CBS News reported the ”United States is providing communications and transport help for an international military intervention aimed at wresting Mali’s north out of the hands of Islamist extremists.” Though the mission is taking place in a “lawless desert in weakly governed country,” French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said the operation was “gaining international backing. The US was providing communications and transportation support.
On January 12, “US officials” told CBS “they had offered to send drones to Mali.” Drones excel in weakly governed and lawless deserts and lawless parts of countries it seems such parts are where the US likes to use drones the most.
The Wall Street Journal reported, “France asked Washington late last week to deploy unmanned aerial drones and aircraft that could be used to refuel French fighter planes in the air. Paris also asked the US to provide satellite imagery and share intercepts of militants’ communications.”
According to WSJ, unnamed US officials told the newspaper the role of America “would be non-lethal in nature, focused on intelligence collection and providing other support to French and any allied African forces.” But drones were used to carry out strikes in Libya in 2011 and mission creep could easily lead to a situation where military drones were not just providing non-lethal tactical support to enable French military operations.”
Also, Tom Vanden Brook of USA TODAYreported, “US military warplanes assisted French forces battling Islamic extremists in two African countries over the weekend, according to the Pentagon, highlighting the growing threat of al Qaeda-linked terrorists in the region.”
It is important to remember, as I wrote almost a year ago, that the unrest in Mali that is now the excuse for Western military intervention is a direct consequence of the US-NATO war in Libya in 2011. Former Gadhafi militias, including lots of Tuaregs from northern Mali, returned after an influx of arms flooded Libya. The resulting unrest led to a military coup - led by by Captain Amadou Sanogo, trained by the US military - against President Amadou Toumani Toure. So not only did the rise of Islamist rebels in Mali result directly from a separate US war in Muslim lands, but the subsequent collapse of the Malian government was instigated by militias that were trained and armed by the US.
“Over and over, western intervention ends up – whether by ineptitude or design – sowing the seeds of further intervention,” writes Glenn Greenwald, with regard to the intervention in Mali. “Nobody is better at creating its own enemies, and thus ensuring a posture of endless war, than the US and its allies,” Greenwald adds. “Where the US cannot find enemies to fight against it, it simply empowers them.”
Walter Russell Mead writes at The American Interest that Obama’s “counter-terrorism” policies in North Africa have failed catastrophically:
Since Obama took office the US spent almost $600 million to combat Islamic militancy across North Africa. In countries like Mali and Niger US forces trained local soldiers in counterterrorism skills. Arms and equipment were bought so local governments could protect their territories. This strategy, in theory, would protect North Africa from falling into the hands of Islamist militants—who would impose strict Sharia rule on unwilling locals and use lawless territory to launch attacks on Western targets—without involving a heavy deployment of American troops like in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That was the theory. But as heavily armed Islamist militants battle French forces in the Battle for Mali, it’s clear Obama’s strategy to help weak North African states protect themselves from terrorists has failed catastrophically.
“This has been brewing for five years,” one US special ops officer told the NYT. “The analysts got complacent in their assumptions and did not see the big changes and the impacts of them, like the big weaponry coming out of Libya and the different, more Islamic” fighters who came in from Libya.
The New York Timesreports that some US officials believe a Western assault on Mali “could rally jihadists around the world and prompt terrorist attacks as far away as Europe.”
Indeed what has been happening in the news is revealing: the French-led air assaults seem to have emboldened the Islamist fighters. Either Mali becomes a long lasting military quagmire, or a misleadingly quick mission leads to even worse blowback somewhere else in Africa’s Sahel region, prompting yet another Western intervention.
Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: “No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they can not be regarded as jointly and severally responsible.”
The Guardianreports that “Hundreds of thousands of Iranians with serious illnesses have been put at imminent risk by the unintended consequences of international sanctions, which have led to dire shortages of life-saving medicines such as chemotherapy drugs for cancer and bloodclotting agents for haemophiliacs.”
The key word there is “unintended.” The problem with describing it this way is that it isn’t accurate. Washington understands the consequences of the sanctions, and the same Guardian report acknowledges that the Obama administration has been made aware that hundreds of thousands of sick people in Iran have had their access to medicine restricted because of the sanctions. And they haven’t done anything about it.
“The west lies when it says it hasn’t imposed sanctions on our medical sector. Many medical firms have sanctioned us,” Naser Naghdi, the director general of Iran’s biggest pharmaceutical company, told the Guardian.
But sanctions aren’t just blocking much needed medical supplies; unemployment is rising and inflation is spiraling out of control. “Prices of fruit and sugar, among other staples, have soared – in some cases showing threefold and fourfold increases,” Saeed Kamali Dehghan wrote in the Guardian last summer. “The price of meat, an essential ingredient of Iranian food, has gone up to such an extent that many now eat it only on special occasions.”
“What is most concerning,” according to Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, “is that it is now increasingly clear that the people are the target.” Parsi added that “in a non-democracy, such as Iran, the ability for people to pressure their government is limited,” and that “Many in Washington acknowledge that we are conducting economic warfare. That means the entire Iranian economy is the battlefield – and ordinary Iranians are [seen as] enemy combatants.”
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has admitted sanctions aren’t demonstrably changing the policies of the regime, but has insisted on their continuance nevertheless. As one of the top congressional supporters of sanctions, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), said, “Critics [of the sanctions] argued that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that.” Or take Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY): “The goal … is to inflict crippling, unendurable economic pain over there. Iran’s banking sector — especially its central bank — needs to become the financial equivalent of Chernobyl: radioactive, dangerous and most of all, empty.”
One of the major atrocities of all of post-WWII US foreign policy was the American-led sanctions on Iraq, which ended up killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. We heard the same odious rationales for the sanctions on Iraq as we are now hearing for the sanctions on Iran. Denis Halliday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Baghdad, insisted the effect of the Iraq sanctions “fit the definition of genocide.”
We may be seeing this repeat in Iran. And for what? It can’t be punishment for a rogue nuclear weapons program: the US intelligence community has concluded it doesn’t exist. Whether the reason behind the sanctions are to placate Israeli security concerns or to block Iran’s regional influence, what matters is that this economic warfare is criminal; it violates the Fourth Geneva Convention.
But apparently President Obama – Nobel Peace Prize winner – doesn’t care about legally binding international treaties and conventional laws. Instead, he is busy implementing the collective punishment of Iranians for a crime they haven’t committed.
In Friday’s Washington Post, David Ignatius described “an intelligence report provided to the State Department last week by Syrian sources working with the Free Syrian Army (FSA),” which describes Syria’s rebel opposition as “disorganized fighters, greedy arms peddlers and profiteering warlords.”
“There are hundreds of small groups (10-20 fighters) spread all over the area of Aleppo,” notes the bleak assessment given to the State Department. “The FSA has [been] transformed into disorganized rebel groups, infiltrated by large numbers of criminals. All our efforts with MCs [military councils] were abolished. .?.?. Warlords are a reality on the ground now. .?.?. A [failed] state is the most likely outcome of the current condition, unless adjustment [is] done.”
The battles in the north these days are mostly for the spoils of war, argues the Syrian assessment. “Rebel violations are becoming a normal daily phenomenon, especially against civilians, including looting public and private factories, storage places, houses and cars.”
What’s important to note here is that the report from Free Syrian Army sources is not describing the most extremist, terrorist groups that have been a part of the rebel fighters for the bulk of the civil war. Nay, it is describing the types of groups Washington has attempted to portray as worthy of Western aid.
So while US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar actively fund the terrorist groups in Syria, Washington is aiding the rag-tag rebel bands of criminals.
US policy does seem to be shifting, apparently in recognition of the kinds of realities the FSA-State Department report explains. Focus has been adjusted to the Syrian National Coalition, basically an exile group organized by the US that doesn’t have strong roots inside the country. There little evidence the Syrian people accept it. But there is strong evidence it has been vehemently rejected by the armed rebel groups fighting the Assad regime.
According to the State Department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland, the US aim is to use the coalition to “maintain the functions of the state.” In other words, to get rid of Assad, but keep the regime. You know, for the sake of freedom and democracy.
Christian Zionism and American Islamophobia January 30, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The Council for the National Interest, the International Council for Middle East Studies, and the Freda Utley Foundation will be hosting a program titled “Christian Zionism and American Islamophobia” at the National Press Club (Zenger Room, 13th floor, 529 14th St., NW, Washington, D.C.) on Wednesday, January 30, beginning at 12:15 p.m. The one-hour conference will be followed by Q &A, and is open to journalists.
A major focus of the seminar will be on evangelical Christian Zionism’s support for a new war against Muslims, this time with Iran, and its antagonism toward Muslims and Islam. Four leading experts and scholars will discuss Christian Zionism’s relationship with the state of Israel as well as aspects of the evangelical embrace of an Armageddonist world view, and its ongoing campaign against the alleged imposition of Sharia law.
The topics and speakers are:
“The Political Impact of Christian Zionism,” by Phil Giraldi, Ph.D., Director of the Council for the National Interest. Dr. Giraldi is a contributing editor to The American Conservative and a regular columnist for Antiwar.com. He was formerly a CIA counterterrorism specialist and served as Base Chief in Barcelona. He will address the real world consequences of the alliance of Christian fundamentalists with the Israel/Likud Lobby in the United States.
“Christian Zionism, the Armageddon Lobby, and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy,” by Jon Basil Utley, associate publisher of The American Conservative and an advisor to Antiwar.com. He has written extensively on this topic and will discuss the Jewish resistance to Likud Zionism, and push for new wars in the Middle East by evangelical leaders who have changed from forecasting Armageddon to trying to hurry up its coming.
“Evangelical Christian Zionism Views Islam,” by Norton Mezvinsky, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of History (emeritus), Connecticut State University, and the President of the International Council for Middle East Studies (ICMES) in Washington, D.C. His many published writings include articles on Christian Zionism. His book, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, co-authored with Israel Shahak, has been published in four languages in addition to English.
Professor Mezvinsky will define evangelical Christian Zionism, briefly pinpoint its position in regard to the state of Israel, and then focus upon its antagonism directed against Islam and Muslims.
“The Cultural and Historical Context of ‘Islam in Christian-Zionist thought’ in America” by Fuad Shaban, Ph.D., Vice President of Yarmouk Private University in Syria. Dr. Shaban is the author, Islam and Arabs in Early American Thought, and For Zion’s Sake: The Judeo-Christian Tradition in American Culture. He is a visiting professor and lecturer at many Arab and American universities, including Duke and James Madison.
“Rarely reported upon and little understood is the major support group in America for new and unending wars in the Middle East,” commented Jon Basil Utley, one of the scheduled speakers. “All the learned analyses one may read from American think tanks, academia and business journals are, time and time again, shown to be irrelevant in the formulation of Washington’s foreign policy. Rather it is repeatedly made by a mix of military industrial complex interests, the Israeli (Likud) Lobby and evangelical Republicans believing that chaos in the Middle East is part of God’s plan. These and related issues will be thoroughly discussed at our conference on January 30,” Mr. Utley said.
Space for the conference is limited. Reservations are recommended. To make a press reservation, email Fran Griffin of Griffin Communications at email@example.com or call 202-643-1048.
Is US ‘Pullout’ Talk Simply Tough Diplomacy for Karzai Visit?: Much attention has been given to the Obama Administration’s plan for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, with reports that they are considering to a total withdrawal from Afghanistan, using the eventual pullout from Iraq as a model. But it may just be a negotiating strategy.
A group of about 200 Palestinians have set up a small tent village – basically camping out – in the territory in East Jerusalem described by Israel as E1. They say they plan to start building a new Palestinian village there under the name Bab As-Shams.
These Palestinians and activists are basically saying: two can play at this settlement game.
Following the overwhelming UN vote for implicit recognition of Palestinian statehood in November, Israel authorized the construction of 3,000 more housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and is also speeding up the processing of 1,000 additional planning permissions.
According to the New York Times, the bulk of the new housing units Israel has plans for are set to be built “in a controversial area of East Jerusalem known as E1, where Jewish settlements have long been seen as the death knell for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The settlement would connect Jerusalem and the illegal Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, and “therefore make it impossible to connect the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem to Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.”
Israel has issued an eviction notice to the Palestinian settlers, ordering them to evacuate their own land. Apparently, the Israelis don’t like it when Palestinians settle on land Israel thinks is its own.