AN INDEFINITE US PRESENCE IN SYRIA?

According to John Bolton, in a recent ABC News interview, the US demands the immediate withdrawal of all Iranian advisors and troops from Syria. He also insisted that US troops should remain in Syria until all Iranian influence is wiped out, not just in Syria, but in the Middle East. What Bolton is really saying is that the Trump administration plans to continue to raise the bar of unreasonable demands to justify the indefinite presence of American troops, not just in Syria, but in the entire region, in the serve of its larger geopolitical goals.

It is unlikely that President Assad would agree to these terms as events outside Syria are beyond his control and a reduction of Iranian influence in the region would be against Syria’s best interest, given that Iran is a major ally of Assad.

In fact, the Syrian government would only consider such a deal feasible if the US would withdraw its forces prior to a pull-out of Iranian forces since the US presence prevents the Syrian Army and its allies from waging war against ISIS not just in the northeast but on its southern border with Jordan. According to some media sources, Trump would “allow” Damascus, supported by Russian air power, to regain its territory along its borders with Jordan, Israel and Iraq. In return, President Putin and Assad would agree to establish an extended demilitarized zone along these same borders, off-limits to any Iranian forces. That would set the scene for Trump’s already announced desire to extract US forces out of Syria before October and the US-mid-term elections.

According to Pepe Escobar, writing in Asia Times, the CIA and the Pentagon are not exactly enthusiastic about Trump’s alleged Syria gambit. For assorted neocons and powerful factions of the industrial-military, surveillance complex, their “Assad must go” demand cannot be traded off. “As if there is something to trade,” says Escobar. “Syria cannot be “offered to Russia” because Russia is already the major player in deciding what happens in Syria, not only militarily, but in conjunction with Iran and another regional power, Turkey.”

Was this something that was discussed in Helsinki between Trump and Putin?

At the heart of the matter is Syria’s territorial integrity and the legitimacy of the Assad government. Russia, Iran and Turkey support this. The US-led NATO and the Gulf Cooperation alliance are against it especially since they are the ones, over the last seven years, who have financed and supported various Al-Qaeda groups that the West insists on calling “moderate rebels,” as if any al-Qaeda group could ever be defined as “moderate.”

To accomplish such an ambitious goal in the northeast, the Assad government would have to liberate its own territory back from the Americans who insist on holding onto this important piece of real estate not, as they contend, to fight ISIS et al, but to keep their greedy hands on that oil and gas rich area of Syria. I discuss this in depth in Damascus Streetmy newest work of fiction.

While in the south, in Daraa, where the conflict began some seven years ago, the reasons are as sinister for this area, just across the border with Jordan, is a  very convenient crossroads of weapons smuggling destined for the ISIS hordes still fighting for control of that part of Syria on behalf of the US and its allies.

As it stands, the main narrative in US media is that “regime forces,” meaning those loyal to the Syrian government, and therefore the “bad guys,” have unleashed air strikes and barrel bombs over rebel-held sections of southern Syria creating a humanitarian crisis.

The battle for southern Syria, and the decision by the Assad government to initiate it, while disregarding regional opposition, is one of the most complicated battles undertaken by the Syrian Army and its allies since the beginning of the conflict. The end of the battle and a victory for the Syrian Army would allow the commercial land route between Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to be liberated, thereby allowing the transport of goods safely to the rest of the Gulf. While this is paramount for the financial well-being of Syria, it is equally important that Syria wrestle back its territorial integrity from the various ISIS groups who have been financed, trained and armed for years by the CIA and the British Special Forces in Jordan.

Are these issues that Putin and Trump can reasonably agree on, or must they continue to bend to the demands of Israel and its regional ally, Saudi Arabia?

There is no doubt that Israel has specific regional priorities and that the US implements them most of the time, even when they go against American interests. As of now Israel’s aim is to prevent the central government in Damascus from regaining control of the Syrian territory occupied by ISIS and their allies.

Who will the winners be in this deadly regional game? Will Putin be able to convince Trump to do the right thing and withdraw American troops from all of Syria, or will Israel and the warmonger neocons prevail, as they so often do?

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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WHAT IF IT WAS THE ISRAELIS BEING HELD IN GAZA?

What if it was two million Israelis were being held in an open-air prison like Gaza and when they demanded their right to return to their homes 120 of them were shot in cold blood and some 130,000 of them wounded? Would the US and its mass media lackeys have dared condemn them for declaring a Great March of Return to their homes? Certainly not!

Why, then, must it be different when it is the Palestinians, in a powerful, nonviolent, unapologetic expression of their most basic fundamental rights, demanding their right to return to their homes? Tens of thousands of them marched to the Gaza-Israeli border unarmed, unless you count the flaming kites, the occasional Molotov cocktail and the stones, to face Israel’s deadly armed force, deliberately slaughtering civilians as if they were nothing more than ducks sitting on a wall.

Why must the Palestinians, who have already endured 71 years of occupation, be subjected to constant condemnation and belittlement that does not befit an animal? The answer is simple.  Virtually every American politician and every media pundit dutifully echoes the Israeli talking points laid down Benjamin Netanyahu, with language like “Hamas uses the telegenically dead to further their cause,” or “It is the politics of human sacrifice staged by Hamas to get people killed on camera.” Shmuel Rosner in a New York Times editorial asserted that “Guarding the border, or whatever it is, was more important than avoiding killing. They want human sacrifice, we’ll give them human sacrifice.” Not to be outdone, Knesset member Avi Dichter reassured us that the Israeli army “has enough bullets for everyone. If every man, woman and child in Gaza gathers at the gate, there is a bullet for every one of them. They can all be killed, no problem.”

Most reasonable people understand the ethico-political standard at work here. No other country in the world would get away with such blatant crimes against humanity without suffering a torrent of criticism from Western politicians and media pundits. Why, then, was Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation, so overtly hostile and indignant when 120 nations dared condemn Israel for its criminal actions?  Is it because she so shamelessly and dutifully carries out Sheldon Adelson’s orders, himself the mouthpiece for Benjamin Netanyahu, neither of whom tolerate any criticism of Israel?

 

Nathan J. Robinson, another Israeli apologist, said “Any amount of Palestinian deaths, however large, was justified to prevent any amount of risk to Israelis, however small.” Western governments and media have fashioned, and are doing their utmost to sustain, an ethico-political universe where Israel can lay siege to millions of people, bomb them occasionally and then kill them when they show up at the wall to throw rocks.

When will this madness stop. Perhaps more importantly, who will have the courage to stop it.

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

This book is available for purchase here. Amazon

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HOW DARE THEY DEFEND THEMSELVES!

A state of war that has existed between Israel and Syria since Israel declared itself a nation in 1948 has, over the years, eased into an uneasy armistice, even after Israel illegally occupied the Syrian Golan Heights during the 1967 war, and later “officially” annexed it. Through international mediators, Syria has repeatedly demanded Israel withdraw to the pre-June ’67 borders, to no avail. Any such motion brought by Syria before the U.N. Security Council has been vetoed by the U.S., essentially giving Israel carte blanche to continue its illegal activities.

Fast forward to 2011.

Complicit in U.S. war crimes in Syria, including support, both financial and logistical to ISIS and other terrorist organizations, Israel has carried out multiple cross-border attacks, including illegally using Lebanese airspace. In response to such threats, Russia has recently begun supplying Syria with sophisticated S-300 air defense systems in order to deter further US and Israeli aggression.

 

In response to such actions, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Syriathat if anyone dares to fire on Israeli planes, Israel will destroy them. “No defense systems should be used against us,” he said.

 

According to international law, aggressors have no rights, and that includes Israel, and by extension the U.S. When any nation is attacked by a hostile power, international law affirms that country’s right to self-defense. All nations have the legal right to defend their territory and protect their citizens. In the case of Syria, it wants Russia’s S-300s for defensive, not offense purposes.

A vulnerable country such as Syria needs all means of self-defense at its disposal.

Lieberman lied when he said Israel was not interfering in Syria’s internal affairs. The evidence proves otherwise. What Lieberman really meant was that Israel wanted a clear shot, whenever it wanted, at anything it didn’t like in Syria, without fear of losing one of its planes to an air-defense system.

 

No nation threatens Israel—not Russia, Syria, Iran or any other country. No weapons on Syrian territory are purposely aimed at Israel. Should it continue to be attacked, Damascus will, however, have every right to protect itself against aggression be it by Israel or Washington or any of its other regional allies.

The lead-up to the Syrian war and the perverse reasoning behind such aggression is discussed in great detail in both The Syrian and Damascus Street, just published.

These books are available for purchase here. Amazon

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WHO IS SHELDON ADELSON?

Sheldon Adelson is the casino magnate whose net wealth is estimated at well over $43 billion. He is also the elephant in the room no one dares talk about because he and his Israeli-born wife, Miriam Adelson, have one issue—Israel.

In the last election cycle, Adelson was the biggest single donor to both the Congressional Leadership Fund and the Senate Leadership Fund to the tune of $55 million. However, the loyalty of Republican congressional leaders to the Las Vegas-based multi-billionaire came at an unspeakable cost. In exchange for helping to scuttle the Iran Nuclear Deal, Adelson gave the Republican super PACS $30 million. Adelson’s willingness to help the GOP stay in power comes as no surprise. The U.S. leadership, both sides of the isle, is for sale to special interests even if it comes with dire consequences to our national interest.

What are some of Sheldon Adelson’s successes to date? His belief that Donald Trump would be “good for Israel” was the main driver behind his decision to spend more than $90 million to help him win the last election. (We continue to blame Russia for influencing the last election but not the elephant in the room.) During his campaign, Trump pledged to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He fulfilled his promise, an action Adelson aggressively promoted and helped to finance. The appointment of David Friedman as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, the man who insisted the State Department refrain from using the terms “occupation” and “Israeli-occupied territories,” was also Adelson’s choice to head the U.S. diplomatic mission in Israel.

At Adelson’s insistence, President Trump removed the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal. Already back in 2015, Adelson was advocating for a U.S. nuclear attack on Iran without provocation, so the U.S. “could impose its demands on Iran from a position of strength.” According to Adelson’s plan, the U.S. would drop a nuclear bomb in the middle of the Iranian desert and then threaten that the next one would be dropped in the middle of Tehran, home to 9 million people with 15 million more in the suburbs.

On the eve of Trump’s recent address to the UN, the war-monger John Bolton suddenly resurfaced, insisting that Trump insert into his remarks that “Washington would cancel its participation in the nuclear deal if Congress and the U.S. allies did not renegotiate the deal.” Those words were not in the original speech. In fact, Chief of Staff John Kelly had tried to restrict Bolton’s access to Trump, aware of the possible consequences, but Sheldon Adelson would have none of it and used Bolton to exert once again his power over U.S. foreign policy. He also insisted John Bolton be named Trump’s National Security Advisor.

It was Sheldon Adelson who asserted his influence yet again and had Nikki Haley named the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.  He, along with the Koch brothers, have given Haley’s political advocacy group a major infusion of cash, most recently some $250,000 to remove four Republican state senate rivals in recent primaries.

Adelson also supported Mike Pompeo, former CIA director and an advocate for bombing Iran, as Trump’s new Secretary of State, ousting Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, his National Security Advisor from their respective posts, because of their support of the Iran deal.

Like many government officials who are beholding to Adelson because he put them in power, he is an advocate for a U.S/Israel war with Iran.  With the US out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and set to promote regime change as part of its official Iran policy, the foundation is quickly being laid for a military confrontation with Iran. Israel, whose leadership is also heavily funded by Adelson, is busy preparing for such a conflict.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, whose foreign-policy positions are remarkably consistent with those of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, has enjoyed a series of major victories over the past year thanks to the Trump administration. The president broke with decades of U.S. policy in the region by, among other things, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, dropping the phrase “Occupied Territories” to describe the West Bank and East Jerusalem, nominating a staunch settlement advocate and funder as ambassador to Israel, withdrawing from UNESCO due to alleged anti-Israel bias, and slashing aid to the Palestinian Authority and the UN organization (UNRWA) that provides assistance to Palestinian refugees and their families. Under Trump, Washington has dropped any pretense of acting as an “honest broker” between Israel and the Palestinians.

It would be a mistake to think this largesse from a staunch Israeli backer like Adelson is only a Republican issue. Far from it. Had Hilary Clinton won the last election, and the Democrats had re-gained control of both houses of Congress, we would have seen the same kind of largesse from the Israeli-American entertainment mogul, Haim Saban.

So, what does this say about us as Americans? Unless we are willing to admit that our leaders are a bunch of corrupt, immoral, money-driven scoundrels who willing sell their souls to the highest bidder, in this case the pro-Israeli hawks, nothing honorable. A democracy only changes when its collective citizenry stands up and shouts “Enough! We demand change,” and drives the self-serving, traitorous detestables from office.

I discuss a possible Iran/US proxy war in The SyrianThe book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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WHO’S WAR AND WHO WILL FIGHT IT?

Patrick Buchanan recently asked why the same people who promoted and pushed for our war with Iraq—the Podhoretz, the Perelman’s and the Krauthammer’s, the Kristol’s and Kagan’s, the Brooks and the Boot’s—are now urging an all-out assault on Syria, Iran and nuclear superpower Russia simply because Moscow dares to support Assad while maintaining a diplomatic/working relationship with Tehran.

The same country that keeps surfacing as a central player in the lead-up to America’s regime change wars is none other than the Israeli government whose fingerprints are all over American interventionism. And they are at it again, using their afore-mentioned minions to promote their newest war.

In a recent article Whose War? Philip Giraldi wrote, “Israel is not shy about what it wants to happen, namely a war in Syria targeting both Damascus and Tehran, leading to a much bigger war with the Iranians. Fought by Uncle Sam, to be sure, as Israeli lives are far too precious to waste. Tel Aviv has long been feeding the propaganda line relating to why war with Syria and Iran are desirable.

 

And it has set the stage for this by claiming the Iranians have been lying when they say they have never had a covert nuclear weapons program. The Obama administration fell for the same false narrative about a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program allegedly in operation from 2001 to 2003, yet bravely pursued a ground-breaking agreement with Iran. A far more effective counter-argument, of course, would have been the truth—that the long-accepted accusations about Iran’s covert program are the product of an elaborate disinformation operation based on documents forged by Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency. The impact of the Israelis getting US national security, political, and media elites to accept that these fabrications represented genuine evidence of Iran’s guilt can hardly be understated.

As I wrote in The Syrian, while the target all along had been Syria, it was never only about regime change. It was a proxy war, set up by Israel, and played out by the US and Iran. A potential Israeli attack on Hezbollah, alas, an inevitability given Israel’s desire to re-establish its military deterrence which it lost in the 2006 war, would serve as an indirect attack on Iran since they are the ones who back Hezbollah. That said, all roads eventually lead to Syria which is the conduit between Iran and Hezbollah. In order to weaken both entities, the US and Israel must first destroy Syria. As in all things Middle Eastern, there is also a religious component. Syria is ruled by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Iran and Hezbollah are also Shiites. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf nations, mostly Sunni, support the US and Israel’s attempt to destroy the three Shiite entities. They fear a Shiite revival and want to maintain their Sunni dominance over the Islamic world.

There is yet another reason for the US/Israeli involvement in Syria. The Golan Heights, illegally occupied by Israel since 1967, has a huge oil and gas reserve which Israel intends to claim as its own. Meanwhile, the US has between 2,000 and 4,000 troops stationed in northeast Syria, an important region owing to its rich natural resources in the form of gas and oil. In fact, this region contains 95% of all Syrian oil and gas potential, including al-Omar, the country’s largest oil field. As is the case with American occupations, it is an effort born out of two goals: resource acquisition for U.S. corporations and the destabilization of a government targeted for U.S.-backed regime change. Shortly before the foreign-funded proxy war besieged its country, Syria had turned down a U.S.-backed proposal that would have taken natural gas from Qatar to Europe in favor of a Russian-backed proposal that would have taken natural gas originating in Iran to Europe.

In addition to its abundant water resources, northeastern Syria is also home to nearly 60% of Syria’s cropland, a key resource in terms of Syria’s sustainability and food independence.  By controlling much of the country’s water and agricultural land, not to mention its fossil fuel resources, the U.S. occupation will not only accomplish its goal of destabilizing Syria’s government, it will also invite a broader conflict with Syria’s allies, Iran and Russia, both eager to prevent another long-term U.S. occupation in the Middle East.

And so, it continues. Blame the Russians, the Iranians and the poor Syrians but never the real culprits, those unsavory characters who exercise their malignant influence over America’s political class and media elites.

The Syrian is available for purchase here amazon

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OUR US POLICE EXCHANGE PROGRAM WITH ISRAEL

In many cities around the US the image of the friendly copy on the beat has been replaced by intimidating, fully armed military-style troops. Israel has played a part in this transition. From traffic stops that target Black drivers to checkpoints that target immigrant communities, to police murders of Black, Brown and disabled people, police officers cause daily harm across our nation.

The militarization of US law enforcement has been driven by the creation of various homeland security initiatives and billions of dollars of surplus military-grade equipment donated to local police departments since 9/11, but that is only part of the story.

At least 300 high-ranking sheriffs and police from agencies large and small, from New York to Orange County and Oakland California, have traveled to Israel for privately funded seminars in what is described as counter-terrorism techniques. Since 2002, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs have sent police chiefs, assistant chiefs and captains on fully paid trips to Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories to observe the operations of the Israeli national police, the Israeli Defense Forces, the Israeli Border patrol and the country’s intelligence agencies.

The most tangible evidence that the training is having an impact on American policing is that both countries are using identical equipment against demonstrations, according to a recent report by Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and photographs of such equipment taken at demonstrations in Ferguson and Oakland and Anaheim, California. Over 10,000 American officials have trained with Israeli police and military units. The St. Louis Police Department that killed Michael Brown and initially placed Ferguson under siege trained with the Israeli military. For more information see Israel’s Export of Occupation Police Tactics in the third edition of Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides.

In a slap at Israel, the City Council of Durham, North Carolina, voted unanimously to bar its police department from taking part in “military-style training” programs abroad. The council “opposes international exchanges with any country in which Durham officers receive military-style training since such exchanges do not support the kind of policing we want here in the City of Durham,” read the resolution voted on April 18, 2018 in a 6-0 vote.

The coalition of groups that brought forth the petition included Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and various civil rights groups. JVP has a project named Deadly Exchange, aimed at ending such exchange programs. “Abolishing police exchanges between Durham and Israel is a step toward true community safety that cares for people’s needs and is not modeled after occupation and apartheid.”

Responding to this resolution, the ADL’s Washington, D.C. regional director, Doron Ezickson wrote that “Far from training that helps the police terrorize Black and Brown communities, ADL’s law enforcement programs, including those in Israel, are designed to equip officers with the knowledge, understanding, and sense of accountability necessary to help safeguard all of our communities and ensure that our civil rights and liberties are rigorously protected.”

Unless, of course, you are a Palestinian or a Person of Color.

The above mentioned book is available here: Amazon

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WHAT IS HAMAS?

As much as Israel and the United States claim that Hamas is a collective of unschooled terrorists intent on destroying Israel, nothing could be further from the truth. Hamas is a movement born of Palestine, composed of Palestinians who were raised on the very streets where the blood of their people and families has been lost to a crippling Israeli blockage, now more than a decade old.

Like all national liberation movements Hamas has had its problems and made its share of mistakes. That said, Israel’s attempt to reduce it to a selfish and reckless group willing to sacrifice the interests and safety of their fellow Palestinians is nothing more than a delusion.

It was Israel who encouraged the rise of Hamas as a counterweight to Fatah and the PLO, not unlike Sunni Lebanese politicians who covertly funded the al-Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Islam and allowed their them into the country as a counterweight to Hezbollah.

 

Hamas, which means Islamic Resistance Movement, was founded in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a man who spent years in Israeli prisons. It members include physicians, scholars, academics, lawyers, scientists, artists and farmers. It was then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin who assisted Yassin’s start-up of a “humanitarian” organization. Begin and his right-wing strategists devised the theory of creating Hamas as an alternative to Fatah because they believed such an organization would devote themselves to charity and religious study and passively accept the occupation.

When Hamas captured a majority of Parliament in the January 2006 elections, a victory described by former President Carter as the most transparent and successful electoral process he had observed as a monitor, the West imposed not only financial sanctions on the Hamas government and isolated it politically but pursued an aggressive policy of internal division thereby establishing the conditions for havoc in Gaza.

 

Gazans are keenly aware that in May 2007 Hamas offered a ten-year truce with Israel in exchange for Israel’s agreement to end the siege of Gaza and the West Bank. Israel did not respond to this offer, nor did it respond to Hamas’ offer to recognize the State of Israel on the ’67 border. Such arrogance, explicitly meant to punish Gazans for the temerity of its electoral will, through the imposition of a decade-long embargo that threatens the health, welfare and safety of its two million residents, has, invariably, toughened resolve and fomented at times reckless and desperate behavior. For more information on Hamas, please refer to my book “Tragedy in South Lebanon: The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006.

According to Stanley L. Cohen, in his article Broken Dreams and Lost Years: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card, “Israel, because of the Great Return March, seeks to reduce millions of Palestinians who have struggled for generations to little more than unthinking sheep awaiting instructions from Hamas on when or how to express their will or gain their independence. Those with any connection to Palestine, or its long-oppressed people, know all too well that the bars of its prison will never quiet its innate thirst for justice and freedom.”

With each Israeli incursion, Hamas has been the convenient foil for Israel, always claiming the role of victim, never the victimizer, and asserting, as in the case of the Great Return March, to have given a measured, proportionate answer to the menace posed by burning kites, waving flags, a dozen Molotov cocktails and teens with slingshot weapons.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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