Archive | Middle East

US Likely Took Course to Demolish Iran Nuclear Deal 

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Russia, as well as the European Union, remains committed to the Iran nuclear deal, despite the recent US waiver of sanctions against the country.

Moscow would oppose any attempts to undermine the existing nuclear agreement between P5+1 countries and Iran, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has stated.

“The JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] cannot be amended and we will oppose any attempts to hamper it,” Ryabkov said.

The minister went on by saying that Trump’s move raises questions concerning his negotiability on international issues, adding that Moscow will insistently explain to Washington the viciousness of its sanction policy towards both Tehran and Pyongyang.

“We have a very negative stance on yesterday’s decisions and statements announced by Washington, our worst expectations are coming true,” Ryabkov said commenting on Trump’s words, saying that the US thus demonstrate their preference for the use of power to solve issues.

The minister underlined that statements by US President Donald Trump will be very carefully studied in the DPRK and other countries and may influence the existing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

“According to our estimates, our American colleagues act in such a way as to constantly find opportunities to increase tensions on the Korean peninsula. Despite the signs that there has been some shift in the direction toward political dialogue, here we also note intra-Korean contacts, which are very important — despite this, Washington is looking for ways to constantly remind everyone, including in Northeast Asia, that it is committed to pressuring and methods of force, and, using this same American terminology, keeping all the options on the table,” the deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry added.

The diplomat added that there was no sense in overestimating Trump’s decision on waiving the sanctions, as the United States was seeking to undermine the JCPOA and is reinforcing a categorical approach to Iran-related issues.

“The prospect of the US withdrawal from the Iran deal will deliver a very serious blow to the whole system of international agreements and to the enhancing of the nuclear non-proliferation regime,” Ryabkov said.

Speaking about a new deal on Iran, which the US has claimed to elaborate, the minister stressed that Moscow could hardly understand how it might look like.

“We do not understand what our American colleagues mean when they start to negotiate the development of some new agreement, which, as they think, will ‘correct the shortcomings’ of the existing agreement,” Ryabkov said.

“It has been announced in advance that Iran, Russia and China are not invited to negotiations concerning this agreement. This is the US’ decision, the content of the talks and their subject is unclear. But for us, strictly speaking, they are of little interest because the JCPOA is not subject to correction,” Ryabkov stressed.

US Sanctions

“Of course, the decisions on enlargement of the sanction list [as for Iran] by including 14 individuals and entities, including the citizens of foreign states, not only the Iranian institutions and organizations, spark concerns,” Ryabkov has commented on the US sanctions on 14 individuals and entities over Iran’s human rights abuses and ballistic missile program, including the ones from China and Malaysia.

The minister called on the international community to consolidate efforts aimed at securing the Iranian nuclear deal.

“We think that in this context, the international community should double its efforts aimed at consolidation of the approach to the protection of the JCPOA shared by Russia, the Europeans and China in favor of its strict and full implementation by all the participants,” Ryabkov said.

The statement was made in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s announcement on January 12 of his decision to waive sanctions on Iran as required by the JCPOA, also known as the Iran nuclear deal. Trump, however, specified it would be the last time he signs the waiver unless the deal is modified.

This move follows the common path the US president took in relation to the Islamic Republic ever since his election campaign. When elected, he reaffirmed opposition to the deal officially in late October 2017, refusing to re-certify it and accusing Tehran of violating the spirit of the agreement.

However, the president still does not contest Tehran’s compliance with the deal at the international level, while at the same time not excluding the possibility of withdrawing from the deal if the agreement is not improved. Other JCPOA signatories have called on the United States to comply with the agreement’s provisions, saying that the deal had yielded results and was non-negotiable.

READ MORE:

Trump Decides to Extend Iran Sanctions Waiver, But for the Last Time — WH

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US Army awards Sikorsky to supply 17 Black Hawk helicopters to Saudi

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The US Army has awarded Sikorsky, a leading American aircraft manufacturer based in Connecticut, a contract worth nearly $200 million to supply 17 Black Hawk helicopters to Saudi Arabia.

The terms of the “firm-fixed-price” agreement between the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, and the army were announced Thursday by the Department of Defense.

Saudi Arabia is expected to receive eight UH-60Ms for the kingdom’s National Guard, while the other nine helicopters will go to the Royal special security forces.

The UH-60M Black Hawk, a medium-lift, rotary-wing helicopter, has been in use by military forces around the world since it was first introduced in 1979.

It has multi-mission capabilities and can be used in combat search-and-rescue, airborne assault, command-and-control, medical evacuation, search-and-rescue, disaster relief and fire-fighting.

Sikorsky will begin work under the $193.8 million deal to manufacture the helicopters with an estimated completion date of the end of 2022.

The deal comes as the US is under pressure to suspend its arms sales to the Saudi regime, which has been waging a deadly military aggression against Yemen since 2015.

At least 13,600 people have been killed since the start of the war.

During his first trip to Saudi Arabia last year, President Donald Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal with the Saudis, with options to sell up to $350 billion over a decade.

Facilitated by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, the massive package includes missiles, bombs, armored personnel carriers, combat ships, terminal high altitude area defense (THAAD) missile systems and munitions.

The announcement generated backlash in Congress, with Republican Senator Rand Paul promising to work to block at least parts of the package.

The Trump administration is looking to loosen restrictions on American arms sales to boost the country’s weapons industry.

The move seeks to ease export rules for military equipment “from fighter jets and drones to warships and artillery,” according to officials familiar with the plan.

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Salafi mission calls into question Saudi concept of moderation and policy in Yemen

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Muhammad bin Salman and moderate islam

By James M. Dorsey

Plans to open a Salafi missionary centre in the Yemeni province of Al Mahrah on the border with Oman and Saudi Arabia raise questions about Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s concept of a moderate form of Islam.

The questions are prompted by the fact that Prince Muhammad has so far put little, if any, flesh on his skeletal vow last October to return his ultra-conservative kingdom to “moderate Islam”.

The crown prince has created expectations of more social liberalism with the lifting of a ban on women’s driving, a residual of Bedouin rather than Muslim tradition, as well the granting of female access to male sporting events; the legitimisation of various forms of entertainment, including cinema, theatre and music; and the stripping away of the religious police’s right to carry out arrests.

While removing Saudi Arabia as the only Muslim country that didn’t permit women to drive or allow various recreational activities, Prince Muhammad has yet to conceptualise what a rollback of Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism would mean in a nation whose public life remains steeped in a puritan interpretation of the faith. (The lifting on the ban of women entering stadiums leaves Iran as the only country that restricts female access to male sporting events.)

Sectarian crutches

The disclosure of the plan for a Salafi mission suggests Prince Muhammad may only want to curb ultra-conservatism’s rough edges. It also calls into question Saudi policy in Yemen that is reminiscent of past failures.

Saudi Arabia’s conflict with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, a Zaydi Shia Muslim sect with roots in a region bordering the kingdom, dates to Saudi employment of Salafism to counter the group in the 1980s.

The plan harks back to the creation of an anti-Shia Salafi mission near the Houthi stronghold of Saada that sparked a military confrontation in 2011 with the Yemeni government, one of several wars in the region. The centre was closed in 2014 as part of an agreement to end the fighting.

Prince Muhammad’s use of ultra-conservative Sunni Islam in his confrontation with the Houthis was also evident in the appointment as governor of Saada of Hadi Tirshan al-Wa’ili, a member of a tribe hostile to the Shia sect, and a follower of Saudi-backed Islamic scholar Uthman Mujalli. Mr Mujalli reportedly serves as an advisor to Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the exiled, Saudi-backed Yemeni president.

“Over the past 40 years, the Saudi government has invested heavily in Salafi-Wahhabi-style madrasas and mosques in the northern areas, only to realise that this programme was jeopardised by the Zaydi revival movement. If the Houthis were to be defeated in their home province, it is likely that the Salafi-Wahhabi programme will be revived, and implemented more fiercely than in previous years,” said Yemen scholar Gabriele vom Bruck.

The disclosure of the Al-Mahrah plan coincided with a damning 79-page United Nations report that condemned Saudi, Iranian and United Arab Emirates interventions in Yemen. The report concluded that Saudi and UAE proxies threatened peace prospects and that a secession of South Yemen that includes Al-Mahrah had become a distinct possibility.

Questionable “moderation”

The questions about Prince Muhammad’s concept of a moderate Islam go beyond Yemen. The arts, including cinema, remain subject to censorship that is informed by the kingdom’s long-standing ultra-conservative values. A football player and a singer are among those who face legal proceedings for un-Islamic forms of expressing themselves.

The government last year introduced physical education in girls’ schools and legalised women’s fitness clubs, but has yet to say whether restrictions on women competing in a variety of Olympic disciplines will be lifted.

The example of Yemen suggests that little has changed in Saudi Arabia’s four-decade-old, $100 billion global public diplomacy campaign that promoted Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism as an anti-dote to revolutionary Iranian ideology.

Similarly, and perhaps more importantly, it has yet to indicate whether male guardianship, gender segregation, dress codes that force women to fully cover, and the obligatory closure of shops at prayer times will be abolished. Also, the government has still to declare a willingness to lift the ban on the practice of non-Muslim faiths or adherence to strands of Islam considered heretic by the ultra-conservatives.

The example of Yemen suggests that little has changed in Saudi Arabia’s four-decade-old, $100 billion global public diplomacy campaign that promoted Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism as an anti-dote to revolutionary Iranian ideology.

Yemen is but one extreme of the spectrum. The Saudi-funded and operated grand mosque in Brussels is the other. Saudi Arabia, responding to Belgian criticism of the mosque’s ultra-conservative management, last year appointed as its imam, Tamer Abou el Saod, a 57-year-old polyglot Luxemburg-based, Swedish consultant with a career in the food industry. Senior Saudi officials have moreover responded positively to a Belgian government initiative to prematurely terminate Saudi Arabia’s 99-year lease of the mosque so that it can take control of it.

In contrast to Yemen, where the use of ultra-conservatism is a deliberate choice, Prince Muhammad may feel constrained in his moderation quest in the kingdom by the fact that his ruling Al Saud family derives its legitimacy from its adherence to ultra-conservatism. In addition, the kingdom’s ultra-conservative religious establishment has repeatedly signalled that the views of at least some its members have not changed even if it has endorsed the crown prince’s policies.

Saudi Arabia last September suspended Saad al-Hijri, a prominent scholar in charge of fatwas, or religious edicts, in the province of Asir, for opposing the lifting of the ban on driving because women allegedly had only  half a brain that is reduced to a quarter when they go shopping. Sheikh Saad made his comment after the Council of Senior Scholars, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, had approved the move.

Ultra-conservative mood music

By the same token, no public action was taken against Sheikh Salih al-Fawzan, a member of the council, who declared on his website that “If women are allowed to drive they will be able to go and come as they please day and night, and will easily have access to temptation, because as we know, women are weak and easily tempted”. A video clip of Sheikh Salih’s view was posted on YouTube in October. It was not clear when the scholar spoke or whether he had approved the posting.

A main thrust of Prince Muhammad’s drive to return to moderate Islam is the fight against extremism, involving among others the creation of a centre to oversee the interpretations of Prophet Muhammad’s teachings in a bid ensure that they do not justify violence.

There is indeed little doubt that the kingdom is serious about countering extremism. Opposing extremism, however, does not automatically equate to moderation or concepts of tolerance and pluralism. Prince Muhammad has yet to clarify if those concepts are part of his notion of moderation. His track record so far is at best a mixed one.

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Swiss Newspaper Reveals: Secret Military Cooperation Between Saudi Zio-Wahhabi and I$raHell

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The Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung revealed the fact that there exists a “secret alliance” between Saudi Zio-Wahhabi regime and the Jewish Nazi regime, intended “to restrain Iran’s expansion in the region, despite the absence of any official relations between the two countries.”

“For the time being, Riyadh rejects any official normalization of relationships with Israel as long as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not resolved and normalization has not been publically declared by Arab countries and thus there will be no exchange of ambassadors,” said Pierre Heumann, the newspaper’s correspondent in the Nazi state in his report.

“There is an intensive secret cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel in order to achieve the main goal of curbing Iran’s expansion project and undermining its regional ambitions,” said the reporter. He added that “there exists indeed military cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Tel Aviv.”

The reporter quoted unidentified sources from Riyadh as saying

“the Kingdom is currently considering the possibility to purchase Israeli weapons and it has shown an interest in purchasing defence systems for the tanks and the iron dome, which Israel claims has proven to be effective in countering rocket attacks from Gaza Strip.”

According to the newspaper,

“Riyadh seeks to intercept missiles coming from Yemen. Observers from Tel Aviv and Riyadh are confirming that cooperation between the security services of Israel and Saudi Arabia is very advanced, although Saudi Arabia has been officially denying any sort of cooperation with Israel,” as the newspaper put it.

According to the newspaper

“the Saudi elite has abandoned its fears of overt contact with representatives of Israel long time ago.”

CIA Director Mike Pompeo announced in early December last year that ”Saudi Arabia is working directly with Israel and other Sunni countries in the field of fighting terrorism”.

Earlier, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a radio interview that

“there were several contacts with Saudi Arabia, but they were kept secret at the request of Riyadh.”

The newspaper stressed that a number of Saudi prominent figures met up with Nazi officials in public. In October, the two former Intelligence chiefs in the Nazi state and Saudi Zio-Wahhabi family met to exchange views about the US policy in the region. The newspaper noted that former Saudi Intelligence chief Zio-Wahhabi Prince Turki al-Faisal held talks with former “Mossad” chief Efraim Halevy. Al-Faisal was even ready to participate with his Nazi counterpart at a symposium at the Jewish Community Centre in New York.

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Trump’s Iran Statement: A View From Europe

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Featured image: The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (Source: LobeLog)

It is with some reluctance that I write about President Donald Trump’s latest statement on Iran, because the statement is so full of half-truths, untruths, and logical fallacies that it is bad for one’s blood pressure to have to dwell on it for any length of time.

I will try to limit damage to my constitution by focussing on just a few of the statement’s most disturbing features.

The statement reveals a shocking attitude towards the European allies of the United States. For months these allies have been telling the Trump administration that the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a satisfactory and useful nuclear non-proliferation instrument, and that they attach the highest importance to preserving it.

President Trump’s statement does not just ignore what his European allies have been saying. It threatens these allies with the very outcome they want to avoid—the demise of the JCPOA—if they decline or fail to bend to the President’s will:

Today, I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal. This is a last chance. In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately.

This is an extraordinary way to treat long-standing allies. It amounts to putting a metaphorical gun to their heads. If the criminal underworld is paying attention, it will surely elect President Trump gangster-of-the-month. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was right: the time has come for Europe to wean itself from the United States.

Equally shocking, but less surprising because, alas, we have grown accustomed to this tendency, is a disregard for the sovereign rights of states and for the legally binding international treaties and UN resolutions that limit those rights.

Iran has a sovereign right to possess the means to enrich uranium. Currently that right is limited in two ways. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) binds Iran to using enrichment technology solely for peaceful purposes and in conformity with a nuclear safeguards agreement. UN Security Council resolution 2231 endorses tight limits on Iran’s enrichment capacity, and production of enriched uranium, until the start of 2031.

Iran also has a sovereign right to develop and possess missiles for the purpose of delivering conventional (non-nuclear) warheads. There are no international treaty restrictions on this right. UNSC resolution 2231 “calls upon” Iran not to develop missiles that would be capable of delivering nuclear pay-loads but does not legally bind Iran in this respect. (So, contrary to President Trump’s claim, Iran’s missile tests and related activities are not “illicit” or violations of any UN resolution.)

It follows that President Trump has no right to dictate limits or restrictions over and beyond those just described. Instead, if he and his advisers believe that the sunset clauses of the JCPOA (certain restrictions on Iran’s enrichment right lapse between 2026 and 2031) and Iranian missiles threaten international peace and security, they must convene the UN Security Council and submit for the Council’s consideration a resolution that would give legally binding effect to the restrictions and prohibitions they consider necessary.

That is how the Trump administration ought to proceed. The probability of it doing so is close to zero, however. Even this administration is capable of perceiving that the Council would decline to adopt any such resolution.

Why? In 2018 there is no evidence that an expansion of Iran’s enrichment capacity after 2030 (if it takes place) will threaten international peace and security—or that Iranian possession of short- and medium-range missiles poses any more of a threat than their possession by Saudi Arabia, Israel, Pakistan, India, South Korea, and Brazil, to name but a few. Only after the International Atomic Energy Agency has concluded a root-and-branch investigation into the totality of Iran’s nuclear program, and produced findings, can the Council reasonably form a view on whether some kind of successor to the JCPOA (and/or missile restrictions) is needed to head off a threat to peace and security.

A third feature of the statement is the damage that it will do to the international standing of the United States.

Many states will be worried about the statement’s implications for the law-based international order to which they are attached. The last thing they want is a world in which the president of the United States feels entitled to form a posse and go after whomever he chooses.

They will also be worried that this statement suggests that President Trump is a man possessed by demons. One of those demons is his hatred of President Barack Obama. Trump’s desire to destroy one of Obama’s achievements is obvious from the statement.

Less obvious is President Trump’s faith in what he hears from those he has chosen to befriend. Anyone looking for a summary of the anti-Iranian propaganda churned out in recent years by Israel, Saudi Arabia, and associated Washington think-tanks need look no further than this statement. To the rest of the world this suggests that it is idle to look to the current White House for balanced, objective, rational analyses of international situations. That is disquieting.

The hope now must be that Europe, Russia, and China, with the backing of most of the world, can persuade Iran to scorn the US provocation that now seems inevitable: US withdrawal from the JCPOA and the re-introduction of US nuclear-related sanctions.

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What to make of Iran’s demonstrations

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What to make of Iran’s demonstrations

People march in support of the Islamic Revolution, Tehran, Dec. 30

Anti-Government Protesters Set Garbage Cans on Fire, Tehran, Dec. 30

Anti-government protesters set garbage cans on fire, Tehran, Dec. 30

Starting Dec. 28, 2017, Iran has witnessed anti-government protests in several cities and towns. The character and the demands of the demonstrations have varied greatly and seem to have already evolved over the course of a few days. From the beginning, Iranian government officials have stated that people have a right to demonstrate, but that acts of sabotage and violence would be dealt with forcefully.

The first few protests focused mainly on economic issues. Demonstrations were peaceful and marched down streets chanting slogans. These initial protests seemed to occur without major incidents. From there, some of the marches become more militant and aggressive, with garbage cans and police cars set ablaze. By the night of Dec. 31, 2017, protests took on the form of armed attacks on government buildings and police stations. By Jan. 3, hundreds had been arrested and 21 people have been killed.

Global and national context of the current protests

Predictably, the U.S. and other Western media have provided highly sympathetic and strongly exaggerated coverage to the demonstrations. Across the spectrum of U.S. ruling class politics, there is broad unity on the goal of regime change in Iran. They have an immediate solidarity with anything that could weaken the Iranian state. The one exception would be if there were an explicit socialist or anti-imperialist revolutionary opposition movement in Iran, of course, in which case the Western capitals would positively oppose it.

But in the here and now, the Iranian state’s independent political relationships and military interventions have been a persistent thorn to U.S., Saudi and Israeli designs in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and Gaza. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Iranian influence has only grown since the U.S. invasions and occupations — a phenomenon that U.S. foreign policymakers would like to reverse. Their grand ambition is to return Iran to the U.S. sphere of influence, as it was between 1953 and 1979, when it served alongside as Israel as the pillar of U.S. national security strategy in the region.

Therefore, Western media coverage about Iranian politics in 2018 is about as objective and informative as listening to the Spanish crown’s assessment of Inca politics in the 1500s or reading the British colonizers’ dispatches on political struggles in Africa in the 1800s.

Iranian society cannot be understood if reduced to the simplistic framework of “the dictatorial regime” versus “the suffering people.” This is the formula utilized to demonize foreign governments, to lay the groundwork for sanctions, war, regime change, assassinations and other punitive measures. It has nothing in common with the Marxist method, which looks at a society’s contending classes and class fractions, its political history and social reality.

Iran is a capitalist society where competing bourgeois factions jockey for position and control, dominating different state institutions and influencing different media outlets. The major axes of domestic struggle in recent years have dealt with the size of the social safety net, the potential relaxation of religious laws, the approach to ethnic and religious minorities, as well as economic development strategies. On foreign policy, major struggles have been waged on how much to confront the United States and directly engage in regional conflicts.

The competing camps do not align neatly nor fall into neat political categories like “right” and “left.” What the Western media calls “hardline” is typically more associated with those projecting confrontation with imperialism and a stricter interpretation of religious rule. The “reformists,” who controlled government during the early 2000s, take a more conciliatory line. Within both camps, there are major differences in economic program. These currents measure their strength through bourgeois-democratic processes, not a monarchical form or being “chosen” by the Supreme Leader as is sometimes suggested wrongly. The system is, however, overseen by a clerical authority, itself riven with struggle, which retains a veto power over policy and ensures that the level of open struggle and debate does not endanger the political system as a whole.

Protests are uncommon but not unprecedented in Iran. In recent years, protests have taken place on a number of issues, usually local in character, but in some cases in several cities, as with the protests against ethnic chauvinism, which carried on without major incident. The initial protests in the current wave likewise did not result in the deployment of the Revolutionary Guard, or meet repression until some protesters openly called to overthrow the Islamic Republic, and escalated into physical confrontation with the state. These can be understood as the Iranian state’s “red lines” in the toleration of the protests.

Corporate media hype

Following this corporate media coverage today, one is led to believe that these demonstrations reflect the will of the vast majority of the people. But there are few facts so far to support this. Corporate media reports put the number of total protesters at “tens of thousands.” Video clips posted on social media suggest quite modest turnouts, ranging from dozens to no more than hundreds. Even if there have been tens of thousands of protesters, for context, we have to keep in mind that Iran has a population of 80 million.

To be sure, all protests tend to speak for far more beyond their immediate participants, but the level of support is not so easy to determine.

Western media report these demonstrations in Iran as being the largest demonstrations since the mass demonstrations that followed the 2009 elections. This is technically true, even if we consider the likely more accurate estimate of “thousands” not “tens of thousands.” But the 2009 demonstrations were attended by hundreds of thousands, maybe millionsof people. Even then, the people protesting the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not represent a majority of the population, as large as the turnout was. The recent demonstrations are not comparable to those in scale.

On Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, massive demonstrations took place in 120 cities. But these were demonstrations in support of the Islamic Republic, not in opposition to it. Ironically, they were planned in advance of the recent round of opposition protests, and in commemoration of mass demonstrations in 2009 by supporters of the Islamic Republic. The turnout for the Dec. 30 demonstrations was huge, totaling in millions across the country.

Several U.S. media organizations – e.g. CNN, New York Times – have used photos of the pro-Islamic Republic mass demonstrations for their articles on the opposition protests. These kinds of false media practices serve the purpose of giving their audience the impression that the anti-government demonstrations have had huge turnouts, even in cases where they later publish tiny corrections.

It is possible, although not likely, that anti-government protests will grow massively in the coming days. But, factually, as of this writing, the turnout to opposition rallies is quite small compared to the recent pro-Islamic Republic turnout, or the opposition turnout in 2009.

The character of the protests

When analyzing an opposition movement anywhere in the world, there are certain questions we must ask. What is the political character of the opposition movement? Does it have an anti-capitalist character? Is it a working-class movement? Does it represent an expansion of the country’s independence or does it promote its submission to the dictates of multinational corporations? U.S. ruling class institutions also ask these same types of questions and, based on the answers, provide or withhold support.

In the current movement there is not a clear organized leadership, nor are there clearly defined political demands. At this early stage, one can only make a preliminary assessment and note emerging trends.

At least initially, the primary demands appear to be economic. It has been speculated that the rapid rise in the price of eggs and poultry, an estimated 40 percent rise in recent weeks, has triggered the protests. This type of inflation, as well as high youth unemployment, were among some of the main complaints voiced in the protests. Similarly, the Rouhani government’s proposed budget for next year includes cuts in fuel subsidies and cash subsidies, which may also have contributed.

The very first demonstration was in Mashhad, in northeastern Iran near the border of Afghanistan. This was followed with a protest in Qom, in central Iran. Both Mashhad and Qom are holy cities in Shi’a Islam, the two biggest destinations for pilgrimage. This starting point could not be more different from northern Tehran where the 2009 protests were centered. This would suggest, and there are other reports to this effect, that the protests were launched, not by people wishing to overthrow the Islamic Republic but, by people critical of President Rouhani’s administration and in favor of a stricter form of Islamic government rule.

The political tendency grouped around former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also has been strongly critical of Rouhani for the nuclear deal, which they consider to have been too concessionary to the West. Small protests also took place at universities in recent days along these lines, calling President Rouhani a “disgrace” and chanting “down with the dictator.”

Rouhani responded to the first protests by trying to turn them around on his “hard-line” opponents and synchronize them with his own political agenda about government waste: “People are not only criticizing [the government for] the economic situation. People have something to say about corruption and transparency. People want to know what is going on in the lawmaking, judicial and other sectors.”

In this sense, the initial protests can be understood as the struggle between political factions spilling into the streets and each attempting to mobilize popular support behind them. People with strong grievances, quite possibly with different and diametrically opposed political orientations, were drawn to them. As the protests have continued, regardless of the wishes of the individual participants, they have also provided space for the growing initiative of counter-revolutionary, pro-Western armed elements. This is not a completed fact, but is the emerging trend at the time of this writing.

Presence of reactionary slogans

For years, the omnipresent media broadcast TV channels, most prominently among them the BBC and Voice of America, have promoted the idea that economic problems in Iran are primarily, or at least partly, due to the virtually unlimited support that the Islamic Republic provides Palestine. According to this propaganda line, as long as there are economic needs in Iran, no support should go to Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen or elsewhere. Rumor has it that truckloads of solid gold are headed from Iran directly to Gaza and Damascus on a regular basis!

This view was reflected in a commonly repeated chant at several protests. It is really the return of a common chant of the 2009 Green Movement: “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I give my life for Iran,” or the even more chauvinistic variant: “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, Sacrifice both for Iran.”

As the days went on, overt demands for the overthrow of the political system were expressed through the chant: “Down with the dictator.” This amorphous slogan has been used by forces as diverse as Rouhani’s conservative opponents and the pro-Western liberals of the 2009 “Green movement” who desire the overthrow of the political system. It was widely reported that at some protests in the last week, the demand for the return of the Shah’s regime was openly chanted.

A movement whose most popular demand is opposition to Iran’s support for Palestine cannot be progressive. A movement whose idea of improved economic management is merging the country’s economy into the world capitalist system, dominated by the U.S. and its junior imperialist partners, cannot be progressive. Merely having legitimate economic and political grievances does not make a movement progressive. The question is what political force and program will gain initiative.

Here in the U.S., some of the supporters of Trump’s fascistic policies are workers with legitimate grievances against the capitalist economy, the political system and the Democrats. They feel squeezed and threatened by a system that has eroded their living standards and threatens to throw them into the ranks of the unemployed and the homeless. They hate the political establishment, the federal government and the status quo. Yet, in the absence of class consciousness, they buy into Trump’s racist, sexist and bigoted solution to the real problems. Despite having legitimate grievances, they are reactionary.

The Trump administration, U.S. politicians, and the corporate media quickly determined this to be an opposition movement they can throw their support behind. So have the Israeli and Saudi governments, the latter of which has been accused of generating thousands of fake Twitter accounts to amplify the movement’s reach worldwide. They are betting that the movement’s own trajectory will serve imperialist interests, or that it is amorphous enough that it can be influenced and guided, and a pro-imperialist current can be nurtured within it.

Is Iran’s economy really in shambles?

Western media coverage of Iran routinely portrays the economy as being in “dire straits.” “Deteriorating,” “depleted,” “going downhill” are common descriptors. This kind of characterization often serves as the background for the analysis to follow.

But an objective analysis of any country’s economy should be based on facts and trends, not subjective characterizations. The World Bank, which can hardly be accused of having a pro-Iran bias, writes: “The Iranian economy bounced back sharply in 2016 at an estimated 6.4 percent. Latest data available for the first half of the Iranian calendar year 2016 (ending in March 2017) suggest that the Iranian economy grew at an accelerated pace of 9.2 percent (year over year) in the second quarter.” This is hardly an economy that is about to collapse.

Iran’s is not a traditional, agrarian economy either. Nor is it a single commodity oil economy. As one example, auto manufacturing in Iran has surpassed annual production of 1.5 million, by far the largest in the region and 12th in the world. The economy has been growing steadily for well over a decade, with the exception of the peak effect of the sanctions – 2014-2015 – when it actually contracted by 2 percent.

Economic growth does not mean, of course, that people do not suffer economic hardship. It is not just a question of the total size of the economy but also the distribution of the wealth and the resources. Iran has a capitalist economy with a large and strong state sector. The size of the state sector somewhat moderates the harsh effects of the market on the working class. Still, it is a capitalist economy, which, by its very nature, causes the accumulation of wealth and extreme differences between the living standards of the capitalists and the working class.

In aggregate economic terms the number of people living in poverty has dramatically decreased since the 1979 revolution. Prior to the revolution, according to UN data, 55 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Today, the World Bank states: “Poverty is estimated to have fallen from 13.1 percent to 8.1 percent between 2009 and 2013.”

But the substantial growth of the economy in the years since the 1990s, following the end of the Iran-Iraq war, has not been shared equally by all classes, as might be expected in any capitalist country. There exists now a class of the super-rich, the members of which are part of, or have close ties to, the political establishment. Some members of this new super-rich layer of society make it a point to show off their wealth. They drive around in hundred thousand dollar cars, live in unimaginably opulent mansions that have elevators for their automobiles, and dress in fashionable clothes comparable to Hollywood celebrities.

Inequality drives resentment

Iran is not an impoverished country where hunger and destitution have reached a breaking point. While parts of the working class suffer through real and painful hardships, as far as capitalist economies go, particularly in oppressed countries, Iran is not a country in deep economic distress.

To the extent that protests are motivated by the economy, it is not absolute poverty or the worsening of the living standards. It is the growing gap between the filthy rich and the rest of society.

For the Iranian working class, and even more so for the middle class, the opulent lifestyle of this class creates strong resentment at the obvious social injustice. The presence of this parasitic class renders the existence of some progressive social safety policies superfluous. That periodically large-scale embezzlement cases are exposed in high-profile trials reinforces the impression that all the wealth is being stolen by the government and those close to it.

It is instructive to look at two issues that have reportedly prompted anger about the government’s proposed budget. Next year’s budget is scheduled to increase the price of gasoline. But this is not a country in which energy prices are breaking the backs of workers. In Iran, gasoline is heavily subsidized. The price of gasoline is among the lowest in the world, the sixth lowest according to the site GlobalPetrolPrices.com. Currently, the government spends approximately $100 billion per year on subsidies for fuel, bread, sugar, rice, cooking oil and medicine.

Another point reportedly driving the anger at the economy is the planned reduction in the government’s cash subsidies. About 90 percent of the population receives direct cash subsidies. The way this works is that, every month, the government deposits money directly into citizens’ bank accounts. This amounts to about a $30 billion annual government expense. Many of those wishing Iran to implement what they see as sound economic policies like in the U.S. do not realize that subsidies for food, fuel and medicine are considered a gross violation of market economic principles. Cash subsidies for 90 percent of the population? Not a chance.

Role of agents

There is no doubt that the protests themselves reflect the frustrations of part of the population. There are widely felt grievances that many are demanding be heard and real problems they want rectified.

Given the long history of involvement of foreign agents in Iran, however, it would be nonsensical to assume that they would not again be working hard to try and seize hegemony over it. After the 2009 protests, several agents in possession of weaponry were arrested. Foreign agents (likely working for the CIA or the Mossad) successfully carried out several assassinations of nuclear scientists within Iran.

The United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, all sworn enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, regularly contribute to anti-government forces and are not shy about acknowledging those efforts. Their strategists admit that riding the wave of, and influencing, a protest movement would be an ideal scenario for taking down the Iranian government. That some of the most well-funded and high-powered security agencies on the planet have as a top priority the undermining and overthrow of the Iranian government is not imaginary; it is real.

No foreign agent or foreign-funded organization can create an opposition movement where there is not an existing potential for such. But they can have an impact on its direction, how it is perceived domestically and internationally, and the direction in which street actions are led, particularly where there is no clear leadership or ideological cohesiveness among the protesters.

An example of a possible action by agents is a grizzly video which surfaced of two people lying on the ground, bleeding to death in the town of Doroud, in the province of Lorestan. This is a town with a population of about 150,000. Government officials have claimed that the police had nothing to do with these two deaths, nor had they even shot any bullets in Doroud. It seems improbable that in Doroud, the police would just shoot two people and leave their bodies on the street to bleed to death.

Similarly, armed attacks on police stations and government buildings cannot be the work of ordinary people or the spontaneous protest movement. Ordinary people do not have arms in Iran. So, while the importance of social discontent as the root cause of protests must be understood, the possibility of armed agents entering, influencing and even capturing the movement cannot be discounted either. This is especially so in a case of such rapid militarization of the civil conflict.

Trump, U.S. officials express support

President Trump tweeted on Dec. 30, 2017: “The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most….” Note Trump’s inclusion of the U.S. “vast military power”’ as a not so subtle threat.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement: “Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos.”

Just so that we do not think these are empty words, we can look at comments U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made in June to Congress: The U.S. is working toward “support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government.”

Of course, the support Tillerson refers to is a violation of international law. No country has the right to actively support opposition forces, or the transition of power, in another country, peaceful or not. But active work towards the overthrow of the Iranian government did not just start with the Trump administration. It has been U.S. foreign policy for decades, with only brief periods of intermission.

Tasks of the anti-war movement

Understanding the line-up and character of the different forces in Iran is not an easy task for people in the U.S. It is not just that people have limited information and knowledge about what is going on in Iran. It is that the U.S. government and the corporate media deliberately misinform and obfuscate in the interests of the U.S. ruling class.

Further, unfortunately, a big chunk of liberal and progressive organizations routinely follow the lead of the State Department in deciding what is a democratic movement and what is not. Many will jump at the opportunity, without reservation or even close study, to support a “pro-democracy” movement in a country targeted by Washington. But they never quite find the time to take any action on victims of U.S. acts of aggression, say in Yemen, where arch-reactionary Saudi Arabia, with the material and moral support of the U.S., has driven the people into the abyss of death by starvation, infectious diseases and aerial bombings.

But the main task of revolutionaries and progressives in the U.S. is not to simply analyze developments in Iran, or elsewhere. Our task is to do what we can to stop the vast military that Trump boasts of from inflicting more death and destruction on the people around the world. Our task is to understand and teach others that the U.S. imperialist establishment, by its very nature, can never be an ally to the forces of revolution and progress.

The future of Iran is not to be decided by Trump, Tillerson and Haley, nor Clinton, Obama and the rest. The people of Iran have the right of self-determination. They are the ones who will determine their future based on their views, preferences and struggles. U.S. Hands off Iran!

Background reading:

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Drones Attacked Hmeymim Base From ‘Moderate’ Opposition-Controlled Area

NOVANEWS

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MOSCOW – The drones that attacked Hmeymim air base earlier this month flew out of the area in the southwest of the de-escalation zone Idlib controlled by the so-called “moderate” opposition, the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper, the official publication of the Russian Defense Ministry, said on Wednesday.

The ministry reported earlier this month that 13 drones had been used in attempted attacks on two Russian military facilities in Syria on January 6. Ten of them targeted the Hmeymim air base and three were sent toward the Tartus naval base.

“According to the Russian Defense Ministry, it was established that the launch of the drones was carried out from the area of ​​the Muazar settlement located in the southwestern part of Idlib de-escalation zone controlled by the armed formations of the so-called ‘moderate’ opposition,” the statement said.

It is noted that in connection with this incident, the Russian Defense Ministry had sent letters to the Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, Gen. Hulusi Akar, and Head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, Hakan Fidan.”The documents indicate the need for Ankara to fulfill its obligations to ensure compliance with the ceasefire regime by the armed formations under its control and to step up work on the installation of observation posts in Idlib de-escalation zone in order to prevent such attacks by UAVs against any objects,” the statement added.

On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the country’s forces had taken control over six out of 13 drones, involved in the January 6 attempted attack in Syria. Thus, three UAVs were landed by the Russian forces in a controlled area, three other drones detonated after collision with the ground, and seven other UAVs were destroyed by the Russian Pantsir-S air defense systems. Subsequently, the Pentagon said that the devices and technologies used for the drone attack “easily accessible on the open market.” This statement caused concern of the Russian Defense Ministry.

Posted in Russia, Syria0 Comments

US, Nazi regime step up hybrid war in Syria

NOVANEWS
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By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline 

The Russian airbase in Syria, Hmeimim, and the naval base at Tartus came under simultaneous drone attack on Saturday. The advanced Russian air defence system thwarted the attack. A wave of 13 drones was involved, and, interestingly, three of them were brought down intact.

After forty-eight hours of careful analysis of the incident, the Russian Defence Ministry in Moscow came out with a statement on Monday:

  • During the hours of darkness Russian air defense facilities made clear 13 remoted unknown small-sized air targets approaching the Russian military assets. Ten combat UAVs were approaching Russia’s Hmeymim air base and three more — the logistics center of Tartus.
  • Engineering solutions used by terrorists when attacking Russian facilities in Syria could have been received only from a country with high technological potential on providing satellite navigation and distant control of firing competently assembled self-made explosive devices in appointed place. (TASS )

The countries with such “high technological potential” and capability for “Satellite navigation and distant control” which are involved in the proxy war in Syria are just two in number – United States and Israel. Take your pick. To my mind, it is improbable that Israel, despite its bravado, would dare to attack Russia.

In sum, there was a spiteful American attack on Russian “assets” on the Christmas Day of the Russian Orthodox Church. The statement in Moscow was made after evaluation of the 3 drones that have been captured. Its fairly explicit tone is meant for the folks in Pentagon. To be sure, Pentagon suo moto came out with a pre-emptive statement deflecting the blame to Syrian rebels. That is an act of plausible deniability, since there are rebel groups operating in northern Syria. But they are al-Qaeda affiliates, who are American and Israeli proxies. The RT has a tongue-in-cheek rejoinder, here, to the Pentagon disclaimer.

Why is the US contesting the Russian bases in Syria? The point is, these Russian bases are located in Latakia province along the Mediterranean coast. And the US military objective is to gain access to the Mediterranean coast for the Kurdistan enclave it is creating in Syria without which the enclave will be landlocked and dependent critically on supply routes via Turkey or Iraq, apart from being economically unviable (although it is an oil-rich region of Syria.)

The Saudi establishment daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Monday that the Trump administration is planning to grant diplomatic recognition to the Kurdistan enclave in northern Syria (which is of the size of Lebanon.) The idea is to create a permanent foothold for the US and Israel in a strategic, economically self-sufficient independent Kurdistan where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Syria meet, and which may eventually reach Iran’s western border with northern Iraq.

But the US-Israeli strategy will remain a pipedream if the Kurdistsn is land-locked and continues to be challenged by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Hence the criticality of creating an access route to the Mediterranean via Latakia province.

Russia and Turkey understand the US intentions perfectly well. That explains their latest move to clear the al-Qaeda affiliate groups that are ensconced in the Idlib province adjacent to Latakia. The Syrian government forces and its allied militia with Russian air support are advancing on Idlib in an operation that began last week. Idlib is a fairly big province and some protracted fighting is needed to vanquish these al-Qaeda groups. On Sunday, Syrian government forces captured a strategic town, Sinjar, which brings them within 20 kilometers of the sprawling air base at Abu Zuhour in Idlib. By the way, the highway connecting Damascus and Aleppo also passes through eastern Idlib.

Turkey is cooperating with Russia in clearing Idlib of the al-Qaeda groups. (Idlib borders Turkey.) Indeed, Turkey is staunchly opposed to the US efforts to create a Kurdistan in northern Syria. President Recep Erdogan openly threatened last weekendthat Washington will “never be able to turn northern Syria into a terror corridor,” vowing to “hit them (US) very hard. They should know that we are determined on this. Areas that they consider as part of the terror corridor could turn out to be their graves.”

Conceivably, the recent attempts by the US and Israel to stir up turmoil within Iran is linked to all this. The US-Israeli game plan is to get Iran bogged down in internal issues. The Syrian and Iraqi governments are dependent on Iran and Hezbollah to do the heavy lifting in the war against the US-backed al-Qaeda and ISIS groups.

Tehran understands the US-Israeli strategy. The Iranian regime is highly experienced in defeating the US and Israel covert operations. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei understands that the Syrian conflict is also an existential battle for Iran. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders are on record that the choice is between fighting the US-Israeli proxies in Syria and Iraq or fighting them on Iranian soil.

How will Moscow react to the US-backed drone attack on its bases? A permanent solution lies in retaliating against the American forces and inflicting heavy casualties – like in Beirut in 1983. If a few dozen American body bags arrive in Washington from Syria, President Trump is sure to say, ‘Enough is enough, boys, come home.’

But the problem is that the US is fighting a “hybrid war”, embedded within the Kurdish militia and cannot be targeted easily. Pentagon has also inserted “contractors” (American mercenaries) so that political risk is minimized.

Therefore, Russia’s option will be to step up the operations to cleanse Idlib province of the al-Qaeda groups backed by US and Israel once and for all. Indeed, Nikki Haley will begin howling in the UN on Israeli instructions alleging “war crimes.”

Of course, as they say, all is fair in love and war and there is another option open to the Russians or Iranians, too – equipping the Afghan Taliban with drones. But they are unlikely to go that far — as of now, at least.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Syria0 Comments

EU AND USA DISCONNECT BECOMING MORE ENTRENCHED AS USA PLAYS THE KURDISH CARD

NOVANEWS

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Forget the decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.  It’s not meaningful anyways.  And it is “inconsequential” because it’s just another city in Syria with a history of massive casualties.  The only reason for all this clamor and clangor is the Islamic Noble Sanctuary and the various Christian sites all of which have something to do with the growth and suffering of Jesus. That’s about it.  For the Jews, it should have no meaning because their true Jerusalem is in Yemen’s ‘Aseer Province as proven by Professor Kamal Salibi in his monumental book:  “The Bible Came from Arabia”. Moreover, it should have no meaning because the average Jew in Palestine doesn’t have any of the requisite DNA.

What is more important is that the U.S. is planning to establish a Kurdish state in Syria in defiance of Turkey’s absolute hostility to the idea.  And, as the Syrian government has pointed out repeatedly, such action would be in violation of international law.  So far, the Europeans have been most punctilious in adhering to such laws as evidenced by their near-unanimous condemnation of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Zionist Settler State.  Even if Britain was in cahoots with the U.S. in trying to set up a Kurdish state, their announced rejection of deviation from the traditional positions of Europe in dealing with the Arab-Zionist conflict would seem to belie that.  I see a massive disconnect coming between Europe and the United States thanks to Trump.  With this coming this year, one can detect the friction from Vladimir Putin rubbing his palms feverishly in Moscow.

Trump will seal the fate of the United States with more than Europe.  He has already ostracized Pakistan for taking American money without returning anything.  He has also decided to stay the course in Afghanistan even as the war there enters its 17th year with no end in sight and the Taliban extending their writ over more captured territories.  With Britain and France unwilling to share his Pollyannish optimism about the longevity of the Kabul government, it can only be expected that with the rise of Jeremy Corbin in the U.K., that the Brits will abandon the sinking ship and fly back to Old Blighty.  The French will do the same.

The patsies in all this are the Kurds who are signing on to their own extermination.  Turkey is not going to accept any state for them in Syria or Iraq and the Turks know they have an ally in Dr. Assad.  The Iraqis are just as anxious as the Turks since an effort to build a Kurd state in Syria will almost certainly gain ground in northern Iraq.  Iran, of course, with a Rabelaisian interest in extending its natural gas pipeline to the Syrian littoral, will do whatever must be done to dash American hopes.  That means that the Kurds had better prepare themselves for all-out war with Syria’s, Iraq’s, Turkey’s and Iran’s militaries.  There is no way out of this conclusion even if the U.S. decides it will fight to the last Kurd to make it work.

This plan is a Zionist plan.  If you remember Dr. Bashar Ja’afari’s analysis which I mentioned in several essays, you will immediately understand why Netanyahu is committed to a Kurdish rump state.  As Dr. Ja’afari explains it, Zionism needs to Balkanize the Near East into statelets, each with a peculiar religious or ethnic core, in order to justify the apartheid Zionism is practicing against the Palestinians.  Only through the existence of a Maronite state,  a Druze state, an Alawi state, a Sunni state, a Jewish state and a Kurdish state, can the Jews inside Palestine justify the perverse structure of their Warsaw Ghetto nation.  The Kurds are playing right into this illogic and their fate is uglier than that of the Khwarezmian shahs.

Chris tells me that there are thousands of Marines inside the Kurd enclave we shall call “Rojava” despite the well-established fact that the Kurds have little history in Syria.  The U.S. is kiting the lie that the marines are there to protect borders.  Of course, this is very laughable and typical of the undying stupidity of the imbeciles in Washington D.C.  It is a new plan promoted by the CIA to offset the disastrous consequences of its previous support for terrorists obsessed with ousting the Syrian central government.  As I have written before, there are still remnants of the CIA team which refuses to accept the collapse of their project in Syria which has led to a redirection of the plan to block Iran’s pipeline.  What this means is that Dr. Assad was never the real target – he was only incidental to the plan.  He and his government had to be removed only because they had acquiesced to Teheran’s machinations.  Now, the CIA is not interested in Dr. Assad’s duration in office, that’s simply obvious; instead they have shifted their emphasis to the Kurdish state they expect to recognize once all the attributes of statehood have been established.  Then, and only then, will Nikki Haley, WOG of the YEAR, be able to present the U.N.S.C. with the fait accompli she expects the members to swallow.  They won’t and she will be back threatening and posturing.

In the meantime, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran will be doing everything possible to sabotage this miserable stratagem.  Now, for this plan to work, it requires military preparation.  If and when Iraq finally tells the U.S. to get out along with its aircraft; and the Turks tell Washington to pack up its hardware and leave Incirlik, the U.S. will be constrained to maneuver militarily to protect Rojava.  However, if you have been following the news, the U.S. has been building air bases in the target area and all this in anticipation of the rancor that is going to be unloaded on the American plan to redraw the Middle East.  Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we first practice to deceive. 

Trump’s plan is going to flop in a big way.  If you will take notice, the U.S.airbases in the Kurdish area being developed for statehood are within easy reach of Syria’s artillery.  It is even within reach of everybody’s artillery.  If you consider Syria’s vast missile arsenal, which is designed to disable Zionist airbases in Occupied Palestine, it becomes even easier to understand how this plan must fail miserably.

It appears the U.S. is anticipating respect for its combat troops in Syria because, well, they are American, after all, and should not be assailed in any way lest the aggressors be willing to sustain the unleashed wrath of America’s incomparable military.  YAWN.  The U.S. has not won a war since Russia handed it a victory in WWII over Germany (with the exception of triumphs in banana republics like Panama and Grenada).  Whether it’s Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, the U.S. record is dismal.  This Syrian adventure will not improve the American record. Nay! It will convince everyone that the U.S. is a paper tiger no more powerful than Saudi Arabia.

No rest for the wicked.  No sooner does Syria vanquish the terrorist rodents than the U.S. props up another villain for Damascus to fight.  But, as Chris, has written to me frequently: this battle for Syria is not viewed as some frivolous sideshow – rather – it goes to the heart of American/Zionist/Masonic plans for the Middle East.  It is a part of America’s expected future in its dealings with Europe.  As Chris has opined,  the plan to steal the oil of the Golan Heights; to destroy Iran’s burgeoning power; to enslave the Iraqis; to further entrench retrogressive regimes in the area are part and parcel of Zionist hegemonism whose stench leads straight to the ornate chambers of the Rothschilds and Rockefellers.  This plan is not going to go away any time soon because it was developed to serve up the lifeblood of the Arab peoples to the Zionist hordes infecting the land of Palestine.

Posted in USA, Europe, Syria0 Comments

Iran’s Protests Take Place Against a Backdrop of Inequality

NOVANEWS

By Negin OwliaeiInequality.org 

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As 2017 came to a close, a groundswell of Iranian protesters captured international attention. The demonstrators’ slogans questioned everything from the price of eggs to the legitimacy of the highest levels of government, as viewers from around the world sought to pin down the precise motivations for their displeasure. At this time, the protesters may offer more questions than answers. Reports are building conflicting narratives as to who the protesters are, what brought them into the streets, and what they hope to accomplish.

Though there may be cacophony of analyses — many of them surely to be discredited in coming days and weeks — some facts still remain undisputed. Primarily among them: the protests are taking place against a backdrop of economic frustration and inequality within Iran.

Economic concerns have been simmering for some time. As Iranian writer Amir Ahmadi Arian noted in the New York Times, inequality has become front and center as the wealthy display their opulence with luxury cars in city streets, while the rest of the country struggles. The economy was a focal point in the country’s May 2017 elections. President Hassan Rouhani campaigned on the nuclear deal, promising it would bring more money into the country. But while Iran’s economy grew — by 13.4 percent in 2016 — it didn’t necessarily translate into prospects for Iranians. Unemployment rose to 12.6 percent that same year, a number that’s even higher for Iranian youth.

The discrepancy between the promise and reality of the nuclear deal hasn’t been lost on the country’s residents. In May of 2015, when hopes for the agreement were high, more than half of Iranians felt the economy was at least somewhat good. But by 2017, nearly two thirds called the country’s economic situation bad, one poll found. And they’re not optimistic about the future — fifty percent of people said they thought the economy was getting even worse.

Just as with the protests, analysts will point fingers in a variety of directions as to the cause of the country’s economic ills. Certainly, years of crippling international sanctions have played a role. And while the nuclear deal left the door open for more economic opportunities, constant uncertainty over the future of the agreement has left banks and businesses skeptical.

But regardless of the causes, the protests signal that Iran’s citizens may disagree with the government on next steps. One spark behind the recent demonstrations? President Rouhani’s conservative 2018 budget, released even as minor protests took place around the country over lost jobs and missing wages.

One particular point of ire is the budget cut to the country’s popular cash transfer program. As economist Djavad Salehi-Isfahani notes in one analysis, the program — which gave Iranians a small monthly stipend — played a role in stemming poverty rates, especially in the country’s rural areas, helping to bridge inequality between Tehran and the rest of the country. Salehi-Isfahani also points out that high inflation already cut the value of the transfers to less than a third of their original value. To top off that indignity, the government has decided to limit the number of people eligible for the program.

While the international community buzzes about the meaning behind the protests, at least one group is standing behind Rouhani’s austerity budget. The IMF released a consultation report on Iran in December, shortly before the protests took off, in which they said revisions to the cash transfer program, among other measures, would lead to “much needed fiscal space.” In a memo, Peter Bakvis, who directs the Washington, DC office of the International Trade Union Confederation, questioned this move. “It is safe to assume that no one among those participating in the recent mass protests in Iran was consulted by the IMF’s mission before it endorsed the 2018/19 budget and issued recommendations for the country’s economic and social policies.” Though the IMF does not lend to Iran, their recommendation still carries a good deal of weight.

The question to be asked: will Iran listen to groups like the IMF or the voice of its people? The government says the demonstrations have died down. But no matter the face of Iran’s protesters or the future of their movement, this much is clear: the country needs to deal with inequality, or the frustration will continue to simmer.

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