Saturday, 2 September 2017

Iran’s Geopolitics & the Eurasian Strategic Triangle

02-09-2017 | 07:41
In July, the US slapped Iran with fresh sanctions, warning that Washington would “not tolerate Iran’s provocative and destabilizing behavior”.
Meanwhile, the US State Department accused Tehran of continuing “its terrorist-related activity in 2016, including support for Hizballah… and various groups in Syria, Iraq and throughout the Middle East.”
Ironically, it is precisely this prevalent support from the Iranians for both the governments in Baghdad and Damascus that brought the Daesh terror group – an offspring of US foreign policy – to its knees, facing imminent defeat.
So, in response to the latest package of sanctions, Tehran introduced new legislation that denies visas to American military and intelligence personnel and freezes their bank accounts.
According to the managing editor at Veterans Today, Jim W. Dean, “this is the first time that someone has officially sanctioned US entities for direct support for terrorism in the Mideast”.
The Americans created Daesh
Over the last few years, the US, which is allied with the world’s two most extreme ideologies – Zionism and Wahhabism – stepped up efforts to suppress Iranian influence across the Middle East at all costs.
Although it has long been understood that the arming of militant groups inside Syria by Washington and its allies facilitated the rapid rise of Daesh, a local Bulgarian journalist recently revealed, in some detail, the scope and size of the covert operation. 

Dilyana Gaytandzhieva apparently did such a good job in exposing the weapons shipments to terror groups that she was fired from her paper and questioned by Bulgarian security services after the story gained traction.
Citing dozens of secret memos that she obtained through an anonymous source, Gaytandzhieva paints a vivid picture of how weapons were flown to Syria via diplomatic flights originating in the Caucuses and Eastern Europe, under the watchful eye of the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Earlier this summer, the leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, called Washington’s fight against Daesh “a lie”.
“You [the United States] and your agents are the source of instability in the Middle East,” Sayyed Khamenei said in June. “Who created Daesh? America… America’s claim of fighting against Daesh is a lie”.
The former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who also happens to be an advisor to the current American President Donald Trump, recently offered some insight into the motives behind such policies.
“If the ISIS territory is occupied by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Shia forces trained and directed by it, the result could be a territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut, which could mark the emergence of an Iranian radical empire,” Kissinger wrote in an article for CAPX.
Although Kissinger’s choice of words is meant to be misleading, his stated concerns about the expansion of Iranian influence are well founded. The defeat of Daesh in Iraq and Syria brought about by Iranian involvement also marks the failure of the US-led ‘Greater Middle East’ project.
In his book, America’s War For The Greater Middle East, Andrew Bacevich explains that the region has been the theatre for a series of conflicts dating back to 1980, which heralded the start of the Iran-Iraq war. Since then, Washington has been involved in balancing conflicts amongst the region’s culturally interconnected nations in order to further its interests.
Kissinger’s claims are essentially a blatant admission that the biggest threat to these interests is the Iranian-led Shiite Crescent, consisting of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Syria, Iraq as well as Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement.
The Revolution of the bare-handed
In the winter of 1979, French philosopher Michel Foucault described the birth of the Islamic Republic as “perhaps the first great insurrection against global systems, the form of revolt that is the most novel and the most insane.”
Foucault, who was in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution, wrote that the situation “can be understood as a great joust under traditional emblems, those of the king and the saint, the armed ruler and the destitute exile, the despot faced with the man who stands up bare-handed and is acclaimed by a people.”
Nearly forty years later, Iran is a regional powerhouse and the only country in the Middle East with a truly independent and stable political system.
The Iranian revolt gave birth to a confident, technologically advanced nation, and one that has continuously proven to be the only real stumbling block to US regional hegemony.
And in what represents a nightmare scenario for Washington and its agenda, Iran’s role in today’s world cannot be defined solely in the context of the Shiite Crescent. Iran is no longer a leading power just in the Middle East, but in Central Asia as well.
The strategic Eurasian triangle
In recent years, the global order has been transformed from a unipolar one to a multipolar one. Iran has been one of the key protagonists in this transformation. The other two are China and Russia.
Through converging geopolitical interests, these three Eurasian powers have formed a strategic triangle. The objective is the stabilization and consolidation of the Eurasian heartland.
Initiated by Russian efforts to reintegrate former Soviet republics into its orbit, the Eurasian union was expanded by China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, gaining a unique global role in the 21st century.
The envious degree of cooperation between Tehran, Moscow and Beijing is characterized by its well-thought-out anti-western strategy, which is gradually suppressing American influence in the region.
Washington’s opposition to these efforts is manifested through its support for terrorism, namely Daesh and Al Qaeda, as well as the inciting of wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.
The Americans have good reason to be worried. The integration of the Eurasian landmass will have far-reaching repercussions for US geostrategic interests. And whatever remains of the western empire will be better served cooperating with the Eurasian union rather than trying to oppose it.
Source: Al-Ahed News

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بعد كلمة السيد نصرالله: ماذا كان يفعل السبهان في لبنان؟

ثامر السبهان من لبنان: الدول لا تحميها إلا مؤسساتها الشرعية

بعد كلمة السيد نصرالله: ماذا كان يفعل السبهان في لبنان؟

ناصر قنديل

سبتمبر 1, 2017

– صار أكيداً بعد الكلام الواضح للسيد حسن نصرالله عن مضمون المداخلة الأميركية الرسمية لمنعالدولة اللبنانية من تنفيذ عملية فجر الجرود او تأجيلها لعام على الأقل، والتهديد بقطع المساعدات الأميركية عن الجيش اللبناني في حال الامتناع عن الأخذ بالطلب الأميركي، أن الفريق اللبناني المنتمي للحلف الذي تقوده واشنطن عالميا والرياض إقليميا، قد ارتكب بنظر واشنطنخطأين كبيرين متتاليين، الأولاعتقاده بأنه من المسموح له إعلان التأييد لعملية حزب الله في جرود عرسال أو التغاضي عنها أو عدم خوض حرب تشويه ضدها ومناكفة ومساجلة على حلفيتها، وافتراض أن ذلك يمنع حزب الله من الاستئثار بوهج الانتصار. والخطأ الثاني هو الظن بأنه يصحح خطأه الأول بتبني عملية تحرير الجرود اللبنانية في القاع ورأس بعلبك على أيدي الجيش اللبناني لإزاحة الأضواء عن إنجاز حزب الله وفتح منافسة بين الجيش والمقاومة.

– الأكيد أيضاً بالوقائع أن المتموضعين تحت الراية التي تظلل الخندق الأميركي السعودي بدّلوا لهجتهمواتخذوا عكس مواقفهم، تجاه عملية حزب الله في القلمون الغربي بالتعاون مع الجيش السوري، علماً أنها تسهّل عملية الجيش اللبناني من دون إحراجه بالتنسيق مع الجيش السوري الذي يرفضونه ويرفضهالأميركيون والسعوديون، وعلماً أنها لا تجري على أرض لبنانية، لكن العملية الجارية على الأرض اللبنانية لا تتمّ بدونها، وعلماً أن كشف مصير العسكريين اللبنانيين المخطوفين لا يتحقق من دون حشر المسلحين الذي يحتلّون الجرود بين نارَي الشرق والغرب، وفكّي كماشتهما، وعلماً أن التفاوض كما قال قائد الجيش العماد جوزف عون كان السبيل الوحيد لكشف مصير العسكريين، ومواصلة الحرب ستعني إبقاء المصير مجهولاً إلى الأبد، وأن كل التفاوض ووقف النار وانسحاب المسلحين كانت خطوات تمّت بشراكة قرار من قيادة الجيش وفقاً لتقدير أهداف العملية؟

– زاد من قيمة هذه الحقائق كلام السيد نصرالله عن الحسابات السورية التي لم تكن أولويتها العسكرية تلك المعركة ولا كان يناسبها القبول بنقل مسلحي داعش. وهي قبلت بطلبات حزب الله ونزلت عند رغبته كحليف، بحضور شخصي من السيد نصرالله للقاء الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، ترجمة لمطالب لبنانية وضعتها قيادة الجيش وتبنّاها حزب الله، فكيف يستقيم الترحيب بحرب خاضها حزب الله على أرض لبنانية ضد جبهة النصرة تنتهي بترحيل مسلحيها إلى إدلب، ويفترض أنها أخذت من طريق الجيش ما يجب أن يقوم به، مع التنديد بحرب يخوضها حزب الله خارج الأرض اللبنانية لتسهيل حرب يخوضها الجيش اللبناني على أرض لبنانية، ويستثمر تحالفه مع سوريا لإشراكها في الحرب وتحقيق الأهداف التي رسمها الجيش اللبناني، والحرب التي يخوضها الجيش يفترض أنّها طلب هؤلاء منعاً لتصدّر حزب الله لصورة النصر، ونقل المسلّحين هنا من ضمن رؤية قيادة الجيش لكشف مصير العسكريين بينما ليست في حساباته أو لا تعنيه على الأقل هناك، فكيف استقام هذا التناقض؟

– إذا كان التفسير للتبدّل والتناقض يختزن بالموقف الأميركي الذي كشفه السيد نصرالله، لكن الإحراج كان كبيراً لدرجة يصعب فيها التراجع عن منح الجيش التفويض اللازم لخوض معركته. والخشية من أن يخوضها حزب الله وحده،

وأمام إصرار الرئيس ميشال عون وقيادة الجيش على قرار المعركة، فاضطروا للمضي في المعركة محاولين التعويض والتكفير عن الأخطاء التي سجلها الأميركي عليهم، بالحملة العالية الوتيرة ضد حزب الله، فمن هو الصديق الذي أعاد ترتيب التفاهمات وطلب الصفح عن الأخطاء للحلفاء وأعاد تنظيم صفوفهم، وقاد الحملة على حزب الله في لبنان والعراق؟

– السفير السعودي السابق في بغداد ثامر السبهان والمسؤول عن الملف العراقي في فريق ولي العهد محمد بن سلمان زار بيروت بين حربَي الجرود، وحصر لقاءاته بجماعة السعودية، وشهد لبنان والعراق بفضل قيادته مواقف عالية السقوف ضد حزب الله، تقول المعلومات. وتقول إن الاتصال الهاتفي بين الرئيس دونالد ترامب والملك السعودي لم يكن لمناقشة الأزمة القطرية الخليجية، بل كان بطلب من القيادة العسكرية الأميركية من الرئيس ترامب للضغط لتصعيد الحملة لبنانياً وعراقياً على حزب الله وتحديداً لطلب زيادة المخصصات المالية لبعض الأطراف والشخصيات والمؤسسات الإعلامية اللبنانية والعراقية العاملة مع الأميركيين لتزخيم الحملة، كما تقول بعض المعلومات أيضاً.

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Trump, The Last of the Mad Pirates?

Exclusive: President Trump’s erratic behavior and careless bellicosity could have dire consequences for the world, but he also demonstrates the need to rethink America’s global power, notes David Marks.
By David Marks
There is clear evidence of a world increasingly steeped in conflict and violence: The degradation of U.S.-Russian relations, territorial tensions in the South China Sea, the hostile rhetoric between North Korea and the United States, an escalation of the border conflict between China and India, growing tension between Israel and Iran, and the continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Ukraine; among other hostilities around the globe yielding death and destruction.
A pirate flag from the early Eighteenth Century.
Yet there is some indication that what we may be witnessing is darkness before a new dawn.
In his historical essay of 1968, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, Buckminster Fuller, futurist and inventor of the geodesic dome, describes the conquest and colonization of the planet by Europeans as the age of the great pirates. He marks the end of that era with World War I, followed with a subsequent attempt by lesser pirates taking advantage of a time when the planet’s fate was precarious.
Fuller concluded that the later events of the Twentieth Century and beyond would be determined by the wisdom and strength of those who recognized that Spaceship Earthhas limited resources that need to be appreciated and protected. As with others who consider our predicament, he saw only two possibilities:
“We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.”
The reign of the last of the pirates in their final self-destructive, single-minded grasp for profits would either destroy human life as we know it or be countered with a new sustainable relationship with the Earth.
The struggle between the conflict generating profiteers and those who recognize that reducing conflict is the only path to sustaining human life on the planet, is coming to a head. Despite hard evidence that environmental traumas are increasing and will dominate the near future, the modern pirates are in defiant denial, leading their final charge against anything that might get in the way of gargantuan treasure chests. They must lie, cheat, pillage or kill in order to maintain the facade that everything is okay with the planet.
One of the most critical tools of the great pirates and their modern heirs is the ability to prey on the ignorant and misinformed.
The pirates of old applied the sword to abscond with valuables; and more often committed genocide to steal land and resources from the indigenous.
Propaganda Power 
Modern pirates inherited these tools and became specialists in others. They deceive, entice and encourage scapegoating to obtain treasures or protect their fortunes. Ignorance is fertile ground for their work. Anyone opposing these marauders and their skewed vision of the world become the objects of derision, ridicule and threats of violence.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at his swearing-in ceremony on Feb. 1, 2017. (Screen shot from
Yes, this tale may sound familiar as we watch world events unfold. In that sense, the Trump presidency is a dramatic test of the planet’s fate; the last desperate, inane, final gasps of piracy confront us all.
Some recent U.S. Presidents, other world leaders, corporations and industrialists bear some resemblance to the pirates of old, and certainly there are current conflicts that are fueled outside the scope of U.S. influence. But Trump is straight out of Central Casting. And in contrast to his self-aggrandizement, he is not the heroic leader, but rather the mad, despised black pirate awash in his own darkness and loathing.
The glimmer of light comes because President Trump, pirate extraordinaire, is unwittingly doing everything to ensure that no one will ever tolerate a pirate again.
Because he is great at alienating others, Trump’s enemies begin to unite. Some of his previous supporters and loyalists have mutinied in reaction to his unwillingness to condemn racism and his willingness to pardon political allies. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently spoke an amazing phrase to encapsulate and isolate the so-called leader of the free world: “The President speaks for himself.”
The greatest danger, which was noted by some before he was elected and is just being recognized by those who have been on board his ship until now, is Trump’s proclivity to embrace violence, however and wherever it might suit him, such as his rush-to-judgment missile strike against a Syrian airbase in April. Many an eyebrow was raised at Trump’s “fire and fury like the world has never seen” threat against North Korea – suggesting a nuclear strike – but very few have broached the touchy subject of taking away his role as commander in chief, including his nuclear sword, via impeachment or the Twenty-fifth Amendment’s provision for declaring the President “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” (requiring a finding by the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet).
A Pattern of Violence
Veiled hope percolates that Trump’s words are no more than bluster – and it must be acknowledged that Trump’s predecessors resorted to violence repeatedly around the world, including Nobel Peace laureate Barack Obama, who acknowledged bombing seven countries, and George W. Bush, who invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and lusted for more wars, and that Trump’s rival last year, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, may have surpassed even Trump in her hawkishness, having pushed for the invasion of Libya in 2011 and supporting the bloody proxy war in Syria.
Barack Obama and George W. Bush at the White House.
But the current mad pirate, if nothing else, excels at unpredictability. The world watches in amazement as a buccaneer steers the most powerful ship on the planet with egoistic lunacy. How might this precarious tale have a happy end?
If we manage to survive these dangers, the Trump presidency could engender a new era of consensus. Perhaps with the maddest of the pirates gone, recognition of the causes of his ascendency might be considered. First and foremost: the last U.S. presidential election presented only a choice between an unsustainable status quo and a role of the dice.
In that sense, it is not enough for Trump simply to be replaced by another pirate, even one with a calmer disposition and a better vocabulary. For the U.S., a period of serious self-criticism is warranted. Without that, it is hard to envision how candidates seeking a more peaceful future can succeed.
President Trump’s crass destructiveness – and the more suave advocacy of violence by Bush, Obama and Clinton – should be a mirror for all Americans to reflect upon. The image of Trump is more garish and thus more obvious in its ugliness, but that may finally shake Americans of all ideological persuasions awake in the recognition of the viciousness that has absorbed American politics and society.
Trump’s unintended contribution is that he makes obvious how dangerous it is for the planet to have mad pirates at the helm. He has given re-birth to a concept that Fuller succinctly expressed: If humanity does not opt for integrity we are through completely. It is absolutely touch and go. Each one of us could make the difference.”
Perhaps – once Americans are awake to this reality – simple things might be prioritized; like reducing violence between nations and religions, reversing the abuses that have bruised the planet and polluted its atmosphere. And maybe working to ensure that everyone on Spaceship Earth is fed, sheltered and educated.
Unlikely, naive and idealistic you say? Perhaps, but the moral health of the United States is a strong influence on the rest of the world. The direction that the U.S. takes after Trump will be a key factor in future global stability, both politically and environmentally.
The veil hasn’t quite lifted and the pirates still dominate, but there’s potential for recognizing we’re all on a mother ship worth protecting.
David Marks is a veteran documentary filmmaker and investigative reporter. His work includes films for the BBC and PBS, including Nazi Gold, on the role of Switzerland in WWII and biographies of Jimi Hendrix and Frank Sinatra.
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The U.S. Is in Denial About the Civilians It’s Killing in Syria

The U.S. Is in Denial About the Civilians It’s Killing in Syria
The commanding general in the war against the Islamic State is ignoring mounting evidence that the coalition campaign has killed hundreds of innocents.
The number of civilians killed by the U.S.-led coalition assault on the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria is mounting, but the coalition’s commanding general has cast doubt on the toll his forces are inflicting on innocents there. The monitoring group Airwars currently assesses that 1,700 or more civilians have likely been killed by U.S.-led air and artillery strikes in Raqqa governorate since March. A minimum of 860 civilians, including 150 children, are credibly reported to have been killed in Raqqa since the official start of operations to capture the city on June 6.Despite these findings and corroborating evidence from U.N. bodies and nongovernmental organizations, Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend has described reports of large-scale civilian death as hyperbole. In one instance, the general prematurely called allegations not credible even before the coalition had completed its own investigation
Citing an estimated 20,000 civilians who remain trapped in Raqqa, U.N. humanitarian advisor Jan Egeland asked last week for consideration of a humanitarian pause in the city, similar to the respites organized last year in eastern Aleppo, where regime forces were fighting rebels. Despite a number of major investigations into the civilian death toll in Raqqa by multiple human rights organizations in recent months, there is no sign either side is considering any sort of pause.
In a report released Aug. 24, the same day Egeland made his appeal, Amnesty International described the hell facing civilians, including thousands of children, at Raqqa. Survivors who fled the city said Islamic State fighters have been “laying landmines and booby traps along exit routes, setting up checkpoints around the city to restrict movement, and shooting at those trying to sneak out.” But the report also described a “constant barrage of artillery strikes and airstrikes” by the coalition that further restricts movement and has injured and killed hundreds of people.
Witnesses told of how shells ripped through civilian homes and killed those seeking to escape.
Witnesses told of how shells ripped through civilian homes and killed those seeking to escape. “Artillery shells are hitting everywhere, entire streets,” one witness said. “It is indiscriminate shelling and kills a lot of civilians.” (Russian air raids in support of pro-regime forces have also left many civilians dead south of the city.)
Throughout operations to capture Mosul and Raqqa, the coalition has argued that defeating the terrorist group quickly would ultimately save more lives. After Egeland’s comments, the coalition quickly tamped down expectations that the tempo of fighting might slow in Raqqa or anywhere else.
“Any pause in operations will only give ISIS more time to build up their defences and thus put more civilians in harm’s way,” coalition spokesman Col. Joseph Scrocca said. “What is more, it will further reinforce ISIS’s tactic of using civilians as human shields.”
But Townsend, the coalition forces’ commander, has gone further. He has suggested on several occasions that civilian death tolls are exaggerated — no matter how well investigated they may be.
In June, after a U.N. commission of inquiry warned that civilian casualties around Raqqa were already “staggering,” Townsend took issue with their phrasing, calling it “hyperbolic.”
“Show me some evidence of that,” he told the BBC.
On Aug. 22, Townsend again played down civilian deaths, this time at a press conference with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis in Baghdad.
“It’s probably logical to assume that there has been some increase in the civilian casualties, because our operations have increased in intensity there,” said Townsend, when asked by a reporter about the uptick in deaths. “[But] I would ask someone to show me hard information that says that civilian casualties have increased in Raqqa to some significant degree.”
Such hard information is freely available from multiple sources. Large numbers of civilian casualties from coalition actions have been reported in local outlets and by Syrian monitoring organizations since well before the official start of operations inside Raqqa itself. In the three months leading up to June, Airwars researchers estimated that more than 700 civilians were likely killed by coalition strikes as the Syrian Democratic Forces surrounded the city. Airwars currently assesses that more than 5,100 civilians have likely been killed in coalition actions in both Iraq and Syria since 2014.
These estimates are only compiled from reporting rated as “fair” by Airwars researchers. This classification requires there to be two or more reliable sources indicating civilian casualties and citing the coalition as having launched the strike, no conflicting attribution (for instance, the presence of Russian or regime strikes), and acknowledgement by the coalition that it did launch strikes in the vicinity on that day. Among accounts monitored by Airwars, more than 1,900 civilian deaths in Raqqa have been blamed on the coalition since June 6, but less than 40 percent was considered “fair.”
Reports of the damage wrought by coalition strikes have been corroborated by investigators on the ground. Researchers from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have recently visited the cities, towns, and camps around Raqqa and interviewed survivors, who all tell similar stories of terrifying air and artillery strikes, as well as Islamic State actions. The U.N. commission of inquiry for Syria has also been able to speak with survivors and witnesses to a number of strikes in the area.
One reason for the disconnect between public allegations and the military’s claims is the pace of official investigations.
One reason for the disconnect between public allegations and the military’s claims is the pace of official investigations. The coalition itself has so far finished examining just a fraction of civilian casualty allegations reported in Raqqa since the assault began. Since the latest coalition monthly casualty report was published this month, only three incidents in Raqqa dating to after June 6 had been assessed by the U.S.-led alliance. Another 13 allegations are pending review. Airwars has informed the coalition of 101 individual alleged incidents at Raqqa for June alone.
Airwars monitoring shows that the civilian death toll in Raqqa is closely linked to the intensity of the assault. Put simply: When fewer coalition bombs fall, fewer civilians are killed. In July, for example, estimated civilian deaths from coalition strikes fell in Raqqa by about 33 percent compared with June. Munitions fired at the city by the coalition also fell by almost exactly the same amount — 32 percent.
Children in particular are suffering in Raqqa. Though some civilians are able to bribe their way out of the city, local monitors like the Syrian Network for Human Rights say children are often marooned with their families. According to UNICEF, thousands remain trapped.
“With no access for humanitarian agencies, the city is completely cut off from lifesaving assistance,” said Fran Equiza, the UNICEF representative in Syria. “Children and families have little or no safe water while food supplies are running out fast.”
At least 150 children have credibly been reported killed in Raqqa since June, with more casualties reported every week by groups like Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently. Many of them are named, with photographs posted on social media by surviving family members. Jana al-Hariri, a baby girl, was reportedly killed along with four family members in a raid on July 6; on Aug. 2, 1-year-old Saad al-Shabshol was killed, also along with family members; and on Aug. 17, four children from the Sayer family were reported killed in an alleged coalition strike. Photographs showed them together in happier times — the youngest no more than a baby.
Against this backdrop, Gen. Townsend has been dismissive of deaths he says are not as numerous as widely reported and in any case unavoidable. In one instance, the general’s comments have preceded the conclusion of the coalition’s own investigations into reported civilian casualty incidents, raising the possibility that their outcome might be influenced. After a coalition raid hit a school building reportedly sheltering displaced families near Raqqa on March 21, Townsend said he thought “that was a clean strike.”
“My initial read is: not credible,” he told reporters on March 28, using the official coalition term for a strike determined to not have killed civilians. Investigators with the U.N. commission of inquiry for Syria later determined that the strike may in fact have been one of the deadliest of the air campaign for civilians. The coalition ultimately concluded that no civilians were killed.
In the most serious criticism of the coalition commander to date, Townsend has been accused by Amnesty International of unlawful action after he recently boasted of the coalition’s deadly firepower at Raqqa. In early July, the general told a reporter from the New York Times that “we shoot every boat we find” on the Euphrates River. “If you want to get out of Raqqa right now, you’ve got to build a poncho raft,” he added.
According to local reports, civilians have frequently been killed as they try to escape the city by river or fetch water from it to drink. In early July, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently reported the deaths of more than two dozen people who were attempting to reach the Euphrates or wells nearby. In its report, Amnesty profiled a 15-year-old boy, Mohamed Nour, who attempted to flee the city with a friend in order to avoid being forcibly conscripted by the Islamic State. As they attempted to cross the Euphrates, a suspected coalition strike hit their boat, killing both children and others on board.
“Lt. General Townsend’s statement appears not to take into account the difficulties civilians face in trying to escape the city, as by then it was well known that civilians wanting to flee the city had few options but to cross the river,” Amnesty noted in its report. “Strikes on ‘every boat’ crossing the river on the assumption that every boat carries [Islamic State] fighters and weapons, without verifying whether that was indeed the case on each separate occasion, are indiscriminate, and as such unlawful.”
Amnesty researcher Ben Walsby, who co-authored the group’s Raqqa report, told Foreign Policy that virtually everyone they spoke with had fled across the Euphrates to escape Islamic State-held areas.
Gen. Townsend’s latest comments have drawn criticism from local groups monitoring the civilian toll.
Gen. Townsend’s latest comments have drawn criticism from local groups monitoring the civilian toll. The Syrian Network for Human Rights, which estimates that at least 800 civilians have been killed by coalition operations since June 5, said it would provide the names of those killed to Townsend if he liked. The people behind Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, which has documented the Islamic State’s brutalities in the city for years, tweeted that Townsend’s comments “reminds me of Syrian regime lies same lies.”
U.S. officials have gone to great lengths to tout their care in avoiding civilian casualties. Now, however, those efforts threaten to be undermined by the Raqqa campaign.
“There has been no military in the world’s history that has paid more attention to limiting civilian casualties and the deaths of innocents on the battlefield than the coalition military,” Mattis said while sitting next to Townsend during the Baghdad press conference.
“We’re not the perfect guys,” he told reporters. “We can make a mistake, and in this kind of warfare, tragedy will happen. But we are the good guys, and the innocent people on the battlefield know the difference.”
Many of those lucky enough to escape Raqqa told Walsby and his colleagues at Amnesty very different stories
“For all the technology, the military tactics belong in another century,” Walsby told Airwars. “There is no place for firing battlefield weapons into populated cities in the 21st century, and this in the future will be looked back on as pretty barbaric.”

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
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The stain of Yemen: U.S. support in Saudi war remains appalling

 the Editorial Board

Of the six wars that the United States is involved in around the world, Yemen is surely the most appalling, for at least three reasons.
The first is the state that Yemen has been reduced to. It was the poorest country of the Middle East even before the war started more than two years ago. Now, its cities demolished by years of U.S.-backed bombing by Saudi Arabia, it has experienced an estimated 16,200 deaths, many of them children and other civilians. It is now in the grip of a cholera epidemic, with an estimated 500,000 victims. And there is widespread malnutrition.
The second reason the Yemen war and American involvement in it approach war criminality is that the rationales for it are petty, political and antithetical to their alleged religious basis. The Saudis’ continued assault on the Yemeni Houthis is based primarily on the fact that they see themselves as the champions of Islam’s Sunnis against the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthis. In other words, it’s a 21st-century religious war, and also a proxy war between two Middle Eastern powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
That aspect of the Yemen war is made even more complicated by the fact that it is also about competition between Saudi-backed Yemeni Sunni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and his also-Sunni predecessor as president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, heightening the cruel absurdity of the conflict.
U.S. involvement in the Yemen war is based primarily on the fact that America sells the Saudis warplanes. Those warplanes need spare parts, munitions and U.S. technical support to keep them in the air bombing Yemen. In terms of the merits of the parties to the conflict with reference to U.S. strategic interests in the region, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference among the Yemen parties to the conflict. America’s taking sides in the Saudi-Iran, Sunni-Shiite competition in the region is a question far separate from the Yemen war.
The Saudis are promoting media coverage of the humanitarian aid they are providing to stricken Yemenis. That may be considerable, but what they could really do is stop bombing the country and help the Yemenis make peace among themselves. The United States should stop helping the Saudis attack Yemen and instead encourage the United Nations, the Arab League and other bodies to actively seek an end to the war and make lasting peace there before an already pathetic situation there gets even worse.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

How israel Weaponizes Archeology

By Kathryn Shihadah | If Americans Knew | August 31, 2107
How Israel Weaponizes Archeology
Israeli bulldozers demolish part of an historic Islamic building near Al-Aqsa Mosque, not far from the City of David archaeological site, where land is being confiscated from the Palestinian village of Silwan in what some have called “bulldozer archeology.” Says Palestinian archeologist Hamed Salem, “This important historical site is no longer an archaeological park; it’s an ideological park.” (Photo: Ahmad Gharabli / AFP / Getty)
From the Zionism’s earliest days in the late 1800s until the present, Israel’s battle has always been about land, but for some the issue goes much deeper—literally. What is underground is as valuable as what is above ground, and the battle has been raging for years.
The battle is over ancient artifacts, from Jerusalem to Gaza to Qumran.
The “Jewish State” prioritizes anything that might boost its legitimacy as rightful owner of Holy Land real estate, and has appropriated the science of archeology to help create its narrative.
The goal is to highlight the ancient Jewish presence and discount all other communities. whether historic or current. The Israeli narrative assumes, for example, that Christians may have been present for a short time, but only as visitors, leaving virtually no trace; the same goes for any Muslim presence.
In order to back up this version of history, Israel has found it necessary to destroy villages, demolish ancient sites, appropriate historic areas, rewrite textbooksredraw boundary lines, and more. With the illusion of an ongoing, dominant Jewish presence, Israel can assert that it is simply “re-claiming” what is rightfully theirs, instead of taking what belongs to others.

Facts under the ground

It is no surprise that Israel/Palestine is an archeological gold mine: ancient trade routes crisscrossed the region; it was the historic home of the Philistines and Crusaders; a stone’s throw from the early civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Phoenicia; part of the Roman, Greek, Persian, and Ottoman empires, to name a few; and the dwelling place of Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
In fact, Palestine is home to the oldest archeological organization in the world, the Palestine Exploration Fund, founded in 1865. Here excavators have feasted on a dizzying array of strata, ranging from Upper Paleolithic (about 40,000 BC) to late Ottoman (19th century AD), and everything in between; their findings have led to the advancement of the science of archeology itself. No wonder archeologists from around the world have been assembling for at least a century and a half to unearth and study Palestine’s ancient cultural riches.
When Israel created itself in 1948—and even before this date—the “Jewish State” worked to take control of archaeology, and thus, of the region’s history. It toiled to erase footprints of the numerous civilizations that had preceded the Jewish presence, as well as the peoples that have come afterward.

“Hand to hand”

The claim to the land is based on a very small window of time, as Illene Beatty pointed out in Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan: “The extended kingdoms of David and Solomon, on which the Zionists base their territorial demands, endured for only about 73 years… Then it fell apart… [Even] if we allow independence to the entire life of the ancient Jewish kingdoms, from David’s conquest of Canaan in 1000 B.C. to the wiping out of Judah in 586 B.C., we arrive at [only] a 414 year Jewish rule.”
The Israeli narrative pushes the window open a few hundred years more: history (at least, relevant history) supposedly “started with King David and ended with the destruction of the second temple [70 A.D.], restarting with Jewish settlement in the nineteenth century.” Some Greek and Roman presence and a “smattering of early Christianity” are tolerable. But ancient Philistines, Arabs, and Muslims are never acknowledged as part of the region’s history. They would impinge upon Jewish interests.
The official explanation, according to an introductory film that is shown to tour groups in Jerusalem, is simply, “For two thousand years, the city passed from hand to hand.” The “righteous return” and the settler agenda are the only account to which visitors are exposed. On Palestine, there is only silence.
As Israeli author and activist Uri Avnery reminds us, the Zionist claim to the land of Palestine, based as it was on the Biblical history of the Israelites, requires proving that the Bible is true. Almost all of the founders of Israel were professing atheists, but they gritted their teeth and gave their orders.
During the early years of Israel’s existence, bulldozers removed Ottoman and Mameluke remains, Arab and Crusader artifacts, Byzantine and Roman and Greek and Persian remnants—in order to find “pay dirt”: biblical Hebrew artifacts. The search is ongoing. (Read this and this, for example.)
And over the years, the narrative has been pieced together for a single purpose: to manufacture “legitimacy.”

“I told you so”

The not-so-old coin from Netanyahu’s FB post.
This explains why, for example, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rushed to social media when a coin was found recently in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank (Palestine). Preliminary identification classified the coin as a 2,000-year-old half shekel. The Prime Minister posted on Facebook that the artifact was “evidence of the deep connection between the people of Israel and its land” (mind you, the item was found in Palestine, not Israel). Several days later, the coin was more accurately identified by the Israel Museum as a replica, a souvenir, circa 2000 A.D. The Facebook post was removed.
After the 2015 discovery of an ancient jug with Hebrew inscription, Israel’s minister of education, Naftali Bennett, posted on Facebook, “This is yet another example of the many facts on the ground that tell the story of the Jewish state that flourished here in this land 3,000 years ago… A nation can not occupy its own land.”
Moral of the story: Archeologywhen massaged properly—is proof positive that there is no occupation.

Palestinian villages evaporate

As part of this effort, Zionist forces wiped out 400-600 Palestinian villages in the 1940s—some were destroyed in the war, but many were depopulated and razed even before the war began; others were demolished in the three years or so following the war.
This palm tree is the landmark for the destroyed village of Ibdis, which was in existence since at least the 16th century, and contained tombs dated to the 6th century CE.
According to Just Past? The Making of Israeli Archaeology“remnants of the Arab past were considered blots on the landscape and evoked facts everyone wanted to forget” (everyone except the Palestinians). Many of these lost villages were themselves ancient, or contained ancient building materials. This assisted forgetting, essentially “Nakba denial,” is undoubtedly the greatest theft of Palestinian history. Today, in place of those lost villages are Israeli towns, farms, and orchards.
Hundreds of historical monuments and places of worship (primarily mosques) were also targeted for demolition after the 1948 war. A few Israelis pleaded with the Israeli Department of Antiquities to preserve these sites, but they were for the most part unsuccessful.
Raz Kletter wrote about the situation, of which he as an archeologist was ashamed: “I don’t think this village landscape belongs to us—it belongs to the people who lived here—but still, there is longing for that lost landscape. We cannot bring it back, but at least we should be aware of the truth and not lie to ourselves.”
Cartographers were sent out to make a new map, renaming cities, villages, rivers, etc. with Israeli/Hebrew names to erase all vestiges of Palestinian presence.
This effort has continued for decades, down to even renaming parks and streets.

Appropriating archeological sites & the Dead Sea Scrolls

The 1995 Oslo Accords II assigned 60% of the West Bank (Palestine) to full Israeli military control by designating it “Area C.” This was meant to be a temporary arrangement, but has lasted over twenty years to date. Israel maintains authority over all land-related civil matters, which includes the Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land (with a current population of about half a million) and almost all of Palestine’s archeological sites.
According to international law, artifacts found on Palestinian land— whether Area A, B, C, Gaza, or East Jerusalem—belong to Palestine and should remain inside Palestine. UNESCO Accords, UN Security Council resolutions, and the 1954 Hague Convention all indicate that “when ownership of an antiquity is vested in a nation, one who removes it without permission is a thief, and the antiquities are stolen property”— this according to Patty Gerstenblith, DePaul professor and author of a 2016 Department of Justice guide to cultural property law.
The appropriation of archeological sites and their artifacts is, by definition, illegal, but Israel has a great deal of experience in flouting international lawand getting away with it. This crime does not need to be covered up.
Witness the famous Dead Sea Scrolls: discovered by Palestinians before the founding of Israel, in the Qumran Caves which are located in the West Bank of Palestine. Because Qumran is in Area C of the West Bank, Israel controls the archeological site, the tourism, and the conversation. The scrolls are now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Their official website does not contain any mention of Palestine.
Area C designation enables Israel de facto control over not only excavation and the distribution of artifacts; but decisions about when to stop digging and start building new structures—or parks or parking lots—on top of a site.
Palestinian towns and neighborhoods that are close to or part of East Jerusalem are subject to particularly exasperating treatment: the 1980 Jerusalem Law essentially annexed East Jerusalem (most of the world does not recognize the annexation), declaring all of Jerusalem “the complete and united capital of Israel,” and promising to “provide for the development and prosperity of Jerusalem and the well-being of its inhabitants.” Israeli domination ensued, and for Palestinians it feels like an elaborate land grab.

Case study: Silwan

The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, whose families have owned their lands since Ottoman times, has been living under this cloud of Israeli authority since 1967.
Silwan used to be almost completely Palestinian and Muslim. After the 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem, a plan was announced to shift the population to 75% Israeli. As one of the settler/archeologist spokesmen explained, the objective was “to get a [Jewish] foothold in East Jerusalem and to create an irreversible situation in the holy basin around the Old City.” (This is called “ethnic cleansing.”) This has been accomplished through evictions and home demolitions—over half of the houses in Silwan are under demolition orders—sometimes using forged documents.
Palestinian women in Silwan watch as settlers move into homes in the neighborhood
One of the main ways Israel got a “foothold” in Silwan was through the 1950 Absentee Property Law. This insidious regulation states that if a piece of Palestinian property has been uninhabited for three years, or ownership documents could not be produced, the land would revert to a Custodianship Council, which could then distribute the property for military or settlement use.
The Absentee Property Law had worked handily when Palestinian refugees were refused the right of return: after three years, their land was confiscated and they had nothing to come back to anyway. Those few who did get back, and whose homes were still standing—only seven villages were left intact—often found their deeds missing or destroyed, and new, Jewish tenants in place. According to the Israel Government Yearbook, 5719, almost 60,000 homes and 10,000 businesses were appropriated during Israel’s early years.
A large number of properties in Silwan have been appropriated through this law.
The small number of green spaces in Silwan have also been claimed as archeological sites, forbidden to Palestinians. Hundreds of closed-circuit TV cameras are used to insure compliance.
Having appropriated swaths of Silwan, the work of appropriating swaths of history began “with bulldozers clearing huge areas in haste and multiple levels being dismantled in a race to get to ‘Jewish’ bedrock.” Where they couldn’t find what they needed, settlers built houses on top of excavation sites.
Silwan’s Palestinian residents used to take pride in the archeological riches of their land, but since Israel’s land grab, things have gone from bad to worse. The heavy machinery and deep digging are beginning to compromise structures: Palestinian homes are showing large cracks, making their owners nervous and angry.
One resident, Jawad Siyam, created a petition to end the destructive digging, and filed it with the Israel Supreme Court. The result: Jawad and all of those who signed the petition were imprisoned or put under house arrest for “disturbing the peace and causing damage to property.”
Adding insult to injury, the Jerusalem municipality replaced a number of Arabic-named streets in Silwan with biblical Hebrew names—yet another daily reminder to Palestinians of who is in charge.

Antiquities in Gaza

Not surprisingly, the situation in Gazan archeological sites is even worse—though its location as a seaport makes it wildly rich in ancient treasures. Gaza’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities oversees digs and artifact preservation to the best of its limited ability: its offices, as well as many historical sites, have been damaged by Israeli bombs.
In addition, the equipment and chemicals needed to carry out work are forbidden for “security reasons” under the decade-old blockade. Guest archeologists can not get in to help, and local archeologists can not get out for training. Oddly, many of Gaza’s most valuable artifacts have turned up in Israeli museums.
Needless to say, there is little funding for the work in Gaza, what with the highest unemployment rate in the worldelectricity shortages, and clean water crisis.

Israeli tourism

Anyone familiar with the region knows that tourism has been almost completely appropriated by Israel—and this is another sore spot for Palestinians in archeologically rich areas. For example, the City of David National Park (built on Silwan’s land—see above) welcomes hundreds of thousands of tourists a year, each of whom pays an $7 entrance fee, and most of whom buy food and souvenirs from Jewish Israeli settlers. Not only are all of the profits pocketed by Israel and Israelis, the Palestinians of Silwan and their connection to the land are completely and intentionally disregarded.
This tourism income may be small change to Israel—it receives over $10 million a day from the US alone—but it would make a huge difference to the people of Silwan and other towns that are casualties in the antiquity war.
A great irony in the saga of Israel’s quest for legitimacy in the land is this: no one, Palestinian or otherwise, denies an ongoing Jewish presence since ancient times. The pilfering of archeology has been unnecessary and unbecoming from that standpoint. The rising consensus worldwide of Israel as a pariah state and the increasing popularity of the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions movement (BDS) indicate that Israel’s strategy is not helping in legitimacy efforts.

Kathryn Shihadah is a staff writer for If Americans Knew.
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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!