War with Iran, by the Numbers

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Sen. John McCain and others on the American Right are in favor of dropping those pesky negotiations with Iran and just bombing their nuclear enrichment sites. Doing so, however, would only set them back a year or so, and would certainly put Iran on a war footing with the USA. Those who think such bombing runs would be the end of the story, however, are fooling themselves. Bombing Iraq in 1991 and the no-fly zone had a lot to do with taking the USA down the path to a ground war in 2003. Bombing now will almost certainly lead to a similar ground war.

Iran is 2.5 times more populous than Iraq and much bigger geographically. It is likely that Iran war numbers would be three times those of Iraq, at least.

Casualties from a strike on Bushehr Nuclear Plant: Hundreds of thousands.

Likely US troop deaths: 15,000

Likely US troops lightly injured: 270,000

Likely US troops more seriously wounded: 90,000

Direct cost of war: $5.1 trillion

Cost of caring for wounded troops over lifetime: $9 trillion to $18 trillion

Likely Iranian deaths: 300,000 to 1 million

Likely Iranian injured: 900,0000 to 3 million

Iranian displaced: 12 million (out of 75 million)

Opportunity cost to US: $23 trillion of infrastructure, health care improvement


Related video:

CNN: ” Nuclear dangers as Iran deal deadline nears”

Israel’s Netanyahu jumps Shark with “Iran-Lausanne-Yemen” axis barb

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, no longer allowed to sit at the adult table because of his past food fights, has been reduced, as Haaretz observed, to whining from the sidelines. Now he is complaining about an “Iran-Lausanne-Yemen” axis.

The negotiations between Iran and the P5 + 1 (the five permenent members of teh UN Security Council plus Germany) have come down to the wire. Diplomats want a final deal by close of business Tuesdays. Last minute complications have predictably arisen, but from all accounts a deal is plausible, though not yet a sure thing.

Any deal would limit Iran’s break-out capacity or ability to go for broke and produce a nuclear warhead (something its Supreme clerical leader, Ali Khamenei, says he doesn’t want, since weapons of mass destruction are illegal in Islamic law, which forbids killing non-combatants and innocents.) In return, Iran wants a removal of international economic sanctions.

Netanyahu opposes this deal because it would leave Iran with the right to enrich uranium and a distant break-out capacity. He wants Iran to be forced to mothball its uranium enrichment program entirely, a demand that is completely unrealistic short of a US invasion and occupation of that country (which is 2.5 times as populous as Iraq and much bigger geographically).

Netanyahu resents Israel having been pushed out of its occupied territory in Lebanon by the Iran-backed Hizbullah. As a Greater Israel expansionist, he wants the state to be completely unconstrained, as the only nuclear-armed power in the region.

To jump the shark” means to go so far as to become a self-parody that can no longer be taken seriously.

Netanyahu now cannot tell the difference between diplomats in pinstripes being stiff around the table in Switzerland and grassroots Shiite tribal forces asserting themselves in Yemen. He sees French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius as a Houthi tribesman, beturbanned and attended by goats. Even the idea that the Houthi movement in Yemen can be seen primarily as an Iranian project is a falsehood; it is a grassroots expression of frustration with governmental neglect. Netanyahu has started seeing Iran all around him, giving him nightmares, consuming his every waking moment.

This absurdism comes not from fear that Iran might do something to Israel. It is far away and doesn’t have the military capacity, and has a no first strike policy. Moreover, Israel has some 200 nuclear weapons while Iran has none.

It is because Netanyahu as a militarist wants to be able to be brutal to his neighbors with no fear of being curbed.

And, it is because Netanyahu desperately wants to take the world’s eyes off the creeping Israeli colonization and annexation of Palestinian property in the West Bank.

His alarmism is intended to impress Republicans in Congress and to persuade them to reject any Iran deal attained, because militarists never like to see an outbreak of peace.

As for ordinary Americans, we’d all be much better off and spared a ruinous and fruitless war, if the Iran deal is brought to fruition. Pay no attention to those raspberries coming from Tel Aviv . . . or are they sour grapes?


Related video

Wochit General News: “Expected Iranian Nuclear Deal Worse Than Israel Feared: Netanyahu”

A Game-Changer in Syrian War? al-Qaeda-led Factions take Idlib

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

The provincial capital Idlib, a city of 165,000 in the old days and administrative center of the northwestern Idlib province, appears to have fallen completely to a Muslim fundamentalist coalition spearheaded by Ahrar al-Sham (Free Men of Syria) and the al-Qaeda affiliate, the Support Front (Jabhat al-Nusra). Most of the Idlib countryside has long been in rebel hands, and some of it was held by pro-Western, relatively secular-minded forces until last fall, when they were preyed upon and defeated by the Support Front, which is loyal to Ayman al-Zawahiri’s core al-Qaeda (responsible for the 9/11 attacks).

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Although the forces taking Idlib were a coalition of rebel groups, Free Men of Syria, which is known to have been penetrated by al-Qaeda operatives, and the Support Front, which is openly an al-Qaeda affiliate, took the lead. The US Air Force has bombed both groups as a sidebar to its bombing raids against Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) in northern Syria. An attempt by Free Men of Syria and the Support Front to form a broad coalition with Daesh last year failed, in part because Daesh is so predatory and brutal that it targets its allies opportunistically. Also participating were Suqur al-Sham (Syrian Eagles), a fundamentalist group forming part of the Saudi-backed Islamic Front.

The fundamentalist coalition that took Idlib showed tactical discipline according to Al-Hayat. They gradually took Syrian army outposts on the outskirts of the city, gradually moving into its center over five days amid heavy fighting and in the face of regime bombing raids. YouTube video also shows al-Qaeda using American BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles that they likely captured from the American-backed moderate Syrian Revolutionary Front last fall. Saudi monetary support for the Islamic Front factions that took part may also have allowed them to get better equipped.

The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad repressed peaceful demonstrations in March of 2011 and after in Idlib and has turned the largely Sunni town into a concentration camp. It allegedly committed a massacre of 15 prisoners there just a few days ago. (The regime has tortured at least 10,000 prisoners to death around the country.) Many residents saw themselves as liberated, according to YouTube videos, though non-fundamentalists and Christians were no doubt less sanguine about the future. Some remaining residents are said to be fleeing to the countryside from fear of the fundamentalists or because they know that the genocidal al-Assad regime typically responds to the loss of urban centers and neighborhoods by targeting them for “barrel-bombing.” This is the regime practice of indiscriminately dropping barrels of petroleum on them from military aircraft as a form of cheap munitions that nevertheless do a lot of damage. Indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas is a serious war crime in international law.

Aron Lund seems to argue that the fall of Idlib city is not terribly consequential. It was already nestled in the midst of rebel-held territory. The chief strategic danger to al-Assad’s forces is that the Sunni fundamentalists could use it as a launching pad to move against the Alawite Shiite populations around Latakia and to attack Latakia port to the west. The latter is important to resupply for the regime, which still controls the roads from the capital of Damascus up to Homs and over to Latakia. So far, however, the regime has managed to hold about two-thirds of the country population-wise, and these advances of rebels have sometimes been reversed, albeit with the help of Lebanon’s Shiite militia, Hizbullah. Al-Hayat also mentions the danger that the fall of Idlib could further isolate regime-held areas in the major northern city of Aleppo.

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Some Syrian and Western supporters of the rebel forces are annoyed to have it pointed out that Free Men of Syria and the Support Front are extremist fundamentalists or that the latter, which is al-Qaeda, played a leading role in the past week’s Idlib campaign. But for those of us in the US who lived through 2001, it is unforgivable that the Support Front pledged fealty to the mass murderer of Americans Ayman al-Zawahiri. That is not to say that al-Assad’s forces are preferable. In my own view, it is a shame both cannot lose to some sane group. But the revolution and war have erased sanity from all sides, and the secular or even just non-Salafi rebel forces have been targeted and wiped out by al-Qaeda, Daesh and so forth. Those who support the rebel side should reach out to the Support Front and let them know that until they repudiate al-Qaeda and declare for democracy, they have no cheering sections in the West and they are de facto helping al-Assad by their stance.


Related video:

Euronews: “Islamist alliance takes Syrian city of Idlib”

Lebanon’s Shiite Hizbullah slams Saudi attack on Yemen

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Hasan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hizbullah, Lebanese Shiite party-militia, weighed in on Friday on the Saudi intervention in Yemen.

The Saudis put together a Sunni coalition against the Shiite Houthis and have bombed Zaidi Shiite population centers like Sa’adeh. I discussed their motives in my just-published piece in The Nation.

Hizbullah is opposing Saudi policy in Syria effectively, having intervened on the side of Bashar al-Assad, whom the Saudis are hoping to see overthrown. Hizbullah punches above its weight. Lebanon is a small country of 4 million. Shiites are about a third or 1.3 million. Not all Lebanese Shiites support Hizbullah, which has a few thousand fighters. But they managed to shore up the Syrian government where the Syrian Arab Army could not. Hizbullah is closely allied with Iran.

Nasrallah said that the Saudis are engaging in propaganda when they claim to be supporting the elected president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. He said that Mansour Hadi had in fact stepped down from his job, and wondered if the Saudis would go around restoring other former presidents, like Tunisia’s Zain El Abidine Ben Ali, to power. He teased Riyadh that King Abdallah opposed all the Arab Spring revolts and wanted to put the genie back in the bottle. (While it is true that Mansour Hadi resigned, he resigned because Houthi tribesmen were telling him what to do and he was a prisoner. He escaped to Aden in the South and now to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Nasrallah is doing propaganda here in glossing over Houthi dictatorship.)

Second, he said, the Saudis maintain that the Houthi movement is an enemy of Saudi interests. But, he said, the late King Abdallah had found it possible to do deals with them. A Houthi delegation came to King Abdallah’s funeral. Shortly thereafter, the new king, Salman, decided to turn on them and go into Yemen, Nasrallah alleged.

Third, he said, the Saudis maintain that Yemen under the Houthis has become occupied territory, with Iran being the occupier. But, he asked, where are there any Iranian military bases or other signs of occupation in Yemen?

Nasrallah called for peaceful negotiations among the principle parties to find a solution to Yemen’s conflict.

At the same time, Sunni leaders in Lebanon praised the Saudi intervention, as did the leader of the largely Sunni Future Party there, Saad Hariri.

This conjuncture points to increased tensions between Sunnis and Shiites inside Lebanon. They were already divided over Syria, with Shiites mostly supporting al-Assad and Sunnis mostly seeking his overthrow.


Related video:

RT: “Yemen bombed: ‘Crisis could deepen to all-out Sunni-Shia religious war, real aim is to stop Iran'”

How GOP threats against Iran have Guaranteed end of European Sanctions

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

The US sanction regime on Iran has a unilateral dimension. That is, there are sanctions only the US applies. Then there is a European dimension, which involves using the clout of the Department of Treasury as well as the persuasiveness of the Department of State’s diplomats to get European Union buy-in regarding their own sanctions. There is another, international dimension, which, however, is not nearly as robust as the US and the EU sanctions. Indeed, Iranian trade with India, China and Turkey, e.g., has substantially expanded since 2005, even as Iran’s trade with Europe and the US has plummeted.

Jonathan Tirone at Bloomberg Business, however, quotes Richard Dalton, the Britain’s former ambassador to Iran, on why, if the talks fail, Europe might well refuse to sanction Iran further and might, instead, blame the United States:

“As things are shaping up now, it doesn’t seem like it would be easy to say the fault or the failure comes fully down to the Iranians … if the failure happens now, it may be because of something which the U.S. either does or is incapable of doing.”

Dalton is a diplomat and trying to avoid being abrasive, but it seems pretty clear that his is indicating that the GOP’s 47, who wrote Iran a letter warning that they would undo any agreement the moment Obama went out of office, may well have given Europe an “out.” If the talks, fail, they can be blamed on the Republican Party, not the Islamic Republic. And many European countries will be unable to see why they should punish Iran (and themselves) for the sake of GOP orneriness.

Iran-Europe trade in 2005 was $32 billion. Today it is $9 billion. There isn’t any fat in the latter figure, and it may well be about as low as Europe is willing to go. Tirone also points out that European trade with Iran has probably fallen as low as is possible, and that those who dream of further turning the screws on Tehran to bring it to its knees are full of mere bluster.

Arguably, Iran has simply substituted China, India and some other countries, less impressed by the US Department of Treasury than Europe, for the EU trade. Iranian trade with the global south and China has risen by 70%, Tirone says, to $150 billion. Indeed, at those levels Iran did more than make a substitution. It pivoted to Asia with great success before the phrase occurred to President Obama.

China is so insouciant about US pressure to sanction Iran’s trade that it recently announced a plan to expand Sino-Iranian trade alone to $200 billion by 2025. (It was about $52 billion in 2014). And Sino-Iranian trade was only $39 bn. in 2013, so the rate of increase is startling. China is interested in Iran’s non-oil exports, a harbinger of the post-fossil-fuels future.

It seems to me unlikely that China cares whether the US nuclear deal gets signed off on by Congress or not. China has its own priorities. It took up most of the slack from the fall in European trade all by itself.

In 2014, the previous success of US arm-twisting in getting India to reduce Iranian oil imports was not reproduced. Oil imports alone went up 42%. Sanctions are already crumbling in Asia, and it isn’t clear that if the negotiations fail because the US wasn’t a credible negotiating partner (we’re looking at you, Tom Cotton), the Asian giants won’t likely to tell Washington to jump in the Indian Ocean.

And there is a real possibility that Europe will feel exactly the same way.


Related video:

CCTV News: “Debate over who can lift Iran’s sanctions ensues”

What’s Religion Got to do with it? German Co-Pilot as Terrorist

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Once it became clear that Andreas Lubitz, 28, deliberately crashed Germanwings Flight 9525, a reporter immediately asked “what was his religion?” (Parent company Lufthansa said they didn’t know). Authorities said there was no evidence it was “terrorism.”

Lubitz is from Rhineland-Palatinate, known for its wine-growing and pharmaceuticals. It is roughly 2/5s Roman Catholic and a third Lutheran. A fourth of its people don’t really care about religion one way or another.

Why in the world would his religion be relevant? If he did crash the plane on purpose then presumably he was depressed and wanted not only to commit suicide but also to be a mass murderer. You could understand how a depressed person with low self-esteem might think it ego-boosting to determine the fate of so many others.

It isn’t political terrorism, likely, but certainly it was a terroristic act of killing.

But we know why they asked. It was out of bigotry against Muslims, probing whether another one had gone postal. The subtext is that white Christians don’t go off the deep end, even though obviously they do, in large numbers. It isn’t a logical question about Andreas Lubitz from Rhineland-Palatinate. Zeynep Tufekci tweeted,

Maybe I need to add some more principles to my Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others, like “terrorism is only ruled out when the whiteness of the perp can be firmly established.”

BBC News: “Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot ‘wanted to destroy plane’ BBC News”

Washington’s 2 Air Wars: alongside Iran in Iraq, Saudis in Yemen

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

The United States is now involved in two air wars in the Middle East, not to mention more widespread drone actions.

US fighter jets have, at the request of the Iraqi government of Haydar al-Abadi, begun bombing Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) positions in Tikrit, according to al-Hayat (Life).

Initially, the US sat out the Tikrit campaign north of the capital of Baghdad because it was a largely Iran-directed operation. Only 3,000 of the troops were regular Iraqi army. Some 30,000 members of the Shiite militias in Iraq joined in– they are better fighters with more esprit de corps than the Iraqi army. Some of them, like the Badr Corps of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, have strong ties to Iran. The special ops unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Jerusalem Brigade, provided tactical and strategic advice, commanded by Qasem Solaimani.

The campaign deployed tanks and artillery against Daesh in Tikrit, but those aren’t all that useful in counter-insurgency, because they cannot do precise targeting and fighting is in back alleys and booby-trapped buildings where infantry and militiamen are vulnerable.

The campaign stalled out. The Shiite militias didn’t want the US coming in, but have been overruled by al-Abadi. US aircraft can precisely target Daesh units and pave the way for an Iraqi advance against the minions of the notorious beheader “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi” (the nom de guerre of Ibrahim al-Samarrai, who is apparently wounded and holed up in Syria).

US air intervention on behalf of the Jerusalem Brigades of the IRGC is ironic in the extreme, since the two have been at daggers drawn for decades. Likewise, militias like Muqtada al-Sadr’s “Peace Brigades” (formerly Mahdi Army) and League of the Righteous (Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq) targeted US troops during Washington’s occupation of Iraq. But the fight against the so-called “Islamic State group” or Daesh has made for very strange bedfellows. Another irony is that apparently the US doesn’t mind essentially tactically allying with Iran this way– the reluctance came from the Shiite militias.

Not only US planes but also those of Jordan and some Gulf Cooperation Council countries (Saudi Arabia? the UAE? Qatar?) will join the bombing of Daesh at Tikrit, since these are also afraid of radical, populist political Islam. But why would they agree to be on the same side as Iran? Actually, this air action is an announcement that Iraq needs the US and the GCC, i.e. it is a political defeat for Iranian unilateralism. The US and Saudi Arabia are pleased with their new moxie in Baghdad.

Then in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has begun bombing the positions of the Shiite Houthi movement that has taken over northern and central Yemen and is marching south. One target was an alleged Iranian-supplied missile launcher in Sanaa to which Saudi Arabia felt vulnerable. That isn’t a huge surprise. The Saudis have bombed before, though not in a while. The big surprise is that they have put together an Arab League anti-Houthi coalition, including Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, and the GCC. Even Pakistan has joined in. (Sudan and Pakistan are a surprise, since they had tilted toward Iran or at least had correct relations with it formerly). The US State Department expressed support for this action and pledged US logistical and military support. It remains to be seen if this coalition can intervene effectively. Air power is unlikely to turn the tide against a grassroots movement.

About a third of Yemenis are Zaidi Shiites, a form of Shiism that traditionally was closer to Sunni Islam than the more militant Iranian Twelver or Imami branch of Shiism. But Saudi proselytizing and strong-arming of Zaidis in the past few decades, attempting to convert them to militant Sunnism of the Salafi variety (i.e. close to Wahhabism, the intolerant state church of Saudi Arabia) produced the Houthi reaction, throwing up a form of militant, populist Zaidism that adopted elements of the Iranian ritual calendar and chants “Death to America.” The Saudis alleged that the Houthis are Iranian proxies, but this is not likely true. They are nativist Yemenis reacting against Saudi attempts at inroads. On the other hand, that Iran politically supports the Houthis and may provide them some arms, is likely true.

The Houthis marched into the capital, Sanaa, in September, and conducted a slow-motion coup against the Arab nationalist government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. He came to power in a referendum with 80% support in February, 2012, after dictator Ali Abdallah Saleh had been forced out by Yemen’s youth revolution of 2011-12. Hadi recently fled to the southern city of Aden and tried to reconstitute the nationalist government there, with support from 6 southern governors who, as Sunni Shafi’is, rejected dictatorial Houthi Zaidi rule (no one elected the Zaidis).

But the Houthis, seeking to squelch a challenge from the south, moved south themselves, taking the Sunni city of Taiz and attracting Sunni tribal allies (Yemeni tribes tend to support the victor and sectarian considerations are not always decisive). Then Houthi forces neared Aden and Mansour Hadi is said to have fled. The nationalist government appears to have collapsed.

The other wrinkle is that elements of the old nationalist Yemen military appear to be supporting the Houthis, possibly at the direction of deposed president Ali Abdallah Saleh. So in a way all this is a reaction against the youth revolution of 2011, which aimed at a more democratic nationalist government.

The US support for the Saudi air strikes and the new coalition makes the Yemen war now the second major air campaign supported by the US in the region. But the one in Iraq is in alliance with Iran. The one in Yemen is against a group supported in some measure by Iran. This latter consideration is probably not important to the US. Rather, the US is afraid that Houthi-generated chaos will create a vacuum in which al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula will gain a free hand. AQAP has repeatedly targeted the US. On the other hand, the Houthis are sworn enemies of al-Qaeda and have fought them militarily. The US also maintains that in each instance, it is supporting the legitimate, elected government of the country.

A lot of the online press in Yemen appears to have been knocked offline by the turmoil, by the way.


Related video:

Reuters: “Saudi Arabia launches air strikes on Houthi fighters in Yemen – Saudi envoy”

Obama-Netanyahu Tiff worsens: US won’t rule out using UN to create Palestine

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

President Obama put some further hints out there on Tuesday about how he might proceed on Israeli-Paletinian relations in his final two years.

Asked if he’d be willing to go through the United Nations to achieve Palestinian statehood, he replied, “We’re going to do that evaluation . . . We’re going to partly wait for an actual Israeli government to form.”

It is huge that Obama did not say “no.” The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been bilateral. The US and Obama liked it that way. The question was whether the talks could now become multilateral, which is what would happen at the UN. Since bilateral talks are no longer plausible, the UN may be what’s left. Only 2 1/2 years ago, the Obama administration petulantly opposed granting Palestine non-member observer status at the UN, insisting that bilateral relations were the way to go instead. (Palestine now has standing to take Netanyahu to the International Criminal Court).

Obama declined to comment on a Wall Street Journal report that Israel spied on the US negotiations with Iran and then conveyed classified material to Congress in hopes of derailing the talks. It is of course outrageous that a foreign power should be encouraging congress to tie up a president’s foreign policy initiative.

Obama came into office in January of 2009 determined to negotiate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. But George Mitchell, his first negotiator, was foiled by Israeli PM Netanyahu’s insistence on ending the freeze on Israeli squatter settlements in the Palestinian West Bank. The Palestinians walked away, as they were meant to. John Kerry tried again in 2013-2014 but got nowhere.

There were rumors a couple of weeks ago that Kerry was gearing up for a third try at negotiations after the Israeli elections. But there will be no more Kerry shuttle diplomacy. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s statement forestalling of any Palestinian state (the point of the negotiations) raised the question of what the diplomatic negotiations could possibly have achieved.

Obama said Tuesday that despite Netanyahu’s attempt to walk back his opposition to Palestine:

“there still does not appear to be a prospect of a meaningful framework established that would lead to a Palestinian state… Up until this point, the premise has been both under Republican and Democratic administrations that as difficult as it was, as challenging as it was, the possibility of two states living side by side in peace and security could marginalize more extreme elements, bring together folks at the center with some common sense and we could resolve what has been a vexing issue and one that is ultimately a threat to Israel as well. What we can’t do is pretend that there’s a possibility of something that’s not there, and we can’t continue to premise our public diplomacy based on something that everybody knows it not going to happen in the next several years.”

Obama is saying bilateral talks are out of the question, as between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and that he refuses to pretend otherwise. But he does have the policy goal of seeing a Palestinian state established. It may well by the the UN Security Council is the forum where that could be pursued.

Related video:

PBS Newshour: “News Wrap: Obama says Israeli-Palestinian peace improbable”

Mideast Apocalypse 2030: Why Obama wants the Palestine Issue Solved. Now.

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

It began in Hebron, which Palestinians call “al-Khalil,” the city of Abraham. Hundreds of thousands of Israel squatters had been enticed into this Palestinian city of 400,000 by the Likud government with cheap rent in cookie-cutter apartment buildings constructed on stolen Palestinian land. The raids on Palestinian olive orchards, their main source of income, had become daily affairs, leaving the environs denuded and full of stumps. Then it went beyond killing trees. Palestinian young men were kidnapped, tortured, killed. Graffiti threatened the rest of their families and warned them to escape to Jordan while they could. The Jordanian army moved tank and sniper units to the best crossing points over the Jordan River, announcing it would shoot on sight any Palestinians who attempted to immigrate illegally.

Then the riots began and spun out of control, squatters targeting Palestinians and vice versa. The Israeli army intervened on the side of the squatters, Palestinian bodies piling up. Artillery was trained on Palestinian neighborhoods. Tens of thousands fled toward Jordan, but halted in the valley when they saw the vanguard of the attempted exodus mown down.

The riots spread to Ramallah, Jericho, Jerusalem. Heavily armed squatters sprayed machine gun fire into the midst of Palestinian demonstrators. The Israeli army moved in and Palestinian masses fled before it. Three million huddled, sleeping in open fields with no sanitation, between the lines of the Israeli and Jordanian armies. Cholera broke out.

Then the riots began in Irbid. Jordan is 60% Palestinian, and the YouTube videos of East Bank Jordanian troops shooting down desperate women and children as they forded the river enraged them. Irbid threw off the army and declared itself liberated. Then East Amman rose. ISIL in nearby Iraq invaded through the Eastern Desert.

The government in Jordan was overthrown and it became part of the caliphate, joining with Syria and northern Iraq. The joint Levantine Counter-Crusade mobilized guerrillas to infiltrate the West Bank and deployed drones and rockets deeper and deeper into Israel. The drone launchers were hidden and mobile, almost impossible for the Israeli air force to take out.

Israelis were forced out of their homes into shelters by the constant, unpredictable bombardment. The army planned an invasion of caliphal Jordan. But there was no government there, only armed gangs in each city, and even taking Amman would have had little effect. Israeli soldiers who made forays into the Ghor Valleey faced a constant barrage of suicide bombings, IEDs, drones, and rocket attacks from every direction, with no obvious return address.

Israelis in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Beersheva, under constant bombardment and faced with infiltration by thousands of determined attackers, began fearing the government could not protect them. Flights were booked up months advance from Tel Aviv airport and thousands left for Europe and the US daily. Ferries popped up to take people to Cyprus.

The Israeli high command threatened a nuclear strike on its enemy, but the caliphate was in chaos, with no command and control or center, and it wasn’t clear what to nuke. Moreover, the fallout would hit Israel. Still, in desperation, an Israeli fighter jet dropped an atomic bomb on Raqqa. The radioactive dust blew into Israel and the public feared for the safety of their children. Alerts warned the public not to drink the milk or eat meat from livestock in Israel.

Now people chartered thousands of vessels to flee from Haifa port. Captains with space on their vessels flocked to Haifa. Some overcrowded, smaller craft overturned in rough water in the Mediterranean. Israel lost a million of its population. Many Russian Israelis felt the new post-Putin prosperous democratic state offered them more than a radioactive and besieged holy land. The displaced Palestinians in the West Bank, cold and exhausted from huddling in tents, moved back toward their old neighborhoods. The Israeli army, faced with shooting down three million miserable, marching civilians, mutinied and refused to obey orders. Soldiers put back on their civilian garb and snuck onto the chartered boats. Seeing the army collapse caused a complete panic. Another million fled. Scandinavia announced an open immigration policy for Israelis.

The caliphate captured Jerusalem soon thereafter, and began logistical planning for capture of the Israeli stockpile of nuclear warheads outside Dimona…


Related video links:

ITN Source: Escalating Tension after murder of Palestinian youth

TeleSur: “Israeli forces clash with Palestinian youth in Hebron”

All the Wars and Coups of President Ted Cruz

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, one of three Cuban-Americans in the Senate, is throwing his hat into the ring for the 2016 presidential race today. Cruz has made a career out of slamming President Obama for being weak and presiding over the collapse of countries like Yemen (as though Cruz could have done anything about that if he had been president). I figure if you total them all up, Cruz has called for six or seven strong US interventions abroad, whether in the form of invasions, air strikes, or covert coups d’etat. It is hard to tell exactly, since he doesn’t typically demonstrate any detailed knowledge of the situation and just wants to take a “strong posture” rather than detailing any practical steps.

Ted Cruz appears to insist that Iran entirely cease its civilian nuclear enrichment program, which Cruz believes to be aimed at creating a warhead. “ Iran must stop or we will stop them,” he says. Cruz attempted to derail President Obama’s negotiations with Iran aimed at ensuring that the program remains purely civilian. The alternative to those negotiations is ultimately a war. The only plausible way to make Iran cease producing enriched uranium as fuel for its nuclear reactors is to invade it and overthrow its government a la Iraq. So, war then.

Not satisfied with taking steps against Iran that would likely lead to hostilities, Cruz warns that Iran will not only get a nuclear bomb but will give it to Venezuela. He hints around that President Nicolas Maduro should be overthrown before that can happen. Venezuela has a strong class divide, with Maduro supporting the working classes and his opponents aiming at returning power to the country’s wealthy elite. Cruz is with the latter.

Cruz’s response to the rise of Daesh (ISIL, ISIS) in Iraq is to “bomb them back to the stone age” and to annihilate them within a couple of months. Gen. Dempsey told him that was not possible (you can’t defeat a guerrilla movement from the air, and intensive bombing of Daesh territory would just kill thousands of civilians in cities like Mosul). Cruz issued a press release saying Dempsey doesn’t know what he is talking about. His first priority in fighting ISIL, he said, was to close the border with Mexico to prevent infiltration. Bombing Iraq intensely probably counts as fighting a war.

Cruz wants to fight a proxy war with the Russian Federation by arming Ukrainian fighters.

Cruz wants to wage an economic war on the Palestinians, seeking to halt all US aid to the Palestine Authority of Mahmoud Abbas.

In a way the most dangerous Ted Cruz war of all is on the earth’s environment, since he favors increasing the carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere by humans burning fossil fuels and is a global warming denialist. Given that humanity has only a couple of decades to make the changes necessary to keep warming in the 3.5 degrees F. range (already pretty bad), a Cruz presidency would probably be enough in and of itself to drive us to a five degree increase.

Related video:

Wotchit General News: “Ted Cruz Says He’d Sign Iran Letter Again”