Archive | September 3rd, 2020

The hard truths about North Korea that Trump or Biden will have to confront

by: Dan DePetris

Before President Obama departed the White House, he gave his successor, Donald Trump, some advice: pay attention to North Korea, because the reclusive nation will be your top national security priority.

As one might expect, President Trump has tackled the North Korea file in his own distinct way. In a blink of an eye, the conventional tactics Washington used against Pyongyang over the previous 30 years were replaced with threats of war and the kind of spur-of-the-moment summitry only a TV journalist could love.

Cutting through the mid-level bureaucrats and meeting directly with Kim Jong Un was quintessential Trump. The fact that much of the foreign policy establishment in Washington, including some of his own security advisers, opposed Trump’s in-person meetings with Kim was evidence enough that Trump may have been on to something with this high-stakes diplomatic gamble.

Of course, the results of Trump’s unconventional approach to talks with the North have proven to be as disappointing as Obama’s policy of strategic patience. If it seemed like Washington and Pyongyang were at the beginning of a new, groundbreaking bilateral relationship after the June 2018 Singapore summit, the two countries today are like two divorcees who want nothing to do with each other.

After the excitement ended, the United States and North Korea reverted back to their own corners, each viewing the other as the uncooperative, malicious party solely responsible for the lack of diplomatic progress.

The last time negotiators from both sides were in the same room was nearly a year ago, when the North Korean delegation made a show out of the meeting in Stockholm by angrily walking out and strongly protesting Washington’s purported “failure to abandon its outdated viewpoint and attitude.” In the 10 months since, U.S.-North Korea diplomacy can best be compared to an immovable slug slowly dying on a hot sidewalk. The Trump administration is now relegated to whispering the same platitudes from administrations past about denuclearization.

North Korea is hardly top-of-mind for the American people. Nor should it be. With an ongoing national health crisis (nearly 185,000 Americans have died from COVID-19), the worst economic contraction since the Great Depression, and spiraling health care costs, Americans quite frankly have far more important things to worry about. 

Yet the North Korean issue isn’t going to magically disappear. The question now is whether Donald Trump or Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden have a realistic plan to manage it. 

Unfortunately, Trump and Biden don’t inspire much confidence. In August, Trump declared with his usual bombastic flare that he would “very quickly” arrive at a nuclear agreement with the North in his second term but failed to specify what metrics he would use to guide negotiations and what concessions he would be willing to put on the table.

Biden, meanwhile, wants to out-hawk Trump on North Korea by calling for the well-worn carrot-and-stick (mostly stick) framework that dominated the Obama years. Biden has not only said he would need preconditions to be met before negotiating with Kim personally, but he also says he would pressure China to enforce the various U.N. Security Council Resolutions which aim to drain the Kim dynasty’s finances and force it to cease its work on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. But Biden didn’t explain just how he would get Beijing to help the United States, particularly at a time when relations between the two economic giants have been rapidly deteriorating.

Regardless of who has the privilege of representing the American people next year, the next U.S. administration won’t get anywhere with North Korea if it doesn’t cast aside many commonly-held beliefs on the issue, and it should start with acknowledging the U.S.’s own role in the North being metaphorically described as the “land of lousy options.”  

First, we must dispel this notion that North Korea can’t be trusted to negotiate. There is a widespread assumption in the Beltway that the Kim dynasty is pre-programmed to be duplicitous and dishonest — and that even if the North Koreans are amenable to talking, it’s either a clever tactic to string the U.S. along or a way to divide the Security Council and break up the sanctions regime.

But this is more cliche than reality. While it’s certainly true that Pyongyang eventually violated the 1994 Agreed Framework negotiated during the Clinton administration, it’s also true that the U.S. wasn’t exactly holding up its end of the bargain either. Implementation was spotty throughout and U.S. compliance, particularly on the shipment of heavy fuel oil to the North, was riddled with delays.

Nor is it accurate to argue that the Kim dynasty is implacably resistant to compromise. As former U.S. negotiator Robert Gallucci wrote last year, Washington has “a tendency to approach engagement with the North Koreans with a strange combination of ignorance and arrogance about what they are really about.”

Second, we always hear that North Korea is too irrational to deal with. You can forgive the American public for looking at North Korea and thinking the entire country was run by a crop of lunatics with a messiah complex. The weird uniforms, the massive, synchronized marches, the constant missile firings, the adulation of a single family — all of these qualities open North Korea up to criticism that it’s an irrational cult bent on world destruction. 

Yet Kim Jong Un’s actions over his 9-year tenure have been anything but irrational. Put aside the hero worship and funny haircuts and North Korea has shown itself to be an unremarkable authoritarian state — vicious to internal critics and harsh to its enemies, but quite cognizant of where the red-lines are and what kind of aggression would result in an extreme U.S. military response. Far from a grave national security threat to the U.S., the Kim dynasty is more like an entity whose chief obsession — staying in power — also restrains it from acting recklessly. 

Third, Washington seems to be addicted to this constantly failed notion that we can denuclearize North Korea quickly.U.S. policy has long centered on North Korea’s full, complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization. Declassified U.S. government documents going back to the George H.W. Bush presidency have shown just how important this goal has been — and remains — to the Washington foreign policy community. Unfortunately, this same goal has eluded U.S. policymakers for decades and is highly unlikely to be achieved in the foreseeable future. 

Reality has a habit of pouring ice water on the loftiest of ambitions. And the reality has been pretty clear for some time: coercing a state to swear off a nuclear weapons program is far more difficult when it already possesses nuclear weapons. No country in history has constructed several dozen nuclear warheads, only to trade them for political and economic goodies. Given its immediate environment, security fears, and the high priority it places on self-reliance, the chances of North Korea handing over the most effective deterrent a state can have is about as likely as somebody walking into a market and picking up a million-dollar lottery ticket.

Every U.S. president comes into office thinking they can make history by solving the world’s toughest problems. More often than not, those same presidents leave the job after four or eight years disappointed and chastened by the experience. If Trump or Biden hope to avoid those same pitfalls in relation to North Korea, they will need to accept the cold, hard reality that the best the United States is likely to do is manage the portfolio. That itself would be an accomplishment worth celebrating.

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How the recent Iran-IAEA agreement can save the nuclear deal

by: Julia Masterson

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency recently resolved a year and a half-long dispute over an Agency investigation into possible undeclared nuclear materials and activities. While this investigation is focused on accounting for past activities, Iran’s cooperation eliminates a key obstacle that may have impeded any potential return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

Their agreement, whereby Iran will provide the Agency with access to two locations that are not part of Iran’s declared nuclear program, demonstrates Tehran’s commitment to fulfilling its safeguards obligations under the deal. It is also an important step for the IAEA to ensure that all nuclear materials in Iran are accounted for and monitored.

While the United States bids to re-impose United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran that were lifted in accordance with the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Tehran’s cooperation with the IAEA exemplifies Iran’s continued commitment to preserving the agreement. Coupled with an otherwise strong international allegiance to upholding the multilateral accord, Iran’s agreement with the IAEA significantly increases the JCPOA’s chance for survival.

The IAEA’s recent investigation into Iran’s possible undeclared nuclear activities began in early 2019, when Iran granted inspectors access to a previously undeclared site. Then, IAEA inspectors detected sources of anthropogenic (human-processed) uranium particles. The presence of uranium at the site suggests that Iran used it to store materials that should have been declared to the agency.

The IAEA also sought clarification from Iran about three additional locations that the Agency suspects could possibly have been used for undeclared nuclear materials or activities before 2003. U.S. intelligence concluded that Iran terminated its organized nuclear weapons program around that time. The Agency requested physical access to two of those sites in January 2020, which Iran denied.

Iran continued to stonewall the investigation into the summer months. While it was clear from IAEA reports that the investigation targeted activities that might have occurred almost two decades ago and do not pose a near-term proliferation risk, Iran’s reluctance to cooperate undermined Tehran’s credibility. Its failure to comply with the investigation also threatened to further damage Iran’s standing under the JCPOA, which obligates Iran to provisionally apply a more intrusive additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, expanding the IAEA’s inspection privileges.

Iran’s implementation of its safeguards agreement and the additional protocol requires it to comply with Agency investigations. The IAEA’s Board of Governors passed a resolution on June 20 calling on Iran to grant access to the sites in question. The resolution, spearheaded by the European parties to the JCPOA (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), underscored their concern about Iran’s failure to cooperate with the IAEA. Following the resolution, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi warned that if Iran did not cooperate by the end July, “it will be bad.”

But the agreement that was eventually reached on August 26 outlines Iran’s provision of access to the Agency to conduct safeguards inspections at the two sites in question. The Agency relayed that in the “present context” it has no further questions or requests for access — language likely included to address Iranian concerns that the IAEA intended to re-investigate all of Iran’s pre-2003 nuclear activities. But this is not to say that the IAEA won’t seek future clarification from Iran. The IAEA may pursue answers or request additional access depending on the outcome of those inspections — as the Agency is required to.  

For the time being, cooperating with the IAEA is an important demonstration of Iran’s commitment to upholding its safeguards obligations and the additional monitoring mechanisms agreed to under the JCPOA.

It’s still concerning that Iran remains in violation of the deal, but each of the steps that Iran has taken to violate the agreement — including exceeding the enrichment limit, growing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, introducing advanced centrifuges, and resuming enrichment activities at the Fordow facility, among other things ­— are reversible. Iran’s resolution with the IAEA builds confidence that Iran does not intend to reduce its compliance with the IAEA in its bid to pressure the remaining parties to the deal to deliver on sanctions relief. Any such steps could risk collapsing the deal.

This conclusion also lends assurance to the Security Council members who will continue a battle to block the U.S. attempts to re-impose U.N. sanctions on Iran. For now, the overwhelming majority of the Security Council stands committed to rejecting the U.S. demand to snap back sanctions over Iran’s violations of the JCPOA (which were brought about by the U.S. violating the deal first and reimposing sanctions), but it doesn’t appear that the Trump administration will give up its fight. Iran’s compliance with the IAEA’s investigation assuages one key concern that states may have used as justification for supporting the U.S. push to re-impose the U.N. sanctions.

For the states that see the JCPOA for what it is — a nuclear nonproliferation agreement — efforts to collapse a deal that has so far succeeded in promoting an exclusively peaceful Iranian nuclear program seem foolish. Preservation of the deal also leaves an opportunity for a future U.S. administration to negotiate re-entry. Iran has implied that U.S. re-entry could be matched by return to Iranian compliance, and Iran’s President Rouhani said in late-August that Tehran would negotiate with Washington pending its re-entry to the deal.

Iran’s resolution with the IAEA marks an important step toward addressing concerns over Iran’s past undeclared nuclear materials and activities, which is important for both Iran, seeking to meet its international commitments, and for the IAEA, striving to comprehensively verify Iran’s nuclear program.

But it also marks an important development for the JCPOA. With a complete IAEA safeguards agreement and the international community’s professed support for the nuclear deal, Iran has positioned itself well to try and ensure that the deal outlasts the current U.S. administration. Full implementation of the JCPOA remains the international community’s best avenue to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains entirely peaceful going forward.

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Manipulating the election manipulation story

by: Paul R. Pillar

The social media industry has added more shovelfuls to the mountain of evidence that Russia interfered significantly in the 2016 U.S. election and is at it again in 2020. Facebook and Twitter announced that they are taking down fake accounts that the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency had been using, along with a website posing as a left-leaning news site, to make it look like American liberals were giving reasons not to support Joe Biden.

Evidence about the Russian role in the 2016 election already had left no room for doubt about the fact and extent of the Russian interference. Investigative press reporting, the U.S. intelligence community’s findings dating back to before the start of the Trump administration, the criminal investigation by Robert Mueller, and most recently the Senate intelligence committee’s inquiry on the subject all point in the same direction.

The Senate committee’s report is the most comprehensive publicly available treatment of the subject, as well as adding details such as the extensive dealings that the Trump campaign chairman had with a Russian intelligence officer during the 2016 campaign. A tip of the hat is due to Republican committee members who helped to see this inquiry through to completion, including former chairman Richard Burr, former senator Saxby Chambliss, who encouraged the necessary bipartisanship, and current chairman Marco Rubio.

Notwithstanding the evidentiary mountain, President Trump and his supporters have tried, throughout the three-and-a-half years of his presidency, to discredit the inquiries and to doubt or deny the findings. It is easy to see why. The thought that a foreign government’s under-the-table manipulation was a factor — even just one of several factors — in Trump’s 2016 victory puts a stained asterisk on that win. 

Moreover, the story of the Russian election interference invites attention to Trump’s strange deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The deference may have had other origins, such as Trump’s longstanding business ambitions in Russia, but the election interference itself can’t help but shape Trump’s motivations. It certainly shapes Putin’s motivations for 2020, having seen the benefits he has gotten from his 2016 investment, in terms not just of the deference but also the fall in U.S. global standing and discord in the Western alliance under Trump.

Some in this country who don’t try to deny the fact of Russian interference have argued that Putin’s goal was only to sow confusion and discredit American democracy rather than to elect Trump. That likely was the chief Russian objective initially, when Putin probably expected no more than many Americans did that the real estate developer from Queens had a good shot at the presidency. But subsequent political history has necessarily changed the Russian calculations, and certainly has done so regarding the 2020 election.

In any event, Trump has erased this distinction in Putin’s motivations through Trump’s own actions in sowing confusion and discrediting American democracy. Behind in the polls, Trump is preparing to try to cling to power by delegitimizing the election result, with repeated and unfounded accusations of voter fraud and attempts to discredit or impede mail-in voting amid a pandemic. Any outside effort to add to the confusion and delegitimization of the election is thus a pro-Trump effort.

Administration responses

The Trump administration in 2020 evidently is responding to the Russian help much as the Trump campaign in 2016 campaign responded to it — by quietly welcoming it. Recently Trump’s acting homeland security secretary, Chad Wolf, blocked release of an intelligence-based bulletin that warned about Russian interference in the current election campaign aimed at raising doubts about Biden’s mental health.

The administration’s manipulation of the election interference story has included a refusal to brief congressional committees about the interference. The rationale of trying to stem leaks doesn’t hold water, given that oral briefings are no more susceptible to leaks, and probably less susceptible, than are the written intelligence products that the administration says it will continue to provide. The administration’s tactic is a replay of its earlier refusal to present the intelligence community’s annual worldwide threat assessment in open hearings in which committee members can ask questions. In each case the administration’s unstated but transparent objective is to avoid having to respond publicly to inconvenient truths.

Avoiding oral exchanges and congressional questions also aids the administration’s ability to massage the story about election interference as it downplays the extent and significance of what Russia has been doing. One massaging technique is to blur any distinction between what Russia has been doing and what other adversary states might do. A talking point of the Trump camp is that China favors Biden, with the implication that there may be Chinese interference that works against Trump. Which candidate Beijing really would prefer to win in November is an open question — presumably the Chinese would see some of the same advantages for China that Putin can see for Russia about the fallen U.S. standing under Trump, while weighing that against the frustrations of trying to negotiate with Trump. But regardless of Chinese preferences, there apparently is no evidence that China is attempting anything like the Russian election interference.

Denial of the Russian interference, including denial of the well-established story of the 2016 election, has come not only from the Trump camp but also from some voices more identified with the political left than the right. The motivation of these deniers appears to be to avoid giving ammunition to anyone favoring a hawkish policy toward Russia. That objective may be understandable, and it may even be laudable to work against policies that risk starting a new war, either hot or cold, with Moscow. But denying reality is the wrong way to go about it. It is quite possible to construct prudent policy toward Russia, not risking either hot or cold wars, while acknowledging the reality of the election interference.

Why it matters

The American public needs to be fully aware of the story of that interference — unmanipulated by either the right or the left — for several reasons.

American citizens need to know the origins of the political messaging they are hearing, without being fooled by phony sources. The messaging involved in the recent move by Facebook and Twitter is just one example. Of course, whatever has foreign origins may be only a small part of the rampant deceptive messaging in American politics, but every part is bad.

Awareness of the foreign interference provides context for assessing the policies of leaders and candidates. Republicans especially need to consider this context in thinking about how far their party has changed from previous positions regarding an authoritarian regime in Moscow, and why it has changed.

Americans need to understand, as the Founding Fathers did, what a serious threat such foreign interference can be to American democracy. That democracy is a fundamentally fragile institution and a true democracy only insofar as electoral choices reflect the interests and preferences of Americans themselves, not those of foreign regimes. As Americans cast their ballots, they can bear in mind which candidates are or are not working to protect that fragile institution.Written by

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Ending sanctions on Syria is meant to help the Syrian people, not Assad

by: Steven Simon

Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin wrote on Thursday that his Syrian American contacts were concerned that I am part of the Biden campaign’s Middle East advisory team, seemingly because of a Foreign Affairs essay by Joshua Landis and me entitled, “The Pointless Cruelty of Syria Sanctions,” which Rogin mischaracterized as advocating for reducing U.S. pressure on the Assad government.

Since Rogin pretty clearly had not closely read the piece, given that it did not simply propose relieving pressure on Bashar al-Assad, let me review the bidding.

The argument laid out in considerable detail in the Foreign Affairs piece — and in a prior Quincy Institute paper, “Course Correction: Preventing State Collapse in Syria,” that I wrote — was that the United States should relieve the pressure on ordinary Syrians, rather than the Assad government, which in fact is not under a lot of pressure.

The Assad government is ultimately responsible for the violence that engulfed Syria, but it has effective allies, diplomatic cover in the U.N. Security Council, and faces a fragmented and ineffectual opposition. Having lost a large percentage of the Alawite population, faced down a large U.S. arm-and-train program designed to push him out, and an assortment of Jihadists challenges, it seems unlikely that Assad will cave owing to sanctions.

The Syrian people are another story. Without massive assistance, increased resources and a coordinated reconstruction effort, their ongoing decimation will gain momentum. U.S. sanctions, which threaten non-U.S. governments and NGOs with severe, even disabling punishment should they offer to help, are now a principal impediment to the survival of Syria. As Landis and I observed in Foreign Affairs, in these situations those with guns eat first. As comprehensive as sanctions might be, the Assad government will get what it needs to survive and the population will get whatever is left.

Rogin’s concerned Syrian contacts apparently wish to relitigate the civil war. They themselves have no capacity to do so, but they believe that the United States can be mobilized to take another stab at toppling Assad rule. This gambit failed the first time around, when the opposition sought to enlist the United States as a combatant on its side in the civil war. As we know, neither Presidents Obama nor Trump was willing to go all in, although the United States under Obama made a major effort to boost the armed opposition through an assistance program that Trump ended in 2017. This time around, the hope is that Washington’s typical readiness to impose grinding sanctions on other countries can be manipulated to destroy the Syrian state. Thus far, this stratagem is working, but only in the White House and on Capitol Hill.

In the meantime, the Syrian people are sick, hungry, deprived of basic services and stripped of the possibility of renewed stability for their families and communities. It is they who are being punished, not those who rule the country. The pity of it all, of course, is that the victims of sanctions are precisely those with no capacity whatsoever to change the course of Syrian foreign and domestic policy.

State collapse, apart from signifying an awful humanitarian catastrophe, would open space in Syria for ISIL and encourage further encroachment of third countries who perceive an interest in bedding down in Syria. This is emphatically not in the U.S. interest, a dimension of this issue that doesn’t seem to interest Rogin. The only way to secure U.S. interest and diminish the suffering of ordinary Syrians — that is, to act both strategically and ethically — is to take our knee off the neck of the Syrian people through sanctions relief and the gradual restoration of Syrian oil revenue to the state via a phased, hardnosed arrangement with the Syrian government. Yes, this would leave Assad in the presidency for the moment and would require delaying his accountability for human rights abuses. But Syrian people must come first.Written by

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Egypt’s counterterrorism strategy in Sinai: challenges and failures

by: Khalil al-Anani

Egypt has been fighting terrorism and an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula for the past decade and a half with no sign of a decisive victory. Although the Egyptian military has conducted several military operations against radicals and extremists, it has not been able to eliminate or defeat them. Egypt’s counterterrorism strategy, particularly in Sinai, is flawed and counterproductive. Instead of eliminating and rooting out terrorism, it has created fertile ground for radical and militant groups to thrive, recruit new members, and intensify their attacks against the Egyptian military and security forces as well as civilians. This has led to the loss of thousands of lives and created instability in Sinai.

Sinai’s dilemma

The Sinai Peninsula spans approximately 23,000 square miles and constitutes 6 percent of Egypt’s total land area. It has a small population of 550,000—out of Egypt’s total population of 100 million—and most of them (around 434,000) live in North Sinai where the insurgency is active, particularly in the cities of El-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah, and Bir al-Abed. The population of North Sinai is composed of a complex mix of tribes and families in which Bedouins represent about 70 percent of the total population. The rest includes residents of Palestinian origin, migrants from Egypt’s mainland, and a mix of Bosnians, Turks, and other ethnicities who settled in Al-Arish during the Ottoman era (10 percent).

Over the past decades, the North Sinai region has suffered from a number of political, economic, social, and development problems. Issues of marginalization, unemployment, poor governance, poverty and, most recently, repression and displacement have alienated the Bedouin and other residents of Sinai and increased their grievances. According to some reports, the Sinai region has one of Egypt’s highest unemployment rates, with less than 50 percent of its people employed. According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, poverty in Sinai reached 38.4 percent in 2018. In addition, about 70 percent of Sinai’s population does not have access to water. These problems have been largely ignored by the central government in Cairo.

Over the past decades, the North Sinai region has suffered from a number of political, economic, social, and development problems.

Furthermore, the Egyptian government has always perceived Sinai as a security threat and dealt with the Bedouin population with suspicion, treating them as second-class citizens. For decades, the Bedouin have been accused of collaborating with Israel, particularly after its occupation of Sinai in 1967, and hence, they are perceived as not trustworthy. In fact, most of the Bedouin do not hold Egyptian citizenship and have not been politically represented until recently. In addition, they are not allowed to join the army, the police, and military academies or to hold senior positions in the government. Securitizing the government’s problems with the Bedouin has turned Sinai into a security dilemma and a headache for all Egyptian administrations. Neither of the regimes of Hosni Mubarak or Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has tackled the root causes of this dilemma. In fact the opposite has been true: their harsh and brutal policies against the Bedouin and the residents of Sinai have alienated these populations. This has enabled militant groups to thrive, recruit followers, and expand their activities and influence all over the North Sinai region.

The roots of Sinai’s insurgency

The problem of terrorism and insurgency in Sinai has lingered for years. It began under the Mubarak regime when militant Islamists conducted a series of deadly attacks in TabaSharm el-Sheikh, and Dahab and in the South Sinai Governorate during 2004-2006, killing and wounding hundreds of people (and particularly foreign tourists who were visiting these cities). The attacks were carried out by a radical group called al-Tawhid wa’l-Jihad (Unification and Struggle) whose members included Bedouin and men of Palestinian origin in North Sinai, specifically Al-Arish district. These attacks ushered a new era of insurgency and terrorism that Egypt has never experienced before, even at the height of the terrorism wave in the 1980s and 1990s. Mubarak’s security policy in confronting militants in Sinai exacerbated the problem and created grievances among the Bedouin and local residents. For example, following these attacks, the security forces arrested thousands of the Bedouin and the Sinai residents, including women and children. The regime used them as “a bargaining chip to secure the surrender of the male tribal member—an unforgivable and unforgettable violation of tribal traditions.” While Mubarak’s security forces arrested and killed some of the leaders of the al-Tawhid wa’l-Jihad group, other members remained at large and sought revenge from the regime.

After the uprising of 2011, radicals and extremists in Sinai regrouped and established different networks such as the well-known Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) group. Between February 2011 and June 2013, ABM conducted attacks on the Egyptian-Israeli border and targeted the gas pipeline between Egypt and Israel several times. However, after the coup of 2013, ABM began targeting Egyptian military and security forces not only in Sinai but also in Egypt’s mainland. For example, on December 24, 2013, the group bombed the police headquarters in Cairo, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than a hundred others.

February 2011 and June 2013, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) conducted attacks on the Egyptian-Israeli border and targeted the gas pipeline between Egypt and Israel several times.

In November 2014, ABM joined the Islamic State (IS), gave allegiance to former IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and changed its name to Wilayat Sina. Over the past seven years, Wilayat Sina has carried out several deadly and massive attacks against the Egyptian army, security forces, and civilians which claimed the lives of thousands of people. For example, in October 2015 the group claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian airplane, which killed all 224 people aboard. It also attacked Al-Rawdah mosque in the city of Bir al-Abed, killing more than 300 people in November 2017. Moreover, media reports claim that Wilayat Sina controls five towns in Bir al-Abed’s vicinity—Rabaa, Katiya, Aktiya, Janayen, and Merih. If true, it would be a dramatic shift in the group’s tactics that would pose a serious challenge to the Egyptian government and its western allies. For its part, according to some reports, the Egyptian military and security forces have killed over 7,000 militants and arrested around 27,000 as of a year ago.

Egypt’s counterterrorism strategy

Since he assumed power in 2014, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi adopted a heavily militarized strategy in dealing with the insurgency in Sinai. Its aim was to eliminate the activities of militant groups, particularly Wilayat Sina, and uproot the insurgency from the peninsula. To achieve this, the Egyptian military conducted military operations in the cities of Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid, and Al-Arish. These operations followed three phases: the first began in October 2014 after Sisi declared a state of emergency in northeastern Sinai that included Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid, Al-Arish, and many villages on the Egyptian border with Gaza. The operation focused on the cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid, where the Egyptian military attempted to eliminate the militants’ activities there by creating a buffer zone of 1,000 meters on the Gaza-Rafah border. This military operation led to the destruction of more than 1,500 homes, the razing of hundreds of hectares of farmland, and the forced and illegal displacement of around 3,200 families of Bedouin and residents of both cities.

The second phase started on September 3, 2015 after Wilayat Sina launched a major attack using a Kornet missile attack on a navy ship. On September 7, 2015, Sisi’s regime started another military operation called “The Martyr’s Right,” described by the Egyptian media as the “largest and most comprehensive operation aimed at rooting out and killing ‘terrorists’.” As Egypt’s media amplified the operation and praised its success in eliminating the insurgency in Sinai, Wilayat Sina intensified its attacks against the Egyptian military and security forces, which resulted in the killing of hundreds of officers and civilians over the following years.

Recently, the Sisi government changed its tactics in fighting the insurgency in Sinai. In addition to the military offensive, it attempted to attract and co-opt some of the tribal leaders in order to fight alongside the Egyptian army.

Phase three began in February 2018 when the Egyptian army launched a “comprehensive military campaign,” dubbed “Operation Sinai 2018,” that aimed to “purge the country of terrorists.” Recently, the Sisi government changed its tactics in fighting the insurgency in Sinai. In addition to the military offensive, it attempted to attract and co-opt some of the tribal leaders in order to fight alongside the Egyptian army. Some media reports pointed to an agreement between the Egyptian army and some of the elder leaders of the Tarabin, Swarka, and Rumailat tribes. However, while the Egyptian government claims that the current campaign has weakened and eliminated the insurgency in Sinai, the reality on the ground does not support that claim. Over the past two years, not only has Wilayat Sinai conducted sophisticated attacks against the military and police forces but it also extended its activities to other areas such as Bir al-Abed and the surrounding villages. Moreover, it has acquired more advanced equipment and developed its guerrilla war tactics.  As Omar Ashour states, “the Sinai insurgency has grown from mainly an urban terrorism campaign of bombing soft targets … to a structured, low-to-mid level insurgency, aiming primarily for ‘hard’ targets.”

A failed strategy?

Egypt has been fighting terrorism in Sinai for many years with no sign of an end or of a decisive success. Therefore, some analysts argue that Egypt’s counterterrorism strategy has been focusing on containing the insurgency in Sinai rather than eradicating and uprooting it.

Despite the fact that the problem of terrorism in the peninsula began during Mubarak’s era, it has worsened under Sisi’s regime for many reasons. First, Sisi adopted a highly security-oriented strategy in fighting the insurgency without acknowledging the political, social, and economic aspects of the situation in Sinai. His counterinsurgency policies have exacerbated the challenges there and created many other problems. Second, this strategy is largely driven by revenge, collective punishment, and a pressing desire to achieve quick success against the repeated attacks of Wilayat Sina, instead of being based on a long-term vision that seeks to tackle the root causes of the Sinai problem. Third, the Egyptian military and security forces have committed grave human rights violations against the Bedouin and other Sinai residents, and these policies have fueled alienation and rage. According to a detailed and comprehensive report by Human Rights Watch, “the Egyptian military and police have carried out systematic and widespread arbitrary arrests—including of children—enforced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings, collective punishment, and forced evictions” in Sinai. Fourth, the displacement of thousands of the Bedouin and local residents in Sinai has increased their grievances and radicalized some of them, spurring many to join militant groups in order to take revenge against the regime. Finally, using tribes in the fight against the insurgency has created many problems as some of their members are regularly kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the militants.

The Egyptian military and security forces have committed grave human rights violations against the Bedouin and other Sinai residents, and these policies have fueled alienation and rage.

Egypt’s counterterrorism strategy in Sinai has failed miserably in eliminating the danger of terrorism. In fact, it has been proven to be counterproductive and has deepened the serious and dangerous situation in Sinai instead of resolving it. This raises many questions about the competence of Sisi’s government and its ability to fight terrorism effectively.

Posted in Egypt0 Comments

(Peace with Israel) السلام مع إسرائيل

Warmongering Israel
بقلم منذرهنداوي

لا يرفض السلام عاقل. فقط المجرمون المرضى نفسيا يحبون الحرب والقتل. السوريون والعراقيون واللبنانيون والفلسطينيون لا يمكن أن يرفضوا السلام. معاناتهم المريرة من ويلات الحروب تدفعهم لقبول السلام وإن كان مبنياً على تنازلات كبيرة. 

لكن إسرائيل هي التي ترفض السلام. اسرائيل لا تقبل بغير سلام يسمح لها بالسيطرة المطلقة على العرب، والاستمرار في قضم الأراضي العربية. بعد اتفاق السلام بين الامارات و اسرائيل أكدت عدة تصريحات اسرائيلية من نتنياهو ونقلا عنه أن “اتفاقية السلام مع الإمارات تعتمد على مبدأ “السلام مقابل السلام”. و التصريح الأهم أن إسرائيل تعتمد على “مبدأ السلام من منطلق القوة”، أي منطق القوة وسيطرة اسرائيل المطلقة على العرب.  

لا شك أن إسرائيل دولة قوية حاضرة في كل مشاهد الواقع السياسي العربي و الاقليمي، ولا يمكن إنكارها بإزالتها من الخارطة و كتابة اسم فلسطين محلها. إنها من اقوى دول المنطقة عسكريا، واكثرها تطوراً اقتصاديا، وافضلها تقدماً علميا و تكنولوجيا. وزد على ذلك فهي دولة ديمقراطية، القانون فيها فوق الجميع بما فيهم الرئيس ورئيس الوزراء. لكن رغم كل هذا إسرائيل دولة مغتصبة عنصرية تجاه العرب عامة وتجاه الفلسطينيين خاصة. وهي الآن تحت حكم نتنياهو أكثر عنصرية وعجرفة واغتصابا للحقوق العربية من كل ما كانت عليه في تاريخها العنصري تجاه العرب.

قبل ثلاثة عقود كان في إسرائيل تياراً مستعدا لمبادلة الأرض مقابل السلام. وكانت أمريكا أيضاً معنية بإحلال السلام بين العرب وإسرائيل. علاوة على ذلك كانت ظروف الدول العربية تسمح بسلام متوازن فيه بعض التنازلات العربية الطفيفة. لكن الوضع تغير و صار اسم المرحلة حسب إسرائيل (السلام مقابل السلام). حصل هذا نتيجة تغيرات كبيرة في أمريكا، وإسرائيل، والمنطقة العربية خلال عشر سنوات الماضية. في أمريكا نمت شعبوية قومية لم يسبق لها مثيل في غطرستها. إنها الترامبية التي لخصها ترامب بشعاره (أمريكا أولاً). و هذا يعني ايضا أن ترامب أولا وفوق الجميع. فترامب لا يخجل إطلاقاً من تصوير نفسه فوق الجميع حتى في أمريكا. أما باقي دول العالم فلا مانع أن يأتوا رابعا أو عاشرًا أو حتى ليذهبوا إلى الجحيم.  

في إسرائيل نما تيار يميني انتهازي لا يقيم أي وزن للأخلاق ولا الاتفاقيات ولا لأبسط القيم الإنسانية في تعامله مع العرب. تعززت قوة هذا التيار من خلال الانهيارات الكبرى التي اجتاحت معظم الدول العربية. فمع من تقيم اسرائيل السلام؟  هل تقيمه مع لبنان المنهارة التي لا تمتلك قدرة على اتخاذ قرار وطني، أم أنها ستقيم سلاما مع سورية التي تتواجد على أرضها جيوش وعصابات تابعة لدول أجنبية، أم مع العراق الغارق في الفساد والذي تتحكم فيه ميليشيات ولاءها لغير العراق. هذه الانهيارات العربية شكلت فرصة ذهبية لليمين الاسرائيلي  كي ينمو ويستولي على الأراضي العربية و يزداد في عنصريته تجاه العرب؛ عنصرية لا تختلف عن عنصرية البيض في جنوب أفريقيا ضد السود.

يبدو أن كل شيء في هذا الواقع يمشي لصالح إسرائيل، و ربما الأصح يمشي لصالح اليمين الاسرائيلي. لكن السلام الذي تنشده إسرائيل لا يمكن أن يبنى على سحق إرادة الشعوب وسلبها حقوقها. إسرائيل تعيش وسط شعوب عربية وإسلامية تتفوق من حيث القوة البشرية  و القدرات الاقتصادية الكامنة على إسرائيل بعشرات المرات. استهتارها بالشعوب العربية سيبقى يغذي الكراهية تجاهها إلى أن تتصالح مع الشعوب وليس مع الحكام. ولا يمكن أن يتحقق هذا التصالح وشعوب المنطقة تعاني من إغتصاب إسرائيل لحقوقها. فهذه الكراهية ستبقى تتوارثها هذه الشعوب جيلاً بعد جيل، وستبقى تحدث انفجارات كبرى ضد اسرائيل إلى أن تتغير العجرفة الإسرائيلية تجاه الحقوق العربية المغتصبة.

Jewish terrorists

 (Israel and extremism) إسرائيل و التطرّف. 

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Nuclear Trump

ترامب النووي (Nuclear Trump)

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سوريا: و ماذا بعد؟

بقلم م. الهنداوي واقعنا السوري مؤلم و مأساوي و يهوي من سيّء إلى أسوأ. لا أحد يدري كيف ستكون النهاية. نتلمس طريق النجاة في ظلام دامس. لا أحد في الغرب أو الشرق ينير لنا الطريق. لا أحد يمسك بيدنا إلى بر الأمان. و إن أمسك فلكي يوقعنا بحفرة جديدة. العالم…

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Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

For years, journalists cheered Assange’s abuse. Now they’ve paved his path to a US gulag

Julian Assange
Jonathan Cook writes:

Court hearings in Britain over the US administration’s extradition case against Julian Assange begin in earnest next week. The decade-long saga that brought us to this point should appall anyone who cares about our increasingly fragile freedoms.

A journalist and publisher has been deprived of his liberty for 10 years. According to UN experts, he has been arbitrarily detained and tortured for much of that time through intense physical confinement and endless psychological pressure. He has been bugged and spied on by the CIA during his time in political asylum, in Ecuador’s London embassy, in ways that violated his most fundamental legal rights. The judge overseeing his hearings has a serious conflict of interest – with her family embedded in the UK security services – that she did not declare and which should have required her to recuse herself from the case.

All indications are that Assange will be extradited to the US to face a rigged grand jury trial meant to ensure he sees out his days in a maximum-security prison, serving a sentence of up to 175 years.

None of this happened in some Third-World, tinpot dictatorship. It happened right under our noses, in a major western capital, and in a state that claims to protect the rights of a free press. It happened not in the blink of an eye but in slow motion – day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

And once we strip out a sophisticated campaign of character assassination against Assange by western governments and a compliant media, the sole justification for this relentless attack on press freedom is that a 49-year-old man published documents exposing US war crimes. That is the reason – and the only reason – that the US is seeking his extradition and why he has been languishing in what amounts to solitary confinement in Belmarsh high-security prison during the Covid-19 pandemic. His lawyers’ appeals for bail have been refused.

Severed head on a pike

While the press corps abandoned Assange a decade ago, echoing official talking points that pilloried him over toilet hygiene and his treatment of his cat, Assange is today exactly where he originally predicted he would be if western governments got their way. What awaits him is rendition to the US so he can be locked out of sight for the rest of his life.

There were two goals the US and UK set out to achieve through the visible persecution, confinement and torture of Assange.

First, he and Wikileaks, the transparency organisation he co-founded, needed to be disabled. Engaging with Wikileaks had to be made too risky to contemplate for potential whistleblowers. That is why Chelsea Manning – the US soldier who passed on documents relating to US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan for which Assange now faces extradition – was similarly subjected to harsh imprisonment. She later faced punitive daily fines while in jail to pressure her into testifying against Assange.

The aim has been to discredit Wikileaks and similar organisations and stop them from publishing additional revelatory documents – of the kind that show western governments are not the “good guys” managing world affairs for the benefit of mankind, but are in fact highly militarised, global bullies advancing the same ruthless colonial policies of war, destruction and pillage they always pursued.

And second, Assange had to be made to suffer horribly and in public – to be made an example of – to deter other journalists from ever following in his footsteps. He is the modern equivalent of a severed head on a pike displayed at the city gates.

The very obvious fact – confirmed by the media coverage of his case – is that this strategy, advanced chiefly by the US and UK (with Sweden playing a lesser role), has been wildly successful. Most corporate media journalists are still enthusiastically colluding in the vilification of Assange – mainly at this stage by ignoring his awful plight.

Story hiding in plain sight

When he hurried into Ecuador’s embassy back in 2012, seeking political asylum, journalists from every corporate media outlet ridiculed his claim – now, of course, fully vindicated – that he was evading US efforts to extradite him and lock him away for good. The media continued with their mockery even as evidence mounted that a grand jury had been secretly convened to draw up espionage charges against him and that it was located in the eastern district of Virginia, where the major US security and intelligence services are headquartered. Any jury there is dominated by US security personnel and their families. His hope of a fair trial was non-existent.

Instead we have endured eight years of misdirection by the corporate media and its willing complicity in his character assassination, which has laid the ground for the current public indifference to Assange’s extradition and widespread ignorance of its horrendous implications.

Corporate journalists have accepted, entirely at face value, a series of rationalisations for why the interests of justice have been served by locking Assange away indefinitely – even before his extradition – and trampling his most basic legal rights. The other side of the story – Assange’s, the story hiding in plain sight – has invariably been missing from the coverage, whether it has been CNN, the New York Times, the BBC or the Guardian.

From Sweden to Clinton

First, it was claimed that Assange had fled questioning over sexual assault allegations in Sweden, even though it was the Swedish authorities who allowed him to leave; even though the original Swedish prosecutor, Eva Finne, dismissed the investigation against him, saying “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever”, before it was picked up by a different prosecutor for barely concealed, politicised reasons; and even though Assange later invited Swedish prosectors to question him where he was (in the embassy), an option they regularly agreed to in other cases but resolutely refused in his.

It was not just that none of these points was ever provided as context for the Sweden story by the corporate media. Or that much else in Assange’s favour was simply ignored, such as tampered evidence in the case of one of the two women who alleged sexual assault and the refusal of the other to sign the rape statement drawn up for her by police.

The story was also grossly and continuously misreported as relating to “rape charges” when Assange was wanted simply for questioning. No charges were ever laid against him because the second Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny – and her British counterparts, including Sir Keir Starmer, then head of the prosecution service and now leader of the Labour party – seemingly wished to avoid testing the credibility of their allegations by actually questioning Assange. Leaving him to rot in a small room in the embassy served their purposes much better.

When the Sweden case fizzled out – when it became clear that the original prosecutor had been right to conclude that there was no evidence to justify further questioning, let alone charges – the political and media class shifted tack.

Suddenly Assange’s confinement was implicitly justified for entirely different, political reasons – because he had supposedly aided Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign in 2016 by publishing emails, allegedly “hacked” by Russia, from the Democratic party’s servers. The content of those emails, obscured in the coverage at the time and largely forgotten now, revealed corruption by Hillary Clinton’s camp and efforts to sabotage the party’s primaries to undermine her rival for the presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders.

Guardian fabricates a smear

Those on the authoritarian right have shown little concern over Assange’s lengthy confinement in the embassy, and later jailing in Belmarsh, for his exposure of US war crimes, which is why little effort has been expended on winning them over. The demonisation campaign against Assange has focused instead on issues that are likely to trigger liberals and the left, who might otherwise have qualms about jettisoning the First Amendment and locking people up for doing journalism.

Just as the Swedish allegations, despite their non-investigation, tapped into the worst kind of kneejerk identity politics on the left, the “hacked” emails story was designed to alienate the Democratic party base. Extraordinarily, the claim of Russian hacking persists even though years later – and after a major “Russiagate” inquiry by Robert Mueller – it still cannot be stood up with any actual evidence. In fact, some of those closest to the matter, such as former UK ambassador Craig Murray, have insisted all along that the emails were not hacked by Russia but were leaked by a disenchanted Democratic party insider.

An even more important point, however, is that a transparency organisation like Wikileaks had no choice, after it was handed those documents, but to expose abuses by the Democratic party – whoever was the source.

The reason that Assange and Wikileaks became entwined in the Russiagate fiasco – which wasted the energies of Democratic party supporters on a campaign against Trump that actually strengthened rather than weakened him – was because of the credulous coverage, once again, of the issue by almost the entire corporate media. Liberal outlets like the Guardian newspaper even went so far as to openly fabricate a story – in which it falsely reported that a Trump aide, Paul Manafort, and unnamed “Russians” secretly visited Assange in the embassy – without repercussion or retraction.

Assange’s torture ignored

All of this made possible what has happened since. After the Swedish case evaporated and there were no reasonable grounds left for not letting Assange walk free from the embassy, the media suddenly decided in chorus that a technical bail violation was grounds enough for his continuing confinement in the embassy – or, better still, his arrest and jailing. That breach of bail, of course, related to Assange’s decision to seek asylum in the embassy, based on a correct assessment that the US planned to demand his extradition and imprisonment.

None of these well-paid journalists seemed to remember that, in British law, failure to meet bail conditions is permitted if there is “reasonable cause” – and fleeing political persecution is very obviously just such a reasonable cause.

https://t.co/XYkRmHn1cB?amp=1

Similarly, the media wilfully ignored the conclusions of a report by Nils Melzer, a Swiss scholar of international law and the United Nations’ expert on torture, that the UK, US and Sweden had not only denied Assange his basic legal rights but had colluded in subjecting him to years of psychological torture – a form of torture, Melzer has pointed out, that was refined by the Nazis because it was found to be crueller and more effective at breaking victims than physical torture.

Assange has been blighted by deteriorating health and cognitive decline as a result, and has lost significant weight. None of that has been deemed worthy by the corporate media of more than a passing mention – specifically when Assange’s poor health made him incapable of attending a court hearing. Instead Melzer’s repeated warnings about the abusive treatment of Assange and its effects on him have fallen on deaf ears. The media has simply ignored Melzer’s findings, as though they were never published, that Assange has been, and is being, tortured. We need only pause and imagine how much coverage Melzer’s report would have received had it concerned the treatment of a dissident in an official enemy state like Russia or China.

JamieSW@jsternweiner·Aug 29, 2020The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, has repeatedly alleged that Julian Assange has been (i) tortured and (ii) politically persecuted by the UK Government.

JamieSW@jsternweinerIn the past two years, in the entire mainstream UK press: – Number of Editorials, Op-Eds mentioning “Nils Melzer”: 0. – Number of Editorials, Op-Eds mentioning “Assange” and “torture”: 0. (Factiva database search, 29 August 2020)4:06 PM · Aug 29, 2020

A power-worshipping media

Last year British police, in coordination with an Ecuador now led by a president, Lenin Moreno, who craved closer ties with Washington, stormed the embassy to drag Assange out and lock him up in Belmarsh prison. In their coverage of these events, journalists again played dumb.

They had spent years first professing the need to “believe women” in the Assange case, even if it meant ignoring evidence, and then proclaiming the sanctity of bail conditions, even if they were used simply as a pretext for political persecution. Now that was all swept aside in an instant. Suddenly Assange’s nine years of confinement over a non-existent sexual assault investigation and a minor bail infraction were narratively replaced by an espionage case. And the media lined up against him once again.

A few years ago the idea that Assange could be extradited to the US and locked up for the rest of his life, his journalism recast as “espionage”, was mocked as so improbable, so outrageously unlawful that no “mainstream” journalist was prepared to countenance it as the genuine reason for his seeking asylum in the embassy. It was derided as a figment of the fevered, paranoid imaginations of Assange and his supporters, and as a self-serving cover for him to avoid facing the investigation in Sweden.

But when British police invaded the embassy in April last year and arrested him for extradition to the US on precisely the espionage charges Assange had always warned were going to be used against him, journalists reported these developments as though they were oblivious to this backstory. The media erased this context not least because it would have made them look like willing dupes of US propaganda, like apologists for US exceptionalism and lawlessness, and because it would have proved Assange right once more. It would have demonstrated that he is the real journalist, in contrast to their pacified, complacent, power-worshipping corporate journalism.

The death of journalism

Right now every journalist in the world ought to be up in arms, protesting at the abuses Assange is suffering, and has suffered, and the fate he will endure if extradition is approved. They should be protesting on front pages and in TV news shows against the endless and blatant abuses of legal process at Assange’s hearings in the British courts, including the gross conflict of interest of Lady Emma Arbuthnot, the judge overseeing his case.

They should be in uproar at the surveillance the CIA illegally arranged inside the Ecuadorian embassy while Assange was confined there, nullifying the already dishonest US case against him by violating his client-lawyer privilege. They should be expressing outrage at Washington’s manoeuvres, accorded a thin veneer of due process by the British courts, designed to extradite him on espionage charges for doing work that lies at the very heart of what journalism claims to be – holding the powerful to account.

Journalists do not need to care about Assange or like him. They have to speak out in protest because approval of his extradition will mark the official death of journalism. It will mean that any journalist in the world who unearths embarrassing truths about the US, who discovers its darkest secrets, will need to keep quiet or risk being jailed for the rest of their lives.

That ought to terrify every journalist. But it has had no such effect.

Careers and status, not truth

The vast majority of western journalists, of course, never uncover one significant secret from the centres of power in their entire professional careers – even those ostensibly monitoring those power centres. These journalists repackage press releases and lobby briefings, they tap sources inside government who use them as a conduit to the large audiences they command, and they relay gossip and sniping from inside the corridors of power.

That is the reality of access journalism that constitutes 99 per cent of what we call political news.

Nonetheless, Assange’s abandonment by journalists – the complete lack of solidarity as one of their number is persecuted as flagrantly as dissidents once sent to the gulags – should depress us. It means not only that journalists have abandoned any pretence that they do real journalism, but that they have also renounced the aspiration that it be done by anyone at all.

It means that corporate journalists are ready to be viewed with even greater disdain by their audiences than is already the case. Because through their complicity and silence, they have sided with governments to ensure that anyone who truly holds power to account, like Assange, will end up behind bars. Their own freedom brands them as a captured elite – irrefutable evidence that they serve power, they do not confront it.

The only conclusion to be drawn is that corporate journalists care less about the truth than they do about their careers, their salaries, their status, and their access to the rich and powerful. As Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky explained long ago in their book Manufacturing Consent, journalists join a media class after lengthy education and training processes designed to weed out those not reliably in sympathy with the ideological interests of their corporate employers.

A sacrificial offering

Briefly, Assange raised the stakes for all journalists by renouncing their god – “access” – and their modus operandi of revealing occasional glimpses of very partial truths offered up by “friendly”, and invariably anonymous, sources who use the media to settle scores with rivals in the centres of power.

Instead, through whistleblowers, Assange rooted out the unguarded, unvarnished, full-spectrum truth whose exposure helped no one in power – only us, the public, as we tried to understand what was being done, and had been done, in our names. For the first time, we could see just how ugly, and often criminal, the behaviour of our leaders was.

Assange did not just expose the political class, he exposed the media class too – for their feebleness, for their hypocrisy, for their dependence on the centres of power, for their inability to criticise a corporate system in which they were embedded.

Few of them can forgive Assange that crime. Which is why they will be there cheering on his extradition, if only through their silence.  A few liberal writers will wait till it is too late for Assange, till he has been packaged up for rendition, to voice half-hearted, mealy-mouthed or agonised columns arguing that, unpleasant as Assange supposedly is, he did not deserve the treatment the US has in store for him.

But that will be far too little, far too late. Assange needed solidarity from journalists and their media organisations long ago, as well as full-throated denunciations of his oppressors. He and Wikileaks were on the front line of a war to remake journalism, to rebuild it as a true check on the runaway power of our governments. Journalists had a chance to join him in that struggle. Instead they fled the battlefield, leaving him as a sacrificial offering to their corporate masters.


Julian Assange after leaving Ecuadorian embassy

Endless procedural abuses show Julian Assange case was never about law

In “QuickPress”

Julian Assange incarcerated

Assange extradition: What happened to British justice and fair play?

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WikiLeaks

Julian Assange and the fate of journalism

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Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZI, C.I.A, Human Rights, Media0 Comments

Zionist-Emirates: Neither betrayal nor history-making deal

by: Hicham Alaoui

First of all, this peace treaty cannot be regarded as an historic betrayal of Arab positions. The UAE have been working for years to normalise their relations with Israel. The two countries have established high-level contacts in capitals all over the world and have made it known to the international community by organising their own leaks: they have also sent signals to Western and Arab public opinion. In recent months, the UAE conveyed humanitarian aid to Palestine via the Ben Gurion airport, in co-ordination with Israeli authorities rather than with their Palestinian counterparts. The peace treaty is a normal, organic stage of this process. True, from a legal point of view, it is a decision which goes counter to the Arab peace initiative of 2002. But this latter had already been abandoned just as the Arab League’s sponsorship which went along with it had already been discredited.

At the same, brutal as it may seem, this agreement does not constitute a betrayal of the Palestinians. Their rights have already been sacrificed in the face of Israel’s determination to destroy any prospect of a Palestinian State by laying siege to the Gaza Strip and by gradually annexing the West Bank. The Palestinians have understood that in the Gulf, only Kuwait and Qatar are determined to reject any US sponsored “deal of the century” unless those Israeli policies are abandoned. Though the peace treaty does contain a clause theoretically putting an end to that territorial colonisation. It only stops the annexation legally and formally while backing de facto the pursuance of the illegal colonisation process.

Nor is the peace treaty an historic breakthrough. The Palestinian struggle has lost much of its political importance in the eyes of the Arab masses during the last three decades. And though it is still capable of sparking an emotional response and remains apolitical issue for Arab public opinion, it generates much less solidarity that it used to do.

Decline of the Palestinian cause

This decline has taken place in several stages. The first phase began with the Oslo peace process, which obliged the Palestinians to renounce many of their rights in exchange for the vague promise of a future state, meant to be the fruition of a peace process negotiated under the auspices of the international community. The second phase began with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. By destroying a traditional Arab power, the United States opened the way for Iranian expansion, the new disruptive element in the geopolitics of the region. In the years that followed, Iran considerably extended its strategic power in the Middle East.

Iranian military expansion climaxed in 2013 with the battle of Al-Qusayr in Syria. Before the Syrian civil war began, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, both members of the Sunni axis in the region, faced off against Iran in low intensity clashes in the Gulf area. Al-Qusayr inaugurated a new era in which Iranian military forces could operate openly in Arab countries and provide support for regimes that are their allies. Not only Syria and Iraq, but also Lebanon and Yemen have become arenas of confrontation, fuelled as much by sectarian hyperbole as by the principles of realpolitik.

The Sunni Arab states, which form the so-called “moderate” axis in the Middle East, regard such non-governmental actors as Hezbollah, the Houthi movement in Yemen and the militias of the Popular Mobilisation Forces in Iraq as auxiliaries in the Iranian war effort. In this context, the containment of Iran comes before the defence of the Palestinians.

The third event which has relegated the Palestinians to the sidelines of regional geopolitics was the Arab Spring. This foregrounded the issues of democratic emancipation and the overthrow of authoritarianism in many countries. The uprisings showed the extent to which the major ideologies of the past, pan-Arabism or its successor, Islamism, had lost much of their emotional appeal with Arab public opinion. Thus, the Palestinian cause became less visible, except in countries hosting large numbers of Palestinian refugees, like Lebanon and Jordan.

Yet while the Palestinians no longer figure high on the foreign policy agenda of most Arab states, the Arab world is certainly not about to plunge headlong into a collective normalisation of relations with Israel. The big Arab countries would be likely to meet with strong public resistance. On the other hand, Bahrain, Oman and Mauritania are prepared to follow in the footsteps of the Emirates, and a modest “bandwagon” effect is not out of the question: other Arab countries could become involved in asymmetric exchanges with Israel in order not to be left out of any future settlement and to stay in the good graces of the USA. Short of complete diplomatic recognition, these steps might include the opening of liaison offices and the authorisation of bilateral tourism.

For all these reasons, the peace treaty represents neither a tragic betrayal nor an historic breakthrough. From a strategic point of view, it is a calculated move meant only to offer short-term advantages to the three parties concerned.

The UAE and the preservation of a counterrevolutionary front

From the UAE viewpoint, the treaty allows them to stand firm at a time when the Arab counter-revolution is in difficulty and imperils their reputation. Since the Arab Spring, the Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia, are at the forefront of the region’s countries which regard the propagation of democratic uprisings in the Middle East as an existential threat. The UAE are the leader of this counter-revolutionary front which advocates a Middle East of stable authoritarian regimes in which their petroleum resources guarantee them a decisive influence. According to this world view, electoral Islamism and political liberalism are two sides of the same coin; both represent radical changes which endanger the internal legitimacy of these regimes. It was the UAE that launched the counter-revolutionary battle and they cannot afford to lose it.

Recently, however, they have begun to lose ground. The Yemeni conflict has turned into a humanitarian disaster.

The over-confidence placed in certain factions to carry on their proxy war, as with General Khalifa Haftar in Libya, has not been repaid on the battlefield. As with the unwise embargo against Qatar, their diplomatic adventurism did not achieve its goals. Their investments in Egypt, aimed at making the Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi regime a model of the new Arab stability, have also failed to extricate the country from its political and economic stagnancy. In short, there is too much chaos and considering the initial investment, a rate of return much too low.

Considering all this, the peace treaty with Israel represents a calculated strategic consolidation. The leadership of the UAE hope to use Israel as a more powerful vector to help them achieve their geopolitical objectives, just as they used Saudi Arabia in the first phase of their counter-revolutionary thrust. The UAE are also protecting themselves against another threat: the shock wave that could result from an internal conflict in Saudi Arabia which would neutralise Mohamed Ben Salman. If this were to occur, the UAE leadership would find itself completely isolated.

Thus, the alliance with Israel offers the UAE some degree of protection in view of their common interests. Both countries share a deep hostility towards Iran and reject the nuclear agreement signed by former US President Obama. Both are equally disappointed by President Trump’s refusal to launch a large-scale military campaign against the Iranian forces. The lack of Trump’s military response in July 2019 after the attack on the Saudi Aramco oil facilities was seen as highly significant. And besides, Israel harbours a silent aversion to the democratisation of Arab countries.

Israel saves face

For Israel, the real advantage of this treaty is not economic. The Emirati leadership will make flashy investments in Israel, if only to show the Palestinians what they missed by turning down the “deal of the century”. But at the end of the day, the financial advantages for Israel will be slender. Trade with the UAE will be overshadowed by the existing exchanges with the USA and the West in general, while conversely the oil-rich UAE have no particular need of Israeli investments.

But Israel benefits from the agreement in other ways. First of all, it adds a little more legitimacy to its role in the regional order of the Middle East, even though it does run the risk of being sucked into the impulsive counter-revolutionary actions of its new peace partner.

Above all, however, Israel can go on pulling the strings in the Palestinians situation. Despite the passing mention in the treaty of a halt to the West Bank annexation process, the Netanyahu government considers this to be merely a temporary pause. The “deal of the century,” drawn up by Donald Trump’s entourage having bogged down this year, in view of the international condemnation of the annexation of the Jordan Valley, this new peace treaty provides an ideal opportunity to save face. Actually, no Israeli colony has been dismantled and no land has been returned to the Palestinians. Yet since the annexation plans have been officially suspended, the Palestinian Authority must remain operative as a political player, which preserves the fiction of a peace process in a bilateral framework.

A publicity operation for Trump

A treaty like this is grist to the American mill because it is an excellent PR operation at a time when the presidential campaign is in full swing. The agreement can be passed off as a victory for the Trump administration, and the President can score some points as a successful negotiator. The fulfilment of the White House dream of hosting a peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country provides Trump with an excellent diversion to make voters forget his many governance failings in such areas as the coronavirus pandemic, race relations and other domestic issues.

The peace treaty also serves to hide the fiasco of the “deal of the century.” By claiming to have blocked the controversial annexation plans, the US will try to revive this moribund framework. At the same time, it helps Trump prop up his reputation with certain portions of his electorate. It enables the administration to recover a degree of credibility among liberal Jews who aspire to a collective peace in the Middle East while at the same time reassuring rabid Zionists that Israel’s claims to the West Bank are still on the table.

Towards a “Palestinian Spring”?

In the last analysis, the real losers here are, as usual, the Palestinians. They will keep up their struggle to obtain the constituent elements of a viable state which include the right of return, a capital in East Jerusalem, and the end of Israel’s illegal occupation of their land. While the UAE, Israel and the USA may derive some short-term advantages from this treaty, the long-term future of the Palestinians is still up in the air.

Left at the periphery of the regional power play, the Palestinian struggle needs a fresh uprising. It is to be hoped that it will not take the form of yet another Intifada but rather that of a Palestinian version of the Arab Spring. This would require a rejuvenation of the Palestinian political establishment, the rise to power of a more responsible and better representative leadership, backed by united resistance on the part of Palestinian society as a whole.

This would also require that the Palestinians appeal to the whole rest of the world, not just the Middle East, because international support for a Palestinian State is still extremely high. Today the recovery of their rights by the people of Palestine is probably not linked to the two-state solution which is indeed no longer a viable option but must be sought henceforth in the framework of a single state.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human Rights, Middle East, UAE0 Comments

Rethinking U.S. Middle East policy starts with rejecting annexation

by: Aslı Bâli and Aziz Rana

v



While Trump’s recent predecessors invested in a negotiated “peace process,” they also systematically placed a thumb on the scale in Israel’s favor while shielding successive governments from accountability for such actions as the expansion of settlements, the siege of Gaza, and the indiscriminate use of force against Palestinian civilians — all in violation of international law. In fact, as Israel’s governments have lurched further and further to the right, one American administration after another have essentially capitulated to whatever were presented as the new terms. 

The impunity that the U.S. affords Israel has enabled Israeli bellicosity in ways that have been destabilizing to the region and even drawn the United States into ever-increasing counter-productive military commitments.

Destructive regional policies ranging from the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the U.S. role in Syria to withdrawal from the JCPOA and mounting tensions with Iran bear some relationship to the American approach to Israel. Moreover, the actions of both Democrats and Republicans have left the U.S. complicit in Palestinian dispossession and displacement, while making the U.S. an ever greater target of regional frustration and anger. Just as critically, the basic disregard for the law implicit in American default support has undermined U.S. credibility on the global stage. Given the latest moves from the Trump White House, how can American officials assert the need for other states to obey the rule of law when it willingly embraces legal impunity as exercised by a central ally?

But if Democratic complicity partially explains the party establishment’s hesitancy to speak up, Trump’s distinctiveness has had real political effects within the American public. His explicit embrace of Netanyahu’s brazen and xenophobic politics may be turning the tide among Democratic voters. Polls and opinion pieces over the last few years reflect a marked shift in the direction of greater criticism of Israeli leadership. Right now, there is a clear public rethinking of what support for Israel — as opposed to support for the views of whatever Israeli government may be in power — might entail. But if the Democratic base is shifting, the question remains: will its leadership actually listen

This week’s Democratic National Convention is an opportunity for Democrats to signal whether they will accept the Trump administration’s bellicosity and promotion of legal impunity. For now, unilateral annexation has been suspended with the threat of Palestinian expropriation being leveraged as a means of demanding that pro-Trump Arab countries normalize relations with Israel.

The willingness of Emirati Crown Prince and staunch Trump ally, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to recognize Israel and establish full diplomatic ties needs to be understood as much as an extension of the Trump administration’s campaign against Iran — supported by both the UAE and Israel — as a reward for threatening illegal annexation. This arrangement is primarily another way of exerting “maximum pressure” on a common regional foe. In other words, it must not be confused for a breakthrough in the peace process. And it also must not let Democratic leaders off the hook from stating clearly their position on the new American endorsement of illegal annexation. 

If the party leadership fails to embrace the very limited demands made in Rep. McCollum’s bill, that will set the tone for a Biden White House. It will mean that for all of the Democratic talk of a return to pre-Trump days, in at least one key way Biden, his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif), and company will be projecting into the future the Trump Doctrine on Israel and Palestine.

Given the stakes, supporting McCollum’s bill should be a simple litmus test for the party — a way to hold firm to an uncontroversial bipartisan consensus. And the failure to rally around it would prove that Democrats too seem committed to following the far right in the White House and in Israel down a rabbit hole of regional destabilization, more American military entanglements and ongoing rights violations. This will be a tragic and strategic mistake for the U.S. as well as the Middle East. It will also demonstrate a fundamental lack of nerve, highlighting how Democratic leaders refuse to listen to their own constituents and remain unwilling, on the global stage and at home, to squarely face the challenges of the day.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

Cornered into a Cave: The Callousness of Nazi Occupation

v

By Mohamed Mohamed

Ahmad Amarneh is a 30-year-old Palestinian civil engineer who lives with his pregnant wife and daughter in the West Bank village of Farasin, west of Jenin.

Farasin happens to be in “Area C” of the Palestinian West Bank, which constitutes around 60 percent of the territory, and is where the Israeli occupation maintains full control of security and land management (in contrast to Area A and Area B, where Palestinians have some control of these affairs).

In Area C, Israel bans virtually all Palestinian construction and development, while encouraging and assisting Israelis to build settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

Palestinians must obtain permits to build homes in Area C, but Israel denies almost all these requests. In fact, between 2016 and 2018, Israel rejected more than 98 percent of Palestinian building permit requests. Even worse, since 2006, Israel demolished at least 1,584 Palestinian homes that it deemed “illegally” built, causing 6,880 Palestinians, including 3,456 minors to become homeless.

How does this tie into Ahmad Amarneh? He received a demolition notice from Israeli authorities. This is obviously nothing new for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation.

What is unique about this situation is that the Amarneh family lives in a cave. Yes, as absurd as it sounds, they literally live in a cave, and the Israelis want to demolish it.

One might wonder why anyone in the 21st century would live in a cave, where there is no proper infrastructure for electricity, water, sewage, or any other basic utility for that matter. The answer is very simple. Israel gave this man and his family no choice.

Amarneh told the AFP news agency that he tried to build a house in his village of Farasin two times, but Israeli authorities denied the permit requests. Knowing the harsh realities of Israeli occupation, he believed he would never receive a permit from Israel to build.

Amarneh decided to improvise with a cave in the hills near his village. He presumed that since the cave is a natural formation, the Israelis could not argue that it was built illegally. As a civil engineer by training, he had no problem sealing the cave with a stone wall and installing a door. He also transformed the inside of the cave to include a kitchen, living room, and bedrooms.

Of course, this made no difference to Israeli occupation authorities. After living in the cave for about a year and a half, Amarneh and 20 other Palestinian families in Farasin received demolition notices from Israel.

The irony of demolition orders against Amarneh’s cave home, along with the thousands of other Palestinian homes, is that Israel considers them to be illegal. In reality, Israel is the one in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which it ratified in 1951. Specifically, Article 53 prohibits an occupying power from destroying property belonging to private individuals.

Ahmad Amarneh’s dilemma shows just how callous and merciless Israeli military occupation is toward Palestinians. Where else in the world can one be evicted from a cave?

As Amarneh wonders himself:

“I don’t understand how they can prevent me from living in a cave. Animals live in caves and are not thrown out. So, let them treat me like an animal and let me live in the cave.”

The fact that any human being would prefer to be treated like an animal speaks volumes, and it is truly demoralizing. Israel does not care about human rights, international law, or justice. It is a rogue, apartheid, racist state that will never change its behavior unless it is held accountable. If the treatment of Ahmad Amarneh, and the many other outrageous Israeli actions do not awaken American policy makers, it is unknown what will.

Posted in Palestine Affairs0 Comments


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