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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Shifting Eastern Mediterranean Alliances

by Emmanuel Karagiannis
Middle East Quarterly – Spring 2016 (view PDF)
 www.meforum.org/5877/shifting-eas…

Shifting Eastern Mediterranean Alliances

The exploitation of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean has drawn together hitherto estranged states.

In August 2013, Cyprus, Greece, and Israel signed onto the “EuroAsia Interconnector” project, which would install a 2000-megawatt underwater electric cable (illustrated above) to connect their power grids and to be a means by which “three nations … [can] enhance their growth and prosperity” and build a “bridge of friendship between our nations.”

The Eastern Mediterranean is changing fast with its estimated 122 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas reserves (the equivalent of 21 billion barrels of oil) already having an impact on regional patterns of amity and enmity.[1] With Israel and Cyprus well underway to becoming gas exporters, the problematic Israeli-Lebanese and Cypriot-Turkish relationships have been further strained. At the same time, energy cooperation has been the driving force behind the nascent Greek-Cypriot-Israeli partnership, manifested in rapidly growing defense and economic cooperation. Clearly, the development of energy resources and their transportation will have far-reaching geopolitical implications for the Eastern Mediterranean and its nations.


The Strategic Significance of the Gas Reserves

Natural gas is the fastest growing source of energy in the world, currently accounting for 22 percent of total global energy consumption.[2] It is both affordable and more environmentally friendly than other commercially feasible options, resulting in an increasing demand even in an era of dropping oil prices. That demand seems likely to be met in large part by the newly discovered gas reserves of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Israel has the potential to become an important regional producer of liquefied natural gas. Its Tamar field, with estimated reserves of 9.7 trillion cubic feet (tcf), came online in 2013 while its Leviathan gas field (above), with a potential of 16 tcf, is slated to be ready for production in 2017.

Israel, for one, has the potential to become an important regional producer.[3] Its Tamar field was confirmed to have estimated reserves of 9.7 tcf while its Leviathan gas field has the potential of producing up to 16 tcf.

Meanwhile, in November 2011, U.S.-based Noble Energy announced a major gas discovery south of Cyprus: The Aphrodite field was estimated to contain 7 tcf. In February 2013, a seismic survey south of Crete indicated that rich hydrocarbon resources may soon be found in Greek waters. Most recently, the Italian company Eni announced the discovery of a huge gas field off the coast of Egypt.

For reasons of geographical proximity, these Mediterranean energy resources concern first and foremost the European Union—the world’s third largest energy consumer behind China and the United States.[9] While oil is still the dominant fuel, accounting for 33.8 percent of total EU energy consumption, natural gas comes in second at 23.4 percent.[10] The Eastern Mediterranean gas reserves have three distinct advantages for European governments (and companies) and are thus viewed by them as a strategic priority. First, due to their smaller sizes and populations, the needs of Israel and Cyprus are relatively low and most of their gas could be exported. Second, Eastern Mediterranean gas could partly cover Europe’s energy needs and thereby decrease its dependence on an increasingly volatile Russia. Finally, since both Israel and Cyprus lack the capital and the offshore drilling technology to develop gas reserves on their own, foreign energy companies have identified them as investment opportunities that could generate significant financial returns.

As the Middle East implodes, security of energy supply has become an important policy objective for the EU. Indeed, there is a consensus among European governments that new initiatives are needed to address energy challenges. The EU is already directly involved to some extent in Eastern Mediterranean energy affairs because Greece and Cyprus are member states while Turkey is a candidate for membership and has a customs union with the EU. Although the governments of the EU and Israel are often at odds politically, economic relations between Jerusalem and Brussels are close and multifaceted.

The development of Israeli and Cypriot gas fields could help strengthen Europe’s energy security. Currently, European countries import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from politically unstable countries such as Nigeria and Algeria. But the Eastern Mediterranean could serve as a third gas “corridor” for Europe, alongside Russian gas and the southeast European pipelines for Azeri gas. The Italian Eni company, the British Premier Oil, and the Dutch Oranje-Nassau Energie have clearly shown interest by bidding in the second round of licensing for natural gas exploration in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone (EEZ),[11] a sea zone prescribed by the United
Nations over which a state has special rights.

The U.S. administration views Eastern Mediterranean gas as an alternative source for its European allies who depend heavily on Russian supplies.

Given the prominence of the Middle East for U.S. energy policy, it is hardly surprising that the gas finds in Israel and Cyprus have drawn Washington’s attention as well. Although the U.S. is likely to become the largest gas producer in the world as a result of increased use of shale gas, the administration views Eastern Mediterranean gas as an alternative source for its European allies who depend heavily on Russian supplies.[12] Within the private sector, the American company, Noble Energy, has played a leading role in the exploration process; it has a 40 percent stake in the Leviathan fields, a 36 percent stake in Tamar, and a 70 percent stake in Aphrodite.

Not surprisingly, these discoveries have attracted Moscow’s interest as well due to a potential, adverse impact on its gas exports to European markets. Russian energy companies, which often act as the Kremlin’s long-arm, are particularly active in the region. In February 2013, for example, Gazprom signed a 20-year deal with the Israeli Levant LNG Marketing Corporation to purchase liquefied natural gas exclusively from the Tamar field.[13] Then in December 2013, the Russian company SoyuzNefteGas signed an agreement with the Assad regime to explore part of Syria’s exclusive economic zone. One month later Putin signed an investment agreement with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to develop gas fields off the Gaza Strip.[14]


Warming Israeli-Greek Relations

Despite past support for the Palestinians, newly-elected Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras (left) of the left-wing SYRIZA party, here with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, has sought to strengthen ties with the Jewish state. Greece’s location makes it a natural bridge between the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean and energy-consuming Europe while Israel is now poised to become a major natural gas producer. Thus, Greece and Israel share significant energy interests.

Energy considerations have a long history of influencing the course of relations between states, and the new gas discoveries are no exception to this rule, affecting Israel’s relations with both Greece and Cyprus.

Greek-Israeli relations have been frosty for decades. The postwar Greek governments typically followed a pro-Arab foreign policy in order to protect the large Greek community in Egypt, secure Arab support on the Cyprus dispute in the United Nations, and maintain access to cheap Arab oil.[15] While there was de facto recognition of the Jewish State in 1949, legal recognition needed to wait until 1990 under the right-wing Mitsotakis government. But the formation of a Turkish-Israeli strategic partnership in the mid-1990s provoked a strong backlash with Athens reverting to its pro-Arab policy.[16]

This policy, too, has changed with the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdoan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalk?nma Partisi, AKP) in Turkey since the early 2000s. With Athens alarmed by Ankara’s growing regional assertiveness, and Jerusalem disturbed by the new regime’s fiercely anti-Israel approach, Greek-Israeli relations improved rapidly with the two countries signing a string of agreements in the fields of security, energy, trade, and tourism, and exchanging official visits at the ministerial, presidential, and prime-ministerial levels.[17] In March 2012, the air-naval exercise Noble Dina, involving U.S., Israeli, and Greek forces, was conducted in the Aegean Sea while, a month later, a joint Greek-Israeli air exercise was held in central Greece. Most recently, Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos stated that “[Greek] defense planning should take into account friends and allies who seek defense cooperation in the region. And I clearly mean eastward toward Israel.”[18]

Athens’s new Israel policy has been largely unaffected by the frequent change of governments in recent years. The last three prime ministers before the current one—George Papandreou (2009-11), Loukas Papadimos (2011-12), and Antonis Samaras (2012-15)—all met with Israeli officials and concluded agreements, all the more striking given the political and ideological differences among them: Papandreou is a moderate, left-of-center politician; Papadimos is known as a liberal technocrat, and Samaras, a right-wing politician.

In the wake of the economic crisis that has roiled domestic Greek politics and the austerity measures that the EU has sought to impose on Athens, Greeks took to the polls in January 2015 and brought to power the left-wing SYRIZA (Greek acronym of the Coalition of the Radical Left) party, in coalition with the small, right-wing party, the Independent Greeks. This caused considerable alarm in Jerusalem as many senior SYRIZA officials have strong pro-Palestinian sympathies: European Member of Parliament Sofia Sakorafa, for one, is a self-proclaimed friend of Hamas while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has participated in pro-Palestinian rallies. In late December 2015, the Greek parliament passed a non-binding resolution recommending recognition of “Palestine” as a state.

And yet, the SYRIZA-led government has not distanced itself from Jerusalem. Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias identified Turkey as a source of threats[19] while Minister of Defense Kammenos, leader of the Independent Greeks, harbors strong pro-U.S. and pro-Israeli views.[20] In late November 2015, Tsipras visited Israel and, yet again, on January 27, 2016, together with six members of his cabinet when they held a joint meeting with the Israeli government.[21] So it seems likely that the Greek-Israeli partnership will continue.

Athens is seeking bids for an Eastern Mediterranean pipeline to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe.

Beyond common concerns about Turkey’s intentions, Athens and Jerusalem share significant energy interests. Both countries want to implement the 1982 U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to facilitate the exploration and exploitation of the seabed;[22] and both maintain that the Eastern Mediterranean could be unilaterally developed through its division into exclusive economic zones of 200 nautical miles. In contrast, Ankara has not signed on to UNCLOS and favors a settlement in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean that would take perceived Turkish interests into greater account.

Moreover, Greece’s location makes it a natural bridge between the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean, including Israeli fields, and energy-consuming Europe, and Greeks see the country as a hub for bringing Eastern Mediterranean gas to European markets. In March 2014, Athens announced an international tender for a feasibility study of the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe via Crete and the mainland.[23] While the proposed pipeline would be rather expensive and pass through disputed waters, Russian intervention in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine has given new momentum to the project as the EU looks for alternative sources of natural gas.[24] The European Commission has included the proposed pipeline in its list of “Projects of Common Interests” that could receive financial support.[25]

If Jerusalem and Nicosia decide to opt for liquefaction of their gas resources, then Greek-owned shipping could also play an important role in transporting liquid gas to the international market. During his visit to Israel in November 2015, Tsipras stated,

One of the main issues in our discussions today was [sic] the opportunities arising in the fields of energy in the Eastern Mediterranean … We are examining ways to cooperate in research, drilling, and the transportation of gas from Israel to Europe.[26]

While energy is not the sole factor contributing to the improvement of bilateral relations, it has certainly played a crucial role in the convergence of Greek and Israeli interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Jerusalem and Nicosia

The development and exploitation of Eastern Mediterranean energy resources have also given a boost to Israeli-Cypriot relations. Despite geographical proximity, the two countries have largely ignored each other for years. For most Israelis, Cyprus is either the site where Holocaust survivors were forcibly interned by the British (1946-49) as they sought refuge in mandatory Palestine or the closest place where couples unable or unwilling to contract a religious marriage in Israel are able to enter into a civil marriage.

For its part, Nicosia traditionally took a pro-Arab line in diplomatic settings that differed little from neighboring Greece; and just like in Greece, the AKP-induced chill in Turkish-Israeli relations had a warming effect on Cypriot-Israeli relations. In March 2011, Israeli president Shimon Peres hosted his Cypriot counterpart, President Demetris Christofias, who reciprocated this hospitality in November. Both sides came to view each other as potential counterbalances to Turkey’s presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cypriot defense minister Dimitris Iliadis signed an agreement on the “Mutual Protection of Confidential Information” in January 2012 with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak,[27] and a month later, Netanyahu paid a visit to Nicosia, the first ever by an Israeli prime minister, to discuss energy and defense cooperation. According to press reports, the Cypriot navy is planning to buy two Israeli-manufactured hi-tech offshore patrol vessels in order to patrol its exclusive economic zone.[28]

The energy dimension of the nascent Israeli-Cypriot relationship is particularly strong. Nicosia has announced plans to build a liquefied natural gas plant in its Vassilikos industrial area to process its gas. Since the current gas finds are not large enough to make this multi-billion dollar project economically viable, Nicosia has suggested to Jerusalem that the two countries pool their gas reserves to form a single producing unit. In 2013, Minister of Energy Yiorgos Lakkotrypis declared:

[W]e feel that through a close collaboration with Israel, we will be able to be a major player in the world energy market, something that might be too hard for each country to achieve individually.[29]

The future of the Israeli-Cypriot partnership will also depend on the export route of the Israeli gas. Jerusalem has examined a number of options for the optimum utilization of its gas fields but probably prefers to export gas westward in order to improve its relations with European countries.[30] From the Israeli perspective, energy cooperation with Greece and Cyprus could build a new web of alliances with the EU that would help Jerusalem to break out of its increasing geopolitical isolation. The Netanyahu government even lobbied on behalf of Greece in Europe and the United States for an economy recovery plan.[31] In late March 2012, during an energy conference in Athens, then Israeli minister of energy Uzi Landau spoke of “an axis of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel and possibly more countries, which will offer an anchor of stability.”[32] In August 2013, the three countries signed an agreement to install a 2000-megawatt underwater electric cable to connect their power grids—the first of its kind to connect Europe and Asia.[33]

Most recently, in December 2015, a series of trilateral consultations was held in Jerusalem in which a set of issues were taken up and discussed, with energy development topping the list. The parties agreed to further promote trilateral consultations and to meet on a regular basis, beginning with a meeting of their heads of state in Nicosia on January 28, 2016.[34]
Lebanon, Cyprus, and Israel

While revenues from the sale of oil and gas can bring wealth and prosperity to societies, they also have the potential to upset regional balances of power. In the Eastern Mediterranean, where countries have been locked in conflicts over territory for decades, gas discoveries seem likely to increase the stakes. Contested ownership of gas resources has, in fact, destabilized already strained relations between Israel and Lebanon as well as between Turkey and Cyprus.

Although a delimitation agreement between Lebanon and Cyprus was signed in January 2007, the Lebanese parliament has refused to ratify it to date, and Hezbollah declared the agreement

null and void because the Lebanese side that signed it had its official capacity revoked … The sea, like land, is a one hundred percent legitimate Lebanese right, and we shall defend it with all our strength.[35]

When in December 2010, Nicosia signed an agreement with Jerusalem demarcating their maritime borders, Beirut accused both states of violating its maritime rights.[36] The following year, in a televised speech marking the fifth anniversary of Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel, the group’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, threatened Israel with a strike against its energy infrastructure:

We warn Israel against extending its hands to this area and steal[ing] Lebanon’s resources from Lebanese waters … Whoever harms our future oil facilities in Lebanese territorial waters, its own facilities will be targeted.[37]

These are not hollow threats. Hezbollah has the military capacity to attack Israel’s offshore gas platforms should it choose to do so. The 2006 war revealed that its vast arsenal of missiles and rockets includes Chinese-manufactured C-802 anti-ship missiles (range 75 miles) and Zelzal-2 rockets (range 125-250 miles).[38] For its part, the Israeli navy is acquiring at least two 1,200-ton patrol-class vessels, along with additional unmanned aerial vehicles and missile-armed, remote-control gunboats.[39] In this way, Jerusalem seeks to deter possible raids from Lebanon. The protection and exploitation of gas reserves is thus seen by the Israeli leadership as a matter of national security.
Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel

The relationship between Turkey and Cyprus is yet another example of a long-standing conflict with few prospects of imminent resolution, and the AKP’s rise to power has only exacerbated the situation.

Turkey’s strongman, Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdo?an (left), seen here at the World Economic Forum, Davos, in 2009, publicly berating Israel’s then-president Shimon Peres for alleged Israeli misconduct, has managed to alienate—and alarm—Eastern Mediterranean neighbors with frequent outbursts and occasional saberrattling. This has led Cyprus, Israel, and Greece, the area’s potential energy producers and transporters, to seek closer ties that would have been inconceivable a decade ago.

In Erdogan’s increasingly paranoid worldview, the possible economic and diplomatic revival of Cyprus as a result of gas development poses a clear and present danger to Turkish national security. In September 2011, Ankara signed a continental shelf delimitation agreement with the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” and shortly afterward, the Turkish state oil company (TPAO) started its first drilling near the occupied Cypriot city of Famagusta.

While Ankara has invited foreign companies to explore its Mediterranean coast for energy resources, only the Royal Dutch/Shell has thus far expressed interest.[40] In late October 2014, a Turkish research vessel entered the Cypriot EEZ to collect seismic data. Nicosia viewed this as a violation of its sovereign rights, since it had already licensed parts of its EEZ to foreign energy companies.[41]

Israeli and Turkish officials have recently concluded secret talks about bilateral reconciliation.

The energy factor has also internationalized the “Cyprus Problem,” creating a new point of friction between Ankara and Jerusalem. The Turkish government did not anticipate the rapid improvement of Israeli-Cypriot relations and fears that the bilateral cooperation will not be limited to the energy sector. Even before this development, Erdo?an had threatened Jerusalem over its gas exploration initiatives, warning that while “Israel has begun to declare that it has the right to act in exclusive economic areas in the Mediterranean…[it] will not be owner of this right.”[42] For its part Jerusalem has not remained passive, requesting Cypriot permission for the use of the Paphos air base by Israeli fighter jets.[43] In early November 2015, the two countries conducted the second Onisilos-Gideon military exercise in the western part of the island.

The internationalization of the “Cyprus Problem” extends well beyond the region. Chinese companies have already bid for gas exploration and liquefaction projects in the Eastern Mediterranean and are negotiating an agreement with the Cypriot government to purchase LNG by 2020. Consequently, Beijing has closely followed the Cyprus peace negotiations.[44]


An Engine for Conflict Resolution?

The Eastern Mediterranean energy boom has helped warm traditionally chilly bilateral relationships between some countries while aggravating already strained relations with others. Can it also become an engine for promoting regional cooperation?

While the last few years have seen a great deal of saberrattling out of Ankara, the likelihood of a military confrontation between Cyprus and Turkey, or Israel and Turkey, seems small. The construction and operation of energy infrastructure (e.g., pipelines, refineries, natural gas plants) is a costly business requiring political stability, and Ankara may not wish to undermine its role as an energy transit state. Indeed, Israeli and Turkish officials have recently concluded secret talks about bilateral reconciliation that covered, among other items, the laying of a natural gas pipeline between the two countries. This would allow Turkey to reduce its energy dependence on Russia (relations with which have worsened following the downing of a Russian fighter jet in November 2015) as well as to open up a new market for Israel’s natural gas projects off its coast.[45]

In addition, Ankara has offered to build a “peace pipeline” to transport Cypriot gas to European markets via Turkish territory.[46] Nicosia has not rejected this plan provided there is a resolution to the “Cyprus problem,” including the reunification of the island and the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the northern section. This bolsters the argument, advanced by the U.S. State Department among others, that gas profits could contribute to the island’s unification as both Greek and Turkish Cypriots would have major additional incentives to accept a peace deal.[47] It is no coincidence that the special representative for regional energy cooperation for the newly-established State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources is based in the U.S. embassy in Nicosia.[48]

This optimism is rooted in the long-held, liberal view of international relations positing that economic benefits resulting from energy transportation can help resolve political conflicts. Yet if history offers any guide, an economic boom attending hydrocarbons exports can just as often lead to ethnocentrism and economic nationalism as to goodwill and shared prosperity. The production of large quantities of oil and natural gas in the North Sea, for example, has strengthened Scottish nationalism and may eventually lead to Scotland’s secession from the United Kingdom. Likewise, the Clinton administration’s promotion of a “peace pipeline” to carry Azerbaijani oil through the contested area of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia to the Turkish market failed because Armenia did not wish to make the necessary territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.[49] Then again, in 2004, Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili floated the construction of a Russian-Georgian oil pipeline through the breakaway republic of Abkhazia to facilitate a solution to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, only to be rebuffed by both Russia and Abkhazia.[50] The proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline had the same fate in 2009 when the Indian government announced its decision not to participate in the project for security reasons.[51]

Evidently, such pipelines have failed to materialize because states were neither willing to surrender territory nor comfortable depending on hostile neighbors in return for possible economic benefits. Those who envisage the prospect of a “peace pipeline” positively affecting the current negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots for the resolution of the “Cyprus Problem” may find themselves seriously disappointed.
Conclusion

The new substantial gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean are rapidly transforming regional orientations. Energy interests have brought Israel closer than ever diplomatically to Cyprus and Greece and have played an important role in the apparent thaw in Israeli-Turkish relations. At the same time, energy has generated new tensions between producing countries and countries that feel excluded from the regional natural gas development opportunities. Relations between Turkey and Cyprus as well as between Israel and Lebanon, poor at best, have come under further strain.

U.S. and European interests will be well served by the emergence of the Eastern Mediterranean as a gas-exporting region.

Undoubtedly, U.S. and European interests will be well served by the emergence of the Eastern Mediterranean as a gas-exporting region. However, this will only be possible if there is a resolution to the ownership issue that can accelerate the pace of private investment in the regional gas industry.[52]

Without a region-wide legal agreement, energy companies may not be able to secure the necessary funding to develop and implement gas projects. Washington, which enjoys good relations with all Eastern Mediterranean countries, could act as a broker in hosting multilateral regional talks to defuse tensions and promote mutual understanding between countries in the region.

Emmanuel Karagiannis is senior lecturer at the department of defense studies, King’s College, London, and author of Political Islam in Central Asia (Routledge, 2010) and Energy and Security in the Caucasus (Routledge, 2002).

[1] “Natural Gas Potential Assessed in Eastern Mediterranean,” U.S. Geological Survey, Office of Communication, Reston, Va., Aug. 4, 2010.

[2] “International Energy Outlook 2013,” Office of Communications, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Washington, D.C., July 25, 2013.

[3] Brenda Shaffer, “Israel—New Natural Gas Producer in the Mediterranean,” Energy Policy, Sept. 2011, pp. 5379-87.

[4] Haaretz (Tel Aviv), Aug. 13, 2009.

[5] “Israel and its natural resources: What a gas!” The Economist, Nov. 11, 2010.

[6] Cyprus Mail (Nicosia), Oct. 4, 2013.

[7] Kathimerini (Neo Faliro, Gr.), Feb. 27, 2013.

[8] BBC News, Aug. 20, 2015.

[9] “Total Energy Consumption, 2014,” Global Energy Statistical Yearbook 2015, Enerdata, Grenoble, accessed Jan. 15, 2016.

[10] EU Energy Market in 2014 (Luxemburg: Publication House of the European Union, The European Commission, 2014), p. 6.

[11] “Second Licensing Round—Hydrocarbons Exploration,” Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Republic of Cyprus, Nicosia, accessed Dec. 29, 2015.

[12] Middle East Online (London), Aug. 6, 2013.

[13] RIA Novosti (Moscow), Feb. 26, 2013.

[14] Ed Blanche, “Enter the Bear,” The Middle East, Mar. 2014, pp. 29-30.

[15] John Sakkas, “Greece, Arab World and Israel: A Troubled Triangle in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Defensor Pacis (Athens), Mar. 2007, pp. 95-104.

[16] Amikam Nachmani, Turkey-Israel Strategic Partnership (Raman Gan: The BESA Center for Strategic Studies, 1999), pp. 1-10.

[17] The Washington Post, Oct. 21, 2010.

[18] The Times of Israel (Jerusalem), Feb. 11, 2015.

[19] Sigma Live (Nicosia), Nov. 30, 2015.

[20] The Jerusalem Post, July 19, 2015.

[21] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Israel and Greece hold Government-to-Government Consultation,” Jan. 27, 2016.

[22] “Israel’s Candidature for IMO Council 2014-2015,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 9, 2013.

[23] Reuters, Aug. 10, 2014.

[24] New Europe (Brussels), Mar. 11, 2014.

[25] “Projects of Common Interests,” The European Commission, Brussels, Oct. 14, 2013.

[26] Kathimerini, Nov. 25, 2015.

[27] Today’s Zaman (Istanbul), July 3, 2012.

[28] Cyprus Mail, Dec. 18, 2013.

[29] Hürriyet (Istanbul), May 9, 2013.

[30] Simon Henderson, “Natural Gas Export Options for Israel and Cyprus,” German Marshall Fund of the United States, Washington, D.C., Sept. 10, 2013.

[31] The Jerusalem Post, Mar. 6, 2011.

[32] Kathimerini, Mar. 28, 2012.

[33] Cyprus Mail, Aug. 9, 2013.

[34] Joint Statement: Second Political Consultations at the level of Secretaries General of Israel, Greece and Cyprus MFA’s—17/12/2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nicosia.

[35] Al-Akhbar (Beirut), Oct. 27, 2012.

[36] YNet News (Tel Aviv), July 10, 2011.

[37] The Daily Star (Beirut), July 27, 2011.

[38] BBC News, Aug. 3, 2006.

[39] United Press International, May 23, 2013.

[40] Hürriyet, Nov. 23, 2011.

[41] The Guardian (London), Nov. 10, 2014.

[42] Simon Henderson, “Turkey’s Threat to Israel’s New Gas Riches,” Policywatch, no. 1844, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, D.C., Sept. 13, 2011.

[43] The Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2012.

[44] Li Guofu, “China: An Emerging Power in the Mediterranean,” in Daniela Huber, et al., eds., The Mediterranean Region in a Multipolar World: Evolving Relations with Russia, China, India, Brazil, (Washington, D.C.: The German Marshall Fund of the United States, 2013), pp. 11-9; “Will Cyprus Become a New Investment Heaven for China?” China Radio International (Beijing), Oct. 31, 2013; Chinese ambassador Liu Xinsheng, interview, Cyprus Mail, Jan. 5, 2015.

[45] The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 18, 2015.

[46] Hürriyet, May 27, 2013.

[47] Sigma Live, July 24, 2015; Ethnos (Athens), Mar. 29, 2012.

[48] Cyprus Mail, Feb. 9, 2012.

[49] John J. Maresca, “A Peace Pipeline to End the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict,” Caspian Crossroads, Winter 1995, pp. 17-8.

[50] George Anjaparidze and Cory Welt, “A Georgian-Russian Pipeline: For Peace or Profit?” Eurasianet (New York), Mar. 8, 2004.

[51] The Hindu (Chennai, Madras), Nov. 25, 2013.

[52] James Stocker, “No EEZ Solution: The Politics of Oil and Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Middle East Journal, Autumn 2012, pp. 579-97.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 30th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Above the entrance to 21 Zerubabel Street in the Yemenite Quarter in Tel Aviv – next door to the Rabbi Shabzi Synagogue and the warning – a dog in the courtyard – it says – in Hebrew:Sun light is very bleak to someone who does not find sense in his life. Next tomit in English is written: “There is no Fear in Love.”

The Israeli papers that are still not owned by an Israeli government related American individual – The HAARETZ and the Yedioth Aharonot – are now full with hints at internal culture wars started by an uneducated Culture Minister – Ms. Miri Regev who contended that even uneducated people can be educated. That is not my topic here – for those interested please read The New York Times article of today – “Israel, Mired in Ideological Battles, Fights on Cultural Fronts” – By STEVEN ERLANGER January 29, 2016. We are here rather interested in what the rather officialpro-government papers say – The MAARIV and The ISRAEL HAYOM say.

A main report comes from the meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus between Israel’s Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu and His counterparts from Greece and Cyprus titled as the “Mediterranean Alliance.” As I just arrived here from Vienna I am quite familiar with the Merkel & Faymann problems with Greece and Turkey and the simple facts that the EU in ordr to survive tends now to shed Greece and trade it for higher reliance on Turkey. What I sense thus is the contemplation of the Israeli government to look as well for new allies in its troubled corner of thev World.

Then, no misunderstanding here – President Obama just declared for all to hear that Putin is corrupt and Mr. Putin reacted by asking for evidence. No problem on this front – the UK obliged and declared Putin involved in the execution of a financial competitor – mafia style. This sort of language was not heard even in the days of President Regan’s attacks on the Soviet “Evil Empire.”

Obama looks at the mess in Western Asia he inherited from G.W. Bush who really turned all local devils there lose by taking off the lids that kept a modicum of order as left by the British and French colonial powers. G.W. continued the reliance on the Saudis that came down from Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and thus became partial to an evolving Sunni Shia rift with an ever increasing Iranian threat to the US oil supplies from the Middle East. Obviously, US interests did not match in all of this the European effort to build their own power bloc and the difficulties the EU put before Turkey’s attemp to join in the Union. Russia had its own problems with the EU and when life for the US and the EU became difficultbin the Arab region – they jumped in and used the occasion to move on the Ukraine as well.

So what now?

My suggestion based on an acknowledged very superficial reading of the real news – is: By necessity there are now two new potential NEUTRAL Centers in a renewed COLD WAR scenario.

Oman is the Neutral space between the Saudis and Iran – to be cherished by the US.

The small group of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel – a new buffer zone between the EU & Turkey alliance and the Sunni Arab Golf and the US – with Syria and Iraq the actual battle-field that will churn the Arab World until it reorganizes the remaining waste-lands. Russia has gained a footing via the Shiia Muslims and the US will see to limit this by making it more profitable to Iran to play the US in exchange for diminished role to the Saudis. It is all in the new world cards.

And what about the Arab North African States? Will they fall into the hands of extreme Sunnis as preached by Saudi Wahhabism – the source of what has moved to the creation of the new Islamic powder keg? I do not think this is possible in North Africa – simply because there are no Shiia elements there that justify to the Sunnis such an effort. Will there be another neutral zone in the North African region in the Cold War arena? This makes sense eventually.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


ISIS Is Not the Main Problem in the Middle East

by Jonathan Spyer
PJ Media and the Middle East Forum
January 19, 2016
 www.meforum.org/5801/isis-is-not-…

On a recent reporting trip to Iraq and northern Syria, two things were made apparent to me — one of them relatively encouraging, the other far less so. The encouraging news is that ISIS is currently in a state of retreat. Not headlong rout, but contraction.

The bad news? Our single-minded focus on ISIS as if it were the main or sole source of regional dysfunction is the result of faulty analysis, which in turn is producing flawed policy.

Regarding the first issue, 2015 was not a particularly good year for ISIS. In the course of it, the jihadis lost Kobani and then a large area to its east, bringing the Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG and their allies to within 30 km of the Caliphate’s “capital” in Raqqa city.

In late December, the jihadis lost the last bridge over the Euphrates that they controlled, at the Tishreen Dam. This matters because it isolates Raqqa, making it difficult for the Islamic State to rush reinforcements from Aleppo province to the city in the event of an attack. Similarly, the Kurdish YPG advanced south of the town of al-Hawl to Raqqa’s east.

In Iraq, the Iraqi Shia militias and government forces have now recaptured Ramadi city (lost earlier in 2015) following the expulsion of ISIS from Tikrit and Baiji. The Kurdish Pesh Merga, meanwhile, have revenged the humiliation they suffered at the hands of ISIS in the summer of 2014. The Kurds have now driven the jihadis back across the plain between Erbil and Mosul, bringing them to the banks of the Tigris river. They have also liberated the town of Sinjar.

The city of Mosul nestles on the western side of the river. It remains ISIS’s most substantial conquest. Its recapture does not appear immediately imminent, yet the general trend has been clear. The main slogan of ISIS is “Baqiya wa’tatamaddad,” “Remaining and Expanding.” At the present time, however, the Islamic State may be said to be remaining, but retreating.

This situation is reflected in the confidence of the fighters facing ISIS along the long front line. In interviews as I traversed the lines, I heard the same details again and again regarding changing ISIS tactics, all clearly designed to preserve manpower.

This stalling of the Islamic State is the background to its turn towards international terror, which was also a notable element of the latter half of 2015. The downing of the Russian airliner in October, the events in Paris in November, and the series of suicide bombings in Turkey since July attest to a need that the Islamic State has for achievement and for action. They need to keep the flow of recruits coming and to maintain the image of victory essential to it.

Regarding the second issue: seen from close up, the Islamic State is very obviously only a part, and not necessarily the main part, of a much larger problem. When talking both with those fighting with ISIS and with those who sympathize with it in the region, this observation stands out as a stark difference in perception between the Middle Eastern view of ISIS and the view of it presented in Western media. The latter tends to present ISIS as a strange and unique development, a dreadfully evil organization of unclear origins, which is the natural enemy of all mainstream forces in the Middle East.

ISIS has the same ideological roots and similar practices as other Salafi jihadi groups in Syria.

From closer up, the situation looks rather different.

ISIS has the same ideological roots and similar practices as other Salafi jihadi organizations active in the Syrian arena. ISIS treats non-Muslims brutally in the areas it controls, and adheres to a rigid and fanatical ideology based on a literalist interpretation and application of religious texts. But this description also applies to Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria.

Nusra opposes ISIS, and is part of a rebel alliance supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. In March 2015, when Nusra captured Idleb City in northern Syria, the city’s 150 Christian families were forced to flee to Turkey. Nusra has also forcibly converted a small Druze community in Idleb. The alliance Nusra was a part of also included Muslim Brotherhood-oriented groups, such as the Faylaq al-Sham militia, which apparently had no problem operating alongside the jihadis.

ISIS is not a unique organization; rather, it exists at one of the most extreme points along a continuum of movements committed to Sunni political Islam.

Meanwhile, the inchoate mass of Sunni Islamist groups — of which ISIS constitutes a single component — is engaged in a region-wide struggle with a much more centralized bloc of states and movements organized around the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is committed to a Shia version of political Islam.

The Middle East — in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and to a lesser extent Lebanon, all along the sectarian faultline of the region — is witnessing a clash between rival models of political Islam, of which ISIS is but a single manifestation.

The local players find sponsorship and support from powerful regional states, themselves committed to various different versions of political Islam: Iran for the Shias; Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Muslim Brotherhood-supporting Qatar for the Sunnis.

The long awakening of political Islam as the dominant form of popular politics in the Middle East started decades ago. But the eclipse of the political order in the region, and of the nationalist dictatorships in Iraq, Syria, Egypt (temporarily), Tunisia, and Yemen in recent years, has brought it to a new level of intensity.

States, indifferent to any norms and rules, using terror and subversion to advance their interests, jihadi armed groups, and the refugee crises and disorder that result from all this are the practical manifestations of it.

This, and not the fate of a single, fairly ramshackle jihadi entity in the badlands of eastern Syria and western Iraq, is the matter at hand in the Middle East.

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Jonathan Spyer is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 20th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Today I had the good fortune to be present at a debate between Professor Franz Cede – former Austrian Ambassador to the Russian Federation and now with the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES), and Russia’s Ambassador to Austria H.E. Dmitrij Liubinskij (Dmitry Lubensky) – in diplomatic service since 1989.

The discussants had agreed beforehand to touch on most topics of contention between the European Union and the Russian Federation – the Ukraine, Syria, Iran, the EU-Russia relations. Being a good diplomat Ambassador Lubensky proposed the official answers as per the the Russian Federation government: Autonomy for the Donbas region as part of an Ukrainian Federation; There was no recent annexation of the Krim this was rather the redress of the annexation that Under Mr. Chruschtschow he gave the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine; about his rule; Russia does not bsck Assad to keep him in Power, only the Syrian people can decide what to do; the Iran deal showed the strength of diplmcy and discussions. Econoic relatios with Iran go on already a long time – he was told – also Germany and Austria. He knows this from his many contacts.

On EU and Russia relations he said that since te 90s there exists the concept of integration of the European Union and the Eurasian Union.

This last item is my reason for writing this up.
My belief is in – rather then using valuable time to discuss ongoing problems for which hardened positions already exist – I would rather start a debate that is intended to create rapprochement by bringing up first – reasonable potential future problems. In today’s case Russia and the West – I would rather start with depicting a situation where China becomes the real danger for Russia – the danger from the East.

The reality is that the Russian Federation is rather a large State but small in the number of its people.
Looking at a future world partitioned between blocks of one billion people plus (each) – neither Russia, nor the EU could make it without supporting each other. The Eurasian Union is only a half backed idea – a much better idea would be a Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok – incorporating the EU and the Russian Federation. In such a Union Russia could find its security much easier then tackling the West in those proposed four areas.

At the end of the meeting I discussed this idea of using potential future problems to help cure present on-going problems,
and it seemed to me that even the Russian Ambassador did not shy away from this idea.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The following article surprised us by its clarity and 360 degrees vision. Yes – the truth is that The Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS, The Saudi Monarchy and the Wahhabi leaders are one – sort of the snake that bites its tail with Anglo-Saxon spectators enjoying the show.

PHOTO: An explosion and smoke rise after an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition at a weapons depot in Sanaa on September 11, 2015. (photo: Hani Mohammed/AP) What timing?

THE SAUDI RULES

By Robert Fisk, CounterPunch at Readers Supported News.

13 January 16


Only six of our British military chaps, it seems, are helping the Sunni Saudis kill Shia Yemenis. And they’re not actually in Yemen, merely helping to choose the targets – which have so far included hospitals, markets, a wedding party and a site opposite the Iranian embassy. Not that our boys and girls selected those particular “terrorist” nests for destruction, you understand. They’re just helping their Saudi mates – in the words of our Ministry of Defence – “comply to the rules of war”.


Saudi “rules”, of course, are not necessarily the same as “our” rules – although our drone-executions of UK citizens leave a lot of elbow-room for our British warriors in Riyadh. But I couldn’t help chuckling when I read the condemnation of David Mephan – the Human Rights Watch director. Yes, he told us that the Saudis “are committing multiple violations of the laws of war in Yemen”, and that the British “are working hand in glove with the Saudis, helping them, enhancing their capacity to prosecute this war that has led to the death of so many civilians.” Spot on. But then he added that he thought all this “deeply regrettable and unacceptable”.

“Regrettable” and “unacceptable” represent the double standards we employ when our wealthy Saudi friends put their hands to bloody work. To find something “regrettable” means it causes us sadness. It disappoints us. The implication is that the good old Saudis have let us down, fallen from their previously high moral principles.

No wonder the Minister of Defense has popped across to Riyadh to un-crease the maps and explain those incomprehensible co-ordinates for the Saudi leaders of the “coalition against terror”. Sorting this logistics mess out for the Saudis does, I suppose, make it less “unacceptable” to have our personnel standing alongside the folk who kill women for adultery without even a fair trial and who chop off the heads of dozens of opponents, including a prominent Saudi Shia cleric.

Those very words – regrettable and unacceptable – are now the peak of the critical lexicon which we are permitted to use about the Saudis. Anything stronger would force us to ask why David Cameron lowered our flag when the last king of this weird autocracy died.

And exactly the same semantics were trotted out last week when the Tory MP and member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Daniel Kawczynski – who was also chairman of the all-party UK parliamentary group on Saudi Arabia – was questioned on television about the 47 executions in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s misogynistic policies and its harsh anti-gay laws. Faced with the unspeakable – indeed, the outrageous – acts of a regime which shares its Wahhabi Sunni traditions with Isis and the Taliban, Kawczynski replied that the executions were “very regrettable”, that targeting civilians would be “completely unacceptable” and the anti-gay laws “highly reprehensible”. “Reprehensible”, I suppose, is a bit stronger than regrettable.


It was instructive, also, to hear Kawczynski refer to executions as “certain domestic actions”, as if slicing heads off human beings was something to be kept within the family – which is true, in a sense, since the Saudi authorities allow their executioners to train their sons in the craft of head-slicing, just as we Brits used to allow our hangmen to bring their sons into the gallows trade. This familial atmosphere was always advertised by its ambassadors and their friends. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, when he was Saudi Arabia’s man in Washington, spoke of his country’s religion as part of a “timeless culture” whose people lived according to Islam “and our other basic ways”. A former British ambassador to Riyadh, Sir Alan Munro, once advised Westerners to “adapt” in Saudi Arabia and “to act with the grain of Saudi traditions and culture”. This “grain” can be found, of course, in Amnesty’s archives of men – and occasionally women – who are beheaded each year, often after torture and grotesquely unfair trials.


Another former ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles – or “Abu Henry” as he was affectionately called by his Saudi friends – used arguments back in 2006 that might have come from David Cameron today. “I’ve been hugely impressed by the way in which the Saudi Arabian authorities have tackled and contained what was a serious terrorist threat,” he said then. “They’ve shrunk the pool of support for terrorism.” Which is exactly how our Prime Minister justified his support for Saudi Arabia’s place on the UN Human Rights Council last October. “It’s because we receive from them important intelligence and security information that keeps us safe,” he told Channel 4’s Jon Snow.

But wasn’t there, nine years ago, a small matter of the alleged bribery of Saudi officials by the British BAE Systems arms group? The Financial Times revealed how Robert Wardle, the UK director of the Serious Fraud Office, decided he might have to cancel his official investigation after being told “how the probe might cause Riyadh to cancel security and intelligence co-operation”. The advice to Wardle was that persisting with his official enquiry might “endanger lives in Britain”. Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara ordered the investigation closed.

The advice to Wardle, I should add, came from none other than Sherard Cowper-Coles, who later became UK ambassador to Afghanistan and, on retirement from the Foreign Office, worked for a short time as a business development director for BAE Systems. Our former man in Riyadh now has no connection with BAE – yet it would be interesting to know if the Saudis are using any of the company’s technology in the bombing of civilian targets in Yemen.

But relax – this would elicit no expressions of outrage, condemnation or disgust at Saudi Arabia – nor any of the revulsion we show when other local head-choppers take out their swords. Any such UK involvement would be unacceptable. Even regrettable. We would be sad. Disappointed. Say no more.

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The First Comments:

+8 # RMDC 2016-01-13 18:45
You can’t really blame the Saudis. The British rules are just as bad as the Saudi rules. And they all come from the Bush rules. Bush declared war on anyone who did not openly side with the US. He said, “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists.” And then he pledged to kill all terrorists everywhere on the face of the earth.

Uber neocons and Bush supporters David Frum and Richard Perle wrote a book called “The End of Evil: How to Win the War on Terror.” It was a best seller. It said that the war on terror was really a war on evil and it would not end until evil had been totally exterminated from the earth. This would mean killing all people who are evil – that is, not on the American side.

This is the American rules. It is essentially a crusade against infidels or heretics. That’s what the Saudis are doing.

What we need to do is recognize that the Americans, Brits, and Saudis are pure evil. The secular and tolerant societies in Syria, Iraq under Saddam, Libya under Qaddafi, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia are the good guys and they are being killed by the evil people.

I really don’t know how the war on terror will ever end. Right now it is just massacring innocent people and destroying nations. There is no longer a point, if there ever was one. Al Qaeda, the Saudis, ISIS, the Americans — they are all the same. They are all on a killing rampage. They are all head choppers.

+5 # Farafalla 2016-01-13 23:13
Notice that all the mainstream media refuse to say that the 47 people “executed” were beheaded. NPR, BBC, PBS, all of them are only saying “executed”, The Saudis even tell us what we can say.

0 # Shades of gray matter 2016-01-14 00:39
The Brits and the French taught the desert nomads how the Grand Game is played. The students are now reminding their teachers. All 3 thoroughly deserve each other. If only we could extricate ourselves and let the Mideast countries (including Israel), Britain & France have at it. Sort things out, so to speak. If we back away, so might the Russians.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Record oil glut stands at 3 billion barrels.

MENAFN – Arab News – 14/11/2015

November 14, 2015 – the day after the Paris Massacre.

(MENAFN – Arab News) LONDON: The world is awash with oil having built record stockpiles in recent months and slowing demand growth combined with resilient non-OPEC supply could worsen the glut well into next year the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.

‘Stockpiles of oil at a record 3 billion barrels are providing world markets with a degree of comfort’ the IEA said in a monthly report adding brimming stocks offer an unprecedented buffer against geopolitical shocks or unexpected supply disruptions.

Oil prices have more than halved in the past 18 months with supply bolstered by US shale oil output, and OPEC’s record production – the Arab News report says.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We react here to the New York Times Editorial of August 24, 2015 that seemingly wants us to believe that Putin and the Ayatollahs found religion when they heard that 250,000 Arabs were killed in Syria. Really – why should they care?

Let us suggest that “THE DEAL” has turned the interest of Iran to revive its International Banking if the Sanctions are removed – and that is the real driving force that eventually can bring Putin and the Ayatollahs to the table IN EXCHANGE FOR A SAUDI AND THE OTHER GULF STATES OIL EXPORTERS PROMISE TO REDUCE THEIR EXPORTS OF OIL.

YES – the US and the Europeans are driven by humanitarian concepts – the Russians and the Iranians think of the PRICE OF OIL that hit them hard in their economies. The US and the Europeans enjoyed the lowering of the price of oil – based on the high supply figures and a decreasing demand that resulted from GREEN ACTIVITIES – higher efficiency and alternate sources of energy.
But also these two developing energy topics can only benefit from a higher price for oil. So what the heck – let us help the Syrians and save whatever cultural monuments the Islamic State has not destroyed yet. We know that one way or another – the Christian population of Syria and Iraq is doomed and the Lebanese Maronites strive already decades in Brazil like the Iraqi Jews who spread all over the globe – from the Far East to the Far West. But let the enlightened world deal with the problem – and explain to the Saudis that time has come for them to listen to the global woes and do their part by selling less oil !!!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Argument
America Is Losing the War in Syria

Moderate rebel groups are suffering. The Islamic State and Nusra are gaining ground. And Washington’s piecemeal efforts are worthless. Here’s a grand plan worth paying for.

By Robert S. Ford
Foreign Policy Magazine, March 9, 2015

The current U.S. strategy in Syria isn’t working. Despite the coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State, the group still has strategic depth in Syria to back its campaign in Iraq. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, meanwhile, isn’t fighting the Islamic State — it’s locked in combat with the moderate opposition. Despite Washington’s hope for a national political transition away from Assad, there is no sign of a cease-fire, much less a comprehensive political deal.

More than ever, Americans — and Syrians — need to ask themselves what has gone wrong and what can be fixed. U.S. strategy needs to center on taking back ground from the Islamic State and driving a wedge between Assad’s small ruling circle and his increasingly wobbly support base so that a new government can be established to rally more Syrians against the jihadis. Reinforcing Syria’s moderate rebels is still the key component in achieving these goals, but we — and they — have to get the strategy and tactics right.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration should undertake a major diplomatic and assistance effort, or it should walk away from Syria.


U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration should undertake a major diplomatic and assistance effort, or it should walk away from Syria. Merely continuing to inject small amounts of aid and men in the fight won’t sustainably contain the jihadis or be sufficient to reach the political negotiation the administration keeps hoping for.

The quiet end to the Syrian armed opposition’s Hazm Movement, with which the Americans had worked in northern Syria, was the latest signpost of the current failed policy. With aid coming too little and too late, the movement was easily knocked aside by al Qaeda-linked extremists who gained new territory and border crossings. It is far from the only moderate rebel group to suffer large setbacks in recent months: Others are simultaneously under attack from Assad regime forces (which are strongly reinforced by Iranian and Hezbollah troops), jihadis from the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, and the Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the Americans didn’t ramp up aid to the secular moderates when they needed it most. Instead, assistance to moderate Syrian fighters has been small and erratic, and the rebel fighters have been badly divided by foreign states parceling out desperately needed aid among multiple groups. This has created a vicious cycle, forcing the moderate rebels to compete against each other and to sometimes cooperate with al-Nusra Front. That in turn has aggravated foreign states and scared off any regime elements that might want to negotiate a deal, thus extending the war of attrition to the benefit of the Islamic State.

Rather than boosting the capacity of existing moderate fighting groups, the U.S. administration has decided to build an entirely new force. As currently envisioned, this plan will be too little, too late. The fighting units will be much smaller than Islamic State forces operating in Syria. In addition, the plan will further split the moderate armed opposition and will do nothing to counter the Islamic State’s biggest recruitment tool — the Assad regime’s brutality.

Moreover, Assad will likely make good on his recent threat in a Foreign Affairs interview to attack the U.S.-trained Syrian rebel force. This is nothing new: Assad’s ground and air forces have consistently targeted moderate armed groups fighting the Islamic State in northern and eastern Syria over the past two years.

If the administration wants these beleaguered fighters to be successful, it will face the question of expanding the U.S. air mission in Syria. Protecting these small units from Assad air force attacks, even in eastern Syria, would require some kind of no-fly zone, a step the administration has long resisted. If the Obama administration goes through with such a step, it ought also to negotiate a package deal with the Syrian opposition and regional allies to get all sides on the same page on a strategy for degrading the Islamic State and achieving a negotiated Syrian political deal.

The larger package deal is vital. Simply increasing material aid to the moderate fighters in northern and southern Syria, even by huge amounts, won’t be enough. The key is settling on a revised strategy that establishes a unified command structure for the non-jihadi opposition.

This unified structure must be the sole conduit for external funding, arming, and training. It must include the main non-jihadi rebel groups and must be led by a Syrian who enjoys wide support from Syrians fighting on the ground and from foreign states. Those who refuse to follow orders from the unified command must be cut off from any assistance. This is the only way to end the fragmentation that has long plagued the moderate armed opposition and to ensure it will support any eventual negotiation.

Syrian fighters, especially Sunni Arabs, are best placed to confront Sunni Arab extremists in their country and limit the spread of the extremists’ appeal. This means that Islamist opposition groups that are conservative, but do not insist on imposing an Islamic state by force, likely will be part of the solution.

The United States and Turkey need to find common ground under the revised strategy. Turkey must finally shut off smuggling paths across its borders for the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, which have been hugely beneficial to these jihadi groups.

Ankara has been trying to exploit extremists to fight both the Assad regime and the PYD, the terrorist PKK-affiliate operating in Syria. A U.S. strategy that provides greater support for moderate forces fighting Assad and the jihadis, and which also ends U.S. actions that foster Kurdish separatism in Syria, could convince Turkey to abandon this path.  SustainabiliTank.info editor takes exception from this last proposition that originates with the author iof this paper!}

While U.S. military aid to the Syrian Kurdish fighters from the PYD helped to combat the Islamic State around the northern city of Kobani, it also fosters the PYD’s separatist ambitions. The PYD has already unilaterally announced an autonomous zone in northern Syria, which has spurred fearful Arab tribes in the area either to back Assad or the Islamic State. The U.S. emphasis on using Syrian Kurds against the Islamic State won’t end the jihadi threat — it will only aggravate it, and the broader Syrian conflict. The Syrian Kurds’ demand for decentralization may be the only way to reassemble a shattered Syria one day, but for now, the Americans and their allies must tell the PYD that autonomous zones only belong as part of longer-term political negotiations involving all Syrians.

Hugely boosted U.S. aid to the Syrian opposition should come with strings attached — a lot of them. In return for increased support, the Syrian opposition writ large must agree on these six conditions:

1) That armed groups receiving assistance from the newly created central command will obey its orders only.

2) That the armed opposition will stop atrocities against civilian communities that have backed the Assad regime and that the armed opposition command will accept responsibility for actions of its constituent groups.

3) That the armed opposition will sever all ties with al-Nusra Front.

4) That the armed opposition’s leadership must constantly reiterate that it is not seeking to destroy Christian, Alawite, or other minority communities and is prepared to negotiate local security arrangements, including with Syrian Arab Army elements, to protect all Syrians.

5) That it will negotiate a national political deal to end the conflict without Assad’s departure as a pre-condition.

6) That any political coalition purporting to lead the opposition must have genuine representation from minorities and top-level businessmen in Syria — communities that have, broadly speaking, supported Assad’s government — and that representation will not come mainly from long-term expatriates.

Implementing these steps would help create a moderate rebel force able to confront the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, and also pave the way for a real national political negotiation. If U.S. regional partners and the Syrian opposition won’t accept the strategy and the tactics to make it work, or if the Obama administration won’t expand its level of assistance and the air mission, then Washington needs to drop the goal of significantly degrading the Islamic State in Syria over the next several years.

It would be better for American credibility to walk away than try more halfhearted measures in Syria.

It would be better for American credibility to walk away than try more halfhearted measures in Syria.

After two years of experience, we should realize that limited actions aren’t enough to address the major threats emanating from Syria. Our foreign partners want U.S. vision and leadership to contain extremists and launch a successful negotiation for a Syrian unity government, which is the only sustainable fix to the extremist threat. Let’s give it to them.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A daring plan to rebuild Syria — no matter who wins the war.

By Thanassis Cambanis, a Boston Globe Correspondent – February 21, 2015

Thanassis Cambanis, a fellow at The Century Foundation, is the author of the forthcoming “Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story.” He is an Ideas – columnist and blogs – at thanassiscambanis.com.

He writes from Beirut: With the battle still ongoing, a huge team of Syrian planners plots the restoration of Aleppo and beyond.

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Then … The first year of Syria’s uprising, 2011, largely spared Aleppo, the country’s economic engine, largest city, and home of its most prized heritage sites. Fighting engulfed Aleppo in 2012 and has never let up since, making the city a symbol of the civil war’s grinding destruction. Rebels captured the eastern side of the city while the government held the west. The regime dropped conventional munitions and then barrel bombs on the rebels, who fought back with rockets and mortars. In 2012, the historical Ottoman covered souk was destroyed. In 2013, shelling destroyed the storied minaret of the 11th-century Ummayid Mosque. Apartment blocks were reduced to rubble. More than 3 million residents fled, out of a prewar population of 5 million. Today, residents say the city is virtually uninhabitable; most who remain have nowhere else to go.

In terms of sheer devastation, Syria today is worse off than Germany at the end of World War II. Bashar Assad’s regime and the original nationalist opposition are locked in combat with each other, and also with a third axis, the powerful jihadist current led by the Islamic State. And yet, even as the fighting continues – a movement is brewing among planners, activists and bureaucrats — some still in Aleppo, others in Damascus, Turkey, and Lebanon — to prepare, right now, for the reconstruction effort that will come whenever peace finally arrives.

In downtown Beirut – a day’s drive from the worst of the war zone – a team of Syrians is undertaking an experiment without precedent. In a glass tower belonging to the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, a project called the National Agenda for the Future of Syria has brought together teams of engineers, architects, water experts, conservationists, and development experts to grapple with seemingly impossible technical problems. How many years will it take to remove the unexploded bombs and rubble and then restore basic water, sewerage, and power? How many tons of cement and liters of water will be needed to replace destroyed infrastructure? How many cranes? Where could the 3 million displaced Aleppans be temporarily housed during the years or decades it might take to restore their city? And beneath all these technical questions they face a deeper one, as old as urban warfare itself: How do you bring a destroyed city back to life?

Critics dismiss the ongoing planning effort as a premature boondoggle, keeping technocrats busy creating blueprints that will have to be revised when fighting finally ebbs. But Thierry Grandin, a consultant for the World Monuments Fund who has worked and lived in Aleppo since the 1980s and is currently involved in reconstruction planning, disagrees. “It is good to do the planning now, because on day one we will be ready,” Grandin says. “It might come in a year, it might come in 20, but eventually there will be a day one. Our job is to prepare.”

The team planning the country’s future is a diverse one. Some are employed by the government of Syria, others by the rebels’ rival provisional government. Still others work for the UN, private construction companies, or nongovernmental organizations involved in conservation, like the World Monuments Fund. The Future of Syria project aims to serve as a clearinghouse, and to create a master menu of postwar planning options. As the group’s members outline a path toward renewal, they’re considering everything from corruption and constitutional reform to power grids, antiquities, and health care systems.

Across Syria, more than one-third of the population is displaced.

The task they have before them beggars comprehension. Across Syria, more than one-third of the population is displaced. Aleppo is in tatters, its center completely destroyed. The population exodus has claimed most of the city’s craftsmen, medical personnel, academics, and industrialists.

A modern country has been unmade during four years of conflict, and nowhere is the toll more apparent than in once-alluring Aleppo. But after horrifying conflict, countless places have found a way to return to functionality. What’s new in Syria is the attempt to come up with a neutral plan while the conflict is still in train. And Aleppo, the country’s historic urban jewel, will be the central test.

‘It is good to do the planning now, because on day one we will be ready. It might come in a year, it might come in 20, but eventually there will be a day one. Our job is to prepare.’ — Thierry Grandin, consultant for the World Monuments Fund.

Quote Icon.

To find a similar example of planning during wartime before the outcome was known, you have to go back to World War II. Allied forces spent years preparing for the physical, economic, and political reconstruction of Germany and Japan even before they could be sure who would win. Today, Americans tend mostly to recall the symbolic reconstruction after the war: the Nuremberg trials and the Marshall Plan, a colossal foreign aid program.

But undergirding those triumphs was the vast logistical operation of erecting new cities. It took decades to clear the moonscapes of rubble and to rebuild, in famous targets like Dresden and Hiroshima but in countless other places as well, from Coventry to Nanking. Some places never recovered their vitality.

Since then, a litany of divided and devastated cities has been left by other conflicts. Even those that eventually regained a sense of normalcy, like Beirut, Sarajevo, or Grozny, generally survived rather than thrived. Only a few countries — East Timor, Angola, Rwanda—offer what Syrian planners call “glimmers of hope,” as places that suffered terrible man-made disasters and then bounced back.

Of course, Syrian planners cannot help but pay attention to the model closest to home: Beirut, a city almost synonymous with civil war and flawed reconstruction. The planners and technocrats in the UN ESCWA tower overlook a gleamingly restored but vacant downtown from behind a veritable moat of blast barriers and sealed roads. Shell-pocked abandoned buildings stand as evidence of the tangled ownership disputes that have held back reconstruction a full quarter-century after the Lebanese civil war.

“We don’t want to end up like Beirut,” one of the Syrian planners says, referring to the physical problems but also to a postwar process in which militia leaders turned to corrupt reconstruction ventures as a new source of funds and power. He spoke anonymously; the Future of Syria team, which is led by a former Syrian deputy prime minister named Abdallah Al Dardari, doesn’t give on-the-record briefings. Since their top priority is to maintain buy-in from Syrians on all sides, they try to avoid naming names so as not to dissuade people they hope will use their plans when the war ends.

Syria’s national recovery will depend in large part on whether its industrial powerhouse – Aleppo – can bounce back. Until 2011, Aleppo had been celebrated for millenniums for its beauty and commerce. The citadel overlooking the center is a world heritage site. The old city and its covered market were vibrant, functioning exemplars of Islamic and Ottoman architecture, surrounded by the wide leafy avenues of the modern city. Aleppan traders plied their wares in Turkey, Iraq, the Levant, and all the way south to the Arabian peninsula. The city’s workshops, famed above all for their fine textiles, export millions of dollars’ worth of goods every week even now, and the economy has expanded to include modern industry as well.

Today, however, the city’s water and power supply are under the control of the Islamic State. Entire neighborhoods have collapsed under regime bombing and shelling: government buildings, hospitals, landmark hotels, schools, prisons. Aleppo is split between a regime side with vestiges of basic services, and a mostly depopulated rebel-controlled zone, into which the Islamic State and the Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front have made inroads over the last year. A river of rubble marks the no-man’s land separating the two sides. The only way to cross is to leave the city, follow a wide arc, and reenter from the far side.

For now, said an architect who works for the rebel government in Aleppo under the pseudonym Tamer el Halaby, today’s business is simply survival, like digging 20 makeshift wells that fulfill minimal water needs. (He prefers not to have his real name published for fear that the government might target relatives on the other side of Aleppo.) Parts of the old city won’t be inhabitable for years, he told me by Skype, because the ground has literally shifted as a result of bombing and shelling.

“It will take a long time and cost a lot of money for this city to work again,” he said.

Close to a thousand Syrians have consulted on the Future of Syria project, which comprises at least two ambitious initiatives rolled into one. The first and more obvious is creating realistic options to fix the country after the war—in some cases literal plans for building infrastructure systems and positioning construction equipment, in other cases guidelines for shaping governance.

At the Future of Syria, hospital administrators, civil engineers, and traffic coordinators each work on their given fields. They’re familiar with global “best practices,” but also with how things work in Syria, so they’re not going to propose pie-in-the-sky ideas. These planners also understand that who wins the construction contracts will depend on who wins the war. If some version of the current regime remains in charge, it will probably direct massive contracts toward patrons in Russia, China, or Iran. The opposition, by contrast, would lean toward firms from the West, Turkey, and the Gulf.

“Who will have the influence in Syria after the conflict? That will dictate who is involved in redevelopment. It all depends on who ends up being in political control,” says Richard J. Cook, a longtime UN official who supervised postconflict construction in Palestinian refugee camps and now works for one of the Middle East’s largest construction conglomerates, Dar Al-Handasah Consultants (Shair and Partners). Along with other companies, Dar Al-Handasah has offered its lessons learned from Lebanon’s reconstruction process to Syrian planners, and plans to compete to work in postwar Syria.

That leads to the second, more subtle, innovation of the Future of Syria project. For its plans to matter, they need to be politically viable no matter who is governing. So the planners have worked hard to persuade experts from all factions to contribute to the 57 different sectoral studies, hoping to come up with feasible rebuilding options that would be considered by a future Syrian authority of any stripe. Today, nearly 200 experts work full time for the project.

At the current level of destruction, the project planners estimate the reconstruction will cost at least $100 billion. Regardless of how it’s financed—loans, foreign aid, bonds—that’s a financial bonanza for whoever controls the reconstruction process. Some would-be peacemakers have suggested that reconstruction plans could even be used as enticements. If opposition militants and regime constituents think they’ll make more money rebuilding than fighting, they might have a Machiavellian incentive to make peace.

Underlying the details—mapping destroyed blocks, surveying the condition of the citadel, studying sewers—are bigger philosophical questions. How can a destroyed city be rebuilt, when the combination of people, economy, and buildings can never be reconstituted? Can you use reconstruction to undo the human damage of sectarianism and conflict? Recently a panel of architects and heritage experts from Sweden, Bosnia, Syria, and Lebanon convened in Beirut to discuss lessons for Syria’s reconstruction—one of the many distinct initiatives parallel to the Future of Syria project.

“You should never rebuild the way it was,” said Arna Mackic, an architect from Mostar. That Bosnian city was divided during the 1990s civil war into Muslim and Catholic sides, destroying the city center and the famous Stari Most bridge over the Neretva River. “The war changes us. You should show that in rebuilding.”

In the case of Mostar, the UN agency UNESCO reconstructed the bridge and built a restored central zone where Muslims and Catholics were supposed to create a harmonious new postwar culture. Instead, Mackik says, the sectarian communities keep to their own enclaves. Bereft of any common symbols, the city took a poll to figure out what kind of statue to erect in the city center. All the local figures were too polarizing. In the end they settled on a gold-colored statue of the martial arts star Bruce Lee.

“It belongs to no one,” Mackic says. “What does Bruce Lee mean to me?”

Despite such pitfalls, one area of potential for the planning process—and eventually for the reconstruction of Aleppo — is that it could offer the city’s people a form of participatory democracy that has so far eluded the Syrian regime and sadly, the opposition as well. People consulted about the shape of their reconstituted neighborhoods or roads will have been offered a slice of citizenship alien to most top-down Syrian leadership.

“You are being democratic without the consequences of all the hullabaloo of formal democratization,” says one of the Syrian planners who has contributed to the Future of Syria project and spoke on condition of anonymity.

What is certain is that putting Syria back together again is likely to be as least as expensive as imploding it. A great deal of money has been invested in Syria’s destruction— by the regime, the local parties to the conflict, and many foreign powers. A great deal of money will be made in the aftermath, in a reconstruction project that stands to dwarf anything seen since after World War II.

How that recovery is designed will help determine whether Syria returns to business as usual, sowing the seeds for a reprise of the same conflict—or whether reconstruction allows the kind of lasting change that the resolution of war itself might not.

=============================================

We posted this out of admiration for people that seem to want to try to forget the terrible reality by drowning it in a lake of hope for which they have no good reason.

The reality is that Syria was never a Nation State in the Western sense – but its creation was only a sliver of the larger Levant region of the Ottoman Empire. The carving up of that region into would-be States of Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Iraq, was not done along National, Ethnic, Religious, or Language line – but rather according to future colonial administrative lines – and eventually the inhomogeneity of so called States had to find the cracks that broke up all these foreign pots. Lebanon had its explosion earlier and as Mr. Cambanis writes – Beirut could not be restored to its old true form. Syria is not like Germany that was in many sense united and then clearly defeated by a major power that led allies on which it imposed the notion that only by rebuilding but deNazifying it – peace can eventually be achieved in Europe. Having been split temporarily into two States Germany eventually reunified to become a power again. There is nothing of the kind in Syria where for years despots from a minority ruled over the very mixed majority. Now this majority has split along many lines and one future outcome will have to be a separate State for the Kurds that eventually will brake the French-British imposed borders, that did not respect the more logical Ottoman division of the region, and have been invalidated now.

Aleppo will eventually find its place in one of the resulting outcome states – separate from Damascus – perhaps indeed be the Capital of that State; it will be built again out of its ashes, but it will not be rebuilt in the sense of its becoming a direct continuation of a has-been that is no-more. Who knows – a connection of Aleppo to what is now Lebanon is not a farfetched idea.
Whatever the future holds – to get there the present inhuman behavior by the three of four armies that are akin to those NAZIs of old Germany, will have to be eliminated first, and it is quite clear that what will be left behind will be a culturally very impoverished region with much lower diversity as it was in the colonial days.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Al-Monitor named 2014 Free Media Pioneer Award winner – IPI honours Middle East news site’s ‘unrivalled reporting and analysis’

from the International Press Institute (Vienna, Austria, based) – Saturday, 21 February 2015.

Al-Monitor, with its website based in Washington DC - www.al-monitor.com/pulse/ – has PULSE columns for: Egypt Gulf Iran Iraq Israel Lebanon Palestine Syria Turkey Congress Russia / MidEast Week in Review

A screenshot of the Al Monitor website featuring a video marking the news organisation’s first anniversary. Established on Feb. 13, 2012, the site provides reporting and analysis by prominent journalists and experts from the Middle East and draws from more than two dozen media partners.

VIENNA, Feb 26, 2014 – Opens external link in new window Al-Monitor, an edgy news and commentary site launched in the aftermath of the Arab Spring that brands itself as “the pulse of the Middle East”, is the recipient of this year’s International Press Institute (IPI) Opens external link in new windowFree Media Pioneer Award, IPI announced today.

The award is given annually to a media or press freedom organisation that distinguishes itself in the fight for free and independent news. The awards’ nominators said that Al-Monitor stands out as a model for independent coverage of the region through its news, features, analysis and commentary at a time of political upheaval.

“Al-Monitor’s unrivalled reporting and analysis exemplify the invaluable role that innovative and vigorously independent media can play in times of change and upheaval,” IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said. “Al-Monitor’s editors and contributors produce a must-read daily overview of a complex region in a coherent, introspective and independent way. Its team includes some of the best minds and analysts from around the world who cut through the daily chaff and give readers an insightful summary of what is happening.”

Al-Monitor is scheduled to receive the award at the Opens external link in new windowIPI World Congress, which takes place April 12 to 15 in Cape Town, South Africa. Also in Cape Town, IPI will present its World Press Freedom Hero award to Iranian journalist Opens external link in new windowMashallah Shamsolvaezin, the former editor of the banned Iranian newspapers Kayhan, Jame’eh, Neshat, and Asr-e Azadegan. He was jailed numerous times for his criticism of government policies.

Upon learning of the award, Jamal Daniel, chairman and chief executive of Al-Monitor, said: “We are honoured to receive the IPI Free Media Pioneer Award, which is testimony to Al-Monitor’s ethos and mission, to uncover trends that are shaping the Middle East, from the best writers and analysts in the region.”

With civil war engulfing Syria, turmoil in Egypt and political upheaval across the Middle East, Al-Monitor stands out as a one-stop source for diverse news and viewpoints. Recent features include a report on female journalists in the front lines of regional conflicts and an article highlighting the arrest of an Egyptian filmmaker, who – like numerous journalists in Egypt – was detained for spreading “false news”.

Al-Monitor, established on Feb. 13, 2012, provides reporting and analysis by prominent journalists and experts from the Middle East, with a special focus section – or “pulse” – on Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey. The website also draws on more than two dozen media partners in 13 countries and is based in Washington, D.C.

The 2014 Free Media Pioneer award marks a departure from past winners by honouring a regional news organisation.

“We believe this is where Al-Monitor stands out, providing an important bridge of information to a region where many of the individual nations face major press freedom challenges,” Bethel McKenzie said. “Its ability to draw on many voices from the region is unmatched in the Middle East.”

Recent recipients of the Free Media Pioneer Award, established by IPI in 1996, were Malaysia’s Radio Free Sarawak (2013), 35 Multimedia Magazine in Belarus (2012), Tunisia’s Radio Kalima (2011), Radio Okapi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2010) and Novaya Gazeta in Russia (2009).

For the past three years, the award has been sponsored by the Argentinean media company Infobae Group.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 9th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


ISIL Oil Control and Financing

February 18, 2015, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
McGraw-Hill Building – 12th Floor
Two Penn Plaza
New York City, NY 10121

PLEASE NOTE OUR NEW VENUE: McGraw-Hill Building, Two Penn Plaza (on top of Penn Station), 12th Floor, New York, NY 10121

Please join the New York Energy Forum for a panel discussion on Wednesday, February 18th. Mr. Rick Westerdale will discuss a recent presentation by the U.S. Department of State on topic of oil control and financing by the Islamic rebel group in Iraq and Syria. Mr. Karwan Zebari, Director at the Kurdish Regional Government Mission in DC, will then provide additional insight on the political and security outlook as well as the energy implications in Iraq.

SPEAKERS:

Rick Westerdale

Richard (Rick) W. Westerdale II is Director of the Energy Resources Bureau’s Policy Analysis and Public Diplomacy Office in the U.S. State Department. He leads and directs efforts to identify, analyze, and evaluate the strategic importance of policies in international energy affairs including governance, access to energy, use of renewables and low carbon technologies, and increasing access to conventional energy resources. He represents the Department in a variety of senior-level engagements and carries out official visits to advance international engagement, forge cooperation with partner-nations and establish agreements on a range of energy security policy initiatives. Prior to his current assignment in Washington, Mr. Westerdale was responsible for providing expert commercial & technical advice, guidance, and leadership in the oil and gas sector with a specialization in Energy at the United States Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.

Karwan Zebari

Karwan Zebari is currently the Director of Congressional & Academic Affairs at the Kurdistan Regional Government Representation in the United States, based in Washington, DC. Within his capacity Mr. Zebari works closely with Congress on all matters relating to Kurdistan Region of Iraq; strengthening the ties between the legislative body of the US government and the Kurdistan Regional Government. Mr. Zebari oversees all academic research dealing with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq from any US-based academic institution. Mr. Zebari holds a Bachelor degree from the State University of New York Institute of Technology and a Master from Binghamton University. In 2006, he was awarded the New York State Technology Association Scholar of the year. He has worked for several Department of Defense Aerospace & Defense contractors. He is also the co-founder of the American Kurdish Council and was the President of the New York Chapter from 2009 till 2011 where he mobilized the upstate New York Kurdish communities to become active in the local, state, and national grassroots efforts. Mr. Zebari has appeared on many local, national, and international media outlets.

MODERATOR: David Knapp

David Knapp is President, Energy Forum Advisory Board and Chief Energy Economist and Senior Editor for Global Oil Market Analysis at Energy Intelligence Group in New York. He is Editor of EIG’s monthly Oil Market Intelligence. He has analyzed energy markets for 40 years in the international, government, business and financial sectors. Dr. Knapp holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

PROGRAM:

5:30 – 6:00 PM: Registration
6:00 – 7:30 PM: Presentation and Discussion
7:30 – 8:00 PM: Reception

COST:

$40.00 for General Admission
$10.00 for Academic/Military
$0.00 for Energy Forum Sponsors
$0.00 for Energy Forum Subscribers

Online registration is necessary in order to facilitate building security requirements.

PLEASE NOTE WE HAVE A NEW VENUE: McGraw-Hill Building, Two Penn Plaza (on top of Penn Station), 12th Floor, New York, NY 10121

QUESTIONS:

We would be pleased to answer any questions you might have about The Energy Forum, Inc. or about this session.

Contact: Lila Noury

Online Registration

====================================

PLEASE NOTE WE HAVE A NEW VENUE: McGraw-Hill Building, Two Penn Plaza (on top of Penn Station), 12th Floor, New York, NY 10121

QUESTIONS:

We would be pleased to answer any questions you might have about The Energy Forum, Inc. or about this session.

Contact: Lila Noury

Online Registration

=====================================

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


We post this with the understanding that it is about a different way of making sense of the ISIS mind that seems to claim that reacting to their audacity does in effect play in their fields set up to create chaos in the Arab World.

Scott Ritter has had an interesting track record that might point at good use of opportunism dangerous for the uninitiated.
Did he learn his way of thinking from Soviet and Nazi books?

But then, after having written the draft of our comments on the Ritter article, I had the good fortune to watch the Fareed Zacharia CNN/GPS hour of today also – Sunday, February 8, 2015.

Fareed hosted a great panel – Former Prime Minister Of Jordan – Mr. Marvin Muasher – now vice president for studies at Carnegie, where he oversees research in Washington and Beirut on the Middle East; Fawaz Gerges, Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE); and Rula Jebreal a Palestinian-Italian foreign policy analyst, journalist, novelist, and screenwriter (She was a commentator for MSNBC). But more then anything else – Fareed Zacharia reminded us of David Fromkin whose old article in Foreign Affairs explained two examples of terrorism: – the bombing of the King David Hotel North Wing by the Irgun, and a bombing in Paris by the Algerian FLN. In both cases the idea of the bombers was to pull the British and the De Gaul Government of France into over reacting – and by this create chaos that eventually leads to the terror activators victory – the Britsh leaving Palestine and the French leaving Algeria. In those cases continuing the involvement by outside forces was nomore to their advantage. But is this example of value when the two warring sides are both Arab but Islamic of different sects? But then the facts here are that in the Middle East as well – like in the French case – the victims of the perpetrators are Arab Muslims – even Sunnis – like the perpetrators.

Fromkin, noted author, lawyer, and historian, is best known for his historical account on the Middle East, “A Peace to End All Peace” (1989), in which he recounts the role European powers played between 1914 and 1922 in creating the modern Middle East.

In the CNN/GPS debate it became clear that the miserable act of burning the Jordanian pilot with modern media called in to scare the Muslim world into ISIS submission, was a calculated act – not a mere mistake.

Gerges, the most conventional among the members of the panel said that “This is about the Identity of the State in the Islamic World>” He also said that ISIS is self-destructing but the answer must come from inside the Islamic World when it realizes that ISIS is more a danger to Islam then the US and the West.

Rula said that with 20 milion Muslims in Europe – they have to be integrated – we need an economic reform that makes them part of society.

Muasher pointed out that the recent years in the Middle East were marked by (a) the 2011 Arab Uprising which left positive change only in Tunisia, and (b) the more recent ISIS that followed it as an alternative for change. Bottom line – it is for the Arab states to face this reality.

The second half of alf of Fareed’s program today dealt with Putin, the West, and Ukraine – and I found here similarities as well – but will not deal with this here. Simply – I am going back to the original draft – strengthened in the belief that what Scott Ritter writes could have been understood by David Fromkin and I wish Fareed Zacharia gets hold of Ritter’s posting.

———————————————————————–

A Tipping Point Toward Chaos.

By Scott Ritter, Reader Supported News

07 February 2015

he murder by militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of a Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh is being viewed by analysts as a tipping point for mobilizing public support in the region against the forces of Islamic extremism. Prior to Lieutenant Kasasbeh’s execution, public opinion in Jordan appeared to be evenly split on the issue of their nation’s participation in the US-led coalition targeting Sunni Arab Islamists in Iraq and Syria.

Now, in the aftermath of the pilot’s death, there seems to be a consensus among these analysts that a majority of Jordanians will rally around King Abdullah as he seeks revenge against ISIS by executing prisoners in Jordanian custody and considers expanding the role of Jordan in the anti-ISIS coalition. This may be the outcome in the short term, as passions flare in response to what most Jordanians view as a vicious act on the part of ISIS. The reaction of the Jordanian government (indeed all of the western world and much of the Middle East) has been predictable — so predictable that one must wonder if this is precisely the outcome desired by ISIS in killing Lieutenant Kasasbeh in such a high profile fashion, and if so, why?

The Islamic State has never hidden its desire to create a Sunni Islamic Caliphate that extends over much of the territory that comprises the modern states of Iraq, Syria and Jordan (and elsewhere, as recent events in the Sinai and Libya have shown). In the minds of many who live in the region, these three nations are artificial entities, created at the whim of western imperialists in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire for the sole purpose of facilitating western economic and geopolitical ambitions at the expense of legitimate Arab nationalism and Sunni Islam. There is a growing level of resentment, especially among the ranks of young and disenfranchised males, that feeds off this perception, creating a rich pool of pre-radicalized talent from which ISIS is able to recruit.

ISIS was born from the chaos and anarchy that erupted in Iraq after the United States invaded and occupied that country, removing from power a Sunni dictator, Saddam Hussein, and replacing him with a pro-Iranian Shi’a government. ISIS was able to exploit similar chaos that engulfed Syria in 2011 during popular unrest against the government of Bashar al-Assad. Assad’s government is dominated by members of a minority Shi’a sect known as the Allawites, and has close ties with Iran and the Lebanese Shi’a militia-cum-political party, Hezbollah.

In addition to playing off of the notion of historical illegitimacy of the pro-western (and anti-Sunni Islam) governments of Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has created a de facto Sunni-Shi’a sectarian conflict that, in and of itself, serves as a rallying cry for many of its recruits, undermining the legitimacy of any Sunni Arab country that joins in the anti-ISIS fight. It is in this context that Lieutenant Kasasbeh’s murder must be evaluated. By goading Jordan into assuming a larger role — perhaps even a leadership role — in the fight against the Islamic State, ISIS may be seeking to accelerate the process of creating social divides within Jordan that could lead to the kind of internal chaos and unrest that the Islamic extremists have shown themselves so adept at exploiting.

It will be difficult for King Abdullah to control the anger unleashed by the actions of ISIS in killing Lieutenant Kasasbeh. The Lieutenant’s family is from a large and influential tribe which, while proud of their relative’s military service, has not spoken with one voice on the Hashemite Kingdom’s policies vis-à-vis Iraq and Syria. ISIS has a long history in both Iraq and Syria of turning tribal angst to its advantage, and this may be exactly the strategy ISIS is pursuing by its gruesome actions.

There can be no doubt that what ISIS did was not an accident. Lieutenant Kasasbeh was killed on January 3, 2015 — nearly a month before ISIS began “negotiating” a prisoner exchange involving the pilot and a would-be female suicide bomber. ISIS knew that by releasing the video of Kasasbeh’s murder it would be guaranteeing the execution of its fellow Jihadists at the hands of the Jordanians.

The Islamic State also knew that the resulting public outrage in Jordan, especially amongst the influential al-Kasasbeh tribe, would push Jordan toward accepting a larger role in the fight against ISIS. And it also knows that, in assuming this role, the Jordanian King would be even further aligning himself with the United States and, indirectly, with a competing Shi’a alliance involving Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah.

Rather than serving as a tipping point for mobilizing public sentiment in the Sunni Arab world against ISIS, it seems that a case can be made that the actions of ISIS seem geared toward achieving the exact opposite reaction — the mobilization of angry, disenfranchised Sunni Arab youth inside Jordan against the actions of their King, creating the kinds of social rifts ISIS thrives upon. Jordan should proceed cautiously before agreeing to any expansion of its role in the anti-ISIS coalition. To do otherwise, and surrender to an emotional call for revenge, may very well pull the Hashemite Kingdom into the same vortex of fundamentalist sectarianism that has torn Iraq and Syria apart. And this is exactly what ISIS wants.

Comments

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+14 # Activista 2015-02-07 13:19
“exploit similar chaos that engulfed Syria in 2011 during popular unrest against the government of Bashar al-Assad. Assad’s government is dominated by members of a minority Shi’a sect known as the Allawites, and has close ties with Iran and the Lebanese Shi’a militia-cum-pol itical party, Hezbollah.”
ISIS is mimicking/execu ting Israel/US policy to create perpetual civil wars … ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi Trained by Israeli …
www.globalresearch.ca/isis-leader-abu-bakr-al…mossad-nsa…/5391593
Jul 16, 2014 – ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi Trained by Israeli Mossad, NSA … Snowden said intelligence services of three countries created a terrorist ..

+8 # motamanx 2015-02-07 14:20
Has anyone determined what ISIS wants? Was the question ever asked: “What do you guys want?” If our leadership had studied the history of the region, they would have been reminded that our dealing with the Middle East has been spotty at best. We have been meddling with them in draconian ways (and worse) for more than 100 years. Perhaps we should apologize, and leave.

+6 # REDPILLED 2015-02-07 16:33
Western “leadership” has never given a damn about the people of the Middle East as human beings. Since the end of WW I, when the greedy, arrogant Western European victors carved up the region to suit only their own resource and geopolitical aims, and imposed the Balfour Declaration’s goal on Palestine, the stage has been set for bloodshed and chaos.

The U.S. was a mostly silent partner until WW II, when FDR entered into his Devil’s Bargain with Saudi Arabia: Saudi oil for everlasting U.S. support and protection.

Western greed and powerlust have been the root causes of most of the violent turmoil since then.

+19 # angryspittle 2015-02-07 14:23
Another gift from W that just keeps on giving.

-8 # brux 2015-02-07 14:35

-39 # brux 2015-02-07 14:35
Scott Ritter … pedophile political analyst from the Left … it should be so proud.

+15 # MHAS 2015-02-07 15:43
Dear Brux,

Classic deflection. How about responding to his analysis rather than mischaracterize his politics…whic h until 2002 were that of a life-long Republican and former Marine. And as to pedophile charges, they just happened to crop up when he was exposing the lies of the W. Bush Admin in the lead up to the Iraq invasion. He has been proved right, btw….

+15 # azei2n 2015-02-07 14:56
No one has raised a wink on the burning alive of thousands of Muslims in each of Burma, India, and Egypt. The whole world had watched these atrocities without involvement. We raised no concern to the burning and killings in Chechnya, as well. We created the chaos in the Middle East and supported the Russian aggression in Chechnya. The funny things that we are still willing to go to war in Ukraine to counter the “Separatists.” You notice that we don’t call them “Terrorists” to legitimize our involvements. It’s crazy world!!!!

+7 # REDPILLED 2015-02-07 16:38
U.S. illegal drone attacks on 7 Muslim nations since Obama took office have decapitated and immolated many more people, including non-combatants (many children), than ISIS. But the corporate Western media rarely shows these victims of U.S. state terrorism, which continues as I write this.

+9 # Kimc 2015-02-07 14:57
A friend of mine says this is all lies, made up by the people who want another war to make money on. Could that be possible?

+7 # dyannne 2015-02-07 16:25
We know that the Bush Administration and advisors (Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perl, Hayden, Bolton, Baker, Rumsfeld, et. al.) created this situation and now Jeb Bush wants to be president -and that same mind set of friends and associates will come right along with him. What a disaster that will be if he prevails.

+3 # Akeel1701 2015-02-07 18:01
It is certainly possible – isn’t there an old saying that “The first casualty of war is the truth”?

+5 # Dale 2015-02-07 15:31
The Directorate of National Insecurity
Knows that a “War on Terror”
Is a never-ending cycle of creating terrorists,
Medieval and Evil as they are.
Evil begets Evil to better serve
The Devil of Empire.
With the manufactured intelligence of NSA
The boogeymen abroad are missiled and droned,
Only to create a thousand more.

Special Ops secretly assassinate suspects
And the drones guide their deadly missiles
Because The War on Jihadist Ghosts keeps the money flowing,
And creates for every martyr a hundred militants,
The more to feed the Death Machine.
The Super Rogue State draws red lines of blood in the Middle East desert sands,
Arming Islamic insurgents that blowback
To bite the asses of those who pursue the Imperial Vision.
But the Blowback from
Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria…
Is intended consequence,
How else to cycle Perpetual War?
A Warfare State demonizes Muslims,
Invades and occupies their lands,
Bombs their villages,
Threatens continuing violence,
Imposes sanctions,
The only definable ethical principle being “American First”.
The end being Global Domination
Administered by the War Machine.
A Lawless State pursuing the Global Empire
Envisioned by the Dominant Class of AmeriKa Inc.

As retaliatory tactics the violence of Jijad is counterproductive,
Serving to fire the Imperial Beast
And yielding power to the most retrograde elements of Muslim society.
But no one can deny the right of victims to justice.

+3 # torch and pitchfork 2015-02-07 16:16
“Rather than serving as a tipping point for mobilizing public sentiment in the Sunni Arab world against ISIS, it seems that a case can be made that the actions of ISIS seem geared toward achieving the exact opposite reaction — the mobilization of angry, disenfranchised Sunni Arab youth inside Jordan against the actions of their King, creating the kinds of social rifts ISIS thrives upon. Jordan should proceed cautiously before agreeing to any expansion of its role in the anti-ISIS coalition. To do otherwise, and surrender to an emotional call for revenge, may very well pull the Hashemite Kingdom into the same vortex of fundamentalist sectarianism that has torn Iraq and Syria apart. And this is exactly what ISIS wants.”

The best way to unite the Arab tribes is with a common enemy–those that invade and occupy your land. The Islamic faith has many warring sects but the one thing that unites them all is a trespasser. In America it’s legal to shoot a home invader without consequences, why should we think it would be any different in the Middle East?

0 # Activista 2015-02-07 18:11
“the same vortex of fundamentalist sectarianism that has torn Iraq and Syria apart. And this is exactly what ISIS wants …”
that has torn Iraq, Syria, Libya apart. And this is exactly what US Neocons/Bibi want ..

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Scott Ritter was born into a military family in 1961 in Gainesville, Florida. He graduated from Kaiserslautern American High School in 1979, and later from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in the history of the Soviet Union and departmental honors. In 1980 he served in the U.S. Army as a Private. Then in May 1984 he was commissioned as an intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps. He served in this capacity for about 12 years. He served as the lead analyst for the Marine Corps Rapid Deployment Force concerning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iran–Iraq War.

Ritter’s academic work focused on the Basmachi resistance movement in Soviet Central Asia during the 1920s and 1930s, and on the Basmachi commanders Fazail Maksum and Ibrahim Bek. During Desert Storm, the Gulf War, he served as a ballistic missile advisor to General Norman Schwarzkopf. Ritter later worked as a security and military consultant for the Fox News network. Ritter also had “a long relationship [...] of an official nature” with the UK’s foreign intelligence spy agency MI6 according to an interview he gave to Democracy Now! in 2003.

Ritter was a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998 – Ritter “ran intelligence operations for the United Nations”from 1991 to 1998 as a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq in the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), which was charged with finding and destroying all weapons of mass destruction and WMD-related manufacturing capabilities in Iraq. He was chief inspector in fourteen of the more than thirty inspection missions in which he participated.

Ritter was amongst a group of UNSCOM weapons inspectors that regularly took Lockheed U-2 imagery to Israel for analysis, as UNSCOM was not getting sufficient analysis assistance from the U.S. and UK. This was authorised by UNSCOM, the U.S. U-2 having been loaned to UNSCOM, but caused Ritter to be subjected to criticism and investigation by U.S. authorities. Iraq protested about the supply of such information to Israel.

When the United States and the UN Security Council failed to take action against Iraq for their ongoing failure to cooperate fully with inspectors (a breach of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1154), Ritter resigned from the United Nations Special Commission on August 26, 1998. In his letter of resignation, Ritter said the Security Council’s reaction to Iraq’s decision earlier that month to suspend co-operation with the inspection team made a mockery of the disarmament work. Ritter later said, in an interview, that he resigned from his role as a United Nations weapons inspector over inconsistencies between United Nations Security Council Resolution 1154 and how it was implemented.

On September 3, 1998, several days after his resignation, Ritter testified before the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services and the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and said that he resigned his position “out of frustration that the United Nations Security Council, and the United States as its most significant supporter, was failing to enforce the post-Gulf War resolutions designed to disarm Iraq.

Later Ritter became a critic of United States foreign policy in the Middle East. Prior to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Ritter stated that Iraq possessed no significant weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities. He became a popular anti-war figure and talk show commentator as a result of his stance.

He has written several books on US policy, including “Dangerous Ground,” published by Nation books.

In 1999, Ritter wrote “Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem — Once and For All” in which he reiterated his claim that Iraq had obstructed the work of inspectors and attempted to hide and preserve essential elements for restarting WMD programs at a later date. However, he also expressed frustration at alleged attempts by the CIA to infiltrate UNSCOM and use the inspectors as a means of gathering intelligence with which to pursue regime change in Iraq – a violation of the terms under which UNSCOM operated, and the very rationale the Iraqi government had given in restricting the inspector’s activities in 1998.

In the book’s conclusion, Ritter criticized the current U.S. policy of containment in the absence of inspections as inadequate to prevent Iraq’s re-acquisition of WMD’s in the long term. He also rejected the notion of removing Saddam Hussein’s regime by force. Instead, he advocated a policy of diplomatic engagement, leading to gradual normalization of international relations with Iraq in return for inspection-verified abandonment of their WMD programs and other objectionable policies.

Ritter again promoted a conciliatory approach toward Iraq in the 2000 documentary In Shifting Sands: The Truth About UNSCOM and the Disarming of Iraq, which he wrote and directed. The film tells the history of the UNSCOM investigations through interviews and video footage of inspection missions. In the film, Ritter argues that Iraq is a “defanged tiger” and that the inspections were successful in eliminating significant Iraqi WMD capabilities.

In 2003 – Just after the coalition invasion of Iraq had been launched, but prior to troops arriving in Baghdad, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the Parliament of the United Kingdom that the United States and the United Kingdom believed they had “sufficient forces” in Iraq. At that very time Ritter offered an opposing view on Portuguese radio station TSF: “The United States is going to leave Iraq with its tail between its legs, defeated. It is a war we can not win … We do not have the military means to take over Baghdad and for this reason I believe the defeat of the United States in this war is inevitable … Every time we confront Iraqi troops we may win some tactical battles, as we did for ten years in Vietnam, but we will not be able to win this war, which in my opinion is already lost,” Ritter added.

Australian Richard Butler, Scott Ritter’s boss under the United Nations in Iraq, said that Ritter “wasn’t prescient” in his predictions about WMDs, saying, “When he was the ‘Alpha Dog’ inspector, then by God, there were more weapons there, and we had to go find them — a contention for which he had inadequate evidence. When he became a peacenik, then it was all complete B.S., start to finish, and there were no weapons of mass destruction. And that also was a contention for which he had inadequate evidence.”

In February 2005, writing on Al Jazeera’s website, Ritter wrote that the “Iraqi resistance” is a “genuine grassroots national liberation movement,” and “History will eventually depict as legitimate the efforts of the Iraqi resistance to destabilize and defeat the American occupation forces and their imposed Iraqi collaborationist government.” On December 20, 2005, in a debate with Christopher Hitchens at the Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown, NY, Ritter said furthermore that he would “prefer to be an Iraqi under Saddam than an Iraqi under a brutal American occupation.”

In an October 19, 2005 interview with Seymour Hersh, Ritter claimed that regime change, rather than disarmament, has been the primary objective of President George H. W. Bush, and later of President Clinton and the second President Bush, in imposing and maintaining economic sanctions on Iraq after the Gulf War.

Ritter has also been harshly critical of Bill Clinton for politicizing the inspection process during his presidency, and of Hillary Clinton for obfuscating that record.

Ritter was a staunch Republican who voted for G.W. Bush and turned to the left. Personally – he was accused of pedophilia via the internet – first acquitted then convicted on some of the same charges.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 3rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Nasser Al-Kidwa’s full name is Sayed Nasser Arafat al-Qudwa from the Arafat al-Qudwa who according to Wikipedia “are a family of notables from Gaza and of the Ashraf class.” It is said that Yasser Arafat – the Palestinian leader – was his uncle and benefactor.

21 August 2012
SG/SM/14475
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Announced Appointment of Nasser Al-Kidwa as Joint Arab League-United Nations Deputy Representative for Syria – as per UN Press release of August 21, 2012 and said:

“The Secretary-General of the United Nations is pleased, along with Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby of the League of Arab States, to announce the appointment today of Nasser Al-Kidwa as their Deputy Joint Special Representative for Syria.

Mr. Al-Kidwa brings to the position his extensive diplomatic experience and deep knowledge of the region, in addition to his recent involvement in United Nations peacemaking efforts in Syria as Deputy to Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan.

In his prior career, Mr. Al-Kidwa served in various functions with the Palestinian National Authority, including as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2005 to 2006, and Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations from 1991 to 2005.”

Ahmad Fawzi was appointed in 1992 as Deputy Spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali. He was the Director of the United Nations Information Centre in London from 1997 to 2003, during which he also served on special assignments as the Spokesman for the Secretary General’s Special Representatives on Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, and for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Mr. Fawzi accompanied Mr. Brahimi as his Spokesman on his missions to Iraq in 2004. Thereafter, he was Director of the News and Media Division in the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI), a position he held until his retirement in 2010. In that position I clashed with him personally – You see, I was involved in the subjects of sustainability and planet earth since before these subjects became popular – actually I was fighting at the UN – the UN – because UN people planted in the system by home interests, like Ahmad Fawzi that preferred to sweep away from sight any comment brought up by curious journalists that might have had implications regarding sales of oil or notions inconvenient to Palestinians. To me it was clear – it is all about Energy for All – but Energy, as much as possible, that does not harm the Environment. Sustainability is the word behind Sustainable Development, and Sustainability is about future generations and not about our generation.

After retirement Ahmad Fawzi and family moved to Haag, the Netherlands, to work in advocacy with the international legal institutions located in that city. A plant in a new location – also a good place to bring up hthe children as he said. From there he was brought back by UNSG Ban Ki-moon to be spokesman for Kofi Annan’s mission on Syria – as mentioned above. This mainly because his connection to the Arab League. Looking at this situation – former UNSG Kofi Annan being bracketed in between two people with clear agendas basically unacceptable to President Assad – the wags at the UN said at the time that Kofi Annan was set up to fail – so he does not upstage the present UNSG – his successor.

Monday February 2nd, 2015, Ms. Angela Kane, Since 2012 the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs – with previous UN experience at DPI, Political Affairs, and Management, and on Peace Making UN missions – came to the Vienna Diplomatic Academy to address the issue of Chemical Weapons: Syria and the Global Disarmament Perspectives.

Towards the end of the Q&A period I decided to ask why one of the first attempts to engage President Assad by asking former UNSG Kofi Annan to mediate, was torpedoed by putting on the mission two Palestinians with other agendas.

The answer was a clear effort to circle the wagons around the present UNSG by saying that the two individuals were perfectly qualified. Oh well – I really did not expect a different public answer. But then, just a day latter, I get the following e-mail from the Geneva based UN WATCH – and here another world of pro-Palestine UN activist-plants. In my mind the issue is just the same – the UN bureaucracy was stocked during the years with people that have an agenda – mainly backed by Saudi Oil money and probably US Oil companies as well. This was just a continuing effort to pull down the UN into business gutters.
Please continue to read:

Ban Ki-moon must investigate tainted Gaza probe.
Revealed: Schabas denied conflicts of interest in application form.

GENEVA, Feb. 3, 2015 – The Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch welcomed the resignation of William Schabas from the UN inquiry on Gaza, and called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to create an independent inquiry to investigate the extent to which Schabas’ undeclared conflict of interest has now irretrievably tainted the probe, scrutinize the flawed process by which Schabas was selected, and determine whether anyone at the UN rights office in Geneva knew about his paid legal work for the PLO.
Although Human Rights Council president Joachim Ruecker, the ambassador of Germany, insisted today that Schabas’ resignation “preserves the integrity of the process,” UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said that the opposite is true.
“The truth is that Schabas made clear in his resignation letter that he ‘devoted several months of work’ to the commission,” said Neuer, “in which, as the inquiry Chair, and as the top expert, Schabas would have played a leading role in conceiving of the entire project, including the scope, framework, and methodology of the inquiry, selection of specific incidents of the war to examine, choice of witnesses, and legal standards to apply.”

“Schabas would have had a say in the influential choice of staffers, who do a lion’s share of the work. He chaired all of the hearings where testimony was delivered and witnesses examined.”

“While absent for the final weeks of drafting, the bottom line is that Schabas masterminded and oversaw this effort for six out of its seven months, and he substantially impacted the entire process,” said Neuer.

“Because Schabas’ prior statements and actions are so prejudicial — prompting top legal scholars and his own colleagues to call for him to step down — his undeclared conflict of interest has now irretrievably tainted the entire probe and its report,” said Neuer.

Schabas: I didn’t know non-disclosure of conflict of interest was wrong, no one asked.

In his resignation letter, Schabas defends his failure to disclose his paid legal work for the PLO by saying, “I was not requested to provide any details on any of my past statements and other activities concerning Palestine and Israel.”
Yet when he applied last year for a related post, to replace Richard Falk as the UNHRC’s Palestine investigator, Schabas was asked about conflicts of interest. And he solemnly denied any conflicts.

Schabas resignation follows sustained campaign by UN Watch.

Key moments of the campaign:

• On August 11, 2014, the day Schabas was named head of the UN’s Gaza probe, UN Watch sprang into action, demanding he step down on account of his prior prejudicial statements. UN Watch immediately released videos and quotes showing Schabas’ extreme prejudice, which were picked up worldwide.
• Schabas fought back, arguing: “I have opinions like everybody else about the situation in Israel. They may not be the same as Hillel Neuer’s or Benjamin Netanyahu’s, that’s all.”
• The Daily Beast reported: “Schabas has faced the harshest criticism from Hillel Neuer, the head of the Geneva-based advocacy group UN Watch.”
• UN Watch launched an online petition and published a call for legal scholars to speak out. Over time, leading law professors and human rights activists — including a number of Schabas’ own colleagues — spoke out.
• UN Watch filed a motion and major legal brief demanding Schabas’ recusal.
• In a tense, private meeting in September with Schabas and the other two commissioners, UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer told them why the UN Human Rights Council was biased, why the resolution creating their mandate was biased, and why Schabas was legally disqualified because of his prejudicial statements that, at a minimum, created the reasonable apprehension of bias.
• UN Watch handed Schabas the motion demanding that he step down. Schabas became angry and snapped at Neuer, “And who is the reasonable man — you?”
• UN Watch filed an official written statement on the motion to remove Schabas, causing it to be circulated by the United Nations to all country delegates as an official document (A/HRC/27/NGO/112).
• In a dramatic debate, UN Watch Executive Director appeared before the plenary of the UN Human Rights Council to demand Schabas’ recusal, and to argue the legal motion. (See speech & video below).
• UN Watch revealed that one of the world’s most famous human rights figures called on Schabas to step down.
• In the end, with the pressure mounting, William Schabas finally quit.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 1st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS DISGUSTING – BUT WE RE-POST IT BECAUSE WE WANT OUR READERS TO HAVE AN EXAMPLE OF HOW US OIL INTERESTS MANAGE TO BRING RIGHT AND LEFT TO SERVE THEIR PURPOSE IN-TANDEM. TO THEM THE JEWS ARE ENEMIES OF A SMOOTH RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SAUDI OIL BARREL BARONS – AND THAT IS IT – NOTHING MORE TO SAY.

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The United States’ Hidden Hand in the Creation of Israel

Saturday, 31 January 2015 11:35
By L. Michael Hager, Truthout | Book Review / News Analysis

Against Our Better Judgment: The hidden history of how the US was used to create Israel, CreateSpace Publishing

If you want to know what the media doesn’t tell us about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, check out the informative website of Alison Weir, an investigative journalist who created the nonprofit organization, “If Americans Knew” and her website of the same name. If you want to know how America was bamboozled into enabling the new state of Israel in 1948, read “Against Our Better Judgment: The hidden history of how the US was used to create Israel,” Weir’s insightful new book.

US taxpayers fund military assistance to Israel at a level of more than $3.1billion a year, which enables the Israeli Defense Force to oppress Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Indeed, the Gaza wars of 2008-09 and 2014, which together took the lives of more than 3,500 Palestinians (mostly civilians), over 800 of whom were children, could not have been waged without American arms.

So it behooves Americans to understand the history of their government’s unconditional support of Israel. Ms. Weir’s volume, together with Rashid Khalidi’s “Brokers of Deceit,” shines a spotlight on the US role in creating and maintaining the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

How did the United States become a vigorous enabler of Israel when experts from the State Department, CIA and military all opposed the Zionist mission to create a Jewish state in Palestinian land? Ms. Weir tells that story clearly, backing up her facts with 108 pages of “endnotes” (more pages than the main text).

Even those who are well read on the Israeli-Palestinian relationship have much to learn from this slender volume. Among the hidden facts unearthed by Weir:

• US Supreme Court Justices Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter were covert supporters of political Zionism in its determination to occupy the land of Palestine, a part of the Ottoman Empire that was later mandated to Britain.

• Zionists pushed for the United States to enter the First World War on Britain’s side “as part of a deal to gain British support for their colonization of Palestine.” In 1917, the Balfour Declaration, promised that Britain would “view with favor the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people,” a key document in the creation of Israel.

• As part of a State Department delegation to obtain a separate peace with the Ottoman Empire, which “would have prevented Britain from acquiring Palestine and enabling a Jewish state,” Felix Frankfurter persuaded the delegation to abandon its effort.

• At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Brandeis and Frankfurter lobbied for a Jewish home in Palestine, despite strong warnings that unlimited immigration of Jews would violate the Wilsonian principle of self-determination.

• During Hitler’s rise in Germany, Zionists “sabotaged efforts to find safe havens for Jewish refugees to convince the world that Jews could only be safe in a Jewish state.” According to an Israeli source, “the Nazis wanted the Jews out of Germany; the Zionists wanted them to come to Palestine.”

Zionist organizations established in the 1930s and ’40s lobbied President Harry Truman to recognize the state of Israel despite strong objections by Middle East experts. Loy Henderson of the State Department warned that the UN partition plan would “guarantee that the Palestine problem would be permanent and still more complicated in the future.” Both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA echoed that view.

Ultimately, however, Truman accepted the advice of Clark Clifford, who argued that US support for partition was necessary to win Jewish votes in the upcoming presidential election. The president’s decision set a pattern for deciding US-Middle East policy issues on domestic political grounds.

American Zionists were equally successful in lobbying the UN General Assembly, when it voted on the partition plan. According the Weir, passage of the partition resolution provoked violence against local residents, the expulsion of over 400,000 Palestinians and the May 15 declaration of the new state of Israel (which the United States was the first to recognize).

The remainder of the book describes the Israeli conquest of Palestine, with its village massacres and ethnic cleansing; the proliferation of US front groups in support of Zionist militarism; Israeli efforts (largely successful) to funnel displaced people to Palestine; and growing Zionist influence in the media. The book ends with the sad story of Dorothy Thompson, a famous journalist whose career ended with her efforts to expose the plight of Palestinian refugees.

While Ms. Weir’s text is revelatory and articulate, I wish the paperback itself were more securely bound. My copy had pages that fell out after a single reread. Clearly, the book deserves both a hardbound edition and a wide audience!

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L. MICHAEL HAGER

L. Michael Hager is cofounder and former director-general of the International Development Law Organization, Rome.

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SOME OF THE COMMENTS:

Maxwell • 2 hours ago
Zionism And Its Impact
By Ann M. Lesch

The Zionist movement has maintained a striking continuity in its aims and methods over the past century. From the start, the movement sought to achieve a Jewish majority in Palestine and to establish a Jewish state on as much of the LAND as possible. The methods included promoting mass Jewish immigration and acquiring tracts of land that would become the inalienable property of the Jewish people. This policy inevitably prevented the indigenous Arab residents from attaining their national goals and establishing a Palestinian state. It also necessitated displacing Palestinians from their lands and jobs when their presence conflicted with Zionist interests.

The Zionist movement—and subsequently the state of ISRAEL—failed to develop a positive approach to the Palestinian presence and aspirations. Although many Israelis recognized the moral dilemma posed by the Palestinians, the majority either tried to ignore the issue or to resolve it by “force majeure.” Thus, the Palestine problem festered and grew, instead of being resolved.

The Zionist movement arose in late nineteenth-century Europe, influenced by the nationalist ferment sweeping that continent. Zionism acquired its particular focus from the ancient Jewish longing for the return to Zion and received a strong impetus from the increasingly intolerable conditions facing the large Jewish community in tsarist Russia. The movement also developed at the time of major European territorial acquisitions in Asia and Africa and benefited from the European powers’ competition for influence in the shrinking Ottoman Empire.

One result of this involvement with European expansionism, however, was that the leaders of the nascent nationalist movements in the Middle East viewed Zionism as an adjunct of European colonialism. Moreover, Zionist assertions of the contemporary
relevance of the Jews’ historical ties to Palestine, coupled with their land purchases and immigration, alarmed the indigenous population of the Ottoman districts that Palestine comprised. The Jewish community (yishuv) rose from 6 percent of Palestine’s population in 1880 to 10 percent by 1914. Although the numbers were insignificant, the settlers were outspoken enough to arouse the opposition of Arab leaders and induce them to exert counter pressure on the Ottoman regime to prohibit Jewish immigration and land buying.

… www.palestineremembered… Conclusion – The land and people of Palestine were transformed during the thirty years of British rule. The systematic colonization undertaken by the Zionist movement enabled the Jewish community to establish separate and virtually autonomous political, economic, social, cultural, and military institutions. A state within a state was in place by the time the movement launched its drive for independence. The legal underpinnings for the autonomous Jewish community were provided by the British Mandate. The establishment of a Jewish state was first proposed by the British Royal Commission in July 1937 and then endorsed by the UNITED NATIONS in November 1947.

That drive for statehood IGNORED the presence of a Palestinian majority with its own national aspirations. The right to create a Jewish state-and the overwhelming need for such a state-were perceived as overriding Palestinian counterclaims. Few members of the yishuv supported the idea of binationalism. Rather, territorial partition was seen by most Zionist leaders as the way to gain statehood while according certain national rights to the Palestinians. …..see more ……

Dr Susan Reibel Moore, Sydney • 4 hours ago
I’m not going to read all the responses, but I like the first one that I read, which is just below this box. My quick, educated guess is that many responses will reveal colossal historical ignorance.

The article’s anti-Semitic bias is shocking. During WWII, when I was a young child growing up in NJ, all of the Jews in my extended Jewish family and community worked hard to get friends and relations out of Europe and into America. It’s well known, historically, that untold numbers of Jews did this. It happened well before 1948!!!!

How DARE this writer, and–I infer–the author of the book whose ‘main points’ are summarised, write as if ‘Zionists’ were the only Jews trying to do the right thing then and earlier to save the Biblically ‘chosen’ people??

There IS a case for Jews to be in Israel. This doesn’t mean that all or most Jews SUPPORT what the present Israeli government, and earlier Israeli military outfits, have been doing to Palestinians.

I’m a religious Catholic who attends daily Mass. Young and older Catholics are taught that the Holy Family and all of the Apostles were Jews. They were not ‘Zionists’. THAT term is more recent.

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R Daneel Olivaw • 5 hours ago
I’m glad to know the US had a hand in making Israel what it is today. It’s the only country in the Middle east that fully supports the rights of women, minorities, and the LGBT community. Unlike the Palestinians they share my liberal values.

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klauser R Daneel Olivaw • 4 hours ago
Yeah, Israel is a font of religious and racial tolerance and the property and human right of all others. You bet.

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DofG • 6 hours ago
Just as Woodrow Wilson was politically seduced to help create the third central bank of America, Harry Truman fell by the same seduction- self interest over national interest.

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Jim Hyder DofG • 5 hours ago
Sorry, Harry wanted to be elected Prez on his own and had to have the Jewish vote, and money, to win.

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DofG Jim Hyder • 2 hours ago
Unless I’m missing something, believe it, or not, your statement seems contradictory.

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Gypsy Roberts • 6 hours ago
I have the book. Alison Weir is a truly outstanding individual, and I highly recommend both her website and book for anyone seeking the TRUTH.

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Jim Hyder Gypsy Roberts • 5 hours ago
One very informative book. And important me.

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wjohnfaust Gypsy Roberts • 6 hours ago
Yes. Do visit the website.

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wjohnfaust • 7 hours ago
Not surprising that the comments below are strongly polarized.

I suspect that both the Israeli and US democracies suffer from the same defects; they are democracies in name only. Both seem to exclude their populations from exercising any control over their international behavior. Certainly the US does. The US generates so many “terrorist insurgencies” from its feckless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world. Turns out to be highly profitable.

Not surprising then that Israel continues its settlements in violation of international law. Both the US and Israel claim exceptionalism when convenient to do so. Israel will continue this behavior as long as the US mindlessly supports it.

As for the Middle East being an “insane area”. I’m sure it is. One simply needs to look at the meddling (imperial and colonial) carried out by the US and Europe over the centuries to understand why it might be insane. It has little to do with Islam.

As for Israel being the one democracy in that “insane area”, the US actually prefers avaricious dictators. They are so much easier to control. That’s why the democratically elected prime minister of Iran (Mossadegh) was overthrown by the US and UK in 1953. One of our staunchest allies is Saudi Arabia — one of the cruelest dictatorships in the world. Same goes for Latin America.
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Cloudchopper wjohnfaust • 4 hours ago
Same went for Egypt in the past.
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Gypsy Roberts wjohnfaust • 7 hours ago
That post, my friend, just….rocked.

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pvolkov • 7 hours ago
Harry Truman declared Israel a state when he was running for the Presidency after FDR’s death and was opposed strongly to Zionist efforts but was threatened with removal of money and support by strong Jewish interests which could have lost him the presidency and he was forced to give in. However, he warned strongly of possible consequences in the future which have come to pass. He accomplished this in contradiction of UN regulations regarding settlement in Palestine which was to remain open to all peoples but as soon as Israel became a nation, they forced Arab and other non Jewish landowners out of the country without compensation and took over the land for the new country.
Zionist aspirations (which did not represent all Jews) were then free to expand and bring in settlers and start an ongoing oppression of Palestinians. We saw it in the early 1960′ s when we lived there and the country was then divided about the purposes and plans for Israel which was followed by strong militarization programs aided by U.S. financial help.

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old timer • 8 hours ago
Your article dos not mention the work of Col. William Eddy USMC ret. He was number two at the OSS in WW2 under Wild Bill Donovan.. The Dulles brothers worked for him. Later, as evangelist Christians, they supported a single state for Isreal. The head of the CIA and Sec. of State reportedly believed Christ would come again if a religious Israel were accomplished.

Eddy ultimately became Minister Plenipotentiary to Saudi Arabia.and was active in near East intelligence in WW 1 and WW2…He wrote many letters to the Dulles boys saying in effect “Are you out of your minds. You say Arabs, we want your oil, but move over Israel wants your land “. Eddy repeatedly would write “Think ahead fifty years to envision the unsolvable chaos you will cause” It is now more than 60 years and Eddy has been precisely correct ..

I say think ahead another fifty years and try to envision a peaceful solution. How do I know this? Eddy would disclose openly a number of his letters he would enter in a diplomatic pouch for for delivery to Washington. I believe copies could be found in Eddy’s correspondence file stored with his wife’s papers.

Netanyahu knows this but doesn’t care. He appears willing to utilize radio active material obtained from the US to obliterate the entire Mid East. . Ultimate peace will not be achieved.as long as Netanyahu fails to consider the consequences..

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kaluser • 8 hours ago
Is there some hand behind Truthout that refuses to print the most important story of the day and that is the coming war with Russia and and violent, Obama-Brennan-PNAC insanity in Ukraine? This is a catastrophic event for Europe and the world that needs to be followed. Most morons know the history of the Harry Truman’s idiotic support for the European Jewish State in the Middle East.

AND SO IT GOES ON IN THE COMMENTS GIVE AND TAKE …..


BUT HERE COMES A RAY OF LIGHT !!!

CANADA GETS TOUGH ON ANTI-SEMITISM – They Vote in as LAW – THE OTTAWA PROTOCOL that perhaps for the first time in history links Antisemitism to the denial of the right Jewish people have to their ancestral homeland – the State of Israel.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird also announced that Canada is joining New Zealand, France, Poland, and 10 other Western Nations, in refusing to go this year to Durban III which is expected to be another UN sling-fest against Israel backed by repressive Arab and African regimes that blame all problems facing their own countries and the World – on Israel.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Middle East | News Analysis

New Saudi King and U.S. Face Crucial Point in the Relationship

By HELENE COOPER, ROD NORDLAND and NEIL MacFARQUHAR, of The New York Times – January, 23, 2015

WASHINGTON — Almost a decade ago, an Arab diplomat famously likened the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia to a Catholic marriage “where you can have no divorce.”

But there can be estrangement. As the Obama administration begins the arduous task of assessing the newly reconstituted House of Saud after the death of King Abdullah on Friday, the relationship between the United States and its most important Arab ally, one fostered with great care and attention to detail over the years, is at a critical and tumultuous point.

Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman, 79, inherits both the policies put in place by the more assertive brother he is succeeding and the conflicts that in recent years have characterized relations with Washington. On issues from Iran to the Arab Spring, from Syria to domestic issues within Saudi Arabia like the recent flogging of a journalist, there have been significant differences between American officials and the Saudi royal family.

The close ties once nurtured so lovingly by the Bush administration have given way to complaints from the Saudis about an aloof American president who should have done more to unseat President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and less to unseat former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. The Saudis also remain deeply skeptical about President Obama’s efforts to negotiate an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.

“The Saudis are hard pressed to think of any country or collection of countries that can do what the United States can do,” said Jon B. Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “At the same time, they are worried that the United States’ intentions are changing at a time when they don’t have an alternative or even the structure to find an alternative.”

Yet Saudi Arabia is still managing to change the global economy at a crucial time by flooding oil markets, keeping oil output so high that it is aiding Mr. Obama on a number of fronts. By depressing oil prices, Saudi Arabia has given him a boost at home. The Saudis have helped Mr. Obama abroad as well, because those lowered prices help pressure Iran over its nuclear ambitions and Russia over its aggression in Ukraine. As a result, Obama administration officials are treading carefully as they navigate the Saudi succession. While Mr. Obama is going ahead with a long-planned trip to India, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will lead a delegation to Saudi Arabia to pay respect and offer condolences.

“The president certainly hopes, and we expect, that the strong relationship that exists between the United States and Saudi Arabia will endure under the leadership of the new king,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Friday. The Saudis have long relied on the United States as their military umbrella. But that relationship soured after King Abdullah felt that Mr. Obama was ignoring the region, or at least Saudi concerns. According to a leaked diplomatic memo, in 2008 King Abdullah urged the United States to weigh military action against Iran to “cut off the head of the snake.” Now the Saudis worry about an American deal with Iran, and Saudi Arabia, like Israel, relishes the split between Congress and the White House over more sanctions and the possibility that they could scuttle an agreement.
Continue reading the main story

And the interests of the two countries tend to diverge on other issues, especially combating Al Qaeda and other extremist organizations, which receive some of their funding from Saudi sources. “I think the Saudis and the Americans have developed the habit of coexisting with their disagreements,” said Khalid al-Dakhil, a political-science professor in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

White House officials said they were confident that the United States and Saudi Arabia would continue to work together on a range of issues, including the fight against the Islamic State and the response to the recent instability in Yemen. And they said the relationship had improved in recent months, in part because of Mr. Obama’s decision to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State, a campaign that Saudi Arabia has joined and that King Salman’s ascension to the throne was not expected to derail.

“We are much closer now,” a senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “I wouldn’t say we are completely aligned, but it’s far less than it was at times.”

Others are not so sure.

“The recent shift in Saudi regional and foreign relations is not how outspoken it has become, but how muscular it has become,” said Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “It has long prided itself on acting behind the scenes.”

An annual “intelligence” dinner at a hotel in Washington every year illustrates that point. The host is the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, the guests a group of American and Arab spies and intelligence officials, Middle East policy experts and top national security officials in the American government like John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director who served as the agency’s Saudi Arabia station chief in the late 1990s. Save welcoming remarks by Mr. al-Jubeir, there is no set program, no keynote speech, just high-level national security officials and foreign policy experts networking. Attendees describe the affairs as a Saudi show of force.

“There’s no desire even to talk to the gathered public,” said one foreign policy expert who attended last year’s dinner, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he didn’t want to lose his invitation to this year’s dinner. “The point seems to be to say, ‘Hey, we can get 300 important people in a room. Now let’s move on.’ ”

Lacking American support in key areas, Saudi Arabia is increasingly striking out on its own. Without the military means to sway events in Syria, and with Mr. Obama balking at forcibly removing Mr. al-Assad in Syria, Saudi Arabia used oil to try to influence Syria’s two main backers, Iran and Russia. As worldwide demand softened, Saudi Arabia continued pumping, even as prices tumbled to around $50 a barrel from more than $100.

To maintain its own social spending, including $130 billion in benefits designed to ensure domestic stability, the kingdom needs an oil price of $100. But given its foreign reserves of around $730 billion, it could hold out for a few years with lower prices, analysts say.

Saudi Arabia has not been drawn directly into the Arab uprisings in Tunisia, which is relatively stable, or Libya, although that may yet occur. Its main problem is next door in Yemen.

Militiamen from the Houthis, a Zaydi sect of Shiite Islam and traditional rulers of Yemen, have seized power. Seeing the Houthis as modeled on Hezbollah in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia had already cut off the $4 billion in annual aid to the pro-American government. The United States has seemed much more inclined to try to reach an agreement with the Houthis, at least on the fight against Al Qaeda.

But despite these differences, the pattern of accommodation that emerged under King Abdullah is likely to endure. “The default setting for the Saudis is always the status quo,” added Eugene L. Rogan, the director of the Middle East Center at St. Antony’s College, Oxford.

Still, the days when American and Saudi leaders acted in unison in the Middle East, and when Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador, was the toast of Washington and a constant presence at the Bush White House, are in the past. And if King Salman is anything like his brother, a certain amount of friction will be a given. Late in January 2011, King Abdullah became so angry during a phone call with Mr. Obama over the president’s determination to abandon support for Mr. Mubarak that he hung up on him.

Saudi aides were quick to leak the anecdote.

————————–
Helene Cooper reported from Washington; Rod Nordland from Amman, Jordan; and Neil MacFarquhar from Moscow. Michael D. Shear contributed reporting from Washington, Ranya Kadri from Amman, and David D. Kirkpatrick from Cairo.

Related Coverage:

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2007.
New King in Saudi Arabia Unlikely to Alter Oil PolicyJAN. 23, 2015
King Abdullah in 2014.
King Abdullah, a Shrewd Force Who Reshaped Saudi Arabia, Dies at 90JAN. 22, 2015.
Yemen Calm but Confused After President’s ResignationJAN. 23, 2015

========================

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from:  readersupportednews.org/opinion2/… January 23, 2015


Congress Seeks Netanyahu’s Direction

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

23 January 15


Showing who some in Congress believe is the real master of U.S. foreign policy, House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session and offer a rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s comments on world affairs in his State of the Union speech.

Boehner made clear that Netanyahu’s third speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress – scheduled for Feb. 11 – {now seemingly re-scheduled for March 3, 2015} - was meant to counter Obama’s assessments. “There is a serious threat in the world, and the President last night kind of papered over it,” Boehner said on Wednesday. “And the fact is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists and the threat posed by Iran.”

The scheduling of Netanyahu’s speech caught the White House off-guard, since the Israeli prime minister had apparently not bothered to clear his trip with the administration. The Boehner-Netanyahu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.

In the past when Netanyahu has spoken to Congress, Republicans and Democrats have competed to show their devotion by quickly and frequently leaping to their feet to applaud almost every word out of the Israeli prime minister’s mouth. By addressing a joint session for a third time, Netanyahu would become only the second foreign leader to do so, joining British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who never used the platform to demean the policies of a sitting U.S. president.

Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East. Boehner doesn’t seem to realize that Netanyahu has developed what amounts to a de facto alliance with extremist Sunni forces in the region.

Not only is Israel now collaborating behind the scenes with Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist leadership but Israel has begun taking sides militarily in support of the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Syrian civil war. A source familiar with U.S. intelligence information on Syria said Israel has a “non-aggression pact” with Nusra forces that control territory adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The quiet cooperation between Israel and al-Qaeda’s affiliate was further underscored on Sunday when Israeli helicopters attacked and killed advisers to the Syrian military from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran. In other words, Israel has dispatched its forces into Syria to kill military personnel helping to fight al-Nusra. Iran later confirmed that one of its generals had died in the Israeli strike.

Israel’s tangled alliances with Sunni forces have been taking shape over the past several years, as Israel and Saudi Arabia emerged as strange bedfellows in the geopolitical struggle against Shiite-ruled Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria and southern Lebanon. Both Saudi and Israeli leaders have talked with growing alarm about this “Shiite crescent” stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.


Favoring Sunni Extremists

Senior Israelis have made clear they would prefer Sunni extremists to prevail in the Syrian civil war rather than President Bashar al-Assad, who is an Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam. Assad’s relatively secular government is seen as the protector of Shiites, Christians and other minorities who fear the vengeful brutality of the Sunni jihadists who now dominate the anti-Assad rebels.

In one of the most explicit expressions of Israel’s views, its Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, a close adviser to Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post in September 2013 that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia shares Israeli’s strategic view that “the Shiite crescent” must be broken and has thus developed a rapport with Netanyahu’s government in a kind of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” relationship. But some rank-and-file Jewish supporters of Israel have voiced concerns about Israel’s newfound alliance with the Saudi monarchy, especially given its adherence to ultraconservative Wahhabi Islam and its embrace of a fanatical hatred of Shiite Islam, a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites that dates back 1,400 years.

Though President Obama has repeatedly declared his support for Israel, he has developed a contrary view from Netanyahu’s regarding what is the gravest danger in the Middle East. Obama considers the radical Sunni jihadists, associated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, to be the biggest threat to Western interests and U.S. national security.

That has put him in a different de facto alliance – with Iran and the Syrian government – since they represent the strongest bulwarks against Sunni jihadists who have targeted Americans and other Westerners for death.

What Boehner doesn’t seem to understand is that Israel and Saudi Arabia have placed themselves on the side of the Sunni jihadists who now represent the frontline fight against the “Shiite crescent.” If Netanyahu succeeds in enlisting the United States in violently forcing Syrian “regime change,” the U.S. government likely would be facilitating the growth in power of the Sunni extremists, not containing them.


But the influential American neoconservatives want to synch U.S. foreign policy with Israel’s and thus have pressed for a U.S. bombing campaign against Assad’s forces (even if that would open the gates of Damascus to the Nusra Front or the Islamic State). The neocons also want an escalation of tensions with Iran by sabotaging an agreement to ensure that its nuclear program is not used for military purposes.

The neocons have long wanted to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran as part of their “regime change” strategy for the Middle East. That is why Obama’s openness to a permanent agreement for tight constraints on Iran’s nuclear program is seen as a threat by Netanyahu, the neocons and their congressional allies – because it would derail hopes for militarily attacking Iran.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama made clear that he perceives the brutal Islamic State, which he calls “ISIL” for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as the principal current threat to Western interests in the Middle East and the clearest terror threat to the United States and Europe. Obama proposed “a smarter kind of American leadership” that would cooperate with allies in “stopping ISIL’s advance” without “getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East.”


Working with Putin

Thus, Obama, who might be called a “closet realist,” is coming to the realization that the best hope for blocking the advances of Sunni jihadi terror and minimizing U.S. military involvement is through cooperation with Iran and its regional allies. That also puts Obama on the same side with Russian President Vladimir Putin who has faced Sunni terrorism in Chechnya and is supporting both Iran’s leaders and Syria’s Assad in their resistance to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

Obama’s “realist” alliance, in turn, presents a direct threat to Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran represents an “existential threat” to Israel and that the “Shiite crescent” must be destroyed. There is also fear among Israeli right-wingers that an effective Obama-Putin collaboration could ultimately force Israel into accepting a Palestinian state.

So, Netanyahu and the U.S. neocons believe they must do whatever is necessary to shatter this tandem of Obama, Putin and Iran. That is one reason why the neocons were at the forefront of fomenting “regime change” against Ukraine’s elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last year. By splintering Ukraine on Russia’s border, the neocons drove a wedge between Obama and Putin. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit.”]

Even the slow-witted mainstream U.S. media has begun to pick up on the story of the emerging Israeli-Saudi alliance. In the Jan. 19 issue of Time magazine, correspondent Joe Klein noted the new coziness between top Israeli and Saudi officials.

He wrote: “On May 26, 2014, an unprecedented public conversation took place in Brussels. Two former high-ranking spymasters of Israel and Saudi Arabia – Amos Yadlin and Prince Turki al-Faisal – sat together for more than an hour, talking regional politics in a conversation moderated by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

“They disagreed on some things, like the exact nature of an Israel-Palestine peace settlement, and agreed on others: the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat, the need to support the new military government in Egypt, the demand for concerted international action in Syria. The most striking statement came from Prince Turki. He said the Arabs had ‘crossed the Rubicon’ and ‘don’t want to fight Israel anymore.’”

Not only did Prince Turki offer an olive branch to Israel, he indicated agreement on what the two countries consider their most pressing strategic interests: Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war. In other words, in noting this extraordinary meeting, Klein had stumbled upon the odd-couple alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia – though he didn’t fully understand what he was seeing.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Obama had shifted his position on Syria as the West made a “quiet retreat from its demand” that Assad “step down immediately.” The article by Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta noted that the Obama administration still wanted Assad to exit eventually “but facing military stalemate, well-armed jihadists and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United States is going along with international diplomatic efforts that could lead to more gradual change in Syria.”

    At the center of that diplomatic initiative was Russia, again reflecting Obama’s recognition of the need to cooperate with Putin on resolving some of these complex problems (although Obama did include in his speech some tough-guy rhetoric against Russia over Ukraine, taking some pleasure in how Russia’s economy is now “in tatters”).

    But the underlying reality is that the United States and Assad’s regime have become de facto allies, fighting on the same side in the Syrian civil war, much as Israel had, in effect, sided with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front by killing Hezbollah and Iranian advisers to the Syrian military.

    The Times article noted that the shift in Obama’s position on Syrian peace talks “comes along with other American actions that Mr. Assad’s supporters and opponents take as proof Washington now believes that if Mr. Assad is ousted, there will be nothing to check the spreading chaos and extremism.

    “American planes now bomb the Islamic State group’s militants in Syria, sharing skies with Syrian jets. American officials assure Mr. Assad, through Iraqi intermediaries, that Syria’s military is not their target. The United States still trains and equips Syrian insurgents, but now mainly to fight the Islamic State, not the government.”

    Yet, as Obama adjusts U.S. foreign policy to take into account the complex realities in the Middle East, he now faces another front in this conflict – from the U.S. Congress, which has long been held in thrall by the Israel lobby.

    Not only has Speaker Boehner appealed to Netanyahu to deliver what amounts to a challenge to President Obama’s foreign policy but congressional neocons are even accusing Obama’s team of becoming Iranian stooges. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democratic neocon, said, “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”

    If indeed Netanyahu does end up addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, its members would face a stark choice of either embracing Israel’s foreign policy as America’s or backing the decisions made by the elected President of the United States.

    ___________________________________________

    Precisely, and therefore the Boehner-Netanya hu arrangement is *illegal* by the simple *reason* of being obviously, and egregiously Unconstitutiona l.

    As Indian Weaver notes above, if the Justice Department and the White House bend over, lie down and accept *this* “rogering”, they deserve everything they get.

    And we, the American “observers” of Government, get a full shout out about the fact that Obama and Holder are COMPLICIT in this bullshit – simply demonstrated by their refusal to ENFORCE against a clearly cut violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    This Kabuki Theater that *IS* U.S. Government is really beginning to grow quite threadbare. It now takes nothing to “see through” all of the phony posturing.

    =================================

    And Some of the Comments:

    +26 # nice2bgreat 2015-01-23 13:45
    .
    So Boehner is actually bringing a foreign leader into the — US — House of Representatives ‘ chamber? … to challenge the US President.

    Say it ain’t so, Joe.
    .

    +18 # nice2bgreat 2015-01-23 13:49
    .
    Or is it that this foreign leader will simply take the opportunity to challenge the President, even though he/she is in the US House of Representatives ‘ chamber?
    .

    +24 # ericlipps 2015-01-23 18:42
    Netanyahu is coming to Congress to give its new Republican members the opportunity to kiss his ring before he puts one through their noses. And of course to sound off against President Obama, something Republicans are always happy to hear someone do (they’d feel the same way if it were Bashir Assad)—but that’s just a bonus.

    +15 # X Dane 2015-01-23 19:52
    nice2bgreat.
    I am beyond furious. Why has nobody pointed out that Boehner and the republicans are TRAITORS. They are asking a warmongering prime minister of ANOTHER COUNTRY to dictate how we should conduct our foreign policy.

    This is what happens when so many in congress has dual citizenship with Israel. They do not grasp that they owe loyalty to USA …..NOT Israel.

    Traitors used to be thrown in jail and hanged for actions like this. Something is seriously wrong. And Netanyaho forgets who is propping up his country with BILLIONS annually.

    I can’t believe that Boehner is allowed to get away with this. It is sickening.

    -1 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-01-23 21:04
    I too am beyond furious! Our Congress is full of people who should be charged with TREASON!! Those corrupt creatures deserve to so charged and if guilty PUT TO DEATH!!

    The United States has no business to be sending billions of dollars and our armed forces to the Middle East. Day by day we are causing the growth of terrorist forces who have damn good reason to hate Americans. We are killing people day and night all over the Middle East. We sure as hell are not winning the hearts and minds of those people. We need to get the hell out and take care of our problems here at home. That money for the endless wars could be used to put Americans to work rebuilding our failing infrastructure.

    Don’t vote for anyone in Congress now. NO ONE! They are not working for us. They work for their Israeli paymasters.

    +3 # LGNTexas 2015-01-23 21:04
    Just another example of the racist reich-wing delegitimizing our first black president.

    +6 # Interested Observer 2015-01-23 19:52
    It will save the time usually spent getting our Mid-east policy translated from Hebrew.

    +34 # indian weaver 2015-01-23 14:35
    Hard to believe Boehner would do this – not. I think crass now amounts to treason, or sedition? Where is our worthless spineless AG now? Time for being cute is over. Attack Netanyahoo criminally, whatever it takes. Such is the state of the union – what union?

    +39 # MEBrowning 2015-01-23 18:20
    Yes! During Dubya’s presidency, the Republicans constantly harangued anybody they thought didn’t have “respect for the office of the president.” In other words, anyone who dared to criticize neocon chickenhawks who pandered to the 1% and ignored everybody else. Where’s their respect for the office of the president now? Hypocrites all.

    +14 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:32
    With Republicans, loyalty trumps hypocrisy.

    +1 # randrjwr 2015-01-23 20:43
    Quoting wrknight:

    With Republicans, loyalty trumps hypocrisy.

    I presume you mean loyalty to Israel.

    +25 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:30
    “Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East.”

    Boehner’s ignorance extends far beyond foreign policy. In fact, one should question whether he is simply ignorant or just plain stupid.

    +20 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:35
    Along with those who vote for him.

    +20 # fredboy 2015-01-23 18:33
    Makes you want to re-open the 9/11 and Iraq invasion investigations, doesn’t it? Sniff, sniff…

    +26 # fredboy 2015-01-23 18:34
    Get ready for a huge backfire if this happens. Putting both Israel and the GOP in the doghouse. Dumb bastards.

    +2 # randrjwr 2015-01-23 20:45
    Quoting fredboy:

    Get ready for a huge backfire if this happens. Putting both Israel and the GOP in the doghouse. Dumb bastards.

    I hope the doghouse has a big, tough lock on the door and a high fence topped with razor wire around it.

    +24 # Ausmar 2015-01-23 19:05
    Boehner’s action is despicable. He has snubbed the president, impaired his diplomatic efforts with Iran, and implicitly acknowledged the Congress subservience to the Israeli lobby. Clearly, by calling on Netanyahu, his aim is to put pressure on some hesitant, AIPAC intimidated Democrats to fall in line with right wing Israeli policy and thereby have enough votes to overcome a presidential veto on further immediate sanctions on Iran, thus opening the way to armed intervention in Iran alongside Israel. Hopefully, enough of the American people will support the president in expressing their disdain for this kind of devious, dangerous, and servile behavior by the US Congress, so as to put a strain on American-Israel i relations. It would be about time for the US to stop being a lackey of Israel.

    +12 # angelfish 2015-01-23 19:16
    WHO the Hell does Boehner think he IS? WHAT gives him the ability OR the right to invite foreigners to speak to our Congress? Murderous NAZI foreigners, at that? It smacks of subversion and outright TREASON! I am appalled at his lack of judgment in taking it upon himself to do this. My only hope is that this might be the beginning of the end of the ReTHUGlican Party. Sane Americans EVERYWHERE should rise up and demand that he be REMOVED as Speaker and that they search High and Low for a ReTHUGlican with Bat’s sense! I know it’s a stretch but there has GOT to be someone out there with a modicum of intellect and sense of decorum. God help us and save us from these intellectual defectives!

    +13 # NOMINAE 2015-01-23 19:34
    From the article : “The Boehner-Netanya hu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.”
    ___________________________________________

    Precisely, and therefore the Boehner-Netanya hu arrangement is *illegal* by the simple *reason* of being obviously, and egregiously Unconstitutiona l.

    As Indian Weaver notes above, if the Justice Department and the White House bend over, lie down and accept *this* “rogering”, they deserve everything they get.

    And we, the American “observers” of Government, get a full shout out about the fact that Obama and Holder are COMPLICIT in this bullshit – simply demonstrated by their refusal to ENFORCE against a clearly cut violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    This Kabuki Theater that *IS* U.S. Government is really beginning to grow quite threadbare. It now takes nothing to “see through” all of the phony posturing.

    +10 # reiverpacific 2015-01-23 19:44
    Isn’t Mr “Cancer-bed-sun tan” Boner actually doing what he accused Obama of and wants to sue him for, as in “Overreaching his power” over the ACA, which actually helped a lot of people, it’s imperfections notwithstanding?
    All Nutty-Yahoo and his proto-Fascist and by default Rabidly Nationalist LIKUD party has done is press for “Israeli Exceptionalism” in committing attempted genocide, mass-murder, apartheid destruction of habitat and livelihood on a people forced to live in “The biggest open-air prison in the World”!
    They should both be locked up in the Abu-Grahib Country Club for delusional rogue leaders!

    0 # angelfish 2015-01-23 21:48
    Thank you reiverpacific, you are right ON the money!

    +1 # Paul Larudee 2015-01-23 20:18
    Can we commission a suitable crown that quickly?

    +2 # Activista 2015-01-23 20:19
    Great analysis and focus on the problem – this is essential – USA can NOT fight another war – can not afford it morally and economically.
    We are not helping Israel by solving their problems with neighbors by killing them.
    2014 killing of Gaza – 2140 Palestinians, mostly civilians – is direction where Netanyahu wants to go.
    Hope that people of Israel (and USA) wake up and stop this psychopath.

    +1 # Jayceecool 2015-01-23 20:31
    Does anyone else see the portents of a coup-de-etat here?

    +3 # jdd 2015-01-23 20:38
    While Boehner’s move is disgraceful, the bigger threat at this time if Obama’s quite open admission of financial warfare against Russia and his support for Unkrain’s assault on the Donbas region and intent to send advisors to the “National Guard.” Obama also made threatening statements against China. So while it is true that Obama realizes that he needs Russia’s help to defeat ISIS, he continues to threaten and harden relations with two of the world’s greatest nuclear powers.

    0 # Anonymot 2015-01-23 21:54
    Obama is not a foreign policy mind – he has none. The CIA dictates to him. His own policy advisors are all CIA oriented or simply stupid in the field of diplomacy.

    The last real foreign policy we had was Dick Cheney’s – who had a brain transplant as a boy. I think he got Palin’s.

    +2 # Shorey13 2015-01-23 20:43
    Boehner is both stupid and a traitor. He either doesn’t understand our democracy or chooses to violate it. Foreign policy is the province of the Executive Branch, with Congressional approval of Treaties, Wars and other formal matters. Boehner clearly has no interest in responsible governance.

    But, I was not really unhappy when the Republicans won the last election, because I like to see stupid, evil people given enough rope to hang themselves. The Republicans will be roundly defeated in 2016. You can bet on it.

    +1 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-01-23 21:14
    I hope they will be defeated but not by Democrats. The two corporate parties are equally bad. We need to follow the foot steps of Spain and Greece and form a new political party to represent the working people and throw the plutocrats out of our government. We don’t need endless wars and austerity. We need a government to serve the people of this nation and protect our mother the Earth. Down with this rotten government!

    0 # Saberoff 2015-01-23 21:14
    The world may well not last that long.

    0 # shgo 2015-01-23 21:36
    setting up for 2016 – hope it all backfires – on all these fools who purport to represent the people of this country. NONE OF THEM DO. They represent the corporate plutocracy. Maybe more of us will take to the streets, phones, legislators offices, and come together in a movement that says NO to all of it – but with a vision for social and economic justice for ALL!

    0 # Anonymot 2015-01-23 21:39
    All of this is historically normal. Mussolini invited Hitler to speak before the Italian parliament. Franco and Hitler were close allies in the Spanish Civil War. Fascists stick together. We and the CIA have always embraced dictators. So what’s new?

    I assume that Obama alone doesn’t have the power to shut off our payments to Israel.

    0 # CarolYost 2015-01-23 21:54
    I’m thrilled to see intelligent comments in relation to Israel, for once–no Zionists. Of course Boehner is stupid and treacherous. I would love it if, while Netanyahu’s away from his home, there was a coup d’etat in Israel and a good leader put in his place!–One who would work toward a single state for all, Jews, Palestinians, everybody, as there should have been all along. No Jewish state for Jews only. When you have a country set up on behalf of one religion or group, the results are ugly. The Holocaust taught us that.

    Yes, let’s rise up against the Boehner-Netanya hu fraud. And let’s end the US devotion to Israel once and for all. Buchanan was so right when he called Congress–what? –Israeli-occup ied territory.

    Refresh comments list

    ======================================

    Pincas Jawetz <pjawetz@gmail.com>

    5:50 AM (5 minutes ago)

    to Uri, Uri
    Dear Uri

    IN CASE YOU DID NOT SEE THIS ALREADY – I THOUGHT IT MIGHT INTEREST YOU .

    Pincas

    from:  readersupportednews.org/opinion2/… January 23, 2015

    Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill in Washington. (photo: AP)

    Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill in Washington. (photo: AP)

    go to original article

    ALSO SEE: Obama to Netanyahu: Stop Pushing Congress Toward New Sanctions on Iran

    Congress Seeks Netanyahu’s Direction

    By Robert Parry, Consortium News

    23 January 15

    howing who some in Congress believe is the real master of U.S. foreign policy, House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session and offer a rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s comments on world affairs in his State of the Union speech.

    Boehner made clear that Netanyahu’s third speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress – scheduled for Feb. 11 – was meant to counter Obama’s assessments. “There is a serious threat in the world, and the President last night kind of papered over it,” Boehner said on Wednesday. “And the fact is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists and the threat posed by Iran.”

    The scheduling of Netanyahu’s speech caught the White House off-guard, since the Israeli prime minister had apparently not bothered to clear his trip with the administration. The Boehner-Netanyahu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.

    In the past when Netanyahu has spoken to Congress, Republicans and Democrats have competed to show their devotion by quickly and frequently leaping to their feet to applaud almost every word out of the Israeli prime minister’s mouth. By addressing a joint session for a third time, Netanyahu would become only the second foreign leader to do so, joining British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who never used the platform to demean the policies of a sitting U.S. president.

    Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East. Boehner doesn’t seem to realize that Netanyahu has developed what amounts to a de facto alliance with extremist Sunni forces in the region.

    Not only is Israel now collaborating behind the scenes with Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist leadership but Israel has begun taking sides militarily in support of the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Syrian civil war. A source familiar with U.S. intelligence information on Syria said Israel has a “non-aggression pact” with Nusra forces that control territory adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

    The quiet cooperation between Israel and al-Qaeda’s affiliate was further underscored on Sunday when Israeli helicopters attacked and killed advisers to the Syrian military from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran. In other words, Israel has dispatched its forces into Syria to kill military personnel helping to fight al-Nusra. Iran later confirmed that one of its generals had died in the Israeli strike.

    Israel’s tangled alliances with Sunni forces have been taking shape over the past several years, as Israel and Saudi Arabia emerged as strange bedfellows in the geopolitical struggle against Shiite-ruled Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria and southern Lebanon. Both Saudi and Israeli leaders have talked with growing alarm about this “Shiite crescent” stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.

    Favoring Sunni Extremists

    Senior Israelis have made clear they would prefer Sunni extremists to prevail in the Syrian civil war rather than President Bashar al-Assad, who is an Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam. Assad’s relatively secular government is seen as the protector of Shiites, Christians and other minorities who fear the vengeful brutality of the Sunni jihadists who now dominate the anti-Assad rebels.

    In one of the most explicit expressions of Israel’s views, its Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, a close adviser to Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post in September 2013 that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.

    “The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

    Saudi Arabia shares Israeli’s strategic view that “the Shiite crescent” must be broken and has thus developed a rapport with Netanyahu’s government in a kind of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” relationship. But some rank-and-file Jewish supporters of Israel have voiced concerns about Israel’s newfound alliance with the Saudi monarchy, especially given its adherence to ultraconservative Wahhabi Islam and its embrace of a fanatical hatred of Shiite Islam, a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites that dates back 1,400 years.

    Though President Obama has repeatedly declared his support for Israel, he has developed a contrary view from Netanyahu’s regarding what is the gravest danger in the Middle East. Obama considers the radical Sunni jihadists, associated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, to be the biggest threat to Western interests and U.S. national security.

    That has put him in a different de facto alliance – with Iran and the Syrian government – since they represent the strongest bulwarks against Sunni jihadists who have targeted Americans and other Westerners for death.

    What Boehner doesn’t seem to understand is that Israel and Saudi Arabia have placed themselves on the side of the Sunni jihadists who now represent the frontline fight against the “Shiite crescent.” If Netanyahu succeeds in enlisting the United States in violently forcing Syrian “regime change,” the U.S. government likely would be facilitating the growth in power of the Sunni extremists, not containing them.

    But the influential American neoconservatives want to synch U.S. foreign policy with Israel’s and thus have pressed for a U.S. bombing campaign against Assad’s forces (even if that would open the gates of Damascus to the Nusra Front or the Islamic State). The neocons also want an escalation of tensions with Iran by sabotaging an agreement to ensure that its nuclear program is not used for military purposes.

    The neocons have long wanted to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran as part of their “regime change” strategy for the Middle East. That is why Obama’s openness to a permanent agreement for tight constraints on Iran’s nuclear program is seen as a threat by Netanyahu, the neocons and their congressional allies – because it would derail hopes for militarily attacking Iran.

    In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama made clear that he perceives the brutal Islamic State, which he calls “ISIL” for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as the principal current threat to Western interests in the Middle East and the clearest terror threat to the United States and Europe. Obama proposed “a smarter kind of American leadership” that would cooperate with allies in “stopping ISIL’s advance” without “getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East.”

    Working with Putin

    Thus, Obama, who might be called a “closet realist,” is coming to the realization that the best hope for blocking the advances of Sunni jihadi terror and minimizing U.S. military involvement is through cooperation with Iran and its regional allies. That also puts Obama on the same side with Russian President Vladimir Putin who has faced Sunni terrorism in Chechnya and is supporting both Iran’s leaders and Syria’s Assad in their resistance to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

    Obama’s “realist” alliance, in turn, presents a direct threat to Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran represents an “existential threat” to Israel and that the “Shiite crescent” must be destroyed. There is also fear among Israeli right-wingers that an effective Obama-Putin collaboration could ultimately force Israel into accepting a Palestinian state.

    So, Netanyahu and the U.S. neocons believe they must do whatever is necessary to shatter this tandem of Obama, Putin and Iran. That is one reason why the neocons were at the forefront of fomenting “regime change” against Ukraine’s elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last year. By splintering Ukraine on Russia’s border, the neocons drove a wedge between Obama and Putin. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit.”]

    Even the slow-witted mainstream U.S. media has begun to pick up on the story of the emerging Israeli-Saudi alliance. In the Jan. 19 issue of Time magazine, correspondent Joe Klein noted the new coziness between top Israeli and Saudi officials.

    He wrote: “On May 26, 2014, an unprecedented public conversation took place in Brussels. Two former high-ranking spymasters of Israel and Saudi Arabia – Amos Yadlin and Prince Turki al-Faisal – sat together for more than an hour, talking regional politics in a conversation moderated by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

    “They disagreed on some things, like the exact nature of an Israel-Palestine peace settlement, and agreed on others: the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat, the need to support the new military government in Egypt, the demand for concerted international action in Syria. The most striking statement came from Prince Turki. He said the Arabs had ‘crossed the Rubicon’ and ‘don’t want to fight Israel anymore.’”

    Not only did Prince Turki offer an olive branch to Israel, he indicated agreement on what the two countries consider their most pressing strategic interests: Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war. In other words, in noting this extraordinary meeting, Klein had stumbled upon the odd-couple alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia – though he didn’t fully understand what he was seeing.

    On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Obama had shifted his position on Syria as the West made a “quiet retreat from its demand” that Assad “step down immediately.” The article by Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta noted that the Obama administration still wanted Assad to exit eventually “but facing military stalemate, well-armed jihadists and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United States is going along with international diplomatic efforts that could lead to more gradual change in Syria.”

    At the center of that diplomatic initiative was Russia, again reflecting Obama’s recognition of the need to cooperate with Putin on resolving some of these complex problems (although Obama did include in his speech some tough-guy rhetoric against Russia over Ukraine, taking some pleasure in how Russia’s economy is now “in tatters”).

    But the underlying reality is that the United States and Assad’s regime have become de facto allies, fighting on the same side in the Syrian civil war, much as Israel had, in effect, sided with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front by killing Hezbollah and Iranian advisers to the Syrian military.

    The Times article noted that the shift in Obama’s position on Syrian peace talks “comes along with other American actions that Mr. Assad’s supporters and opponents take as proof Washington now believes that if Mr. Assad is ousted, there will be nothing to check the spreading chaos and extremism.

    “American planes now bomb the Islamic State group’s militants in Syria, sharing skies with Syrian jets. American officials assure Mr. Assad, through Iraqi intermediaries, that Syria’s military is not their target. The United States still trains and equips Syrian insurgents, but now mainly to fight the Islamic State, not the government.”

    Yet, as Obama adjusts U.S. foreign policy to take into account the complex realities in the Middle East, he now faces another front in this conflict – from the U.S. Congress, which has long been held in thrall by the Israel lobby.

    Not only has Speaker Boehner appealed to Netanyahu to deliver what amounts to a challenge to President Obama’s foreign policy but congressional neocons are even accusing Obama’s team of becoming Iranian stooges. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democratic neocon, said, “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”

    If indeed Netanyahu does end up addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, its members would face a stark choice of either embracing Israel’s foreign policy as America’s – or backing the decisions made by the elected President of the United States.
    __________________________________________

    And Some of the Comments:

    +26 # nice2bgreat 2015-01-23 13:45
    .
    So Boehner is actually bringing a foreign leader into the — US — House of Representatives ‘ chamber? … to challenge the US President.

    Say it ain’t so, Joe.

    +18 # nice2bgreat 2015-01-23 13:49
    .
    Or is it that this foreign leader will simply take the opportunity to challenge the President, even though he/she is in the US House of Representatives ‘ chamber?
    .

    +24 # ericlipps 2015-01-23 18:42
    Netanyahu is coming to Congress to give its new Republican members the opportunity to kiss his ring before he puts one through their noses. And of course to sound off against President Obama, something Republicans are always happy to hear someone do (they’d feel the same way if it were Bashir Assad)—but that’s just a bonus.

    +15 # X Dane 2015-01-23 19:52
    nice2bgreat.
    I am beyond furious. Why has nobody pointed out that Boehner and the republicans are TRAITORS. They are asking a warmongering prime minister of ANOTHER COUNTRY to dictate how we should conduct our foreign policy.

    This is what happens when so many in congress has dual citizenship with Israel. They do not grasp that they owe loyalty to USA …..NOT Israel.

    Traitors used to be thrown in jail and hanged for actions like this. Something is seriously wrong. And Netanyaho forgets who is propping up his country with BILLIONS annually.

    I can’t believe that Boehner is allowed to get away with this. It is sickening.

    -1 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-01-23 21:04
    I too am beyond furious! Our Congress is full of people who should be charged with TREASON!! Those corrupt creatures deserve to so charged and if guilty PUT TO DEATH!!

    The United States has no business to be sending billions of dollars and our armed forces to the Middle East. Day by day we are causing the growth of terrorist forces who have damn good reason to hate Americans. We are killing people day and night all over the Middle East. We sure as hell are not winning the hearts and minds of those people. We need to get the hell out and take care of our problems here at home. That money for the endless wars could be used to put Americans to work rebuilding our failing infrastructure.

    Don’t vote for anyone in Congress now. NO ONE! They are not working for us. They work for their Israeli paymasters.

    +3 # LGNTexas 2015-01-23 21:04
    Just another example of the racist reich-wing delegitimizing our first black president.

    +6 # Interested Observer 2015-01-23 19:52
    It will save the time usually spent getting our Mid-east policy translated from Hebrew.

    +39 # MEBrowning 2015-01-23 18:20
    Yes! During Dubya’s presidency, the Republicans constantly harangued anybody they thought didn’t have “respect for the office of the president.” In other words, anyone who dared to criticize neocon chickenhawks who pandered to the 1% and ignored everybody else. Where’s their respect for the office of the president now? Hypocrites all.

    +14 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:32
    With Republicans, loyalty trumps hypocrisy.

    +1 # randrjwr 2015-01-23 20:43
    Quoting wrknight:

    With Republicans, loyalty trumps hypocrisy.

    I presume you mean loyalty to Israel.

    +25 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:30
    “Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East.”

    Boehner’s ignorance extends far beyond foreign policy. In fact, one should question whether he is simply ignorant or just plain stupid.

    +20 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:35
    Along with those who vote for him.

    +20 # fredboy 2015-01-23 18:33
    Makes you want to re-open the 9/11 and Iraq invasion investigations, doesn’t it? Sniff, sniff…

    +26 # fredboy 2015-01-23 18:34
    Get ready for a huge backfire if this happens. Putting both Israel and the GOP in the doghouse. Dumb bastards.

    +2 # randrjwr 2015-01-23 20:45
    Quoting fredboy:

    Get ready for a huge backfire if this happens. Putting both Israel and the GOP in the doghouse. Dumb bastards.

    I hope the doghouse has a big, tough lock on the door and a high fence topped with razor wire around it.

    +24 # Ausmar 2015-01-23 19:05
    Boehner’s action is despicable. He has snubbed the president, impaired his diplomatic efforts with Iran, and implicitly acknowledged the Congress subservience to the Israeli lobby. Clearly, by calling on Netanyahu, his aim is to put pressure on some hesitant, AIPAC intimidated Democrats to fall in line with right wing Israeli policy and thereby have enough votes to overcome a presidential veto on further immediate sanctions on Iran, thus opening the way to armed intervention in Iran alongside Israel. Hopefully, enough of the American people will support the president in expressing their disdain for this kind of devious, dangerous, and servile behavior by the US Congress, so as to put a strain on American-Israel i relations. It would be about time for the US to stop being a lackey of Israel.

    +12 # angelfish 2015-01-23 19:16
    WHO the Hell does Boehner think he IS? WHAT gives him the ability OR the right to invite foreigners to speak to our Congress? Murderous NAZI foreigners, at that? It smacks of subversion and outright TREASON! I am appalled at his lack of judgment in taking it upon himself to do this. My only hope is that this might be the beginning of the end of the ReTHUGlican Party. Sane Americans EVERYWHERE should rise up and demand that he be REMOVED as Speaker and that they search High and Low for a ReTHUGlican with Bat’s sense! I know it’s a stretch but there has GOT to be someone out there with a modicum of intellect and sense of decorum. God help us and save us from these intellectual defectives!

    +13 # NOMINAE 2015-01-23 19:34
    From the article : “The Boehner-Netanyahu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.”
    ___________________________________________

    Precisely, and therefore the Boehner-Netanya hu arrangement is *illegal* by the simple *reason* of being obviously, and egregiously Unconstitutional.

    As Indian Weaver notes above, if the Justice Department and the White House bend over, lie down and accept *this* “rogering”, they deserve everything they get.

    And we, the American “observers” of Government, get a full shout out about the fact that Obama and Holder are COMPLICIT in this bullshit – simply demonstrated by their refusal to ENFORCE against a clearly cut violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    This Kabuki Theater that *IS* U.S. Government is really beginning to grow quite threadbare. It now takes nothing to “see through” all of the phony posturing.

    +10 # reiverpacific 2015-01-23 19:44
    Isn’t Mr “Cancer-bed-sun tan” Boner actually doing what he accused Obama of and wants to sue him for, as in “Overreaching his power” over the ACA, which actually helped a lot of people, it’s imperfections notwithstanding?
    All Nutty-Yahoo and his proto-Fascist and by default Rabidly Nationalist LIKUD party has done is press for “Israeli Exceptionalism” in committing attempted genocide, mass-murder, apartheid destruction of habitat and livelihood on a people forced to live in “The biggest open-air prison in the World”!
    They should both be locked up in the Abu-Grahib Country Club for delusional rogue leaders!

    0 # angelfish 2015-01-23 21:48
    Thank you reiverpacific, you are right ON the money!

    +1 # Paul Larudee 2015-01-23 20:18
    Can we commission a suitable crown that quickly?

    +2 # Activista 2015-01-23 20:19
    Great analysis and focus on the problem – this is essential – USA can NOT fight another war – can not afford it morally and economically.
    We are not helping Israel by solving their problems with neighbors by killing them.
    2014 killing of Gaza – 2140 Palestinians, mostly civilians – is direction where Netanyahu wants to go.
    Hope that people of Israel (and USA) wake up and stop this psychopath.

    +1 # Jayceecool 2015-01-23 20:31
    Does anyone else see the portents of a coup-de-etat here?

    +3 # jdd 2015-01-23 20:38
    While Boehner’s move is disgraceful, the bigger threat at this time if Obama’s quite open admission of financial warfare against Russia and his support for Unkrain’s assault on the Donbas region and intent to send advisors to the “National Guard.” Obama also made threatening statements against China. So while it is true that Obama realizes that he needs Russia’s help to defeat ISIS, he continues to threaten and harden relations with two of the world’s greatest nuclear powers.

    0 # Anonymot 2015-01-23 21:54
    Obama is not a foreign policy mind – he has none. The CIA dictates to him. His own policy advisors are all CIA oriented or simply stupid in the field of diplomacy.

    The last real foreign policy we had was Dick Cheney’s – who had a brain transplant as a boy. I think he got Palin’s.

    +2 # Shorey13 2015-01-23 20:43
    Boehner is both stupid and a traitor. He either doesn’t understand our democracy or chooses to violate it. Foreign policy is the province of the Executive Branch, with Congressional approval of Treaties, Wars and other formal matters. Boehner clearly has no interest in responsible governance.

    But, I was not really unhappy when the Republicans won the last election, because I like to see stupid, evil people given enough rope to hang themselves. The Republicans will be roundly defeated in 2016. You can bet on it.

    +1 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-01-23 21:14
    I hope they will be defeated but not by Democrats. The two corporate parties are equally bad. We need to follow the foot steps of Spain and Greece and form a new political party to represent the working people and throw the plutocrats out of our government. We don’t need endless wars and austerity. We need a government to serve the people of this nation and protect our mother the Earth. Down with this rotten government!

    0 # Saberoff 2015-01-23 21:14
    The world may well not last that long.

    0 # shgo 2015-01-23 21:36
    setting up for 2016 – hope it all backfires – on all these fools who purport to represent the people of this country. NONE OF THEM DO. They represent the corporate plutocracy. Maybe more of us will take to the streets, phones, legislators offices, and come together in a movement that says NO to all of it – but with a vision for social and economic justice for ALL!

    Refresh comments list

    ======================================

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

based on edition.cnn.com/2015/01/20/politi…
and please see also our added paragraphs at the end of this piece.

———————————————————————————————–


State of the Union 2015: Full transcript.

Updated 0208 GMT – January 21, 2015

I watched the OBAMA January 20, 2015 STATE OF THE UNION – THE REAL FIRST SPEECH IN WHAT WILL BE REMEMBERED AS THE START OF TWO YEARS OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S INDEPENDENT PRESIDENCY – live, at 2 AM VIENNA TIME – January 21st.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

But tonight, we turn the page.

Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.

Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.

America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:

The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.


At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production — we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.

=======================================================================================================


AND THE BOTTOM LINE – WRITTEN IN SERIOUS HUMOR THE DAY BEFORE THE SOTU 2015:

Obama Addresses Extremist Group

By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker

21 January 2015


The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, “The Borowitz Report.”

President Obama is courting controversy with his decision to address a group that has become dominated in recent years by extremists.

Some have questioned the appropriateness of the President speaking to such an extremist group, especially because in the past it has issued threats against the United States government.

As recently as 2013, for example, the extremists threatened to shut down the entire federal government if their demands were not met.

On Tuesday afternoon, the White House defended the President’s decision to speak to the extremists, pointing out that the Administration had also initiated dialogues with Iran and North Korea.

Some of the immediate Comments:

We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We’ll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn’t work we’ll have to ramp up the moderation.

+33 # wrknight 2015-01-21 22:33
I still can’t figure out why they call this satire.

+9 # joan 2015-01-21 23:25
Hear hear!

0 # cymricmorty 2015-01-22 01:02
My favorite news source and Borowitz, too, though sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference lately.

+17 # sharag 2015-01-21 22:58
At least Iran and North Korea are willing to talk and even show signs of being… reasonable.

+9 # Thinking 2015-01-21 23:43
Laughing out loud — with each sentence. How fun. What a treat after a serious day at a hearing.

=============================================================================================================


And the President continues:

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?

Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?

Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another — or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?

In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan. And in the months ahead, I’ll crisscross the country making a case for those ideas.

So tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.

It begins with our economy.

Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds. She waited tables. He worked construction.
Their first child, Jack, was on the way.

They were young and in love in America, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

“If only we had known,” Rebekah wrote to me last spring, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”

As the crisis worsened, Ben’s business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time. Rebekah took out student loans, enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career. They sacrificed for each other. And slowly, it paid off. They bought their first home. They had a second son, Henry. Rebekah got a better job, and then a raise. Ben is back in construction — and home for dinner every night.

“It is amazing,” Rebekah wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.

America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story. They represent the millions who have worked hard, and scrimped, and sacrificed, and retooled. You are the reason I ran for this office. You’re the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation. And it’s been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.

We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs to our shores. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.

We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. And more Americans finish college than ever before.

We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.

At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years.

So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.

Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007. But here’s the thing — those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making. We need to do more than just do no harm. Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.

Because families like Rebekah’s still need our help. She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but have to forego vacations and a new car so they can pay off student loans and save for retirement. Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota. Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead.


In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the internet — tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.

That’s what middle-class economics is — the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success — we want everyone to contribute to our success.

So what does middle-class economics require in our time?

First — middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement — and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.

Here’s one example. During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority — so this country provided universal childcare. In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America — by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.

Here’s another example. Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave. Forty-three million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own. And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.

Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.

These ideas won’t make everybody rich, or relieve every hardship. That’s not the job of government. To give working families a fair shot, we’ll still need more employers to see beyond next quarter’s earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company’s long-term interest. We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice. But things like child care and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage — these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families. That is a fact. And that’s what all of us — Republicans and Democrats alike — were sent here to do.


Second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.

America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, and trained the best workforce in the world. But in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to do more.

By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education. Two in three. And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not smart for our future.

That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero.

Forty percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt. Understand, you’ve got to earn it — you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time. Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today. And I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.

Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics. Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships — opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.

And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend. Already, we’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care. We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and we’re making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs. Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden, has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get new jobs. So to every CEO in America, let me repeat: If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a veteran.

Finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill.

Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined. Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs. Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming. But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago — jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.

So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future. But we do know we want them here in America. That’s why the third part of middle-class economics is about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.

21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.

21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.

Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense. But ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.

21st century businesses will rely on American science, technology, research and development. I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine — one that delivers the right treatment at the right time. In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable. Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes — and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.

I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.

I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. Good luck, Captain — and make sure to Instagram it.

Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber. Members of both parties have told me so. Where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments. As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does, too. But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight. They’ve riddled it with giveaways the super-rich don’t need, denying a break to middle class families who do.

This year, we have an opportunity to change that. Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest in America. Let’s use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home. Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford. And let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth. We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college. We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together.

Helping hardworking families make ends meet. Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy. Maintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness. This is where America needs to go. I believe it’s where the American people want to go. It will make our economy stronger a year from now, fifteen years from now, and deep into the century ahead.

Of course, if there’s one thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we cannot separate our work at home from challenges beyond our shores.

My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America. In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how. When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military — then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world. That’s what our enemies want us to do.

I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now — and around the globe, it is making a difference.

First, we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists — from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris. We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.

At the same time, we’ve learned some costly lessons over the last thirteen years.

Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who’ve now taken the lead, and we’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by supporting that country’s first democratic transition. Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America. In Iraq and Syria, American leadership — including our military power — is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.


Second, we are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy. We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small — by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.

That’s how America leads — not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.

In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new. Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps.” These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba. And after years in prison, we’re overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs. Welcome home, Alan.

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies — including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.

Third, we’re looking beyond the issues that have consumed us in the past to shape the coming century.

No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.

In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and healthcare workers are rolling back Ebola — saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease. I couldn’t be prouder of them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts. But the job is not yet done — and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.

In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules — in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief. And no challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.

That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement — the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.

There’s one last pillar to our leadership — and that’s the example of our values.

As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.

As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice — so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half. Now it’s time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It’s not who we are.

As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties — and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.

Looking to the future instead of the past. Making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely. Building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities. Leading — always — with the example of our values. That’s what makes us exceptional. That’s what keeps us strong. And that’s why we must keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards — our own.

You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America — but a United States of America. I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home — a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.

Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision. How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws — of which there are many — but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.

I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong.

I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long. I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best. I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California; and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, and New London. I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown; in Boston, West, Texas, and West Virginia. I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains; from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.


So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who, every day, live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, and our sister’s keeper. And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.

So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for — arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.

Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different.

Understand — a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.

A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.

A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.

A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up, with a sense of purpose and possibility, and asking them to join in the great mission of building America.

If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments — but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.

We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.

Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.

We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.

That’s a better politics. That’s how we start rebuilding trust. That’s how we move this country forward. That’s what the American people want. That’s what they deserve.

I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol — to do what I believe is best for America. If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.

Because I want this chamber, this city, to reflect the truth — that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, and help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.

I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.

I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen — man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.

I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.

I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom like Rebekah can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story to sum up these past six years:

“It is amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America. We’ve laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter — together — and let’s start the work right now.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

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Reading this great speech you do not get the full gist of what went on in that chamber. You had to see this with your own eyes on that CNN screen that transmitted it alive – you had to see that young new Lady Republican Senator who stood up and applauded the President – her President – who fought her party on issues of Women Rights of Human Rights and Human Freedoms.

Further, you had to see this with your own eyes how a well tanned House Speaker – Republican John Boehner – sitting on the podium next to Vice-President Joe Biden – glued to his chair – was getting more and more red in his face making his checkered off-red tie look more and more purple. This while VP Biden had a dark blue tie filled in with some red – but President Obama had a very light blue tie with his dark suit. Yes – that light blue tie signaled that he did not intend to dwell on Democrats’ orthodoxy; Obama is ready to work with the Republicans in the name of his ONE AMERICA theme.

This while Boehner did not miss a beat and in the morning invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address US Congress on February 11th on the issue of Iran – this as part of the Republican proposal to increase sanctions on Iran despite the fact that Obama government inspired international negotiations try to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Obama had just said that he would veto any new sanctions bill. We understand that Boehner’s game is to go after Obama, but we do not understand why Netanyahu allows himself to be used in such a game – putting at risk Israel’s special relationship with an American Administration – any American sitting Administration. A Conflict with an American President – Does Netanyahu think that this will play well in the Israeli elections to the Knesset – to be held March 17, 2015?

President Obama’s Vetoes – on the Keystone Pipeline and on Iran Sanctions can not be overruled as the Republicans are well short of the needed 60 votes in the Senate. If the Republicans will deny the President war powers in regard to ISIS they will just show to the World at large how anti-American they are. Much everything else Obama said he wants to do – except the needed taxes on the rich – he can do without Congress – without the Republicans – even without the Democrats. To avoid such a development, it is possible that we shall see more purple Republicans start to come out – this as a self preservation move by people that see the evolving world for what it is – with their own eyes rather then via those irresponsible Washington lobbyists.

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UPDATE ON THIS:

Far from holding their fire, Democrats who support a sanctions bill, like Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, have increased their criticism of the White House.

“The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran,” railed Menendez at a hearing with administration officials on Capitol Hill.

Asked by CNN if this was a deliberate poke at the President, Boehner replied “I don’t believe I’m poking anyone in the eye. There is a serious threat that exists in the world and the president last night kind of papered over it.”

He added, “the fact is there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is — from radical Islamic jihadists and from the threat posed by Iran.”

Boehner declined to say when the House would vote on another Iran sanctions bill, but said committees are planning hearings on the issue. Multiple House GOP aides say there are plans for a vote, but the timing is still unclear.

Boehner announced his invitation for Netanyahu to address Congress about Iran the day after President Obama pled with Congress during his State of the Union address to allow the talks to progress.

DOES BOEHNER EXPECT TO SIPHON OF ENOUGH DEMOCRATS ON THIS ISSUE TO OVERRULE THE PRESIDENT’S VETO ON THIS AND COOPTED NETANYAHU TO HELP SPLIT AMERICA?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Syrian Rebels Increasingly Joining ISIS
– Fahd Al-Zayabi
Moderate Syrian opposition fighters are increasingly joining the Islamic State for financial reasons, Syrian National Coalition representative to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Adib Al-Shishakli has warned. International funding cuts to moderate Syrian fighters’ wages are prompting rebels to throw in their lot with the jihadist group, which is capable of paying far higher salaries. Syrian moderate fighters earn $140 per month, while some media outlets report that ISIS pays as much as $150 per day. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)  www.aawsat.net/2014/12/article553…


Hoping to create a new society, the Islamic State recruits entire families.

 www.washingtonpost.com/world/nati…

By Kevin Sullivan and Karla Adam for the Washington Post – December 24, 2014

LONDON — Last month in Syria, Siddhartha Dhar stood in front of a banged-up yellow pickup truck, holding an assault rifle in his right hand and cradling his newborn son with his left.

Dhar’s first four children had been born in London, his native city, but his new baby, wrapped in a fuzzy brown onesie, was born in territory controlled by the Islamic State.

Someone snapped a photo of Dhar, 31, and he proudly tweeted it out as proof that he; his wife, Aisha; and their children had fled Britain and were now living in what the militants consider an Islamic caliphate that will one day reign over the world.

The arrival of the Dhar family in Syria last month represents a key strategic goal of the Islamic State: to build not just an army but a society. The group has vowed to create a nation ruled by Islamic sharia law, and its leaders and online recruiters have encouraged doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers and accountants to join them in building the institutions of a new holy land.

Entire families — fathers, mothers and children — have answered that call in numbers that have surprised and alarmed analysts who study the extremist group.
View Graphic
Map: Flow of foreign fighters to Syria

“These families believe they are doing the right thing for their children,” said Melanie Smith, a research associate at the King’s College International Center for the Study of Radicalization in London. “They think they are taking them to a kind of utopia.”

Syrian Peace Talks May Take Place in Moscow Next Month. (the Washington Post)
Peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition could be held in Moscow after Jan. 20, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Thursday. Russia, which has staunchly backed Syrian President Assad, recently offered to host peace talks between the government and the mainstream opposition without preconditions. (AP-Washington Post)
 www.washingtonpost.com/world/euro…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 12th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In effect – what Ms Napoleoni says is that the Islamic State uses globalization and aim at creating an original Muslim State that is for the Muslim world a parallel to what Israel is to World Jewry – albeit the first stage overlaps the borders of the Caliphate of Baghdad and will claim besides Iraq and Syria also Jordan , Lebanon, and Israel.
Now an ebook – The book will be available in printed form December 2nd, 2014.
 www.sevenstories.com/news/introdu…

Introduction to Loretta Napoleoni’s THE ISLAMIST PHOENIX.

September 8, 2014

The following is the introduction to The Islamist Phoenix, a study of ISIS by Loretta Napoleoni, one of the world’s leading experts on money laundering and the financing of terror. Islamist Phoenix will be available as an ebook in early November, and as a trade paperback on December 2nd.

For the first time since World War One, an armed organization is redesigning the map of the Middle East drawn by the French and the British. Waging a war of conquest, the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (al Sham), or ISIS, is erasing the borders that the Sykes-Picot Accord established in 1916. The region where the black and golden flag of IS flies already stretches from the Mediterranean shores of Syria well into the heart of Iraq, the Sunni tribal area. It is bigger than the United Kingdom or Texas and, since the end of June 2014, is known as the Islamic Caliphate. “Caliphate” is the name given to an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader known as a caliph, or successor to the Prophet Muhammad – the most famous being the Ottoman Caliphate (or Empire), which began in 1453 and lasted until the dissolution of the Caliphate and expulsion of the last caliph, Abdulmecid, at the hands of Kemal Ataturk in 1924.

Many believe that the Islamic State, like al-Qaeda before it, wants to turn back the clock, and indeed in Western media Syrian and Iraqi refugees describe its rule in their countries as a sort of carbon copy of the Taliban regime. Posters forbid smoking and the use of cameras. Women are not allowed to travel without a male relative, must be covered up, and cannot wear trousers in public. The Islamic State seems also engaged in a sort of religious cleansing through proselytism: people must either join its creed, radical Salafism; flee; or face execution.
Al-Baghdadi

Paradoxically, to deem the IS essentially backward would be mistaken. Indeed, during the last few years the belief that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader and the new Caliph, is a clone of Mullah Omar may well have led Western intelligence to undervalue him and his organization’s strength. While the world of the Taliban was limited to Koranic schools and knowledge based upon the writings of the Prophet, globalization and modern technology have been the cradle of the Islamic State.

What distinguishes the Islamic State from all other armed groups that predate it, including those active during the Cold War, and what accounts for its enormous successes, is its modernity and pragmatism. So far its leadership has understood the limitations that contemporary powers face in a globalized and multipolar world – for example, the inability to reach an agreement for foreign intervention in Syria, as happened in Libya and Iraq. Against this backdrop the Islamic State’s leadership has successfully exploited the Syrian conflict, the most recent version of the traditional war by proxy, to its own advantage almost unobserved, drawing funds from a variety of people: Kuwaitis, Qataris, Saudis, who, seeking a regime change in Syria, have been willing to bankroll several armed groups. However, instead of fighting the sponsors’ war by proxy, the Islamic State has used their money to establish its own territorial strongholds in financially strategic regions, for example in the rich oilfields of Eastern Syria. No previous Middle Eastern armed organization has been able to promote itself as the region’s new ruler with the money of its rich Gulf sponsors.

In sharp contrast with the Taliban’s rhetoric and despite the barbarous treatment of the enemy, the Islamic State is spreading a positive and powerful political message in the Muslim world: the return of the Caliphate associated with happier and richer times for Muslims. This message comes at a time of great destabilization in the Middle East, while Syria and Iraq are ablaze, Libya is on the verge of another tribal conflict, Egypt is restive, and Israel has been once again at war with Gaza. Hence, the rebirth of the Caliphate and of its Caliph, al-Baghdadi, appears to many Sunnis not as yet another armed group but somehow as a political entity that is rising from the ashes of decades of war and destruction.

The fact that this Islamist Phoenix materialized on the first day of Ramadan 2014, the holy month of fasting and prayer, should be regarded as a powerful omen of the challenge that the Islamic State poses to the legitimacy of all the 57 countries that follow the Islamic faith. As clearly stated by its spokesman, Abu Mohamed al-Adnani: “the legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the Caliph’s authority and the arrival of his troops to their areas.” This is a challenge posed by a new political organization that, while claiming to trace its legitimacy all the way back to 7th-8th century Arabia and the first territorial manifestations of Islam, comprises a contemporary state and commands a modern army. As such it should not be underestimated, especially if the Islamic State consolidates its territorial conquests.

That the threat is real, and that it is particularly felt by those who share a border with Syria and Iraq, are facts: in July, 2014 the black and golden flag of the Islamic State appeared in Jordanian villages, and in August thousands of IS militants streamed into Lebanon from Syria and took Arsal. Even former sponsors fear the military power of the Caliphate: at the beginning of July, al-Arabiya broadcast that Saudi Arabia had deployed 30,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq after Iraqi soldiers withdrew from the area.

Under the religious veneer and the terrorist tactics, therefore, lays a political and military machine fully engaged in nation-building, seeking consensus after territorial conquest. Residents of the enclaves controlled by the Caliphate affirm that its arrival coincided with improvements in the day-to-day running of their villages, from fixing holes in the roads to organizing soup kitchens for those who had lost their homes to the daylong availability of electricty.

_76526461_iraq_syria_isis_caliphate_25.07.14_624mapWhile territorially the Islamic State’s master plan is to recreate the ancient Caliphate of Baghdad — an entity that the Mongols destroyed in 1261 and that stretched from the Iraqi capital all the way into modern Israel — its political goal seems to be the shaping of a twenty-first century incarnation. In his first speech as Caliph, al-Baghdadi pledged to return to Muslims the “dignity, might, rights, and leadership” of the past, and at the same time called for doctors, engineers, judges, and experts in Islamic jurisprudence to join him. As he spoke, a team of translators across the world worked almost in real time to release the text of his speech on jihadist websites, facebook and twitter accounts in several languages including English, French, and German.

The Islamic State wants to be for Muslims what Israel is for Jews, a state in their ancient land that they have reclaimed in modern times, a religious and powerful state that protects them wherever they are, something to be proud of. This is a potent message for the disenfranchised Muslim youth who live in the political vacuum created by disturbing factors, such as the corruption and inefficacy of the Free Syrian and Iraqi Army, the Maliki government’s refusal to integrate Sunnis into the fabric of political life, the absence of proper socio-economic infrastructures destroyed during the war, and a high rate of unemployment. It is a powerful message also for those living abroad, the disenfranchised Muslim youth of Europe. No other armed organization has shown such insight and political intuition into the domestic politics of the Middle East and Muslim immigrants’ frustration all over the world, and no other armed organization has adapted to contingent factors, such as the provision of basic socio-economic infrastructures in the territory it controls to succeed at nation-building.

Its leadership has also studied the tactical and structural mistakes of past armed groups as well as their successes, and has put these lessons into a modern context. Like the European armed organizations of the 1960s and 1970s, the Islamic State understands the power of propaganda, of fear at home and abroad, and has been skilfully used social media to propagate sleek videos and images of its barbarous actions. Fear is a much more powerful weapon of conquest than religious lectures, something that al-Qaeda has never understood. Equally, the Islamic State knows that the 24-hour media seeks ever more brutal images, because in a world overloaded with information, extreme violence sells the news: thus the plentiful supply of photos and videos of brutal punishments and tortures uploaded in formats that can be easily watched on mobile phones. Shockingly, in a voyeuristic society, sadism, when appealingly packaged, becomes a major attraction.

The Islamic State has closely analysed the propaganda machine that the US and UK administration employed to justify the preventive strike in Iraq in 2003, in particular the creation of the myth of al Zarqawi which US Secretary of State Colin Powell used on in his speech to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003 to justify the invasion of Iraq. Thanks to an extensive and highly professional use of social media, the Islamic State has propagated equally false mythologies to proselytize, recruit, and raise funds across the Muslim world.

Crucial for the successes of this strategy have been the secrecy and mythology carefully woven around the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Bagdhadi. Again, in a world overloaded with information, mystery plays a major role in stimulating the collective imagination. The less people know, the more they want to know, and the more they imagine. Give people a few clips and they will complete the picture as they like it. Islam is premised on a certain nostalgia rooted in the return of the Prophet, while the West still fears Islam. Hence the IS is leading Muslims to believe that the Prophet has returned wearing the clothes of al-Baghdadi and at the same time it terrorizes Westerners with shockingly barbarous killings. Modern advertising has constructed a trillion-dollar industry atop these simple concepts. Now the Islamic State propaganda machine is using them to manufacture the myth of al-Baghdadi and his new Caliphate. What’s surprising is our surprise.

Finally, unlike al-Qaeda, the Islamic State is showing pragmatism. It seems to understand that, in the twenty-first century, new nations cannot be built and held together with terror and violence alone. To blossom, they require popular consensus. Hence the IS uses violence and Sharia law together with propaganda distributed over social media and a variety of popular social programmes aimed at improving the living conditions of the Sunni population trapped inside the Caliphate.

If this strategy succeeds, the world will be forced to turn a new leaf in the history of terrorism and nation-building, because the Islamic State will have provided a workable solution to the dilemma of terrorism. This, in a nutshell, is the true challenge that any armed organization poses to the modern state: whether to consider acts of terrorism as a threat to national security or to law and order. This dilemma springs from the ambiguous nature of terrorism: it has military aims – for example, among the goals of the Islamic State are freeing the territories of the old Caliphate of Baghdad from the tyrannical rule of the Shiites and the annexation of Jordan and Israel to recreate its ancient borders – but it employs criminal and barbarous methods like suicide bombings, the crucifixion of its opponents, and the beheading of hostages. Terrorism, therefore, could be defined as a crime with the aims of war. This ambiguity has allowed states to deny members of armed organizations the status of soldiers and enemies, relegating them to the ranks of outlaws even while using armies against them.

If the Islamic State succeeds in building a modern state, one that the world will not be able to ignore, using terrorism to gain territorial control and social and political reforms to secure internal popular consensus, it will prove what all armed organizations have affirmed: that they are not terrorists but enemies engaged in an asymmetrical war to overthrow illegitimate, tyrannical, and corrupted regimes. No matter how barbarous their actions are or have been, their status as threats to national security, as warriors, will be beyond doubt.

As the Islamic State’s war of conquest progresses, it is becoming clear that since 9/11 the business of Islamist terrorism has been getting stronger instead of weaker — to the extent that now it has morphed into a state — by simply keeping abreast with a fast-changing world in which propaganda and technology play an increasingly vital role. The same cannot be said for the forces engaged in stopping it from spreading.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Jihadi Connection between Sinai, Gaza and Islamic State.

by Jonathan Spyer
The Jerusalem Post
November 1, 2014

There is a burgeoning and violent salafi jihadist subculture that encompasses northern Sinai and southern Gaza.

 www.meforum.org/4876/the-jihadi-c…

What kind of relations do the jihadists of northern Sinai and Gaza have with Islamic State, and with Hamas? Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month national emergency this week, following the killing of over 31 Egyptian soldiers in a suicide car bombing carried out by jihadists in northern Sinai.

No organization has issued an authoritative claim of responsibility for the bombing, but it comes amid a state of open insurgency in northern Sinai, as Egyptian security forces battle a number of jihadist organizations. Most prominent among these groups are Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen; the attack on the Sinai military base came a few days after an Egyptian court sentenced seven members of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis to death for carrying out previous attacks on the army.

In subsequent days, Egyptian officials pointed an accusing finger at the Hamas rulers of Gaza, asserting there is “no doubt that elements belonging to Palestinian factions were directly involved in the attack.” Cairo is now set to build a new barrier separating the Strip from northern Sinai.

In a number of Arabic media outlets, unnamed Egyptian government sources openly accused Hamas members of aiding the assault, assisting with planning, funding and weapons supply.

Are the Egyptian claims credible? Are there links between Hamas or smaller jihadist movements in the Gaza Strip and the insurgents in northern Sinai? And no less importantly, is the armed campaign in northern Sinai linked to Islamic State? First, it is important to understand that jihadist activity in northern Sinai is not a new development. Long before the military coup of July 3, 2013, and indeed before the downfall of president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, this area had become a lawless zone in which jihadists and Beduin smugglers of people and goods carried out their activities.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis emerged from this already existing jihadist milieu in the period following Mubarak’s ouster.

At this time, Egyptian security measures in the area sharply declined.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has not confined its activities to the Sinai area; rather, it has directly engaged in attacks on Israeli targets. Recently, the group beheaded four Sinai locals who it accused of being “spies for the Mossad,” also carrying out two rocket attacks on Eilat this past January.

The claim of links between Hamas and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has been raised in the past. In September, Egyptian security forces claimed to have found uniforms and weaponry identifiable as belonging to Hamas’s Izzadin Kassam brigades.

It is worth remembering that the current Egyptian government has, since its inception, sought to link salafi jihadist terrorism with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as part of its strategy of marginalizing and criminalizing the Brotherhood.

The current statements seeking to link Hamas directly to Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis may form part of this larger strategy.

For its part, Hamas indignantly denies any link to this week’s bombing.

But what can be said with greater confidence is there is, without doubt, a burgeoning and violent salafi jihadist subculture that encompasses northern Sinai and southern Gaza – with various organizations possessing members and infrastructure on both sides of the border.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis itself and Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen both have members in Sinai and Gaza. Working tunnels smuggling goods and weapons exist between Gaza and northern Sinai, despite Egyptian attempts to destroy them.

It is also a fact that Hamas is aware of these tunnels and makes no attempt to act against them, benefiting economically from their presence.

From this standpoint, Hamas authorities in Gaza are guilty by omission of failing to act against the infrastructure supplying and supporting salafi guerrillas in northern Sinai, whether or not the less verifiable claims of direct Hamas links with them have a basis.

Given this reality, it is also not hard to understand the Egyptian determination to build an effective physical barrier between the Strip and Egyptian territory.

What of the issue of support for Islamic State? Should these jihadist groups be seen as a southern manifestation of the Sunni jihadist wave now sweeping across Iraq, Syria and increasingly, Lebanon? From an ideological point of view, certainly yes.

From an organizational point of view, the situation is more complex.

According to Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, an expert on jihadist groups currently based at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and the Middle East Forum, neither Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis nor Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen have formally pledged their allegiance to the caliphate established by Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria.

Nevertheless, Tamimi confirmed, both organizations have expressed “support” for Islamic State and its objectives, while not subordinating themselves to it through a pledge of allegiance.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis is known to maintain contacts with Islamic State, which has advised it on the mechanics of carrying out operations. Islamic State, meanwhile, has publicly declared its support for the jihadists in northern Sinai, without singling out any specific group for public support.

Tamimi further notes the existence of two smaller and more obscure groups in Gaza with more direct links to Islamic State.

These are Jamaat Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Bayt al-Maqdis (The Group of Helpers/ Supporters of the Islamic State in Bayt al-Maqdis), which carries out propaganda activities from Gaza and helps funnel volunteers to Syria and Iraq, and the Sheikh Abu al-Nur al-Maqdisi Battalion, a Gazan contingent fighting with Islamic State in these countries.

So, a number of conclusions can be drawn: Firstly, Hamas, in its tolerance of and engagement with smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Sinai, at least indirectly permits the jihadists networks operating these tunnels to wage their insurgency against Egypt – even if the claims of a direct Hamas link to violent activities in Sinai have not yet been conclusively proven.

Secondly, the most important organizations engaged in this insurgency support Islamic State, and are supported by them, though the former have not yet pledged allegiance and become directly subordinate to the latter.

Islamic State is not yet in northern Sinai, but its close allies are. Their activities are tolerated by the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip – as long as they are directed outward, against Egypt and Israel.

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Jonathan Spyer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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