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)
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)