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The announcement last week by the United States of the largest military aid package in its history – to Israel – was a win for both sides.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu could boast that his lobbying had boosted aid from $3.1 billion a year to $3.8bn – a 22 per cent increase – for a decade starting in 2019.

Mr Netanyahu has presented this as a rebuff to those who accuse him of jeopardising Israeli security interests with his government’s repeated affronts to the White House.

In the past weeks alone, defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has compared last year’s nuclear deal between Washington and Iran with the 1938 Munich pact, which bolstered Hitler; and Mr Netanyahu has implied that US opposition to settlement expansion is the same as support for the “ethnic cleansing” of Jews.

American president Barack Obama, meanwhile, hopes to stifle his own critics who insinuate that he is anti-Israel. The deal should serve as a fillip too for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic party’s candidate to succeed Mr Obama in November’s election.

In reality, however, the Obama administration has quietly punished Mr Netanyahu for his misbehaviour. Israeli expectations of a $4.5bn-a-year deal were whittled down after Mr Netanyahu stalled negotiations last year as he sought to recruit Congress to his battle against the Iran deal.

In fact, Israel already receives roughly $3.8bn – if Congress’s assistance on developing missile defence programmes is factored in. Notably, Israel has been forced to promise not to approach Congress for extra funds.

The deal takes into account neither inflation nor the dollar’s depreciation against the shekel.

A bigger blow still is the White House’s demand to phase out a special exemption that allowed Israel to spend nearly 40 per cent of aid locally on weapon and fuel purchases. Israel will soon have to buy all its armaments from the US, ending what amounted to a subsidy to its own arms industry.

Nonetheless, Washington’s renewed military largesse – in the face of almost continual insults – inevitably fuels claims that the Israeli tail is wagging the US dog. Even The New York Times has described the aid package as “too big”.

Since the 1973 war, Israel has received at least $100bn in military aid, with more assistance hidden from view. Back in the 1970s, Washington paid half of Israel’s military budget. Today it still foots a fifth of the bill, despite Israel’s economic success.

But the US expects a return on its massive investment. As the late Israeli politician-general Ariel Sharon once observed, ­Israel has been a US “aircraft carrier” in the Middle East, acting as the regional bully and carrying out operations that benefit Washington.

Almost no one blames the US for Israeli attacks that wiped out Iraq’s and Syria’s nuclear programmes. A nuclear-armed Iraq or Syria would have deterred later US-backed moves at regime overthrow, as well as countering the strategic advantage Israel derives from its own nuclear arsenal.

In addition, Israel’s US-sponsored military prowess is a triple boon to the US weapons industry, the country’s most powerful lobby. Public funds are siphoned off to let Israel buy goodies from American arms makers. That, in turn, serves as a shop window for other customers and spurs an endless and lucrative game of catch-up in the rest of the Middle East.

The first F-35 fighter jets to arrive in Israel in December – their various components produced in 46 US states – will increase the clamour for the cutting-edge warplane.

Israel is also a “front-line laboratory”, as former Israeli army negotiator Eival Gilady admitted at the weekend, that develops and field-tests new technology Washington can later use itself.

The US is planning to buy back the missile interception system Iron Dome – which neutralises battlefield threats of retaliation – it largely paid for. Israel works closely too with the US in developing cyber­warfare, such as the Stuxnet worm that damaged Iran’s civilian nuclear programme.

But the clearest message from Israel’s new aid package is one delivered to the Palestinians: Washington sees no pressing strategic interest in ending the occupation. It stood up to Mr Netanyahu over the Iran deal but will not risk a damaging clash over Palestinian statehood.

Some believe that Mr Obama signed the aid package to win the credibility necessary to overcome his domestic Israel lobby and pull a rabbit from the hat: an initiative, unveiled shortly before he leaves office, that corners Mr Netanyahu into making peace.

Hopes have been raised by an expected meeting at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday. But their first talks in 10 months are planned only to demonstrate unity to confound critics of the aid deal.

If Mr Obama really wanted to pressure Mr Netanyahu, he would have used the aid agreement as leverage. Now Mr Netanyahu need not fear US financial retaliation, even as he intensifies effective annexation of the West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu has drawn the right lesson from the aid deal – he can act against the Palestinians with continuing US impunity.

- See more at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2016-09-19/palestinians-lose-in-us-military-aid-deal-with-israel/#sthash.fL4Eq28N.dpuf

What Is BRICS Member India Really Up To?

By Pepe Escobar

Jonathan Cook is a Nazareth- based journalist and winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism - See more at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2016-09-19/palestinians-lose-in-us-military-aid-deal-with-israel/#sthash.H1NbQCac.dpuf
September 21, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - "RT" - You may have never heard of LEMOA. In Global South terms, LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum Agreement) is quite a big thing, signed in late August by Indian Defense Minister Mohan Parrikar and Pentagon supremo Ash Carter.
As Carter spun it four months before the signing, LEMOA rules that US forces “may” be deployed to India under special circumstances. Essentially, Delhi will allow Washington to refuel and keep contingents and equipment in Indian bases – but only in case of war.

In theory, India is not offering the US any permanent military base. Yet considering the Pentagon’s track record that may of course change in a flash.

No wonder Indian nationalists were outraged – insisting there is no strategic gain out of this gambit, especially for a nation that is very proud of being one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

The cozying up to the Pentagon happens just a few months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who had been denied a US visa for nearly a decade – addressed a joint meeting of Congress in a blaze of glory, declaring that India and the US are natural allies” and calling for a closer partnership.

Modi went no holds barred, even referring to Gandhi’s influence on Rev. Martin Luther King’s nonviolent civil disobedience strategy – something that could not but earn him a standing ovation in Capitol Hill.

The “closer” partnership does involve military and nuclear issues. As Modi reminded Congress – which needed no reminding – the industrial-military complex sold weapons to India “from almost zero to $10 billion in less than a decade.”

Then there’s the US-India nuclear cooperation deal, which opens a window for US corporations to build and supply Indian nuclear power reactors. And eventually Washington is bent to share “some” – and the operative concept is “some” – military technology with Delhi.

Geopolitically, this all boils down to what happened recently in the Philippine Sea, as the US, Japan and India practiced anti-submarine warfare and air defense maneuvers; practical evidence of the “pivot to Asia”, as in re-tweaking Asia’s naval-security “order” to counteract – who else – China.

Modi performs geopolitical yoga

Yet things are not as black and white – from the Indian point of view. It’s no secret that key sectors of the Indian diaspora in the US are quite integrated with the Washington consensus and usual suspect hegemony mechanisms such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Rand Corporation. But Modi’s game is way more sophisticated.

Modi’s priority is to solidify India as the top South Asian power. So he cannot afford to antagonize Washington. On the contrary; he’s getting the US on board his vastly ambitious Make in India strategy (“a major national initiative designed to facilitate investment; foster innovation; enhance skill development; protect intellectual property; and build best-in-class manufacturing infrastructure.”)

Naturally, US corporations – heavy supporters of TPP – are salivating at the lucrative prospects. The drive is similar to what China did decades ago, but now with emphasis on “protection of intellectual property” to attract the TPP-obsessed crowd.

Another geopolitical Modi goal is to forcefully present India – not Pakistan – to Washington as the ideal reliable/rational partner in South Asia. That’s dicey, because for the Pentagon the multiple declinations of the war on terra in AfPak are de facto being configured as something like Operation Enduring Freedom Forever.

And then there’s once again the military angle: India diversifying its weapons suppliers – mostly it buys from Russia – towards the US, but not that much, establishing a careful balance.

This is a balance between the US and BRICS, in itself is the hardest nut to crack. As Beijing admits in no uncertain terms, “BRICS faces the risk of retrogressive, rather than progressive, cooperation because of new, intricate circumstances.”

Talk about a diplomatic euphemism for the ages. And this as Washington will go no holds barred to
contain China behind the First Island Chain in the South China Sea while there’s not much Delhi can do to contain Myanmar providing Beijing with total access to the Indian Ocean via Pipelineistan, ports and high-speed rail.


At the next BRICS summit in Goa next month, some of these geopolitical intricacies will be quietly discussed behind closed doors. BRICS may be in disarray, with Brazil under regime change, Russia under sanctions and India flirting with the US. But BRICS remains committed to serious institutional moves, such as the New Development Bank (NDB), the push towards trading in their own currencies and a multi-pronged politico/economic drive towards a multipolar world.

This drive is graphically in effect when we examine one of the key – unreported – Eurasian integration stories; the symbiosis between India and Iran. Delhi counts on Tehran to up its game as an economy propelled by natural gas as well as profiting in the long run from the perfect – Persian – gateway to Central Asian markets.

The key hub of course is the port of Chabahan. The highlight of a Modi visit to Tehran four months ago was a Chabahar contract between India Ports Global Private Limited and Arya Banader of Iran. That’s about “development and operation for 10 years of two terminals and 5 berths with cargo handling”.

There’s way more; development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and essential road/rail links from Iran to Afghanistan and further into Central Asia. India will then have direct access to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. It does not hurt that Delhi and Kabul are already strategic partners.

Chabahar is only 500 km east of the ultra-strategic Strait of Hormuz.

In the near future, we might as well see a configuration where the Indian Navy has the right to use Chabahar while the Chinese Navy has the right to use Gwadar, in Pakistan, only 150 km by sea east of Chabahar. Nothing that BRICS dialogue – or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – could not keep on smooth sailing mode.

For Iran, this is a certified “win-win” game. Iran not only will be connected to the Chinese One Belt, One Road (OBOR); but it will also solidify yet another trade/transportation corridor in Eurasia; the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) between the Indian Ocean and Central Asia. Key INSTC members happen to be Iran, India and… Russia. Talk about, once again, the interpenetration of BRICS and the SCO.

The Big Picture ahead under Modi’s long term planning does not look like Delhi subjected to the role of flagrant vassal of Washington. India needs certified stability with all key players – from the US to China, considering the master plan is to lift 1.3 billion Indians close to the living standards of middle-class Chinese.

China had a head start. India may take up to 2050 to do it. Meanwhile, it’s not to India’s interests to actively join any US policy of China containment or encirclement, be it “pivot” or “rebalance”. It’s more like India, in a Gandhian way, will be practicing the fine art of nonviolent, forceful neutrality.

Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.

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