AROUND THE WORLD: Israel Launches Fresh Attacks On Gaza As U.S Recognises Golan Heights Claims

Israel has stepped up its campaign against citizens of the Gaza strip, allegedly hitting 100 targets in the embargoed stretch of land.

The overwhelming response came after two long range rockets fired from Gaza reached Tel Aviv and hit a house. Despite allegations that the rockets may have been accidentally fired or that the blame lies with dissident anti-Hamas salafists (whom have been routinely tortured by Hamas authorities), Israel has blamed and targeted Hamas in spite of a Hamas’ denial of rocket fire claiming it goes “against national consensus“. Similarly, the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees have denied undertaking the militant action.

The hard hitting response should come as no surprise as embittered Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to improve his damaged reputation from this years corruption revelations and trial. However, he has seen himself outflanked by his newfound ultra-right reactionary government partners. The co leaders of the New Right (Hayamin Hehadash) party, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, have called for further strikes stating “Bombing an empty building and then feeling good, as if this is what is deterring Hamas, is nonsense, it does not work.” Bennett has since said that he wishes for the IDF “to open the gates of hell” against Hamas. Despite this, it seems that Netanyahu has remained the budding face of the Israeli right, with a recent poll revealing that most Israelis think the PM is too weak on Gaza, but will vote for him anyway.

Since these events, recent developments have shown yet more heightened tensions on the Gaza border. In recent border clashes, it is alleged that Gaza protesters have thrown some 500 explosive at the IDF throughout Thursday night. The factions in Gaza have also called the Palestinian masses to yet again participate in the “Great Return March”. It comes one year after the deadly events of Land Day in March. Whilst organisers have called for the event to be peaceful, the IDF’s response is likely to be as aggressive as every other time Palestinians have marched to the border. The IDF has since showcased no signs of any peaceful intent.

All this has come amid a new atmosphere of budding American support for Israeli claims in the Middle East. This week saw the United States government recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israel had captured the territory after the 6 Days War and the construction of illegal settlements soon began after. The rest of the international community has long since regarded the area as being under occupation, which was showcased in the European Union member state’s unanimous rejection of Trumps proclamation.

In response to the US proclamation, locals in the Golan Heights participated in large scale demonstrations, with many holding posters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, defiantly declaring their loyalty to Damascus. Syria itself has called the move “blatant aggression”, further stating that Washington was “the main enemy” of Arabs.

State controlled Syrian Arab News Agency photos showcasing protests against Trumps announcement. Assad loyalists were joined by Druze sympathisers and SSNP members

With tensions once again building, both Netanyahu and Trump are no doubt looking to play on their nationalist electorate as both find themselves embattled with investigations. Whilst Trump has considerably less pressure than Netanyahu, whom is soon to be facing trial for corruption, he is no doubt looking to once again whip up his nationalist voting base for next years election. Much of Trumps biggest support has come from New Right Evangelicals who support Israel wholeheartedly due to their apocalyptic belief that the Jews must return to Israel as a precondition for Christ’s Second Coming. Netanyahu meanwhile has attempted to placate his far right support base despite anger at perceived lack of action simmering from settlers and neo-fascists alike. Whatever lies ahead for the two figures, the occupied peoples of Gaza and Golan are likely to feel the brunt of the consequences from the decision making processes of Netanyahu and Trump.

Sam Glasper is TPN’s Foreign Affairs Commentator and studies at Manchester Metropolitain University.

The Oil Rush: Venezuela vs. Saudi Arabia

In today’s corporate-focused world, black is the new yellow, oil is the new gold. To have this asset can prove to be either a gift or a curse for oil-rich countries. For example, Saudi Arabia has turned great profits while countries like Iraq paid the heavy price of a US invasion and damaging aftermath. While oil is typically thought to be abundant in countries like Saudi Arabia, there is a country closer to the United States which wears the golden crown in the oil industry but is unwilling to share its jewels with the US. In 2013, the EIA reported that Venezuela has 297.6 billion barrels of oil with Saudi Arabia closely behind with 267.91 billion barrels. 

What is the difference between Venezuela and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? One country enjoys a cosy relationship with the United States while the other refuses to bow to US interests. Before Hugo Chávez won the 1998 Venezuelan election, Venezuela was an example of a prosperous country (under capitalist standards). While Venezuela was portrayed as a booming country, the reality was that it was a tale of two cities; mass inequality existed between the upper and working classes. It was not until Chávez took leadership that inequality decreased dramatically and many industries (including the Venezuelan oil industry) was nationalised. This, of course, struck a chord with the US who had interests in the country which were being threatened by the radical move. Because of this anti-imperialist jab, the US thought they’d hit back with a huge blow to Chávez; they used the oldest trick in the corporatist book and that was to stage a coup and prop up a pro-US leader. In 2002 the middle classes took to the streets of Venezuela and forced Chávez to stand down which of course he did- only to return to power two days later. The Bush administration denied being involved in the coup which of course is very true because corporate America is very honest and transparent when it comes to these matters. 

When Hugo Chávez lost the battle to cancer in 2013, the responsibility of leading the South American nation was put on his close associate, Nicolás Maduro (who is often revered as the second death of Hugo Chavez due to the fact that the crisis which began at the end of Chávez’s administration became worse under his watch). Under Maduro’s leadership, food and medicine shortages worsened as did starvation hence the exodus of Venezuelans from the country. However, one cannot put the entire blame on Maduro and Chavez for the crisis; sanctions imposed by the USA have also played a huge part in the crisis. In the hopes of getting out the country out of the swamp, Nicolás Maduro tried to use one of the easiest tricks in the book and that was printing money which only backfired.  And this is where Juan Guaidó comes in to save the day, or so the US and their allies want you to think.

Juan Guaidó, the leader of the “Voluntad Popular” party (“Popular Will” in English), declares himself interim president of Venezuela which received mixed reactions from all parts of the world. The United States, Colombia and Brazil unsurprisingly recognise Guaido as the president without hesitation while Russia, Cuba and Turkey show support for Maduro. Uruguay has decided to stay neutral and called for negotiations and new elections. 

While this may seem like a revolution which will lead to freedom and democracy for the Venezuelan people, those who have lived long enough or have read the history of US interventions in Latin and South America would know all too well that US interventions prove to be disastrous for the working people and only beneficial to the corporatist businessmen. If you want to see truly how disastrous US intervention has been just look at Chile 1973 when the democratically elected Salvador Allende was overthrown in a coup and replaced with the fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet, all due to the fact that Allende nationalised the copper industry (which was big business for the USA in Chile at the time). The US preaches of bringing democracy and human rights to the countries they interfere in whether it be through a coup or actual military action however Pinochet was notorious for his human rights abuses. This is the leader who used rape as a torture method for women. So if the US has propped up despicable dictators in the past, how is Venezuela any different? How is Juan Guaidó going to be good for the working classes of Venezuela? The answer is, he is not. He is not being put in power to serve the Venezuelan people, he is being put into power to serve the line of oil companies wanting access to the country’s oil.

The 2002 coup against Chávez is not the only piece of hard evidence to suggest that the US has been itching to interfere in the South American nation, John Bolton expressed that a regime change would be “a major step forward”. Nikki Haley (the former US ambassador to the UN) congratulated the election victory of Jair Bolsonaro and expressed how Brazil would be useful in “the fight against dictatorships in Venezuela and Cuba” as well as against “China’s expanding influence in the region”.

Due to sour relations with the United States during the Chávez era, Venezuela has aligned itself with the United States’ biggest enemies, Russia and China (after all the enemy of your enemy is your friend). Russia and Venezuela have a good relationship especially when it comes to the military and weapons. Hugo Chávez signed a $2.9bn arms deal in exchange for Russian fighter aircraft which allowed the Kremlin to buy Venezuelan oil assets at a cheaper price. China gave $70bn to Venezuela for development projects which Maduro still owes $13bn of. In exchange for this, China has imported crude oil from Venezuela. Meanwhile, the US has been shut out of Venezuela’s oil business after the country stopped accepting US dollars as payment, in response to US sanctions. Given that Brazil and Colombia have shown opposition to the Maduro regime and do share borders with Venezuela, it is no surprise that they would play some part in US intervention (after all Colombia was accused of being behind the drone attack which was thought to be an attempt on Maduro’s life). So it seems as if the US has backed Venezuela into a corner hence making it easier to interfere. If the regime survives a coup, it is possible that the next step the USA would take is a military intervention which will be calamitous.

Nicolás Maduro is not exactly an angel, he has shown no regard for human rights and his election victory in 2018 was shut down by many due to rigging. However Juan Guaidó is not a saviour or a messiah for the Venezuelan people either, he has not been elected by the Venezuelan people and was relatively unknown until he became the leader of the opposition party just over a month ago. The basis of Guaidó using an illegitimate election to declare himself president is actually unconstitutional as Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution does not include fraudulent or illegitimate elections as a basis in which a person can declare themselves as president. To further support this, the UN independent expert who is responsible for promoting democratic and inequitable international order, (Alfred de Zayas) tweeted that Article 233 cannot be manipulated to justify Guaidó’s self-declaration and that ” a coup is a coup”. It is also important to take into account that a majority of the opposition parties in Venezuela disagree with Juan Guaidó self swearing. 

So Venezuela is stuck in between a rock and a hard place. How can the country come to a resolution? Well, the most sensible thing is there to be negotiations between Maduro and the opposition parties in order to reach a solution. New elections must be called, this time free and fair so the Venezuelan people can truly decide their own destiny instead of a handful of oil corporatists. A US-backed coup will be catastrophic for Venezuela regardless of whether it succeeds or fails. A failed coup attempt may embolden Maduro to become more dictatorial in order to keep his position or worst of all it could lead to a civil war. A successful coup attempt may cause pro-Maduro rebels to rebel which may escalate to a civil war. It is possible that Juan Guaidó may become dictatorial and will be worse for the Venezuelan people than Maduro (as seen in the past with US-backed leaders). We, the world cannot witness another catastrophic coup or civil war. We cannot allow Venezuela to become the Syria or the Libya of South America and we cannot allow US imperialism to win. To support a regime change is to support corporatism. To support a corporatist democracy goes against everything that constitutes a Democrat. The world must stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan people.

AROUND THE WORLD: Venezuelan President Maduro Claims the KKK Rule The White House, Here’s Why He’s Right

In a BBC interview held this week, president Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela claimed that Donald Trump is an open white supremacist and that the Ku Klux Klan run the White House. When he made this claim, he seemed rather bemused that he had to explain this to interviewer Orla Guerin. Indeed, when you look at the bloody history of ingrained white supremacy of the United States, Maduro’s claims are not as controversial as they first appear.

An exploration of American fascism has already been touched upon in an earlier TPN article, but with Yankee chauvinism at yet another staggering high under Trump, the need to analyse the violent white supremacist nature of American exceptionalism has become vital.

Klanist thought has remained dominant in domestic American affairs. Proof of this can be found in the continued discrimination of black people in the United States. Old Jim Crow habits reared their heads in last years mid terms where, in Georgia, 50,000 mostly black votes became invalidated. Before the November election, Secretary of State Brian Kemp was sued for having found to be suppressing minority votes. The events are a reminder of America’s draconian voting laws that have, seemingly in certain areas, not moved on since the literacy tests of Jim Crow.

Whilst the KKK have died off as America’s dominant white supremacist paramilitary, their practices can still be found today in America’s heavily militarised policed force. The past few years have seen multiple controversial shootings of African Americans in the US, which has been followed by a lack of accountability or conviction of offending officers. Recent shootings and lack of prosecution are reminiscent of the era of Jim Crow where alleged murderers of black people would regularly be found not guilty by all-white juries. This issue is deep seated in the American justice system. Even today, all white juries and their allegedly racially biased decision making have remained prevalent. An earlier TPN article has outlined how US police assassinated Black Panthers and collaborated with Neo-Nazis to commit appalling acts of mass murder with impunity. Clearly domestically, Maduro’s claims of an America dominated by Ku Kluxism rings true.

Trumps own white supremacy has been examined in another TPN article, but whilst his far right flirtations (enabling of fascist violence of Charlottesville and sharing of Britain First Islamophobic posts) need to be showcased, they are hardly anything new. The United States was built on the idea of Manifest Destiny, an imperialist notion that holds that the US was destined by God to expand its dominion and spread capitalism. It is the very foundation of American fascist exceptionalism and its widespread propagation that directly led to the genocide of America’s indigenous populations.

Maduro’s claims are most evident in the blood-soaked history of American foreign policy. This is where it becomes obvious where Maduro’s thinking, with regards to the current coup in Venezuela, comes from. In Chile, the CIA (whilst “making the economy scream”) backed the neo-fascist Fatherland and Liberty Nationalist Front paramilitary group in an attempting to sabotage the democratically elected socialist Allende government. In Bolivia, the US forces used the “Butcher of Lyon” and Gestapo functionary Klaus Barbie to track down and execute Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. In Indonesia, the US embassy handed out lists of suspected communists to far right death squads who embarked on the genocide of over half a million people. And in perhaps the most staggering and shady example, the US heavily participated in NATO stay behind operations in Italy and Turkey. Operation Gladio, as it was known, led to the Strategy of Tension model where US backed neo-fascist terrorists who would commit disgusting acts of terror and blame them on radical left groups.

The list of examples of American support for foreign fascists is endless. Even recently, as detailed in a TPN article, it was discovered that American Nazi riot participants had been trained by Ukrainian Nazis whom have previously found themselves in possession of Pentagon weapons and used them to commit pogroms against Ukraine’s Roma population. The history of homicidal white supremacy is astounding and supports Maduro’s claims to the utmost extent.

With all this in mind it should hardly be surprising that there is truth to Maduro’s claims, which no doubt seem outlandish to the naive supporters of American “democracy”. The useful idiots and stooges of US imperialism should note America’s viscous white supremacy when it comes to the coup in Venezuela. The coup is being partly directed by Elliot Abrams who is currently being questioned by Congress over the role he played in propagating and covering up the El Mozoto massacre which featured the mass rape and murder of children as young as two, as outlined in a previous TPN piece.

Whilst it first may seem spurious to claim that the United States (which is allegedly the bastion of democracy around the globe) is run by the Klan, the practices and thought processes of American elites from the foreign policy propagators to the CIA, police, and justice system all point to a narrative that the US is gripped by an ideology of Klan-like white supremacy. As of today, this very grip seems all the more vice-like and unshakeable.

Sam Glasper is TPN’s foreign affairs correspondent and studies Politics at Manchester Metropolitain University.

AROUND THE WORLD: Mexican President, AMLO announces budget and reaches agreement with US as migrant crisis continues

December has seen the inauguration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (commonly referred to as AMLO) who won a landslide electoral win in Mexico. The leader of the National Regeneration Movement has long been regarded as a left wing populist and can be seen as a latecomer to the “pink tide” of left wing electoral victories that swept Latin America in the 2000’s. Promising a range of commitments from inequality to crime to corruption, he now also faces a different issue as numerous migrant caravans from Central America have entered the country.

Many of the migrants are from Honduras, escaping the consequences of a US backed coup in 2009 and fleeing from persecution from death squads. The United States long running “war on drugs” has not stemmed the rise of gangs and drug squads who still extol influence in many Latin American states. The result has been a high profile shift of migrants seeking asylum in both Mexico and the US.

Meanwhile AMLO’s rhetoric has been progressive on the issue sharply contrasting with US president Trump who has become infamous from his anti immigration rhetoric. Trump has recently stirred up his nativist voting base once again, against the migrant caravans even implying that troops will shoot resisting migrants. His rhetoric has so far been matched by US immigration policy. Last week saw the tragic and entirely preventable death of Jakelin Caal, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died of dehydration and shock in the custody of U.S. border enforcement officials. The case is a clear example of the result of the draconian US immigration system, indicative of the world wide treatment of migrants and shows the inhumanity of the US administration.

As a result of this, Mexico and the US have agreed on a $35.6-billion development plan to curb migration. The plan which seeks to fund the central American states and thus improve the livelihoods of many low income citizens, has however been met with scepticism as most of the United States’ contribution is not new funding. Also with most of the money coming from private sector loans, it is unlikely to address the long terms problems that neo-liberalism and the “Washington Consensus” have created for the region.

AMLO’s election can however, be clearly seen as yet another reaction to the austerity policies set out by the IMF, the US and the WTO on Latin America. Despite this, the president has presented a rather sober budget, pursuing a goal of social democratic income reform whilst calming the markets. This has resulted in a rather limp reformist budget which sets a target for a primary surplus of 1% of gdp after an expected 0.8% this year. There were plans to spend 125 billion pesos on scholarships for the young but the programme will now get a little more than a third of that. The budget also allocates 60 billion pesos of new money for a universal pension for old people, 20 billion pesos less than originally proposed.

AMLO will no doubt seek to fulfil his promise of transforming Mexican society but held in the restrictions of social democracy and with heavy US economic pressure coming from above, the president will no doubt have to change his game as migrancy continues to rise and the “Washington Consensus” remains so far unbroken in the country.

Trump’s first real test of resolve

The current situation regarding the relationship between the US and North Korea is that of great tension. Trump is faced with a nation developing nuclear capabilities, and the motivation is widely believed to be to deter US intervention in Kim Jong-un’s regime.

The US are unlikely to try to topple the regime if North Korea could respond with a nuclear attack. Kim Jong-un sees nuclear weapons as the key to avoiding the fates which befell Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. To the US, however, the concept of a nation not within NATO, i.e. not controllable, possessing nuclear weapons, is disturbing, and they would like to keep the number of nations that fit this criterion to a minimum. What an American administration cannot have is a North Korea that is capable of striking the US mainland.

In an attempt to achieve their goal, North Korea have been conducting regular missile tests over the past few years, with 12 tests since February alone. The legality of nuclear tests is a grey area. However, whilst for most countries the testing of nuclear weapons is illegal, North Korea, not being a signatory of any of the relevant treaties, is not bound by such laws. There are other complicating legal factors, however, so the US could potentially use international law as a justification for evasive action.

Throughout the Obama administration, the attitude to the tests was condemnation, while the general attitude was that it would not be ideal were North Korea to attain the capability, but since Trump has taken office, the tests have increased in frequency, and intelligence suggests North Korea are getting uncomfortably close to having a weapon capable of striking the US – some even suggest they are there already. It should be added that Japan and South Korea, both US allies in the region, are already very vulnerable.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported on research carried out by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency which suggested that North Korea had successfully developed nuclear warheads for missiles within reach of the US. In a move that shocked both Washington and the world, Trump responded robustly, stating that future threats would be ‘met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.’ Whether being so provocative was wise it remains to be seen – Obama was too weak regarding North Korean missile tests, but you could argue Trump has gone too far in the opposite direction.

Since Trump’s statement, North Korea have developed a plan to launch a missile strike into the sea near to Guam, a US overseas territory. The situation therefore is on a balance. The key middle man in this therefore is China. Since taking office, the China – USA relationship seems to have improved under Trump, and China have vowed to defend the US if North Korea launched a first attack. If, however, Trump launched a preemptive strike, I suspect China would side with North Korea; it’s highly unlikely they’d remain militarily neutral.

Trump has a bit of a problem here. We know for certain that if North Korea were to strike Guam instead of testing a missile nearby, it would be an attack on US citizens and soil, and Trump would have to respond with force, lest he undermine the ‘fear factor’ in his country’s nuclear deterrent. The same would be true for the UK. If an aggressor attacked us with nuclear weapons, the only option would be to retaliate. If not, our nuclear deterrent would become obsolete and the ‘fear factor’ of our nuclear arsenal removed.

Having retaliated, Trump would therefore move to destroy the North Korean capability. Given that their missiles are land based, this would be fairly easy. It would be a case of wiping out the missile launch sites. Whether Trump deemed it fit to attack Pyongyang as well as the launch sites would probably depend on the death toll in Guam. However, it should be stressed that whichever he chooses to destroy, he could do it using non-nuclear ordinance. This would be preferable. He’d destroy the target, whether it be the launch site or Pyongyang, without making the area uninhabitable with radiation fallout, and without radiation fallout into South Korea, a US ally. There is a possibility that a strike aimed at Guam could be neutralised mid-air, preventing loss of life. I suspect even if the US were able to destroy a missile headed for Guam, they would treat it as an act of war and would respond in a way similar to how they would if it had impacted Guam.

Throughout all this, the message from the Trump administration has been clear: we will try diplomacy, but if not, military options are on the table. This is exactly how one must act when faced with an aggressor. Try diplomacy, but if diplomacy fails, military options become real options. Joseph Yun, the US envoy for North Korea policy, and Pak Song, a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s UN mission, have been in contact, and media outlets have also reported that Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, has also been in touch with Pyongyang.

On Friday, 11 August, Trump tweeted: ‘Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!’ The key here is ‘should North Korea act unwisely.’ The military options to which he refers will not be used unless North Korea were to launch a first strike. The statement seems to therefore rule out a pre-emptive strike.

The best advice throughout the days and weeks ahead are to remain calm. Nothing is going to happen suddenly. It should be remembered that North Korea have nothing to gain out of attacking Guam, and will be well aware that to do so would be suicidal on a national scale. Trump may seem mad and unpredictable, but in fact I believe he has shown in this latest episode that he is predictable, and will do what is necessary to keep America – and the world – safe.

What angers me are references to World War Three. Should this boil over, and I stress that I see this as incredibly unlikely, the outcome will be the destruction of North Korea. No country will come to their aid, thus the term ‘World War’ is completely inaccurate. The situation is likely to calm down. Whilst the media have a habit of overreacting in international relations and spreading panic, this is likely muscle flexing and nothing more. Trump’s handling of the situation doesn’t worry me, nor does his access to the nuclear launch codes.