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Shocking New Figures Show How Just Much the US is Fueling the Violence in Yemen

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 21/11/2020 - 2:21am in

Despite presenting itself as a force for good and peace in the Middle East, the United States sells at least five times as much weaponry to Saudi Arabia than aid it donates to Yemen. The State Department constantly portrays itself as a humanitarian superpower with the welfare of the Yemeni people as its highest priority, yet figures released from the United Nations and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) show that since the war in Yemen began, the U.S. government has given $2.56 billion in aid to the country, but sold over $13 billion in high-tech weapons to Saudi Arabia, the leader of the coalition prosecuting a relentless onslaught against the country.

Figures like these are always debatable. What constitutes legitimate “aid” is a question everyone would answer differently. Furthermore, the $13 billion figure does not include the enormous weapons deal Saudi Arabia signed with Donald Trump in 2017, which will reportedly see the Kingdom purchase $350 billion over ten years.

SIPRI is skeptical of the size of these numbers, but if they prove to be correct, once the orders begin arriving, they will make the paltry aid donations seem like small change by comparison. Sales include all manner of military equipment, from radar and transport systems to F-15 fighter jets, TOW missiles, Abrams tanks, and Paladin howitzers.

While the Saudis pay in petrodollars, Yemenis pay in blood. Four years ago, the Saudi Air Force bombed a well-attended funeral in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. It was a bright, clear day. The Saudis used a “double tap” airstrike to ensure maximum carnage. 240 people were killed, and like with the 2018 Saudi attack on a school bus that killed 40 children, the bombs that did the damage were 500-pound (227 kilogram) MK 82’s, built and supplied by Lockheed Martin, America’s largest weapons contractor.

“Making billions from arms exports which fuel the conflict while providing a small fraction of that in aid to Yemen is both immoral and incoherent. The world’s wealthiest nations cannot continue to put profits above the Yemeni people,” said Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director.

Already the region’s poorest nation, Yemen has been utterly devastated by the six-year conflict. The United Nations estimates that 14 million people — over half the country’s population — are at risk of famine, and 20.5 million need help accessing drinkable water. 80% of the population, it calculates, needs some form of humanitarian assistance. The Saudi-led coalition, which includes the UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain, has deliberately attacked soft targets like hospitals and water facilities, carrying out the equivalent of one strike against such buildings every ten days since the fighting began.

“The fact that the United Nations, faced with such enormous human, environmental and migration devastation around the world, has said for several years now that Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, that says it all. This war has devastated what was already the poorest country in the Arab world. Not only the direct bombing — of funerals, of weddings — but the blockading and bombing of the ports. Yemen is a country very dependent on imported food, basic medicines, everything. So when the ports are closed down, people move close to starvation very quickly,” Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and an expert on the Middle East, told MintPress.

Yemen malnourished

A malnourished girl receives treatment at a feeding center at Al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. Nov. 3, 2020. Hani Mohammed | AP

In addition to supplying the weapons, the U.S. (and many of its European allies) train Saudi forces, have provided critical military infrastructure and logistical support, and even refueled Saudi bombers in the air and provided targeting guidance to help Saudi forces find their marks more efficiently. On top of that, the U.S. has shielded Riyadh from international censure by defending it at bodies like the United Nations. In essence, the U.S. is involved in every area of the Yemen conflict, doing everything up to pulling the trigger itself.

“The U.S. must end its support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and instead prioritize the people across Yemen fighting to survive,” Scott Paul, Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Policy Lead told MintPress in a statement.

The U.S. has paused much of its aid to the most vulnerable Yemenis, while it continues to provide weapons that fuel the deadly conflict. Congress and the American people have made it clear that they do not want any part in this. We continue to call for the U.S., the international community and all parties to the conflict to push for peace, and we will hold the incoming Biden administration to its pledge to do its part.”

The United States has a long history of mistreating Yemen. In 1990, the administration of George H.W. Bush wanted a unanimous United Nations agreement to rubber-stamp its attack on Iraq. Yemen, newly appointed to the Security Council, refused to go along with the resolution (as did Cuba). Just minutes after it voted against the U.S. plan, a senior American diplomat told the Yemeni representative, on a hot mic, “That was the most expensive ‘no’ vote you ever cast.” Within hours, all U.S. aid (a $70 million program) to the country was stopped. 800,000 Yemeni workers were expelled from Saudi Arabia, and the country had difficulties securing loans with international financial institutions. Thus, as Bennis said, “The U.S. refusal to take Yemen and Yemenis seriously goes back a very long way.”

Saudi Arabia has proven to be one of the United States’ most loyal allies in the region over the past 50 years — and its enforcer. In return for keeping the oil money flowing into the United States, Washington has been willing to defend the country’s abysmal human rights record, and even to overlook the assassination of journalists like the Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi. Andrew Feinstein, an arms industry expert and author of “The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade,” explained to MintPress that,

The U.S. has allied itself with Saudi Arabia, despite it being one of the world’s most corrupt countries and worst human rights abusers, at home and abroad, for two primary reasons: oil and the U.S. right’s desire for regime change in Iran. This is despite the reality that Saudi is the primary ideological supporter of, financier and, weaponizer of the most extreme Islamist groups.”

Saudi Arabia Yemen Cluster Bomb

A Houthi man inspects an unexploded US-made cluster bomb in Sanaa, Yemen, 2016. Hani Mohammed | AP

Under Trump, the United States has sharply increased its military support to Saudi Arabia, signing a number of weapons deals that put the lie to any idea that he was an anti-war president. Overall, SIPRI calculates that the U.S. accounted for 36% of global weapons sales between 2015 and 2019, a large increase over the previous five years. Saudi Arabia is by far America’s best customer, and America is the Kingdom’s most important supplier, accounting for three-quarters of all purchases. In 2019, this included 59,000 guided bombs, most of which were destined to be dropped on soft targets in Yemen. As Bennis noted, “The Saudis buy more arms from the U.S. than any other country in the world, so it is embedded in the very fabric of the military industrial complex here.” Furthermore, many of Washington’s other best customers are also Middle Eastern dictatorships also bombing Yemen.

Saudi Arabia will be hosting the G20 summit this weekend, a meeting of the 20 most powerful nations in the world. Remarkably, for a country where women cannot travel or get married without permission from a man, the Saudi government has chosen “female empowerment” as the theme of this year’s meeting. And while the G20 is being urged to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its role in Yemen, that possibility seems doubtful, seeing as G20 arms exports to Riyadh are three times what they give to Yemen in aid.

With an impending change of administration in the White House, there is some talk that a Biden administration will reverse direction on Yemen. Bennis, however, was skeptical of how profound a change Biden will implement:

There may be a rather abrupt change. The question, for me, is how deep it will be. Biden has made a commitment on his statement of intention on foreign affairs to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi War on Yemen. How that gets defined is the question. There will be some symbolic moves very quickly after he is inaugurated, hopefully in the first days or weeks of the new administration. The big question is will he actually stop the massive arms sales of basics- the F-15s and F-16s, the bombers and bombs, the drones, the ammunition and equipment that is responsible for so much death and destruction in Yemen. Is he prepared to do that? I’m hopeful but not terribly optimistic.”

This is the view echoed by Yemenis on the ground who spoke to MintPress. Ibrahim Abdulkareem, who lost his infant child when a Saudi warplane dropped a U.S.-made bomb on his home in Sanaa in 2015, said that Biden’s statement of intention on foreign affairs was not good enough: ”I am not optimistic that Biden will stop supplying [Saudi leader Mohammed] Bin Salman with bombs like the ones that killed my daughter,” he stated. In international affairs, money talks. And the U.S. is making a lot of it from this war.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera for MintPress News

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 Shocking New Figures Show How Just Much the US is Fueling the Violence in Yemen appeared first on MintPress News.

The Last Negotiator: The Death of Saeb Erekat Could Mark the End of Palestinian Reconciliation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/11/2020 - 4:59am in

The untimely passing of Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat marks the end of not only a period, but of a generation. Almost 14 years to the day after the death of Yasser Arafat, Erekat succumbed to complications from Covid-19, and it is remarkable to see that even though so many years have passed since Arafat’s death, there are still serious people who, like Erekat, hold on to the belief that a negotiated settlement with Israel is possible, and that a Two-State Solution is viable.

Unlike Arafat, who started his career as a leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization promoting “radical” ideas, like the liberation of Palestine and freedom for the Palestinian people, Erikat’s career began in what may be considered the final chapter of the PLO. That chapter was marked by negotiation upon negotiation with the hope, unrealistic as it may have been, of reaching a negotiated peace agreement with the Israeli government.

I never met Saeb Erekat, but I know many people like him who, even today, hold on to the belief that Palestinians must never stop negotiating. The belief that cooperation and even collaboration with Israel are critical so that someday a Palestinian state can exist alongside Israel.


Yasser Arafat: A leader of transformation

For three decades, from the mid-1970s to the day he died in 2004 – Yasser Arafat was the most consistent voice for peace in the Middle East. When he spoke at the United Nations in 1974, he said, “I come with an olive branch in one hand and a gun in the other,” and added, “Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.” Arafat let go of the gun and held on to that olive branch for the rest of his life.

Under his leadership, the Palestinian national movement went from calling for the total liberation of Palestine through a military struggle, to a binational secular democratic state spanning all of Palestine, and from there, to recognizing Israel and denouncing “terrorism.”

Arafat eventually accepted whatever part of Palestine that was made available for his people on the basis of a Two-State Solution and finally signed the Oslo Accords, which led to nothing but more suffering for Palestinians and more control for Israel. The suffering and violent takeover by Israel was not new of course, only this time it had Arafat’s signature on it. From decade to decade, starting in the 1960s, the Palestinian leadership went from revolutionary to accommodating and to what some would say, collaborating. All under the leadership of the same man, Yasser Arafat.


Appearing on the world stage

The first time Yasser Arafat was introduced to the world was in a Time magazine cover story. It was the December 13, 1968 issue, and it featured a dramatic rendition of Arafat on the cover and an armed Palestinian fighter in the background. Arafat was described as “Fedayeen Leader” and the caption across the top read, “The Arab Commandos, a Defiant New Force in the Middle East.”

Time Magazine Yasser Arafat Cover

Time’s December 1968 cover launched Arafat into the international spotlight

The piece began as follows, “The revolution of Fatah exists! It exists here, there and everywhere. It is a storm, a storm in every house and village.” The article quoted from the “Voice of El-Fatah” radio. It went on to describe it.

Faithful and unfailing as the muezzin’s call from the minaret, that heady cry goes out nightly from a radio station in Cairo to the Arab lands. It is the “Voice of El Fatah,” speaking for the Arab commando organization whose bands of raiders cross each night into hated Israel, bent on bringing death, destruction and terror. To Arabs huddled in wind-chilling refugee tents outside Amman, sipping thick coffee in drawing rooms in Damascus, or lounging in the common rooms of the American University of Beirut.”

Arafat made it to the cover of Time largely because of the fame that followed the Battle of Karama. It was in May of 1968 that Israel decided to invade Jordan and punish the Palestinian fighters in the village of Karama, which incidentally means dignity in Arabic. The “El-Fatah” forces had been quite literally terrifying Israel. Every Israeli, even children, became aware of the dangers of what we knew as “Al-Fatah” and “Fedayeen.”

I describe the battle and the precise force that Israel mobilized for this invasion in my book, “The General Son.” For now, suffice it to say that it was an enormous, cumbersome force that turned out to be as clumsy as it was bulky. The operation included ground and air, commando and paratrooper as well as tank divisions. The tanks got stuck in the mud and the whole thing was a terrible blunder with the Israeli forces being humiliated and paying a heavy price.

Although Palestinian and Jordanian forces also paid a heavy price, they saw the previously victorious Israeli army leave with its tail between its legs. The Battle of Karama came to be known as a military victory and a morale boost for all Arabs, but none more than the Palestinians with Yasser Arafat as their leader. Arafat was based in Karama, and his forces prevailed. It was in the aftermath of Karama that his name appeared to the outside world.


UN General Assembly, 1974

In his first appearance in front of the UN General Assembly in 1974, Arafat stood wearing his famous Keffiyeh and carrying a pistol. Not unlike Che Guevara and other revolutionaries who spoke at the UN, Arafat spoke as a true revolutionary. He spoke not only about the plight of his own people but of that of other nations who suffered the indignation and oppression of imperialism and settler colonialism. He spoke harshly and truthfully about Zionism, about the racism and violence that it brought to his land and his people:

Just as colonialists in Africa used religion, color, race, and language to justify exploitation and cruel subjugation, so too are these methods employed in Palestine.

Zionism is an ideology that is imperialist, colonialist, racist.

It pains our people greatly to witness the propagation of the myth that its homeland was a desert until it was made to bloom by foreign settlers, that it was a land without a people, and that the colonialist entity caused no harm.

Those who call us terrorists wish to prevent world public opinion from discovering the truth about us. They seek to hide the terrorism and tyranny of their own acts.

When we speak of our hopes for the Palestine of tomorrow we include all Jews now living in Palestine who choose to live with us in peace and without discrimination.

I call upon Jews to turn away one by one from the illusory promises made to them by Zionist ideology and Israeli leadership. They are offering Jews perpetual bloodshed, endless war.

We offer them the most generous solution, that we might live together in a framework of just peace in our democratic Palestine.”

He ended his speech with the words, “I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”

As Arafat was making this speech, his top emissaries in Europe were making contacts with renegade Israeli figures like my father, Matti Peled, at that point a retired Israeli general, and Uri Avneri, a veteran of the 1948 war and a journalist. Although both of them had come out criticizing Israel for its treatment of the Palestinian people and called for an end to the occupation of 1967, both were staunch and patriotic Zionists.

Connecting with Avneri and my father marked a departure from the previous PLO policy of dealing only with anti-Zionist elements in Israel. It clearly demonstrated a shift in thinking at the highest echelons of PLO leadership.

The contacts between Zionist Israelis and top PLO diplomats like Sa’id Hamami in London and Issam Sartawi in Paris, both of whom were consequently assassinated, took place under the auspices and full support of several notable figures. These included the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt, Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, King Hassan II of Morocco as well as non-governmental groups like the Quakers and particularly individuals like Landrum Bolling.

From the Israeli perspective, the purpose of these meetings was twofold: To legitimize the PLO in the eyes of Israeli public opinion – in which they failed – and to convince Yassar Arafat to recognize Israel and accept the Two-State Solution. The latter objective succeeded but proved catastrophic for the Palestinian people.


A shift

In 1988 Arafat was once again invited to speak at the United Nations General Assembly. However, as a result of Israeli pressure, the Regan-Bush administration did not grant him entry into the United States and the General Assembly had to meet in Geneva instead. The 1988 speech that Arafat gave was very different from his 1974 speech.

Clinton Arafat Erekat

Bill Clinton meets with Arafat and Erekat, center, at Camp David, July 14, 2000. Photo | Reuters

By 1988, Arafat had taken a new position on Israel and the recognition of the Zionist State was integral to his speech. No more revolutionary. Instead, appeasing. It was about asking for negotiations and peace rather than justice and an end to racism and settler colonialism.

I have come to you in the name of my people, offering my hand so that we can make real peace. On that basis I ask the leaders of Israel to come here, under the sponsorship of the United Nations, so that together we can forge that peace.

Our people, who seek dignity, freedom and peace for themselves and security for their State, want the same thing for all the States and parties involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Here, I would address myself specifically to the Israeli people

Let us make the peace of the bold, of the courageous,

I have come to you in the name of my people, offering my hand so that we can make real peace, peace based on justice.”

Talk of peace with Israel replaced freeing Palestine from Israel.


Till when?

As these words are being written, the Palestinian Authority reportedly announced its willingness to resume military and civilian coordination with Israel. If there is any criticism today towards the generation of negotiators comprised of people who, like Saeb Erikat, believed that negotiating and talking was the only way forward, it is that they didn’t know when to stop. Missing what became obvious to many, that three decades of Palestinian concessions were only making things worse for the Palestinians.

Once the PLO committed to the Two-State Solution, it held on to it and, in fact, continues to hold on to it today. For decades, Israel claimed that the Palestinians were using the Two-State Solution as a stepping stone to replacing Israel through the creation of a Palestinian state on all of historic Palestine. But that is little more than what some would call “projecting.”

It was Israel who used the endless and fruitless negotiations as a tool by which to take more and more Palestinian land, to “Judaise,” as they call it, more and more of Palestine, and to complete its plan of ethnic cleansing, genocide, and deepening of the apartheid regime.

One grieves the loss of a dedicated man like Saeb Erekat, and one grieves even more that Palestine is disappearing before our very eyes.

In his 1974 speech at the United Nations Yasser Arafat warned the world not to let the olive branch fall from his hand. The truth is that he himself held on to the olive branch with such ferocity that one might say it cost him his own life.

Feature photo | Then-Vice-President Joe Biden shakes hands with Palestinian Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat upon Biden’s arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 9, 2016. Mohamad Torokman | Reuters

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 The Last Negotiator: The Death of Saeb Erekat Could Mark the End of Palestinian Reconciliation appeared first on MintPress News.

Our House: Why China’s New South Asian Trade Deal is Making Washington Sweat

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/11/2020 - 5:11am in

For most Americans, the mention of Hanoi elicits memories of the Vietnam war and the peak of the antiwar movement in the United States. Nearly half a century later, unexploded ordnances  (UXO) left behind by U.S. soldiers are still killing and maiming Vietnamese people, but a new day has arrived for the long-suffering southeast Asian country along with fourteen regional countries, including powers China and Japan, with a blockbuster trade agreement that is sure to spark controversy in Washington, which was excluded from the 15-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

ASEAN bloc countries Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam are joining regional powerhouses China, Japan, and South Korea as part of a larger economic bloc that will account for one-third of the global economy and be composed of 2.2 billion consumers.

The deal strengthens an already tight-knit economic community of Asian countries, which in addition to the RCEP, already have bilateral trade agreements amongst each other. It also marks a milestone in the relationship between China and Japan, who enter into a trade agreement together for the first time. More concerning for American industry, in particular, is the risk of losing market access worth $5.3 billion to U.S. industry in the region as these goods shift to production in Chinese firms.

Australia and New Zealand are the odd pair of Western axis nations forming part of the historic pact, whilst the U.S. is left outside looking in at the fruits of its Asia policy over the last 15 years that has now come back to haunt a reeling U.S. establishment after Trump’s disastrous “trade war” and an insistence by his predecessors in the White House to waive America’s big stick in the South China Sea.


Obama’s Asian Pivot

The beginning of the end for American economic hegemony in South East Asia took place between the Bush and Obama administrations when the contours of what would become the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was handed to Barack Obama who would use it to execute his infamous “Asian Pivot” – a policy that mimicked past ‘free trade and war’ tactics employed throughout the world.

The plan sought to encourage trade with South Asian countries, while at the same time expand U.S. military presence in the region to allow America “and not countries like China, to write the rules of the road in the twenty-first century,” according to then-president Obama. Needless to say, China began to retreat from some of the overtures it had made to Western interests in previous years.

Pompeo To Lam Vietnam

Mike Pompeo poses with Vietnamese Minister of Public Security To Lam ahead of a meeting in Hanoi to discuss China’s influence. Oct 30, 2020. VNA via AP

Hillary Clinton exacerbated tensions dramatically when she tried to impose U.S. will over China’s territorial disputes in the South China Sea, stating that all such claims should be addressed in a collaborative fashion by the ASEAN bloc countries to keep the “region open for normal commercial activities,” according to Foreign Policy. A move China clearly saw as a threat to its own hegemonic designs upon the region.

Trump adopted Obama’s belligerent position on China and further stoked the flames by starting a trade war against the Asian superpower and withdrawing from the TPP negotiations in 2017. China’s attempt to ally with the EU against the onslaught of U.S.-imposed tariffs was rebuffed by unanimity and ultimately drove the PRC to forge ahead with renewed diplomatic efforts to take the RCEP over the finish line.


Sour Grapes

Weak counter-arguments are already starting to proliferate across U.S. media with the Wall Street Journal publishing a screed desperately trying to downplay the significance of the RCEP, asserting that the “weaknesses” of the Chinese government prevented it from actually assuming a leadership role in the region, despite the trade deal.

Together with the TPP, which became the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the RCEP is now the second massive trade agreement in the fastest-growing economic region in the world where the U.S. is persona non grata.

Perhaps the most striking development is the historic rapprochement with Japan; a move which was directly linked to the EU’s rejection of the Chinese proposal, forcing China to turn to its old rival. The low-level trade talks that ensued between China, Japan, and South Korea in 2018 would eventually lead to the finalization of the RCEP economic coup.

The RCEP will eliminate up to 90% of the tariffs on imports among signatories over the next 20 years and also determine rules for e-commerce and intellectual property throughout each nation, which could potentially disrupt major Western markets like the pharmaceutical and tech industries.


Next Up on the Batting Order

With the election all but decided in favor of Joe Biden, the next phase of American foreign policy in South East Asia is likely to remain the same and possibly a return to much more provocative Obama-era ideas like the Air-Sea Battle doctrine, which was first outlined in 2009 to prepare for a military confrontation with China.

ABS became an official military doctrine a year later in 2010 and tested in 2014. It is highly conceivable that a Biden White House will rekindle a more aggressive push against China, even though no official policy statement on China has been released by the Biden transition team. Nevertheless, Obama’s former Vice President has already signaled his intention to continue a belligerent stance against the Asian nation.

“What I’d make China do is play by the international rules” Biden stated at the one and only debate he had with Trump in October. “These are the rules. You play by them, or you’re going to pay the price for not playing by them economically,” Biden affirmed.

The likely future president of the United States is also expected to adopt Trump’s aggressive position on Chinese tech, which follows the same pattern we see from one administration to the next, where fundamental policies meant to expand American hegemonic control over other countries are passed on regardless of the colors on their party headquarters.

The RCEP may be the shot across the bow heard coming from a burgeoning alliance of Asian countries, which not only have the resources to keep up with and surpass American technological prowess but have also closed the gap considerably in terms of military capabilities with the West.

Feature photo | This image made from a teleconference provided by the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) shows the leaders and trade ministers of 15 Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) countries pose for a virtual group photo in Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov. 15, 2020. VNA via AP

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

The post Our House: Why China’s New South Asian Trade Deal is Making Washington Sweat appeared first on MintPress News.

Cuba Could be on the Brink of a Revolutionary COVID Vaccine, But US Sanctions Are Slowing It Down

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/11/2020 - 6:04am in

Cuba has announced positive and promising results for a number of separate COVID-19 vaccines it is currently developing, but U.S. sanctions against the small island nation are hampering the development and rollout of the potentially life-saving treatments.

Two candidates, named Sovereign 1 and Sovereign 2, have generated antibodies blocking infection in animals and are showing similarly encouraging signs on tests on human subjects. Meanwhile, a separate vaccine, based on a protein from the hepatitis B virus, is unique in that it is delivered through the nasal tract and does not require a needle to administer.

Should any of these efforts ultimately succeed, the Caribbean nation — already a medical powerhouse that has developed a lung cancer vaccine and methods to stop mother-to-baby HIV and syphilis transmission— will likely become an important supplier to other Latin American and developing countries who have been effectively shut out from purchasing COVID vaccines from Western companies, as rich nations have already begun hoarding coronavirus medicines.

Dr. Helen Yaffe of Glasgow University, author of “We Are Cuba!: How a Revolutionary People Have Survived in a Post-Soviet World,” was impressed and heartened by the news, telling MintPress:

Cuba now has four COVID-specific vaccine candidates under clinical trial. The fact that a small Caribbean island can achieve such a remarkable feat is testimony to its state-owned biotech sector, which is directed towards public health demands and integrated into its healthcare and education systems. After years of being told that only the market can lead to efficiency and innovation, Cuba’s socialist planned economy demonstrates what is possible when there is political will, good coordination, organization and the priority of social welfare.”

However, Cuban immunization developments are being seriously hamstrung by the actions of the U.S. government, primarily due to the decades-long blockade on the island, something which the Cuban government estimates has cost it over 750 billion U.S. dollars.

As Reuters reported, cash-strapped Cuba cannot afford to buy the raw materials necessary to upscale its vaccine development to help other countries. Hospitals face huge obstacles importing lifesaving equipment from abroad due to the blockade, while the sanctions force the country, which imports the large majority of its staples, to spend far more on food than other nations. As a result, almost one third of young children suffer from anemia due to the monotonous and sub-par nutrition available, according to the World Food Program.

The blockade also forces Cuba to continually repair its crumbling infrastructure and halt the importation of vehicles, even leading to a return of horse-drawn carriages on the island. Food production is hampered; with little petroleum available for agriculture, the country instead went back to relying on human or animal labor. The blockade also led to the forced development of a domestic pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector, which has grown to become among the most advanced in the world.

Last November, the United Nations voted 187-3 in favor of ending the blockade (with the U.S., Israel, and Brazil voting “no”). Almost two-thirds of Americans support an end to the action as well. Despite this, the Trump administration has, in fact, intensified the pressure on Cuba, as Yaffe explained:

Cuba has been subject to an additional 46 sanctions and new measures to tighten the blockade, to scare off foreign investors, to create scarcity, to create difficulty for Cuba to access raw materials, including for its biotech sector and for its pharmaceutical industry.”

One example of this, Yaffe notes in her new documentary, “Cuba and COVID-19: Public Health, Science and Solidarity” is that the island can no longer purchase ventilators or parts for existing machines because the Swiss company it dealt with was purchased by an American one and fearing potential reprisals, it halted any contact with Havana.

A more positive, but nevertheless difficult, challenge the Cuban government faces in testing its new vaccines is the lack of COVID-19 patients on the island, which has the highest proportion of medical professionals per capita anywhere in the world. To date, the country has recorded only 7,639 cases and 131 deaths. U.S.-backed conservative neighbors such as Brazil, Ecuador, and (until last week) Bolivia, that had expelled Cuban doctors working inside their borders, have fared far worse.

Under Trump, the U.S. also led the world in the theft of medical equipment and personal protective gear, confiscating shipments, and diverting supplies away from other countries to keep for itself. And at the height of the outbreak in Iran, the government was unable to buy or import lifesaving gear due to American sanctions, as no nation was willing to risk the wrath of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who threatened harsh sanctions on anyone willing to do business with Iran. Finally, the World Health Organization directly intervened, gifting Iran supplies, sparking the Trump administration to leave the WHO among other reasons.

The U.S., along with other wealthy nations, has also been quietly buying up the majority of any future supply of vaccines, cornering the market, and leaving little hope for developing nations to secure their own supply of vaccines. The for-profit corporations conducting the research have made it clear that they intend to withhold production secrets in order to cash in. Furthermore, they do not have the capacity to immunize the entire world. U.S./German company Pfizer, for example, predicts that it could supply enough for only around 650 million people by the end of 2021. This is why the development of treatments outside the for-profit model is so important.

Today, Pfizer announced that its own trial, featuring over 43,000 people in six countries was a success, with a 90% immunization rate and only 94 people contracting the virus from the vaccine. Massachusetts-based Moderna claims that its vaccine is even more effective, with a 94% immunization rate, and does not have to be stored at -80°C temperature like Pfizer’s offering.

The first country to announce a potential vaccine was Russia, however, the government sharing the news in September, with researchers claiming “Sputnik V” was 90% effective and that Russia could produce 500 million doses annually. The Russian and American offerings appear to be based upon the same scientific logic and have produced broadly similar results. However, the Russian vaccine has been near-universally panned in the Western press, while the American ones heralded as a historic achievement. Thus, Sky News’ headline described Pfizer’s breakthrough as a “great day for science and humanity” while casting doubt on the validity of Sputnik V, claiming the Russian’s secretive approach is a throwback to “its spirit in the Cold War.”

Regardless if any or all of the treatments work, the world will need a sustained and coordinated international effort to immunize itself against COVID-19, as no one company can possibly supply the entire planet. By continuing the blockade against Cuba, the U.S. government might be condemning much of the world to living months longer under a deadly pandemic that has claimed the lives of over 1.32 million people.

Feature photo | A Cuban health worker collects a sample for a COVID-19 test from a baby who arrived in a flight from Mexico at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, Nov. 15, 2020. Ramon Espinosa | AP

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 Cuba Could be on the Brink of a Revolutionary COVID Vaccine, But US Sanctions Are Slowing It Down appeared first on MintPress News.

A Hero’s Welcome: Inside Evo Morales’ Triumphant Return Tour

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/11/2020 - 11:42am in

The return of Evo Morales to Bolivia on Monday, November 9, one day after President Luis Arce’s inauguration, marked the formal end of last year’s U.S.-backed coup. What does his return mean for Bolivia, and for the world? Is he just a former president who the media will turn to periodically for comment? Is he yesterday’s news to his party? The answers to those questions remain unclear, but what is clear is that his three-day return tour was a statement that he intends to provide strong leadership for social movements in Bolivia and abroad.

Corporate media, both national and international, have been promoting a narrative that Morales is somehow in conflict with the incoming government of Luis Arce. A recent piece in the New York Times stated, “Mr. Morales return now risks undermining Mr. Arce’s efforts to bring the nation together to overcome the crisis,”’ and Reuters classified Arce as being “in Evo’s Shadow.”

Of course, Bolivia’s coup government knew that Evo Morales would strengthen, not weaken, any future MAS government. They understood that he was, and is, the leader of Bolivia’s powerful social movements. They knew they had to keep him out of the country, so they piled on more than 20 criminal charges and a warrant for his immediate arrest if he ever set foot on Bolivian soil. The charges included terrorism, sedition, genocide, and more.

Morales was forced to escape to Mexico after the coup, he then moved to Argentina where he was also given asylum. The absurdity of the charges was proven when the coup regime, through its own hubris, took them to Interpol in an effort to force Morales’ adopted country to hand him over. Of course, Interpol rejected the two attempts to place a ‘red alert’ on Morales, as they considered the charges against him to be political and without any legal basis.

Thrown out by international bodies, the legal persecution against Morales also collapsed at home. Just after the October 18 election results handed a victory to MAS, the power of the regime to pressure Bolivia’s courts immediately evaporated, and his arrest warrant was lifted just days after the election.

The stage was now set for his return to Bolivia. The 9th of November was a carnival fit for a king. He crossed the border on foot, from the Argentinian town of La Quiaca to the Bolivian town of Villazon with tens of thousands of supporters ready to receive him. As one of the many reporters there, I was naive enough to believe that the crowds would be kept at bay by the union activists from the Chapare region who were the designated security, but I quickly lost my good position as the masses of assembled supporters immediately overwhelmed the burly men who were supposed to form a protective ring around Evo.


Looking to the future

Our cameras jolted about as we were dangerously squashed by the sheer weight of those trying to touch him or at least take a photo. His victory parade went from the border to the town’s central plaza, about five blocks from the bridge through which he entered.

When asking those at the rally what Morales meant to them, the answers were not describing a loved, but has-been figure, most spoke in the future tense. Juan, a miner from Potosi, said, “We have to receive him and make sure he gets here ok, because he’s our leader, at both the national and international level. I want to salute [President] Arce and [VP] Choquehuanca, but our true indisputable leader is Evo Morales Ayma and he always will be.”

A union activist from Argentina crossed the border for the Villazon rally and told me that “Evo is a Latin American leader and he’ll be the key for building a unified continent that’s strong, sovereign and for the people, for workers. That’s why we’re here, this concerns us too.

Morales’ first speech in Bolivia, delivered at the plaza in Villazon, struck a similar tone, discussing the future rather than reminiscing about past glory. “We have to keep working, our task now is to protect President Arce and our process of change, because the right doesn’t sleep and the empire is always looking at our natural resources, but we use our experience to go forward even stronger.”

So how does he plan to go about doing that? Morales is not just another private citizen. He has now assumed his role as the President of the 6 Federations of the Tropico, the powerful Chapare region rural workers union that he led throughout the 1990s and from which he founded the MAS. He’s also still the president of the MAS, the Movement Towards Socialism. He’s not the leader of the state, but he is the political leader of the ruling party.


A hero’s welcome

Following the Villazon rally, Morales and his comrades, and those of us covering the tour, jumped into our vehicles and sped away for what was the beginning of a long and physically taxing three-day road trip. Gone were the days of Evo being shipped around in a helicopter. After more than eight hours of driving through the freezing Potosi highlands, we got to the rally in the mining town of Atocha, making only a brief stop before getting back in the car for another hour to the town of Uyuni, arriving at 11:30 pm. Considering the rally was supposed to take place at 6 pm, and that temperatures had now dropped to 7 degrees celsius, I assumed that the event had been called off or that everyone would have gone home. I was wrong. Thousands were densely packed, filling the entire square.

We got to know the grueling schedule that has long been the norm for Evo. Throughout his time as president and before, he’s been famous for working from 4 am to midnight, without taking weekends off. That night, we all got to bed at 3 am and had to be up and ready before 7 am for his morning press conference, during which he addressed the issue of the country’s lithium reserves, referencing Elon Musk’s Twitter outburst regarding his participation in the coup. Morales stated clearly:

The coup was for lithium, imperialism doesn’t want us to develop value-added products within Bolivia, they want the transnational corporations to take it all.”

He then explained that just last week he had meetings with Argentina’s Science Minister to draw up a binational plan to process the natural resource. Of course, he isn’t a government official so he cannot sign off on any agreement, but his participation in such meetings is evidence of his relationship to the new MAS government, assisting where possible, but with the newly elected executive firmly in control. That approach is in accordance with what Luis Arce laid out in an interview with the BBC when he stated that “Evo Morales is very welcome to help us, but it doesn’t mean he’ll be in government.”

Those in the media desperately searching for an example of Morales overshadowing the new government, or of Morales being left out in the cold, are still seeking evidence of it. Meanwhile, Evo continues his work on what was always his stated goal, to help Luis Arce, and to strengthen the MAS from his position as a social movement leader and president of the party.

The rest of the caravan was equally taxing, driving the whole day through Potosi to Evo’s home village of Orinoca in Oruro, where he visited his childhood home constructed of dried mud and a straw roof. Orinoca, though, is not his only home.

As a child, his family left the village, driven out by the extreme poverty that most rural Bolivians faced during the twentieth century. They finally settled in the Chapare region, where Morales became the leader of the coca-growers union during the struggle against the presence of USAID and the DEA in the region.

After a very short rally in the nearby city of Oruro, we drove overnight without stopping to his Evo’s political home, the Chapare, also known as the Tropico of Cochabamba. Arriving at 5 am the next day, Morales rested for just two hours before heading out at 7 am for meetings with local senators and mayors.

What came after was the giant closing rally in Chimore Airport, the airbase in the Chapare region where Morales left for Mexico last year. More than half a million people filled the landing strip where he delivered a blistering speech laying out his politics:

We are anti-imperialist, that’s not up for debate. But sisters and brothers, listen to me closely, it’s not about being ‘populist’ or ‘progressive’ or ‘in solidarity.’ If you’re not anti-imperialist then you’re not revolutionary. Get that in your head brothers and sisters.’’


What does Evo’s future hold?

The dust has now settled, with no more huge rallies nor travel by car. Evo has set up base in the town of Lauca Ñ in the offices of the 6 Federations of the Tropico and home to their union’s media outlet, Radio Kawsachun Coca.

The large crowds are no longer gathering, but the real political work has begun. Every hour has been filled with private meetings with every local leader of the MAS from each region of the country. Though, just as important, has been the international work.

Morales has been receiving delegations from the indigenous movement in Ecuador, as well as the principal worker’s unions of Argentina, where they put the call out for a Latin America wide congress of social movements, with the purpose of creating a new international indigenous organization and launching projects for regional integration on the basis of ‘plurinationalism’ and anti-capitalism. After launching the call for the international congress, Leonidas Iza, a leader of Ecuador’s indigenous CONAIE organization, said of Evo ‘’We feel represented by him, he’s not just recognized in Bolivia, but in all the continent.”

It’s clear that Morales has a future as a political leader in Latin America. Freed from the bureaucratic trappings of power, he can guide social movements at a national and international level, using the experiences he’s accumulated successfully leading social struggles to power, and helping defeat a coup after just one year. Those achievements alone make him an obvious figurehead for a project of unification of the Latin American left in particular. Those around the world looking to replicate such success could do worse than to turn to him as a figure that can orientate and provide leadership to those who need it.

Feature photo | Former Bolivian President Evo Morales attends a rally to welcome him to Chimore, Bolivia, Nov. 11, 2020, from where he flew into exile one year ago. Juan Karita | AP

Oliver Vargas is a British-Bolivian journalist covering the ongoing coup in Bolivia for MintPress News. His writing has appeared in teleSUR, Redfish and The Grayzone among others.

The post A Hero’s Welcome: Inside Evo Morales’ Triumphant Return Tour appeared first on MintPress News.

Biden Signals a Desire To End the Yemen War. Here’s Why Yemenis Aren’t Buying It

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/11/2020 - 7:15am in

As news broke that Joe Biden almost certainly won the U.S. presidential election, some Americans became hopeful that the new administration could hearken in an era of calm in the Middle East. In Yemen, however, that sentiment was not shared.

Most Yemenis have little hope that the new White House will end the blockade and the devastating war in their country, which is now nearing the end of its sixth year. Nor are they hopeful that the announcement that U.S. support for the Saudi military intervention in Yemen could end during Biden’s presidential term will materialize into action after he is sworn into office on January 20, 2021.

Ibrahim Abdulkareem, who lost his 11-month-old daughter, Zainab when a Saudi warplane dropped an American-made bomb on his home in Sana`a in 2015, told MintPress that Biden’s statement is not good news to him, ”I am not optimistic that Biden will stop supplying Bin Salman with bombs like the ones that killed my daughter,” he said. Like Ibrahim, Yemeni civilians are losing their loved ones, homes, and infrastructure to American weapons supplied to the Saudi Coalition in droves, and there is little hope that president-elect Biden will end support, including the supply of weapons and military equipment, to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.


The Iranian boogeyman

In fact, officials in both Sana’a and Aden – the respective seats of power for the opposing sides in Yemen’s war – see little chance that Biden will take action to end the conflict given the current geopolitical reality in the Middle East. That reality includes the fever of normalization with Israel sweeping across Arab governments, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are no exception. Closely related is the ongoing obsession from concurrent U.S. administrations with trying to contain so-called “Iranian influence” in the Middle East and linking the war in Yemen with that effort.

Yemeni politicians have called on Biden to change how the White House views the conflict and to stop treating it as a proxy war with Iran over influence. Unfortunately, it has been reduced down to that binary argument, with U.S. officials on both sides of the aisle blaming the entire affair on Iran, reductively claiming that the Houthis are an Iranian proxy, and framing the entire conflict in an Iran-centric geopolitical context – and not the true context of foreign aggression and a battle to control the strategic areas and some of the region’s most lucrative untapped oil and gas reserves.


American support

Most Yemenis view American support for the Saudi-led coalition not only as fueling the fighting but also view the American government as a party to serious war crimes in their country, directly at fault for the devastating humanitarian crisis they now face. Yemen is on the verge of yet another countdown to catastrophe as it faces a devastating famine within a few short months according to a recent report by the UN issued on Wednesday. That famine, in large part, stems not only from the Saud-led war and blockade, but from drastic cuts to humanitarian food and aid programs implemented by President Trump.

Since March 2015, when the war began, rather than halting weapons sales or pressuring Saudi Arabia diplomatically, the White House instead opted to ignore calls from the international community to address the suffering of Yemeni civilians. Worse yet, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been given carte blanche to carry out the most brazen and egregious violations of international law and collective murder in modern history without so much as a scolding from the United States.

The Saudi-led war has killed more than 100,000 people since January 2016, according to a report by the Armed Conflict and Location Event Data Project (ACLED). That figure does not include those who have died in the humanitarian disasters sparked by the conflict, particularly famine and the thousands of tons of weapons, most often supplied by the United States, that have been dropped on hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, farms, factories, bridges, and power and water treatment plants.


Thirsty for peace

If Biden is serious about reaching a diplomatic end to the war, he has a real chance to add ending one of the twenty-first century’s most violent conflicts to his presidential legacy. Yemen is thirsty for peace. Both the resistance forces led by Ansar Allah and the Saudi-backed militant groups’ that oppose them have signaled a desire to reach a political settlement, a sentiment, of course, not readily reflected by the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Those governments, however, do face increasingly dwindling support among the same forces in Yemen that allegedly invited them to intervene in their country under the auspices of returning ousted president Abdul Mansour Hadi to power. Now, even among the coalition’s staunchest allies, Saudi Arabia’s actions are increasingly seen as little more than an effort to balkanize the nation into regions and factions that can more easily be managed.

Among the Houthis (Ansar Allah), the most stalwart of forces opposed to a foreign presence in Yemen, an attitude of reconciliation pervades. Throughout the conflict, the group has proven its propensity for diplomatic rapprochement and a desire to work within the structures of international mediators to negotiate an end to the war. According to high-ranking officials in Sana’a, preparations for negotiations are being made in case the Biden administration is serious about ending the war.

However, the group’s leadership is taking Biden’s statement with a grain of salt. A wait and see approach persists among decision-makers in Sana’a, and rumors are flying that Biden may work with Yemen’s Brotherhood, a Saudi Arabia ally.


Untangling the quagmire

Trump’s own legacy in the Middle East is another factor that Biden will have to maneuver if he wishes to untangle the complex quagmire that is Yemen. The Trump administration recently notified Congress that it approved the sale of more than $23bn in advanced weapons systems, including F-35 fighter jets and armed drones, to the UAE, Saudi Arabia’s most prominent partner in its war on Yemen.  The Houthis have played down the announcement, saying that consent is one thing, but delivery is another entirely and if the Biden administration does go through with the sale, they will consider it a crime against Yemen.

High-ranking Houthi officials told MintPress that while they do not expect the president-elect to recognize their right to sovereignty, they are hopeful that the situation in Yemen will be re-assessed by the incoming administration and that the Houthis will no longer be seen as a threat to Washington or their allies in the region, and there is some evidence to substantiate that idea.

Every Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia and the UAE has been retaliatory, not preemptive, in nature. Even the attack on the Saudi Aramco facility on September 14,  2019, came in response to ongoing Saudi Coalition military maneuvers inside Yemen. Prior to the 2015 Saudi-led Coalition war on their country, the Houthis did not show animus towards the Kingdom, nor a desire to target it militarily. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia a major exporter of the same kind of jihadist ideology that drives groups like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS, groups that the Kingdom has used to try to undermine Houthi power, making the Houthis a natural ally to any force working to contain those organizations.

Saudi Arabia launched its war on Yemen in March of 2015 under the leadership of Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman. Salman claimed his objective in launching the war was to roll back the Houthis and reinstate ousted former Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who fled the country to Saudi Arabia following popular protests during the Arab Spring. From the moment the highly unpopular war began, Saudi officials have worked hard to frame it as a necessary step in liberating the Arab country from Iran, repeating the still unfounded claim that the Houthis are an Iranian proxy.

Continued pressure on Yemen will inevitably force the Houthis to lean more heavily into their relationships with Iran, Russia, and China, all perceived enemies of the United States, as they indeed have done under the Trump presidency. Iran’s newly appointed ambassador to Yemen arrived in Sana’a last month, and prior to that, the Houthis sent an ambassador to Tehran. Syria and Qatar are expected to follow and reopen their embassies in Sana’a according to Houthi officials, and if the staggering human cost of the war is not enough, that should give Biden an incentive not to allow the protracted conflict to carry on..

Feature photo | U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left, offers his condolences on the death of the late Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud to Saudi Foreign minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal on his arrival to Riyadh airbase in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 27, 2011. Hassan Ammar | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post Biden Signals a Desire To End the Yemen War. Here’s Why Yemenis Aren’t Buying It appeared first on MintPress News.

Yes, Biden and Harris Are Self-Declared Zionists, But a Glimmer of Hope Remains

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/11/2020 - 6:58am in

As the U.S. and the world wait with anticipation for the Biden administration to take office, people with progressive agendas are feeling optimistic. Teams working on immigration, health care, and the environment, to name just a few, are already at work preparing to move the United States in a new direction.

The one progressive issue where there is little optimism though is Palestine. This is mostly because Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are both self-declared Zionists and because there is a history of total U.S. support for Israel. But even though most American politicians are Zionists, Trump moving out of the White House presents a sense of a new beginning and should be used as an opportunity to change the paradigm on Palestine.

It can easily be demonstrated that Israel is a dangerous, even reckless state and that continued support for it only promises instability. Israel is an apartheid state that is already on the verge of collapse. With over two million men women and children locked up in the uninhabitable Gaza Strip, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Naqab living without access to water or electricity, crime on the rise, and political instability growing, Israel is likely to become even more dangerous than it is today.

Furthermore, the Netanyahu government is tightly connected to Trump. In fact, one could argue that Trump’s entire foreign policy regarding the Middle East and Iran were dictated by Netanyahu.


Reversing the Zionist agenda

Israel will, of course, vehemently oppose any reversal of the actions taken by the Trump-Kushner-Freedman trio. One may safely assume that Zionist organizations and agents in the U.S. are already hard at work with the Biden people to assure that no such reversal takes place.

Still, Joe Biden will have to show that he stands by some, if not all, of the foreign policy agreements that were reached during the Obama years and later abandoned by Donald Trump. He will likely have to do this even if it means Israel will be displeased. First and foremost would be a return to the Iran nuclear deal, also known as The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The agreement with Iran was central to the Obama legacy, and Trump dropping out of the agreement pleased Israel to no end. A return to the agreement will cause friction between Biden and Israel but since the entire spectrum of Israeli politicians – the one exception being the Joint Arab List – made no secret of their support for Trump, one would hope that some political payback is forthcoming.

Biden’s foreign policy team will also have to deal with the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel and the consequent moving of the U.S. embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as the U.S. recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights. Both were gifts to the Netanyahu government, both were diplomatic blunders that aided Netanyahu, and both will be difficult to reverse.

There are a few things that the Biden team will be able to reverse, though not without serious objections from Israel. These include a return to funding UNRWA, the UN agency charged with caring for over five million Palestinian refugees. Those refugees languish in camps throughout Palestine and the surrounding countries because Israel violently expelled them, stole their land and property, and then banned them from returning. Trump stopped funding for UNRWA in order to satisfy his Zionist-laden foreign policy team.

The reopening of the Palestinian mission in Washington D.C. is another act Israel will not like but one might expect will happen under the Biden administration. It was on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Oslo Accords that the Trump administration closed down the mission and did so in a manner that could not be less diplomatic, practically throwing out the head of mission, Dr. Husam Zumlot. Needless to say, Zionists were thrilled to see that there was no longer Palestinian representation in the U.S. capital.

Even if a new Biden administration ended up reversing Trump’s implementation of the above-mentioned policies, it would only mean that things had returned to where they were before, which was total support for Israel with a symbolic hint that some small measure of regard is given to the rights of Palestinians. Progress will only come when it is made clear in Washington that no one can claim to support democracy and human rights while supporting Israel.


Support in congress

Support for Palestine is growing in the U.S. House of Representatives and with it the understanding that Zionist foreign policy, which dominates U.S. foreign policy, is flawed. Furthermore, there is a growing understanding that supporting human rights includes supporting Palestinian rights.

People are growing weary of the U.S. arming and financing Zionist ambitions, and it is not hard to see that Israel does not violate international law and human rights, but rather Israel is itself a violation of international law and human rights. Every day that Palestinian refugees languish in camps is a violation of human decency as well as international law and the basic human rights of over five million people. The fact that the homes, land, and property of these refugees were stolen by Israel after they were forced to flee by armed Zionist terror squads – that is an ongoing violation of international law.

Each day that Palestinians in Gaza remain locked up in the world’s largest open-air prison is a violation of international law and the human rights of the over two million people who live in the Gaza Strip. These are just a small sample of the many examples that demonstrate why no one can be progressive while supporting Israel.


Moving past Anti-Semitism

Israel has armed itself with the weapon of “anti-semitism” and it is wielding it with great mastery. The use of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism and its acceptance by countless governments and non-governmental organizations has created a shield that protects Israel from criticism.

This shield also holds prisoner any organization that has adopted the definition. Having adopted the definition prevents the possibility of ever expressing legitimate criticism of Israel without being accused of anti-semitism. In the U.S., this definition has been adopted across the board, even the United States Department of State has adopted it.

Still, when the facts are laid out clearly, even the weaponization of anti-semitism cannot protect Israel. There is a change in the air in the United States and although the Biden-Harris duo has declared themselves Zionists, there is an opportunity to push forward an aggressive pro-Palestine, pro-justice agenda.

A long time ago it seemed that U.S. support for a country by the name of South Vietnam (yes, there was a country by that name once) was unwavering and would never end. There was also a racist, apartheid regime that ruled over most of Southern Africa, and the U.S. government as well as American corporations fought hard against any attempts to boycott and bring it down. Yet, South Vietnam fell, as did the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Biden and Harris may be supporters of Zionism today, but that can change. It is the duty of those who care for Palestine to make their voices heard now louder than ever before, to organize better and push as hard as possible. Millions of lives are at stake.

Feature photo | Joe Biden, projected on screens, is applauded by the audience as he addresses the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2013 Policy Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, March 4, 2013. Susan Walsh | 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 Yes, Biden and Harris Are Self-Declared Zionists, But a Glimmer of Hope Remains appeared first on MintPress News.

Incubated Futures

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/11/2020 - 9:59am in

Kentucky Fried Chicken wants to move into Addis Ababa. Among the last of African countries to be colonized by fast food, Ethiopia just received their first multinational fast food chain in 2018, when two Pizza Huts opened in Addis. More international chains want to open in the capital, though their efforts are stymied by Ethiopia’s […]

Mexico to Redraw Drug War Relationship with the US After Mexican General’s Arrest

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/11/2020 - 6:48am in

The arrest of Mexican General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda at LAX in October was the culmination of a secret operation carried out by the U.S. Justice Department and the DEA. The operation was not disclosed to the Mexican government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) before his general’s capture.

In one of his daily morning addresses after the fact, AMLO admitted that the news caught him by surprise – a statement he later retracted in an effort to save face and avoid scrutiny into the lack of any provision in Mexican law, or in bilateral drug war agreements signed with the U.S., to compel their powerful northern neighbor to disclose specific details of ongoing operations.

Such a bold attack on the sovereignty of another nation is not exceptional behavior for the only superpower on the block, which has historically bullied, blackmailed, and murdered leaders around the world. Nevertheless, the unilateral detention of a foreign military official to face a criminal proceeding in a United States court is a watershed moment in the forty years of the so-called “war on drugs”.

From the beginning of the disastrous policy, trying foreign nationals in American courts has been a permanent feature. Extradition has figured prominently in drug war tactics. The U.S. demands it as a condition for all of its partners in the ostensible fight against organized, multi-billion-dollar drug cartels, which since the late ‘90s has been led by U.S. Southern Command.

The issue nearly toppled the Colombian government during the violent clashes of the Pablo Escobar years, as the drug kingpin made extradition the center of his crusade against his state persecutors. The invasion of Panama just a few years earlier signaled Washington’s aggressive intentions to the rest of Latin America when it deployed Navy SEALS and other special forces to capture one of its oldest covert assets in Manuel Noriega.

The case of General Cienfuegos, who was apprehended at an airport without any prior arrangement with the Mexican government, reveals the flagrant contempt America’s federal law enforcement agencies have for the laws of other nations. At the same time, the absence of a formal extradition request on the part of the U.S. could be a clue about the true motivation behind the high-profile arrest, which has AMLO thinking twice about his relationship with the United States surrounding drug war policy.

In a recent interview with Proceso, Mexico’s Secretary of State, Marcelo Ebrard confirmed that a decision has been made to revisit all cooperation agreements with the DEA as a result of the General’s arrest. “Everything will have to change,” Ebrard said and warned that although there would be cooperation, it would be “on different terms.”


Operation Godfather

Six days after the DEA announced the results of a large, multi-agency operation targeting the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) called Project Python (which netted over 700 arrests and millions in cash, arms, and narcotics) the Mexican government requested information from the U.S. Justice Department about American drug cartels in a letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr in March.

Through the official missive, AMLO and his foreign minister asked the DoJ to provide more actionable details regarding American drug cartels. Among those mentioned in the letter to Barr are the Hells Angels, Bandidos, Gangster Disciples, and Calle 18, whose extensive links to Mexican cartels like CJNG demand that any relevant information on these organizations be shared with Mexico.

The request is based on revelations made a month before by Arizona’s DEA Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Polo Ruiz, who admitted in an interview with Proceso cited in the letter, that American drug cartels have established their own territories in the United States, and while they do work with Mexican cartels, operate independently.

The agent’s admission marks the first time an active DEA official has ever recognized the existence of these groups, spurring the Mexican government to bring it up directly in official state-to-state correspondence after the agency published a list of corporations identified in Project Python as money laundering outfits. All the companies named via Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) were Mexican and omitted any mention of American companies.

Barr’s response came about a month later in mid-April. America’s top cop assured AMLO that he had instructed representatives of the DEA in the U.S. Embassy to get together with their Mexican partners and counterparts as soon as the COVID-19 crisis permitted. As for the queries about American companies, Barr extended nothing more than hearsay from DEA agents who claimed to be working on the matter with the Mexican Treasury.

Operation “Godfather,” as the scheme to capture Cienfuegos was called, was executed without the knowledge of any of the multiple Mexican anti-narcotic agencies ostensibly working in concert with the DEA and came months after Barr’s deafening silence on the matter of shared intelligence with Mexico.

The former Mexican Secretary of National Defense is facing three counts of drug trafficking and one count of money laundering in a U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, NY. His defense attorney – also Bill Cosby’s attorney – was the lead prosecutor for the largest money laundering case in U.S. history, known as Operation Casablanca, which targeted several Mexican banks and Mexican bank officials in 1998 just before Mexico lifted a ban on foreign banks, which were expelled from the country by President Lopez Portillo more than a decade earlier – a crucial turning point that preceded the exponential growth of drug cartels in Mexico and which I covered at length in part two of my documentary series, “Borderline: The Unhinged Truth About the Drug War.”


The soft invasion

According to J. Jesús Esquivel’s article in Proceso, Mexico has 54 DEA agents operating largely at their own discretion inside Mexican national territory. Douglas Valentine, interviewed by MintPress for this report, suggests there are likely hundreds of additional undercover agents roaming the country.

Valentine unpacked the secret history of federal drug law enforcement in the United States in two recently-published books that trace the involvement of American intelligence agency, military, and federal law enforcement personnel in the facilitation of world-wide drug trafficking operations. His earlier work on the Phoenix Program established Valentine as a leading investigative journalist working to shed light on some of the darkest activities of the U.S government.

On the arrest of General Cienfuegos, Valentine asserts that “it is exactly what it looks like,” meaning that the brazen affront to Mexico’s national sovereignty was a message to its leadership discouraging any further inquiries (like the one made in the letter to Barr) seeking information about American drug cartels in order to identify the real distribution networks and the flow of illicit gains through the American and international banking system, that ultimately make the drug trade possible.

“A Mexican can’t bring drugs into the United States, say 500kg of drugs, and do anything with it,” explains Valentine. “There has to be an infrastructure and people waiting to receive it. Motorcycle gangs like the Hells Angels, Bandidos and other groups collectively referred to as the “Dixie Mafia,” mentioned in Mexico’s March request are used as “frontmen” by powerful American organized crime groups, says Valentine. But, points out that the major markets like New York, L.A., and others are controlled by the mob.

“The Hells Angels aren’t going to be able to New York City and distribute it,” says Valentine, and “to have those systems set up, you need the mafia, which has police protection, political protection”. Such are the networks that Bill Barr seems to be protecting by rebuffing Mexico’s request and pulling a mafia Don move on its southern neighbor by hanging its dirty laundry for the world to see.

“The CIA knows from its surveillance of communications and its agents inside the Mexican army who all the top people are,” and they can drag them out into the sunlight anytime they want to preserve the pretense of law enforcement, justify budget increases or send veiled warnings to other heads of states when they are asking too many questions.

The incredible reach of U.S. intelligence and agencies like the DEA, FBI, and ICE, to name just a few, into Mexico’s military and law enforcement establishment is a reality that began to take shape in the 1940s through a burgeoning relationship between Mexican law enforcement and American intelligence. These ties have grown exponentially since Reagan made the war on drugs a matter of national security and opened the door for the Defense Department to get in on the action through bi-lateral drug war treaties, like the Merida Initiative signed by George W. Bush and his then Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderón in 2008.

Similar bilateral agreements exist all across Latin America and have given the United States a privileged position within the law enforcement and military operations of many countries throughout the region. Over the course of the war on drugs, American influence over the increased militarization of police in Mexico, Colombia, and other countries have allowed them to shape security policy to a large degree.

The results for Mexico have been catastrophic. Death tolls often surpass those of the wars in the Middle East and around the world. An especially gruesome incident in 2011 expertly covered by Ginger Thompson, exposed the sheer disdain by agencies like the DEA and the FBI for the lives of innocent people, who – in this particular case – were left at the mercy of a notoriously murderous cartel leader after the drug enforcement agency’s dubious handling of sensitive intelligence.

AMLO’s promise to take a different tack on confronting the cartel problem in Mexico by reducing its dependence on state violence might be raising alarm bells in Washington, motivating actions like Operation Godfather to put the fear of god in the leadership of America’s largest trading partner.


A shot in the dark

If AMLO’s desire to reshape the bilateral relationship between the United States and Mexico is sincere, then we could be looking at a real turning point in U.S.-Mexico relations and a return to an era when Mexico’s political class regarded its ‘distant neighbor’ – to borrow a phrase – with far more suspicion.

By all appearances, Mexico’s president seems to want to help his own people, which is more than generations of Mexicans can say about most former presidents. Compared to mega grifters like ex-president, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who stole millions directly from pensioners and set the stage for the re-introduction of foreign global money-laundering outfits like HSBC into the country, AMLO is King Solomon.

Bill Barr AMLO

Barr, left, speaks with AMLO in Mexico City, Dec. 5, 2019 after Trump suggested the US would classify cartels as terrorist organizations. Photo | MPPO via AP

The Mexican president has been taking a lot of heat since taking office in 2018 from upper and middle-class sectors over what they consider his radical leftist policies. Large demonstrations have been taking place in Mexico City over the last several weeks calling for his resignation. But, the majority of Mexicans, who are not part of these economic brackets, support his presidency and appreciate his populist rhetoric.

At the very least, AMLO has stated unequivocally that the Mexican government has no plans to foot the bill for General Cienfuegos’ legal fees, which could hover between $800 and $1,000 per billable hour according to reports. The suggestion that Mexico should tap the federal budget to pay for the General’s high-priced defense team came from the opposition party (PRI) leader, who put forward a proposal to protect the Mexican armed forces from foreign law enforcement agencies.

The nature of such legislation might well be at the core of the issue surrounding the unilateral detention of a military general and goes to the heart of the transnational justice system, which the U.S. has been informally implementing through its drug war policies and which poses a fatal threat to the sovereignty and self-determination of any independent nation in Latin America and beyond.


Mexican standoff

It’s no secret that high-ranking members of the Mexican military have been vital cogs in drug trafficking operations carried out on Mexican soil. It is the only entity in the country with the capacity to move the narcotics “clandestinely from ports of entry in Mexico up to the American border,” according to Valentine. Cartel leaders often answer to one or another official at some level of the Mexican federal government, ranging from a hotshot federal police chief to the president of the Mexican republic itself.

The corruption of Mexico’s institutions is legendary among its own people, who rarely give politicians – or anyone in a position of authority –  the benefit of the doubt. Contempt of power is a cultural idiosyncrasy and no one who intends to hold any kind of office or rank in Mexico is above reproach in a country where impunity rules the day.

In the United States, however, the vast network of military, law enforcement, and intelligence operatives crawling all over the dark underbelly of the global drug trade are exempt from scrutiny. Their principal roles in the movement of illicit drugs all over the world runs contrary to the carefully-crafted do-gooder narratives churned out by Hollywood since the collapse of the American socio-political consciousness.

The corruption and impunity in America hides behind its own legal code and is jealously guarded behind a rhetorical veneer of exceptionalism that the Church committee, Vietnam, and the string of political assassinations had all but shattered in the 1960s. More recently, the seminal work of journalist Gary Webb exposed the nexus between the global drug trade and the American establishment, which has rebounded in remarkable fashion to conceal the extent of the corruption and impunity, once again.

William Barr, himself, was one of the very people directly involved in sweeping the sordid past and atrocious activities of programs like MKULTRA, COINTELPRO, and Iran-Contra under the rug. As U.S. Attorney General, he continues to do the same when uncomfortable questions arise about the role that American drug traffickers, corporations, and banks are really playing in the ostensible fight against drugs.

Feature photo | Then-Secretary of Defense Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, right, and Undersecretary Noe Sandoval Alcazar, left, gesture directions to soldiers marching past, during a review of the troops that will participate in the Independence Day parade, in Mexico City, Sept. 14, 2016. Rebecca Blackwell | AP

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

The post Mexico to Redraw Drug War Relationship with the US After Mexican General’s Arrest appeared first on MintPress News.

Media Silence Marks Ongoing OPCW Cover-Up of Syria Chemical Weapons Scandal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/11/2020 - 2:53am in

This should be a global scandal,” said journalist Aaron Maté on the suppression of evidence from experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in order to push for war in Syria. “This is the U.S. government bombing Syria based on allegations that were later found by the investigating team to be false. But then once that team came back to write their report they were pressured by the U.S. government and had their evidence censored.”

Unfortunately, it has not become a global scandal. With very few exceptions, media across the spectrum have refused to report on the fact that the respected Nobel Peace Prize-winning body appears to be suppressing its own experts’ findings on Syria to suit Washington’s agenda. There has been no mention of the continuing scandal in The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, CNBC, or MSNBC. Even alternative media like Democracy Now! Have made only fleeting reference to it. “Since that censorship there has been a complete media censorship by everybody…all the major networks. Even adversarial progressive networks,” Maté added.

Perhaps the most notable case of omission, however, was Newsweek. Journalist Tared Haddad attempted to cover the story but was continually rebuffed by higher-ups who squashed his reporting. Haddad ended up very publicly quitting, rather than allow the scandal to be brushed under the carpet.

“It is certainly not a lack of facts or evidence that is stopping mainstream media from reporting the issue,” Piers Robinson, co-director of the Organization for Propaganda Studies told MintPress, but “covering it would force mainstream media outlets to ask challenging questions of the U.S., UK, and French governments as well as the OPCW itself.” Thus, readers would be forgiven for not knowing the details of what happened.


The birth of a cover-up

In April 2018, dozens of people were found dead in a suspected chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma. The United States government and its allies immediately blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and responded with rounds of airstrikes, bombing targets around the country. Support for the action was bi-partisan and enjoyed widespread media approval. In fact, a survey by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that not one of the top 100 U.S. newspapers by circulation opposed the Trump administration’s response.

A team from the OPCW was sent to Douma to investigate the incident. Its report gave some credence to Washington’s accusations. While far from conclusive, it did suggest that it was “likely” that there was indeed some form of chemical weapons used, possibly an air attack that involved dropping chlorine canisters on the city. Although the OPCW refused to speculate on who was responsible, the suggestion of an aerial strike indicated Syrian government forces, the most equipped for such an attack, were to blame.

The report was seized upon by the Trump administration and the media (often the last time the organization has been mentioned in their pages) as justification for U.S. actions. However, its credibility was quickly undermined by the leaking of internal memos from experts on the ground who claimed that their opinions had been censored and that in their estimation, the canisters were likely placed at the site of the incident, suggesting an inside job from American-allied forces.

Senior OPCW officials reportedly ordered the removal of “all traces” of dissenting opinion from the published document, however. The organization’s first president, Brazilian diplomat Jose Bustani, expressed his grave concerns over the news, fearing the OPCW, which was founded in 1997 to represent all 193 of its member states, had become a tool of the U.S. government.

The scandal continued to grow throughout 2020 as OPCW experts came forward to give testimony as to how their findings had been completely manipulated or ignored in order to present a one-sided, incorrect view of events in order to further an agenda.

Things reached a fever pitch last month, however, when Bustani was invited to speak at the United Nations Security Council about his concerns but was blocked by the United States and its allies on the basis that he was not in a position to provide expert details about chemical weapons or the attack. “What has happened now is yet more sad proof that Western delegations fear the uncomfortable truth,” said Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia. The Russian delegation subsequently read out Bustani’s testimony. In doing so, it was accused of undermining the legitimacy of the tribunal.


An impenetrable wall of silence

Bustani claimed the truth was being deliberately “hidden behind an impenetrable wall of silence and opacity, making any meaningful dialogue impossible.”

Regardless of whether or not there is substance to the concerns raised about the OPCW’s behaviour in the Douma investigation, hearing what your own inspectors have to say would be an important first step in mending the Organisation’s damaged reputation. The dissenting inspectors are not claiming to be right, but they do want to be given a fair hearing. As one Director General to another, I respectfully request that you grant them this opportunity,” he concluded.

“The censoring of a respected former head of the OPCW is the latest in a sad string of attempts to keep the public wildly misinformed about what really took place in Douma in 2018,” Haddad told MintPress,

Although much of what took place has now been established beyond all doubt, the OPCW’s frankly childish approach to addressing this incident shows how politicized this body has become, severely undermining its impartiality and credibility going forward. These are developments that should be deeply concerning to everyone, especially given that the real perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks are now that much more likely to go unpunished.”

This is not the first time that Bustani has run afoul of the U.S. government. In 2002, he was unlawfully removed from his position as director-general of the OPCW after contradicting U.S. claims over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The Bush administration under Secretary of State John Bolton threatened to kill his family if he did not resign; “You have 24 hours to leave the organization, and if you don’t comply with this decision by Washington, we have ways to retaliate against you. We know where your kids live,” Bolton told him.

The U.S. has used the Douma attack as justification for increasing sanctions on Syria, a country where at least 83%of people live below the poverty line, according to the UN. Over 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. This summer, the World Food Program also warned of a potential widespread famine inside the country. Sanctions have made the importation of foods and medicine profoundly difficult, further immiserating a society already devastated from nine years of brutal civil war, in which virtually every world and regional power has fueled the fighting. Ultimately, it is the Syrian people who are caught in the crossfire.

“The bottom line” from this story, Robinson stated, is that, “clearly the U.S. and its allies do not want transparency and open debate about the OPCW Douma investigation, and one can only conclude that this is the case because they know full well that their claims cannot be substantiated. Smears and censorship are the only tactics they have left.”

Feature photo | Headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, in The Hague, Netherlands. Peter Dejong | AP

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 Media Silence Marks Ongoing OPCW Cover-Up of Syria Chemical Weapons Scandal appeared first on MintPress News.