Archive for the ‘War in the Middle East’ Category

The Secret with Iran: The 30-Year Covert Struggle for Control of a “Rogue” State

by Ronen Bergman

Translated by Ronnie Hope

Oneworld (2009)

Book Review

This is a very depressing book. The “secret war” referred to is the covert war Israeli intelligence has fought with Iran over the last [40] years. Most of The Secret War with Iran is an endless chronology of lawless tit-for-tat revenge killings, car bombings, kidnappings and extrajudicial assassinations Israeli intelligence and Hezbollah* impose on one another.

While most of the narrative seems historically accurate, the author’s clear pro-Zionist bias results in a number of troubling inconsistencies. Examples include persistent claims about Iran’s mythical nuclear weapons arsenal – despite verification by US intelligence (see Iran Doesn’t Have a Nuclear Weapons Program) that their nuclear weapons program ceased in 2003; a clear attempt to minimize the role of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine in generating and perpetuating Middle East violence; repeated claims that Iran (rather than Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the CIA) was the key player in the birth of Al Qaeda; and an erroneous assertion that Saddam Hussein expelled UN nuclear inspectors in 1998 (Bill Clinton had them recalled so he could bomb Iraq – see Clinton’s Worst Crimes).

Despite these weaknesses, the book provides valuable insight about the Israeli origin of Iran bashing recently taken up by Trump and the Republican Congress. The book also contains important historical background on Ruhollah Khomeini and the 1979 Iranian revolution to overthrow the ruthless CIA-backed Shah. Prior to reading this book, I was unaware of the role Yassar Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) played in training Iran’s Revolutionary Guards nor the role of Iran in training, arming and funding Hezbollah, the Shi’ite militia group operating on the Israeli border in southern Lebanon.

After 1948 when the new state of Israel forcibly evicted millions of Palestinians from their lands, a sizeable proportion fled to southern Lebanon where they’re housed in refuge camps to this day. It was these camps that gave rise to the PLO.

After their UN-mandated expulsion from Lebanon in 1987, many PLO fighter returned to Palestine – where they launched the first Intifada.


*Hezbollah is a Shi’ite Islamist political party and milita group based in Lebanon. They enjoy strong support from Lebanon’s civilian population owing to their programs offering health, education and social services the Lebanese government is too poor to provide.

 Guest post by Sophie Mangal

According to the Inside Syria Media Center military correspondent on the ground, Aleppo, the largest Syrian city is beginning to come back to peaceful life. Just in December a number of districts of the city were held by terrorists, who were destroying urban infrastructure and keeping entire region in fear.

However after eight month of the city complete liberation, rehabilitation works are boiling in the streets right now. The locals and the representatives of the authorities are taking part in them. At the same time, Aleppo governor Hussain Diab personally supervises repair works at key infrastructure facilities.

Satellite view of Sheikh-Najjar area

The repair works are currently concentrated in the Sheikh-Najjar district, where are a lot of factories, plants and power plants. The water and electricity supply of the whole Aleppo depends on the smooth functioning of the region. Moreover, the economic well-being of the city also depends on the working capacity of the Sheikh-Najjar, as the cotton production facilities are concentrated there.

Hussain Diab inspects water pumping station[/caption]

Last week, Diab along with local entrepreneurs inspected the assessment of this area and drew up a plan of further restoration works. Also during this visit, the governor was shown a newly launched water pumping station and treatment facilities that provide the city with drinking water.

Despite the fact that the two-thirds of the railway tracks in Syria are destroyed due to hostilities, their restoration is also in full play. According to Najib Fares, head of Syrian railways, almost after a five-year break, the railway communication between Aleppo, Homs and Latakia provinces is restored.
Notably, since the beginning of 2017 more than 280 thousand Syrians have used rail transport.

Restoration of railway communication 

It also should be mentioned that, the pharmaceutical factory, which supplies Syrian medicines in more than 100 newly opened pharmacies in the city is reopened in Aleppo. Before the war, there were about 30 similar enterprises in the city.

Newly opened pharmacy in Aleppo People buying medicines

Most of restorations works take place in extremely difficult conditions, since Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham militants (ex Jabhat Al-Nusra) commit terrorist acts. Earlier this week, on August 7, a large explosion occurred inside the Tariq Bin Ziad base in Masaken Sabil area, 4 people were badly wounded.

Undoubtedly, the process of post-military restoration of Aleppo and the country as a whole will take place against the background of the international economic sanctions, which have been imposed by the U.S. and several European states.
Unfortunately, many European leaders do not understand that the imposed restrictions affect just ordinary people. Only by lifting the sanctions, having developed and accepting a joint post-war plan for the restoration of Syria, the Western countries can assist the Syrians, in rebuilding their destroyed homeland.

Sophie Mangal is the special investigative correspondent and co-editor of Inside Syria Media Center.

The Real House of Saud

TeleSur (2015)

Film Review

This documentary was released following the appointment of Saudi Arabia to head the UN Panel of Human Rights in 2015. Its primary purpose is to highlight Saudi Arabia’s scandalous human rights record and the utter hypocrisy of the Obama administration in supporting their appointment to this role. Saudi Arabia’s recent economic attack (via economic sanctions and a boycott) on its former ally Qatar – coupled with its demand they shut down Al Jazeera – serves to remind us of their abysmal record in the area of civil and human rights.

The totalitarian Saudi dictatorship executes its citizens (via head chopping, stoning or crucifixion) at the rate of one every other day. Limb amputation and severe lashings are also frequent punishments. It’s common for women who report being raped to be punished via lashing.

Human rights groups are illegal in Saudi Arabia. In addition to an absolute prohibition on women driving, they need permission from a male relative to work, attend school or seek heath care. Seventy per cent of Saudi women who have graduated university – including 1,000 PhDs – are unemployed.

Only one family, the House of Saud, has ruled Saudi Arabia since its founding in 1925. Saudi princes live in opulent luxury from the country’s oil revenues, while 20% of Saudi citizens live in abject poverty. Youth unemployment is 30%.

Thirty percent of the Saudi population are migrant workers, subject to a slave-like system of indentured servitude in which they must work fifteen hour days, even if they’re sick and often without payment. They’re subject to arrest if they try to leave their employers, as well as being subject to execution for minor offenses.

The most interesting part of the documentary concerns the sordid history of US political and military support for Saudi’s ruthless dictatorship – including their open funding of international terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban – for the sake of cheap oil concessions for US oil companies. This support includes training by the CIA in suppressing unions and other grassroots organizations.

I was very surprised to learn that despite this brutal totalitarian control, popular uprisings are still fairly common, especially in Eastern Saudi Arabia, where much of Saudi Arab’s Shia minority reside. At the time of filming, Eastern Saudi Arabia was under virtual martial law to suppress mass protests inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions.

Rojava: Syria’s Unknown War

VICE News (2014)

Film Review

In this documentary, a VICE news journalist illegally crosses the Turkish border to provide viewers a tour of Rojava, the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Syria. This is an ethnically diverse (with Christians, Jews and Sunni and Alawite Arabs) farming region possessing 60% of Syria’s oil. The Kurdish YPG (male) and YPJ (female) armies provide security (from terrorist attack) for the region, with assistance from farmer militias of other ethnicities. Men and women serve (unpaid) on an equal basis, although women are preferred as snipers. They supposedly make better snipers because “they’re more patient.”

Rojazava is presently under siege from Al Nusra, Islamic State and Al-Sham jihadists. Based on passports the YPG recovers from dead jihadists, most are foreign – from Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Chechnya and Afghanistan.

Turkey, which has sealed the Turkey-Rojava border to humanitarian aid and journalists, allows foreign jihadists to cross freely into Rojava. They have been strongly criticized by both the US government and Human Rights Watch for doing so.

Afghan Overdose: Inside the Opium Trade

RT (2015)

Film Review

Afghan Overdose is an RT documentary that seems more geared for Russian than foreign consumption. Although the narrator is dubbed in English, actual dialogue is Russian or Farsi with subtitles.

As its northern neighbor, Russia is one of the primary destinations of Afghan heroin smugglers – roughly 30,000 Russians die of heroin overdose annually. The Russian government is so concerned about their heroin epidemic that they routinely provide the Afghan government with satellite imagery of the country’s heroin labs.

Segments from so-called opium “raids” leave no doubt the government’s heroin eradication efforts are purely cosmetic. Because the 15 1/2 year war with the US has totally destroyed the nation’s infrastructure, opium production is the only source of livelihood open to tens of thousands of residents

The arrival of ISIS in Afghanistan – who oppose the Taliban – only contributes to the overall chaos and instability.

The film’s only weakness is its lack of historical or political perspective. According to RT, opium production is the primary source of revenue for the Taliban (who control most of the country outside of Kabul). However it’s not clear how the Taliban switched over from being adamantly anti-opium prior to the US invasion to relying on it as their primary source of revenue.

It’s intriguing to hear to anti-Taliban locals talking about the US/CIA creating the Taliban as a cover for their heroin trafficking, about NATO soldiers fighting alongside the Taliban against anti-Taliban warlords and about US troops that directly engage in various aspects of opium production. I think this would have been a better documentary were some of these lines of inquiry pursued.

 

Taxi to the Dark Side

Directed by Alex Gibney (2007)

Film Review

Taxi to the Dark Side is a detailed expose of Bush administration torture polices at three overseas US prisons: Bagram in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo in Cuba. It traces extensive documentary evidence that high level Bush administration officials (including Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney) personally approved illegal torture techniques and covered them up by court martially low level officers – who they dismissed as “a few bad apples.”

The film takes its title from an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who was accidentally swept up by occupying forces in 2002. Dilawar died of torture-induced injuries within five days of detention, a death an Army pathologist classified as homicide. A total of 105 detainees had died in US torture facilities as of 2007 when this film was made. Of these, 37 were classified as homicide.

During the campaign, Donald Trump promised to “bring back torture.” His reversal earlier this week makes this documentary especially pertinent, as he’s likely to face some backlash from his neocon supporters.