Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was born April 28, 1937 and died December 30, 2006. He was the fifth President of Iraq, holding that position from July 16, 1979 until 9 April 2003. He was one of the leading members of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, and afterward, the Baghdad-based Ba’ath Party and its regional organization Ba’ath Party, Iraq Region, which advocated ba’athism, an ideological marriage of Arab nationalism with Arab socialism. (Patricia Ramos, july 2013)
"The national security of America and the security of the world could be attained if the American leaders [..] become rational, if America disengages itself from its evil alliance with Zionism, which has been scheming to exploit the world and plunge it in blood and darkness, by using America and some Western countries. What the American peoples need mostly is someone who tells them the truth, courageously and honestly as it is.
They don’t need fanfares and cheerleaders, if they want to take a lesson from the (sept. 11) event so as to reach a real awakening, in spite of the enormity of the event that hit America.
But the world, including the rulers of America, should say all this to the American peoples, so as to have the courage to tell the truth and act according to what is right and not what to is wrong and unjust, to undertake their responsibilities in fairness and justice, and by recourse to reason..."
Saddam Hussein, INA 15-9-2002
"The despot thinks he is just as God... What a nadir and mean fate!
The despot, as represented in this age, in our day, imagines he can enslave the people..
But they were born free. They were freed by God’s will through prophets and messengers, to be slaves only to Him and not to anyone of the people." Saddam Hussein, Iraq Daily 4-3-2003
A person with a God Complex may refuse to admit the possibility of their error or failure, even in the face of irrefutable evidence, intractable problems or difficult or impossible tasks.
The person is also highly dogmatic in their views, meaning the person speaks of their personal opinions as though they are unquestionably correct.
Someone with a god complex may exhibit no regard for the conventions and demands of society, and may request special consideration or privileges.
"...To be a human being among human beings, and remain one forever, no matter what misfortunes befall, not to become depressed, and not to falter - this is what life is, herein lies its task." Fyodor Dostoevsky (to his brother Mikhail, Dec. 22, 1849)
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly.
“Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware, do not astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone." Prophet Muhammad, Last Sermon
“Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you can not retain.”
(Persian poet & humanist, born in Shiraz, Iran, c. 1210)
Israel needs to stop being an ideology and start being a nation. A nation of all of its citizens, all with equal national, civil and religious rights.
After 70 years, only partial justice and restoration is possible for the Palestinian people. Whatever constitutional arrangements are arrived at, equality should be the guiding principle at work.
As for Zionism let’s ditch it and move on. 'It’s time to place it in a glass cabinet and put it in a museum in a room marked: ‘Dead Ends & False Messiahs’.
There is no “Judaeo-Christian heritage.”
"The practices under which Jesus was raised in Galilee were anathema to Judaic orthodoxy. One might discern the seedbed of Christianity and the teachings of Jesus within “Galilee of the Gentiles” and why his teachings were regarded with outrage by the Pharisaic priesthood. One can also discern why there has been such a hatred of Christianity and Jesus in the rabbinical teachings of the Talmud and elsewhere.
The phenomenon of such an oddity as “Christian Zionism” is for Zionists and the Orthodox rabbinate (which should not be confounded with Reform Judaism) nothing more than the equivalent of a “shabbez goy,” a Gentile hired by Orthodox Jews to undertake menial tasks on the Sabbath. “Judaeo-Christianity” only exists in the minds of craven Gentiles who embrace delusional creeds, or who wish to further their careers by making the correct noises to the right people.
(Kerry R Bolton, Foreign Policy Journal, May 29, 2018)
"Holism is the most fundamental discovery of 20th century science. It is a discovery of every science from astrophysics to quantum physics to environmental science to psychology to anthropology.
It is the discovery that the entire universe is an integral whole, and that the basic organizational principle of the universe is the field principle: the universe consists of fields within fields, levels of wholeness and integration that mirror in fundamental ways, and integrate with, the ultimate, cosmic whole...." "For many thinkers and religious teachers throughout this history, holism was the dominant thought, and the harmony that it implies has most often been understood to encompass cosmic, civilizational, and personal dimensions. Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Lord Krishna, Lao Tzu, and Confucius all give us visions of transformative harmony, a transformative harmony that derives from a deep relation to the holism of the cosmos."
About political holism
Political holism is based on the recognition that "we" are all members of a single whole. There's no "they," even though "we" are not all alike. Because "we" are all part of the whole, and therefore interdependent, we benefit from cooperating with each other. Political holism is a way of thinking about human cultures and nations as interdependent. Political holists search for solutions other than war to settle international disagreements. Their model of the world is one in which cooperation and negotiation, even with the enemy, even with the weak, promotes political stability more than warfare.
In an overpopulated world with planet-wide environmental problems, the development of weapons of mass destruction has rendered war obsolete as an effective means to resolve disputes.
Political dualists consider political holists unpatriotic for questioning the necessity to defeat "them." In times of impending war, political dualists tend to measure patriotism by the intensity of one's hostility to the country's immediate enemy. Naturally, they would view as disloyalty any suggestion that the enemy is not evil, any call for cooperation with the enemy, any criticism of one's own country.
To political dualists, cooperation with the enemy means capitulation, relinquishment of the nation's position of dominance. At its extreme, political dualism is essentially tribalism. (Betty Craige, 16-8-1997)
Desmond Tutu & Ubuntu
"A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed."
"We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World.
When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity." (Ubuntu info)
2018 was in many ways a turning point for the position of Israel in the system of Western, liberal, capitalist democracies. It had long sat uneasily among France, Britain, and the United States, inasmuch as it was founded on a formal racial supremacist principle that Jews must rule the state. Racism is important in the other democracies, as well, but it is not typically enshrined in the constitution. The French Rights of Man mentioned nothing about race.
After 1967, Israel acquired substantial colonial possessions in the form of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, in which its leaders began implementing a classic settler colonial regime reminiscent of Apartheid South Africa. The Israeli leadership egregiously violated international law by flooding their own citizens into a militarily occupied territory, and by extensively altering the lifeways of the occupied population.
I would argue that the occupation has now lasted so long and witnessed so many severe violations of the Geneva Convention of 1949 that the occupation itself is now illegal. Palestinians living under the Israeli jackboot do not have secure rights of property or control over their natural resources and, being kept stateless, lack even the right to have rights.
Somewhat astonishingly, the assemblage of far-right Israeli parties that rules Israel has managed to worsen its wretched human rights record in 2018 and to depart from liberal capitalist democracy almost entirely.
Not only is Israel not the only democracy in the Middle East (that distinction now belongs to Tunisia), it isn’t a democracy at all in the sense of a state of equal citizens able to vote for the government that rules them.
Informed Comment reported that on July 19, the Likud-led government passed a new Nationality Law formally vesting “sovereignty” solely in the hands of the 75-80% of the population of Israel that is Jewish.
(About 21% of Israelis are of Arab Palestinian heritage and another 300,000 or so persons are not recognized as Jews by the Grand Rabbi and so would not participate in sovereignty; these are mostly immigrants whose mothers were not Jewish).
I wrote at the time, “It would be as though the US passed a law designating America as a state for white Christians, excluding African-Americans and Latinos, and making English the only official language.” I also pointed out that Apartheid is considered a crime against humanity in the Rome Statute signed by most countries in the world, which governs the judgments of the International Criminal Court.
Having formally turned non-Jews into second-class citizens inside Israel, the Likud government accelerated its colonization program in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. The pace of building squatter settlements on stolen Palestinian land has doubled under the Trump administration in 2018.
You may say it can’t get any worse. It got worse...
Israeli rules over about 5 million stateless Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
So there you have it. Israel at the end of 2018 is now unambiguously an Apartheid state, admired only in the US Deep South among those who are nostalgic for their own Jim Crow Apartheid....
2018 was the year Israel finally went completely rogue and ensured that it can no longer be considered to be in the club of liberal capitalist democracies. It is now formally an Apartheid state even inside the Green Line...
Bahia Amawai is a US citizen and Texas-based language specialist who helps autistic and speech-impaired children overcome their impairment. Despite the essential and noble nature of her work, she was fired by the Pflugerville Independent School District, which serves the Austin area.
Every year, Amawai signs an annual contract that allows her to carry on with her tasks uninterrupted. This year however, something changed.
Shockingly, the school district has decided to add a clause to the contract that requires teachers and other employees to pledge not to boycott Israel “during the term of their contract”.
The “oath” is now part of Section 2270.001 of the Texas Government Code...
“‘Boycott Israel’ means refusing to deal with, terminating business activities with, or otherwise taking any action that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territory ..”
The fact that Texas considers unacceptable even the boycott of businesses operating in the illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied West Bank puts it at odds with international law, and, subsequently with the vast majority of the international community.
Twenty-five US states have already passed anti-boycott of Israel legislation, or have issued executive orders targeting the boycott support networks, while other states are in the process of following suit.
At a federal government level, the Congressional Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which is being received with enthusiasm among US legislators, vows to fine and imprison those who boycott Israel.
While there is strong civil society opposition to such obvious violations of the basic tenets of freedom of speech, the pro-Israel campaigners are unhinged...
This is the sad state of democracy in the US at the moment, where the interests of a relatively small, distant country are made the centerpiece of US government policies, at home or abroad... Many US politicians are answering the unreasonable lobby call of criminalising political dissent throughout the country...
Is protecting Israeli Apartheid more important to Americans than preserving the fundamental nature of their own democracy?
That is a question that every American, regardless how they feel about a supposedly distant Middle Eastern conflict, must answer...
Aliyah and Integration Minister Yoav Galant, a member of the Political-Security Cabinet, visited the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council on Sunday. During the visit, Galant toured the communities of Beit Aryeh, Neve Tzuf, Eli and Shilo. "I came here to tell the Israeli public, and especially the residents of Judea and Samaria, that we will not allow the establishment of more than one state west of the Jordan River. A Palestinian state will not be established here," Galant said.
"This is the place for a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, the State of Israel by virtue of the right of our forefathers. We will work to realize sovereignty throughout Judea and Samaria and increase the settlement enterprise. Only settlement is the key to holding onto sovereignty and Zionism. Judea and Samaria are the eastern defense belt of the State of Israel,” he continued.
Galant added, "Anyone who tries to harm Israel's security will bear the responsibility. We will reach every terrorist, he will end his life in prison or a cemetery, there is no third option."
Up until several weeks ago, Galant served as Housing Minister on behalf of Kulanu, before he left Kulanu and joined the Likud, resigning from the Knesset and from his ministerial position. Last week, he was appointed Aliyah and Integration Minister and was officially welcomed to the Likud by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Mateh Binyamin Regional Council is a regional council covering 42 Israeli settlements and outposts in the southern Samarian hills of the West Bank. The seat of the council is Psagot.
The council is named for the ancient Israelite tribe of Benjamin, whose territory roughly corresponds to that of the council. The region in which the Binyamin settlements are located is referred to as the Binyamin Region.
The international community considers Israeli settlements to be illegal, and this applies to all communities under the administration of Mateh Binyamin. (Wikipedia)
Judah (Lion) and Benjamin (Wolf) are the two tribes where (according to Jewish tradition) the Jewish State of Israel is build on.
The ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel are: Asher, Dan, Gad, Issachar, Joseph [2 tribes: Ephraim and Manasseh], Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, Zebulun. Those tribes 'disappeared' (are called 'The Lost Tribes).
Judah is a lion's whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him?" (Genesis 49:9 )
The tribe of Judah is assigned to the Zodiac sign of LEO. The lion is perceived as the kingly beast of the planet. Leo represents triumph, power, courage and leadership. Benjamin, 'ravening as a wolf, devouring his prey by morning, dividing the spoil at night' (Gen.49:27), is ARIES.
Aries is the sign that is most apt to be a “lone wolf,” to be anti-social and to be personally radical, due to their tendency to isolation. They don’t like working for others and need to be their own boss if at all possible.
The year 2018, which marked the 51st year of Israel's illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, will be recorded by both historians and observers as an annus horribilis.
As much grief was inflicted on the Palestinian people in this year as in any of those marked by the merciless cruelty of any number of cynically named Israeli military operations, including Operation Protective Edge, which resulted in the deaths of 2,200 Palestinians in 2014, and Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,300 Palestinians in 2008/09.
While the misery imparted on the more than six million Palestinians in Israel and the occupied and besieged territories in 2018 was enthusiastically meted out by the state of Israel, like it has seemingly enjoyed doing so every year since 1967, these new levels of despair for the Palestinian people were realized largely because of the egregious policies of the current US administration.
In May, US President Trump sanctified Israeli criminality by relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and in doing so recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which is an objective violation of international law.
In August, things would become even more dire for the day-to-day existence of Gaza's two million inhabitants, when Trump announced his intention to cut all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), with the goal of eliminating the refugee status of millions of Palestinians, a cynical move that cruelly punishes 1.4 million Palestinian refugees who are dependent on UNRWA humanitarian aid.
While the relocation of the US embassy, Israel's violence in Gaza, and Trump's cut to humanitarian assistance programmes have received their fair share of global media attention, Israel's effort to formally annex the West Bank in defiance of international law, and with the blessing of the current US administration, has received little to none.
A newly released report published by the anti-settlement group Peace Now shows how there's been a spike in building and planning new Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank during the past 12 months, and once again the Palestinians can rightfully blame Trump for their further misery here.
The report compiled by Peace Now shows that while there was a fall in settlement construction in the first year of Trump's presidency, 2017, as a result of former US President Obama's effort to curtail Israeli settlement expansion throughout his term, there was a 20 percent increase in 2018.
In fact, there were 3,154 settlement construction tenders issued by the Israeli government in 2017, a number that ballooned to 3,800 last year, representing the highest number ever recorded since Peace Now began compiling data in 2002. "The feeling of the Israeli government is everything is allowed, that the time to do things is now because the US administration is the most pro-settlement you can ever have," said Hagit Ofran of Peace Now in an interview with the Associated Press.
"Without any official declarations, the Israeli government is preventing the viability and contiguity of a future Palestinian state, while treating lands in Area C as its own..."
While annexation of the West Bank has been a public goal of the current Israeli government, with Netanyahu appointees openly declaring the Palestinian territory a central component of "Greater Israel", what we are witnessing today is the formality and realization of the Zionist dream, all of which is taking place with the blessing of a country that long declared itself an "honest broker" in the quest for peace: the United States of America.
The some 12 million Palestinians in the world, the majority of them made refugees by the Israelis, lack a nation-state.
A good half of them, in addition to having no Palestinian state, do not even have citizenship in a host state. That is, the 5 million Palestinians under Israeli hegemony in the West Bank and Gaza are not citizens, and are completely stateless, as are Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and some European countries...
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon told me that they are essentially in prison, unable to leave Lebanon, unable to return home to Palestine, unable to own property or get most kinds of work. The Palestine Authority created by the Oslo peace process in the 1990s has been gutted, and has no real control of the land, water, or territory of Palestine.
It is more like the police forces in the Bantustans set up by white South Africans to avoid having to continue to recognize the citizenship of black South Africans.
I argue that it is because Palestinians are stateless that they can continually be screwed over by the Israelis, who are slowly but surely stealing their land and water and planting colonies in their cities such as Hebron, in preparation for eventually expelling them to Jordan and making many of them refugees all over again... The stateless have no standing in international institutions and fall through the cracks of international law.
Israelis understand this, since the Fascists took citizenship away from European Jews...
All this is why it is a great good thing that the Palestinians are applying to be a full member of the United Nations, having submitted the paperwork Tuesday night. The only thing that might at least slow the politicide of the hard right government of Israel against the Palestinians is for the latter to gain recognition as a state and have access to international tribunals that would inevitably halt Israeli colonization of Palestinian land.
The Palestinians know that the US will block them, but they feel that they will gain some sympathy around the world for having made the attempt. (They could well get a majority on the UNSC, which would be a moral victory).
Some countries are thinking seriously about upgrading their Palestinian diplomatic missions to full embassies, which would be a way of recognizing a Palestinian state.
That the Palestinian leadership is going ahead with the application, moreover, shows the depths of their despair over any peace process and the profundity of their disappointment in the Trump administration and the government of Binyamin Netanyahu.
UNITED NATIONS - Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told the United Nations on Tuesday that Israel was hindering development in the Middle East with the occupation of Palestinian territories and again called for an independent state of Palestine.
Abbas spoke at a ceremony marking the handover of the chair of the Group of 77 and China from Egypt to the observer-state of Palestine, raising the Palestinians' profile by leading the biggest UN bloc of developing countries.
"Israel's continued colonization and occupation of the state of Palestine undermines our development and capacity for cooperation, coordination and obstructs the cohesive future development of all peoples of the region," Abbas told the gathering... The General Assembly last year adopted a resolution granting the observer-state of Palestine additional rights to act as chair of the G77, a bloc of 134 countries at the United Nations. The United States voted against that measure, arguing that the Palestinians should not be allowed to take the chair of the G77 because it is not a full member-state.
The Palestinians have non-member observer state status at the United Nations, which grants them certain privileges such as joining international treaties, but they do not have voting rights at the General Assembly.
The right-wing illiberal Polish government has appeased the Trump administration by agreeing to host a "ministerial" anti-Iran summit as part of the administration's on-going confrontational strategy against Iran.
This decision will likely draw Poland closer to US while simultaneously increase the existing policy gap between Poland and the European Union, which has questioned the authoritarian tendency of the Polish government headed by President Andrzej Duda...
Previously, Duda had claimed to be wearing the hat of "mediator" between Washington and Europe, which is wary of Trump's anti-EU stance, and now he has fully dispensed with that pretension by fully joining the US camp in an important foreign policy matter affecting Europe's security and sovereignty. .. Washington's intention of this conference is, of course, to reverse its diplomatic isolation in the international community as a result of its rogue behavior in unilaterally scuttling an international nuclear agreement, hoping to demonstrate the popularity of its anti-Iran approach and, simultaneously, apply added pressure on the EU to give up its independent course of action on Iran.
With Britain consumed by the Brexit drama, Germany experiencing a leadership transition, and Macron's France grappling with domestic unrest, the stage is set for a new US diplomatic offensive that seeks to reassert American hegemony over Europe...
Thus, the Trump administration through this conference is escalating the tension with Iran to a higher gear, by seeking to 'globalize' its anti-Iran crusade and to create an international united front against the "Iran threat" that would, in turn, facilitate the parallel effort at the regional level in Persian Gulf and the Middle East.
Connecting the dots between the regional and the global, the Trump administration, which has failed to gain any traction for its Iran policy at the United Nations, is now essentially bypassing the UN and hoping to create a new "coalition of the willing" against Iran, reminiscent of the Iraq invasion of 2003.
The Polish President's chief aide, Krzysztof Szczerski, declared on Monday that the Middle East ministerial conference, to be co-organised by Poland and the U.S., in Warsaw, "is not directed against anyone, and is aimed at a creative search for paths leading to peace."
The U.S. Department of State and the Polish Foreign Ministry announced on Friday that Warsaw will host a ministerial-level conference on the Middle East problem, on February 13-14. The meeting is expected to focus chiefly on Iran.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the charge d'affaires of the Polish Embassy in Teheran, on Sunday, to protest against the conference. The Polish charge d'affaires, Wojciech Unolt, was told that the Polish government's decision to host the conference is considered as "an act of hostility towards Iran."
"This is a conference, which is designed to seek paths leading to peace. Poland is the place, where it will be held, because it is a neutral country, in regard to conflicts in which Middle Eastern countries are involved," Krzysztof Szczerski said.
Everyone, who is expecting explanations, will be given the same answer from Poland. "(They) will be told that Poland will co-host the conference as an advocate of peace, cooperation and a search for a way out of many conflicts affecting the Middle East."
“Poland is not a party to any dispute. We are a neutral country, which enjoys prestige and trust and that is why this conference is taking place in Warsaw” he concluded. (PAP)
Vice President Mike Pence has updated and expanded the “Axis of Evil.” The moniker for America’s biggest adversaries is now the “Wolf Pack of Rogue States.”
“Beyond our global competitors, the United States faces a wolf pack of rogue states,” Pence told U.S. ambassadors gathered in Washington on Wednesday for an annual conference. “No shared ideology or objective unites our competitors and adversaries except this one: They seek to overturn the international order that the United States has upheld for more that half a century.”
The Wolf Pack as defined by Pence includes Iran and North Korea -- two nations that were included in President George W. Bush’s Axis of Evil, which he announced during his State of the Union address in 2002. A third nation at the time was Iraq, now an ally of the U.S. (but also of Iran).
Pence’s updated list also includes three Western Hemisphere countries: Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, a country increasingly under U.S. scrutiny as President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition-dominated National Assembly head toward a conflict over who should be the country’s legitimate ruler.
Months ago, National Security Adviser John Bolton, a Cold Warrior to the core, termed Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua a “troika of tyranny” and also a “triangle of terror,” denouncing the terrible triumvirate as “the impetus of enormous regional instability, and the genesis of a sordid cradle of Communism in the Western Hemisphere.” Now, Vice President Mike Pence has offered another alternative, confirming the general thrust of the Trump Doctrine but expanding the enemies list to include some classic Bush-era favorites. “Beyond our global competitors, the United States faces a wolf pack of rogue states,” Pence said... At The American Conservative, writer Daniel Larison described the Pence-ism as “another stupid hawkish phrase” untethered from the reality of foreign policy. “The one thing that the five states Pence lists really do have in common is that they are all much weaker states that pose little or no threat to the United States,” Larison wrote. “Their ability to ‘overturn the international order’ is practically nil..."
(Vanity Fair Info)
Iranian firms should have a key role in rebuilding Iraq after the fight against ISIS, Tehran's top diplomat said in a rare meeting with Iraqi paramilitary units.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke in Iraq's holy city of Karbala on Wednesday to commanders of the Hashed Al Shaabi, which is dominated by Iran-backed Shiite groups opposed by Washington.
"The world has realised the truth – that the US wasn't the one who defeated Daesh (ISIS). You were, and that's why they exerted pressure on you and on us," he told gathered commanders in Farsi. After ISIS overran nearly a third of Iraq in 2014, the Hashed's auxiliary units partnered with Iraqi forces for three years to fight the group.
Many Hashed factions receive military and political support from Iran. Some commanders have been blacklisted by the US, which also reimposed tough sanctions on Iran last year after pulling out of an international deal on Tehran's nuclear programme.
Now, as Iraq looks to rebuild, Mr Zarif said Iranian firms should be favoured because of his country's support and the complex logistics of partnering with Western companies.
"If a European or American company comes to Iraq to do rebuilding activities, the costs of protecting their workers and staff in Iraq exceeds its contract for reconstruction," he told commanders. But an Iranian company could help rebuild at "low cost" and without security concerns, after having "stood alongside the Hashed".
ISIS and the battle to defeat it ravaged swathes of Iraq and shattered its economy. Last year, Baghdad said its 10-year reconstruction plan will cost an estimated $88.2 billion.... Iran is the second-largest source of imported goods in Iraq. Besides canned food and cars, Baghdad also buys 1,300 megawatts of electricity and 28 million cubic metres of natural gas daily from Iran to feed power plants.
As tensions between the US and Iran escalate, Iraq has played a careful balancing act to maintain ties to both.
Palestinian officials and analysts say that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent a variety of messages during his address at the American University in Cairo as part of his Middle East tour last week.
Most notably, there was a reshuffling of issues for the US in the Middle East and the propagating of the Iranian threat as a top priority in the region at the expense of the Palestinian cause, a ploy to minimise the importance of the issue and indirectly support the US’s traditional ally Israel.
Sweilam: "...the focus on secondary issues at the expense of the main one, means that the larger strategy is falling apart..."
Saddam Hussein remains popular among many Palestinians. He was a longtime supporter of the Palestinians, and gave millions of dollars to the families of suicide bombers during the Intifada that began in 2000. (YNet News 2017)
Mustafa Al-Barghouti, secretary-general of the National Palestinian Initiative, said that Pompeo’s address was “insolent and ignorant of history” and that it contradicted the speech given by former US president Barack Obama in Cairo nine years ago. “This is important, because it shows that US policy has lost control and is now taking orders from the Zionist lobby,” he said.
He said that the positions declared by Pompeo, especially his stance on the Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians, were peppered with falsehoods and ignorance. They demonstrated the inability of the incumbent US administration to handle the current situation in the Middle East, he said.
Al-Barghouti said that Washington’s focus on the Iranian issue aimed to fracture the region, divide the Arab world, and decimate the Middle East in order to allow Israel to circumvent the boycott it is facing. The aim was to allow the normalisation of relations with Israel under the pretext of confronting the same enemy, Iran. “This, of course, is contrary to reality, reason, and the interests of the Arab people, and it should not be allowed to happen,” Al-Barghouti said.
Palestinian political analyst Abdel-Majid Sweilam said that the intentional disregard of the Palestinian cause by the US revealed a crisis in Washington and a hostility to the Palestinian people. It was also proof that the Palestinian cause was foundational, he said, because the focus on secondary issues at the expense of the main one meant that the larger strategy was falling apart. Nabil Shaath, Palestinian presidential adviser on foreign affairs and international relations, said the “deal of the century” has nothing to say to the Palestinian people, since the US is only interested in dominating the region and confronting Iran. Aaron David Miller, a former US mediator to the Middle East, said that Pompeo’s indifference to the Palestinians implied an unofficial disregard for “the Palestinian-Israeli explosion” and demonstrated Washington’s impotence in impacting events. “Instead of discussing the Palestinian cause, Pompeo’s visit focused on Iran and an agreement that Tehran is a destabilising force,” he said.
Arutz Sheva spoke with Emmanuel Council head Eliyahu Gafni and Council Director Yehuda Hendler about the Emmanuel Regional Council in Samaria's renewed building momentum.
Gafni presents a series of projects and goals for the next years of site development: "We're now breaking out, we're in the race," he says.
Council Director Yehuda Hendler notes recent Yesha Council data indicating the Emmanuel Council is the second largest in Judea and Samaria. In 2018 there was an increase of 6.5 percent, "second only to Efrat," Handler says.
Gafni relates that since entering office, 52 houses have been occupied, and now the Council is bidding for 50 additional villas, and "there are 116 more planned units in the background. There's great demand for it."
"Over the past few years, we've seen a revolution in demand and in the interest that Emmanuel is arousing in the haredi community," says Hendler, who says that these things are felt in terms of demographic growth and growing demand for housing in the city.
Hendler notes that contrary to the image of the settler in the eyes of the Israeli public, one-third of the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria is haredi, and this sector is a very important element in settlement and holding the Land of Israel. "That's how we connect more and more populations."
"We're telling the haredi public, you can find your place in Emmanuel; there's a rich and varied community here with all the educational institutions that you need, with a haredi character, a place that feels like home, family, and adherence to haredi principles that are important to the haredi public..."
Four issues have dominated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the most difficult to solve and the most complex to handle: the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees (and their right of return), borders, and settlements.
Recent announcements by the Israeli government of the expansion of West Bank settlements, made in the period since Donald Trump became US President, have put settlements back in the spotlight.
Settlements are Israeli cities, towns and villages in the West Bank and the Golan Heights. They tend to be gated communities with armed guards at the entrances.
Why are they settlements and not simply Israeli residential areas?
Because Israel is widely considered to be an occupying force in the territories. It is land that Palestinians, along with the international community, view as territory for a future Palestinian state. Israel began its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967 during the Six-Day War.
Israel launched a strike against Egypt, after which Jordan, in turn, attacked Israel. Israel annexed East Jerusalem shortly thereafter, unifying the city under Israel's authority. But Israel has never annexed the West Bank, part of which remains under military law. Decisions in the West Bank are carried out by the Israeli military, not the civilian government.
The Israeli military makes decisions on land use, freedom of movement of Palestinians, home demolitions, and many other areas. Israelis who support the settlement movement dispute that the West Bank is occupied territory. They refer to the West Bank as Judea and Samaria, which is its biblical name. There are others who support this belief, including evangelical Christians.
This opinion opposes the international consensus that the West Bank is occupied territory.
There are 126 Israeli settlements in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), according to the September 2016 report from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. Geographically, these settlements are all across the West Bank.
The West Bank is broken down into Areas A, B, and C, according to the Oslo Accords, a series of peace agreements made in the 1990s.
Area C makes up approximately 60% of the West Bank. This area is entirely under Israeli control. Most of the settlements are in Area C.
Area B is under joint control between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and comprises approximately 20% of the West Bank. Area A is under full control of the Palestinian Authority. This area makes up the final 20%.
Who are the settlers?
According to the YESHA Council, which is the organization that represents West Bank settlements, there are approximately 420,000 settlers in the West Bank. Each of these people has their own reasons for choosing to live in the West Bank, but we can break them down into four broad categories:
- 1. Religious-National Settlers: The religious-national settlers tend to live in the West Bank for ideological reasons. The West Bank has thousands of years of Jewish history and many Jewish holy sites, and religious-national settlers believe these have always been the Land of Israel, as promised to the Jewish people in the Old Testament.
- 2. Ultra-Orthodox Settlers: The Ultra-Orthodox tend to live in their own settlements. Modi'in Illit in the northern West Bank and Beitar Illiat in the southern West Bank are examples of Ultra-Orthodox settlements, also known as Haredi settlements. (30% of the settlers belong to the Haredi-community)
- 3. Economic Settlers: Some secular settlers, among others, live in settlements near the Green Line and in the blocs because of more affordable housing or quality of life considerations.
- 4. Jordan Valley Settlers: In the decade after the 1967 Six-Day War, a group of settlements were established along the Jordan River; people who settled there saw themselves as a first line of defense. These settlements run north-south along the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.
Why are the settlements controversial?
The settlements are built on land the Palestinians and the international community, along with some in the Israeli community, see as a future Palestinian state. Palestinians have long claimed that the expansion of settlements is a way for Israel to de facto seize the land, and that Israel is creating "facts on the ground" that will be very difficult to undo. The settlements are illegal under international law.
The Fourth Geneva Convention, which concerns civilian populations during a time of war, states in Article 49 that, "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."
United Nations Security Council resolution 2334, which the United States did not veto, and was passed in December 2016, angering Israel, reaffirms this position. It states that settlements have "no legal validity" and constitute "a flagrant violation under international law." The resolution references previous Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 446, 452, 465, 476, 478, 1397, 1515, and 1850. Of these, 465, 476, and 478 established that settlements have "no legal validity" in 1980.
Israel, along with a few legal analysts, disputes that settlements are illegal.
There are three primary reasons they use. Some cite religious reasons, claiming religious scripture gives Jews a right to build anywhere in Israel and the West Bank. Others use historical reasons, saying Jews have lived in the region for thousands of years, and it remains their land.
Some others use 'legal' reasons. In 2012, the Israeli government, under the direction of Prime Minister Netanyahu, published the Levy Commission Report, which summarized this legal position.
The report rejected the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the West Bank, arguing that the West Bank was never a legitimate part of any Arab state.
"Consequently, those conventions dealing with the administration of occupied territory and an occupied populations [sic] are not applicable to Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria," the report read. This is not a position that any country or international forum has accepted.
Iran has hosted an international conference on the anti-Israeli resistance of the Palestinian people in the besieged Gaza Strip.
The international event dubbed “Gaza the Symbol of Resistance,” was held in Tehran on Sunday, sponsored by the Iranian Society for the Defense of the Palestinian Nation in cooperation with Quds News Agency and the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization.
Addressing the conference, Iran's Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi said the Israeli regime only follows aggressive and cruel policies and has no fate but to collapse. "We have no doubt that the resistance [front] will achieve victory (in the face of the Israeli regime)," he added.
He pointed to efforts made by Arab countries, particularly Egypt, to liberate Palestine and said, "These countries tried to advance negotiations and the fight for Palestine's liberation on the basis of the Arab nationalism, but they failed."
However, resistance movements, which have been founded in recent decades, have managed to form the Palestinian resistance based on the Islamic values, the Iranian official emphasized.
For her part, Secretary General of the Iranian Society for the Defense of the Palestinian Nation Zahra Mostafavi said the conference is underway in Iran at a time that countries in the Middle East, particularly Palestine, are experiencing new developments.
"Regional equations have completely changed and the resistance front has succeeded in creating a new balance with the Zionist enemy," Mostafavi said. She added that the US government, as the main and most important supporter of the Israeli regime, has suffered defeat in regional countries such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, adding that the US-proposed "deal of the century" for Palestine was nothing but a plot, which has been made ineffective even before its implementation.
For two days in a row, Israel Defence Forces have been carrying out strikes on what the IDF claims are Iranian targets in Syria.
The Russian military has announced that Syrian air defences had destroyed over 30 cruise missiles and guided bombs, when repelling an Israeli strike.
"On 21 January 2019 from 2:11 until 2:59 Israel Defence Forces carried out three airstrikes on Syrian territory from the west, south-west and south", Russia’s defence control centre reported on Monday.
According to the Russian Defence Ministry, the Israeli strike killed four Syrian servicement and injured 6 others. In addition to this, the air raid has "partially damaged the infrastructure of the Damascus international airport", the statement says. This is the second consecutive Israeli air raid against Syria, with the IDF launching a strike in the south of Syria from the Mediterranean Sea after a rocket had fired at the northern Golan Heights that was intercepted by the Iron Dome Aerial Defence System....
When commenting on the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that a series of airstrikes on a Damascus airport on Sunday was in line with Israel’s policy to "oppose Iran’s attempts to gain a foothold in Syria and to hurt those who is trying to hurt us".
Israel has repeatedly accused Iran of having a military presence in Syria, as well as suspected attempts to build a base there.
Former Israeli Defense Forces chief Benny Gantz is touting the body count he racked up leading 'Operation Protective Edge' with a campaign that boasts about bombing parts of Gaza “back to the Stone Age.”
Gantz has released a series of campaign ads for his “Hosen Le Yisrael” (Israel Resilience) party, glorifying the operation he oversaw as IDF commander as he attempts to replace Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister in April’s election.
“Parts of Gaza were returned to the stone ages,” one clip boasts over footage of the bombed-out shells of Palestinian buildings.
As chief of general staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, Gantz led the offensive that bombarded Gaza for 51 days, killing – as the ad boasts – “1,364 terrorists” and bringing “3.5 years of quiet.”
The second ad in the series shows a running tally of deaths over scenes of Palestinian funerals, and a third shows the targeted assassination of a Hamas leader whose car explodes in a ball of flame.
Gantz, whose campaign slogan translates to “Israel Before Everything,” seems convinced that Israeli voters pick their leaders by evaluating their death-dealing prowess..
“Only the strong win,” the videos proclaim, echoing Netanyahu’s militaristic rhetoric – though a fourth campaign spot features shots of Gantz looking thoughtful, with platitudes about “striving and working toward” peace...
According to opinion polls, Gantz’s brand new Hosen Le Yisrael (Israel Resilience) party stands to win about 13 of the 120 seats in Israel’s parliament. Polling also shows that 31 percent of Israelis favor Gantz as prime minister compared with 42 percent who view Netanyahu as more suitable.
Gantz’s campaign slogan “Only the strong win” is a variation on an infamous tweet from his main rival Netanyahu, who last summer declared that “The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive.”
TEHRAN – Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Maciej Lang visited Tehran on Monday for talks with his Iranian counterpart Abbas Araqchi as Iran has strongly protested Poland for agreeing to host a U.S.-proposed conference on the Middle East with a focus on Iran. The conference is set to be held on Feb. 13-14.
During the Monday talks in Tehran, Araqchi told Lang and his accompanying team that the crisis in the Middle East lies in the occupation of lands by Israel.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has always sought establsihemtn of pace and security in the region and has proven this in campaing against terrorist groups such as Daesh (ISIS)...”
“The most important problem of the region is the Zionist regime of Israel and its occupation and suppressive policies, and as long as the people of Palestine cannot gain their legitimate rights the region will not see peace.” Araqchi said Israel, as the root cause of the problems, not being on the agenda in the conference shows that the conference is “one-sided”. It is clear that the U.S. seeking other goals, he added.
“Another problem in the region is America’s adventurous policies. While America is after a complete demolition of the JCPOA, the sole fruit of diplomacy and dialogue in this region, how could it claim to be trying to solve the region’s problems?” Araqchi further noted.
He rejected the Polish government’s justification for playing along with the U.S. in holding the conference, saying, “The Polish government should realize the true intentions of the American government by this conference and be careful about its consequences.”
The Polish deputy foreign minister said that his country backs the JCPOA and claimed that the Warsaw conference “is not against any country including the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Lang added that Poland considers Iran as an important player in the Middle East and that the aim of the conference is to help resolve problems in the region and “Poland as the friend of Iran will not allow any move against Iran.”
BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:30 P.M.) – The Syrian military will begin using the Russian-made S-300 air defense system in March, the Russia-based Kommersant publication reported on Monday. According to Kommersant, the Syrian military is completing their training exercises with the S-300 and are not ready to use them in combat.
A member of the Russian Federation Council’s defence and security committee, Franz Klintsevich, said the Syrian crews are currently undergoing training, adding that “the Israeli warplanes are now striking Syria because they are still outside the Syrian air defense range, but after the deployment of the S-300, no one will be able to escape them”.
Kommersant said that it would be possible for one air defense battalion in Damascus to use the S-300, which is important for the Syrian military because the Israeli Air Force often targets the capital and its surroundings.
In October 2017, the first S-300 system was delivered to Syria as part of an agreement with the Russian Federation.
The Russian military delivered the S-300 system in response to the downing of their IL-20 reconnaissance aircraft that was flying along the Syrian coast. The Russian Ministry of Defense accused Israel of using the IL-20 for cover during their attack on the Latakia countryside in September.
Damascus has threatened to exercise its legitimate right for self-defense against Israeli aggression and target Tel Aviv airport in a mirror response, unless the Security Council puts an end to IDF intrusions into Syrian airspace.
Apparently fed up with years of Israeli impunity in the Syrian skies and regular strikes carried out in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport, Syria has threatened to retaliate in explicit terms. “Isn’t time now for the UN Security Council to stop the Israeli repeated aggressions on the Syrian Arab Republic territories?” Syria’s permanent representative to the UN, Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari wondered Tuesday.
Or is it required to draw the attention of the war-makers in this Council by exercising our legitimate right to defend ourself and respond to the Israeli aggression on Damascus International Civil Airport in the same way on Tel Aviv Airport?
Air strikes against alleged ‘Iranian targets’ in close proximity to Syria’s busiest airport have become a norm for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), whose former chief of staff openly confessed last month to running a large-scale bombing campaign in Syria for years.
Besides causing casualties and material damage by their “near-daily” strikes, Israeli combat missions into Syria have also repeatedly endangered flights operating over the conflict-torn country.
Urging the UN Security Council to adopt measures to stop such blatant violations of Syrian sovereignty by the Jewish state, Jaafari accused France, Britain and the US – all permanent members of the world body – of endorsing Israeli aggression in breach of their responsibility to “maintain international peace and security in accordance with international law.”
An international backlash has forced the Trump administration to back away from describing next month’s gathering in Warsaw as an anti-Iran conference. European objections have forced the United States to backtrack on plans to stage a two-day conference in Poland focused on building a global coalition against Iran.
The conference is now being described as a wider brainstorming session about the Middle East.
In announcing the summit earlier this month, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, had explicitly said the summit’s purpose was to focus on Iran’s influence and terrorism in the region.
The new description won’t fool anyone. The damage to the administration’s conference has already been done, and many other governments aren’t sending representatives or will probably send only low-ranking officials. Russia has already announced that their government is boycotting the event. The fact that Iran still isn’t invited to participate tells everyone that the gathering was intended to be an anti-Iranian one.
Changing how the conference is described won’t change the reality that U.S.-European relations are fraying over the nuclear deal, and it isn’t going to make other governments any more supportive of the administration’s bankrupt Iran policy.
"Brainstorming is thinking with other people, in imaginative ways, without being hampered by predetermined ends or authoritarian rule.
The storm within brainstorming is its unsettling novelty. In the very act of brainstorming we experience an open future, not yet filled with definition. Our settled ideas are called into question, without new ideas immediately taking their place. This is why criticism and debate is important in brainstorming. It helps destabilize habitual forms of thinking so that new forms can emerge..." Jay McDaniel
Presidential elections were held in Venezuela on 14 April 2013. Voters gave Nicolás Maduro a narrow victory over his opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski, the Governor of Miranda.
The National Electoral Council (CNE) confirmed Maduro's electoral victory. So, Maduro was sworn in as the new president on 19 April. The Supreme Court of Justice denied Capriles' appeal on 7 August 2013. (Wikipedia)
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan voiced solidarity with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro early Thursday after Washington recognized opposition-controlled National Assembly's President Juan Guaido as interim president. Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalın said on Twitter that Erdoğan called Maduro early Thursday to voice his support for the Venezuelan president
"'Brother Maduro, stand tall, we are with you,' Erdoğan told President Nicolas Maduro on the phone," Kalın said on Twitter. Kalın said Turkey stood against any sort of coup attemp and shared #WeAreMADURO hashtag in his tweet.
Juan Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled legislature, caused a sensation on Wednesday when he told a crowd of tens of thousands of opposition supporters that he was declaring himself "acting president." Trump was the first foreign leader to react and threw his backing behind Guaido, describing the National Assembly as "the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people."
Maduro announced shortly after that he was breaking off diplomatic ties with the U.S. after blaming Washington for orchestrating a coup d'etat and gave U.S. personnel 72 hours to leave the country.
"The extremist policy of Donald Trump's government against Venezuela is a very serious irresponsibility.." "It's a very serious folly," said Maduro. "Trying to impose a government by extra-constitutional means, we cannot accept that."
Merida, January 23, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – President Nicolas Maduro has ordered a complete review of US-Venezuela relations after US Vice President Mike Pence published a video urging Venezuelans to overthrow the government.
In his message, Pence formally backs Venezuela’s National Assembly President Juan Guaido, who is challenging the legitimacy of Maduro’s presidency. Guaido stated last week that he was “prepared to assume the interim presidency” should a transition government be formed. “The US supports the courageous decision of Juan Guaido…” Pence said.
The US Vice President went on to claim that “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power,” and that Maduro “has never won the presidency in a free and fair election.”
In accordance with Venezuela’s Constitution, Maduro was sworn in January 10 for his second six-year mandate after defeating three other candidates in the presidential elections of May 2018.
The elections, which were boycotted by some sectors of the opposition, were declared to be free, fair, and transparent by independent international electoral observers in the country at the time.
TEHRAN, Jan. 24 (MNA) – Iran has condemned the US unlawful intervention in Venezuela's internal affairs, voicing hope for a legal and peaceful settlement of the Latin country’s political disputes.
In a statement on Thursday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi reacted to the recent political developments in Venezuela and the US’ overt and unlawful interventions in the country’s domestic affairs, saying “the Islamic Republic of Iran supports the government and the nation of Venezuela in the face of any foreign intervention in the country’s internal affairs or any illegal or anti-popular actions, such as attempts to stage coups.”
“We hope that any political disagreements in Venezuela will be resolved as soon as possible by the people and government of the country through adoption of legal and peaceful solutions,” Ghasemi stressed.
"Ideologically-driven, aggressive, and foolish"
Daniel Larison, The American Conservative, 25-1-2019
The administration’s hard line on Venezuela is a good example of what happens when you put an uninformed, disengaged president together with fanatical hawks with their own agendas. Much as he has done with Iran policy, Trump has allowed others with extreme ideological views to decide on the content of administration policy and he just signs off on whatever they give him.
The same president who couldn’t care less about mass starvation in Yemen or extensive human rights abuses in Egypt is suddenly overcome with concern for the plight of Venezuela’s opposition and the demands of Iranian protesters.
Some of this is the usual selective outrage and hypocrisy that we expect from our government, and some of it is simply that Trump has hard-liners whispering in his ear about Venezuela and Iran all the time. Especially on Cuba and Venezuela issues, the Trump administration has governed as if Rubio won the election, and that means that U.S. policy toward those countries is sure to be ideologically-driven, aggressive, and foolish.
His approach to Venezuela has been one of the clearest signs that Trump is an enemy of foreign policy restraint. In the last two years, he has repeatedly mentioned the possibility of attacking the country, his officials have been in contact with would-be coup plotters, and he has made a point of denouncing the Venezuelan government in major speeches.
No one interested in foreign policy restraint agrees with any of this, and no restrainer sees Venezuela as a threat to the United States.
Taking sides in an internal political dispute in Venezuela has nothing to do with putting American interests first, and a president so easily persuaded to take such an aggressive line towards a weak neighboring state doesn’t have the first clue what U.S. interests in this hemisphere are.
sarkozy (2011) & macron (2019): "power to the street!"
Wednesday saw violent protests in Venezuela's capital Caracas against President Nicolas Maduro, who accused Washington of attempting to stage a coup in his country and moved to cut off diplomatic ties with the United States.
Venezuelan ambassador to Syria Jose Gregorio Biomorgi Muzzatiz has likened the current events in his country with the situation in Syria in 2011, referring to the "same scenario".
He noted that although the Venezuelan opposition uses such terms as democracy, it nevertheless does not recognise the legitimately elected president and has nominated an "unknown" candidate.
"Many [people] have died over the past eight years in Syria, where the amount of destruction is colossal and each and every family has lost at least one of its dear ones. They want to impose the same scenario on Venezuela..." Muzzatiz underscored.
He added that all state institutions in Venezuela are working in a routine mode and that the situation on the whole is "normal" and that the authorities have everything under under control.MBR>
Muzzatiz was echoed by Chargé d'Affaires of the Venezuelan embassy in Serbia Dia Nader de El-Andari, who argued that the current crisis in Venezuela has been endorsed by the United States, with the support of the European Union, in line with the model of Libya and Syria.
start of western backed 'arab' spring
"This is what happened in Libya and Syria, and this is what is happening in Venezuela. A sort of government is being created abroad, and the US and the EU are making other countries start recognising it […] Venezuela has a lot of wealth, and they are interested in natural resources," Nader de El-Andari said.
Elliott Abrams, a controversial neoconservative figure who was entangled in the Iran-Contra affair, has been named as a Trump administration special envoy overseeing policy toward Venezuela, which has been rocked by a leadership crisis.
Abrams’ appointment, announced Friday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is something of a surprise — President Donald Trump nixed his 2017 bid to be deputy secretary of State after learning that Abrams had criticized him.
Abrams will now be one of several special envoys Pompeo has brought on board to tackle thorny issues. He takes on his role at an unusually volatile time in U.S.-Venezuelan relations.
Earlier this week, Trump announced he no longer recognized the legitimacy of the Venezuelan presidency of Nicolás Maduro and said the U.S. now considers opposition leader Juan Guaidó to be the country’s “interim president.” But Maduro refuses to leave power and has declared that Venezuela will cut off diplomatic ties with the United States... Abrams was deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration and was instrumental in Middle East policy at the time, including supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Abrams is one of very few people who were critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign and yet have been allowed to join the Republican administration. Another, James Jeffrey, is a special envoy dealing with Syria policy.
One of the key champions of the
neoconservative line on foreign affairs
Elliott Abrams is widely regarded as being one of the key champions of the neoconservative line on foreign affairs, shunning negotiations in favor of confrontational, militaristic U.S. policies. One of his major targets has been Middle East policy, serving as a point person for policies related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and pushing a hardline stance on Iran, Syria, and Iraq.
And just as he did during the Contra wars, Abrams seemed to use his perch in the NSC to fight efforts by some administration officials and members of Congress aimed at pushing diplomatic approaches to Middle East issues.
Throughout the 1990s, Abrams remained an integral part of the tight-knit neoconservative foreign policy community in Washington that revolved around Richard Perle, one of his early mentors, and Kirkpatrick, of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
In the early 1990s, Abrams and several AEI associates formed the Committee on the U.S. Interests in the Middle East, which denounced land concessions as part of any deal with the Palestinians and opposed efforts to engage Israel in the Madrid peace conference (New Yorker, December 15, 2003). [...]
The Inter Press Service reported in early April 2007: "Just as [Abrams] worked with Reagan hardliners to undermine the Arias Plan [for Central America] 20 years ago, so he appears to be doing what he can to undermine recent efforts by Saudi King Abdullah to initiate an Arab-Israeli peace process...
When he was appointed to the NSC during President George W. Bush's first term, first as chief human rights officer and then as senior director of Near East and North African Affairs, the White House told the media that Abrams was unavailable for interviews. Yet his gusto for the post was clear: "Iran and Iraq were part of his portfolio—'I have two-thirds of the axis of evil!' he enthused to one well-wisher" (New Yorker, December 15, 2003).
Iran has long been a focus of Abram’s advocacy. A vocal opponent of the negotiations that led to the 2015 nuclear deal, he accused the Obama administration of being naïve in its efforts at rapprochement with Tehran, even after moderate President Hassan Rouhani was elected in 2013....
Abrams has on numerous occasions sought to lay the groundwork for direct U.S. confrontation with Iran. In August 2012, for instance, he argued in the Weekly Standard blog that Congress should vote on a joint resolution to give the president the authority to go to war with Iran.
In June 2015, Abrams argued in a piece for the National Journal that the “United States needs to recommit itself to the downfall of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.” He further posited: “ISIS in Iraq cannot be defeated so long as it has Syria as a sanctuary. This means more support for rebels in Syria than we are now giving.. (Right Web)
Throughout his career, Abrams has moved back and forth between government and a web of right-wing think tanks and policy institutes, holding positions as a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), advisory council member of the American Jewish Committee, and charter member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).
As a 'true believer' Elliott supported separatism. As he put it in his book Faith or Fear: How Jews Can Survive in a Christian America: "Outside the land of Israel, there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart—except in Israel—from the rest of the population" (Free Press, 1997).
Putting Abrams in charge of any aspect of U.S. foreign policy is a horrible mistake.
Putting someone with such a well-known, appalling record in charge of a regime change effort in Latin America confirms critics’ worst suspicions about this intervention in another country’s internal political dispute.
It is a measure of how completely hard-liners now dominate Trump administration foreign policy that a vocal Trump critic can be brought on to lead a high-profile foreign policy initiative. (American Conservative, 26-1-2019)
TUNIS - Syria's "natural place" is within the Arab League, Tunisia's foreign minister said Saturday, ahead of the organisation's annual summit in Tunis in March.
"Syria is an Arab state, and its natural place is within the Arab League," Khemaies Jhinaoui said during a news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who is on a tour of North African countries.
The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in November 2011.
"The question of Syria returning to the Arab League does not depend on Tunisia but on the Arab League," Jhinaoui said. "The foreign ministers (of member states) will decide on this subject," he added. "What interests us is Syria's stability and security."
The UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus in December, the same month as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir made the first visit of any Arab leader to the Syrian capital since the start of the war. But Qatar earlier this month rejected normalising ties with Assad.
Lavrov backed overtures to readmit Syria. Lavrov, who has also visited Morocco on his tour, said Tunisia and Russia agreed to ramp up "anti-terror cooperation".
AMMAN — Syrian People's Assembly Speaker Hammoudeh Sabbagh is likely to attend the Arab Inter-parliamentary Union's meeting upon an invitation from Jordan, a well-informed source said, as a Syrian delegation met with the Senate on Saturday: "I understood from the head of the visiting delegation of Syrian lawyers that Tarawneh's invitation will be accepted," the source said...
A delegation of Syrian lawyers, headed by Syria’s Bar Association chief Nizar Skeif, arrived in the Kingdom last Thursday for a three-day visit upon an invitation from the Jordan Bar Association (JBA).
Skeif is a member of the Syrian People’s Assembly, the Damascus delegation in the Astana talks and the committee tasked with drafting a new constitution for the country... The Syrian delegation met with Senate President Faisal Fayez on Saturday over bilateral relations and is expected to meet with Tarawneh today.
Fayez said during the meeting that restoring the ties between Jordan and Syria “is of both countries’ interest”, stressing that the Kingdom’s stance towards Syria and its support of reaching a political solution to the conflicts that ensures the unity of its people and territory, has never altered, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
“We seek to return ties with Syria to their former fraternal nature and melt the ice in bilateral relations on all levels,” the Senate president said.
He added that security coordination between the two countries was not halted throughout the conflict, and that neither country closed its embassy in the neighbouring country..
JBA President Mazen Irsheidat, who received the Syrian lawyers on Thursday, said that the visits of the Jordanian association and other civil society organisations to Syria came in implementation of King Abdullah’s directives...
“This was also urged by [Syrian] President Bashar Assad during a meeting in Damascus 10 days ago. There is certainly a strong will from the leaders of the two countries to strengthen Jordanian-Syrian relations,” Irsheidat added.
Tribalism and the rule of law
Jordan Times, Jan 26, 2019
Senate President Faisal Fayez has set a fine example for the supremacy of law and order in the country over tribal rights by not coming to the rescue of three young men, belonging to his tribe, who took the law into their hands earlier this month when they opened fire on the police on a main street in Amman. Fayez immediately denounced attempts to break the law by members of his own tribe and called for the application of the law on the three men.
To be sure, tribes are the backbone of the political structure in the country and have always constituted the main supporters of the Hashemite dynasty in the Kingdom. Yet, these fine and noble roles of tribes cannot, and must not, be exploited to violate the rule of law in the country or offer immunity to tribal members if they ever break the law of the land...
The fine example set by the Senate president must be respected and adhered to by all tribes. Otherwise, Jordan could become a lawless country or, worse still, a nation with double standards of justice.
No one in their right mind would want that to happen, not now or ever.
Syria said on Saturday it was ready to revive a landmark security deal with Turkey that normalized ties for two decades before the 2011 conflict...
In a foreign ministry statement, Syria said it was committed to the 1998 Adana accord, which forced Damascus to stop harbouring the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an armed insurgency against the Turkish state for decades.
"Syria remains committed to this accord and all the agreements relating to fighting terror in all its forms by the two countries," a foreign ministry statement said, according to Reuters.
Still, Damascus said reviving the Adana deal, which Russian President Vladimir Putin raised during his summit meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan last week, depended on Ankara ending its backing of rebels seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad and pulling its troops out of northwestern Syria.
By the terms of the agreement, Syria for the first time acknowledged that the PKK was a terrorist organization.
Further, Syria agreed to do the following: (1) expel PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan from Syria, where he had taken refuge since the early 1980s; (2) arrest PKK militants active in Syria and uproot the PKK camps there; (3) cease providing weapons and logistical it to use Syrian soil for commercial benefit or propaganda activities against Turkey; and finally, (4) extend cooperation with Turkey against the PKK well into the future. To this end Syria agreed, although with reservations, to establish "certain mechanisms" that would aid in implementing all these measures "in the most effective and transparent way." (www.mepc.org)
In a speech on Friday, Erdogan did not disavow the Adana agreement, saying it gave Turkey the right to enter Syrian territory when it faces threats, AFP said.
The Adana deal was signed in 1998 to end a crisis between the neighbours, sparked by the then presence in Syria of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and bases run by the group. Turkey argues the protocol provides Ankara with the legal grounds to intervene in Syria against the PKK and its affiliates, because of the Syrian government's failure to act against them.
anti-assad rebels 2012 (fsa, turkmen, al-qaeda)
Turkey has carved a sphere of influence in an opposition-held enclave in northwestern Syria around Idlib province with the help of rebels who it backs. Its troops monitor a buffer zone in the province under a deal with Russia and Iran.
Iran and Syria have inked long term deals on a wide range of issues. The agreements were signed in Damascus by Iran’s vice president and Syria’s prime minister. The Iranian arrived in the Syrian capital on Monday for a two-day visit, bringing with him 40 business leaders to expand ties between the two nations.
"Syria has entered a new phase and efforts should be made toward the country's reconstruction,” Iran’s First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said in a meeting with Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis, Press TV reported.
Their agreements include forging a direct link between their respective banking sectors, and Iranian investment in Syria’s reconstruction of public infrastructure, railways, oil and gas fields, as well as its agriculture and industrial sectors, according to Iranian media reports.
Jahangiri emphasized Iran’s ability to help Syria restore its electricity generation sector, noting that Iran has expertise in construction of power plants. Iran will help to construct a new power station in Latakia and repair power others across the country. Iran has backed Damascus during its eight years of conflict. Iranian-backed militias are on the ground in Syria and Tehran is part of the Syria peace process in the Astana talks with Russia and Turkey.
President Bashar al-Assad received on Tuesday Iran’s first vice president Eshaq Jahangiri and the accompanying delegation in the presence of Prime Minister and a number of ministers.
Talks dealt with the outcomes of the meetings of the Syrian-Iranian High Joint Committee which yielded the signature of 11 agreements, including the long-term strategic economic cooperation agreement. President al-Assad stressed that these agreements and projects of cooperation are of strategic dimension and constitute a solid economic basis that would contribute to enhancing the steadfastness of Syria and Iran in the face of the economic war waged on them by some Western countries.
President al-Assad affirmed the importance of intensifying joint efforts at this stage to thwart efforts of those countries that continuously work to weaken the two countries, control their independent decision and to break the will of their peoples after the failure of those countries to achieve that through backing terrorism...
Jahangiri, for his part, congratulated Syria, as leadership and people, for the victories achieved against terrorist organizations and foiling the big conspiracy in the region which was targeting the independent states.
Dr. Jahangiri said that his country is determined to stand by Syria in all domains, affirming the need for boosting cooperation in the economic domain and the continued coordination on all levels to face the Zionist and Imperialist threats.
More than eight out of ten Venezuelans oppose international intervention, both military and non-military, in their country, as well as the crippling sanctions imposed by the United States to force leftist President Nicolás Maduro out of power.
According to a study conducted in early January 2019 by the local polling firm Hinterlaces, 86 percent of Venezuelans would disagree with international military intervention. And 81 percent oppose the US sanctions that have gravely hurt the South American nation’s economy.
This poll was conducted before the Donald Trump administration launched a political coup in Venezuela on January 23, attempting to replace its government with a right-wing opposition that has made it clear that it seeks to impose neoliberal capitalist economic policies.
Hinterlaces is led by the independent pollster Oscar Schemel, who has experience studying numerous elections in Venezuela and has a pro-business perspective.
Most polling firms in the country, such as the competitor Datanálisis, tend to be pro-opposition. Hinterlaces is more neutral, and often leans toward the government, although Schemel has criticized some of Maduro’s economic policies.
English-language media outlets frequently ignore local polls done inside Venezuela, and if they do report on them, they tend to publish the results of polling firms run by pro-opposition figures.
The Grayzone has translated the findings of a Hinterlaces study conducted between January 7 and 20.
The following data is based on direct interviews with 1,580 Venezuelans from all across the country, and was reported on the program José Vicente HOY on January 27.
Do you agree or disagree with the US economic and financial sanctions that are currently applied against Venezuela to remove President Maduro from power? 81% disagree - 17% agree - 2% not sure
Would you agree or disagree if there were international intervention in Venezuela to remove President Maduro from power? 78% disagree - 20% agree - 2% not sure
In general do you agree or disagree with a dialogue being held between the national government and the opposition to resolve the current economic problems in the country? 84% agree - 15% disagree - 1% not sure
Turkey condemns the European Parliament's decision to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said, warning that such foreign interventions could even spark a civil war in the South American country.
"We have been saying since the beginning. Such foreign interventions are not healthy and not right. They will not offer a solution. They will only deepen the problem. God forbid, the country [Venezuela] even can be dragged into a civil war," Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Romania.
The minister said other countries should engage in dialogue instead of taking sides.
His remarks came a day after the European Parliament recognized Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate interim president.
Following the U.S.-led campaign against Venezuela's democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro, the European Parliament Thursday called on the EU member states to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president. EU lawmakers voted 429 in favor to 104 against, with 88 abstaining, at a special session in Brussels to recognize Venezuelan congress head Guaido, who illegally declared himself interim president last week. The European Union was nervous at the precedent of a self-declaration and has been reluctant to follow the United States and most Latin American nations with immediate recognition of Guaido. President Tayyip Erdoğan has stood by his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro, calling him last week to express support.
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