Saudi Arabia | Zimbabwe | Iraq

Federico Pieraccini: Saudi-Israeli Friendship Is Driving the Rest of the Middle East Together (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Through its top official, Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia continues a wave of internal arrests, having seized nearly $800 billion in assets and bank accounts. A few days later, MBS attempted to demonstrate his authority by summoning Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Saudi Arabia, where he was forced to resign on Saudi state TV. Trump tweeted support for Bin Salman’s accusations against Iran and Hezbollah, and the future Saudi king even obtained Israel’s secret support. Iran, meanwhile, denies any involvement in Lebanon’s domestic affairs or involvement with the ballistic missile launched by Houthi rebels towards Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport a few days ago. Meanwhile, Trump, Putin and Xi met recently and seem to have decided the fate of the region in an exercise of realism and pragmatism.

Gregory Elich: What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe? (CounterPunch)

Long-roiling factional conflict within Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF political party exploded last week in a military coup that quickly seized control of the government and state media. The coup was led by Commander of Zimbabwe Defense Forces Constantino Chiwenga, who is closely aligned with former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Emboldened by President Robert Mugabe’s declining mental sharpness and physical health in recent years, Mnangagwa actively maneuvered to ensure that he would succeed the president. Mnangagwa served as one of Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents. From that position, he and his supporters, known as Team Lacoste, became embroiled in a bitter struggle with younger party members who coalesced around Secretary of Women’s Affairs Grace Mugabe, wife of the president, and whose group was known as Generation 40, or G40…
Western officials are keen to see the transitional government adopt economic policies to their liking. “It’s a transition to a new era for Zimbabwe; that’s really what we’re hoping for,” acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto said. [xxxiv] A European Union spokesperson announced that the EU is “committed to support Zimbabwe in the preparation of credible elections and the delivery of political and economic reforms.” … It can be expected that it will not be long before Western economic advisors are paying visits to the transitional government, urging it to enact reforms to liberalize the economy to suit Western investors.

Patrick Bond: Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms (CounterPunch)

Mnangagwa is widely mistrusted due to his responsibility for (and refusal to acknowledge) 1982-85 “Gukhurahundi” massacres of more than 20,000 people in the country’s western provinces (mostly members of the minority Ndebele ethnic group, whose handful of armed dissidents he termed “cockroaches” needing a dose of military “DDT”); his subversion of the 2008 presidential election which Mugabe initially lost; his subsequent heading of the Joint Operations Committee secretly running the country, sabotaging democratic initiatives; as well as for his close proximity – as then Defence Minister – to widespread diamond looting from 2008-16…
Mnangagwa is not only being toasted in Beijing, but also by Tory geopolitical opportunists in London. Although many Britons object, their ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing has for three years attempted to “rebuild bridges and ensure that re-engagement succeeds to facilitate Mnangagwa’s rise to power” with a reported “$2 billion economic bail-out.”

Julia Lynne Walker: Military is complicit in Mugabe misrule (Pambazuka/AFP)

The Global Pan African Movement condemns the military intervention in Zimbabwe in no uncertain terms. The generals of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have been part of the repressive government. The huge problems of Zimbabwe cannot be resolved by the same soldiers who have been partners with Mugabe in the past 37 years.

Andre Damon: US brands RT a “foreign agent:” A chilling move against free speech (WSWS)

On Thursday, RT America, the US-based subsidiary of RT (formerly known as Russia Today), announced that it would, under pressure from the United States government, register as a “foreign agent” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The Justice Department’s demand that RT register as a “foreign agent” is aimed at delegitimizing RT as a news source, intimidating its journalists and guests, and setting the precedent for taking similar actions against other news outlets.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad: After the liberation of Mosul, an orgy of killing (Guardian)

In the dying days of the battle of Mosul, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad followed Iraqi soldiers during the last push against Isis. But following their victory, a new wave of savagery was unleashed…
One of the factors that had aided Isis’s takeover of Mosul was the conduct of the Iraqi army and security forces stationed in the city, who behaved like sectarian occupation forces, mistreating and detaining the population at will…
On 9 July, … the defeat of Isis was declared in Mosul …
Pockets of Isis fighters continued to resist for another week, but gradually the fighting died down, and a day came in Mosul when, for the first time in many years, machine-guns, car bombs and jet fighters went silent. Then the orgy of killing started.
Night after night, in ruined houses, makeshift cells and the dark streets of Mosul, those identified as members of Isis were tortured and executed. Jubilant Iraqi soldiers filmed themselves beating and shooting prisoners.

October Revolution | Neoliberalism

Eric Blank: October and its Relevance: A Discussion with China Miéville (Portside)

The first purpose of the book is to tell the story for readers who don’t necessarily know anything about the Russian Revolution, who want to know what happened when, the stakes, the rhythms, the events. This is not a history of the Russian Revolution for leftists, but for everyone; it is, though, a history of the Russian Revolution for everyone by a leftist.

Stephen Metcalf: Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world (Guardian)

The word has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human.

Syria

Spencer Ackerman, Ed Pilkington, Ben Jacobs, Julian Borger in Washington: Syria missile strikes: US launches first direct military action against Assad (Guardian)

The US military has launched a cruise missile attack on a Syrian airfield in response to Bashar al-Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons this week, marking the first time the US has become a direct combatant against the Syrian regime.
The US move drew an angry response from Russia, which described the strike as an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law”…
Speaking during a trip to Uzbekistan, Sergei Lavrov said the strike was launched on an “absolutely made-up pretext”, adding: “It reminds me of the situation in 2003 when the United States and Britain, along with some of their allies, attacked Iraq.” …
Neither the US Congress nor the UN have authorized war against Assad. Mary Ellen O’Connell, an international law scholar at the University of Notre Dame, said Trump did not have a legal basis for military action.
“Under international law, he has zero right to attack Assad. It would be a reprisal attack. You won’t find any international law specialists who will find a legal right to carry out a reprisal,” O’Connell said…
Tillerson suggested “steps are under way” to rally an international coalition to remove Assad diplomatically, a position long thwarted by Moscow and Beijing.

Nadia Khomami, Jamie Grierson: US military strikes on Syria: what we know so far (Guardian)
Shaun Walker: Moscow: Syria airstrikes ‘significant blow to Russian-US relations’ (Guardian)

Vladimir Putin views the US missile strikes on Syria as “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law, and under a false pretext,” according to the Russian president’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
“With this step Washington has struck a significant blow to Russian-American relations, which were already in a sorry state,” Peskov said on Friday.

Tareq Haddad: Before We Go to War With Syria, Inconvenient Truths Must be Confronted (CounterPunch)

One: In spite of the assertions of US officials, there is still no independently verified evidence to suggest President Bashar al-Assad’s troops were behind the suspected chemical weapon attack.
Two: Most evidence thus far has come from the British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights – a network of opposition activists – and the White Helmets, founded by a former British Army officer. Both groups openly align with anti-Assad forces and are not impartial.
Three: One of the doctors who documented the alleged use of chemical weapons and appeared on television networks claiming sarin was used is Shajul Islam, 31, from east London. In 2013, he was arrested for the kidnapping of two Western journalists and was considered a “committed jihadist” by MI6 before being struck off the General Medical Council in 2016.
Four: Assad, who trained as an eye doctor in London, is said to be so daft that he authorised the attack days before a major peace conference in Geneva and after he has already vastly gained the upper hand against anti-government militants.
Five: Faced with US invasion in 2013 and when former President Barack Obama made his “red line” declaration, Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and destroyed its 1,300-ton stockpile of chemical weapons and so-called precursor chemicals that can be used to make weapons.
Six: Though Assad is still believed to have some access to chemical weapons, he is not the only actor in Syria to do so. Following the 2013 chemical weapon attack in eastern Ghouta, which was immediately blamed on Assad, it emerged that groups such as the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front were more likely to be the perpetrators.

Curtis F. J. Doebbler: Why the United States’ Use of Force Against Syria Violates International Law (CounterPunch)

The United States’ use of force against the sovereign state of Syria is a prima facie violation of international law. It is an act of aggression against an UN Member State in violation of the Charter of the United Nations.

Dave Lindorff: Yet Another President Commits the Ultimate War Crime of Launching a War of Aggression (CounterPunch)

The pretext for the US cruise missile blitz, an alleged attack on a rebel-held town called Khan Shiekhun in Idlib province, where some 70 people, including children, were reported to have died from illegal Sarin-gas bombs said to have been dropped by Syrian planes, has yet to be investigated by any independent observers…
All information about the attack has come from sources there, where no Western reporters or independent investigators are allowed, and from the so-called “White Helmets” — a supposedly humanitarian volunteer organization that calls for the overthrow of the Syrian government and that openly backs Al-Qaeda rebels…
[T]he appalling hypocrisy of the US here also needs to be called out. It was only a few weeks ago that US aircraft bombed two locations, one on a school in the town of Mansoura, in Raqqa Province, and one on a Mosque in the town of Al Jina in western Alleppo Province, killing over 79 civilians, including children. These were crimes equally obscene to the gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, but where is the public outrage in the US over what our own military has done?

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.”

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.

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.

Brexit | Colombia | NATO | Myanmar

EU referendum: full results and analysis (Guardian)

Britain has voted by a substantial margin to leave the European Union. The picture that is emerging is of a heavily polarised country, with remain areas coming in more strongly for remain than expected, and leave areas more strongly for leave. Geographically, Scotland and London have voted overwhelmingly for remain, but outside the capital, every English region had a majority for leave.

Here’s an article by a Chinese friend who is studying in Britain right now:
风雨飘摇中的英国工党和左派(澎湃)
More on Brexit:
Joseph Richardson: The Left and the EU: Why Cling to This Reactionary Institution? (CounterPunch)

Why is it that many people who consider themselves left-wing have such difficulty grasping that the EU is a deeply reactionary institution? The mere fact that those running the EU present it as an internationalist venture dedicated to the creation of a world free of nationalist enmities does not make it so. If we want to examine the EU in its proper light, then we should ignore the high-flown rhetoric in which its supporters indulge, and consider its actual record. And what is the record of the EU, once we penetrate the obfuscatory rhetoric about ‘internationalism’ that surrounds EU policy? Without a doubt, that record is one that should cause those on the left now defending it acute embarrassment, as it starkly contradicts the ideals that the left has always claimed to uphold.

John King: The left wing case for leaving the EU (New Statesman)
John Mann: Now it’s time for Labour to listen to its voters (Guardian)

Traditional Labour supporters voted to leave the EU and create a fairer workplace. My party must not only listen, but take action to protect their rights.
The EU referendum has exposed the major schism between Labour and its core voters. The Labour party in Westminster struggled to reflect the language and aspirations of our traditional working-class communities. These Labour voters, aware of the long-term neglect of their voice and their aspirations, decided the result of the referendum. It should be no surprise to anyone that they chose to comfortably ignore the Labour call to vote remain.

Diane Abbott: The dispossessed voted for Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn offers real change (Guardian)
Martin Kettle: Jeremy Corbyn will struggle to hold his line over Europe (Guardian)
Giles Fraser: Brexit brought democracy back – now we need to start listening to each other (Guardian)

The wonderful thing about democracy is that it doesn’t give some an extra voting power if they are rich or well-educated. It’s the great leveller. Invented in this country by the Levellers. And things have now been levelled.
The biggest failure in all this has been the Labour party, often little more than a bystander in so vital a debate. If only Jeremy Corbyn had stuck with his natural instincts and led the leave campaign. He could now be the prime minister in waiting. And he could have shaped the debate away from immigrant blaming. Indeed, many of those who voted out were natural Labour supporters, but their anger has been dismissed as bigoted by those for whom some pop-up chai latte liberal individualism has replaced socialism as the dominant creed.
Tragically, Ukip has been the beneficiaries of this neglect, hijacking legitimate frustration and redirecting it towards the easy target of the outsider. With this referendum the gap between the present Labour party and its base has been exposed.

Brexit Vote Spells Political Crisis in Scotland and UK (Scottish Socialist Party)

Commenting on the Brexit vote SSP National Spokesperson Colin Fox said: “This result first and foremost represents an unprecedented rejection of the anti-democratic, neo-liberal EU by one of its most significant and powerful constituent nations.

An anti-racist, anti-austerity and socialist case to vote Leave (Socialist Worker)
Charlie Hore: Seeing the whole picture after the referendum (Socialist Worker)
Joseph Choonara: After the leave vote: we can beat back racism and austerity (Socialist Review)
Neil Davidson: The Socialist Case for Leave (Jacobin)

The European Union provides internationalism for the bosses, not for workers. We should join the vote to leave it tomorrow.

Ed Rooksby: The Left After Leave (Jacobin)
Jonathan Cook: Your EU vote is crucial because it won’t count

Here is a prediction about the outcome of today’s UK referendum on leaving the European Union. Even in the unlikely event that the remain camp loses, the UK will still not Brexit. Europe’s neoliberal elite will not agree to release its grip on a major western nation. A solution will be found to keep the UK in the union, whatever British voters decide. Which is one very good reason to vote Brexit, as I’ll explain in a minute.

Supporters of the EU sneer “Little Englander” at those with a different opinion, but most of the arguments against membership are left-leaning and liberal.

One solution, of course, is to vote again and again, until the desired result is obtained:
James Tapper: Petition to hold second EU referendum reaches 2m signatures (Guardian)
Peter Rásonyi: Zeit für Reflexion und Demut (Neue Zürcher Zeitung)

Was jahrzehntelang undenkbar schien, ist Tatsache geworden. Grossbritannien, die einstige Weltmacht, das drittgrösste Mitgliedsland, die zweitgrösste Volkswirtschaft, verlässt die Europäische Union.

Julie Hyland: In right-wing putsch, UK Labour MPs deliver overwhelming anti-Corbyn vote (World Socialist Website)

Fully 81 percent of the parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) supported Tuesday’s motion of no-confidence in leader Jeremy Corbyn. Just 40 Labour MPs voted against the motion, with 172 in favour. Thirteen did not vote at all and there were four spoilt ballots.
The extraordinary scale of the right-wing coup, which had already seen Corbyn lose most of his shadow cabinet in a series of timed resignations, was intended to force the Labour leader to resign. But in a statement put out moments after the result, Corbyn said that he had been elected “by 60 percent of Labour members and supporters” only last September, and “I will not betray them by resigning.”
The no-confidence motion, he said, has “no constitutional legitimacy.”

Andrew Griffin: Jeremy Corbyn supporters to march on parliament to demand that Labour leader keeps job (Independent)
Labour resignations a ‘disgusting, organised coup’, says Alex Salmond (Herold)

Sibylla Brodzinsky, Jonathan Watts: Colombia and Farc rebels sign historic ceasefire deal to end 50-year conflict (Guardian)

The Colombian government and Farc guerrillas have declared the final day of one of the world’s oldest wars with the signing of a ceasefire agreement to end more than 50 years of bloodshed.

German minister warns Nato against ‘warmongering’ (BBC)

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned Nato against “warmongering”, after it conducted military exercises in Eastern Europe.
Mr Steinmeier said that extensive Nato manoeuvres launched this month were counterproductive to regional security and could inflame tensions with Russia.
He urged the Nato military alliance to replace the exercises with more dialogue and co-operation with Russia.
Nato has carried out a 10-day exercise simulating a Russian attack on Poland.
The drill, which ended on Friday, involved about 31,000 troops, as well as fighter jets, ships and 3,000 vehicles.

Jennifer Rankin: Eastern Europe needs permanent Nato troops, say ex-US policymakers (Guardian)

Nato troops should be stationed permanently in eastern Europe to guard against potential aggressive moves by Russia, two former US policymakers have said in a report that could raise tensions with Moscow.
Just weeks ahead of a Nato summit in Warsaw, Nicholas Burns, a former US ambassador to the organisation, and Gen James Jones, a former supreme allied commander for Europe, have called for permanent air, sea and ground troops to be based in the Baltic States, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria…
Any such move would be bound to be seen by the Kremlin as a hostile act. Moscow argues that the plan to set up rotating battalions in Poland and the Baltic States would violate a 1997 agreement that Nato would not mass “substantial combat forces” in Europe.

Reuters: Aung San Suu Kyi tells UN that the term ‘Rohingya’ will be avoided (Guardian)

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has told the UN special rapporteur on human rights that the government will avoid using the term “Rohingya” to describe a persecuted Muslim minority in the country’s north-west.
The statement came as the top UN human rights official issued a report saying the Rohingya had been deprived of nationality and undergone systematic discrimination and severe restrictions on movements. They had also suffered executions and torture that together may amount to crimes against humanity, the report said…
Feted in the west for her role as champion of Myanmar’s democratic opposition during long years of military rule and house arrest, Suu Kyi has been criticised overseas, and by some in Myanmar, for saying little about the abuses faced by the Rohingya…
Some 120,000 Rohingya remain displaced in squalid camps since fighting erupted in Rakhine State between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012. Thousands have fled persecution and poverty.

Julian Vigo: Disenfranchisement Laws, Race and the U.S. Presidential Election (CounterPunch)

5.8 million Americans cannot vote because of felony conviction. One out of every thirteen African Americans has lost their voting rights due to felony disenfranchisement laws. Compare this with one in every forty-five non-black voters and it is clear that something is amiss with the US electoral process. The 2000 presidential elections gave Republican nominee, George W. Bush, a narrow win over the Democratic, nominee, Al Gore, where the margin of Bush’s victory in this state were fewer than 1,000 votes. It is widely viewed that had disenfranchisement laws not been in vigour in Florida which prohibited as many as 620,000 citizens from voting, history would have decided a different US president.

David Palumbo-Liu: The UN’s damning report on Israel and torture: The desperate case of Palestinian youth in the occupied territory (Salon)

Just recently, Israel was elected to chair one of the United Nations’ permanent committees — the Sixth Committee, called the “Legal Committee.” It oversees issues related to international law, including human rights issues and issues of decolonization. Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon remarked, “I am proud to be the first Israeli elected to this position… Israel is a world leader in international law and in fighting terrorism…We are pleased to have the opportunity to share our knowledge with the countries of the world.” This presents a case of overwhelming contradiction, as Israel itself has been sharply and persistently criticized for violations of human rights and its continued colonial project in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
In May 2011, Danon wrote an op-ed published in The New York Times where he advocated that Israel annex all West Bank settlements and “uninhabited areas.”

Amira Hass: Palestinian City Parched After Israel Cuts Water Supply (Haaretz, also via Google News)

Chickens and gardens in Salfit die of dehydration, and factories are shut down in an effort to conserve water; ‘We woke up one morning to an empty reservoir,’ the mayor says. ‘Had we known ahead of time that the water would be cut off, we would have stocked up.’

Amira Hass: Israel Admits Cutting West Bank Water Supply, but Blames Palestinian Authority (Haaretz)

Since the start of this month, tens of thousands of Palestinians have been suffering the harsh effects of a drastic cut in the water supplied them by Israel’s Mekorot water company.
In the Salfit region of the West Bank and in three villages east of Nablus, homes have had no running water for more than two weeks. Factories there have been shut down, gardens and plant nurseries have been ruined and animals have died of thirst or been sold to farmers outside the affected areas.

Amira Hass: Israel Incapable of Telling Truth About Water It Steals From Palestinians (Haaretz, also via Google News)
Nir Hasson: Four Out of Five East Jerusalemites Live in Poverty, a Sharp Rise Over Past Years (Haaretz, also via Google News)

Eighty-two percent of East Jerusalem residents lived under the poverty line in 2014, a sharp increase from previous years, according to the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies.
In comparison, the poverty rate for Israel as a whole is 22 percent, the rate for Jerusalem as a whole is 48 percent. In 2013, the poverty rate recorded in East Jerusalem was 76 percent, JIIS said.

Yuval Eylon: An Israeli-Palestinian confederation? Not so fast (+972 Mag)

A new initiative seeks to find a new, creative way to solve the conflict. The only problem? It forgets about equality…
Two States One Homeland proposes a confederation based on 1967 borders, freedom of movement, and joint institutions. The settlements will remain under Palestinian sovereignty, the settlers will be able to keep Israeli citizenship, and a similar number of citizens of Palestine will be able to live as residents in Israel…
On paper it seems like a fair exchange. However with hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens in sovereign Palestinian territory, the Palestinian state will inevitably lack all sovereignty. The disparities in power ensure that Palestinian sovereignty will remain a formality, while actual sovereignty will remain in the hands of Israeli settlers. On the other hand the State of Israel will gain hundreds of thousands of laborers who lack both citizenship or even the very ability to become citizens of Israel.

James North, Philip Weiss: Front-page article in ‘NYT’ exposes the lie that wall is a security barrier (MondoWeiss)

The New York Times today has a top-of-the-front-page article about tens of thousands of Palestinians managing to get over or through “what Israelis call the security barrier” to work without papers inside Israel…
On the one hand, the article by James Glanz and Rami Nazzal, marks real progress: the Times is showing that the wall is not really a security barrier — 55,000 Palestinians legally pass through it and 30-60,000 illegally. If Palestinians really want to kill Israelis, the wall is no obstacle at all.
The industry offers economic benefits for everyone involved: Palestinian workers earn double or quadruple the wages they can in the West Bank; Israeli contractors and restaurant owners pay less for illegal labor than for Palestinians with permits…
The article makes clear that only the tiniest fraction of those who come in to Israel come in to attack; 99.9999 percent come to work. Thus the article exposes the lie that the wall has stopped attacks on Israelis. There are no attacks because Palestinians are choosing by and large not to resort to violence to counter the occupation. And the two societies are interdependent.
So why the wall?
That’s the big flaw in the article. It doesn’t address the political purposes of the wall: to grab as much Palestinian land with maximum Jews on it.

James Glanz, Rami Nazzal: Smugglers in West Bank Open Doors to Jobs in Israel, and Violence (New York Times)

Brazil | Austria | Greece | Myanmar | Poland | Israel

Glenn Greenwald: Brazil’s Democracy to Suffer Grievous Blow as Unelectable, Corrupt Neoliberal Is Installed. (Intercept)

In 2002, Brazil’s left-of-center Workers’ Party (PT) ascended to the presidency when Lula da Silva won in a landslide over the candidate of the center-right PSDB party (throughout 2002, “markets” were indignant at the mere prospect of PT’s victory). The PT remained in power when Lula, in 2006, was re-elected in another landslide against a different PSDB candidate. PT’s enemies thought they had their chance to get rid of PT in 2010, when Lula was barred by term limits from running again, but their hopes were crushed when Lula’s handpicked successor, the previously unknown Dilma Rousseff, won by 12 points over the same PSDB candidate who lost to Lula in 2002. In 2014, PT’s enemies poured huge amounts of money and resources into defeating her, believing that she was vulnerable and they had finally found a star PSDB candidate, but they lost again, this time narrowly, as Dilma was re-elected with 54 million votes.
In sum, PT has won four straight national elections — the last one occurring just 18 months ago. Its opponents have vigorously tried — and failed — to defeat it at the ballot box, largely due to PT’s support among Brazil’s poor and working classes.

Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Fishman, David Miranda: New Political Earthquake in Brazil: Is It Now Time for Media Outlets to Call This a “Coup”? (Intercept)

Brazil today awoke to stunning news of secret, genuinely shocking conversations involving a key minister in Brazil’s newly installed government, which shine a bright light on the actual motives and participants driving the impeachment of the country’s democratically elected president, Dilma Rousseff. The transcripts were published by the country’s largest newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, and reveal secret conversations that took place in March, just weeks before the impeachment vote in the lower house was held. They show explicit plotting between the new planning minister (then-senator), Romero Jucá, and former oil executive Sergio Machado — both of whom are formal targets of the “Car Wash” corruption investigation — as they agree that removing Dilma is the only means for ending the corruption investigation. The conversations also include discussions of the important role played in Dilma’s removal by the most powerful national institutions, including — most importantly — Brazil’s military leaders.

Jonathan Watts: Brazil minister ousted after secret tape reveals plot to topple President Rousseff (Guardian)

Planning minister Romero Jucá was recorded saying ‘We have to change the government’ as the only means to stop a sweeping corruption investigation

Rubens Valente: Em diálogos gravados, Jucá fala em pacto para deter avanço da Lava Jato (Folha de S. Paolo)
Temer é recebido no Senado com vaias e gritos de “golpista” (Vermelho)

Kate Connolly, Jon Henley: Far-right candidate narrowly defeated in Austrian presidential election (Guardian)

A leftwing independent candidate has narrowly prevented Austria from becoming the first EU country to elect a far-right head of state, squeaking home by a tiny margin as the country’s new president after a knife-edge contest ended with his opponent conceding defeat.
Alexander Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old retired economics professor backed by the Austrian Green party, defeated his far-right opponent Norbert Hofer only after 700,000 postal ballots – about 10% of the available votes – were taken into account.

Simon Tisdall: Far right surge in Austria signals end of centrist politics-as-usual (Guardian)

If ostracism is not on the cards then outright opposition or direct engagement seem to be the remaining alternatives

Sharmini Peries, Michael Hudson: The Financial Invasion of Greece (Real News Network)

IMF’s concern about Greek debt is bogus, this is full scale financial war, forcing Greece give up ports, pensions, properties and much more

Stavros Mavroudeas: Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece (CounterpUnch)

The new late night deal in the Eurogroup on the new bailout for Greece is another blatant hypocrisy by the dominant European Union powers, their partner-cum-competitor IMF (aka the US) and the Greek establishment (now represented by the SYRIZA government).
The new deal is an uneasy compromise subject to a continuing tug-of-war between the US (through its proxy, the IMF) and the EU.
Together, the EU and the US obliged the now crumbling (because of people’s anger) SYRIZA government to capitulate to the troika austerity policies as encapsulated in the now three Economic Adjustment Programs for Greece. These programs aggravated the depression of the Greek economy, caused a rampant immiserisation of the Greek people and expanded the control of Western capitals on the Greek economy.

Poppy McPherson: ‘No Muslims allowed’: how nationalism is rising in Aung San Suu Kyi’s Myanmar (Guardian)

Concerns grow that Buddhist extremism may flourish unless country’s new democratic leaders counter discrimination against minorities…
The few public comments Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy has given on the issue have not been encouraging.
Suu Kyi reportedly instructed the new US ambassador not to use the term Rohingya…
The fact that nationalist rhetoric has gone unchallenged, and has in some cases been echoed, by the new government has left some wondering what place the country’s minorities have in its future.

Jon Emont: Does Nobel Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi Want To Push Her Country’s Muslims Into the Sea? (Tablet)

In the run-up to the vote, Suu Kyi’s NLD purged its candidate roster of all Muslim candidates, including non-Rohingya Muslim Burmese who were legally allowed to participate, in what was widely interpreted as an attempt to neutralize hardline Buddhist and nationalist critics of her party…
U Kyaw Hla Aung, a Rohingya lawyer and prominent dissident who has spent years in and out of prison for defending Rohingya rights and currently lives in a humble house in Thet Key Pyin camp, said the situation facing the Rohingya “is a kind of ethnic cleansing.”…
There are about 1.1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar, which makes them roughly 2 percent of the country’s population. Myanmar is ethnically heterogeneous but overwhelmingly Buddhist, and the Muslim Rohingya, descendants of traders who have lived in Rakhine state, on the border with Bangladesh, for centuries, are labeled as Bengalis by the state, regardless of how many generations their families have resided in Myanmar. State discrimination against the Rohingya was enshrined in the Burmese citizenship law of 1982, which did not recognize Rohingya as an indigenous race to Myanmar, rendering the majority of Rohingya stateless…
The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that around 50,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since January 2014…
In a 2013 interview with the BBC, Suu Kyi categorically denied that ethnic cleansing was taking place in Rohingya and attempted to explain the fear that many Burmese Buddhists brought against Muslims. “There is a perception that Muslim power, that global Muslim power, is very great. And certainly that is the perception in many parts of the world and in our country too.”

So Aung San Suu Kyi’s position is nothing new:
Sara Perria: Why is Aung San Suu Kyi silent on the plight of the Rohingya people? (Guardian)

Burma’s opposition leader appears to be cowed by her need to dampen ethnic tensions and win votes from an electorate in the thrall of Islamophobia

NATO arrests Mateusz Piskorski, the Polish Leader of the Opposition | NATO zatrzymało lidera polskiej opozycji Mateusza Piskorskiego (Voltaire)
Witch Hunt On? Poland Gets Its 1st Political Prisoner (Sputnik)

Mateusz Piskorski, the leader of the Zmiana (Change) party was arrested by officers from Poland’s Interior Defense Agency (ABW) after they raided his Warsaw home, seizing computers and documents. The homes of several other party members were also searched.
Piskorski, known for his pro-Russian views, was charged with spying for “third countries” as pro-government media accused him of working for Russian and Chinese intelligence services…
Piskorski’s arrest followed his warning that the Polish government was “cleaning” the political space of the country of unwanted elements in the run-up to a NATO summit to be held in Warsaw on July 8 and 9.

Mateusz Piskorski: The war against historical memory is NATO’s long-term campaign (Voltaire)

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez: The petroyuan is the big bet of Russia and China | Россия и Китай ставят на нефтеюань по-крупному (Voltaire)

After the economic sanctions that the United States and the European Union imposed against Russia, Moscow and Beijing put together an imposing energetic team that has radically transformed the world oil market. In addition to increasing their interchange of hydrocarbons exponentially, both oriental powers have decided to put an end to the domination of the dollar in fixing the prices of the black gold. The petroyuan is the instrument of payment of strategic character that promises to facilitate the transition to a multipolar monetary system, a system that takes various currencies into account and reflects the correlation of forces in the current world order.

Israelis Will Pay Dearly for Their Prime Minister’s Reckless Appointment (Haaretz)

It’s hard to imagine Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making a more reckless and irresponsible decision than appointing Avigdor Lieberman defense minister.
For the second time since the last election Netanyahu had to choose between the Zionist Union and the extreme right, and once again he chose to veer right and establish an ideological, racist coalition that aims to entrench the occupation, expand the settlements in the territories, oppress the Arab minority and undermine Israeli democracy.

Gideon Levy: With Lieberman as Defense Minister, Israelis Should Head for the Bomb Shelters (Haaretz; also via Google News)

The State of Israel in the hands of someone who could destroy it: a man who threatened to bomb the Aswan Dam and sees Israel’s Arab citizens as the enemy…
For the first time in Israeli history, fascism is a clear and possibly present danger. True, Menachem Begin’s election as prime minister evoked similar fears, as did the appointment of Ariel Sharon as defense minister. But those were other times, when Israeli society still had immune mechanisms, a system of checks and balances. They were eliminated long ago. Now the state is in the hands of someone who could destroy it.

Jonathan Lis: Outgoing Defense Minister Ya’alon: Extremists Have Taken Over Israel (Haaretz)
Israel Has Been Infected by the Seeds of Fascism, Says ex-Prime Minister Ehud Barak (Haaretz)
A Death Penalty Only for Palestinians (Haaretz)

There are so many reasons to oppose capital punishment. But Avigdor Lieberman’s attempt to adopt it is particularly odious.

Glenn Greenwald: Interview With BDS Co-Founder Omar Barghouti: Banned by Israel From Traveling, Threatened With Worse (Intercept)

Anyone who purports to believe in free speech rights should be appalled by Israeli behavior.

Syria | Refugees | Portugal | Srebrenica

Mark Galeotti: Why did it take Turkey just 17 seconds to shoot down Russian jet? (Guardian)

Even if Turkey is right that a Russian fighter jet strayed into its airspace, the plane was within Ankara’s borders for just 17 seconds before being attacked – and was making no hostile moves against the Turks.
Airspace incursions, granted usually in less politically tense contexts, happen all the time, and generally you’d expect warning shots to be fired and then attempts to force the intruder to leave or to land…
In 2012, the Syrians shot down a Turkish jet which had entered its airspace, and Erdoğan’s furious response at the time was that “a short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack”.
(At the time, the then Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen called it “another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms”. There hasn’t been a similar critique of Ankara.)

Mike Whitney: Putin’s Revenge? The Fight for the Border (CounterPunch)

Sahra Wagenknecht: Refugee Crisis: The Result of Western Wars and Destabilization (Monthly Review)

Everyone is talking about refugees, but why isn’t anyone talking about the reason why they have to leave their homes? What is happening in the Middle East is no natural disaster. The refugee crisis is a direct result of a policy of destabilization and war.

Conn Hallinan: Portugal: the Left Takes Charge (CounterPunch)

Portugal’s elections saw three left parties—the Socialist Party, the Left Bloc, and the Communist/Green Alliance take 62 percent of the vote and end the rightwing Forward Portugal Party’s majority in the 230-seat parliament. Forward Portugal is made up of the Social Democratic Party and the Popular Party.
Even though Forward Portugal lost the election—it emerged the largest party, but garnered only 38 percent of the votes—Silva allowed its leader, former Prime Minister Passos Coelho, to form a government. That maneuver lasted just 11 days. When Coelho introduced a budget loaded with austerity measures and privatization schemes, the left alliance voted it down, forcing the government to resign.

Edward S. Herman, David Peterson: Vulliamy and Hartmann on Srebrenica: A Study in Propaganda (Monthly Review)

After having stoked the civil wars and violent dismantling of Yugoslavia of 1991-1995, the United States—with the help of the ICTY—stoked a crisis in Kosovo which it used to force a war against Serbia, a war which enabled the U.S.-led NATO bloc to occupy Kosovo and later separate it from Serbia, and left Serbia a crushed and subservient state. The construction and use of the ICTY to demonize Serbs was part of the war-making plan, as the ICTY called for refusing to negotiate a settlement with, and pursuing as criminals, Serb targets.