The Syrian War's Worst Kept Secret that could Become an Israeli NightmareRichard Siverstein
Middle East Eye
30 June 2017
Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal published an interview with a Syrian rebel commander and half a dozen fighters, who confirmed the worst kept secret of the Syrian conflict: Israel is directly aiding Syrian rebel factions with both humanitarian and financial aid. Israel's involvement "is much deeper and more coordinated than previously known and entails direct funding of opposition fighters near its border for years," the report said.
Israel stood by our side in a heroic way,” Moatasem al-Golani, a spokesman for the rebel group Fursan al-Joulan, told the Wall Street Journal. “We wouldn’t have survived without Israel’s assistance.” According to the report, Israel provides $5,000 each month to Fursan al-Joulan - or Knights of the Golan - which it uses to pay fighters' salaries and purchase weapons and ammunition for its campaigns against the government in the Syrian Golan...
On 22 June, Yediot Achronot’s chief military-security correspondent, Alex Fishman, confirmed the Journal’s report and explored the motivation behind it: “A not insignificant portion of the Syrian rebels in the Golan have adopted the extreme Salafist ideology of Jabhat al-Nusra, an offshoot of al-Qaeda…The Israeli view is that the religious extremist views of the Syrian rebels are less relevant [than their capacity to combat Israel’s enemies - Iran and Hezbollah]. Israel believes that what interests them [the rebels] above all is survival; and that it’s possible to buy their loyalty through material aid which helps guarantee their own security.
"The Journal article gives one the impression that Israel doesn’t always examine closely the views of its allies as long as it gets from them a useful security exchange. According to Israel’s perspective, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And if Jabhat al-Nusra fights against IS in the southern Golan, and each of them in turn fights against Hezbollah and the Syrian army in the Deraa region - all the better.”
...Israel wants a divided Syria. It wants a country riven by ethnic and religious disputes so that it can dominate the Golan and protect its northern border. All this has belied the repeated false claims in the media (including in this WSJ article) that Israel is a neutral party to the conflict - which is what Israel would have the world believe. However, it is deeply involved in it and seeks to weaken or topple Bashar al-Assad, because Israel's arch enemies, Hezbollah and Iran, are his chief allies. I expect that Israeli escalation will continue since Assad and his allies are in the ascendant. They are routing IS in eastern Syria and, once they finish, it's very possible Assad could turn his attention to the west, including the Golan, to consolidate his territorial gains. That is when the true test will come.
Israel wants a divided Syria. It wants a country riven by ethnic and religious disputes so that it can dominate the Golan and protect its northern border. How far is it willing to go to prevent Assad from reasserting full control there?
...To avoid an internal political fight with nationalist forces over returning the Golan, Israel's right-wing government prefers maintaining its illegal conquest of the Golan and the status quo. To do so, it must continue to sow discord and military adventures in the Golan.
Numerous ominous escalations in the Syria conflict have occurred in recent days. Iran announced that it had fired missiles from its territory to attack IS positions in eastern Syria. It would mean that Iranian forces had advanced technically in order to fire its weapons and hit targets hundreds of miles away. The last time it attacked an enemy beyond its borders in this way was during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
The Iran missile attack is a thinly veiled warning against the Saudis: just as we can reach IS in Syria, we can reach you in Riyadh as well...
Iran explained that the missile attack was revenge for a recent terror attack by Iranian Kurds in Tehran for which IS has taken credit. Since Iran has also blamed Saudi Arabia for the attack, which killed 17, mostly civilians, the missile attack is a thinly veiled warning against the Saudis: "just as we can reach IS in Syria, we can reach you in Riyadh as well."
Or as Al Jazeera's correspondent said: "And, of course, we need to see this in the wider geopolitical context: it will be very interesting what the reaction is going to be from countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel, because Iran is saying it can retaliate and it will."
All this comes on the heels of Assad’s growing success in taking back territory that had been formerly held by IS. The US, in attacking Syrian war planes, is attempting to stymie Assad's efforts. This means, in effect, that US policy largely mirrors that of Israel. The Trump administration, as well, appears not to want a united Syria, rather a Syria divided up into ethnic cantons.
The ultimatum given to Qatar to end its relations with Iran and Hezbollah is an example of how the ripple effects of Syria could send a tsunami throughout the Middle East.
Assad’s Russian ally reacted with fury to the US attack and cancelled critical deconfliction efforts meant to keep the various powers fighting in Syria from accidentally attacking each other (US offficials have since said that a deconfliction hotline is still in operation). Further, Russia announced that any more US attacks on the Syrian air force might result in direct conflict with Russia.
All this is part of a US escalation of its own involvement which has included bombing a Syrian government military convoy, a mosque, and now this. Clearly, the Trump administration is directing our military to flex its muscles in this arena.
The problem is that this is a very crowded field of battle and there are many parties involved, including Russia. The plane we shot down was a Russian Sukhoi bomber, for example. All it will take is one split-second mistake for this to turn into a major bloodbath which could suck the major parties in far deeper than they prefer to go.
Syria is only part of a wider playing field of conflict in the region where Sunni forces, financed by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, are arrayed against Shia power under the auspices of Iran and Hezbollah.
As the Sunni coalition continues to lose sway in Syria, this rivalry has moved to newer and even more dangerous places. The ultimatum given to Qatar to end its relations with Iran and Hezbollah is an example of how the ripple effects of Syria could send a tsunami throughout the Middle East. A major war in the Middle East is now more likely than ever
A growing alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel adds yet another combustible element to the mix. They both appear to be itching for a fight with Iran. When they were separate parties, the danger of such a conflict was less.
With them uniting against a common foe, the fetters are considerably loosened, not to mention that the ascension of a young, ambitious, hot-headed Saudi crown prince who’s shown himself only too willing to embroil his kingdom in foreign interventions adds even more danger to the scenario.
Richard Silverstein writes the Tikun Olam blog, devoted to exposing the excesses of the Israeli national security state. His work has appeared in Haaretz, the Forward, the Seattle Times and the Los Angeles Times. He contributed to the essay collection devoted to the 2006 Lebanon war, A Time to Speak Out (Verso)
Read full article here
The British Empire not only organised the Zionist colonisation of Palestine, and invaded and devastated Iraq more than once. These are details in a much larger bloody story. The full horror of this bloody empire has, though, been kept a well-guarded secret from generations of British schoolchildren. How many have any inkling of the full horror of Britain's role in, say, Kenya within living memory - concentration camps, summary executions, and over 1,000 hangings of Kenyans to preserve rule there by Britain and the colonial-settler elite of White farmers? It would be seared into the national psyche if Africans had conquered Britain in the last century and taken over most of the best land exclusively for black people to own and farm, using torture, death squads, high-tech weaponry and mass rape to control a sullen population seething with revolt. Read about it if you can bear to reflect on what Britain did in its conquered territories.
It is largely a story of massive, naked violence against those who resisted, a story accessible to anyone who makes a modest effort.
A British political agent in Delhi noted in 1815 after a Gurkha rebellion that “Our power in India rests upon our military superiority. It has no foundations in the affections of our subjects.” Or as Hillaire Belloc summed up the relationship between the rulers and the victims of Empire:
Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim gun, and they have not.
In other words, 'resist and you will be gunned down'. Or gassed. For those familiar with the whole grim history of British colonialism, Israel's brutal violation and dispossession of the Palestinian people is far from being unique.
One shocking result of UK schools largely suppressing the teaching of Empire history is that YouGov recently found that 44% of British people were proud of Britain's history of colonialism, with only 21% regretting it happened and 23% holding neither view. The same poll also found 43% believed the British Empire was a good thing, 19% said it was bad and 25% said it was "neither". Many Scots still deny the eager participation of Scots elites in the crimes of the British empire, taking refuge in the widespread myth of Scotland as a victim of the British Empire rather than an aggressive junior partner.
At its height in 1922, the British empire governed a fifth of the world's population and a quarter of the world's total land area. There was merciless looting and pillage, a centuries-long lucrative trade in black skins, efficent extraction of resources that impoverished parts of the globe, massacres, famines and the modern invention of concentration camps. Nothing to be proud of, except those who resisted the plunder of their homelands and those who actively opposed it in Britain. We stand on the shoulders of heroes and to be on the right side of history means to support rebellion, resistance by colonial slaves who refuse to accept enslavement.
21 January 2016
Web of Deceit: Britain's Real Role in the World (2003), Mark Curtis
The Blood Never Dried: A People's History of the British Empire (2006), John Newsinger
10 July 2010
The world looks like it's about to become a more dangerous place. A recent report from Israel's newspaper Haaretz finds that the United States is moving forward with plans to strengthen Israel's nuclear weapons stockpile. The report, exposed within the last few days, originated from Israel's Army Radio, which sent along a secret document chronicling the nuclear cooperation between US and Israeli leaders. Israel has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), meaning that it is not technically violating international rules under the NPT regarding the development and reconstitution of nuclear weapons, despite longstanding efforts of the international community to establish a "nuclear weapons free zone" in the Middle East.
Part of the fear of those advocating nuclear abolition in the Middle East is that the United States will agree to send nuclear materials - extracted from its own civilian nuclear power plants - to Israel, much as it did for India, another country that refuses to sign the NPT.
The Obama and Netanyahu governments are seeking to obscure their contempt for nuclear abolition by calling for "nonproliferation" in the Middle East, while Israel simultaneously boycotts New-York-based discussions (at the 2010 NPT conference) of the need for a "nuclear free" Middle East. "Nonproliferation," within this context, can be understood to apply only to other countries such as Iran, which has long been a target for US and Israeli military planners.
The Obama and Netanyahu governments recently announced that they will oppose efforts at singling Israel out in any "nuclear weapons free" Middle East discussion. The problem with this announcement is that Israel is the only country in the Middle East to currently have nuclear weapons. In light of this fact, any attempts to shield Israel from being "singled out" will inevitably prevent progress in moving toward nuclear disarmament in the region.
Much is made of Iran's alleged efforts to develop nuclear weapons by Israel and the United States. This propaganda campaign appears to be paying off in light of Iran's recent announcement of its planned opening this September of a nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr. US and Israeli officials maintain that Iran is enriching uranium under the auspices of a civilian nuclear program, while secretly using its uranium stockpile to develop nuclear weapons. Those who make such claims are at a loss to explain why the International Atomic Energy Agency - in addition to the US National Intelligence Estimate - found no evidence of nuclear weapons development in Iran, despite countless inspections by international observers. Those claiming that Iran is a threat are also unable to explain why inspectors are unable to uncover any evidence that Iran is producing highly-enriched uranium (of a quality suitable to develop a nuclear weapon), but instead only produces low-enriched uranium suitable for use in nuclear power plants.
Despite the critical evidence above, the US-Israeli propaganda campaign is succeeding in obscuring Israel's and the United States' own open contempt for nuclear disarmament. It should be remembered that the US openly violated the NPT late last year when it announced it would extract plutonium from its own nuclear reactors in order to create a new generation of nuclear weapons (for more see the original news report here).
...The Obama administration makes Orwellian claims that it is moving toward disarmament - when in fact it's doing the opposite by reconstituting its aging arsenal. At the same time, Obama demonizes foreign nations such as Iran, which international inspectors and US intelligence agencies concede is not developing nuclear weapons (at least according to all available intelligence).
Full, referenced article is available at truth-out.org 10 July 2010
"Their sympathy for the Libyan people is entirely false; they are driven mainly by a lust for Libyan oil. The record of these governments in opposing the aspirations of the Palestinian people for freedom, democracy and independence fits entirely with their long-term record of opposition to the massive struggles of Arab people to shake off Western domination of the region and its resources."
In Yemen, the pro-Western dictatorship of Ali Abdullah Saleh has carried out another massacre, this time of over fifty democracy demonstrators, in the capital, Sanaa. The US Government condemned 'the violence' and called for 'dialogue'.
Israeli violence and land theft against the Palestinian Arab people continues with US Government support for Israel. The people of Palestine, both in Gaza and the West Bank, continue under a brutal US-backed Israeli blockade/occupation, imposed after Palestinians voted in democratic elections.
Determined mass resistance continues in both Yemen and Bahrain, despite the bloody violence of the regimes. Despite a fight-back by those who benefitted from the old regimes, the democratic revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia are moving forward, cleansing the society of the corrupt old ruling parties and secret police networks. Public opposition is growing across the Arab world. Palestinians continue to resist Israeli crimes committed against them daily.
The US, UK and France backed the Egyptian and Tunisian dictators until the last minute before their fall to democratic revolutions; they now present themselves to their own people as friends of 'democracy' in Libya.
These same powers authorised and supplied Israel during its massacres in Gaza, in Lebanon in 2006, and prevented UN Security Council resolutions criticising Israel's massacres. They even supported Israel's massacre of Turkish aid workers on the high seas.
They now claim that 'humanitarian' concerns are behind moves to intervene militarily in Libya against Gaddafi's military thugs. We are asked to forget the mass killings of Iraqis and devastation of that bleeding country, where they invaded to secure control of oil, under the guise of protecting the Iraqi people from another brute, Saddam Hussein.
The Libyan dictatorship is attacking the centres of the democratic uprising in Libya, using the vast stockpiles of weapons previously supplied by European companies. A people fighting for democracy and freedom against a thug such as Gaddafi has the right to accept help from any source they choose. The fact remains, as the record from Sykes-Picot to Obama will show, that the UK and France, together with the US, have always been determined opponents of democracy in the Middle East and North Africa, and long-term supporters of cruel dictatorships.
Their sympathy for the Libyan people is entirely false; they are driven mainly by a lust for Libyan oil. The record of these governments in opposing the aspirations of the Palestinian people for freedom, democracy and independence fits entirely with their long-term record of opposition to the massive struggles of Arab people to shake off Western domination of the region and its resources.
Mick Napier, Chair & Jan Benvie, Vice Chair
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
19 March 2011
The latest NATO debacle over Afghanistan takes place against the whole background of brute military failure, proving how intractable the crisis really is...
The recent interview in Rolling Stone magazine with General McChrystal and his subsequent sacking only demonstrate the disarray of the US’s Afghan policy. Indeed the implementation of the Obama policy was always doomed to fail. This latest debacle takes place against the whole background of brute military failure, proving how intractable the crisis really is. According to NATO, June has been the worse month for international forces since 2001. The 91st soldier was killed on Sunday and 311 young British soldiers have already died as a result of the lies of Bush, Blair, Obama, Brown and now David Cameron.
Cameron believes that Afghanistan is the source of terrorism and as such, Britain should stay for another five years, killing more soldiers and innocent Afghans. Earlier this week the Afghan President met with Sirajudin Haqqani of the Haqqani Group, who is believed to be the strongest man of the Afghan Taliban and who also controls the Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan, with the help of Pakistan’s Army Chief and the ISI Chief. The aim of the meeting was to discuss peace, reconciliation and also safe passage for American and NATO forces from Afghanistan.
President Hamid Karzai has distanced himself from the British and Americans and does not trust them as partners in peace. He openly talks to the Taliban and other resistance groups to strike deals, because he does not believe that the US is willing to do what it takes to defeat the Taliban.
The US and its allies are actively looking for an exit strategy. But this search is fraught with difficulties, for the following reasons. Firstly, the imperial powers would have to explain to their citizens that their power and might are intact and that they cannot be beaten by a bunch of tribesmen. The problem is, the exit itself, unless plausibly linked to political and military progress, would prove the opposite.
Secondly, withdrawing “empty-handed” would mean having to explain the deaths of thousands of soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan and also the financial losses in Afghanistan. At present the Taliban and other resistance groups have a presence in more than 80 percent of Afghanistan. International forces are not even able to control southern Afghanistan. Out of 34 provinces and more than 360 districts, only eight towns are relatively safe in the whole of the country.
The central contradiction is that while they talk about exiting—because all the evidence points to the failure of NATO in Afghanistan—they are planning escalation.
What have NATO and other illegal occupiers achieved so far in Afghanistan since 2001? Have they killed Osama, Mullah Omar and others? Look at the state of the reconstruction effort, hospitals, schools and other development projects for ordinary Afghans. If the West brought democracy, prosperity, jobs and employment to the Afghans I am sure the Afghans would have hugged them and kissed them for helping to rebuild their lives.
Instead they bombed ordinary and helpless people and turned them into enemies. There was never any respect for their culture, religion and way of life; they have been driven out of their houses. NATO then expects them to welcome them in their country.
It is no longer a fight between the West and the Taliban and other resistance groups. The fight has shifted to the national level, where now almost 80 percent of the population want the US and NATO out of Afghanistan as soon as possible.
It is no longer a Taliban struggle but has become almost similar to the Russian occupation, where nearly every Afghan sees you as their enemy. The best example of this is the Kandahar operation which was planned to take place this month, but now seems to be in shambles as the Afghan President and most importantly the people of Kandahar do not want it to happen.
According to a US army survey, more than 86 percent of people are opposed to the plan and almost 80 percent think that the Taliban are their brothers. People do not want a repeat of the Marjah operation in Kandahar, where people were driven from their homes and Taliban not defeated.
The only option which is open to the West is to negotiate with the enemy and save face in an honorable exit. The British Army Chief openly supports talks with the enemy, after killing more than 80,000 innocent Afghans and also 311 British soldiers. General Richards said we must negotiate with the Taliban and other groups in Afghanistan: “From my own, and this is a purely private view, I think there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be looking at that sort of thing pretty soon.” The time for this exit has not only arrived, it is overdue.
Full artilce by Mohammed Asif in Counterfire 30 June 2010