Bill Weinberg

Bob Dreyfuss betrays Syria in The Nation

We have already pointed out that Bob Dreyfuss is an intellectually dishonest coward. But his latest in The Nation is actually refreshingly honest, if utterly repugnant. The stateside Bashar Assad fan club rarely plays its hand so openly as he does in his new exercise in dictator-shilling, unabashedly entitled "US Should Back Syria's Assad Against ISIS"! Dreyfuss favorably quotes former US ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan Ryan Crocker's obscene remarks in the New York Times a few months back that "Assad Is the Least Worst Option." He also similarly endorses recent comments to the same effect from Leslie Gelb in the same NY Times that "leftists" once derided as an organ of the imperial elite. He writes with wide-eyed credulity that Assad has "wrongly been accused of covertly supporting ISIS." That's pretty hilarious. This is the same Bob Dreyfuss who has been arguing for years (see, e.g. his Jan. 26, 2006 performance on Democracy Now!) that Israel covertly backed Hamas as a stratagem against Fatah before things got out of control. But he summarily dismisses the notion that Assad similarly backed the jihadists as a stratagem against the secular opposition before things similarly got out of control. However, there are more fundamental faults here...

Iraq: great power convergence against ISIS

Days after declaring a new "caliphate" and formally renaming itself simply the "Islamic State," to emphasize its pretensions to world domination, ISIS has claimed possession of at least one Scud ballistic missile. The militant group published photographs of what appeared to be a Scud paraded on the back on a truck surrounded by masked men in the Syrian city of Raqqa—the proclaimed capital of their "caliphate." The missile was presumably seized from either Iraqi or Syrian military forces. In a voice-over with the video message, "caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi issued a worldwide call to jihad, beseeching Muslims to rise up and avenge wrongs committed against their faith from Central African Republic to Burma. (Al Arabiya, July 2)

Sarajevo at 100: ready for World War 5?

June 28, St. Vitus' Day, marks a century since the Serb nationlist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire, thereby starting World War I. Commemorations in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, the scene of the 1914 assassination, were predictably—indeed, inevitably—contested by the two political entities that make up contemporary Bosnia: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, supported by Muslims and Croats, and the Republika Srpska or Serb Republic. (See map.) The Institute for War & Peace Reporting notes that the commemorations were boycotted by Serb leaders, who instead held an alternative event in the Republika Srpska. Aleksandar Vucic, prime minister of Serbia, charged that what was supposed to be a joint commemoration had been co-opted by the Federation. Serbia's President Tomislav Nikolic said the event amounted to an "accusation" against his people. Nebojsa Radmanovic, Serb member of the tripartite Bosnian presidency, declined his invitation in a letter to Austria's President Heinz Fischer, stating that the Sarajevo city government had abused the commemoration and "subordinated its meaning to the context of the 1990s civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina."

Obama to send 300 military 'advisors' to Iraq

President Obama said June 19 that he is prepared to send up to 300 US military advisors to Iraq to help government forces beat back the ISIS militants that have seized up to a third of the country. In a national address, Obama said the US team will assess how best to "train, advise and support" Iraqi forces—and that the new advisors will be "prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine the situation on the ground requires it." But he emphasized: "American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region and American interests as well." (Chicago Tribune, ABC, June 19) We noted at the time that the supposed US "withdrawl" from Iraq in 2011 was largely fictional, with thousands of military contractors and hundreds of "advisors" to stay behind. While news accounts have not made clear how many "advisors" are already in Iraq, Obama referred to the new force as "additional military advisors." (AP) The phrase "targeted and precise military action" makes clear that the distinction between "advisors" and "combat forces" is also largely fictional.

ISIS behind West Bank abductions?

Israel's Haaretz reported June 14 that a "Pamphlet Number 1" issued in the name of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and circulated around Hebron is claiming responsibility for the abduction of three Israelis in the West Bank—but the statement's authenticity is in doubt. The account notes that a "similar case occurred two years ago, when Palestinian groups carried out operations under the banner of the Nusra Front," which similarly rose to prominence in the Syrian civil war as the leader of the Islamist rebels. In other words, aspiring local jihadists may be adopting the names of the Syrian Qaedists to cash in on their cachet. Of course given al-Qaeda's franchise model, real organizational ties may follow appropriation of the name. Other groups operating in Sinai and Gaza such as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claim affiliation to al-Qaeda, "while Arab governments sometimes term Salafi groups in their territories as Al-Qaida to legitimize their suppression." Algemeiner reports that Reuter's Jerusalem bureau fielded a call from one "Dawlat al-Islam," identified as an ISIS branch operating in Hebron, claiming responsibility for the abductions.

ISIS: too radical for al-Qaeda?

Iraq's military claims to have retaken most of Salaheddin governorate and even parts of Nineveh from the ISIS militants who have swept south towards Baghdad in recent days. But the claims are disputed by anonymous "security officials in Baghdad and Samarra" who told CNN that up to 70% of Salaheddin remains in ISIS hands. The Pentagon has ordered the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush into the Persian Gulf from the north Arabian Sea, in apparent readiness to launch air-strikes agianst ISIS-held territories. Even the very name of the carrier seems designed to antagonize and humiliate Iraq's Sunnis, augmenting the propaganda assistance that will be loaned to ISIS with every US missile that falls.

Tiananmen Square: futility of revisionism

Chinese authorities carried out aggressive detentions ahead of the 25th anniversary  of the Tiananmen Sqauare massacre, with New Tang Dynasty news agency reporting 70 journalists, dissidents and rights defenders arrested over the past month. Blogger and journalist Gao Yu went missing at the end of April, and Beijing activist Hu Jia has been under house arrest for more than three months, after announcing his intention to hold a vigil in the square on the June 4 anniversary, in defiance of authorities. The Wall Street Journal's China Real Time blog notes that tens of thousands attended a vigil in Hong Kong, but the New York Times' Sinosphere blog reports that Tiananmen Square itself was so thick with security patrols and checkpoints that even the usual throng of tourists was down to a mere trickle. A tantalyzing report in the Globe & Mail says that a small group of black-clad citizens did manage to walk through the square in a silent, symbolic protest.

Obama climate plan: too little, too late

For the first time, the US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to limit emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. The response has been predictable. Environment News Service notes: "Democrats and public health and environmental groups rejoiced in the proposal of a measure they have advocated for years to fight climate change, but Republicans cried doom, warning that the rule would destroy the American economy." The New York Times writes: "[E]nvironmental advocates praised the proposed rule for its breadth and reach while the coal industry attacked it as a symbol of executive overreach that could wreak economic havoc." The Daily Beast's Jason Mark dubbed the program "Obamacare for the Air" because both plans are "numbingly complex," "based on a market system," "likely to transform a key sector of the economy," and "guaranteed to be intensely polarizing." In other words, a market-based plan is being attacked by the right as green totalitarianism. This would be perverse enough if the plan's goals were anywhere close to sufficient to actually address the climate crisis—which, again predictably, they are not.

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