The Jerusalem announcement effect

President Donald Trump’s announcement that the US would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there was controversial, and has been deeply unpopular with Palestinians and throughout much of the Middle East. It may also be unpopular in the US.

The Guardian: Defiant Donald Trump confirms US will recognise Jerusalem as capital of Israel

Donald Trump has defied overwhelming global opposition by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but insisted that the highly controversial move would not derail his own administration’s bid to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a short speech delivered at the White House, Trump directed the state department to start making arrangements to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a process that officials say will take at least three years.

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said. “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”

Trump said: “My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”

It is highly debatable whether this will help already difficult attempts at peace solutions, and may do the opposite.

The president’s announcement provoked condemnation from US allies, and a furious reaction from Palestinian leaders and the Muslim world.

Al Jazeera: Trump’s Jerusalem move roundly condemned at UN

During an emergency meeting, UN Security Council members widely condemned Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that has led to deadly clashes across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Eight countries called for the emergency meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, as Palestinians protested across the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip against the US president’s decision throughout the day.

Several countries resoundingly condemned the unilateral move by the US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, while Israel says Jerusalem, which is under Israeli occupation, cannot be divided.

The international community has never recognised Israel’s claim to the entire city.

Predictably it provoked protests and violence – Reuters: Israeli strikes kill two Gaza gunmen, anti-Trump protests less intense

Israeli air strikes in Gaza killed two Palestinian gunmen on Saturday after rockets were fired from the enclave, in violence that erupted over President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Trump’s reversal of decades of U.S. policy has infuriated the Arab world and upset Western allies, who say it is a blow to peace efforts and risks sparking more violence in the region.

Gaza militants launched at least three rockets toward Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip – which is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas – after dark on Friday. The day had been declared a “day of rage” by Palestinian factions protesting against Trump’s announcement on Wednesday.

Trump’s announcement has not been supported internationally, and has had limited support in the US.

Time: Rex Tillerson Is on a Lonely Mission to Defend Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Pronouncement

It’s a go-to catchphrase when U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is called on to explain his boss on the world stage: “America first is not America alone.” Yet as President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, Tillerson on Wednesday stood all by himself.

The onslaught came from all sides as Tillerson, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, got an earful from many a U.S. ally on Trump’s Jerusalem move. So far, not a single country — other than Israel, of course — has thrown its support behind the declaration. Even Tillerson’s own State Department has conceded the announcement could sow unrest throughout the Middle East.

Asked about Trump’s decision, Tillerson insisted the president “still is very committed to the peace process” — an assertion that U.S. allies said Trump had disproven by going ahead with the move despite near-universal protestations. And while the decision directly affects his department, Tillerson acknowledged his role was relatively minimal, focused on ensuring the State Department and Pentagon had enough time to boost precautions to keep U.S. personnel overseas safe amid the inevitable backlash.

Tillerson claims US support: On Jerusalem, Trump obeys will of US people: Tillerson

“The president is simply carrying out the will of the American people,” Tillerson said at a news conference with Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.

“This has to do with the US law and a US decision and every country has a right to decide what it wants to decide as to its embassy in Israel.”

But apart from the protests Trump’s announcement won’t take immediate effect, other than give the appearance of fulfilling a campaign promise.

Fox News: Trump’s Jerusalem move: President’s patented strategy of taking a half-step

With his speech about moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump is following a familiar pattern.

He is taking a controversial step but not going all the way—taking a kind of halfway measure that fulfills a campaign promise but doesn’t necessarily have immediate consequences.

He has become the first president since Israel’s founding in 1948 to recognize Jerusalem as the capital, although other presidential candidates have talked about doing so. At the same time, he is signing a waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for another six months, and officials say it could take years to build an embassy in Jerusalem.

Indeed it could take years. Haaretz: Jerusalem Embassy Move Won’t Happen Next Year

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday that moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jeruaslem is likely to take at least two years due to logistical reasons. Tillerson stated that the move probably won’t happen “this year or next year.”

He added that Jerusalem’s “final status” will be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

So apart from provoking protests and claiming a promise has been kept, and making Middle East peace efforts harder, what has changed? Possible American approval of Trump. His approval rating had been slightly improved, until his Jerusalem announcement, after which it has dropped sharply to near lows again.

So what has been gained, apart from pleasing Israel, international condemnation, violent protests and pissing on the peace process?

Trump may have been delivering more for rich campaign supporters than for his voter support base.

 

Trump throws Jerusalem bomb

I thought President Donald Trump had said he wants to help bring peace to the Middle East, and had his son-in-law Jared Kushner working on it.

But Trump has just thrown what could be an incendiary bomb into the Middle East.

This move may please some, but it is certain to annoy, anger and incite many. It is a very risky move – unless the aim is to deliberately provoke unrest.

USA: Russian collusion probe

Investigations continue into possible Russian collusion by both Democrats and republicans in last year’s US election.

Washington Examiner: Fusion GPS paid journalists, court papers confirm

Newly filed court documents confirm that Fusion GPS, the company mostly responsible for the controversial “Trump dossier” on presidential candidate Donald Trump, made payments to three journalists between June 2016 until February 2017.

The revelation could be a breakthrough for House Republicans, who are exploring whether Fusion GPS used the dossier, which was later criticized for having inaccurate information on Trump, to feed anti-Trump stories to the press during and after the presidential campaign.

The three journalists who were paid by Fusion GPS are known to have reported on “Russia issues relevant to [the committee’s] investigation,” the House Intelligence Committee said in a court filing.

“Fusion GPS is a research firm set up by former investigative journalists,” Fusion GPS’s lawyer, Josh Levy, said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

“As such, it sometimes works with contractors that have specialized skills seeking public information. Contractors are not permitted to publish any articles based on that work, and Fusion GPS does not pay journalists to write stories.”

Levy also dismissed the Republican idea that these payments were somehow aimed at or otherwise used to help get anti-Trump stories written by the press.

“This is simply another desperate attempt by the president’s political allies to discredit Fusion GPS’s work and divert attention from the question these committees are supposed to be investigating: the Trump campaign’s knowledge of Russian interference in the election,” Levy said.

But House Republicans still have their doubts. One of the documents filed by lawyers for the House Intelligence Committee said each of the three reporters who received payments had written about the Russia probe, which could indicate that reporters were using Fusion GPS’s work to write their stories.

The dossier has become one of the central components of the investigations being carried out by the House and Senate Intelligence committees, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee. Investigators are trying to determine how the dossier may have influence the intelligence agencies during the 2016 election.

The Washington Examinerreported that “FBI and Justice Department officials have told congressional investigators in recent days that they have not been able to verify or corroborate the substantive allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign outlined in the Trump dossier.”

And more on that from The Hill: Mueller investigating Kushner’s communication with foreign leaders

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators are looking into White House senior adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his contact with foreign leaders, according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Mueller’s team is probing Kushner’s involvement in the controversy surrounding a United Nations resolution passed in December 2016 that condemned Israeli settlement construction.

Trump, who was president-elect at the time, called for the U.S. to veto the resolution, saying it was “extremely unfair to all Israelis.”

The U.N. Security Council passed the resolution days later as the U.S. abstained from vetoing it.

The newspaper reports that Israeli officials reached out to several top officials involved in Trump’s transition, including Kushner and former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, and that Mueller’s probe is asking questions about those overtures.

Mueller’s investigators are also looking into Kushner’s role in setting up meetings and communication with foreign leaders during Trump’s transition, according to the newspaper.

Investigations into possible collusion seem likely to take some time.

The end result may be that Russia tried to influence the election, but both Republicans and Democrats were trying to use Russian resources to gain an advantage.

US politics looks like a dirty business all round.

 

 

Anti-Israel speech in Auckland mosque

Stuff reports:  Calls to expel Iran diplomat from NZ after fiery anti-Israel speech ‘fuels radicalism’

An Iranian diplomat has been accused of fuelling radicalism with a fiery, anti-Israel speech at an Auckland mosque.

Jewish community leaders want Hormoz Ghahremani, first secretary of the Iranian Embassy, to be expelled after he appeared alongside speakers who denied the Holocaust and called for the “surgical removal” of Israel.

In his speech, Ghahremani said Israel was trying to “deceive the world” by pretending to be an advocate of peace when in fact it was fuelling terrorism and extremism in the Middle East to divert attention from the Palestine issue.

Muslim nations needed to unite against “the anti-human regime of Israel and discern their common enemy with profound insight”, he said.

He said Quds Day was established “to deal a powerful punch to the mouth of the cancerous tumour known as evil Israel,” and cited Imam Khomeini as saying that “if every Muslim were to spit in the face of Israel, Israel would drown”.

The annihilation of the “Zionist regime” had begun, he said, and Israel would not last for another 25 years.

Community elder Sayed Taghi Derhami, a Mt Albert accountant, told attendees at the event that Israel was a “cancerous gland” that had to be “surgically removed”.

It’s good to see this exposed, but sad to see this sort of divisive rhetoric in New Zealand.

Members of the Jewish community say it’s outrageous that the representative of a foreign Government should make such comments. The speech was in June but has only just come to light.

Ghahremani told Stuff he agreed the speech could be seen as inflammatory, but it had to be taken in the context of the event at which it was given. He spoke at a gathering to mark the annual Quds Day, initiated by Iran in the 1970s to support Palestinians and oppose Zionism.

Contacted at the Iranian Embassy in Wellington, Ghahremani said his speech was supposed to be private and he was upset it had been put on the internet. “It was something private, a small gathering. I was there to reflect the position of the Iranian Government.

“We do not recognise the Israeli Government, that’s not a secret. But we are not against their existence.”

A small private gathering – but it is still inflammatory and divisive language. Someone saw a need to make it public – good on them.

But it needs to be remembered that that is just a small minority. Coincidentally:

News this weekend of the aggressively-worded speeches comes after rallies against racism. New Green MP Golriz Ghahraman denounced racism at a rally in front of Parliament on Saturday.

Extreme rhetoric comes from different minority groups.

Ghahraman, who came to NZ from Iran as a refugee as a child, said on Saturday night that she was concerned that racist rhetoric was becoming more common place in mainstream New Zealand politics. ​”We are seeing this insidious racism creep into the mainstream,” she warned. “It’s important to note the Holocaust was the most harrowing of crimes against humanity.”

Unsurprisingly Israelis are unhappy with the speeches.

Juliet Moses, a spokeswoman for the Jewish Council, said the fact an Iran Government representative was making such inflammatory statements was concerning. “It’s not a great surprise in one sense, because statements like this come from Iranian leaders all the time, but when those words are being spoken in New Zealand it’s a very different matter,” she explained.

“What audience is being spoken to here and what are they believing and what messages are they taking from that? Clearly Islamist terrorism is becoming more frequent in Western countries, and Jews are essentially at the coalface.”

Moses said she hoped the Government would investigate and take action against Ghahremani. “Expulsion might be an option.”

Expulsion is always an option, but I don’t know if it is justified in this case.

Kushner style Middle East ‘peace’

A post from ’emptywheel’ posits: What would Jared Kushner’s Middle east peace look like?

…consider what the purported Middle East peace that Kushner has reportedly been crafting would actually look like.

It’d include unlimited support for Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Bashar al-Assad would be ousted, but in a way that would permit Russia a strategic footprint, perhaps with sanction of its occupation of Crimea and Donetsk as well.

It’d sanction the increasing authoritarianism in Turkey.

It’d sanction Saudi Arabia’s ruthless starvation of Yemen.

It’d fuck over the Kurds.

And it’d mean war with Iran.

I’m not sure about most of those but support for Israel was obvious. This may not be surprisong – Kushner is a Jew.

Trump took steps towards doing most of those things on his trip, not least with his insane weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, itself premised on a formal detachment of weapons sales from any demands for respect for human rights.

And while an all out military war against Iran may or may not happen Trump made it clear that Iran wasn’t seen as a part of any peace process, they were painted as the bad.

Of particular note, Trump claimed to be establishing a great peace initiative with Islamic countries, even when discussing meetings that treated Iran (and by association most Shia Muslims) as an enemy.

Several days ago in Saudi Arabia, I met with the leaders of the Muslim world and Arab nations from all across the region. It was an epic gathering. It was an historic event. Kind Salman of Saudi Arabia could not have been kinder, and I will tell you, he’s a very wise, wise man. I called on these leaders and asked them to join in a partnership to drive terrorism from their midst, once and for all. It was a deeply productive meeting.

People have said there had really never been anything even close in history. I believe that. Being there and seeing who was there and hearing the spirit and a lot of love, there has never been anything like that in history. And it was an honor to be involved.

Kushner’s “peace plan” is not so much a plan for peace.

It’s a plan for a complete remapping of the Middle East according to a vision the Israelis and Saudis have long been espousing (and note the multiple nods on Trump’s trip to the growing alliance between the two, including Trump’s flight directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv and Bibi’s comment on “common dangers are turning former enemies into partners”).

It’s a vision for still more oppression (a view that Trump supports globally, in any case).

Yes, it’d probably all be accomplished with corrupt self-enrichment on the part of all players.

And it’d likely be a complete clusterfuck.

Good may eventually come out of it but it is unlikely to be quick or simple, and it is very likely to be ugly. It could get very ugly, especially with the nuclear threat.

Trump trip – what’s on a head?

Some curious choices over what has been worn on heads by Donald Trump, his wife and his daughter on visits to religious states.

When in Saudi Arabia…

CNN: Melania and Ivanka Trump arrive in Saudi Arabia sans headscarves

First lady Melania Trump and first daughter Ivanka Trump arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday morning sporting an absence of headscarves.

When asked why the Trumps went without scarves, the White House responded that they were not required to wear them.

Although they decided to forgo the headwear, both women were dressed conservatively in long pants and dresses.

TrumpsSaudiHeads.jpg

Their choice of dress during the first stop on President Donald Trump’s inaugural trip abroad is notable because Trump criticized first lady Michelle Obama for making the same decision two years earlier – “Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted. We have enuf enemies.”

One of many Trump contradictions.

When in Israel…

Ivanka was raised a Presbytarian, Her husband is Jared Kushner Jewish and she converted to Judaism before marrying him in 2009.

Trump followed local custom too (he is Presbytarian):

TrumpWesternWall

This was particularly notable because Trump was the first US president to visit the wall.

However is this in Israel?

When in the Vatican…

TrumpsVatican

CNN: Melania Trump wears veil, but not a headscarf

Melania Trump has dutifully considered every outfit she has worn during her first trip abroad as first lady — her visit with Pope Francis on Wednesday was no exception.

With Vatican protocol in mind, the first lady arrived to meet the Pope on Wednesday wearing a black veil and long-sleeved Dolce and Gabbana black dress draped down to her calf. President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, wore a similar outfit with a larger veil.

“Per Vatican protocol, women who have an audience with the Pope are required to wear long sleeves, formal black clothing, and a veil to cover the head,” Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, told CNN.

Days earlier, during her visit to Saudi Arabia, a strictly conservative Muslim theocracy, the first lady eschewed the customary headscarf, but stepped foot in the birthplace of Islam wearing a black jumpsuit reminiscent of the abaya worn by most women there. Despite not covering her head, the first lady’s outfit earned her rave reviews from the local press, who praised her attention to the country’s culture.

When asked why she wore a veil at the Vatican but eschewed a head covering in Saudi Arabia, Grisham said there was no request or requirement for her attire from that country.

Melania Trump has prepared extensively, with the help of State Department officials, on the proper protocol and customs for each of the stops on the foreign trip, according to sources familiar with the preparations. She wanted to ensure a smooth debut on the world stage as first lady and avoid any embarrassing missteps.

So presumably Saudi customs and protocols were checked out before deciding what to wear or not to wear. I guess this is just a part of state visits. However there were no Saudi women at the state occasions there.

When in the US…

SalmanWhiteHouse

However it is one way – leaders who traditionally wear something on their heads keep them on when visiting. This is Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and defence minister Mohammed bin Salman at the White House on 14 March.

 

Trump with Netanyahu

Having delivered an address in Saudi Arabia promoting peace and condemning extremist Islamic terrorism in the Middle East, but attacking and ostracising Iran and driving a wedge Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, US President Donald Trump is now meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Again the talks are of pro-peace and anti-Iran.

Netanyahu:

“We’re committed to the freedom of all faiths and to the rights of all. We protect the Christian sites as no one else does anywhere in this region.”

To Trump: “I want you how much we appreciate the change in American policy on Iran. I want you to know how much we appreciate your bold decision to act against the use of chemical weapons in Syria. We appreciate the reassertion of American leadership in the Middle East.”

“I believe that together we can roll back Iran’s march of aggression and terror in this region.”

Trump:

“Today we reaffirm the unbreakable bond of friendship between Israel and the United States.”

“We want Israel to have peace.”

“That includes advancing prosperity, defeating the evils of terrorism & facing…an Iranian regime that is threatening the region.”

“There are many, many things that can happen now that would never have been able to happen before.”

“These leaders voice concerns we all share about ISIS…and about the menace of extremism that have caused so much needless bloodshed and killing here and all over the world.”

On peace between Palestinians & Israelis: “I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest of all but I have a feeling we’re going to get there.”

“There’s a lot of love out there.”

‘But we hate Iran’?

Earlier:

Trump is on his first foreign trip since taking office. Over the weekend, he visited Saudi Arabia. Earlier today, he met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem for a bilateral meeting where they discussed Iran.

“There is a growing realization among your Arab neighbors that they have common cause with you in the threat posed by Iran,” Trump said during his joint remarks with Rivlin.

Trump is obviously siding with Israel, and has also sided with Saudi Arabia, an autocratic country with a poor record on human rights, and with links to terrorism, against Iran, a country that has just re-elected a moderate leader.

The world’s great peace broker?

Or peace after they have smashed the enemy?

The Trump card peace in the Middle East?

President Donald Trump is starting his visit to the Middle East in Saudi Arabia this weekend (he has arrived in Saudi Arabia). One of his aims is to encourage and help Israel and Arab countries work towards more peaceful relationships. If Trump achieves this he will have done very well, because peace in the Middle East has been long sought after but unattainable.

Obviously this is peace involving Israel, but I presume civil wars in Syria and Yemen and the ongoing problems, especially with ISIS and Al Qaeda, in Iraq and Afghanistan, will also be on the agenda.

A different approach to Israel-Arab peace is certainly worthwhile, a lot has been tried and failed already.

Wall Street Journal: Trip to Test Trump’s Ambition for Middle East Peace

President is exploring a solution that is based on cooperation between Israel and Arab countries

President Donald Trump faces a set of early challenges to his aspirations for a regional solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as he begins his first international trip.

Typically Trump is confident.

The Atlantic: Trump: Middle East Peace Is ‘Not as Difficult as People Have Thought’

One of Donald Trump’s great strengths is his ability to project confidence and bravado nearly constantly. The president is sometimes peevish, and he sometimes lashes out, but he seldom seems glumly resigned.

Who else, in the middle of a rough stretch of his presidency (one that, arguably, has persisted since Inauguration Day) could blithely assert that he would solve the most famously unsolvable problem in international diplomacy? Yet there was Trump Wednesday afternoon, appearing with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and promising to bring peace in the Middle East.

“We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We will get it done,” Trump said. “We will be working so hard to get it done. I think there is a very good chance and I think we will.”

At a lunch later on, he was even bolder: “It is something that I think is frankly, maybe, not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”

Haaretz: Trump’s Plan for Middle East Peace Is to Do the Opposite of Everything Obama Did

Crazy as it may sound, Trump’s haphazard approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may succeed where Obama’s by-the-book route failed.

Here’s one thing Barack Obama and Donald Trump have in common. Both of them believed early in their presidency that they would be the U.S. president to bring peace to Middle East. In his United Nations General Assembly address in September 2010, Obama felt confident enough to say that “when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations – an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.”

We all know how that ended. But Trump of course is not deterred. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on the day after his election victory, he called Israel-Palestinian peace “the ultimate deal,” and said that “as a deal maker, I’d like to do … the deal that can’t be made. And do it for humanity’s sake.”

But here’s where all similarities end. The two presidents may have shared the same goal, but so far, Trump is going about achieving it in exactly the opposite way that Obama did. And as crazy as it may sound, on this issue at least, Trump’s haphazard approach may actually have more chance of success than Obama’s.

After decades of fruitless engagement, all the American by-the-book diplomacy in the region has failed to yield results. Trump’s unique style of diplomacy will at least make a change.

That’s not to say, of course, that there’s anywhere near a good chance of an Israel-Palestine peace treaty being reached. The issues on the ground remain as intractable as ever and ultimately it will be the two sides who have to bridge their wide differences – no outsider, not even the president of the United States can do it for them. And besides, Trump is very likely to be totally sucked in soon by the political turmoil at home and have no time for any foreign policy whatsoever.

But in the meantime, before yet another president calls time on the peace process, it’s worthwhile to consider how this new and unorthodox approach may actually be better.

Trump sees it as a glittering prize

Obama wanted an Israeli-Palestinian agreement for the best reasons in the world, he wanted an end to hatred and bloodshed and to bring peace, prosperity and justice to all sides in the region. He dealt with the process rationally, reaching the conclusion toward the end of his administration that the U.S. couldn’t want a deal more than the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Trump’s approach to the conflict, like to many other thorny issues that he is only now beginning to grasp, is visceral. He hasn’t weighed the pros and cons and won’t think through his chances of success. He wants the glittering prize, to prove that the master deal maker can deliver the “ultimate deal” that has eluded everyone else. It will probably blow up in his face – but he could also be the one to go the extra mile.

Trump won’t play by the rules

Despite all his frustration with Netanyahu, Obama never broke the unwritten rules of the U.S.-Israel relationship. He didn’t threaten Israel that it would lose America’s financial, diplomatic or military support, and signed the largest aid deal ever with Jerusalem just before he left office. Just like every president in the last three-and-a-half decades. He also vetoed every UN Security Council resolution criticizing Israel, except the last one of his administration. Previous presidents did so much earlier in their term.

Trump has no rule book. He may still move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, he may abandon the two-state solution, and – in a fit of anger over Israeli intransigence – he may just threaten to withhold aid. The last president who seriously pressured Israel to make concessions was Jimmy Carter, who, for all his many faults, delivered the peace deal with Egypt. Maybe Trump will break the rules again?

A different approach may work, and may be worth trying, but there are risks in a volatile region.

Trump will be here for only 24 hours but he’s going all out to create a lasting impression. There will be the first visit of a serving U.S. president to the Western Wall, which is certain to create a thousand headlines and tweets on “Trump’s Wall.” And then, of course, there’s the backdrop he chose for his signature speech: From the cliffs of Masada it really doesn’t matter what he’ll say. We won’t forget it.

At the end of the day, once Air Force One takes off into the sunset, it will probably change nothing for us remaining behind, but this is a region where grand gestures sometimes work better than quiet and patient behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

But some Israeli hope and optimism that something different is at least worth a try it won’t be easy.

AlJazeera: Palestinians expect nothing good from Trump

As President Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met on May 3, Palestinians held their breath, but not because we expectеd any progress towards just and comprehensive peace to emerge from the meeting. Quite the opposite.

First, Trump’s bias towards Israel’s far-right regime of occupation and apartheid does not bode well for bringing about respect for international law and human rights principles.

The US has been arming Israel’s wars on Palestinians and Arabs, and generously funding and protecting Israel’s system of oppression, well before Trump. Obama, after all, has committed a record $38bn in military aid to Israel over ten years, even as domestic health, education and employment programmes face severe cuts across the US.

But Trump takes this decades-old US complicity to the next level.

Take Israel’s settlements built on occupied Palestinian and Syrian land as an example. Despite recent rhetoric to the contrary, Trump stands out in politically and financially supporting them, when almost the whole world considers them as flagrantly illegal under international law and as a fatal obstacle to “peace”.

Trump also frequently refers to Israel’s policies to justify his own, whether on ethnic profiling, the refugee and Muslim ban, or the racist wall with Mexico, which Benjamin Netanyahu openly champions.

Trump’s Middle East team must be the most dishonest broker in the history of US “peacemaking”. Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman explicitly support Israel’s fanatical, settler-influenced government, with Kushner and Friedman deeply invested in financing extremist settlement groups.

One has to be clinically delusional or irreparably opportunistic to expect any good to come out of this administration in the pursuit of freedom, justice and equal rights for Palestinians.

Bringing Israel and the Palestinians together in a peaceful solution has huge challenges for the very inexperienced Trump and his inexperienced administration, but perhaps it will prove to be easier than achieving peace and progress at home in US politics.

One of Trump’s first big Middle East publicity events is a curious way to kick off a peace mission.

Fox News: Trump in Saudi Arabia signs $110B arms deal with Persian Gulf ally

President Trump in Saudi Arabia on Saturday signed a nearly $110 billion arms deal to help the Persian Gulf ally with its military-defense system.

“That was a tremendous day,” Trump said after signing the deal with Saudi leader King Salman. “Tremendous investments in the United States. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”

The White House says the package includes defense equipment and other support to help the Arab nation and the rest of the Gulf region fight again terrorism and the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, according to the White House.

Multitasking on a foreign trip is fine, but major military backing of an US ally (a country complicit in 911 and influencing conflicts through the Middle East) might not go down well with everyone.

Shouldn’t Iran be a part of any peace process?

Israel air strike in Syria

It is being reported that Israel has become more directly involved in the war in Syria, with a claimed air strike on a Hezbollah military target near Damascus airport.

BBC: ‘Israeli strike’ hits military site near Damascus airport

An Israeli missile strike has caused a large explosion and fire at a military site near Damascus international airport, Syrian state media report.

A fuel tank and warehouses were damaged, the Sana news agency said.

But Syrian rebel sources said an arms depot run by Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which is fighting in Syria as an ally of the government, was hit.

Israel said the explosion was “consistent” with its policy to prevent Iran smuggling weapons to Hezbollah.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reported that the powerful blast was heard across the capital at dawn on Thursday and that it was believed to have happened near the main road that leads to the airport.

Sana said several missiles had been fired at a military site south-west of the airport, causing explosions that resulted in some material losses.

Pro-government Al-Mayadeen TV cited sources as saying that missiles had been fired by Israeli jets flying inside the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

But it stopped short of confirming it was responsible.

Israel regards Hezbollah, and its key backer Iran, as its biggest threat.

Hezbollah has supported the Syrian government in the civil war.

Israel is alleged to have previously launched strikes in Syria in 2013.

  • On 30 January 2013, about ten jets bombed a convoy believed to be carrying Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles to Lebanon. The attack, attributed by some media reports to Israeli airforce, did not result in any counterattacks from Syria, although Syria has said it reserves the right to retaliate. Western intelligence sources reported that Iranian general Hassan Shateri had been killed in the airstrike. Iran acknowledged his death at the hands of the Israelis without further details. Israel refused to comment on its involvement in the incident.
  • News organizations reported that Israel allegedly attacked Syria on the night between 2 and 3 May 2013. US officials said that the Israeli war planes shot into Syria from Lebanese air space, and that the warplanes did not enter Syrian air space. No counter-attacks by Syria were reported at any front, and the Syrian ambassador to the UN said that he was not aware of any attacks on Syria by Israel. Israel as well declined any comment.
  • Another alleged attack was reported to be a set of massive explosions in Damascus on the night of 4–5 May 2013. Syrian state media described this as an “Israeli rocket attack”, with the targets including a military research center of the Syrian government in Jamraya. The Daily Telegraph reported anonymous Israeli sources as saying that this was an Israeli attack on Iranian-made guided missiles allegedly intended to be shipped to Hezbollah. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group based in Britain, said at least 42 Syrian soldiers were killed in the strikes.
  • Another violent event, possibly linking Israel, occurred in July 2013 in Latakia. Both Syria and Israel denied any report, while Hezbollah claimed that large explosions in Latakia area were caused by rebel mortar fire. Reportedly, the attack targeted Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles near the city of Latakia, and killed several Syrian troops. Russian news agency also reported of Turkish involvement in the incident.
  • On November 2013, a US official stated that Israel conducted an air strike on a Syrian weapons store near Latakia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_involvement_in_the_Syrian_Civil_War

SyriaWarMap

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-22798391

Lining up for World War 3?

Suggesting the escalation in Syria is a move closer to World War 3 might be over-dramatic but if the civil war explodes into a wider conflict it will be too late to quibble.

There are already a number of countries who have been directly involved in the Syrian conflict,  including Russia, USA, Turkey, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, UK, France, Germany and Australia.

The Herald asks Are these the battle lines for World War Three?

The US airstrikes on a Syrian regime airbase have hardened the dividing lines across the world in regards to the Assad regime.

They link to MailOnline Are these the battle lines for World War Three? Graphic shows which countries are siding with Russia or the US in their support – or condemnation – of Assad

  • President Donald Trump, 70, launched airstrikes on a Bashar al-Assad controlled airbase in Syria on Thursday
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today praised the American airstrike following the chemical attack
  • He said that the strikes sent a ‘strong and clear’ message that chemical weapons will not be tolerated in 2017 
  • Both Britain and Australia praised the US action as an ‘appropriate response’ to what happened in the week
  • Syria and Russia have denounced it as an ‘act of aggression’ with Putin saying it damages relationship with US

The US airstrikes on a Syrian regime airbase have hardened the dividing lines across the world in regards to the Assad regime.

MailOnline has set out world leaders’ positions on the conflict, which clearly shows the split between pro and anti-Assad countries.

It suggests which side of the battle line countries would position themselves on should the escalating crisis turn into an all out global conflict.

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The MailOnline has extensive coverage of the position of countries around the world on Syria.

The also have a time line of the conflict that began six years ago.


The U.S. attack on a Syrian air base came after years of heated debate and deliberation in Washington over intervention in the bloody civil war.

Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of the conflict, with the U.N. blaming three attacks on the Syrian government and a fourth on the Islamic State group. One of the worst yet came Tuesday in rebel-held northern Idlib and killed dozens, including women and children.

That attack prompted President Donald Trump, on day 77 of his presidency, to dramatically shift U.S. policy, with the first direct U.S. attack on the Syrian government.

Trump blamed Syrian President Bashar Assad for the attack and called on the international community to join him in trying to end the bloodshed.

A timeline of events in Syria leading up to Tuesday’s attack:

March 2011: Protests erupt in the city of Daraa over security forces’ detention of a group of boys accused of painting anti-government graffiti on the walls of their school. On March 15, a protest is held in Damascus’ Old City. On March 18, security forces open fire on a protest in Daraa, killing four people in what activists regard as the first deaths of the uprising. Demonstrations spread, as does the crackdown by President Bashar Assad’s forces.

April 2011: Security forces raid a sit-in in Syria’s third-largest city, Homs, where thousands of people tried to create the mood of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of protests against Egypt’s autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Aug. 18, 2011: President Barack Obama calls on Assad to resign and orders Syrian government assets frozen.

Summer 2012: Fighting spreads to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and its former commercial capital.

August 20, 2012: Obama says the use of chemical weapons would be a ‘red line’ that would change his calculus on intervening in the civil war and have ‘enormous consequences.’

March 19, 2013: The Syrian government and opposition trade accusations over a gas attack that killed some 26 people, including more than a dozen government soldiers, in the town of Khan al-Assal in northern Syria. A U.N. investigation later finds that sarin nerve gas was used, but does not identify a culprit.

August 21, 2013: Hundreds of people suffocate in rebel-held suburbs of the Syrian capital, with many suffering from convulsions, pinpoint pupils, and foaming at the mouth. U.N. investigators visit the sites and determine that ground-to-ground missiles loaded with sarin were fired on civilian areas while residents slept. The U.S. and others blame the Syrian government, the only party to the conflict known to have sarin gas.

Aug. 31, 2013: Obama says he will go to Congress for authorization to carry out punitive strikes against the Syrian government, but appears to lack the necessary support in the legislature.

Sept. 27, 2013: The U.N. Security Council orders Syria to account for and destroy its chemical weapons stockpile, following a surprise agreement between Washington and Moscow, averting U.S. strikes. The Security Council threatens to authorize the use of force in the event of non-compliance.

Oct. 14, 2013: Syria becomes a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, prohibiting it from producing, stockpiling or using chemical weapons.

June 23, 2014: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says it has removed the last of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons. Syrian opposition officials maintain that the government’s stocks were not fully accounted for, and that it retained supplies.

Sept. 23, 2014: The U.S. launches airstrikes on Islamic State group targets in Syria.

Aug. 7, 2015: The U.N. Security Council authorizes the OPCW and U.N. investigators to probe reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, as reports circulate of repeated chlorine gas attacks by government forces against civilians in opposition-held areas. Chlorine gas, though not as toxic as nerve agents, can be classified as a chemical weapon depending on its use.

Aug. 24, 2016: The joint OPCW-U.N. panel determines the Syrian government twice used helicopters to deploy chlorine gas against its opponents, in civilian areas in the northern Idlib province. A later report holds the government responsible for a third attack. The attacks occurred in 2014 and 2015. The panel also finds that the Islamic State group used mustard gas.

Feb. 28, 2017: Russia, a stalwart ally of the Syrian government, and China veto a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing sanctions against the Syrian government for chemical weapons use.

April 4, 2017: At least 58 people are killed in what doctors say could be a nerve gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the rebel-held Idlib province. Victims show signs of suffocation, convulsions, foaming at the mouth and pupil constriction. Witnesses say the attack was carried out by either Russian or Syrian Sukhoi jets. Moscow and Damascus deny responsibility.

April 4, 2017: President Donald Trump issues a statement saying that the ‘heinous’ actions of Assad’s government are the direct result of Obama administration’s ‘weakness and irresolution.’

April 5, 2017: Trump says Assad’s government has ‘crossed a lot of lines’ with the suspected chemical attack in Syria.

April 6, 2017: The U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria Thursday night in retaliation for this week’s gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians, U.S. officials said. It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president. Trump said strike on Syria in the ‘vital national security interest’ of the United States.


Wikipedia: Foreign involvement in the Syrian Civil War