"On the fifth day of the six-day war in 1967, I published an open letter to the Prime Minister, Levy Eshkol. The Israeli army had just conquered the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, and I proposed that Eshkol immediately offer the Palestinian people to establish the State of Palestine there, in return for peace with Israel.
I was a Member of the Knesset at the time. Two days after the end of the war, Eshkol asked me to meet him in his office in the Knesset building.
He listened to what I had to say, and then he answered with a fatherly smile: "Uri, what kind of a trader are you? In a negotiation, one offers the minimum and demands the maximum. Then one starts to negotiate, and in the end one reaches an agreement somewhere in the middle. And here you want to offer everything before the negotiation even starts?"
I objected feebly that this may be true about an ordinary deal, but not when the fate of nations is concerned.
(The Trade Minister, Haim Zadok, a very clever lawyer, soon gave me another lesson in the Zionist mentality. I asked him what part of the newly occupied territories the government was ready to give back. He replied: "Simple. If possible, we shall give back nothing. If they press us, we shall give back a small part. If they press us more, we shall give back a large part. If they press us very hard, we shall give back everything." At the time, giving back meant giving back to the King of Jordan.)
There was no effective pressure, so Israel kept everything".
Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom
Against all common sense, moral considerations and international law, U.S. President Donald Trump decided to place the United States outside the international so-called community and isolate itself, not Iran.
He withdrew the United States from what is one of the most important negotiated peace-oriented agreements that have ever been signed: the one that prevents Iran (if it has ever wanted to) from acquiring nuclear weapons: The Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, JCPOA, of July 2015 – all about this agreement and its text here).
Noteworthy is that the nuclear deal is incorporated into international law by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, even though the U.S. already at that point stated – as an exceptionalist state – that it did not consider the deal binding for it.
With the exception of Germany, the deal was negotiated – cynically, of course – by countries which have themselves thousands of nuclear weapons.
It never mentioned the only state in the region that possesses them, against international law in the form of UN resolutions and, additionally, has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). That state is Israel whose nuclear weapons Western politicians and their loyal, politically correct media omit mention of – as systematically and uniformly as if orchestrated by an invisible hand from above.
Back in 2014-15, many of us stated that the alternative to a negotiated deal would be war. I am still of the belief that President Trump’s announcement tonight will turn out to be a declaration of war on Iran. A series of developments since then in the Middle East point dangerously in the same direction.
Towards the end, his speech was extremely bellicose and one long systematic violation of the UN Charter’s Article 2.4 that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
Without a doubt, both the decision itself, the way it was announced as well as the threats stated relating to the future was nothing but a series of indisputable violations of the UN Charter. For all practical purposes he seems also to question that Iran has the right to self-defence according to the UN Charter’s Article 51.
It cannot be deemed acceptable that the U.S. or Israel or any other country can deny Iran a right to have conventional missiles and other military equipment, at least not as long as other countries – including these two exceptionalist and nuclear-armed countries – have much more of such weapons themselves and there are no international agreements that prohibit such types of weapons.
Who has and who has not honoured the JCPOA?
It’s the United States that has never honoured its commitments according to the JCPOA: Old sanctions not lifted fully, new sanctions installed, and control by the US Treasury of all currency exchange that takes place via the dollar with the aim of punishing corporations and banks that trade and invest in Iran.
Towards the end, Trump declared his admiration for and non-conflict with the Iranian people.
But since 1979 his country has done everything in its power to cause troubles, economic in particular, to the Iranian people. He seems to now have a perverse joy in announcing new sanctions and – well, at the end of the long road kill people: Remember the 13 years of sanctions on Iraq that killed more innocent Iraqis than the military invasion and occupation did? Trump’s sanctions are open-ended.
In contrast to this, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna and all other experts, Iran has fulfilled its side of the agreement in every detail.
CNN states on the page where the announcement was made: “Note: The Director of National Intelligence, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense have all said in last two months they are complying with the deal.” (“They” being the Iranians, JO).
Trump’s reference to Israeli PM Netanyauhu’s stand-up comedian-like speech a few days ago only shows how incredibly little evidence the his administration has as that speech has been debunked completely by a series of independent experts, including Gareth Porter here. In addition, it was 1992 when Mr. Netanyahu first began talking about Iran attempting to go nuclear.
No wonder the West talks about fighting fake because others use fake. No wonder it blames others for international law violations. It’s called psycho-political projection of one’s own dark sides. And nuclear weapons and threats and lies belong to the dark sides.
Unfortunately for the US militarist foreign policy circles, Iran is not a threat to the US or its allies. It pure nonsense.
For more than 250 years Iran has not invaded anyone – not exactly a record the West and Israel can match. Iran is in Syria fighting the terrorism which the U.S. allegedly fights too since 9/11 2001 (with the marvelous result that 17 years later 80 times more people worldwide are being killed in political terror actions than back then).
Iran is in Syria upon invitation by the legitimate government of Syria and, thus, in compliance with international law. So is, by the way, Russia. Whereas every other state or group – NATO allies, friends like Saudi Arabia and Israel on Syrian land, sea and air territory or through money, weapons and terrorism-support are involved through gross violation of international law, including the UN Charter.
Is Iran a big military power?
To judge that, let’s see what the just published figures by SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, tell.
The military expenditures of Iran with 80+ million people and a huge territory is US$ 15 billion. In the event of an attack on Iran, it may – may… – be supported by Russia or China but that is unlikely.
Who must Iran perceive as the likely coalition to attack it? It depends of course on who starts it – if Israel should start it, it would hardly do so without a prior green light by the U.S. and its commitment to help out. Saudi-Arabia is now the third largest military power in military expenditure terms, i.e. larger than Russia.
Israel’s military expenditures are US$ 16 billion – larger than Iran’s with a population about 1/10 of Iran. And, remember, Israel has nuclear weapons.
Saudi Arabia has been building up against Iran for a long time and built a coalition. Saudi military expenditures stand at US$ 69 billion. Oman’s are US$ 9 billion. Bahrein US$ 1 billion. So, a little dependent on one’s geo-political assumptions and hypotheses, we arrive at Iran US $ 15 billion against 16+69+9+1 = 95 or a 15:95 regional ratio.
It’s inconceivable that the U.S., France and the U.K. would not intervene. Indeed, the U.S. tonight declared war on Iran.
The military expenditures of the United States stand at US$ 610 billion, France at US$ 69 billion and the United Kingdom at US$ 47 billion.
So, is Iran a threat? Is Iran likely to start a war?
No matter what you might otherwise think of Iran, it is not a threat. It knows very well that it has 4 nuclear weapons states against it and a group of adversaries and Iran-hating leaderships whose combined military expenditures are, roughly speaking and according to the latest figures, a combined US$ 820 billion and way more technically sophisticated. And it knows that while its own military expenditures are US $ 16 billion – that the combined, thinkable international coalition that could get involved in a war in and around Iran is 55 times more resourceful in military terms.
So forget it. It exemplary fake foreign policy nonsense.
They are neither mentally ill nor suicidal in Tehran. In addition, in sharp contrast to almost all its potential military enemies, it is defensive in is military posture and foreign policy. Iran has gained strength in the region mostly because Western/NATO countries has produced one devastating, predictable war fiasco after the other.
Will the NATO allies and EU friends – who have been woefully incapable of showing solidarity with Iran by standing up against the United States’ permanent non-commitment to and violation of the JCPOA – now be able to change course?
Why have they so submissively and leaderlessly avoided setting down their feet and say to Washington: Dear friend, we will take action against you if you withdraw from the JCPOA because that step endangers all of us, could release a new round of violence, make the Second Cold War with Russia even colder and send millions of refugees our way. That will be our red line, a concept you surely understand!
Did NATO/EU really believe that President Macron’s and Chancellor Merkel’s pathetic appeasement attempts – such as talking in favour of a new agreement because the JCPOA “is not enough” – at the White House stage would charm and persuade Trump and his war-mongering, neo-con, militarist team with obsessed Iran-haters such as Trump, Bolton and Pompeo?
Of course: Neither NATO allies – or a country such as Sweden for that matter – will show the necessary civil courage to stand up against Donald Trump’s reckless de facto war declaration on Iran tonight. They will talk and express concern, in the best of cases.
For years, they have taken order from His Master’s Voice, their state-financed institutional researchers and military academy experts have had about the same freedom of creativity as their former colleagues had in the German Democratic Republic, at the time. Loud and clear criticism of U.S. foreign policy still a taboo?
For how long? With how much more pain brought down on innocent people in foreign lands?
The major ones likely to stand with Iran in this dark hour are Russia and China.
And Iran will need – and deserves – our sympathy. If there ever was a case for the need of standing with the Iranian people, this is it.
They have suffered more than enough over decades – yes due to the domestic corruption and economic mismanagement but in particular due to these suffocating sanctions. And it is the people – anywhere and therefore in Iran too – who will pay the highest price, as did – and still do – the Serbian people, the Afghan people, the Iraqi people, the Libyan people, the Syrian people and the Yemeni people, to mention a few.
Whether the – deceptively “soft” sanction which over years turn into Weapons of Mass Destruction – or bombings, invasions, arms trade, splitting of sovereign states and other war crimes: the innocent citizens who never touched a gun are always and without exception those who suffer most.
Nobody believes a word of your statement about your respect and admiration of the Iranian people, Mr. Trump. With this step you obviously could not care less about their welfare and the peace of the region.
Was this a declaration of war?
Yes. However, the U.S. doesn’t bother about declaring war, it just do them.
From now on the U.S. will invent reasons for confronting Iran, accusing Iran, threatening Iran. It will feel more free to do so being outside the deal. The only countries that are happy about the announced policy are those already ganging up against Iran.
The rest of the world will distance themselves or condemn this step – but it is not likely that the U.S. will listen. It’s constitutionally unable to, seeing itself as the Exceptionalist, Chosen Country, the global ruler. # 1 in a system tends to teach and not learn…
It doesn’t necessarily mean war on Iran tomorrow. I hope by all my heart that I’m wrong and it will never happen.
But given Trump’s decision and all the other events and trends and coalition-building against Iran since 2015, it is much much more difficult from today to ignore the risk of a US-led attack or war on Iran.
We must remember that the US conflict with Iran is not only about nuclear weapons but also about a long and very conflictual relationship since the CIA-led coup against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister in 1953 (who had the cheek to believe that Iran’s oil belonged to the Iranians). It’s about today’s Syria, Israel, Saudi-Arabia and, since yesterday, Iran-supported Hezbollah in Lebanon.
And – perhaps less easy to grasp but perhaps most importantly – it’s about the decline of US Empire worldwide and, therefore, an ever-increasing reliance on that last power dimension where the U.S. is still second to none: the MIMAC, the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex.
The hammer will be used if it is the only tool in the toolbox no matter the problem to be fixed.
As a postscript, here is an interview with me on Iran’s international PressTV made nine hours before Trump’s announcement. Another comment followed from Iranian President Rouhani. A very balanced, moderate reaction to Trump's madness. But as you can see below, not everyone in Iran is as moderate and patient as Rouhani.
“Iraq is at the muzzle of the gun,” says Ali Allawi, Iraqi historian and former minister, speaking of the increased turmoil expected to follow the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement.
It is not only Iraq which is in danger: an escalating confrontation between the US and Iran will affect the whole region, but its greatest impact will be in Syria and Iraq where wars have long been raging and Washington and Tehran are old rivals.
The US will rely at first on the reimposition of economic sanctions on Iran to force it to comply with US demands and hopefully bring about regime change in Tehran. But, if this does not work – and it will almost certainly fail – then there will be a growing risk of military action either carried out directly by the US or through “green-lighting” Israeli airstrikes.
Iran is for the moment reacting cautiously to Trump’s denunciation of the 2015 accord, portraying itself as the victim of arbitrary action and seeking to spur the EU states into taking practical steps to resist imposing draconian sanctions along the lines of those that were imposed before 2015. Even if this does not happen, it will be important for Iran that the Europeans should only grudgingly cooperate with the US in enforcing sanctions, particularly on Iranian oil exports.
A problem for the US is that Trump has made the Iranian nuclear deal negotiated by Barack Obama the issue on which he will test the limits of US power which he had pledged to expand. But the agreement is internationally popular and is seen to be working effectively in denying Iran the ability to develop a nuclear device. The US is therefore becoming self-isolated, with full support only from Israel and Saudi Arabia, in the first weeks of a crisis that could go on for years.
Already Trump’s determination to sink the deal forever has involved marginalising and humiliating France, Germany and UK. They had pleaded for it to be preserved but made more palatable to the US by separate agreements on ballistic missiles and other issues. Trump seems to have enjoyed the procession of European leaders from Emmanuel Macron to Boris Johnson asking for compromise, only to go away empty-handed.
If the European leaders now go along with sanctioning Iran, there will be even less reason for Trump to take their views seriously in future. They have already seen their attempt to appease him on climate change fail to produce anything, so they either have to accept that they have less influence and a reduced role in the world or make a serious attempt to preserve the nuclear accord.
But even if they do so, the US will be able to put intense economic pressure on Iran and its trading partners. Banks and companies are terrified of incurring the ire of the US Treasury and facing massive fines for even an unintentional breach of sanctions. Even if EU governments want their companies to go on investing in Iran, they may consider the risk too great.
Sanctions are a powerful but blunt instrument, take a long time to work and usually do not produce the political dividends expected by those who impose them. The Iranian rial may fall and hyperinflation return to 40 per cent, but this will most likely not be enough if Iran returns to enriching uranium. It has already said that it is not going to keep abiding by its part of the nuclear agreement if it is not getting any of the economic benefits promised.
What will the US do then? This is the crucial question for the Middle East and the rest of the world. Trump has just torpedoed any diplomatic solution to what he sees as the threat of Iran developing a nuclear bomb. The only alternative is a military response, but this would have to be more than a few days of intense airstrikes. Anything less than total war would not win for Trump the kind of results he says he wants.
Iran may be weak economically, but politically and militarily it is in a strong position in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the countries likely to provide the main arena for the coming crisis. In all three places it is Iran’s fellow Shia who are in control and see the US as an ally of the Sunni states in what is in large part a sectarian Shia-Sunni conflict.
Has the Trump administration thought any of this through? The crisis is beginning to feel very much like that in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some of the same figures, such as the national security adviser John Bolton, are the very same neoconservatives who believed that invading and occupying Iraq would be an easy business. They sound as if they are bringing the same blend of arrogance and ignorance to their coming confrontation with Iran.
Inside Story: Whar are the ramifications of USA exiting Iran nuclear deal?
As to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he has undoubtedly been sipping champagne these days in celebration of his successful effort to lobby Donald Trump over the Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu’s crude interventions to change US policy had been rebuffed by President Obama, but in Trump Netanyahu found a similarly singleminded partner who cannot see the long-term security problems that rejecting the nuclear deal will surely bring. Netanyahu praised Trump’s decision by saying that “the deal actually paves Iran’s path to an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs, and this within a few years’ time.” But he has yet to say—and cannot say—how US withdrawal will change that assessment.
Trump’s rejection of the nuclear deal actually may turn out to be a serious blow to the security of Israel and the entire Middle East. First, by further embittering Iran’s relations with the US and Israel, Trump’s decision makes a military confrontation more likely than ever, whether or not Iran proceeds to reactivate its nuclear-weapon program. Iran might retaliate for Israeli air attacks inside Syria or for Mossad’s intelligence missions inside Iran—such as the one that seized documents on Iran’s past nuclear program and was used by Netanyahu (and Trump) to make the case for Iran’s untrustworthiness. Netanyahu might now believe he has US backing to attack an Iranian nuclear site—an objective he has sought for some time and which now, at a time when his administration is wracked by a corruption scandal, he might find timely to carry out.
Second, if Iran’s supreme leader does decide to restart a nuclear-weapon program, it not only would give Washington and Tel Aviv the excuse they need to attack Iran. Saudi Arabia would also be tempted to intervene on their side—and build its own nuclear weapon in the process, as its foreign minister said on CNN (May 9). The minister blamed Iran for all the troubles in the region and claimed to have the backing of the other Arab countries. Thus, we could wind up with a “Sunni bomb” to rival Iran’s and Israel’s bombs. And there’s no evidence that the Trump administration would stand in the way of Saudi Arabia’s going nuclear.
Third, we have to consider the catastrophic consequences of a US-Israel-Saudi Arabia confrontation with Iran simultaneously with ongoing fighting elsewhere in the Middle East. Syria is already the new frontier of Israel-Iran confrontation. Wars rage in Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Total destruction of cities, massive refugee outflows, use of chemical weapons, and huge civilian casualties show us what to expect from a wider regional war.
Fourth, Iran has Hezbollah at its disposal for disrupting Israeli life in the Occupied Territories. What that move would mean for Israeli-Palestinian relations, which are already badly frayed since Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, can only be guessed.
Fifth, the US pullout from the Iran deal puts it at loggerheads with European allies, who have vowed to try to save the deal. Their efforts will further isolate Israel.
In short, while Trump and Netanyahu may think they have shown great courage in pushing Iran to the wall and defying Western allies, they have actually demonstrated extraordinary, even criminal, shortsightedness. They have assumed that an Iran weakened economically and pressured externally is a welcome development. In this, they have committed two cardinal sins of strategic planning: underestimating the opponent’s will to resist, and failing to ask “what next”? And what’s next will not be a case of unanticipated conséquences.
Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip have established a notable presence working on the front lines of the demonstrations that began on Gaza's eastern border with Israel March 30. The protests — dubbed the Great Return March and slated to continue until May 15 — have drawn tens of thousands of Gazans, and resulting clashes have left scores dead from Israeli fire.
The Higher National Commission for the Great Return March said that until Nakba Day, commemorated on May 15, every Tuesday is being dedicated to women's activities that are being held in five camps and spread across the eastern part of Gaza’s governorates.
Ektemal Hamad, head of the Women’s Committee of the Higher National Commission for the Great Return March, which includes women from all the national and Islamic factions of the Gaza Strip, said that “because women are accompanying men in the Palestinian struggle, the commission established five female subcommittees of five to 11 members each. These subcommittees are tasked with organizing activities dedicated to women during the Great Return March in the northern Gaza Strip, Gaza City, the central Gaza Strip, Khan Yunis and Rafah governorate.”
On April 10, the second Tuesday of the march, the Women's Committee of the Higher National Commission for the Return March organized near the border with Israel the “Rajin Ala Beladi” campaign ("We will Return to the Homeland"), in which women released balloons bearing the names of villages Palestinians were displaced from during the Nakba of 1948.
As senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya was marching with the demonstrators, he saw the group of women sitting in the circle. “Palestinian women are accompanying men in the Palestinian struggle. They have set a great example during the Great Return March. They raised the Palestinian flag at the fence and threw stones at the Zionists during the protests,” he told Al-Monitor.
Women’s activities in the camps are characterized by pacifism, and they focus on ways to support men during the protests. In the same camp, another group of women prepared sumaqiya, a dish made of meat, Arabic spices, chard, a lot of sumac, flour and chickpeas, and distributed dishes to the demonstrators and families at the camp.
Yet another group of women at the camp painted kushuk (used car tires) pink, as young men cultivated small plants and decorated them using the painted tires.
In the Khuzaa camp, located east of the Khan Yunis governorate, women were also active.
“Women in the Khuzaa camp play a great role in the marches. They raise flags on the borderline, bring kushuk for men to set on fire and prepare food. They also recite poems and folk songs in the camp,” Manal al-Tabash, head of the women's subcommittee there, told Al-Monitor.
She said that the reason women in the Khuzaa camp are more active than in other areas is because of the rural character of the area and its closeness to the border.
“Women have become accustomed to agriculture, which is the main source of income in the area. Farmers have established their houses there despite the danger lurking near the border, and they got used to both the presence of the Israeli army and the shooting,” she added.
Of note, the Women's Committee honored the Palestinian girl Hind Abu Ola, 16, who became a symbol of women's struggle in the Khuzaa area after rescuing four young men who were suffocating due to the tear gas bombs dropped on the front lines of the confrontation near the border fence.
“I saw the young men fainting. I took my bag, which contained onions and a perfume I had brought from the house, and I rescued them. Then the Israeli snipers started firing at us,” Abu Ola said.
As soon as the four guys awoke, they formed a human shield to protect Abu Ola from the bullets and started running. Their picture spread across the region and became a symbol of women's participation in the protests.
Palestinian journalist Ashraf Umra documented that scene, and the picture went viral on social media. “I was worried about the reactions [to the picture] of my family and the people … but my family was so happy and proud of it,” Abu Ola said.
Ashraf al-Qadra, spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Gaza, told Al-Monitor that up until April 10, the total number of wounded women was about 84, compared to 2,850 men and 278 children.
During her participation in the march, Mariam Abu Daqqa, a member of the Central Committee of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told Al-Monitor, “The active participation of women in the Great Return March is to be expected given the accumulation of historical efforts exerted by women. Women seize every opportunity to establish their presence during such events and change the negative perception of the role of women in Palestinian society.”
To the east of the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, Ibtisam Nassar, 52, sat with her daughters, sons and grandchildren in the tent that her family erected under the name “The Nassar Family.”
She told Al-Monitor, “We are participating to increase the number of participants and raise awareness among the new generation about our heritage and the history of the villages abandoned by our forefathers in 1948. We are teaching them that the right of return to the homeland is irreversible.”