It is an alliance of convenience to be sure and one that’s not boasted about by either party. But is not terribly different from one that Israel enjoys with its other Muslim allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.
“Bogie” Moshe Yaalon served as defence minister in the current Israeli government until he had a falling out with Netanyahu in May 2016. Now Yaalon plans to form his own party and run against his former boss. Unfortunately for him, he’s not polling well and doesn’t appear to be much of a political threat.
So Yaalon enjoys the position of having little to lose. He can speak more candidly than the average politician. In this context, he spoke at length on security matters at a public event in the northern Israeli city of Afula this past Saturday.
Yaalon’s confirmationThere is always much that I disagree with whenever I read Yaalon’s views. For example, while warning in this video about the danger of favouring too heavily one side over the other in Syria, he essentially justifies Israel’s interventionist approach. It has largely favoured Assad’s Islamist opponents. Nor do I much like, in another context, Yaalon’s choice of political allies – from Islamophobe blogger Pam Geller to Meir Kahane’s grandson.
But he did reveal Israel’s ties to IS in Syria. I’ve documented, along with other journalists, Israeli collaboration with al-Nusra, an affiliate of al-Qaeda. But no Israeli until now has admitted it has collaborated with IS as well.
Yaalon implicitly confirmed this in his statement:
“Within Syria there are many factions: the regime, Iran, the Russians, and even al-Qaeda and ISIS. In such circumstances, one must develop a responsible, carefully balanced policy by which you protect your own interests on the one hand, and on the other hand you don’t intervene. Because if Israel does intervene on behalf of one side, it will serve the interests of the other; which is why we’ve established red lines. Anyone who violates our sovereignty will immediately feel the full weight of our power. On most occasions, firing comes from regions under the control of the regime. But once the firing came from ISIS positions – and it immediately apologised.”
The attack he refers to was never reported in Israeli media. Either the information was placed under gag order or under military censorship. It was suppressed most certainly because both the firing by an Israeli Islamist ally on Israeli territory and IS’s apology would embarrass both Israel and the Islamists.What defines an ally?
Some critics claim that an IS apology doesn’t signify an alliance or serious collaboration between the Islamist group and Israel. To which I reply – when you bomb an ally you apologise. When you bomb an enemy – you don’t. What does that make IS to Israel?
Keep in mind, this is the same IS which beheaded a Jewish-American who had lived in Israel: Steven Sotloff. The same IS which raped Yazidi women and threw gay men off buildings. The same IS which has rampaged through the Middle East sowing havoc and rivers of blood wherever it goes. The same IS which Netanyahu routinely excoriates as being the root of all evil in the world. Like here, for example:
“Iran and the Islamic State want to destroy us, and a hatred for Jews is being directed towards the Jewish state today,” said Netanyahu, adding, “those who threaten to destroy us risk being destroyed themselves.”
It’s common knowledge that Israeli foreign policy going back to the days of Ben Gurion has been exceedingly opportunistic and amoral as exemplified in this infamous statement:”Were I to know that all German Jewish children could be rescued by transferring them to England and only half by transfer to Palestine, I would opt for the latter, because our concern is not only the personal interest of these children, but the historic interest of the Jewish people.”
So I suppose one shouldn’t be surprised at this new development. But still it does momentarily take one’s breath away to contemplate just how brutally cynical Israel’s motives and choices can often be.
[PHOTO: Ambassador Nikki Haley speaking at AIPAC convention, March 27, 2017. When she was Governor of South Carolina, Haley had been the first to sign into law anti-BDS legislation. See excerpts from her AIPAC speech below*]
We were deeply disappointed by your response to our report, Israeli Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid, and particularly your dismissal of it as “anti-Israeli propaganda” within hours of its release. The UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) invited us to undertake a fully researched scholarly study. Its principal purpose was to ascertain whether Israeli policies and practices imposed on the Palestinian people fall within the scope of the international-law definition of apartheid. We did our best to conduct the study with the care and rigor that is morally incumbent in such an important undertaking, and of course we welcome constructive criticism of the report’s method or analysis (which we also sought from several eminent scholars before its release). So far we have not received any information identifying the flaws you have found in the report or how it may have failed to comply with scholarly standards of rigor.
Instead, you have felt free to castigate the UN for commissioning the report and us for authoring it. You have launched defamatory attacks on all involved, designed to discredit and malign the messengers rather than clarify your criticisms of the message. Ad hominem attacks are usually the tactics of those so seized with political fervor as to abhor rational discussion. We suppose that you would not normally wish to give this impression of yourself and your staff, or to represent US diplomacy in such a light to the world. Yet your statements about our study, as reported in the media, certainly give this impression.
We were especially troubled by the extraordinary pressure your office exerted on the UN secretary general, António Guterres, apparently inducing him first to order the report’s removal from the ESCWA website and then to accept the resignation of ESCWA’s distinguished and highly respected executive secretary, Rima Khalaf, which she submitted on principle rather than repudiate a report that she believed fulfilled scholarly standards, upheld the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law, and produced findings and recommendations vital for UN proceedings.
Instead of using this global forum to call for the critical debate about the report, you used the weight of your office to quash it. These strident denunciations convey a strong appearance of upholding an uncritical posture by the US government toward Israel, automatically and unconditionally sheltering Israel’s government from any criticism at the UN, whether deserved or not, from the perspective of international law. Such a posture diminishes the US’s reputation as a nation that upholds the values of truth, freedom, law, and justice, and that serves the world community as a regional and global leader. It also shifts the conversation away from crucial substantive concerns.
You fail to consider that Israeli leaders have themselves warned of the apartheid features of their policies. It may have been that the word “apartheid” alone was enough to trigger your response, a reaction undoubtedly abetted by Israel’s instantaneous denunciation of our report. In following Israel’s public lead, however, you fail to consider that Israeli leaders have themselves grasped and warned of the apartheid features of their policies for decades. The widely admired Yitzhak Rabin, twice Israel’s prime minister, once confided to a TV journalist, “I don’t think it’s possible to contain over a long term, if we don’t want to get to apartheid, a million and a half [more] Arabs inside a Jewish state.” Prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak both warned publicly that Israel was at risk of becoming an apartheid state and cautioned their constituencies about what would happen to Israel if the Palestinians realized this and launched an anti-apartheid struggle. Former Israeli attorney general Michael Ben-Yair has stated flatly, “we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories.” These prominent Israelis were clear-headed observers of their own country’s policies as well as patriots, and it was their cautions, as much as any other source, that inspired ESCWA member states to consider that the possibility of an apartheid regime existing in this setting must be taken seriously and so commissioned the report now under attack.
It is therefore wholly inappropriate and wrong for you to charge that, simply by accepting this commission, we as authors were motivated by anti-Semitism. The reverse is true. To clarify this claim, we call your attention to two features of the report that we hope will lead you to reconsider your response.
It is wrong for you to charge that, simply by accepting this commission, we were motivated by anti-Semitism.
Firstly, the report carefully confines its working definition of apartheid to those provided in the 1973 Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the International Crime of Apartheid and the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It does not rely on definitions developed in polemics about the conflict or taken casually from online sources. As the 1973 Convention and the Rome Statute are part of the same body of law that protects Jews, as well as all people in the world, from discrimination, this authoritative definition should not be set aside. Any responsible critique must therefore engage with these legal definitions, and the larger body of international human-rights jurisprudence in which they are situated, so as to address the report for what it actually says rather than concocting a straw man that can be easily dismissed. We hope you will reconsider the report in this light.
Secondly, the member states of ESCWA requested that a study be commissioned to examine whether Israel’s apartheid policies encompassed the Palestinian people as a whole. This meant that, as authors, we were asked to consider Palestinians living in four geographic regions within four legal categories or “domains”: those living in the occupied territories, those resident in Jerusalem, those living as citizens within Israel, and those living in refugee camps or involuntary exile. For each domain, we found that Israeli policies and practices are, by law, internally discriminatory. But more importantly, we found that all four operate as one comprehensive system that is designed to dominate and oppress Palestinians in order to preserve Israel as a Jewish state. It is this whole system of domination, too long misinterpreted by treating Palestinians as situated in unrelated categories, that generates the regime of domination that conforms to the definition of apartheid in international law. Moreover, it is this system that has undermined, and will continue to undermine, the two-state solution to which the United States has committed its diplomatic prestige over the course of several prior presidencies. Appraising the viability of this diplomatic posture in light of findings in this report would, we propose, be crucial for the credibility of US foreign policy and should not be blocked by political considerations.
We hoped our report would give rise to discussion of all these issues. Especially, we hope that its findings will inspire a review of this question by authoritative legal bodies such as the International Court of Justice. We did not seek a shouting match. We therefore now respectfully ask, against this background, that our report be read in the spirit in which it was written, aiming for the safety, security, and peace of everyone who lives in territory currently under Israel’s control. As the report’s authors, this was our moral framework all along, and we still retain the hope that the serious questions at stake will not be buried beneath an avalanche of diversionary abuse of our motives and character. Charges of crimes against humanity should not be swept to one side out of deference to political bonds that tie the United States and Israel closely together, or for reasons of political expediency. Such machinations can only weaken international law and endanger us all.
Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University
Professor of Political Science, Southern Illinois University
*Excerpts from Haley’s speech March 27, 2017 at the AIPAC convention, as reported by the Times of Israel:
“And this ridiculous report, the Falk report, came out. I don’t know who the guy is, or what he’s about, but he’s got serious problems,” said Haley, lightly horrified. “Goes and compares Israel to an apartheid state?”
“So for anyone that says you can’t get anything done at the UN, they need to know there’s a new sheriff in town.”
“The first thing we do is we call the secretary general, and say, ‘This [report] is absolutely ridiculous. You have to pull it.’ The secretary general immediately pulled the report, and then the director has now resigned.”
It’s fantasy to think U.S. backing of anti-Assad forces will lead to peace
By William Layer – – Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Was “Tomahawking” Syria for an alleged gas attack justifiable retribution, misfeasance, malfeasance or just a mistake? Was it a warning to China and North Korea as some have advanced? (This is the same line of thinking that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was really aimed cautioning the Soviet Union.) Why would China, the “celestial kingdom,” powerful in her own right, pay attention; why would North Korea, in the hands of a madman, even care?
Given the vagaries of the Middle East, truth is the first and last casualty. The first accusation of a gas attack by Syrian President Bashar Assad against rebel strongholds failed the smell test; it was more likely done by the regime’s enemies. In the latest iteration, is there conclusive evidence of culpability? Maybe I missed it. It’s more likely that Mr. Assad’s jets hit an ISIS chemical weapons dump, releasing the poison into the surrounding neighborhoods. So far, the allegations consist of words like “likely,” “leads to” and on and on in that vein. We are presented with suppositions and possibilities, but that is all.
Should we take Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ pronouncements at face value? Could he not be given misinformation? Could assertion of an Assad gas attack follow the formula of the Tonkin Gulf incident? Who profits from the gas attack? Certainly not Mr. Assad, who lived in London and knows full well the military power of the United States. Why would he, winning on the battlefield, use gas, which he knows would bring on the opprobrium of the West and a military attack? Who profits then? Why not ISIS and its friends who, by blaming Mr. Assad, might inspire American might to remove the great obstacle to their Dark Ages mentality?
Mr. Assad is an Alewite, a Shia faction heretical in the eyes of Sunni ISIS and, therefore, their enemy. As a Baathist, and therefore a modernizer, he is also antithetical to those Muslims who wish to resurrect a caliphate. The Baathist Party, which he represents, was founded by Michel Afliq, a Christian. It is a party that, in spite of its jumble of nationalism, Arabism and socialism, has seen itself as a bringing Arab society into the present, releasing it from the straitjacket of an Islam mired in the 12th century.
Compounding their offenses, the Assad family has protected Christians, whom the caliphate crowd see as infidels deserving of death. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, they have never passed up the opportunity to reinforce their hatred of Christianity or other Muslims. The press gives short shrift to the atrocities against Christians in the Middle East, and never reports on the efforts of Franciscan monks in Aleppo to relieve suffering caused by the civil war and the Muslim militias. In short, if Mr. Assad were to go, Alewites and Christians would be on the extermination list. With no alternative other than the death for him and his supporters and clients, Mr. Assad will hold on.
Knowledge of Syria by this administration and its predecessor is shallow at best. T.E. Lawrence wrote in his “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” that the Arab delights in chicanery. In hospitality, the Arabs can be extremely generous (as I experienced in Iraq), but was Lawrence right in saying that they were also “unstable as water” and that we delude “ourselves that perhaps peace might find the Arabs able to defend themselves with paper tools”?
The Syrian situation amply supplies examples of all. The Obama administration’s policy, enunciated by U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power as a “duty to protect” (i.e., U.S. intervention in the “Arab Spring”), was a dangerous absurdity in lands whose undercurrents are unfathomable to the Western mind. It led to nearly losing Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood and the unconstitutional attack on Libya, ensuring chaos and then the murder of Moammar Gadhafi, who was not a threat and who had kept a lid on the fanatical murderous rage of ISIS.
The history of the Middle East is one of bloodshed and oppression; this conflict is just another in an age-old saga. To think that by backing anti-Assad forces or removing him from power will lead to a flowering of democracy and peace is a fantasy. It would behoove this administration to examine the tumultuous French experience in Syria under the League of Nations mandate; we are not dealing with Anglo-Saxons. Unless the United States and the West is prepared to put troops on the ground, who would be first welcomed and then shot at, it is advisable to stay out and make them sort it out on their own.
• William Layer is a historian who covered Air Force presidential operations during the early years of the Reagan administration.
Erdogan: The ambitious sultan – Adam Baum – Medium
15 April 2017 21:21 CEST By Hasan Hasan* On Sunday, 16 April a referendum will be held in Turkey to codify Erdogan’s dictatorial ambitions and his plenipotentiary powers as an absolute executive whose power and authority cannot be challenged or checked. Think of an Anatolian version of Adolf Hitler and you’ll begin to get the idea.
Syria has been at the center of a decades-long plot by the United States to depone the sovereign government and install one supportive of its business goals in the Middle East.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly castigated President Bashar al-Assad for ordering a gruesome mass killing of civilians with chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun. Due to insufficient investigation, this accusation, unsubstantiated, sparked overwhelming support for the Syrian regime from both Moscow and Tehran.
Could Trump have earned a congressional green light and perhaps approval from NATO to obliterate Syrian Arab Army forces responsible if the account of an ordered chemical weapons attack proved immutably true? Potentially.
Fifty-nine $1.87 million Tomahawk missiles raining down on a Syrian air base not long after the toxic gassing proves Trump to “stay in line” with a succession of pompously militant and combative presidents. It shows he is stands alongside the neocon political establishment’s longstanding mission to forcibly bend Syria to its own will.
“Syria at present has a hammerlock on US interests both in Lebanon and in the Gulf — through closure of Iraq’s pipeline thereby threatening Iraqi internationalization of the war. The US should consider sharply escalating the pressures against Assad through covertly orchestrating simultaneous military threats against Syria from three border states hostile to Syria: Iraq, Israel and Turkey.”
1983 CIA Document Reveals Plan To Destroy Syria, Foreshadows Current Crisis
Fuller’s analysis conveys Assad as a nuisance hindering the American empire’s lust to control fossil fuel stores and protect ally, Israel, against multiple threats in the Middle East.
Destabilization of Iraq and Iran is also featured in the intricate U.S. plan to deal with the irritant, elder Assad, who recognized Western ulterior motives.
“Syria continues to maintain a hammerlock on two key U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Syrian refusal to withdraw its troops from Lebanon ensures Israeli occupation in the south.
Syrian closure of the Iraqi pipeline has been a key factor in bringing Iraq to its financial knees, impelling it towards dangerous internationalization of the war in the Gulf.
Diplomatic initiatives to date have had little effect on Assad who has so far correctly calculated the play of forces in the area and concluded they are only weakly arrayed against him. If the U.S. is to rein in Syria’s spoiling role, it can only do so through the exertion of real muscle which will pose a vital threat to Assad’s position and power.”
With Iraq seeking to obtain support internationally in the war, the U.S. had to scramble to prevent the shutdown of a pipeline. This is a dilemma Fuller suggests could be alleviated through a “change in narrative to present Syria as a more deviant enemy than even Iran.” That, alone, could have changed the face of the war bearing the names of the two principal adversaries, Sunni majority, Iraq, and Syria-allied, Shi’a, Iran.
“The US should consider urging Iraq to take the war to the other key source of its predicament: Syria.”
“The US should consider sharply escalating the pressures against Assad [Sr.] through covertly orchestrating simultaneous military threats against Syria from three border states hostile to Syria: Iraq, Israel and Turkey. Iraq, perceived to be increasingly desperate in the Gulf war, would undertake limited military (air) operations against Syria with the sole goal of opening the pipeline. Although opening war on a second front against Syria poses considerable risk to Iraq, Syria would also face a two-front war since it’s already heavily engaged in the Bekaa, on the Golan and in maintaining control over a hostile and restive population inside Syria. Israel would simultaneously raise tensions along Syria’s Lebanon front without actually going to war. Turkey, angered by Syrian support to Armenian terrorism, to Iraqi Kurds on Turkey’s Kurdish border areas and to Turkish terrorists operating out of northern Syria, has often considered launching unilateral military operations against terrorist camps in northern Syria. Virtually all Arab states would have sympathy for Iraq. Faced with three belligerent fronts, Assad would probably be forced to abandon his policy of closure of the pipeline. Such a concession would relieve the economic pressure on Iraq, and perhaps force Iran to reconsider bringing the war to an end. It would be a sharpening blow to Syria’s prestige and could affect the equation of forces in Lebanon.”
In context, then-President Ronald Reagan faced pressure both to insert military power in neutral Lebanon, and to prohibit military assistance in the troubled regional entanglement. Until a suicide bomber decimated a U.S. Marines barracks encamped at an airport in Beirut, killing hundreds, just one month after the date on Fuller’s Syria action plan.
“The October 23, 1983, suicide truck bombing of the Marine barracks at the Beirut International Airport would kill 241 U.S. military personnel; simultaneously, another suicide bomber killed fifty-eight French servicemen of the MNF several kilometers away. (Two weeks later, yet another truck bomb exploded in the Israeli military headquarters in Tyre, killing sixty.) An FBI forensics assessment called the Marine barracks bombing the ‘ the biggest non-nuclear explosion since World War II.’ According to a Pentagon commission formed to investigate the attack, it was ‘tantamount to an act of war using the medium of terrorism.’ Within weeks, the CIA determined ‘the bombings…of the United States and French MNF headquarters were carried out by Shia radicals, armed, trained, and directed by Syria and Iran.’”
The fact the CIA determined fault for the bombings rested with Syria and Iran left both plausibly responsible, with public perception largely following suit.
A situation eerily similar is playing out nearly three-and-a-half decades later. Behind-the-scenes string-pulling and long-term U.S. commitment to deposing an Assad from rule in Syria bellows resoundingly on failures of interventionist foreign policy. Or, potentially, success.
“Such a threat must be primarily military in nature. At present there are three relatively hostile elements around Syria’s borders: Israel, Iraq and Turkey. Consideration must be given to orchestrating a credible military threat against Syria to induce at least some moderate change in its policies,” Fuller explained in the document. This paper proposes serious examination of all three states, acting independently, to exert the necessary threat. Use of any one state in isolation cannot create such a credible threat.”
Syria is now a landmine for the Trump administration as it’s been in for a lengthy succession of presidents before.
To comply with the neocon agenda by raining missiles upon Assad’s forces would rightly emblazon the already blood-stained U.S. government as chief aggressors in a conflict nearing resolution, if not become the catalyst for a third world war.
National Security Advisor Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster’s past affiliation with the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has created fresh concerns after research conducted by Disobedient Media revealed that the British think tank has taken funding from multiple governments in the Middle East and organizations tied to George Soros. McMaster’s former position with the IISS indicates a potential conflict of interest given the think tanks’ financial ties to sponsors who are anti-American and in some cases, states sponsors of terrorism.
I. The IISS Has Financial Ties To Middle Eastern States And Soros-Connected Organizations
The International Institute for Strategic Studies is a UK-based think tank with strong establishment ties which was credited by former U.S. Ambassador Raymond Leonard Garthoff in his memoirs as being a driving force in creating “intellectual structures for managing the Cold War.” The IISS has famously boasted that it “owes no allegiance to any government, or to any political or other organization” and produces research cited and utilized by a vast number of groups internationally. But on December 6th, 2016, The Guardian reported that documents published by the organization Bahrain Watch showed that the IISS received more than £25 million in funding from the Bahraini royal family. The leaked documents also revealed that the IISS and Bahrain’s rulers specifically agreed to keep the latter’s funding secret, which would be used to pay for an IISS office in the country as well as annual conferences on Middle East politics attended by heads of state and other powerful figures in Bahrain’s capital of Manama. The Middle East Eye also published research indicating that in 2015 this funding accounted for over half the IISS’ total income during that period.
A reference of the IISS’ Sources of Funding Statementpage reveals that the think tank also receives funds from a shocking list of special interest groups, including the Carnegie Corporation New York, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Northrop Grumman, Executive Affairs Authority – Abu Dhabi, The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense, the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), the embassies of China, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and the High Commission for Pakistan. The IISS also accepted donations from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and the Ploughshares Fund.
The Ploughshares Fund is financed by the Open Society Foundation. A May 5, 2016 article by the New York Times revealed that the Ploughshares Fund was a major player in efforts to sell the Iranian nuclear deal to the American public. The deal has been generally criticized as a foreign policy failure, resulted in the transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars to Iran without any concessions in return and has failed to prevent Iran from continuing to illegally test long range ICBM missiles in violation of both the deal and international sanctions.
George Soros has faced backlash internationally in Eastern Europe, after his organizations were banned from Hungary and placed under audit in Macedonia amid accusations that he was meddling in the countries’ political processes and improperly seeking to influence public opinion. Disobedient Media, The New York Times and The Washington Times have all highlighted Soros’ financial support for anti-democracy movements in the United States who seek to undermine democratic institutions and pursue regime change. The billionaire investor’s financial involvement with the IISS seriously undermines their claims of independence already on shaky ground after the revelations from The Guardian and Bahrain Watch.
II. H.R. McMaster Served As Consulting Senior Fellow At The IISS
H.R. McMaster was appointed to the position of National Security Advisor after the resignation of Michael Flynn in February 2017. McMaster was widely praised by the media after he steered away from Flynn’s hardline stance towards terrorism, statingthat the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” was “not helpful.” Although McMaster has extensive counterinsurgency experience from his years in Iraq, his legacy there has been criticized by the Asia Timesas having utilized vast amounts of U.S. funds and resources only to leave behind an Iraqi government that was brittle and at risk of collapse, while failing to quell sectarian tensions that have allowed Iran to leverage interests throughout the Middle East and expand their influence through Hamas and Hezbollah.
From September 2006 to February 2017, H.R. McMaster served at the IISS as a Consulting Senior Fellow. The IISS’ website indicates that McMaster focused on topics relating to conflict and conflict prevention, development and security, civil-military relations and military history. McMaster’s close, longstanding ties to the IISS create concerns about conflicts of interest given the think tank’s financial connections to multiple foreign states across the Middle East and Asia, as well as figures like George Soros who are actively seeking to resist the administration of Donald Trump after the latter’s defeat of Soros-supported candidate Hillary Clintonin the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
McMaster’s affiliation with an organization that has taken money not only from groups who pushed the harmful and counterproductive Iran nuclear deal, but states who media reports and releases from Wikileakshave shown to be sponsors of terrorism in both the Middle East and the West raise serious questions given the many years McMaster spent with the IISS. The IISS’ connection to such parties will no doubt continue to dog the Lieutenant General going forward given his central role in advising President Donald Trump during the U.S.’s controversial April 6th missile strike in Syria and his belligerent rhetoricdirected at the Russian Federation over their support for Bashar al-Assad.