Islamic State | New Cold War | War Propaganda | Palestine | Cuba | Bahrain

Patrick Cockburn: Isis consolidates (London Review of Books)

As the attention of the world focused on Ukraine and Gaza, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) captured a third of Syria in addition to the quarter of Iraq it had seized in June. The frontiers of the new Caliphate declared by Isis on 29 June are expanding by the day and now cover an area larger than Great Britain and inhabited by at least six million people, a population larger than that of Denmark, Finland or Ireland. In a few weeks of fighting in Syria Isis has established itself as the dominant force in the Syrian opposition, routing the official al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, in the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor and executing its local commander as he tried to flee. In northern Syria some five thousand Isis fighters are using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army in Mosul to besiege half a million Kurds in their enclave at Kobani on the Turkish border. In central Syria, near Palmyra, Isis fought the Syrian army as it overran the al-Shaer gasfield, one of the largest in the country, in a surprise assault that left an estimated three hundred soldiers and civilians dead. Repeated government counter-attacks finally retook the gasfield but Isis still controls most of Syria’s oil and gas production. The Caliphate may be poor and isolated but its oil wells and control of crucial roads provide a steady income in addition to the plunder of war.

Tariq Ali, Patrick Cockburn: The Rise of ISIS and the Origins of the New Middle East War (CounterPunch)

The unity between the Sunni and Shia resistance to the Americans was always tentative, although taken very seriously by the Americans. I mean, the memoirs of American generals at the time said they were really worried that these two groups would unite in resisting the occupation. And it’s perhaps one of the many disasters to have happened to Iraq that they didn’t unite, that they remained sectarian, in fact remained more sectarian, on the Sunni side.

Peter Harling: IS back in business (Monde diplomatique)

The so-called Islamic State (IS) — the jihadist movement also known as ISIL or ISIS and by the derogatory acronym Da’ish in Arabic — now controls much of northeast Syria and northwest Iraq (1). In a region beset with so much confusion, it appears uniquely determined and self-assured. Despite its name, it is in no sense a new state, since it rejects the concept of borders and largely does without institutions. Yet IS tells us much about the Middle East — and especially about its genuine states — as well as about western foreign policy.

Robert Fisk: Bingo! Here’s another force of evil to be ‘vanquished’ (Independent)

Resurrection, reinvention and linguistics. Barack Obama did the lot. And now he’s taking America to war in Syria as well as Iraq. Oh yes, and he’s going to defeat Isis, its “barbarism”, “genocide”, its “warped ideology” – until the bad guys are “vanquished from the earth”. What happened to George W Bush?

Robert Fisk: Assad lures President Obama into his web (Independent)
Robert Fisk: Isis isn’t the first group to use the butcher’s knife as an instrument of policy. Nor will it be the last (Independent)

Serge Halimi: The new cold war / Nouvelle guerre froide (Monde diplmatique)

In 1980 Ronald Reagan expressed his idea of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union in one short sentence: “We win, they lose.” Twelve years later, his immediate successor at the White House, George H W Bush, was satisfied that the task had been accomplished: “A world once divided into two armed camps now recognises one, sole and pre-eminent power, the United States of America.” The cold war was officially at an end.
That period too is now over. Its death knell sounded on the day Russia had had enough of “losing” and realised that its ritual humiliation would never come to an end, with one neighbouring country after another being persuaded — or bribed — into joining an economic and military alliance against it.

Tom Parfitt, Gleb Pavlovsky: Putin’s World Outlook (New Left Review)

[This] interview…, conducted in January 2012 by Tom Parfitt, then working for the Guardian in Moscow, has never before been published. It is a remarkable document—arguably the most revealing single account of Putin’s vision of rule, and its roots, to have emerged so far. From late 1999 to 2011, Pavlovsky was a key adviser to Putin in the management of Russian opinion—one of the regime’s two leading ‘political technologists’, along with Vladislav Surkov.

Lee Fang: Who’s Paying the Pro-War Pundits? (Nation)

If you read enough news and watch enough cable television about the threat of the Islamic State, the radical Sunni Muslim militia group better known simply as IS, you will inevitably encounter a parade of retired generals demanding an increased US military presence in the region. They will say that our government should deploy, as retired General Anthony Zinni demanded, up to 10,000 American boots on the ground to battle IS. Or as in retired General Jack Keane’s case, they will make more vague demands, such as for “offensive” air strikes and the deployment of more military advisers to the region.
But what you won’t learn from media coverage of IS is that many of these former Pentagon officials have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world. Ramping up America’s military presence in Iraq and directly entering the war in Syria, along with greater military spending more broadly, is a debatable solution to a complex political and sectarian conflict. But those goals do unquestionably benefit one player in this saga: America’s defense industry.

Nermeen Shaikh, Amy Goodman, Lee Fang: Conflicts of Interest Exposed for TV Guests Backing Military Action (Democracy Now)
AP: Anti-Islamic ads to appear on NYC transit (Haaretz)

Anti-Islamic ads will begin appearing on 100 New York City buses and two subway entrances next week, but transit officials have rejected an ad from the same group that includes the phrase “Killing Jews.” …
The agency says it rejected an ad with the quote “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah” because it could incite violence.

Robert Fisk: Israel’s ‘land for lives’ is theft. Pure and simple (Independent)

So a bit more of Palestine has slidden down the plughole. A thousand more acres of Palestinian land stolen by the Israeli government – for “appropriation” is theft, is it not? – and the world has made the usual excuses. The Americans found it “counter-productive” to peace, which is probably a bit less forceful than its reaction would be if Mexico were to bite off a 1,000-acre chunk of Texas and decided to build homes there for its illegal immigrants in the US. But this is “Palestine” (inverted commas more necessary than ever) and Israel has been getting away with theft, albeit not on quite this scale – it is the biggest land heist in 30 years – ever since it signed up to the Oslo agreement in 1993.

Gideon Levy: War? What war? Gaza gets forgotten in a hurry (Haaretz)

Even if we put aside the moral blindness in Israel, which wasn’t shocked by a single event during the fighting, it’s impossible to comprehend the complacency afterwards…
Gaza hasn’t forgotten. There’s a whole list of people who can never forget: the 1,500 orphaned children; the 3,000 wounded children; the 1,000 crippled children; the 110,000 residents still crowded in UNRWA shelters in inhumane conditions; the tenants of the 18,000 buildings destroyed or badly damaged, leaving 2.5 million tons of debris nobody knows what to do with; the 450,000 people without water and the 360,000 who, according to the World Health Organization, are suffering from PTSD after our bombardments. None of these people can be expected to forgive, and this isn’t the first time this has happened.

Michel Réal: The forgotten alliance (Monde diplomatique)

The USSR was central to the adoption of the UN plan to partition Palestine on 29 November 1947. Besides its own vote, it also delivered those of its satellites, with the (still unexplained) exception of Yugoslavia. It also provided Israel with the resources it needed most — people and arms…
Moscow also supported Israel in another aspect of its demographic battle: the homogenisation of its population, which led to the departure — mainly through expulsion — of over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs. The USSR absolved Israel of responsibility and blamed the British. In 1948 the Soviet Union voted against UN resolution 194 on the possible return of Palestinian refugees…
In this first phase, from 1941 to 1951, Israel received support from the USSR that went beyond its expectations — without having to sacrifice the backing of western nations, especially the US.
However, subsequent episodes caused discord and led to Russo-Israeli diplomatic relations being severed in February 1953…
Stalin’s death on 5 March 1953 ended the tensions between the countries and halted the campaign against Soviet Jews. Diplomatic relations were restored in July, but there was no return to the golden age of 1947-49, and the war of June 1967, in which Russia supported Egypt and its Arab allies, led to a second break in diplomatic relations. They were only restored in 1991, just a few months before the demise of the USSR.

Igor Delanoë: Unexpected allies (Monde diplomatique)

About 15% of Israel’s population have direct Russian roots, and the pragmatic alliance between the countries in trade and diplomacy is changing the balance of power in the region.

Zeev Sternhell: It’s the colonialism they hate, not Jews (Haaretz)

Most Europeans do not doubt the Jews’ right to an independent state, but they vehemently object to a reality in which we are keeping masses of people under occupation and consciously trampling their basic rights.

Emily Morris: Unexpected Cuba (New Left Review)

What is the verdict on Cuba’s economy, nearly a quarter of a century after the collapse of the Soviet bloc? The story generally told is a simple one, with a clear message. It describes a cyclical alternation of government policy between moments of pragmatic capitulation to market forces, which account for any progress, and periods of ideological rigidity and re-assertion of state control, which account for all economic difficulties.

Robert Fisk: Briton at the heart of Bahrain’s brutality rule (Independent)

IAN Stewart MacWalter Henderson has torturers on his staff. In the embattled state of Bahrain, he is the most feared of all secret policemen, the General Director of Security and head of the State Investigation Department, a 67-year-old ex-British police superintendent whose officers routinely beat prisoners, both in the basements of the SIS offices and in the al- Qalaa jail. Leaders of the Bahraini opposition believe he is the power behind the throne of Sheikh Issa bin Salman al-Khalifa, and they may well be right.

Rob Crawford: The CIA, the President, and the Senate’s Torture Report (CounterPunch)

Colombia | Egypt | Syria | Korea | “Fiscal Cliff”

Daniel Kovalik: The ICC and Colombia: Massacres Under the Looking Glass (CounterPunch)

Evan Hill, Ali Abdel Mohsen, Omar Halawa: Opposition forces gear towards a ‘no’ vote (Egypt Independent)
Esam al-Amin: Egypt’s Constitution, the Opposition, and the Dialogue of the Deaf (CounterPunch)
Alain Gresh: Gulf cools towards Muslim Brothers (Monde diplomatique)
Markus Bickel: Hamdin Sabbahi: „Der Geist der Revolution wird mit Füßen getreten“ (FAZ)

Paul Jay, Sami Ramadani: The Dangerous Global Consequences of a Syria Intervention (Tlaxcala)
Basel Dayoub: Syria: Religious Police Patrol Aleppo’s Countryside (al-Akhbar)

The Syrian opposition groups that have taken control of Aleppo’s countryside are deploying a religious police force to enforce new laws, such as barring women from driving and making prayer compulsory.

Bruce Cumings is a Korea specialist and one of the authors of Inventing the Axis of Evil: The Truth About North Korea, Iran, and Syria, a book we discussed a few years ago.
Park Hyun: Bruce Cumings says sanctions have failed, time for dialogue with North Korea (Hankoryeh)
Park Hyun: Bruce Cumings: Park likely to continue Lee administration’s NK policy (Hankoryeh)
And here’s an old, but interesting article by Cumings reviewing books on Korea by Bradley Martin and Jasper Becker, followed by a short exchange between Bruce Cumings and Roderick MacFarquhar:
Bruce Cumings: We look at it and see ourselves (London Review of Books)

Newk Mindshaftgab: The Fact-Free Fiscal Cliff Debate (CounterPunch)

The History of Budget Deficits and Economic Growth in Relation to Taxes and Unemployment

Historic ruling on Europe’s role in CIA renditions (Amnesty International)

On 31 December 2003, the Macedonian authorities arrested El-Masri, who is [a German citizen] of Lebanese descent, after he entered Macedonia from Serbia.
They held him incommunicado, subjecting him to enforced disappearance, repeated interrogations and to ill-treatment, until 23 January 2004 when they handed him over to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents.
As part of the covert, US-led rendition and secret detention programme, the CIA transferred El-Masri to a secret detention facility in Afghanistan.
There he was held unlawfully in secret, not charged with any crime and his detention was not subject to judicial review. He did not have access to a lawyer. His whereabouts were not acknowledged and he was held incommunicado. As a result he was subjected to enforced disappearance for over four months. While in Afghanistan, he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.
On 28 May 2004, El-Masri was put on a plane and flown to Albania where he was released.

Ian Cobain: MoD pays out millions to Iraqi torture victims (Guardian)

The [British] Ministry of Defence has paid out £14m in compensation and costs to hundreds of Iraqis who complained that they were illegally detained and tortured by British forces during the five-year occupation of the south-east of the country.

Joshua Brollier: The Struggle for Land Rights Near the Gaza Border (MRzine)

Israeli Occupation Forces shot and wounded an unarmed 22-year-old farmer, Mohammed Qdeih, from behind. … Under the siege, Israeli “closed military zones” have confiscated up to 35 percent of Gaza’s arable land, which was previously used for fruit and olive orchards, wheat, and various vegetables. With nearly half of Gaza’s population designated as “food insecure” by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the farming industry having been crippled from the inability to export products under the Israeli blockade, this land is essential for the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and residents of Gaza.

Eva Bartlett: Gaza fisherman jailed for serving Hamas coffee (Electronic Intifada)

Shortly after Israel and Hamas signed a ceasefire agreement on 21 November, the Israeli navy abducted thirty Palestinian fishermen from Gaza’s waters, destroyed and sank a Palestinian fishing vessel, and confiscated nine fishing boats in the space of four days.

Ali Abunimah: Israeli embassy’s Christmas message of hate: Bethlehem Palestinians would “lynch” Jesus and Mary as “Jews” (Electronic Intifada)

The offensiveness of the message needs no further elaboration, but Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem will find it particularly galling given that it is Israel, with its wall surrounding their city, and other violent manifestations of the occupation, which has done most to strangle the home of the Nativity. … For several years, Shimon Gapso, the notoriously racist mayor of the Israeli settlement of “Upper Nazareth” in the Galilee, has banned Christmas trees, calling them a provocation. …
This is not the first time the Israeli embassy in Dublin has been responsible for messages that are even more unhinged than typical Israeli government propaganda. In June, Nurit Tinari-Modai, the deputy ambassador, made headlines when she proposed a plan to personally smear Palestine solidarity activists – especially Israelis – to “humiliate and shame them” as suffering from psychological and sexual problems.

Death surge linked with mass privatisation (Oxford University)

As many as one million working-age men died due to the economic shock of mass privatisation policies followed by post-communist countries in the 1990s, according to a new study published in The Lancet … During the 1990s, former communist countries underwent the world’s worst peacetime mortality crisis in the past 50 years – with over three million avoidable deaths and 10 million ‘missing’ men, according to the United Nations.

Syria | Iran | Russia | Korea | USA | Israel

Serene Assir: Haytham al-Manna: The Politics Behind the Pact with Ghalioun (al-Akhbar)
Wilhelm Langthaler: Syrien, die Türkei und die arabische Revolte / Syria, Turkey and the Arab revolt (Anti-Imperialist Camp)

Stephen Kinzer: Iran’s First Great Satan Was England (New York Times)
John Grant: The New Big Show: Iran and Historical Forgetting (CounterPunch)

Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzales, Stephen Cohen: Election Fraud Galvanizes Russian Opposition, Communist Party 20 Years After Soviet Union’s Collapse (Democracy Now)

Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzales, Bruce Cumings: North Korea’s New Leader Kim Jong-un Inherits Father’s Nuclear Legacy & Country’s Uncertain Future (Democracy Now)

Jesse L. Jackson: The Miserable Choices in Iowa: Making Reagan Look Like a Liberal (CounterPunch)

Jonathan Cook: Israel’s New House Rules: Deepening Authoritarianism (al-Akhbar)

Israel | Libya | Gagarin

So much for condemning the use of mercenaries in Libya, said Rob:
Patrick Wintour: Libyan rebels should receive training funded by Arab countries, says Britain (Guardian)

Britain is to urge Arab countries to train the disorganised Libyan rebels, and so strengthen their position on the battlefield before negotiations on a ceasefire, senior British defence sources have indicated.

The sources said they were also looking at hiring private security companies, some of which draw on former SAS members, to aid the rebels. These private soldiers could be paid by Arab countries to train the unstructured rebel army.

Patrick Martin: A CIA commander for the Libyan rebels (WSWS)

The Libyan National Council, the Benghazi-based group that speaks for the rebel forces fighting the Gaddafi regime, has appointed a long-time CIA collaborator to head its military operations.

Mark Mazzetti, Eric Schmitt: CIA Agents in Libya Aid Airstrikes and Meet Rebels (New York Times)

The Central Intelligence Agency has inserted clandestine operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and to contact and vet the beleaguered rebels battling Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, according to American officials. …

In addition to the C.I.A. presence, composed of an unknown number of Americans who had worked at the spy agency’s station in Tripoli and others who arrived more recently, current and former British officials said that dozens of British special forces and MI6 intelligence officers are working inside Libya. The British operatives have been directing airstrikes from British jets and gathering intelligence about the whereabouts of Libyan government tank columns, artillery pieces and missile installations, the officials said.

Kim Sengupta, David Randall: Western military advisers become visible in Benghazi (Independent)

Military and diplomatic operatives from the US and Western Europe – usually described as experts, consultants and advisers – turned up in the rebel capital, Benghazi. These include UK personnel, among them a former Royal Navy officer who had recently served as a diplomat in Afghanistan. He said he was in Libya as a consultant to the opposition administration.

Medea Benjamin, Charles Davis: Obama on Libya. George Bush Version 2.0 (Counterpunch)
Vijay Prashad: America’s Libyans. Neo-Liberal Interventionism (Counterpunch)

The troops of Qaddafi and of the rebels swing back and forth between Ras Lanuf and Ajtabia like a pendulum. U. S. and French air strikes have degraded the forces of the regime, but they have not yet destroyed them. The civil war continues. If the U. S. and France start to supply the rebels, it is likely that in the long haul Qaddafi’s troops will dissolve into an insurgency. In which case, Libya is likely to enter a protracted period of deep instability. The figures in place in Benghazi from the political and military side would hope to ride into Tripoli on their own tanks, but under NATO air cover. They have many to whom they owe much. People like Mahmoud Jibril and Khalifa Heftir will be more accountable to their patrons in Paris and Washington than to the people of Libya, whose blood is being spilled on both sides for an outcome that is unlikely to benefit them.

Johann Hari: We’re not being told the truth on Libya (Independent)

We are pushed every day by the media to look at the (usually very real) abuses by our country’s enemies and ask: “What can we do?” We are almost never prompted to look at the equally real and equally huge abuses by our own country, its allies and its corporations—which we have much more control over—and ask the same question. …
You could argue that our governments are clearly not driven by humanitarian concerns, but their intervention in Libya did stop a massacre in Ben Gazhi, so we should support it anyway. I understand this argument, which some people I admire have made, and I wrestled with it. It is an argument that you should, in effect, ride the beast of NATO power if it slays other beasts that were about to eat innocent people. This was the argument I made in 2003 about Iraq—that the Bush administration had malign motives, but it would have the positive effect of toppling a horrific dictator, so we should support it. I think almost everyone can see now why this was a disastrous—and, in the end, shameful—argument.
Why? Because any coincidental humanitarian gain in the short term will be eclipsed as soon as the local population clash with the real reason for the war. Then our governments will back their renewed vicious repression—just as the US and Britain did in Iraq, with a policy of effectively sanctioning the resumption of torture when the population became uppity and objected to the occupation.

Gideon Levy: Goldstone has paved the path for a second Gaza war / גדעון לוי | על מה אנחנו צוהלים (Haaretz)
Frank Barat: Why Israel is Not a Democracy. An Interview with Ilan Pappé (CounterPunch)
Daniel Blatman: Heading toward an Israeli apartheid state / דניאל בלטמן | תמיד יש נימוקים לחקיקה גזענית (Haaretz)

Israeli racism, whose natural ‘hothouse’ is the colonialist project in the territories, has long since spilled over into Israeli society and has been legitimized in the series of laws recently passed in the Knesset.
הגזענות הישראלית, שחממת הגידול הטבעית שלה מצויה במפעל הקולוניאלי בשטחים, גלשה זה כבר אל תוך החברה הישראלית ונהפכה ללגיטימית בשורת החוקים שהתקבלו באחרונה בכנסת.

Tuesday, April 12th is the 60th anniversary of the first human space journey when cosmonaut Yuri A. Gagarin orbited the earth. April 12th used to be celebrated in the Soviet Union as Cosmonautics Day (День Космонавтики).