moon of alabama

Earthquake Damage In Syria Must Lead To Sanction Relief
Moon of Alabama, Feb 6 2023

Earlier today two large earthquakes have caused widespread damage in south Turkey and north Syria:

Nine hours after a first earthquake of magnitude M7.8 that hits south-eastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, Feb 6 2023 at 0117 UTC, a second M7.5 occurs (at 1024 UTC) 100km further north. More information on the main shock (M7.8) is available here and for the 7.5 (here). These earthquakes has been largely felt up to 2k km from the epicenter, mainly in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus. At the time of the report, a lot of buildings are damaged in Turkey and Syria and more than 1.2k people have been killed in Turkey and Syria.

Some 10m people live in the affected area. The current count of death is already above 2.5k. Whole city blocks have ‘pancaked’ and were destroyed. Many dead will likely still be under the rubble. The area is prone to earthquakes. Just days ago an expert had warned that a big one was coming:

Aftershock activities show that today’s quakes occurred along two fault lines. After the first big shake:

Aftershocks of the second quake:

These quakes are not unusual. Two parts of the earth surface are fighting there. The Arab plate is moving northward, pushing the Anatolian plate to the west and south-west:

Snow and freezing temperatures as well as extensive damage to infrastructure are hindering rescue efforts:

The biggest death toll in Turkey is in Kahramanmaras, the epicenter of the quake, where 70 people are reported dead. Television footage shows emergency teams and volunteers trying to rescue people under the debris in the province under heavy snowfall. Turkey’s southern province of Hatay, bordering war-torn Syria, stands out as one of the most impacted areas in the region. Hatay Gov. Rahmi Dogan said two state hospitals had collapsed in the province’s central town of Antakya and the seaside town of Iskenderun. “The majority of the buildings along the coast of Iskenderun collapsed,” a Hatay resident told Al-Monitor. Volkan Demirel, coach of Hatayspor and former soccer player, appealed for help in an online video. “Please help, the situation … here is really bad,” Demirel said in tears. Vice President Fuat Oktay said that the province’s airport was closed due to heavy damage. Orhan Mursaloglu, deputy mayor of Antakya, was among those trapped under the rubble after his apartment building collapsed. No rescue workers had reached the site as of time of publication of this article, his relatives told Al-Monitor.

Some 25 years ago I backpack traveled in the area. I had visited Sanliurfa and Gaziantep and a number of smaller towns. The standard of the buildings going up there were very mixed. Some were sturdy. But in others the concrete pillars holding the upper floors seemed extremely weak to me. They were build with very little reinforcements. In the later city I had climbed up to the imposing castle above the town:

Unfortunately it no longer exists:

International support for the areas has started. Turkey is generally earthquake prone and has a lot of rescue stuff. It will now get more. Unfortunately Syria, which is under devastating sanctions, will get little. This would be a good time to lift those sanctions, if only for purely humanitarian reasons.

john lander

The US is preparing Australia to fight its war against China
John Lander, Feb 1 2023

Thank you for inviting me to address the Salon. I am greatly honoured and somewhat daunted, given the long list of eminent scholars, analysts and writers who have preceded me. I am not a writer, although I have written a lot during my thirty-year diplomatic career, much of it in relation to China. None of it published and most of it buried in government archives. All I can bring to the table is my personal interpretation of current developments regarding US and China, in the light of my past experience. One of your previous speakers, Patrick Lawrence, advocated putting the main point first. So here goes: The US is not preparing to go to war against China. The US is preparing Australia to go to war against China. A look at the ANZUS Treaty and the way it has been manipulated over time will explain why I have come to this conclusion.

Originally defensive in concept, the ANZUS Treaty was seen by Australia from its very beginning as a means to “achieve the acceptance by the USA of responsibility in SE Asia” (Percy Spender) to shield Australia from perceived antagonistic forces in its region. It has, however, developed into an instrument for the furtherance of US ability to prosecute war globally, previously in Iraq and Afghanistan, currently against Russia and potentially against China. The ANZUS Treaty, usually referred to in reverential tones as “The Alliance”, has been elevated to an almost religious article of faith, against which any demur is treated as heresy amounting to treachery. Out of anxiety to cement the US into protection of Australia, the Alliance has been invoked as justification for Australia’s participation in almost every American military adventure or misadventure since WW2.

Unlike NATO or the Defence Treaty with Japan, the ANZUS treaty actually provides no guarantee of protection, merely assurances to consult on appropriated means of support in the event that Australia should come under attack. On the other hand, the Alliance has facilitated the steady growth of American presence in Australia, to the point that it pervades every aspect of Australian political, economic, financial, social and cultural life. Australians fret about China “buying up the country,” but American investment is ten times the size. They are unaware or uncaring that almost every major Australian company across the resources, food, retail, mass media, entertainment, banking and finance sectors has majority American ownership. Right now US corporations eclipse everyone else in their ability to influence our politics through their investment in Australian stocks.

The transfer of Australian assets to American ownership has continued unabated: In the second half of 2021 then Treasurer Josh Frydenberg approved the transfer of $130b of Australian assets to foreign private equity funds, benefiting Goldman Sachs who facilitated the transactions, by multimillions of dollars. Josh Frydenberg now is employed by Goldman Sachs:

  • Sydney Airport: Macquarie Bank, led by a NY investment banker
  • AusNet (electricity infrastructure): $18b takeover by Brookfield NY via Canada
  • SparkInfrastructure (electricity): $5.2b takeover by American interests
  • AfterPay financial transaction system: $39b takeover
  • Healthscope, second-biggest private hospitals group (72 Hospitals), taken over by Brookfield and now controlled in the Cayman Islands.

The USA and the UK between them represent nearly half of all foreign investment. China plus Hong Kong represents 4.2%. The 4 big “Aussie” banks are dependent on foreign capital, which dictates local banks’ policies and operations. Defence and military weapons manufacturing industries in Australia are now largely owned by US weapons corporations: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Thales, NorthropGrumman. The deep integration of Australia’s defence industries and economy into the US military-industrial complex greatly influences Australia’s foreign/defence policies. That plus US capture of Australia’s intelligence and policy apparatus through the “Five Eyes” network and ASPI (which has lobbyists from American arms manufacturers on a Board headed by an operative trained by the CIA) means that the US is able to swing Australian policy to support America in almost all its endeavours. Despite the fact that it contains no guarantee of US protection of Australia, the Treaty and further arrangements under its auspices, such as the 2014 Force Posture Agreement and now AUKUS, have greatly facilitated US war preparation in Australia. This has accelerated exponentially in the past few years. The US now describes Australia as the most important base for the projection of US power in the Indo-Pacific.

Indicators of war preparations

  • 2,500 US marines stationed in Darwin practicing for war with the Australian Defence Forces, soon to include the Japanese Defence Forces;
  • Establishment of a regional HQ for the US INDOPACOM in Darwin;
  • Lengthening the RAAF aircraft runways in Northern Territory at our expense for servicing US fighters and bombers;
  • Proposed stationing of 6 nuclear weapons-capable B52 Bombers at RAAF Tindal in NT;
  • Construction of massive fuel and maintenance facilities in Darwin NT for US aircraft;
  • Proposed acquisition of eight nuclear-propelled submarines at the cost of $170b for hunter-killer operations in the Taiwan Strait;
  • Construction at the cost of $10b of a deep water port on Australia’s east coast for US and UK nuclear powered and nuclear missile-carrying submarines;
  • The long-established satellite communications station known as Pine Gap in central Australia has recently, and is still being, expanded and upgraded. It is key to the command and control of US forces in the Indo-Pacific (and even as far afield as Ukraine)

The Government and right-wing anti-China analysts and commentators, whose opinions dominate main stream media, accept the Defence Minister’s contention that this militarisation enhances Australia’s sovereignty by strengthening the range and lethality of Australia’s high-end war-fighting capability to provide a credible deterrent to a potential aggressor. Many analysts and commentators outside the governing elite, including myself, argue that these arrangements effectively cede Australian sovereignty to America. This is especially because of the provisions of the Force Posture Agreement of 2014, entered into under the auspices of ANZUS. I understand that a paper has been circulated to the Committee, expounding the details of the FPA, so in summary, it gives unimpeded access, exclusive control and use of agreed facilities and areas to US personnel, aircraft, ships and vehicles and gives Australia absolutely no say at all in how, when where and why they are to be used.

All Australian analysts, whether sympathetic or antipathetic to China, agree on one point. That is, that if the US goes to war against China over the status of Taiwan, or any other issue of contention, Australia will inevitably be involved. All these preparations are justified by the false premise that China presents a military threat. China has not invaded anywhere. It has never proposed use of force against other countries. It has enshrined in its Constitution the three no’s: no military alliances, no military bases, no use or threat to use military force. China has however reserved the right to use force to prevent secession by Taiwan. It has recently rapidly increased its defence capability in response to the fearsome US naval presence and war-fighting exercises just off its coastline. Its defence budget is one third that of the US, and the bases that it has constructed in the South China Sea pale into insignificance compared to the hundreds of bases that the US has ranged all around China.

So, if China is not a military threat, why is it designated as the primary systemic threat of the collective West, led by the US? The answer lies in the word “systemic.” China has expressed a determination to revamp the global financial system to make it fairer for developing countries. Kissinger is reputed to have said: “If you control money, you control the world.” The US currently controls world finance, and China (with Russia) is out to change that. The US, which played the leading part in the establishment of the post-WW2 institutions, has become a leading revisionist, abandoning the UN for “coalitions of the willing.” The US has declined to join important Conventions like those on the Law of the Sea and on Climate. It has refused to accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, and has exempted itself from the Genocide Convention. It has played a leading part in the weakening of the World Trade Organisation by imposing trade restrictions on other countries, while not agreeing to new appointments to the WTO’s appellate tribunal, so preventing that body from functioning.

China is the second-largest (or by some calculations, the largest) economy in the world. It is the major trading partner of over 100 countries, mainly in the global south, but including Australia and a number of other Western countries. Hence China has the clout to undermine the “international rules-based order” set up by and for the benefit of the West. China has already established an alternative to the Anglo-American international financial transaction system: the Cross-border Interbank Payments System CIPS, in which ironically a number of Western banks are shareholders. In collaboration with Russia and within the BRICS, China is creating an alternative to the almighty dollar as the preferred currency for trade and for national reserve holdings.

It seems that the US has concluded that, since it can’t constrain China economically, it will have to get it bogged down in a long-drawn-out war to hinder its economic growth and hamper its infrastructure development cooperation with other countries. On Mar 25 2021 President Biden vowed to prevent China from overtaking the US as the most powerful country in the world. “Not on my watch,” he said. Nevertheless, the latest CSIS computer modelling, like previous modelling by the Rand Corporation, indicates that all involved in a Sino-US war would lose. All of these analyses overlook one significant point. US determination to pursue the Wolfowitz doctrine of preventing the rise of any power that could challenge US global supremacy (neither Russia, nor Europe, nor China) has not diminished, but has morphed into a strategy of fighting its adversaries by proxy. This has been clearly demonstrated by the war in Ukraine. A White House press briefing on Jan 25 2022, before the Russian intervention, stated:

The US, in concert with its European partners, will weaken Russia to the point where it can exercise no influence on the international stage.

Political leaders from Biden, through Pelosi and on to Members of Congress have told Ukraine:

Your war is our war and we are in it for as long as it takes.

Congressman Adam Schiff put it bluntly:

We support Ukraine, in order to fight Russia over there, so that we don’t have to fight it over here.

In the case of China, defined in the NDS as the principal threat to the US, the proxy of choice is clearly Taiwan. The strategy envisages:

  • a world-wide media campaign (going on for several years already) to portray China as the aggressor;
  • goading China into taking military action to prevent Taiwan’s secession
  • leaving Taiwan to conduct its own defence, with constant resupply of arms and equipment from the US, at great profit to the military/industrial complex
  • sustaining Taiwan sufficiently to keep China bogged down, thus hampering its economic development and its infrastructure cooperation with other countries
  • avoiding direct military engagement, in order to maintain the full capacity of US forces, while China’s would be significantly depleted.

Although Biden has publicly reaffirmed adherence to the ‘One China’ principle, the US has been goading China by:

  • stationing the bulk its naval power off the coast of China;
  • ‘freedom of navigation’ and combat exercises in the South China Sea and Taiwan Straits
  • visits by senior US officials using US military aircraft;
  • creation of a putative ‘Air Defence Identification Zone’ (ADIZ) extending well over mainland territory and then alleging Chinese violation of it;
  • secretly providing military training personnel (whilst denying it);
  • including Taiwan in the Summit for Democracy (Dec 9-10 2021), implying it is a separate country.

Many Australian politicians, (although not the present government), joined in goading China, by encouraging Taiwan to consider the possibility of declaring independence, which would trigger military action by China. If Australia were to make good on its promise to ‘save Taiwan,’ it would be devastated:

  • The Australian navy would be obliterated, given the disparity between China’s and Australia’s forces;
  • command/control centres (and possibly cities) in Australia could be wiped out by Chinese missiles. Australia has no anti-missile defence;
  • To preserve its own assets, and to forestall the descent into nuclear conflict, the US would not engage directly in defence of Australia;
  • US ‘support’ would be through massive arms sales to replace our losses, just as in Ukraine, at further profit to the US military/industrial complex;
  • ASEAN is unlikely to support Australia. It has renewed and up-graded its Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with China. Each member country has infrastructure projects under China’s BRI, which they would not want to jeopardise in a ‘no-win war’;
  • Support from India is unlikely, despite its membership of the Quad – which is nothing more than a consultative dialogue. India has security commitments to China under the SCO and gets its arms from Russia, which has a “better than treaty” relationship with China;

Australia relies heavily on China for many daily necessities. In a war, deliveries from China would be severely disrupted. Australians generally are more than happy for the material benefits of a trading relationship with China, which constitutes more than one-third of Australia’s export earnings, but any attempts by China to improve Australians’ understanding of China’s historical, social, cultural and scientific achievements, let alone its political systems or foreign policy, are instantly feared as nefarious attempts to infiltrate Australian politics and undermine the ‘Australian way of life.’

The increasing size of China’s economic (and, by extension military) strength, to which Australia contributes important resources and from which it derives so much benefit, is portrayed as a threat to Australia’s security. This has Australia trapped in the absurd policy paradox of preparing to go to war against China to protect Australia’s trade with China. Recent developments in Taiwan, particularly the county and municipal elections, which caused the President, Tsai Ingwen, to resign her leadership of the pro-Independence Party, suggest that Taiwan prefers the status quo and is unwilling to be the proxy of the US in a war with Beijing. Australia thus becomes the potential proxy.

In the name of the Alliance, American service personnel (active and retired) are now embedded in Australian defence policy making institutions and in command and control positions within the ADF. All of the American military assets installed in Australia under the Alliance and the AUKUS deal, are now “interchangeable” with the ADF, making it possible to use them as putative Australian forces against China, while the US stands aside and maintains the same pretence of “no engagement,” as it is doing in Ukraine. This is why I said at the beginning that the US is preparing to send Australia to war against China. Whilst these are the dangers that the ANZUS Alliance poses for Australia if the US instigates a war against China, there are risks for the US also:

  1. There would be crippling expense that further exacerbates the US wealth divide and related domestic political breakdown. Supplying the weaponry and everything else required for a proxy war with China would be a bigger drain on the US budget than the Ukraine conflict. The expenditure would flow back to the military industrial complex, constituting a further massive transfer of wealth from the ordinary taxpayer to the plutocrat billionaires. It would blow out the already unsustainable national debt, and either take away from expenditure on essential services and infrastructure, or, if they print money, further blow out inflation. The political and social breakdown that the US is already suffering as a consequence of its real economic decline and widening wealth gap could only intensify to breaking point.
  2. The slide into a direct war would probably be inevitable. Planning a proxy war is all very well as an academic exercise, but sticking with those plans when the fighting starts will be very difficult. There are already lunatic politicians and “experts” in the US who think American can win a direct war, so when China starts bombing Australia, and good old Aussie “mates” are dying in massive numbers, the voices of those in the US advocating direct engagement will be amplified. Combined with the already extreme polarisation of US politics in which ONLY war is bipartisan, the risk that extremists will take the US into direct conflict, and a nuclear showdown with China, is very serious.
  3. The folding in of Japan into the AUKUS arrangements will increase the risk that Japan would be obliged to assist Australia in any military conflict with China. The US, because of its Defence Treaty with Japan, would then be obliged to join in the fighting, vitiating its plan to avoid direct military engagement.

I’ll wind up with a bit of historical irony in which I was personally involved. In the early 70’s, we had been kept completely in the dark about the secret Kissinger visits to China, until the plan for Nixon to visit was announced. Feeling blindsided by a momentous change in US policy towards China, we produced Policy Planning Paper QP11/71 of Jul 21 1971. It recognised “political disadvantage resulting from the manner in which the US conducts its global policies” and argued that this would mean:

The American alliance, in a changing power balance, will mean less to us than it has in the past. If anything, this argument has been strengthened by recent US actions and America’s failure to consult us on issues of primary importance to Australia. Accordingly, we shall need, now more than ever, to formulate independent policies, based on Australian national interests and those of our near neighbours…

This is even more true today than it was in the 1970’s. For example, Australia was not consulted in the precipitate US withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite our role as ‘loyal’ supporter of the US in that ill-advised conflict. Our indignant protestations were met with Biden’s statement that “America acts only in its own interests.” Our present predicament is due largely to the failure of a succession of Australian Governments to take this analysis to heart and act upon it. Prime Minister Fraser, who replaced Whitlam, ironically came to a very similar view towards the end of his life, which he set forth in detail in his book ‘Dangerous Allies,’ but too late to do anything about it. He identified the paradox that Australia needs the US for its defence, but it only needs defending because of the US. A couple of pertinent quotes, first from the late Jim Molan:

Our forces were not designed to have any significant independent strategic impact. They were purely designed to provide niche components of larger American missions.

We were, in his view, abdicating our own defence and cultivating complete dependence on the Americans. And from Chris Hedges:

Finally, the neocons who have led the US into the serial debacles of Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Ukraine, costing the country tens of trillions of dollars and even greater amounts of destroyed reputational capital, will claim their customary immunity from any accountability for their savage failures and cheerily move on to their next calamity. We need to be on the lookout for their next gambit to pillage the treasury and advance their own private interests above those of the nation. It will surely come.

An (incomplete) list of some of the commentators from whom I have drawn:
John Menadue – former secretary PM&C
Richard Tanter – military analyst, Nautilus Foundation
Brian Toohey – author (political and historical analysis)
Mike Scrafton was a senior Defence executive, and ministerial adviser to the minister for defence.
Paul Keating was the prime minister of Australia from 1991 to 1996.
Geoff Raby AO was Australia’s ambassador to China (2007–11); He was awarded the Order of Australia for services to Australia–China relations and to international trade.
Gregory Clark began his diplomatic career with postings to Hong Kong and Moscow. He is emeritus president of Tama University in Tokyo and vice-president of the pioneering Akita International University.
Dr Mike Gilligan worked for 20 years in defence policy and evaluating military proposals for development, including time in the Pentagon on military balances in Asia.
Jocelyn Chey AM is Visiting Professor at the University of Sydney and Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and UTS. She formerly held diplomatic posts in China and Hong Kong. She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of International Affairs.
Joseph Camilleri is Emeritus Professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, and President of Conversation at the Crossroads
David S G Goodman is the Director, China Studies Centre, University of Sydney.
Geoff Miller was Director-General, Office of National Assessments, deputy secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador to Japan and the Republic of Korea, and High Commissioner to New Zealand.
Cavan Hogue was Ambassador to USSR and Russia. He also worked at ANU and Macquarie universities.

Edited transcript of a speech to the Committee for the Republic, Salon, Jan 18 2023. John Lander worked in the China section of the Department of Foreign Affairs in the lead-up to the recognition of the People’s Republic of China in 1972 and several other occasions in the 1970s and 1980s. He was deputy ambassador in Beijing 1974-76 (including a couple of stints as Chargé d’Affaires). He was heavily involved in negotiation of many aspects in the early development of Australia-China relations, especially student/teacher exchange, air traffic agreement and consular relations. He has made numerous visits to China in the years 2000-2019.

electronic intifada

Israel kills five in Jericho raid
Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, Feb 7 2023

Hamas supporters in Gaza City following a deadly raid in Jericho, Feb 6. Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA

IOF killed five Palestinians during a raid in Aqabat Jabr refugee camp outside of the West Bank city of Jericho on Monday. The raid comes less than two weeks after IOF killed nine Palestinians during a similar operation targeting armed resistance activists in Jenin refugee camp. A tenth Palestinian died from his injuries days later. The Jericho area of the West Bank’s Jordan Valley has been under siege for more than a week following an attempted shooting attack at a restaurant near Jericho frequented by settlers in late January. According to Israeli media, two armed Palestinians fled towards Jericho after one of them opened fire in the restaurant. The gun jammed after a single shot was fired.

IOF stormed Aqabat Jabr camp on Saturday and fired an anti-tank guided missile at a building and used live fire and tear gas, injuring at least 13 Palestinians, during the five-hour raid in pursuit of the two men. Israeli media, citing the military, said that occupation forces had “failed to apprehend the pair” during Saturday’s raid. The military claimed that the two involved in the attempted attack on the restaurant were among five killed in a firefight during Monday’s early morning raid. The slain Palestinians were identified as Raafat Uweidat, 21, Ibrahim Wael Uweidat, 27, Malik Awni Lafi, 22, Adham Majdi Uweidat, 22, and Thaer Uweidat, 28. Israel is withholding their bodies so that they may be used as bargaining chips in future negotiations, a violation of international law approved by the state’s highest court. The Palestine Red Crescent Society said that six people were injured, one of them seriously, during the raid. IOF impeded the work of medics and attacked an ambulance, according to the group. Israeli forces arrested eight people during Monday’s raid.

Additional details have emerged regarding the Israeli military’s occupation of a Palestinian family’s home during its Jan 26 raid in Jenin refugee camp. Muhammad Abu al-Hayja told CNN that he and his wife and their two daughters, both under the age of 3, were sleeping when Israeli soldiers rammed down their door. Abu al-Hayja was handcuffed and taken to his bathroom and ordered to kneel down with a towel wrapped around his head as a blindfold. The family lay on the floor for more than three hours as Israeli soldiers used multiple rooms in their home to fire at Palestinian fighters nearby, who in turn shot into the apartment. Adam Bouloukos, the West Bank director of UNRWA, told CNN:

Abu al-Hayja’s daughters were noticeably traumatized. This kind of invasion violates not only international law but common decency.

Israeli police, soldiers and settlers have killed more than 40 Palestinians in the West Bank since the beginning of the year, including seven children. A Palestinian gunman killed seven people in a Jerusalem settlement on Jan 27 before being shot dead by police. On Friday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed Abdullah Qalalweh, 26, at Huwwara checkpoint near the northern West Bank, a frequent flashpoint of deadly occupation violence. Middle East Eye reported that the Israeli military claimed that Qalalweh, who was unarmed, had “attempted to take over the gun of an Israeli soldiers before he was shot.” Israeli authorities made a similar claim in the shooting death of Ahmad Kahlah at a checkpoint last month, only to later admit in a report leaked to the media that his killing was unjustified.

Meanwhile, nearly two dozen Palestinians in Syria were killed in a massive earthquake that claimed the lives of thousands in the region, according to WAFA. Nearly 4k people were reported killed as a result of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria and was felt in countries beyond. A second and nearly equally strong aftershock struck several hours later. A UN official warned that the death toll could increase eight-fold while the world body said that the scale of the destruction was hampering the provision of humanitarian aid.

In Turkey, rescue efforts were impeded by blizzard conditions in some areas, while thousands of survivors were staying out in the cold with little or no food, warmth or shelter or living in their cars for fear that damaged buildings could collapse due to aftershocks. Nearly three million people in northwestern Syria, near the epicenter of the earthquake in southeastern Turkey, were displaced during the war in Syria and already depend on aid for survival. A doctor in the area told the BBC that hospitals were overwhelmed and medical personnel were having to decide who they would treat and who they would have to let die due to the severe lack of staff and supplies. A Palestinian family of five, including three children, were reported to have been killed by the earthquake in Turkey.

UNRWA schools in Syria were serving as shelters for Palestinian refugees from Latakia camp, where three homes collapsed. The agency said that four Palestinian refugee children were killed in the disaster. Two of the children were trapped under a house in Latakia along with their parents, who died with them. UNRWA added that coastal Latakia and Nairab, near Aleppo, were the most affected among the agency’s 12 camps in the country. Around 440k Palestinian refugees live in Syria and UNRWA camps were badly affected during the decade-long war in the country. Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, said last month that rehabilitating the agency’s facilities in Syria was a top priority. Lazzarini said after visiting the country in January:

I was shocked by the level of destruction of houses and UNRWA premises in some Palestine refugee camps in Syria. The near-total destruction of places such as Yarmouk and Ein el Tal caused unimaginable suffering.

The chronically underfunded agency launched a $1.6b appeal in January for health, education and other basic services for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Monday’s disastrous earthquake in Syria will only exacerbate the dire needs of Palestinians in the country, one of the most vulnerable communities in the region.

wsws

Zelensky government in turmoil amidst reports of impending Russian offensive
Clara Weiss, WSWS, Feb 6 2023

The Zelensky government is in turmoil amid indications that Russia is preparing a new offensive with the hundreds of thousands of recruits who were drafted in the partial mobilization drive since Sep 2022. On Sunday, the head of the parliamentary faction of the ruling Servant of the People Party, Davyd Arakhamia, announced that Alexander Reznikov, Ukraine’s defense minister, would step down and be replaced by Maj-Gen Kyrylo Budanov, currently the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence. Writing on Telegram, Arakhamia stated “war dictates changes in personnel policy” and announced that Reznikov would be transferred to head the Ministry of Strategic Industries, whose head Pavlo Riabikin would in turn also be dismissed. Reznikov has been implicated in a major corruption scandal in which high-ranking officials were reported to have gone on vacation, accepted massive bribes or made use of vehicles that were sent to Ukraine by NATO to help evacuate refugees from the war. Defense Ministry officials have been accused of procuring food for the military at massively inflated prices. Reznikov’s deputy, Viacheslav Shapovalov, was already forced to resign. Reznikov has been a central figure in negotiating the tens of billions of dollars in weapons that are being funneled by NATO into Ukraine. A few weeks ago, he bluntly declared:

Ukraine is a member of NATO de facto.

As of this writing, the official removal of Reznikov has not occurred, with some outlets reporting that the Ukrainian parliament will be voting on it. Reznikov has publicly denied Arakhamia’s announcement that he would be transferred to head the Ministry of Strategic Industries, declaring that he would not take the position even if it was offered to him. Ukrainian media have reported that, as a military general, Budanov is legally not allowed to assume the position of the head of the defense ministry, which is reserved to civilian leaders. However, in a meeting on Monday by Zelensky with the military high command, which included the chief of the Ukrainian army, Valery Zaluzhny, the head of the National Security Council, Alexei Danilov, and military commanders, Budanov was reported as a participant, whereas Reznikov was not. According to the Ukrainian press, the meeting focused on preparing for a potential Russian offensive in the very near future. Following the meeting, Zelensky announced that he would replace a series of regional officials with figures who have a military background.

As part of the corruption scandal, there have also been raids by the Ukrainian Secret Service (SBU) on the homes of the oligarch Igor ‘Benny’ Kolomoisky and the former Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who is notorious for his ties to the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. The corruption scandal involving some of the country’s best known politicians and oligarchs has no doubt highlighted the callous criminality of Ukraine’s oligarchy, which has shamelessly used the war as yet another opportunity to engage in plunder, while the population is suffering extraordinary deprivation and mass death. However, the claim that what is involved in the shake-up of the Ukrainian state and ruling class is a fight against “corruption” cannot be taken at face value. Within the Ukrainian state apparatus and oligarchy that have emerged out of the restoration of capitalism by the Soviet bureaucracy, itself one of the largest orgies of organized plunder in history, the alleged fight against “corruption” has long been a preferred method of settling political scores and conflicts within the ruling class and cover up the intervention of the imperialist powers in these conflicts.

The purge of the state apparatus now unfolding is the largest since the beginning of the war, surpassing that of last summer when the head of Ukraine’s Secret Service and long-time ally of Zelensky was dismissed and 651 state employees were investigated for treason. As the WSWS noted at the time, there were clear indications of a direct intervention by Washington in this purge. This time too, the Western press has openly welcomed Zelensky’s crackdown on high-ranking officials as an effort to prove to NATO that Ukraine would not tolerate the misuse of the tens of billions of dollars in military aid that have been flooding the country. There are also reports of significant tensions within the Zelensky administration and the ruling Servant of the People Party as well as between Zelensky and the army’s Chief of Staff Valery Zaluzhny, who is being touted as a potential rival to Zelensky in the 2024 presidential election. Zaluzhny is an open admirer of the Ukrainian Nazi collaborator and fascist mass murderer Stepan Bandera and has been repeatedly photographed with far-right paraphernalia. Shortly after celebrating Bandera’s 104th birthday on Jan 2, Zaluzhny had his first in-person meeting with US Joint Chief Mark Milley earlier this year. Now, he is engaged in a public conflict with Zelensky, as Zaluzhny has angrily opposed what amounts to a significant cut in pay for military employees and employees of the interior ministry that took effect with new salary regulations set by the government on Feb 1.

The current purge of the Ukrainian state was preceded by the high-profile resignation of one of Zelensky’s top advisors, Alexei Arestovich, in mid-January, who was attacked by the military and the far right after he had publicly suggested that Ukrainian air defense was responsible for a missile that hit a residential building and killed dozens of people. Since his resignation, Arestovych has repeatedly gone public with warnings that Ukraine could lose the war and cease to exist as a state. Days after Arestovych’s resignation, a helicopter carrying the entire leadership of the Ukrainian interior ministry crashed, leaving five of its officials dead, including the Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky, a close ally of Zelensky and central figure in the wartime leadership. No successors for their positions have been named in the two weeks since.

The crisis of the Zelensky government is unfolding as NATO is dramatically escalating the war against Russia. The US and Germany have promised Kiev the delivery of hundreds of Leopard 2 and Abrams tanks, and several NATO members are now openly discussing the deployment of F-16 fighter jets. The escalation has been accompanied by a flurry of meetings by high-ranking officials of the Biden Administration and the Pentagon in Kiev since mid-January. It was later also reported that the director of the CIA, William Burns, also traveled to Kiev to meet with Zelensky. Also in January, the US Joint Chief Milley has toured Europe to prepare troops, in his words, “to go on the offensive to liberate Russian-occupied Ukraine.” Amidst this escalation by NATO and reports of a planned offensive by Russia, the Zelensky government has begun to publicly acknowledge that it finds itself in a highly precarious military situation. Russian forces are making advances in the fight over Bakhmut, the focus of the fighting in East Ukraine over the past months.

This weekend, Zelensky publicly complained that the “fighting spirit” in the population had markedly declined. He later acknowledged that the fighting near Bakhmut is “getting tougher.” His government has stepped up efforts to crack down on “deserters” and the WSWS has received reports that men across the country are now being forcibly drafted into the military off the streets. Three months ago, in November, Joint Chief Milley declared that both Ukraine and Russia had each suffered about 100k casualties in the war so far. This figure has no doubt increased dramatically since. While catastrophic for both sides, proportionally these figures mean far higher losses for Ukraine, which had a prewar population of 40 million as opposed to Russia’s 140 million. Over 8 million people have fled the country since the beginning of the war and several million of those remaining are living in territories controlled by Russia. The vast majority of the working population, already the poorest in Europe before the war, is now completely impoverished. According to the latest figures of the World Food Program, almost one in four children (22.4%) are suffering from chronic malnourishment and 12.8 million Ukrainians who still live in the country have only “insufficient food consumption.”

Australian government, media join hysteria over Chinese balloon
Oscar Grenfell, WSWS, Feb 6 2023

Penny Wong with Ben Wallace in Portsmouth, Feb 2 2023.

Even after it was shot down by the USAF on Saturday, the corporate media in America and around the world continues to churn out hysterical commentary on the purported Chinese “spy balloon.” The slow flight of the object across parts of the US prior to Saturday is still being presented as a major attack on US sovereignty, with sinister motivations. There is no attempt to substantiate what is an utterly implausible official narrative. According to the story, the Chinese government decided to secretly spy on US military facilities, including nuclear sites, with a slow-moving research balloon that was without an engine and easily visible to the naked eye. A Chinese defense ministry statement on Sunday declared:

The US used force to attack our civilian unmanned airship, which is an obvious overreaction. We express solemn protest against this move by the US side.

China’s foreign ministry, which has lodged an official protest with the US, stated:

The Chinese side has repeatedly informed the US side after verification that the airship is for civilian use and entered the US due to force majeure. It was completely an accident.

The force majeure in this instance was a strong wind. The foreign ministry noted that senior US military officials had publicly admitted their assessment that the balloon did not pose any threat to the US before it was shot down. Despite all this, the campaign persists. The right-wing commentary has turned its attention to a similar balloon flying over Latin America, which Beijing has acknowledged is also Chinese.

The confected hysteria has been aimed at fostering a pro-war atmosphere, to legitimise the escalating US-led war drive against China, which is viewed as the principal threat to American imperialist hegemony. This has been evident, not only in the US, but among its closest allies such as Australia. They have also used the balloon incident to again highlight their full alignment with the Biden administration and its provocations against China. At a press conference yesterday, the Australian Labor government’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong branded the balloon’s flight as a “violation of international law” and an infringement of “US sovereignty.” The comments were as ludicrous as those emanating from Washington. Exactly twenty years after the US and its allies touted lies about “weapons of mass destruction” to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq, a war which claimed up to a million lives, they would have the public believe that international law is breached by a weather balloon.

As the WSWS has noted, such research balloons are used by a host of countries, including the US. The American government, moreover, does not limit its violations of sovereign airspace to harmless meteorological balloons. For the past decade, it has conducted intensive drone warfare, routinely violating the sovereignty of countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen and killing thousands of civilians in the process. In reference to the shooting down of the Chinese balloon, Wong praised the US response and presented it as restrained, saying:

We appreciate the measured way in which the US ensured that this was brought down safely and over its territorial waters.

In reality, the US inflamed the situation as much as it possibly could. What might have been a minor curiosity, a research balloon blown off course and meandering around, was elevated to the level of a national security crisis. The destruction of the balloon, moreover, praised by Wong, could well be construed as an act of aggression. There is no question that if the shoe was on the other foot, and China had shot down an American research craft, that is how it would have been presented. Having thus explicitly endorsed a major escalation of hostilities, Wong then issued a few weasel words about continued “engagement” and the danger of “competition” becoming conflict. None of the journalists present bothered to draw attention to this glaring contradiction, or the absurd nature of the claims about the Chinese balloon. Their publications have been every bit as gung-ho as the Labor government. The Murdoch-owned Australian led the charge, publishing an editorial depicting the balloon as a demonstration that war between the US and China may already be underway. The editorial promoted comments by Douglas Wise, a former deputy director of the US DIA). He had told the Australian that “the crisis over the balloon showed China already saw itself as being ‘at war’ with Australia and the US, even if we did not.” Citing Wise, the Australian opined:

A former intelligence official’s warning that Australia and the US are being targeted in “the largest intelligence operation in the history of the human race” underlines the importance of Sunday’s shooting down by an American warplane of a Chinese surveillance balloon.

Elevating the incident to China’s “balloon operation,” Wise warned of its purported “brazenness.” Wise worked not only at the DIA, but also the CIA, the intelligence agency renowned for assassinations, coup plotting and other nefarious actions. All of this paled in comparison to the balloon, which demonstrated that the Chinese “don’t have accountability and don’t operate under the rule of law or a moral frame of reference.” Wise acknowledged the supposed sky balloon would be easily “found out,” and was of little “intel value” thus contradicting the entire US narrative, only to conclude that China was being especially “provocative.” Even more inflammatory, Wise declared without a shred of evidence that the balloon could have been testing “a potential weapons delivery or advanced sensor system.” The tone of the coverage in every other official Australian publication was the same. While they are thrown into a state of apoplexy over a research balloon, the media reported matter-of-factly and without a hint of concern Australia’s rapid acquisition of actual offensive weaponry. Alongside its hysterical coverage of the balloon yesterday, the Australian reported:

One of Australia’s most potent fighter jets, the EA-18G Growler, will become even more capable with the commencement of a $2b program to upgrade the electronic attack aircraft and hone the skills of its pilots. In the first phase of the ­’Advanced Growler’ program, Defence has signed a $277m contract with Australian-owned CEA Technologies to provide advanced radar capabilities at the nation’s electronic warfare training ranges. Subsequent contracts will deliver the next-generation Jammer weapon system, sensor upgrades, and new longer-range missiles to destroy enemy radar systems.

Meanwhile, Wong has recently returned from talks in Britain alongside Labor’s Defence Minister Richard Marles. The discussion centred on Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines, which are among the most lethal assets for modern naval warfare. Marles then went on to Washington, for further talks on the Australian military build-up. Under AUKUS, the militarist pact with Britain and the US, the country is also set to acquire hypersonic missiles, along with a range of other missile systems, and will host an ever-expanding array of American military infrastructure including its most advanced fighter jets. This militarisation is the physical and logistical preparation for an aggressive war with China. The confected hysteria over the balloon is part of the ideological preparation, aimed at fostering a pro-war climate.

The Turkey-Syria earthquake catastrophe: An indictment of capitalism
Ulaş Ateşçi, WSWS, Feb 6 2023

Emergency teams in the rubble of a destroyed building in Gaziantep, Feb 6 2023.

Yesterday, two powerful earthquakes shattered the Turkish-Syrian border region. A 7.7 magnitude quake centered in the southern Turkish city of Kahramanmaraş in the early morning was followed by a massive aftershock, of magnitudes 7.6 in the afternoon. The quakes, felt as far away as Lebanon and Cyprus, have left thousands dead and tens of thousands desperately awaiting rescue, buried under the rubble. In Turkey, the quakes destroyed at least 6,200 buildings, killed 2,921 people and injured 16k in 10 cities, where over 15m people live. Hospitals, roads and airports all have been destroyed or damaged, and damage to electricity transformers and natural gas lines is leading to widespread power and gas outages. In Syria, devastated by the NATO alliance’s 12-year war for regime change, the confirmed death toll has already exceeded 1,300. The ongoing war is preventing rescue teams from reaching many areas. Parts of northwest Syria are under the control of the Turkish army and its Islamist proxies, while northeastern Syria is under the control of US forces and their Kurdish nationalist allies. Tragically, with many people still trapped under collapsed buildings in both Turkey and Syria, the death toll is set to rise substantially. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to spend the night in freezing temperatures or in buildings damaged by the earthquake. The World Health Organization has warned that the death toll may rise eight-fold, to nearly 30k.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has declared seven days of national mourning, but people across the earthquake zone are largely being left to cope on their own. With only 9,000 Turkish rescue workers mobilized, no official teams have yet arrived in many places. Miners from various provinces are volunteering to go to the region to join search-and-rescue efforts. While the Turkish government boasts of producing killer drones and long-range missiles capable of hitting Athens, people trying to rescue their friends and loved ones from under the rubble are being to left to work with picks and shovels. The callous reaction of the financial oligarchy to the disaster was summarized by the Istanbul stock exchange: After the earthquake, shares of cement companies soared.

The massive death toll from these earthquakes is an entirely preventable and widely foreseen tragedy. It is in reality not a natural disaster but a social crime for which the capitalist system bears responsibility. Yesterday’s earthquakes occurred in the world’s second-most seismic region, the so-called “Alpide Belt.” Located on major fault lines, it has a long record of earthquake disasters. The 1999 Marmara earthquake in Turkey killed nearly 18k people and injured tens of thousands more, according to official statistics. Scientists have increasingly warned that yesterday’s disaster was imminent and implored public authorities to strengthen buildings, warning that failing to do so would come at a horrific cost in lives. After the Elazığ earthquake in Jan 2020 in Turkey, Hüseyin Alan, the chairman of the Chamber of Geology Engineers, stated that besides İstanbul, 18 city centers, including Kahramanmaraş and Hatay, which suffered major damage from yesterday’s quake, are on “active faults with high potential to produce earthquakes.” In a major earthquake, buildings there would be “destroyed,” he stated.

Prof Dr Naci Görür, one of Turkey’s most respected geologists and advocates of building earthquake-resistant cities, has long pointed to the comparison between Japan and Turkey. He wrote that only four people died from earthquake damage from the 7.4-magnitude quake in Fukushima in 2022, while nearly 20k people died in the 1999 Marmara earthquake of the same magnitude. This underscores that virtually all the deaths in yesterday’s quake in Kahramanmaraş could have been avoided. Görür has been drawing attention to the danger of major earthquakes in this region for years. In a TV program last night after the earthquake, Görür said his team had prepared a project to prevent these losses, but that the authorities had ignored it. Görür once again warned of a major Istanbul earthquake. A magnitude-7 quake is expected in this mega-city of at least 16 million. While Istanbul city hall, controlled by the bourgeois opposition Republican People’s Party, claims it would cause “only” 14k deaths, Görür predicts that the actual death toll could exceed 400k.

Building earthquake-resistant housing is a critical global problem that capitalism has proved incapable of solving. A 2021 article in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Science by Chinese, Australian, US, Canadian and German scientists found that in 2015, a staggering 1.5b people lived in earthquake-prone areas. This number is rising rapidly, mainly in vulnerable countries of the Middle East and Central and South Asia such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Today, the level of development of science and industry is such that earthquake-resistant cities could be built worldwide. Why has social infrastructure gone constantly neglected, the call to redesign cities and renovate buildings to make them earthquake-resistant gone ignored, as were appeals to prepare for post-earthquake rescue and treatment?

Yesterday’s earthquakes occurred at the epicenter of the US-led NATO powers’ three-decades long campaign of imperialist wars in the Middle East following the Stalinist dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have cost trillions of dollars and millions of lives. Syria has been devastated by a 12-year NATO proxy war that has cost over 500k lives and displaced over 10m people. Many Syrian refugees who fled Syria to save their lives and live in poverty in southern Turkey have been abandoned to their fate after the earthquake. Dozens of NATO states have made token statements about sending aid to their NATO ally Turkey, while largely ignoring the victims of the same disaster in Syria, which remains under a crippling US sanctions regime that denies its population access to medical and other resources desperately needed not only to confront the current catastrophe but to sustain daily life. In reality, the leaders of the imperialist governments, who hypocritically offer condolences to earthquake victims, are primarily responsible for the war in Syria and the catastrophic squandering of social wealth on war, rather than on public health and safety.

All major social issues today, including averting natural disasters, are by nature global problems requiring a socially-coordinated solution. Yet the private profit interests of the bourgeoisie and the division of the world into rival nation-states stand in the way of any progressive response. This is why there has been no worldwide scientific response to the COVID-19 pandemic or to global climate change. Instead, the imperialist powers, whose criminal “let it rip” policies on the COVID-19 pandemic have led to the deaths of over 21 million people globally, now threaten all humanity with WW3 by escalating their war on Russia in Ukraine. The obstacle to a planned, rational response to urgent social problems can only be removed by a frontal attack by the international working class on the power and wealth of the ruling class, thereby subordinating private profit to social need. The preventable devastation of yesterday’s earthquakes has demonstrated once again the urgent necessity of replacing capitalism with global socialism.

military summary

Military Summary And Analysis
Military Summary, Feb 6 2023

This video describes the military situation in Ukraine on Feb 6.

south front

Kiev Is Proud To Declare It Deployed Chemical Weapons In Donbass
South Front, Feb 6 2023

Bakhmut remains one of the bloodiest battlefields in the Donbass. On the northwestern outskirts, Wagner units continue their assault in the villages of Paraskovievka and Krasnaya Gora. According to preliminary reports, Krasnaya Gora has almost completely come under Russian control. To the southwest of Bakhmut, Wagner fighters continue their assault in Ivanovskoye. Russian forces are reportedly just one kilometer away from the Bakhmut-Konstantinovka highway. In Bakhmut itself, fighting continues in the northern, eastern and southern districts. On Feb 4, Wagner fighters launched an assault in the area of the Stupka station in the northern district of the city. Fierce fighting continues. Wagner fighters continue to mop up the area of the Meat Processing Plant. Fighting is ongoing in the area of the Alabaster Lanes, as well as Glinyanaya Street. In the Zabakhmutovka district, street fighting continues along Nekrasov Street and Vatunin Lane. Russian assault units attack Ukrainian positions in the Sobachevka region in the south of Bakhmut.

While the Ukrainian garrison of Bakhmut is close to being surrounded and collapsing, Ukrainian Nazis began to use chemical weapons, which they had openly boasted about on social networks. The infamous Ukrainian blogger and commander of a separate tactical air reconnaissance group Madyar has published a new video showing FPV drones and chemical munitions, hinting that the Ukrainian military are preparing to use prohibited weapons in Bakhmut. On the evening of Feb 5, the first use of this chemical weapon was reported in the village of Novobakhmutovka on the outskirts of Donetsk. Russian servicemen suffered vomiting and convulsions. The claims were supported by photos of crashed drones identical to those that Magyar boasted about. On Jan 6, the acting head of the DPR confirmed the facts of the use of chemical weapons by the Ukrainian military in the areas of Bakhmut and Ugledar. Thus, the Kiev regime is using chemical weapons, proudly declaring it out loud, but the so-called international community traditionally ignores its war crimes.

Report From Captured Ukrainian Positions In Bakhmut
South Front, Feb 6 2023

Head Of Wagner Challenged Zelensky, Bakhmut At Stake
South Front, Feb 6 2023

On Feb 6, head of the Wagner Group Evgeny Prigozhin released a video showing his combat flight on Su-24 fighter jet. In the video, Prigozhin, in the place of the co-pilot, addresses the President of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky:

Vladimir Alexandrovich, we landed, bombed Bakhmut. Tomorrow I will get into the MiG-29. If you wish, let’s meet in the sky. If you win, take Artemovsk (Bakhmut). If not, we will go to the Dnieper river.

Mr Prigozhin threw down the glove, calling on the Ukrainian President to personally fight for the city of Bakhmut. In his turn, Zelensky is unlikely to pick up the gauntlet. This was the last chance for the Kiev regime to save control of the city. Earlier, Yevgeny Prigozhin had called on Ukrainian President to “fight to the end” for the city of Bakhmut. His words were cited by his press service in the telegram channel. Prigozhin said:

Many people are asking you to withdraw troops from Bakhmut. Don’t do that. Artemovsk is the main event of this war. We have to fight on. You will show cowardice. You will no longer be respected. The Ukrainian people will not forgive you if you surrender in Artemovsk to a private military structure. Resist. Fight to the end.

caitlin johnstone

More Evidence That The West Sabotaged Peace In Ukraine
Caitlin Johnstone, Feb 6 2023

Days after the war in Ukraine began, the NYT reported:

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has asked the Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, to mediate negotiations in Jerusalem between Ukraine and Russia.

In a recent interview, Bennett made some very interesting comments about what happened during those negotiations in the early days of the war. In a new article titled “Former Israeli PM Bennett Says US ‘Blocked’ His Attempts at a Russia-Ukraine Peace Deal,” Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp writes:

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in an interview posted to his YouTube channel on Saturday that the US and its Western allies “blocked” his efforts of mediating between Russia and Ukraine to bring an end to the war in its early days. On Mar 4 2022, Bennett traveled to Russia to meet with Putin. In the interview, he detailed his mediation at the time between Putin and Zelensky, which he said he coordinated with the US, France, Germany, and the UK. Bennett said that both sides agreed to major concessions during his mediation effort. But ultimately, the Western leaders opposed Bennett’s efforts. “I’ll say this in the broad sense. I think there was a legitimate decision by the West to keep striking Putin and not talk,” Bennett said. When asked if the Western powers “blocked” the mediation efforts, Bennett said, “Basically, yes. They blocked it, and I thought they were wrong.”

Bennett says the concessions each side was prepared to make included the renunciation of future NATO membership for Ukraine, and on Russia’s end dropping the goals of “denazification” and Ukrainian disarmament. As DeCamp notes, this matches up with an Axios report from early March:

According to Israeli officials, Putin’s proposal is difficult for Zelensky to accept but not as extreme as they anticipated. They said the proposal doesn’t include regime change in Kyiv and allows Ukraine to keep its sovereignty.

Bennett is about as unsavory a character as exists in the world today, but Israel’s complicated relationship with this war lends itself to the occasional release of information not fully in alignment with the official imperial line. And his comments here only add to a pile of information that’s been coming out for months which says the same thing, not just regarding the sabotage of peace talks in March but in April as well. In May of last year Ukrainian media reported that then-British prime minister Boris Johnson had flown to Kyiv the previous month to pass on this message on behalf of the western empire:

Putin is a war criminal, he should be pressured, not negotiated with. Even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin, they are not.

In April of last year, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said:

There are those within the NATO member states that want the war to continue, let the war continue and Russia gets weaker.

Shortly thereafter, US Sec Def Lloyd Austin said that the goal in Ukraine is “to see Russia weakened.”

A September Foreign Affairs report by Fiona Hill asserts that in April of last year a peace deal had been in the works between Moscow and Kyiv, which would presumably have been the agreement that Johnson et al were able to sabotage:

According to multiple former senior US officials we spoke with, in Apr 2022, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators appeared to have tentatively agreed on the outlines of a negotiated interim settlement: Russia would withdraw to its position on Feb 23, when it controlled part of the Donbas region and all of Crimea, and in exchange, Ukraine would promise not to seek NATO membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries.

In March of last year Bloomberg’s Niall Ferguson reported that sources in the US and UK governments had told him the real goal of western powers in this conflict is not to negotiate peace or end the war quickly, but to prolong it in order “bleed Putin” and achieve regime change in Moscow. Ferguson wrote that he has reached the conclusion that “the US intends to keep this war going,” and says he has other sources to corroborate this. According to him, a senior administration official was heard to say at a private event earlier this month:

A senior administration official was heard to say at a private event earlier this month: “The only endgame now is the end of the Putin regime. Until then, all the time Putin stays, Russia will be a pariah state that will never be welcomed back into the community of nations. China has made a huge error in thinking Putin will get away with it. Seeing Russia get cut off will not look like a good vector, and they’ll have to re-evaluate the Sino-Russia axis. All this is to say that democracy and the West may well look back on this as a pivotal strengthening moment.” I gather that senior British figures are talking in similar terms. There is a belief that “the UK’s #1 option is for the conflict to be extended and thereby bleed Putin.” Again and again, I hear such language. It helps explain among other things the lack of any diplomatic effort by the US to secure a ceasefire. It also explains the readiness of President Joe Biden to call Putin a war criminal.

All this taken together heavily substantiates the claim made by Vladimir Putin this past September that Russia and Ukraine had been on the cusp of peace shortly after the start of the war, but western powers ordered Kyiv to “wreck” the negotitations. Putin said:

After the start of the special military operation, in particular after the Istanbul talks, Kyiv representatives voiced quite a positive response to our proposals. These proposals concerned above all ensuring Russia’s security and interests. But a peaceful settlement obviously did not suit the West, which is why, after certain compromises were coordinated, Kyiv was actually ordered to wreck all these agreements.

Month after month it’s been reported that US diplomats have been steadfastly refusing to engage in diplomacy with Russia to help bring an end to this war, an inexcusable rejection that would only make sense if the US wants this war to continue. And comments from US officials continually make it clear that this is the case. In March of last year President Biden himself acknowledged what the real game is here with an open call for regime change, saying of Putin:

For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.

Statements from the Biden administration in fact indicate that they expect this war to drag on for a long time, making it abundantly clear that a swift end to minimize the death and destruction is not just uninteresting but undesirable for the US empire. US officials are becoming more and more open about the fact that they see this war as something that serves their strategic objectives, which would of course contradict the official narrative that the western empire did not want this war and the infantile fiction that Russia’s invasion was “unprovoked”. Recent examples of this would include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s speech ahead of Zelensky’s visit to Washington in December. McConnell said in his speech ahead of the Ukrainian president’s visit to Washington:

President Zelensky is an inspiring leader, but the most basic reasons for continuing to help Ukraine degrade and defeat the Russian invaders are cold, hard, practical American interests. Helping equip our friends in Eastern Europe to win this war is also a direct investment in reducing Vladimir Putin’s future capabilities to menace America, threaten our allies, and contest our core interests.

In May of last year Congressman Dan Crenshaw said on Twitter:

Investing in the destruction of our adversary’s military, without losing a single American troop, strikes me as a good idea.

Indeed, a report by the empire-funded Center for European Policy Analysis titled “It’s Costing Peanuts for the US to Defeat Russia” asserts:

US spending of 5.6% of its defense budget to destroy nearly half of Russia’s conventional military capability seems like an absolutely incredible investment.

In May of last year US Senator Joe Manchin said at the World Economic Forum that he opposes any kind of peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia, preferring instead to use the conflict to hurt Russian interests and hopefully remove Putin. Manchin said:

I am totally committed, as one person, to seeing Ukraine to the end with a win, not basically with some kind of a treaty; I don’t think that is where we are and where we should be.

Manchin added when asked what he meant by a win for Ukraine:

I mean basically moving Putin back to Russia and hopefully getting rid of Putin.

Manchin later added;

I believe strongly that I have never seen, and the people I talk strategically have never seen, an opportunity more than this, to do what needs to be done

Then you’ve got US officials telling the press that they plan to use this war to hurt Russia’s fossil fuel interests, “with the long-term goal of destroying the country’s central role in the global energy economy” according to the NYT. You’ve also got the fact that the US State Dept can’t stop talking about how great it is that Russia’s Nord Stream Pipelines were sabotaged in September of last year, with Sec State Antony Blinken saying the Nord Stream bombing “offers tremendous strategic opportunity” and Under Sec State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland saying:

We are very gratified to know that Nord Stream 2 is now, as you like to say, a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea.

The US empire is getting everything it wants out of this proxy war. That’s why it knowingly provoked this war, that’s why it repeatedly sabotaged the outbreak of peace after the war broke out, and that’s why this proxy war has no exit strategy. The empire is getting everything it wants from this war, so why wouldn’t it do everything in its power to obstruct peace? I mean, besides the obvious unforgivable depravity of it all, of course. The empire has always been fine with cracking a few hundred thousand human eggs in order to cook the imperial omelette. It is unfathomably, unforgivably evil, though, and it should outrage everyone.

helen buyniski

The Information Iron Curtain, Parsing Propaganda, & The Synthetic Slave Species Shift
Greg Carlwood, Higherside Chats, Feb 6 2023

I asked journalist Helen Buyniski about everything from Chat GPT & Wikipedia to Ukraine & Iran. She can’t be stumped!

strategic culture

All the Pitiful Pitfalls of the Pseudo Plan by Macron-Scholz Circus for Serbia
Tatiana Obrenovic, Strategic Culture, Feb 5 2023

As the basis for the ‘new’ agreement between Belgrade and Priština, the German-French proposal should come in handy, the Collective West stakeholders tend to think. What does that Scholz-Macron plan even mean? After all manner of agreements, non-papers and plans for thirty years so far, is there still a condition for Serbia to agree to the unrecognized pseudo state of Kosovo and its (im)probable membership in the UN? What is to change if the so-called Kosovo Republic becomes a UN member and/or NATO member? For which there is absolutely no realistic probability, because at least China and Russia shall veto it. The German-French proposal should be used as the basis of the new agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, say Macron and Scholz in chorus. But let us look into what it entails. That plan comes across as a re-actualised, slightly revamped and somewhat modified plan by Wolfgang Ischinger from 2008 (my cluster of pleonasms is intentional); although it is not absolutely the same as Ischinger’s Plan because the circumstances seem to have or probably have genuinely changed, it is blatantly obvious that it has been written in its wake or built upon these political foundations. Even some formulations emerging in this proposal publicised in the mainstream media are similar to or even absolutely identical to the formulations from the agreements between the two ‘Germanies,’ ie the documents upon which the relations between East Germany and West Germany were normalized with German Reunification.

Back to 2023 and the issue in this article, one part of it has apparently been modified because they cannot count on the so-called Kosovo joining the UN but generally speaking, Republic of Serbia in bilateral relations would view the so-called Kosovo as ‘its partner with equal rights’, Serbia would not block its admission into any international organization, in all the multilateral formats so-called Kosovo would be able to participate in, in the same way as Serbia, which in principle means the factual recognition. The thing that Serbia would not have to formally recognize Kosovo, and Serbia would not have to change its Constitution, would just be a pacifier to puff a few whiffs of political smoke into its face, a political fig leaf for the local Serbian population to smother us in utmost humiliation nonetheless yet again, but this arduous and painstaking process and decades-old, NATO and the Collective West-orchestrated and by them forever stoked conflict would most probably meander away into a different abysmal direction if Serbia were to accept it in any of its shapes or forms. Earlier on, Serbia was told that it need not recognize the so-called, pseudo state of Republic of Kosovo but it should get on board, ie harmonize itself with pseudo-state Kosovo’s UN membership. One wonders if there is still a prerequisite of any sort. There hasn’t been any mention of it, it has not officially been presented anywhere whatsoever. Not even on the web pages of EU governing institutions and not even on those by their counterparts in the government of Serbia, its explicit and overt UN membership is nowhere to be seen in written form. But surely the intention is obvious; the legal/political intent is there.

But perhaps that could also be a thing the Western ‘pseudo mediators’ masquerading around with no granted or approved mandate whatsoever, might as well give up on at some point and perhaps only then will they, with their arms flailing, present that as a huge ‘compromise’ offered to Serbia. A question arises what they would gain if they do so. They would seize an opportunity to squeeze the so-called Kosovo in through barely visible legal and political loopholes and get it to join the Council of Europe (Let me illustrate my point here: try to imagine those obnoxious and incompetent Josep Borell, Miroslav Laicak and Gabriel Escobar hoodwinking the whole world in the manner Del Boy from BBC’s Only fools and horses would do with his mates in the local Peckham flea market), join the Council of Europe where they do have mathematical majority but to get Kosovo into the EU and NATO as well. Serbia’s stance with the pseudo state Kosovo joining the UN is not the real issue here (because Serbia is not throwing political temper tantrums here in vain because it is first and foremost unconstitutional to ever sign any such legal or political document per se and relinquish one inch of our territory). We might put some ‘tongue in cheek’ thought to it though, once France lets Corsica go, the UK let Gibraltar and the Falklands go or perhaps even crying out loud Scotland, among many others or once Spain let Catalonia go or perhaps let Basque Country go their separate political ways and kiss each other goodbye, and so on and so forth.

To get back to the Kosovo issue, we in Serbia do essentially staunchly oppose its recognition though yet the Collective West and grotesque Kurti, the work-in-progress Zelensky of the pseudo state of Kosovo, tend to conveniently forget that the diplomatic slap-in-the-face but hand-in-glove style veto can be put forth by Russia and China. For all those ignorant woke looney leftists in the Collective West and all their NATO jackals snapping at our political feet in Serbia, them screaming hysterically pro Albin Kurti, let me clarify this: for one candidate to become UN member there needs to be a two-third majority in the UNGA and the consent by the UNSC. The pseudo so-called Kosovo Republic does not meet any of these requirements. That is the reason why said set of requirements are as follows: the above mentioned UN Charter, the UN underlying basic principles, good neighbourly relations and Serbian territorial integrity; in this manner Serbia is sending off a clear message to the EU member states and NATO, despite the fact that the so-called Kosovo Republic will not be joining the UN, we might agree (in its rather far-fetched and distant future carrot-and-stick variant, aka never) to its becoming an EU member state and NATO.

One should bear in mind that within the EU, five countries have not yet established bilateral agreements with the pseudo state of Kosovo. The toughest opponent to it is Spain which is the most explicit in its steadfast approach and surely Cyprus, which is the most hard-headed opponent as well with their most resounding ‘No’ to the whole sorry affair. Four members within NATO are also harshly against this. In a nutshell, there are certainly clear obstacles for the pseudo state of Kosovo to join EU and NATO. With the EU issue, that process of joining the EU would most probably be set in some political motion at a very slow speed (Turkey comes to mind) but never to be completed. There is surely a huge issue of them ‘legalizing and legitimizing’ the pseudo state of Kosovo status in all these aspects. With this French-German Plan at hand now in all its far-fetched, narrow fetched and (im)possible eventuality, that political door would be wide open to the so-called republic/pseudo state of Kosovo.

What would change if the so-called pseudo state of Kosovo were to join NATO? Let us be honest to each other, NATO could not care less about the poor people in Kosovo and Metohija be it Serbs or local minorities, they only want to plunder our plentiful resources there, to ensure drug trafficking, human trafficking and jihadis unimpeded routes all the way to Europe for their dirty money business deals and to gain ever stronger NATO military foothold against Russia and China). In case Serbia OK-ed it by any meagre chance, all status negotiations would be in effect finished, over and done with (Mind you, these are and never have been negotiations but US and the Collective West strong-arming the tiny vulnerable Serbia in the ever-expanding NATO onslaught upon Russia). Serbia in that case would not de jure establish bilateral agreements with Pristina, because the so-called Republic of Kosovo is not a UN member, so the status issue would not be over at all, yet they will then de facto be given a chance to join each and any international organization which might suit their fancy, particularly in the international organizations where the mathematical majority is held by the Collective West countries. In that case, the whole issue would be in its political essence finished. Moreover, Serbia’s own political, geopolitical and strategic position would be in an extremely detrimental position. Following the same brutally murderous model already seen in Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro, the status of the Albanian minority in Presevo and Bujanovac would soon sneakingly seep their way into the daily political NATO agenda here through all the politically cancerous cracks and faultlines, of which all the power- and profit- hungry NATO puppets are well aware of via their intelligence service which keep their ears close to the ground, which would then give rise to the next detrimental and possibly Ukraine-style tragic bloodbath to have to cope with shortly in the whole of the Balkans and Europe too.

All manner of reciprocal arrangements would have to be come up with, because the ‘Zelensky-style’ political Pristina would elbow its way further and forever, and the status of our Serbian community in Kosovo and Metohija would be in severe danger from the Shqiptari extremists so the Serbian nation both there and in Serbia Proper would be sadly stuck in a rut of its defense position again. It would also be a huge challenge as to how to function in those most dangerously hostile political surroundings. It would then badly mirror the Serbian complete position in international relations regardless of the fact whether we give our tacit or formal recognition to Kosovo or not. Serbia would find itself in an awkward and unenviable position to have been previously diplomatically kindly asking other countries to withdraw their recognition of the pseudo state of Kosovo and support her political position but then all of a sudden to give it up completely on your part. This will reverberate wrongly for the whole position of the country of Serbia in our international relations. This French-German proposal seems to be both part of the problem and part of the solution for Serbia. Serbia shall rather remain adamant in its intention to give a staunch statement to the whole political world to never forget UNSCR 1244. At present we see a huge stampede of pseudo experts and analysts, envoys and representatives line-up jetting in and out of the official Belgrade and in (for Serbia: unofficial) Pristina, telling us of their own, often incompetent interpretations and solutions to our woes but of their making. They threaten us with a platter of sanctions of all sorts, they offer us meaningless options aka ultimatums, forgetting all along that the Serbs are allergic to ultimatums. They tell us if we say yes, we shall be able to be issued visas into EU at the click of a button,, and to swap our centuries old Serbian Orthodox Monastery of Decani for the idiotic Parndorf shopping center fleeting and utterly ludicrous shopping tours to Vienna, Austria, but sadly in all this EU/NATO/USA puppet show of amateurs, an ominous mixture of newly emerging future geopolitical issues seem to be taking shape only to become part of the daily agenda to be dealt with urgently at some later point in the near future, which will heavily burden not only Serbian national security but that of each and every country or community locally and regionally as well.

The so-called (pseudo) state of Kosovo (and Metohija) may be used by the Collective West as a political whip to try and brutally push Serbia into NATO so that Serbia in that case as a potential new country to join (which is not very probable at all) would have to prove itself as the youngest member to join. We would have to finalize all that process by way of, for instance, giving support to, in this context, Ukraine (which 87 % of the Serbs are staunchly against) and to take extreme stance against Russia or China or for NATO preferably both, in which case we would be left stranded without any allies, partners or true and kindhearted political friends in terms of any long term positioning in already weak and vulnerable international relations. A lengthy new set of delicate issues seem to be raising their politically ugly heads, to which there is no clear nor obvious response or solution at all, in this Pandora’s box and possibly many more to be slapped on our political platter at this point when the world may possibly be teetering on the verge of the new Great (the Third) World War. The scenario offered with the Macron-Scholz cocktail aka the French-German Proposal for Serbia looks rather bleak and grim, which would cost us dearly historically, politically, geopolitically and economically. But rest assured all of you in the political Washington, London, Berlin and Brussels et al, with all your incompetent stampede of dilettantes in the shape of unmandated Gabriel Escobar, Laicak, Schmit, Borrell, Macron or Scholz, the Serbs shall resist with courage and bravery and beat you at your own political game in the end.

wsws

US media whips up anti-Chinese hysteria over balloon flight
Andre Damon, WSWS, Feb 6 2023

The balloon drifts over Myrtle Beach, SC, shortly before being shot down by a US F-22.

Over the past four days, the American population has been subjected to a barrage of war propaganda over the claim that China sent a huge balloon visible to the naked eye to spy on US nuclear bases. The media machine is operating at full throttle. Since the balloon’s existence was publicly announced last week, breathless coverage has provided minute-by-minute updates on the progress of the floating white balloon as it slowly traversed across the continental United States. The story led every newspaper for days, was the first item on the evening news broadcasts, and dominated the 24-hour cable news networks. On Friday, Donald Trump called for the balloon to be shot down, a demand that was repeated by Republican and Democratic politicians. On Saturday, under orders from Biden, the UAF shot down the balloon, in the first US attack on a Chinese aircraft since the Korean War. On Friday, a day after the existence of the balloon was publicly announced, Blinken canceled his scheduled trip to China, which had been promoted as part of a supposed rapprochement between the two countries. All of the media coverage has accepted the unsubstantiated claim that the airship was a secret Chinese “surveillance balloon” specifically targeting US military installations. While the specific purpose of the balloon cannot be definitively stated, the notion that the Chinese government is seeking to secretly obtain vital information on US nuclear weapons by means of a gigantic and clearly visible object slowly passing through US airspace is, to put it mildly, ludicrous. Far more likely is the account given by Beijing, that the high-altitude balloon was conducting meteorological surveillance and was blown off course, entering the US on Jan 28. China’s Foreign Ministry said:

It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course.

NASA has launched dozens of balloon missions similar to the one destroyed by the US Air Force on Saturday. According to a NASA presentation by University of Hawaii Professor Peter Gortham:

Balloons offer flight opportunities for unique science investigations that require, or can be done in, near-space.

According to the website of NASA’s arctic balloon program:

Scientists use scientific data collected during balloon flights to help answer important questions about the universe, atmosphere, the Sun and the space environment.

In publications that are written primarily for those within the state apparatus, a more sober assessment can be found. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a leading think tank connected to US intelligence agencies, commented on Friday:

The most likely explanation is that this is an errant weather balloon that went astray—lost weather balloons are the basis of many ‘UFO sightings.’ The incident is embarrassing for China, and some Chinese meteorologist may be packing his or her bags for reassignment to Inner Mongolia.

But in the media, such an appraisal is nowhere to be found. That the white orb is a “spy balloon” is taken as fact, and no section of the US media has even suggested the possibility of the most routine and reasonable explanation, that this was a peaceful research mission just like NASA has conducted dozens of times. Instead, the Biden administration, working together with the Republican Party and with the support of the US media, seized on the opportunity to whip up anti-Chinese hate and xenophobia. The aim of this campaign is to condition the public to accept US plans for war with China that have been years in the making, and to construe China, which the US is encircling with offensive missiles just miles from its coastline, as the aggressor in the Sino-American conflict.

The script of this week’s “imminent threat” is well-worn. This type of wall-to-wall media hysteria was used to justify the 1991 Gulf War, the 1998 bombing of Yugoslavia, the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the 2011 bombings of Syria and Libya. All of these claims, above all the Bush administration’s assertions that the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein possessed “weapons of mass destruction,” turned out to be nothing more than hot air. But the media, acting as if the American people are all idiots, is reprising its role, hoping it will have the time-tested result of laying the groundwork for America’s next “war of choice.” This time, the target is not an impoverished former colony, but China, the world’s second-largest economy with the world’s second-largest military budget. Even as the US and NATO powers recklessly escalate the war with Russia over Ukraine, the ruling class is preparing for a conflict with China, for which the war against Russia has been viewed as a necessary precondition.

In 2018, the US adopted a National Security Strategy that urged the Pentagon to make its highest priority preparing for a war with China. While the military was operating with this conception, the US media kept these plans secret from the American population. But this week’s media hysteria over the balloon was used to introduce the concept of a potential war with China as a positive good, which the US needs to prepare for. The declaration by USAF General Mike Minihan that the US faces a war with China by 2025 has been treated by the media as a sage and impartial warning. He called for building “a fortified, ready, integrated, and agile Joint Force Maneuver Team ready to fight and win inside the first island chain,” referring to Taiwan, Japan, and other islands off the coast of China. Implying that large numbers of his command will die in such a war, Minihan instructed them to “consider their personal affairs and whether a visit should be scheduled with their servicing base legal office to ensure they are legally ready and prepared.” Chuck Todd, moderator of Meet the Press, asked Democratic Senator Cory Booker:

Are you going to be supporting whatever it takes to prepare for war with China over Taiwan? Do we need to do more to prepare for that potential?

In just the past week, the US announced a plan to put additional bases in the Philippines from which it could launch attacks on China. Biden also held discussions with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the remilitarization of the country in preparation for a conflict with China. The entire incident is a lesson in how the media works to advance US war plans, promoting trumped-up threats against the US and covering up the US’s aggressive actions against the targets of its wars. The latest campaign to demonize China has parallels to the promotion by both the Trump and Biden administrations of the Wuhan lab lie, the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was created by scientific research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The desperation of both of these lies reflects the basic reality that there does not exist significant support within the US population for the US government’s plans for war. This passive opposition must, however, be transformed into a conscious mass anti-war movement based on an orientation to the working class and the perspective of socialism.

Sudan’s military junta to normalise relations with Israel amid massive crackdown on Palestinians
Jean Shaoul, WSWS, Feb 6 2023

Gen Abd’el-Fattah Burhan in Khartoum, Oct 6 2021.

As the new far-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ramps up its murderous repression of the Palestinians, the head of Sudan’s military junta, General Abd’el-Fattah al-Burhan, has agreed to “normalise” relations with Israel in the near future. It is yet another sordid betrayal of the Palestinians by an Arab regime that has barely been reported in the Arab media, much less commented upon or criticised. The announcement came during Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s visit to Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, where he also discussed military and security issues. according to a statement issued by Israel’s Foreign Ministry:

The signing ceremony of the peace agreement will take place in a few months’ time in Washington after the establishment of a civilian government, as part of the ongoing transition process in the country.

Sudan follows the UAE, Bahrain (unquestionably given the nod by Saudi Arabia) and Morocco, which normalised relations with Israel under the “Abraham Accords” brokered by the Trump administration and Egypt and Jordan, which recognised Israel in 1979 and 1994 respectively. These agreements, establishing diplomatic and trade relations, ended the state of war and boycott by members of the Arab League since the establishment of the state of Israel, the Arab–Israeli War and the displacement of 700k Palestinians in 1948. The agreements made visible their back-channel security, intelligence and commercial dealings with Israel and their repudiation of any commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, based on Israel’s full withdrawal from the territories captured in the 1967 Arab Israeli war, and a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee problem based on UNSCR 194. It was in Khartoum after the 1967 Arab Israeli war that the Arab League famously inaugurated its “three nos” policy in relation to Israel: no peace, no recognition and no negotiations. Now, as far as the Arab regimes are concerned, the Palestinians no longer matter. While Sudan had accepted the Abraham Accords in Nov 2020, signing with the US in exchange for a package of vital financial incentives, including Sudan’s long-awaited removal from Washington’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, it had not signed the agreement with Israel. Discussions stalled after the military’s sacking of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his transitional civilian government in Oct 2021, when the Biden administration suspended $700m in financial assistance to Sudan. Cohen, speaking at a press conference Thursday, said:

My visit to Sudan has laid the foundations for a historic peace agreement with a strategic Arab and Muslim country. The peace agreement between Israel and Sudan will promote regional stability and contribute to the national security of the State of Israel. The signing of this agreement will serve as an opportunity for the establishment of relations with other countries in Africa as well as the strengthening of existing ties with African countries.

Sudan occupies a strategically important location on the shores of the Red Sea, between Egypt and Eritrea, where it controls maritime routes. It borders on Ethiopia, one of Israel’s most important allies on the African continent, whose leader Abiy Ahmed paid his first visit to Sudan since the military coup. Under Omar al-Bashir, who was aligned with Qatar, Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood and supported Hamas, Sudan was subject on several occasions to Israeli bombings of convoys allegedly carrying weapons and ammunition to Hamas. Al-Burhan, following his pre-emptive military coup in the face of mass protests against al-Bashir in Apr 2019, has repudiated Sudan’s alliance with the Palestinians and Hamas, to secure security and trade deals with Israel. This was part of a bid to win favour with Washington, amid a deepening economic and political crisis. While he announced a framework deal in December for a two-year civilian transition towards elections, after months of protests and repression in which 120 protesters were killed, this is widely viewed as yet another fraudulent cover for military rule and has been met with mass protests. The Biden administration is determined to sever Sudan’s relationship with Iran, Russia and China, close Sudan’s large Red Sea port of Port Sudan to the Russian navy, and strengthen its regional anti-Iran alliance. The UAE has signed extensive commercial deals to open economic zones and ports in Sudan. The USA and Egypt have welcomed normalization. Hamas announced:

We call on the Sudanese leadership to backtrack on this decision that contradicts the interests of the brotherly people of Sudan which supports the just Palestinian cause, and the general Sudanese stance against the normalization of ties with the Israeli occupation state, and will only serve the Israeli occupation’s agenda.

This latest normalisation deal deepens the treacherous role of the Arab bourgeoisie, which has now formally buried its own “two state” solution and confirms that the nationalist agenda championed by all sections of the Palestinian bourgeoisie provides no way forward for the decades-long struggle of the workers and oppressed masses. On Thursday, Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Deby, who took power after his father, the dictator Idriss Deby, was killed by rebel forces in 2021, opened the country’s embassy in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, some 50 years after diplomatic ties were severed in 1972. Chad is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which was founded in 1969 after a fire in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem apparently started by a Christian fundamentalist. Like the Arab League, the OIC is ostensibly committed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a boycott of Israeli products to pressure Israel into ending the occupation. In establishing relations with Chad, one of the poorest countries in the world, Netanyahu is signalling that the Palestinians do not figure on the agenda of either the Arab or Muslim states.

These developments come just weeks after the installation of the most far-right government in Israel’s history, one that includes fascistic and racist parties based on Jewish settlers, and ultra-Orthodox parties which seek to suppress not only the Palestinians but the more secular sections of the Jewish population. It has stepped up Israel’s already savage repression of the Palestinians in pursuit of its programme of accelerated settlement expansion and moves towards full annexation of the Palestinian territories illegally occupied since the 1967 Arab Israeli war. This os combined with imposing even more pervasive apartheid conditions for Palestinians, including legislation making it easier to disqualify Arab legislators, and provocations at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Last year, 231 Palestinians lost their lives in extra-judicial killings at the hands of the Israeli military and settlers, the highest number since 2005. Some 35 Palestinians have already been killed this year. One factor in the massive raid on Jenin by the Israel military last month that left 10 dead and 20 injured, as well as terrorising the Palestinian population, was to provoke retaliation by desperate Palestinians to deflect anger against the government outwards and demobilise the anti-government protests.

A key element in Netanyahu’s expansionist plans at the expense of both the Palestinians and the Israeli working class is his bolstering of the government’s powers, to be achieved by neutering the judiciary. This is in the service of Israel’s plutocrats, ruling over one of the most socially polarised countries in the OECD group of advanced economies, raising the spectre of civil war. The court “reform” plan has sparked mass opposition, with weekly demonstrations protesting the government’s plans. Saturday witnessed the fifth such protest with widening participation across the country as tens of thousands took to the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and other towns and cities. Anti-occupation groups including Combatants for Peace, Machsom Watch, Peace Now and A Land for All, took part in Tel Aviv under the slogan, “There is no democracy with occupation.” Demonstrations were also held in some 20 cities in North America, Europe and Australia.

The recent events have exposed the twin political myths of the Middle East. First, the transformation of the PLO into a repressive adjunct of the Israeli state, and by extension US imperialism, imposing impoverishment of the Palestinian masses, refutes the notion that bourgeois nationalism, even in its most radical form of the armed struggle, could end the oppression of the Arab masses. Second, the emergence of a fascistic government in Israel and the very real prospect of civil war shatters any conception that the establishment of a Jewish state based on the dispossession and removal of the Palestinian people could provide a safe haven for the Jewish people. Bitter historical experiences demonstrate the failure of movements and programmes based upon nationalism, which serve the interests of a narrow social layer, the capitalist class, not the working class. The essential precondition for ending repression, poverty and war in the Middle East is the unification of the Israeli workers with their class brothers and sisters in the Palestinian territories and across the Middle East and internationally, to put an end to capitalism and re-organise society on a socialist basis. This is the perspective of permanent revolution fought for by the International Committee of the Fourth International.

Macron hosts Netanyahu in Paris to plan Israeli arms deliveries to Ukraine
Samuel Tissot, WSWS, Feb 6 2023

Macron welcomes Netanyahu to the Elysee Palace, Feb 2 2023.

Last Thursday evening, Netanyahu visited Macron in Paris. This was Netanyahu’s first official foreign visit since he once again became Prime Minister on Dec 29 last year. While no official remarks or transcript were published after Macron and Netanyahu’s meeting, the details of the conversation given to the major newspapers by government officials make clear that the purpose of the meeting was to plan the escalation of NATO’s war in Ukraine and Israel’s provocations against Iran. The meeting took place amid the efforts of imperialist powers to drastically escalate the war in Ukraine. In the first week of January, Macron became the first NATO leader to announce the delivery of tanks to Ukraine, which has now led to the delivery of 120 advanced battle tanks and even more advanced missile systems to the front lines by EU powers and the United States. It is now widely expected that, in a further escalation, NATO countries will soon deliver fighter jets to Ukraine. In this context, Netanyahu used the meeting to play his “Ukraine card,” agreeing to send Israeli armaments to Ukrainian forces at his meeting with Macron. In exchange, he sought assurances from France and her European allies that the 2015 Iranian Nuclear treaty will not be revived, and that European powers will continue to turn a blind eye to Israeli bombing raids against Iran, the far-right character of Netanyahu’s government, and its repressive measures at home. According to a source quoted in Le Monde who had knowledge of the meeting:

Netanyahu promised Macron that Israel would deliver arms to Ukraine. Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen is due to travel to Kyiv next week to finalize this. In return, Macron expressed his readiness to weigh sanctions on the IRGC.

In Friday’s press conference after Thursday’s meeting, Netanyahu stated:

France and Israel are drawing much closer in the way they see the Iran threat.

The two leaders both lead crisis-riddled regimes that are reviled by broad sections of their populations. As their meeting took place, millions of French and Israeli workers and youth were protesting their respective governments. Indeed, it is more or less apparent that Netanyahu hoped his first official state visit would provide favorable publicity as new Prime Minister and allow him to gloss over massive internal opposition to his regime. In Israel, demonstrations against Netanyahu’s far-right coalition government and its proposed judicial reform have continued into their fifth week. On Saturday, tens of thousands marched in 20 cities across the country, protesting Netanyahu’s attempted reform to emasculate the judiciary and block prosecution of Netanyahu himself, and against his government, which is made up of far-right nationalists, racists, and homophobes. In France, Macron oversees an equally fragile regime. The president is facing mass protests of workers and youth against his overwhelmingly unpopular pension reform and rapidly declining standards of living. On Jan 31, 2.5 million people marched against the reform, according to the French unions, and even the government’s own figure of 1.27 million protesters was a record. This followed a one-day strike on Jan 18 that was also supported by millions.

The closed-door meeting took place as Netanyahu’s government is waging a series of violent assaults on the Palestinian people, with 32 people killed by Israeli forces or settlers in January alone. This included the Israeli security forces’ raid on the Jenin refugee camp on Jan 26, which killed 10. Netanyahu’s new offensive is part of his government’s use of state violence to massively expand settlements in the West Bank and suppress any domestic opposition to annexation of Palestinian territories. Even behind closed doors, Macron did not condemn the murderous policies of the Israeli state. Instead, he cautioned Netanyahu:

If you continue what you are doing in Palestine, it will be difficult for Saudi Arabia to accept an agreement with you.

In other words, Macron only objects to an escalation of violence against Palestinians insofar as it threatens the NATO-backed axis of Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran in the Middle East. Indeed, in 2022 Macron’s government denounced charities and organizations which label the Israeli state’s persecution of its Palestinian population and the privileged legal status of Jewish citizens as apartheid. Macron is clearly concerned by the instability of Netanyahu’s regime. According to the leaked remarks, the French president told Netanyahu:

The proposed judicial reform opens a crisis unprecedented since the birth of the state in 1948. If it goes through, Paris should conclude that Israel has moved away from a common conception of democracy.

Macron’s criticisms, though they make clear that the imperialist bourgeoisies are well aware of the anti-democratic character of the present Israeli regime, are shot through with hypocrisy. In alliance with Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally, the “president of the rich” has overseen his own battery of anti-democratic laws, including the discriminatory anti-Muslim law and the Global Security Law, which outlaws taking photos or video of police. Macron’s refusal to publicly condemn Netanyahu’s judicial reform or Israel’s murderous suppression of Palestinians, despite his misgivings about their geopolitical consequences, flows from the bloody policies of the NATO powers themselves. Above all, they now seek to secure extensive Israeli support for imperialist war against Russia in Ukraine. Macron’s own pension cut aims to free up the state budget to fund French imperialism’s rapid rearmament and delivery of weapons to Ukraine without cutting into the wealth of the super-rich. Macron and Netanyahu are widely aware of mass opposition to their regimes and the NATO-Russia war. That is why these two “democratic” leaders met behind closed doors in order to plan the next stage of escalation of the war in Ukraine and how to continue efforts to provoke the bourgeois-nationalist Iranian regime into an action that can be seized upon to justify all-out war against Iran.

The fact that two such widely reviled politicians can come together and plot military attacks on major powers like Russia and Iran must be taken as a warning by masses of workers internationally. The danger that the Ukrainian war could spread across the entire Middle East, and turn into a direct conflict between major, nuclear-armed powers, is very real. Moreover, neither Macron nor Netanyahu see the eruption of political opposition and social protest in the working class and youth in any way as a reason to change their policies. Instead, they are trying to create conditions to double down on their reactionary policies by accelerating their military escalation and demanding that the population rally to them and to the armed forces in order to prosecute the wars which they themselves are playing a decisive role in launching. The way forward is the construction of a mass, international anti-war movement in the working class, independent of the entire political establishment. Only such a force can smash the reactionary influence of figures such as Macron and Netanyahu and halt the military escalation they are recklessly setting into motion before it erupts into a global conflagration.

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