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Eric Margolis

What ISIS Really Has in Mind


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Recent attacks by ISIS sympathizers in Paris, London and San Bernardino, California, are not random acts of mindless violence and gory atrocities. Far from it, they are part of a well-developed strategy by the Islamic State, or ISIS, to draw the western powers into a far larger war in the Mideast. They are being aided in this quest by the loud-mouthed right of American, British and French politics.

They are drawing inspiration from the defeats of the Anglo-British army of Hicks Pasha in the Sudan in 1883 that was lured up the Nile then ambushed and swamped by 300,000 Dervish and tribal warriors. And by the defeat in Afghanistan of the British at Maiwand in the second Anglo-Afghan War of 1880.
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Think Before You Rush to War!

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Concentration of forces is the most basic law of military science. Victory on the battlefield is won by amassing as many troops as possible at the key point of attack, or ‘schwerpunkt,’ as it’s known in German.

Unfortunately, the amateur strategists in the White House seem to have been studying social anthropology and women’s issues instead of basic military science. What they want is, to use the term coined by Russian poet Yevtuschenko, a half war.

This week, Pentagon chief Ash Carter, announced the US would send about 200 more special forces troops to Iraq and Syrian to fight the Islamic State. After vowing not to send troops to the Mideast, President Obama has by now deployed 3,500 new US soldiers to Iraq for “training.”
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The City of Light Falls Dark

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On Friday the 13th, Paris, the City of Light, was plunged into darkness and fear.

At least eight young jihadists, allegedly from the so-called Islamic State group, attacked the national sports stadium, where President Francois Hollande was attending a soccer match with Germany’s foreign minister. They also attacked outdoor cafes, a pizzeria and a rock club.

As of this writing, 127 civilians were killed and dozens wounded. All of the attackers are believed to have died. For the second time this year, Paris is terror-struck and shaken to its foundation. Pope Francis aptly described the attacks as “homicidal madness.”

What was Islamic State’s objective in attacking all these improbable soft targets? Madness is not a sufficient motive. Clearly, Islamic State’s 20-somethings were bombing and shooting up targets that youngsters frequented, like a pizzeria or Friday night heavy metal concert. Their objective: to kill as many people as possible in a pure revenge attack.

Islamic State (IS), a collection of young hooligans, misguided idealists, and bitter riff-raff, have warned the West, “we will make you feel what we have felt.” They adopted this slogan from the Chechen independence fighters who resorted to attacks on Russian civilians after Russian forces killed an estimated 100,000 of their people in the 1990’s.
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The Older, Better Canada is Back Again

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I used to call Canada "the land that time forgot." While the rest of the world lurched from crisis to crisis, Canada remained peaceful, humane, prosperous, progressive, and famously polite, a sort of North American Scandinavia.

Polls showed that Canada, for all its blandness and low profile, was one of the world’s most respected nations. The ethos of Canada was to make nice to everyone, aid less fortunate nations, shine at the UN, and make peace-keeping a national cause.

That was, of course, until the old political order broke down after a series of scandals in Quebec. The Conservatives, an insurgent party made up of farmers and other reactionaries from the western provinces (aka ‘Canadian Republicans), gained power as first a minority government, then majority.

For ten years, the rightwing Conservatives political leader from Alberta, Stephen Harper, held power in Ottawa. He rapidly turned once easy-going Canada into something resembling a dictatorship-light in which Parliament was reduced to a rubber stamp, the courts were often cowed, and parts of the media brought under Harper’s control. Nastiness replaced politeness.
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Turkey: Slow-Motion Crash

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Turkey, once a pillar of Mideast stability, looks increasingly like a slow-motion truck crash. What makes this crisis so tragic is that not very long ago Turkey was entering a new age of social harmony and economic development.

Today, both are up in smoke as this week’s bloody bombing in Ankara that killed 99 people showed. America’s ham-handed policies in the Mideast have set the entire region ablaze from Syria to South Sudan and Libya. Turkey sits right on top of the huge mess, licked by the flames of nationalist and political conflagrations and now beset by 2 million Syrian refugees.

As Saddam Hussein predicted, George W. Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq opened the gates of hell. Attempts by Washington to overthrow Syria’s Alawite regime – a natural US ally – have destroyed large parts of that once lovely nation and produced the worst human disaster since the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the late 1940’s and 1967.

Turkey, once a pillar of Mideast stability, looks increasingly like a slow-motion truck crash.  What makes this crisis so tragic is that not very long ago Turkey was entering a new age of social harmony and economic development.
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The Russian Bear Growls

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Frankfurt, Germany –Could anyone in the Obama administration have been so slow-witted to imagine that Russia wouldn’t move hard to counter US efforts to overthrow Moscow’s ally, Syria? 

The Syrian war began almost five years ago by the US, France, Britain and Saudi Arabia to overthrow Syria’s Iranian and Russian-backed government. The result so far: 250,000 dead, 9.5 million refugees flooding Europe and Syria shattered. 

This is nothing new: the first CIA coup attempt to overthrow a Syrian ruler Gen. Husni Zaim was in 1949.

A combination of imperial hubris and ignorance has led Washington to believe it could overthrow any government that was disobedient or uncooperative. Syria was chosen as the latest target of regime change because the Assad regime – a recognized, legitimate government and UN member –was a close ally of America’s Great Satan, Iran. Formerly it had been cooperating with Washington.

After watching Syria be slowly destroyed, Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, moved his rook onto the Syrian chessboard. For the first time since 1991, Moscow sent a small expeditionary unit of 50 warplanes to Syria both to shore up the Assad regime and to reaffirm that Russia has long-standing strategic interests in Syria.
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The Russians are Coming!

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The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” So echoed the cry this week from the Pentagon, the US media and Republican candidates for president.

How silly. It seems the Russians have sent six tanks to Syria, some medium artillery and a bunch of military technicians to two bases on Syria’s coast near Latakia. According to Republican warmongers, the wicked Soviets…ooops, sorry, Russians…are intervening militarily in the five-year old Syrian War and planning new bases in the strategic Mideast nation.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. The United States has about 800 bases and military installations around the globe. Russia has only a handful of small bases near its borders.

The exception is in Syria where Russia has had a small naval supply/repair facility in Tartus and an electronic listening post for almost 50 years. Moscow has long been Syria’s principal foreign ally and arms supplier.
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How to End the Refugee Flood

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Remember when America erupted in fury over France’s refusal to support the US invasion of Iraq in 2003?  President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Dominque de Villepin warned that George Bush’s unprovoked aggression against Iraq would destabilize the Mideast and inflict untold dangers on Europe.

America’s response to the sage warning was to change the name of French fries to ‘Freedom fries’ and press ahead with the invasion of Iraq.  President Saddam Hussein of Iraq warned that an America invasion would ignite the “Mother of All Battles” and would “open the gates of Hell.”

The French leaders and Saddam were absolutely right as confirmed by the waves of desperate Mideast refugees flooding into Europe and the rampaging wildmen of Islamic State.
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Beijing Bingo

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My father, a New York financier, used to call dubious stocks or bonds, “Chinese paper.” Last week, we saw a blizzard of Chinese paper, both in China and around the world. 

As manager of a sizeable investment portfolio (an unwelcome second job from my main work, journalism), I watched last week’s near death experience on world markets with a mixture of cynicism and alarm. First of all, remember when Americans – and particularly Republicans – demonized Mao’s China and endlessly warned about the perils of Communism? 

Well, the Chinese seemed to have listened. China ditched Communism and embraced runaway capitalism – or at least a hybrid of 1900 raw capitalism and state socialism. But Chairman Mao was proven right. He warned his people against the evils of “casino capitalism” and money lending. 

The near collapse of China’s stock market in recent weeks scared the hell out of the entire world but, at least so far, really has not mattered very much. China’s markets are insulated from the rest of the world. They serve as a way of letting average people share some of China’s growth and as a form of national lottery – call it Beijing bingo.

Western stock markets are also semi-rigged casino games in which the big boys and their ultra high speed computer systems almost always win at the expense of small fry.
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Republicans Can't Face the Truth About Iraq

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Gov. Jeb Bush repeated one of the biggest falsehoods of our time during the recent presidential candidate debate: “we were misled (into the Iraq War) by faulty intelligence.”

US intelligence was not “misled.” It was ordered by the real, de facto president, Dick Cheney, to provide excuses for a war of aggression against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. 

PM Tony Blair, forced British intelligence services to “sex up” reports that Iraq had nuclear weapons; he purged the government and the venerable broadcaster BBC of journalists who failed to amplify Blair’s lies. Bush and Blair reportedly discussed painting a US Air Force plane in UN colors and getting it to buzz Iraqi anti-aircraft sites in hope the Iraqis would fire on it. Bush told Blair that after conquering Iraq, he intended to invade Iran, Syria, Libya and Pakistan.

In fact, Iraq had no “weapons of mass destruction,” save some rusty barrels of mustard and nerve gas that had been supplied by the US and Britain for use against Iran. I broke this story from Baghdad back in late 1990.
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