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Eric Margolis

Pakistan Needs a Strong New Leader

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The words "hope" and "Pakistan" do not often appear together. Pakistan, a sprawling nation of 205 million, is hard to govern, even harder to finance, and seething with tribal or religious violence and discord.

But Pakistan, which for me is one of the most interesting and important nations on earth, is by far the leading nation of the Muslim world and a redoubtable military power. Created in 1947 from former British India as a haven for oppressed Muslims, Pakistan has been ruled ever since by military juntas or by slippery and often corrupt civilian politicians.

 After decades of dynastic politics under the Bhutto and Sharif families, there is suddenly hope that newly elected cricket star Imran Khan and his Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI) may – just may – tackle Pakistan’s four biggest problems: endemic corruption, military interference, political tribalism, and a half-dead economy.

Former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, appears to be headed for jail over a corruption scandal unless he is allowed to go into exile in London. The exiled former military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is hiding out in Dubai awaiting charges of treason.

I spent a good deal of time with Pakistan’s former leaders, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq and his bitter foe, Benazir Bhutto, both of whom were later murdered. Neither Musharraf nor Nawaz measured up to these colorful personalities in political skills, vision, or personality.
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The Looming War Against Iran

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President Donald Trump and his neocon advisors have been trying to provoke a war with Iran and Syria for many months. The neocons are echoing Cato the Elder’s cry, "delenda est Carthago!" Iran must be destroyed.

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Madness in Moscow

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Comedy? Disaster? Mental disorder? Hearing loss? Even days after President Donald Trump’s bizarre appearance in Moscow alongside a cool, composed President Vladimir Putin, it’s hard to tell what happened. But it certainly was entertaining.
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'Pay Up You NATO Deadbeats...Or Else!'

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"We are the schmucks" thundered President Donald Trump, using a favorite New York City Yiddish term for penis. The object of Trump’s wrath at his Make America Great Again’ rally in Great Falls, Montana was the craven, stingy European members of NATO, only 16 of 22 members are on budget for their US-commanded military spending. Trump wants them to spend much more. 

Trump and his fellow neocons want NATO to serve as a sort of US foreign legion in Third World wars in Africa and Asia. NATO was formed as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to defend western Europe, not to fight in Afghanistan and who knows where else?

Equally bad, according to Trump, is that the US runs a whopping trade deficit with the European Union which is busy shipping high-end cars and fine wines to the US. The wicked foreigners don’t buy enough American bourbon, corn, and terribly abused pigs.
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Turkey on a Roll

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Few phobias run deeper in Europe than the fear and hatred of Turks. For at least six hundred years, Europe was locked in innumerable wars with first Seljuk, then Ottoman Turks. My big St Bernard is a descendant of dogs bred to attack Arab and Turkish raiders coming over Switzerland’s St Bernard Pass.

Today, by contrast, there are some 10 million ethnic Turks in Europe, most of whom came in past decades as guest laborers, prized for their hard work, honesty and reliability.

Turkey joined NATO in 1952 at a time when the US dominated the continent and Mideast. The Turkish armed forces were the second largest in NATO after the US.  Joined at the hip with the US military, the Turkish generals ran the government in Ankara behind a screen of squabbling politicians. The US gave Turkey its marching orders. Turkey’s small but powerful westernized elite was delighted to follow Washington and keep Islam in Turkey handcuffed or exiled to rural areas.

This all changed in 1994 when a young, 40-year old nationalist, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, became a reformist mayor of Istanbul and began cleaning up and modernizing the decrepit metropolis.  After a brief jail term for reading an ancient Islamic poem, he was released and formed the Justice and Development Party (AK) which is an Islamist Lite party dedicated to democracy guided by Muslims principals of national pride, welfare for the poor and elderly, sharing wealth, supporting fellow Muslims and urging followers to lead lives of moderation. 

There was no stopping the dynamic Erdogan, who was a semi-pro footballer before his full-time political career. By 2003, he was elected prime minister by Turkey’s 81 million people and ever since has proved wildly popular with the majority of Turks. The big city westernized elites in Turkey, who deny their Muslim culture and try to pass for Europeans, bitterly oppose Erdogan and his Islamic allies.
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Trump's War Against Iran

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Israel launched waves of air attacks and ground shelling on a score of alleged Iranian military positions in Syria this week.   Was this a big step forward in the plan by Israel’s leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his ally Donald Trump to provoke a major war with Iran?


It certainly looks so.  The US, Saudi Arabia and Israel all recently suffered a stinging defeat in Syria. Their campaign to overthrow the Assad government in Damascus by using the rag-tag ISIS movement, then Sunni Muslim jihadist wild men, was defeated by the Syrian Army, backed by Russian air power, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and some Iranian militia groups and army advisors.

Israel now claims to have wiped out more than a score of Iranian positions in Syria.  As far as we can tell, these were minor logistics or communications facilities, not the backbone of a supposed Iranian offensive against Israel.

In fact, the alleged Iranian rocket barrage was directed at the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that were illegally annexed and occupied after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and are still held, legally, as part of Syria. Israel is very nervous about having world attention drawn to its continued occupation of the strategic Golan Heights from which Israeli heavy artillery can reach Damascus.
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Doctor Death from Damascus?

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Butcher of Damascus. Gasser of children. Baby Killer of Syria. Tool of Moscow. Cruel despot. Monster.

These are all names the western media and politicians routinely heap on Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. He has now become the top Mideast villain, the man we love to hate.

As a veteran Mideast watcher, I find all this hard to swallow. Compared to other brutal Mideast leaders, Assad is pretty weak tea. The US/British propaganda effort to paint Assad in blackest colors is having a difficult time.

Mideast leaders who toe the US line and make nice to Israel are invariably called "statesmen" or "president" by the American government and its increasingly tame media. There’s good old President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt, the military dictator who crushed that nation’s only democracy and imposed an iron-fisted rule.  But we will never hear from the US media of Egypt’s political murders, disappearances, secret prisons and torture.  Or that Egypt has been one of the world’s most draconian police states since the era of Anwar Sadat and successor Hosni Mubarak.
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Sarkozy's Hand in the French Cookie Jar?

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There was something refreshing about watching former French president Nicholas Sarkozy being interrogated in a French jail. Particularly since he may soon be accused of conspiracy in the murder of my old friend, Col. Muammar Khadaffi of Libya.

Sarkozy and his former chief of staff, Claude Guéant, are being investigated for secretly accepting at least fifty million Euros from Khadaffi for his 2007 electoral campaign. Such a payment violated France’s maximum permissible limit for political donation, not to mention a ban on foreign financing of candidates and failure to report the payments. Sarko also faces investigation over secret payments from the Gulf oil states.

French political candidates often have to wade through the sewers to finance their campaigns because spending limits were set relatively low to prevent big money from buying the elections, as in the United States.

These charges against Khadaffi and Guéant have been percolating for years with only a muted response. Sarkozy also got into hot water after he was accused of bilking large sums of cash from a senile heiress to France’s L’Oréal cosmetics company.
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Putin Trumps Trump

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In December, 2002, President George W. Bush proclaimed that the US would unilaterally pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that had curtailed the development of nuclear missiles and anti-missile systems to defeat them.

The arrogant, dim-witted Bush believed that US space technology was advancing so rapidly that it would neutralize Russia’s force of ICBM missiles.  Bush was just a puppet.  The real power behind him was Vice President Dick Cheney, the leading neocon who sneered at Russia, dismissed it as a mere ‘gas-station,’ and was determined to see the US achieve global dominance. 

In Cheney’s view, the ABM Treaty was holding the US back from this goal.  Bankrupt Moscow would never be able to stand up to the mighty USA.  Moscow warned that reneging on the ABM Treaty would re-ignite a ruinous arms race.  A then little known politician, Vladimir Putin, vowed that Russia would never bend its knee to the US nuclear colossus.

This week, President Putin stunned the world by revealing a new arsenal of nuclear-armed weapons that have stolen a march on Washington and left the warlike President Donald Trump looking foolish.
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Why One War When We Can Have Two!

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"We will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists, but great-power competition – not terrorism – is now the primary focus of US national security."  Henceforth Russia and China will be America’s main enemies, with Iran and North Korea thrown in for good measure.


So declared US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, last week in a statement of profound importance for the world. 
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