Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Mon, 27 Jun 2016 04:39:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Fallujah Falls: The Slow Death of ISIL and the Future of Iraq Mon, 27 Jun 2016 04:36:44 +0000 By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

As Shakir Jawdat, Chief of the Iraqi Federal Police, announced the complete liberation of the last, northern neighborhoods of Fallujah from Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi came to the city on Sunday to plant the Iraqi flag right downtown.

al-Abadi, the commander in chief of the Iraqi armed forces, called on all Iraqis to issue from their homes into the streets and to celebrate the liberation of Fallujah.

In televised remarks, al-Abadi said on arriving in the city, “This victory in Fallujah is a source of joy to all Iraqis despite the challenges that the city witnessed,” referring to “the large number of Daesh fighters who were killed by these heroes from the army, the police, the popular mobilization units, and the tribal levies, who fought the war of the brave.”

The popular mobilization units are the Shiite militias, deadly foes of the hyper-Sunni, Shiite-killing Daesh. The tribal levies are clans of the Dulaym in al-Anbar Province who opposed Daesh just as many of them had opposed al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the predecessor of Daesh that was organized to fight the US military occupation of the country. Tribes are kinship units in rural Iraq, and while they are religiously conservative they typically are not fundamentalists, and they dislike Daesh for condemning their Muslim traditionalism in favor of a hyper-fundamentalism.

That al-Abadi and his American allies were able to have Shiite militias and Sunni al-Anbar tribesmen fight on the same side was a substantial victory of its own sort.

He called for celebrations in each of Iraq’s provinces Sunday.

Likewise, the head of the provincial governing council for al-Anbar, chaired by Sabah Karhut al-Halbusi, congratulated the heroes of the army and police for their defeat of the terrorist Daesh organization. He warned, however, that there were cases after liberation of arson, and called on al-Abadi to discipline the persons responsible.

Karhut appears to believe that members of Shiite militias from the south were engaging in reprisals via this arson. He has been deeply critical of the Shiite militias in the past.

Karhut’s implicit note of dissent from al-Abadi’s optimistic celebration should be a warning to us all. Despite Sunni involvement in liberating Fallujah, it was the Shiite troops of the military counter-terroism unit that spearheaded the campaign, and the regular army is in such disarray that Shiite militias such as the Iran-tied Badr Corps were absolutely key to retaking Fallujah

But there are hardly any Shiites in Fallujah, so this was an invasion from the Shiite south. If Iraq can’t find a way to get the Iraqi Sunnis to be in the same party with Shiite Iraqis, this sort of unrest could easily recur.

In the end, Daesh and other al-Qaeda affiliates in Iraq and Syria can only truly be defeated by inclusive, non-sectarian government. But al-Abadi is the head of a Shiite religious party that no Sunni believes includes them. That has to change if Iraq is to survive.


Related video added by Juan Cole

CBS: ” Iraqi military officials say Fallujah “fully liberated” from ISIS”

]]> 2
US Elites Abandoned their Workers: Trump is their Revenge; & You ain’t seen Nothin’ Yet Mon, 27 Jun 2016 04:21:06 +0000 By John Feffer | ( | – –

The voters vowed to take their revenge at the polls. They’d missed out on the country’s vaunted prosperity. They were disgusted with the liberal direction of the previous administration. They were anti-abortion and pro-religion. They were suspicious of immigrants, haughty intellectuals, and intrusive international institutions. And they very much wanted to make their nation great again.

They’d lost a lot of elections. But this time, they won.

In Poland, that is.

In two elections last year, the conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) won the Polish presidency and then, by a more convincing margin, a parliamentary majority.

And this wasn’t just a victory for PiS. It was a victory for Poland B.

Since its post-Communist transition, that country is often described as having cleaved into two parts, commonly known as “Poland A” and “Poland B.” Poland A links together an archipelago of cities and their younger, wealthier inhabitants. Poland B encompasses the poorer, older parts of the population, many clustered in the countryside, particularly in the country’s eastern reaches near the former Soviet border.

After 1989 and the implementation of a punishing series of economic reforms, Poland A took off economically. By 2010, Warsaw, the capital, had become one of the most expensive places to live in Europe, outranking even Brussels and Berlin. New entrepreneurs and corporate managers took advantage of a host of economic opportunities, particularly after Poland joined the European Union (EU) in 2004.

In the countryside, on the other hand, Poland B fell ever further behind. Factories closed, and many farms couldn’t keep going. Jobs disappeared. Several million Poles decamped abroad in search of better economic opportunities. In other words, as the good times rolled in Poland A, Poland B languished.

Until the elections of 2015, Poland’s liberals dominated political, economic, and cultural life. Although they may not exactly be “liberal” in the American sense of supporting government entitlement programs, they are generally less religious, more tolerant of differences, and more open to the world than their conservative counterparts. They have squared off against the denizens of Poland B over such issues as the role of the Catholic Church in public life, the number of immigrants the country should allow in, and how close Poland should be to the EU.

You can find the equivalent of Poland A and Poland B elsewhere in Eastern Europe, too. The capitals of the region — Prague, Bratislava, Budapest — enjoy per capita GDPs well above the European average, while rural areas suffer. The B populations, however, have not taken their increasingly second-class citizenship quietly. Throughout the region they’ve risen up to vote for populist, often rabid, right-wing parties like FIDESZ and Jobbik in Hungary and GERB and Ataka in Bulgaria that voice their disappointment and swear they’ll make their countries great again. These parties are consistently anti-liberal in the European sense, opposing both an unregulated market and tolerant open societies.

Even in the Western European heartlands, you can see a Europe B coalescing around nationalist, anti-immigrant parties like the National Front in France, the UK Independence Party in Great Britain, the Swedish Democratic Party, and the Freedom Party of Austria (whose leader just lost the country’s presidency by 0.6% of the vote). While Europe A tries to keep the EU show going, Europe B is already heading for the exits. (Think: Brexit in England.)

No doubt it’s occurred to you by now that the United States is not immune to this trend. With the rise of an aggressive version of right-wing American populism, the United States is waking up to a dividing line that is becoming sharper by the day. Donald Trump has made headlines with his talk of building a wall between the United States and Mexico, but his campaign has highlighted a more important division: between America A and America B.

Responding to the irresistible pull of celebrity culture and to the exclusion of almost anything else, the U.S. media has focused on the person of Donald Trump. Far more important, however, are the people who support him.

America B

In the speech that made him famous, the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama challenged the way “the pundits like to slice and dice our country” — into black America and white America, liberal America and conservative America, and most famously into red states and blue states as defined by party affiliation. We live, however, in a purple America, Obama suggested, “all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”

That rousing speech put Obama on the map. But that map would have its revenge. Once he reached the Oval Office four years later, the representatives of the Republican red states would ceaselessly battle the president’s every initiative from health care to the Iran nuclear deal. As a result, during his tenure, the U.S. became more, not less, politically divided.

In some sense, though, the Obama of 2004 was right. The key dividing line in the U.S. had little to do with Republican vs. Democrat, rich vs. poor, or liberal vs. conservative. To explode these conventional oppositions, it would take a billionaire Republican populist, who had once been a solid Democrat and who offered a political program that mixed together liberal and conservative ideas, conspiracy theories and racial animus, but above all else exhortations to America B to rise up and retake the country. Indeed, the triumph of Trump in the Republican primaries — based, in part, on his appeal to former white working class Democrats and independents, his fierce attacks on mainstream Republicans, and his flouting of what passes for conventional wisdom about electability — sent the pundits back to their think tanks to figure out what on earth was happening with American voters.

Trump was, they concluded, sui generis, a peculiar mutation of the American political system generated by the unholy coupling of reality television and the Tea Party revolt. But Trump is not, in fact, a sport of nature. He reflects trends taking place around the world. He is, in many ways, just a mouthpiece for America B.

It’s been notoriously difficult to characterize the Trump constituency. It’s much easier to identify the people who will never vote for him: Latinos angered by his racist taunts about Mexican immigrants and a federal judge, women outraged by his sexual innuendo and misogyny, and virtually everyone with an advanced degree. Writing off these constituencies — particularly women, since they constituted 53% of the electorate in 2012 — should doom Trump’s presidential bid.

Yet Trump is proving to be a guilty pleasure for many voters, like binge-watching a TV show about a serial killer or eating an entire quart of artery-clogging premium ice cream. The urge to vote for him is something that some Americans will never admit to outside the curtained privacy of the voting booth. But he scratches an itch. He’s the electoral equivalent of a day at the firing range, a way of blowing off political steam.

Trump voters tend to be overwhelmingly white, middle-aged, lower-income men whose education stopped at high school. They are not stupid, nor are they, as Thomas Frank argued about working-class Republican voters in his astute book What’s the Matter with Kansas?, voting against their own economic interests. Trump may be a billionaire, but he has articulated an economic policy that diverges from the naked plutocracy of the party of Mitt Romney.

He has opposed trade deals that outsource American jobs, supported higher taxes for “hedge-fund managers,” and declared his commitment to saving Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Yes, of course, Trump has also made statements directly contradicting these positions or aligned himself with politicos who take the exact opposite stances. But the billionaire has constructed an image of himself as a triumphant version of an “average Joe” (with billions in pocket change) that plays well in America B. Whether consciously or not, he has taken a page from the Europe B playbook by combining positions skeptical of the unrestrained free market with a lot of nationalist bluster. It bears a family resemblance to fascism, but the American variant is firmly anchored in the kind of individual initiative celebrated on The Apprentice.

What also sets Trump apart is his commitment to making “America great again.” His opponents have tried to argue that America is already great, has been great, and will always be great. But the truth is, for many Americans, things have not been so great for at least the last two decades.

This line, more than Trump’s intemperate rants and off-the-cuff insults, is what ultimately distinguishes America A from America B. At a time when the American economy is growing at a respectable pace and the unemployment rate is below 5% for the first time since 2008, America B has not benefitted from the prosperity. It has suffered, not profited, from the great transformation the country has gone through since 1989 (and was particularly hard hit by the near economic meltdown of 2007-2008).

After all, it wasn’t just the former Communist world that experienced a transition at the end of the twentieth century.

Transitions Are U.S.

In the 1990s, the United States changed its political economy. It was not quite as dramatic a shift as the regime changes that took place across Eurasia, but it had profound consequences for the realignment of voting patterns in America.

During that decade, the U.S. economy accelerated its shift from manufacturing — along with the well-paying blue-collar jobs that sector had once generated — to an ever more dominant service economy. In terms of employment, manufacturing jobs dropped from 18 million in 1990 to 12 million in 2014, while wages for such jobs tumbled as well. Over that same period, the health-care and social assistance sector alone grew from 9.1 million to more than 18 million jobs. At one end of that service economy were the 1% in financial services making stratospheric sums, particularly as compensation packages soared from the mid-1990s on. On the other end were the people who had to add shifts at McDonald’s or Walmart to their full-time jobs or monetize their spare time by driving for Uber just to make what they or their parents once earned with one job at the local factory.

America was not alone in undergoing this shift. Thanks to technological innovations like computers and robotics, greater access to cheap labor in places like Mexico and China, the rise of the Internet, and the deregulation of the financial world, the global economy was being similarly transformed. Blue-collar workers no longer played as vital a role in any advanced economy.

In the U.S., put bluntly, the imagination of America A no longer needed the muscle of America B.

At one time in its history, government programs narrowed the gap between economic winners and losers through taxes and the entitlement programs they supported. But “small government” fever — which had remarkably little to do with actually reducing the size of government — swept the United States in the 1980s, first in the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan and then in the “reinvent government” faction of the Democratic Party.  In the 1990s, they would collaborate across the aisle to slash assistance to low-income people. The resulting political (and economic) realignment created some notorious ironies, including the fact that Richard Nixon, with his wage-and-price controls and environmental policies, was a far more liberal president in the early 1970s than the Democratic Party standard bearer of the 1990s, Bill Clinton.

Because of this realignment, an entire group of Americans no longer could count on support from either the Republican or the Democratic Party. They lost good jobs during the economic expansion of the Clinton years, and did not benefit significantly from the tax cuts of the George W. Bush era. Instead, by the Obama years, they were working longer hours and taking home less money. In the meantime, a new liberal-conservative consensus was emerging. Both yuppie liberals and 1% conservatives, at odds over so many political and cultural matters, had agreed to abandon America B.

Falling behind economically and feeling betrayed by politicians on both sides of the aisle, America B might have moved to the left if the United States had a strong socialist tradition. In the 2016 primary campaign, many of the economically anxious did, in fact, support Bernie Sanders, particularly the younger offspring of America A fearful of being deported to America B. Unlike Europe B, however, America B has always been more about rugged individualism than class solidarity. Its denizens would rather buy a lottery ticket and pray for a big payout than rely on a handout from Washington (Medicare and Social Security aside). Donald Trump, politically speaking, is their Powerball ticket.

Above all, the inhabitants of America B are angry. They’re disgusted with politics as usual in Washington and the hypocritical, sanctimonious political elite that goes with it. They’re incensed by how the wealthy have effectively seceded from American society with their gated estates and offshore accounts. And they’ve focused their resentment on those they see as having taken their jobs: immigrants, people of color, women. They’re so desperate for someone who “tells it like it is” that they’ll look the other way when it comes to Donald Trump’s inextricable links to the very elite who did so much to widen the gap between the two Americas in the first place.

Left Behind

As the Democratic Party emerges from a bruising primary, it is trying to emphasize both the importance of unity and the urgency of the upcoming elections. Indeed, pundits are calling 2016 “perhaps the most important presidential vote in our lifetime” (Bill O’Reilly) and “one of the most pivotal moments of our time” (Sean Wilentz).

But if Poland is any indication, the presidential election this year will not be the critical one. Although Donald Trump may speak for America B, he is a weak candidate. His negatives are high, he has an unenviable record to run on, and his tendency to shoot from the hip will eventually cause innumerable self-inflicted wounds. Even if he does manage to win in November, he’ll still face a divided Republican Party, an unremittingly hostile Democratic Party, and a political-economic elite inside the Beltway and on Wall Street who will push back against his unworkable and unpalatable proposals.

That’s the situation that the Law and Justice Party faced in 2005 in Poland, when it first managed to squeak into power. The Polish parliament was divided and was not able to implement the party’s populist agenda. Two years later, the liberal opposition returned to power, where it remained for eight more years.

But when PiS won again last year, conditions had changed. It finally had a comfortable parliamentary majority with which to power through its Tea-Party-like transformation of Poland. Moreover, it was riding high on a Euroskeptic, anti-immigrant wave that had practically inundated the continent.

America B has a fondness for Donald Trump and his almost childlike audacity. (Gosh, kids say the darndest things!) Right now, his fans are attached to an individual, rather than a platform or a party. Many of his supporters don’t even care whether Trump means what he says or not. If he loses, he will fade away and leave nothing behind, politically speaking.

The real change will come when a more sophisticated politician, with an authentic political machine, sets out to woo America B. Perhaps the Democratic Party will decide to return to its more populist, mid-century roots. Perhaps the Republican Party will abandon its commitment to entitlement programs for the 1%.

More likely, a much more ominous political force will emerge from the shadows. If and when that new, neo-fascist party fields its charismatic presidential candidate, that will be the most important election of our lives.

As long as America B is left in the lurch by what passes for modernity, it will inevitably try to pull the entire country back to some imagined golden age of the past before all those “others” hijacked the red, white, and blue. Donald Trump has hitched his presidential wagon to America B. The real nightmare, however, is likely to emerge in 2020 or thereafter, if a far more capable politician who embraces similar retrograde positions rides America B into Washington.

Then it will matter little how much both liberals and conservatives rail against “stupid” and “crazy” voters. Nor will they have Donald Trump to kick around any more. In the end, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. His dystopian novel, Splinterlands, a Dispatch Books original (with Haymarket Books), will appear this fall. He is a TomDispatch regular.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2016 John Feffer



Related video added by Juan Cole:

The Guardian from last month: “Why people vote Donald Trump: the death of the American dream | US Elections 2016”

]]> 1
How can Americans prevent an Israeli-Iranian War? Dump the Squatter Settlers Mon, 27 Jun 2016 04:15:12 +0000 By Thomas Buonomo | (Informed Comment) | – –

The conflict in Syria is likely to grow more dangerous for all parties in the near future as Assad refuses to step down and Iran continues to expand its military presence in Syria and Lebanon in pursuit of its decades-long goal of annihilating the state of Israel.

Americans can perhaps help prevent this from occurring by changing the dynamics of U.S.-Iran-Israel relations, which up to this point has been dominated by American supporters of the Israeli settler movement.

This movement uses the deliberately simplistic term “pro-Israel” to connote those who support the argument that Israeli territorial expansion strengthens Israel’s security–and by extension, the US’s.

Complementing this rhetorical tactic, it cynically wields the term “anti-Israel” in order to blur the line between those who understand that Israeli territorial expansion is ultimately detrimental to its long term security, in contrast to those who are against peace with Israel on any terms.

The settler movement has made it possible for the Israeli government under the self-destructive leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to brazenly spurn > US-brokered peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority yet face no consequences from the US for doing so.

The US provides Israel with billions of dollars of aid per year and therefore has significant diplomatic leverage but it has declined to exert that leverage because of the influence of the settler movement over the US political system.

Americans must change this by holding US legislators accountable for their unconditional support for Israel and voting out of office those who continue to enable its expansionist policies, which are detrimental to its own security as well as that of the US.

Americans must also advocate that the Obama administration and its successor engage directly with Iran in a debate on Iran’s one-state policy, which its has been attempting to forcibly impose, and the two-state framework the US has been ineffectually attempting to achieve.

If Americans took a strong moral stand on this issue, it would demonstrate to Iranian officials that a serious constituency for peace exists in the US and it would enable Iranian advocates for peace to implore Iran’s foreign policy decision-makers to moderate Iran’s policy toward Israel, which has for the last 35 years been unconditionally hostile.

This is admittedly a long shot given that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appears fixated on the annihilation of the state of Israel. If Iran’s military forces and proxy Hezbollah were not struggling to prop up the Syrian government, they would undoubtedly be devoting their forces toward the organization of another military campaign against Israel under Khamenei’s orders.

Some historical perspective is necessary however. Since Israel was established in 1948, the governments of the region attempted for decades to annihilate it and fought three major wars against it in 1948, 1967, and 1973. The Carter administration, however, succeeded in brokering peace treaties between Egypt and Israel in 1979.

In 1993, the Clinton administration succeeded in convincing Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The following year Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty.

In 2002, Saudi Arabia led the Arab-Muslim world in signing the Arab Peace Initiative , which offered Israel normalization of relations if it would conclude a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Despite Israeli intransigence on settlement expansions over the decades, the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan remain in place, the PLO has maintained its basic recognition of Israel despite periodic flare-ups of violence (even to the extent of warring with Hamas for control of the West Bank in 2006), and the Arab Peace Initiative remains on the table.

There is in principle no reason why Iran’s foreign policy establishment could not prevail upon its ailing Supreme Leader (or perhaps more likely his successor) to align itself with the Arab Peace Initiative, contingent upon Israel concluding a two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

Khamenei’s strongly disapproving rhetoric of the terms of the Iran nuclear agreement even in the weeks leading up to its conclusion indicate that he can be persuaded to change his mind even when he communicates no intent to do so publicly.

The Iranian government’s rhetoric and conduct against Israel and the Syrian people has been reprehensible and more persuasive pressure will ultimately have to be applied to it if it does not change its destructive and hypocritical policies.

Yet a review of the history of the region reveals that US-Iran-Israel relations are not a simple matter of good versus evil and continuing to approach this problem from a position of self-righteousness will make it worse.

Americans should also consider that however detestable the rhetoric and behavior of Iran’s Supreme Leader and his ideological adherents are, there are many Iranians who do not support their government’s policies or who have been coerced into doing so who will suffer if the US attempts to resolve its differences with Iran through war. Therefore we should do what reasonably should be done to prevent it.

The United States should ultimately come to the defense of its ally Israel, including through direct military intervention if necessary. It should not, however, do so without condition or allow Israel to make the probability of US military conflict with Iran more likely by indulging in unnecessarily provocative behavior.

Americans must see through the cynical façade of the settler movement’s simplistic “pro/anti-Israel” framework and hold US policymakers accountable for setting our country on a course toward self-destructive 21st century “holy wars”.

Thomas Buonomo is a geopolitical risk analyst with expertise in Middle East affairs. His views are his own. Twitter: @thomasbuonomo


Related video added by Juan Cole:

CNN from March: “Israel condemns Iran after missiles are test-fired ”

]]> 1
NRA: The Public be Damned (Political cartoon) Mon, 27 Jun 2016 04:10:35 +0000 By Paul Jamiol | ( Jamiol’s World )


Courtesy Jamiol’s World

]]> 0
The Great Battle for Aleppo Sun, 26 Jun 2016 05:23:03 +0000 By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Jordan’s Arabic daily al-Dustour [Constitution] is reporting on what it calls ‘the Great Battle for Aleppo.’

Such a battle isn’t, ideally, supposed to be taking place, by the terms of the cessation of hostilities reached in late November. The rebels in East Aleppo (pop. 300,000) and surrounding areas should have ceased attacks, and the regime in West Aleppo (pop. 2 mn.) should have ceased artillery fire. Both should have prepared for new elections in which they could choose members of parliament to their liking.

The cessation of hostilities never included the radical al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front or Support Front. It kept attacking regime-held areas south of Aleppo, trying to cut supply lines to West Aleppo. Unfortunately, some of the US-backed Free Syrian Army remnants allied with al-Qaeda in these offensives. Russia used air power to hit back hard, sometimes striking not al-Qaeda but US-backed rebels. Those attacks led US Sec. of State John Kerry to warn a couple of weeks ago that the US was losing patience with Russian and Syrian regime attacks on Free Syrian Army units. But Russia complains that Kerry, despite his promises, has been unable to separate the FSA fighters from their al-Qaeda allies, so it is inevitable that some of the former would get hit in Russian airstrikes on the latter. Last week the Russians said it is they who are losing patience, with the failure of the US-backed ‘vetted’ groups to dissociate themselves from al-Qaeda and its offensives, which break the cease-fire.

These squabbles over details cannot hide a very big elephant in the room, which is that Russia and the Damascus regime of Bashar al-Assad want to take East Aleppo.

This move is not justified in any defensive way. Al-Qaeda isn’t big in East Aleppo, though some of the FSA units have gone pretty far in the fundamentalist direction and are considered terrorists by Moscow. This offensive is a naked power grab, and if it succeeds it could translate into more years of survival for al-Assad and his Baath government.

Al-Dustour says that Russian and Syrian fighter jets (apparently in tandem) have for the past few days been subjecting East Aleppo and the area immediately to its north to intensive aerial bombardment, in support of Syrian Arab Army troops of the regime who are attempting to surround the opposition brigades in the east of the city. The SAA is being helped by Lebanon’s Shiite Hizbullah militia, which has vowed to send more fighters to Aleppo.

The aerial bombardment of East Aleppo did not stop Saturday night at all and continued into Sunday morning. The Syrian observatory alleged that the Russian strikes have been aimed at a road in the north of the city which constitutes the last supply route into the east. The Syrian air force has been bombing East Aleppo itself. Some three dozen have been killed by this bombing, including civilians.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

AFP from a couple of days ago: ” Syrian regime airstrikes kill at least four in Aleppo”

]]> 2
Dissing Progressives, DNC Platform Backs Fracking, TPP, and Israeli Occupation Sun, 26 Jun 2016 04:34:11 +0000 By Lauren McCauley, staff writer | ( ) | – –

Appointees by Clinton and Wasserman Schulz resoundingly reject numerous proposals put forth by Sanders surrogates.

Despite its claims to want to unify voters ahead of November’s election, the Democratic party appears to be pushing for an agenda that critics say ignores basic progressive policies, “staying true” to their Corporate donors above all else.

During a 9-hour meeting in St. Louis, Missouri on Friday, members of the DNC’s platform drafting committee voted down a number of measures proposed by Bernie Sanders surrogates that would have come out against the contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), fracking, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. At the same time, proposals to support a carbon tax, Single Payer healthcare, and a $15 minimum wage tied to inflation were also disregarded.

In a statement, Sanders said he was “disappointed and dismayed” that representatives of Hillary Clinton and DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz rejected the proposal on trade put forth by Sanders appointee Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), despite the fact that the presumed nominee has herself come out against the 12-nation deal.

People Get Ready - Donate now!

“Inexplicable” was how Sanders described the move, adding: “It is hard for me to understand why Secretary Clinton’s delegates won’t stand behind Secretary Clinton’s positions in the party’s platform.”

The panel also rejected amendments suggested by co-founder Bill McKibben, another Sanders pick, that would have imposed a carbon tax, declared a national moratorium on fracking as well as new fossil fuel drilling leases on federal lands and waters.

“This is not a political problem of the sort that we are used to dealing with,” McKibben stated during the marathon debate. “Most political problems yield well to the formula that we’ve kept adopting on thing after thing—compromise, we’ll go halfway, we’ll get part of this done. That’s because most political problems are really between different groups of people. They’re between industry and environmentalists. That is not the case here.”

“Former U.S. Representative Howard Berman, American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees executive assistant to the president, Paul Booth, former White House Energy and Climate Change Policy director Carol Browner, Ohio State Representative Alicia Reece, former State Department official Wendy Sherman, and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden all raised their hands to prevent a moratorium from becoming a part of the platform,” noted Shadowproof‘s Kevin Gosztola.

According to Gosztola’s reporting on the exchange, Dr. Cornel West lambasted the aforementioned panel members, particularly Browner, for “endorsing reform incrementalism” in the face of an urgent planetary crisis.

“When you’re on the edge of the abyss or when you’re on that stove, to use the language of Malcolm X, you don’t use the language of incrementalism. It hurts, and the species is hurting,” West said.

Other progressive policies were adopted piecemeal, such as the $15 minimum wage, which the committee accepted but without the amendment put forth by Ellison that would have indexed the wage to inflation.

The panel did vote unanimously to back a proposal to abolish the death penalty and adopted language calling for breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and enacting a modern-day Glass-Steagall Act—measures that Sanders said he was “pleased” about.

According to AP, the final discussion “centered on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

“The committee defeated an amendment by Sanders supporter James Zogby that would have called for providing Palestinians with ‘an end to occupation and illegal settlements’ and urged an international effort to rebuild Gaza,” AP reports, measures which Zogby said Sanders helped craft.

Instead, AP reports, the adopted draft “advocates working toward a ‘two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict’ that guarantees Israel’s security with recognized borders ‘and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.'”

Citing these “moral failures” of the platform draft, West abstained during the final vote to send the document to review by the full Platform Committee next month in Orlando, Florida.

“If we can’t say a word about TPP, if we can’t talk about Medicare-for-All explicitly, if they greatest prophetic voice dealing with pending ecologically catastrophe can hardly win a vote, and if we can’t even acknowledge occupation… it seems there is no way in good conscience I can say, ‘Take it to the next stage,'” West declared before the assembly.

“I wasn’t raised like that,” he said. “I have to abstain. I have no other moral option, it would be a violation of my own limited sense of moral integrity and spiritual conscience,” adding, “That’s how I roll.”


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License


Related video added by Juan Cole:

The Electronic Intifada: ” Highlights: Democratic Platform Committee debate on Middle East”

]]> 11
The Greater Middle East Reacts to British Exit from EU Sat, 25 Jun 2016 05:19:59 +0000 By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The oil-rich Gulf Cooperation countries may see additional buying opportunities in the British market after Brexit. BBC Monitoring reports:

“Political analyst for regional issues and Gulf Cooperation Council Hamad Ahmad Abdul Aziz al-Amer says in Saudi pro-government Ukaz that the Britain’s leaving the EU “might lead to successful talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council to reach distinctive partnership as the dropping of the British sterling will lead to increasing Gulf investments in Britain . . .”

In general, former British colonies often feel they have a special opportunity for trade and investment with the UK, with which EU commitments sometimes interfered. They now hope to step in to fill the vacuum left by UK departure from the EU.

A senior aide to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said that Brexit offered Iran “a historic opportunity.” Countries that had been informally colonized by the UK are afraid of European power, and anything that weakens the former is seen as a great good thing.

Meanwhile Turkey seems to be offering itself to the European Union as a substitute for the UK. Turkey’s officials said that they hoped the EU would now become more inclusive. Turkey has been in a queue for EU membership since the late 1990s, .


Related video added by Juan Cole:

TRT World: ” Turkey’s EU minister Omer Celik addresses Brexit”

]]> 10
The Middle East Dimension of Brexit Sat, 25 Jun 2016 04:52:01 +0000 Middle East Eye | (Video News Report) |

Brexit will affect Syrian and other Refugees at Calais, intelligence sharing on ISIL, and Palestine-Israel diplomacy among other pressing issues. ”

Middle East Eye: “90 Seconds: Impact of ‘Brexit’ on the Middle East and UK foreign policy”

]]> 1