Tag Archives: Israel

New Rules of engagement between Syria and Israel, as Russia changes its position, by Elijah J. Magnier

Israel can no longer bomb Syria with impunity. From Elijah J. Magnier at ejmagnier.com:

Syria will adopt a new rule of engagement with Israel now that Russia has taken a tougher and clearer stance on the conflict between Israel and the “Axis of the Resistance”. Henceforth, Damascus will be responding to any Israeli strike. If it damages a specific military target it will reply with a strike against a similar objective in Israel. Decision makers in Damascus said “Syria will not hesitate to hit an Israeli airport if Damascus airport is targeted and hit by Israel. This will be with the consent of the Russian military based in the Levant”.

This Syrian political decision is based on a clear position taken by Russia in Syria following the downing of its aircraft on September 18 this year. In 2015 when the Russian military landed in Syria, it informed the parties concerned (i.e. Syria, Iran and Israel) that it had no intention to interfere in the conflict between them and Hezbollah and that it would not stand in the way of Tel Aviv’s planes bombing Hezbollah military convoys on their way to Lebanon or Iranian military warehouses not allocated to the war in Syria. This was a commitment to remain an onlooker if Israel hit Iranian military objectives or Hezbollah convoys transporting arms to Hezbollah from Syria to Lebanon, within Syrian territory. It also informed Israel that it would not accept any attacks on its allies (Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies) engaged in fighting ISIS, al-Qaeda and its allies.

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The ‘America Last’ Express Hurtles On: Saudi Arabia, INF, Ukraine, by James George Jatras

Donald Trump has adopted the America Last foreign policy for which he criticized his predecessors. From James George Jatras at strategic-culture.org:

As the façade of 2016 Candidate Donald Trump’s promised “America First” continues to crumble away, the baked-into-the-cake pathologies of the foreign and security policy “experts” who monopolize President Trump’s administration plunge forward along their predetermined paths. Any realistic notion of American national interests comes last after the priorities of – well, pretty much everyone else with leverage in Washington.

Case in point, let’s start with Saudi Arabia and all the breast-beating over whether Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) really is guilty of ordering the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. (Spoiler Alert: You betcha!)

American and western media were all a-twitter last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s high five to Crown Pariah MbS at the G20. Amid the faux outrage – come on, does anyone really think MbS was the only killer in that room? – the gesture received America’s highest media tribute: a parody on “Saturday Night Live.”

What a circus. Apart from Putin’s greeting, the assembled hypocrites went out of their way to shun the leprous MbS, even shunting him to the margins of the group picture – as though the killing of one dodgy journalist outweighed their abetting MbS’s business-as-usual slaughter in Yemen. Really! I barely know the guy. We were never actually friends

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What Foreign Threats? by Philip Giraldi

A lot of countries would like the US to fight their wars for them. From Philip Giraldi at unz.com:

The biggest threats to America come from its “friends”

One of the local Washington television stations was doing a typical early morning honoring our soldiers schtick just before Thanksgiving. In it soldiers stationed far from home were treated to videolinks so they could talk to their families and everyone could nod happily and wish themselves a wonderful holiday. Not really listening, I became interested when I half heard that the soldier being interviewed was spending his Thanksgiving in Ukraine.

It occurred to me that the soldier just might have committed a security faux pas by revealing where he was, but I also recalled that there have been joint military maneuvers as well as some kind of training mission going on in the country, teaching the Ukrainian Army how to use the shiny new sophisticated weapons that the United States was providing it with to defend against “Russian aggression.”

Ukraine is only one part of the world where the Trump Administration has expanded the mission of democracy promotion, only in Kiev the reality is more like faux democracy promotion since Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is clearly exploiting a situation that he himself provoked. He envisions setting himself up as a victim of Moscow to aid in his attempts to establish his own power through a security relationship with Washington. That in turn will help his bid for reelection in March 2019 elections, in which his poll numbers are currently running embarrassingly low largely due to the widescale corruption in his government. Poroshenko has already done much to silence the press in his county while the developing crisis with Russia has enabled him to declare martial law in the eastern parts of the country where he is most poorly regarded. If it all works out, he hopes to win the election and subsequently, it is widely believed, he will move to expand his own executive authority.

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The Khashoggi Effect: Erdogan Inverts the Paradigm, whilst Gulf & Allies Sink in Quagmire, by Alastair Crooke

Turkish leader Erdogan is capitalizing on Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

It seems that the quartet (US, Israel, UAE and MbS himself, naturally), acting in the cause of ‘exonerating MbS’, think they have got their ‘coup’ with Trump’s “maybe he did, but maybe he didn’t”, exculpation. They are probably quite pleased with themselves. MbS may stay for now, and embarrass everyone at the G20, by ostentatiously trying to shake hands with leaders, in front a phalanx of photographers, as leaders try to dodge the tainted hand. But if MbS does weather the crisis, what it shows more than anything else is how well MbS has succeeded in destroying the al-Saud family as a joint leadership ‘enterprise’, and in undercutting Saudi Arabia’s Islamic credentials. President Trump and Jared Kushner – quite oblivious – colluded in this outcome.

And the outcome: Yes, as Pepe Escobar, lately was being told in Istanbul: “The Erdogan machine has sensed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity [i.e. l’affaire Khashoggi], to simultaneously bury the House of Saud’s shaky Islamic credibility, while solidifying Turkish neo-Ottomanism, but with an Ikhwan [i.e. with a Muslim Brotherhood – style] framework”. This is heady stuff – maybe the Arab world is not so anxious to welcome back, with open arms, either the Ottomans or the Muslim Brotherhood. But nonetheless, with the Gulf so discredited in terms of its legitimacy, Erdogan is probably right to think that he is pushing at an ‘open door’.

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U.S. Foreign Policy Has No Policy, by Philip Giraldi

Other than it wants to dominate the world, the US foreign policy establishment has no consistent policy. From Philip Giraldi at unz.com via lewrockwell.com:

President Donald Trump’s recent statement on the Jamal Khashoggi killing by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince might well be considered a metaphor for his foreign policy. Several commentators have suggested that the text appears to be something that Trump wrote himself without any adult supervision, similar to the poorly expressed random arguments presented in his tweeting only longer. That might be the case, but it would not be wise to dismiss the document as merely frivolous or misguided as it does in reality express the kind of thinking that has produced a foreign policy that seems to drift randomly to no real end, a kind of leaderless creative destruction of the United States as a world power.

Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister of Britain in the mid nineteenth century, famously said that “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.”The United States currently has neither real friends nor any clearly defined interests. It is, however, infested with parasites that have convinced an at-drift America that their causes are identical to the interests of the United States. Leading the charge to reduce the U.S. to “bitch” status, as Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has artfully put it, are Israel and Saudi Arabia, but there are many other countries, alliances and advocacy groups that have learned how to subvert and direct the “leader of the free world.”

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The US Gives Israel a Green Light for Expansion, by Eric S. Margolis

The US has very quietly acceded to Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. From Eric Margolis at lewrockwell.com:

Hardly anyone noticed.  The Trump administration quietly changed America’s long-held position on Syria’s strategic Golan Heights while attention was focused on the raucous political carnival in Washington.  Though barely noticed, the policy change had enormous importance and will lead the United States into a lot of future Mideast misery.

The Golan Heights is a volcanic plateau that abuts Syria, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon. The plateau rises abruptly from the plain of Galilee, providing dominance of the entire region. To the north, Mt Hermon rises to over 9,000 feet (2,814 meters); the plateau slopes down at its southern extremity.

Golan provides the headwaters of the Jordan River and 15-20% of Israel’s water from its snow-capped north.  Israeli artillery atop Golan can hit Damascus and its airport.  Electronic intelligence systems on Golan look down onto southern Syria, intercepting all communications and detecting troop movements.

The plateau is quite fascinating.  I have walked most of the Israeli-held side, observing dug-in tanks, artillery and small forts surrounded by anti-tank ditches.  Burned out wrecks of Syrian tanks and armor litter the countryside.  I’ve also walked the Syrian side and explored the wrecked Syrian town of Kuneitra that was leveled by the Israelis in 1967.

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Nexus of Evil: The Cynical Saudi-Israeli Alliance and the Reshaping of the Middle East, by Maj. Danny Sjursen

Saudi Arabia and Israel play the US like a fiddle. From Maj. Danny Sjursen at antiwar.com:

Since at least 2001, the Saudis and Israelis have successfully reframed American policy in the Greater Middle East – the results have been disastrous.

The Saudis did 9/11. Okay, probably not their government or their intelligence services directly – though there is some controversial, if circumstantial evidence that raises serious questions – but rather their citizens (15 out of 19 hijackers) and their ideology. The Saudi Wahhabi brand of fundamentalist Islam differs only ever so slightly from the faith of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Furthermore, the Saudis spent decades using their excess oil wealth to build madrassas, fund religious organizations, and otherwise spread their intolerant vision throughout the poorest communities in the Islamic world. In doing so, they helped found a generation’s worth of jihadi groups from the Taliban to Al Qaeda to ISIS.

All the while, the United States quietly acquiesced – even though the blowback from this cynical alliance helped kill Americans and damage Washington’s good name across the region. Uncle Sam long ignored the Saudis’ innumerable domestic human rights abuses and funding of terrorism and stood by Riyadh at every turn. Well, Saudi Arabia produced a lot of oil and bought a lot of American weapons. Besides if the Saudis were villains, at least they were (and are) our villains.

Ironically, over the same fifty year time span, the U.S. backed another Mideast player – Israel – that, on the surface, couldn’t be more different from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Israeli was ostensibly democratic (at least for Jews) and should have been anathema to a Saudi government that sought religious leadership of the Islamic world – especially as they were protectors and keepers of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Instead, though the Saudis sometimes ramped up the rhetoric of Palestinian suffering, Riyadh inched ever closer to a tacit alliance with the Jewish State, seeing Israel as a powerful partner in their obsessive rivalry with Shia Iran. Both partners had long viewed Iran as the greatest threat to the status quo of Saudi-Israeli regional hegemony.

Enter the horrific 9/11 attacks. Each and every hijacker was actually from Mideast countries that were friendly with Washington. That was part of their gripe: that the US backed oppressive regimes and dictatorships in the region, along with apartheid-Israel. In the upcoming “war” against terror, countries like Iraq and Iran should have been natural allies. Both hated Al Qaeda and Sunni-chauvinist jihadism. Anyone with the slightest understanding of the Mideast should have seen that clear as day. Instead, the George W. Bush administration – which was remarkably close to the House of Saud and the Israeli right – allowed those two “partners” to convince the US that Iraq and Iran were the real problem- even though they had nothing to do with 9/11 whatsoever.

The rest, as they say, is history. Bush included both Iran and Iraq in his “Axis of Evil,” then toppled Saddam and isolated Tehran. Hundreds of thousands died, nearly $6 trillion was spent and the region has been utterly unstable ever since. Worldwide terror attacks exponentially increased in the decades following 9/11. Planet Earth, is, no doubt, more dangerous and full of suffering than at any time since the Second World War.

So why? Why did (and does) the US allow the Saudi-Israeli tail to wag the proverbial American dog? There are a litany of reasons, but let us focus on three. First, America is the largest arms dealer in the world and military-industrial complex powerhouse corporations like Boeing, Honeywell, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin exert unparalleled influence over Congress and the executive branch. Money veritably owns American politics. Second, the war hawk “deep state,” so to speak, a right-wing nationalist cabal that had been waiting in the wings during the Clinton years – Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Bolton – took the wheel in the Bush years. This gang, along with neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, was obsessed with Iraq and wanted to reshape the whole region with the US as the Mideast hegemon.

Finally, there’s a nefarious strain of right-wing Protestant evangelical millenarianism in the U.S. that unflinchingly backs Israel. These true believers seem to genuinely believe that Jesus can’t return to judge the living and the dead until the Jews are firmly ensconced in the Holy Land. But no mistake, this reflexive backing Israel is a rather one-sided affair and shockingly cynical. These same evangelicals, who make up a significant minority of the American electorate, believe that when Jesus does return those same Israeli Jews will be going to hell!

In the end, the results of this American kowtow to the Saudi-Israeli nexus have had unfathomably detrimental consequences. US soldiers – like several of my own – ended up fighting and dying against secular Sunnis and Shia militias that had nothing to do with 9/11 and should have been natural allies. The Trump administration – filled with a new generation of nationalist zealots – inches ever closer to what would be a tragic and costly regime change in Iran. America’s reputation in the Greater Middle East has been permanently sullied, uniting Sunni and Shia alike in a generational hatred of Washington that truly endangers US citizens. Indeed, in poll after credible global poll, the United States is voted the greatest threat to world peace. Furthermore, US actions continue to facilitate desperate humanitarian and refugee crises in Yemen and Gaza, among other hot spots. And, finally, US support empowers a reactionary right-wing Netanyahu government in Israel. It’s all such a vicious circle.

This author holds out little hope for a change to the current state of affairs. Still, sober strategy and human empathy demands an end to Saudi-Israeli hold on US foreign policy. The way forward would be long, but it is clear: end the mainstream media blackout of the tragedy in Gaza; end the recognition of Jerusalem as a Jewish capital city; step away from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and recognize Washington can never be a neutral arbiter; freeze weapons sales to both Israeli and the Kingdom; open negotiations with Iran to de-escalate the regional Cold War and win over their more U.S.-friendly youth; and, of course, demilitarize US policy across the entire region.

Were the US to live up to its long purported values, its citizens would have to choose policies and send the message that reflexive support of Israel and the Saudis, and the instinctive framing of all Muslims as “terrorists” harms our nation’s soul and strategy. Too bad there is no mainstream US political party ready to even consider a change.

Danny Sjursen is a US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.com. He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.