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Monday, January 21, 2019

Cleric Dies of Medical Negligence in Saudi Prison: Activists


Saudi Arabia Sheikh Ahmed Al-Ammari
Saudi activists announced that the former dean of the Holy Quran faculty in the University of Medina, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Ammari died of a stroke in prison.
According to the “Prisoners of Conscie” (conscience) account on Twitter, a Saudi group that follows up situations of political detainees in the Kingdom, Al-Ammari died on Sunday due to a medical negligence that led to coma.
The group stated that the funeral prayer of Al-Ammari to be held at Masjid Al-Haram on Monday noon, adding that the cleric, who was arrested earlier in August, is to be buried in Al-Sharae’ graveyard in Mecca.
The account affirmed that “If silence goes on, we’ll hear bad news on other prisoners. Elderly detainees are so many, and others whose health is deteriorating are much more.”
Al-Ammari was arrested by the Saudi Forces last August in a campaign against the close associates of prominent cleric, Sheikh Safar Al-Hawaly, who was arrested earlier in July.
Until now, the Saudi Forces did not comment on Al-Ammari’s death.
Reports on the Saudi cleric’s death appear amid wide criticism of Saudi Arabia following the murder of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October in the Turkish consulate.
Source: Social Media

ماذا لو كان نتنياهو ضيف العار؟


يناير 19, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– بالرغم من وجاهة النقاش اللبناني الداخلي حول القمة العربية والمسؤوليات التي يتبادلون الاتهامات بتوزيعها في ما بينهم، حول تفسير النتيجة الباهتة والهزيلة، إلا أن في هذه النقاشات عندما تصير شتائم وإهانات وتخويناً، براءة ذمة لحكام العرب الذين خذلوا لبنان الذي لم يخذلهم يوماً، فوق كونه لم يخذل قضية العرب ولا قضايا العرب يوماً. فأسباب الحكام العرب لمقاطعة قمة بيروت، ليست لبنانية، والمسؤولية اللبنانية هي بعدم قراءة هذه الحقيقة والانتباه إليها، والغياب العربي الذي تصاعد منسوب الاعتذارات المتأخرة فيه ليس ثمرة التزامات يتذرعون بها وموعد القمة معلوم ومحفوظ ومحجوز على جداول أعمال كل منهم قبل أي مستجدّ به يتذرعون.

– ببساطة جاء الأميركي ووزّع أمر العمليات، بيروت عاصمة المقاومة ومصدر قلق «إسرائيل»، فلا تمنحوا دولتها فرصة الاعتزاز بالإنجاز، عاقبوها وحاصروها ما استطعتم حتى يلتزم مَن على رأس الدولة بما هو أبعد من مجاملتنا بتخصيص الرياض بزيارته الأولى، واحترام رغبتنا بعدم ربط عقد القمة بحضور سورية. فالمطلوب من رئيس الجمهورية اللبنانية أن يلتزم معاقبة المقاومة كي لا يُعاقَب، وتعاقب الدولة اللبنانية من خلاله، بما هو أكثر من تعطيل الحكومة، ومن يظنّ أن بعض الكياسة التي يطلبها في التعامل مع حضور ليبيا كان سيغير من المشهد شيئاً فهو واهم ولا يعرف في السياسة ألفباءها. فالحكومة الليبية على لائحة أعداء حكام الخليج ومصر وكل الذين يقفون خارج التابعية التركية القطرية، ويتنافسون معها على الوكالة الأميركية لشؤون المنطقة والعالم الإسلامي، ولو كانت القمة في بلد من بلدان التابعية الأميركية وتم حظر حضور ليبيا فيها لتبسّموا وقالوا خيراً على خير.

– السؤال ببساطة ماذا لو كان بنيامين نتنياهو ضيف العار على القمة، ويسمّونه ضيف الشرف، وماذا لو كان لبنان يدعو لقمة في زمن الرهانات على الحرب على سورية، ويتعهد بتقديم الدولة ومؤسساتها منصة لهذه الحرب، وفي الحالتين بغياب ليبيا وحظر حضورها وإنزال علمها عن السارية، ورفع علم «إسرائيل» بين الأعلام العربية، وشطب كرسي سورية وإنزال علمها، هل كان سيجرؤ أحد على الغياب من حكام العرب، ربما باستثناء قلة قليلة تخجل أو يحرجها الحضور، أو لا تزال تحفظ لبعض القيم مكانة، كحال الجزائر والعراق وربما الكويت، لكن ماذا عن الآخرين، كل الآخرين وفي مقدّمتهم حكام الخليج الذي يريدون لبنان سوق عقار، وملهى ليلياً، لكنهم يتفادونه كعنوان للسياسة والمواقف والمؤتمرات، إلا بتوقيع ممهور بخاتم أميركي أسود.

– على اللبنانيين وهم يناقشون أين أخطأوا أن ينتبهوا أن خطأهم الجسيم هو في حسن الظن، وسوء الظن من حسن الفطن. لقد أحسنوا الظنّ بحكام لا قرار لهم، حكام صاروا رهائن لمفهوم الأمن الإسرائيلي، ولا مكان يشبههم في بلد المقاومة وعاصمتها، والمرتهنون لهؤلاء الحكام يعلمون جيداّ مهمتهم، التطبيل والتزمير لكل إساءة للمقاومة، وإعلان استعداد لكل مؤامرة تستهدفها، والابتسامة الصفراء بوجه رئيس للجمهورية مؤمن بالمقاومة حاول أن يحسن الظن بهم وبمرجعياتهم في دول الخليج، لكنه فخور بخياراته، وها هم يعايرونه بتمثيله الحكومي، لإضعافه ومماشاة الضغوط الأميركية عليه وعبره على المقاومة، كما يعطلون الحكومة يعطل مَن هو خلفهم القمة، والقرار تعطيل لبنان حتى يركع.

– لبنان الذي يرفض الركوع مدعوّ لأخذ العبرة، ورئيسه الذي لا يبيع ولا يشتري في المواقف والمواقع، أن يراجعوا مسيرة المسايرة والمجاملة والسير بين النقاط، فلون لبنان واضح لا يغيّره طلاء أو لا يحجبه حلو الكلام، لبنان معني بأن يسارع للقول، ألغيت القمة بانتظار المزيد من التشاور حتى تتوافر ظروف عقدها بحضور ومشاركة كل القادة العرب وفي مقدّمتهم الرئيس السوري، فلبنان يجمع الكلمة العربية، ولا ينطق بالعبرية، وفي الختام عليكم السلام، بئس القمة وبئس الحكام. فبيروت تحرجكم وبيروت تجرحكم وهي التي أخرجت المارينز الذي به تستنجدون، وقد أخرجت الإسرائيلي الذي إليه تتوقون، وبيروت مرفوعة الرأس أمام من أذلَّكم ويسرق مالكم وتؤدّون له الطاعة كلّ يوم، فوجب أن تعاقبوها لتنالوا البراءة من أنفسكم لأنفسكم، ومَن الذي يعاملكم كمعاملة السيد لعبيده بينما بيروت تعلّمكم أن تكونوا أسياداً ينتفضون على العبودية.

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US Training Saudi and UAE Pilots for Combat in Yemen

By Stephen Lendman
Source
Yemen is one of many US forever wars – key NATO countries, Israel, Jordan, the Saudis and UAE partnering in them.
US special forces operate in Yemen. Pentagon drone war has been ongoing in the country without letup since launched by Bush/Cheney in October 2001, weeks after 9/11.
A no-ceasefire/ceasefire reflects conditions on the ground. War rages with no prospect for resolution because bipartisan US hardliners reject ending it. Claiming otherwise is political pretense.
Daily reports show endless conflict continues. US-backed Saudi/UAE forces keep battling Houthi fighters, including in areas around the strategic port city of Hodeidah, ceasefire agreed on more illusion than reality.
Saudi/UAE terror-bombing goes on daily – overnight against Sanaa, the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital. A Houthi statement said “(t)his escalation comes under the direction and supervision of the U.S…This escalation will be met with an escalation.”
Earlier calls by US officials for peaceful conflict resolution in Yemen were pure deception. Republicans and undemocratic Dems reject restoring peace and stability to war-ravaged countries.
According to Military Times last November, the Pentagon’s so-called Operation Yukon Journey involves US military operations in Africa and the Middle East – on the phony pretext of defeating ISIS and al-Qaeda Washington created and supports.
The Middle East operation is designated “Support to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Partner Nations in Yemen.” Along with providing weapons, munitions, intelligence, and logistics support, the Pentagon has been training Saudi and UAE pilots for combat in Yemen.
Federal procurement documents show the US air force has been using a private contractor to train Saudi pilots at its US facility.
A previous article discussed US and UK involvement in supplying the Saudis with billions of dollars worth of weapons and munitions annually, Pentagon contractors involved in training its military personnel in their use.
Under the so-called United States Military Training Mission to Saudi Arabia, USMTM trains, advises and assists the kingdom’s armed forces, including through military exercises and related activities.
USMTM is a joint US army, navy, air force and marine corps joint command, an extensive arrangement with the kingdom since the 1950s – under the 1951 Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement and later USMTM agreement.
An earlier London Daily Mail report said Britain is secretly training Saudi’s military, aiding its genocidal war in Yemen.
Documents obtained through an FOIA request show Pentagon personnel have been and likely still are actively involved in training UAE pilots for combat operations in Yemen.
According to an air force memo dated December 18, 2017, its personnel “assisted (the training of) 150 (UAE) airmen in challenging (exercises) to prepare (them) for combat ops in Yemen.”
Further training was provided UAE pilots at the country’s Pentagon operated Al Dhafra airbase, the memo saying:
“Unit fighter personnel advanced the UAE’s F-16 fighter pilot training program; 3 pilots flew 243 instructor sorties/323 hrs that created 4 new instructors & 29 combat wingmen who immediately deployed for combat operations in Yemen.”
CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Josh Jacques lied, saying “(w)e do not conduct exercises with (Saudi and UAE airmen) to prepare for combat operations in Yemen.” 
Joint Chiefs chairman General Joseph Dunford turned truth on its head, claiming the US is “not a participant in the civil war (sic) in Yemen, nor are we supporting one side or another.”
Hard evidence refutes both of the above statements. Conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Central Asia and North Africa are US launched and waged, nothing civil about any of them. Nor are they involved in combating the scourge of terrorism the US supports, using jihadists as proxy troops.
None of the above information should surprise. The Pentagon and private military contractors it enlists are actively involved in training and otherwise working directly with the armed forces of numerous countries worldwide.
What’s going on is all about advancing America’s imperium, largely by waging endless wars and related military activities.
Trump is like his predecessors, co-opted to go along with a dirty system, raging since Harry Truman’s war on North Korea in the early 1950s.
Endless US wars of aggression rage with no prospect for resolution, others drafted to be launched if and when ordered – every sovereign independent country potentially targeted, including Russia, China and Iran.

USA v. Distinguished Iranian/American Journalist Marzieh Hashemi

By Stephen Lendman
Source
Distinguished Press TV journalist/anchor’s unlawful arrest, detention and mistreatment by the FBI, on the pretext of being a material witness regarding a case her family knows nothing about, gave the US another international black eye.
What happened captured world headlines, hopefully enough to help hasten Marzieh’s release. Press TV, the Tehran Times, and other Iranian media continue giving the case extensive coverage.
International print and electronic media have had feature stories on what happened – including RT, Sputnik News, the NYT, Washington Post, AP News, Reuters, CBS, NBC, and ABC News, CNN, Fox News, Al Jazeera, the BBC, London Guardian, Haaretz, and numerous other outlets.
They’ve elevated Marzieh’s status as a distinguished international journalist to an even higher level than before what happened – by highlighting her unacceptable arrest, detention, and mistreatment uncharged. 
They explained what the NYT wrote as follows, saying “no reason (was) given for her arrest…(H)er Islamic head scarf (was) forcibly removed…(S)he was chained hand and foot, and…denied access to halal food and had eaten only crackers.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denounced what happened, saying “(t)he custody of Iran’s reporter in the US is highly political, and she should be released immediately.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said the following:
“The imprisonment of a reporter who is nonwhite and enters the US demonstrates how the approach of Mr. Trump’s government is based on racist and discriminatory policies within an apartheid regime. We hope that this innocent person is unconditionally released soon.”
Tehran Times editor Muhammad Qaderi said her mistreatment shows the real face of the US to the world community.
The Iranian High Council for Human Rights called “her violent and humiliating treatment” a brazen example of arbitrary arrest and detention, accusing the US of “illegal, unjustifiable and anti-human rights measures” – a flagrant violation of her fundamental rights, how Washington operates domestically and abroad.
Program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Alexandra Ellerbeck expressed concern about Marzieh’s arrest and detention. She “call(ed) on the US Department of Justice to immediately disclose the basis for her detention…”
Her colleague and friend Nader Talevzadeh called her arrest a “concocted (US) plan,” part of its hostility toward the Islamic Republic. “This is intimidation and a provocation against Iran,” he stressed.
Marzieh is unlawfully held by the FBI at an undisclosed Washington location with minimal family contact and no legal representation for days. 
Reportedly a lawyer has now been appointed on her behalf. Most so-called public defenders woefully ill-serve clients with little time available to present a proper defense everyone deserves in judicial proceedings.
According to federal authorities, Marzieh appeared twice before a US district judge on Friday, an appointed lawyer representing her.
A partially unsealed order for her arrest and detention provided no information about what happened and why, other than she’s held as a material witness to an unspecified criminal case her family knows nothing about.
She’s detained to give grand jury testimony. Witnesses before these proceedings are only present during their testimony to a prosecutor and grand jurors, no judge or legal representation present. 
Conducted to determine if a crime was committed, proceedings are secret, a majority of jurors required for an indictment to be issued.
Witnesses are required to answer questions by a prosecutor and jurors, criminal suspect(s) usually not present during proceedings.
Prosecutors try to establish probable cause to indict. They manipulate grand juries, gaming the system to get judgments they seek, justice denied time and again. Proceedings often amount to a sword for injustice, not a shield against it.
Witnesses accused of nothing can be indicted if prosecutors claim they gave false or misleading testimonies. They’re not told of the risk, making them vulnerable if this was the prosecutorial intent for demanding their testimony.
Clever ones can manipulate witnesses to unwittingly mislead. Anything said under oath or otherwise can be used against them. Given extreme US hostility toward Iran, Marzieh is vulnerable to a gross miscarriage of justice – besides what she’s endured so far.
A US citizen working in Iran for the past decade, dividing her time between both countries, she explained her conversion to Islam as follows, saying she “was born in a religious Christian family, and since 26 or 27 years ago I have become Muslim,” adding: 
“For me, embracing Islam is directly in relation to Islamic revolution of Iran and the characteristic of Imam Khomeini.” 
“When I was a student in America, I witnessed that the Iranian students are so active and I was so interested in political activities then, I used to ask them about their activities and purposes, why you protest?” 
“And they used to talk about the cruelty of the overset king and Imam Khomeini to me, and this was the first step for me becoming Muslim.” 
“I was looking for the truth and I wasn’t satisfied with my own religion, and I had no solution for the problem that the God has three parts of the Father, and the Son, and the holy Sprit, But still where one?” 
“I wasn’t convinced with answers when I asked from different people, when this issue happened to be in university, I started to study not only about Islam but about different religions, and simultaneously comparing them in theory and ideology, from Max Weber up to now, and thank God after I became Muslim.”
Explaining her career in journalism, she said “I am a Press TV correspondent and the editor in chief of Mahjubah magazine in America. I am a presenter and political analyst.” 
“Press TV is the first 24-hour English Channel in Iran. From the beginning of the Attack of America against Iraq, the people are watching it to know about the stand point of Iran and what Iran says, because the other channels weren’t covering the war, and it played a considerable role in Israel’s (undeclared war on) Gaza, so people are watching it to find out the truth and reality.”
Marzieh’s son Hossein fears she’ll be detained for an indefinite period, hopeful things will turn out otherwise, saying “(i)t doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. (W)e’re waiting to hear more.”
In March 2011, Obama’s Executive Order 13567 authorized indefinite detentions and military commission trials – violating America’s Fifth Amendment, stating:
“No person…shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” – constitutional law the US consistently breaches.
In December 2011, America’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) legitimized unconstitutional and international law prohibited indefinite detentions – everyone potentially vulnerable, including US citizens without just cause.
No proof is needed, no habeas, due process or equal protection afforded anyone targeted. The 1215 Magna Carta states the following:
“No free man (woman or child) shall be seized, or imprisoned, or stripped of his (or her) rights or possessions, or outlawed, or exiled, or deprived of his (or her) standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him (or her), or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his (or her) equals, or by the law of the land.”
“Due process of law” later substituted for “the law of the land.” It’s inviolable, breaching it flagrantly unconstitutional. The Fifth Amendment’s due process guarantee applies to US federal, state and local governance, no exceptions permitted.
Yet targeted individuals are extrajudicially arrested and detained at home and abroad, held indefinitely uncharged and untried, based on suspicions, hearsay, secret evidence, or any other pretext.
Constitutional law and Supreme Court rulings, affirming the inviolability of due process and equal protection rights, are breached by the US time and again.
Friday district court proceedings provided no information about Marziah’s detention, other than explaining she’s not accused of a crime – not so far.
What the Trump regime has in mind is unknown until things unfold ahead. Marziah is being used, a victim of US contempt for the fundamental rights of everyone, doing whatever it pleases unaccountably.
Reuters cited an unnamed US federal source, saying Press TV is being investigated as an Iranian “propaganda outlet.”
It’s a preeminent truth-telling news service, featuring distinguished guests, providing in-depth information on major world issues, explaining what everyone needs to know.
It’s polar opposite managed news misinformation and disinformation featured by US and other Western media, suppressing what should be featured.
It’s unclear what’s ahead for Marzieh. It’s very clear that her arrest, detention and mistreatment constitute flagrant constitutional and international law violations.
What happened to her and countless others in America can happen to anyone. Their struggle for justice is ours!

Israel Has Been Weakened by The War on Syria: Only 5% of The Iranian And Hezbollah Arsenal Has Been Destroyed in Syria

By Elijah. J. Magnier
Source
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Intelligence sources said “Israel wants Syria to return to the era before 2011 when the leaders of the country were less powerful and experienced than they are today after seven years of warfare, the delivery of Russian advanced equipment mostly for air defence, the supply and manufacturer of sophisticated Iranian missiles in Syria and the formative presence of Iranian and Hezbollah advisors”. The sources reveal that “Israeli officials told their American counterparts that it would be inappropriate to withdraw forces from the northeast of Syria, leaving Iran and its allies behind. The withdrawal – which now seems partial – of US forces should be done, if not before, at least simultaneously with the departure of all foreign forces operating on Syrian soil to create a balance of power on the ground. Also, it is important to stipulate that President Bashar al-Assad must refrain from using his mid-range precision missiles against Israel any time in the future as part of any US withdrawal from Syria deal. Israel argued that the US is delivering the Levant to Russia and the ‘Axis of the Resistance’ without any concessions in return”, according to the source.
The US establishment seems unwilling to cater to Israeli’s exaggerated anxieties. US officials visiting Tel Aviv told local officials that “the Israeli army holds enough military power to defend itself and that since 1974 Israel has no longer been on the defensive in the region. On the contrary, Israel has been on the offensive, taking the initiative to attack targets in Syria during these seven years of war”. According to western officials, the US reminded Israel that thousands of American forces are based in the country, in the Mediterranean and in various military bases the Middle East. These can intervene in favour of Israel in a timely way whenever appropriate. Therefore, Israel should stop screaming for unneeded help, when it is the one inflicting damage on its adversaries”.
Israel has repeatedly bombed targets in Syria belonging to the Syrian army and the “Axis of the Resistance”. It pushed the red lines even further when it bombed Iranian officials at the T4 airbase in 2018, killing several Iranian officers. In 2019, Israel already bombed a warehouse at Damascus airport, hours after the off-loading of Iranian military cargo. Although most of the Israeli missiles were shot down, a few managed to reach their target. Nevertheless, these bombings have little meaning on the strategic level because, although Israel has shown the long reach of its missiles, it has dramatically failed in its goal of crippling the missile capability of Syria and of Hezbollah in the Lebanon and Syria. During his recent visit to Cairo US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Hezbollah today has “over 130,000 missiles”.
If, as Israeli Chief of Staff General Gadi Eisenkot says, Israel “has complete intelligence superiority in the area” of Lebanon and Syria, how can he explain the arrival and deployment of a hundred and thirty thousands missiles – according to Pompeo – in Hezbollah’s hands? Eisenkot misled the Israelis when he said “Hezbollah possesses no accurate missile capabilities, except for small and negligible ones”. Indeed, when the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, warned Israel that he would “respond against any Israeli attack on Lebanon”, Israel heeded his warning and refrained from attacking any target in Lebanon. Throughout the war in Syria, Israeli jets violated the Lebanese airspace and flew over Lebanon to bomb Syria but didn’t dare to attack any Hezbollah objective in Lebanon, limiting themselves to attacking Hezbollah’s military trucks, Syrian and Iranian objectives in the Levant.
According to well-connected sources, Israeli jets fired warning missiles in front of targeted trucks – before destroying the target later on – to avoid human casualties for fear of Hezbollah retaliation. If Israeli intelligence about the supposedly limited military power of Hezbollah is accurate, it makes no sense for Eisenkot to boast about his allegedly almighty military power against a “negligible enemy,” as he describes the military capability of the Lebanese “party of God”.
Sources operating in Syria and Lebanon agree with Israeli statements that Israel has bombarded various objectives in Syria with thousands of bombs, as announced by Prime Minister Netanyahu. Nevertheless, they claim that only 5% of the total weapon supply was intercepted and destroyed.
“Israel’s bombing of targets in Syria has been neither strategic nor tactical. They were political attacks aimed at boosting Netanyahu’s image. These strikes did not weaken the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) nor Hezbollah. Israel contradicts itself all the time. For example, the Israelis say: Hezbollah is the fifth most powerful force in the world, but is very weak and has limited power… Hezbollah is digging four tunnels which represent a serious threat to Israel’s national security, etc.”, said the source.
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In fact, Israel has not provoked or attacked Hezbollah since the 2006 war. The only serious attack was registered in 2015 by a drone in Quneitra that killed Jihad Mughnnieh and the Iranian General Mohammad Ali AllahDade. The attack was not planned but rather an opportunistic attack on an Iranian-Hezbollah convoy of 3 four-wheel drive vehicles who spent several hours playing in the snow in an area in sight of an Israeli observation point. Israel didn’t know who was the target and certainly was unaware of the presence of the IRGC General. In retaliation, Hezbollah attacked an Israeli patrol in the Shebaa Farms killing several soldiers and an officer. Israel turned a blind eye and the tit-for-tat was closed between the two sides.
President Assad and his allies believe that Israel is trying to provoke Syria to respond to its violations of Syrian sovereignty in order to postpone or avoid a US withdrawal from Syria. For this reason, they prefer to not respond directly to Israeli provocations, in the expectation of a US withdrawal. Nevertheless, President Trump’s recent comments about “a 20 mile buffer zone” on the borders is an indication that he now intends to keep some forces in Syria and carry out only a partial rather than a full withdrawal of US troops.
Syria and its allies will need to reassess their strategy in response to Israeli aggression and US occupying troops when the dust settles in the northeast of Syria. So far, it is impossible to ascertain what Trump will decide in view of his ongoing contradictory statements about the US occupation of Syria.
Notwithstanding Trump’s intentions towards Syria and his fickle withdrawal plans, Israel has failed in all of its objectives in Syria: the Syrian government is still in place, the army has been rebuilt and Hezbollah and Iran have trained local fighters who are determined to stand against Israel in due course. Today, in 2019, Hezbollah has received all the missiles and different weaponry needed – as Pompeo has admitted– and Iran is a source of great concern for Israel and the US, present on its Syria front where before it was present only on the borders with Lebanon. Therefore, Israel, despite its heated media declarations and the thousands of targets it has hit in Syria in recent years, feels much more vulnerable today than it did in 2011.
Also, the Iraqi front cannot be discounted: al-Hashd al-Shaabi, the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Force, was created in 2014 to stand against ISIS. Today it is made up of tens of thousands of men highly trained and equipped with a strong ideology comparable to that of Hezbollah and Iran. Iranian influence has expanded from Lebanon to Syria and Iraq. Israel has grounds for concern.
But that is not all: Iran is present in Yemen where Saudi Arabia’s destructive war against the Houthis has offered Iran a unique opportunity to support the oppressed against the oppressor. Iran has also managed to create a foothold in Afghanistan: the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was invited to Tehran along with a high-ranking Taliban delegation. Iran licked its wounds when Taliban killed ten Iranian diplomats in Mazar i-Sharif and eventually managed to overcome its differences with Taliban for the greater cause of standing up to US hegemony in Afghanistan.
Iran and Syria have shown patience in biding their time and building their strength. After its 1979 revolution Iran’s government had little international experience. It began support of Hezbollah in 1982. Thirty-five years later, Hezbollah has become an organised irregular army present on many Middle Eastern fronts. While Israel may enjoy provoking Syria with tactical attacks and thousands of bombardments against various targets, the new strategic reality is inescapable. Both Iran and Syria have survived continuous threats and wars but have managed to pull through stronger. At the same time Israel, a nuclear power with the strongest air force in the Middle East, is to-date refraining from attacking Lebanon, a small country hardly visible on the world map. Israel is deterred by three words from Sayyed Nasrallah to the powerful Tel Aviv leaders who enjoy the unlimited support of a superpower (USA): Don’t try us!

من أول غزواته كسر عصاته


يناير 21, 2019

محمد صادق الحسيني

الفشل المحقق يلاحق قادة العدو الصهيوني والسماء السورية باتت حراماً عليهم والبحر المتوسط بات ملاذ الخائبين…!
بعد خمسة أيّام فقط من توليه منصب قائد أركان الجيش الإسرائيلي رسمياً، بتاريخ 15/1/2019، اتخذ الجنرال أفيف كوخافي أول قرار قتالي، وذلك عبر موافقته على قرار رئاسة أركان سلاح الجو الإسرائيلي القاضي بتنفيذ غارة جوية على مطار دمشق الدولي ظهر أمس، حيث قامت أربع طائرات حربية «إسرائيلية» بتنفيذ محاولة إغارة على المطار السوري وذلك من أجواء البحر المتوسط المقابلة لبلدة برجا اللبنانية/ قضاء الشوف.
وكما فشل ما قبلها من الغارات فإنّ يقظة سلاح الدفاع الجوي السوري وجهوزية طواقمه العالية قد أفشلت هذه الغارة أيضاً. إذ تمّ إسقاط جميع الصواريخ «الإسرائيلية» دون أن تصل الى الهدف الذي يعرف نتن ياهو ورئيس أركانه أنه أصبح من المحرّمات عليهما.
وعلى الرغم من تيقنهما من ذلك إلا أنهما أقدما على تنفيذ محاولة الإغارة هذه. فما السبب الذي دفعهم الى ذلك يا تُرى؟
إنّ السبب الحقيقي وراء هذه الخطوة هو المصلحة المشتركة بين نتن ياهو وكوخافي والمتمثلة في أنّ نتن ياهو يحاول الإفلات من التحقيقات القضائية التي تضيّق الخناق عليه بسرعة عبر تقديم نفسه للجمهور على أنه منقذ «إسرائيل»، بينما يحاول رئيس الأركان الجديد أن يعطي صورة قوية عن نفسه للجمهور «الإسرائيلي» خاصة أنه جنرال فاشل تماماً.
فقد كان هذا الجنرال قائداً لما يُسمّى بفرقة غزة. وهي فرقة المظليين رقم 98، في الجيش «الإسرائيلي» عندما اضطر هذا الجيش للانسحاب من قطاع غزة عام 2005. ثم شارك في هزيمة الجيش «الإسرائيلي» في لبنان سنة 2006، وعيّن بعد ذلك قائداً للاستخبارات العسكرية الإسرائيلية من سنة 2010 وحتى شهر 11/2014، حيث تمّ تعيينه قائداً للجبهة الشمالية في الجيش. ثم نائباً لرئيس أركان الجيش الإسرائيلي منذ شهر 5/2017 وحتى تعيينه رئيساً لهيئة الأركان العامة.
إذاً فهو قد فشل في إدارة المعركة ضدّ قطاع غزة وانسحب من هناك مهزوماً. ثم فشل في جميع المهمات التي كلفت بها فرقته المظلية في الحرب الإسرائيلية ضدّ لبنان عام 2006. وبعد ذلك فشل في تحقيق أيّ نجاح، خلال توليه قيادة الاستخبارات العسكرية، سواء في الجنوب اللبناني أو الجنوب السوري. يُضاف الى ذلك فشله المدوّي على الجبهة السورية، خلال قيادته للجبهة الشمالية، خاصة أنه هو نفسه صاحب نظرية إقامة المنطقة العازلة في الجولان السوري المحرّر. وهو أيضاً فشل في منع الجيش السوري وقوات المقاومة من تحرير الأراضي التي كان يسيطر عليها الإرهابيون المسلحون في الجولان والجنوب السوري. كما فشل هو ورئيس وزرائه في منع قوات حلف المقاومة من التموضع على طول خط الجبهة مع الجولان المحتلّ وصولاً الى حوض اليرموك.
إذن فهو صاحب مسلسل فشل لن تستطيع عنتريات نتن ياهو وأكاذيب وسائل إعلامه من تغييرها. فلا «اختراقاته» في دول الخليج ولا رحلات السفاري التي قام بها الى تشاد قادرة على تغيير وقائع الميدان التي تقول:
1- إنه عاجز عن اختراق الأجواء السورية واللبنانية وأصبح مضطراً لإطلاق ألعابه النارية من أجواء البحر المتوسط.
2- إنّ رئيس أركانه الجديد، الذي يريد الإيحاء بأنه لن يتوانى في مواجهة «الوجود الإيراني» في سورية، قد فشل منذ اللحظة الأولى، أي لحظة موافقته على تنفيذ محاولة الغارة.
3- إنّ هذا الجنرال الفاشل سوف يتوّج مسلسل هزائمه بالهزيمة الكبرى التي سيشهدها كيانه والتي يُعدّ لها حلف المقاومة كل العديد والعدة والتي ستنتهي حتماً بتفكك وزوال كيان الاحتلال لا محالة…!

بعدنا طيّبين، قولوا الله.

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The Corruption of the American Republic

By Michael Howard
Source
Capitol Hill a3e76
According to Gallup Poll, record numbers of American citizens—16 percent—are eager to permanently move to another country. For Americans aged 15-29, the figure nearly doubles to 30 percent. Likewise for the poorest fifth of the country, 13 percent of whom wished to emigrate under Obama. A quarter of these dreamers would reportedly select Canada as their new home, in spite of universal healthcare and other egalitarian horrors. And yet, Gallup also reports that the United States remains the number one destination for “potential migrants” in other parts of the world, mostly Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, not, alas, Scandinavia, Trump’s preferred source of immigrants.
What do we know that they don’t? For starters, life expectancy in The Land of the Free has been trending down for the last two years, which is more or less unheard of in a developed country not at war. Drug overdoses and suicides are way up, the latter by more than 30 points since 1999. Of the more than 39,000 deaths via gunshot in 2017 (the most in five decades), almost two-thirds were self-inflicted. There were more than 300 mass shootings in the US in 2018. Happiness, indeed, is a warm gun.
In other news, the richest 1 percent of Americans own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. About 40 percent of American families owe debt worth far more than the sum of their assets. Wages for working people, when adjusted for inflation, haven’t risen in more than four decades, and in fact peaked in 1973. The supposed unemployment rate is only “low” because it doesn’t factor in the untold numbers of people who have given up looking for decent jobs that don’t exist, shipped abroad thanks to bipartisan “free trade” agreements. The routinely cited figure of 4 percent is meaningless. Food insecurity, or “a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household,” affects over 40 million Americans, including 12 million children, per the USDA. Roughly the same number live without health insurance, unable to afford the extravagant premiums and deductibles.
At the same time, our corporate masters get fatter off wealth, not that they create, but rather fish out of the economy using rent-seeking tactics and horde in offshore tax havens. Economist Michael Hudson employs the term “fictitious capital,” which he describes as
purely extractive claims for income, as distinct from profits and wages earned from tangible means of production. Real capital referred to factories, machinery and tools, things that were used to produce output, as well as education, research and public infrastructure. But an ownership privilege like a title to land and other real estate, a patent or the monopoly privilege to charge whatever the market will bear for a restricted patent, without reference to actual production costs, does not add anything to production. It is purely extractive, yielding economic rent, not profits on real capital investment.
We the People, of course, must remain in blissful ignorance of these realities, lest we all immigrate to Canada or, better yet, come together and form a common front against corporate power and its marionettes on Capitol Hill. The latter prospect must never be allowed to materialize. Hence the identity politics game, in which all sides happily participate, egged on by the corporate media. Politicians play the game because it’s the only way they can appeal to their base. Subsidizing the rich, kicking working people into the gutter, destroying the planet and starting wars for all kinds of ulterior motives—all bipartisan projects—aren’t likely to mobilize voters. They require diversionary issues: guns, gay marriage, abortion, immigration, gender, patriarchy, white privilege, racism, statues, sexual misconduct, pronouns, Jesus, etc. Many are serious subjects worthy of attention and debate, but it’s important to recognize that they’re being exploited by the owners of the economy, and thus the country, as instruments of deflection and division.
These topics are permitted a place in the national discourse via the major media because they have nothing to do with class—indeed, they completely obscure the issue of class, pushing it beyond the margins of public consciousness. While we squabble about whether this or that building ought to be renamed, the ruling class is picking our pockets and using the money to populate Congress with loyal servants.
Bernie Sanders threatened to explode this long-standing architecture of psychological manipulation. Therefore he had to be stopped. And he was. But then Clinton got Trumped. There’s the rub. Trump the (Enfant) Terrible ascended to the throne, and the Crisis of Democracy commenced. Or so the crafty Dems would have us believe. In reality, Trump, with his deranged jingoism and petulant narcissism, is only marginally worse than the majority of miscreants infesting Washington, which is saying an awful lot. He’s a nasty scourge on what was already a deeply corrupted and diseased republic, no doubt God’s judgment on the US for all the bloody horrors it has unleashed upon the rest of the world.
Don says he has accomplished more in his first two years in office than any other president. Let’s take a look. So far he has used unilateral military force against a sovereign state twice, hacked the corporate tax rate down to 21 percent, quit the Paris climate accord, started a trade war with China, moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, stopped funding the UN program for Palestinian refugees, condemned the International Court of Justice, tried to pass a healthcare bill that would have thrown millions of Americans off their insurance, unilaterally voided the Iran nuclear deal, unilaterally imposed sanctions on Iran, Cuba and Venezuela, etc., threatened to militarily attack Venezuela, deployed more troops to Afghanistan, attacked migrants at the US-Mexico border, separated migrant children from their parents, enlarged the military budget to more than $700 billion, sent armaments to Kiev, expelled Russian diplomats over the dubious Skripal affair, negotiated a contract to sell billions of dollars’ worth of munitions to the barbaric regime in Riyadh, refused to condemn the cold-blooded murder of Jamal Khashoggi, blackmailed Africa by threatening to stop funding peacekeeping missions, hired reptiles Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, promised to terminate the INF, and promised to expand the US’ nuclear arsenal.
All of which is appalling; all must be opposed. As it happens, Trump’s main opposition, led by the Democratic Party and their toadies in the media, and known formally by their cultish name, The Resistance, are every bit as repellent and, yes, dangerous as he is. Even before Hillary Clinton lost the election, her campaign had an excuse up their sleeve: it was them Russians. Four months after the election, Clinton’s former propaganda minister Jennifer Palmieri revealed the new Democratic agenda in the Washington Post. “If we make plain that what Russia has done is nothing less than an attack on our republic, the public will be with us. And the more we talk about it, the more they’ll be with us.””Democrats should push for this relentlessly and above all else. They should talk about it in every interview.””If those Republicans feel enough heat for helping Vladi­mir Putin attack the United States to assist Trump, they will abandon the White House and support an independent commission.”
Let the neo-McCarthyism begin! Clinton’s formula worked like a charm. Soon a strident anti-Russia groupthink had solidified among the mainstream liberal media. Blind, deaf and dumb as a result of their personal hatred of Trump, readers of the New York Times and viewers of MSNBCswallowed every Trump-Putin collusion story whole, no matter how wild or unsubstantiated. Many turned out to be, literally, fake news. Glenn Greenwald wrote about this phenomenon at length for The Intercept. Journalists challenging or simply asking questions about the veracity of the official narrative were, are, dismissed as “useful idiots” and “Kremlin stooges” (ouch!). A long list of alternative media were slyly smeared in the Washington Post as pro-Russian propaganda websites. Maniacal conspiracy theorists became Collusion Gurus on Twitter and have since gained a degree of mainstream legitimacy, popping up now and then on cable news. War criminal George Bush was rehabilitated after giving a piece of candy to Michelle Obama. Neoconservative screwballs like Billy Kristol and Max Boot were embraced by The Resistance for their valiant anti-Putin conformity.
Moreover, the alleged Russian hack was likened to both 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, so often that the outrageous analogy grew banal and laughable—though not perhaps for those who lost friends and family in those genuine attacks on the United States. “This is our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11,” is how one particularly demented analysis in Politico concluded. “In the past, we have risen to the defense of our values, our ideologies and our institutions. It’s time for another fight.” Bomb’s away!
Therein lies the danger of The Resistance. Like all cults, its single-minded purpose, in this case confronting and provoking and isolating Russia, overrides all other considerations. Most cult members celebrated Trump’s most egregious doings, like attacking Syria and shipping weapons to Ukraine, both of which had the potential to ignite a major military crisis. This is what The Resistance craves. Conflict with nuclear Russia. What would you rather have: A president with a mind to collude with Russia, or one with a mind to invade Russia? I think, and fear, that a considerable percent of the American public would oft for the latter now. For that we can thank The Resistance.
New START, the treaty reducing and limiting active warheads stockpiled by the US and Russia, is set to expire in 2021. Putin spoke about it during his annual press conference in December, asserting that there “have not been any negotiations” with Washington to renew the agreement. “We know how to secure our safety. But, in general, it’s very bad for humanity as it takes us closer to a very dangerous line. It is a very serious question and it is a shame it is being underestimated … We are now witnessing the collapse of the international system of nuclear containment.” He’s been issuing these warnings for years. In 2016 he said: “You people in turn do not feel a sense of the impending danger—this is what worries me. How do you not understand that the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction? I don’t know how to get through to you anymore.” Indeed.
In their pathological mission to avenge their humiliating loss to Donald Trump, the Democrats and their mindless followers have completely lost the plot and are turning the entire world into a powder keg. Every candidate in the 2020 primary will have to have as a central pillar of his or her campaign a fanatic hostility to Putin and Russia generally. They’ll have to talk tough about taking Putin on, about defending NATO from nonexistent Russian aggression, about protecting the homeland from further Pearl Harbor-like attacks. Forget about rapprochement—how likely is an extension of New START? As we’ve seen, merely having a conversation with Vladimir Putin is now akin to high treason. Heaven forbid we open a line of diplomacy with Moscow and cooperate on issues of international security.
Regardless of who wins the White House in 2020, US-Russia relations will worsen—hard to envisage—and the risk of nuclear war will increase. Upgraded and modernized tactical nukes, designed for use on the battlefield, as they’ll only vaporize 10,000 instead of 100,000, are being manufactured and added to our weapons systems as I write. It’s a miracle we got out of the first Cold War alive. Now we’re marching, to the beat of the liberal war drum, headlong into another.
Meantime, the republic will continue to go to rot that the empire may live a little longer, all discretionary money going to the Pentagon and containing The Russian Threat. Infrastructure and education will decay, healthcare will remain a corporate racket, suicides will keep going up, life expectancy down, wages will stay static and, most consequentially, society will continue pulling itself apart, an organized fight for real equality more remote than ever before. All will be subordinated to the imperatives of corporate domination and military hegemony. Nothing else matters.
On September 17, 1787, Benjamin Franklin addressed the Constitutional Convention with the following words:
I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.
Two-hundred and thirty-one years later, have we become so corrupted?

Talk of Western intervention in the Black Sea is pure fantasy

January 19, 2019
by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia Times by special agreement with the author)Talk of Western intervention in the Black Sea is pure fantasy

Crimea is essential to Russia strategically and economically, but speculation over Ankara helping to boost the US presence in the Black Sea is far-fetched given Turkey’s energy deals with Moscow.

A power struggle over the Black Sea between Russia and the US plus NATO has the potential to develop as a seminal plot of the 21st century New Great Game – alongside the current jostling for re-positioning in the Eastern Mediterranean.
By now it’s established the US and NATO are stepping up military pressure from Poland to Romania and Bulgaria all the way to Ukraine and east of the Black Sea, which seems, at least for the moment, relatively peaceful, just as Crimea’s return to Russia starts to be regarded, in realpolitik terms, as a fait accompli.
After a recent series of conversations with top analysts from Istanbul to Moscow, it’s possible to identify the main trends ahead.
Just as independent Turkish analysts like Professor Hasan Unal are alarmed at Ankara’s isolation in the Eastern Mediterranean energy sphere by an alliance of Greece, Cyprus and Israel, Washington’s military buildup in both Romania and Bulgaria is also identified as posing a threat to Turkey.
It’s under this perspective that Ankara’s obstinance in establishing a security “corridor” in northern Syria, east of the Euphrates river, and free from the YPG Kurds, should be examined. It’s a matter of policing at least one sensitive border.
Still, in the chessboard from Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, Turkey and Crimea, the specter of “foreign intervention” setting fire to the Intermarium – from the Baltics to the Black Sea – simply refuses to die.
Ukraine Russia map

‘Russian lake’?

By the end of the last glacial era, around 20,000 years ago, the Black Sea – separated from the Mediterranean by an isthmus – was just a shallow lake, much smaller in size than it is today.
The legendary journey of Jason and the Argonauts, before the Trojan war, followed the Argo ship to the farther shore of Pontus Euxinus (the ‘Black Sea’) to recover the Golden Fleece – the cure for all evils – from its location in Colchis (currently in Georgia).
In Ancient Greece, steeped in mythology, the Black Sea was routinely depicted as the boundary between the known world and terra incognita. But then it was “discovered” – like America many centuries later – to the point where it was configured as a “string of pearls” of Greek trading colonies linked to the Mediterranean.
The Black Sea is more than strategic, it’s crucial geopolitically. There has been a constant drive in modern Russian history to be active across maritime trade routes through the strategic straits – the Dardanelles, the Bosphorus and Kerch in Crimea – to warmer waters further south.
As I observed early last month in Sevastopol, Crimea is now a seriously built fortress – incorporating S-400 and Iskander-M missiles – capable of ensuring total Russian primacy all across the eastern Black Sea.
A visit to Crimea reveals how its genes are Russian, not Ukrainian. A case can be made that the very concept of Ukraine is relatively spurious, propelled by the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of the 19th century and especially before World War I to weaken Russia. Ukraine was part of Russia for 400 years, far longer than California and New Mexico have been part of the US.
Now compare the reconquest of Crimea by Russia, without firing a shot and validated by a democratic referendum, to the US “conquests” of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. Moreover, I saw Crimea being rebuilt and on the way to prosperity, complete with Tatars voting with their feet to return; compare it to Ukraine, which is an IMF basket case.
Crimea is essential to Russia not only from a geostrategic but also an economic point of view, as it solidifies the Black Sea as a virtual “Russian lake”.
It’s immaterial that Turkish strategists may vehemently disagree, as well as US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker who, trying to seduce Turkey, dreams about increasing the US presence in the Black Sea, “whether on a bilateral basis or under EU auspices.”
Under this context, the building of the Turk Stream pipeline should be read as Ankara’s sharp response to the rampant Russophobia in Brussels.
Ankara has, in tandem, consistently shown it won’t shelve the acquisition of Russian S-400 missile systems because of American pressure. This has nothing to do with pretentions of neo-Ottomanism; it’s about Turkey’s energy and security priorities. Ankara now seems more than ready to live with a powerful Russian presence across the Black Sea.

It all comes down to Montreux

Not by accident the comings and goings on NATO’s eastern flank was a key theme at last summer’s biennial Atlanticist summit. After all, Russia, in the wake of reincorporating Crimea, denied access over the eastern Black Sea.
NATO, though, is a large mixed bag of geopolitical agendas. So, in the end, there’s no cohesive strategy to deal with the Black Sea, apart from a vague, rhetorical “support for Ukraine” and also vague exhortations for Turkey to assume its responsibilities.
But because Ankara’s priorities are in fact the Eastern Mediterranean and the Turkish-Syrian border, east of the Euphrates river, there’s no realistic horizon for NATO to come up with permanent Black Sea patrols disguised as a “freedom of navigation” scheme – as much as Kiev may beg for it.
What does remain very much in place is the guarantee of freedom of navigation in the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits controlled by Turkey, as sanctioned by the 1936 Montreux Convention.
The key vector, once again, is that the Black Sea links Europe with the Caucasus and allows Russia trade access to southern warm waters. We always need to go back to Catherine the Great, who incorporated Crimea into the empire in the 18th century after half a millennium of Tatar and then Ottoman rule, and then ordered the construction of a huge naval base for the Black Sea fleet.
By now some facts on the ground are more than established.
Next year the Black Sea fleet will be upgraded with an array of anti-ship missiles; protected by S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile systems; and supported by a new “permanent deployment” of Sukhoi SU-27s and SU-30s.
Far-fetched scenarios of the Turkish navy fighting the Russian Black Sea fleet will continue to be peddled by misinformed think tanks, oblivious to the inevitability of the Russia-Turkey energy partnership. Without Turkey, NATO is a cripple in the Black Sea region.
Intriguing developments such as a Viking Silk Road across the Intermarium won’t alter the fact that Poland, the Baltics and Romania will continue to clamor for “more NATO” in their areas to fight “Russian aggression”.
And it will be up to a new government in Kiev after the upcoming March elections to realize that any provocation designed to drag NATO into a Kerch Strait entanglement is doomed to failure.
Ancient Greek sailors had a deep fear of the Black Sea’s howling winds. As it now stands, call it the calm before a (Black Sea) storm.