The headlines are shocking beyond belief: There are four warring factions, in Yemen, fighting over 4 billion barrels of oil representing 90% of the countries exports. For the war machine, arms manufacturers and arms dealers to prosper, you need something to fight over. In the Middle East it’s oil and natural gas. They don’t care about the 85,000 innocent children who have starved to death already, in Yemen. It’s all about money, power and control at any cost to humanity.
Iran could use its growing clout in Iraq to turn it into a springboard for attacks against Israel, the chief of Israeli military intelligence said on Monday, reports Reuters.
Israel sees the spread of Tehran’s influence in the region as a growing threat and has carried out scores of air strikes in civil war-torn Syria against suspected military deployments and arms deliveries by Iranian forces supporting Damascus.
Iraq, which does not share a border with Israel, is technically its enemy but was last an open threat in the 1991 Gulf War. Since a US-led invasion in 2003 toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, Israel has worried that Iraq’s Shi’ite majority could tilt towards Iran.
“Iraq is under the growing influence of the Qods Force (covert Iranian foreign operations unit) and Iran,” military intelligence chief Major-General Tamir Hayman told a conference in Tel Aviv.
Australia has for years employed a deterrence policy to disincentivize refugees from reaching its shores. However, a new report has found Canberra has played a major hand in creating the very asylum-seekers it despises.
Just last week, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) released a bombshell report that showed the Australian government had approved the export of dozens of shipments of military equipment to the Saudi-led coalition, currently wreaking a deadly war of aggression in Yemen, the poorest, most impoverished nation in the
According to the report, Internal Defence Department documents, obtained under Freedom of information (FOI) requests, and from parliamentary hearings, have revealed that the government granted at least 37 export permits for military equipment to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and 20 to Saudi Arabia.
“Obama might’ve embraced the so-called offshore balancing between Middle East powers with the US watching from a distance, but the Trump doctrine is leading to offshore blasting that could draw the US into direct confrontation with Iran.”
The real reasons behind Trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and its implications for the greater Middle East.
After U.S. president Donald Trump fired his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, many analysts have focused on how this high-level ouster took place: unceremoniously, on Twitter, not in a face-to-face meeting.
The tragic loss of innocent lives to terrorist acts will not stop until we admit to the folly of current policies.
This script was written so long ago it’s descended into farce. Put aside the terrifying images from Saudi Arabia of gays being hurled off rooftops and the headless bodies of rape victims dangling from cranes; Iran, according to the US State Department and its corporate media whores, is the new face of evil. Iran which hasn’t waged war against another country in more than 300 years; Iran which while by no means perfect, is still far and away the most democratic state in the Middle East.
By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – – Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute and their scientific partners have …
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry emerged from talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday and announced a new stance on the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: He can stay—at least, for now. “The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change,” Kerry told reporters in Moscow after the meeting. The statement represented a distinct turnaround from the Obama administration’s previous position that Assad should step—or be forced—aside while the international community proceeded with the bombing of his country.
Is Islam blindly hated by so many simply because of what the media tells us?
“Today, the largest power against intimidation and terror is our armed forces,” Rouhani said at a massive military parade in Tehran.Iran has played a major role
The rich gulf city of Dubai is once again set to dazzle the world, this time with a giant 880 metre middle finger dedicated to those fleeing nearby countries.
The 200-story structure, to be built next week by 20,000 underpaid Indian workers, will join the growing list of attractions in the United Arab Emirates city.
Noting that the structure will be the biggest dismissive gesture in the world, a spokesperson for Dubai Tourism said the building will feature shopping malls, an indoor ski field, and a luxury hotel. “The highlight for many will be the seven-star restaurant at the top of the middle finger, with views stretching as far as Syria,” the spokesperson said.
But the height record may be short-lived, with nearby Saudi Arabia today announcing that it has its own plans to build a giant middle finger, possibly as tall as 900 metres.
Neighboring Qatar meanwhile said it was considering plans to offer temporary shelter to asylum seekers, possibly underneath 20 spare Ferraris no longer in use.
Islamic State Advances to Within 9 Miles of U.S. Troops at al-Ain Base in Iraq
Posted on Feb 14, 2015
By Juan Cole
The Jordanian newspaper al-Dustur [Constitution] reports that Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) has captured the al-Anbar city of al-Baghdadi in western al-Anbar Province.
Twenty-five Daesh commandos, some of them with suicide bomb belts, then threw themselves at the outskirts of the al-Ain military base about 9 miles away, where 300 US troops are stationed. That attack was beaten off, but there were fears for the safety of the big US contingent of trainers and special forces personnel at the base.
A US General Kirby maintained that the Daesh advance was not significant and that it is rare it gains a new town. But in fact, Daesh has been expanding its territory in western Iraq, even in the face of US bombing raids. The major Iraqi town it has lost in al-Anbar Province is Jurf al-Sakhr in the far south of the province near the capital.
That the Daesh extremists could take a town so near an Iraqi base, not so far from the capital, raises questions yet again about the competency of the Iraqi army.
The Iraqi government rejected the idea of foreign infantry troops being stationed in al-Anbar, and tried to shoot down allegations that the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad was not very interested in the fate of strongly Sunni al-Anbar.
Shi’ite fighters and Iraqi army members participate in an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants in Jurf al-Sakhar,
“Iraq no longer exists.” My young friend M, sipping a cappuccino, is deadly serious. We are sitting in a scruffy restaurant across the street from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It’s been years since we’ve last seen each another. It may be years before our paths cross again. As if to drive his point home, M repeats himself: “Iraq just doesn’t exist.”
His is an opinion grounded in experience. As an enlisted soldier, he completed two Iraq tours, serving as a member of a rifle company, before and during the famous Petraeus “surge.” After separating from the Army, he went on to graduate school where he is now writing a dissertation on insurgencies. Choosing the American war in Iraq as one of his cases, M has returned there to continue his research. Indeed, he was heading back again that very evening. As a researcher, his perch provides him with an excellent vantage point for taking stock of the ongoing crisis, now that the Islamic State, or IS, has made it impossible for Americans to sustain the pretense that the Iraq War ever ended.
Few in Washington would endorse M’s assertion, of course. Inside the Beltway, policymakers, politicians and pundits take Iraq’s existence for granted. Many can even locate it on a map. They also take for granted the proposition that it is incumbent upon the United States to preserve that existence. To paraphrase Chris Hedges, for a certain group of Americans, Iraq is the cause that gives life meaning. For the military-industrial complex, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Considered from this perspective, the “Iraqi government” actually governs, the “Iraqi army” is a nationally representative fighting force, and the “Iraqi people” genuinely see themselves as constituting a community with a shared past and an imaginable future.
Arguably, each of these propositions once contained a modicum of truth. But when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and, as then–Secretary of State Colin Powell predicted, broke the place, any merit they previously possessed quickly dissipated. Years of effort by American occupiers intent on creating a new Iraq out of the ruins of the old produced little of value and next to nothing that has lasted. Yet even today, in Washington the conviction persists that trying harder might somehow turn things around. Certainly, that conviction informs the renewed US military intervention prompted by the rise of IS.
So when David Ignatius, a well-informed and normally sober columnist for the Washington Post, reflects on what the United States must do to get Iraq War 3.0 right, he offers this “mental checklist”: in Baghdad, the United States should foster a “cleaner, less sectarian government”; to ensure security, we will have to “rebuild the military”; and to end internal factionalism, we’re going to have to find ways to “win Kurdish support” and “rebuild trust with Sunnis.” Ignatius does not pretend that any of this will be easy. He merely argues that it must be—and by implication can be—done. Unlike my friend M, Ignatius clings to the fantasy that “Iraq” is or ought to be politically viable, militarily capable and socially cohesive. But surely this qualifies as wishful thinking.
The value of M’s insight—of, that is, otherwise intelligent people purporting to believe in things that don’t exist—can be applied well beyond American assumptions about Iraq. A similar inclination to fantasize permeates, and thereby warps, US policies throughout much of the Greater Middle East. Consider the following claims, each of which in Washington circles has attained quasi-canonical status.
* The presence of US forces in the Islamic world contributes to regional stability and enhances American influence.
* The Persian Gulf constitutes a vital US national security interest.
* Egypt and Saudi Arabia are valued and valuable American allies.
* The interests of the United States and Israel align.
* Terrorism poses an existential threat that the United States must defeat.
For decades now, the first four of these assertions have formed the foundation of US policy in the Middle East. The events of 9/11 added the fifth, without in any way prompting a reconsideration of the first four. On each of these matters, no senior US official (or anyone aspiring to a position of influence) will dare say otherwise, at least not on the record.
Yet subjected to even casual scrutiny, none of the five will stand up. To take them at face value is the equivalent of believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy—or that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell really, really hope that the Obama administration and the upcoming Republican-controlled Congress can find grounds to cooperate.
Let’s examine all five, one at a time.
The Presence of US Forces: Ever since the US intervention in Lebanon that culminated in the Beirut bombing of October 1983, introducing American troops into predominantly Muslim countries has seldom contributed to stability. On more than a few occasions, doing so has produced just the opposite effect.
Iraq and Afghanistan provide mournful examples. The new book Why We Lost, by retired Lieutenant General Daniel Bolger, finally makes it permissible in official circles to declare those wars the failures that they have been. Even granting, for the sake of argument, that US nation-building efforts were as pure and honorable as successive presidents portrayed them, the results have been more corrosive than constructive. The IS militants plaguing Iraq find their counterpart in the soaring production of opium that plagues Afghanistan. This qualifies as stability?
And these are hardly the only examples. Stationing US troops in Saudi Arabia after Operation Desert Storm was supposed to have a reassuring effect. Instead, it produced the debacle of the devastating Khobar Towers bombing. Sending GIs into Somalia back in 1992 was supposed to demonstrate American humanitarian concern for poor, starving Muslims. Instead, it culminated in the embarrassing Mogadishu firefight, which gained the sobriquet Black Hawk Down, and doomed that mission.
Even so, the pretense that positioning American soldiers in some Middle East hotspot will bring calm to troubled waters survives. It’s far more accurate to say that doing so provides our adversaries with what soldiers call a target-rich environment—with Americans as the targets.
The Importance of the Persian Gulf: Although US interests in the Gulf may once have qualified as vital, the changing global energy picture has rendered that view obsolete. What’s probably bad news for the environment is good news in terms of creating strategic options for the United States. New technologies have once again made the United States the world’s largest producer of oil. The United States is also the world’s largest producer of natural gas. It turns out that the lunatics chanting “drill, baby, drill” were right after all. Or perhaps it’s “frack, baby, frack.” Regardless, the assumed energy dependence and “vital interests” that inspired Jimmy Carter to declare back in 1980 that the Gulf is worth fighting for no longer pertain.
Access to Gulf oil remains critically important to some countries, but surely not to the United States. When it comes to propping up the wasteful and profligate American way of life, Texas and North Dakota outrank Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in terms of importance. Rather than worrying about Iraqi oil production, Washington would be better served ensuring the safety and well-being of Canada, with its bountiful supplies of shale oil. And if militarists ever find the itch to increase US oil reserves becoming irresistible, they would be better advised to invade Venezuela than to pick a fight with Iran.
Does the Persian Gulf require policing from the outside? Maybe. But if so, let’s volunteer China for the job. It will keep them out of mischief.
Arab Allies: It’s time to reclassify the US relationship with both Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Categorizing these two important Arab states as “allies” is surely misleading. Neither one shares the values to which Washington professes to attach such great importance.
For decades, Saudi Arabia, Planet Earth’s closest equivalent to an absolute monarchy, has promoted anti-Western radical jihadism—and not without effect. The relevant numbers here are two that most New Yorkers will remember: fifteen out of nineteen. If a conspiracy consisting almost entirely of Russians had succeeded in killing several thousand Americans, would US authorities give the Kremlin a pass? Would US-Russian relations remain unaffected? The questions answer themselves.
Meanwhile, after a brief dalliance with democracy, Egypt has once again become what it was before: a corrupt, oppressive military dictatorship unworthy of the billions of dollars of military assistance that Washingtonprovides from one year to the next.
Israel: The United States and Israel share more than a few interests in common. A commitment to a “two-state solution” to the Palestinian problem does not number among them. On that issue, Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s purposes diverge widely. In all likelihood, they are irreconcilable.
For the government of Israel, viewing security concerns as paramount, an acceptable Palestinian state will be the equivalent of an Arab Bantustan, basically defenseless, enjoying limited sovereignty and possessing limited minimum economical potential. Continuing Israeli encroachments on the occupied territories, undertaken in the teeth of American objections, make this self-evident.
It is, of course, entirely the prerogative—and indeed the obligation—of the Israeli government to advance the well being of its citizens. US officials have a similar obligation: they are called upon to act on behalf of Americans. And that means refusing to serve as Israel’s enablers when that country takes actions that are contrary to US interests.
The “peace process” is a fiction. Why should the United States persist in pretending otherwise? It’s demeaning.
Terrorism: Like crime and communicable diseases, terrorism will always be with us. In the face of an outbreak of it, prompt, effective action to reduce the danger permits normal life to continue. Wisdom lies in striking a balance between the actually existing threat and exertions undertaken to deal with that threat. Grown-ups understand this. They don’t expect a crime rate of zero in American cities. They don’t expect all people to enjoy perfect health all of the time. The standard they seek is “tolerable.”
That terrorism threatens Americans is no doubt the case, especially when they venture into the Greater Middle East. But aspirations to eliminate terrorism belong in the same category as campaigns to end illiteracy or homelessness: it’s okay to aim high, but don’t be surprised when the results achieved fall short.
Eliminating terrorism is a chimera. It’s not going to happen. US civilian and military leaders should summon the honesty to acknowledge this.
My friend M has put his finger on a problem that is much larger than he grasps. Here’s hoping that when he gets his degree he lands an academic job. It’s certain he’ll never find employment in our nation’s capital. As a soldier-turned-scholar, M inhabits what one of George W. Bush’s closest associates (believed to be Karl Rove) once derisively referred to as the “reality-based community.” People in Washington don’t have time for reality. They’re lost in a world of their own.
Responding to Syrian objections over the Administration’s plans to fly combat missions against ISIS in Syrian territory, President Obama told journalists at the White House that as far as he was concerned, Bashar Assad could “Fuck off and die.”
In a speech to the nation last night, Mr. Obama said the United States was recruiting a global coalition to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the militants, known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He warned that “eradicating a cancer” like ISIS was a long-term challenge that would put some American troops at risk.
“We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” Mr. Obama declared in a 14-minute address. “That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq,” he added, using an alternative name for ISIS. “This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
Mr. Obama specifically stated that he would not place U.S. “boots on the ground” in Iraq or Syria, which most intelligent pundits interpreted as meaning that we will have no large ground units in the Middle East like we did in the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but did not preclude the use of special forces units and forward air observers.
Although Mr. Obama has received political support from both parties on his policy statement, some pundits on the far right, particularly those who depend on Fox News for their income, have criticized the President for not going far enough. In addition, several members of the wing nut radio talk show crowd, along with former members of the Bush Administration, continue to blame Obama for the whole situation.
“The Bush Administration and its cheerleaders caused this clusterfuck by invading Iraq in the first place,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “Anyone who listens to Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity on this subject needs his head examined anyway. They’re best bet is to shut the fuck up, that way they won’t sound so ignorant.”