Soleimani assassination only one of many (and not the most consequential) US acts of war against Iran

January 5, 2020

By Stephen Gowans

While the assassination of an Iranian general by a US drone attack in Iraq has been construed in some quarters as a consequential act of war, it is only one, in a long series of US actions, that constitute de facto acts of war by the United States against Iran that have caused considerable harm to the country.

Ever since Iranians overthrew the US puppet ruler, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in 1979, Washington has pursued an unceasing campaign of aggression against the sovereign state with the aim of returning Iran to its orbit. Since 2018, US aggression has intensified. In a stepped up effort to topple the independence-minded government in Tehran, Washington has undertaken campaigns of destabilization on top of information-, cyber-, and economic-warfare—significant aggressions against which the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani is but a minor act.

Press TV

The roots of anti-Iranian US hostility can be summed up in one sentence: Tehran rejects the hegemony of the United States and its allies over the Middle East and the Muslim world. [1] This is consistent with the view of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Iran, they testified before the US Congress in 2017, seeks to “counter the influence of the U.S. and our Allies.” [2] Accordingly, the Iranian government has been declared an enemy of the United States. In short, Washington insists on imposing its will on the Middle East, and Tehran refuses to submit to US despotism. A former Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, once expressed the Iranian position this way: “We tell [the United States] that instead of interfering in the region’s affairs, to pack their things and leave.” [3] Insisting there should be no limit to its global influence, Washington targets for elimination any force that insists limits must be imposed. Advocacy of local independence and national assertiveness, in the US view, is an act of war against the United States, and must be met by aggression. That, at its base, explains Soleimani’s demise, and explains the character of US foreign policy—thuggery in the service of an international dictatorship.

The immediate goal of Washington’s campaigns of destabilization and information- and economic-warfare “is to spur uprisings in Iran that would lead to the overthrow of the cleric-led government,” according to The New York Times. [4] Washington is using economic tools to destroy the Iranian economy, along with US influence over media to mislead the Iranian population into attributing the collapse of their economy to government mismanagement, and therefore to view the solution to their misery as the overthrow of their own government.

Acts of war I: Economic terrorism

To destroy Iran’s economy, Washington has acted to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero. Additionally, by “sanctioning many of the country’s largest banks, including its central bank, it has severed most of Iran’s financial ties to the world. Other major non-oil sources of revenue have also been targeted—including the auto, aluminum, and petrochemical sectors—and insurers are prohibited from covering Iranian shipments,” according to The Wall Street Journal. [5] The sanctions, in the words of US president Donald Trump, are “massive.” [6] Indeed, the United States has used its economic weight and pressure on other countries to impose a total embargo on Iran, adding the Islamic republic to the list of countries now facing a total US embargo, including Venezuela, North Korea, Syria and Cuba. [7] Significantly, all of these countries share a single thing in common: refusal to submit to US domination.

The “massive” sanctions are hardly limited, surgical, or targeted—that is, restricted to government figures with exemptions for the civilian population. On the contrary, as the Iranian diplomat Majid Takht-Ravanchi explained to the United Nations Security Council in June,

The sanctions are basically designed to harm the general public, particularly those who are vulnerable, such as women, children, the elderly and patients. The sanctions harm the poor more than the rich, the ill more than the healthy and infants and children more than adults. In short, those who are most vulnerable suffer the most. For instance, patients who have severe conditions and therefore need scarce and expensive medicines and advanced medical equipment, which in most cases must be imported, suffer the most. [8]

“Sanctions aren’t an alternative to war,” tweeted Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif in June. “They ARE war.” [9] Indeed, if we define war as the use of harm to achieve political ends, then harmful coercive economic measures are acts of war. As Takht-Ravanchi told the Security Council,

The United States is weaponizing food and medicine against civilians, which is a clear manifestation of the collective punishment of an entire nation, amounting to a crime against humanity and thus entailing international responsibility. [10]

Terrorism is the deliberate harm of civilians to achieve political goals. Economic warfare is terrorism. Washington’s anti-Iranian sanctions program has a clear political aim: to topple the independence-minded government in Tehran in order to re-assert US hegemony over the country. And there is no question it is aimed at civilians. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, acknowledged the terrorist nature of the US economic warfare campaign when he said “The Iranian leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat.” [11]

“These days, the biggest, baddest weapon in the American arsenal isn’t a missile, or a tank, or a fighter jet. It is America’s economic clout,” remarked Gerald F. Seib, a columnist with The Wall Street Journal. [12] Patrick Cockburn, the veteran Middle East correspondent with The Independent, echoed Seib:

Because the media and much of the political establishment in Washington and western capitals are so viscerally anti-Trump, they frequently underestimate the effectiveness of his reliance on American economic might… At the end of the day, the US Treasury is a more powerful instrument of foreign policy than the Pentagon for all its aircraft carriers and drones. [13]

The US drone strike on Soleimani killed a handful of soldiers, people who had devoted their lives to local independence and national assertiveness. The Treasury Department’s sanctions have harmed vastly more people—of a different category: civilians, the victims of the United States’ crazed drive to extend its dictatorship over as many countries as will bow to US coercion.

Pompeo’s threat to starve Iranians unless Tehran capitulates to US demands was anticipated by Martinique-born Algerian revolutionary Frantz Fanon, author of The Wretch of the Earth. ”’When a colonial and imperialist power is forced to give independence to a people, this imperialist power says: ‘you want independence? Then take it and die of hunger.’ Because the imperialists continue to have economic power,” remarked the late Italian philosopher Domenico Losurdo, “they can condemn a people to hunger, by means of blockades, embargoes, or underdevelopment.” [14]

Acts of war II: Information warfare

Annihilating the Iranian economy is easily within the Treasury Department’s power, but misleading tens of millions of Iranians into understanding their misery as originating in their own government’s mismanagement, rather than US economic terrorism, is a task of an altogether different sort. In an effort to “win over the Iranian public” Washington has launched “an information campaign blaming the country’s economic hardship on its leaders and discrediting those who oppose the White House’s policies,” according to The Wall Street Journal. “The campaign aims to erode public support for the leadership in Tehran with hashtags, YouTube videos and traditional pro-U. S. media outlets broadcasting in the Middle East.” [15]

To this end, Washington “has helped anti-Iranian government hashtags to trend on Twitter, including #40YearsofFailure that coincided with the 40th anniversary of the country’s revolution. It has used Persian-language social media to blame deadly floods … on government mismanagement, tapping into a complaint many Iranians have made.” Additionally, Washington relies on its formal propaganda apparatus, the Voice of America, to beam messages aimed at discrediting the Iranian government to 14 million residents of Iran. [16] The propagation of lies to discredit a state in order to destabilize it and bring down its government is every bit as much an act of war as the assassination of Soleimani.

And when Washington isn’t using its influence over information media to try control the minds of Iranians, it’s acting to silence those who present an opposing point of view. Last year, Instagram cancelled Soleimani’s account, after Washington designated him the head of a foreign terrorist organization—an act of stunning hypocrisy, considering that the US government is targeting the entire Iranian population with harm in order to achieve its political goals, i.e., is practicing terrorism. What’s more, US terrorism is carried out on a massive scale, far in excess of anything the insurgents Washington labels as terrorists could ever hope to emulate. Additionally, Washington moved to discredit expatriate Iranians who contested the US war on Iran by dubbing them as propagandists for the Iranian government. According to The Wall Street Journal, “an online platform funded by the State Department, the Iran Disinformation Project, spearheaded a campaign to discredit Iranian journalists and scholars living in the U.S. and Europe, accusing them of being mouthpieces for the Iranian regime.” Their offense was to support the 2015 nuclear deal. [17]

Acts of war III: Covert CIA action

The total embargo of Iran is the principal means by which Washington intends to destabilize the country. But Washington is also relying on CIA covert action to help foster political instability. In 2017, The New York Times, citing multiple US defense and intelligence officials, reported that the Trump administration intended to use US “spies to help oust the Iranian government.” [18] The CIA destabilization program would be led by Michael D’Andrea, nicknamed “the Dark Prince”, who led the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In the years after 9/11, D’Andrea was “deeply involved in the detention and interrogation program,” which resulted in the torture and deaths of a number of prisoners. [19]

Citing a former US military commander, The New York Times reported that “there was a range of options that the Pentagon and the C.I.A. could pursue that could keep Iran off balance but that would not have ‘crystal-clear attribution’ to the United States.” [20] These included putting a bounty “on Iran’s paramilitary and proxy forces” to encourage “mercenary forces to take on Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies.” It could also include spreading “information, either embarrassing truths or deliberate false rumors, aimed at undermining the support that Tehran’s elites have for Iran’s leaders.” Additionally, Washington could provide assistance to Iran’s labor movement to make its protests against the government more effective. [21]

Acts of war IV: Cyber options

On top of these acts of war, Washington has carried on an ongoing campaign of cyberwarfare against the Iranian state. According to The New York Times, “The head of United States Cyber Command, Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, describes his strategy as ‘persistent engagement.’” According to a senior US defense official, US operatives “are carrying out constant low-level digital attacks.” [22] One of the most ambitions campaigns of cyberwarfare ever launched, namely, the Stuxnet virus, was developed jointly by the United States and Israel to disrupt Iran’s entirely legal uranium processing activities.

Of the multiple means Washington has used to try to impose its will on Iran and negate the country’s sovereignty—from total embargo, to the deliberate spreading of lies, to the suppression of alternative voices, to aid to dissidents, to persistent harassment of the Iranian state through cyber-operations—the assassination of the Quds Brigade commander has been the least significant in producing harm to Iran and perhaps the most likely to backfire and harm the United States.

Fighting back

What measures may a state legitimately take, in a de facto or de jure state of war, to protect itself from an aggressor? In 1939, the British authorities rounded up and jailed members of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. While Mosley’s followers were not accused of crimes, [23] their loyalty was deemed to be questionable. Accordingly, they posed a credible threat to national security during a period of acute crisis, and were duly incarcerated. Few people today would challenge the British government’s decision to lock up British fascists while the country was at war with a fascist state. Neither would they question the decision to suspend elections and confer extraordinary powers on the prime minister, that is, to establish a totalitarian state, while the country was at war.

There is no question that Iran finds itself in a state of emergency and a de facto state of war, arising through no fault of its own, but through Washington’s unceasing efforts to project its influence over the entire face of the globe and negate the sovereignty of other states. Whatever political police state measures Tehran takes to protect itself from US despotism are fully justified under the standards invoked by leading Western democracies during two world wars and other national emergencies.

I make this point because there is a principle that lies at the heart of Iran’s struggle against US tyranny—the principle of independence and local sovereignty, one which partisans of the tradition of equality, liberty, and international solidarity must defend. Defending this principle, however, can be difficult. Witness Washington’s attempts to discredit expatriate Iranians who have spoken out against the de facto US war. To avoid such difficulties, some seek an escape route. A favored tactic is to eschew support for states deemed official enemies of the United States on the grounds that they are police states, or authoritarian, or have abridged human rights. Of course, all of these descriptions fit. But if official enemies are police states, it is because they have been made so by US actions, in the same way the crises of world wars made leading Western democracies into robust police states. If we’re genuinely concerned with human rights, political openness, and political democracy, the way to make these institutions flower is to stop Western governments from poisoning the soil in which the institutions thrive.

Deciding one’s attitude to targets of US aggression on the basis of whether they’re police states sets an impossible standard. It mandates that countries attacked by the West must deny themselves the same defenses their own countries have taken in times of emergency to merit our support. In this view, our solidarity and assistance are available only to those who allow themselves to be victimized, while those who act in the real world, in realistic and consequential ways in defense of laudable principles and aims, are shunned, deplored, ostracized, and excoriated. The consequences of this for the preservation of the principles of democracy on an international scale, for self-determination, and for equality, are not difficult to discern.

Conclusion

While the US assassination of Qassem Soleimani was an act of international barbarity, emblematic of the thuggish nature of US foreign policy, it was neither the only de facto act of war the United States has undertaken against Iran, nor the most harmful. Indeed, against the total embargo Washington has imposed on Iran with the intention of starving Iranians into submission or inducing them to overthrow their government, the killing of Soleimani is a act of little consequence, even if its significance in provoking widespread outrage and galvanizing opposition to US aggression is undoubted.

1. Said K. Aburish, The Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of the House of Saud, Bloomsbury, 2005, p. 137.

2. Posture statement of 19th Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff before the 115th Congress Senate Armed Services Budget Hearing, June 13, 2017.

3. Howard Schneider, “Iran, Syria mock U.S. policy, Ahmadinejad speaks of Israel’s ‘annihilation’”, The Washington Post, February 26, 2010.

4. Edward Wong, “U.S. Turns Up Pressure on Iran With Sanctions on Transportation Firms,” The New York Times, December 11, 2019.

5. Ian Talley and Rebecca Ballhaus, “Trump imposes sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader, others,” The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2019.

6. Michael R. Gordon, Ian Talley and Laurence Norman, “US plans new Iran sanctions as Europe tries to defuse tensions,” The Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2019.

7. Vivian Salama, “US expands sanctions against Venezuela into an embargo,” The Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2019.

8. Takht Ravanchi (Islamic Republic of Iran) 8564th meeting of the United Nations Security Council, 26 June 2019.

9. Laurence Norman and Stacy Meichtry, “Iran threatens to pull out of nuclear treaty, like North Korea,” The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2019.

10. Takht Ravanchi.

11. Mike Pompeo, November 7, 2018, quoted in ”Iran letter to the UNSG and UNSC on Pompeo provocative statement,” Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran, November 30, 2018.

12. Gerald F. Seib, “The risks in overusing America’s big economic weapon,” The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2019.

13. Patrick Cockburn, “Europe doesn’t have the power to be much more than a spectator in the escalating US-Iran conflict,” The Independent, May 11, 2019.

14. Domenico Losurdo, “The New Colonial Counter-Revolution,” Revista Opera, October 20, 2017.

15. Sune Engel Rasmussen and Michael Amon, “US aims a megaphone at Iranian public as part of pressure campaign,” The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2019.

16. Rasmussen and Amon.

17. Ibid.

18. Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Goldman, “CIA names the ‘dark prince’ to run Iran operations, signaling a tougher stance,” The New York Times, June 2, 2017.

19. Ibid.

20. Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “White House is pressing for additional options, including cyberattacks, to deter Iran,” The New York times, June 23, 2019.

21. Ibid.

22. Julian E. Barnes, “US cyberattack hurt Iran’s ability to target oil tankers, officials say,” The New York Times, August 28, 2019.

23. David A. Price, “’Agent Jack’ review: Tell it to Hitler.” The Wall Street Journal, November 8, 2019.

Kim Jong Un: Until the US shows it’s interested in peace, North Korea will continue to build strategic weapons

“But peace cannot be hoped for on the basis of some making concessions and the others making none. Peace based on the demands of the other side is not peace, it is ignominious surrender, and no revolutionary country sells itself or surrenders.”— Fidel Castro.* 

January 2, 2020 

By Stephen Gowans

On January 1, North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA, presented the DPRK position on the current state of US-North Korean relations, as articulated by Kim Jong Un at a high-level meeting. I’ve summarized the report below, retaining some of the English language text as it originally appeared in the KCNA report, but editing for clarity. I’ve included the Castro quote at the head of this article for the sole reason that, in my opinion, it succinctly sums up the North Korean position.

Kim’s main message is that the DPRK has seen no interest on the US side in peace. On the contrary, despite professing to be interested in a dialogue with the DPRK, the United States has persisted in conducting war games (despite promising to suspend them), has stepped up provocations (by transferring new weapons systems to South Korea), and has intensified it efforts to bring about the collapse of the DPRK (by adding still more sanctions.) This has left North Korea with no option but to continue to build its strategic nuclear defense, while resolving to endure the sanctions. 

http://www.barakabooks.com/

My summary of the KCNA report follows: 

The United States has labelled the DPRK an enemy, part of an “axis of evil,” and a possible target of a pre-emptive nuclear strike. It has applied the most brutal and inhuman sanctions against the country and posed a persistent nuclear threat to the DPRK over the past seven decades. 

Despite the DPRK halting its nuclear tests, suspending the test firing of ICBMs, and shutting down its nuclear-test site—measures taken to build confidence—Washington has not reciprocated with comparable confidence building measures; instead it has continued to conduct joint military drills which US president Donald Trump personally promised to stop. At the same time, Washington has threatened the DPRK by shipping ever more lethal arms and weapons systems to South Korea. On top of these hostile actions, Washington has imposed additional tranches of sanctions on North Korea. The United States’ ambition to stifle the DPRK is undiminished.

In light of the continued US hostility toward the DPRK it can only be concluded that there is no commitment on the US side to arrive at an agreement on denuclearization and that the United States is feigning interest in dialogue and negotiations in order to buy time to allow sanctions to further weaken the DPRK. Accordingly, the DPRK no longer feels bound to take confidence building measures. 

It is true that we urgently need an external environment favourable to our economic development, but the DPRK cannot trade security for visible economic results. Washington’s current posture indicates that the confrontation with the United States will be a long one. 

The DPRK-United States stand-off began in the last century and persists into this one. The DPRK’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles are a pretext for US hostility. Absent the nuclear issue, the United States would find fault with the DPRK for some other reason. The United States’ military and political threats will never end. 

This reality urgently requires us to resolve to live with sanctions for as long a necessary and also to actively push forward the project of developing strategic weapons. 

A long history of overcoming difficulties and defending our rights and dignity in the face of harsh opposition has shown us that through self-reliance we can foil the enemies’ sanctions and blockade and preserve our sovereignty and dignity. 

Our goal is to build a national defense strong enough to deter any power from using its armed force against us. We must be sufficiently armed to keep hostile forces at bay so that they will never dare to undermine our sovereignty and security. As part of our continuing effort to achieve this goal, we will soon reveal a new strategic weapon. 

If the United States persists in its hostile policy towards the DPRK, the Korean peninsula will never be denuclearized. Instead, the DPRK will steadily develop strategic weapons for the security of the state. It will continue to do this until the United States rolls back its hostile policy towards the DPRK and a lasting and durable peace-keeping mechanism is built. 

Source: “Report on 5th Plenary Meeting of 7th C.C., WPK,” KCNA, January 1, 2020.

* William R. Long, “Radicalism not necessary, Castro advises Sandinistas,” The Los Angeles Times, January 13, 1985.

 

Washington’s Xinjiang smear

With help from The New York Times and an anti-communist fanatic of questionable mental competence, Washington orchestrates a smear campaign in an effort to widen one of China’s ethnic fault lines

January 1, 2020

By Stephen Gowans

A Chinese government campaign to bring jobs to a poor region of the country plagued by Islamist-inspired secessionist violence is being depicted by The New York Times as “ethnic subjugation,” “social re-engineering,” and a “crackdown on Muslims.” This echoes the US State Department descriptions of the economic development campaign as “Orwellian,” a “gross human rights violation,” and “one of the worst stains on the world of this century.”

“Chinese leaders have struggled for decades to suffocate separatist sentiment in Xinjiang, a mountainous expanse abutting Central Asia that 12 million Uighurs—nearly half the region’s population—regard as their homeland,” according to The Wall Street Journal. [1] Beijing’s efforts to more fully integrate the predominantly Muslim Uighurs into China’s multi-ethnic community have sparked recriminations in the West. Chinese leaders have been accused of incarcerating a million or more Uighurs in “indoctrination” camps.

Adrian-Zenz-Uyghurs-China-Christian-fundamentalist
Democracy Now! labels a fanatical anti-communist who is employed by a US government-established foundation and believes he’s on a mission from God to destroy the People’s Republic of China as “an independent researcher.” 

For the past two decades the United States has waged war on Islamist-inspired anti-US violence in the Middle East, a campaign marked by assassinations, invasion, occupation, torture, incarceration of Islamist militants, gross violations of international law, and programs to re-educate Islamist radicals. In contrast, Chinese efforts to deal with Islamist-inspired violence, (and within its own borders, in contrast to a US “war on terror” which is carried out in other peoples’ countries), have been mainly based on job training, job creation, and re-education.

Chinese leaders “attribute ethnic tensions and sporadic violent attacks in Xinjiang to the influence of radical Islam.” [2] Creating jobs has been central to the government’s strategy. “A person with a job will be stable,” said Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2014. [3]

In a campaign to end poverty nationwide by late 2020, Xi has pushed Xinjiang officials to create economic opportunity for Uighurs, as a way not only of ameliorating the material conditions of China’s Muslim population, but also of more fully integrating it into Chinese society. [4] “The government goals are sweeping,” says The New York Times—up to one million new jobs in Xinjiang by late 2023. [5]

Dozens “of factory zones have emerged across Xinjiang,” The New York Times reports, attesting, it says, to Beijing’s ambitions to end poverty nationwide by late 2020 [6]—a laudable goal.

But rather than depicting the Chinese campaign in meritorious, or even neutral, terms, The New York Times echoes the US State Department, turning what would appear to be a welcome job creation program into something dark, namely, “an aggressive campaign to remold Xinjiang’s Muslim minorities … into an army of workers for factories and other big employers.” [7] A program of job training and placement for “idle villagers” is described as “social re-engineering,” while lifting Xinjiang residents out of poverty is demonized as “a major effort by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to entrench control over this region.” We would soon enough dismiss as rank propagandists Chinese journalists who would decry a US job creation program for impoverished areas of the United States as a major effort by the US president to entrench control over disadvantaged regions. We ought to do the same when US journalists propagate the same nonsense.

To portray China as the site of a massive assault on human rights, New York Times’ reporters Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy turn to the Uyghur Human Rights Project [8], an organization backed by the US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED). In an August 2007 article titled “US: overt and covert destabilization,” Le Monde Diplomatique reported that the NED “was created in 1983, ostensibly as a non-profit-making organisation to promote human rights and democracy. In 1991 its first president, the historian Allen Weinstein, confessed to The Washington Post: ‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA’.” [9] In other words, the NED overtly works to destabilize governments Washington doesn’t like, under the guise of promoting democracy and human rights. It does so by providing funding and encouragement to dissident groups, like the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

Drawing on the testimony of the CIA-surrogate-funded group, The New York Times depicts Beijing’s vigorous poverty reduction program as an effort to “remold Xinjiang’s minorities into loyal blue-collar workers to supply Chinese factories with cheap labor,” as part of a program of “ethnic subjugation”. [10]

If the negative spin isn’t enough to raise questions about The New York Times’ agenda, the newspaper’s reference to Beijing’s efforts to deal with Islamist-inspired secessionist violence as a “crackdown on Muslims” [11] is. If the campaign could indeed be described fairly in these terms, we would have to redefine ‘crackdown’ to mean ‘education and job creation’ and ‘Muslims’ to mean ‘violent Islamist-inspired secessionists.’ The New York Times would never describe the US ‘war on terror’ as ‘a crackdown on Muslims,’ for the obvious reason that it doesn’t target all Muslims, but only a very small violent, anti-US, subset. The newspaper, however, finds itself unable to make the same distinction where a strategic US competitor is concerned, preferring instead to portray measures of repression against a small, Islamist-inspired violent subset of Chinese Muslims as measures directed at all of them.

In July, “a host of Muslim-majority nations, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Syria and the United Arab Emirates, joined North Korea, Myanmar and others in signing a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council praising China’s governance of Xinjiang” [12]—an indication that Beijing’s campaign to address secessionist violence in the remote Chinese region is not the Orwellian stain on humanity that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would have us believe. A better candidate for ‘gross human rights violation’ – another of Pompeo’s slurs on the Chinese job training program—might be the State Department supremo’s warning that the United States will see to it that the Iranian people starve if Tehran continues to refuse to renegotiate its nuclear deal with Washington. [13]

In a resolution on protecting the rights of Muslim minorities around the world, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — a group of 57 nations that has been a vocal defender of the Rohingyas and Palestinians, praised China for “providing care to its Muslim citizens” [14]—another endorsement at odds with the US campaign to smear its rising strategic competitor as an anti-Muslim power.

Meanwhile, as Washington poses as the champion of China’s Muslims, it has little to say about the litany of abuses heaped upon India’s Muslims by its friend, the Hindu-nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi. Any unbiased effort to identify crackdowns on Muslims would arrive at India’s doorstep long before it arrived at China’s. In the recent past, Modi—on whom Washington relies to execute its Indo-Pacific Strategy to eclipse the rise of China as a strategic competitor—has been responsible for banning a method of divorce allowed under Muslim religious law and ending the autonomy of India’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir. To add insult to injury, Modi welcomed a Supreme Court decision that would allow Hindu groups to build a temple in the city of Ayodhya on a site where Muslims want to rebuild a mosque torn down by a Hindu mob in 1992. [15]

On top of these anti-Muslim actions, senior leaders of Modi’s party say they want to introduce a citizen registry that would require all residents to produce documents proving their citizenry. Muslims who are unable to produce the required documents would be treated as immigrants, while all others would be able to naturalize. [16] According to The Wall Street Journal, “Muslims in India say they feel increasingly targeted and vulnerable.” [17]

Washington, then, is prepared to overlook the anti-Muslim actions of an ally, while presenting the efforts of a strategic competitor to improve the material conditions of its Muslim population as a dark, communist-guided Orwellian campaign to brainwash Muslims in order to subordinate them to Han rule. This is the same kind of nonsense Hitler and other counter-revolutionaries used to serve their own reactionary ends, except in their case they depicted communist efforts on behalf of Europe’s working class as a dark, Orwellian campaign by Marxists to bring Germans and Russians under Jewish control.

Some Western newspapers allege that a million Uighurs have been detained in re-education camps, and that the figure is based on a UN report. But as The Grayzone’s Ajit Singh and Max Blumenthal have pointed out, the figure is not based on a UN report, but on a report submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a group backed by the CIA-surrogate NED. It is more apt to label the report, not as a UN-produced document, but as report bankrolled by a US destabilization agency.

Not only does the network’s backing by the US government constitute prima facie evidence of a pro-US, anti-China bias, but the dubious methodology by which the US-backed group arrived at its estimate of one million Uighur detainees further calls its claims into question. The estimate is based on the testimony of eight Uighur opponents of the Chinese government who were asked to guess how many Muslims from their respective villages had been detained by authorities. Their answers were then projected regionally. The methodology, in its reliance on an extremely small and non-random sample—without making the slightest effort to identify who the detainees are (violent radical Islamists or Muslims selected at random?)—is so compromised as to be virtually useless, if not a complete joke. No legitimate researcher or reporter would take it seriously.

Neither would anyone of an unbiased mind take seriously Adrian Zenz, anointed by Western governments and their faithful scribes in the mainstream (and even progressive) media, as a Xinjiang expert. Zenz has become the go-to guy for Western media and governments for commentary on China’s treatment of its Muslim citizens.

According to Singh and Blumenthal, Zenz is “a far-right fundamentalist Christian who opposes homosexuality and gender equality, supports ‘scriptural spanking’ of children,” but more importantly “believes he is ‘led by God’ on a ‘mission’ against China.” [18]

The New York Times bills Zenz as a researcher at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. [19] The foundation’s name speaks volumes about its agenda, but it also helps to know that it was created by the US government, and that its mission is to discredit communist governments, including China, by calling their human rights records into question.

The foundation’s view of the world, according to its website, reposes on the following  premises:

• Communist regimes commit the worst human rights abuses on the widest scale in the world today.
• Communists have killed more than 100 million people over the past century.
• Communism promises to make everyone equal, but delivers radical inequality.
• Every time it is tried, it ends either in economic collapse or a police state. [20]

It’s a virtual certainty that Zenz, as a researcher at an anti-communist foundation, has an a priori anti-China agenda. Laying aside questions about his mental competence—indicated in his belief that “God has sent him on a holy crusade against the People’s Republic of China” [21]—there is no possibility that he is anything but an advocate for a US-friendly, anti-Chinese point of view. In other words, he has zero credibility. All the same, he has appeared before the US Congress and Canadian Parliament as a Xinjiang expert, and has been sought out by Western media from The New York Times to Democracy Now! for commentary. [22] Here’s one of Zenz’s gems from The New York Times: “The long-term strategy [of the Chinese jobs program] is to conquer, to captivate, to win over the young generation from the beginning.” [23]

Washington’s reasons for trying to strengthen secessionism in Xinjiang, and for attempting to discredit Beijing’s efforts to allay it, are not difficult to find. From the Obama Administration forward, US policy has focused on countering the rise of China. A standard tactic states use against rivals is to provide assistance and encouragement to dissident groups to weaken rivals internally. The idea is to find existing fault lines, and then to press on them. In China, Washington has targeted four weak links: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang. “Xi told Trump that China is deeply concerned about ‘the negative words and deeds’ of the United States on issues related to” these four regions. [24] The negative deeds include the flow of funding from the CIA-surrogate NED to pro-secessionist groups, as well as Western government and media support for phony China experts who are paraded before global audiences to portray China as a human rights abuser. This is part of the United States’ larger project of eclipsing the rise of a strategic competitor in order to protect US global hegemony.

Scratch the surface, and the US campaign is revealed as a bad joke. It depends on portraying Beijing’s efforts to lift China’s Muslims out of poverty as an Orwellian plot to enforce Han ethnic rule over Uighurs and relies on groups funded by a foundation created to carry out destabilization operations once entrusted to the CIA. At the same time, it elevates a fanatical anti-communist who believes he’s imbued with a mission from God to destroy the People’s Republic of China to the role of the world’s leading expert on Xinjiang.

1. Josh Chin, “China stresses investment, invokes New Zealand massacre in defending treatment of Muslims,” The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2019.
2. Chin.
3. Eva Dou and Chao Deng, “Western companies get tangled in China’s Muslim clampdown,” The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2019.
4. Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy, “Inside China’s Push to Turn Muslim Minorities into an Army of Workers,” The New York Times, December 30, 2019.
5. Buckley and Ramzy.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Hernando Calvo Ospina, “US: overt and covert destabilization,” Le Monde Diplomatique, August, 2007, https://mondediplo.com/2007/08/04ned
10. Buckley and Ramzy.
11. Amy Qin, “In China’s crackdown on Muslims, children have not been spared,” The New York Times, December 28, 2019.
12. Jon Emont, “How China persuaded one Muslim nation to keep silent on Xinjiang camps,” The Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2019.
13. Mike Pompeo, November 7, 2018, quoted in “Iran letter to the UNSG and UNSC on Pompeo provocative statement,” Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran, November 30, 2018.
14. Jane Perlez, “With pressure and persuasion, China deflects criticisms of its camps for Muslims,” The New York Times, April 8, 2019.
15. Eric Bellman, “India says the path to citizenship will get easier, but Muslims see a Hindu plot,” The Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2019.
16. Vibhuti Agarwal and Krishna Pokharel, “With protests, India Muslims push back against Modi government,” The Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2019.
17. Eric Bellman, “India says the path to citizenship will get easier, but Muslims see a Hindu plot,” The Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2019.
18. Ajit Singh and Max Blumenthal, “China detaining millions of Uyghurs? Serious problems with claims by US-backed GO and far-right researcher ‘led by God’ against Beijing,” The Grayzone, December 21, 2019.
19. Qin.
20. https://www.victimsofcommunism.org/vision
21. Singh and Blumenthal.
22. Ibid.
23. Qin.
24. Steve Holland and Roxanne Liu, “Xi accuses US of interfering in China’s internal affairs in phone call with Trump,” Reuters, December 20, 2019.

US-Led Efforts to Overthrow Maduro Spurred by Business Interests, Not Democracy

January 24, 2019

By Stephen Gowans

The US-led and coordinated intervention to overthrow Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro by recognizing Juan Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly as the interim president, has nothing whatever to do with restoring democracy in Venezuela (which was never overturned) and everything to do with promoting US business interests.

Washington’s imperial arrogance in effectively appointing Guaidó as president, attempting to go over the heads of Venezuelans—who alone have the right to decide who their leaders are—is motivated by the same concerns that have motivated other US interventions around the world: toppling governments that put their citizens’ interests above those of US investors.

That Washington has a propensity to engage in destabilization operations against leftwing governments is hardly a secret. From 1898 to 2004, the US government undertook 41 successful regime change interventions in Latin America, an average of one every two-and-a-half years. And that excludes the unsuccessful ones, such as the Bay of Pigs invasion.

In almost every instance, US regime change interventions around the world have been motivated either directly or indirectly by commercial considerations, and were undertaken to restore or protect the primacy of US business interests in foreign lands. And in many cases, the interventions paved the way for the installation of rightwing dictatorships.

One ultimately unsuccessful US intervention was the 2002 coup d’état against Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s predecessor. Washington immediately recognized the coup, hailing it as a victory for democracy, but privately recognized it as a major win for US business interests in an oil-rich state teeming with potential profit-making opportunities for US free enterprise.

Washington disliked Chavez because the charismatic leftist leader promoted the welfare of ordinary Venezuelans, rather than pandering to US investors. But the coup against Chavez was short-lived. In a blow against tyranny, the regime change was quickly reversed and Chavez, the country’s legitimate leader, was restored to the presidency.

Determined to eliminate leftist governments in Latin America, Washington stepped up its campaign of economic warfare against the South American country, aiming to plunge its economy into ruin and the Venezuelan people into misery. This was a game plan Washington had followed countless times before and since, in China, Cuba, North Korea, Chile, Zimbabwe, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, and Iran: ruin the target country’s economy, attribute the chaos to “the failures of socialism” and economic mismanagement, and wait for the people to rise in revolt against their misery.

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The idea that Washington’s intervention in Venezuela has even the slightest connection to protecting democracy is laughable. The US government has notoriously supported a string of rightwing dictatorships throughout Latin America, including that of Augusto Pinochet, who was installed in the wake of a 1973 US-engineered coup against Salvador Allende. Allende crossed Washington by doing what Maduro, and a host of other Third World leaders, had done: put the interests of the local population ahead of those of corporate America.

In the Middle East, the United States’s closest Arab allies are a military dictatorship (Egypt) and absolutist monarchies, chief among them Saudi Arabia, whose abhorrence of democracy is absolute. Washington rewards Egypt with $1.3 billion in military aid annually, and robustly supports the Saudi tyranny.

Saudis regard their parasitical royal family as completely unacceptable. To protect itself from its own population, the monarchy maintains a 250,000 troop-strong National Guard. The Guard exists, not to defend Saudi Arabia from external aggression, but to protect the monarchy from its own subjects. The al-Saud family’s protectors are trained and equipped by the United States and its satellites, including Canada, which has a $10-billion contract to supply the force with armored personnel carriers, used to put down the frequent uprisings of disgruntled Saudi subjects.

The National Guard’s armorer, Canada, also recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president, dishonestly attributing its decision to follow the US-lead to its purported commitment to democracy. Ottawa has colluded with the dictators of Riyadh in their crackdown on long-suffering, democracy-deprived, Saudi citizens, at the same time supporting General Dynamics Canada’s efforts to rake in Pharaonic profits from arms sales to the democracy-hating Saudi despots.

Let’s be honest about a few things.

First, the agendas of US and Canadian political leaders are set by the economic elites and organized business interests on which they depend for campaign contributions, policy recommendations, and lucrative post political career job opportunities, and with which they’re tightly integrated personally and professionally. Accordingly, they care about the profits of US and Canadian investors, not about the welfare, freedoms or democracy of ordinary Venezuelans. Indeed, they secretly harbor contempt for the bulk of their own citizens and wouldn’t, for a moment, tolerate the flowering of an authentic, robust, democracy in their own countries. The idea that they care about the residents of a distant South American land is a fantasy for political innocents and the weakly naïve.

Second, US-led campaigns of economic warfare do make people’s lives miserable, and many people may attribute their misery to the actions of their own government and wish to see it step down. Others may recognize that sanctions are the cause of their misery, and may support regime change as a way of winning relief from foreign-imposed misery. Indeed, the logic of economic warfare depends on these assumptions being true.

Third, governments threatened by foreign-sponsored regime change face legitimate national emergencies. Maduro is not a dictator. He is the elected head of a government confronting a genuine national emergency engineered by hostile foreign powers. Measures taken by the government to defend its citizens against the determination of the United States to impose on Venezuela policies which cater to the interests of corporate America at Venezuelans’ expense are wholly legitimate; they represent the actions of a democracy against a US-led international tyranny.

It is important to remember that Maduro’s government, like Chavez’s, has sought to put the interests of ordinary Venezuelans ahead of those of US investors. As a result, it has provoked Washington’s enmity. The US intervention in Venezuela in recognizing Guaidó as interim president is emblematic of countless other US regime change interventions. Invariably, these interventions are targeted at leftwing governments that threaten the profit making interests of US businesses. The interventions have nothing whatever to do with democracy; on the contrary, where successful, they are almost always followed by rightwing regimes that build US investor-friendly business climates and integrate their countries economically, militarily, and diplomatically into the US-superintended and Wall Street-led global order. Foreign investors are indulged, and the local population is treated harshly. Far from spurring transitions to democracy, US regime change interventions aim to reverse democracy, and strengthen US global tyranny. The latest US-led intervention in Venezuela is no different, and is just a repeat, with local variations, on similar efforts in Syria, Iran, Cuba and North Korea.

The US war on China’s economic model

The growing hostility of Western governments to China is more about the interests of Western investors than legitimate security fears

December 30, 2018

By Stephen Gowans

The United States stations 320,000 troops in the vicinity of China [1], maintains a continuous B-52 bomber presence in the region, including over waters claimed by the East Asian giant, [2] and has sent its “most advanced warfighting platforms to the region, including multi-mission ballistic missile defense-capable ships, submarines, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.” [3] The 2018 US National Defense Strategy lists China first among the United States’s “five central external threats” including “Russia, North Korea, Iran, and terrorist groups with global reach.” [4] The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has called China the “great threat for the U.S. in the long term.” [5] According to The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, the Trump administration considers China “the real enemy.” [6]

What has China done to make successive US administrations see it as a major external threat and the real enemy? The answer is that China has developed a state-led economic model that limits the profit-making opportunities of US investors and challenges their control of high-technology sectors, including artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, essential to US military supremacy. Washington is engaged in a multi-faceted war “to prevent Beijing from advancing with plans … to become a global leader in 10 broad areas of technology, including information technology, aerospace and electric vehicles.” [7] Washington aims to “hobble China’s plans to develop advanced technology” [8] and to “force China to allow American companies to sell their goods and operate freely” in China, under conditions conducive to maintaining US economic and military supremacy. [9]

For its part, China seeks to alter a global economic system in which it is allowed only “to produce T-shirts” while the United States produces high-tech, according to Yang Weimin, a senior economic adviser to China’s president Xi Jinping. [10] Xi is “determined that China master its own microchips, operating systems and other core technologies” [11] in order to become “technologically self-reliant.” [12] But self-reliance in industries like aerospace, telecommunications, robotics, and AI means removing China, a large market, from the ambit of US high-tech firms. [13] Moreover, since Western military supremacy has always relied on Western technological superiority, Chinese efforts to challenge the Western monopoly on high-tech translates directly into an effort to challenge Washington’s ability to use the Pentagon as an instrument for obtaining investment and trade advantages for US investors.

China’s economic model

China’s economic model is often called “state capitalist” or “market socialist.” Both terms refer to two important elements of the Chinese model: the presence of markets, for materials, products and labor, and a role for the state, through industrial planning and ownership of enterprises. [14]

The “mainstay of the economy” [15] is China’s over 100,000 state owned enterprises. [16] The state has a strong presence in the commanding heights of the economy. “Key sectors such as banking are…dominated by state-controlled companies.” [17] State-owned enterprises “account for about 96% of China’s telecom industry, 92% of power and 74% of autos.” [18] Beijing “is the biggest shareholder in the country’s 150 biggest companies.” [19] The combined profit of state-owned “China Petroleum & Chemical and China Mobile in 2009 alone was greater than all the profit of China’s 500 largest private firms.” [20]

Industrial planning is carried out by the National Development and Reform Commission. The commission uses various means to incubate Chinese industry in key sectors [21] and drafts plans “to give preferential treatment” to Chinese firms in strategic areas. [22]

Beijing is counting on state owned firms “to become global leaders in semiconductors, electric vehicles, robotics and other high-technology sectors and is funding them through subsidies and financing from state banks.” [23] The planning commission also guides the development of steel, photovoltaics, high-speed trains, and other critical industries. [24]

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Beijing has closed sectors it considers strategic or vital to national security to foreign ownership. These include “finance, defense, energy, telecommunications, railways and ports” [25] as well as steel. All steel industry firms are state-owned and all are financed by state-owned banks. [26] In total, “China … has restricted or closed off 63 sectors of its own economy to foreign investors, such as stem-cell research, satellites, exploration and exploitation of numerous minerals and media, as well as humanities and social-sciences research institutes.” [27]

China also relies heavily on joint venture arrangements to acquire Western technology and know-how. This idea was initially introduced to China by General Motors, which proposed a joint venture in 1978 with the Chinese car industry. GM’s idea was to trade off its technology and know-how for access to a vast market and low-wage labor. [28]

Chinese leaders saw joint ventures as a way “to propel its industries up the value chain into more sophisticated sectors and the country into rich-nation ranks.” [29] Technology acquired from Western partnerships diffused into the Chinese economy, allowing Chinese firms to become competitors of the Western companies. [30] For example, Chinese rail companies used technology acquired through joint ventures with Japanese and European firms to become giants in high-speed rail. [31]

China seeks to achieve self-sufficiency in high-tech by 2025 under a plan called Made in China 2025. The idea is to vault into the top ranks of high-tech, matching and eventually overtaking the West. Xi has complained that Chinese “technology still generally lags that of developed countries” and that China must “catch up and overtake” the West in “core technological fields.” [32] To help achieve this goal, Beijing plans to “spend billions in the coming years to make the country the world’s leader in A.I,” [33] among other areas.

China’s economic model is not new. According to the economist, Chang Ha-joon:

“In a way, what it is doing is actually not that different from what the more advanced countries were doing in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Many countries, including Japan and Germany, like China today, were using state-owned enterprises to develop their strategic industries. You can say that China is going through what all the other economically advanced countries have been through, and examples range from the U.S. in the mid-19th century to South Korea in the 1970s and 80s.”[34]

US objections

Countries which dominated the globe economically, politically, and militarily have always been the great champions of free trade. The United States had no use for free trade until it became the dominant economic power in the wake of the Second World War. Until the end of WWII, US tariffs were among the world’s highest. Emerging from the war as the planet’s strongest economic power, the United States did all it could to impose free trade, free markets and US free enterprise on as much of the world as it could, and wasn’t shy about using economic warfare, the CIA, and military force to accomplish its goal.

Today, Washington objects strenuously to the Chinese economic model, to the point that it’s willing to use economic warfare, military intimidation, and perhaps even outright war (see below) to impede it. Access to Chinese markets and low-wage labor is highly valued by the US state, but Washington resents access being made contingent on joint venture arrangements which allow US technology to be absorbed by Chinese businesses. The United States demands that US investors be freed from such conditions, that US corporations be granted unfettered access to all Chinese markets, and that US firms be allowed to compete with Chinese enterprises on equal terms, without favor for Chinese companies. There are two reasons Washington makes these demands: to maximize the profit-making opportunities available to US investors in China and to prevent Beijing from building ‘national champions’ able to compete with US corporations. [35]

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The US economic elite has for years expressed its grievances over China’s state owned enterprises. It complains that it is “denied lucrative government business, which goes instead to the state champions.” [36] US business people grouse that “In the past few years, China has significantly increased the government’s role in the economy, pumping up the state sector and crowding out private and foreign businesses.” [37] And they lament that the “heavily protected and subsidized Chinese state-owned enterprises … are pounding U.S. companies not just in China but in competition globally.” [38] In response to these grievances, Washington is pushing for “reducing the role of state-owned firms in China’s economy.” [39]

Made in China 2025 is a significant irritant to Washington. Peter Navarro, US president Donald Trump’s trade adviser, denounces it as “economic aggression” because it “threatens the U.S. technology sector.” [40] US vice-president Mike Pence calls it Beijing’s master plan to bring “90% of the world’s most advanced industries” under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. [41] An emblematic US media description of the Chinese plan is: “Made in China 2025 is Beijing’s plan to dominate global markets in a wide range of high-tech products. China’s strategy is to give large government subsidies to state-owned companies and supplement their research with technology” acquired from Chinese partnerships with, or purchase of, US firms. [42] The description contains within it a diagnosis and implied US treatment plan: Compel Beijing to a) end subsidies to state-owned enterprises; b) lift joint venture conditions which allow Chinese firms to acquire US technology; and c) prevent Chinese companies from buying Western firms as a means of acquiring Western technology.

The New York Times has reported that the US trade representative Robert Lighthizer “wants China to reduce subsidies and other aid to Chinese firms competing internationally in advanced technology” [43] and that one US “demand is for China to halt its subsidies for its ‘Made in China 2025’ program aimed at giving its companies a foothold in aircraft, robotics and other areas of advanced manufacturing.” [44]

“Beijing believes in state-driven research to help state-owned industries,” observes The Wall Street Journal, “while the U.S. depends on the private sector, along with a healthy dose of government-funded basic research.” [45] That’s not entirely true. The privately-owned Chinese telecom equipment maker, Huawei, spent “$13 billion last year … developing its own technologies, outpacing Intel Corp. and spending almost as much as Google parent Alphabet Inc.” [46] And corporate America’s reliance on government-funded R&D is far greater than usually acknowledged.

Washington started investing heavily in R&D after the allegedly innovation-stifling Soviet economy allowed the USSR to beat the United States into space, and then chalk up a series of other firsts: the first animal in orbit, first human in orbit, first woman in orbit, first spacewalk, first moon impact, first image of the far side of the moon, first unmanned lunar soft landing, first space rover, first space station and first interplanetary probe. Beat by the Russians, the United States was galvanized to take a leaf from the Soviet book. Just as the Soviets were doing, Washington would use public funds to power research into innovations. This would be done through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The DARPA would channel public money to scientists and engineers for military, space and other research. Many of the innovations to come out of the DARPA pipeline would eventually make their way to private investors, who would use them for private profit. [47] In this way, private investors were spared the trouble of risking their own capital, as free enterprise mythology would have us believe they do. In this myth, far-seeing and bold capitalists reap handsome profits as a reward for risking their capital on research that might never pay-off. Except this is not how it works. It is far better for investors to invest their capital in ventures with less risk and quicker returns, while allowing the public to shoulder the burden of funding R&D with its many risks and uncertainties. Using their wealth, influence and connections, investors have successfully pressed politicians into putting this pleasing arrangement in place. Free enterprise reality, then, is based on the sucker system: Risk is “socialized” (i.e., borne by the public, the suckers) while benefits are “privatized” (by investors who have manipulated politicians into shifting to the public the burden of funding R&D.)

A study by Block and Keller [48] found that between 1971 and 2006, 77 out of R&D Magazine’s top 88 innovations had been fully funded by the US government. Summarizing research by economist Mariana Mazzucato, former Guardian columnist Seumas Milne pointed out that the

[a]lgorithms that underpinned Google’s success were funded by the public sector. The technology in the Apple iPhone was invented in the public sector. In both the US and Britain it was the state, not big pharma, that funded most groundbreaking ‘new molecular entity’ drugs, with the private sector then developing slight variations. And in Finland, it was the public sector that funded the early development of Nokia – and made a return on its investment. [49]

Nuclear power, satellite and rocket technology, the internet and self-driving cars are other examples of innovations that were produced with public money, and have since been used for private profit. When he was US president, Barack Obama acknowledged the nature of the swindle in his 2011 State of the Nation Address. “Our free-enterprise system,” began the president, “is what drives innovation.” However, he immediately contradicted himself by saying, “But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need.”

Today, the United States “is spending roughly $1 billion to $2 billion annually, much of it federal funds, to build the first ‘exascale’ supercomputer—capable of a quintillion calculations a second, which is at least 100 times faster than today’s champion. Such a machine would help in everything from designing futuristic weapons to investigating brain science.” [50] The US government is also “boosting spending in semiconductor research, an area of intense Chinese interest.” [51] Meanwhile, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy is funding research on “quantum mechanics to eventually make computers and communications operate at speeds and efficiency well beyond anything possible today.” [52] And on top of these public R&D expenditures, the DARPA continues to fund advanced research, including on A.I. [53] Simultaneously, Washington is demanding that China halt its own R&D spending in the same areas.

All of this points to a number of important facts. (1) The United States kick-started innovation in its own economy by emulating the Soviet model of state-directed research because free enterprise was not up to the task. (2) Rather than emulate the Soviet model for public benefit, the United States channels public money into R&D for private profit. (3) US high technology supremacy relies significantly on public funding, yet (or rather because of this) Washington demands that China forbear from its own public funding of innovation research. Washington will only tolerate public funding of basic research that benefits US investors.

Explaining US hostility to China

Understanding the economic and political organization of the United States helps understand why Washington is antagonistic to China’s economic model. The following explains the US political elite’s hostility, currently expressed in the declaration of China as the United States’ top external threat; in the US-instigated trade war against China; in the blocking of Chinese purchases of US companies; and in the exclusion of, or threat to exclude, such Chinese corporations as Huawei and ZTE from Western markets.

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The US political elite is interlocked with the community of major US investors. US administrations, the US senate, and the top strata of the US bureaucracy, are mainly staffed by wealthy individuals whose wealth derives from investment income. Additionally, organized business groups and major corporations exert significant influence on the political elite through lobbying, via the funding of policy formation think-tanks, and by ownership of the mass media. In their 2014 study of over 1,700 US policy issues, the political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page demonstrated that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial impacts on government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.” [54] Accordingly, US foreign policy defines external threats as threats to the interests of US “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests”—the very same community which dominates the formulation of public policy.

The US National Defense Strategy does not define China as a threat to the United States but as threat to US interests. Unlike the United States, which has a significant military presence in the air, sea and land around China, the East Asian giant does not have a military presence in the Western hemisphere, and is not currently capable of projecting force into it. China does not therefore constitute a military threat to the United States. What, then, are the US interests that China’s threatens? Consistent with the interlocked nature of the US political and economic elites, US interests refer to the profit-making interests of US investors.

China’s economic model threatens the profit-making interests of US economic elites and organized business groups in the following ways.

• State-owned enterprises are closed to US investors and compete against US investment.
• Protected sectors deny US investors profit-making opportunities.
• Joint venture requirements limit US investment and are used to acquire technology to develop enterprises which become capable of competing with US firms.
• State incubation of national champions develops competitors to US investment.
• Made in China 2025 locks US investment out of Chinese high-tech markets, competes against US high-tech investment globally, allows China to contest US military supremacy, and undermines US capabilities to use force to obtain trade and investment opportunities under favorable conditions.

China’s economic model also threatens US (investor) interests by offering an exemplar for other countries to follow, which, if followed, would reduce US profit-making opportunities even more significantly. The Chinese model has had undoubted success in lifting China from poverty. In 1984, three-quarters of the Chinese population still lived in extreme poverty. By 2018, extreme poverty had fallen to less than one percent. [55] And China is poised to challenge the West’s technological supremacy. These extraordinary accomplishments were not the product of Beijing following Washington’s economic advice; they are “due to planning in a socialist market, not conventional capitalism,” observes Robert C. Allen, a specialist in economic development. [55] Even The Wall Street Journal acknowledges that China’s “rapid economic development” is due to “state enterprises operating under an industrial plan.” [57] Washington cannot allow such a model to take hold and spread, for if it does, the profit-making opportunities on which US investors depend will shrink. US free enterprise, from Washington’s point of view, must be welcomed everywhere—and the division of the world between exploiting countries and exploited ones must continue ad infinitum.

Time and again, underdeveloped countries have implemented economic models at the core of which have been state-owned enterprises and industrial planning. In almost every case, Washington has used sanctions, the CIA, or the Pentagon, or all three, to put a stop to this threat to the profit-making interests of the United States’s ‘substantial’ citizens. Today, the US elite is agreed that China must be ‘contained’, even if there is no agreement on how. The think-tank, the RAND Corporation, funded by the US government, US corporations, and US investors, has even contemplated open war as a solution, in a 2016 study titled War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable. [58]

The words of Norman Bethune, a Canadian surgeon who served in Mao’s Eighth Route Army, come to mind.

“Behind all stands that terrible, implacable God of Business and Blood, whose name is Profit. Money, like an insatiable Molloch, demands its interest, its return, and will stop at nothing, not even the murder of millions, to satisfy its greed. Behind the army stands the militarists. Behind the militarists stands finance capital, and the capitalists. Brothers in blood; companions in crime.” [59]

1. Elisabeth Bumiller, “Words and deeds show focus of the American military on Asia”, The New York Times, September 10, 2012.

2. Jeremy Page and Gordon Lubold, “U.S. bomber flies over waters claimed by China,” The Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2015.

3. Trefor Moss and Jeremy Page, “U.S. stationing warplanes in Philippines amid South China Sea tensions,” The Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2016.

4. National Defense Strategy, 2018, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/IN10855.pdf.

5. Steven Erlanger, “Tillerson’s ouster has allies hoping for coherence, but fearing the worst,” The New York Times, March 14, 2018.

6. Bob Woodward. Fear: Trump in the White House, (Simon & Schuster, 2018), 298.

7. Bob Davis, “Trade rift within Trump administration sends stocks on wild ride,” The Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2018.

8. Bob Davis, Vivian Salama and Lingling Wei, “China issues retaliatory tariffs as trade fight heats up,” The Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2018.

9. Neil Irwin, “The Trump trade strategy is coming into focus. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will work.” The New York Times, October 6, 2018.

10. Lingling Wei, “US and China dive in for prolonged trade talks,” The Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2018.

11. Chris Buckley and Paul Mozur, “What keeps Xi Jinping awake at night,” The New York Times, May 11, 2018.

12. Ibid.

13. Adam Segal, “Why does everyone hate Made in China 2025?” Council on Foreign Relations blog, March 28, 2018.

14. Robert C. Allen, The Industrial Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. (Oxford University Press, 2017), 126.

15. James T. Areddy, “Xi Jinping aims to rebrand China—as an importer,” The Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2018.

16. New York Times, June 3, 2009.

17. The Globe and Mail, October 17, 2008.

18. John Bussey, “Tackling the many dangers of China’s state capitalism”, The Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2012.

19. “The rise of state capitalism”, The Economist, January 21, 2012.

20. Bussey, September 27, 2012.

21. Allen, 126.

22. Michael Wines, “China takes a loss to get ahead in the business of fresh water”, The New York Times, October 25, 2011.

23. Bob Davis, “When the world opened the gates of China,” The Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2019.

24. Allen, 127.

25. Michael Wines, “China fortifies state businesses to fuel growth”, The New York Times, August 29, 2010.

26. Allen, 126.

27. Steven Chase and Robert Fife, “CSIS report warns of Chinese interference in New Zealand,” The Globe and Mail, May 30, 2018.

28. Lingling Wei and Bob Davis, “How China systematically pries technology from US companies,” The Wall Street Journal, September 26, 2018.

29. Ibid.

30. Ibid.

31. Carlos Tejada, “Beg, borrow or steal: How Trump says China takes technology,” The New York Times, March 22, 2018.

32. Chris Buckley and Paul Mozur, “What keeps Xi Jinping awake at night,” The New York Times, May 11, 2018.

33. Cade Metz, “Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and the feud over killer robots,” the New York Times, June 9, 2018.

34. Seung-yoon Lee, “Ha-Joon Chang: Economics Is A Political Argument,” World Post, June 4, 2014.

35. Yoko Kubota, “Trade war punctures China’s price in its technology,’ The Wall Street Journal, June 28, 2018.

36. John Bussey, “Tackling the many dangers of China’s state capitalism”, The Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2012.

37. Lingling Wei and Bob Davis, “China prepares policy to increase access for foreign companies,” The Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2018.

38. John Bussey, “U.S. attacks China Inc.”, The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2012.

39. Bob Davis, “US tariffs on China aren’t a short-term strategy,” The Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2018.

40. Michael C. Bender, Gordon Lubold, Kate O’Keeffe and Jeremy Page, “US edges toward new Cold-War era with China,” The Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2019.

41. Martin Feldstein, “Tariffs should target Chinese lawlessness, not the trade deficit,” the Wall Street Journal, December 27, 2018.

42. Ibid.

43. Bob Davis, Peter Nicholas and Lingling Wei, “”Get moving’: How Trump ratcheted up the trade battle with China,” The New York Times, June 7, 2018.

44. Neil Irwin, “The Trump trade strategy is coming into focus. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will work.” The New York Times, October 6, 2018.

45. Bob Davis, “The country’s R&D agenda could use a shake-up, scientists say,” The Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2018.

46. Dan Strumpf, Min Jung Kim and Yifan Wang, “How Huawei took over the world,” The Wall Street Journal, December 25, 2018.
47. Mariana Mazzucato, The Entrepreneurial State, Demos, 2011,
http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Entrepreneurial_State_-_web.pdf?1310116014).

48. Fred Block and Matthew R. Keller, “Where do innovations come from? Transformations in the U.S. national innovation system, 1970-2006,” Technology and Innovation Foundation, July 2008.
http://www.itif.org/files/Where_do_innovations_come_from.pdf

49. Seumas Milne, “Budget 2012: George Osborne is stuck in a failed economic model, circa 1979,” The Guardian (UK), March 20, 2012.

50. Bob Davis, “The country’s R&D agenda could use a shake-up, scientists say,” The Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2018.

51. Ibid.

52. Ibid.

53. Ibid.

54. Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” Perspectives on Politics, Fall 2014.

55. Phillip P. Pan, “The West was sure the Chinese approach would not work. It just had to wait. It’s still waiting.” The New York Times, November 18, 2018.

56. Allen, 127.

57. Andrew Browne, “China builds bridges and highways while the US mouths slogans,” The Wall Street Journal, January 30, 2018.

58. David C. Gompert, Astrid Stuth Cevallos, and Cristina L. Garafola, War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable, The Rand Corporation, 2016.https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR1100/RR1140/RAND_RR1140.pdf

59. Norman Bethune, “Wounds,” in Roderick Stewart, The Mind of Norman Bethune, (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2002), 183-186.

Washington’s Long War on Syria Isn’t About to End: On the Contrary, the White House Has Approved Pentagon Plans for More Aggression

September 10, 2018

By Stephen Gowans

The United States has a new strategy for Syria, according to The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. The new direction, however, is simply the old, largely unrecognized, one, transformed from a de facto status to official one by presidential authorization. In other words, an aggressive US policy on Syria will continue to be implemented—one the US president had, for a time, openly mused about reversing, but has now accepted.

http://www.barakabooks.com/

The strategy, crafted by “the steady state”, and now acquiesced to by the US president, features the continued illegal and indefinite occupation of roughly one-third of Syrian territory by US forces as well as US interference in Syrian attempts to liberate Idlib from the control of Al Qaeda forces allied to Washington, its Arab monarchist collaborators, and their partner, Israel. It also features US pressure, military and otherwise, to confront Iranian forces and to drive them out of Syria. The overarching goal of the strategy, clearly articulated by US officials, is to dictate the form, nature and raison d’être of the Syrian state, the self-appointed prerogative of a globe-girding dictatorship. In the words of US officials, Washington seeks to build “a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the international community”. The goal, redolent with the stench of imperialism, can be challenged on democratic and liberal grounds, as well as on legal and moral ones.

First, it might be noted that almost every state in the Arab world was created by the dominant imperialist powers of the day, Britain and France, to serve their own interests at the expense of the Arabs they subordinated to their rule, occasionally directly but usually indirectly. London and Paris partitioned West Asia and North Africa without the slightest regard to the aspirations of the people who inhabited these regions, and imposed rulers upon them, quislings who collaborated with their imperial patrons in plundering the region’s resources. Washington’s plan to establish a government in Syria acceptable to the international community, i.e., the United States, continues a long imperialist tradition of indirect rule by outside powers.

Partisans of democracy should object to this plan for three reasons.

First, a Syrian government doesn’t have to be acceptable to the United States or any other country. It only needs to be acceptable to Syrians.

Second, democracy has both intra- and inter-national aspects. Internationally, it means that peoples have the right to organize their own affairs, free from the interference of foreign states. Governments need only answer to their own people; not to Washington. While the point should be obvious, it is studiously avoided in public discourse and therefore needs to made: US “leadership” and democracy are antitheses.

Third, there can be no democracy intra-nationally, if a government has been imposed on a people by outside powers, as provided for in Washington’s plan. Clearly, a government acceptable to Washington would be a government willing to do Washington’s bidding; one that would assent to reshaping Syria’s economy and politics to comport with US business and military-strategic interests, not with the interests of Syrians. There are already too many quisling governments in the Arab world; another is not needed.

Washington’s objection to the Assad government is of a piece with its fierce opposition to Nasser’s Egypt, Saddam’s Iraq, and Gaddafi’s Libya. All these governments pursued the Arab socialist project of breaking the control of the region’s wealth by the Western oil companies and their Arab Petains in order to direct it to the uplift of Arabs. While the Western-backed emirs, kings and sultans built pharaonic palaces and lived lives of luxury in exchange for allowing Western oil corporations to pile up a Himalaya of profits, their subjects wallowed in poverty. Meanwhile, in Iraq, during the 1970s, the Arab socialists used their country’s oil wealth to build a Golden Age. In Libya, Muamar Gaddafi, inspired by Nasser’s Arab socialism, built a society beyond the dreams of his compatriots who had lived lives of stark under-privilege under the tyranny of the Western-imposed King Idris I. In Syria and Egypt, Arab socialists implemented social reforms to uplift the poor, and asserted the right of women to equality. At the same time, they brought large parts of the economy under public control and implemented plans to overcome the economic legacy of colonialism. In Egypt, the president Gamal Abdel Nasser, the most popular Arab since the Prophet Mohamed, lived in the modest house he occupied as an army colonel, while sending his children to public school. He threatened the West by proclaiming the democratic slogan “Arab oil for Arabs”. All these governments were assisted ably by the Soviet Union. Syria’s government stands in this tradition. It is the only Arab socialist government that has withstood the anti-democratic designs of Washington, Israel and the Saudi kings, to bring the entire Arab world, from the Atlantic to the Gulf, under their uncontested domination.

As part of its campaign to topple the last force of Arab independence, the United States currently controls about one-third of Syrian territory, by means of an unspecified number of US service personnel who direct a mercenary force of Kurds, and some traitorous Arabs under Kurd control. Dennis Ross, who held several senior national security positions in the US state, says that “the U.S. and its partners control about 40% of Syrian territory.” The Pentagon says there are some 2,500 US troops in Syria, but acknowledges the number is higher, since covert forces and aircrew are not counted. The Pentagon, then, is running a semi-covert war on a sovereign Arab state, having obtained no legal authorization for its actions, either from the United Nations Security Council or the US Congress. The point is only partly relevant, since even if the Pentagon had obtained legal authorization for its actions, the legal cover would in no way justify the occupation. Still, failure to obtain legal authorization is significant in bringing to the fore the question of why US forces are in the country. Trump raised the question, though predictably not on moral or legal grounds, but in relation to the implications that US entanglement in Syria have for the US Treasury. This, of course, reflects Trump’s Mattis-identified inability to grasp the subtleties of US imperial strategy.

The ostensible purpose of the US presence in Syria is to defeat ISIS. Washington says that it must maintain its presence in the Levantine country to prevent an ISIS resurgence. This implies an indefinite occupation, based on the pretext of the occupation acting as an anti-ISIS prophylaxis. But US officials acknowledged earlier this year that the Pentagon plans to occupy the territory to a) prevent its recovery by the Syrian government; b) to create administrative structures, i.e., to impose a government on the US-controlled portion of a partitioned Syria; and c) to rebuild the territory under US control, using Saudi financing, while denying reconstruction funds to Damascus.

Another plank of the US strategy is to interfere in the Syrian government’s campaign to liberate Idlib from Al Qaeda. “Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the international coalition fighting Islamic State, has called Idlib ‘the largest al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11.’” The joint Syrian-Russian campaign will resemble other campaigns that have been waged by Syria, Russia, the United States and Iraq to wrest control of territory captured by Islamist guerillas. What has distinguished these campaigns is not the military methods used, but the way they have been presented by the Western media. Western news organizations have condemned ISIS as the bad jihadists and lionized Al Qaeda as the good ones. The US-directed campaigns in Mosul and Raqqa to wrest control of these cities from ISIS were portrayed as laudable US-Iraqi military victories against a foe, ISIS, of ineffable depravity, whose fighters were branded as “terrorists.” In contrast, the Russia-Syria campaigns in Aleppo and now Idlib have been painted as murderous projects aimed at good jihadists, Al Qaeda, branded as “opposition fighters”. In the former case, civilians caught in the crossfire were presented as a grim but necessary cost that regrettably needed to be incurred to eradicate the ISIS evil. US Defense Secretary James Mattis, in reference to the US campaign to capture Raqqa, intoned: “Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation.” In the latter case, civilian casualties become a humanitarian tragedy that evidences the evil of the Russian and Syrian governments. The fact of the matter is that Mattis is right: civilian casualties are unavoidable.

Added to the patent double standard is a clear attempt to build public support for US intervention against the Idlib campaign and therefore on behalf of Al Qaeda by announcing that the United States has information that Damascus is planning to use chemical weapons in liberating Idlib. Making the allegation appear credible to an all too frequently lied to public is facilitated by the single voice with which the Western media proclaim matter-of-factly that Damascus has built a track record of using chemical weapons in the long-running war. And yet the only so-called evidence presented of Syrian chemical weapons use are assessments by US officials that amount to: “We believe the Syrians have used chemical agents, but have no definitive evidence to back up our claim; still this is the kind of thing the evil Assad would do.”

Inasmuch as the Syrians dismantled their chemical weapons under an internationally supervised process and inasmuch as no credible evidence exists that they have retained or regained access to weaponized chemicals, any discussion of the possible future use of chemical arms by the Syrian military represents a descent into a world of fantasy. What’s more, even if Syrian forces had gas to use, “with the Russians positioning forces to carry out naval and air bombardments,” they have no need to use gas, as former US national security official Dennis Ross argues.

Lest we take Syria’s previous possession of chemical weapons as emblematic of a unique Syrian evil and menace, we ought to give the matter some thought.

First, Israel, with which Syria remains in a state of de jure and de facto war, has its own stock of chemical weapons. If Syria’s former possession of chemical weapons makes it evil, then what are we to make of Israel?

Second, the United States and its satraps, Israel included, use their military superiority to dominate, oppress, and exploit poor countries. What options are open to Syria to defend itself? Achieving parity in conventional arms is out of the question. On top of monopolizing the world’s wealth, the United States and its allies monopolize the world’s weapons systems. Syria can’t hope to compete with the United States or US-subsidized Israel in conventional military terms.

Israel’s function within the US Empire is to weaken Arab and Islamic nationalism and prevent either from becoming a significant force that would challenge US control of the Arab world’s oil resources. As the last bastion of Arabism, Syria quite naturally is a target for Israeli aggression. Munificent US military aid has made the Jewish nationalist settler colonial state into the region’s military Leviathan. Not only is it more formidable than every Arab country in conventional arms, it is also much stronger militarily than the Persian country, Iran. Additionally, Israel holds a regional nuclear weapons monopoly, and boasts stocks of chemical and biological weapons. Moreover, the United States exempts Israel, as it does itself, from any legal constraints on its right to use force. The only way Syria can defend itself against the imperialist predations of the United States and its Jewish nationalist janissary, both bursting at the seams with the world’s most sophisticated conventional arms and formidable collections of WMD, and unrestrained by international law, is to develop an equalizer. That means nuclear weapons, or, failing that, chemical and biological arms. It also means achieving parity with its adversaries by operating outside the constraints of international law.

We’re taught to shudder at the idea of chemical weapons (that is, when they’re used by a country that defies the international dictatorship of the United States, not when they’re used in its service, as they were in the 1980s by Iraq, then a temporary US ally of convenience against Iran, a US target. Washington accepted Iraq’s use of the chemical weapons it had helped the Arab state acquire.) But why should we shudder at the thought of chemical weapons any more than we do at cruise missile strikes, the Pentagon’s Mother of All Bombs, the incendiaries fighter pilot John McCain dropped on Vietnamese peasants and light bulb factory workers, Israeli snipers gunning down unarmed Palestinians in Gaza demanding their internationally-recognized right of return, and so on? In all these cases, the outcome is death or disability, often brutal, regularly painful, and frequently prolonged. Does it matter how the death was brought about? The United States doesn’t use guillotines on the battlefield to kill quickly, painlessly and humanely; it maims, crushes, pulverizes, vaporizes, incinerates and leaves bodies to slowly bleed to death. And it reserves to right to use nuclear weapons, and assorted other WMD.

Shuddering at the methods available to the weak, the oppressed, the exploited, and the plundered, to fight back and defend themselves while accepting the more formidable weapons of the strong as legitimate makes no sense. Insisting we shudder at one but not the other is part of a class war of the oppressors against the oppressed, of tyrants against the tyrannized, carried out at an ideological level. To deplore the weapons of the weak is to concede ground in this war of class. Syria hasn’t a stock of chemical weapons to use, but if it did, far from condemning their use, the only defensible course would be to welcome it as one of the few effective means by which a secular, republican, Arab socialist state can assert its independence and preserve its freedom against the intolerable despotism and anti-democratic machinations of the world’s paramount tyranny, the United States.

Suppose a respectable opinion poll found that Bashar al-Assad has more support than the Western-backed opposition. Would that not be major news?

December 11, 2015

By Stephen Gowans

In the view of Syrians, the country’s president, Bashar al Assad, and his ally, Iran, have more support than do the forces arrayed against him, according to a public opinion poll taken last summer by a research firm that is working with the US and British governments. [1]

The poll’s findings challenge the idea that Assad has lost legitimacy and that the opposition has broad support.

The survey, conducted by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments, [2] found that 47 percent of Syrians believe that Assad has a positive influence in Syria, compared to only 35 percent for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and 26 percent for the Syrian Opposition Coalition.

Syria Poll Table 1

At the same time, more see Assad’s ally, Iran, as having a favorable influence (43%) than view the Arab Gulf States—which back the external opposition, including Al Nusra and ISIS—as affecting Syria favorably (37%).

The two Arab Gulf State-backed Al-Qaeda linked organizations command some degree of support in Syria, according to the poll. One-third believe Al-Nusra is having a positive influence, compared to one-fifth for ISIS, lower than the proportion of Syrians who see Assad’s influence in a positive light.

According to the poll, Assad has majority support in seven of 14 Syrian regions, and has approximately as much support in one, Aleppo, as do Al-Nusra and the FSA. ISIS has majority support in only one region, Al Raqua, the capital of its caliphate. Al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda franchise in Syria, has majority support in Idlip and Al Quneitra as well as in Al Raqua. Support for the FSA is strong in Idlip, Al Quneitra and Daraa.

Syria Poll Table 2

An in-country face-to-face ORB poll conducted in May 2014 arrived at similar conclusions. That poll found that more Syrians believe the Assad government best represents their interests and aspirations than believe the same about any of the opposition groups. [3]

The poll found that 35 percent of Syrians saw the Assad government as best representing them (20% chose the current government and 15% chose Bashar al-Assad). By comparison, the level of the support for the opposition forces was substantially weaker:

• Al-Nusra, 9%
• FSA, 9%
• “Genuine” rebels, 6%
• ISIS, 4%
• National Coalition/transitional government, 3%

The sum of support for the opposition forces, 31 percent, was less than the total support for Assad and his government.

Of significance is the weak support for the FSA and the “genuine” rebels, the alleged “moderates” of which British prime minister David Cameron has improbably claimed number as many 70,000 militants. Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk has pointed out that if the ranks of the moderates were this large, the Syrian Arab Army, which has lost 60,000 soldiers, mainly to ISIS and Al-Nusra, could hardly survive. Fisk estimates generously that “there are 700 active ‘moderate’ foot soldiers in Syria,” and concludes that “the figure may be nearer 70,” closer to their low level of popular support. [4]

Available from Baraka Books http://www.barakabooks.com/catalogue/washingtons-long-war-on-syria/
Sixteen percent of Syrians polled said that Moaz Al Khateeb best represented their aspirations and interests, a level of support on par with that for Assad. Khateeb, a former president of the National Coalition for Syrian and Revolutionary Forces—which some Western powers unilaterally designated as the legitimate government of Syria—called on Western powers to arm the FSA and opposed the designation of Al-Nusra as a terrorist group. The so-called “moderate” Islamist, who favors the replacement of secular rule with Sharia law, is no longer active in the Coalition or a force in Syrian politics.

Neither is the FSA a significant force in the country’s politics, despite its inclusion in the ORB survey. According to veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn, the FSA “largely collapsed at the end of 2013.” [5] Fisk says that the FSA is “virtually non-existent.” [6]

Assad has repeatedly challenged the notion that he lacks popular support, pointing to the fact that his government has survived nearly five years of war against forces backed by the most powerful states on the planet. It’s impossible to realistically conceive of the government’s survival under these challenging circumstances, he argues, without its having the support of a sizeable part of its population.

In a 11 December 2015 interview with Spanish media, Assad observed:

[I]f…the majority of…Syrians (oppose me) and you have…national and regional countries…against me, and the West, most of the West, the United States, their allies, the strongest countries and the richest countries in the world against me, and…the Syrian people (are opposed to me) how can I be president? It’s not logical. I’m…here after five years—nearly five years—of war, because I have the support of the majority of Syrians. [7]

Assad’s view of his level of support appears to be largely corroborated by the ORB poll.

The persistence of the myth that Assad lacks support calls to mind an article written by Jonathan Steele in the British newspaper the Guardian on 17 January 2012, less than one year into the war. Under a lead titled, “Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know it from western media,” Steele wrote:

Suppose a respectable opinion poll found that most Syrians are in favor of Bashar al-Assad remaining as president, would that not be major news? Especially as the finding would go against the dominant narrative about the Syrian crisis, and the media consider the unexpected more newsworthy than the obvious.

Alas, not in every case. When coverage of an unfolding drama ceases to be fair and turns into a propaganda weapon, inconvenient facts get suppressed. So it is with the results of a recent YouGov Siraj poll…ignored by almost all media outlets in every western country whose government has called for Assad to go.

Steele reminds us that Assad has had substantial popular support from the beginning of the war, but that this truth, being politically inconvenient, is brushed aside, indeed, suppressed, in favor of falsehoods from US, British and French officials about Assad lacking legitimacy.

Steele’s observation that inconvenient facts about Assad’s level of support have been “ignored by almost all media outlets in every western country whose government has called for Assad to go,” raises obvious questions about the independence of the Western media. Private broadcasters and newspapers are, to be sure, formally independent of Western governments, but they embrace the same ideology as espoused by key figures in Western governments, a state of affairs that arises from the domination of both media and governments by significant corporate and financial interests. Major media themselves are major corporations, with a big business point of view, and Western governments are made up of, if not always “in-and-outers” from the corporate world, by those who are sympathetic to big business.

Wall Street and the corporate world manifestly have substantial interests in the Middle East, from securing investment opportunities in the region’s vast energy resources sector, the construction of pipelines to carry natural gas to European markets (cutting out Russia), access to the region’s markets, and the sale of military hardware to its governments. Saudi Arabia, for example, a country of only 31 million, has the world’s third largest military budget, ahead of Russia [8], much of its spent buying expensive military equipment from Western arms manufacturers. Is it any wonder that Western governments indulge the Riyadh regime, despite its fondness for beheadings and amputations, official misogyny, intolerance of democracy, propagation of the violently sectarian Islamist Wahhabi ideology that inspires Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra and ISIS, military intervention in Bahrain to crush a pro-democracy uprising, and a war of aggression on Yemen?

The research firm also conducted a broadly similar poll in Iraq in July [9]. Of particular interest were the survey’s findings regarding the view of Iraqis on the possible partitioning of their country into ethno-sectarian autonomous regions. A number of US politicians, including in 2006 then US senator and now US vice-president Joseph Biden, have floated the idea of carving Iraq into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish states. Indeed, US foreign policy has long fostered the deepening of ethno-sectarian cleavages in Iraq, and US government officials have long labored to shape public opinion in the West to the view that Iraqis self-identify on tribal, sectarian, and ethnic grounds, to a far greater degree than they identify as Iraqis. If US government officials are to be believed, Iraqis themselves are eager to see their country split into ethno-sectarian mini-states.

But the ORB poll strongly rejects this view. According to the survey, three of four Iraqis oppose the partition of their country into autonomous regions, including majorities in both Sunni and Shiite communities. Only in the north of Iraq, where the Kurds already have an autonomous regional government, is there any degree of support for the proposal, and even there, only a slim majority (54%) is in favor.

Robert F. Worth, in a 26 June 2014 New York Times article [10], pointed to earlier public opinion polling that anticipated these findings. Worth wrote, “For the most part, Iraqis (with the exception of the Kurds) reject the idea of partition, according to recent interviews and opinion polls taken several years ago.”

US foreign policy favors the promotion of centrifugal forces in the Middle East, to split the Arab world into ever smaller—and squabbling—mini-states, as a method of preventing its coalescence into a single powerful Arab union strong enough to take control of its own resources, markets and destiny. It is in this goal that the origin of US hostility to the Syrian government, which is Arab nationalist, and to Iraqi unity, can be found. US support for Israel—a settler outpost dividing the Asian and African sections of the Arab nation—is also related to the same US foreign policy objective of fostering divisions in the Middle East to facilitate US economic domination of the region.

1. http://www.opinion.co.uk/perch/resources/syriadata.pdf

2. http://www.opinion.co.uk/whoweare.php

3. http://www.opinion.co.uk/perch/resources/syriadatatablesjuly2014.pdf

4. Robert Fisk, “David Cameron, there aren’t 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria—and whosever heard of a moderate with a Kalashnikov anyway?”, The Independent, November 29, 2015

5. Patrick Cockburn, “Syria and Iraq: Why US policy is fraught with danger ,“ The Independent, September 9, 2014

6. Robert Fisk, “Saudi Arabia’s unity summit will only highlight Arab disunity,” The Independent, December 4, 2015

7. “President al-Assad: Russia’s policy towards Syria is based on values and interests, the West is not serious in fighting terrorists,” Syrian Arab News Agency, December 11, 2015, http://sana.sy/en/?p=63857

8. Source is The Military Balance, cited in The Globe and Mail, Report on Business, November 25, 2015

9. http://www.opinion.co.uk/perch/resources/iraqdata.pdf

10. Robert F. Worth, “Redrawn lines seen as no cure in Iraq conflict,” The New York Times, June 26, 2014