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Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

There is a historic change taking place in the Middle East, by Patrick Cockburn – The Unz Review

Posted by M. C. on August 18, 2020

It is this historic period that is now terminating and the change is likely to be permanent. Saudi Arabia and UAE still have big financial reserves, though these are not inexhaustible. Elsewhere the money is running out.

The rulers of oil states tend to be in a state of denial about the lack of alternatives to oil. Soon after taking over as de facto ruler in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promoted “Vision 2030” that was supposedly intended to wean Saudi Arabia off oil. Nobody with any experience of the country took this seriously, though western consultants were happy to fan such fantasies so profitable to themselves.

https://www.unz.com/pcockburn/there-is-a-historic-change-taking-place-in-the-middle-east/

President Donald Trump is cock-a-hoop over the United Arab Emirates becoming the first Arab Gulf state to normalise its relations with Israel. He needs all the good news he can get in the months before the US presidential election.

“HUGE breakthrough today! Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates!” Trump tweeted. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed a triumph in establishing full diplomatic relations with an Arab state that had once been a vocal supporter of the Palestinians. The UAE, for its part, said it had averted Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, while the Palestinians denounced yet one more betrayal by their fellow Arabs.

Much of this is overblown. Trump and Netanyahu will exaggerate their achievement to strengthen their domestic political status. The UAE had long ago established security and commercial links with Israel and Netanyahu’s annexation of the West Bank had been postponed previously. Pious talk by the US and its western allies in pre-Trump days about fostering a non-existent peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, at the heart of which was an imaginary “two-state solution,” was always a device for ignoring the Palestinians while pretending that something was going on.

Yet there is a real historic change going on in the Middle East and north Africa, though it has nothing to do with the relationship between Israel and the Arabs. It is a transformation that has been speeded up by the coronavirus cataclysm and will radically change the politics of the Middle East.

The era characterised by the power of the oil states is ending. When the price of oil soared in the aftermath of the 1973 war, countries from Iran to Algeria, mostly though not exclusively Arab, enjoyed an extraordinary accretion of wealth. Their elites could buy everything from Leonardo da Vinci paintings to Park Lane hotels. Their rulers had the money to keep less well-funded governments in power or to put them out of business by funding their opponent.

It is this historic period that is now terminating and the change is likely to be permanent. Saudi Arabia and UAE still have big financial reserves, though these are not inexhaustible. Elsewhere the money is running out. The determining factor is that between 2012 and 2020 the oil revenues of the Arab producers fell from $1 trillion to $300bn, down by over two-thirds. Too much oil was being produced and too little was consumed pre-coronavirus and, on top of this, there is a shift away from fossil fuels. Cuts in output by Opec might go some way to raising the oil price, but it will not be enough to preserve a crumbling status quo.

Ironically, a petrostate like the UAE just is flexing its political muscles by normalising relations with Israel just as the economic world of which it was part is breaking up. Nor is the UAE alone: the oil states have always had a problem turning money into political power. Saudi Arabia, UAE and their arch rival Qatar took a more aggressive role during the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain in 2011. Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto rulers of Saudi Arabia and UAE, became even more interventionist in 2015 and were overjoyed the following year when Trump, over-impressed by their riches and apparent influence, entered the White House.

The successes of the alliance of Trump and the Gulf monarchies have been skimpy. Their prime target Iran is battered but surviving. Saudi Arabia and UAE began a quick war in Yemen five years ago which is still going on. Bashar al-Assad remains in power in Damascus and Libya is engulfed in an endless civil war of extreme ferocity.

The super-rich oil producers are feeling the draft, but states like Iraq are close to capsizing because they can no longer pay the bills. Last October, hundreds of thousands of young Iraqis took to the streets to protest against lack of jobs, corruption and the failure of the government to provide water and electricity. Ferocious repression killed at least 600 protesters and injured 20,000, but they kept coming back to the streets.

Similar protest swept through Lebanon as its economy imploded. It is not only oil producers that are suffering, but countries like Lebanon and Egypt which looked to the petrostates for business and jobs. Lebanon used to be kept going by remittances. More than 2.5 million Egyptians work in the oil states. If there are not enough Egyptian doctors to treat Covid-19 patients at home, it is because they are earning better money in the oil states.

Strains were already showing before the pandemic. The whole system looked increasingly rickety. Oil states at the height of their prosperity had operated similarly, regardless of whether they were monarchies or republics. The ruling elite, be it Saudi, Iraqi, Libyan or Algerian, exploited governments that were what one expert described as “looting machines”, whereby those with political power turned this into easy money.

They were not alone. They could cream off great fortunes without provoking a revolt by the rest of society because they ran vast patronage machines. Ordinary Saudis, Libyans, Emiratis, Kuwaitis, Iraqis were guaranteed jobs as their small cut of the oil revenue cake.

It is this fifty-year-old system that is now faltering. As populations rise and young people flood into the labour market, more and more money is required to keep society running as before, but such resources are no longer there. This change has revolutionary implications as the unspoken social contract between rulers and ruled breaks down. Nothing much can be done to preserve it because the oil industry blights all other forms of economic activity. Little is produced locally and then only with massive state subsidies.

The rulers of oil states tend to be in a state of denial about the lack of alternatives to oil. Soon after taking over as de facto ruler in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promoted “Vision 2030” that was supposedly intended to wean Saudi Arabia off oil. Nobody with any experience of the country took this seriously, though western consultants were happy to fan such fantasies so profitable to themselves.

The world understands all too well the impact of the pandemic on health. It is beginning to foresee the economic devastation that follows. But it has yet to take on board the political turmoil inevitably caused by pandemic-hit economies, though Lebanon has given a foretaste of this. Beset by wars and dysfunctional social and economic systems, the Middle East is too fragile to cope with the coming earthquake.

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The UK Is Greenlighting Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Again. That’s a Travesty. – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on July 18, 2020

By propagating the fiction that years of repeated Saudi violations of the laws
of war are “isolated” incidents, the UK is either denying the facts on the ground
or undermining mainstream understanding of the laws governing war. Most likely,
it’s doing both.

Neither the law nor the facts support a conclusion that Saudi war crimes in Yemen are “isolated.”

A jobs program for the connected contributors.

https://original.antiwar.com/Akshaya_Kumar/2020/07/17/the-uk-is-greenlighting-arms-sales-to-saudi-arabia-again-thats-a-travesty/

On July 7, the United Kingdom announced that it intends to resume approving weapons sales by British companies to Saudi Arabia. Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is choosing to move forward with these sales despite reams of evidence that once weapons are in the Saudi arsenal, there’s no way to be sure they won’t be used to commit war crimes in Yemen.

The government is moving forward despite eloquent pleas from Yemenis who say that continued sales greenlight continued abuses by the Saudi led coalition. It’s moving forward despite the UK’s own foreign secretary’s recent appeal on behalf of the people of Yemen for “international help to escape tragedy,” recognizing they are living through the world’s worst humanitarian crisis while trying to battle a global pandemic.

Moving forward at this moment ignores the realities on the ground in Yemen and also evidences a willingness to twist the facts and the law. In doing so, the UK is undermining the rules that govern the international order at a time when multilateralism is more important than ever.

After a landmark court ruling, the UK government was forced to pause sales until it could show that it had properly evaluated the risk that weapons sold to Saudi Arabia could be used in laws of war violations. Although UK suppliers have continued to fulfill existing contracts and the government “inadvertently” issued some new licenses, the court ruling undoubtedly had a chilling effect on transfers over the past year. That’s a good thing.

But now, the UK laughably claims it has “developed a revised methodology” that supports further sales based on the specious conclusion that the Saudis’ violations are “isolated” incidents.

Human Rights Watch made a 172-page submission to the UK last year that indicates the exact opposite. Despite their arsenal of top-of-the-line weapons with precision guidance, Saudi-led coalition aircraft keep hitting Yemeni civilians while they’re shopping for groceries, celebrating weddings, riding in school buses, mourning their dead at funerals, and seeking treatment for cholera.

Recently, the UN confirmed that the coalition hit four schools and hospitals in 2019. The International Rescue Committee estimates that more than half of the bombs dropped by the Saudi-led coalition in May of this year hit civilians or civilian infrastructure. These attacks have almost always been followed by self-investigations that excuse away the crimes.

Neither the law nor the facts support a conclusion that the problems with Saudi Arabia’s conduct are “isolated.”

Human Rights Watch has been campaigning to halt all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia since 2016. The UN has warned that those who continue to supply the coalition with weapons after seeing its abysmal track record risk complicity themselves. To be sure, this is not a problem that will be resolved by cutting off sales from the UK alone.

Saudi Arabia leads the world in arms imports and is responsible for 12 percent of global purchases since 2015. While the UK had paused licensing, French companies transferred $1.6 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia in 2019. Although the U.S. Congress has twice voted to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia, President Trump vetoed those bills allowing arms sales to proceed.

Last year, Trump pressed forward with a massive $8 billion sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the UAE. The US is now considering an additional $478 million transfer of precision guided munitions to the Saudis. Once again, some members of Congress are objecting, but the Trump administration appears poised to move forward anyway.

While Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland all announced that they will stop new weapons exports to the Saudis, they have continued to supply arms, spare parts, and components to the Saudis under existing contracts. In fact, in 2019, Canadian military exports to Saudi Arabia hit an all-time high despite their moratorium.

The Trump administration in particular has made naked economic and geopolitical calculations the basis of its foreign policy. Its continued arms exports to “allies” despite a track record of human rights abuses is not unique to Saudi Arabia. But it’s particularly chilling that Trump was not shy about making an economic argument for sales in the face of the Saudi killing and dismemberment of US resident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The timing of the UK move, one day after it launched sanctions on 20 individual Saudis for their role in Khashoggi’s murder, underscores the incoherence of this approach. Governments like the UK shouldn’t need their courts to tie their hands — they should simply stop their sales to the Saudis. Instead of engaging in legal gymnastics to justify weapons sales, they should take a stance that definitively ends their role in fueling war crimes abroad.

By propagating the fiction that years of repeated Saudi violations of the laws of war are “isolated” incidents, the UK is either denying the facts on the ground or undermining mainstream understanding of the laws governing war. Most likely, it’s doing both.

Akshaya Kumar is the crisis advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. Reprinted with permission from Foreign Policy In Focus.

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Khashoggi trial: Consulate worker was told to ‘light up the oven’ | Turkey News | Al Jazeera

Posted by M. C. on July 4, 2020

As bad as the US government is…

Technician tells Turkish court he was given the orders after Khashoggi entered the building where he was killed.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/07/khashoggi-trial-consulate-worker-told-light-oven-200703180203828.html

A Saudi consulate worker in Istanbul has told a Turkish court he was asked to light an oven less than an hour after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the building where he was killed in 2018.

Zeki Demir, a local technician who worked for the consulate, was giving evidence on Friday, on the first day of the trial in absentia of 20 Saudi officials over Khashoggi’s killing which sparked global outrage.

Demir said he had been called to the consul’s residence after Khashoggi entered the nearby consulate.

“There were five to six people there … They asked me to light up the tandoor [oven]. There was an air of panic,” said Demir.

Khashoggi disappeared after entering the consulate building in October 2018 to get papers for his upcoming marriage.

Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, said they believed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the killing – an accusation Saudi officials denied.

Turkish officials have said one theory police pursued was that the killers may have tried to dispose of the body by burning it after suffocating him and cutting up his corpse.

Skewers of meat

According to his testimony in the indictment, Demir reported seeing many skewers of meat and a small barbecue in addition to the oven in the consul’s garden.

Marble slabs around the oven appeared to have changed colour as if they had been cleaned with a chemical, the indictment reported him as saying.

Separate witness testimony in the indictment, from the consul’s driver, said the consul had ordered raw kebabs to be bought from a local restaurant.

Demir offered to help with the garage door when a car with darkened windows arrived, but he was told to leave the garden quickly, the indictment said.

The indictment accuses two top Saudi officials, former deputy head of Saudi Arabia’s general intelligence Ahmed al-Asiri and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani, of instigating “premeditated murder with monstrous intent”.

It says 18 other defendants were flown to Turkey to kill Khashoggi, a prominent and well-connected journalist who had grown increasingly critical of the crown prince.

The defendants are being tried in absentia and are unlikely to ever be handed over by Saudi Arabia, which has accused Turkey of failing to cooperate with a separate, largely secretive, trial in Riyadh last year.

In December, a Saudi court sentenced five people to death and three to jail for the killing, but Khashoggi’s family later said they forgave his murderers, effectively granting them a formal reprieve under Saudi law.

At the time, a Saudi prosecutor said there was no evidence connecting al-Qahtani to the killing and dismissed charges against al-Asiri.

Khashoggi murder: Western powers are 'sending the wrong message'

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US Pulling Patriot Missiles, Warplanes Out of Saudi Arabia Amid Dispute – News From Antiwar.com

Posted by M. C. on May 8, 2020

Don’t worry. The missiles and planes will be back before you know it..

We can’t inconvenience the genocidal, terrorist supporting, head chopping, perpetrators of 9/11 for long.

https://news.antiwar.com/2020/05/07/us-pulling-patriot-missiles-warplanes-out-of-saudi-arabia-amid-dispute/

US wants Saudi oil production cut to ensure stable prices

The Trump Administration has been annoyed at Saudi Arabia’s inability to stabilize oil prices at a level high enough to ensure US producers a profit, and in a move that appears to be retaliation based on those tensions, the US is starting to pull military assets out of Saudi Arabia.

Officials announced on Thursday that the US will be withdrawing two Patriot missile batteries, along with a number of warplanes from the Saudi desert, along with other air defenses. The assets were placed in the area in recent months to “counter Iran.”

The US buildup in Saudi Arabia began after a Yemeni missile hit oil-producing regions. Saudis blamed Iran, and the US sent forces there to “deter” them. US-Iran tensions over Iraq ultimately led to more deployments into the area.

Putting troops there appears to have given the US the leverage to pull troops out of there, and with Saudi efforts to try to get oil prices back up largely unsuccessful, the US appears to have decided that this will coax them into action.

As a security matter, this is unlikely to matter, as there was no indication that Iran or anyone else was really liable to attack the Saudis. This should also mean no real added security premium on the price of oil, though since the US goal is a price increase, any increase from the pullout would be welcomed.

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Withdraw US Support From Saudi Arabia – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on April 23, 2020

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama continued decades of truckling to the Saudis.

Unfortunately, the result was to make Americans accomplices to murder.

This is the country that financed 9/11!

Yet we arm them and Al Qaeda to attack countries that have never attacked US.

https://original.antiwar.com/doug-bandow/2020/04/22/withdraw-us-support-from-saudi-arabia/

After five years of bloody, inconclusive war, Saudi Arabia declared a ceasefire in Yemen. Although hailed as a possible breakthrough for peace, Riyadh’s de facto admission of defeat did not stop the fighting. Moreover, even an effective ceasefire would be at best a halfway measure.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia should end its invasion and withdraw its forces. To encourage the KSA to halt a cruel campaign which has killed hundreds of thousands, created millions of refugees, and left most of the population hungry and impoverished, Washington should terminate its support for the needless Saudi war, including sale of weapons and munitions, as well as intelligence sharing.

Modern Yemen has been in crisis since it – originally in the form of two separate states – was born around six decades ago. Saudi Arabia has meddled in its neighbor’s affairs since the beginning, at one point squaring off against Egypt when a royal regime was resisting an ultimately successful military revolt. Riyadh later bribed tribal leaders and spread hateful Wahhabist teaching in Yemen. The Kingdom also aided President Ali Abdullah Saleh after the Ansar Allah (“Supporters of God”) movement, dominated by the al-Houthi tribe, revolted against his government. In contrast, Iran’s involvement was minimal.

The two Yemens united in 1990, but since then the single state has been rent by political discord, civil conflict, and regional separatism. Saleh’s luck ran out in early 2012 when he was ousted after the Arab Spring hit Yemen. But three years later he joined with the Houthis to oust President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, his successor. None of this had much to do with Riyadh and nothing to do with Washington.

However, Saudi Arabia’s ruthless and reckless Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman believed he could reinstall Hadi in a brief campaign, leaving a compliant regime in Sanaa. This policy was just one of many which turned the once quiescent KSA into the most dangerous and destabilizing regime in the Middle East.

The Kingdom supported jihadist insurgents in Syria, kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister, underwrote the al-Sisi coup and dictatorship in Egypt, used troops to back Bahrain’s authoritarian minority Sunni monarchy against the majority Shia population, financed civil war in Libya, and sought to overthrow the Qatari monarchy. Domestically the crown prince increased political repression while leaving intact totalitarian religious controls which ban all faiths but Islam. The latest State Department human rights report takes 58 pages to describe the Kingdom’s crimes against its own people. Freedom House gives Riyadh a lower rating for political and civil liberties than Yemen.

Riyadh expected its impoverished neighbor to be an easy target. However, unlike the effete Saudi military the Yemeni people were used to hardship and combat. Under attack by the Saudis backed by Washington, the Houthis turned to Tehran for support, which was eager to bleed the Kingdom.

Even worse for America, the war interrupted Yemeni operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the most dangerous of the local affiliates, and other radical groups. Saleh’s government had cooperated with the U.S. against them; the Houthis also battled AQAP. However, both the nominal Hadi government and Saudi-Emirati coalition accommodated and even armed these extremist movements, including with American weapons.

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama continued decades of truckling to the Saudis. Having dismissed their opposition to negotiations with Iran over the nuclear accord with Iran, the president decided to reassure the Saudi royals by supporting the crown prince’s murderous misadventure. Washington sold aircraft and weapons to the kingdom, provided intelligence for targeting, and even refueled Saudi planes (a practice the Trump administration finally ended).

Unfortunately, the result was to make Americans accomplices to murder.

Humanitarian groups figure that upwards of two-thirds to three-quarters of civilian deaths and damage in Yemen have been caused by the coalition’s air campaign, which has hit marriages, funerals, apartments, and hospitals with equal avidity. The country’s commercial and social infrastructure also has been destroyed. The Emiratis even have backed southern separatists active against the Hadi government, threatening to dismember the nation.

As a result, Yemen scarcely exists anymore. Human Rights Watch reported: “Across the country, civilians suffer from a lack of basic services, a spiraling economic crisis, abusive local security forces, and broken governance, health, education, and judicial systems.” About 80 percent of Yemen’s almost 30 million people need outside aid of some sort. Roughly two-thirds of Yemenis lack adequate access to clean water and adequate health care and suffer from food insecurity. A third of the population is at risk of famine. In 2017 a cholera epidemic hit more than a million Yemenis. Some 20,000 noncombatants have died as a result of combat and another 130,000 from effects of the war.

The Houthi movement is no friend of the West and rules brutally over the territories it controls. But the harm caused by the continuation of internal strife going back years was a lesser magnitude than that which resulted from the Saudi invasion, which internationalized the fighting, made Yemen into a sectarian battleground, and turned the conflict into a Saudi-Iranian proxy war.

The only constructive role that Washington can play is to end military assistance, as proposed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), leaving Riyadh to bear the full cost of its folly. The administration claims to help moderate the Kingdom’s conduct, a gelastic argument given the ongoing carnage. America has no leverage so long as the president adopts a Saudi-first policy and refuses to criticize even Riyadh’s worst crimes.

The Saudi ceasefire is the Kingdom’s first public acknowledgment that its aggression has failed. The crown prince finally had to recognize brutal reality. Some analysts write of the complex issues that now must be negotiated. The only talks necessary are over the amount of reconstruction aid from Saudi Arabia necessary to rebuild the nation that it callously destroyed.

Riyadh should end its invasion. Washington should stop aiding and abetting the KSA’s criminal war.

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Russia Strikes Back Where It Hurts: American Oil | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on March 23, 2020

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/russia-strikes-back-where-it-hurts-american-oil/

Russia Strikes Back Where It Hurts: American Oil

Amid mounting sanctions aimed at crippling Moscow’s economy, Putin seems resolved to do the same to Trump’s re-election.

Russia and Saudi Arabia are engaged in an oil price war that has sent shockwaves around the world, causing the price of oil to tumble and threatening the financial stability, and even viability, of major international oil companies.

On the surface, this conflict appears to be a fight between two of the world’s largest producers of oil over market share. This may, in fact, be the motive driving Saudi Arabia, which reacted to Russia’s refusal to reduce its level of oil production by slashing the price it charged per barrel of oil and threatening to increase its oil production, thereby flooding the global market with cheap oil in an effort to attract customers away from competitors.

Russia’s motives appear to be far different—its target isn’t Saudi Arabia, but rather American shale oil. After absorbing American sanctions that targeted the Russian energy sector, and working with global partners (including Saudi Arabia) to keep oil prices stable by reducing oil production even as the United States increased the amount of shale oil it sold on the world market, Russia had had enough. The advent of the Coronavirus global pandemic had significantly reduced the demand for oil around the world, stressing the American shale producers. Russia had been preparing for the eventuality of oil-based economic warfare with the United States. With U.S. shale producers knocked back on their heels, Russia viewed the time as being ripe to strike back. Russia’s goal is simple: to make American shale oil producers “share the pain”.

The United States has been slapping sanctions on Russia for more than six years, ever since Russia took control (and later annexed) the Crimean Peninsula and threw its weight behind Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The first sanctions were issued on March 6, 2014, through Executive Order 13660, targeting “persons who have asserted governmental authority in the Crimean region without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine that undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets.”

The most recent round of sanctions was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on February 18, 2020, by sanctioning Rosneft Trading S.A., a Swiss-incorporated, Russian-owned oil brokerage firm, for operating in Venezuela’s oil sector. The U.S. also recently targeted the Russian Nord Stream 2 and Turk Stream gas pipeline projects.

Russia had been signaling its displeasure over U.S. sanctions from the very beginning. In July 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that U.S. sanctions were “driving into a corner” relations between the two countries, threatening the “the long-term national interests of the U.S. government and people.” Russia opted to ride out U.S. sanctions, in hopes that there might be a change of administrations following the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections. Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear that he hoped the U.S. might elect someone whose policies would be more friendly toward Russia, and that once the field of candidates narrowed down to a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Putin favored Trump.

“Yes, I did,” Putin remarked after the election, during a joint press conference with President Trump following a summit in Helsinki in July 2018. “Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”

Putin’s comments only reinforced the opinions of those who embraced allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election as fact and concluded that Putin had some sort of hold over Trump. Trump’s continuous praise of Putin’s leadership style only reinforced these concerns.

Even before he was inaugurated, Trump singled out Putin’s refusal to respond in kind to President Obama’s levying of sanctions based upon the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia had interfered in the election. “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Trump Tweeted. Trump viewed the Obama sanctions as an effort to sabotage any chance of a Trump administration repairing relations with Russia, and interpreted Putin’s refusal to engage, despite being pressured to do so by the Russian Parliament and Foreign Ministry, as a recognition of the same.

This sense of providing political space in the face of domestic pressure worked both ways. In January 2018, Putin tried to shield his relationship with President Trump by calling the release of a list containing some 200 names of persons close to the Russian government by the U.S. Treasury Department as a hostile and “stupid” move.

“Ordinary Russian citizens, employees and entire industries are behind each of those people and companies,” Putin remarked. “So all 146 million people have essentially been put on this list. What is the point of this? I don’t understand.”

From the Russian perspective, the list highlighted the reality that the U.S. viewed the entire Russian government as an enemy and is a byproduct of the “political paranoia” on the part of U.S. lawmakers. The consequences of this, senior Russian officials warned, “will be toxic and undermine prospects for cooperation for years ahead.”

While President Trump entered office fully intending to “get along with Russia,”  including the possibility of relaxing the Obama-era sanctions, the reality of U.S.-Russian relations, especially as viewed from Congress, has been the strengthening of the Obama sanctions regime. These sanctions, strengthened over time by new measures signed off by Trump, have had a negative impact on the Russian economy, slowing growth and driving away foreign investment.

While Putin continued to show constraint in the face of these mounting sanctions, the recent targeting of Russia’s energy sector represented a bridge too far. When Saudi pressure to cut oil production rates coincided with a global reduction in the demand for oil brought on by the Coronavirus crisis, Russia struck.

The timing of the Russian action is curious, especially given the amount of speculation that there was some sort of personal relationship between Trump and Putin that the Russian leader sought to preserve and carry over into a potential second term. But Putin had, for some time now, been signaling that his patience with Trump had run its course. When speaking to the press in June 2019 about the state of U.S.-Russian relations, Putin noted that “They (our relations) are going downhill, they are getting worse and worse,” adding that “The current [i.e., Trump] administration has approved, in my opinion, several dozen decisions on sanctions against Russia in recent years.”

By launching an oil price war on the eve of the American Presidential campaign season, Putin has sent as strong a signal as possible that he no longer views Trump as an asset, if in fact he ever did. Putin had hoped Trump could usher in positive change in the trajectory of relations between the two nations; this clearly had not happened. Instead, in the words of close Putin ally Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Russian oil giant Rosneft, the U.S. was using its considerable energy resources as a political weapon, ushering in an era of “power colonialism” that sought to expand U.S. oil production and market share at the expense of other nations.

From Russia’s perspective, the growth in U.S. oil production—which doubled in output from 2011 until 2019—and the emergence of the U.S. as a net exporter of oil, was directly linked to the suppression of oil export capability in nations such as Venezuela and Iran through the imposition of sanctions. While this could be tolerated when the target was a third party, once the U.S. set its sanctioning practices on Russian energy, the die was cast.

If the goal of the Russian-driven price war is to make U.S. shale companies “share the pain,” they have already succeeded. A similar price war, initiated by Saudi Arabia in 2014 for the express purpose of suppressing U.S. shale oil production, failed, but only because investors were willing to prop up the stricken shale producers with massive loans and infusion of capital. For shale oil producers, who use an expensive methodology of extraction known as “fracking,” to be economically viable, the breakeven price of oil per barrel needs to be between $40 and $60 dollars. This was the price range the Saudi’s were hoping to sustain when they proposed the cuts in oil production that Russia rejected.

The U.S. shale oil producers, saddled by massive debt and high operational expenses, will suffer greatly in any sustained oil price war. Already, with the price of oil down to below $35 per barrel, there is talk of bankruptcy and massive job layoffs—none of which bode well for Trump in the coming election.

It’s clear that Russia has no intention of backing off anytime soon.  According to the Russian Finance Ministry, said on Russia could weather oil prices of $25-30 per barrel for between six and ten years. One thing is for certain—U.S. shale oil companies cannot.

In a sign that the Trump administration might be waking up to the reality of the predicament it faces, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin quietly met with Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov. According to a read out from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two discussed economic sanctions, the Venezuelan economy, and the potential for “trade and investment.” Mnuchin, the Russians noted, emphasized the “importance of orderly energy markets.”

Russia is unlikely to fold anytime soon. As Admiral Josh Painter, a character in Tom Clancy’s “The Hunt for Red October,” famously said, “Russians don’t take a dump without a plan.”

Russia didn’t enter its current course of action on a whim. Its goals are clearly stated—to defeat U.S. shale oil—and the costs of this effort, both economically and politically (up to and including having Trump lose the 2020 Presidential election) have all been calculated and considered in advance. The Russian Bear can only be toyed with for so long without generating a response. We now know what that response is; when the Empire strikes back, it hits hard.

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The Forgotten Epidemic: Cholera in Yemen – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on March 17, 2020

Five years ago, in March 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies began bombing Yemen after the Houthis gained control of the capital Sanaa. At the same time, the Obama administration released a statement pledging military and logistical support to the coalition. Since the bombing campaign began, the US-Saudi coalition has targeted vital civilian infrastructure, including water infrastructure.

How the US government deals with disease in one of the poorest places on the planet.

Back at home it is martial law.

https://original.antiwar.com/Dave_DeCamp/2020/03/16/the-forgotten-epidemic-cholera-in-yemen/

As Americans are gripped with fear over the coronavirus, the cholera epidemic quietly continues in Yemen. The disease spreading in Yemen is not some new untreatable virus, but a well-known illness that can be easily prevented with access to clean water, or with a cheap oral vaccine. The outbreak is a direct result of the barbaric US-Saudi siege on the country that started in 2015.

The cholera outbreak started in Yemen in October 2016. The outbreak exploded in 2017 when the country saw over one million cases, the worst cholera epidemic since records started in 1949. In 2019, Yemen experienced the second-worst year, with over 860,000 suspected cases. 2020 is on track to be another bad year, with over 56,000 new suspected cases recorded in the first seven weeks. As of March 8th 2020, the World Health Organization has recorded 2,263,304 cholera cases in Yemen and 3,767 deaths related to the illness since 2017.

The international humanitarian organization Oxfam has warned the rainy season in Yemen will cause a spike in cholera cases, as it has in previous years. The rainy season starts in mid-April and lasts until August.

Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration and death if not treated properly. People catch cholera by drinking contaminated water or coming into contact with a person’s feces who has the disease. Treatment for cholera can be as simple as drinking water and taking antibiotics. Countries with compromised water and sewage infrastructure are susceptible to a cholera outbreak.

Five years ago, in March 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies began bombing Yemen after the Houthis gained control of the capital Sanaa. At the same time, the Obama administration released a statement pledging military and logistical support to the coalition. Since the bombing campaign began, the US-Saudi coalition has targeted vital civilian infrastructure, including water infrastructure.

The Yemen Data Project has compiled all available data on coalition airstrikes on Yemen from March 2015 to January 2020. According to the data, 97 airstrikes directly hit water infrastructure, which includes water tanks, water trucks, wells, water and sewage plants, and water desalination plants. The worst year for hits on water infrastructure was the year the cholera outbreak started, 2016, when 30 bombs hit water targets.

Attacks on water infrastructure are just a small sample of the atrocities committed by the US-Saudi coalition. The coalition has also hit hospitals, schools, farms, fishing boats, houses, and market places. Direct targeting of civilian infrastructure, and the blockade on the country enforced by the US Navy, has created what the UN calls, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The latest report from UNICEF puts the number of Yemeni people in need of humanitarian assistance around 24 million, about 80 percent of the population.

It’s tough to know exactly how many people have died in Yemen since the war started. The Armed Conflict Location & Data Project (ACLED) announced in October 2019 that over 100,000 people had been killed in direct violence during the war, 12,000 of those deaths being civilians.

The UN released a report in April 2019 that said if the conflict ended that year, it would have accounted for 233,000 deaths. The UN breaks these numbers up into 102,000 combat deaths, which reflect the ACLED numbers, and 131,000 deaths due to lack of food, health services, and infrastructure. If the conflict continues through 2022, the UN predicts it will be responsible for 482,000 deaths. In the nightmare scenario that the war is not over until 2030, the UN predicts the war will kill 1.8 million people, the majority of those deaths being children under five.

There have been efforts in Congress to end US support for this genocidal war, but they have all been vetoed by President Trump. In April, Trump vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have ended US involvement in the war, and in June, he vetoed resolutions that would have blocked arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The latest effort to end the war was an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have terminated the flow of US logistics, intelligence, spare plane parts, and other forms of support to Saudi Arabia. In the end, this amendment was gutted from the NDAA, and US support for the war continues.

Most people arguing in favor of supporting the Saudi’s brutal campaign in Yemen cite the Iranian threat. In September 2019, an attack on Saudi oil infrastructure that severely damaged oil output was blamed on Iran, even though the Houthis immediately took credit for it.

Before the September attack, the Houthis had launched similar attacks inside Saudi Arabia, and Houthi drone technology was the subject of much reporting. But these facts were thrown down the memory hole as the hawks in Washington used the attack as justification to increase troop presence in the Middle East and continue support for the war on Yemen. In response, President Trump sent a few thousand troops to Saudi Arabia, showing the world that Saudi oil is far more valuable than Yemeni lives.

The cholera epidemic is just one example of the challenges Yemenis are facing every day. And the war in Yemen is just one example of the dire humanitarian crises created by US imperialism. In the midst of a global pandemic, Washington still maintains crippling sanctions on Iran and Venezuela. Iran has been hit particularly hard by coronavirus, and nobody should criticize the response of the Iranian government without recognizing the impact of US sanctions.

In the face of coronavirus, Americans are scared. Schools and businesses are shutting down across the country. People are rushing to the stores to stock up on toilet paper, food, and hand sanitizer. Now would be a good time to stop and think about the people of Yemen who have been dealing with an outbreak of a deadly disease for years. A man-made outbreak, not only exacerbated by but directly caused by US intervention.

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Yemen faces worst cholera outbreak in the world, health ...

 

 

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Which target after Syria?, by Thierry Meyssan

Posted by M. C. on March 11, 2020

The option of attacking Saudi Arabia rather than Turkey from now on has been activated by the Pentagon, it is believed to be known in Riyadh, although President Trump is imposing delirious arms orders on it in exchange for its protection. The dissection of Saudi Arabia had been envisaged by the Pentagon as early as 2002 [3].

Turkey has an actual army, has Russian missile systems that would be difficult to defeat and is home to US nukes.

Saudi Arabia it is?

An empire builders work is never done.

https://www.voltairenet.org/article209439.html

by Thierry Meyssan

Events in the “Broader Middle East” since 2001 have followed a relentless logic. The current question is whether the time has come for a new war in Turkey or Saudi Arabia. The answer depends in particular on the resumption of hostilities in Libya. It is in this context that the Additional Protocol negotiated by Presidents Erdoğan and Putin to resolve the Idleb crisis must be interpreted.

| Damascus (Syria)

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The initial map of the “reshaping of the Broader Middle East”, published by Colonel Ralph Peters.

19 years of “war without end”

President George W. Bush decided to radically transform the Pentagon’s missions, as Colonel Ralph Peters explained in the Army magazine Parameters on September 13, 2001. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed Admiral Arthur Cebrowski to train future officers. Cebrowski spent three years touring military universities so that today all general officers have taken his courses. His thoughts were popularized for the general public by his deputy, Thomas Barnett.

The areas affected by the US war will be given over to “chaos”. This concept is to be understood in the sense of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, i.e. as the absence of political structures capable of protecting citizens from their own violence (“Man is a wolf to man”). And not in the biblical sense of making a clean slate before the creation of a new order.

This war is an adaptation of the US Armed Forces to the era of globalization, to the transition from productive capitalism to financial capitalism. “War is a Racket,” as Smedley Butler, America’s most decorated general, used to say before World War II [1]. From now on, friends and enemies will no longer count; war will allow for the simple management of natural resources.

This form of war involves many crimes against humanity (including ethnic cleansing) that the US Armed Forces cannot commit. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld therefore hired private armies (including Blackwater) and developed terrorist organizations while pretending to fight them.

The Bush and Obama administrations followed this strategy: to destroy the state structures of entire regions of the world. The US war is no longer about winning, but about lasting (the “war without end”). President Donald Trump and his first National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, have questioned this development without being able to change it. Today, the Rumsfeld/Cebrowski thinkers pursue their goals not so much through the Defence Secretariat as through NATO.

After President Bush launched the “never-ending war” in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), there was strong contestation among Washington’s political elites about the arguments that had justified the invasion of Iraq and the disorder there. This was the Baker-Hamilton Commission (2006). The war never stopped in Afghanistan or Iraq, but it took five years for President Obama to open new theatres of operation: Libya (2011), Syria (2012) and Yemen (2015).

Two external actors interfered with this plan.
- In 2010-11, the United Kingdom launched the “Arab Spring”, an operation modeled on the “Arab Revolt” of 1915, which allowed Lawrence of Arabia to put the Wahhabi in power on the Arabian Peninsula. This time it was a question of placing the Muslim Brotherhood in power with the help not of the Pentagon, but of the US State Department and NATO.
- In 2014, Russia intervened in Syria, whose state had not collapsed and which it helped to resist. Since then, the British – who had tried to change the regime there during the “Arab Spring” (2011-early 2012) – and then the Americans – who were seeking to overthrow not the regime, but the state (mid-2012 to the present) – have had to withdraw. Russia, pursuing the dream of Tsarina Catherine, is today fighting against chaos, for stability – that is to say, for the defence of state structures and respect for borders.

Colonel Ralph Peters, who in 2001 revealed the Pentagon’s new strategy, published Admiral Cebrowski’s map of objectives in 2006. It showed that only Israel and Jordan would not be affected. All other countries in the “Broader Middle East” (i.e., from Morocco to Pakistan) would gradually be stateless and all major countries (including Saudi Arabia and Turkey) would disappear.

Noting that its best ally, the United States, was planning to cut its territory in two in order to create a “free Kurdistan”, Turkey unsuccessfully tried to get closer to China, and then adopted the theory of Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu: “Zero problems with its neighbours”. It distanced itself from Israel and began to negotiate peace with Cyprus, Greece, Armenia, Iraq etc. It also distanced itself from Israel. Despite the territorial dispute over Hatay, it created a common market with Syria. However, in 2011, when Libya was already isolated, France convinced Turkey that it could escape partition if it joined NATO’s ambitions. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a political Islamist of the Millî Görüş, joined the Muslim Brotherhood, of which he was not a member, hoping to recoup the fruits of the ’Arab Spring’ for his own benefit. Turkey turned against one of its main clients, Libya, and then against one of its main partners, Syria.

In 2013, the Pentagon adapted the “endless war” to the realities on the ground. Robin Wright published two corrective maps in the New York Times. The first dealt with the division of Libya, the second with the creation of a “Kurdistan” affecting only Syria and Iraq and sparing the eastern half of Turkey and Iran. It also announced the creation of a “Sunnistan” straddling Iraq and Syria, dividing Saudi Arabia into five and Yemen into two. This last operation began in 2015.

The Turkish General Staff was very happy with this correction and prepared for the events. It concluded agreements with Qatar (2017), Kuwait (2018) and Sudan (2017) to set up military bases and surround the Saudi kingdom. In 2019 it financed an international press campaign against the “Sultan” and a coup d’état in Sudan. At the same time, Turkey supported the new project of “Kurdistan” sparing its territory and participated in the creation of “Sunnistan” by Daesh under the name of “Caliphate”. However, the Russian intervention in Syria and the Iranian intervention in Iraq brought this project to a halt.

In 2017, regional president Massoud Barzani organised a referendum for independence in Iraqi Kurdistan. Immediately, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran understood that the Pentagon, returning to its original plan, was preparing to create a “free Kurdistan” by cutting up their respective territories. They coalesced to defeat it. In 2019, the PKK/PYG announced that it was preparing for the independence of the Syrian ’Rojava’. Without waiting, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran once again joined forces. Turkey invaded the “Rojava”, chasing the PKK/YPG, without much reaction from the Syrian and Russian armies.

In 2019, the Turkish General Staff became convinced that the Pentagon, having temporarily renounced destroying Syria because of the Russian presence, was now preparing to destroy the Turkish state. In order to postpone the deadline, it tried to reactivate the “endless war” in Libya, then to threaten the members of NATO with the worst calamities: the European Union with migratory subversion and the United States with a war with Russia. To do this, it opened its border with Greece to migrants and attacked the Russian and Syrian armies in Idleb where they bombed the Al Qaeda and Daesh jihadists who had taken refuge there. This is the episode we are living through today.

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Robin Wright’s “Reshaping the Broader Middle East” map, published by Robin Wright.

The Moscow Additional Protocol

The Turkish army caused Russian and Syrian casualties in February 2020, while President Erdoğan made numerous phone calls to his Russian counterpart, Putin, to lower the tension he was causing with one hand.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged to curb the Pentagon’s appetites if Turkey helped the Pentagon restart the “endless war” in Libya. This country is divided into a thousand tribes that clash around two main leaders, both CIA agents, the president of the Presidential Council, Fayez el-Sarraj, and the commander of the National Army, Khalifa Haftar.

Last week, the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Libya, Professor Ghassan Salame, was asked to resign for “health reasons”. He complied, not without expressing his bad mood at a press conference. An axis has been set up to support al-Sarraj by the Muslim Brotherhood around Qatar and Turkey. A second coalition was born around Haftar with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, but also Saudi Arabia and Syria.

It is the great return of the latter on the international scene. Syria is the culmination of nine years of victorious resistance to the Brotherhood and the United States. Two Libyan and Syrian embassies were opened with great pomp and circumstance on 4 March, in Damascus and Benghazi.

Moreover, the European Union, after having solemnly condemned the “Turkish blackmail of refugees”, sent the President of the Commission to observe the flow of refugees at the Greek-Turkish border and the President of the Council to survey President Erdoğan in Ankara. The latter confirmed that an arrangement was possible if the Union undertook to defend the ’territorial integrity’ of Turkey.

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With keen pleasure, the Kremlin has staged the surrender of Turkey: the Turkish delegation is standing, contrary to the habit where chairs are provided for guests; behind it, a statue of Empress Catherine the Great recalls that Russia was already present in Syria in the 18th century. Finally, Presidents Erdoğan and Putin are seated in front of a pendulum commemorating the Russian victory over the Ottoman Empire.

It was thus on this basis that President Vladimir Putin received President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Kremlin on March 5. A first, restricted, three-hour meeting was devoted to relations with the United States. Russia would have committed itself to protect Turkey from a possible partition on the condition that it signs and applies an Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area [2]. A second meeting, also of three hours duration but open to ministers and advisers, was devoted to the drafting of this text. It provides for the creation of a 12-kilometre-wide security corridor around the M4 motorway, jointly monitored by the two parties. To put it plainly: Turkey is backing away north of the reopened motorway and losing the town of Jisr-el-Chogour, a stronghold of the jihadists. Above all, it must at last apply the Sochi memorandum, which provides for support only for the Syrian armed opposition, which is supposed to be democratic and not Islamist, and for combating the jihadists. However, this “democratic armed opposition” is nothing more than a chimera imagined by British propaganda. In fact, Turkey will either have to kill the jihadists itself, or continue and complete their transfer from Idleb (Syria) to Djerba (Tunisia) and then Tripoli (Libya) as it began to do in January.

In addition, on March 7, President Putin contacted former President Nazerbayev to explore with him the possibility of deploying Kazakh “blue chapkas” in Syria under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). This option had already been considered in 2012. Kazakh soldiers have the advantage of being Muslims and not orthodox.

The option of attacking Saudi Arabia rather than Turkey from now on has been activated by the Pentagon, it is believed to be known in Riyadh, although President Trump is imposing delirious arms orders on it in exchange for its protection. The dissection of Saudi Arabia had been envisaged by the Pentagon as early as 2002 [3].

Missiles were fired this week against the royal palace in Riyadh. Prince Mohamed ben Salmane (known as “MBS”, 34 years old) had his uncle, Prince Ahmed (70 years old), and his former competitor and ex-heir prince, Prince Mohamed ben Nayef (60 years old), as well as various other princes and generals arrested. The Shia province of Qatif, where several cities have already been razed to the ground, has been isolated. Official explanations of succession disputes and coronavirus are not enough [4].

Translation
Roger Lagassé

 

 

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The Brutal Tragedy of Idlib: Why the U.S. Should Stay out of Syria and Dump NATO | The National Interest

Posted by M. C. on March 9, 2020

But if hostilities explode Turkey likely will call on NATO to invoke Article 5, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/brutal-tragedy-idlib-why-us-should-stay-out-syria-and-dump-nato-130247

by Doug Bandow

Washington should encourage the peaceful conclusion of conflicts such as Syria. But maintaining peace at home should remain America’s highest objective.

Syria is attempting to bring its civil war to a bloody end near the northwest city of Idlib. Syrian forces have clashed with Turkey, which invaded its neighbor and created a secure, jihadist-controlled enclave. Russia backed Damascus’ offensive, as Ankara urged NATO to deploy Patriot missiles. The Trump administration faces pressure from war-happy legislators such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is campaigning to impose a no-fly zone in an ongoing civil war.

The United States should stay out of the explosive confrontation. Instead of getting more involved in a civil war now in its tenth year, the Trump administration should bring home America’s troops now illegally occupying Syrian oil fields. And Washington should turn the transatlantic alliance over to the Europeans, ensuring that Americans stay out of any Turkish conflict with Syria and Russia—especially one created by Ankara’s aggression against its neighbor.

Syria dissolved into civil war nearly a decade ago. However, the Assad government has been gradually extending its control over once rebel-held lands. The process is not easy: the regime has been badly weakened by years of fighting and opposition has revived in some areas, such as Daraa, a trigger for the initial civil war. Nevertheless, Damascus recently launched an offensive to reclaim Idlib, a major city swollen with refugees who fled fighting elsewhere in Syria.

Idlib is an extraordinary tragedy, the last insurgent controlled region, in contrast to other areas under Kurdish, Turkish, and American control. With Turkish support the insurgents, including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly Jibhat al-Nusra, and other radical Islamist groups, cut the major M5 highway. The al-Qaeda-linked al-Sham eventually gained control of the city and environs.

Turkey, committed to the overthrow of Syrian president Bashir al-Assad, supported the opposition and warned Damascus off from advancing on Idlib. As part of a cease-fire negotiated through Russia Turkey established a dozen military observation posts and later added additional deployments intended to act as tripwires to discourage Syrian military advance. However, the ceasefire ultimately failed and Damascus recently began large-scale operations against Idlib. Syrian armed action always seemed inevitable: after all, multiple governments in Ankara employed brutal military force against Kurdish separatists.

Damascus quickly made progress, recovering control of the M5. But the fighting displaced hundreds of thousands of Syrians, many of whom headed for Turkey. Most seriously, Syrian or Russian airstrikes (blamed on the first, more likely by the second) killed thirty-three Turkish soldiers. Moscow claimed that the latter were operating with “terrorists” and “terrorist fighting units,” meaning insurgents, which Ankara denied. However, wrote Joseph Trevithick of The Drive: “Turkey, together with its local partners, has been attacking regime ground and air forces for weeks now, including with armed drones, as it seeks to stem the offense in Idlib. The Turkish government has stepped up deliveries of heavier weaponry, including armored vehicles and howitzers, to various Syrian militant groups opposed to Assad, as well.”

Turkey launched retaliatory attacks on Syrian military positions and threatened broader military action to establish a “safe zone.” Ankara already has twice acted, utilizing allied insurgents, to drive Syrian Kurds from the border. Turkey even threatened to attack U.S. personnel operating with Kurdish militias against Islamic State forces.

With the potential for a full-scale armed confrontation and even war between Turkey and Syria backed by Russia, Ankara, a NATO member, called on its allies, including America, for consultations and support. Despite Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sustained campaign to tyrannize his people and separate his country from the West, the allies so far have lined up behind him.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced “full solidarity” with Ankara and said the allies were “constantly looking into what more they can do to provide further support for Turkey.” The alliance denounced “indiscriminate airstrikes by the Syrian regime and Russia.”

So far, NATO’s aid means enhancing NATO reconnaissance missions over the border area and considering deployment of Patriot air defense missiles. However, Greece blocked the issuance of a statement backing Ankara. But if hostilities explode Turkey likely will call on NATO to invoke Article 5, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

Of course, the alliance will act seriously only if Washington agrees. Thus far, the Trump administration has encouraged Ankara. For instance, the State Department declared: “We stand by our NATO ally Turkey and continue to call for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia, and Iranian-backed forces. We are looking at options on how we can best support Turkey in this crisis.” Washington’s UN Ambassador Kelly Craft said “the United States’ commitment to our NATO ally, Turkey, will not waver. Turkey has our full support to respond in self-defense.”

So far few specifics have been offered. Pentagon spokesman Alyssa Farah explained: “We are exploring ways the United States can work together with Turkey and the international community.” Ideas include increased information sharing, logistical aid, and other forms of non-combat support, as well as maintaining equipment readiness. The special envoy on ISIS, James Jeffrey, recently opined that the president said his administration might provide ammunition.

Washington’s ivory tower warriors, who have pushed for U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war for a decade, have returned to their traditional panacea, a no-fly zone. Argued Graham, who rarely has found a war he did not want others to fight: “The world is sitting on its hands and watching the destruction of Idlib by Assad, Iran, and the Russians. This is one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in decades and the brutal aggression of Assad supported by Iran and Russia needs to come to an end.”

Of course, there is much in the world which “should” happen. But only rarely does that justify war. The United States has the strongest military on earth, leading many policymakers to assume that every problem is solvable by bombing, invading, and/or occupying other nations. Yet America’s experience over the last two decades with endless war, often conducted with a humanitarian gloss, has been a little short of disastrous.

Global social engineering, attempting to overcome history, culture, religion, ethnicity, geography, and more, has a wretched record. Conflicts most often turn out worse than predicted. The Iraq war triggered sectarian slaughter, killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, spawned al-Qaeda-in-Iraq which became ISIS, and enhanced Iran’s influence.

Washington’s carte blanche to Saudi Arabia enabled the latter’s horrific aggression against Yemen, which has aided al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, long the most virulent affiliate of the national organization which staged 9/11. And the Obama administration’s insistence that al-Assad be removed from office discouraged negotiation by both Damascus, which saw little reason to talk, and its critics, who expected U.S. support for its maximalist demands…

the rest here

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Is this whole situation giving you gas?

A Syrian man receives treatment at a hospital in the town of Afrin, February 16, 2018.

 

 

 

 

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Saudi woman beheaded for practising ‘sorcery’

Posted by M. C. on February 15, 2020

Amina bin Abdulhalim Nassar was executed in the northern province of Jawf for “practising witchcraft and sorcery,” the ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.
The post is old. The topic isn’t.
WorldAgence France PresseUpdated: December 12, 2011 05:39 pm IST
Riyadh: A Saudi woman was beheaded on Monday after being convicted of practising sorcery, which is banned in the ultra-conservative kingdom, the interior ministry said.

Amina bin Abdulhalim Nassar was executed in the northern province of Jawf for “practising witchcraft and sorcery,” the ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.

It is not clear how many women have been executed in the desert-kingdom, but another woman was beheaded in October for killing her husband by setting his house on fire.

The beheading took to 73 the number of executions in Saudi Arabia this year.

In September, Amnesty International called on the Muslim kingdom where 140 people were on death row to establish an “immediate moratorium on executions.”

The rights group said Saudi Arabia was one of a minority of states which voted against a UN General Assembly resolution last December calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia executed 27 convicts in 2010, compared to 67 executions announced the year before.

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