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June 2016

Brexit is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions

Glenn Greenwald

The decision by UK voters to leave the EU is such a glaring repudiation of the wisdom and relevance of elite political and media institutions that – for once – their failures have become a prominent part of the storyline. Media reaction to the Brexit vote falls into two general categories: (1) earnest, candid attempts to understand what motivated voters to make this choice, even if that means indicting one’s own establishment circles, and (2) petulant, self-serving, simple-minded attacks on disobedient pro-leave voters for being primitive, xenophobic bigots (and stupid to boot), all to evade any reckoning with their own responsibility. Virtually every reaction that falls into the former category emphasizes the profound failures of western establishment factions; these institutions have spawned pervasive misery and inequality, only to spew condescending scorn at their victims when they object.

The Los Angeles Times‘ Vincent Bevins, in an outstanding and concise analysis, wrote that “both Brexit and Trumpism are the very, very wrong answers to legitimate questions that urban elites have refused to ask for thirty years”; in particular, “since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt.” The British journalist Tom Ewing, in a comprehensive Brexit explanation, said the same dynamic driving the UK vote prevails in Europe and North America as well: “the arrogance of neoliberal elites in constructing a politics designed to sideline and work around democracy while leaving democracy formally intact.”

In an interview with The New Statesman, the political philosopher Michael Sandel also said that the dynamics driving the pro-Brexit sentiment were now dominant throughout the west generally: “a large constituency of working-class voters feel that not only has the economy left them behind, but so has the culture, that the sources of their dignity, the dignity of labour, have been eroded and mocked by developments with globalisation, the rise of finance, the attention that is lavished by parties across the political spectrum on economic and financial elites, the technocratic emphasis of the established political parties.” After the market-venerating radicalism of Reagan and Thatcher, he said, “the centre left” – Blair and Clinton and various European parties – “managed to regain political office but failed to reimagine the mission and purpose of social democracy, which ­became empty and obsolete.”

Three Guardian writers sounded similar themes about elite media ignorance, stemming from their homogeneity and detachment from the citizenry. John Harris quoted a Manchester voter as explaining thatif you’ve got money, you vote in. If you haven’t got money, you vote out,” and Harris added: “most of the media . . . failed to see this coming. . . . The alienation of the people charged with documenting the national mood from the people who actually define it is one of the ruptures that has led to this moment.” Gary Younge similarly denounced “a section of the London-based commentariat [that] anthropologised the British working class as though they were a lesser evolved breed from distant parts, all too often portraying them as bigots who did not know what was good for them.” Ian Jack’s article was headlined “In this Brexit vote, the poor turned on an elite who ignored them,” and he described how “gradually the sight of empty towns and shuttered shops became normalised or forgotten.” Headlines like this one from The Guardian in 2014 were prescient but largely ignored:

Though there were some exceptions, establishment political and media elites in the UK were vehemently united against Brexit, but their decreed wisdom was ignored, even scorned. That has happened time and again. As their fundamental failures become more evident to all, these elites have lost credibility, lost influence, and lost the ability to dictate outcomes.

Just last year in the UK, Labour members chose someone to lead Tony Blair’s party – the authentically left-wing Jeremy Corbyn – who could not have been more intensely despised and patronized by almost every leading light of the British media and political class. In the U.S., the joyful rejection by Trump voters of the collective wisdom of the conservative establishment evidenced the same contempt for elite consensus. The enthusiastic and sustained rallying, especially by young voters, against beloved-by-the-establishment Hillary Clinton in favor of a 74-year-old socialist taken seriously by almost no DC elites reflected the same dynamic. Elite denunciations of the right-wing parties of Europe fall on deaf ears. Elites can’t stop, or even affect, any of these movements because they are, at bottom, revolts against their wisdom, authority and virtue.

In sum, the west’s establishment credibility is dying, and their influence is precipitously eroding – all deservedly so. The frenetic pace of online media makes even the most recent events feel distant, like ancient history. That, in turn, makes it easy to lose sight of how many catastrophic and devastating failures western elites have produced in a remarkably short period of time.

In 2003, U.S. and British elites joined together to advocate one of the most heinous and immoral aggressive wars in decades: the destruction of Iraq; that it turned out to be centrally based on falsehoods that were ratified by the most trusted institutions, as well as a complete policy failure even on its own terms, gutted public trust.

In 2008, their economic worldview and unrestrained corruption precipitated a global economic crisis that literally caused, and is still causing, billions of people to suffer – in response, they quickly protected the plutocrats who caused the crisis while leaving the victimized masses to cope with the generational fallout. Even now, western elites continue to proselytize markets and impose free trade and globalization without the slightest concern for the vast inequality and destruction of economic security those policies generate.

In 2011, NATO bombed Libya by pretending it was motivated by humanitarianism, only to ignore that country once the fun military triumph was celebrated, thus leaving a vacuum of anarchy and milita rule for years that spread instability through the region and fueled the refugee crisis. The U.S. and its European allies continue to invade, occupy and bomb predominantly Muslim countries while propping up their most brutal tyrants, then feign befuddlement about why anyone would want to attack them back, justifying erosions of basic liberties and more bombing campaigns and ratcheting up fear levels each time someone does. The rise of ISIS and the foothold it seized in Iraq and Libya were the direct by-products of the west’s military actions (as even Tony Blair admitted regarding Iraq). Western societies continue to divert massive resources into military weaponry and prisons for their citizens, enriching the most powerful factions in the process, all while imposing harsh austerity on already suffering masses. In sum, western elites thrive while everyone else loses hope.

These are not random, isolated mistakes. They are the by-product of fundamental cultural pathologies within western elite circles – a deep rot. Why should institutions that have repeatedly authored such travesties, and spread such misery, continue to command respect and credibility? They shouldn’t, and they’re not. As Chris Hayes warned in his 2012 book Twilight of the Elites, “given both the scope and depth of this distrust [in elite institutions], it’s clear that we’re in the midst of something far grander and more perilous than just a crisis of government or a crisis of capitalism. We are in the midst of a broad and devastating crisis of authority.”

It’s natural – and inevitable – that malignant figures will try to exploit this vacuum of authority. All sorts of demagogues and extremists will try to re-direct mass anger for their own ends. Revolts against corrupt elite institutions can usher in reform and progress, but they can also create a space for the ugliest tribal impulses: xenophobia, authoritarianism, racism, fascism. One sees all of that, both good and bad, manifesting in the anti-establishment movements throughout the U.S., Europe, and the UK: including Brexit. All of this can be invigorating, or promising, or destabilizing, or dangerous: most likely a combination of all that.

The solution is not to subserviently cling to corrupt elite institutions out of fear of the alternatives. It is, instead, to help bury those institutions and their elite mavens and then fight for superior replacements. As Hayes put it in his book, the challenge is “directing the frustration, anger, and alienation we all feel into building a trans-ideological coalition that can actually dislodge the power of the post-meritocratic elite. One that marshals insurrectionist sentiment without succumbing to nihilism and manic, paranoid distrust.”

Corrupt elites always try to persuade people to continue to submit to their dominance in exchange for protection from forces that are even worse. That’s their game. But at some point, they themselves, and their prevailing order, become so destructive, so deceitful, so toxic, that their victims are willing to gamble that the alternatives will not be worse, or at least, they decide to embrace the satisfaction of spitting in the faces of those who have displayed nothing but contempt and condescension for them.

There is no one, unifying explanation for Brexit, or Trumpism, or the growing extremism of various stripes throughout the west, but this sense of angry impotence – an inability to see any option other than smashing those responsible for their plight –  is undoubtedly a major factor. As Bevins put it, supporters of Trump, and Brexit, and other anti-establishment movements “are motivated not so much by whether they think the projects will actually work, but more by their desire to say FUCK YOU” to those they believe (with very good reason) have failed them.

Obviously, those who are the target of this anti-establishment rage – political, economic and media elites – are desperate to exonerate themselves, to demonstrate that they bear no responsibility for the suffering masses that are now refusing to be compliant and silent. The easiest course to achieve that goal is simply to demonize those with little power, wealth or possibility as stupid and racist: this is only happening because they are primitive and ignorant and hateful, not because they have any legitimate grievances or because I or my friends or my elite institutions have done anything wrong. As Vice’s Michael Tracey put it:

Because that reaction is so self-protective and self-glorifying, many U.S. media elites – including those who knew almost nothing about Brexit until 48 hours ago – instantly adopted it as their preferred narrative for explaining what happened, just as they’ve done with Trump, Corbyn, Sanders and any number of other instances where their entitlement to rule has been disregarded. They are so persuaded of their own natural superiority that any factions who refuse to see it and submit to it prove themselves, by definition, to be regressive, stunted and amoral.

Indeed, media reaction to the Brexit vote – filled with unreflective rage, condescension and contempt toward those who voted wrong – perfectly illustrates the dynamics that caused all of this in the first place. Media elites, by virtue of their position, adore the status quo. It rewards them, vests them with prestige and position, welcomes them into exclusive circles, allows them to be close to (if not themselves wielding) great power while traveling their country and the world, provides them with a platform, fills them with esteem and purpose. The same is true of academic elites, and financial elites, and political elites. Elites love the status quo that has given them, and then protected, their elite position.

Because of how generally satisfied they are with their lot, they regard with affection and respect the internationalist institutions that safeguard the west’s prevailing order: the World Bank and IMF, NATO and the west’s military forces, the Federal Reserve, Wall Street, the EU. While they express some piecemeal criticisms of each, they literally cannot comprehend how anyone would be fundamentally disillusioned by and angry with these institutions, let alone want to break from them. They are far removed from the suffering that causes those anti-establishment sentiments. So they search and search in vain for some rationale that could explain something like Brexit, or the establishment-condemning movements on the right and left, and can find only one way to process it: these people are not motivated by any legitimate grievances or economic suffering, but instead they are just broken, ungrateful, immoral, hateful, racist and ignorant.

Of course it is the case that some, perhaps much, of the support given to these anti-establishment movements is grounded in those sorts of ugly sentiments. But it’s also the case that the media elites’ revered establishment institutions in finance, media and politics are driven by all sorts of equally ugly impulses, as the rotted fruit of their actions conclusively proves.

Even more important, the mechanism that western citizens are expected to use to express and rectify dissatisfaction – elections – has largely ceased to serve any corrective function. As Hayes, in a widely cited tweet, put it this week about Brexit:

But that is exactly the choice presented not only by Brexit but also western elections generally, including the 2016 Clinton v. Trump General Election (just look at the powerful array of Wall Street tycoons and war-loving neocons which – long before Trump – viewed the former Democratic New York Senator and Secretary of State as their best hope for having their agenda and interests served). When democracy is preserved only in form, structured to change little to nothing about power distribution, people naturally seek alternatives for the redress of their grievances, particularly when they suffer.

More importantly still – and directly contrary to what establishment liberals love to claim in order to demonize all who reject their authority – economic suffering and xenophobia/racism are not mutually exclusive; the opposite is true: the former fuels the latter, as sustained economic misery makes people more receptive to tribalistic scapegoating. That’s precisely why plutocratic policies that deprive huge portions of the population of basic opportunity and hope are so dangerous. Claiming that supporters of Brexit or Trump or Corbyn or Sanders or anti-establishment European parties on the left and right are motivated only by hatred but not genuine economic suffering and political oppression is a transparent tactic for exonerating status quo institutions and evading responsibility for doing anything about their core corruption.

Part of this spiteful media reaction to Brexit is grounded in a dreary combination of sloth and habit: a sizable portion of the establishment-liberal commentariat in the west has completely lost the ability to engage with any sort of dissent from their orthodoxies, or even to understand those who disagree with them. They are capable of nothing beyond adopting the most smug and self-satisfied posture, then spouting clichés to dismiss their critics as ignorant, benighted bigots. Like the people of the west who bomb Muslim countries and then express confusion that anyone wants to attack them back, the most simple-minded of these establishment media liberals are constantly enraged that the people they endlessly malign as ignorant haters refuse to vest them with the respect and credibility to which they are naturally entitled.

But there’s something deeper and more interesting driving the media reaction here. Establishment journalistic outlets are not outsiders. They’re the opposite: they are fully integrated into elite institutions, are tools of those institutions, and thus identify fully with them. Of course they do not share, and cannot understand, anti-establishment sentiments: they are the targets of this establishment-hating revolt as much as anyone else. These journalists’ reaction to this anti-establishment backlash is a form of self-defense. As NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen put it last night, “journalists today report on hostility to the political class, as if they had nothing to do with it,” but they are a key part of that political class and, for that reason, “if the population — or part of it — is in revolt against the political class, this is a problem for journalism.”

There are many factors explaining why establishment journalists now have almost no ability to stem the tide of anti-establishment rage, even when it’s irrational and driven by ignoble impulses. Part of it is that the internet and social media have rendered them irrelevant, unnecessary to disseminate ideas. Part of it is that – due their distance from them – they have nothing to say to people who are suffering and angry about it other than to scorn them as hateful losers. Part of it is that journalists – like anyone else – tend to react with bitterness and rage, not self-assessment, as they lose influence and stature.

But a major factor is that many people recognize that establishment journalists are an integral part of the very institutions and corrupted elite circles that are authors of their plight. Rather than being people who mediate or inform these political conflicts, journalists are agents of the forces that are oppressing them. And when journalists react to their anger and suffering by telling them that it’s invalid and merely the by-product of their stupidity and primitive resentments, that only reinforces the perception that journalists are their enemy, thus rendering journalistic opinion increasingly irrelevant.

Brexit – despite all of the harm it is likely to cause and despite all of the malicious politicians it will empower – could have been a positive development. But that would require that elites (and their media outlets) react to the shock of this repudiation by spending some time reflecting on their own flaws, analyzing what they have done to contribute to such mass outrage and deprivation, in order to engage in course correction. Exactly the same potential opportunity was created by the Iraq debacle, the 2008 financial crisis, the rise of Trumpism and other anti-establishment movements: this is all compelling evidence that things have gone very wrong with those who wield the greatest power, that self-critique in elite circles is more vital than anything.

But, as usual, that’s exactly what they most refuse to do. Instead of acknowledging and addressing the fundamental flaws within themselves, they are devoting their energies to demonizing the victims of their corruption, all in order to de-legitimize those grievances and thus relieve themselves of responsibility to meaningfully address them. That reaction only serves to bolster, if not vindicate, the animating perceptions that these elite institutions are hopelessly self-interested, toxic and destructive and thus cannot be reformed but rather must be destroyed. That, in turn, only ensures that there will be many more Brexits, and Trumps, in our collective future.

Our Story In 2 Minutes

“Jewish Brigade” email threatens BDS activists

A number of Palestine solidarity activists have received a threatening email from a group calling itself “Brigade Juive,” French for “Jewish Brigade.”

Anyone receiving this or a similar email should not click on any links in it and should not open any attachments.

These emails may contain malware – malicious programs that are used to harm computer users and compromise networks.

They should report to local authorities anything they consider a threat.

The email begins in French with the words “Dear boycotter.”

It then says in English, “We have are [sic] a very particular set of skills, skills We [sic] have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make us a nightmare for people like you.”

It concludes in French, “In brief, you boycotters should understand, now we will scalp you one by one, group by group, association by association.”

The email contains a link to a website for the Brigade Juive, an extremist Jewish group that purports to defend Israel and Jewish communities. The website also purports to “expose” activists with the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for allegedly nefarious activities.

The group’s name appears to be a reference to the Jewish Brigade that fought with British forces during the Second World War and whose members helped colonize Palestine as part of the Zionist movement.

On its Facebook page, Brigade Juive claims to have sent the email to more than 8,000 addresses.

The group also claims that its violent threat of “scalping” activists is “used in the figurative sense.”

The harassment comes as Israel’s government has ramped up its own threats and intimidation against activists.

Given the history of violence by far right-wing Jewish groups, the apparent threat is being taken seriously.

The Electronic Intifada has been sent independent reports of the email being received by activists in Europe, some of whom are reporting it to authorities on the basis that it constitutes a threat of violence.

Association France Palestine Solidarité, an advocacy group for Palestinian rights, also sent an alert to members urging them to report the threatening email to DICRA, the French interior ministry’s body to combat racism and anti-Semitism.

Extreme anti-Palestinian groups in France have a history of using online attacks against their targets.

Gregory Chelli, the former Jewish Defense League hacker known as Ulcan, in 2014 reportedly launched a cyber attack against the website of Rue89 after French reporter Benoît Le Corre wrote a critical profile of him.

Ulcan is known to have been involved in several malicious attacks targeting BDS activists in France, one of which possibly precipitated the death of Le Corre’s father.

Practice good security

Activists, journalists and others should make it a priority to always practice good online security.

Here are some resources:

Palestinian prisoner placed in admin. detention — after serving 15 years

Palestinians take part in a protest in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoner Bilal Khaled, Nablus, West Bank, June 14, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)
Palestinians take part in a protest in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoner Bilal Khaled, Nablus, West Bank, June 14, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Edo Konrad

972mag.com |

Bilal Kayed was supposed to be released from Israeli prison after serving a nearly 15-year sentence. Instead, he was placed under indefinite detention without charges or trial.

Photos and text by Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org

Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed was meant to be released from Israeli prison on Monday after serving 14.5 years. Instead Israeli military authorities decided to put him in administrative detention for a period of six months, which means he will be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

On Tuesday dozens of Palestinians took part in a solidarity protest in the West Bank city of Nablus. Kayed’s detention came as a shock to his family and relatives. ”His lawyer called us to say that he will not be released today,” said his brother Mahmoud Kayed, adding that only a few hours later did they discover that he was put in administrative detention.

During the protest the demonstrators chanted against the decision, while raising photos of Kayed along with Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) flags, the leftist Palestinian party to which he belongs.

Administrative detention is a procedure that Israel uses to imprison detainees based on secret evidence, without charging them or allowing them to defend themselves at trial. Administrative detention orders may be renewed indefinitely.

The family confirmed that their son is planning on starting a hunger strike to protest his administrative detention. According to a statement released by the PFLP on Monday, its members in prison will begin an initial two-day hunger strike in solidarity with Kayed. “The hunger strike is just the beginning in a series of escalating steps to be implemented by all comrades in Zionist prisons and detention centers,” said the statement.

 

The mother of the Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed (center) takes part in a protest in solidarity with her son, Nablus West Bank, June 14, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)
The mother of the Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed (center) takes part in a protest in solidarity with her son, Nablus West Bank, June 14, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Kayed, 34, has been imprisoned by since December 2001 on charges of membership in the PFLP, as well as participation in activities against the State of Israel. He was 19 years old at the time of his arrest. Kayed is now among 750 Palestinians held in administrative detention without charge or trial.

Last Friday Israeli authorities placed a Palestinian prisoners’ rights activist under administrative detention for six months, 40 days after he was first detained and taken in for interrogation.

Mohammed Abu Sakha (photo: Courtesy of Addameer)
Mohammed Abu Sakha (photo: Courtesy of Addameer)

 

Hasan Safadi, who works as media coordinator for Addameer, an NGO that supports Palestinian prisoners in both Israeli and Palestinian prisons, was set to be released from detention on June 10 by order of Jerusalem’s Magistrate’s Court, after paying NIS 2,500 in bail and obtaining third-party guarantees. Later the same day, however, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman signed an administrative detention order against Safadi, effectively overriding the court’s decision.

On Monday Israeli military authorities also renewed the administrative detention of Palestinian circus trainer and clown Mohammad Abu Sakha for an additional six months, from June 13 to December 12. Abu Sakha is known for working with special needs children in the West Bank, and runs the Palestinian Circus School. He was first arrested on December 14, 2015 while he was crossing Zaatara military checkpoint near Nablus on his way to work in the village of Birzeit, near Ramallah.

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The Reason The Orlando Shooter Committed His Crime

Is Assad Delusional?

Photo: A vehicle drives near a road sign that shows the direction to the historic city of Palmyra in this picture provided by SANA on March 24, 2016. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

In a matter of months, Bashar Assad’s reading of the Syrian war was transformed. In a June 7 speech to Syria’s Parliament, he vowed to retake “every inch” of Syria, dismissing negotiations with the opposition as a trap. In contrast, less than a year ago in July 2015, Assad gave a very different speech. Then, having lost a great deal of territory to the insurgency, he admitted his forces had to cede some areas of Syria to save more important ones. US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said Assad’s latest speech “[showed] once again how delusional, detached, and unfit he is to lead the Syrian people.” Unfit he may be, but is Assad misreading his situation so severely? What did his speech reveal about his calculations and prospects in Syria?

The single most significant military development between the two speeches is Russia’s entry into the war. Russian air power, artillery, and training helped stabilize key frontlines near the Alawite heartland in northwest Syria. Aided by Iranian forces, Russia nearly destroyed the rebels in critical Aleppo province, weakened the insurgency around Damascus, and halted a rebel offensive in the south. The resulting respite allowed the regime to finally attack the Islamic State (ISIS) in earnest, retaking the strategic city of Palmyra and advancing on Tabqa. Capturing the latter would place regime forces within an hour’s drive from ISIS’s capital in Raqqa city, possibly beating Kurdish and Arab forces to the claim of destroying the ‘caliphate.’

Thus, Assad’s strategic situation improved dramatically between speeches, without his making any serious concession to either his foreign patrons or Syrian rivals. Fighting ISIS might convince foreign governments to embrace or at least tolerate him as a partner against terrorism. It also makes the United States a de facto partner in that effort, since US policy is to fight ISIS but not the regime. Presently the groups succeeding most against ISIS are the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a handful of increasingly-beleaguered insurgent groups in Aleppo province, and now the regime. The United States is allied to the first, ambivalent toward the second, and will tolerate the third.

Of course, Assad is a long way from winning the war. The insurgency remainsadaptable and dangerous in key geographies. Assad still does not control all or even the majority of Syria. Rebels are particularly strong in Idlib, but are also a significant force in southern Syria and Damascus suburbs. The regime will struggle to uproot an entrenched ISIS from Raqqa and Deir al Zour cities as well, especially if the anti-regime insurgency remains active elsewhere. These challenges, as well as limited manpower and resources, a destroyed economy, and a deeply aggrieved population, do seem to indicate that Assad might be out of touch.

It is indeed difficult to imagine the regime ruling over all of Syria, and if Assad truly believes this will happen he is likely mistaken. Less delusional however is his nearer goal of ending the insurgency as a strategic threat to his regime. For this to happen, insurgent supply lines would have to be severed; foreign rivals distracted, divided, or deterred; major pro-opposition areas depopulated; and at least one generation of largely-Sunni Arab Syrians terrorized into submission. Additionally, at least one capable foreign patron would need to stay committed to the regime’s survival, and face no decisive international resistance or competition. This summarization is of course a good approximation of today’s realities. The opposition is not beaten yet, but it will be unless both the rebels and their backers shift their strategy dramatically.

Assad is not the only or even the strongest actor in the pro-regime coalition of course. Iran and Russia saved the regime from defeat, and are still responsible for its survival. Iran and Hezbollah presumably do not want to maintain an expeditionary force in Syria until Assad reconquers the entire country. Russia is in Syria only to break the opposition’s will and force it to make terms with Assad, not reconquer the country for him. These differences explain Mr. Toner’s statement that “[The United States] still believe[s] that Russia, and Iran can at least appeal to those in the regime who still have influence on him to refrain from letting this political process, this cessation of hostilities, fall completely apart.”

One would think Assad’s reliance on Iran and Russia would prevent him from dictating the mission or strategy to either, seeing as his forces can neither take nor hold territory without their support. Oddly enough however, Assad seems to be doing exactly that. For example, Russian air power led to a cessation of hostilities early this year that favored the regime. This began a political process that, while stacked against the opposition, nonetheless served Russian interests by creating a vehicle for translating the regime’s military gains into political ones. Yet Assad’s forces simply ignored the ceasefire, along with Russian commitments to facilitate humanitarian aid flows to besieged populations.

Even as Russia presents a limited agenda (a pro-Assad one, to be sure) with narrow goals, Assad’s statements and his forces’ actions confirm his maximalist aspirations to reconquer Syria. Differences are real enough that on at least one occasion, Russian air support appeared to waiver amid regime overreach in Aleppo. Yet this support always resumes when the regime’s position appears in danger. Russia does not believe Assad can win Syria, but it cannot allow him to lose the war either. The practical result for Assad is the same: he does not need to budge on his goals. 

Assad—weaker than both Iran and Russia—seems to play a spoiler role in the regime coalition, and perhaps a leading role in a sense. The most likely explanation for this is that Iran and, to a lesser degree, Russia simply cannot allow Assad to fall, lest their regional security architecture collapse with him. By pushing harder and farther in the war, Assad does raise the costs and risks to his allies. However, by placing his own forces in danger, he compels his patrons to back him up or risk losing what is, after all, also their war. Thus, the often-cited gaps between the positions of Assad, Iran, and Russia are analytically interesting but, at this stage of the war, not decisive or policy-relevant. 

The Assad regime is probably not going to rule all of Syria again. On this point, Assad is both overestimating his capabilities and underestimating much of the population’s hatred for him. Per Mr. Toner’s remarks, he is certainly unfit to lead the Syrian people, but local, regional, and international realities show he is not losing the war on the insurgency, and he is not at a stalemate either. The Assad-Iran-Russia coalition is on course to ending the rebellion as a strategic threat to regime survival. The delusion is not Assad’s confidence, but the belief that his deep dependence on foreign patrons doom him to failure. They will not and cannot deliver all of Syria to him, but without foreign intervention on the opposition’s side they may well deliver enough of it.

Faysal Itani is a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

see also Assad is a delusional madman: Khalid Khoja

The Young Turks: LIVE Show 06.09.16

AMIRA HASS: Israel’s right to sweep away Palestinians

Expelling Palestinians is a paradigm that’s alive and well in the Jews’ state – a plan that was carried out and that is always waiting to be replicated.
By Amira Hass | Jun. 8, 2016 | 7:03 PM | 3
Why are people so shocked that Israel has jailed a professor of astrophysics over his posts on Facebook, along with young girls who brandished knives? It has every right to do so. This right follows naturally from Israel’s essence and past, and can be summed up in a term derived from a statement by Uzi Narkiss, who headed the army’s Central Command in the June 1967 war: the right to sweep away.

“I don’t know if anything will happen,” Narkiss said on the eve of that war, according to Israel Defense Forces documents recently released for publication. “But if something does happen, it will take less than 72 hours for us to sweep all the Arabs out of the West Bank.”

Here are three new examples of the exercise of that right that unfortunately haven’t received appropriate media coverage:

* The right to worship, trespass and kill. Some 4,000 Jews (according to Israel National News), including Knesset members, prayed at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus from late Thursday night to early Friday morning last week, under heavy military protection (this follows from the rights to Judaize graves, to sanctify stones the way a dog marks his territory, and to prioritize memorializing a dead Jew over the daily routine of live Palestinians).

Maj. Elitzur Trabelsi, an officer in the Samaria Brigade’s territorial defense unit, said this unit’s “hard work, before and during the visit” to Joseph’s Tomb “is satisfying when you see the number of people coming here. The Samaria Brigade will continue to enable such visits in accordance with the government’s instructions and work to ensure the visitors’ security.”

The brazen locals, who deny the right to sweep them away, demonstrated. The IDF fired live bullets at them. About 10 demonstrators were wounded, including Jamal Dweikat, 20, who was wounded in the head. He died of his wounds on Monday.

* The right to dismantle a kindergarten (which derives from having turned Area C, the part of the West Bank assigned to full Israeli control by the Oslo Accord, into the rock of our existence). On Sunday, the IDF and Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank raided the Hamadin Bedouin community in Sateh al-Bahr (“Sea Level”) on the road leading to the Dead Sea. Accompanied by heavy engineering vehicles (a crane and a digger) and at least eight all-terrain vehicles, they dismantled and confiscated six prefab houses and one prefab that served as a kindergarten for 12 children.

The buildings, a UN donation, were funded by several European countries (including Germany). Twenty-six people, including 13 children, lost their homes.

The Hamadin, a clan of the Jahalin tribe, are one of the Bedouin communities which the Civil Administration is planning to sweep out of their place of residence of the past several decades (the Jahalin, of course, had first been swept out of the Negev in the early 1950s) and to concentrate them in a township, so that they will adjust their way of life and their movements to our sacred right to spread southward and eastward and build kosher Jewish villas.

* The right to prepare for the coming and welcome wars. Between May 30 and June 1, five Palestinian communities (made up of 58 families) were ordered to evacuate their homes in the steaming northern Jordan Valley for various periods of time due to IDF exercises. Military exercises within Palestinian communities are nothing new. In April 2014, Col. Einav Shalev, then an officer in Central Command’s operations division, revealed that training exercises and the expansion of firing zones in the Jordan Valley are a way of reducing the number of Palestinians. “When the troops march, people move aside,” he said. “There are places where we significantly reduced the number of exercises, and weeds sprang up there.”

When Narkiss spoke of “sweeping out all the Arabs,” he drew a logical line to the expulsion of 1948. In other words, he revealed that expelling Palestinians is a paradigm that’s alive and well in the Jews’ state – a plan that was carried out and that is always waiting to be replicated. That plan hasn’t succeeded. But “sweeping” the Palestinians into crowded enclaves continues all the time, an inseparable part of our right as masters.

A Bedouin of the Jahalin tribe walks in his encampment near the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, June 16, 2012.Reuters read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.723737
A Bedouin of the Jahalin tribe walks in his encampment near the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, June 16, 2012.Reuters
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.723737

Muhammad Ali

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