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The Middle East’s New Geopolitical Map » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

The Middle East’s New Geopolitical Map


The Arab Spring is not the only revolution in town. The toppling of dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya; the mounting death toll in Syria and Yemen, where the outcome is still undecided; the revival of long-suppressed Islamic movements demanding a share of power; the struggle by young revolutionaries to re-invent the Arab state — all these dramatic developments have distracted attention from another revolution of equal significance.

It is the challenge being mounted by the region’s heavyweights — Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran — against the hegemony which the United States and Israel have sought to exercise over them for more than half a century.

When David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence on 14 May 1948, he held the view that the country’s security could be assured only if it were militarily stronger than any possible Arab combination. This became Israel’s security doctrine. The desired hegemony was achieved by the prowess of Israel’s armed forces, but also by Israel’s external alliances first with France, then with the United States.

Military superiority won Israel outstanding victories in the 1948 and 1967 wars, a less resounding victory in 1973, still more contentiously by its invasions of Lebanon in 1978, 1982 and 2006, and more reprehensively by its operation of unashamed brutality against Gaza in 2008-9 — to mention only the most significant among a host of other Israeli attacks, incursions and onslaughts against its neighbours over the past several decades.

In its early years, Israel’s hegemony was reinforced by its so-called ‘periphery’ doctrine — its attempt to neutralise the Arabs by concluding strategic alliances with neighbouring non-Arab states such as Turkey and the Shah’s Iran. Its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt also proved a vital asset over the past three decades, since it removed the most powerful country from the Arab line-up.

The collapse of Soviet power in 1989-91 contributed to the Arabs’ disarray, as did the huge success of pro-Israeli Americans in penetrating almost every institution of the American government, whether at state or federal level, most notably the U.S. Congress. The message these advocates conveyed was that the interests of America and Israel were identical and their alliance ‘unshakable.’

Over the past forty years, the United States has provided Israel with sustained political and diplomatic support, as well as massive financial and military assistance, including a guarantee, enshrined in American law, of Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) – that is to say a U.S. pledge to guarantee Israel’s ability to defeat any challenge from any of its neighbours.

Even 9/11 was turned to Israel’s advantage in convincing American opinion that Palestinian resistance to Israel was terrorism, no different from that which America itself had suffered. There followed George W. Bush’s catastrophic militarisation of American foreign policy, and the invasion, occupation and destruction of Iraq on fraudulent premises, largely engineered by neo-cons such as Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and their colleagues at the Pentagon and in the Vice-President’s office, concerned above all to remove any possible threat to Israel from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

The United States has sought to protect Israel’s regional nuclear monopoly by harsh sanctions against Iran, because of its nuclear activities, as well as joint U.S.-Israeli sabotage operations, such as the infiltration into Iranian computers of the Stuxnet virus. Washington has turned a blind eye to Israel’s assassination of Iranian scientists, and has followed Israel in demonizing resistance movements such as Hizbullah and Hamas as terrorist organisations.

America’s most grievous mistake, however — the source of great harm to itself, to Israel, and to peace and stability in the Middle East — has been to tolerate Israel’s continued occupation and dispossession of the Palestinians. These policies have aroused intense hate of Israel in the Arab and Muslim world and great anger at its superpower protector.

We are now witnessing a rebellion against these policies by the region’s heavyweights — in effect a rebellion against American and Israeli hegemony as spectacular as the Arab Spring itself. The message these regional powers are conveying is that the Palestine question can no longer be neglected. Israel’s land grab on the West Bank and its siege of Gaza must be ended. The Palestinians must at last be given a chance to create their own state. Their plight weighs heavily on the conscience of the world.

Turkey, long a strategic ally of Israel, has now broken with it. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced it as “the West’s spoilt child.” In a passionate speech in Cairo, he warned Israel that it must “pay for its aggression and crimes.” Supporting the Palestinians in their efforts to gain UN recognition as a state was, he declared, not an option but an obligation.

Prince Turki al Faisal, a leading member of the Saudi Royal family and former intelligence chief, has publicly warned the United States that if it casts its veto against the Palestinian bid for statehood, it risks losing an ally. In a widely-noted article in the International Herald Tribune on 12 September, he wrote that “Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America” in the way it has since the Second World War. The “Special Relationship” between the two countries “would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people.”

Last week, the American-brokered 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty — a key underpinning of Israel’s regional hegemony — came under open criticism from Egypt itself. The treaty was “not a holy book,” said Egypt’s prime minister, Dr. Essam Sharaf. It would need to be revised. Amr Moussa, the leading candidate for the Egyptian presidency, has called for the treaty’s military annexes to be reviewed so as to allow Egyptian troops to be deployed in Sinai.

As for Iran, denunciation of the United States and Israel can be expected from President Ahmadinejad when he addresses the UN General Assembly in the coming days. The failure to engage with Iran — demonising it as a threat to the whole world, rather than working to incorporate it into the security architecture of the Gulf region — has been one of Obama’s gravest policy mistakes.
Turkey, Iran and Egypt, heirs to ancient civilizations, are thus asserting themselves against what they see as an Israeli upstart. Saudi Arabia, the region’s oil and financial giant, guardian of Islam’s holiest sites, is breaking free from the constraints of the American alliance.

Israel stands accused. Will it heed the message or shoot the messenger? If true to its past form, it might well try to fight its way out of the box in which it now finds itself, further destabilising the region and attracting to itself further opprobrium.

As for the United States, bound hand and foot by Israeli interests, it seems to have abdicated the leading role in the Arab-Israeli peace process it has played for so long — but to so little effect. Disillusion with President Barack Obama is now total. Others must now take up the baton. Many believe the time has come to break the dangerous stalemate with some coercive diplomacy. Will Europe take up the challenge?

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East. His latest book is The Struggle for Arab Independence: Riad el-Solh and the Makers of the Modern Middle East (Cambridge University Press).

Copyright © 2011 Patrick Seale .


Why the Middle East Will Never Be the Same Again | Common Dreams

Why the Middle East Will Never Be the Same Again

The Palestinians won’t achieve statehood, but they will consign the ‘peace process’ to history.

The Palestinians won’t get a state this week. But they will prove – if they get enough votes in the General Assembly and if Mahmoud Abbas does not succumb to his characteristic grovelling in the face of US-Israeli power – that they are worthy of statehood. And they will establish for the Arabs what Israel likes to call – when it is enlarging its colonies on stolen land – “facts on the ground”: never again can the United States and Israel snap their fingers and expect the Arabs to click their heels. The US has lost its purchase on the Middle East. It’s over: the “peace process”, the “road map”, the “Oslo agreement”; the whole fandango is history.“In the new Middle East,” writes Fisk, “Amid the Arab Awakening and the revolt of free peoples for dignity and freedom, this UN vote – passed in the General Assembly, vetoed by America if it goes to the Security Council – constitutes a kind of hinge; not just a page turning, but the failure of empire. (EPA)

Personally, I think “Palestine” is a fantasy state, impossible to create now that the Israelis have stolen so much of the Arabs’ land for their colonial projects. Go take a look at the West Bank, if you don’t believe me. Israel’s massive Jewish colonies, its pernicious building restrictions on Palestinian homes of more than one storey and its closure even of sewage systems as punishment, the “cordons sanitaires” beside the Jordanian frontier, the Israeli-only settlers’ roads have turned the map of the West Bank into the smashed windscreen of a crashed car. Sometimes, I suspect that the only thing that prevents the existence of “Greater Israel” is the obstinacy of those pesky Palestinians.

But we are now talking of much greater matters. This vote at the UN – General Assembly or Security Council, in one sense it hardly matters – is going to divide the West – Americans from Europeans and scores of other nations – and it is going to divide the Arabs from the Americans. It is going to crack open the divisions in the European Union; between eastern and western Europeans, between Germany and France (the former supporting Israel for all the usual historical reasons, the latter sickened by the suffering of the Palestinians) and, of course, between Israel and the EU.

A great anger has been created in the world by decades of Israeli power and military brutality and colonisation; millions of Europeans, while conscious of their own historical responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust and well aware of the violence of Muslim nations, are no longer cowed in their criticism for fear of being abused as anti-Semites. There is racism in the West – and always will be, I fear – against Muslims and Africans, as well as Jews. But what are the Israeli settlements on the West Bank, in which no Arab Muslim Palestinian can live, but an expression of racism?

Israel shares in this tragedy, of course. Its insane government has led its people on this road to perdition, adequately summed up by its sullen fear of democracy in Tunisia and Egypt – how typical that its principle ally in this nonsense should be the awful Saudi Arabia – and its cruel refusal to apologise for the killing of nine Turks in the Gaza flotilla last year and its equal refusal to apologise to Egypt for the killing of five of its policemen during a Palestinian incursion into Israel.

So goodbye to its only regional allies, Turkey and Egypt, in the space of scarcely 12 months. Israel’s cabinet is composed both of intelligent, potentially balanced people such as Ehud Barak, and fools such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Ahmadinejad of Israeli politics. Sarcasm aside, Israelis deserve better than this.

The State of Israel may have been created unjustly – the Palestinian Diaspora is proof of this – but it was created legally. And its founders were perfectly capable of doing a deal with King Abdullah of Jordan after the 1948-49 war to divide Palestine between Jews and Arabs. But it had been the UN, which met to decide the fate of Palestine on 29 November 1947, which gave Israel its legitimacy, the Americans being the first to vote for its creation. Now – by a supreme irony of history – it is Israel which wishes to prevent the UN from giving Palestinian Arabs their legitimacy – and it is America which will be the first to veto such a legitimacy.

Does Israel have a right to exist? The question is a tired trap, regularly and stupidly trotted out by Israel’s so-called supporters; to me, too, on regular though increasingly fewer occasions. States – not humans – give other states the right to exist. For individuals to do so, they have to see a map. For where exactly, geographically, is Israel? It is the only nation on earth which does not know and will not declare where its eastern frontier is. Is it the old UN armistice line, the 1967 border so beloved of Abbas and so hated by Netanyahu, or the Palestinian West Bank minus settlements, or the whole of the West Bank?

Show me a map of the United Kingdom which includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and it has the right to exist. But show me a map of the UK which claims to include the 26 counties of independent Ireland in the UK and shows Dublin to be a British rather than an Irish city, and I will say no, this nation does not have the right to exist within these expanded frontiers. Which is why, in the case of Israel, almost every Western embassy, including the US and British embassies, are in Tel Aviv, not in Jerusalem.

In the new Middle East, amid the Arab Awakening and the revolt of free peoples for dignity and freedom, this UN vote – passed in the General Assembly, vetoed by America if it goes to the Security Council – constitutes a kind of hinge; not just a page turning, but the failure of empire. So locked into Israel has US foreign policy become, so fearful of Israel have almost all its Congressmen and Congresswomen become – to the extent of loving Israel more than America – that America will this week stand out not as the nation that produced Woodrow Wilson and his 14 principles of self-determination, not as the country which fought Nazism and Fascism and Japanese militarism, not as the beacon of freedom which, we are told, its Founding Fathers represented – but as a curmudgeonly, selfish, frightened state whose President, after promising a new affection for the Muslim world, is forced to support an occupying power against a people who only ask for statehood.

Should we say “poor old Obama”, as I have done in the past? I don’t think so. Big on rhetoric, vain, handing out false love in Istanbul and Cairo within months of his election, he will this week prove that his re-election is more important than the future of the Middle East, that his personal ambition to stay in power must take first place over the sufferings of an occupied people. In this context alone, it is bizarre that a man of such supposed high principle should show himself so cowardly. In the new Middle East, in which Arabs are claiming the very same rights and freedoms that Israel and America say they champion, this is a profound tragedy.

US failures to stand up to Israel and to insist on a fair peace in “Palestine”, abetted by the hero of the Iraq war, Blair, are responsible. Arabs too, for allowing their dictators to last so long and thus to clog the sand with false frontiers and old dogmas and oil (and let’s not believe that a “new” “Palestine” would be a paradise for its own people). Israel, too, when it should be welcoming the Palestinian demand for statehood at the UN with all its obligations of security and peace and recognition of other UN members. But no. The game is lost. America’s political power in the Middle East will this week be neutered on behalf of Israel. Quite a sacrifice in the name of liberty…

Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

‘I feel like I’ve saved a life’: the women clearing Lebanon of cluster bombs | World news | The Guardian.’

‘I feel like I’ve saved a life’: the women clearing Lebanon of cluster bombs

An all-female team is doing the hazardous and painstaking work of removing unexploded Israeli ordnance from the 2006 war

Only up close does it become clear that some of the bulky figures in armoured vests scouring the fields of southern Lebanon for unexploded cluster bombs are wearing hijabs under their protective helmets.

Once local teachers, nurses and housewives, this group of women are now fully trained to search for mines and make up the only all-female clearance team in Lebanon, combing the undergrowth inch by inch for the remnants of one of the most indiscriminate weapons of modern warfare.

Leading the women in the field is Lamis Zein, a 33-year-old divorced mother of two and the team’s supervisor. She was one of the first recruits for the team, which was set up by the de-mining NGO Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).

“When I heard they were recruiting I applied straight away,” said Zein. “At the beginning men were surprised to see us in the field, wearing the same protective equipment as men, doing demolitions of bombs like men. But we work together well as a team of women. We share things that we wouldn’t with male colleagues. We are good at what we do and we are showing that women can do any kind of job.”

Their painstaking task became necessary five years ago this week, after Israel rained cluster munitions on southern Lebanon to a degree the UN condemned as a “flagrant violation of international law“.

Fighting had begun in July 2006 when Hezbollah, the armed Islamic group that had been terrorising Israel with rocket attacks, went one step further and ambushed an Israeli patrol, killing two soldiers and kidnapping two more. By mid-August ceasefire talks were on the cards. But Israel’s final assault in the last 72 hours before peace on 14 August was to fire as many as 4m cluster bomblets into southern Lebanon.

Cluster bombs burst open in mid-air and release bomblets that are supposed to detonate on impact, but many of the ones fired on Lebanon did not explode, lying on the ground instead like landmines with the potential to blow up at any time. The women’s team works in tandem with other teams of searchers, all co-ordinated by the Lebanese army, to clear up the unexploded ordnance that still litters the countryside.

“Women are more patient than men,” said Zein. “That is why we are good at this job. We work more slowly – and maybe we are a little more afraid than men.”

Whatever the sex of those searching the undergrowth, the risks are still the same – one careless move and they could lose a leg. The previous day a searcher in another de-mining team was injured, reminding everyone of the dangers of the job. Everyone has their blood type embroidered on their vests for good reason.

“My kids always worry about me, especially yesterday when they heard about the accident,” says Abeer Asaad, team member and mother to five daughters. “They asked me to quit my job yesterday, they were so scared.”

“I was unemployed when I heard that NPA was recruiting women for a de-mining team and I applied without telling anyone, not even my husband. When he found out he didn’t want me to do it. I was scared too. Just hearing the word ‘bomb’ would make you scared. But when I began to work it was different, especially when you are careful all the time and follow the rules. You need to be alert and focused when you are in the field, and you must check the ground slowly.”

Zein too says her family have come to accept her job after four years in the field. “I was an English teacher for eight years. I wanted a change, and this could not be more different than teaching.

“Of course, my family was worried but now they ask me every day how many clusters I found, how many I destroyed.”

She is the only woman in the country to be trained in explosives demolition and at the end of the day detonates the bomblets they find. “I am so happy when we find them and I can carry out what I have been trained for.”

They have found 38 bomblets in the field they have been working in since May, and two on the road up to the site which vehicles use every day. Others who have come so close to bomblets have not been so lucky. There have been nearly 400 casualties, including more than 50 deaths, since 2006.

It was a year after the war that Rasha Zayyoun joined the list of casualties. Life had been returning to normal for the then 17-year-old and her family after the devastation of the previous summer. Her father brought home a bushel of thyme he had harvested for Rasha to clean, but neither of them noticed a bomblet hidden among the leaves. As she began work her finger got caught on the device and thinking it was a piece of rubbish, she threw it aside. As it hit the ground it exploded. Rasha lost her left leg below the knee.

“It was so painful. It was like torture,” she said at her family home in the village of Maarakeh where she is trying to build a life for herself as a dressmaker. “I have a prosthetic leg now but I can only walk for a few minutes on it.”

Stories like Rasha’s are what make Asaad sing and dance when she finds a bomblet. “I feel like I have saved a life,” she beams. “If I find a cluster and take it out, then there will be no victim from it. The feeling is beyond description.”

“We feel like we are doing something for Lebanon,” says Zein. “We are making it safe for children to play in the fields and we are letting farmers go back into their fields to earn money for their families.”

Lebanon is spearheading efforts to convince more countries to sign an international treaty banning cluster bombs and next month it is hosting an international convention to promote the cause.

But while the debate on the use of cluster bombs continues, for the women of NPA’s Team 4 another working day is over. By 3pm, with the temperature higher than 40C, the women pack up their kit, pile in to a minivan and head back to their families.

Zein tallies up their achievements for the day: 330 sq metres cleared, one cluster bomblet found and destroyed, all the team home safe.

It has been a good day, But with 18m sq metres of land still to clear, there are many more to find before their job is done.

“I prayed for the first time in a very long time today. I explained to God that unless he wanted the Marxist-Islamic alliance and certain Islamic Takeover of Europe…he must ensure that the warriors fighting for the preservation of European Christendom prevail.”–Anders Behring Breivik

I am still trying to cope with the extent of the horror created by Anders Behring Breivik, the so called Norwegian nationalist who murdered close for 100 innocent people in Norway on July 24th 2011.

While reading endless stories on Swedish, Norwegian, Danish papers as well as many English sites and papers, it just stroke me that I had seen this earlier. The level of hate, the way he performed his ‘operation’ calmly and happily and how he planned it for years with such joy reminded me of stories I heard about another ‘christian-nationalist’ movement who believed in almost identical crusade. The stories of a similar massacre I read with tears in my eyes back in 1982 Lebanon.

Image of 1982 Massacre of Palestinians in Shatila by Christian Phalangist troops with support of Israeli army


What Anders Breivik wrote in his 1500 page rant about the future of Europe reminds me a lot of what the Phalangist movement has been saying in the past 30 years. they have a lot of things in common, they are Islamophobes, they are religious ‘christians’ and they are extremely pro-Israelis.

Unfortunately, the world media reporters, and the politicians are either unaware of these kind of mentality and ideology or decide not to look into it.

In 1982, the Phalangist army with the help of Israeli forces surrounded Sabra and Shatila, 2 refugee camps in south Lebanon.The best description I have seen was by Robert Fisk who wrote:

What we found inside the Palestinian camp at ten o’clock on the morning of September 1982 did not quite beggar description, although it would have been easier to re-tell in the cold prose of a medical examination. There had been medical examinations before in Lebanon, but rarely on this scale and never overlooked by a regular, supposedly disciplined army. In the panic and hatred of battle, tens of thousands had been killed in this country. But these people, hundreds of them had been shot down unarmed. This was a mass killing, an incident – how easily we used the word “incident” in Lebanon – that was also an atrocity. It went beyond even what the Israelis would have in other circumstances called a terrorist activity. It was a war crime.

Jenkins and Tveit were so overwhelmed by what we found in Chatila that at first we were unable to register our own shock. Bill Foley of AP had come with us. All he could say as he walked round was “Jesus Christ” over and over again. We might have accepted evidence of a few murders; even dozens of bodies, killed in the heat of combat. Bur there were women lying in houses with their skirts torn torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall. There were babies – blackened babies babies because they had been slaughtered more than 24-hours earlier and their small bodies were already in a state of decomposition – tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded US army ration tins, Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of whiskey.

The eye withness reports from the survivors of the Norwegian terrorist attack say the same kind of mentality, Anders was high on adrenalin, happy and joyful, he was singing and shooting at his victims, he was kicking their head to make sure they were dead and in at least on occasion he shot a girl who was down when he realizes she was still alive.

The eye witness reports from 1982 massacre in south Lebanon say the same story, the “Christian” phalangist soldiers where drunk and high, they were having fun murdering Palestinians and enjoying to get rid of their enemies.

The list of enemies of Anders are almost identical with the ones listed on the American Phalangist party of America: Communists, Muslims, Nazis (but not the KKK which I am sure were put there because they are Americans and want to distance themselves from the KKK even thought their ideas are very similar to them).

But the world leaders, the terrorists experts and all those who promoted this ideology of hate in the past decade are now either quiet or telling us that this man was not part of a movement, he was not the result of an ideology the demonizes a group of people and he was just a lunatic with mental problems.

Among those is Sven Granath in Sweden, one of the super supporters of Israel who wants to tell us to be calm and not to worry about the danger of a Christian-Fundamentalist movement who wants to rid Europe of all Muslims-Communists and their supporters. On he writes: (Google Translated):

– The most typical of these criminals is that they are often extremely lonely, asocial and see themselves as law-abiding citizens, perhaps even as the pillars of society. They were never any bad guys in school, but rather often behaved and with a disturbed personality in the bottom, says Granath.

He does not believe at all that the policy has been crucial. He describes a person rather groping for an ideologue to justify him.

– It is the ideology that is closest to hand. A hateful person can fixate on Islam. Now it may be an ethnic Norwegian who got stuck in right-wing extremism. A similar personality from a family of academics can be pulled to the left wing extremism, says Granath.

Love of weapons is crucial, he says. The weapons are the person’s safety and ideologies reinforces hate and violence propensity.

The suspect north’s age fits into the pattern, says Sven Granath.

– There are other cases where the offender is currently between 30 and 40 years. It is at that age that the deviant behavior, and loneliness is most evident. All others have begun to raise a family and live normal lives. They pull away and he becomes isolated.

People react in a healthy and sociable person sending out strange signals. An isolated individual may not even have a network that can sound the alarm if the person is about to derail.

The same goes for other so called “terrorism experts” by the way of New York Times:

“If it does turn out to be someone with more political motivations, it shows these groups are learning from what they see from AQ,” said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism researcher at the New America Foundation in Washington.

I am not going into the other antijidhadist who have given fuel  to his hate against the muslims and musimim-enablers as Øyvind Strømmen descibes it so well::

Breivik was inspired by an internet community who brands itself “counter jihadist”, a community espousing an ideology that may be considered as extreme right-wing, which also has connections to European neo-fascism. It’s a community I have been following fairly closely for a number of years. I am not surprised that the spirit of this community has now resulted in an act of terror in Norway. What is surprising is the scale, the scope of the terrorist attacks. The number of casualties exceeds the Al Qa’ida attack in London a few years ago. Although there are examples of terrorist attacks perpetrated by similarly motivated people in the past, they have not approached the scale of this incident.

Lets not forget that there are no people on earth who can make a bomb of the size he created without proper knowledge of hos these bombs work. Anyone who created a 500kg bomb, must either be an engineer with VERY good knowledge of mixing chemicals and long history of tests with smaller bombs or a person who is part of an organization with such knowledge.

I am again amazed that none of the reporters covering the story are focusing on this and not looking at the complexity of such a bomb which is very similar to the one used in Oklahoma city bombing

But I am afraid this will be another case where world leaders don’t follow the links and find those TRUELY responsible for this crime, and not only the evil man who actually murdered all those innocent kids, until another lunatics comes up and does the same thing again, and again.