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The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: Ethiopia’s Pride, Egypt’s Albatross

July 14, 2020

Ethiopian construction workers, building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

(Postscript: the day after posting this article, Ethiopia began filling the dam)

Colorado, where I have lived for more than half a century,  is no stranger to water conflicts as the headwaters of four of the country’s major rivers (the Colorado, Rio Grande, Arkansas and S. Platte) all have their sources here and flow into adjoining states.

It has been involved in its share of legal challenges over who gets what. The logic of geography suggests that communities – or states – along the same riparian systems should find ways to share water – and use it more wisely. Water rich and drought effected countries also need to find common ground.

Similar conflicting interests have erupted in Africa and the wider issue is the fact that water conflicts are likely to become more commonplace as a result of climate change, unstable rainfall patterns, and population growth add to the strains. For centuries – if not millennia – downstream Egypt has controlled the allocation of Nile water flows. In the modern period it has dominated the more upstream areas politically as well in what amounts to a colonial – or neo-colonial relationship with its upstream “partner,” Ethiopia.

Now that “water hegemony” Egypt has enjoyed for so long, that partnership is about to change. On the verge of a development renaissance fueled by its own talented population, strategic location, Chinese infrastructural investment and an attempt to leave it painful history of the past 150 years behind that has included a nasty, if not vicious episode of Italian colonialism, backwards traditionalist government, political and ethnic excesses, Ethiopia, struggling to contain domestic ethnic turmoil, tries to forge ahead economically and socially. At the heart of its vision for development, a dam project, Africa’s largest – the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, is near completion on the Blue Nile near Ethiopia’s border with Sudan. Completed up and running, the dam will generate some 6,000 megawatts of power, enough to provide all the electricity that Ethiopia needs and then some for export. Ethiopia says its development depends on the $4.8 billion hydroelectric dam, which it says it is entitled to build as a sovereign nation. Egypt, some 1500 miles down stream has expressed deep concern over the Ethiopian dam’s development, fearing it might cut the flow of some of the Nile waters.

Read more…

“Trump’s Continued Descent into the Middle East Maelstrom: The Caesar Act’s Impact on Lebanon and Iraq: Egypt Inching To War on Two fronts: Libya and Ethiopia.” Tuesday, June 30, 2020. KGNU: Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues – Segment 3

July 12, 2020

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Ethiopia’s Pride; Egypt’s Albatross

KGNU Hemispheres – June 30, 2020 – Transcript…Part Three (Part One) (Part Two)

(This segment looks at the growing controversy – and danger of military conflict – between Ethiopia and Egypt over Ethiopia’s filling its recently completed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. It also explores a possible Israeli connection given that country’s fresh water needs. At the time of writing, the issue remains unresolved with a heightened danger of the conflict escalating)

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For Egypt, the existential threat concerning the Nile waters hasn’t changed; the variable that has changed is the inability of the United States to be able to pull strings and bring the parties together and impose a solution upon them. For Egypt, the existential threat concerning the Nile waters hasn’t changed; the variable that has changed is the inability of the United States to be able to pull strings and bring the parties together and impose a solution upon them.

Ibrahim Kazerooni

The point of all this – there is substantial evidence strongly suggesting that Israel is in something close to a panic about pre-emptively – before a war with Lebanon breaks out – securing its supply of fresh water and that it is plausible that Israel is offering the Ethiopians very generous terms for some of its water. It is not at all unreasonable – as a result of this pressure for water – to conclude that in some manner, Israel is involved in these machinations.

Rob Prince

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Rob Prince: Let’s move on to Egypt’s other problem, Ibrahim, and that is the struggle over the waters of the Nile River between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the northwest corner of Ethiopia.

For starters, Jim Nelson’s opening about Colorado knowing about “water wars” is quite apt. Colorado has had “water wars” with the states to our southwest over the waters of the Colorado River, and others with states going east over controlling the flows of the Arkansas and Platte rivers.This kind of tension over which northeast African state is going to control the flow of the Nile – this is an absolutely Colorado issue as well.

The bottom line was this: as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was being completed the question emerged as to what is going to happen to the downstream flows of water. We’re looking at one particular branch of the Nile, the Blue Nile the origins of which are in Ethiopia. The dam could divert a significant amount of water from the two countries downstream, in this case, to the north of the dam, Sudan and Egypt.

The upstream country is Ethiopia

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was completed recently after nine years of construction and at a cost of $4.7 billion. Ethiopia plans to start filling the dam in the next few weeks, a decision which has angered Egypt because no agreement has been reached regarding the distribution of the waters downstream. Besides providing water for Ethiopian agriculture, the dam will be an important source of electrical energy for the whole country.

Ethiopia is only 38% electrified and it appears that it is the production of electrical power which is more central to the dam’s existence than its use as a water source. Upon completion the dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa, capable of generating up to 6,400 megawatts of power. The electricity produced will be fed into the Ethiopian national power grid which in turn is expected to stimulate the country’s economic development.

The dam’s completion is also – and rightly so – a source of great national pride, literally the symbol of the nation’s future development hopes. Ethiopia’s pride has become Egypt’s albatross. Read more…

“Trump’s Continued Descent into the Middle East Maelstrom: The Caesar Act’s Impact on Lebanon and Iraq: Egypt Inching To War on Two fronts: Libya and Ethiopia.” Tuesday, June 30, 2020. KGNU: Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues – Segment 2

July 11, 2020

Libya’s oil and natural gas fields

KGNU Hemispheres – June 30, 2020 – Transcript…Part Two (Part One)

(audio at the end of the article)

(Most of this segment explores the growing tensions between Turkey and Egypt over the control of Libyan oil and natural gas resources and Turkey’s plans to build a natural gas pipeline from Libya to Turkey. Turkey could then sell the natural gas directly to Europe thus bypassing Russian natural gas exports to Europe)

Because the Qatar pipeline through Syria plan collapsed, Turkey is now determined to open up a new supply route from Libya to Turkey employing the same plan – weakening the Russian natural gas grip on Europe. Unfortunately for Turkey this plan is more complicated than the previous pipeline “pipe dream” through Syria. In the Syrian pipeline scenario Turkey enjoyed strong Qatar-Muslim Brotherhood support (as well as support from Washington DC). In the Libyan case, Turkey has to deal with an antagonistic counter-force in Egypt, supported by the wealth of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Ibrahim Kazerooni

Rob Prince: Moving on, I wanted to ask you, Ibrahim, about the situation in Libya and how the general crisis there is shaping up.

New alliances seem to be coming together – this is such a fluid moment – the alliances shift some going from one part of the Middle East to another.

Specifically, in terms of what is shaping up in Libya… What is Turkey up to? How is that Russia and Saudi Arabia find themselves on the same side of the fence backing General Khalifa Haftar in Libya? A little bit later we’ll talk about the specific role of Egypt in all of this.

So let’s turn to Libya…

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Well, if you go back to 2011, 2012 and look at the major players in the toppling of Muammar Khadaffi, it was the Europeans (UK, France, Italy) with the green light from the United States and their overall pretext of “plausible deniability” that suggested that Washington was not a part of it – although (Hillary) Clinton admitted on a number of occasions that the United States was in the thick of it – up to its neck – in the crisis in Libya… Even Obama admitted as much.

But strangely enough, from the Middle Eastern viewpoint, it happened during a time in which Mohammed Morsi (deposed President of Egypt) and the Muslim Brotherhood was elected in Egypt. There was a unique alliance that included financial support from Qatar, ideological support from the Muslim Brotherhood and political support from Turkey.

Egypt at that time (of the 2011 NATO invasion of Libya and the overthrow of Khadaffi) did not see anything threatening in Qatar and Turkey’s involvement in the affairs of Libya. Qatar’s bombers used to leave Qatar, bomb Libya and return. In the 1960s and 1970s when Qatar was just a Bedouin emirate and at that time didn’t even have a small plane to fly, it was Muammar Khadaffi who would send his civilian airliners to Qatar to pick up this family of despots and take them for medical treatment somewhere in Beirut or other places.

This is how they repaid Libya. Read more…

“Trump’s Continued Descent into the Middle East Maelstrom: The Caesar Act’s Impact on Lebanon and Iraq: Egypt Inching To War on Two fronts: Libya and Ethiopia.” Tuesday, June 30, 2020. KGNU: Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues.

July 7, 2020

Trump’s Continued Descent into the Middle East Maelstrom: The Caesar Act’s Impact on Lebanon and Iraq: Egypt Inching To War on Two fronts: Libya and Ethiopia.” Tuesday, June 30, 2020. KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM; 6 pm Mountain States Time – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Hosted by Jim Nelson.

This is a continuation of the radio program of June 23, 2020. taped a week later on June 30. In this first segment we continue to discuss “The Caesar Act” – more punishing U.S. sanctions against Syria and its neighbors as well as some updates on U.S. Congressional legislation that concerns the Middle East. In later segments (to be posted as they are transcribed) the discussion turns to the situation in Libya pitting regional powers in struggle for control of Libyan oil and natural gas, and finally a discussion of the Egyptian dilemma with Cairo faciing crises on two fronts – that of Libya and with the completion of Ethiopia’s Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam along the Blue Nile, which will be transcribed over the next few days. 

KGNU Hemispheres – June 30, 2020 – Transcript…Part One KGNU Hemispheres – June 30, 2020 – Transcript…Part One

(audio at the end of the article)

Formally called the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection, it was packaged as a law to protect the Syrian civilian population. But in essence the goal of the Caesar Act is to destabilize and prevent Syria from its national reconstruction and development. This was admitted by Ambassador James Jeffrey who said that “the U.S. seeks to prevent Syria from rebuilding. We have thrown everything but the kitchen sink into the Caesar Act.”

Any economic or political support of the Syrian government will be punished.

– Ibrahim Kazerooni

In the past when Washington had a need to deal with some kind of local issue or tension in the Middle East – here is an example of what they did: they brought in their main allies, the protagonists from the region and essentially the State Department, the President or both, essentially dictated how the issue would be resolved and who would get what out of the deal, always with U.S. strategic interests uppermost. This was done with the Israelis and the Saudis – repeatedly, with Israel and Egypt in the run up to the Camp David Accords. The U.S. imposed the broad frameworks for the agreements and let the protagonists bicker over the details to give the appearance of “negotiations.” Washington dictate dressed as negotiations.

That is how things went bu that is history.

– Rob Prince

Jim Nelson: As previously mentioned, we’re going to continue our discussion of the Caesar Act, – specifically how it’s implementation will effect countries neighboring Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Then we’ll move on to the growing conflict in Libya. One of the key players in the Libyan situation is Egypt; Egypt is facing a double crisis – one with Libya, the other with Ethiopia over the probable opening of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the allocation of the waters of the Blue Nile.

Living in Colorado, we know about upstream-downstream water issues and how water is allocated.

Go ahead Ibrahim.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Good evening to everyone.

It’s going to be an interesting discussion as usual between Rob and myself regarding the few issues that Jim has just sketched as we have deliberated over the most important themes. Last week, Rob briefly discussed the Caesar Act. I want to recap, go over it, to understand its consequences.

Although it was drawn up primarily as a law targeting Syria (with more sanctions), but in effect, any country neighboring Syria is effected too. The primary target is Iran but the tertiary countries effected are Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

The Caesar Act is in reference to a 2014 propaganda stunt involving an anonymous pseudo-named Syrian who called to testify before the U.S. Congress. He was alleged to be a military expert, military photographer. At the time, the Christian Science Monitor said that Caesar’s testimony was nothing more than “a well timed propaganda exercise funded by Qatar” to destabilize and build support against the Syrian government.

As discussed in an earlier program, this took place during the height of the terrorist/mercenary attack on Syria and the approving of the Doha Protocol as a consequence of that. Doha is the capitol of Qatar. Qatar is one of those countries that invested huge amounts of money in destabilizing Syria in support of the terrorists and mercenaries that were being trained to go to Syria to overthrow the Damascus government.

The “Caesar” propaganda was similar to the Kuwait fictional allegation against Iraq in 1990 (that the Iraqi military was stealing Kuwaiti enfants from hospital incubators. The daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador, pretending to be an eye witness, was brought to Washington to testify before Congress. In a similar manner, the Caesar allegations were made and later, the Caesar Act came into existence.

Formally called the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection, it was packaged as a law to protect the Syrian civilian population. But in essence the goal of the Caesar Act is to destabilize and prevent Syria from its national reconstruction and development. This was admitted by Ambassador James Jeffrey who said that “the U.S. seeks to prevent Syria from rebuilding. We have thrown everything but the kitchen sink into the Caesar Act.” Read more…

“The Caesar Act – Washington Pours on More Sanctions Against Syria; Shifting Tides of War from Syria To Libya.” – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Transcript. Part Three

July 3, 2020

Moktar al Moktar – the Lion of the Desert, Libyan national hero, who fought Italian colonial conquest of Libya from 1911 through 1931. Italians killed 200,000 in their effort to pacify Libya.

“The Caesar Act – Washington Pours on More Sanctions Against Syria; Shifting Tides of War from Syria To Libya.”KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Tuesday, June 23, 2020.  Hosted by Jim Nelson. Transcript.

KGNU Hemispheres – June 30, 2020 – Transcript…Part Three. (Parts One, Two)

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What people don’t understand is that any kind of shift in the geopolitical “zero-sum game” or alliances within the region, and now in Libya, is going to have consequences in Idlib Province (Syria).

If Russia realizes that really Erdogan is going to up the ante for the continuation of chaos in Libya so that Turkey can secure control of that country’s natural gas pipeline to Turkey and from there, Europe, to substitute Qatari gas and circumvent Russian power in being a key energy source to Europe, where Turkey and Russia are going to settle their argument is going to be in Idlib (Syria).

– Ibrahim Kazerooni –

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These tensions we are talking about are long-standing. But the difference today is that the United States is weak. In the past, Washington had to power and influence to take the contradictions among its allies – Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel – and somehow meld them into some kind of common approach. That kind of influence is collapsing and American influence, to somehow come out of this with a common approach, is just gone. As a result of that we see the release of these local contradictions and forces – it’s a pretty scary moment.

– Rob Prince –

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(In this segment  we center around dissecting Turkish-Russian geopolitical tensions visavis Libya and Syria as well as the Egyptian stake in the Libyan crisis.)

Rob Prince: Ibrahim, I’d like to add something here concerning the Turkish-Russian tension over Libya. It has to do with natural gas – natural gas and oil, a very large deposit of natural gas off the coast of Libya. Turkey wants to be able to dominate that production and that is one of its reasons for its move into Libya

The United States doesn’t mind.

If Turkey is able to consolidate its position in Libya that actual gas flows coming from Russia (to Europe) can be bypassed.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Remember our discussion of the Doha Protocols?

There are two maybe three major natural gas producers at the moment. Number One is Qatar in the Persian Gulf. Number Two is the Libyan natural gas and Number Three the Iranian because the natural gas reserves in the Persian Gulf are divided between Qatar and Iran. The wells in Iranian territory has more oil and less gas than those of Qatar. The wells in the Qatari section have more natural gas than oil.

One of the conditions within the Doha Protocol was that Qatari gas to pass through Syria to Turkey. That has not happened but now there is another option to provide natural gas to Europe in light of the current chaos in the region and that is Libya, the idea being to secure the natural gas from Libya into some kind of corridor or pipeline going to Turkey and then passing from Turkey to Europe bypassing Syria in the Middle East and cutting into Russia’s supply of natural gas to Europe.

Russia is aware of the situation, of the threat to its interests and Erdogan’s plan and so it got involved in the mess, the chaos of the affairs in Libya.

Some historical perspective. Muammar Khadaffi had cut a deal with the United States and Europe: Western trade sanctions on Khadaffi would be lifted in exchange for acknowledging and paying restitution for Libya’s role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103

But when Obama came to power everything changed. Remember that Libya had agreed at that time to give up its nuclear weapons research program and given the pressure from the Bush Administration at the time, that Libya had entered the U.S. sphere of influence at long last. Khadaffi even agreed to free elections, opposition political parties.

In 2009, Libya was a prosperous and major petroleum and natural gas producer. Then the whole situation changed. I’m not denying that Khadaffi was a dictator and was guilty of extensive human rights violations against his citizenry. But Khadaffi comes off as some kind of saint when compared to the Saudi royal family.

In February, 2011 militant Islamicists eastern Libya, in Benghazi, launched an armed insurgency against Khadaffi’s central government.

Then what happened? ISIS, Al Qaeda, C.I.A got involved and everybody (Western powers) got involved supporting them, against the central government. The United States then jammed Libyan military communications. The U.S. fired missiles to intercept Libyan missiles fired at the rebels. The U.S. conducted numerous air strikes against forces loyal to Khadaffi. In sum, the U.S. intervention turned the tide in favor of Benghazi terrorist organizations.

Ultimately, in October 2011, two things happened simultaneously.

An American drone bombed the area and S.A.S. (British) Special Forces as well as their French counterparts went in to fire the bullet to kill Khadaffi. Hillary Clinton commented, “We came, he left, and that’s it.”

Now what we have, Libya is really in a mess; it is in complete chaos, wracked by violence, factionalism, political polarization, and the menacing jihadi extremism exported from Libya into Syria in 2012 onward, now they are coming back into Libya. From Libya, ultimately, they have to go somewhere else.

So, when you asked me a question regarding the Russian interests in Libya.?

Russian tried to force Haftar (Khalifa Haftar), instead of attacking Tripoli to enter into negotiations in which Haftar and the representative government in Tripoli would share power with the goal of somehow subduing the chaos in the country and some kind of order will be established in Libya.

But unfortunately, the United States along with other Western powers, they don’t want that. They give the green light to their proxy, Turkey, to move in for exactly the reasons that you talked about earlier: the weaker the Libyan central government, the easier it is for Western companies to get oil and gas. Ultimately if the West can get oil and gas from Libya through a corridor that goes from Libya directly to Turkey and then on into Europe then Russian influence in Europe can be circumvented and reduced by reducing the Russian natural gas supply to Europe.

As the polarization between the Libyan and international plays intensified, Vladimir Putin called Haftar to Moscow. The old group – or gang – that was ganging up against Assad in Syria – Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey and the financiers behind it – those supporting the Tripoli faction and encouraging and helping Tayyip Erdogan to push into Libya militarily to get the gas..
Realizing this, Russia aligned itself with Haftar. Haftar is now being supported by Sisi (Abdul Fatah Sisi, Egyptian President) who is in turn supported financially by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Rob Prince: So many shifting alliances…

Ibrahim Kazerooni: I’m going to go back to the point that you raised earlier. What people don’t understand is that any kind of shift in the geopolitical “zero-sum game” or alliances within the region, and now in Libya, is going to have consequences in Idlib Province (Syria).

If Russia realizes that really Erdogan is going to up the ante for the continuation of chaos in Libya so that Turkey can secure control of that country’s natural gas pipeline to Turkey and from there, Europe, to substitute Qatari gas and circumvent Russian power in being a key energy source to Europe, where Turkey and Russia are going to settle their argument is going to be in Idlib (Syria).

The Syrian government is now massing up military commitment (in Idlib), ready to move. So far it has been the Russians who have been holding back the Syrians from going on the offensive. Moscow is waiting to see how the deal that it has tried to work out visavis Libya. Russia is supporting Sisi (Egypt) who is behind Haftar and now the polarization of the two powers, Turkey and Russia, over Libya is unambiguous.

The United States, with the Europeans on one side, their proxy is Turkey, the issue being the control of cheap natural gas. On the other side Russia, Sisi (Egypt), Haftar with the financial support of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Whether the matter is resolved in Libya or not, certainly the Libyan situation will have consequences in Syria because Russia now realizes that square the deal (regain its balance of power with Turkey) by allowing the Syria government to push into Idlib.

The choice again – we’ve talked about it – as there will be fewer jihadist mercenaries in Idlib (large numbers having been transported to Libya), this weakens Turkey’s position there. Should as a result, Turkey try to use their air power, in all likelihood the Russian air force based in Syria will challenge them, and shoot them down.

Rob Prince: What a mess!

Ibrahim Kazerooni: So now the situation has escalated into a much broader conflict with Turkey, a NATO country, facing off militarily against Russia in Syria. The situation comes back around – from Libya to Syria to Libya back to Syria once again. Going back to 2011, the conflict moved from Libya into Lebanon and Syria, now back to Libya and soon back again to Idlib Province in Syria. Yes, what a mess.

Rob Prince: A deadly tango.

Just to remind our listeners… When on August 12, 2012, Abdul Fatah Sisi led the military coup against the Morsi government of Egypt, it was against the Muslim Brotherhoods. The Muslim Brotherhoods are among those forces that, first of all, Turkey supports. Therefore Egypt is quite concerned about a Libya that has a Muslim Brotherhood orientation. Cairo is also worried about terrorists crossing Libya’s eastern border into Egypt, so Egypt is quite serious about limiting Turkey’s influence in Libya.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: The confrontation between the Persian Gulf states, four on one side and Qatar on the other, was based primarily on Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhoods. Qatar aligned itself with the Muslim Brotherhoods and Turkey militarily. Now, on the other side, for Sisi and Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has become an existential threat. Under no circumstances is Sisi willing to risk any possibility where the Muslim Brotherhoods now in control of the western section of Libya move into the eastern Libyan zones and ultimately back into Egypt.

The Egyptians have made it clear that they are not going to allow that.

And now the crisis shifts back to Syria.

For the Syrian government also, the Muslim Brotherhood is equally an existential threat as much as it is to Egypt, because of Syrian history and what they did to Syria during both the rules of Hafez al Assad and Bashar al Assad’s rule. But yet Turkey has aligned itself closely with the Brotherhoods, so now, in the southern regions of Syria there has been some agitation from Muslim Brotherhood elements.

Syria is a mess, Libya is a mess, now there is possible confrontation between Egyptian and Turkish air forces in Libya or the Russian and Turkish air forces in Syria.

Rob Prince: But to look at all this from another angle. These tensions we are talking about are long-standing. But the difference today is that the United States is weak. In the past, Washington had to power and influence to take the contradictions among its allies – Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel – and somehow meld them into some kind of common approach. That kind of influence is collapsing and American influence, to somehow come out of this with a common approach, is just gone. As a result of that we see the release of these local contradictions and forces – it’s a pretty scary moment.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: A question, Rob. In 2011 we discussed this matter at that time. One of the excuses given for the invasion of Libya was “humanitarian intervention.” We have discussed this extensively regarding what is meant by humanitarian intervention, how it is a pretext for war. Can you briefly linked humanitarian intervention with the chaos unfolding in Libya.

Rob Prince: Of course. You know, colonial, neo-colonial powers have long needed a pretext for intervention. With few exceptions they’re not going to go in and say `we’re going to steal your natural resources, force you to engage in mono-culture production, use your labor and suck you dry.’ That’s pretty crude. That’s the problem with Trump, he’s too up front about being an imperialist.

A pretext is required.

Besides claiming the nation was “commissioned by God” (Manifest Destiny), one of the repeated pretexts for foreign in American history is has long been “humanitarian intervention.” But humanitarian intervention has been a cover, nothing more, nothing less. Yet I’m amazed how often people (in the United States) fall for it.

It’s the kind of thing we heard in Iraq, “the U.S. is going to go into Iraq (2003) and save the poor Iraqis from Saddam Hussein.” It wasn’t about seizing the Iraqi oil industry. It was another case of humanitarian intervention based upon a whole series of lies, “weapons of mass destruction,” etc. about what would happen if the U.S. did not invade. In the case of Libya in 2011, what was the “humanitarian interventionist” pretext? – the panic that Khadaffi was going to send his military into a prison in Benghazi and slaughter the inmates there.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: To interject. Remember Rob in 1990, 1991 the United States attacked Iraq in response to the occupation of Kuwait. One of the cooked up pretexts was that Iraqi soldiers had gone into Kuwaiti hospitals and stolen babies from incubators. It turned out that the incident was fabricated and the person who came and gave witness was the daughter of the Kuwait ambassador in Washington.

“The Caesar Act – Washington Pours on More Sanctions Against Syria; Shifting Tides of War from Syria To Libya.” – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Transcript. Part Two

July 2, 2020

African migrants in Tripoli, Libya… many have been imprisoned and sold as slaves, a result of the instability in the country since the U.S. sponsored NATO led invasion to overthrow Muammar Khadaffi in 2011.

“The Caesar Act – Washington Pours on More Sanctions Against Syria; Shifting Tides of War from Syria To Libya.”KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Tuesday, June 23, 2020.  Hosted by Jim Nelson. Transcript.

KGNU Hemispheres – June 30, 2020 – Transcript…Part Two (Part One)

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I think we discussed this four or five years ago (on this program) concerning the aim of Tayyib Erdogan. He wants to re-establish a kind of new Ottoman empire, or at least Ottoman-like influence throughout the Middle East and North Africa, that influence that they lost from around 1920 onward till today.

So whether it’s instability and war in Iraq, instability in Syria or any crisis, Erdogan sees a role for Turkey to fish from muddy water to economically and politically in order to expand Turkish influence.

Ibrahim Kazerooni

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Rob Prince: Having said that, Ibrahim, what is going on in Idlib Province at the moment? It looks as if a major military offensive is in the offing and then it stops. The Turks continue to put a lot of military material and troops in there.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: It’s a good question Rob.

To give some backdrop to where we are now… If you remember three or four months ago when the Syrians (government troops) were pushing north and Putin and Erdogan met in Moscow. They came up with an agreement that Turkey had no other alternative but to accept which is something that they had previously resisted. Russia insisted that the major highways from Aleppo to Damascus and other places had to be opened. The Turkish backed mercenaries had to withdraw to seven miles away from the M-5 and M-4 highways.

Recently I have been noticing that sharp infighting has broken out between various leaders among the different mercenary organizations.

Rob Prince: I read of armed conflicts among them today.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes, between two or three of them. Julani, in charge of Jebat al-Nasra and Abu Malik Atalli and Abu Saleh al Uzbeki – these are among those who fled southern Syria and parts of Lebanon. Hezbollah had captured their territory and pushed them out. They had to negotiate a transit deal with the Syrian government who permitted them to withdraw to Idlib.

Now Jebat al-Nasra under Julani’s leadership has moved militarily against the other two major factions and captured their leaders in an effort to subdue them. This is a clear indication that these mercenary groups are anticipating a major operation on the part of the Syrian government to take place. Read more…

“The Caesar Act – Washington Pours on More Sanctions Against Syria; Shifting Tides of War from Syria To Libya.” – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Transcript. Part One

July 2, 2020

Jamall Bowman, former Middle School Principal, defeats Eliot Engel in a landslide. Engel, a 16 term U.S. Representative was the major author of the Caesar Act, AIPAC’s point man in the House Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

“The Caesar Act – Washington Pours on More Sanctions Against Syria; Shifting Tides of War from Syria To Libya.”KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Tuesday, June 23, 2020.  Hosted by Jim Nelson. Transcript.

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The Trump Administration has become sanction crazy.

Besides putting even more clamps on the Syrian banking system’s ability to trade in dollars, the same kind of restrictions now apply to countries neighboring Syria. The cutting edge of this legislation is to threaten Lebanon, Iraq and Iran and all countries that are trying to help in the Syrian reconstruction project.

One thing we can argue: It’s the only card left in the American deck, tightening sanctions that were already punishing in nature.

From a political viewpoint what is the essence of these sanctions against Syria? It is for the U.S. to regain through economic what it (and its allies) lost on the battlefield in Syria, to weaken the Syrian government and to keep its plans – which never end – to partition Syria alive

Rob Prince

We both concur that when it comes to American policy in the region that the United States has hit rock bottom, zero, nothing. No Plan A, No Plan B – (an exit strategy). In all intents and purposes the United States has lost, in Syria and other parts of the Middle East.

In light of this, there is something we have discussed many times: no strategic vision, no plan, recently we are suddenly hearing about “the Caesar Act” being passed by Congress – specifically concerning Syria.

Ibrahim Kazerooni

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Part One

(In this section the impact of the Caesar Act – the ninth imposition of U.S. sanctions against Syria – is discussed along with fluid situation in Idlib Province, Syria where mercenary/terrorist troops are being withdrawn and transferred to Libya and Yemen)

Jim Nelson: As always, this evening we’ll be going to the Middle East and talking about the current breaking news. As KGNU listeners are aware, the station is practicing social distancing with most of us safe at home. I’m the only one in the studio; usually Rob is here joining me in these dialogues. Hopefully soon, we’ll get together in the studio once again.

We’re going to be discussing some topics of current interest in the Middle East. One of the reasons I enjoy this show is because of the unique perspective our guest bring to the subject. Currently we’re not getting much news from the region other than if its COVID-19 related.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Or something to do with “evil China” or “evil Russia.” Read more…

“Trump’s Continued Descent into the Middle East Maelstrom: The Caesar Act’s Impact on Lebanon and Iraq: Egypt Inching To War on Two fronts: Libya and Ethiopia.” Tuesday, June 30, 2020. KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM; 6 pm Mountain States Time – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Hosted by Jim Nelson. Part Two

June 28, 2020

Sources of the Nile River.

“Trump’s Continued Descent into the Middle East Maelstrom: The Caesar Act’s Impact on Lebanon and Iraq: Egypt Inching To War on Two fronts: Libya and Ethiopia.” Tuesday, June 30, 2020. KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM; 6 pm Mountain States Time – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Hosted by Jim Nelson. Part Two.

The Trump Administration tries to put the screws on Lebanon and Iraq for trading with Syria (The Caesar Act) while China offers Lebanon $12.5 billion in “no strings attached aid” and Iraq $500 billion (you read that right) for infrastructural development.

Egypt is faced with two strategic challenges: the Turkish (Moslem Brotherhood) backed Tripoli forces in Libya push east threatening Egyptian stability. Even bigger in some ways. After ten years and what appeared to be Egypt and Ethiopia heading for an agreement on the waters of the Blue Nile as a result of Ethiopian completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the Trump Administration sponsored negotiations have collapsed. Ethiopia has pulled out of the negotiations and threatens to fill the dam. Egyptian is threatening military action. As one digs deeper, Israeli, Saudi Arabia and even Lebanon’s Hezbollah are, in different ways, part of the picture.

Listen to Kazerooni and Prince try to put it all together.

That and more, Tuesday at 6 pm Mountain States Time, KGNU “Hemispheres: Middle East Dialogues”, a program now in its eleventh year.

 

Morning At Jim Baker Reservoir: Ospreys and Night Herons. June 28, 2020

June 28, 2020

Osprey above Jim Baker Reservoir, S. Adams County, Colorado

For the past several years there has been an osprey nest atop a telephone pole on Lowell Blvd across the street from the Jim Baker Reservoir. After every season the telephone company employees  – I assume under orders – rip it down and shortly thereafter it’s there again, rebuilt and ready to welcome new chicks. Last year I got some good photos of a rather large chick in a nest. When I drove down Lowell from 64 Ave several weeks ago, looking up, I was pretty sure I saw a little head sticking up from a rebuilt nest.

This morning, before the heat got too intense, I made my way back to Jim Baker Reservoir. Sure enough, I could clearly make out an osprey head in the refurbished nest. It wasn’t a chick but a female (the coloring of the males and females are slightly different) sitting on the nest. Wasn’t sure if she was sitting on eggs or if there were chicks there. The nests are deep enough so that unless a chick has grown large enough, or out of curiosity sticks its head above the nest line, it is difficult to see. It was only later, driving by the nest on the way home that I spotted two little heads peering out from the safety of the nest.

Ospreys are adaptable raptors.

They make home on every continent minus Antarctica. Here in the United States they make year round homes in the southern states, Florida, the Gulf Coast, Texas. Further north, here in Colorado they tend to migrate south in the winter, returning to the Denver area in the last spring. Jim Baker Reservoir with its abundant fish is an ideal place for ospreys to call home. Master fishermen, they almost always live near water, nest near water, along rivers, lakes, wetlands, and coastal marshes. The osprey nest on the telephone pole near Jim Baker is typical. They frequently nest on telephone poles, pilings, channel markers, and other man-made structures in or near the water.

Last fall, before the weather turned cold, or as cold as it gets these “Climate Change winters”, I saw an adult osprey leave that same nest, soar rather high into the sky, circle the reservoir and make a dramatic and successful catch of a large fish, which I presumed to have been a perch. This morning, a dry run of the same. It left the nest, flew rather high, circled the reservoir hunting. At one moment it dipped down some as if it were on the attack but then pulled back up and flew away, heading south to other nearby ponds (Lowell Ponds, Clear Creek Valley Park I reckoned). Although it failed to find anything this time, it circled for a good five minutes, enough time for me to do the clumsy maneuver of changing the settings on my camera to take a few motion shots. (like the one above).

Fish represent about 99 percent of their diet. Don’t know of what the other 1% consists. Rodents perhaps?

Osprey nesting on telephone pole near Jim Baker Reservoir.

Ospreys are very successful hunters, catching fish on at least one-quarter or more of their dives. What I witnessed this morning is typical: they circle over shallow waters to locate fish below the surface. Once they locate a fish, they hover briefly and then dive into the water feet-first, sometimes becoming completely submerged. Adults are sometimes preyed upon by bald eagles and great horned owls, while eggs and chicks are sometimes taken by snakes and raccoons. I have seen video of the larger bald eagles and ospreys competing for food in Florida marshes. Despite their reputation of strength and prowess, eagles are fundamentally lazy and often let the ospreys do the hard work of fishing, only to attack them in the air and steal the osprey’s prize.

Like so many other bird sprecies, ospreys have had a hard time of it and walked an evolutionary tightrope. Osprey populations in North America declined dramatically from the 1950s to the 1970s due to chemical pollutants such as the pesticide DDT, which caused breeding failures from eggshell thinning. DDT was banned in the United States in 1972, and since that time ospreys have bounced back significantly, although some states still list them as endangered, threatened, or a species of special concern. Today their populations are increasing at a moderate pace and there are few current conservation concerns.

Black Crowned Night Herons

Night Heron over Jim Baker Reservoir

Black Crowned Night Herons, like the one pictured here, are plentiful in Colorado, certainly in the Denver area. One of the largest colonies of them is at Denver City Park. The black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) is the world’s most common heron, inhabiting large regions of North and Central America, as well as Europe, Asia and Africa, where they live in large wetlands.

At a time when bird populations of all kinds are plummeting, those of these herons has remained fairly stable. This wasn’t always the case. Like ospreys, populations  declined in 20th century owing to habitat loss and, in mid-century, effects of DDT and other persistent pesticides. Following the banning of DDT, many local populations have increased in recent years. Water pollution is still a problem in some areas.

This heron is also stocky, with a length of just over 2 feet, a wingspan of 3.8 feet and a weight just over 2 pounds. Their coloring consists of black on their heads and upper backs, with grey wings and tails and lighter grey or white underbodies and black bills. These herons are social, monogamous birds who nest communally and will help raise heron chicks that are not their own. They are foraging birds, feeding on fish, crayfish, amphibians, other birds and even garbage.

As the Audubon Guide To North American Birds notes:

Seen by day, these chunky herons seem dull and lethargic, with groups sitting hunched and motionless in trees near water. They become more active at dusk, flying out to foraging sites, calling “wok” as they pass high overhead in the darkness. Some studies suggest that they feed at night because they are dominated by other herons and egrets by day. A cosmopolitan species, nesting on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.

I have seen them often in and around Lowell Ponds and Clear Creek Valley Park and they do fit the description above.

Night Heron at Lowell Ponds, S. Adams County; early May 2020

They tend to be shy and finicky; as soon as they notice being watch, they fly off to another spot. The ones I that I have run across are adept at hiding among the reeds and marshes where they blend in nicely. Have rarely seen them in trees, but today I did and got a decent photo of him from a distance of about a hundred yards. Typically, aware I was taking his picture, quickly he flew off south, away from me but then circled back across the reservoir close enough for me to get off a couple of shots as he flew by that came out ok.

As Jaymee Squire noted in a blog entry in 2017,

While most birds nest in mated pairs, a few nest communally, sharing the warmth and protection of the roost with other birds, usually of the same species. But a few birds are less particular, sharing the warmth and comfort of the roost with a variety of species. The Black-crowned Night-Heron is one of these birds. They mate for life, but the mated pairs build their nests in communal roosts, sharing the space with all sorts of other water-loving birds.

 

The Caesar Act: As Coronavirus spreads worldwide, including in the Middle East, the Trump Administration piles on the sanctions against Syria.

June 24, 2020

The M-4 Highway (in red) in Syria; the battle to control the section from Aleppo to Latakia on the coast continues continues..

As Coronavirus spreads worldwide, including in the Middle East, the Trump Administration piles on the sanctions against Syria. With little to no national publicity States’ side, what is called the “Caesar Act” took effect last week. With a foreign policy in the Third World that can be summed up by drone killings, sanctions and spectacular but irrelevant Special Forces operations, what is missing from U.S. Middle East policy is anything approaching a plan – be it a Plan “A” or a Plan “B.”

I wish I could tell you that Syria is being rewarded for resisting terrorists and because we have returned to peace and security through blood and sacrifice that we are now able to rebuild and resume our lives

Among friends here in Colorado, we used to say visavis Washington’s (both Democratic and Republican Administrations) Syria policy that that there was “no Plan B,” meaning that if their plans to overthrow Assad and partition Syria, either de jure or de facto, that Washington had no back up plan. But these days neither does a “Plan A” exist.

But, we cannot rebuild, and cannot live a normal life.

U.S. policy towards Syria is characterized by a lack of vision, it is defensive in nature, and is limited to just slowing the progress of the changing balance of forces in the region and sore losers that they are, exacting as much pain on their opponents as possible to make the price of Syrian victory and U.S. strategic defeat a very high one indeed.

The United States government and the European Union have place sanctions on Syria which prevent importing any medical machines, prevent importing medicines, prevent importing parts and machines for factories, prevent any and all items necessary to rebuild Syrian homes, shops, factories, schools, and hospitals.

It is in this environment that “The Caesar Act” became functional.

We are surviving on local fruits and vegetables and meat, but we cannot import anything whatsoever to do farm work. No tractors, no farm machinery, and no specialty supplies to grow foods.

It’s formal title is “H.R. 31 – Caesar Syria Protection act of 2019“, a title which is the diametrical opposite to what the title suggests. Sponsored by Rep. Eliot R. Engel (D-NY-16) along with 57 bipartisan co-sponsors, it went into effect just last week on June 17. It’s basically a bill meant to punish Syria for defeating ISIS and the like liberating most of its country from foreign terrorists, although a large concentration remains in Syria’s northwest Idlib Province.

The US-supported terrorists destroyed my home in 2014, and I still can not repair it, because the US-EU refuses to allow me and my neighbors to import necessary items that we can not make with our own hands. Don’t try to blame Trump with this, because the US Congress backed him up, and those are Democrats as well as Republicans.

Read more…

“The Caesar Act – Washington Pours on More Sanctions Against Syria; Shifting Tides of War from Syria To Libya.”KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Tuesday, June 23, 2020. 6-7 pm Mountain Time. Hosted by Jim Nelson.

June 22, 2020

Turning swords into clothes lines: A woman mocking an Israeli tank left behind when withdrawing from south of Lebanon in the year 2000, using its cannon as a hanger to dry cloths(Photo credit: Younes Zaatari)

“The Caesar Act – Washington Pours on More Sanctions Against Syria; Shifting Tides of War from Syria To Libya.”KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Tuesday, June 23, 2020. 6-7 pm Mountain Time. Hosted by Jim Nelson.

The 9th round of sanctions against Syria since 2011 called “The Caesar Act’ based on a bogus report of Syrian government atrocities. These sanctions target all trade, financial relations with the Syrian government, especially targeting Lebanon, Iraq.

We’ll look at the impact – or lack thereof – of the Caesar Act on the Damascus’ government’s efforts to liberate the rest of Syria from mercenary, Turkish and U.S. military occupation.

At the same time Turkey is transferring its Islamic mercenaries from Syria’s Idlib Province to Libya where a major showdown between the Turkish back Tripoli government and the Russian back General Haftar appears to be escalating with Egypt (supported by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.) is about to enter the fray as well to protect its western most border.

Meanwhile the Trump Administration finds itself paralyzed – it can’t withdraw from Syria nor can it escalate at the moment.

All that and more.

Hasan Ayoub: The Palestinian National Movement In the Trump Era, Prospects and Challenges: a one hour interview

June 19, 2020

 

Iyad Halaq, autistic man shot and killed by Israeli police in Jerusalem

One hour interview with Hasan Ayoub

Hasan Ayoub: The Palestinian National Movement In the Trump Era, Prospects and Challenges

Dr. Hasan Ayoub who got his PhD at the University of Denver returned to Denver as a visiting scholar invited by the Center for Middle East Studies. Here is the second interview sponsored by the Friends of Sabeel-Colorado and the Center for Freedom and Justice – Colorado (a support group for an organization of the same name in Beit Ummar, West Bank, Palesine.

Life and Death at Clear Creek Valley Park – June 13, 2020

June 14, 2020

Redtail Hawk on Tennyson St. cell tower. The butt of its mate is lower right..

The clouds help cool off the afternoon a little.

Without them the temperature would have jumped above 90 F (32.2 C) and staying outdoors would have been something less than bearable. As my cell phone was reading 87,88 F, it wasn’t so bad. I had gone to Clear Creek Valley Park to try out a new tripod and to see if it could steady my “bazooka” 150-600 mm lens. For still shots and birds wading slowly, not bad at all, it resulted in a higher percentage of sharp photos.

But for the motion shots there seems to be no alternative to the thing being handheld.

First thing noticed… the red tail hawk couple that often perches on the cell tower across from the Tennyson St. entrance to the Park was back. From where? Who knows. Still they were hiding, or trying to. Rather than perching atop the cell tower as they had done in the past, they were found lower down, at mid level. In fact, I only saw the larger female there, but when I got home and developed the hawk photos on a computer, the body of the mate was visible..

I have so many shots of this pair which returns season after season to watch the activity in the ponds either from atop the cell tower or the huge billboard that faces traffic on I-76 heading west. That gives them an equally panoramic view of the ponds – all four of them north of I-76 and probably a pretty decent vantage point to watch the activity in the four ponds south of I-76 at nearby Lowell Ponds. Read more…

Magaziner Genealogical Puzzles: Did Sarah Magaziner Enter The US at Philadelphia or through St. Albans, Vermont in the fall of 1907? The Plot Thickens!

June 9, 2020

The marriage photo (?) of Sarah and Julius Magaziner, Grodno, Belarus, 1900 or 1901 (?)

Magaziner Genealogical Puzzles: Did Sarah Magaziner Enter The US at Philadelphia or through St. Albans, Vermont in the fall of 1907?

Magaziner Genealogical Puzzles..

There they are, I am pretty sure, this is a marriage photo. My grand parents were too poor to take too many photos back in Grodno from whence they came. This time I noticed Grandma Sarah’s hand gently on Grandpa Julius’ shoulder which I interpret as a sign of quiet affection. Who knows?

What a lovely photo, she a trim young bride, really stunning. He, built like a brick. We were told he could bend a silver dollar in his fingers. Here in the USA he worked construction, worked in a steel mill in Buffalo for a while, died in 1924 after drinking prohibition alcohol before work on a cold day. It poisoned his system and he died in agony at home three days later.

Sarah Magaziner is our (my sisters’ and my) maternal grandmother. There are stories that have become nothing short of legends in our family as to the travails she suffered in finally making it to the United States sometime in the fall of 1907. That this is the season and the year she arrived is well established, but…

Did she arrive in a ship, the Westernland from Liverpool to Philadelphia or did she arrive from somewhere else in Europe to Halifax, Canada and then descend to the United States (New York City) through St. Albans, Vermont.

The plot thickens… Read more…

Year of the Plague – 23 – “Trump Is Flailing Like An Overturned Turtle? “A Tipping Point?”

June 8, 2020

Denverites – thousands of them demonstrating against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and for radical social change in America. (Photo Credit – Ben Harnke)

There is a story about an Arab general more than a millennium ago who died just prior to battle against a foe. Fearing that word of his death might discourage the troops, his adjutants put make up on the corpse, tied him to a board behind his back, flung him on his horse, kicked the horse into the midst of the battle. The enemy was defeated.

Joe Biden isn’t dead yet, only close.

But the Biden bid to defeat Trump has the momentum of a dead dodo bird. Despite Trump’s colossal political errors, domestically and in foreign policy, and growing splits among his Republican constituency, it’s not at all clear that Biden and the Dems have victory in November in the bag. Far from it.

All this in spite of Donald Trump’s increasing horrific record both as a president and a human being. 

Encouraged by none other than the president of the United States, a police force everywhere in the country gone wild – an orgy of police violence, killings – amidst a COVID-19 virus untamed and still poorly understood….
A president who has actually encouraged right-wing racists and vigilantism while labeling left-wing antifascist movements “terrorist” …
The crudest most vicious president in modern times encouraging right wing fanatics and Christian fundamentalist wackos to savage the population…
A president who suggested that Americans swallow Lysol to address COVID-19 in a country where some were foolish enough to take his advice – and paid the ultimate price…

And yet the demonstrations – multi-racial, multi-class led in large measure by the country’s youth, fighting for a decent future for themselves and their children – get larger and larger. Often police repression snuffs out dissent, but then a socio-political boiling point is reached where repression only makes dissent that much more pronounced, more radical, more determined – and its politics, as diverse as they are, more humane. Read more…