Archive | October 21st, 2013

Iranian FM: I$raHell seeks to undermine nuclear talks


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif at the United Nations, September 26,2013. (screen capture: Youtube/Youtube News

Times of Israel

Iran’s foreign minister on Friday accused Israel of trying to undermine what he described as progress in Tehran’s nuclear talks with world powers.

The negotiations — which ended in Geneva on an upbeat note this week with Western and Iranian negotiators announcing a follow-up round early next month — are meant to reduce fears that Tehran is seeking a nuclear weapon.

Iran denies it’s pursuing an atomic bomb, insisting its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, and has resisted incentives and tough penalties aimed at curbing its activities.

The talks that ended Wednesday in Geneva managed to overcome months of deadlock and get negotiations going again between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany.

Since new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took office in August, senior officials from Rouhani on down have pledged to meet international concerns in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.

On Friday, Iran’s top representative in the talks, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, posted on his Facebook page that “there is a high possibility the talks would be disturbed through various efforts” on the part of Israel.

Zarif said these efforts reflect Israel’s “frustration and warmongering.”

Zarif did not elaborate but he was likely referring to Israeli appeals to the international community to maintain firm pressure on Tehran.

Israel, which considers a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to its existence because of Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, repeated calls for Israel’s destruction and ties to the Palestinian militant Hamas group and the Lebanese Hezbollah, has not ruled out a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Ahead of the Geneva talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran was merely trying to buy time and trick the world into dropping tough sanctions against it without making any significant concessions on its nuclear ambitions.

“Iran is willing to give a little and get a lot, if not everything,” Netanyahu said. “It would be a historic mistake to lift the pressure now, just before the sanctions reach their goal.”

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned against unguarded optimism over the talks, saying “it’s too early to draw conclusions” and that any gestures toward Iran should be “prudent,” given past difficulties in getting Tehran to provide more information about its nuclear activities.

The comments by Fabius to French legislators on Thursday contrast with more optimistic comments from some other participants at the talks in Geneva. Fabius also said that France “does not confuse appearances with reality.’”

In Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Emami Kashani, the leader of Friday prayers, told worshippers that Israel has been trying to portray Islam as an “uncivilized and cruel” religion. He also reiterated denials that Tehran seeks nuclear weapons.

“Iran is not disturbing the security (of the world) at all,” said Emami Kashani. “We consider nuclear weapons to be forbidden.”

In 2005, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, banned nuclear weapons in a religious decree.

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Breaking: Iran, US hold direct talks in Geneva


Geneva__ The U.S. and Iranian nuclear negotiating teams met here for one hour this evening, Iranian and American officials confirmed to Al-Monitor, in an exchange American officials described as “useful.”

“As had been expected, Under Secretary [Wendy] Sherman and members of the US delegation held a bilateral meeting with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister [Abbas] Araqchi and members of the Iranian delegation tonight, as the Iranians are doing with a number of delegations during these talks,” a senior State Department official said.

“The meeting took place at the UN Palais des Nations and lasted for approximately one hour,” the U.S. official said. “The discussion was useful, and we look forward to continuing our discussions in tomorrow’s meetings with the full P5+1 and Iran.”

Deputy Iranian negotiator Abbas Araghchi told Al-Monitor late Tuesday that the meeting with the Americans was good, and helped them further clarify positions.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister for European and American Affairs, Majid Takht Ravanchi, speaking briefly to Al-Monitor after the talks Tuesday, described the bilateral meeting with the Americans as ‘no big deal,’ and ‘useful.’ Ravanchi, who said he was educated in Lawrence, Kansas, before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, told Al-Monitor that after the meeting with the Americans, the Iranians held a bilateral meeting with the Russians.

Iran’s Fars News first reported the two teams were set to meet shortly. An Iranian official, asked about the report, confirmed it, saying the Iran side in the meeting with the Americans was led by deputy foreign minister Araghchi.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met for thirty minutes with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York last month. Noting the meeting, and the historic phone call between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and President Obama, a senior U.S. Administration official told journalists Monday that “rubicon” had been crossed.

“This is a direct consequence of Rouhani and Obama breaking the taboo,” Ali Vaez, senior Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group, said of the US-Iranian meeting here Tuesday.

The senior State Department official agreed Tueaday’s meeting was built on those previous two exchanges, and said it “demonstrates our continued commitment to bilateral engagement within the context of the P5+1.”

Western officials praised Iran’s presentation of its nuclear proposal to six world powers Tuesday as ‘very useful’ and very detailed, but have so far relayed few of its contents.

Talks are due to continue here on Wednesday.

Diplomatic sources suggested there was likely to be a follow on meeting in Geneva in a couple weeks. The Iranians would like Kerry and other Foreign Ministers to attend, and he would like to, sources said.

(Top photo: Iran presented a new nuclear proposal to six world powers in Geneva Tuesday. Second photo, Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, deputy Iranian negotiators Majid Ravanchi and Abbas Araghchi seated between them against the wall at a meeting in New York September 24, 2013.)



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Parliament Deputy Speaker: US-Iran Friendship Not Red Line


Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 8.38.14 AM

Days after members of Iran’s parliament welcomed a “parliamentary friendship” between the United States and Iran, deputy speaker of parliament and conservative politician Mohammad Reza Bahonar agreed that the formation of such a group is a positive step.


Bahonar said, “Parliamentary diplomacy between Iran and America must take shape before official diplomacy.” When asked if the formation of such a group were not a “red line,” he said that one of the weaknesses of the previous administration was that it did not use “public diplomacy,” and that “Official diplomacy has limitations that public diplomacy does not have. Public diplomacy can start with a soccer match, parliamentary consultations or lobbying.”

On the issue of lobbying, Bahonar added, “It’s possible to say that in the American congress, the Iranian lobby is not significant, but I believe that if we have five people there who support Iran — not that they believe in the system of the Islamic Republic, but they feel that their interests or their group’s interests lie in dealing with Iran — if we have this type of lobby, it is positive and not negative. Therefore, the administration must use public diplomacy.”

Bahonar added, however, that if the plan is not welcomed by the United States and “If Washington plans on pursuing a win-lose game in favor of itself, the previous direction will be repeated and we will pursue a win-lose game in favor of ourselves, which is defense of the heritage of the revolution.”

According to Etemaad, former parliament member Daryoush Ghanbari spoke to Khabar Online about Iran’s seventh parliament (2004), which initiated a similar parliamentary friendship group.

“The Supreme National Security Council at the time was not opposed to the formation of a parliamentary friendship group,” Ghanbari said. “But the extremists of the seventh parliament did not allow for the approval of this plan, which was presented by the Reformists of parliament.”

Al Monitor’s Back Channel blog reported yesterday that undersecretary Wendy Sherman and Iran’s Deputy foreign minister and nuclear negotiator held direct talks in Geneva. President Hassan Rouhani, former Presidents Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami and former officials have openly discussed the benefits and costs of better relations with the world.

At his 70th birthday party, Khatami said that if his idea for a “dialogue of civilizations” had been taken “more seriously by the companions of culture, education and religion and that if the painful cry for a coalition of peace had taken off and not gotten lost in … the maddening cry for a coalition for war … our situation and conditions would be better.” His comments made headlines on many opposition websites.

Yesterday, Rafsanjani also addressed the need for better relations with the world. He told a group of economic activists in the city of Kermanshah that economic problems will decrease if “the extremists allow us to have relations with the world.” Due to Rafsanjani’s website publishing an old interview in which he said that former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini opposed the “Death to America” chant, some in the crowd began to chant “Death to America.” However, according to video footage, his supporters praised Rafsanjani.

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Bedouin Resist I$raHelli Relocation Plans

Bedouin youths are seen in their tent in the village of al-Arakib, one of the dozens of ramshackle Bedouin Arab communities in the Negev desert that are not recognized by the Israeli state, Aug. 18, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
By: Mohammad Kayal

Although not fierce in intensity, the struggle of the Bedouins has been protracted and tenacious. Their demand has become a slogan for the Negev region: recognition. Ever since the Palestinian exodus of 1948, Israel has not recognized the Bedouin villages of the Negev, and has only limited legal recognition of the towns that the government built and forcibly moved the population into.

In 2003, however, the government made the unorthodox decision to recognize 13 villages. This implies recognition on the part of the Israeli state that these villages exist and have a presence in official data. It also implies that the authorities are dealing with them as legal populations, while unrecognized villages are deemed illegal, “intruder” settlements. The state has recognized 13 localities in the Abu Basma region including Abu Qrenat, Qasr al-Sir and Bir Hadaj, whose residents were forced to abandon it during the exodus but later returned despite the military rule. Israel annexed all these localities under the administration of the so-called “regional council,” a local governing body for a group of small populations in a particular area.

What have the Bedouins gained from this recognition? Nothing. Before, these villages — which were recognized a decade ago — with a population of more than 36,000, were denied basic services such as water, electricity, medical clinics, schools, transportation, roads and sewers. The houses were continuously demolished and the land was confiscated. Those services are still denied today.

Where does the problem start?

At the heart of this crisis lies an integrated Israeli policy that is applied everywhere: in Jerusalem, in the territories occupied in 1967 and even in Galilee and the Triangle area. The first principle of this policy is to break up issues and find a solution to each part of the occupation issue, taking the smallest details into consideration.

Recognizing the existence of these villages separated the issue from recognizing the Bedouin’s ownership of the land in the village. This means that Israel officially recognizes the existence of these villages, but the land on which the villages are built is the property of the state. The Bedouin do not have the historical right to the land that they have inhabited for hundreds of years.

At this point, the conflict turns into a struggle over land ownership, the only conflict that Israel can never compromise on. For Zionists, recognizing the Bedouin’s ownership of the land will unleash what they consider hell: people obtaining their rights. Everything Israel is doing in the Negev region is basically an attempt to settle the issue of “ownership claims,” which are the land claims filed by the residents of Negev to have their ownership rights recognized. A main part of the Israeli attempt to settle this issue is found in the Prawer Bill. Under this bill, the only way to prove the Bedouin’s ownership of their land is through official Israeli documents. Any colonial or Ottoman documents, even the British Archive photographs, proving this ownership will have no value. Moreover, archaeological and historical monuments — such as cemeteries and wells — are no longer valid to prove the Bedouin’s land ownership. The only way Israel will recognize the Bedouin’s ownership of the land is if they agree to sell it.

Following the official recognition of these villages, basic human services such as ambulances and water turn into tools to blackmail the Bedouin to cede their land. Education, electricity, medical clinics, mail service, official offices and many other services are denied by Israel until the Bedouin withdraw their ownership claims. For instance, in unrecognized villages, building permits cannot be issued, and any “illegal” construction is under threat of being demolished at any moment. It is a vicious and absurd cycle, though planned and rational. Although the maps of the regional council are available and 10 years have passed since the “recognition,” no building permits have been issued, and the Israeli demolition continues.

Children are the first victims

Despite the seriousness on all levels, there is something much more worrying at the basic humanitarian one. The negligence and marginalization that the Negev residents in these villages suffer are taking children’s lives. There are no medical clinics, particularly pediatric ones, responsible for vaccinations and follow-up on children’s health during infancy. According to Israeli statistics, the Bedouin infant mortality rate in the Negev is 275% higher than that of Israeli society. While 10.5 out of 1,000 Bedouin children die at birth, only 3.8 out of 1,000 Jewish infants are lost.

Without medical centers, transportation and roads allowing ambulances to reach villages, the safety of the Bedouin families remains precarious. Perhaps the story of Abdeh, one of the Abu Basma villages, most accurately describes the situation. After a long struggle, a medical clinic was opened in the village. Shortly after opening, it started working only three days per week. Then, it started working for limited hours during the day. Now, the only medical clinic in the area is open for only four hours per week. To make things worse, physicians working at the clinic are mainly from the medical center in the Jewish Mitzpe Ramon settlement. They often do not even show up for the four weekly hours because of the workload in the settlement. Only when the number of Jewish patients decreases do the Arab patients get their turn.

It is worth mentioning that the Israeli Ministry of Health has begun the enforcement of a law, under which there is a drastic reduction in allocations for children who did not get their vaccines. The law targets the poorest social segments. The occupation authorities have increased the people’s poverty based on a reality that the occupation itself imposed, and that people are demanding to change. This gains greater significance as Negev populations live in areas through which swamps of sewage and wastewater pass, as a result of the Israeli insistence on not linking the region to a sewer system until the land is ceded.

Why is the issue more urgent today?

The issue of villages recognized by Israel is pressing, and unfortunately, Israeli Arabs are taking too long to address it. The Prawer Bill, which will lead to the displacement of as many as 50,000 people living in the 40 not-yet-recognized villages, is near. It will lead to the towns’ demolition and settle the ownership claims over nearly 1 million dunams [386 square miles]. The main and almost only allegation with which the Israelis justify the Prawer Bill is that the population will be moved from the unrecognized villages to the recognized ones, so that they will benefit from the services and adequate standard of living there.

In addition to Israel stealing around 1 million dunams of land, moving around 50,000 additional people to the recognized villages will make the living conditions in these villages an unprecedented social catastrophe.

Israel is insisting on implementing its plans and resorting to a central weapon in this battle: leadership. For 10 years now, Israel has forbidden democratic elections of the president and the members of the Abu Basma Regional Council. It bans Bedouin from electing a person to represent them and their interests.

The state stalled and stuck with its oppressive policies until the court forced it to hold elections in response to a petition presented by the Adalah Center, which works in legal proceedings before Israeli courts in Negev issues. In response, the state declared the dissolution of the regional council and the re-establishment of two separate councils in order to gain 10 additional years to stall and implement its plans.

Who will stand up against this? The Negev leadership is divided between a conventional one and a youthful one, and the relations between them fluctuate. As both leaderships are clinging to a protracted struggle, the conflict comes down to the “aggressiveness” of their approaches. The conventional leadership is holding on to the option of legal proceedings, negotiations and middle ground, while the youth leadership believes that public action is the way to stop the displacement plans. However, the cabilities of the youth and their interaction with society are limited.

The Negev case is one of land ownership. This makes it a central issue in Palestine and in the colonial settlement setting. This is the last place in Palestine where the issue is still direct, clear and unwavering. Israel is trying to shift the issue into a conflict over services and budgets, just like it managed to do in other regions in Palestine. However, time and the way Bedouin are dealing with the land have changed, and so have the norms and the social and traditional structures. In spite of all the internal social criticism and debates, this is what protects the land today. The Negev is primarily characterized by its persistence, patience and enduring struggle. However, the question that the youth there ask themselves is one of necessity and legitimacy.

“Until when shall we remain the negative party in this conflict? Until when will we stand our ground, while being beaten, destroyed and marginalized? Until when will ‘aggressiveness’ be absent from our struggle?”

The above article was translated from As-Safir Al-Arabi, a special supplement of As-Safir newspaper whose content is provided through a joint venture of As-Safir and Al-Monitor.

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Despite Nobel Prize, Turkey ‘Losing’ in Syria

Weapons investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are seen in a frame grab from video inside their Damascus hotel after the organization won the Nobel Peace Prize, Oct. 11, 2013. (photo by REUTERS)
By: Fehim Tastekin
Translated from Radikal (Turkey).

Differences between the United States and Turkey over Syria are about to peak. The Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) actually sheds light on the rift between the positions of the two countries. It was not the OPCW that led the way to a process for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. Behind the scenes were Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, and on stage were Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry. And of course the third pillar was the Syrian government, which accepted the agreement to destroy its chemical weapons. No matter who says what, the peace prize went to Russia, the United States and Syria. The Syrian opposition and the regime agree only on one matter: The true recipient of the award is [Syrian] President Bashar al-Assad.

The prize also reflects the conviction that the OPCW will be successful in Syria. This is of course giving credit to Assad. Syrian officials also tout the award as confirmation of the “reliability of Damascus.”

Following the chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds in Ghouta, when the United States was contemplating a limited attack, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was advocating an attack that would bring the end of Assad. He said, “A limited operation will not satisfy us. It should be the way it was in Kosovo.” The United States — which was previously asserting that Assad had lost his legitimacy — suddenly appeared to be praising him. The strongest reaction to Kerry’s words of gratitude toward Syria came from Erdogan, who said, “Assad is a terrorist.”

In the midst of this duel, the Nobel Prize — by moving the issue from the subject of a possible military intervention as Turkey wanted — rewarded Assad by making him a partner of the international community, at least until the elimination of the chemical weapons is complete. On Oct. 3, Turkey had obtained parliamentary authorization for cross-border military operations by citing the threat of chemical weapons. The Nobel prize coincided with training courses at Gaziantep against chemical warfare, with the participation of the new Syrian “prime minister,” Ahmad Touma, who was elected by the Syrian National Coalition (SNC).

Worse, while the United States was distancing itself from the Syrian affair, after first contributing to the militarization of the uprising there, Turkey was left exposed as the country empowering al-Qaeda-style organizations. With the recent report by Human Rights Watch stating that the killers of Alawites in Latakia had arrived via Turkey, and The Wall Street Journal article that accused the Turkish intelligence services of acting as traffic policemen, directing shipments of weapons to Syria, Turkey could not escape being labeled an al-Qaeda supporter. More reports of discord between the United States and Turkey are to be expected.

The discord arising from the chemical weapons issue is now being felt in the political process as well. The United States has decided to work on the Syrian file with Russia, which means Qatar and Turkey’s time is up. According to the Lebanese daily As-Safir, the new Qatari emir, Tamim [bin Hamad al-Thani], has sent a message to Assad via Fatah official Abbas Zaki, relating his desire to improve relations. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who had relocated to Doha from Damascus, now says all popular movements must secure their rights through peaceful means. The wind has changed direction.

The United States, which could not get what it wanted from the Turkey-Qatar axis, has now turned to the Saudis. The latest move on the chessboard is to expedite the activities of Jordan-based operational centers and the move by Liwa al-Islam — which is controlled by the Saudi intelligence services — to set up an Islamic army in Syria with 50 groups that were attached to the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Although the Saudis might wish to push for the removal of Assad, the United States hopes to put pressure on al-Qaeda with moderate Salafists and empower the opposition before going to Geneva. The road to Geneva has too many potholes. It looks increasingly difficult for the Saudi protege, Ahmad Jarba, to take the SNC as a unified body to Geneva. The head of the SNC, George Sarba, who is close to Ankara, announced they are not going to Geneva, while with the defection of 13 religious groups from the military wing, the National Coalition has lost relevance. The FSA is in turmoil. FSA spokesman Fahd al-Masri called the chief of staff of his army a “tool of the intelligence services.”

Nevertheless, the United States can still overcome the reluctance of the Kurds and the National Coalition to participate in Geneva. The United States is coming close to the Russian position, which wants to see the Democratic Union Party and the Syrian National Coordination Council (NCC) in Geneva.

In short, although Turkey appears to be delighted that an organization led by a Turk has received the Nobel Peace Prize, we are on the loser’s side of the ledger.

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Dark Affairs Across Turkey’s Border

Family and friends mourn Shervan Muslim, the son of Saleh Muslim, in Kobani, Oct. 10, 2013. He died as result of gunfire by an al-Qaeda extension near Tel Abyad, while his father was abroad making contacts for Syrian Kurds. (photo by Facebook/Kurd.Britain)
By: Cengiz Candar

Poet-author Bijan Matour tweeted the other day, “The martyrdom of [Democratic Union Party (PYD) head] Saleh Muslim’s son is proof of the dignity of the resistance at Rojava. Everyone is at the front lines and all are fighting for their land.”

This sad testimony of dignity is the death of Shervan Muslim, the son of Saleh Muslim. He died as result of gunfire by an al-Qaeda extension near Tel Abyad, while his father was abroad making contacts for Syrian Kurds.

Saleh Muslim hails from Kobani [in northern Syria], a bit west of the location where he lost his son, just opposite the Turkish region of Suruc-Mursitpinar. I remember that when I asked Saleh Muslim where he was from, he responded, “Urfa” [a Turkish border province], instead of Kobani. He was right. Kobani is as close to Urfa as Suruc. The nearest place you can call a town near Kobani is Urfa.

Shervan Muslim was buried two days ago in Kobani. Officials of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), some of their members of parliament, and Democratic Society Congress members were there to offer their condolences. Saleh Muslim, however, being far from Syria, could not make it to the funeral in time.

Saleh Muslim has been constantly complaining that those attacking the Kurds were coming from abroad via Turkish soil. His son was killed on the eve of the Eid al-Adha holiday in such an attack. The sad event was full of symbolism.

For example, condolences for Shervan Muslim reflected the human, political and organizational affinity of the Kurds of Turkey and Syria. Aren’t the BDP and the PYD twin organizations, only separated by a railroad track that marks the Turkey-Syria border?

Shervan Muslim died to defend the land he lived on and for which he had dreams. Those who killed him are not from that land but were transported there. More than half of the members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) are from the Caucasus, the Asian subcontinent and Yemen. They came for jihad right on the Turkish border. Other al-Qaeda derivative outfits, like Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and the moderate Salafist Liwa al-Tawhid have no [personal attachment to] Rojava. They are not there to defend their own land.

Turkish officials consistently deny that Turkey is providing assistance or logistical support to pro-al-Qaeda groups, but I think only they believe their denials.

Amberin Zaman spoke with victims being treated at Ceylanpinar Public Hospital and wrote about it in the daily Taraf and The Economist. The Turkish daily Radikal published front-page accounts of those joining such groups from Turkey. The latest was Ridvan Akar’s interviews on CNN Turk with families whose sons have been taken to Syria from Turkey. Is the Turkish state unaware of this? Can’t they prevent it?

Actually, there is not a question of “impotency” or an “inability” to prevent [such from happening]. There is support that some officials in Ankara are slowly beginning to regret. Ankara’s assistance to al-Qaeda-affiliated or Salafist activities is becoming one of the serious disagreements — albeit invisible — between the United States and Turkey. This issue was raised at the May 16 White House meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In that restricted gathering, only Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan were with Erdogan.

Last week, a long article ostensibly about Hakan Fidan and authored by Adam Entous and Joe Parkinson appeared in The Wall Street Journal. You can immediately see that that the authors were well-briefed about what was discussed at the White House and that they had contacts with Turkish officials and Syrian opposition leaders. The most striking comment about the article was from Radikal’s Murat Yetkin, who wrote, “The White House might have wanted to send a message without directly targeting Erdogan by using Fidan, who it saw as a less troublesome target.” The following extracts from the WSJ article can give a better idea:

“At the White House meeting, the Turks pushed back at the suggestion that they were aiding radicals and sought to enlist the US to aggressively arm the opposition…”

“More recently, Turkey’s Syria approach, carried out by Mr. Fidan, has put it at odds with the US. Both countries want Mr. Assad gone. But Turkish officials have told the Americans they see an aggressive international arming effort as the best way. The cautious US approach reflects the priority it places on ensuring that arms don’t go to jihadist groups that many US officials see as a bigger threat to American interests than Mr. Assad.”

The following passages are particularly noteworthy:

“Mr. Erdogan wanted to remove Mr. Assad not only to replace a hostile regime on Turkey’s borders but also to scuttle the prospect of a Kurdish state emerging from Syria’s oil-rich northeast, political analysts say.

“Providing aid through the MIT [Milli Istihbarat Teskilati, Turkey’s national-intelligence apparatus], a decision that came in early 2012, ensured Mr. Erdogan’s office had control over the effort and that it would be relatively invisible, say current and former US officials.

“Syrian opposition leaders, American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats who worked with Mr. Fidan say the MIT acted like a ‘traffic cop’ that arranged weapons drops and let convoys through checkpoints along Turkey’s 565-mile border with Syria.”

It is not hard to understand that the Erdogan government or the state cannot anymore conceal their support for certain elements, which are also becoming security threats to Turkey. True, you cannot explain Washington dragging its feet to help the Syrian opposition only as a reaction to Turkey’s support for al-Qaeda derivative outfits fighting the Kurds, but no doubt this “bizarre and perilous relationship” pursued by Turkey is providing the US with plenty of pretexts to remain aloof.

Ankara nowadays is particularly perturbed by the ISIS. But isn’t making the ISIS a neighbor of Turkey an outcome of the policy Turkey had been pursuing since the beginning of 2012? The ISIS aims at establishing an Islamic emirate in a part of Syria on behalf of al-Qaeda.

If you make providing support to an “armed Islamic force” an invisible principle and objective of your Syria policy, just to prevent the possibility of an “autonomous Kurdish region,” you will be inevitably laying the foundation of being neighbors with al-Qaeda, even if that wasn’t what you had in mind.

Now you will better understand who may be behind the systematic denigration campaign against this writer over recent months and why.

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Saudi Women Prepare For New Driving Initiative


Saudi female activists have prepared for a protest on Oct. 26, where women will take to the wheel in an attempt to challenge the current ban on women’s driving. (photo by Facebook/Saudi Women to Drive)
By: Hayat el Ghamdi


Oct. 26, 2013, is a new date for Saudi women’s attempts to take to the wheel, as Saudi female activists launched the October 26 Initiative. The activists had created a website for the initiative, which was blocked after the number of supporters — including males and females — reached 12,000.

Saudi circles expected the October 26 Initiative to achieve a partial success in mobilizing Saudi society, by shedding light on one of the most important rights sought by Saudi women, who are still not allowed to drive in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women have not been granted this right.

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz said in 2007 that lifting the ban on women’s driving is a social decision, and the role of the state is to ensure the appropriate environment.

On Nov. 6, 1990, 47 Saudi women who held senior governmental positions staged a public protest by driving their cars in the capital Riyadh. This was the first and the most prominent step in the women’s movement for lifting the ban on women driving in the country.

Fawzia al-Bakr, one of the participants in the Nov. 6, 1990, protest, confirmed that she will not participate in the October 26 Initiative. She claims that she fulfilled her role in 1990, and that this responsibility has been passed on to the new generation.

According to Bakr, the October 26 Initiative expresses the need of a specific stage, while the movement in 1990 was an expression of a dream. She said that currently Saudi women and those who support them — in particular [male] family members — have undergone a radical change and therefore society has begun looking at women’s driving as a natural right that should be left to the decision of individual women. If they wanted to yield their right they should be able to do so, and they should also be entitled to refuse to exercise such a right, as is the case for women all over the world.

Bakr described the initiative as very normal, and said that it somewhat reflects the image of new Saudi women. She indicated that society must be ready for changes in women’s ambitions, visions of life and attitudes toward society, their husbands and their careers.

She stressed that the women being able to drive would be one of the mechanisms that could facilitate the country’s development initiative led by Abdulaziz. Bakr expected this initiative to be accepted more than the movement she led along with 46 other women in 1990. This is for several reasons, the most important of which is society’s [current] mind-set, in conjunction with the formal and social acceptance of this issue.

Bakr explained that social media allowed this initiative to have possibilities that were not available to her movement, in terms of communicating with people and mobilizing supporters. Moreover, this initiative benefits from positive awareness campaigns.

On a different note, Bakr stressed the need to issue laws to protect women from harassment and abuse.

Noura al-Ghanem, one of the other 47 women who participated in the 1990 protest, stated that the difference in time between their protest and the new initiative may be in favor of the latter. This is in the best interest of women in Saudi Arabia, in such a way that the demands they have been requesting for 23 years now would be met.

She added that social networks played a role in social awareness regarding the importance of women’s driving, which became a self-evident right. Ghanem expressed her concern from some extremist opponents and those issuing controversial fatwas.

Ghanem pointed out that the initiative would not be rejected by the government, since Saudi authorities stated that lifting the ban on women drivers is a social matter to be determined by society. It is worth noting that attempts by a number of Saudi women over the past few years to take to the wheel did not face a violent backlash, which implies acceptance.

Ghanem said that she will not participate in the October 26 Initiative, since she already played her role, and that now it is the turn of young enthusiastic women to accomplish the mission, noting that she eagerly follows up on all developments related to this initiative. She added that she believes the initiative will not be a rally or a revolution, but that women in Saudi Arabia will be driving cars without relying on men, wondering whether they will be provided with security protection or not.

This initiative faced much opposition on social networking sites, especially on Twitter, in an attempt to stop it. Perhaps the most notable objection was that of Sheikh Saleh Lohaidan, a Saudi cleric who said that driving has a negative physiological impact on women’s organs.

Ahead of the October 26 Initiative, a Saudi woman took her car on a drive in Takhassusi Street in the center of Riyadh, according to a video posted on YouTube. It is likely that this occurred at noon on Friday, Oct. 4.

The video showed the woman stopping at a traffic light and abiding by traffic laws, while her action did not stir any angry reactions from drivers in the street.

This was not the only incident, it was followed by a lady who drove her car in the city of Jeddah. The woman from this other video, which later went viral on social networking sites, said that she drove accompanied by a male relative and was not subjected to harassment and molestation. She added that no one stopped her, in reference to the traffic police.

The woman called on other Saudi women who possess a driver’s license to rely on God and start driving their own cars.

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Brazil Is Going To Block The NSA

By Jeff Berwick
The Dollar Vigilante 

The Brazilian government is looking to go as far as laying an underwater fiber optic cable directly to Europe so as to avoid routing the country’s Internet connections through the US

President of Brazil (photo: Wiki Commons)

President of Brazil (photo: Wiki Commons)

General Keith Alexander has admitted that Edward J. Snowden’s revelations have caused “significant and irreversible damage” to the US’s national security, and that national governments and terrorist organizations now know how to get around US spying.

He seems to underestimate the real damage: The NSA revelations are but another smear against brand USA in the global psyche, having done potentially as much damage as the Middle East wars started under President George W. Bush.

Even US allies are implementing mechanisms by which to keep the US from eavesdropping.

The Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced Sunday that the Brazilian government would be creating its own secure email system to shield official communications from spying by the US and other countries.

“We need more security on our messages to prevent possible espionage,” Rousseff wrote in Twitter posts on Sunday. She ordered the Federal Data Processing Service, SERPRO, to design a safe email system for use throughout the federal government. The agency is currently responsible for developing secure systems for online tax returns and also creates new passports.

Rousseff had earlier condemned spying against Brazilian government agencies attributed to the United States and Canada.

“This is the first step toward extending the privacy and inviolability of official posts,” Rousseff said.

After voicing complaints against US intelligence agencies to the United Nations General Assembly last month, as well as canceling a state visit to Washington, Rousseff announced that the country would host an international conference on Internet governance in April.

Brazilian media outlets in recent months have published documents detailing how the NSA has spied on Rousseff’s official communications, her associates and state-controlled oil giant Petrobras.

Recently, Brazilian TV network Globo reported based on documents leaked by Snowden, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) collected metadata for phone calls and emails to and from Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy.

Rousseff announced last week that Brazil would host an international meeting with governments, businesses, NGOs, civil society, and academia in April 2014 on Internet governance.

The Brazilian government is looking to go as far as laying an underwater fiber optic cable directly to Europe so as to avoid routing the country’s Internet connections through the US, while legislation to force US online service providers like Facebook and Google to  host information on Brazilian citizens solely in Brazilian data centers is also being considered.

NSA in Need of New PR Arm

General Alexander thinks this is all a big misunderstanding, and the result of mismanaged public relations on the part of the NSA.

The New York Times reported Oct. 12 that General Alexander acknowledged that the NSA had failed to respond effectively to the revelations brought forward by Edward Snowden, “the contractor who stole thousands of documents about the NSA’s most secret programs.”

“The way we’ve explained it to the American people,” he said, “has gotten them so riled up that nobody told them the facts of the program and the controls that go around it.”  The disclosures, Alexander assured, had enabled adversaries such as foreign governments or terrorist organizations to learn how to avoid detection by American intelligence and had caused “significant and irreversible damage” to national security.

Of course, General Alexander won’t just come out and tell Americans the truth. The N.S.A. totalitarian spying capabilities – the kind which the Soviets could only dream about – has nothing to do with protecting Americans and everything to do with monitoring and controlling them. That’s why we have been urging Americans to leave now. It’s only a matter of time before the currency controls are put in place, quickly followed by the closing of the borders. As it is right now, the N.S.A. is already gathering evidence from every email, phone call and online or electronic transaction to have a SWAT team sent to your door.

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US- Venezuela Relations: A Case Study of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism

By: James Petras

US relations with Venezuela illustrate the specific mechanisms with which an imperial power seeks to sustain client states and overthrow independent nationalist governments.  By examining US strategic goals and its tactical measures, we can set forth severalpropositions about (1) the nature and instruments of imperial politics, (2) the shifting context and contingencies influencing the successes and failures of specific policies, and (3) the importance of regional and global political alignments and priorities.[1]
Method of Analysis:
            A comparative historical approach highlights the different policies, contexts and outcomes of imperial policies during two distinct Presidential periods: the ascendancy of neo-liberal client regimes (Perez and Caldera) of the late 1980’s to 1998; and the rise and consolidation of a nationalist populist government under President Chavez (1999-2012).[2]
            During the 1980’s and 1990’s, US successes in securing policies favorable to US economic and foreign policy interests under client rulers fixed, in the mind of Washington, the optimal and only acceptable model and criteria for responding (negatively) to the subsequent Chavez nationalist government.[3]
            US policy toward Venezuela in the 1990’s and its successes were part and parcel of a general embrace of neo-liberal electoral regimes in Latin America .  Washington and its allies in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) promoted and supported regimes throughout Latin America , which privatized and de-nationalized over five thousand public enterprises in the most lucrative economic sectors.[4]  These quasi-public monopolies included natural resources, energy, finance, trade, transport and telecommunications.  Neo-liberal client regimes reversed 50 years of economic and social policy, concentrated wealth, deregulated the economy, and laid the basis for a profound crisis, which ultimately discredited neo-liberalism. This led to continent-wide popular uprisings resulting in regime changes and the ruse if nationalist populist governments.
The historical-comparative approach allows us to analyze Washington’s response to the rise and demise of its neo-liberal clients and the subsequent ascendency of populist-nationalism and howregional patterns and changes influence the capacity of an imperial power to intervene and attempt to re-establish its dominance.
Conceptual Framework:
The key to understanding the mode and means of imposing and sustaining imperial dominance is to recognize that Washington combines multiple forms of struggle, depending on resources, available collaborators and opportunities and contingencies.[5] 
In approaching client regimes, Washington combines military and economic aid to repress opposition and buttress economic allies by cushioning crises. Imperial propaganda, via the mass media, provides political legitimacy and diplomatic backing, especially when client regimes engage in gross human rights violations and high level corruption.
Conversely when attempting to weaken or overthrow a nationalist-populist regime, the empire will resort to multiple forms of attack including:[6] (1) corruption (buying off government supporters), (2) funding and organizing opposition media, parties, business and trade union organizations, (3) organizing and backing disloyal military officials to violently overthrow the elected government, (4) supporting employers’ lockouts to paralyze strategic sectors of the economy (oil),(5) financing referendums and other ‘legal mechanisms’ to revoke democratic mandates, (6) promoting paramilitary groups to destabilize civil society, sow public insecurity and undermine agrarian reforms, (7) financing electoral parties and non-governmental organizations to compete in and delegitimize elections, (8) engaging diplomatic warfare and efforts to prejudice regional relations and (9) establishing military bases in neighboring countries, as a platform for future joint military invasions.
The multi-prong, multi-track policies occur in sequence or are combined, depending on the opportunities and results of earlier tactical operations.  For example, while financing the electoral campaign of Capriles Radonski in April 2013, Washington also backed violent post-election assaults by rightist thugs attempting to destabilize the government in Caracas .[7]
Secretary of State John Kerry, while pursuing an apparent effort to re-open diplomatic relations via negotiations, simultaneously backed inflammatory declarations by Samantha Power, United Nations representative, which promised aggressive US intrusion in Venezuela ’s domestic politics.
US-Venezuelan relations provide us with a case study that illustrates how efforts to restore hegemonic politics can become anobstacle to the development of normal relations, with an independent country.  In particular, the ascendancy of Washington during the ‘Golden Age of Neo-liberalism’ in the 1990’s, established a fixed ‘mind set’ incapable of adapting to the changed circumstances of the 2000’s, a period when the demise and discredit of ‘free market’ client politics called for a change in US tactics.  The rigidity, derived from past success, led Washington to pursue ‘restoration politics’ under very unfavorable circumstances, involving military, clandestine and other illicit tactics with little chance of success – given the new situation.
The failure of the US to destabilize a democratically elected nationalist popular regime in Venezuela occurred when Washington was already heavily engaged in multiple, prolonged wars and conflicts in several countries ( Iraq , Afghanistan , Pakistan , Somalia , and Libya ). This validates the hypothesis that even a global power isincapable of waging warfare in multiple locations at the same time.
Given the shift in world market conditions, including the increase in commodity prices, (especially energy), the relative economic decline of the US and the rise of Asia, Washington lost a strategic economic lever – market power – in the 2000’s, a resource which it had possessed during the previous decade.[8]  Furthermore, with the shift in political power in the region and the rise of popular-nationalist governments in most of Latin America, Washington lostregional leverage to ‘encircle’, ‘boycott’ and intervene in Venezuela .  Even among its remaining clients, like Colombia , Washington could do no more than create ‘border tensions’ rather than mount a joint military attack.
Comparative historical analysis of the strategic changes in international and regional politics, economies, markets and alignments provides a useful framework for interpreting US-Venezuelan relations, especially the successes of the 1990’s and the failures of the 2000’s.
US-Venezuela Patron-Client Relations 1960’s -1998
During the 40-year period following the overthrow of the Dictator Perez Jimenez (1958) and prior to the election of President Hugo Chavez (1998), Venezuela ’s politics were marked with rigid conformity to US political and economic interests on all strategic issues.[9]  Venezuelan regimes followed Washington ’s lead in ousting Cuba from the Organization of American States, breaking relations with Havana and promoting a hemispheric blockade.  Caracas followed Washington ’s lead during the cold War and backed its counter-insurgency policies in Latin America .  It opposed the democratic leftist regime in Chile under President Salvador Allende, the nationalist governments of Brazil (1961-64), Peru (1967-73), Bolivia (1968-71) and Ecuador (in the 1970’s).  It supported the US invasions of the Dominican Republic , Panama and Grenada .  Venezuela ’s nationalization of oil (1976) provided lucrative compensation and generous service contracts with US oil companies, a settlement far more generous than any comparable arrangement in the Middle East or elsewhere in Latin America .
During the decade from the late 1980’s to 1998, Venezuela signed[10] off on draconic International Monetary Fund programs, including privatizations of natural resources, devaluations and austerity programs, which enriched the MNCs, emptied the Treasury and impoverished the majority of wage and salary earners.[11]  In foreign policy, Venezuela aligned with the US, ignored new trade opportunities in Latin America and Asia and moved to re-privatize its oil, bauxite and other primary resource sectors.  President Perez was indicted in a massive corruption scandal.  When implementation of the brutal US-IMF austerity program led to a mass popular uprising (the ‘Caracazo’) in February 1989, the government responded with the massacre of over a thousand protestors. The subsequent Caldera regime presided over the triple scourge of triple digit inflation, 50% poverty rates and double digit unemployment.[12]
Social and political conditions in Venezuela touched bottom at the peak of US hegemony in the region, the ‘Golden Age of Neo-Liberalism’ for Wall Street.  The inverse relation was not casual: Venezuela , under President Caldera, endured austerity programs and adopted ‘open’ market and US-centered policies, which undermined any public policies designed to revive the economy.  Moreover, world market conditions were unfavorable for Venezuela , as oil prices were low and China had not yet become a world market power and alternative trade partner.
US and the Rise of Chavez:  1998-2001
The US viewed the Venezuelan elections of 1998 as a continuation of the previous decade, despite significant political signs of changes.  The two parties, which dominated and alternated in power, the Christian democratic ‘COPEI’, and the social democratic ‘Democratic Action Party’, were soundly defeated by a new political formation headed by a former military officer, Hugo Chavez, who had led an armed uprising six years earlier and had mounted a massive grass-roots campaign, attracting radicals and revolutionaries, as well as opportunists and defectors from the two major parties.[13]
Washington’s successes over the previous decade, the entrenched ascendancy of neo-liberalism and the advance of a regional US ‘free trade agreement’ blinded the Clinton regime from seeing (1) the economic crisis and discredit of the neo-liberal model, (2) the deepening social and economic polarization and hostility to the IMF-USA among broad sectors of the class structure and (3) the decay and discredit of its client political parties and regimes.  Washington tended to write-off Chavez’s promises of a new constitutional order and new ‘Bolivarian’ foreign and domestic policies, including nationalist-populist reforms, as typical Latin American campaign rhetoric.  The general thinking at the US State Department was that Chavez was engaging in electoral demagogy and that he would ‘come to his senses’ after taking office.[14] 
Moreover Washington ’s Latin Americanists believed that the mix of traditional politicians and technocrats in his motley coalition would undermine any consequential push for leftist radical changes.[15]
Hence Washington , under Clinton , did not adopt a hostile position during the first months of the Chavez government.  The watchword among the Clintonites was ‘wait and see’ counting on long-standing ties to the major business associations, friendly military officials, and corrupt trade union bosses and oil executives to check or block any new radical initiatives emanating from Venezuelan Congress or President Chavez.  In other words, Washington counted on using the permanent state apparatus in Caracas to counter the new electoral regime.
Early on, President Chavez recognized the institutional obstacles to his nationalist socio-economic reforms and immediately called for constitutional changes, convoking elections for a constituent assembly, which he won handily.  Washington ’s growing concernsover the possible consequences of new elections were tempered by two factors:  (1) the mixed composition of the elected assembly (old line politicians, moderate leftists, radicals and ‘unknowns’) and (2) the appointment of ‘moderates’ to the Central Bank as well as the orthodox economic policies pursued by the finance and economic ministries.  Prudent budgets, fiscal deficits and balance of payments were at the top of their agendas.
The new constitution included clauses favoring a radical social and nationalist agenda.   This led to the early defection of some of the more conservative Chavez supporters who then aligned with Washington , signaling the first overt signs of US opposition.  Veteran State Department officials debated whether the new radical constitution would form the basis of a leftist government or whether it was standard ‘symbolic’ fare, i.e. rhetorical flourishes, to be heavily discounted, from a populist president addressing a restive ‘Latin’ populace suffering hard times but not likely to be followed by substantive reforms.[16]  The hard liners in Caracas , linked to the exile Cuban community and lobby argued that Chavez was a ‘closet’ radical preparing the way for more radical ‘communist’ measures.[17]  In fact, Chavez policies were both moderate and radical: His political ‘zigzags’ reflected his efforts to navigate a moderate reform agenda, without alienating the US and the business community on the one hand, and while responding to his mass base among the impoverished slum dwellers (rancheros’) who had elected him.
Strategically, Chavez succeeded in creating a strong politicalinstitutional base in the legislature, civil administration and military, which could (or would) approve and implement his national-populist agenda.  Unlike Chilean Socialist President Salvador Allende, Hugo Chavez first consolidated his political and military base of support andthen proceeded to introduce socio-economic changes.
By the end of 2000, Washington moved to regroup its internal client political forces into a formidable political opposition.  Chavez was too independent, not easily controlled, and most important moving in the ‘wrong direction’ – away from a blind embrace of neo-liberalism and US-centered regional integration.  In other words, while Chavez was still well within the parameters of US hegemony, the direction he was taking portended a possible break.
The Turning Point:  Chavez Defies the ‘War on Terror’ 2000-2001
The first decade of the new millennium was a tumultuous period which played a major role in defining US-Venezuelan relations.  Several inter-related events polarized the hemisphere, weakened Washington ’s influence, undermined collaborator-client regimes and led to a major confrontation with Venezuela .
First, the neo-liberal model fell into deep crisis throughout the region, discrediting the US-backed clients in Bolivia , Argentina , Ecuador , Brazil and elsewhere.  Secondly, repeated major popular uprisings occurred during the crisis and populist-nationalist politicians came to power, rejecting US-IMF tutelage and US-centered regional trade agreements.[18] 
Thirdly, Washington launched a global ‘war on terror’, essentially an offensive military strategy designed to overthrow adversaries to US domination and establish Israeli regional supremacy in the Middle East .  In Latin American, Washington ’s launch of the ‘war on terror’ occurred precisely at the high point of crisis and popular rebellion, undermining the US hope for region-wide support.  Fourthly, beginning in 2003, commodity prices skyrocketed, as China ’s economy took off, creating lucrative markets and stimulating high growth for the new left of center regimes.
In this vortex of change, President Chavez rejected Washington ’s ‘War on Terror’, rejecting the logic of ‘fighting terror with terror’.  By the end of 2001, Washington dispatched a top State Department official and regional ‘enforcer’ to Caracas where he bluntly threatened dire reprisals – destabilization plans – if Caracas failed to line up with Washington’s campaign to reimpose global hegemony.[19]  Chavez dismissed the official’s threats and re-aligned his nation with the emerging Latin American nationalist-populist consensus.  In other words, Washington ’s aggressive militarist posture backfired: polarizing relations, increasing tensions and, to a degree, radicalizing Venezuela ’s foreign policy.
Washington ’s intervention machine (the ‘coup-makers’) went into high gear:  Ambassador Charles Shapiro held several meetings with the FEDECAMARAS (the Venezuelan business association) and the trade union bosses of the CTV (Venezuelan Trade Union Confederation).[20]  The Pentagon and the US Southern Command met with their clients in the Venezuelan military.  The State Department increased contacts and funding for opposition NGO’s and rightwing street gangs.  The date of the coup had been set for April 11, 2002.  With the buildup of pressure, preparatory for the threatened coup, the Chavez government began to assess its own resources, contacting loyal military units, especially among the armored battalions and paratroopers.
In this heated and dangerous atmosphere, local neighborhood committees sprang up and mobilized the poor around a more radical social agenda defending their government while the US-backed opposition unleashed violent street clashes.[21]  The coup was warmly welcomed by Washington and its semi-official mouthpiece, the New York Times,[22] as well as by the rightwing Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar [23]
The illicit coup regime seized President Chavez, dismissed Congress, dissolved political parties and declared a state of emergency.  The masses and leading sectors of the military quickly responded in mass:  Millions of poor Venezuelans descended from the ‘ranchos’ (slums surrounding Caracas ) and gathered before Miraflores, the Presidential Palace, demanding the return of theirelected President – repudiating the coup.  The constitutionalist military, led by an elite paratroop battalion, threatened a full-scale assault against the palace. The coup-makers, realized they were politically isolated and outgunned; they surrendered.  Chavez returned to power in triumph.  The traditional US policy of violent regime change to restore its hegemony had been defeated; important collaborator assets were forced into exile and purged from the military. 
Washington had played a risky card in its haste and lost on several fronts:  First of all, US support for the coup strengthened the anti-imperialist sectors of Chavez’s Bolivarian movement.  Chavez discarded any residual illusions of ‘reaching an accommodation’ with Washington.  Secondly, the loss of key military assets weakened Washington’s hope for a future military coup.  Thirdly, the complicity of the business groups weakened their ability to influence Chavez’s economic policies and nudged him toward a more statist economic strategy.  Fourthly, the mass mobilization of the poor to restore democracy moved the government to increase spending on social welfare programs.  Anti-imperialism, the demand for social welfare and the threat to Venezuelan national security led Chavez to establish strategic ties with Cuba, as a natural ally.
Washington’s escalation of aggression and overt commitment to regime change altered the bilateral relationship into one of permanent, unbridled hostility.  Spurred on by its having supported a failed coup, Washington resorted once again to ‘direct action’ by backing a ‘boss’s lockout’ of the strategic oil industry.  This was led by ‘client assets’ among the executives and corrupt sectors of the petroleum workers union.
Washington implemented its ‘global militarization’ of US foreign policy.  Under the subterfuge ‘War on Terror’ – a formula for global intervention, which included the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and, the war against Iraq in 2003, imperial policymakers have plunged ahead with new aggressive policies against Venezuela.
The pretext for aggression against Venezuela was not directly linked to oil or Chavez’s appeal for Latin American integration.   The trigger was Chavez direct and forthright refusal to submit to a militarist global US empire as demanded by President Bush – one which conquered opponents by force and maintained a network of collaborator vassal states.  The oil conflicts – Chavez’ nationalization of US oil concessions and his appeal for regional integration, excluding the US and Canada, were a result of and in response to US overt aggression.  Prior to the US-backed April 2002 failed coup and the oil-bosses’ lockout of December 2002 – February 2003, there were no major conflicts between Chavez and US oil companies.  Chavez’s conception of the Bolivarian unity of all Latin American states was still a ‘vision’ and not a concrete program for action.  Chavez’s takeover of US oil concessions was a defensive political move to eliminate a powerful political adversary which controlled Venezuela’s strategic export and revenue sectors.  He did not intervene in European oil companies.  Likewise, Chavez’s move to promote regional organizations flowed from his perception that Venezuela required closer ties and supportive relations in Latin America in order to counter US imperial aggression.
In other words, US empire builders used (and sacrificed) theireconomic assets in their attempt to restore hegemony via military means.  The military and strategic dimensions of the US Empire took precedence over ‘Big Oil’.  This formed a template clearly evident in all of its subsequent imperial actions against Iraq, Libya and Syria and its severe economic sanctions against Iran.  The same hegemonic priorities played out in Washington’s intervention in Venezuela – but failed.
Contrary to some theorists of imperialism, who have argued that imperialism expands via economic ‘dispossession’ [24], recent history of US-Venezuela relations demonstrate that 21st US imperialism grows via political intervention, military coups and by converting economic collaborators into political agents willing to sacrifice US corporate wealth to secure imperial military-political domination.
The imperial policymakers decided to overthrow Chavez because he had defied Washington and opposed Bush’s global military strategy.  The White House thought it had powerful assets in Venezuela:  the mass media, the two major opposition parties, the principle business federation (FEDECAMARAS), the official trade union bureaucracy, sectors of the military and the church hierarchy 
Washington did not count on the loyalty and affection that the unorganized masses and the popular movements has for President Chavez.  Nor did imperial strategists understand that strategic military units, like the paratroops, retained nationalist, personal and political ties with their democratically-elected President.
Within 48 hours of the coup, Chavez was restored to power – striking the first blow to Washington’s ambitions for ‘regime change’ in Venezuela.  The second blow came with the defeat of the US-backed oil bosses’ lockout.  Washington had counted on its close ties with the senior executives of the state oil company (PDVS) and the heads of the oil workers union.[25]  Washington did not realize that about half of the oil workers and a number of company and union bosses would staunchly opposed the lockout while other Latin American oil producers would supply Venezuela and break the ‘bosses’ strike.
These twin defeats, the military-business coup and the bosses’ lockout, had a profound impact on US-Venezuelan relations.  The US lost its strategic internal assets – business and trade union elites who then fled to ‘exile’ in Miami or resigned.  Pro-US oil executives were replaced by nationalists. Washington’s direct imperial intervention pushed the Chavez government in a new, radical direction as it moved decisively from conciliation to confrontation and opposition.  The government of Venezuela launched a radical, nationalist, populist agenda and actively promoted Latin American integration.  Venezuela inaugurated UNASUR, ALBA and PetroCaribe, undermining the US-centered free trade treaty (ALCA). 
 Washington’s military-interventionist strategy was underminedby the loss of their key collaborators. The White House switched to its clients in the opposition parties and, especially, to so-called non-governmental organizations (NGOs) channeling funds via the ‘National Endowment for Democracy’ and other “front groups”.  They bankrolled a ‘recall referendum’, which was decisively defeated, further demoralizing the rightwing electorate and weakening remaining US clients.[26]
Having lost on the military, economic and electoral fronts, Washington backed a boycott of Congressional elections by the opposition parties- leading to the final debacle in its program to de-legitimize and destabilize the Chavez government.  Pro-Chavez candidates and parties swept the election gaining an overwhelming majority.  They went on to approve all of the government’s nationalist-social reform agenda.  The US-backed opposition lost all institutional leverage.
The US imperial failures from 2002-2005 did not merely ‘reflect’ mistaken policies; these signaled a more profound problem for the empire – its inability to make an accurate estimate of the correlation of forces.  This strategic failure led it to continue throwing its marginalized domestic assets into conflict with less resources and support.  Despite repeated defeats, Washington couldn’t grasp that popular power and nationalist allegiances within the military had successfully countered the US business-military intervention.  Political hubris underpinning a military-driven imperialist ideology had blinded Washington to the realities in Venezuela, i.e. Hugo Chavez possessed massive popular support and was backed by nationalist military officers.  Desperate for some political ‘victory’ in its conflict with the government of Hugo Chavez, Washington staggered from one adventure to another without reflecting on its lost assets or disappearing opportunities.  Washington did not understand the decisive political shifts occurring in Latin America and favorable global economic conditions for petroleum exporters.  Organizing a ‘recall referendum’ in the face of Venezuela’s double-digit growth, its radicalized population and the booming world prices for oil, was the height of imperial imbecility.[27]
Imperial Policy During the Commodity Boom 2004-2008
With virtually no collaborators of consequence, Washington turned toward the ‘outside’ destabilization strategy using its only loyal regional client, the death squad narco-President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia.  Bogota granted Washington the use of seven military bases, numerous airfields and the establishment of Special Forces missions- preparatory for cross border intrusions.  The strategy would be to launch a joint intervention under the pretext that Venezuela supplied and sheltered the FARC guerillas.
World events intervened to thwart Washington’s plans: the invasion of Iraq and the bloody occupation of Afghanistan, looming conflicts with Iran and low intensity warfare in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, had weakened the empire’s capacity to intervene militarily in Venezuela.  Every country in the region would have opposed any direct US intervention and Colombia was not willing to go it alone, especially with its own full-scale guerrilla war against the FARC.
Venezuela’s trade surplus and high export revenues rendered the traditional Washington financial levers like the IMF and World Bank impotent.[28]  Likewise, Venezuela had signed multi-billion dollar arms trade agreements with Russia, undermining any US boycott.  Trade agreements with Brazil and Argentina reduced Venezuela’s need for US food imports.
All the oil multinationals continued normal operations in Venezuela, except US companies.  The government’s selectivenationalization program and gradual increases in taxes and royalty payments undercut EU support for the US, given the high world price of oil (exceeding $100 dollars a barrel).  Chavez’s left-turn was well-funded. The oil revenues funded a wide-range of social programs, including subsidized food, housing and social welfare, healthcare and educational programs led to a sharp drop in poverty and unemployment.   This secured a strong electoral base for Chavez.  The ‘pivot to the Middle East’, following Bush’s declaration of the ‘Global War on Terror, bogged the US down in a series of prolonged wars, undermining its quest to regain regional power.[29]
More significantly, the ‘Latin Americanists’ in the State Department and Pentagon were stuck in the 1990’s paradigm of ‘free markets and vassal states’ just when the most important countries in the region had moved toward greater independence in terms of trade, greater intra-regional integration and social inclusion.  Unable to adapt to these new regional realities, Washington witnessed the region’s rejection of US-centered free trade accords.  Meanwhile China was displacing the US as the region’s main trading partner.[30]  Without its collaborator elites among the military to act as ‘coup-makers for empire’, the US-imperial reach shrunk.  Coups failed in Bolivia and Ecuador further radicalizing political relations against the US.
Washington did not lack partners:  New bilateral trade agreements were signed with Chile, Panama, Colombia and Mexico.  The Pentagon engineered a bloody coup in Honduras against a democratically elected President.  The National Security Agency engaged in major cyber-spying operations in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and the rest of the continent.[31]  The White House poured over six -billion dollars into Colombia’s armed forces to serve as a proxy for the US military.  These “gains” had little impact.  US support for the coup-makers in Honduras may have overthrown an ally for Chavez in ALBA but it led to even greater diplomatic isolation and discredit for Washington throughout Latin America. Even Colombia denounced the US coup against the Honduran president.  While US military support for Colombia contributed to some border tensions with Venezuela, the election of President Santos in Bogota brought significant movement toward peaceful reconciliation with Venezuela. Whereas trade between Colombia and Venezuela had fallen to less than $2 billion dollar a year, with Santos’ conciliatory policy it rose sharply to nearly $10 billion.[32]
Washington’s external strategy was in shambles.  The program of NSA cyber-spying against regional leaders, revealed by Edward Snowden, resulted in outrage and greater animosity toward Washington. The President of Brazil was especially incensed and cancelled a scheduled major state White House visit and allocated $10 billion dollars to set up a nationally controlled IT system.  Imperial policy makers had relied exclusively on interventionist strategies with military-intelligence operations and were clearly out of touch with the new configuration of power in Latin America.  In contrast, Venezuela consolidated its economic ties with the new regional and globaleconomic power centers, as the foundations for its independent policies.
 Washington viewed President Chavez and, his successor President Maduro’s regional strategy as a security threat to US hegemony rather than an economic challenge.  Venezuela’s success in forging bilateral ties, even with US clients like Colombia and Mexico, and a number of English-speaking Caribbean islands, undermined efforts to ‘encircle and isolate’ Venezuela.  Caracas success in financing and backing multi-lateral regional economic and political organizations in South America and the Caribbean, which excluded the US, reflects the power of oil diplomacy over saber rattling. 
Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program won the support of number of neo-liberal and center-left regimes in the Caribbean, which had previously been under US hegemony.  In exchange for subsidized oil prices, medical aid and interest-free loans, these US clients started rejecting Washington’s intervention.  ALBA brought together several center-left governments, including Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, into a common political bloc opposing US meddling.
ALBA rejected regime change via coups throughout Latin America and opposed Washington’s wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere.  Venezuela successfully joined the powerful economic bloc, MERCOSUR, enhancing its trade with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.  Venezuela’s strategic alliance with Cuba (trading its oil for Cuba’s medical services) made the massive Bolivarian health program for the poor a great success, cementing Chavez and Maduros’ electoral base among the Venezuelan masses. This undermined Washington’s well-funded program of ‘NGO’ subversion in poor neighborhoods.  Venezuela successfully undercut Bush and Obama’s efforts to use Colombia as a ‘military proxy’ when it signed a historic peace and reconciliation agreement with President Santos.  Colombia agreed to end its cross-border paramilitary and military incursions and withdrew its support for US destabilization operations in exchange for Venezuela closing guerrilla sanctuaries, re-opening trade relations and encouraging the FARC to enter into peace negotiations with the Santos regime.[33]  Santos’ embrace of Venezuela’s trade and diplomatic ties eroded Washington’s policy of using Colombia as a trampoline for military intervention and forced imperial policy-makers to turn to its domestic Venezuelan clients through elections as well as internal ‘direct action’, e.g. the sabotage of power stations and the hoarding of essential food and commodities.
While Washington’s imperial rhetoric constantly protrayed Venezuela as a ‘security threat’ to the entire hemisphere, no other country adopted that position.  Latin America viewed Caracas as a partner in regional trade integration and a lucrative market. US diplomacy does not reflect its trade relations with Venezuela:  only Mexico is more dependent on the US oil market.  However, Venezuela’s dependence on the US to purchase its oil has been changing.  In 2013 Venezuela signed a $20 billion dollar investment and trade deal with China to extract and export ‘heavy oil’ from the Orinoco Basin.  Venezuela’s deep trade ties with the US are in sharp contrast with the hostile diplomatic relations resulting in the mutual withdrawal of ambassadors and Washington’s gross interference in Venezuelan elections and other internal affairs. For example, in March 2013, two US military attaches were expelled after they were caught trying to recruit Venezuelan military officers.  A few months later, in September, three US Embassy officials were kicked out for their participation in destabilization activity with members of the far right opposition.[34]
Imperialism’s Multi-Track Opposition
US hostility toward Venezuela occurs at three levels of conflict:  At the country-level, Venezuela marks out a new development paradigm which features public ownership over the free market, social welfare over multi-national oil profits and popular power over elite rule.  At the regional level Venezuela promotes Latin American integration over US-centered Latin American Free Trade Agreements, anti-imperialism over “pan-Americanism”, foreign aid based on reciprocal economic interests and non-intervention as opposed to US military pacts, narco-military collusion and military bases.[35]
At the global-level Venezuela has rejected the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, ignored US trade sanctions against Iran, opposed Washington and NATO’s bombing of Libya and the proxy invasion of Syria.  Venezuela condemns Israel’s colonization and annexation of Palestine.  In other words, Venezuela upholds national self-determination against US military driven imperialism.[36]
Presidents Chavez and Maduro have presented a successful alternative to neo-liberalism. Venezuela demonstrates that a highly globalized, trade dependent economy can have an advanced welfare program.  The US, on the other hand, as it ‘globalizes’, has been eliminating its domestic social welfare programs in order to finance imperial wars.  Venezuela has shown the US public that a market economy and large social welfare investments are not incompatible.  This paradigm flies in the face of the White House’s message.  Moreover, US Empire builders have no economic initiatives compete with Venezuela’s regional and global alliances.  This situation is very different from the 1960’s when President Kennedy proposed the ‘Alliance for Progress’, involving trade, aid and reforms, to counter the revolutionary appeal of the Cuban revolution.[37]  Presidents Bush and Obama could only ‘offer’ costly military and police co-operation and worn-out neo-liberal clichés accompanied by market constraints.
Despite its severe diplomatic setbacks, regional isolation, the loss of its military platform, and an economic boom, driven by the high world price of oil, Washington keeps on trying to destabilize Venezuela.  Beginning in 2007, imperial strategy re-focused on elections and domestic destabilization programs.  Washington’s first success occurred when it backed a campaign against new constitutional amendments in December 2007 defeating Chavez by 1%.  This happened right after his substantial Presidential re-election victory.  The overtly socialist constitution proved too radical for a sector of the Venezuelan electorate.[38]
Since 2008 Washington has infused large sums of money into a variety of political assets, including NGOs and middle class university students’ organization engaged in agitation and anti-Chavez street demonstrations.[39]  The goal was to exploit local grievances.  US funding of domestic proxies led to extra-parliamentary, destabilization activity, like sabotage, disrupting Venezuela’s economy while blaming the government for ‘public insecurity’ and covering up opposition violence.
The business community started hoarding essential goods in order to provoke shortages and whip up popular discontent.  The opposition media blamed the shortages on state ‘inefficiency’.  Opposition political parties started receiving significant US funding, on condition that they unified and ran on a single slate in contesting elections and questioned the legitimacy of the election results (claiming ‘fraud’) after their defeat.
In summary, US efforts to restore its hegemony in Caracas involved a wide range of domestic clients from violent paramilitary groups, NGO’s, political parties, elected officials and manufacturing and commercial executives linked to the production and distribution of essential consumer goods.
The shifts in Washington’s policies, from internal violence (coup of 2002, oil lockout of 2002-03), and cross border military threats from Colombia (2004-2006), returning to internal domestic elections and campaigns of economic sabotage reflects recent attempts to overcome failed policies without surrendering the strategic objective of restoring hegemony via overthrowing the elected government (“regime change” in the imperial lexicon).
Seven Keys to Imperial Politics:  An Overview
Washington’s effort to restore hegemony and reimpose a client regime in Caracas has last over a decade and involves the empire’s capacity to achieve seven strategic goals:
1.)   Imperial capacity to overthrow a nationalist government requires a unified collaborator military command.  President Chavez made sure there were loyalists in strategic military units able to counter the coup-making capacity of imperial proxies.
2.)      Imperial capacity to intervene depends on not being tied down in ongoing wars elsewhere and on securing regional collaborators.  Neither condition was present.  The armies of the empire were bogged down in prolonged wars in the Middle East and South Asia creating public hostility to another war in Venezuela.  The plans to convert Colombia into an ally in an invasion of Venezuela failed because Colombia’s business elite were already shouldering significant trade losses due to the cross-border skirmishes and Washington had little or nothing in economic compensation or alternative markets to offer Colombian exporters and most of US “aid” (Plan Colombia) involved direct militarytransfers and sales – useless to domestic producers.
3.)        The imperial destabilization campaign wasted its strategic assets through prematureill-calculated and high-risk operations where one failure seemed to lead to even higher risk interventions in an effort to cover-up Washington’s bankrupt strategy.  The US-backed coup of 2002 was clearly based on poor intelligence and a grotesque underestimation of President Chavez’s support among the military and the masses.  Washington did not understand how Chavez’s astute institutional changes, in particular his promotion of loyalist sectors of the armed forces, undercut the capacity of its domestic collaborators.  Blinded by its racist and ideological blinders, Washington counted on its business allies and trade union bureaucrats to ‘turn-out the crowds’ to back the junta and provide a legal cover.  In the face of serious losses resulting from the subsequent purging of client elites in the military and business associations, Washington then unleashed its client oil executives and trade union officials to mount an oil lockout, without any support from the military.  Eventually the shutdown of oil production and delivery managed to alienate broad sectors of the business community and consumers as they suffer from fuel and other critical shortages.  In the end, over ten thousand US clients among senior and middle management were purged and the PDVSA (the state oil company) was restructured and transformed into a formidable political instrument funding Venezuela comprehensive social welfare programs.
Increases in social spending in turn boosted Chavez’s support among voters and consolidated his mass base among the poor.  Imperial strategists switched from failing to overthrow Chavez by extra-parliamentary tactics to launching an unsuccessful referendum and suffered a decisive and demoralizing defeat in the face of strong popular for Chavez’ social initiatives.  To make a virtue of its serial disasters, Washington decided to backed a boycott of the Congressional elections and ended up with near unanimous Chavista control of Congress and a wide popular mandate to implement Chavez executive prerogatives. Chavez then used his executive decrees to promote an anti-imperialist foreign policy with no congressional opposition!
4.)      The US’ ill-timed ideological warfare (both the ‘neo-liberal’ and ‘war on terror’ variants) was launched against Venezuela from 2001 on – just when revolts, uprisings and collaborator ‘regime change’ were occurring throughout Latin America.  The continent-wide rebellion against US-centered free-market regimes resonated with Chavez’s nationalist-populism. Washington’s ideological appeals flopped…  Its blind, dogmatic embrace of a failed development strategy and the continued embrace of hated clients ensured that Washington’s ideological war against Venezuela would boomerang:  instead of isolating and encircling Venezuela, there was greater Latin American regional solidarity with the Bolivarian regime.  Washington found itself isolated.  Instead of dumping discredited clients and attempting to adapt to the changing anti-neo-liberal climate, Washington, for internal reasons (the ascent of Wall Street), persisted in pursuing a self-defeating propaganda war.

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NSA Spied on Mexican Government for Years

By Andrea Germanos

New Snowden leaks reported on by German magazine Der Spiegel show Mexico was systematic target of NSA surveillance

edward snowden

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The National Security Agency (NSA) has been spying on top Mexican officials, including the president, for years, German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday.

The news marks the latest revelation of vast surveillance by the NSA made possible by leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Der Spiegel reports that a spying operation dubbed “Flatliquid” was carried out by the NSA’s “Tailored Access Operations” (TAO) department, which accessed in 2010 what the agency found to be “a lucrative source”—an email domain used by then-President Felipe Calderon and cabinet members.

The paper also revealed that in 2009, a separate successful NSA operation dubbed “Whitetamale” allowed the agency to hack into the emails of high-ranking officials in Mexico’s Public Security Secretariat.  Der Spiegel reports:


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This hacking operation allowed the NSA not only to obtain information on several drug cartels, but also to gain access to “diplomatic talking-points.” In the space of a single year, according to the internal documents, this operation produced 260 classified reports that allowed US politicians to conduct successful talks on political issues and to plan international investments.

The tone of the document that lists the NSA’s “tremendous success” in monitoring Mexican targets shows how aggressively the US intelligence agency monitors its southern neighbor. “These TAO accesses into several Mexican government agencies are just the beginning — we intend to go much further against this important target,” the document reads. It goes on to state that the divisions responsible for this surveillance are “poised for future successes.”

Last month, other documents leaked by Snowden showed that the NSA accessed the email accounts and telephones of both current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

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