Tag Archives: Israel

Powerball, Part Two, by Robert Gore

Last month, Donald Trump may have become virtually unchallengeable.

In Powerball, Part One, it was suggested that President Trump and Attorney General Sessions may have acquired James Comey’s files, and thus significant leverage against “much of official Washington.” If that has happened, it may come to be viewed as one component of the most sweeping Washington power consolidation since FDR’s first term.

Trump’s recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Europe. He made magnanimous overtures to the Saudi regime he had harshly criticized during his presidential campaign. That regime has been rightfully condemned for repression, institutionalized misogyny, religious intolerance, a draconian legal system, and sponsoring global terrorism (including the 9/11 attacks), among other transgressions. Trump not only reversed his rhetoric, he signed a deal to sell the Saudis $110 billion worth of American armaments. Saudi atrocities against its southern neighbor, Yemen, had prompted Obama to hold up some arms sales; now they’ve all been green-lighted.

Nations who foolishly venture into the Middle East should pick a side—Sunni or Shia—and stick with it. For decades the US government has tried to play both ends against the middle. In Syria and Iraq, it has allied with both Sunnis and Shias and found itself played: manipulated by both sides, blood and treasure lost, in the midst of self-inflicted chaos and instability, and afflicted, with its European allies, by refugee and terrorism blowback.





Trump’s visit made clear that game is over: the US government will back the Sunnis—Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) monarchies, Egypt, Turkey—and their tacit ally, Israel. Under Obama, relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and Israel had deteriorated, with no offsetting improvement in relations with the Shia crescent: Iran, Iraq, Alawite (a minority Syrian Shia sect—Bashar al-Assad is Alawite) Syria, and the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Trump stepped up criticism of Iran while assuring the Sunni-Israel axis he wouldn’t interfere in their internal affairs . There were no criticisms of Saudi Arabia’s, Turkey’s, and Israel’s treatment of Yemenis, Kurds, and Palestinians respectively.

Commentary about Trump making nice with the Saudis has been widespread; questions about what he received in return much less so. What did the Sunni-Israel axis give up for this amplification of US allegiance? The Deep State has used Islamic guerrillas for its own geopolitical aims since the US aided the mujahideen’s war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. While Sunni ISIS is an offshoot of al Qaeda, purportedly behind the 9/11 bombings, it is the main source of opposition to Assad and the Shia regime in Iraq. Deposing both is a longstanding goal of the Sunni-Israel axis. The US has not objected to their military and financial aid to ISIS. The US itself stands accused of directly aiding ISIS. By supplying training and arms to purported moderate rebels, it has certainly indirectly aided the group. Those “moderate” rebels often fall in with ISIS or the Al-Nusra front, ISIS’s ally, supplying manpower and their US-provided weaponry.

Trump has shifted the goal from deposing Assad to defeating ISIS and allies once and for all, a sea change in American policy. He may have entirely abandoned using Islamic proxies for US ends, another sea change. For arms deals and other goodies, he probably extracted a pledge from the GCC states and Turkey to quit supporting ISIS. Tellingly, this weekend Saudi Arabia and other GCC members severed relations with member Qatar, citing, among other alleged transgressions, its funding of Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Trump’s shift recognize reality in Syria. As long as Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Hezbollah support Assad, it will be virtually impossible to depose him. Helping them defeat ISIS is the only way the US will have any post-ISIS negotiating leverage in Syria. Getting rid of Assad or giving up its Syrian port would be deal-breakers for Russia, but a de facto or de jure partitioning of Syria and perhaps Iraq: Kurdish autonomy, up to and including their own country; a pipeline through Syria to Europe for Qatari natural gas (if the current GCC spat is resolved), and other issues concerning the fate of post-ISIS Syria and Iraq would be on the table.

As Joseph Stalin recognized, controlling territory is the strongest argument in post-war negotiations. Moving decisively against ISIS will give the US coalition eastern Syrian territory and negotiating leverage. Importantly for Israel, it also breaks the transportation link and hinders the supply of arms from Iran and Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. That would make a diminished western Syrian state, albeit one still ruled by Assad and protected by Russia, easier to swallow.

If, as posited in Part One, Trump’s primary motivation is power, arguments that the US should seek better relations with Iran—leader of the Shia crescent and less repressive and more democratic than Saudi Arabia—will continue to be ignored. Sunnis are 90 percent of Islam, and in the Middle East only Iraq, Iran, and Bahrain are majority Shia. Trump will back winners; that’s the logic of power. Corrupt, repressive, and destined for the dustbin as its government may be, Saudi Arabia has the largest Middle Eastern oil reserves and is the linchpin of the petrodollar arrangement. Erdogan is an aspiring tyrant, but Turkey has the largest military in the region. Israel is the only nuclear power.

There is another factor crucial to the power calculus. Shia Islam has virtually no influence on domestic US politics. Saudi Arabia and Israel both have outsize influence, spending millions on lobbying, campaign donations, and efforts to sway US public opinion. Turkey, to a lesser extent, plays the same game. Tilting towards them will come in handy as Trump bolsters his position in Washington and seeks reelection in 2020.

Trump went to the Middle East bearing carrots and kept the sticks hidden. In Europe he did the opposite. He berated the Europeans for insufficient defense spending and signaled that he would withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Change Agreement. However, if he has implemented the hypothesized changes in US Middle Eastern policy and the US and Russia defeat ISIS, he will make European leaders’ life easier. For the first time official NATO forces are joining the war against ISIS, which probably means Europe’s leaders are on board with Trump’s plans. If a semblance of order is restored to Syria and Iraq, even if that means one or both are partitioned, refugee flows to Europe should diminish. Refugees already in Europe may return to their homelands. It might reduce terrorism, although that could be wishful thinking.

To answer a question posed in Part One: if Trump has consolidated power both at home and abroad, don’t hold your breath waiting for a swamp draining. The most effective power is often power of which only a few know. Those he has by the short hairs would be most helpful to him—sub rosa—if they’re still in government. If such is the case, don’t be surprised if the Russia probe fades away, Trump’s nominal opposition consigns itself to rote denunciation, the Deep State sits still for his Middle Eastern policy changes, and he gets more of his agenda through than anyone expects.

The thought of a virtually unchallengeable Trump may delight his supporters, but it should scare the hell out of them and everyone else. Saints don’t take positions in government. If in a mere four months Trump has made himself unchallengeable in a way few people recognize, he’s employed a series of ruthlessly Machiavellian calculations and strategies to do so. Imagine what he could do in four or eight years. But human nature is human nature. Consider these last words on power, which come not from Machiavelli, but nineteenth-century British noble Lord Acton: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.


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Why Not a Probe of ‘Israel-gate’? by Robert Parry

Russia has never come close to attempting to influence American elections and the political process the way Israel has. From Robert Parry at consortiumnews.com:

Special Report: As Official Washington fumes about Russia-gate, Israel’s far more significant political-influence-and-propaganda campaigns are ignored. No one dares suggest a probe of Israel-gate, says Robert Parry.

The other day, I asked a longtime Democratic Party insider who is working on the Russia-gate investigation which country interfered more in U.S. politics, Russia or Israel. Without a moment’s hesitation, he replied, “Israel, of course.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking to the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Which underscores my concern about the hysteria raging across Official Washington about “Russian meddling” in the 2016 presidential campaign: There is no proportionality applied to the question of foreign interference in U.S. politics. If there were, we would have a far more substantive investigation of Israel-gate.

The problem is that if anyone mentions the truth about Israel’s clout, the person is immediately smeared as “anti-Semitic” and targeted by Israel’s extraordinarily sophisticated lobby and its many media/political allies for vilification and marginalization.

So, the open secret of Israeli influence is studiously ignored, even as presidential candidates prostrate themselves before the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both appeared before AIPAC in 2016, with Clinton promising to take the U.S.-Israeli relationship “to the next level” – whatever that meant – and Trump vowing not to “pander” and then pandering like crazy.

Congress is no different. It has given Israel’s controversial Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a record-tying three invitations to address joint sessions of Congress (matching the number of times British Prime Minister Winston Churchill appeared). We then witnessed the Republicans and Democrats competing to see how often their members could bounce up and down and who could cheer Netanyahu the loudest, even when the Israeli prime minister was instructing the Congress to follow his position on Iran rather than President Obama’s.

Israeli officials and AIPAC also coordinate their strategies to maximize political influence, which is derived in large part by who gets the lobby’s largesse and who doesn’t. On the rare occasion when members of Congress step out of line – and take a stand that offends Israeli leaders – they can expect a well-funded opponent in their next race, a tactic that dates back decades.

To continue reading: Why Not a Probe of ‘Israel-gate’?

Why Must Women Choose between Feminism and Zionism, but Not Other “Isms”? by Alan M. Dershowitz

If Israel is criticized by a feminist organization, perhaps justifiably, for oppressing Palestinian women, but no other nation is so criticized, is a double standard at work? From Alan M. Dershowitz at gatestoneinstitute.org:

There are many countries and movements throughout the world that treat women as second-class citizens: Israel is not among them…. There is a word for applying a double standard to Jews. That word is anti-Semitism.

If Sarsour was concerned with addressing structural causes of all female oppression, she would mention the status of women in the PA-controlled West Bank where just a few months ago the names and photos of female candidates for the municipal elections were omitted, referring to the women instead as “wife of” or “sister of.” Sarsour would also call out the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, where the police are a law unto themselves who act as judge, jury and executioner of those who speak out against their oppression and misogyny. She would condemn the tolerance, if not acceptance, by so many Muslim countries of the “honor killings” and genital mutilation of women. Instead the IWS platform exploits the feminist cause in order to delegitimize and demonize only one nation: that of the Jewish people.

• The real choice to be made now by all those who care about the feminist cause is whether to allow Sarsour and her radical anti-Israel allies to hijack the movement in support of their own bigoted views. The alternative is to maintain feminism’s focus on key issues that pertain to women and to call out countries and movements according to how seriously they violate women’s rights, rather than singling out the one Jewish democracy – Israel.

On March 8, women abstained from work as part of the International Women’s Strike (IWS) – a grassroots feminist movement aimed at bringing attention “to the current social, legal, political, moral and verbal violence experienced by contemporary women at various latitudes.” But these positive goals were distorted by the inclusion of anti-Israel rhetoric in the platform of the IWS.

There are many countries and movements throughout the world that treat women as second-class citizens: Israel is not among them. Yet this platform singles out for condemnation only Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people. There is a word for applying a double standard to Jews. That word is anti-Semitism.

To continue reading: Why Must Women Choose between Feminism and Zionism, but Not Other “Isms”?

The Saudis and Israelis, by the Zman

Many decry the “Israel lobby”; compartively few decry the “Saudi lobby,” although it may have just as much influence. From the Zman on a guest post at theburningplatform.com:

According to the CIA Fact Book, Israel is a country of 8,174,527 people, including the settler in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. If it were a US state, it would rank 13th in population, behind Virginia and ahead of Washington. Interestingly, the population density of Israel is 377/km2 which is roughly the same as New Hampshire. The images of Israel on the news show it as a crowded place, but that is not the case. There’s lot of nothing between the cities and towns.

If you put Israel into a search engine it returns 888 million results. If you put New Hampshire into the same search engine, you get 168 million results. No one, of course, cares much about New Hampshire, but just about everyone cares about Israel. Every American politician is required to have an opinion of Israeli and its difficulties with the Arabs. More important, they are required to have the correct opinion about Israel. This is even true of liberals as we saw with Obama and his last minute UN gambit.

Many people on the Dissident Right think the US and the world pays far too much attention to Israel. While there is an obvious cultural and historical attachment for the place in the West, the Israelis can handle themselves. Pat Buchanan would have us cut the cord entirely and leave Israel to her own devises. That would be part of a larger policy of abandoning the Middle East entirely. After all, the oil would still flow onto the world market as it has not where else to go. Who care who pumps it out of the ground?

To continue reading: The Saudis and Israelis

Israel First or America First, by Patrick J. Buchanan

Trump’s expressed disdain for neoconservatives and their policies is going to run head-on into his professed love of Israel. From Patrick J. Buchanan at buchanan.org:

Donald Trump has a new best friend.

“President-elect Trump, thank you for your warm friendship and your clear-cut support of Israel,” gushed Bibi Netanyahu, after he berated John Kerry in a fashion that would once have resulted in a rupture of diplomatic relations.

Netanyahu accused Kerry of “colluding” in and “orchestrating” an anti-Israel, stab-in-the-back resolution in the Security Council, then lying about it. He offered to provide evidence of Kerry’s complicity and mendacity to President Trump.

Bibi then called in the U.S. ambassador and read him the riot act for 40 minutes. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer charged that not only did the U.S. not “stand up to and oppose the gang-up” at the U.N., “the United States was actually behind that gang-up.”

When Ben Rhodes of the National Security Council called the charges false, Dermer dismissed President Obama’s man as a “master of fiction.”

Query: Why is Dermer not on a plane back to Tel Aviv?

Some of us can recall how Eisenhower ordered David Ben-Gurion to get his army out of Sinai in 1957, or face sanctions.

Ben-Gurion did as told. Had he and his ambassador castigated Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, as the Israelis dissed John Kerry, Ike would have called the U.S. ambassador home.

To continue reading: Israel First or America First


US Hypocrisy: Bombing of Aleppo Is No Worse Than What Happened in Gaza and Iraq, by Gareth Porter

With US foreign policy hypocrisy’s stench is suffocating, noxious, wretchedly malodorous. From Gareth Porter at antiwar.com:

The Russian-Syrian bombing campaign in eastern Aleppo, which has ended at least for the time being, has been described in press reports and op-eds as though it were unique in modern military history in its indiscriminateness. In an usual move for a senior US official, Secretary of State John Kerry called for an investigation of war crimes in Aleppo.

The discussion has been lacking in historical context, however. Certainly the civilian death toll from the bombing and shelling in Aleppo has been high, but many of the strikes may not be all that dissimilar from the major US bombing campaign in Iraq in 2003, nor as indiscriminate as Israel’s recent campaigns in densely populated cities.

The impression that the bombing in Aleppo was uniquely indiscriminate was a result of news reporting and commentary suggesting, by implication, that there are no real military targets in east Aleppo.

But in fact, al-Nusra Front turned Aleppo into the central hub of a massive system of conventional warfare in Aleppo province in late January 2016 when it sent an enormous convoy of at least 200 vehicles with troops and weaponry into eastern Aleppo. A dramatic three-minute al-Nusra video shows what appears to be hundreds of vehicles full of troops and trucks with weapons mounted on them.

The Russian command in Syria has drones observing the routes in and out of Aleppo, so it certainly knew where many of those military sites were located. Syrian opposition sources also revealed that Nusra began immediately to put the military assets at its disposal underground, digging deep bunkers to protect troops, military equipment and tunnels through which troops and weapons could be moved unseen.

The move underground explains the Russian use of bunker-buster bombs for the first time in the war. As the Guardian reported, Justin Bronk of the British defense think tank Royal United Service Institute concluded that the Russians “have high-grade intelligence of the whereabouts of Syrian opposition positions,” mainly because bunker buster bombs are too expensive to use simply to destroy buildings at random.

But like Hamas fighters in Gaza in 2014, the Nusra Front-led command in Aleppo has moved its troops, weapons and command centers around in the tunnels that they have built. So many of the Russian and Syrian air strikes are almost certainly hitting targets that have already been abandoned. And in other cases, the wrong target has undoubtedly been hit.

The Aleppo Health Directorate, a local monitoring group, estimated that 400 civilians had been killed in the first three weeks of bombing in east Aleppo. The United Nations put the death toll at 360.

Drop the superiority act

As terrible as that toll of civilian lives is, the United States should drop the stance of moral superiority. When the US military invaded Iraq in 2003, it made no effort to keep track of how many civilians were killed in its bombing and artillery fire, claiming it had no way to tell who was civilian and who was not.

To continue reading: US Hypocrisy: Bombing of Aleppo Is No Worse Than What Happened in Gaza and Iraq

Why Are We Sending $38 Billion to Rich and Powerful Israel? by Ron Paul

Ron Paul asks a very good question. From Paul, on a guest post at theburningplatform.com:

Last week’s announcement of a record-breaking US aid package for Israel underscores how dangerously foolish and out-of-touch is our interventionist foreign policy. Over the next ten years, the US taxpayer will be forced to give Israel some $38 billion dollars in military aid. It is money we cannot afford going to a country that needs no assistance to maintain its status as the most powerful military in the Middle East.

All US foreign aid is immoral and counterproductive. As I have often said, it is money taken from poor people in the US and sent to rich people overseas. That is because US assistance money goes to foreign governments to hand out as they see fit. Often that assistance is stolen outright or it goes to the politically connected in the recipient country.

Just as bad is the fact that much of what we call “foreign aid” is actually welfare for the wealthy here at home. The aid package to Israel is a very good example. According to the agreement, this $38 billion will all go to US weapons manufacturers. So the real beneficiaries are not the American people, and not even Israeli citizens. The real beneficiaries are the US military-industrial complex. Perhaps the money won’t even leave Washington – it may simply go across town, from the Fed to the Beltway bomb-makers.

While even US government aid to desperately poor countries should be opposed on moral and practical grounds, it is even harder to understand US aid to relatively rich countries. At a nominal per capita GDP of over $35,000, Israel is richer than Japan, Italy, and South Korea. Not long ago Business Insider published a report by the Institute for the Study of War showing that the Israel is the most powerful military force in the Middle East. We know they have hundreds of nuclear weapons, a sophisticated air force, drones, and even nuclear weapons-equipped submarines.

So why is the US giving a rich and incredibly well-armed country a record amount of military aid? Part of it is that the US government believes it can coerce Israel to do Washington’s bidding in the Middle East. History shows that this is a foolish pipe dream. If anything, US aid subsidizes Israeli human rights abuses in Gaza and elsewhere.

Another reason is a very powerful lobby in Washington, AIPAC, that pressures Members of Congress to focus on Israel’s interests instead of US interests. Members of Congress should look at our economy, with effectively zero interest rates, an anemic non-recovery from the 2008 crash, historically low participation in the work force, and inflation eroding the value of the dollar and conclude that this might not be the best time to start handing out billions of dollars in foreign aid. Unfortunately most Members of Congress find it impossible to say no to special interest groups like AIPAC.

Here’s a better aid package for Israel: free trade, travel, friendly relations, and no entangling alliances. Israel should be free to pursue its national interests and we should be free to pursue ours. If individual Americans feel compelled to provide assistance to Israel or any other country or cause overseas they should be allowed. But the rest of us should not be forced to do so. Trade, not aid.