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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

Middle East

Middle Eastern autocrats sigh relief: the US signals Democracy Summit will not change policy

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The United States has signalled in advance of next week’s Summit for Democracy that it is unlikely to translate lip service to adherence to human rights and democratic values in the Middle East into a policy that demonstrates seriousness and commitment.

In a statement, the State Department said the December 9-10 summit would “set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.” e State Department said that in advance of the summit, it had consulted with government experts, multilateral organisations, and civil society “to solicit bold, practicable ideas” on “defending against authoritarianism,” “promoting respect for human rights,” and fighting corruption.

Of the more than 100 countries alongside civil society and private sector representatives expected to participate in the summit, only Israel is Middle Eastern, and a mere eight are Muslim-majority states. They are Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Albania, Iraq, Kosovo, Niger, and the Maldives.

US President Joe Biden has made the competition between democracy and autocracy a pillar of his administration policy and put it at the core of the United States’ rivalry with China.

We’re in a contest…with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in a rapidly changing 21st century,” Mr. Biden said.

Yet, recent statements by the Pentagon and a White House official suggested that, despite the lofty words, US Middle East policy is likely to maintain long-standing support for the region’s autocratic rule in the belief that it will ensure stability.

Popular revolts in the past decade that toppled leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, and Lebanon suggest that putting a lid on the pot was not a solution. That is true even if the achievements of the uprisings were either rolled back by Gulf-supported counter-revolutionary forces or failed to achieve real change.

To be sure, Gulf states have recognized that keeping the pot covered is no longer sufficient. As a result, countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have developed plans and policies that cater to youth aspirations with economic and social reforms while repressing political freedoms.

The US appears to be banking on the success of those reforms and regional efforts to manage conflicts so that they don’t spin out of control.

On that basis, the United States maintains a policy that is a far cry from standing up for human rights and democracy. It is a policy that, in practice, does not differ from Chinese and Russian backing of Middle Eastern autocracy. Continuous US public and private references to human rights and democratic values and occasional baby steps like limiting arms sales do not fundamentally alter things.

Neither does the United States’ choice of partners when it comes to responding to popular uprisings and facilitating political transition. In dealing with the revolt in Sudan that in 2019 toppled President Omar al-Bashir and a military coup in October, both the Trump and Biden administration turned to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Israel. While Israel is a democracy, none of the US partners favour democratic solutions to crises of governance.

White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk signalled this in an interview with The National, the UAE’s flagship English-language newspaper, immediately after a security summit in Bahrain that brought together officials from across the globe. US officials led by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin sought to use the conference to reassure America’s allies that the United States was not turning its back on ensuring regional security.

Mr. McGurk said that the United States had drawn conclusions from “hard lessons learnt” and was going “back to basics.” Basics, Mr. McGurk said, in a nod primarily to Iran but potentially also to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, entailed dumping “regime change policies.” He said the US would focus on “the basics of building, maintaining, and strengthening our partnerships and alliances” in the Middle East.

Mr. McGurk’s articulation of a back-to-basics policy was reinforced this week with the publication of a summary of the Pentagon’s Global Posture review, suggesting that there would be no significant withdrawal of US forces from the region in Mr. Biden’s initial years in office.

The notion of back to basics resonates with liberals in Washington’s foreign policy elite. Democracy in the Middle East is no longer part of their agenda.

“Instead of using US power to remake the region…policymakers need to embrace the more realistic and realisable goal of establishing and preserving stability,” said Council of Foreign Relations Middle East expert Steven A. Cook even before Mr. Biden took office.” What Washington needs is not a ‘war on terror’ built on visions of regime change, democracy promotion, and ‘winning hearts and minds’ but a realistic approach focused on intelligence gathering, police work, multilateral cooperation and the judicious application of violence when required,” he added.

Mr. Cook went on to say that a realistic US Middle East policy would involve “containing Iran, retooling the fight against terrorism, to reduce its counterproductive side effects, reorganizing military deployments to emphasize the protection of sea-lanes, and downscaling the US-Israeli relationship to reflect Israel’s relative strength.”

The United States is in good company in its failure to put its money where its mouth is regarding human rights and democratic values.

The same can be said for European nations and Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority state and democracy. Indonesia projects itself directly and indirectly through Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim civil society movement, as the only major supporter of a moderate interpretation of Islam that embraces human rights without reservations and pluralism and religious tolerance.

That has not stopped Indonesia from allegedly caving into a Saudi threat not to recognize the Indonesian Covid-19 vaccination certificates of pilgrims to the holy cities of Mecca and Media if the Asian state voted for an extension of a United Nations investigation into human rights violations in the almost seven-year-old war in Yemen.

Similarly, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has signed agreements with the United Arab Emirates on cooperation on religious affairs even though the UAE’s version of a moderate but autocratic Islam stands for values that reject freedoms and democracy.

The agreements were part of a much larger package of economic, technological, and public health cooperation fuelled by US$32.7 billion in projected Emirati investments in Indonesia.

The Biden administration’s reluctance, in line with a long list of past US presidents, to do substantially more than pay lip service to the promotion of human rights and democratic values brings to mind Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

President George W. Bush and his then-national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, acknowledged two decades ago that jihadist violence and the 9/11 attacks were partly the results of the United States’ failure to stand up for its values. They bungled, however, their effort to do something about it, as did Barak Obama.

It is not only the Middle East and other regions’ autocracies that pay the price. So do the United States and Europe. Their refusal to integrate their lofty ideals and values into effective policies is increasingly reflected at home in domestic racial, social, and economic fault lines and anti-migrant sentiment that threatens to tear apart the fabric of democracy in its heartland.

The backlash of failing to heed Mr. Einstein’s maxim and recognizing the cost associated with saying one thing and doing another is not just a loss of credibility. The backlash is also the rise of isolationist, authoritarian, xenophobic, racist, and conspiratorial forces that challenge the values in which human rights and democracy are rooted.

That raises the question of whether the time, energy, and money invested in the Summit of Democracy could not have been better invested in fixing problems at home. Financial Times columnist Janan Ganesh nailed it by noting that “shoring up democracy is almost entirely domestic work.”

It’s a message that has not been lost on democracy’s adversaries. In what should have been a warning that hollow declaratory events like the Summit of Democracy are not the answer, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told last September’s United Nations General Assembly: “The United States’ hegemonic system has no credibility, inside or outside the country.”

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Middle East

International Solidarity Day with the people of Palestine

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Since 1948, the people of Palestine were suffering due to Israeli oppression and aggression. Despite several resolutions on Palestine passed by the United Nation, Israel has not implemented either of them. Despite the struggle from all peace-loving nations, in various forms, the Palestinian people have not yet been given the right of self-determination, or self-rule, and are yet, forced to leave their land, homes and stay in refugee camps or migrate to foreign countries to live a miserable life. After failure from all aspects, the United Nations desp[erately declared to mark International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

In 1977, the General Assembly called for the annual observance of 29 November as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (resolution 32/40 B). On that day, in 1947, the Assembly adopted the resolution on the partition of Palestine (resolution 181 (II))

In resolution 60/37 of 1 December 2005, the Assembly requested the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Division for Palestinian Rights, as part of the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November, to continue to organize an annual exhibit on Palestinian rights or a cultural event in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the UN.

The resolution on the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People also encourages the Member States to continue to give the widest support and publicity to the observance of the Day of Solidarity.

The government and the people of Pakistan join the world community in observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (29 November).

The commemoration of this day is a reminder to the international community that the question of Palestine remains unresolved and the Palestinian people are yet to realize their inalienable right to self-determination as provided in various resolutions of the United Nations. It is also an occasion to reiterate our support and solidarity for the Palestinian people who continue to wage a just struggle against the illegal and brutal occupation.

On this day, Pakistan reaffirms its consistent and unstinted support for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause, which has always been a defining principle of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

The international community must shoulder its responsibility to protect the lives and fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, and play its rightful role in promoting a just and lasting resolution of the Palestinian question per international legitimacy in the interest of durable peace and stability in the Middle East. The international community should also ensure accountability for the widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the occupied territories.

We renew our call on this day for a viable, independent, and contiguous Palestinian State, with pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital being the only just, comprehensive and lasting solution of the Palestinian question, under the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions.

The purpose of marking this day is to remind the whole world that the people of Palestine deserve your attention and your time to think about their sufferings. It is to remind that the whole world should understand the issue and try their best to solve it according to the UN resolutions. Those who believe in justice, may raise their voice in favor of the Palestinian people and condemn Israeli barbarism and atrocities. This Day invites all of you to join the [peaceful struggle of Palestinian people for their legitimate rights. Irrespective of your profession, social status, or your religion or race, you may support the Palestinian cause for justice on humanitarian grounds and keep your struggle till the people of Palestine gets their legitimate status and rights on equal footings according to the UN resolutions.

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Middle East

Israel-Palestine: Risk of ‘deadly escalation’ in violence, without decisive action

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photo: UNOCHA/Mohammad Libed

With violence continuing daily throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process urged the Security Council on Tuesday to adopt a more coordinated approach to the region.  

Tor Wennesland told Council Members that “recent developments on the ground are worrying”, pointing out the situation in the West Bank and Gaza and the challenges faced by the Palestinian Authority.  

“I therefore emphasize again the importance of concerted efforts by the parties to calm things on the ground. I am concerned that if we do not act quickly and decisively, we risk plunging into another deadly escalation of violence”, he warned. 

He informed that, in the last month, violence resulted in the death of four Palestinians, including two children, and injuries to 90 others – including 12 children – due to action by Israeli Security Forces. 

One Israeli civilian was killed in the same period, and nine civilians, including one woman and one child, and six members of ISF were injured.  

Challenges 

Mr. Wennesland said that a severe fiscal and economic crisis is threatening the stability of Palestinian institutions in the West Bank. 

At the same time, he added, “ongoing violence and unilateral steps, including Israeli settlement expansion, and demolitions, continue to raise tensions, feed hopelessness, erode the Palestinian Authority’s standing and further diminish the prospect of a return to meaningful negotiations.” 

In Gaza, the cessation of hostilities continues to hold, but the Special Envoy argued that “further steps are needed by all parties to ensure a sustainable solution that ultimately enables a return of legitimate Palestinian Government institutions to the Strip.” 

Settlements 

The Special Coordinator also said that “settler-related violence remains at alarmingly high levels.” 

Overall, settlers and other Israeli civilians in the occupied West Bank perpetrated some 54 attacks against Palestinians, resulting in 26 injuries. Palestinians perpetrated 41 attacks against Israeli settlers and other civilians, resulting in one death and nine injuries.  

Mr. Wennesland highlighted a few announcements of housing units in settlements, reiterating that “that all settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace.” 

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities have also advanced plans for some 6,000 housing units for Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of al-Issawiya and some 1,300 housing units for Palestinians living in Area C (one of the administrative areas in the occupied West Bank, agreed under the Oslo Accord). 

The Special Envoy welcomed such steps but urged Israel to advance more plans and to issue building permits for all previously approved plans for Palestinians in Area C and East Jerusalem. 

Humanitarian aid delivered 

Turning to Gaza, the Special Envoy said that humanitarian, recovery and reconstruction efforts continued, along with other steps to stabilize the situation on the ground. 

He called the gradual easing of restrictions on the entry of goods and people “encouraging”, but said that the economic, security and humanitarian situation “remains of serious concern.” 

The Special Envoy also mentioned the precarious financial situation of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which still lacks $60 million to sustain essential services this year. 

The agency has yet to pay the November salaries of over 28,000 UN personnel, including teachers, doctors, nurses and sanitation workers, many of whom support extended families, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where unemployment is high.  

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