Friday, June 23, 2017 INTERNATIONAL

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Fourth terror attack in UK since March targets Muslims
Julie Hyland
 
One man was killed, and 10 injured after a van mowed down Muslim worshippers leaving prayers at 12.20 a.m. Monday in Finsbury Park, North London.
The driver, 47-year-old Darren Osborne, who was detained at the scene, reportedly yelled, “I’m going to kill all Muslims—I did my bit.”
Osborne, a father of four, had driven the rented van from his home in Cardiff, South Wales, to the Muslim Welfare House, near Finsbury Park Mosque, where he waited until late night prayers had finished. On Ramadan holiday the mosque was especially busy and onlookers said many more could have been killed or injured.
Osborne drove onto the pavement, ploughing into a crowd that had gathered to help an elderly man who had become ill due to the heat. The older man died at the scene, eight others were taken to hospital, and two were treated on the street.
Onlookers described injured bodies lying across the street, as the van dragged people beneath it. When Osborne jumped from the cab, shouting his anti-Muslim statements, he was pinned to the ground by several men, while the local imam Mohammed Mahmoud shouted, “Don’t hit him—you do not touch him—hand him into the police.”
Osborne tried to goad the worshippers, saying repeatedly, “Kill me, Kill me.” When he was handed over to police, he taunted the crowd, “I’d do it again, I’d do it again,” as he smiled, waved and blew kisses.
 
36 killed so far
The attack is the fourth terror attack in Britain since March—one in Manchester and three in London—that have claimed 36 lives so far.
On March 22, Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and fatally stabbed a police officer at the entrance to Parliament before being shot dead. Four others died and 49 were injured.
On May 22, suicide attacker Salman Abedi detonated his bomb at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena, northwest England, killing 22 people and injuring 120.
On June 3, eight people were killed and at least 48 injured after a van was driven at high speed into people on London Bridge. The three occupants—Khuram Shazad Butt, Rachid Redouane, and Youssef Zaghba—then ran to neighbouring Borough Market, where they stabbed people indiscriminately before being shot dead by armed police.
Appearing at Finsbury Park on 20 June 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May pompously expressed her sorrow over “evil borne of hatred.” She has come under sustained fire for her indifference to the horrific inferno at Grenfell Tower, west London last Wednesday, where the current death toll is 79 people and rising. Worshippers at the mosque had reportedly being giving prayers to the victims only shortly before they were attacked.
May referenced London Bridge and the “unimaginable tragedy of Grenfell Tower” in her statement following her chairing of a Cobra emergency meeting. She spoke in platitudes about the “unbreakable resolve” and community spirit in this “extraordinary city of extraordinary people.”
This was buttressed with her repeating the need to stamp out “extremist ideology” by denying it “safe spaces.” May has made clear this includes joining the United States in taking military action in Syria and strengthening counterterrorism legislation. She used the Finsbury Park assault to repeat her threat to gain powers for greater censorship of the internet by forcing internet companies to give up individuals’ private messages, such as through WhatsApp, and to force them to censor material or face heavy fines.
 
Important change in rhetoric
Nonetheless, May’s reference to not tolerating “extremism of any kind, including Islamophobia” was welcomed by the Guardian as a “distinct and important change in rhetoric” away from her previous “one-eyed” approach, targetting Islamic extremism.
Such claims disarm workers and youth as to the strengthening of the state apparatus and its implications. It also conceals that this latest attack—clearly motivated by anti-Muslim hostility—has been encouraged by the statements of numerous political leaders, including May, and by the media.
The prime minister seized on the attacks in Manchester and on London Bridge to try and strengthen her position under conditions of a snap general election that she had called two years ahead of schedule. Claiming that the country was at war with the ideology of Islamic extremism, she said it was “time to say enough is enough.”
“There is far too much tolerance” of Islamic extremism in Britain, she claimed.
In one sense this is true—at least as far as the intelligence and security services are concerned! Virtually every single person that has been involved in a terror attack in Britain since 7/7/2005 was known to the state. Many had been reported repeatedly as potential terror threats and were under surveillance. Italian intelligence services had informed their British counterparts, for example, that the London Bridge attacker, Youssef Zaghba, had attempted to travel to Syria and was considered a terror risk.
Butt had appeared on a Channel 4 TV documentary, “The Jihadis Next Door,” in which he threatened police and posed with an ISIS flag. Manchester bomber Abedi came from a well-known family of Libyan Islamic supporters of Al Qaeda, who were part of the western-backed overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in 2011.
The authorities allowed all these individuals to move around freely because they were part of a network of operatives protected by the British state, which has been used in the UK and US-backed regime-change operations in the Middle East.
The right-wing media has seized on the latest attack to up its anti-Muslim campaign. Writing in the Sun, Douglas Murray called for an end to “large-scale Islamic immigration,” the “permanent closure” of mosques “caught hosting anti-British views,” “imprisonment of everyone known to have connections with extreme organisations” and the deportation of dual nationals “caught associating with designated groups.”
Finsbury Park Mosque was previously associated with the Islamic fundamentalist preacher, Abu Hamza, who was imam from 1997 until 2003 and was convicted in the US in 2015 for terror-related offences.
 
Anti-Muslim tirade
In fascistic tone, the Daily Mail editorialised, “We need action—now. There is a war being fought on our streets and it’s time to deploy all the weapons at our disposal.” Its columnist Katie Hopkins went further. After the Manchester bombing she tweeted, “Western men. These are your wives. Your daughters. Your sons. Stand up. Rise up. Demand action. Do not carry on as normal. Cowed.” She also called for a “final solution” in another anti-Muslim tirade.
After London Bridge she claimed the capital was the victim of its “multiculturalism.” Speaking of London as if it was an enemy city, facilitating and colluding with Muslim extremists through its “endless tolerance to those who harm us,” she wrote that it was now, “The patriots of the rest of England versus the liberals in this city.”
Osborne’s precise affiliations are not yet known, but in travelling from Cardiff to London to mount an attack on Muslims leaving prayer he was taking such incitements to their logical, murderous conclusion.
In this regard, the statements by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose Islington North constituency includes the area, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, were especially politically disarming in concealing the reality of events.
Neither made any warning as to the uses to which the attack would be put from a government intent on further dismantling civil liberties. Khan denounced “terrorism, whether it’s Islamist-inspired or inspired by others.” Saying Londoners would “remain strong and united,” he said Londoners should “get out there and celebrate what’s great” about the city. 
Corbyn condemned “terror on the streets … in the communities … We have to all reach out and feel their pain and their stress.”
The Muslim Welfare Centre, outside which the attack took place, had only at the weekend held a memorial meeting to Jo Cox. The Labour MP was murdered in West Yorkshire by a right-wing terrorist during the June 2016 referendum on British membership of the European Union. Throughout the campaign, politicians competed to whip up anti-migrant and anti-Muslim sentiment.
 
Britain First
Thomas Mair shouted “Britain First” as he shot Cox three times and stabbed her 15 times in broad daylight near the local library in Birstall, near Leeds. Britain First is the name of a UK fascist group. When first arrested, he described himself as a “political activist.” In court he said, “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”
Although a search of his home had provided extensive evidence of indirect links to fascist and far-right groups, little effort was made to explore his political sympathies during the trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment for murder.
Police records show an increase in Islamophobic incidents following the London Bridge killings, with 20 recorded on June 6, the highest daily tally for 2017. Commenters on social media were quick to point out that no politicians or columnists were demanding to know how Osborne had been “radicalised” and by whom.
—WSWS

Comment

Julie Hyland
 
One man was killed, and 10 injured after a van mowed down Muslim worshippers leaving prayers at 12.20 a.m. Monday in Finsbury Park, North London.
The driver, 47-year-old Darren Osborne, who was detained at the scene, reportedly yelled, “I’m going to kill all Muslims—I did my bit.”
Osborne, a father of four, had driven the rented van from his home in Cardiff, South Wales, to the Muslim Welfare House, near Finsbury Park Mosque, where he waited until late night prayers had finished. On Ramadan holiday the mosque was especially busy and onlookers said many more could have been killed or injured.
Osborne drove onto the pavement, ploughing into a crowd that had gathered to help an elderly man who had become ill due to the heat. The older man died at the scene, eight others were taken to hospital, and two were treated on the street.
Onlookers described injured bodies lying across the street, as the van dragged people beneath it. When Osborne jumped from the cab, shouting his anti-Muslim statements, he was pinned to the ground by several men, while the local imam Mohammed Mahmoud shouted, “Don’t hit him—you do not touch him—hand him into the police.”
Osborne tried to goad the worshippers, saying repeatedly, “Kill me, Kill me.” When he was handed over to police, he taunted the crowd, “I’d do it again, I’d do it again,” as he smiled, waved and blew kisses.
 
36 killed so far
The attack is the fourth terror attack in Britain since March—one in Manchester and three in London—that have claimed 36 lives so far.
On March 22, Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and fatally stabbed a police officer at the entrance to Parliament before being shot dead. Four others died and 49 were injured.
On May 22, suicide attacker Salman Abedi detonated his bomb at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena, northwest England, killing 22 people and injuring 120.
On June 3, eight people were killed and at least 48 injured after a van was driven at high speed into people on London Bridge. The three occupants—Khuram Shazad Butt, Rachid Redouane, and Youssef Zaghba—then ran to neighbouring Borough Market, where they stabbed people indiscriminately before being shot dead by armed police.
Appearing at Finsbury Park on 20 June 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May pompously expressed her sorrow over “evil borne of hatred.” She has come under sustained fire for her indifference to the horrific inferno at Grenfell Tower, west London last Wednesday, where the current death toll is 79 people and rising. Worshippers at the mosque had reportedly being giving prayers to the victims only shortly before they were attacked.
May referenced London Bridge and the “unimaginable tragedy of Grenfell Tower” in her statement following her chairing of a Cobra emergency meeting. She spoke in platitudes about the “unbreakable resolve” and community spirit in this “extraordinary city of extraordinary people.”
This was buttressed with her repeating the need to stamp out “extremist ideology” by denying it “safe spaces.” May has made clear this includes joining the United States in taking military action in Syria and strengthening counterterrorism legislation. She used the Finsbury Park assault to repeat her threat to gain powers for greater censorship of the internet by forcing internet companies to give up individuals’ private messages, such as through WhatsApp, and to force them to censor material or face heavy fines.
 
Important change in rhetoric
Nonetheless, May’s reference to not tolerating “extremism of any kind, including Islamophobia” was welcomed by the Guardian as a “distinct and important change in rhetoric” away from her previous “one-eyed” approach, targetting Islamic extremism.
Such claims disarm workers and youth as to the strengthening of the state apparatus and its implications. It also conceals that this latest attack—clearly motivated by anti-Muslim hostility—has been encouraged by the statements of numerous political leaders, including May, and by the media.
The prime minister seized on the attacks in Manchester and on London Bridge to try and strengthen her position under conditions of a snap general election that she had called two years ahead of schedule. Claiming that the country was at war with the ideology of Islamic extremism, she said it was “time to say enough is enough.”
“There is far too much tolerance” of Islamic extremism in Britain, she claimed.
In one sense this is true—at least as far as the intelligence and security services are concerned! Virtually every single person that has been involved in a terror attack in Britain since 7/7/2005 was known to the state. Many had been reported repeatedly as potential terror threats and were under surveillance. Italian intelligence services had informed their British counterparts, for example, that the London Bridge attacker, Youssef Zaghba, had attempted to travel to Syria and was considered a terror risk.
Butt had appeared on a Channel 4 TV documentary, “The Jihadis Next Door,” in which he threatened police and posed with an ISIS flag. Manchester bomber Abedi came from a well-known family of Libyan Islamic supporters of Al Qaeda, who were part of the western-backed overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in 2011.
The authorities allowed all these individuals to move around freely because they were part of a network of operatives protected by the British state, which has been used in the UK and US-backed regime-change operations in the Middle East.
The right-wing media has seized on the latest attack to up its anti-Muslim campaign. Writing in the Sun, Douglas Murray called for an end to “large-scale Islamic immigration,” the “permanent closure” of mosques “caught hosting anti-British views,” “imprisonment of everyone known to have connections with extreme organisations” and the deportation of dual nationals “caught associating with designated groups.”
Finsbury Park Mosque was previously associated with the Islamic fundamentalist preacher, Abu Hamza, who was imam from 1997 until 2003 and was convicted in the US in 2015 for terror-related offences.
 
Anti-Muslim tirade
In fascistic tone, the Daily Mail editorialised, “We need action—now. There is a war being fought on our streets and it’s time to deploy all the weapons at our disposal.” Its columnist Katie Hopkins went further. After the Manchester bombing she tweeted, “Western men. These are your wives. Your daughters. Your sons. Stand up. Rise up. Demand action. Do not carry on as normal. Cowed.” She also called for a “final solution” in another anti-Muslim tirade.
After London Bridge she claimed the capital was the victim of its “multiculturalism.” Speaking of London as if it was an enemy city, facilitating and colluding with Muslim extremists through its “endless tolerance to those who harm us,” she wrote that it was now, “The patriots of the rest of England versus the liberals in this city.”
Osborne’s precise affiliations are not yet known, but in travelling from Cardiff to London to mount an attack on Muslims leaving prayer he was taking such incitements to their logical, murderous conclusion.
In this regard, the statements by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose Islington North constituency includes the area, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, were especially politically disarming in concealing the reality of events.
Neither made any warning as to the uses to which the attack would be put from a government intent on further dismantling civil liberties. Khan denounced “terrorism, whether it’s Islamist-inspired or inspired by others.” Saying Londoners would “remain strong and united,” he said Londoners should “get out there and celebrate what’s great” about the city. 
Corbyn condemned “terror on the streets … in the communities … We have to all reach out and feel their pain and their stress.”
The Muslim Welfare Centre, outside which the attack took place, had only at the weekend held a memorial meeting to Jo Cox. The Labour MP was murdered in West Yorkshire by a right-wing terrorist during the June 2016 referendum on British membership of the European Union. Throughout the campaign, politicians competed to whip up anti-migrant and anti-Muslim sentiment.
 
Britain First
Thomas Mair shouted “Britain First” as he shot Cox three times and stabbed her 15 times in broad daylight near the local library in Birstall, near Leeds. Britain First is the name of a UK fascist group. When first arrested, he described himself as a “political activist.” In court he said, “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”
Although a search of his home had provided extensive evidence of indirect links to fascist and far-right groups, little effort was made to explore his political sympathies during the trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment for murder.
Police records show an increase in Islamophobic incidents following the London Bridge killings, with 20 recorded on June 6, the highest daily tally for 2017. Commenters on social media were quick to point out that no politicians or columnists were demanding to know how Osborne had been “radicalised” and by whom.
—WSWS

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Escalating threat of US-Russian confrontation in Syria

Bill Van Auken
 
Raising the spectre of the Syrian conflict escalating into a military confrontation between the world’s two major nuclear powers, the Russian Defence Ministry on 20 June 2017 issued a warning that it would treat any US or allied aircraft operating in western Syria, where Moscow’s own forces, as well as those of the Syrian government, are based, as a hostile target.
The Russian warning came in response to the shooting down of a Syrian air force jet on 19 June 2017  by a US Navy fighter plane over northern Syria, where US-backed proxy forces led by a Kurdish militia are advancing on the ISIS-held city of Raqqa. The  incident marked the first time that a US warplane has brought down a Syrian plane flying over its own territory and represents a major escalation in the six-year-old US-orchestrated war for regime change. The Syrian pilot, last seen parachuting into an area controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is still missing.
“In regions where the Russian Air Force is carrying out operations in the skies above Syria, any flying objects—including airplanes and drones of the international coalition—discovered west of the Euphrates River will be treated as aerial targets for tracking by land and air defence systems,” the Russian Defence Ministry warned.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov described the US attack on the Syrian plane as “an act of aggression and a direct breech of international law.”
Moscow also indicated that it had cut off a “deconfliction” hotline with the Pentagon used to prevent unintended clashes between US and Russian fighter planes over Syria.
Washington delivered a series of conflicting responses to Russia’s warnings. The chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, told the media that the Pentagon would be working “diplomatically and militarily in the coming hours to re-establish deconfliction.” Asked if he was concerned for the safety of US pilots flying over Syria after the Russian warning, the general responded that he was confident “our forces have the capabilities to take care of themselves.”
At a bizarre White House press conference 19 June 2017  in which reporters were barred from either filming or recording answers to their questions, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was quoted as saying that Washington was “going to do what we can to protect our interests,” in Syria, adding, “We will always preserve the right of self-defense.”
Only the perverse logic of the US imperialist drive for hegemony in the Middle East and around the globe can explain the invocation of “self defense” for actions taken by US military forces in shooting down a plane flying over its own territory and attacking forces loyal to the existing government.
 
US acts of aggression against Syria
The shooting down of the Syrian jet follows a series of US acts of aggression against Syrian government forces. Last September, US-led airstrikes killed or wounded as many as 200 Syrian soldiers in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. While the Pentagon subsequently claimed that the attack was a “regrettable error,” it provided air support for ISIS fighters to overrun a strategic Syrian government position.
Then in April, the US rained 50 cruise missiles on Syria’s al-Shayrat airbase, ostensibly in response to an alleged gas attack that had all the earmarks of a CIA provocation.
Within the last month, the Pentagon has carried out three separate airstrikes on pro-government forces that were alleged to have come close to a desert base near the al-Tanf southeastern Syrian border crossing with Iraq, where some 150 American special forces troops are training so-called “rebels” to prosecute the war for regime change against the government in Damascus.
With each new attack, it becomes ever more clear that the so-called anti-ISIS campaign being waged by US-led forces is a cover for an American military intervention aimed at securing the aims of the six-year-old war for regime change in Syria, the toppling of the Assad government and the imposition of a US puppet regime. To this end, the Pentagon is determined that territory wrested from ISIS remain under its control rather than that of the Syrian government. The clashes that led to the downing of the Syrian jet are bound up with this scramble for territory.
The campaign in Syria is part of the broader US drive towards war with Iran that was spelled out by US President Donald Trump in his trip last month to Tehran’s two major regional enemies, Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Trump administration’s turn toward an openly aggressive posture toward Tehran has served to further destabilize the entire region, with the Saudi monarchy, backed by Egypt and the UAE, imposing an all-out blockade tantamount to war against Qatar, which hosts the forward headquarters of the US Central Command, while at the same time depending heavily on revenues from a huge gas field it shares with Iran.
The the threat of a wider war was further underscored by an Iranian missile strike directed against ISIS targets in the eastern Syrian city of Deir el-Zour. The missiles were launched from western Iran, some 370 miles away, flying over the territory of Iraq, whose government gave permission for the attack.
While Tehran justified the missile strike as a retaliation for terrorist attacks earlier this month claimed by ISIS in which 18 Iranians were killed and more than 50 wounded, Iranian officials made it clear that they were intended to send a wider warning.
“The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,” said Gen. Ramazan Sharif of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). “Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.” Tehran has charged that the Saudis were behind the terrorist attacks. The Trump White House, meanwhile, issued a statement essentially blaming the Iranian government for bringing the terror on itself.
The threat that the US intervention in Syria can explode into a regional and even global war is exacerbated by the Trump administration’s ceding to the US military brass virtually all decisions as to the waging of Washington’s multiple wars, from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and beyond. Troop levels, rules of engagement and other essential policies are being set by a cabal of active duty and recently retired generals, including Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis and Trump’s national security advisor, Gen. H.R. McMaster, together with commanders on the ground.
Sections of the military bitterly resented the Obama administration’s pulling back from a planned war against Syria in 2013, when in the face of overwhelming popular hostility to another Middle East war and deep divisions in the foreign policy establishment, Washington settled for a Russian-brokered deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. Since then Russian and Iranian support have allowed the Syrian government to drive back the CIA-supported Islamist militias and retake virtually all of the country’s major population centers.
Reversing these advances is essential for the US to assert its dominance over the oil-rich Middle East. There are no doubt those within the US military brass who would welcome a confrontation with Iran and even Russia to achieve this end, regardless of the threat of a wider and potentially world catastrophic war.
Significantly, when reporters asked General Dunford Monday on what authority the US military was carrying out armed actions against the government of Syria, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman cited the Authorization of the Use of Military Force Act passed by Congress in the wake of the 9/11 attacks nearly 16 years ago.
There has been no debate, much less any vote, within the US Congress authorizing a war against Syria. The Democrats have raised no opposition to Trump’s giving free rein to the generals and have politically driven the hysterical anti-Russia propaganda campaign that is paving the way toward military confrontation.
—WSWS

Comment

Bill Van Auken
 
Raising the spectre of the Syrian conflict escalating into a military confrontation between the world’s two major nuclear powers, the Russian Defence Ministry on 20 June 2017 issued a warning that it would treat any US or allied aircraft operating in western Syria, where Moscow’s own forces, as well as those of the Syrian government, are based, as a hostile target.
The Russian warning came in response to the shooting down of a Syrian air force jet on 19 June 2017  by a US Navy fighter plane over northern Syria, where US-backed proxy forces led by a Kurdish militia are advancing on the ISIS-held city of Raqqa. The  incident marked the first time that a US warplane has brought down a Syrian plane flying over its own territory and represents a major escalation in the six-year-old US-orchestrated war for regime change. The Syrian pilot, last seen parachuting into an area controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is still missing.
“In regions where the Russian Air Force is carrying out operations in the skies above Syria, any flying objects—including airplanes and drones of the international coalition—discovered west of the Euphrates River will be treated as aerial targets for tracking by land and air defence systems,” the Russian Defence Ministry warned.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov described the US attack on the Syrian plane as “an act of aggression and a direct breech of international law.”
Moscow also indicated that it had cut off a “deconfliction” hotline with the Pentagon used to prevent unintended clashes between US and Russian fighter planes over Syria.
Washington delivered a series of conflicting responses to Russia’s warnings. The chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, told the media that the Pentagon would be working “diplomatically and militarily in the coming hours to re-establish deconfliction.” Asked if he was concerned for the safety of US pilots flying over Syria after the Russian warning, the general responded that he was confident “our forces have the capabilities to take care of themselves.”
At a bizarre White House press conference 19 June 2017  in which reporters were barred from either filming or recording answers to their questions, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was quoted as saying that Washington was “going to do what we can to protect our interests,” in Syria, adding, “We will always preserve the right of self-defense.”
Only the perverse logic of the US imperialist drive for hegemony in the Middle East and around the globe can explain the invocation of “self defense” for actions taken by US military forces in shooting down a plane flying over its own territory and attacking forces loyal to the existing government.
 
US acts of aggression against Syria
The shooting down of the Syrian jet follows a series of US acts of aggression against Syrian government forces. Last September, US-led airstrikes killed or wounded as many as 200 Syrian soldiers in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. While the Pentagon subsequently claimed that the attack was a “regrettable error,” it provided air support for ISIS fighters to overrun a strategic Syrian government position.
Then in April, the US rained 50 cruise missiles on Syria’s al-Shayrat airbase, ostensibly in response to an alleged gas attack that had all the earmarks of a CIA provocation.
Within the last month, the Pentagon has carried out three separate airstrikes on pro-government forces that were alleged to have come close to a desert base near the al-Tanf southeastern Syrian border crossing with Iraq, where some 150 American special forces troops are training so-called “rebels” to prosecute the war for regime change against the government in Damascus.
With each new attack, it becomes ever more clear that the so-called anti-ISIS campaign being waged by US-led forces is a cover for an American military intervention aimed at securing the aims of the six-year-old war for regime change in Syria, the toppling of the Assad government and the imposition of a US puppet regime. To this end, the Pentagon is determined that territory wrested from ISIS remain under its control rather than that of the Syrian government. The clashes that led to the downing of the Syrian jet are bound up with this scramble for territory.
The campaign in Syria is part of the broader US drive towards war with Iran that was spelled out by US President Donald Trump in his trip last month to Tehran’s two major regional enemies, Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Trump administration’s turn toward an openly aggressive posture toward Tehran has served to further destabilize the entire region, with the Saudi monarchy, backed by Egypt and the UAE, imposing an all-out blockade tantamount to war against Qatar, which hosts the forward headquarters of the US Central Command, while at the same time depending heavily on revenues from a huge gas field it shares with Iran.
The the threat of a wider war was further underscored by an Iranian missile strike directed against ISIS targets in the eastern Syrian city of Deir el-Zour. The missiles were launched from western Iran, some 370 miles away, flying over the territory of Iraq, whose government gave permission for the attack.
While Tehran justified the missile strike as a retaliation for terrorist attacks earlier this month claimed by ISIS in which 18 Iranians were killed and more than 50 wounded, Iranian officials made it clear that they were intended to send a wider warning.
“The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,” said Gen. Ramazan Sharif of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). “Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.” Tehran has charged that the Saudis were behind the terrorist attacks. The Trump White House, meanwhile, issued a statement essentially blaming the Iranian government for bringing the terror on itself.
The threat that the US intervention in Syria can explode into a regional and even global war is exacerbated by the Trump administration’s ceding to the US military brass virtually all decisions as to the waging of Washington’s multiple wars, from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and beyond. Troop levels, rules of engagement and other essential policies are being set by a cabal of active duty and recently retired generals, including Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis and Trump’s national security advisor, Gen. H.R. McMaster, together with commanders on the ground.
Sections of the military bitterly resented the Obama administration’s pulling back from a planned war against Syria in 2013, when in the face of overwhelming popular hostility to another Middle East war and deep divisions in the foreign policy establishment, Washington settled for a Russian-brokered deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. Since then Russian and Iranian support have allowed the Syrian government to drive back the CIA-supported Islamist militias and retake virtually all of the country’s major population centers.
Reversing these advances is essential for the US to assert its dominance over the oil-rich Middle East. There are no doubt those within the US military brass who would welcome a confrontation with Iran and even Russia to achieve this end, regardless of the threat of a wider and potentially world catastrophic war.
Significantly, when reporters asked General Dunford Monday on what authority the US military was carrying out armed actions against the government of Syria, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman cited the Authorization of the Use of Military Force Act passed by Congress in the wake of the 9/11 attacks nearly 16 years ago.
There has been no debate, much less any vote, within the US Congress authorizing a war against Syria. The Democrats have raised no opposition to Trump’s giving free rein to the generals and have politically driven the hysterical anti-Russia propaganda campaign that is paving the way toward military confrontation.
—WSWS

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Sri Lanka: Govt strategy to bring about change is needed

Jehan Perera in Colombo
 
THE two main factors that caused a change of government in 2015 are reappearing at the present time.  The first is the feeling amongst the religious and ethnic minorities that the government is not doing enough to protect them.  During the period of the former government the minorities even felt that the government was opposed to them.  This was on account of its inadequate efforts at post-war normalization and the growth of religious intolerance.  The election of the new government came as a great relief to the minorities.  Their sense of fear and jeopardy lifted in large measure.  Even though the military presence in the North and East did not significantly diminish there was a revival of civilian institutions.  The government no longer came across as being a hostile entity.
Unfortunately at the present time, instead of consolidating this trust the inaction and negative posturing by some leaders in the government is eroding trust.  Today, there is a growing sense of disappointment about the government amongst the ethnic and religious minorities and also amongst large sections of the ethnic and religious majority population.  This is on account of failure to honour promises made. During the 2015 election campaign the two main themes of the opposition leaders who now head the country were the eradication of corruption and the restoration of the Rule of Law.  There was widespread recognition that the previous government had breached the bounds of corruption.  There was also widespread fear of the impunity with which the former government leaders wielded their powers of life and death. 
The first sign of governmental backtracking on the two main issues that determined the course of the 2015 elections was the issue of corruption.  The promise that the 19th Amendment to the constitution brought, and the independent commissions that it set up, have been virtually negated.  At the initial stages the appointment of an empowered Bribery and Corruption Commissioner gave confidence that those great social ills would no longer reign as number one in public life.  However, the delays to take forward the corruption cases against those of the former government who had already been convicted in the court of public opinion dented the mood of optimism.  The belief in the anti corruption mission of the government took another body blow at the resistance to investigate the Central Bank bond scam.
 
Untenable justifications
The common justifications given by government for the slow progress of the cases involving past corruption is that gathering evidence takes time.  The legal cases have to be prepared carefully to prevent them from failing in the court of law.  This is also the justification given by state officials when they are asked why the murder cases involving top journalists and sports personalities are not being pursued with the determination that they ought to be.  However, the government was elected with a mandate to ensure the Rule of Law.  It needs to give priority to delivering on the mandate which they sought from the people. Instead the government leaders who promised to make a change for the better for the country appear to be politically paralysed.
The whole point of leadership is to make a difference and carry one’s own support base.  The government leaders promised to make a difference once they were elected.  They need to deliver on their promises.  But now they appear to be giving priority to preparing for the next round of elections when the two parties who form the government coalition may end up as rivals again as they were before the formation of the National Unity Government.  The same attitude of giving priority to prevailing at the next election can be seen in the government’s hands off attitude towards the problem of inter religious violence. Particularly concerning to the ethnic and religious minorities have been the insidious attacks against their places of worship and business.
There are incidents of violence against the religious and ethnic minorities being reported on an increasing basis from different parts of the country. Sometimes these incidents are not even reported in the mainstream media which leaves the majority of people knowing little of the problems that their fellow citizens in another part of the country are experiencing.  Muslim places of worship and commercial establishments have been the special targets for attacks.  Similar incidents of violence are taking place against Christians from small evangelical churches, which are most vulnerable to attack, as their places of worship are not frequented by a large population. Some of them are engaged in missionary activities which are provoking to sections of the larger population.  But the practice of violence against them cannot be permitted.
 
Unacceptable gap
The government’s failure is to take concrete action to stop these acts of violence.  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that the government will pass new laws to deal with the problem.  But there are existing laws that permit the police to take necessary action. The Bar Association has called on the police to take all security measures to ensure that these attacks against racial and religious communities do not occur and the Attorney General to expedite the prosecution of all suspects in appropriate circumstances for offences under Chapter XV of the Penal Code and the provisions of the ICCPR Act, irrespective of their social status.  The government needs to muster up the political will to appoint the correct people who will command the confidence of the law enforcement agencies to ensure that the Rule of Law prevails.
The government also needs to deliver on its other commitments.  It promised constitutional reform and it promised to implement transitional justice.  Where constitutional reform is concerned the government promised to change the executive presidential system, the electoral system and the devolution of powers.   There are news stories of discussions taking place and reports being submitted but without concrete progress in evidence.  Where transitional justice is concerned the government promised to establish a Truth Commission, An Office of Missing Persons, an Office of Reparations and a Special Court for war crimes.  The government asked the UN for two more years and got it, but since then nothing more seems to be happening.

Comment

Jehan Perera in Colombo
 
THE two main factors that caused a change of government in 2015 are reappearing at the present time.  The first is the feeling amongst the religious and ethnic minorities that the government is not doing enough to protect them.  During the period of the former government the minorities even felt that the government was opposed to them.  This was on account of its inadequate efforts at post-war normalization and the growth of religious intolerance.  The election of the new government came as a great relief to the minorities.  Their sense of fear and jeopardy lifted in large measure.  Even though the military presence in the North and East did not significantly diminish there was a revival of civilian institutions.  The government no longer came across as being a hostile entity.
Unfortunately at the present time, instead of consolidating this trust the inaction and negative posturing by some leaders in the government is eroding trust.  Today, there is a growing sense of disappointment about the government amongst the ethnic and religious minorities and also amongst large sections of the ethnic and religious majority population.  This is on account of failure to honour promises made. During the 2015 election campaign the two main themes of the opposition leaders who now head the country were the eradication of corruption and the restoration of the Rule of Law.  There was widespread recognition that the previous government had breached the bounds of corruption.  There was also widespread fear of the impunity with which the former government leaders wielded their powers of life and death. 
The first sign of governmental backtracking on the two main issues that determined the course of the 2015 elections was the issue of corruption.  The promise that the 19th Amendment to the constitution brought, and the independent commissions that it set up, have been virtually negated.  At the initial stages the appointment of an empowered Bribery and Corruption Commissioner gave confidence that those great social ills would no longer reign as number one in public life.  However, the delays to take forward the corruption cases against those of the former government who had already been convicted in the court of public opinion dented the mood of optimism.  The belief in the anti corruption mission of the government took another body blow at the resistance to investigate the Central Bank bond scam.
 
Untenable justifications
The common justifications given by government for the slow progress of the cases involving past corruption is that gathering evidence takes time.  The legal cases have to be prepared carefully to prevent them from failing in the court of law.  This is also the justification given by state officials when they are asked why the murder cases involving top journalists and sports personalities are not being pursued with the determination that they ought to be.  However, the government was elected with a mandate to ensure the Rule of Law.  It needs to give priority to delivering on the mandate which they sought from the people. Instead the government leaders who promised to make a change for the better for the country appear to be politically paralysed.
The whole point of leadership is to make a difference and carry one’s own support base.  The government leaders promised to make a difference once they were elected.  They need to deliver on their promises.  But now they appear to be giving priority to preparing for the next round of elections when the two parties who form the government coalition may end up as rivals again as they were before the formation of the National Unity Government.  The same attitude of giving priority to prevailing at the next election can be seen in the government’s hands off attitude towards the problem of inter religious violence. Particularly concerning to the ethnic and religious minorities have been the insidious attacks against their places of worship and business.
There are incidents of violence against the religious and ethnic minorities being reported on an increasing basis from different parts of the country. Sometimes these incidents are not even reported in the mainstream media which leaves the majority of people knowing little of the problems that their fellow citizens in another part of the country are experiencing.  Muslim places of worship and commercial establishments have been the special targets for attacks.  Similar incidents of violence are taking place against Christians from small evangelical churches, which are most vulnerable to attack, as their places of worship are not frequented by a large population. Some of them are engaged in missionary activities which are provoking to sections of the larger population.  But the practice of violence against them cannot be permitted.
 
Unacceptable gap
The government’s failure is to take concrete action to stop these acts of violence.  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that the government will pass new laws to deal with the problem.  But there are existing laws that permit the police to take necessary action. The Bar Association has called on the police to take all security measures to ensure that these attacks against racial and religious communities do not occur and the Attorney General to expedite the prosecution of all suspects in appropriate circumstances for offences under Chapter XV of the Penal Code and the provisions of the ICCPR Act, irrespective of their social status.  The government needs to muster up the political will to appoint the correct people who will command the confidence of the law enforcement agencies to ensure that the Rule of Law prevails.
The government also needs to deliver on its other commitments.  It promised constitutional reform and it promised to implement transitional justice.  Where constitutional reform is concerned the government promised to change the executive presidential system, the electoral system and the devolution of powers.   There are news stories of discussions taking place and reports being submitted but without concrete progress in evidence.  Where transitional justice is concerned the government promised to establish a Truth Commission, An Office of Missing Persons, an Office of Reparations and a Special Court for war crimes.  The government asked the UN for two more years and got it, but since then nothing more seems to be happening.

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