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Is Sergey Lavrov the obvious Nobel Peace Prize choice?

12:28 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Expanding a comment at David Swanson’s Save the Nobel Peace Prize from Itself

Obviously the Nobel Peace Prize should be given to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. In the quickest thinking diplomatic moment of all time, he literally prevented an imminent war by taking advantage of a U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry bonehead error, where Kerry sneered/joked that aggressive U.S. war on Syria would be called off only if “every single bit” of Syria’s chemical weapons were eliminated in a week. More details are in Syria calls John Kerry’s bluff, agrees to turn over its chemical weapons to UN!, where I quote the Guardian on the purely rhetorical nature of Kerry’s pseudo-demand:

The US state department stressed that Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the one-week deadline and unlikelihood of Assad turning over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. In a statement, the department added: “His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That’s why the world faces this moment.” …

Kerry said Assad might avoid an attack if he handed every bit of his chemical weapons stock, but added that the Syrian president was not going to do that.

Despite it all, despite hilarious headlines like Kerry tells Russia his Syria comments were not meant as a proposal, Lavrov pushed on, in the end providing the world with a little peace.

If the Peace Prize is not given to Lavrov, possibly in combination with Russian President Vladimir Putin — who was surely in close consultation with his foreign minister during the critical minutes and hours after Kerry’s gaffe — that once more confirms that the Peace Prize committee is just another ‘new cold war’ institution. In other words, it’s a war institution. War being peace these days, in case you haven’t noticed …

And not that we won’t get Obama and Kerry’s war on Syria in 2014 (the U.S. is requiring Syria to prove a WMD negative, the same thing we demanded of Iraq in 2002-3), but let’s focus for now on 2013 and its prize.

A final and second thought, if the committee has a sense of humor I’d love to see them give the peace prize to Lavrov AND Kerry. Who knows, could happen, the committee showing a nice comic sense by awarding Barack the Obomber the prize a few years ago.

P.S. — In a rational world I wouldn’t have to say the following, but here goes anyway: None of the above should be taken as a defense of Russia’s government or any of its policies, including its treatment of gays and Pussy Riot. Read the rest of this entry →

Obama runs Syria war out of Incirlik air base in Turkey

8:41 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

The Syria headline today is Kofi Annan resigns as Special Envoy to Syria. But I think yesterday’s headline was much more enlightening: Obama authorized secret support for Syrian rebels. If you have even minimal understanding of real world power politics, you can learn exactly what imperialism looks like from that mainstream media source. The key information begins in paragraphs six and seven:

Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorization, an action not previously reported, could not be determined.

The full extent of clandestine support that agencies like the CIA might be providing also is unclear.

I’d guess “a long time ago” and “anything goes,” based on the U.S. imperial track record. But the key paragraphs are nine to eleven:

A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.

Last week, Reuters reported that, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital military and communications support to Assad’s opponents.

This “nerve center” is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.

“Turkey and its allies” means Turkey and the two Gulf dictatorships, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Knowing the real relationship between the U.S. and those powers, translate “the United States was collaborating with” into “the United States was commanding.” And confirm that by noting the ‘secret’ base is essentially at a longstanding U.S. military and intelligence base.

Which leads to the following headline from Lebanon, NOT something allowed into the U.S. mainstream: Damascus says U.S., Turkey, Israel, Gulf states directing ‘terrorists’ in Syria. Obviously true, but misleading if it directs us away from the fact that the boss of bosses is the U.S. and its puppets and underlings better not forget that.

Which takes us to the next true headline, also, of course, not allowed into the U.S. mainstream: No happy outcome in Syria as conflict turns into proxy war, which begins:

Regional powers are pouring in money and guns, jihadists are joining rebels battling to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, while his own well-armed but hard-pressed forces are fighting back ruthlessly with combat aircraft and artillery.

Gruesome scenes of slaughtered civilians or executed rebel fighters provide daily snapshots of the worsening conflict in Syria. Video [Syrian rebels execute pro-Assad militiamen in Aleppo] apparently showing rebels gunning down Assad militiamen in cold blood suggests the insurgents are capable of brutality to match their enemies.

Brought to you by the Nobel Peace Prize winner himself.

Finally, to really get at what is going on inside Syria, I strongly recommend the short article Syria & blanket thinkers. I agree with all four of his main points, but will blockquote just one of them:

It is correct to deny the broad label of ‘sectarian gangs’ to describe armed opposition groups operating in Syria. Nevertheless, evidence exists that these groups are not uniform and there is no united leadership or central command. A sectarian dynamic exists in the current conflict and some of these groups have been galvanised by anti-Shi’a hatred preached by Saudi aligned Salafi preachers (Sheikh ‘Adnan al-’Arour being one prominent example). Human Rights Watch and United Nations reports agree on violence committed by some opposition armed groups (Human Rights Watch makes salient the sectarian dimension of some of these abuses).

The kidnapping of Iranian engineers and Lebanese pilgrims, for example, are examples of this sectarian dimension. Leading Syrian opposition figures (e.g. Burhan Ghalioun and Haitham al-Maleh) justified the kidnapping of Lebanese civilians, perpetuating the narrative of leading Hezbollah officers being captured. Further, documents and news are frequently fabricated from an array of opposition factions (armed and civilian) to establish, on sectarian terms, the armed presence of thousands of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Sadr Brigades and Hezbollah fighters (a propaganda industry in coordination with the different Saudi monarchy owned media stations). It is not coincidental that this orchestrated scheme of fabrication is largely run on sectarian lines. In other words, it is not only the regime and its backers that may operate along communal lines but also opposition groups.

Also, specific wordings and ideas from anti-Shi’a Salafi polemics and tracts, initially mass distributed during the Iran/Iraq war (e.g. the book ‘The Magians (Zoroastrians) turn has come’), has now become common currency across some opposition factions (it is common to find, in this discourse of derision, talk of the dangers of the Shi’ite esoterics [in this context meaning a communal trait of treachery], the Zoroastrian Twelver Shi’ite rejectionists, the expansionist conspiracies of the Safavids etc.). Popular Facebook pages, such as Shaam News Network and the Syrian Revolution, regularly repeat terms initially concocted by Wahabi preachers (whether Saudi aligned or not), though it is not clear if they realise the theological background of the terms used (these terms are used within a Salafi discourse to excommunicate Twelver Shi’ism from Islam and treat their beliefs and practices as both pagan and idolatrous. This de-humanising language is also used to establish communal traits of treachery and expansionist visions as part of this supposed belief system).

So, do we accept that our country, the U.S., is the critical actor in this tragedy? Do we understand that if the U.S. told its forces to accept and respect a ceasefire – i.e., to do the opposite of what the rebels did when there was a ceasefire in May – that that would of course stop the killing and be the key contribution toward a negotiated settlement of this part civil war part foreign intervention?

To most Syrians, I think, this war has lost any point aside from sectarian score settling. Let’s pressure our government to stop the killing. It has the power, and therefore so do the citizens of the U.S. Or do we?


WikiLeaks: Israel Plans Total War on Lebanon, Gaza

1:06 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

In the interest of further squelching the shockingly disinformed contention that Wikileaks is somehow an Israeli cointelpro operation. From Juan Cole:

The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has summarized an Israeli military briefing by Israeli Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi of a US congressional delegation a little over a year ago and concludes that

The memo on the talks between Ashkenazi and [Congressman Ike] Skelton, as well as numerous other documents from the same period of time, to which Aftenposten has gained access, leave a clear message: The Israeli military is forging ahead at full speed with preparations for a new war in the Middle East.

Note: This war preparation is serious and specific, according to the paper, and clearly is not just a matter of vague contingency planning.

The paper says that US cables quote Ashkenazi telling the US congressmen, “I’m preparing the Israeli army for a major war, since it is easier to scale down to a smaller operation than to do the opposite.”

The general’s plans are driven by fear of growing stockpiles of rockets in Hamas-controlled Gaza and in Hizbullah-controlled Southern Lebanon, the likely theaters of the planned major new war. Ashkenazi does not seem capable of considering that, given a number of Israeli invasions and occupations of those regions, the rockets may be primarily defensive. …

Note that my post does not ‘voice support’ for Hezbollah, since (amazingly) that is now illegal under U.S. ‘law’. From Glenn Greenwald (emphasis in original):

Amazingly, Fran Townsend [formerly a Bush administration war criminal, now a CNN bigwig], on CNN, hailed the Supreme Court’s decision in Humanitarian Law — the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the DOJ’s view that one can be guilty of “material support for terrorism” simply by talking to or advocating for a Terrorist group — and enthusiastically agreed when Wolf Blitzer said, while interviewing her: “If you’re thinking about even voicing support for a terrorist group, don’t do it because the government can come down hard on you and the Supreme Court said the government has every right to do so.” Yet “voicing support for a terrorist group” is exactly what Townsend is now doing — and it makes her a criminal under the very Supreme Court ruling that she so gleefully praised.

Instead, just a reminder that the U.S. supports the outlaw Israeli state with at least $3 billion a year in U.S. tax dollars, and otherwise see my old essay, Singling Out Israel in Berkeley: 5 Reasons. Finally, don’t forget to support boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning Israel! It’s what its rulers fear most.