Britain, Netherlands and Ireland condemn violations of international law by Israel in the Occupied Syrian Golan

Learn more about occupied Syrian Golan

Britain, Netherlands and Ireland have condemned ongoing violations of international law by Israel in the Occupied Syrian Golan that include illegal settlement expansion, natural resource exploitation, land appropriation and home demolition.

Last week, Tobias Ellwood, the British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East and Africa, on the subject of home demolitions, settlement expansion and land appropriation in the Occupied Syrian Golan / Golan Heights, reiterated that the British government regards the Golan Heights ‘to be Occupied Territory’ and continues ‘to call on Israel, as the Occupying Power, to uphold its obligations under international law. This includes abiding by UN Security Council Resolution 497 (1981).’ Minister Ellwood stated that the British government has ‘been clear that Israel must comply with its obligations under international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.’

In November, Bert Koenders, the Dutch Foreign Minister, said that the Dutch government has taken serious notice of signals that Israel is planning to expand on the Golan Heights and to drill for oil. Minister Koenders explained that the Netherlands and the EU consider Israeli settlements in occupied territory to be in violation of international law and are speaking to Israel regarding its settlement policy.

Responding to concerns about the implementation of a new policy of home demolitions in the Occupied Syrian Golan by the Israeli authorities, Charles Flanagan, the Irish Foreign Minister, stated that he has ‘repeatedly made clear my concerns about demolition of homes and seizures of land by the Israeli occupation authorities’ and that ‘all people living under occupation are entitled to respect and protection from occupation authorities.’

On the issue of the planned expansion of the largest illegal Israeli settlement in the Occupied Syrian Golan by 1600 settlement units, Foreign Minister Flanagan declared the settlement process illegal and described the ‘relentless expansion of illegal Israeli settlements’ as a ‘major impediment to the achievement of peace’ in the region, that ‘call into serious question the intentions of the Israeli Government.’

This condemnation of violations of international law by Israel follow statements earlier in the year from the United States and the European Union rejecting Israel’s illegal claims to the Occupied Syrian Golan.

In response to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments during an Israeli government cabinet meeting held in an illegal settlement in the Occupied Syrian Golan, that ‘the Golan Heights will always remain under Israeli control’the U.S. State Department spokesperson, John Kirby, stated ‘that the U.S. position on the status of the Golan Heights is longstanding and is unchanged. Every administration on both sides of the aisle since 1967 has maintained that those territories are not part of Israel’.

European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini reiterated this message the following day, stating that ‘the EU recognises Israel within its pre-1967 borders, whatever the government’s claims on other areas […] and this is a common consolidated position of the European Union and its Member States’.

Al-Marsad welcomes these recent statements from Britain, the Netherlands and Ireland and looks forward to the international community taking concrete action to ensure that Israel complies with its obligations under international law and stops its illegal and discriminatory policies in the Occupied Syrian Golan.

Background information about recent illegal settlement expansion, natural resource exploitation, land appropriation and home demolition is available here and here.

(Source / 16.12.2016)

Sheikh Sabri: Relocating the US embassy to J’lem “declaration of war”


Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, head of the Higher Islamic Council in Jerusalem, strongly denounced Washington’s plan to relocate the US embassy to the holy city, warning that such a step would be deemed “a declaration of war against Arabs and Muslims.”

In his Friday khutba (sermon) at the Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Sabri said that president-elect Donald Trump’s promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Occupied Jerusalem was against the inalienable Muslim-Palestinian right to the holy city and violated the international resolutions that affirmed that “Jerusalem is an occupied city.”

The preacher added that Trump had made this promise during his election campaign to please the Jews in America and the world.

“If we assume that this alleged pledge has been realized and carried out, this means that America recognizes that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jews and has thus declared a new war against the people of Palestine, and also against the entire Arab and Muslim nations,” Sheikh Sabri stated.

(Source / 16.12.2016)

Iran: After Aleppo, we will intervene in Bahrain, Yemen

The leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launched provocative statements against the Gulf states threatening to intervene in Bahrain and Yemen

The leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launched provocative statements against the Gulf states threatening to intervene in Bahrain and Yemen.

The comments were reported by Iranian media after what they described as a “victory in Aleppo,” upon the massacres, starvation and displacement against civilians. Aleppo was considered as one of the strongholds of the opposition; however, the Syrian regime took a hold of it with the help and support of Iranian and Russian military troops.

In this context, the deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Hossein Salami told the official Iranian news agency Islamic Republic News Agency that “The victory in Aleppo will pave the way for liberating Bahrain,” pointing out that Iran has an expansion project that will extend to Bahrain, Yemen and Mosul after the fall of the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Salami said that “the people of Bahrain will achieve their wishes, the Yemeni people will be delighted, and the residents of Mosul will taste victory, these are all divine promises,” as he put it.

He also pointed out that Iran is still providing unlimited support for the Houthi group, highlighting that Iranian missile could destroy the enemy targets in any area.

Salami described the control of the Syrian regime forces on the Syrian city of Aleppo, which have claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians as “a conquest.”

The comments of the spokesman for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Ramadan Sharif reveal the intentions of Tehran to expand geographically through bloody wars and military interventions in the Arab World.

Sharif noted that the Iranian forces and its sectarian militia from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Hezbollah with the support of Russia played a “fateful and very influential role” in the battles of Aleppo.

It is noteworthy that Iran’s hostility against Bahrain and the Gulf states has escalated since the Prime Minister of Britain, Theresa May, vowed her country’s support for the Gulf States in the face of Iranian terrorism.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador in Tehran in protest against Theresa May’s remarks during her speech on the 7th of December, at the Summit of Gulf Cooperation Council, where she declared: “We need to work together to address Iranian regional hostilities whether it is in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, or in the Gulf itself.”

(Source / 16.12.2016)

Will jailed Fatah leader become its new VP?

An Israeli prison guard (L) escorts jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti (C) to a deliberation at Jerusalem Magistrate’s court, Jan. 25, 2012

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Fatah’s Central Committee will meet later this month to select a vice president from among numerous contenders.

As Fatah’s seventh general congress concluded Dec. 4, none of the top vote-getters from the internal elections had been selected for the position. Imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti received the most votes in the Dec. 3 elections. Having scored 936 votes, Barghouti is qualified to serve as vice president, while Jibril Rajoub, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, came in second with 838 votes.

Jordanian Al-Ghad newspaper cited Barghouti’s lawyer Elias Sabbagh, speaking on his behalf, as saying, “This trust confided in me by my brothers in Fatah, allowing me to score the largest number of votes for the Central Committee elections, makes me hold on to the political path I have taken even more. I will continue working toward national unity … and will restore respect for national liberation and democratic choice.”

A source close to Barghouti told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that Barghouti believes those who participated at the conference granted him the position. Barghouti thinks he should bear the responsibility that comes with such a position, even from behind bars, the source said.

Central Committee members are discussing the feasibility of that idea and should announce a decision by the end of the month, the source added.

Al-Monitor contacted Rajoub to comment on this issue, but he only said, “Let us wait and see how things develop in the coming days. This issue is not about the position of vice president alone; Fatah’s statute will change to adapt to the current developments, to ensure membership and equality between all members.”

Article 64 of Fatah’s statute stipulates that the Central Committee shall elect a secretary and two vice presidents from among its members. However, the movement only appoints one vice president and the position is currently occupied by Abu Maher Ghneim, who was also appointed secretary during Fatah’s sixth general congress in 2009.

“The vice president does not necessarily need to secure the highest number of votes in the internal elections during the congress; he is chosen by the 18 members of the Central Committee following discussions,” Azzam al-Ahmad, a Central Committee member, told Al-Monitor.

Ahmad said the committee meeting held Dec. 5 was only for protocol; no tasks were distributed to members and no issue was addressed.

Meanwhile, Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi said he prefers Barghouti over Rajoub as vice president, which is not surprising as Tirawi and Rajoub competed for the highest number of votes during the congress. Tirawi told the media Dec. 6, “The person who deserves such a position is the one who had his share in the struggle [for the Palestinian cause] and the Central Committee should choose him.”

Barghouti’s vote tally stirred the ire of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told the press Dec. 6, “Barghouti’s election [results are] proof of the growing culture of terrorism and extremism and a clear show of support to a convicted terrorist. Not only is Fatah inciting against Israel in schools and naming streets after perpetrators of operations [against Israel], it is flaunting them as its leaders and drifting away from establishing peace.”

Barghouti was arrested by the Israeli army in 2002. He was given five life sentences plus 40 years in prison. Israel accused him of leading Fatah in the West Bank and held him responsible for armed operations carried out by Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s military wing, that had killed and wounded dozens of Israelis.

Naji Sharab, a political science professor at Al-Azhar University, told Al-Monitor that Barghouti’s high number of votes proves he is the person the movement most agrees on, after President Mahmoud Abbas, and thus all those who voted for Barghouti want him to serve as vice president.

Sharab explained that choosing Barghouti to be the vice president would be the first real test facing the elected Central Committee, as it would challenge Israel’s political discourse and its stance against Barghouti. However, since Barghouti is in jail, Sharab expects the Central Committee to choose Rajoub, who would then be Fatah’s candidate in any future Palestinian presidential election.

Palestinian political analyst Alaa Rimawi told Al-Monitor that Barghouti’s issue has become symbolic and Fatah is not seriously considering giving him a real role from behind bars. “Those who want Barghouti to have a true role within the movement should work on releasing him first,” Rimawi noted.

Rimawi pointed out that Rajoub is one of the most influential people in Fatah and stands a good chance of becoming vice president, although some figures within the movement, such as Nasser al-Qudwa, believe they deserve the position.

He stressed that the conflict within Fatah and the Central Committee in particular, in terms of choosing a vice president, cannot be easily resolved in light of the intense competition. He also said it is more important for the movement to focus on relieving the stagnation of its political program, which has led Fatah downhill on all fronts.

Most observers believe Rajoub will become vice president, given his good relationship with Abbas, who would not want Barghouti as his vice president because it would incite Israel against the Palestinian Authority.

(Source / 16.12.2016)

UNRWA closes 6 schools in West Bank


The UNRWA closed 6 of its schools in al-Khalil and Bethlehem to the south of the occupied West Bank for raising the Palestinian flag.

An internal letter addressed to the closed schools’ principals said that based on the decision of the director of UNRWA operations in the West Bank, the 6 schools will be closed starting from next Sunday because of raising the Palestinian flag.

The same letter ordered the teachers of the closed schools to move to other schools in the two cities.

(Source / 16.12.2016)

Syrian Coalition: Putin Seeking to Impose New Reality in Syria Following Military Operations

An official in the Syrian Coalition said that Russia is seeking to build on its recent military operation in Aleppo to impose a solution in Syria that does not meet the aspirations of the Syrian people.

Secretary of the Coalition’s political committee Riad Hasan condemned the war crimes being committed by the Assad regime and its allies in Aleppo and other Syrian cities.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking to impose solutions that serve the interests of his country and help defuse tension with the European Union which sanctioned Russia over the crisis in Ukraine,” Hasan said. He added: “Putin is also seeking to stop economic downturn in his country resulting from the decline in oil prices.”

Hasan went on to say that Moscow is seeking to promote so-called opposition bodies that were manufactured by the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran. He stressed that these solutions are inconsistent with international resolutions on Syria, noting that this move is aimed at keeping Assad in power.

Hasan pointed out that the solutions Russia is seeking to impose in Syria violate international law, adding that Russia is seeking to exploit the results of the battle for Aleppo where the worst massacres since World War II are being committed against the people of the city.

Member of the Syrian Coalition Nagham Ghadiri said attempts by Moscow and Tehran to rehabilitate the Assad regime reflect the Russian mafia-like mentality, adding that Syrian people who have risen to regain freedom and dignity will not back down till all their demands and aspirations are met.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office / 16.12.2016)

Report: Netanyahu instructs officials to issue demolition orders on ‘illegal’ Palestinian structures


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly held two meetings over the past weeks regarding the demolition of Palestinian homes and structures inside Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, according to Israeli news site Arutz Sheva.

Arutz Sheva reported on Thursday that during meetings attended by Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh, Netanyahu “instructed” officials to “work to issue demolition orders for the illegal structures, located in Arab town in northern and southern Israel, as well as in eastern Jerusalem.”
“There will be no double standards regarding construction,” Arutz Sheva quoted Netanyahu as saying. “There will be equal enforcement of the law in Israel for both Jews and are Arabs.”
Arutz Sheva added that earlier on Thursday, the extreme right-wing Regavim movement filed a petition to the Israel’s Supreme Court against the Defense Ministry and the Civil Administration for “neglecting for a decade to demolish an illegal Arab building which is on state land within the administrative borders of the town of Leshem.”
Demolitions of Palestinian structures and homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have seen an unprecedented surge this year, with the number of structures demolished in the first half of 2016 well exceeding the total number of demolitions carried out in all of 2015.
At least 1,580 Palestinians have been displaced since the beginning of 2016 — including 241 in East Jerusalem — as a result of demolitions in the occupied territory, compared to 757 Palestinians displaced over the entirety of 2015, according to UN documentation.
(Source / 16.12.2016)

Refugee Crisis & Syria War Fueled By Competing Gas Pipelines

An article of 

Don’t let anyone fool you: Sectarian strife in Syria has been engineered to provide cover for a war for access to oil and gas, and the power and money that come along with it.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect recent Wikileaks revelations of US State Department leaks that show plans to destabilize Syria and overthrow the Syrian government as early as 2006.  The leaks reveal that these plans were given to the US directly from the Israeli government and would be formalized through instigating civil strife and sectarianism through partnership with nations like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and even Egypt to break down the power structure in Syria to weaken Iran and Hezbolla.

In his appearance on the RT show “Going Underground,” Wikileaks editor Julian Assange elaborated on the cable’s contents:

“… That plan was to use a number of different factors to create paranoia within the Syrian government; to push it to overreact, to make it fear there’s a coup …”

Assange continued, explaining that the U.S. government sought to make the Syrian government appear weak by causing Assad to overreact to the threat of Islamic extremists crossing into his country.

The cable also details plans to foster sectarian strife in the region and make Iran appear like a larger threat to Assad than it really was, Assange continued:

“In particular, to take rumors that are known to be false … or exaggerations and promote them – that Iran is trying to convert poor Sunnis, and to work with Saudi and Egypt to foster that perception in order to make it harder for Iran to have influence, and also harder for the government to have influence in the population.”

“[I]f Syria sufficiently destabilized, it [Israel] might be in a position where it can keep the Golan Heights forever, or even advance that territory,” Assange said.

MINNEAPOLIS — Images of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian – Kurdish boy who washed up dead on Mediterranean shores in his family’s attempt to flee war-torn Syria, have grabbed the attention of people around the world, sparking outrage about the true costs of war.

The heart-wrenching refugee crisis unfolding across the Middle East and at European borders has ignited a much needed conversation on the ongoing strife and instability that’s driving people from their homes in countries like Syria, Libya and Iraq. It’s brought international attention to the inhumane treatment these refugees are receiving if — and it is a major “if” — they arrive at Europe’s door.

In Syria, for example, foreign powers have sunk the nation into a nightmare combination of civil war, foreign invasion and terrorism. Syrians are in the impossible position of having to choose between living in a warzone, being targeted by groups like ISIS and the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown, or faring dangerous waters with minimal safety equipment only to be denied food, water and safety by European governments if they reach shore.

Other Syrians fleeing the chaos at home have turned to neighboring Arab Muslim countries. Jordan alone has absorbed over half a million Syrian refugees; Lebanon has accepted nearly 1.5 million; and Iraq and Egypt have taken in several hundred thousand.

Although it’s not an Arab nation or even part of the Middle East, Iran sent 150 tons of humanitarian goods, including “3,000 tents and 10,000 blankets, to the Red Crescents of Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon” via land routes to be distributed among the Syrian refugees residing in the three countries last year.

Turkey has taken in nearly 2 million refugees to date. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan made international headlines for opening his nation’s arms to migrants, positioning himself as a kind of savior in the process.

A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi after he drowned when the boat he and his family members were in capsized near the Turkish resort of Bodrum early Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. (Photo: Nilüfer Demir/DHA)

A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi after he drowned when the boat he and his family members were in capsized near the Turkish resort of Bodrum early Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015.

Meanwhile, Gulf Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have provided refuge to zero Syrian refugees.

While there’s certainly a conversation taking place about refugees — who they are, where they’re going, who’s helping them, and who isn’t — what’s absent is a discussion on how to prevent these wars from starting in the first place. Media outlets and political talking heads have found many opportunities to point fingers in the blame game, but not one media organization has accurately broken down what’s driving the chaos: control over gas, oil and resources.

Indeed, it’s worth asking: How did demonstrations held by “hundreds” of protesters demanding economic change in Syria four years ago devolve into a deadly sectarian civil war, fanning the flames of extremism haunting the world today and creating the world’s second largest refugee crisis?

While the media points its finger to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s barrel bombs and political analysts call for more airstrikes against ISIS and harsher sanctions against Syria, we’re four years into the crisis and most people have no idea how this war even got started.

This “civil war” is not about religion

Citing a lack of access on the ground, the United Nations stopped regularly updating its numbers of casualties in the Syrian civil war in January 2014. Estimates put the death toll between 140,200 and 330,380, with as many as 6 million Syrians displaced, according to the U.N.

While there is no question that the Syrian government is responsible for many of the casualties resulting from its brutal crackdown, this is not just a Syrian problem.

Foreign meddling in Syria began several years before the Syrian revolt erupted.  Wikleaks released leaked US State Department cables from 2006 revealing U.S. plans to overthrow the Syrian government through instigating civil strife, and receiving these very orders straight from Tel Aviv.  The leaks reveal the United State’s partnership with nations like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and even Egypt to use sectarianism to divide Syria through the Sunni and Shiite divide to destabilize the nation to weaken Iran and Hezbolla.  Israel is also revealed to attempt to use this crisis to expand its occupation of the Golan Heights for additional oil exploration, according to Wikileaks editor Julian Assange.

According to major media outlets like the BBC and the Associated Press, the demonstrations that supposedly swept Syria were comprised of only hundreds of people, but additional Wikileaks cables reveal CIA involvement on the ground in Syria to instigate these very demonstrations as early as March 2011.

Just a few months into the demonstrations which now consisted of hundreds of armed protesters with CIA ties, demonstrations grew larger, armed non-Syrian rebel groups swarmed into Syria, and a severe government crackdown swept through the country to deter this foreign meddling. It became evident that the United States, United Kingdom, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey would be jumping on the opportunity to organize, arm and finance rebels to form the Free Syrian Army as outlined in the State Department plans to destabilize Syria. (Just a few months ago, WikiLeaks confirmed this when it released Saudi intelligence that revealed Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia had been working hand in hand to arm and finance rebels to overthrow the Syrian government since 2012.)

These foreign nations created a pact in 2012 called “The Group of Friends of the Syrian People,” a name that couldn’t be further from the truth. Their agenda was to divide and conquer in order to wreak havoc across Syria in view of overthrowing Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The true agenda to hijack Syria’s revolt quickly became evident, with talking heads inserting Syria’s alliance with Iran as a threat to the security and interests of the United States and its allies in the region. It’s no secret that Syria’s government is a major arms, oil and gas, and weapons ally of Iran and Lebanon’s resistance political group Hezbollah.

But it’s important to note the timing: This coalition and meddling in Syria came about immediately on the heels of discussions of an Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline that was to be built between 2014 and 2016 from Iran’s giant South Pars field through Iraq and Syria. With a possible extension to Lebanon, it would eventually reach Europe, the target export market.

Perhaps the most accurate description of the current crisis over gas, oil and pipelines that is raging in Syria has been described by Dmitry Minin, writing for the Strategic Cultural Foundation in May 2013:

“A battle is raging over whether pipelines will go toward Europe from east to west, from Iran and Iraq to the Mediterranean coast of Syria, or take a more northbound route from Qatar and Saudi Arabia via Syria and Turkey. Having realized that the stalled Nabucco pipeline, and indeed the entire Southern Corridor, are backed up only by Azerbaijan’s reserves and can never equal Russian supplies to Europe or thwart the construction of the South Stream, the West is in a hurry to replace them with resources from the Persian Gulf. Syria ends up being a key link in this chain, and it leans in favor of Iran and Russia; thus it was decided in the Western capitals that its regime needs to change.

It’s the oil, gas and pipelines, stupid!

Indeed, tensions were building between Russia, the U.S. and the European Union amid concerns that the European gas market would be held hostage to Russian gas giant Gazprom. The proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline would be essential to diversifying Europe’s energy supplies away from Russia.

Turkey is Gazprom’s second-largest customer. The entire Turkish energy security structure relies on gas from Russia and Iran. Plus, Turkey was harboring Ottoman-like ambitions of becoming a strategic crossroads for the export of Russian, Caspian-Central Asian, Iraqi and Iranian oil and even gas to Europe, assesses journalist Pepe Escobar writing for Al Jazeera.

The Guardian reported in August 2013:

“Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar and Turkey that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale was ‘to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.’”

Note the purple line which traces the proposed Qatar-Turkey natural gas pipeline and note that all of the countries highlighted in red are part of a new coalition hastily put together after Turkey finally (in exchange for NATO’s acquiescence on Erdogan’s politically-motivated war with the PKK) agreed to allow the US to fly combat missions against ISIS targets from Incirlik. Now note which country along the purple line is not highlighted in red. That’s because Bashar al-Assad didn’t support the pipeline and now we’re seeing what happens when you’re a Mid-East strongman and you decide not to support something the US and Saudi Arabia want to get done.

Note the purple line which traces the proposed Qatar-Turkey natural gas pipeline and note that all of the countries highlighted in red are part of a new coalition hastily put together after Turkey finally (in exchange for NATO’s acquiescence on Erdogan’s politically-motivated war with the PKK) agreed to allow the US to fly combat missions against ISIS targets from Incirlik. Now note which country along the purple line is not highlighted in red. That’s because Bashar al-Assad didn’t support the pipeline and now we’re seeing what happens when you’re a Mid-East strongman and you decide not to support something the US and Saudi Arabia want to get done.

Knowing Syria was a critical piece in its energy strategy, Turkey attempted to persuade Syrian President Bashar Assad to reform this Iranian pipeline and to work with the proposed Qatar-Turkey pipeline, which would ultimately satisfy Turkey and the Gulf Arab nations’ quest for dominance over gas supplies, who are the United State’s allies. But after Assad refused Turkey’s proposal, Turkey and its allies became the major architects of Syria’s “civil war.”

Much of the strategy currently at play was described back in a 2008 U.S. Army-funded RAND report, “Unfolding the Future of the Long War”:

“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized. … For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources. … The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”

In this context, the report identifies the divide and conquer strategy while exploiting the Sunni-Shiite divide to protect Gulf oil and gas supplies while maintaining a Gulf Arab state dominance over oil markets.

“Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces. … the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace. … U.S. leaders could also choose to capitalize on the ‘Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict’ trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world…. possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”

The report notes that another option would be “to take sides in the conflict, possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”

This framework crafted an interesting axis: Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S., Britain and France vs. Syria, Iran and Russia.

Divide and conquer: A path to regime change

With the U.S., France, Britain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — aka, the new “Friends of Syria” coalition — publicly calling for the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar Assad between  2011 and 2012 after Assad’s refusal to sign onto the gas pipeline, the funds and arms flowing into Syria to feed the so-called “moderate” rebels were pushing Syria into a humanitarian crisis. Rebel groups were being organized left and right, many of which featured foreign fighters and many of which had allied with al-Qaida.

The Syrian government responded with a heavy hand, targeting rebel held areas and killing civilians in the process.

Since Syria is religiously diverse, the so-called “Friends of Syria” pushed sectarianism as their official “divide and conquer” strategy to oust Assad. Claiming that Alawites ruled over a majority Sunni nation, the call by the “moderate” U.S.-backed rebels became one about Sunni liberation.

Although the war is being sold to the public as a Sunni-Shiite conflict, so-called Sunni groups like ISIS,  the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (the Nusra Front) and even the “moderate” Free Syrian Army have indiscriminately targeted Syria’s Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Jews. At the same time, these same foreign nations supported and even armed the Bahraini government, which claims to be Sunni, in its violent crackdown on the majority Shiite pro-democracy demonstrations that swept the nation.

The Syrian government army itself is of over 80 percent Sunnis, which indicates that the true agenda has been politically — not religiously — motivated.

In addition to this, the Assad family is Alawite, an Islamic sect that the media has clumped in with Shiites, though most Shiites would agree that the two are unrelated. Further, the Assad family is described as secular and running a secular nation. Counting Alawites as Shiites was simply another way to push a sectarian framework for the conflict: It allowed for the premise that the Syria-Iran alliance was based on religion, when, in fact, it was an economic relationship.

This framework carefully crafted the Syrian conflict as a Sunni revolution to liberate itself from Shiite influence that Iran was supposedly spreading to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

But the truth is, Syria’s Sunni community is divided, and many defected to join groups like the Free Syrian Army, ISIS and al-Qaida. And as mentioned earlier, over 80 percent of Assad’s military is Sunni.

As early as 2012, additional rebels armed and financed by Arab Gulf nations and Turkey like al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood, declared all-out war against Shiites. They even threatened to attack Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iraq’s government after they had overthrown the Assad government.

Soon after, the majority of the Muslim Brotherhood rebels became part of al-Qaida-affiliated groups. Together, they announced that they would destroy all shrines — not just those ones which hold particular importance to Shiites.

Hezbollah entered the scene in 2012 and allied itself with the Syrian government to fight al-Nusra and ISIS, which were officially being armed and financed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. And all the arms were actively being sold to these nations by the United States. Thus, US arms were falling into the hands of the same terror group the US claims to be fighting in its broader War on Terror.

According to reports, Hezbollah was and has been been active in preventing rebel penetration from Syria to Lebanon, “being one of the most active forces in the Syrian civil war spillover in Lebanon.” Despite this, the U.S. sanctioned both the Syrian government and Hezbollah in 2012.

Also that year, Russia and Iran sent military advisers to assist the Syrian government in quelling the terror groups, but Iranian troops were not on the ground fighting during this time.

What was once a secular, diverse and peaceful nation, was looking more like it was on its way to becoming the next Afghanistan; its people living under Taliban-style rule as jihadists took over more land and conquered more cities.

Effects of foreign meddling outweigh self-determination

If you think that was hard to follow, you’re certainly not alone.

Most sectarian civil wars are purposely crafted to pit sides against one another to allow for a “divide and conquer” approach that breaks larger concentrations of power into smaller factions that have more difficulty linking up. It’s a colonial doctrine that the British Empire famously used, and what we see taking place in Syria is no different.

So, let’s get one thing straight: This is not about religion. It might be convenient to say that Arabs or Muslims kill each other, and it’s easy to frame these conflicts as sectarian to paint the region and its people as barbaric. But this Orientalist, overly simplistic view of conflict in the Middle East dehumanizes the victims of these wars to justify direct and indirect military action.

If the truth was presented to the public from the perspective that these wars are about economic interests, most people would not support any covert funding and arming of rebels or direct intervention. In fact, the majority of the public would protest against war. But when something is presented to the public as a matter of good versus evil, we are naturally inclined to side with the “good” and justify war to fight off the supposed “evil.”

The political rhetoric has been carefully crafted to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable. Ultimately, no matter the agendas, the alliances or instability brought on by foreign meddling, the calls for freedom, democracy and equality that erupted in 2011 were real then and they’re real today. And let’s not forget that the lack of freedom, democracy and equality have been brought on more by foreign meddling to prop up brutal dictators and arm terror groups than by self-determination.

The people in the Middle East once stood united and strong together against foreign meddling, exploitation and colonialism no matter their religious or cultural background. But today, the Middle East is being torn to shreds by manipulative plans to gain oil and gas access by pitting people against one another based on religion. The ensuing chaos provides ample cover to install a new regime that’s more amenable to opening up oil pipelines and ensuring favorable routes for the highest bidders.

And in this push for energy, it’s the people who suffer most. In Syria, they are fleeing en masse. They’re waking up, putting sneakers on their little boys and girls, and hopping on boats without life jackets, hoping just to make it to another shore. They’re risking their lives, knowing full well that they may never reach that other shore, because the hope of somewhere else is better than the reality at home.

(Source / 16.12.2016)

Pro-settlement David Friedman named as U.S. ambassador to Israel


U.S. President-elect Donald Trump nominated David Friedman, a pro-settlement bankruptcy lawyer, to be the next US ambassador to Israel, Haaretz Hebrew newspaper revealed Friday.

David Friedman, who had more recently served on the president-elect’s advisory team on the Middle East, said that he looked forward to delivering Trump’s pledge to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there.

Friedman, 57, serves as president of the American Friends of Bet El Institutions, which funds settlements in the West Bank.

He disagrees with the general international consensus that the settlements are illegal and he opposes a ban on settlement construction on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. And he has long supported an undivided Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

Friedman is also a fervent opponent to another orthodoxy of US foreign policy, the “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which the territory would be shared.

“That’s the ‘two-state solution’ – an illusion that serves the worst intentions of both the United States and the Palestinian Arabs. It has never been a solution, only a narrative. But even the narrative itself now needs to end,” Friedman wrote on the website for the religious Zionist network, Arutz Sheva.

The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, described Friedman’s views as being on the far right of the Israeli political spectrum, more hardline than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

(Source / 16.12.2016)

Red Cross Urges all Sides in Aleppo to Resume Evacuation


Buses are seen parked in Aleppo’s government controlled area of Ramouseh, as they wait to evacuate civilians and rebels from eastern Aleppo, Syria December 15, 2016

The International Comimttee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on all sides on Friday to continue the evacuation operation which was suspended hours earlier.

“Regretfully the operation was put on hold. We urge the parties to ensure it can be relaunched & proceed in the right conditions,” Robert Mardini, ICRC regional director for the Near and Middle East tweeted.

No further details were given.

More than 40 wounded people and around 3,000 civilians including children and women were evacuated from east Aleppo on Thursday in two evacuations, the ICRC said in a statement.

Mardini stated that “many more” rotations of buses and ambulances might be needed in coming days.

(Source / 16.12.2016)