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The new Middle East: A North/South divide where Israel is losing its narrative and its old game plan

A new geo-political Middle East is emerging which pits northern states and southern states against one another based on divergent economic and security interests. Saudi is top dog in the south which means that Israel is losing its ability to act unilaterally.

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With the wars in Syria and Iraq drawing to a close and with the governments of both states standing victorious over both Takfiri terrorism as well as (broadly speaking) Kurdish ethno-nationalism, a new reality in the Middle East has emerged where the region is broadly divided between a geo-political north and south.

In the north there is the Syria-Iraq alliance made possible by common enemies and a common history, in spite of the Ba’athist schism of 1966-2003. Both states, for slightly different reasons are also allied with Iran and for oddly similar, are reasons partners with Russia. In the case of Syria, Damascus is an historic Soviet ally and in the case of post-Ba’ahist Iraq, the government looks to attain defence independence by working with a Russian state which unlike the US, is willing to sell arms to any reasonable nation without political preconditions.

Iran, Iraq and Syria in turn are allied with Hezbollah, which in effect means a large portion of Lebanon and in terms of geo-strategic defence considerations, it means the most important part of Lebanon. Turkey is now a partner of Iran, Iraq (to a surprisingly important degree) and Russia. While Syria will be very unlikely to forgive Turkey for its previous support of Takfiri driven regime change, in reality, Syria and Turkey have a common post-Takfiri enemy: the continued rumblings Kurdish ethno-nationalism. This means that it is becoming increasingly likely that Syria and Turkey may end up cooperating in the future, even if it means doing so at a covert level because of heightened sensitivities to such a thing among the general public in both Turkey and Syria.

To the south, there is another story. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are now close allies. The mentality and political independence of the Nasser years are all but done in Cairo. Jordan can also be-lumped into this group. Like Egypt, Jordan is one of the only two Arab states to have normal relations with Israel and by many accounts Saudi Arabia will soon follow. As goes Saudi, so goes the UAE, Bahrain and to a lesser extent Kuwait and to an even lesser extent the relatively politically unimportant Oman. Qatar finds it self in a situation that is both precarious and surprisingly advantages, as I explored in a the piece below.

The only winner of the Saudi (and Lebanon) great purge is Qatar

The alliance between the northern Middle East powers and the alliance between the southern Middle East powers are not formal blocs in the sense of the Warsaw Pact and NATO which divided most of Europe into east and west. Instead, the new geo-political blocs of the Middle East constitute a rapidly consolidating reality where countries are united based on the pragmatic acknowledgement of common interests. By including Turkey into the mix, one cannot say it is a “Shi’a crescent” and likewise, by including both Turkey and Iran into the northern Middle East, it is neither Pan-Arab. The same is true when it comes to including Israel in the southern portion of the alliance, which is very much where Israel is.

Against this backdrop, it is easy to see why many in Saudi Arabia and beyond are eyeing Lebanon as a potential prize. Lebanon, as a small state with beautiful real estate, is a microcosm of the entire alliance, certainly in terms of religious affiliation.

Hezbollah is well aware of this and in a move that can only be described as politically masterful and in terms of security, highly ethical, Hezbollah like the fellow Shi’a Amal Movement and the broadly Christian Free Patriotic Movement, have urged political unity at a time when clearly Saudi Arabia is attempting to sow divisions in the country.

Hezbollah is openly positioning itself as a ‘national party’ in a country that doesn’t have national parties. Lebanese politics often looks like ‘the art of the impossible’ with sectarian pacts being more prevalent than a unifying patriotism, as it is in Ba’athist Syria. Hezbollah cannot change this and certainly cannot modify it overnight, but in playing the national card rather than the Shi’a versus Sunni/Wahhabi card, Hezbollah has transcended the extreme sectarian politics of Lebanon, just as Saudi Arabia is becoming unable to transcend the family feud between some men from the House of Saud and other men from the House of Saud.

This attitude which will give Hezbollah and its coalition partners the moral high ground while refusing to exclude or scapegoat Lebanese Sunnis for Saudi’s meddling, means that Lebanon is well placed to become part of the political north of the Middle East.

This leaves Israel and Palestine. For the Israeli regime, recent events have all but killed Tel Aviv’s preferred narrative which it has invoked since 1947. For Israeli propagandists it was always “us versus the Arab world” and when the Arab world was attempting to unite in the age of Nasser, there was some truth to an Arab world uniting against Israel. This is something that the Arab world saw positively and Israel saw negatively. After 1979, the Israeli propaganda narrative was modified to be “The Arab world + Iran – Egypt versus us”.

Today though, with Jordan and Egypt on good terms with Tel Aviv, with Saudi Arabia looking to increase its ties with Israel and with only one Arab state, Syria, still fully behind the Palestinian cause, Israel’s narrative has collapsed.

There is no “Arab Israeli conflict” because half of the Arabs either tacitly or overtly accept the presence of the settler state. Likewise, Iran is a stalwart supporter of Palestine and Turkey is becoming ever more distant from Israel.

Israel is on the verge of turning Turkey into an enemy

The collapse of Israel’s creation myth narrative also means increased Israeli isolation from a military standpoint. Just as Israel boosts its relations with the Arab states of the southern half of the Middle East, so too does it mean that Israel will have a more difficult time acting unilaterally.

Hezbollah’s leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah has admitted for the first time that under the “new” Muhammad bin Salman regime in Saudi Arabia, the Israeli regime is being coerced by Saudi into making provocative moves while Israel remains cautious for selfish reasons. As recently as last week, it was assumed that Tel Aviv called the shots, not Riyadh.

Hezbollah flips the script and says that Israel does the “Red Prince’s” bidding

This means that if Israel is going to preserve its new friends in the southern part of the Middle East, it will have to do something it has never done: consult with others in order to preserve alliances.

This weakens Israel’s ability to fight its customary blitzkrieg wars, as such wars rely on a single front against a united enemy. Instead, the region now has multiple possible fronts with many different enemies to rage at, in many scattered locations and many different partners to placate or even show deference towards. By contrast, Saudi Arabia prefers slow burning/grinding conflicts for obvious logistical reasons but also for the tactical reason that Saudi Arabia wants to present itself as the legitimate leader of the Arabs while Israel is keen to present itself as the country that Arabs fear. In reality, Israel is more hated than feared and Saudi is far from a leader of the Arab world, but these are the aims, however preposterous, of both states, respectively.

Even in Yemen where Saudi has used a large amount of shock and awe, it is still far from the Israeli blitzkrieg where a swift ground attack follows shortly from aerial bombardment. Likewise, Israel probably wouldn’t have the patience for such a protracted war, while Saudi at least for now, still is intend on beating the Houthis in Yemen, a task which will likely prove impossible.

This helps explain Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah’s confidence in the fact that Israel will not go to war in Lebanon even at Saudi’s gold plated behest. Israel knows that a conflict in Lebanon in 2017 would be a long protracted struggle, the kind Saudi might be willing to put up with in Yemen, but Israel does not have the stomach for on its border.

I previously wrote how this new reality could work in the favour of the besieged Palestinians in the long term. I stated,

“On the one hand, if Tel Aviv concentrates on both co-opting and being co-opted by states like Saudi, Egypt and Jordan who in recent decades have shown little enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause, there is a danger that Palestinian land could become a tragic ghetto of isolation in an otherwise booming region. However, on the other hand, the idea of prosperity trickling horizontally across a newly booming economic region could actually take the wind out of the sails of the Israel-Palestine conflict, something which in the long term bodes well for Palestine reclaiming its full statehood. This is the case because if the Tel Aviv regime becomes fully immersed in a mostly Arab led regional prosperity initiative, having to contend with rightfully angry Palestinians could only exorcise all parties. Furthermore, Palestinian grievances in a would-be south-Arab ghetto could further incur the wrath of Palestine’s meaningful allies including Lebanon (aka Hezbollah), Syria, non-Arab Iran and in the future, quote possibly a revitalised and almost certainly pro-Palestine Iraq. Wanting to keep such countries away from Saudi’s ‘south Arab’ project would be in the interests (however selfish) of Saudi, Jordan, Egypt and the regime in Tel Aviv.

And here is where a peaceful one-state solution could come into play. Rather than divide a portion of an increasingly inter-dependent south-Arab region (aka the two-state solution), leaving open the possibility of Syria, Hezbollah, Iraq and non-Arab Iran playing a part in this new region via the Palestinian back door, it might instead be easier to create a single state along the pre-1947 Palestinian borders that could be described as Palestine with cosmopolitan characterises or perhaps Israel with Arab characteristics, depending on the demographics and political will of various countries in ten years or more from today.

Just as Lebanon is a cosmopolitan country that is increasingly tied in with the north-Arab region, so too could this new Palestine be a kind of cosmopolitan bridge to the south, a place which like Lebanon has a shared history that at times has been peaceful and at others has been horrific. Tragically, Israeli meddling is by far the greatest author of mystery in both Palestine and Lebanon.

Ultimately, unless something radically changes in Egypt, Jordan or Saudi, the kind of good will that countries like Syria has for Palestine will never be present in the new ‘south Arab’ bloc. However, pragmatism which would come about in the ‘new Arab south’ to spite countries like Syria and groups like Hezbollah, could indeed force a pragmatic one-state solution based on the peace that is implicit in the need to pacific a region in order to make it ‘prosperity friendly’. In this sense, Palestine could breath a much needed breath after decades of asphyxiation, while Palestine friends in the ‘new Arab north’ would have something of a last laugh as they have got a decades long running start in developing key relations with China and Russia.

This situation is both far from assured and also far from ideal in many ways. It is however, a possible solution which still represents some improvement on the hopeless status quo”.

Saudi’s burgeoning relations with Israel could kill the two state solution in more ways than one

Thus, we see the emergence of a new Middle East, one which has risen from the sinews of war in the north and political stagnation in the south. As Israel, Saudi, Egypt and Jordan become ever more economically interdependent, this will only further limit Israel’s ability to act in a unilateral fashion in its old blitzkrieg style.

While the north is increasingly revitalised by victory, the south is increasingly interdependent. Into this fray, the most heavily armed state in the  Middle East, Israel is now trapped in a cycle of interdependence, without its old narrative, without its old might, without its old confidence and without its old boogie men. Israel’s devious attempts to destroy Arab unity have just backfired in a spectacular fashion. Israel has built itself a fortress of partners and these partners have a lot to say to Israel and not all of it is the echo of a choir. For the first time in history, Israel may just have to listen to what others are saying.

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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