:

    One of Mubarak’s Betrayal Attempts Against Syria (Revealed 2012)

    We’re supposed to remember the dead with their good deeds only; if there’s anything good Mubarak did in his entire career was that he didn’t form armies of terrorists and send them all across the Arab world to help Israel, like what his anti-Islamic Muslim Brotherhood successor did, or like what the Turkish anti-Islamic Muslim Brotherhood madman is doing against Syria, Libya, Tunisia, and elsewhere. Other than that he was a faithful servant for the Political Zionism project that controls the USA.

    IS IRAN ILL-ADVISED TO FINANCE ITS REGIONAL ALLIES WHILE UNDER SANCTIONS?

    Posted on  by Elijah J Magnier

    By Elijah J. Magnier:@ejmalrai

    Many Iranians question the benefits of arming and financing Iran’s many allies in the Middle East while Iran is suffering the harshest ever US “maximum pressure”. Iran’s allies are spread over Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Is Iranian support for these allies the main cause of the US’s aggressive attitude towards the Iranian people and their state, or there are other factors? What makes Iran finance these allies and strengthen them with the most advanced warfare equipment, and be ready to fight and die on their territory?

    Since Iran’s “Islamic Revolution” prevailed in 1979 under the leadership of Imam Khomeini, the country has been heavily sanctioned, sanctions increasing with the advent of almost every new US President. In 1979, Iran had no allies but was surrounded by enemies.  Its regional neighbours joined western countries in supporting Saddam Hussein’s war (1980-1988) on the “Islamic Republic”. The US war on Iran has its origin in the fall of its proxy the Pahlavi Shah. It was disclosed how the CIA brought Pahlavi to power in an organised Coup d’état against the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohamad Musaddeq in 1953 in order to keep Iranian oil under US-UK control. Democracy has never been the real issue: western-provoked wars can be understood as motivated by self-interest and the quest for dominance. But attempts to overthrow regimes are always publicly justified by the West in the name of freedom and democracy.

    In 1979, the US set a trap to drag the Soviets into invading Afghanistan by supporting the mujahedeen from whom al-Qaeda was born. This catastrophic result and similar destructive phenomena are habitually described as “unintended consequences” in order to rationalise the devastating costs of these savage interventions into other people’s lives and in world affairs. However, in 2001 the US fell back into exactly the same type of quagmire and invaded Afghanistan with tens of thousands of US troops. The US plan was to block the path of a possible return by Russia to Eurasia; to weaken the Russians and to encircle Iran with a chain of hostile elements; to bully all countries concerned into submission, particularly the oil-rich states, thus preventing any possible alliance with Russia and China. This is still the US objective in the Middle East. History has never been a good guide to powerful leaders and their administrations because they apparently consider themselves not subject to its lessons.

    Iran found itself deprived of allies. With the consent of the Gulf states, notably Saudi Arabia, Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 to remove and subdue the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) led by Yasser Arafat, who had rejected King Fahd’s peace initiative. However, the “unintended consequences” of the invasion and the occupation of the first Arab capital by Israel (Beirut) offered Iran an excellent opportunity to respond to the demands of a group of Lebanese asking for help to stand against the Israeli aggressor. Imam Khomeini replied to his Lebanese visitors (who described the horror and the killing committed by the Israeli war machine): “al-kheir fima waqaa”, meaning “What has happened is a blessing”. His visitors did not understand the meaning of Khomeini’s words until many years later. 

    Iran found in the Lebanese Shia fertile ground to plant seeds for its ideology. The ground was already prepared in 1978. Lebanese Islamist followers of Sayyed Mohamad Baqer al-Sadr were already receiving training in various Palestinian camps, including the Zabadani training boot camp (Syria), and had embraced the Palestinian cause. When Imam Khomeini took power in Iran, Sayyed Mohammad Baqer al-Sadr asked his followers in Iraq and Lebanon to declare loyalty to Imam Khomeini and “melt into him as he has melted into Islam” (which means “adopt Imam Khomeini as your Imam and Marja’ al-Taqleed”). Iran established great ideological compatibility with the Lebanese Shia, who had historically been considered second-class citizens in Lebanon. Their territories in the south of Lebanon were considered disposable and were put on offer to Israel by Lebanese leaders (Maronite President Emile Eddé suggested to detach South of Lebanon and offer it to Israel to reduce the number of Muslim Shia) , elites and governments.

    The Iranian constitution (articles 2 and 3) stipulates that the Iranian government will support any group or country suffering from an oppressor. Its outlook fit perfectly with the oppressed Lebanese Shia. 

    The Iranian IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) travelled to Lebanon and shipped their weapons via Syria to strengthen the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon, known later as Hezbollah, and defend their country from the occupier. It was, therefore, necessary to establish a strategic relationship with the Syrian President because most shipments arrived via Syria. 

    The Iranian-Syrian relationship went through various ups and downs. It had reached its high point in the last years of President Hafez al-Assad’s rule when his son Bashar was responsible for the relationship with Lebanon and Hezbollah in particular. 

    The destinies of Lebanon, Syria and Iran became linked. President Bashar al-Assad was struggling to keep his country out of the conflict when the US-occupied Iraq in 2003. The circle around Iran became tighter, and US forces occupied neighbouring Iraq. Even though getting rid of Saddam Hussein was a blessing for the Iranian regime, Saddam was so weak that he did not represent any real danger to Iran. The US embargo had weakened him, and he had no friends in the Gulf countries after his invasion of Kuwait and his bombing of Saudi Arabia.

    The US prevented Iran from moving forward to support the Iraqi resistance to overthrow Saddam Hussein, instead of establishing its own control over Baghdad. The next US objective was Syria and Lebanon. Secretary of State Colin Powell warned President Assad that he was next on the list of presidents to be taken down if he continued offering support to Hamas and Hezbollah. The US declared itself an occupying power, and the Iraqi right to defend their country was acknowledged by the United Nations resolutions. Assad, like Iran and Saudi Arabia, supported the insurgency against the US occupation forces in Iraq. The Saudis rejected Shia-dominated governance over Iraq. The Iranians were next on the US list. So, Iran chose to fight the US on Iraqi ground, which was much less costly than fighting on Iranian ground. Strengthening Iraqi allies was, therefore, an essential component of Iranian national security and an important line of defence. 

    In 2006, the Bush administration pushed an unprepared Israeli Prime Minister Olmert to agree to destroy Hezbollah and was expecting the war to be expanded to Syria. This was an opportunity to conquer Syria and cut the supply of Iranian arms. The US and its allies were aiming to close the circle around Iran by eliminating its strong ally in Lebanon. Hezbollah was an impediment to the US-Israeli project of bringing all the Arabs to the negotiating table, eliminating the Palestinian cause and its defenders, and weakening Iran as a prelude to overthrowing its government.

    When Israel bombed and invaded Lebanon in 2006 with the goal of defeating Hezbollah, President Assad opened his warehouses and offered dozens of game-changing anti-tank missiles and anything Hezbollah needed to fight back, regardless of Israeli air force superiority. Assad became an essential partner in the successful defeat of Israel in Lebanon. The fall of Hezbollah would have had devastating consequences for Syria and Iran. Joining the destinies and alliances of the Lebanese-Syrian-Iraqi-Iranian front was necessary for the survival of each.

    In 2011, the world declared war on Syria. It took President Assad two years before he realised the plot was both regional and international, aiming to create chaos in the Levant and to produce a failed state dominated by jihadists. The same ideological jihadists first planted in Afghanistan were expanding and offered a perfect tool for the US to destroy Iran and its allies. The regional and world intelligence services infiltrated the jihadists, and well understood their strengths and weaknesses. They were well suited to fighting the Iranian ideology and Iran’s ally. Wahhabi jihadism was perfect cancer to destroy Iran on many fronts.

    Jihadists were growing in Iraq and expanding in Syria under the eyes of the US, as US intelligence sources themselves revealed. The Levant was the perfect and most desirable ancient place for jihadists to mushroom and expand. This was when President Assad asked his allies for support. Iran’s IRGC forces came to Damascus and the journey to liberate Syria started. Syria, like Iraq, offered a vital defence line to Iran. It was another platform to fight – on non-Iranian soil – an enemy that was about to migrate to Iran (had Syrian been defeated). An opportunity that Iran could not miss because of Syria’s strategic importance.

    It took Russia until September 2015 to wake up and intervene in the Middle Eastern arena, in Syria in particular. All these years, the US was planning to leave no place for Russia to create alliances, preparing to vanquish Iran and its allies, the “Axis of the Resistance” standing against US hegemony in the Middle East. All Gulf countries succumbed to US power, and today they are hosting the largest US military bases in the region. The US had deployed tens of thousands of troops to these bases and through them enjoyed superior firepower to any country in the world. Still, Iran and the Levant (Syria and Lebanon) remained impervious to the US attempt at complete dominance.

    Without Iran’s allies, all US military efforts would have been concentrated on Iran alone. The US would have moved from sanctions to military attack with little fear of the dire consequences. Today, the US needs to consider the now unquestioned fact that if Iran is attacked, its allies in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq will open hell for the US and its allies in the Middle East. Forty years of Iranian support for its allies have created a wall of protection around it and a bond whereby the allies join their fate to that of Iran. There are no allies in the world any country could count on to sacrifice their men more readily and stand for a common ideological motivation and shared objectives.  Iran is not only investing in its partners, but it is also investing in its own security and well-being. Iran is prepared to offer the same sacrifices provided by its allies to support them when needed. 

    Many Lebanese and Iraqis fought in the Iraq-Iran war. Thousands of Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese Hezbollah (and other allies) lost their lives in Syria protecting the well-being of the Syrian ally and preventing the country from falling into the jihadists’ hands.

    Many Iranians and Lebanese were killed in Iraq to support the Iraqis against the terror of ISIS. Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah are today in Yemen, supporting it against the Saudi-led genocidal massacres. Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah took the risk of supporting the Palestinians and their cause to free their land, to have their own state and the right to return home. No US allies anywhere in the world are ready to offer comparable solidarity to the US. Iran has created deep alliances whereas the US has failed to do so.

    Iran openly attacked the US Ayn al-Assad military base following the unlawful assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani. No other country in the world has dared to attack the US face-to-face and inflict over a hundred casualties on US service members while continuing to challenge US hegemony. There was no need for Iran to ask its allies to act on its behalf. Iran and its partners on the battlefield are united against their enemies. The US wants Iran without missiles, without armed drones, and without access to intelligence warfare. These vital programs have proved crucial to protecting the country and preventing it from becoming vulnerable. If Iran did not have the allies it has today and the missiles it has manufactured, the US would already have retaliated without hesitation.

    The war is far from over. Iran and its allies are still in the heart of the struggle, and the US and Israel are not sitting idly by. Solidarity between Iran and its allies is needed more than ever. The question of how much of its annual budget Iran is spending on its partners is less than relevant, though ordinary Iranians may complain and even challenge its benefits. The spirit of sacrifice that unites allies in mutual protection cannot be limited to monetary considerations. It is priceless.

    Proofread by: Maurice Brasher and C.G.B

    This article is translated free to many languages by volunteers so readers can enjoy the content. It shall not be masked by Paywall. I’d like to thank my followers and readers for the confidence and support. If you like it, please don’t feel embarrassed to contribute and help fund it for as little as 1 Euro. Your contribution, however small, will help ensure its continuity. Thank you.

    Copyright © https://ejmagnier.com  2020

    Reaffirming the Revolution: The Islamic Republic of Iran at 41

    By Yuram Abdullah Weiler

    Source

    Qasem Soleimani in 2017 rally b3707

    In number theory, 41 is a prime number meaning it is not divisible by any number except itself and one.  Similarly, the Islamic Revolution in Iran so far has been unique in its success and indivisible unity of purpose, despite numerous attempts at sabotage by external and internal actors.  At this prime age of 41, Iran is fully capable of charting an assertive leadership path to recapture the spirit and reaffirm the original goals of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, among which is the propagation of Islam to bring about social change for the welfare of all humanity.[2]

    It is no minor accomplishment for the Islamic Republic of Iran to have maintained an independent geopolitical course for a period of forty one years in spite of the overwhelming diplomatic, economic and military pressure employed by the United States to force Tehran to cave in to the diktats of the Washington regime. Even before the erstwhile shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, had fled the country on January 17, 1979, U.S. air force general Robert E. “Dutch” Huyser had arrived on January 3rd on a mission to test the waters for a rerun of the August 1953 coup, which had originally placed the U.S.-backed dictator in power in the first place.[3]

    With the victory of the Islamic Revolution on February 11, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini (r) went on to found an Islamic Republic, whose constitution (Article 154) explicitly states that Iran “is concerned with the welfare of humanity as a whole and takes independence, liberty and sovereignty of justice and righteousness as the right of people in the world over.”  Imam Khomeini was very clear in his view that “Islam is revealed for mankind,” and, therefore, the revolution must be exported.[4] This concept, which raised fears of popular uprisings toppling the U.S.-abetted tyrants in the region and beyond, put the nascent Islamic Republic on a collision course with the Washington regime.  Among the despotic leaders shaken by Iran’s Islamic Revolution was the U.S.-supported Iraqi dictator, Saddam, who denounced Imam Khomeini and called upon Iranian Arabs to revolt.[5]

    If external threats to the newly-established Islamic Republic weren’t enough, others arose internally. Massoumeh Ebtekar, who witnessed the revolution firsthand and is currently Vice President of Iran for Women and Family Affairs, recalled that “we were sure that foreign elements were actively involved in attempts to weaken and undermine the young republic.” To avert the suspected foreign plot to overthrow the Iranian government, a group of students, including now Vice President Ebtekar, decided to act, and on November 4, 1979 occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran and detained the staff.[6]  U.S. president Jimmy Carter responded ten days later by freezing US $12 billion’s worth of Iran’s assets in the U.S., and later banned all trade with and travel to Iran.[7] Also affected were Iranian assets in U.S. banks in Britain, much of which were in Bank of America’s London branch.[8]  The following year on April 7, the U.S. cut diplomatic relations with Iran, and has never reinstated them.[9]  If Carter had not allowed the deposed shah entry to the U.S., the embassy takeover most likely would not have occurred.[10]

    Another internal threat, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK), was openly unhappy over the constitution, which, according to them, did not address their demands.  After a humiliating defeat in the March and May 1980 parliamentary elections (no MeK candidates were elected),[11] the MeK became increasingly belligerent over their lack of position in the new government, directing their frustration ever more violently towards members of the Islamic Republic Party (IRP), which had won a decisive victory in the elections.  Despite the electoral defeat, the MeK openly backed Iran’s first president, Abolhassan Bani Sadr, however, following his removal from office for incompetency in June 1981, the MeK declared an armed struggle against the standing government. On June 28, 1981 and again on August 30, the MeK carried out terror bombing attacks against the IRP and government leaders.  In 1986, the MeK moved its operations to Iraq and aligned itself with Saddam, who backed the terrorist group until being ousted by the U.S. invasion in 2003. To date, the Washington regime views the MeK as a viable means by which to overthrow the legitimate government of Iran.[12]

    Following the student takeover of the U.S. embassy, which was later shown to be a nerve center for CIA espionage in the region,[13] U.S. president Carter ordered a desperate mission on April 24, 1980 to invade Iran and free the hostages despite negotiations for their release still being in progress.[14] The so-called hostage crisis and the U.S. president’s failed interventionist response provided a perpetual pretext for Washington’s vehemently vindictive view against reestablishing any level of diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.  The 444-day crisis, according to sworn testimony by Israeli intelligence agent Ari Ben-Menashe, was a joint effort by the CIA and Mossad to delay the release of the 52 hostages and thereby ensure an electoral victory for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 U.S. presidential race.[15]

    In the midst of the post-revolutionary struggle to establish a fully functioning Islamic government, Iraqi dictator Saddam, with U.S. blessing, attacked the fledgling Islamic Republic on September 22, 1980, imposing a costly 8-year-long war that consumed some 60 to 70 percent of Iran’s national budget, not to mention the suffering of the Iranian people and their sacrifices in defense of Iran and Islam.[16]  The economic impact of the war on Iran itself was enormous with estimated direct costs in the range of US $600 billion and total cost of US $1 trillion.[17]  In the course of this U.S.-supported war, chemical agents were used extensively for the first time since the First World War, resulting in the deaths of some 4,700 Iranians in a single attack.  The U.S. also provided Saddam with biological agents such as anthrax and E. coli.[18]

    Howard Teicher, director of political-military affairs for the U.S. National Security Council from 1982 to 1987, in an affidavit stated, “CIA Director [William] Casey personally spearheaded the effort to ensure that Iraq had sufficient military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to avoid losing the Iran-Iraq war.” Teicher also testified that U.S. president Reagan had sent a secret message to Saddam advising him that “Iraq should step up its air war and bombing of Iran.”  Teicher’s sworn testimony provides strong evidence that the U.S. intent was for Saddam to bomb Iranian cities, thereby unavoidably targeting civilians.[19]

    Saddam followed Reagan’s advice to the letter by launching eleven SCUD B missiles at Tehran on February 29, 1988.  Over the next two weeks, more than 100 of Saddam’s missiles rained down upon the cities of Tehran, Qom and Isfahan along with bombing raids conducted against a total of 37 Iranian cities. Earlier in October 1987 and again in April 1988, the U.S. as part of its overt but undeclared war against the Islamic Republic, attacked Iranian ships and oil platforms under expanded rules of engagement.[20]  As a result of Washington’s designation of the Persian Gulf as essentially a free-fire zone for Iranian targets, the commander of the USS Vincennes, William C. Rogers, fired two missiles (after twenty-three failed attempts)[21] at what he claimed was a military target but in fact was Iran Air Flight 655 carrying 290 civilian passengers from Bandar Abbas to Dubai.  For downing the civilian airliner and killing all on board, Rogers was awarded the Legion of Merit “for exceptionally meritorious service” for this appalling atrocity.[22]

    Yet in spite of the near universal support given by the U.S. and its western minions to Saddam, the people of Iran rose up to defend their newly liberated land in what were termed “human wave attacks” in the western press. Giving their lives selflessly in the cause of defending Islam and Iran, these martyrs, whose numbers reached to half a million,[23] struck fear in the black heart of Saddam and presented a conundrum to the materialistic west.  Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Rahbar explains that martyrdom, while clearly understood in the Islamic world, “is incomprehensible and even pointless in materialist and atheistic cultures.”[24]

    The incomprehensibility to most westerners of the spiritual basis of Iran’s Islamic Revolution leads to some interesting “anti-explanations.”  Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina Charles Kurzman wrote, “After the Iranian Revolution, those who had considered the upheaval unthinkable became preoccupied with understanding how they could have been so mistaken.” After pointing out the shortcomings of the various political, economic, cultural and other explanations, Kurzman notes, “The more I learned about the Iranian Revolution, the more theoretical anomalies I discovered.” Yet this author acknowledges that 55 percent of educated, middle-class Iranians and 71 percent of others he interviewed spoke of Islam as being involved in their decision to participate in the revolution.[25]

    Apparently, for secular-leaning western scholars, Islam cannot be accepted as the basis for an explanation of a successful revolution. For example, even Iranian expatriate scholar Ervand Abrahamian blames the Islamic Revolution on “overwhelming pressures” in Iranian society due to the shah, who “was sitting on such a volcano, having alienated almost every sector of society.”[26]  Downplaying the role of Islam in Iran’s revolution, Iranian expatriate scholar Asef Bayat insists that there was a “strong secular tendency,” which peaked in the 1970s.  Bayat incredulously claims, “In Iran, an Islamic movement was in the making when it was interrupted by the Islamic revolution.”[27]  Other scholars date the origin of the Islamic movement in Iran to the tobacco crisis of 1890-1891, while Farhang Rejaee, a professor at the Carleton Centre for the Study of Islam in Ottawa, Canada, points to the assassination of Nasr al-Din Shah in 1896.[28]

    The current Islamic movement in Iran had begun on the 15th of Khordad, 1342 (June 5, 1963), predating the Islamic Revolution by some 15 years.  In a June 1979 speech marking the anniversary of the 15th of Khordad uprising, Imam Khomeini specifically referred to the Islamic movement and its creation in the mosque network.  “Who are they that wish to divert our Islamic movement from Islam?” asked the Imam. “It was the mosques that created this revolution,” he emphasized, adding. “It was the mosques that brought this [Islamic] movement into being.”[29]  Likewise refuting the theories of the western and westernized scholars, Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Rahbar explains, “The secret of success of the Islamic Revolution of Iran also is naught but this: valuing the high ideals of Islam and of the Islamic humanities.”  As to the failure of other revolutions, he blames “want of a sufficient depth in its spiritual dimension.”  Finally, he affirms, “The revolutionary experience of Iran should indeed become a model for others to emulate.”[30]

    By basing economics and social change on the solid foundation of Islam, Iran has achieved greater progress in many areas, such as reducing poverty, improving health care, eliminating illiteracy, increasing access to education and expanding opportunities for women, than had been the case during the shah’s regime.   As a result, despite the unending U.S. hostility against Iran through ruthless imposed wars, covert and overt aggressions, punitive economic sanctions and continuous diplomatic isolation, the Islamic Republic has managed to amass an impressive list of accomplishments.  U.S. economic sanctions have had the effect of causing Iran to seek self-sufficiency in a number of areas, including weaponry and other military hardware, food production, steel, paper and paper products, cement, heavy industrial machinery, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications equipment. In particular, the domestic production of armaments has helped to ensure the country’s independence and security, as has the highly developed military strategy of the “fast boat swarm” for naval defense in the Persian Gulf.[31]

    Moreover, in the field of health care, Iran has made laudable strides, increasing life expectancy from 56 years in the 1970s to over 70, and reducing the infant mortality rate from 104 per 1,000 births to 25.[32]  The Islamic Republic has created, and continuously expanded, a system of hospitals and health clinics, concentrating on areas impacted by economic hardship.  The results have been sufficiently impressive for some universities and NGOs in the U.S. state of Mississippi to introduce Iranian-style health care into the impoverished areas of the Mississippi Delta region.[33] Rural areas also benefitted from the revolution in other ways besides access to health care.  By 2002, rural literacy had risen to 70 percent, each village had an average of two college graduates, and 99 percent of rural households had electricity. In 1976 only ten percent of the rural work force was employed in the industrial, construction and service sectors, whereas 51 percent was employed therein by 1996.[34] Land was redistributed among peasants, who formed numerous cooperatives, which assisted in raising prices for agricultural products.  Even the poorest of Iranians were able to have at least some level of access to modern consumer goods.[35]

    “The biggest advances in the educational, professional and social standing of women in Iran’s history have come since the revolution,” wrote scholars Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett.[36] After the victory of the Islamic Revolution, female literacy rates skyrocketed from 36 percent in 1976 to 74 percent in 1996, with urban women toping 82 percent.[37] Women were provided with the same educational opportunities as men, and were employed in both the public and private sectors.  Not only were women allowed to drive (unlike other “Islamic” countries), but also participated in political, commercial and civil activities, as well as in the security sector.  Health care in the Islamic Republic included women’s clinics, where progressive family planning and other services were available.[38]

    “This united gathering which took place in Iran, and this great change which happened, must be taken as an example to be followed and never forgotten,” said Imam Khomeini (r) on 7th of Esfand 1359 (26 February 1981). [39] Despite that to date, no other Muslim-majority nation has yet to emulate successfully the revolutionary path taken by the valiant people of Iran, the paradigm remains as does the potential for Iran’s leadership to bring about a united Islamic Ummah.

    الشعب العراقي في مواجهة دولة «بريمر»

    يناير 6, 2020

    د. وفيق إبراهيم

    للمرة الأولى منذ الاحتلال الأميركي للعراق في 2003، يتكشف ان الدولة التي ضغط لإنشائها المندوب الأميركي “بريمر”، هي مجرد آلية شكلية مصابة بعطل بنيوي بالولادة وغير قابل للاصلاح او المعالجة.

    لقد بذل الأميركيون جهوداً جبارة لبناء دولة عراقية تشبه النماذج الكونفدرالية التي يحتاج أي قرار فيها لموافقات كبيرة من المؤسسات الدستورية وتتطلب في البعض تأييداً يفوق الثلثين في مجالسها النيابية وحكوماتها ورؤساء بلدياتها. وهذا يعني استحالة صدور أي قرار إلا بالاتفاق المسبق والعميق بين قادة المذاهب والقوميات بما يؤكد عجز هذا النوع من الدول الاتفاق على القرارات الوطنية الكبرى. وهذا يعني شللاً في إنتاج المواقف التاريخية الكبرى مع الميل الى المساومات بين القوى السياسية للتحاصص الداخلي فقط، في الوظائف والأموال العامة والتعيينات.

    هذا حال العراق الذي اجتاحه الأميركيون قبل سبعة عشر عاماً من دون إذن أممي متذرعين بوجود اسلحة دمار شامل على اراضيه، فقضوا على نظام صدام حسين سافكين دماء مئات آلاف العراقيين ومؤسسين هذه الدولة الضعيفة التي فرضوا عليها بموجب سيطرتهم على موازنات القوى، توقيع معاهدة تجعل احتلالهم شرعياً للعام 2011، فانتهت هذه المهلة ولم يخرجوا إلى أن اكتشفت دولة “بريمر” العراقية الحل الناجع فأجبرت حكومة العراق على توقيع اتفاق جديد يسمح للقوات الأميركية بالبقاء لتدريب القوات العراقية ورفدها باستشارات ونصائح في اوقات المحن.

    ضمن هذا السيناريو الدقيق عمل الأميركيون على السيطرة على الجيش العراقي ومجمل القوى الأمنية، ولم يكتفوا بذلك، ساعين الى التفتيت بمستويات متعددة: سياسي طائفي وآخر داخل كل قوة مذهبية بمفردها، وثالث قومي وعرقي، وذلك لصنع المزيد من الفرقة بين الكتل السياسية الشيعية والسنية من جهة والشيعية الشيعية والسنية السنية من جهة أخرى مع خلافات عربية كردية مشجعين الإرهاب على قتل المسيحيين والايزيديين ما أحدث خللاً سياسياً وطنياً ادى الى اضعاف الأقوياء والأقل قوة في آن معاً حتى بدا أن القوى الوحيدة هو ذلك الأميركي المتحكم بمفاصل القوة، فهو محتل ومستشار وسياسي وإعلامي يلعب على نيران الفتنة الداخلية ولص يسرق نفط كردستان وكركوك ويسوّقه في تركيا، بما يؤدي الى انتفاع ثلاثي في هذه الثروة العراقية: آل البرزاني المتحكمون بالسلطة في كردستان واردوغان البراغماتي الذي لا يريد دولة كردية، لكنه يأكل من نفطها، والأميركيون أصحاب الرعاية والتنسيق الذين يحمون مقابل حصة من نفط العراق.

    بشكل يشابه ما يفعلونه دائماً مع الإمارات والسعودية وقطر والكويت أي: ادفع تسلم.

    كما ذهبوا في مناطق الوسط الى حدود دعم كل التيارات الانفصالية والعشائر مستعينين بخدمات الأحزاب الإسلاموية الموالية لتركيا، وادوار السعودية والإمارات في التأثير على عشائر الأنبار وبعض احزاب الوسط عبر تزخيم شعار العداء لإيران وتصوير العراق على أنه ساحة للنفوذ الفارسي المجوسي كما تقول إشاعاتهم اليومية.

    ولم ينسوا جذب بعض القوى الشيعية التي تريد الإمساك بالحكم على غرار سائرون جماعة مقتدى الصدر وطموحات عراقيين شيعة آخرين، مستعدين لبيع سراويلهم مقابل رئاسة الحكومة.

    فأمسك الأميركيون بهذه الطريقة بالكثير من الأحزاب في كردستان والوسط والكلدان والصابئة والايزيديين وبعض قوى الجنوب والعاصمة.

    بذلك استطاعت دولة “بريمر” لعب دور مرجعية لا يمكن لأي قرار وطني ان يعبر إلا بإذنها، واداء دور المنظم للأحجام والحائل دون وصول قوة الى درجة تستطيع فيها إلغاء الآخر.

    انها اذاً دولة مشلولة وعاجزة تراقب “بصمت العاجزين” ولادة مشروع سياسي أميركي جديد يريد تحويل العراق الى جدران تمنع تطوير العلاقات التنسيقية مع سورية وتلغي أي دور سياسي او اقتصادي لحدودها مع إيران، ولو استطاعت إلغاء انظمة الزيارات الدينية لمراقد الأولياء والأئمة بين العراق وايران لما تلكأت لحظة واحدة.

    لذلك يذهب الجنون الأميركي هذه المرة الى حدود اغتيال قائدين أمنيين من الدرجة الاولى، أحدهما رجل أمن إقليمي تاريخي له مكانة متقدّمة في محور المقاومة في لبنان وسورية والعراق وإيران واليمن وفلسطين، والشهيد الثاني نائب رئيس الحشد الشعبي في مواجهة الأميركيين.

    هذا إذاً اغتيال له أبعاد سياسية عراقية لكن جغرافيته العراقية تتطلب رداً سياسياً حازماً من الدولة العراقية اولاً، ولن تستطيع التقدم بشكوى لمجلس الامن الدولي بسبب الفراغ السياسي في المؤسسات الدستورية، فبرهم هارب الى باكستان والحلبوسي صاحب الآراء الرمادية وعاد عبد المهدي المستقيل الذي لم يعد باستطاعته حتى جمع وزراء من حكومته. هذا الى جانب أن حكومة تصريف الأعمال الحالية لا قدرة قانونية لديها على إنتاج موقف وطني.

    فهل يعجز العراق عن تأمين بديل من مؤسساته الدستورية المشلولة؟

    إنه الشعب العراقي بكامل أطيافه الذي ملأ بغداد والنجف بالملايين المستنكرين لاغتيال القائدين. هي الآلية الشجاعة وعلى رأسها مفتي السنة والشيعة المنلا الذي يجهر مطالباً بإخراج الأميركيين. هؤلاء هم القادرون على إصدار فتوى شعبية تعلن انتهاء مفاعيل كل المعاهدات والاتفاقات مع الأميركيين على أساس حظر كامل لأي تفاعل مع القواعد العسكرية الأميركية ومعاملتها كمراكز تنتهك سيادة العراق وصولاً الى حدود إعلان الكفاح الشعبي لطرد هذا الاستعماري.

    المطلوب إذاً أن يلعب الشعب العراقي دوراً في إعادة بناء عراق داخلي موحّد وعراق إقليمي قادر على التنسيق مع سورية لبناء أقوى معادلة ممكنة منذ سقوط النظام العربي القديم على يد الرئيس المصري السادات في 1979.

    فهل يتحوّل الاغتيال الأميركي للشهيدين الى مناسبة لطرد الأميركيين من العراق وسورية؟هذا ممكن بالقوة الشعبية وحلف المقاومة ورفع شعار يقوم على المساواة بين الشعوب في سورية والعراق ولبنان وفلسطين على أساس المساواة في السياسة والاقتصادي والاجتماع بمنأى عن التباين الديني والعرقي، لذلك فالمأزوم اليوم هم الأميركيون الذين يفقدون آخر أوراقهم في المنطقة بما يبشر بفجر جديد لشعوب مضطهدة منذ ألف عام وأكثر.

    IRAN’S QODS FORCE AND MODERN PROXY WARS

    Source

    On January 3, Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Qods Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units were killed by US strikes on the Iraqi capital of Bahdad. The US strike caused a new regional crisis and put the entire Middle East on the edge of a new open military conflict.

    In this light, it’s especially interesting to recall what the Qods Force is and how the unit provides the Iranian interests all around the world. The analysis below was originally released by SouthFront in July 2019:

    The Qods Force is the irregular warfare unit of Iran’s Corps of Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Eslami).  Created during the Holy Defense to augment the capabilities of the Sepah to include irregular warfare, it has since become one of the chief means of expanding Iranian ‘soft power’ within the Middle East and throughout the world.  Carrying the Persian name for Jerusalem, it is emblematic of the eschatological significance of the Islamic Republic’s regional military strategy.  More has come to light about this secretive organization since its inception, but precious little of its organization, personnel, weaponry and operations is known, and comes to light only in the wake of its suspected activities.

    The close of the Holy Defense in 1988 saw the completion of the first chapter of the history of the Islamic Republic – conventional war.  The peace which followed left the new government intact but the population war-weary; the government needed to turn its attention to rebuilding the infrastructure and bringing orderliness to the disrupted lives of its people. The armed forces – both the Artesh and the Sepah – though rich with battle experience, had been worn down and desperately need this peace.

    If this war taught the Iranian leadership anything, the lesson was: prevent another conventional attack by pushing the frontier for possible conflict as far as possible from the border.  To safeguard the home of the Revolution – which Khomeini and his followers viewed, and still view, as the only legitimate Islamic government, and the one which is meant to prepare the way for the return of the Mahdi – a sizeable buffer had to be constructed to allow for its endurance.  While Iran had not been defeated in the Holy Defense, it had been severely wounded by Saddam’s army with Western backing. At end of the war, Iran was in shortage in key resources and finance. The war clearly exposed the weaknesses of both the Iranian economy and the armed forces. The mujtahid rulers needed to create and perfect a national defense based upon self-reliance in order to turn Iran into a fortress for Islam from which calls for Islamic unity in the face of Zionist and Western imperialist influence could issue.  Having survived this baptism of fire intact, and with geopolitics still centered around the bipolar contest between the United States and the Soviet Union, the time for such a reconstruction appeared optimal.

    The Sepah was created immediately after the Revolution in order to counter threats from armed opposition groups inside Iran such as the MKO (the Mojahedin-e Khalq or People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran) and to protect the ideological integrity of the new political system. Originally a paramilitary formation, during the Holy Defense it necessarily took on a military character while shouldering with the Artesh the burden of fighting.  During the war, in addition to the many conventional battles fought against the Iraqis, the Iranians also deployed special forces to the front line in the mountainous terrain of the north, and behind the lines to support the Kurdish struggle in northern Iraq against Saddam Hussein regime. To mirror this unit within the Artesh, the Sepah created the Qods Force to engage in all aspects of irregular warfare. Thus, the role of Quds force in the establishment of Hezbollah’s Islamic Resistance (al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya) in 1982 during the Lebanese Civil War was inevitable; following this it was used to support the operations of the Hezbe Wahdat Shia mujahedin in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation.

    By supporting Hezbollah and the Hezbe Wahdat, Iran was able to counter, respectively, the American/Zionist coalition and the Soviets, thereby keeping these two groups from threatening the territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic.  When Khomeini died in 1989 and was succeeded by Ali Khamenei, who oversaw the transition from a war to a peace economy, Qods was able, along with its parent Sepah, to maintain its level of funding and even to increase its relative importance within the military strategy of Iran.

    Having discussed the ideological and strategic origins and purposes of the Qods Force, let us look at its structure and methods of warfare.  Apart from its three senior commanders, no names can be attributed to either its leadership or the remainder of the force.  Major General Pasdar Qassem Soleimani, presently the most well-known Iranian soldier, has commanded the Qods Force since 1997, and his two deputies are Brigadier General Pasdar Ismail Qaani and Brigadier General Pasdar Ahmad Sabouri.  Because all members of Qods are taken from the larger Sepah, one can presume that it retains the same rank structure as its parent, although it is impossible to verify or deny this.  Similarly, although the size of the Qods Force can be approximated, its small-level tactical organization can only be guessed at based upon the arrangement of other comparable military units.  As indicated previously, Qods has two missions: advising and training of foreign military and police, and clandestine operations.  Teams of men for either type of mission may be formed ad hoc out of the service pools of each of the eight directorates suspected to exist.  According to the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, Qods is divided into the following eight directorates:

    • Iraq
    • Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen (Persian Gulf)
    • Israel, Lebanon, Jordan (Middle East)
    • Afghanistan, Pakistan, India
    • Turkey
    • Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldovia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia (former-Soviet Union)
    • Central and Western Europe and the United States and Canada
    • North Africa

    Further, US military intelligence suggests that Qods is divided into several branches of specialization:

    • Intelligence
    • Finance
    • Politics
    • Sabotage
    • Special operations

    Because however its operations are unconventional, there is no reason to think that the Qods Force has an organization remarkably different from other secret services.  For its clandestine operations, something approaching a commando team of varying size (anywhere from 5 to 15 men led by one or two officers) seems reasonable.  Also, there could be organic, permanent units of Qods assigned to each directorate, each with a different operational specialty, and these would invariably be combined-arms units but with the component men varying depending upon what needs to be accomplished.  For the advisory and training missions, arguably what constitutes the greatest percentage of Qods assignments, one can imagine an officer/NCO structure corresponding to the level of the ranks needing training; e.g. so many officers of such a rank to train their peers or lower ranking officers, and likewise so many NCOs to train their peers or enlisted men.  As a side note, it has been suggested that Qods trains most of its clients in either the Sudan or in Iran itself.

    For all of these missions, the officer/NCO ratio is necessarily higher than in the rest of the Sepah.  For this reason, it can be argued that officers and NCOs comprise a large majority of the Qods Force personnel, seeing that enlisted men would not be used to train or advise their superiors.

    Where does the Qods Force carry out its clandestine operations?  From reasonable conjecture regarding the structure, the reach of Qods is world-wide.  It has been suspected of involvement in South America (e.g. in supporting the government of Venezuela), of continuing to intervene in Afghanistan against the American presence, of constituting a permanent training and advisory role to the Islamic Resistance of Hezbollah, of supporting the Syrian government since the conflict of 2011, and most of all of involvement in Iraq since 2003. Since 2008, the Qods Force has been given control of all military operations in Iraq, and it formed and currently oversees the three primary Shi’ite paramilitary organizations which work in conjunction with the Iraqi military: Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”) with 10,000 members, Kata’ib Hizb Allah (“Brigades of the Party of God”) with 30,000+ members, and the Saraya al-Salam (“Peace Companies”) with anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 members.  This theatre of operations, provided indirectly to Qods by the Americans, gives the most continual experience to its members through the training and directing of these militias.  In the theatre of the Persian Gulf, the recent attacks against oil tankers bear the mark of what Qods is capable of, but the Iranian Government has consistently denied responsibility.  Conversely, American and Israeli special forces possess the capability to carry out such false-flag attacks and their histories give plenty of examples.  Currently, the most important missions which Qods directly or in which it participates are:

    • Missile shipments to Hezbollah
    • Arming and directing of Shi’ite militias in Iraq
    • Support of Syrian Government
    • Support of Houthis

    As to types of weapons, the Qods Force probably uses the same species as other special forces (e.g. United States Green Berets, Russian Spetsnaz, British SAS), that is:

    • Handguns (e.g. PC-9 ZOAF)
    • submachine guns (e.g. MPT-9, KL-7.62mm)
    • heavy machine guns (e.g. MGA3)
    • portable MANPADs (e.g. Soheil)
    • rocket-propelled grenade launcher (e.g. Raad, RPG-29)
    • anti-tank weapons (e.g. Saeghe 1/2)
    • portable mortars (e.g. 37mm Marsh mortar)
    • plastic explosives (e.g. C4, Semtex)

    The use of heavy equipment does not correspond to its missions.

    In terms of size, the active personnel of Qods has been estimated to be anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000, although the most common number given is 15,000.  Globalsecurity.org asserts that in 2008, the Iranian Supreme National Security Council authorized an increase in the size of the group to 15,000, but this cannot be presently confirmed.  By comparison, the Russian Spetsnaz has a strength of roughly 5,000, the United States Green Berets 7,000, the British SAS 400 to 600.

    Moving to consider its place in the Iranian political ideology of Twelve Shiism, Qods Force bears great eschatological significance.  A fact which receives barely any coverage in the Western press, the founding of the Islamic Republic was clearly stated by Ayatollah Khomeini to coincide with the approach of the end of the world.  As Twelver Shias, Khomeini and his successors are convinced that the maintenance of velayat-e faqih is critical to the return of the Twelfth Imam, Mohammad al-Mahdi.  The eschatology of the Jafari School of Jurisprudence (the official legal teaching in Iran, named after the Sixth Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq) names Jerusalem as central to the return of the Mahdi and to the establishment of Islamic government throughout the world; i.e. the golden age of Islamic rule as promised by the Prophet Mohammed. According to Sunni and Shia prophecies, the army foreordained to conquer Jerusalem is to be comprised of mostly people from the region of Iran with Iranians having a great and important role in the event. Thus, the naming of the special operations subset of the Sepah after the Persian name for the Holy City of Jerusalem should show the rest of the world just how important to the Iranians is the maintenance of their system of government by all means possible.  Currently, the use of Qods to engage in asymmetrical warfare against the American-Israeli alliance is the best means to ensure this end.  Presently, Qods can be seen as forming a ‘shield-forward’ for the Islamic Republic from a strategic point of view; this gives eschatological importance to their continued support of Hezbollah in Lebanon and to their great commitment in men and material to ensure the continuance of the Syrian government. They believe that when Imam Mahdi returns, Zionism, which Shia regard as one of the main tools in the struggle between Good and Evil, will be defeated in the final great battle for Jerusalem. Therefore they are approaching as close as possible to Israel, serving at the front line. They have succeeded in giving Iran a reasonable amount of protection, if at the expense of their allies who are physically closer to Israel.  The American Navy remains a threat in the Persian Gulf, but the wider Sepah, to whose vigilance this theatre is committed, are confident they can close the Strait of Hormuz if necessary.  The strategic balance is currently in favor of Iran and they have thus fulfilled what they believe to be their role in preparing for the Mahdi’s return.

    Of those who believe in the eschatological purpose of the Islamic Republic, the Qods Force is unquestionably the vanguard of the coming march on Jerusalem, and the Western press ignores this to their own peril and the continued ignorance of their audiences.

    From military and political standpoints, Qods has been very effective.  Iranian strategy has, since the 1979 Revolution, been to keep the American-Israeli alliance and its proxies at bay.  As stated previously, due to Iran’s inability to wage a full-scale war against both countries, the use of unconventional warfare has made the Qods Force come into prominence within Iran’s national defensive strategy.  Through both its advisory/training roles and its clandestine operations, Qods is used to prevent Iran’s two chief enemies from realizing strategic objectives in the Middle East and Persian Gulf and to make their continued presence within Iran’s immediate zone of security as costly and unpleasant as possible.

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