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Under Guise of Green Energy, Israel Entrenches Itself in Syria’s Golan Heights

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/12/2020 - 5:21am in

Jerusalem — On December 9, Israeli police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at hundreds of Syrians peacefully demonstrating against the development of a wind farm in the occupied Golan Heights.

Ten protesters were injured and eight arrested. According to Al-Marsad, the sole human rights organization in the occupied Golan, the Golan Association for the Development of Arab Villages’ medical clinic received 12 cases of protesters with rubber bullet wounds—some on the upper body and face. Dozens of demonstrators suffered from gas inhalation. According to the police, officers responded with “non-lethal weapons” and four officers were injured from stones being thrown.

The violent confrontation capped off a week of heavy police presence in the Golan Heights. Officers were there to escort employees from Israeli company Energix Renewable Energies as they took soil samples using drilling machines for their wind turbine project being built on Syrian land.

Police road closures prevented 1,000 Syrian farmers from accessing their land. Demonstrators say the excavation work damages agriculture.


Israeli police block farmers from accessing agricultural roads. Photo | Emil Masood

 

Syrian Druze say the wind farm will disrupt their way of life

The December 9 protest was part of a general strike in the Syrian Druze communities against Energix and the police. But the Syrian struggle against Energix stems as far back as 2018 when Energix was in the final stages of getting its wind turbine project approved.

Now, the wind farm is underway after being approved by Israel’s National Committee of Infrastructure (NIC) and all government ministries despite strong opposition to it from the local residents.

“[This project] will have bad effects for our land, our environment and for us as farmers and human beings,” Emil Masood, an activist and cherry farmer who is organizing against the wind farm, said.

Dubbed the ARAN Wind Project, the plan will install 23 wind turbines on nearly a quarter of Syrian agricultural land. The original proposal requested 52 wind turbines, but the project was scaled back as it went through the government stages.

Energix denies the project will harm the local economy, environment, and health, arguing, “it will lead to a significant improvement in the quality of life of the residents” and “occupy less than 2 percent of the margins of the agricultural space of the Druze community.” According to the approved project map, the wind farm will span a little more than 3,500 dunams (nearly 870 acres).

Energix-map

A map published by Al-Marsad shows proposed turbine locations in the midst of farmland nestled between Syrian villages

Energix boasts the project will create hundreds of jobs while meeting Israel’s renewable energy goals. Israel entered the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and agreed to have 10 percent of its energy produced through renewable sources by 2020 and 17 percent by 2030.

But according to expert testimonies filed as part of a joint objection to the wind farm, the project will significantly harm Syrians’ health, housing, and livelihoods.

Dr. Hagit Ulanovsky, who provided an expert opinion for the community appeal, explained that because of the region’s mountainous topography, residents are going to feel the infrasound from the wind turbines more intensely in their bodies. And these noise disturbances will ultimately prevent Syrian farmers from cultivating their land.

“The noise is going to be impossible. Nobody will be able to stand 200 to 300 meters [about 650 to 980 feet] from each turbine, which is half of the area that’s covered,” Ulanovsky said. “And during the construction phase, thousands of trees will be taken out and basically be dead forever.”

“At least 500 to maybe 5,000 years of Druze people living in the same place and growing the same trees for several generations is going to stop,” Ulanovsky added.

 

A forgotten occupation

Israel occupied the Syrian Golan during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians were forcibly displaced and now roughly 22,000 Syrians remain in the four villages of Majdal Shams, Masada, Buqata, and Ein Qiniyye. In 1981, Israel annexed the Syrian Golan and tried to impose Israeli citizenship on the Jawlani, the Syrian residents of the occupied Golan Heights. Many Jawlani continue to this day to reject Israeli citizenship, with only 20% of the population having acquired it.


Druze farmer Noraldeen Masoud makes coffee on his farm in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Ariel Schalit | AP

Dr. Muna Dajani from the London School of Economics, who also provided expert testimony, explained that because of this refusal to take Israeli citizenship, the Jawlani’s travel documents state they don’t have a nationality. Instead, the Israeli government has labeled them as “undefined.”

“The Jawlani have started relating more and more to the land as their source of identity and their source of belonging to a community because of that exclusion from being Syrian, and that meant they started valuing the land beyond its physical economic value,” Dajani said.

“Constructing these wind turbines in the middle of the land not only undermines the economic viability of their agriculture but also has a detrimental psychological effect on their community well-being, their sense of purpose and sense of belonging,” Dajani continued. “People feel without land they have nowhere, they don’t have an identity left.”

Expert opinions also emphasized the wind farm will restrict the expansion of at least three surrounding Syrian villages, thereby exacerbating the housing crisis in these communities. The collective appeal was submitted by Al-Marsad to the NIC in June 2019 on behalf of Syrian agricultural cooperatives, civil society groups, and thousands of civilians. By August of that same year, the NIC rejected all objections and approved the project in September.

Golan Heights wind

Druze farmer Noraldeen Masoud works his orchard where towering wind turbines could soon jut up from the picturesque farmland. Ariel Schalit | AP

Energix plans to connect the wind farm to the electricity grid by the end of 2022. Nizar Ayoub, Al-Marsad’s director, told MintPress News that the organization is collaborating with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Planners for Planning Rights (Bimkom) to utilize every legal tool to stop the wind turbine project. Al-Marsad alleges the project violates international humanitarian law whereby an occupying power is prohibited from exploiting the natural resources of the occupied territory or using their land for economic benefit.

However, the organization is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against them from Energix. In 2019, the energy company sued Al-Marsad, claiming the human rights center defamed them and violated Israel’s Anti-Boycott Law. In addition to the lawsuit against Al-Marsad, Energix also filed five cases against activists.

“There’s no basis in their arguments,” Ayoub said. “They’re just using this strategy to silence the local communities and Al-Marsad.”

 

The resistance continues

Following this month’s confrontation between Israel police and activists, the local committee for planning and construction – Ma’ale Hermon – issued a restraining order to Energix to cease all work. The order was issued after the local village councils filed an appeal to the committee. Energix is aware of the order but said it will not impact their wind turbine project and has no legal grounds.

For activist and farmer Masood, any attempts by local authorities to stop the project are merely a sham.

farmers peacefully protest against Energix

Syrian civilians and farmers peacefully protest against Energix and Israeli police. Photo | Emil Masood

“The municipality doesn’t represent Syrian Arab citizens in the Golan because they’re appointed by the Israeli authorities,” Masood said. “In this conflict, they didn’t invest a lot of effort to stop it. So, all the effort was from social, public, and private initiatives and dependent on us farmers and citizens of the four villages—not the municipalities.” The village councils weren’t available for comment.

The Syrian activists’ next steps rely on how Energix proceeds, Masood said, “if they want to force this project on us, we will react.” Activists are currently working with an engineer to measure the amount of land damage caused and submit it to their lawyer in Tel Aviv for court procedures.

“But in the field, whenever the company will come back,” Masood said. “We will stand and confront it.”

Feature photo | Israeli police block Syrian Druze from accessing their land in the occupied Golan Heights. Photo | Emil Masood

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist covering Palestine, Israel and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.

The post Under Guise of Green Energy, Israel Entrenches Itself in Syria’s Golan Heights appeared first on MintPress News.

A Trlingual Dictionary of an Ancient Arabic Language

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/12/2020 - 11:35pm in

A.F.L. Beeston, M.A. Ghul, W.W. Muller, J. Ryckmans, Sabaic Dictionary (English-French-Arabic)/ Dictionnaire Sabeen (anglais-francaise-arabe) (Beyrouth: Lbrairie du Liban; Louvain-la-Neuve: Editions Peeters; University of Sanaa, Yemen, 1982).

Sabaic is the ancient Arabic language of Sheba, whose present, Arabic name is, I believe, Marib. It’s located in what is now Yemen, and its Queen famously visited King Solomon. Fabulously wealthy, it flourished in the 10th century BC on the profits of the spice and perfume trades, and conquered Abyssinia, now Ethiopia. The Ethiopian languages Amharic, Tigray and Tigrina are Semitic languages descended from the South Arabic language spoken by these ancient settlers.

The book’s the product of a Colloquium on Yemeni Civilisation, which requested the four authors to compile this dictionary. It appears to be of the terms found on inscriptions in the Yemen, and possibly one or two other places. It is just a dictionary, and doesn’t include any texts or inscriptions although it does give the alphabet in which they were written. I picked it up really as a curiosity in one of the secondhand bookstalls in Bristol through my interest in archaeology and the Ancient Near East. The book’s really of use only to archaeologists, linguists and historians working in Yemen, and it’s another language that I haven’t learned. Nevertheless it’s a reminder of just how ancient and advanced civilisation has been in the Middle East. I don’t know if there are any books specifically on the archaeology of Yemen, but I found a book a few years ago on the archaeology of Arabia, which I think contained a chapter or two on Yemen.

And these nations’ antiquities are seriously threatened by the region’s wars. When I was doing the doctorate at Bristol Uni, one of the speakers at an archaeological seminar said that much of the archaeological heritage of Syria had been trashed by the fighting. We’ve seen ISIS destroy precious mosques, churches and other shrines, as well as an ancient sculptures from the ancient Mesopotamian civilisations like Babylon and Akkad. It therefore wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Yemen’s archaeological heritage, including that of an Sheba, isn’t also seriously endangered and damaged by the current war between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia. And I am afraid that Iran’s similarly ancient and precious archaeological heritage won’t also suffer catastrophic losses if Trump and the Neocons have their way and launch an invasion of that country.

We need to stop these wars, because the cost in human lives and to the nations’ cultural heritage has been immense. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, millions forced to flee and priceless objects and monuments destroyed. And so our knowledge of the past is diminished.

But books like this help preserve and stimulate an interest in the preservation and exploration of these ancient treasures, if only among those few scholars able to read the ancient languages.

Racially, the Palestinians May Be the Real Jews

In his piece critiquing the article by Catherine Heszer, professor of Jewish Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the Jewish Chronicle, Tony Greenstein argues very strongly that biologically it is the Palestinians, not the Israelis, who are descended from the people of ancient Israel. Heszer had claimed that Israel isn’t a colonialist state and that it is simply the return of the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland. Greenstein disputes this, citing Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, who believes that European Jews are really the descendants of converts to Judaism. He also cites studies, including articles published in extreme right-wing settler magazines, that the Palestinians are descended from the peoples of ancient Israel and Judea. Greenstein writes

Let us leave aside the fact, as Tel Aviv University Professor Shlomo Sand has shown in The Myth of the Jewish Nation that there never was a Jewish exile from Palestine. The idea that rights deriving from where one’s ancestors lived 3,000 years ago trumping those who live there today is a product of Western Colonialism and Orientalism. The same myths of a 1,000 year Reich justified Hitler’s colonisation of  Eastern Europe and the expulsion of its inhabitants.

But in reality not even this is true. Jews from Europe and America had no physical connection whatsoever with Palestine or Israel.  Their only claim is that they profess a religion whose centre is Jerusalem. That does not confer any material rights over those living there.

The Jews who left Judea and Palestine over 2,000 years ago did so because the land would not support them. Palestine saw many peoples, among whom were the Hebrews, wander over the area. The idea that this gives people who are Jewish and living in London the right to displace the indigenous population is a fascist idea.  SOAS should not be in the business of propagating racial myths.

2,000 years ago a million Jews were living in Alexandria alone as well as other Hellenised cities such as Antioch and Seleucia. According to Jewish historian Salo Baron there was an explosion of Jews in the Middle East at the time owing to massive proselytising. He suggests there were 8 million Jews living in the Middle East. Sand suggests half that number. The Jews, like the Phoenicians before them, became a trading people.

The pastoralist Jews who remained in Palestine after the destruction of the second temple either converted to Christianity or remained speaking Aramaic. With the Arab invasion they largely converted to Islam whilst continuing to speak Aramaic, a biblical form of Hebrew.

The irony, as Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and its second President Yitzhak ben Zvi accepted, is that the Palestinians, not the Jewish settlers, are the descendants of the ancient Hebrews. [see e.g. Dov Ivri’s Most Palestinians Are Descendants Of Jews]. Ben Gurion even sent Moshe Dayan with a rabbi to convert the Bedouin!

In Jewish-Roots Arabs in Israel in the far-Right settler news agency Arutz Sheva, Tzvi MiSinai claimed that ‘Up to 85 percent of Arabs in greater Israel stem from Jewish ancestors, it is estimated’. The article describes how

‘One Arab says his father told him the secret of his family’s Jewishness on his deathbed, while another one, on the backdrop of a photo of the saintly Cabalistic sage Rabbi Abuchatzeira on his wall, says their roots have been known in his family for generations. Wrapping what apparently used to be kosher tefillin on his arm, he says, “My father used to do this, and he taught us to do it whenever someone was sick or in trouble.”

The myth of a Jewish ‘exile’ from Palestine and the idea of their ‘return’ is a Christian racial myth born of colonialism’s desire to establish a friendly settler state adjacent to the Suez Canal. That is why the first western Zionists were Evangelical Christians like Lord Palmerstone and Shaftesbury and also why the vast majority of western Jews were hostile to Zionism when it began.  Because if Jews belonged in Palestine they didn’t belong in England.

See: If SOAS Cares For Its Reputation It Should Send Racist Professor Heszer, Head of the Jewish Studies Centre, on an Unpaid Vacation to learn what Zionism means for the Palestinians – Tony Greenstein

Sand’s is an extreme view. I’ve also come across the argument that European Jews were the descendants of Jewish merchants rather than political exiles. The impression I had of Israelite history was that after the failure of the Bar Kochba revolt in the 2nd century AD, the Jews were forcibly expelled from Jerusalem. This became a Roman colonial city and the Temple desecrated and dedicated to Zeus. The Jewish religious leadership moved to Galilee, which thus became the centre of the Jewish faith. However, there were still Jewish communities in Israel. I believe that there was conflict between Jews and Christians and Jewish revolts against Roman imperial persecution when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

It also would not surprise me in the slightest if genetics showed that the majority of Palestinians were descended from the ancient Israelites. Archaeologists and geneticists have been studying the genetic makeup of the British people since the 1980s. This has overturned some of the traditional views about the origin of the English. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the English are descended from Germanic invaders, the Angles, Saxon and Jutes, who conquered the country from across the North Sea in the 5th-7th centuries AD. But genetic studies of the modern English doesn’t show a comprehensive replacement of the existing Romano-British population. Furthermore, recent archaeological studies of migration period human remains have shown that the vast majority of the skeletons of people buried with Anglo-Saxon grave goods were from people, who had been brought up in this country. There were very few continental invaders. It now appears that instead of a full-scale invasion and replacement of the indigenous population, the conquest simply consisted of the Romano-Brits and their leaders adopting continental Germanic customs and language in a rejection of Roman identity as Roman rule collapsed.

Genetic studies also show that there was no replacement of the indigenous British population. It now appears that the British, including the English, are largely descended from the Bronze Age population of the British Isles and Ireland. At the level, the English are genetically the same as the Irish. When this was revealed to one Irish personality on TV a few years ago, he remarked that it must be galling for the English to find that they’re the same as the peeps of the Emerald Isle. Well, at one time, when the Irish really were looked down upon and there were crazy racial hierarchies being devised to show how they and the Blacks were at the bottom of human evolution, perhaps. But not now, when so much British popular culture comes from Ireland.

My guess is that the racial history of Palestine is pretty similar. I doubt that there was any replacement of the indigenous Jewish population. Many of them would have converted to Christianity. I’ve seen it estimated that about a third of the Jewish people would have converted to Christianity during the late Roman Empire. These were Greek-speaking Jews, whose conversion was assisted through theirs and the Christians’ use of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament/ Hebrew Bible. The remaining Jews probably did speak Aramaic. It was the popular language of the Jewish people at the time of Christ. It’s the language of the Targums, paraphrases of the Hebrew scriptures to help people, who couldn’t understand Hebrew, and the Talmud, the compilation of the rabbinical oral law and the debates and opinions of the sages. I also think that Aramaic would have been the language of some Christians as well. Syriac, the language of some eastern Orthodox Christians in Lebanon and Syria, developed from the form of Aramaic spoken by those communities in the fourth century AD.

As for the Arab conquest and the adoption of Arab culture, this seems to be the result of a conscious policy by the caliph Mu’awiya in the 8th century AD. The Arabs were a tiny minority amongst the subject peoples of the new Islamic empire, who had retained their languages and customs. Greek continued to be used as the language of the imperial civil service in the western half of the empire. Mu’awiya was afraid that the Muslim Arabs would lose their ethnic identity through being absorbed by the non-Muslim population, so that their only distinction between them and the peoples they ruled would be their Islamic faith. He therefore passed a series of legislation designed to strengthen Arab ethnic identity, such as changing the language of the civil service to Arabic. This set in motion the process of Arabization which saw the majority of the population of that part of the Roman Empire adopt the Arabic language, culture and Islam.

I’m not sure about Sand’s argument that European Jews are descendants of proselytes and aren’t racially Jewish. That’s an extreme view. But Greenstein’s right about the size of the Jewish population of the Roman Empire. It may have been as large as 8 per cent and there were huge synagogues in places like Alexandria and Sardinia.

I therefore consider it highly likely that the vast majority of Palestinians are descended from the Jewish people of ancient Israel and Judea. I’m also not surprised that many Muslim Palestinians have more recent Jewish ancestry. There were large Jewish communities in Palestine before the establishment of the state of Israel, and many Jews preferred to live under Muslim rule as there wasn’t the restrictions there they faced in Christendom.

From the genetic perspective, they’re probably as Jewish as the Israelis, and so from that perspective also have an absolute right to remain on their ancestral lands against the attempts to expel and cleanse them by the Israeli state.

The ‘Empire Files’ on the Plot to Attack Iran

This is an excellent little video that explains Trump’s and the US state and military’s hostility to Iran and the real reasons behind the latest attacks. This ultimately goes back to western imperial control over the country’s oil industry. From 1908 until 1951 the Iranian oil industry was owned and controlled by a British company, Anglo-Persian Oil, now BP. It was nationalised by the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, who was consequently overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. The Shah was installed as an absolute monarch, ruling by terror through the secret police, SAVAK. Which the CIA also helped to set up.

Causes of American Hostility

The Shah’s oppression was eventually too much, and he was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the American state has resented the country ever since. Iran and Israel were America’s bulldogs in the Middle East, so the US lost an important locus of influence in the region. Iran is now politically independent, and is one of the leaders of the group of non-aligned nations. This was set up for countries that did not wish to align themselves either with America or the Soviet Union, but after the Fall of Communism is now simply for nations not aligned with America. America is also unable to control what Iran does with its own oil, from which American companies are excluded from profiting. Another major cause for America’s hostility may be that Iran and Syria are obstacles to Israel’s territorial expansion and the creation of a greater Israel.

Trump’s Attacks on Iran

The Empire Files is a Tele Sur show dedicated to exposing the horrors and crimes of American imperialism. Presented by Abby Martin, it was originally on RT. In this edition, she talks to Dan Kovalik, a human rights lawyer and author of the book The Plot to Attack Iran. The show was originally broadcast in January this year, 2020, when there had been a series of incidents, including Trump’s assassination of the Iranian general, Soleimani, which many feared would bring about a possible war. As tensions and reprisals increased, many Americans also took to the streets to protest against a possible war. The tensions had begun when Trump unilaterally reneged on an agreement with the Iranians over the enrichment of nuclear materials. Barack Obama had made this agreement with the Iranians, in which they pledged only to enrich it to levels suitable for civilian use but not for the creation of weapons. In return, Obama had agreed to lift the sanctions imposed on them. The Iranians had kept to their side of the agreement, but Trump had abandoned it because he wanted to impose further conditions containing Iran. For their part, it had been a year before the Iranians had reacted to the agreement’s failure. The EU had been keen to keep the agreement, despite American withdrawal, but now were unable or unwilling to do so. Kovalik states that Iran doesn’t want nukes. In the 1950s America and General Electric were helping the country set up nuclear power for electricity production. The Ayatollah Khomeini also issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, condemning them as ‘unIslamic’. The claim that Iran is now a threat to America is based on intelligence, which claims in turn that Iran had a list of American targets in Syria. As a result American troops, ships, missiles and planes were moved to the Gulf. It was also claimed that the Iranians had attacked three civilian ships. Some of these are very dubious. One of the attacked vessels was Japanese, and the ship’s owners deny that any attack occurred. The attack also makes no sense as at the time it was supposed to have happened, the Japanese and Iranians were in negotiations to reduce tensions. Kovalik states here how devastating any war with Iran is likely to be. According to retired General Williamson, a war with Iran would be ten times more expensive in financial cost and lives than the Iraq War. It also has the potential to become a world war, as Russia and China are also dependent on Iranian oil.

Iran Potential Ally, Not Threat

Trump has also re-imposed sanctions on Iran at their previous level before the nuclear agreement. As a result, the Iranians are unable to sell their oil. They are thus unable to buy imported foodstuffs or medicines, or the raw materials to manufacture medicines, which is naturally causing great hardship. Kovalik and Martin are also very clear that Iran doesn’t pose a threat to America. It doesn’t pose a threat to American civilians, and the country was actually a partner with the US in the War on Terror. Well, that was until George W. declared them to be an ‘axis of evil’ along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein. This disappointed the Iranians, whom Martin and Kovalik consider may be potential allies. America wishes to overthrow the current regime because the 1979 Revolution showed countries could defy America and topple a ruler imposed by the US. Although America may resent the country’s freedom to do what it wishes with its oil, the US doesn’t actually need it. America is an exporter of oil, and so one goal of US foreign policy may simply be to wreck independent oil-producing nations, like Iran, Libya and Venezuela, in order to remove them as competition.

The programme also attacks the claims that Iran is a supporter of terrorism. This is hypocritical, as 73 per cent of the world’s dictatorships are supported by the US. This includes the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, which in turn supports al-Qaeda and ISIS. Iran does support Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, but most political analysts don’t consider them terrorist organisations. They’re elected. The American state really objects to Iran having influence in its own region, but it is the Iranians here who are under threat. They are encircled by countries allied with the US.

Iran anti-Israel, Not Anti-Semitic Country

Kovalik also personally visited Iran in 2017, and he goes on to dispel some misconceptions about the country. Such as that it’s particularly backward and its people personally hostile to Americans. In fact Iran has the largest state-supported condom factory in the Middle East. Alcohol’s banned, but everyone has it. The country also prides itself on being a pluralist society with minorities of Jews, Armenian Christians and Zoroastrians, the country’s ancient religion. And contrary to the claims of Israel and the American right, it’s got the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel, and Jews are actually well treated. Kovalik describes meeting a Jewish shopkeeper while visiting the bazaar in Isfahan. He noticed the man was wearing a yarmulka, the Jewish skullcap, and went up to talk to him. In answer to his inquiries, the man told him he was Jewish, and didn’t want to leave Iran. He also told Kovalik that there was a synagogue, and led him a mile up the road to see it. Despite the regime’s genocidal rhetoric, when polled most Iranian Jews said they wish to stay in Iran. There’s a Jewish-run hospital in Tehran, which receives funding from the government. After the Revolution, the Ayatollah also issued a fatwa demanding the Jews be protected. The status of women is also good. Education, including female education, is valued and women are active in all sectors of the economy, including science.

Large Social Safety Net

And the Iranian people are actually open and welcoming to Americans. Martin describes how, when she was there, she saw John Stuart of the Daily Show. The people not only knew who he was, but were delighted he was there. Kovalik agrees that the people actually love Americans, and that if you meet them and they have some English, they’ll try to speak it to show you they can. Martin and Kovalik make the point that Iran is like many other nations, including those of South America, who are able to distinguish between enemy governments and their peoples. They consider America unique in that Americans are unable to do this. Kovalik believes that it comes from American exceptionalism. America is uniquely just and democratic, and so has the right to impose itself and rule the globe. Other countries don’t have this attitude. They’re just happy to be left alone. But America and its citizens believe it, and so get pulled into supporting one war after another. They also make the point the point that Iran has a large social safety net. The mullahs take seriously the view that Islamic values demand supporting the poor. Women enjoy maternity leave, medicine is largely free and food is provided to people, who are unable to obtain it themselves. In this respect, Iran is superior to America. Kovalik states that while he was in Iran, he never saw the depths of poverty that he saw in U.S. cities like Los Angeles. These are supposed to be First World cities, but parts of America increasingly resemble the Third World. He admits, however, that the US-imposed sanctions are making it difficult for the Iranians to take care of people.

British Imperialism and Oil

The programme then turns to the country and its history. It states that it has never been overrun, and has a history going back 4,000 years. As a result, the country has preserved a wealth of monuments and antiquities, in contrast to many of the other, surrounding countries, where they have been destroyed by the US and Britain. Iran was never a formal part of the British empire, but it was dominated by us. Oil was first discovered there in 1908, and Britain moved quickly to acquire it for its own military. The oil company set up favoured British workers and managers, and the profits went to Britain. This was bitterly resented at a time when 90 per cent of the Iranian population was grindingly poor. People wore rags, and some oil workers actually slept in the oil fields. Conditions reached a nadir from 1917-1919 when Britain contributed to a famine that killed 8-10 million people. Those, who know about it, consider it one of the worst genocides.

The Iranian oil industry was nationalised by Mossadeq, who gained power as part of the decolonisation movement sweeping the subject territories of the former empires. Mossadeq offered Britain compensation, but no deal was made before he was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. Details of the coup came to light a few years ago with the publication of official records. It was the first such coup undertaken by the intelligence agency, but it set the rules and strategy for subsequent operations against other nations.

CIA Coup

The CIA paid protesters to demonstrate against the government, and they were particularly keen that these were violent. They wished to provoke Mossadeq into clamping down on the protests, which they could then use as a pretext for overthrowing him. But Mossadeq was actually a mild individual, who didn’t want to use excessive force. He was only convinced to do so when the CIA turned the Iranian tradition of hospitality against him. They told him Americans were being attacked. Mossadeq was so mortified that this should happen in his country, that he promptly did what the CIA had been preparing for. The Shah was reinstalled as Iran’s absolute monarch with General Zadegi as the new prime minister. Zadegi got the job because he was extremely anti-Communist. In fact, he’d been a Nazi collaborator during the War. After the restoration of the Shah in 1953, there were some Nazi-like pageants in Tehran. The CIA assisted in the creation of SAVAK, the Shah’s brutal secret police. They gave them torture techniques, which had been learned in turn from the Nazis. By 1979, thanks to SAVAK, Amnesty International and other organisations had claimed Iran was the worst human rights abuser in the world.

Reagan, the Hostage Crisis and Iran-Contra

The attack on the left meant that it was the Islamicists, who became the leaders of the Revolution as revolutionary organisation could only be done in the mosques. The left also played a role, particularly in the organisation of the workers. The pair also discuss the hostage crisis. This was when a group of students took the staff at the American embassy hostage, although the regime also took responsibility for it later. This was in response to the Americans inviting the Shah to come for medical treatment. The last time the Shah had done this had been in the 1950s before the coup. The hostage-takers released the women and non-Whites, keeping only the White men. The crisis was also manipulated by Ronald Reagan and the Republicans. They undercut Jimmy Carter’s attempts to free the hostages by persuading the Iranians to keep them until after the US election. America also funded and supplied arms to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War, which left a million people dead. They also supplied arms to Iran. This was partly a way of gaining money for the Contras in Nicaragua, as the US Congress had twice stopped government funding to them. It was also partly to stop Saddam Hussein and Iraq becoming too powerful. Kovalik notes that even in the conduct of this war, the Iranians showed considerable restraint. They had inherited chemical weapons from the Shah, and the Iraqis were using gas. However, Khomeini had issued a fatwa against it and so Iranians didn’t use them.

The pair also observe that Trump is bringing back into his government the figures and officials, like John Bolton, who have been involved in previous attacks on Iran. This raises the possibility of war. Kovalik believes that Trump is a brinksman, which means that there is always the danger of someone calling his bluff. He believes that the American military doesn’t want war, but it’s still a possibility. The American public need to protest to stop Trump getting re-elected as a war president.

Stop War, But Leave Iranians to Change their Regime

This raises the question of how to oppose militarism and support progressive politics in Iran. Iranian Communists, the Tudeh are secular socialists, who hate the Islamicists. They state that it is up to them to overthrow the Islamic regime, not America or its government. They just want Americans to stop their country invading and destroying Iran. External pressure from foreign nations like America through sanctions and military threats actually only makes matters worse, as it allows the Islamic government to crack down on the secular opposition. However, Kovalik believes that the American government doesn’t want reform, but to turn Iran back into its puppet. The video finally ends with the slogan ‘No War on Iran’.

The Plot to Attack Iran – Myths, Oil & Revolution – YouTube

Readers of this blog will know exactly what I think about the Iranian regime. It is a brutal, oppressive theocracy. However, it is very clear that Iran is the wronged party. It has been the victim of western – British and US imperialism, and will be so again if the warmongers Trump has recruited have their way.

Events have moved on since this video was made, and despite Trump’s complaints and accusations of electoral fraud, it can’t really be doubted that he lost the US election. But it really does look like he means to start some kind of confrontation with Iran. And even with his departure from the White House, I don’t doubt that there will still be pressure from the Neocons all demanding more action against Iran, and telling us the same old lies. That Iran’s going to have nuclear weapons, and is going to attack Israel, or some such nonsense.

And if we go to war with Iran, it will be for western multinationals to destroy and loot another Middle Eastern country. The video is right about western oil companies wanting the regime overthrown because they can’t profit from its oil. Under Iranian law, foreign companies can’t buy up their industries. A few years ago Forbes was whining about how tyrannical and oppressive Iran was because of this rule. I think the Iranians are entirely justified, and wish our government did the same with our utilities. I think about 50 per cent of the country’s economy is owned or controlled by the state. Which is clearly another target for western companies wishing to grab a slice of them, just as they wanted to seize Iraqi state enterprises.

And at least in Iran medicines are largely free, and food is being provided to those who can’t obtain it themselves. They’ve got something like a welfare state. Ours is being destroyed. We now have millions forced to use food banks instead of the welfare state to stop themselves starving to death, and the Tories would dearly love to privatise the NHS and turn it into a private service financed through private health insurance. The Iraq invasion destroyed their health service. It also destroyed their secular state and the freedom of Iraqi women to work outside the home.

We’ve got absolutely no business doing this. It shouldn’t have been done to Iraq. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen to Iran.

Book for Learning Arabic in Three Months

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 3:09am in

Mohammad Asfour, Arabic in Three Months: Simplified Language Course (Woodbridge: hugo 1990).

I bought this nearly thirty years ago when I was briefly trying to do a postgraduate degree on Islam in Britain. Hugo are a publisher specialising in languages. According to the blurb and the introduction, this book is written for people, who want to speak the language but don’t want to be able to read or write it. There are a number of different dialects spoken in different countries, but the book states that the standard, written language isn’t used in ordinary verbal communication and it’s very unusual for foreigners to use it. The author is a professor at the University of Jordan, and so the form used is the Jordanian dialect, which will allow the student to converse in ‘almost any Arabic speaking country’.

Along with the chapters taking the reader through the language, there’s also sample conversations and an Arabic-English mini-dictionary in the back. Like many other language books, this also includes written exercises, whose answers are also in the back of the book.

I bought it because I wanted to get an idea of what the language was like before learning the script. That’s almost certainly a mistake, if the spoken and written forms of the language are so different. You almost certainly need to learn the standard language if you also wish to be able read and write it. No language is easy, but some are definitely more difficult than others. Arabic is a Semitic language like Hebrew, Syriac and some of the languages spoken in Ethiopia. They’re very different from the Indo-European languages, like French, German, Welsh, Polish and so on spoken in Europe, and so Arabic is particularly difficult. So much so that I eventually gave up.

I think the book was partly written for tourists to the Middle East, as well as possibly people from the English-speaking world working out there, but not in jobs which require the literary language. I remember one of the words in the vocabulary is ‘funduq’, which I think means ‘hotel’. It’s also a sad reflection of the politics of the region that another word that crops up is ‘inqilab’, which means ‘coup’ or ‘uprising’.

Unfortunately since the attacks of 9/11 and the ensuing chaos of the War on Terror, the invasion of Iraq, the Syrian and Libyan uprisings and the rise of Islamic State, much of the region is in turmoil and far too dangerous for western tourists, quite apart from the international lockdown everywhere due to the Coronavirus. Still, hopefully peace will return to this fascinating, ancient and historic part of the world, and Europeans will once again to be able to visit it and meet its peoples in peace and friendship.

Why the World Hates America and the West: We Bomb, Kill and Wreck their Countries

One of the issues William Blum repeatedly tackled in his books about the crimes of American imperialism was the complete failure of the American political establishment and the general public to understand why their country is so hated by the rest of the world. He produces quote after quote from American politicians, civil servants and senior military officers declaring that America has America’s actions have always been for the good of those nations they’ve attacked, whose politicians they’ve overthrown or assassinated and whose economies they’ve destroyed and plundered. In their opinion, it has always been done by a disinterested America for the benefit of other nations. America has been defending freedom from tyranny and trying to rebuild their economies through free trade capitalism. And American forces have never been responsible for the deliberate targeting of civilians and have been concerned to rebuild the countries afterwards.

Again and again Blum shows that this is all lies. America has overthrown and interfered with democratically elected regimes as well as dictatorships. It has installed vicious fascist dictators, mass murderers and torturers in their place. It has stolen countries’ industries so that they could be acquired by American multinationals. It has hypocritically deliberately targeted civilians, even while denouncing its enemies for doing so. And while it has signed contracts obliging it to pay compensation to the nations it has attacked, like Vietnam and Serbia, these treaties have never been honoured.

But the American state and public have absolutely no idea why America is so hated and resented, particularly in the Muslim world. They’ve set up think tanks to try to work out why this is, and hired public relations companies to find ways of persuading the rest of the world why America is a force for good. In their view, this hatred is due not to America’s vicious imperialism per se, but simply to their mistaken views of it. In 2005 the Smirking Chimp, George W. Bush, sent his Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy on a tour of the Middle East to correct these mistaken impressions. She did not have an easy time of it, particularly in Turkey, where they told her where the people of that country made their views very clear. She told the crowd that sometimes to preserve the peace, America believed war was necessary, and repeated the lie that after the fall of Saddam Hussein, women were being better treated in Iraq. She got angry replies from the women present, to which she responded that this was just a PR problem, just like America had in other places around the world. The Arab News, the leading English-language newspaper of the Arab world, described her performance as ‘Painfully clueless’.

See: America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, p. 29.

But some sections of the American political and military establishment have a far better idea of the cause of this hatred. In 1997 a study by the Department of Defense concluded that ‘Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States’.

And former President Jimmy Carter also realised that American military action in Lebanon and the consequent killing of Lebanese civilians had cause the people to hate America. He told the New York Times in an interview in 1989 that

We sent Marines into Lebanon and you only have to go to Lebanon, to Syria or to Jordan to witness first-hand the immense hatred among many people for the United States because we bombed and shelled and unmercifully killed totally innocent villagers – women and children and farmers and housewives – in those villages around Beirut…. As a result of that… we became kind of Satan in the minds of those who are deeply resentful. That is what precipitated the taking of our hostages and that is what has precipitated some of the terrorist attacks.

See Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, pp. 34-5.

General Colin Powell in his memoir discusses the American military actions in Lebanon in 1983. Instead of blaming the terrorist attacks subsequently launched against America on Muslim hatred of western democracy and liberty, he recognised that they were only acting as America would if it were attacked.

‘The U.S.S. New Jersey started hurling 16-nch shells into the mountains above Beirut, in World War II style, as if we were softening up the beaches on some Pacific atoll prior to an invasion. What we tend to overlook in such situations is that other people will react much as we would.’ (p. 35).

A 2004 poll by Zogby International of public opinion in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates came to the following conclusion, as reported in the New York Times:

Those polled said their opinions were shaped by U.S. policies, rather than by values or culture. When asked: ‘What is the first thought when you hard “America?” respondents overwhelmingly said: ‘Unfair foreign policy’. And when asked what the United states could do to improve its image in the Arab world, the most frequently provided answers were ‘stop supporting Israel’ and ‘Change your Middle East policy’…. Most Arabs polled said they believe that the Iraq war has caused more terrorism and brought about less democracy, and that the Iraqi people are far worse off today than they were while living under Hussein’s rule. The majority also said that they believe the United States invaded Iraq for oil, to protect Israel and to weaken the Muslim world. (pp. 37-8).

Which is more or less true, as Greg Palast has also shown in his book, Armed Madhouse.

The Defense Sciences Board, which advises the Pentagon, partly confirmed these findings in a report published in November 2004:

“Today we reflexively compare Muslim ‘masses’ to those oppressed under Soviet Rule. This is a strategic mistake. There is no yearning-to-be-liberated-by-the-U.S. groundswell among Muslim societies-except to be liberated perhaps from what they see as apostate tyrannies that the U.S. so determinedly promotes and defends…. Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather they hate our policies…when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy…. [Muslims believe] American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering.” (p. 38).

Unfortunately, our government and public opinion shares the same attitude as the American imperialists. This was shown by the full backing of the Iraq invasion and, indeed, the whole neo-Conservative foreign policy by the unindicted war criminal, Tony Blair and the propaganda of the lamestream British media. If you believe Daily Mail hack, Melanie ‘Mad Mel’ Philips, the cause of these attacks is simply Islam. It isn’t. It’s western foreign policy in the Middle East.

If we really want to do something to stop the terrorist attacks on our countries, we could start by stopping bombing, invading and looting other countries around the world, particularly in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, even with the accession of Biden to the presidency, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The birth of a cover-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

An impenetrable wall of silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former OPCW Chief Says His Office Was Bugged While USA Pushed Iraq War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/10/2020 - 1:44pm in

Tags 

News, Syria, USA, Iraq, War

In an important new interview with The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté, the first Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has revealed new insights into the way the US exerted control over the Organisation in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion and the suspicious way pro-US narratives appear to be dominating controversies in the supposedly impartial OPCW to this day.

The most significant piece of new information revealed in this interview with the acclaimed former OPCW chief José Bustani is his assertion that while the US was orchestrating his 2002 ouster due to the risk he posed of derailing the Iraq war agenda with successful negotiations, his office was packed with hidden surveillance equipment and that his American head of security vanished immediately after this was discovered.

After noticing suspicious phenomena and leaks coming out of his office, Bustani reports that he sent for a trusted security expert from outside the Organisation to investigate over the weekend.

“The fact was that the wall behind my desk, the wall behind the desk of the Director-General was full of equipment, listening equipment,” Bustani reported. “He broke the whole wall and removed everything, and there were bugs in the drawer, my desk, phone. I was shocked I must say. But he did it immediately. It took him the whole of Saturday, half of the Sunday, he took it [away], he removed everything and nobody realized except me and my wife. On Monday when people came to my office, they were shocked with the way the wall was. It was a big hole.”

https://medium.com/media/82b366ab9441fa63a22cec2adfbf7199/href

“And interesting thing is — and I never said this before — is that I had then a person that was the head of the security of the Organization,” Bustani said. “He used to be an American. He had a large office full of equipment. I called him, the Monday after that happened, I called his office to check with him how come he didn’t know, he was in charge of security of the building, how come he didn’t know that there was such bugging equipment behind me. And he wasn’t there. And I was told that he was traveling to Germany, and I asked then, ‘Who allowed him to go to Germany? I am his direct boss. He was my subordinate, he was directly subordinate to me.’ Nobody could say anything. So I said ‘As soon as he returns tell him I want to have a word with him.’ This was the Monday. You will not believe it Aaron, but on Tuesday as I got to the OPCW I am told that I should go up to the head of security office and when I got there the office was empty, and this person disappeared and never showed up again. Never showed up again.”

This is a major revelation. When you’ve got an American infiltrator covertly surveilling a foreign official to advance US foreign policy agendas, what you have is a US spy. We don’t know what agency that spy would have worked for, but what Bustani is describing is US espionage targeting an international watchdog organisation.

Bustani gave additional insights into the ongoing OPCW scandal surrounding the extremely suspicious practices that were implemented in the investigation of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria in 2018 which preceded airstrikes against the Assad government by the US, UK and France. He stated emphatically that as Director-General he would “never” have allowed the Douma investigation team to be replaced with a “core team” who never went there or permitted a team of inspectors to meet with US officials during an active investigation, as reportedly happened after the Douma incident.

“This would have never happened if I were Director-General,” Bustani said when asked if he’d have allowed a US delegation to lobby them to come to a specified conclusion in their investigation. “The Inspectors know themselves that they cannot. They cannot. They are not supposed to meet with delegations on issues like inspections in particular. I don’t know how it happened, maybe they were forced to or they were led to by… I don’t know how it in practice happened because if I were Director-General this would never happen.”

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“Absolutely not,” Bustani said when asked if he’d have permitted a team of investigators to be replaced mid-investigation with another team who never visited the crime scene. “It would have never happened to me, unless there was a serious violation of the code of conduct on the part of the inspectors. Which fortunately never, never happened.”

Bustani said he knew the whistleblowers who sparked the OPCW scandal from his time at the Organisation, and decried the way they are being smeared, silenced and their anonymity removed for simply voicing objections to an investigation’s methodology in the interest of protecting the OPCW’s legitimacy. He voiced a great fondness for the Organisation and a grave concern for the suspicious abnormalities in its investigative practices involving the United States, and he expressed shock at the way the US, UK and France recently blocked him from offering comments to the UN about those concerns.

Maté pointed out that one highly suspect common denominator in both the current OPCW scandal and Bustani’s 2002 ouster is John Bolton. As US ambassador Bolton is known to have been actively involved in arranging Bustani’s removal as Director-General to such an aggressive extent that he reportedly threatened Bustani’s children, and Bolton’s stint as Trump’s National Security Advisor began immediately before the 2018 airstrikes on Syria after the Douma incident. Bolton claims to have played a role in planning those airstrikes and was active at the highest levels of the US government’s executive branch throughout the entirety of the OPCW Douma investigation.

The mountains of evidence that the US has been meddling in an investigation of an incident which led to an act of war by the United States and its allies keeps stacking higher. The way the US power alliance has been actively suppressing and avoiding that evidence is appalling, and the way the mass media have refused to report on this fact is even more so.

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While Trump Berates Portland Looters, the US Gov’t Continues to Plunder Syria with Impunity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/09/2020 - 12:32am in

The United States and Turkey have been plundering Syrian infrastructure for years. Beginning in late 2012 and continuing through 2013, some 300 industrial factories were dismantled and taken to Turkey from Aleppo, the industrial capital of Syria. “Machinery and goods were loaded on trucks and carried off to Turkey through the Cilvegozu and Ceylanpinar crossings. Unfortunately, ‘plundering’ and ‘terror’ have become permanent parts of the Syrian lexicon when explaining their saga.”

In October 2019, Turkish forces invaded Syria and now occupy a strip of land in the northeast. The area is controlled by the Turkish military and pro-Turkish militia forces misnamed the “Syrian National Army.” Turkish President Erdogan dubbed the invasion “Peace Spring” and said the goal was to create a “safe zone.” The reality was that 200,00 Syrians fled the invasion and over 100,000 have been permanently displaced from their homes, farms, workplaces, and livelihoods.

The industrial-scale looting continues. As reported recently in a story headlined “Turkish-backed factions take apart power pylons in rural Ras Al-Ain”: “Reliable sources have informed SOHR that Turkish-backed factions steal electricity power towers and pylons in ‘Peace Spring’ areas in Ras Al-Ain countryside.”

Turkey now controls the border city of Ras al-Ain and the nearby Allouk water treatment and pumping station. This is the water station supplying safe water to the city Hasaka and the entire region. Turkish forces are using water as a weapon of war, shutting down the station to pressure the population into compliance. For over two weeks in August, with daily temperatures of 100 Fahrenheit, there was no running water for nearly one million people.

With no tap water, civilians were forced to queue up for hours to receive small amounts from water trucks. Unable to buy the water, other civilians took their chances by drinking water from unsafe wells. According to Judy Jacoub, a Syrian journalist originally from Hasaka, “The residents of Hasaka and its countryside have been pushed to rely on unsafe water sources… Many residents have been suffering from the spread of fungi, germs and dirt in their hair and bodies as a result of using well water that is not suitable for drinking and personal hygiene. The people of Hasaka remain vulnerable to diseases and epidemics because of the high temperatures and spread of infectious diseases. If the situation is not controlled as soon as possible, the spread of Corona virus will undoubtedly be devastating.”  A hospital medical director says many people are getting sick from the contaminated water.

Judy Jacoub explains what has happened most recently:”After Syrian and international efforts exerted pressure on the Turkish regime, 17 wells and three pumps were started . The main reservoirs were filled and pumping was started toward the city neighborhoods.  However, despite the Turkish militia’s resumption of pumping water again, there is great fear among the citizens.”

 

Looting Syrian Oil and Plundering the Economy

The US also has occupying troops and a proxy military force in northeast Syria. The proxy army is misnamed the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) and how they got that name is revealing. They took on this name as they came under the funding and control of the US military as documented by Reuters, US Army General Ray Thomas told their leadership, “You have got to change your brand. What do you want to call yourselves besides the YPG?’ Then, as he explained, “With about a day’s notice they declared that they are the Syrian Democratic Forces. I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to put democracy in there somewhere.”

There are numerous parties and trends within the Syrian Kurdish community. The US has been funding and promoting the secessionist element, pushing them to ally with Turkish backed jihadists against the Damascus government. The violation of Syrian sovereignty is extreme and grotesque.

Prior to the war, Syria was self-sufficient in oil and had enough to export and earn some foreign revenue. The primary oil sources are in eastern Syria, where US troops and proxy forces have established bases. It is desert terrain with little population.

To finance their proxy army, the US has seized control of the major Syrian oil pumping wells. It is likely that President Trump thinks this is a brilliant bold move – financing the invasion of Syria with Syrian oil.

In November 2019 President Trump said, “We’re keeping the oil… The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil.” Recently, it was revealed that a “Little known US firm secured a deal for Syrian oil“. Delta Crescent Energy will manage and escalate the theft of Syrian oil.

What would Americans think if another country invaded the US via Mexico, set up bases in Texas, sponsored a secessionist militia, then seized Texas oil wells to finance it? That is comparable to what the US is doing in Syria.

In addition to stealing Syria’s oil, the US is trying to prevent Syria from developing alternate sources. The “Caesar sanctions” on Syria threatens to punish any individual, company, or country that invests or assists Syria to rebuild their war-damaged country and especially in the oil and gas sector.

The US establishment seems to be doing everything it can to undermine the Syrian economy and damage Syrian currency. Due to pressure on Lebanese banks, in addition to the Caesar sanctions, the Syrian pound has plummeted in value from 650 to 2,150 to the US dollar in the past 10 months alone.

Northeast Syria is the breadbasket of the country with the richest wheat and grain fields. There are reports of US pressuring farmers not to sell wheat to the Syrian government. One year ago, Nicholas Heras of the influential Center for New American Security argued Assad needs access to cereal crops in northeast Syria to prevent a bread crisis in the areas of western Syria that he controls… Wheat is a weapon of great power in this next phase of the Syrian conflict.” Now, it appears the US is following this strategy. Four months ago, in May 2020, Syrian journalist Stephen Sahiounie reported that US Apache helicopters flew low in the Shaddadi countryside south of Hasaka ad dropped incendiary weapons, causing the wheat fields to explode into flames while the hot dry winds fanned the raging fire, according to residents of the Adla village.

After delivering their fiery pay-load, the helicopters flew close to homes in an aggressive manner, which caused residents to fear for their lives. The military maneuver was delivering a clear message: don’t sell your wheat to the Syrian government.”

To better loot the oil and plunder the Syria economy, in the past weeks the US is sending more heavy equipment and military hardware through the Kurdish region of Iraq.

In the south of Syria, the US has another base and occupation zone at the strategic Al Tanf border crossing. This is at the intersection of the borders of Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. This is also the border crossing for the highway from Baghdad to Damascus. The US controls this border area to prevent Syrian reconstruction projects from Iraq or Iran. When Syrian troops have tried to get near the area, they are attacked on their own soil.

Meanwhile, international funds donated to “Syrian relief” efforts are disproportionally sent to assist the last strong-hold of al-Qaeda in Idlib on the northwest border with Turkey.  The US and its partners evidently want to sustain the armed opposition and prevent the Syrian government from reclaiming its territory.

 

International law and the UN Charter

The US and Turkey have shown how easy it is to violate international law. The occupation of Syrian land and attacks on its sovereignty is being done in broad daylight. But it is not just a legal issue. Stopping the supply of safe drinking water and burning wheat fields to create more hunger violate the most basic tenets of decency and morality.

With supreme hypocrisy, the US foreign policy establishment often complains about a decline in the “rule of law,” yet In practice, there is no greater violator than the US itself.

In his speech to the UN Security Council, Syrian Ambassador Ja’afari decried this situation thusly: “international law has become like the gentle lamb whose care is entrusted to a herd of wolves.”

Feature photo | File photo – American soldiers patrol Syrian oil fields. Baderkhan Ahmad | AP

Rick Sterling is a journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. He can be contacted at rsterling1@gmail.com

The post While Trump Berates Portland Looters, the US Gov’t Continues to Plunder Syria with Impunity appeared first on MintPress News.

To Capture and Subdue: America’s Theft of Syrian Oil Has Very Little To Do With Money

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 26/08/2020 - 2:14am in

Near the end of July, one of the most important recent developments in U.S. foreign policy was quietly disclosed during a U.S. Senate hearing. Not surprisingly, hardly anybody talked about it and most are still completely unaware that it happened.

Answering questions from Senator Lindsey Graham, Secretary of State Pompeo confirmed that the State Department had awarded an American company, Delta Crescent Energy, with a contract to begin extracting oil in northeast Syria. The area is nominally controlled by the Kurds, yet their military force, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), was formed under U.S. auspices and relies on an American military presence to secure its territory. That military presence will now be charged with protecting an American firm from the government of the country that it is operating within.

Pompeo confirmed that the plans for implanting the firm into the U.S.-held territory are “now in implementation” and that they could potentially be “very powerful.” This is quite a momentous event given its nature as a blatant example of neocolonial extraction, or, as Stephen Kinzer puts it writing for the Boston Globe, “This is a vivid throwback to earlier imperial eras, when conquerors felt free to loot the resources of any territory they could capture and subdue.”

Indeed, the history of how the U.S. came to be in a position to “capture and subdue” these resources is a sordid, yet informative tale that by itself arguably even rivals other such colonial adventures.

 

To capture and subdue

When a legitimate protest movement developed organically in Syria in early 2011, the U.S. saw an opportunity to destabilize, and potentially overthrow, the government of a country that had long pushed back against its efforts for greater control in the region.

Syria had maintained itself outside of the orbit of U.S. influence and had frustratingly prevented American corporations from penetrating its economy to access its markets and resources.

As the foremost academic expert on Middle East affairs, Christopher Davidson, wrote in his seminal work, “Shadow Wars, The Secret Struggle for the Middle East,” discussing both Syria and Libya’s strategic importance, “the fact remained that these two regimes, sitting astride vast natural resources and in command of key ports, rivers, and borders, were still significant obstacles that had long frustrated the ambitions of Western governments and their constituent corporations to gain greater access.”

With Syria,” Davidson wrote, “having long proven antagonistic to Western interests… a golden opportunity had presented itself in 2011 to oust [this] administration once and for all under the pretext of humanitarian and even democratic causes.”

Mccain Syria

US Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman meet with Syrians at the Yayladagi camp on the Turkish-Syrian border. April 10, 2012. Umit Bektas | Reuters

The U.S., therefore, began organizing and overseeing a militarization of the uprising early on, and soon co-opted the movement along with allied states Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar. Writing at the end of 2011, Columbia University’s Joseph Massad explained how there was no longer any doubt that “the Syrian popular struggle for democracy [has] already been hijacked,” given that “the Arab League and imperial powers have taken over and assumed the leadership of their struggle.”

Soon, through the sponsoring of extremist elements, the insurgency was dominated by Salafists of the al-Qaeda variety.

According to the DIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by 2013 “there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad” and “the U.S. was arming extremists.” Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed that “although many in the American intelligence community were aware that the Syrian opposition was dominated by extremists,” still “the CIA-sponsored weapons kept coming.”

When ISIS split off from al-Qaeda and formed its own Caliphate, the U.S. continued pumping money and weapons into the insurgency, even though it was known that this aid was going into the hands of ISIS and other jihadists. U.S. allies directly supported ISIS.

U.S. officials admitted that they saw the rise of ISIS as a beneficial development that could help pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to give in to America’s demands.

Leaked audio of then-Secretary of State John Kerry revealed that “we were watching… and we know that this [ISIS] was growing… We saw that Daesh was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage — that Assad would then negotiate.” As ISIS was bearing down on the capital city of Damascus, the U.S. was pressing Assad to step down to a U.S.-approved government.

Then, however, Russia intervened with its air force to prevent an ISIS takeover of the country and shifted the balance of forces against the jihadist group. ISIS’ viability as a tool to pressure the government was spent.

 

The arsonist and the firefighter

So, a new strategy was implemented: instead of allowing Russia and Syria to take back the territories that ISIS captured throughout the war, the U.S. would use the ISIS threat as an excuse to take those territories before they were able to. Like an arsonist who comes to put out the fire, the U.S. would now charge itself with the task of stamping out the Islamist scourge and thereby legitimize its own seizure of Syrian land. The U.S. partnered with the Kurdish militias who acted as their “boots on the ground” in this endeavor and supported them with airstrikes.

The strategy of how these areas were taken was very specific. It was designed primarily to allow ISIS to escape and redirect itself back into the fight against Syria and Russia. This was done through leaving “an escape route for militants” or through deals that were made where ISIS voluntarily agreed to cede its territory. The militants were then able to escape and go wreak havoc against America’s enemies in Syria.

Interestingly, in terms of the oil fields now being handed off to an American corporation, the U.S. barely even fought ISIS to gain control over them; ISIS simply handed them over.

Syria and Russia were quickly closing in on the then-ISIS controlled oilfields, so the U.S. oversaw a deal between the Kurds and ISIS to give up control of the city. According to veteran Middle East war correspondent Elijah Magnier, “U.S.-backed forces advanced in north-eastern areas under ISIS control, with little or no military engagement: ISIS pulled out from more than 28 villages and oil and gas fields east of the Euphrates River, surrendering these to the Kurdish-U.S. forces following an understanding these reached with the terrorist group.”


A man works a primitive refinery making crude oil into diesel in a U.S-backed Kurdish village in Rmeilan, Syria, April 6, 2018. Hussein Malla | AP

Sources quoted by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that ISIS preferred seeing the fields in the hands of the U.S. and the Kurds rather than the Syrian government.

The rationale behind this occupation was best described by Syria expert Joshua Landis, who wrote that the areas of northern Syria under control of the Kurds are the U.S.’ “main instrument in gaining leverage” over the government. By “denying Damascus access to North Syria” and “controlling half of Syria’s energy resources” “the U.S. will be able to keep Syria poor and under-resources.” So, by “promoting Kurdish nationalism in Syria” the U.S. “hopes to deny Iran and Russia the fruits of their victory,” while “keeping Damascus weak and divided,” this serving “no purpose other than to stop trade” and to “beggar Assad and keep Syria divided, weak and poor.”

Or, in the words of Jim Jeffrey, the Trump administrations special representative for Syria who is charged with overseeing U.S. policy, the intent is to “make life as miserable as possible for that flopping cadaver of a regime and let the Russians and Iranians, who made this mess, get out of it.”

 

Anchoring American troops in Syria

This is the history by which an American firm was able to secure a contract to extract oil in Syria. And while the actual resources gained will not be of much value (Syria has only 0.1% of the world’s oil reserves), the presence of an American company will likely serve as a justification to maintain a U.S. military presence in the region. “It is a fiendishly clever maneuver aimed at anchoring American troops in Syria for a long time,” Stephen Kinzer explains, one that will aid the policymakers who hold “the view that the United States must remain militarily dominant in the Middle East.”

This analysis corroborates the extensive scholarship of people like Mason Gaffney, professor of economics emeritus at the University of California, who, writing in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, sums up his thesis that throughout its history “U.S. military spending has been largely devoted to protecting the overseas assets of multinational corporations that are based in the United States… The U.S. military provides its services by supporting compliant political leaders in developing countries and by punishing or deposing regimes that threaten the interests of U.S.-based corporations.”

In essence, by protecting this “global ‘sprawl’ of extractive companies” the U.S. Department of Defense “provides a giant subsidy to companies operating overseas,” one that is paid for by the taxpayer, not the corporate beneficiaries. It is hard to estimate the exact amount of money the U.S. has invested into the Syria effort, though it likely is near the trillion dollar figure. The U.S. taxpayer doesn’t get anything out of that, but companies that are awarded oil contracts do.

What is perhaps most important about this lesson however is that this is just a singular example of a common occurrence that happens all over the world. A primary function of U.S. foreign policy is to “make the world safe for American businesses,” and the upwards of a thousand military bases the U.S. has stationed across the globe are set up to help protect those corporate investments. While this history is unique to Syria, similar kinds of histories are responsible for U.S. corporation’s extractive activities in other global arenas.

So, next time you see headlines about Exxon being in some kind of legal dispute with, say, Venezuela, ask yourself how was it that those companies became involved with the resources of that part of the world? More often than not, the answer will be similar to how this U.S. company got involved in Syria.

Given all of this, it perhaps might seem to be too mild of a critique to simply say that this Syria enterprise harkens back to older imperial eras where conquerors simply took what they wished: the sophistication of colonialism has indeed improved by leaps and bounds since then.

Feature photo | A US military convoy drives the he town of Qamishli, north Syria, by a poster showing Syrain President Bashar Aassad, Oct. 26. 2019.Baderkhan Ahmad | AP

Steven Chovanec is an independent journalist based in Chicago, IL. His writings have appeared in outlets such as The Hill, teleSUR, Truthout, MintPress News, Insurge-Intelligence, and others. Follow him on Twitter @stevechovanec

The post To Capture and Subdue: America’s Theft of Syrian Oil Has Very Little To Do With Money appeared first on MintPress News.

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