Tuesday, June 19, 2018

US/Israel Military Coalition Bombs/Kills Syrians, Army Says

Israeli Strike on Syrian Troops May be Harbinger of US Bid to Seize Crucial Border Crossing 

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News

It appears the U.S. – with Israeli help – is again ‘locked and loaded’ to challenge the Syrian government’s hold on its territory in order to manifest Washington’s long-standing efforts to partition the country and gain control over the majority of its resources.

In a troubling sign that the Syrian conflict is set to deepen, local Syrian media reported on Sunday that the U.S.-led coalition bombed Syrian Arab Army installments, killing several service members and injuring several more. Members of the Iraqi military were also killed in the attack.

The U.S. has officially denied responsibility for the attack, with Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway asserting that the bombing was “not a U.S. or coalition strike.”

However, Syrian military sources reported that the strike was conducted by an unmanned attack drone that came from U.S.-occupied territory in northeastern Syria.

Thus, the only possibilities are that the U.S.-led coalition conducted the attack but has publicly denied responsibility, or that Israel was responsible for the attack and “independently” launched the strike from territory occupied by the U.S.-led coalition.

The latter scenario seems to be the case, considering Iranian forces are near the area that was attacked and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Sunday – the same day as the strike – to attack Iranian forces anywhere they were present within Syria. However, no members of the Iranian military were present at the site of the bombing. If Israel were responsible for the attack, as has been alleged by an anonymous U.S. official who spoke to CNN, it would mark the first time that it had bombed the Deir Ez-Zor governorate.

Yet if Israel was responsible for the attack, as alleged, it attack was likely accomplished with U.S. complicity as it came from U.S. occupied territory nearby. Given that a drone would likely be unable to travel from Israel’s border to near the Syrian-Iraqi border due to the large distance, Israeli responsibility for the attack would likely mean that the drone was launched from the portion of Syria occupied by the United States.

In addition, the attack occurred in a very strategic area of great interest to the U.S. military, close to the city of Abu Kamal, which lies in the Deir Ez-Zor governorate and is the main border crossing between Syria and Iraq. Abu Kamal is currently under Syrian government control but lies close to the area of Syria occupied by the United States, which accounts for 30 percent of Syria’s total land mass and includes the majority of the country’s oil, gas, fresh water, and agricultural resources.

Given the proximity of U.S. forces and the strategic nature of the area, Syrian state media (SANA) and independent analysts have speculated the recent attack may be a sign the U.S. is seeking to further expand the area of Syria it occupies, likely with help from Israel which has long pushed the U.S. to deepen its involvement in the conflict.

Indeed, recent reports indicated that the U.S. has been constructing military bases along the Euphrates river in proximity to Syrian military installments throughout the Deir Ez-Zor region. This would also place the new bases next to major Syrian oil fields under U.S. occupation, such as the Conoco gas plant and the al-Omar and al-Jafra oil fields. Regional reports have claimed that the U.S. military has transferred “a large volume of arms and equipment, including missiles, military vehicles and bridge equipment” to those areas in recent weeks.

U.S. motives suggest greater role in the attack

Despite official denial, the U.S. coalition was likely aware of the attack and involved in planning the alleged Israeli strike for several reasons.

First, Russia warned Syrian forces last month of a likely U.S. assault on their positions in Deir Ez-Zor in the near future, as news broke of new U.S. military installments between the border of U.S.-occupied territory and territory controlled by the Syrian government along the Euphrates River.

Second, the U.S. has recently been threatening to attack Syrian forces in the southeast, as the Syrian Arab Army prepares to launch an offensive to retake the Dara’a governorate in the country’s south from Daesh (ISIS), Al Qaeda, and their affiliates who control the region.

Despite the fact that the region is overrun by groups recognized as terrorist organizations by the United States, the U.S. State Department warned last Friday that any Syrian military offensive in the region that would target these extremist groups would be met with a “decisive response” including military action.

As MintPress reported over the weekend, the U.S. threat has been widely interpreted as a move aimed at protecting ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Interest in taking Abu Kamal from the Syrian government is another reason to believe the U.S. was more involved in the alleged Israeli strike than it has cared to publicly admit. Indeed, Abu Kamal is the only road connection between Syrian territory controlled by the Syrian government and Iraq. More importantly, it is the only border crossing that connects Syrian government-controlled territory with Iran, through Iraq.

A major U.S. goal in its occupation of Syria has been disrupting this land bridge, but continued Syrian government control of Abu Kamal makes this impossible. Were the U.S. to take control of Abu Kamal, it would control Syria’s most important border crossings, as it already controls the Syrian-Jordan border crossing at al-Tanf.

For that reason, the recent reappearance of Daesh (ISIS) in Abu Kamal is significant. Indeed, Daesh launched its largest military offensive in several months in Abu Kamal earlier this month, with 10 suicide bombers helping clear the way for Daesh militants to take over parts of the city. That offensive killed 25 Syrian soldiers and allied fighters, according to monitors. Daesh attacked from the U.S.-occupied zone of Syria, despite the fact that the U.S. has long justified its illegal presence in Syria by claiming that it is fighting the terror group.

However, as Moon of Alabama has noted, the U.S. has taken no action against the terror group from November of last year up until it announced it would “recommence” attacks on the terror group on June 4. The U.S. has not offered a public statement explaining that hiatus. Yet Daesh’s reappearance in Abu Kamal provides a convenient pretext for the U.S. to engage the area in and around the town militarily. The recent bombing of Syrian troops in the area again highlights U.S. interest in targeting the Syrian military presence in the area as opposed to Daesh.

That coincidence is not without historical precedent, however.

Indeed, on many of the past occasions in which the U.S. or one of its allies has bombed the Syrian military, ISIS has launched counterattacks immediately after the strikes – as was the case during the U.S.’ unilateral bombing of Syria this past April, as well as after the U.S. bombing of the Syrian military in September 2016.

The close timings of Daesh counter-attacks following U.S. coalition air strikes suggest close coordination between the groups, something that both the Russian and Syrian militaries as well as defectors from the U.S.-backed proxy in the region – the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – have noted in recent years.

If Israel is indeed responsible for Sunday’s bombing, they would have executed the attack with these strategic implications in mind and with the U.S.’ blessing, as the U.S. has a major interest in wresting the city from Syrian control while Israel has no military presence in the area.

Indeed, U.S. interest in taking control of Abu Kamal from Syria is so obvious that it has been openly discussed by some influential American think tanks. For instance, Nicholas Heras, Middle East Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), recently tweeted about the possibility of the U.S. gaining control of Abu Kamal were the Syrian government to lose ground to Daesh, adding that such an event would cause the U.S.-occupied zone of Syria to “spread by osmosis.”

CNAS is a hawkish, D.C.-based think tank currently headed by regime-change aficionado Victoria Nuland and Richard Fontaine, former foreign policy advisor to war-loving Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

Harbingers of a major American campaign?

Sunday’s bombing of Syrian and Iraqi military forces, at the very least, suggests that the United States under President Trump is poised to deepen American military involvement in the Syrian conflict. As MintPress has reported many times, the U.S. has long sought to overthrow the Syrian government and is currently seeking to partition Syria through its occupation of the country’s northeast – a long-standing geopolitical goal of the United States and Israel that is vocally supported by prominent members of the Trump administration.

Concerns regarding an imminent escalation of U.S. military involvement in Syria have been complemented by warnings from the Russian and Syrian militaries that U.S.-funded groups, such as the White Helmets, are set to stage a “false flag” chemical weapons attack in the portion of the Deir ez-Zor governorate controlled by the U.S. — specifically near the al-Jafra oil field, in which a U.S. military base has been recently established. The deployment of a major U.S. carrier strike-group off the Syrian coast last week further suggests that U.S. military actions in Syria may again be imminent.

As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned in April, it seems the U.S. is “locked and loaded” to challenge the Syrian government’s hold on its territory in order to manifest its long-standing efforts to partition the country and gain control over the majority of its resources.

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Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Velcrow Ripper, Nova Ami, Wendy Mendez, Janine Bandcroft June 21, 2018

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com

June 21, 2018

With due respect to Mr. Dylan, sometimes you do need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows; or at least a climatologist to confirm, it ain't you, babe, the climes they really are a-changin'. And if climate change is a train, it's not coming slow or fast, but is already in the station!

'Metamorphosis' is the newly released documentary film by collaborators Velcrow Ripper and Nova Ami. Innovative and artistic, beautiful and terrifying, the film navigates the currents of climate change ebbing and flowing and creating new realities for all creatures across the planet.

Metamorphosis opens across Canada this month, and its Victoria debut is at UVic's Cinecenta theatre this Sunday and Monday, June 24th and 25th.

Nova Ami and Velcrow Ripper in the first half.

And; even as immigration policies create a political furore in the United States, nightly newscasts rarely explore the roots of the Central American refugee crisis. Whether in Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala, the situation is so dire people are willing to risk everything; their lives, and their children's lives, to escape.

Wendy Mendez is a human rights activist, educator, petitioner in Guatemala's Military Diary case, and co-founder of HIJOS Guatemala, Sons and Daughters of the Disappeared. Wendy joins a special Cafe Simpatico evening next Wednesday, June 27th to screen filmmaker, Claudio Zulian's documentary, 'Sin Miedo'.

Wendy Mendez and the persistent struggle for justice in Guatemala in the second half.

And; Victoria-based activist and CFUV Radio broadcaster at-large, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour with the Left Coast Events Bulletin of some of the good things to get up to in and around here in the coming week. But first, Velcrow Ripper and Nova Ami confronting Metamorphosis.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Thursday between 11-Noon Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.uvic.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: http://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/

Monday, June 18, 2018

Trudeau Trade Blow Back: Being Done As Doing To

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

June 14, 2018

MOSCOW - Long before the Christians claimed credit for enunciating the Golden Rule, it was the ancient Greeks who started it off. By all reports, Jesus of Nazareth gave the Rule its positive spin – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Greek spin was negative – don’t do to others if you don’t want them to retaliate.

The Jewish versions of the Rule are a bit guarded. That’s because they distinguish between neighbours and brothers on the one hand; to them the Golden Rule applies. But enemies on the other hand – they get whatever is coming.

That’s also the Ukrainian version of the Rule. This explains why Chrystia Freeland, Ukrainian by blood, homeowner in Kiev, and Foreign Minister of Canada (lead image, centre), thinks the Golden Rule in its Christian version applies between Canada and the United States, but not between Canada and Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Libya, and when she thinks circumstances call for it, Japan and other members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Last weekend Freeland’s boss Justin Trudeau, the current Prime Minister of Canada, got what the US Government thinks he had coming. That was because the Americans say he was duplicitous and deceitful in negotiations. They say Trudeau agreed with President Donald Trump in private, but then when Trump’s back was turned, Trudeau announced to his Canadian electors that he won’t allow Trump to push him around. For details, read this.

The US Government attack was a coordinated move by the White House spokesmen for both the president and for the principal US cabinet departments.

One of Trump’s aides, trade advisor Peter Navarro, subsequently apologized for his words, not for his meaning. He said he meant to send Trudeau a “signal of strength”, but “the problem was that in conveying that message, I used language that was inappropriate. I own that. That was my mistake, those were my words. If you make a mistake, you should admit it, learn from it, don’t repeat it.”

Left: US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. 
Right: Peter Navarro, White House advisor on trade.

Freeland hasn’t defended Trudeau. At first, in a Québec City press conference on Sunday, she attempted in halting French to tell reporters the US attack on Canadian steel, aluminium and automobiles is “illegal” and “absurd”. Two days later she repeated the claims after a closed-door meeting in Washington with a group of US senators. They are trying to pass new legislation to curb presidential national security powers; Freeland told the senators she is placing Canada on their side in the fierce constitutional battle still to be fought.

According to a Canadian source who advises the Liberal Party on foreign policy and security strategy,

“Freeland has been exceptionally effective in challenging the statements, performance, and persons of the US political NAFTA team, starting with [US Trade Representative Robert] Lighthizer, who is a condescending [expletive deleted] and who set himself up to be whacked by her on facts and on style.
It especially [expletive deleted] the US administration that Canada is lobbying effectively across the board in the US, state capitals, business associations, Congress, and doing very well.”

Freeland, US political analysts observe, is not against the application of US national security legislation to economic warfare campaigns against states Freeland believes are national security enemies of Canada. These include 25% penalty tariffs and outright bans on trade against enemy steel, aluminium, automobiles, and in the Russian case against production of oil and gas, as well as the entire Russian banking system.

Canadian political observers note Trudeau is refusing to defend himself from the American attacks. “On [Trump’s] comments,” Trudeau told the press on Tuesday, “I’m going to stay focused on defending jobs for Canadians and supporting Canadian interest.”

“We will continue to conduct our diplomacy the Canadian way,”announced Francois-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s trade minister, on Tuesday.
“That is, being positive and constructive and firm in defending the interests of our industries … in diplomacy it doesn’t really matter about personal feelings and personal comments.” 

Left to right: Champagne, Freeland and Trudeau negotiate with 
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his delegation in 
Toronto, September 22, 2017. The official photograph 
reveals that Trudeau’s staff had placed the Ukrainian flag 
on the side of the table occupied by Freeland.

Last November Champagne and Freeland defended Trudeau for doing in trade negotiations with Canada’s Pacific region allies exactly what Trump has just attacked Trudeau of doing to the US. During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit negotiations in Vietnam, Trudeau agreed to sign the “in-principle” version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, but then refused to show up for the official signing.

“There were a lot of unhappy leaders left sitting there,”said an 
[Australian Government] official who was in the meeting. 
“Everyone was screwed,” he said.

Trudeau’s double-talking at the APEC summit was coordinated with President Trump, who also refused to sign. Champagne later announced: “Canada has always said that we would only agree to a deal that is in Canada’s best interests.”

For Freeland and her supporters in the Liberal Party to believe it is wise for Canada to side against the Trump Administration on the trade powers issue pits that policy against US polls revealing the attack on Canada was designed to boost Trump’s job approval ratings with American voters – and did.


In Moscow and Beijing Freeland’s continuing attacks on Russia, China and other enemies have been dismissed as flatly contradicting the “the rules-based international trading system…open, transparent, inclusive and WTO-consistent”, which the G7 communique endorsed (but which Trump refused to sign).

In Qingdao, following a summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), President Vladimir Putin was dismissive.

The SCO meeting of June 9-10 included India (left) and Pakistan (right) 
at the summit level for the first time. Iran and Mongolia also participated 
at the head of state level. For details of the SCO as a regional strategy 
alternative to the TPP and G7, read this.

“I do not actually think it is part of my job,” Putin said,
“to comment on everything that happens at the G7. As for those destabilising actions, just as with regard to some other events, everyone has shown solidarity with London over the Salisbury events, but yet again nothing specific was said….
As for Russia’s return to the G7, or G8 – we have never withdrawn from it. Our colleagues refused to come to Russia at some point for well-known reasons. We would be happy to see everyone in Moscow, they are welcome. That is first the first thing.
Second. As for the efficiency and volume of the economy, indeed, the purchasing power parity (this is IMF data) of the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is already higher than in the G7 countries. Yes, it is, the PPP is higher. True, the seven are still richer in per capita income, as they say, but the SCO economies are larger, and their population is much larger, too – half the world’s population.”

For details of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) and Russian economic performance, click to start and then read this.

Whether the question is put in the language of the White House officials after the G7 summit, or in Putin’s words after the SCO summit, the question is the same – are Trudeau and Freeland fit to negotiate for Canada’s interest? For a discussion with Chris Cook, listen to today’s interview on Gorilla Radio from Victoria, British Columbia:

Gorilla Radio is broadcast every Thursday by Chris Cook on CFUV 101.9 FM from the University of Victoria. The radio station can be heard here. The Gorilla Radio transcripts are also published by the Pacific Free Press.
For Chris Cook’s broadcast archive, click to open.  

What's the Deal with Trump's Middle East Plan?

What’s in Trump’s “Deal of the Century”? The Answers are in Plain Sight

by Jonathan Cook - Dissident Voice

June 16th, 2018

The White House’s peace plan is said to be days away. Meanwhile, Israel is getting a US nod as it carries on seizing Palestinian land

There are mounting signals that Donald Trump’s much- delayed Middle East peace plan – billed as the “deal of the century” – is about to be unveiled.

Even though Trump’s officials have given away nothing publicly, the plan’s contours are already evident, according to analysts.

They note that Israel has already started implementing the deal – entrenching “apartheid” rule over Palestinians – while Washington has spent the past six months dragging its heels on publishing the document.

“Netanyahu has simply got on with deepening his hold on the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and he knows the Americans aren’t going to stand in his way,” said Michel Warschawski, an Israeli analyst and head of the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem.

“He will be given free rein to do what he likes, whether they publish the plan or, in the end, it never sees the light of day,” he told Middle East Eye.

Eran Etzion, a former Israeli foreign ministry official, agreed: “Israel has a much freer hand than it did in the past. It feels confident enough to continue its existing policies, knowing Trump won’t stand in the way.”

Netanyahu ‘the winner’

According to the latest reports, the Americans may present their plan within days, soon after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Yossi Alpher, a former aide to Ehud Barak during his premiership in the late 1990s, said it was clear Netanyahu was being “kept in the loop” by Trump officials. He told MEE:

“He is being apprised of what is coming. There won’t be any surprises for him.”

Analysts are agreed that Netanyahu will emerge the winner from any Trump initiative.

Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli politician who was a pivotal figure in the Oslo peace process of the early 1990s, said Netanyahu would cynically manipulate the plan to his advantage.

“He knows the Palestinians will not accept the terms they are being offered,” he told MEE.
“So he can appear reasonable and agree to it – even if there are things he is unhappy with – knowing that the Palestinians will reject it and then be blamed for its failure.”

Alpher agreed.

“If the plan is rejected, Trump will say he did his best, he offered the parties the greatest deal ever, and that they must now be left to settle the issues on their own.”

He added that the only obstacle to Washington presenting the plan were fears about Abbas’s waning health. Trump’s team might then prefer to shelve it.

Even then, he said, Netanyahu would profit.

“He can then continue with what he’s been doing for the past 10 years. He will expand the settlements, and suppress the rights of Israelis who oppose him. He will move Israel towards a situation of apartheid.”

Fragments of land

In an early effort to win Trump’s favour, reported by MEE a year ago, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas proposed a land swap ceding 6.5 percent of the occupied territories to Israel. That was more than three times what had been accepted by the Palestinians in previous peace talks.

But the Palestinians appear to have lost the battle and are now braced for the worst. Abbas has derided the plan as “the slap of the century”, and has said he will not commit “treason” by agreeing to it.

According to Palestinian officials, they are likely to be offered provisional borders over fragments of land comprising about half the occupied territories – or just 11 percent of what was recognised as Palestine under the British mandate.

The Palestinian areas would be demilitarised, and Israel would have control over the borders and airspace.

Israel and the Palestinians would then be left to “negotiate” over the status of Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with Trump likely to back Netanyahu to the hilt, according to the analysts.

It is widely assumed that the Americans have rejected any principle of a right of return for Palestinian refugees, either to Israel or to the areas of the occupied territories that Israel wins US approval to seize.

Gaza and Golan windfalls

The US embassy’s move to Jerusalem last month appears to signal that the Trump administration will recognise all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That would deny Palestinians East Jerusalem, long assumed to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

And separate reports this month suggest that the announcement of the peace plan may be timed to coincide with new measures for Gaza and the Golan Heights. There have been rumours for several years that Washington and Israel have been pressuring Cairo to let Palestinians in Gaza settle in Sinai.

According to Israeli reports, Washington may be close to unveiling a scheme that would weaken the border between Gaza and Egypt, and allow Palestinians to work and maybe live in northern Sinai.

The aim would be to gradually shift responsibility for the enclave away from Israel on to Egypt and further undermine prospects for a Palestinian state in historic Palestine.

And in a separate move that would complete Netanyahu’s windfall, an Israeli government minister claimed late last month that the Trump administration may be ready to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.

The Heights were seized by Israel from Syria during the 1967 war and annexed in violation of international law in 1981.

No longer ‘occupied’

A Jerusalem Post report last month suggested that the White House document would be unlikely to include a commitment to a “two-state solution”, reflecting previous comments from Trump.

That would free Israel’s hand to seize areas of the West Bank it has colonised with its ever-expanding settlements.

Noticeably, the latest annual report from the US State Department on the human rights situation by country, published in April, drops for the first time the term “occupied Palestinian territories”, implying that the Trump team no longer views much of the West Bank as under occupation.

Netanyahu told a recent meeting of his Likud faction: “Our successes are still to come. Our policies are not based on weakness. They are not based on concessions that will endanger us.”

So given Israel’s recent moves, what can we infer about the likely terms of Trump’s peace plan?

1. Gerrymandering Jerusalem

The most sensitive of the final-status issues is Jerusalem, which includes the incendiary Muslim holy site of al-Aqsa. Trump appears to have effectively recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by relocating the US embassy there last month.

The embassy move is likely to be interpreted by Netanyahu as a retroactive seal of approval from the US for a series of Israeli measures over recent months designed to engineer a Greater Jewish Jerusalem.

The main thrust are two legislative proposals to gerrymander the city’s boundaries and its population to create an unassailable Jewish majority. Both have been put on hold by Netanyahu until the announcement of the peace plan.

The first – called the Greater Jerusalem Bill – is intended to annex several large Jewish settlements close by in the occupied West Bank to the Jerusalem municipality. Overnight that would transform some 150,000 West Bank settlers into Jerusalem residents, as well as effectively annexing their lands to Israel.

In a sign of the impatience of members of Netanyahu’s cabinet to press on with such a move, the bill is due to come up for consideration again on Sunday.

A separate bill would strip residency in the city from some 100,000 Palestinians who are on the “wrong side” of a wall Israel began building through Jerusalem 15 years ago. Those Palestinians will be all but barred from Jerusalem and assigned to a separate council.

In addition, Israel has intensified harsh measures against Palestinians still inside East Jerusalem, including night arrests, house demolitions, the closing down of businesses, the creation of “national parks” in Palestinian neighbourhoods, and the denial of basic services. The barely veiled aim is to encourage residents to relocate outside the wall.

Experts have noted too that Palestinian schools inside the wall are being pressured to adopt the Israeli curriculum to erode a Palestinian identity among pupils.

2. Abu Dis: a Palestinian capital?

With Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital, Trump’s team is reported to be seeking a face-saving alternative location for a future Palestinian “capital” outside Jerusalem’s municipal borders.

According to rumours, they have selected the town of Abu Dis, 4km east of Jerusalem and cut off from the city by Israel’s wall more than a decade ago.

The Abu Dis plan is not new. At the end of the 1990s, the US administration of Bill Clinton proposed renaming Abu Dis “al-Quds” – Arabic for “the Holy”, the traditional name of Jerusalem because of its holy places. That was seen as a prelude to designating it the future capital of a Palestinian state.

Reports about the elevation of Abu Dis in the new peace plan have been circulating since late last year. In January, Abbas rejected the idea outright.

Only last month Yair Lapid, leader of Israel’s centre-right Yesh Atid party, highlighted reports about the imminent change of Abu Dis’s status in comments directed at Netanyahu.

Abu Dis is a densely populated village home to 13,000 Palestinians. In practice, it is all but impossible to imagine how it could function meaningfully as the capital of a Palestinian state – something that makes it an attractive proposition for most of Netanyahu’s coalition.

Currently, most of Abu Dis’s lands are under Israeli control, and it is hemmed in by the wall and Jewish settlements, including the 40,000 inhabitants of Maale Adumim.

Several government ministers have made Israel’s annexation of Maale Adumim a priority. Netanyahu has delayed such a move, again citing the need to wait for the announcement of the Trump peace plan.

Beilin said it was mistakenly believed that he and Abbas agreed on Abu Dis as a Palestinian capital back in the 1990s.

“It wasn’t credible as an idea then, and the map looks very different now,” he said.
“The Palestinian capital has to be in East Jerusalem. Nothing else will work.”

3. Access to al-Aqsa

There has also been talk of a plan to create a narrow land corridor from Abu Dis to the al-Aqsa mosque, so Palestinians can reach it to pray.

However, Israel has been allowing ever larger numbers of settlers into al-Aqsa, which is reputedly built over two long-destroyed Jewish temples.

Meanwhile, Israel has been tightly restricting access to the site for most Palestinians. There have been long-standing Palestinian fears that Israel is seeking to engineer a situation where it can impose its sovereignty over the mosque.

David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador to Israel and a benefactor to the settlements, only heightened such fears last month when he was pictured apparently accepting a photo doctored by religious settlers that showed al-Aqsa mosque replaced by a new Jewish temple.

4. Jordan Valley

Under the Oslo accords, some 62 percent of the occupied West Bank was classified as Area C, under temporary Israeli control. It includes much of the Palestinians’ best agricultural land and would be the heartland of any future Palestinian state.

Israel never carried out the withdrawals from Area C intended in the Oslo process. Instead, it has been accelerating the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements there, and making life as hard as possible for Palestinians to force them into the confines of the more densely populated Areas A and B.

The Trump plan is reported to offer recognition of provisional Palestinian borders on about half of the West Bank – effectively awarding most of Area C to Israel. Much of that land will be in the Jordan Valley, the long spine of the West Bank that Israel has been colonising for decades.

Last December, as the Trump plan took shape, Israel announced a massive programme of settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley, designed to more than double the settler population there. Three new settlements will be the first to be built in the valley in nearly 30 years.

At the same time, Israel has lately been intensifying the harassment of the ever-shrinking Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley, as well as other parts of Area C.

In addition to denying Palestinians access to 85 percent of the Valley, Israel has declared military firing zones over nearly half of the area. That has justified the regular eviction of families on the pretext of ensuring their safety.

Israel has also been developing accelerated procedures to demolish Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley.

5. The rest of Area C

Israel has been speeding up efforts to expand the settlements in other parts of Area C. On 30 May, it announced nearly 2,000 new homes, the great majority of them in isolated settlements that it was previously assumed would be dismantled in any peace deal.

Additionally, Israel has been quietly preparing to “legalise” what are termed “outposts” – settlements, usually built on private Palestinian land, that violate a “no new settlements” agreement with the US dating from the 1990s.

At the same time, Israel has been destroying Palestinian communities in Area C, especially those that stand in the way of efforts to create territorial continuity between large settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Late last month, France objected after Israel’s supreme court approved a plan to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, next to Maale Adumim. The families are supposed to be moved to a garbage dump in Abu Dis.

The French statement warned that Israeli actions were threatening “a zone of strategic importance to the two-state solution and the contiguity of a future Palestinian state”.

In its place, it was recently revealed, Israel is planning to build a new settlement neighbourhood called Nofei Bereishit.

In another sign of mounting international concern, some 70 Democratic members of the US Congress appealed last month to Netanyahu to stop the destruction of the Palestinian community of Sussiya, between the Gush Etzion settlements and Jerusalem.

US lawmakers expressed concern that the move was designed to “jeopardise the prospects for a two-state solution”.

6. Gaza and Sinai

It is becoming hard for the Trump administration and Israel to ignore the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza – one Israel helped to engineer with an 11-year blockade and intermittent military attacks. The United Nations warned some time ago that Gaza would soon be “uninhabitable”.

Seeking a solution, the White House hosted 19 countries at a meeting in March to consider the situation in Gaza. The PA boycotted the meeting.

At the time, Arab media reported that the Trump peace plan might include a commitment from Egypt to free up northern Sinai for a future Palestinian state. According to a Hamas official, Cairo offered reassurances that it was opposed to “settling Palestinians in Sinai”.

But a report in Haaretz has revived concerns that the White House may try to achieve a similar end by other means, by launching a Gaza initiative to coincide with the peace plan.

The paper noted that the Trump team had picked up proposals from an Israeli general, Yoav Mordechai, who participated in the White House meeting in March.

A reported initial stage would see Palestinians from Gaza recruited to work on $1.5bn worth of long-term projects in northern Sinai, funded by the international community. The projects would include an industrial zone, a desalination plant and a power station.

Egyptian opposition to such an initiative is reported to be weakening, presumably in the face of strenuous pressure from Washington and Arab allies.

Palestinian protests

The Palestinians are doing their best to try to halt the peace plan in its tracks. They are currently boycotting the Trump administration to show their displeasure.

Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called last month on Arab states to recall their ambassadors from the United States in protest.

And an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has proposed that an international peacekeeping force, modelled on those used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, be deployed to protect Palestinians.

In another sign of anger at the Trump initiative, the Palestinians defied the US by submitting a referral for the International Criminal Court at the Hague to investigate Israel for war crimes last month.

Etzion, the former Israeli foreign ministry official, however, warned that a turning point could be on the horizon.

“A Palestinian implosion is coming and that could change the situation in unexpected ways,” he told MEE.
“The question is which implosion comes first: the humanitarian catastrophe about to engulf Gaza, or the political vacuum created when Abbas leaves.”

Arab pressure

Nonetheless, the Palestinians are facing huge pressure to give in to the peace plan.

The Trump administration has already cut funding to the UN refugee agency, UNRWA, which cares for more than two million refugees in the occupied territories. It is also poised to pull more than $200m of funding to the Palestinian Authority this summer.

Trump has also sought to recruit the Arab states to lean on Abbas. According to reports, the Palestinian leader was presented with a 35-page document originating from the Americans when he visited Saudi Arabia last November, and told to accept it or resign.

In recent years the Saudis have increased their aid to the Palestinian Authority, giving them greater leverage over the Palestinian leader.

In exchange for the Arab states acceding to Trump’s plan, Washington appears to be rolling out a more draconian policy towards Iran to limit its influence in the region.

The Arab states understand that they need to first defuse the Palestinian issue before they can be seen to coordinate closely with Israel and the US in dealing with Tehran.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books).
Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

Bringing Julian Home

Bring Julian Assange Home 

by John Pilger - CounterPunch

June 18, 2018  
The persecution of Julian Assange must end. Or it will end in tragedy.

The Australian government and prime minister Malcolm Turnbull have an historic opportunity to decide which it will be.

They can remain silent, for which history will be unforgiving. Or they can act in the interests of justice and humanity and bring this remarkable Australian citizen home.

Assange does not ask for special treatment. The government has clear diplomatic and moral obligations to protect Australian citizens abroad from gross injustice: in Julian’s case, from a gross miscarriage of justice and the extreme danger that await him should he walk out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London unprotected.

Photo: valerialaura | Public Domain

 We know from the Chelsea Manning case what he can expect if a US extradition warrant is successful — a United Nations Special Rapporteur called it torture.

I know Julian Assange well; I regard him as a close friend, a person of extraordinary resilience and courage. I have watched a tsunami of lies and smear engulf him, endlessly, vindictively, perfidiously; and I know why they smear him.

In 2008, a plan to destroy both WikiLeaks and Assange was laid out in a top secret document dated 8 March, 2008. The authors were the Cyber Counter-intelligence Assessments Branch of the US Defence Department. They described in detail how important it was to destroy the “feeling of trust” that is WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”.

This would be achieved, they wrote, with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution” and a unrelenting assault on reputation. The aim was to silence and criminalise WikiLeaks and its editor and publisher. It was as if they planned a war on a single human being and on the very principle of freedom of speech.

Their main weapon would be personal smear. Their shock troops would be enlisted in the media — those who are meant to keep the record straight and tell us the truth.

The irony is that no one told these journalists what to do. I call them Vichy journalists — after the Vichy government that served and enabled the German occupation of wartime France.

Last October, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist Sarah Ferguson interviewed Hillary Clinton, over whom she fawned as “the icon for your generation”.

This was the same Clinton who threatened to “obliterate totally” Iran and, who, as US secretary of State in 2011, was one of the instigators of the invasion and destruction of Libya as a modern state, with the loss of 40,000 lives. Like the invasion of Iraq, it was based on lies.

When the Libyan President was murdered publicly and gruesomely with a knife, Clinton was filmed whooping and cheering. Thanks largely to her, Libya became a breeding ground for ISIS and other jihadists. Thanks largely to her, tens of thousands of refugees fled in peril across the Mediterranean, and many drowned.

Leaked emails published by WikiLeaks revealed that Hillary Clinton’s foundation – which she shares with her husband – received millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the main backers of ISIS and terrorism across the Middle East.

As Secretary of State, Clinton approved the biggest arms sale ever — worth $80 billion — to Saudi Arabia, one of her foundation’s principal benefactors. Today, Saudi Arabia is using these weapons to crush starving and stricken people in a genocidal assault on Yemen.

Sarah Ferguson, a highly paid reporter, raised not a word of this with Hillary Clinton sitting in front of her.

Instead, she invited Clinton to describe the “damage” Julian Assange did “personally to you”. In response, Clinton defamed Assange, an Australian citizen, as “very clearly a tool of Russian intelligence” and “a nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator”.

She offered no evidence — nor was asked for any — to back her grave allegations.

At no time was Assange offered the right of reply to this shocking interview, which Australia’s publicly-funded state broadcaster had a duty to give him.

As if that wasn’t enough, Ferguson’s executive producer, Sally Neighour, followed the interview with a vicious re-tweet:

“Assange is Putin’s bitch. We all know it!”

There are many other examples of Vichy journalism. The Guardian, reputedly once a great liberal newspaper, conducted a vendetta against Julian Assange. Like a spurned lover, the Guardian aimed its personal, petty, inhuman and craven attacks at a man whose work it once published and profited from.

The former editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, called the WikiLeaks disclosures, which his newspaper published in 2010, “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years”. Awards were lavished and celebrated as if Julian Assange did not exist.

WikiLeaks’ revelations became part of the Guardian’s marketing plan to raise the paper’s cover price. They made money, often big money, while WikiLeaks and Assange struggled to survive.

With not a penny going to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously abused Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”.

They also revealed the secret password Julian had given the Guardian in confidence and which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.

With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, who had enriched himself on the backs of both Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, stood among the police outside the embassy and gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”.

The question is why.

Julian Assange has committed no crime. He has never been charged with a crime. The Swedish episode was bogus and farcical and he has been vindicated.

Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape summed it up when they wrote, “The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will.”

This truth was lost or buried in a media witch-hunt that disgracefully associated Assange with rape and misogyny. The witch-hunt included voices who described themselves as on the left and as feminist. They willfully ignored the evidence of extreme danger should Assange be extradited to the United States.

According to a document released by Edward Snowden, Assange is on a “Manhunt target list”. One leaked official memo says:

“Assange is going to make a nice bride in prison. Screw the terrorist. He’ll be eating cat food forever.”

In Alexandra, Virginia – the suburban home of America’s war-making elite — a secret grand jury, a throwback to the middle ages — has spent seven years trying to concoct a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted.

This is not easy; the US Constitution protects publishers, journalists and whistleblowers. Assange’s crime is to have broken a silence.

No investigative journalism in my lifetime can equal the importance of what WikiLeaks has done in calling rapacious power to account. It is as if a one-way moral screen has been pushed back to expose the imperialism of liberal democracies: the commitment to endless warfare and the division and degradation of “unworthy” lives: from Grenfell Tower to Gaza.

When Harold Pinter accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, he referred to “a vast tapestry of lies up on which we feed”. He asked why “the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought” of the Soviet Union were well known in the West while America’s imperial crimes “never happened … even while [they] were happening, they never happened.”.

In its revelations of fraudulent wars (Afghanistan, Iraq) and the bald-faced lies of governments (the Chagos Islands), WikiLeaks has allowed us to glimpse how the imperial game is played in the 21st century. That is why Assange is in mortal danger.

Seven years ago, in Sydney, I arranged to meet a prominent Liberal Member of the Federal Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull.

I wanted to ask him to deliver a letter from Gareth Peirce, Assange’s lawyer, to the government. We talked about his famous victory — in the 1980s when, as a young barrister, he had fought the British Government’s attempts to suppress free speech and prevent the publication of the book Spycatcher — in its way, a WikiLeaks of the time, for it revealed the crimes of state power.

The prime minister of Australia was then Julia Gillard, a Labor Party politician who had declared WikiLeaks “illegal” and wanted to cancel Assange’s passport — until she was told she could not do this: that Assange had committed no crime: that WikiLeaks was a publisher, whose work was protected under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Australia was one of the original signatories.

In abandoning Assange, an Australian citizen, and colluding in his persecution, Prime Minister Gillard’s outrageous behaviour forced the issue of his recognition, under international law, as a political refugee whose life was at risk. Ecuador invoked the 1951 Convention and granted Assange refuge in its embassy in London.

Gillard has recently been appearing in a gig with Hillary Clinton; they are billed as pioneering feminists.

If there is anything to remember Gillard by, it a warmongering, sycophantic, embarrassing speech she made to the US Congress soon after she demanded the illegal cancellation of Julian’s passport.

Malcolm Turnbull is now the Prime Minister of Australia. Julian Assange’s father has written to Turnbull. It is a moving letter, in which he has appealed to the prime minister to bring his son home. He refers to the real possibility of a tragedy.

I have watched Assange’s health deteriorate in his years of confinement without sunlight. He has had a relentless cough, but is not even allowed safe passage to and from a hospital for an X-ray .

Malcolm Turnbull can remain silent. Or he can seize this opportunity and use his government’s diplomatic influence to defend the life of an Australian citizen, whose courageous public service is recognised by countless people across the world. He can bring Julian Assange home.

This is an abridged version of an address by John Pilger to a rally in Sydney, Australia, to mark Julian Assange’s six years’ confinement in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

John Pilger can be reached through his website: www.johnpilger.com
More articles by: John Pilger

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Colombia's Stark Election Choice

Colombia’s Choice: ‘Fascism’ or ‘Protest Vote Without Program’ 


June 15, 2018

As Colombians vote in the presidential run-off election this Sunday, they face a stark choice between the far-right/fascist candidate Ivan Duque and the center-left Gustavo Petro. Even though the center-left has enough votes, infighting could very well keep Petro from winning, says Manuel Rozental of pueblosencamino.org.

Manuel Rozental is a longtime activist, communicator, and analyst. Also, he is the founding member of Pueblos en Camino, People on the Move, a grassroots initiative of resistance to capital.

A Tale of Two Take-Overs: Amnesia and Empire

The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness 

by Dan Kovalik - CounterPunch

June 15, 2018

I was stunned the other day to see an opinion piece by Stephen Kinzer in The Boston Globe in which he was portraying the violent anti-government protests in Nicaragua as some kind of revolutionary insurrection.

What is surprising about Kinzer’s position is that he is the individual who wrote the wonderful book, All The Shah’s Men – one of the essential readings about the CIA-backed coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran in 1953. What is happening in Nicaragua right now looks a lot like what happened in Iran during this coup, and yet, Kinzer somehow does not see this.

Photo by Adam Baker | CC BY 2.0

 In this way, Kinzer typifies the utter confusion of so many in this country — including those who should know better, such as many self-described leftists — about what is happening in Nicaragua and in Latin America generally.

First of all, let us look at what Kinzer correctly describes as the tactics used by the CIA in overthrowing Mosaddegh and installing the Shah of Iran in his place. The main tactic was to organize, pay and direct violent street protesters to create a chaotic situation which would then provoke a violent response from the government – a response which could be used to justify the military’s moving in against Mosaddegh under the pretext of restoring order and democratic rule.

In All The Shah’s Men, Kinzer describes the days leading up the coup as follows:

The riots that shook Tehran on Monday intensified on Tuesday. Thousands of demonstrators, unwittingly under CIA control, surged through the streets, looting shops, destroying pictures of the Shah, and ransacking the offices of royalist groups. Exuberant nationalists and communists joined in the mayhem. The police were still under orders from Mosaddegh not to interfere. That allowed rioters to do their jobs, which was to give the impression that Iran was sliding towards anarchy. [CIA Bureau Chief Kermit] Roosevelt caught glimpses of them during his furtive trips around the city and said that they ‘scared the hell out of him.’

Kinzer explains that when this violence was not quite enough to provoke the desired crackdown by the government, Roosevelt sent the US Ambassador to Mosaddegh to trick him into using force against the rioters by claiming that this was necessary to protect Americans allegedly under attack in Tehran. Roosevelt knew that Mosaddegh, inevitably moved by the Iranians’ famous feelings of hospitality towards foreign guests, would have to act. And act he did, even going so far as to attack his own supporters in the interest of saving American lives, or so he was led to believe. The coup followed shortly thereafter.

But rather than restoring democracy to Iran, of course, the CIA, the Shah, and the dreaded SAVAK security and torture apparatus later set up by the CIA to keep the Shah in power destroyed Iranian democracy. Indeed, by the time of the insurrection against the Shah which ultimately toppled him in in February of 1979, Amnesty International described the Shah’s regime as having the worst human rights record in the world – quite a distinction.

The type of game plan run by the CIA in Iran, the very first of its kind, would be carried out again to topple progressive and nationalist governments in the future, most notably in countries like Guatemala in 1954 and Chile in 1973.

However, as one of the foremost experts on such covert ops, F. William Engdahl, explains, in the 1980’s, NGOs largely took over for the CIA in carrying out these operations. As Enghdahl relates:

During the Reagan Presidency very damaging scandals were becoming public about CIA dirty operations around the world. Chile, Iran, Guatemala, the top secret MK-Ultra project, the student movement during the Vietnam War to name just a few. To take the spotlight away from them, CIA Director Bill Casey proposed to Reagan creating a “private” NGO, a kind of cut-out that would pose as private, but in reality, as one of its founders the late Allen Weinstein said in a later interview to the Washington Post, “doing what the CIA did, but privately.” This was the creation of the NGO named National Endowment for Democracy [NED] in 1983. . . 

Hiding very black dirty anti-democratic CIA operations behind private political NGOs waving the banner of “Human Rights” has been very effective for Washington’s global agenda of toppling un-cooperative regimes around the world. In effect the CIA has weaponized human rights.

It was the NED which was critical in supporting and helping to organize the coup in Venezuela against Hugo Chavez in 2002, a coup which thankfully was short-lived. It is important to remember that the precipitating event of this coup was the shooting of protesters by snipers who were originally accused of being Chavistas, but who later turned out to be right-wing provocateurs. This is well-documented in the film, The Revolution Will Not be Televised.

Meanwhile, on July 19, 1979, shortly after the Shah was ousted in Iran, tiny Nicaragua had its own revolution, led by the Sandinistas, which toppled a brutal US-backed dictator, Anastasio Somoza.

As we know, the US, through the CIA, quickly moved against the Nicaraguan revolution, arming Somoza’s former National Guardsmen, organizing them into the Contras, and overseeing a brutal terrorist war against Nicaragua which destroyed the infrastructure and economy of Nicaragua, and which claimed the lives of 50,000 Nicaraguans. This is equivalent to 2.5 million deaths in the United States.

Finally, in 1990, the Nicaraguans, exhausted by the Contra war and economic strangulation, voted the Sandinistas out of power. In short, the US terror campaign succeeded according to plan.

The Sandinistas were in the wilderness until 2006 when Daniel Ortega was voted in as President once more. And while many on the left have criticized the older Ortega as having abandoned his revolutionary and socialist principles, a few points must be made about this.

First of all, while Ortega certainly has made concessions to the business community, the conservative political opposition and the Catholic Church, I would ask his detractors to explain just what choice he has had.

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Hemisphere, was so before the Sandinistas took power in 1979, and was still so when they took power again in 2006. When the Sandinistas took power the first time, they inherited an economy wrecked and pillaged by Somoza, a country still left in shambles by the 1972 earthquake because Somoza siphoned off the aid money for himself instead of rebuilding, and a country further destroyed by Somoza who aerially bombed neighborhoods in Managua to cling to power. When the Sandinistas took power the second time, they inherited a country still struggling to recover from a decade of the brutal Contra war and by the accompanying economic embargo.

Meanwhile, the Sandinistas never even attempted to rid Nicaragua of the leading elements of the ancien régime (as Cuba did after its 1959 Revolution) with which they now must contend. This of course has made governing much more difficult and more radical reforms even more so. But if the Sandinistas had moved against these elements, such as the bourgeoisie and the Church, then they would be criticized even more than they are now for being repressive and anti-democratic.

And yet, there are some who argue that, somehow, the Sandinistas have failed by not building socialism in one country upon such a weak foundation, in a country with few natural resources and in the face of hostility from a much more powerful enemy in the United States. Never mind that such critics generally believe that socialism in one country is unachievable even in good conditions. In short, the Sandinistas are criticized for not achieving the impossible.

All of this recalls to mind the words of Michael Parenti in his wonderful article, “Left Anticommunism: The Unkindest Cut”:

The pure socialists regularly blame the Left itself for every defeat it suffers. Their second-guessing is endless. So we hear that revolutionary struggles fail because their leaders wait too long or act too soon, are too timid or too impulsive, too stubborn or too easily swayed. We hear that revolutionary leaders are compromising or adventuristic, bureaucratic or opportunistic, rigidly organized or insufficiently organized, undemocratic or failing to provide strong leadership. But always the leaders fail because they do not put their trust in the “direct actions” of the workers, who apparently would withstand and overcome every adversity if only given the kind of leadership available from the left critic’s own groupuscule. Unfortunately, the critics seem unable to apply their own leadership genius to producing a successful revolutionary movement in their own country. . .
To be sure, the pure socialists are not entirely without specific agendas for building the revolution. After the Sandinistas overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua, an ultra-left group in that country called for direct worker ownership of the factories. The armed workers would take control of production without benefit of managers, state planners, bureaucrats, or a formal military. While undeniably appealing, this worker syndicalism denies the necessities of state power. Under such an arrangement, the Nicaraguan revolution would not have lasted two months against the U.S.-sponsored counterrevolution that savaged the country. It would have been unable to mobilize enough resources to field an army, take security measures, or build and coordinate economic programs and human services on a national scale.

Meanwhile, the Sandinistas, within the constraints of world capitalism as well as the immutable laws of physics, have done many positive things within the realm of the possible. Thus, they have done much to alleviate poverty in Nicaragua, to build homes for the poor, to successfully combat illiteracy and to bring a remarkable level of economic prosperity and stability to this once war-torn country. Even the New York Times recently acknowledged that “[m]any poor people who receive housing and other government benefits support” Sandinista President, Daniel Ortega.

Long-time Nicaragua solidarity activist, Chuck Kaufman, recently summarized these achievements, explaining that Daniel Ortega’s first action after being re-elected as President in 2006

“was to end school fees, allowing 100,000 children into the schools whose poverty had kept them uneducated. This was rapidly followed by his administration building the free public health system into a robust institution that treated people rather than just wrote prescriptions that the patients were too poor to fill. The peasant agriculture sector was revitalized bringing hundreds of thousands up out of abject poverty, especially women and children.
Impoverished Nicaragua became one of the first countries in the world to achieve the UN Millennial Challenge to cut poverty in half by 2015. Along the way, the Ortega government achieved sustained economic growth of 5% and achieved labor stability through the famous Tripartite Model in which unions and big business negotiated semi-annual increases in the minimum wage with the government intervening when the two other parties couldn’t agree. The World Bank, IMF, and European countries all praised Nicaragua for its lack of corruption and effective use of grants and loans. Finally, Nicaraguan women’s participation in public and private affairs raised Nicaragua to one of the top four countries in the world for gender equality.

As a result of the foregoing, Nicaragua has been the only Central American country touched by the brutal wars of the 1980s not to be contributing to the recent mass migration to the US. Indeed, a May, 2016 DNC email released by Wikileaks explains, “Our neighbors in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are in a crisis of uncontrolled violence. Women and children from these countries are coming to our Southwest border in search of refuge. Essentially, no one is coming from Nicaragua . . . .”

In addition, Ortega has taken some very bold moves on the international stage, for example when he took in the deposed Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya, after the 2009 coup, and when he offered for Miguel D’Escoto to serve as Libya’s Ambassador to the UN when Libya, in its death throes from the 2011 NATO bombing, had no UN representative. Ortega also stopped sending Nicaraguan troops to be trained at the School of the Americas (SOA) after meeting with SOA Watch founder, Father Roy Bourgeois.

And, up until the recent events in Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega enjoyed sky-high approval ratings. Indeed, just several months before the current events rocking Nicaragua, Ortega had an astounding approval rating of nearly 80 percent!

Now, we are told, by such folks as Stephen Kinzer, Amy Goodman and by a number of “pure socialists,” that the people are suddenly rising up against President Ortega. And, some on the American left are arguing that we should welcome and support this uprising as a new stage of the Nicaraguan revolution which will finally bring true socialism to that poor, isolated country.

I believe that such commentators could not be farther from the truth. What is happening now in Nicaragua is not revolution, but in fact counterrevolution. And, this is no less true because there are some self-described leftists who are participating in and cheering on this uprising, just as Steven Kinzer tells us that a number of communists and socialists unwittingly supported the protests which unseated Mosaddegh in Iran.

Indeed, in an interesting article entitled, “My Contra Parents Are Marching For a New ‘Old’ Nicaragua: Are We, Too?”, Melissa Castillo expresses reasonable skepticism about the prevailing narrative surrounding the protests in Nicaragua:

Another suspicious aspect of this opposition is that it claims to include former Sandinistas who have now turned against Ortega because of his corruption. This is confusing because the opposition’s social media platform does not seem to consist of any socialist groups. The Sandinistas were built on socialism and the leaders at the time of the revolution were largely Marxists. A group involved in the opposition, for instance, is the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS). The MRS are Social Democrats who have partnered with a right-wing coalition in recent years in order to expand their base. By now, the MRS seems to have grown more centrist and devotes much of its platform to anti-Ortega rhetoric.
Leftists and Sandinista supporters may have legitimate concerns about Ortega, but that does not mean these are the same people joining forces with right-wingers and the U.S. government or appealing to the American public to “share” images of unrest on social media. I believe true leftist concerns include the concessions Ortega has made to the private sector in his economic policy, the power he has ceded to the church, his softening towards capitalist policies, and the increasing influence of Western international entities in public sector decision-making. It would not rationally be in the interest of leftists to join a coalition led by a private sector interested in pulling Nicaragua further to the right.

The impetus for the current demonstrations was Ortega’s April 16, 2018 announcement of very modest social security reforms designed to keep Nicaragua’s near-bankrupt social security system solvent past 2019. Ortega actually rejected the more drastic reforms demanded by the IMF and the business community, and then demonstrations began which the business community supported. But, to Castillo’s point, the business community wants more draconian cuts; it has obviously not supported the protests to advance progressive social change.

Moreover, it was college students who really moved the protests to a new level. But college students are not generally concerned about reforms to social security which will not affect them for decades.

As Barbara Moore, a long-time solidarity activist living in Nicaragua, explains in her, “Letter From Nicaragua: A Catastrophic Well-Orchestrated Event Is Occurring,”

On April 19 student-led protests began what the Mainstream media and international NGOs would describe as a pro-democracy uprising. Initially at issue were the social security reforms. For reasons no one has been able to explain, the students were highly agitated over the 1% rise in worker contributions, the 3.5% rise in employer contributions (over time) and a 5% cut in the benefit which was also a trade-off for expanded medical coverage. The alternate proposals rejected by the Ortega government and favored by the private sector COSEP and the IMF involved much greater cuts, raising the retirement age, cutting benefits completely (the little pensions) and the privatization of clinics.

Vietnam veteran and long-time peace activist, S. Brian Willson, who is currently in Nicaragua and who famously lost his legs on September 1, 1987 while sitting in on railroad tracks to block arms shipments bound for Central America, sent Barbara Moore’s letter to Popular Resistancewith a note which reads, in pertinent part: “This is a very good assessment of the orchestrated coup in Nicaragua. The author is a Gringo [sic.] who lives in Managua working at the Ben Linder house who happens to be stuck in Granada because we are under siege by many thugs armed I am sure with help of the US.” I note that I was in Nicaragua doing reforestation work and learning about the brutality of US foreign policy at the time Brian lost his legs in protest. His great sacrifice has had a huge impact on many of us, and I find it quite sad that the voices of people like Brian Willson are not being heard on the issue of Nicaragua at this critical time.

Meanwhile, what we do know is that one of the main student groups behind the current protests – the Civil Youth Movement (MCJ) “was created by and received funding from the National Democratic Institute (NDI)” — the NDI, in turn, being one of the three pillars of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which took over a number of covert operations for the CIA in the 1980’s. Indeed, between 2014 and 2017, the NED has given $4.2 million to opposition groups in Nicaragua for the purpose of “democracy promotion” (aka, “regime change”).

At the same time, there is no doubt that the protests, which began peacefully on April 17, accelerated due to violence and the great loss of life which has taken place since the protests began, with certainly over 100 people killed. However, there has been much disinformation about this violence both within Nicaragua and in the Western press.

First and foremost, whenever you see a tally of the deaths, all of the responsibility for them is laid at the feet of the Nicaraguan security forces even though members of the security forces themselves are included in the tally, as are government supporters and bystanders. Indeed, one of the first people killed in the protests was a police officer, and many have been killed since – some at their homes and even in their barracks after Ortega ordered the police off the streets. But you are never told this. You are also never told of the fact that, up until these very recent events, “Nicaragua’s community based policing, and their women’s police stations, specializing in domestic violence, were studied by police departments throughout the world and were famous for their record of positive community relations.”

My friends in Nicaragua tell me that what seems suspicious is that some of the student groups, armed as they immediately were with an arsenal of well-constructed weapons, were so obviously prepared in advance to start a violent uprising, and clearly used the opportunity of the protests against the social security reforms as a mere pretext to start and provoke violence. As one commentator explains, while “most of the media reports have portrayed the opposition groups and protestors as a ‘rag tag’ team of students, . . . examples of opposition violence, such as opposition use of ‘homemade mortars’ and ‘gas bombs’ as well as the burning of public buildings has received minimal coverage in the Western media.”

And, it was these well-armed protesters who became predominant two days after the protests began. As the independent media collective, Tortilla Con Sol, reported, “from April 19 onward, extremist opposition activists hijacked the student protests, attacking hospitals, government and municipal authority offices, public buildings of all kinds, university precincts and even the brand new national baseball stadium.”

Quite tellingly, the violent groups calling for Ortega to step down in the midst of his presidential term – despite the fact that he won re-election in 2016 with about 70% of the vote — have been attacking symbols of the Sandinista Revolution which overthrew the dictator Anastasio Somoza. Again, this reveals these groups to be more counter-revolutionaries than revolutionaries.

Another aspect of the violence which is largely being ignored is the strong evidence of snipers (remember the key role snipers played in the coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002) in carrying out precision killings which are then later blamed on the police.

Barbara Moore, citing the forensics described in a report by the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, explains:

“The opposition claimed and continues to claim the National Police had used lethal and deadly force, firing indiscriminately into crowds with live ammunition. Yet that seems impossible given the forensics, nearly every fatality occurred in a precise, specific, even clean shot to the head, neck or chest. Not exactly what one would expect given the street battles filled with heightened levels of chaos or that when police do shoot to kill they are trained to aim for the mid-section.
“The public, deceived by press reports, the international mainstream media and rightfully outraged over the killings continued over the following weeks to take to the streets. Almost always the same pattern repeated itself; more killed- always a male, despite the fact the early protests were well attended by females. The victims continued to be shot with incredible precision always in the head or neck, sometimes in the chest. These facts, incidentally corroborate government claims that snipers were responsible for the killings. As the death toll continues to rise this pattern has remained entirely constant.

This brings us full circle back to Stephen Kinzer’s piece in The Boston Globe. Kinzer begins this piece by describing a key incident which has further inflamed the situation in Nicaragua:

“As a mass of unarmed protesters filed past Dennis Martínez Stadium in Managua, Nicaragua, on May 30, snipers inside the stadium began firing at them. That day’s casualties joined a list of about 100 dead and 1,000 wounded and missing in the last two months.
“Among those outraged was the person for whom the stadium is named. Dennis Martínez is the most celebrated of all Nicaraguan baseball players, immortalized by pitching a perfect game for the Montreal Expos in 1991.” (emphasis added).

Kinzer then goes on to explain how Daniel Ortega is allegedly responsible for the violence that has been taking place in Nicaragua, and to criticize him for remaining “defiant” in his refusal not to step down from his elected office. Meanwhile, Kinzer neglects to mention how opposition groups ransacked the Dennis Martínez stadium.

What is remarkable about this piece — written by a man who literally wrote the book on the CIA’s manipulation of violence in unseating Iran’s Mohammad Mosaddegh — is that Kinzer does not even try to identify who these unnamed “snipers” were. And, while he makes a passing reference much later in his piece to alleged “paramilitary gangs” of Ortega, he does not attempt to connect them to this sniper firing at the stadium. In short, Kinzer glosses over the most important detail of the narrative, and that is because it is the most inconvenient one for him in his apparent crusade to urge Ortega’s resignation.

If these snipers are, as the Nicaraguan government claims, part of the violent opposition’s attempt to overthrow Ortega, then what is happening in Nicaragua must be seen in a very different light than what we are being told by the likes of Kinzer. And, this is the only logical conclusion. There simply is no incentive for the Nicaraguan government, over one month into the protests, to incite even more protest and opposition by firing into a crowd of demonstrators. This could only serve the interests of those waging the coup operation, and it indeed has served these interests quite well. Indeed, Kinzer himself rightly points this out, explaining that “[f]uneral marches balloon into new protests, and when they are attacked [again, we are not told by whom], the spiral intensifies.”

Ortega, who currently has the reins of government, has all the incentive for the status quo of peace and calm to return to Nicaragua, for this means he remains in his position as president. It is the opposition who needs a game changer – one which could only be brought about by dramatic events such as those that took place at the baseball stadium on May 30. But these realities do not seem to be worth considering by those like Kinzer who, ironically parroting the coup plotters who overthrew Mosaddegh, are pontificating in the press about the need to promote democracy by unseating an elected leader.

What all parties can certainly agree on is that the current events in Nicaragua are indeed calamitous, and becoming more so with each passing day. The economy has already suffered about $250 million in losses– a hefty sum for such a small country. And, this figure will surely climb as businesses, burned down by the violent opposition, do not re-open, and as tourism, a major source of national revenue, surely dries up. Indeed, just today, American Airlines announced that it is suspending flights to Managua as a result of the violence there.

No one in their right mind could wish any of this upon another nation – especially upon a nation which has suffered so much as Nicaragua. And I guarantee you that if Ortega is forced out of office by this violence, the result will not be, as some on the ostensible left would have us believe, a deepening of democracy and socialism. Rather, it will result in a return of the right- wing to power, an end to the social programs which have greatly benefitted the poor and the further destruction of the symbols and memorials of the very laudable Sandinista Revolution. The result, in other words, will be a counterrevolution. Anyone calling themselves a leftist, or even a humanitarian, must oppose such an end.
Daniel Kovalik, the author of The Plot to Attack Iran, wrote this piece with the significant help and encouragement of friends in Tehran.
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