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U.S. Senate to Tunisia: If You Want Foreign Aid, Support Israel At The United Nations.

July 14, 2017

Amilcar Tile Work

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee to Tunisia: Want Aid? Soften Criticism of Israel.

The U.S. has Tunisia in a bind…again: support U.S. Middle East political initiatives  and allies or else the aid  or face serious reductions in military and economic aid. No mystery where that could lead. What choice does Tunisia have…having already dug its hole so deep. Although much has been made of the fact that Tunisia has not been plunged into the chaotic political maelstrom of Libya or Syria, the continued chronic economic and social crisis that has gripped the country places Tunisia in a vulnerable position where it is difficult to go against the wishes of Washington (or Paris).

It’s an old story, actually.

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed came to Washington recently (July 10-12, 2017) to plead his country’s case against the Trump Administration’s plan to cut its aid package to the North African country from $141 million (2016) to $54.6 million in (2018). In a meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chahed was presented with a list of eleven “concerns,” one of which was a request (demand?) that, in exchange for maintaining the aid package at the 2016 levels that Tunisia support U.S. efforts to stifle efforts in different United Nations organizations critical of Israel.

Having the US pressure Tunisia to side with Israel at the United Nations (or elsewhere) undoubtedly creates tension between the Tunisian people and government undermining the stability that the US claims it is pursuing in the Maghreb. It is a case of typical U.S. political blackmail in which the influence of  the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and like organizations is more than likely. The threat is not especially subtle: if Tunisia wants to continue to receive U.S. economic and military aid it must follow “the rules of the game,” be a part of the team…and to play the role it has long played under Bourguiba – to push the Arab/Islamic world to normalize its ties with Israel in exchange from political and economic support from Washington.

Let’s be frank though, Tunisia’s weight in all this is so little that it doesn’t have much to lose by accepting these terms. No one in the Arab world listens to it – be it Bourguiba or Beji-Caid Essebsi-Ghannouchi – who is voicing such a policy. In exchange for badly needed economic and security aid, Essebsi will probably be willing to swallow his national pride without much hesitation, mind you, and cave to such pressures. Read more…

Earth Flatteners and Hobby-Lobby Iraqi Artifact Theft – 2. Hobby-Lobby Fined $3 million and Forced to Return 5,500 Stolen Iraqi Artifacts

July 8, 2017

This box of artifacts was on sale in a Baghdad market. Iraq National Museum identification numbers are visible on many cylinder seals inside the box.

A New York Times July 5, 2017 news story details how the toy manufacturer, Hobby Lobby, was taken to a federal court in Brooklyn for having knowingly bought 5,500 cultural artifacts stolen from the National Museum of Iraq during the March-April, 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The stolen items, purchased for $1.6 million from an unnamed antiquities dealer had been among the estimated 130,000 items looted from Iraq as a whole in the midst of the U.S.-led storming of Baghdad in which hundreds of looters in three waves savaged one of the world’s greatest archaeological collections.

The mostly U.S. led (or encouraged) wars which have wreaked havoc on Iraq since 1980 have not only done near-irreparable damage to Iraqi infrastructure, resulting, easily, not only in the death of a million people, but millions of people, the overwhelming majority of them civilian casualties. They have also produced an antiquities trafficking bonanza of unprecedented size and scope. In the vacuum created by war zone situations, looting – highly organized and targeted – has also resulted with pretty much everyone getting into the act, including ISIS, Daesh types who as part of their effort to purge the Middle East of all non-Salafist representations of religion have not only destroyed precious religious and other cultural artifacts, but have also sold tons of them on the black market to raise money for arms and other equipment. So ISIS, Daesh are not just destroying ancient artifacts, they are selling them! Strange as it seems, in its rush to buy up whatever antiquities it can get its hands on, Hobby Lobby is doing business – knowingly or not – with ISIS and like organizations.

As one researcher noted, it was not only the National Museum that was targeted. Other looted Iraqi cultural institutions included the National Library, the National Academy of Arts, institutes of music, dance, and art, and universities in Baghdad and elsewhere. Likewise, organized looting of archaeological sites, which had begun during the mid 1990s in the south of Iraq, resumed at a greatly increased rate while the invasion was taking place, and it continues unabated

Although the total figure will never be known, the number of items looted from the National Museum was estimated at 15,000 by different sources. As a Royal Ontario Museum commentary noted marking the tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion and the museum looting:

The looting of Baghdad’s Iraq Museum in April 2003 during the Iraq war shocked the world. Priceless antiquities were stolen or destroyed, devastating one of the world’s most important museums of ancient culture. An extensive database, accessible to international researchers, had been developed and maintained by the museum. The destruction of these records was a great blow to world scholarship. Looting was not confined to this one prominent site. During the Iraq war, numerous of the country’s archaeological sites were ransacked with artifacts either stolen or destroyed.

Hobby Lobby Buying Up Antiquities for its “Museum of the Bible”

But the cultural tragedy of the Iraqi nation is little more than a cynical opportunity for profit and ideological  finagling for others. It is into this cultural cesspool that the president of Hobby Lobby, an ardent Donald Trump support, enthusiastically lunged, buying up as much of Iraq’s cultural heritage has he could. That a man didn’t know exactly what he was doing is something less than credible; he is an experienced antiquities collector who knows the field. His claims of ignorance as to the source of his Iraqi antiquities purchases was not credible to the U.S. Department of Justice which indicted him and found  him guilty of purchasing trafficked antiquities. Nor were the claims that the materials Hobby Lobby acquired were insignificant.

Among the stolen museum items that turned up in Hobby Lobby’s stash were a large number of rare cuneiform tablets “with wedge shaped writing that originated in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago. As a part of the settlement prosecutors required that all the items be returned to Iraq and that Hobby Lobby pay a fine of $3 million. In February 2015, the National Museum of Iraq reopened its doors after a thirteen year hiatus. By then about a third of the items stolen had been recovered, leaving a hefty ten thousand artifacts out in the antiquities markets and in private collections. The date of the museum’s reopening was advanced in response to an Islamic State (IS) video showing statues being destroyed in Mosul during the time the Islamic fundamentalists controlled the city.

Business Insider (online) reported that Hobby Lobby president Steve Green, an avowed Christian fundamentalist, has a long history of collecting ancient artifacts. What is known as “the Green Collection,” which the Hobby Lobby president and his father have grown substantially over the last five years, is the world’s largest private collection of biblical texts and artifacts, Fox News reported in May. How much of it comes from sources looted in war-torn Iraq and Syria, one has to wonder? The Iraqi looted antiquities in Hobby Lobby’s possession were slated to material for exposition at the Green-funded Museum of the Bible, a 430,000-square-foot museum costing an estimated cool $500 million, currently under construction in Washington, D.C. It is slated for opening in November 2017. The museum website boasts that “will provide guests with an immersive and personalized experience as they explore the history, narrative, and impact of the Bible. A New York Post article notes that “the museum’s five central exhibit floors will house 40,000 biblical and religious artifacts, including portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, bibles once belonging to Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley, and the Lunar Bible – the first bible to travel in space.” Who could ask for more?

According to the above cited Times article, the president of Hobby Lobby, Steve Green, visited the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)along with a company-hired antiquities consultant to inspect a large number of number of rare cuneiform items there. In spite of the fact that an expert on cultural property law had warned company executives that the items might have been looted from historical sites in Iraq, Hobby Lobby continued to finalize the deal. The looted objects were smuggled into the United States both from the U.A.E. and Israel falsely labeled as “ceramics” and “samples,” shipping the them two Hobby Lobby corporate offices in the United States. This and a number of other hints led investigators at U.S. Customs and Border Protection to investigate the matter which was turned over to the Department of Justice for prosecution. The fact that the items had been falsely labeled by the U.A.E, and not Hobby Lobby, did not result in letting Hobby Lobby off the hook.

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Earth Flatteners and the Iraqi Antiquities Theft: Part One

Flat Earthers and Hobby Lobby Iraqi Artifact Theft – 1 Background

July 7, 2017

The theft of Latin American archeological treasures continues a pace today. These items are recently recovered (January, 2017) Guatemalan Mayan “steeles,” as they are called, stolen from their archaeological site and sold to art dealers who then turn around and sell them to private collectors and museums

Two news items triggered an emotional reaction.

  • The first was NY Times story concerning Hobby Lobby. The company was found guilty in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York of having illegally acquired 5,500 items smuggled out of Iraq from that country’s National Museum of Antiquities.
  • The second was a rather curious article in The Denver Post about a small group of people who meet regularly in Ft. Collins – fifty miles north of Denver on the front range. This esteemed group meets in semi-secret, afraid of reprisals, they say. As the Post article notes: “They call themselves Flat Earthers. Because they believe Earth — the blue, majestic, spinning orb of life — is as flat as a table.” But is it, as the early Christian’s believed, the center of the universe, God’s perfect creation?

A little history for starters – the first of the stolen Guatemalan Mayan Temple and some commentaries on the Ghanaian-made file, ‘You Hide Me” in this entry. In the next one I’ll go into detail about Hobby Lobby’s venture into valuable Iraqi artifacts and the these more recent items in the news.

In fact there is a great tradition going back centuries of Europeans, Euro-Americans stealing the wealth, the cultural items of Third World, “indigenous” peoples. By the way, that is what most European and North American museums are about. Some of these items were purchased. Many were, in one way or another looted, the result of war booty, conquest, and the like. When they are displayed, which isn’t very often, it is mostly as trophies, while the overwhelming majority of the collections remain in hidden in boxes and cabinets in museum basements.

I have two favorite stories about cultural-item looting to share before getting into the Hobby Lobby theft of the Iraqi cultural artifacts.

The Guatemalan Temple That Wound Up In San Francisco

Some four decades ago I was in San Francisco area visiting a group of my old Peace Corps Tunisia (1966-1968) buddies who lived there at time – Dan Cetinich and Bob Stam in particular. Cetinich, who died in October, 2016, noted an exposition of a Guatemalan Mayan temple that was on display at a San Francisco museum. Off we went. Sure enough there was a fully restored Guatemalan Mayan temple on display. It was quite extraordinary with an intricate design patterns on both the outside and inside. As we left the exhibit, we wondered aloud about how it might have been that a Guatemalan Mayan temple had made its way to a San Francisco museum. Made of some kind of stone – it must have weighed tons. At a loss to answer our own question, our discussion, as it often did, moved on from Guatemalan Mayan temples to other long forgotten subjects – but knowing Dan Cetinich I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned to film, a subject on which he was a genuine expert. Read more…

The U.S. Descends into the Syrian Maelstrom

June 21, 2017

Syrian National Forces Liberating Aleppo from ISIS-al Nusra in May 2016. The world should have celebrated (and many did). But instead of acknowledging that this was a significant military victory that isolated the likes of ISIS, the American media tried to manipulate it into a tragedy.

For what can war but endless war still breed? (John Milton, Sonnet 15 – Thanks Richard Rozoff)

We were waste deep in the big muddy, but the big fool said to push on” (Pete Seeger)

The latest news from Syria, is once again is unsettling. All appearances are that the Trump Administration has crossed its own red line. As one writer, Jim Kavanagh, succinctly put it:The latest news from Syria, is once again is unsettling. All appearances are that the Trump Administration has crossed its own red line. As one writer, Jim Kavanagh, succinctly put it:

The United States is at war with Syria.

Though few Americans wanted to face it, this has been the case implicitly since the Obama administration began building bases and sending Special Ops, really-not-there, American troops, and it has been the case explicitly since August 3, 2015, when the Obama administration announced that it would “allow airstrikes to defend Syrian rebels trained by the U.S. military from any attackers, even if the enemies hail from forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” With the U.S. Air Force—under Trump, following Obama’s declared policy—shooting down a Syrian plane in Syrian airspace, this is now undeniable.  The United States is overtly engaged in another aggression against a sovereign country that poses no conceivable, let alone actual or imminent, threat to the nation.

This is an act of war.

Washington has entered the Syrian fray in a more direct manner. More U.S. troops are being sent there. Already there are confrontations – not so much with ISIS and al Nusra – but with the Syrian government forces, the Iranians and the Russians – all of which are, in principle, U.S. allies fighting these Muslim fundamentalists. Nothing could be worse for Syria and for Middle East peace.

Let us briefly note the escalation of tensions in the past few days:

• The United States shot down a Syrian national government jet fighter, although supposedly both the United States and the Assad Government are “theoretically” on the same side in the fight against a common enemy – ISIS, Al Nusra and the like.

The Independent (British newspaper) reports that “Israel is giving secret aid to the Syrian rebels” referring to a report in the Wall Street Journal June 18, 2017.• And now the U.S. has shot down an Iranian made drone over Syria

So what’s the deal with Syria? Read more…

Saudi Intimidation of Qatar – The Syrian Connection

June 17, 2017

Bangladeshi workers living in cramped quarters in Doha, Qatar. Qatar boasts one of the highest standards of living in the world. But these living standards do not extend to foreign workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines who work in conditions that international human rights organizations have described as close to slave labor

 

Anti-Iranian Coalition Trump and the Saudis Tried to Slam Together in Chaos.

The Saudi led blockade (which the Saudis insist is not one) of Qatar is stuttering. The anti-Iranian campaign heralded by Donald Trump in Riyadh in mid-May has failed to get off the ground. Not only that it has backfired. The Saudis underestimated Qatari support in the region from Turkey and Iran. The blockade has, for all practical purposes failed. They also miscalculated U. S. support for the effort. True enough Donald Trump and his little family entourage might have been enthusiastic, but the representatives of the military industrial complex (Mattis) and the energy industry (Tillerson) are far from enthusiastic and have not bought in to the Saudi project of regime change in Qatar. Not at all.

The blockade which Saudi Arabia has spearheaded against Qatar with the support of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt is now more than a week old. Blockades, lest it be forgotten, are a form of warfare. These countries have cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar, kicked out their embassy staff, closed down branches of the Qatari run Al Jazeera media outlet. They have cut transport links, making it difficult for the country to import and export goods. Air space for Qatar Airways, the country’s airlines has been denied air space over Saudi Arabia and landing possibilities in the other states involved, complicating the airlines travel routes. On the opening days of the embargo/boycott – essentially a full court economic siege – the computer systems of many of the country’s institutions experienced cyber attacks.

As an example of how far this anti-Qatari blitzkrieg has gone, the United Arab Emirates made it illegal “for citizens to feel sorry for what is happening in Qatar.”As an example of how far this anti-Qatari blitzkrieg has gone, the United Arab Emirates made it illegal “for citizens to feel sorry for what is happening in Qatar. The UAE Attorney General Hamad Saif- al Shamsi noted:”

“Strict and firm action will be taken against any one who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar or anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form.

Certainly the Saudi hope for a quick knockout blow that would tame the Qataris into submission to Washington and Riyadh’s coordinated diktats has not taken place. Key Washington regional allies (Turkey, Iran, Oman, Kuwait) have opposed it to one degree or another and have been able to stall any military action against Qatar that Saudi might have been contemplating and to place the Saudis on the ideological offensive. A call from the United Arab Emirates to move the U.S. air base from Qatar to the Emirates has been outright rejected by Secretary of Defense James Mattis. A stalled crisis plays in Qatar’s favor that some grace saving formula (for Saudi) can be found to smooth over this spat among U.S. strategic allies.

Read more…

The Trump Circus In Saudi Arabia – 3 – U.S Troops In Saudi Arabia?, The “Arab NATO,” Why Trump To Saudi Arabia Now?

June 11, 2017

What is known as the South Pars field (in blue) whose underground natural gas reserves are divided between Qatar (in amber). Having failed to “produce” for the US in Syria through its terrorist allies – that is to overthrow the Assad government there, the U.S has turned to Saudi Arabia to do the job. The Saudis and Washington want Qatar to “fall in line” and accept “Saudi leadership” – it too is a major funder of terrorism in Syria – but Qatar is resisting. The Saudis, for whom economic crises continue to add up, are also eyeing control of the lucrative Southern Pars natural gas field which help ease its financial burden as well as enabling Riyadh to put more pressure on Iran…target of the new sectarian Sunni campaign which Trump has encouraged.

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Note: In Part Three of this interview – KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues on May 23, 2017 – we discuss a number of things –  The little known fact of U.S Troops In Saudi Arabia, The collapse of  “Arab NATO” even before it got off the ground,” Why Trump To Saudi Arabia Now?

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Part One of the Series

Part Two of the Series

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Transcript: Part Three.  KGNU – Boulder – May 23, 2017. Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues

Rob Prince: Ibrahim, one of the things we talked about in our discussions before tonight was the rarely acknowledged presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. I’d like to look at that a little bit because their presence is kind of opaque if you like in terms of how it’s seen here in the United States.

It takes place in a number of ways.

First of all of this weaponry that the Saudis have been buying from the United States – not just this most recent $110 billion deal – but they have been doing so for some time. Just in the Obama years, and even before – the Saudis purchased more than $150 billion worth of arms sales, 42 military contracts – this was during the Obama presidency! Now Trump is trying to outdo him. But the interesting point is, that the Saudi ability to use that weaponry is, to put it politely, rather limited.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Or nonexistent

Rob Prince: In that case, who manages these complex weapons’ systems? It’s American military personnel and advisers.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: One of the misconceptions we have here is the illusion that the United States pulled their troops out of Saudi Arabia and took them to Qatar or Bahrain.

But nothing is further from the truth. What have the U.S. and the Saudis done? Under the banner of “advisers” U.S. troops have moved into various Saudi military bases and sites.

Rob Prince: They are not considered American military bases, so under the cover of Saudi military bases we have American advisers and troops operating in Saudi Arabia.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: And then the United States claims that Washington has no bases in Saudi Arabia and that the troops have been pulled out. But in reality the pictures of U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia have been presented either trying to guide Saudi troops, teaching them. There are some claims that some of these sophisticated aircraft being flown over Yemen are being piloted either directly by Americans or by some other foreign mercenary pilots brought in from various private security firms. But, they are there.

And then the United States claims that Washington has no bases in Saudi Arabia and that the troops have been pulled out. But in reality the pictures of U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia have been presented either trying to guide Saudi troops, teaching them. There are some claims that some of these sophisticated aircraft being flown over Yemen are being piloted either directly by Americans or by some other foreign mercenary pilots brought in from various private security firms. But, they are there

In Syria there are close to 5000 U.S. troops in the northeastern region close to the Iraqi-Turkish border. There are a number of images showing U.S. troops trying to direct and guide the Kurds and so-called other moderate resistance fighters.

What is happening? If you want to receive sophisticated weaponry from the United States, change your name, call yourself “moderate rather than Islamic opponents” of the Syrian regime and then the United States will remove your organization from the “terrorist organization” watch list and then your organization can receive huge amounts of sophisticated weapons, training and other forms of support.

This is one of the problems that we have.

Rob Prince: What do you think of this so-called alliance, the “Arab NATO” that the United States and the Saudis are attempting to put together. Do you think that it will hold? All the machinations that have been going on. The Saudis reconciling with the Israelis, the Gulf states saying they will open diplomatic relations with Israel, the attempt to put the U.S. backed team together in a way that it hasn’t been for some time. How do you see this situation evolving?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Rob, you know as well as I do that the Saudis have been working with the Israelis, have been in contact with them for many years, if not decades, so this is nothing new.

But as far as the ability of the so-called “Arab NATO” we know that the Saudis tried under the auspices of (at least) the Obama Doctrine to put these five or six countries from the Persian Gulf states, to put them together against Yemen. The war is in its third year. They are trying to beat the Yemenis. The Yemenis are poor, backward but very determined group of people and this so-called alliance hasn’t been able to do anything.

The main problem is different. If the United States really wants to get rid of ISIS, al Qaeda and so on, and all these terrorist organizations in the Middle East, it’s not the Saudis, the Qataris or the Turks that they have to work with. Instead, they have to work with the Iranians, with the Russians, the Chinese – the nations that for different reasons are really concerned about the crisis in the Middle East.

For example, one of the consequences of the Trump-Salman conversation a few days ago, the Bahrainis immediately went on a repressive rampage, arresting and killing Shi’a religious leaders yesterday and today which has provoked a huge crisis in Bahrain with threats and counter threats being made.

Bahrain got “the green light” (from Washington and Riyadh) that these peaceful protesters, demonstrators are terrorist organizations. Peaceful demonstrators are “transformed” into terrorist organizations!

Rob Prince: Ibrahim, I wanted to spend a little time talking about some of the domestic considerations.

Beyond the antics – his stupidity – and that of Secretary of State Tillerson and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross – to participate in a Saudi sword dance…this trip does mark a shift in the U.S. approach to the region – from Obama’s “soft” hegemony – trying to tone down some of the conflicts, thus the Iran deal …to a “hard hegemony” – more direct military involvement – mammoth arms deals, giveaways to client states and a harsher – provocative posture towards Iran, commitment to keep the Syrian conflict going – continued plan to partition the country.

I am wondering about what Americans think about this trip to Saudi and how they are responding to it. Two questions that emerged from this trip are:

The first question: why did Trump go where he went? For most American presidents their first trip is to Canada, Mexico, in Europe to the UK or Germany. Why did Trump choose Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy?

The second question: why now?

Trump was worried about his reception in Canada and Mexico – as well as the European countries where angry demonstrations against is policies have already taken place. He chose countries in the Middle East where he will be well received – or thought so – especially a country like Saudi Arabia where demonstrating and protesting is a risky business.

As you noted Ibrahim, Trump’s Saudi visit did trigger protests in Bahrain and the wave of repression. I didn’t know anything about that.

Of course he expected  a warm welcome in Israel; actually he was received politely there but with virtually no fanfare although there were thousands of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories who demonstrated against his visit, the U.S. arms giveaways to Israel and in support of Palestinian political prisoners – some 6000 of them – many of whom are on extended hunger strikes. The Palestinians are also demonstrating against the deal that Trump, the Saudis and the Israelis are trying to impose on the Palestinian Authority as a part of this overall plan to restructure the region to Washington’s liking and interests.

The question of “why now?” – you’ve covered it already Ibrahim. Undoubtedly one reason was for Trump and his entourage to get away from the growing Congressional investigation into his ties with the Russians – and the possibilities of impeachment that does not seem to go away but only get bigger.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: By the way Rob, as we discussed between ourselves, Hamas and the Palestinians are only a marginal issue. The central issue is to destroy any kind of resistance to American hegemony.

Remember what Condoleezza Rice said in 2006 about the creation of “the new Middle East.” In the construction of the new Middle East there is no space for what is referred to as “the axis of resistance” (opposition to U.S. regional plans). In any shape or form it has to be destroyed.

Rob Prince: So the current pressure on the Palestinians is a part of the same overall program to put pressure on Hezbollah (in Lebanon), on the Yemenis, to call for and organize regime change in Syria and isolate and ultimately to overthrow the government of Iran. It’s one plan. This is basically what the alliance is about. At its heart and soul it’s an anti-Iranian alliance . One of its “side-shows” is to put pressure on the Palestinians. Basically the supposed deal that is being offered to them is: take this now, this is the best deal you are going to get and if you don’t accept it..well, your situation, already very harsh, will get even worse.

So the current pressure on the Palestinians is a part of the same overall program to put pressure on Hezbollah (in Lebanon), on the Yemenis, to call for and organize regime change in Syria and isolate and ultimately to overthrow the government of Iran. It’s one plan. This is basically what the alliance is about. At its heart and soul it’s an anti-Iranian alliance . One of its “side-shows” is to put pressure on the Palestinians. Basically the supposed deal that is being offered to them is: take this now, this is the best deal you are going to get and if you don’t accept it..well, your situation, already very harsh, will get even worse

I was reading recently how the Saudis have essentially abandoned their position calling for the end of the Israeli occupation as a precondition for beginning a peace process. What they are proposing is another “Oslo Process” – a step by step process. I know there have been many criticisms of Abbas, and valid ones, but I cannot imagine any Palestinian leadership accepting such conditions and then expecting to survive politically.

When it comes to other domestic considerations for the Trump trip, yes there is the talk of impeachment, but less noticed it was during this trip that his budget to Congress would be introduced with its herculean cuts to human and social services, increases in military spending.

The Trump Circus in Saudi Arabia – 2: Targeting Iran, The Kissinger Deal, Doctrines – Obama and Trump

June 7, 2017

Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank demonstrated against the Trump visit and the U.S.-Israeli-Saudi effort to force a humiliating settlement agreement down their throats.

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Part One: The Trump Circus in Saudi Arabia Milking the  Saudi Cash Camel-1

Part Three: The Trump Circus in Saudi Arabia – 3 – US. Troops in Saudi? The “Arab NATO,” Why Trump to Saudi Now?

(Note: In Part Two of this interview – KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues on May 23, 2017 – we discuss a number of things – the consequences of the Iran Nuclear Issue, the relevance of the Kissinger Deal of 1973 to current U.S.-Saudi relations and what might be called the Obama and Trump Doctrines for the Middle East.)

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Transcript: Part Two.  KGNU – Boulder – May 23, 2017. Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues

While Obama tried to focus on China and to curtail the expansionist plan that the Chinese have, with Trump – if it’s true to call it “the Trump Doctrine – I don’t know if he is intelligent enough to have a doctrine, but let’s say for the sake of argument it is a doctrine – his making a u-turn and focusing back onto the Middle East, particularly in the manner in which it is being done, this is a dead end.

Jim Nelson: In the last month China has announced a new “Silk Road Agenda.” How does it play into what you have described as this antiquated attack on Iran. It seems that the United States is missing the boat, both on the economic opportunities which opened up with the Iran Nuclear Deal and with the expansion of the Silk Road Agenda as well.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Concerning the nuclear issue, Rob and I have repeatedly talked about this during the past months. The nuclear deal opened Iran up to the international community. Europeans are going to Iran from the left, right and center as are Far Easterners and South Americans. They are going into Iran and making various economic deals.

The options for the United States in being able to isolate Iran again to the point where they were able to in the past since the revolution, unfortunately for Washington, doesn’t exist. The Iranians are well aware of this.

The Chinese approach, particularly the “Version Two of the Silk Road Agenda” that I briefly talked about last week (on another radio program) clearly includes a number of key players into the mix. Iran is one of them. We are no longer speaking uniquely of the Silk Road between East and West, going from China through Mongolia, northern Iran, across Turkey and so on. It now has “its arms,” extensions, tentacles that connect to various places – going into Bangladesh, through Kashmir to Pakistan to Iran into the warmer waters of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean giving the Chinese the opportunity to invest in the infrastructure and bringing all these countries in line with its own foreign policy. That is something that unfortunately Trump, in his rush to sing the Saudi tune, has failed to understand.

Jim Nelson: Just to back that up. It appears that the United States is missing the boat. Obama was trying to make an Asian pivot.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: The central point of at least the latter part of his presidency, particularly as a part of his doctrine, was that in the Middle East region, instead of the United States actively or directly getting involved militarily in a major way, it gave the opportunity to a few major players, again – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel – to work in a collaborative manner with a few other regional forces that they would implement policies that ultimately would support U.S. interests in the region.

While Obama tried to focus on China and to curtail the expansionist plan that the Chinese have, with Trump – if it’s true to call it “the Trump Doctrine – I don’t know if he is intelligent enough to have a doctrine, but let’s say for the sake of argument it is a doctrine – his making a u-turn and focusing back onto the Middle East, particularly in the manner in which it is being done, this is a dead-end. The man doesn’t understand that even Hillary (Clinton) in one of her emails to her campaign manager, John Podesta, noted that the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing clandestine financial and logistical support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups. They are supporting terrorism and ISIL in the region.

Rob Prince: I believe you referring to the 2009 communique released by Wikileaks

Jim Nelson: The enormous sums of money that the Saudis are shelling out in this deal appears to be a waste, a waste to the Saudi people and the people in the region who will be devastated by these bombs. It’s an antiquated approach. It’s looking backwards politically, not forward. It’s being used to foment dissension and sectarian violence.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: The Saudi and Wahhabi mindset and the money from Qatar and others, are the ones who are at the root of supporting extremism and Takfiri terrorism around the world and in the Middle East specifically. For those who might not have the statistics, some 70% of those who have blown themselves up in Iraq are Saudis. Then there are the Chechens, a few Chinese and Syrians coming in as well. But 70% are actually Saudi citizens that are coming into Iraq with the clear goal of blowing themselves up and killing more Shi’a. This is the kind of sectarian violence that the United States is getting itself involved in.

Jim Nelson: What is needed are jobs in the region. The China deal (discussed above) is more likley to create them.

Rob Prince: I don’t know that the Chinese deal (the Silk Road project) will result in jobs to the Middle East but one of the striking elements of this enormous Saudi arms purchase is how it will affect Saudi economic growth long-term. They are talking about half a trillion dollars, $500 billion to be spent between military arms sales over the next ten years, plus investments in American based equities. That money could be used much more constructively in Saudi Arabia to fuel development there.

The Saudi long-term struggle and crisis is very simple: some day – we don’t exactly know when because the size of their oil reserves is a state secret – but some day the Saudis will run out of oil. They are well aware of this. To take that amount of money and divert it into what amounts to non-productive parts of the American economy, mostly for political reasons, to tie the United States more closely to Saudi, is almost to derail, the necessary transformation of their own economic potential. In the long run, it weakens, not strengthens the Saudi position, their own economic progress and to keep them mired in the position where they have been for the last seventy years: a peripheral structural position in relation to an American (and European) core, in a position of economic dependency, – absolute dependency – nothing less.

When you examine what the Arab nationalist governments were trying to do – before they ran into their own economic complications – it was basically to free themselves from that kind of dependency.

The Saudi long-term struggle and crisis is very simple: some day – we don’t exactly know when because the size of their oil reserves is a state secret – but some day the Saudis will run out of oil. They are well aware of this. To take that amount of money and divert it into what amounts to non-productive parts of the American economy, mostly for political reasons, to tie the United States more closely to Saudi, is almost to derail, the necessary transformation of their own economic potential. In the long run, it weakens, not strengthens the Saudi position, their own economic progress and to keep them mired in the position where they have been for the last seventy years: a peripheral structural position in relation to an American (and European) core, in a position of economic dependency, – absolute dependency – nothing less

Ibrahim Kazerooni: I’m certain you are going to address this point but I have to briefly touch upon it. During the past couple of years, every time there was a court case against the Saudis, the Saudis threatening to take their financial investments out of American banks, to sell their sizable U.S. bond holdings, etc. triggering a default that would bankrupt the banking system resulting in the ruin of the American economy.

This kind of deal (the one crafted by Trump in Saudi), literally what it did, was to suck out any power that the Saudis may have had to utilize this kind of leverage.

Going back to 1973 (the Middle East War and the arrangements between the United States and the Saudis which resulted) as a result of the Arab oil embargo, (Henry) Kissinger came up with a formula and presented to the then Shah of Iran Pahlavi as well as the King of Saudi Arabia. The essence of it was that the United States would not object to any oil price hike so long as so long as one thing was guaranteed: that the profits resulting from increased oil prices would be divided into three parts. One third needs to be invested in American banks; a third needs to be invested in American military industry (which means the Saudis will by American military gadgets) and a third can be kept within the respective national economies – but again, that third has to be deposited in American and/or Western banks that can be accessed whenever the parties want to use it.

That is what is known as “the Kissinger deal.”

Over the decades, as a result of overproduction when the price of oil was over $110/barrel, the Saudis were able to save quite huge amounts of money. When the judicial decision was announced that the victims of the 9-11 attack could sue the Saudis for damages, the Saudis threatened to pull out their financial holding in the United States. Had they gone ahead and pulled out their money, a huge sum, it would have ruined not just the United States’ economy but the Western economy as well.

This deal (the current economic and military package Trump negotiated with the Saudis) literally ties them (the Saudis) down, ties down the money that they have at their disposal, and may have used it as a weapon against the United States and threatened the U.S. economy has been literally taken out of their hands and tied into useless projects from which they will not benefit.

Rob Prince: What is ironic about all this is the Saudis are doing this because they believe this deal will increase their political leverage when the deal will result in just the opposite.

Ibrahim, moving on a bit, something has gone on in the Middle East these past few days of significance. The Trump Administration is attempting to set up basically a security alliance; there is talk of the establishment of a kind of “Arab NATO” in Riyadh. It is reminiscent of what the British and the U.S. tried to do in the 1950s with the establishment of CENTO. CENTO targeted the former Soviet Union, this one is targeting Iran.

Can you talk a little bit about the goals and features of this “alliance and how you see it emerging? Does it look like it will be a successful alliance, will it fall apart.”

What I see happening here bears great similarities to the period prior to the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq: the vilification of Iran, the attempts to put together a coalition (to veil what is essentially U.S. aggression) – all of this kind of nonsense – and also, and this is what this entire weekend was about – the attempt to provoke Iran into taking their bait.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Which Iran has not done (taking the bait).

It is an apt comparison, Rob, with CENTO, but the CENTO proposal by the British and to a degree the Americans were involved as well. The project was conceived as a way to use local agents against nationalists and national movements in the region that threatened British interests, be it in Iran during Mossadegh’s time, but particularly, one of the places they focused on and tried to use CENTO was Syria.

The early post World War II governments in Syria were considered to be a threat to Western interests.

Isn’t that strange that after fifty, sixty years that we’re returning to the same old policy but this time under the auspices of the United States, the same old corrupt regimes are being called to come together to unite to overthrow the current government of Syria. These regime are the sources of terrorism, the financiers of terrorism. In most of these countries around Syria the training takes place for the terrorist organizations whether it is in Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or somewhere else. The poachers are now becoming the game keepers as such, if that is possible, overnight.

Trump knows that the leadership of these countries are up to their neck in supporting terrorists.

But the whole issue is to try to curtail Iran.

Another difference with the Obama Doctrine is direct intervention.

Obama’s approach was essentially that the United States would provide the direction and the regional allies would get involved militarily directly. On the other hand, the Trump Administration wants to actually increase U.S. troop presence in the Middle East and get more American troops involved in the actual fighting. There are already some contingents in northern Syria, in the Jordanian Desert close to the Syrian border. But what is being proposed is much more: 35,000 American troops going into the region under various auspices as directors, advisers. But when we look at what is going on already on the ground we can realize that the plan hasn’t changed – to partition and divide Syria.

The goal of the plan hasn’t changed. There is just the following variation: Trump now says “we will send the soldiers, you (U.S. Arab allies) pay the bill. … Rather than “we will send you the logistical support, you fight for it” which was part of the Obama Doctrine. All of Trump’s comments about allies having to “shoulder responsibility” means “you pay.”

To Be Continued.