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William Blum on the Real Reason for the Invasion of Afghanistan: Oil

The late William Blum, an inveterate and bitter critic of American foreign policy and imperialism also attacked the invasion of Afghanistan. In his view, it was, like the Iraq invasion a few years later, absolutely nothing to do with the terrible events of 9/11 but another attempt to assert American control over a country for the benefit of the American-Saudi oil industry. Blum, and other critics of the Iraq invasion, made it very clear that America invaded Iraq in order to gain control of its oil industry and its vast reserves. In the case of Afghanistan, the invasion was carried out because of the country’s strategic location for oil pipelines. These would allow oil to be supplied to south Asian avoiding the two countries currently outside American control, Russian and Iran. The Taliban’s connection to al-Qaeda was really only a cynical pretext for the invasion. Blum lays out his argument on pages 79-81 of his 2014 book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He writes

With the US war in Iraq supposedly having reached a good conclusion (or halfway decent… or better than nothing… or let’s get the hell out of here while some of us are still in one piece and there are some Iraqis we haven’t yet killed), the best and the brightest in our government and media turn their thoughts to what to do about Afghanistan. It appears that no one seems to remember, if they ever knew, that Afghanistan was not really about 9/11 or fighting terrorists (except the many the US has created by its invasion and occupation), but was about pipelines.

President Obama declared in August 2009:

But we must never forget this is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9-11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.

Never mind that out of the tens of thousands of people the United States and its NATO front have killed in Afghanistan not one has been identified as having had anything to do with the events of September 11, 2001.

Never mind that the ‘plotting to attack America’ in 2001 was carried out in Germany and Spain and the United States more than in Afghanistan. Why hasn’t the United States attacked these countries?

Indeed, what actually was needed to plot to plot to buy airline tickets and take flying lessons in the United States? A room with some chairs? What does ‘an even larger safe haven’ mean? A larger room with more chairs? Perhaps a blackboard? Terrorists intent upon attacking the United States can meet almost anywhere.

The only ‘necessity’ that drew the United States to Afghanistan was the desire to establish a military presence in this land that is next door to the Caspian Sea region of Central Asia – which reportedly contains the second largest proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world – and build oil and gas pipelines from that region running through Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is well situated for oil and gas pipelines to serve much of South Asia, pipelines that can bypass those not-yet Washington clients Iran and Russia. If only the Taliban would not attack the lines. Here’s Richard Boucher, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, in 2007: ‘One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so taht energy can flow to the south’.

Since the 1980s all kinds of pipelines have been planned for the area, only to be delayed or canceled by one military, financial or political problem or another. For example, the so-called TAPI pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) had strong support from Washington, which was eager to block a competing pipeline that would bring gas to Pakistan and India from Iran. TAPI goes back to the 1990s, when the Taliban government held talks with the California-based oil company Unocal Corporation. These talks were conducted with the full knowledge of the Clinton administration, and were undeterred by the extreme repression of Taliban society. Taliban officials even made trips to the United States for discussions. Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on February 12, 1998, Unocal representative John Maresca discussed the importance of the pipeline project and the increasing difficulties in dealing with the Taliban:

The region’s total oil reserves may well reach more than 60 billion barrels of oil. Some estimates are as high as 200 billion barrels… From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, leaders, and our company.

When those talks stalled in July, 2001 the Bush administration threatened the Taliban with military reprisals if the government did not go along with American demands. The talks finally broke down for good the following month, a month before 9/11.

The United States has been serious indeed about the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf oil and gas areas. Through one war of another beginning with the Gulf War of 1990-91, the US has managed to establish military bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

The war against the Taliban can’t be ‘won’ short of killing everyone in Afghanistan. The United States may well try again to negotiate some from of pipeline security with the Taliban, then get out, and declare ‘victory’. Barack Obama can surely deliver an eloquent victory speech from his teleprompter. It might include the words ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, but certainly not ‘pipeline’.

This was obviously written before the electoral victory of Hamid Karzai and his government, but the point remains the same. The Taliban are still active and fighting against the supposedly democratic government, which also remains, as far as I know, dependent on western aid.

But the heart of the matter is that this wasn’t a war to save humanity from the threat of global terrorism, nor is it about freeing the Afghan people from a bloodthirsty and murderously repressive Islamist regime. The Americans were quite happy to tolerate that and indeed do business with it. It was only when the Taliban started to become awkward that the Americans started threatening them with military action. And this was before 9/11. Which strongly supports Blum’s argument that the terrible attack on the Twin Towers, Pentagon and the White House were and are being cynically used as the justification for the invasion. 17 out of the 19 conspirators were Saudis, and the events point to involvement by the Saudi state with responsibility going right to the top of the Saudi regime. But America and NATO never launched an attack on them, despite the fact that the Saudis have been funding global Islamist terrorism, including Daesh. That is before ISIS attacked them.

It was Remembrance Day last Wednesday. The day when Britain honours the squaddies who fell in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts. One of those talking about the importance of the day and its ceremonies on Points West, the Beeb’s local news programme for the Bristol area, was a former squaddie. He was a veteran of Afghanistan, and said it was particularly important to him because he had a mate who was killed out there. He felt we had to remember victims of combat, like his friend because if we didn’t ‘what’s the point?’.

Unfortunately, if Blum’s right – and I believe very strongly that he is – then there’s no point. Our governments have wasted the lives, limbs and minds of courageous, patriotic men and women for no good reason. Not to defend our countries from a ruthless ideology which massacres civilians in order to establish its oppressive rule over the globe. Not to defend our freedoms and way of life, nor to extend those freedoms and their benefits to the Afghan people. But simply so that America can gain geopolitical control of that region and maintain its dominance of the oil industry, while enriching the oil companies still further.

Abraham Accord: Experts Warn Trump Peace Deal a Precursor to War with Iran

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/10/2020 - 5:26am in

On paper at least, last month’s U.S.-sponsored agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were all about peace. But behind the headlines, a darker, much more worrying picture of regional alliances, weapons deals, destabilization campaigns, and messianic prophecies emerge.

The Abraham Accord, as it is known, is likely to expand the power of Gulf dictatorships and increase the number of devastating high-tech weapons in the Middle East, fueling further instability and bloodshed, a welcome prospect for neoconservative hawks and religious zealots who see the deal as fulfilling ancient prophecies about the end of the world. Above all, the deal can be seen as an attempt to present a united front against Iran for any potential future war — a conflict that would likely make Iraq and Afghanistan look mild by comparison.

But across corporate media, the accord was almost universally hailed as a “peace deal” — and a potentially massive breakthrough. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board presented Trump as a master dealmaker, breaking the mold of “failed conventional wisdom” on the Middle East, and claiming that he deserved far more praise from the media for his breakthrough, suggesting he was not getting it because of their anti-Trump bias. Yet even MSNBC, not a network known for praising the president, found it difficult to find an angle that did not paint him as a great peacemaker. Trump has subsequently been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and is among the favorites to win it, according to bookmakers.


Israel’s man

While it is Trump gaining the plaudits, in reality, the man organizing operations is his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner has spent his entire adult life organizing for zionist groups and making contacts with the Israeli right, his family’s charitable organization has donated thousands to the IDF and to illegal Jewish-only settlements. Kushner has been leaning heavily on Saudi Arabia to join the new alliance, promising them state of the art new weaponry and a host of economic benefits. A cult-like hero in much of Israel, he has time and again shown his disgust for Palestinian life, claiming they have “done nothing right in their sad, pathetic lives” and own a “perfect track record of missing opportunities,” presenting his so-called “Deal of the Century” was an opportunity for them to finally stop playing the victim. Many on the religious right in Israel talk of Kushner in almost reverential tones, seeing him as completing a divine mission.

Trump campaigned on a platform of “draining the swamp” — i.e. removing the corrupt warhawks from the White House. Yet he has surrounded himself with many of the Bush-era “crazies” and “even craziers,” including the likes of Michael Flynn and John Bolton, who was considered too much of a loose cannon for Bush to handle. Kushner has been “the neocons’ backdoor” back into the White House, where, not with their actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has become the number one target.

The Abraham Accord appears to have been deeply unpopular with the people of the UAE and Bahrain, who risked serious consequences by protesting the decision on social media. Nevertheless, their governments justified it by claiming they had guaranteed that Israel would not annex the Jordan Valley as it announced it would in the summer. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later made clear that the plans were merely now “delayed” and that they remain on the table.


A strange “peace” deal

Yet a number of experts who spoke to MintPress questioned the entire framing of the Abraham Accord as a peace deal, claiming instead that this was far less about peace than about war, particularly with Iran.

Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of “Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: a Primer,” which is now in its seventh edition, said of the deal:

The notion that this was somehow a peace deal implies that somehow until this ‘fabulous deal’ Israel the UAE and Bahrain were somehow not at peace, but at war. And that is simply not true; they had very good ties, they had commercial, trade and security ties that go back decades in the case of the UAE. But they were always very quiet because the official position of the Arab League and the actual position of Arab populations across the region were strongly opposed to normalization with Israel as long as the oppression of the Palestinians continued.”

For such a “peace deal,” negotiations certainly seemed to revolve quite heavily around weapons transfers. Much of the accord focussed on American plans to sell the UAE and Bahrain high tech armaments, including the costly Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters, Boeing’s EA-18G Growler jets, and General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper drones, previously off-limits to anyone in the region except the Israelis. Thus, it is difficult to see how flooding the world’s most war-torn region with even more advanced weaponry, especially to nations currently involved in the bombing campaigns against Yemen, will secure peace.

“The UAE and Bahrain are key customers for the U.S. arms trade,” Bennis explained,

They are very eager to buy more. So they get brownie points from the Trump administration. They get promises of being able to buy more and better military gear, and Israel will get even more weapons to maintain its congressionally-guaranteed ‘qualitative military edge.’ They give up nothing because they already have these relations with Israel, who had already suspended its threatened annexation. It is now just a matter of making it public. So everybody gains except the Palestinians.”

Almost immediately after the accord was announced, the head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen, traveled to the UAE to meet with Emirati security officials to discuss “cooperation in the fields of security,” as well as regional issues, Al-Jazeera reported. Thus, as Greg Shupak of the University of Guelph, Ontario, and author of “The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel and the Media,” argued, “peace deal” is a misleading framing of what looks more like the beginnings of a military alliance. “In the language of countries with egregious human rights records like Israel and the UAE, ‘security’ is a euphemism for violent repression,” he added.


Iran in the crosshairs

From being a key ally of the United States under the Shah, since the 1979 revolution, Iran has become an obsession for planners in Washington. The U.S. is currently waging an all-out economic war against Tehran, hoping to foment an anti-government movement. U.S. sanctions have decimated the value of the Iranian rial and sent the prices of consumer goods soaring. Personal savings have been wiped out and lives have been stunted. Many have lost out on opportunities to study abroad or even get married due to economic pressure. More seriously, the U.S. has also made it extremely difficult to import life-saving medicines, leading to countless deaths.

“The sanctions deliberately target ordinary Iranians, women and children,” Seyed Mohammad Marandi, Professor of English Literature at the University of Tehran told MintPress. “They are designed to kill hospital patients and to create poverty. They have had partial success.”

Iran was one of the first countries to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, and the U.S. government worked hard to dissuade all nations from selling or even giving the Islamic Republic face masks, medicine, or other equipment. In the end, the World Health Organization stepped in and directly gave the Iranians what it could, a major reason the Trump administration has decided to leave the organization. In 2018, Bolton promised the Iranian exile group the Mujahedeen Khalq (MEK) that they would soon rule over Iran, essentially guaranteeing regime change for the country of 82 million people. In January of this year, Trump decided to assassinate public figure and statesman Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad while he was attending regional peace talks. Trump donors like Sheldon Adelson want the president to go further and drop a nuclear bomb on the country. Despite pulling out the nuclear deal itself, the Trump administration has recently used Iran’s non-compliance with the same treaty as a reason to trigger even harsher “snapback” sanctions against Tehran.

For Bennis, the Israel-UAE-Bahrain deal was less about peace, and more about setting up a united front in a possible coming war with the Iranians, noting that Trump’s central foreign policy goal for the Middle East is “to build up Israel as the centerpiece of an anti-Iran coalition. That has been underway for years now… what we have here is a consolidation of the U.S.-backed anti-Iran coalition across the region.”

While media aimed at a more mass market hid this fact, elite, insider journals were more frank. Foreign Policy, for example, wrote that the Abraham Accord has made Trump’s, “Maximum pressure’ policy of economic asphyxiation against Tehran more effective and painful than his predecessor’s sanctions campaign.”

Increased Arab collaboration with Israel and the United States has helped the latter obstruct clandestine financial channels and escape valves traditionally used by Iranian authorities and institutions to evade US sanctions.”

What are the consequences for Iran under this new partnership? Shupak warned that those wishing for peace in the region should treat the deal with suspicion, telling MintPress,

The UAE and Bahrain can now openly and comprehensively partner with Israel in the U.S.-led effort to destroy it. Because there is no longer a need to even pretend that Israel is not partners with the UAE and Bahrain, this alliance can work together in full support of one another. That means it’s now possible to have more effective enforcement of the already crushing economic blockade of Iran, collaborative efforts to carry out subversion inside Iran, more intimate sharing of intelligence and perhaps of weapons, as well as greater logistical support and possibly military coordination and integration if a full scale attack on Iran comes to pass.


Yemeni Onslaught

A tiny island of only 1.5 million people, Bahrain is nonetheless an important strategic state in the Middle East. The nation is home to the United States Fifth Fleet, its primary base for the entire West Asian-Middle East region. The base has proven vital over the decades as a launchpad for American invasions of neighboring states and continues to serve a role as a base of operations for the U.S.

Both Bahrain and the UAE are also partners in the Saudi-led coalition’s aggression in Yemen, not only attacking military targets but striking against medical and water facilities over 200 times since the war began in 2015. The United Nations has called the country “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” estimating that 14 million people — over half its population — are at risk of famine, and 20.5 million need help accessing drinkable water. The Abraham Accord is sure to increase the amount of high-tech weaponry available to both Bahrain and the UAE, which will immediately be used in their Yemen campaign.

The destabilization of the country has led the World Food Program to warn of a “famine of biblical proportions” if nothing is done about it. The UAE and Bahrain have continued to justify their involvement in the conflict on the basis of the Houthi militias’ alleged ties to Iran, claiming they need to support the legitimate government as a bulwark against Iranian domination of the region.

“The UAE is one of the central protagonists in the cataclysmic war of aggression against Yemen—alongside key partners such as Saudi Arabia, the U.S., U.K., and Canada—so there is a strong possibility that the UAE will unleash these killing machines on the impoverished Yemeni population that it has already done so much to devastate,” said Shupak. “Likewise, increased intelligence sharing between Israel and the UAE could entail Israel helping the UAE having more, and possibly more advanced, information that it can use to maim and kill Yemenis.”


Palestine: no justice. No peace

Notable by their absence at the negotiations was any Palestinian representation, and according to Shupak, the deal actually lifts international pressure on Israel with regards to Palestine, exactly the opposite of what the UAE and Bahrain have claimed.

What’s most significant for Palestinians about normalization is that it means Israel no longer has to face the political and economic costs of being boycotted by the UAE and Bahrain or any state that chooses to follow them: thus, a mechanism that could have helped play some part in ending Israeli colonialism is no longer available,” he told MintPress.

In fact, Israel did not formally relinquish its claim to the fertile Jordan Valley area of the West Bank, nor did any of its promises to moderate its behavior towards Palestine result in the cessation of bombing Gaza, which it continued to do throughout the talks, let alone lifting blockades against Palestinians or guaranteeing them the right of return to their homes.

Therefore, while some in the media try to spin the deal as a good thing for Palestinians, there will likely be no reduction, let alone an end to their suffering in the near future. This, for Bennis, was the fact that undermined the whole concept of a peace accord:

The definition of peace has to come back to what we learned from Dr. Martin Luther King, which is that peace is not just the absence of war but the presence of justice. If you are not going to at least talk about justice for the Palestinians then you’re not serious about peace.”

And so while New York Times columnists might describe the news as “a rare triumph in the Middle East,” the question remains, a triumph for whom? Perhaps for Washington war hawks, defense contractors, and undemocratic Middle Eastern rulers, but not for the people of the region. “[The accord] is very bleak if you care about human rights and anything remotely resembling justice,” Bennis added.

Feature photo | Members of the Iranian army take part in the annual Zolphaghar 99 military drill in the Gulf of Oman, September 10, 2020. Photo | WANA

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Abraham Accord: Experts Warn Trump Peace Deal a Precursor to War with Iran appeared first on MintPress News.

Why Arab Leaders Are Suddenly Groveling at the Chance to Normalize Ties with Israel

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/09/2020 - 2:20am in

As these words are being written, the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are in Washington DC to sign agreements to normalize relations between their countries and the state of Israel. While the United States and Israel were represented by President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Arab states sent their foreign ministers to represent their countries at the signing ceremony. This may have less to do with protocol and more to do with the fact that both Trump and Netanyahu are fighting for their political lives and for them, this was a much needed public relations stunt. 

Today’s spectacle was a far cry from the resolute, principled, and courageous stance that was presented by Arab leaders in Khartoum almost exactly 53 years ago. In the aftermath of the Israeli assault on Arab lands in 1967, even as the gun barrels were still smoking, a meeting of the heads of the Arab states was convened in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. This meeting brought about a courageous resolution that said no to recognition, no to negotiations, and no to peace with Israel. The Arab armies of Egypt, the largest of all the Arab states, Syria and Jordan were demolished completely, close to 18,000 Arab soldiers were killed and hundreds of thousands of civilians were made homeless, and yet the leaders of the Arab states stood and said, “no” to the mighty aggressor, Israel. 

The resolution of the Arab states to reject the brutal apartheid regime of Israel was accepted in August of 1967, at the Arab League summit just two months after Israel had decimated the armies of three Arab states and had violently taken the Golan Heights from Syria, the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and had completed the conquest of Palestine by taking the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. 

That resolution, which later became known as the “Three No’s,” is still used by Zionist propagandists to demonstrate the Arab states’ unwillingness to make peace with Israel, and recognize the so-called Jewish State. However, in light of the deadly Israeli assault on these countries, their unwillingness to capitulate was heroic. What is unfortunate, however, is the success of the Zionist movement to reverse the Arab commitment to Palestine. Step by step, starting with the largest Arab state, Egypt, then Jordan, and now with the Gulf States and even Sudan, the Arab regimes have been “normalizing” relations with Israel. 

Khartoum Summit

Heads of Arab states are seated around the table at a session of their Summit meeting in Khartoum, Sudan, Aug. 30, 1967. Photo | AP


Access to the empire

If one could imagine themselves as the head of an Arab state just for a moment, what would that be like? One would see that the Arab countries that were steadfast in their support of the Palestinian cause are now destroyed. Starting with Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Syria. The punishment for those who did not capitulate willingly was severe. Further afield is Iran, and while for the moment it is safe from an all-out military attack, mostly because the U.S. and Israel are incapable of facing the Iranian forces head-on, it is suffering greatly from severe sanctions. 

Relations with Israel provide access to much desired U.S.-made weapons and other perks such as security and economic cooperation. As a leader of an Arab state, what choice would one make? Commentators on CNN repeatedly said that the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain, and possibly other Arab states that will be normalizing relations with Israel soon, decided to put the Palestinian issue behind them and focus on other issues like economic cooperation, tourism, and to place the needs and indeed the future of their own countries ahead of the Palestinian issue.

It is easy to criticize the Arab states for turning their back on their Palestinian brothers and sisters. However, larger and more influential countries are no different. Russia, the European Union, China, and India all conduct a great deal of business with Israel and have long since forgotten about the Palestinians. Israel has successfully taken the Palestinian issue off the world stage. Regardless of how often Israel attacks Gaza or how viciously it attacks, regardless of how many Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons and how severe the conditions in which Palestinians live, Israel succeeded in getting the world to look the other way. 


The opposition

There have been reports about popular resistance in Bahrain by groups who oppose the normalization of relations with Israel and rightfully see it as a betrayal of the Palestinian people. The expectation is that these voices will be silenced quickly by the Bahraini government.

Furthermore, Kuwaiti government sources announced that “Kuwait’s position towards Israel is unchanged after its accord with the United Arab Emirates.” Kuwaiti officials also denied Israeli flights to fly through Kuwaiti airspace. 



Israel’s attempts to build alliances go beyond the Arabian peninsula and into Africa as well. The Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdokmet recently met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who visited Sudan following a trip to meet Israeli officials in Jerusalem. Israel was Pompeo’s first stop in a tour designed to convince more Arab countries to normalize ties with the Zionist state. Furthermore, reports confirm that the US secretary of State’s visit to Khartoum was meant to discuss relations between Sudan and Israel.

The Sudanese Prime Minister told Pompeo that his government “had no mandate to normalize ties with Israel,” and he added that the subject of lifting Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list should not be linked to normalizing ties with Israel. Clearly, removal from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list is the carrot Pompeo is offering Sudan. 

Sudan Israel

Pompeo stands with Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan in Khartoum, Sudan, Aug. 25, 2020. Photo | Sudanese Cabinet via AP

Following the meeting, the U.S. State Department said in a statement that Pompeo and Hamdok discussed “positive developments in the Sudan-Israel relationship,” which should come as no surprise. It is hard to imagine that the Sudanese leadership can afford to refuse an offer from the U.S., certainly one as attractive as lifting the designation of State Sponsor of Terrorism, which will open doors and allow for economic growth for the African nation.

Now, let’s return for a moment and imagine ourselves as the head of an African or Arab nation. The choice is submission and relations with the Israeli apartheid regime, which will lead to new economic possibilities, or maintaining a firm, principled stance, and suffering destruction by war or slow suffocation through sanctions.

Feature photo | From left, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-NahyanAbraham, stand on the Blue Room Balcony during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 15, 2020, in Washington. Alex Brandon | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post Why Arab Leaders Are Suddenly Groveling at the Chance to Normalize Ties with Israel appeared first on MintPress News.

MoD Records Show Britain Training Repressive States

There was a very interesting piece by Cahal Milmo in yesterday’s edition of the I, for Saturday, 29th August 2020. The MoD has released a series of papers in response to a question in parliament, showing that the British armed forces are training those of 17 states guilty of human rights violations. The article, ‘Britain trains soldiers for repressive regimes’ runs

The British military has provided training to the armed forces of a succession of repressive regimes from Belarus to Bahrain, according to official records.

A list of countries receiving training from UK armed forces since 2018 includes 17 nations formally designated by the British government as “human rights priority countries”, where there is particular concern about repression or other abuses. 

The training ranges from instruction on piloting state-of-the-art fast jets for allies such as Saudi Arabia to officer training for China.

In Belarus, where the authorities have this month been condemned for a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and armed forces have been placed on a state of high alert, Britain provided an advanced command course for senior officers.

The training,k detailed in records released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) following a parliamentary question, drew condemnation from campaigners who said it put Britain at risk of becoming “complicit” in gross breaches of human rights.

Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: “Many of these armies have appalling human rights records and have been linked to brutal oppression as well as international aggression.

“By training and collaborating with despots, dictatorships and human rights abusers, the UK risks making itself complicit in the abuses that are being inflicted.” The group said it wanted to see an investigation into precisely which military forces the UK had given training to and whether they had been subsequently linked to repressive actions or other breaches of basic liberties.

However, the defence ministry insisted that all of its training abroad emphasised the observation of human rights protections.

A spokesman for the MoD said: “Every defence relationship is taken on a case-by-case basis. Any defence engagement is designed to educate where necessary on best practice and compliance with international humanitarian law.”

The figures suggest that more than half of the 30 countries on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s human rights priority list have received training assistance from British forces. They include Uzbekistan, Sir Lanka, Bahrain, Egypt and Pakistan.

I’m not surprised by any of this. We already sell armaments to vicious, repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia. Britain has also used private mercenary companies as a method of unofficially sending military assistance to repressive regimes, such as Keenie Meenie Services, (KMS), founded by retired Brigadier Mike Wingate Gray, a friend of Maggie Thatcher, and whose son Arthur is a mate of princes William and Harry. Among other nasty regimes, KMS has provided troops for Sri Lanka, the Nicaraguan Contras and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, as well as Sultan Qaboos of Oman. On the other hand, they don’t seem to have provided any assistance to the Khmer Rouge during the 1980s. This was probably done by the SAS. See ‘Profiting from War’, John Newsinger’s review of Phil Miller’s Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away with War Crimes (London: Pluto Press 2020) in Lobster 79, Summer 2020 . See

I’ve no doubt that the training given by the official British armed forces does stress the observance of human rights. However, this still does not absolve us of training the troops of brutally oppressive regimes, which those providing the assistance must know will ignore anything they are taught about observing human rights.

The mercenaries, however, are rather different. They don’t just providing training, but have actually participated in atrocities. During the proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the head of the CIA’s Afghan Task Force declared that Thatcher was to the right of Attila the Hun and remarked on the lack of any legal restraint on MI6. Miller’s book quotes him as saying that they had a willingness to do jobs he wouldn’t touch. This comes from a senior figure in the organisation that helped overthrow Salvador Allende in Chile and install the Fascist dictatorship of General Pinochet.

Britain has spent too long training and providing guns and troops to the world’s thugs and butchers. It’s long past time we stopped. But the last time anyone suggested we should have an ethical foreign policy was Robin Cook under Tony Blair. Which after the Iraq invasion sounds like a very sick joke.

Hoping to Seize on UAE-Israel Deal, Pompeo and Kushner Head East in Search of New Allies for Israel

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 7:10am in

U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and unelected advisor to President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, are embarking on a tour of the Middle East beginning with a stop in Israel to discuss “regional security issues related to Iran’s malicious influence” with Prime Minister Netanyahu, followed by visits to Sudan, Bahrain and now official U.S. partner, the United Arab Emirates.

Spun as an effort to speed up a U.S.-brokered “normalization” between Arab countries and Israel, the trip comes just four days after the White House sent the Secretary of State to the U.N. Security Council with the message that all UN sanctions against Iran were to be restored; invoking a clause in the Iran nuclear deal “that allows participants to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran.”

Critics of the move have deemed it illegal, not only because the Trump administration itself withdrew from the deal it is now attempting to enforce, but also because the UN Security Council had previously voted to allow the arms embargo to expire in the fall.

As Pompeo and company land in Jerusalem, tensions are high in the region. Sudan, one of the countries on the itinerary, is in political disarray nearly two years after the ouster of longtime President Omar al-Bashir in 2018. In July, Sudanese Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, replaced seven senior cabinet officials, including the ministers of finance, foreign, energy, and health. Five days ago, he sacked his official spokesperson for disclosing ongoing talks with Israel during a press conference in which spokesman Haider Badawi said he was “looking forward to concluding a peace agreement” with the apartheid state.

The Sudanese government immediately disavowed Badawi’s comments, asserting that “no one tasked [the spokesman] with making statements on this matter.” Meanwhile, Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen has reportedly confirmed talks with Sudan, adding that “Israel hopes to reach a peace agreement that includes the return of Sudanese refugees to their country,” according to the Al-Ittihad newspaper. Israeli officials have also claimed that Netanyahu himself met with the head of Sudan’s transitional government in Uganda last February for a top-secret meeting to discuss normalizing relations.


The long-time ally

Bahrain, a long-time Atlanticist client state, is also on Pompeo’s diplomatic schedule. The tiny Gulf state of fewer than two million people has played host to the U.S. Navy since 1947 and was the headquarters for the British protectorate of the lower Persian Gulf after World War II. The crown prince of Bahrain, Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa descends from a long line of Al-Khalifas to rule the nation under Britain’s neo-colonial eye and, later, as a sovereign country since 1971. Considered a “strong security partner” by the U.S. and host of the only operating American naval base in the region with 7,800 U.S. troops, the Trump administration recently lifted arms sales restrictions imposed by Obama. Another member of the Al-Kahlifa clan, Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Al-Khalifa, sat down for an interview with The Times of Israel last summer in which he said he “hoped to visit Israel, when it’s all open, peaceful,” signaling Bahrain’s openness to facilitate normalization between Israel and Arab states.

Jared Kushner pitches his so-called “Deal of the Century” to a crowd of Bahrain’s royalty in Manama, June, 2019. BNA via AP

A report updated in June by the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CSR) titled “Bahrain: Unrest, Security, and U.S. Policy,” outlined the country’s human rights record and history of political repression, which should nevertheless be overlooked because the country “has long presented a policy dilemma for the United States because Bahrain is a longtime ally that is pivotal to maintaining Persian Gulf security.”


An easy dilemma

The policy dilemma is limited to whether or not Bahrain, Sudan or any other oil-rich countries wish to abide by Atlanticist dictates for their particular region, which has now shifted to a policy of exclusion of the Palestinian people living under the apartheid regime in Israel and an intensification of the campaign of isolation against Iran.

This is being called normalization and some, like Sudan’s former government spokesman, see nothing wrong with it. In what may be the most disingenuous statement ever made, Haider Badawi told Sky News Arabia that Sudan “shall be able to build an exemplary peace deal to all our neighboring countries in the region, so that they are able to follow our footsteps and do the same with Israel. I would like to note here that even Palestinians have had a long history of diplomatic ties with Israel. So, why should it be right for them and considered wrong for us.”

Pompeo will finalize his trip in the UAE, where he will meet with Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to discuss the deal signed with Israel a few weeks ago. Jared Kushner’s itinerary, however, has not been made public. He will be accompanied on an ostensibly separate excursion by National Security adviser, Robert O’Brien and special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook in what is only being described as “talks with leaders in the region to encourage more Arab countries to follow in the UAE’s footsteps and move forward with full normalization of relations with Israel.”

Feature photo | Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and White House adviser Jared Kushner, right, listen as President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House. Susan Walsh | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

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