Saturday, 24 November 2018

The Hybrid War On CPEC Hits Karachi

By Andrew Korybko
The so-called “Balochistan Liberation Army’s” suicide attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi is a serious escalation of the Hybrid War on CPEC designed to put unprecedented pressure on China ahead of President Xi’s planned meeting with his American counterpart at the G20 Summit next week.
The Chinese consulate in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi was targeted by a suicide attack Friday morning that was claimed by the so-called “Balochistan Liberation Army” (BLA), an Indian-backed terrorist group that’s been a problem for decades. The state had recently scored plenty of successes against it though in both the military and ideological domains, the former of which is attributable to Pakistan’s nationwide anti-terrorist operations over the past few years while the latter is due to prominent separatist Dr. Jumma Baloch’s defection from his former “fellows” in February and his subsequent creation of the Overseas Pakistani Baloch Unity (OPBU) for peacefully reintegrating foreign-based fighters into their homeland’s social fabric.
Altogether, the military and ideological gains that Pakistan achieved are sustained by the fresh wind of optimism that the Baloch minority now has about their future in the Silk Road Century, seeing as how their region forms the terminal point of the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is correspondingly mainland-maritime pivot in Afro-Eurasia. In fact, it can be argued that any “separatist insurgency” that might have previously existed in Balochistan had been strategically neutralized in its entirety, ergo why the foreign-backed remnants of the BLA resorted to the desperate means of carrying out a terrorist attack against the Chinese consulate in Karachi in order to instantaneously draw international media attention to their “cause”.
Unaware observers shouldn’t be fooled into falling for the BLA’s narrative that it supposedly represents an “oppressed people yearning for freedom”, since Dr. Jumma proved that not only have the Baloch’s previous misgivings been addressed by the promises that the Pakistan state made to them through CPEC, but this famous separatist also outright spilled the beans and declared that India hijacked the original struggle that he previously dedicated his life to supporting. He even traveled throughout Europe earlier this year to raise awareness about how some countries are hosting dangerous terrorists from his homeland in an important series of visits that exposed the continent’s double standards towards this scourge.
Regrettably, his warnings weren’t heeded and now some European states have blood on their hands for pretending that the BLA and other terrorist organizations from Balochistan are nothing more than “political opposition groups”, but the country that deserves the most blame for the latest attack is India. Kalbushan Jadhav, a Hybrid War operative working with India’s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW, an analogue of the CIA and Mossad), admitted after his capture last year that he was fomenting terrorist attacks in this strategic region, thereby proving that the Indo-American Hybrid War on CPEC isn’t just a “conspiracy theory” but can nowadays be regarded as a conspiracy fact.
Speaking of which, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan officially stated that the latest attack was indeed a conspiracy aimed at sabotaging his country’s cooperation with China, which isn’t surprising considering that the Chief Of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa warned over the weekend that Pakistan is “now confronting hybrid conflict where focus is shifting to subversion on religious, sectarian, ethnic and social issues”. Accordingly, the latest stage of the Hybrid War on CPEC perfectly fits into this model because it’s aimed at exacerbating identity fault lines within this diverse country, albeit in an artificial way that wouldn’t naturally occur without the crucial catalyst of terrorism.
To explain, the foreign backers behind the Karachi suicide attack are hoping that it will provoke a disproportionate military response in Balochistan that could cause collateral damage among civilians and thus set into motion a “self-sustaining” Hybrid War reaction from the locals that could roll back the recent gains that were achieved. This is highly unlikely to happen, however, because of the world-class professionalism of the Pakistani Armed Forces, which is why the only outcome will probably be that the two countries behind this destabilization operation will invest in decontextualizing, misportraying, and then over-amplifying events in order to produce the false narrative of a purportedly ongoing “identity/separatist/freedom conflict” there that could then be spread across the Mainstream Media as part of their infowar against BRI.
The weaponized management of global perceptions is intended to propagate the notion that Pakistan is allegedly a “very dangerous and unstable” country that no foreign company should risk doing business in, even if it’s to take advantage of the time-saving geostrategic shortcut of trading with China via CPEC. The whole point of this campaign is to sow seeds of doubt about Pakistan, China, CPEC, and ultimately BRI itself which could eventually lead to economic hardships for all of them if the Silk Road’s flagship project is perceived (key word) to be “functionally unviable” by the “international community” as a result of this coordinated propaganda attack against it.
In fact, any fake news that might be spun in the coming future about any alleged “atrocities” carried out by the Pakistani military against the Baloch (either in the past or the present day) could be used to set the narrative basis for the US to sanction Pakistan, just as it might be planning to do with China as regards the issue of Uighur terrorism in Xinjiang, with it being implied by the US that entities doing business with the South Asian state (especially its Balochistan region) and/or the western Chinese province could be eligible for “secondary sanctions”. This would in effect amount to the indirect sanctioning of CPEC, a disturbing scenario that Pakistan and its all-weather Chinese ally should possibly prepare for.
BRI is currently undergoing an unofficial period of “restructuring” after countries from Malaysia to the Maldives and even Ethiopia are renegotiating their previous commitments to this worldwide series of connectivity projects, so putting pressure on CPEC at this specific moment (be it of the Hybrid War and/or sanctions variant) is intended to destabilize the foundation of China’s grand strategy. It also can’t be forgotten that all of this is occurring in the run-up to President Xi’s planned meeting with his American counterpart at the G20 next week right on the heels of Vice President Pence’s dramatic declaration about an impending “all-out cold war” between the two Great Powers during last weekend’s APEC Summit.
Some media reports have speculated that the US wants China to agree to a so-called “truce” in their “trade war”, which might turn out to be nothing more than a euphemism for demanding its rival’s strategic capitulation. Considering this very plausible scenario in light of the new American administration’s tendency to unabashedly bully its counterparts on the international arena, it wouldn’t be surprising if Washington tasked its new allies in New Delhi with ordering their BLA proxies to carry out the terrorist attack against the Chinese consulate in Karachi in order to exert maximum pressure on Beijing prior to next week’s summit between Presidents Xi and Trump.
Regardless of the analytical conjecture about who might have really been behind this high-profile suicide attack and why, it should be expected that this brazen act of terror will be exploited by third parties for their own benefit, be it by India to distract from its abuses in occupied Kashmir or by the US to push China into complying with its terms for a “truce”. Concerted efforts will be made in the near future by both of those countries to portray this event as “proof” that Pakistan is “unstable”, but what it really proves is that the Hybrid War on CPEC is just getting started and that the “Zipper of Eurasia” has a game-changing global geostrategic significance that neither of them will ever openly admit.

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!

The Tide Is Turning: israel Is Losing on Two War Fronts

The November 12 botched Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip is delineating Tel Aviv’s failure to utilize its army as a tool to achieve Palestinian political concessions.
Now that the Palestinian popular resistance has gone global through the exponential rise and growing success of the Boycott Movement, the Israeli government is fighting two desperate wars.
Following the Gaza attack, Palestinians responded by showering the Israeli southern border with rockets and carried out a precise operation targeting an Israeli army bus.
As Palestinians marched in celebration of pushing the Israeli army out of their besieged region, the fragile political order in Israel, long-managed by right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was quickly unraveling.
Two days after the Israeli attack on Gaza, Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, quit in protest of Netanyahu’s “surrender” to the Palestinian Resistance.
Israeli leaders are in a precarious situation. Untamed violence comes at a price of international condemnation and a Palestinian response that is bolder and more strategic each time.
However, failing to teach Gaza its proverbial “lesson” is viewed as an act of surrender by opportunistic Israeli politicians.
While Israel is experiencing such limitations on the traditional battlefield, which it once completely dominated, its war against the global Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) is surely a lost battle.
Israel has a poor track record in confronting civil society-based mobilization. Despite the vulnerability of Palestinians living under Israeli Occupation, it took the Israeli government and military seven long years to pacify the popular Intifada, the uprising of 1987. Even then, the jury is still out on what truly ended the popular revolt.
It should be accepted that a global Intifada is much more difficult to suppress, or even contain.
Yet, when Israel began sensing the growing danger of BDS – which was officially launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005 – it responded with the same superfluous and predictable pattern: arrests, violence and a torrent of laws that criminalize dissent at home, while unleashing an international campaign of intimidation and smearing of boycott activists and organizations.
That achieved little, aside from garnering BDS more attention and international solidarity.
The war on the Movement took a serious turn last year when Netanyahu’s government dedicated a largesse of about $72 million to defeat the civil society-led campaign.
Utilizing the ever-willing US government to boost its anti-BDS tactics, Tel Aviv feels assured that its counter-BDS efforts in the US is off to a promising start. However, it is only recently that Israel has begun to formulate the wider European component of its global strategy.
In a two-day conference in Brussels earlier this month, Israeli officials and their European supporters unleashed their broader European anti-BDS campaign.
Organized by the European Jewish Association (EJA) and the Europe Israel Public Affairs group (EIPA), the November 6-7 conference was fully supported by the Israeli government, featuring right-wing Israeli Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Ze’ev Elkin.
Under the usual pretext of addressing the danger of anti-Semitism in Europe, attendees deliberately conflated racism and any criticism of Israel, of its military Occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.
The EJA Annual Conference has raised Israel’s manipulation of the term “anti-Semitism” to a whole new level, as it drafted a text that will purportedly be presented to prospective members of the European Parliament (MEPs), demanding their signature before running in next May’s elections.
Those who decline to sign – or worse, repudiate the Israeli initiative – are likely to find themselves fending off accusations of racism and anti-Semitism.
This was certainly not the first conference of its kind.
The anti-BDS euphoria that has swept Israel in recent years, yielded several crowded and passionate conferences in luxurious hotels, where Israeli officials openly threatenedBDS activists, such as Omar Barghouti. Barghouti was warned by a top Israeli official in a 2016 conference in Jerusalem of “civil assassination” for his role in the organization of the Movement.
In March 2017, the Israeli Knesset passed the Anti-BDS Travel Ban, which requires the Interior Minister to deny entry to the country to any foreign national who “knowingly issued a public call to boycott the state of Israel.”
Since the ban went into effect, many BDS supporters have been detained, deported andbarred from entering the country.
While Israel has demonstrated its ability to galvanize self-serving US and other European politicians to support its cause, there is no evidence that the BDS Movement is being quelled or is, in any way, weakening.
On the contrary, the Israeli strategy has raised the ire of many activists, civil society and civil rights groups, angered by Israel’s attempt at subverting freedom of speech in western countries.
Only recently, Leeds University in the UK has joined many other campuses around the world in divesting from Israel.
The tide is, indeed, turning.
Decades of Zionist indoctrination also failed, not only in reversing the vastly changing public opinion on the Palestinian struggle for freedom and rights, but even in preserving the once solid pro-Israel sentiment among young Jews, most notably in the US.
For BDS supporters, however, every Israeli strategy presents an opportunity to raise awareness of Palestinian rights and to mobilize civil society around the world against Israeli occupation and racism.
BDS’ success is attributed to the very reason why Israel is failing to counter its efforts: it is a disciplined model of a popular, civil resistance that is based on engagement, open debate and democratic choices, while grounded in international and humanitarian law.
Israel’s “war-chest” will run dry in the end, for no amount of money could have saved the racist, Apartheid regime in South Africa when it came tumbling down decades ago.
Needless to say, $72 million will not turn the tide in favor of Apartheid Israel, nor will it change the course of history that can only belong to the people who are unrelenting on achieving their long-coveted freedom.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is

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US hegemony in the Middle East is over, Hezbollah and Axis of Resistance stronger than ever

Image result for US hegemony in the Middle East is over, Hezbollah and Axis of Resistance stronger than ever
Elijah J. Magnier
Wed, 21 Nov 2018 15:04 UTC
The policy of the US establishment towards Lebanon is evidently changing and unstable, with a President who lacks general knowledge about the Middle East and above all of Hezbollah’s role in the region. It seems President Donald Trump is willing to reduce military support to the Lebanese Army and to impose further sanctions on Lebanon, unaware that he is thereby strengthening the Axis of Resistance and throwing the country of the Cedars into the arms of Russia and Iran. While the US is imposing further sanctions on Hezbollah, in the last few months its European partners have held secret meetings with that Organisation’s leaders during the visits of their official delegations to Beirut.
The US is gradually losing its hegemony in the Middle East. In Iraq, the “Islamic State” (ISIS) grew under the watchful and complaisant eyes of the US establishment in the first months of its occupation of Mosul in June 2014. Washington considered ISIS a strategic asset, oblivious to how this unscrupulous policy would backfire against its interests in the Middle East. The policy alienated Europe but above all the people of the Middle East, especially those minorities who suffered grievously under ISIS tyranny. This ruthless US policy triggered the creation of Hashd al-Shaa’bi (the Popular Mobilisation Forces). This force has now become an essential member of the “Axis of the Resistance” which rejects US hegemony and espouses an ideology of independence with objectives similar to those of Iran and Hezbollah. These national forces are generally unfriendly towards Israel and the presence of US forces in Mesopotamia.
Furthermore, the new Iraqi leaders (Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, Speaker Mohamad al-Halbusi and President Barham Salih) have been chosen in perfect harmony with the will of Iran. If it becomes necessary to choose between Tehran and Washington, Iraq will not stand for sanctions against the Iranian people, regardless of the consequences. And if the US forces Iraq’s hand on Iran sanctions, it will lose Mesopotamia to the advantage of Iran and Russia. Indeed, Moscow is sitting today, along with high ranking Iraqi, Syrian and Iranian military advisors, in one single operational room in Baghdad, waiting to pick up the slack if the US moves away from or slows down military support to Iraq, but also to ensure that ISIS doesn’t return to occupy any city in Mesopotamia.
In Syria, the US – and its European and Arab partners – aimed for regime change and became identified with a policy of deliberate destruction of the Levant, with the goal of removing President Bashar Assad from power. Qatar alone is said to have invested over 130 billion dollars for this failed objective. Today, the lowest estimate of reconstruction costs for Syria ranges between 250 and 350 billion dollars. The war imposed on Syria has resulted in the formation of many Syrian groups trained by Iran and Hezbollah who have naturally shared their warfare experience with their ally. These groups, if Assad so wills, will form a strong alliance with the “Axis of Resistance” that has grown up in Iraq, and which has existed in Lebanon for decades.
In Palestine, Hamas joined the regime-change campaign against Syria at the beginning of the war in 2011. The political leadership declared its animosity to Assad and many of its fighters joined al-Qaeda and others joined ISIS, particularly in the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, south of Damascus. These Palestinian fighters shared with Syrian and other foreign fighters their guerrilla experience learned from Iran and from Hezbollah training camps. A few of these carried out suicide attacks against Iraqi security forces and civilians in Mesopotamia and against the Syrian army and its allies, including Hezbollah, in the Levant.
But the US establishment decided to distance itself from the Palestinian cause and embraced unconditionally the Israeli apartheid policy towards Palestine: the US supports Israel blindly. It has recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, suspended financial aid to UN institutions supporting Palestinian refugees (schools, medical care, homes), and rejected the right of return of Palestinians. All this has pushed various Palestinian groups, including the Palestinian Authority, to acknowledge that any negotiation with Israel is useless and that also the US can no longer be considered a reliable partner. Moreover, the failed regime-change in Syria and the humiliating conditions place on Arab financial support were in a way the last straws that convinced Hamas to change its position, giving up on the Oslo agreement and joining the Axis of the Resistance.
The 48 hours battle in Gaza with Israel November 12-13 showed unprecedented unity between Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and many other Palestinian groups (13 groups in total have united in one single military operational room for the first time ever), and their closeness to Iran and Hezbollah, indicating, once again, the failure of US policy in the Middle East.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah has gathered unique and mind-boggling war experience during the last five years of war against the extremist groups of al-Qaeda and ISIS, fighting alongside two classical armies on multiple fronts: the Syrian Army and the Russian superpower Army. The US now seems willing to increase pressure on the Lebanon to further cripple its economy. These sanctions will likely affect Lebanon more than Hezbollah itself.
The US put on its “terrorist list” the owners of currency exchange offices in Lebanon known to have exchanged Euros received from Iran for dollars. It has arrested a well-known businessman who benefits from Hezbollah sympathy and who offers a discount to Hezbollah militants and their families when selling his flats.
Also, with the collaboration of the ex-prime minister Haidar Abadi, the US got Baghdad to freeze over 90 million dollars due to a Lebanese constructor who has fulfilled contracts in various Iraqi cities, but who is accused by the Americans of being close to Hezbollah.
Moreover, the US Treasury Department is forcing the Lebanese Central bank to provide an impressive amount of information and databases on civilians – under the heading of fighting terrorism – and managed to freeze the accounts of many Shia, including those who have nothing whatsoever to do with the organisation.
And finally, the US administration put on its list of terrorists the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, his deputy, and various top leaders. These men will thus never be able to visit Disneyland or enjoy the wildlife in Las Vegas!
The US seems unaware that both Iran and Russia are eager to see the US lift their conditional support to the Lebanese Army and government. In coordination with the Lebanese government, Iran can build many factories in Lebanon, benefitting from its experience in various fields, mainly in the pharmaceutical domain, car production, domestic utilities and military industry. In parallel, Russia is already actively establishing connections with Lebanese officials, inviting them to Moscow, which will increase its presence and foothold in the Lebanon.
There is nothing the US can do to reduce Hezbollah’s military power today. Sayyed Nasrallah is said to be ready to unleash his precision missiles against Israel to show his strength and, above all, to prove how weak Israel will be in any future war. There is no doubt that Israel has an impressive military machine with a great capacity for destruction. Nevertheless, since 1949 Israel has never been subjected to precision missiles with hundreds of explosives on each of their warheads, capable of covering the entire Israeli territory and of reaching any target.
If Israel’s Iron Dome can intercept 80% of Hezbollah’s missiles, the consequences of 2000 missiles (out of 10,000, of which 8000 were intercepted) hitting their targets with 400-500 kg of explosives each are inconceivable for Israel. That means an equivalent of 1.000.000 kgs of explosive if Hezbollah were to limit its use to 10,000 missiles and no more than that (Israel claim Hezbollah has 150,000 rockets and missiles).
Hezbollah represents a sizeable chunk of the Lebanese population. It is not a conventional organisation, but one that has become part of the “hearts and minds” of the population – an old strategy that Hezbollah adopted so as to integrate with the population and the society it is living in.
Hezbollah did use force domestically on one occasion, in the May 7, 2008 episode when the group took the Lebanese capital by firing only a few bullets – much less time than it took Israel to occupy Beirut in 1982. Hezbollah doesn’t need to use military power to control Lebanon. But the Lebanese Shia are no longer alone in the Axis of Resistance. This axis won’t hesitate to turn tables on the US if pushed to take control of the country: which may happen if the US continues efforts to submit Lebanon to its hegemony.

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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!

شبكة دفاع جوي وقروض الإسكان معايير استقلالنا

نوفمبر 22, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– يحتفل لبنان بعيد الاستقلال بعد خمس وسبعين سنة على نهاية الانتداب الفرنسي، في زمن لم يعد معيار الاستقلال يُقاس ببقاء الجيوش الأجنبية، بقدر ما يقاس بأمرين، أولهما القدرة على امتلاك هامش واسع للقرار الوطني النابع من المصالح الحقيقية للدول، والثاني حسم القرار الخاص بالشؤون السيادية الرئيسية وفقاً لتوازنات وحسابات محلية. وفي المجالين لا يبدو لبنان بأفضل حال.

– تمر الذكرى ولبنان في وضع اقتصادي يؤكد أن نظامه السياسي فشل في بناء مقوّمات اقتصاد على درجة من القوة تضعه بمنأى عن الاهتزاز على إيقاع اي مؤثرات خارجية. فالانتصار الذي حققه لبنان على الاحتلال الإسرائيلي بقوة مقاومته وصمود جيشه وشعبه، كما الانتصار الذي حققه على الإرهاب بقوة جيشه وحضور مقاومته ووحدة شعبه، لم يرافقهما بناء سياسي اقتصادي يعزز مساحة القرار المستقل. فبقي لبنان في كل أزمة تعيشها المنطقة نقطة الضعف التي تتلقى الترددات، وتعيش النتائج، والسلبي منها على وجه الخصوص.

– تمر الذكرى أيضاً ولبنان في أزمة حكومية تتعثر معها مساعي تشكيل حكومة جديدة، بعد انتخابات نيابية أجمع اللبنانيون على اعتبارها اختباراً ناجحاً للديمقراطية، لكنهم فشلوا ولا يزالون في ترجمة نتائجها بحكومة تقود البلاد. ويبدو الوضع الاقتصادي الضاغط على اللبنانيين عاملاً من عوامل التأثير في تشكيل الحكومة سلباً وإيجاباً، حيث توظف الضغوط الاقتصادية كعامل للحث على استعجال الحكومة، كما تستخدم للضغط على أصحاب المطالب المحقة لتحميلهم مسؤولية التعطيل، وتظهر ثنائية اسمها حزب الله والعقوبات الأميركية في قلب معادلتي السياسة والاقتصاد.

– لا يمكن إخفاء حقيقة أن محاولة تحميل حزب الله مسؤولية تأخير ولادة الحكومة وبالتالي استمرار الجمود الاقتصادي وتفاقمه، بسبب تمسكه بتمثيل نواب اللقاء التشاوري، لا ينفصل عن تحميل حزب الله مسؤولية نسبة كبيرة من الجمود ناتجة عن العقوبات الأميركية التي تطاله وتطال معه لبنان واقتصاده، وبالتالي يصعب الفصل بين الشق الخارجي من الضغوط، وبين بعض الاستثمار الداخلي لها ضمن التوظيف السياسي للضغط على حزب الله في شأنَيْ العقدة الحكومية الحالية، والحضور السياسي للحزب ومواقفه من قضايا الصراع في المنطقة.

في بلدان العالم عندما يكون الجمود مسيطراً لأي سبب تسارع المؤسسات المسؤولة عن الوضع الاقتصادي والمالي، خصوصاً في غياب الحكومات، إلى ابتكار أساليب لضخ المزيد من الأموال في الأسواق، وتشجيع الناس على الاستهلاك، وفي لبنان مجال حيوي يتكفل بتخفيف وطأة الضغوط الاقتصادية والمالية، ويرتب حركة ونشاطاً في روافد الاقتصاد، وهو قطاع الإسكان، وفي ظرف سياسي صعب يتوقف ضخ المال اللازم في قطاع الإسكان، ليصير مفعول العقوبات الأميركية حرباً نفسية، وتصير العقوبات الحقيقية هي وقف قروض الإسكان.

– في مثال سيادي آخر يُظهر درجة ضعف القرار المستقل، يعجز لبنان عن امتلاك شبكة دفاع جوي متطورة تحمي أجواءه من الانتهاكات الإسرائيلية اليومية لسيادته. فالغرب يمتنع عن تزويده بها مهما قيل خلاف ذلك، طالما أننا نرى حجم الضغوط التي يتعرّض لها الروس بسبب تسليمهم شبكة دفاع جوي لسورية، وبالمقابل يمنع الغرب على لبنان الحصول على هذه الشبكة من مصدر آخر كروسيا، التي يشتري منها حلفاء أميركا في الناتو شبكات مماثلة، كحال تركيا والسعودية.

– معيار القرار المستقل اليوم تشريعات وإجراءات عاجلة تعيد الحياة لقروض الإسكان ولو ضمن ترتيب انتقالي لشهور، وقرار موازٍ بالحصول على شبكة دفاع جوي تحمي

السيادة اللبنانية.. فهل نجرؤ؟

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Trump Is Not a Champion of Human Rights. He Is a Clueless Clown

In Riyadh, they must be laughing at [US] President [Donald] Trump. In Pyongyang, too, and in Tehran. In Beijing and, of course, in Moscow, they must be laughing until it hurts. They look at Washington and they don’t see a champion of freedom and human rights. They see a preening, clueless clown.
Trump’s reaction — or non-reaction — to the Saudi regime’s brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a holiday-season gift to autocrats around the globe. It shows them that if you just shower Trump with over-the-top flattery, feed him some geopolitical mumbo jumbo and make vague promises to perhaps buy some American-made goods in the future, he will literally let you get away with murder.
Recall what happened: The Saudi government lured Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for The Post, to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where a team of assassins lay in wait. Khashoggi was killed and his body dismembered. The CIA has reportedly concluded with “high confidence” — as close to certainty as the agency gets — that the assassination was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the nation’s de facto ruler.
After weeks of hemming and hawing, the White House put out a statement Tuesday from Trump making clear that for the murder of Khashoggi — who lived in Virginia, was a permanent US resident and had children who are US citizens — the Saudi regime will face no consequences. Zero. Not even a slap on the wrist.
Despite the CIA’s assessment that the crown prince ordered the killing, the White House statement waffles on whether he even knew about it in advance: “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said the same thing later to reporters, adding, “We are with Saudi Arabia. We’re staying with Saudi Arabia.”
Even more appalling, the statement — which is littered with exclamation points, suggesting Trump himself had a hand in writing it — attacks and defames the victim. Khashoggi was a respected journalist who sometimes criticized the Saudi government. The president of the United States suggests he deserved to die.
“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that,” the statement says. That is a rhetorical device known as paralipsis — saying something by professing not to say it — and its use to suggest the Saudis were somehow justified in killing Khashoggi makes me want to throw up.
In the statement — which is headlined “America First!” — Trump emphasizes what he calls the “record amount of money” that Saudi Arabia is supposedly prepared to spend in the United States. Trump goes on to make a series of false claims. No, there is no agreement for the Saudis to spend $450 billion on US goods, despite Trump’s assertion. No, there is no firm agreement for $110 billion in arms sales; the actual figure is $14.5 billion. No, what Trump reckons as “hundreds of thousands of jobs” are not at stake. And no, the Saudis could not simply decide to buy Chinese or Russian arms, instead.
The truth is that in the US-Saudi relationship, the United States holds all the cards. We don’t need the Saudis’ oil and can easily do without their arms purchases. By contrast, without US military assistance and American-made spare parts, the Saudi armed forces could not function.
But leave aside Trump’s inability to calculate the power equation here — perhaps he should read “The Art of the Deal” — and consider the factors that are absent from his thinking. There is no mention in his statement of human rights, no mention of freedom of the press. There is no notion of the United States as an advocate for liberty or a foe of despotism. There is only the amoral pursuit of what Trump sees — not very clearly — as US national interests.
The Saudi royals got on Trump’s good side by hosting his first foreign visit and fawning over him as if he, too, were an absolute monarch. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was gracious and deferential to Trump at their summit — and now continues his nuclear and ballistic missile programs unmolested. Russia’s Vladimir Putin complimented Trump’s political skill — and escaped any meaningful punishment for meddling in the 2016 election. There cannot be a strongman ruler in the world who fails to see the pattern — and the opportunity.
Lavish Trump with praise. Treat him like a king. Wave a fistful of money in front of his face. And if you want to, say, kill an inconvenient journalist, he’ll look the other way.
Source: The Washington Post, Edited by website team

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!

Israel Elections: Who Will Win the Fight to Destroy Gaza?

Last week, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned his post, leading to a crisis in the coalition government.

Although Lieberman and Israeli media couched his decision as having been motivated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leniency towards rocket fire from Gaza aimed at southern Israeli communities, it’s much more likely that this is political posturing in preparation for national elections, likely to be called soon.

Without Lieberman’s party, the ruling coalition has only a one-seat majority, making for a very shaky government. Netanyahu also needs to retain the participation of his leading rival, Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party – but Bennett has been driving a hard bargain, demanding the defence ministry role in return for his continued support.

‘Israel has stopped winning’

Instead, Netanyahu announced that he himself would assume the portfolio. Bennett then indicated that he would also step down, but in a statement on Monday morning, he backed away from that threat while also slamming Netanyahu’s leadership. Under this government, “Israel has stopped winning”, he said.

“We impose constraints upon constraints on our fighters, legal constraints and conceptual constraints. Our fighters are more afraid of the military prosecutor than of Yahya Sanwar,” Bennett said, referring to the leader of Hamas in Gaza.
Netanyahu has numerous rivals itching to take his place. They all see weakness and wish to exploit it. Eventually, someone will upset the apple cart and destroy the coalition
It’s a tune Israelis have heard before, many times. If force doesn’t work, then use more force. There can never be enough. Yet, every time Israel invades Gaza, it kills more than it did the time before – but it never quells Palestinian resistance.

Still, somehow Israeli voters want to believe that there’s an ultimate solution that will bring permanent peace without giving up anything vital to Israeli interests (settlements, Jerusalem, etc). It’s a tempting, but illusory pipe dream.

Regardless of Bennett’s decision, the handwriting is on the wall. Once a threat of resignation by a senior minister is out there, it sets a tone. With Lieberman’s departure, the balance of power within the government has shifted. Netanyahu has numerous rivals itching to take his place. They all see weakness and wish to exploit it. Eventually, someone will upset the apple cart and destroy the coalition.

A formidable enemy

Whenever the election does happen, there will be fierce jockeying among Netanyahu’s Likud, Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu and Bennett’s Jewish Home, as to which is toughest on security. In Israeli politics, the way to assume the strong-on-security mantle is by looking tough on Palestinians. It’s much like the sloganeering about who’s tough on crime or “illegal immigration” in other Western countries.

Netanyahu remains in a strong position. Though the public does not particularly like him, they trust him to protect Israel’s security interests. Polls say Likud would win the same number of seats today as it did in the last election. So, despite his internal rivals seeking to unseat him, he is a wily, formidable enemy.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the foreign affairs and defence committee meeting at the Knesset on 19 November 2018 (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to attend the foreign affairs and defence committee meeting at the Knesset on November 19, 2018. (Photo by Gali TIBBON / AFP)
In recent months, the Netanyahu government has undertaken steps to loosen the siege of Gaza. It increased the number of trucks importing goods into the enclave and opened the Kerem Shalom crossing. Qatar sent briefcases filled with $15m to pay partial salaries for Gaza workers who had not been paid for months, and shipped in fuel to power the electric, sewage and water treatment plants.
The fishing zone was expanded to nine nautical miles in southern Gaza.

The most hawkish Israeli ministers complained bitterly about the softening of Israel’s position towards Gaza and its Hamas rulers. There was grumbling and sniping by Lieberman, Bennett and others. At one point, Lieberman shut the crossing, prohibiting trucks from entering Gaza.

Surveillance strategy

Then, a week ago, the Israeli army sent a commando unit into Gaza, which according to Israeli army version, was meant to install electronic surveillance gear, sparking a massive firefight. Hamas commander Nour Baraka and six other Palestinians were killed, along with a senior Israeli officer.
In the fallout, the Israeli unit was forced to leave behind gear intended for spying on Gaza militants. It is now reportedly in the hands of Hamas, with Israeli media outlet Walla notingthat the Israeli army was “evaluating the situation regarding the damage caused by the capture of these electronic [surveillance] methods by Hamas. One can assume that this has caused significant damage to the army’s [spying] activities in Gaza.”

This is precisely the sort of trove that would interest both Hezbollah and Iran, which are also targets of Israeli spying. Walla based its reporting in part on Palestinian media accounts of the raid.
The timing of the raid seems odd, coming just after Netanyahu had sounded downright moderate in declaring that Israel had no interest in an “unnecessary war”. It seems likely that the Israeli army viewed the commando operation as routine, not expecting it to be intercepted.

Once it was, all hell broke loose. In response to the killing of their fighters, Hamas launched hundreds of rockets into southern Israel. Dozens of Israelis were wounded, and a Palestinian worker was killed inside Israel.

Just as it seemed that Israel and Hamas were headed for a new war, repeating the disaster of 2014, Egypt stepped in to broker a ceasefire. Both sides have taken a step back from the brink and calm has been restored.

Political posturing

But Israel has never honoured such ceasefires for long, violating them routinely whenever its interests dictate. Then, when Hamas responds with counter-measures, firing rockets into Israel, the latter blames the militants for commencing hostilities.

Palestinians in Gaza celebrated Lieberman’s resignation as a political victory. They were right, in the sense that Israel lost a high-ranking commander in its botched mission, its spying capabilities were compromised, and southern Israel was thrown into a period of abject terror, despite the supposed protection of the Iron Dome anti-missile system.
He can now say to them that he served as a strong defence minister, but when his approach was overruled by Netanyahu, he resigned, as he could not support leniency towards Palestinian ‘terrorists’
But his resignation had little or nothing to do with Gaza. Rather, it was meant to lay down a marker among Israel’s most hawkish voters, who constitute a decisive sector of the electorate.
He can now say to them that he served as a strong defence minister, but when his approach was overruled by Netanyahu, he resigned, as he could not support leniency towards Palestinian “terrorists”. He also heads off criticism from Bennett, who has attacked Lieberman for “weakness” and “left-wing” policies that have coddled Gaza.

The battle is on to determine who will replace Netanyahu as he nears the end of his political career, now marked by four different corruption scandals. A conviction on any of them would end his rule. His potential successors are now out to prove their security credentials, seeing who can outrival whom in the ferocity of their hatred for Hamas and the residents of Gaza.

Photo: Palestinian demonstrators burn pictures of former Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Gaza on 14 November 2018 (AFP)

By Richard Silverstein
Source: Middle East Eye

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!

Roger Waters’s Defence of Julian Assange Constitutes a Moment of Genuine Activism in an Age of Celebrity Grandstanding

By Adam Garrie
It has long been commonplace for celebrities to take positions on major public issues, although as with any trend, the ideals, sincerity and originality of such a movement or set of movements tends to become diluted over time. As a result, most celebrity so-called activism of the contemporary period remains centred around safe causes that are guaranteed not to generate any controversy other than that which they were designed to court, while at no time will taking positions on matters ranging from lambasting Donald Trump to “singing for climate change” or “dancing for feminism” negatively impact the career of the celebrity advocate in question.
Roger Waters however is as far as one can get from the vapid phenomenon of the sanitised celebrity activist.  Just as his music, poetry and visual stagecraft have always been superlatively original, ideologically transcendent, psychologically challenging and grounded in an unmistakable dedication to secular ethics, so too is Waters’s present day political activism characterised by the same. On causes ranging from opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine to Crimean self determination and the opposition of fascism in Brazil and the rest of South America to support for a genuine non-sectarian peace in Syria, Waters has taken on all the causes that most politicians in the western world do not dare touch, which is to say nothing of the celebrities who tend to play it far safer even than most mainstream politicians.
But it is not just his opposition to modern day ‘Citizen Kanes’ like Marc Zuckerberg and his unrelenting scrutiny of the Israel lobby that make Waters stand out. Roger Water’s long time advocacy for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is a further testament to Waters’s genuine belief in justice and humanity that was shaped by the loss of both his grandfather and father in each of the World Wars. Waters is in many ways the last of the anti-war musicians whose embrace of peace stands head and shoulders above advocacy for less profound and immediate causes. After all, what could be a more necessary and objectively immediate cause than preventing man from waging war on other men?
As Julian Assange was the publisher of some of the most important information relating to American and allied war criminality in theatres of illegal war like Iraq, it is only natural that Waters should defend the de-facto imprisoned anti-war activist, journalist and publisher.
During a stop in Ecuador as part of his Us + Them tour, Waters gave an open address to the country’s President Lenin Moreno who unlike his predecessor, has made Julian Assange’s life more difficult even as he remains in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
At a press conference in Quito, Waters said,
“He (Assange) needs to be protected, we can not let the United States, the United Kingdom and all the other acolytes of the evil empire incarcerate this great man and kill him which is what they will do. I would say (to President Lenin Moreno) that he has to keep the promise made by the previous president (Rafael Correa) to Julian Assange six years ago, when he gave him asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London”.
Waters described Assange as “one of the most important men on earth” and “a true journalist” before urging Ecuador to live up to the promise of former President Correa to protect Assange from persecution. This comes after it was revealed that US authorities have already secretly charged Assange with criminal acts after documents intended to be classified were discovered in the public domain.
At at time when the world rightly mourns the reality that Jamal Khashoggi ultimately gave his life for his principles, albeit unexpectedly, while Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to reveal to the world the full “naked truth” about Khashoggi’s apparently gruesome murder at the hands of Saudi consular officials, the US, UK and Ecuador continue to openly conspire against the mental and physical health of Julian Assange. This is to say nothing about the persistent violation of the findings of the United Nations whose officials have stated that Assange must be immediately freed and compensated for his arbitrary and cruel detention.
And yet while the media outcry around Khashoggi’s murder continues to dominate headlines, Assange is largely a forgotten man, having been betrayed by not only the nation that gave him asylum but having been even more forcefully betrayed by nation’s whose populations he liberated from a culture of systematic corporate media lies.
By speaking up for Assange in Ecuador’s capital, Waters has sent a clear message to President Lenin Moreno that his attempts to pull the rug out from under Julian Assange are being noticed and that such betrayal will not pass without public scrutiny.
As Assange remains a man who sacrificed his freedom and now his physical and mental health in order to bring the world the truth about governments which act as though they are above the law, the very least those with a conscience could do is to stand up for justice for Julian Assange, even at this late hour. Roger Waters has done this and has done it in a place where his voice could very well be heard by one of the major players in the entire sordid ordeal – Ecuador’s current President.
It is easy to speak freely about issues that are of little meaningful consequence. It is quite another matter to speak about issues that others are literally afraid to touch and to do so in the most visible manner possible. Roger Waters is a rare example of someone who uses his profile in attempts to elevate the global condition of justice while others merely seek to elevate their own celebrity status.
Much of the world listened to and still listens to classic albums like The Dark Side of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall. If the profound meaning of these pieces of art has indeed meant anything to the millions that have listened, perhaps now it should be their turn to speak with Roger Waters in defence of the freedom of Julian Assange – a man whose only crime was telling the truth that the world needed to hear and still does need to hear.

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!