Archive for the ‘Lebanon’ Category

The threat of ISIS should be taken seriously (Part 1)

By Farhang Jahanpour

Part 2 of this series.

A shorter version of this article was published by IPS

The Origins

When all of a sudden ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Sham) emerged on the scene, and in a matter of days occupied large swathes of mainly Sunni-inhabited parts of Iraq and Syria, including Iraq’s second city Mosul and Saddam Hussein’s birthplace Tikrit and called itself the Islamic State, many people, not least Western politicians and intelligence services, were taken by surprise.

This feeling of shock and repeated reversals in the past has been due to widespread ignorance or the willful neglect of history, and general unwillingness by politicians and pundits to look at the reality as it is or to explore the root causes of the issues in the Middle East from a historical, religious and ethnic point of view.

Most politicians have been afflicted by short-termism and they stumble from one crisis to the next without an overall strategy and without the ability to look beyond their noses. Read the rest of this entry »

USA-Israel vs. Arab-Muslim Worlds: What Happens?

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Kuala Lumpur, International Islamic University of Malaysia, 19 Aug 2014

Nothing good. But let us have a look at it in the standard peace studies way: Diagnosis – analyzing, Prognosis – forecasting, and Therapy – remedies, even solutions.

“Israel-Palestine” is the discourse Tel Aviv-Washington prefers. They have all the strong cards: overwhelming military power, political veto in the United Nations Security Council, the economic upper hand in interlocking economies – not just oil cash from Saudi Arabia-Qatar–and the idea of working for a solution with Washington as “mediator” – only the U.S. can bring the two together, gently or roughly–toward a sustainable peace.

A great distance from reality is needed to believe in that spin.

USA and Israel are interlocked by a much deeper tie Read the rest of this entry »

Strange regional alignments in the Gaza Massacre

By Richard Falk

Richard Falk

Prefatory Note

My post below, an earlier version of which was published in AlJazeera English as an opinion piece. It was written before I had the opportunity to read an illuminating assessment of the regional and global turmoil that culminated for now in the massacre carried out by Israeli armed forces in Gaza. I highly recommend “The Tragedy of Great Power: The Massacre of Gaza and the Inevitable Failure of the Arab Spring” written by the learned Islamic jurist and scholar, Khaled Abou El Fadl, a distinguished professor at UCLA School of Law, with the link to the article below:

What makes Professor El Fadl profound essay particularly valuable is his ability to fit the regional pieces together in a convincing manner, showing how and why governments that rule in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, encouraged the overthrow of Egypt’s elected government headed by Mohamed Morsi in mid-2013 and more recently encouraged Israel to destroy Hamas.

He also shows that Hamas is not accurately perceived as a byproduct of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, but has its own “very distinct pedagogies, objectives and methodologies.” In depicting the forces of resistance and transformation as opposed to the geopolitics of counterrevolution as constituting the core struggle taking place throughout the region it becomes clear why the alignments in the Middle East are assuming their current configurations.

It is telling and provocative for Professor El Fadl to situate the Palestinian Liberation Organization (and by implication, the Palestinian Authority) as de facto allies of Sisi’s Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE as well as being existential partners of the United States and Israel in subjugating the region to Western goals.

What has developed further since the end of the Cold War rivalry that long dominated the region should be considered a geopolitical protection racket that gained political salience in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The upheavals of 2011 shook the foundations of the old order, and led to renewals throughout the region of Faustian Bargains by which various authoritarian regimes receive protection, including help with the destruction of any political actor, whether Islamic or not, that dares to challenge this established order composed of ultra-rich native elites claiming dynastic privileges conferred by colonial powers then seeking native collaborators to manage exploited and oppressed populations.

While these elites appease Israel, the masses in the same political space remain passionately and symbolically dedicated to the Palestinian struggle as became evident in the September 9, 2011 attack by several thousand Egyptians on the Israeli Embassy shortly while the heroic memories of the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak were still fresh.

Of all the complexities surrounding the reaction of the world to the horrifying spectacle of Israel’s severe criminality in Gaza none is more perplexing than the complicity of most governments throughout the Arab world.

What makes their political posture particularly bewildering is the degree of ethnic, religious, cultural, and historical commonality that creates such close ties of identity among the peoples of the region. And no single issue has been as unifying over the decades for these people than has their long intensely felt opposition to the injustice, suffering, and exploitation that the Palestinian people have endured for the past century as a result of the encroachments of the Zionist movement on their lands. Read the rest of this entry »

Tormenting Gaza

By Richard Falk

Prefatory Note:
The Israeli military operation, code name Operation Protective Edge by Israel, being carried out in the Gaza Strip continues, and seems poised to mount a ground attack that will further intensify the suffering of the Palestinian people, and lend additional credibility to the accusation of ‘collective punishment,’ both a grave breach of international humanitarian law and a crime against humanity.
The article below is a somewhat edited re-publication of an opinion piece published in AlJazeera English several days ago at the start of Operation Protective Edge.

For the third time in the last six years Israel has cruelly unleashed the full fury of its military machine against the defenseless 1.7 million people of Gaza, inflicting heavy civilian casualties and further devastation on the long besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip.

With cynical disregard of the realities of this latest one-sided confrontation between Israel and Palestine, instead of condemning such recourse to massive violence as ‘aggression’ that violates the UN Charter and fundamental international law principles, the reaction of Western diplomats and mainstream media has so far perversely sided with Israel, citing the bland rationalization repeatedly stressed by Netanyahu that ‘every nation has the right to defend itself.’

And so it does, but not by way of aggression!

From the UN Secretary General to the President of the United States, the main insistence has been that Hamas stop must all rocket attacks while Israel is requested ever so politely to show “maximum restraint.” Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo: GCC Military Command or a More Open Society

By Farhang Jahanpour*

Short e-mail PressInfo version here.

Saudi Military exercises

On 30th April 2014, Saudi Arabia staged its largest-ever military exercises codenamed “Abdullah’s Shield” after the kingdom’s 91-year old ruler and coinciding with the ninth anniversary of his ascension to the throne. The exercises involved 130,000 Saudi troops and showcased some of the latest weapons purchased by the kingdom from the United States and China, including the Chinese CSS-2 intermediate-range ballistic missiles with a range of 2,650 kilometers (1,646 miles) which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The Chinese version of these missiles is already equipped with nuclear warheads. This was the first time that these missiles had been seen in public in Saudi Arabia.

Crown Prince Salman presided over the exercises, which were also watched by a number of prominent foreign guests, including King Hamad of Bahrain and more pointedly by Gen. Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani chief of the army Staff. There have been persistent rumors over many decades that in return for Saudi funding of the Pakistani nuclear weapons’ program, Pakistan had committed to provide nuclear warheads for CSS-2 missiles, should Saudi Arabia decide to have them. Earlier in the year when Prince Salman visited Pakistan, he personally invited Gen. Sharif to be his guest at the exercises. Pakistani media stressed the point that Gen. Sharif had gone to Jeddah “on the invitation of Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud to witness the military exercise…” (1)

With the exception of Bahrain’s ruler, none of the other GCC rulers watched the exercises. The guests included the crown prince of the UAE, the prime minister of Jordan and military commanders from some GCC states, but Qatar pointedly did not send any representatives. This was yet another sign of a growing rift between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

A unified GCC Command and Monetary Union

At the GCC summit held in Kuwait in December 2013, the Saudis called for a unified GCC military command to have 100,000 forces, half of which would be contributed by the Saudis. (2) However, other GCC members opposed the idea as they saw it as a way of consolidating Saudi domination of other GCC states and affirming Saudi Arabia’s position as the big brother. Many smaller GCC states value their independence, and while they would like to cooperate with other GCC members, they do not wish to be absorbed into a unified military alliance as junior partners. Oman openly expressed its opposition to the proposal and Qatar and Kuwait also followed suit. Read the rest of this entry »

Gaza – the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe

By Richard Falk

This material below was distributed by John Whitbeck, distinguished American lawyer and author, living in Paris, and doing his best to keep a group concerned with world affairs informed about latest developments, especially inthe Middle East. I also add a slightly edited text of a message sent by Robert Stiver from Hawaii, who has exhibited consistent empathy for the suffering of the Palestinian people.

My press release below, although far less emotional than the cri de coeur that Robert Stiver wrote, issues from the same place of urgent concern for the brave and resolute people of Gaza. I hope that Robert is wrong however when he ends with self-tormenting words of despair: “What to do, in the name of common justice? I know not; it seems useless, all useless.” Such feelings of futility are quite understandable, but let us do all within our power to make sure that this unfolding catastrophe ends before its full tragic character is totally realized.

It hardly needs to be observed that the silence of the United Nations and the global media is a continuing disgrace, particularly given the pomp and circumstance of those mighty statesmen who self-righteously proclaim a new doctrine: ‘The Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) those whose survival and dignity is at stake due to crimes of state or as a result of natural catastrophe.


Cutting edge Middle East news analysis edited by Oliver Miles
Web Arab News Digest

Gaza: a disgrace

According to a BBC report military action in Gaza between Israel and Hamas has been limited since the serious fighting a year ago in which about 170 Palestinians and six Israelis died. But tension remains high, as also between Hamas and Egypt where northern Sinai has been the scene of much fighting. Meanwhile living conditions for 1.7 million Gazans remain atrocious. Read the rest of this entry »

The Middle East – heading where?

By Johan Galtung

Washington DC

It’s anybody’s guess. But something is going on.

Look at the two strongest actors: Israel and the USA. Israel autistically locked into becoming the region’s military champion, not only by its overwhelming military destructive power but by cutting all neighbors down to a size commensurable with Israel, and divided by their own conflicts. With the help of their instrument, US military might, Israel has had success of sorts with Iraq, Libya, maybe Syria; and Egypt back to normal as military dictatorship benefiting from most of the Camp David rewards. Goodbye, Arab Spring.

What is left is Iran, too big to exist, also too big to fail; with Israel doing its best to make the Geneva conference fail. No worry about Syria peace; the Islamists have announced they will not participate in peace talks. They go for a win, amply armed by the USA, with Israel backup.

Israel’s goal: to eliminate any threat, singly or combined, from Arab-Muslim neighbors–far beyond the wrongly termed “Israel-Palestine conflict”–and to expand. Next Eastern border: the Jordan River, by annexation, the goal of a key Likud group (Washington Post, 6 Nov 13). Next: the old mandate, the Jordan-Iraq border? Genesis 15:18, Nile-Euphrates? For legitimation and theory: see Isaiah 2:4-5. Read the rest of this entry »

Time for new beginnings in the Middle East

By Farhang Jahanpour

Momentous changes are afoot in the Middle East. The Arab uprisings have not yet run their course, the Egyptian revolution has not yet ended, terrorist atrocities in Iraq have intensified, the carnage in Syria still continues, and there seems to be no end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Yet, in the midst of all these scenes of doom and gloom there are some positive developments that may change the face of the Middle East for many decades to come. President Obama’s opening to Iran and the election of a moderate Iranian president who wants to reciprocate the American gesture of goodwill provides a glimmer of hope that after 34 years of estrangement, the two countries may reconcile their differences and open a new chapter in their relations.

However, just the slim prospect of a US-Iranian rapprochement has created a backlash among many people who are stuck in the past and who look at any change with dread. There are many powerful voices both in the United States and Iran that are trying to prevent better relations between the two countries.

In addition to domestic opposition in Iran and the United States, many countries in the Middle East have also reacted with alarm to the possible end of a hostile Iran that they can demonize as a boogeyman. Israel and her powerful friends in the Congress and in US think tanks and the media have launched a massive campaign to prevent any possible end to hostilities. The leaders from the powerful pro-Israeli lobbies, from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, AIPAC, the Anti Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, took part in an extraordinary White House meeting on Tuesday 28 October to warn the president against rapprochement with Iran. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama’s Syrian imbroglio

By Jonathan Power

President Barack Obama let the chickens out of the cage when foolishly he pronounced that he had drawn a red line across which the Syrian government should not go. Now, after what he says is its second use of chemical weapons, the red line has been crossed and the chickens are coming home to roost. He has announced he plans to strike Syria, albeit it in a limited fashion.

He has made it clear that he won’t go to the UN about it, even to the General Assembly where a Russian veto doesn’t count but where there could be a slim majority in favour. It would give Obama some sort of political cover.

Neither is he prepared to wait for the results of the investigation by the UN team that has just visited the site of the atrocity. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Western media frames civilian areas as “Hezbollah strongholds”

By Sharmine Narwani

Beirut was thrown into turmoil on Thursday evening as a terrorist attack against residents of Dahiyeh – a southern suburb of the Lebanese capital and a predominantly Shia neighborhood – threatened to draw the country into a region wide crisis.

As conflicting news reports began to eke out in the immediate aftermath of the city’s deadliest car bombing in eight years, there was a disconcerting congruity in headlines beaming out from western capitals – and it had nothing to do with facts.

In lock-step, western media was calling the scene of the crime a “Hezbollah stronghold” – Continue reading here.


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