The Covert Dictatorship Called “Obamacare”

[First Obama creates the hidden dictatorship by forcing Congressional approval of Presidential authority to force citizens to purchase health care.  Now we find-out the hidden parts of that authoritarian package, which allow sweeping penalties for lifetime smokers, great enough to deny them health care in their old age.  Next it will be overweight people and drug users, followed by gun owners.  

He has created for himself the invisible “Dictatorship of Behavior,” by hiding it in plain sight.  He cannot really force people to change their behavior, but he can make their lives so miserable that they want to change, especially if it becomes a choice between living and dying.]

‘Obamacare’ to hit smokers with huge penalties

Russia-Today
AFP Photo / Justin Sullivan

AFP Photo / Justin Sullivan

Smokers, beware: tobacco penalties under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act could subject millions of smokers to fees costing thousands of dollars, making healthcare more expensive for them than Americans with other unhealthy habits.

The Affordable Care Act, which critics have also called “Obamacare”, could subject smokers to premiums that are 50 percent higher than usual, starting next Jan 1. Health insurers will be allowed to charge smokers penalties that overweight Americans or those with other health conditions would not be subjected to.

A 60-year-old smoker could pay penalties as high as $5,100, in addition to the premiums, the Associated Press reports. A 55-year-old smoker’s penalty could reach $4,250. The older a smoker is, the higher the penalty will be.

Nearly one in every five U.S. adults smokes, with a higher number of low-income people addicted to the unhealthy habit. Even though smokers are more likely to develop heart disease, cancer and lung problems and would therefore require more health care, the penalties might devastate those who need help the most – including retirees, older Americans, and low-income individuals.

“We don’t want to create barriers for people to get health care coverage,” California state Assemblyman Richard Pan told AP. “We want people who are smoking to get smoking cessation treatment.”

Nearly 450,000 US residents die of smoking-related diseases each year, making the unhealthy habit a serious concern for lawmakers. One legislator is trying to criminalize smoking in his state, while others have raised taxes on cigarettes and the Obama administration has tried to inflict hefty fines upon smokers’ premiums.

Karen Pollitz, a former consumer protection regular, told AP that no insurers want to provide coverage for Americans who have been smoking for decades, and that the penalties might prompt people to abandon the habit.

“You would have the flexibility to discourage them,” she told AP.

But quitting is not easy, and charging older smokers up to three times as much as younger ones could make it difficult for them to seek care in the first place. A 60-year-old smoker charged with the penalty could be paying about $8,411 per year for health insurance, which is about 24 percent of a $35,000 income and is considered “unaffordable” under federal law.

“The effect of the smoking (penalty) allowed under the law would be that lower-income smokers could not afford health insurance,” said Richard Curtis, president of the Institute for Health Policy Solutions.

Ultimately, the law that is meant to make health care more affordable could have the opposite effect on older smokers at a time when smoking-related illnesses usually arise.

Setting-Up Qatar To Take the Fall for the Greater Middle East Project

Qatar and U.S.: Collusion or conflicting interests

intrepid report

By Nicola Nasser

In his inaugural address on January 21, U.S. President Barak Obama made the historic announcement that “a decade of war is ending” and declared his country’s determination to “show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully,” but his message will remain words that have yet to be translated into deeds and has yet to reach some of the U.S.’s closest allies in the Middle East who are still beating the drums of war, like Israel against Iran and Qatar against Syria.

In view of the level of “coordination” and “cooperation” since bilateral diplomatic relations were established in 1972 between the U.S. and Qatar, and the concentration of U.S. military power on this tiny peninsula, it seems impossible that Qatar could move independently apart, in parallel with, away or on a collision course with the U.S. strategic and regional plans.

According to the US State department’s online fact sheet, “bilateral relations are strong,” both countries are “coordinating” diplomatically and “cooperating” on regional security, have a “defense pact,” “Qatar hosts CENTCOM Forward Headquarters,” and supports NATO and U.S. regional “military operations. Qatar is also an active participant in the U.S.-led efforts to set up an integrated missile defense network in the Gulf region. Moreover, it hosts the U.S. Combined Air Operations Center and three American military bases namely Al Udeid Air BaseAssaliyah Army Base and Doha International Air Base, which are manned by approximately 5,000 U.S. forces.

Qatar, which is bound by such a most intimate and closest alliance with the United States, has recently developed into the major sponsor of Islamist political movements. Qatar appears now to be the major sponsor of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, which, reportedly, disbanded in Qatar in 1999 because it stopped viewing the ruling family as an adversary.

The Qatar-Brotherhood marriage of convenience has created the natural incubator of Islamist armed fundamentalists against whom the U.S., since September 11, 2001, has been leading what is labeled as the “global war on terrorism.”

The war in the African nation Mali offers the latest example of how the U.S. and Qatar, seemingly, go two separate ways. Whereas US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was in London on January 18 “commending” the French “leadership of the international effort” in Mali to which his country was pledging logistical, transportation and intelligence support, Qatar appeared to risk its special ties with France, which peaked during the NATO-led war on Libya, and to distrust the U.S. and French judgment.

On January 15, Qatari Prime and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, told reporters he did not believe “power will solve the problem,” advised instead that this problem be “discussed” among the “neighboring countries, the African Union and the (U.N.) Security Council,” and joined the Doha-based ideologue for the Muslim Brotherhood and their Qatari sponsors, Yusuf Abdullah al-Qaradawi—the head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars who was refused entry visa to U.K. in 2008 and to France last year—in calling for “dialogue,” “reconciliation” and “peaceful solution” instead of “military intervention.”

In a relatively older example, according to WikiLeaks, Somalia’s former president in 2009, Sharif Ahmed, told a U.S. diplomat that Qatar was channeling financial assistance to the al-Qaeda-linked Shabab al-Mujahideen, which the U.S. listed as “terrorist.”

In Syria, for another example, the Brotherhood is the leading “fighting” force against the ruling regime and in alliance with and a culprit in the atrocities of the terrorist bombings of the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front, designated by the United States as a terrorist organization last December; while the Brotherhood-led and U.S. and Qatar-sponsored Syrian opposition publicly protested the U.S. designation, the silence of Qatar on the matter could only be interpreted as in support of the protest against the U.S. decision.

Recently, Qatar has, for another example, replaced Syria, which has been on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1979, as the sponsor of Hamas, whose leadership relocated from Damascus to Doha, which the U.S. lists as a “terrorist” group, and which publicly admits being the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood.

Qatar, in all these examples, seems positioning itself to be qualified as a mediator, with the U.S. blessing, trying to achieve by the country’s financial leverage what the U.S. could not achieve militarily, or could achieve but with a much more expensive cost in money and souls.

In the Mali case, the Qatari PM, Sheikh Hamad, went on record to declare this ambition: “We will be a part of the solution, (but) not the sole mediator,” he said. The U.S. blessing could not be more explicit than President Obama’s approval of opening the Afghani Taliban office in Doha “to facilitate” a “negotiated peace in Afghanistan,” according to the Qatari Foreign Ministry on January 16.

However, a unilateral Qatari mediation failed in Yemen, a Qatar-led Arab mediation in Syria has similarly proved a failure two years on the Syrian crisis; the “Doha Declaration” to reconcile Palestinian rival factions is still a paper achievement, the Qatari mediation in Sudan’s Darfur crisis has yet to deliver; the Qatari “mediation” in Libya was condemned as intervention in the country’s internal affairs by the most prominent among the post-Gaddafi leaders, and in post-“Arab Spring” Egypt, Qatar dropped its early mediation efforts to align itself publicly to the ruling Brotherhood. But in spite of these failures, Qatar’s “mediation” efforts were successful in serving the strategy of its U.S. “ally.”

Hence the U.S. blessing. The Soufan Group’s intelligence analysts last December 10 concluded that “Qatar continues to prove itself to be a pivotal U.S. ally, . . . Qatar is often able to implement shared U.S.-Qatari objectives that Washington is unable or unwilling to undertake itself.

The first term Obama administration, under the pressure of “fiscal austerity,” blessed the Qatari funding of arming anti-Gaddafi Islamists in Libya, closed its eyes to Qatar’s shipment of Gaddafi’s military arsenal to Syrian and non-Syrian Islamists fighting the regime in Syria, “understood” the visit of Qatar’s Emir to Gaza last October as “a humanitarian mission,” and recently approved to arm the Qatar-backed and Brotherhood-led Egypt with 20 F-16 fighter jets and 200 M1A1 Abrams tanks.

This contradiction raises the question about whether this is a U.S.-Qatari mutual collusion or it is really a conflict of interests; the Obama administration during his second term has to draw the line which would give an explicit answer.

Seemingly nowadays, Doha and Washington do not see eye to eye on Islamic and Islamist movements, but on the battlegrounds of the “war on terror” both capitals could hardly argue that in practice their active roles are not coordinated and do not complement each other.

Drawing on the historical experience of an Iranian similar “religious” approach, but on a rival “Shiite” sectarian basis, this Qatari “Sunni” Islamist” connection will inevitably fuel sectarian polarization in the region, regional instability, violence and civil wars.

Given the U.S.-Qatar alliance, the Qatari Islamist connection threatens to embroil the U.S. in more regional strife, or at least to hold the U.S. responsible for the resulting strife, and would sustain a deep-seated regional anti-Americanism, which in turn has become another incubator of extremism and terrorism and which is exacerbated by the past “decade of war,” which President Obama in his inaugural address promised to “end.”

Traditionally, Qatar, which stands in the eye of the storm in the very critical geopolitical volatile Gulf region, the theatre of three major wars during the last three decades, did its best to maintain a critical and fragile balance between the two major powers which determine its survival, namely the decades old U.S. military presence in the Gulf and the rising regional power of Iran.

In 1992, it signed a comprehensive bilateral defense pact with the United States and, in 2010, it signed a military defense agreement with Iran, which explains its warming up to closer ties with the Iran-supported Islamic anti-Israel resistance movements of the Hezbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories and explains as well Qatar’s “honeymoon” with Iran’s ally in Syria.

However, since the eruption of the bloody Syrian crisis two years ago, the Qatari opening up to regional pro-Iran state and non-state powers was exposed as merely a tactical maneuver to lure such powers away from Iran. In the Syrian and Hezbullah cases, the failure of this tactic has led Qatar to embark on a collision course with both Syria and Iran, which are backed by Russia and China, and is leading the country to a U-turn shift away from its long maintained regional balancing act, a shift that Doha seems unaware of is a threat to its very survival under the pressure of the international and regional conflicting interests as bloodily exposed in the Syrian crisis.

During the rise of the massive Pan-Arab, nationalist, socialist and democratic movements in the Arab world early in the second half of the twentieth century, the conservative authoritarian Arab monarchies adopted the Brotherhood, other Islamists and Islamic political ideology and used them against those movements to survive as allies of the United States, which in turn used both, spearheaded by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, against the former Soviet Union and the communist ideology, to their detriment after the collapse of the bipolar world order.

However history seems to repeat itself as the U.S.-backed Arab monarchies, spearheaded by Qatar, are resorting to their old tactic of exploiting the Islamist ideology to undermine and preempt an Arab anti-authoritarian revolution for the rule of law, civil society, democratic institutions and social and economic justice in Arab countries on the periphery of their U.S. protected bastion in the Arabian peninsula, but they seem unaware they are opening a Pandora’s box that would unleash a backlash in comparison to which al-Qaeda’s fallback on the U.S. will prove a minor precedent.

Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. Email him at nassernicola@ymail.com.

Portraying Fathers of the Syrian Revolution

Portraying Fathers of the Syrian Revolution

oriental review

By Armine AKOPYAN (Armenia)

During the whole of the “Arab Spring” and the Syrian war in particular, the Arab press has kept the actions of the emir of Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s royal family and the leader’s of Israel and Turkey in their crosshairs. When confronted with the published facts, it is possible to believe that not a single one of these sides is acting alone, that they are united by common aims and interests and in achieving these, it is the people of the Middle East who are paying with their own blood and their own futures.

With reference to Syrian information sources, the Islam Times reports on the activities of a group of foreign agents in Syria. This group is serving the interests of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and Turkey and consists of 16 members who are all citizens of either Israel, Turkey, Qatar or Saudi Arabia. Foreign agents have been operating under the guise of militant terrorists and the Syrian Freedom Army and have been kidnapping and murdering Syrians as well as Palestinian scientists and experts from a variety of fields. The Syrian army recently announced that seven members of this gang had been arrested and were being questioned.

A second gang of marauders has been putting rare museum pieces from Syria onto the international black market. Naturally, all of this is being done through Turkey. Factories are also being dismantled and and shifted to the Turkish territory. Trade in human organs is being established in Turkey just as it was in Kosovo at the beginning of the 2000s. The reluctant donors are Syrian refugees without the means to keep their families in Turkish refugee camps.

Director General of Saudi Intelligence Agency Prince Bandar bin Sultan

Director General of Saudi Intelligence Agency Prince Bandar bin Sultan

The head of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, along with the leader of the Lebanese opposition party and member of the anti-Syrian coalition “14 March”, Samir Farid Geagea, are playing an important role in destabilising and aggravating the situation in Syria and neighbouring Lebanon. They are the ones sending armed groups of terrorists to fight with Syria and after Syria has fallen it will become the Lebanese Shi’ites turn. In addition, the Arabic online publicationIslam Times also mentions Prince Bandar bin Sultan’s other activities as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005; he only managed to get himself appointed as head of the Saudi Intelligence Agency after organising several fatal terrorist attacks against high-ranking Syrian officials. The prince is now dreaming of making it to the royal throne in his own country and the only way he will manage this is if Syrian President Bashar Assad is assassinated.

Lebanese oppositionist Samir Geagea also has his eye on the very highest post – the presidential chair – and the only way he will be able to achieve that is by removing the Shi’ite Hezbollah.  As the publication points out, Israel and the USA have been pushing for the “mutual cooperation” of both. The only effective way to achieve if not Assad’s assassination then at least his downfall is terrorism. Al-Qaeda and its offspring “Jabhat an-Nusra” are just the kind of convenient instruments that can help interested parties overthrow any state system sooner or later. It has been reported that two “Jabhat an-Nusra” instructors have undergone Israeli training.  The plan is that in the future they will not just be fighting Hezbollah, but Lebanese Salafists as well. Among the militants are also Kurds, who are under the command of the Kurdish leader within al-Qaeda. Samir Geagea sees yet one more advantage for himself as a result of the Syrian war:  the concentration of Syrian Christian refugees in the Lebanon could lead to a political shift in religious terms and prepare his own path to the presidency.

Since 2010, Americans and Qatar have been buying up weapons from tribes in South Afghanistan. This was reported to the Iranian press by Afghan middleman Habibullah Kandahari and besides him, the Americans had also ordered weapons from seven other Afghans. Kandahari reports that he personally had provided 4,000 units over a period of six months. These included handguns and other types of firearms, for which their former owners were paid large sums of money. The Afghan middlemen handed over the purchased weapons to the Americans at Kandahar airport and were told nothing about the future fate of the weapons. So as not to cause any unnecessary curiosity or suspicion, the Americans said that the weapons were being bought to guarantee the safety of their own soldiers from the local population. According to Habibullah Kandahari, he had noted privately that the Americans had never been attacked by peaceful civilians, only armed groups. Weapons in Afghanistan were loaded onto Qatar aeroplanes and then taken through Jordan to Syria, where they ended up in the hands of terrorists. Qatar aircrafts, the same as American aircrafts, were able to land at airports in Afghanistan without difficulty and even without the knowledge of the local authorities. During one of the meetings of the National Security Council, the country’s president even ordered that the total lack of authority when it came to the Americans be looked into and clarified who should give consent for Qatar and American aircraft to land in Afghanistan without prior agreement and how this should be done. An Afghan security expert notes that in 2010, nobody had openly bought such quantities of weapons and dispatched them to Jordan, but following the first peaceful protests and demonstrations in Syria in 2011, weapons had been bought up openly.

Elections for the 19th Knesset were held in Israel on 21 January and were won by the party of the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli politician’s pre-election campaign was paid for by the emir of Qatar. Leader of the opposition party “Kadima” and former Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ehud Olmert’s cabinet, Tzipi Livni, told journalists that it had cost approximately USD 3 million. She also added that she was very close friends with the emir’s wife.

In getting rid of Palestinian leaders and scientists it finds undesirable both in Palestine itself and in Syria, and now paying for the pre-election campaign of an Israeli politician with extremely right-wing views, Qatar is aiming to close the Palestinian question for all Arabs once and for all and place it under the watchful control of the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Egyptian government, in other words. It will also tackle the issue of Jordan in the future, if the royal regime there can be toppled and power transferred to the Brotherhood. It would mean that the Palestinian question is laid to rest forever, since in the future part of the Palestinian population would have been resettled in Jordan and part of the population in Sinai. Which, as a matter of fact, is what the USA is trying to achieve with Israel.

The Lebanese coalition “14 March” has once again shown that it is not the interests of Lebanon that are being served, or even the interests of Christians, but centres that are completely strange and alien to Lebanon. The coalition’s activities are particularly damaging against the backdrop of the Syrian war, where anti-Syrian sentiment among part of the Lebanese population is escalating to such a level that it could spill over from the political arena into armed conflict and civil war.

With regard to everything that has been said here, one is reminded of a quote by Yitzak Rabin: “I would like Gaza to sink into the sea, but that won’t happen, and a solution must be found” . It seems that the emir of Qatar and Netanyahu have come up with the same solution. And not just for Palestine…

Source in Russian: Национальная Идея

Translated by ORIENTAL REVIEW.

Pak Politicians Pushing Terrorists Toward Political Legitimacy

Peace talks: ANP wants militants to form ‘empowered’ delegation

express tribune
For any talks to be carried out, militants ought to constitute an empowered team, says K-P information minister. PHOTO: FILE
PESHAWAR: The ruling Awami National Party (ANP) on Saturday sent out a message asking militants to constitute an ‘empowered’ team for holding talks with a panel of political parties.

“For any talks to be carried out, they (militants) ought to constitute an empowered team,” provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told participants of a gathering convened at Nishtar Hall to observe the chehlum of slain minster Bashir Ahmad Bilour, who was targeted in a suicide attack on December 22, 2012.

ANP is currently trying to muster support for an all parties conference (APC) to discuss strategies to combat militancy and negotiate with militants. Hussain, however, said militants must have a say in their respective groups for the talks to be successful.

He reiterated his party would again reach out to those who had not “fully” responded to earlier invitations. While Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) have publicly turned down the offer, Hussain said the invitations had been accepted by some parties and others had not yet submitted a “full reply”. He, however, chose not to single any party out. “Those who have faith should join us for the APC.”

The slain minister’s brother, Ghulam Ahmad Bilour delivered an emotionally charged speech.

“Militants claim they are standing up for Islam. Is Islam not followed in North Waziristan, Bajaur, Swat and Tirah?” questioned the railways minister referring to militant onslaughts in the area. “I ask the Taliban to settle for talks. We will forgive the blood of our Pashtun children, if no more blood is shed.”

About the proposed APC, Ghulam Bilour said: “We have extended the invitation not just for ourselves, but for the whole nation, to get rid of the scourge of terrorism.”

“We will avenge the death of Bashir Bilour by winning the upcoming general elections,” he said, as party activists punctuated his speech with charged slogans.

“People cannot be hoodwinked by slogans to vote for the Book (Holy Quran) anymore,” added Bashir in an apparent jibe directed towards the ruling era of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal in K-P. “Today, these well-to-do Mullahs can be seen moving around in Land Cruisers, but they do not raise their voice against the killing of innocent people.”

The late minister’s son, Barrister Haroon Bilour vowed to fight the prevailing conditions with courage and to stand by the party through all tribulations.

Banners honouring Bashir Ahmad Bilour adorned the walls of the hall. The senior minister, who was also the parliamentary leader in the K-P Assembly, was known for his vocal stance against militants. He was said to be the first to condemn terror acts and assure victims of counteraction. Party stalwarts, including Senator Afrasiab Khattak, Senator Zahid Khan, Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel and K-P Assembly Speaker Kiramatullah Chagharmati along with others were also present.

Published in The Express Tribune

Just So You Won’t Miss This Sickness from Huffington–“Transitioned from Boy To Girl” Since Kindergarten

alleged transgender boy girl

Sadie socially transitioned from male to female in kindergarten. She was home schooled until this year and is now in fifth grade and attending public school. A vegan, she loves anything that “protects the environment,” as well as reading, swimming, basketball and texting her friends. She listens to Lady Gaga, Pink and Justin Bieber and wants to work for Green Peace when she grows up. She also wants to be a mom [that will be a neat trick–editor].”

Washington and Its Arab Admirers

Washington and Its Arab Admirers

 Middle East Online

I can understand the enthusiasm, generated by the Arab uprisings, of sweeping away all that is rotten and corrupt in Arab states, but the sudden advocacy of Washington’s policies and criticism and attacks on Russia and China regarding Syria is astounding, writes Issa Khalaf.

Middle East Online

Expediency makes for strange, even bizarre, bedfellows. After spending decades supporting its Arab autocratic clients to prevent genuine democracy and freedom, dissent and opposition, and crush political Islamists including deny them the fruits of electoral victories, Washington, since the “Arab Spring,” has decided that, after all, not only can it work with Islamists but even sustain the status quo through other means. Israel and all it wants—the sustenance of US Middle East policy—followed by oil and the “war on terror,” remain, so far, remarkably intact (though clearly unsustainable). The previously demonized Muslim Brotherhood conducts normal relations and cooperation with Washington, its electoral victories in several Arab states, and most likely in Syria, not so much a disruption or challenge to American imperial dominion after all.

This was expected: scholars of the region strenuously argued forever that nothing tames like democratic governing, as Islamists too have to deliver on the pressing basic, developmental and social justice needs of their peoples or else be electorally thrown out. They, too, support neo-liberal economic policies, will require military and economic aid, enter into national security arrangements, and adhere to peace treaties with Israel.

The amazing story is not here, for political Islamists are as politically pragmatic and self-serving as any other leaders and politicians anywhere. It is instead, found among the many Arab academics and journalists, in the Middle East and the West, through al-Jazeera and other organs, talking and writing the narrative and language of Western governments, especially on Syria. I can understand the enthusiasm, generated by the Arab uprisings, of sweeping away all that is rotten and corrupt in Arab states, but the sudden advocacy of Washington’s policies and criticism and attacks on Russia and China regarding Syria is astounding. Especially galling is these Arabs talking up democracy in Syria and elsewhere while autocratic oil states are fomenting Islamic fundamentalist revolt in the Middle East and beyond under the pretext of supporting “Arab spring” goals of freedom and dignity. It’s as if Arab thinkers, including those who might be dubbed liberals, progressives, and nationalists, suddenly developed collective amnesia. Even American progressives are confused.

It’s not uncommon, in fact today quite common, among such Arab intelligentsia to find arguments that accept the premise of Washington’s selfless, benign pursuit of democracy, freedom, and peace in Syria. They inveigh against Russia and China for vetoing UNSC resolutions; angrily call for the West to arm the (approved) rebels to the teeth; and attack Iran’s supposed aggressive regional ambitions and nuclear threat to the “international community.” They can’t understand why the US is working with Islamists to the detriment of Arab secular society. They’re impatient with Washington’s and its NATO allies’ “lack of resolve” to “contain” the Syrian regime and its regional (Iran, Hizballah) and “international supporters,” and argue in favor of a more active US role, not necessarily direct military intervention, but close enough, including no-fly zones, “safe” areas, advanced weaponry, robust economic sanctions and so forth. These, they say, will end the military stalemate, prevent the spread of extremists, and bring the opposition to deserved power.

Really? The US a champion of authentic independence and democracy? US invasion and large-scale destruction and killing in the past decade alone, merely accidental, benign efforts to deliver democracy? Russia and China, their roles reversed with that of the US, culprits supporting authoritarian regimes and acting against the people’s interests? Qatar and Saudi Arabia, central players in Syria’s sectarianism and Islamist radicalization, advocates of freedom and progress? Iran devoid of legitimate interests and an aggressive hegemon in pursuit of nuclear weapons and no less than a threat to the region and the world? Forget for a moment the fact that Saudi Arabia and Gulf statelets are monarchic police states. Forget Washington’s imperial wars and unconditional support for Israeli occupation, colonization, and systematic dispossession of the Palestinians. Let’s just consider Washington’s policies towards Russia and Iran to clear our heads and shock ourselves back into reality—certainly into a more balanced, realistic perspective.

Rather than enthusiastically, self-interestedly grasping the opportunity to partner with Russia, a militarily, culturally, and economically great power with a superpower’s nuclear arsenal, to solve pressing global issues and threats, the US did everything to alienate it. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the US, with NATO as its out of area tool for expanding American military power, has done its damndest to turn Russia into, at best, a junior partner and client. In recent years, as the US became enamored with regime change under the pretext of supporting democracy movements (“democracy promotion”) via foreign funded, CIA supported NGOs, Russia, not just weakling states, became a target. Regime change is US strategy in Russia. The US-led West politically and militarily encircled Russia, aggressively intruded on its security zone, worked to destabilize it, made alliances with countries at its doorstep, and positioned missiles at its borders. They interfered in the “revolutions” in Georgia and the Ukraine and coups in Central Asian republics.

The way Washington tells it, and the army of experts narrates it, Russian policy to protect its national interests—including normal relations with Iran and preventing Islamic extremism at its own South Caucasus doorstep—are simply wrong, aggressive, and provocative. Russian concern with Syria’s collapse and the regional repercussions that may follow are dubbed opportunistic; its opposition to economic sanctions, threat of military intervention, and regime change, no less than immoral. Never mind international law and the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. These are old fashioned; and besides, Russia’s insistence on these principles emanates from its fear of being at the receiving end of such intervention. For we all know it’s a quasi-democracy given to human rights abuses and ruled by a Soviet era figure, a former KGB officer and director of the post-Soviet Federal Security Services no less, the demonized Vladimir Putin. No, after the disgraceful Boris Yeltsin era and continuing weakening of Russia, Putin had no right to restore Russian political stability and economic progress.

The Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen characterizes American behavior since 1989 as “aggressive triumphalism,” engaging in a “winner take all diplomacy” in which Russia must make all concessions and that presumes Russian sovereignty is less important than American sovereignty. Imagine any state dare challenge the principle of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of the USA.

That the Russian stand on international relations generally and on Syria particularly is in fact consistent with international law, concerned with Syria’s collapse and the sectarian and ethnic violence that may spread through the region, is not convincing to its Western detractors. These policies are not credible, for Russia’s “real” goal is a foothold in the Middle East (warm water port), trade, arms sales. Such motives, normal actually, don’t apply to America, a state selflessly wishing to bestow freedom and progress on the world. Never mind that Washington engages in constant wars, subversions, and destabilizations, especially in the Middle East, is the region’s and world’s number one arms merchant, and pursues globally hegemonic policies of controlling Middle Eastern and Central Asian oil lanes, subordinating Russia, and “containing” China and keeping it in its place by “projecting” American military power in China’s backyard. On Syria, Washington is undermining UN efforts to achieve a political settlement—its position evasive, lukewarm, ambiguous—cooperating with oil autocrats to destabilize Syria, mightily contributing to Islamist radicalization, and so on, all rationalized away or denied by American intelligentsia one way or another. How can one expect the Russians to understand and react to such craziness, hypocrisy, and naked opportunism?

Call it what you wish: American imperialism, dominion, globalism, hegemony—the point is, the Washington establishment is in a constant search for enemies to sustain its ideological rationale under the all-encompassing term “national security.” No question, Islamism replaced Communism of old as the enemy, the great global threat. In addition to “radical Islam” and its concomitant “global war on terror,” why not add to the list of global “challenges” and “threats” to national security—like China and Russia. Washington, despite the calamitous effect its global pretensions are having on American economic collapse, democracy, and civil rights, is on autopilot. As Andrew Bacevich puts it, Washington, in becoming Israel, is in single-minded “pursuit of global military dominance, a proclivity for preemption, a growing taste for assassination—all justified as essential to self-defense. That pretty much describes our present-day MO.”

Pax Americana apparently has the right to take aggressive and hostile actions against other states on their own borders but they have no right to protest or defend themselves, engage and benefit from the world as befits their interests, and pursue independent economic and foreign policies. This essential unilateralism proceeds apace under President Obama.

With this context or paradigm in mind, it’s no wonder that Iran is also at the receiving end of US hostility and regime change. As with Russia and China, the US surrounds Iran with military bases and threatens it under the pretext of nuclear acquisition, repeatedly invoking “Iranian aggression” and “Iranian threat” as if they were real and imminent. Most of the American intelligentsia assumes that, unlike the old Soviet leaders or China’s Mao Zedong, Iran is irrational, that its leaders are prepared to endure a suicidal, millenarian sacrifice and hence are somehow unconcerned with self-preservation. This type of utter nonsense and dangerous lack of understanding pass for rational judgment towards Muslim states and societies. In reality, the Iranians are consistently diplomatically nuanced and subtle, politically intelligent, patient people, whose Islamist leaders are looking for Iran’s self-interest, including energy diversification and security, and surely not religious fanatics eager for annihilation.

Iran’s leaders behave pragmatically rather than ideologically, and it clearly wants dialogue and normal relations with the US. As Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett write, Tehran’s imperative is “building strategic relationships with ‘great powers’ outside the Middle East—countries that could support Tehran’s efforts at postwar reconstruction, long-term economic development and modernisation, and realising Iran’s enormous potential as an exporter of oil and natural gas.”

Iran’s impetus or incentive for acquiring nuclear weapons capability, not necessarily its actualization, is to deter US or Western aggression. This has been especially the case since 2003 when the US invaded Iraq. Iran’s membership in the NPT requires legal obligations and transparency not to use its enriched uranium for weapons capability, and its actions and intentions have given rise to suspicion and disquiet. On the other hand, its conventional capabilities, including its missile program, are its sovereign right, though one would not think so judging by the opprobrium and misinformation to which it is subject in the US, including the urgent ticking clock scenario once applied to Iraq.

There is no evidence that Iran is diverting declared nuclear material for military use but Iran needs to prove that what is not there is not there. The 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate said: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” The revised 2011 report, declassified but unreleased, does not contradict the 2007 conclusion but, as might be expected, claims that while it is unknown whether Iran made the strategic choice to build a nuclear weapon, “it is working on the components of such a device,” in other words, there is still no evidence. Mohammed ElBaradei during his tenure as director general of the IAEA consistently reached the no-evidence conclusion.

The truth is that, albeit Iran’s goals regarding its nascent nuclear program are unclear—that is, the program may or may not have a military dimension—even as it reaffirms its commitment to the NPT and its intent to use nuclear power for peaceful needs, the Iran threat is an ideologically motivated fabrication. That it is or can be a “threat to world peace” is ridiculous, certainly not keeping the Russians or Chinese up, not the Turks, Pakistanis, or Indians, and supported by the Middle East’s people, though not by most of its US-dependent Arab regimes.

Arab states, themselves, cannot be all that afraid of an Iranian nuke, as they have not developed their own in response to Israel’s 200-400 bombs. Instead, their great fear, led by a Saudi Arabia determined to maintain the Sunni Muslim autocratic status quo, is the spread of nationalism and populism and pressure towards real democratization. Iranian civil society and democracy are far more vital than in most Arab states and will most probably push the regime towards genuine democracy.

Iran is a problem because it will not succumb to control, to US divide and rule tactics, and assertive of its sovereignty and independence, again unlike Arab states. After all, mutual hostility started in 1979, at the time of the Iranian revolution. A nuclear weapon, or, perhaps more accurately reflecting Iranian intentions at present, the capability to produce one, greatly enhances Iran’s deterrence, defense, and autonomy, its immunity from interference and threats, precisely what the US and Israel wish to preempt.

Measure this against Arab regimes of the Peninsula and Gulf, relentlessly spreading fundamentalism, exacerbating the regional Sunni-Shi’a divide, destroying Syria, and otherwise acting as nothing less than the enemy of liberal democracy, freedom, civil society, and a citizenship-based state. If Iran is assisting its allies in Syria, it is doing so because of its own military encirclement and endless threats of destruction by Washington and its reckless Israeli ally, whose lobby, just as it did in Iraq, unremittingly pushes the US towards war. If it’s seeking allies in the Middle East, including helping Syria thwart Israeli war and occupation in Lebanon, it is to protect itself against US “containment.” States will do that. Neither Iran’s nor Syria’s strategic interests will change after the ayatollahs or Assad are gone. These are constants.

There is no selflessness or innocence lost within and between states, whether the US, Russia, China, or Iran, but one can safely say that Russia’s policy towards Syria and the Middle East is, unlike Washington’s, eminently sensible, principled, and far less harmful. No less than a paradigm shift, a collective self-awareness, is required in American politics and society for this great nation to arrest its self-inflicted harm and decline.

Would it not be a better world if: The US partnered with Russia to bring about a political settlement in Syria and manage world peace? Advocated a just settlement in Palestine-Israel? Reintegrated Iran in a regional security arrangement including the Gulf and normalized relations with it in exchange for halting nuclear militarization? Consistently promoted human rights, civil society and democratic processes? Ceased its policy of regime change regarding states big and small and cooperated with the UN? Promoted regional trade, development, and economic cooperation? Pursued arms control and pushed for the abolishing of nuclear weapons in the region and the world? Invited, before leaving, Asian regional powers to participate in brokering and resolving Afghanistan’s problems? Ceased its senseless escalation of drone wars and militarization of complex local ethnic, tribal, and sectarian divisions in Asia, Africa and the Middle East? Encouraged cooperation—especially between Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Israel, and Saudi Arabia—to work out region-wide political, social, economic, and environmental problems and differences?

In an Orwellian Washington, that’s what the US does.

Issa Khalaf (D. Phil. in Politics and Middle East Studies, Oxford University)

When Is It Time To Ally With “Al-Qaeda” and When Is It Time To Fight It?

[The following is an excellent analysis of the American “Islamist” ploy.  My only criticism of it is that it doesn’t articulate the unavoidable conclusion–the “al-Qaeda” phenomenon is an illusion.  If there actually were an international terrorist organization, then its objectives and ideology would be the same wherever the group chose to stand and fight.  If there were an actual “terrorist international,” then they could not possibly fight for the Zionist French in Syria and against them in Mali.  According to the French jurist quoted below, the only question for us is a matter of timing–Whether we fight for the same cause at this time.  In a world war against “al-Qaeda” terrorism, allying ourselves with “al-Qaeda”-linked terrorists, at any point, invalidates the entire justification for the war.  Exposing American alliances with al-Qaeda not only invalidates the war effort, it pulls back the curtain on the treachery of Western leaders.] 

“There are many young jihadists who have gone to the Turkish border in order to enter Syria to fight Bachar’s regime, but the only difference is that there France is not the enemy. Therefore we don’t look on that in the same way. To see young men who are at the moment fighting Bachar Al-Assad, they will be perhaps dangerous in the future but for the moment they are fighting Bachar Al-Assad and France is on their side. They will not attack us. Here (in Mali) the problem is that we are not on the same side.”–French “anti-terrorist” judge Marc Trévidic

Good Terrorist, Bad Terrorist

dissident voice

European authorities admit NATO and Al Qaeda are allies in Syria

by Gearóid Ó Colmáin

The chief of the Spanish police Enrique Baron told La Razon newspaper on January 24 that Spanish “jihadists” have left Spain for Syria where they are fighting in Japhat Al Nousra, the Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist group currently at war against the Al Assad government, while other Spaniards have gone to Mali to join the fighting against French forces there.

According to the report, three Spanish jihadists have already been killed in Syria. Baron expressed concerns that these terrorists could pose a future threat to Spanish national security. On March 11 2004, several trains were bombed in Madrid killing 191 people and wounding hundreds more. The barbaric attacks were blamed on Al Qaeda.

In December 2011, former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar wrote an article for CNBC where he outlined the dangers presented by the Islamist direction of the Arab Spring and the war in Libya. He noted that the Libyan rebel military commander Abdul Hakim Belhadj was “one of the suspects involved in the Madrid bombing of March 2004.”

Belhadj was made “governor” of Tripoli by NATO during its conquest of Libya in 2011. The Libyan terrorist also enjoyed a brief stint as a columnist with Britain’s “left-wing” Guardian newspaper, where the Islamist claimed to promote “democratic” values.

As calls for president Assad to step down continue to be heard, a strange alliance between Western liberal democracies and Islamic terrorism is manifesting itself throughout Europe. The presence of jihadist fighters from Britain is also well documented. Yet the British government seems blithely indifferent.

Ireland has the distinction of having provided one of the most important jihadi psychopaths for the destruction of Libya in 2011 and the current war on Syria, a Dublin-based thug called Mehdi al-Herati.

Ireland, a country that fought colonialism for hundreds of years, is constitutionally a neutral country. During the War of Independence in 1919, the British government sent dozens of death squads, known as the Black and Tans into Ireland to terrorize the country into submission. This is precisely what NATO is doing to Syria today, yet the Irish Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore, joins his pals in NATO to blame the Syrian government for doing precisely what his forefathers did to protect the motherland against foreign aggression and colonialism.

According to German daily Die Welt, over one hundred European jihadists are now fighting for Al Qaeda in Syria, where they are preparing a base for operations against European citizens. Florian Flage and Clemens Werginwrite:

According to Western intelligence sources, Al Nousra commander Abu Mohammad Al-Dschulani is already planning to extend his operations base from Syria through Turkey into Europe. He is preparing for the day for the fall of Assad, in order to make Syria a centre for Jihadist activity in other countries.

Yet the German and EU governments continue to support these criminals in Syria while claiming to fight them in Mali. The hollow, mortifying chant of Western governments and corporate media that Assad is “killing his own people” is finally being exposed, as people in Europe wake up to the nightmare that they are being ruled by the mentally ill.

French jihadists are also fighting in Syria. Jacques Bérès, a doctor fromMédecins Sans Frontières, said last year that many of the patients he treated in a hospital in Aleppo were jihadists from Paris. Responding to the revelation that French terrorists were fighting the Assad government in Syria, French “anti-terrorist” judge Marc Trévidic smiled and said “they are our friends, how can we call them terrorists.” It is difficult to know if Trévidic’s smile was meant to indicate the unutterable absurdity of French foreign policy or rather an open admission that the French security state will decide who is a terrorist in accordance with its geopolitical interests.

In an interview with French state radio France Inter on January 5, Trévidicwarned that an unlawful system of incarceration similar to Guantanamo Bay could be put in place if France was to experience a wave of terrorist attacks. Yet this same judge openly admits that the French state is aiding Islamist terrorists in its war on Syria. In a normal society Trévidic would have been accused of condoning Islamist terrorism. But ours is not a normal society!

On January 11th Trévidic was interviewed again by France Inter where he was asked if the French jihadists fighting the Syrian government could present a danger to French national security, Trévidic declared that:

There are many young jihadists who have gone to the Turkish border in order to enter Syria to fight Bachar’s regime, but the only difference is that there France is not the enemy. Therefore we don’t look on that in the same way. To see young men who are at the moment fighting Bachar Al-Assad, they will be perhaps dangerous in the future but for the moment they are fighting Bachar Al-Assad and France is on their side. They will not attack us. Here (in Mali) the problem is that we are not on the same side.

Trévidic went on to warn that if the Assad regime does not fall, Assad could attempt to bomb Paris! Terrorists are ok as long as they serve our political interests. Assad and not Al Qaeda could bomb Paris. Reality is turned upside down!

He we have an open admission that the West is helping Islamist terrorists to destroy the Syrian nation while supposedly fighting Islamist terrorists in Mali from the mouth of France’s top anti-terrorist judge! In the same programme Jean-Pierre Filiu, a terrorism expert from Science Po university stated that the terrorists France is fighting in Mali are nothing more than drug trafficking criminals. But it is perfectly acceptable to fight alongside such people in Syria when NATO geopolitical interests seek to replace the government there with their own gang of neo-colonial puppets.

Independent media and geopolitical analysts alerted the world to NATO’s plan to recruit Mujahedeen terrorists to fight in Syria at the very start of the Levantine tragedy in 2011.

Now as many mainstream media sources and Western legal authorities themselves are admitting that this is the case, the infernal rhapsody of “Assad must go” and “Assad is killing his own people”, this sick, psychopathic cover story continues to block the voices of reason that occasionally punctuate the mainstream media matrix.

The infinite cynicism, hubris, absolute hypocrisy, and collective pathology of the Western ruling elite bode ill for the future of humanity.

Gearóid Ó Colmáin was born in Cork, Ireland, and is currently based in Paris. He is a former bilingual columnist with Metro Eireann. His interests include geopolitcs, globalisation, philosophy and the arts. He is a member of Pôle de renaissance communiste en France (PRCF) a political movement which advocates Marxism-Leninism and the formation of a revolutionary communist party in France. Read other articles by Gearóid, or visit Gearóid’s website.