Archive | May 21st, 2017

BBC goes full Big Brother in recent announcement

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OffGuardian

Brought to our attention by Mark Doran, a new BBC document dated May 2017 contains this bizarre threat to its licence-payers:

9. Offensive or inappropriate content on BBC websites

If you post or send offensive, inappropriate or objectionable content anywhere on or to BBC websites or otherwise engage in any disruptive behaviour on any BBC service, the BBC may use your personal information to stop such behaviour.

Where the BBC reasonably believes that you are or may be in breach of any applicable laws (e.g. because content you have posted may be defamatory), the BBC may use your personal information to inform relevant third parties such as your employer, school email/internet provider or law enforcement agencies about the content and your behaviour.

Here’s Mark’s screen cap of the doc:

Not only is this freakishly (yes, there’s no other word) Orwellian, it’s completely vague. Are the words “objectionable” and “disruptive” going to be employed like the words “hate” (currently being used to shut down discourse on social media), and “fascist” (currently being used by (often fascist) neoliberals to brand any serious criticism of globalism and the corporatocracy), to outlaw and/or punish dissident views? And what about “defamatory”? Is anyone calling Theresa May a malfunctioning Thatcher-bot going to be shopped out to her lawyers by the Beeb?

Clarification, at the very least, is urgently needed. Better still, the BBC should backtrack and guarantee it will remain a broadcast corporation and NOT presume to act as an arm of the state security system.

If you’re a concerned UK citizen, don’t hesitate to contact the BBC to express your views – though be prepared for a follow-up visit from the cops.

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This week in Palestine: Jewish Nazi forces kill three, refuse to negotiate with hunger strikers

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This week in Palestine: Israeli forces kill three, refuse to negotiate with hunger strikers

 Saba’ Obeid, Mohammad al-Kasaji, and Mohammad Bakr were killed by Israeli forces.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights documents crimes committed in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories in weekly reports. We summarize their reports and stories from other news agencies with the goal of informing Americans of the ongoing violence that Palestinian families face each day under Nazi occupation of their ancestral lands. The Jewish Nazi regime receives $3 billion per year in direct military aid from U.S. taxpayers.

May 11, 2017 – May 17, 2017

West Bank

  • The Nazi military continued its 50-year long military Nazi occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank, under which the 2.8 million Palestinians living there are subjected to a different set of laws and treatment than Nazi Jewish settlers (numbering 588,000) are.
  • Nazi sharpshooter shot 22-year-old Saba’ Obeid in the heart at demonstration supporting the Palestinian mass hunger strike, killing him. Nazi soldiers shot other demonstrators with rubber-coated steel bullets and teargas canisters and prevented journalists from entering the area.
  • Nazi police office killed Jordanian man Mohammad al-Kasaji, 57, in Jerusalem’s Old City after the man reportedly stabbed him. Palestinian sources said the officer is known for assaulting worshipers who come to Al-Aqsa Mosque (a Muslim holy site), including women.
  • Hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners in Nazi camp’s continued their hunger strike, which reached the 4-week mark. Many are now suffering life-threatening conditions, unable to move or stand, are vomiting blood, and and have had their salts confiscated by Nazi camp’s authorities. Many have been placed in solitary confinement, are being transferred from prison to prison, and are forced to stand to be counted or face severe fines in spite of their deteriorating health. Nazi officials continue to refuse to negotiate with them.
  • Nazi forces attacked demonstrations in support of the Palestinian hunger strikers and wounded 40 Palestinians, 13 of them children. Roughly half of the wounded were shot with live bullets or rubber-coated bullets. Nazi forces also damaged three ambulances.
  • Nazi forces attacked the weekly demonstrations against Nazi Separation Wall in Bil’in and Nil’in villages, dispersing the protesters with tear gas and live bullets, and beat some of them.
  • Nazi forces carried out 62 invasions of Palestinian communities, raiding and searching homes, and arrested 79 civilians, 9 of them children. One of those arrested and jailed was 67-year-old academic and writer Ahmad Qatamesh, who already spent 8 years of his life in Nazi camp without any charges or trial. A teenage girl was also arrested after Nazi soldiers invaded her family’s home at 2:00 in the morning.
  • Nazi authorities announced they planned to demolish four buildings in a Palestinian neighborhood because they were built too close to Nazi illegal Apartheid Wall.
  • Nazi police officer hit a Palestinian child with his vehicle in Jerusalem and fled the scene. In a different incident in the West Bank, Nazi Jewish settler hit a Palestinian man with his vehicle and deserted the scene.
  • Nazi forces uprooted 60 olive trees belonging to a Palestinian man.
  • Nazi forces erected several temporary checkpoints, restricting movement for even more Palestinians. (There are 27 permanent checkpoints and hundreds of physical roadblocks placed by Israeli forces. Palestinians are prohibited from using 41 roads totaling 700 kilometers in the West Bank; only Nazi can travel on them.)

Gaza Strip

  • Nazi regime continued its 10-year illegal land, sea, and air blockade of the Gaza Strip, strictly controlling the movement of all 2 million Palestinians living there.
  • Nazi navy forces killed Mohammad Bakr, a 23-year-old fisherman and married father of two, off the shores of Gaza on the 69th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba. The Nazi gunmen chased the boat, opened fire on the four cousins on it, shot Mohammad in the stomach, and ordered his cousins to hand him over before taking him away. He died of his wounds later that day.
  • Nazi navy forces opened fire at fishing boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip most days. They arrested six Gaza fisherman, including two children, confiscated a boat, and damaged another.
  • At 1:00 am, Nazi forces raided and searched the home of Hamas leader Essa al-Jabari, 51, interrogated him, pointed weapons at his wife and daughters, and then arrested him and confiscated his car.
  • Nazi forces continued to prevent most Gazans from entering or exiting the Strip (via the Nazi-controlled Erez crossing), allowing less than 2,000 people to travel.
  • Nazi forces arrested a Palestinian patient who was on his way to the West Bank with his mother to receive medical care.
  • Nazi forces opened fire on Palestinian agricultural lands near the border.
  • Nazi forces continued to prevent most exports from Gaza, allowing only some produce items, fish and aluminum scraps. There is just one Nazi-controlled crossing (Kerem Shalom) for the movement of goods. Nazi’s strict limits continue to severely cripple Gaza’s economy. Nazi officials told the U.S. that their goal is to keep Gaza “on the brink of collapse” and “‘functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.”

 

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US-Iran ties will continue to be problematic

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By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline 

Hassan Rouhani’s magnificent victory in Iran’s presidential election, polling as much as 57% of the votes, has once again proved the resilience and vibrancy of the country’s political system. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stuck to his word by preparing a level field for the candidates and allowing a genuine test of popular support. The western prognosis was that Khamenei wouldn’t want Rouhani to be re-elected. That turned out to be a totally biased assessment. Khamenei’s only appeal was that there should be a high voter turnout, which he regarded to be a vindication of the Iranian political system. In the event, over 70% of the electorate exercised their franchise.

The world capitals will heave a sigh of relief at the election result. Rouhani’s victory guarantees that Iranian policies will remain predictable for the coming 4-year period. His openness toward the West earned for Iran much goodwill in Europe. In turn, the firm stance taken by EU by backing the Iran nuclear deal – coupled with the strong endorsement by Russia and China as well – has left the US with no option but to fall in line. Candidate Donald Trump had vowed to tear up the nuclear agreement.

Ironically, President Trump may have knowingly contributed to Rouhani’s re-election by the perfectly-timed announcement in Washington on Wednesday that the US’ sanctions relief for Iran will continue. It was a gentle reminder to the Iranian people that their country’s isolation has ended, thanks to Rouhani’s stewardship.

However, it is also important to remember that Rouhani succeeded in concluding the nuclear deal only because of the robust backing of Khamenei at crucial junctures of the negotiation process. The deal had many critics within the Iranian establishment, including some powerful people. But once it became clear that Rouhani enjoyed Khamenei’s confidence, they fell in line.

Suffice to say, caricaturing Rouhani as ‘pro-West’ or Khamenei as ‘anti-West’ completely misses the point. Indeed, Iran too has its fair share of ‘westernists’ – like, say, India or Russia or China would have. In fact, the ‘westernists’ were quite visible in Rouhani’s government. Many cabinet ministers were products of American universities. (Rouhani himself had studied in UK.) But it is inconceivable that Iran will jettison its ‘strategic autonomy’. The potency of Iranian nationalism is such that despite close relations, Indians have often found their Iranian counterparts to be tough as nails at the negotiating table despite being great friends at a personal level.

Rouhani’s main opponent Ebrahim Raisi is a hugely influential figure in the religious establishment. His defeat was only possible because of Rouhani’s success in cobbling together a broad coalition of supporters from the middle class and the youth. Without doubt, he holds a mandate for ‘change’. Expectations will be high. But it is doubtful that Rouhani will be able to meet these expectations. Much depends on the cooperation he gets from the other centres of power within the regime.

With Rouhani at the helm of affairs in Tehran, the Trump administration is unlikely to resort to a confrontationist policy toward Iran. The US knows fully well that Iran’s military build-up is defensive in character. The Iran spectre enables the US to sell massive quantities of weapons to the petrodollar states in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia is just finalising a $100 billion arms deal with the US. (Iran’s military budget stood at $12.3 billion as against Saudi Arabia’s $63.7 billion.)

It is unlikely that the Iranians will roll back their missile development program. Missile capability is Iran’s main deterrence against US or Israeli attack. Tehran will simply ignore the Trump administration’s rhetoric against Iran’s missile programme.

The Saudi and Israeli lobbies have pulled all the stops to prevent or slow down any US-Iranian normalization in the recent years. They have a far more receptive audience in the Trump administration. On the other hand, conflict resolution in the Middle East becomes difficult for the US without Iran’s cooperation. In Syria, there are signs that the US is testing the waters to see how far Iranian presence on the ground can be rolled back.

Rouhani’s image as a ‘moderate’ does not mean that he will cave in, or that there will be an Iranian retrenchment in Syria (or Iraq). The policy calculus has been set in terms of preserving Iran’s core interests, which are of course non-negotiable. Tehran will remain watchful that its adversaries – US, Israel or Saudi Arabia – will not hesitate to use the ISIS as proxy to destabilize Iran and undermine the regime. Therefore, the war against ISIS and the politics of ‘resistance’ will continue to be key templates of Iran’s national security agenda. Rouhani can be trusted to carry forward the agenda.

In sum, the ball is really in Trump’s court. But he is unlikely to exercise the option of adopting a pragmatic policy toward Iran. It is all too obvious by now that money can easily corrupt Trump’s team – and the Saudis know how to operate in the Washington Beltway. Besides, there is a contradiction insofar as the US is unused to having “equal” relationships with other countries. Iran will insist on an equal relationship. It is a fiercely independent country and its nationalistic moorings run very deep.

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Militarization of Space: US X-37B Space Plane Lands After Two-Year Mission

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By Andrei AKULOV | Strategic Culture Foundation 

With public attention focused on other things, the United States has been deploying new and more sophisticated weaponry in space. Step by step the Earth’s orbit is becoming primed for war.

On May 7, the X-37B landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a 718 days mission in space. All in all, there have been four missions since 2010, each lasting longer than the previous one. Launched atop Atlas 5 rockets, the vehicles land like airplanes. The twin reusable vehicles, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle program, have amassed 2,086 cumulative days in space. The payloads and activities are largely classified. It is widely believed that the space planes are used for military purposes or are a weapon of some sort.

This X-37B carried at least two payloads on its latest voyage. The military revealed before the ship took off that it was carrying an experimental electric propulsion thruster to be tested in orbit and a pallet to expose sample materials to the space environment.

The unmanned X-37B resembles a miniature space shuttle. The vehicle is 29 feet (9 meters) long and has a wingspan of 15 feet, making it about one quarter of the size of NASA’s now-retired space shuttle. The unmanned robotic reusable vertical takeoff, horizontal landing spacecraft can re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and land autonomously. The robot can even adjust its course in space instead of following the same predictable orbit once it’s aloft. The spacecraft’s orbital endurance is enabled by its solar array, which generates power after deploying from its payload bay.

The altitudes used for military and exploration purposes today range from 0 to 20 km and from 140 km up. There is a void to be filled in between that is considered a potential theater of warfare. The X-37 is clearly a means to fill the void from «above» going down, while the Boeing X-51 (also known as X-51 Wave Rider) does it from «down» or from lower level going up. X-51 is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft for hypersonic (Mach 6, approximately 4,000 miles per hour (6,400 km/h) at altitude) flight testing.

The X-37B project’s total cost is unknown because the budget has been classified since it was transferred to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It’s almost certainly a spy plane, or, at least, a testbed for space surveillance gear and a launch platform for miniature spy satellites. The vehicle’s payload is enough to accommodate some spy equipment like cameras and sensors.

The vehicle has no docking hatch, so it cannot be used for small-size deliveries to the ISS or any other orbital station. It was also called a testing model for a future «space bomber» that will be able to destroy targets from the orbit. Some question whether the X-37B itself might be a delivery system for a nuclear bomb – whether the spaceship is intended to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on autopilot and dive-bomb an enemy target.

Dave Webb, chairman of the Global Network Against Weapons Nuclear Power in Space, said the X-37B «is part of the Pentagon’s effort to develop the capability to strike anywhere in the world with a conventional warhead in less than an hour», known as Prompt Global Strike. Some surmise the X-37B is a satellite-tracker or a satellite-killer. Or both.

It is generally believed that until now arms systems have not been stationed in space. Weapons of mass destruction are banned from space under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. But the Treaty does not prohibit the placement of conventional weapons in orbit. No international agreement on non-nuclear arms in space has been reached due to the objection of some states, including the United States. The US argues that an arms race in outer space does not yet exist, and it is therefore unnecessary to take any actions.

The US ballistic missile defense systems, its X-37B space planes, airborne lasers and GSSAP (Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program) spacecraft could be easily repurposed into weapons of space war. For years, Russia and China have pushed for the ratification of a legally binding United Nations treaty banning space weapons – a treaty that US officials and outside experts have repeatedly rejected as a disingenuous nonstarter. The United States does not come up with any initiatives of its own.

SALT I (1972), the first Soviet-American treaty on limiting strategic arms, included a mutual obligation not to attack spacecraft. In 1983 US President Ronald Reagan turned the tide by promoting the Strategic Defense Initiative that envisaged placing in space strike weapons to hit Soviet strategic missiles in flight. In 2002 President Bush Jr. abandoned the ABM treaty of 1972, which limited missile defense systems. Missile defense allows countries to develop offensive technologies under the pretense of defense. For example, Kinetic Energy Interceptors deployed in California and Alaska are launched into space to smash incoming missiles which presupposes the capability to destroy satellites as well. Obviously, the United States is ready to return to developing potential space strike systems, like, for instance, lasers, kinetic and particle beam systems.

The first ever draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT), was developed by Russia and backed by China to be introduced in 2008. The US opposed the draft treaty due to security concerns over its space assets despite the treaty explicitly affirming a State’s inherent right of self-defense.

In December 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a Russian resolution, ‘No first Placement of Weapons in Outer Space‘. The United States, Georgia and Ukraine were the only countries that refused to back the Russian initiative. Russia said it was prepared to work in the context of other initiatives, and had been an active and constructive participant in European Union-initiated activities on a draft International Code of Conduct for Outer Space. However, progress can only be achieved through fully-fledged negotiations with the participation of all interested States on the basis of a clear mandate under the auspices of the United Nations.

The current administration is bent on achieving space supremacy. Mark Wittington writes in a Blasting News article, «One of the significant changes that the incoming Trump administration is contemplating in defense is the development of space-based weapons». It adds, «One idea that has kicked around for decades is a system that would consist of a tungsten projectile and a navigation system. Upon command, these ‘rods from God’ as they are poetically called would re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and would strike a target».

President Trump’s policy advisers Robert Walker and Peter Navarro call for bringing the «Star Wars» concept back. They want the president to make the US lead the way on emerging technologies that have the potential to revolutionize warfare. According to them, an increased reliance on the private sector will be the cornerstone of Trump’s space policy. Launching and operating military space assets is a multibillion-dollar enterprise employing thousands, spurring innovation, spinning off civilian applications like GPS, and fueling economic growth. Defense Secretary James Mattis calls for bigger investments into space exploration for defense purposes. A provision to encourage the Defense Department to start a research program for space-based anti-missile systems was inserted into the 2017 defense authorization bill.

The weaponization of space will undermine international security, disrupt existing arms control instruments and entail a string of negative effects (things like space debris). It may spark a devastating arms race distracting resources from the real problems faced by humanity today. Strategic stability would be destroyed because space weapons are global in scope and capable of covert and surprise attacks on any point on the planet at any point in time. The deployment of space-based technologies will result in the rejection of new treaties to regulate nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.

This year the world marks the 50th anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty, which entered into force in October 1967 – an arms control deal reached in the heat of the Cold War. It was possible then, it is possible today. The issue of preventing weaponization of space through an international treaty should become part of the Russia-US-China agenda. If these states come to agreement on the issue, the world would become a much better place.

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“A Liberated Area in the Middle East”?: Western Imperialism in Rojava

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Part 1 of a 2 part series

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By Leftist Critic | Dissident Voice 

Over 17.1 million live in a socially democratic, secular state, the Syrian Arab Republic, ravaged by overt and covert imperialist machinations supported by Turkey, the Gulf autocracies, and the Western capitalist states. Their government is led by the National Progressive Front (NPF), with its most foremost party the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party which is joined by numerous radical and socially progressive parties. The NPF’s majority in the Syrian’s People’s Council, the Syrian parliament, was reaffirmed in the April 2016 elections by the Syrian people, elections which were predictably boycotted by the Western-backed opposition and predictably declared “unfree” by Western capitalists. President Donald Trump dealt the rationally-minded Syrians a blow that goes beyond his ill-fated show of strength manifested in the cruise missile attacks last month: direct US support of the Syrian Kurds who consist and are related to Rojava, officially called the “Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria” (NSR), “Syrian Kurdistan” or “Western Kurdistan,” to give a few names.

It is part and parcel of those in the Western and even international “left” to declare that the Rojava Kurds are “revolutionary” or somehow “liberated.” Here is a sampling from their arguments in favor of such a group when challenged on a radical left-leaning subreddit: (1) the Kurds are “very prudent” to get support from the West, (2) they aren’t against the Syrian government, they have “liberated people under ISIS control,” (3) the national borders were drawn by imperialists so “Kurdistan should have been a country in the first place,” and (4) Rojava have stated that they believe “a federal system is ideal form of governance for Syria.”1 This article aims to prove that such pro-Rojava perspectives are an unfounded and dangerous form of international solidarity.

US imperialist support for the Kurdish cause

Only a few days ago, Trump approved a Pentagon plan which would “directly arm Kurdish forces fighting in Syria,” specifically the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) comprised of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC), all of which are elements of Rojava.2 The US plans to use these groups to “mount an assault on Raqqa,” the de facto capital of Daesh, called ISIS in the West, which sits in the heart of Syria. The arming of such forces is a reversal of Obama-era policy but only to an extent. The armed support, according to one account, would consist of “small arms, machine guns, ammunition, armored vehicles, trucks and engineering equipment.” Another account added that these fighters would receive “U.S.-manufactured night-vision goggles, rifles and advanced optics,” all of which are used by US special operations forces. As a result, YPG fighters would begin to “bear strong similarities to other American-trained foreign special forces.”This support may relate to possibly imminent “massive invasion of Syria” by US and Jordanian forces in an effort to support their Free Syrian Army (FSA) proxies and enter areas adjacent to those controlled by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).

The US claimed it had been in “constant contact” with the Turks to assure them the Kurdish troops would not have “any role in stabilizing or ruling Raqqa after the operation,” with “local Arabs” (undoubtedly those chosen by the US and the West) governing the city afterwards. The Turks, who want the Western-backed FSA to lead the offensive, have been engaging in military strikes on PKK (Kurdish Worker’s Party) and YPG fighters within Iraq and Syria, which affects US special ops forces directly helping theses groups. The Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, which has a complicated but still imperial inter-relationship with the US, Nurettin Canikli, showed his anger on May 10 when he said that “the supply of arms to the YPG is unacceptable. Such a policy will benefit nobody.” This position isn’t a surprise since the Turks see the YPG as a branch of the PKK and are undoubtedly strongly anti-Kurd. Predictably the announcement of direct armament was received well by the Rojava forces. A SDF spokesman said that “the US decision to arm the YPG… is important and will hasten the defeat of terrorism” and Saleh Muslim, co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), another Rojava element, declared that “the Raqqah campaign is running in parallel with the international coalition against terrorism. It’s natural that they would provide weapons” to such Kurdish forces. Keep in mind this is the same person who called for the US to expand its military strikes on the Syrian government to other groups with purported chemical weapons, saying that Trump’s cruise missile attack will “yield positive results.”

Anyone with sense knows he is wrong. Arming of these Kurds will be cheered by the editorial boards of the bourgeois Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg News, former imperial diplomat Antony “Tony” John Blinken, and the president of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KNAS), Sherkoh Abbas, among many others.3

The same day that the organs of US imperialism announced that these Kurds would get arms directly from the war machine, Trump declared a “national emergency” in regard to Syria.4 He called the country’s government an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States” saying that it supported terrorism, undermined US and international efforts to “stabilize” Iraq, brutalized the Syrian people, generated “instability throughout the region,” and called for regime change, saying that there should be a “political transition in Syria” that will benefit the US capitalist class. This declaration in particular, released the same day as similar reauthorizations of other Obama era “national emergency” orders for the Central African Republic and Yemen, buttressed a 2012 executive order which delineated sanctions on the state of Syria! All in all, the Western imperialists know that Syria does not constitute this “threat” but they choose to portray it that way in order to justify continued massive war spending, which comprises at least half of the US federal budget.

Beyond these declarations, the US support for the “good” Kurds (“Good” by Western standards) is nothing new, mainly since 2014. The bourgeois media has reported, especially since January, about the “U.S.-Kurdish alliance” consisting of the US support of the SDF and YPG as effective front forces to “fight ISIS,” angering the Turks who consider such forces to be utterly hostile since they see it as an extension of the PKK, but the US imperialists care little about this gripe.5 The US is supporting these forces with 500 US special ops forces (half of the 1000 US troops stationed in the country), armored vehicles, and warplanes as “air support” for their offensives, along with some arms, even prior to the recent announcement. Some call these forces, which have been attacked by Turkey in the past and “accidentally” by US bombs, as “the vanguard of U.S. proxy forces on the ground” in Syria, undoubtedly dismaying two deluded Marxists who thought they were fighting for an “egalitarian utopia.”6

Such individuals should not be surprised. After all, a top US commander has defended YPG actions, claiming that they did not attack into Turkey, almost serving as a de facto spokesperson of the group. Lest us forget a press conference just last month where US Colonel John Dorrian, spokesperson for the US-led coalition bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan, slyly admits that the YPG, Peshmerga, PKK, and SDF/SAC are partners in their “anti-Daesh” bombing efforts. Additionally, such Kurdish forces have gained other avenues of support from settler-colonist Canada (also see here) and from the Russian Federation, which has given them, according to reports, money, equipment, and a seat at the negotiating table. Russian support is interesting since they are also supporting the Syrian government in its fight against terrorism, making one possibly wonder if their support for these Kurds is for some unspoken reason.

It gets worse. “Good” Kurdish leaders have said behind the scenes that they are willing to cooperate with Israel, the apartheid and murderous Zionist state which has given limited military support to Iraqi Kurds and bought millions of barrels of their oil, in line with Mr. Netanyahu’s declaration that “we should … support the Kurdish aspiration for independence…[the Kurds are] a nation of fighters [who] have proved political commitment and are worthy of independence” and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked who also called for an independent Kurdistan. These feelings add to their cooperation with the NATO criminals. It is evident that with the “help of US airpower” the YPG, along with SDF, has been able to take “control of an estimated 26,000 sq km (10,000 sq miles) of Syria,” including a 250 mile “stretch of territory along the Turkish border,” all of which constitutes Rojava.7 It is even more suspicious that US soldiers are advising and assisting SDF and YPG soldiers. They are, according to one report, assisting them in “targeting ISIS positions with mortars and laser guided air strikes,” with the YPG’s media office even telling local journalists, initially, to “not take video footage of the U.S. Special Forces” so people won’t know they are backed by ruthless imperialist foot soldiers.8

Even so, local fighters of the YPG are reportedly “pleased with the American presence.” In 2016, the State Department openly admitted such cooperation. Mark Toner declared that “coordination continues” with the YPG and SDF against the “common enemy” of Daesh. Spokesperson John Kirby said that the US had “provided a measure of support, mostly through the air” for such groups, “and that support will continue,” adding that “we have said that these Kurdish fighters are successful against Daesh…and we’re going to continue to provide that support” and spoke of a “partnership with Kurdish fighters.” More than these blanket statements, Talal Silo, a former SAA colonel and official spokesperson of the SDF, said the following, which shows that they are deeply tied to US imperial objectives:

It’s forbidden to negotiate with the Russians because we seek for an alliance with the United States. It’s impossible to communicate with any other party and to not lose the credibility of the international coalition. Of course, we are free, but we can not attack if there is not signal from the Americans. We will not unite with the Syrian army against ISIS because our forces operate only with the forces of the international coalition led by the United States. We are partners of the United States and the coalition. They make decisions. There can’t be a coordination between the Russians and us. Because first of all we have a strategic partnership with the international coalition led by the United States.

That’s not all. The US has also provided support to the Peshmerga, militia of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, part of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and escorted a PKK senior leader, Ferhad Şahin or Şahin Cilo, with over a 1 million bounty on his head by the Turkish government, through a crowd.9 The support for the Peshmerga also increased dramatically in recent days. The US State Department approved the Pentagon sending $295.6 million “worth of weapons, vehicles and other equipment” which includes but is not limited to “4,400 rifles, 113 Humvees and 36 howitzers.”10 These armaments, which only need simple congressional approval, assured in this political climate, would be used to arm two brigades of Peshmerga light infantry and two artillery battalions to assist such units. While few governments are on the record as publicly supporting independent or autonomous states in Syria or Iraq, apart from hawkish John McCain, the Peshmerga have been armed by Western European countries such as France and Germany, along with the Turks, while British special forces reportedly lurk within Syria in an effort to achieve imperial objectives.11

Earlier this month, there was another development in this realm: a plan to link Rojava with the Mediterranean Sea. This action, for which they will ask the US to support them politically (and implied militarily), the SDF forces would “push west to liberate the city of Idlib” which Hediya Yousef, a high-ranking official in Rojava said is part of their “legal right” to have access to the Mediterranean, from which he claimed “everyone will benefit.”12 Such an action would possibly empower such “good” Kurds even more, even as it would outrage Turkey, and would require agreement with the Syrian government along with the Russian Federation, which is unlikely. If Rojava achieved access to the sea, they would be an even more “effective” imperial proxy group since Western capitalist states could bring their military supplies to the coastline, rolling in heavy machinery, tanks, and maybe even set up a base of some type. It would be chaos and disaster for Syria of the highest proportions, helping in the disintegration of the region into a divided mess that could be easily manipulated by Western imperialists.

Is Rojava revolutionary?

Many have claimed that Rojava is “revolutionary.” One article by Wes Enzinna, an editor at the White hipster/”dudebro”/trash website, Vice Media, is an example of this. He writes that neither the UN, NATO, or the Syrian government recognize the “autonomous status” of the area, but says that this area, with over 4.6 million people by his count, enacts “radical direct democracy” on the streets, in his perception.13  He goes on to say that the territory is a “utopia” that is governed by an affiliate of the PKK, which includes, but is not limited to, six political parties, including the PYD and Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (KDPS). Additionally, apart from the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the Self-Defense Forces (HXP), YPG and all-female protection units, YPJ, protect the region from threats, with the latter two organizations, along with the PYD, major allies for the US in the region. Most interesting is the presence of Abdullah Öcalan, one of the PKK’s founding leaders, with his philosophy used throughout Rojava where he, as Mr. Enzinna claims, “looms as a Wizard-of-Oz-like presence.” It is worth pointing out that Mr. Öcalan, who has been hounded by the Turkish government since 1998, “repudiated the armed struggle and… the independence of Kurdistan,” with the PKK dropping its demand for an independent Kurdistan when he went into jail. He also asked Kurds to lay down their arms and went even further by declaring that there should be a “democratic union between Turks and Kurds.”14 According to reports, he clearly favors anarchist and anti-Marxist Murray Bookchin, Michel Foucault, French historian Fernand Braudel, and US sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein (the only one of the four with credibility), among a litany of other authors he read in prison, which is troublesome. Hence, he called for “democratic confederalism” in 2005, a model used in Rojava.

Mr. Enzinna isn’t the only one who makes such claims. Reuters‘s Benedetta Argentieri declared that the region values “gender equality,” especially in its military forces and has its “ideological foundations…laid by Abdullah Öcalan,” while others have declared there was an “ecological society” in place.15 Many examples of such perspectives, showing that the perception of  Rojava is “radical” and “liberatory” is widespread. Articles favoring this approach are in publications such as the Financial Times, the New York Times, The GuardianOpen Democracy, Slate, Dissent, Roar MagazineDeutsche WelleAFP, CeaseFire magazine, Telesur English, and Quartz.16 Writers have gone on to dub the region “a thriving experiment in direct democracy,” “a precious experiment in direct democracy,” “a remarkable democratic experiment,” “a revolution in consciousness,” and “a Kurdish region… ruled by militant feminist anarchists.” Others echo the same sentiment, calling it “a liberated area in the Middle East” (which is used in the title of this article), “political and cultural revolution,” “a social and political revolution,” “a participatory alternative to the tyrannical states of the region,” “the safest place in Syria,” and “a new radical society.”

Beyond this, AK Press’s A Small Key Can Open A Large Door: The Rojava Revolution, if it is to be believed at all, argues that the PYD launched a plan for the economy of the region which levies no taxes on the populace and abolished “traditional” private property such as “buildings, land, and infrastructure” but this did not extend to commodities such as automobiles, machines, electronics, and furniture. Even this book admits that only about a third of the worker councils have been set up in the region and that there is vagueness on how this region will relate to “other economies inside and outside of Syria.” After all,  much of the economic activity in the region comes from, as the book argues, “black market oil… sold outside the region” and as a result there are looming questions about the mechanics “trading relationships between other governments” if the embargo levied on them by the Turks is lifted.

By saying all of this about Rojava, some supporters may be cheering, saying that they were right all along. In fact, they can’t be more wrong. For one, European Parliamentarians are chummy with the PYD, who says that Turkey still supports Daesh, even as they claim that their meeting with legislators of Western capitalist states is not a form of propaganda. This political party, the PYD, was even left out of Syrian peace talks originally, but later was allowed in, with the Russians, in their illegal and unconscionable draft for the Syrian constitution, decentralized powers, which could be seen as “a potential concession aimed to gain the favor of the de-facto autonomous Kurdish cantons of northern Syria.”17

This is only the tip of the iceberg. The co-chair of the PYD, Mr. Saleh Muslim, has spoken at the British Parliament and has met with the Catalan parliament, where he declared that they are mainly at “war” with Daesh, not dismissing hostile actions toward the Syrian government. He further declared that they do not want to continue “under the old model of nation-state,” which he claims exists in Iraq and Syria, and said “we want to be part of Syria, but part of a democratic Syria.” If this doesn’t sound in line with imperialist goals, then I don’t know what is. It is also worth pointing out that the PYD attended a conference in Western Europe, in Belgium, eight Rojava legislators had a six-day visit to Japan, high-ranking YPJ and PYD officials talked to the Italian parliament and met senior Italian officials. Additionally, Rojava representatives attended a “conference in Athens… to mark the 17th anniversary of the capture of Abdullah Ocalan” and met with French representatives (along with the YPJ). The latter is important to note since the French have supported these “good” Kurds on the battlefield, just like Albania, and even want to open a cultural center in Rihava.

Then there’s the undeniable fact that Rojava has representative offices in numerous Western capitalist countries: Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, and France. Other news notes that the PYD has an office in Russia and has received support from Finland, which has begun “financing projects with development funds allocated to non-governmental organizations to strengthen Syrian Kurdish Region governance.” The only country that has rescinded diplomatic ties with Rojava is the Czech Republic, where a representative office opened in April but was shut down by December even as a story the previous month said that other than Albania, “the Czech Republic is one of the main sources of weapons flowing to the YPG via the US-led coalition against IS.” The representative office, as a story reported, was shut down because “it failed to win the recognition of Czech politicians” and the office seems to have faced problems related to security threats and diplomacy. Also, the “Turkish embassy in Prague [tried]… to undermine the activities of the office” even as Czech politicians see support of Rojava as a way to support an independent, autonomous Kurdistan, undermining the status of this office within the country.

The relationship between the “good” Kurds and Turkey is complicated. In 2013 and 2014, Turkey favorably received the PYD. However, as it currently stands, Turkey has an economic blockade on Rojava, as they attempt to diplomatically isolate them, opposes US support of the YPG, and supports anti-Rojava terrorists including Daesh.18 Turkey has gone even farther than just these measures. They’ve reportedly shelled Rojava, such as the settlements of Zur Maghar and Afrin, which has led to numerous civilians being killed, as Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) expand their military operations within Syria.19 In response, their actions were condemned not only by Germany but by Russia and neocon McCain. If Turkey engaged in such actions, they likely have public support. While Selahattin Demirtas, an imprisoned Kurdish leader of the “Kurdish-dominated People’s Democratic Party” or HDP, who has met with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and the Russian and US governments, has argued for countries to recognize Rojava, the Turkish public may think differently.20 Conspiracy theories purportedly dominate the Turkish political discourse and the Kurds, more often than not, are seen as part of a plot against the Turkish nation, leading to support for never-ending war against the PKK and seeming stagnation of political discourse.

Notes

  1. Other arguments ranged from claims that (1) Rojava wants some “degree of autonomy” while not fighting the Syrian government, (2) an independent Kurdistan could be anti-imperialist, (3) Rojava aren’t “disintegrating the region” but are rather “liberating people” from Daesh and will “unify with the Syrian government in the future,” that (4) such people are fighting “a battle for a better life way of living” while using available resources at their disposal, that (5) they have no choice but to ally with the West, (6) claims that Russia is imperialist, (7) that accepting weapons from the West forms “a positive relationship, in the hope for protection from Turkey,” and (8) that “Syria is by no means anti-imperialist.” The claims of Russia being imperialist is clearly incorrect by any reasonable measure, while saying that Syria is not anti-imperialist is a sentiment that hurts international solidarity. The one argument that accepting weapons from the West forms a “positive relationship” says it all.
  2. Missy Ryan, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Karen DeYoung, “In blow to U.S.-Turkey ties, Trump administration approves plan to arm Syrian Kurds against Islamic State,” Washington Post, May 9, 2017.
  3. Editorial Board, “Fixing Syria, Step 1: Arm the Kurds,” Chicago Tribune, September 23, 2016; The Editors, “Arm the Kurds,” Bloomberg View, August 5, 2014; Antony J. Blinken, “To Defeat ISIS, Arm the Syrian Kurds,” New York Times op-ed, January 31, 2017; Ariel Ben Solomon, “Are Syrian Kurds the missing ingredient in the West’s recipe to defeat Islamic State?,” Jewish News Service (JNS), March 23, 2017. Also, the New Republic (“One Group Has Proven It Can Beat ISIS. So Why Isn’t the U.S. Doing More to Help Them?”), Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Ed Royce, The Telegraph (“Water is not enough, we must arm the Kurds”), New York Post (“It’s time to really arm the Kurds”), The Guardian (“Arming the Kurds may help break up Iraq – but the alternatives are worse”), National Review (“Recognize Kurdistan and Arm It, against ISIS in Northern Iraq”), among others, support arming the Kurds, specifically those who support US objectives, of course.
  4. Declaring a national emergency gives the President power to deal with “any unusual and extraordinary threat… to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” Furthermore, such a declaration gives the President the power to “…investigate, regulate, or prohibit… any transactions… transfers of credit or payments… the importing or exporting of currency,” invalidate acquisitions by certain foreigners and even “confiscate any property” of foreigners coming from a country the US is at war with and are accused of planning, aiding, engaging, or authorizing hostilities against the United States.
  5. Louisa Loveluck and Karen DeYoung, “A Russian-backed deal on ‘safe zones’ for Syria leaves U.S. wary,” Washington Post, May 4, 2017; Associated Press, “Tensions rise after Turkish attack on Syrian Kurds,” Washington Post, April 26, 2017; Philip Issa, “Turkey threatens further strikes on US-allied Syrian Kurds,” Associated Press, April 30, 2017; Matthew Lee, “US criticizes Turkey for striking Kurds in Iraq, Syria,” Associated Press, April 25, 2017; Karen DeYoung and Dan Lamothe, “U.S.: Kurds will participate in some form in attack on Raqqa,” Washington Post, March 1, 2017; Matthew Lee, “US criticizes Turkey for striking Kurds in Iraq, Syria,” Associated Press, April 25, 2017; Karen DeYoung and Dan Lamothe, “U.S.: Kurds will participate in some form in attack on Raqqa,” Washington Post, March 1, 2017; Kareem Fahim and Adam Entous, “No decision yet on arming Kurds to fight Islamic State, Trump tells Turkish leader,” Washington Post, February 8, 2017.; Ishaan Tharoor, “The Russia-Turkey-U.S. tussle to save Syria will still get very messy,” Washington Post, May 4, 2017; Ishaan Tharoor, “What you need to know about Turkey and the Trump administration,” Washington Post, March 30, 2017;  Liz Sly, “Turkey’s Erdogan wants to establish a safe zone in the ISIS capital Raqqa,” Washington Post, February 13, 2017; Sarah El Deeb, “Turkey, Kurds, Russia, U.S. forces make up a confusing, violent pageant in Syria,” Chicago Tribune, March 11, 2017; Agence France-Presse, “Pentagon chief praises Kurdish fighters in Syria,” March 18, 2016.
  6. Liz Sly, “How two U.S. Marxists wound up on the front lines against ISIS,” Washington Post, April 1, 2017; Karen DeYoung and Kareem Fahim, “Turkey deports foreigners working with Syrian refugees,” Washington Post, April 26, 2017; Loveday Morris and Kareem Fahim, “Turkey expands strikes against Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq,” Washington Post, April 25, 2017; Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Missy Ryan, “U.S.-led coalition accidentally bombs Syrian allies, killing 18,” Washington Post, April 13, 2017; Liz Sly, “With a show of Stars and Stripes, U.S. forces in Syria try to keep warring allies apart,” Washington Post, March 8, 2017; Karen DeYoung and Kareem Fahim, “As a new relationship is tested, Turkey keeps high hopes for Trump,” Washington Post, March 9, 2017; Orhan Coskun, Tulay Karadeniz and Tom Perry, “Turkey’s Syria plans face setbacks as Kurds see more U.S. support,” Reuters, March 9, 2017.
  7. BBC News, “Syria conflict: Kurds declare federal system,” March 17, 2016; Liz Sly and Karen DeYoung, “Ignoring Turkey, U.S. backs Kurds in drive against ISIS in Syria,” Washington Post, June 1, 2016.
  8. Nancy A. Youssef and Wladimir van Wilgenburg, “U.S. Troops 18 Miles From ISIS Capital,” The Daily Beast, May 26, 2016; Jiyar Gol, “Syria conflict: On the frontline in battle for IS-held Manbij,” BBC News, June 15, 2016.
  9. Suzan Fraser, “Turkey strikes Kurds in Iraq, Syria, drawing condemnation,” Associated Press, April 25, 2017; Martin Chulov and Fazel Hawramy, “Ever-closer ties between US and Kurds stoke Turkish border tensions,” The Guardian, May 1, 2017; Mahmoud Mourad and Ulf Laessing, “Iraq’s Shi’ite ruling coalition opposes Kurds’ independence referendum,” Reuters, April 20, 2017; Loveday Morris and Kareem Fahim, “Turkey expands strikes against Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq,” Washington Post, April 25, 2017.
  10. Eric Walsh, “U.S. approves $295.6 million military equipment sale to Iraq: Pentagon,” Reuters, April 19, 2017; UPI, “US State Department approves arms sale for Peshmerga forces,” April 20, 2017; Tom O’Connor, “U.S. Military Set to Make $300 Million Deal to Arm Kurds Fighting ISIS in Iraq,” Newsweek, April 20, 2017.
  11. Karen Leigh, Noam Raydan, Asa Fitch, Margaret Coker, “Who Are The Kurds?,” Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2016; BBC News, “Germany to supply arms to Kurds fighting IS in Iraq,” September 1, 2014; Agence France-Presse, “Pentagon chief praises Kurdish fighters in Syria,” March 18, 2016.
  12. Mark Townsend, “Syria’s Kurds march on to Raqqa and the sea,” The Guardian, May 6, 2017.
  13. Wes Enzinna, “A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS’ Backyard,” New York Times Magazine, November 24, 2015.
  14. BBC News, “Kurdish rebel boss in truce plea,” September 28, 2006.
  15. Anna Lau, Erdelan Baran, and Melanie Sirinathsingh, “A Kurdish response to climate change,” OpenDemocracy, November 18, 2016; Benedetta Argentieri, “One group battling Islamic State has a secret weapon – female fighters,” Reuters blogs, February 3, 2015.
  16. Carrie Ross, “Power to the people: a Syrian experiment in democracy,” Financial Times, October 23, 2015; Carne Ross, “The Kurds’ Democratic Experiment,” The New York Times opinion, September 30, 2015. Ross is “a former British diplomat and the author of “The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century,” is working on a forthcoming documentary film, “The Accidental Anarchist.””; David Graeber, “Why is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds in Syria?,” The Guardian, October 8, 2014; Jo Magpie, “Regaining hope in Rojava,” Open Democracy, June 6, 2016; Michelle Goldberg, “American Leftists Need to Pay More Attention to Rojava,” Slate, November 25, 2015; Meredith Tax, “The Revolution in Rojava,” Dissent magazine, April 22, 2015; Evangelos Aretaios, “The Rojava revolution,” Open Democracy, March 15, 2015; New Compass, “Statement from the Academic Delegation to Rojava,” January 15, 2015; Jeff Miley and Johanna Riha, “Rojava: only chance for a just peace in the Middle East?,” Roar Magazine, March 3, 2015; Felix Gaedtke, “A Kurdish Spring in Syria,” Deutsche Welle, May 22, 2013; AFP, “Syrian Kurds give women equal rights, snubbing jihadists,” November 9, 2014; Margaret Owen, “Gender and justice in an emerging nation: My impressions of Rojava, Syrian Kurdistan,” CeaseFire magazine, February 11, 2014; Benedetta Argentieri, “These female Kurdish soldiers wear their femininity with pride,” Quartz, July 30, 2015; Marcel Cartier, “‘The Kurds’: Internationalists or Narrow Nationalists?,” Telesur English, April 20, 2017.
  17. John Irish, “Syrian Kurds point finger at Western-backed opposition,” Reuters, May 23, 2016.
  18. Meredith Tax, “The Rojava Model,” Foreign Affairs, Oct. 14, 2016; Graham A. Fuller, “How Can Turkey Overcome Its Foreign Policy Mess?,” LobeLog, February 19, 2016; David L. Phillips, “Research Paper: ISIS-Turkey Links,” Huffington Post, September 8, 2016; Natasha Bertrand, “Senior Western official: Links between Turkey and ISIS are now ‘undeniable’,” Business Insider, July 28, 2015.
  19. AFP, “Turkey accused of shelling Kurdish-held village in Syria,” The Guardian, July 27, 2015; Christopher Phillips, “Turkey’s Syria Intervention: A Sign of Weakness Not Strength,” Newsweek, September 22, 2016.
  20. Ishaan Tharoor, “The U.S. should accept a Syrian Kurdish region, says Turkish opposition leader,” Washington Post, May 2, 2016.

Leftist Critic is an independent radical, writer, and angry citizen and can be reached at leftistcritic@linuxmail.org or on twitter, @leftistcritic.

Posted in PoliticsComments Off on “A Liberated Area in the Middle East”?: Western Imperialism in Rojava

Hezbollah: Qassem’s jail a ‘state crime’ by Bahrain regime

NOVANEWS
Image result for Sheikh Isa Qassim CARTOON
Press TV 

Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah has lambasted a suspended jail term given by a Bahraini regime court on Sunday to the country’s Shia majority leader Sheikh Isa Qassem.

The court convicted the spiritual leader of illegal collection of funds and money laundering and sentenced him to one year in jail suspended for three years. It also ordered him to pay $265,266 in fines.

“This sentence is a new crime added to a series of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the [Bahraini] regime,” a Hezbollah statement said.

The charges emanate from the collection of an Islamic donation called Khums, which in Shia Islam is collected and spent by a senior cleric in the interests of the needy.

Qassem also faces expulsion from the kingdom after authorities revoked his citizenship last year. His defense lawyers refused to attend the hearings, which they saw as an attack on the country’s Shia Muslims.

Since 2011, the kingdom has been the scene of peaceful anti-regime protests against the systematic abuse of the Shia population and discrimination against them.

The Bahraini regime has responded to the protests with excessive and lethal force, which has drawn international criticism.

​Bahrain’s perennial rulers are allies of the West, including the US which has its Fifth naval fleet based in the tiny Persian Gulf country.

On Sunday, hundreds of protesters marched in the capital Manama after the verdict was issued against Sheikh Qassem.

Qassem’s residence in his native village of Diraz is under siege by regime forces in the face of a sit-in held outside the building ever since the regime revoked his citizenship.

Posted in BahrainComments Off on Hezbollah: Qassem’s jail a ‘state crime’ by Bahrain regime

Iran offers peace after bellicose Saudi threats

NOVANEWS

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (Photo by Mehr News Agency )
Press TV 

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iran is ready to present peace to Saudi Arabia as a gift after the kingdom’s crown prince threatened to draw war into the Iranian territory.

“A Saudi official has recently threatened to ‘have the battle in Iran’. I declare formally and in the name of the government of Iran today that we are ready to present peace as a gift to the entire region, foremost to Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Zarif’s announcement came in an article published on the London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed media outlet on Saturday, in which he spelled out Iran’s conditions for peace.

“The realization of this issue, however, depends on the Saudi government ending its futile war and deadly attacks against the Yemeni people and abandoning its crackdown on the pro-democracy majority in neighboring countries,” he added.

He was reacting to Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman who recently said, “We will work to have the battle in Iran rather than in Saudi Arabia.”

Zarif said, “Some Arab governments have drawn our region into instability in recent years through escalating their destructive policies and measures.”

“Promoting and supporting extremist ideologies and presenting a violent and unrealistic image from Islam on the one hand, and sacrificing the interests of the regional countries through promotion of instability, bloodshed and fratricide on the other sums up these policies,” he said.

“These bellicose measures altogether would ultimately result in nothing other than serving the greatest enemies of the Muslim and Arab nations,” Zarif wrote.

The minister said the policy line currently being pursued by Saudi rulers is helping “the Iranophobia project which has been initiated and promoted by the Zionist regime for years.”

“Today, the stable Iran is seeking stability in the entire region because it knows that achieving security at home at the expense of insecurity among neighbors is basically impossible,” the article read.

Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have escalated since the kingdom executed a prominent Shia cleric in January 2016.

The execution triggered angry protests in many countries, including Iran. Protesters attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad, prompting Riyadh to cut diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic.

The rupture was followed by exceedingly belligerent remarks against Iran by Saudi officials, including Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

On Monday, though, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said its response to such comments was that it did not seek tensions with Saudi Arabia.

Iran is critical of Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen which has killed thousands of civilians and destroyed the impoverished nation’s infrastructure over the past two years.

Tehran has also lashed out at Riyadh’s assistance to militants fighting to topple the Syrian government as well as its contribution to the ongoing crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Bahrain.

Zarif touched on US President Donald Trump who is currently visiting Saudi Arabia on his first foreign tour since taking office.

“If the American president sees himself as a friend of the Riyadh regime and is loyal to his election campaign slogans, he should talk to it about the ways of containing Takfiri terrorists in the region and preventing other 9/11s from being repeated in Western countries by Saudi citizens.”

Zarif said, “Iran is ready to cooperate with regional and extra-regional countries on fighting terrorism and extremism and helping restore peace and tranquility in Syria.”

Posted in Iran, Saudi ArabiaComments Off on Iran offers peace after bellicose Saudi threats

The Occupation’s Accomplice

NOVANEWS
Palestinian prisoners in hunger strike
By Meghna Sridhar Tripp Zanetis | Jacobin

Mass incarceration is a central pillar of Israeli occupation. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are waging a hunger strike to fight it.

On April 17, on the anniversary of Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, over 1,500 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons launched a mass hunger strike. A month later, 834 of the prisoners remain on empty stomachs — with several dozens now placed on “close medical watch” by Israeli authorities. The strike has drawn a wave of solidarity among Palestinians and has been met with severe repression by Israeli authorities.

Weeks before the strike erupted, we visited the military courts in the West Bank as a part of a delegation from Stanford Law’s International Human Rights Clinic. Observing the court proceedings drove home how the prison system serves as a core pillar of the occupation — and why the prison strike has attracted so much support among Palestinians.

The prisoners are demanding better conditions: improved access to family visits and phone calls; access to books, newspapers, mail, and educational opportunities; and an end to administrative detention and solitary confinement.

Yet at the heart of their struggle lies a more insidious problem: the sprawling military court system that has stripped them of their dignity and incarcerated over one in three Palestinian men since 1967. Palestinians imprisoned in Israel are sentenced by a court system run by the Israeli military, without any of the safeguards of the Israeli civilian courts. These military courts are predicated on a legal double standard: they only prosecute crimes against Israeli citizens or property; they do not prosecute crimes committed by Israeli settlers living in the Occupied West Bank, or crimes with Palestinian victims.

As strike leader and political prisoner Marwan Barghouti has put it, Israel’s military courts are an “accomplice in the occupation’s crimes.”

Israeli authorities have cracked down swiftly on the hunger strike — not only have they punished those who have protested, but they are also reportedly looking into setting up a separate military hospital to force feed those still on strike. Far-right National Union activists, meanwhile, have organized a barbecue outside the prison, seeking to mock the hungry prisoners with the wafting scents of grilled meat. And Pizza Hut released an advertisement taunting Barghouti to end the strike with a slice of their pizza.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon has said that the Palestinian prisoners are not political prisoners, but “convicted terrorists and murderers” who were “brought to justice.”

Our observations of the military courts — and the statistics — tell a different story. The courts prosecute between five hundred and seven hundred children each year — 79 percent, between 2010 and 2015, for stone throwing, which under the Israeli military’s own classification is only a “public order” offense. This crime generally involves youth throwing stones at military targets so distant that no bodily harm occurs.

Several other offenses that the military courts process are also nonviolent in nature. Incitement — a catch-all crime that could include posting anti-occupation status on Facebook — increasingly appears on the docket. Infiltration — which involves Palestinians illegally entering Israel in order to work, usually as manual laborers — also accounts for a fair share of the men brought before military courts.

There is a good reason that the practice of trying civilians — especially children — in military courts for such a prolonged period of time is unprecedented in an ostensible democracy. International law does allow military courts for civilians in the exceptional case of belligerent occupation. But the international laws governing occupation never contemplated a situation of a fifty-year occupation. And Israel’s military courts prove exactly why.

A staggering 99.74 percent of the cases heard in military court end in conviction: once accused, a Palestinian has little chance of mounting a successful defense. Evidence, especially when it pertains to children, is often the result of coerced confessions — but exclusion motions throwing out such illicitly obtained evidence are rarely successful. The court proceedings are entirely in Hebrew — a language almost all defendants, and most of their lawyers, don’t speak. Translations are often inadequate, or sloppy: we witnessed a translator walk out of the court midway through a proceeding. Most cases are resolved through guilty pleas — because, according to the attorneys we interviewed, defendants and defense lawyers alike are often punished for attempting to take cases to trial.

Palestinian prisoners, in short, are not just faced with harsh prison conditions, in prisons that their families have limited or no access to. They arrive in these facilities after facing a dehumanizing trial in a language that they do not speak, where the presumption of innocence does not apply, and where they face little chance of defending themselves successfully. When they put their bodies on the line with a hunger strike, they are doing so because the system offers them no other option.

That system must fall.

Mass incarceration is a central pillar of Israeli control over the West Bank. Improving prison conditions or adding procedural protections will not solve the problem. Only ending military control over the civilian population will deliver justice to the striking prisoners, as well as the millions suffering daily indignities on the outside.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on The Occupation’s Accomplice

Hamas rejects US president’s description of terror group

NOVANEWS

Image result for HAMAS LOGO

The Islamic right wing Hamas has roundly dismissed US President Donald Trump’s allegations against the Palestinian resistance movement, stating his description of the anti-Israel group exhibits his “complete bias” in favor of the Jewish Nazi regime.

“The statements describing Hamas as a terror group are rejected. They are a distortion of the image of our popular resistance and cause, and show full bias towards the Israeli Occupation,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement posted on his Facebook page on Sunday, Arabic-language Safa news agency reported.

He added, “Hamas is a national liberation movement that is legitimately defending the rights of the Palestinian nation and fighting against terrorism.”

“It is the Zionist entity that is practicing mass murder against our people and committing crimes against humanity, particularly the siege of the Gaza Strip, through the support of US officials,” Barhoum pointed out.

The statement came hours after Trump addressed the leaders of 55 Muslim countries in the Saudi capital city of Riyadh, and described Hamas as a terror organization.

Nazi military frequently targets the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls, with civilians being the main victims of such attacks.

Nazi has also launched several wars on the Palestinian sliver, the last of which began in early July 2014. The 50-day military aggression, which ended on August 26, 2014, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children. Over 11,100 others – including 3,374 children, 2,088 women and 410 elderly people – were also wounded in the war.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Nazi siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty in the coastal enclave.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, GazaComments Off on Hamas rejects US president’s description of terror group

President Emmanuel Macron: Reversing Five Decades of Working-Class Power

NOVANEWS
Image result for Emmanuel Macron CARTOON
By James Petras 

Introduction

Whatever has been written about President Emmanuel Macron by the yellow or the respectable press has been mere trivia or total falsehood. Media lies have a purpose that goes beyond Macron’s election. Throughout Europe and North America, bankers and manufacturers, NATO, militarists and EU oligarchs, media moguls and verbal assassins, academics and journalists, all characterized the election victory of Macron as a ‘defeat of fascism’ and the ‘triumph of the French people’.

Macron and ‘What People’?

First of all, Macron received only 46% of the actual vote. Over 54% of eligible French voters either abstained, spoiled their ballots or voted for Marine Le Pen, the nationalist populist. In other words, 26 million voters rejected or ignored Macron’s candidacy versus 20.6 million voters who endorsed him. This was despite an unremitting push for Macron from the entire French and European mass media, all of the major political parties and the vast majority of academics, journalists, publishers, undertakers and doormen.

In a word: Emmanuel Macron is a minority President, unpopular to most of the French electorate.

There are some very sound political and socio-economic reasons why Macron’s candidacy would be rejected by most of the French people, while receiving full support from the ruling class.

Secondly, there was a phony image of Macron as the ‘novice, untainted by old-line corrupt politics’. The financial and business press busily painted an image of the virgin Manny Macron bravely prepared to introduce ’sweeping reforms’ and rescue France – a sort of banker-Joan of Arc against the veteran ‘fascist’ Marine Le Pen and her ‘deplorable’ supporters.

The reality is that Macron has always been a highly experienced member of the most elite financial-political networks in France. He served as a senior executive in the notorious Rothschild banking conglomerate. In a few short years ‘Saint Manny’ had accumulated millions of euros in commissions from fixing corporate deals.

Macron’s financial colleagues encouraged him to accept the post of Economic Minister under the decrepit regime of President Francois Hollande. Banker Macron helped the ‘Socialist’ President Hollande shed any of his party’s pro-labor pretensions and embrace a radical anti-worker agenda. As Economic Minister Macron implemented a 40 billion euro tax cut for businesses and proposed far-right legislation designed to weaken workers collective bargaining rights.

The Hollande-Macron proposals faced massive opposition in the streets and parliament. With the government’s popular support falling to the single digits, the anti-labor legislation was withdrawn or diluted … temporarily. This experience inspired Macron to re-invent (or re-virginize) himself: From hard-assed rightwing hack, he emerged the novice politico claiming to be ‘neither right nor left’.

The totally discredited ‘Socialist’ Hollande, following the example of France’s financial elite, supported presidential candidate Macron. Of course, whenever Macron spoke of representing ‘all France’, he meant ‘all’ bankers, manufacturers and rentier oligarchs – the entire capitalist sector.

In the first round of presidential voting, Macron’s candidacy divided the elites: Bankers were split between Macron and Fillon, while many social democrats, trade union officials and ‘identitarian’-single issue sectarians would end up voting Macron.

Macron won by default: Fillon, his far right bourgeois rival was snared in a political- swindle involving ‘family’ and his finicky supporters switched to Macron. The Socialists defected from their discredited Hollande to the ‘reconstructed choirboy’ Macron. Meanwhile, the ‘left’ had rediscovered ‘anti-fascism’: They opposed the national-populist Le Pen and slithered under the bankers’ backdoor to vote for Macron.

Almost one-third of the French electorate abstained or showed their contempt by spoiling their ballots.

Throughout the election theatrics, the media breathlessly reported every frivolous ‘news’ item to polish the halo of their ‘novice’ Macron. They swooned over the ‘novelty’ of Macron’s teen age ‘love affair’ and subsequent marriage to his former schoolteacher. The media played-up the charmingly ‘amateurish’ nature of his campaign staff, which included upwardly mobile professionals, downwardly mobile social democrat politicos and ‘off the street’ volunteers. The mass media downplayed one critical aspect: Macro’s historic ties to the big bankers!

Behind the carefully crafted image of a ‘political outsider’, the steely eyed Macron was never influenced by the swooning media propaganda: He remained deeply committed to reversing fifty years of working class advances in France in favor of the financial class.

Macron’s Power Grab : En Marche to Defeat the Working Class

Immediately upon his election, Macron presented his first major piece of legislation: The ‘liberalization’ (reversal) of France’s progressive and socially protective labor laws.

President Macron promised to eliminate industry-wide labor-capital negotiations, in favor of factory-by-factory negotiations. Undermining industry-wide collective power means that each monopoly or conglomerate can dominate and isolate workers in their work place. Macron envisions a complete shift of power into the hands of capital in order to slash wages, increase work hours and reduce regulations on workplace safety and worker health. The proposed anti-labor laws represent a return of capitalist power to the golden age of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – precisely why the financial elite anointed Macron as ‘President of all France’.

Even more important, by destroying a unified, labor movement and the power of workers’ solidarity, Macron will be free to radically restructure the entire socio-economic system in favor of capital!

Concentrating all power and profits in the hands of the capitalist class, Macron’s legislative agenda will free him to fire over 150,000 public employees, drastically reduce public spending and investment and privatize critical public financial, energy and industrial sectors.

Macron will shift the balance of power further away from labor in order to increase profits, reduce middle and working class social, health and educational services and to decrease corporate taxes from 33.3% to 25%.

Macron’s plan will strengthen the role of the French financial elite within the European Union’s oligarchical structure and allow the bankers to impose harsh ‘austerity’ policies throughout Europe.

In the sphere of foreign and military affairs, Macron fervently supports NATO. His regime will back the aggressive US military policies toward Russia and the Middle East – especially the violent breakup of Syria.

President Macron’s reactionary, ‘liberalizing’ agenda will require his party and allies to gain a majority in next month’s parliamentary elections (June 2017). His strategy will consist of ‘diversity in appearance and hard, single-minded reactionary policies in content’.

The ‘diverse’ groups and individuals, allied with Macron, are largely composed of fragmented collections of opportunists and discredited politicos mainly in search of office. Under Macron, the parliament will include everything from old-line rightwing social democrats, as well as single-issue environment and gender opportunists, allied with conservatives looking for a chance to finally savage France’s labor laws.

If successful in the coming elections, Macron’s parliament will legitimize the policies of his far right Prime Minister and Cabinet. If Macron fails to secure an outright majority, he is sure to patch together a coalition with veteran right-wing politicos, which, of course, will be ‘balanced’ with 50% women. Macron’s coalition of dinosaurs and ‘women’ will eagerly smash the rights and living standards of all workers – regardless of gender!

Macron hopes to win sufficient parliamentary votes to negotiate alliances with the traditional conservative parties and the rump of the Socialist Party to consolidate the rule of the Troika: the bankers, the EU and NATO.

President Macron: By the Ballot or the Bullet

There is no doubt that the French working class, the salaried public and private employees, the unemployed youth, students and public health workers will take to the streets, with the backing of 60% or more of the public, including the 33% who voted for Marine Le Pen.

Strikes, general and partial, of long and short duration, will confront the Macron regime and its far right, self-styled ‘transformative’ agenda.

Rothschild’s errand boy, Manny Macron cannot mobilize supporters in the streets and will have to rely on the police. Many parliamentary backers are fearful of both the problem (strikes) and the solution (police repression).

The Corporate Elite: President Macron Adopts Napoleonic Decrees

In 2016 when Macron was the Economic Minister in the President Francois Hollande’s regime, he introduced a new regressive labor policy dubbed the ‘El Khomri’ law (named after the reactionary Labor Minister Myriam El Khormi). This led to massive street demonstrations forcing Hollande to withdraw the legislation. Now as President, Macron proposes a far more rigid and destructive labor law, which his corporate colleagues insist he implement by the ‘ballot’ if possible or the ‘billy club’ if necessary. In other words, if he cannot win the support of the National Assembly, he will implement the labor law by presidential decree.

The President of MEDEF (Mouvement des Entreprises de France), the employers’ federation, Pierre Gattaz, has demanded immediate implementation of policies to crush labor. Macron will outlaw labor protests via presidential decree and cut parliamentary debate in order to transform the elite’s ‘El Dorado’ of all (labor) reforms (sic) into reality.

The entire leadership of the capitalist class and financial press backs Macron’s bid to govern by decree as a ‘good idea in the circumstances’, (Financial Times, 5/10/17, pg. 2). Macron’s ‘Napoleonic’ pretentions will inevitably deepen class polarization and strengthen ties between the militant trade unions and Le Pen’s industrial working class supporters.

We face an approaching time of open and declared class war in France.

Conclusion

Reality has quickly cut through the lies about the origin of Emmanuel Macron’s electoral victory. Brutal police truncheons, wielded in defense of Macron’s election triumph, will further reveal the real faces of French ‘fascism’ better than any editorial by the French ‘left’. The fascists are not to be found among Le Pen’s working class voters!

The fools within the French academia, who backed the Rothschild candidate in the name of ‘fighting fascism at all cost’, will soon find themselves wandering among the workers’ street barricade, dodging the clouds of teargas, on the way to their cafes and computers.

The ruling class chose Macron because they know he will not back down in the face of street demonstrations or even a general strike!

The intellectuals who backed Macron as ‘the lesser evil’ are now discovering that he is the greater evil. They are not too late to be . . . irrelevant.

Macron’s grandiose vision is to introduce his hyper-capitalist ideology throughout Europe and beyond. He proposes to transform the EU into a ‘competitive capitalist paradise under French leadership’.

Given the historic role of the French worker, it is more likely that Macron will not succeed in implementing his ‘labor reforms’. His decrees will surely provoke powerful resistance from the streets and the public institutions. When he falters, his parliamentary supporters will fracture into little warring clans. Factory owners will bemoan the workers who occupy their plants and bankers will complain that the farmers’ tractors are blocking the roads to their country villas.

The Germans and British elite will urge their ‘little Napoleon’ to hold firm, for fear the ‘French contagion’ might spread to their somnolent workers.

On the one hand, Macron’s successful decree can open the way for a transformation of capital-labor relations into a modern 21st century corporate state.

On the other, a successful general strike can open the door to a Europe-wide revolt. Macron’s enigmatic (and meaningless) slogan ‘neither right nor left’ is now exposed: He is the “Bonaparte of the Bourse”!

Posted in FranceComments Off on President Emmanuel Macron: Reversing Five Decades of Working-Class Power


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