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American Resistance To Empire

“Legitimate Press” Begins To Report the Truth About ISIS Incubating In Iraq Prison Camp Bucca

How a US prison camp helped create ISIS

new york post

The facility spread out below him, row after row of neatly aligned white aluminum roofs, looking like Chiclets set against the endless beige of the desert floor.

It was called Camp Bucca. To coalition forces in Iraq, it was the primary detention facility for enemy prisoners of war. To Mitchell Gray, then 48 and serving his country for the third time, it was simply the place where the US Army had decided his skills, which included a law degree and a fluency in Arabic, were needed most.

He and the rest of his unit, the 45th Infantry Brigade of the Oklahoma National Guard, were flying helicopters in from Kuwait. It was shortly after landing that he got a first glimpse at a few of the 26,000 detainees, staring at him from the other side of the concertina wire.

 

 

“You never see hatred on the faces of Americans like you saw on the faces of these detainees,” Gray remembers of his 2008 tour. “When I say they hated us, I mean they looked like they would have killed us in a heartbeat if given the chance. I turned to the warrant officer I was with and I said, ‘If they could, they would rip our heads off and drink our blood.’ ”

What Gray didn’t know — but might have expected — was that he was not merely looking at the United States’ former enemies, but its future ones as well. According to intelligence experts and Department of Defense records, the vast majority of the leadership of what is today known as ISIS, including its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, did time at Camp Bucca.

And not only did the US feed, clothe and house these jihadists, it also played a vital, if unwitting, role in facilitating their transformation into the most formidable terrorist force in modern history.

Camp Bucca started, as so many policy blunders do, with nothing but the best intentions. The Army simply needed a place to stick bad actors where they could not harm US troops.

The 800th Military Police Brigade, a reserve unit based on Long Island, were the ones who christened it Camp Bucca. It was fitting symbolism for a place designed to hold terrorists: Ronald Bucca was an FDNY marshall who died on 9/11.

For much of the war, Bucca might as well have been invisible to folks back home. The war correspondents focused their attention on Mosul or Fallujah, places where the bullets were flying and the blood was flowing. The only detention facility to gain real notice was Abu Ghraib, where abuses against Iraqi prisoners made headlines around the world.

If you were a jihadist, Bucca became the place to be.

 – Michael Weiss, co-author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror.”

Bucca had no such scandal. It is only now, six years after it was shuttered for good, that Bucca is starting to gain its own infamy.

The dilemma of Camp Bucca began almost immediately after the invasion. During that chaotic time, coalition forces — unable to distinguish friend from foe — were sweeping up huge numbers of military-aged males and warehousing them at Bucca.

“We knew there were some bad guys in there somewhere,” said a former officer at Bucca, whom I’ll call Greg, who asked for anonymity due to his ongoing work with the Defense Department. “The question was which ones? It was a constant game between the guards and the detainees.”

The camp was divided into compounds of roughly 1,000 inmates. The Americans knew Sunnis and Shiites, the two main factions of Islam in Iraq, could not be incarcerated in the same compound if the camp was to remain peaceful.

They also quickly learned moderate Sunnis and extreme Sunnis could not be kept together. The extremists instituted Sharia Law, the canonical law of Islam, and either radicalized the moderates or punished them for failing to toe the line, gouging their eyeballs or cutting out their tongues.

Jennifer Stephens, who was with the 320th Military Police Battalion, arrived at Bucca in March 2003. Now a Sheriff’s Deputy in Wyoming, she sees parallels between Bucca and the jail where she works in Laramie County.

“It’s just like it is here with the gangs,” Stephens said. “They might not be gang members when they go into jail, but they sure are by the time they get out.”

Greg, who was in charge of one of the compounds, said the guards began to get more savvy about identifying hardcore jihadists. One method was to bring in a detainee for interrogation and leave him alone in a room that had a Maxim magazine lying around. The inmates who resisted looking at it would be shunted off with the other zealots.

It was a sound strategy for keeping peace at a prison. For the larger war on terror, it turned out to be a disaster. By putting the worst of the worst together, the US was essentially hosting a terrorist convention. “Bucca didn’t create the problem of anti-American sentiment, but it exacerbated the problem by localizing it and concentrating it,” said Michael Weiss, co-author of
“ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror.” “If you were a jihadist, Bucca became the place to be.”

Early in Bucca’s existence, the most extreme inmates were congregated in Compound 6. There were not enough Americans guards to safely enter the compound — and, in any event, the guards didn’t speak Arabic. So the detainees were left alone to preach to one another and share deadly vocational advice.

Adel Jasim Mohammed, a former detainee, once described the scene to Al Jazeera. “Extremists had freedom to educate the young detainees,” Mohammed said. “I saw them giving courses using classroom boards on how to use explosives, weapons and how to become suicide bombers.”

They were also networking in ways that never would have been possible outside the wire. A few months back, The Guardian published an extraordinary interview with an ISIS leader it called Abu Ahmed, who described his years at Bucca in glowing terms.

“We had so much time to sit and plan,” Ahmed said. “It was the perfect environment. We all agreed to get together when we got out. The way to reconnect was easy. We wrote each other’s details on the elastic of our boxer shorts. When we got out, we called. Everyone who was important to me was written on white elastic. I had their phone numbers, their villages.”

“It really was that simple,” Ahmed said later during the interview. “Boxers helped us win the war.”

Al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic state, spent 10 quiet months at Bucca. According to Pentagon records, he was released in December 2004. He was such a model inmate, a military review board deemed him not to be a significant threat.

Bucca also housed Haji Bakr, a former colonel in Saddam Hussein’s air-defense force. Bakr was no religious zealot. He was just a guy who lost his job when the Coalition Provisional Authority disbanded the Iraqi military and instituted de-Baathification, a policy of banning Saddam’s past supporters from government work.

According to documents recently obtained by German newspaper Der Spiegel, Bakr was the real mastermind behind ISIS’s organizational structure and also mapped out the strategies that fueled its early successes. Bakr, who died in fighting in 2014, was incarcerated at Bucca from 2006-’08, along with a dozen or more of ISIS’s top lieutenants.

The collusion at Bucca got so bad that when Marine Maj. Gen. Doug Stone was put in command of the camp in 2007, he became aware that some insurgents were allowing themselves to be caught so they could join their comrades.

“They showed up knowing about our intake process,” Stone said. “They would come in and say, ‘I believe this and such and therefore I’d like to get into Compound 34.’ These guys were using detention for their own purposes.”

Stone immediately set about breaking up the 1,000-man compounds into 10-man huts to limit inmate interaction. He released detainees who weren’t a threat, so they couldn’t be indoctrinated by the ones who were. He implemented an ideological re-education program, bringing in local imams to preach a moderate version of the Koran.

“It made a difference. And if we had done some of those things five or six years earlier, it might have made more of a difference,” Stone said. “At that point, it was probably too little too late.”

It was into this environment — a reformed but still teeming Bucca — that Gray, the Oklahoma National Guardsman, found himself in 2008.

His journey there had started three years earlier with, of all things, a Yankees game. A lifelong fan, he was getting his dose of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman via satellite radio when he heard an ad: the Army needed people who spoke Arabic.

Gray, who had an interest in Islam from his legal work in the oil and gas industry, had started learning the language in the late ’90s. He has since written a book about 9/11 conspirator
Zacarias Moussaoui titled, “I Heard You Were Going on Jihad.”

In early 2008, he arrived at Bucca and was briefed about behavior toward inmates at what the Army called the TIF, the Theater Internment Facility. “They told us, ‘We’ve got to treat all of these guys with respect. Nelson Mandela spent time in prison. The next Nelson Mandela could be in this TIF,’ ” Gray said. “While they were looking for the next Nelson Mandela, they missed the next Osama bin Laden.”

Gray, who did some intelligence work while at Bucca, remembered zeroing in on a contractor who came into the camp to sell DVDs to the troops.

“We knew pretty early on the guy was no good,” Gray said. “He never seemed to be there when the mortars came in, if you know what I mean.” We put together a packet that proved beyond a reasonable doubt — and I use that term as an attorney — that he was associated with some of these radical militias.”

Gray presented the package to his superiors. “The MP Brigade operations officer, a lieutenant colonel who I won’t name, shut it down,” Gray said. “He said, ‘This guy provides a lot of good morale to these troops. He’s going to stay.’ To me, it was a sign we had forgotten 9/11 and lost focus on why we were supposed to be there. At that moment I said, ‘So much for the War on Terror.’ ”

As the battle-weary US began scrambling for the exit in 2009, many former-and-future jihadists held at Bucca were simply let go. Others were released into the hands of Iraqi authorities, who proved inept at keeping them locked up.

At that moment I said, ‘So much for the War on Terror.’

 –  Mitchell Gray

One of the first priorities of the Islamic State when it began organizing and gaining strength in 2010 and 2011 was to spring its would-be compatriots, which it did through a combination of bribing corrupt Iraqi officials and staging coordinated attacks on the prisons.“There were a number of detainees that when we left, we said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t let these guys out,’ ” Stone said. “But of course they all got free. There was a lot of talent and expertise there. They really broke out the Who’s Who in the Zoo.”

It is with sadness that Stone, Gray and other soldiers look at the chaos now in the region. They came to help an oppressed people build a new Iraq. The end result, as ISIS rewrites the rules of region, may be that Iraq is wiped off the map altogether.

“There were obviously mistakes made in how we handled Iraq,” said Greg, the ex-officer. “In retrospect, bringing every jihadi and insurgent into the same place and giving them all the time in the world to get to know one another may go down as our biggest mistake.”

Brad Parks is a novelist. His next book, “The Fraud,” will be released from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books in July.

US Claims “Right” To Intercede In Any Pacific Maritime Dispute

Russian-Chinese Naval ExercisesRussia to Take Part in South China Sea Naval Exercises

[SEE: Obama Pushing China/Taiwan War Over Spratlys]

The United States and Challenges of Asia-Pacific Security: Ashton Carter

IISS International Institute for Strategic Studies

Yesterday, I took an aerial transit of the Strait of Malacca. And when viewed from the air, it is even clearer how critical this region’s waterways are to international trade and energy resources. We all have benefitted from free and open access to the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca. We all have a fundamental stake in the security of the South China Sea. And that’s why we all have deep concerns about any party that attempts to undermine the status quo and generate instability there, whether by force, coercion, or simply by creating irreversible facts on the ground, in the air, or in the water.

Now, it’s true that almost all the nations that claim parts of the South China Sea have developed outposts over the years…of differing scope and degree. In the Spratly Islands, Vietnam has 48 outposts; the Philippines, eight; Malaysia, five; and Taiwan, one.

Yet, one country has gone much farther and much faster than any other.

And that’s China.

China has reclaimed over 2,000 acres, more than all other claimants combined…and more than in the entire history of the region. And China did so in only the last 18 months. It is unclear how much farther China will go. That is why this stretch of water has become the source of tension in the region and front-page news around the world.

The United States is deeply concerned about the pace and scope of land reclamation in the South China Sea, the prospect of further militarization, as well as the potential for these activities to increase the risk of miscalculation or conflict among claimant states. As a Pacific nation, a trading nation, and a member of the international community, the United States has every right to be involved and be concerned. But these are not just American concerns. Nations across the region and the world, many of you here in the room today, have also voiced the same concerns and raised questions about China’s intentions in constructing these massive outposts.

So let me make clear the position of the United States:

First, we want a peaceful resolution of all disputes. To that end, there should be an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by all claimants. We also oppose any further militarization of disputed features. We all know there is no military solution to the South China Sea disputes. Right now, at this critical juncture, is the time for renewed diplomacy, focused on a finding a lasting solution that protects the rights and interests of all. As it is central to the regional security architecture, ASEAN must be part of this effort: the United States encourages ASEAN and China to conclude a Code of Conduct this year. And America will support the right of claimants to pursue international legal arbitration and other peaceful means to resolve these disputes, just as we will oppose coercive tactics.

Second, the United States will continue to protect freedom of navigation and overflight – principles that have ensured security and prosperity in this region for decades. There should be no mistake: the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as U.S. forces do all around the world.

America, alongside its allies and partners in the regional architecture, will not be deterred from exercising these rights – the rights of all nations. After all, turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air or maritime transit.

Finally, with its actions in the South China Sea, China is out of step with both the international rules and norms that underscore the Asia-Pacific’s security architecture, and the regional consensus that favors diplomacy and opposes coercion. These actions are spurring nations to respond together in new ways: in settings as varied as the East Asia Summit to the G-7, countries are speaking up for the importance of stability in the South China Sea. Indonesia and the Philippines are putting aside maritime disputes and resolving their claims peacefully. And in venues like the ADMM-Plus and the East Asia Maritime Forum, nations are seeking new protocols and procedures to build maritime cooperation.

The United States will always stand with its allies and partners. It’s important for the region to understand that America is going to remain engaged…continue to stand up for international law and universal principles…and help provide security and stability in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.

The CIA and Saudi Intelligence Have Created A Global Islamist Army, Once Again

[CIA plans have finally come to fruition, bearing the ugly “fruit” of armies of unrestrained, mass-murderer mercenary “jihadis,” who are all willing to wage “holy war” for cold hard cash.  Their previous dabbling in the black arts have produced the infamous Afghan “mujahedeen,” who later mutated into “al-Qaeda” and other intelligence agency armies of militant Islamists.  Now that Obama and Bandar bin Sultan have recreated that effort in Syria and Iraq with ISIS and al-Nusra, they have taken the cork out of the bottle and the mad “djinn” cannot be put back in.  More than just unintended consequences, the ISIS phenomenon has become a perpetual motion machine, with a life of its own, beyond the control of the insane “intelligence agencies” who have given it life. 

All over the world, murderous Islamists with the same insane goal–establishing Shariah Law over the entire earth–have come to the conclusion that they all fight on the same team, so why not fight under the same name and under one command, whether they are in Africa, Afghanistan, or in the Caucasus. 

Until all of those who are fighting against the Islamists share a common fight, the virus of “radical Islam” will continue to spread.]

IS support growing in Asia, Africa: Interpol

I 24 News

 

Over 25,000 foreign fighters from 100 countries have joined IS, which uses truck bombs as their ‘air force’

A rise in support for the Islamic State from Africa to southeast Asia has Interpol warning of greater risks for “cross-pollination” of conflicts extending beyond Syria and Iraq.

Along with a change in travel methods used by foreign fighters to join the militant group in the Middle East, a growing number of militant groups in the region have shifted their support from al-Qaida and other groups to the Islamic State in recent months, the head of Interpol Juergen Stock said at a UN Security Council meeting Friday.

Stock was a keynote speaker at a UNSC meeting to assess the progress of an American-sponsored resolution which required all countries to prevent the radicalization, recruitment and travel of their citizens who aim to join militant groups.

Islamic State’s Baghdadi has already accepted pledges of allegiance from jihadist groups in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and north Africa.

Screengrab

Boko Haram, the militant group in North Africa responsible for thousands of deaths, pledged allegiance to IS in March, a symbolic move highlighting increased coordination between jihadi movements across north Africa and the Middle East.

The emergence of groups pledging allegiance to IS as well as many citizens leaving to fight with the group has many Southeast Asian governments worried, but many countries have not yet tightened their laws to prosecute citizens who might return.

In Indonesia, the region’s largest economy, there are between 200-500 citizens who have traveled to Syria and Iraq, but tightening terror laws is “still not a priority” for the government Adhe Bhakti, director of the Center for the Study of Radicalism and Deradicalization told Bloomberg News, adding that “it’s clearly a threat, if not now then later.”

Twitter

A report by a panel of UN experts said that there are over 25,000 foreign fighters from over 100 countries who have joined extremist groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State, with an the number increased by 71 percent between mid-2014 to March 2015.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that while most foreign fighters are young men, an examination for why more women and girls are joining IS is needed.

“No country can tackle this challenge alone,” he said.

-Truck bombs: The IS ‘air force’-

About 30 explosives-rigged vehicles were used by IS in the Iraqi city of Ramadi this month, blasting their way through positions government and allied fighters had managed to hold for more than a year.

IS fighters have used looted armored personnel carriers, pick-ups, tankers and dump trucks. They pack them with tonnes of explosives and weld steel cages around them.

When a position is too well defended for a more conventional advance, a suicide driver steers a truck bomb, protected by the makeshift armor, through enemy fire and straight to his target.

Twitter

“They are protected from 12.7mm (heavy machinegun) fire and even some RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades). There’s so much explosives (inside) that it’s still effective at 50 metres (yards),” an Iraq-based military expert said.

Videos of the truck bomb attacks, which IS has also used in the battle of Kobane in northern Syria and on other fronts, show huge explosions that are visible from miles away.

“The damage is bigger than that of a half-tonne bomb dropped by a fighter jet,” the Western expert said. “Truck bombs are their air force.”

Responding to US accusations that his troops dodged battle in Ramadi, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi defended them by saying the impact of a truck bomb blast was akin to that of “a small nuclear bomb”.

– Unprecedented –

IS did not invent what is now known as an SVBIED, or suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

The Islamic State organisation has used suicide car bombs in Baghdad to sow terror in the population and paint the authorities as powerless to control and govern.

Screengrab

The group’s previous incarnations in Iraq had already detonated 18-wheelers stuffed with explosives during the US military presence, but IS commanders are taking the use of truck bombs to a new level.

“The (IS) offensives in Iraq may be the first time that VBIEDs have been used as part of the order of battle of a large attacking force in Middle Eastern warfare,” said Andrew Terrill, professor at the US Army’s Strategic Studies Institute.

“The Ramadi attack was shock and awe on a wholely different scale,” he said.

A US State Department official said nearly a dozen truck bombs used in Ramadi carried explosives to cause a blast the size of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

– ‘New paradigm’ –

Davis said a van bomb such as that used in Oklahoma City were “the explosive equivalent of the bomb load carried by a B-24 in the Second World War. A poor man’s air force, so to speak.”

“But the truck bombs in Ramadi… were obviously far more powerful and probably the equivalent to an air attack with 1,000-pound bombs,” he said.

Ahmad al-Rubaye (AFP)

After the fall of Ramadi, Washington sent 2,000 AT4s to equip Iraqi forces with firepower able to take out the jihadists’ lethal truck bombs.

“It’s good in the open but it’s unguided so if (the truck) is coming at you, you have to stand in front of it,” the military expert said of the Swedish-developed anti-tank weapon.

“When the truck is within 100 meters, it’s almost too late already,” the military expert said. “And in a city, in Ramadi for example, it’s almost impossible to avoid the truck bombs.”

By fully integrating suicide truck bombs carrying huge payloads in ground attacks, IS has already forced a tactical rethink from Baghdad and its allies.

“The greatest military myth of the previous century, of course, was that airpower alone could defeat insurgents,” Davis said, adding that truck bombs had helped make IS a “new paradigm.”

(with AFP)

Obama Pushing China/Taiwan War Over Spratlys

US re-evaluating Taiwan’s role in South China Sea

taipei times

By William Lowther
WASHINGTON

The US might encourage Taiwan to play a larger role in the growing South China Sea dispute, a US official said.

US Department of State spokesman Jeff Rathke on Tuesday offered support for President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) peace initiative, while Washington policymakers are expected to discuss the issue with Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) when she visits the city next week.

In addition, the Brookings Institution has published a lengthy paper urging Taiwan’s inclusion in negotiations related to the South China Sea.

“We appreciate Taiwan’s call on claimants to exercise restraint, to refrain from unilateral actions that could escalate tensions and to respect international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention,” Rathke said.

Asked about Ma’s plan to emphasize that resources can be shared even though sovereignty cannot be divided, Rathke stressed that the US position on the South China Sea was long-standing and had not changed.

“With regard to claims of sovereignty over land features in the South China Sea, our position is that maritime claims must accord with the Law of the Sea, and we have a strong interest in peace and security, and in the manner in which claimants address their disputes,” Rathke said.

“As to the question of sovereignty over islands claimed by Taiwan or other land features claimed by claimants, we don’t take a position on the sovereignty of land features,” he said.

Rathke said that China’s extensive land reclamation efforts in the region had contributed to rising tensions and that under international law land reclamation could not change the maritime zones of a geographic feature.

Washington sources have told the Taipei Times that the administration of US President Barack Obama would be interested to learn Tsai’s plans for the South China Sea and said she would face questions on the subject.

They also suggested that Taiwan should expand its role as a peacemaker in the region.

Meanwhile, Lynn Kuok, a foreign policy academic at Brookings, released a paper entitled Taiwan’s Evolving Position in the South China Sea.

Kuok said that all parties who have an interest in better management of the dispute and a more peaceful region — including China — should support Taiwan’s inclusion in negotiations and activities relating to the South China Sea.

“This can be done in ways consistent with China’s ‘one China’ principle,” Kuok said.

She added: “Proper management of the dispute necessarily involves Taiwan — Taiwan controls the largest land feature in the South China Sea, its vessels regularly patrol the area and it has one of the biggest fishing industries in the Pacific.”

Kuok said that, for China, supporting Taiwan’s participation in cooperative activities would show Beijing’s desire for better cross-strait relations and its dual-track approach to the dispute; seeking one-on-one negotiations on sovereignty issues and multilateral arrangements within the region to promote peace and stability.

She said that Taiwan should clarify its claims, avoid unleashing nationalist sentiment, which would limit policy options, and continue promoting Ma’s peace plan.

In addition, Taiwan should push from behind the scenes for participation in code of conduct negotiations and in cooperative activities involving all claimants, she said.

Greece Ready To Sign-On With BRICs and Turkish Stream?

Greece one step before BRICS!

failed revolution
Greek Energy min. P. Lafazanis said Greece will probably submit request to participate in BRICS bank
globinfo freexchange
Speaking on ANA-MPA news agency on Friday, the Greek Environment and Energy Minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis, said that Greece secured Russia’s support to participate in the new development BRICS bank:
Greece is preparing and will probably submit a request to participate in the new development bank for BRICS countries and has secured Russia’s support on the issue, Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis told ANA-MPA news agency on Friday evening.
During my meeting with Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak, we secured the decisive Russian support to Greece’s request for participation in the new development bank of BRICS countries. The relevant request for Greece’s participation…will be symbolic and will be paid in installments, while right after operations begin, it will be able to accept financial support,” the minister said.
Lafazanis added that technical details were also discussed on how to submit the request so that it will be accepted after discussions within the Greek government conclude.
He also noted that he also discussed the credit facility that will be provided by Russian banks to the Greek company which will undertake the construction of the new gas pipeline which will cross Greece. “Repayment of the Russian loan will be achieved by the profits made through the operation of the pipeline and this facility is not related to loans or economic assistance between states,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lafazanis also claimed that the US oppose extension of Russia’s Turkish Stream pipeline, which is the Greek part (Greek Stream), from the Turkish borders to Central Europe.
From sputniknews.com:
“Unfortunately, as to the pipeline with the Russian gas, the position of the United States is negative. The US side took this position officially during the recent meeting I personally had with the US official responsible for energy issues,” Lafazanis said.
“For all these reasons, we support the pipeline, we want it to be laid across the Greek soil and we are convinced that it would be an input to all the European nations and to Europe as such and we fully disagree with the position of the United States on this issue.” […] “The Russian pipeline, which will replace the Ukrainian transit road of the natural gas, is absolutely necessary for the energy security in Europe. This means that it has to be welcomed by all the EU member states and by the European peoples who understand the needs of having uninterruptable supplies of cheap natural gas,” Panagiotis Lafazanis said.
“TAP is a pipeline which will pass through Greece, of course, but it cannot satisfy the huge demands in natural gas of the European states and peoples,” Lafazanis said, adding that the project would not be an alternative to the Turkish Stream. The Trans Adriatic Pipeline is a 2,170-mile project to transport Azerbaijan’s natural gas to Europe. The Greek extension of a pipeline to pump Russian natural gas through Turkey to consumers in southern Europe could cost about 2 billion euros (some $2.2 bln), Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis told Sputnik on Friday. “We have not discussed yet how exactly the project will be financed. But we already know that the approximate cost of the pipeline will be around 2 billion euros and its construction will create about 20 000 working places,” Lafazanis said.
Obviously, in this new Cold War, Americans would never like to see Russia’s geopolitical expansion in the East Mediterranean, and especially in regions that traditionally belong to the Western bloc for decades, but things are not so easy for them under current circumstances:
… the German political elite and the eurocrats play with fire, as they blackmail the economically devastated Greece, insisting on the same neoliberal policies that ruined the country. Greece may be forced to escape the eurozone prison and return to national currency in order to survive. The Russians will not waste the chance. They will offer an alternative through BRICS (evolving-fast-greece-closer-to-brics), and grab the opportunity for geopolitical expansion in the East Mediterranean, mainly through the game of the pipelines (fresh-smart-moves-by-putin-in).

Saudis Dropping Tactical Nukes On Yemen?

yemen nukeNuclear strike hits Yemen. Video

29.05.2015 |

pravdaPravda.Ru

Nuclear strike hits Yemen. Video. Nuclear bomb

Source: YouTube screenshot

Saudis have begun to wipe Yemen off the map. Tactical strikes have hit the city.

Shocking video reveals proton bombardment from a neutron bomb.

Israel is reported to be the one to deploy such neutron bombs.

Any doubts about the nuclear attack on Yemen attributed to Israel, as evidenced in two Israeli F16s shot down and forensically identified, are now gone.

Forbidden strikes have brought about a storm of worldwide protest.

Obama has recently promised to provide every assistance including US military force to any “external threat” the rich Arab states of the Gulf may face.

Pravda.Ru


Israeli / Saudi Arabia Tactical Nuclear Strike on Yemen

U.S. playing with fire over South China Sea

China Voice: U.S. playing with fire over South China Sea

Xinhua net

BEIJING, May 29 (Xinhua) — The United States’ attempts to stir trouble in the South China Sea and denigrate China raise doubts on whether the self-proclaimed global peacekeeper is really so keen on quiet waters.

Speaking on his way to Singapore to attend the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security forum, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Wednesday called for an end to island-building in the South China Sea, urging China and other countries involved to stop militarizing disputes and find a peaceful solution in their competing claims to sovereignty in the area.

Though the land being reclaimed by China is within its sovereign territory, the move is “out of step” with the regional consensus, Carter said. Beijing has repeatedly asserted that China’s work on the islands mostly serves civil purposes as well as meeting the needs of military defense.

This is not the first time the United States has made a fuss over a legitimate sovereign issue within China’s territory.

Washington has never missed an opportunity to talk about the “China threat” when it comes to the South China Sea disputes between countries including China, the Philippines and Vietnam. It tries to pit other countries in the region against China.

Addressing U.S. Navy Academy cadets last week, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said China is a destabilizing factor in the South China Sea and the United States should keep peace in the region “as it has for the past 60 years”.

Such remarks — particularly hypocritical given a U.S. anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft’s fly-over of waters off the Nansha Islands last week — are inconducive to ensuring peace and stability in the busy body of water vital to international trade.

Outside meddling on the South China Sea issue will do nothing but sow discord, stoke tension and thus hinder the search for a peaceful solution to the disputes.

Overlooking China’s commitment to peaceful development, the U.S. strategic rebalance toward the Asia Pacific — a euphemism for containing rising powers such as China — only serves Washington’s own agenda of expanding its political and military presence in the region.

In particular, Washington is emboldening Hanoi and Manila, among others, to take a hardline stance against China, putting an amicable solution further beyond reach.

For sure, touting “China fear” in Beijing’s neighborhood suits Washington.

Countries like the Philippines and Vietnam are increasingly looking to the United States for support when confronting China in their territorial claims, although they tend to skip the fact that the United States is not even a relevant party in the South China Sea. Nor do they recall past tranquility in the region, before Washington embarked on its “Pivot to Asia”.

But the United States will not necessarily gain from the disputes.

For one thing, it risks poisoning its ties with China, the world’s second-largest economy and its second-largest trade partner.

Despite some fundamental differences, Beijing and Washington share considerable interests on many major challenges, such as the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue.

There is more — one does not need to be reminded of the benefits of a peaceful neighborhood to any country.

For both China and the United States, stability and security in their vicinity translate to stronger economic and trade links with neighbors, and more cultural and people-to-people exchanges — all of which vital to their economy.

China needs peace and stability in the South China Sea more than any other country. As the country embarks on building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, the trade and infrastructure network that will connect China with Southeast Asian nations, Africa and Europe, it is more than willing to turn the South China Sea into a platform for cooperation.

A peaceful region is imperative to the success of the Belt and Road Initiative.

In its own interests and in the interests of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, Washington needs to tread carefully on the South China Sea issue, and stop stirring up trouble.

The best way to iron out differences is to let the countries involved solve the disputes on their own, rather than hear proposals by an outside interested party, who claims neutrality but often adopts double standards.

Editor: Luan

Another Shiite Mosque Bombed In Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia: Suicide bomber attack on Shi’ite mosque in Dammam [VIDEO]

international bus. times

saudi-arabia-bomb-shiite-mosque
People examine the debris after a suicide bomb attack at the Imam Ali mosque in the village of al-Qadeeh in the eastern province of Gatif, Saudi Arabia(Reuters)

 

An alleged suicide attack has struck outside a Shi’ite mosque in Dammam, eastern Saudi Arabia, during Friday prayers on 29 May, one week after the deadly suicide bombing in Qatif that left 21 people dead, including two children.

The Saudi interior ministry confirmed that four people were killed after a car exploded in a parking lot near the Shi’ite Imam al-Hussein mosque in Dammam, close to Qatif. The bomber detonated his explosives after being stopped by security guards. It is unclear if the bomber was among the four.

Pictures showed black smoke billowing into the sky at the entrance of the mosque.

A video posted on social media purportedly showed the moment of the explosion from inside the mosque: 

According to initial reports, the alleged suicide bomber was disguised as a woman and attempted to blow himself up inside the women’s section of the mosque.

The Islamic State (Isis) claimed responsibility for last Friday’s attack that killed 21 people and injured more than 50 others. SITE monitoring group identified the suicide bomber as Abu Ammar al-Najdi.

A spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry said the bomber detonated a suicide belt hidden under his clothes inside the mosque causing several people to be “martyred or wounded”.

“Security authorities will spare no effort in the pursuit of all those involved in this terrorist crime,” the official said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

In March 2011, Qatif was the epicentre of Shi’ite demonstrations against what they perceived as decades of discrimination and religious and political repression from the Sunni kingdom.

It was the beginning of an uprising that was met with a crackdown, a wave of arrests, and cases of police allegedly firing on unarmed protesters.

Since then, 27 have been killed and more than 250 imprisoned, according to local Shia leaders and human rights activists in the towns and cities of eastern Saudi Arabia, who fear rising sectarianism fuelled by Riyadh’s war against Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen.

There are 2.7 million Shia in Saudi Arabia, making up 12% of the population, with most living in al-Ahsa and al-Qatif districts in the country’s eastern province, which also contains the bulk of the kingdom’s oil.

The Qatif mosque bombing was the second attack on a Shi’ite place of worship in the Gulf kingdom after the Dalwah attack last November.

Armed Biker Gangs Plan “Draw Mohammad” Contest and Rally In Phoenix, Outside Shooters’ Mosque

Biker Gang Plans Armed Protest For Mohammed Cartoon Contest At AZ MosqueBiker Gang – Bikers from Facebook page of Flash Nelson

Biker Gang Plans Armed Protest For Mohammed Cartoon Contest At AZ Mosque

reverb press

An armed biker gang. A mosque in Arizona. Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.  It’s true; there are no more original ideas.

Recipe for disaster? We will see on Friday, May 29, when two biker gang members host what’s being called the Freedom of Speech Rally II outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix.

I’ll make the popcorn!

 Jon “Scrappy” Ritzheimer and Flash Nelson (who appears to be a woman) plan to hold the event in response to the hate-mongering cartoon contest that was held by anti-Muslim activist Pam Geller (and approximately 99 percent of the police force) on May 3 in Garland, Texas. That Muslim baiting event competition was interrupted by two armed men, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who were allegedly Islamic State sympathizers. They opened fire outside the venue before being killed by security officers. Geller’s next planned stunt is to plaster the winning cartoon all over D.C buses. What could possibly go wrong?

Ritzheimer says the biker gang is planning a “peaceful protest” (while encouraging attendees to show up armed)  and a “draw Mohammed contest” outside the community center, where the Texas gunmen worshiped. In fact, in the Facebook invitation, organizers urge attendees to take full advantage of their Second Amendment right to carry weapons. So far,163 people have RSVP’d. Ritzheimer staged an anti-Islam protest two weeks ago, which drew little attention, before deciding to host this event; thus it being referred to as ROUND 2.

From the Facebook Event Page:

ROUND 2!!!!!!! This will be a PEACEFUL protest in front of the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix AZ. This is in response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist, with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad. Everyone is encouraged to bring American Flags and any message that you would like to send to the known acquaintances of the 2 gunmen. This Islamic Community Center is a known place that the 2 terrorist frequented. People are also encouraged to utilize there (sic) second amendment right at this event just in case our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack.
1. Date will be Friday May 29th @ 6:15pm. This is when they normally host a large prayer.
2. Bikers wil (sic) meet at the Denny’s located at 9030 N Black Canyon Hwy Phoenix, AZ 85051@ 5:00pm. Kick Stands up at 6pm.
3. There will be a Muhammad Cartoon Contest and the winner will be announced at the After Party. Participants must show cartoon at the Rally.
4. We will not have food vendors at this event because we don’t want this to turn into a carnival. People can bring snacks and water but please keep the neighborhood clean.
5. There will be an after party starting at 8:30pm at Wild Bills located at 6840 N. 27th Ave Phx, AZ.
Thank you all for your Support. [sic]

They’re meeting at Denny’s. Why is that funny?

In an interview with a reporter from television station KPNX, Ritzheimer defended his event and the T-shirts that will be worn by some of the protesters which re “F**k Islam,”  (Question: How, exactly do you f**k a religion?)

Jon Ritzenheimer flag and tshirt via Facebook
Jon Ritzenheimer wearing his favorite festive t-shirt.  via Facebook

A cursory glance at his Facebook posts show that Ritzheimer is rabidly anti-Muslim. Ritzheimer has posted photos of himself waving an American flag while wearing the controversial T-shirt. He identifies himself as a former Marine and says that he works at Dysfunctional Veterans, which basically looks like a website for angry, bitter assholes, as evidenced by this quote from the KPNX interview:

“I’m a Marine and I am far from politically correct,” Ritzheimer said. “I’m outspoken and I’ve just had it.” Ritzheimer, who is an atheist, said he hopes to push “out the truth about Islam.” “It’s not that some people are out perverting this religion, it’s these guys are following their book as it’s written,” he said.  

OH MY GAWD! Wake up, kook. There are far more “Christians” doing exactly that right now in the U.S. AND they’re actively trying to slip it into our legislation. I’d love to see a demonstration at some Evangelical churches and GOP presidential candidates’ offices. How about it Scrappy and Flash? Jon’s an atheist. This should infuriate him.

Ritzherimer told the reporter that he doesn’t “condone any threats being made to the mosque” during his “Freedom of Speech Rally Round II.” But, of course, there will be guns.

Both Phoenix police and the FBI have been informed of the event, KPNX reported. Phoenix police reportedly refused to comment about what protocols are being implemented.

The president of the mosque where the cartoon contest and rally will be held, Usama Shami, said that he respected the protestors’ right to exercise free speech. However, Shami said the members of the mosque have been told not to engage with Friday’s protestors.

“Everybody has a right to be a bigot. Everybody has a right to be racist. Everybody has a right to be an idiot,” Shami stated “They’re not looking for an intellectual discussion. They’re looking to stir up a controversy and we’re not gonna be a part of it.”

 

 

 

“Amnesty” Bean-Counter Blames Yemenis For Saudi-Caused Bombing Deaths

[Does anybody believe that Amnesty bean-counters actually surveyed the bombing survivors in Sanaa? Amnesty, has long provided Western moralists with ammo to pelt the adversaries of America with. US “humanitarian warfare,” sanctions the sanctimonious Saudis, as they ravage all enemies to Wahhabi terror. The Huthis had a right and duty to resist Saudi aggression in all of its forms, especially in regards to the puppet president installed by Western and Saudi State Dept./intelligence. Americans would do no less were situations reversed, being bombed by foreign terrorist governments, with a puppet president installed by force. The Saudis have been bombing Yemen for years, along with CIA Predators, effectively stirring-up anti-Western, anti-Saudi hatred. More Saudi-dropped American bombs will mean more of the same.]

Amnesty International challenges view Saudi air strikes cause most civilian casualties, but says both sides share responsibility for way conflict is being fought

Militia unloading shells
Militia loyal to Yemen’s ousted President Hadi unload shells during clashes with Houthi opponents in in Aden, Yemen, 28 May 2015. Photograph: Saleh Al-Obeidi/AFP/Getty Images

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have caused the majority of civilian casualties in the nation’s capital Sana’a by firing anti-aircraft munitions that explode after landing in populated areas, a leading human rights watchdog has said in a report published two months into a Saudi-led air war.

Amnesty International said anti-aircraft weapons “were the leading cause of casualties in the capital” in a report released on Thursday, which also blamed the Saudi-led coalition for contributing to the number of civilian casualties by bombing weapons depots near residential areas.

The report’s findings, gleaned from a week-long visit to Sana’a and interviews with hospital staff, challenge the conventional wisdom that the air strikes are the direct cause of the high civilian toll of the conflict. But Amnesty urged both sides to take precautions to avoid civilian casualties and respect international humanitarian law.

The World Health Organisation said that almost 2,000 people have been killed and nearly 8,000 wounded since 19 March. Wednesday was the deadliest day in the campaign, with 80 people killed.

“Sana’a’s residents are caught in a deadly crossfire between the Saudi Arabian-led coalition airstrikes and anti-aircraft fire from the Houthi armed group,” said Lama Fakih, senior crisis adviser at Amnesty. “Both sides have failed to take the necessary precautions to protect civilian lives in violation of the laws of war. Instead they have carried out attacks that have had devastating consequences for the civilian population. For the civilians affected, it doesn’t matter which side is responsible. They pay the same price.”

The Houthi rebels, members of the Zaydi sect of Shia Islam who hail from the northern province of Sa’ada, took control of the capital in a surprise offensive last year and placed the president, Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi, under house arrest. Hadi later escaped to his stronghold in Aden and fled to Saudi Arabia as the Houthis and their allies bore down on the southern port city. A coalition of mostly Arab Sunni states, led by Saudi Arabia, launched air strikes in response to the advance of the Houthis.

The coalition sees the Houthis as proxies of Iran, and are unnerved by the Islamic Republic’s influence in Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut and Sana’a.

Doctors in the Yemeni capital told Amnesty that most of the wounded treated in their medical facilities arrived with injuries caused by anti-aircraft weapons, including fragmentation wounds. Saudi air strikes on weapons depots also caused secondary explosions that killed or maimed civilians, Amnesty said. Many military bases in the capital are located close to civilian homes, a deliberate strategy by former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted in Arab Spring-style protests and has now allied with the Houthis.

“So far, both sides have displayed a chilling indifference to the deadly impact of their actions on civilians,” Fakih said. “All parties to the conflict can and should take all feasible steps to minimise the risk to civilians.”

Air strikes resumed last week in Yemen after a five-day ceasefire, further worsening humanitarian conditions in the Arab world’s poorest country.

Poverty relief charity Oxfam said on Monday that 16 million Yemenis, or two-thirds of the population, are now without access to a clean water supply and sanitation. Unicef said that as many as 135 children have been killed and 260 injured since the conflict escalated in March.

Serbia will join US-backed Trans-Adriatic Pipeline–“Checkmate” Putin?

southern europeSerbia to join US-backed gas project, seeks diversification from Russia – PM

Serbia will join US-backed Trans-Adriatic Pipeline following Washington’s calls to reduce dependency on Russian gas, the country’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told the Associated Press.

“Regarding energy safety, energy security, we are ready to diversify the sources of gas for Serbia, which is very important for our American friends as well,” Vucic said in an interview to AP in Tirana published on Thursday.

Serbia which has already expressed interest in the Moscow-backed pipeline project says it’s not balancing or choosing sides. The country’s main goal is the European Union and it is firm on its EU path, Vucic said, adding that good relations with Washington were very important on Serbia’s road to joining the EU.

Serbia refused to join Western anti-Russia sanctions while some officials were urging it to choose between Russia and the EU.

“We don’t speak about taking or choosing sides, our side is our path to the EU, our side is (in the interest of) Serbia”, Vucic was cited as saying by AP. He also reminded that he had already voiced this point of view openly to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a press conference.

On the other hand, Belgrade would like to preserve a good relationship with Russia, the prime minister told AP.

United States has been lately persuading Balkan and other countries to join the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which is to bring gas to Europe from Azerbaijan via the Russia-proposed Turkish Stream.

The Turkish Stream will have an annual capacity of 63 billion cubic meters, of which 47 billion cubic meters will be delivered to a hub on the Turkish-Greek border. It is replacing the South Stream project which Russia had to suspend in December as the EU blocked its implementation.

The South Stream was supposed to connect underwater Black Sea pipelines with a network in Eastern Europe, with Bulgaria as the entry point.

Earlier this month, Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic said that Belgrade was interested in joining the Turkish Stream pipeline and called on the European Union to support the project.

Will Aleppo become the capital of a new Caliphate?

Will Aleppo become the capital of a new Caliphate?

MIDDLE EAST EYE

This once tolerant, secular, multi-confessional nation will soon become home to two of the world’s most violently fanatical statelets

Photo: A Syrian man carries a body after it was removed from the rubble of buildings following a reported barrel bomb attack by government forces on the Qadi Askar district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on 20 May (AFP)

Throughout most of its history, Aleppo had been a city-state, or a capital for surrounding territory in what is now North Syria and parts of south Turkey. There are strong indications now that this ancient city may once again assume this role, but this time around in a far more sinister way.

The “mother of all battles” is what a looming showdown in Aleppo is being called, as revitalised Islamist rebel forces fresh from victories in nearby Idlib are preparing to mount an all-out offensive in the next few weeks to seize the remaining part of the city under government control. The stakes couldn’t be any higher – no less than the fate of the Syrian nation hangs in the balance – and the final lines of division might be drawn here.

The plan, drawn up by the insurgency’s three most powerful regional backers – Turkey, Saudi and Qatar – is to overrun the entire northwest of Syria and create a rebel controlled “safe zone,” and through direct military intervention prevent the Syrian regime’s aircraft and missiles from targeting it, thereby essentially setting up a de facto mini state.

To that end, there has been unprecedented cooperation and coordination between those powers who have put aside their rivalries and differences after King Salman of Saudi assumed the throne. This effort has seen them pour enormous financial, logistical and military resources into setting up what is called the “Fatih Army” or the Army of Conquest, and controlling the flow of its battles directly through an operations room in Turkey as well as intelligence officers on the ground. This was given the go ahead by the US, which under pressure from those allies again seems to have flipped its priority in Syria from battling the Islamic State (IS) to regime change.

It is worth mentioning that after almost a year of US-led coalition bombing, IS has continued to expand and grow, and now controls half of Syria and a third of Iraq. US policy here, as many had foreseen, is a confused and muddled disaster.

If the name of the Fatih Army sounds ominous, then its composition is even more disturbing, being made up primarily of al-Qaeda’s affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, as well as other hardline Salafi jihadist groups like Ahrar el-Sham. This army has already “conquered” most of Idlib province, and is looking to go for Aleppo next.

Apathy meets al-Qaeda advance

That there is global apathy towards an al-Qaeda army  – backed and sponsored by the Western world’s predominant Middle Eastern allies – preparing to take over Aleppo and possibly establish another caliphate similar – albeit hostile – to its neighbouring Islamic State, is very indicative of what the Syrian crisis has come to after four years.

This once tolerant, secular, multicultural and multi-confessional nation with a diverse society and rich heritage will soon become home to two of the world’s most noxious, extremist and violently fanatical statelets. In their wake, all of Syria’s non-Sunni Muslim inhabitants are being ethnically cleansed and displaced. Predictably, this is what happened in Idlib after it fell to the Fatih Army, which saw all of its Christians abandon their homes and flee to government-controlled areas, to little media attention. This will undoubtedly happen in Aleppo too, which has a very large Christian population comprised of various denominations, including ethnic Armenians.

Leaders of the Christian community here have sounded the alarm, and warned that after surviving for countless centuries in one of the first lands inhabited by ancient Christians, their presence here might be coming to a final end. Again, the absence of any media concern about this impending calamity is very telling.

The backers of the insurgency have now dropped any pretence of “moderate” rebel groups fighting the Syrian regime, and have almost completely ditched and sidelined the umbrella opposition in exile which they for so long touted as the “legitimate representatives” of the Syrian people. In their stead, we now have an al-Qaeda army preparing to “liberate” north Syria.

Gone are all those grand slogans along with the “moderate” rebel groups we have heard so much about in the news, who after all these years proved to be little more than incompetent and corrupt profiteers. Those groups disintegrated, many of their former fighters joining the extremist jihadist groups who also seized their sophisticated US supplied weapons.

This rebel farce of course was well known to us Syrians, but was never a newsworthy item. We’ve always known that the only effective insurgents on the ground were the Islamists and the jihadists, and that the others were there for show, for the camera crews and media consumption. Maintaining this image no longer seems to be a concern however. After failing to convince Nusra to “rebrand” and ditch its ties with al-Qaeda, The Fatih Army was formed as a more palatable and purely cosmetic media-friendly cover name.

Partitioning Syria

This is what the nations who claim to back the Syrian people’s aspirations for freedom and a democratic inclusive state have deemed fit to unleash upon us. After failing to topple the Syrian regime for four years and realising there would never be any political compromise that would fit their goals, they have now decided to partition Syria and facilitate its partial takeover by jihadists.

It doesn’t seem that previous lessons have been learned, with Afghanistan being the prime precedent. You simply cannot deal with and hope to control the jihadi proxies that you are using to fulfil your military ambitions. Quite simply those groups don’t play by the rules, and will turn on you the first chance they get and follow their own ideologically motivated agendas. The repercussions of doing so have always been, and will continue to be, extremely dangerous and profound.

Al-Qaeda was first spawned by backing the same sort of Islamists against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The destabilising fallout is still being felt today, with subsequent manifestations becoming even more violent and extreme, culminating in the Islamic State. Let’s not forget that for many months at the beginning of the Syrian conflict, the precursor to what was to form the Islamic State’s Syrian division was an integral part of the Syrian insurgency named, yes you guessed it, Jabhat al-Nusra. When the “bad al-Qaeda” went rogue, the very powers that today back the “good al-Qaeda” started to bomb it, and to little effect. It is now just a question of when, not if, Nusra becomes the “bad guys” and have to be bombed.

Needless to say, the majority of Syrians refuse the partitioning of their nation and its takeover by extremists under any pretexts. But that this pretext should be “freeing them from tyranny and oppression” is yet another sad little irony in the black comedy that is Syria’s conflict.

This is felt especially acutely in Aleppo, whose helpless people have endured years of a deadly stalemated war that has killed many of them and destroyed all they held precious. It now seems they must again dread the day they will be “conquered” and “liberated” as it would likely mean the loss of what little they still have left of their city, and what little hope they still hold for the future.

Exodus of minorities

In all likelihood, Aleppo becoming the capital of yet another caliphate would see the majority of its inhabitants abandoning it in droves, and the complete loss of its religious minorities, hence its unique character and identity.

The people here are bracing themselves for the worst, for a momentous battle ahead. The outcome of this battle is by no means a foregone conclusion though, as Syria’s ambassador to the UN has warned in no uncertain terms that Aleppo is a red line, which once crossed would see the escalation of the conflict to other nations. Whether these words are empty and mere rhetoric remains to be seen and depends largely on what the regime’s prime backer, Iran, decides to do.

This month is a very sensitive time for Iran, as it prepares to sign a historic nuclear agreement while regional tensions are soaring. While the ball is now squarely in its park with regards to Syria, it may choose to delay its move until the picture becomes clearer.

Speculation is rife that along with the nuclear deal, regional issues are being hammered out too. Could it be that Iran would accept the partitioning of Syria as long as it gets to keep a majority Shia and Alawi “protectorate” along the coast? Or is it sticking to its guns and thwarting the planned “mother of all battles” in Aleppo by demanding it be stopped, or threatening a serious escalation if it isn’t? How will the flow of war and proxy showdown in Yemen affect Syria?

The coming weeks will tell, and they will be some of the most difficult the people of Syria and Aleppo have seen yet.

– Edward Dark is MEE’s Aleppo-based columnist and writes under a pseudonym.

 

 

Macedonia Caught In East-West Pipeline Tug-Of-War

Macedonia Caught In East-West Pipeline Tug-Of-War

oil price

The tiny Balkan state of Macedonia can now join neighboring Greece as a pawn in the tug-of-war between Moscow and the West on developing alternative routes for delivering Russian gas to its customers in Europe. At least that’s how the Kremlin views the situation.

The country of 2 million, once a part of Yugoslavia, is likely to be part of Russia’s latest plan to build a pipeline in order to ship gas from state-run Gazprom to Europe by bypassing Ukraine and avoid a recurrence of supply disruptions that already have occurred in the past nine years.

Related: Israel Refuses To Pay Old Oil Debt To Iran

Recently, though, Macedonia has faced competing pro- and anti-government demonstrations sparked by a wiretapping scandal said to involve murder and election trickery. This appears to worry Moscow because it may lead to Gruevski’s ouster in favor of a pro-Western prime minister.

Gruevski is on the record as opposing Western sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukraine conflict, and supports the new Russian pipeline plan, called Turkish Stream, which would carry Gazprom’s fuel through Turkey then the Balkans – probably including Macedonia – to Russia’s European Union customers.

Sergei Lavrov, quoted by the Russian news service Tass, said May 20 that “the Macedonian events are blatantly controlled from the outside” in an effort to persuade Skopje to reject Turkish stream and opt instead for a Western alternative, the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), which also runs through Turkey.

Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, agreed. “I don’t have any hard-line facts, but it’s a logical suspicion,” he told Bloomberg TV when asked about Lavrov’s comments. “If you look at the geography of the region, Macedonia is the best place for constructing the extension of the newest energy infrastructure project in the region, the so-called Turkish Stream.”

Turkish Stream was conceived as a replacement for Russia’s proposed $45 billion South Stream pipeline project, which was abandoned in December because of an EU rule that forbids one entity from owning both the pipeline and the gas it carries through EU territory. Macedonia isn’t in the EU, but Turkish Stream also would transit Greece, which is in the union.

Moscow says it would relinquish its share in segments of the pipeline carrying gas through EU member nations. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered transit fees amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars to cash-poor Greece if it agrees to become a transit point linking the Turkish stretch of the pipeline with Macedonia, then Serbia, then under the Adriatic Sea to Italy.

If Lavrov’s suspicions of Western pressure are even remotely correct, that would put Macedonia in much the same difficult position as Greece. While Moscow is wooing Athens with money, the West is pressing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to opt instead to allow his country to host an extension of TANAP.

TANAP not only would eliminate Ukraine from the equation, but eliminate Russian gas as well. The conduit would ship gas from Azerbaijan – and perhaps even from Turkmenistan on the other side of the Caspian Sea – through Turkey and into Europe.

By Andy Tully Of Oilprice.com

Isis–the inside story

Isis: the inside story

guardian

One of the Islamic State’s senior commanders reveals exclusive details of the terror group’s origins inside an Iraqi prison – right under the noses of their American jailers.

Report by Martin Chulov

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اقرأ التقرير باللغة العربية  Camp Bucca
Detainees in Camp Bucca, in southern Iraq. Photograph: David Furst/AFP/Getty Images

In the summer of 2004, a young jihadist in shackles and chains was walked by his captors slowly into the Camp Bucca prison in southern Iraq. He was nervous as two American soldiers led him through three brightly-lit buildings and then a maze of wire corridors, into an open yard, where men with middle-distance stares, wearing brightly-coloured prison uniforms, stood back warily, watching him.

“I knew some of them straight away,” he told me last month. “I had feared Bucca all the way down on the plane. But when I got there, it was much better than I thought. In every way.”

The jihadist, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed, entered Camp Bucca as a young man a decade ago, and is now a senior official within Islamic State (Isis) – having risen through its ranks with many of the men who served time alongside him in prison. Like him, the other detainees had been snatched by US soldiers from Iraq’s towns and cities and flown to a place that had already become infamous: a foreboding desert fortress that would shape the legacy of the US presence in Iraq.

The other prisoners did not take long to warm to him, Abu Ahmed recalled. They had also been terrified of Bucca, but quickly realised that far from their worst fears, the US-run prison provided an extraordinary opportunity. “We could never have all got together like this in Baghdad, or anywhere else,” he told me. “It would have been impossibly dangerous. Here, we were not only safe, but we were only a few hundred metres away from the entire al-Qaida leadership.”

 

It was at Camp Bucca that Abu Ahmed first met Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir of Isis who is now frequently described as the world’s most dangerous terrorist leader. From the beginning, Abu Ahmed said, others in the camp seemed to defer to him. “Even then, he was Abu Bakr. But none of us knew he would ever end up as leader.”

Abu Ahmed was an essential member of the earliest incarnation of the group. He had been galvanised into militancy as a young man by an American occupation that he and many like him believed was trying to impose a power shift in Iraq, favouring the country’s larger Shia population at the expense of the dominant Sunnis. His early role in what would become Isis led naturally to the senior position he now occupies within a revitalised insurgency that has spilled across the border into Syria. Most of his colleagues regard the crumbling order in the region as a fulfilment of their ambitions in Iraq – which had remained unfinished business, until the war in Syria gave them a new arena.

He agreed to speak publicly after more than two years of discussions, over the course of which he revealed his own past as one of Iraq’s most formidable and connected militants – and shared his deepening worry about Isis and its vision for the region. With Iraq and Syria ablaze, and the Middle East apparently condemned to another generation of upheaval and bloodshed at the hands of his fellow ideologues, Abu Ahmed is having second thoughts. The brutality of Isis is increasingly at odds with his own views, which have mellowed with age as he has come to believe that the teachings of the Qur’an can be interpreted and not read literally.

His misgivings about what the Islamic State has become led him to speak to the Guardian in a series of expansive conversations, which offer unique insight into its enigmatic leader and the nascent days of the terror group – stretching from 2004, when he met Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Camp Bucca, to 2011, when the Iraqi insurgency crossed the border into Syria.

At the beginning, back in Bucca, the prisoner who would become the most wanted man in the world had already set himself apart from the other inmates, who saw him as aloof and opaque. But, Abu Ahmed recalled, the jailers had a very different impression of Baghdadi – they saw him as a conciliatory and calming influence in an environment short on certainty, and turned to him to help resolve conflicts among the inmates. “That was part of his act,” Abu Ahmed told me. “I got a feeling from him that he was hiding something inside, a darkness that he did not want to show other people. He was the opposite of other princes who were far easier to deal with. He was remote, far from us all.”
* * *

Baghdadi was born Ibrahim ibn Awwad al-Badri al-Samarrai in 1971, in the Iraqi city of Samarra. He was detained by US forces in Falluja, west of Baghdad, in February 2004, months after he had helped found a militant group, Jeish Ahl al-Sunnah al-Jamaah, which had taken root in the restive Sunni communities around his home city.

“He was caught at his friend’s house,” said Dr Hisham al-Hashimi, an analyst who advises the Iraqi government on Isis. “His friend’s name was Nasif Jasim Nasif. Then he was moved to Bucca. The Americans never knew who they had.” Most of Baghdadi’s fellow prisoners – some 24,000 men, divided into 24 camps – seem to have been equally unaware. The prison was run along strictly hierarchical lines, down to a Teletubbies-like uniform colour scheme which allowed jailers and captives alike to recognise each detainee’s place in the pecking order. “The colour of the clothes we wore reflected our status,” said Abu Ahmed. “If I remember things correctly, red was for people who had done things wrong while in prison, white was a prison chief, green was for a long sentence and yellow and orange were normal.”

When Baghdadi, aged 33, arrived at Bucca, the Sunni-led anti-US insurgency was gathering steam across central and western Iraq. An invasion that had been sold as a war of liberation had become a grinding occupation. Iraq’s Sunnis, disenfranchised by the overthrow of their patron, Saddam Hussein, were taking the fight to US forces – and starting to turn their guns towards the beneficiaries of Hussein’s overthrow, the country’s majority Shia population.


Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The small militant group that Baghdadi headed was one of dozens that sprouted from a broad Sunni revolt – many of which would soon come together under the flag of al-Qaida in Iraq, and then the Islamic State of Iraq. These were the precursors to the juggernaut now known simply as the Islamic State, which has, under Bagdhadi’s command, overrun much of the west and centre of the country and eastern Syria, and drawn the US military back to a deeply destabilised region less than three years after it left vowing never to return.

But at the time of his stay at Bucca, Baghdadi’s group was little-known, and he was a far less significant figure than the insurgency’s notional leader, the merciless Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who came to represent the sum of all fears for many in Iraq, Europe and the US. Baghdadi, however, had a unique way to distinguish himself from the other aspiring leaders inside Bucca and outside on Iraq’s savage streets: a pedigree that allowed him to claim direct lineage to the Prophet Muhammad. He had also obtained a PhD in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad, and would draw on both to legitimise his unprecedented claim to anoint himself caliph of the Islamic world in July 2014, which realised a sense of destiny evident in the prison yard a decade earlier.

“Baghdadi was a quiet person,” said Abu Ahmed. “He has a charisma. You could feel that he was someone important. But there were others who were more important. I honestly did not think he would get this far.”

Baghdadi also seemed to have a way with his captors. According to Abu Ahmed, and two other men who were jailed at Bucca in 2004, the Americans saw him as a fixer who could solve fractious disputes between competing factions and keep the camp quiet.

“But as time went on, every time there was a problem in the camp, he was at the centre of it,” Abu Ahmed recalled. “He wanted to be the head of the prison – and when I look back now, he was using a policy of conquer and divide to get what he wanted, which was status. And it worked.” By December 2004, Baghdadi was deemed by his jailers to pose no further risk and his release was authorised.

“He was respected very much by the US army,” Abu Ahmed said. “If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State. If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”

As Isis has rampaged through the region, it has been led by men who spent time in US detention centres during the American occupation of Iraq – in addition to Bucca, the US also ran Camp Cropper, near Baghdad airport, and, for an ill-fated 18 months early in the war, Abu Ghraib prison on the capital’s western outskirts. Many of those released from these prisons – and indeed, several senior American officers who ran detention operations – have admitted that the prisons had an incendiary effect on the insurgency.

“I went to plenty of meetings where guys would come through and tell us how well it was all going,” said Ali Khedery, a special aide to all US ambassadors who served in Iraq from 2003-11, and to three US military commanders. But eventually even top American officers came to believe they had “actually become radicalising elements. They were counterproductive in many ways. They were being used to plan and organise, to appoint leaders and launch operations.”

We wrote each other’s details on the elastic of our boxer shorts. When we got out, we called each other

Abu Ahmed agreed. “In prison, all of the princes were meeting regularly. We became very close to those we were jailed with. We knew their capabilities. We knew what they could and couldn’t do, how to use them for whatever reason. The most important people in Bucca were those who had been close to Zarqawi. He was recognised in 2004 as being the leader of the jihad.

“We had so much time to sit and plan,” he continued. “It was the perfect environment. We all agreed to get together when we got out. The way to reconnect was easy. We wrote each other’s details on the elastic of our boxer shorts. When we got out, we called. Everyone who was important to me was written on white elastic. I had their phone numbers, their villages. By 2009, many of us were back doing what we did before we were caught. But this time we were doing it better.”

According to Hisham al-Hashimi, the Baghdad-based analyst, the Iraqi government estimates that 17 of the 25 most important Islamic State leaders running the war in Iraq and Syria spent time in US prisons between 2004 and 2011. Some were transferred from American custody to Iraqi prisons, where a series of jailbreaks in the last several years allowed many senior leaders to escape and rejoin the insurgent ranks.

Abu Ghraib was the scene of the biggest – and most damaging – breakout in 2013, with up to 500 inmates, many of them senior jihadists handed over by the departing US military, fleeing in July of that year after the prison was stormed by Islamic State forces, who launched a simultaneous, and equally successful, raid on nearby Taji prison.

Iraq’s government closed Abu Ghraib in April 2014 and it now stands empty, 15 miles from Baghdad’s western outskirts, near the frontline between Isis and Iraq’s security forces, who seem perennially under-prepared as they stare into the heat haze shimmering over the highway that leads towards the badlands of Falluja and Ramadi.

Parts of both cities have become a no-go zone for Iraq’s beleaguered troops, who have been battered and humiliated by Isis, a group of marauders unparalleled in Mesopotamia since the time of the Mongols. When I visited the abandoned prison late this summer, a group of disinterested Iraqi forces sat at a checkpoint on the main road to Baghdad, eating watermelon as the distant rumble of shellfire sounded in the distance. The imposing walls of Abu Ghraib were behind them, and their jihadist enemies were staked out further down the road.

The revelation of abuses at Abu Ghraib had a radicalising effect on many Iraqis, who saw the purported civility of American occupation as little improvement on the tyranny of Saddam. While Bucca had few abuse complaints prior to its closure in 2009, it was seen by Iraqis as a potent symbol of an unjust policy, which swept up husbands, fathers, and sons – some of them non-combatants – in regular neighbourhood raids, and sent them away to prison for months or years.

At the time, the US military countered that its detention operations were valid, and that similar practices had been deployed by other forces against insurgencies – such as the British in Northern Ireland, the Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank, and the Syrian and Egyptian regimes.

An Islamic State fighter in Raqqa, Syria.
An Islamic State militant in Raqqa, Syria. Photograph: Reuters

Even now, five years after the US closed down Bucca, the Pentagon defends the camp as an example of lawful policy for a turbulent time. “During operations in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, US Forces held thousands of Law of War detainees,” said Lt Col Myles B Caggins III, a US Department of Defense spokesman for detainee policy. “These type of detentions are common practice during armed conflict. Detaining potentially dangerous people is the legal and humane method of providing security and stability for civilian populations.”
* * *

Some time after Baghdadi was released from Bucca, Abu Ahmed was also freed. After being flown to Baghdad airport, he was picked up by men he had met in Bucca. They took him to a home in the west of the capital, where he immediately rejoined the jihad, which had transformed from a fight against an occupying army into a vicious and unrestrained war against Iraqi Shia.

Death squads were by then roaming Baghdad and much of central Iraq, killing members of opposite sects with routine savagery and exiling residents from neighbourhoods they dominated. The capital had quickly become a very different place to the city Abu Ahmed had left a year earlier. But with the help of new arrivals at Bucca, those inside the prison had been able to monitor every new development in the unfolding sectarian war. Abu Ahmed knew the environment he was returning to. And his camp commanders had plans for him.

The first thing he did when he was safe in west Baghdad was to undress, then carefully take a pair of scissors to his underwear. “I cut the fabric from my boxers and all the numbers were there. We reconnected. And we got to work.” Across Iraq, other ex-inmates were doing the same. “It really was that simple,” Abu Ahmed said, smiling for the first time in our conversation as he recalled how his captors had been outwitted. “Boxers helped us win the war.”

Zarqawi wanted a 9/11 moment to escalate the conflict – something that would take the fight to the heart of the enemy, Abu Ahmed recalled. In Iraq, that meant one of two targets – a seat of Shia power or, even better, a defining religious symbol. In February 2006, and again two months later, Zarqawi’s bombers destroyed the Imam al-Askari shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad. The sectarian war was fully ignited and Zarqawi’s ambitions realised.

Asked about the merits of this violent provocation, Abu Ahmed paused for the first time in our many conversations. “There was a reason for opening this war,” he said. “It was not because they are Shia, but because the Shia were pushing for it. The American army was facilitating the takeover of Iraq and giving the country to them. They were in cooperation with each other.”

He then reflected on the man who gave the orders. “Zarqawi was very smart. He was the best strategist that the Islamic State has had. Abu Omar [al-Baghdadi] was ruthless,” Abu Ahmed said, referring to Zarqawi’s successor, who was killed in a US-led raid in April 2010. “And Abu Bakr is the most bloodthirsty of all.

“After Zarqawi was killed, the people who liked killing even more than him became very important in the organisation. Their understanding of sharia and of humanity was very cheap. They don’t understand the Tawheed (the Qur’anic concept of God’s oneness) the way it was meant to be understood. The Tawheed should not have been forced by war.”

Despite reservations that were already starting to stir, by 2006, Abu Ahmed had become part of a killing machine that would operate at full speed for much of the following two years. Millions of citizens were displaced, neighbourhoods were cleansed along sectarian lines, and an entire population numbed by unchecked brutality.

That summer, the US finally caught up with Zarqawi, with the help of Jordanian intelligence, killing him in an airstrike north of Baghdad. From late 2006, the organisation was on the back foot – hampered by a tribal revolt that uprooted its leadership from Anbar and shrank its presence elsewhere in Iraq. But according to Abu Ahmed, the group used the opportunity to evolve, revealing a pragmatism in addition to its hardline ideology. For Isis, the relatively quiet years between 2008 and 2011 represented a lull, not a defeat.

By this time, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had risen steadily through the group to become a trusted aide to its leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, and his deputy, the Egyptian jihadist Abu Ayub al-Masri. It was at this point, Abu Ahmed said, that Isis made an approach to the Ba’athist remnants of the old regime – ideological opponents who shared a common enemy in the US and the Shia-led government it backed.

Earlier incarnations of Isis had dabbled with the Ba’athists, who lost everything when Saddam was ousted, under the same premise that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. But by early 2008, Abu Ahmed and other sources said, these meetings had become far more frequent – and many of them were taking place in Syria.

Syria’s links to the Sunni insurgency in Iraq had been regularly raised by US officials in Baghdad and by the Iraqi government. Both were convinced that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, allowed jihadists to fly into Damascus airport, where military officials would escort them to the border with Iraq. “All the foreigners I knew got into Iraq that way,” Abu Ahmed told me. “It was no secret.”
* * *

From 2008, when the US began to negotiate the transition of its powers to Iraq’s feeble security institutions – and therefore pave the way to its own exit – the Americans increasingly turned to only a few trusted figures in the Iraqi government. One of them was Major General Hussein Ali Kamal, the director of intelligence in the country’s Interior Ministry. A secular Kurd who had the trust of the Shia establishment, one of Kamal’s many duties was to secure Baghdad against terror attacks.

Like the Americans, General Kamal was convinced that Syria was destabilising Iraq, an assessment based on the interrogations of jihadists who had been captured by his troops. Throughout 2009, in a series of interviews, Kamal laid out his evidence, using maps that plotted the routes used by jihadists to cross the border into western Iraq, and confessions that linked their journeys to specific mid-ranking officers in Syrian military intelligence.

Seventeen of the 25 most important Islamic State leaders now running the war in Iraq and Syria spent time in US prisons

As Isis activity ebbed in Iraq, he had become increasingly obsessed with two meetings that had taken place in Syria early in 2009, which brought together Iraqi jihadists, Syrian officials and Ba’athists from both countries. (Kamal, who was diagnosed with a rare cancer in 2012, died earlier this year, and authorised me to publish details of our conversations. “Just tell the truth,” he said during our last interview in June 2014.)

When I first met him in 2009, he was poring over transcripts of recordings that had been made at two secret meetings in Zabadani, near Damascus, in the spring of that year. The attendees included senior Iraqi Ba’athists who had taken refuge in Damascus since their patron Saddam was ousted, Syrian military intelligence officers, and senior figures in what was then known as al-Qaida in Iraq. The Syrians had developed links to the jihadists since the earliest days of the anti-US insurgency and had used them to unsettle the Americans and their plans for Iraq.

“By early in 2004/05, Islamic elements, jihadists and disenfranchised Ba’athists were starting to get together,” said Ali Khedery, the former adviser to American ambassadors and senior commanders in Bagdhad. “They were naturally disciplined, well organised people who knew the lay of the land. And over time, some folks who were Ba’athists became more and more Islamist and the insurgency raged. By 2007, General [David] Petraeus was saying there was crystal clear intelligence of cooperation between Syrian military intelligence and the jihadists. Though the motivations never really aligned 100%.”

In our conversations, Abu Ahmed emphasised the Syrian connection to Iraq’s insurgency. “The mujahideen all came through Syria,” he said. “I worked with many of them. Those in Bucca had flown to Damascus. A very small number had made it from Turkey, or Iran. But most came to Iraq with the help of the Syrians.”

The supply line was viewed by Iraqi officials as an existential threat to Iraq’s government and was the main source of the poisonous relationship between Nouri al-Maliki, then Iraq’s prime minister, and Bashar al-Assad. Maliki had become convinced early in the civil war that Assad was trying to undermine his regime as a way to embarrass the Americans, and the evidence he saw in 2009 from the meeting in Damascus took his loathing of the Syrian leader to a whole new level.

“We had a source in the room wearing a wire,” at the meeting in Zabadani, General Kamal told me at the time. “He is the most sensitive source we have ever had. As far as we know, this is the first time there has been a strategic level meeting between all of these groups. It marks a new point in history.”

The Ba’athists present led the meeting. Their aim, according to General Kamal’s source, was to launch a series of spectacular attacks in Baghdad and thereby undermine Maliki’s Shia-majority government, which had for the first time begun to assert some order in post-civil war Iraq. Until then, al-Qaida in Iraq and the Ba’athists had been fierce ideological enemies, but the rising power of the Shias – and their backers in Iran – brought them together to plan a major strike on the capital.

By July 2009, the Interior Ministry had increased security at all checkpoints across the Tigris river into Baghdad, making a commute at any time of day even more insufferable than normal. And then General Kamal received a message from his source in Syria. The extra security at the bridges had been spotted by the attack plotters, he said. New targets were being chosen, but he didn’t know what they were, or when they would be hit. For the next two weeks, Kamal worked well into the evening in his fortified office in the southern suburb of Arasat, before being sped by armoured convoy across the July 14 Bridge – which had been a target only days earlier – to his home inside the Green Zone.

For the rest of the month, General Kamal spent several hours each scorching night sweating it out on a treadmill, hoping that the exercise would clear his head and get him ahead of the attackers. “I may be losing weight, but I’m not finding the terrorists,” he told me during our last conversation before the attackers finally struck. “I know they’re planning something big.”

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006 when he was the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. Photograph: AP

On the morning of 19 August, the first of three flat-bed trucks carrying three large 1000-litre water tanks, each filled with explosives, detonated on an overpass outside the Finance Ministry in south-eastern Baghdad. The blast sent a rumble across the Emerald City, raising desert soil that caked homes brown, and sending thousands of pigeons scattering through the sky. Three minutes later, a second enormous bomb blew up outside the Foreign Ministry on the northern edge of the Green Zone. Shortly after that, a third blast hit a police convoy near the Finance Ministry. More than 101 people were killed and nearly 600 wounded; it was one of the deadliest attacks in the six-year-old Iraqi insurgency.

“I failed,” Kamal told me that day. “We all failed.” Within hours, he was summoned to meet Maliki and his security chiefs. The prime minister was livid. “He told me to present what I had to the Syrians,” Kamal later said. “We arranged with Turkey to act as a mediator and I flew to Ankara to meet with them. I took this file” – he tapped a thick white folder on his desk – “and they could not argue with what we showed them. The case was completely solid and the Syrians knew it. Ali Mamlouk [the head of Syrian general security] was there. All he did was look at me smiling and say ‘I will not recognise any official from a country that is under US occupation’. It was a waste of time.” Iraq recalled its ambassador to Damascus, and Syria ordered its envoy to Baghdad home in retaliation. Throughout the rest of the year, and into early 2010, relations between Maliki and Assad remained toxic.

In March 2010, Iraqi forces, acting on a US tip, arrested an Islamic State leader named Munaf Abdul Rahim al-Rawi, who was revealed to be one of the group’s main commanders in Baghdad, and one of the very few people who had access to the group’s then leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. Al-Rawi talked. And in a rare moment of collaboration, Iraq’s three main intelligence bodies, including General Kamal’s Intelligence Division, conspired to get a listening device and GPS location tracker in a flower box delivered to Abu Omar’s hideout.

After it was confirmed that Abu Omar and his deputy, Abu Ayub al-Masri, were present at a house six miles south-west of Tikrit, it was attacked in a US-led raid. Both men detonated suicide vests to avoid being captured. Messages to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were found on a computer inside the house. Much like Bin Laden’s safe house in Pakistan, where he would be killed a little more than a year later, Abu Omar’s hideout had no internet connections or telephone lines – all important messages were carried in and out by only three men. One of them was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“Abu Bakr was a messenger for Abu Omar,” Abu Ahmed told me. “He became the closest aide to him. The messages that got to Osama bin Laden were sometimes drafted by him and their journey always started with him. When Abu Omar was killed, Abu Bakr was made leader. That time we all had in Bucca became very important again.”

The deaths of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Masri were a serious blow to Isis, but the roles they had vacated were quickly filled by the alumni of Camp Bucca – whose upper echelons had begun preparing for this moment since their time behind the wire of their jail in southern Iraq. “For us it was an academy,” Abu Ahmed said, “but for them” – the senior leaders – “it was a management school. There wasn’t a void at all, because so many people had been mentored in prison.

“When [the civil war in] Syria became serious,” he continued, “it wasn’t difficult to transfer all that expertise to a different battle zone. The Iraqis are the most important people on the military and Shura councils in Isis now, and that is because of all of those years preparing for such an event. I underestimated Baghdadi. And America underestimated the role it played in making him what he is.”
* * *

Abu Ahmed remains a member of Isis; he is active in the group’s operations in both Iraq and Syria. Throughout our discussions, he portrayed himself as a man reluctant to stay with the group, and yet unwilling to risk any attempt to leave.

Life with Isis means power, money, wives and status – all attractive lures for young firebrands with a cause – but it also means killing and dominating for a worldview in which he no longer believes so fervently. He said hundreds of young men like him, who were drawn to a Sunni jihad after the US invasion, do not believe that the latest manifestation of the decade-long war remains true to its origins.

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Iraqi detainees sleeping outside their tents in Camp Bucca, Iraq
Photograph: David Furst/AFP/Getty Images

“The biggest mistake I made is to join them,” Abu Ahmed said, but added that leaving the group would mean that he and his family would certainly be killed. Staying and enforcing the group’s brutal vision, despite partially disavowing it, does not trouble Abu Ahmed, who sees himself as having few other options.

“It’s not that I don’t believe in Jihad,” he said. “I do,” he continued, his voice trailing away. “But what options do I have? If I leave, I am dead.”

The arc of his involvement with what is now the world’s most menacing terrorist group mirrors many others who now hold senior positions in the group: first a battle against an invading army, then a score to be settled with an ancient sectarian foe, and now, a war that could be acting out an end of days prophecy.

In the world of the Bucca alumni, there is little room for revisionism, or reflection. Abu Ahmed seems to feel himself swept along by events that are now far bigger than him, or anyone else.

“There are others who are not ideologues,” he said, referring to senior Isis members close to Baghdadi. “People who started out in Bucca, like me. And then it got bigger than any of us. This can’t be stopped now. This is out of the control of any man. Not Baghdadi, or anyone else in his circle.”

Martin Chulov covers the Middle East for the Guardian. He has reported from the region since 2005. Additional reporting by Salaam Riazk

Insightful Report On the Ghouta False Flag Chemical Massacre

Syria intervention plans fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concerns

nafeez ahmed

On 21 August, hundreds – perhaps over a thousand – people were killed in a chemical weapon attack in Ghouta, Damascus, prompting the U.S., UK, Israel and France to raise the spectre of military strikes against Bashir al Assad’s forces which, they say, carried out the attack.

To be sure, the latest episode is merely one more horrific event in a conflict that has increasingly taken on genocidal characteristics. The case for action at first glance is indisputable. The UN now confirms a death toll over 100,000 people, the vast majority of whom have been killed by Assad’s troops. An estimated 4.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. International observers have overwhelmingly confirmed Assad’s complicity in the preponderance of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people. The illegitimacy of his regime, and the legitimacy of the uprising against it, is clear.

But the interests of the west are a different matter.

Chemical confusion

While the U.S. and Israel have taken a lead in claiming firm evidence that the latest attack was indeed a deployment of chemical weapons by Assad’s regime, justifying a military intervention of some sort, questions remain.

The main evidence cited by the U.S. linking the attacks to Syria are intercepted phone calls among other intelligence, the bulk of which was provided by Israel. “Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus,” reported Foreign Policy, “an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people.”

This account is hardly decisive proof of Assad’s culpability in the attack – what one can reasonably determine here is that Syrian defense officials do not seem to have issued specific orders for such a strike, and were attempting to investigate whether their own chemical weapons unit was indeed responsible.

On the attack itself, experts are unanimous that the shocking footage of civilians, including children, suffering the effects of some sort of chemical attack, is real – but remain divided on whether it involved military-grade chemical weapons associated with Assad’s arsenal, or were a more amateur concoction potentially linked to the rebels.

Many independent chemical weapons experts point out the insufficiency of evidence to draw any firm conclusions. Steven Johnson, chemical explosives experts at Cranfield Forensic Institute, pointed to inconsistencies in the video footage and the symptoms displayed by victims, raising questions about the nature of the agents used. Although trauma to the nervous system was clear: “At this stage everyone wants a ‘yes-no’ answer to chemical attack. But it is too early to draw a conclusion just from these videos.”

Dan Kaszeta, a former officer of the U.S. Army’s Chemical Corps, said: “None of the people treating the casualties or photographing them are wearing any sort of chemical-warfare protective gear, and despite that, none of them seem to be harmed… there are none of the other signs you would expect to see in the aftermath of a chemical attack, such as intermediate levels of casualties, severe visual problems, vomiting and loss of bowel control.”

Gwyn Winfield of chemical weapons journal CBRNe World said it was difficult to pin down a specific chemical from the symptoms seen in footage, but suggested it could be either a chemical weapon or a riot control agent: “The lack of conventional munition marks does suggest that it was a non-conventional munition, or an RCA (riot control agent) in a confined space, but who fired it and what it was has yet to be proved.”

Other experts cited by Agence France Presse (AFP) concur with these assessments – either disagreeing that the footage proved military-grade chemical weapons, or noting the inadequacy of evidence implicating a specific perpetrator.

What little evidence is available in the public record on past deployment of chemical agents has implicated both Assad and the rebels – not the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as a whole, but rather militant jihadist factions linked to al-Qaeda and funded by the likes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In March this year, a major attack on the predominantly Shi’a town of Khan al-Assal killing 26 people including civilians and Syrian soldiers was apparently committed by rebels “with al-Qaeda sympathies.” U.S. weapons experts suspected that the victims were exposed to a “caustic” agent such as chlorine, not a military-grade chemical weapon but “an improvised chemical device.” As the Telegraph reports: “There has been extensive experimentation by insurgents in Iraq in the use of chlorine.”

Indeed, in May 2007, al-Qaeda in Iraq had attempted a series of suicide attacks using bombs built from chlorine gas containers. Last year, Syrian jihadist groups led by the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusrah Front, linked to Iraqi al-Qaeda forces, captured several Syrian military bases stocking Scud and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as a chlorine factory near Aleppo.

Yet eyewitness reports from victims and doctors have also alleged many other instances of chemical weapons attacks attributed by locals to Syrian government forces.

Just three months before the most recent attack, however, former war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte, an independent UN war crimes investigator on Syria, told Channel 4 that evidence derived from interviews with victims, doctors and field hospitals confirmed that rebels had used the nerve agent sarin:

“I have seen that there are concrete suspicions if not irrefutable proof that there has been use of sarin gas… This use was made by the opponent rebels and not from the governmental authorities.”

According to Channel 4, “she had not found evidence of sarin’s use by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.”

Meanwhile, the latest UN report released in June 2013 confirms several allegations of chemical weapons attacks but concludes it:

“… has not been possible, on the evidence available, to determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrator.”

Further complicating the matter, Dave Gavlak, a veteran Middle East correspondent for Associated Press, cites interviews with “doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families” who believe that “certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the gas attack.” The arms were reportedly given by al-Nusrah fighters to ordinary rebels without informing them of their nature. “More than a dozen rebels interviewed reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government.” Gavlak’s report comes with the caveat that some of its information “cannot be independently verified.”

Could it be disinformation planted by Assad agents in Damascus, as happened with the Houla massacre?

We will have to wait for the findings of UN weapons inspectors to see whether any further clarity can be added with regards to the latest attack. In the words of Foreign Policy magazine:

“Given that U.N. inspectors with a mandate to investigate chemical weapons use were on the ground when the attack happened, the decision to deploy what appears to have been a nerve agent in a suburb east of Damascus has puzzled many observers. Why would Syria do such a thing when it is fully aware that the mass use of chemical weapons is the one thing that might require the United States to take military action against it? That’s a question U.S. intelligence analysts are puzzling over as well. ‘We don’t know exactly why it happened,’ the intelligence official said. ‘We just know it was pretty fucking stupid.'”

Imperial pretensions from Syria to Iran

U.S. agitation against Syria began long before today’s atrocities at least seven years ago in the context of wider operations targeting Iranian influence across the Middle East.

In 2006, a little-known State Department committee – the Iran-Syria Policy and Operations Group – was meeting weekly to “coordinate actions such as curtailing Iran’s access to credit and banking institutions, organizing the sale of military equipment to Iran’s neighbors and supporting forces that oppose the two regimes.” U.S. officials said “the dissolution of the group was simply a bureaucratic reorganization” because of a “widespread public perception that it was designed to enact regime change.”

Despite the dissolution of the group, covert action continued. In May 2007, a presidential finding revealed that Bush had authorized “nonlethal” CIA operations against Iran. Anti-Syria operations were also in full swing around this time as part of this covert programme, according to Seymour Hersh, reporting for the New Yorker. A range of U.S. government and intelligence sources told him that the Bush administration had “cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations” intended to weaken the Shi’ite Hezbollah in Lebanon. “The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria,” wrote Hersh, “a byproduct” of which is “the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups” hostile to the United States and “sympathetic to al-Qaeda.” He noted that “the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria,” with a view to pressure him to be “more conciliatory and open to negotiations” with Israel. One faction receiving covert U.S. “political and financial support” through the Saudis was the exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

A year later, Alexander Cockburn revealed that a new finding authorized covert action undermining Iran “across a huge geographical are – from Lebanon to Afghanistan”, and would include support for a wide range of terrorist and military groups such as Mujahedin-e-Khalq and Jundullah in Balochistan, including al-Qaeda linked groups:

“Other elements that will benefit from U.S. largesse and advice include Iranian Kurdish nationalists, as well the Ahwazi arabs of south west Iran.  Further afield, operations against Iran’s Hezbollah allies in Lebanon will be stepped up, along with efforts to destabilize the Syrian regime.”

It is perhaps not entirely surprising in this context that according to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business”, he told French television:

“I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer minister for foreign affairs, if I would like to participate.”

Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor included notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials confirming U.S.-UK covert operations in Syria since 2011:

“After a couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF [Special Operations Forces] teams (presumably from U.S., UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on recce [reconnaissance] missions and training opposition forces…  I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF  teams would be working toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air campaign to give a Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from that idea, saying that the idea ‘hypothetically’ is to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within… They don’t believe air intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Gaddafi move against Benghazi. They think the U.S. would have a high tolerance for killings as long as it doesn’t reach that very public stage.”

“Collapsing” Assad’s regime is thus a final goal, though military intervention would only be politically feasible – read domestically palatable for western populations – in the context of “a massacre” so grievous it would lead to a public outcry.

In another email to Stratfor executive Fred Burton from James F. Smith, former director of Blackwater and current CEO of another private security firm SCG International, Smith confirmed that he was part of “a fact finding mission for Congress” being deployed to “engage Syrian opposition in Turkey (non-MB and non-Qatari).” The “true mission” for the “fact finding” team was how:

“… they can help in regime change.”

The email added that Smith intended to offer “his services to help protect the opposition members, like he had underway in Libya.” He also said that Booz Allen Hamilton – the same defence contractor that employed Edward Snowden to run NSA surveillance programmes – “is also working [with] the Agency on a similar request.”

Grand strategy: shoring up Gulf oil autocracies, “salafi jihadism” and sectarian violence

So what is this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria, Iran and so on, all about? According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to “attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years.” A Pentagon officer familiar with the memo told him, “we’re going to start with Iraq, and then we’re going to move to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.” In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region’s vast oil and gas resources.

As Glen Greenwald pointed out:

“… in the aftermath of military-caused regime change in Iraq and Libya… with concerted regime change efforts now underway aimed at Syria and Iran, with active and escalating proxy fighting in Somalia, with a modest military deployment to South Sudan, and the active use of drones in six – count ‘em: six – different Muslim countries, it is worth asking whether the neocon dream as laid out by Clark is dead or is being actively pursued and fulfilled, albeit with means more subtle and multilateral than full-on military invasions.”

Indeed, much of the strategy currently at play in the region was candidly described in a 2008 U.S. Army-funded RAND report, Unfolding the Future of the Long War. The report noted that “the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource.” As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the U.S. has “motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states.” The report further acknowledges:

“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized… For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”

In this context, the report identitied many potential trajectories for regional policy focused on protecting access to Gulf oil supplies, among which the following are most salient:

“Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces… the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace…  U.S. leaders could also choose to capitalize on the ‘Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict’ trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world…. possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”

Exploring different scenarios for this trajectory, the report speculated that the U.S. may concentrate “on shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan as a way of containing Iranian power and influence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.” Noting that this could actually empower al-Qaeda jihadists, the report concluded that doing so might work in western interests by focusing jihadi activity on internal sectarian rivalry rather than targeting the U.S., thus bogging down both Iranian-sponsored groups like Hezbollah and al-Qaeda affiliated networks in mutual conflict:

“One of the oddities of this long war trajectory is that it may actually reduce the al-Qaeda threat to U.S. interests in the short term. The upsurge in Shia identity and confidence seen here would certainly cause serious concern in the Salafi-jihadist community in the Muslim world, including the senior leadership of al-Qaeda. As a result, it is very likely that al-Qaeda might focus its efforts on targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East and Persian Gulf while simultaneously cutting back on anti-American and anti-Western operations.”

The RAND document contextualised this strategy with surprisingly prescient recognition of the increasing vulnerability of the U.S.’s key allies and enemies – Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, Syria, Iran – to the converging crises of rapidly rising populations, a ‘youth bulge’, internal economic inequalities, political frustrations, sectarian tensions, and water shortages, all of which could destabilize these countries from within or exacerbate inter-state conflicts.

The report noted especially that Syria is among several “downstream countries that are becoming increasingly water scarce as their populations grow”, increasing a risk of conflict. Drought in Syria due to climate change, impacting food prices, did indeed play a major role in sparking the 2011 uprisings. Though the RAND document fell far short of recognizing the prospect of an  ‘Arab Spring’, it illustrates that three years before the 2011 uprisings, U.S. defense officials were alive to the region’s growing instabilities, and concerned by the potential consequences for stability of Gulf oil.

Pipeline politics

These strategic concerns, motivated by fear of expanding Iranian influence, impacted Syria primarily in relation to pipeline geopolitics. In 2009 – the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria – Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale was “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.”

Instead, the following year, Assad pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with Iran, across Iraq to Syria, that would also potentially allow Iran to supply gas to Europe from its South Pars field shared with Qatar. the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed by in July 2012 – just as Syria’s civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo – and earlier this year Iraq signed a framework agreement for construction of the gas pipelines. The pipeline would potentially allow Iran to supply gas to European markets.

The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a “direct slap in the face” to Qatar’s plans. No wonder Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in a failed attempt to bribe Russia to switch sides, told President Vladmir Putin that “whatever regime comes after” Assad, it will be “completely” in Saudi Arabia’s hands and will “not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports”, according to diplomatic sources. When Putin refused, the Prince vowed military action.

Israel also has a direct interest in countering the Iran-brokered pipeline. In 2003, just a month after the commencement of the Iraq War, U.S. and Israeli government sources told The Guardian of plans to “build a pipeline to siphon oil from newly conquered Iraq to Israel” bypassing Syria. The basis for the plan, known as the Haifa project, goes back to a 1975 MoU signed by then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, “whereby the U.S. would guarantee Israel’s oil reserves and energy supply in times of crisis.” As late as 2007, U.S. and Israeli government officials were in discussion on costs and contingencies for the Iraq-Israel pipeline project.

All the parties intervening in Syria’s escalating conflict – the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Israel on one side providing limited support to opposition forces, with Russia, China and Iran on the other shoring up Assad’s regime – are doing so for their own narrow, competing geopolitical interests.

Supporting al-Qaeda

Certainly, external support for the rebels funneled largely through Saudi Arabia and Qatar has empowered extremists. The New York Times found that most of the arms supplied with U.S. approval “are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups” – a process which continues. The support for militants is steadily transforming the Syrian landscape. “Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists”, reported NYT in April:

“Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government. Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.”

And there are even questions about the U.S.’ purported disavowal of the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra. NYT reports that “Nusra’s hand is felt most strongly in Aleppo”, where it has established in coordination with other rebel groups “a Shariah Commission” running “a police force and an Islamic court that hands down sentences that have included lashings.” Nusra fighters also “control the power plant and distribute flour to keep the city’s bakeries running.” Additionally, they “have seized government oil fields” in provinces of Deir al-Zour and Hasaka, and now make a “profit from the crude they produce.”

The problem is that al-Nusra’s bakery and oil operations are being supported by the U.S. and the European Union (EU) respectively. In one disturbing account, the Washington Post reports on a stealth mission in Aleppo “to deliver food and other aid to needy Syrians – all of it paid for by the U.S. government”, including the supply of flour. “The bakery is fully supplied with flour paid for by the United States”, the report continues, noting that local consumers, however, “credited Jabhat al-Nusra – a rebel group the United States has designated a terrorist organization because of its ties to al-Qaeda – with providing flour to the region, though he admitted he wasn’t sure where it comes from.” Similarly, the EU’s easing of an oil embargo to allow oil imports from rebel-controlled oil fields directly benefits al-Nusra fighters who control those former government fields.

No wonder Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in a failed attempt to bribe Russia to switch sides, told President Vladmir Putin that “whatever regime comes after” Assad, it will be “completely” in Saudi Arabia’s hands and will “not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports”, according to diplomatic sources. When Putin refused, the Prince vowed military action.

It would seem that contradictory Saudi and Qatari oil interests are pulling the strings of U.S. policy in Syria, if not the wider region. It is this – the problem of establishing a pliable opposition which the U.S. and its oil allies feel confident will play ball, pipeline-style, in a post-Assad Syria – that will determine the nature of any prospective intervention. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said:

“Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides. It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor.”

 

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is a bestselling author, investigative journalist and international security scholar. He is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save it among other books. He writes for The Guardian on the geopolitics of environmental, energy and economic crises via his Earth insight blog.

The Ruthless, Inhuman Policies of the West In Syria–fighting to empower al-Qaeda

Al-Jaafari: There is moral problem with how the UN Secretariat is dealing with terrorism in Syria

Sana

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New York, SANA_ Syria’s Permanent representative to the United Nations Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari said that there is a moral problem regarding the way in which the United Nations Secretariat is dealing with terrorism in Syria.

Al-Jaafari’s remark was made in a statement following a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday to discuss issues related to the crisis in Syria with the participation of the UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-wha Kang via the internet from Geneva.

Syria’s Representative said that holding a joint session including those who are responsible for the political file and humanitarian one together to discuss the situation relevant to the so-called Syrian crisis poses a positive development since that in one meeting, members of the UN Security Council managed to consider the political and humanitarian aspects of the issue at the same time.

Al-Jaafari voiced reservations on the session, the first of those reservations was when Kang pointed to the fact that violence in Syria reached unprecedented levels but she did not specify the reasons of the violence escalation as she talked about the flow of millions of refugees and displaced persons internally, but also did not touch upon the reasons which forced them to leave their towns and villages, she also spoke about the victims of terrorist bombing in Homs which targeted innocent children were near their school ignoring to set those who committed such terrorist act, so all these methods of expressing concern in dealing with the bloody development and bloodshed seen by Syrian government as moral problems.

“After much denial, the international community came to a conclusion that proves the veracity of what the Syrian government has been saying for several years, which is that Syria is facing mercenaries and terrorists coming from 83 countries, mercenaries who were trained in camps in Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, under US-French-British supervision,” he said.

Al-Jaafari went on to say “We were wishing that the UN Secretariat staff were more neutral about the diagnosis of terrorist activities which Syria is exposed to, especially since after a long time of denial, the so-called international community came out the outcome that what the Syrian government has been saying proved to be true.”

He talked about how the world’s intelligence agencies didn’t prevent a group of Australian youths headed from Sydney to shed the blood and fight Syrian government in Aleppo within 24 hours, noting that the Secretariat including Kang insists to refer to such mercenaries as “Syrian insurgents.”
Al-Jaafari commended the efforts of de Mistura who talked about his support for achieving a political settlement in Syria, the choice which the Syrian government has been supporting.

“It can’t be denied that the Turkish policy is one of the causes of increasing the violence in Syria through facilitating the flow of the ISIS and al-Nusra Front terrorists into the Syrian territories,” he said, adding that the ISIS disaster which the Syrian and Iraqi people are suffering from should be addressed in a serious manner by the international community which must seriously fight against terrorists in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions Nos. /2170 /and /2178/.

Al-Jaafari said that there should be no selectivity in combating terrorism because selectivity indicates the lack of seriousness in the fight against terrorism and that is the first challenge currently.

On de Mistura’s call on Turkey to help fighters in Ayn al-Arab, al-Jaafari said the Syrian government is against any foreign interference in Syrian affairs and against any violation of its sovereignty as this is a red line, noting that de Mistura did not call Turkey to interfere in the affairs of Syria, but rather called for facilitating the entry of the Syrian fighters who are of Ayn al-Arab’s inhabitants and fled to escape ISIS, adding that the Turkish authorities prevented Syrians from returning to Ayn al-Arab to defend it.

On the situation of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Golan, and the terrorism to which it was exposed, Syria’s Representative said this is another scandal since the peacekeeping administration has not responded to this terrorism in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) along the ceasefire line in the occupied Syrian Golan.

He made it clear that the Syrian government welcomes what de Mistura and members of the UN Security Council put forth about fighting terrorism as a priority.

In response to a question about the international alliance’s continued airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, al-Jaafari said “We have great doubts about the motives and objectives of these strikes since the alliance is attacking ISIS terrorists while at the same time it turns a blind eye to the Turkish government’s support to them.”

Ghossoun / Hazem Sabbagh

ISIS Battling al-Nusra On Lebanon Border

Clashes Break out between ISIL and al-Nusra Front East of Lebanon’s Arsal

almanar

Lebanon: Terrorist gunmen

Fierce clashes broke out between al-Nusra Front and the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) takfiri groups east of Lebanese border with Syria, over exchanging accusations of betrayal during the recent battle of Qalamoun.

The local Lebanese daily Assafir reported that the two terrorist groups have used different kinds of weapons during the clashes that erupted in Kassarat (quarries) area and al-Jarajir barren east of Arsal town.

Elnashra news website said that scores of gunmen from both sides were killed, and many others were left wounded.

“Al-Nusra Front military official in Fleita, Abu Omar Attaftanazi, and commander of engineering department, Abu Ahmad Ahrar, were among the killed terrorists,” the website stated, adding that Abulleil, a group commander, and Abu Ya’coub, Al-Nusra Front official in Arsal barrens, were also killed.

Elnashra noted that an emir of ISIL, dubbed Abu Osama, and two other ISIL commanders in Qalamoun, Abu Mohamad Islam and Abu Abed al-Baghdadi were also killed during the clashes.

Moreover, the Lebanese army fired artillery rockets against the gunmen deployed in Massida neighborhood in Arsal barrens, using medium weapons and flares.

The army move came after the control chamber monitored suspicious movements and an attempt to approach the military positions.

Syria was hit by a violent unrest since mid-March 2011, where the western media reports accuse countries, mainly the USA, Turkey and Saudi Arabia of orchestrating the civil conflict in the country and providing terrorist groups with money, weapons and trained mercenaries.

On May 2011, Syrian army launched a wide-scale operation against terrorist groups and gunmen operating in the country, who started to escape the army blows and infiltrate illegally to Lebanon.

al-Zawahiri Issues Orders NOT TO ATTACK THE WEST–confirmation that Al-Qaeda is our ally

jolaniAbu-Mohammad-al-Golani-NUSRA-FRONT2

[One of these two versions of al-Golani/al-Jolani gave another interview to his Qatari sponsors.]

Al-Qaeda ‘orders Syria’s Al-Nusra Front not to attack West’

BBC

The interview with Abu Mohammed al-Julani was his second with Al Jazeera since 2013

 

Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria has been ordered by the jihadist network not to use the country to launch attacks on the West, the group’s leader has said.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Abu Mohammed al-Julani said al-Nusra Front was focused on capturing Damascus and toppling President Bashar al-Assad.

He also promised to protect Syrian minorities that disavowed Mr Assad.

A rebel alliance including al-Nusra has been making gains in north-western Syria, capturing the city of Idlib.

Rebel fighters are now advancing on the Mediterranean coastal province of Latakia, a stronghold of the president and his heterodox Shia Muslim Alawite sect.

‘One mission’

The hour-long interview with Julani broadcast on Wednesday night was his second with Qatar-based Al Jazeera since 2013, when al-Nusra Front split from what is now Islamic State (IS).

It was not clear where it was filmed and Julani’s face was not shown. He sat on an ornate chair opposite the interviewer, Ahmed Mansour, with his back to the camera.

Al-Nusra Front and allied rebel groups took control of the northern city of Idlib in March

Julani said al-Nusra had been instructed by the overall leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to avoiding launching attacks abroad that might jeopardise its operations in Syria.

“We are only here to accomplish one mission, to fight the regime and its agents on the ground, including Hezbollah and others,” he stressed, referring to the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement that is fighting alongside government forces.

“Al-Nusra Front doesn’t have any plans or directives to target the West. We received clear orders not to use Syria as a launching pad to attack the US or Europe in order to not sabotage the true mission against the regime. Maybe al-Qaeda does that, but not here in Syria.”

The al-Nusra leader also denied claims by the US that it had a secret cell called the “Khorasan Group” that was tasked with plotting attacks outside Syria.

“There is nothing called Khorasan group. The Americans came up with it to deceive the public. They claim that this secret group was set up to target the Americans but this is not right.”

US cruise missiles struck alleged Khorasan Group bases in north-western Syria in September

The US-led coalition against Islamic State, to which al-Nusra is violently opposed, has bombed several bases that US officials say were used by the Khorasan group.

“Our options are open when it comes to targeting the Americans if they will continue their attacks against us in Syria. Everyone has the right to defend themselves,” Julani warned.

A US intelligence official told the New York Times that Julani’s claims were “self-serving propaganda”.

Julani also vowed that al-Nusra would not harm members of Syria’s Christian and Druze minorities who did not fight against it, and that Alawites would be safe if they “drop their weapons, disavow Assad, do not send their men to fight for him and return to Islam”.

“The battle does not end in Qardaha, the Alawite village and the birthplace of the Assad clan,” he explained. “Our war is not a matter of revenge against the Alawites despite the fact that in Islam, they are considered to be heretics.”

After Practically Killing the US Shale Oil Industry, Saudis To Acquire Tech For Desert Fracking

Technology for a Saudi fracking boom moves closer to reality

cnbc

Andrew Zaleski, special to CNBC.com

The key to an energy boom is simple: Build a technology to get at the oil and gas that geologists already know is trapped in various subterranean, or subsea, formations.

The fracking boom in the U.S. is the obvious example. Extracting seabed methane hydrate is another huge bet—energy-starved Japan has made that.

Saudi Arabia could be next to use new technology to get at currently trapped gigantic reserves of oil and gas. A small pilot project about to get under way is the energy market equivalent of a moonshot, but it could allow a Saudi fracking boom to move one step closer to reality.

Workers at an oil facility near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Hasan Jamali | AP  Workers at an oil facility near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

All over the world, there are naturally fractured oil and gas reservoirs called carbonite formations, and no region has as much oil and gas trapped in carbonate formations as the Middle East. Carbonates are areas of sedimentary rock—limestone, for instance—that contain many natural cracks inside them.

Carbonite formations are estimated to hold 60 percent of the world’s oil and 40 percent of the world’s gas reserves. In the Middle East, roughly 70 percent of oil and 90 percent of gas reserves are trapped in the carbonite, according to oil services giant Schlumberger.

In hydraulic fracturing, water and other chemicals are injected underground through a well bore to extract oil and gas. The norm today is to use hydraulic pressure on a huge volume of undirected fluid, mostly water, to actually crack open the earth.

Extracting oil and gas trapped in carbonate formations has been done through a process known as acidization. Water mixed with hydrochloric acid (it’s about an 85 percent water solution) is pumped into a well bore and then branches out into the carbonate formation and etches patterns in the rock formation—think of an image of roots underneath a tree.

But the conventional approach has some big problems. The acid may not make contact with areas of the rock formation that need to be dissolved in order to access trapped oil and gas. In other cases, the acid might just wash along the inside of the well bore and not make it out into the rock formation itself.

Higher recovery rate, lower cost

Enter Fishbones, a Norway-based oil services start-up founded by Rune Freyer, a former Schlumberger executive who is considered a technical wizard in the oil business.

“Rune is a genius,” said Richard Spears,v.p. at oil and gas services consultant Spears and Associates. “He has an incredible history of developing really cool technology for oil fields,” he said.

Over the next six months, Fishbones plans to complete installations of its technology in Saudi Arabia for a client it can’t disclose.

Oil services company Baker Hughes estimates Saudia Arabia is fifth in the world when it comes to recoverable gas reserves. Much of that is in carbonate formation. What Saudia Arabia doesn’t have is a lot of water, which you need in fracking. Fishbones technology uses 95 percent less fluids and is designed for recovering oil and gas from carbonate formations.

Emma Richards, an oil and gas analyst with London-based BMI Research, said, “Saudi Arabia has an absolute dire need for gas. They want to shift their power more toward gas-based sources so they can free up oil for exports. One of the big areas they’re targeting is gas reserves in carbonate formations, and they’ve been investing quite heavily over the last few years in R&D in different kinds of fracturing technologies.”

The problem with gas recovery in Saudi Arabia mirrors some of the shale-fracking problems of the U.S.: Production costs are high, while sales costs are low. So gaining access to a technology like Fishbones potentially means higher recovery rates and boosted production at a lower cost, which improves sales.

“This is an industry that, even though it’s made up of gamblers, we aren’t gamblers. We do something once and wait a year to see how it worked out. There will be some market for it. I just can’t tell how big that might be.” -Richard Spears, vice president, Spears and Associates

The Saudi project is the most intriguing, but Fishbones is at work on additional projects in Norway and Texas.

“These are reservoirs that are found all over the world,” said Kevin Rice, the Houston-based North America region manager for Fishbones.

In Norway, it is working directly for Norway oil and gas giant Statoil, which is an investor in Fishbones.

“When it comes to the advancement of technology, Norway and the Middle East are right there,” Spears said.

A 2014 pilot project in Texas—an installation in the Austin Chalk Formation—was backed by a group called the Joint Chalk Research group based in Denmark. The members of this group are BP, ConocoPhillips, the Danish North Sea Fund, Danish state-owned oil company Dong, Hess, Maersk, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil and Total.

In a Fishbones system, pipes containing needles are connected together as they’re installed in horizontal or vertical well bores. When the solution of water and acid is pumped through this piping system, the pressure of the solution pushes the needles out into the rock formation underground. Those needles, which extend 40 feet in four directions from the main well bore, create tiny tunnels in the rock known as laterals.

After about five hours, the acid is done being pumped, and what’s left underground is a large system of lateral tunnels—not to mention the main well bore—from which oil and gas can be pumped. It’s for this reason the company is named Fishbones, since the end result of what it creates resembles the skeletal structure of a skinned fish, with the main well bore representing the spine and the lateral tunnels representing the fish’s ribs. By pushing acid deep into carbonate formations while creating lateral tunnels, Fishbones ensures that acid comes into contact with more of the natural cracks within carbonate formations.

“Creating the laterals is something very new that we’ve introduced,” Rice said. “It’s a simpler process to get access into the formation. It’s more accurate because you’re controlling where it goes.”

Fundamentally different yet promising

It’s still too soon to say whether Fishbones succeeds in the market. Although it was founded eight years ago, the company is only now beginning to commercialize its technology, having installed two pilot systems in 2013 (in Indonesia) and 2014 (the Austin Chalk project). But some who study the fracking industry think Fishbones’ approach shows promise.

“You can be hitting natural fracture systems that don’t interact with the well bore. It’s exactly the thing that we need in the extraction industry these days to strategically access resources,” said John McLennan, an associate professor in the department of chemical engineering at the University of Utah. “You’re focusing your efforts; you’re not overusing your treatment fluids. Ultimately, something like this could be successful.”

Spears said that in the U.S. and Canadian shale plays, the companies are using what amounts to “a very large sledgehammer” on a big frack job.

“You need to move a lot of rock and crack a lot of rocks open a thousand feet away from the well bore,” he said. “The approach to these big frack jobs is not appropriate for big lush reservoirs that something a little more precise might address,” Spears added.

Fishbones’ approach to the natural fractures and permeability in rock is attempting to do something fundamentally different than what the industry does, Spears said, and even though the oil and gas business is a high-risk one, these kinds of innovations can take a lot of time to be embraced, if ever.

“We’re not saying forget hydraulic fracturing,” Rice said. “But we have a specific niche in the market where we fit well. … And we have a unique way to tap into that market.”

“This is an industry that, even though it’s made up of gamblers, we aren’t gamblers. We do something once and wait a year to see how it worked out,” Spears said, adding, “There will be some market for it. I just can’t tell how big that might be.”

By Andrew Zaleski, special to CNBC.com

5 Afghan Shia-Murdering GITMO Releasees To Be Set Free By Qatar

Travel ban ends for five senior Taliban Guantanamo inmates swapped for Bergdahl

Taliban 5

[THE FOLLOWING TAKEN FROM “Obama Returns 5 Top Taliban To Afghanistan, for One Potential Deserter.”]

Mohammad Fazl, the former Taliban defense minister “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiites,” surrendered to the Northern Alliance commander Gen. Dostum in November 2001.

Mullah Norullah Noori, a former Taliban military commander and Taliban governor of two Afghan provinces, who led Taliban forces against U.S. and coalition troops and was also “wanted by the United Nations (UN) for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims.”  Noori commanded the Taliban in the northern city of Mazar e-Sharif. Like Fazl, he surrendered to Gen. Dostum in 2001.  Noori is or was associated with members of al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin.

Mohammed Nabi, another senior Taliban official with ties to al Qaeda

Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Taliban’s former deputy minister of intelligence, had direct connections to Taliban leadership and was “central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups”

Khairullah Khairkhwa

 

[IN KEEPING WITH THE PREVAILING THEME OF THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR, GUANTANAMO BAY IS PROVIDING SOME OF ITS MOST HARDCORE, RADICALIZED, BRAINWASHED MASS-MURDERERS TO FLAGGING WAR ZONES, IN ORDER TO JUMP-START THE STALLED ISLAMIST REVOLUTIONS. 

These 5 Taliban will be sent back to northern Afghanistan, where they can be expected to destabilize Afghan’s northern neighbors and make northern Afghan so bad that it will justify the reintroduction of large numbers of US troops.  Once there, they can be expected to pacify the smaller region with heavy aerial bombing, in order to pave the way for the TAPI pipeline/pipedream to proceed (SEE: China abandons IP project, eyes TAPI pipeline).]

 

The Original Islamic Caliphate In Afghanistan Will Survive Its “Jihad” With Islamic State

[]After the highly publicized attempt by the spy agency/terrorist group ISIS to import their inhuman terror into Afghanistan, Mullah Omar released a condemnation of the group, and al-Baghdadi in particular (SEE: Taliban leader: allegiance to ISIS ‘haram’ ).

Taliban and Islamic State Declare Jihad on Each Other

Taliban Publish Mullah Omar’s Biography, Claim ‘Charismatic’ Leader Is Alive And Involved In ‘Jihadi Activities’

Pakistani Taliban rejects Islamic State’s ‘self-professed caliphate’

[As for all things pertaining to Islamist militants, the truth is rarely reported.  The so-called “ISIS terrorists” fighting against the Taliban (as reported by the Western-dominated media) are actually just local pissed-off Taliban who claim allegiance to ISIS because of their loss of faith, or simlply those who have been bought-off. 

The “jihad” against the Taliban has been a Jihad within the Taliban itself.  This always happens with Sunni militant groups, where the most radical splinter-off from the main body, and then the parent groups fights to end the schism, beginning with the original “Mujahedeen,” who trained in Pakistan, to go to fight Russians in Afghanistan.   The Sipah e-Sahab predated the “Taliban.”  They provided the foundation for all radical Pakistani Islamists who would later follow.  The leaders from the second-generation terrorists became emisaries to the world, from the terrorists’ parents, Pakistan’s ISI intelligence directorate.  Pakistan sent these terrorist “seeds” wherever the CIA wanted them to be planted, in order to grow future conflicts from them.

Mullah Omar’s Taliban will survive the encounter with ISIS (Saudi/US) proxies.]

Khorassan Shura islamic state

OSINT Summary: Inter-group clashes leave 27 Taliban and Islamic State-affiliated militants dead in Afghanistan’s Farah

Jane's

Nolwenn Bourillon-Bervas – IHS Jane’s Terrorism & Insurgency Monitor

The governor of Afghanistan’s Farah province, Asif Nang, reported on 24 May that armed clashes had been ongoing in the Sarkhash Mazar area of Khak-e-Safid district in the province for three days between Taliban militants and defected members of the group who had allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The fighting left at least 15 Islamic State-affiliated militants and 12 Taliban militants dead in addition to a further 20 wounded combatants. Nang added that the Taliban had reportedly captured 12 Islamic State-affiliated militants, including four women of unknown foreign nationality, during the fight. This is the second engagement reported between the two groups this month, following the killing of three local Taliban commanders by Islamic State-affiliated militants in the Nazyan and Dur Baba districts of Nangarhar province on 16 May.

Such incidents represent the first major confrontations between the two groups in Afghanistan as the Islamic State increasingly develops and expands its presence in the country. The process began in Pakistan, where disaffected local pro-Taliban militants, many from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), began pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and its emir, Ibrahim al-Badri (alias Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), during late 2014. Then in January, local Afghan officials began to report the presence of allegedly Islamic State-affiliated militants in diverse areas across the country, including the provinces of Helmand, Farah, Sar-e-Pol, Jawzjan, Kunduz, Ghazni, Paktika, Logar, Nangarhar, and Zabul, with reports of growing low-level defections from the Taliban. This presence was then officially codified by the Islamic State, with main spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani announcing the formation of the group’s Wilayat Khorasan (Khorasan Province) on 27 January, covering Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ISIL Abu Mohammad al-Adnani al-Shami Abu Mohammad al-Adnani al-Shami, spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),

Since then Wilayat Khorasan has claimed responsibility for attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, although the veracity of such claims remains unverified. Nonetheless, the group has a substantive presence on the ground in Afghanistan and is likely to be seeking to attract disaffected local Taliban fighters and local commanders, particularly hardliners within the group who may disagree with the group’s seeming movement towards a peace process with the Afghan government. The Taliban is likely to seek to stamp out any such efforts across the country, raising the risk of future such clashes between the two groups.

Obama Agrees With Erdogan, To Provide Air Support For Syrian “Rebels” (ISLAMISTS)

The United States and Turkey have agreed “in principle” to give air support to some forces from Syria‘s mainstream opposition, Turkey’s foreign minister said, in what if confirmed could mark an expansion of U.S. involvement in the conflict.

There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials on the assertion — though Washington has so far refrained from committing to enforcing a “safe zone” for Syrian rebels, as it could be seen as a declaration of war on the Syrian state.

The air support would protect Syrian rebel forces who have been trained by a U.S.-led programme on Turkish territory, said minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The long-delayed scheme is meant to send 15,000 troops back to Syria to fight Islamic State militants.

Cavusoglu did not go into details on what “in principle” meant or what kind of air power would be provided or by whom.

“They have to be supported via air. If you do not protect them or provide air support, what is the point?,” Cavusoglu told the pro-government Daily Sabah during a visit to Seoul.

“There is a principle agreement on providing air support. How it is going to be provided is in the responsibility of the army.”

The U.S-led programme has been mired in delays amid media speculation of disagreements between the two NATO allies.

Turkey has said that any support programme must be part of a comprehensive strategy which includes battling forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Washington has maintained its opposition to Assad but said that the goal of training is only to defeat Islamic State militants.

Cavusoglu reiterated that while fighting Islamic State is prioritised, the “regime must also be stopped”.

The minister also dismissed media speculation that Turkey and Saudi Arabia had agreed on a joint operation in Syria.

(Reporting by Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

 

[SEE:  Islamic State, Taliban declare jihad against each other ;

Taliban leader: allegiance to ISIS ‘haram’  By RUDAW 13/4/2015Taliban Publish Mullah Omar’s Biography, Claim ‘Charismatic’ Leader Is Alive And Involved In ‘Jihadi Activities’

]

SAUDI ARABIA – A Spine For A Spine

SAUDI ARABIA – A Spine For A Spine

Once again, let’s hear it for Saudi Arabian justice!

It seems the doctors don’t object to this.  Just remember that the next time you go into surgery.
And perhaps just as alarming (to me, anyway) Amnesty International, of which I am a member, is suggesting that he just be fined or flogged.  I have already posted in this blog about flogging.  Go figure.
SAUDI ARABIA: Human rights group urges authorities to flog crime suspect instead of imposing spinal cord punishment
August 21, 2010 | 7:30 am
You know a country’s human rights situation is bad when even Amnesty International is urging that a guy be methodically whipped or caned on his back as a compromise to avoid an even harsher sentence.
Human rights monitors have grown alarmed over the case of a Saudi man who might have his spinal cord severed as punishment for badly injuring another guy during a fight a few years ago.
Amnesty International has urged Saudi Arabian authorities not to deliberately paralyze the man as a form of retribution for injuries he allegedly caused with a cleaver during a fight.
“We urge the Saudi Arabian authorities not to carry out such a punishment, which amounts to nothing less than torture,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, acting director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Program, said in a statement. “While those guilty of a crime should be held accountable, intentionally paralyzing a man in this way would constitute torture, and be a breach of its international human rights obligations.”
According to Amnesty International, a court in the northwestern Saudi Arabian town of Tabuk had asked hospitals whether they could mutilate the man’s spinal cord as requested by his alleged victim. One hospital apparently said it could create the injury.
Amnesty said the court could decide not to impose the punishment and instead sentence the suspect to jail, hand him a stiff a fine or at the very worst, systematically whip or cane him on the back.
Basically, Amnesty, among the world’s leading human rights groups, is advocating one form of torture in place of an even more horrific punishment.
The man’s name has not been publicized. He was originally sentenced to seven months in prison. Amnesty says he was tried without a lawyer.
— Los Angeles Times

ISI Concocts Fake Taliban Negotiations In China, Far, Far From Doha

[SEE: Karzai refused all negotiations with the Taliban abroad]

Afghan envoy held secret peace talks with Taliban in China – report

Russia-Today
AFP Photo / Thir Khan

AFP Photo / Thir Khan

An Afghan peace envoy reportedly held secret talks with former Taliban officials in China last week in an effort to bring the insurgency to the negotiating table. The meeting was facilitated by Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

The two-day talks were aimed at discussing preconditions for a possible peace process, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources briefed on the matter by the parties.

“These were talks about talks,” one diplomat said.

The meeting, held on May 19-20 in the northwestern Chinese city of Urumqi, was facilitated by Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Although Afghanistan’s peace-negotiating body often holds talks with the Taliban, such high-level meetings are unusual, the WSJ reported.

The three former Taliban officials who attended are based in Pakistan and are close to the Taliban’s leadership council, based in Quetta.

The meeting was also attended by Chinese officials and members of Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI).

However, in a statement Sunday, the Taliban denied the meeting took place.

Pakistan’s support of a peace process is seen as crucial, as much of the Taliban leadership has been based in the country since 2001 – and its fighters have used border areas between the two countries as an operational base.

The meeting’s China location is also key, as Beijing has made increased efforts to play the role of mediator in the conflict, facilitating conversations between Afghanistan and the Taliban in regard to peace talks.

But relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are not without tension; Afghan and Western officials have repeatedly accused Islamabad of effectively controlling the Taliban insurgency – an allegation that Pakistan has denied, despite acknowledging it has some influence over the movement.

Previous efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table have failed. In June 2013, the Taliban opened an office in Qatar for the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.’ It also raised the same white flag flown during the group’s five-year rule of Afghanistan – a move that angered then-President Hamid Karzai and the US, and led to the derailment of talks.

Afghanistan’s current president, Ashraf Ghani, has pushed for peace talks with the Taliban since being elected last year.

But despite regional efforts for peace negotiations, the Taliban is still taking part in a nationwide offensive, which has led to casualties on both sides. The movement insists that all foreign troops must leave Afghanistan as a precondition for negotiations.

Saudi Arabia seeks leadership of UN Rights Council

‘Kingdom of Dystopia’: Saudi Arabia seeks leadership of UN Rights Council

Russia-Today
saudibeheading2

​The very country which brought the world one of the most brutal and intolerant religious ideologies – Wahhabism, while operating the most oppressive modern-day theocracy, is vying for the presidency of the UN Human Rights Council.

Saudi Arabia has come to represent many things over the decades – theocracy, oppression, brutality and even at times downright barbarism. And seeing how the Kingdom has become infamous for carrying out death sentences by beheading, it’s safe to say that upholding the principles of human rights is not exactly the regime’s forte.

Yet, King Salman, the new self-proclaimed custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, did not flinch when he declared on May, 20 that, “The Saudi Arabian government guarantees freedom of expression and opposes discrimination.”

The comment was aimed at Bandar Al-Aiban, president of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), Mufleh Al-Qahtani, president of the National Society for Human Rights, and other senior officials during their visit to Riyadh.

The King went on confidently, “The pillars of this state are built on Islamic law that calls for the protection of human rights; and governance in the country is based on justice, consultation and equality.”

But since those pillars the King is so keenly referring to are themselves based on the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam – a sect by its very nature reactionary and fiercely oppressive towards all it does not approve of or understand – Saudi Arabia’s justice system is merely a reflection of such dystopian ideology.

Wahhabism is actually so intrinsically violent and foreign to the concept of interfaith cohesion and peaceful social coexistence that it gave birth to the so-called jihadist movement that is currently holding the Middle East and North Africa hostage – Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

Wahhabism is a sect that came to be in the 18th century at the command of Mohammed Abdel-Wahhab. To put things further into historical context, the Wahhabis, or the Ikhwan as they called themselves then, under the banner of Wahhabism raided and ransacked both the holy city of Karbala (Iraq) and Medina before marching into Mecca as conquerors. Those “faithful” hordes turned Arabia crimson red to the swing of their blades as they pillaged and massacred along the way.

Fast forward a few centuries and Wahhabism is as bloodthirsty and intolerant as ever.

When all which is not Wahhabi Islam is considered apostasy, talks of equality and justice are as intangible as mirages – and yet the Kingdom would like the world to believe in its gospel of justice.

Not content with professing the righteousness of his rule, King Salman now harbors ambitions for the Kingdom to head the United Nations Human Rights Council.

On the very same week Saudi Arabia called for “experienced swordsmen” to join the Kingdom’s execution squad, reports confirmed Riyadh is preparing to lobby the United Nations to become the next head of the Human Rights Council, after Germany’s term end in 2016.

As Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch said, “that would be the final nail in the coffin for the credibility of the HRC.”

saudibeheading

Neuer added rather eloquently, “Electing Saudi Arabia as the world’s judge on human rights would be like making a pyromaniac as the town fire chief.”

And indeed, in a country like Saudi Arabia, where women are no more than commodities to be traded off, where political prisoners are subjected to abject torture, and where beheadings are commonplace, the idea that such a regime could ever be granted such a position on the world stage rings with intolerable cynicism.

Since King Salman was declared the legitimate claimant to the throne of Saudi Arabia, 85 men and women have been put to death in macabre public displays. Among the Kingdom’s latest victims was a woman suspected of mental illness named Siti Zainab Binti Duhri Rupa. She was publicly beheaded in April.

Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International, said at the time in a statement: “Imposing the death penalty and executing someone with a suspected mental illness smacks of a basic lack of humanity.” But, of course, such condemnations and calls for restraint have mainly fallen on deaf ears since the Kingdom wields the most powerful weapon of all – petrodollars.

Saudi Arabia, it appears, cannot be made to abide by international standards, since international law does not hold sway over the Kingdom. If the world has somewhat come to terms with the principles of American exceptionalism, perhaps the era of all-encompassing Saudi impunity is now at hand – Saudi Orwellianism anyone?

And even if both the US and EU insist on courting Riyadh – for its coffers are home to billions of dollars in arm deals and other lucrative investments – it would be difficult to whitewash 85 state-sanctioned murders, one unilateral war on Yemen, and a brutal religious crackdown against the Kingdom’s Shia community.

And if, as King Salman claimed, “There is no difference between citizens or regions. All citizens are equal in rights and duties,” then why are religious figureheads like Sheikh Al Nimr languishing in prison?

Is it fairness when cluster-bombs are unleashed over Yemen’s northern region of Saada where, as it so happens, Zaidi Muslims are the majority – a branch of Islam Wahhabi clerics have branded as takfir (infidels)? Is it right when children are left to starve under a Riyadh-run blockade on Yemen?

Allowing the Kingdom to head the UN Human Rights Council would quite simply equate to rewarding inhumanity, but then again, since values such as civil liberties and human rights have become the latest casualties in the Western powers’ eternal ‘war on terror’, maybe a theme is beginning to emerge.

Back in 2013, the US and EU failed to oppose Saudi Arabia’s election to the council. Let us see how they hold up before the petrodollar super-power this time around.

Catherine Shakdam for RT.

Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst and commentator for the Middle East with a special emphasis on Yemen and radical movements.

A consultant with Anderson Consulting and leading analyst for the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies, her writings have appeared in MintPress, Foreign Policy Journal, Open-Democracy, the Guardian, the Middle East Monitor, Middle East Eye and many others.In 2015 her research and analysis on Yemen was used by the UN Security Council in a situation report.

Africa, Albania and Erdogan’s campaign against Turkish schools

Africa, Albania and Erdogan’s campaign against Turkish schools

the sun news NIGERIA

By Ademu Sadik

Nations that are not under colonial rule should operate as sovereign states with the ability to make laws and take decisions that concern their citizens.
The responsibility of managing the affairs of the people in most countries are usually entrusted in the hands of certain persons who emerged either through elections or other selection processes depending on the laid down procedures for appointing leaders in such countries.
It will be a slur for any nation to diminish its status to the level that external bodies have to start dishing out instructions to it on how its affairs are run.
This could be the reason why the recent call by Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the closure of Turkish schools in Albania has continued to draw criticisms from citizens of that small Balkan country.
I think it is interesting to see the huge pressure from stakeholders, the press and civil society groups in Albania on their country’s government to clarify its position on the matter. At least, this clearly indicates that there are people who would not allow their nation become a colony of Turkey.
Like in Africa where Erdogan’s attempt to close Turkish schools was rebuffed, I am glad that the Albanians are following a similar path.
While reports have it that the Albanian government recently  carried out a raid to clamp down on schools they deemed unfit, which led to the closure of 13 schools, the passion by Erdogan to  have Turkish schools in the country to be shut down continues to baffle many people.
The Turkish president, who has not ceased making unsubstantiated allegations against his perceived opponents, had during his official visit to Albania called for the closure of the Turkish schools in the country, claiming that the schools were established by a terrorist organization.
But, keen followers of events in Turkey are not surprised by Erdogan’s tagging of the owners of Turkish schools (Hizmet movement) as a terrorist organisation. They are aware of the strained relationship between Erdogan and anybody linked with the Hizmet Movement.  As such, Erdogan’s action is in furtherance of his deep-rooted hatred for the movement that is widely known for promoting inter-religious dialogue.
Informed analysts on activities in Turkey know that Erdoğan had accused the Hizmet movement of orchestrating a corruption investigation of his government when he was the Prime Minister of Turkey in 2013.
And, this recent move is a clear indication of a clandestine way of carrying out his continuous frustration of his perceived enemies, which further exposed his obsession with oppression..
For instance, Erdogan did not only approve of establishment of Turkish schools abroad, but he had in the past inaugurated some. It is on record that Erdoğan inaugurated one of the schools in Turkey, Turgut Özal College’s elementary school, on Feb. 17, 2005, during one of his official trips to Albania when he was prime minister of Turkey.
This is clear evidence that Erdogan is chasing those who have become  a thorn in his flesh and his actions and inactions over time have shown that he is out to  destroy them and their business interests.
Though it is an open secret that Erdogan is bent on this repressive act, analysts are worried that he had to do this without recourse to diplomacy or sense of responsibility.
Aligning with this line of argument were some parliamentarians in Albania, most of whom dismissed Erdogan’s claim that the schools in question were being established by a terrorist organization. They even went ahead to score the schools high by describing them as about the best schools that provide high quality education that is essential for the development of Albania.
It is only rational that the worried lawmakers had to call on their government to shun the claim of President Erdogan. For instance, Ben Blushi, a deputy from the ruling Socialist Party of Albania (PS), while addressing a session in the parliament recently, called on the government to reject Erdoğan’s request. Blushi rightly argued that Albania is not a province of Turkey. This is a clear rejection of a colonization attempt on Albania by Erdogan and his party, AKP.
Dismissing Erdogan’s allegation, Blushi categorically said the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) alone has the power to label an organization a terrorist group. This questions Erdogan’s declaration of the Hizmet Movement as a terrorist organization.
What Erdogan and his Ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) were trying to do can be seen as an attempt to colonise Albania using the bait of bringing Turkish investment to the country and to also further expand their fight against the Hizmet Movement which they  assumed was responsible for exposing their corrupt practices.
Also,  the Albanian Economy Minister, Arben Malaj, has  made his views on the issue known. According to him, Erdogan’s call for the closure of those schools is an affront on the people of the country. He questioned Erdogan’s order to the Albanian government just as he wondered why schools that have provided qualitative education to such a great number of Albanian citizens should be mortgaged for Turkish investment, which he interpreted to be an attempt to transfer Turkish problems to Albania.
With this latest development, Erdogan and senior members of his party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) seem to have lost touch with happenings in diplomatic circles. Hence, their obsession with cracking down on Hizmet movement continues to earn them more insults.

nSadik writes from Lokoja

THE WHOLE WORLD HAS ITS HEAD BURIED IN THE SAND–Truth About Isis

[THE WHOLE WORLD HAS ITS HEAD BURIED IN THE SAND, when it comes to ISIS.  No authority has protested in the past, nor do they protest today, the fact that ISIS is wholly a US/SAUDI-owned entity.  They nurtured it together in the prison camps of Iraq and Saudi, until it was ready to stand on its own two legs in Syria.  There is no surprise here, except for the great astonishment everyone experiences when learning the truth about this state-sponsored terrorism, and the fact that no government (‘cept Russia) dares to mention this dire truth.]

[THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT IS FROM PGS. 287-293, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY REPORT]

isis documents

isis documents2

isis documents3

isis head collection

‘No one can bury heads in sand:’ Hezbollah leader calls for help fighting ISIS in Syria

Russia-Today
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah
Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.(Reuters / Sharif Karim)

 

Calling it a global existential threat, Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has urged supporters to join the fight against the Islamic State, confirming that his Shiite militant group has been fighting the Sunni extremists all across Syria.

READ MORE: ‘No will’ to fight ISIS? US Defense Sec blasts Iraqi troops

“Today we are facing a kind of danger that is unprecedented in history, which targets humanity itself,” Nasrallah said Sunday during a televised broadcast referring to Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL).

“This is not just a threat to the resistance in Lebanon or to the regime in Syria or the government in Iraq or a group in Yemen,” the Shiite movement’s head continued. “This is a danger to everyone. No one should bury their heads in the sand.”

He called on volunteers to stand up against IS extremist fighters: “We invite everyone in Lebanon and the region to take responsibility and confront this danger and end their silence and hesitation and neutrality.”

Read more
First confession: Pentagon admits 2 Syrian children killed in US airstrikes

Nasrallah’s comments were made ahead of Monday’s anniversary of the retreat of Israeli troops from Lebanon in 2000.

The leader has confirmed for the very first time that Hezbollah members are fighting Islamic State together with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in various parts of Syria and not just around the border regions.

“We are fighting alongside our Syrian brothers, alongside the army and the people and the popular resistance in Damascus and Aleppo and Deir Ezzor and Qusayr and Hasakeh and Idlib,” he said. “We are present today in many places and we will be present in all the places in Syria that this battle requires.”

READ MORE: Mortar attack on Russian embassy in Damascus an ‘act of terror’ – Moscow

Nasrallah also expressed disappointment with the US-led coalition against Islamic State, saying it was not effective and had not stopped jihadists from moving around freely.

Read more
​ISIS taking advantage of Syrian conflict, opposition & govt should cease fire – UN envoy tells RT

At the same time, he addressed the opposition, stressing that any support for the anti-Assad movement within Syria would only lead to more power in the hands of jihadists.

Sunni forces in Lebanon have been critical of Hezbollah’s role in Syria, as the group has not supported uprisings against Assad.

Lebanon is heavily affected by the Syrian conflict, as the majority of the refugees seeking shelter there are from the bordering war-torn state, with their number currently estimated at over 1.2 million.

The civil war in Syria started four years ago, when the Western-backed opposition began an armed rebellion against Assad’s government. By 2013, large portions of eastern Syria and western Iraq had fallen under control of militants from the Islamic State, which emerged amid the turmoil of the conflict, along with other extremist groups fighting against both Assad and the opposition. The conflict in Syria has claimed over 200,000 lives so far.

2012 DIA Document Detailing the Rise of ISIS, before the fact

2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document: West will facilitate rise of Islamic State “in order to isolate the Syrian regime”

LEVANT REPORT

https://levantreport.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/dia-2012-syria-islamic-state1.jpg?w=864&h=634On Monday, May 18, the conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch published a selection of formerly classified documents obtained from the U.S. Department of Defense and State Department through a federal lawsuit.

While initial mainstream media reporting is focused on the White House’s handling of the Benghazi consulate attack, a much “bigger picture” admission and confirmation is contained in one of the Defense Intelligence Agency documents circulated in 2012: that an ‘Islamic State’ is desired in Eastern Syria to effect the West’s policies in the region.

Astoundingly, the newly declassified report states that for “THE WEST, GULF COUNTRIES, AND TURKEY [WHO] SUPPORT THE [SYRIAN] OPPOSITION… THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME…”.

The DIA report, formerly classified “SECRET//NOFORN” and dated August 12, 2012, was circulated widely among various government agencies, including CENTCOM, the CIA, FBI, DHS, NGA, State Dept., and many others.

The document shows that as early as 2012, U.S. intelligence predicted the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), but instead of clearly delineating the group as an enemy, the report envisions the terror group as a U.S. strategic asset.

While a number of analysts and journalists have documented long ago the role of western intelligence agencies in the formation and training of the armed opposition in Syria, this is the highest level internal U.S. intelligence confirmation of the theory that western governments fundamentally see ISIS as their own tool for regime change in Syria. The document matter-of-factly states just that scenario.

Forensic evidence, video evidence, as well as recent admissions of high-level officials involved (see former Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford’s admissions here and here), have since proven the State Department and CIA’s material support of ISIS terrorists on the Syrian battlefield going back to at least 2012 and 2013 (for a clear example of “forensic evidence”: see UK-based Conflict Armament Research’s report which traced the origins of Croatian anti-tank rockets recovered from ISIS fighters back to a Saudi/CIA joint program via identifiable serial numbers).

The newly released DIA report makes the following summary points concerning “ISI” (in 2012 “Islamic State in Iraq,”) and the soon to emerge ISIS:

  • Al-Qaeda drives the opposition in Syria
  • The West identifies with the opposition
  • The establishment of a nascent Islamic State became a reality only with the rise of the Syrian insurgency (there is no mention of U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq as a catalyst for Islamic State’s rise, which is the contention of innumerable politicians and pundits; see section 4.D. below)
  • The establishment of a “Salafist Principality” in Eastern Syria is “exactly” what the external powers  supporting the opposition want (identified as “the West, Gulf Countries, and Turkey”) in order to weaken the Assad government
  • “Safe havens” are suggested in areas conquered by Islamic insurgents along the lines of the Libyan model (which translates to so-called no-fly zones as a first act of ‘humanitarian war’; see 7.B.)
  • Iraq is identified with “Shia expansion” (8.C)
  • A Sunni “Islamic State” could be devastating to “unifying Iraq” and could lead to “the renewing facilitation of terrorist elements from all over the Arab world entering into Iraqi Arena.” (see last non-redacted line in full PDF view.)

_____________________________________________

The following is excerpted from the seven page DIA declassified report (bold-facing is my own):

R 050839Z AUG 12

THE GENERAL SITUATION:

A. INTERNALLY, EVENTS ARE TAKING A CLEAR SECTARIAN DIRECTION.

B. THE SALAFIST [sic], THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, AND AQI ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA.

C. THE WEST, GULF COUNTRIES, AND TURKEY SUPPORT THE OPPOSITION; WHILE RUSSIA, CHINA AND IRAN SUPPORT THE REGIME.

3. (C) Al QAEDA – IRAQ (AQI):… B. AQI SUPPORTED THE SYRIAN OPPOSITION FROM THE BEGINNING, BOTH IDEOLOGICALLY AND THROUGH THE MEDIA

4.D. THERE WAS A REGRESSION OF AQI IN THE WESTERN PROVINCES OF IRAQ DURING THE YEARS OF 2009 AND 2010; HOWEVER, AFTER THE RISE OF THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA, THE RELIGIOUS AND TRIBAL POWERS IN THE REGIONS BEGAN TO SYMPATHIZE WITH THE SECTARIAN UPRISING. THIS (SYMPATHY) APPEARED IN FRIDAY PRAYER SERMONS, WHICH CALLED FOR VOLUNTEERS TO SUPPORT THE SUNNI’S [sic] IN SYRIA.

7. (C) THE FUTURE ASSUMPTIONS OF THE CRISIS:

A. THE REGIME WILL SURVIVE AND HAVE CONTROL OVER SYRIAN TERRITORY.

B. DEVELOPMENT OF THE CURRENT EVENTS INTO PROXY WAR: …OPPOSITION FORCES ARE TRYING TO CONTROL THE EASTERN AREAS (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), ADJACENT TO THE WESTERN IRAQI PROVINCES (MOSUL AND ANBAR), IN ADDITION TO NEIGHBORING TURKISH BORDERS. WESTERN COUNTRIES, THE GULF STATES AND TURKEY ARE SUPPORTING THESE EFFORTS. THIS HYPOTHESIS IS MOST LIKELY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DATA FROM RECENT EVENTS, WHICH WILL HELP PREPARE SAFE HAVENS UNDER INTERNATIONAL SHELTERING, SIMILAR TO WHAT TRANSPIRED IN LIBYA WHEN BENGHAZI WAS CHOSEN AS THE COMMAND CENTER OF THE TEMPORARY GOVERNMENT.

8.C. IF THE SITUATION UNRAVELS THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME, WHICH IS CONSIDERED THE STRATEGIC DEPTH OF THE SHIA EXPANSION (IRAQ AND IRAN)

8.D.1. …ISI COULD ALSO DECLARE AN ISLAMIC STATE THROUGH ITS UNION WITH OTHER TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA, WHICH WILL CREATE GRAVE DANGER IN REGARDS TO UNIFYING IRAQ AND THE PROTECTION OF ITS TERRITORY.

ISIS Fighters’ Thirst For Iraqi Blood Is Stronger Than Iraqi Will To Live

US Defense Chief: Iraqis ‘Showed No Will to Fight’ ISIS in Ramadi

abcnews_logo_v2

“We have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight [ISIS] and defend themselves,” Carter said in an interview on CNN. “We can give them training, we can give them equipment; we obviously can’t give them the will to fight.”

The unusual public rebuke of the Iraqi military, which the U.S. has been training and equipping for years, comes after a week of significant ISIS victories. The jihadist group took control of the key provincial capital of Ramadi and the ancient city of Palmyra. ISIS is now estimated to control half of Syria and broad swaths of Iraq.

In Ramadi, the Iraqi forces “were not out numbered, but in fact they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight,” Carter said.

PHOTO: Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the Pentagon during a news conference, Friday, May 1, 2015, to discuss the Defense Departments annual report on sexual assault in the military.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo
PHOTO: Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the Pentagon during a news conference, Friday, May 1, 2015, to discuss the Defense Department’s annual report on sexual assault in the military.

The Pentagon has said the decision to withdraw from Ramadi was made by a local Iraqi commander for reasons that are not entirely clear.

“I don’t believe anybody felt that Ramadi would fall, and I think it’s of great concern to everyone,” retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, former Army vice chief of staff, said on ABC News “This Week.”

The White House called the episode a “tactical setback” and vowed that there will be a counteroffensive. Republican critics of the administration say the ISIS gains reflect as much a lack of coherent U.S. strategy in Iraq as alleged weakness of the country’s security forces.

One Iraqi lawmaker said Sunday that Carter’s characterization of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) was “unrealistic and baseless,” according to The Associated Press.

PHOTO: An Islamic State car bomb explodes at the gate of a government building near the provincial governors compound in Ramadi, Iraq, on Saturday, May 16, 2015, during heavy fighting that saw most of the city fall to the militants.

McClatchy DC/TNS via Getty Images
PHOTO: An Islamic State car bomb explodes at the gate of a government building near the provincial governor’s compound in Ramadi, Iraq, on Saturday, May 16, 2015, during heavy fighting that saw most of the city fall to the militants.

The “will to fight” issue among ISF is at the heart of President Obama’s approach to Iraq, and one key reason why he’s resisted calls for more aggressive U.S. military intervention to confront ISIS.

“I know that there are some in Republican quarters who have suggested that I’ve overlearned the mistake of Iraq, and that, in fact, just because the 2003 invasion did not go well doesn’t argue that we shouldn’t go back in,” Obama told The Atlantic this week.

“I will continue to order our military to provide the Iraqi security forces all assistance that they need in order to secure their country, and I’ll provide diplomatic and economic assistance that’s necessary for them to stabilize. But we can’t do it for them,” Obama said.

A majority of Americans support U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but fewer back deployment of more boots on the ground, according to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Greece Squeezed By EU/US, Opens-Up To Moscow and Gazprom

[SEE:  Putin Offers Greece Pipeline Financing Help]

The role of Greece in the geostrategic chessboard of natural gas

Firstly, Greece’s role in the international chessboard of pipelines becomes critical. The selection of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) as the avenue for EU’s Southern Energy Corridor, as well as the pending project for the Greece-Italy Poseidon (IGI) pipeline with the participation of DEPA, is decisive; not only will it support local economies during the construction phase, but also ‘locks’ this particular route through Greece as the main entrance hub of Azeri gas to Europe.Analysts have pointed out often that the initial capacity of 10 bcm is scant compared to EU’s gas imports of ca. 280 bcma (out of 460 bcm of total consumption). However, a quantity of 10 bcm covers to a large extent the import needs of the transit countries and their neighbours, taken into account that Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Albania import ca. 12 bcm cumulatively – with the numbers for Turkey and Italy being 45 bcm and 66 bcm respectively.

This capacity can therefore have a substantial impact on the diversification of supply sources for the aforementioned states, especially if the potential plan for doubling the pipeline’s capacity in the future is considered. Moreover, the construction of the interconnecting pipeline Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) as developed by DEPA and its associates, will offer another potential source for diversification, as it will connect Bulgaria with TAP. The pipeline’s capability of reverse flow will allow Greece to use current or future regasification infrastructure to supply Bulgaria and the whole region with liquefied natural gas. The further development of an interconnecting pipeline network, such as the proposed Bulgaria-Romania (IBR) and Bulgaria-Serbia (IBS) could help in this direction.

The development of this pipeline network will undoubtedly enhance the energy security for the whole region of South-East Europe, rendering Greece as an integral link of this process. The plan by the Greek natural gas system operator DESFA to construct a third gas storage facility in Revythousa could add an extra 95.000 cm, raising the system’s overall storage capacity by 73%. The storage capacity could be further boosted with the proposed project by the Greek oil company Energean SA to turn a depleted oil field in the area of Kavala in Northern Greece into an underground storage facility with an estimated capacity of 1 bcm.

Furthermore, the import of gas from alternative supply sources could be increased substantially from the DEPA-planned Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) in the area of Kavala, which can bring in the equation another 150.000 cm of storage capacity, as well as the potential of pumping up to 5 bcma into the system. This project, in a potential synergy with a similar project proposed by the Greek company Gastrade SA in the region of Alexandroupolis, is critical in turning Greece in an emergent gas trade hub in the region.

Another factor to be considered is the important synergies with the maritime industry for the import and export of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Interestingly, natural gas could be also used as fuel for the ships, especially in the light of the recent EU proposals on fighting pollution caused by ships, including the Mediterranean Sea.

A special mention is in order with regards to the prospect of the transportation of Cypriot natural gas through the Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline proposed by DEPA. This pipeline, which is put forward in cooperation with the Ministry of Energy, Commerce Industry and Tourism of the Republic of Cyprus, could transfer initially 8 bcma of Cypriot and potentially Israeli gas. Furthermore, the existence of a pipeline network in the area could facilitate the Greek government’s planning for the exploitation of its domestic hydrocarbon resources, as these could find more easily their way to the regional markets.

Also noteworthy is the fact that all of the aforementioned projects have been included as Projects of Common Interest (PCI) by the European Commission, which raises their significance but most importantly enhances their prospects of realization. The completion of all these investments would find Greece with an overcapacity of natural gas exceeding by far its annual consumption of ca. 4bcma, which apart from contributing to the energy security of the region, could also open the way for a further commercial use of the exceeding quantities. These developments would also support the aspiration of the Greek government to establish a virtual trading hub for natural gas based (possibly) in Thessaloniki.

The orientation of the Greek government to implement structural reforms and open up the energy market and thus enhance competition across the value chain, from energy generation to supply, as well as the attraction of foreign investments directed to energy infrastructure, could lay the foundation for the emergence of Greece as a strategic entrance and trade hub of natural gas in South-East Europe.

Dr. Kostas Andriosopoulos, Ass. Professor and Director of the Research Centre for Energy Management (RCEM) at ESCP Europe Business School, London; Vice Chairman BoD of DEPA (Public Gas Corporation of Greece).

Dimitris Arvanitis, Lawyer, LL.M, Ph.D cand. in Energy Law (City University London).

Finland Notifies 900,000 Reservists of Impending Activation

Finland writes to 900,000 military reservists amid heightened tensions with Russia

the independent

Finnish Defence Forces deny ‘crisis situation’ warning is related to security situation

 

The Finnish military has sent letters to the country’s 900,000 reservists and given them information about what their responsibilities would be in a “crisis situation”.

Finland has an 833 mile long border with Russia, which also makes the bulk of the European Union’s border with the state.

The move comes amid escalated air exercises between Nato and Russian warplanes with reports that the two blocs are routinely testing each other’s borders in the Baltic and English channel.

A television announcement was also broadcast on Finnish channels reminding reservists that “conscription if the cornerstone of Finland’s defence capability”.

Finland’s defence minister, Carl Haglund of the liberal minority language Swedish People’s Party, denied the communications campaign was related to the security situation with Russia.

“The aim of this isn’t to give out sort of message at all [to Russia],” he said, according to Finnish public broadcaster YLE.

A spokesperson for the Finnish Defence Forces told the news channel the campaign had been two years in the making and that is had nothing to do with the security situation in the country.

“The reservist letter is associated with our intention to develop communications with our reservists, and not the prevailing security situation,” a spokesperson told the channel.

Finland is not a member of Nato.

The country has a small professional peacetime army but can call on a large reserve of conscripts in the event of a mobilization.

According to Andrej Illarionov, the Vladimir Putin’s chief economic adviser from 2000 to 2005, the Russian president believes that parts of Finland should rightfully be under Russian control. The Russian government itself has not repeated such claims.

Bulgaria Rushes Troops To Macedonian Border, For Conquest Or Defense?

People are evacuated with an armored vehicle near a police checkpoint in Kumanovo, Macedonia, May 9, 2015

Bulgaria Sends Troops to Border With Macedonia Amid Deadly Clashes

Reuters

© REUTERS/ Ognen Teofilovski

Suspicions about Bulgaria’s intentions were raised from the get-go, but now other developments and statements coming from the country appear to confirm what’s really behind their seemingly mystifying move.

Bulgaria, implicitly supported by the US and EU, is possibly attempting to reassert its de-facto claims over the territory and people of the Republic of Macedonia as a means of further destabilizing the country, sidelining Russia’s Balkan Stream project, and distracting from its own domestic malaise.

Latest Developments

Annexation Talk:

The sending of more troops to the Bulgarian-Macedonian border didn’t occur in a vacuum, as certain domestic forces have been pressing for Sofia to involve itself in its neighbor’s domestic and sovereign affairs. Take for example the Director of the National History Museum, Bozhidar Dimitrov, who provocatively hinted that Bulgaria might be confronted with the choice to re-annex its former Fascist-era conquest if asked to do so by the country’s dual Bulgarian citizens.

It should be noted that his call was made half a week prior to the buildup of Bulgaria’s military presence along the Macedonian border, so it’s feasible that this influential and well-connected academic and cultural personality may have had an impact on that decision.

Additionally, Dimitrov is widely known for his radical anti-Macedonian views, having even gone as far as publishing a book in which he asserts that his country’s internationally recognized neighbor is really part of Greater Bulgaria and that there’s no such thing as Macedonia, Macedonians, or the Macedonian language.

Direct Political Interference:

Concern about Bulgaria’s influence over Macedonia’s domestic crisis hit an alarm bell on Sunday when former Bulgarian Prime Minister and current President of the Party of European Socialists Sergey Stanishev attended the Color Revolution inauguration and revved up the anti-government crowd by speaking in both English and Bulgarian.

During his speech, he neglected to even mention the word “Macedonians”, thereby committing a common racial slight by Bulgarians who refuse to recognize the existence of the ethnicity.  It was all the more startling, however, that he had the gall to do so center-stage as a distinguished guest of the Color Revolutionary ‘opposition’, showing that neither he nor his hosts have the slightest care about the issue that forms the core of the country’s identity.

Lead From Behind:

Finally, it’s also telling that it was Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov who was chosen as the individual to announce the EU’s plans in crafting a unified approach to the Macedonian Crisis. This indicates that Brussels has made a conscientious decision to capitalize off of Bulgaria’s historically nationalist attitude to Macedonia in crowning it as the West’s Lead From Behind proxy.

IDF Offers “Iron Dome” To Zionist Saudi Brethren In Yemen

[SEE: “We, the Saudi family are cousins of the Jews.” ]

Rocket defense system was offered for Saudis to secure its border with Yemen.

jerusalem post

IRON DOMESoldiers stand near the Iron Dome missile defense system outside Tel Aviv.. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 

Arabic-language newspaper Rai al-Youm reported on Saturday that Israel has offered Saudi Arabia to use its Iron Dome anti-rocket technology.

The offer was made to the Kingdom to defend its border with Yemen that has come under numerous rocket attacks.

According to the report, the offer was made last week during meetings in Amman between the Saudis and the US ambassador to Jordan. A spokesman for the Jordanian government said that he was not aware of a meeting between the Saudis and the Israelis in Amman, the news outlet reported.

Saudi Arabia reportedly rejected the offer, according to the London based newspaper.

On Thursday and Friday cross border rocket attacks launched from inside Yemen killed two people in southern Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA reported on Friday.

SPA quoted a Civil Defense official in the southwestern province of Jizan as saying that a child was killed and three other children were wounded on Friday in the al-Tawal region.

A rocket attack on Thursday killed one citizen and wounded two others in al Hosn village, the agency reported earlier.

On Friday, Saudi-led coalition warplanes pounded Houthi-held military outposts on the hills overlooking the Yemeni capital Sanaa, as the eight-week military offensive aimed at ousting the rebels intensified over the weekend.

The airstrikes came as two Shi’ite mosques, one in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia and the other in Sanaa, were targeted by explosive devices and suicide bombers during Friday prayers.

Coalition fighter jets also targeted the presidential compound in the capital on Friday, where the Shi’ite rebels seized control in September.

The Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab nations intervened in Yemen’s civil war on March 26 with an all out air assault to force the Iran-allied Houthis to retreat from territories they have seized since last year, and restore the power of exiled Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Friday’s violence followed overnight airstrikes that targeted Houthi controlled military outposts of the notorious Republican Guard troops in the capital.

At least four missiles hit one of the Guard’s training camps in Sanaa late Thursday (May 21) night.

The latest spike in violence comes ahead of UN sponsored Yemen peace talks to be held in Geneva on May 28.

Turkey Using Greater Albania, To Scuttle Greek Ionian Sea Oil Exploration

GREEK BLOCKSThe notice on the Ionian oils response to Albanian challenge

[THE FOLLOWING DEMONSTRATES THE GREEK EEZ (economic exclusionary zone) with eastern most island, Kastelorizo included, followed by the TURKISH-PROPOSED EEZ, without Kastelorizo and all of that potential Mediterranean gas (SEE:  Kastelorizo – Mediterranean Flashpoint?).]

GREEK EEZGreek EEZ

Kathimerini: Erdogan met with Chams, Turkey encourages Albania

KOSOVALBANER

ERD The tense situation between Albania and Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper rushed to make some speculation.

Tirana has sent a note of protest to the official Athens for hydrocarbon prospecting is doing it in the Ionian Sea.

According to Kathimerini, Tirana claims that the searches are done in Albanian territorial waters.

The newspaper writes, referring to diplomatic sources, that Tirana has territorial claims against Athens.

It goes further when he says that this protest note is a clear move to put into question the borders between the two countries.

Sources told the paper that these nationalist movement inspired by the ideal of the so-called Greater Albania.

Kathimerini continues to claim that behind it lies Turkey, which is urging Albania to work against Greek interests.

Even according to the daily, the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has served this tension.

Diplomats said Erdogan met with officials nationalist Party for Justice, Integration and Unity.

According to them, the meeting is likely serves reboot of an issue related to the repatriation of the Cham Albanians expelled at the end of World War II.

Intelligence Agencies Behind “Bomba” Tapes In Macedonia

[The opposition releases tapes of ruling party making embarassing political statements, caught ordering illegal wiretaps and such.  Government denials claim that the tapes came from foreign intelligence services (after making select revisions), while the opposition blame homeland intel agencies.  These anti-govt protests coincided with the uprising by Kosovo terrorists in Kumanovo, which was defused through negotiations, led by the primary opposition spokesperson (SEE:  Ahmeti Tried to Negotiate End to Macedonian Carnage).  Now Ahmeti is leading the charge to take FYROP Macedonia into NATO (SEE:  Ahmeti tells Kathimerini that NATO membership will reduce tensions in Macedonia).]

Macedonia: massive protest amid astonishing wire-tap scandal

macedoniaTens of thousands of anti-government protesters rally in Macedonia to call for the resignation of the country’s prime minister amid an astonishing scandal over secretly recorded phone conversations.

Crowds gathered in front of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s government office calling for his resignation, something the conservative leader has refused to do.

There are concerns the anger could spill over into confrontation as Gruevski has called for his own rally on Monday. Protesters say they intend to camp out in the streets until the prime minister quits.

The small nation of just two million people has already seen bloody violence – last weekend a gun battle in the country’s north claimed the lives of eight policeman and ten ethnic Albanians, described by the government as “terrorists”.


Bomba 12 Tapping [Audio 6] Gordana Jankuloska – Saso Mijalkov

Wire-tap ‘bombs’

The explosion of public anger has come from the leaking, by Macedonia’s leftist opposition, of a series of secretly recorded telephone conversations involving top government officials in which they allegedly discuss everything from vote-rigging to covering up killings.

Macedonia’s government says the wiretaps are the work of an intelligence organisation of some unnamed country working to topple the government. Russia has also accused the West of trying to foment a “colour revolution”.

Macedonia anti-governemnt protest

Above: the anti-government protest in Macedonia’s capital Skopje.

Prime Minister Gruevski has not disputed that the voices are genuine but says that he did not order the recordings and that the tapes have been doctored.

Six people, including a former chief of the secret services, have been charged with making the tapes and the opposition leader, Zoran Zaev, who has been leaking the coversations – which the opposition call “bombs” – has been charged with threatening violence against the prime minister.

And yet the anger still rages in Macedonia.

‘Vote-rigging’ and ‘murder’

The Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, the opposition party, says it has snippets of recordings from 670,000 conversations from more than 20,000 telephone numbers.

The conversations appear to show tight government control over journalists, judges and election officials during Prime Minister Gruevski’s nine year rule.

Macedonia anti-gvoernment protester holds sign saying resign

Above: a protester holds a sign saying “resign”

The content of the conversations is reported to include government officials planning how to rig elections and the head of secret police talking about having a political opponent raped in prison.

Mr Zaev also says he has wire-taps concerning a notorious murder case from 2012, when five Macedonian men were shot dead at a lake near Skopje.

Political earthquake

It is the biggest political earthquake to hit Macedonia since the country teetered on the edge of civil war in 2001, when the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army clashed with government forces.

Macedonia wants to join NATO and the European Union, but progress has been blocked for years by a long-running dispute with neighbouring Greece over the country’s name.

During that time, critics say Gruevski has shifted right, stoking nationalism and monopolising power.

Macedonia anti-governemnt protest

Above: tens of thousands attend the anti-government protest in Macedonia

The violence last weekend took place when police raided a northern ethnic Albanian neighbourhood. 18 people, including police and Albanians, died in the ensuing gun battle.

Prime Minister Gruevski has said he thwarted a terrorist plot, but critics have questioned the timing of the incident, suggesting the leader may have been trying to create a diversion.

The UN, Nato and the European Union have called for calm and an investigation into the incident.

Suicide bomber strikes Saudi Shi’ite mosque, 20 dead

Suicide bomber strikes Saudi Shi’ite mosque, 20 dead

malaysia insider

22 May 2015

Saudi men inside a mosque following a blast, in the mainly Shiite Saudi Gulf coastal town of Qatif, 400km east of Riyadh. – AFP pic, May 22, 2015.Saudi men inside a mosque following a blast, in the mainly Shiite Saudi Gulf coastal town of Qatif, 400km east of Riyadh. – AFP 

May 22, 2015.Saudi men inside a mosque following a blast, in the mainly Shiite Saudi Gulf coastal town of Qatif, 400km east of Riyadh. – AFP pic, May 22, 2015.A suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shi’ite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia during Friday prayers, residents said, killing around 20 people and wounding more than 50, local residents and a hospital officials said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, the first to target Shi’ite Muslims in Saudi Arabia since November when gunmen killed at least eight people in an attack on a Shi’ite religious anniversary celebration, also in the east where most of the country’s minority Shi’ites live.

The attack could further harm relations between Sunnis and Shi’ites in the Gulf region, where tensions have risen during weeks of military operations in Yemen by a Saudi-led coalition against Houthi fighters seen as proxies of regional Shi’ite power Iran.

One witness described a huge explosion at the Imam Ali mosque in the village of al-Qadeeh where more than 150 people were praying.

“We were doing the first part of the prayers when we heard the blast,” worshipper Kamal Jaafar Hassan told Reuters by telephone from the scene.

A spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry, calling the attack an act of terrorism, said the bomber detonated a suicide belt hidden under his clothes inside the mosque, causing a number of people to “martyred or wounded”.

“Security authorities will spare no effort in the pursuit of all those involved in this terrorist crime,” the official said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

A hospital official told Reuters by telephone that “around 20 people” were killed in the attack and more than 50 were under treatment at the hospital, some of them suffering from serious injuries. He said that a number of other people had been treated and sent home.

A photograph posted on social media showed the mutilated body of a young man, said to be the bomber. Other pictures showed ambulances and bloodied victims being taken away on stretchers.

In April, Saudi Arabia said it was on high alert for a possible attacks on oil installations or shopping malls.

In Yemen, a bomb at a Houthi mosque in the capital Sanaa on Friday was claimed by Isis. – Reuters, May 22, 2015.

Fighting Terrorists By Creating Terrorists

[We have armed every nation in the Middle East “to the teeth,” yet now we fight to keep them from murdering each other with those very same weapons.  We have intentionally ramped-up local antagonisms, in order to create the desire for more weapons.  Every Middle Eastern nation spends most of its money and everything that it can borrow to purchase every weapon that they can get, because that is what American leaders want.  American militarists and Empire Builders have pushed through every political barrier, in order to entangle American interests in this morass, so that later we could play at “world policeman.”  Why would American leaders have acted so maliciously towards future victims of their policies? 

Why do they purposely create the circumstances which will compel future military interventions?  If the goal is simply the introduction of American forces, then why not just move those forces in, instead of trying to arm every side and then send in American forces to keep the killing below an “acceptable” threshold as justification for impending aggression?  Answering certain questions exposes the aggression in American humanitarianism.  Human lives mean nothing to an unrestrained military aggressor, except when they prove to be an embarassment or reveal America’s true nature.]

America’s Virulent, Extremist Counterterrorism Ideology

ForeignPolicyLogo

America’s Virulent, Extremist Counterterrorism Ideology

Throughout the 13-plus years of the war on terrorism, one line of effort that everyone in Washington agrees on is the necessity to counter the ideology put forth by terrorist groups. Unfortunately, everyone also agrees that U.S. government agencies have done a terrible job at achieving this. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) recently derided the State Department’s counter-ideology efforts as “laughable” compared with the propaganda of the Islamic State. Whether termed “strategic communications,” “counter-messaging,” or “countering violent extremism,” there is a rare Washington consensus that this essential task is also the one that the United States has been the worst at accomplishing. But it’s not just about building a less-pathetic State Department Twitter feed. By extension, “success” mandates changing how terrorist groups think and communicate, and influencing individuals deemed susceptible to terrorists’ messaging.

Focusing on terrorists’ ideology is attractive because it requires altering the brains of enemies and neutral third parties, while, more importantly, requiring no change in America’s own thinking. Yet in the past six months there has been a little noticed, but significant, shift in America’s own counterterrorism ideology.

The language senior officials and policymakers are increasingly using to characterize terrorist threats — and to describe the projected length of the war on terrorism — has diversified and metastasized. The enemy, once identified as simply al Qaeda and affiliated groups, now includes amorphous concepts like “Islamic extremism” or “violent extremists.” Meanwhile, any shared understanding of when the war might end has basically vanished from public discourse. Where there was once an aspiration in Washington to wind down the era of “perpetual war,” there is now an agreement that America faces a “multigenerational” threat.

With little awareness of the consequences of this shift in discourse, U.S. counterterrorism ideology has become far more nebulous, less concrete, and gradually more open-ended. The war on terrorism is going poorly: The number, estimated strength, lethality (within countries they operate in, not against Americans), and social media influence of jihadi terrorist groups is growing. Yet, the same tough-sounding clichés and wholly implausible objectives are repeated over and over, with no indication of any strategic learning or policy adjustments. If this virulent and extremist — virulent in that it’s poisonous and harmful and that repeatedly espousing it ensures continued strategic failure, and extremist in that it proclaims the most extreme objectives that will never be achieved — U.S. counterterrorism ideology goes unchecked, it will further delude government officials and U.S. citizens into the false belief that the current courses of action are normal and acceptable and require no modification.

This latest ideological change is most conspicuous in descriptions of who the United States is at war with. The enemy has always been overly classified and somewhat hidden, but at least there was once a recognized list of discrete groups. Now, the adversary is an undefined and contested category of groups or people allegedly connected with the act of terrorism. If the U.S. government were as imprecise with its bombs as with its descriptions of its terrorist enemies, it would be a war crime. This matters: If you cannot name your opponents, you certainly cannot know them, much less measure progress in defeating them.

Consider the nebulous jumble of abstract enemies that officials have pronounced. In February, President Barack Obama said, “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam” and said that the international community must “eradicate this scourge of violent extremism.” Similarly, when attempting to describe the enemy, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, claimed that the United States is in a fight “against the group that has perverted Islam.” In February, National Security Advisor Susan Rice contextualized the U.S. mission as “to cut off violent extremism at the knees.” Earlier that month, she attempted to describe the undefined enemy: “As al Qaeda core has been decimated, we have seen the diffusion of the threat to al Qaeda affiliates, ISIL, local militia[s], and homegrown violent extremists.” Eric Holder, then the attorney general, claimed, also in February, that the United States is simply “combating the threat of violent extremism.” Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, said the enemy is “ISIL and other violent extremist groups.”

Some policymakers have been even vaguer. When asked to define the enemy, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “I call them the enemy of Islam.” Let’s set aside the fact that Kerry is now presuming to interpret what is legitimate faith for 1 billion Muslims. Just who is this enemy precisely?

Meanwhile, the Republican presidential candidates are outdoing one another in blurring the enemy and exponentially expanding the number of individuals whom the United States must defeat. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) coined the Taken doctrine: “On our strategy on global jihadists and terrorists, I refer them to the movie Taken … Liam Neeson. He had a line, and this is what our strategy should be: ‘We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you.’” Less theatrically, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) merely pledged, “We will stand up and defeat radical Islamic terrorism.” Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said, “We are in the early years of a struggle with violent Islamic extremists that will last many decades.” Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), while touting his alleged willingness to name the enemy, called them “radical Islam” and “haters of mankind.” Again, it’s fine, though meaningless, to talk tough, but whom are these threats being made against?

The other threatening recent shift in U.S. counterterrorism ideology relates to the end state in the war on terrorism and when this might come about. Although Obama once claimed that this war, “like all wars, must end,” officials and policymakers no longer pretend that the war on terrorism will ever end; nor do they offer any narrative for how this war would end. Rather, they are attempting to normalize the war on terrorism as something all Americans should accept and get used to. As Defense Secretary Ashton Carter admitted, “We need to be thinking about terrorism more generally as a more enduring part of our national security mission.”

This shift was crystallized in a remarkable recent observation by CIA Director John Brennan. Three years ago, Brennan, then Obama’s closest counterterrorism advisor, pledged, “We’re not going to rest until al Qaeda the organization is destroyed and is eliminated from areas in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Africa, and other areas. We’re determined to do that.” Yet, last month, when asked at Harvard University when the war on terrorism will end, he responded philosophically: “It’s a long war, unfortunately. But it’s been a war that has been in existence for millennia.… So this is going to be something, I think, that we’re always going to have to be vigilant about.” In other words, defeating terrorism is eschatological and eternal.

Similarly, Obama and his senior aides have come to repeatedly reframe the war in decades. The new National Security Strategy describes it as “a generational struggle in the aftermath of the 2003 Iraq war and 2011 Arab uprisings, which will redefine the region as well as relationships among communities and between citizens and their governments.” Meanwhile, Dempsey, the most senior uniformed military official, warned of Islamic terrorism: “I think this threat is probably a 30-year issue.”

Likewise, on Capitol Hill, this view has become standardized. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said it is a “multigenerational struggle” with “no cheap way to win this fight.” Similarly, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called it “a generational fight for civilization against brutal enemies.” Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) went even further than Brennan, noting, “We’ve been fighting this radical Islamist ideology for 1,400 years.” In other words, long before the United States was even established. Forget who the enemy is; who is this “we”?

What is most disheartening about this radicalized counterterrorism discourse is that these same officials and policymakers still pretend that these diffuse terrorist threats will be “destroyed,” “defeated,” or “eliminated.” This quite simply will not happen because the United States and its partners keep applying the same strategies and policies while foolishly hoping for a different result. Officials claim that terrorists’ ideology is their “center of gravity,” a term the Pentagon defines as: “The source of power that provides moral or physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act.” Yet, again, because nothing has succeeded at countering that ideology, we are supposed to become accustomed to an endless war against a nondescript concept.

The only ideology that the United States can influence or control is its own. Instead, Washington has busied itself conflating local militancy with threats to the homeland, refusing to identify the enemy, proclaiming tough-sounding and implausible strategic objectives, and demonstrating no meaningful learning or adjustments over 13 years. The lack of precision employed when defining America’s adversaries in the war on terrorism and the absence of any end state (combined with those unachievable objectives) comprise a dangerous and extremist set of beliefs for U.S. officials and policymakers to hold. If the war on terrorism is really all about ideology and ideas, then the United States should spend as much time analyzing its own ideology as it does its enemies’. The emerging counterterrorism ideology that Washington is expressing is hazardous, illusory, and sadly unchallenged.

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Battle for Palmyra, the Gem of Syrian Oil and Gas Industry

Islamic State one step closer to regime gas fields

Syria Direct

March 18, 2015

By Osama Abu Zeid and Brent Eng

AMMAN: The Islamic State reportedly captured several key points around a regime-controlled city in east Homs province near the historical ruins of Palmyra on Tuesday as it attempts to commandeer the nearby gas and oil fields, local media activists told Syria Direct.

“[IS] targeted a checkpoint and a military platoon near Sukhna and a number of regime positions located in the surrounding area,” Osama Tadmuri, the alias of the director of the Local Coordination Committee for Palmyra, told Syria Direct.

The regime considers Sukhna the last line of defense between IS forces invading from the town’s north and regime-controlled Palmyra to the town’s south. A victory for IS would give it access to some of the richest oil and gas fields in the country—a crucial gain for the jihadist group as the country suffers from an acute fuel crisis and as the US-led coalition continues to target its oil production facilities in Deir e-Zor, Al-Hasakah and Raqqa.

The pro-regime Syrian Center for Documentation confirmed the fighting between regime and IS forces, reporting that “the news indicates that [IS] is advancing at the moment.”

Sukhna
The Islamic State is targeting Sukhna “because it is the closest town to Palmyra,” Ahmed al-Khalef, a pro-opposition media activist in Sukhna, told Syria Direct.

The regime uses Sukhna to defend the military warehouses, the airport and the military prison, in addition to the gas fields in the surrounding area, said al-Kahlef.

Located roughly 80 kilometers northeast of Palmyra, Sukhna sits along the highway between Palmyra and Deir e-Zor city, the majority of which is under IS rule.

One of the oil and gas stations to the south of Sukhna has pipelines that stretch into Iraq, while another feeds into a government oil refinery in the city of Baniyas in Tartous province, said Tadmuri, making the town particularly valuable for the regime.

Meanwhile, pro-IS supporters on social media say that Iranian forces arrived at Sukhna on Tuesday from their positions in Palmyra to support the regime forces.

Syria Direct could not confirm these claims.

Iranian forces reportedly came to Palmyra last month with the purpose of training regime militias to protect the nearby regime gas fields, according to pro-opposition news outlet Zaman al-Wasl.

IS and regime forces have repeatedly clashed and exchanged control of other gas fields in east Homs for the past six months, most notably the Shaer gas fields located northwest of Palmyra.

The government currently maintains control over both the Shaer gas fields and the nearby eponymous mountain.

*    *    *    *    *

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The presence of large numbers of militia Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Tadmr- activists

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In previous is the first of its kind reached the city of Palmyra days a number of Iranian doctors since the competence of General Surgery to treat shabiha system, especially after the arrival of a batch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and members of the Hezbollah militia to the city, as confirmed by the activist “Khalid Imran” for “Zaman Al Wasl. “

“The system has provided the National Hospital in Palmyra modern medical equipment and put at the disposal of Iranian doctors.”

Imran stressed that “the security branch Palmyra desert elements gave the Iranians doctors apartments in the villas are located behind the area of ​​the hospital.”

For his part, the activist “Ahmed back” reported that five Iranian doctors, including those with terms of reference in general surgery, radiology, their mission supervision and follow-up Iranian officers who are in troop-Assad and the Badr Brigade and the Iraqi militias private training centers in the third leg and on the road to the eastern phosphate.

He hinted activist back to that “the revolution revealed some time ago for the manufacture of explosive barrels sites, and it turned out the presence of Iranian experts at a very high level through stringent security measures taken in those areas.”

In this context activist “Mohammed destruction” revealed for “Zaman Al Wasl” that an officer senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard arrived in the city days ago in a special procession with the coaches and the protection of the regime’s army to desert branch in the city, between him and a few officers were meeting Qadat so-called to “national defense”, led by “Abdullah’s speech Karkukli” Sheikh and order in the city, “Mohammed chewing gum” for the reality of the city and the recruitment of young people there and build camps directly under their supervision.

Roger Waters to Dionne Warwick–“Israeli…society lacks basic belief in equal human value”

Roger Waters to Dionne Warwick:

“You Are Showing Yourself to be Profoundly Ignorant of What Has Happened in Palestine Since 1947”
zombieland ZOMBIELAND

Roger Waters, what a stand up guy! Or really I should say this is a good man!

Dionne Warwick called me out by name in asserting she’d play Tel Aviv. Here’s what she misunderstands

inger and U.N. global ambassador Dionne Warwick recently released an interesting if puzzling statement asserting that she would, and I quote, “never fall victim to the hard pressures of Roger Waters, from Pink Floyd, or other political people who have their views on politics in Israel.”

“Waters’ political views are of no concern,” I assume she means to her, the statement read. “Art,” she added, “has no boundaries.”
Until today, I have not publicly commented on Ms. Warwick’s Tel Aviv concert or reached out to her privately. But given her implicit invitation, I will comment now.
First, in my view, Dionne Warwick is a truly great singer. Secondly, I doubt not that she is deeply committed to her family and her fans.
But, ultimately, this whole conversation is not about her, her gig in Tel Aviv, or even her conception of boundaries and art, though I will touch on that conception later. This is about human rights and, more specifically, this is about the dystopia that can develop, as it has in Israel, when society lacks basic belief in equal human value, when it strays from the ability to feel empathy for our brothers and sisters of different faiths, nationalities, creeds or colors.
It strikes me as deeply disingenuous of Ms. Warwick to try to cast herself as a potential victim here. The victims are the occupied people of Palestine with no right to vote and the unequal Palestinian citizens of Israel, including Bedouin Israeli citizens of the village of al-Araqib, which has now been bulldozed 83 times by order of the Israeli government.
I believe you mean well, Ms. Warwick, but you are showing yourself to be profoundly ignorant of what has happened in Palestine since 1947, and I am sorry but you are wrong, art does know boundaries. In fact, it is an absolute responsibility of artists to stand up for human rights – social, political and religious – on behalf of all our brothers and sisters who are being oppressed, whoever and wherever they may be on the surface of this small planet.
Forgive me, Ms. Warwick, but I have done a little research, and know that you crossed the picket line to play Sun City at the height of the anti-apartheid movement. In those days, Little Steven, Bruce Springsteen and 50 or so other musicians protested against the vicious, racist oppression of the indigenous peoples of South Africa. Those artists allowed their art to cross boundaries, but for the purpose of political action. They released a record that struck a chord across the world. That record, “I Ain’t Gonna play Sun City,” showed the tremendous support of musicians all over the world for the anti-apartheid effort.
Those artists helped win that battle, and we, in the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, will win this one against the similarly racist and colonialist policies of the Israeli government of occupation. We will continue to press forward in favor of equal rights for all the peoples of the Holy Land. Just as musicians weren’t going to play Sun City, increasingly we’re not going to play Tel Aviv. There is no place today in this world for another racist, apartheid regime.
As I’m sure you know, Lauryn Hill canceled her gig in Tel Aviv last week. She did not explicitly cite Israeli oppression of Palestinians as her reason for canceling, but the subtext of her actions is clear and we thank her for her principled stand.
Dionne, I am of your generation. I remember the road to Montgomery, I remember Selma, I remember the struggles against the Jim Crow laws here. Sadly, we are still fighting those battles, whether here in the USA in Ferguson or Baltimore, or in Gaza or the Negev, wherever the oppressed need us to raise our voices unafraid. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with them, our brothers and sisters, until true equality and justice are won.
Remember, “Operation Protective Edge,” the Israeli bombing of Gaza last summer, resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including more than 500 Palestinian children. It is hard for us over here to imagine what it is like to be exiled, disenfranchised, imprisoned, rendered homeless and then slaughtered, with no place to flee. Hopefully, in the end, love will triumph. But love will not triumph unless we stand up to such injustice and fight it tooth and nail, together.
Dionne, your words indicate that part of you is set on going through with your concert. I am appealing to another part of you, to implore that other part to join us. We will welcome you. It is more than likely that you harbor reservations in your heart about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, that when you see a mother’s child in ruins you wonder what if that child were mine? It is not too late to hear those reservations, to listen to that other voice, to value freedom and equality for all over the value you place on your concert in Tel Aviv.
When global pressure finally forces Israel to end its occupation, when the apartheid wall comes down, when justice is served to Palestinian refugees and all people there are free and equal, I will gladly join you in concert in the Holy Land, cross all the boundaries and share our music with all the people.

For. Min. Lavrov Links Destabilization of Macedonia To Anti-Russian Gas Schemes

[Terrorists killed in Kumanovo were from Kosovo (SEE:  Kosovo: Police raids homes of the arrested in Kumanovo).  Kosovo is demanding the return of their citizens, most of them veterans of terrorist KLA organization, Kosovo Liberation Army (SEE:  Required killed in Kumanovo be followed by military honors :  US Repeatedly Provokes Albanian Extremism with Ideas of ‘Greater Albania’ ).]

DSC_0675 Former Sec. State Madeline Albright hugs head of KLA govt, Thaci

Russian Foreign Ministry: The West Working Hard to Destabilize Macedonia

mina

Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke about the political situation in Macedonia and the Kumanovo incident in the Council of the Russian Federation, saying that in his view, the crisis is induced by Western countries. Lavrov claimed that the wiretapping affair is reaction to the fact that Macedonia didn’t introduce sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Minister also said that the crisis is sparked as an attempt to prevent the construction of a Russian backed gas pipeline, that is supposed to supply central Europe with gas bypassing Ukraine and going through the Balkans, possibly including Macedonia.

Lavrov blamed Albanian politicians in the region of being used by the US in an attempt to cause instability in Macedonia. According to his remarks, this destabilization would be done with calls for federalization of the country, and even possibly partitioning Macedonia between Albania and Bulgaria.

Iran Shahed Changes Position, Headed for UN Inspection In Djibouti

iran shahed 5 21 2015
Iran Shahed May 21, 2015  http://www.marinetraffic.com/

Iranian aid ship being probed in Djibouti

MEM middle east monitor

Damage left in Sanaa after clash between Houthi rebels and yemen militaryThe Iranian aid ship heading to the war torn Yemen has re-routed to Djbouti

The Iranian aid ship which was heading to Yemen with aid is sailing to Djibouti to be inspected by United Nations officials.A semi-official Iranian news source reported yesterday that Iran Shahd, which is carrying humanitarian aid for the Yemeni people, will dock in Djibouti for inspection, and will then continue travelling to the Yemeni port of Hodaida.

The ship set off from Iran last Monday set to deliver 2,500 tonnes of food and medical supplies to Yemen.

The source said the ship is carrying 2,400 tonnes of food, including 1,200 tonnes of rice, 700 tonnes of flour, 400 tonnes of canned food, 50 tonnes of mineral water and about 100 tonnes of medical equipment and medicines.

Russia Strands US Forces In Afghanistan

[SEE: First Reverse Run On NDN (Northern Distribution Network)]

America’s new Russian trap in Afghanistan

fort russ blog

May 18, 2015

@kerb 

Translated by Kristina Rus

Under the guise of the anti-terrorist hysteria after the attacks of 9/11, America lobbied the UN and as a head of NATO invaded Afghanistan. And there is no end in sight. Withdrawal dates are always put off… meanwhile, the military forces need to be supplied.

Now in Afghanistan there are 13,000 NATO troops, of which 9,800 are American soldiers. And this number will remain for a while, because “based on the request of President Ghani about flexible withdrawal, the US will maintain the current troop levels until the end of 2015”.

But how to supply all of them?

From 2001 until the beginning of 2009, the Southern route was the main transport artery of supply of the foreign military contingent in Afghanistan.

Military cargo came from North America and Europe by sea through the Pakistani port of Karachi, land route through Pakistan (Peshawar-Jalalabad), through the Khyber pass and the border posts of Chaman and Torkham in Afghanistan.

Up to 2009 the military contingent had received more than 80% of its food, weapons and ammunition through the Southern route.

The Southern route runs through the volatile regions of Pakistan through the territory of the Pashtun tribes, the Taliban sympathizers. Since the end of 2008 – beginning of 2009, this route has become extremely unsafe. On the Afghan-Pakistan border the convoys were periodically attacked by the militants, who captured some of the supplies. Therefore, deliveries were paralyzed and reduced to a minimum.

But the troops had to be provided for. Urgently NATO began developing alternative logistics routes.  The result was agreement with Russia and Central Asian countries on the Northern supply route, or the “Northern distribution network”.

The Northern supply route first provided 50% and then 70% of the cargo. But after 2011, it has become the primary route.

The fact is that after the raid on Pakistan (!) military checkpoints by NATO helicopters on November 26, 2011 (24 Pakistani military killed, 14 injured), relations between the U.S. and Pakistan were badly tainted. As a result, in 2011, the Southern route was closed.

It should be noted that the Northern route is not the best replacement. The fact is the US and NATO could easily transport any military cargoes in both directions through the Southern route.

The Northern route only allows non-lethal cargo and only in one direction: to Afghanistan.

However, a year later America was able to negotiate the re-opening of the Southern route (in exchange for just over 1.2 billion dollars of aid to Pakistan to fight terrorism), but it was used mainly for the withdrawal of 100 thousand NATO troops. For supplies the Northern route was still used.

Not everything was smooth for NATO with the Northern Route. There was  a big fee for transit through Uzbekistan, and problems with Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan (from where the U.S. was, to put it mildly, asked to leave). But now it doesn’t matter anymore.

All because today, on May 18, 2015, the Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev signed a government decree, terminating the transit of foreign weapons to Afghanistan.

The US is left with an unenviable choice: to lose face, breaking an international treaty with Afghanistan because of impossibility of fulfillment (maintaining a military contingent until the end of 2015); or to supply the troops through the troubled Southern route, losing military supplies to Taliban attacks.

PS.: The termination of transit of foreign weapons to Afghanistan also makes it impossible to use the base in Ulyanovsk.

There is still a route to Afghanistan via Georgia. But this route is, in fact, not operating.

The Georgian port of Poti does not have sufficient logistics infrastructure for handling oversized equipment. In addition, from Georgia to the Turkish NATO base Incirlik the military transport C-130 aircraft will not make it wthout refueling and the ISAF has only three new S-5, with a range of up to 5 thousand kilometers.

(ISAF – International Security Assistance Force – the NATO-led international forces, operating in Afghanistan)

Russian resolution 15.05.2015 № 468Russian resolution 15.05.2015 № 468 pg 2Russian resolution 15.05.2015 № 468 pg 2a

Another Afro-American Man Who Died At the Hands of Law Enforcement

Video of Iraq war vet dying in Texas jail after being mauled by riot guards

Russia-Today
Still from youtube video/Harry Maxwell

Still from youtube video/Harry Maxwell

In 2012, active-duty soldier James Brown reported to the El Paso County Jail to serve a two-day DWI sentence. New video of his time in custody has revealed aggressive force being used on him by officers, who ignored his repeated pleas for breath.

KFOX14 obtained video recorded during Sergeant James Brown’s custody, which finally sheds some light on a death the county sheriff’s department claims was caused by a “pre-existing medical condition.”

Brown, 26, was an active-duty soldier at Fort Bliss in Texas who has served two tours of combat duty in Iraq. He had no previous criminal record.

When he self-reported to the El Paso County Jail in July 2012 to serve a short sentence for driving while intoxicated, he said in writing that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to jail records.

Shortly after checking in, he spoke by phone to his mother, Dinette Robinson-Scott.

“He said they’re trying to make me stay seven days instead of two days, so i just want to pay the court fine and get out of here,” she told KFOX14. Robinson-Scott said she sent the money the next morning.

Yet at some point overnight Brown had an apparent episode that caused him to start bleeding. When he stopped communicating with the jail guard outside his cell, a team of officers in riot gear were sent in. They confronted Brown and pinned him to the ground.

Brown can be heard in the video repeatedly stating that he could not breathe. He claimed he was choking on his own blood. His health appears to wane as the video goes on.

He pleaded with the guards to remove a spit guard that restricted his breathing. He begged for water and was given only a small amount.

He was at some point laid out on the floor of his cell with shallow breathing and no signs of responsiveness. His family’s attorney say the jail didn’t called for an ambulance during this period.

Brown was eventually taken to University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. He had no illegal drugs in his body, according to a toxicology test.

The autopsy claimed he died of natural causes via a “sickle cell crisis,” which can arise through dehydration and stress.

El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles told KFOX14 that he supported the autopsy’s result.

“Mr. Brown’s death was an unfortunate tragedy,” he said. “The sheriff’s office has conducted a thorough review of the facts surrounding Mr. Brown’s death and, based upon all the evidence obtained, determined that his death was caused by a pre-existing medical condition. The specific evidence cannot be discussed because of pending litigation.”

The family’s attorneys, Jason Bowles and B.J. Crow, said the video poses some serious questions about the county jail’s treatment of Brown.

“When a 26-year-old man checks into jail for a court imposed sentence on a Friday, and he leaves Sunday in a casket, something went horribly wrong there,” said Crow.

Brown’s family said he had shown no history of sickle cell crisis and that they believe his treatment in jail caused the medical emergency.

Crow added the claimed stress that brought about Brown’s sickle cell crisis at the jail was apparently more stress than the soldier had undergone while twice coming under fire during combat.

“He was bleeding out the ears, the nose, the mouth, his kidney’s shut down, his blood pressure dropped to a very dangerous level, and his liver shut down,” said Crow.

Brown’s family, meanwhile, wanted the public to know what happened to him at the El Paso County jail.

“I pray that new laws protecting soldiers in custody will be implemented, that the military adopt new policy procedures in regards to their soldiers being held in custody by an outside agency,” Brown’s mother said. “If these changes can be made and our soldiers are protected, and another family never has to experience what my family has, then my son’s death would not been in vain.”

Brown’s family is suing for damages. A federal civil trial is scheduled to open in court in October.

Bikers “Green Light” Hits On Officers Involved In Firefight In Waco War Zone

waco goreBikers put out ‘green light’ against officers following Waco shooting

houston_chronicle102510

waco gore2
DEAD BIKERS

By Dane Schiller

WACO – One day after a wild biker brawl and clash with police that left nine men dead, 18 wounded and about 170 under arrest for engaging in organized crime, this Central Texas town was still on guard.

State troopers and police carrying military-style rifles were guarding a sprawling outdoor mall that includes Twin Peaks, a risque chain tavern where chaos broke out Sunday afternoon when five gangs suddenly squared off.

A fight that broke out in the men’s room and then quickly spilled into the bar area and parking lot turned deadly with rival bikers attacking each other and then squaring off against Waco Police who rushed inside the restaurant on the southern edge of the city.

As police rounded up the bikers and night soon fell, intelligence reports indicated that more bikers were on the way here and that officers had been “green lighted” – essentially a gang sanctioned call for killing – as retaliation.

RELATED: The Bandidos motorcycle gang roots run deep in Houston

“We are on high alert,” Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton said. “We encourage those individuals not to bring criminal activity to Waco. But let it be known, if they do, we are ready.”

In the wake of the shooting, about 100 high end motorcycles remained parked outside Twin Peaks and inside the crime scene. Several vehicles, including police cars, had bullet holes punched into them.

Authorities said the investigation continues and it is not yet known whether police killed any of the bikers or if they were killed by other bikers. It is also unclear if police have obtained surveillance camera footage from inside the restaurant that would show what happened.

Waco Police, Texas Rangers and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, as well as FBI agents and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, remained on the scene heavily armed with military-style rifles and other weaponry. There also appeared to be officers clad in ghillie suits on the roof of the Twin Peaks restaurants.

RELATED: Faces of bikers arrested following Waco Twin Peaks shooting begin to surface

Buildings in Waco such as the courthouse, hospital, jail, convention center and the shopping mall were all under guard by police.

The exit off of Interstate 35 to the vicinity of the restaurant was closed, causing backups for traffic. Red and blue police lights could be seen in the distance as officers blocked all entrances and exits to the area.

Police said that Twin Peaks repeatedly had declined advice to clean up their clientele and stop letting biker gang members “fly their colors” as the environment was a tinderbox for worse things to come.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission ordered the restaurant closed for seven days. The Twin Peaks corporate office then revoked the franchise rights for the Waco restaurant, located in the Central Texas Marketplace outdoor mall.

“There was enough of a reason to believe violence could occur there,” Swanton said in the parking lot outside the restaurant.

RELATED: Heightened security in Waco after deadly biker gang shootout

The restaurant opened last August and Waco police say it has since been the scene of several biker gang gatherings.

Longtime Waco resident Marvis Hanchey sipped coffee and watched from a nearby Starbucks inside the stereotypically suburban shopping center where Sunday’s violence played out.

Hanchey said she was perplexed why incidents like the biker shooting and the Branch Davidian siege a generation ago occurred in otherwise sleepy Waco.

“It happened on the highway which goes through Waco, which is what most people do on their way from Austin to Dallas,” Hanchey said. “I don’t think this is anything to do with Waco. I don’t know why it happens here.”

Outside the restaurant there were dozens of motorcycles still left parked side-by-side from Sunday.

Swanton said those arrested are being booked into the McLennan County jail and other charges, such as capital murder, could be in the works as authorities sort out the case.

RELATED: The Latest on Waco shootings: Franchise rights revoked

At least five different motorcycle gangs were involved, he said. Among those named so far are the Bandidos and the Cossacks gangs, which both had members killed, according to the sheriff, although other law enforcement declined to comment on the gang affiliations of the dead in order to not lend the gangs any notoriety.

Larry Karson, who teaches criminal justice at the University of Houston-Downtown, said that the violence is very much part of the business of criminal motorcycle groups..

“As with any business, territory is critical to both membership and marketing,” Karson said. “If a second competing motorcycle club were allowed access to Texas for example, that would impact a Texas-based club’s efforts at recruiting new members as well as challenging their customer base for providing any product or service they might be providing, be it drugs or prostitution for example,” he said. “Not to mention any personal insult perceived.”

Aerial Tour of the Zionist Entity’s Latest War Crimes In Gaza

Gaza seen from the sky after the Zionist entity’s inhuman treatment

the syrian free press net

.

Unique TV footage from a drone shows the extent of the devastation wrought by Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in the summer 2014.

Gaza-2014----

SOURCES:
DR Nyheder
Submitted by 
The real SyrianFreePress.NETwork at:
https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/gaza-from-the-sky/
short link:
https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/?p=46044

Iranian warships begin escorting Yemen-bound Iran Shahed

Iranian warships begin escorting Yemen-bound cargo vessel

THE STAR, MALAYSIA

DUBAI (Reuters) – Two Iranian warships have begun escorting the Yemen-bound Iran Shahed cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden, the vessel’s captain said in remarks published by Iran’s Tasnim news agency on Monday.

“The 34th fleet has made contact with us and told us that they will keep an active presence alongside the aid ship,” Massoud Ghazi Mirsaid was quoted as saying by Tasnim, referring to a destroyer and a support vessel in the Gulf of Aden.

The warships will escort the cargo ship all the way to the port of Hodaida in western Yemen, which it is expected to reach on May 21, Mirsaid added.

(Reporting by Sam Wilkin, Editing by William Maclean)

Obama Responds To Public Uproar Over Police Militarization

Police_Military_Equipment__Judson.Berger@foxnews.com_1.jpg

Aug. 13, 2014: A member of the St. Louis County Police Department trains his weapon on a relatively small group of protesters in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

President Obama is banning local police departments from receiving a range of military-style equipment from the federal government — from grenade launchers to bayonets to certain armored vehicles — as he implements the recommendations of a panel that examined the controversial gear giveaways in the wake of the Ferguson riots.

The White House announced Monday that Washington would no longer provide some military-style gear while putting stricter controls on other weapons and equipment distributed to law enforcement. The details were released as Obama prepares to travel to Camden, N.J., Monday afternoon to meet with youth and law enforcement, and give a speech.

Nine months earlier, scenes of heavily armed police in riot gear dispelling racially charged protests in Ferguson touched off a debate about federal programs that let local law enforcement apply for such equipment. The White House initially suggested Obama would maintain those programs, but an interagency group found “substantial risk of misusing or overusing” items like tracked armored vehicles, high-powered firearms and camouflage could undermine trust in police.

In previewing the president’s trip, the White House said that effective immediately, the federal government will no longer fund or provide armored vehicles that run on a tracked system instead of wheels, weaponized aircraft or vehicles, firearms or ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, grenade launchers, bayonets or camouflage uniforms. The federal government also is exploring ways to recall prohibited equipment already distributed.

With scrutiny on police only increasing in the ensuing months after a series of highly publicized deaths of black suspects nationwide, Obama also is unveiling the final report of a task force he created to help build confidence between police and minority communities in particular.

The announcements come as Obama is visiting Camden, one of the country’s most violent and poorest cities.

“I’ll highlight steps all cities can take to maintain trust between the brave law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line, and the communities they’re sworn to serve and protect,” Obama said in his weekly address out Saturday.

In addition to the new equipment-transfer bans, a longer list of equipment the federal government provides will come under tighter control, including wheeled armored vehicles like Humvees, manned aircraft, drones, specialized firearms, explosives, battering rams and riot batons, helmets and shields. Starting in October, police will have to get approval from their city council, mayor or some other local governing body to obtain it, provide a persuasive explanation of why it is needed and have more training and data collection on the use of the equipment.

The issue of police militarization rose to prominence last year after a white police officer in Ferguson fatally shot unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparking protests. Critics questioned why police in full body armor with armored trucks responded to dispel demonstrators, and Obama seemed to sympathize when ordering a review of the programs that provide the equipment. “There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred,” Obama last in August.

But he did not announce a ban in December with the publication of the review, which showed five federal agencies spent $18 billion on programs that provided equipment including 92,442 small arms, 44,275 night-vision devices, 5,235 Humvees, 617 mine-resistant vehicles and 616 aircraft. At the time, the White House defended the programs as proving to be useful in many cases, such as the response to the Boston Marathon bombing. Instead of repealing the programs, Obama issued an executive order that required federal agencies that run the programs to consult with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organizations to recommend changes that make sure they are accountable and transparent.

That working group said in a report out Monday that it developed the list of newly banned equipment because “the substantial risk of misusing or overusing these items, which are seen as militaristic in nature, could significantly undermine community trust and may encourage tactics and behaviors that are inconsistent with the premise of civilian law enforcement.” The Justice Department did not respond to an inquiry about how many pieces of equipment that are now banned had been previously distributed through federal programs.

The separate report from the 21st Century Policing task force has a long list of recommendations to improve trust in police, including encouraging more transparency about interactions with the public. The White House said 21 police agencies nationwide, including Camden and nearby Philadelphia, have agreed to start putting out never-before released data on citizen interactions like use of force, stops, citations and officer-involved shootings. The administration also is launching an online toolkit to encourage the use of body cameras to record police interactions. And the Justice Department is giving $163 million in grants to incentivize police departments to adopt the report’s recommendations.

Ron Davis, director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Department of Justice, told reporters he hoped the report could be a “key transformational document” in rebuilding trust that has been destroyed in recent years between police and minority communities.

“We are without a doubt sitting at a defining moment for American policing,” said Davis, a 30-year police veteran and former chief of the East Palo Alto (California) Police Department. “We have a unique opportunity to redefine policing in our democracy, to ensure that public safety becomes more than the absence of crime, that it must also include the presence of justice.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

US Plans To Deploy A “Granit”-Equivalent Anti-Ship Missile By 2019

[2019 may be too late to help in Europe.]

[SEE: The Indian/Russian Mach 3 Carrier-Killer Missile]

US Navy fighter jets will carry an autonomous anti-ship missile

engadget

A LRASM missile picking out a target

The US Navy may have a robotic ace in the hole when it fights enemy warships in the future. It’s planning to put Lockheed Martin’s autonomous LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile) on the F/A-18 Super Hornet by 2019, giving jet fighters a weapon that tracks and wipe out targets mostly or entirely on its own. Most of the missile’s details are secret, but it’s smart enough to dodge obstacles on the way to vessels as far as 200 nautical miles out — and that’s the unclassified range, which suggests that it’s more capable in practice. There are also versions of LRASM in the works that will launch from ships, submarines and other aircraft, so this intelligent projectile could soon be a mainstay of the US military.

US Officials Report Pakistan Prepared To Sell Nukes To Saudis

US officials: ‘Saudis set to buy nuclear weapons from Pakistan’

international bus. times

King Salman bin Abdulaziz
King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia(Reuters)

 

Saudi Arabia is said to have taken the “strategic decision” to acquire “off-the-shelf” nuclear weapons from ally Pakistan, senior US officials told the Sunday Times.

Sunni Arab states are increasingly concerned of the repercussions of a deal currently being negotiated between world powers and Shi’ite rival Iran, which they fear may still be able to develop a nuclear bomb.

The deal being negotiated between Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany would see the Shi’ite nation curb its sensitive nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

“For the Saudis the moment has come,” a former US defence official told the Sunday Times last week.

“There has been a long-standing agreement in place with the Pakistanis and the House of Saud has now made the strategic decision to move forward.”

‘This stuff is available to them off the shelf’

Another US official working in intelligence told the paper that “hundreds of people at [CIA headquarters] Langley” were working to establish whether Islamabad had already supplied the Gulf nation with nuclear technology or weaponry.

“We know this stuff is available to them off the shelf,” the intelligence official said, adding that it “has to be the assumption” that the Saudis have decided to become a nuclear power.

“We can’t sit back and be nowhere as Iran is allowed to retain much of its capability and amass its research,” an Arab leader preparing to meet Obama told the New York Times on Monday (11 May).

The sentiment was shared by former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki bin Faisal, who told a recent conference in South Korea: “whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too.”

The right to enrich uranium

If inked the deal will leave 5,000 centrifuges and a research and development programme in place —  features that are highly contested by Israel and Arab states.

By allowing Iran to retain the right to enrich uranium, the deal may inadvertently increase nuclear proliferation in the region, by providing justification for other Middle Eastern countries to match Iran.

Saudi Arabia has financed substantial amounts of Islamabad’s nuclear programme over the past three decades, providing Pakistan‘s government with billions of dollars of subsidised oil while taking delivery of Shaheen mobile ballistic missiles.

“Given their close relations and close military links, it’s long been assumed that if the Saudis wanted, they would call in a commitment, moral or otherwise, for Pakistan to supply them immediately with nuclear warheads,” former Foreign Secretary Lord David Owen told the Sunday Times.

A senior British military officer also told the paper that Western military leaders “all assume the Saudis have made the decision to go nuclear.”

“The fear is that other Middle Eastern powers — Turkey and Egypt — may feel compelled to do the same and we will see a new, even more dangerous, arms race.”

Lt.Gen. Khalid Kidwai, who helped develop Pakistan’s nuclear program, denied Islamabad had ever sent nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia or any other country in recent comments.

Iran Shahed Has Reached the Beginning of Yemeni Coast, On Approach To Al-Hudayah Port

Iran aid ship passes Oman, nears Yemen coast

PressTV

IRAN SHAHED aka NejatDubbed Nejat (Rescue), Iran’s ship carrying an international group of humanitarian aid workers, medical technicians, and peace. (file photo)

Iran’s Nejat ship with its cargo of humanitarian aid for Yemen has passed Oman and reached the coast of the war-torn country.

Iran Shahed, carrying 2,500 tons of food and medical supplies passed Oman on Saturday and could now face threats from al-Qaeda Takfiri militants and pirates in the area.

The aid ship left the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas on May 11 and is set to dock at Yemen’s western port Hudaydah on Thursday.

In addition to the crew members, the ship is carrying a number of volunteer doctors as well as international activists and media personnel.

Iran has coordinated with the UN to prepare the ground for the ship to dock at a port in Yemen, said Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on May 14.

Riyadh has already blocked earlier Iranian aid deliveries to Yemen. Last month, it prevented two Iranian civilian planes from delivering medical aid and foodstuff to the impoverished people.

Saudi Arabia started its military aggression against Yemen on March 26 — without a UN mandate — in a bid to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement, which currently controls the capital, Sana’a, and other major provinces, and to restore power to Yemen’s fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who is a staunch ally of Riyadh.

SRK/NT

Obama Sends U.S. Special Operations Forces Into Syria To Kill A Third ISIS Commander, Abu Sayyaf

[SEE: Obama Hammers ISIS Leadership–Baghdadi May Be Dead, #2 Abu Alaa al-Afri Is Dead]

Sources: U.S. Special Operations forces kill ISIS commander Abu Sayyaf in Syria raid

cnn

(CNN)U.S. Special Operations forces killed a senior ISIS commander during a raid intended to capture him in eastern Syria overnight Friday to Saturday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said.

The ISIS commander, Abu Sayyaf, fought capture and was killed in the raid in al-Amr, he said in a statement.

Carter said he had ordered the raid at the direction of President Barack Obama. All the U.S. troops involved returned safely.

“Abu Sayyaf was involved in ISIL’s military operations and helped direct the terrorist organization’s illicit oil, gas, and financial operations as well,” he said.

His wife, an Iraqi named Umm Sayyaf, was captured and is currently in military detention in Iraq, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement.

Umm Sayyaf “played an important role in ISIL’s terrorist activities, and may have been complicit in what appears to have been the enslavement of a young Yezidi woman rescued last night,” Carter said. ISIL is an alternative acronym for ISIS.

Umm Sayyaf is believed to have been involved in human trafficking and hostage taking.

About a dozen ISIS fighters were killed in the firefight at a residential building in Deir Ezzor, the sources said.

Abu Sayyaf is not a name familiar to many ISIS watchers.

But the fact that the United States clearly had him under close watch was ready to put its forces at risk by going deep into Syria to carry out the raid suggests they saw the target as very valuable.

Iran Attacks Another Vessel, Claiming Debt Collection

Tanker engaged by Iranian vessels liable for $300mn in damages to oil rig – Tehran

Russia-Today
Iranian naval ships (Reuters/Jamejamonline/Ebrahim Norouzi)

Iranian naval ships (Reuters/Jamejamonline/Ebrahim Norouzi)

A Singapore-flagged tanker which, owner claims, came under Iranian navy fire in the international waters off the UAE this week, is wanted over the unsettled $300mn debt in damages it caused to an oil rig in late March, according to Iranian official.

The incident happened on Thursday after Iranian naval patrol boat spotted MT Alpine Eternity commercial ship in the international Persian Gulf, just off the island of Abu Musa, and demanded it to maneuver into Iranian waters.

Several warning short were fired as the tanker, operated by Norway’s Transpetrol TM AS, issued a distress call, prompting the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to send out coastguard vessels. The tanker’s owner, South Maritime Pte Ltd, even claimed that one shot was fired directly on the ship, but “no serious damage was sustained by the vessel and none of the 23 crew members were injured.”

alpine eternityThe Alpine Eternity was escorted and is now safely anchored off Dubai.
[The Alpine Eternity is now stopped in Dubai.  Note the close proximity of Abu Musa Island, where the ship came under fire from the Iranian Navy.  Iran, once again, claims that this attack, like the Maersk Tigris was for  unpaid debt collection.  The more that Iran and Saudi become disentangled, the more that Iran strikes-out at the international community which supports the Saudi aggression.  A real confrontation is, no doubt, in the works.]

Iranian officials did not comment on the incident much, with the country’s sole oil official announcing that the tanker was wanted by Tehran in connection with its collision with an oil rig at around March 22.

“We want neighboring countries to take the necessary cooperation on confiscation and handing over of this particular vessel,” Habib Jadidi, a director of Iran’s giant South Pars gas field operations, told Shana news outlet.

The director blamed the ship and its captain for drifting some 40-50 kilomenters off course in March which has caused the accident.

“The collision has created a very dangerous situation for the wells. If it is not quickly tackled, wellhead installations will be damaged and if no gas flows from the wells it could lead to unpleasant hazards and pollution,”Jadibi said. Notifying the operators of the caused damage, Jadibi said, produced no result.

Meanwhile, the vessel’s owner and manager Transpetrol issued a statement confirming “uncharted object” collision in March insisting it caused no pollution or injuries to crew. The statement claimed that the operator remains in “continuous dialogue” with proper authorities and there was no reason whatsoever for Iranian naval patrol to engage the vessel.

“Owners and managers can see no reason why the Iranian Authorities should try to seize the vessel, given the advanced state of negotiations and ongoing dialogue with the Iranian counterparts,” the statement read.

This week’s incident is at least second in the Gulf involving the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy and a commercial ships.

In late April, Iran detained a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz for more than a week. In that incident, Tehran too said that the company that chartered the MV Maersk Tigris owed money to an Iranian firm. The vessel was released after the matter was settled.

Obama Hammers ISIS Leadership–Baghdadi May Be Dead, #2 Abu Alaa al-Afri Is Dead

Baghdadi suffered spinal injury
Refuting earlier report of death of Islamic State (ISIS) chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a new media report has claimed that he suffered spinal injury.  ISIS which has captured large swathes and Iraq and Syria is currently functioning under the leadership of former Al-Qaeda veteran Abu Alaa al-Afri.
Baghdadi suffered spinal injury Baghdadi suffered spinal injuries in air strikes in Nineveh, Iraq in March. According to media reports, he is being treated in Mosul which was captured by ISIS in June 2014. Mosul is the second largest city of the Iraq.
However, the exact condition of al-Baghdadi’s health is yet to be verified. Following the March air-strike in question, the Pentagon denied knowing that al-Baghdadi was present in the area targeted. Last month, the Radio Iran has claimed that ISIS chief Baghdadi, who was reportedly injured in bombing, has now been killed. However, the news of his death could not be verified.  A bounty worth $10 million has been imposed by the US on the al-Baghdadi’s head.
Despite a spate of coalition strikes on ISIS in Iraq and Syria since August last year, the extremists continue to advance and unleash bloodshed and terror. The US-led coalition has launched more than 1,000 air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq since the campaign began on 8 August, 2014. OneIndia News