Exasperated by Netanyahu, France Prepares to Recognize Palestinian State

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Even the staunchly pro-Israel French Socialist Party has had it with Israeli expansionism and aggression. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced Friday that France would make one last push to restart diplomatic negotiations between Israel and Palestine, but said that if the endeavor failed then France intended to recognize the Palestinian state. Paris is obviously implying that the failure of diplomacy and the abrogation of the Oslo peace process are primarily the fault of the Likud government of Israel.

Laurent Fabius via Wikipedia

The French parliament urged recognition of Palestine in a vote in 2014. Sweden has recognized Palestine and a number of other European countries have raised the Palestinian mission in their capitals to the rank of full embassy.

This tendency toward recognition of Palestine holds severe diplomatic and economic dangers for Israel. Such recognition gives aggrieved Palestinians the possible right to sue Israeli squatters and the politicians backing them in European courts. Already, the French, British and Dutch governments advise their corporations not to do business with Israeli squatters on the West Bank, since they are opened to being sued by the actual owners of that land. The European Union recently insisted that squatter produce be so labeled and not be dishonestly represented as “Israeli.” Even the US State Department has backed the EU on this measure.

On Tuesday in an address on policy to the diplomatic corps in Paris, French President Francois Hollande had said,

“the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be felt throughout the Middle East. It would be naive, dangerous even, to look the other way. Each day, we see the risk of a flare-up. Every missed deadline takes us further away from the two-state solution, which is nonetheless the solution backed by the international community. France has therefore once again taken the initiative, as announced by Laurent Fabius, of mobilizing the Arab actors and the European and American partners in the framework of an international support group and the Security Council. This proposal is still on the table and it is the only one, currently, that would enable the dialogue to be resumed.”

The remarks came after a review of French steps to fight terrorism, and it seems clear that establishing a Palestinian state is seen by Paris to be a form of counter-terrorism, having potential for tamping down tensions in the Middle East. Paris was hit by significant terrorist attacks twice in 2015, with most of the perpetrators being marginalized, angry French and Belgian second-generation Arab immigrants. Something on the order of 5% of French are Muslim, and that community tends to support Palestinian rights and to pressure the French government to do so. French Muslims vote heavily for the ruling Socialist Party in France, fearing the anti-immigrant sentiments common on the French Right, including among Gaullists.

France also has good and close relations with many Arab governments, and is pressured by them about Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians, as well.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has become more and more strident and arrogant in dealing with European and international politicians, acting as a sort of Donald Trump of the Middle East.

He recently has gone around accusing everyone from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström of being terrorists for complaining about his oppression of the Palestinian people. (Netanyahu maintains, laughably, that Palestinian resistance activities have nothing to do with their being militarily occupied by the Israelis, and reacts to suggestions that he might by his policies be producing Palestinian violence with the casuistic charge that making this observation encourages terrorism). At the same time, his government just this week cheekily announced that it was stealing another 150 hectares of Palestinian land on the West Bank, which it had pledge in the Oslo peace accords to turn over to Palestine.

France roundly condemned the further land theft.

On Friday Fabius slapped down Netanyahu for his insults to Ban Ki-moon and lamented that “unfortunately the colonization [of Palestinian land by Israelis] continues.”

No American politician can call Israeli policy what it is, colonization, for fear of vicious reprisals by the bullies in the Israel lobbies.

Rhetorical Terror: GOP Candidates Pledge War Crimes, Carpet-Bombing, Asian Land Wars

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

At the Trumpless GOP debate Thursday evening, the candidates once again promised to bankrupt us with military and intelligence spending and to commit vast war crimes with reckless disregard for the lives of women, children and non-combatant men, of the sort not openly plotted since the demise of the Axis powers in 1943-45.

Sen. Marco Rubio seemed to imply that we don’t know where the terrorists are because our intelligence agencies have somehow been insufficiently funded or supported. But the National Intelligence budget rose from $26.6 billion in fiscal year 1997 to $47.5 billion in FY 2008 (Bush’s last year), and then rose again to $53.9 bn in FY 2012.

That’s about a 12% increase in Barack Obama’s first term and a nearly 200% increase since the late Bill Clinton period.

So Rubio’s implication that intelligence spending has been gutted is not only false, it is the opposite of reality. Why would more such spending work since Rubio maintains that the vast increases in the past decade and a half haven’t done the trick?

Moreover, I thought conservatism was about small government and cutting budgets? Why is Rubio saying he wants to be more of a spendthrift than Barack Obama in this sector?

“BAIER: Senator Rubio?

RUBIO: . . .

But I want to be frank about what I stand for. I believe the world is a safer and a better place when America is the strongest power in the world. And I believe only with a strong America will we defeat this radical group, this apocalyptic group called ISIS.

That’s why when I’m president we are going to rebuild our intelligence capabilities. And they’re going to tell us where the terrorists are. And a rebuilt U.S. military is going to destroy these terrorists.

And if we capture any of these ISIS killers alive, they are going to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and we’re going to find out everything they know, because when I’m president, unlike Barack Obama, we will keep this country safe.”

Moreover, Rubio’s implication that the US doesn’t know where the terrorists are is odd. Daesh (ISIL, ISIS) is different from other terrorist groups precisely in trying to hold recognized territory, so we know exactly where they are.

Finally, here’s the tally for keeping America safe on American soil:

# Americans killed by terrorism under last GOP administration: over 3,000

# Americans killed by terrorism under Obama: 88

So by the same argument used in the second Bush term, Obama has done a rather good job of keeping the US safe. (The 88 figure, by the way, includes both radical Muslim and white terrorist attacks).

As for global terrorism, it did go up from 2003. Billmon tweeted in response to Rubio,

His point was that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq appears to have kicked off the rise in terrorist attacks. Rubio promises more such adventurism and war crimes, so the idea that he would reduce terrorism is to say the least implausible.

Senator Rand Paul also let Rubio have it with regard to NSA warrantless snooping, which is clearly unconstitutional:

“The bulk collection of your phone data, the invasion of your privacy did not stop one terrorist attack. I don’t think you have to give up your liberty for a false sense of security.

When we look at this bulk collection, the court has looked at this. Even the court declared it to be illegal. If we want to collect the records of terrorists, let’s do it the old fashioned way. Let’s use the Fourth Amendment. Let’s put a name on a warrant, let’s ask a judge for it. Let’s respect the history of our country.

John Adams said that we fought a War for Independence because we wanted to fight against generalized warrants. Let’s don’t forget that. ”

Ben Carson said unintelligible things and added, “The American people are terrified. That’s why we have this abnormal situation going on right now.”

There isn’t any reason for the American people to be terrified except that the Republican presidential candidates have been trying to make them terrified so as to herd them into the voting booth on their side. The US has no major geopolitical adversaries that might attack it (we do have a big nuclear arsenal and the best-equipped military in the world). You are much more likely to die from being struck by lighting than to die of terrorism, and if you were to die of terrorism it would more likely be at the hands of radicalized white people than at the hands of a Muslim radical. I remember the Cuban missile crisis. Now that was scary. Nowadays there isn’t any menace like that. Chill, Ben.

Chris Wallace pointed out to Ted Cruz that he keeps voting against the defense budget while demanding bigger defense budgets. Cruz said,

“You know, you claim it is tough talk to discuss carpet bombing. It is not tough talk. It is a different, fundamental military strategy than what we’ve seen from Barack Obama. Barack Obama right now, number one, over seven years, has dramatically degraded our military. You know, just two weeks ago was the 25th anniversary of the first Persian Gulf war. When that war began, we had 8,000 planes. Today, we have about 4,000. When that war began, we had 529 ships. Today, we have 272.

You want to know what carpet bombing is? It’s what we did in the first Persian Gulf war; 1,100 air attacks a day, saturation bombing that utterly destroyed the enemy. Right now, Barack Obama is launching between 15 and 30 air attacks a day. He’s not arming the Kurds. We need to define the enemy. We need to rebuild the military to defeat the enemy. And we need to be focused and lift the rules of engagement so we’re not sending our fighting men and women into combat with their arms tied behind their backs.”

Cruz is a smart man with Ivy League degrees but he becomes remarkably stupid whenever he talks about military affairs. Carpet bombing failed in the Vietnam War. Intensive bombing could be deployed in the Gulf War because the tanks of the Iraqi Occupation of Kuwait were spread along the Kuwaiti border with Saudi Arabia out in the desert. We couldn’t have carpet bombed the forces in Kuwait City itself without destroying the country we were trying to save.

Daesh doesn’t have many tanks and it is ensconced in cities with civilian populations like Mosul. Carpet bombing Mosul (pre-Daesh pop. 2 mn., i.e. Houston) would not harm Daesh but it would kill a lot of Mosulis. I doubt Cruz could find Mosul on a map or tell you who lives there, so why is he speaking in public about carpet bombing it?

By the way, Daesh is what is called Salafi, or hyper-Sunni Muslim. It is the opposite of Shiite Islam. Somehow the candidates seemed to be confused about this:

As for the weapons reductions, the fact is that our planes are twice as good now. And, in 1990 we were still in a cold war with the Soviet Union. We don’t have any significant geopolitical rivals at the moment, so why should we maintain an enormous conventional arsenal? The Founding Fathers thought a standing army incompatible with democracy. Can’t we at least scale back when we are at peace? (The GWOT is not a conventional war.)

Putting captives at Guantanamo is just a way to try to avoid operating within the US Constitution and the framework of international law. No one would want to do that who isn’t a lawless sadist.

Then Rubio said,

“ISIS is the most dangerous jihadist group in the history of mankind. ISIS is now found in affiliates in over a dozen countries. ISIS is a group that burns people alive in cages; that sells off little girls as brides. ISIS is a group that wants to trigger an apocalyptic showdown in the city of Dabiq — not the city of Dubuque; I mis-said — mis-said that wrong once (inaudible) time — the city of Dabiq in Syria. They want to trigger an apocalyptic Armageddon showdown.

RUBIO: This group needs to be confronted and defeated. They are not going to go away on their own. They’re not going to turn into stockbrokers overnight or open up a chain of car washes. They need to be defeated militarily, and that will take overwhelming U.S. force. ”

It just floors me that US politicians fearmonger in such a strident and extreme manner off of Daesh. It is like 30,000 scruffy fighters with light and medium weaponry and no air capability. While it is brutal and creates horror spectacles, it hasn’t yet scaled the heights of brutality of the Khmer Rouge, who polished off a million out of 6 million Cambodians.

I think if Rubio would actually, like, read a book about Middle Eastern history, he’d find that there were past radical movements rather more impressive than Daesh (just as there were in Christian Europe).

The overwhelming deployment of US military force in Iraq in 2003-2011 created Daesh in the first place, so why Rubio thinks doing it again will work differently this time is mysterious. But then Rubio is a chickenhawk who has no idea about even recent military history and is just preening in his high heels.

JEB! gave his own prescription:

“The caliphate of ISIS has to be destroyed, which means we need to arm directly to Kurds, imbed our troops with the Iraqi military, re engage with the Sunni tribal leaders.”

That sounds to me like exactly what Obama is doing. The US helped the Kurds take back Sinjar in Iraq. It helped them defend Kobane. It is embedding US troops with the Kurds in eastern Syria and has a command in Iraq. The US military and intelligence is reaching out to Syrian Sunnis in the northeast and getting them to fight alongside the Kurds. Sunni tribal levies helped retake Ramadi.

JEB! is just advocating the current policy and pretending that he is saying something different. It is weird.

Then he said we should get the lawyers off the back of the US military. I take it he means by that we should toss overboard the Geneva Conventions, which were crafted to prohibit the kind of behavior that made the Nazis notorious during WW II.

We’ve been trying to outlaw war crimes since then, but the US Republican Party seems to admire the tactics of the Axis and to regret their having fallen into disrepute.

JEB! also went on about San Bernardino, which was the work of a couple of unbalanced people who shot up their workplace and murdered co-workers, a place of no security significance whatsoever, and they began plotting violence before Daesh even existed. JEB! and the others had nothing to say about Dylann Roof or killigs at Planned Parenthood, which exemplify the kind of terrorism that is much more common in the US than a vague Daesh menace.

Meanwhile, Donald J. Trump used the poor veterans as camouflage for his inability to share a stage with other egos and was slammed by veterans for this ploy:

“The chairman of VoteVets.org was more pointed, saying Trump was “a loser, … a third-rate politician, who clearly doesn’t understand issues, and is so scared of Megyn Kelly exposing it, that you’re looking to use veterans to protect you from facing her questions.”

Trump has had a rocky relationship with veterans after he made comments about Sen. John McCain, saying he wasn’t a hero because he was captured during the Vietnam War.”

It was an evening of third-rate politicians who don’t understand the issues.


Related video:

Fox News: “A look at who succeeded, suffered at 7th GOP debate”

Iran Unleashed: Rouhani’s Triumphant European Tour

Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Virtually as soon as the Iran nuclear deal was finally approved by the UN Security Council, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani headed for Europe. He met first with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Rinzi and with Pope Francis. Now he is in Paris at the invitation of President Francois Hollande.

Rouhani is trying to make economic deals, but his tour has a strong diplomatic element, as is revealed by the communique issued by Italy and Iran. The communique calls for bilateral cooperation in:

“supporting the UN-sponsored political process and intra-Syrian dialogue toward a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria;

continuing the fight against Daesh and affiliated terrorist groups, while supporting the Government of Iraq in its efforts to advance governance and national reconciliation;”

These passages underline the ways in which Iran is now seen as increasingly an important partner for Europe, not only economically, but also strategically. Shiite Iran is positioned as the most effective bulwark against Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). It is also seen as a power broker in Iraq and Lebanon, both countries important to Italy.

Italy and Iran also signed economic deals worth € 17 bn. (US $18.49 bn.). Euronews explains:

“The Italian deals cover areas including energy, infrastructure, steel, shipbuilding and aviation. There was a 3.7 billion euro contract for oil services group Saipem, up to 5.7 billion euros in contracts for steel firm Danieli, up to 4 billion euros of business for infrastructure firm Condotte d’Acqua, 4 billion euros for rail and road company Gavio and 400 million euros for planes from Finmeccanica.”

Rouhani also met with Pope Francis. BBC Monitoring translated an important article by an Iranian reformer trying to interpret this meeting:

“E’temad [reformist]: “President Hassan Rouhani’s meeting with Pope Francis, as well as Tehran’s increased interactions with the Vatican, is a natural and obvious move as they are two religious poles in the world.

“But, currently these relations can lead to different outcomes. On the one hand, the Islamic Republic of Iran as a religious and Muslim government is seeking to increase its international prestige and international legitimacy.

“On the other hand, the Middle East is facing an unprecedented number of conflicts within which terrorist groups, under the flag of religion, have destabilised countries in the region and spread their violence to the heart of Europe. So we can say that all the monotheistic religions are suffering from the plague of ‘terrorism’ and treating this plague will not be possible without dialogue and more interaction between the religions.

“Therefore, the 11th government’s decision to interact with monotheistic religions is a clever move that can improve Iran’s anti-terrorism policy in the regional and the international arena.” (Commentary by Karen Khanlari headlined: “Coalition with the world’s theists against terrorism”)

So on both the European and Iranian sides, the chance for trade is welcomed, especially given the slowdown in the world economy. But at the same time, Iran’s potential as an anti-Daesh, anti-terrorism force is being prized.

These themes, of counter-terrorism and trade, continued to be salient as Rouhani landed in Paris. He met with 20 CEOs and with President Hollande. Iran is angling to by over 100 airbus civilian airliners, and Hollande is eager to facilitate the sale. Automakers Renault and Peugot are also seeking Iran deals.

It seems clear that for European business, the end of sanctions on Iran is creating a potential business bonanza. But diplomatically, Iran’s ability to gradually defeat and roll back Daesh is part of the equation of partnership.


Related video:

Euronews: “Iran’s President Rouhani seeks to revive business ties in Paris”

Posted in Featured,Iran | 11 Responses | Print |

Daesh/ ISIL making Play for Moderate Muslims, as GOP Candidates deny they Exist

By John Feffer | ( Foreign Policy in Focus) | – –

While ISIS makes war on the world’s vast majority of “moderate Muslims,” hardliners in the West pretend they don’t exist.

In the 13th century, the Italian town of Lucera was a Muslim island in a sea of Christendom. Here Frederick II, the head of the Holy Roman Empire, established his own shadow cabinet of scholars and advisors from among the Arabs that he invited to live in this walled city near the eastern coast of Italy.

It was a bold, unconventional move during a precarious time in Christian-Muslim relations. The Fifth Crusade had failed to retake Jerusalem. In Iberia, however, Christians had nearly taken back all of al-Andalus from the Muslims by mid-century. And in Sicily, Christians were persecuting the Muslims who remained from what had once been a thriving emirate before Norman mercenaries destroyed it in 1071.

Lucera was thus both refuge and reservation. Writes religion scholar Karen Armstrong in Holy War:

Yet though Frederick certainly enjoyed Lucera and his Arab friends there, this was a policy not of toleration but of exploitation. Lucera was certainly a city where Islam was tolerated and protected: Frederick would not allow papal missionaries there to harass the Muslims. But Lucera was also a refugee camp and a reservation. The Muslims had to live there and had no choice but to be loyal to Frederick because he was their only protector.

Lucera, in other words, was the very definition of a gray zone. It was an enclave of Muslims in Europe who were more or less prospering. It had official support from the authorities in the person of Frederick II. But many Christians considered the city an outpost of the enemy.

A gray zone, according to the Islamic State (ISIS or IS), is a place where Muslims have rejected an “us-versus-them” world of belief and unbelief that puts the caliphate in the right and the “crusader coalition” in the wrong. From the perspective of ISIS, the Muslims who live in predominantly Christian realms have to make a choice: They can drop everything, travel to Raqqa, and take up arms on behalf of ISIS. Or they can stay in the enemy camp. ISIS intends its bombings to make it more and more difficult for Muslims to choose the second option, because they’ll find their stay in “crusader countries” increasingly inhospitable.

A year ago, before the coordinated attacks in Paris, an article called “The Extinction of the Gray Zone” appeared in the English-language newsletter of ISIS. It lays out the stark choice available to Muslims in Europe:

Muslims in the crusader countries will find themselves driven to abandon their homes for a place to live in the Khilāfah, as the crusaders increase persecution against Muslims living in Western lands so as to force them into a tolerable sect of apostasy in the name of “Islam” before forcing them into blatant Christianity and democracy.

ISIS, in other words, views all forms of Islam that don’t correspond to its own peculiar Salafist interpretation as not only apostasy, but as way stations on the road toward the ultimate abandonment of the religion.

The nationalist backlash against Muslims in Europe — represented by Pegida in Germany, the National Front in France, or the UK Independence Party in England — has a similarly suspicious view of Islam in Europe. These Islamophobes view European Muslims not in transition toward Christianity and democracy, but on their way to becoming sleeper cells for the Islamic State.

For both ISIS and the Islamophobes, the gray zone represents an intolerable state of ambiguity, engagement, and political debate where people freely adopt multiple identities. To be simultaneously Muslim, French, European, a doctor, a woman, a parent, a voter: This is anathema to the extremist. They care about one identity only: Are you on our side or not?

As much as anyone could in the 13th century, Frederick II was a man of the gray zone. He was, to be sure, a leader of the “crusader coalition.” But he also spoke Arabic. He consulted closely with the scholars of Lucera. He even included Muslims in his armies. Perhaps most importantly, he managed to retake Jerusalem not by force of arms, but by successfully negotiating a treaty of peaceful coexistence with Meledin (Sultan Al-Kamil) that turned over several lands to Christian control. The deal on Jerusalem preserved access to religious sites for both Christians and Muslims.

For his efforts to work with Muslims, among other subversive activities, Frederick II was deemed the “anti-Christ” by Pope Gregory IX and excommunicated four times. Then, as today, collaboration with Muslims was a tricky business. As for Lucera, French armies under King Charles of Anjou wiped out the Muslim enclave in 1301, killing the Muslim inhabitants and turning the mosque into a church. Christian Europe wouldn’t see another such gray zone for many centuries.

In Gaza

From the perspective of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and most of the U.S. political establishment, Gaza’s not a gray zone. It’s a green zone — that is, an area controlled by Hamas, and therefore a hotbed of radical Islam.

Although Hamas came to power through the ballot box in 2006 — solidifying its control by ousting its rival Fatah in 2007 — it’s endured political isolation courtesy of the international community and an economic blockade courtesy of Israel (and Egypt). The green flags of Hamas have become a symbol, for the countries that would prefer that the Palestinian party didn’t exist, of violence, intolerance, and non-compromise.

It might come as a shock, then, to discover that the Islamic State views Hamas very differently. ISIS disparages Hamas as too pacific, tolerant, and willing to compromise. It’s called for Palestinians to overthrow Hamas because it prioritizes secular goals (national liberation) over religious ones (expanding the caliphate). A video posted on June 30, 2015 featured three ISIS fighters lecturing the authorities in Gaza: “The point of jihad is not to liberate land, but to fight for and implement the law of God.”

Hamas, in other words, doesn’t rally around the black flag of ISIS. Its green flag isn’t a symbol of uncompromising extremism. Rather, Hamas is firmly in the gray zone.

As Sarah Helm writes in a fascinating article in The New York Review of Books, Hamas reacted immediately to the video by cracking down on ISIS, arresting supporters, picking up bearded guys at checkpoints, and shutting down suspicious social media sites. ISIS responded by bombing Hamas and initiating attacks against Israel.

Here’s the kicker: The less likely a two-state solution becomes — thanks to Netanyahu and his right-wing minions In Israel — the more attractive the caliphate grows. This logic applies all the more to Palestinians who’ve returned to Gaza after fighting in Syria. “Some of the returnees openly switched allegiance to the ISIS caliphate,” Helm writes, “calculating that viewed from the rubble of postwar Gaza, the prospect of a caliphate might seem more realistic than a Palestinian state.”

For Israelis who don’t want a two-state solution, Hamas was a godsend. Look, they could say, it’s clearly impossible to work with such a ruthless and uncompromising partner. Hamas was a deal-killer — for a deal that Israeli extremists considered deeply flawed.

When confronted with the possibility of the Islamic State ousting Hamas in Gaza, a realist would immediately open up negotiations with the latter in order to prevent the former from seizing power. But Netanyahu and company aren’t realists.

If ISIS took over in Gaza, it would set back Palestinian aspirations for yet another generation — and that would be music to Bibi’s ears. He could then launch military operations in Gaza against ISIS, and a grateful international community would applaud. Such Machiavellian calculations prompted Israel several decades ago to secretly support Islamists in Gaza — who would eventually create Hamas — in an effort to counterbalance Yasser Arafat and his secular Fatah movement.

As in the Middle Ages, extremists on both sides are cooperating to eliminate the gray zone.

Countering Violent Extremism

Counter-terrorism is out; “countering violent extremism” is in.

CVE has become the strategy of choice inside the Beltway. The White House convened a three-day summit on the topic in February last year. The Department of Homeland Security has adopted a new CVE approach, thanks to authorizing legislation from Congress. There was even a global youth summit devoted to CVE in September to coincide with the meeting of the UN General Assembly.

The idea behind CVE is to prevent people from becoming terrorists in the first place by nipping radicalization in the bud. But given the veritable explosion of violent extremism over the last year — with ISIS-linked attacks on virtually every continent — it would seem that CVE is no more effective than its predecessor. Perhaps it has nothing to do with the validity of the CVE techniques themselves.

Scholar Rami Khouri hones in on the fatal flaw of the approach:

These efforts, which typically emanate from U.S. or other Western political institutions, see political violence as only a reflection of extremist values or behavior that are anchored in Arab-Islamic societies. They refuse to see the causal influence of Western policies in this grim cycle of global violence. Violent extremism, it turns out, is the consequence of policies of Western and Middle Eastern states, and radical changes by both are required to stem the problem.

It turns out, then, that extremists on both sides are not the only ones responsible for extinguishing the gray zone. In addition to their ISIS targets, U.S. bombs destroy towns, political institutions, and civilians. In the midst of all this destruction, the only thing left to do is pick up a gun and fight — with us or against us.

CVE is failing for the same reason that Obama’s speech in Cairo in 2009 — on pushing the reset button on relations between Islam and the West — didn’t ultimately rescue the reputation of the United States in the Muslim world. Bombs, alas, speak louder than words.

And bombs, whether they come from above or below, are the enemy of the gray zone.

Via Foreign Policy in Focus


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wochit: “New ISIS Video Claims To Show Paris Attackers ”

Why Israel’s Netanyahu has no standing to accuse UN Sec. Ban of inciting Terrorism

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke out this week in an address to the UN Security Council against Israel’s policy of stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank (allotted to Palestinians in the 1947 UN General Assembly partition plan that Israelis celebrate so fiercely), and of building ever more squatter homes in occupied Palestine. Ban went on to say that it is natural for Palestinians to resist this assault on their basic human rights. That is, Ban described the Palestinians as wronged and as rational actors:

“Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process.

Some have taken me to task for pointing out this indisputable truth.

Yet, as oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.

So-called facts on the ground in the occupied West Bank are steadily chipping away the viability of a Palestinian state and the ability of Palestinian people to live in dignity.”

Ban is right. Civil resistance to foreign military occupation is not viewed as illegal in international law.

Killing random civilians, on the other hand, is always condemnable.

The reaction of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was swift and vicious. He accused Sec.-Gen. Ban of incitement and of supporting terrorism:

““The secretary general’s remarks provide a tailwind for terror. There is no justification for terror. Those Palestinians who murder do not want to build a state, they want to destroy a state, and they say this openly.”

Netanyahu’s racism toward the Palestinians requires that their violence either be without a motive, springing from an internal character flaw, or that it be driven only by hatred of Jews (the Likudniks typically nazify the Palestinians, as though Jews were the aggrieved party here).

In reality, of course, Palestinians have been remarkably patient given what the Zionists (Jewish nationalists) did to them. In the 1930s, Palestine had a vast Palestinian majority and was scheduled to be an independent state by British officials by the late 1940s, just as Mandate Syria under the French and Mandate Iraq under the British became independent countries.

Instead, in 1947-48 Jews let into Palestine by British colonial authorities over the objection of native Palestinians took up arms and ethnically cleansed 720,000 of the 1.2 million Palestinians from their homes. The Zionists, now become Israelis, stole the houses and farms of the people they had deliberately driven out, leaving much of that people homeless and scattered in refugee camps (many Palestinian families driven from what is now Israel to Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon or Jordan still live in those refugee camps). Jews, including Israelis, have received massive reparations from Germany for the harm that country did to them. Palestinians not only received not a dime from the Israelis who stole their nationhood, but they continue to be robbed of further property and dignity every day.

Worse of all, most Palestinians were left without citizenship in a state. They are the largest group of stateless people in the world. In Supreme Court chief justice Warren Burger’s phrase, citizenship is the “right to have rights.” Palestinians have no such right. They are without basic human rights, at the mercy of the Israeli jackboot.

Yet most Palestinians have not reacted with violence to this horrible injustice with which they continue to live.

That some do is not, as Ban said, at all surprising.

So when the Zionists were living under British rule in Mandate Palestine, they were unhappy with British policy. Large numbers of them joined terrorist groups. They blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing innocent civilians and British officers along with their intended target, British intelligence officers.

Netanyahu actually openly commemorated this act of terrorism. Netanyahu daily incites militant Israeli squatters on Palestinian land to commit violence against Palestinians, including home invasions.

This is not to mention the state terror Netanyahu imposes on the people of the Gaza Strip, whom he has attempted to keep on the edge of survival, and whom he intensively bombed in summer of 2014, killing hundreds of innocent civilians with a reckless disregard for non-combatant life.

So Netanyahu, one of the great inciters of terrorism in the contemporary world, doesn’t have the standing to criticize Ban Ki-moon.

But Ban didn’t even say what Netanyahu accused him of (no surprise since Netanyahu is one of the world’s most practiced liars). Here is what Ban actually said in condemnation of violence:

” Sadly, 2016 has begun much like 2015 ended – with unacceptable levels of violence and a polarized public discourse across the spectrum in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

Stabbings, vehicle attacks, and shootings by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians – all of which I condemn — and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, have continued to claim lives.

But security measures alone will not stop the violence. They cannot address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians – especially young people.

The full force of the law must be brought to bear on all those committing crimes – with a system of justice applied equally for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

So Ban condemned Palestinian attacks on Israelis but this is incitement? Surely what Netanyahu is complaining about is that Ban was even-handed, considering the Israeli actions that drives such conflict, and demanding that Israeli terrorist who burn Palestinian children to death also be punished.

Ban was not speaking in generalities. He was addressing specific Israeli actions and policies:

” Progress towards peace requires a freeze of Israel’s settlement enterprise.

Continued settlement activities are an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community. They rightly raise fundamental questions about Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution.

I am deeply troubled by reports today that the Israeli Government has approved plans for over 150 new homes in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

This is combined with its announcement last week declaring 370 acres in the West Bank, south of Jericho, as so-called “state land”. These provocative acts are bound to increase the growth of settler populations, further heighten tensions and undermine any prospects for a political road ahead.

I urge the Israeli Government not to use a recent decision by the Israeli High Court affirming a large tract of land south of Bethlehem as state land to advance settlement activities.

The demolitions of Palestinian homes in Area C of the occupied West Bank continue. So do the decades-long difficulties of Palestinians to obtain building permits.

The Bedouin community, in particular, is paying a heavy price. I reiterate the UN’s call for an immediate end to Israeli plans to forcibly transfer Bedouin communities currently living within the occupied Palestinian territory in the Jerusalem area.”

Most of these actions of Netanyahu are war crimes. He is the inciter to terrorism. Big time.


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Top 5 Ways Putin has won big in Syria and why Europe is embracing him

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Russia is so far winning big in Syria, and making Moscow’s projection of force in the Middle East a reality that the other great powers have to recognize. As Russia has emerged as a major combatant against Syrian al-Qaeda and against Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), it is being accepted back into a Europe traumatized by two major attacks on Paris. France is signalling that it hopes to end sanctions on Russia over Ukraine by this summer. While the Minsk peace process is going all right, the motivation here is to ally more closely with Moscow against Muslim radicals in the wake of Russia’s successes against them in Syria.

Russia’s intervention in Syria last October was in many ways a desperate measure and a gamble. It is said that in mid-summer of 2015, Iranian special forces commander Qasem Soleimani flew to Moscow with a blunt message. The Syrian regime was going to fall if things went on the way they were going and Iran did not have the resources to stop it.


Vladimir Putin, still smarting from having lost Libya as a sphere of influence, was determined to stop the fall of Syria.

The regime of Bashar al-Assad has to control a y-shaped area and set of transportation routes if it is to survive. The ‘Y’ is anchored at the bottom by Damascus, the capital. In its metropolitan area, given shifting population, live around 5 million Syrians who are afraid of the two major forces battling the regime, al-Qaeda (the Nusra Front) and Daesh (ISIS, ISIL).

The trunk of the ‘Y’ stretches up to Homs and then veers off to the left, to the key port city of Latakia. The right branch of the ‘Y’ goes up through Hama to Aleppo, a city of 4 million before the war, which is divided in half, with the west in the hands of the regime.

Controlling this huge ‘Y’ where 70% of Syrians live is a tall order. It is vulnerable at several key points, of which the rebels have attempted to take advantage.

1. Deraa province to the south of Damascus is largely Sunni and rural and its clans could sweep up and take the capital, with Jordanian, US and Saudi support. If that happened, game over.

2. The Army of Islam, backed by Saudi Arabia, has strong positions besieging the capital just to its north. If it could come down into Damascus, game over.

3. If the rebels could take and hold Homs and Qusayr in the middle of the ‘Y’, they could cut Damascus off from resupply by truck from the port of Latakia.

4. If the rebels, who took all of Idlib Province in the northwest last April, could move west from Idlib and take Latakia, they could cut Damascus off from its major port and deny it ammunition, arms, even some foodstuffs.

5. If the rebels can move from south of Aleppo to cut off the road from Hama and strangle West Aleppo, they could take all of the country’s largest city, making it difficult for the regime to survive.

Along this Y set of trunk roads, the most effective fighting force has been al-Qaeda in Syria, which reports to 9/11 mastermind Ayman al-Zawahiri. This affiliate, called the Support Front or the Nusra Front, is formally allied with other Salafi jihadis in the Army of Conquest coalition and is tactically allied with many small groups in what’s left of the Free Syrian Army. The CIA has sent medium weaponry, including T. O. W. anti-tank weapons to 30 “vetted” groups in the FSA, via Saudi Arabia. Many of these weapons have made their way into the hands of al-Qaeda and been used against regime tanks and armored vehicles to devastating effect.

So when Soleimani went to Moscow, it seemed that the road from Hama to West Aleppo had been lost and Aleppo would fall. Al-Qaeda had also made advances in the south, taking al-Sheikh Miskin just south of Damascus, and preparing for a push on the capital. Idlib had fallen and Latakia might well have been next.

So when Putin sent in his air force, it concentrated on protecting the red ‘Y’ in the map above. It mainly hit al-Qaeda, the primary threat to regime control of the Y, but also struck at Free Syrian Army groups backed by the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which were tactically allied with al-Qaeda. This move was necessary to defend the ‘Y’. It drew howls of protest from Washington, Ankara and Riyadh demanding to know why Russia wasn’t instead targeting Daesh/ ISIL.

The answer was simple. Except at Aleppo and at a point below Hama, Daesh for the most part posed little threat to the ‘Y’. Al-Qaeda and its allies were the big menace, so Putin concentrated on them.

Air support to a determined local ground force can be an effective strategy. It worked for Bill Clinton in Kosovo. It worked for George W. Bush in Afghanistan in 2001, when the US-backed Northern Alliance handily defeated the Taliban. It worked again in March-April 2003, when US air support to the Kurdish Peshmerga guerrillas, allowed them to defeat the Iraqi Baath army in Kirkuk, Mosul and elsewhere in the north.

And so this strategy has been working for Putin. He appears to have rearmed and retrained the Syrian Arab Army, which has new esprit de corps and is making significant headway for the first time in years. It is of course aided by Hizbullah, over from Lebanon, and by a small contingent of some 2000 Iranian spec ops forces (many of them actually Afghan).

So what has the Russian air force accomplished?

1. It allowed the reopening of the road from Hama to West Aleppo, ending the siege of that regime-held part of the city and pushing back the rebels from it.

2. It retook most of Latakia Province, safeguarding the port. Yesterday came the news that the major northern al-Qaeda-held town of Rabia had fallen to the government forces, meaning that Latakia is nearly 100% in government control. These advances into northern Latakia involved hitting Turkmen proxies of Turkey, which is why Turkey shot down a Russian plane last fall. Likely the next step will be to take back cities in Idlib like Jisr al-Shughour, which fell last spring to an al-Qaeda-led coalition, and which could be used as a launching pad for the taking of Latakia port.

3. It strengthened regime control of Hama and Homs, ensuring the supply routes south to Damascus.

4. It hit the Army of Islam as well as al-Qaeda and Daesh around Damascus, forcing the latter two to withdraw from part of the capital and killing Zahran Alloush, leader of the Army of Islam.

5. It hit al-Qaeda and FSA forces in Deraa Province and yesterday the key town of al-Sheikh Miskin fell to the Syrian Arab Army. This is a Deraa crossroads and its loss affects the rebels ability to maneuver in this province.

The Russian air force, in conjunction with Syrian troops and Hizbullah and a few Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps fighters has therefore profoundly braced regime control of the ‘Y’ where most Syrians live and along which the capital’s supplies flow. If in July through September it appeared that the regime could well fall, and quickly, now al-Assad’s minions are on the march, pushing back their opponents.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but I want to underline that the above is analysis, not advocacy. Be that as it may, in the past 4 months, Putin has begun winning in Syria, which means so has al-Assad. And the spillover effects on Russian diplomacy are huge.

Tahrir 5 Years Later: The Hurdles to Democratization & Arab Youth Revolts

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

A frequently met-with Western political and often journalistic narrative of the 2011 youth revolts in the Arab world is that idealistic young people came out into the streets and managed to overthrow four dictators, but then the essential Arab nature (violent, fanatical, tribal and sectarian) came out and derailed any move toward democracy. The Arabs then fell back into dictatorship or spiraled down into civil war. In other words, the revolts were about democratization and the WOGs just aren’t up to it because of flaws in national character.

Social scientists don’t think there is something peculiar about Arabs. Rather, they do big studies of lots of instances of countries moving from authoritarian to more democratic forms of government and try to discover the (non-racial) reasons for failure and success. They’ve put their finger on some important correlates.

Larry Diamond points to an acceleration of the breakdown of democracy since 2006, after the four-decade “3rd wave” in which the number of democracies tended to increase and human and civil rights improved. But since 2006, not only have a lot of democracies regressed toward authoritarianism but the rate at which they are doing so has increased. In short, the Arab world’s regressions are not unusual in the contemporary world. One thinks about the excitement about post-Soviet eastern Europe, and how disappointing Hungary and even Poland are, not to mention Ukraine.

Adam Przeworski finds a strong correlation between successful democratic transitions and relatively high per capita income. Conversely, such attempts to move from dictatorship to more open forms of governance have a high rate of failure in poor countries. For twenty years Mali was extolled as one of Africa’s rare democratic successes. Then in 2012 abruptly democracy ended in Mali and the country fell to pieces. The country’s nominal per capita annual income is $672, so the odds were always stacked against it.

The nominal per capita income of the countries where there were significant 2011 youth revolts are as follows:

Bahrain $23,899
Libya $4,745
Tunisia $3,985
Egypt $3,436
Morocco $3,077
Syria $1,821
Yemen $1,235

These countries just weren’t very promising candidates for democratization, with the exception of Bahrain. Of the non-Gulf countries where there were substantial demonstrations, Libya had the highest per capita income. But it was an oil state and most of the oil income went to the Gaddafi family and the state bourgeoisie. Dividing it by the 6.5 million Libyans is silly. Ordinary people in Libya, especially in the east, were often not well off. When I was there in 2012 I was shocked at how little it looked like an oil state. Benghazi isn’t as nice as Amman in Jordan, and Jordan has very little income.

Syria and Yemen are poorer than Vietnam and Uzbekistan, neither a beacon of democracy. Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco are poorer than Belarus, Thailand and Iran, all authoritarian states.

Bahrain failed despite its income because the Sunni Arab monarchy and elite could not make a bargain with the Shiite majority. Factions within the nation have to be able to trust one another in order to risk having an election. Moreover, the oil wealth isn’t exactly equitably shared with the Shiite peasants.

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Some poor countries manage to keep having regular elections– India is the most significant example here. But it has a long tradition of elections going back to the early twentieth century and one of its main political parties, which still has substantial grassroots, i.e. Congress, was founded in the 19th century. No Arab country has a parliamentary party with a continuous history of campaigning and grassroots organizing at all analogous to Congress. (Egypt only had one party from the 1950s through the 1970s, the Nasserist “Rally.” Syria only really has had the Baath since the late 1960s. Etc.)

Not only does a low per capita income make it less likely that a transition to democracy will be successful, but Diamond points out that where the economy turns down during the transition, that raises the chances of failure.

The economy turned down in all the Arab revolt countries in 2011-2015 with the exception of Morocco. Tunisia and Egypt got a lot of income from tourism, which declined steeply after the revolutions. So that Tunisia managed to have a relatively successful transition despite poverty and despite a slowing economy is a testament to its people’s and its politicians’ dedication and willingness to compromise.

Another issue is the relationship of the military to the state in each of these countries.

Tunisia has almost no military, only something like 35,000 men under arms. deposed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali came to power in a coup, so he kept the army small to make sure some other officer did not do that to him. The sheer smallness of Tunisia’s military and its unavailability for repression of large public gatherings is probably a major reason for its relative success in moving toward democracy.

(Adapted from Wikimedia with thanks )

Egypt’s military in contrast is enormous (some 450,000 men), and in some ways it has been in power since 1952. The 2011 overthrow of dictator Hosni Mubarak (himself a former Air Force officer) took the form of a military coup. In 2013, the Egyptian military, having watched the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood government adopt a whole series of unpopular policies, intervened in conjunction with massive street rallies to make a coup.

In Libya, Syria and Yemen, the military was an arm of the regime, commanded by relatives of the president for life. In each case it was deployed to crush the revolutions. The NATO intervention stopped the Gaddafi tank corps from wiping out rebellious cities such as Benghazi, but the downside is that the army collapsed when the regime did. Libya has no national army and this situation has contributed to its chaos.

In Syria the army was deployed against the people. It drove them to arm themselves and provoked a civil war.

In Yemen the overthrown president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, still had a lot of units of the military who were loyal to him. He persuaded them to ally with the Houthi rebels of Saadeh, Zaydi Shiites, to overthrow Saleh’s successor, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, last year this time. An aggressive intervention against Saleh in favor of Mansour Hadi was launched by the Saudis and their allies.

In Bahrain, the army is a Sunni instrument of Sunni power.

The revolutions in the Arab world were in some part derailed by deep divisions between nationalists and religious fundamentalists. Some of the supposed sectarianism actually has this character. This struggle has been prominent in Libya, Egypt and Syria.

Finally, the right wing authoritarianism of many of the Gulf oil states, especially of Saudi Arabia, meant that they were willing to bankroll extremist authoritarian groups, whether officer corps or religious fundamentalists in preference to democrats, and were willing to pay officer corps to crush populist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Looked at in the light of these social science findings, the failure of most Arab states to transition to democracy is unsurprising. Poor countries in Africa, Asia and Central America have had the same difficulties. It is nothing to do with Islam or Arabs (‘Arab’ is just a speaker of a language, not an ethnic group). It is everything to do with lack of development.

The good news is that development will eventually take place in the Arab world, and a rising standard of living will impel people to take more control over their lives. Moreover, just as 1968 in eastern Europe was a proving ground for the later Velvet Revolution, so Arab youth now have experience in mobilizing.

Dragon & Phoenix: Khamenei Lauds New Sino-Iranian ‘Strategic Partnership’

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Iran’s clerical leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spoke Saturday on the occasion of the state visit to Iran of Chinese President Xi Jinping. He said,

“The government and people of Iran have always looked and are still looking for expanding relations with independent and trustworthy countries like China and on this basis, the agreement between the presidents of Iran and China for the establishment of a 25-year strategic relation is completely correct and wise.”

“. . . The Islamic Republic of Iran will never forget China’s cooperation during the time of sanctions.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran this weekend, pledging new bilateral of $600 bn. Over 10 years.

Referring to the US influence over countries like Saudi Arabia, Khamenei told China that “Iran is the only independent country in the region that can be trusted in the area of energy because unlike many regional countries, the energy policy of Iran is not influenced by any non-Iranian factor.”

Referring to US exploitation of weaker countries, Khamenei said, “This situation has caused independent countries to pursue more cooperation with one another. The agreement between Iran and China for developing a 25-year strategic relation is within this framework. With the serious follow-up by both sides, agreements will definitely pass through the stage of implementation.”

He added, “Westerners have never been able to win the Iranian nation’s trust,” saying that the US was more hostile than the others. He said, “These hostile policies have caused the people of Iran and the officials of our country to look for developing relations with independent countries.”

Khamenei asked for Chinese help against Daesh (ISIL, ISIS), saying, “Unfortunately, our region has become insecure because of the wrong policies of westerners and also because of a deviant and wrong interpretation of Islam. There is a danger that this will be expanded and developed and therefore, it should be prevented with intelligent cooperation.”

Xi Jinping replied that “The mutual cooperation between Iran and China should increase – day by day – on the basis of mutual interests.”

Referring to the historic Silk Road, Xi said, “By increasing their cooperation, the countries who are located on this route can defend their interests and achieve their goals in the face of the American model for disturbing the balance of the regional economy.” He added, “Some superpowers are trying to create a monopoly and to impose the law of the jungle where “[Y]ou are either with us or with our enemy” play a dominant role, but the progress of emerging economies has taken away the monopoly of power from their hands and it has created a suitable environment for the ideas and policies of independent governments.”

The Chinese president said, “After the lifting of sanctions too, we should increase our cooperation in all areas.” He added, speaking of Iran’s petroleum and natural gas and its literate workforce, “Iran and China’s economy complement each other. On this trip, we have reached an agreement about formulating a plan for a 25-year strategic cooperation and we are ready to increase and deepen our cooperation in cultural, educational, technological, military and security areas as strategic partners.”

Khamenei’s site said that Xi “stated that in the face of terrorism and the complex issues of the region, it is necessary to find a way to increase cooperation between the two countries in the area of security.”

The ‘Strategic Partnership’ between China and Iran consists of 20 articles; here are some of the more central ones:

The ministry of foreign affairs of both countries will hold annual meetings.

The two countries recognized each other’s emphasis on national sovereignty and independence.

They will increase their scientific and academic exchanges.

They will cooperate on counter-terrorism.

The ending of international, UN-backed sanctions, and the continued sanctions imposed by the US Congress, gives Xi an ‘in’ with businesses in Iran.

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Turkey-Russia Tensions Spike as Russia moves into Northern Syria

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Russian air strikes in Syria are coming closer and closer to the Turkish border in Latakia in the northwest, and there are rumors that Russia is looking at establishing an airbase at Qamishli in the largely Kurdish northeast of Syria. Turkey risks having Russia as a neighbor all along the Syrian border to Turkey’s south, as well as beyond the Black Sea to its north.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said at a news conference, “We have said this from the beginning: we won’t tolerate such formations (in northern Syria) along the area stretching from the Iraqi border up to the Mediterranean. . .”

Over on the Mediterranean side, Russian air strikes have enabled the Syrian Arab Army of the Bashar al-Assad regime to move back into northern Latakia Province, taking a large number of villages in the far northern areas of Turkmen Mountain and Kurd Mountain.

The strategic city of Rabia was surrounded on three sides by government troops.

Syrian government sources maintained that 150 rebels had been killed in the fighting, including guerrillas of the Nusra Front, while others had fled across the border into Turkey.

It was to protect the anti-regime Turkmen fighters of Turkmen mountain that last fall the Turkish air force shot a Russian fighter jet out of the air.

The SAA has also retaken Salma in the east of Latakia Province. Salma had been in rebel hands for 3 years and is in higher land and so was a useful way for the rebels to dominate the surrounding area.

View post on imgur.com

Russian strategy since last October has been to intervene from the air to give courage to the Syrian troops and allow them to push back the rebels from the key port city of Latakia in the province of the same name. The al-Qaeda-allied Army of Conquest (Jaysh al-Fateh) has the neighboring province of Idlib to the east and has a key position in Jisr al-Shughour, a town in the highlands overlooking Latakia from which an assault could easily be launched. One of the Army of Conquest coalition partners is the Nusra Front or the Support Front, the chief al-Qaeda franchise in Syria, which reports to Ayman al-Zawahiri (one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks on the US).

The Nusra Front has been flooding fighters also into northern, mountainous Latakia, where Turkmen villages are split, with about half in the ranks of the anti-regime rebels. Turkmen speak a language close to Turkish and came into the Arab world as nomads from the 8th century forward, originating in Inner Asia.

The Syrian Arab Army on Friday made substantial advances in Turkmen Mountain in the far north of Latakia Province near the Turkish border, taking numerous villages and expelling al-Qaeda and allied fighters. This drive to reestablish regime control so close to the Turkish border has alarmed the Turkish government, which had been arming and supporting the rebellious Turkmen.

As of Friday, Turkey’s proxies seemed to be losing very badly, and it is unclear what options Ankara now has except Erdogan’s bluster.


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Netanyahu demands more billions from US after Iran Deal, insults US Envoy, Steals more Land

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

At the Davos World Economic Forum, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu insisted that the deal between the UN Security Council and Iran limiting its enrichment program to purely civilian uses had made Israel less secure, and that it must therefore be granted tens of billions of extra military aid from the United States.

Netanyahu made the claim on the US taxpayer in the wake of his harsh words for the US ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro.

Shapiro had addressed a conference earlier this week in which he said that the Obama administration now questions the commitment of Netanyahu’s government to peace with the Palestinians. Shapiro said that Israel wasn’t acting credibly to curb the violence of Israeli squatters on the Palestinian West Bank against Palestinians, and that it should open more land to the Palestinians: “Too much vigilantism goes unchecked, and at times there seems to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law, one for Israelis, and another for Palestinians. . . Hovering over all these questions is the larger one about Israel’s political strategy vis-a-vis its conflict with the Palestinians.” He also criticized Palestinian violence.

Netanyahu slapped down Shapiro, calling his observations “unacceptable and incorrect”, he added, “Israel enforces the law for Israelis and Palestinians.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked demanded that Shapiro take back his words.

A former aid to Netanyahu went on Israeli television on Tuesday and put Shapiro down as a yahudon or “little Jew boy,” a deeply offensive epithet used by some far rightwing Israelis to characterize diaspora Jews they view as insufficiently Jewish or insufficiently supportive of Israel.

Then yesterday the Netanyahu government made Shapiro’s point for him by announcing that it will steal 350 acres of Palestinian land near Jericho in the Jordan Valley.

So, to summarize: Netanyahu tried to humiliate the president of the United States by addressing Congress and urging it to overturn Obama’s Iran negotiations. Then when he was defeated he turned around and demanded extra billions in military aid. He and his friends insulted Ambassador Shapiro for daring criticize their vast land thefts and Jewish-only colonial policies in Palestinian territory. Then they barefacedly announced that they are in fact going to steal another 350 acres from Palestinian owners.

Not sure if their shoplifting that land requires that we give them yet more billions.

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