Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

Kurdish independence referendum wrong and dangerous

By Farhang Jahanpour, TFF Board member

Professor Farhang Jahanpour, Member of Kellogg College at the University of Oxford says “despite the strong affection and admiration that I feel towards the long-suffering Kurds, I believe that the plan to hold a referendum for independence in Iraq is wrong and potentially very dangerous.”

Former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University also adds that “as part of their attempts to partition and weaken the Middle East, the Israelis have been trying to use the Kurds in their conflict against Iran, without much success.”

Former lecturer at the University of Cambridge says “the Israelis believe that the independence of the Kurds as another non-Arab group, especially if they can turn them against Iran, would be helpful to them.”

Following is the full text of the interview.

Have We Been Deceived Over Syrian Sarin Attack?

By Gareth Porter

Scrutinizing the Evidence in an Incident Trump Used to Justify Bombing Syria

A closer look at the evidence suggests the official narrative is based on a crudely staged deception.

The United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria issued a report this September that reinforced the official narrative that the Syrian air force dropped a bomb containing nerve gas sarin on the insurgent-controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun, Syria on April 4. That conclusion comes several weeks after the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) issued a report that supported sarin exposure as the cause of death and injuries.

The reports by the two official international bodies appear to be aimed at closing the book on what happened at Khan Sheikhoun, where at least 83 deaths and 293 injuries occurred. But a months-long investigation by AlterNet into the questions around the attack raise serious questions about whether a sarin bomb was the source of the deaths. Relying on analysis from forensic and weapons experts, as well as a senior intelligence official with decades of experience in assessing bomb damage, the investigation suggests that a conventional weapon dropped by a Syrian plane struck barrels of a pesticide that created deadly phosphine gas that caused symptoms paralleling those of sarin and capable of causing mass casualties.

The evidence gathered in this investigation undercuts the credibility of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) laboratory test results that showed exposure to sarin, demonstrating how the organization violated its own protocols and opened the door for tampering. Further, the investigation raises questions about whether Russian and Syrian intelligence knew — or should have known — that the conventional strike on the target in Khan Sheikhoun carried a serious risk of mass casualties.

Continued here…

USA – Where are you heading?

By Johan Galtung

“Pentagon Study Declares American Empire Is ‘Collapsing,’” is the title of an essay by Nafeez Ahmed, analyzing the study.

Sounds interesting. His subtitle: “Report demands massive expansion of military-industrial complex to maintain global ‘access to resources’”. Sounds familiar.

Using excerpts from the Pentagon study made by Nafeez Ahmed, and deeply grateful to him, here are our comments.

Based on some work in the field – The Decline and Fall of the US Empire; And Then What?, TRANSCEND University Press, 2010 [i] – Pentagon is a key institution in the USA, next to the White House-Congress-Wall Street. How it sees its own role in the USA and in the world is of primary importance to understand where USA is heading. Read the rest of this entry »

Unwinding the Iran nuclear deal

By Jonathan Power

September 5th 2017

The big mistake, apparently about to be made by President Trump, in undoing the nuclear agreement made by President Barack Obama with Iran is not just that he intends to go backwards, it is that he doesn’t intend to go forwards. (To be fair, neither did Obama.)

What the Iranians negotiated about was not so much the “bomb” – to be or not to be – but about their pride and their position in the world and their right to become a thriving economic and political power inured from sanctions or military threats. (Sanctions were imposed before the nuclear issue came to the fore.)

The nuclear program was first and foremost about creating leverage so that Iran could regain the sort of respect that the offspring of the Persian Empire once was given. Second, it was about making sure that Iran is not found short when its oil reserves start to shrink. (Iran also has heavily invested in solar energy.)

For Iran, negotiations were a suggestive game of hide and seek, played in front of all-angled, reflecting mirrors. They were not about actually building a bomb or, as we used to say in Pakistan’s pre-bomb days, of being “a screwdriver away from completing a bomb”.

I don’t actually believe that Iran ever had the intention of building a nuclear bomb. But it was not unhappy that the West thought it was. It did want to frighten the West. It did want to forestall what it believes is the Americans’ true ambition – to bring about “regime change”.

Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, has spoken a number of times about how nuclear weapons go against the principles of Islam. Islam is a language of love and brotherhood, not of a nuclear holocaust. I believe him, not out of naivety, but because I know Iran is a deeply religious society and that the ayatollahs take Islamic teaching earnestly. Children are brought up to take values seriously, to love not hate, and to take care of the poor and widowed. War is a last resort. Reading the Koran, nuclear weapons could never be justified.

Iran doesn’t go easily to war. Saddam Hussein inflicted war on Iran for no good reason, other than to demonstrate the muscle of a dictator. Iran had never tried to build up a deterrent against Iraq. (The US and the UK supported Saddam and provided him with weapons.) Read the rest of this entry »

Evolving International Law, Political Realism, and the Illusions of Diplomacy

By Richard Falk

International law is mainly supportive of Palestinian grievances with respect to Israel, as well as offering both Israelis and Palestinians a reliable marker as to how these two peoples could live normally together in the future if the appropriate political will existed on both sides to reach a sustainable peace.

International law is also helpful in clarifying the evolution of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination over the course of the last hundred years. It is clarifying to realize how the law itself has evolved during this past century in ways that bear on our sense of right and wrong in the current phase of the struggle.

Yet at the same time, as the Palestinians have painfully learned, to have international law clearly on your side is not the end of the story. The politics of effective control often cruelly override moral and legal norms that stand in its way, and this is what has happened over the course of the last hundred years with no end in sight.

The Relevance of History

2017 is the anniversary of three crucial milestones in this narrative:

(1) the issuance of the Balfour Declaration by the British Foreign Secretary a hundred years ago pledging support to the World Zionist Movement in their campaign to establish a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine;

(2) the passage of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 seventy years ago proposing the partition of Palestine between the two peoples along with the internationalization of the city of Jerusalem as a proposed political compromise between Arabs and Jews; and

(3) the Israel military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip over fifty years ago after the 1967 War.

Each of these milestones represents a major development in the underlying struggle.

Each combines an Israeli disregard of international law the result of which is to inflict major injustices on the Palestinian people. Without due regard for this past, it will not be possible to understand the present encounters between Israelis and Palestinians or to shape a future beneficial for both peoples that must take due account of the past without ignoring the realities of the present.

Israel is sophisticated about its use of international law, invoking it vigorously to support its claims to act in ways often motivated by territorial ambitions and national security goals, while readily evading or defying international law when the constraints of its rules interfere with the pursuit of high priority national goals, especially policies of continuous territorial encroachment at the expense of reasonable Palestinian expectations and related legally entrenched rights.

To gain perspective, history is crucial, but not without some unexpected features. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

 

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