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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

Donald Trump Likely to End Aid for Rebels Fighting Syrian Government


November 13, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - "NYT" -  WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump said Friday that he was likely to abandon the American effort to support “moderate” opposition groups in Syria who are battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad, saying “we have no idea who these people are.”

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal that dealt largely with economic issues, including his willingness to retain parts of the Affordable Care Act, he repeated a position he took often during his campaign: that the United States should focus on defeating the Islamic State, and find common ground with the Syrians and their Russian backers.

“I’ve had an opposite view of many people regarding Syria,” Mr. Trump told The Journal. “My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS. Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria.”

His comments suggest that once Mr. Trump begins overseeing both the public support for the opposition groups, and a far larger covert effort run by the Central Intelligence Agency, he may wind down or abandon the effort. But there are in fact two wars going on simultaneously in Syria.

One is against the Islamic State, in which the United States is supporting 30,000 Syrian-Kurdish and Syrian-Arab fighters, who last weekend announced they were opening a new phase of the battle, beginning to encircle the ISIS capital in Raqqa. There are roughly 300 United States Special Operations forces on the ground assisting these militia.

The second effort is in support of rebels fighting Mr. Assad. The C.I.A. covert program is by far the largest conduit of support, providing antitank missiles to rebels fighting the government. That is the program that Mr. Trump seems most intent on ending. If the United States pursues that line, “We end up fighting Russia, fighting Syria,” Mr. Trump told The Journal.

The argument for ending the support may be bolstered by the fact that, as a matter of survival, those opposition groups have entered into battlefield alliances with the affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria, formerly known as Al Nusra. This has had the effect of allowing Mr. Assad and Russia to argue that they are attacking Al Qaeda, and the United States should aid them in that effort. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that argument during his ultimately failed effort to reach a deal for a cease-fire and an ultimate settlement.

Mr. Trump’s the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend logic is consistent with what he said during the campaign. “I’m not saying Assad is a good man, ‘cause he’s not,” he told The New York Times in an interview in March, “but our far greater problem is not Assad, it’s ISIS.”

But it also takes a position that will gratify President Vladimir V. Putin, because it suggests that rather than pressure Russia to end its support of Mr. Assad, a Trump administration will get out of Mr. Putin’s way.

In another hint of a major change in policy, one of Mr. Trump’s primary national security advisers, Lt. General Michael T. Flynn, the retired head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, wrote in The Hill newspaper this week that the United States should extradite Fethullah Gulen who Turkey has demanded should be sent back from his exile in Pennsylvania. The Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed him for a coup attempt over the summer.

The Justice Department has not yet concluded that there is any convincing evidence that Mr. Gulen should be sent back to almost certain confinement or execution under an extradition treaty with the United States. They see the request as part of Mr. Erdogan’s effort to eliminate all opposition.

Mr. Flynn adopted many of Turkey’s arguments about Mr. Gulen, arguing that “American taxpayers are helping finance Gulen’s 160 charter schools” in the United States, and that it is more important to support Turkey than be “hoodwinked by this masked source of terror and instability nestled comfortably in our own backyard.”

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

President Assad: Syria is ready to co-operate with Donald Trump: The US is currently enmeshed in a complicated alliance in Syria with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who would like to provide rebels – among them al-Qaeda-backed factions – with surface-to-air missiles.

What will Trump do on Syria?: The US should get out of the war in Syria and avoid destabilising more Middle Eastern countries, and the US should work with Putin to defeat terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).


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