The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Stories circulating in the region appeared to indicate that at least from the Egyptian side, the military establishment was not that concerned about the possible cut-off of aid from the U.S., if indeed that was in the cards. The military was not concerned because it was able to play a new hand that it was given by states from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain – the dictatorial group of monarchies that is allied with the U.S. in the efforts to destabilize and dismember the Syrian state. The hand that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) dealt the generals in Egypt was this: if the Obama Administration cut off the annual allocation of aid to the military, Saudi Arabia and the UAE would make up the budget’s shortfall.

Ajamu Baraka, From Egypt to Syria: Is The Gulf Cooperation Council the tail that wags the U.S. Dog?

Also: Arab Aid starts flowing after Morsi’s departure from Jadaliyya.

The Roadmap to the Destruction of Syria | Pepe Escobar

Just when the red line charade was reaching fever pitch – but still buried in the sand – and he had to choose between the US “exercising restraint” or “directly involving itself” in the Syrian war, (see The Syria-Iran red line show, Asia Times Online, May 2, 2013) President Obama was saved by Bibi Netanyahu’s Israeli government.

The temptation was oh so great for Obama to replay Ronald Reagan and gloriously wear the mantle of Obama The Syrian Mujahid, just as Reagan did in the 1980s with his beloved freedom fighters of the Afghan jihad. That will have to wait – perhaps not too long.

Let’s cut to the chase. Israel’s bombing of Syrian army installations at Jamraya near Damascus is a provocation and an act of war. Israel acted as a Washington proxy – which may have even provided the list of targets. And Washington – not to mention those useless puppets in Brussels – won’t condemn the bombing, which for the umpteenth time makes a mockery of international law.

… [A]fter much huff and puff, Obama ended up with something way more comfortable than a no-fly zone: targeted strikes – with jets and/or missiles, conducted by the Israelis. The blueprint could be Operation Desert Fox (the Bill Clinton-ordered bombing of Iraq in 1998.) The objective, to “send a clear message” to Syria.

The next bombings may target airfields, concentrations of aircraft, more weapons depots, tanks and artillery. Collateral damage, inevitably, will soar, proportionately to the level of provocation.

Former US ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson, very close to the Clinton clan, has already gamed on ABC News that Obama is “leaning towards aerial strikes”. Yes; this is just the beginning. Mini-Shock and Awes await.

The question is why did it take so long. The destruction of Syria – as conceptualized by Sheikh Nasrallah – with the West once more collaborating with jihadi gangs, has been in the cards for years. See how Seymour Hersh outlined it in 2007. And see how badly the bipartisan Washington establishment craves regime change.

And Damascus, of course, is just a stop towards Tehran. The proverbial anonymous sources have leaked to the Rupert Murdoch-ownedSunday Timesin London that a “Defense Crescent” is becoming a reality.

Obama Should Reconsider US Approach to Bahrain | LobeLog.com

Justice is a fiction in much of the Persian Gulf. Nowhere is this truer than in Bahrain, a place where torture and state terror have become the norm. The country’s political elites talk frequently about freedom and the need for legal and political order. The reality, however, is that Bahrain’s judicial system is little more than theater. The courts are sites in which freedoms are not assured, but where they are subordinated to the whims of centralized tyranny. Over the last two years, Bahrain has blithely ignored almost all of its domestic and international commitments to refrain from torture, to protect free speech and to honor due process, all conventions that the country has ostensibly built into its “constitutional” order.

In the most recent instance, the country’s highest court upheld lengthy prison sentences for 13 prominent human rights and political activists, including life imprisonment in some of the world’s most brutal dungeons. Having already been subjected to late night abductions, military tribunals, torture, and false accusation, it is hardly surprising that the imprisoned were unable to find relief in Bahrain’s sham appeals process.

More remarkable is the unwillingness of Bahrain’s most important Western patron, the United States, to openly acknowledge that its partner and host to the 5th Fleet is not merely managing its way through a crisis, but building a regime of fear and violence all while claiming the opposite. In her comments yesterday at the State Department’s daily briefing, spokesperson Victoria Nuland offered what has become a familiar refrain — a mild rebuke dressed up in principle, but one that makes clear that the US is unwilling to say or do more.

The US position on Bahrain’s excesses, in ways that are eerily similar to the island country’s own theatrical posturing, is more histrionic than substantive. Clearly, in spite of their claims otherwise, American leaders are mostly content with the status quo. Nuland expressed “regret” and “concern” about Bahrain’s high court’s decision to uphold the convictions of key opposition figures yesterday. She added “that this decision further restricts freedom of expression and compromises the atmosphere within Bahrain for reconciliation.”

The reality is that there is nothing further to restrict. The only clear willingness for reconciliation has come from the country’s opposition, not the government. In also calling for further investigations into torture and accountability, Ms. Nuland asks her listeners to suspend disbelief and to consider seriously that Bahrain has any real interest in the pursuit of a meaningful resolution. It has been clear for two years that Bahrain’s leaders desire victory and vengeance, the total destruction of the democratic opposition.

While American leaders almost certainly would prefer a political resolution to Bahrain’s challenges, they have done little to help advance the cause. Bahrain’s leaders have learned that mild admonishment is a small price to pay while they consolidate a new era of authoritarianism. They understand that the American approach is feeble and feckless, if often justified, because of Bahrain’s strategic significance. Long a reliable partner in the US mission to police and patrol the Persian Gulf and to ensure the “flow of oil,” American unwillingness to come down too hard on Manama is also a sign of deference to Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has little interest in seeing Bahrain’s opposition enjoy political gain.

It is, however, well past time to think seriously about whether US strategy in the Gulf is working or, instead, whether it helps abet the very conditions of instability that threaten the region and prospects for more open and durable regional politics. The reality is that oil’s flow does not need protecting. Bahrain does not deserve a pass because it is home to American military facilities.

… the US, Britain, France, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are all engaged in their own divergent agendas, [but] what the NATOGCC war has already accomplished is one objective - very similar, by the way, to Iraq in 2003; it has completely torn the fragile Syrian social fabric to shreds. That is disaster capitalism in action, phase I; the terrain is already prepared for a profitable ‘reconstruction’ of Syria once a pliable, pro-Western turbo-capitalism government is installed.

Pepe Escobar, For whom the Syrian bell tolls

Yet in parallel, blowback also works its mysterious ways; millions of Syrians who initially supported the idea of a pro-democracy movement - from the business classes in Damascus to traders in Aleppo - now have swelled the government support base as a counterpunch against the gruesome ethnic-religious cleansing promoted by the “rebels” of the al-Nusrah kind.

Yet with NATOGCC on one side and Iran-Russia on the other side, ordinary Syrians caught in the crossfire have nowhere to go. NATOGCC will stop at nothing to carve - in blood - any dubious entity ranging from a pro-US emirate to a pro-US “democracy” run by the MB. It’s not hard to see for whom the bell tolls in Syria; it tolls not for thee, as in John Donne, but for doom, gloom, death and destruction.

Why Chuck Hagel Is Irrelevant | Max Ajl

… [The] US and the Gulf State’s fear of Iranian “regional hegemony” means a fear of an Iran diverting the proceeds from petroleum away from US armaments – and potentially, treasuries – to internal development, such as health care and education.

And “stability” doesn’t mean the absence of armed conflict, but the stability of the triangular relationship between the social structures of accumulation in the Gulf States, their external patrons, and the oil companies which profit from selling and refining the raw petroleum which is pumped in its millions of barrels out of the Gulf daily.

For that reason, the tacit collusion between the Gulf States, the United States, and the transnational oil companies is generally at the core of decision-making when it comes to plotting aggression against the Islamic Republic of Iran and staving off its threats to “destabilize” the region.

[Stephen] Walt makes that clear as he writes that keeping Iran and Iranian oil production down is “also about enabling certain ruling families to keep writing checks,” and we ought to “Keep that in mind the next time you fill your gas tank or pay your home heating bill.” To which one might add, keeping the share prices and profits of the international petroleum corporations elevated – it is after all the latter determining prices at the pump, not Saudi Aramco.

This is something that ought be kept in mind by those over-eager to defend Hagel from the neocons who are supposedly sabotaging American foreign policy: the sanctions regime benefits not just the Gulf regimes but also the United States, no matter some may prefer to cast this regime as originating from the malefactions of Arab sheikhdoms messing up American foreign policy or the influence of Israel’s domestic partners in the United States.

Furthermore, since belligerence against Iran has institutional rather than personalistic roots, a changing of the personnel up top will produce only a slight change in strategy.

The goal – a hobbled Iran – will remain unchanged. [++]

For Syrians who want dignity and democracy in a free country, the rapidly mushrooming dependence of their uprising on foreign support is a disaster – even more than was the case in Libya. After all, it is now officials of the dictatorial and sectarian Saudi regime who choose which armed groups get funding, not Syrians. And it is intelligence officials from the US, which sponsors the Israeli occupation of Syrian territory and dictatorships across the region, who decide which rebel units get weapons. Intervention is now driving Syria’s descent into darkness (via jayaprada)

(via jayaprada)

Terror and Teargas on the Streets of Bahrain | Jen Marlowe

"Perhaps the lack of coverage of the predominantly Shi’a uprising against an increasingly repressive Sunni monarchy can be explained, in part, by this: Washington considers that monarchy its close ally; Bahrain is the home of the Navy’s 5th Fleet, and the beneficiary of U.S. arms sales. Perhaps it has to do with the U.S.-Saudi friendship, and the increasing tension between the U.S. and Iran. Bahrain has been portrayed as a battleground for influence between neighboring Saudi Arabia (a supporter of the monarchy) and nearby majority Shi’a Iran."

Jihan had not started out as an activist. She had been an investment banker, shopping in Bahrain’s high-end malls and socializing with friends. Demonstrations erupted at the Pearl Roundabout — with its imposing 300-foot monument of six arches holding a pearl aloft — in the capital city, Manama, on February 14, 2011, and only grew larger by the day as casualties and fatalities mounted. Still, she did not participate.

She had been largely ignorant of the protesters’ complaints: the same prime minister had governed for 42 years; the majority Shi’a community faced discrimination from the ruling Sunnis, evidenced most clearly by the fact that they couldn’t join the country’s military or its police. Instead, the government was importing foreigners from Pakistan, Yemen, Jordan, and Syria, among other countries, to fill the ranks of the security services, often offering them Bahraini citizenship (which also threatened to alter Sunni-Shi’a demographics). The royal family had taken large swathes of public land for private benefit.

Jihan instead believed the version of the uprising being offered on state-controlled television. In that narrative, the protesters were not peaceful, but armed and dangerous. They had, the government claimed, stolen blood-bags from the hospital and were pouring that blood on themselves to feign injuries for the media. Force was being applied by the regime rarely and only when it was absolutely necessary to disperse those demonstrating. Government spokespeople claimed Shi’a doctors at Salmaniya Hospital were taking patients and co-workers hostage.

On the morning of March 13th, Jihan received a few text messages on her way to her office, appealing for people’s presence at the Pearl Roundabout because government forces were attacking. She decided to go and see for herself what was taking place.

What she saw shook her to the core: unarmed protesters — women and children among them — chanting for democracy, freedom, and equality as riot police fired bullets, birdshot, and tear gas canisters directly into the crowd. Jihan stood to the side, crying, as women around her wailed and read aloud from Qur’an.

Then, in the distance, she noticed bodies being loaded into cars. She couldn’t tell if they were dead or wounded, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away either as the cars were filled and each drove towards nearby Salmaniya Hospital.

It was there that Jihan drove next, and found more wounded patients than available beds. Protesters who were injured by birdshot or overcome by tear gas were lying on white sheets spread across the parking lot, awaiting treatment from overburdened doctors and nurses.

The following day, 1,000 Saudi troops entered Bahrain at the request of the regime, backed by 500 police from the United Arab Emirates. The troops drove the protesters out of the Pearl Roundabout, destroyed the iconic Pearl Monument, and Bahrain’s King Hamad declared a state of emergency.

Soon after, house raids leading to mass arrests began. Most of the opposition leaders were jailed, along with thousands of protesters. Journalists were targeted, as were teachers, health-care professionals, and star Bahraini athletes. Hundreds of cases of torture (some to the death) were reported, and thousands were fired from government jobs for demonstrating, or, in many cases, merely because they were Shi’a.

Jihan realized that continuing with her former life was inconceivable. She visited Nabeel Rajab, co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, to ask how she could help. Hard as it had been to come to him, Jihan told Nabeel, she could no longer stay silent and on the sidelines.

A colleague of Nabeel’s trained Jihan in how to document human rights violations. Soon, she began doing so in cases involving medical professionals who had been imprisoned and tortured by the regime for treating injured protesters — and for speaking out about the injuries they were seeing.

By the time I met Jihan, she was an experienced activist with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and the founding vice president of the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO), which seeks to aid in the treatment and rehabilitation of torture victims.

Seasoned as she was, Jihan was thoroughly shaken by the time we left an underground clinic late one night. There, nurses had secretly stitched up the gaping head wound of 13-year-old “Hussein,” shot with a tear gas canister after a march that had, ironically, been called to protest the excessive use of tear gas.

[read on]

U.S. Foreign Arms Sales Reach 78% of Global Market | New York Times

Some numbers to follow this exceptionally American statistic (specifically, the NATO/GCC alliance):

[…] The agreements with Saudi Arabia included the purchase of 84 advanced F-15 fighters, a variety of ammunition, missiles and logistics support, and upgrades of 70 of the F-15 fighters in the current fleet.

Sales to Saudi Arabia last year also included dozens of Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, all contributing to a total Saudi weapons deal from the United States of $33.4 billion, according to the study.

The United Arab Emirates purchased a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, an advanced antimissile shield that includes radars and is valued at $3.49 billion, as well as 16 Chinook helicopters for $939 million.

Oman bought 18 F-16 fighters for $1.4 billion.

In keeping with recent trends, most of the weapons purchases, worth about $71.5 billion, were made by developing nations, with about $56.3 billion of that from the United States.

Read whole

Saudi-Bahrain unity deal draws fierce criticism | Al Akhbar

“The basic thing is that the idea behind the union is to consolidate power in fear of uprisings and the internal dissent. It is more of a sign of weakness than strength. The aim is to legitimize the presence of Saudi troops, formalize direct channels of funding because of imminent economic crisis (in Bahrain) and create a political alliance between the ruling families – to form a united front against possible challenges.” — Ala’a Shehabi, founder of Bahrain Watch

Leading Bahraini and Saudi pro-democracy activists have criticized a unity deal between the two Gulf states as an attempt to secure the status quo of harsh autocracies amid ongoing protests.

Over half of Iran’s MPs also condemned the deal, saying it would lead to further unrest.

Gulf leaders gathered in Riyadh on Monday to discuss developing their six-nation council.

Bahrain and Saudi are expected to announce a deal that will increase economic, military and security ties between them, with Saudi troops likely to be permanently positioned in Bahrain.

Saudi forces entered Bahrain last March to crush an ongoing uprising against the country’s ruling Al-Khalifa family and have never officially left.

The Saudi ruling Al-Saud family have continued to back the Al-Khalifa dynasty in Bahrain, despite claiming to support pro-democracy movements in Syria.

Mohammed al-Qahtani, a board member at the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, said the deal is demonstrative of Riyadh’s staunch backing for their dictatorial ally in Bahrain.

“The Saudi regime will back the regime in Bahrain to the end and that’s unfortunate – it will be at the expense of democracy and human rights in Bahrain,” he said.

“The real issue is the survival of these family-based regimes. That’s all it is – they will do whatever it takes to maintain the status quo but I think their time is running out,” he added.

Read more

US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice has just had her legs cut out from under her. When she goes to the UN and argues that Syria should be sanctioned, and she is blocked by Russia and China, you can be assured that Bahrain will be thrown in her face. The US is trying to make a case to other countries for the principled character of its stand. The Obama administration has just made itself a laughingstock in that regard, and I should think its Syria position will be a cause for snickering given that it is selling arms (albeit not crowd control supplies) to Bahrain.

US arms Sales to Bahrain Undercut Criticism of Russia, Iran on Syria | Juan Cole

From the Daily Times, US resumes Bahrain arms sales despite rights concerns:

The Obama administration notified Congress that certain sales would be allowed for Bahrain’s defense force, coast guard and national guard, although it would maintain a hold on TOW missiles, Humvees and some other items for now […]

The State Department did not give a total value for the items being released but emphasized that the equipment being approved was “not used for crowd control” as the majority Shi’ite community continues to protest against the Sunni royal family following a crackdown last year.

US officials said among the sales now allowed to go forward would be harbor security vessels and upgrades to turbo-fan engines used in F-16 fighter aircraft as well as legislation which could pave the way for a future sale of a naval frigate. Items still on hold, besides the missiles and the Humvees, include teargas, teargas launchers and stun grenades.

The decision was criticized by Senator Patrick Leahy, who wrote a provision Congress passed last year requiring the administration to consult lawmakers before allowing sales of teargas and other crowd-control items to governments of countries undergoing democratic transition in the Middle East.

Sorry repressed citizens of Bahrain. Your struggle may have to wait until “our” oil lanes in the Gulf are properly safeguarded from the evil Iranian menace and the friendly regional monarchs of the GCC have fully “stabilized” Saudi Bahrainia.

Al Akhbar | World Press Freedom Day 2012: The Arab Fall

sharquaouia:

On this World Press Freedom Day, Al-Akhbar looks at the state of the journalistic freedom in various parts of the Arab World.

The piece mostly discusses Syria, Lebanon, and the Gulf countries:

Syria: The Fourth Estate is Lost in the Dark

A quick survey of the events of the past year is enough to reveal the bleak state of the media in Syria and the injustice and brutality it suffers. If we take a look at the numbers, statistics, and reports of relevant international organizations, the scene becomes even bleaker. This is because Syria has now surpassed many countries in the level to which freedom of the press is suppressed.

Since the protests in Syria began, repression of the media has increased. The regime decided, with premeditation and planning, to silence journalists and constrain the freedom of the press. It pursued journalists, restricted their work, and sometimes arrested them.

Read More

and 

Lebanon: Diminishing Freedom

Lebanon used to be well-known for its freedom of the press. Arab journalists flocked to this small country to escape being silenced, ravenous for the its servings of “freedom extra.” All this is in the past. Today, it is no more.

This may be what drove a Middle East expert like Robert Fisk to write an article under the headline “End of an Era for Press Freedom in Lebanon.” In the article, published three years ago in The Independent, the British journalist reported several stories indicating that the Lebanese press was losing its freedoms. He then asked a piercing question: “Is something rotten in the state of the Lebanese press?”

Read More

and

Gulf Countries Produce Less Freedoms

The popularity of traditional media and the printed press has fallen when compared with the rise of new media and social networking sites. Despite that, the 2012 report by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, ranked Saudi Arabia eight out of the ten worst countries in the world for suppression of the media.

A royal edict, issued in May 2011, ordered an amendment to the Saudi print law to give the Saudi media minister the right to prohibit, confiscate, and censor any site or newspaper. Following that, unprecedented campaigns against journalists, writers, and human rights activists were launched in official Saudi newspapers. These came in response to articles and statements demanding reform and supporting a state of law and a constitutional monarchy.

Read More

(via sharquaouia-deactivated20121015)

Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States

The first theme of [Adam] Hanieh’s book, [Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States], advanced in chapters one, two, and four, is the “centrality of the Gulf to the structure of the global economy” (54). Hanieh shows how the Gulf countries were integrated into the world capitalist system through incorporation into the British colonial empire. Their importance was initially due to their strategic location, and their centrality to world affairs did not come into full force until the transformation of global capitalism into an oil-based economy. Oil’s centrality in the postwar period—with the rise of the automobile and petrochemical industries, the expansion of industrialization primarily in the United States and in US-dominated Europe, and the recycling of petrodollars, which precipitated the Third World debt crisis—may be familiar themes.

In later chapters, however, Hanieh departs from standard accounts to argue that in the neoliberal turn, and in particular with the financialization of the global economy, the Gulf continued to play a pivotal role.

First, it continued to recycle petrodollars into industrial (and increasingly military) purchases from the West. Second, after a secret agreement with the United States in 1974, Saudi Arabia committed to maintaining the value of the US dollar through large purchases of US treasury bonds as well as by using its influence in OPEC to prevent diversification of its currency basket. Third, massive amounts of petrodollars, primarily from Gulf-based sovereign wealth funds, went into US and European financial, debt, and equity markets, which allowed the rise of the financial bubbles and easy credit that contributed to the most recent worldwide recession. [++]

Forgotten Bahrain | As'ad AbuKhalil (2)

It is rather amusing to watch Western governments subscribe to the agenda and rhetoric of GCC countries, which are subcontractors – mere implementers – of US/Israeli policies in the Middle East. The word Shia has to appear in every sentence in every commentary on Bahrain. Western media may not be as blatantly sectarian as mouthpices of Saudi princes, like the notorious Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, but they reflect the same bias.

The Bahraini royal family is quite fortunate. The presence of the Fifth Fleet sends a message in the region and the world that the little island is “vital” to US national security interests. Its proximity to Saudi Arabia adds to its umbrella of repressive regional and international protection.

News of an imminent unity between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia could not come at a better time for the House of Khalifah. The two ruling families would enjoy having a larger kingdom with double the repression. The House of Khalifah knows that they have lost support with the bulk of the Bahraini population. Only force can keep them in power – some form of power, because the Saudi military intervention basically put the House of Saud in charge of Bahrain. [read]

A Monarchical Affair: From Morocco to the Arabian Peninsula | Samia Errazzouki

From the fantastic Sharquaouia (writing at Jadaliyya):

The proposal of Moroccan integration into the GCC is most obviously an act of political desperation. Should the Moroccan monarchy have fallen to a popular uprising, the Gulf monarchies would have lost one of their remaining political and economic extensions in North Africa. Even as a nonmember of the GCC, Morocco is already benefiting from its ties with the Gulf monarchies. Investment from the Gulf contributed in placing Morocco at the top of FDI Markets 2011/12 “African Countries of the Future” list, before South Africa and Mauritius. It is imperative to assess the rationale behind Morocco joining the GCC in the context of government-led reforms in response to protests. The Moroccan regime’s response to protests through quick reforms and rushed elections provided a model for another Arab monarchy, namely Jordan. Several months later, Bahrain also played lip service to the idea and announced constitutional reforms of its own.

[…]

Through a combination of efforts across the political and economic spheres, Morocco succeeded in temporarily postponing the inevitable wave of dissent. The Gulf monarchies provided a comfortable cushion for the Moroccan monarchy, while boosting the confidence of the regime’s allies both within and beyond Morocco’s borders. However, Morocco’s income inequalities remain the highest in the region, along with a staggering 56.1% illiteracy rate. Morocco can seek temporary economic assistance through aid packages from the Gulf, but all this succeeds in doing is nurturing a dependent and weak economy still coping with the obstacles of post-colonial development. Meanwhile, Morocco’s commitment to democratization has stalled with consistent cases of arbitrary arrestspolitically-motivated trials, and ongoing protests met with repression. This only shows that the constitutional reforms have done little to change the social reality of Moroccans, and the Gulf monarchies have no intention of challenging Morocco’s approach to addressing popular grievances. Instead, the Gulf monarchies have rewarded Morocco with billion-dollar aid packages, investment, and an increasingly stronger political alliance.

Read the whole thing

We want war, and we want it now | Asia Times

From Pepe Escobar:

The House of Saud and Qatar have institutionalized that motley crew known as the Free Syrian Army as a mercenary outfit; they are now on their payroll, to the tune of $100 million (and counting). Isn’t democracy wonderful - when US-allied Persian Gulf monarchies can buy a mercenary army for peanuts? Isn’t it great to be a revolutionary with an assured paycheck?

Not missing a beat, Washington has set up its own fund as well, for “humanitarian” assistance to Syria and “non-lethal” aid to the “rebels”; “non-lethal” as in ultra battle-ready satellite communications equipment, plus night-vision goggles. Clinton’s silky spin was that the equipment would allow the “rebels” to “evade” attacks by the Syrian government. No mention that now they have access to actionable US intelligence via a swarm of drones deployed all over Syria.

[Iraqi PM, Nuri al] Maliki can clearly see the writing on the (Sunni) wall. The House of Saud invaded Shi’ite-majority Bahrain to protect the extremely unpopular Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty in power - their “cousins”. Maliki knows that a post-Assad Syria would mean Muslim Brotherhood Sunnis in power - sprinkled with Salafi-jihadis. In his worst nightmare, Maliki sees this possible dystopian future as an al-Qaeda in Iraq remix on steroids.

So this is what the Istanbul-based “Friends of Syria” bash turned into; a shameless legitimizing - by Arabs allied with the US - of civil war in yet another Arab country. The victims will be average Syrians caught in the crossfire.

This US-GCC weaponizing entirely dissolves the United Nations Syria envoy and former secretary general Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan. The plan calls for a ceasefire; for the Syrian government to “cease troop movements” and “begin pullback of military concentrations”; and for a negotiated political settlement.

There will be no ceasefire. The Assad government accepted the plan. The weaponized “rebels” rejected it. Imagine the Syrian government beginning the “pullback of military concentrations” while swarms of weaponized “rebels” and assorted mercenaries (from Libya, Lebanon and Iraq) keep deploying their torture tactics and launching a barrage of improvised explosive devices.

I landed in Beijing eager to learn more about the upcoming joint Russia-China naval exercise in the Yellow Sea, but instead I was stuck with a Henry Kissinger op-ed in the Washington Post. Here it is, in Dr K’s own words:

The Arab Spring is widely presented as a regional, youth-led revolution on behalf of liberal democratic principles. Yet Libya is not ruled by such forces; it hardly continues as a state. Neither is Egypt, whose electoral majority (possibly permanent) is overwhelmingly Islamist. Nor do democrats seem to predominate in the Syrian opposition.

The Arab League consensus on Syria is not shaped by countries previously distinguished by the practice or advocacy of democracy. Rather, it largely reflects the millennium-old conflict between Shi’ite and Sunni and an attempt to reclaim Sunni dominance from a Shi’ite minority. It is also precisely why so many minority groups, such as Druzes, Kurds and Christians, are uneasy about regime change in Syria.

Well, China scholar Dr K at least got this one right (and in total agreement with Maliki, no less). A full-fledged mercenary army paid for by autocrat Arabs to overthrow an Arab government is pure and simple regime change - US rhetoric about “democracy” and “freedom” notwithstanding. It’s all about classic, imperial divide and rule, profiting from pitting Sunnis against Shi’ites.

Read the whole thing