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Ukraine’s Vietnam?

2:10 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Secretary of State John Kerry with MPs: Klitschko, Poroshenko, Tyahnybok, Tigipko (March 2014)

Moon of Alabama’s ‘b’ wrote on April 30 that the Ukraine regime would not be able to defeat the insurgency in the east and that that reality would eventually force a negotiated settlement. The settlement would leave Ukraine neutral and/or balanced economically and militarily between Russia and the West. In other words, the inevitable outcome is the one favored by Russia and most of the protestors in Ukraine’s south and east.

Another outcome was also possible, Russian invasion and occupation and perhaps a major war. The bait was random shelling of civilians in Donetsk, Luhansk, and elsewhere, and the Odessa fire and massacre. See this May 4 comment by b:

The U.S. plan for Ukraine seems to be to bait Russia into an occupation. This would destroy EU-Russia relations, embolden NATO and help the U.S. to keep the EU as a secondary partner under its control. There would be lots of economic upsides for the U.S. in such a situation. Selling more arms and increasing energy market shares are only the starters.

But, as b predicted, Russia didn’t take the bait. Instead (the NY Times and I assume) it has quietly and unofficially assisted/facilitated the movement of arms and experienced military volunteers into Ukraine to aid the eastern rebellion. Far less aid and direction than that provided by the U.S. to the anti-regime Islamic rebellion in Syria, but you get the picture. This assistance flies mostly under the media radar, and can recede or increase depending on U.S. non-official and official aid to Ukraine’s military and National Guard. (Hip tat to scalawag for the links.)

As at least one Ukraine government sympathizer realizes, in Poroshenko’s Vietnam, the result is a festering, civilian-killing stalemate. An economy-crushing stalemate that can last forever or be put to an end tomorrow. The question is, does new Ukraine prime minister Petro Poroshenko have the freedom to choose to stop the bloodshed, or is he tied so closely to U.S. interests that he must carry on ‘killing his own people’ despite certain knowledge that carrying that on is counter to Ukraine’s interests? Here is some of the ‘Poroshenko’s Vietnam’ essay, by Boris Danik: Read the rest of this entry →

Can the left handle Iran nuclear deal good news?

3:12 am in Foreign Policy by fairleft

This is good news: P5+1 and Iran agree landmark nuclear deal at Geneva talks

Sure, it’s only for six months, but I like how it accepts Iran enriching uranium up to 5 percent but rules out 20 percent. Iran can continue to enrich uranium, it can have an independent nuclear power program, but not to 20 percent. 20 percent legitimately scares people and has limited use other than as a provocation or bargaining chip.
Iran with nuclear symbol
But I sense fairly widespread skepticism, refusal to accept good news, on the left. Some can’t allow it to interfere with their ‘Iran vs. the Empire’ narrative:

We will likely be back to the usual animosities and renewed calls for war some six month from now. … When, in six month, the U.S. will stop adhering to the agreement Iran will be blamed of breaking it.

My sense is that the writer, b of (the excellent) Moon of Alabama blog, has a too severe, exaggerated analysis in which Israel does and _must_ rule U.S. policy on the Middle East. Tale wags the big U.S. dog. And that means “THIS DOES NOT COMPUTE!”

Well, maybe some of us need to pull back from that a little. Yes, it’s true that the Israeli far right (i.e., Israel’s government) and their allies in the U.S. oppose any concessions. And they are a mighty strong lobby. But maybe there are too many military people, trade partners, and non-oil industry people who fear where the Likud/Israeli line is leading. Can the U.S. afford to bankrupt itself again, with another Iraq, i.e. another several trillion dollar war in the Middle East? Because that’s where being led around by the nose by the present-day Israel would lead.

Here’s my comment under b’s analysis:

I wouldn’t dismiss the deal as ‘temporary, back to confrontation in 6 months, Iran gets nothing’. Iran does get $4.2 billion and it gets positive (“Not a pariah anymore”) PR, which it can leverage into to better relations with other countries individually.

The broader take might be the “bridge too far” concept regarding U.S.-based imperialism. Limits people! Can’t have everything.

In sum, without Russia and China on board, Western sanctions have limits, and so what do you do? This might be the first step toward acceptance of Iran as part of that small club of nations (Russia, China) that the West grudgingly allows to be sovereign.

Expanding on the public relations reference: Not that it can break the united Western front against it, but there are several big ‘non-aligned’ countries that Iran can profitably improve relations with. This is where pulling back from 20 percent enrichment is helpful: it shows again that Iran is determined to have a nuclear _power_ program, that it is determined in a larger (and inspiring) sense to be a sovereign non-Western country, but that it does _not_ want a nuclear weapons program. This may make it permissible for a Brazil, a Khazakstan, an Azerbaijan or a Turkey to break with the West on sanctions.

I feel b overplays the following as well:

Congress has ways and means to increase sanctions and thereby break this deal and will likely do so.

Well, yes, we’ve seen that, but Congress doesn’t do it alone, in a vacuum. If the deal is broken it will be a co-production of the White House, Congress, the mainstream media and lobbyists/funders (which includes but is much more than the Israel Lobby).

At minimum, Iran now has a space in which it can make itself more acceptable to the Powers That Be in the U.S. political space. Or not. Nonetheless, there are possibilities today that don’t compute with a U.S. Middle Eastern policy utterly dominated by the Israel Lobby. Perhaps Netanyahu and Israel’s militarists have simply presented U.S. policy makers with ‘A Bridge Too Far‘.

For the left, this is likely a learning moment for many, including myself. It simply is very hard to square this deal with a U.S. slavishly under the thumb of the Israel Lobby. So let’s learn.
Read the rest of this entry →

Syria’s shaving cream war: will it turn the tide for rebels?

12:55 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Prior to the last 24 hours it was joke publications like The Telegraph (source of the photo above) and other Murdochian, Fox News quality rags that trumpeted the simpleton propaganda video that Syrian rebels say shows poisoning by government sarin gas. In those good old days we could enjoy light-hearted blog titles like this:

That title was above some very entertaining ridicule of the video and some serious (but easy) debunking (link is in the original: follow it to the Centers for Disease Control, which lists the signs and symptoms for sarin exposure):

The short video posted at the Telegraph site shows three persons laying on hospital stretchers. All three persons have some white foam around their mouths. None of them shows any acute breathing problem. All three seem rather relaxed. … This “foaming at the mouth” video proof of chemical weapons usage is fake. … “foaming at the mouth” is NOT a standard symptom of sarin exposure.

Thank you Moon of Alabama, but unfortunately matters have now taken a very serious Chuck Hagel face turn. The U.S. government is now running with the scam, and ‘prestigious’ operations like the BBC are now ‘required’ (careerism uber alles) to treat the video not as silly, crass entertainment but as real. Defense secretary Hagel announced yesterday that U.S. intel officials will now pretend, along with the Brits and Israel, that the video is serious evidence of sarin gas poisoning. No more laughs, shaving cream may bring war and bloody cruel death to tens of thousands more Syrians. So, ‘despite’ little blogs’ ridicule, big corporate media now use shaving cream as the foundation for headlines like this:

Why has Western imperialism (seemingly desperately) now reached for this video, such a flimsy, silly straw? Well, partly because there are now no limits to what its news media will say with a straight face, but also because the war looked to be turning and the wrong side seemed to be winning. Outside the propaganda field, which the Western corporate media obviously utterly dominates, the war on the ground goes very poorly for the deeply divided and Sunni fundamentalist dominated rebels and mercenaries. The following report is from April 24 (emphasis added):

In Damascus, Syrian [government] forces … seized a strategic town east of the city, breaking a critical weapons supply route for the rebels, activists and fighters said. Rebels have held several suburbs ringing the southern and eastern parts Damascus for months, but they have been struggling to maintain their positions against a ground offensive backed by fierce army shelling and air strikes in recent weeks.

“The disaster has struck, the army entered Otaiba. The regime has managed to turn off the weapons tap,” a fighter from the town told Reuters via Skype. …

“Now all the villages will start falling one after another, the battle in Eastern Ghouta will be a war of attrition,” another fighter in the area said, speaking by Skype.

More than two years into their struggle to end four decades of Assad family rule, the rebels remain divided by struggles over ideology and fighting for power. … The army appears to have been advancing on fronts across Syria in recent weeks, even in northern provinces where rebels seized large swathes of territory.

Finally, I give some credit to President Obama, because he remains reluctant to do a Libya on Syria without ‘further’ proof. Despite the administration ‘confirming’ with “varying degrees of confidence” that sarin gas had been used by Syrian government forces, it does seem to want more ‘proof’, something maybe a little more serious than the video? I’m pessimistic though. I mean, if that shaving cream video is a ‘go’, not even a snicker from the highest echelons of Western media and government, how hard will it be to generate further ‘evidence’?