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U.S. Government Continues Trying to Seize Syrian Territory

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On June 25th, U.S.-aided fighters in southern Syria were fleeing from the Syrian Government’s Army, southward toward U.S.-allied Israeli-controlled areas in the Golan Heights and toward America’s ally Jordan; and, according to the AP’s news-report, “The majority of these rebels in southern Syria were U.S- and Jordan backed, although some local al-Qaida-linked militants still operate there.” The U.S. has relied heavily upon Al Qaeda in southern Syria, to lead the jihadist groups against Syria’s Government, ever since 2012.

The expectation when Donald Trump came into the U.S. White House had been that his predecessor’s war to conquer Syria or at least to seize territory there, would end. But Trump instead continues that invasion and occupation of Syria, and he even does so under the very same excuse that Obama had used, which is the ‘humanitarian’ one, of protecting people against Syria’s Government and against ISIS, which is one of the dozens of fundamentalist-Sunni ‘rebel’ groups of jihadists (ISIS and Al Qaeda being only the most famous ones) who have been brought in from all over the world and financed mainly by the Sauds, and armed and advised mainly by the Americans. They’ve been fighting to overthrow Syria’s Government. The rulers of the U.S., who bombed Iraq and Libya to hell and have done the same to Syria and now also to Yemen, say that their motivation is ‘humanitarian’. Even George W. Bush did, when he invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003 (but he mainly gave the reason, “Saddam’s WMD,” which didn’t any longer even exist). Somehow, most Americans think that this Government in Washington represents them; but I am an American and I don’t think that the U.S. Government represents the American people. It certainly doesn’t represent us in Syria.

However, perhaps now, the actual end of the invasion of Syria is, at last, in sight. The commentator “bernhard,” who blogs on geostrategy at his “Moon of Alabama” site, headlined on June 22nd, “Syria – Damascus And Its Allies Prepare To Remove U.S. Forces From Al-Tanf”, and he (or she) explained the reasons why the U.S. invaders are now clearly in an untenable military-strategic position in the Syrian war. Basically, it’s because, as he(she) states at the end, “The al-Tanf position [U.S. military base in Syria] is indefensible against any larger force. The U.S. forces there can still move out without a fight. If they do not leave voluntarily, force will be used to remove them.” On the other hand, a year ago, on 29 June 2017, he/she had headlined “U.S. Retreats From Al-Tanf – Gives Up on Occupying South East Syria”, and that turned out to have been at least a year premature.

The knowledgeable Middle-Eastern commentator, Abdel Bari Atwan, headlined, also on June 22nd, “Syria’s Southern Front: The army is determined to retake the area. Israel is determined to prevent it.” Atwan stated:“More than 40,000 soldiers have been deployed [by Syria’s Government] in preparation for the southern offensive [by the U.S. and its allies], according to reliable sources, suggesting that a decisive showdown is imminent. It is doubtful that the Syrian army, feeling confident after the battle for Ghouta, would launch such an operation without a green light from its Russian ally, as has been the case in similar instances. This follows the dead-end reached in negotiations between Russia and the US aimed at achieving an acceptable settlement, due to the intransigence of the armed groups, their insistence on all their conditions being met and the support some receive from Israel. It is not in Israel’s interest for these groups to evacuate as their counterparts did in Eastern Ghouta and Aleppo and for the Syrian army to retake control.”

He seems to view Israel as leading the U.S. operation there. This is conceivably true, because everything that Trump has thus far done in the Middle East has served both Israel’s Government and Saudi Arabia’s Government, and both of those Governments have almost identical objectives there. Conceivably, those two Governments together determine what the U.S. Government’s policies in the Middle East will be. And Israel has taken the initiative in Syria, just as the Sauds have taken the initiative in Yemen. But both Israel and the Sauds as well as the U.S. regime want the Saud family to control Syria; in fact, at the U.N.’s peace-talks, in which the “High Negotiations Committee” negotiates against the Syrian Government, to replace Syria’s Government, the Saud family itself selects who will and who won’t be members of the High Negotiations Committee: the ‘Syrian opposition’ there represents actually the Saud family. (See more on that here.) So, actually, both Israel’s rulers and America’s rulers are the Saud family’s agents in Syria; they front for the Sauds, regarding Syria-policy.

Atwan concludes:“Syria continues to defy those who have spent the past seven years conspiring against it. This time, eyes should be turned to its south, where new and shocking surprises may be in store for the Israelis and their allies.”

The U.S. military base at al-Tanf, in Syria on Jordan’s border, is America’s main training-base for the Saudi-allied ‘rebels’, and has been key to the fundamentalist-Sunni Arabic, outright jihadist, south-Syrian half, of America’s boots-on-the-ground effort, to seize Syria, or at least to seize territory (especially oil-producing territory, around Deir Ezzor) in Syria. For decades, the jihadists (supporters of the Sauds’ fundamentalist Sunni form of Islam) have been hoping to oust Syria’s ideologically non-sectarian, decidedly secular, Government, and replace it with a Sunni Sharia-law regime. Trump’s troops even have been secretly arming ISIS to overthrow the Government. That plan will be crashing down if these ‘rebels’ in Syria’s south fail.

Without this jihadist operation in Syria’s south, all that will remain of the U.S.-led invasion-occupation operation will be the northern part, which relies instead upon anti-(Syrian)-Government Kurds as the U.S. regime’s boots-on-the-ground proxy forces to seize the northern portion of Syrian territory. So, it’s the Sauds’ jihadists in the south, and the Americans’ Kurdish-independence fighters in the north — a pincer between the two, for the U.S. alliance to take all of Syria. But there is increasing doubt that the U.S. coalition will be able to seize and hold either portion, or, ultimately, any part, of Syria.

In other words: if the southern invaders fail, then Syria’s oil-producing region, around the city of Deir Ezzor, now contested between these jihadists and Syria’s Government, will no longer be in play, and the only function which land-seizure by the U.S. would even possibly serve for the U.S. and its allies, would be for pipeline-construction, in order for oil and gas from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and possibly other fundamentalist-Sunni-owned countries, to become pipelined through Syria into Europe, so as to replace Russia as the EU’s main energy-source. But Turkey’s Government won’t permit a Syrian Kurdistan, any more than Iraq had permitted success of the U.S. regime’s plan for an Iraqi Kurdistan (around Mosul). The big policy-difference between the Turkish Government and the American Government has long been over the U.S. aristocracy’s (along with Israel’s aristocracy’s) desire to use a Kurdistan so as to break up the non-Saudi Arabic countries (such as Syria) in order for Saudi oil and maybe Qatar’s (the Thani family’s) gas to increase market-share in Europe, so as to decrease Russia’s market-share there.

Consequently, (unless ‘bernhard’ turns out to be wrong about al-Tanf, that “Damascus And Its Allies Prepare To Remove U.S. Forces From Al-Tanf”), Donald Trump finally will have to do what he had always been promising to do: exit from Syria — let the Syrians control Syria. The long effort by the aristocracies of U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Israel — to supplant Russia and its allies, as suppliers of energy and of energy-related services (such as pipeline-construction) to and in the world’s largest energy-market, the EU — will have to be abandoned, at least until the CIA and other agencies of the U.S. aristocracy can come up with a different way to squeeze Russia out of the European market. (The U.S. already has been successful at reducing the effectiveness of Russia’s gas-pipelines into the EU through Ukraine.) It’s not necessarily the end for the American plan, however: a new opportunity (perhaps yet another ‘Arab Spring’) could emerge — they’ve been at this ever since the CIA’s second coup, which occurred in Syria in 1949, when they took over Syria but their barbarism caused Syria’s generals to restore in 1955 the democratically elected Syrian President, whom President Truman’s people had assisted some of Syria’s generals to overthrow in 1949.

As soon as FDR died in 1945, the imperialist faction in the United States — which has controlled the Republican Party ever since 1865 — quickly came to control also the Democratic Party; so, now, both of America’s political Parties are determined that the U.S. aristocracy will control the entire world. World peace is the last thing they want, and if they win it, that would be only ‘peace’ by force — not democracy.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Middle East

Reigniting Chaos in Syria

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Syria has been the nexus of brutality and terror for almost a decade now; with more than 6 million natives who have already fled and numerous displaced over the territory itself, the region casts a ghastly shade that has only turned grimmer with time. Although the conflict seemingly raved its catastrophic footprint in early 2000, the root cause arguably always ends up to be the infamous ‘Arab Spring’ that actually tuned the Syrians against their very own regime. Something to compare and contrast that communal unity acted in Iraq’s benefit back when USA invaded the territory to avenge the 9/11 Attacks in 2003 while casted a fiasco in Syria when invaded in 2014. Large scale protests and rampaging violence gradually morphed into a series of relentless efforts to first deter Bashar Al-Asad’s efforts to first peacefully and then collaboratively resolving the raging unrest. Some would say it was inspired by the historical besiege of Libya and the subsequent execution of the Libyan prime minister Muammar al-Gaddafi as an ensue of that revolution yet Bashar Al-Asad proved a far more tensile force to overthrow. Such tumultuous turn of events, lead Syria to first economic sanctions followed by severe isolation in the global community opposing and downright rejecting Assad’s actions to curb the political tremors. Yet intermittent interventions, both implicit and explicit, by the western powers and their counter-parts have defined the region more as a battle ground of mercenary motives instead of mere efforts to safeguard human rights and ensuring regional peace.

Since 2011, three core actors have remained active in skirmishes that have more oftener than not transformed into battles of gore and toil and sometimes even full-fledged wars that have not only dismembered the expanse of over an 185,000 kmof land into mounds of dust and rubble with terror now crawling over the lanes but have even shuddered the immediate vicinity. With the downfall and perpetual dissipation of ISIS, losing much of its occupied land to active contenders, Assad’s militia and Kurdish forces remain the helming competitors along with a smattering of other oppositions like Jaish al Fateh and Nusrta Front. The conflict between the Kurdish forces backed by the US regime against ISIS and then eventual betrayal on the Turkish front had been a matter of contentions in the latter part of 2019; Kurds making it abundantly clear to harness the borders they surmise to be rightly theirs while Turkish policies, especially under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have been outright fearless and needless of any other inference regarding their austere stance over the issue; claiming their bordering territories and inferring stern response in case of any dissension caused by the Kurds.

However, the outlining threat in the recent time can be perceived at a novel yet a totally realistic stage, where proxy wars no longer remain the ground reality of armed unrest in Syria. This notion has arisen since harsh words were exchanged between Moscow and Ankara; the metropolis’ of the neighbouring giants: Russia and Turkey respectively. A glimpse in the historical scaffolding of the entire Syrian conflict, Russia has always backed Assad’s regime despite its initial block over Syrian policies revolving over strategies to deal with the blooming protests in the early tremors of the Arab Spring who’s effects had started to resonate in the entire Middle East following up on Ground 0, Tunisia. The vantage point of Russia, however, shifted when the political paradigm was drastically nudged by the terror-driven escalation of ISIS after severe US blunders and baffling retreat from Syria that even threatened the sovereignty and security of the region following their besiege of the state of Raqqa, establishing ISIS as a looming concern, thereby aligning the aims of both Russian reign and Assad’s regime, ultimately inciting a continued alliance. Turkey, on the other hand, being the northern neighbour to Syria also contended as a root protagonist in economic isolation of Assad’s government, imposing stringent financial sanctions that tightened the bottlenecks and eventually led to the deterioration of their financial virility that already staggered after sanctions and embargos placed by both EU and USA.

This conflict that permeates in the north-western terrain of Syria lilts an innuendo that a spark may be brewing between the two nations. The besieged province of Idlib exudes the source of the strife; an area that has witnessed countless Turkish troops slain by Assad’s forces in cross-border disputes; close to seven Turkish soldiers were recently killed in a thorough retaliation of Syrian forces in the de-escalation zone, much to Turkey’s dismay. However, the Russian involvement in backing the Syrian government in their dissent in Idlib and heavily bombing of the territory with artillery servers as a link to presumably leading a head-on conflict between Russia and Turkey; hinted by Erdoğan that any effort made in the region will not go answered, clearly warning the Russian forces to avoid any transgression that could cause fatality to their personnel. The people of Syria, blended with the rebels, look in the eye of a dead end; bombardments to deter the tyrants have shredded their innocent bodies similar to the incursions in Eastern Ghouta and with no one on their side but with ulterior incentives, they are left with no choice but to see Turkey as a savior. To any sane mind, however, its not really a complex interface of modes and interests involved. With clash of alliances, historical narrative of both the world wars fought, coherently brings about the model of war despite a never-ending argument at whim. Without contesting any theory by any analyst, its imperative to gauge at the systematic progression of the tensions flowing yet not mitigating. Turkey being stranded from its western allies and Arab assistance in wake of the murder conspiracy and being locked in a bound-to-doom NATO relation with Russia, the outcome of this steady conflict can bring about equal amount of damage yet in lesser of a decade and more pandemic effects.

Recent Israeli airstrikes targeted the Iran-linked elements in Syria. One of the biggest attacks even in at least half a decade period of relative dormancy in the region hint at the start of something gruesome. The attacks pointed Iran-backed sites like Al-Bukamal in intensity, riddling the city that acts as a focal point to Iran’s influence over and beyond the borders of Baghdad and Damascus, as well as paving way to militants from the fore stretch of Lebanon. The attacks reportedly served as an active Israeli position against the Irani militants and revolutionary guards, casting a heavy presence in the core hit areas of the province of Dair al Zor, claiming 57 casualties. The attack assumes a step-up stance of Israel picking up from a cold targeted strike within Iran, months back, eliminating the crucial scientific figure of Iran, that earned promises of retaliation both from the military leads and the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

These attacks nurture an underlying message of Israel following on the shadow war footsteps dictated under the premiership of Mr. Donald Trump. Now, with his nefarious exit from the presidential office following the riots at US Capitol and Mr. Biden’s ascension to power just days away, Israel insinuates its true deterrence of Iran’s growing influence and hostility in the expansive areas of Southern, North-western and Eastern regions of Syria. With US intelligence cultivating the Israeli position in Syria while Iran enriching its plans of Nuclear power along with backing militias under the lead of Lebanese force of Hezbollah, a possibility of another proxy clash is re-emerging in the peripheries of Syria. Now as Israel continues to welcome Arab nations to set camp around Syria to end Tehran’s influence, US faces a tough choice in over a decade to either exit the war before it even flames or repeat their interference regretted since the Arab Spring to jump headfirst into another round of decade long destruction.

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Post Trump Palestine

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Al-Walaja, a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Photo: UNRWA/Marwan Baghdadi

The unconditional United States’ political, financial and military support to Israel enabled the latter to occupy the Palestinian territories. The former became involved in Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an arbiter to resolve the issue. But the foreign policy of US has always remained tilt to Israeli interests. From recognizing Israel as sovereign state in 1947 to accepting Jerusalem as capital of Israel has clearly unearthed the biased attitude of US for Israel.

Similarly, Trump also adopted the traditional stance of Washington on Palestine, i.e. outright support for Israel. Trump’s policy regarding Israeli-Palestinian conflict was more aggressive but not in contradiction with his predecessors’. For instance, he brought into reality the law passed by US congress in 1995 that recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, shifted US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, closed office of Palestine Liberation Organization PLO in Washington DC in Sept 2018 and closed US consulate in East Jerusalem the area under Palestinian control. His bigotry against Palestinians unveiled more distinctly when he announced defunding of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), the UN agency that provides food, education and healthcare to the refugees. Moreover during his regime in November 2018 the state department of US proclaimed that the construction of Israeli settlements in West Bank does not come under the ambit of violation of international humanitarian laws. Certainly, the belligerent policies in last four years of trump era paved the way for the colonization of Palestine by Israel and helped the latter to put unlawful restrictions on Palestinians making them deprived of all civil liberties and peace.

As per world report-2020by Human Rights Watch HRW, Palestinian citizens are restrained from all basic necessities of life such that, education, basic healthcare, clean water and electricity. The movement of people and goods to and from Gaza strip is also inhibited. According to World Health Organization WHO 34 percent of applications by Palestinians, for medical appointments outside Gaza strip, were not addressed by Israeli army. Moreover, HRW report states that the Israeli government destroyed 504 homes of Palestinians in West Bank during 2019 and facilitated 5995 housing settlements for Israelis. The country is trying at utmost to eradicate indigenous Palestinians from their home land. According to United Nations’ Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs UNOCHA, the demolitions of Palestinian homes displaced 642 people in 2019 and 472 in 2018.Moreover, the illicit attacks by Israeli side have killed hundreds of innocent citizens in the same years. According to UNOCHA on November 11, 2020, 71 innocent Palestinian citizens were killed by Israeli forces while 11,453 were lethally injured in a single day. Furthermore, UN secretary general exhorted that Israeli armed forces have infringed the children’s rights during the conflict as in 2018, 56 Palestinian children were killed by Israeli armed forces.

While, other international actors criticized the Israeli annexations of the region and declared it as violation of international humanitarian laws, US supported the Israeli escalations in West Bank. The former also stopped aid support through USAID for Gaza strip where eighty percent of population depends upon aid. Such partial attitude of US has put the country outside the international consensus on the issue. Apparently, US pretend its position as arbiter but her policies accredited the colonization of Palestine by Israel.

Thus, it seems futile to expect any big change in US policies regarding Israeli-Palestinian issue during forthcoming administrations. However, the president-elect Joe Bidden may alter some of the trump’s decisions such as reopening of Palestine Liberation Organization PLO in Washington, resuming funding of UNRWA and reopening of US consulate in East Jerusalem.  But his policies will not contradict the congress’ stance on the issue. As, he and his team have clearly mentioned prior to elections that they will not shift back the US embassy to Tel Aviv as it seems politically and practically insensible to them. Moreover, Blinken, the candidate for secretary of state in Joe’s upcoming regime, made it clear through his controversial statements, that the imminent president will inherit historic US position on Palestine-Israel dispute. Further, Chinese expansionism, Russian intervention in American and European affairs and Iran nuclear deal issue would remain the main concerns of foreign affairs of US during initial period of Joe Biden’s regime. He is likely to favor the status quo in Palestine and remain focused on other foreign interests. In addition to this the inclination of Arabian Gulf to develop relations with Israel will also hinder the adherence for Palestinians from the gulf countries. Subsequently, it will enable Israelis to continue seizing the Palestinian territories into Israel and leave indigenous Palestinians stateless in their own land.

Summing up, it is significant for Palestinians to continue their struggle for the homeland and seek support from other international actors to marginalize Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territories. As well as, the peace accord of 1993 signed in between both nations, to share the holy land, should also be revoked by both countries.  Both nations should try to resolve the issue on equitable grounds by negotiations so that either side could not be deprived of its interests.

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An Enemy Among Us

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The upcoming talks regarding the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, that are due to take place on January 25, should not disillusion us from the dangers of Turkey’s unilateral aggression on all fronts. Erdogan has made no real efforts to improve ties with the EU, except for the occasional vain promise of turning over a new leaf. Since October, he has urged the Muslim world to boycott French products, continued gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, blatantly ignored the arms embargo in Libya and has aided Azerbaijan in committing war crimes in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Despite the numerous warnings issued by the EU and the many failed attempts at resolving the crisis in the East Med diplomatically, the latest EU summit concluded with an anti-climactic promise to sanction certain Turkish officials regarding the East Med. This minimally symbolic promise could only be described as a mere slap on the wrist that will prove unsuccessful in deterring Turkey’s belligerent tendencies. Turkey’s increasingly hostile attitude, its callous use of the refugee crisis and its clear violation of international law in the East Med, Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh represent a danger to European values, identity and security.

We are witnessing before our eyes a dictator in the making who dreams of a return of the Ottoman empire and seeks to destroy the democratic and secular legacy of Atatürk. He is a fervent supporter of political islam – particularly the muslim brotherhood – and he relentlessly accuses the West of wanting to ‘relaunch the crusades’ against Islam. In fact, since 2014, Erdogan and the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) have continuously facilitated cross-border movement into Syria and shipped illegal arms to a number of radical jihadist groups. The Turkish government also uses SADAT Defense, an islamist paramilitary group loyal to Erdogan, to aid groups that can be considered as terrorist organizations such as Sultan Murad Division and Ahrar al-Sham in Northern Syria and use their jihadi fighters to send to Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and, most recently, Kashmir in order to bolster Turkey’s foreign policy.

Erdogan uses a mixture of islamism and nationalism to expand Turkey’s influence around the world and to consolidate power within. The two most influential factions in Turkey are the radical islamists and secular neo-nationalists, who despise each other but share a deep disdain for the west. Courtesy of neo-nationalist and former Maoist terrorist leader Dogu Perinçek, the NATO member has also enjoyed warmer ties with Russia and China over the past 5 years. As a result of these shifts in alliances and growing anti-western sentiments, Turkey is becoming increasingly at odds with the West. 

Furthermore, the growing discontent at home pushes him to adopt more aggressive tactics, divisive policies and his behavior mirrors that of a panicked authoritarian leader. Erdogan is desperately looking for a conflict to distract the Turkish population from the fall of the lira, the spread and mishandling of COVID-19, and the overall declining economy that predates the pandemic. Turkey’s future will most likely be determined by the upcoming general election that is set to take place within the next three years. If Erdogan wins the next election, it will solidify his power and bring him one step closer in turning Turkey into a dictatorship. During his stay in power, he has already conducted a series of purges to weaken and silence dissidents. Turkey now has the most imprisoned journalists in the world. 

Yet, the loss of Istanbul and Ankara in the last municipal election of 2019 demonstrate his declining popularity, and offer a glimmer of hope for the opposition. Political figures like the new mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, or the new mayor of Ankara, Mansur Yavaş, represent a brighter future for Turkey. Erdogan currently finds himself in a position of weakness, which represents a rare window of opportunity for the EU to strike. Unfortunately, the EU remains deeply divided on how to handle a situation that continues to deteriorate. It seems that some member states, particularly Germany, are holding on to the naive belief that Erdogan can still be reasoned with. 

Our reluctance to impose the slightest sanctions against Turkey demonstrates our division and weakness, which emboldens the neo-sultan. A strong and united response from the European Union is the only way to curb Erdogan’s expansionist agenda. This should include renegotiating the migrant pact, imposing targeted sanctions against SADAT Defense and its leader Adnan Tanrıverdi, imposing an arms embargo, suspending the EU-Turkey customs union and finally suspending Turkey’s membership in NATO. 

Ultimately, Erdogan’s bellicose foreign policy and his contentious nationalist-islamist rhetoric makes it impossible to consider Erdogan’s Turkey as our ally. As the EU reaches out yet another olive branch, Erdogan has his eye on the wars to come. 

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