Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kosovo's "Mafia State" and Camp Bondsteel - Permanent US Military Presence in Southeast Europe

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In one of the more bizarre foreign policy announcements of a bizarre Obama Administration, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced that Washington will “help” Kosovo to join NATO as well as the European Union. She made the pledge after a recent Washington meeting with Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Washington where she praised the progress of the Thaci government in its progress in “European integration and economic development.” 1

Her announcement no doubt caused serious gas pains among government and military officials in the various capitals of European NATO. Few people appreciate just how mad Clinton’s plan to push Kosovo into NATO and the EU is.

Basic Kosovo geopolitics

The controversial piece of real estate today called Kosovo was a part of Yugoslavia and tied to Serbia until the NATO bombing campaign in 1999 demolished what remained of Milosevic’s Serbia and opened the way for the United States, with the dubious assist of EU nations, above all Germany, to carve up the former Yugoslavia into tiny, dependent pseudo states. Kosovo became one, as did Macedonia. Slovenia and Croatia had earlier split off from Yugoslavia with a strong assist from the German Foreign Ministry.

Some brief review of the circumstances leading to the secession of Kosovo from Yugoslavia will help locate how risky a NATO membership or EU membership would be for the future of Europe. Hashim Thaci the current Kosovo Prime Minister, got his job, so to speak, through the US State Department and not via free democratic Kosovo elections. Kosovo is not recognized as a legitimate state by either Russia or Serbia or over one hundred other nations. However, it was immediately recognized when it declared independence in 2008 by the Bush Administration and by Berlin.

Membership into the EU for Kosovo would be welcoming another failed state, something which may not bother US Secretary Clinton, but which the EU at this juncture definitely can do without. Best estimates place unemployment in the country at as much as 60%. That is not just Third World level. The economy was always the poorest in Yugoslavia and today it is worse. Yet the real issue in terms of the future of EU peace and security is the nature of the Kosovo state that has been created by Washington since the late 1990’s.

Mafia State and Camp Bondsteel

Kosovo is a tiny parcel of land in one of the most strategic locations in all Europe from a geopolitical standpoint of the US military objective of controlling oil flows and political developments from the oil-rich Middle East to Russia and Western Europe. The current US-led recognition of the self-declared Republic of Kosovo is a continuation of US policy for the Balkans since the illegal 1999 US-led NATO bombing of Serbia—a NATO “out-of-area” deployment never approved by the UN Security Council, allegedly on the premise that Milosevic’s army was on the verge of carrying out a genocidal massacre of Kosovo Albanians.

Some months before the US-led bombing of Serbian targets, one of the heaviest bombings since World War II, a senior US intelligence official in private conversation told Croatian senior army officers in Zagreb about Washington’s strategy for former Yugoslavia. According to these reports, communicated privately to this author, the Pentagon goal already in late 1998 was to take control of Kosovo in order to secure a military base to control the entire southeast European region down to the Middle East oil lands.

Since June 1999 when the NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) occupied Kosovo, then an integral part of then-Yugoslavia, Kosovo was technically under a United Nations mandate, UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Russia and China also agreed to that mandate, which specifies the role of KFOR to ensure an end to inter-ethnic fighting and atrocities between the Serb minority population, others and the Kosovo Albanian Islamic majority. Under 1244 Kosovo would remain part of Serbia pending a peaceful resolution of its status. That UN Resolution was blatantly ignored by the US, German and other EU parties in 2008.

Germany’s and Washington’s prompt recognition of Kosovo’s independence in February 2008, significantly, came days after elections for President in Serbia confirmed pro-Washington Boris Tadic had won a second four year term. With Tadic’s post secured, Washington could count on a compliant Serbian reaction to its support for Kosovo.

Immediately after the bombing of Serbia in 1999 the Pentagon seized a 1000 acre large parcel of land in Kosovo at Uresevic near the border to Macedonia, and awarded a contract to Halliburton when Dick Cheney was CEO there, to build one of the largest US overseas military bases in the world, Camp Bondsteel, with more than 7000 troops today.

The Pentagon has already secured seven new military bases in Bulgaria and Romania on the Black Sea in the Northern Balkans, including the Graf Ignatievo and Bezmer airbases in Bulgaria and Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania, which are used for "downrange" military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Romanian installation hosts the Pentagon's Joint Task Force–East. The US's colossal Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo and the use and upgrading of Croatian and Montenegrin Adriatic harbors for US Navy deployments complete the militarization of the Balkans.[ii]

The US strategic agenda for Kosovo is primarily military, secondarily, it seems, narcotics trafficking. Its prime focus is against Russia and for control of oil flows from the Caspian Sea to the Middle East into Western Europe. By declaring its independence, Washington gains a weak state which it can fully control. So long as it remained a part of Serbia, that NATO military control would be politically insecure. Today Kosovo is controlled as a military satrapy of NATO, whose KFOR has 16,000 troops there for a tiny population of 2 million. Its Camp Bondsteel is one of a string of so-called forward operating bases and "lily pads" as Donald Rumsfeld called them, for military action to the east and south. Now formally bringing Kosovo into the EU and to NATO will solidify that military base now that the Republic of Georgia under US protégé Saakashvili failed so miserably in 2008 to fill that NATO role.

Heroin Transport Corridor

US-NATO military control of Kosovo serves several purposes for Washington’s greater geo-strategic agenda. First it enables greater US control over potential oil and gas pipeline routes into the EU from the Caspian and Middle East as well as control of the transport corridors linking the EU to the Black Sea.

It also protects the multi-billion dollar heroin trade, which, significantly, has grown to record dimensions in Afghanistan according to UN narcotics officials, since the US occupation. Kosovo and Albania are major heroin transit routes into Europe. According to a 2008 US State Department annual report on international narcotics traffic, several key drug trafficking routes pass through the Balkans. Kosovo is mentioned as a key point for the transfer of heroin from Turkey and Afghanistan to Western Europe. Those drugs flow under the watchful eye of the Thaci government.

Since its dealings with the Meo tribesmen in Laos during the Vietnam era, the CIA has protected narcotics traffic in key locations in order partly to finance its covert operations. The scale of international narcotics traffic today is such that major US banks such as Citigroup are reported to derive a significant share of their profits from laundering the proceeds.

One of the notable features of the indecent rush by Washington and other states to immediately recognize the independence of Kosovo is the fact that they well knew its government and both major political parties were in fact run by Kosovo Albanian organized crime.

Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister of Kosovo and head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, is the former leader of the terrorist organization which the US and NATO trained and called the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, or in Albanian, UCK. In Kosovo crime circles he is known as Hashim “The Snake” for his personal ruthlessness against opponents.

In 1997, President Clinton’s Special Balkans Envoy, Robert Gelbard described the KLA as, “without any question a terrorist group.” It was far more. It was a klan-based mafia, impossible therefore to infiltrate, which controlled the underground black economy of Kosovo. Today the Democratic Party of Thaci, according to European police sources, retains its links to organized crime.

A February 22, 2005 German BND report, labeled Top Secret, which has since been leaked, stated, “Über die Key-Player (wie z. B. Haliti, Thaci, Haradinaj) bestehen engste Verflechtungen zwischen Politik, Wirtschaft und international operierenden OK-Strukturen im Kosovo. Die dahinter stehenden kriminellen Netzwerke fördern dort die politische Instabilität. Sie haben kein Interesse am Aufbau einer funktionierenden staatlichen Ordnung, durch die ihre florierenden Geschäfte beeinträchtigt werden können.“ (OK=Organized Kriminalität). (Translation: “Through the key players—for example Thaci, Haliti, Haradinaj—there is the closest interlink between politics, the economy and international organized crime in Kosovo. The criminal organizations in the background there foster political instability. They have no interest at all in the building of a functioning orderly state that could be detrimental to their booming business.”3

The KLA began action in 1996 with the bombing of refugee camps housing Serbian refugees from the wars in Bosnia and Croatia. The KLA repeatedly called for the “liberation” of areas of Montenegro, Macedonia and parts of Northern Greece. Thaci is hardly a figure of regional stability to put it mildly.

The 44 year old Thaci was a personal protégé of Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during the 1990s, when he was a mere 30-year old gangster. The KLA was supported from the outset by the CIA and the German BND. During the 1999 war the KLA was directly supported by NATO. At the time he was picked up by the USA in the mid-1990s, Thaci was founder of the Drenica Group, a criminal syndicate in Kosovo with ties to Albanian, Macedonian and Italian organized mafias. A classified January 2007 report prepared for the EU Commission, labeled “VS-Nur für den Dienstgebrauch” was leaked to the media. It detailed the organized criminal activity of KLA and its successor Democratic Party under Thaci.

A December 2010 Council of Europe report, released a day after Kosovo's election commission said Mr Thaci's party won the first post-independence election, accused Western powers of complicity in ignoring the activities of the crime ring headed by Thaci: "Thaci and these other 'Drenica Group' members are consistently named as 'key players' in intelligence reports on Kosovo's mafia-like structures of organised crime," the report said. "We found that the 'Drenica Group' had as its chief – or, to use the terminology of organised crime networks, its 'boss' – the renowned political operator ... Hashim Thaci." 4

The report stated that Thaci exerted "violent control" over the heroin trade. Dick Marty, the European Union investigator, presented the report to European diplomats from all member states. The response was silence. Washington was behind Thaci.5

The same Council of Europe report on Kosovo organized crime accused Thaci’s mafia organization of dealing in trade in human organs. Figures from Thaçi's inner circle were accused of taking captives across the border into Albania after the war, where a number of Serbs are said to have been murdered for their kidneys that were sold on the black market. In one case revealed in legal proceedings in a Pristina district court in 2008 organs were said to have been taken from impoverished victims at a clinic known as Medicus – linked to Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) organ harvesting in 2000.6

The question then becomes, why are Washington, NATO, the EU and inclusive and importantly, the German Government, so eager to legitimize the breakaway Kosovo? A Kosovo run internally by organized criminal networks is easy for NATO to control. It insures a weak state which is far easier to bring under NATO domination. Combined with NATO control over Afghanistan where the Kosovo heroin controlled by Prime Minister Thaci originates, the Pentagon is building a web of encirclement around Russia that is anything but peaceful.

The Thaci dependence on US and NATO good graces insures Thaci’s government will do what it is asked. That, in turn, assures the US a major military gain consolidating its permanent presence in the strategically vital southeast Europe. It is a major step in consolidating NATO control of Eurasia, and gives the US a large swing its way in the European balance of power. Little wonder Moscow has not welcomed the development, nor have numerous other states. The US is literally playing with dynamite, potentially as well with nuclear war in the Balkans.

*
F. William Engdahl is author of Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. He may be contacted via his website, www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net


Notes

1 RIA Novosti, US to Help Kosovo Join EU NATO: Clinton, April 5, 2012, accessed in
http://en.rian.ru/world/20120405/172621125.html.

2 Rick Rozoff, Pentagon and NATO Complete Their Conquest of The Balkans, Global Research, November 28, 2009, accessed in
www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=16311.

3 Tom Burghardt, The End of the Affair: The BND, CIA and Kosovo’s Deep State, accessed in

http://wikileaks.org/wiki/The_End_of_the_Affair%3F_The_BND%2C_CIA_and_Kosovo%27s_Deep_State.

4 The Telegraph, Kosovo's prime minister 'key player in mafia-like gang,' December 14, 2010, accessed in
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/kosovo/8202700/Kosovos-prime-minister-key-player-in-mafia-like-gang.html.

5 Ibid.

6 Paul Lewis, Kosovo PM is head of human organ and arms ring Council of Europe reports, The Guardian, 14 December 2010.

Washington Leads World Into Lawlessness

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The US government pretends to live under the rule of law, to respect human rights, and to provide freedom and democracy to citizens. Washington’s pretense and the stark reality are diametrically opposed.

US government officials routinely criticize other governments for being undemocratic and for violating human rights. Yet, no other country except Israel sends bombs, missiles, and drones into sovereign countries to murder civilian populations. The torture prisons of Abu Gahraib, Guantanamo, and CIA secret rendition sites are the contributions of the Bush/Obama regimes to human rights.

Washington violates the human rights of its own citizens. Washington has suspended the civil liberties guaranteed in the US Constitution and declared its intention to detain US citizens indefinitely without due process of law. President Obama has announced that he, at his discretion, can murder US citizens whom he regards as a threat to the US.

Congress did not respond to these extraordinary announcements with impeachment proceedings. There was no uproar from the federal courts, law schools, or bar associations. Glenn Greenwald reports that the Department of Homeland Security harasses journalists who refuse to be presstitutes, and we have seen videos of the brutal police oppression of peaceful OWS protestors. Chris Floyd describes the torture-perverts who rule the US.

Now Washington is forcing as much of the world as it can to overthrow international treaties and international law. Washington has issued a ukase that its word alone is international law. Any country, except those who receive Washington’s dispensation, that engages in trade with Iran or purchases Iran’s oil will be sanctioned by the US. These countries will be cut off from US markets, and their banking systems will not be able to use banks that process international payments. In other words, Washington’s “sanctions against Iran” apply not to Iran but to countries that defy Washington and meet their energy needs with Iranian oil.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, so far Washington has granted special privileges to Japan and 10 European Union countries to continue purchasing Iranian oil. Requiring countries to shutdown their economies in order to comply with Washington’s vendetta against Iran, a vendetta that has been ongoing ever since the Iranians overthrew the Washington-installed puppet, the Shah of Iran, more than three decades ago, was more than Washington could get away with. Washington has permitted Japan to keep importing between 78-85% of its normal oil imports from Iran.

Washington’s dispensations, however, are arbitrary. Dispensations have not been granted to China, India, Turkey, and South Korea. India and China are the largest importers of Iranian oil, and Turkey and South Korea are among the top ten importers. Before looking at possible unintended consequences of Washington’s vendetta against Iran, what is Washington’s case against Iran?

Frankly, Washington has no case. It is the hoax of “weapons of mass destruction” all over again. Iran, unlike Israel, signed the non-proliferation treaty. All countries that sign the treaty have the right to nuclear energy. Washington claims that Iran is violating the treaty by developing a nuclear weapon. There is no evidence whatsoever for Washington’s assertion. Washington’s own 16 intelligence agencies are unanimous that Iran has had no nuclear weapon’s program since 2003. Moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s weapons inspectors are in Iran and have reported consistently that there is no diversion of nuclear material from the energy program to a weapons program.

On the rare occasion when Washington is reminded of the facts, Washington makes a different case. Washington asserts that Iran’s rights under the non-proliferation treaty notwithstanding, Iran cannot have a nuclear energy program, because Iran would then have learned enough to be able at some future time to make a bomb. The world’s hegemon has unilaterally decided that the possibility that Iran might one day decide to make a nuke is too great a risk to take. It is better, Washington says, to drive up the oil price, disrupt the world economy, violate international law, and risk a major war than to have to worry that a future Iranian government will make a nuclear weapon. This is the Jeremy Bentham tyrannical approach to law that was repudiated by the Anglo-American legal system.

It is difficult to characterize Washington’s position as one of good judgment. Moreover, Washington has never explained the huge risk Washington sees in the possibility of an Iranian nuke. Why is this risk so much greater than the risk associated with Soviet nukes or with the nukes of the US, Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea today? Iran is a relatively small country. It does not have Washington’s world hegemonic ambitions. Unlike Washington, Iran is not at war with a half dozen countries. Why is Washington destroying America’s reputation as a country that respects law and risking a major war and economic dislocation over some possible future development, the probability of which is unknown?

There is no good answer to this question. Lacking evidence for a case against Iran, Washington and Israel have substituted demonization. The lie has been established as truth that the current president of Iran intends to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

This lie has succeeded as propaganda even though numerous language experts have proven that the intention attributed to the Iranian president by American-Israeli propaganda is a gross mistranslation of what the president of Iran said. Once again, for Washington and its presstitutes, facts do not count. The agenda is all that counts, and any lie will be used to advance the agenda.

Washington’s sanctions could end up biting Washington harder than they bite Iran.
What will Washington do if India, China, Turkey and South Korea do not succumb to Washington’s threats?

According to recent news reports, India and China are not inclined to inconvenience themselves and to harm their economic development in order to support Washington’s vendetta against Iran. Having watched China’s rapid rise and having observed North Korea’s immunity to American attack, South Korea might be wondering how much longer it intends to remain Washington’s puppet state. Turkey, where the civilian and somewhat Islamist government has managed to become independent of the US- controlled Turkish military, appears to be slowly coming to the realization that Washington and NATO have Turkey in a “service role” in which Turkey is Washington’s agent against its own kind. The Turkish government appears to be reassessing the benefits of being Washington’s pawn.

What Turkey and South Korea decide is basically a decision whether the countries will be independent countries or be subsumed within Washington’s empire. The success of the American-Israeli assault on Iran’s independence depends on India and China.

If India and China give the bird to Washington, what can Washington do? Absolutely nothing. What if Washington, drowning in its gigantic hubris, announced sanctions against India and China?

Wal-Mart’s shelves would be empty, and America’s largest retailer would be hammering on the White House door.

Apple Computer and innumerable powerful US corporations, which have offshored their production for the American market to China, would see their profits evaporate. Together with their Wall Street allies, these powerful corporations would assault the fool in the White House with more force than the Red Army. The Chinese trade surplus would cease to flow into US Treasury debt. The offshored-to-India back office operations of banks, credit card companies, and customer service departments of utilities throughout the US would cease to function.

In America, chaos would reign. Such are the rewards to the Empire of globalism.

The White House moron and the neoconservative and Israeli warmongers who urge him on to more wars do not understand that the US is no longer an independent country. America is owned by offshoring corporations and the foreign countries in which the corporations have located their production for US markets. Sanctions on China and India (and South Korea) mean sanctions on US corporations. Sanctions on Turkey mean sanctions on a NATO ally.

Do China, India, South Korea and Turkey realize that they hold the winning cards? Do they understand that they can give the bird to the American Empire and bring it down in collapse, or are they brainwashed like Europe and the rest of the world that the powerful Americans cannot be resisted?

Will China and India exercise their power over the US, or will the two countries fudge the issue and adopt a pose that saves face for Washington while they continue to purchase Iranian oil?

The answer to this question is: how much will Washington pay China and India in secret concessions, such as eviction of the US from the South China Sea, for their pretense that China and India acknowledge Washington’s dictatorial powers over the rest of the world?

Without concession to China and India, Washington is likely to be ignored while it watches its power evaporate. A country that cannot produce industrial and manufactured goods, but can only print debt instruments and money is not a powerful country. It is a washed-up two-bit punk that can continue to struct around until the proverbial boy says: “the Emperor has no clothes”.

Update:
China is responding to the sanctions by taking advantage of the drop in demand for Iranian oil to negotiate lower prices for its purchases. The result of Washington’s sanctions on Iran is to lower the cost of energy for China and to raise it for everyone else.

The Imperial "Friends" of Syria

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As the proposed April 10 Syrian ceasefire goes up in smoke, so, too, does the hope for a Syrian-led political process to resolve the crisis.

Quite predictably, the U.S. propaganda machine has rushed to lay blame for the abortive ceasefire solely at the feet of the Syrian government. As a New York Times headline averred Monday: “Cease-fire in Doubt as Syria Demands New Conditions.” These “new” conditions, the article detailed, include "‘written guarantees' that rebels would stop fighting before it pulled back its troops under the cease-fire plan."

Of course, the six-point peace initiative proposed by joint United Nations and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, which has already been agreed upon by the Syrian government, explicitly calls for the "cessation of violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilize the country."

In service to propaganda, however, the U.S. media has largely sidestepped such matters in propagating a narrative of one-sided Syrian governmental intransigence. Thus, the maneuvering over the weekend by the armed Syrian opposition to undermine the Tuesday ceasefire was largely ignored. Yet as Reuters reported Saturday, "Rebel Free Syrian Army commander Colonel Riad al-Asaad said his men would cease fire, provided 'the regime ... withdraws from the cities and returns to its original barracks.'" Reuters went on to admit, "Annan's plan does not stipulate a complete army withdrawal to barracks or mention police."

Still, the concerted move to undo the Annan peace initiative did not begin this past weekend. Rather, it began a full week prior.

Imperial “Friends”

In their April 1 meeting in Turkey, the so-called “Friends of Syria” proudly announced their plans to increase foreign aid to the armed Syrian opposition. At the summit of some 70 nations, Arab states Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates (all such bastions of democracy) pledged a total of $100 million to pay the individual salaries of those in the rebel "Free Syrian Army." As Al Jazeera reported, “One delegate described the fund as a 'pot of gold' to undermine Assad's army."

Lest one forgets, the armed Syrian opposition, which the self-proclaimed “friends” of the Syrian people so readily laud and seek to now shower with cash, was publicly chided a mere two weeks ago by Human Rights Watch for committing myriad human-rights abuses against the Syrian people. According to Human Rights Watch, armed opposition groups have been implicated in the “kidnapping, detention, and torture of security force members, government supporters, and people identified as members of pro-government militias, called shabeeha.

Unmoved by such reports, Washington, too, decided at the April Fools “Friends” summit to offer up its own gold. In total, the U.S. pledged $12 million for “non-lethal” and “humanitarian” aid to the Syrian rebels. For good measure, London pitched in an additional $800,000 in "practical non-lethal support." But as the New York Times reported, this “non-lethal” support will not only included satellite communications equipment, but night-vision goggles as well.

It ought to be quite clear, then, that despite the official claims to the contrary, such "non-lethal" aid will ultimately be put to lethal use. Moreover, such equipment will undoubtedly help enhance the coordination between the Syrian rebels and their NATO military advisers, the latter whom are already on the ground inside Syria, according to multiple reports.

Such a torpedoing of the Annan proposed ceasefire and peace plan, though, is the direct aim of the imperial minded "Friends of Syria.”

Orchestrating Continued Violence

By sustaining the rebels fighters, the international imperial alliance forged between NATO and its Arab client states seeks the perpetuation of violence within Syria. For by maintaining the violence, the calls for the forcible removal of the tyrant Bashar al-Assad will predictably come to reverberate ever-louder throughout the Western press. The purpose here, we shall see, being to build the necessary momentum for a new U.N. Security Council resolution approving a NATO intervention akin to that which ousted Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.

Indeed, for as British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC: "We're working on coordinating our sanctions together and sending a clear message that there isn't an unlimited period of time for this, for the Kofi Annan process to work before many of the nations here want us to go back to the U.N. Security Council,"

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has added much the same. As the Washington Post reported:

Once Annan determines that “we’re not getting any results…we would go back to the Security Council,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday in an interview with CBS News. “Now, what would Russia and China say?”

Annan, Clinton said, “has gone to Moscow, he’s gone to Beijing, he’s met with them. They support his plan. They have urged publicly that Assad follow the plan.”

“So, if we have to go back to the Security Council to get authority” for more assistance to the Syrian opposition, she said, “I think we’ll be in a stronger position than we would if [Annan] hadn’t had a chance to go and try to negotiate.”


Setting the Table for a Protracted Proxy War

Whether Russia and China shall feel pressured to capitulate to a NATO sponsored “regime change” resolution in the Security Council analogous to the one they vetoed back in February remains doubtful. For even as some Western news outlets, like the Associated Press, eagerly report that Russia has begun to soften its alliance with Damascus, Moscow is unlikely to abandon its lone Arab ally.

In fact, as Reuters reported, on April 4, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov bluntly warned: "It is clear as day that even if the opposition is armed to the teeth, it will not defeat the Syrian army, and there will simply be slaughter and mutual destruction for long, long years,"

Instead then, the maneuvering of the international “Friends of Syria” shall likely bring the specter of a protracted proxy war nearer. As the New York Times cautions:

The offer to provide salaries and communications equipment to rebel fighters known as the Free Syrian Army — with the hopes that the money might encourage government soldiers to defect, officials said — is bringing the loose Friends of Syria coalition to the edge of a proxy war against Mr. Assad’s government and its international supporters, principally Iran and Russia.

And it is Iran, of course, that colors the NATO and Arab League interest in Syria. For ousting Assad will no doubt deliver a strategic blow to Tehran: the long favored nemesis of NATO and its Arab clients. And with a weakened and further isolated Iran, the opportunity will develop for the furtherance of NATO aggression in the Middle East under the auspices of combating the non-existent Iranian nuclear weapons program.

For the imperialist self-proclaimed "Friends of Syria," we see, ordinary Syrians are merely pawns to be exploited for imperial gains
.

Therefore, for those truly seeking to aid the struggle of the Syrian people, work must hasten in building popular resistance to the NATO agenda. For let there be no doubt: no revolution can proceed under an imperialist military intervention of any sort.

Why Washington’s Iran Policy Could Lead to Global Disaster

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It’s a policy fierce enough to cause great suffering among Iranians -- and possibly in the long run among Americans, too. It might, in the end, even deeply harm the global economy and yet, history tells us, it will fail on its own. Economic war led by Washington (and encouraged by Israel) will not take down the Iranian government or bring it to the bargaining table on its knees ready to surrender its nuclear program. It might, however, lead to actual armed conflict with incalculable consequences.

The United States is already effectively embroiled in an economic war against Iran. The Obama administration has subjected the Islamic Republic to the most crippling economic sanctions applied to any country since Iraq was reduced to fourth-world status in the 1990s. And worse is on the horizon. A financial blockade is being imposed that seeks to prevent Tehran from selling petroleum, its most valuable commodity, as a way of dissuading the regime from pursuing its nuclear enrichment program.

Historical memory has never been an American strong point and so few today remember that a global embargo on Iranian petroleum is hardly a new tactic in Western geopolitics; nor do many recall that the last time it was applied with such stringency, in the 1950s, it led to the overthrow of the government with disastrous long-term blowback on the United States. The tactic is just as dangerous today.

Iran’s supreme theocrat, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly condemned the atom bomb and nuclear weapons of all sorts as tools of the devil, weaponry that cannot be used without killing massive numbers of civilian noncombatants. In the most emphatic terms, he has, in fact, pronounced them forbidden according to Islamic law. Based on the latest U.S. intelligence, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has affirmed that Iran has not made a decision to pursue a nuclear warhead. In contrast, hawks in Israel and the United States insist that Tehran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program is aimed ultimately at making a bomb, that the Iranians are pursuing such a path in a determined fashion, and that they must be stopped now -- by military means if necessary.

Putting the Squeeze on Iran

At the moment, the Obama administration and the Congress seem intent on making it impossible for Iran to sell its petroleum at all on the world market. As 2011 ended, Congress passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that mandates sanctions on firms and countries that deal with Iran’s Central Bank or buy Iranian petroleum (though hardship cases can apply to the U.S. government for exemptions). This escalation from sanctions to something like a full-scale financial blockade holds extreme dangers of spiraling into military confrontation. The Islamic Republic tried to make this point, indicating that it would not allow itself to be strangled without response, by conducting naval exercises at the mouth of the Persian Gulf this winter. The threat involved was clear enough: about one-fifth of the world’s petroleum flows the Gulf, and even a temporary and partial cut-off might prove catastrophic for the world economy.

In part, President Obama is clearly attempting by his sanctions-cum-blockade policy to dissuade the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from launching a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. He argues that severe economic measures will be enough to bring Iran to the negotiating table ready to bargain, or even simply give in.

In part, Obama is attempting to please America’s other Middle East ally, Saudi Arabia, which also wants Iran’s nuclear program mothballed. In the process, the U.S. government and its allies have even had Iran’s banks off international exchange networks, making it difficult for that country’s major energy customers like South Korea and India to pay for the Iranian petroleum they import. And don’t forget the administration’s most powerful weapon: most governments and corporations do not want to be cut off from the U.S. economy with a GDP of more than $15 trillion -- still the largest and most dynamic in the world.

Typically, the European Union, fearing Congressional sanctions, has agreed to cease taking new contracts on Iranian oil by July 1st, a decision that has placed special burdens on struggling countries in its southern tier like Greece and Italy. With European buyers boycotting, Iran will depend for customers on Asian countries, which jointly purchase some 64% of its petroleum, and those of the global South. Of these, China and India have declined to join the boycott. South Korea, which buys $14 billion worth of Iranian petroleum a year, accounting for some 10% of its oil imports, has pleaded with Washington for an exemption, as has Japan which got 8.8% of its petroleum imports from Iran last year, more than 300,000 barrels a day -- and more in absolute terms than South Korea. Japan, which is planning to cut its Iranian imports by 12% this year, has already won an exemption.

Faced with the economic damage a sudden interruption of oil imports from Iran would inflict on East Asian economies, the Obama administration has instead attempted to extract pledges of future 10%-20% reductions in return for those U.S. exemptions. Since it’s easier to make promises than institute a boycott, allies are lining up with pledges. (Even Turkey has gone this route.)

Such vows are almost certain to prove relatively empty. After all, there are few options for such countries other than continuing to buy Iranian oil unless they can find new sources -- unlikely at present, despite Saudi promises to ramp up production -- or drastically cut back on energy use, ensuring economic contraction and domestic wrath.

What this means in reality is that the U.S. and Israeli quest to cut off Iran’s exports will probably be a quixotic one. For the plan to work, oil demand would have to remain steady and other exporters would have to replace Iran’s roughly 2.5 million barrels a day on the global market. For instance, Saudi Arabia has increased the amount of petroleum it pumps, and is promising a further rise in output this summer in an attempt to flood the market and allow countries to replace Iranian purchases with Saudi ones.

But experts doubt the Saudi ability to do this long term and -- most important of all -- global demand is not steady. It’s crucially on the rise in both China and India. For Washington’s energy blockade to work, Saudi Arabia and other suppliers would have to reliably replace Iran’s oil production and cover increased demand, as well as expected smaller shortfalls caused by crises in places like Syria and South Sudan and by declining production in older fields elsewhere.

Otherwise a successful boycott of Iranian petroleum will only put drastic upward pressure on oil prices, as Japan has politely but firmly pointed out to the Obama administration. The most likely outcome: America’s closest allies and those eager to do more business with the U.S. will indeed reduce imports from Iran, leaving countries like China, India, and others in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to dip into the pool of Iranian crude (possibly prices than the Iranians would normally charge).

Iran’s transaction costs are certainly increasing, its people are beginning to suffer economically, and it may have to reduce its exports somewhat, but the tensions in the Gulf have also caused the price of petroleum futures to rise in a way that has probably offset the new costs the regime has borne. (Experts also estimate that the Iran crisis has already added 25 cents to every gallon of gas an American consumer buys at the pump.)

Like China, India has declined to bow to pressure from Washington. The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which depends on India’s substantial Muslim vote, is not eager to be seen as acquiescent to U.S. strong-arm tactics. Moreover, lacking substantial hydrocarbon resources, and given Singh’s ambitious plans for an annual growth rate of 9% -- focused on expanding India’s underdeveloped transportation sector (70% of all petroleum used in the world is dedicated to fuelling vehicles) -- Iran is crucial to the country’s future.

To sidestep Washington, India has worked out an agreement to pay for half of its allotment of Iranian oil in rupees, a soft currency. Iran would then have to use those rupees on food and goods from India, a windfall for its exporters. Defying the American president yet again, the Indians are even offering a tax break to Indian firms that trade with Iran. That country is, in turn, offering to pay for some Indian goods with gold. Since India runs a trade deficit with the U.S., Washington would only hurt itself if it aggressively sanctioned India.

A History Lesson Ignored

As yet, Iran has shown no signs of yielding to the pressure. For its leaders, future nuclear power stations promise independence and signify national glory, just as they do for France, which gets nearly 80% of its electricity from nuclear reactors. The fear in Tehran is that, without nuclear power, a developing Iran could consume all its petroleum domestically, as has happened in Indonesia, leaving the government with no surplus income with which to maintain its freedom from international pressures.

Iran is particularly jealous of its independence because in modern history it has so often been dominated by a great power or powers. In 1941, with World War II underway, Russia and Britain, which already controlled Iranian oil, launched an invasion to ensure that the country remained an asset of the Allies against the Axis. They put the young and inexperienced Mohammed Reza Pahlevi on the throne, and sent his father, Reza Shah, into exile. The Iranian corridor -- what British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called “the bridge of victory” -- then allowed the allies to effectively channel crucial supplies to the Soviet Union in the war against Nazi Germany. The occupation years were, however, devastating for Iranians who experienced soaring inflation and famine.

Discontent broke out after the war -- and the Allied occupation -- ended. It was focused on a 1933 agreement Iran had signed with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) regarding the exploitation of its petroleum. By the early 1950s, the AIOC (which later became British Petroleum and is now BP) was paying more in taxes to the British government than in royalties to Iran for its oil. In 1950, when it became known that the American ARAMCO oil consortium had offered the king of Saudi Arabia a 50-50 split of oil profits, the Iranians demanded the same terms.

The AIOC was initially adamant that it would not renegotiate the agreement. By the time it softened its position somewhat and began being less supercilious, Iran’s parliamentarians were so angry that they did not want anything more to do with the British firm or the government that supported it.

On March 15, 1951, a democratically elected Iranian parliament summarily nationalized the country’s oil fields and kicked the AIOC out of the country. Facing a wave of public anger, Mohammed Reza Shah acquiesced, appointing Mohammed Mosaddegh, an oil-nationalization hawk, as prime minister. A conservative nationalist from an old aristocratic family, Mosaddegh soon visited the United States seeking aid, but because his nationalist coalition included the Tudeh Party (the Communist Party of Iran), he was increasingly smeared in the U.S. press as a Soviet sympathizer.

The British government, outraged by the oil nationalization and fearful that the Iranian example might impel other producers to follow suit, froze that country’s assets and attempted to institute a global embargo of its petroleum. London placed harsh restrictions on Tehran’s ability to trade, and made it difficult for Iran to convert the pounds sterling it held in British banks. Initially, President Harry Truman’s administration in Washington was supportive of Iran. After Republican Dwight Eisenhower was swept into the Oval Office, however, the U.S. enthusiastically joined the oil embargo and campaign against Iran.

Iran became ever more desperate to sell its oil, and countries like Italy and Japan were tempted by “wildcat” sales at lower than market prices. As historian Nikki Keddie has showed, however, Big Oil and the U.S. State Department deployed strong-arm tactics to stop such countries from doing so.

In May 1953, for example, sometime Standard Oil of California executive and “petroleum adviser” to the State Department Max Thornburg wrote U.S. ambassador to Italy Claire Booth Luce about an Italian request to buy Iranian oil: “For Italy to clear this oil and take additional cargoes would definitely indicate that it had taken the side of the oil ‘nationalizers,’ despite the hazard this represents to American foreign investments and vital oil supply sources. This of course is Italy’s right. It is only the prudence of the course that is in question.” He then threatened Rome with an end to oil company purchases of Italian supplies worth millions of dollars.

In the end, the Anglo-American blockade devastated Iran’s economy and provoked social unrest. Prime Minister Mosaddegh, initially popular, soon found himself facing a rising wave of labor strikes and protest rallies. Shopkeepers and small businessmen, among his most important constituents, pressured the prime minister to restore order. When he finally did crack down on the protests (some of them staged by the Central Intelligence Agency), the far left Tudeh Party began withdrawing its support. Right-wing generals, dismayed by the flight of the shah to Italy, the breakdown of Iran’s relations with the West, and the deterioration of the economy, were open to the blandishments of the CIA, which, with the help of British intelligence, decided to organize a coup to install its own man in power.

A Danger of Blowback

The story of the 1953 CIA coup in Iran is well known, but that its success depended on the preceding two years of fierce sanctions on Iran’s oil is seldom considered. A global economic blockade of a major oil country is difficult to sustain. Were it to have broken down, the U.S. and Britain would have suffered a huge loss of prestige. Other Third World countries might have taken heart and begun to claim their own natural resources. The blockade, then, arguably made the coup necessary. That coup, in turn, led to the rise to power of Ayatollah Khomeini a quarter-century later and, in the end, the present U.S./Israeli/Iranian face-off. It seems the sort of sobering history lesson that every politician in Washington should consider (and none, of course, does).

As then, so now, an oil blockade in its own right is unlikely to achieve Washington’s goals. At present, the American desire to force Iran to abolish its nuclear enrichment program seems as far from success as ever. In this context, there’s another historical lesson worth considering: the failure of the crippling sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1990s to bring down that dictator and his regime.

What that demonstrated was simple enough: ruling cliques with ownership of a valuable industry like petroleum can cushion themselves from the worst effects of an international boycott, even if they pass the costs on to a helpless public. In fact, crippling the economy tends to send the middle class into a spiral of downward mobility, leaving its members with ever fewer resources to resist an authoritarian government. The decline of Iran’s once-vigorous Green protest movement of 2009 is probably connected to this, as is a growing sense that Iran is now under foreign siege, and Iranians should rally around in support of the nation.

Strikingly, there was a strong voter turnout for the recent parliamentary elections where candidates close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dominated the results. Iran’s politics, never very free, have nevertheless sometimes produced surprises and feisty movements, but these days are moving in a decidedly conservative and nationalistic direction. Only a few years ago, a majority of Iranians disapproved of the idea of having an atomic bomb. Now, according to a recent Gallup poll, more support the militarization of the nuclear program than oppose it.

The great oil blockade of 2012 may still be largely financially focused, but it carries with it the same dangers of escalation and intervention -- as well as future bitterness and blowback -- as did the campaign of the early 1950s. U.S. and European financial sanctions are already beginning to interfere with the import of staples like wheat, since Iran can no longer use the international banking system to pay for them. If children suffer or even experience increased mortality because of the sanctions, that development could provoke future attacks on the U.S. or American troops in the Greater Middle East. (Don’t forget that the Iraqi sanctions, considered responsible for the deaths of some 500,000 children, were cited by al-Qaeda in its “declaration of war” on the U.S.)

The attempt to flood the market and use financial sanctions to enforce an embargo on Iranian petroleum holds many dangers. If it fails, soaring oil prices could set back fragile economies in the West still recovering from the mortgage and banking scandals of 2008. If it overshoots, there could be turmoil in the oil-producing states from a sudden fall in revenues.

Even if the embargo is a relative success in keeping Iranian oil in the ground, the long-term damage to that country’s fields and pipelines (which might be ruined if they lie fallow long enough) could harm the world economy in the future. The likelihood that an oil embargo can change Iranian government policy or induce regime change is low, given our experience with economic sanctions in Iraq, Cuba, and elsewhere. Moreover, there is no reason to think that the Islamic Republic will take its downward mobility lying down.

As the sanctions morph into a virtual blockade, they raise the specter that all blockades do -- of provoking a violent response. Just as dangerous is the specter that the sanctions will drag on without producing tangible results, impelling covert or overt American action against Tehran to save face. And that, friends, is where we came in.