Plato's Guns

M i d e a s t    Newsstand

Month: September, 2015

State of the world: In search of leadership – Marwan Bishara/Al Jazeera English

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Here they go again. And here I am: once again in New York as world leaders pose for photographers and deliver lofty speeches at the UN’s “new year” party gathering.

Judging from the attendance, the opening of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly promises to be no less of a tedious ritual than previous years.

And in the absence of the likes of Chavez, Gaddafi, and Ahmadinejad, it will even lack the political entertainment those populist leaders brought to the podium.

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Putin to U.N.: America is destroying the world, and only we can stop it – Joshua Keating/Slate.com

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Both Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin frequently claim to reject outdated Cold War thinking, but it’s hard to avoid the comparison when both leaders devoted their addresses to the U.N. General Assembly on Monday morning to rejecting the other’s worldview.

Speaking shortly after Obama dismissed Russia’s view that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad can be a partner in fighting ISIS, Putin, making his first address to the General Assembly in a decade, blamed foreign—read: U.S.—interference for helping the spread of extremism in the Middle East. “Rather than bringing about reforms, an aggressive foreign interference has resulted in the brazen destruction of institutions,” he said. Addressing “those who’ve caused the situation,” Putin said he’s temped to ask,  “do you realize now what you’ve done?” (Putin never referred to the U.S. specifically, only to an unnamed Voldemort-like malevolent presence doing terrible things in the world.)

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Temple movement rabbi proselytizes for genocide – David Sheen/The Electronic Intifada

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While his public statements of compassion for marginalized groups have earned Pope Francis the respect of many, the Holy See’s diplomatic recognition of the Palestinian Authority as the “state of Palestine” in June ignited the fury of rabbis with links to the Israeli government, army and academia.

On 9 September, a group calling itself the “Nascent Sanhedrin” (a reconstituted council of Jewish sages) held court in Jerusalem and accused the pontiff and other world leaders of crimes against the Jewish people.

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Obama, Putin, Rouhani UN Speeches, September 28th, 2015

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*More speeches from Putin and Rouhani  – all speeches are highly recommended – I’ve presented them in alphabetical order, not in order of importance:

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The Collapse of Saudi Arabia is Inevitable – Nafeez Ahmed/Middle East Eye

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On Tuesday 22 September, Middle East Eye broke the story of a senior member of the Saudi royal family calling for a “change” in leadership to fend off the kingdom’s collapse.

In a letter circulated among Saudi princes, its author, a grandson of the late King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, blamed incumbent King Salman for creating unprecedented problems that endangered the monarchy’s continued survival.

“We will not be able to stop the draining of money, the political adolescence, and the military risks unless we change the methods of decision making, even if that implied changing the king himself,” warned the letter.

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There will be no Third World War – Thierry Meyssan/Voltairenet.org

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The liberal hawks and the neo-conservatives have been unable to provoke the confrontation with Russia for which they were trained during the Cold War. Finally, the voice of reason has prevailed. While discrete negotiations are under way to seek an end to the crisis in Ukraine, Russia and China are preparing to convince the United States and their allies to participate in a global alliance against Islamic terrorism. After 5 years of tension, both the project for the seizure of power by the Muslim Brotherhood – the ‘Arab Spring’ – and the proclamation of a Caliphate have failed. Peace is saved.

Within a week, all the Western leaders, one after another, relinquished the objective that they had been collectively pursuing for almost 5 years – the overthrow of the Syrian Arab Republic and its democratically elected President, Bachar el-Assad.
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As insults fly, Iran-Saudi haj row aggravates regional rifts – Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Noah Browning/Reuters

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For regional adversaries at loggerheads over the crises in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the disaster at the haj is unlikely to be a game changer in the contest between Iran and Saudi Arabia, merely adding venom to their mutual acrimony.

But a deepening of already profound mistrust between the conservative Sunni kingdom and the revolutionary Shi’ite theocracy will make the task of stabilizing the Middle East’s many trouble spots even harder to achieve than it already is.

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Saudi Arabia Withdrew Billions From Markets, Estimates Show – Stefania Bianchi/Bloomberg Business

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Country withdrawn up to $70 billion, says Insight Discovery

Funds needed amid budget deficit, military campaign in Yemen

Saudi Arabia has withdrawn as much as $70 billion from global asset managers as OPEC’s largest oil producer seeks to plug its budget deficit after crude slumped, according to financial services market intelligence company Insight Discovery.

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The Great Game Comes to Syria – John McLaughlin/OZY

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Nature abhors a vacuum, but Vladimir Putin really loves one. The Russian president clearly sensed a big power void in Syria, where the civil war has intensified and where the United States has neither committed ground forces nor devised a compelling strategy to settle the conflict or defeat the Islamic State. Although the Islamic State has rampaged through Iraq, its headquarters is in Syria.

Into that vacuum, Putin has sent a substantial force of tanks, armored personnel carriers, air defense systems and upward of two dozen combat aircraft over the past several weeks. Russia is also building enough housing for 2,000 people, U.S. officials have said. What to make of Russia’s muscling into the war-torn country? For Putin, there are essentially five reasons, moving from the broadly strategic to the purely tactical.

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Abbas out of options, out of synch with angry Palestinians – Karin laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh/AP

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RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to drop a “bombshell” in a speech to the United Nations this week — prompting speculation that he will sever ties with Israel over its settlement expansion and other hard-line policies.

The warning reflects desperation, but may not signal action.

Abbas’ hopes of setting up a Palestinian state through negotiations with Israel have been derailed, and a new poll shows that a majority of Palestinians want the 80-year-old to resign and dissolve his self-rule government, the Palestinian Authority. Many no longer believe a two-state solution is realistic and support political violence.

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The Ministry of Fear – Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom/ Veterans Today

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“We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” said President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was wrong. Fear is a necessary condition for human survival. Most animals in nature possess it. It helps them to respond to dangers and evade or fight them. Human beings survive because they are fearful.

Fear is both individual and collective. Since its earliest days, the human race has lived in collectives. This is both a necessary and a desired condition. Early humans lived in tribes. The tribe defended their territory against all “strangers” – neighboring tribes – in order to safeguard their food supply and security. Fear was one of the uniting factors.

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Charlie Rose Interviews Putin – 60 Minutes/CBS

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*The actual FULL interview has not yet been posted on youtube.  I will post the full interview here when it becomes available.  But here is another video clip from the interview where Putin discusses America:

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Russia is Back. Get Used to it – Robert E. Hunter/LobeLog

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This coming Monday, President Barack Obama will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the UN General Assembly, their first meeting in 15 months. This will be no ordinary occasion, given Russian aggression in Ukraine, the West’s sanctions, and a lot of bad blood between the United States and the Russian Federation. Maybe the two leaders will be able to agree on some process for trying to deal with these very real mutual problems. Or maybe they will just talk past one another. Obviously, the world’s eyes will be on each twitch of the two men’s eyebrows. What follows does not recommend a course of action for dealing with Russia-in-Syria. Rather it will make the case that, after nearly a quarter century of Russia being a second-rate power, its interests and ambitions must again be taken into account, even when we oppose them.

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Who are We, America? – Terry Newell/HuffPo

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Pope Francis, addressing a joint session of Congress in late September, received a warm — at times joyous — reception. His message, interrupted by frequent applause, pleaded for welcoming the immigrant, helping the poor, healing the planet and protecting life in all its forms and at all its stages. Seated behind him were Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and Vice-President, Joe Biden, both Catholics and in direct line of succession to the presidency in a nation where, just over half a century ago, the idea of a Catholic president frightened many.

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Scandals involving Arab royalty roil Beverly Hills – LA Times

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In Beverly Hills and surrounding upscale hamlets, the talk at social gatherings this month has centered on indications of wealthy Arab visitors behaving badly.

Earlier this month, a man driving a Qatar sheik’s rare, million-dollar-plus Ferrari LaFerrari raced a Porsche 911 GT3 through a quiet Beverly Hills neighborhood, ignoring stop signs and passing slower vehicles as horrified residents looked on. A member of the country’s ruling family, the sheik first claimed diplomatic immunity, then skipped town — with his costly vehicles.

Then on Wednesday, a Saudi prince was arrested at his rented estate in Beverly Glen and booked on suspicion of having forced a female worker to perform oral sex on him. He was freed on $300,000 bail.

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Syria Gives Tanks to Hezbollah as Russia Beefs Up Its Forces – GPD/Veterans Today

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     Hezbollah poster

“When new gods were chosen, then war was in the gates. Was shield or spear to be seen among forty thousand in Israel?” (Judges 5:8)

Syria sent 75 Soviet tanks to Hezbollah to help them fight Al Qaeda affiliated terror groups, Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai reported on Saturday.

Syrian President Bashar Assad reportedly sent the T-55 and T-72 tanks to the Lebanon-based terror organization (pot calls kettle “black”) in thanks for its support during the ongoing civil war. This gift will now allow Hezbollah to set up its own armored division.

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Putin Plays Russian Roulette

by Taxi

They don’t call it Russian roulette for nothing.  Get a six-shooter, load it with a single bullet called Destiny, spin the chamber, point the barrel an inch above your ear, any ear – now wait or don’t wait – now squint or don’t squint – think or don’t think – now flashback or don’t – now weep or unweep – now breathe and don’t breathe now laugh and don’t laugh so dammit what the heck you waiting for – pull the goddamn trigger!

‘Clink’.

Pot luck, you’re still alive.

You lost five pounds of sweat in just under a minute.  But you’re alive.

Now it’s Putin’s turn.  Shootin’ hootin’ tootin Putin – it’s his turn.

You hand him the gun.  He takes it.  He looks down at you even though he’s shorter than you.  How the hell does he do that, you wonder?

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Shifting Direction, Kerry Aims to Include Iran in Efforts to End the Conflict in Syria – Michael R. Gordon/The New York Times

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UNITED NATIONS — Secretary of State John Kerry sought on Saturday to draw Iran into the search for a political solution to the Syrian conflict as he began a week of diplomacy over the brutal fighting there.

“I view this week as a major opportunity for any number of countries to play an important role,” Mr. Kerry said at the start of a meeting at the United Nations headquarters with Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister. “We need to achieve peace and a way forward in Syria, in Yemen, in the region itself.”

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The Day the West Likes to Forget – Michael Jabara Carley/Voltairenet.org

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History is being rewritten by Nato. World War II would not have been an internal conflict of capitalism but a glorious struggle of democracy against Nazism. The Soviet Union would therefore have not played a significant role in the conflict. On the contrary, his regime would have made the longest possible alliance with Evil. This propaganda does not stand up to the facts.

How often have you heard about the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, concluded on 23 August 1939? On that day Adolf Hitler and Iosif Stalin, those two peas in a pod, according to the western Mainstream Media, “carved up” eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black Seas. The gates were opened to World War II. Stalin stabbed Britain and France in the back, the so-called western democracies, actually the two largest colonial empires in the world.

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We are at war with an imaginary Islam: Lies, propaganda and the real story of America and the Muslim world – Raymond William Baker/Salon.com

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American propaganda exaggerates the power and moral depravity of the Islamic enemy, in the service of our empire

Excerpted from “One Islam, Many Muslim Worlds: Spirituality, Identity and Resistance Across Islamic Lands”:

The United States is at war with a very different, mythic Islam of its own making that has nothing at all to do with this Islam of the Qur’an. To make sense of that conjured threat, scholarly studies of Islam or Islamic movements are of no help at all. Even the examination of the real-world history and practice of empire has limited value, unless the perceived Islamic dimension is considered. The American imperial project cannot be brought into clear view without assessment of the distinctive rationale that the Islamist Imaginary provides. The task is not an easy one. Read the rest of this entry »

A new encyclopedia of Jew-hatred – Zvi Mazel /The Times of Israel

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The new anti-Semitism, which finds expression in the demonization of the State of Israel, is described in a book which has as its objective the exposure of the perpetrators, their modus operandi and their aims. Is the Israeli government prepared to confront this phenomenon?

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld’s new book in English, The War of a Million Cuts, is virtually encyclopedic in its portrayal of the new anti-Semitism. According to Gerstenfeld’s definition, the new anti-Semitism reflects a shift in focus from loathing of the Jewish individual to hatred of the State of Israel. Here, he perhaps does not innovate, but he presents a far more detailed and profound picture than that which we are already familiar.

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Anguish and joy from Gaza to Mecca – Al Jazeera English

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Mecca – Hussain Tarneesi had never crossed a bridge or walked near a wide, paved road in his life.

Tarneesi, who is from the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza, had never stood in front of a skyscraper or a shopping centre. He had never been out of the territory where infrastructure is severely lacking after repeated Israeli military campaigns, which flattened many neighbourhoods.

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It’s Time for a Formal U.S. Alliance With Israel – James Stavridis/Foreign Policy; PLUS: Rebuttal by Daniel Larison/The American Conservative

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Here’s a quick pop quiz: Which of the following nations do not enjoy the protection of a mutual military defense treaty — a formal alliance, if you will — with the United States. (You know this type of treaty, right? It is one that requires our nation, by force of treaty, to come to the defense of another nation if it is attacked.) So which nation are we not sworn to defend:

1. Philippines
2. Israel
3. Albania
4. Slovenia
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Response to US Campaign’s accusations against If Americans Knew – Alison Weir

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We apologize that we didn’t do this sooner, but we prioritized our many projects to bring justice and peace to Palestine by giving the facts to the American public over the Campaign’s accusations.

We hope that anyone who is as tired of the subject as we are will feel free to skip this statement and continue on with the urgent work before us.

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation expelled If Americans Knew from its coalition. To justify the expulsion, the Campaign issued a detailed dossier accusing me of tolerating racism, white supremacism and anti-Semitism. (In follow-up Facebook posts, some steering committee members even went so far as to accuse me myself of being racist, white supremacist and anti-Semitic.)

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Assad Is a Winner as Russia Is Seen Making New Offer at UN – Kambiz Foroohar/Bloomberg Business

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mc-assad-thug-life-cover

Bashar al-Assad is not going anywhere.

Four years after President Barack Obama’s August 2011 ultimatum that the Syrian president must go, world leaders descending on New York for the United Nations General Assembly are closer to agreeing that Assad can stay.

Now in its fifth year, civil war in Syria has blown up into a regional conflict and created millions of refugees testing Europe’s border. The exodus finally convinced German Chancellor Angela Merkel to wade in and admit no solution is possible without Assad. In so doing, she publicly broke with what was once a prevailing Western position: Assad, step aside.

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What ‘Axis of Evil’? Iran’s President Makes Nice in New York – Newsweek

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani projects an almost jovial demeanor as he sounds forth to a ballroom full of journalists on Friday in New York, where he will address the U.N. General Assembly next week. His round, smiling face is nothing like that of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a small, wiry man whose movements seemed almost robotic, and whose jaw was always clenched, as he endured questions from the Western media in New York in years past.

In power since 2013, Rouhani comes to America boosted by the successful completion of negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program, which he said could pave the way toward further cooperation between the countries after more than three decades of bitterness and tension. There is plenty of bitterness remaining on both sides, he said, but he suggested opposition to the accord was more prevalent in the United States than in his country.
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The Architecture of Violence – Al Jazeera English Documentary

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On a journey across the settlements and roads of the West Bank and along the Separation Wall, Israeli architect Eyal Weizman demonstrates how architecture is central to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

“Architecture and the built environment is a kind of a slow violence. The occupation is an environment that was conceived to strangulate Palestinian communities, villages and towns, to create an environment that would be unliveable for the people there,” says Weizman.

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Hajj Tragedy Inflames Schisms During a Pilgrimage Designed for Unity – Ben Hubbard/The New York Times

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BEIRUT, Lebanon — For the two million Muslims from across the world performing the hajj in Saudi Arabia this year, the annual pilgrimage is a time to forget the differences in race, sect, wealth and even nationality that divide believers and focus instead on their equality before God.

But when tragedy strikes, as with the massive human crush that killed more than 700 pilgrims near a holy site on Thursday, those differences come rushing back to the surface.

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Is America now destined to become the World’s Pariah along with its master, Israel? – Preston James, Mike Harris/Veterans Today Veterans Today

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More and more Americans are now coming to understand that America has essentially become a province of Israel and is run out of Tel Aviv.

Now if you doubt that is true just ask yourself what it means when every sitting Member of Congress except one (Representative Walter Jones) has signed a secret AIPAC Loyalty Oath to defend Israel no matter what, placing the interests of Israel even before the interests of America, something which their Oaths of Office require them to do.

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The Greatest Threat to Campus Free Speech is Coming From Dianne Feinstein and her Military-Contractor Husband – Glenn Greenwald/The Intercept

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There is no shortage of American pundits who love to denounce “PC” speech codes which restrict and punish the expression of certain ideas on college campuses. What these self-styled campus-free-speech crusaders typically – and quite tellingly – fail to mention is that the most potent such campaigns are often devoted to outlawing or otherwise punishing criticisms of Israel. The firing by the University of Illinois of Professor Stephen Salatia for his “uncivil” denunciations of the Israeli war on Gaza – a termination that was privately condoned by Illinois’ Democratic Senator Dick Durbin – is merely illustrative of this longgrowing trend.

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