Juan Cole – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Tue, 21 Sep 2021 05:20:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.18 As Biden prepares to declare US 20-year War over at U.N., Remembering the Bush Lies that Started it all https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/prepares-declare-remembering.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/prepares-declare-remembering.html#respond Tue, 21 Sep 2021 05:13:05 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200195 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Aamer Madhani and Josh Boak at the Associated Press report that President Biden in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly this year will seek to bring the curtain down on 20 years of American war, and will argue that instead the US will wage a multilateral campaign against the climate emergency, poverty and the pandemic.

It was George W. Bush who kicked off all those years of war with his 2002 speech to the U.N., which announced his impending war on Iraq. Precisely because he knew that launching yet another attack on a Muslim country in the wake of the Afghanistan campaign risked turning the whole Muslim world (some 56 countries of 194 at the UN are Muslim-majority) against the United States.

Bush therefore sought to give the Muslims and Arabs a sop– the pledge that he would work toward an independent Palestinian state:

    “Our common security is challenged by regional conflicts — ethnic and religious strife that is ancient, but not inevitable. In the Middle East, there can be no peace for either side without freedom for both sides. America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine, living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Like all other people, Palestinians deserve a government that serves their interests and listens to their voices. My nation will continue to encourage all parties to step up to their responsibilities as we seek a just and comprehensive settlement to the conflict.”

Bush did not follow through on this pledge, and no subsequent president followed through, until Trump just threw the Palestinians completely under the bus and implied they should get used to living under Apartheid. A Palestinian state of the sort Bush envisaged only 20 years ago now seems impossible, with the West Bank a Swiss cheese of Israeli squatter-settlements amid a brutalized indigenous population. (For those confused on this issue, no, Polish Jews are not indigenous to modern Palestine. When Bonarparte conquered the latter he found only 3,000 Jews and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and it had been like that for a thousand years.)

Bush then pivoted to his favorite parlor sport, of attempting to hang the fundamentalist al-Qaeda around the neck of Iraq’s secular, socialist dictator, Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with it.

    “Above all, our principles and our security are challenged today by outlaw groups and regimes that accept no law of morality and have no limit to their violent ambitions. In the attacks on America a year ago, we saw the destructive intentions of our enemies . . .”

Having brought up al-Qaeda, Bush suddenly pivots to Iraq:

    ” In one place — in one regime — we find all these dangers, in their most lethal and aggressive forms, exactly the kind of aggressive threat the United Nations was born to confront.

    Twelve years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait without provocation. And the regime’s forces were poised to continue their march to seize other countries and their resources. Had Saddam Hussein been appeased instead of stopped, he would have endangered the peace and stability of the world. Yet this aggression was stopped — by the might of coalition forces and the will of the United Nations.”

So Bush, as was his wont, heavily hinted around that Saddam Hussein had something to do with al-Qaeda or the September 11 attacks. He did not. His secret police were instructed to capture any al-Qaeda agents in Iraq, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Bush then ran down the litany of UN Security Council resolutions that Saddam Hussein had defied. What he did not say is that the UNSC did not see these violations as a legitimate cause for war. It would over the next six months steadfastly refuse to authorize Bush’s war. The UN Charter gives the right to declare a legitimate war to the UN Security Council.

Then Bush accused Iraq of having an active and wideranging set of unconventional weapons programs:

    ” United Nations’ inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

    And in 1995, after four years of deception, Iraq finally admitted it had a crash nuclear weapons program prior to the Gulf War. We know now, were it not for that war, the regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993.

    Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program — weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. And Iraq’s state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.”

Everything Bush said was a falsehood. I think much of it was a lie, but who knows, maybe he believed this garbage.

The UN inspectors who had worked in Iraq in the mid-1990s directly contradicted Bush, saying that almost all Iraq’s weapons programs had been rolled up. Iraq turned over the evidence of the destruction of the chemical weapons to the UN that fall. Bush wouldn’t believe it.

Iraq did not have stockpiles of VX, mustard or other poison gas.

Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was small and backward and never made much progress, and Iraq was nowhere near having a weapons capability. The UN inspectors rolled the vestigial program up entirely by 1995.

The aluminum tubes Iraq bought from India were not for nuclear centrifuges, they had the wrong specifications, as the International Atomic Energy Agency pointed out before Bush went to war. Saddam could meet with scientists all he liked, there was no nuclear program. None. Zilch. Nada. Bush tried to invent one out of thin air by equating a photo op by a ramshackle defeated regime with such a program.

Bush continued his litany of lies:

    ” As we meet today, it’s been almost four years since the last U.N. inspectors set foot in Iraq, four years for the Iraqi regime to plan, and to build, and to test behind the cloak of secrecy.

    We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left? The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein’s regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime’s good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take.”

President Bill Clinton pulled the UN weapons inspectors out of Iraq in 1998 in order to bomb Iraq, at the demand of the Republicans in Congress and the Project for a New American Century. Saddam did not kick them out, as a generation of American journalists went on to proclaim.

In the four years after they left, Saddam not only did not reconstitute any weapons programs, his regime allowed the sites that used to house them to be extensively looted for copper wiring, plumbing pipes, and wallboard.

Bush actually argued that his lack of knowledge of what was going on in Iraq was proof that something sinister and threatening was taking place there.

When weapons inspectors went back in early in 2003, with a list of 600 suspect sites provided by the CIA, they cleared the first 100 without finding anything at all. A frantic Bush, seeing his case for war evaporate, demanded that they come back out immediately. Then he went to war.

Bush pretended that he was a great liberator:

    “The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they’ve suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal.”

Bush went on to become the proximate cause for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, with three times as many wounded, the creation of hundreds of thousands of orphans and widows, and the displacement of four million Iraqis, who would be made homeless, out of 26 million.

As for liberty, when Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani demanded elections on the basis of one person, one vote, Bush fought him tooth and nail. Bush wanted a semi-appointed dictator, not a democratically elected prime minister.

Now for the big finish:

    “If we meet our responsibilities, if we overcome this danger, we can arrive at a very different future. The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine, inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government, and respect for women, and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond. And we will show that the promise of the United Nations can be fulfilled in our time.”

Democracy, unconventional weapons, ties to al-Qaeda– they were all lies and pretexts to cover for a war to open Iraq’s oil market.

These falsehoods formed the foundation of America’s 20-year war. There was to be no Palestine at all, much less a democratic one, as Washington caved into the belligerent demands of the Israel Far Right. Afghanistan, the fourth-poorest country in the world, was warlord-ridden under American auspices and the house of cards Bush erected there collapsed on Biden’s watch. Iraq was cast into civil war and fell victim to hard line fundamentalist irredentism in the form of ISIL.

The Muslim world does have a great tradition of scholarship. Any of those scholars could have told Bush that his plans were a latticework of imperialist fantasies that would bankrupt the United States and rend the fabric of the greater Middle East.


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

George W Bush Address to the United Nations, 9/12/2002

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Is US-Australia Nuclear Sub Deal a Proliferation Danger, and does it Justify Iran’s Civilian Enrichment Program? https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/australia-proliferation-enrichment.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/australia-proliferation-enrichment.html#respond Mon, 20 Sep 2021 05:25:41 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200178 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Alexander Ward and Quint Forgey at Politico raise a crucial question about the AUKUS alliance among the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia that involves providing Australia with nuclear submarines. Is it a form of proliferation and does it provide justification for Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program?

Nuclear submarines are fueled by an onboard nuclear reactor. The reactor generates heat that boils water and drives a turbine, powering the sub. A nuclear submarine does not have nuclear warheads, or at least not necessarily. The “nuclear” refers to how it is powered.

Australia had a 2015, $66 billion contract with France for 12 diesel-fueled submarines which need oxygen to burn.

France is very, very upset that the US convinced Australia to drop French-supplied submarines in favor of 8 American and British nuclear-powered ones, without giving Paris any head’s up.

France also constructs nuclear submarines, and could have supplied those vessels to Canberra, but was cut out of the deal in what President Emmanuel Macron calls with considerable justification a “stab in the back.”

The US and Australia are justifying the decision by pointing to China’s increasingly aggressive naval posture in which it has picked fights with the Philippines and Japan. In such a contentious naval atmosphere, the French diesel subs looked antiquated.

Diesel-fueled submarines have the disadvantage of needing to surface fairly often, so that they can be tracked and observed. When the sub has access to oxygen, the diesel-electric engine charges large batteries. The vessel can then submerge and run on the batteries for a few days until they use up their charge. The sub then needs to surface for oxygen so as to burn more diesel and recharge the batteries.

Still, the Biden administration’s deal is presumably a gift to General Dynamics’ Electric Boat division, which constructs such submarines in Connecticut. That district is represented by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), chair of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces.

Nuclear reactors do not need oxygen to operate, and they heat water to run turbines directly, so they can remain submerged for as long as the crew has food and supplies, which are typically stocked for a three-month undersea voyage.

Because they do not need to surface very often, nuclear submarines can make themselves invisible to the enemy. Because they can remain submerged for months on end, they can be sent out to scout enemy positions rapidly. They have no logistical requirements or supply chain and so have no real constraints either as reconnaissance or attack vessels. Because of their larger size, they do lose some maneuverability compared to diesel-powered subs.

The nonproliferation issues are severe, however. Before this, the US had only shared its nuclear submarines with the UK.

Australia does not have the know-how or facilities to make fuel for the submarines, which require uranium enriched to 20%. That is, U-235 has to be increased to 20% with U-238 at 80%. In nature, uranium ore typically contains only small amounts of the more volatile U-235.

So, will Canberra begin a nuclear enrichment program? Typically nowadays enrichment is carried out in centrifuges, which is what Iran has been doing.

Isn’t the US encouraging Australia to develop this capability by providing it with nuclear-powered submarines?

Australian energy experts warn that the country should avoid going in for nuclear reactors to generate electricity, given the impossibility of disposing of nuclear waste, the dangers of meltdowns demonstrated at Fukushima, and the expensive nature of nuclear-made electricity as renewables plummet in price.

Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, just a civilian nuclear enrichment program. It has a small medical reactor that needs for fuel uranium enriched to 20%, which was Iran’s original justification for enriching to that level. It is the same level Australia would need to reach to fuel its submarines.

Why should Australia be encouraged to develop this capability by the US, when Washington has crushed Iran’s civilian economy under Draconian sanctions for doing the same thing? And Iran’s program isn’t even aimed at any military use as far as the CIA intelligence assessments can find.

At the very least, the AUKUS deal with its nuclear component and its implication of proliferation to a new country (and a new continent!) raises the appearance of a profound double standard on the part of the United States government.

Iran is often accused of violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory. But if I am not mistaken, the only violation occurred in 2002, when Iran began doing some experiments with enrichment and did not inform the International Atomic Energy Agency of the UN, as the NPT requires. When the whistle was blown on its experiments, the Iranian government of Mohammad Khatami came clean and since then has been under IAEA inspections. Under the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal, which constrained Iran in ways that the NPT does not, the inspection regime is particularly stringent. Iran agreed to those restrictions in return for sanctions relief, which it never got — indeed, sanctions were greatly increased under Trump — and so it has declined strictly to adhere to the JCPOA since 2019. Tehran says it is open to returning to the treaty if sanctions are genuinely lifted by the US this time.

It seems to me that the only difference between Australians and Iranians in this regard is that Australia is part of the white Anglophone diaspora. It is also part of the Five Eyes intelligence program, which groups the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand and Australia (hmm, I wonder what they have in common)?

Race is so central to US politics that it even comes into nuclear policy!


Bonus Video:

CBS News: “New U.S.-U.K.-Australian alliance to deploy nuclear submarines in Indo-Pacific”

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US admits that Hellfire Strike on Kabul, killing 10, was a “Mistake” – But US often does not know Whom it is Droning https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/hellfire-killing-droning.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/hellfire-killing-droning.html#respond Sun, 19 Sep 2021 04:48:29 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200146 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Associated Press reports that the survivors of family members killed in a U.S. hellfire missile strike on a civilian vehicle after US troops and Afghan evacuees were killed at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul are not satisfied with the apology issued by the U.S. military. They want compensation.

Zemerai Ahmadi was pulling his car up to his home’s driveway when the missile struck it, killing him and children who were running out to greet him. Ahmadi was well known as a driver for a charitable cause and no explosives were in the vehicle, contrary to U.S. military assertions.

The chief of America’s Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, said the strike was a “tragic mistake.” But for weeks his office had insisted that IS-K militants had been in the car.

The incident underlines the dangers of conducting counter-terrorism remotely with missile and drone strikes.

It is not a new problem.

Back in 2015, under the Obama administration, the US military struck two buildings in Afghanistan suspected of being terrorist safe houses and killed two Western hostages being kept there.

In the aftermath, the generals were forced to admit that they often had no idea whom they were targeting with such drone strikes on targets such as buildings. That is, they might know the facilities were frequented by terrorists. But at the time of the strike on a faceless edifice they could not be sure there were no women or hostages or other noncombatants inside.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimated that about a fourth of those killed in Afghanistan by President Obama’s drone strikes were civilians.

I commented at that time,

    “Death by drone is inherently lawless. There is no constitutional or legal framework within which the US government can blow people away at will. For a while in the 1970s through 1990s, assassination was outlawed. Now it is back, but has taken this freakish form where bureaucrats thousands of miles away fire missiles from large toy airplanes. The US is not at war with Pakistan, so this action is not part of a war effort. You can’t be at war with an organization– a state of war has a technical legal definition.”

The few remaining cheerleaders for the Afghanistan War depict it as a sort of humanitarian mission. But civilian casualties from massive and continual US bombing raids on the country increased 330% from 2017, according to the BBC citing the Costs of War Project at Brown University. The rising death toll was owing to Trump having relaxed the rules of engagement.

The Military Times writes of Afghanistan,

    “According to U.S. Air Forces Central Command, U.S. aircraft dropped 7,423 munitions in 2019 — that’s the highest number of bombs released in nearly a decade.

    In 2018, U.S. warplanes dropped 7,362 bombs — the second highest total in a year thus far since AFCENT began publishing the number of munitions released in Afghanistan.

    In 2010 and 2011, the height of America’s participation in Afghan war, coalition aircraft dropped 5,100 and 5,411 bombs respectively.”

That is an enormous tonnage of explosives to drop on a poor, rural country annually, and it had been getting worse.

The Wall Street Journal reports that many Afghans in rural areas have heaved a huge sigh of relief since the US departure, because now their villages are not being routinely bombed as the US targeted Taliban in the boondocks.


Bonus Video:

Al Jazeera English: “Afghanistan: Apology ‘not enough’, say survivors of US drone attack in Kabul”

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UN: Earth heading to 16% Increase in Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2030, Risking Climate Instability https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/greenhouse-emissions-instability.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/greenhouse-emissions-instability.html#respond Sat, 18 Sep 2021 04:48:40 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200127 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – A United Nations study of the greenhouse gas reduction targets announced by the 191 signatories to the Paris Convention has come up with an alarming result.

If countries follow through on their stated plans, greenhouse gas emissions will actually rise. In 2025, they will be 15.8% higher than in 2010 and fully 58.6% higher than in 1990.

It gets worse. By 2030, they will be even worse — 16.3% higher than in 2010, and 59.3% higher than in 1990.

I want to stand back and underline this outcome. This is a study of the countries who signed the Paris climate accords in 2015 and who have stepped up and submitted their carbon dioxide and methane emissions plans by 2020. These are the good guys. And they are villains. We are villains.

This is like if you made a New Year’s resolution to drop from 300 pounds to 250 and you end up weighing 400 pounds.

What should be happening is that by 2030 the world must cut emissions by 45% over 2010 levels in order to keep global heating to 2.7 degrees F. above 1750 norms (that is 1.5 degrees C.).

In fact, the UN fears we are heading to 2.7 degrees C. (note, celsius here) of extra heating, an unimaginable 4.86 degrees F. above pre-industrial times, which some scientists fear could destabilize the climate in ways that would be very challenging for human civilization.

The earth is heated by the sun’s rays, which then radiate back out to space. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane trap the sun’s heat on earth and do not let it escape, making the earth hot.

Extra carbon dioxide is produced when we burn gasoline to fuel our cars, burn coal and gas to heat or air condition our homes, burn coal or natural gas to make electricity.

It should be underlined that 2.7 degrees F. increase — the least we can hope to set as a limit– doesn’t sound like much but actually it is dire. We are talking about that kind of increase in the average surface temperature of the whole earth, including cold oceans and the antarctic.

Any particular spot on normal dry land, such as Phoenix, AZ, could see an increase of 15 degrees F. I’ve been in Phoenix in July and I wouldn’t have wanted it to be 15 degrees hotter. At all.

The arctic is heating up much more than most of the rest of the world. So that 2.7 degrees F. increase is an average that is just not spread around evenly. Where you live, it will likely be much worse.

Moreover, it isn’t just a matter of it being hotter on average. Hotter surface temperatures in oceans produce sea level rise since warm water expands; they produce more humidity in the air above the ocean; they cause glaciers and ice sheets to melt, which also raises the sea level; and the warm water fuels more destructive hurricanes and cyclones. Likewise, more heat in the US southwest and west dries things out and leads to massive droughts and wildfires. The higher the temperatures go, the more destruction will ensue.

If we cause enough of these extreme-weather events with our gasoline and coal and gas burning, we could make it harder to have civilization. The electricity and internet would constantly be being knocked out, and millions of people would be made homeless and have to go live elsewhere, perhaps fighting wars with the people already settled there.

The UN study finds that unless the countries of the world (and especially the biggest emitters– North America, Europe and China) get serious, we are going to blow past the 2.7 degrees F. limit, beyond which many climate scientists fear the earth’s climate could start to experience severe instability.

The small bit of good news is that about 113 countries updated their plans after 2020 and these new plans would get us to a 12% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030. The New Scientist reports that the UN study also could not take into account China’s recent pledge to be carbon neutral by 2060.

Still, a 12% reduction is not nearly enough. Remember, we need a 45% reduction by 2030. And China’s plans involve continuing to build coal plants for the rest of this decade.

Coal has to be outlawed pretty much immediately. We need a rapid transition to green transportation. We need wind-solar-hydro as the main generators of electricity. We need sustainable farming and cement. You and I as individuals cannot get this work done, though we can pitch in (I have solar panels and bike to work in the good weather). We need to pressure governments to do big green infrastructure projects.

The current plans for such a project by the Democrats and the Biden administration are being held up by Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

You can contact Sen. Manchin (be polite) and plead with him to save the planet here.

You might share with him the warnings that with increased global heating, West Virginia will suffer from more flash flooding, challenging its infrastructure, and more cloud cover that will damage its agriculture and its maples:


The other thing we need to do is to buck history and to increase the number of pro-environment sentators and congressional representatives in 2022. It isn’t fair to Sen. Manchin to have everything fall on his shoulders. He just needs one more progressive colleague and he wouldn’t have to carry such a heavy burden. We should pull out the stops to have Val Demmings replace Marco Rubio in Florida, for instance. And, of course, Democrats have to keep the Senate seats they already have. It will be a hard slog, but Gavin Newsom just showed how it can be done– tie Greg Abbott, Rod DeSantis and Donald Trump around their necks and make sure women know that their control of their bodies is imperiled and the safety of their children in school is endangered.

The U.N. study is telling us that we aren’t doing it right, and our planet, our children and grandchildren depend on us doing it right.


Bonus Video:

The Straits Times: “UN says world likely to miss climate targets”

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In Turning Point for US Media, Time Recognizes Palestinians Mohammed and Muna El-Kurd as among 100 “Most Influential” https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/recognizes-palestinians-influential.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/recognizes-palestinians-influential.html#respond Fri, 17 Sep 2021 04:47:40 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200112 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – In what may be a turning point for American media, Time magazine has chosen twin Palestinian activists from the endangered East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Mohammed and Muna el-Kurd, as among the 100 most influential people in 2021.

The accolade is well-deserved, since the 23-year-old siblings were crucial to giving the Israeli attacks on Palestinians this past spring a voice, explaining to the outside world what it was like to have radical Jewish squatter-settlers aiming to expel you from your home.

Mohammed El-Kurd has just become a correspondent for The Nation, marking a transformation of that invaluable magazine, which has long been central to progressive thinking in the US but had sometimes been skittish of Palestine. Now, The Nation has taken the bull by the horns.

Over the decades there have been many eloquent Palestinian voices who were not featured in Time magazine.

The vast influence of US cable television news comes not only from the slant its anchors and panelists put on the limited number of stories they present each day. It comes from the stories about which they remain completely silent. The entire nearly 50-year history of the gradual Israel colonization of the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem, which is blatantly illegal, has taken place under the international media radar, except on rare occasions when there is so much violence that they have to cover it. Expulsions of Palestinians from their homes by fanatical (and greedy) Israeli squatter-settlers, some of them actually Americans, are a near-daily circumstance that the US media seldom deigns cover. The plight of Afghan refugees can get on TV much more easily than that of the millions of Palestinian refugees. All this is despite the ways in which US taxpayers have been dragooned into helping pay for this creeping ethnic cleansing.

Al-Quds al-`Arabi reports that Mohammed El-Kurd replied on Twitter in Arabic to his selection with his typical modesty, warning, “But making symbols that encapsulate the struggle of an entire people in one person is not enough to support the Palestinian people.” He added, “What we are asking is a basic and tangible change in the media system, which comprises Time, so as to end its bias toward Zionism and to push it to be more daring in speaking about about liberation movements and the Palestinian resistance in all its forms.”

He underlined that “the new era that the Palestinians and the Palestinian people are witnessing was a product of the cumulative organization and struggle of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians,” addding: “The Palestinian struggle against the colonial system for seven decades received no thanks or international recognition.”

You can say that again. Israeli propaganda configured any resistance to its vast theft of Palestinian territory as “terrorism.” Even nonviolent activists such as Mubarak Awad were illegally expelled from the West Bank by Israeli authorities and their flacks attempted to smear him for advocating a one-state solution. The only acceptable posture for the Occupied Palestinians, from an Israeli and pro-Israeli point of view was to bend over and take it without protest. And, of course, ordinary Americans who objected to keeping millions of Palestinians stateless and without basic human rights were gruesomely smeared as racialist bigots. The truth is, it was always the other way around.

Few American public figures dare say it, but the Israel lobbies in the U.S. pioneered the Big Lie. Just as Qanon maintains that Trump is a victim and being wronged, the lobbies configure the Israeli Occupation of 5 million Palestinians as though the Palestinians for no reason but fanaticism are being mean to Israelis.

U.S. politicians have been groomed so extensively and lavishly by Israel lobbies, which help fund their campaigns and get out their votes, that they often view so much as mentioning the Palestinian plight as unwise. Sen. Cory Booker replied to one attendee who asked about the Palestinians, if that is your issue then I am not your candidate.

So it is remarkable, and quite brave, for Time to recognize the El-Kurd twins in this way.

Mohammed and Muna began at the age of twelve blogging the impact on them of the Israeli occupation and the designs of Israeli squatter-settlers on their home in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, which Israel seized by main force in 1967 and illegally annexed. In 1948-1967 East Jerusalem was under the control of the Jordanian government, which created neighborhoods and gave homes to Palestinians who had been ethnically cleansed by Jewish immigrants in 1947-48. Israeli courts have refused to recognize the legitimate land titles bestowed on these families by Jordan, even though these rights are upheld in international law.

Al Jazeera notes that the twins used smartphones to send out into the world the near-daily violence to which Palestinians were subjected by Israelis.

Mohammed El-Kurd is a poet and had been pursuing an M.A. in the U.S. before returning to Sheikh Jarrah.

On June 6 of this, year, the twins were detained for several hours by Israeli authorities, apparently for being Palestinian.

Let’s hope courage is contagious and more publications will be willing to withstand the pressure campaigns that are continuously mounted by the well-heeled and powerful Israeli lobbies against US media that dare cover what is being done to the Palestinians.


Bonus video:

Middle East Eye: “Time 100: Sheikh Jarrah’s outspoken el-Kurd twins make magazine’s top 100 list”

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China slams US Sanctions on Taliban, Eyes investments in Afghan Minerals https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/sanctions-investments-minerals.html Thu, 16 Sep 2021 04:40:11 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200093 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Laura Zhou at the South China Morning Post reports that Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday called on the United States not to sanction the Taliban in Afghanistan and to cease sequestering $9.5 billion in Afghanistan government funds that Washington is withholding from the Taliban.

Zhao is quoted as saying, “The US should give up the path of sanctioning, and should not create obstacles for the peaceful reconstruction and economic development of Afghanistan.”

American sanctions on Iran, with which China does substantial business, have been a sore point between Beijing and Washington.

In contrast, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken insisted that the U.S. would use its economic leverage to ensure that the Taliban allowed the free passage out of the country of those who wanted to leave, as Joel Gehrke at the Washington Examiner underlined.

While the Biden administration can impose unilateral economic sanctions on the Taliban, an international effort to pressure the new government would require assent of all five members of the United Nations Security Council. China is announcing that it will not be on board with such UNSC sanctions.

Al Jazeera, because it is based in Doha, Qatar, has been in a position closely to cover the Taliban negotiating team there, and reports that the Chinese foreign ministry welcomed a Taliban delegation last July and acknowledged how important the movement was to Afghanistan.

Al Jazeera asked what the Chinese want in Afghanistan and answered this way:

1. Beijing wants guarantees from the Taliban that they will prevent Uighur fundamentalists from attacking Xinjiang in northwest China from Afghanistan, which has a short border with China in the Pamir mountains. Some Uighur militants over the years have fought alongside the Taliban.

2. China wants to invest in Afghanistan so as to share in its natural resources and mining. Afghanistan has iron, copper, uranium and lithium, which China would like to mine. A Chinese company already operates a copper mine.

The Qatar-based news agency says that the Taliban appear also to want this Chinese investment, calling its neighbor “a friendly nation,” and welcoming its role in rebuilding Afghanistan, which has suffered forty years of war. Taliban spokesman Sohail Shahin pledged that the Taliban would guarantee the security of Chinese investments in Afghanistan. Another Taliban spokesman recently admitted that the country would be dependent on Chinese funds for rebuilding the economy.

3. China wants to incorporate Afghanistan into its vast pan-Asian transportation and infrastructure plan, the One Belt, One Road. Al Jazeera alleges that the Chinese demarche in South and Central Asia is intended to assert Chinese economic and policy strength in the face of competition from the US on the one side and from the Russian Republic on the other.

The analysis says that the Taliban for their part hope for Chinese investment and help with rebuilding their economy, for Chinese support in international forums, and for a possible Afghanistan-Pakistan-China strategic agreement.

China also fears that the US will pivot more forcefully toward East Asia now that it is free of its Afghanistan entanglement. The government of Xi Jinping is protesting the possible inclusion by the Biden administration of South Korea in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing arrangement, which had previously been limited to white English-speaking countries– the US, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Likewise the Biden administration is strengthening its naval relationship with Australia and the UK, especially with regard to nuclear submarines, with China as the unstated target.


Bonus Video:

CGTN: “Acting Afghan FM meets Chinese ambassador in Kabul”

“We are on the way to a right-wing coup:” Milley secured Nuclear Codes, Allayed China fears of Trump Strike https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/secured-nuclear-allayed.html Wed, 15 Sep 2021 05:19:13 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200076 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – As a historian, I am fascinated by the practical appeals to history that appear throughout the story of Gen. Mark A. Milley’s struggles with Trump in the last months of the latter’s presidency. Milley believes that Jan. 6 was just an initial skirmish, sort of like the failed 1905 revolution in Russia, which might lay the groundwork for a big successful revolution like that in October, 1917 in Russia. Only, of course, the Trumpies 12 years from now would be making a fascist putsch, not a Communist revolution.

It is a chilling vision.

Isaac Stanley-Becker at the Washington Post summarizes some tidbits from Peril, the forthcoming book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa about Trump’s last ride.

Milley was afraid that Trump’s rhetoric against China in October, coupled with US maneuvers in the South China Sea at that time, would heighten tensions to the point where war might break out. He called Gen. Li Zuocheng, the head of the People’s Liberation Army, on October 30, just before the election, to assure him: “General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay. We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”

Everyone had been able to see for some time that Trump was not stable, but Li appears to have been mollified by Milley’s October call.

Trump spent October lambasting China for “sending us” the novel coronavirus, as though it had been a covert biological weapons attack, and demanding enormous reparations from Beijing.

AP reported on October 10,

    “China said it dispatched ships and planes to track the U.S. guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain as it passed near Chinese-held islands in the South China Sea. The People’s Liberation Army accused the U.S. warship of trespassing into Chinese territorial waters on Friday near the Paracel Islands — called Xisha by China — during the latest freedom of navigation missions by the U.S. Navy aimed at defying China’s vast claims in the strategic waterway.”

A Chinese spokesman denounced “navigation hegemony” and added that the US had “seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security interests, and gravely jeopardized peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

So Beijing was upset, and feeling under threat by Trump’s provocations. Milley had apparently seen signals intelligence that the Chinese high command feared a Trump attack, and he wanted to assure his counterpart that none was forthcoming.

On January 6, Trump instigated the Capitol insurrection. CIA Director Gina Haspel told Milley, “We are on the way to a right-wing coup.”

Peril says that Milley saw January 6 as analogous to the failed 1905 Russian Revolution, which the Tsar put down, but which some historians believe set the stage for the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Milley clearly feared that the insurrection was not a one-off event and that Trumpism was powerful in the country, so that its adherents might brew up a fatal attack on democracy down the road.

Beijing appears to have been alarmed that Trump might do something crazy to China as a way of holding on to power. In a January 8 telephone call between Milley and Li, Milley felt constrained to pledge, officer to officer, that if Trump did order an attack on China, he would call Li and warn him as soon as he knew of it.

BBC Monitoring noted that Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying (752.6K followers) tweeted pointing out that when such protests occurred elsewhere, the US often supported them and and was being hypocritical in condemning the Capitol insurrection. She snidely hoped that “the American people could regain their #peace, stability & #safety ASAP”. Chinese diplomats said that the US had called Hong Kong “rioters” “heroes” but was condemning the DC rioters. (The Hong Kong democracy protesters are not actually rioters or like the insurrectionists).

The Chinese press accused Trump of contempt for an international rules-based order and spoke of the US entering a period of instability because of the high unemployment caused by the Trump administration’s mishandling of the pandemic.

SecState Mike Pompeo around Jan. 6 was threatening Chinese officials with sanctions for the arrest of 53 Hong Kong democracy protesters, eliciting strident condemnation from China.

But from what Peril is reported to have said, there must have been fear in Beijing that Trump was both insane and had conceived a plan to strike China with nukes to wag the dog and make himself dictator. Such fears don’t appear in the public record, but that Gen. Li entertained them is the only thing that makes sense of the lengths to which Milley went to reassure him.

The account of their conversation reminds me of the old television film from the 60s, Failsafe, about the bargains US and Soviet leaders had to make after an accidental firing of an ICBM.

For someone brought up in the era of Cold War brinksmanship, the report of Milley’s conversations is extremely alarming, most of all for information we do not yet have.

It is possible that Trump’s insane murder of Gen. Qasem Soleimani of Iran on Jan. 3, 2020, fed into Chinese fears that he might lash out at them. Of Trump’s desire to hit Iran, Gina Haspel at the CIA asked, “This is a highly dangerous situation. We are going to lash out for his ego?”


Bonus Video:

PBS NewsHour: “Why Milley secretly secured nuclear codes, called China in final days of Trump presidency”

Afghanistan and 9/11: Finished or Unfinished Business? MIT Starr Forum with B. Posen, Juan Cole, V. Felbab-Brown, C. Saivetz (Video) https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/afghanistan-finished-unfinished.html Wed, 15 Sep 2021 04:02:34 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200067 MIT Center for International Studies: “Starr Forum: US, Afghanistan, 9/11: Finished or Unfinished Business?”

Barry Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science, MIT. He studies US grand strategy and national security policy. His most recent book is Restraint: A New Foundation for US Grand Strategy.

Juan Cole, Richard P Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History, University of Michigan. He is an expert on the modern Middle East, Muslim South Asia, and social and intellectual history. His most recent book is Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires.

Carol Saivetz, Senior Advisor, MIT Security Studies Program. She is an expert on Soviet and now Russian foreign policy issues; and on topics ranging from energy politics in the Caspian and Black Sea regions, questions of stability in Central Asia, to Russian policy toward Iran.

Vanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow, Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology, Brookings. She is the director of the Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors and the co-director of the Africa Security Initiative. She recently co-authored The fate of women’s rights in Afghanistan. She received her PhD from MIT.

Co-sponsors: MIT Center for International Studies (CIS), Security Studies Program (SSP)

As Banks threaten to Collapse and Aid Dwindles, 93% of Afghans already don’t get Sufficient Food https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/threaten-collapse-sufficient.html Tue, 14 Sep 2021 04:25:46 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200057 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – UN World Food Program surveys in August and September, Al Jazeera reports, found that 93 percent of Afghans already are not getting sufficient food, for the most part because they lack the cash to purchase it.

Things are about to get worse, as Afghanistan under the Taliban is cut off from the $4 billion a year in international aid that had kept it afloat.

A lot worse.

Here’s some of how that will work:

Mohammad Sajjad Sajjadi at Euronews Dari Persian interviews Afghan officials predicting the collapse of the Afghan monetary system now that the Taliban have taken over.

They point out that because several top Taliban leaders are under sanctions and accused of terrorism, member states of the World Trade Organization will not trade with Afghanistan now. The country will not be able to export or to import, its banks will be cut off from the international banking exchanges. There will be no way to receive Afghanis (the Afghanistan currency) from Kabul banks if you are an exporter abroad. There will be no way to send dollars to Kabul if you are an importer abroad. In turn, that means no exports and no imports.

Moreover, the banking system is in big trouble. A Central Bank official who asked to remain anonymous pointed out that the government only has two choices.

It can keep the banks open, in which case there will be a run on them. Banks work by lending money, so they don’t have all their assets on hand. If the full complement of account owners ask for their money at once, the bank can’t provide it and collapses.

The other possible policy is to put restrictions on withdrawals. But that way of proceeding would leave people without access to their money and reduce the money supply, causing deflation and economic stagnancy.

Either way, the Afghani currency is in big trouble

All this is why, Al Jazeera reports, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a donor conference Monday, “The financial system at the moment is extremely limited, which means that a number of basic economic functions cannot be delivered.”

Kabul is a city of 3 million, the size of Chicago inside city boundaries, and Kandahar and other cities have hundreds of thousands of residents. They can’t live on subsistence agriculture.

The UN estimates that food stocks could run out by the end of September. As I reported in August, some 14 million Afghans are food insecure, up from 12 million last spring. Even under the American-sponsored Ashraf Ghani government, about a third of the population was in danger of missing meals if any little thing went wrong.

Now, something very big has gone wrong.

Guterres made an emergency appeal for aid from international donors and garnered pledges of about $1 billion.

The United States pledged $63 million, which is not very much, but then Washington just lost a war. It contrasts with the billions it was willing to spend on bombs made by US arms manufacturers to drop on Afghanistan.

France pledged $118 million.

Guterres was pleased with the response, though it should be noted that very often these pledges are later reneged on by the donors and he’ll be lucky to get half that.


Bonus Video:

CBS News: “U.N. sounds alarm on humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan