Iraq

Bhaskar Sunkara on Blair’s Devastation of the Labour Party

The papers and the media have been doing everything they can to attack the left-wing candidates in Labour’s leadership contest and puff the ‘moderates’. That has meant trying to discredit Rebecca Long-Bailey, the ‘continuity Corbyn’ candidate. She was the subject of a series of smears and untruths last weekend by the Tory press, in which it was claimed that she and her husband were millionaires and so on. At the same time, the remaining liberal papers, like the I, have been promoting candidates like Lisa Nandy. I’ve just heard someone from the Labour party, speaking on a Radio 4 news programme just now, make a few scornful comments about Long-Bailey. He remarked that it was surprising that Keir Starmer and Nandy were so far ahead, considering that the Corbynites had their hands on the centres of power in the party for three years. He was particularly sneering at Long-Bailey for saying that she gave Corbyn ’10 out of 10′. Corbyn, he stated, had lost three elections. And that was the point where I decided to put fingers to keyboard to make a few comments myself, and correct this fellow’s biased and misleading remarks.

For a start, I think Corbyn did exceedingly well, at least initially. The party had lost much of its membership under Blair and Brown. Corbyn managed to turn this around, so that it became the largest socialist party in Europe. Yes, he did lose three elections. But during one of those elections, even though he lost, he won an enormous number of seats from a  low starting point, so that it marked the most gains by the party in several years. And he did this despite massive opposition. This came from the Parliamentary Labour Party, a sizable number of whom were constantly intriguing against him, threatening coups and mass departures. These were aided by the media, including the increasingly far right and wretched Beeb, which did everything it could to smear and vilify Corbyn and his supporters. And then there was the unrepresentative organisations that pass themselves off as the Jewish establishment. These, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Chief Rabbinate, Jewish Leadership Council and the Jewish press, did everything they could to smear Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites simply for making perfectly valid criticisms of Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

And from what I understand, Corbyn did not have his hands on the mechanisms of power. Or not completely. When he was first elected I was told by a friend that Corbyn had left himself in a very weak position by not purging the party bureaucracy. This was based on a piece he’d read in an online magazine. The bureaucracy were all Blairites, and had been expecting to be sacked. But Corbyn retained them, preferring instead to run his campaign from his own constituency office. If this is true, then he made a rod for his own back. It is certainly true that he had to struggle for control of the NEC and the Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, also did his best to undermine and discredit Corbyn at every opportunity. I don’t think any Labour leader could have won elections under these circumstances.

The press and the Labour centre – for whom, read ‘Thatcherite entryists’, are nostalgic for Blair, his neoliberal economic policies of privatisation, including NHS privatisation, and restructuring of the welfare state. New Labour under Blair and Brown was in power for 13 years, from 1997 to 2010. This was because they had the support of the mass media and big business, whom they rewarded with government posts. But their leadership decimated the party itself, and ultimately helped to discredit them.

Bhaskar Sunkara describes how Blair and Brown managed to reduce the party to half its former size in his book The Socialist Manifesto. He writes

The Japanese have a word for looking worse after a haircut: age-otori. Its synonym in English should be Blairism. Despite initial electoral success and some attempts on the margins to solve social issues such as child poverty, Blair and Brown pursued policies that undermined their own social base. When Blair became prime minister in 1997, Labour had four hundred thousand party members. By 2004, it had half that. That year Labour lost 464 seats in local elections. With anger over the party’s privatisation agenda and oversight of the financial crisis, as well as its support for the disastrous Iraq War, Labour was out of power and completely discredited by 2010. (p.209).

Part of the reason Labour lost the north was because, under Blair and Brown, the party ignored its working class base in order to concentrate on winning swing voters and appealing to the middle class. The working class were expected to carry on supporting the party because there was nowhere else for them to go. But that base showed its dissatisfaction by voting for Brexit, and then backing Johnson because he boasted that he was going to ‘get Brexit done’. But Corbyn’s left-wing followers and successors realise this, and are determined to start representing and campaigning for the working class again.

The Blairites, the media and the industry want the Labour party back to where it was – numerically small, and supporting big business and the rich against the working class, the NHS and the welfare state. This is the reason they’re attacking Long-Bailey and the other left-wing candidates, and praising and promoting moderates like Starmer and Nandy. But Blair’s success was only possible because the Tories were even more discredited than he was. And there was no need for his Thatcherite policies. They weren’t particular popular with the electorate at large, and with the massive majority that he won in the year, he could have started putting back real socialism instead. But that would have alienated the Tory voters he was determined to win over, Murdoch and the Tory press, and his backers in business.

Corbyn was defeated, but I don’t believe for a single minute that his policies have been discredited. Rather I think it’s the opposite: Blairism has. And while the Tories now have a massive majority, their policies are destroying the country and its people.

Only a return to traditional, old Labour values and policies will restore it.

How a Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives in Iraq

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/01/2020 - 3:45am in

Since the U.S. killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month, the official narrative has held that their deaths were necessary to prevent a vague, yet allegedly imminent, threat of violence towards Americans, though President Trump has since claimed whether or not Soleimani or his Iraqi allies posed an imminent threat “doesn’t really matter.”

While the situation between Iran, Iraq and the U.S. appears to have de-escalated substantially, at least for now, it is worth revisiting the lead-up to the recent U.S.-Iraq/Iran tensions up to the Trump-mandated killing of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in order to understand one of the most overlooked yet relevant drivers behind Trump’s current policy with respect to Iraq: preventing China from expanding its foothold in the Middle East. Indeed, it has been alleged that even the timing of Soleimani’s assassination was directly related to his diplomatic role in Iraq and his push to help Iraq secure its oil independence, beginning with the implementation of a new massive oil deal with China.

While recent rhetoric in the media has dwelled on the extent of Iran’s influence in Iraq, China’s recent dealings with Iraq — particularly in its oil sector — are to blame for much of what has transpired in Iraq in recent months, at least according to Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who is currently serving in a caretaker role. 

Much of the U.S. pressure exerted on Iraq’s government with respect to China has reportedly taken place covertly and behind closed doors, keeping the Trump administration’s concerns over China’s growing ties to Iraq largely out of public view, perhaps over concerns that a public scuffle could exacerbate the U.S.-China “trade war” and endanger efforts to resolve it. Yet, whatever the reasons may be, evidence strongly suggests that the U.S. is equally concerned about China’s presence in Iraq as it is with Iran’s. This is because China has the means and the ability to dramatically undermine not only the U.S.’ control over Iraq’s oil sector but the entire petrodollar system on which the U.S.’ status as both a financial and military superpower directly depends.

 

Behind the curtain, a different narrative for Iraq-US Tensions

Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi gave a series of remarks on January 5, during a parliamentary session that received surprisingly little media attention. During the session, which also saw Iraq’s Parliament approve the removal of all foreign (including American) troops from the country, Abdul-Mahdi made a series of claims about the lead-up to the recent situation that placed Iraq at the heart of spiking U.S.-Iran tensions. 

During that session, only part of Abdul-Mahdi’s statements were broadcast on television, after the Iraqi Speaker of the House — Mohammed Al-Halbousi, who has a close relationship with Washington — requested the video feed be cut. Al-Halbousi oddly attended the parliamentary session even though it was boycotted by his allied Sunni and Kurdish representatives.

Mike Pompeo Halbousi

Secretary of State Pompeo, left, walks alongside Al-Halbousi in Baghdad, Iraq on Jan. 9, 2019. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | Reuters

After the feed was cut, MPs who were present wrote down Abdul-Mahdi’s remarks, which were then given to the Arabic news outlet Ida’at. Per that transcript, Abdul-Mahdi stated that:

The Americans are the ones who destroyed the country and wreaked havoc on it. They have refused to finish building the electrical system and infrastructure projects. They have bargained for the reconstruction of Iraq in exchange for Iraq giving up 50% of oil imports. So, I refused and decided to go to China and concluded an important and strategic agreement with it. Today, Trump is trying to cancel this important agreement.”

Abdul-Mahdi continued his remarks, noting that pressure from the Trump administration over his negotiations and subsequent dealings with China grew substantially over time, even resulting in death threats to himself and his defense minister:

After my return from China, Trump called me and asked me to cancel the agreement, so I also refused, and he threatened [that there would be] massive demonstrations to topple me. Indeed, the demonstrations started and then Trump called, threatening to escalate in the event of non-cooperation and responding to his wishes, whereby a third party [presumed to be mercenaries or U.S. soldiers] would target both the demonstrators and security forces and kill them from atop the highest buildings and the US embassy in an attempt to pressure me and submit to his wishes and cancel the China agreement.” 

“I did not respond and submitted my resignation and the Americans still insist to this day on canceling the China agreement. When the defense minister said that those killing the demonstrators was a third party, Trump called me immediately and physically threatened myself and the defense minister in the event that there was more talk about this third party.”

Very few English language outlets reported on Abdul-Mahdi’s comments. Tom Luongo, a Florida-based Independent Analyst and publisher of The Gold Goats ‘n Guns Newsletter, told MintPress that the likely reasons for the “surprising” media silence over Abdul-Mahdi’s claims were because “It never really made it out into official channels…” due to the cutting of the video feed during Iraq’s Parliamentary session and due to the fact that “it’s very inconvenient and the media — since Trump is doing what they want him to do, be belligerent with Iran, protected Israel’s interests there.” 

“They aren’t going to contradict him on that if he’s playing ball,” Luongo added, before continuing that the media would nonetheless “hold onto it for future reference….If this comes out for real, they’ll use it against him later if he tries to leave Iraq.” “Everything in Washington is used as leverage,” he added.

Given the lack of media coverage and the cutting of the video feed of Abdul-Mahdi’s full remarks, it is worth pointing out that the narrative he laid out in his censored speech not only fits with the timeline of recent events he discusses but also the tactics known to have been employed behind closed doors by the Trump administration, particularly after Mike Pompeo left the CIA to become Secretary of State.

For instance, Abdul-Mahdi’s delegation to China ended on September 24, with the protests against his government that Trump reportedly threatened to start on October 1. Reports of a “third side” firing on Iraqi protesters were picked up by major media outlets at the time, such as in this BBC report which stated:

Reports say the security forces opened fire, but another account says unknown gunmen were responsible….a source in Karbala told the BBC that one of the dead was a guard at a nearby Shia shrine who happened to be passing by. The source also said the origin of the gunfire was unknown and it had targeted both the protesters and security forces. (emphasis added)”

U.S.-backed protests in other countries, such as in Ukraine in 2014, also saw evidence of a “third side” shooting both protesters and security forces alike.

After six weeks of intense protests, Abdul-Mahdi submitted his resignation on November 29, just a few days after Iraq’s Foreign Minister praised the new deals, including the “oil for reconstruction” deal, that had been signed with China. Abdul-Mahdi has since stayed on as Prime Minister in a caretaker role until Parliament decides on his replacement.

Abdul-Mahdi’s claims of the covert pressure by the Trump administration are buttressed by the use of similar tactics against Ecuador, where, in July 2018, a U.S. delegation at the United Nations threatened the nation with punitive trade measures and the withdrawal of military aid if Ecuador moved forward with the introduction of  a UN resolution to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding.” 

The New York Times reported at the time that the U.S. delegation was seeking to promote the interests of infant formula manufacturers. If the U.S. delegation is willing to use such pressure on nations for promoting breastfeeding over infant formula, it goes without saying that such behind-closed-doors pressure would be significantly more intense if a much more lucrative resource, e.g. oil, were involved.

Regarding Abdul-Mahdi’s claims, Luongo told MintPress that it is also worth considering that it could have been anyone in the Trump administration making threats to Abdul-Mahdi, not necessarily Trump himself. “What I won’t say directly is that I don’t know it was Trump at the other end of the phone calls. Mahdi, it is to his best advantage politically to blame everything on Trump. It could have been Mike Pompeo or Gina Haspel talking to Abdul-Mahdi… It could have been anyone, it most likely would be someone with plausible deniability….This [Mahdi’s claims] sounds credible… I firmly believe Trump is capable of making these threats but I don’t think Trump would make those threats directly like that, but it would absolutely be consistent with U.S. policy.”

Luongo also argued that the current tensions between U.S. and Iraqi leadership preceded the oil deal between Iraq and China by several weeks, “All of this starts with Prime Minister Mahdi starting the process of opening up the Iraq-Syria border crossing and that was announced in August. Then, the Israeli air attacks happened in September to try and stop that from happening, attacks on PMU forces on the border crossing along with the ammo dump attacks near Baghdad… This drew the Iraqis’ ire… Mahdi then tried to close the air space over Iraq, but how much of that he can enforce is a big question.”

As to why it would be to Mahdi’s advantage to blame Trump, Luongo stated that Mahdi “can make edicts all day long, but, in reality, how much can he actually restrain the U.S. or the Israelis from doing anything? Except for shame, diplomatic shame… To me, it [Mahdi’s claims] seems perfectly credible because, during all of this, Trump is probably or someone else is shaking him [Mahdi] down for the reconstruction of the oil fields [in Iraq]…Trump has explicitly stated “we want the oil.”’

As Luongo noted, Trump’s interest in the U.S. obtaining a significant share of Iraqi oil revenue is hardly a secret. Just last March, Trump asked Abdul-Mahdi “How about the oil?” at the end of a meeting at the White House, prompting Abdul-Mahdi to ask “What do you mean?” To which Trump responded “Well, we did a lot, we did a lot over there, we spent trillions over there, and a lot of people have been talking about the oil,” which was widely interpreted as Trump asking for part of Iraq’s oil revenue in exchange for the steep costs of the U.S.’ continuing its now unwelcome military presence in Iraq. 

With Abdul-Mahdi having rejected Trump’s “oil for reconstruction” proposal in favor of China’s, it seems likely that the Trump administration would default to so-called “gangster diplomacy” tactics to pressure Iraq’s government into accepting Trump’s deal, especially given the fact that China’s deal was a much better offer. While Trump demanded half of Iraq’s oil revenue in exchange for completing reconstruction projects (according to Abdul-Mahdi), the deal that was signed between Iraq and China would see around 20 percent of Iraq’s oil revenue go to China in exchange for reconstruction. Aside from the potential loss in Iraq’s oil revenue, there are many reasons for the Trump administration to feel threatened by China’s recent dealings in Iraq.

 

The Iraq-China oil deal – a prelude to something more?

When Abdul-Mahdi’s delegation traveled to Beijing last September, the “oil for reconstruction” deal was only one of eight total agreements that were established. These agreements cover a range of areas, including financial, commercial, security, reconstruction, communication, culture, education and foreign affairs in addition to oil. Yet, the oil deal is by far the most significant.

Per the agreement, Chinese firms will work on various reconstruction projects in exchange for roughly 20 percent of Iraq’s oil exports, approximately 100,00 barrels per day, for a period of 20 years. According to Al-Monitor, Abdul-Mahdi had the following to say about the deal: “We agreed [with Beijing] to set up a joint investment fund, which the oil money will finance,” adding that the agreement prohibits China from monopolizing projects inside Iraq, forcing Bejing to work in cooperation with international firms. 

The agreement is similar to one negotiated between Iraq and China in 2015 when Abdul-Mahdi was serving as Iraq’s oil minister. That year, Iraq joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in a deal that also involved exchanging oil for investment, development and construction projects and saw China awarded several projects as a result. In a notable similarity to recent events, that deal was put on hold due to “political and security tensions” caused by unrest and the surge of ISIS in Iraq, that is until Abdul-Mahdi saw Iraq rejoin the initiative again late last year through the agreements his government signed with China last September.


Chinese President Xi Jinping, center left, meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, center right, in Beijing, Sept. 23, 2019. Lintao Zhang | AP

Notably, after recent tensions between the U.S. and Iraq over the assassination of Soleimani and the U.S.’ subsequent refusal to remove its troops from Iraq despite parliament’s demands, Iraq quietly announced that it would dramatically increase its oil exports to China to triple the amount established in the deal signed in September. Given Abdul-Mahdi’s recent claims about the true forces behind Iraq’s recent protests and Trump’s threats against him being directly related to his dealings with China, the move appears to be a not-so-veiled signal from Abdul-Mahdi to Washington that he plans to deepen Iraq’s partnership with China, at least for as long as he remains in his caretaker role.

Iraq’s decision to dramatically increase its oil exports to China came just one day after the U.S. government threatened to cut off Iraq’s access to its central bank account, currently held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, an account that currently holds $35 billion in Iraqi oil revenue. The account was set up after the U.S. invaded and began occupying Iraq in 2003 and Iraq currently removes between $1-2 billion per month to cover essential government expenses. Losing access to its oil revenue stored in that account would lead to the “collapse” of Iraq’s government, according to Iraqi government officials who spoke to AFP.

Though Trump publicly promised to rebuke Iraq for the expulsion of U.S. troops via sanctions, the threat to cut off Iraq’s access to its account at the NY Federal Reserve Bank was delivered privately and directly to the Prime Minister, adding further credibility to Abdul-Mahdi’s claims that Trump’s most aggressive attempts at pressuring Iraq’s government are made in private and directed towards the country’s Prime Minister.

Though Trump’s push this time was about preventing the expulsion of U.S. troops from Iraq, his reasons for doing so may also be related to concerns about China’s growing foothold in the region. Indeed, while Trump has now lost his desired share of Iraqi oil revenue (50 percent) to China’s counteroffer of 20 percent, the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq may see American troops replaced with their Chinese counterparts as well, according to Tom Luongo.

“All of this is about the U.S. maintaining the fiction that it needs to stay in Iraq…So, China moving in there is the moment where they get their toe hold for the Belt and Road [Initiative],” Luongo argued. “That helps to strengthen the economic relationship between Iraq, Iran and China and obviating the need for the Americans to stay there. At some point, China will have assets on the ground that they are going to want to defend militarily in the event of any major crisis. This brings us to the next thing we know, that Mahdi and the Chinese ambassador discussed that very thing in the wake of the Soleimani killing.” 

Indeed, according to news reports, Zhang Yao — China’s ambassador to Iraq — “conveyed Beijing’s readiness to provide military assistance” should Iraq’s government request it soon after Soleimani’s assassination. Yao made the offer a day after Iraq’s parliament voted to expel American troops from the country. Though it is currently unknown how Abdul-Mahdi responded to the offer, the timing likely caused no shortage of concern among the Trump administration about its rapidly waning influence in Iraq. “You can see what’s coming here,” Luongo told MintPress of the recent Chinese offer to Iraq, “China, Russia and Iran are trying to cleave Iraq away from the United States and the U.S. is feeling very threatened by this.” 

Russia is also playing a role in the current scenario as Iraq initiated talks with Moscow regarding the possible purchase of one of its air defense systems last September, the same month that Iraq signed eight deals, including the oil deal with China. Then, in the wake of Soleimani’s death, Russia again offered the air defense systems to Iraq to allow them to better defend their air space. In the past, the U.S. has threatened allied countries with sanctions and other measures if they purchase Russian air defense systems as opposed to those manufactured by U.S. companies.

The U.S.’ efforts to curb China’s growing influence and presence in Iraq amid these new strategic partnerships and agreements are limited, however, as the U.S. is increasingly relying on China as part of its Iran policy, specifically in its goal of reducing Iranian oil export to zero. China remains Iran’s main crude oil and condensate importer, even after it reduced its imports of Iranian oil significantly following U.S. pressure last year. Yet, the U.S. is now attempting to pressure China to stop buying Iranian oil completely or face sanctions while also attempting to privately sabotage the China-Iraq oil deal. It is highly unlikely China will concede to the U.S. on both, if any, of those fronts, meaning the U.S. may be forced to choose which policy front (Iran “containment” vs. Iraq’s oil dealings with China) it values more in the coming weeks and months.

Furthermore, the recent signing of the “phase one” trade deal with China revealed another potential facet of the U.S.’ increasingly complicated relationship with Iraq’s oil sector given that the trade deal involves selling U.S. oil and gas to China at very low cost, suggesting that the Trump administration may also see the Iraq-China oil deal result in Iraq emerging as a potential competitor for the U.S. in selling cheap oil to China, the world’s top oil importer.

 

The Petrodollar and the Phantom of the Petroyuan

In his televised statements last week following Iran’s military response to the U.S. assassination of General Soleimani, Trump insisted that the U.S.’ Middle East policy is no longer being directed by America’s vast oil requirements. He stated specifically that:

Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence. These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities. These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible. And options in the Middle East became available. We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil. (emphasis added)”

Yet, given the centrality of the recent Iraq-China oil deal in guiding some of the Trump administration’s recent Middle East policy moves, this appears not to be the case. The distinction may lie in the fact that, while the U.S. may now be less dependent on oil imports from the Middle East, it still very much needs to continue to dominate how oil is traded and sold on international markets in order to maintain its status as both a global military and financial superpower.

Indeed, even if the U.S. is importing less Middle Eastern oil, the petrodollar system — first forged in the 1970s — requires that the U.S. maintains enough control over the global oil trade so that the world’s largest oil exporters, Iraq among them, continue to sell their oil in dollars. Were Iraq to sell oil in another currency, or trade oil for services, as it plans to do with China per the recently inked deal, a significant portion of Iraqi oil would cease to generate a demand for dollars, violating the key tenet of the petrodollar system.

US China Iraq oil

Chinese representatives speak to defense personnel during a weapons expo organized by the Iraqi defense ministry in Baghdad, March, 2017. Karim Kadim | AP

As Kei Pritsker and Cale Holmes noted in an article last year for MintPress

The takeaway from the petrodollar phenomenon is that as long as countries need oil, they will need the dollar. As long as countries demand dollars, the U.S. can continue to go into massive amounts of debt to fund its network of global military bases, Wall Street bailouts, nuclear missiles, and tax cuts for the rich.”

Thus, the use of the petrodollar has created a system whereby U.S. control of oil sales of the largest oil exporters is necessary, not just to buttress the dollar, but also to support its global military presence. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the issue of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq and the issue of Iraq’s push for oil independence against U.S. wishes have become intertwined. Notably, one of the architects of the petrodollar system and the man who infamously described U.S. soldiers as “dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy”, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, has been advising Trump and informing his China policy since 2016.

This take was also expressed by economist Michael Hudson, who recently noted that U.S. access to oil, dollarization and U.S. military strategy are intricately interwoven and that Trump’s recent Iraq policy is intended “to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control of the region’s oil reserves,” and, as Hudson says, “to back Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi troops (ISIS, Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Nusra and other divisions of what are actually America’s foreign legion) to support U.S. control of Near Eastern oil as a buttress of the U.S. dollar.”

Hudson further asserts that it was Qassem Soleimani’s efforts to promote Iraq’s oil independence at the expense of U.S. imperial ambitions that served one of the key motives behind his assassination. 

America opposed General Suleimani above all because he was fighting against ISIS and other U.S.-backed terrorists in their attempt to break up Syria and replace Assad’s regime with a set of U.S.-compliant local leaders – the old British “divide and conquer” ploy. On occasion, Suleimani had cooperated with U.S. troops in fighting ISIS groups that got “out of line” meaning the U.S. party line. But every indication is that he was in Iraq to work with that government seeking to regain control of the oil fields that President Trump has bragged so loudly about grabbing. (emphasis added)”

Hudson adds that “…U.S. neocons feared Suleimani’s plan to help Iraq assert control of its oil and withstand the terrorist attacks supported by U.S. and Saudi’s on Iraq. That is what made his assassination an immediate drive.”

While other factors — such as pressure from U.S. allies such as Israel — also played a factor in the decision to kill Soleimani, the decision to assassinate him on Iraqi soil just hours before he was set to meet with Abdul-Mahdi in a diplomatic role suggests that the underlying tensions caused by Iraq’s push for oil independence and its oil deal with China did play a factor in the timing of his assassination. It also served as a threat to Abdul-Mahdi, who has claimed that the U.S. threatened to kill both him and his defense minister just weeks prior over tensions directly related to the push for independence of Iraq’s oil sector from the U.S. 

It appears that the ever-present role of the petrodollar in guiding U.S. policy in the Middle East remains unchanged. The petrodollar has long been a driving factor behind the U.S.’ policy towards Iraq specifically, as one of the key triggers for the 2003 invasion of Iraq was Saddam Hussein’s decision to sell Iraqi oil in Euros opposed to dollars beginning in the year 2000. Just weeks before the invasion began, Hussein boasted that Iraq’s Euro-based oil revenue account was earning a higher interest rate than it would have been if it had continued to sell its oil in dollars, an apparent signal to other oil exporters that the petrodollar system was only really benefiting the United States at their own expense.

Beyond current efforts to stave off Iraq’s oil independence and keep its oil trade aligned with the U.S., the fact that the U.S. is now seeking to limit China’s ever-growing role in Iraq’s oil sector is also directly related to China’s publicly known efforts to create its own direct competitor to the petrodollar, the petroyuan.

Since 2017, China has made its plans for the petroyuan — a direct competitor to the petrodollar — no secret, particularly after China eclipsed the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of oil. As CNBC noted at the time:

The new strategy is to enlist the energy markets’ help: Beijing may introduce a new way to price oil in coming months — but unlike the contracts based on the U.S. dollar that currently dominate global markets, this benchmark would use China’s own currency. If there’s widespread adoption, as the Chinese hope, then that will mark a step toward challenging the greenback’s status as the world’s most powerful currency….The plan is to price oil in yuan using a gold-backed futures contract in Shanghai, but the road will be long and arduous.”

If the U.S. continues on its current path and pushes Iraq further into the arms of China and other U.S. rival states, it goes without saying that Iraq — now a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative — may soon favor a petroyuan system over a petrodollar system, particularly as the current U.S. administration threatens to hold Iraq’s central bank account hostage for pursuing policies Washington finds unfavorable.

It could also explain why President Trump is so concerned about China’s growing foothold in Iraq, since it risks causing not only the end of the U.S. military hegemony in the country but could also lead to major trouble for the petrodollar system and the U.S.’ position as a global financial power. Trump’s policy aimed at stopping China and Iraq’s growing ties is clearly having the opposite effect, showing that this administration’s “gangster diplomacy” only serves to make the alternatives offered by countries like China and Russia all the more attractive.

Feature photo | Graphic by Claudio Cabrera for MintPress News

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

The post How a Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives in Iraq appeared first on MintPress News.

World War III

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 2:00am in

CJ Hopkins So, 2020 is off to an exciting start. It’s barely the middle of January, and we’ve already made it through World War III, which was slightly less apocalyptic than expected. Forensic teams are still sifting through the ashes, but preliminary reports suggest that the global capitalist empire has emerged from the carnage largely …

Is the US Now at War Against Iraq AND Iran?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 12/01/2020 - 3:00pm in

Eric Zuesse On January 9th, Iraq’s Prime Minister and Parliament again ordered all American troops out, but on January 10th the AP headlined “US dismisses Iraq request to work on a troop withdrawal plan” and reported that the U.S. State Department “bluntly rejected the request, saying the two sides should instead talk about how to …

Iraqis to the United States: What Part of “Go Home” Don’t You Understand?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/01/2020 - 1:02am in

Iranian forces launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against two military bases housing US troops in Iraq early hours of Wednesday morning. The al-Assad airbase in western Iraq was hit by 17 missiles, and 5 targeted at a base in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.  No US casualties were immediately reported.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the attack a “slap in the face” of the US, and observers seem to question whether the attack was designed to kill or inflict casualties, or was it carefully orchestrated to produce closure to a situation which could have escalated into a regional or perhaps world war. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said he was informed of the attack by Iran ahead of time, which acted as a safety valve after he, in turn, informed US commanders.

Iraqi militias may now begin attacks of revenge for the US assassination of the Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who died alongside Soleimani in the drone strike on Friday.  Iraqi militia leader Qais al-Khazali said today his group’s retaliation should be “no less than the size of the Iranian response.”

Al-Muhandis was the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an Iraqi militia group that is an official component of the Iraqi armed forces.  Previously, the US had attacked Iraqi PMF troops in Qaim and killed 24 Iraqi soldiers and wounded dozens more.  The Iraqi military, militias, and government consider the recent US attacks on Iraqi troops and leaders on Iraqi soil as an act of aggression and more than enough reason to request the US military leave Iraq.

U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper, said Monday the United States “has made no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” seemingly oblivious to the fact the Iraqi parliament voted on Sunday to oust 5,200 US troops. Esper has repeatedly reaffirmed that the U.S. was not pulling troops out of Iraq.

The US has around 5,000 troops deployed in Iraq, with plans to send in another 3,800 American paratroopers, and an additional 4,000 troops that may be sent. US forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011, but returned in 2014 at the invitation of the Iraqi government to fight ISIS; however, that fight is over, and Trump angered the Iraqi government when he said the only reason he was leaving troops in Iraq was to watch Iran. There were anti-US sentiments brewing in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, which perceived the US military to be an occupation force, and unwelcomed, but after the Trump statement about his main mission in Iraq, the calls for “Yankee Go Home” grew louder and included groups who had not previously called for the ouster. The US military has admitted they have sidelined work against ISIS to focus on self-protection of troops.

United States Iraq

Iraqis gather during a funeral procession for Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi Popular Mobilization Front commander in Basra, Iraq, Jan. 7, 2020. Photo | AP

PM Abdul-Mahdi asked parliament on Sunday to take “urgent measures” to ensure the removal of foreign forces from the country, and on Monday, PM Abdul-Mahdi met with US Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller and stressed the need for the two countries “to work together to execute the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” and added the situation in Iraq was “critical.” American troops in Iraq are in the country based on a request by the then prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, in 2014. That request can be revoked by parliament, and indeed, a recent parliamentary resolution to that effect passed 173 to 0, although 156 MPs boycotted it, but clearly, it passed by a majority and united some factions previously at odds. Sajad Jiyad, managing director of Bayan Center, an Iraqi think tank said, “Even people nominally pro-U.S., anti-Iran or neutral are not happy with what the US has done, and believe it’s a dangerous escalation,” and added, “The common denominator is this was an infringement on sovereignty.”

On Monday, PM Abdul-Mahdi received a letter from Marine Brig. Gen. William Seely III, commander of ‘Task Force Iraq’, declaring the US intention to withdraw, and with specific details about the exit. The letter was sent twice, and the copy that Abdul-Mahdi has in his possession is signed, and he added,  “It’s not like a draft, or a paper that fell out of the photocopier and coincidentally came to us.” Strangely, Trump said he thought the letter was a ‘hoax’, and his officials Esper and Pompeo denied any letter of the kind was signed, or official. Abdul-Mahdi took to the Iraqi TV to broadcast his exasperation with conflicting U.S. signals, and said: “We have no exit but this, otherwise we are speeding toward confrontation.”

The stated long-term goal of Iran’s reprisals is to remove US troops from the region. Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said “This region won’t accept the US presence. Governments elected by nations won’t accept the presence of the US.” Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, early Wednesday warned that the US forces would be removed from the Middle East, saying: “You cut off Soleimani’s hand from his body, your feet will be cut off from the region.”

Poland evacuated its ambassador in Iraq, and the Philippine government has ordered the mandatory evacuation of Filipino workers from Iraq. Germany has announced they will withdraw troops from Iraq, as well as Spain, Croatia, and Romania. France says they are staying. There are about 2,900 European troops in Iraq.  Trump has asked NATO to send more troops to Iraq; however, NATO troops are leaving Iraq.

Trump’s 2016 campaign promise was an “America First” policy, and he promised to reduce US involvement in foreign wars. However, his decision to bomb Iraqi militias and assassinate Iran’s commander Soleimani in a drone strike caught Middle Eastern and European allies unaware and confused. Since then, the US has given off conflicting signals on its intentions to exit Iraq even while it deploys more troops immediately for protection.

The US media uses the phrase ‘Shia militias backed by Iran’ to identify the PMF; however, this is misleading and verges on propaganda.  The PMF is an Iraqi militia and part of the Iraqi armed forces. The fact they are mainly comprised of Shias should not be a surprise, given the fact that Iraq is overwhelmingly populated by Shias. Iran is a neighboring country and is also mainly Shia.  Iran supports Iraq, their armed forces, and their militias. Iran supports a ‘resistance’ philosophy: that is resistance to the occupation of Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Iran is inside Iraq at the official request of the Iraqi government. The fundamental division between the US and Iran is this ‘resistance’ philosophy, which has become ingrained in the mentality of the majority of residents in the Levant, but which the US fails to recognize or understand.  Iraq also has Sunni militias, and they are Al Qaeda and ISIS, while Iran, Iraq, and Syria are all fighting those terrorists.

Feature photo | Mourners step on US flags with pictures of President Trump while waiting for the funeral of Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 4, 2020. Nasser Nasser | AP

Steven Sahouni is an independent Syrian political analyst and writer based in Lebanon; he has been covering the Syrian crisis since it’s onset in 2011 and has published several articles in numerous media outlets – He is regularly interviewed by US, Canadian and German media.

This article was published with special permission from the author. It originally appeared at Mideast Discourse.

The post Iraqis to the United States: What Part of “Go Home” Don’t You Understand? appeared first on MintPress News.

Boris – Trump’s Gauleiter of Britain

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 05/01/2020 - 4:18am in

A gauleiter was the Nazi officer in charge of a gau, an administrative district of the Third Reich. After the Italian Fascists’ military incompetence was revealed, and the Nazis had to intervene on their behalf in countries like Greece, they started to refer to Mussolini sneeringly as the ‘gauleiter of Italy.’ For all the Duce’s pretensions to military power and seniority in the relationship between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, Hitler stopped telling him his war plans after the invasion of Belgium. This was for the simple reason that after he found out about the planned invasion, the Duce told the Belgians. When Hitler asked him why he had betrayed his plans, Musso simply responded that he wanted them to put up a better fight.

Something similar is, I feel, happening in the relationship between Trump’s USA and Bozo, our clown prime minister. Oh, the Americans have been the dominant partner in the Special Relationship ever since the attempt to retake Suez from Nasser in the ’50s collapsed because the US wouldn’t back it. But a few days ago Trump showed how much he trusted or felt he needed to rely on support from his European allies, including Bozo. He had the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, whacked out by drone without telling us or anyone else. American soldiers are, however, being rushed to Iraq. At the moment Britain and the other Europeans are urging a de-escalation of the situation, which the Iranians have, not unreasonably, described as an act of war. But you can bet that if conflict does break out – and may God help us all if it does – Trump will almost certainly demand the rest of Europe to get in line, and strong arm Britain to do so. Not that I don’t believe Bozo would be only too willing.

Critics of Bozo’s wretched Brexit deal with Trump have pointed out that it could potentially give the Americans ownership of large sections of the British economy and industry. Cheap American imports threaten British manufacturing, specifically the motor industry, and agriculture. But that’s the deal Boris wants.

It could wreck our economy, and make us economically dependent on the US. Just as Trump would demand our military support for his unilateral military adventures.

Just as Hitler eventually reduced Mussolini to puppet dictator of an Italy heavily reliant and dominated by Nazi Germany.

 

Privatisations Not Nearly as Popular as Maggie and the Tories Claim

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 04/01/2020 - 2:27am in

I found this extremely interesting snippet in Oliver Huitson’s chapter on the way the media, including the Beeb, promoted the Tory privatisation of the NHS in Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis’ NHS – SOS. Huitson states that despite the massive media bias and their highly distorted reporting, there was a sizable chunk of the British public that fully understood the issues involved and did not like it one little bit. He goes on to write that trust in politicians is at an all time low – 19 per cent of people trust them, just two per cent above journos at 17 per cent (p. 171). And then there’s this passage in which he explains that privatisation wasn’t as nearly as popular as Thatcher and her poodle press claimed:

It should also be remembered that the public have now had thirty years’ experience of the privatisation of state assets and services, as well as the rhetoric that accompanies such moves, and they are increasingly cynical about the purported aims and efficacy of such ‘reforms’. Margaret Thatcher spent millions of pounds marketing her privatisations to the public, yet polling revealed that support for this policy never rose above 50 per cent. In the wake of the Iraq War, the expenses revelations, the financial crash and the phone-hacking scandal, public trust in the political class as a whole, including in the national media, is extremely low. (p. 172).

For the past forty years we’ve had it rammed down our throats that privatisation was not only necessary, it was massively popular. Everyone was right behind Maggie and Major on the issue, and if you weren’t, you were an evil Commie. But like neoliberalism and austerity generally, it’s a massive lie.

No wonder the Tory media are now screaming that Labour lost because Corbyn was ‘too far’ left, and only a return to Blairism will make the party popular.

A New Year and a New Trump Foreign Policy Blunder in Iraq

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/01/2020 - 2:55am in

It’s a new year, and the U.S. has found a new enemy—an Iraqi militia called Kata’ib Hezbollah. How tragically predictable was that? So who or what is Kata’ib Hezbollah? Why are U.S. forces attacking it? And where will this lead? 

Kata’ib Hezbollah is one of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) that were recruited to fight the Islamic State after the Iraqi armed forces collapsed and Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, fell to IS in June 2014. The first six PMUs were formed by five Shia militias that all received support from Iran, plus Muqtada al-Sadr’s Iraqi nationalist Peace Company, the reincarnation of his anti-occupation Mahdi Army militia, which he had previously disarmed in 2008 under an agreement with the Iraqi government.

Kata’ib Hezbollah was one of those five original Shia militias and it existed long before the fight against IS. It was a small Shia group founded before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and was part of the Iraqi Resistance throughout the U.S. occupation. In 2011, it reportedly had 1,000 fighters, who were paid $300 to $500 per month, probably funded mainly by Iran. It fought fiercely until the last U.S. occupation forces were withdrawn in December 2011, and claimed responsibility for a rocket attack that killed five U.S. soldiers in Baghdad in June, 2011. Since forming a PMU in 2014, its leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, has been the overall military commander of the PMUs, reporting directly to the National Security Adviser in the Prime Minister’s office.

In the fight against IS, the PMUs proliferated quickly. Most political parties in Iraq responded to a fatwa by Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani to form and join these units by forming their own. At the peak of the war with IS, the PMUs comprised about 60 brigades with hundreds of thousands of Shia fighters and even included up to 40,000 Sunni Iraqis

In the context of the war against the Islamic State, the U.S. and Iran have both provided a great deal of military support to the PMU and other Iraqi forces, and the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga has also received support from Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif in New York in September 2014 to discuss the crisis, and U.S. Ambassador Stuart Jones said in December 2014:

Let’s face it, Iran is an important neighbor to Iraq. There has to be cooperation between Iran and Iraq. The Iranians are talking to the Iraqi security forces and we’re talking to Iraqi security forces… We’re relying on them to do the deconfliction.”

U.S. officials and corporate media are falsely painting Kata’ib Hezbollah and the PMUs as independent, renegade Iranian-backed militias in Iraq but in reality, they are an official part of the Iraq security forces. As a statement from the Iraqi prime minister’s office made clear, the U.S. airstrikes were an “American attack on the Iraqi armed forces.”  And these were not just any Iraqi military forces, but forces that have borne the brunt of some of the fiercest fighting against the Islamic State. 

Open hostility between U.S. forces and Kata’ib Hezbollah began six months ago when the U.S. allowed Israel to use U.S. bases in Iraq and/or Syria to launch drone strikes against Kata’ib Hezbollah and other PMU forces in Iraq. There are conflicting reports on exactly where the Israeli drones were launched from, but the U.S. had effective control of Iraqi airspace and was clearly complicit in the strikes. This led to a campaign by Shia cleric/politician Muqtada al-Sadr and other anti-occupation parties and politicians in the Iraqi National Assembly to once again call for the expulsion of U.S. forces from Iraq, as they successfully did in 2011, and the U.S. was forced to accept new restrictions on its use of Iraqi airspace.

Then, at the end of October, U.S. bases and the Green Zone in Baghdad came under a new wave of rocket and mortar attacks. While previous attacks were blamed on the Islamic State, the U.S. blamed the new round of attacks on Kata’ib Hezbollah. After a sharp increase in rocket attacks on U.S. bases in December, including one that killed a U.S. military contractor on December 27, the Trump administration launched airstrikes on December 29 that killed 25 members of Kata’ib Hezbollah and wounded 55. Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi called the strikes a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and declared three national days of mourning for the Iraqi troops that U.S. forces killed. 

The U.S. attacks also led to massive protests that besieged the U.S. Embassy and former U.S. occupation headquarters in the Green Zone in Baghdad. U.S. forces at the embassy reportedly used tear gas and stun grenades against the protesters, leaving 62 militiamen and civilians wounded. After the siege, the Trump administration announced that it would send more troops to the Middle East. Approximately 750 troops are expected to be sent as a result of the embassy attack and another 3,000 could be deployed in the next few days.

Iraq US embassy

A U.S. soldier peeks from the roof of the U.S. embassy while protesters set fire to the front of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Jan. 1, 2020. Khalid Mohammed | AP

The U.S. retaliation was bound to inflame tensions with the Iraqi government and increase popular pressure to close U.S. bases in Iraq. In fact, if Kata’ib Hezbollah is indeed responsible for the rocket and mortar attacks, this is probably exactly the chain of events they intended to provoke. Incensed at the Trump administration’s blatant disregard for Iraqi sovereignty and worried about Iraq being dragged into a U.S. proxy war with Iran that will spiral out of control, a broad swath of Iraqi political leaders are now calling for a withdrawal of U.S. troops. 

The U.S. military presence in Iraq was reestablished in 2014 as part of the campaign against the Islamic State, but that campaign has wound down substantially since the near destruction and reoccupation of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in 2017. The number of attacks and terrorist incidents linked to the Islamic State in Iraq has declined steadily since then, from 239 in March 2018 to 51 in November 2019, according to Iraq researcher Joel Wing. Wing’s data makes it clear that IS is a vastly diminished force in Iraq.  

The real crisis facing Iraq is not a growing IS but the massive public protests, starting in October, that have exposed the dysfunction of the Iraqi government itself. Months of street protests have forced Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi to submit his resignation–he is now simply acting as a caretaker pending new elections. Severe repression by government forces left over 400 protesters dead, but this has only fuelled even greater public outrage. 

These demonstrations are not just directed against individual Iraqi politicians or against Iranian influence in Iraq but against the entire post-2003 political regime established by the U.S. occupation. Protesters blame the government’s sectarianism, its corruption and the enduring foreign influence of both Iran and the U.S. for the failure to invest Iraq’s oil wealth in rebuilding Iraq and improving the lives of a new generation of young Iraqis.   

The recent attack on Kata’ib Hezbollah has actually worked in favor of Iran, turning Iraqi public opinion and Iraqi leaders more solidly against the U.S. military presence. So why has the U.S. jeopardized what influence it still has in Iraq by launching airstrikes against Iraqi forces? And why is the U.S. maintaining a reported 5,200 U.S. troops in Iraq, at Al-Asad airbase in Anbar province and smaller bases across Iraq? It already has nearly 70,000 troops in other countries in the region, not least 13,000 in neighboring Kuwait, its largest permanent foreign base after Germany, Japan and South Korea. 

While the Pentagon continues to insist that the U.S. troop presence is solely to help Iraq fight ISIS, Trump himself has defined its mission as “also to watch over Iran.” He told that to U.S. servicemen in Iraq in a December 2018 Christmas visit and reiterated it in a February 2019 CBS interview. Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi has made clear that the U.S. does not have permission to use Iraq as a base from which to confront Iran. Such a mission would be patently illegal under Iraq’s 2005 constitution, drafted with the help of the United States, which forbids using the country’s territory to harm its neighbors.

Under the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, U.S. forces may only remain in Iraq at the “request and invitation” of the Iraqi government. If that invitation is withdrawn, they must leave, as they were forced to do in 2011. The U.S. presence in Iraq is now almost universally unpopular, especially in the wake of U.S. attacks on the very Iraqi armed forces they are supposedly there to support. 

Trump’s effort to blame Iran for this crisis is simply a ploy to divert attention from his own bungled policy. In reality, the blame for the present crisis should be placed squarely on the doorstep of the White House itself. The Trump administration’s reckless decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and revert to the U.S. policy of threats and sanctions that never worked before is backfiring as badly as the rest of the world predicted it would, and Trump has only himself to blame for it – and maybe John Bolton.

So will 2020 be the year when Donald Trump is finally forced to fulfill his endless promises to bring U.S. troops home from at least one of its endless wars and military occupations?  Or will Trump’s penchant for doubling down on brutal and counterproductive policies only lead us deeper into his pet quagmire of ever-escalating conflict with Iran, with the U.S.’s beleaguered forces in Iraq as pawns in yet another unwinnable war? 

We hope that 2020 will be the year when the American public finally looks at the fateful choice between war and peace with 20/20 vision and that we will start severely punishing Trump and every other U.S. politician who opts for threats over diplomacy, coercion over cooperation and war over peace.

Feature photo | An elderly woman mourns over a coffin of Iran-backed Popular Mobilization fighter killed in a U.S. airstrike in Qaim, during a funeral in Najaf, Iraq, Dec. 31, 2019. Anmar Khalil | AP

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq

The post A New Year and a New Trump Foreign Policy Blunder in Iraq appeared first on MintPress News.

Regional Inferno, by Amin Saikal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/12/2019 - 2:34pm in

The Middle East is on the boil more than could have been expected a decade ago. It has been transformed into a zone of conflicts within conflicts, which have bedevilled the region from Afghanistan to Syria to Palestine to Yemen to Libya. It has gained the notorious reputation of being the most unstable, turbulent and insecure region of the world. Authoritarianism, violent extremism, human rights violations, social and economic disparities, shifting alliances and loyalties and foreign interventionism have come together to make the region highly explosive. Some might say ‘What’s new?’, as the region has always been on a dangerous edge. That may be so, but not to the same extent as it has been since the formation of the modern Middle East by colonial powers in the wake of the Second World War. The region is badly in need of structural reforms at the national level, meaningful cooperation at the regional level and deeper understanding of its complexities by outside powers at the international level.

Against the backdrop of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whereby Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian lands and repressive treatment of the Palestinian people have become a perpetual source of anxiety in world politics, the 2001 and 2003 US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively, were touted as enhancing the conditions for regional stability and security. Yet this was not to be the case. Not only have the Afghan and Iraqi tragedies become daunting for both the interventionists and their subjects but also more conflicts, iron-fisted rule, violent extremism, public unrest, and power struggles fuelled by major powers, national authorities and non-state actors have become a dominant feature of the Middle Eastern landscape.

The Afghan and Iraqi fiascos, emanating largely from an interactive relationship between the socially difficult and politically mosaic nature of the two countries and the United States’ inability to deliver peace, have placed the two states in the grip of long-term structural instability. Whereas the Afghan war has gone on for nineteen years with increasing violence and insecurity, which has prompted President Trump to seek an (as yet unsuccessful) political settlement of the conflict as central to a US exit strategy, the Iraqi situation has not fared any better. Although the United States pulled out of Iraq at the end of 2011, it left behind a broken country. The continued Iraqi turmoil in combination with the bloody conflict in neighbouring Syria dramatically altered the dynamics in the Levant. In Syria the so-called Arab Spring or popular uprisings, which commenced in Tunisia in late 2010, triggered a mass uprising against the Iranian-backed authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Instead of reaching a negotiated settlement with the opposition, the regime decided to crush the uprising. These factors enormously helped provide the necessary conditions for two important developments.

One was the rise of the so-called Sunni extremist Islamic State (IS). The other was the return of the United States as the head of a military coalition to combat IS, which succeeded in declaring a territorial Islamic state (khilafat) over one third of Iraq and Syria in mid-2014. IS’s religious extremism and politics of brutality were opposed not only by the United States and its allies but also by the Muslim world and the wider global community. However, the United States and its allies could not exclusively claim victory for folding back IS territorially by early 2019. Another coalition that played a more formidable role in the process was led by Russia, in league with the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, in support of the Assad regime. This meant that two international coalitions, one opposing the Assad regime and the other backing the regime, deployed forces against IS as a common enemy. The US-led coalition also focused heavily on fighting IS in Iraq, where the United States, as in the case of Syria, made common cause with its regional foe, Iran. The latter vehemently opposed IS’s anti-Shia and anti-Iran stand. Although neither Washington nor Tehran ever acknowledged publicly that they were complementing one another against IS, a change of alignment and loyalty has never ceased to be a common occurrence in the troubled Middle East. It depends on who serves whose current geopolitical purpose.

Under the neo-nationalist and impulsive Trump this occurrence has become more common. While adopting a policy of exerting maximum pressure on Iran by cancelling the multilateral July 2014 Iran nuclear agreement—officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—and imposing harsh sanctions on the country, Trump has eased US opposition to the Assad regime. He has let Russia, Iran and Turkey (the latter is a NATO ally, but opposed to the Assad regime and yet tilts towards Russia and Iran because it has been disillusioned with its NATO partners) occupy the driver’s seat in determining the future of Syria. He recently ordered the withdrawal of 2000 US troops from Syria by claiming victory over IS. In the process, he also dropped US support for its most trusted ally in the Levant, the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who had fought IS valiantly alongside US personnel in Syria.

However, after his action met condemnation from both sides of the US Congress and from his European allies, Trump back-pedalled to some extent by redeploying some of the troops, under the pretence of protecting the largely non-productive Syrian oil fields in the north, and warned Turkey against attacking the SDF. Ankara regards the SDF, or more specifically its People’s Protection Units (YPG), as a terrorist organisation and an extension of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting for the independence of Turkey’s substantial Kurdish minorities over the last four decades, at a very high human cost. While ignoring Trump’s warning, Ankara negotiated with Moscow as the main force in Syria to achieve its objective of pushing the SDF back by 10 kilometres from a strip along its border—a strip where Russian forces have taken over abandoned US bases and engaged in joint patrolling with Turkish forces. In all, the United States’ Syrian policy has featured as much chaos as its handling of Iraq. Today, Russia and Iran call the shots in Syria. This, together with Iran’s having secured a formidable degree of sectarian and geopolitical influence in Iraq, places the entire Levant from Iraq to Lebanon under the Russo-Iranian axis, at the cost of the United States’ traditionally dominant role in the region and Israel’s growing security discomfort.

Meanwhile, Trump has provided unqualified support for Israel and Saudi Arabia and the latter’s allies within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as the main regional front against Iran, and augmented US-force deployment in the Gulf. He has rejected a passionate appeal from Congress to pressure Riyadh over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018 and to retrench US backing for the Saudi-led Arab coalition against Iran-affiliated Houthi rebels in Yemen, where the coalition’s operations have caused massive human misery and physical destruction.

Concurrently, while backing away from any kind of support for democratic reforms, the Trump administration has lately acted unconstructively in relation to the Libyan conflict, which commenced with the overthrow of the country’s dictator, Muammar al-Qaddafi, in 2011 as a result of a popular uprising and NATO’s intervention. The Libyan crisis has taken a severe toll on its population and economy, and the fate of the country has fallen into the hands of several warring groups. A UN-backed Government of National Accord has materialised in Tripoli, backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. However, its position is challenged by the Libyan National Army, led by veteran field marshal Khalifa Haftar, and Trump has voiced his support for him, which can only prolong the Libyan tragedy.

Against this backdrop, not only does the Middle East remain riddled with conflicts, violence and insecurity but also its demographic composition has changed significantly in favour of younger generations, whose frustrations over appalling conditions in many of the constituent states have led them to engage in mass protests. Lately there have been cross-sectarian and cross-ethnic popular demonstrations in Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria and Sudan in pursuit of good and clean governance, democratic rights and freedoms, and better living conditions. Of all these states, the Sudanese have managed to take the initial steps towards a transition to a kind of democracy, though with considerable sacrifices on the part of those who have demanded it. Otherwise, the struggle between the authorities and the popular opposition in other concerned states has taken a steady course with no relief in sight. This has led some analysts to predict a second Arab Spring.

Yet, the forces of status quo that stifled the objectives of the first pro-democracy Arab Spring that resulted in the toppling of such dictators as Tunisia’s Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s Qaddafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, and fuelled the Syrian uprising are still in full force in the region. Of all the countries that experienced the Arab Spring, only Tunisia has assumed a democratic trajectory; the others have either gone back to authoritarian rule, as is the case with Egypt, or are drowning in perpetual conflicts. The status-quo forces are led by two rival actors: Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran on the other. Despite recently having loosened up socially to some extent under the young de facto leader Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia is not about to move down the path of democratic political reforms. Similarly, Iran cannot be expected to transition from a politically pluralist theocracy with a network of supporting sectarian groups across the Levant and Yemen to a liberalist posture any time soon. The two Gulf powers are locked in serious geopolitical-sectarian rivalry, but neither is willing to see any sea change in the region. Both want to see the region altering in their favour, but not in any direction that could undermine their current domestic and regional settings.

At the same time, the public’s demand for structural change in many of the countries in the region is growing louder by the day. If the authorities fail to address popular concerns whose expression has already cost many lives, the Middle East remains ripe for more instability, violence and insecurity. It is these kinds of conditions that also provide the space for extremist groups, whether in the name of religion or other creeds, to become active. The two main extremist groups—al Qaeda and IS—that emerged in the conflict zones are still alive and kicking. They have franchised and extended their networks wherever they have found a power vacuum within an arena of conflict. In spite of the US claim of success against them, the two groups can be expected to maintain and possibly widen their operational capability as the old conflicts continue and new ones surface in the Middle East as an arena of frenemies.

The outlook for the Middle East does not appear bright. Most of the conditions that have given rise to conflicts, extremism, public protests, insecurity and tensions have not been addressed. US-Iranian enmity, Iranian-Saudi rivalry and Iranian-Israeli hostility, proxy conflicts, and challenges by non-state actors—Islamic or otherwise—are set to be the major components of instability and insecurity across the Middle East in the coming years. The variable that could dramatically change the situation is a possible military confrontation between Iran and the United States or Iran and Israel or both at the same time. Such a scenario is conceivable only if a beleaguered Trump decides, under the pressure of impeachment, to go for a foreign-policy diversion. Otherwise, all parties are fully aware that a war could be very costly for them and could easily trigger a regional inferno that no one could control. Recognition of this fact undermines the reason for a war but does not free the region from being a source of boiling discomfort for its inhabitants and the international community. To shift the Middle East towards a paradigm of stability there is an urgent need for structural reform at the national level, regional cooperation, and world powers’ constructive engagement in pursuit of both. This may not come soon enough for the suffering people of the region.

The Israel Lobby’s Hidden Hand in the Theft of Iraqi and Syrian Oil

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/12/2019 - 4:55am in

KIRKUK, IRAQ — “We want to bring our soldiers home. But we did leave soldiers because we’re keeping the oil,” President Trump stated on November 3, before adding, “I like oil. We’re keeping the oil.” 

Though he had promised a withdrawal of U.S. troops from their illegal occupation of Syria, Trump shocked many with his blunt admission that troops were being left behind to prevent Syrian oil resources from being developed by the Syrian government and, instead, kept in the hands of whomever the U.S. deemed fit to control them, in this case, the U.S.-backed Kurdish-majority militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Though Trump himself received all of the credit — and the scorn — for this controversial new policy, what has been left out of the media coverage is the fact that key players in the U.S.’ pro-Israel lobby played a major role in its creation with the purpose of selling Syrian oil to the state of Israel. While recent developments in the Syrian conflict may have hindered such a plan from becoming reality, it nonetheless offers a telling example of the covert role often played by the U.S.’ pro-Israel lobby in shaping key elements of U.S. foreign policy and closed-door deals with major regional implications.

Indeed, the Israel lobby-led effort to have the U.S. facilitate the sale of Syrian oil to Israel is not an isolated incident given that, just a few years ago, other individuals connected to the same pro-Israel lobby groups and Zionist neoconservatives manipulated both U.S. policy and Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in order to allow Iraqi oil to be sold to Israel without the approval of the Iraqi government. These designs, not unlike those that continue to unfold in Syria, were in service to longstanding neoconservative and Zionist efforts to balkanize Iraq by strengthening the KRG and weakening Baghdad.

After the occupation of Iraq’s Nineveh Governorate by ISIS (June 2014-October 2015), the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) took advantage of the Iraqi military’s retreat and, amidst the chaos, illegally seized Kirkuk on June 12. Their claim to the city was supported by both the U.S. and Israel and, later, the U.S.-led coalition targeting ISIS. This gave the KRG control, not only of Iraq’s export pipeline to Turkey’s Ceyhan port, but also to Iraq’s largest oil fields.

Israel imported massive amounts of oil from the Kurds during this period, all without the consent of Baghdad. Israel was also the largest customer of oil sold by ISIS, who used Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk to sell oil in areas of Iraq and Syria under its control. To do this in ISIS-controlled territories of Iraq, the oil was sent first to the Kurdish city of Zakho near the Turkey border and then into Turkey, deceptively labeled as oil that originated from Iraqi Kurdistan. ISIS did nothing to impede the KRG’s own oil exports even though they easily could have given that the Kirkuk-Ceyhan export pipeline passed through areas that ISIS had occupied for years.

In retrospect, and following revelations from Wikileaks and new information regarding the background of relevant actors, it has been revealed that much of the covert maneuvering behind the scenes that enabled this scenario intimately involved the United States’ powerful pro-Israel lobby. Now, with a similar scenario unfolding in Syria, efforts by the U.S.’ Israel lobby to manipulate U.S. foreign policy in order to shift the flow of hydrocarbons for Israel’s benefit can instead be seen as a pattern of behavior, not an isolated incident.

 

“Keep the oil” for Israel

After recent shifts in the Trump administration in its Syria policy, U.S. troops have controversially been kept in Syria to “keep the oil,” with U.S. military officials subsequently claiming that doing so was “a subset of the counter-ISIS mission.” However, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper later claimed that another factor behind U.S. insistence on guarding Syrian oil fields was to prevent the extraction and subsequent sale of Syrian oil by either the Syrian government or Russia. 

One key, yet often overlooked, player behind the push to prevent a full U.S. troop withdrawal in Syria in order to “keep the oil” was current U.S. ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield. Satterfield was previously the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, where he yielded great influence over U.S. policy in both Iraq and Syria and worked closely with Brett McGurk, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran and later special presidential envoy for the U.S.-led “anti-ISIS” coalition. 

Over the course of his long diplomatic career, Satterfield has been known to the U.S. government as an Israeli intelligence asset embedded in the U.S. State Department. Indeed, Satterfield was named as a major player in what is now known as the AIPAC espionage scandal, also known as the Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal, although he was oddly never charged for his role after the intervention of his superiors at the State Department in the George W. Bush administration.

David Satterfield

David Satterfield, left, arrives in Baghdad with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, and Joey Hood, May 7, 2019. Mandel Ngan | AP

In 2005, federal prosecutors cited a U.S. government official as having illegally passed classified information to Steve Rosen, then working for AIPAC, who then passed that information to the Israeli government. That classified information included intelligence on Iran and the nature of U.S.-Israeli intelligence sharing. Subsequent media reports from the New York Times and other outlets revealed that this government official was none other than David Satterfield, who was then serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs.

Charges against Rosen, as well as his co-conspirator and fellow AIPAC employee Keith Weissman, were dropped in 2009 and no charges were levied against Satterfield after State Department officials shockingly claimed that Satterfield had “acted within his authority” in leaking classified information to an individual working to advance the interests of a foreign government. Richard Armitage, a neoconservative ally with a long history of ties to CIA covert operations in the Middle East and elsewhere, has since claimed that he was one of Satterfield’s main defenders in conversations with the FBI during this time when he was serving as Deputy Secretary of State. 

The other government official named in the indictment, former Pentagon official Lawrence Franklin, was not so lucky and was charged under the Espionage Act in 2006. Satterfield, instead of being censured for his role in leaking sensitive information to a foreign government, was subsequently promoted in 2006 to serve as the Coordinator for Iraq and Senior Adviser to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In addition to his history of leaking classified information to AIPAC, Satterfield also has a longstanding relationship with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a controversial spin-off of AIPAC also known by its acronym WINEP. WINEP’s website has long listed Satterfield as one of its experts and Satterfield has spoken at several WINEP events and policy forums, including several after his involvement with the AIPAC espionage scandal became public knowledge. However, despite his longstanding and controversial ties to the U.S. pro-Israel lobby, Satterfield’s current relationship with some elements of that lobby, such as the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), is complicated at best.

While Satterfield’s role in yet another reversal of a promised withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria has largely escaped media scrutiny, another individual with deep ties to the Israel lobby and Syrian “rebel” groups has also been ignored by the media, despite his outsized role in taking advantage of this new U.S. policy for Israel’s benefit.

 

US Israel Lobby secures deal with Kurds

Earlier this year, well before Trump’s new Syria policy of “keeping the oil” had officially taken shape, another individual with deep ties to the U.S. Israel lobby secured a lucrative agreement with U.S.-backed Kurdish groups in Syria. An official document issued earlier this year by the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the political arm of the Kurdish majority and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a New Jersey-based company, founded and run by U.S.-Israeli dual citizen Mordechai “Motti” Kahana, was given control of the oil in territory held by the SDC. 

Per the document, the SDC formally accepted the offer from Kahana’s company — Global Development Corporation (GDC) — to represent SDC in all matters pertaining to the sale of oil extracted in territory it controls and also grants GDC “the right to explore and develop oil that is located in areas we govern.” 

Global Development Corporation Kurdish Oil

The SDC’s formal acceptance of Global Development Corporation’s offer to develop Syrian oil fields. Source | Al-Akhbar

The document also states that the amount of oil then being produced in SDC-controlled areas was 125,000 barrels per day and that they anticipated that this would increase to 400,000 barrels per day and that this oil is considered a foreign asset under the control of the United States by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

After the document was made public by the Lebanese outlet Al-Akhbar, the SDC claimed that it was a forgery, even though Kahana had separately confirmed its contents and shared the letter itself to the Los Angeles Times as recently as a few weeks ago. Kahana previously attempted to distance himself from the effort and told the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom in July that he had made the offer to the SDC as means to prevent the “Assad regime” of Syria from obtaining revenue from the sale of Syrian oil. 

The Kurds currently hold 11 oil wells in an area controlled by the [Syrian] Democratic Forces. The overwhelming majority of Syrian oil is in that area. I don’t want this oil reaching Iran, or the Assad regime.”

At the time, Kahana also stated that “the moment the Trump administration gives its approval, we can begin to export this oil at fair prices.” 

Given that Kahana has openly confirmed that he is representing the SDC’s oil business shortly after Trump’s adoption of the controversial “keep the oil policy,” it seems plausible that Kahana has now received the approval needed for his company to export the oil on behalf of the SDC. Several media reports have speculated that, if Kahana’s efforts go forward unimpeded, the Syrian oil will be sold to Israel.

However, considering Turkey’s aversion to engaging in any activities that may benefit the PKK-SDF – there are considerable obstacles to Kahana’s plans. While the SDF — along with assistance from U.S. troops — still controls several oil fields in Syria, experts assert that they can only realistically sell the oil to the Syrian government. Not even the Iraqi Kurds are a candidate, considering Baghdad’s firm control over the Iraq-Syria border and the KRG’s weakened state after its failed independence bid in late 2017.

Regardless, Kahana’s involvement in this affair is significant for a few reasons. First, Kahana has been a key player in the promotion and funding of radical groups in Syria and has even been caught hiring so-called “rebels” to kidnap Syrian Jews and take them to Israel against their will. It was Kahana, for instance, who financed and orchestrated the now infamous trip of the late Senator John McCain to Syria, where he met with Syrian “rebels” including Khalid al-Hamad – a “moderate” rebel who gained notoriety after a video of him eating the heart of a Syrian Army soldier went viral online. McCain had also admitted meeting with ISIS members, though it is unclear if he did so on this trip or another trip to Syria.

In addition, Kahana was also the mastermind behind the “Caesar” controversy, whereby a Syrian using the pseudonym “Caesar” was brought to the U.S. by Kahana and went on to make claims regarding torture and other crimes allegedly committed by the Assad-led government Syria, claims which were later discredited by independent analysts. He was also very involved in Israel’s failed efforts to establish a “safe zone” in Southern Syria as a means of covertly expanding Israel’s territory from the occupied Golan Heights and into Quneitra.

Notably, Kahana has deep ties — not just to efforts to overthrow the Syrian government — but also to U.S. Israel lobby, including the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) where Satterfield is as an expert. For instance, Kahana was a key player in a 2013 symposium organized by WINEP along with Syrian opposition groups intimately involved in the arming of so-called “rebels.” One of the other participants in the symposium alongside Kahana was Mouaz Moustafa, director of the “Syrian Emergency Task Force” who assisted Kahana in bringing McCain to Syria in 2013. Moustafa was listed as a WINEP expert on the organization’s website but was later mysteriously deleted.

Kahana is also intimately involved with the Israeli American Council (IAC), a pro-Israel lobby organization, as a team member of its national conference. IAC was co-founded and is chaired by Adam Milstein, a multimillionaire and convicted felon who is also on the boards of AIPAC, StandWithUs, Birthright and other prominent pro-Israel lobby organizations. One of IAC’s top donors is Sheldon Adelson, who is also the top donor to President Trump as well as the entire Republican Party. 

Though the machinations of both Kahana and Satterfield to guide U.S. policy in order to manipulate the flow of Syria’s hydrocarbons for Israel’s benefit may seem shocking to some, this same tactic of pro-Israel lobbyists using the Kurds to illegally sell a country’s oil to Israel was developed a few years prior, not in Syria, but Iraq. Notably, the individuals responsible for that policy in Iraq shared connections to several of the same pro-Israel lobby organizations as both Satterfield and Kahana, suggesting that their recent efforts in Syria are not an isolated event, but a pattern.

 

War against ISIS is a war for oil 

In an email dated June 15, 2014, James Franklin Jeffrey (former Ambassador to Iraq and Turkey and current U.S. Special Representative for Syria) revealed to Stephen Hadley, a former George Bush administration advisor then working at the government-funded United States Institute of Peace, his intent to advise the KRG in order to sustain Kirkuk’s oil production. The plan, as Jeffery described it, was to supply both the Kurdistan province with oil and allow the export of oil via Kirkuk-Ceyhan to Israel, robbing Iraq of its oil and strengthening the country’s Kurdish region along with its regional government’s bid for autonomy.

Jeffrey, whose hawkish views on Iran and Syria are well-known, mentioned that Brett McGurk, the U.S.’ main negotiator between Baghdad and the KRG, was acting as his liaison with the KRG. McGurk, who had served in various capacities in Iraq under both Bush and Obama, was then also serving Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran. A year later, he would be made the special presidential envoy for the U.S.-led “anti-ISIS” coalition and, as previously mentioned, worked closely with David Satterfield.


James Jeffrey, left, meets with Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, April 8, 2011, at an airport in Irbil, Iraq. Chip Somodevilla | AP

Jeffrey was then a private citizen not currently employed by the government and was used as a non-governmental channel in the pursuit of the plans described in the leaked emails published by WikiLeaks. Jeffrey’s behind-the-scenes activities with regards to the KRG’s oil exports were done clandestinely, largely because he was then employed by a prominent arm of the U.S.’ pro-Israel lobby.

At the time of the email, Jeffrey was serving as a distinguished fellow (2013-2018) at WINEP. As previously mentioned, WINEP is a pro-Israel foreign policy think-tank that espouses neoconservative views and was created in 1985 by researchers that had hastily left AIPAC to escape investigations against the organization that were related to some of its members conducting espionage on behalf of Israel. AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, is the largest registered Israel lobbyist organization in the US (albeit registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act would be more suitable), and, in addition to the 1985 incident that led to WINEP’s creation, has had members indicted for espionage against the U.S. on Israel’s behalf. 

WINEP’s launch was funded by former President of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles,  Barbara Weinberg, who is its founding president and constant Chairman Emerita. Nicknamed ‘Barbi’, she is the wife of the late Lawrence Weinberg who was President of AIPAC from 1976-81 and who JJ Goldberg, author of the 1997 book Jewish Power, referred to as one of a select few individuals who essentially dominated AIPAC regardless of its elected leadership. Co-founder alongside Weinberg was Martin Indyk. Indyk, U.S. Ambassador to Israel (1995-97) and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (1997-99), led the AIPAC research time that formed WINEP to escape the aforementioned investigations.

WINEP has historically received funding from donors who donate to causes of special interest for Zionism and Israel. Among its trustees are extremely prominent names in political Zionism and funders of other Israel Lobby organizations, such as Charles and Edgar Bronfman and the Chernicks. Its membership remains dominated by individuals who have spent their careers promoting Israeli interests in the U.S.

WINEP has become more well-known, and arguably more controversial, in recent years after its research director famously called for false-flag attacks to trigger a U.S. war with Iran in 2012, statements well-aligned with longstanding attempts by the Israel Lobby to bring about such a war.

 

A worthy partner in crime

Stephen Hadley, another private citizen who Jeffrey evidently considered as a partner in his covert dealings discussed in the emails, also has his own past of involvement with Israel-specific intrigues and meddling. 

During the G.W. Bush administration, Hadley tagged along with neoconservatives in their numerous creations of fake intelligence and efforts to incriminate Iraq for possessing chemical and nuclear weapons. Hadley was one of the promoters from within the U.S. government of the false claim that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi officials in Prague.

Hadley also worked with then-Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Lewis Libby — a neoconservative and former lawyer for the Mossad-agent and billionaire Marc Rich — to discredit a CIA investigation into claims of Iraq purchasing yellowcake uranium from Niger. That claim famously appeared in Bush’s State of the Union address in 2002.

What this particular claim had in common with the ‘Iraq meets Atta in Prague’ disinformation, and other famous lies against Iraq fabricated and circulated by the dense neocon network, was its source: Israel and pro-Israel partisans. 

The distribution network of these now long-debunked claims was none other than the neoconservatives who act a veritable Israeli fifth column that has long sought to promote Israeli foreign policy objectives as being in the interest of the United States. In this, Hadley played his part by helping to ensure that the United States was railroaded into a war that had long been promoted by both Israeli and American neoconservatives, particularly Richard Perle — an advisor to WINEP — who had been promoting regime change in Iraq for Israel’s explicit benefit for decades.

In short, for covert intrigues to serve Israel that would likely be met with protest if pitched to the government for implementation as policy, Hadley’s resume was impressive.

 

Israeli interests pursued through covert channels

Given his employment at WINEP during this time, Jeffrey’s intent to advise the KRG to sustain Kirkuk’s oil production despite the seizure of the Baiji oil refinery by ISIS is somewhat suspect, especially since it required that 100,000 barrels per day pass through ISIS-controlled territory unimpeded. 

Jeffrey’s email from June 14, therefore, demonstrated that he had foreknowledge that ISIS would not disturb the KRG as long as the Kurds redirected oil that was intended originally for Baiji to the Kirkuk-Ceyhan export pipeline, facilitating its export and later sale to Israel. 

Notably, up until its liberation in mid-2015 by the Iraqi government and aligned Shia paramilitaries, ISIS kept the refinery running and, only upon their retreat, destroyed the facility.

In July 2014, the KRG began confidently supplying Kurdish areas with Kirkuk’s oil per the plan laid out by Jeffrey in the aforementioned email. Baghdad soon became aware of the arrangement and lashed out at Israel and Turkey, whose banks were used by the KRG to receive the oil revenue from Israel.

One would normally expect ISIS to be opposed to such collusion given that the KRG, while a beneficiary of the ISIS-Baghdad conflict, was not an ally of ISIS. Thus, a foreign power with strategic ties to ISIS used its close ties to the KRG and assurances that it was on-board for the oil trade, to deliver a credible guarantee that ISIS would ‘cooperate’ and that a boom in production and exports was in the cards.

This foreign power — acting as a guarantor for the ISIS-KRG understanding vis-a-vis the illegal oil economy, represented by Jeffrey and clearly not on good terms with Iraq’s government — was quite clearly Israel.

Israel established considerable financial support as well as the provision of armaments to other extremist terrorist groups active near the border between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Southern Syria when war first broke out in Syria in 2011. At least four of these extremist groups were led by individuals with direct ties to Israeli intelligence. These same groups, sometimes promoted as ‘moderates’ by some media, were actively fighting Syria’s government – an enemy of Israel and ally of Iran – before ISIS existed and eagerly partnered with ISIS when it expanded its campaign into Syria. 

Furthermore, Israeli officials have publicly admitted maintaining regular communication with ISIS cells in Southern Syria and have publicly expressed their desire that ISIS not be defeated in the country. In Libya, Israeli Mossad operatives have been found embedded within ISIS, suggesting that Israel has covert but definite ties with the group outside of Syria as well.

Israel has also long promoted the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, with Israel having provided Iraq’s Kurds with weapons, training and teams of Mossad advisers as far back as the 1960s. More recently, Israel was the only state to support the KRG independence referendum in September 2017 despite its futility, hinting at the regard Israel holds for the KRG. Iraq’s government subsequently militarily defeated the KRG’s push for statehood and reclaimed Kirkuk’s oil fields with assistance from the Shia paramilitaries which were responsible for defeating ISIS in the area.

Iraq ISIS control map

A 2014 map shows the areas under ISIS and Kurdish control at the time. Source | Telegraph

This arrangement orchestrated by Jeffrey, served the long-time neoconservative-Israeli agenda of empowering the Kurds, selling Iraqi oil to Israel and weakening Iraq’s Baghdad-based government. 

WINEP’s close association with AIPAC, which has spied on the U.S. on behalf of Israel several times in the past with no consequence, combined with Jeffrey’s long-time acquaintance with key U.S. figures in Iraq, such as McGurk, provided an ideal opening for Israel in Iraq. Following the implementation of Jeffrey’s plan, Israeli imports of KRG oil constituted 77 percent of Israel’s total oil imports during the KRG’s occupation of Kirkuk. 

The WINEP connection to the KRG-Israel oil deal demonstrates the key role played by the U.S. pro-Israel Lobby, not only in terms of sustaining U.S. financial aid to Israel and ratcheting up tensions with Israel’s adversaries but also in facilitating the more covert aspects of U.S.-Israeli cooperation and the implementation of policies that favor Israel.

Yet the role played by the U.S. Israel lobby in this capacity, particularly in terms of orchestrating oil sale agreements for Israel’s benefit, is hardly exclusive to Iraq and can accurately be described as a repeated pattern of behavior. 

Feature photo | Graphic by Claudio Cabrera

Agha Hussain is an independent researcher based in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. He specialized in Middle Eastern affairs and history and is an editorial contributor to Eurasia Future, Regional Rapport and other news outlets. Read more of his work on his personal blog.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

The post The Israel Lobby’s Hidden Hand in the Theft of Iraqi and Syrian Oil appeared first on MintPress News.

Pages