Friday, January 22, 2016

He Said What?

When it comes to realism, Obama is in good company: Hope lies mortally wounded as change proves to be a mere revival of old ways. 
DDGD January 22, 2016

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Today’s Post is brought to you by…  Terrorists Unchained: We can all come out of the closet now. We are no longer anybody’s dirty little secret. We are now legitimized, openly funded, and accepted. Soon we will have a seat or two at the table.  

The Delirica

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Briefly Noted: - Iran to censor word ‘wine’ to stop ‘Western cultural onslaught,’ and Saudi Arabia’s Top Cleric Forbids Chess. Do these people know anything about Islamic history?

- Palin wasn’t “drunk” and her Trump speech wasn’t “stupid”: She’s playing right into the heart of twisted Republican politics. “Palin's impressionistic pro-Trump speech shows how Republicans are getting past the "problem" of logic or evidence.” My fear is that we will continue to ridicule and mock Donald Trump & Co. right into the White House.

- Rouhani: Not even the first Shiite imam was this strict. In a struggle for power some shout reform and moderation, while others insist that they stand for the purity of traditional values. Both camps are hypocritical, because the simple truth is: power-addiction is what the struggle is all about: power at home, power abroad. Whoever wins human rights abuses and holding steadfast to an archaic set of values will continue. Abroad, Syria will remain a colony, and Lebanon and Iraq will be further colonized, and the bloody proxy war in Yemen and Afghanistan will continue to be waged. 

- In Syria, the Baath party dissolved its “Pan-National” leadership apparatus turning all its properties to the Syria-specific Baath leadership. This comes as an acknowledgement of the growing irrelevance of Baathism, and of Arab nationalism in general, as an institutional movement capable of appealing to the grassroots in the country and across Arab-majority states. It is also meant as a collective “fuck you” to the Arab World, and an acknowledgement of f Iran’s increasing influence in the country and its governance structure.

- On the Oscars’ situation and the lack of minority representation, may I suggest what I believe to be a better solution than resort to a quota system as proposed by Spike Lee, even if coupled with greater inclusion of minorities in the nomination and voting processes? The solution is more minority producers leading to more films directed by and starring members of the minority. The idea of a quota system diminishes minority artists by raising question marks about their actual deservedness of the awards they receive. The music industry already boasts many moguls from minority backgrounds, so does the sports world. Perhaps, it’s time for them to invest in making some movies. The talent is plentiful. People with money are available. The only thing lacking seems to be the will and the vision. To complaining against the current situation is just and legitimate, but there are people out there who can do more than complain and ask for quotas. They actually have the means to make the different they want and need.

- The United States begins implementation of changes to the Visa Waiver Program. Should European and Asian countries adopt similar measures, millions will be officially become second class citizens by proxy. No country will be discriminating directly against its own citizens, but all will be discriminating against citizens of other countries who originally hail from Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria.

- Defense Secretary Ash Carter has called for continued U.S. "boots on the ground" in Iraq and Syria to defeat the Islamic State (IS) group. So, when the taboo is finally breached, it’s not to prevent mass slaughter by a genocidal dictator, or help civilians, but to fight against IS, the entity that would not have risen had we intervened in the Syria fight earlier. Meanwhile, IS continues to grow in Libya, the place we neglected after “liberating” it, and where similar calls for boots on the ground can now be heard.

- Syrian Opposition Sharply Divided Ahead of Peace Talks.  By now the divisions do not simply reflect the usual shenanigans by the various opposition and rebel groups, but also mirror continuing bickering by their myriad sponsors: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States and even Russia and Iran who have their own people in the opposition as well.

- While UN Envoy Staffan di Mistura blames Saudi Arabia and the Syrian opposition for obstructing planned Geneva talks, the Syrian intelligence issued warrants for members of Geneva's negotiating team. So there!  

- Today, someone posted something on Facebook about the passing of Fidel Castro. For some reason, I thought that the thing just happened and I tried to look for coverage of the event online only to realize that the man had died around this time last year. I must have heard it then. I must have. There’s no conceivable way that I could have missed it considering that all I do these days is follow news. Hell. I might have even commented on it. Still, it, somehow, failed to register at a certain deep enough level, so much so that reading the post today made me think that the thing has just happened. How appropriate!

The Daily Delirynth

The man just wants to be honest with us.
He said Whaaat? Unintended but Realistic and Acceptable Consequences: John Kerry: Some sanctions relief money for Iran will go to terrorism. "I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists," he said in the interview in Davos, referring to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. "You know, to some degree, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented." Now, that’s a very realistic assessment, and is an accurate reflection of the realistic spirit with which the talks with Iran were handled. Allowing for Syria conflict to devolve into a quagmire in order not to upset the Iranians, then, giving them access to dozens of billions of dollars knowing that some of it will be used to fund terrorist activities, all this can fall under the category of unintended yet acceptable consequences. Because, at end of the day, the world will be safer, goddamn it! It will be safer. Add a little bit more realism to the mix, and America’s current leaders might discover, on their own, the wisdom of nuking the country into oblivion by their own hands. Because, let’s be realistic, if we don’t deserve it, why are so many people wishing for it?

Now, Kerry and the administration “are confident this will not result in an increase somehow in the threat to any partner, any friend in the region.” But Kerry is so very silent on the issue of likely disastrous fallouts in regard to Syria. For despite leading the Friends of Syria Group on the international stage, the administration never really thought of Syria and its people in such terms. The Syrians were only pawns in a new realist game to make this world of ours “a safer place.” 

Realists seem to define Realism as: the acceptance of fuckery not simply as “a natural part of life,” or a “necessary evil,” but as the legitimate norm! Such definition, however, seems to me too delirious for inclusion in the Deliricon.

Democratic Realists speaking causally of the eventuality of funding terrorism as part of their “successful” diplomacy! Republican politicians and presidential candidates stoking the fires of fascism in their own country! What the hell is happening to America?  

The Quiet Battle for Hasakah: The Wall Street Journal WSJ just backed up my earlier assessment of IS position in Syria, especially the significance of its control of the Tabqah Dam. Not to be outdone, Foreign policy did the same regarding my assessment of Russia’s intervention in Syria and its ultimate goal: that is to secure and expand its base there.

As I noted in my article, however, the issue is no longer about one base, it’s about many bases as part of a much larger and more ambitious colonial project: a Russian-dominated enclave on the Mediterranean. Iran would have influence in some parts but as part of a larger Russian design.

But, with plans to build a Russian base in the city of Qamishly along the Turkish border in the Kurdish-majority northeast, may not sit well either with the Turks, or the Americans, who just built a small military base there, an hour drive to the northeast of Qamishly. I bet these are not the “proximity talk” the administration has in mind. The fact that the Russians are planning to build their base in the areas of the city still under the control of the Syrian regime will not make much of a difference.

Personally, I believe that the U.S. wants the Russians to stay out of the northeast, and that, I time, plans are to turn the Syrian province of Hasakah, including Qamishly of course, into a pro-American enclave, even if the shorter term plan is to build a base for bombing IS positions. For realists are not isolationists, and the northeast is the one place in Syria where the Americans are popular and welcome and can maintain a long-term presence. And this presence is necessary, specifically in Hasakah. For while many tend to think of the western parts of Syria as being the “useful Syria,” the reality, once you move these illusory lines marking borders from your mind, you can suddenly see how important Hasakah could be as a stable and secure regional hub for transportation, banking, etc. The lack of water access will not be as problematic for the Americans, considering their close relations with Turkey. 

But the future of Hasakah and of the project for splitting Syria into a number of cantons, zones, enclaves, whatever you want to call them, depends largely on how the administration will respond to Russia’s plans for building a base there. Putin is testing the waters, so to speak, and should he receive the same placid reaction, he will not hesitate to move right in and create a larger presence upsetting what I believe to be America’s designs for the province, and if managed to get away with it, he will have taken a major step towards controlling every viable part of Syria and carved up a real stake in the future of the entire region: a first for Russia. Still, things seem destined to heat up in Hasakah, and soon.

The Syrian conflict remains fluid, but the Iran-Russia alliance is strong and Assad’s fate is sealed: Vladimir Putin asked Bashar al-Assad to step down. Frankly, I would dispute the accuracy of this report, not on account of the Kremlin’s denial of it, but because it sounds wishful if not propagandistic, especially in its reliance on unnamed western intelligence sources. Indeed, the whole thrust of the report seems geared towards suggesting that Putin has entered into a quagmire by intervening in Syria, when more public utterances suggest that Putin is succeeding in strengthening Assad’s position in the country, and that the cost of the intervention are quite affordable by Russian standards.

So, the report misreads the situation entirely, and allows for dangerous claims like this one, made a person who has been closely following the situation on the ground since the beginning of the revolution: Vladimir Putin is not in charge of Syria, never has been, and never will be. First, no one is in charge of Syria, because by now it has long become a fragmented country. Second, the idea that Putin would allow an ass like Assad to embarrass him not to mention manipulate him flies in the face of everything we know about the man, a man who pursue his and assassinate his enemies even in London, and perhaps Washington.

Putin can make decisions on behalf of the regime, but he has to do so in coordination with his Iranian allies. That’s where the “problem,” if this were the right word, lies. The problem is not an existential one: that is, it does not threaten to undermine the Russian-Iranian alliance. But there is a “turfing” process in motion at this stage, and the final details concerning the specific borders between the borders between the different turfs, their interrelations, and the specific governance arrangement needed to formalize all these issues have not been agreed yet. The situation is still too fluid to allow for that. So, both sides prefer for Assad to stay until conditions allow for him to be pushed out, gently through relocation, or not so gently through assassination, or a Polonialist Coup (See Polonialism). So whatever happened with Colonel-General Igor Sergun and Bashar Al-Assad, I doubt it was that critical. For sure, Assad will never acquiesce to a departure if and when asked. But when the time comes, Assad will not be asked.

Saudocalypse: The Execution of Sheikh al-Nimr: A Saudi Need for Reassessment. Hassan is indeed right in his argument that the execution of Al-Nimr sets a dangerous precedent in Saudi. But the reality is, and just like Bashar Al-Assad before him, Muhammad bin Salman’s is not being chosen to reform, but to consolidate, and in Saudi’s case, this requires a further rapprochement with the Wahhabi religious establishment. In times, when Sunnis are feeling an existential threat, communal solidarity becomes vital, and more important than reforms.

The Faqihnameh – Threatening Mullahs, Worried Rabbis: Israel might be secretly happy with the Iran Deal, but it is most assuredly not happy with Iran’s and Hezbollah’s presence in Syria, because: 'Hezbollah is getting the most sophisticated Russian weapons.' “Advanced weapons are going from Russia to Syria and then into Hezbollah's hands, according to an IDF reserve officer. These deliveries likely include Onyx missiles, which are capable of hitting Israel's gas rigs and paralyzing the Haifa and Ashdod ports.” Now that the Assad regime seems to have received a jolt in the arm and a new lease on life, thanks to Russia’s intervention on its side, it’s nail-biting time. Or, perhaps, it’s time for “mischief” along the border with Syrian and Lebanon. Iran may not have a nuclear weapon now, but, deal or not, the thing has become inevitable, and again time gained as a result of the deal, will be used by al to advance their interests, which still translates into more territory. 

The joke is real and the joke on us: Obama's Win on Iran Is No Joke. Barbara Slavin has her heart in the right place, and she is definitely not an apologist for the Iranian mullocracy and is definitely aware of Iran’s rulers’ bloody involvement in Syria and their continuing crackdown on dissidents. But she, like so many other people, is wrong in concluding that the deal actually deprives Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The problem is not in the text of the actual agreement, or the verification and monitoring regimes, it’s in the built-in desire in Iran’s political establishment to have it all: regional hegemony and nuclear weapons to formalize Iran’s status as a regional power. So long as this desire exists, there will always be ways to fulfill it. By now, Iran has developed both the technical and financial means to get where she want to be.

So, Barbara’s concluding rhetorical question here is quite irrelevant, I’m afraid: “But how much better is it to confront an Iran without nuclear weapons than one that was marching toward a potential bomb.” In fact, all that the deal has achieved is to enable Iran to take advantage of the lifting of sanctions to strengthen its economy, improve its military capacity and expand its regional hegemony. Meanwhile, she will quietly pursue its nuclear plans, and when it’s convenient for her, she will come out.

Quote of the Day

“There must be a halt to the bombardment of civilians by Russian planes, and sieges of blockaded areas must be lifted. The conditions must be appropriate for the negotiations.” George Sabra, senior member of the Syrian opposition delegation invited to attend the Geneva meeting

Tweet(s) of the Day

Cartoons: The Cauldron

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