Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

Is Israel getting its very own version of Fox News?

Nati Tucker reports for Haaretz:

Leftward tilt? Yonit LevyIsrael’s Channel 20, which broadcasts under a license as a Jewish heritage channel, has plans to set up its own news company with right-wing leanings, similar to Fox News.

The channel, which started broadcasting in 2014, has submitted a request to the Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting Council to set up its own news company. It is estimated that it would cost at least 60 million shekels ($15 million) a year to run.’

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If this is what an anti-war presidency looks like to you, you’re detached from reality

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

obama clenched jawNothing sums up the warped foreign policy fantasy world in which Republicans live more than when House Speaker John Boehner recentlycalled Obama an “anti-war president” under which America “is sitting on the sidelines” in the increasingly chaotic Middle East.

If Obama is an anti-war president, he’s the worst anti-war president in history. In the last six years, the Obama administration has bombed seven countries in the Middle East alone and armed countless more with tens of billions in dollars in weapons. But that’s apparently not enough for Republicans. As the Isis war continues to expand and Yemen descends into civil war, everyone is still demanding more: If only we bombed the region a little bit harder, then they’ll submit.

In between publishing a new rash of overt sociopathic “Bomb Iran” op-eds, Republicans and neocons are circulating a new talking point: Obama doesn’t have a “coherent” or “unifying” strategy in the Middle East. But you can’t have a one-size-fits-all strategy in an entire region that is almost incomprehensibly complex – which is why no one, including the Republicans criticizing Obama, actually has an answer for what that strategy should be. It’s clear that this new talking point is little more than thinly veiled code for we’re not killing enough Muslims or invading enough countries.’

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Humanitarians for War on Syria

Rick Sterling writes for CounterPunch:

‘A massive campaign in support of foreign intervention against Syria is underway. The goal is to prepare the public for a “No Fly Zone” enforced by US and other military powers. This is how the invasion of Iraq began. This is how the public was prepared for the US/NATO air attack on Libya.

The results of western ‘regime change’ in Iraq and Libya have been disastrous. Both actions have dramatically reduced the security, health, education and living standards of the populations, created anarchy and mayhem, and resulted in the explosion of sectarianism and violence in the region. Now the Western/NATO/Israeli and Gulf powers, supported by major intervention-inclined humanitarian organizations, want to do the same in Syria. Is this positive or a repeat of past disasters?’

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Neocons: the Echo of German Fascism

Retired JAG Major Todd E. Pierce writes for Consortium News:

Leo Strauss, an intellectual bridge between Germany's inter-war Conservative Revolutionaries and today's American neoconservatives.With the Likud Party electoral victory in Israel, the Republican Party is on a roll, having won two major elections in a row. The first was winning control of the U.S. Congress last fall. The second is the victory by the Republicans’ de facto party leader Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s recent election. As the Israeli Prime Minister puts together a coalition with other parties “in the national camp,” as he describes them, meaning the ultra-nationalist parties of Israel, it will be a coalition that today’s Republicans would feel right at home in.

The common thread linking Republicans and Netanyahu’s “national camp” is a belief of each in their own country’s “exceptionalism,” with a consequent right of military intervention wherever and whenever their “Commander in Chief” orders it, as well as the need for oppressive laws to suppress dissent.

William Kristol, neoconservative editor of the Weekly Standard, would agree. Celebrating Netanyahu’s victory, Kristol told the New York Times, “It will strengthen the hawkish types in the Republican Party.” Kristol added that Netanyahu would win the GOP’s nomination, if he could run, because “Republican primary voters are at least as hawkish as the Israeli public.”

The loser in both the Israeli and U.S. elections was the rule of law and real democracy, not the sham democracy presented for public relations purposes in both counties. In both countries today, money controls elections, and as Michael Glennon has written in National Security and Double Government, real power is in the hands of the national security apparatus.’

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NY Times Article a Malicious Attempt to Undermine Iran Negotiations: Interview with Former IAEA Director Robert Kelly

‘Robert Kelly says David Sanger in the New York Times claimed Iran had backed off a commitment to ship Uranium out of the country, something that was later refuted by the U.S. State Department.’ (The Real News)

Leading U.S. Newspapers Incite “Supreme International Crime”

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

War op-eds in NYT, WaPoAfter the New York Times printed John Bolton’s “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran” (3/26/15; FAIR Blog, 3/26/15), following the Washington Post publishing Joshua Muravchik’s “War With Iran Is Probably Our Best Option” (3/13/15), veteran investigative reporter Robert Parry made an excellent point (Consortium News, 3/28/15):

If two major newspapers in, say, Russia published major articles openly advocating the unprovoked bombing of a country, say, Israel, the US government and news media would be aflame with denunciations about “aggression,” “criminality,” “madness” and “behavior not fitting the 21st century.”

But when the newspapers are American – the New York Times and the Washington Post – and the target country is Iran, no one in the US government and media bats an eye. These inflammatory articles – these incitements to murder and violation of international law – are considered just normal discussion in the Land of Exceptionalism.

Advocating for war is not like advocating for most other policies because, as peace activist David Swanson points out, war is a crime.’

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New York Times Accidentally Undermines John Bolton “Bomb Iran” Op-Ed in Own Pages

Jon Schwarz reports for The Intercept:

The New York Times yesterday [March 26th] published an op-ed by the characteristically bellicose John R. Bolton, headlined “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Bolton, now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration.

In an unusual touch, a link added to the original online edition of Bolton’s op-ed directly undermines Bolton’s case for war:

… Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program. Nor will sanctions block its building a broad and deep weapons infrastructure. The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq … can accomplish what is required.

U.S. and Israeli politicians often claim that Israel’s bombing of Iraq in 1981 significantly set back an already-existing Iraqi nuclear weapons program. The truth is almost exactly the opposite.’

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Saudi Ambassador To U.S. Won’t Rule Out Building Nukes

‘The Saudi Ambassador to the United States would not rule out the possibility of the Saudis creating their own nuclear bomb to counterbalance a nuclear-armed Iran in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday. “This is not something we would discuss publicly,” Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir said on “The Situation Room.” Later, when pressed, he said, “This is not something that I can comment on, nor would I comment on.” “But the kingdom of Saudi Arabia will take whatever measures are necessary in order to protect its security,” he added. “There are two things over which we do not negotiate: Our faith and our security.”‘ (CNN)

Pakistan’s Long History of Fighting Saudi Arabia’s Wars

Ishaan Tharoor writes for The Washington Post:

Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Houthi rebel forces in Yemen, which began with waves of airstrikes overnight on Thursday, has laid down a new marker in the dangerously unstable Middle East.

As WorldViews discussed earlier, the Saudis coordinated their action with a coalition of Sunni majority countries, sharpening the perception that the offensive was part of a wider regional conflict with Iran, a Shiite power that has backed the Houthis and is locked in a larger game of geopolitical chess with the Saudis in various corners of the Middle East.

One conspicuous nation among the list of countries official Saudi media claimed had “declared their willingness to participate” in the anti-Houthi action is Pakistan. A non-Arab state with a sizeable Shiite minority, Pakistan also has an overstretched military, which is wrestling with its own extremist insurgency in the rugged borderlands near Afghanistan.’

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Saudi Coalition Rejects Diplomacy, Readies Long War in Yemen

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

The United Nations has loaded the last of its staff in Yemen quietly onto airplanes, sending them to safety in Ethiopia, and capping their failed effort to start peace talks in the war-torn country.

There is no room for peace talks now, it seems, with Saudi Arabia and its allies so decidedly in favor of a full-scale war against the Shi’ite Houthis, and leaving no room open for a settlement.

For the Saudis, there is no middle ground, and democratic reform is not the goal. The only goal for the war is to reinstall General Hadi, Yemen’s dictator from early 2012 until his resignation in January, back into power.’

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White House Isn’t Ruling Out U.S. Involvement In Yemen

‘Yemen has become a major front in the battle between the main factions of Islam. Saudi Arabia has evacuated dozens of foreign and Saudi diplomats from the port city of Aden in Southern Yemen, and the UN has evacuated staff from Sanaa, the capital. President Obama spoke on the phone with the King of Sunni Saudi Arabia, which is conducting air attacks on Shiite rebels in Yemen. Julianna Goldman reports on the chaos.’ (CBS This Morning)

Saudi-Led Yemen Intervention Threatens Protracted, Sectarian War

Adam Baron writes for Al Jazeera America:

Yemen has lately become a hot topic of rampant strategic pontification, pundits rushing to make bold sweeping statements that seek to explain the turbulence in this conflict-wracked nation as simply another front in a region-wide strategic context. But reality — as most who follow Yemen would attest — is far more complicated.

Last September, the Houthis — a Zaidi Shia rebel group — took effective control of Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, riding on a wave of popular discontent over the transitional government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. That government had been installed under a U.N.-backed deal mediated by the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to end the Arab Spring-inspired uprising against the country’s longtime leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis quickly inked a deal with Hadi and other political factions, but tensions soon emerged. By the start of March, the government had resigned, while Hadi — after escaping house arrest by the Houthis in Sanaa — fled to Aden and declared it Yemen’s temporary capital. U.N.-mediated talks continued in search of a political settlement, while the Houthis moved to consolidate power. The power vacuum resulting from the steady collapse of Yemen’s political order had already proven a boon to extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and deepened an economic and humanitarian crisis that had already left half of the country’s population food-insecure.

Any hope of an early resolution to the crisis among Yemen’s rival factions has been quashed by the Saudi-led anti-Houthi military offensive — euphemistically named “Resolute Storm.” Five nights into the air barrage, a return to calm seems as far away as ever, while the outcome of the Saudi-led intervention remains uncertain.’

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Saudi Arabia’s Airstrikes in Yemen Are Fuelling the Gulf’s Fire

Patrick Cockburn, author of The Rise of the Islamic State, writes for The Independent:

‘Foreign states that go to war in Yemen usually come to regret it. The Saudi-led military intervention so far involves only air strikes, but a ground assault may follow. The code name for the action is Operation Decisive Storm, which is probably an indication of what Saudi Arabia and its allies would like to happen in Yemen, rather than what will actually occur.

In practice, a decisive outcome is the least likely prospect for Yemen, just as it has long been in Iraq and Afghanistan. A political feature common to all three countries is that power is divided between so many players it is impossible to defeat or placate them all for very long. Saudi Arabia is backing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi but the humiliating speed of his defeat shows his lack of organised support.

The threat of further intervention by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council may be intended to redress the balance of power in Yemen and prevent the Houthis winning a total victory. But Saudi actions and those of the Sunni coalition will be self-fulfilling if the Houthis – never previously full proxies of Iran – find themselves fighting a war in which they are dependent on Iranian financial, political and military backing.

Likewise, the Houthis, as members of the Zaidi sect, were not always seen by Shia in other countries as part of their religious community. But by leading a Sunni coalition Saudi Arabia will internationalise the Yemen conflict and emphasise its sectarian Sunni-Shia dimension.’

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Arab League to Create Joint Military Force to Fight Iran

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Capping off weekend negotiations at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the Arab League has agreed in principle to create a combined military strike force, which officials saying is aimed squarely at Iran.

The force will be combined from Sunni Arab nations, and the current aim, admittedly preliminary, is for a force of 40,000 troops backed by warplanes to be created within the next four months.’

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US war on terror has claimed over 80,000 lives in Pakistan, says Body Count report

Khaleej Times reports:

The report titled “Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the War on Terror” was released by the Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War along with Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for Global Survival, The Express Tribune reported today.

The report, dealing with the conflict from 2004 until the end of 2013, shows that a total of 81,325 to 81,860 persons — including 48,504 civilians, 45 journalists, 416-951 civilians killed by drones, 5,498 security personnel and 26,862 militants — lost their lives in the US-led war on terror.

It also said that around 1.3 million people were directly and indirectly killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of US-led wars in the regions during the the same period.’

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Israel killed more Palestinians in 2014 than in any other year since 1967, says UN report

Mairav Zonszein reports for The Guardian:

Israel killed more Palestinian civilians in 2014 than in any other year since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip began in 1967, a UN report has said.

Israel’s activities in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem resulted in the deaths of 2,314 Palestinians and 17,125 injuries, compared with 39 deaths and 3,964 injuries in 2013, according to the annual report (pdf) by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The conflict in Gaza in July and August was largely responsible for the dramatic increase in fatalities. It claimed the lives of 2,220 Gazans, of whom 1,492 were civilians, 605 militants and 123 unverified.’

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ISIS “Aggressively” Recruiting From Minnesota, USA

‘ISIS and Al-Shabaab successfully recruited dozens of teens and young adults from Minnesota. Poppy Harlow finds out why and what’s being done to stop it.’ (CNN)

The Yemen Crisis: Could Domestic Conflict Grow into Protracted Regional War?

‘As Saudi Arabia and Egypt threaten to send ground troops into Yemen, we look at the roots of the crisis. While many analysts have described the fighting as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, journalist Iona Craig says the fighting stems from a domestic conflict. “People try to frame this as an Iran versus Saudi kind of battle, which it has sort of become. But it is very much because of domestic politics,” explains Iona Craig, who recently spent four years reporting from Sana’a. We also speak to Brian Whitaker, former Middle East editor at The Guardian, about the decades-old history of Saudi intervention in Yemen.’ (Democracy Now!)

The Neoconservative Cursus Honorum

Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi writes for The American Conservative:

Having experienced several more weeks of mainstream media jingoism about the “Iranian threat,” culminating in the outrageous Joshua Muravchik op-ed advocating war with Iran as the “best option” for dealing with that country, one has to ask why it is that a gaggle of self-proclaimed “experts” has been able to capture the foreign-policy narrative so completely, in spite of the fact that they have been wrong about nearly everything?

Neoconservatives have two core beliefs. First is their insistence that the United States has the right or even the responsibility to use its military and economic power to reshape the world in terms of its own interests and values. Constant war thus becomes the new normal. As Professor Eliot Cohen, a former State Department adviser under George W. Bush, put it, “For the great mass of the American public … and for their leaders and elites who shape public opinion ‘war weariness’ is unearned cant, unworthy of a serious nation… .”’

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Endless War: As U.S. Strikes Tikrit and Delays Afghan Pullout, “War on Terror” Toll Tops 1.3 Million

‘As the United States begins bombing the Iraqi city of Tikrit and again delays a withdrawal from Afghanistan, a new report has found that the Iraq War has killed about one million people. The Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and other groups examined the toll from the so-called war on terror in three countries — Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The investigators found “the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around one million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. Not included in this figure are further war zones such as Yemen. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware. … And this is only a conservative estimate.” The true tally, they add, could be more than two million. We are joined by two guests who worked on the report: Hans von Sponeck, former U.N. assistant secretary-general and U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, who in 2000 resigned his post in protest of the U.S.-led sanctions regime; and Dr. Robert Gould, president of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.’ (Democracy Now!)

Operation Decisive Storm: Arab Coalition Launches Offensive In Yemen

‘Saudi Arabia’s allies have joined the country’s ‘Decisive Storm‘ bombing operation in Yemen. The operation is aimed at Houthi rebels who have taken over Yemen, bringing the Middle Eastern country to the brink of civil war. Ameera David takes a deeper look at the conflict and what US officials are prepared to do.’ (RT America)

White House Continues to Insist Yemen a Model for Counterterrorism

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

When the US pushed heavily for the Arab Spring installation of General Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi as president of Yemen in a single-candidate election, the White House started championing it as a model for the rest of the region to emulate.

With the country falling apart and Saudi Arabia now preparing to invade, most people would be looking to take that back, but not the White House, which continues to insist the “Yemen model” is a successful one.’

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Iraqi Shiite Militias Accused of Looting, Burning Sunni Villages: Interview with Erin Evers

‘A new report finds Shiite militias in Iraq have burned down entire Sunni villages after liberating them from control of the Islamic State. This comes as Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are in their fourth week of a fight to retake Tikrit from ISIS militants. We air a Human Rights Watch video report from the Iraqi town of Amerli and speak to Erin Evers, Iraq researcher for HRW, who co-wrote the group’s new report, “After Liberation Came Destruction: Iraqi Militias and the Aftermath of Amerli.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

In Chaos of Post-Invasion Iraq, Militias Take Hold: Interview with Matthieu Aikins

‘”If you visited the Interior Ministry compound in Baghdad during the holy month of Muharram this past fall, you would be forgiven for thinking that Iraq, like its neighbor Iran, is a country whose official religion is Shiite Islam,” writes journalist Matthieu Aikins in his latest Rolling Stone article, “Inside Baghdad’s Brutal Battle Against ISIS.” We speak to Aikins about the rise of militias in Iraq and its return to the sectarian warfare that ravaged the country in the years after the 2003 U.S. invasion. Aikins, who has reported extensively from Afghanistan, also discusses Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to the White House. We also hear from Erin Evers, Iraq researcher for Human Rights Watch.’ (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Closes Key Drone Base and Withdraws Forces as U.N. Warns of Civil War in Yemen: Interview with Iona Craig

‘After touting its “successful” counterterrorism model in Yemen, the United States has evacuated its remaining personnel, including 100 special operations forces from a military base seen as key in the drone war against al-Qaeda. This comes amidst worsening violence between government forces and Shia Houthi rebels, and an attack claimed by the Islamic State that killed dozens of worshipers at two mosques. The United Nations has warned Yemen is on the brink of an “Iraq-Libya-Syria”-type civil war. We are joined by Iona Craig, a journalist who was based in Sana’a for four years as the Yemen correspondent for The Times of London.’ (Democracy Now!)

Big Bank’s Analyst Worries That Iran Deal Could Depress Weapons Sales

Lee Fang writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Big Bank’s Analyst Worries That Iran Deal Could Depress Weapons SalesCould a deal to normalize Western relations with Iran and set limits on Iran’s development of nuclear technology lead to a more peaceful and less-weaponized Middle East?

That’s what supporters of the Iran negotiations certainly hope to achieve. But the prospect of stability has at least one financial analyst concerned about its impact on one of the world’s biggest defense contractors.

The possibility of an Iran nuclear deal depressing weapons sales was raised by Myles Walton, an analyst from Germany’s Deutsche Bank, during a Lockheed earnings call this past January 27th. Walton asked Marillyn Hewson, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, if an Iran agreement could “impede what you see as progress in foreign military sales.” Financial industry analysts such as Walton use earnings calls as an opportunity to ask publicly-traded corporations like Lockheed about issues that might harm profitability.’

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President Hadi: Suicide bombings seek to drag Yemen into ‘chaos’

ESSENTIAL READING: Yemen’s collapse is a taste of things to come and Did Obama’s Drone War Help Cause Yemen’s Collapse?

Middle East Eye reports:

Yemen’s president said suicide bombings that killed at least 142 people at mosques were aimed at dragging the country into “chaos, violence and internal fighting”.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks on two mosques in the capital Sanaa and the Houthi militia’s northern stronghold of Saada.

President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi has taken refuge in the southern city of Aden having escaped house arrest in the Houthi-controlled capital last month.’

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U.S. fears Islamic State is making serious inroads in Libya

Mark Hosenball reports for Reuters:

The United States is increasingly concerned about the growing presence and influence of the Syria-based Islamic State movement in Libya, according to U.S. officials and a State Department report.

The officials said what they called “senior” Islamic State leaders had travelled to the country, which is whacked by civil war, to help recruit and organize militants, particularly in the cities of Derna and Sirte.

Since late January, Islamic State militants have carried out attacks, including a car bombing and siege at the Corinthia, a luxury hotel in Tripoli, and an attack on the Mabruk oilfield south of Sirte, according to a report circulated this week by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Bureau.’

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Arab Spring Success Story Tunisia Has NATO to Thank for Recent Woes

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

[…] So far Tunisians seem to be trying to keep the situation under relative control, but the nation’s heavy dependence on tourism, and the fact that the attack targeted tourists could seriously threaten their already shaky economy to provoke draconian effects by the government.

If the Arab Spring’s big success story was to indeed collapse, the real culprit is NATO, whose insinuation of itself into one of the Arab Spring’s biggest disasters, neighboring Libya, played a major role in turning that huge nation into a lawless trainwreck full of jihadist factions, including the one responsible for attacking the Tunis museum.’

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US soldier admits killing unarmed Afghans for sport

Paul Harris reports for The Guardian:

Jeremy MorlockAn American soldier has pleaded guilty to being part of a “kill team” who deliberately murdered Afghan civilians for sport last year.

Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock, 23, told a military court he had helped to kill three unarmed Afghans. “The plan was to kill people, sir,” he told an army judge in Fort Lea, near Seattle, after his plea.

The case has caused outraged headlines around the world. In a series of videotaped confessions to investigators, some of which have been broadcast on American television, Morlock detailed how he and other members of his Stryker brigade set up and faked combat situations so that they could kill civilians who posed no threat to them. Four other soldiers are still to come to trial over the incidents.’

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