Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category
By Gareth Porter
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman outraged many readers when he wrote an opinion piece on 12 April calling on President Trump to “back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria”. The reason he gave for that recommendation was not that US wars in the Middle East are inevitably self-defeating and endless, but that it would reduce the “pressure on Assad, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah”.
The whole war on terrorism has been, in effect, a bait-and-switch operation from the beginning
That suggestion that the US sell out its interest in counter-terrorism in the Middle East to gain some advantage in power competition with its adversaries was rightly attacked as cynical.
But, in fact, the national security bureaucracies of the US – which many have come to call the “Deep State” – have been selling out their interests in counter-terrorism in order to pursue various adventures in the region ever since George W Bush declared a “Global War on Terrorism” in late 2001.
By Jan Oberg
“The Debate” on April 16, 2017 with Richard Millett and Jan Oberg illustrates quite well two distinctly different perspectives on conflicts in general and Syria in particular.
Its focus is on the difference in media coverage of the terrible events in Khan Seykhoun and al-Rashideen but there is much more to it.
I’ll keep on struggling for the conflict and peace perspective against the violence perspective that sees black-and-white only and continues the seemingly eternal blame game – and thus legitimates more, rather than less, warfare.
Happy if you care to share and continue the – meta – debate!
By Jonathan Power
April 11, 2017
Are our governments economical with the truth, if not maliciously misleading? Do governments the world over lie? Of course yes, because there are always occasions when realpolitik appears to demand it.
Most recently, many are arguing, we have seen an attempt to obfuscate the truth when President Donald Trump ordered missiles to be fired at an airbase in Syria in, he said, retaliation for an attack using sarin gas by the Syrian government on unarmed civilians. Critics blame the rebels.
I’m no chemical weapons expert but an hour chasing links on Wikipedia has taught me that making sarin gas without enormous scientific expertise and without a sophisticated manufacturing set up is not easy. Indeed too difficult for any of the rebel groups now operating in Syria. Moreover, if they wanted to mount a chemical weapons’ attack they would have chosen mustard gas which can be made in the “kitchen sink”.
This suggests since it was not mustard gas but sarin that was used, it is probably true, as Trump claims, the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad is behind it. Even though the government is supposed to have given up all its chemical weapons in a deal brokered jointly by the US and Russia it wouldn’t have been hard to hide away the small amount necessary for this attack.
Why do people on the left rush to assume that in this case Trump has lied? Read the rest of this entry »
April 12, 2017
The secretaries of state, Tillerson and Lavrov meet today. We seem to enter a stage of what must appropriately be perceived as a frosty new Cold War.
In the worst of cases this can lead to a new Cuban Missile Crisis. God forbid!
By Richard Falk
In early morning darkness on April 7th the United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian al-Shayrat Airfield from two American destroyers stationed in the Eastern Mediterranean. It described the targets as Syrian fighter jets, radar, fuel facilities used for the aircraft. It asserted prior notification of Russian authorities, and offered the assurance that precautions were taken to avoid risks to Russian or Syrian military personnel.
Pentagon spokespersons suggested that in addition to doing damage to the airfield, the attack had the intended effect of “reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.”
President Donald Trump in a short public statement justified the attack as a proportionate response to the Syrian use of chemical weapons against the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the western Syrian province of Idlib a few days earlier, which killed an estimated 80 persons, wounding hundreds more.
Although there were denials of Syrian responsibility for the attack from Damascus and Moscow, a strong international consensus supported the U.S. view that Bashar al-Assad had ordered the attack allegedly as a means of convincing opposition forces concentrated in Idlib that it was time to surrender.
In the background, is the conviction among the more militaristic policy advisors and political figures, including Trump, that President Barack Obama’s failure Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
With this sad event we introduce TFF Live on Facebook.
You’ll find the original on Jan Oberg’s public page here and that is where you can best comment on it and share it (only if you are at Facebook).
Or comment below here.
By Richard Falk
Six months ago, the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) asked Virginia Tilley and me to write a study examining the applicability of the international criminal law concept of apartheid to Israel’s policies and practices toward the Palestinian people. We were glad to accept the assignment, and conceived of our role as engaging in an academic undertaking. ESCWA, one of several UN regional commissions, requested the study as a result of an uncontested motion adopted by its 18 Arab member governments.
Almost within hours of its release on March 15, our report [bearing the title “Israel’s Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid”] was greeted by what can only be described as hysteria and derision.
And a few words about Western mainstream media unwillingness to deal with NATO criticism
By Jan Oberg
It’s as amazing as it is frightening how the West – a group of countries allegedly fighting for truth against propaganda and fake news by others – leads exactly that game itself.
And so is the degree to which Western allegedly free media – meaning free also of political powers that be – continue to ask no questions and do no research. We are obviously living in the post-intellectual age, knowledge having been replaced by marketed and more or less invented, elite self-serving narratives. For instance…
Take a close look at what Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command, says when testifying before the US House Armed Service Committee. He is also SACEUR – Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the man whose views and actions will decide the fate of 500+ Europeans should there be a major war in this region of the world.
What is says is plain irresponsible. It’s beyond the rational. While it may not be fake news, it’s an example of ignored, omitted news.
He blows up beyond recognition the so-called Russian threat. There is no single evidence of it in his statement – why it would happen, how, where, with what motives the Moscow would have and – in particular – how likely it is to become reality. He merely asserts it – based upon a wildly exaggerated estimate of his own authority: Read the rest of this entry »
Originally published in The New Statesman, London, 15 March 2017
28 March 2017
Three former UN insiders on the future of the world’s most ambitious organisation.
By Hans von Sponeck, Richard Falk – both TFF Associates – and Denis Halliday.
US President Donald Trump is ardently embracing a toxic form of messianic nationalism, while demeaning those who oppose him as corrupt, and dishonest enemies. His “America First” chant is creating severe international tension, promoting extremism – within and outside the US – and undermining the homeland security that he has so insistently pledged to enhance.
Trump seems determined to implement policies and practices that could signal the weakening of democracy, and possibly even herald the onset of fascism. His programme to deport undocumented immigrants and to exclude all visitors from six designated Muslim majority countries is illustrative of a regressive and Islamophobic outlook.
The groundswell of popular dissent is vibrant and worldwide, from Romania to South Korea, Gambia to Brazil, from the UK to the Ukraine.
Trump is dangerously exploiting the frustration of citizens with the political establishment, which is unprecedented in its depth and breadth. The umbilical cord that connects those governing with those governed is becoming dangerously stressed. The digital revolution is endowing governments with horrifying capabilities for oppression and control but it is also enhancing the ability of the citizenry to mount resistance and mobilize opposition forces.
UN charter law and power politics
As UN veterans, we recall and affirm the preamble to the UN Charter that reads “we the peoples” – not we the governments! The trust of people in their governments to work for social and economic progress and to prevent war has dramatically weakened, if not disappeared.
The prediction made by the Mexican delegate at the founding of the UN in 1945 that “we have created an institution which controls the mice but the tigers will roam around freely” seems truer today than at the moment of its utterance. The UN Security Council’s permanent members – China, France, Russia, the UK and the US – indeed “roam around freely” lacking respect for international law or the authority of the UN, once more pursuing their respective nationalist agendas without any pretence of accountability. These countries are also the major consumers and exporters of military hardware, facilitating both militarism and “merchants of death”.
The international war supposedly being waged against political extremism and terrorism has predictably deteriorated into a series of horrific wildfires and slaughter. Wars that should never have happened, neither the overt ones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria nor the partially covert ones in Yemen, Somalia, and a range of other countries in Africa and Asia have brought peace or stability, but a series of unspeakable ordeals of human suffering. Old struggles have been magnified while new ones have been created.
The US tiger, aged as it is, displays the most serious signs of political amnesia. Unilateralism and exceptionalism have just been reaffirmed as cornerstones Read the rest of this entry »