Sunday, January 31, 2016

War in Syria: Russia’s 'rustbucket' military delivers a hi-tech shock to West and Israel

EDITOR'S CHOICE | 31.01.2016 | 21:53

Their army’s equipment and strategy was “outmoded”; their air force’s bombs and missiles were “more dumb than smart”; their navy was “more rust than ready”. For decades, this was Western military leaders’ view, steeped in condescension, of their Russian counterparts. What they have seen in Syria and Ukraine has come as a shock. 
Russian military jets have, at times, been carrying out more sorties in a day in Syria than the US-led coalition has done in a month. The Russian navy has launched ballistic missiles from the Caspian Sea 900 miles way, and kept supply lines going to Syria. The air defences installed by the Russians in Syria and eastern Ukraine would make it extremely hazardous for the West to carry out strikes against the Assad regime or Ukrainian separatists.
Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the commander of the US army in Europe, has described Russian advances in electronic warfare in Syria and Ukraine – a field in which they were typically supposed to be backward – as “eye watering”.
The chief of US Air Force operations in Europe and Africa, Lieutenant General Frank Gorenc, has disclosed that Moscow is now deploying anti-aircraft systems in Crimea, which the Kremlin annexed from Ukraine last year, and in Kaliningrad, an enclave between Lithuania and Poland. It is doing so, he says, in a way that makes it “very, very difficult” for Nato planes to gain access safely to areas including parts of Poland. 
It is not just Nato member states watching the Russians with concern. Israel, too, sees the build-up of Russian weaponry across its northern border in Syria and wonders where it will all end. Their apprehension is that the advanced equipment already in situ in the Middle East will end up with Iran, viewed as an existential threat to the Jewish state, or with other Arab countries, thus eroding the air superiority that is Israel’s primary advantage over its neighbours.
It is this military might that is underpinning President Vladimir Putin’s strategic triumphs. His intervention in Syria has been a game changer and what happens there now lies, to a large extent, in his hands. The Ukraine conflict is semi-frozen, on his terms. The Russians are allying with the Kurds, unfazed by the Turkish anger this has provoked. And, crucially, they are now returning to Egypt to an extent not seen for 44 years, since they were kicked out by President Anwar Sadat.
One of the most senior analysts in Israeli military intelligence toldThe Independent in Tel Aviv last week: “Anyone who wants anything done in this region is beating a path to Moscow.”
Mr Putin has relished pointing out the significance of the West seeing “for the first time that these weapons do exist, that they are of high quality, and that we have well-trained people who can put them to effective use. They have now seen, too, that Russia is ready to use them if this is in the interest of our country and our people.”
In Syria the Russians have been conducting as many air strikes a day, up to 96, as the US-led coalition has carried out in a month. This is in marked contrast, Western military planners have noted, to how quickly Nato began to feel the strain when bombing Libya and Kosovo.
One reason for the dearth of coalition sorties is that its Sunni state members are carrying out scarcely any missions, focusing instead on Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Operations by Turkey, meanwhile, have been overwhelmingly against the Kurds rather than Isis.
Western defence officials also contend that the Russians are hitting other rebel groups in the guise of attacking Isis and that they are more indiscriminate in their targeting  because they are less sensitive to any evidence of civilian casualties and because of their lack of precision-guided weaponry.
But Russia had never promised it was going to attack only Isis. Instead, it declared that “all terrorists” would be targeted. This, conveniently for Mr Putin and President Bashar al-Assad, has included more moderate rebel groups. Experience of the Chechen wars show that the Kremlin is, indeed, more prepared to shrug off “collateral damage” than the West. It is also true that there were not enough Russian guided bombs and missiles in the first stage of the Syrian mission: Moscow’s claim that it has used precision weapons alone does not stand up to scrutiny.
The aircraft, missiles and bombs used at first were a mix of old, dating from the Soviet era, and relatively new. There are 34 fixed-wing aircraft based at Latakia: 12 Su-25s and four Su-30SM fighter-bombers; 12 ageing Su-24M2s and six Su-34s. There are also helicopters and an unspecified number of drones.
However, more of the most advanced of these, the Su-34, codenamed Fullback by Nato, have been replacing older aircraft. One reason for this is that aircraft such as the Su-25, a veteran of the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, are vulnerable to Manpads – shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles – which Moscow suspects the Turks and the Saudis have been supplying to Sunni rebels.
    The introduction by the Kremlin of advanced air-defence systems has gained impetus since the shooting down of a Russian jet by the Turks. The S-400 Triumph system is a source of great Israeli worry should it fall into “wrong hands”. This has an array radar that continuously monitors the skies, and a missile battery which can shoot down targets 250 miles away. One such array is positioned at the Russian base at Latakia and covers half of Israeli airspace.
    The deployment of Russian electronic warfare equipment in Ukraine and Syria, such as the Krasukha-4 which can jam Awacs and satellite radar systems, has been another sobering experience for Nato. Ronald Pontius, deputy to the US Army head of cyber command, stated: “You cannot but come to the conclusion that we are not making progress at the pace the threat demands.”
    Gen Gorenc, while bemoaning the proliferation by Russia and worrying about Nato’s capabilities, acknowledged that Russia was not breaking any international agreements and “has every right” to deploy these systems. In Syria, he said, the Russians were using “cruise missiles, they are using bombers. It is clear that they are desiring to show the ability they have to affect not just regional events, but worldwide events.” 
    That, indeed, is the point. The question for the West is whether to react to this by initiating a new chapter of confrontation with Moscow, or one of greater accommodation.
    Kim Sengupta, IndependentIndependent

    Latin America Has to Fight and Win! by ANDRE VLTCHEK on Counterpunch

    the Western Left does not exist anymore - They openly hate Russia, China and other non-Western nations. Frankly, they are racist - It is time to be focused and recognise:  
    True powerhouses of resistance against Western imperialism: Russia, China, Iran or South Africa and in fact, even Latin America itself.Vltchek 

    For now, Argentina is lost and Venezuela is deeply wounded, divided and frustrated. Virtually everywhere in socialist Latin America, well-orchestrated and angry protests are taking place, accusing our left-wing governments of mismanagement and corruption.
    What was gained during those years of hard work and sacrifices, is suddenly evaporating in front of our eyes. And there seems to be no way to stop the trend in the foreseeable future. Whatever magnificent work our governments have done have been smeared. Western propaganda and its local serfs belittle the achievements of our people. In several countries, revolutionary zeal has almost entirely vanished.
    It is clear, even with an unarmed eye that great progress had been made. Those of us who knew Ecuador two decades ago, (then a depressing country, humiliated and torn by disparities and racism), are now impressed by its wonderful social services, free culture and modern infrastructure.
    Indigenous people of Bolivia are proudly in possession of their own land.
    Venezuela has been inspiring the entire Latin America and the world by its internationalism and determined struggle against Western imperialism.
    Chile, step by small step, has been dismantling the grotesque legacy of Pinochet’s dictatorship, moving firmly towards socialism.
    There are hundreds of great and inspiring examples, all over the continent.In less than two decades, Latin America converted itself from one of the most depressing parts of the world, to the most progressive one.A few years ago, it really seemed that the Empire had finally lost. There was no way that South Americans would want to go back to the days of darkness. The achievements of socialism were too obvious, too marvelous. Who would want to go back to the gloomy nihilism, depressing feudal structures and the fascist client-state arrangements?
    Then the Empire re-grouped. It gathered its local lieutenants, its lackeys, and began striking back with deadly force.
    All the means of imperialist propaganda were applied. The goal was to convince people that what they see is not actually real. Another objective was to subvert, to torpedo most of the achievements.
    We lost elections? What nonsense!
    It was clean economic and political terror unleashed against us, and it was the most vicious propaganda, which began forcing out the left wing governments of Latin America from power!
    The world was watching, still demanding more Western-style “democracy”, more concessions. The West administered a “Fifth Column” that damaged Latin American revolutions, after infiltrating both media and brains in Caracas, Buenos Aires, even Quito. It consisted especially of the liberals and those so-called ‘progressive forces’; the same people who tried to burry the Cuban revolution after the Soviet Union had been destroyed by Western imperialism. The same people actually who were cheering the demolition of the Soviet Union itself.
    They kept pushing for anarchism and for some formulae of “participatory economy”, in fact for their own concepts, for Western, white concepts, for something that most of Latin American people who fought and won their revolutions never asked for!
    Jealous and petty, they hate the true powerhouses of resistance against Western imperialism: Russia, China, Iran or South Africa and in fact, even Latin America itself.
    Latin American people have always been intuitively longing for big, strong governments, like those in Cuba and those that lately emerged in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. And their natural allies should have been those countries from other, non-Western parts of the world, with powerful people-oriented leadership, not some European and North American individuals representing grotesque and defunct movements and “intellectual” concepts.
    In several countries, Latin America lost its way and again got derailed by Western demagoguery. Suddenly there was almost nothing left here of Chinese or Russian or Vietnamese ideas, nothing of internationalism, only Western soft liberal egotists and countless irrelevant marginal groups.
    History was forgotten. It was simple, decisive and powerful action by China that single-handedly saved Cuba, when the island-nation was hit by the Gorbachev and Yeltsin disasters. I wrote about it a lot, and Fidel quoted me, agreeing in his “Reflections”.
    It was the Soviet Union that stood in solidarity with almost all revolutionary movements of Latin America throughout the 20th century. And it was Russia that was backing Chávez during the countless Western attempts to overthrow his government.      

     Reject anarchism, liberalism and Euro-socialist concepts 
    Playing with anarchism, liberalism and Euro-socialist concepts brought several Latin American revolutions to the brink of absolute calamity. South America is at the frontline. It is under attack. There is no time for the flowery theories. I know Latin American revolutionaries. I have met many, from Eduardo Galeano to several Cuban and Sandinista leaders. I also met many of the South American ‘elites’.
    One day, not long after Evo Morales came to power in Bolivia, I spoke to a man, a member of one of the ‘leading’ families, which has in its ranks Senators, owners of mass media outlets, as well as captains of local industry.
    “We will get rid of Morales”, he told me, openly. “Because he is a dirty Indian, and because we will not tolerate lefties in this part of the world.”
    He was not hiding his plans – he was extremely confident.
    “We don’t care how much money we have to spend; we have plenty of money. And we have plenty of time. We will use our media and we will create food and consumer goods deficits. Once there is nothing to eat, once there are food lines in all the major cities, as well as great insecurity and violence, people will vote him out of power.”
    It was clearly the concept used by the Chilean fascist economic and political right wing thugs, before the 1973 US-backed coup against President Salvador Allende. “Uncertainty, shortages”, and if everything failed – then a brutal military coup.
    In Bolivia the “elites” tried and tried, but they were not successful, because there was great solidarity with the government of Evo Morales, coming from socialist countries like Brazil and Venezuela. When the Right tried to break the country to pieces, pushing for the independence of the richest, “white” province of Santa Cruz, Brazilian President Lula declared that he was going to send the mightiest army in the South American continent and “defend the integrity of the neighboring country”.
    It is beasts, and actually extremely powerful beasts, who are heading the “opposition” in South America.
    And to be frank, we can hardly speak about an “opposition”. These are oligarchs, landowners, Christian (many from the Opus Dei) demagogues and military leaders. In many ways they are still the true rulers of the continent.
    Nothing except brute force can stop them. They have unlimited financial resources, they have a propaganda machine at their disposal, and they can always count on the Empire to back them up. In fact it is the Empire that is encouraging, training and sustaining them.     ***
    “Violations of democracy and human rights!” the “opposition” yells, whenever our governments decide to hit back. It is not that we are lately hitting back really hard, but any retaliation is packaged as “brutal”.
    What do we in fact do? We arrest just a few of the most outrageous terrorists – those who are openly trying to overthrow or destabilize the state.
    But when they, the ‘elites’ and their armies, came to power, they cut open people’s stomachs, and threw them from helicopters straight into the sea.
    Their death squads violate children in front of their parents. Female prisoners are raped by specially trained German shepherds dogs, and tubes with starved rats are inserted into their vaginas.
    Entire movements and parties are liquidated by fascist South American battalions of death (some of them trained in the United States), but we must use some nice and clean tactics and “democratic means” to prevent them from grabbing power again?
    The white, racist, colonialist Christian implants from Europe have been forming so-called South American ‘elites’. They are actually some of the cruelest human beings on Earth. Thanks to them, before our latest wave of Revolutions, Latin America suffered from the greatest disparities on earth. Tens of millions of its people were murdered. It was racially divided. It was plundered. Its veins were, and to a great extent still are, open – to borrow from the terminology of the great storyteller Eduardo Galeano.
    My friend Noam Chomsky wrote about it extensively. I wrote about it in several chapters of my two latest books: : “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and Fighting Against Western Imperialism. Others have as well.
    How can people still listen to those mass murderers, with a straight face?
    One thing cannot be disputed: only a big and powerful government and its army could now defend its people. Latin American revolutionary leaders were given a mandate by the people, and they have no right to back up, to betray.
    Indecisiveness could prove lethal.
    Referendum after referendum, people expressed their support for the revolutionary Proceso, in Venezuela and elsewhere. Year after year the fascist “opposition” has been showing spite for the voices of the people, the same spite it has demonstrated for centuries.
    Sabotage after sabotage was administered, one treasonous act after another committed. As was promised by the Bolivian ‘elites’, the Venezuelan capitalist bandits paralyzed their country by shortages. Even rolls of toilet paper became ‘a deficit’. All too familiar… Like in Chile before 1973!
    The message is clear: “you want to be able to wipe your ass after shitting, then betray socialism!” Or: “You want to eat? Then down with the legacy of Chávez!”
    The will of the people is being humiliated. The elites are spitting straight into the faces of the majority.
    Some citizens are now voting for the right, simply because they are exhausted, because they are scared, because they see no solution. They are voting against their own will (as they used to in Nicaragua during the reign of Aleman), because if they vote for their own candidates, they would be made to eat shit, literally.
    But solutions are there! They are available.
    Instead of listening to some Euro-centric gurus from Slovenia or New England, the Latin American governments should ask for help and lean on such countries as Russia and China, immediately joining alternative financial institutions, forging defense treaties, working on energy and other deals with those who are actually standing up against Western imperialism.
    Latin America should never lose its independence. But with proven good friends and true powerful alliances, independence is never lost.
    Our leaders should shed their dependency on the Western Left. Mainly because the Western Left does not exist anymore, with some tiny, miniscule exceptions that proves the rule.
    What remain are a huge army of “liberals”, and then a tremendous multitude of selfish beings defending their own interests and concepts. They are horrified of those who are truly fighting and winning; therefore they openly hate Russia, China and other non-Western nations. Frankly, they are racist. Such people cannot inspire or impress anybody, and so they are trying their luck at the distant shores, diluting determination and perverting the essence of the South American revolutions.
    This is the time to be focused. South America should fight, with all its might. It is not easy, but its treasonous families, those who are destroying the precious lives of tens of millions of human beings, should be identified, arrested and tried. It should be done immediately! What many of them are actually doing is not “being in opposition”. They are interrupting the democratic process in their own countries, selling their homelands once again to foreign powers and international capital.
    Mass media outlets that are spreading misinformation, lies and foreign propaganda should also be immediately identified. They should be exposed, confronted, and if their goal is to destroy the socialist fatherland, shut down. Again, this is no time for liberal niceties.
    Freedom of expression has nothing to do with the freedom of using newspapers and television stations to spread fabrications, fear and uncertainty, or to call for the direct overthrow of democratically elected governments.
    And in South America, entire huge international newspaper and television syndicates have been working for years and decades for one single and deadly goal – to smear and liquidate the Left, and to deliver the entire continent back to the racist, fascist foreign imperialist rulers.
    It has all gone too far, and it has to stop.
    A few months ago, I was riding on the impressive Sao Paulo metro system, together with my Cuban friend.
    “It is much better than any public transportation network that I have seen in Europe or in the United States”, I exclaimed. “But people in Brazil think that it is total shit”, commented my friend, laconically.“How come?” I was shocked.“Because they are told so on the television, and because they read it in the newspapers”.
    Yes, that’s how it is! Free art, including opera, given to the Brazilian public, is nothing more than crap, if one reads the mainstream Brazilian press. Free medical care, no matter how (still) imperfect it is, is not even worth praising. Free education in so many South American countries … New transportation networks, free or heavily subsidized books, brilliant parks with brand new libraries that are mushrooming in Chile and Ecuador… Financial support for the poor, the fight to keep children in school, the fight to save the environment, countless programs to protect indigenous communities…
    Nothing, nothing, and absolutely nothing is positive in the eyes of the pro-Western South American propagandists!
    This has become one huge counter-process, financed from foreign and local sources, aimed at discrediting all those great achievements.
    False accusations  from those who have been plundering, for over 500 years
    Corruption!!! That is the new battle cry of the elites and their lackeys. Accusations of corruption are fabricated or inflated against all governments of the left: Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, even Michelle Bachelet of Chile. Cristina Kirchner’s back was almost broken by constant corruption charges.
    But how on earth could anyone take such accusations seriously, if they are coming from those who have been plundering, for over 500 years, their own continent on behalf of Europe and then the United States and multi-national corporations? Like locust, the right-wing families have been looting all the natural resources, while forcing people into near slave labor. Under horrendous feudal and fascist rulers, Latin America was converted into the pinnacle of corruption – moral and economic.Nothing was left intact, and nothing remained pure. In order to survive in such a vile system, people had to bend, twist, and maneuver. Now these same bandit clans that have been destroying the continent are smearing, pointing fingers at the governments that are, step by step, trying to reverse the trend and serve the people.
    The same bastards that were bombing restaurants and hotels in their own countries, planting bombs on passenger airliners, and assassinating thousands of innocent people, are talking about morality.Are our people, our governments, expected to reach, to achieve total purity in just one or two decades, after the entire continent had been functioning for over 500 years as a bordello of Western colonialism and imperialism?Are we going to allow ourselves to be on the defensive when facing those who robbed and raped almost everything and everybody in Latin America?
    Yes, the people of Latin America were brutalized for several long centuries. They went through unimaginable suffering. They lost everything. But they never gave up. Since the holocaust performed by Spanish, Portuguese and other European barbaric conquerors, they have been rising, rebelling and fighting for their scarred land.
    Pablo Neruda wrote a tremendous poem “Heights of Machu Picchu.” Eduardo Galeano wrote “Open Veins of Latin America”. It is all there, in those two tremendous works.
    The fight goes on, to this very moment.
    Most of the power is now, finally, in the hands of those who are determined to fight for the interests of their people.
    We have no right to be defeated. If we do, hundreds of millions will lose their future and their hope.
    Such an opportunity would not come back. It is here, for the first time in 500 years! Millions died to bring it here. If the Revolution is crashed now, it may not return in full force for who knows how many years. In simple terms it means that several more generations would be lost!
    We have to counterattack now. What are we waiting for? Of what are we afraid? That the biggest terrorist on Earth – the West – would brand us as undemocratic? That the same West that has, for centuries, overthrown our governments, murdered our leaders as well as simple men, women and children would not give us its stamp of approval? That we would be criticized by those countries, which are still looting, violating, lying and ruining?
    Our friends, our allies are not in the West. We all know how lukewarm was the support given to Venezuela, Cuba or Ecuador in Europe and North America by those “progressive forces”, and how hostile was the mainstream. We have to wake up and join forces with those who are now standing proudly and with great determination against Western imperialism and market fundamentalism.
    There is no time for experiments. This is the fight for our survival!
    As I wrote earlier, in order for the Revolutions to continue, we need big governments, determined cadres, loyal armies and mighty allies. We also need huge Latin American solidarity, true unity and integration. One monolithic South American block in fraternal embrace with other truly independent countries.
    This is an extremely serious moment, Comrades! This is damn serious.
    Anarchism and the concepts of the factories administered by workers will not save us right now.
    Argentina has fallen, but Venezuela is still standing. Each creek, each boulder has now to be defended, be it in Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela, Nicaragua or Cuba.We have to be tough, we have to be alert, and we cannot do it alone!
    Venceremos nuevamente, camaradas!
    Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and Fighting Against Western Imperialism.Discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western TerrorismPoint of No Return is his critically acclaimed political novel. Oceania – a book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about Indonesia: “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

    Saturday, January 30, 2016

    You Have Now Landed in Geneva, Syria By Pepe Escobar

     30.01.2016 | 11:12

    The alleged Syrian peace process now enters its Geneva charade stage. This could last months; get ready for lavish doses of posturing and bluster capable of stunning even Donald Trump.
    The notion that Geneva may be able to impersonate Damascus in a suit-and-tie pantomime is ludicrous to begin with. Even the UN envoy, the sartorially superb Staffan de Mistura, admits the Sisyphean task ahead – even if all relevant players were at the table.
    Then we have Syrian “opposition figure” George Sabra announcing that no delegation from the Riyadh-based High Negotiations Committee will be at the table in Geneva. As if Syrians needed an “opposition” instrumentalized by Saudi Arabia.
    So in the interest of providing context, here’s an extremely concise recap of recent, crucial facts on the Syrian ground which the “new capital” Geneva may ignore at its own peril.
    Let’s start with last summer, when Iranian Quds Force superstar commander Qasem Soleimani laid down the law, in person, in Moscow, establishing without a doubt the grim situation across the Syrian theater of war.
    Essentially Soleimani told the Kremlin and Russian intelligence that Aleppo might be about to fall; that Jabhat al-Nusra was at the doors of southern Damascus; that Idlib had fallen; and Latakia – home to Russia’s naval base at Tartus – would be next.
    One can imagine the effect of this jolt of realpolitik on President Putin’s mind. That clinched his resolution to stop the fall of Syria, and prevent it from becoming a Libyan remix.
    The Russian Air Force campaign turned out to be the ultimate game-changer. It is in the process of securing the Damascus-Homs-Latakia-Hama-Aleppo network – the urban, developed Western Syria that holds 70 percent of the country’s population. ISIS/ISIL/Daesh and/or Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria, have zero chances of taking over this territory. The rest is mostly desert.
    Jaysh al-Islam – a motley crew weaponized by Saudi Arabia – still holds a few positions north of Damascus. That’s containable. The country bumpkins in Daraa province, south of Damascus, could only make a push towards the capital in an impossible 1991 Desert Storm context.
    “Moderate rebels” – that Beltway concoction – did try to hold Homs and Al-Qusayr, cutting off the resupply of Damascus. They were repelled. As for the gaggle of “moderate rebels” who took all of Idlib province, they are being pounded mercilessly for four months now by the Russian Air Force. Aleppo’s southern front is also being secured.

    Don’t bomb “our” rebels

    It’s easy to pinpoint who’s livid with all the Russian action: Saudi Arabia, Turkey and – last but not least – the ‘Empire of Chaos’, all at the table in Geneva.
    Jabhat al-Nusra – remote-controlled by Ayman al-Zawahiri – is intimately linked to a gaggle of Salafi-jihadists in the Saudi-sponsored Army of Conquest, as well as tactically allied with myriad outfits nominally grouped in the nearly extinct Free Syrian Army (FSA).
    The CIA, using the Saudis for plausible deniability, fully weaponized “vetted” FSA outfits, which received, among other things, TOW anti-tank missiles. Guess who “intercepted” virtually all the weapons: Jabhat al-Nusra.
    The follow-up was nothing short of hilarious: Washington, Ankara and Riyadh furiously denouncing Moscow for bombing their “moderate rebels” and not ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.
    Slowly but surely, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), parallel to the Russian offensive, retook the initiative. The “4+1” – Russia, Syria, Iran (Special Forces, many of them from Afghanistan), Iraq, plus Hezbollah – started coordinating their efforts. Latakia Province – which hosts not only Tartus but the Khmeimim Russian airbase – is now under total control by Damascus.
    And that brings us to Ankara’s nightmares. Russian Air Force smashed most of Ankara’s Turkmen proxies – heavily infiltrated by Turkish fascists – in northwest Syria. That was the key reason for Sultan Erdogan’s desperate move of shooting down the Su-24.
    It’s by now clear that the winners, as it stands, on the ground, are the “4+1”, and the losers are Saudi Arabia and Turkey. So no wonder the Saudis want at least some of their proxies at the negotiating table in Geneva, while Turkey tries to change the subject by barring the Syrian Kurds: these are accused of being terrorists, much more than ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

    Exit Geneva, enter Jarabulus

    As if this was not messy enough, US ‘Think Tankland’ is now spinning there is an “understanding” between Washington and Ankara for what will be, for all practical purposes, a Turkish invasion of northern Syria, under the pretext of Ankara smashing ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in northern Aleppo.
    This is utter nonsense. Ankara’s game is three-pronged; prop up their heavily battered Turkmen proxies; keep very much alive the corridor to Aleppo – a corridor that crucially includes the Jihadi Highway between Turkey and Syria; and most of all prevent by all means necessary that YPG Kurds bridge the gap from Afrin to Kobani and unite all three Syrian Kurd cantons near the Turkish border.
    None of this has anything to do with fighting ISISL/ISIL/Daesh. And the nuttiest part is that Washington is actually assisting the Syrian Kurds with air support. Either the Pentagon supports the Syrian Kurds or Erdogan’s invasion of northern Syria; schizophrenia does not apply here.
    A desperate Erdogan may be foolish enough to confront the Russian Air Force during his purported “invasion”. Putin is on the record saying response to any provocation will be immediate, and lethal. To top it off, the Russians and Americans are actually coordinating airspace action in northern Syria.
    This is bound to be the next big thing, fully eclipsing the Geneva pantomime. The YPG and its allies are planning a major attack to finally seize the 100-kilometer stretch of the Syria-Turkey border still controlled by ISIS/ISIL/Daesh – thus reuniting their three cantons.
    Erdogan was blunt; if the YPG pushes west of the Euphrates, it’s war. Well, looks like war then. The YPG is getting ready to attack the crucial towns of Jarabulus and Manbij. Russia most certainly will aid the YPG to reconquer Jarabulus. And that will directly pit – once again – Turkey against Russia on the ground.
    Geneva? That’s for tourists; the capital of the Syrian horror show is now Jarabulus.
    Pepe Escobar,
    Tags: UN Syria

    Friday, January 29, 2016

    Nazi Roots of Ukraine’s Conflict

    EDITOR'S CHOICE | 29.01.2016 | 13:21
    The latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine, one of the leading journals in its field, offers a two-page photo essay on “what to see, do, and buy” in Lviv, a picturesque city in the Western Ukraine. “Amid the turmoil that has rocked Ukraine over the past two years,” the article gushes, “Lviv has stood firmly as a stronghold of national culture, language, and identity.”
    That’s one way of putting it. Another, less charitable way would be to note that Lviv has for nearly a century been a breeding ground of extreme Ukrainian nationalism, spawning terrorist movements, rabid anti-Semitism, and outright pro-Nazi political organizations that continue to pollute the country’s politics.
    On the lovely cobblestone streets admired today by tourists flowed the blood of some 4,000 Jews who were massacred by locals in 1941, during the German occupation. They were egged on by the radical Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), whose founder and wartime leader is today a national hero to many of his countrymen.
    On April 28, 2011, the 68th anniversary of the formation of a Ukrainian Waffen-SS division, hundreds of people marched through Lviv, with support from city council members, chanting slogans like “One race, one nation, one Fatherland!”
    Two months later, residents celebrated the 70th anniversary of the German invasion “as a popular festival, where parents with small children waived flags to re-enactors in SS uniforms,”according to the noted Swedish-American historian Per Anders Rudling.
    Later that year, extreme right-wing deputies at a nearby town in the Lviv district “renamed a street from the Soviet-era name Peace Street to instead carry the name of the Nachtigall [Nightingale] Battalion, a Ukrainian nationalist formation involved in the mass murder of Jews in 1941, arguing that ‘Peace’ is a holdover from Soviet stereotypes.’”
    Such inconvenient truths rarely get aired in Western media, but they are important for at least two reasons. They help explain the recent violent, anti-democratic upheavals that have made Ukraine the battleground of a dangerous new cold war between NATO and Russia. And they should inspire Americans to reflect on our own country’s contribution to recent political extremism in the Ukraine — going back to the early post-World War II era, when the CIA funded former Nazi collaborators to help destabilize the Soviet Union.
    The revolutionary, ultra-nationalist OUN was founded in 1929 to throw off Polish rule and establish Ukraine as an independent state. It burned the property of Polish landowners, raided government properties for funds, and assassinated dozens of intellectuals and officials, including the Polish interior minister in 1934.
    A particularly radical faction, known as OUN-B, split off in 1940 under the leadership of the young firebrand Stepan Bandera, who studied in Lviv. It enjoyed support during World War II from a Gestapo-supported secret police official, Mykola Lebed. Lebed had earlier been convicted with Bandera by Polish authorities for the 1934 murder of their interior minister, and would become notorious for his involvement in the wartime torture and murder of Jews.
    Bandera’s OUN-B collaborated closely with the German foreign intelligence service, theAbwehr, to form a German-led Ukrainian Legion. On June 30, 1941, just days after Hitler’s invasion of the USSR, OUN-B declared an independent Ukrainian state with Lviv as its capital. Lebed served as police minister of the collaborationist government.
    In the days that followed, OUN-B’s Nachtigall Battalion and its civilian sympathizers apparently slaughtered several thousand Jews and Polish intellectuals before moving on to join German forces on the Eastern Front. Another 3,000 Jews in Lviv were soon murdered by an SS death squad outside the city. OUN publications called these “exhilarating days.”
    Although the OUN, in a letter to Adolf Hitler, officially welcomed the “consolidation of the new ethnic order in Eastern Europe” and the “destruction of the seditious Jewish-Bolshevik influence,” the Nazi leader rejected their nationalist ambitions and eventually banned the OUN.
    The Germans imprisoned Bandera. His organization went underground, forming the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). There were no neat sides in the violent conflict that ensued. UPA units clashed with the Nazis on occasion, fought the Red Army much more often, and engaged in “ethnic cleansing” of thousands of Poles and Jews. (More rarely, OUN members saved local Jews as well.)
    They also killed tens of thousands of fellow Ukrainians in a bid to dictate the region’s political future. Many OUN members also directly joined police and militia groups sponsored by the Waffen-SS. Bandera himself was released by the Germans in 1944 and provided with arms to resist the advancing Red Army.
    After the war, the OUN continued its losing battle for independence. Soviet forces killed, arrested, or deported several hundred thousand members, relatives or supporters of the UPA and OUN. Bandera was assassinated by the KGB in Munich in 1959. But right-wing nationalism enjoyed a resurgence after Ukraine won its independence in 1990-91, stoked by emigrés in the West who were loyal to OUN-B and to Bandera’s memory.
    The city of Lviv in particular led the revival of Bandera worship. In 2006 it transferred his tomb to a special area of the town’s cemetery dedicated to victims of Ukraine’s national liberation struggles. It erected a statue dedicated to him and established an award in his honor.
    Finally, in 2010, Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yushchenko (who came to power in the U.S.-backed Orange Revolution), named Bandera a Hero of Ukraine for “defending national ideas and battling for an independent Ukrainian state.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center and other anti-fascist groups condemned the honor, which was annulled a year later by a Ukrainian court.
    One of Bandera’s legacies was the creation of the ultra-nationalist Social National Party in Lviv in 1991.
    “As party symbol, it chose a mirror image of the so-called Wolfsangel, or Wolf’s hook, which was used by several SS divisions and, after the war, by neo-Nazi organizations,” notes Rudling. “It organized a paramilitary guard and recruited skinheads and football hooligans into its ranks.”
    In 2004 it rebranded itself as Svoboda and dispensed with its SS imagery. Nonetheless, Svoboda’s new leader lauded the OUN and UPA for having resisted “Jews and other scum, who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state.” He was decorated by veterans of a Ukrainian Waffen-SS division and championed the cause of Ukrainian death camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk. His ideological adviser organized a think tank called the “Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center” in 2005.
    Svoboda became the largest party in Lviv in 2010 and today enjoys strong influence at the national level. It has also extended its influence by allying itself with other far-right and fascist parties in Europe.
    Most important for understanding today’s East-West crisis, Svoboda supplied many of the shock troops who turned the protests in Kiev’s Maidan Square into a violent confrontation with government forces and eventually precipitated the putsch against President Viktor Yanukovych in early 2014.  Svoboda leaders took important posts in the post-Yanukovych government, including the head of national security.
    Svoboda militants from Lviv played an important role in the violent putsch. In a story for, journalist Robert Parry cited a “human interest profile” in the New York Times of a Ukrainian protestor named Yuri Marchuk, a Svoboda leader from Lviv who was wounded at Maidan Square. Parry continued,
    “Without providing . . . context, the Times does mention that Lviv militants plundered a government weapons depot and dispatched 600 militants a day to do battle in Kiev. Marchuk also described how these well-organized militants, consisting of paramilitary brigades of 100 fighters each, launched the fateful attack against the police on Feb. 20, the battle where Marchuk was wounded and where the death toll suddenly spiked into scores of protesters and about a dozen police.
    “Marchuk later said he visited his comrades at the occupied City Hall. What the Times doesn’t mention is that City Hall was festooned with Nazi banners and even a Confederate battle flag as a tribute to white supremacy.”
    Svoboda’s cause was championed during the Maidan protests by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who egged on the crowds while standing under banners celebrating Stepan Bandera. McCain’s appearance was no accident. Since World War II, the Republican Party has been closely allied with pro-Nazi exile leaders from Eastern Europe. Many of them were recruited and paid by the CIA — and given secret legal exemptions to emigrate to the United States despite their history of war crimes.
    For example, the OUN-B Gestapo collaborator and mass murderer Mykola Lebed made his way incognito to the United States after World War II. The CIA, which valued his help in organizing resistance movements against the USSR, exercised its veto power over anti-Nazi immigration laws to legalize his residence.
    The CIA provided similar assistance to General Pavlo Shandruk, described by historian Christopher Simpson as “the chief of the Ukrainian quisling ‘government-in-exile’ created by the Nazi Rosenberg ministry in 1944.” Despite his pro-Nazi past, he received large CIA stipends to help organize intelligence networks against the Soviet Union after the war.
    The CIA and Pentagon also earmarked millions of dollars’ worth of arms and other military aid to anti-Soviet Ukrainian guerrillas in the late 1940s, despite their record of atrocities against Jews and other civilians.
    As Simpson concludes in his 1988 book Blowback, “In hindsight, it is clear that the Ukrainian guerrilla option became the prototype for hundreds of CIA operations worldwide that have attempted to exploit indigenous discontent in order to make political gains for the United States. …
    “Instead of rallying to the new ‘democratic’ movement, there is every indication that many of the ordinary people of the Ukraine gave increased credence to the Soviet government’s message that the United States, too, was really Nazi at heart and capable of using any sort of deceit and violence to achieve its ends.”
    Simpson also observes that CIA assistance to pro-Nazi Ukrainian and other East European ethnic leaders created powerful political lobbies in the United States that backed hard-line “liberationist” policies toward the Soviet Union and its “captive nations.” One such political group was the Ukrainian-dominated, neo-Nazi Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, which enjoyed support from Sen. Joseph McCarthy, among many other U.S. politicians.
    “Before the decade of the 1950s was out,” Simpson writes, “the activities of extremist European emigre organizations combined with indigenous American anticommunism to produce seriously negative effects on U.S. foreign policy and domestic affairs under both Republican and Democratic administrations. …
    “U.S. clandestine operations employing Nazis never did produce the results that were desired when they were initiated, but they did contribute to the influence of some of the most reactionary trends in American political life. … Working together with corporate-financed lobbies such as the pro-armament American Security Council, Captive Nations leaders have acted as influential spoilers capable of obstructing important East-West peace initiatives undertaken by both Republican and Democratic administrations. They continue, in fact, to play that role today.”
    Simpson offered that powerful observation before the latest crisis in the Ukraine — precipitated in large measure by extreme rightists inspired by the OUN — plunged NATO and Russia into a series of military and economic confrontations that resemble the Cold War of old. But even today, the American political impulse to support anti-Russian agitation in the Ukraine reflects Cold War-era policies that forged an ugly alliance between the United States and Nazi mass murderers.
    You won’t see that point made in the New York Times, or in a fluffy promotion for Lviv inForeign Policy magazine. But it’s clearly written in history that Americans would do well to study.
    Jonathan Marshall,

    Evo Morales: Leader of Opposition to Neoliberalism in Latin America

    Nil NIKANDROV | 29.01.2016 | 19:00
    In January, Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, marked ten years in office with a traditional ceremony at the historical site of Tiawanaku. The ceremony began at sunrise in the presence of hundreds of guests, including members of government and representatives from indigenous groups, public organisations, embassies and foreign delegations. Dressed in the robes of an Indian chief, Morales offered sacrificial gifts to Mother Earth (Pachamama) and asked for support in his arduous struggle for a better future for the country and the Great Motherland as a whole – Latin America.
    Morales has won three elections – in 2005 (in accordance with the old constitution), 2009 and 2014. Since the new constitution only allows a president to hold office for two consecutive terms, in September 2015 the Bolivian parliament approved a bill to amend the constitution, allowing for subsequent re-elections. The final approval of the bill will be put to a national referendum on 21 February. All other issues have been temporarily pushed aside: at the epicentre of the political struggle is everything to do with the referendum. For Morales, victory in the referendum is tantamount to being promoted to the role of the continental leader who will head the fight against neoliberalism. At a time when progressive regimes in Latin America are conducting relentless defensive actions, resisting combined attacks by the US, oligarchic circles and powerful ‘fifth columns’, Morales’ determination is having a mobilising effect on all potential allies.
    The left-wing political party Movement for Socialism led by Evo Morales is carrying out serious work in support of the bill. Polls show that 68 per cent of Bolivians have a positive view of Morales’ rule. With regard to the constitutional reform, 53 per cent of the population voted against it at the beginning of January. In an interview published by Portal Alba, the president described the situation as follows: «I have never believed in polls. During the presidential campaign in 2005, all the polls indicated that I would win by 32 per cent of the vote and it turned out to be 54 per cent. In 2009 they said I would win by 48 per cent, but I actually received 62 per cent of the vote. There are also clear contradictions in the latest polls. We are confident that we will win, because we want to receive a further additional term in order to continue implementing the patriotic programme. So the best thing is to appeal to the people: if the people want me in this post, then I will continue my work and if not, then we will respectfully accept their decision. It is the most democratic solution».
    Evo Morales is taking every opportunity to remind his fellow countrymen of the need to consolidate the educational and cultural revolution and to further develop production, healthcare, and a careful attitude to the transformation of the outside world. Neither does he avoid discussing large-scale issues related to the country’s industrialisation and a reduction in the import of goods that could be produced domestically. Morales believes it is time to put an end to the centuries of hatred, racism, discrimination and individualism in Bolivia and in Latin America as a whole. Bolivia must find its rightful place in the world by completely doing away with the inertia of historical inferiority it inherited from Morales’ predecessors – the liberal governments of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, Jorge Quiroga, Carlos Mesa and Eduardo Rodríguez.
    During a recent meeting with representatives from social movements in La Paz, Evo Morales urged people «not to allow the return of right-wing forces in Latin America... It is our duty to fight against them by means of greater organisation and solidarity». He pointed to the need for support from Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil, the leaders of which «defend, respect and guarantee the social rights of the peoples of the Great Motherland». Morales recalled that the governments of these countries expressed their solidarity with Bolivia during difficult times. «For this reason,» he said, «we cannot leave Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff, Rafael Correa and especially Nicolás Maduro without our support. We are obliged to defend our leaders. As long as the empire and capitalism exist, the struggle will continue. And no matter how many anti-imperialist presidents there are, it will remain our duty, and social movements need to be oriented accordingly».
    The Prensa Latina news agency has made public a restricted document prepared by the Washington-controlled Instituto Interamericano para la Democracia (Interamerican Institute for Democracy) entitled «Strategic plan for Bolivia» that contains a step-by-step timeline of subversive activities to destabilise Evo Morales’ government in the run up to the referendum. The plan’s authors include Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, an ultra-right-wing politician from Bolivia who took refuge in the US in 2003 following his involvement in the massacre of demonstrators in La Paz, as well as the Cuban ‘contras’ Alberto Montaner and Alberto Valladares. The ‘plan’ says that it is in agreement with Bolivian oppositionists and has been adopted by them as a guide for action.
    The document does not contain a direct reference to the ‘colour revolutions’ in other countries, but the subtext is that the regime of Evo Morales in Bolivia must cease to exist. To accomplish this, it suggests encouraging popular discontent resulting from inflation, raise of food prices and living expenses and so on. And all this despite the real achievements of Bolivia under Morales: the country can be proud of its highest economic growth in South America, its reduction in poverty, its victory over hunger and epidemics, and its access to education. All of this is being ignored by the ‘plan’, but it recommends paying attention to «uncovering corruption» in government structures and in the ruling party in light of the effective impact such information would have on the people. At the same time, nobody mentions that Evo Morales is the lowest paid of all Latin American presidents!
    Evidence of what the plan’s authors really have in mind is their opinion regarding the need to establish contacts with military personnel, both on active duty and retired. They are needed to oppose Evo Morales’ government and should be used «in response to a crisis or an internal social conflict in order to lead an uprising against the regime or at least lend support to a foreign intervention or civil uprising».
    The above-mentioned Alberto Montaner, whose collaboration with the CIA is an open secret, has spoken of a ‘Latin American Spring’ and of an imminent ‘colour revolution’ on the continent. This is a cause for great concern for Evo Morales, Rafael Correa, Daniel Ortega, Raúl Castro and other politicians often referred to as ‘populists’. Which country is in the crosshairs? There are several, according to Montaner. A ‘new spring’ could affect Evo Morales in Bolivia, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and Sandinista Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Cuba will not remain on the sidelines either. In this regard, Montaner alluded to the domino effect: «when a change in one country prompts changes in other countries, it is similar to how a row of dominoes falls». To demonstrate that the domino effect is at work in Latin America, Montaner referred to the victory of the opposition in the parliamentary elections in Venezuela (on 6 December) and to Mauricio Macri, who defeated his opponent Daniel Scioli from the ruling left-wing Peronist political party in the presidential elections in Argentina.
    That the neoliberals are ‘correcting the mistakes’ of the populists is evidenced by Mauricio Macri’s actions in Argentina: massive layoffs in companies and state institutions, a widening spiral of reprisals against the discontented, the appearance of the first political prisoners, and the dismantling of institutions involved in social work. And on top of all that, a shift towards the US in order to undermine Latin American integration processes.

    Internationaler Strafgerichtshof im Dienste der Rekolonisierung von Gerd Schuman 

    Vor dem Internationalen Strafgerichtshof in Den Haag beginnt heute der Skandalprozess gegen den ehemaligen Präsidenten von Côte d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo. Seine Verurteilung würde vor allem Frankreich nützen

    Die Selbstdemontage des Internationalen Strafgerichtshofs (ICC) in Den Haag erreicht eine neue Qualität. Mit dem heute beginnenden Prozess gegen Laurent Gbagbo, ehemals Präsident von Côte d’Ivoire (Elfenbeinküste), vergibt der ICC die große Chance, sich doch noch als »Weltstrafgericht« zu beweisen. Als solches sollte er laut des bisher von 121 Staaten unterzeichneten und ratifizierten Rom-Statuts von 1998 etabliert werden und der individuellen strafrechtlichen Verfolgung von Völkermord, Kriegsverbrechen, Aggression und Verbrechen gegen die Menschheit dienen. Statt dessen erwies sich der ICC seit Aufnahme seiner Arbeit 2003 zunehmend als politisches Instrument. Das gewachsene Image einer prowestlichen Einrichtung verfestigt sich zum tatsächlichen Charakter, dessen Wesen darin besteht, nicht nur parteilich Recht zu sprechen, sondern neokolonialistische Projekte juristisch zu stützen.
    Offensichtlich ist aber auch: Der Fall Gbagbo – neben ihm auf der Anklagebank sitzt sein ehemaliger Jugendminister Charles Blé Goudé – bereitet dem ICC Sorgen. Darauf deuten nicht nur die diversen Verzögerungen im Zeitplan des Verfahrens hin. Auch sorgte die Begründung von Chefanklägerin Fatou Bensouda für die erneute Verschiebung des Prozessbeginns – zuletzt vom 10. November 2015 auf den 28. Januar 2016 –, die Zeugen müssten noch »vorbereitet« werden, für Kopfschütteln. 
    Dabei hätte sich die ehemalige gambische Justizministerin Bensouda des ungeliebten, international kritisierten Skandalverfahrens ohne Gesichtsverlust entledigen können. Ausstiegsszenarien gab es genug: Unter anderem hatten zwei von drei bestellten Experten bezweifelt, dass der 70jährige Angeklagte dazu in der Lage wäre, die Verhandlungen durchzustehen. Laurent Gbagbo leide unter posttraumatischen Stresserscheinungen (PTSD), meinten sie. Die Anhörungen des Ende 2011 an den Haager Internationalen Strafgerichtshof (ICC) überstellten Gbagbo boten weitere Möglichkeiten. 
    Doch Bensouda hielt an dem Verfahren fest, das sie 2012 von ihrem argentinischen Vorgänger Luis Moreno Ocampo, einem fanatischen Selbstdarsteller und Parteigänger des Westens, übernommen hatte – wohlwissend, dass es ihr persönlich Ärger bringen und zudem das sowieso stark lädierte Ansehen des ICC weiter beschädigen würde. Bensouda, selbst Schwarzafrikanerin und bestens vertraut mit dem Vorwurf vieler afrikanischer Staaten, der ICC agiere einseitig und zudem gegen den Kontinent, nutzte die Gelegenheit zur Rufkorrektur nicht. Die Funktion des Gerichtshofs als Instrument supranationaler Klassenjustiz wog offensichtlich schwerer. 
    Mit Prozessbeginn tritt das Verfahren in seine letzte Phase. Der Regime-Change im gespaltenen Land an der Westküste Afrikas wird mit der Aburteilung des vormaligen Präsidenten (2000–2011) juristisch legalisiert, die ivorische Siegerjustiz auf internationaler Ebene nachvollzogen und die Sicherung und Festigung der neokolonialen Herrschaft durch Paris, die Weltbank und den Internationalen Währungsfonds abgesegnet. Der Mohr muss hängen – sinnbildlich: Er wird weggesperrt werden in Den Haag, derweil seine Ehefrau Simone Ehivet Gbagbo in der ivorischen Wirtschaftsmetropole Abidjan – oder in einem der vielen Gefängnisse im Norden von Côte d’Ivoire – verschwindet. 
    Die Gbagbos, damals noch nicht verheiratet, hatten bereits in den 1970er und 1980er Jahren wegen ihrer politischen Arbeit hinter Schloss und Riegel gesessen. Die beiden seinerzeit marxistisch orientierten Gewerkschaftsaktivisten und Gegner der behielten ihre kolonialkritische Grundhaltung auch nach Legalisierung der von ihnen 1982 mitgegründeten Ivorischen Volksfront (FPI; Front Populaire Ivorien) und der Präsidentschaft von Laurent Gbagbo ab 2000 bei. 
    Simone leitete seinerzeit (ab 1996) die FPI-Fraktion im Parlament. Inzwischen wurde sie in einem Massenprozess mit 77 weiteren Angeklagten in Abidjan abgeurteilt. Die Vorwürfe gegen sie bezogen sich – wie auch bei ihrem Mann in Den Haag – auf die Zeit der »Bürgerkrieg« genannten Kämpfe nach den gescheiterten Präsidentschaftswahlen vom 28. November 2010. Im Fall von Simone Gbagbo blieben sie seltsam unkonkret, lauteten: »Angriff auf die Autorität des Staates«, »Teilnahme an einem staatsstreichartigen Unternehmen«, »Störung des öffentlichen Friedens«. Richter Tahirou Dembéle urteilte im März 2015 dementsprechend allgemein: Frau Gbagbo habe »die Staatssicherheit untergraben«, befand er und verhängte zwanzig Jahre Haft – die Staatsanwaltschaft hatte zehn Jahre gefordert. 

    Den Haager Vorhut 

    Ein ivorisches Gericht als Vorhut des ICC in Den Haag? Dessen damaliger Chefankläger zumindest hatte gegen Simone Gbagbo im Februar 2012 einen zunächst geheimgehaltenen Haftbefehl wegen »Verbrechens gegen die Menschlichkeit« ausgestellt. Die Auslieferung ihrer Gefangenen an den ICC lehnten die neuen Machthaber am Golf von Guinea indes ab. Bewegt von der Befürchtung, dass die »charismatische« (FAZ) Frau ihr Auftreten auf internationaler Bühne dazu nutzen könnte, die von der Rebellentruppe »Forces Nouvelles« (FN, Neue Streitkräfte) begangenen Massaker, Kriegsverbrechen, Verbrechen gegen die Menschlichkeit zum Thema zu machen. 
    Das wäre weder in Abidjan noch in Paris und bei der UNO in New York gern gesehen worden und hätte unangenehme Folgen nach sich ziehen können. Also hielt die Administration von Präsident Alassane Ouattara Frau Gbagbo weiter in Geheimgefängnissen im Norden des Landes gefangen und ließ schließlich verlauten, dass die Justiz des Landes »kompetent genug« sei. 
    Das offensichtlich politische Urteil gegen die Präsidentengattin vertiefte den Spalt in der ivorischen Gesellschaft: Frau Gbagbo verfügt nach wie vor über starken Rückhalt in beträchtlichen Teilen der Bevölkerung. Falls sie, wie spekuliert wurde, vor den Präsidentschaftswahlen am 25. Oktober 2015 per Dekret tatsächlich begnadigt worden wäre – sozusagen als Geste einer vielfach verlangten »Versöhnung« –, wäre sie zu einer ernsthaften Konkurrentin Ouattaras geworden. »Das will dieser nicht«, so der Afrika-Korrespondent der FAZ, Thomas Scheen, am 11. März 2015, »und das will Frankreich nicht, weil Frau Gbagbo als eventuelle Koalitionspartnerin einer Ouattara-Regierung den Prozess gegen ihren Mann in Den Haag zu einer Farce machen könnte«. 
    Eine Farce war der Prozess schon vor seinem Beginn. Mit Gbagbo und Blé werden vom ICC erneut Afrikaner verfolgt – wie bisher ausschließlich. Ungebrochen bleibt zugleich die gerichtliche Weigerung, die politisch schwergewichtigen, für die großformatige Vergewaltigung von Menschenrechten Verantwortlichen zu behelligen, die Kriegsverbrecher im Weißen Haus, im Élysée-Palast, aus der Downing Street 10 oder deren Komplizen im wilden NATO-Westen. Von deren Kriegen redet niemand in Den Haag. Zudem liegt auch diesmal die Einseitigkeit des ICC-Vorgehens auf der Hand – und zwar deutlich wie nie. Die Gbagbo-Kontrahenten – darunter sein Nachfolger als Präsident sowie der einflussreiche Parlamentspräsident und ehemalige Rebellenführer Guillaume Soro – waren direkt in den »Bürgerkrieg« verwickelt – als Drahtzieher oder Befehlshaber. Auch sie tragen Verantwortung für die Kampfhandlungen mit etwa 3.000 Toten. Doch bleiben sie ebenso unbehelligt wie die beteiligten französischen Soldaten der Opération Licorne (Operation Einhorn) sowie der 10.000 Mann starken Truppe der Vereinten Nationen (UNOCI, United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire) und deren Befehlshaber. 
    Doch darüber redet inzwischen außerhalb von Côte d’Ivoire kaum noch jemand. Nach offizieller Lesart hat Gbagbo die Stichwahl um die Präsidentschaft vom 28. November 2010 verloren, seine Niederlage nicht eingestanden und einen »Bürgerkrieg« initiiert. So auch die mediale Sprachregelung. Die Fakten indes lassen mehr als nur Zweifel zu. 

    Klima der Gewalt 

    Der Wahlgang fand in einem Klima der Gewalt statt, die Ergebnisse werfen Fragen auf: Wahlbeobachter der UN beispielsweise wurden nicht in den unter Kontrolle der Ouattara-Rebellen stehenden Norden des Landes geschickt – warum nicht? Ebendort hatte Gbagbo bei der ersten Abstimmung am 30. September 2010, die er zwar gewann, jedoch nicht mit der notwendigen absoluten Mehrheit, beachtlich gut abgeschnitten – nunmehr wurden plötzlich für Ouattara Hundert-Prozent-Voten verzeichnet. Augenzeugen sowie afrikanische Wahlbeobachter stellten »Manipulationen« (FAZ, 3.12.2010) fest. Es sei »im Norden augenscheinlich nicht nur zu massiven Wahlfälschungen zugunsten Ouattaras gekommen, sondern auch zu politisch motivierten Morden«. Gbagbo-Anhänger seien der »Wahllokale verwiesen und z. T. misshandelt worden« (»Fischer Weltalmanach 2014«). 
    Trotzdem sprachen UN-Mission und EU von einem »generell demokratischen Prozess«, die Wahlen seien »frei und fair« gewesen. Warum? Zumindest lässt sich die einseitige Parteinahme zugunsten des frankophilen, wirtschaftsliberalen Kandidaten Ouattara als »Fehlentscheidung« oder »menschliches Versagen« erklären – dazu ist sie zu eindeutig. Insbesondere in den ersten Dezembertagen 2010 in den Auseinandersetzungen um das zweifelsohne knappe Wahlergebnis, das eindringlich die Spaltung des Landes dokumentierte, wäre es UN-Aufgabe gewesen zu schlichten: wann, wenn nicht in dieser verzwickten Lage? 
    Die Zeit erforderte ein Miteinanderreden, Verhandlungen, einen vernunftgesteuerten Umgang mit der Kontroverse. Doch zertifizierte sonderbarerweise Choi Young Jin, süd­koreanischer UN-Sondergesandter und Chef der robusten UNOCI, am 3. Dezember 2010 das Ergebnis, bei dem Ouattara vorne lag. Zugleich konstatierte er trotz der Bedingungen, unter denen die seit 2005 insgesamt sechsmal verschobene Wahl durchgeführt wurde, eine »demokratischen Athmosphäre«. 
    Die Präsidenten Barack Obama und Nicolas Sarkozy (letzterer regierte von 2007–2012) gratulierten Ouattara umgehend, die EU folgte. Viele Ivorer, so Beobachter, betrachteten seitdem die UN-Truppen als neue Kolonialmacht, derweil Sarkozy als höchster Repräsentant der alten Kolonialmacht Frankreich (1895–1960) Gbagbo am 16. Dezember ein Ultimatum stellte. »Vor Ende der Woche« habe dieser das Land zu verlassen, sonst werde er zu den Personen zählen, gegen die die EU Sanktionen verhänge. Die USA schlossen sich Sarkozys Position an. Sanktionen und Reaktionen auf diese folgten. Massenfluchten setzten sein. Es kam zu Kämpfen in den Straßen der Hafenstadt am Atlantik und auf dem Land. 
    Der Vorschlag Gbagbos in einer Fernseh­rede kurz vor Weihnachten, eine internationale Untersuchungskommission einzusetzen, fand weltweit kein positives Echo. Ouattara und sein designierter Premier Soro harrten, beschützt von einigen hundert UN-Soldaten, in Abidjans mondänem »Hotel du Golf« aus, 306 klimatisierte Zimmer, »angenehm ausgestattet, Blick auf die Lagune, den Swimmingpool oder die Bucht von Cocody« (Werbung). Von ebendort sandte Ouattara ein Schreiben nach Den Haag, »Abidjan, le 14 décembre 2010« steht im Briefkopf des »Präsidenten« der »République de Côte d’Ivoire«. Darin erklärte er, dass er die Gerichtsbarkeit des ICC anerkenne. Was trieb ihn dazu in jenen fragilen, unsicheren Zeiten der Doppelherrschaft? 
    Côte d’Ivoire gehörte damals dem Rom-Statut nicht an, der ICC hätte Gbagbo also nicht verfolgen können. Danach zeigte Ouattara sich störrisch: Während der dramatischen Wochen zu Beginn des Jahres 2011, als sich diplomatische Abordnungen in Abidjan im Bemühen, den Konflikt doch noch mit zivilen Mitteln zu lösen, die Klinke in die Hand gaben, blockierte Ouattara die Suche nach einem Ausweg. Er schien sich seiner Zukunft als Sieger sicher trotz des nun fast schon gesamtafrikanischen Kopfschüttelns ob seiner Verweigerungshaltung. 
    Der Rest ist die Geschichte einer sich ständig zuspitzenden ökonomischen, politischen und schließlich militärischen Konfrontation. Einseitig wurden dabei die Rebellentruppen geduldet und befördert von UNOCI und Licorne-Soldaten. Auf Sanktionen des Westens und der von Paris abhängigen ECOWAS-Staaten (Westafrikanische Wirtschaftsunion) – die westafrikanische Zentralbank stellte alle Konten des ivorischen Staates unter Kontrolle Ouattaras – folgten die Verstaatlichung der ivorischen Banken und später der Kakaoproduktion durch die Regierung Gbagbo. 
    Der Vorschlag der Afrikanischen Union vom 23. Februar 2011, umgehend Neuwahlen abzuhalten und eine Übergangsregierung einzusetzen, wurde übergangen, der Krieg eskalierte weiter, an seinem Ende stand im April 2011 zunächst die Besetzung von Abidjans Flughafen durch die französischen Truppen, die inzwischen auf 1.650 Legionäre aufgestockt worden waren. Am 10. April umzingelten sie Gbagbos Präsidentensitz mit Panzern, UNOCI und Licorne flogen Luftangriffe und bereiteten so Ouattaras Rebellen den Weg. Das geschah etwa drei Wochen nach Beginn des französisch-britischen Bombenkrieges gegen Libyen, der seinen Abschluss mit dem Lynchmord an Muammar Al-Ghaddafi durch Rebellen fand. Im Gegensatz zum libyschen Staatschef überlebten Laurent und Simone Gbagbo. Sie wurden lediglich misshandelt und ins »Hotel du Golf« verbracht. Anfang Oktober 2011 dann folgte der ICC Ouattaras Schreiben und nahm »Ermittlungen« gegen Gbagbo auf, die am 23. November 2011 in einen Haftbefehl gegen den gestürzten Präsidenten mündeten. 
    Das imperiale Frankreich verfügte nunmehr über einen Statthalter nicht nur für Côte d’Ivoire: 2012 übernahm der ehemalige IWF-Manager (1968–1990, 1994–1999) und Expremier (1990–1993) den Vorsitz der von Paris beherrschten ECOWAS und trat in die Fußstapfen seiner Ahnen: Ouattaras adlige Vorfahren hatten einst das Kong-Reich (1710–1895) beherrscht, besser bekannt unter den Namen »Ouattara-Reich«. Die westafrikanische, muslimische Monarchie erstreckte sich über den Nordosten der heutigen Côte d’Ivoire sowie große Teile von Burkina Faso. 1895 wurde sie der Kolonie Französisch-Westafrika angeschlossen, die im wesentlichen das Gebiet der heutigen ECOWAS-Staaten umfasste. Deren Währung, der CFA-Franc, ist an den Euro-Kurs gekoppelt. Die Rekolonisierung von Französisch-Westafrika läuft auf Hochtouren, Fremdenlegionäre gehören wieder zum Alltag in der Zentralafrikanischen Republik, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire und anderswo. 

    Ouattaras politischer Kurs als seit nunmehr dem 6. Mai 2011 offiziell inthronisierter Präsident führte konsequent in eine Richtung: zurück zum Neokolonialismus. Oder anders: Die Sieger des 2000 begonnenen, unerklärten Krieges um Côte d’Ivoire lassen nicht den geringsten Zweifel an ihren politischen Zielen aufkommen und nennen sich offenherzig »Houphouëtisten«. 
    Félix Houphouët-Boigny (1905–1993) – der Name ist heute Programm. Er steht für absolute Treue gegenüber der ehemaligen Kolonialmacht. Houphouët-Boigny diente nicht nur als einziger afrikanischer Minister im französischen Kabinett unter Präsident Charles de Gaulle Ende der 1950er Jahre, sondern übernahm vor allem seine engen, brillanten Beziehungen zu Paris bruchlos nach der formellen »Unabhängigkeit« des Landes am 7. August 1960. Kakao und Robusta-Kaffeebohnen – Côte d’Ivoire ist bis heute der größte Produzent weltweit –, Baumwolle, Naturkautschuk, Palmöl und Holz überließ er der Frankreich-Connection, wie die Frankreich nahen Konzernbesitzer genannt werden. Die sorgten dann auch für deren Verarbeitung – nach alter Kolonialtradition außerhalb des Landes. Bis zu seinem Tod 1993 regierte Houphouët-Boigny autokratisch. Bekannt wurde er auch deswegen, weil er seinen Geburtsort Yamoussoukrou zur Hauptstadt erklärte und dort für viel Geld nach Vorbild des Petersdoms zu Rom die Basilika Notre-Dame de la Paix sowie weitere Prunkbauten errichten ließ. 
    Unter dem Namen »Versammlung der Houphouëtisten« (Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix, RHDP) bildeten die Nachfolger des ivorischen Herrschers von neokolonialistischen Gnaden im vergangenen Jahr ein Bündnis für Ouattaras Präsidentschaft, über die bei Wahlen im Oktober 2015 abgestimmt wurde. Es war dessen zweite Kandidatur nach 2010. Ouattara gewann sie zwar mit 83 Prozent, doch unterstrich das Ergebnis erneut die Zerrissenheit des Landes: Nur etwa 52 Prozent der Bevölkerung beteiligten sich, drei Kandidaten kapitulierten angesichts des rauhen Klimas vorzeitig, profilierte Vertreter der Opposition fehlten, weil sie im Gefängnis sitzen, von allgemeiner Depression wird berichtet, aber auch von einer anhaltend verbreiteten kolonialkritischen Stimmung, die durch die Person Ouattara und seine Politik genährt wird. Paris konnte immer auf ihn bauen, damals während seiner Karriere beim IWF (1968–1990), als ivorischer Premier (1990–1993) und auch als geheimer »Patron« der Putschisten 2002 und der späteren FN. 
    Nicolas Sarkozy, damals Bürgermeister im noblen Pariser Vorort Neuilly-sur-Seine, hatte 1991 die standesamtliche Trauung von Ouattara und Dominique Folloroux vollzogen. In der ersten Reihe saß Martin Bouygues. Der Besitzer von Bouygues SA, eines der größten europäischen Unternehmen in den Bereichen Bau, Nachrichtentechnik und Medien mit einem Jahresumsatz von 31 Milliarden Euro und 128.000 Beschäftigten (2013), hatte vom IWF-Manager vormaliges Staatseigentum zu treuen Händen übergeben bekommen. Das ivorische Wasser- und Energieversorgungssystem sowie Bauindustrie und Telekommunikation befinden sich weitgehend in Hand der Großindustriellen Bouygues und Vincent Bolloré. Große Teile der Kakaoplantagen wurden – nach dem Absturz der Kakaopreise auf dem Weltmarkt – 1991 privatisiert, andere schon vorher. Federführend dabei wirkte Ouattara. 1993 »half« er dann Sarkozy, nunmehr französischer Haushaltsminister, im Zusammenhang mit der Abwertung des westafrikanischen CFA-Franc. Dabei tat sich Madame Ouattara, eine reiche Immobilienhändlerin, Verwalterin des beträchtlichen Vermögens von Houphouët-Boigny sowie von Gabuns verstorbenem Präsidenten Omar Bongo, als Beraterin hervor. Heute ist sie neben Viviana Wade im Senegal die einzige europäische »Première Dame« Afrikas. »Er ist mein Freund«, bekannte sich 2010 Sarkozy zu Ouattara. Der revanchierte sich später: »Wenn ich fünf oder sechs Freunde weltweit habe – einer davon ist er«, zitiert ihn das Onlineportal am 12. April 2011. Freunde der besonderen Art, die Gbagbo nie getraut hatten. Er sei ein unsicherer Kantonist nicht nur für Côte d’Ivoire, sondern für das gesamte frankophile Afrika, waren sie sich sicher und ließen Côte d’Ivoire spüren, was ihre Amitié bedeutet. Der Politiker und Historiker Gbagbo könnte in Den Haag davon erzählen. Ein interessanter Gedanke, der attraktiv klingt vor allem in Erinnerung an Slobodan Milosevics kluges Auftreten vor dem von diesem als »illegal« bezeichneten UN-ad-hoc-Tribunal zu Jugoslawien zwischen 2001 und 2006; in Erinnerung an den fremdverschuldeten Tod des ehemaligen jugoslawischen Staatsoberhaupts am 11. März 2006 weniger. Quelle: