Tag Archive | "Middle East"

Visions of War and Wealth in the Middle East


NOVANEWS

U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is part of a long-term strategy to gain regional influence and access to resources

"The great majority of victims in the war in Iraq have been civilians." (Photo: Shutterstock)

“The great majority of victims in the war in Iraq have been civilians.” (Photo: Shutterstock)

At a recent security conference, a panel of current and former U.S. officials discussed the possibility of extending the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan for years into the future and considered the potential to more effectively tap into the natural resources in both countries.

The panelists said that the war in Afghanistan would probably continue for years, but they were less certain about the prospects for Iraq. They shared their thoughts as part of a session at the Aspen Security Forum on what a U.S. victory would look like in both countries.

Moderator Kim Dozier opened the session by asking, “Will we still have tens of thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in a decade from now?”

The panelists mostly agreed that at least some minimal U.S. commitment was necessary. A number of them called for a long-term military presence in both countries. Some were quite optimistic about the untapped oil and mineral wealth in the region.

A number of them called for a long-term military presence in both countries. Some were quite optimistic about the untapped oil and mineral wealth in the region.

The panelists included former U.S. officials Thomas Shannon, Samantha Vinograd, and Juan Zarate. Shannon is a career ambassador who worked in the Trump administration for about a year before announcing his retirement earlier this year. Vinograd and Zarate both worked for the Bush administration, which started the wars.

Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the house intelligence committee, also participated in the discussion. In 2001, Schiff voted in favor of the bill that authorized the Bush administration to attack Afghanistan. In 2002, Schiff voted in favor of the resolution that authorized the Bush administration to attack Iraq.

All of the panelists have played some role in the wars, both of which have been devastating. The Costs of War Project at Brown University estimates that more than 100,000 people have died in the war in Afghanistan and about 200,000 people have died in the war in Iraq. The great majority of victims in the war in Iraq have been civilians.

Rather than dwelling on these issues, however, the panelists used their time to consider the ways in which the U.S. government can still achieve its strategic objectives.

One of the major issues they considered was whether the United States should maintain a long-term military presence in both countries. Two of the panelists, Zarate and Vinograd, argued that U.S. military forces should remain in both countries for some time to come.

Zarate argued that “we should have a military presence consistently in both in a decade or two.” He also called for the creation of “a permanent base in Erbil,” the capital city of Iraq’s Kurdish area. He argued that the base could provide the U.S. with an alternative to a base it is using in Turkey while sending a “very near signal to the Iranians… that we are going to be present, if need be.”

Another possibility, according to Vinograd, would be to take U.S. involvement in South Korea as a model. Vinograd explained that the U.S. has maintained a permanent military presence in South Korea since the time of the Korean War.

“I really struggle to think of any real military operation right now where there wouldn’t be some longer-term presence on the ground,” she said.

Not all of the panelists fully agreed with the proposals, however. Shannon argued that the United States does not function well as an “occupying power.” He said that the United States performed more effectively as a “collaborating power.” Shannon also wavered on the idea of creating a permanent military base in Erbil, saying that it was “an interesting idea” that deserves consideration.

Zarate noted that the mineral wealth in Afghanistan has been estimated at about $1 trillion. He suggested that it could be tapped by companies in the United States and elsewhere.

Schiff agreed that the United States should remain involved in Afghanistan but doubted whether the U.S. could succeed in Iraq. “The investment in Iraq was not worth it,” he said.

Another major issue the panelists considered was how to create stable governments in both countries. One of their big fears is that neither the Afghan nor Iraqi government can survive very long without U.S. assistance. The panelists wondered if they could create stronger governments by exploiting the extensive material wealth in both countries.

Zarate noted that the mineral wealth in Afghanistan has been estimated at about $1 trillion. He suggested that it could be tapped by companies in the United States and elsewhere.

“We’re not a mercenary country in that we send troops to where we want to have… business opportunities,” Zarate said. “But to the extent that we’re already present, to the extent that we’ve already expended blood and treasure, why not consider how it is that we’re thinking about the positive elements of economic development?”

Shannon saw similar possibilities. He noted that President Trump has already pointedto commercial opportunities in both countries as reasons for continuing U.S. military operations. “This is an extractive opportunity,” Shannon said, citing petroleum as an example.

Their considerations showed that U.S. officials still aspire to create governments that will provide them with access to the area and the ability to influence the surrounding area.

Once again, however, not all of the panelists were on the same page. Vinograd said that when she had been working in Iraq in 2007, it had been difficult to find ways to attract businesses to the country.

“I don’t see large-scale business opportunities in Iraq until the security situation is more sustainable over the medium term,” she said.

Schiff was more troubled by the proposals. He argued that the U.S. should not risk the lives of U.S. soldiers to create business opportunities in foreign lands.

“I kind of recoil at the idea of using business opportunity as the primary argument for the deployment of military forces,” he said.

Although the panelists did not reach a consensus, their conversation revealed quite a lot about the basic mindset in Washington about the two wars. Their considerations showed that U.S. officials still aspire to create governments that will provide them with access to the area and the ability to influence the surrounding area.

According to Shannon, these strategic issues are perhaps more important than ever.

“Increasingly we’ve realized that what we’re doing in Afghanistan and what we’re doing in Iraq is not just about Afghanistan or about Iraq,” he said. “It’s about the regional challenges we face in South and Central Asia, and in the larger Middle East, and so our interests there are going to extend far beyond what is happening inside of these countries, but what happens beyond.”

Posted in Middle East, USAComments Off on Visions of War and Wealth in the Middle East

Do you want to travel around the Middle East? Think twice!


NOVANEWS

Do you think it is that simple to travel around the Middle East? Think twice!

 

Ask Palestinians, about trying to get from a point A to a point B in their own nation.

Some time ago, sitting in an old Ottoman hotel in Bethlehem, I asked a waiter what it takes to travel from there to Gaza, where he said, several of his relatives were living. He looked at me as if I had fallen from the Moon:

There is no way I could travel there. If my relatives get very sick or die, then, in theory, I could apply for an Israeli travel permit to go there, but there is absolutely no guarantee that they would approve, or that I could get to Gaza on time…”

I tried to appear naïve: “And what if someone from an Arab country which does not recognize Israel, wants to come here, to Bethlehem? Like, a Lebanese pilgrim or just a tourist? Could he or she enter from Jordan?”

The waiter weighed for a while whether to reply at all, but then had mercy on me:

West Bank… You know, it only appears on the maps as some sort of autonomous or independent territory. In reality, the borders and movement of the people have been fully controlled by the Israelis.”

My friend, a legendary left-wing Israeli human rights lawyer and a staunch Palestinian independence supporter, Linda Brayer, downed another cup of coffee and made several cynical remarks. She was actually illegally ‘smuggled’ by me into Bethlehem. As an Israeli citizen, she was not allowed to enter the West Bank at all, but since I was driving and she was with me, a foreigner, and on top of it she wore a headscarf (she converted to Islam several years earlier), the Israeli soldiers just let us pass without asking too many uncomfortable questions.

Bizarre, disgusting, and even mind-blowing? Not for us who live or operate in this part of the world! All this is by now considered as “business as usual”.

During the last Intifada, I hired a taxi in Jerusalem to the border with Gaza driven by a Russian-Israeli Jew, a student, who literally clashed with a border guard, demanding to be allowed to enter Gaza, in order to “see what my fxxxxing government is doing to the Palestinian people.”

They did not let him into Gaza. They detained him. As a foreigner, I entered. During my work in Gaza, an Israeli helicopter gunship fired at my hired car. It missed… But at least I was allowed to enter and work in Gaza. It is like Russian roulette: sometimes you get in, sometimes you don’t, and no explanations are given.

That was the time when the new Gaza International Airport had just opened. After few days of fighting, the runway was bombed by the Israelis, all flights cancelled, and I had to, eventually make my way out through Egyptian Sinai.

Later, I also witnessed how brutal the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights has been; how it has divided countless families and communities. People are forced to shout at each other through the Israeli barbed-wire electric fences. The only way for the families to reunite, at least for a day or two, was to somehow get to Jordan.

The Syrian Golan Heights used to be famous for its delicious apples and ancient Druze community. It used to attract travelers from all over the world. Now it is occupied by Israel, and it is de-populated and monstrously militarized.

You want to travel there? You cannot; not anymore. It is off limits.

Israeli tank being moved towards Golan Heights (photo by Andre Vltchek).

For years and decades, this insanity of travel bans and restrictions, as well as barbed wire and watch towers, has been applying mainly (although not exclusively) to the territories occupied by Israel. However, now almost the entire Middle East is divided by conflicts, insane regulations and travel prohibitions.

Unless you are a war correspondent, a Western ‘advisor’, an intelligence agent or a ‘development worker’, don’t even think about going to Iraq. Almost like Afghanistan and Libya, Iraq had been thoroughly wrecked by the Western coalition and its allies. On top of it, to get visa there is now close to impossible. In the recent past, the Westerners flooded Erbil and its surroundings; the main city of what was called, unofficially, ‘Iraqi Kurdistan’. The place used to be governed by the independence-seeking and shamelessly pro-Western ‘elites’, and it used to have its own visa regime. Now even this area is more or less off limits to foreigners.

Syria is still a war zone, although its government, which is supported by the majority of the Syrian people, is clearly winning the brutal conflict ignited and fueled by the West and its ‘client’ states.

Syria used to be one of the safest, the most educated and advanced countries in the region, built on solid socialist principles. It used to have an impressive scientific base, as well as dozens of world-class tourist attractions. Therefore, applying Western imperialist logic, it had to be first smeared, and then attacked and destroyed.

Logically, Syria is not issuing tourist visas to the citizens of the countries that are trying to destroy it.

Next door, Lebanon is still suffering from the flood of refugees, from geographical isolation and from the various dormant and semi-active terrorist cells.

Travelling from Lebanon to Syria is now almost impossible, or at least very dangerous and difficult. Lebanese citizens can still enter, but ‘at their own risk’.

In the not so distant past, people used to drive from Beirut to Europe and vice-versa, via Turkey and Syria. Now this option is just a sweet memory. But then again, in the very distant past, I am often reminded, it was not unusual for the Lebanese middle class to spend a weekend in Haifa, driving their own cars. Now the border between Lebanon and Israel is hermetically sealed. Both countries are technically at war. The U.N. patrols the so-called Blue Line. Apart from drones and Israeli war planes en-route to bombing Syria, nothing can cross.

All along the Turkish-Syrian border, both sides are suffering. Of course, the Syrian people are suffering much more, being victims of the direct Turkish military adventures. But also Turks are now paying a very high price for the war: they are suffering from terrorist attacks, as well as from the total collapse of trade between the two countries. Many villages around Hatay and Gaziantep are quickly turning into ghost towns.

For instance, cities like Adana in Turkey and Aleppo in Syria used to be connected by motorways, enjoying constant flows of people from both ends. There was bustling trade, as well as tourism, and social visits. Now, Ankara has been building an enormous concrete wall between the two countries. No traffic can pass through the border, except Turkish military convoys.

Turkey bulding new huge wall on Syrian border (photo by Andre Vltchek).

For years and decades, it has been impossible to enter Saudi Arabia as a tourist. This fundamentalist Wahabbi ‘client’ state of the West simply does not recognize the existence of tourism, or leisure travel. To enter the KSA, it has to be either for business or religious pilgrimage.

With its huge territory, the KSA effectively divides the entire Gulf region, when it comes to transportation and the movement of people. There are some loopholes, and ‘transit visas’ can be obtained (with some luck, difficulties and expense), for instance, for those people driving their own vehicles or taking a bus from Jordan to Bahrain, or to Oman.

Traveling to culturally the most exciting country in the Gulf – Yemen – is now absolutely impossible. Yemen used to be one of the jewels of historic architecture and civilization, counting such cities as Sanaa, Zabid and Shiban. Now the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is occupying the city of Aden and the coast, while Saudi forces are brutally bombing the rest of the country, which is controlled by the rebels.

Then, there is a bizarre conflict which brewing between Qatar (the richest country in the Gulf with the substantial U.S. military presence as well as huge local business-controlled media conglomerate Al-Jazeera), and several other Arab allies of the West, including Saudi Arabia. Borders are presently closed and insults are flying. There is the growing possibility of a military confrontation. Qatar is being accused, cynically, of ‘supporting terrorism’, as if the KSA was not doing precisely the same.

Empty Jordan – Syria border post (photo by Andre Vltchek).

Flying around the region has become a Kafkaesque experience.

All Middle Eastern and Gulf airlines are avoiding Israel. Some fly over Syria but most of them, don’t. The once mighty and now deteriorating Qatar Airways is clearly forbidden to enter the airspace of Saudi Arabia as well as of the United Arab Emirates.

Recently I travelled with Qatar from Beirut to Nairobi, Kenya. It used to be a simple, comfortable commute, which has recently turned into a terrible nightmare. Unable to fly over Syrian and Saudi airspace, a plane has to first fly in totally the opposite direction, northwest, over Turkish airspace, then over Iran, making a huge, almost 90 minutes detour. On the second leg, a trip of less than 4 hours now takes more than 5 hours and 30 minutes! The plane flies directly away from Africa, towards Iran, and then makes a huge loop, avoiding both the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Lebanese MEA (Middle Eastern Airlines) is one of the few airlines that ignores all this, flying directly over Syria, and towards the Gulf states. Most of the others don’t dare. But MEA has to avoid Israeli airspace, making often interesting final approaches to Rafik Hariri Int’l Airport.

The exception is Turkish Airlines which basically flies over everything and into everywhere, including Israel itself.

Flight from Doha to Nairobi (photo by Andre Vltchek).

This essay is not only about the politics and what has led to the present situation, although it is clear that we are talking here, above all, about the neo-colonialist arrangement of the world.

Political nightmare unleashed by the ‘traditional’ Western colonialist powers and their ‘client states’, has led to the geographical divisions; to a perverse state of affairs in this part of the world. Increasingly, the people are losing control over their own nations and the entire region. They have already lost the ability to move about freely through it.

Of course, something similar exists in many other places, including the South Pacific. There, I described the situation in my book Oceania. An entire huge part of the world has been literally cut to pieces by the neo-colonialist powers and their geo-political interests and designs: the U.S., France, Australia and New Zealand have plainly overrun and shackled Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. A once proud and unique part of the world has been fragmented internally: people are brutally separated and forced to depend almost exclusively on the West.

In the Middle East, divisions, walls and barbed wire, are now everywhere; they are visible to the naked eye, but they are also ‘inside’ peoples’ minds, damaging the human psyche, making dreams of unity and a common future look very unlikely, and sometimes even impossible.

This used to be one of the cradles of our civilization – a deep, sane and stunningly beautiful part of the world. Now everything is fragmented. The West rules, mainly through its ‘client’ states, such as Israel, the KSA and Turkey. It controls everything. It governs almost the entire Middle East; nothing moves without its knowledge and permission.

Yes, nothing and no one moves here, unless it suits the West. We don’t read about it often. It is not discussed. But that is how it is. This bizarre concept of ‘freedom’ implanted from the outside. The rulers who were injected into the Gulf and various other occupied nations. The result is horrid: the electric wires, walls and travel restrictions everywhere; the old pathological British ‘divide and rule’ concept.

As I am working on this essay, my plane which is supposed to be flying south-west, is actually hovering north-east, in order to avoid the airspaces of the various so-called hostile states.

Local people may be getting used to the fact that their part of the world has already been ‘re-arranged’. Or perhaps they have already stopped noticing.

The computer, however, keeps showing the absurd flying path of the airliner. Computers can be programmed and re-programmed, but they cannot be indoctrinated. Without judging, they are simply demonstrating the absurdity that is unrolling around them, on their screens.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Middle East, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on Do you want to travel around the Middle East? Think twice!

Do You Want to Travel Around the Middle East? Think Twice!


NOVANEWS

Do you think it is that simple to travel around the Middle East? Think twice!

Ask Palestinians, about trying to get from a point A to a point B in their own nation.

Some time ago, sitting in an old Ottoman hotel in Bethlehem, I asked a waiter what it takes to travel from there to Gaza, where he said, several of his relatives were living. He looked at me as if I had fallen from the Moon:

There is no way I could travel there. If my relatives get very sick or die, then, in theory, I could apply for an Israeli travel permit to go there, but there is absolutely no guarantee that they would approve, or that I could get to Gaza on time…

Israeli wall in Bethlehem

I tried to appear naïve: “And what if someone from an Arab country which does not recognize Israel, wants to come here, to Bethlehem? Like, a Lebanese pilgrim or just a tourist? Could he or she enter from Jordan?”

The waiter weighed for a while whether to reply at all, but then had mercy on me:

West Bank… You know, it only appears on the maps as some sort of autonomous or independent territory. In reality, the borders and movement of the people have been fully controlled by the Israelis.

My friend, a legendary left-wing Israeli human rights lawyer and a staunch Palestinian independence supporter, Linda Brayer, downed another cup of coffee and made several cynical remarks. She was actually illegally ‘smuggled’ by me into Bethlehem. As an Israeli citizen, she was not allowed to enter the West Bank at all, but since I was driving and she was with me, a foreigner, and on top of it she wore a headscarf (she converted to Islam several years earlier), the Israeli soldiers just let us pass without askin too many uncomfortable questions.

Bizarre, disgusting, and even mind-blowing? Not for us who live or operate in this part of the world! All this is by now considered as “business as usual”.

During the last Intifada, I hired a taxi in Jerusalem to the border with Gaza driven by a Russian-Israeli Jew, a student, who literally clashed with a border guard, demanding to be allowed to enter Gaza, in order to “see what my fxxxxing government is doing to the Palestinian people.”

They did not let him into Gaza. They detained him. As a foreigner, I entered. During my work in Gaza, an Israeli helicopter gunship fired at my hired car. It missed… But at least I was allowed to enter and work in Gaza. It is like Russian roulette: sometimes you get in, sometimes you don’t, and no explanations are given.

That was the time when the new Gaza International Airport had just opened. After few days of fighting, the runway was bombed by the Israelis, all flights cancelled, and I had to, eventually make my way out through Egyptian Sinai.

Later, I also witnessed how brutal the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights has been; how it has divided countless families and communities. People are forced to shout at each other through the Israeli barbed-wire electric fences. The only way for the families to reunite, at least for a day or two, was to somehow get to Jordan.

An Israeli tank being moved towards Syrian Golan Heights

The Syrian Golan Heights used to be famous for its delicious apples and ancient Druze community. It used to attract travelers from all over the world. Now it is occupied by Israel, and it is de-populated and monstrously militarized.

You want to travel there? You cannot; not anymore. It is off limits.

*****

For years and decades, this insanity of travel bans and restrictions, as well as barbed wire and watch towers, has been applying mainly (although not exclusively) to the territories occupied by Israel. However, now almost the entire Middle East is divided by conflicts, insane regulations and travel prohibitions.

Empty Jordan-Syrian border

Unless you are a war correspondent, a Western ‘advisor’, an intelligence agent or a ‘development worker’, don’t even think about going to Iraq. Almost like Afghanistan and Libya, Iraq had been thoroughly wrecked by the Western coalition and its allies. On top of it, to get visa there is now close to impossible. In the recent past, the Westerners flooded Erbil and its surroundings; the main city of what was called, unofficially, ‘Iraqi Kurdistan’. The place used to be governed by the independence-seeking and shamelessly pro-Western ‘elites’, and it used to have its own visa regime. Now even this area is more or less off limits to foreigners.

Syria is still a war zone, although its government, which is supported by the majority of the Syrian people, is clearly winning the brutal conflict ignited and fueled by the West and its ‘client’ states.

Syria used to be one of the safest, the most educated and advanced countries in the region, built on solid socialist principles. It used to have an impressive scientific base, as well as dozens of world-class tourist attractions. Therefore, applying Western imperialist logic, it had to be first smeared, and then attacked and destroyed.

Logically, Syria is not issuing tourist visas to the citizens of the countries that are trying to destroy it.

Next door, Lebanon is still suffering from the flood of refugees, from geographical isolation and from the various dormant and semi-active terrorist cells.

Travelling from Lebanon to Syria is now almost impossible, or at least very dangerous and difficult. Lebanese citizens can still enter, but ‘at their own risk’.

In the not so distant past, people used to drive from Beirut to Europe and vice-versa, via Turkey and Syria. Now this option is just a sweet memory. But then again, in the very distant past, I am often reminded, it was not unusual for the Lebanese middle class to spend a weekend in Haifa, driving their own cars. Now the border between Lebanon and Israel is hermetically sealed. Both countries are technically at war. The U.N. patrols the so-called Blue Line. Apart from drones and Israeli war planes en-route to bombing Syria, nothing can cross.

Turkey building a new huge wall on the Syrian border

All along the Turkish-Syrian border, both sides are suffering. Of course, the Syrian people are suffering much more, being victims of the direct Turkish military adventures. But also Turks are now paying a very high price for the war: they are suffering from terrorist attacks, as well as from the total collapse of trade between the two countries. Many villages around Hatay and Gaziantep are quickly turning into ghost towns.

For instance, cities like Adana in Turkey and Aleppo in Syria used to be connected by motorways, enjoying constant flows of people from both ends. There was bustling trade, as well as tourism, and social visits. Now, Ankara has been building an enormous concrete wall between the two countries. No traffic can pass through the border, except Turkish military convoys.

*****

For years and decades, it has been impossible to enter Saudi Arabia as a tourist. This fundamentalist Wahabbi ‘client’ state of the West simply does not recognize the existence of tourism, or leisure travel. To enter the KSA, it has to be either for business or religious pilgrimage.

With its huge territory, the KSA effectively divides the entire Gulf region, when it comes to transportation and the movement of people. There are some loopholes, and ‘transit visas’ can be obtained (with some luck, difficulties and expense), for instance, for those people driving their own vehicles or taking a bus from Jordan to Bahrain, or to Oman.

Traveling to culturally the most exciting country in the Gulf – Yemen – is now absolutely impossible. Yemen used to be one of the jewels of historic architecture and civilization, counting such cities as Sanaa, Zabid and Shiban. Now the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is occupying the city of Aden and the coast, while Saudi forces are brutally bombing the rest of the country, which is controlled by the rebels.

Then, there is a bizarre conflict which is brewing between Qatar (the richest country in the Gulf with the substantial U.S. military presence as well as huge local business-controlled media conglomerate Al-Jazeera), and several other Arab allies of the West, including Saudi Arabia. Borders are presently closed and insults are flying. There is the growing possibility of a military confrontation. Qatar is being accused, cynically, of ‘supporting terrorism’, as if the KSA was not doing precisely the same.

*****

Flying around the region has become a Kafkaesque experience.

Flight from Doha to Nairobi

All Middle Eastern and Gulf airlines are avoiding Israel. Some fly over Syria but most of them, don’t. The once mighty and now deteriorating Qatar Airways is clearly forbidden to enter the airspace of Saudi Arabia as well as of the United Arab Emirates.

Recently I travelled with Qatar from Beirut to Nairobi, Kenya. It used to be a simple, comfortable commute, which has recently turned into a terrible nightmare. Unable to fly over Syrian and Saudi airspace, a plane has to first fly in totally the opposite direction, northwest, over Turkish airspace, then over Iran, making a huge, almost 90 minutes detour. On the second leg, a trip of less than 4 hours now takes more than 5 hours and 30 minutes! The plane flies directly away from Africa, towards Iran, and then makes a huge loop, avoiding both the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Lebanese MEA (Middle Eastern Airlines) is one of the few airlines that ignores all this, flying directly over Syria, and towards the Gulf states. Most of the others don’t dare. But MEA has to avoid Israeli airspace, making often interesting final approaches to Rafik Hariri Int’l Airport.

The exception is Turkish Airlines which basically flies over everything and into everywhere, including Israel itself.

*****

This essay is not only about the politics and what has led to the present situation, although it is clear that we are talking here, above all, about the neo-colonialist arrangement of the world.

Political nightmare unleashed by the ‘traditional’ Western colonialist powers and their ‘client states’, has led to the geographical divisions; to a perverse state of affairs in this part of the world. Increasingly, the people are losing control over their own nations and the entire region. They have already lost the ability to move about freely through it.

Of course, something similar exists in many other places, including the South Pacific. There, I described the situation in my book Oceania. An entire huge part of the world has been literally cut to pieces by the neo-colonialist powers and their geo-political interests and designs: the U.S., France, Australia and New Zealand have plainly overrun and shackled Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. A once proud and unique part of the world has been fragmented internally: people are brutally separated and forced to depend almost exclusively on the West.

In the Middle East, divisions, walls and barbed wire, are now everywhere; they are visible to the naked eye, but they are also ‘inside’ peoples’ minds, damaging the human psyche, making dreams of unity and a common future look very unlikely, and sometimes even impossible.

A bridge blown up by ISIS near Mosus, Iraq

This used to be one of the cradles of our civilization – a deep, sane and stunningly beautiful part of the world. Now everything is fragmented. The West rules, mainly through its ‘client’ states, such as Israel, the KSA and Turkey. It controls everything. It governs almost the entire Middle East; nothing moves without its knowledge and permission.

A suicide car bomb near Mosul, Iraq

Yes, nothing and no one moves here, unless it suits the West. We don’t read about it often. It is not discussed. But that is how it is. This bizarre concept of ‘freedom’ implanted from the outside. The rulers who were injected into the Gulf and various other occupied nations. The result is horrid: the electric wires, walls and travel restrictions everywhere; the old pathological British ‘divide and rule’ concept.

*****

As I am working on this essay, my plane which is supposed to be flying south-west, is actually hovering north-east, in order to avoid the airspaces of the various so-called hostile states.

Local people may be getting used to the fact that their part of the world has already been ‘re-arranged’. Or perhaps they have already stopped noticing.

The computer, however, keeps showing the absurd flying path of the airliner. Computers can be programmed and re-programmed, but they cannot be indoctrinated. Without judging, they are simply demonstrating the absurdity that is unrolling around them, on their screens.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on Do You Want to Travel Around the Middle East? Think Twice!

What Does Pompeo’s Rise Mean for the Middle East?


NOVANEWS
 

Replacement of Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo in the US government doesn’t simply mean a simple replacement of one secretary of state with another; it illustrates, in significant ways, a subtle yet certain change in the US policy with regard to the geopolitics of the Middle East, where the US is not just having to face a crisis of ‘terrorism’, but the emergence of a new coalition of states (Russia, Syria, Turkey and Iran) which has the capacity to drive the US out of the region. 

Bringing the US back in the Syrian game isn’t the only objective Pompeo might be working on as the new secretary; there is a lot that will happen, including in Syria, Iran and the larger geopolitics of the region.

If the past is any guide to the future, Pompeo is one who had voted against the Iran nuke deal back in 2015, calling it

“an unconscionable arrangement that increases the risk to Kansans and all Americans. The Iranian regime is intent on the destruction of our country. Why the President does not understand is unfathomable.”

Now, the US president Trump has promised to walk out of the Iran deal by May if European allies fail to “fix” it. Therefore, while Tillerson believed that the US must not scrap the deal, Pompeo would not hesitate to support the president in withdrawing from the deal and leaving it for the rest to manage it and allowing the United States a major lee-way to keep poking. In fact, just after Trump had won election, Pompeo tweeted that he looked forward to “rolling back” the nuclear deal, which he called “disastrous”, thus forecasting that the very first casualty of his appointment might possibly be the hard-earned Iran deal

Therefore, were the US to withdraw from the deal, it might allow the hardliners in Iran to stage a comeback to power and push for nuclearization—something that might also give the Saudis an excuse to advance their own nuclear programme. It might also excite the Israelis into launching a direct air strike on Iranian nuclear facilities and thus open the gates for a much bigger and a lot more devastating war in the Middle East than we have so far seen.

There is hardly any doubt that one of the cardinal objectives now of the US policy in Syria is to drive the Iranians out of the country as a means to roll back the influence Iran has gained through its success in not only battling out the Islamic State but also in defeating the US war of ‘regime change’ on Syria. Pompeo appears to be the right choice for the US president to deliver yet another of his election campaign promises and thus make America ‘great again.’

But rolling Iran back out of Syria requires, first and foremost, a change of regime in Syria. Pompeo, as can be expected, does want this to happen—and his firmest statement on Syria came in an interview at the Aspen Institute back in January 2017, when he said,

“It is difficult to imagine a stable Syria that still has Assad in power.”

He added that it is “unlikely” that American interests will be “well served” if the Syrian president remains in power.

That explains why we shall see a surge in the US’ direct and indirect military activity in Syria, where not only is Assad strong and regaining control on the lost territory, but where Turkey, too, has started to cause the US a lot of damage by hitting the US backed militias, demanding, what Pompeo would call, a stronger response than has been the case.

Therefore, what comes after Tillerson’s departure is not only a heightened crisis and danger of direct confrontation, but also new wars as well. And, it isn’t just Pompeo who would help the Trump administration do that. There are others coming as well.

The US president is surrounding himself with people, who are known hawks, and who, the President of the US seems to think, would help him ‘make American great again.’ The next on the list of replacements is possibly the current National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster. According to the Western media’s own reports, the former UN Ambassador John Bolton, who is an established hawk on foreign policy and still thinks that Iraq war was a good idea, has been visiting the White House as of lately, giving his “job interview.” And, according to the Republicans,

“he is an increasingly likely candidate to replace McMaster, whose long-winded lectures Trump has grumbled about.”

Bolton’s known anti-Russia, anti-Iran and anti-Syrian views make him the worst option for this position in the Trump administration. To him, meeting with Russian leadership is nothing short of watching a person lie in your face.

Therefore, possible induction of John Bolton, following the (yet to be ratified) induction of Mike Pompeo in the White House does mean that the US policy is shifting to a confrontation mode vis-à-vis its chief rivals in the Middle East. What the Russians, the Iranians, the Syrians and even the Turks should, therefore, expect is not a simple negotiated way out of the war in Syria; it is just the exact opposite of it that is most likely to happen.

With the US making these changes, it seems that they are not averse to turning the already highly precarious situation to the worst possible scenario.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on What Does Pompeo’s Rise Mean for the Middle East?

Four events that shook the Middle East in 3 days


NOVANEWS
Image result for Middle East MAP CARTOON
By Adam Garrie | The Duran 

Recent events follow a worrying pattern.

This week has been one of change, uncertainty and violence in the Middle East. While the specific linkage between each of the following events must be analysed on an individual basis of proximate causation, there is a wider pattern which has emerged.

1. Qatar Isolated

On the 5th of June, Saudi Arabia led a charge of Arab and Muslim nations cutting off all diplomatic, commercial and transport links with Qatar. Qatar now stands isolated from its neighbours including and especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Now, Saudi Arabia has threatened war on its small neighbour, something which still seems unlikely due to the heavy American military presence in Qatar and Saudi, but the threatening nature of Saudi’s most recent statement should not be taken lightly.

Qatar and Saudi are both well known sponsors of Salafist terrorism, including of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda but in this diplomatic spat Saudi may be going rogue. Alternatively, Saudi may be acting in private concert with the United States which has its largest base in the Middle East inside Qatar.

It is looking increasing likely that Qatar may be the subject of some sort of regime change, in spite of being a long time US ally.

While many point to the falling price of oil as the real reason that tensions between Saudi and Qatar have been renewed, Saudi cites Qatar extending channels of communications with the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as the more amorphous and hypocritical (though true) charge of ‘sponsoring terrorism’ as the primary justification for the new cold war in the Gulf which may became a hot war if Saudi threats are to be believed.

While America has remained formally neutral, Donald Trump has Tweeted his support to Saudi while condemning Qatar.

2. US and Kurds advance on Raqqa

Just weeks after Kurdish dominated SDF forces in Syria allowed a number of ISIS fighters and commanders to escape the besieged city and escape towards Deir ez-Zor, America began hitting Raqqa with missile strikes from the George H.W. Bush carrier group in the eastern Mediterranean. Simultanious to this, Kurdish forces are now rapidly advancing towards the centre of Raqqa.

If America and the Kurds take the self-procalimed ISIS capital, it could be not only a deeply symbolic victory but it could help tilt the balance of a peace settlement in favour of Kurdish and American geo-political designs on Syria.

This is all happening as the Syrian Arab Army makes considerable advances on remaining terrorist strongholds in Homs, Hama, Aleppo and most importantly Deir ez-Zor.

3. US Airstrike on Syrian Forces in Southern Syria

On the 6th of June, the same day that America started launching missile attacks at alleged ISIS targets in Raqqa, American fighter jets struck a large convoy of the Syrian Arab Army and its allies near the Jordanian and Iraqi borders in southern Syria.

While the United States said that it did not want to target the convoy, the convoy of Syrians (in its own country) refused to stop. Russia tried to get both sides to stand down but neither listened.

This event should be understood not as a part of America’s strategic master plan for Syria which is more focused on Syria’s northern and eastern regions, but instead should be viewed as a further malicious attempt for America to assert authority in Syria, where it currently operations in contravention to international law.

4. Terror In Iran

On the morning of June the 7th, the Iranian Parliament and the Mausoleum of Imam Khomeini were attacked by multiple terrorists carrying automatic weapons and suicide bombs.

The attack was a clear attempt to strike at the heart of Iranian government and a memorial to the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran whose death on 3 June 1989, Iran has been recently commemorating.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack but this claim must be examined thoroughly. It remains unlikley though not impossible, that crazed ISIS fighters could so easily sneak into Iran which is a very secure and stable state.

This is why groups which have been able to pull off attacks in Iran, the Albanian based terrorist group Mojahedin-e Khalq along with Israel’s secret intelligence service are key suspects.

By contrast, ISIS have never yet been able to strike inside Iran,

What does it all mean?

America has been desperate to build an alliance of mainly Sunni Arab nations against Iran, at the same time, Saudi Arabia has considered the possibility of having to rely on Pakistani mercenaries in the event of a war with Iran that many in Saudi seem foolish enough to want to start.

Qatar has thrown this plan off while Pakistan’s refusal to go along with the Saudi scheme against Qatar has made Saudi Arabia worry.

The inability of Sunni Arab states and the wider Sunni Muslim world to unite against Iran may have some in the west worried.

There is every possibility that the attack on Iran was coordinated by western and or Israeli actors frustrated at the lack of Arab unity against Iran and took matters into their own hands using a terrorist proxy. This of course is speculation, but it follows on from an existing and deeply worrying pattern.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on Four events that shook the Middle East in 3 days

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


NOVANEWS

Part 1 of a 2 part series

Image result for Middle East MAP

By Leftist Critic | Dissident Voice 

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

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

US imperialist support for the Kurdish cause

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Rojava revolutionary?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

Drastic Changes in the Middle East Happen Unbelievably Fast


NOVANEWS

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By Peter KORZUN | Strategic Culture Foundation

The situation in the Middle East is changing at an incredible speed. The things unbelievable yesterday, become reality today. Each of the events becomes part of a bigger picture, with the region gradually moving away from abyss to become a better place.

On March 1, Iraqi forces were reported to have taken control of the last major road out of western Mosul, preventing Islamic State (IS) militants from fleeing the city. The route leads to Tal Afar, another IS stronghold that is 40 km further west. They have since driven militants from the international airport, a military base, a power station and a number of residential areas. IS fighters began to flee. Total control over the city by Iraqi forces seems to be a matter of a few days, maybe hours.

Being almost defeated in Iraq, the IS has nowhere else to go but Syria – the country where they have just suffered a defeat, with Palmyra retaken by Syria’s government forces. Russia’s support has been crucial in the Syrian army’s push. Raqqa, the last remaining stronghold of the IS, will be the place of the final battle the extremist group is doomed to lose as many influential actors want it to be wiped away from the earth.

Turkey has announced its intent to launch an offensive to retake Raqqa but only after taking control of Manbij, the town held by the Kurds-dominated Syria Democratic Forces  (SDF). The parties were in for a fight to benefit the IS and other terror groups. The US was at a loss as to how to prevent a clash between the NATO ally and the Kurds – the force it relies on in the fight against the IS. That’s when Moscow stepped in to avoid the worst, using its unique position as a mediator. It managed to do what nobody thought was possible. The military council in Manbij said on March 2 it will hand over areas west of the flashpoint town to Syrian government troops, after an agreement brokered by Russia.

Now the town is in Arab hands and Turkey has no reason to attack it. Syria and Turkey are not at war.

The United States had promised Turkey that Kurdish forces would withdraw from Manbij to the east of the Euphrates, but it never happened. Now Russia did what America had failed to do.

As a result of Russia’s effective mediation, Turkey can double down on its plans to advance to Raqqa, while Syria’s government has greatly strengthened its position. Turkey’s President Erdogan has just said he is ready to fight the IS together with Russia. He is coming to Moscow on March 9. It means no clash between Turkey and Syria will take place.

Many things are changing for the Syrian government and it has been going on for some time. It’s not a coincidence that voices get louder, calling for inviting Syrian President Assad to the March 29 Arab Summit in Amman – five years after Syria was expelled from the 22-member organization. Russia, Jordan and Egypt are applying efforts to reconcile the Arab community with the Syrian government. Last month, Egypt’s parliamentary committee for Arab affairs called for the return of Syria to the Arab League. This would signify the reconciliation between Saudi Arabia which backed the Syrian rebels – something unthinkable some time ago.

In 2015, then US President Obama predicted Russia would get stuck in Syria’s quagmire. He appears to have been wrong. Thanks to Russia’s involvement, one can see the light at the end of the tunnel to make the quagmire a thing of the past.

Moscow can facilitate the process of Iran joining with Arab states in the effort to reach agreement on Syria, bringing it to some mutual understanding with Saudi Arabia. Not much has been reported about some recent events of special significance. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Kuwait and Oman on February 15. Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir made a trip to Iraq on February 25, to be received by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi. The trend is visible – Shia and Sunni are on speaking terms again and they are discussing something very important. It would have sounded incredible a short time ago but these are the facts.

All these events and emerging trends are taking place against the background of the ongoing UN-brokered Geneva talks on peaceful settlement in Syria. Here too we have an unexpected turn of events – the Syrian opposition seeks to meet with Russian officials!

According to Paul Vallely, a retired US Army Major General and senior military analyst for Fox News, Russia-US consultations on Syria are to start in two months after the presidents hold a summit. He said Russia is to play a key part in any scenario.

The recent days have literally shaken the Middle East. So many unexpected things happen to push things forward. Right in front of our eyes the impossible becomes possible.

As said before, Moscow is in a unique position to act as an intermediary and it plays its role aptly to achieve tangible results. If the current trend continues in the same direction, leading to the desired outcome, Russia’s effort will go down in history as an extraordinary achievement of military success combined with effective diplomacy.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on Drastic Changes in the Middle East Happen Unbelievably Fast

Middle East: Rapid Tectonic Changes on Regional Chessboard


NOVANEWS
Image result for Middle East MAP CARTOON
By Peter KORZUN 

The Middle East geopolitical scenarios are going through rapid changes with new factors emerging on the regional chessboard.

Cairo’s foreign policy has been given a new twist. It has been announced recently that Egypt is set to receive one million barrels of petroleum per month from Iraq. Saudi Arabia had informed Egypt that shipments of oil products expected under a $23 billion aid deal have been halted indefinitely, suggesting a deepening rift between the countries. From now on, Egypt will enjoy as much oil as it needs at a lower cost, compared to Saudi pricing.

Egyptian President Al-Sisi rejected the Saudi-backed efforts to overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. He is also reaching out to former-Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and to his Houthi allies Saudi Arabia is fighting since March 2015. Cairo opened diplomatic channels with the pro-Iranian Lebanese Hezbollah, fighting on the side of President Assad in Syria against the rebel groups supported by Riyadh.

Iraq will provide Egypt with 1 million barrels of Basra light oil each month. The agreement involves extending an oil pipeline from Iraq to Egypt via Jordan. In December, Iraqi petroleum minister Ali al-Luiabi met with the heads of major oil and natural gas companies in Cairo, inviting them to contribute into developing the industry in his country.

Egypt is about to train four Iraqi army units on war against terrorism, in light of the rapprochement between Egypt and the Iraqi-Iranian axis in the region.

It also mulls sending peacekeeping troops to Syria during the coming days to support the ceasefire agreement under the auspices of Russia, Iran, and Turkey. It has been reported that a unit of Egyptian ground forces might deploy to Syria this month. Last October, Syrian National Security Bureau head Ali Mamlouk visited Cairo to meet Khaled Fawzy, the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service. The two sides agreed to coordinate political positions and strengthen cooperation in «the fight against terror».

Egypt is a predominantly Sunni nation. Its open support of the Russia-backed coalition in Syria is a game changing event of fundamental importance. It makes the sectarian interpretation of the Syria’s conflict not valid anymore.

Middle East Observer quotes Nziv Net, an Israeli outlet close to intelligence sources, saying that «Egypt has sent a group of officers to Syria for the first time since the relations have frozen during Morsi’s reign».

Last December, Ibrahim al-Eshaiker al-Jaafari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, called on Egypt to participate in a «strategic project to fight terrorism», which includes Iran.

In September, Egyptian Foreign Minister Samih Shoukry met for the first time with his Iranian counterpart, Jawad Zarif, during their visits to New York to attend the UN General Assembly.

In October, Egypt backed a Russian-backed motion in the UN calling for a ceasefire in Syria. The move angered Saudi Arabia, which suspended oil shipments to Cairo.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi publicly affirmed his support for the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The relations between Russia and Egypt have been on the rise. In February 2015, Egypt signed a breakthrough agreement on establishing a free trade zone with the Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union.

The progress in military cooperation is tangible. Egypt signed arms deals with Russia worth up to $5 billion by 2015 to include 50 MiG-29M combat aircraft, Buk-M2E and Antey-2500 long range air defense systems and about 50Ka-52K helicopters for Egypt’s new Mistral-class assault ships bought in France. The ships will receive the originally planned Russian helicopters and electronics suite.

The two countries signed several agreements for the renovation of military production factories in Egypt. A protocol is signed to grant Egypt access to GLONASS, the Russian global satellite positioning system. In September, Minister of Defense Sedky Sobhy visited Russia to discuss the issues related to long-term close security relationship. Last October, the militaries held a joint exercise.

Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa and the Arab world, the third-most populous in Africa and the fifteenth-most populous in the world. Last year, the country’s population has just reached 92 million. Its policy shift is well-substantiated. Cairo is fighting the Islamic State on the Sinai Peninsula. The fierce fighting there seldom hits media headlines but the IS poses a grave threat to Egypt. IS militants can also strike Egypt from Libya. The IS presence in Libya brings Egypt and Algeria together as the two great nations face the same threat.

The emerging Iran, Iraq, Russia and Turkey alliance may also include Algeria. In response to the growing menace, Algiers is strengthening ties with Moscow. It has recently purchased 14 Su-30MKA fighters and 40 Mi-28 «Night Hunter» attack helicopters from Russia. Last February, Russia and Algeria laid out a road-map for deepening bilateral economic and military cooperation during Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to Algeria.

Russia’s cooperation with Egypt, Algeria and other countries of the Middle East and North Africa reflects Moscow’s growing clout in the region.

With the Astana process making progress, other large and influential actors, such as Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Algeria, may join the emerging Russia, Iran, Turkey coalition to make the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region face tectonic and dramatic changes.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on Middle East: Rapid Tectonic Changes on Regional Chessboard


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