Chuck Spinney: Emile Nakhleh on Saudi Anger over Losing Influence — Iran Ascendant

Chuck Spinney

Chuck Spinney

Saudi Anger Masks Concern About Loss of Influence

by Emile Nakhleh via IPS News, 13 November 2013

Saudi Arabia’s public anger against the United States masks the kingdom’s growing concern about its diminishing influence in the Persian Gulf and the wider Arab world.

It has nothing to do with U.S. policy toward the Palestinians, Washington’s seeming oscillation toward Syria, or President Barack Obama’s support for democratic transitions in “Arab Spring” countries and his hesitancy to support Mohamed Morsi’s removal from Egypt’s presidency through a military coup.

The Saudis are lashing out because they fear a possible U.S.-Iranian rapprochement would elevate Iran’s rightful position as the key power in the Persian Gulf and correspondingly reduce Saudi Arabia to a secondary role. The Saudi Kingdom would resist playing a second fiddle to Iran.

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Nov 14

Chuck Spinney: Kurdistan Emergent

Chuck Spinney

Chuck Spinney

The below Reuters report describes one of the emerging regional complexities being unleashed by the Syrian civil war.  At issue is Syria’s Kurdish Question — yet another legacy of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire that continues to haunt the Middle East and the world after almost 100 years.  President Wilson’s reckless promises of nationhood to all minorities in his 14 Points were not fulfilled by the machinations and back room deals of the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919.  Today the Kurds, with a population of about 25 million, are the world’s largest ethnic group without a state.  But this population sits astride the modern borders Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, as the map below shows.  And so, the Kurdish Question is grounded in the tectonic fault lines of (1) Turkish-Arab-Persian-Kurdish cultures, (2) the shared Fertile Crescent water resources of the Tigris/Euphrates watershed, (3) the larger Sunni-Shia religious schism (most Kurds are Sunni, but some Kurds in Iran are Shia), (4) the wealth and poverty of the northern tier of the Persian Gulf oil basin, and (5) the toxic legacy of Western colonialism (including the Israeli poison pill inserted into the region by an opportunistic then guilt ridden West).  In recent years, most of the world’s attention has been focused on the Kurdish subquestions in Turkey and Iraq, and to a lesser extent in Iran (don’t forget the US sellout of the Iraqi Kurds with the help of the Shah of Iran, who had his own Kurdish problem), while Syria’s Kurds have been the most forgotten of these minority questions — but as the attached report shows, the Syrian civil war has unleashed a new dimension to active Kurdish separatism that greatly complicates an already complicated regional situation.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Click on Image to Enlarge

Syrian Kurds’ military gains stir unease


BEIRUT/ARBIL Mon Nov 11, 2013

(Reuters) – With a string of military gains across northeastern Syria, a Kurdish militia is solidifying a geographic and political presence in the war-torn country, posing a dilemma for regional powers.

Long oppressed under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father before him, Kurds view the civil war as an opportunity to gain the kind of autonomy enjoyed by their ethnic kin in neighboring Iraq.

But their offensive has stirred mixed feelings, globally, regionally and locally, even among some fellow Kurds, who say the Kurdish fighters have drifted into a regional axis supporting Assad, something they deny.

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Nov 12

Berto Jongman: Sunni-Shia Schism — US Has No Clue and Continues to Prostitute Itself to Saudi Arabia and Israel

Berto Jongman

Berto Jongman

How the Sunni-Shia schism is dividing the world

The unprecedented Saudi refusal to take up its Security Council seat is not just about Syria but a response to the Iranian threat

The Muslim world’s historic – and deeply tragic – chasm between Sunni and Shia Islam is having worldwide repercussions. Syria’s civil war, America’s craven alliance with the Sunni Gulf autocracies, and Sunni (as well as Israeli) suspicions of Shia Iran are affecting even the work of the United Nations.

Saudi Arabia’s petulant refusal last week to take its place among non-voting members of the Security Council, an unprecedented step by any UN member, was intended to express the dictatorial monarchy’s displeasure with Washington’s refusal to bomb Syria after the use of chemical weapons in Damascus – but it also represented Saudi fears that Barack Obama might respond to Iranian overtures for better relations with the West.

The Saudi head of intelligence, Prince Bandar bin Sultan – a true buddy of President George W Bush during his 22 years as ambassador in Washington – has now rattled his tin drum to warn the Americans that Saudi Arabia will make a “major shift” in its relations with the US, not just because of its failure to attack Syria but for its inability to produce a fair Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.

What this “major shift” might be – save for the usual Saudi hot air about its independence from US foreign policy – was a secret that the prince kept to himself.

Israel, of course, never loses an opportunity to publicise – quite accurately – how closely many of its Middle East policies now coincide with those of the wealthy potentates of the Arab Gulf.

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Oct 24

Chuck Spinney: Israel Still Angling for Attacks on Syria and Iran

Chuck Spinney

Chuck Spinney

The author is one of the best journalists in the Middle East.

Israel Still Angling for Attacks on Syria and Iran

Jonathan Cook

Counterpunch:, 2013-09-18


President Barack Obama may have drawn his seemingly regretted “red line” around Syria’s chemical weapons, but it was neither he nor the international community that turned the spotlight on their use. That task fell to Israel.

It was an Israeli general who claimed in April that Damascus had used chemical weapons, forcing Obama into an embarrassing demurral on his stated commitment to intervene should that happen.

According to the Israeli media, it was also Israel that provided the intelligence that blamed the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, for the latest chemical weapons attack, near Damascus on August 21, triggering the clamour for a US military response.

It is worth remembering that Obama’s supposed “dithering” on the question of military action has only been accentuated by Israel’s “daring” strikes on Syria – at least three since the start of the year.

It looks as though Israel, while remaining largely mute about its interests in the civil war raging there, has been doing a great deal to pressure the White House into direct involvement in Syria.

That momentum appears to have been halted, for the time being at least, by the deal agreed at the weekend by the US and Russia to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

To understand the respective views of the White House and Israel on attacking Syria, one needs to revisit the US-led invasion of Iraq a decade ago.

Israel and its ideological twin in Washington, the neoconservatives, rallied to the cause of toppling Saddam Hussein, believing that it should be the prelude to an equally devastating blow against Iran.

Israel was keen to see its two chief regional enemies weakened simultaneously. Saddam’s Iraq had been the chief sponsor of Palestinian resistance against Israel. Iran, meanwhile, had begun developing a civilian nuclear programme that Israel feared could pave the way to an Iranian bomb, ending Israel’s regional monopoly on nuclear weapons.

The neocons carried out the first phase of the plan, destroying Iraq, but then ran up against domestic cookclash-e1312398376396.jpegopposition that blocked implementation of the second stage: the break-up of Iran.

The consequences are well known. As Iraq imploded into sectarian violence, Iran’s fortunes rose. Tehran strengthened its role as regional sponsor of resistance against Israel – or what became Washington’s new “axis of evil” – that included Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

Israel and the US both regard Syria as the geographical “keystone” of that axis, as Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, told the Jerusalem Post this week, and one that needs to be removed if Iran is to be isolated, weakened or attacked.

But Israel and the US drew different lessons from Iraq. Washington is now wary of its ground forces becoming bogged down again, as well as fearful of reviving a cold war confrontation with Moscow. It prefers instead to rely on proxies to contain and exhaust the Syrian regime.

Israel, on the other hand, understands the danger of manoeuvring its patron into a showdown with Damascus without ensuring this time that Iran is tied into the plan. Toppling Assad alone would simply add emboldened jihadists to the troubles on its doorstep.

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Sep 18

Chuck Spinney: Bill Polk Primer on Syria & Chemical Weapons

Chuck Spinney

Chuck Spinney

My friend Bill Polk, a well-known historian with extensive experience in the Middle East and Central Asia and author of many books on these areas, has written a backgrounder on how to make sense out of the Syrian chemical weapons issue.  He has given me permission to distribute it.  Herewith is his most interesting primer on the Syrian chemical weapons issue.

Chuck Spinney

Reflections on the Syrian Chemical Weapons Issue and Beyond

William R. Polk

September 15, 2013

1.The Variety of Weapons and Their characteristics
2 A Short History of Chemical Weapons
3 The Russian Intervention
4 Why the Syrians Have Accepted the Russian Proposal
5. The Prospects for Ridding The Area of Weapons of Mass Destruction
6 The Possibility of Ending the Civil War
7 Who Are the Insurgents and What do they Want?
8 Predictable Results of a Collapse of the Syrian State

Full essay below the line.

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Sep 16

NIGHTWATCH: Astounding Syrian Concessions Protect Israel — US Analysts Dull [Ignorant] — World Edges Away from Brink of WWIII — NIGHTWATCH Tutorial for Dull Analysts

Syria: Update. Opposition sources say government forces attacked the hills around Ma’aloula village early on Monday under the cover of heavy shelling. The Christian village is reported to be almost empty after most of its residents fled following the arrival of the foreign-backed militants last week. According to a resident, who left the area in the past days, only around 50 people remain there.

Militants from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and the Qalamun Liberation Front are reported to be in control of some parts of the historic village, which is located about 70 kilometers northeast of Damascus.

Comment: Since 1999 this village has been on UNESCO’s Tentative List of World Heritage sites.

Politics. The Syrian government has accepted a Russian proposal to put its chemical weapons under international control to avoid a possible U.S. military strike, Interfax news agency quoted Syria’s foreign minister as saying on Tuesday.

Syrian Foreign Minister Mu’allim said, “We held a very fruitful round of talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday, and he proposed an initiative relating to chemical weapons. And in the evening we agreed to the Russian initiative.” He said Syria had agreed because this would “remove the grounds for American aggression.”

Before leaving Moscow, the Foreign Minister made several astounding announcements reported by Russian media. He said,

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Sep 11

Owl: Dark Days in America — Mid-November?

Who?  Who?

Who? Who?

“There are very dark storm clouds gathering around the country and North America as a whole. Things are about to get dark, very dark in just a few short weeks. In just over two months, on November 13-14, 2013, the lights are about to go out. Will the lights come back on? It depends on who you ask. Given the past behavior of those in power, it would behoove all of us to prepare for the fact that we could be living for an extended time with no electricity…The working scenario that has emerged is that World War III is on the horizon. Syria was to be the flash point. However, with American and international sentiment running so high against American involvement in the Syrian conflict, Obama needs a Plan B in order to get America into war, because it does not appear that Congress is going to give him the authorization that he needs to force our way in Syria culminating in a military stand off between the Russians and the Chinese and the United States. Subsequently, if Obama fails to obtain Congressional support to attack Syria, he could very well turn his attention to the take down of the power grid and he could still achieve his goals in under two months.

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Sep 9

NIGHTWATCH: Russia, Syria, Lebanon — and Adana, Turkey [US Air Base]

Russia: Russia will send another large landing ship, the Nikolai Filchenkov, toward Syria’s coast, a Russian navy source said Sept. 6, Reuters reported, citing Interfax. The ship will take special cargo on board in Novorossiysk before heading to Syria. No details about the cargo were provided.

Comment: This is the sixth large landing ship that Russia has deployed to the Syrian coast. That makes nine ships mentioned by name since 4 September and moving to Syria. Russia does not want a naval engagement with the US, but might not be averse to a non-shooting confrontation.

Russia is evacuating by air Russian passport holders who wish to leave. An aircraft arrived at Latakia for that purpose on 8 September.

Comment: In August Russia sent two flights to evacuate 116 Russians and citizens from ex-Soviet states. The large landing ships would be essential for a large scale evacuation, which Russia denies it has ordered.

Lebanon: The US ordered the evacuation of non-emergency official personnel and families from Beirut and offered to evacuate Americans from Adana, Turkey on Friday. It advised against travel to Lebanon and southeastern Turkey and for residents to be alert for violence in light of tensions in the region..

Comment: This evacuation aims to put the most vulnerable Americans beyond the reach of Hizballah which vows retaliation for any US attack against Syria. It also supposedly is a safety precaution before the anniversary of 9/11.  Senior American officials have argued in public that Syria, Iran and Hizballah will not retaliate. On the other hand, spokesmen from each entity have vowed they will.

The inclusion of Adana in the order provides a little insight into the US war plan. Americans in Adana will be a risk from US operations. apparently. That implies that more than cruise missile launches will be involved.

Reassurances are fine as political science theory, but the vows of retaliation are real threats because they are backed up by capability. More evacuations and many more precautions will be necessary.

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Sep 9

NIGHTWATCH: Iran Interecept on Mayhem in Iraq If US Attacks Syria

Iran-US-Iraq: The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets reported on Thursday that the US intercepted an order from an Iranian official to militants in Iraq to attack US interests in Iraq in the event of a US attack against Syria.

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Sep 6

4th Media Et Al: Syria Round-Up 3.0

4th media cropped4th Media:  Syria Will Never Give in Even If There is World War III : Taken Every Measure to Retaliate, If hit by US-led Military Strike

Berto Jongman:  Meet the Syrian Islamist Organization Controlling Senator McCain’s Agenda

Berto Jongman

Berto Jongman

Berto Jongman:  Syria: wish you were here

Berto Jongman:  The Human Cost of the Syrian Civil War

David Swanson:  Congressman Robert Hurt (R., Va.) Not Convinced by Case to Attack Syria

Jon Rappaport:  War in Syria: Evidence? We don’t need no stinkin’ evidence

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius:  U.S. Considering Using Military To Train Syria Rebels

Paul Craig Roberts:  How to Stop Obama’s Military Aggression Against Syria

Paul Craig Roberts:  Pat Buchanan asks: Just Whose War Is This?

Paul Craig Roberts

Paul Craig Roberts

Paul Craig Roberts:  US Government Stands Revealed to the World as a Collection of War Criminals and Liars

See Also:

Berto Jongman Et Al: Syria Round-Up 2.0


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Sep 6