Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his Western allies charge that Moscow has sent at least 1,000 regular army troops into the two easternmost oblasts of Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, to back up the separatist rebels there. Russia's President Vladimir Putin responds with an outburst of presumably unintentional irony. He compared Kiev's encirclement of rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk to the 900-day Nazi siege of Leningrad in which 1 million civilians died. Speaking at a pro-Kremlin rally at a lakeside youth camp, he also told supporters—some waving banners bearing his face—that Russia remains a strong nuclear power and therefore "it's best not to mess with us." He added that Russians and Ukrainians "are practically one people"—recalling his recent references to the disputed areas of southeastern Ukraine as "Novorossiya." So, let's get this straight... he accuses his enemies of being like the Nazis while enouraging a fascistic personality cult around his own leadership, while making claims to the territory of a neighboring country on ethno-nationalist grounds, and while threatening use of nuclear weapons. This is another example of what we call the Paradoxical Anti-Fascist Rhetoric of Contemporary Crypto-Fascism. Although in Putin's case, it is barely crypto.
Boy, did we ever call this one. Contrary to the prevailing leftist conspiracy theory that the US was backing ISIS against Assad, we predicted earlier this year that the US would soon intervene in Syria against al-Qaeda and its offshoots such as ISIS. Today, the New York Times reports the comments of Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that ISIS cannot be defeated unless the US or its partners take them on in Syria. "This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated," Dempsey said. "Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no." Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who both spoke at a Pentagon press conference, stopped short of saying air-strikes on Syria are planned, but the comments were obviously intended to float the idea.
The lefty Common Dreams website claims to have conducted an investigation revealing that "more than a thousand" anti-Semitic comments posted to the site over the past two years "were written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website's discussion of issues involving Israel." In an "intricate campaign"—which he supposedly admitted to Common Dreams, although his name was not revealed—the busy crypto-scribe posted comments under the screen name "JewishProgressive," whose purpose was to draw attention to the anti-Semitic comments that he had written under various other screen names. If it all really was one guy, he certainly has a sharp ear. In response to JewishProgressive's complaints, his alter-egos responded with such gems as: "Oy vey! Cry me a river, you Talmudic parasite. Direct your criticism at your sociopathic tribe of money-grubbers, warmongers, and land thieves." And: "There are reasons beyond mere 'anti-Semitism' why these people were kicked out of 109 countries. You don't elicit that degree of anger and hostility from host populations without significantly contributing to the problem through your antisocial, predatory behavior." And, apparently fearing that readers might be getting wise, he had one of his own characters speculate that the Jew-hating posts were an "elaborate Hasbara setup." The deceitful trolling is said to have cost Common Dreams much money in donations. The ruse was uncovered by comparing the IP addresses of posters.
The taking of the Mosul Dam on the Tigris River from ISIS by Kurdish Peshmerga forces backed by US air power highlights the strategic nature of water in the multi-sided Iraq conflict. Even before ISIS seized the giant dam in early August, the militants were taking advantage of the country's drought, cutting off the flow of water from the dam to Baghdad through territory under their control. "ISIS is starting to use dams as weapon of war," wrote meteorologist Eric Holthaus, Slate's Future Tense blog. "So they've made [it] high on their list to take over those dams and control the water downstream." July saw battles between ISIS militants and government troops over the Haditha Dam and its hydroelectric works on the Euphrates. The fall of the complex to ISIS would have given the rebels control over Baghdad's electricity source. But the most grave danger has not passed: ongoing fighting and air-strikes in the area of the Mosul Dam could lead to the dam being breached, which would flood Mosul and other downstream cities, possibly even affecting Baghdad.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to US legislators to help Israel stave off a feared global push to bring Israeli military and political leaders to trial on war crimes charges in the wake of the Gaza offensive, the New York Post reported Aug. 6. Congress members visiting Israel as guests of AIPAC, were urged by Bibi to go to bat for Israeli officials seekng to avoid ending up in the dock at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The delegation included Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who said: "The prime minister asked us to work together to ensure that this strategy of going to the ICC does not succeed." Netanyahu "wants the US to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to, number one, make sure the world knows that war crimes were not committed by Israel, they were committed by Hamas. And that Israel should not be held to a double standard." (JP)
Well, this is surreal. In authorizing US air-strikes in northern Iraq, President Obama invoked the responsibility to protect the Yazidis from ISIS and avert a potential "genocide." Before the missiles fall, there will be air-drops of aid to the several thousand Yazidis besieged on a mountaintop in Sinjar, Nineveh governorate, driven from their homes below by ISIS militants. Said Obama: "Earlier this week, one Iraqi cried that there is no one coming to help. Well, today America is coming to help." (AP, AFP, NYT, Aug. 7) We have been noting for years the growing persecution and attacks on the Yazidis as jihadists have been unleashed in the decade since the US invasion, and warning of the threat of genocide. But too small to matter in the Great Power game, their plight was little noted by the outside world. Now their name is on the lips of the leader of the West, and in the global headlines.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces took control of the town of Zumar near Iraq's border with Syria Aug. 1, routing ISIS militants from oil installations they had taken in a surprise attack earlier in the day. Kurdish authorities said two Peshmerga troops were killed, along with several ISIS fighters, with several more ISIS militants taken prisoner. The Peshmerga victory comes two days after ISIS insurgents blew up the critical bridge over the Tigris River at Samarra, effectively cutting off Baghdad from Nineveh and Iraq's north. The emergence of the Peshmerga as a more potent force against ISIS than Iraq's national army (now approaching a state of disentegration) raises obvious dilemmas. In fact, in 2012, the town of Zumar was at the center of a political crisis between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government. The central government sent military units to Zumar to take the border post, but were stopped by Peshmerga forces. Zumar lies in the northwest of Nineveh governorate, on the border of teritory controlled by the KRG and ISIS. (See map.) (Rudaw, Aug. 1; BasNews, July 30)
Elie Wiesel—yet again—seems to find himself on the wrong side, this time in a full-page ad he took out in US newspapers (PDF), problematicallly entitled: "Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago. Now it's Hamas' turn." Offering no evidence for the accusation, he writes: "I call upon President Obama and the leaders of the world to condemn Hamas' use of children as human shields." This formula of course gives Israel a blank check to kill Palestinian children, while blaming Hamas for using them as "shields." And while the statement invokes co-existence and a shared Abrahamic heritage with the Palestinians, it does so in utterly hypocritical terms. In his penultimate paragraph, Wiesel writes: "And I enjoin the American public to stand firmly with the people of Israel who are in yet another struggle for survival, and with the suffering people of Gaza who reject terror and embrace peace." Note the subtlety of the propaganda. We are admonished to stand with "the people of Israel" (presumably, all of them), who are engaged in a "struggle for survival." Whereas, we are told to stand with "the suffering people of Gaza who reject terror and embrace peace"—this after a lecture about the Gazans using their children as "shields." So presumably, we are only to "stand with" those Gazans who reject their own leaders. No such conditions are placed on the Israeli side—on the contrary, the Israeli war is legitimized as a "struggle for survival." There is no acknowledgement of a "struggle for survival" in Gaza—with over 1,500 dead, 200,000 displaced, whole neighborhoods reduced to rubble, and thousands without water or electricity.