Thursday, January 30, 2020

Trump’s phony Middle East peace plan and declining US power

Written by: (Contributed) on 31 January 2020 

With Israeli PM Netanyahu in Washington for meetings with President Trump to launch a US-led 'so-called' peace initiative in the Middle East, it is important to relate the diplomacy to some other developments with far-reaching implications for Israel.

A recent high-level diplomatic and intelligence assessment about the Middle East revealed deteriorating US fortunes in the region. Washington and the Pentagon are losing leverage against forces emerging from the Syria conflict: Iran, the Russian Federation and Syria.

In Lebanon, likewise, a changing balance of forces has some considerable bearing upon Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu and his political rival, opposition leader in the Knesset, Benny Gantz, travelled to Washington for Trump’s announcement. While billed as a major US-led peace initiative, the round of meetings was really an act of desperation amongst the three players. Israel, a major hub for 'US interests' in the Middle East, has entered a prolonged period of political instability. Israelis return to the polls on 2 March for their third general election in twelve months.

Behind the scenes long-time political leader Netanyahu is facing serious problems and has been formally charged with fraud, bribery and breach of trust. He has also formally dropped his request for parliamentary immunity if found guilty. President Trump, likewise, has impeachment proceedings pending, which may see him removed from presidential office by legal procedures.

The Washington meetings focus upon a fifty-page report outlining US proposals, thirty pages of which concentrate upon economic reforms which have already been rejected by the Palestinians last June. (1) The fact that no Palestinians have been included in the round of Washington talks and discussions shows quite adequately the position of the Trump administration.

The Trump peace plan offers a phony “two-state solution” which legitimises Zionist military occupation and control of the Palestinians and gifts to Israel the illegally occupied territories seized by so-called “settlers” in areas covering a third or more of the West Bank.  It does not take genuine Palestinian statehood into consideration. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas distanced himself from the peace plan, stating 'this conspiracy deal will not pass'. (2) As Palestinian protests were already taking place in opposition to the plan, President Abbas was meeting various groups and factions in Ramallah to discuss a plan of action.

Dr. Eyal Mayros of the University of Sydney says that 'Trump is the most pro-Israeli president ever … his base is made up of evangelists, the conservative wing … (of) the pro-Israeli lobby'. (3) As the Trump administration plays toward its supporters in the lead-up to presidential elections, his advisers seem to have overlooked a recent high-level diplomatic and intelligence assessment which found its way into the public domain in a rather timely manner.

In mid-January readers of the Australian newspaper had the opportunity of studying an article 140 column cms in length which included photographs and a chart listing US military capability in the Middle East, by Martin Indyk, a former US Ambassador to Israel and holder of various other titles linked to peace initiatives with Israel and the Palestinians. Entitled, Time to leave the Middle East, the article left readers in little doubt about the crisis facing the US. (4) It has also been interesting to note it has been met with diplomatic silence from the pro-Israel lobby and their Christian-Zionist supporters.

Indyk draws attention to the changing balance of forces in the Middle East, with the US having to now contend with Iran, the centre of Sh'ia for the world's Muslims. He also stated recently that 'few vital interests of the US continue to be at stake in the Middle East'. (5) He subsequently continued noting that 'there has been a structural shift in US interests in the Middle East, one that Washington is having a hard time acknowledging'. (6) Realising other forces have now managed to become players in regional diplomacy, Indyk stated the US 'should start courting European allies' for support when dealing with Iran and co-ordinating diplomatic initiatives with both the Russian Federation and China.

Interestingly, Indyk also draws upon support for a two-state solution and while acknowledging it 'is not a vital US interest', puts forward the case that 'it is a vital Israeli interest if the country wants to survive'. (7) Indyk, unlike Trump and his administration, has been able to analyse developments and forsee a logical outcome. The two-state solution which falls comfortably into United Nations diplomatic positions has also formed the basis of Palestinian positions for statehood since 1988. Successive US presidential administrations have always vetoed the position and chosen pro-Israeli positions.

Within the wider region another problem is brewing for the US.

In January, the announcement from Beirut that a new government was taking office in Lebanon led by a Hezbollah-backed candidate, Hassan Diab, has presented Israel with a direct challenge. Hezbollah, a Sh'ia political organisation backed by Iran, has amongst its strongholds the southern part of the country facing the northern part of the Israeli State. The development must have sent shock-waves into the very heartlands of the Israeli State.

Observers to the developments have already noted that 'Lebanon has become another arena in the open US-Iran showdown', which has also provided further evidence of the changing balance of forces across the region. (8)

According to reports,  Diab has appeared to have been chosen by Hezbollah as 'a relative political outsider to distance the new government from the ruling class that has governed Lebanon since the end of the civil war in 1990', which would appear to signify a radical departure from the previously existing domestic political positions of established parties. (9)

With Diab installed as prime minister within the twenty-member coalition, the US has been forced onto a back-foot position; while the Pentagon has provided aid and training for the Lebanese military, the Trump administration have already announced that they regard Hezbollah as having infiltrated the security apparatus of the country. (10) The fact Diab has appointed a female cabinet minister, Zeina Aker, with the Defence portfolio, is also a radical departure from previously existing norms.
While key Trump officials have already stated they want to cease US aid to the new coalition government, the country has, nevertheless, remained sensitive and a strategically-placed ally for containing Iranian influences. Last year, the US temporarily stopped $100 million of security-based aid. 

When dealing with the Trump peace plan and other Middle Eastern diplomatic initiatives from his administration, Indyk’s view that 'we need a sustainable Middle East strategy based on more realistic assessments of our interests' has shown how US foreign policy toward the region has become haphazard and based on out-dated diplomatic positions. (11) The fact that his article is entitled 'Time to leave the Middle East', leaves little to the fantasies and imagination of those residing in the White House who hanker for a long-lost past when US imperialism could snap its fingers and compliant governments fell into place. It exists no longer; previous positions would now appear to be rapidly falling apart.

With Australia slavishly following US-led foreign policy across the globe, which has included troop deployments into Middle East trouble-spots including Iraq, senior decision-makers in Canberra should perhaps give the Indyk article a read and ponder on the logical outcome of their sycophantic diplomatic behaviour:

                                      We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Donald Trump's peace plan unveiled, The New Daily, 29 January 2020.

2.     Palestinian to 'resist deal in all its forms', Australian, 30 January 2020.

3.     New Daily, op.cit. 29 January 2020.

4.     Time to leave the Middle East, Australian, 20 January 2020.

5.     Ibid.

6.     Ibid.

7.     Ibid.

8.     Failure of Diab's government, Arab News, 28 January 2020.

9.     Hezbollah man to lead Lebanon, Australian, 23 January 2020.

10.   Ibid.

11.   Australian, op.cit., 20 January 2020.

Monday, January 27, 2020

75 years ago, the Soviet Red Army opened the gates of Auschwitz....

Written by: Nick G. on 28 January 2020 

January 27 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz by the 60th Army of the First Ukrainian Front of the Soviet Red Army (above).

Over 230 Soviet soldiers, including the commander of the 472nd regiment, Col. Siemen Lvovich Besprozvanny, died in combat while liberating the Main Camp, Birkenau, Monowitz, and the city of Oświęcim. The majority of them are buried at the municipal cemetery in Oświęcim.

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Nazi Germany’s largest concentration camp and extermination camp, was actually three camps in one: a prison camp, an extermination camp, and a slave-labour camp. Between 1.1 and 1.5 million people died at Auschwitz; 90 percent of them were Jews. Also among the dead were some 19,000 Roma (Gypsies) who were held at the camp until the Nazis gassed them on July 31, 1944.  Anti-Nazi Poles constituted the second largest victim group at Auschwitz, where some 83,000 were killed or died.

Auschwitz has come to symbolize the atrocity that was the Holocaust.  It was one of numerous concentration camps set up by the Nazis after they came to power in Germany and in countries they overran during World War 2. The first camp was opened in Germany in March 1933 for political opponents of the regime (Communists, left Social Democrats and trade union organisers).

Anti-Semitism was not confined to Germany. Between 1894 and 1906 France was in turmoil over the Dreyfus Affair when a French Jew serving as a Captain in the French Army was framed on charges of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment. In Tsarist Russia, the right-wing Black Hundreds gangs conducted murderous pogroms against Jews with the connivance and protection of the authorities. The same was true of the Ukraine and Poland. During the Civil War that followed the Great October Socialist Revolution, the anti-Communist Ukrainian leader Pilsudksi was noted for the ferocity of pogroms carried out under his command. Leaders of the Polish Government told Hitler they would welcome anything he could do to rid Poland of Jews. 

Communist attitude to anti-Semitism

One national leader alone denounced anti-Semitism. That was Stalin. He had been asked by the US Jewish News Agency about anti-Semitism, and replied on January 12, 1931.  It is worth quoting the full text of his reply:

In answer to your inquiry :

National and racial chauvinism is a vestige of the misanthropic customs characteristic of the period of cannibalism. Anti-semitism, as an extreme form of racial chauvinism, is the most dangerous vestige of cannibalism.

Anti-semitism is of advantage to the exploiters as a lightning conductor that deflects the blows aimed by the working people at capitalism. Anti-semitism is dangerous for the working people as being a false path that leads them off the right road and lands them in the jungle. Hence Communists, as consistent internationalists, cannot but be irreconcilable, sworn enemies of anti-semitism.

In the U.S.S.R. anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system. Under U.S.S.R. law active anti-semites are liable to the death penalty.

J. Stalin

No other leader made such a definitive, strong and wholly condemnatory statement about anti-Semitism.  Few made any statement. As the Nazi violence against Jews intensified, the Soviet paper Pravda republished the statement on November 30, 1936 in an expression of sympathy and solidarity for Hitler’s victims. The opening of the gates of Auschwitz by the Red Army in January 1945 confirmed just how apt Stalin’s use of the word “cannibalism” had been in relation to anti-Semitism.

Seventy-five years on from the liberation of Auschwitz and anti-Semitism is on the rise again. Even in Australia there are a few grubs who periodically crawl out from under whichever rock has given them shelter to heroically daub swastikas on Jewish-related artefacts and sites. But it is Poland which causes the greater concern:  since the right-wing nationalist Law and Justice Party took power in 2015, Poland has set about rewriting its story of the Holocaust to evade complicity in the extermination of Jews by Poles who supported and collaborated with Hitler. In 2017, the party reduced the number of times Polish schoolchildren would learn about the Holocaust from three to two and  outlawied the description of Auschwitz as “Polish death camps”, making it a criminal offence – reduced, after international backlash, to only a civil offence – to attribute the Nazis’ crimes to the Polish state or nation. The same government follows the standard right-wing objective of making abortions illegal and denying entry to “illegal” migrants and refugees.

Relations between Israel and Poland have deteriorated because of Poland’s actions, but a study by Israel’s Tel Aviv University Kantor Center confirms that anti-Semitic incidents world-wide spike sharply upwards when the Zionist state commits aggression against Palestinians. Zionism is the political ideology that justified the creation of a Jewish homeland at the expense of occupied Palestine, and anti-Zionism is not, and must not, be a cover for anti-Semitism. 

Historical memory is a precious thing, yet few Australian schoolchildren leave school with an appreciation of what the world owes to Stalin and the glorious Red Army. 

We remember.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Japanese imperialism’s contribution to the militarisation of Space

Written by: (Contributed) on 27 January 2020 

Moves by the Japanese government to follow the US in establishing a Space Agency for military purposes reveal planning for high-altitude real-war scenarios.

The moves follow similar developments in Australia, linked into already existing triangular regional diplomacy with the US.

The developments also show how US regional military planning has been moved one notch further toward hostilities eventually taking place.


In a speech made to the opening of the Japanese parliament for 2020, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated the country would be establishing a Space Domain Mission Unit (SDMU) in April, which will form part of the Air Self-Defence Force. (1) He also stated the new agency would work closely with its US counterpart, and be based in an existing air-base at Fuchu in Tokyo's western suburbs. A total of $670 million has already been approved in a defence budget allocated for space-related projects, pending parliamentary approval. Once allocated, the defence budget will be used to establish a satellite and communications system for the military, its main role being to 'conduct satellite-based navigation and communications for other troops in the field, rather than being on the ground'. (2)
The development of a US Space Force has been central to a great deal of the pomp and bravado of the Trump administration. While being listed as the sixth US military force, information about the Space Command remains almost hidden within a gargantuan $738 billion defence budget.
The initial US moves were quickly followed by Australia, with the establishment of the Australian Space Agency (ASA) mid-2018. By the end of that year an announcement from Canberra stated the agency was being allocated Lot 14, North Terrace, Adelaide, the former site of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. (3) South Australia, as the country’s “defence state", was presumably regarded as the natural site for the agency, with emphasis placed upon research and development.
It is highly significant to note, therefore, that emphasis has been placed upon Japan's international role and 'bolstering co-operation and weapons compatibility with the US, as it increasingly works alongside American troops'. (4) The US also has similar weapons compatibility with Australia, with heavy emphasis placed upon Pine Gap intelligence facilities for regional co-ordination and planning.
Behind-the-scenes moves to establish space agencies have had to take an important matter into consideration: while the triangular diplomacy, linking the US with Japan as a northern hub for 'US interests' and Australia as a southern counterpart, has now been implemented and is supposedly fully operational, concerns have been openly expressed about threats by adversaries to satellite systems, potentially rendering the whole military plan inoperable during real-war scenarios.
It is no surprise, therefore, to find written into various defence department media releases reference given to the US seeking to 'boost American military superiority in space', and Japan wanting to defend itself from 'threats against Japanese satellites', together with reference that 'concerns are growing that China and Russia are seeking ways to interfere, disable or destroy satellites'. (5)
A further significant factor taken into consideration when studying the US-led wave of militarism across the Asia-Pacific region as they seek to carve-up the region and regain traditional hegemonic positions from computer screens in the Pentagon, is the strategic position of various component parts of the grander plan.
A regional, actual-size map, shows the Adelaide/Pine Gap to Tokyo line passing nearby Guam, in Micronesia, which hosts sensitive US facilities based in the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station at Barrigada. Similar arcs show the Adelaide/Pine Gap distances also swing through the US Headquarters of the Indo-Pacific based in Hawaii, which was opened in May, 2018, coinciding with the implementation of the US-led triangular diplomacy and military facilities with Japan and Australia. A similar distance subsequently links Hawaii with Washington, revealing transmission and reception facilities.
All, however, is not as straightforward as it would appear at first glance: as US-led military planners increase defence and security provision for the links between the various component parts, other countries are drawn into the equation. Problems arise with practicalities: what appears on a computer screen, thousands of miles away in the Pentagon, does not necessarily take local matters into consideration. The Pacific region is largely composed of a multitude of small island land masses, often inhabited by indigenous peoples who have lived subsistence life-styles together with vibrant Chinese communities for centuries. The US have, therefore, had to contend with small localised issues suddenly developing major importance for military planning; countries such as the Solomon Islands and Kiribati recently switching diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China, for example, has had major implications for US regional foreign policy.
A number of other problems with the major players have also arisen with US-led regional military planning which have considerable bearing upon intended outcomes:
• the Japanese government has still to revise their US-written post-War Constitution which technically prohibits 'the use of force in settling international disputes', a major obstacle for US-led regional military planning. (6) The Abe administration has been unable to muster enough support to make the changes, and his parliamentary support is declining amid various scandals. It is unlikely the government will be able to achieve its objectives;
• Japanese defence and security provision rest on stable relations with South Korea, which include extensive intelligence facilities. Recent diplomatic hostilities between the two countries, however, saw intelligence links briefly terminated by South Korea. While PM Shinzo Abe has stated 'he planned to co-operate closely with Seoul in dealing with the harsh security environment in north-east Asia', the presidential administration of Moon Jae-in in the Blue House has continued to treat Japanese diplomacy with apprehension for numerous reasons (7); 
• both Australia and Japan have, to date, been unable to ratify the so-called Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), intended to establish a legal framework for defence co-operation and the inter-operability of joint use of military bases and appropriate conduct during exercises. While it has been noted from official media releases that the RAA 'is vital for Australia and Japan to step up their defence relationship', agreement has still not been achieved. (8) Negotiations started in 2014 and have been revived on a number of occasions, without success. It has been noted that failure to resolve the RAA has made closer defence co-operation difficult, with the statement that 'we haven't even crossed this low bar of an RAA'. (9) A main problem arising between the negotiating teams followed local outrage in Japan after a twelve-year old girl was raped by three visiting US military personnel in 1995. The fact the failure to resolve the RAA between the major players has included problems arising with sexual perversion and paedophilia reveal something of the warped mind-set of those decision-makers with attitude problems who lurk behind their computer screens in Washington, the Pentagon, Canberra and Tokyo;
• to date, the US Space Force has only one official member, a general and commander, Jay Raymond, who was allocated a standard woodland camouflage uniform by the Pentagon following his successful promotion, leading to social media speculation about whether it was intended for use when invading forests and jungle landscapes on other planets (10);
• the soon to be established SDMU in Japan, likewise, will only be allocated twenty personnel, despite great emphasis placed upon its defence and security provision as part of the US-led global network. (11) The fact those concerned will presumably have paid-leave absences from work and other entitlements linked to family responsibilities does not appear to have entered into the minds of those drawing up their employment contracts and the problem of round-the-clock general staffing;
• similar facilities based inside Lot 14, North Terrace, Adelaide, have not, to date, revealed staffing numbers although their premises exist in the middle of a building site with limited security during after-work hours. Moves, by the ASA, to have trees removed from the nearby road-side to create easy access and a car-park have also been met with a furious response and opposition from local conservationists. At least one tree is officially listed. (12)
In conclusion, while it has been noted that 'Donald Trump championed the creation of the sixth branch of the military and congress appropriated funds for the force in its most recent budget', like so many recent US-led initiatives, a continued failure to organise and implement policy in a professional manner remain evidence of a haphazard approach to a foreign policy based more upon fiction and fantasy rather than diplomatic common-sense and accurate military assessments of the prevailing situation the US have found itself confronted with:
                                         We need an independent foreign policy!
1.     Japan to set up a space force, Australian, 21 January 2020; and, Abe says new unit,  Japan Today, 20 January 2020; and, Star Wars, Japan announces, The Sun (U.K.), 20 January 2020.
2.      Australian, ibid., 21 January 2020, and; Japan Today, ibid., 20 January 2020.
3.     South Australia to become home, ABC News, 12 December 2018.
4.     Australian, op. cit., 21 January 2020.
5.     Sun, op. cit., 20 January 2020; and, Australian, op. cit., 21 January 2020.
6.     Australian, ibid., 21 January 2020.
7.     Ibid.
8.     Death penalty hindering Japan pact, Australian, 17 December 2019.
9.     Ibid.
10.   Joke on Space Force uniform, Australian, 20 January 2020.
11.   Australian, op. cit., 21 January 2020.
12.   See South Australia Government website: Lot 14, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Unity the key as we reflect on January 26

Written by: Lindy Nolan on 26 January 2020

January 26 has become a day to take stock.

British Captain Arthur Philip did not land on what became Australia on January 26. As historian Humphrey McQueen points out, numerous other dates have been celebrated as founding days.

In this year’s Sydney Festival, Iron in the Blood by Jeremy Rose, told in music, film and spoken words, the history of class brutality he’d learned from Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore. Hughes’ history of the British colonies more than rivals ‘Game of Thrones’ in its brutality. This history is absent from the narrative most hear on January 26.

It shows the class warfare flowing alongside First Peoples’ armed struggle against colonisation.

No wonder corporate inheritors of invasion increasingly use January 26 as a tool for deceit and division.

Far from over

For First Peoples of this continent and its islands, January 26 is a focal point for deep anger at ongoing invasion, of mourning for terrible losses and of defiant celebration that - despite everything the ruling class has thrown at them since 1788 – First Peoples have survived.

The Northern Territory Intervention in its 13th year, remains both a massive land grab for the fossil fuel industry and an experiment in hidden suppression, of which few non-Indigenous Australians are even aware.

Systematic denial of services is designed to force First Peoples into regional centres. The beneficiaries? Giant foreign-owned resource companies waiting to exploit First Peoples’ lands.

Across the continent, a flood of forced child removals and ongoing murders in custody takes that which is most precious from families, with routine indifference.

Yet there is struggle! Suppression meets resistance, most powerfully seen as Warlpiri mobilised against state murder in Yuendumu. Young took their Elders’ lead, using social media to arouse immediate protests around the country. THAT story is far from over. It links with growing movements against fracking and to bring children home.

Who benefits?

While many First Peoples live in squalor, housing and infrastructure is built on and through their lands. But not for them.

Australia’s population is planned to reach 35 million to feed the capitalist compulsion for constant expansion. Which First Peoples were consulted? Which Australians were asked?

And who benefits? Giant developers and construction multinationals that build housing estates and high rise on what little rural areas and bushland remains in and around major cities. Infrastructure industries that push motorways into rural and coastal areas, followed by real estate booms.

The Block at Redfern was won for housing by First Peoples in 1972 after massive struggles. Back then, forty thousand First Peoples lived in Redfern. Now it’s just hundreds and more to go from the area, as high-rise public housing in bordering Waterloo is demolished.

The “Aboriginal Housing Company” is now a developer of high-rise accommodation on the Block – for overseas students. The 62 apartments for First Peoples - promised in return for ending the three-year Redfern Tent Embassy - have evaporated.

But First Peoples do not give up, despite despair, suicides and sellouts, new generations rise underpinned by Language and Law that come from Country.

Opening Country to exploitation

When Notre Dame Cathedral burned in Paris last April, the world watched and mourned.

Here, sacred sites are marked for deliberate destruction to serve corporate needs, like mining or roads for faster access to expanding real estate developments.

Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth followed tracks of the Gundungurra, Darug and Wiradjuri across the ‘uncrossable’ Blue Mountains, to exploit the lands beyond. Now its Gardens of Stone on Wiradjuri Country is threatened by mining. A united front of resistance grows.

Sacred trees and sites continue to be protected by the Djab Wurrung Community under threat from another road.      

Fifty sacred Blue Mountain sites in Gundungurra land risk flooding as Warragamba Dam wall is raised. Why? Because governments have - for two decades - approved homes on the floodplain to the east, with 134,000 more people to settle there over the next 30 years. More resistance rises.

In the Hunter, Awabakal Women have defended Butterfly Cave and its songlines from a Roche Group housing development for eight years.

Replicate all this across First Peoples’ lands across Australia.

No wonder people’s poet, Dennis Kevans, asked, “Ah, white man have you any sacred sites?”

A world to win

But it is not just about race. It is about building unity in the face of neo-colonialism and imperialism.

No matter how the ruling class tries to divide and conquer, to plunder and suppress, to co-opt or murder, grassroots First Peoples and working Australians must come together.

No matter where their ancestors came from, rising generations - learning from, teaching and working with Elders - have millennia of culture of belonging and resilience. We have a world to win.