Syria | Iraq | Rwanda

Matthew Allen: US Proxies Set Stage for Syria Balkanization (Russia Insider)

A leading Kurdish politician has confirmed that “the northern Syrian city of Raqqa is expected to join a decentralized system of government being set up by Syrian Kurdish groups and their allies once it is freed from Islamic State,” according to Reuters.
Saleh Muslim, the co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish PYD party, made his comments on the same day that a U.S.-led operation near Raqqa blocked “any advance by Syrian government forces from the west”. In other words, the U.S. has reserved Raqqa for its proxies.

Simon Tisdall: The west condemned Russia’s bombs – now coalition attacks are killing civilians in Mosul (Guardian)

The leaders who denounced Putin for deadly airstrikes in Syria are not speaking out over the siege of the Iraqi city.
America and the UK condemned Russian airstrikes that killed or injured hundreds of civilians during last autumn’s siege of Aleppo, accusing Vladimir Putin of war crimes. The question now is whether the US, backed by British air power, is committing similar atrocities against civilians in Mosul.
[In Mosul,] misdirected US airstrikes caused a massive explosion that reportedly killed at least 150 civilians sheltering in a basement. The Americans say they were targeting Islamic State fighters. The Russians said much the same about Aleppo – that they were attacking jihadi terrorists. Many people, not least the relatives of the Mosul dead, will struggle to see the difference…
[T]he high death toll places the Mosul carnage, if confirmed, among the worst such incidents since the US invasion in 2003. It also serves to highlight a new pattern of behaviour by US forces since Donald Trump took office in January. Since then, the monthly total of recorded civilian deaths from coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria has more than doubled, according to independent monitors.

Margaret Kimberley: Is Trump the DNC Hacker? (Black Agenda Report)

The Democratic Party is going all out with its charge of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. In doing so they achieve two very important goals. First, they distract their voters from asking why Hillary Clinton lost and why they are perennial losers at every level of government across the country. Secondly, they can wage war by other means as they attempt to exact regime change in Russia. That is the desired endgame as they attempt to crush the sovereignty and independence of that resource-rich nation which spans Eurasia.

Ann Garrison: Israel’s African Darling: Paul Kagame: An Interview with Robin Philpot (Black Agenda Report)

Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, who recently addressed AIPAC, in Washington DC, is Israel’s favorite African, a man the Zionists permit to use the term “genocide.” Both nations claim their wounds give them a special status in the world. “Rwanda and Uganda could be called mad dog states – they’re highly militarized, and they serve as sheriffs for the U.S. at the same time as they pursue their own interests.”

Korea | Palestine | USA

Mel Gurtov: Diplomatic Remedies for THAAD Madness: The US, China and the Two Koreas (Japan Focus)

The US decision, supported by the South Korean government, to deploy an antimissile system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) may be one of the most thoughtless strategic moves in a generation. The official US justification is that close-in defense against North Korean missiles is necessary to protect South Korea. But the deployment is having more than a few negative repercussions: an argument in China for increasing its nuclear weapons stockpile; an incentive in North Korea for continuing to develop its long-range missile capability; a deep fissure in China-South Korea relations; a roiling of South Korean politics at a time when its corrupt president has been impeached; and a new source of tension in already fraught Sino-US relations.

U.S. Deploys Missile System Amid Rising Tensions with N. Korea (Democracy Now)

Tensions are rising between the United States, North Korea and China, threatening to create the first significant national security crisis of the Trump presidency. This week, the United States began deploying a missile defense system to South Korea, sparking warnings from Chinese officials who say the U.S. is escalating a regional arms race. The U.S. says the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, known as THAAD, seeks to protect South Korea amid a series of recent missile tests launched by North Korea…
The deployment of the U.S. missile system is widely opposed by both South Koreans, who have been protesting against U.S. militarization, and by Chinese officials, who say the missile system actually aims to counter China’s military power in the region, not to contain North Korea.
Chinese officials are calling for both an end to North Korea’s nuclear program and an end to joint U.S. and South Korean military drills.

Bruce Cumings, Amy Goodman: North Korea Timed Recent Missile Test to Take Place During Trump-Abe Dinner (Democracy Now)

North Korea tested a ballistic missile last month, sparking widespread international condemnation. The test was a violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. North Korea claimed the test was a successful launch of an intermediate-range missile. The test came while Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the weekend at the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

Christine Ahn, Bruce Cumings, Amy Goodman: China Warns U.S. & North Korea Are Set for “Head-On” Collision Amid Rising Tensions & Provocations (Democracy Now)

The political upheaval in South Korea comes shortly after North Korea test-fired several ballistic missiles. In response, the Trump administration announced it would deploy a missile defense system to South Korea. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of South Korean and U.S. troops, backed by warships and warplanes, are currently engaging in a massive military exercise. Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that the U.S. and North Korea are like two “accelerating trains coming toward each other.” He called on both sides to de-escalate tensions.

David E. Sanger, William J Broad: Trump Inherits a Secret Cyberwar Against North Korean Missiles (New York Times) / 트럼프가 물려받은 유산: 북한 미사일에 대응하는 비밀 사이버戰 / 特朗普接手的秘密计划:网络攻击破坏朝鲜导弹?

Three years ago, President Barack Obama ordered Pentagon officials to step up their cyber and electronic strikes against North Korea’s missile program in hopes of sabotaging test launches in their opening seconds…
An examination of the Pentagon’s disruption effort, based on interviews with officials of the Obama and Trump administrations as well as a review of extensive but obscure public records, found that the United States still does not have the ability to effectively counter the North Korean nuclear and missile programs…
In two meetings of Mr. Trump’s national security deputies in the Situation Room, the most recent on Tuesday, all those options were discussed, along with the possibility of reintroducing nuclear weapons to South Korea as a dramatic warning…
The White House is also looking at pre-emptive military strike options, a senior Trump administration official said, …

Vijay Prashad: Crimes of apartheid (Hindu)

Apartheid is a powerful word, and the United Nations does not use it loosely. But now, in a report released on March 15 in Beirut, Lebanon, the UN has proclaimed that Israel ‘is guilty of the crime of apartheid’. This is a very significant judgment, one with important ramifications for the UN, for the International Court of Justice and for the international community…
Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship (ezrahut) do not have the right to nationality (le’um), which means that they can only access inferior social services, face restrictive zoning laws, and find themselves unable freely to buy land. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are reduced to the status of permanent residents, who have to constantly prove that they live in the city and that they do not have any political ambitions. Palestinians in the West Bank live ‘in ways consistent with apartheid’, write the authors of the UN report.

John Reynolds: Israel and the A-Word (CounterPunch)

The word resonated loud and clear from South Africa. Hendrik Verwoerd, widely described as a key architect of apartheid, was the far-right National Party’s propagandist, political strategist and, ultimately, party leader. In 1961, as South African Prime Minister, he noted that Israel was built on land taken ‘from the Arabs after the Arabs lived there for a thousand years.’ The point was to express his approval and to highlight Zionism’s common cause with the Afrikaner pioneers: ‘In that, I agree with them. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.’
Verwoerd was able to make this diagnosis without needing to live to see the brutality of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza after 1967. Israel’s apartheid foundations were laid in its dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948. They were reinforced by the immediate erection of colonial constitutional structures that cemented the exclusion of the colonised.
Since then, Israeli law and policy has only deepened the state apparatus of separation and segregation, discrimination and domination.

Oren Ziv: Israel releases 12-year-old Palestinian girl, highlighting dual legal systems (+792)

A Jewish child arrested for an identical crime in the same location would not have been sent to prison. Israeli authorities released the girl after the case got attention and a request from her parents.
Twelve-year-old Dima al-Wawi, the youngest Palestinian in Israeli prison, was released after two-and-a-half months on Sunday. Israeli authorities delivered her to the Jabara checkpoint in the West Bank in the early afternoon hours, where she was met by her parents and waiting journalists.

Eli Clifton: AIPAC gave $60K to architect of Trump’s Muslim ban (+972)

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has been noticeably quiet about the Trump administration’s slowness to denounce the spike in anti-Semitic attacks and bomb threats, its nomination of an ambassador to Israel who described J Street as “worse than kapos,” and its ties to ethno-nationalists like White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and senior adviser Stephen Miller. But AIPAC has done more than just tolerate the U.S. tilt toward extreme and often xenophobic views. Newly released tax filings show that the country’s biggest pro-Israel group financially contributed to the Center for Security Policy, the think-tank that played a pivotal role in engineering the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a ban on Muslim immigration.

Tom Clifford: Playing with Fire in the South China Sea: the Voyage of the Izumi (CounterPunch)

An aircraft carrier that dare not be named one and a show of military force by a country in contravention of its own constitution herald the consequences of a decision taken some years ago signaling that post-war certainty is no longer such a sure thing.
The Izumo, a 250-meter-long “flat-topped destroyer’’, is being dispatched to the South China Sea by Japan in May in a show of force not seen since 1945.
Named after a cruiser that was sunk by the US in 1945, the warship is in reality an aircraft carrier by any other name. However, aircraft carriers imply a force projection well beyond Japan’s shores, therefore it must be called a destroyer or a helicopter carrier.
After stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, the Izumo will then take part in the Malabar joint naval exercise with Indian and US naval vessels in the Indian Ocean in July.

Israel/Palestine

Rick Gladstone: Tempest at U.N. Over Report Saying Israel Practices Apartheid (New York Times)

A United Nations commission said in a report on Wednesday that Israel practices apartheid against Palestinians, a politically explosive assertion that led to furious denunciations by Israel and the United States.
The secretary general of the United Nations quickly disassociated himself from the report, which seemed bound to aggravate the already tense relationship between the world body and the Trump administration.
It also could provide momentum to advocates of an international movement to boycott Israel. Just over a week ago, Israel’s Parliament passed a law barring entry to foreigners who have publicly supported that movement, known as B.D.S. — boycott, divestment and sanctions.
One of the authors of the report was Richard Falk, an American law professor and former United Nations human rights investigator…
An executive summary of the report on the United Nations commission’s website called it a study to examine, “based on key instruments of international law, whether Israel has established an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”
The report concluded that the answer was yes, based on what it called the fragmentation of the Palestinian population, Israeli restrictions on Palestinians’ movements and other limits imposed on Palestinians but not on Israelis.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, complimented the report’s authors and suggested that the criticism of their conclusions had been misguided.
“Rather than attacking the report, it would be best to reflect on the realities that the report addresses and how they can be remedied,” he said in a statement.
It appeared to be the first time in a United Nations report that the term apartheid had been used as a central description of Israeli policies toward Palestinians. But other critics of Israel at the United Nations have used the term. In 2007, for example, John Dugard, a South African law professor who was a United Nations human rights investigator, said Israeli laws and practices in the occupied territories “certainly resemble aspects of apartheid.”

Reuters: UN Agency Accuses Israel of Being an ‘Apartheid Regime’ (Haaretz)

A UN agency published a report on Wednesday accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” of racial discrimination on the Palestinian people, and said it was the first time a UN body had clearly made the charge.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman likened the report, which was published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to Der Sturmer – a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic.

JTA: U.S. Urges U.N. to Withdraw Report Accusing Israel of Apartheid (Haaretz)
Rick Gladstone, Somini Sengupta: U.N. Diplomat Behind Report Accusing Israel of Apartheid Quits (New York Times)

The top official of a United Nations commission that published a report describing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as apartheid quit on Friday, saying the organization’s leader insisted that she withdraw it. The report provoked outrage from Israel and the United States.
The official, Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian diplomat who is executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, defended the report…
Without identifying Israel or its allies by name, Mr. Mansour said, “we reject the atmosphere of bullying and blackmail by some member states, particularly those that violate international law and U.N. resolutions every day.”

Uri Blau: Documents Reveal How Israel Made Amnesty’s Local Branch a Front for the Foreign Ministry in the 70s (Haaretz via Google News)

The Israeli government funded the establishment and activity of the Amnesty International branch in Israel in the 1960s and 70s. Official documents reveal that the chairman of the organization was in constant contact with the Foreign Ministry and received instructions from it.

Netherlands | February 1917 | Morocco | USA

Jon Henley: Dutch PM Mark Rutte sees off election threat of Geert Wilders (Guardian)

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, has seen off a challenge from the anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders to claim a resounding victory in parliamentary elections widely seen as a test for resurgent nationalism before other key European polls.
With nearly 95% of votes counted and no further significant changes expected, Rutte’s centre-right, liberal VVD was assured of 33 MPs, by far the largest party in the 150-seat Dutch parliament, the national news agency ANP said.
Wilders’ Freedom party (PVV) looked certain to finish second, but a long way behind on 20 seats, just ahead of the Christian Democrat CDA and liberal-progressive D66, which both ended third with 19 seats.

Jon Henley: GreenLeft proves to be big winner in Dutch election (Guardian)

The big winner of Wednesday’s election – and now the largest party of the Dutch left for the first time – was GreenLeft, headed by 30-year-old Jesse Klaver, hailed by his enthusiastic supporters as the “Jessiah”…
[T]he party – formed 25 years ago by a merger of communists, pacifists, evangelicals and self-styled radicals – boosted its MPs from four to 14 after a storming campaign by [Jesse] Klaver.

Kevin Murphy: The Story of the February Revolution (Jacobin)

That the most important strike in world history started with women textile workers in Petrograd on International Women’s Day 1917 (February 23 in the old Julian calendar) was no coincidence. Working up to thirteen hours a day while their husbands and sons were at the front, these women were saddled with a life of singlehandedly supporting their families and waiting in line for hours in the subzero cold in hopes of getting bread… “No propaganda was necessary to incite these women to action.” …
By evening, the Vyborg side was controlled by the rebels. Demonstrators had sacked the police stations, captured revolvers and sabers from tsarist sentinels, and forced the police and gendarmes to flee…
The paradox of the February Revolution was that while it swept away tsarism, it replaced it with a government of unelected liberals who were horrified by the very revolution that had placed them in power.

Aidan O’Brien: The Empire’s Fifth Column in Africa: Morocco (CounmterPunch)

In 1984 Morocco turned it’s back on Africa because the Organisation of African Unity refused to support it’s 1975 conquest of Western Sahara. For the next few decades Morocco followed the example of apartheid Israel and looked only towards Europe and America. Morocco, for example, applied (and failed) to join the European Economic Community in 1987. While today (since 2008) it is considered an “advanced” EU neighbour. And militarily it became a NATO partner in 1994 and a major non-NATO US ally in 2004.
Morocco in other words did everything it could to be an honorary white man: it shamelessly raped part of Africa and looked down on the black man. And the white man rewarded it by investing in it.
A few weeks ago however (January 31, 2017) Morocco suddenly rejoined Africa. In Addis Ababa the African Union decided to accept Morocco as a member, even though Western Sahara remains in Moroccan hands. Why the sudden change of policy in Morocco and in the African Union? In a word: the killing of Muammar Gaddafi.
The present scramble for Africa is the overall reason. But Gaddafi was the last pan African barrier to Western imperialism 2.0 in Africa. His removal opened the floodgates to 21st century Western power in Africa. The French are now back in Mali. AFRICOM (the US military) is all over the place. And now Morocco wants to be African again.

Dave Lindorff: WikiLeaks’ Latest CIA Data Dump Undermines Case Against Russia Election Hack (CounterPunch)

The so-called Deep State and Democratic Party campaign to demonize Russia for allegedly “hacking the US election,” and delivering the country into the hands of Donald Trump suffered a huge and probably mortal blow this week with the release by WikiLeaks of over 7000 secret CIA documents disclosing secret CIA hacking technologies.
The case being made against Russia as being the source of leaked emails of the Democratic National Committee and of Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta — documents that proved that the DNC had been corrupting the primary process in favor of corporatist candidate Hillary Clinton and undermining the campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and that also revealed the embarrassing contents of Clinton’s highly paid secret speeches to a number of giant Wall Street banks — had always been tenuous, with no hard evidence ever presented. All the intelligence agencies would say was that they had a “high degree of certainty,” or “strong reason to believe” that the Russians were the source of the deeply damaging documents late in the campaign season.
Adding to doubts that Russia had actually hacked the DNC was WikiLeaks itself, which insisted that it had obtained the DNC and Podesta emails not from a hack of computers, but from an internal DNC staffer who actually pulled them off computers with a thumb drive and provided them to the organization — a person later identified as Seth Rich, who was mysteriously murdered on his way home from DNC headquarters in Washington, shot in the back at night in an unsolved case that the local police quickly labeled a “botched burglary,” although nothing was taken from his body by his assailant — not his wallet or watch even. (Wikileaks has offered a $20,000 reward for information that helps solve that uninvestigated case.)

Oliver Ortega: Before Trump, the Border Wall Was a Bipartisan Project (CounterPunch)

Rightwing fantasies of a southern border wall are not new. Nor are they limited to Republicans or Trump supporters.
When President Trump signed an executive order last week to complete a wall along the 2,000 mile border with Mexico, he was building on decades of bipartisan consensus among lawmakers.
In fact, Congress had already approved a border wall not too long ago. In 2006, legislators—including many Democrats—passed the Secure Fence Act, which called for 700 miles of double-fence construction along certain stretches of the border. Trump cited the Bush-era law in the first paragraph of the executive order he signed Wednesday as rationale for his executive authority to order a wall be built.
Many of the same democratic leaders now bemoaning Trump’s wall voted for one at the time— Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein.
Then-Senator Barack Obama, who as President would later deport a record-high 3 million people during his two terms, lauded the bill on the Senate floor, saying it would “help stem some of the tide of illegal immigration in this country.” …
Some on the left have taken the border with Mexico as a given. Rather than focusing on whether it should be a wall or a fence, its length or thickness, a more useful exercise would be to reframe the parameters of debate by asking whether there should be a border at all.

Melvin Goodman: Return of the Torturers: Back to the Crime Scenes of the Past (CounterPunch)

The Trump administration has signaled that it is willing to return to the heinous crimes of the past two decades, including torture and abuse, secret prisons, and extraordinary renditions. …
Perhaps if former president Barack Obama had sought accountability and responsibility for the crimes of torture, then we would not be witness to the return of war criminals to positions of responsibility.

USA | Russia | Israel/Palestine

Glenn Greenwald: Jeremy Corbyn Accused of Being Russian “Collaborator” for Questioning NATO Troop Build-Up on Border (Intercept)

The leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, called for a “de-escalation” of tensions between NATO and Russia, adding in a BBC interview on Thursday: “I want to see a de-militarization of the border between them.” Along with the U.S., the U.K. has been rapidly building up its military presence in the Baltic region, including in states that border Russia, and is now about to send another 800 troops to Estonia, 500 of which will be permanently based.
In response, Russia has moved its own troops within its country near those borders, causing serious military tensions to rise among multiple nuclear-armed powers. Throughout 2016, the Russian and U.S. militaries have engaged in increasingly provocative and aggressive maneuvers against one another. This week, the U.S. began deploying 4,000 troops to Poland, “the biggest deployment of U.S. troops in Europe since the end of the Cold War.”

Trump’s pick for CIA says he’s open to waterboarding (CNN)

President Donald Trump’s pick to run the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo, has told Congress that he would consider bringing back waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation measures under certain circumstances.

Ankit Panda: Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State Nominee, Has a Dangerous Idea for the South China Sea (Diplomat)

Rex Tillerson, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, presented a proposal for what the United States should do in the South China Sea disputes on Wednesday that you don’t hear often — even among China hawks in the United States.
Speaking at a confirmation hearing the before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday evening, Tillerson remarked that China’s actions in the South China Sea — where it has most recently drawn attention for building seven militarized artificial islands in the Spratly Islands — were “akin to Russia’s taking [of] Crimea” from Ukraine…
Tillerson went further, and here he entered relatively uncharted territory: “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

Tom Phillips: China hits back at US over South China Sea ‘takeover’ claims (Guardian)

China has warned the US to “speak and act cautiously” after the White House said it would act to foil Chinese attempts to “take over” the South China Sea, amid growing hints that Donald Trump’s administration intends to challenge Beijing over the strategic waterway.
At a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday, the foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, urged Washington to tread carefully “to avoid harming the peace and stability of the South China Sea”.
Hua was responding to comments made by White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, the previous day.
Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, Spicer vowed the US would “make sure that we protect our interests” in the resource-rich trade route, through which $4.5tn (£3.4tn) in trade passes each year.

Reuters: US ‘at very beginning’ of talks to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem (Guardian)

Washington’s embassy is in Tel Aviv, as are most foreign diplomatic posts. Israel calls Jerusalem its eternal capital, but Palestinians also lay claim to the city as part of an eventual Palestinian state. Both sides cite religious, historical and political claims.

Peter Beaumont: Israel announces 2,500 more West Bank settlement homes (Guardian)

Israel has approved a massive new building programme of Jewish settlement homes in the occupied Palestinian territories, following hard on the heels of the swearing-in of the US president, Donald Trump…
About 400,000 settlers live in the West Bank and a further 200,000 in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war…
“We are building and we will continue to build,” Netanyahu wrote, in a brief Facebook post.

‘Not like Gitmo’: Israeli interrogators explain torture techniques to media (RT)

Israeli interrogators with experience in using ‘special means’ of interrogation, which involve inflicting physical pain on detainees, have described details of their methods to an Israeli newspaper…
[I]nterrogation using what Israel calls “special means” remains widespread. The UN Committee Against Torture last year cited continued complaints of torture by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) as well as Israel’s refusal to implement the convention on occupied Palestinian territories and reluctance to criminalize torture among its concerns.

Chaim Levinson: Torture, Israeli-style – as Described by the Interrogators Themselves (Haaretz via Google News)

For years, the Israeli establishment has tried to conceal what happens in interrogation rooms. When interrogators use torture – or “special means,” to use the establishment’s term – the concealment efforts are redoubled. Even when testimony of torture reaches the public, the system does everything it can to leave the interrogators’ role in darkness, including signing lenient plea bargains with suspects who were tortured to ensure that the conspiracy of silence remains unbroken.
People who have undergone interrogation have described various methods, from interrogators screaming in their ear, to blows, to being forced into painful positions for long periods. To date, however, all these descriptions have come from the complainants.
But recently, a conversation among interrogators in the presence of several witnesses provided a chance to hear from the interrogators themselves about the kinds of torture used in major cases, who approved it and what information it produced…
In 1999, the High Court of Justice outlawed torture, which had been permitted until then. But subsequent regulations issued by then-Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein said interrogators who nevertheless used torture wouldn’t stand trial if they could demonstrate that it was “immediately necessary to save his own or another person’s life, freedom, person or property from a concrete danger of serious harm,” and that “there was no other way to do so.”…
After the High Court issued its ruling, the torture techniques in use were changed, and they were also used less often. But in recent years, that trend has started to reverse.

Israel Must Stop the Torture (Haaretz via Google News)

The admissions by Shin Bet investigators published in Haaretz Tuesday confirm the claims that have been heard for years about torture during interrogations.

Myanmar | USA | Israel/Palestine

Saturn devours his young: President Trump (Salvage)

How could it possibly be?
Donald Trump, who exchanged the racist dog-whistle for a howling at the moon. Donald Trump, who waxed ‘braggadocious’ about sexual assault. Donald Trump, who exhorted his supporters to violence, wished it on his rivals, and openly threatened war crimes.
The maven of alt-right trolls, the doyen of racist mediocrities, the gold-plated capitalist mountebank, the artist of the deal whose relationship to the truth is summed up in his catchphrase, ‘give them the old Trump bullshit,’ will be the 45th President of the United States…
In her own strategising, in short, if Hillary Clinton mastered anything in this election, it was the old Third Way technique of demoralising her voters. Beginning in the primary contest, she managed expectations down to close to zero, scolding Sanders supporters that universal healthcare was ‘never going to happen’. She barely even had the grace to be red-faced about her convivial relationship with Goldman Sachs and Wall Street. Far from embarrassed, she was proud of her plaudits from Henry Kissinger, Laura Bush and Dick Cheney. Meanwhile, her team noised it abroad that she would be looking to privatise social security, and to re-arm liberal imperialism after Obama’s ‘Realist’ detour…
For the collapsing of the order of the centre – the very order that birthed Trump, the system of which he is not pathology but symptom, essence and excrescence combined – we shed no tears. But it is our worst enemies who are building in its rubble, faster and more effectively than are we. In 2017, we can expect major fascist advances. We can expect a Le Pen presidency of France. This is an epochal shift, and threat.

Paul Street: Beyond Anti-Trump (CounterPunch)

[D]reary corporate-Democratic presidents like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Obama are no small part of the explanation for the ever more right-wing Republican presidencies of the long neoliberal era. Their serial populism-manipulating betrayals of the working-class majority in service to the wealthy Few open the door for Republicans to sweep in and take over for a term or two (2001-2009) or three (1981-1993)…
We must not let Trump become a great red cape in the hands of the ruling class matadors. We charge screaming “Down with Trump” while the owners plunge their weapons into our passing hides…
One of the drawbacks of having Democrats Obama in the White House is the way they put so many folks to sleep on terrible policies and actions people would resist if only they were being carried out by Republican presidents. It’s amazing how many liberals and progressives find things like drone war and Wall Street bailouts and mass deportations strangely acceptable when conducted by supposedly liberal and sophisticated Democrats like Barack Obama.

Vijay Prashad: The Trump Team (Frontline)

Money and the military define the Cabinet of Donald Trump’s presidency. For a man who ran to help the “forgotten Americans”, there are few “forgotten” people in his team. Most of the Cabinet appointees have experiences far from the crises that wrack (sic) rural and industrial America…
in his farewell speech, Eisenhower bemoaned the increased power of the military and of military industry over the U.S. government. He called this the “military-industrial complex”, which was the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry”. “The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the federal government,” the old military hero said plaintively. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Matters are graver now. The military-industrial complex is larger and more firmly rooted in the economy, politics and the culture of the country…
In this context, Trump has chosen three generals to be in his Cabinet, giving all the major departments in charge of security to men of the armed forces… It appears as if Trump is not assembling a Cabinet so much as a junta…
Trump’s campaign rhetoric was plainly oppositional. It sparked a sense that this billionaire had heard the pain of the “forgotten American”. Trump suggested that he would use his business savvy to bring back work for Americans and to turn around a sagging U.S. economy. To help him, Trump has turned to the business class. Amongst his major picks are some of the richest people in the U.S. The total net worth of the first half of Trump’s Cabinet is over $14.5 billion—30 times more than the net worth of the men and women in George W. Bush’s Cabinet. In other words, half of Trump’s Cabinet is worth 30 times the entirety of Bush’s Cabinet. Plutocracy, not democracy, is the order of the day.

Norman Solomon: The Democratic Party Line That Could Torch Civil Liberties… and Maybe Help Blow Up the World (CounterPunch)

Many top Democrats are stoking a political firestorm. We keep hearing that Russia attacked democracy by hacking into Democratic officials’ emails and undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Instead of candidly assessing key factors such as longtime fealty to Wall Street that made it impossible for her to ride a populist wave, the party line has increasingly circled around blaming Vladimir Putin for her defeat.

Gareth Porter: Behind the real US strategic blunder in Syria (Middle East Eye)

President Barack Obama has long been under fire from the US national security elite and the media for failing to intervene aggressively against the Assad regime.
But the real strategic blunder was not that Barack Obama didn’t launch yet another war in Syria, but that he decided to go along with the ambitions of America’s Sunni allies to create and arm a Syrian opposition army to overthrow the regime in the first place.

Alan Nasser: The New (Cold?) War With China (CounterPunch)

Washington has recently initiated major war games in the neighborhoods and on the borders of Russia and China, the most intense martial exercises since the end of the Second World War. The old Cold War ante has been upped, and the danger of military confrontation between Washington and Russia and/or China looms large.

Poppy McPherson: ‘It will blow up’: fears Myanmar’s deadly crackdown on Muslims will spiral out of control (Guardian)

The authorities consider Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, although many trace their heritage in Myanmar for generations. State media says they fabricated the rape allegations and burned down their own homes…
A recent report by Physicians for Human Rights documented how restrictions on movement, land confiscation, pervasive surveillance and extortion in northern Rakhine since the 2012 clashes had left some 120,000 displaced.

Oliver Holmes: Nobel laureates warn Aung San Suu Kyi over ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Rohingya (Guardian)

More than a dozen fellow Nobel laureates have criticised Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, for a bloody military crackdown on minority Rohingya people, warning of a tragedy “amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.

Ramzy Baroud: Palestine 2017: Time to Bid Farewell to Washington and Embrace the Globe (CounterPunch)

There is no doubt that the UN Security Council condemnation of Israel on Friday, December 23, was an important and noteworthy event.
True, the United Nations’ main chambers (the Security Council and the General Assembly) and its various institutions, ranging from the International Court of Justice to the UN cultural agency, UNESCO, have repeatedly condemned the Israeli occupation, illegal Jewish settlements and mistreatment of Palestinians.
In fact, unlike the December 23 resolution 2334, the past UN condemnations were far stronger – for some resolutions did not just demand an immediate halt of illegal Jewish settlement construction, but the removal of existing settlements as well…
[W]hat makes this particular resolution important?
First, the US neither vetoed the resolution nor threatened to use its veto power; nor did it even seriously lobby, as it often does to soften the wording in advance.
Second, it is the first decisive and clear condemnation of Israel by the UN Security Council in nearly eight years – almost the entirety of President Barack Obama’s terms in office.
Third, the vote took place despite extraordinary Israeli pressure on the current US administration, on the forthcoming administration of Donald Trump and successful pressure on Egyptian President, Abdul Fatah al-Sisi. Indeed, Egypt delayed the vote, which was scheduled a day earlier, before New Zealand, Senegal, Malaysia and Venezuela stepped up and put the resolution to a vote, a day later…
The outcome of the vote was quite telling: 14 Security Council members voted ‘yes’, while the US abstained. The vote was followed by a rare sight at such meetings, a sustained applause, where countries that hardly agree on much, agreed full-heartedly on the justness of Palestinian aspirations and the rejection of Israeli practices…

EU imports 15 times more from illegal Israeli settlements than from Palestinians (Defend Democracy Press)

The European Union imports fifteen times more from Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory than from Palestinians themselves, a new report from a coalition of 22 non-governmental organisations including Caabu, Christian Aid UK and Ireland, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Diakonia revealed today.

Israel/Palestine | USA | Syria

The Full Text of the UNSC Resolution on Israeli Settlements (Haaretz)

The Security Council, …
1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;
2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard;
3. Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;

Netanyahu said to curtail working ties with Security Council nations (Times of Israel)

In a further response to a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reportedly ordered the Foreign Ministry to suspend all working ties with 12 of the countries that voted in favor of the decision…
Activities involving the embassies of Britain, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand will be suspended, and the ambassadors of those countries will not be received at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, an official said.

Jack Khoury: Abbas: We’ve Waited and Now the World Has Spoken – Israel’s Settlements Are Illegitimate (Haaretz)
Amira Hass: The Hague: The Reason the Palestinians Are Jubilant and Israel Is Spooked (Haaretz via Google)

The fresh support from the Security Council could cause the prosecution in International Criminal Court to dare to move ahead from a preliminary examination to an investigation on the settlements…
The last time the Security Council passed a resolution condemning the Israeli settlements (in all the territories occupied in 1967 including the Syrian Golan Heights) and unanimously, with the U.S., was in March of 1980, Resolution 465. Then it was still calling for dismantling the settlements and exhorted both the government of Israel and the people of Israel to rescind the measures being taken for the establishment of new settlements. In Friday’s Resolution 2334 the demand to dismantle the settlements does not appear and the people of Israel are not addressed – only the government.
The 36 years that have elapsed and the differences between the two resolutions stress what is well-known: Especially in the Israeli context, these resolutions have no teeth but nevertheless the Palestinians are gleeful and Israel is seething.

Aluf Benn: Obama’s UN Vote on Israeli Settlements: Where Have You Been for 8 Years, Mr. President? (Haaretz via Google)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s court and the speakers of the Israeli right on Friday leveled insults at outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama, who allowed the UN Security Council to adopt Resolution 2334 against Israeli settlements.
The abuse and rage are unfair. Upon completing his tenure, Obama is worthy of honorary membership in the Yesha Council, the Israeli settlements’ umbrella organization, as well as the Likud Central Committee. His late support for the UN Security Council resolution, a moment before he packs up his bags turns over the keys to the White House to Donald Trump, is typical of his eight-year presidency, during which the U.S. effort to end the Israeli-Arab Conflict met its demise. 
Obama assumed the presidency with lofty declarations against the settlements, calling the Israeli-Palestinian peace an “American interest.” But beyond partial steps that achieved nothing and pointless speeches, he didn’t even once use his presidential clout to realize the two-state solution.

Stephen Lendman: Israel Defiantly Set to Approve Thousands More Illegal Settlement Units (Global Research)

James Carden: Why Are the Media Taking the CIA’s Hacking Claims at Face Value? (Nation)

The recent raft of unverified, anonymously sourced and circumstantial stories alleging that the Russian government interfered in the US presidential election with the aim of electing Republican Donald J. Trump shows that today too much of the media is all too happy to do overtly what the CIA had once paid it to do covertly: regurgitate the claims of the spy agency and attack the credibility of those who question it.

Jonathan Cook: Clinton’s Defeat and the Fake News Conspiracy (CounterPunch)

For weeks the CIA and other intelligence agencies have been making evidence-free claims that Russia was behind the release of embarrassing emails from the Democratic party leadership. The last hold-out against this campaign, James Comey, the head of the FBI, was reported late last week to have caved in and joined the anti-Putin camp…
Craig Murray, a former British ambassador turned whistleblower on British government collusion in torture, has said he personally received the leaked emails on behalf of Wikileaks. The data came, he said, not from Russian security agencies, or even from freelance Russian hackers, but from a disillusioned Democratic party insider. Russia experts in the US have similarly discounted the anti-Putin claims, as have former US intelligence agents.
But either way, what is being overlooked in the furore is that none of the information that has come to light about the Democratic party was false…
If Russia did indeed seek to influence the election by releasing truthful information that made Clinton and her allies look bad that would be far more legitimate interference than the US has engaged in against countless countries around the globe.

Glenn Greenwald: Anonymous Leaks to the WashPost About the CIA’s Russia Beliefs Are No Substitute for Evidence (Intercept)

There are many obvious reasons for skepticism about anonymous press leaks regarding Russia, but they are no match for partisan needs.

Patrick Cockburn: More Propaganda Than News Coming Out of Aleppo (CounterPunch)

It has just become more dangerous to be a foreign correspondent reporting on the civil war in Syria. This is because the jihadis holding power in east Aleppo were able to exclude Western journalists, who would be abducted and very likely killed if they went there, and replace them as news sources with highly partisan “local activists” who cannot escape being under jihadi control.

Europe | USA | Israel/Palestine

Glenn Greenwald: Growing Far-Right Nationalistic Movements Are Dangerously Anti-Muslim — and Pro-Israel (Intercept)

The specter of a growing far-right nationalism anywhere, but particularly in Central Europe, immediately — and for good and obvious reasons — raises fears of an anti-Semitism revival. But at least thus far, the leaders of most of these nationalistic parties — increasingly inspired and fueled by one another’s success — have showcased dangerous animosity toward Muslims, accompanied by strong policy support for Israel and a rhetorical repudiation of anti-Semitism…
Austria is the latest example of a far-right xenophobic party on the verge of obtaining what was, until quite recently, unthinkable power… Hofer demagogues animosity toward Muslims in all the standard ways: equating migrants with “jihadists,” warning of the “Islamification” of Europe, and pronouncing that “Islam is not a part of Austria.”
But not only does Hofer repudiate all anti-Semitism and insist it has no place in his party — he made news earlier this year by calling for the demolition of Hitler’s childhood home and his party sponsored “a New Anti-Semitism Conference” starring the Israeli spy who captured Adolf Eichmann — but the Freedom Party has, in the words of an expert cited by the NYT, “made it part of their strategy to draw closer to Israel.”…
Israeli officials have noticed the pro-Israel bent of Hofer’s posture and some have returned the sentiments of support. “They are one of the most pro-Israel parties in Europe,” proclaimed former Knesset member Michael Kleiner …
When Donald Trump named Steve Bannon as his White House chief strategist, some American Jewish groups (such as the Anti-Defamation League) objected by pointing to his flirtation with if not outright endorsement of anti-Semitic themes, but the most important U.S. group — AIPAC — has to this day not uttered a public word about Bannon.

Pamela Duncan: Europeans greatly overestimate Muslim population, poll shows (Guardian)

The average French estimate was that 31% of the population was Muslim – almost one in three residents. According to Pew Research, France’s Muslim population actually stood at 7.5% in 2010, or one in 13 people…
British respondents put the current Muslim population at 15%, three times the 2010 figure… In the US the average estimate was Muslims accounted for one in six people, whereas Pew put the actual figure at one in 100.

Micah Lee, Margot Williams: Drowning in information: NSA revelations from 262 spy documents (Intercept)

A national intelligence officer gave a top-secret “issue seminar” to NSA staff on the question of “where political action fades into terrorism,” according to a seminar announcement published in June 2004. The announcement suggested that the line between “legitimate political activity” and “activity that is the precursor to, or supportive of, terrorism” is fuzzy. The course used the Vienna-based organization Anti-Imperialist Camp as a case study, describing it as “ostensibly a political organization” but noting that “its many ties to terrorist organizations — and its attempts to collaborate with Muslim extremists — raise questions about where political action fades into terrorism.” No further details were given to substantiate the alleged ties; the group’s website remains online. A spokesperson for the group, Wilhelm Langthaler, told The Intercept that the group was targeted for such accusations for political reasons, including its opposition to the war in Iraq and “our public support for the resistance against occupation which we have compared with the antifascist resistance against German occupation.”

Julian Borger: Chinese warship seizes US underwater drone in international waters (Guardian)

The Chinese navy has seized an underwater drone in plain sight of the American sailors who had deployed it in international waters, in a seemingly brazen message to the incoming Trump administration.
According to a US defence official, the unmanned glider had come to the surface of the water in the South China Sea and was about to be retrieved by the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic and surveillance ship, when a Chinese naval vessel that had been shadowing the Bowditch put a small boat in the water…
As China develops a strategic submarine fleet, with the potential to carry nuclear missiles out into the Pacific Ocean, the US has built up a monitoring network designed to spot Chinese submarines as they leave their bases. Drones are key to the network, and there is a race under way between major naval powers to develop drones that can work together in swarms and “see” long distances through the water. Underwater gliders are drones that can stay underwater on the lookout for submarines for long periods of time.

AP: China and US in talks over seized drone, officials say (Guardian)

The device was being operated by civilian contractors to conduct oceanic research, according to the Pentagon.

AP: Philippines to ‘set aside’ South China Sea tribunal ruling to avoid imposing on Beijing (Guardian)

The Philippine president has said he would “set aside” a ruling by an international arbitration tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s claims to most of the South China Sea, because he doesn’t want to impose on China.
“In the play of politics, now, I will set aside the arbitral ruling. I will not impose anything on China,” Rodrigo Duterte said at a news conference on Saturday.

Tom Phillips: Images show ‘significant’ Chinese weapons systems in South China Sea (Guardian)

China appears to have positioned “significant” weapons systems, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite vowing it had no intention of militarising the archipelago, a US thinktank has claimed.

Xinhua: China says deployment of defensive facilities on South China Sea islands legitimate (Global Times)
Tom Phillips: ‘Friends forever’? China wary of Rex Tillerson wooing away Russia (Guardian)

Rex Tillerson’s controversial nomination as secretary of state has delighted Moscow where the Texan oilman has deep and long-standing ties. Donald Trump’s choice of the ExxonMobil chief was “100% good news” for Vladimir Putin, one opposition politician claimed.
But in Beijing, already reeling from Trump’s early forays into foreign policy, the move has inspired no such celebration, instead fuelling fears that the president-elect’s courtship of the Kremlin could be part of a bold strategic bid to isolate China.

John Pilger: The Coming War on China (movie; RT)

A nuclear war between the United States and China is not only imaginable but a current ‘contingency’, says the Pentagon. This film by acclaimed filmmaker John Pilger’s is both a warning and an inspiring story of resistance.
The Coming War on China, filmed over two years across five potential flashpoints in Asia and the Pacific, reveals the build-up to war on more than 400 US military bases that encircle China in a ‘perfect noose’.
Using rare archive and remarkable interviews with witnesses, Pilger’s film discloses America’s secret history in the region – the destruction wrought by the equivalent of one Hiroshima every day for 12 years, and the top secret ‘Project 4.1’ that made guinea pigs of the population of the Marshall Islands.

Matthew Rosenberg: Trump Chooses Hard-Liner as Ambassador to Israel (New York Times)

President-elect Donald J. Trump on Thursday named David M. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer aligned with the Israeli far right, as his nominee for ambassador to Israel, elevating a campaign adviser who has questioned the need for a two-state solution and has likened left-leaning Jews in America to the Jews who aided the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Peter Beaumont, Julian Borger: Donald Trump’s Israel ambassador is hardline pro-settler lawyer (Guardian)

Donald Trump has named as his ambassador to Israel a pro-settler lawyer who has described some US Jews as worse than concentration camp prisoner-guards.
David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who represented the president-elect over his failing hotels in Atlantic City, served Trump’s advisory team on the Middle East. He has set out a number of hardline positions on Israeli-Palestinian relations, including fervent opposition to the two-state solution and strong support for an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
He has called President Barack Obama an antisemite and suggested that US Jews who oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank are worse than kapos, Nazi-era prisoners who served as concentration camp guards…
An indication of how Friedman views Israel came in a 16-point action plan he issued with another Trump adviser in November.

Chemi Shalev: David Friedman, Trump’s Radical-right Ambassador, Makes Netanyahu Look Like a J Street Lefty (Haaretz ~ Google News)

By Israeli standards, Donald Trump’s designated Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is an extreme right-winger. He might find a place in the settler movement or with Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi Party, but only on its right-wing fringes. He makes Benjamin Netanyahu seem like a left-wing defeatist. From where Friedman stands, most Israelis, never mind most American Jews, are more or less traitors.

David Schraub: The Grotesque anti-Semitic Turn of David Friedman, Trump’s Pick for Israel Ambassador (Haaretz)

You don’t even have to be a J Street fan to consider calling them ‘Kapos,’ as David Friedman has done, as disqualifying for such a symbolic post for the U.S. Jewish community…
Friedman has called Barack Obama an “anti-Semite” and contended that J Streeters are “far worse than Kapos.” He also asserted, in the course of advocating “allegiance” standards for Israel’s Muslim citizens, that “In the United States, advocating to overthrow the government by force or violence can get you life in prison” (No, it can’t). And of course, he’s an opponent of the two-state solution.

France orders clear labeling of goods from Israeli settlements (RT)

The French guidelines state that in accordance with Commission rules adopted in November 2015, importers must mark the precise place from which the goods originate and not mark them as products of Israel.
Regulations apply to products that originate in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which are considered occupied territories under international law.
French authorities said that clearly marking the packaging is necessary to not mislead consumers. Goods originating from Palestinian territories must be marked for instance as originating from “the West Bank”, and then, in parenthesis, the package must also be labeled that it comes from “an Israeli settlement.”

Peter Walker: UK adopts antisemitism definition to combat hate crime against Jews (Guardian)
Letter (Guardian)

The new definition has nothing to do with opposing antisemitism, it is merely designed to silence public debate on Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. Antisemitic incidents comprise about 2% of all hate crime. Why then the concentration on antisemitism and not on Islamophobia, which is far more widespread? The suspicion must be that the real concern is not with antisemitism but with Britain’s support for Israel…
We agree that it is antisemitic to associate Jews with the actions of the Israeli state. Unfortunately this is precisely what the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition will achieve through perpetuating the stereotype that all Jews support the Israeli state. The IHRA will strengthen not weaken antisemitism. There is a very simple definition of antisemitism from Oxford University’s Brian Klug. Antisemitism is “a form of hostility towards Jews as ‘Jews’.” The IHRA definition smuggles in anti-Zionism, in the guise of antisemitism, as a means of protecting the Israeli state and thus western foreign policy.

Israelis, Palestinians Among Most Enthusiastic Supporters of Torture, Red Cross Survey Says (Haaretz)

Only in Israel, Nigeria and the United States do more people advocate torture of an enemy combatant than oppose such behavior, according to a new survey by the International Red Cross.

Syria | USA | Britain | Media

An interesting article on the balance of forces between the Syrian government, the Islamic State, Kurdish forces, Turkey and the US:
Timur Göksel: Will Trump see eye to eye with Erdogan’s plans in Iraq, Syria? (Al-Monitor)

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joe Dunford visited Ankara Nov. 6 and held a 4½-hour meeting with his Turkish counterparts.
This sudden, unplanned visit led some to wonder if there was a rupture between Ankara’s strategic thinking on Iraq and Syria and the United States’ goals in the region.
Ankara is hoping to find harmony with the incoming US administration on its fight against the Islamic State…
In the Nov. 6 operation, about 25,000 YPG fighters who had been controlling the Kurdish cantons of Kobani and Jazeera turned their backs to Turkey and launched an assault toward Raqqa in the south. The Kurds practically vacated their two cantons and left them wide open to a possible offensive by Turkey…
Ankara has two main goals in Iraq: to increase Turkey’s effectiveness north of Mosul and thus become part of the Mosul operation, and to eliminate the PKK’s domination of the Sinjar area that forms a bridge between Iraq and Syria…
Many key names in Ankara believe that the Trump transition team will understand the dynamics of Iraq and Syria and support Ankara in its struggle against the PKK and PYD in northern Syria and against growing Shiite influence in Iraq.

Joseph Briefel: Should Baathists have role in post-IS Iraq? (AL-Monitor)

As the inevitable defeat of IS approaches, analysts and politicians are busy discussing life in Iraq after the group. Sectarian reconciliation, political autonomy and the role of external actors such as Turkey continue to dominate the media discourse.
One group that remains absent from post-liberation narratives is the former Baathists, who have played a complex role in Mosul’s recent history and have had a dysfunctional relationship with post-2003 governments in Baghdad. If the role of former Baathists is forgotten in post-IS Iraq, then many of the key issues that arose when IS entered Mosul in 2014 will likely return in the future.
The powerful role played by former Baathists in IS’s leadership structure is well known. Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, a lieutenant colonel in Saddam’s Intelligence Service, and Abu Ali al-Anbari, a former major general under Saddam, were IS’s former deputy commanders in Iraq and Syria.

Police Attack Water Protectors at Standing Rock—AGAIN (TeleSur)

Police fired rubber bullets and teargas at protesters against the Dakota Access pipeline after a standoff at a river nearby.

Police Unleash Military-Style Assault on Standing Rock Protesters (TeleSur)

Police were spraying protesters with water in sub-freezing temperatures and firing rubber bullets, reportedly injuring 167.

Tom Phillips: Climate change a Chinese hoax? Beijing gives Donald Trump a lesson in history (Guardian)

China has rejected Donald Trump’s claims that climate change is a Chinese hoax, urging the US president-elect to take a “smart decision” over his country’s commitment to the fight against global warming.

Yoav Haifawi: The Economist in China’s Wonderland (Free Haifa)

On November 12th 2016 The Economist published a short report from Shenzhen about what seems as a totally boring subject: Chinese courier firms. It comes, as usual, under a patronizing title “China’s express-delivery sector needs consolidation and modernization”. But it contains such a glaring and laughable combination of contradictions that I found it worth bringing here to you.

Ewen MacAskill: ‘Extreme surveillance’ becomes UK law with barely a whimper (Guardian)

A bill giving the UK intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world has passed into law with barely a whimper, meeting only token resistance over the past 12 months from inside parliament and barely any from outside.
The Investigatory Powers Act, passed on Thursday, legalises a whole range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the US.

USA | Syria | Morocco | Thailand

An article by Yoav from Haifa:
Yoav Haifawi: Sorry America, It is not YOU, it is US (*) … (Free Haifa)

The coming elections in the US supplied an extraordinary drama, watched with both trump-vs-clintonenthusiasm and disdain almost all over the world. If this is the most important democratic election for the most influential leadership position in the world, the scarcity of the debate about the real issues at stake must make people ask substantial questions about democracy. The identity and performance of the candidates, especially Republican Donald Trump, and the fact that an enormous establishment, with millions of people and billions of dollars, couldn’t produce a more respectable candidate, must raise even more substantial soul searching questions about the human nature.

A few more:
Jeffrey St. Clair: The Cataclysm: Notes on Election Day and the Politics of Hubris (CounterPunch)

Of course, the System adapts and absorbs. That’s the malign genius of late-capitalism. The elites prefer Hillary, but will warp the unruly Trump to their purposes. Trump is a narcissist, not an ideologue. The system fosters and feeds on narcissism…
Hillary Clinton has completely rejected even the pretense of class-oriented politics, in favor of targeting discrete demographics of voters, sending coded messages through the color and cut of her pantsuits to suburban women in Philly suburbs and insurance brokers in Tallahassee. This is the politics of identity, where your working conditions are less important than where you shop and what you buy. There is no unifying message to her campaign. Instead there are thousands of messages, each individually tailored and targeted like those stalker ads on Google and Amazons. It’s politics by algorithm.
Meanwhile, Trump’s blue-collar voters are condemned by the liberal elites as neo-Nazis and Klan-like automatons. Over the last few weeks, MSDNC has devoted much attention to the imbecilic David Duke’s attempt to ride Trump’s coat-tails. Duke is polling at less than 5 percent among Republicans in his vainglorious run for the Senate in Louisiana. What about the Trump voters who reject Duke’s racist bilge? How do the Democrats explain them? They don’t even try. The American underclass, both black and white, those marginalized by globalization and a government that works only to further enrich the rich, are viewed by the Democrats’ leader as a collection of “deplorables” and “super-predators.”

James Luchte: Trump vs. the National Security Establishment: Will There be a Revolution in US Foreign Policy? (CounterPunch)

Since the beginning of his presidential campaign, Trump had been savaged by the National Security establishment, castigated as unfit to lead, dangerous, incompetent, and ignorant. These criticisms were woven together in an August 8 letter signed by fifty former National Security officers, denouncing a possible Trump presidency…
Putting aside these castigations, Trump’s most egregious national security faux pas is his contestation of the Russophobic paradigm that has dominated US foreign policy since the end of WWII and the establishment of the National Security Act of 1947. Trump’s contestation further amplifies his purported hubris to even raise the question of NATO – and his contemplation of the end of the seven decade US occupation of Europe (“We cannot afford it”). Such perspectives fly in the face of the entire history of the National Security establishment, which, since the founding of the National Security Council (NSC), has sought to contain its former allies (Russia, and then, China) and maintain US hegemony on the European continent.

Gary Leupp: Standing Rock and Imperialism Itself (CounterPunch)

The Dakota Access Pipeline was originally scheduled to cross the state of North Dakota north of Bismarck, the state capital (pop. 70,000). But then the route was shifted 40 miles south, to the south, to pass by the Standing Rock Sioux reservation (pop. 8200). This is sovereign territory of the Sioux, whose reservation straddles North and South Dakota and whose members include Hunkpapa Lakota (Húŋkpapȟa) and Yaktonai Dakota (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna).
The Sioux are a nation of about 170,000 people, divided linguistically into the Lakotas, Dakotas and Nakotas concentrated in what are now North and South Dakota…
The Standing Rock Reservation’s boundaries are defined by the Fort Laramie Treaty (or Horse Creek Treaty) of 1851, which exchanged Sioux recognition of “the right of the United States Government to establish roads, military and other posts, within their respective territories” on their territory for a U.S. commitment “to protect the aforesaid Indian nations against the commission of all depredations by the people of the said United States, after the ratification of this treaty.” They are confirmed by another treaty signed in 1868…
Back to the Dakota Access Pipeline. According to the Bismarck Tribune, the route was changed due to concern that the DAPL, built by Sunoco and projected to send 500,000 gallons of oil every day from North Dakota to Illinois, would endanger the water supply to the city’s residents.
(These by the way are 92% white, 4% Native American, 4% other…) …
The water issue is the first issue (of two) raised by those protesting the DAPL raise. The Missouri River that constitutes the reservation border is the people’s only source of water. (Specifically, Lake Oahe, which is a large swelling within the river straddling the two Dakotas.) It is at present quite pure. The pipeline will flow beneath it. The Army Corps of Engineers has assessed that it will pose no threat to the water, but the people point to reports that pipelines leak. The Standing Rock Sioux are arguing in court that the pipeline directly violates the tribe’s rights as a sovereign nation because it will hurt its drinking water resources…
The second issue is that of sacred burial sites. This might seem less important, especially to the irreligious outsider. But the ongoing protest observances conducted by representatives of many tribes in North Dakota involve many religious practices related to identity: sacred songs and dancing, prayers, peace pipes, sweat lodge meetings, water protection rituals. They believe strongly in the appropriate handling of the burial grounds…
But the main reason for opposition is not water purity, nor even respect for one’s ancestors, but the Sioux tribes’ aspirations for sovereignty, on land assigned them by violated treaties, as they come up against capitalist imperialism itself.

Miriyam Aouragh, Amy Goodman: Morocco: Massive Protests Against Neoliberalism, Privatization Follow Death of Fish Seller (Democracy Now)

In Morocco, thousands of people have been protesting across the country after a fish seller was crushed to death in a garbage truck trying to retrieve fish confiscated by police. Video circulating online appears to show Mouhcine Fikri jumping into the back of the truck to rescue his swordfish, before being crushed to death by its compactor. According to local reports, Moroccan authorities prohibit the sale of swordfish at this time of year. Activists have accused police officers of ordering garbage men to crush Fikri. His death in the northern town of Al Hoceima has elicited widespread anger on social media. The weekend’s rallies were called by activists from the February 20 movement, which organized demonstrations during the Arab unrest of 2011. Fikri’s death drew parallels to that of Tunisian fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi in 2010 whose death sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.

Aida Alami: Morocco’s Al-Hoceima protests reflect ‘a heavy legacy’ (AlJazeera)

Located in the north of Morocco, the Rif region has always had a complicated history with the monarchy, marked by a violent rebellion in the late 1950s that attempted to get its independence from the rest of Morocco.
The Rif region, from where one of the most emblematic Moroccan leaders, Abdelkarim Khettabi, hails, has always been difficult to tame. In 1958, Hassan II, who was the 29-year-old crown prince at the time, crushed a rebellion by the Rifian Berbers in the north and severely punished leaders of the upheaval. During his reign, he neglected the region in terms of economic developments, leaving it lacking in infrastructure and access to services available in the rest of the kingdom. When Mohammed VI became king in 1999, one of his major projects was to open up the region, and many tourism and development projects were subsequently launched.
“The Rif has been structurally and symbolically severed from the rest of other regions in Morocco,” said Abdeslam Maghraoui, a Duke University political scientist and North Africa expert. “Language, geography, and the quest for some political autonomy has a lot to do with it.”
Maghraoui described King Hassan’s policies towards the Rif as neglectful, if not hostile.
“King Mohammed VI’s more personal and conciliatory touch didn’t change the deep structural problems. Today’s tensions reflect this heavy legacy.”

Morocco arrests 11 over fish-seller’s death in Al-Hoceima (BBC)
Greg Dunkel: Moroccan protests shake U.S. ally (Workers World)

According to Forbes magazine, King Mohammed VI of Morocco is the richest man in North Africa. He has control over and profits from phosphates, Morocco’s most profitable export, as well as the fishing industry.
Morocco’s main trading and diplomatic partners are France and Spain, its former colonial masters…

Robert Fisk: A view of the Syrian war from the Golan Heights (Independent)

One Syrian lieutenant described to me how he directed his artillery fire onto an Israeli jeep in the Jabhat al-Nusra occupied town of Al-Hamidiya inside Syria and destroyed it. The jeep might have been a gift or borrowed from Israel

Stephen Wright: Thai monarchy’s billions come from real estate, companies (AP)

Thailand’s king, who died Thursday, was reputed to be the world’s richest royal and one of the wealthiest people on the planet.
It was a status that clashed with the carefully managed image of a monarch intensely concerned for his people’s welfare and one that Thai authorities were always anxious to correct…
In 2011, American rich-list publisher Forbes tallied up the holdings of the Crown Property Bureau that answers to the Thai monarch and estimated Bhumibol’s wealth at more than $30 billion.

Thomas F. Rhoden: Death of a monarch or an oligarch? (New Mandala)

Thailand’s structure of oligarchy has also not changed recently. By constructing a specific Material Power Index (MPI) for Thailand and then comparing it to MPIs for other national states in East and Southeast Asia where data is available, Thailand’s top 50 wealthiest have an averaged MPI which is higher than that found in China, in Singapore, in Japan, in Indonesia, in Malaysia, in the Philippines and so on. Even if one were to exclude the monarch’s wealth from this averaged MPI calculation for Thailand, the country still comes out on top.
The following is simply an empirical fact: Thailand is the most oligarchic polity by this measure for this region of the world.

Lee Jones: The myth of King Bhumibol (New Mandala)

[S]uccessive military regimes built up a virtual personality cult around Bhumibol through the Cold War, establishing his image as a paternalistic sponsor of development projects, caring for his poor people. This massive propaganda effort – coupled with extensive state repression – turned a country that had considered abolishing the monarchy in the 1930s into one that largely worshipped its king…
In service of the anti-communist ruling elite, after 1973, Bhumibol sponsored right-wing paramilitaries terrorising leftist youths, culminating in the 1976 Thammasat massacre. Later, under Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Bhumibol publicly backed the ‘war on drugs’, in which over 2,500 people were extra-judicially killed. Then in 2006, a military junta overthrew Thaksin, promptly gaining the king’s endorsement of their coup. By the time of the latest military coup, in 2014, Bhumibol was arguably non compos mentis, but he was again wheeled out to sanctify the destruction of democracy.
So King Bhumibol was never a consistent supporter of democracy or even basic human rights.

David Streckfuss: Thailand’s peculiar interregnum (New Mandala)
Pavin Chachavalpongpun (ปวิน ชัชวาลพงศ์พันธ์ [pawin tɕʰáttɕʰáwapʰoŋpʰan]): A crown prince and German affairs (New Mandala)