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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

The Obama Administration’s Suspension of Syria Talks With Russia Is the Most Dangerous Development in a New Cold War

The collapse of talks takes the United States one step closer to an unnecessarily deadly “military solution” to the Syria crisis.

By James Carden

October 04, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - "The Nation" - This afternoon the State Department announced that the Obama administration is suspending bilateral talks with Russia regarding the war in Syria. The statement by State Department spokesman John Kirby read, in part, that the decision to suspend “bilateral channels with Russia that were established to sustain the Cessation of Hostilities” was “not a decision that was taken lightly.” The statement said that the United States “spared no effort in negotiating,” yet “Russia failed to live up to its own commitments.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday, “Everybody’s patience with Russia has run out.” Meanwhile, the pressure on the administration to “do something” in Syria is growing. At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker repeatedly expressed his dismay that the administration has not come up with a “Plan B” in Syria, including the implementation of a no-fly zone over northern Syria or the creation of so-called “safe zones” for non-combatants fleeing the violence.

Former general and CIA director David Petraeus, no doubt echoing the establishment consensus on these issues, told Charlie Rose last week that establishing these zones would be “very, very straightforward” and could be achieved “very, very quickly.” The general’s assurances aside, the administration might do well to recall the consequences of a similar operation over Kosovo (which resulted in a bombing campaign that lasted 78 days) or of the more recent imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.

Unlike in those cases, both the Russians and Iranians have personnel on the ground in Syria, while the Russian and the Syrian Arab Air Forces are executing an air campaign over rebel-held (or more accurately, jihadi-held) east Aleppo. The mainstream media continue to gloss over the rather salient fact that civilians who are trying to flee the Russian-Syrian bombardment are often blocked from doing so by US- and Gulf State–funded “rebels.”

The decision by the Obama administration to suspend talks with Russia, therefore, while alarming in the extreme, is perhaps not so surprising, given a CNN report over the weekend that showed that Secretary of State John Kerry—whom many observers (including this author) wrongly saw as a dove on matters relating to Syria and Russia—has been pushing for a military solution in Syria all along.

A leaked recording of Kerry at UN headquarters in September reveals that he told Dutch diplomats: “I think you’re looking at three people, four people in the administration. I lost the argument. I’ve argued for the use of force. I’m the guy who stood up and announced that we’re going to attack Assad for the use of weapons.” Kerry continued, “So far, American legal theory does not buy into the so-called right to protect.… Nobody [is] more frustrated than me.”

Is there any relevant history to which administration officials might turn to guide them, now that it seems we are eyeball-to-eyeball with Russia in Syria?


On January 27, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson’s National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara authored what became known as the “fork in the road” memo regarding US policy in Vietnam. Bundy wrote President Johnson that “Bob and I believe that the worst course of action is to continue in this essentially passive role which can only lead to eventual defeat and an invitation to get out in humiliating circumstances.” [Emphasis added.]

The alternatives Bundy and McNamara set out to Johnson were these: either “use our military power in the Far East and force a change in Communist policy” or “deploy all our resources along a track of negotiation, aimed at salvaging what little can be preserved with no major addition to our present military risks.”

Tragically, Johnson chose the former option.

President Obama, it would seem, is now himself at a “fork in the road” with regard to Syria. He would be unwise to brush aside the advice of his predecessor Jimmy Carter, who wrote in The New York Times/em> only two weeks ago that

American-Russian leadership is critical for this approach to work. Each side must persuade its regional allies to cooperate. But that alone won’t be enough. The Syrians who have been the cannon fodder in this war must make their voices heard, with a loud and clear statement: “Stop the killing.”

A military solution, and facile promises of easy answers like the imposition of no-fly and/or safe zones (which are neither easy nor answers) is not the way forward. Obama and his advisers have made a potentially grave error in cutting off talks with the Russians, and even a cursory glance back through the history of recent American military interventions should steer them back to, not away from, the negotiating table.

James W. Carden is a contributing writer at The Nation and the executive editor for the American Committee for East-West Accord's EastWestAccord.com.

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