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Trump’s Foreign Policy: Do Whatever Netanyahu & Prince Salman Want

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Now that Donald Trump, like Barack Obama before him, has failed to remove Syria’s Bashar al-Assad by means of American training of, and supply of weapons to, ‘rebels’ (almost all of whom were actually jihadists) in Syria, Trump, on March 21st, has set into motion a process that is designed to provide a ‘justification’ for an all-out U.S. military invasion of Syria, as a means to ‘defend Israel’. 

This strategy pertains to Syria’s Golan Heights region, which is occupied by Israelis. That area of tension would be the trigger-point for the next shot in the anti-Syrian war, which would be the final shot, if it becomes fired. But perhaps Trump thinks that the threat alone will be enough to get Syria’s Government to capitulate. Anyway, the threat was issued by Trump on March 21st. So, here is the history, and documentation (via links), behind this sequence of events — the history that makes sense of Trump’s new American strategy, to conquer Syria (replacing the use of such proxy-forces as were previously used): 

On 5-10 June 1967, Israel invaded Syria and Egypt and grabbed from Syria the 690-square-mile Golan Heights area of Syria. Israel has occupied it ever since. The Golan Heights is internationally recognized as being Syrian territory. But Trump now wants to change that and make it Israel’s, just as he had earlier helped Israel to change its capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump is the first head-of-state (other than Israel’s) to assert publicly that the Golan Heights is part of Israel, not part of Syria. Trump represents (takes his orders from) Israel’s invasion-craving fundamentalist-Jewish Benjamin Netanyahu, who wants to make official, finally, the ‘ownership’, by Israel, of Syria’s Golan Heights. Netanyahu had been expecting America’s war by use of proxies against Syria’s Government to succeed, but it has instead failed, and so an outright American invasion of Syria, by U.S. troops and missiles and bombs, will be needed, like was done to Iraq in 2003, and to Libya in 2011.

Trump also represents Israel’s ally, the equally invasion-craving and equally anti-Syrian, fundamentalist-Sunni Saudi King Salman al-Saud, and his son and heir Crown Prince Salman al-Saud. Both Netanyahu and King Salman want the fundamentalist-Sunni Saud family to control Syria. (Both Netanyahu and Salman want Syria’s land, not necessarily the people who live on it, millions of whom have fled the war in Syria, which pits Syria against the U.S.-allied invading and occupying fundamentalist-Sunni forces, which have been brought in from all over the world.) Apparently, Trump’s instructions from both Netanyahu and Salman are that this part of Syria — the Golan Heights — is to go immediately to Israel, while a means continues to be sought for the rest of Syria to become ruled ultimately by a satrap selected by the Saud family. Trump’s predecessor, Obama, had done everything he could to place Salman in control of Syria this way (by means of proxy-fighters), but failed. Trump is extremely competitive. He’s determined to out-do Obama, in service to America’s masters, whom the U.S. has long been serving: Israel and Saudi Arabia — and, of course (above all), America’s own billionaires, who likewise are united in alliance with both of those two countries’ respective aristocracies, against Syria, and against any other nation that’s (like Syria is) allied with Russia (or even friendly toward Russia, such as Ukraine was, which was successfully flipped to the U.S. in 2014, by a U.S. coup that destroyed Ukraine). The chief U.S. aim, ever since 24 February 1990, has been for Russia ultimately to be conquered and absorbed into The West — brought into America’s empire. Both the Sauds and the regime in Israel are supportive of that U.S. goal, but not primarily focused on it, like America’s billionaires are (they are obsessive against Russia). Israel and the Sauds have their own reasons to want Syria; but, as regards the U.S. regime, Syria’s alliance with Russia is the main reason that Syria must be conquered. That’s the geostrategic reason: isolating Russia, in preparation for ultimately conquering Russia.

And, so, Trump has decided to be not only the first American President but the first international head-of-state outside Israel who has publicly committed the United States to formally recognize the Golan Heights — that land which was stolen from Syria — as being legally Israeli land. It’s to be done right now, regardless of when (or whether) the U.S. ever succeeds in ousting Syria’s existing non-sectarian Government. In fact, it will provide the U.S. a pretext to invade Syria directly (by a U.S. invasion), instead of (as until now) via mere proxy-forces such as Al Qaeda-led “boots on the ground” fighting to overthrow Syria’s Government. (In 2013, the BBC’s “Guide to the Syrian rebels” said “There are believed to be as many as 1,000 armed opposition groups in Syria, commanding an estimated 100,000 fighters.” In 2015, “The Soufan Group has calculated that between 27,000 and 31,000 people have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State and other violent extremist groups from at least 86 countries.”  These are large proxy-forces. In Syria, they were led by the U.S.-backed Syrian branch of Al Qaeda. The U.S. under Obama insisted that Russia not bomb Syria’s Al Qaeda, and this demand scuttled the cease-fire negotiations. Obama’s protection of Al Qaeda in Syria continued under Trump.) 

This U.S.-backed Israeli theft of the Golan Heights will enable America to invade Syria directly and heavily, when and if Syria reacts militarily against Israel’s seizure of its land. Trump appears now to want to do this, and maybe is even hoping for Syria to respond militarily, so as to provide an excuse (based on America’s alliance with Israel) for an all-out U.S. invasion against Syria: ‘defense of an ally’. America has failed to conquer Syria with mere proxy forces (such as Al Qaeda); this would be the next step — U.S. troops, bombers, and missiles, en-masse. The presumption is that Russia would not defend Syria. That’s a very risky assumption, but Trump is a very bold man. 

Trump announced, on March 21st, that “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability.” He thereby made clear that America is a slave to the racist-apartheid Israeli regime and will violate the intentions of all the rest of the world’s leaders except Israel’s, in demanding international recognition of this land as being a part of Israel. 

This threat against Syria was not made just casually. 

On March 13th, Politico headlined “New Trump administration report softens language on Israeli-occupied Golan Heights”, and Nahal Toosi reported:

The State Department’s newest Human Rights Report describes the Golan Heights as “Israeli-controlled” instead of “Israeli-occupied,” a linguistic change sure to fuel criticism that the Trump administration is bucking global consensus on Israel’s reach.

The change comes as conservative U.S. lawmakers are pushing to have the Golan Heights recognized as part of Israel. If President Donald Trump goes along with that, it would be the latest of several pro-Israel moves on his part, including moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv….

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently said he would push Congress to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. “To give this up would be a strategic nightmare for the State of Israel. And who would you give it to?” Graham said.

The shifts in the U.S. approach to the region, which activists say has largely been to the detriment of Palestinians, come as the Trump administration prepares to release its proposal to resolve the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The proposal, spearheaded by Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, is expected to be unveiled after Israel’s elections in April, though no firm date has been set.

Finian Cunningham has brought public attention to a self-interested reason why Trump might be determined to assist Netanyahu to make Golan Heights legally israeli territory. Headlining at Strategic Culture, on March 19th “US Duplicity over Golan Demolishes Posturing on Crimea”, he wrote:

There has been previous speculation that Trump is doing the bidding for a US-based oil company, Genie Oil, which is linked to his administration through his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family investments. The New Jersey company has a subsidiary in Israel, is tied to the Netanyahu government, and has long been aiming to drill the Golan for its abundant oil resources.

However, there also is another possible reason, and Cunningham touched upon it, too: an intention for Trump to offer to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin a trade-off offer, that in return for Putin’s rejecting the repeatedly-shown-by-polling strong desire of the residents of Crimea for Crimea to be part of Russia instead of part of Ukraine, and for Putin to force Crimeans to become again ruled by Ukraine (as they had been between 1954 and 2014), the U.S. will now stop demanding that the residents of Golan Heights be part of and legally ruled by Israel, instead of for them to be ruled again by Syria as they always were.

But what is clear is that Trump definitely does now intend to legalize Israel’s control over Golan Heights, and that this has been a hope of every Israeli Administration since 1967.

Earlier, Trump had made clear that he wouldn’t do anything about Saudi Crown Prince Salman al-Saud’s barbaric torture-murder (and lies about that revenge-murder) of a Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump also makes clear that the U.S. will do nothing against the Salmans’ effort to starve to death the Shiite Houthis in Yemen by bombing their food-supply lines. All of that is fine with Donald Trump. This is how competitive he is. He is all-out competitive, and especially wants to out-do Obama on what he can, and to un-do Obama on what he can (such as he does by trying to destroy Obama’s gift to drug companies, Obamacare).

America supplies the training and weapons for both the Saudi and Israeli militaries. Trump’s secret National Security Policy (as introduced to the press on 19 January 2018) said that, “Though we will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists that we are engaged in today, … Great Power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.” By “Great Power competition,” it refers to, as being the chief enemies, “revisionist powers as different as China and Russia are from each other, nations that do seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models, pursuing veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions.” Isn’t that an excellent description of the U.S. Government, regardless of whether it’s also accurately describing either Russia, China, or any other? It certainly sounds like Big Brother’s propaganda in today’s world. But does America really need more wars? Should America’s Government really be policeman of the entire world? Indeed: of any part of the world except itself? The lying Trump had won his office by promising never to advocate any such “policeman of the world” role; but here he’s doing exactly that — for the clear benefit of America’s masters: Netanyahu and Salman and America’s oil and gas companies and all other U.S. billionaires. He represents them — not the people who had voted for him. (And, certainly, also, not the people who had voted against him. The U.S. electorate certainly are not represented by America’s Government. That’s just an established and confirmed fact.)

If the reason why Trump is now backing Israel’s aim to legalize its seizure of Golan Heights is to serve Israel’s desire for more territory, and to serve the desire of both Netanyahu and Salman for the Sauds to take ultimate control over Syria, then that would be a geostrategic aim, instead of an aim to enrich Trump’s daughter and her husband Jared Kushner by oil-wealth from Golan Heights. This geostrategic aim would be that there will be a trade-off of Golan Heights for Crimea: Israel will win legal control over Golan Heights, and Ukraine will win legal control over Crimea. However, what if Putin says no to that? There could then be an invasion by Syria against the Israelis who are occupying Golan Heights, followed by an invasion of Syria by both Israel and the United States, and a responding invasion by Russia against both Israel and the United States, ending perhaps in World War III, an annihilating global nuclear war. What would therefore be likelier would be that when Putin says no, Trump will propose — and Putin will accept — that the U.N. will oversee free and fair and U.N.-supervised elections, both in Golan Heights and in Crimea, and that the will of the majority of the residents in each of these two areas will determine what country they are part of. That would avoid WW III, and it also would be face-saving for the leaderships both in U.S. and in Russia. Of course, if the personal enrichment of Trump’s family is instead the motive, then the U.S. Congress will be far less supportive of Israel’s side in this matter than they have been up till now.

Democrats in Congress, and professional neoconservatives generally, not only are blindly suportive of Israel’s Government, but they allege that ‘Putin made Trump President’. They do this despite the fact that the Republican Trump Administration wants to escalate its Democratic Party predecessor Obama’s war (which started in 2012) against Russia; so, this accusation against Trump doesn’t really make much sense. Like the neoconservative advisor to international corporations Ian Bremmer said on 22 March 2018, in the neoconservative TIME magazine, “Putin Won. But Russia Is Losing.” That’s how Bremmer’s international clients want to view things — as if Russia, not the U.S., is the perpetrator of invasions and coups constantly, ‘perpetual war for perpetual peace’ — that it comes from Russia, instead of from America. But it’s obviously a lie.

On 23 February 2018, James George Jatras, at Strategic Culture, bannered “What Would an ‘America First!’ Security Policy Look Like?” and he provided his answer: it would look very different from Trump’s actual foreign policies. But I would put it another way: it would look like a country that isn’t trying to take over the world, and like a country that would eliminate most if not all of its hundreds of foreign military bases. U.S. President Eisenhower warned, near his last day in office, against growth in the “military-industrial complex,” but subsequently it has swallowed this country whole. Most Americans love that: the military is, by far, the highest-respected of all institutions in America. Is this the new Sparta? Maybe the new Rome? Or even the new Nazi Germany. With nuclear weapons. And both Republicans and Democrats support it, as if to do otherwise is ‘unpatriotic’.

NOTE: Israel is actually an enemy of America:

On 8 June 1967, Israel intentionally attacked and sank the USS Liberty, slaughtering 34 of our sailors, and injuring another 172. The official U.S. government inquiry by an independent study Commission headed by Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, found that, “after eight hours of aerial surveillance, Israel launched a two-hour air and naval attack against the USS Liberty, the world’s most sophisticated intelligence ship.” “Unmarked Israeli aircraft dropped napalm canisters on the Liberty’s bridge, and fired 30mm cannons and rockets into our ship.” “Israeli torpedo boats later returned to machine-gun at close range three of the Liberty’s life rafts that had been lowered into the water by survivors to rescue the most seriously wounded.” “There is compelling evidence that Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew.” “Israel committed acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States.” “The White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of the Liberty.” “Surviving crewmembers were later threatened with ‘court-martial, imprisonment or worse’ if they exposed the truth; and were abandoned by their own government.” “The White House deliberately covered up the facts of this attack from the American people.” 

So is Saudi Arabia.

But those (plus America’s own billionaires) are the two countries that America’s President actually represents (in addition to America’s own billionaires, who are more concerned to conquer Russia and to control China).

America’s alliances reflect the interests of America’s billionaires, and that’s all. America’s military represents them, and that’s all. Today’s America is fundamentally different from FDR’s America. It is no democracy.

Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org

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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Hardened US and Iranian positions question efficacy of parties’ negotiating tactics

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The United States and Iran seem to be hardening their positions in advance of a resumption of negotiations to revive a 2015 international nuclear agreement once Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in early August.

Concern among supporters of the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program which former US President Donald J. Trump abandoned in 2018 may be premature but do raise questions about the efficacy of the negotiating tactics of both parties.

These tactics include the Biden administration’s framing of the negotiations exclusively in terms of the concerns of the West and its Middle Eastern allies rather than also as they relate to Iranian fears, a failure by both the United States and Iran to acknowledge that lifting sanctions is a complex process that needs to be taken into account in negotiations, and an Iranian refusal to clarify on what terms the Islamic republic may be willing to discuss non-nuclear issues once the nuclear agreement has been revived.

The differences in the negotiations between the United States and Iran are likely to be accentuated if and when the talks resume, particularly concerning the mechanics of lifting sanctions.

“The challenges facing the JCPOA negotiations are a really important example of how a failed experience of sanctions relief, as we had in Iran between the Obama and Trump admins, can cast a shadow over diplomacy for years to come, making it harder to secure US interests,” said Iran analyst Esfandyar Batmanghelidj referring to the nuclear accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, by its initials.

The Biden administration may be heeding Mr. Batmangheldij’s notion that crafting sanctions needs to take into account the fact that lifting them can be as difficult as imposing them as it considers more targeted additional punitive measures against Iran. Those measures would aim to hamper Iran’s evolving capabilities for precision strikes using drones and guided missiles by focusing on the providers of parts for those weapon systems, particularly engines and microelectronics.

To be sure, there is no discernable appetite in either Washington or Tehran to adjust negotiation tactics and amend their underlying assumptions. It would constitute a gargantuan, if not impossible challenge given the political environment in both capitals. That was reflected in recent days in Iranian and US statements.

Iranian Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested that agreement on the revival of the nuclear accord was stumbling over a US demand that it goes beyond the terms of the original accord by linking it to an Iranian willingness to discuss its ballistic missiles program and support for Arab proxies.

In a speech to the cabinet of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, he asserted that the West “will try to hit us everywhere they can and if they don’t hit us in some place, it’s because they can’t… On paper and in their promises, they say they’ll remove sanctions. But they haven’t lifted them and won’t lift them. They impose conditions…to say in future Iran violated the agreement and there is no agreement” if Iran refuses to discuss regional issues or ballistic missiles.

Iranian officials insist that nothing can be discussed at this stage but a return by both countries to the nuclear accord as is. Officials, distrustful of US intentions, have hinted that an unconditional and verified return to the status quo ante may help open the door to talks on missiles and proxies provided this would involve not only Iranian actions and programs but also those of America’s allies.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks seemed to bolster suggestions that once in office Mr. Raisi would seek to turn the table on the Biden administration by insisting on stricter verification and US implementation of its part of a revived agreement.

To achieve this, Iran is expected to demand the lifting of all rather than some sanctions imposed or extended by the Trump administration; verification of the lifting;  guarantees that the lifting of sanctions is irreversible, possibly by making any future American withdrawal from the deal contingent on approval by the United Nations Security Council; and iron-clad provisions to ensure that obstacles to Iranian trade are removed, including the country’s unfettered access to the international financial system and the country’s overseas accounts.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks and Mr. Raisi’s anticipated harder line was echoed in warnings by US officials that the ascendancy of the new president would not get Iran a better deal. The officials cautioned further that there could be a point soon at which it would no longer be worth returning to because Iran’s nuclear program would have advanced to the point where the limitations imposed by the agreement wouldn’t produce the intended minimum one year ‘breakout time’ to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

“We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely. At some point, the gains achieved by the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) cannot be fully recovered by a return to the JCPOA if Iran continues the activities that it’s undertaken with regard to its nuclear program…The ball remains in Iran’s court, and we will see if they’re prepared to make the decisions necessary to come back into compliance,” US Secretary Antony Blinken said this week on a visit to Kuwait.

Another US official suggested that the United States and Iran could descend into a tug-of-war on who has the longer breath and who blinks first. It’s a war that so far has not produced expected results for the United States and in which Iran has paid a heavy price for standing its ground.

The official said that a breakdown in talks could “look a lot like the dual-track strategy of the past—sanctions pressure, other forms of pressure, and a persistent offer of negotiations. It will be a question of how long it takes the Iranians to come to the idea they will not wait us out.”

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Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn

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Photo: Miller Center/ flickr

US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, had high hopes for the meeting in China. At first, the Chinese side did not agree to hold the meeting at all. The reaction had obvious reasons: Antony Blinken’s fiasco in Alaska left the Chinese disrespected and visibly irritated. This is not why they travelled all the way.

So then the State Department had the idea of sending Wendy Sherman instead. The US government actually needs China more than China needs the US. Sherman was in China to actually prepare the ground for Biden and a meeting between the two presidents, expecting a red carpet roll for Biden as if it’s still the 2000s — the time when it didn’t matter how the US behaved. Things did not go as expected.

Instead of red carpet talk, Sherman heard Dua Lipa’s “I got new rules”. 

That’s right — the Chinese side outlined three bottom lines warning the US to respect its system, development and sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, China wants to be left alone.

The bottom lines were not phrased as red lines. This was not a military conflict warning. This was China’s message that if any future dialogue was to take place, China needs to be left alone. China accused the US of creating an “imaginary enemy”. I have written about it before — the US is looking for a new Cold War but it doesn’t know how to start and the problem is that the other side actually holds all the cards

That’s why the US relies on good old militarism with an expansion into the Indo-Pacific, while aligning everyone against China but expecting the red carpet and wanting all else in the financial and economic domains to stay the same. The problem is that the US can no longer sell this because there are no buyers. Europeans also don’t want to play along.

The headlines on the meeting in the US press are less flattering than usual. If the US is serious about China policy it has to be prepared to listen to much more of that in the future. And perhaps to, yes, sit down and be humble.

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Why Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer

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When Sarah Huckabee Sanders showed up on the scene as White House Press Secretary, the reaction was that of relief. Finally — someone civil, normal, friendly. Jen Psaki’s entry this year was something similar. People were ready for someone well-spoken, well-mannered, even friendly as a much welcome change from the string of liars, brutes or simply disoriented people that the Trump Administration seemed to be lining up the press and communications team with on a rolling basis. After all, if the face of the White House couldn’t keep it together for at least five minutes in public, what did that say about the overall state of the White House behind the scenes?

But Psaki’s style is not what the American media and public perceive it to be. Her style is almost undetectable to the general American public to the point that it could look friendly and honest to the untrained eye or ear. Diplomatic or international organization circles are perhaps better suited to catch what’s behind the general mannerism. Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer, but a Sean Spicer nevertheless. I actually think she will do much better than him in Dancing With The Stars. No, in fact, she will be fabulous at Dancing With The Stars once she gets replaced as White House Press Secretary.

So let’s take a closer look. I think what remains undetected by the general American media is veiled aggression and can easily pass as friendliness. Psaki recently asked a reporter who was inquiring about the Covid statistics at the White House why the reporter needed that information because Psaki simply didn’t have that. Behind the brisk tone was another undertone: the White House can’t be questioned, we are off limits. But it is not and that’s the point. 

Earlier, right at the beginning in January, Psaki initially gave a pass to a member of her team when the Politico stunner reporter story broke out. The reporter was questioning conflict of interest matters, while the White House “stud” was convinced it was because he just didn’t chose her, cursing her and threatening her. Psaki sent him on holidays. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Psaki has a level of aggression that’s above average, yet she comes across as one of the most measured and reasonable White House Press Secretaries of the decade. And that’s under pressure. But being able to mask that level of deflection is actually not good for the media because the media wants answers. Style shouldn’t (excuse the pun) trump answers. And being able to get away smoothly with it doesn’t actually serve the public well. Like that time she just walked away like it’s not a big deal. It’s the style of “as long as I say thank you or excuse me politely anything goes”. But it doesn’t. And the American public will need answers to some questions very soon. Psaki won’t be able to deliver that and it would be a shame to give her a pass just because of style.

I think it’s time that we start seeing Psaki as a veiled Sean Spicer. And that Dancing with the Stars show — I hope that will still run despite Covid.

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