BOLTON’S NEW STRTEGY FOR SYRIA

 

According to Peter Ford, former British ambassador to Syria, Bolton and Pompeo’s ‘new’ strategy for Syria looks virtually identical to what the US is already doing: destabilizing Syria wherever it can in the interests of stymieing Iran. Interestingly, the new strategy ignores the hitherto declared US policy of seeking a ‘transition away from Assad.’

I created a scene in Damascus Street where the new US Ambassador-Designate to Syria boasts about what the US has in mind for Syria. Whle it was written almost two years ago, it is still amazing accurate.

“Our objective is to undermine Assad’s ability to govern the country without physically removing him from office.”

“Why not just remove him from office? Wasn’t that your original goal?”

“Turns out the Syrian people support him. And it isn’t just the Alawites. He also protects the interests of Christians and Druze. His army supports him, too, and a large percentage of those troops are Sunni. So, the goal now is to render him irrelevant. We deploy jihadists to capture and hold large sections of the country and make it impossible for the central government to control the state.”

“That’s a tall order.”

“Not really. Our plan breaks the country into disconnected enclaves, each ruled by an al-Qaeda affiliate.”

“And you expect this to be done by a bunch of head-chopping jihadists?”

“They are the fodder who will lead the charge. When their job is done, we will send in our Special Forces to do the heavy work, and then initiate a country-wide no-fly zone.”

President Trump recently suggested that he wanted to withdraw the 2,000 or so US troops now stationed in northeast Syria. Whether the US finally withdraws even some of these troops, the precise number hardly matters when the sole role of the troops is to act as a tripwire should Assad have the temerity to try to restore law and order to the area illegally occupied by the US.

If anything, the US is raising the stakes. Bolton and his new henchman, James Jeffrey, the US Special Representative for Syria Engagement, drafted a letter to Trump recently urging him to pass into law a new strategy for Syria. Four hundred mindless members of Congress signed the letter, no questions asked because it was supported by Israel.  What the media neglected to mention about the recent Jeffrey appointment was his job at The Institute for Near East Policy, an American Israeli Policy Affairs Committee (AIPAC) cutout, where he led its anti-Iran policy.

The core aim of Bolton and his team now appears to be to foment a new rebellion by squeezing Syria economically, while continuing the strategy for destabilizing the country, a hallmark of Bolton and Pompeo, unrepentant neocons, whose ultimate goal is war with Iran, regardless of crtain world-wide consequences.

Damascus Street is available for purchase here: Amazon

DOES MIKE POMPEO THINK WE ARE IDIOTS?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s claim that Iran and al-Qaeda are collaborating demonstrates either a profound ignorance about the Middle East, or full-blown arrogance because he assumes his audience is at best ill-informed, or worse, idiots.

According to Pompeo, “There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al-Qaeda. Period. Full stop. The factual question with respect to Iran’s connections to al Qaeda is very real. They have hosted al Qaeda. They have permitted al-Qaeda to transit their country.”

Pompeo’s assertion evokes memories of George W. Bush’s false claim that al-Qaeda had links to Iraq. Bush Administration officials and Iraqi exiles, hell-bent on creating casus belli, even claimed that bin Laden and Saddam, both Sunnis, might have cooperated in planning the 911 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The same officials distorted intelligence about a supposed Iraqi terrorist training facility and an offer to bin Laden of safe haven in Iraq, neglecting to mention that bin Laden had rejected the offer.

Mr. Pompeo, most Americans, in spite of their corrupt mass media networks, understand the difference between a Shiite and a Sunni. The schism between the two occurred centuries ago and to this day the two remain enemies. It is only thanks to repressive regimes in the Middle East that we have not witnessed, until now, violent clashes between the two sects.

Most Americans also understand that Iran is a Shiite nation while Saudi Arabia is primarily Sunni, and that the latter accuses the former of being infidels. Saudi Arabia is the state sponsor of Al-Qaeda which is 100 percent Sunni. As seen across Syria, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have killed tens of thousands of Shiites simply for being Shiites so the idea that Iran and al Qaeda could possibly be collaborating is ludicrous.

Mr. Pompeo, it is time you learned a bit more about the Middle East. Might I suggest you go on Amazon and order a copy of both The Syrian and Damascus Street.

 

WHY IS CONGRESS SO EAGER FOR MORE WAR?

 According to Ben Norton’s article in The Grayzone entitled Bipartisan Thirst for More War, 400 members of Congress from both parties want to intensify the eight-year war in Syria so as to weaken Iran, Russia and Hezbollah. They suggest a three-pronged “Syria strategy” that would augment our support for Israel and help maintain its qualitative military edge, and increase pressure on Iran, Russia and Hezbollah.

I will address the issue of Hezbollah first because I talk about its role in Lebanon and Syria in my book Damascus Street. Hezbollah is a home-grown resistance movement born out of an illegal twenty-two-year Israeli occupation of large swaths of south Lebanon which began in 1973. Hezbollah eventually forced Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000.  Not only was this action an affront to Israel’s military deterrence, it was something Israel has never forgotten and the reason it demanded the United States declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization. As with anything Israel asks of the US, it obliged and so designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization, with the other Anglo lackeys (Australia and the UK) quickly following suit. Over the years, Congress has blamed Hezbollah for just about anything it didn’t like in the Middle East, not least of which was the killing of 241 US servicemen in the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. When this occurred, Hezbollah had not yet been formed and so could not have carried out such an atrocity. A reference to the State Department website states that “terrorists” carried out this attack with no mention of Hezbollah. In blaming Hezbollah for anything amiss in the Middle East, Congress is simply carrying out Israel’s orders just as they are doing now by calling for war with Iran, something Israel has long sought even though its own intelligence services have said Iran poses no threat to Israel.

On behalf of Israel, the US government also repeatedly demands the Lebanese government dismantle Hezbollah. Army Commander General Joseph Aoun recently affirmed this was out of the question. He said that Hezbollah was a basic Lebanese component and the political agreement in the country is to regard Hezbollah’s weapons as a means to defend Lebanon in the face of Israeli aggression. This is valid concern since Israel has invaded Lebanon five times.

As to Iran and Russia, they are both fighting alongside Syria’s internationally recognized government which sits at the United Nations, and which has requested their support, unlike the United States which is illegally occupying parts of Syria and working alongside the very terrorist entities who are striving to weaken and dismantle the Syrian government.

The Congressional letter to President Trump claims the “region has been destabilized by the Iranian regime’s threatening behavior,” adding that “Russia’s destabilizing role only complements that of Iran,” and that “Hezbollah now poses a more potent threat to Israel as well.”

The  goal of regime change in Syria, which I discuss in great detail in both The Syrian and Damascus Street, was to destroy Syria so as to weaken Hezbollah and Iran to appease both Israel which wants Hezbollah destroyed and Saudi Arabia that considers Iran, a primarily Shiite nation, a challenge to its regional dominance and a supporter of terrorism when, in fact, it is Saudi Arabia who supports and finances ISIS and associated groups in Syria.

In 2013, Russia, the ever-convenient culprit, oversaw the successful dismantlement of President Assad’s chemical weapons facilities thereby depriving then President Obama of an excuse to bomb Syria. Since that time, and in the absence of government-controlled chemical weapons, Syria has repeatedly been accused of using chemical weapons on its people despite strong evidence that points the finger at ISIS. Recently, and with no evidence, the Trump Administration has again accused Syria of using chemical weapons. This claim comes just when the Syrian Arab Army and its Russian ally are moving to clear the country of the last-remaining anti-government militant stronghold in northeast Idlib province. These are not “moderate rebels” our compromised mass media would have us believe but are internationally outlawed Al-Qaeda networks and myriad offshoots. The idea to weaken Russia, Iran and Hezbollah is really about hampering the Syrian-Russian offensive from routing the terrorist enclave plaguing Syria.

Having an enclave in Syria not under government control is a convenient way for the US to ensure that Syria never fully recovers from an eight-year war that the US and its allies orchestrated.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

MARK LAMONT’S COMMENTS

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion while allowing very lively debate within that spectrum.” — Noam Chomsky

On November 29, CNN fired Professor Mark Lamont Hill, a prominent academic, author and activist for having the audacity to step outside the spectrum of what is considered acceptable discourse on Israel and Palestine.

It was the words “Free Palestine from the River to the Sea,” that stirred the controversy. Yet, Michelle Goldberg, a columnist at the New York Times was allowed, without comment or controversy, to say that opposing Israel and calling for a binational Israeli-Palestinian state is legitimate.

 

Hill’s statement suggests that the only solution to the conflict, i.e. a bi-national state, is a single united country that gives equal rights to all its citizens from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan Valley, regardless of what side of the border they are born in, or what faith they practice, all living in a symbiotic relationship of good will and basic human rights.

 This runs contrary to the narrowly acceptable public discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which remains a fixation on the notion that a two-state solution is the only possible solution. If the past 70 years have proven anything, it is that walls and borders and discriminatory laws, which are all necessitated by a two-state solution, are not the answer.

 

Perhaps it was not Hill’s words, per say, that led CNN to fire him, but rather the result of the “Palestinian exception to free speech movement—the widespread and growing suppression of Palestinian human rights advocacy across the United States, conducted by a number of Zionist organizations whose financial contributions sway heavily with Congressional members and this administration.

This does not mean that Israel is never criticized or discussed in the mainstream media. It is just that when it is, the criticism needs to fit neatly into one of two pre-packaged positions. On the one side, we have the Donald Trump-Netanyahu camp that blames the Palestinians for all of Israel’s woes. On the other, the Democratic Party-liberal Zionist camp that acknowledges Israel’s unjust treatment of the Palestinians but excuses it under the mantra of “well-intentioned” justifications.

The fact that Mark Lamont Hill was fired for advocating a bi-national state says more about his critics than it does about him.

A more in-depth discussion of this issue can be found in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides.

The book can be found here: Amazon

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NIGHT RAIDS

How do you tell your child that you cannot protect him from that eventual, fateful day when Israeli soldiers, in the middle of the night, will break down your front door, enter his bedroom, forcefully pull him out of bed and, if so inclined, smack his head against the wall?

I wrote those words two years ago. In the intervening years, nothing has changed. Callous Israeli soldiers whose job it is to harass and terrorize Palestinians continue this inhumane policy because they can, with impunity.

According to Gideon Levy, in his most recent Haaretz article The Practice that Embodies Israeli Apartheid, “there’s barely a Palestinian family that isn’t familiar with the practice of these brutal night-time raids. And it happens every night, with or without any apparent reason.”

What would an Israeli do if he woke, startled, in the dead of night to discover search lights illuminating his house, then hear someone breaking down his front door, only to discover armed, masked soldiers, a dozen or more, rushing in, their rifles aimed at him and his terrified family, binding his family members with plastic handcuffs, then hitting and intimidating them.

Fortunately for them, it would never happen. Israelis do not receive this kind of treatment. They are not harassed, abducted and disappeared from their homes during the middle of the night, and their children do not grow up with fear, trauma and scars from the terror of these unannounced night visits. This practice is reserved for Palestinians and it happens only in the West Bank and East Jerusalem where Israel practices apartheid.

Israel abhors the use of the word apartheid. Instead, it calls its policy toward Palestinians suppression of resistance.

Palestinians call it a calculated and callous attempt to breach the familial bond of security and trust between child and parent. Israel’s policy is meant to dispel the idea that a parent can protect his or her child, that a home is sacred and safe, and that a child can safely sleep in his bed at night without fear of arrest.

According to Israeli law, any Israeli, regardless of age or crime, is tried in a civilian court of law. As I recount in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides, any Palestinian arrested, whether child or adult, in either East Jerusalem or the West Bank, is tried in a military court with one caveat. A child must be at least fourteen years old.

Currently, if a child under fourteen is arrested, they are held in detention, without legal counsel, without parental visitation rights, tortured and often times put in solitary confinement until they reach the age of fourteen. At any one time, there are between three hundred and five hundred children in Israeli prisons. There are allegations of brute force, restraining them in cruel ways, withholding food and water, violent and verbal aggression during interrogation, and forced confessions.

According to the Defense for Children International, Israeli courts fail to respect established rules for detaining and trying children in court. And although Israel is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, it ignores that agreement’s restrictions when dealing with Palestinian children.

And why wouldn’t they when they are allowed, by their Washington supporters, to do as they wish with impunity

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE DESERVE BETTER

Abdel Bari Atwan, Editor-in-Chief of Rai al Youm, an Arab world digital news and opinion website, recently wrote an article entitled “The Palestinian People’s Principal Problem Is Their Own Leadership.”

I could not agree more.

While I cannot put myself into the minds and hearts of the Palestinian people, I have traveled to Palestine enough times and listened to a great many people to understand the deep distrust they have toward President Mahmoud Abbas. Since his election in January 2005, he has offered his people nothing new. In his last eight speeches, delivered each time to an almost empty United Nation Assembly Hall, he has repeated the same old phrases. The same appeals for international sympathy. Even the wording of his complaints about Israel’s failure to respect agreements has not changed. And his declaration that the United States is not an honest broker we have heard at least a million times.

We know President Trump will not heed Abbas’ demands to rescind his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We also know by now that East Jerusalem will not be the capital of a Palestinian state because there will be no Palestinian state.

Since Abbas came to power, nothing has changed for the Palestinian people. The occupation, the repression, the assassinations, the incursions into villages, the nighttime raids into homes, the house demolitions, the collective punishment, the control of water supplies, the settlements built on Palestinian land and the Separation Wall construction all continues as do the daily humiliations at Israeli checkpoints. I discuss these abuses in great detail in my book Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides

Something not included in that list of human rights abuses is the security cooperation Abbas allowed when he became president in 2005. Then, US Lieutenant General Keith Dayton formed the US Security Coordination Team (USSC) tasked with maintaining law and order within the West Bank, essentially taking over the job as the occupation enforcer for the Israeli government. The USSC has rightly earned the name of “Dayton’s Army.” There is legitimate concern, and I have heard reiterated many times, that the role of Dayton’s army has been both to stem the influence and power of the legally elected Hamas and to consolidate and enforce Abbas’ power across the West Bank. One prominent Palestinian activist has argued that in the West Bank “there is a systematic plan to target any resistance to Abbas through oppressive acts carried out by Dayton’s army, including killing, arrest and torture.

The USSC has essentially taken over the occupation for Israeli forces, as opposed to operating as a truly independent national force accountable to the majority. Accusations of torture and the lack of legal justification for a number of arrests has become commonplace. Recently, B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, raised concerns after a prisoner died in PA custody as a result of suspected torture.

To support these claims, I am reminded of President Trump’s recent and dramatic cuts in aid to the Palestinians. The only aid that was maintained and its funding increased was for the USSC.

It is time for Mahmoud Abbas to step down. He has shamefully acted as lackey for both the Israeli and American governments in order to hold onto his presidency for far too long. The Palestinian people, both in the diaspora and the homeland, deserve a better leader.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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US AMBASSADOR JOHN GUNTHER DEAN’S ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION

As I recount in A Beirut Heart One Woman’s War, my family and I lived through the first eight years of the Lebanese civil war. Once we made the decision to stay I struggled to acquire the coping skills necessary to resist and survive the absurd dysfunction of war.

The war began in the spring of 1975. Unfamiliar as I was with any type of conflict, I was convinced that by winter the warring factions would come to their senses and resolve their differences. Winter arrived, and they had not, and before I realized it my own neighborhood had descended into a war zone.

Months passed; the senseless killings and kidnappings increased. Explosions became an integral part of each day. I tried to ignore them. I had to carry on, run my errands, send my husband off to the hospital so he could tend to the wounded, put my children on their school bus and pray I would see them at the end of the day.

It was my love of cooking that helped me keep my sanity. I retreated to the kitchen. Cooking became my tranquilizer.  Most days my table was surrounded by people engaged in lively conversations, which was good for everyone’s morale, particularly my children’s. I strived to create an atmosphere of connectedness, of community. This helped alleviate the fear. It warded off despair and became a therapeutic act of resistance.

We eventually left Beirut in 1984 and resettled in the States. And after years of trying to recover from war, I had convinced myself that nothing about that period in my life—no hitherto unknown revelations—could possibly surprise me but I was wrong. A recent article by Phil Weiss in Mondoweiss rocked me to my core. I am at a loss as to explain why it affected me so profoundly other than the lingering effects of PTSD which occasionally creep back into my consciousness.

I attribute that trauma specifically to the summer of ’82 when the Israeli government used the attempted assassination of its ambassador in London on June 3, 1982, as a pretext to launch an invasion into Lebanon. Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s Defense Minister led ‘Operation Peace for Galilee.’ In two days his troops had advanced all the way to Beirut. On June 6, Israeli warplanes began bombing Beirut. The assault on the city lasted sixty-seven days. Night after night, I watched the bombs falling and the lights flashing across the sky. I had no sense that those lights were coming from human being. It was more like Heaven was fighting Hell.  And down below, where the bombs exploded, there were ordinary people—women cradling screaming babies in their arms, old people holding terrified pets, a husband frantic because his wife and children had not returned from an outing. It was the worst three months of my life.

And this brings me to Phil Weiss’s article because it also involved the Israelis.

In August 1980, an attempt was made on the life of then US Ambassador to Lebanon, John Gunther Dean. At the time Israel and the US were quick to blame a right-wing Christian group. Given some of this group’s unscrupulous behavior, for which I was personally familiar, we were quick to believe their assertion. It wasn’t until the release of Ronen Bergman’s book Rise and Kill First, that I learned the truth. Ambassador Dean had long maintained that Israel had been behind the assassination attempt because he was doing something antithetical to Israel’s interest: consulting with the Palestinian Liberation Organization at a time when such contacts were the third rail in US politics.

According to Ronen Bergman, the Lebanese Intelligence services retrieved the empty canisters from the anti-tank weapons shot at the ambassador’s car and had then sent to Washington to be traced. The weapons had been sold and shipped to Israel in 1974. In 1979 Rafael Eita and Meir Dagan, both brass in the Israel Defense Forces, created the Front for the Liberation of Lebanon from Foreigners and ran the fictitious group from 1979 until 1983. In 1981 and 1982, Ariel Sharon used that Front to conduct a series of indiscriminate car bombings that killed hundreds of civilians. “The objective of this massive terrorist car bombing campaign was to sow chaos amongst the Palestinian and Lebanese civilian population” and in 1981-82, to provoke the PLO into resorting to terrorism thus providing Israel with an excuse to invade Lebanon.” Because the Palestinians did not take the bait, the Israelis used instead the attempted assassination of its Ambassador to London as the excuse for invasion.

Not a single review of Bergman’s book in the US media has mentioned these Israeli operations in Lebanon. The US media has thus been fully silent about the fact that Israeli officials directed a major and fully indiscriminate car bombing campaign that killed more than one hundred civilians. Given our media’s recent behavior, this is no surprise but then the US government and its lackeys in the media have a miserable record of investigating known Israeli attacks on Americans. I cite two examples—the attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 which killed 34 servicemen and wounded 171, and the death of Rachel Corrie, deliberately killed by an Israeli bulldozer driver in Gaza in 2003 while she was trying to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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