As all US channels were rehashing the ‘breaking news’ that someone related to the Trump presidency was going to be indicted this morning that one of the reasons why the American public knows little or nothing about what’s going on in the world is that ‘panels’ of talking heads replace foreign news! What is officially twenty-four news is really a set where anchors along with ‘guests’ — paid by the networks — go round in circles about what is happening on the domestic front.
Though it may sound far-fetched, this is an apt lead into the news that struck me today as I glanced over some of the many news sources that land in my inbox. This one is from the Middle East’s Al-Monitor, and its titled Putin Resets Iraqi Energy landscape as Barzani Steps Aside: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/10/russia-putin-reset-iraq-energy-landscape-pmu-syria.html?utm_campaign=20171029&utm_source=sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Daily%20Newsletter.
While CNN and MSNBC — and even Fox News — continue to seek needles in the Mueller Investigation haystack with which to fill the slots accorded to ‘news’ in between ads, they blithely ignore this real news:
“Russian President Vladimir Putin repositioned himself as a key broker of Iraqi energy politics last week, while US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was scolded by the Iraqi government for his comments about Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).”
I remember wincing when I saw Tillerson deliver this order on tv…..It was a picture-perfect example of why the world is increasingly turning away from the US, and it made me suspect that our Secretary of State is tone-deaf. (Or maybe he’s mouthing his assigned role while deciding when to separate himself from the Trump administration — or any US administration, for that matter.)
The Al-monitor article admits that it would be a reach to suggest that Russia could be outflanking the US in the Middle East, but notes:
“The United States limits its options by seeing every Iranian move as adversarial and in zero-sum terms, which only serves to frustrate Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who prefers that the United States and Iran not play out their hostility in Iraq. Al-Abadi referred to the country’s “Popular Mobilization Units (PMU, a Shiite militia) as ‘Iraqi patriots’, while signing an ‘expansive energy and economic protocol with Russia.”
|Kurdish female fighters - Ghetty image
In addition, Rosneft announced that it would begin exploration and pilot production of fields in Iraqi Kurdistan. Baghdad needs foreign investments to revive the territories damaged in the war against ISIS, so it certainly won't pressure Moscow to choose between Baghdad and Erbil.
Whether or not the expansive interpretation of the Iraq-Russia relationship is on target, there’s likely to be a ‘there there’ when Al-Monitor notes:
Iraq “highly values that Russia respects its domestic and foreign policies, never demanding that Iraq should work with certain countries and not others. Moscow and Baghdad have the same opinion on both the fight against terrorism and the Syrian civil war. They navigate between the two Middle Eastern power centers — Tehran and Riyadh — in the same way, seeking to avoid controversy.”
Interestingly, this comment comes on the same day as a long article in consortiumnews.com by 9/11 widow turned activist Kristen Breitweiser, that deconstructs US efforts to shift the blame for the 2001 attack from Iraq to Iran. As the Trump administration seeks to somehow disappear an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear activities to which four European countries are also signatories, it repeats Israeli-inspired accusations that Iran sponsors terrorism when it supports the Lebanese militia of the political party Hezbollah. Significantly absent from news reports about Lebanon is the existence of the Christian ‘Phalange’ militia founded in 1937 and whose Kateb Party is still active. This confusion is facilitated by American ignorance of the fundamental difference between revolutionary Shia Iran and Sunni Wahabbi extremism: that the former is part of the worldwide left, while the latter is part of the Muslim Wahabbi right (which I do not want to confuse with the American religious right…).
Tonight I just witnessed the ultimate example of a journalistic expediency: Ari Melber on MSNBC almost ran out of breath describing how Paul Manafort succeeded in modifying the Republican Party platform with respect to Ukraine: it originally called for sending arms to Kiev to combat the ‘Russian invasion’, and Manafort got the plank scrapped, as if Ukraine was still government by the pro-Russian against whom the US carried out a coup in 2014! In reality, during the presidential campaign, the Kiev government the Republicans were set to send arms to was the anti-Russian government the US put in power in 2014 via a coup directed by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.
To his credit, Manafort was on the side of the pro-Russian regime which the US swept aside with the help of Neo-Nazi militias who still call the shots in Kiev — as European elections return far-right victories one after the other. To simplify for a largely ignorant audience, the media doesn't even bother to get the details right.