US Forces Continue To Dominate Iraq’s Anbar Province, On Pretense of “Fighting ISIS”

[SEE: Outraged Iraqi Lawmakers Demand U.S. Troop Withdrawal, After Trump’s Insulting, Fly-In]

Abdul Mahdi’s claim on absence of pure US bases denied

mahdy

Council member Eid Ammash said in a press statement that US forces have a base in the Qa’im district north and south-east of the Euphrates River, a base in Rutba city, a base in Khan al-Baghdadi and a number of other bases in the desert of Anbar.

Ammash asserted that only the US combat forces are using these bases.

The US forces did not allow Iraqi forces to enter or to be present in the Anbar bases, whatever the reasons, Ammash said, noting that the province is witnessing intense US movements that the American troops have not informed the Iraqi government about.

Abdul Mahdi’s claims

Abdul Mahdi said on Sunday that there are no “pure”in the country.

This came during a press conference held after a governmental meeting in Baghdad, as major Shiite political forces and IMIS factions in the called for ending the US military presence in the country, and the closure of US bases.

Trump’s visit

Just one day after Christmas, US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania arrived in Anbar to visit the US troops serving in the region, which is his first such visit since taking office in January 2017.

Following Trump’s secret visit, many political parties, most of whom believed to be loyal to Iran voiced anger for what they described as violating diplomatic norms.

Head of the Shiite Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq Qais Khazali condemned the visit, threatening to expel the US troops from Iraq either by law or by other ways.

“Trump’s visit to a US military base without regard to diplomatic norms reveals the reality of the American project in Iraq,” Khazali wrote on Twitter.

“The response of the Iraqis will be [translated to a] decision of the Parliament to remove your military forces by force,” Khazali stated.

Abdul Mahdi said that he was supposed to meet with the US President Donald Trump during his visit to Iraq, but the meeting was cancelled due to “disagreement over how to conduct the meeting,” the two leaders spoke by phone instead.

Truth behind US Military bases

The Anbar Provincial Council revealed that US forces have set up two new military bases in the province, including one near the Syrian border.

Council member Farhan al-Dulaimi said in a press statement that the two bases were established on empty land in Anbar, adding that the first was built at the Qa’im district on the Syrian border, while the second was set in the city Rutba, less than 100 kilometers from the Syrian border.

“The aim of the two bases is to help Iraqi forces control the country’s borders and to prevent the infiltration of ISIS terrorist gangs from entering the liberated cities,” Dulaimi explained.

The move comes about a week following US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw his country’s troops deployed in Syria. The announcement came following Trump’s surprise visit to US troops in Baghdad.

The spokesman for the Joint Operations Command Brigadier General Yahya Rasoul denied on Thursday reports on the establishment of the new bases.

“The recent statement of [the US-led] Coalition [against ISIS] confirmed that no new bases were established and that the military forces at the base of Ayn al-Asad are working within the framework approved by the Iraqi government and parliament,” Rasoul was quoted as saying.

Concerning the possibility that US forces stationed in Syria may move to Iraq with the start of the withdrawal process, Rasoul explained that “there has been no coordination between the US and Iraqi sides so far, and that he will announce any new steps or agreement in this regard.”

Rasould denied the existence of any US troops on the Iraqi-Syrian border, and explained that the forces stationed on the Syrian-Iraqi border consist of border guards,  the army and IMIS along 650 kilometers, which he said works to secure the border.

 

Another Medieval Arab War By Starvation, This One Waged By Saudis, For Us

Aid stolen as Yemen starves, investigation reveals–1 NEWS NOW, NZ

U.S.-Backed Troops Are Stealing Yemen’s Food Aid–DAILY BEAST

Yemen war: WFP accuses Houthi rebels of diverting food aid–BBC

Both sides in Yemen’s war steal food aid as people starve

ASSOCIATED PRESS
TAIZ, Yemen
In this Oct. 1, 2018, photo, a malnourished boy sits on a hospital bed at the Aslam Health Center, Hajjah, Yemen. (AP Photo)

In this Oct. 1, 2018, photo, a malnourished boy sits on a hospital bed at the Aslam Health Center, Hajjah, Yemen. (AP Photo)

Day after day Nabil al-Hakimi, a humanitarian official in Taiz, one of Yemen’s largest cities, went to work feeling he had a “mountain” on his shoulders. Billions of dollars in food and other foreign aid was coming into his war-ravaged homeland, but millions of Yemenis were still living a step away from famine.

Reports of organizational disarray and out-and-out thievery streamed in to him this spring and summer from around Taiz — 5,000 sacks of rice doled out without record of where they’d gone . . . 705 food baskets looted from a welfare agency’s warehouses . . . 110 sacks of grain pillaged from trucks trying to make their way through the craggy northern highlands overlooking the city.

Food donations, it was clear, were being snatched from the starving.

Documents reviewed by The Associated Press and interviews with al-Hakimi and other officials and aid workers show that thousands of families in Taiz are not getting international food aid intended for them — often because it has been seized by armed units that are allied with the Saudi-led, American-backed military coalition fighting in Yemen.

Across Yemen, factions and militias on all sides of the conflict have blocked food aid from going to groups suspected of disloyalty, diverted it to front-line combat units or sold it for profit on the black market, according to public records and confidential documents obtained by the AP and interviews with more than 70 aid workers, government officials and average citizens from six different provinces.

The problem of lost and stolen aid is common in Taiz and other areas controlled by Yemen’s internationally recognized government, which is supported by the Saudi-led military coalition. It is even more widespread in territories controlled by the Houthi rebels, the struggling government’s main enemy during the nearly four years of warfare that has spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Some observers have attributed the near-famine conditions in much of the country to the coalition’s blockade of ports that supply Houthi-controlled areas. AP’s investigation found that large amounts of food are making into the country, but once there, the food often isn’t getting to people who need it most — raising questions about the ability of United Nations agencies and other big aid organizations to operate effectively in Yemen.

This year the U.N., the United States, Saudi Arabia and others have poured more than $4 billion in food, shelter, medical and other aid into Yemen. That figure has been growing and is expected to keep climbing in 2019.

Despite the surge in help, hunger — and, in some pockets of the country, famine-level starvation — have continued to grow.

An analysis this month by a coalition of global relief groups found that even with the food aid that is coming in, more than half of the population is not getting enough to eat — 15.9 million of Yemen’s 29 million people. They include 10.8 million who are in an “emergency” phase of food insecurity, roughly 5 million who are in a deeper “crisis” phase and 63,500 who are facing “catastrophe,” a synonym for famine.

Counting the number of people who have starved to death in Yemen is difficult, because of the challenges of getting into areas shaken by violence and because starving people often officially die from diseases that prey on their weakened conditions. The nonprofit group Save the Children estimates that 85,000 children under the age of 5 have died from starvation or disease since the start of the war.

In the northern province of Saada, a Houthi stronghold, international aid groups estimate that 445,000 people need food assistance. Some months the U.N. has sent enough food to feed twice that many people. Yet the latest figures from the U.N. and other relief organizations show that 65 percent of residents are facing severe food shortages, including at least 7,000 people who are in pockets of outright famine.

Three officials with the coalition-backed government told the AP that they would provide replies to questions about the theft of food aid, but then didn’t provide answers.

Officials at the agency that oversees aid work in Houthi territory — the National Authority for the Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs — did not return repeated phone calls from the AP.

U.N. officials have generally been cautious in public statements about the Houthis, based in part on worries that the rebels might respond by blocking U.N. agencies from access to starving people. But in interviews with the AP, two top U.N. relief officials used strong language in reference to both the Houthis and their battlefield adversaries.

“This has nothing to do with nature,” Cappelaere told the AP. “There is no drought here in Yemen. All of this is man-made. All of this has to do with poor political leadership which doesn’t put the people’s interest at the core of their actions.”

David Beasley, executive director of the U.N.’s food program, said “certain elements of the Houthis” are denying the agency access to some parts of rebel territory — and appear to be diverting food aid.

“It’s a disgrace, criminal, it’s wrong, and it needs to end,” Beasley said in an interview Sunday with the AP. “Innocent people are suffering.”

The rebels and the coalition forces have begun peace talks in recent weeks, a process that has led to a reduction in fighting and eased the challenges of getting food aid into and out of Hodeida, the port city that is a gateway to the Houthi-controlled north. But even if donors are able to get more food in, the problem of what happens to food aid once it makes landfall remains.

The war in Yemen began in March 2015 after Houthi rebels swept out of the mountains and occupied northern Yemen, forcing the government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile.

After the rebels began pushing farther south, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states formed a coalition to take on the Houthis, describing their involvement as an effort to stop Iran, which has ties to the Houthis, from gaining sway over Yemen.

The coalition launched a rolling campaign of airstrikes and imposed an air, land and sea embargo on the rebel-held north. The Houthis, in turn, have blocked a key access route to Taiz, making it difficult for aid groups to get food and other supplies into the city.

The Houthis, a Zaidi-Shiite religious movement turned rebel militia, control an expanse of northern and western Yemen that is home to more than 70 percent of the country’s population. In these areas, officials and relief workers say, Houthi rebels have moved aggressively to control the flow of food aid, putting pressure on international relief workers with threats of arrest or exile and setting up checkpoints that demand payments of “customs taxes” as trucks carrying aid try to move across rebel territory.

Each month in the rebel-governed city of Sanaa, he said, at least 15,000 food baskets that the education ministry was supposed to provide to hungry families were instead diverted to the black market or used to feed Houthi militiamen serving on the front lines.

Half of the food baskets that the U.N. food program provides to Houthi-controlled areas are stored and distributed by the ministry, which is chaired by the brother of the rebels’ top leader.

Moain al-Nagri, a managing editor at the Houthi-controlled daily newspaper, al-Thawra, told the AP that the paper learned last week that hundreds of its staffers had been falsely listed for more than a year as receiving food baskets from the education ministry. It’s not clear where those food baskets went, he said, but it’s clear that few of his employees received them.

A senior U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue, told the AP that enough aid is coming into the country to meet the demands of the hunger crisis, but much of it is stolen.

“If there is no corruption,” he said, “there is no famine.”

BLACK MARKETS

Throughout Yemen, food that is supposed to be given for free to starving families ends up for sale in markets.

The Houthis’ ministry of industry has documented hundreds of sacks of World Food Program flour being sold commercially after being repackaged by merchants, according to Abdu Bishr, who previously served as head of the ministry. Bishr, now a member of rebel-controlled parliament, says both sides in the war are to blame for failing to prevent the diversion of food aid.

“We have found entire stores packed with U.N. aid,” said Fadl Moqbl, head of an independent advocacy group, the Yemeni Association for Consumers’ Protection.

Because the war has wrecked the country’s economy, many Yemenis don’t have jobs or enough money to buy food in stores. Al-Hakimi, who worked for much of this year as the executive manager of the coalition-backed government’s local relief committee in Taiz, said Yemenis will need more than short-term handouts. They need help to rebuild the country’s economy and create jobs that will allow families to buy their own food.

When officials in Taiz asked al-Hakimi to take over as the relief committee’s manager, he hoped he could help turn around the hunger crisis that has been building in the city since the war began. He soon discovered the scale of challenges facing him.

“Here the only means to achieve anyone’s goals is through weapons,” he said. “Who gets on the beneficiaries’ lists? Those who have weapons. The poor, the most miserable, and the weak can’t get their names on the lists of beneficiaries, so the aid goes to the powerful.”

LION’S SHARE

Coalition bombing campaigns and guerrilla fighting on the ground have demolished homes, factories, water works and power plants and killed more than 60,000 combatants and civilians. More than 3 million people have been displaced, increasing the demand for food and other help from outside the country.

In a 2017 survey funded by the European Union, two-thirds of displaced Yemenis who responded said they hadn’t received any humanitarian aid, even though people forced from their homes are supposed to be key targets of U.N. relief efforts.

In displacement camps in the Houthi-controlled northern district of Aslam, barefoot children and mothers whose bodies have been reduced to skin and bone live in tents and huts made of sticks and sackcloth. The camps are not far from villages where the AP reported in September that families were trying to stave off famine by eating boiled tree leaves.

The U.N. and other global aid organizations estimate that 1.5 million Yemeni children are malnourished, including 400,000 to 500,000 who suffer life-threatening “severe acute malnutrition.”

One-year-old Nasser Hafez, who lived with his family in a camp called al-Motayhara, died Dec.12 from malnutrition and other complications at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders. He was in a coma for five days before his tiny body gave up.

His father and 16 members of his family have moved at least six times since the start of the war. Before, the father said, he had been a tailor, earning enough to feed his family meat, chicken and vegetables. He said he hasn’t received a single food basket from the U.N.’s World Food Program.

“They register us every month, maybe up to five times, but we never get food,” he said.

He said the family has gotten cash transfers every few months equal to $50 from the relief group Oxfam. It costs almost half that amount, he said, to buy 50 kilograms of World Food Program wheat from a market, which lasts his family only a week or two.

The Houthi rebels maintain tight control on how much food goes to which districts and who gets it. They manipulate the official lists of beneficiaries by giving preferential treatment to Houthi supporters and families of slain and wounded soldiers, according to relief workers and officials.

“Some areas in Yemen take the lion’s share and other areas receive a trickle,” said Bishr, the member of the Houthi-controlled parliament.

Five relief workers told the AP that they believe the U.N. and other international groups have been forced to sacrifice their independence in order to maintain access as they try to deliver aid to as many people as possible.

The Houthis “threaten decision-makers and international employees through permits and visa renewals,” a senior aid official told the AP. “Those who don’t comply will have their visas rejected.”

He said that he discovered his employees were tipping off the Houthis about the contents of his conversations and emails. When he complained about the spying, he said, the rebels pulled his visa and forced him to leave the country.

Beasley, the top official at the U.N. food program, said he believes some of the rebels in key positions do care about the welfare of struggling families and have worked well with his agency, but there are others “who don’t care about the people.”

“Anytime you are in a war zone, it’s a difficult situation and obviously when it comes to the United Nations we are neutral,” he said. But when it comes to making sure that food aid gets to the people who need it, “we can’t be neutral. We need to speak out in strongest voice, condemn it in every way.”

STRUGGLE IN TAIZ

Even before al-Hakimi took over as manager of Taiz’s relief committee, officials and activists complained about intrigues and outrages relating to donated food.

In September 2017, the relief committee sent a warning to the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, a charity run by the Saudi government and one of the key donors in Yemen. The letter said many of the 871,000 food baskets that the King Salman Center claims it has provided to Taiz and surrounding areas had been “lost and unaccounted for.” It said local groups that were supposed distribute the food were refusing to answer questions from the committee, apparently because they wanted to make sure “the truth never comes out” about where the food goes.

In the spring of 2018, the government in Taiz turned to al-Hakimi, who holds a doctorate in strategic development planning and has years of experience in training aid workers. Three relief workers in Taiz told the AP that al-Hakimi is known for being a principled person who won’t go along with corrupt deals.

He took the job after providing the committee a list of 14 conditions aimed at addressing the flaws in the aid distribution system, including a requirement that the committee approve and coordinate all aid deliveries in Taiz.

One problem al-Hakimi and other relief workers faced was the Houthis’ partial blockade of the city. The Houthis — who had taken over Taiz in the spring of 2015 but were pushed out by coalition forces in late 2016 — still control a key highway leading into the city. This slows the transport of aid into the city and limits how much can get in.

Despite the challenges, he won some victories after he started his new job. In one instance, he reached out to a military commander and secured the return of 110 sacks of flour that had been snatched from trucks in the highlands north of the city.

But in most cases, once the aid was gone, it was gone for good.

In early June, al-Hakimi and a local official demanded, to no avail, that an army unit known as Brigade 17 return 705 food baskets that had been lifted from a warehouse — as well as the “personal weapon” of the guard who had been trying to protect the goods.

“I talked to everyone but there was no action,” al-Hakimi said. “The commander acted as if he wasn’t in charge.”

Brig. Gen. Abdel-Rahman al-Shamsani, the commander of Brigade 17, denies that his unit took the food baskets. He told the AP that recipients who had grown tired of waiting had “raided” the warehouse and taken food that was intended for them anyway.

As problems piled up, al-Hakimi aimed a flurry of complaints at bureaucrats and military officers. In a letter to a top army commander and an internal security chief, he wrote: “This is about your negligence in failing to take the necessary measures to bring back looted World Food Program aid.”

If they did not quickly arrest the culprits and bring back the stolen items within 24 hours, he said, he would hold them “fully responsible for depriving Taiz of aid” and for “any humanitarian disaster in Taiz” that followed.

There was no response, al-Hakimi said.

By September he’d had enough.

“It’s very important to do this work — but also important to have the power and authority to do it,” al-Hakimi told the AP.

He tried to resign, but a top city leader talked him out of it, promising that officials would address the problems.

Nothing changed, al-Hakimi said. So in October he quit for good.

Two months later, an analysis from the U.N. and its aid partners estimated that 57 percent of Taiz’s residents face emergency- or crisis-level food insecurity. The group’s year-end breakdown says as many as 10,500 people in and around Taiz are living and dying in areas overtaken by full-blown famine.

Outraged Iraqi Lawmakers Demand U.S. Troop Withdrawal, After Trump’s Insulting, Fly-In

Both blocs in Iraq’s divided parliament call for a vote on the expulsion of U.S. forces in wake of Trump’s brief, ‘arrogant’ trip

By ASSOCIATED PRESS

Reuters
President Donald Trump delivers remarks during his first-ever visit with troops in a military zone.

BAGHDAD (AP) — President Donald Trump’s surprise trip to Iraq may have quieted criticism at home that he had yet to visit troops in a combat zone, but it has infuriated Iraqi politicians who on Thursday demanded the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

“Arrogant” and “a violation of national sovereignty” were but a few examples of the criticism emanating from Baghdad following Trump’s meeting Wednesday with U.S. servicemen and women at the al-Asad Airbase.

Trips by U.S. presidents to conflict zones are typically shrouded in secrecy and subject to strict security measures, and Trump’s was no exception. Few in Iraq or elsewhere knew the U.S. president was in the country until minutes before he left again.

But this trip came as came curbing foreign influence in Iraqi affairs has become a hot-button political issue, and Trump’s perceived presidential faux-pas was failing to meet with the prime minister in a break with diplomatic custom for any visiting head of state.

On the ground for only about three hours, the American president told the men and women with the U.S. military that Islamic State forces have been vanquished, and he defended his decision against all advice to withdraw U.S. troops from neighboring Syria, He declared: “We’re no longer the suckers, folks.”

The abruptness of his visit left lawmakers in Baghdad smarting and drawing unfavorable comparisons to the occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

“Trump needs to know his limits. The American occupation of Iraq is over,” said Sabah al-Saidi, the head of one of two main blocs in Iraq’s parliament.

Trump, he said, had slipped into Iraq, “as though Iraq is a state of the United States.”

While Trump didn’t meet with any officials, he spoke with Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi by phone after a “difference in points of view” over arrangements led to a face-to-face encounter between the two leaders getting scrapped, according to the prime minister’s office.

The visit could have unintended consequences for American policy, with officials from both sides of Iraq’s political divide calling for a vote in parliament to expel U.S. forces from the country.

The president, who kept to the U.S. air base approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Baghdad, said he had no plans to withdraw the 5,200 troops in the country. He said Ain al-Asad could be used for U.S. air strikes inside Syria.

The suggestion ran counter to the current sentiment of Iraqi politics, which favors claiming sovereignty over foreign and domestic policy and staying above the fray in regional conflicts.

“Iraq should not be a platform for the Americans to settle their accounts with either the Russians or the Iranians in the region,” said Hakim al-Zamili, a senior lawmaker in al-Saidi’s Islah bloc in parliament.

U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq as part of the coalition against the Islamic State group. American forces withdrew in 2011 after invading in 2003 but returned in 2014 at the invitation of the Iraqi government to help fight the jihadist group. Trump’s visit was the first by a U.S. president since Barack Obama met with then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at a U.S. base outside Baghdad in 2009.

Still, after defeating IS militants in their last urban bastions last year, Iraqi politicians and militia leaders are speaking out against the continued presence of U.S. forces on Iraqi soil.

Supporters of the populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr won big in national elections in May, campaigning on a platform to curb U.S. and rival Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs. Al-Sadr’s lawmakers now form the core of the Islah bloc, which is headed by al-Saidi in parliament.

The rival Binaa bloc, commanded by politicians and militia leaders close to Iran, also does not favor the U.S.

Qais Khazali, the head of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia that fought key battles against IS in northern Iraq, promised on Twitter that parliament would vote to expel U.S. forces from Iraq, or the militias would force them out by “other means.”

Khazali was jailed by British and U.S. forces from 2007 to 2010 for managing sections of the Shia insurgency against the occupation during those years.

Trump’s visit would be a “great moral boost to the political parties, armed factions, and others who oppose the American presence in Iraq,” Iraqi political analyst Ziad al-Arar said.

Still, the U.S. and Iraq developed considerable military and intelligence ties in the war against IS, and they continue to pay off in operations against militants gone into hiding.

Earlier in the month, Iraqi forces called in an airstrike by U.S.-coalition forces to destroy a tunnel used by IS militants in the Atshanah mountains in north Iraq. Four militants were killed, according to the coalition.

A hasty departure of U.S. forces would jeopardize such arrangements, said Iraqi analyst Hamza Mustafa.

Relations between the U.S. and Iraq also extend beyond military ties. U.S. companies have considerable interests in Iraq’s petrochemical industry, and American diplomats are often brokers between Iraq’s fractious political elite.

Iraq’s Sunni politicians have been largely quiet about the presidential visit, reflecting the ties they have cultivated with the U.S. to counterbalance the might of the country’s Iran-backed and predominantly Shiite militias.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Abdul-Mahdi accepted Trump’s invitation to the White House during their call, though the prime minister’s office has so far refused to confirm that.

Trump’s visit to Iraq and Washington’s never-ending war in the Middle East

Trump’s visit to Iraq and Washington’s never-ending war in the Middle East

Donald Trump’s brief, unannounced visit to Iraq on the day after Christmas was staged with a patent political motive. His appearance with assembled troops—for a grand total of 45 minutes—was aimed at shoring up support within the Pentagon as well as among rank-and-file soldiers in the wake of the resignation in protest of his defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, following Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.

The performance was the latest in a long line of such trips, beginning with one staged by George W. Bush just a year after the US launched its catastrophic and criminal war against Iraq.

Like Trump, Bush and his successor, Barack Obama, saw the utility of appearing before captive uniformed audiences, bound by military discipline to cheer at the appropriate moments for speeches riddled with lies and stupidities in defense of unending wars of aggression opposed by the majority of the population.

Improbably dressed in a bomber jacket, the New York real estate speculator-turned president gave a performance in line with this tradition, though somewhat more buffoonish. He marveled at having to fly into Iraq under the cover of darkness with the lights off and window shades down on Air Force One, which was heavily escorted by US fighter planes.

“Pretty sad when you spend $7 trillion in the Middle East and going in has to be under this massive cover,” Trump stated.

The results of a quarter-century of US war in the Middle East are “pretty sad” indeed. Aside from vast resources spent in the US imperialist effort to dominate the region, there are the consequences for those who live there, over a million of whom lost their lives as a consequence of Washington’s interventions, while tens of millions have been turned into homeless refugees.

The US invasion of Iraq and the wars for regime-change initiated by Washington and its NATO and regional allies in Libya and Syria have reduced entire societies to chaos and rubble.

Ever the irrepressible liar and braggart, Trump boasted to the troops that when he took office they had not received a pay raise for 10 years and that he overrode his aides to deliver a hike of more than 10 percent. All of this was a crude fabrication, obvious to those in the audience who receive their pay from the Pentagon. Trump’s pay raise was 2.4 percent, in line with similar raises that have been provided every year over the past decade. “I got you a big one. I got you a big one,” Trump repeated idiotically.

He also used his speech to denounce his political opponents in the Democratic Party for failing to appropriate funds for his proposed border wall. He told the troops: “You know, when you think about it, you’re fighting for borders in other countries, and they don’t want to fight—the Democrats—for the border of our country. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Afterwards, he signed red “Make America Great Again” hats and other campaign paraphernalia for soldiers, a direct violation of military rules barring active duty personnel from engaging in “partisan political activities.” The violation was not an oversight, but part of a deliberate effort by Trump’s fascistic administration to build up an extra-constitutional base within the US armed forces.

The thrust of Trump’s speech was the “America First” agenda that he has promoted since the 2016 campaign. He cast US military interventions–and the US deployment in Syria in particular—in starkly transactional terms. “America shouldn’t be doing the fighting for every nation on Earth, not being reimbursed, in many cases, at all,” he said. “If they want us to do the fighting, they also have to pay a price—and sometimes that’s also a monetary price—so we’re not the suckers of the world. We’re no longer the suckers, folks.”

At the same time, he boasted of the massive US military budget, which already exceeds the amount spent on armaments by the next eight major powers combined. “You’re getting such new equipment, your eyes are popping, right?” he said to the troops in Iraq.

While Trump’s nationalist and populist appeals about ending US wars in the Middle East may enjoy a measure of support among soldiers who have been subjected to unending deployments, the most significant element of his speech was the vow that the US will not withdraw its troops from Iraq. He added that the al-Asad airbase in western Iraq between Baghdad and the Syrian border, where he spoke to the troops, could be used “if we wanted to do something in Syria.”

As the Washington Post reported, “The decision allows the United States to maintain a presence in the heart of the Middle East and a bulwark against Iranian influence, while also keeping a nearby staging ground should American troops be forced to reenter Syria and engage a resurgent Islamic State.”

The utter contempt for Iraqi sovereignty that characterizes these plans was in evidence throughout Trump’s entire trip. Iraq’s prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, failed to meet with Trump after being given just two hours’ notice of his visit and being summoned to the US air base. The two major blocs in the Iraqi parliament denounced the visit and called for an emergency session to vote on expelling US troops from the country.

The political firestorm unleashed in Washington over Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria is driven entirely by tactical differences within the US ruling establishment and its two major parties over US imperialism’s global effort to utilize its military might to offset the decline of American capitalism’s position in the world economy.

Trump’s “America First” policy reflects the orientation of a significant section of the US ruling class, which sees the concentration of American military might in the Asia Pacific region to offset the growing influence of China as the most pressing priority. This faction disdains longstanding alliances in favor of a nationalistic policy dedicated to the naked pursuit of US financial and commercial interests around the globe.

Trump’s Democratic opponents are not bothered by the slaughter that has been carried out in the Middle East, including under the banner of the struggle against ISIS, in which the cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria have been razed to the ground, with countless thousands of civilians buried under the rubble.

On the contrary, they are demanding a more aggressive policy directed at regime-change in Syria and the preparation of a direct confrontation with the main allies of the Damascus government, Iran and Russia. Their differences over Syria are bound up with allegations of Trump’s supposed collusion with Moscow to win the 2016 election, which in turn are directed at forcing a more aggressive policy against nuclear-armed Russia.

This was expressed clearly by Democratic Senator Chris Coons, who declared on Sunday that Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria constituted “a great big Christmas gift to Vladimir Putin of Russia and to the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran.”

There is no faction within the US ruling establishment opposed to war, and Trump’s decision on ending the US deployment of troops in Syria signals no end to the drive to assert US hegemony over the Middle East’s oil reserves, no matter what the cost in civilian lives. It is merely part of the tactical preparations for far more devastating wars to come, first and foremost against the countries branded by the Pentagon and the national security apparatus as “revisionist powers” and “great power” rivals—Russia and China.

The absence of a mass antiwar movement in the United States and internationally is bound up with the role played by the pseudo left—groups claiming to be socialist while providing justifications for imperialist intervention and slaughter under the cynical banner of “human rights,” as well as claims that the operations of CIA-funded Islamist militias in Syria constitute a “democratic revolution.”

These groups, such as the International Socialist Organization and the Democratic Socialists of America in the United States, have maintained a discreet silence over the political crisis unleashed by Trump’s Syria withdrawal announcement and the resignation of Mattis, apparently waiting to see which way the wind blows within establishment foreign policy circles.

The struggle against war, including the mounting threat of a nuclear Third World War, must be undertaken by the working class. The demand must be raised for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all US troops not only from Syria, but also from Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and all of the hundreds of US military bases scattered across the globe.

Those who are responsible for the killing and maiming of millions in US imperialism’s wars of aggression must be prosecuted for war crimes, including Bush, Obama, Trump and their top generals and civilian aides.

This requires the building of a new mass antiwar movement that is based on the working class and fights for a program of socialist internationalism to unify workers all over the world in a common struggle against the capitalist system.

Bill Van Auken

U.S. military industrial complex’s perpetual warfare

TEHRAN – Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on 10 December 2018 released its report on the sale of weapons and other military hardware by the world’s largest 100 weapon manufacturers. The U.S. weapon manufacturers dominated the ‘top hundred list’ with a 57 percent share of arms sales. According to the report, the U.S. companies benefitted from the U.S. Department of Defense’s ongoing demand for weapons.

The pro-war U.S. foreign policy is meant to serve the interests of military industrial complex as the U.S. has a long history of waging unilateral, belligerent wars across the globe from Vietnam to Syria and constant escalation from the South China Sea to the Black Sea and from Strait of Hormuz to the Strait of Kerch.

The creation of al-Qaeda, scraping peace treaties, sanction game and orchestrating Shia-Sunni conflicts are all part of the U.S. military industrial complex agenda. The former CIA Director Robert Gates and former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski began funding extremists in 1979, barely six months before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Osama Bin Laden, Maktab al Khidmat and Afghan Mujahideen received about $1 billion from the U.S. and Saudi Arabia through Pakistan’s ISI. The brainchild of CIA by the name of al-Qaeda waged its war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Later during the 1990s, al-Qaeda extended its reach to Bosnia that in turn justified the NATO air strikes against the country. After that al-Qaeda extended its network further to Kosovo and helped ‘Kosovo liberation army’ fight against Yugoslavia and Serbia for the creation of Greater Albania. The Kosovo Liberation Army was an Albanian terrorist faction backed by the U.S. and NATO and is responsible for ethnic cleansing of 90% of Serbians, while western corporate media portrayed Albanians as victims of Serbian aggression.

Another puppet of the U.S. military industrial complex, Saudi Arabia was brainwashed by the U.S. regime to fight against communism rather than the Israeli aggression against the Arab States. Prince Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz was Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S. from 1983 to 2005 and also the de-facto leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq who helped in arming various terrorist factions all across the Middle East on the behalf of U.S. military industrial complex.

Back in 2013, Hamid Karzai stated that the U.S. is collaborating with the Taliban that is regularly conducting suicide attacks inside Afghanistan as it provides a pretext for the U.S. military presence inside the country. So the expansion of al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups from Afghanistan to Syria has provided an excuse to western war machine for conducting military aggression against different countries.

The creation of ISIS was meant to serve the interests of Israel in addition to war profiteering. According to a former CIA contractor Steven Kelly, the U.S. intention behind the perpetual war in the Middle East is to eliminate any opposition against Israel from its neighboring states like Syria. Kelly in a Press TV interview stated that the creation of ISIS was meant to nullify any opposition to Israel by the complete destruction of Syria and Iraq.

In addition to this, a perpetual war in the Middle East provides a fertile ground for the U.S. military industrial complex to reap huge profits by selling weapons to both the U.S. and terrorist factions. Additionally, the expensive Iraq war drained the U.S. treasury; still the pro-Israel power configuration and military industrial complex have been batting for endless wars.

The scraping of peace treaties is also the agenda of the military industrial complex. Recently President Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty of 1987. Back in 2002, the U.S. scrapped the Anti-Ballistic missile (ABM) treaty. According to Russian MP Alexi Pushkov, the abandoning of INF and ABM would bring humanity close to the ground zero.

The downfall of the Soviet Union in late 1980 brought an end to excessive military spending and the funds were diverted towards civilian purposes. Now it is obvious that Trump wants to revive the Cold War era as it will enormously benefit the U.S. weapon manufacturers.

According to a 2014 study by Morgan Stanley, the major U.S. arms manufacturers have witnessed a growth of 27,699% in the last 50 years. From 2010 to 2013 Northrop Grumman has returned 114%, Raytheon 124%, and Lockheed Martin 149% to their investors.

In April of 2017 and April 2018, the U.S. fired Raytheon manufactured Tomahawk missiles on Syria. Soon after the attack the Raytheon shares surged by 3% and closed above its 50 days moving average. The shares of other U.S. weapons manufacturers like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman also edged higher. From 11 April 2018 to 17 April 2018, the shares of Raytheon went from $219 to $228 per share.

The sanction game is yet another trump card of the U.S. military industrial complex as it is trying to exclude Russia from the international arms market. According to Rostec spokesperson, Washington’s sanction against Russia is “just an excuse for pushing Russia out of the global arms market.” The U.S. weapons manufacturers are losing their market even in the U.S. friendly states like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and also in Turkey and India. So the U.S. is targeting Russian defence industry as back in 2017 more than 30 Russian arms manufacturers were included in the list of potential sanctions target.

A 2008 report by the RAND Corporation under the title “Unfolding the Future of the Long War: Motivations, Prospects, and Implications for the U.S. Army” warned that the U.S. will engage the Muslim world in unjustified warfare at least up to 2020. According to the report, the US military industrial complex will capitalize on the Sunni-Shiite conflict in order to sway the U.S. enemies. The report mentioned that the U.S. will provide a full-fledged support to pro-U.S. regimes by selling them sophisticated weaponry in order to contain the influence of Iran in the Middle-East.

It is obvious that the “iron triangles” of the U.S. political system is the intersection of corporations, pro-war lobbies, and government officials. So, at least in near future, the U.S. will favor pro-war strategies, instead of negotiations.

Mudasir Sheikh is a Kashmir-based writer and independent researcher.