Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

How CIA and Allies trapped Obama in the Syrian Arms Debacle

By Gareth Porter

July 27, 2017

Last week a Trump administration official decided to inform the news media that the CIA program to arm and train anti-Assad Syrian forces had been terminated. It was welcome news amid a deepening U.S. military commitment reflecting the intention to remain in the country for years to come. As my recent article in TAC documented, the net result of the program since late 2011 has been to provide arms to al Qaeda terrorists and their jihadist and other extremist allies, which had rapidly come to dominate the military effort against the Assad regime.

Continue reading here…

End of Nuclearism or the End of the World: Utopian Dreams, Dystopian Nightmares

By Richard Falk

We are living amid contradictions whether we like it or not, driving expectations about the future toward opposite extremes.

Increasingly plausible are fears that the ‘sixth extinction’ will encompass the human species, or at least, throw human society back to a technology of sticks and stones, with a habitat limited to caves and forests.

This dark vision is countered by gene-editing designer promises of virtual immortality and super-wise beings programming super-intelligent machines, enabling a life of leisure, luxury, and security for all.

Whether the reality of such a scientistic future would be also dark is a matter of conjecture, but from a survival perspective, it offers an optimistic scenario.

On political levels, a similar set of polar scenarios are gaining ground in the moral imagination, producing national leaders who seem comfortable embracing an apocalyptic telos without a second thought.

The peoples of the world, entrapped in a predatory phase of global capitalism, are using their democratic prerogative to shut down dissent, rationality, and science. Read the rest of this entry »

Living in Dystopian Times

By Richard Falk

Prefatory Note
The text below is drawn from a talk given at the Spring Festival of the Arts in Beirut, Lebanon on 15 June 2017. Comments welcome.

How can we understand the present unfolding world order, with special reference to its relevance for developments in the Middle East? In my view a fundamental reversal of political expectations has taken place that calls for a new assessment of what is going on, and where the region and the world seem to be heading.

Twenty-five years ago there were three widely held beliefs about future trends on a global level: the assured preeminence of the United States; the continuing globalization of the world economy; and the expanding democratization of national governance arrangements.

It was also assumed that these trends were more or less descriptive of regional realities, including the Middle East.

Each of these trends that seemed so descriptive 25 years ago now seems to be completely out of touch with what is happening around us that is very disappointing when compared with earlier expectations, no where more so than in the Middle East.

These disillusioning changes of perception are contributing to a growing anxiety about what the future portends for all of us.

In addition to these changes of expectation as to international behavioral patterns, there exist a cluster of deeper tensions that concern the very nature of the human condition, extending to challenges directed at the sustainability and quality of life on the planet.

One unfortunate consequence of the preoccupation with these disturbing recent international political realities is that much needed attention is diverted away from these more fundamental issues of an ecological, technological, and cultural character.

As an American, I am especially conscious of the enormous and costly diversionary impact that the Trump presidency is having in weakening the understanding and planning needed if humanity is to have any realistic chance of coping with these emerging threats of great magnitude that have never been confronted in the past.

The most serious menace posed by Donald Trump, who is most accurately regarded as the first right-wing populist tweeting demagogue of the digital age, is his extraordinary talent to shift the conversation from the awkwardly significant to the banal trivial.

He is exerting a great influence on public discourse not only in America but in the world, especially by diluting our perceptions of crucial issues affecting the human species as a whole, including climate change as connected to the related decline of biodiversity, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and the destabilizing effects of these technologies of the digital age especially when applied to security arrangements and the broad spectrum of societal policies bearing on individual and collective human wellbeing.

Under the weight of these threats it is not surprising that a dystopian moment is beginning to dominate the cultural imagination.

It discloses itself through a fascination with post-apocalyptic films and an interest in older literary dystopias such as Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale. These books that imagined a future that is in some respects our present are being widely read and discussed as if guidebooks to a set on conditions that were not anticipated.

Within the American political space the fragility of American democracy was prefigured in Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here as well in scary premonitions of the imminence of digital age fascism put forward in the recent radical feminist post-apocalyptic novel, The Book of Joan (2017) by Lidia Yuknavitch.

Also indicative of the foreboding quality of the prevailing Zeitgeist is a bestselling booklet that is a collection of identifying markers of tyranny by the prominent historian, Timothy Snyder, with a deliberately provocative title and a pedagogical rationale, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017).

This ‘dystopian moment’ is reinforced by the absence of positive scenarios of the future, and the dismissal of the utopian imagination as worse than irrelevant because it allegedly created receptivity to promises that when translated into political reality produce totalitarian nightmares.

In effect, utopias, correctly understood, have themselves become in these dark times a disguised form of dystopia.

A recovery of societal confidence is a key precondition of envisioning a better future. Its loss is one dimension of the crisis confronting humanity at this time, and these days such failures of moral and political imagination are generally overlooked in the public sphere that is obsessively focused on the latest daily episode in the Trump political soap opera.

Naomi Klein reminds us in a recent interview, “Trump is not the crisis but the symptom of the crisis.” The point is that we must make the effort to grasp the social and political forces that gave rise to Trump and Trumpism. Klein also insisted that the negativity of progressive thinking in recent decades has had little political traction because it fails to present a positive alternative to the angry negativity of right-wing populism that targets the established order.

Klein’s new book has the title No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.

Her text impressively couples a necessary critique of Trump’s pernicious leadership with an affirmative vision of how to move the political process in emancipatory directions. Read the rest of this entry »

New counterproductive U.S. sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea

Jan Oberg comments on the new U.S. sanctions – passed on July 28, 2017, against Russia, Iran and North Korea.

‘NATO-Turkey conflict reveals cracks in Western military alliance’

By Jan Oberg

Comments to Op-Ed page of Russia Today

Turkey is increasingly at odds with NATO and its departure from democracy and loyalty with other NATO members should give NATO solid reasons for solid concern.

However, NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, seems to still praise Turkey’s “democratic institutions” at the time of the coup attempt one year ago.

Here’s the German edition of this article.

UN Peacekeeping gets tougher

By Jonathan Power

The United Nations is often scapegoated for the falling short of its peacekeeping troops and deployments. Why are they not in Syria or Yemen, Libya or along the Palestinian/Israeli border? Why did the US and the UK make it impossible for the few UN troops present at the onset of the genocide in Rwanda to have their numbers significantly augmented? As a result those few on the ground had no choice but to withdraw when some of their members were killed and their genitals stuffed in their mouths.

All good questions if not easy to answer. In Syria, for example, where exactly would they be deployed?

But a better question is why didn’t they go in at the beginning of the civil war when things weren’t so complicated and Al Qaeda and ISIS were not around?

Then there is the bad behaviour of UN troops.

In Mali, French peacekeepers were found to have engaged in paedophile activity with local children. In the Congo peacekeepers from the Indian subcontinent have been found to be raping. In Bosnia, Dutch troops washed their hands and pulled back after they felt they couldn’t do anything to avert the onset of a pogrom that happened almost before their eyes.

In Somalia, US troops supposedly there under UN command, fled when the going got rough, and then President Bill Clinton blamed the UN for the debacle.

On the other side of the coin are the great unsung victories of the UN troops – in El Salvador where at the end of the civil war the UN held the ring and organised fair elections. In Namibia at the end of the colonial war against South Africa the UN did the same. In Cyprus it averted a Bosnian-type Christian/Muslim war. Read the rest of this entry »

Washington’s new threat against Syria, Russia and Iran: Invitation to false flag operation

By Farhang Jahanpour
TFF Board member

June 29, 2017

TFF PressInfo # 419

On Monday 26th June, the White House released a statement saying that the United States had “identified potential preparations for another chemical attack by the Assad regime…” It went on to say: “If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, followed that statement by tweeting, “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”

On Tuesday morning, speaking on BBC 4 Today programme, the British Defence Minister Sir Michael Fallon was asked how Britain would respond to another American attack on Syria, and he responded “we will support” future US action in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

With these unsubstantiated statements on Syria, the Trump Administration is dragging the world towards the law of the jungle. As if the situation in the Middle East was not bad enough, these warlike statements have made the situation much worse, and are in fact leading us towards a major confrontation in the Middle East with unimaginable consequences.

Some 14 years ago, in total violation of international law and without any authorization by the Security Council, former US President George W. Bush launched a barbaric attack on Iraq, which destroyed the country, killed and wounded more than a million people, and gave rise to ISIS that has since waged a campaign of terrorism throughout the world.

Far from having learned any lessons from that disastrous mistake, the Trump Administration seems intent on committing a similar mistake on a grander scale. During the campaign, Candidate Trump accused the former US Administration of having created ISIS, not indirectly but deliberately. He spoke about America having spent six trillion dollars on illegal wars in the Middle East and having nothing to show for it. He vowed that he would not be interested in regime change and was intent on resolving international disputes through negotiations and deals.

Whether he has changed his mind or whether the neocons in the Administration and the deep state have infiltrated and dominated his administration makes little difference. The clear fact is that the Trump Administration is acting in a dangerous and arrogant way and is dragging the world towards another catastrophe.

Shortly after coming to power, President Donald Trump and his disgraced National Security Advisor Michael Flynn singled Iran out for condemnation and put her on notice, despite the fact that the Iranian government had spent hundreds of hours in constructive talks not only with the United States, but with all the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany and had reached a landmark agreement that was then endorsed by the Security Council.

The agreement blocked all the paths to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, even if she ever had any intention of manufacturing them, something that Iran has denied, and years of investigation have not provided a shred of evidence to the contrary.

President Trump chose Saudi Arabia, the home of Wahhabi fundamentalism that has provided the ideological framework for nearly all the militant Sunni terrorist groups from Al Qaeda, to the Taliban, to Boko Haram and finally to ISIS and its various affiliates, which have created mayhem throughout the world, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, as the venue for his first foreign visit. While in Riyadh, he bizarrely formed a “coalition against extremism” with Saudi leaders at its head.

However, as Trump made absolutely clear in his speech to the unelected Arab monarchs, the main aim of the coalition was to unite those Sunni potentates against Iran.

In the past few weeks, America has launched a number of attacks on the positions of the forces allied with the Syrian government in their battle against ISIS. On 18th May and 6th June, Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 418: Humankind 2050 – A new better world: Peace, Development, Environment

West of Jondal is Torsnes, named after the Nordic war god Thor with his Hammer, a center of the Viking era from 800 to 1050, only 250 years. Why so short? Successful with raids and colonization–Gardarike in Russia, Iceland, Greenland, Vineland in Canada. And then: fini. Why?

Because they had no future. Evil Lóki had killed Good Baldur–next to Torsnes is Belsnes=Baldursnes. They were doomed. Enters Christianity with Evil Satan and Good God, restoring hope. The end.

The Soviet Union Empire had no future: Communism was undefined. Enters Orthodox Christianity–Putin is a true believer–hope restored.

The United States Empire has no future: “allies” refuse to fight US wars and US capitalism increases inequality with reduced growth. Enter Campaigner Trump ‘Making America Great Again’ by buying-hiring American; President Trump making America isolated, violent, unequal–an autistic, psychotic, narcissistic, paranoid in a psycho-pathological exceptionalist, us-them paranoid state. A perfect fit for the worst.

2050 is only 33 years ahead; 33 years back is Orwell’s 1984. Much happened.

The Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989; the Soviet Empire, Soviet Union and Communism followed. The US Empire declined, former clients refused to fight US wars, but not EU wars; eroding NATO.

The Cold war, threatening humanity with a nuclear arms race that in a hot war could obliterate the planet, melted away with a whimper.

China’s incredible growth, also in world presence, from the Deng Xiaoping revolution in 1980, has been mainly within that period.

The attack on Muslim countries by a “US-led coalition” and the reaction by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State-Caliphate: in that period.

All over the world regionalization, ELAC-Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, African Unity/Union, EU, ASEAN; most states being too small, civilizations blocking for a world state.

All over the world non-dominant nations asserting themselves.

And all over the world, inspired from USA, women emancipating.

A new world, in only 33 years of rapidly accelerating history with another new world in the next 33 years. Some forecasts, using Western identification of units-variables prolonging trends and Daoist identification of holons-dialectics, forces-counterforces, yin/yang; to catch both continuous change and the discontinuous, jumpy changes.

Development, defined as satisfying basic human needs by lifting the bottom up; reduction of inequality can be achieved before 2050. The idea of food-water, clothing-housing, health-education for all has arrived and been well received (maybe not in the USA); one formula being the last two free, the first four subsidized with monthly cash to buy. Homo sapiens being homo faber and homo ludens, productive and playful with lifelong support, not lifelong struggle for sheer survival.

True, ground and river water are scarce but ocean water is not, obtainable by boiling with parabolic mirrors, capturing the vapor.

Environment, defined as satisfying basic nature needs, diversity and symbiosis. Fighting CO2 omission, a bilateral relation for a very complex reality, is much too simplistic, fighting CFCs destroying the ozone layer and symbiosis, strengthening the diversity of biota and abiota beyond using only renewable resources make good sense.

Individuals stop smoking if they attribute death from lung cancer to smoking. A catastrophe attributed to insulting nature’s needs may elicit remedial action from collectivities. Likely to happen, but better pro-actio than re-actio. A key: the darker the earth the more heating by solar energy; cities are darker than villages. Therefore, move out from big cities ruled by elites to small local units ruled by people.

Peace, defined negatively as absence of parties being bad to each other, and positively as parties being good to each other–at the mega-macro-meso-micro levels–depends on ability to solve underlying conflicts and to concile underlying traumas–possibly increasing.

Forecasts for twenty cases spanning the world and the levels: Read the rest of this entry »

Trump could play the nationalist card to avoid impeachment threat



By Jonathan Power


June 12th 2017

“The best lack all conviction”, wrote the Irish poet, William Yeats, “while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Is this not true of America today?

Some of the “best” are working to bring down President Donald Trump yet are they ready to cut to the chase? He has cards up his sleeve. He came to power partly because he won the support of working class and lower middle class whites who were prepared to vote against their economic interest for the sake of the nationalism that Trump espoused. Neither Keir Hardie nor Franklin Roosevelt nor Bernie Sanders were their leader. It was Trump.

I don’t find it difficult to imagine how Trump could play the nationalist card that would rally his electorate. The “best” would be against this, but how many would be convinced enough to go out on the street, French style, and demand Congress impeach him?

I doubt if the Harvard professors would or journalists from the New York Times, business men, school teachers, doctors, civil servants or airline pilots. Of course, as with the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War protests, there would be students in the front row. Then there would be clergy, a few professors from the University of Wisconsin, novelists, Senator Sanders and at most 50 members of Congress. The police would easily face them down and disperse them.

“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”, said Samuel Johnson. So is extreme confrontation, or even war. What follows is not my scenario. It is that of Philip Gordon, writing in the current issue of the respected “Foreign Affairs”.

He was Barack Obama’s Special Assistant for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf regions. Those who have dormant passionate intensity in their bones should read it and act now before it is too late. Events can move fast. “A week is a long time in politics”, said the former British prime minister, Harold Wilson.

Trump could begin his diversionary tactics with Iran, Read the rest of this entry »

What’s offensive and defensive in Syria

There should be a lower level to the statements by a US Secretary of Defence.
There should be a debunking of the unethical behaviour that repeatedly state that there is only a political solution to Syria and continue to use only violence.
There should be a discussion about international law here.
There should be a discussion of what is morally defensible in this case, even assuming for the sake of argument that President al-Assad is the worst guy on earth.
Why isn’t there – after so many years and so much human suffering and destruction.
We need a very different discourse about Syria – ASAP.

 

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