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M i d e a s t    Newsstand

Month: January, 2016

Facing threats and opportunity, Israel forges Mediterranean alliance – Joshua Mitnick/CSMonitor.com

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With Israel’s flag flapping over the country’s newest piece of military hardware, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu descended very carefully into the nuclear submarine INS Rahav at its inaugural ceremony this month in Haifa.

There’s been little tentative, however, about Israel’s recent push westward into the Mediterranean Sea with a mix of added naval force and energy diplomacy.

Israelis had turned their backs to the water for decades, as neighboring armies routinely threatened to throw the Jewish state into the sea. But in the last five years, Israel has begun to see the Mediterranean as a strategic arena, rather than merely as an apocalyptic graveyard.

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Bernie and Israel: It’s complicated – Michael Crowley/Politico

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He’s spent time on a kibbutz, but Sanders has made critical statements about Israel that unnerve some in the pro-Israel community.

If Bernie Sanders defeats Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination, he’ll be the first Jewish presidential nominee of a major political party.

But when it comes to his views on Israel, some Jewish Democrats are scratching their heads in confusion.

“His voting record on Israel recently is fine, absolutely fine,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a media consultant and former Clinton White House aide who supports Clinton. “I haven’t heard him once talk about it on the campaign trail. It’s as though he doesn’t utter the world Israel. It just strikes me as odd.”

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U.S. Relies Heavily on Saudi Money to Support Syrian Rebels – Mark Mazzetti, Matt Apuzzo/The New York Times

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WASHINGTON — When President Obama secretly authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to begin arming Syria’s embattled rebels in 2013, the spy agency knew it would have a willing partner to help pay for the covert operation. It was the same partner the C.I.A. has relied on for decades for money and discretion in far-off conflicts: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Since then, the C.I.A. and its Saudi counterpart have maintained an unusual arrangement for the rebel-training mission, which the Americans have code-named Timber Sycamore. Under the deal, current and former administration officials said, the Saudis contribute both weapons and large sums of money, and the C.I.A takes the lead in training the rebels on AK-47 assault rifles and tank-destroying missiles.

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Strategic Survey for Israel 2015|2016 – Shlomo Brom and Anat Kurz

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ISRAEL AIR FORCE

Amos Yadlin: Five Years Back and Five Years Forward: Israel’s Strategic Environment in 2011-2015 and Policy Recommendations for 2016-2020
[Chapter in  Strategic Survey for Israel 2015-2016 Shlomo Brom and Anat Kurz, Editors]
http://www.inss.org.il/uploadImages/systemFiles/INSS2015-16Balance_ENG%20(4)_final.pdf

What follows are twelve recommendations (from the above linked document-185 pages), including one final statement regarding the overall policy that Israel would do well to adopt under the current circumstances.

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Israeli-Palestinian battle doesn’t end at death – AFP/Reuters (double article)

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intifada_bachaiv_pppa

Nablus (Palestinian Territories) – After weeks of waiting for the funeral, Bassim Salah’s family still couldn’t bury his body when it was returned by the Israeli authorities too frozen and contorted to fit in the grave.

The 38-year-old Palestinian was killed in November while trying to stab an Israeli border guard near an entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City, according to the police.

His body, like those of dozens of other Palestinians since a wave of attacks began in October, is the subject of a macabre dispute between the Israeli authorities and families seeking to grieve.

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Islamic State’s Bloody Decline – Paul Pillar/Consortiumnews

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Washington’s pundit class has interpreted the Islamic State’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, observes 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. 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.

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Blades of Resistance – Intifada Song

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*These are the kinds of videos that Israel has forced youtube to bury in the basement of cyberspace.

Palestine videos made in the USA follow:

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Liz Jackson: BDS campaign against Israeli policies is not anti-Semitic – San Jose Mercury News

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boycott-equals-justice

Across California, students are increasingly supporting Palestinian human rights through boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) campaigns that promote Palestinian freedom and equality. The movement, similar to the United Farm Workers’ nonviolent grape boycott, is designed to create political and economic pressure on Israel to comply with international human rights.

Jewish students are joining Arab, Muslim, black, Latino, LGBT, immigrant rights and other campus communities to ask universities to divest from corporations profiting from human rights abuses in Palestine. Last fall, San Jose State’s student body joined nine in California and more than 25 nationwide calling for divestment.

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British doctors seek to expel Israel from World Medical Association – Jerusalem Post

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Latest group calling for a boycott of Israel is a group of 71 British doctors, chairman of the Israeli Medical Association World Fellowship reveals to Knesset panel.

The students exposed to boycotts against Israeli academia today will be the senators of the next generation, and here lies the long-term danger, Prof. Peretz Lavie, president of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and chairman of the Association of University Heads in Israel, said on Wednesday.

He spoke at a Knesset Science and Technology Committee discussion on boycotts of Israeli academic institutions and researchers.

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American Empire’s Shifting Strategies in the Middle East

by Taxi

Pax Americana b52_vopna_ur_fir_ur

The ongoing progress of the daily liberation of Syrian villages, towns and cities is largely absent from Western mainstream media these days, but nevertheless, the facts on the ground in Syria are indisputable.  The Russian Axis in the Levant is militarily more superior than the ISISian armies combined; and despite these terrorist armies being well funded by wealthy global Zioconism, ISIS et all are currently on an unstoppable and disastrous loosing streak.  Looking thus at their territorial retreats and at the shrinking clock of war: the primary fighting forces of Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah look to be but five minutes away from an assured victory.  And riding the coattail of this imminent victory are the USA Empire and Republic, France, Germany and the UK, who, despite having directly or indirectly supported violent regime change in Syria, now see it as geopolitically opportune to pledged their 11th hour support to Putin’s vision and strategy for defeating ISIS in the Levant.

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Exclusive: Saudi King to Abdicate to Son – Ali AlAhmed/The Institute for Gulf Affairs

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Washington DC – Saudi King Salman Al-Saud plans to abdicate his throne and install his son Mohammed as king, multiple highly-placed sources told the Institute for Gulf Affairs.

Mohamed bin Salman is the current deputy crown prince, second in-line to the throne, and defense minister.
King Salman, 80, has been making the rounds visiting his brothers seeking support for the move that will also remove the current crown prince and American favorite, the hardline Mohammed bin Naif from his positions as the crown prince and the minister of interior.

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Planet of Fear – Pepe Escobar/CounterPunch

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Facing the gleaming Doha skyline on a Persian Gulf winter carries the merit of a panoramic perspective. Most nations around it are going into melt down and the remaining ones – with the exception of Iran – exhibit neither the political leadership nor the economic and institutional infrastructure to do anything other than to meekly accept whatever tsunami hits their shores. They are nothing but scared spectators.

The Empire of Chaos has enough warmongering hardware pre-positioned within spitting distance to turn the whole of Southwest Asia into ashes – as a gaggle of usual suspects in the Beltway, neocon or neoliberalcon, still can’t find a cure to their itching to “really win the next war” in a sort of exponential Shock and Awe.

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Faced with EU and U.S. criticism, Israeli insults fly – Luke Baker/Reuters

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JERUSALEM – U.S. and European criticism of Israeli actions in the occupied West Bank have drawn a furious response from Israel this week, including a former official dismissing the U.S. ambassador to Tel Aviv as a “little Jew boy”.

Although the concerns expressed by Israel’s closest allies were partly cloaked in diplomatic language they struck a nerve in Israel, which is anxious to counter what it sees as growing attempts to isolate it over its policies toward Palestinians.

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Conversations With History – Robert Baer on Iran and the Middle East

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Incontrovertible – New 9/11 Documentary by Tony Rooke

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In Surprise Move, Bitter Political Rivals in Lebanon Announce Deal – Anne Bernard/The New York Times

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BEIRUT, Lebanon — Two of Lebanon’s most prominent Christian politicians — one a crucial political ally of Hezbollah, the other its longtime foe — struck a surprise agreement on Monday that could help end the standoff that has left the country without a president for nearly two years.

In the deal, Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces party, threw his support behind the presidential candidacy of his lifelong rival, Michel Aoun, whose Free Patriotic Movement is Hezbollah’s main Christian ally in Parliament.

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The never-ending impending collapse of Israeli democracy…or not – Jonathan Greenberg/TheHill

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Last weekend, the headquarters of a left-wing Israeli political organization caught fire. The hand-wringing started right away. Other leftist organizations put out emergency fundraising appeals exclaiming that the office had been “burned down” – further “evidence” of nefarious right-wing Israeli incitement against and intimidation of the political Left that jeopardizes the foundations of Israel’s democracy!

Except that, in the light of day, it was found to have been an electrical fire. What an incredibly appropriate metaphor: after blaming its enemies, the Israeli Left is confronted by the fact that its own faulty wiring caused the problem.

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R.I.P. Glenn Frey, beloved guitarist and co-founder of The Eagles

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Saudi Arabia Is More Dangerous as a Frenemy than Iran is as an Adversary – Doug Bandow/HuffPo

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Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to turn their national struggle into a religious conflict. The first is dangerous. The second could be catastrophic. Yet Riyadh, America’s nominal ally, has demonstrated that it is the more reckless of the two states, by executing an important Shia cleric and severing diplomatic relations with Iran.

There is much bad to say about Tehran’s Islamic regime. It is authoritarian at home, dominated by intolerant fundamentalism, politically repressive, and a persistent persecutor of minority faiths. The Islamists are interventionists abroad, backing Hezbollah and Syria’s Bashir al-Assad. Long antagonistic to the U.S., Iran has displayed a disturbing interest in nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

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‘The Revenant’ is meaningless pain porn – Carole Cadwalladr/The Guardian

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This empty, violent movie will scoop up awards. What does that say about society and our attitude to violence?

Ritualized brutality. Vengeful blood lust. Vicious savagery justified by medieval notions of retribution. We all know how dark the world can be these days. A world where men are garroted and impaled. Where they’re speared and disemboweled and have their necks slashed and their genitals sliced off. Where they’re killed for no other reason than revenge. This isn’t Raqqa, though, it’s The Revenant: the hottest blockbuster of the season, winner of three Golden Globes a week ago, nominated for 12 Oscars last Thursday and yours for around £10-£15 this weekend at your local multiplex.

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Playing Games with War Deaths – Nicolas J S Davies/Consortiumnews

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There’s a double standard in how the U.S. mainstream media reports civilian deaths depending if the U.S. military is fighting the wars or not, accepting absurdly low numbers when the U.S. is at fault and hyping death tolls when “enemies” are involved, a manipulation of human tragedy, says Nicolas J S Davies.

How many people have been killed in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Somalia? On Nov. 18, a UN press briefing on the war in Yemen declared authoritatively that it had so far killed 5,700 people, including 830 women and children. But how precise are these figures, what are they based on, and what relation are they likely to bear to the true numbers of people killed?

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Happy Birthday Martin Luther King Jr.!

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Martin Luther King’s last speech follows:

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Democrat Debate – January 17th, 2016

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Hillary Clinton: Israel First – Robert Fantina/CounterPunch

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Although the United States is still ten months from its next exercise in electoral futility, most polls do not indicate what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is most anxious to see: a runaway victory for her candidacy. It is a good sign that, despite the fact that she has no real contrasting opponent on the Democratic side, the coronation she expected isn’t going to happen.

One might say that this writer focuses too much on Mrs. Clinton’s adoration of Israel. But by looking at her comments about that apartheid nation, one gets a clear view of some broader, very troubling perspectives that Mrs. Clinton seems to hold.

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How Neocons Banished Realism – James Carden/Consortiumnews

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The grip that neocons and liberal interventionists have on Official Washington’s opinion circles is now so strong that “realists” who once provided an important counterbalance have been almost banished from foreign policy debates, a dangerous dilemma that James W Carden explores.

In a widely remarked upon article for the online version of Foreign Policy last week, Harvard’s Stephen Walt asked a very good question. Why, Walt asked, are elite outlets like the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times “allergic to realist views, given that realists have been (mostly) right about some very important issues, and the columnists they publish have often been wrong?”

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L.A.’s Iranian community expresses mixed reactions to lifting of sanctions – Victoria Kim/LA Times

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One Iranian American said it felt like long divorced parents getting back together. Another vehemently criticized it as a nail in a coffin, sealing a bleak future. And yet another said it was reason for cautious optimism.

In Tehrangeles, a reference to an area of West Los Angeles that is home to the largest Iranian community outside of Iran, news of the lifting of economic sanctions against that country was met Saturday with conflicting emotions.

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International sanctions against Iran lifted – Carol Morello, Karen DeYoung/The Washington Post

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Iran reentered the global economy Saturday as years of crippling international sanctions ended in exchange for the verified disabling of much of its nuclear infrastructure.

For Iran, implementation of the landmark deal it finalized with six world powers last summer means immediate access to more than $50 billion in long-frozen assets and freedom to sell its oil and purchase goods in the international marketplace. Tehran has hailed the deal as vindication of its power and influence in the world.

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The Inevitability of Eugenics – Fred Reed/The Unz Review

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Mention of eugenics inevitably results in whoops of horror, gnashing of hair, rending of teeth, and discussion of Hitler. Occasionally, however, matters of importance merit discussion even if they lead to Hitler. If by “eugenics” is meant both the selective breeding of humans and genetic manipulation of ourselves, we will shortly have to discuss it, Fuehrer or no Fuehrer. Google on “Designer babies.”

To the gnashers and renders, eugenics always involves the killing of genetically inferior children, preferably by uniformed Nazis. A better term for this might be “first-degree murder.” Usually it would be.

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R.I.P. Alan Rickman: Remembering his pro-Palestinian play about Rachel Corrie – Ben Norton/Salon

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The political actor created a play about a U.S. student killed by an Israeli soldier, which he said was “censored”

British actor Alan Rickman died Thursday at age 69, after a battle with cancer. Although perhaps most known for playing the melancholy Professor Snape in the “Harry Potter” movies, Rickman had not only a legendary film and theater résumé, but also a firm commitment to progressive politics, and support for Palestinian rights in particular.

Rickman edited and directed a play in 2005 titled “My Name Is Rachel Corrie,” based on the life of a 23-year-old American activist who was killed by an Israeli soldier.

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Putin closest thing to a friend Israel has ever had in Moscow – Josh Cohen/The Nation

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A Syrian refugee in Lebanon kisses a poster of Putin and Nasrallah

Ties with Russia crucial amid worries about weapons transfers to Iran, Hezbollah

Love him or hate him, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Syria unquestionably upended Middle East politics. Putin supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, established several military bases in Syria, created a de-facto Russian-Shi’ite axis, confronted Turkey and forced the West to re-engage with him.

While all the region’s major players feel the influence of Russia’s military campaign, one country overlooked by commentators analysing Russia’s Syrian campaign is Israel. Israel’s interests vis-a-vis Russia run wide and deep and are impossible for it to ignore.

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