Iran wakes up to new choices: Pompeo’s bark aimed at whom?

Trump’s words upon pulling out of the JCPOA Iran deal were ‘that’s life’, the ‘Iranians have to learn what life’s about’, suggests a strongarm negotiating tactic. That this may be a reflection of a generalised Trump modus operandi is suggested by the fact that the Trump summit with Kim Jong-un is having its pre-conditions mollified. This is down to strong South Korean diplomatic intervention, which is establishing an important premise for the negotiations, namely that denuclearisation must inevitably be a gradual and scaled process. Imperiousness has given way to diplomacy.

But then came Pompeo’s bark at the Heritage Foundation, which talked about the ‘strongest sanctions in history’. Is that a continuation of the Trump ‘art of the deal’? The answer to that lies in establishing who Pompeo was barking at. It is most likely that it was a response to Europe’s knee-jerk rejection of Trump’s decision, and its disinterment of old laws intended to protect European companies from foreign (in this case US) sanctions. So it wasn’t really addressed to the Iranian people. By knobbling the Europeans, the White House expects to be able to achieve its end of suffocating Iran.

Iran isn’t North Korea though, and it doesn’t have a powerful US ally with a vested interest in the outcome (South Korea) intervening actively on its behalf to achieve peace. It does have many nations, however, that are adversaries of the US – China and Russia – that see Iran’s survival as important for their own independence and the success of their long-term projects. One US ally – Turkey – although this alliance is clearly ambivalent – is always to willing to brave US sanctions and take the consequences on the chin, for the same reasons. Despite the bible thumping, war-drum beating proclivities of the current White House, it is unlikely to take the US to fully-fledged war in the Middle East. It isn’t in Pompeo’s interests, nor in Trump’s, nor would the Pentagon be enthusiastic, nor would Europe (across-the-board) provide the fig leaf of legitimacy that Bush acquired through Blair.

This doesn’t mean it won’t give Israel the backing and wherewithal to do what it wants in the Middle-East. But then, for years, Israel has been threatening to bomb Iran, and hasn’t done so yet, for many reasons that have been most eloquently spelled out in Gareth Porter’s book ‘Manufactured Crisis’ . Porter’s thesis that Netanhayu is a paper tiger, is borne out by Hassan Nasralla’s sober description of the essentially empty recent retaliation that was Lieberman’s ‘we have wiped-out Iran’s military capacity in Syria’, the background to which events has been summarised by Paul Rogers.

The judgement that Iranians are split over how to respond to Trump’s position and Pompeo’s bark, is a false description of the choice facing Iran. The Korean situation doesn’t involve any of the deep ideological bitterness between the people of the Middle-East and Israel/US, and none of the legacy of many recent wars and interventions there. Korea is an old war frozen in time. The choice Iran faces is between simply riding out the Trump administration(s) without changing anything, on the one hand, and actually making a nuclear bomb, on the other. Likely they will opt for the former, and seek to develop Iran economically with out the West. So just as nothing will change from the Israeli side, nothing will change from the Iranian side.

What will happen now is that the Iranian economy will merge deeper into the Chinese and Russian projects, which will help those countries widen their markets, and develop new products (commercial airliners, electronics, oil field services) that Iran needs and which those countries have been working on developing for years. With each passing day, trade between non-Western countries increases and as of 2009, has crossed the 50% mark in terms of the value of global trade.

 

Israel tested new deadly weaponry against protesters in the Great March of Return

When he was hit by a bullet fired by Israeli forces during demonstrations in Gaza on April 6, Mohammed al-Zaieem lost so much blood, and his left leg was so deformed, he feared he wouldn’t survive.

His arteries, veins and a large piece of bone were destroyed. His right leg wasn’t spared either as the round created a massive exit wound and then hit it as well.

By the time he was transferred to Istishari Arab Hospital in Ramallah after undergoing seven surgeries in Gaza, there was nothing doctors could do to save his left leg. It had to be amputated, unbeknown to al-Zaieem, 22, who was unconscious at the time. Al-Jazeera reports ‘Palestinians face explosive bullets, dangerous gas bombs’

 

Khalid bin Farhan al-Saud: volcanic portents in Saudi politics

Trump’s negotiations with China, especially his trade-off between saving electronic giant ZTE from bankruptcy induced by his own sanctions on the company, in exchange for eliminating Chinese tariffs on US agriculture imports, reveals something of his hardball tactics.  This should tells us something about how he understands pulling out of JCPOA: a matter that is confusing hard-pressed European nations that are part of the agreement.

Although some in the Trump cabinet dream of world wars, for Trump himself, the Iran/Shi’a threat is a construction whose principal purpose is to leverage “protection money” from Saudi Arabia. The sums Trump is demanding from Mohamed bin Salman (some in exchange for actual weapons, and much not) will without a doubt bankrupt the desert kingdom. The rest of the royal family are appalled at the utter cupidity and self-serving moronity of the unknown and vindictive upstart who has taken over the kingdom in the fog of his royal father’s dementia.

David Hearst interviews Saudi Prince Khaled bin Farhan on the rumblings of régime change in Saudi Arabia as the embattled royals that bin Salman has put under house arrest wake up from the shock of the violent and ruthless ambush they have been subjected to. Here is a snipet from the interview.

The spirit of Gaza prevails over Israeli savagery and American religious extremism

As US President Donald Trump speaks on video from the White House, and his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner lead the American dedication of the “new” American embassy in Jerusalem, they are accompanied by anti-Semitic and Islamophobic Christian evangelicals, Robert Jeffress and John Hagee offering prayers.

This is a culmination of a Christian Zionist history begun by William Blackstone and Louis Brandeis, who manoeuvred Woodrow Wilson to accept and endorse American Zionism and the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which set the course for the establishment of the State of Israel. It has little to do with the interests of the Jews or the Israeli population, but is a drive by irrational adherents of magical religion in a Bible-thumping White House to bring about “end times”.

The Palestinian people are thus being sacrificed on an altar of madness in furious savagery that has become absolutely explicit in the mowing-down of peaceful protesters in Gaza in the past weeks by Israeli forces. Only a deranged White House can believe that the Palestinians will ever bow to Trump’s “Deal of the Century” (“Final Solution”?), and that the acquiescence of illegitimate Arab rulers to their insanity will help them. The latter are cowards, frightened of their own shadows, with little chance of medium-term survival in their respective countries.

It is a sign of a steep decline in the status of the US in the world that its interests have been hijacked by a small group of extremists and that its political and intellectual classes appear to carry on unperturbed by this insanity in an oxygen-free, helium-filled bubble . The chaos that the Christian Zionists have always wished for will now occur. This will not be at a cost to Arabs – that has already been paid long ago as their countries already lie in ruins.

As most sane Americans realise, it will principally be at a severe and irreversible cost to America’s reputation and interests. Even the opinion pages of the New York Times bristle with anguish at the absurd and painful spectacle in the media of “juxtaposed images of dead and wounded Palestinians and Ivanka Trump smiling in Jerusalem like a Zionist Marie Antoinette” on the day of the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem.

Nationalism returns as Muqtada el-Sadr leads the winning party in the Iraqi parliamentary election

Along with victories for Ennahda in Tunisia, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and now the Sadrist alliance in Iraq, nationalism is coming back to elections in Arab countries, whose politics have been riven by increased foreign interference since the Arab Spring.

On the Move” (al-Sa’iroun) or the “Alliance of Revolutionaries for Reform” (54 seats*), headed by Muqtada al-Sadr, comprising the Sadrist Movement and the Communist Party wins the most seats, possibly as much as a third. This result will put the US’s nose out of joint.

The Iran-backed “Conquest Alliance” or “Fatah Alliance”, headed by Hadi al-Amiri (47 seats*), comprising the popular base of the Haashd el-Shaabi  militias and some Sunni groups, comes second, while the US-backed Haidar al-Abadi‘s “Victory Alliance” or “Tahaluf el-Nasr” comes third (42 seats*).

All three leading groups are cross-sectarian, which augurs a major improvement in the nature of Iraqi politics. The other Iranian-backed party, “State of Law coalition” run by Nouri al-Maliki is really no longer in the running (26 seats*), although it is a potential coalition partner with the Conquest Alliance, coming equal fourth with the Kurdish Democratic Party (26 seats*). Iyad Allawi‘s National Alliance or “al-Wataniyya” (the party closest to US interests) comes fifth (22 seats*); Ammar el-Hakim, ex-ally of el-Abadi, and his National Wisdom Movement come sixth (19 seats*); The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan comes seventh (18 seats*); and the Sunni Uniters for Reform Coalition or “Decision Alliance” come eighth (14 seats*).  The remaining 61 seats are split between 12 other parties and some independents*.

*updates 18th March

The only problem with the elections, however, was the low voter turnout of 44%. Nevertheless, this represented an abstention by older generations and the younger generation seeking change were disproportionately represented.

It looks like Sadr wants to exclude al-Amiri and al-Maliki from any future coalition. Given that Sadr and the Sadrists don’t want to be PM, it may be that Abadi is offered the job as long as he pursues the nationalist Sadrist plan. Sadr, Abadi and al-Hakim together can, with their allies, dominate parliament with half the seats. Iran, on the other hand, through auspices of Qasem Soleimani are trying to bring Abadi into coalition with al-Amiri and al-Maliki, to form a government. Iran is firmly opposed to the Communist element in Sadr’s coalition. So Abadi finds himself in the middle of a tug-of-war, but either way he will be turning his back on the US.

The political outcome of these events means the US will have to accept much more limited influence than Abadi allowed them to have during his recent tenure. As Marco Carnelos points out: “Irrespective of Moqtada Al Sadr’s victory in the Iraqi elections, the political outcome in the country will be more favourable to Tehran than Washington”.

Gaza: The ultimate indictment of European Liberalism

Gaza is among the most densely populated places in the world. Two-thirds of its inhabitants are refugees, and more than half the population is under eighteen years of age. Since Israel occupied Gaza in 1967, it has systematically de-developed the economy.

After Hamas won democratic elections in 2006, Israel intensified its blockade of Gaza, and after Hamas consolidated its control of the territory in 2007, Israel further tightened its illegal siege. In the meantime, Israel has launched no less than eight military operations against Gaza-culminating in Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014-that left behind over three million tons of rubble. Recent UN reports predict that Gaza will be unlivable by 2020.

Norman G. Finkelstein new book GAZA: AN INQUEST INTO ITS MARTYRDOM presents a meticulously researched and devastating inquest into Israel’s actions of the last decade. It argues that although Israel justified its blockade and violent assaults in the name of self-defense, in fact these actions were cynical exercises of brutal power against an essentially defenseless civilian population.

Based on hundreds of human rights reports, the book scrutinizes multifarious violations of international law Israel committed both during its operations and in the course of its decade-long siege of Gaza. It is a monument to Gaza’s martyrs and a scorching accusation against their tormenters.

Der Spiegel Editorial: Time for Europe to Join the Resistance

Edel Rodriguez designs the latest cover for Der Spiegel after Trump’s Iran decision. The magazine editorial runs as follows:

Trump’s renown is rooted in American hero myths. Trump says that women like Carla Bruni lust after him, something that women like Carla Bruni vehemently deny. Trump says he is exorbitantly rich, yet Trump ran himself into the ground with his casinos to the point that he was 295 million dollars in debt in 1990. He was bailed out by the banks and by his father. The greatest myth, though, has to do with Trump’s alleged negotiating expertise. This too is nonsense. Trump was never proficient in the art of the deal. As a businessman, he paid far too much for substandard properties and has shown no patience as a politician. He isn’t curious. His preparation is nonexistent. Strategy and tactics are both foreign to him. Trump is only proficient in destruction. And that’s what he does.

Read the rest here

‘Deal of the century’: dead on arrival

Hatem Bazian writes: US President Donald Trump’s impending “deal of the century” intended to resolve the Palestinian issue once and for all and with it bring “peace” to the region will be dead on arrival. The leaked details of the deal provide recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem and sets-up a “Palestinian state” while possibly annexing the settlements with 20 percent of the West Bank to Israel proper. Other ideas include the total demilitarization of Palestine, thus leaving the already tormented population to face never-ending Israeli violence. Ideas on what to be done with the Gaza Strip are hazy, but the possibility of maintaining the status quo in the area is a distinct possibility. A Palestinian official familiar with Trump’s “deal”-of-the-century” said: “The plan calls for having a Palestinian state with provisional borders on half of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, without Jerusalem, and calls for humanitarian solutions to the refugee issue … The deal calls for building a “new Jerusalem” for Palestinians from the surrounding villages and communities.”

Critically, and based on the above report, the deal of the century will not include the implementation of the right to return for refugees to their stolen homes and lands, but instead offers a vague “humanitarian solution” to it. The multilateral Oslo framework offered various ideas on dealing with refugees but none focused on U.N. Resolution 194. All the plans centered on serving Israel’s needs by offering to take Palestinians to a third country — including offers from Canada and Australia. The involvement of European countries and U.S. in the so-called “peace process” is fundamentally designed to protect Israel and punish Palestinians for seeking a peace based on justice.

The “deal” is everything that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government are looking for and provide iron-fist control of all historical Palestine, despite the fictitious illusion of an independent “Palestinian state.” Here, Palestinians have arrived at the South African independent homelands model set-up under the Apartheid regime to give the impression that black South Africans were enjoying “independence and freedom” while, in reality, they had neither under white racist rule.

Preparatory steps are underway to push Trump’s “deal” through with the Arab states to be framed as something other than a continuation of upgraded Apartheid. The ongoing preparation includes a critical concession from Saudi Arabia — which has extended a de facto recognition of Israel while downgrading the status of the Palestinian issue to a secondary status and elevating confrontation with Iran as the primary strategic threat to the region. Under this alignment, Israel becomes a critic strategic ally for Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States seeking confrontations with Iran and the containment of that supposed threat.

“It is about time Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the negotiation table, or shut up and stop complaining,” was a statement attributed to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in a meeting held in New York with the heads of the American Jewish Organization. The wheels in the region are moving fast, and the new public alignment has led to a total abandonment of the Palestinians by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the other Gulf States. More importantly, the arrival of John Bolton to the National Security Council means the drums of war with Iran are beating ever louder and the pressure to silence the “Palestinian noise” will accelerate in the days and months ahead.

In response to the preparatory steps, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called into session the Palestinian National Council (PNC) with an agenda focused on the deal and the possible response, a call to suspend the recognition of Israel. The PNC has not met in over nine years and it is doubtful that the call for suspension will have any real impact considering the regional and global alignment of forces. Furthermore, the membership of the PNC was handpicked by Abbas and his allies, thus lacking real representation of the broader Palestinian society inside and outside historic Palestine. The PNC meeting and whatever comes from it will have limited, if any, impact outside of the Palestinian Authority circle and will further cement the fragmentation of Palestinian society.

Critically, Abbas’ opening session speech veered into a condemnable and entirely wrong framing of the causes of the Holocaust. Blaming the victim is not ethical or moral since it is the same argument often deployed by Zionists on the causes of Nakba and currently some Arab States against the Palestinians for lack of just peace and implementation of the right of return. Palestinians are ill-served by Abbas’ linking of Palestinian rights to the Holocaust. We must assign the responsibility to Nazi Germany first and foremost and Europe in general for the crimes committed against the Jews before and after World War II.

At the same time, Great Britain, and currently the U.S., should be held responsible for their continued support of Israel, as a settler colonial  state. Europe’s Jewish question has been “solved” by facilitating the transfer of European Jews to Palestine and aiding and abetting in the expulsion of Palestinians. This basic fact and the strategic thinking behind Great Britain’s creation of the Zionist State as a buffer state to protect trade routes passing through Egypt should not be confused with the long history of anti-Semitism — and I would add Islamophobia — dating back centuries before the 1492 expulsion and inquisition. Rejecting anti-Semitism and all that is connected to it is part of the de-colonial struggle that we must undertake with like-minded Jews and others that want to pursue a liberation of the mind first, then break the physical chains that are locking the human potential.

Palestinians are burdened with the arduous but achievable task of taking on the Zionist occupation and dispossession and at the same time, challenging the European roots of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia that were planted during the colonial and post-colonial period. Anytime we fall into anti-Semitic and Islamophobic thinking, an epistemological trap constructed by a certain European mode of thinking, we breathe life into a major trans-historical lie that has led to the deaths of millions. Reconstituting Palestine does not mean replicating or imitating the European nationalist and ultra-nationalist model that got the Muslim world and the region as a whole into the ongoing bloodbath. Reconstituting historical Palestine means a total rejection of all forms of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism while affirming the dignity and equality of Jews, Christians and Muslims as well as for all freedom-and-justice-loving people.

Trump’s “deal of the century” is dead on arrival because it continues to build upon the original sin of Zionism and European dispossession of Palestinians. The “deal” rewards settler colonialism, attempting to push the clock back by embracing Israeli Apartheid and attempting to cloak it in legitimacy, extracting maximum concessions from Palestinians under duress. What this “deal” fails to recognize is that the wheels of justice are moving faster than the walls of Apartheid. Trump and the Israeli leadership are attempting to rescue and revive a dying settler-colonial project. Read original article.