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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

Aleppo The Worst Humanitarian Disaster Since WWII? Not So Fast, Mr. Kerry

By John Wight

October 18, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - "RT"- The propaganda offensive unleashed against Russia by Washington and its allies has moved beyond satire and entered the realm of farce.

At the conclusion of their most recent meeting in London over the ongoing conflict in Syria, specifically the operation being carried out by Syrian government forces and Russia in Aleppo, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to the press in words that will not be treated kindly in the court of history.

“We are outraged by what is happening in Aleppo, which is in year 2016, beginning of the 21st century, horrendous step back in time to a kind of barbarianism, a use of force that is an insult to all of the values that the United Nations and most countries believe should guide our actions,” Kerry said.

It should be borne in mind that John Kerry speaks for a country which since the beginning of the 21st century has been responsible for a military mission in Afghanistan, where today the Taliban has never been stronger and in which ISIS now has a foothold, and for turning Iraq and Libya into failed states, unleashing an ocean of death, misery, human suffering, and chaos in the process.

It is more than enough to expose the moral high ground upon which the US and its allies have occupied over Syria as a dung heap of hypocrisy and double standards.

As for the barbarism against which John Kerry declaims, it has engulfed Syria and its people courtesy of the destabilization of the region wrought by Washington during the aforementioned wars and military interventions, producing a refugee crisis of staggering scale and triggering the proliferation of terrorism in Syria, throughout the wider region, and across the world. Indeed it is interesting to note the hypocrisy when Salafi-jihadists unleash indiscriminate violence in Europe or the US they are described as terrorists, but when they do likewise in Syria they are described as rebels.

John Kerry, it is clear, would prefer us to start the clock in 2016 when it comes to the current crisis and chaos in Syria. He wants to wipe Washington’s slate clean of the utter shambles and perfidy of its presence in a region it has long viewed as a giant chessboard, upon which its people are regarded as nothing more than pawns in their game. But do so and we insult the memory of the countless men, women, and children who have perished in the inferno begun by the US and its international and regional proxies in service not to human rights or democracy, as they claim, but hegemony and domination.

In his statement in London, John Kerry went on to opine, “It's [Aleppo] a humanitarian disaster that is the largest humanitarian disaster since World War Two.”

The claim that the military operation to liberate Aleppo from those responsible for reducing it to a living hell for its citizens is “the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War” is simply ludicrous. Here we need to remind Mr. Kerry of the destruction of North Korea in a US bombing campaign so devastating that not one building was left intact. Then there is the destruction, decimation, and disaster visited on the people of Vietnam in a brutal imperialist war in which US atrocities were a daily occurrence - a war in which John Kerry served but later denounced.

Perhaps the Secretary of State also forgot about Cambodia, where after a mass bombing campaign conducted against the country and its people by the United States in the 1970s the Khmer Rouge emerged to carry out their project of Year Zero. There is also the claim that the US and its UK ally provided covert support for these fanatical killers and torturers upon the liberation of Cambodia by the Vietnamese in 1979 to contend with.

Space prohibits us from adding further examples to this litany of US foreign policy disasters and military operations since the Second World War - the various coups, proxy wars, and covert operations around the world engaged in by Washington – but even without those included it stands as a withering indictment of John Kerry’s attempt to tar Russia with the brush of war crimes.

It is more than enough, however, to expose the moral high ground upon which the US and its allies have occupied over Syria as a dung heap of hypocrisy and double standards.

The only question that matters when it comes to the conflict in Aleppo, and Syria in general, is who is responsible for prolonging it and who is serious when it comes to ending it?

The Syrian people, supported by Russia, are engaged in a struggle for the survival of their country as a secular non-sectarian state in which minority communities that have existed in al-Sham (the ancient name for the Levant and Syria) for millennia are not threatened with genocide and extinction. At the point at Russia’s involvement in the conflict began in 2015, the country was in serious danger of being tipped over the cliff.

Despite the inordinate courage and tenacity of the Syrian Army and its allies, resistance to the country’s invasion by hordes of fanatical Islamist jihadists, supported by US regional allies, was beginning to crack. In fact it is no exercise in hyperbole to state that Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other countries were circling Syria like vultures over a wounded animal, waiting to descend.

It is worth remembering also that the presence of Russian military forces in Syria is in full accordance with international law – as per Chapter VII, Article 51 of the UN Charter. Unlike the US, UK, and other international actors in the conflict, Russia joined the conflict at the request of the country’s legitimate government. Furthermore, it is a government that enjoys the support of a people who well understand the difference between reform and ruin.

But let us return to John Kerry, who concluded his statement in London by saying, “And it could stop tomorrow morning, tonight if Russia and the Assad regime were to behave according to any norm or any standard of decency, but they've chosen not to. Instead we see what can only be described as crimes against humanity taking place on a daily basis."

Here, again, the US Secretary of State is guilty of dissembling and distortion. The conflict to liberate Aleppo could end tomorrow if the US placed serious pressure on its regional allies to stop supporting terrorism in Aleppo as well as in Syria as a whole. It will end when Washington and London stop the charade of maintaining there exists an army of ‘moderate rebels’ in Aleppo and across Syria, distinct in ideology and method from ISIS, Nusra Front, and Al-Qaeda. The Syrian people are way beyond the stage of being able to afford to make any distinction between moderate head-chopping fanatics and their extremist counterparts.

The truth is that John Kerry and his British counterpart Boris Johnson – whose call for public protests to be staged outside the Russian embassy in London recently was more in tune with the legacy of Benito Mussolini than his political inspiration Winston Churchill - are engaged in a determined effort to demonize Russia and Syria not in order to see an end to the suffering of the people of eastern Aleppo, as they assert, but in response to a military operation that moves ever closer to liberating them.

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