Archive for the ‘Hamas’ Category

Carnage in Gaza: To blame the victims for this killing spree defies both morality and sense

March 12, 2008

Carnage in Gaza: To blame the victims for this killing spree defies both morality and sense

 

By S Milne

 

Global Research, March 5, 2008

Guardian

 

Washington’s covert attempts to overturn an election result lie behind the crisis in Gaza, as leaked papers show

The attempt by western politicians and media to present this week’s carnage in the Gaza Strip as a legitimate act of Israeli self-defence – or at best the latest phase of a wearisome conflict between two somehow equivalent sides – has reached Alice-in-Wonderland proportions. Since Israel’s deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, issued his chilling warning last week that Palestinians faced a “holocaust” if they continued to fire home-made rockets into Israel, the balance sheet of suffering has become ever clearer. More than 120 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli forces in the past week, of whom one in five were children and more than half were civilians, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. During the same period, three Israelis were killed, two of whom were soldiers taking part in the attacks.

So what was the response of the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, to this horrific killing spree? It was to blame the “numerous civilian casualties” on the week’s “significant rise” in Palestinian rocket attacks “and the Israeli response”, condemn the firing of rockets as “terrorist acts” and defend Israel’s right to self-defence “in accordance with international law”. But of course it has been nothing of the kind – any more than has been Israel’s 40-year occupation of the Palestinian territories, its continued expansion of settlements or its refusal to allow the return of expelled refugees.

Nor is the past week’s one-sided burden of casualties and misery anything new, but the gap is certainly getting wider. After the election of Hamas two years ago, Israel – backed by the US and the European Union – imposed a punitive economic blockade, which has hardened over the past months into a full-scale siege of the Gaza Strip, including fuel, electricity and essential supplies. Since January’s mass breakout across the Egyptian border signalled that collective punishment wouldn’t work, Israel has opted for military escalation. What that means on the ground can be seen from the fact that at the height of the intifada, from 2000 to 2005, four Palestinians were killed for every Israeli; in 2006 it was 30; last year the ratio was 40 to one. In the three months since the US-sponsored Middle East peace conference at Annapolis, 323 Palestinians have been killed compared with seven Israelis, two of whom were civilians.

But the US and Europe’s response is to blame the principal victims for a crisis it has underwritten at every stage. In interviews with Palestinian leaders over the past few days, BBC presenters have insisted that Palestinian rockets have been the “starting point” of the violence, as if the occupation itself did not exist. In the West Bank, from which no rockets are currently fired and where the US-backed administration of Mahmoud Abbas maintains a ceasefire, there have been 480 Israeli military attacks over the past three months and 26 Palestinians killed. By contrast, the rockets from Gaza which are supposed to be the justification for the latest Israeli onslaught have killed a total of 14 people over seven years.

Like any other people, the Palestinians have the right to resist occupation – or to self-defence – whether they choose to exercise it or not. In spite of Israel’s disengagement in 2005, Gaza remains occupied territory, both legally and in reality. It is the world’s largest open-air prison, with land, sea and air access controlled by Israel, which carries out military operations at will. Palestinians may differ about the tactics of resistance, but the dominant view (if not that of Abbas) has long been that without some armed pressure, their negotiating hand will inevitably be weaker. And while it might be objected that the rockets are indiscriminate, that is not an easy argument for Israel to make, given its appalling record of civilian casualties in both the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

The truth is that Hamas’s control of Gaza is the direct result of the US refusal to accept the Palestinians’ democratic choice in 2006 and its covert attempt to overthrow the elected administration by force through its Fatah placeman Muhammad Dahlan. As confirmed by secret documents leaked to the US magazine Vanity Fair – and also passed to the Guardian – George Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Elliott Abrams, the US deputy national security adviser (of Iran-Contra fame), funnelled cash, weapons and instructions to Dahlan, partly through Arab intermediaries such as Jordan and Egypt, in an effort to provoke a Palestinian civil war. As evidence of the military buildup emerged, Hamas moved to forestall the US plan with its own takeover of Gaza last June. David Wurmser, who resigned as Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser the following month, argues: “What happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen.”

Yesterday, Rice attempted to defend the failed US attempt to reverse the results of the Palestinian elections by pointing to Iran’s support for Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel’s attacks on Gaza are expected to resume once she has left the region, even if no one believes they will stop the rockets. Some in the Israeli government hope that they can nevertheless weaken Hamas as a prelude to pushing Gaza into Egypt’s unwilling arms; others hope to bring Abbas and his entourage back to Gaza after they have crushed Hamas, perhaps with a transitional international force to save the Palestinian president’s face.

Neither looks a serious option, not least because Hamas cannot be crushed by force, even with the bloodbath that some envisage. The third, commonsense option, backed by 64% of Israelis, is to take up Hamas’s offer – repeated by its leader Khalid Mish’al at the weekend – and negotiate a truce. It’s a move that now attracts not only left-leaning Israeli politicians such as Yossi Beilin, but also a growing number of rightwing establishment figures, including Ariel Sharon’s former security adviser Giora Eiland, the former Mossad boss Efraim Halevy, and the ex-defence minister Shaul Mofaz.

The US, however, is resolutely opposed to negotiating with what it has long branded a terrorist organisation – or allowing anyone else to do so, including other Palestinians. As the leaked American papers confirm, Rice effectively instructed Abbas to “collapse” the joint Hamas-Fatah national unity government agreed in Mecca early last year, a decision carried out after Hamas’s pre-emptive takeover. But for the Palestinians, national unity is an absolute necessity if they are to have any chance of escaping a world of walled cantons, checkpoints, ethnically segregated roads, dispossession and humiliation.

What else can Israel do to stop the rockets, its supporters ask. The answer could not be more obvious: end the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and negotiate a just settlement for the Palestinian refugees, ethnically cleansed 60 years ago – who, with their families, make up the majority of Gaza’s 1.5 million people. All the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, accept that as the basis for a permanent settlement or indefinite end of armed conflict. In the meantime, agree a truce, exchange prisoners and lift the blockade. Israelis increasingly seem to get it – but the grim reality appears to be that a lot more blood is going to have to flow before it’s accepted in Washington.

s.milne@guardian.co.uk

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As the World Watches the Crisis in Gaza, Gaza Helps Itself

January 26, 2008

As the World Watches the Crisis in Gaza, Gaza Helps Itself

While the crisis in Gaza may dominate the headlines these days, the broader context from which it has emerged is sorely lacking. This is rather unsurprising, given the mainstream media’s proclivity for fragmented, sensationalist, profit-oriented coverage that serves the corporate interest. Fortunately, in venues like this one, there is room for a deeper exploration of the facts.
To begin, it is worth recalling that the Gaza Strip is an area of some 360 square kilometers, whose population before the 1948 war was only 80,000 people. In the months prior to, during and after the war, this population was joined by 200,000 Palestinian refugees from the Jaffa and Beersheva districts of British Mandate Palestine, who were forcibly expelled or fled from their homes in fear of the fighting. Most of the homes and villages from which they hailed were systematically destroyed by the military forces of the newly proclaimed Israeli state, and Gaza itself fell under de facto Egyptian administration until its occupation by Israel in the 1967 war.

Though international laws and conventions proclaim the right of refugees to leave and return to their homeland to be a basic human right, the applicability of this right to the Palestinian refugees in Gaza (and elsewhere) has been consistently rejected by the Israeli government. Accordingly, descendants of the first generation of refugees denied their right to return are registered as refugees by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), for to deny subsequent generations this status would be to reward Israeli intransigence by making the refugee problem disappear with the death of its first victims.

Thus, three-quarters of the 1.4 million people living in Gaza are registered refugees who receive basic humanitarian assistance from UNRWA, and they represent 22.42% of the total number of Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA. About half of Gaza’s refugee population (478,272) lives in eight refugee camps – Jabalia, Rafah, Beach, Nuseirat, Khan Younis, Bureij, Maghazi, and Deir al-Balah – whose population densities are among the highest in the world. The Beach camp in Gaza, for example, houses 80,688 refugees in an area of less than one square kilometer.1

The Israeli towns regularly targeted by the Qassam rockets of Palestinian militants have been built upon the lands in which their parents, grand-parents or great-grandparents once lived. Not a single article in the mainstream media on the situation in Gaza has mentioned this rather salient fact, and most reports have also failed to recall that Gaza remains under Israeli occupation. While Jewish-only settlements in Gaza were dismantled under Ariel Sharon’s 2005 disengagement plan, Gaza remains under Israeli control and is regularly subjected to Israeli military incursions. Of the over 1,100 Palestinians that have been killed by Israeli security forces since the August 2005 disengagement, the majority were residents of Gaza. Over the same period, a total of 28 Israelis were killed in attacks by Palestinian militants.2

Furthermore, while the Israeli government insists that its military manouevers and collective punishment of the population of Gaza is merely a response to Qassam rocket fire, the total number of civilians killed in such attacks between June 2004 and July 2006 was fourteen – five of whom were Palestinians, and one a migrant labourer from China. Operation Summer Rain (26 June – 24 July 2006), the codename for the Israeli military incursion into Gaza which the government claimed was launched to stop the Qassams, resulted in the death of 126 Palestinians, including at least 63 civilians, 29 of whom were under the age of 18.3

In this broader context, it is both hypocritical and highly misleading for mainstream news organizations to use terms like “Israeli response” or “Israeli retaliation” to characterize Israel’s attacks on Gaza. Qassam rocket fire is just one of many Palestinian responses to Israel’s occupation of Gaza and its continuing refusal to acknowledge the rights of Palestinians to return, self-determination and statehood. In the first forty-five years after their dispossession in 1948, Palestinians centered their resistance around the model of a popular uprising, using mass demonstrations, general strikes, appeals to the international community, and guerrilla operations against military targets to restore their lost rights. Indeed, the first intifada made up primarily of stone-throwing youths who were regularly gunned down by Israeli forces began in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza. It was only when these tactics failed to produce the desired results that suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians began, the first of which was launched in April of 1993. After the construction of the 60 kilometre long perimeter fence which turned Gaza into the largest prison for refugees on earth, militants began constructing the homemade Qassam missiles, the first successful test launch being in 2001. While it is deeply regrettable that Israeli civilians have been injured, killed and traumatized by Qassam attacks and suicide bombings for 15 and 7 years respectively, the civilian population of Gaza has endured injuries, killings, and trauma at the hands of successive Israeli governments for 60 years now. Their rights to security and self-determination are certainly no less than those of the Israelis who settled on their former lands. They are not children of a lesser God, though the way the media reports on the situation, it is not difficult to see why some people think that they are.

Intensive media coverage of the current crisis in Gaza was sparked by its plunge into darkness on 20 January 2007. In what has become a predictable pattern of blame deflection for propaganda purposes, the Israelis once again blamed Hamas for manufacturing the current crisis. Such claims beggar belief however, given that among the proposals for economic sanctions on Gaza put forward by the Vilnai Committee and adopted by the Israeli Cabinet in October of last year, was a call for electricity sanctions. While the electricity sanctions proposal was halted by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz pending further domestic legal review, Israel nevertheless began drastically limiting fuel and foodstuff supplies to Gaza upon implementation of the sanctions regime on 28 October 2007.4

The only power plant located in Gaza relies on industrial gasoline to operate. This plant was built to reduce Gaza’s reliance on electricity supplies from the Israeli grid and it provided 140 megawatts (or two-thirds of Gaza’s electricity needs) when it came into full operation in 2004. It had, however, been running at a reduced capacity even before the current crisis due to an Israeli aerial attack which destroyed the plant at the beginning of Operation Summer Rain. The plant was partially rebuilt, likely with monies received as part of the $48 million “political risk” insurance policy it held with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, “an arm of the US government that provides American businesses with financing abroad and promotes US interests in emerging markets.” 5 In other words, American citizens, whose taxes are regularly used to provide Israel with its military arsenal, ended up subsiding Israel’s destructive act twice over.

A Hamas official told Al-Jazeera on 21 January that the plant was operating at a capacity of 80 megawatts prior to its 20 January closure which he ascribed to the total lack of fuel for operations. He also claimed that the one-off emergency shipment of fuel from the EU which Israel would permit to enter Gaza on 22 January would allow the plant to operate for two days at a reduced capacity of 60 megawatts. Without further shipments however, the plant will once again have to be closed, since there are no reserves left to fall back on. An UNRWA official on Al-Jazeera English confirmed that he had visited the plant and that the fuel tanks were indeed empty. Thus, Israeli equivocations designed to avoid responsibility for the humanitarian crisis its policies have produced are once again exposed as out of touch with reality.

The lack of electricity in Gaza at the height of a bitterly cold Middle Eastern winter means not only that many families do not have the power required to heat and light their homes, but also that the water supply, which runs on electrical pumps, is affected. As a result of the two day blackout affecting most of the northern Gaza Strip (some 700,000 people), sewers backed up flooding the streets of densely populated refugee camps, producing conditions ripe for the outbreak of an epidemic.

Driven by the overall desperate conditions, on 22 January, a group made up primarily of women gathered at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, demanding the gate be opened so as to access food, medicine and other supplies denied to them by the siege. They managed to break through the door briefly before being beaten back by Egyptian police. This scene of Egyptian men beating Palestinian women further enraged much of the Arab world who had already taken to the streets to demand action on the part of their governments whose apparent allegiances to Uncle Sam, seem to outstrip that to their own peoples.

As the international community convened to hem and haw over how to address the crisis, niggling over the wording of a proposed Security Council resolution –  eventually dropped in favour of a Presidential statement due to the opposition of the United States to the issuing of any resolution at all – Gazans once again took their destiny into their own hands.

On the night of 22nd masked militants detonated landmines at the base of the wall between Egypt and Gaza and then bulldozed sections to allow people to pass through. The United Nations reported that 350,000 people from Gaza flocked into Egypt on the 23rd to buy food, cigarettes, propane, and other items that had been unavailable to them for months. President Mubarak of Egypt, who arguably had the power to open the crossing the day previous, claimed he “decided” to let the people pass through for humanitarian reasons. Without the initiative taken by the militants and the people however, it is highly unlikely that he would have opened the crossing of his own accord. Between the teeming mass of humanity and growing domestic protests, he had little choice but to defer to popular sentiment, disappointing his American and Israeli benefactors.

As the international community continues to fail in holding Israel accountable for sixty years of crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people, the people themselves continue to show enormous resilience and perseverance against the most incredible of odds. The idea floated by Bush and Olmert at Annapolis that Palestinians should give up their right to return to places now located within Israel because Israel’s right to retain its identity as a Jewish state is, in their eyes, greater than the rights of millions of refugees to exercise the most basic of human rights is beyond insulting, and is further rejected by the vast majority of the refugees it would affect. Without recognition and implementation of this right, the depth of the resentment built up in generation after generation of refugees will not lessen with time, despite the prognostications of Ben-Gurion that, “The old will die and the young will forget”. Many of the old have died, but the young, some of whom are now lobbing Qassams at Israel, have certainly not forgotten.

Without a radical shift in thinking, there will be many more Qassams and perhaps much worse in Israel’s near future. Wishful thinking will not make the problem go away. To right all wrongs, Israel must accept that a narrowly defined ethnic state made up largely of European settlers at the expense of its indigenous inhabitants cannot hold off the “barbarians at the gate” forever. The full day of reckoning will arrive. It is only a matter of time before the walls in and around the West Bank and Gaza that separate Palestinians from one another (and from their Palestinian brethren that are citizens of Israel) meet the same fate as the wall in Rafah. If Israelis hope to have any kind of future in the region, it behooves them to act pre-emptively to rectify all outstanding injustices – this time, not with might, but for what is right.

1 Gaza refugee camp profiles. UNRWA. Figures as of December 31, 2006. See http://www.un.org/unrwa/refugees/gaza.html.

2 Calculated based on statistics from B’tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. See http://www.btselem.org/english/Statistics/Casualties.asp for a detailed person by person breakdown.

Attacks on Israeli Civilians by Palestinians. B’tselem. See http://www.btselem.org/English/Israeli_Civilians/Qassam_Missiles.asp.

4 Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report (1 – 31 October 2007). United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Activities. See html version at http://66.102.9.104/search?q=cache:cbovg581ua0J:www.ochaopt.org/documents/Gaza_Sitrep_2007_11_05.pdf.

5 Gaza Power Plant Hit by Israeli Airstrike is Insured by US Agency. Farah Stockman. Boston Globe. See http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2006/06/29/gaza_power_plant_hit_by_israeli_airstrike_is_insured_by_us_agency/

Egypt seeks to halt Gaza border flow

January 25, 2008
International Herald Tribune
Egypt seeks to halt Gaza border flow
Friday, January 25, 2008
RAFAH, Egypt: Tensions rose at the breached border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Friday, as Egypt trucked in security forces and soldiers and riot police tried to block Palestinians from entering, while the Palestinians broke another part of the border barrier.

The border guards had formed a human chain along most of the length of the border at Rafah, but were sill allowing the Palestinians to leave with the goods they had purchased in Egypt. For some time, they were able to stop people who still wanted to cross from Gaza but increasing numbers got through.

Egyptian security forces announced to the crowd of Palestinians over loudspeakers that the border would close at 3 p.m. local time, although a similar announcement was made on Thursday and the border still stayed open, Reuters reported.

Egyptian officials estimated that about 120,000 Palestinian had crossed into Egypt since the border was toppled by Hamas militants on Wednesday, but other estimates have put the number much higher. Over the three days since then, Palestinians have been returning with a cornucopia of consumer goods that have been in short supply since Israel moved to close its own border with Gaza last week � everything from cigarettes to televisions, generators, washing machines, milk, cheese, sheep, goats, cows, diesel fuel and gasoline.

As the Palestinians continued to cross back on Friday, there were scuffles at the border with Egyptian police officers and with troops, who had brought out water cannons and other heavy equipment that had not been visible in the past few days. There were some reports of gunfire.

On Thursday, the second day of the breach, tens of thousands more Palestinians had flooded across the border crossing. Already by then, many more Egyptian police officers were at various ruptures in the barrier at Rafah, more of them in riot gear and some using batons with small electric charges to keep the huge, pushing crowds in some form of order.

And more members of Hamas security forces were visible on the Gaza side, maintaining calm and doing random checks for weapons possibly being smuggled in for Fatah, the rival faction Hamas forced out of Gaza in June.

But neither group tried to stop the shoppers and businessmen restocking their wares in Egypt, nor did Hamas make any visible effort to control or tax the goods coming into Gaza.

On Thursday, Hamas gunmen could be seen quietly taking delivery of hundreds of bags of cement. Israel has sharply restricted cement imports to Gaza, even for aid projects, because it says Hamas diverts the supply to build fortified tunnels and emplacements for use against any major Israeli military action.

As the crowds flooded into Egypt, exchange rates and prices rose, as did the amounts Gazans were buying, with the clear intent to resell in Gaza. So intense was the trading that even some Palestinians worried that there would be a backlash from impoverished Egyptians in Rafah.

“This is not so good for the Palestinian people,” said Ahmed Shawa, a Gaza engineer who entered Egypt on Thursday. “Prices are becoming very high while people in Egyptian Rafah don’t have bread. If I go to your country and buy everything and you don’t have bread, you’re going to hate me.”

Hamas officials said they took action to open the Egyptian border after Israel decided last week to stop nearly all shipments into Gaza, including industrial diesel fuel needed to run Gaza’s main power plant and gasoline, in an effort to push Gazan militants to stop firing rockets at Israeli towns and farms.

Under severe international criticism, Israel relented, but only temporarily. It agreed to supply a week’s worth of fuel, but limited supplies again after the border breach.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt considered his options. But Egyptian officials made it clear on Thursday that while Egypt would not hinder Palestinians seeking food and other goods, it would not accept a lawless border, open to arms traffic and unregulated travel of gunmen and political extremists.

Israel and the United States said it was Egypt’s responsibility to bring the border situation under control.

General Ahmed Abdel Hamid, the governor of northern Sinai, estimated that as many as 120,000 Palestinians were in Egypt, but he said they were not being allowed to travel beyond El Arish, which lies slightly west of Rafah. He said on Thursday that he thought the border might stay open for another “four or five days” and then be closed pending another agreement on what to do.

“You have to see where this problem came from,” he said. “Before the dispute between Hamas and Fatah, the border was open every day with no problem. Since the dispute, the border has been closed.”

In fact, before the fighting between the Palestinian factions over the summer the Rafah crossing was closed more often than it was open. But Abdel Hamid emphasized that Egypt was not favoring one faction or another, saying, “Egypt is with the legitimate authority,” presumably the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah.

Mubarak’s officials said Egypt would not accept responsibility for supplying Gaza and let Israel off the hook, as some Israeli officials hope.

“This is a wrong assumption,” said Hossam Zaki, the spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry. “The current situation is only an exception and for temporary reasons. The border will go back to normal.”

But the definition of normal was left unclear. When Israel pulled its settlers and troops out of Gaza in 2005, the Rafah crossing was opened with great fanfare to allow people in and out of Gaza. European Union supervisors were put in place, and Israeli video cameras monitored the traffic. But for security reasons, the crossing was often closed, and it has been shut completely since Hamas took over Gaza.

It will be difficult politically now for Mubarak to reseal the border completely, shutting off any outlet for Gaza. Egypt, with a strong opposition element from the Muslim Brotherhood, does not want to offend its Palestinian wing, Hamas. But Mubarak would prefer to work out an arrangement with the legal authority, President Abbas. In addition, Mubarak has promised Israel that Egypt will coordinate its actions on the Gaza border to preserve security interests of both countries.

In a speech on Thursday, Mubarak said that “peace efforts cannot endure any other failure, and Egypt will not allow the starving of Palestinians in Gaza or that the situation in the strip turns into a humanitarian crisis.”

He called on Palestinian factions to work together and said, “No one can outbid Egypt in its support for this silent nation and their just cause.”

Egypt, he said, “is doing its utmost in its movements and contacts to end their suffering and to lift the Israeli measures of collective punishment and to bring back the supply of fuel and electricity and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.”

A footnote in history

November 26, 2007
 
By Clayton Swisher

 
 
 
 

Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and Syria, will participate in the conference [AFP]

Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera’s US policy analyst and author of The Truth About Camp David, explores the forthcomimg US-hosted meeting that aims to initiate Palestinian-Israeli dialogue.The decision by all Arab governments – including Saudi Arabia and Syria – to partake in the Annapolis meeting is a significant advance, and likely to form a footnote in history.  Unfortunately, I believe that is as far as it will go. 

There are three primary reasons why I do not believe the Annapolis meeting will succeed in establishing a Palestinian state by the end of the US president’s term in office.

The first is that this is not George Bush’s clearly stated objective. Whatever Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, may intend, it is the president who is in charge.

Little understanding

Bush’s beliefs are steadfast, and they reflect little understanding of Palestinian realities: On the one hand, Bush seeks mileage out of the false claim that he is the first US president to call for the creation of a Palestinian state, and he emphasises his plans to “lay the foundation” for the said state.

On the other hand, he acts as if that state had already been created when he demands the fulfilment of near-impossible conditions from a people living under a brutal, 40-year occupation.

The world has heard how the Palestinian Authority must internally reform; more vigorously “fight terror” (ie crush Hamas, give up resistance to occupation and do Israel’s security bidding); “elect new leaders” (ie ones palatable to the United States); pursue democracy (ie broadly defined as empowering the losing party’s armed forces so they can confront legitimately elected opponents); and provide basic services to the local population.

Then, perhaps, if the “behaviour” of the Palestinians reaches Olympian standards, Bush might “spend capital” he has built with Israel and force it to abandon Palestinian land.    

Weak claims

The next reason is that the Bush administration has an extraordinarily poor ability – or is it willingness? – to bring about the outcome it claims to seek. 

Set aside, momentarily, the seemingly endless quagmire in Iraq, the growing Taliban strength in Afghanistan, the constitutional crisis in Lebanon and the dangerous confrontation with Iran, and consider Palestine alone. 

Is it reasonable to expect that this administration will compel Israel to withdraw to the June 4, 1967 lines, or even anywhere close to them, when to this day it has not even been able to get Israel to withdraw to the positions it held on September 28, 2000 – the eve of the second intifada? Then there is Bush’s “road map” in 2003 which called for a Palestinian state by 2005.

Enough said, though it is important to note that the road map was devised to blunt international criticism of the US for abetting Israel’s horrendously disproportionate attacks against the Palestinian population at the time. 

Your Views
“The talks will prove that you cannot talk peace without the participation of the elected representatives of the Palestinian people”

Niloufar, Tehran, Iran

Send us your views

The US was in “fight terror” mode following the 9-11 attacks, and its war machine was zeroing in on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The road map thus had more to do with lessening scepticism among “moderate” Arab governments to join the “coalition of the willing” against Iraq as they could show their domestic critics that America cared about Palestine.   

If more language emphasising Palestinian statehood does emerge from the US, Israel, and Arab governments from Annapolis, one can only wonder at the degree to which history is repeating itself with Iran.

Even if Bush could be replaced by hard-charging Rice – and he cannot – her own credit rating when it comes to deliverables is shot. To evade the road map, the detailed proposal for a two-state solution known as the Geneva Initiative, and the refusal by reserve Israeli pilots and commandos to partake in the wanton killings of Palestinians, Ariel Sharon, Israel’s former prime minister, countered with his Gaza disengagement plan.

By offloading 8,000 or so Jewish settlers there who had hijacked the lives of 1.4 million Palestinians, Israel was able to win the admiration of Washington. When the international community replied, as well as Israeli courts, that effective control of Gaza had not been relinquished by Israel – that the Gaza occupation still legally remained, secretary Rice appeared in November 2005 to broker the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA).

She failed miserably in her first test of pressing Israel on performance: In violation of that agreement, not a single busload of Palestinians ever made it from Gaza to the West Bank, while Palestinian harvests never made it to the market.

A Pollyannaish few believed that after disengagement, Gaza would become a vibrant economic powerhouse, like Dubai. Indifference to the AMA, plus America’s decision to punish the entire population of Gaza for democratically electing Hamas, is why Gaza today more resembles Mogadishu. 

Hamas exclusion

The final reason the Annapolis meeting will come to nothing is that it excludes Hamas. 

Though it is difficult to prove this through poll results, there is no reason to believe that support for Hamas and the Islamic parties throughout the region has fallen. In fact, I sense the opposite is true. And the secular nationalist parties that have received US support may also have seen a drastic drop in domestic popularity. 

Market forces here in the Middle East are moving with a moderate version of political Islam, not against it.

As always, Washington will be late in recognising this fact. In the span of a year, Washington and its international partners hope to inject Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, with political steroids.

How? By standing up the West Bank economically with direct aid, agricultural initiatives and micro-loans (recall the Gaza-Dubai pipedreams).

The thinking is that Hamas, or at least those suffering under its rule, will realise the failure of its politics and convert to Fatah.

Meanwhile, it is also hoped that a weakened Abbas will be able to extract from Israel the terms of a final-status agreement that a much stronger Yassir Arafat was not able to obtain, and sell it not only to his own supporters but also to the Palestinian refugee community in the Diaspora.

I wish secretary Rice and her team the best at Annapolis. But, unlike them, I know that wishing is not enough. 

    Source: Al Jazeera

Hamas rounds up Fatah members

November 16, 2007

More than 100 people, including Hamas and Fatah members, were injured at the rally shooting [AFP]
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“They are the ones who planned and organised the rally yesterday and are suspected of being responsible for the chaos that took place,” Shahwan said.

 

Hazem Abu Shanab, a Fatah official, said Hamas security forces took 400 Fatah members into custody in a series of raids.

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Dozens more were ordered to report to police stations for questioning, he said.

 

Meanwhile, three days of mourning began across the Palestinian territories for the seven people killed in the violence on Monday.

 

More than 100 others, including Hamas and Fatah members, were reportedly wounded after gunfire erupted at the rally where hundreds of thousands of people were commemorating the death of Yasser Arafat, the former Palestinian president.

 

Your Views

“The anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s passing has basically brought all Fatah members together to show that they are here”

Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza

Send us your views

Fatah and Hamas blamed each other for the deaths.

 

The office of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said on Tuesday the period of mourning was to “pay homage to the martyrs killed by the bullets of the putschists”, referring to Hamas forces whom Fatah accuse of carrying out a coup in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

 

Flags are to be flown at half-mast on buildings of the Palestinian Authority, the government run by the Fatah party founded by Arafat.

 

The Palestinian Authority which Arafat set up in 1994 now controls only scattered, autonomous areas of the occupied West Bank.

 

Hamas, which opposed Arafat’s policies during his lifetime, rules the Gaza Strip after routing its Fatah rivals in June.

 

Witnesses said the shooting broke out as crowds of Fatah supporters threw rocks at Hamas security forces and chanted “Shia, Shia”, accusing them of serving the interests of Iran.

 

Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza City, said gun battles between Fatah and Hamas fighters intensified as people fled.

The event drew as many as half a million people, according to Ahmed Hellis, a senior Fatah official.

 

‘Horrible crimes’

 

Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister in Abbas’s government, said in a statement from his office: “Senior officials in Hamas ordered these crimes which were carried out by the Hamas militia in order to terrify the people …  Now their punishment is a national duty.”

 

Abbas, on official television denounced “these horrible crimes committed by a band of rebels … before the eyes of the entire world”.

 

Fatah officials accused Hamas forces of opening fire from the nearby Islamic University, but Hamas said its men had come under attack from Fatah fighters and fired back.

 

The rally, seen as a demonstration of Fatah support, came as Abbas prepares for new peace talks with Israel, starting with a US-hosted Mideast conference in Maryland later this month.

 

Abbas is also struggling to fend off claims by Hamas that he does not have a mandate to negotiate.

 

In a gesture of support for the Fatah leader, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, plans to release more than 400 Palestinian prisoners before the conference, according to Israeli legislators.

 

Around 9,000 Palestinians are held by Israel, and Abbas’s government has asked for 2,000 to be freed before the meeting at the planned Annapolis peace conference in Maryland, US.

 

‘Harsh response’

 

Israel’s Shin Bet security service has said it would grant amnesty to additional Fatah gunmen in the West Bank, after declaring its first amnesties of about 100 Fatah members a success.

 

Mohammed Dahlan, Fatah’s former security chief in Gaza, said Hamas’s harsh response was a sign its grip on Gaza is weakening.

 

“What is happening in Gaza today is the beginning of the end of Hamas on the popular, religious and moral level,” he told Palestine TV.

 

Hamas said Monday’s events were an attempt to exploit Arafat’s memory in order to “cause chaos and confront Hamas”.

 

Ihab al-Ghosein, the spokesman for the Hamas-controlled interior ministry, said: “Fatah is responsible for continued incitement against the Palestinian police, and there was a clear attempt to bring back chaos.”

 

More clashes erupted later on Monday during the funeral for one of the victims, 19-year-old Ayoub Abu Samra, who witnesses said had been shot dead after getting into a scuffle with a Hamas policeman.

 

During the funeral, mourners fired in the air, and said Hamas police fired at the procession. Hamas police denied opening fire, saying the marchers threw stones at them.

 

Three people were hurt, rescue workers said.

 

Thousands of Palestinians turned out for the Fatah-organised rally – the largest
to date to commemorate the death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat [AFP]

The Sino-Russian Alliance: Challenging America’s Ambitions in Eurasia

September 25, 2007

The Sino-Russian Alliance: Challenging America’s Ambitions in Eurasia

Global Research, September 23, 2007

“But if the middle space [Russia and the former Soviet Union] rebuffs the West [the European Union and America], becomes an assertive single entity, and either gains control over the South [Middle East] or forms an alliance with the major Eastern actor [China], then America’s primacy in Eurasia shrinks dramatically. The same would be the case if the two major Eastern players were somehow to unite. Finally, any ejection of America by its Western partners [the Franco-German entente] from its perch on the western periphery [Europe] would automatically spell the end of America’s participation in the game on the Eurasian chessboard, even though that would probably also mean the eventual subordination of the western extremity to a revived player occupying the middle space [e.g. Russia].”

-Zbigniew Brzezinski (The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, 1997)

 

Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” These precepts of physics can also be used in the social sciences, specifically with reference to social relations and geo-politics.

America and Britain, the Anglo-American alliance, have engaged in an ambitious project to control global energy resources. Their actions have resulted in a series of complicated reactions, which have established a Eurasian-based coalition which is preparing to challenge the Anglo-American axis.

 

Encircling Russia and China: Anglo-American Global Ambitions Backfire

 

“Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible. We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way.”

 

-Vladimir Putin at the Munich Conference on Security Policy in Germany (February 11, 2007)

 

What American leaders and officials called the “New World Order” is what the Chinese and Russians consider a “Unipolar World.” This is the vision or hallucination, depending on perspective, that has bridged the Sino-Russian divide between Beijing and Moscow.

China and Russia are well aware of the fact that they are targets of the Anglo-American alliance. Their mutual fears of encirclement have brought them together. It is no accident that in the same year that NATO bombarded Yugoslavia, President Jiang Zemin of China and President Boris Yeltsin of Russia made an anticipated joint declaration at a historic summit in December of 1999 that revealed that China and the Russian Federation would join hands to resist the “New World Order.” The seeds for this Sino-Russian declaration were in fact laid in 1996 when both sides declared that they opposed the global imposition of single-state hegemony.

 

Both Jiang Zemin and Boris Yeltsin stated that all nation-states should be treated equally, enjoy security, respect each other’s sovereignty, and most importantly not interfere in the internal affairs of other nation-states. These statements were directed at the U.S. government and its partners.

The Chinese and Russians also called for the establishment of a more equitable economic and political global order. Both nations also indicated that America was behind separatist movements in their respective countries. They also underscored American-led amibitions to balkanize and finlandize the nation-states of Eurasia. Influential Americans such as Zbigniew Brzezinski had already advocated for de-centralizing and eventually dividing up the Russian Federation.

 

Both the Chinese and Russians issued a statement warning that the creation of an international missile shield and the contravention of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) would destabilize the international environment and polarize the globe. In 1999, the Chinese and Russians were aware of what was to come and the direction that America was headed towards. In June 2002, less than a year before the onslaught of the “Global War on Terror,” George W. Bush Jr. announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the ABM Treaty.

On July 24, 2001, less than two months before September 11, 2001, China and Russia signed the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation. The latter is a softly worded mutual defence pact against the U.S., NATO, and the U.S. sponsored Asian military network which was surrounding China. [1]

The military pact of the Shanghai Treaty Organization (SCO) also follows the same softly worded format. It is also worth noting that Article 12 of the 2001 Sino-Russian bilateral treaty stipulates that China and Russia will work together to maintain the global strategic balance, “observation of the basic agreements relevant to the safeguard and maintenance of strategic stability,” and “promote the process of nuclear disarmament.” [2] This seems to be an insinuation about a nuclear threat posed from the United States.

 

Standing in the Way of America and Britain: A “Chinese-Russian-Iranian Coalition”

 

As a result of the Anglo-American drive to encircle and ultimately dismantle China and Russia, Moscow and Beijing have joined ranks and the SCO has slowly evolved and emerged in the heart of Eurasia as a powerful international body.

The main objectives of the SCO are defensive in nature. The economic objectives of the SCO are to integrate and unite Eurasian economies against the economic and financial onslaught and manipulation from the “Trilateral” of North America, Western Europe, and Japan, which controls significant portions of the global economy.

The SCO charter was also created, using Western national security jargon, to combat “terrorism, separatism, and extremism.” Terrorist activities, separatist movements, and extremist movements in Russia, China, and Central Asia are all forces traditionally nurtured, funded, armed, and covertly supported by the British and the U.S. governments. Several separatist and extremist groups that have destabilized SCO members even have offices in London.

 

Iran, India, Pakistan, and Mongolia are all SCO observer members. The observer status of Iran in the SCO is misleading. Iran is a de facto member. The observer status is intended to hide the nature of trilateral cooperation between Iran, Russia, and China so that the SCO cannot be labeled and demonized as an anti-American or anti-Western military grouping.

 

The stated interests of China and Russia are to ensure the continuity of a “Multi-Polar World.” Zbigniew Brzezinski prefigured in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and the Geostrategic Imperatives and warned against the creation or “emergence of a hostile [Eurasian-based] coalition that could eventually seek to challenge America’s primacy.” [3] He also called this potential Eurasian coalition an “‘antihegemonic’ alliance” that would be formed from a “Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition” with China as its linchpin. [4] This is the SCO and several Eurasian groups that are connected to the SCO.

 

In 1993, Brzezinski wrote “In assessing China’s future options, one has to consider also the possibility that an economically successful and politically self-confident China — but one which feels excluded from the global system and which decides to become both the advocate and the leader of the deprived states of the world — may decide to pose not only an articulate doctrinal but also a powerful geopolitical challenge to the dominant trilateral world [a reference to the economic front formed by North America, Western Europe, and Japan].” [5]

Brzezinski warns that Beijing’s answer to challenging the global status quo would be the creation of a Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition: “For Chinese strategists, confronting the trilateral coalition of America and Europe and Japan, the most effective geopolitical counter might well be to try and fashion a triple alliance of its own, linking China with Iran in the Persian Gulf/Middle East region and with Russia in the area of the former Soviet Union [and Eastern Europe].” [6] Brzezinski goes on to say that the Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition, which he moreover calls an “antiestablishmentarian [anti-establishmentarian] coalition,” could be a potent magnet for other states [e.g., Venezuela] dissatisfied with the [global] status quo.” [7]

 

Furthermore, Brzezinski warned in 1997 that “The most immediate task [for the U.S.] is to make certain that no state or combination of states gains the capacity to expel the United States from Eurasia or even to diminish significantly its decisive arbitration role.” [8] It may be that his warnings were forgotten, because the U.S. has been repealed from Central Asia and U.S. forces have been evicted from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

 

“Velvet Revolutions” Backfire in Central Asia

 

Central Asia was the scene of several British-sponsored and American-sponsored attempts at regime change. The latter were characterised by velvet revolutions similar to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia.

These velvet revolutions financed by the U.S. failed in Central Asia, aside from Kyrgyzstan where there had been partial success with the so-called Tulip Revolution.

As a result the U.S. government has suffered major geo-strategic setbacks in Central Asia. All of Central Asia’s leaders have distanced themselves from America.

Russia and Iran have also secured energy deals in the region. America’s efforts, over several decades, to exert a hegemonic role in Central Asia seem to have been reversed overnight. The U.S. sponsored velvet revolutions have backfired. Relations between Uzbekistan and the U.S. were especially hard hit.

 

Uzbekistan is under the authoritarian rule of President Islam Karamov. Starting in the second half of the 1990s President Karamov was enticed into bringing Uzbekistan into the fold of the Anglo-American alliance and NATO. When there was an attempt on President Karamov’s life, he suspected the Kremlin because of his independent policy stance. This is what led Uzbekistan to leave CSTO. But Islam Karamov, years later, changed his mind as to who was attempting to get rid of him.

 

According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Uzbekistan represented a major obstacle to any renewed Russian control of Central Asia and was virtually invulnerable to Russian pressure; this is why it was important to secure Uzbekistan as an American protectorate in Central Asia.

Uzbekistan also has the largest military force in Central Asia.  In 1998, Uzbekistan held war games with NATO troops in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan was becoming heavily militarized in the same manner as Georgia was in the Caucasus. The U.S. gave Uzbekistan huge amounts of financial aid to challenge the Kremlin in Central Asia and also provided training to Uzbek forces.

 

With the launching of the “Global War on Terror,” in 2001, Uzbekistan, an Anglo-American ally, immediately offered bases and military facilities to the U.S. in Karshi-Khanabad.

The leadership of Uzbekistan already knew the direction the “Global War on Terror” would take. To the irritation of the Bush Jr. Administration, the Uzbek President formulated a policy of self-reliance. The honeymoon between Uzbekistan and the Anglo-American alliance ended when Washington D.C. and London contemplated removing Islam Karamov from power. He was a little too independent for their comfort and taste. Their attempts at removing the Uzbek President failed, leading eventually to a shift in geo-political alliances.  

 

The tragic events of Andijan on May 13, 2005 were the breaking point between Uzbekistan and the Anglo-American alliance. The people of Andijan were incited into confronting the Uzbek authorities, which resulted in a heavy security clampdown on the protesters and a loss of lives.

Armed groups were reported to have been involved. In the U.S., Britain, and the E.U., the media reports focused narrowly on human rights violations without mentioning the covert role of the Anglo-American alliance. Uzbekistan held Britain and the U.S. responsible accusing them of inciting rebellion. 

 

M. K. Bhadrakumar, the former Indian ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998), revealed that the Hezbut Tahrir (HT) was one of the parties blamed for stirring the crowd in Andijan by the Uzbek government. [9] The group was already destabilizing Uzbekistan and using violent tactics. The headquarters of this group happens to be in London and they enjoy the support of the British government. London is a hub for many similar organizations that further Anglo-American interests in various countries, including Iran and Sudan, through destabilization campaigns. Uzbekistan even started clamping down on foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) because of the tragic events of Andijan.

The Anglo-American alliance had played its cards wrong in Central Asia. Uzbekistan officially left the GUUAM Group, a NATO-U.S. sponsored anti-Russian body. GUUAM once again became the GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldava) Group on May 24, 2005.

On July 29, 2005 the U.S. military was ordered to leave Uzbekistan within a six-month period. [10] Literally, the Americans were told they were no longer welcome in Uzbekistan and Central Asia.

Russia, China, and the SCO added their voices to the demands. The U.S. cleared its airbase in Uzbekistan by November, 2005.

Uzbekistan rejoined the CSTO alliance on June 26, 2006 and realigned itself, once again, with Moscow. The Uzbek President also became a vocal advocate, along with Iran, for pushing the U.S. totally out of Central Asia. [11] Unlike Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan continued to allow the U.S. to use Manas Air Base, but with restrictions and in an uncertain atmosphere. The Kyrgyz government also would make it clear that no U.S. operations could target Iran from Kyrgyzstan.

 

Major Geo-Strategic Error 

It appears that a strategic rapprochement between Iran and America was in the works from 2001 to 2002. At the outset of the global war on terrorism, Hezbollah and Hamas, two Arab organizations supported by Iran and Syria, were kept off the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Iran and Syria were also loosely portrayed as potential partners in the “Global War on Terror.”

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Iran expressed its support for the post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi government. During the invasion of Iraq, the American military even attacked the Iraqi-based Iranian opposition militia, the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK/MOK/MKO). Iranian jets also attacked the Iraqi bases of the MEK in approximately the same window of time.

Iran, Britain, and the U.S. also worked together against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is worth mentioning that the Taliban were never allies of Iran. Up until 2000, the Taliban had been supported by the U.S. and Britain, working hand in glove with the Pakistani military and intelligence.

The Taliban were shocked and bewildered at what they saw as an American and British betrayal in 2001 — this is in light of the fact that in October, 2001 they had stated that they would hand over Osama bin Laden to the U.S. upon the presentation of evidence of his alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

Zbigniew Brzezinski warned years before 2001 that “a coalition allying Russia with both China and Iran can develop only if the United States is shortsighted enough to antagonize China and Iran simultaneously.” [12] The arrogance of the Bush Jr. Administration has resulted in this shortsighted policy.

According to The Washington Post, “Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces three years ago [in 2003], an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table — including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.” [13]

The White House impressed by what they believe were “grand victories” in Iraq and Afghanistan merely ignored the letter sent through diplomatic channels by the Swiss government on behalf of Tehran.

However, it was not because of what was wrongly perceived as a quick victory in Iraq that the Bush Jr. Administration pushed Iran aside. On January 29, 2002, in a major address, President Bush Jr. confirmed that the U.S. would also target Iran, which had been added to the so-called “Axis of Evil” together with Iraq and North Korea. The U.S. and Britain intended to attack Iran, Syria, and Lebanon after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In fact immediately following the invasion, in July 2003, the Pentagon formulated an initial war scenario entitled “Theater Iran Near Term (TIRANNT).”

Starting in 2002, the Bush Jr. Administration had deviated from their original geo-strategic script. France and Germany were also excluded from sharing the spoils of war in Iraq.

The intention was to act against Iran and Syria just as America and Britain had used and betrayed their Taliban allies in Afghanistan. The U.S. was also set on targeting Hezbollah and Hamas. In January of 2001, according to Daniel Sobelman, a correspondent for Haaretz, the U.S. government warned Lebanon that the U.S. would go after Hezbollah. These threats directed at Lebanon were made at the start of the presidential term of George W. Bush Jr., eight months before the events of September 11, 2001.


The conflict at the United Nations Security Council between the Anglo-American alliance and the Franco-German entente, supported by Russia and China, was a pictogram of this deviation.

American geo-strategists for years after the Cold War had scheduled the Franco-German entente to be partners in their plans for global primacy. In this regard, Zbigniew Brzezinski had acknowledged that the Franco-German entente would eventually have to be elevated in status and that the spoils of war would have to be divided with Washington’s European allies.

By the end of 2004, the Anglo-American alliance had started to correct its posture towards France and Germany. Washington had returned to its original geo-strategic script with NATO playing an expanded role in the Eastern Mediterranean. In turn, France was granted  oil concessions in Iraq.

The 2006 war plans for Lebanon and the Eastern Mediterranean also point to a major shift in direction, a partnership role for the Franco-German entente, with France and Germany playing a major military role in the region.   

 
It is worth noting that a major shift occurred in early 2007 with regard to Iran. Following U.S. setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as in Lebanon, Palestine, Somalia, and former Soviet Central Asia),  the White House entered into secret negotiatiations with Iran and Syria. However, the dye has been cast and it would appear that America will be unable to break an evolving military alliance which includes Russia, Iran, and China as its nucleus.

 

The Baker-Hamilton Commission: Covert Anglo-American Cooperation with Iran and Syria?

 

“America should also strongly support Turkish aspirations to have a pipeline from Baku in [the Republic of] Azerbaijan to Ceyhan on the Turkish Mediterranean cost serve as [a] major outlet for the Caspian Sea basin energy sources. In addition, it is not in America’s interest to perpetuate American-Iranian hostility. Any eventual reconciliation should be based on the recognition of a mutual strategic interest in stabilizing what currently is a very volatile regional environment for Iran [e.g., Iraq and Afghanistan]. Admittedly, any such reconciliation must be pursued by both sides and is not a favor granted by one to the other. A strong, even religiously motivated but not fanatically anti-Western Iran is in the U.S. interest, and ultimately even the Iranian political elite may recognize that reality. In the meantime, American long-range interests in Eurasia would be better served by abandoning existing U.S. objections to closer Turkish-Iranian economic cooperation, especially in the construction of new pipelines…”

 

-Zbigniew Brzezinski (The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, 1997)

 

The recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Commission or the Iraq Study Group (ISG) are not a redirection in regards to engaging Iran, but a return to the track that the Bush Jr. Administration had deviated from as a result of the delusions of its hasty victories in Afghanistan and Iraq.  In other words, the Baker-Hamilton Commission was about damage control and re-steering America to the geo-strategic path originally intended by military planners that the Bush Jr. Administration seems to have deviated from.

The ISG Report also subtly indicated that adoption of so-called “free market” economic reforms be pressed on Iran (and by extension Syria) instead of regime change. The ISG also favoured the accession of both Syria and Iran to the World Trade Organization (WTO). [14] It should also be noted, in this regard, that Iran has already started a mass privatization program that involves all sectors from banking to energy and agriculture.

The ISG Report also recommends an end to the Arab-Israeli Conflict and the establishment of peace between Israel and Syria. [15]

The joint interests of Iran and the U.S. were also analysed by the Baker-Hamilton Commission. The ISG recommended  that the U.S. should not empower the Taliban again in Afghanistan (against Iran). [16] It should also be noted that Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the U.S., the Syrian Foreign Minister, and Javad Zarif, the Iranian representative to the United Nations, were all consulted by the Baker-Hamilton Commission. [17] The Iranian Ambassodor to the U.N., Javad Zarif, has also been a middle man between the U.S. and Iranian governments for years. 

 

It is worth mentioning that the Clinton Administration was involved in the track of rapprochement with Iran, while also attempting to keep Iran in check under the “dual-containment” policy directed against Iraq and Iran. This policy was also linked to the 1992 Draft Defence Guidance paper written by people within the Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. Administrations.

It is worth noting that Zbigniew Brzezinski had stated as far back as 1979 and again in 1997 that Iran under its post-revolutionary political system could be co-opted by America. [18] Britain also ensured Syria and Iran in 2002 and 2003 that they would not be targeted and encouraged their cooperation with the White House.

It should be noted that Turkey has recently signed a pipeline deal with Iran that will take gas to Western Europe. This project includes the participation of Turkmenistan. [19] It would appear that this cooperation agreement between Tehran and Ankara points to reconciliation rather than confrontation with Iran and Syria. This is in line with what Brzezinski in 1997 claimed was in America’s interest.

Also, the Anglo-American sponsored Iraqi government has recently signed pipeline deals with Iran.

Once again, America’s interests in this deal should be questioned, as should the high opinions being given about Iran by the puppet leaders of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Something’s Amiss…

The media attention given in North America and Britain to the positive comments made about Tehran by Anglo-American clients in Baghdad and Kabul is sinister.

Although these comments from Baghdad and Kabul about the positive role Iran plays in Iraq and Afghanistan are not new, the media attention is. President George W. Bush Jr. and the White House criticized the Iraqi Prime Minister for saying Iran plays a constructive role in Iraq in early-August of 2007. The White House and North American or British press would usually just ignore or refuse to acknowledge these comments. However, this was not the case in August, 2007.

The Afghani President, Hamid Karzai, during a joint press conference with George W.  Bush Jr. stated that Iran was a positive force in his country. It is not odd to hear that Iran is a positive force inside Afghanistan because the stability of Afghanistan is in Iran’s best interests. What comes across as odd are “when” and “where” the comments were made. White House press conferences are choreographed and the place and time of the Afghani President’s comments should be questioned. It also so happens that shortly after the Afghani President’s comments, the Iranian President arrived in Kabul in an unprecedented visit that must have been approved by the White House.

Iran’s Political Leverage

In regards to Iran and the U.S., the picture is blurry and the lines between cooperation and rivalry are less clear. Reuters and the Iranian Student’s News Agency (ISNA) have both reported that the Iranian President may visit Baghdad after August 2007. These reports surfaced just before the U.S. government started threatening to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a special international terrorist organization. Without insinuating anything, it should also be noted that the Revolutionary Guard and the U.S. military have also had a low-key history of cooperation from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

The Iranian President has also invited the presidents of the other four Caspian states for a Caspian Sea summit in Tehran. [20] He invited the Turkmen president while in Turkmenistan and later the Russian and Kazakh presidents at the August of 2007 SCO summit in Kyrgyzstan. President Aliyev, the leader of the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azarbaijan) was also personally invited during a trip by the Iranian President to Baku. The anticipated Caspian Sea summit may be similar to the one in Port Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan between the Kazakh, Russian, and Turkmen presidents where it was announced that Russia would not be cut out of the pipeline deals in Central Asia.

Iranian leverage is clearly getting stronger. Officials in Baku also stated that they will expand energy cooperation with Iran and enter the gas pipeline deal between Iran, Turkey, and Turkmenistan that will supply European markets with gas. [21] This agreement to supply Europe is similar to a Russian energy transport deal signed between Greece, Bulgaria, and the Russian Federation. [22]

In the Levant, Syria is involved in energy-related negotiations with Ankara and Baku and important talks have started between American officials and both Tehran and Damascus. [23]

Iran has also been involved in diplomatic exchanges with Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Additionally, starting in August 2007, Syria has agreed to reopen Iraqi oil pipelines to the Eastern Mediterranean, through Syrian territory. [24] The recent official visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki to Syria has also been described as historical by news sources like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Also, Syria and Iraq have agreed to build a gas pipeline from Iraq into Syria, where Iraqi gas will be treated in Syrian plants. [25] These agreements are being passed as the sources of tensions between Baghdad and the White House, but they are doubtful. [26]

Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are also planning on starting the process for creating an Iranian-GCC free trade zone in the Persian Gulf. In the bazaars of Tehran and amongst the political circle of Rafsanjani there are also discussion about the eventual creation of a single market between Iran, Tajikistan, Armenia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. The American role in these processes in regards to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the GCC should be explored.

Under President Nicholas Sarkozy, France has indicated that it is willing to engage the Syrians fully if they gave specific guarantees in regards to Lebanon. These guarantees are linked to French economic and geo-strategic interests.

In the same period of time as the French statements about Syria, Gordon Brown indicated that Britain was also willing to engage in diplomatic exchanges with both Syria and Iran. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, the German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, has also been involved in talks with Damascus on mutual projects, economic reform and bringing Syria closer to the European Union. These talks, however  tend to be camouflaged by the discussion between Syria and Germany in regard to the mass exodus of Iraqi refugees, resulting from the Anglo-American occupation of their country. The French Foreign Minister is also expected in Tehran to talk about Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. Despite the war-mongering by the U.S. and more recently by France, this has all led to speculation of a potential about-turn in regards to Iran and Syria. [27]

Then again, this is part of the two-pronged U.S. approach of preparing for the worst (war), while suing for the diplomatic capitulation of Syria and Iran as client states or partners. When large oil and weapons deals were signed between Libya and Britain, London said that Iran should follow the Libyan example, as has the Baker-Hamilton Commission.

Has the March to War been Interrupted?

Despite talks behind closed doors with Damascus and Tehran, Washington is nonetheless arming its clients in the Middle East. Israel is in an advanced state of military preparedness for a war on Syria.

Unlike France and Germany, Anglo-American ambitions pertaining to Iran and Syria are not one of cooperation. The ultimate objective is political and economic subordination.

Moreover, either as a friend or foe, America cannot tolerate Iran within its present borders. The balkanization of Iran, like that of Iraq and Russia, is a major long-term Anglo-American goal.

What lies ahead is never known. While there is smoke in the horizon, the U.S.-NATO-Israeli military agenda will not necessarily result in the implementation of war as planned.

A “Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition” — which forms the basis of a global counter-alliance — is emerging. America and Britain rather than opting for outright war, may choose to reel in Iran and Syria through macro-economic manipulation and velvet revolutions.

War directed against Iran and Syria, however, cannot be ruled out. There are real war preparations on the ground in the Middle East and Central Asia. A war against Iran and Syria would have far-reaching worldwide implications.


Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is an independent writer based in Ottawa specialising on the Middle East and Central Asia. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).


NOTES

 

[1] Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation Between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation, signed and entered into force July 16, 2001, P.R. of China-Russian Federation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjdt/2649/t15771.htm

 

The following are treaty articles that are relevant to the mutual defence of China and Russia against American-led encirclement and efforts to dismantle both nations;

 

ARTICLE 4

 

The Chinese side supports the Russian side in its policies on the issue of defending the national unity and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.

The Russian side supports the Chinese side in its policies on the issue of defending the national unity and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China.

 

ARTICLE 5

 

The Russian side reaffirms that the principled stand on the Taiwan issue as expounded in the political documents signed and adopted by the heads of states of the two countries from 1992 to 2000 remain unchanged. The Russian side acknowledges that there is only one China in the world, that the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. The Russian side opposes any form of Taiwan’s independence.

 

ARTICLE 8


The contracting parties shall not enter into any alliance or be a party to any bloc nor shall they embark on any such action, including the conclusion of such treaty with a third country which compromises the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contracting party. Neither side of the contracting parties shall allow its territory to be used by a third country to jeopardize the national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contracting party.

Neither side of the contracting parties shall allow the setting up of organizations or gangs on its own soil which shall impair the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contrasting party and their activities should be prohibited.

 

ARTICLE 9

 

When a situation arises in which one of the contracting parties deems that peace is being threatened and undermined or its security interests are involved or when it is confronted with the threat of aggression, the contracting parties shall immediately hold contacts and consultations in order to eliminate such threats.

 

ARTILCE 12

 

The contracting parties shall work together for the maintenance of global strategic balance and stability and make great efforts in promoting the observation of the basic agreements relevant to the safeguard and maintenance of strategic stability.

The contracting parties shall actively promote the process of nuclear disarmament and the reduction of chemical weapons, promote and strengthen the regimes on the prohibition of biological weapons and take measures to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and their related technology.

 

[2] Ibid.

 

[3] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (NYC, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997), p.198.

 

[4] Ibid., pp. 115-116, 170, 205-206.

 

Note: Brzezinski also refers to a Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition as a “counteralliance” (p.116).

 

[5] Zbigniew Brzezinski, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century (NYC, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993), p.198.

 

[6] Ibid.

 

[7] Ibid.

 

[8] Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, Op. cit., p.198.

 

[9] M. K. Bhadrakumar, The lessons from Ferghana, Asia Times, May 18, 2005.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/GE18Ag01.html

 

[10] Nick Paton Walsh, Uzbekistan kicks US out of military base, The Guardian (U.K.), August 1, 2005.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1540185,00.html

 

[11] Vladimir Radyuhin, Uzbekistan rejoins defence pact, The Hindu, June 26, 2006.

http://www.thehindu.com/2006/06/26/stories/2006062604491400.htm

 

[12] Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, Op. cit., p.116.

 

[13] Glenn Kessler, In 2003, U.S. Spurned Iran’s Offer of Dialogue, The Washington Post, June 18, 2006, p.A16.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/17/AR2006061700727.html

 

[14] James A. Baker III et al., The Iraq Study Group Report: The Way Forward A New Approach, Authroized ed. (NYC, New York: Random House Inc., 2006), p.51.

[15] Ibid., pp.51, 54-57.

[16] Ibid., pp.50-53, 58.

[17] Ibid., p.114.

[18] Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, Op. cit., p.204.

 

[19] Iran, Turkey sign energy cooperation deal, agree to develop Iran’s gas fields, Associated Press, July 14, 2007.

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/07/14/business/ME-FIN-Iran-Turkey-Energy-deal.php


[20] Tehran to host summit of Caspian nations Oct.18, Russian Information Agency (RIA Novosti), August 22, 2007.
http://en.rian.ru/world/20070822/73387774.html

 

[21] Azerbaijan, Iran reinforce energy deals, United Press International (UPI), August 22, 2007.

[22] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, The March to War: Détente in the Middle East or “Calm before the Storm?,” Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), July 10, 2007.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=6281

[23] Ibid.

It is worth noting that Iran has been involved in pipeline deals with Turkey and in negotiation between Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and the Republic of Azerbaijan in the possible creation of an energy corridor in the Eastern Mediterranean. These deals occurred in the same time frame that both Syria and Iran started talks with the U.S. after the Baker-Hamilton Commission’s report.


[24] Syria and Iraq to reopen oil pipeline link, Agence France-Presse (AFP), August 22, 2007.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Roger Hardy, Why the US is unhappy with Maliki, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), August 22, 2007.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6958440.stm

[27] Hassan Nafaa, About-face on Iran coming?, Al-Ahram (Egypt), no. 859, August 23-29, 2007.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/859/op22.htm


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Israel labels Gaza ‘enemy entity’

September 19, 2007

Sand barriers have been built on some Gaza streets
in anticipation of Israeli raids [Reuters]
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The office of Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, said his security cabinet approved the “enemy entity” classification and there would be “limitations on imports to the Gaza Strip and a reduction in the supply of fuel and electricity”.

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Tensions have been on the rise in the area since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in mid-June.

 

Israeli rationale

 

Israel said its move, coinciding with a visit to the region by Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, to promote a US-proposed Middle East peace conference, was a response to frequent cross-border rocket fire by armed groups in Gaza.

 

At a joint news conference with Rice in Occupied Jerusalem on Wednesday, Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, said the Israeli cabinet “made this decision according to our legal advisers, so it is according to international law”.

 

Livni said any moves to turn off the taps “is not going to affect the humanitarian situation in the Gaza”, but cautioned that “all the needs that are more than the humanitarian needs will not be supplied by Israel to the Gaza Strip”.

 

Palestinian response

Speaking to Al Jazeera on the Israeli announcement, Saeb Erekat, senior Palestinian negotiator and spokesman for the West Bank-based government, called the Israeli move “illegal and null and void”.

“I believe Gaza and West Bank are still under Israeli occupation. Under no circumstances can Israel view it as an ‘enemy entity’. Gaza as not an independent state, Gaza is under occupation,” he said.

“They aim to starve our people and force them to accept humiliating formulas that could emerge from the so-called November peace conference”

Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for Hamas

“This is a decision in total violation of international law, it is a collective punishment, and a preparation for further military escalation against the 1.5 million people of Gaza.

“At the end of the day, it will not end the cycle of violence but complicate matters and breed more violence.”

Earlier, Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the Gaza-based Hamas government, told Al Jazeera: “This is a declaration of war against Hamas [at a time when] all the Palestinian military factions are supporting the Hamas resistance project.

“The occupation is targeting Palestinians dead or alive. They want the Palestinian people to revolt against Hamas, to make it weaker.

“But the Palestinian people are supporting Hamas by all means because Hamas continues to refuse to recognise this occupation or end its resistance programme.”

Tight control

With Israel maintaining tight control over Gaza’s borders, air space and coastal waters, as well as withholding Palestinian tax revenue, the strip is largely reliant on Israel for utilities and humanitarian aid imports.

Olmert’s office said his security cabinet approved the “enemy entity” classification and there would be “limitations on imports to the Gaza Strip and a reduction in the supply of fuel and electricity”.

It said the sanctions would be implemented after the Israeli authorities examined the legal and humanitarian ramifications.

By formally defining the Gaza Strip as an enemy entity, Israel could argue that it cannot be bound by international law governing the administration of occupied territory to supply power to the its population of 1.5 million.

Hamas forces, which seized control of Gaza in June after fighting with the rival Fatah faction, have been bracing for a broader Israeli offensive, particularly since a rocket struck an Israeli military base last week, wounding around three dozen soldiers.

Rockets fired

Three Palestinian factions on Wendesday said that they have fired rockets at Israeli targets near Gaza Strip in retaliation for “Israeli occupation crimes”.

In a joint statement, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, have said that their fighters targeted an Israeli intelligence base at Kisovim crossing, south of the Gaza Strip and another post near al-Bureij refugee camp, east Gaza Strip.

Al-Nasir Salah al-Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed responsibility for targeting Sderot.

The Israeli military confirmed that Sderot had been targeted.