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.

After the destructive decision on the Iran Deal, will Trump’s hawkish team lead us inevitably to war?

Trump’s legacy will resemble a pile of rubble. There is no planning context to any of his negative actions, and so far there have been no positive legislative or executive actions or any kind. His tax cut was, after a tax cut, with little in terms of constructive thought about what it was for or what came with it, apart from the tired “trickle down” arguments.

It’s all been about obsessively taking down his predecessor’s legacy. This is so obsessive and all-consuming, it seems to be about the dregs of a slaver culture embodied in the man Trump, instinctively determined to eradicate all traces of black American endeavour. It is so instinctual and unreasoned that the destructiveness is almost childish. It is so dominant in the overall character of his presidency so far that, taken together with his early wish for rapprochement with Russia, and his general statements about the waste of money and time in making war in the Middle-East, it can be said that is not in any way linked to any wish to lead America to war.

If this turns out to be right, it would be ironic, because his bête noire – Obama – Nobel Peace laureate – was indeed a war president. However, Trump’s appointments of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo might appear, given their well-known hawkishness and their hate of Iran, to dictate a path to war. But while John Bolton may want to direct the president in that direction, so far this president has shown a very high propensity for not wanting to be directed, and firing anybody who tries. And while Mike Pompeo may be hawkish, he is, unlike either Bolton or Trump, keen on “consequences” and “what happens after”.

Thomas Wright writes in Politico about how Bolton and Pompeo are incompatible and how Pompeo’s aspirations make him a more cautious character than Bolton. He is politically a natural ally of Mattis, who strongly advised against destroying the Iran nuclear deal.  Mattis doesn’t like Bolton, although he admires Pompeo.  The alliance that looks like forming between the Pentagon and the State Department  that will serve the incumbents’ individual interests, besides Trump’s natural disinterest in actually starting wars, makes war unlikely. Furthermore Bolton’s role, it has to be emphasised, is advisory not executive.

By the looks of things, the (unintended) “consequences” of destroying the Iran nuclear deal that Pompeo will have his hands full dealing with, will have less to do with war in the Middle East, than with the ensuing  (major) rift with Europe, which is suffering economically and is growing tired of the wrecking-ball that is America. As far as actually engaging Iran militarily, the same reason still stands that led US military chiefs to avoid war with Iran in the past decade: they would lose. Another defeat would weaken the US global position even more catastrophically than the defeat of its professional army at the hands of a lightly-armed rebel insurgency in Iraq. Its withdrawal, after Petraeus’ massive payoff to the Sunni tribes was ignominious. The outcome of a war with Iran would be much worse, for the US and the world.

How the Koch Bros secretly fund self-serving academic programmes

After disclosure of secret documents showing “tied” donations by Tea-Party funders, the Koch Bros, to George Mason University, Sarah Larimer writes on The Washington Post: “The president of George Mason University said Friday that some financial gift agreements accepted by the school ‘fall short of the standards of academic independence’ and raise questions about donor influence at the public institution. The disclosure by George Mason President Ángel Cabrera came as a student organization sued seeking greater transparency regarding the school’s ties to private donors, including the prominent and controversial financial backer Charles Koch.”

In the Real News video above, Bill Black, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, gives an explanation of how self-serving extreme right-wing economics is being implanted in some US Universities not only by the Koch Bros, but also by the Ohlin foundation and the Ayn Rand-fixated CEO of BB&T Bank, Kelly King, through secret agreements.

donate to RealNews

How the Trump tax cut is going to cannibalise itself

As the Fed is slows US Treasury bond purchases, and doggedly pursues its policy of tapering, thus driving up interest rates, 58% of Treasury securities held by the public will be maturing over the next four years.

This means that the US Treasury will be rolling over a huge amount of debt into a higher-interest rate environment. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury Note has moved from a yield of 2.06% (November 9, 2016) to over 3% now.

Mortgage rates correlate to the 10-year Treasury and they have moved up significantly since last September, causing a slowdown in home sales with knock on effects on consumer spending on durable goods. This will impact Treasury revenues.

Meanwhile, Trump’s trade war with China will at least put a dampener on East Asiatic demand for Treasuries for the foreseeable future, and there will be little promise of respite from those quarters for Treasury securities markets, ensuring upward pressures on rates and yields.

All this has to be understood in the context of what the May 3, 2017 General Accountability Office (GAO) report on the U.S. government’s fiscal outlook said about the impact of interest rates on the Federal Budget:

“While health care spending is a key programmatic and policy driver of the long-term outlook on the spending side of the budget, eventually, spending on net interest becomes the largest category of spending in both the 2016 Financial Report’s long-term fiscal projections and GAO’s simulations.”

While it has been clear since 2011 that the Fed has been aiming at a programme of tapering its quantitative easing programme and reversing it in order to “normalise” its balance sheet, the Trump tax plan itself will make it impossible for the Fed to respond counter-cyclically  to worsening economic performance, in view of the historically unprecedented fiscal deficits that will result from this plan.

The irony of this situation is that the Trump tax plan was in part intended to disguise and offset the effects of Fed tightening. But it clear from the above that it will consume itself. It is remarkable that the US Treasury, unlike Trump officials and GOP luminaries, stayed silent on this policy, unwilling to issue any reports or statements whatsoever on one of the biggest tax giveaways in history.

The joke continues to be on the average American citizen.

As client of the régime, Russia is compelled to cover up Assad’s atrocities

I have consistently maintained that Assad is an unreconstructed tyrant in the traditional Arab mould whose mentality Westerners, especially those well-intentioned souls on the left supporting him, are completely unable to fathom.

Assad’s theatricals, staged with the help of the Russians and involving the apparent disposition of a stock of chemical weapons in 2013, were intentionally planned as cover for subsequent gassing campaigns which could then be blamed on rebel forces.

As Gilles Dorronsoro writes in Lobelog: “Why does the régime resort to gassing? The question matters because it conditions the response due the Syrian régime in the longer term. One argument frequently heard for holding the régime blameless is the lack of a military rationale for attacking with gas, because the insurgent pocket was destined to fall in any case.

In fact, the attacks with gas above all send a political message to Syria’s own society and to Westerners. If the latter look the other way, they discredit themselves: recall how the Obama administration’s refusal to intervene changed the dynamics of the war and helped pull a régime on the verge of collapse back from the brink. If they act, they polarize the situation, solidify the regime’s alliance with Russia and Iran, and, come the next chemical attack, will only confront their own impotence.

Hence, the bombings ordered by Donald Trump in 2017 after the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack obviously did nothing to deter the régime. In addition, Bashar al-Assad sends a message to his population. You are alone, there is no limit to what we can do: gas attacks on civilians, rape on a massive scale, torture (with hundreds of thousands of victims, and tens of thousands of them killed), systematic bombing of hospitals, and the list goes on.”

Gilles Dorronsoro has just published an in-depth sociological survey of the Syrian Civil War with Adam Baczko and Arthur Quesnay, with Cambridge University Press.

We also find Robert Mackey writing for The Intercept on recent events at Douma that it was very odd that the Russians were propagandising at the Hague, using 11-year old Hassan Diab, before the OPCW had finished the investigation, which had been inexplicably delayed by the Russians, ostensibly while preparing the ground for the new set of theatricals.

“When Hassan told Russian state television last week that he had been given sweets in return for taking part in the filming of the video in the hospital, and his father said that the boy had been doused in water for no reason, since there was no sign of any chemical attack, Russia’s United Nations ambassador announced plans to screen the interview for the Security Council.

However, Russia has failed to acknowledge concerns that the boy and his father might not have felt free to accurately describe what happened, given that the interview was filmed at a Syrian army facility used by Russian military advisers. Former colleagues of the Douma hospital workers told The Guardian that Syrian officials had subjected the medics to “extreme intimidation,” threatening to harm their families if they made any mention of chemical weapons.

When they arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, Hassan and the medical workers were first taken to the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, for a presentation of Russia’s case that the attack was a hoax.

During the presentation, text on a screen behind Russia’s ambassador to the OPCW, Alexsander Shulgin, described the footage shot in Douma’s hospital on April 7 as “Fake Video” produced by the volunteer rescue workers known as the White Helmets.

Since the video was in fact shot by another group, the activists who run the Douma.Revolution Facebook page — and the images used by Russia include their logo — it is unclear why Russian officials insist on attributing the footage to the White Helmets. One possible explanation is a pre-existing campaign to demonize that group, which receives funding from Western governments and has documented the aftermath of Russian air strikes on rebel-held areas.

Russia had ignored a request from the OPCW to allow its inspectors in Syria to interview the witnesses first, and wait until after the investigators had filed their report to present its theory of the case. When the Russian briefing went ahead, it was denounced as “a crude propaganda exercise” by 17 nations that boycotted it, including the United States, Britain and France. Those three countries are convinced the Syrian government did use chemical weapons, and carried out retaliatory airstrikes two weeks ago, before the OPCW inspectors had even begun their work.

The Syrian entourage was then presented to the media at a bizarre press conference in which the opposition activist’s video of each of them in the hospital on the night of the attack was projected onto a big screen behind them as they delivered prepared remarks to reporters.

Many reporters in the room expressed disquiet at the spectacle of the young boy, who addressed them for all of 40 seconds, speaking in defense of the government that has been shelling his hometown for half his life.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the event, though, was how deeply beside the point it seemed. Witness after witness swore that there had been no sign of chemical exposure and no deaths among the patients they treated in the hospital, and Hassan’s father insisted that no one in his family had been sickened by gas, but there was no testimony at all related to what took place that same night in a nearby residential building — where activists had filmed piles of dead bodies, some with foam on their lips, and a large yellow canister identical to those used in previous chlorine gas attacks.

The exclusive focus on what took place in the hospital that night, in nearly two hours of testimony, was particularly bizarre because two different witnesses told reporters in Douma last week, on a government-led press tour, that their families had been killed by gas in that residential building.

One witness, Nasser Amer Hanen, told Stefan Borg of TV4 Sweden that he had survived the attack but lost his wife, mother and brothers to gas. When the same man spoke to Seth Doane of CBS News inside his ruined home in the building, he led the reporter to an upper floor, where the large yellow gas canister was still resting.

Another witness in Douma, Kahled Mahmoud Nuseir, told Bassem Mroue of the Associated Press that his wife and two daughters had been killed by gas in a basement shelter that still had a peculiar smell 10 days later. Speaking to AP outside Douma’s hospital, Nuseir blamed the gas attack not on the Syrian government but on the Islamist rebels who held the town until April 8. He also faulted the White Helmets for failing to save his family. Although it contradicts the Russian claim that no gas was used anywhere in Douma, and the images from the hospital were fabricated by the White Helmets at the direction of British intelligence**, video of Nuseir’s AP interview was obtained and posted online by Press TV, an English-language channel owned by Syria’s ally Iran.”

However, given that scepticism about the Douma justification for the launch of missiles by the US-UK-French trio would reach Tucker Carlson and would become a major talking point of his on FOX NEWS, of all TV stationsRussian information warfare seems to be succeeding in spades in undermining the credibility of Western intelligence services. If the Iraq War hadn’t done the job of burying that forever, the inexplicable lies of the UK government over the Skripal case should have hammered a final nail into this particular coffin. The Russians are driving their advantage home. They are possibly better liars than the Americans and the British.

** N.B. The White Helmets are an operation funded by the UK and US governments, and directed by their intelligence services, although acknowledging this does not absolve Assad of his crimes nor Russia of the crime of covering up his crimes.

Syria: Not a Civil War but a War on Civilians

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad writes: The regime’s crimes are colossal, sustained, and deliberate; they are an expression of policy. The opposition is disorganised, anarchic and diffuse. Its crimes are impulsive, contained and chaotic: They reflect only on the group or individual committing the crime. Russian vetoes to protect specific regime violations have created a general climate of impunity where criminality thrives. This has to be reversed.

Yet the language of “both sides” and “no good guys” has created an artificial levelling where a largely peaceful uprising is placed on the same moral plane as the murderous regime that forced it to militarise.

To be sure, the regime’s ruthless campaign against the civil uprising has left a vacuum filled by many unsavoury groups. But the people who remain unvanquished in the face of a genocidal regime aided by two major powers is unlikely to be cowed by Al-Qaeda.

Indeed, since 2016, Syrian towns like Ma’arat al-Nu’man, Saraqeb, and Kafranbal have seen regular protests against both the regime and Al-Qaeda. Some towns have successfully expelled the jihadis and protests against Al-Qaeda are happening in Sarmada even as I write.

What we see in Syria is not a “civil war”, but a war on civilians. The label “civil war” suggests a kind of parity in a contest that is anything but equal. In Syria the battle has often been waged between high-altitude bombers and hospitals; between barrel bombs and playgrounds.

“To confuse [perpetrators] with their victims”, said the great Italian writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, “is a moral disease or an aesthetic affectation or a sinister sign of complicity; above all, it is a precious service rendered (intentionally or not) to the negators of truth.”

Read full article

 

The Kingmaker and the snap Turkish election

 

Devlet Bahçeli is the “kingmaker” of Turkish politics. It was Bahçeli who called for early elections back in 2002, paving the way for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to come to office.

In the aftermath of June 2015 parliamentary election, in which the AKP failed to garner a sufficient majority to form a government, it was Bahçeli who rejected calls from other opposition parties to set up a coalition government, calling for early polls instead. In the November 2015 election the AKP increased its votes, and secured a parliamentary majority.

Subsequently, Bahçeli’s political profile grew substantially after the July 2016 coup attempt. On Oct. 11, 2016 he openly announced his party’s support for the AKP’s ambitions to change the administrative system from a parliamentary to an executive-presidency model. An AKP-MHP alliance narrowly won the constitutional referendum of April 16, 2017.

In early 2018, Bahçeli once again took the stage by declaring that the MHP will not present a candidate for the presidential race and instead will back President Erdoğan’s nomination, forming a new alliance, in light, on his view of the critical security situation Turkey faces at the centre of a collision between America and Russia in Syria.

Now that he has called for new snap elections, bringing forward the next presidential election from November 2019, after Erdoğan’s apparent refusal to contemplate such a move, Bahçeli secures Erdoğan’s agreement. However, the swiftness of the response and the very early date for the new election (June 2018) suggests Erdoğan was in on the idea from the start.

Both Erdoğan and Bahçeli are impatient to begin legislating for the new structures of governance under the presidential system, to consolidate Turkey’s transformation into a state capable of resisting the pressure and interference of foreign powers dogging its political system since 1947. Basically, the reason for the snap election is to wrong-foot Western powers and avoid election interference, which is what Binali Yildirim means when he says that there are ‘geopolitical reasons’ for advancing the election date.

Controversy dogs these elections due to the emergency laws in place at the moment as a result of the Turkish government’s crackdown on the Gülen movement. For the EU in Brussels, this is a civil society movement with a right to free expression, whilst for the Turkish government it is a cult (FETÖ) guilty of high treason in virtue of an attempted violent coup against the state and democratic institutions. For the EU, the state of emergency amounts to the Turkish government acting outside the rule of law. For the Turkish government, an attempted coup d’état is a supreme example of disrespect for the rule of law and warrants sanctions against all suspected members of the Gülen organisation.

The position of the EU is principally sustained by the German government, which has granted asylum to leaders of the Gülen movement, and has instructed the Greek state not to extradite other Gülen elements to Turkey, which escaped to Greece after the coup.

The overall position of the German government against the current Turkish government’s policies, however, pre-dates the attempted coup, and goes back to 2005 when the Merkel CDU/CSU landslide election victory over the SPD would lead to new policies towards Turkey and the rejection of its attempts to improve its trading position and renegotiate the essentially neo-colonial framework of the European Customs Union, by entering the EU as a full member.

The important role the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMFUS) and the Axel Springer Group played in Merkel’s rise should have been warning to the Turks that their non-cooperation in the Iraq War was going to be considered by the US establishment as unforgiveable treachery.

Furthermore, this would have to be understood in the context of the campaign launched by the US through GMFUS beginning in 2004, to combat the anti-Americanism that had taken a strong hold on European public opinion, after France’s and Germany’s (under the SDP) own opposition to the Iraq War.