Kurds resist Turkish state onslaught

The Kurdish people are engaged in a battle for survival against the Turkish state. On 23 January 2016 the Kurdistan National Congress reported 56 curfews imposed on seven cities. The districts of Sur, Cizre and Silopi in south-east Turkey (North Kurdistan) have been under siege for over a month. In four months, state security forces have killed 268 civilians, 62 of whom were children. On 21 January Amnesty International issued a report – Turkey: end abusive operations under indefinite curfew. It describes Turkish forces preventing wounded people from receiving medical care, cuts to water and electricity supplies and access to food made dangerous. Tanks and heavy artillery, normally deployed in conventional warfare, are being used on densely populated communities, snipers are targeting children, houses are demolished at random, elected officials rounded up and imprisoned – and still the Kurdish people resist. Trevor Rayne reports.

Read more ...

Israel’s war against the people - review

War against the people: Israel, the Palestinians and global pacification – Jeff Halper, Pluto Press, 2015.

How does Israel manage to get away with its brutal Occupation of the West Bank and its incessant war on Gaza? Why do imperialist powers continue to support it in its war on the Palestinians? These are the questions that Jeff Halper, the head of the activist NGO the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions (ICAHD), sets out to answer in War against the people: Israel, the Palestinians and global pacification. Through a detailed examination of Israel’s international role in the development of military techniques, high tech weaponry, and security products, Halper exposes how Israel’s war against the Palestinians is a war against all oppressed people.

Since 1948 Israel has occupied Palestinian land, and since 1967 it has maintained its Occupation of the West Bank. This is despite its illegality under international law, widespread opposition to the Occupation from the international solidarity movement, and continuous resistance from Palestinian organisations. Why does Israel continue the Occupation? Halper argues: ‘The Occupation represents a resource for Israel … economically, it provides a testing ground for the development of weapons, security systems, models of population control and tactics without which Israel would be unable to compete in the international arms and security markets … Where would it be without the occupation and the regional conflict it generates?’

Halper argues that Israel has grown to fill particular niches in the international military industry: 1) high-tech weaponry, and 2) repressive security apparatus. Israel has continued its war on, and repression of, the Palestinians to develop and perfect these services. It is through the provision of these services to international powers, Halper argues, that Israel ‘gets away with it’. Israel plays a vital role for the dominant powers in the management of the imperialist world order, by producing destructive and repressive techniques, and by illicitly distributing such products to imperialism’s regional clients, facilitating the smooth extraction of resources and super-exploitation of labour in the oppressed world.

Niche 1 – High Tech Weaponry

Much of Halper’s book is a detailed examination of niche 1 – Israel’s high tech weapons industry. This section is terrifying, if over-technical for the needs of Palestine solidarity activists. Halper reveals how Israel:

  • exported arms worth $7bn in 2012, making it the sixth largest arms exporter in the world. 20% of these were to the US.
  • has more than 1,000 arms companies – one for every 8,000 people.
  • has an extensive network of spy satellites which cover the Middle East more thoroughly than any other. Ofeq 10, its most recent satellite can even detect objects being carried by people on the ground.
  • was the first country to pioneer the use of military drones. The Hermes 900 was expedited from the production line so it could be used in the 2014 assault on Gaza and labelled ‘battle-tested’.
  • is a leader in the sector of arms miniaturisation, including: ‘Nanobots implanted into humans that can cause fundamental physical or psychic distortions’.
  • is developing tiny surveillance and combat drones drawing inspiration from insect behaviour, and even conducting research into how to control insects for military purposes.

Israel is in a perfect position to continually develop such weaponry, as it exists in a state of perpetual war, allowing a consistent disproportionate commitment of resources to military technology, and it has a constant battleground in Gaza to test its products.

Niche 2 – Repressive Apparatus

‘Niche 2’ encompasses the world leading security apparatus Israel has developed for ‘pacifying’ the Palestinians – what Halper calls ‘Israel’s Matrix of Control’. Palestinian lands ‘become a laboratory where the latest techniques of surveillance, control and suppression are perfected and showcased’. These techniques can then be exported to other countries seeking to control internal dissent. The debt owed by the Zionist state to British imperialism is clear –closures, curfews, the building of separation walls and house demolitions were all strategies Israel inherited from the British occupation of Palestine (1917-1948).

The ‘securitisation’ of the Israeli state has meant the merging of the ‘internal’ security and policing sector with the ‘external’ military sector. The Israeli model of paramilitary police units has been fed into policing in the major imperialist countries. The NYPD opened an office in Tel Aviv in 2012. The militarised police who brutally put down the 2014 Ferguson uprising in the US were trained in Israel. The London Metropolitan Police’s strategy for dealing with suicide bombers – Operation Kratos - which led to the police murder of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005, was inspired by Israel. The international securitisation of borders, airports, public spaces and beyond, is also following Israeli experience and techniques.

Israel has extensive experience of dealing with protests. Daily protests in the West Bank have been used as a laboratory for Israel and its security companies to develop highly effective ‘crowd control’ techniques, including gas, sprays and liquids.  The foul-smelling liquid known as ‘Skunk’, which when sprayed on protesters lingers as a sewage-like smell for days, was developed by Israeli company Odortec, through use on Palestinian protests. It is now sold to ‘law enforcement agencies, agriculturalists, and environmental protection organisations in Israel, Europe and South America’.

Imperialism and Zionism

War against the people focuses primarily on Israel’s ‘pacification industry’ as the explanation for its continued support from the imperialist powers, and the reason Israel continues its Occupation. The racist, expansionist ideology of Zionism – on which the whole country and Occupation is founded - is barely mentioned, and occurs only once in the index. Halper barely addresses the role the very existence of Israel itself plays in the Middle East - a creation of the imperialist powers to exercise control over this resource-rich and strategic region – as a crucial reason for the imperialists continued support.  Readers should see our article, ‘Israel: Its role in the Middle East’ for an examination of this.[1] Halper’s book makes it clear however, that Israel’s military and security industry is a major additional factor in the continuation of the Occupation, and its international role. At a time when the regional balance of power is shifting, and a Zionist entity is increasingly problematic for imperialist powers courting Iran, Israel’s ‘pacification industry’ may be of increasing importance to its continued favour.

[1] http://revolutionarycommunist.org/middle-east/iraq/1445-israel-its-role-in-the-middle-east-first-published-in-two-parts-in-frfi-134-a-135-dec-1996-mar-1997.

Iran and Yemen - Dangerous manoeuvres in the Middle East

The Saudi-led coalition bombing of Yemen has driven 300,000 people from their homes

As the US grip on the Middle East weakens, so Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran are competing for positions. A Saudi-led coalition of 11 countries, backed by the US, Britain, France, Turkey and Belgium, began bombing Yemen on 26 March 2015. By mid-May, an estimated 1,500 people, mainly civilians, had been killed, 300,000 people had been driven from their homes and 700,000 were in dire need of food. Saudi Arabia says it wants to reinstall Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi as president of Yemen and to curb Iranian influence. Hadi was deposed by Houthi militia in September 2014 and fled Aden for Saudi Arabia on 25 March. Yemen’s people are victims of intensifying regional conflict. Israel sides with Saudi Arabia, but US and European imperialism are seeking to co-opt sections of the Iranian ruling class while maintaining their regional alliances. TREVOR RAYNE reports.

Read more ...

Syria, Iraq and the Islamic State - the shifting balance of power in the Middle East

The Islamic State (IS) made international headlines in May with the capture of the important city of Ramadi in Iraq and the historical site of Palmyra in Syria. Despite a ten-month bombing campaign led by the US, the group now controls 50% of Syria, and 30% of Iraq. US imperialism has been unwilling to commit the resources - including ground troops - required to destroy IS. The military priorities of US imperialism are shifting to Russia and China. US imperialism cannot continue to play the role of an unchallenged superpower. Local powers are now taking centre stage in the war, with Saudi Arabia and Turkey on one side - in a tacit alliance with IS - and Syria, Iraq, Iran and Hezbollah on the other.

Contradictions in US strategy

The long-term strategy of the US and its allies has been to publicly support Syrian opposition groups in their fight against the Assad government, whilst publicly preaching 'national unity' for Iraq, under a pliant government. Contradictions in this strategy were thrown open by the reality on the ground.

The recent declassification of a US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) document has revealed that US intelligence understood the jihadist nature of the Syrian opposition long before it became public knowledge. The document confirms that in August 2012, US intelligence knew:

  • of the sectarian nature of the Syrian opposition;
  • that Al Qaeda in Iraq (later to become IS) was a major driving force of the war in Syria from the beginning;
  • there would be a declaration of an ‘Islamic State’ across Syria and Iraq – two years before it happened;
  • that the Iraqi Sunni cities of Ramadi and Mosul would become bases for jihadist forces.

Despite this information, the US continued to encourage the situation, publicly denying that jihadists had influence in Syrian opposition groups, whilst giving them money and guns.

Iraq - the threat of division

The DIA also predicted that Iraq would be partitioned into Sunni and Shia states. Despite US talk of 'national unity', its actions in both Syria and Iraq have made the partition of Iraq an increasing possibility. Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, was captured by a force of around 200 IS soldiers on 17 May. The much larger Iraqi army force - around 2,000 - collapsed and fled. That such a small IS force could take Ramadi exposes the huge damage done to Iraq by the US, Britain, and other coalition partners following the murderous 2003 occupation. The secular nationalist Ba'ath party which ruled Iraq under Sadaam Hussein, had kept together a national identity and strong state structures. The ‘de-Ba’athification’ process led by the imperialist occupation forces - the complete dismantling of state structures (including the army) in order to get rid of any Ba'ath influence –– is behind the collapse of the Iraqi army. The sectarian civil war and repressive Shia-led government which followed, paved the way for the rise of IS.

IS has relied upon widespread Sunni dissatisfaction with exclusion under the Shia-led government, as well as the brutal suppression of dissent. Shia militias have recently been given licence by the government to fight in the mainly Sunni Anbar province, in the battle to retake Ramadi. Despite the need for some accommodation with Iran, the US ruling class is uneasy with Iran's influence over these militias, and plans to arm local Sunni militias are in progress. This could heighten the possibility of another sectarian civil war.

Syria: Turkey and Saudi Arabia sponsor Al Qaeda

Whilst the US attempts to accommodate Iran (see article on Yemen p.x) US regional allies are making their own moves to destroy Iranian influence - starting with the Syrian government. Turkey and Saudi Arabia agreed in early May to arm and fund a new rebel initiative – Jaysh Al Fatah (JF) - with the focus on destroying the Syrian government, not IS. The majority of this force is loyal to Al Qaeda-linked groups – 90% is made up from Jabhat Al Nusra, the official Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, and Ahrar Al Sham, whose leader has declared himself a senior Al Qaeda operative (Middle East Eye, 23 May). Renewed fighting on the northern front, around Idlib, led by JF, has stretched the Syrian army allowing IS victories elsewhere. JF and its backers have plans to take Aleppo and create a new Sunni state in north-east Syria.

Turkey's opposition party, the CHP, has accused the government of arming jihadist rebels, in a long-running political scandal. On 19 January 2014 several trucks were stopped at the Turkish border. Personnel from the Turkish National Intelligence organisation (MIT) were found on board with weapons shipments bound for Syrian rebels. President Erdogan called the searching of the trucks ‘treason'. More than 50 people involved in searching the trucks have since been arrested. Much of the weaponry flowing from Turkey will end up in the hands of IS.

Inherent Resolve?

To really challenge IS the US would have to commit combat troops on the ground for a sustained period which it is unwilling to do. Instead, fighting IS has been outsourced to an unreliable mix of proxy forces, from the Iraqi army to various opposition groups in Syria.

In the ten months of 'Operation Inherent Resolve' - the US bombing campaign across Syria and Iraq - an average of 15 airstrikes per day have been launched, compared to 800 per day in the 2003 assault on Iraq, and 50 per day in the 2011 destruction of Libya (New York Times 26 May). No airstrikes were launched on the heavily-armed IS victory parade through Ramadi's open streets following its fall. The historical site of Palmyra in Syria, close to important government-held oil and gas fields, fell to IS without any airstrikes from the coalition at all. Strikes have been used to contain IS in largely Sunni areas of Iraq, and away from Kurdish areas, with little concern for expansion into territory held by the Syrian government.

Conflicts in the Middle East are becoming multi-polar, as more regional powers move into the space left by US imperialism. IS will not be destroyed by Turkey or Saudi Arabia while it serves their interests. The imperialists have proved unwilling, or unable, to destroy it. Resistance has been left to those who have troops on the ground and have an urgent interest in rooting out IS - the Syrian army, Hezbollah, Iraq’s Shia militias, Iran and the Kurds.

Toby Harbertson

Israel–US split grows as Palestinians suffer

Protest in Washington on 3 March as the Israeli Prime Minister address US Congress

The re-election of the racist war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu as the Israeli prime minister after his Likud party snatched victory from the jaws of defeat has created a political crisis. US President Obama clearly favoured the ‘change’ promised by the Zionist Union led by Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog, who looked to be winning the election, and was outraged at Netanyahu’s open racism and unrestrained rhetoric against Iran. At a time when US imperialism is building new alliances to refocus its strategy on controlling the Asia–Pacific region, Israel is in a difficult position. Special relationships don’t always remain special. The political landscape is shifting. But as ever, the unceasing US and EU-supported Zionist occupation means that the Palestinian people remain the real victims. The overwhelming majority of Palestinians are of course excluded from the ‘democratic’ process.

Read more ...