Commentaries http://english.irib.ir Thu, 14 Dec 2017 04:11:25 +0000 en-gb Is Saudi Arabia on the brink of regime change? http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/221943-is-saudi-arabia-on-the-brink-of-regime-change http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/221943-is-saudi-arabia-on-the-brink-of-regime-change

It seems that Saudi Arabia has started to undergo the transformation various experts predicted.

Those became obvious when the sitting King Salman bin Abdulaziz Ale Saud replaced his deceased elder brother Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Ale Saud in January 2015, and made a number of quite unusual arrangements within the ruling elite, appointing the head of the Ministry of Interior Muhammad bin Nayef from Abdullah’s clan the Crown Prince, while his 33-year-old son Mohammad bin Salman Ale Saudfrom the Sudairy clan received the appointment of Deputy Crown Prince. On this, Peter Lvov, Ph.D in political science, has written a disclosing article exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Even back then it was clear that within a short period of time the king would try to hand over all power in the country to his own son by sidestepping Muhammad bin Nayef, while he himself would retire due to Alzheimer’s disease, becoming sort of a “king-father” with no real power, but with the right to an advisory vote on important decisions. Needless to say, it’s a direct violation of the tradition of succession to the throne from brother to brother that has been in place in Saudi Arabia, that is going to be replaced by the father-to-son succession.
To make such a transition one should be able to carry out a coup d’etat or win the approval of the succession board, which is formed according to different sources by 7 or 11 members of the Ale Saud dynasty.
Now it seems that the wheels of the political machine are moving again.
The recent reports from Riyadh indicated that his disease is taking a toll on the king and he wants to renounce his reign in favor of the Crown Prince. But then neighboring states, especially Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, started hinting that the members of the Saudi royal family along with the sheikhs of the strongest tribes, which are the foundation of Ale Saud’s rule, are extremely dissatisfied with the sharp deterioration of the economic and social situation in the country. This has led to a major drop in their personal incomes.

It is no secret that Riyadh increased the volume of oil production to weaken the positions of its main competitors – Russia, Iran and Venezuela. But the kingdom had to take a punch as well, it was forced to unseal its reserve fund and cut the funding of numerous social programs.

And then came the execution of 47 Shia public figures, including the popular human rights activist Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. As believed by some observers, the executions were designed as a form of retaliation to Iran and Hezbollah for the help they have provided to the Syrian people in the fight against the Saudi-backed terrorists. This step provoked massive unrest in the Shia areas of the kingdom, the areas that produce the better part of all Saudi oil.

The country has found itself on the brink of a civil war, while it comes up with different kinds of provocations against Iran at the same time, which has also provoked major discontent in the West. After all, the West needs a politically loyal Iran, a country in which huge investments can be made, especially in oil and gas sectors, in order to find a remedy for its dependence on the Russian gas market and the international oil markets at the same time.

Now the highly respected Institute for Persian Gulf Affairs is stating that the king of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Ale Saud is preparing to renounce the throne in favor of his son Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, and has since brought his country to the brink of a disaster.

It means that the 80-year-old Salman is trying desperately hard to persuade his brothers on the succession board to allow him to change the principle of succession of the Saudi throne, since he’s ready to leave, but not so ready for his nephew Mohammad bin Salman Ale Saud to rule the country.

What the king has been doing is allegedly done “only for the sake of the stability of the kingdom.” Although the reality of the situation is clear – should Salman retain his position, the disintegration of the kingdom is imminent, with certain Shia areas breaking away, while the regions on the border with Yemen which are mostly populated by Yemeni tribes, more than happy to return home.
Moreover, the Minister of Interior used to be a habitual cocaine user, so he was only able to “produce” two daughters, and now he’s somewhat incapable of producing more children. Should the king manage to carry out the above described scheme, he will become the first Saudi monarch to leave the throne to his son.

And the fact that there’s a growing crisis in Saudi Arabia was evident from the cuts in subsidies and bonuses that king Salman started at the beginning of this year to reduce the country’s total dependence on oil. After decades of extensive use of oil revenues to subsidize companies’ payment of generous salaries and providing enormous social benefits in a bid to keep the people silent, falling oil prices struck Saudi Arabia at its heart.

It’s enough to say that revenues from oil exports in 2015 alone dropped by half. Ultimately it’s hard to say which country suffers the most from these oil wars – Russia or Saudi Arabia, since the latter has virtually no other sectors to support the economy.

Saudi economist Turki Fadaak believes that Saudi Arabia is exiting the policy of alleged “universal welfare”, so there’s an ongoing psychological shift in the minds of the ruling elite of the state. Fadaak is convinced that the ultimate aim of King Salman’s measures is to eliminate the Saudi dependency on oil. But is it really? According to leading international experts – the answer is a resounding “no”, with all the arguments to the contrary nothing more than fantasy.

Although initially it seemed that Salman, who came to power after the death of his brother, King Abdullah, will continue his course, after assuming the throne Salman generously spent over 30 billion dollars from the budget on bonuses for civil servants, military personnel, and besides them the students. Additionally, prices for basic goods and services, including fuel, electricity and water prices were kept at extremely low levels due to government subsidies from oil revenues to curb any voice of dissent. However, due to falling oil prices, under the pressure of such costs the budget started to rupture.

The most important thing now for the kingdom is to execute the transition from the extremely lavish social security system to a productive economy, but then the subjects of the king will be forced to cut their costs, and it looks that they do not agree with this notion. And accusations in the imminent economic collapse will go Salman’s way, so it is better for him to leave now, before protests even start.

It is curious that Saudi Arabia has been rather realistic about its budget for the year 2016, since it was based on the average price of oil keeping at the level 29 dollars per barrel. Last year, the Saudi budget deficit amounted to almost 98 billion dollars and the costs were considerably higher than it was originally planned due to bonuses for civil servants, military personnel and retirees.
In 2016 the authorities decided to put up to 49 billion dollars into a special fund to provide funding for the most important projects in case oil prices drop even further. But it was Saudi Arabia back in 2014 that proposed new tactics for OPEC, that implied that there would be no cuts in the level of production, the tactics that drove oil prices to today’s levels.
So we are to learn pretty soon should Riyadh choose the path of the utter and complete collapse of the kingdom, or the path of giving power to the young and pragmatic technocrats who are going to pursue a comprehensive oil policy. Either way, Saudi Arabia will be forced to put an end to the costly military adventures in Syria and Yemen as well as its confrontations with the regional powers, Russia and Iran at the top.

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Commentaries Tue, 26 Jan 2016 10:46:15 +0000
ISIS’s bloody decline http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/221904-isis’s-bloody-decline http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/221904-isis’s-bloody-decline

Washington’s pundit class has interpreted the ISIS’s recent turn toward international terrorism as proof of its growing strength, but it may actually represent the opposite, the group’s recognition that its “caliphate” is under stress and shrinking, as is observed by ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

 

Large-scale armed insurrection tends to move through identifiable phases that correspond roughly to what Mao Zedong described many years ago. Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao, was a Chinese Communist revolutionary and the founding father of the People's Republic of China. In Mao’s formulation, the first of three phases emphasizes organization, propaganda, and the establishment of cadres and a presence in the areas in which the revolutionary movement intends to operate.

The second phase is more violent and typically includes operations we would describe as terrorist attacks, as well as larger scale guerrilla warfare. The purposes of this phase include demonstrating the strength and vitality of the movement and eroding the will and resources of the adversary.

The third phase includes a transition to conventional military operations, on a big enough scale to sweep to a final victory. This sequence tracks the history of the Chinese Communist Party’s road to power and, in modified form, the strategy and trajectory of some other movements such as the Viet Minh.
However, such strategies do not always succeed. Groups such as Sendero Luminoso, Shining Path, in Peru and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka followed a similar course of using terrorist attacks and rural-based guerrilla operations as steps in growing strong enough to challenge for power. In their cases they followed that course successfully for a good while, and came to pose a very serious challenge to the established order in each of their countries before being finally beaten.

Failure of the strategy can involve, as long as the movement is alive, a walking back from a later phase of operations to what was supposed to be only an earlier one. Failure at conventional military operations and large-scale guerrilla warfare may mean resorting to small-scale terrorism. Sendero Luminoso still exists, and is on the U.S. official list of foreign terrorist organizations, even though the Peruvian military essentially defeated it about a decade ago.

Something similar occurred with the Algerian war for independence, even though the National Liberation Front (FLN) achieved its political objective of becoming the ruler of an independent Algeria. The FLN won politically when Charles de Gaulle bowed to the inevitable in satisfying Algerian nationalist aspirations, but the French army had bested the FLN militarily.

By the time Algeria got its independence in 1962, the FLN’s violent operations had been reduced to sporadic terrorism. Those operations were matched on the other side by terrorist operations of the Secret Army Organization, consisting of French settlers and renegade military officers who resisted giving up Algeria. However, let’s do not forget the differentiation between a true and popular revolution, like we saw in Iran in 1979, with a honorary cause and those who resort to terrorism and act in contrary to what the majority of the people sought, today Syria as an example.

The radical terrorist group of ISIS has exhibited some of the same sequencing as have other violent movements, although ISIS has tried to compress the schedule significantly, especially with its proclamation of a caliphate. By the way, Mao didn’t proclaim establishment of the People’s Republic of China until October 1949, when his party had won the Chinese civil war and the opposition Nationalists were fleeing to Taiwan.

The compression has helped ISIS in catching the opposition by surprise. One major reason for the initial dramatic gains of territory by ISIS in Iraq was that the Iraqi army was trained and equipped at the time to deal more with insurgency than with larger conventional attacks, which was the form that much of the ISIS offensive took.

In more recent months ISIS has lost ground, literally and especially in Iraq. The recapture of Ramadi by Iraqi government forces is part of that development and reflects an improved ability by those forces to deal with the late-phase conventional operations to which ISIS had moved more quickly than anyone expected.

ISIS has been exhibiting other strains and difficulties, including in trying to keep its terrorists paid. The group’s longer term prospects are still handicapped by its having no allies, and by a record of rule that is abhorrent to most people who have witnessed it directly. It has little appeal to anyone other than those on the ISIS payroll who are on the dispensing rather than the receiving end of the group’s cruel variety of governance.

As ISIS declines, it is likely to resort increasingly to international terrorism. It will do so for the same general reasons that other movements that have been pushed backward along the Maoist timeline have focused on terrorism. If one is not succeeding in large conventional operations, one relies more on smaller asymmetric ones. In the case of ISIS, increased reliance on international terrorism should be all the more apparent in that it represents a departure from the group’s earlier focus — much different from the strategy of Al Qaeda — of concentrating on building and expanding its so-called caliphate. Of course, the two have followed paths of terrorism anyhow.

The terrorism will serve the purpose of demonstrating continued vitality of the Takfiri terrorist group of ISIS and keeping it on the mental maps of potential recruits.
We will need to recognize such a change in emphasis for what it is, as well as recognizing the reasons for it. There will be a tendency to equate more ISIS international terrorism with greater overall ISIS strength. Bowing to that tendency will be an error in analysis, and it will play into the hands of the terrorist group. Daesh Takfiris have committed gruesome crimes and terrorized members of various communities, including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds and Christians during their onslaught in Iraq and Syria. The United Nations has released a report on the human rights situation in Iraq, stating that ISIS have committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in its attacks against ethnic and religious groups in the country. The Daesh terrorist group has also released execution videos showing the grisly killing of Yemeni fighters in Aden, where the Saudi-backed and pro-Hadi forces are said to have a stronghold.
However, the decline of ISIS will be violent. The violence should be taken seriously and must be dealt with, but when a decline is occurring we nonetheless should understand that it is in fact a decline.
What you heard was taken from an article written by Paul R. Pillar.  In his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, Pillar rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies.
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Commentaries Mon, 25 Jan 2016 16:53:17 +0000
How Obama enables atrocities http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/221622-how-obama-enables-atrocities http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/221622-how-obama-enables-atrocities

US President Barack Obama seems so scared of offending the Saudis and their Israeli allies that he will tolerate almost any outrage, including Saudi Arabia’s mass beheadings and/or shootings of the regime’s enemies or even opponents including a senior Shiite cleric who dared criticize the monarchy.


Writer of the book“America’s Stolen Narrative” and an American investigative reporter, Robert Parry, has more on the story of how US President Barack Obama enables atrocities.

As the New Year dawns, the neocons and their liberal interventionist sidekicks remain firmly in control of Official Washington’s storylines – on Syria, Russia and elsewhere – even as their policies continue to wreak havoc across the Mideast and threaten the stability of Europe and indeed the future of civilization.

The latest proof of this dangerous reality came when Saudi Arabia’s repressive monarchy executed prominent Shiite leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr for criticizing the nation’s kings and princes. Before the killing, the Obama administration held its tongue in public so as not to antagonize the Saudi royals. Nimr’s nephew awaits Saudi “crucifixion” for his role as a teenager in Arab Spring protests.
After the Nimr execution, the US State Department issued a mild protest toward the Saudis while blurring the guilt by twinning it with criticism of Iran where a group of outraged protesters damaged the Saudi embassy, which led to Saudi Arabia’s hasty decision of breaking of relations with Iran.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said meekly “We believe that diplomatic engagement and direct conversations remain essential in working through differences,” while some senior U.S. officials remained silent over the latest Saudi provocations.

But the fact that the Obama administration could not voice its revulsion over the Saudi mass head-chopping along with some firing squads for 47 men, including Nimr, speaks volumes. President Barack Obama and other insiders continue to tip-toe around the unsavory U.S. “alliances” in the Mideast.

Over the past several years, Saudi Arabia sealed its impervious protection from U.S. government criticism by forming an undeclared alliance with the usurper regime of Israel around their mutual hatred of Iran, a cause picked up by American neocons and shared by the career-oriented liberal interventionists.

Some more “realist-oriented” U.S. officials, reportedly including Obama and some national security aides, recognize the havoc that neocon/liberal-hawk strategies continue to wreak across the region and now spreading into Europe, but they act powerless to do anything bold to stop it.
With Israel’s lobby siding with the certian states in their bloody rivalry with independent states, most U.S. politicians and pundits have scrambled to defend each recurring outrage by the Saudis, Qataris and Turks by trying to flip the script and somehow put the blame on Iran, Syria and Russia.

Thus, the Saudis, Qataris and Turks get mostly a pass for arming and enabling radical terrorists, including Al Qaeda and the ISIS. Israel also provides assistance to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front along the Golan Heights and bombs allies of the Syrian government and, of course, faces no official U.S. criticism.

In 2014, when US Vice President Joe Biden blurted out the truth about Saudi support for terrorism inside Syria, he was the one who had to apologize. In 2015, when Saudi Arabia invaded and bombed Yemen after hyping Iran’s support for the revolutionaries, the Obama administration sided with the Saudis even as their wanton attacks on poverty-stricken Yemen claimed the lives of thousands of civilians and created a humanitarian crisis.

For more than a year after President Obama announced his air war against the ISIS in summer 2014, Turkey continued to let the terror group run an industrial-style oil smuggling operation from Syria and Iraq through Turkey. Only when Russia entered the conflict last fall was the U.S. government shamed into joining in bombing raids to destroy the truck convoys. Yet, Obama still defended Turkey and bought its promises about finally trying to seal a 100-kilometer gap in its border.
Then, when Turkey retaliated against the Russian anti-terrorist bombing raids inside Syria by willfully shooting down a Russian Su-24 plane whose pilot was murdered after bailing out, Obama again sided with the Turks even though their claim that the Russian plane had violated Turkish air space was dubious at best. By their account, the plane had intruded over a sliver of Turkish territory for 17 seconds.
In other words, whatever these U.S. “allies” do – no matter how brutal and reckless – the Obama administration at least publicly rushes to their defense. Otherwise, the neocon/liberal-hawk “group think” would be offended – and many angry editorials and columns would follow.

While this strange reality may make sense inside Official Washington – where careerism is intense and offending the Israel Lobby is a sure career killer – this cowardly approach to these grave problems is endangering U.S. national interests as well as the world’s future.
Not only has the neocon/liberal-interventionist obsession with “regime change” turned the Middle East into a vast killing field but it has now spread instability into Europe, where the fabric of the European Union is being shredded by dissension over how to handle millions of Syrian refugees.
The United Kingdom may vote to leave the E.U., removing one of the original anchors of the European project which — for all its faults — has deservedly gotten credit for replacing a history of European blood-soaked conflicts with peaceful cooperation.
The spreading disorder has had political repercussions in the United States, too, where panic over terrorism is reshaping the presidential race.

Yet, instead of practical solutions such as pressuring all rational sides in the Syrian conflict to engage in peace talks and hold free elections that give the Syrian people the power to decide who their future leaders will be, Official Washington instead generates “talking points,” such as baselessly calling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a “magnet for terrorism” who “must go”. This is while the Syrian forces, under President Assad, have done the most to stop an outright victory by Al Qaeda and ISIS.

However, as far as Official Washington is concerned, it doesn’t really matter what the elected Syrian president has or hasn’t done. What’s important is that “regime change” in Syria has been on the neocons’ to-do list since at least the mid-1990s.
And since the neocons are sarcastically ‘infallible’ – as far as they’re concerned – the goal can’t be changed. No matter how foolhardy and deadly these policy prescriptions have been, there is almost no way to dislodge the neocons and liberal hawks inside Official Washington, since they monopolize almost all levers of political and media power.
Even when President Obama tried to collaborate under the table with President Putin to reduce tensions in Syria and Iran in 2013, Obama was quickly outmaneuvered by neocons and liberal hawks inside the State Department who pushed for the putsch in Ukraine in 2014 that effectively destroyed the Obama-Putin cooperation.
Obama and his national security team could either release evidence to confirm the accuracy of the “group thinks” or puncture that self-certainty. Instead Obama has chosen to withhold what the U.S. intelligence community knows about ground realities, all the better to protect the dominant propaganda narratives under the pro-Zionist lobby.

So, as it seems, the Obama administration continues down a road of tolerating or condoning outrages by its so-called Mideast “allies” as the President and his timid intelligence bureaucrats do nothing to empower the American people with the truth. Yes, “it is a recipe for worldwide catastrophe”.
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Commentaries Tue, 19 Jan 2016 11:27:29 +0000
‘The only thing Washington has not blamed Iran for is global warming’ http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220843-‘the-only-thing-washington-has-not-blamed-iran-for-is-global-warming’ http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220843-‘the-only-thing-washington-has-not-blamed-iran-for-is-global-warming’

As Washington sends mixed signals on whether or not it will introduce new sanctions against Iran, Tehran is considering other options should a new round of penalties come to pass, says Seyed Mohammad Marandi, professor at the University of Tehran. The United States delayed the announcement of new penalties, which reportedly seeks to punish several companies and individuals from Iran, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates that the US believes have been involved in Iran’s ballistic missile tests.

 

However, such an announcement comes as no surprise to Tehran, according to Marandi, who said that even as the [nuclear] negotiations were taking place between Iran and the P5+1, the general consensus in Iran was that “the United States would move towards increasing sanctions through other excuses then that of the nuclear program.”

Marandi provided a list of methods the United States was using to target Iran, including the recent passage of a law restricting visas for people that have visited Iran, as well as for Iranian citizens that have dual nationality. Also, Iranian assets are being confiscated abroad, which the Iranians “believe... is theft by the United States through using different excuses.”

The professor at the University of Tehran says such actions could “severely damage the chances for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action bearing fruit.”

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is an agreement designed to oversee Iran's nuclear program reached in Vienna on July 14, 2015 between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany), and the EU.

Marandi believes that Washington’s aggressive stance towards Iran must be explained by other reasons because, he says, “there’s never been any evidence to show that Iran’s nuclear program has been anything but peaceful. The United States has been making many accusations against Iran that have been unfounded.”

The real reason the US is fundamentally opposed to Iran is because the Islamic Republic successfully freed itself from Washington’s rule many years ago, he argues.

“The United States has not forgiven the Iranian people over three and a half decades for gaining their independence from the United States and becoming an independent actor in this part of the world.

“Therefore, the Iranians expect the United States will use all sorts of excuses – whether it’s the nuclear program, terrorism, human rights.”

Marandi exclaimed with a hint of irony that the only thing Iran has not been blamed for by Washington is “global warming.”

Yet the nuclear issue, he says, is not the main point of contention between the two countries. What really irks Washington about Iran "is not the nuclear program, but rather Iran’s political independence of the US,” he asserts.

But the international community will see through the actions of the United States that – despite the agreement between the two countries – is “trying to make ordinary Iranians suffer until Iran bows down to the will of the US.”

Marandi is adamant that such a thing “is not going to happen.”

In fact, according to the academic, Tehran has many options open to itself should the US impose a new round of sanctions, including seeking the cooperation and partnership of other countries – both non-Western and Western alike.

“If the US continues to go down this road, we will see greater tensions and probably it will be an important incentive for Iran to increase and develop its ties with Russia and China, as well as other non-Western countries.”

Marandi concludes that due to Washington’s support of countries in the region that are guilty of “supporting al-Qaeda and ISIL,” Tehran is of the opinion that countries like Russia, China and increasingly India, and even many European Union countries will begin to “look more to Iran as a reliable partner and this is making it far more difficult for the US… to impose sanctions on Iran in a way in which the international community would abide by those demands of the US.”

Courtesy: RT

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Commentaries Sat, 02 Jan 2016 05:53:11 +0000
US friendly fire… with friends like that who needs enemies? http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220597-us-friendly-fire…-with-friends-like-that-who-needs-enemies http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220597-us-friendly-fire…-with-friends-like-that-who-needs-enemies

Pentagon chief Ashton Carter has put his hands up and admitted that the deadly US airstrike just recently killing nine Iraqi soldiers was “a mistake”. Carter said it was a case of “friendly fire” committed in the fog of war.

 

Trouble for Washington is that many Iraqis, including military ground personnel, do not buy the “friendly fire” explanation. Rather, Iraqis will see the latest American “mistake” not as an accidental error, but as further evidence that the US military is in reality working covertly in Iraq to support the terror group known as Daesh or ISIS.

The latest incident occurred near the city of Fallujah, some 50 kilometers west of the capital, Baghdad. Iraqi troops were making advances against the IS stronghold when their commanders called in US air support. Several missiles were subsequently fired from American fighter jets, but it was Iraqi soldiers who took the hit. Finian Cunningham has worked for over 20 years as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV. He has shed light on US friendly fire which ends to the benefit of ISIS and its cohorts.

Iraqi military spokesmen appear to back up the US account of the incident as being a result of mistaken friendly fire. They said that miscommunication with US “coalition partners” led to a miscalculation on the movement of Iraqi troops in the heat of battle.
Nevertheless, one Iraqi member of parliament, Hakim al-Zamili voiced the suspicions of many when he told RT: “We don't believe it was a technical mistake. We constantly see that the United States is trying to provide air cover to ISIS.” He added that the Americans are preventing Iraqis from making an offensive.

The Iraqi MP added: “I think everyone is now convinced that the United States is not sincere in its fight against ISIS. Maybe they have another agenda. The Pentagon, the CIA and other agencies in the US are trying to make a rift between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq.” Hakim al-Zamili said “They are trying to tear apart Iraq with the help of their allies like Turkey and the Gulf states.”

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported on rife suspicions among Iraqi public, politicians and military that US forces were “in cahoots” with the ISIS terror group. The belief in a Machiavellian agenda held by the Americans was, as the paper noted, harming the supposed US “anti-terror” effort and standing in the region.

Since August 2014, the US began air operations in Iraq allegedly in conjunction with the government in Baghdad with the stated objective of “degrading and defeating” the ISIS, in the words of President Barack Obama. The US has also been carrying out airstrikes in Syria – although those operations are not approved by the authorities in Damascus.

Just recently, Obama claimed that the US was “hitting ISIS harder than ever” and that it was stepping up its air campaign to “hunt down” terror operatives and commanders. Obama said that the US has carried out over 9,000 strikes in the past 16 months, with the number of strikes roughly split evenly between Iraq and Syria.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has explicitly expressed skepticism about the so-called “anti-terror” objective of the US air campaign. The Russian government has also questioned the American commitment to its stated goals.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has not made public comments of an ulterior, sinister American agenda and still from time to time make use of the US as a partner in the fight against terrorism. However, that’s not how most of the Iraqi people see it. As the Washington Post reported: The perception among Iraqis that the United States is somehow in cahoots with the terrorists it claims to be fighting appears… to be widespread across the, and it speaks to more than just the troubling legacy of mistrust that has clouded the role the United States pretend to play in Iraq since the 2003 invasion and the subsequent withdrawal eight years later.

The Washington Post article cited several Iraqis who say they have seen videos purporting to show US forces air-dropping weapons and other supplies to ISIS terrorists. Iraqi soldiers complained that US air “support” has been more a hindrance than a help in the battle against the terrorists. One Iraqi elite force member, Lieutenant Murtada Fadl, even told the Washington Post: “We’d be better off without the Americans. According to the American paper he said that the only air support had come from the Iraqi air force and that he wishes the government would ask the Russians to replace the Americans.

A recurring complaint among Iraqis is that US air power has done so little to destroy ISIS bases and oil smuggling operations. The figure of 9,200 US airstrikes cited by Obama compares with over 4,200 strikes carried out by Russian forces across Syria in only three months. The evidence suggests that Russia’s military operations have inflicted far greater damage to ISIS and other terrorist groups compared with the American operations.

Meantime, a New York Times claimed that the Obama administration is in “a dilemma” about the “risks of civilian casualties” if it were to step up the aerial campaign in Iraq and Syria against ISIS. Considering the casualties of the US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, has the US shown any concerns in terms of civilian casualties in practice?

The NY Times went on to say that Washington military planners are aware of precise ISIS positions in the eastern Syrian stronghold city of Raqqa, but are loathe to order in airstrikes on those targets out of concern to avoid “collateral damage".

Such official care by the US military for civilian victims has a serious credibility problem in light of the bombing and strafing of a hospital in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan. In that strike on October 3, some 30 hospital staff and patients were killed when an AC-130 gunship opened up on the facility in a sustained attack that lasted for nearly an hour.

Doctors Without Borders, the medical group who ran the Kunduz hospital, has described it as a “war crime”. US officials said it was “a mistake” – another case of “friendly fire”. But other reports point to a deliberate decision by the US military to wipe out the facility because they believed it contained a wounded insurgent belonging to the Taliban. In other words, there was a complete disregard for civilian casualties in order to take out a single target.

So the idea that US military strikes against ISIS terror bases in Syria or Iraq have been curtailed out of an ethical duty for safety of civilians does not seem plausible.

In another incident, this time in Syria, it was reported earlier this month by McClatchy News that 36 civilians, including 20 children, were killed in a US airstrike on the village of Al Khan in Hasakah Province. That attack was allegedly carried out to hit an ISIS group in the vicinity.

That’s why the latest deaths of Iraqi soldiers in Fallujah caused by American forces will fuel suspicions that the US is not serious about hitting ISIS. Hitting Iraqi troops advancing on ISIS positions seems more consistent with claims that the Pentagon is far more concerned about preserving its covert “regime change” assets, that is ISIS and its cohorts.
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Commentaries Sun, 27 Dec 2015 12:51:23 +0000
Why the US pushes an illusory Syrian peace process http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220401-why-the-us-pushes-an-illusory-syrian-peace-process http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220401-why-the-us-pushes-an-illusory-syrian-peace-process

The anti-Assad coalition led by the United States continues to stagger toward the supposed objective of beginning peace negotiations between the Syrian government and what has now been blessed as the politically acceptable so-called “opposition”.

The first such meeting was scheduled for 1 January, but no one on either side believes for a moment that any such negotiations are going to happen any time in the foreseeable future. Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. Porter has said more on the US’s push for an illusionary peace process in Syria.

The notion that negotiations on a ceasefire and political settlement will take place lacks credibility, because the political-military realities on the ground in Syria won’t allow it. Those so-called ‘opposition’ groups that are prepared to contemplate some kind of settlement with the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad do not have the capacity to make such an agreement a reality. And those organizations that have the capacity to end the war against Damascus have no interest in agreeing to anything short of forcible regime change.

On top of those serious contradictions, Russia is openly contesting the US plan for a negotiated settlement. The United States is pushing the line that President Bashar al-Assad must step down, but Russia is insisting that such a demand is illegitimate.
The contradiction between the pretensions of the US-sponsored plan and Syrian political-military realities was very much in evidence at the recent conference held in Riyadh. The conference, which was supported by the United States and the other so-called “Friends of Syria,” including Britain, France, Turkey, Qatar and the UAE, was in theory to bring together the broadest possible range of opposition groups – excluding only what they wished to dub “terrorist” groups. Belying that claim, however, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (YPD) being armed by the United States in Syria was excluded from the conference at the insistence of Turkey.

A key objective of the conference was apparently to bring Ahrar al-Sham, the most powerful terrorist military force apart from the ISIS, into the putative game of ceasefire negotiations. But inviting Ahrar al-Sham was bound to backfire sooner or later. Ahrar al-Sham has been closely allied with al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al-Nusra Front, both politically and militarily. Moreover, it has explicitly denounced the idea of any compromise with the elected government in Damascus.

Ahrar al-Sham showed up at the conference, but refused to follow the script. The representative of Ahrar al-Sham called for “the overthrow of the Assad regime with all its pillars and symbols, and handing them over for a trial.” That is not exactly the game plan envisioned in the negotiating process, which assumes that President Assad must leave after a transitional period, but that the government security institutions would remain in place. On the second day of the conference its representative announced that it was leaving, complaining that the conference organizers had refused to endorse its insistence on the “Muslim” identity of the opposition. It’s a source of shame that such terrorist groups, whose hands stained with the bloods of innocent people, utter words in terms of Muslim identity.

The Ahrar al-Sham refusal to play ball was the most dramatic indication of that the entire exercise is caught in a fundamental contradiction. But it wasn’t the only case of a major armed group whose attendance at the Riyadh meeting raised the obvious issue of conflicting interests.

Jaysh al-Islam is a coalition of 60 Salafist armed groups in Damascus suburbs whose orientation appears to be indistinguishable from that of Ahrar al-Sham. The terrorist coalition is led by Salafist extremist Zahran Alloush, and has fought alongside Ahrar al-Sham as well as al-Nusra Front. Last April, Alloush travelled to Istanbul, where he met with the leader of Ahrar al-Sham. Like their close allies, moreover, Alloush and his coalition reject the idea of a political settlement with the Syrian state authority, with or without President Assad. 

If it is so obvious that the Riyadh conference and the larger scheme for peace negotiations is not going to come to fruition, why has the Obama administration been pushing it? The explanation for what appears to be a lost cause can be inferred from the basic facts surrounding the US administration’s Syria policy.
First, the administration adopted the objective of regime change in Syria in late 2011, at a time when it was convinced, in vain, that Damascus was on the ropes. And although it has partially backtracked from that aim by distinguishing between President Assad and the institutional structure of the government, it cannot back off the demand for Assad to step down without a humiliating admission of failure and major domestic political damage.

Second in its pursuit of that regime change policy, the Obama administration allowed its regional allies – especially Turkey and Saudi Arabia – to do things that it wasn’t prepared to do. Obama tolerated Turkish facilitation of foreign terrorists and Turkish, Qatari and Saudi funneling of arms to their favorite terrorist groups. The result was that ISIS, al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam emerged in 2013 and 2014 as the main challengers to the Syrian government.

But the White House has officially maintained its distance from al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, while continuing to collaborate closely with allies, as they have provided financial support to the “Army of Conquest” command dominated by the terrorist groups of al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham. They did so to help the terrorist forces under their leadership gain control of Idlib Province and pose the most serious threat to Damascus thus far.

And the third fact about the policy is that the Obama administration embarked on its campaign of illusory peace negotiations with little more than one year left before Obama leaves the Oval Office.
The obvious implication of these facts is that the ostensible push for a ceasefire and peace negotiations is a useful device for managing the political optics associated with Syria during the administration’s final year. If it is not questioned by media and political elites, the administration will be able to claim both that it is insisting on getting rid of Assad and at the same time moving toward a ceasefire and political settlement. 

Never mind that claim has nothing to do with reality. Being the dominant power, after all, means never having to say you’re sorry, because you don’t have to acknowledge your responsibility for the terrible war and chaos visited on a country because of your policy.

EA

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Commentaries Wed, 23 Dec 2015 11:00:48 +0000
US, Turkish forces violate Iraq’s territorial integrity http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220239-us,-turkish-forces-violate-iraq’s-territorial-integrity http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220239-us,-turkish-forces-violate-iraq’s-territorial-integrity

The deadly airstrike of US army jetfighters against the positions of the Iraqi army forces in northern Iraq mounted the protests of the Iraqi officials. Meanwhile, Head of the Iraqi Parliament’s National Security and Defense Committee, Hakem al-Zameli, has denounced the Friday air raids of US warplanes against the positions of Iraqi army in Al-Anbar Province, while dismissing as baseless the claims of the US officials that these air raids had taken place mistakenly and that the US had no intention of attacking the Iraqi army positions.

 

This senior Iraqi official has pointed out that the US forces were informed of the exact location of the positions of the Iraqi forces. He underscored that the Iraqi government and Defense Ministry maintain a number of documents which prove the US has on a number of occasions delivered weapons, food, and fuel for terrorist outfits, which are operating in Iraq.

Throughout the Friday air raids of the US forces against Al-Anbar Province, at least ten Iraqi troopers, including a senior Iraqi officer, were killed and scores of others sustained injuries. The US Defense Department has issued a statement, confirming the attacks of US warplanes against the positions of Iraqi forces, while claiming that these air raids had taken place accidently and mistakenly.

The US officials have made these baseless claims, while the Iraqi Defense Minister, Khaled al-Obeidi, has said that  these airstrikes had taken place against the positions of Iraqi army forces while the Iraqi troops and the so-called US-led Coalition forces have precisely coordinated their operations.

This high-ranking Iraqi official slammed these brazen attacks against the Iraqi army forces, while reminding that a probe has been launched into the airstrikes of US forces against the Iraqi troops’ positions, and the Iraqi government puts emphasis on this investigation.

Many of the Iraqi figures have strongly condemned the attacks of US forces against the Iraqi army positions.

The US troopers have attacked the positions of Iraqi troops, while as of two weeks ago, the Turkish forces, in a provocative move, have infiltrated into Iraqi soil and have been stationed in the vicinity of the Iraqi city of Mosul. Despite the warnings of Iraq, and presentation of Iraq’s letter of complaint to UN Security Council, Turkish officials have said they have no intention of withdrawing Turkish forces from northern Iraq, under the pretext of presence of terrorist outfits in this region.

The incursions of the US and Turkish forces against the positions of Iraqi forces and territorial integrity of Iraq take place while senior Iraqi officials have repeatedly said that Iraq only needs weapons to counter terrorist groups, and is in no need of presence of foreign forces in Iraq to fend off the terrorist groups, which are supported by some of the Western and regional states.

MR/ME

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Commentaries Sun, 20 Dec 2015 03:29:23 +0000
UNSC approves resolution against ISIL, Al-Qaeda financial sources http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220193-unsc-approves-resolution-against-isil,-al-qaeda-financial-sources http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220193-unsc-approves-resolution-against-isil,-al-qaeda-financial-sources

UN Security Council held an open session on Thursday afternoon in order to reinforce legal measures against those, who maintain transactions with terrorist outfits. In this ministerial meeting, the finance ministers of France, Jordan, Chile, England, Spain, Angola, and Malaysia were in attendance. The participants in the UNSC ministerial meeting unanimously voted in favor of Resolution 2253 which demands the severance of the financial sources of terrorist groups such as the terrorist outfit dubbed ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL), and Al-Qaeda.

This resolution has mainly targeted ISIL and focuses on the UN means for uprooting the financial sources of ISIL terrorist group. This resolution which has been approved based on the 7th Chapter of UN Charter and will be immediately enforced, urges all UN member states to swiftly take action to sever financial sources of ISIL terrorist outfit.

The US Secretary of Treasury, Jacob Lew, whose country chairs the UN Security Council meetings in December, in an address to this UNSC ministerial meeting, said that this resolution reinforces the global financial system. This comes while Russia has criticized this resolution. Russia’s Envoy to UN, Vitaly Churkin, has noted that the commitments and obligations stated in the UN Security Council resolution on severance of the financial sources of ISIL and Al-Qaeda, lack the necessary coherence. According to Churkin, uprooting of ISIL terrorist group is only possible via taking collective actions; avoiding double standards; and removing all of the financial channels of terrorism. He added that not everyone implements the commitments stated in this resolution.

It seems that approval of Resolution 2253 should be taken into consideration as an effective measure in the campaign against the financial sources of ISIL and Al-Qaeda terrorist groups. Nonetheless, as the Russian envoy to UN pointed out, without the cooperation of all countries and without adoption of serious measures, the campaign against the financial sources of these terrorist outfits, especially ISIL, is doomed to fail. In this manner, one should wait and see whether the US as the leader of international anti-ISIL coalition, would take effective measures to prevent the state supporters of ISIL from financing ISIL or not. Meanwhile, in the view of many, especially senior Russian officials, Turkey plays the main role in oil trafficking by ISIL from Syria and Iraq to Turkey and international markets. According to Russians, smugglers purchase oil from ISL in cash and Turkey is used as a transit country, while part of ISIL’s oil is also bought at a very cheap price by Turkey.

Overall, it can be said that as long as the Western and Arab supporters of ISIL, as well as Turkey, don’t change their policy in this regard, hopes cannot be set on a successful global campaign against the financial sources of ISIL and Al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, Russia, alongside its regional allies, demands resolute and serious measures for uprooting terrorist groups, including ISIL.

MR/ME

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Commentaries Sat, 19 Dec 2015 04:46:36 +0000
‘Tying resolution of Syria crisis to Assad’s future, unacceptable’ http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220148-‘tying-resolution-of-syria-crisis-to-assad’s-future,-unacceptable’ http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220148-‘tying-resolution-of-syria-crisis-to-assad’s-future,-unacceptable’

The UN Chief, Ban Ki Moon, has noted that conditioning the resolution of Syrian crisis to the future of the incumbent Syrian President, Bashar Assad, is unacceptable. Moreover, throughout the Vienna-2 meeting, the participants forthrightly noted that the people of Syria are the main decision makers about their own fate. Within the Vienna-2 meeting, the negotiations aimed to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, and the parties to these negotiations put emphasis on the campaign against terrorism in that war-torn country.

 

The West led by the US, since the break out of war in Syria, intended to topple the Syrian President, Bashar Assad, and to tie the Syrian crisis to him stepping down from power, in a bid to attain its goals. One of the goals pursued by the West was the transition of power from Bashar Assad to a new government, which would be a US client regime and which would ally with the Zionist regime of Israel. Syria, which for decades has been at the frontline of the resistance movement and struggle against the illegal Zionist entity, prevented the implementation of US Great Middle East plot, right from the very beginning.

Hence, on August 2011; six months after the onset of the civil war in Syria, the US president, Barack Obama, unequivocally urged Assad’s dismissal. However, currently, the US not only seeks the collapse of Assad administration, but also warns about the consequences of his measures.

The US and the West, upon instigating civil war in Syria and equipping Takfiri and terrorist currents, intended to replace Assad with their considered choice. However, the West led by the US, can no longer contain the actions of the operatives of terrorist outfit, dubbed ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) and is concerned over the possibility of a worsening situation upon the replacement of the incumbent Syrian President, Bashar Assad.

Under these circumstances, the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, says that the West doesn’t want the pillars of the Syrian government to collapse, leading to a situation similar to the status quo in Iraq.

On this basis, the foreign opponents of the popular Syrian President, Bashar Assad, have been forced to even ostensibly grant priority to the battle against ISIL terrorist outfit. Therefore, throughout the recent meetings on Syria, some states have spoken of the possibility of the continued presence of Bashar Assad at his post for several months after the commencement of transition phase.

The UN chief has put emphasis on the right of Syrians to take their destiny into their own hands, and has urged for the establishment of ceasefire across all regions of Syria, as fast as possible. He points out that the immediate establishment of truce in this war-ravaged country assists the resolution of Syrian crisis through political channels, and expedites the pace of humanitarian assistance to millions of Syrians.

MR/ME

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Commentaries Fri, 18 Dec 2015 04:41:40 +0000
Reactions to massacre of Shias in Nigeria http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220068-reactions-to-massacre-of-shias-in-nigeria http://english.irib.ir/analysis/commentaries/item/220068-reactions-to-massacre-of-shias-in-nigeria

The recent attacks of the Nigerian troopers against Shias in this African country, which claimed dozens of lives, have led to the strong reaction of the domestic, regional, and international assemblies. The Nigerian forces staged several raids against a Husseiniyeh, and the house of the Nigerian Shias’ Leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, in the Nigerian city of Zaria, on Saturday and Sunday, killing dozens of Nigerian Shias.

 

Meanwhile, President Hassan Rohani, in a phone call on Tuesday with the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, asked about the state of well-being of those wounded in that attack, especially about the well-being of Sheikh El-Zakzaky, while announcing Iran’s preparedness to provide assistance, especially via sending medical teams for treatment of those who sustained injuries in these raids. The Iranian president also called for establishment of a fact-finding committee for launching a probe into this incident, and urged the Nigerian government’s efforts to prevent the recurrence of these incidents.

Throughout this phone call, the Nigerian president, for his part, praised the follow up of the Iranian president on the state of Muslims round the world and in Nigeria, while adding that he will deal with those, who may have been involved in the raid against Shias.

Iran’s Parliament Speaker, Ali Larijani, in a letter to his Nigerian counterpart, Yakubu Dogara, urged the punishment of the perpetrators behind the massacre of Shias in Nigeria, while calling for the release of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
Larijani pointed out that the goal of recent attacks against Nigerian Shias has been to cause discord among the followers of different Islamic denominations, and to stage a pre-plotted conspiracy which only serves the interests of the usurper Israeli regime.

Meanwhile, the people of Tehran gathered next to the Nigerian Embassy on Tuesday, voicing their protest against the mass slaughter of Shias in Nigeria by the troopers, and demanding punitive measures against those responsible for this abominable crime.

The Tehrani protesters also lambasted the muted reaction of the international assemblies toward the carnage of Shias in Nigeria.

The Shia Sources of Emulation in the holy city of Qom, including Grand Ayatollahs Nouri Hamedani, and Saafi Golpaygani; Human Rights Headquarters of Islamic Republic of Iran’s Judiciary; the lecturers of Qom Seminary, and the international union of NGOs supporting Palestine, have also issued statements, denouncing the mass murder of Shias in Nigeria.

Based on incoming reports, in some Islamic countries, such as Indonesia, people have staged massive demonstrations to vent their anger against the murder of Nigerian Shias by the Nigerian troopers, and to voice their solidarity with Sheikh El-Zakzaky.

MR/MG

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Commentaries Wed, 16 Dec 2015 05:56:54 +0000