Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion 2020-01-27T06:00:45Z WordPress Juan Cole <![CDATA[Price of Trolling Impeachment: End of Oslo Peace Process and Trump-Netanyahu Apartheid “Steal of the Century”]]> 2020-01-27T06:00:45Z 2020-01-27T06:00:45Z Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Palestinian leadership has entirely rejected what is known of the Trump plan for Israel and Palestine, and warned that they see it as destroying the Oslo Peace accords. The Trump administration did not consult the Palestinians in drawing up the plan, which gives away East Jerusalem and 30% of the Palestinian West Bank to Israel. The Palestinians may as well, Palestine foreign minister Saeb Erekat said, just withdraw from the 1995 Interim Agreement on Oslo.

Trump appears to have decided to unveil the Israel-Palestine plan on Tuesday to take the pressure off from his Senate impeachment trial and to shore up his support from the Jewish and evangelical communities. A majority of Americans in polls say they want Trump impeached and removed from office.

Trump’s plan may also bolster beleaguered Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been indicted for corruption and is fighting for his political life as Israel’s third election in a year approaches. Rushing the details of an important policy like Israel and Palestine for the sake of politics, however, could backfire big time.

Erekat also warned that the plan virtually assures that Israel will ultimately have to absorb the Palestinians, and give them the vote inside Israel. Mr. Erekat may, however, be overly optimistic, since it is much more likely that the Palestinians will be kept in a Warsaw Ghetto type of situation and simply denied a meaningful vote entirely.

Al-Quds al-`Arabi reports that Donald Trump attempted to call Palestine president Mahmoud Abbas during the past few days and that Mr. Abbas refused to take the call.

The plan, according to details leaked to the Israeli press, will propose a Palestinian statelet on 70% of the West Bank, to be established in four years. The hope is apparently that Mahmoud Abbas will no longer be president of Palestine in four years, and his successor will be more pliable.

This so-called state, however, will be demilitarized and will lack control over borders and airspace, and will be denied the authority to make treaties with other states. In other words, it will be a Bantustan of the sort the racist, Apartheid South African government created to denaturalize its Black African citizens.

Netanyahu has pledged that there will be no Palestinian state as long as he is prime minister.

Palestinians are under Israeli military rule and are being deprived of basic human rights, including the right to have citizenship in a state. They do not have passports but only laissez-passer certificates that are rejected for travel purposes by most states. Israeli squatters continually steal their land and property and water, and Palestinians have no recourse, being without a state to protect them.

Mohammed Samaana <![CDATA[On the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz: Remembering the Muslims who Rescued Jews]]> 2020-01-27T03:34:09Z 2020-01-27T05:02:24Z Belfast (Special to Informed Comment) – As the world marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, it is important to remember those who put their own and their families safety in jeopardy in order to save Jewish lives including Arabs and Muslims. The heroic acts made by Muslims in order to save Jewish lives are now little remembered. I’m not talking only about the hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers who fought against the Nazis, I’m also talking about ordinary Muslims who risked their own lives in order to rescue Jews from the Nazis. This article is about some of these forgotten heroes.

In Albania, a European Muslim country where many Jews found their refuge after fleeing Nazi persecution, a Muslim photographer called Refik Vesili saved the lives of eight Jews by taking the risk of hiding them at his family home in the mountains during the Nazi occupation of Albania. After that, Refik’s brother Xhemal brought another Jewish family to hide with them saving another Jewish family in the same house. If they were caught by the Nazis, their entire family would have been killed. In honor of his courageous act, a school in Berlin was named after Refic in 2014.

In another story, a Muslim Turk, Selahattin Ulkumen who was the Turkish consul-general on the island of Rhodes when it was under German occupation , rescued 50 Jews from Auschwitz by insisting that they were Turkish citizens. Most of them actually weren’t Turks but he fabricated that in order to stop the Germans from sending them to Auschwitz. The Turkish diplomat paid the price when the Nazis bombed his house killing his wife who was pregnant with their baby.

A remarkable contribution was made by Dervis Korkut, who was a Bosnian Muslim. After the formation of the new kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, he was involved with the Yugoslav Muslim Organization when he opposed plans by a Serbian politician to strip the Jews of their voting rights. His views were not welcomed by the Serbian nationalists and the Serb Radical Party got him removed from his government job. During WWII when he was working at the museum, he saved the Sarajevo Haggadah, a valuable Hebrew manuscript, by giving it to a mosque imam who hid it his village mosque. Korkut also saved the life of a young Jewish woman by hiding her at his home and presented her as his wife’s cousin from Kosovo who couldn’t speak Bosnian. He also wrote an article arguing that anti-Semitism is alien to Islam.

Another remarkable story is how Dr Mohammed Kundurovic, a Bosnian Muslim, helped Jews to get out of a Nazi camp by duping the Nazis and telling them that they had an infectious disease and must leave the camp. This saved their lives, since the Germans feared for their own safety if they kept them in.

During the holocaust, the pro-Nazi Vichy Government of France occupied some Arab countries in North Africa where it tried to enact laws that could have had many Jews sent to their death in Europe concentration camps. The Arab King of Morocco, Mohammed V interfered and refused to enact such laws which saved Jewish lives. There are also stories of Arabs hiding Jews in their farms and homes. For example, Khaled Abdul Wahab hid a Jewish family in his home in Tangier while he entertained SS personnel in the same house who weren’t aware of who else was in the house.

Actually as a result of the colonization of Arab countries by Vichy government, some Muslim Arabs ended up in the same concentration camps with Jews, communists and others. Mohammed Arezki Berkani documented this experience in his book, L ́Histoire de Djenien-BouRezg (Algiers, 1965) in which he described how Arabs and Jews were put in the same section separate from the Europeans. The Nazi officials were hoping that the two groups would start killing each other. The opposite happened as Arabs and Jews understood the Nazis’ plan. Berkani described these events in his book by saying ‘Never could one have believed that the Arabs and the Jews in the first section of the camp would become real friends, even brothers. Whether you wish to believe it or not, they were moreover brothers in hunger, in suffering, in misery, in punishment/pain etc’.

Muslims helping Jews is not something new. When the Castilians conquered Andalucia and issued an exclusion act against Jews, Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II sent ships to rescue Jews, and welcomed them in Istanbul.

Even in more modern times, Muslims still saving Jewish lives. It was a Muslim employee in Paris Kosher supermarket who hid a number of Jews in the store basement freezer when the store was attacked in 2015. The same Muslim also played a crucial role in helping the police when he sneaked out to give the police the key to the metal blind which enabled them take control of the situation.

Islam encourages social justice and taking stands against oppression and injustice, and Muslims through history have risked their lives to implement these ideals.


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Muslim Families Who Saved Jews in World War II

Sam Pizzigati <![CDATA[Forget Abuse of Power, Trump’s biggest Crime is Unloosing Deadly Corporate Chemicals on our Neighborhoods]]> 2020-01-27T04:21:07Z 2020-01-27T05:02:18Z ( – Earlier this month, still another one-day-wonder of a Twitter storm surfaced and quickly sank in Donald Trump’s America. On January 9, President Trump claimed credit for new figures from the American Cancer Society that show — between 2016 and 2017 — “the sharpest one-year drop in cancer death rate ever recorded.” Almost immediately, the American Cancer Society politely pointed out that the Trump administration had nothing to do with this encouraging decline.

The new death-rate numbers, American Cancer Society chief Gary Reedy explained, “reflect prevention, early detection, and treatment advances that occurred in prior years.”

Media outlets the nation over rushed to relate the back and forth of this latest Trump Twitter flap, often with a subtle sense of bemusement: just Donald being Donald, making still another wildly exaggerated claim that ought to test the credulity of even his staunchest supporters. End of story.

But this story doesn’t deserve to end there. Something is shaking on the cancer front that needs our full attention. The Trump administration, investigative journalist Sharon Lerner detailed just a few days after the President’s cancer tweet, “is executing an old tobacco industry scheme to dismantle the federal government’s ability to protect the public from cancer.” The Trump White House has packed the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s top echelons with free-market fundamentalists who’ve set about “freeing” chemical companies from regulations designed to limit the presence of cancer-causing chemicals in our nation’s air, water, and soil.

These political appointees, Lerner’s reporting documents, are working hand in glove with America’s chemical manufacturers, outfits that have spent $1.4 billion on lobbying over the past dozen years. All those lobbying dollars have paid off. Chemical companies now have their pals running the regulatory show — and more Americans, as a result, figure to find themselves in families fighting cancer.

Americans like Angela Ramirez, a mother in Illinois who traces her personal cancer to a carcinogen known as ethylene oxide. Two years ago, scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency tagged ethylene oxide a clear and present danger and, writes Lerner, proposed a new safety threshold “30 times more sensitive than previous estimates.”

Companies like Dow Chemical — a huge ethylene oxide producer — pushed back against this regulatory threat to their future profits, and Trump political appointees at the EPA joined the pushback. The EPA is now abandoning the standards its own scientists are seeking, “only one of the changes made under the Trump administration,” notes Lerner, “that promise to weaken protections for Americans’ health, many of which were intended specifically to stave off cancers.”

California CEO Pay Tax Bill

foreshadows federal fight to limit executive pay excess

Any hands-off approach to fighting carcinogens, freshman member of Congress Rashida Tlaib notes, will particularly devastate the poor communities that already face “disproportionately high rates of air and water pollution.”

“If you really want to see what doing nothing truly looks like, come to my district,” adds Tlaib. “Rows and rows and rows of homes have these little white crosses in front of them, representing cancer, survivors of cancer.”

And what are top execs in America’s chemical industry doing amid this cancerous carnage? They’re making lots of money.

In 2017, the chemical industry’s two biggest companies, Dow Chemical and Dupont, merged in a deal that nearly tripled the compensation of Dow’s Andrew Liveris to $65.7 million.

In 2018, the CEO of the nation’s fourth-largest chemical company, Stephen Angel, pulled down $66.1 million running Linde PLC. Other chemical industry CEOs had to content themselves that year with somewhat more pedestrian pay packages: a mere $15.7 million for Eastman Chemical’s CEO Mark Costa, for instance, and just $14.4 million for Ecolab’s Douglas Baker.

The enrichment of these chemical industry execs — at the same time their companies are battling attempts to regulate their toxic products — represents a far greater scandal than any vain and empty boasting out of the White House. Yet the deregulatory collusion between the chemical industry and the Trump administration continues to go largely unnoticed.

Also largely unnoticed: a counter trend, the emerging efforts to limit the mammoth CEO pay rewards that give top corporate execs — in the chemical industry and beyond — an ongoing incentive to cut corners on product safety and play fast and loose with America’s health.

A week after the Trump-American Cancer Society stats flap, one of those efforts took a significant stride forward in California. After a hearing in Sacramento, state senators have just moved a step closer to passing legislation that would hike the tax rate on corporations with top execs who make over 50 times the pay that goes to their most typical workers.

Last May, the United Steelworkers union noted that the newly merged DowDupont was paying its CEO 249 times more than the company’s median worker.

Average Americans are paying a deadly price for the excessive corporate executive pay packages that incentivize profit-making by any means necessary. If the California legislation becomes law, America’s corporations may finally begin paying a price for continuing that excess.



Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Yahoo: “Erin Brockovich blasts Trump over ‘reckless, careless’ environmental regulation rollbacks”

Tom Engelhardt <![CDATA[We’re All Australians Now: The Climate Conflagration is Coming for Us, too]]> 2020-01-27T02:47:28Z 2020-01-27T05:01:49Z ( ) – Let me betray my age for a moment. Some of you, I know, will be shocked, but I still read an actual newspaper. Words on real paper every day. I’m talking about the New York Times, and something stuck with me from the January 9th edition of that “paper” paper. Of course, in the world of the Internet, that’s already ancient history — medieval times — but (as a reminder) it came only a few days after Donald Trump’s drone assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Suleimani.

So you won’t be surprised to learn that its front page was essentially all Iran and The Donald. Atop it, there was a large photo of the president heading for a podium with his generals and officials lined up on either side of him. Its caption read: “‘The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it,’ President Trump said Wednesday at the White House.” Beside it, the lead story was headlined “U.S. and Iranians Lower Tensions, at Least for Now.” Below were three more Iran-related pieces, taking up much of the rest of the page. (“A President’s Mixed Messages Unsettle More Than Reassure,” etc.)

At the bottom left, there was a fifth Iran-related article. Inside that 24-page section of the paper, there were seven more full pages of coverage on the subject. Only one other piece of hot news could be squeezed (with photo) onto the bottom right of the front page. And whether you still read actual papers or now live only in the world of the Internet, I doubt you’ll be shocked to learn that it focused on Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, already involved in a crisis among the British Royals that was almost Iranian in its intensity. The headline: “In Stunning Step, Duke and Duchess Seek New Title: Part-Timers.”

Had you then followed the “continued on page A5” below that piece, you would have found the rest of the story about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (including a second photo of them and an ad for Bloomingdales, the department store) taking up almost all of that inside page. If, however, you had been in a particularly attentive mood, you might also have noticed, squeezed in at the very bottom left of page 5, an 11-paragraph story by Henry Fountain. It had been granted so little space that the year 2019 had to be abbreviated as ’19 in its headline, which read in full: “’19 Was the 2nd-Hottest Year, And July Hottest Month Yet.”

Of course, that literally qualified as the hottest story of the day, but you never would have known it. It began this way:

“The evidence mounted all year. Temperature records were broken in France, Germany and elsewhere; the Greenland ice sheet experienced exceptional melting; and, as 2019 came to a close, broiling temperatures contributed to devastating wildfires that continue in Australia. Now European scientists have confirmed what had been suspected: 2019 was a very hot year, with global average temperatures the second highest on record. Only 2016 was hotter, and not by much — less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit.”

As Fountain pointed out, however briefly, among the records broken in 2019, “The past five years have been the five warmest on record” (as had the last decade).

In another world, either that line or the actual headline should reasonably have been atop that Times front page in blazing letters. After all, that’s the news that someday could do us all in, whatever happens in Iran or to the British royal family. In my own dreamscape, that piece, headlined atop the front page, would have been continued on the obituary page. After all, the climate crisis could someday deliver an obituary for humanity and so many other living things on this planet, or at least for the way of life we humans have known throughout our history.

If you live online and were looking hard, you could have stumbled on the same news, thanks, say, to a similar CNN report on the subject, but it wasn’t the equivalent of headlines there either. Just another hot year… bleh. Who’s going to pay real attention when war with Iran lurks just beneath the surface and Harry and Meghan are heading for Canada?

To give credit where it’s due, however, a week later when that climate news was confirmed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it did finally hit the front page of the January 16th edition of the paper Times. Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this if it had been the day’s blazing headline, but that honor went to impeachment proceedings and a photo of the solemn walk of the seven House impeachment managers, as well as the clerk and sergeant-at-arms, delivering those articles to the Senate.

That photo and two stories about impeachment dominated the top of the page. Trump’s “phase 1” trade deal with China got the mid-page area and various other stories (“Warren Confronts the Skeptics Who Fear Her Plans Go Too Far”) were at page bottom. Stuck between the impeachment headliners and the Warren story was, however, a little insert. You might think of it as the news equivalent of a footnote. It had a tiny chart of global temperatures, 1880 to 2019, a micro-headline (“Warmer and Warmer”), and a note that read: “In the latest sign of global warming’s grip on the planet, the past decade was the hottest on record, researchers said. Page A8.” And, indeed, on that page was Henry Fountain’s latest story on the subject.

As it happened, between the 9th and 16th of January, yet more news about our heating planet had come out that, in a sense, was even grimmer. A new analysis found that the oceans, sinkholes for the heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions, had also experienced their hottest five years on record (ditto for the last decade). In their case, however, 2019 was the very hottest, not the second hottest, year so far. And that, too, was a Times story, but only online.

Two Kinds of Time

Now, I don’t want you to misunderstand me here. The New York Times is anything but a climate change-denying newspaper. It has some superb environmental and global-warming coverage (including of Australia recently) by top-of-the-line journalists like Somini Sengupta. It’s in no way like Fox News or the rest of Rupert Murdoch’s fervently climate-denying media organization that happens to control more than 70% of newspaper circulation in burning Australia.

The situation I’ve been describing is, I suspect, far more basic and human than that and — my guess — it has to do with time. The time all of us are generally plunged into is, naturally enough, human time, which has a certain obvious immediacy for us — the immediacy, you might say, of everyday life. In human time, for instance, an autocratic-minded showman like Donald Trump can rise to the presidency, be impeached, and fall, or be impeached, stay in office, and pass on his “legacy” to his children until something new comes along to make its mark, fail or end in its own fashion, and go the way of… well, of all of us. That’s human history, again and again.

And then there’s the time-scape of global warming, which exists on a scale hard for us mortals to truly take in. After all, whatever Donald Trump might do won’t last long, not really — with two possible exceptions: the use of nuclear weapons in an apocalyptic fashion or the help he’s offering fossil-fuel companies in putting yet more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, while working to limit the development of alternative energy, both of which will only make the climate crisis to come yet more severe.

Otherwise, his time is all too human. With our normally far less than century-long life spans, we are, in the end, such immediate creatures. Climate change, even though human-caused, works on another scale entirely. Once its effects are locked in, we’re not just talking about 2100 or 2150, dates hard enough for us to get our brains (no less our policy-making) around, but hundreds of years, even millennia. Though we’ve known about climate change for many decades now, we’re dealing with a time scale that our brains simply aren’t prepared to fully take in.

When weighing an Iranian drone assassination or a presidential impeachment or the latest development in election 2020 against news of the long-term transformation of this planet, no matter how disastrous, the immediate tends to win out, whether you’re a New York Times editor or just about anyone else.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that it’s been so difficult to truly grasp the import of the warming of this planet, because its effects have, until now, generally been relatively subtle or challenging to grasp. When The Donald is in the White House or Harry and Meghan cause a stir or an Iranian major general is assassinated, that’s riveting, graspable, headlines. Those heating waters, those warming temperatures,the bleaching of coral reefs, the melting of ice shields in Greenland, the Arctic, and the Antarctic leading to rising sea levels that could one day drown coastal cities, maybe not so much, not deep down, not where it truly counts.

The Burning

The real question is: When will climate change truly enter human time — when, that is, will the two time scales intersect in a way that clicks? Perhaps (but just perhaps) we’re finally seeing the beginning of an answer to that question for which you would, I suspect, have to thank two phenomena: Greta Thunberg and Australia’s fires.

In August 2018, all alone, the 15-year-old Thunberg began a Friday school strike in front of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm to make a point: that however all-encompassing the present human moment might seem, she understood in a way that mattered how her future and that of her peers was being stolen by the adults in charge of this planet and the climate crisis they were continuing to feed. The movement of the young she sparked, one that’s still sparking, was a living, breathing version of those two times intersecting. In other words, she somehow grasped and transmitted in a compelling way how a future crisis of staggering proportions was being nailed in place in human time, right at that very moment.

And then, of course, there was — there is — Australia. But one more thing before I get to the devastation of that country. I began writing this piece in New York City on a weekend in January when the temperature hit a record-breaking 65-69 degrees, depending on where in the metropolitan area you were measuring. (A couple of hundred miles north in Boston, it hit 74 degrees!) It was glorious, spring-like, idyllic, everything a human being in “winter” could want — if, that is, you hadn’t made it past Meghan and Harry or Suleimani and Trump, and so didn’t have a sense of what such records might mean on a planet threatening to heat to the boiling point in the coming century. We’re talking, of course, about a world in which Donald Trump and crew were responding to climate change by attempting to open the taps on every kind of fossil fuel and the greenhouse gas emissions that go with their burning. Meanwhile, despite the news that, by 2100, parts of the North China plain with its hundreds of millions of inhabitants could be too hot for habitation, China’s leaders were still pushing a global Belt and Road Initiative that involves the building of at least 63 new coal-fired power plants in 23 countries. Huzzah! And remember that China and the United States are already the top two emitters of greenhouses gases.

Of course, tell that to the Australians whose country, by the way, is the world’s third largest exporter of fossil fuels. For the last month or more, it’s also been a climate-change disaster area of a previously unimaginable sort. Even if you haven’t taken in the acreage that fire has already destroyed (estimated to be the size of South Korea or the state of Virginia) — fire that, by the way, is making its own weather — you’ve certainly seen the coverage of the dead or hurt koalas and roos, right? Maybe you’ve even seen the estimate by one scientist — no way to confirm it yet — that a billion creatures (yes, 1,000,000,000) might already have died in those fires and it’s still not the height of the Australian summer or fire season.

In some fashion, as a climate-change disaster, Australia seems to have broken through. (It probably doesn’t hurt that it has all those cute, endangered animals.) Looking back, we earthlings may someday conclude that, with Greta and with Australia burning, the climate crisis finally began breaking into human time. Yes, there was that less than Edenic November of 2018 in Paradise, California, and there have been other weather disasters, including hurricanes Maria and Dorian, that undoubtedly were heightened by climate-change, but Australia may be the first time that the climate-change time-scape and human history have intersected in a way that truly mattered.

And although, in the midst of winter, this country isn’t burning, we do have something else in common with those Australians: a nation being run by arsonists, by genuine pyromaniacs. After all, earlier in his coal-fired career, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison brought a literal lump of coal into that country’s parliament, soothingly reassuring the other members that “this is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared.”

In the election he won in 2019 (against a Labor Party promoting action on climate change), he was in big coal’s back pocket. And like our president, his government has been messing with international attempts to deal with the climate crisis ever since. Again like our president, he’s also been an open denier of the very reality of climate change and so one of a crew of right-wing global leaders seemingly intent on setting this planet afire.

Climate-Change Previews?

Years ago, in my apartment building, someone dozed off while smoking in bed, starting a fire a couple of floors below me. I noticed only when the smoke began filtering under my door. Opening it, I found the hall filled with smoke. Heading downstairs wasn’t an option. In fact, a couple who had tried to do so were trapped on my floor and I quickly took them in. I barely had time to panic, however, before I heard the sirens of the first fire engines. Not long after, the doorbell rang and two firemen were there, instructing me to open all the windows and stuff towels at the bottom of the door to keep the smoke out. I’m sure I’ve never been so happy to greet someone at my door.

That fire was, in the end, contained inside the apartment where it started and I was in no danger, but peering into that smoke-filled hallway I would never have known it. The memory of that long-lost afternoon came back to me in the context of burning Australia, a country where fire fighters had been desperately at work for weeks without being able to douse the hundreds of blazes across that drought-stricken land, which has also recently experienced record high temperatures. It’s been the definition of a living nightmare.

And here’s what I began to wonder on this newest version of planet Earth: Are we all in some sense Australians, whether we know it or not? I don’t mean that as an empathetic statement of solidarity with the suffering people of that land (though I do feel for them). I mean it as a statement of grim fact. Admittedly, it won’t be fire for all of us. For some, it will be rising sea levels, flooding of a never-before-experienced sort, storms or heat waves of a previously unimagined ferocity, and so on.

Still, right now, Australia is our petri dish and unless we get rid of the arsonists who are running too many countries and figure out a way to come together in human time, we’re likely to enter a world where there will be no fire fighters to save us (or our children and grandchildren). Climate change, after all, looks to be nature’s slo-mo version of nuclear war.

In movie terms, think of Australia as the previews. For most of us, the main feature is still to come. The problem is that the schedule for that feature may not be found in your local paper.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs and is a fellow of the Type Media Center. His sixth and latest book is A Nation Unmade by War.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2020 Tom Engelhardt


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Sky News Australia: “NSW govt ‘has failed the state on bushfires’ and should be ‘called out'”

Juan Cole <![CDATA[How Trump killed Iraq’s Popular Protests Against Corruption]]> 2020-01-26T16:20:45Z 2020-01-26T06:02:58Z Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Iraqi armed forces tried to pull an al-Sisi on Saturday, making a concerted attempt to clear out camping protesters in Baghdad, Basra, and other cities, and leaving some protesters dead or wounded.

In Baghdad, the security forces attempted to clear Gilani Square and the Sinak Bridge, setting fire to tents. In both cases, however, the police failed, as protesters put out the call for reinforcements on social media and thousands of youth rushed to re-occupy these spaces.

The security forces did clear Mohammed al-Qasim highway, Tayaran Square, al-Nidhal Street, Cordoba Square, and Ahrar Bridge, and said they were cleaning them up in preparation for resumption of vehicular traffic.

In Nasiriya in the south, two protesters were reported killed. Police also used tear gas in an attempt to clear streets and squares, and set fire to protesters’ tents in Basra. In Diwaniya, locals closed the highway that runs through the province to all but food trucks for a seventh day in a row, according to AzZaman (The Times of Baghdad). Sadrists took down three out of over 100 tents from downtown Diwaniya after cleric Muqtada al-Sadr withdrew his active support for the anti-corruption protests.

The move seems to have come as the government became concerned about its survival after Trump bombed Baghdad International Airport on January 3, killing Iraqi military commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and his Iranian colleague Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

On Jan. 5, the Shiite parties across the board voted in parliament to demand that the prime minister take steps to expel US troops.

Trump has said he would refuse to yank American troops from Iraq even if the government asked him to do so, and this stance has been echoed by secretary of defense Mark Esper and secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

The caretaker prime minister, Adil Abdulmahdi, had resigned last fall under pressure from the youth street protests and in response to widespread condemnation of him when over 500 demonstrators were killed by security forces.

The Shiite political elite has closed ranks after the Trump attack, and appears now to be determined to clear out the protesters. There is even a possibility that Abdulmahdi will rescind his resignation. This stiffening of the backbone of the government and new willingness to take brutal and desperate measures against the protest movement certainly has resulted from Trump’s act of aggression, which raised questions for the cabinet and the majority in parliament of whether the Americans were plotting a coup.

On Friday, Shiite cleric and politician Muqtada al-Sadr led tens of thousands of Iraqis in street protests against the US military presence, at Jadriya Square.

Youth protesters at Tahrir Square interpreted this massive rally as a form of support for the government and the Shiite militias that have become part of it. They accused Sadr of selling them out. This, even though these youth also want both US and Iranian forces out of Iraq.

In response, the offended Sadr said he was withdrawing his support from the anti-government protests, whose demand for anti-corruption measures he had earlier endorsed. Aljazeera quoted him as saying, “From now on I will not interfere in these [anti-government] protesters’ affairs neither in a negative nor positive way.”

He does not appear, contrary to some reports, actually to have ordered his followers out of Tahrir Square, and many young Sadrists continued to rally with their colleagues. Others, however, packed up their tents and left.

One narrative in Baghdad is that the departure of the Sadrists left the youth protesters open to being fired on by security forces, since their earlier restraint had derived from a fear of offending the powerful Sadr, whose Sairun party is the largest in parliament.

Egypt’s Field Marshall/ President Abdelfattah al-Sisi violently cleared out protesters from Rabia al-Adawiya Square in Cairo in August of 2013, leaving hundreds dead. This after he rode waves of youth protests to power, making a military putsch in late June of that year. Public protests are now illegal in Egypt and some of the leaders of the 2011 rallies, whom al-Sisi had praised, are in jail or long-term house arrest.


Bonus Video:

Al Jazeera English: “Iraq’s Sadrists withdraw support for protest movement”

Asa Winstanley <![CDATA[With Trump backing for Apartheid, Israel’s Complete Annexation of Palestine is Around the Corner]]> 2020-01-26T04:14:29Z 2020-01-26T05:03:37Z ( Middle East Monitor ) – We are about to witness the third Israeli election in the space of one year.

The elections for the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, which are coming in March, are being held after the failure of anyone to either score an overall majority or to forge a coalition government.

Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is holding on for now. His far-right coalition won the most seats in the last election in September, but it was not enough to form a government with a majority.

It is possible that the Blue and White party could win the next election – they actually came one seat ahead of Netanyahu’s party, Likud, in the last election.

But even if they did, so what? For the Palestinians, all Zionist parties in Israel mean the same thing: continuation of the daily, grinding, violent reality of Israeli racism and occupation.

The West Bank is under the boot of Israel’s military dictatorship. Palestinians who dare challenge it are indiscriminately beaten, tortured, abused, have their homes demolished or are even murdered by the Israeli military and settlers.

The Gaza Strip is under constant siege, and the brave unarmed Palestinian demonstrators trying to break out of it since 2018 have been shot down dead by brutal Israeli snipers.

The Palestinians inside Israel – the Palestinian territories occupied by Zionist forces, starting in 1947 – are not full citizens of the state. By law and by practice, they have far fewer rights than Jewish citizens of Israel. Israeli courts have consistently ruled for decades that there is no such nationality as ‘Israeli’ and that the state belongs to Jews alone.

Finally, the Palestinian refugees outside Palestine still languish for long decades inside their camps – being denied their most fundamental right to return to the homes they were expelled from.

But this totally unjust situation is not enough for Israel – both the state and society wants more.

As I wrote at the time, in the last election, at least 89 per cent of Israelis voted for parties whose policy it was to continue the occupation of the West Bank – military dictatorship with no rights, remember – indefinitely.

And now, with the third election looming, Israel’s two leading parties, Likud and Blue and White, are both ramping up their threats to formally annex large parts of the West Bank.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip together consist of only 22 per cent of historic Palestine, as it was at the time that the British occupation ended in 1948.

So, 78 per cent is not enough for Israel still. They want it all.

While it seems unlikely for the time being, that they could get away with a mass expulsion, ethnic cleansing-type-event as they did in 1948, victory for Zionism looks like this: maximum land, minimum Arabs.

So, in working towards this end, Israel has been slowly, in the decades since it occupied the remaining 22 per cent, absorbing the entire West Bank through the creation of “facts on the ground”.

#IsraElex19: Israeli Elections 2019

These “facts” are a slow-motion ethnic cleansing. Palestinian homes are declared to have been built “without permits” (impossible in many areas, since Israel almost always denies such permits to Palestinians – even while granting them to Jews) and are thus destroyed. Industrial-scale colonies for Jews are then built on the ruins.

Annexation will be the formal, post-facto legitimisation of such blatant criminality in Israeli law – and it looks set to be supported by the US.

President Donald Trump has already done this in the case of the Golan Heights. This is a Syrian territory, illegally and violently invaded and occupied by Israel in 1967. Yet Trump (urged on by his number one campaign funder, Sheldon Adelson, a casino billionaire and important US Israel lobbyist), decided to formally recognise the “legality” of this outright criminality – just as he did in moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

So there really was no doubt that the most pro-Israel US president would ever give the green light to any annexation move in the West Bank, even before the latest second-hand reports from anonymous Israeli sources emerged about the latest version of Trump’s ‘deal of the century’.

In the forthcoming election, both main Israeli parties are attempting to outdo one another on how much Palestinian land they can steal, clear out of its Palestinians, and then annex for the purposes of building Israeli colonies.

Last election, Netanyahu promised to annex the Jordan Valley, and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz (a former general), indicated he’d agree to the same.

Now this election, Netanyahu is talking about annexing as much as 40 per cent of the West Bank, while Gantz is now promising to steal the entire Jordan Valley (the part of the West Bank that borders Jordan).

Annexation, then, is coming. Will this finally spell the long-forecast collapse of Israel’s collaborationist entity, the Palestinian Authority? Time will tell.

One thing is for sure: this situation will not hold indefinitely. Five million Palestinians are being denied even their most basic human rights – systematically, by design of Israel’s racist laws. This cannot be indefinitely sustained.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

ILTV: “Netanyahu calls for annexation of Israeli settlements”

Juan Cole <![CDATA[On How Christians and Jews are “muslims”: The Real meaning of “Islam” in the Qur’an]]> 2020-01-27T02:43:02Z 2020-01-26T05:01:40Z Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – As used in the Qur’an, Islam (al-islam in Arabic) doesn’t mean what people think it means. It doesn’t mean “peace,” though it is from a common root. It doesn’t mean the religion of the Prophet Muhammad. It doesn’t mean submission to God.

I’ve come to believe that the accretions of later generations have obscured for us the original meaning of many words in the Qur’an, the Muslim scripture believed to have been recited by the Prophet Muhammad (c. 567-632 AD). The most influential readings of these words come from the Abbasid Empire (750-1258 AD), i.e. from centuries after the Qur’an itself. I talk about this context in my book,

The Qur’an grew up in late antiquity, at a time when the Christian Roman Empire, then ruled from Constantinople, had dominion over the Near East– Greater Syria, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia — while the Zoroastrian Sasanian Empire ruled Iran, Iraq and Yemen. The Qur’an contains Greek, Latin, Aramaic and Persian words, reflecting that context (not to mention Ethiopian Ge’ez and Yemeni Sabaic vocabulary). The great medieval Muslim scholar Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti admitted the Aramaic inheritance in the Qur’an.

In later centuries, in the Abbasid Empire, Muslim scholars no longer knew Aramaic or Greek, and lost contact with the realities of the early seventh century. They constructed an Inner Arabian origin for Arabic and Islam that downplayed the role of the great number of Christian Arabic-speakers in the Near East.

The late classicist Fergus Millar argued that Greek remained an urban standard in Near Eastern cities like Petra, Philadelphia (Amman), Jerusalem, Bostra and Damascus into the fifth and sixth centuries, and I would say into the seventh. It was spoken alongside western Aramaic and in some places I think people were trilingual in Greek, Aramaic and Arabic. (Nowadays a lot of people in Beirut speak Arabic, English and French). Arabic-speakers lived in northern and eastern and southern Syria as well as in the Transjordan. Millar’s thesis is supported by the Petra Papyri, discovered in the 1990s and now published in 5 volumes, which consist of letters by an Arabic-speaking elite family written in Greek.

I use these new findings in my just-published article at BSOAS, Paradosis and monotheism: a late antique approach to the meaning of islām in the Quran. (The article is available through Cambridge Core, to which your local college or public library may have a subscription).

I argue that “islam” in the Qur’an is a loanshift from the Aramaic mashlmanuta and the Greek paradosis, which mean “tradition,” not submission.

The abstract says,

    “Both the Muslim exegetical tradition and most Western scholarship have posited that the term islām in the Quran means “submission”, i.e. to God, and that it refers to the religion brought by the prophet Muhammad. This paper argues that neither of these assertions is correct. Rather, the abstract noun islām as used in the Quran means “tradition”. It is underlain by the Aramaic mashlmānūtā, which in turn was the term generally used to translate the Greek paradosis. That the Greek usage had a direct impact on Arabic is also considered. The wide range of mean- ings given paradosis by Greek and Syriac authors is surveyed. A close reading of Quran verses in which the word islām appears shows that it refers to the prophetic tradition of monotheism rather than the surrender of an individual to God. It is synonymous with the Logos of Abraham, in which all the monotheistic religions participate.”

I write in my article,

    “Let me begin with a verse that I think makes the meaning of the term especially clear. In The Ranks 61:6, the Quran criticizes Jews for rejecting later prophets: “And when Jesus the son of Mary said to the children of Israel, I am the messenger of God to you, confirming the Torah that you possess, and giving good tidings of a messenger who will come after me, called ‘the Praised One.’ But when he came to them with clear signs, they said, ‘That is manifest sorcery’.” The Quran then adds, “And who does a greater wrong than one who fabricates lies about God, even while God is calling him to islām? And God never guides evildoers.” Note that Jesus is depicted as calling the adherents of Second Temple Judaism to islām. It makes no sense to translate islām here as submission to God, since God’s existence and authority are not at issue – the Quran recognizes that Jews in the time of Jesus worshipped the one God. Rather, it implies that first-century Jews, by rejecting Jesus, declined the summons to the fullness of the serial prophetic tradition (and here Jesus not only announces himself but points to a future successor).”

That is, “islam” as it is used in the Qur’an means the prophetic tradition of monotheism, which is an ongoing tradition. Jews who rejected Jesus, the Qur’an argues, have fallen short with regard to islam, inasmuch as they did not adopt the whole tradition. The tradition is like a book still being written, such that it would be wrong to read only the earlier chapters and reject a later one as it appeared. On the other hand, you could get the necessary gist from the earlier chapters.

So Jesus called second-temple Jews to “islam,” to the fullness of the Abrahamic monotheist tradition, of which he was the latest exponent.

Quite obviously, then, “islam” as the Qur’an describes it existed centuries before the Prophet Muhammad and is not a term for his religion in specific. Jesus summoned his contemporaries among the Jews of Roman Palestine to “islam,” i.e. to accepting his paradosis or continuing prophetic tradition.

I also argue that “muslim” in the Qur’an when it is not accompanied by the preposition “li” is best translated not as “submitter” but as “monotheist,” as someone who accepts the monotheistic prophetic tradition in the line of Abraham.

I also write,

    “The late Meccan passage Stories 28: 52–3 refers to the adherents of the previous scriptures and praises them for their attitude to the Quran: “Those on whom we bestowed the Book aforetime believe in it. When it is recited to them they say, ‘We have believed in it. It is the truth from our lord. Even before it, we were monotheists (muslimīn)’”. This verse unquestionably makes it clear that being muslim does not mean following Muhammad’s religion, and also makes it clear that not only the ancient children of Israel and the disciples in the time of Christ but also the Jews and Christians contemporaneous with Muhammad are muslims.”

The Qur’an has these Christians say that even before they encountered the Qur’an, they were muslim, i.e. had accepted the monotheistic tradition.

The article goes into a lot of other examples of how the Qur’an uses the term “islam” and “muslim,” which is very different from the way they are typically used today.

The Qur’an has an ecumenical view of the other monotheistic communities, and that “islam” means paradosis or the prophetic tradition of monotheism allows us better to understand The Cow 2:62,

“Those who believed, and the Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, and whoever has believed in God and the Last Day and performed good works, they shall have their reward with their Lord.” (The Sabians were likely God-fearers, pagan monotheists who associated with Jews and Christians).

In the Qur’an, righteous monotheists are all saved regardless of their specific religion, precisely because they all accept the monotheistic tradition (paradosis) in whole are part. That, and good deeds, seem to be the basics necessary for salvation.

The Conversation <![CDATA[After Soleimani: Is Iran Unified against Trump or More Divided than Ever?]]> 2020-01-26T03:57:11Z 2020-01-26T05:01:36Z By Vahid Yücesoy | –

The two major events that have shaken Iran in recent weeks have also had major internal repercussions.

The assassination of Qassem Soleimani by an American drone lit the fuse, sending shock waves around the world and increasing the risk of an escalation of armed conflict between Iran and the United States. Following this assassination, Iran was the scene of massive demonstrations to commemorate the Iranian general and denounce the Americans.

A few days later, as Iran launched a retaliatory raid on U.S. bases in Iraq, a Ukrainian civilian plane crashed near Tehran airport, killing 176 people, including 57 Canadians. This tragedy provoked anti-regime demonstrations this time. Thousands of Iranians took to the streets, angry at their government when it admitted responsibility for the crash after three days of denial.

Thus, in the space of 10 days, Iran was the scene of pro- and anti-regime demonstrations.

During the pro-government demonstrations, some commentators claimed that Iranians were rallying around the regime after the assassination of Soleimani. Was this really the case? Did the assassination of the general really change Iranians’ perceptions of the regime?

To better understand the current context in Iran, it should be noted that Soleimani was assassinated a month and a half after the largest anti-regime demonstrations, which took place last November. These protests were so threatening to the regime that Supreme Leader Khamenei led the deadliest crackdown since 1979, saying: “The Islamic Republic is in danger. Everything necessary must be done. This is an order.”

As many as 1,500 protesters were reportedly killed in November. The repression was so severe that the security forces even prevented mourning ceremonies for some victims.

Why did so many mourn Soleimani?

How did the regime manage to bring so many people to the streets for Soleimani in a climate of public discontent against both the reformist and conservative factions of the regime? There are several factors that explain how Tehran managed to give this illusion of unity by using Soleimani’s funeral.

First of all, Soleimani was very popular among both the reformist and conservative factions of the regime. His funeral received enormous media coverage in Iran. This contrasted with the non-existent coverage surrounding the November anti-regime protests targeting both reformers and conservatives. The authorities blocked internet access for more than seven days while they massacred protesters in the streets, according to a reporting by France 24.

Second, the state deployed enormous resources to increase the number of participants in the pro-Soleimani demonstrations. Students, civil servants and shopkeepers were forced to go attend..

As a Persian BBC journalist so aptly said about the regime’s ability to orchestrate their own demonstrations:

“The organizers are now experts in their work. From declaring national holidays to gathering university students to requiring military and civil servants to go out with their families, every means has been used to gather the crowds. Buses, trains and trucks are provided to transport people from villages and towns across Iran to the rallies that are constantly announced on state television.”

That said, there are also citizens who are truly fascinated by Soleimani.

For several years now, there has been a certain craze for the general, who is very present on state television, in the sermons of the mosques and even with some celebrities. Soleimani is viewed in Iran as a hero who saved the Middle East from the influence of the Islamic State (ISIS). Because of his role in the fight against the terrorist organization, Soleimani embodies for some Iranians the image of a benevolent commander who is above the internal politics of the country. The presence of these admirers was also marked in these pro-Soleimani demonstrations.

Demonstrations after the crash

But the apparent unanimity that followed Soleimani’s assassination, commented on by many as a rally around the flag and against the Americans, quickly collapsed in the face of popular demands and general discontent.

As soon as the Iranian leaders announced, in the face of international pressure, that the Ukraine Airlines passenger jet had been shot down by an Iranian missile – it is now known that it was two missiles – anti-regime demonstrations broke out in major cities such as Tehran, Mashhad, Esfahan and Racht, as well as in several other regions.

Protesters chanted many of the same anti-regime slogans as they did in November: “We were told that the enemy is the United States. Yet our enemy is here.” The demonstrators were dispersed by force, which is the usual modus operandi of the Iranian republic.

In short, Soleimani’s death didn’t weld the country together. It is still grappling with structural problems that cannot be solved overnight without a real willingness to change. The gap between the regime and the people will only grow if current trends persist. Among these trends is an expected increase in anti-regime demonstrations.The Conversation

Vahid Yücesoy, PhD Candidate in political science, Université de Montréal

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Ruptly: Iran: Thousands gather for funeral of local IRGC commander

Juan Cole <![CDATA[Tens of Thousands of Iraqis mass in Baghdad to Demand Expulsion of US Troops, Hang Trump in Effigy]]> 2020-01-25T15:56:07Z 2020-01-25T06:03:10Z Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Tens of thousands of Iraqis massed in the Jadriya district of Baghdad on Friday to demand that U.S. troops leave Iraq. Mostly religious Shiites, some of whom came from the south of the country, they were responding to a call for demonstrations by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and by heads of Shiite party-militias. Sadr heads the largest single party in parliament, with 54 seats, the Sairun. He was joined in the call for a “million-person march” by the Fath coalition (48 seats), which groups parties representing the Shiite militias who formed to fight ISIL (ISIS, Daesh) from 2014 forward.

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Thousands of Iraqis demonstrate in the heart of Baghdad on January 24, 2020 to demand the ouster of US troops from the country. – Thousands of supporters of volatile Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr gathered in the Iraqi capital on Friday for a “million-strong” march to demand an end to the presence of US forces in Iraq, putting the protest-hit capital on edge. The march has rattled the separate, months-old protest movement that has gripped Baghdad and the Shiite-majority south since October, demanding a government overhaul, early elections and more accountability. (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images).

The protesters chanted, “Get out, get out, you occupier!” and “Yes, yes to Sovereignty!”

They were angry about Trump’s assassination at Baghdad International Airport on January 3 of Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and his Iranian colleague Gen. Qadem Soleimani, as well as about US airstrikes on December 30 on bases of the Kata’ib Hizbulah militia that al-Muhandis led, which they say left 40 dead. They underline that the base at Qa’im was used to block and kill ISIL operatives, and that the US in hitting them was apparently trying to help ISIL. (This is propaganda. The US maintains that Kata’ib Hizbullah was launching mortar attacks last fall and winter against bases where US troops were present, and killed a US contractor.)

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Protesters carry a caricature of US President Donald Trump as supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr gather in the capital Baghdad for a “million-strong” march to demand an end to the presence of US forces in their country, on January 24, 2020. – The march has rattled the separate, months-old protest movement that has gripped Baghdad and the Shiite-majority south since October, demanding a government overhaul, early elections and more accountability. (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images).

Some of the protesters were dressed in white, the color of burial shrouds, to show their willingness to die for their cause. They were emulating Sadr’s father, Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, who was threatened by Baathist dictator Saddam Hussein’s secret police in 1998 and who responded by preaching from the pulpit in a burial shroud. The secret police killed him in 1999 along with his two eldest sons as they were driving in Najaf, spraying the car with machine gun fire. The protesters were making an analogy between the assassination of the senior al-Sadr by Saddam Hussein and the assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of the Kata’ib Hizbullah militia, by Donald Trump.

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BAGHDAD, IRAQ – JANUARY 24: Thousands of Iraqis gathering at Jadariya, a neighborhood in the Baghdad city center at a rally against the presence of U.S. troops in the country, in Baghdad, Iraq on January 24, 2020. The demonstrators responded to a call by Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who called for a million-man march to demand the ouster of U.S. troops from Iraq. (Photo by Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images).

Many Shiite politicians live in the tony Jadriya district, so that this show of force was a way of putting pressure on parliament to continue to legislate an American departure. Parliament voted on Jan. 5 to demand that the prime minister make arrangements to expel US troops from Iraq. Contrary to what many in the press keep saying, this was not an advisory vote. It obligated the Iraqi executive to carry out parliament’s will.

Around 10 am Baghdad time, a spokesman for Muqtada al-Sadr address the crowd with a statement from him. He called on all foreign troops to depart, for the abrogation of all security agreements between Iraq and the United States, and for the closing of Iraqi airspace to US fighter jets.

Sadr slammed Trump for acting with “superiority, haughtiness and arrogance.” Some of the demonstrators hanged Trump in effigy.

Embed from Getty Images
Anti-USA Demonstration In Baghdad
Thousands of Iraqis gathered in Baghdad on 24 January 2020 to protest against the presence of US troops in the country, responding to a call by influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (Photo by Sajad Mohamed Ali/NurPhoto via Getty Images).

Sadr initially allowed his followers to choose whether to come to Jadriya or to join the weeks-long protests at Tahrir Square, which consist largely of young people demanding an end to corruption, who want both the U.S. and Iran out of Iraq.

He had urged his followers to ensure that the Iraqi security forces did not fire on the youth protests at Tahrir Sqaure, though he was not entirely successful. Two protesters at Tahrir were killed with live fire on Friday. Although Sadr attempted to make an alliance with the youth protesters, some of those interviewed rejected his leadership.

Update: At some point on Friday or Saturday morning, Sadr called on his followers to leave Tahrir Square, effectively withdrawing protection from the youth protesters. On Saturday, Iraqi security forces began forcibly clearing out the Tahrir Square protesters and their tents. Even some Sadrist youth saw this move as a betrayal.

Sadr’s statement demanded a timeline for the US departure, giving the government a hiatus during which to act. He also called on the Shiite militias to be patient and not to act rashly, saying that Iraq did not want a military confrontation with the United States.

The Iraqi executive at the moment is paralyzed in taking any action because the prime minister, Adil Abdulmahdi, resigned in the face of the anti-corruption demonstrations last fall, but his political coalition has not yet agreed on a replacement who would be acceptable to the crowds at Tahrir Square. The latter want genuine change, charging that the ruling parties are corrupt, using a spoils system to funnel government resources to their own party hacks. Abdulmahdi has left it to his successor to pursue the departure of the US military.

Iraqi President Barham Salih met with Trump on the margins of the Davos Conference in Switzerland this week and appears to have assured him that US troops would stay in Iraq. Salih’s action met with dismay and anger among many Shiite Iraqis. Salih is Kurdish, and the Iraqi presidency is ceremonial. So he actually represents only a minority of Iraqis, and does not have the authority to over-rule the will of parliament. The Kurdish and Sunni Arab minorities in Iraq do not on the whole want the US military to leave, and did not join in the parliamentary vote, which nevertheless was passed by a comfortable majority of 170 votes, according to the Iraqi Shiite press.

Many Kurds fear that without the US, ISIL might see a resurgence in northern Iraq, and the minorities fear that if the US leaves, Iran’s influence will grow to be even greater.

In contrast, the Shiite militia leaders and some Shiite ayatollahs accuse the United States of having been responsible for the rise of ISIL in the first place, citing the memoir of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and the campaign speeches from 2016 of Donald Trump.


Bonus video:

Al Jazeera English: “Thousands rally in Baghdad against US military presence”