ThereAreNoSunglasses

American Resistance To Empire

The More We Fight, the Less We Win—Why Is It We Fight?

We’re never winning these wars–

SALON

America has zero to show for its decades of bloodshed in the Middle East

Armed conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond hasn’t brought anything close to lasting peace. Quite the opposite.

We're never winning these wars: America has zero to show for its decades of bloodshed in the Middle EastBradley Cooper in “American Sniper” (Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment)
This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

It may be hard to believe now, but in 1970 the protest song “War,” sung by Edwin Starr, hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. That was at the height of the Vietnam antiwar movement and the song, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, became something of a sensation.  Even so many years later, who could forget its famed chorus?  “War, what is it good for?  Absolutely nothing.”  Not me.  And yet heartfelt as the song was then  — “War, it ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker.  War, it’s got one friend, that’s the undertaker…” — it has little resonance in America today.

But here’s the strange thing: in a way its authors and singer could hardly have imagined, in a way we still can’t quite absorb, that chorus has proven eerily prophetic — in fact, accurate beyond measure in the most literal possible sense.  War, what is it good for?  Absolutely nothing.  You could think of American war in the twenty-first century as an ongoing experiment in proving just that point.

Looking back on almost 15 years in which the United States has been engaged in something like permanent war in the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa, one thing couldn’t be clearer: the planet’s sole superpower with a military funded and armed like none other and a “defense” budget larger than the next seven countries combined (three times as large as number two spender, China) has managed to accomplish — again, quite literally — absolutely nothing, or perhaps (if a slight rewrite of that classic song were allowed) less than nothing.

Unless, of course, you consider an expanding series of failed states, spreading terror movements, wrecked cities, countries hemorrhaging refugees, and the like as accomplishments.  In these years, no goal of Washington — not a single one — has been accomplished by war.  This has proven true even when, in the first flush of death and destruction, victory or at least success was hailed, as in Afghanistan in 2001 (“You helped Afghanistan liberate itself — for a second time,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to U.S. special operations forces), Iraq in 2003 (“Mission accomplished“), or Libya in 2011 (“We came, we saw, he died,” Hillary Clinton on the death of autocrat Muammar Gaddafi).

Of all forms of American military might in this period, none may have been more destructive or less effective than air power.  U.S. drones, for instance, have killed incessantly in these years, racking up thousands of dead Pakistanis, Afghans, Iraqis, Yemenis, Syrians, and others, including top terror leaders and their lieutenants as well as significant numbers of civilians and even children, and yet the movements they were sent to destroy from the top down have only proliferated.  In a region in which those on the ground are quite literally helpless against air power, the U.S. Air Force has been repeatedly loosed, from Afghanistan in 2001 to Syria and Iraq today, without challenge and with utter freedom of the skies.  Yet, other than dead civilians and militants and a great deal of rubble, the long-term results have been remarkably pitiful.

From all of this no conclusions ever seem to be drawn.  Only last week, the Obama administration and the Pentagon again widened their air war against Islamic State militants (as they had for weeks been suggesting they would), striking a “suspected Islamic State training camp” in Libya and reportedly killing nearly 50 people, including two kidnapped Serbian embassy staff members and possibly “a militant connected to two deadly attacks last year in neighboring Tunisia.”  Again, after almost 15 years of this, we know just where such “successes” lead: to even grimmer, more brutal, more effective terror movements.  And yet, the military approach remains the American approach du jour on any day of the week, any month of the year, in the twenty-first century.

Put another way, for the country that has, like no other on the planet in these years, unleashed its military again and again thousands of miles from its “homeland” in actions ranging from large-scale invasions and occupations to small-scale raids and drone assassination strikes, absolutely nothing has come up roses.  From China’s Central Asian border to north Africa, the region that Washington officials began referring to as an “arc of instability” soon after 9/11 and that they hoped to garrison and dominate forever has only become more unstable, less amenable to American power, and ever more chaotic.

By its very nature, war produces chaos, but in other eras, particularly for great powers, it has also meant influence or dominance and created the basis for reshaping or controlling whole regions.  None of this seems in the cards today.  It would be reasonable to conclude, however provisionally, from America’s grand military experiment of this century that, no matter the military strength at your command, war no longer translates into power.  For Washington, war has somehow been decoupled from its once expected results, no matter what weaponry has been brought to bear or what kind of generalship was exercised.

An Arms Race of One

Given that, sooner or later, the results of any experiment should be taken into account and actions recalibrated accordingly, here’s what’s curious.  Just listen to the fervent pledges of the presidential candidates in the Republican debates to “rebuild” the U.S. military and you’ll sense the immense pressure in Washington not to recalibrate anything.  If you want the definition of a Trumpian bad deal, consider that all of them are eager to pour further staggering sums into preparing for future military endeavors not so different from the present ones.  And don’t just blame the Republicans.  Such behavior is now hardwired into Washington’s entire political class.

The essential failure of air power in these years has yielded the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a plane once expected to cost in the $200 billion range whose price tag is now estimated at a trillion dollars or more over the course of its lifetime.  It will, that is, be the most expensiveweapons system in history.  Air power’s powerlessness to achieve Washington’s ends has also yielded the newly unveiled Long-Range Strike Bomber for which the Pentagon has already made a down payment to Northrop Grumman of $55 billion. (Add in the usual future cost overruns and that sum is expected to crest the $100 billion mark long before the plane is actually built.)  Or at the level of planetary destruction, consider the three-decade, trillion-dollar upgrading of the U.S. nuclear arsenal now underway and scheduled to include, among other things, smaller, more accurate “smart” nukes — that is, first-use weaponry that might indeed be brought to future battlefields.

That none of this fits our world of war today should be — but isn’t — obvious, at least in Washington.  In 2016, not only has military action of just about any sort been decoupled from success of just about any sort, but the unbelievably profitable system of weapons production woven into the fabric of the capital, the political process, and the country has also been detached from the results of war; the worse we do militarily, that is, the more frenetically and expensively we build.

For the conspiratorial-minded (and I get letters like this regularly at TomDispatch), it’s easy enough to see the growing chaos and collapse in the Greater Middle East as purposeful, as what the military-industrial complex desires; nothing, in other words, succeeds (for weapons makers) like failure.  The more failed states, the more widespread the terror groups, the greater the need to arm ourselves and, as the planet’s leading arms dealer, others.  This is, however, the thinking of outsiders.  For the weapons makers and the rest of that complex, failure or success may increasingly be beside the point.

Count on this: were the U.S. now triumphant in an orderly Greater Middle East, the same Republican candidates would still be calling for a build-up of the U.S. military to maintain our victorious stance globally.  If you want proof of this, you need only step into your time machine and travel back a quarter-century to the moment the Soviet Union collapsed.  Thought of a certain way, that should have been the finale for a long history of arms races among competing great powers.  What seemed like the last arms race of all between the two superpowers of the Cold War, the one that brought the planet to the brink of annihilation, had just ended.

When the Soviet Union imploded and Washington dissolved in a riot of shock and triumphalism, only one imperial force — “the sole superpower” — remained.  And yet, despite a brief flurry of talk about Americans harvesting a “peace dividend” in a world bereft of major enemies, what continued to be harvested were new weapons systems. An arms race of one rolled right along.

And of course, it goes right on today in an almost unimaginably different world.  A quarter century later, militarily speaking, two other nations might be considered great powers.  One of them, China, is indeed building up its military and acting in more provocative ways innearby seas.  However, not since its disastrous 1979 border war with Vietnam has it used its military outside its own borders in a conflict of any kind.

The Russians are obviously another matter and they alone at this moment seem to be making an imperial success of warfare — translating, that is, war making into power, prestige, and dominance.  In Syria (and possibly also Ukraine), think of that country as experiencing its version of America’s December 2001 Afghanistan or April 2003 Iraq moments, but don’t for a second imagine that it will last.  The Russians in Syria have essentially followed the path Washington pioneered in this century, loosing air power, advisers, and proxy forces on an embattled country.  Their bombing campaign and that of the allied Syrian air force have been doing in spades what air power generally does: blow away stuff on the ground, including hospitals, schools, and the like.

Right now, with the Syrian Army and its Iranian and Lebanese helpers advancing around the city of Aleppo and elsewhere, everything looks relatively sunny for the Russians (as long as your view is an airborne one), but give it a year, or two or three.  Or just ask yourself, what exactly will such “success” translate into, even if a Bashar al-Assad regime regains significant power in a country that, in most senses, has simply ceased to exist?  Its cities, after all, are in varying states of destruction, a startling 11.5% of its people are estimated to have been killed or injured, and a significant portion of the rest transformed into exiles and refugees (with more being produced all the time).

Even if the Islamic State and other rebel and insurgent groups, ranging from those backed by the U.S. to those linked to al-Qaeda, can be “defeated,” what is Russia likely to inherit in the Middle East?  What, in far better circumstances, did the U.S. inherit in Afghanistan or Iraq?  What horrendous new movements will be born from such a “victory”?  It’s a nightmare just to think about.

Keep in mind as well that, unlike the United States, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is no superpower.  Despite its superpower-style nuclear arsenal and its great power-ish military, it’s a rickety energy state shaken by bargain-basement oil prices.  Economically, it doesn’t have the luxury of waste that the U.S. has when it comes to military experimentation.Generally speaking, in these last years, war has meant destruction and nothing but destruction.  It’s true that, from the point of view of movements like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, the chaos of great power war is a godsend.  Even if such groups never win a victory in the traditional sense (as the Islamic State has), they can’t lose, no matter how many of their leaders and followers are wiped out.  In the same way, no matter how many immediate successes Washington has in pursuit of its war on terror, it can’t win (and in the end neither, I suspect, can Russia).

Has War Outlived Its Usefulness?

Relatively early in the post-9/11 presidency of George W. Bush, it became apparent that his top officials had confused military power with power itself.  They had come to venerate force and its possible uses in a way that only men who had never been to war possibly could.  (Secretary of State Colin Powell was the sole exception to this rule of thumb.)  On the U.S. military, they were fundamentalists and true believers, convinced that unleashing its uniquely destructive capabilities would open the royal road to control of the Greater Middle East and possibly the planet as well.

About this — and themselves — they were supremely confident.  As an unnamed “senior adviser” to the president (later identified as Bush confidant Karl Rove) told journalist Ron Suskind, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Ever since then, no small thanks to the military-industrial complex, military power has remained the option of choice even when it became clear that it could not produce a minimalist version of what the Bush crew hoped for.  Consider it something of an irony, then, that the U.S. may still be the lone superpower on the planet.  In a period when military power of the first order doesn’t seem to translate into a thing of value, American economic (and cultural) power still does.  The realm of the dollar, not the F-35, still rules the planet.

So here’s a thought for the songwriters among you: Could it be that war has in the most literal sense outlived its usefulness, at least for the United States?  Could it be that the nature of war — possibly any war, but certainly the highly mechanized, high-tech, top-dollar form that the United States fights — is now all unintended and no intended consequences?  Do we need another Edwin Starr singing a new song about what war isn’t good for, but with the same punch line?

In fact, give it a try yourself.  Say it with me: Absolutely nothing.

One more time and really hit that “nothing”: Absolutely nothing!

Now, could someone in Washington act accordingly?

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, “Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World” (Haymarket Books), has just been published.

Latest updates on Syrian Ceasefire–2/29/2016

Latest updates on Syrian Ceasefire

USNEWS

Syria’s Foreign Ministry is harshly criticizing Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, saying his recent statements demonstrate the kingdom’s “destructive role” in Syria

The Associated PressA Syrian national flag waves as vehicles move slowly on a bridge during rush hour, in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Associated Press Feb. 29, 2016, at 8:15 a.m. + More

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria as a fragile cease-fire enters its third day (all times local):

3 p.m.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry is harshly criticizing Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, saying his recent statements demonstrate the kingdom’s “destructive role” in Syria.

Monday’s statement came a day after al-Jubeir reiterated Saudi Arabia’s longstanding position that Syrian President Bashar Assad has no place in the future of Syria and that he must leave power, either peacefully or through military means.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry statement said al-Jubeir’s comments are an attempt to damage a truce brokered by Russia and the U.S. that went into effect Friday at midnight.

It added that al-Jubeir’s comments are “lies meant to boost the morale” of Saudi-backed militants who have suffered setbacks in recent weeks in different parts of Syria thanks to intense Russian airstrikes.

___

2:30 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says a cessation of hostilities in Syria is holding “by and large” and wants it extended beyond the initial planned duration of two weeks.

Speaking to reporters Monday in Geneva, Ban confirmed receiving a letter from the High Negotiations Committee, the main umbrella opposition group. It urged the U.N. to help “specify the territory covered by the truce to prevent hostilities in the designated inclusion zones.”

Both Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad which has been conducting air strikes over Syria, and the so-called “moderate opposition — excluding U.N.-designated terror groups like the Islamic State group — have pointed to repeated violations of the cessation of hostilities since it took effect Friday at midnight.

___

2:15 p.m.

The office of the U.N. human rights chief says thousands of people risk starving to death in besieged Syrian towns and villages that are inaccessible to humanitarian aid groups.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein told the opening session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva that some 450,000 people are now trapped in besieged towns and villages in Syria — some for years — and aid deliveries of food, medicine and other aid has been “repeatedly obstructed.”

During his address, al-Hussein said “thousands of people may have starved to death” — but his office issued a statement shortly afterward indicating that he meant to say “thousands risk starving to death.”

Al-Hussein also decried that at least 10 hospitals and other medical sites had been damaged or destroyed by strikes in Syria this year.

___

1:30 p.m.

The United Nations says it plans to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to about 154,000 people living in besieged locations inside Syria over the next five days.

A briefing note sent out by OCHA Monday says the assistance will include food, water and sanitation supplies, as well as non-food items and medicine to people trapped in besieged areas.

It called on all parties to ensure unconditional, unimpeded and sustained access to all 4.6 million people in hard-to-reach or besieged locations across Syria.

The U.N. estimates that close to half a million people in Syria are trapped in areas under blockade across the war-ravaged country.

Aid deliveries are a main opposition demand ahead of the planned resumption of Syrian peace talks in Geneva on March 7.

___

1 p.m.

The French foreign minister is calling for a meeting “without delay” of a task force to monitor a cessation of hostilities in Syria following reports of air strikes targeting the moderate opposition.

Jean-Marc Ayrault made the comments Monday shortly before addressing a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has already been planning a meeting of the task force, led by the United States and Russia, later in the day.

Ayrault told reporters he planned to discuss the “attacks including by air” with de Mistura and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Critics say Russia and Syrian forces have been targeting the moderate opposition.

 


Cessation of Hostilities in Syria UN Res 2268 (2016)—plus Annex

united nations

Resolution 2268 (2016)

The full text of resolution 2268 (2016) reads as follows:

The Security Council,

Recalling its resolutions 2042 (2012), 2043 (2012), 2118 (2013), 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2170 (2014), 2175 (2014), 2178 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2199 (2015), 2235 (2015), 2249 (2015), 2253 (2015), 2254 (2015) and 2258 (2015), and Presidential Statements of 3 August 2011 (S/PRST/2011/16), 21 March 2012 (S/PRST/2012/6), 5 April 2012 (S/PRST/2012/10), 2 October 2013 (S/PRST/2013/15), 24 April 2015 (S/PRST/2015/10) and 17 August 2015 (S/PRST/2015/15),

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Recognizing the efforts of the Secretary-General in implementing resolution 2254 (2015) and noting, through his good offices and by his Special Envoy for Syria, the launch of the formal negotiations on a political transition process, consistent with paragraph 2 of resolution 2254 (2015), on 29 January 2016,

Commending the commitment of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to ensure a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition based on the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012 in its entirety and to immediately facilitate the full implementation of resolution 2254 (2015), and emphasizing the urgency for all parties in Syria to work diligently and constructively towards this goal,

Welcoming the ISSG statement of 11 February 2016, including the establishment of an ISSG humanitarian task force and an ISSG ceasefire task force,

“1.   Endorses in full the Joint Statement of the United States and the Russian Federation, as Co-Chairs of the ISSG, on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria of 22 February 2016 and the Terms for the Cessation of Hostilities in Syria (hereafter referred to as ‘the Annex’) attached to the Statement, and demands the cessation of hostilities to begin at 00:00 (Damascus time) on 27 February 2016;

“2.   Demands the full and immediate implementation of resolution 2254 (2015) to facilitate a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition, in accordance with the Geneva communiqué as set forth in the ISSG Statements, in order to end the conflict in Syria, and stresses again that the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria;

“3.   Demands that all parties to whom the cessation of hostilities applies as set forth in the Annex (hereafter referred to as the “parties to the cessation of hostilities”) fulfil their commitments laid out in the Annex, and urges all Member States, especially ISSG members, to use their influence with the parties to the cessation of hostilities to ensure fulfilment of those commitments and to support efforts to create conditions for a durable and lasting ceasefire; “4.  Recognizes the efforts of the Russian Federation and the United States to reach understanding on the Terms of the Cessation of Hostilities, and acknowledges and welcomes that the forces of the Syrian Government and those supporting it, as communicated to the Russian Federation, and the Syrian armed opposition groups, as communicated to the Russian Federation or the United States, have accepted and committed to abide by the Terms of the Cessation of Hostilities, and as such are now parties to it;

“5.   Reiterates its call on the parties to immediately allow humanitarian agencies rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria by most direct routes, allow immediate, humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need, in particular in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas, and immediately comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law as applicable;

“6.   Expresses support for the ISSG initiative, coordinated through the ISSG humanitarian working group, to accelerate the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid, with the view towards the full, sustained, and unimpeded access throughout the country, including to Deir ez Zor, Foah, Kafraya, Az-Zabadani, Madaya/Bqin, Darayya, Madamiyet Elsham, Duma, East Harasta, Arbin, Zamalka, Kafr Batna, Ein Terma, Hammuria, Jisrein, Saqba, Zabadin, Yarmuk, eastern and western rural Aleppo, Azaz, Afrin, At Tall, Rastan, Talbiseh, Al Houle, Tier Malah/Al Gantho/Der Kabira, Al Waer, Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham;

“7.   Reaffirms its support for a Syrian-led political process facilitated by the United Nations, requests the Secretary-General, through his good offices and the efforts of his Special Envoy for Syria, to resume the formal negotiations between the representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition, under the auspices of the United Nations, as soon as possible, and urges the representatives of the Syrian Government and the Syrian opposition to engage in good faith in these negotiations;

“8.   Welcomes the cessation of hostilities as a step towards a lasting ceasefire and reaffirms the close linkage between a ceasefire and a parallel political process, pursuant to the 2012 Geneva communiqué, and that both initiatives should move ahead expeditiously as expressed in resolution 2254 (2015);

“9.   Calls on all states to use their influence with the Government of Syria and the Syrian opposition to advance the peace process, confidence-building measures, including the early release of any arbitrarily detained persons, particularly women and children, and implementation of the cessation of hostilities;

“10.  Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation of this resolution, including by drawing on information provided by the ISSG ceasefire taskforce, and on resolution 2254 (2015), within 15 days of the adoption of this resolution and every 30 days thereafter;

“11.  Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”

ANNEX

TERMS FOR CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES IN SYRIA

The nationwide cessation of hostilities is to apply to any party currently engaged in military or paramilitary hostilities against any other parties other than “Daesh”, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.

The responsibilities of the Syrian armed opposition are set out in paragraph 1 below. The responsibilities of the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and all forces supporting or associated with the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic are set out in paragraph 2 below.

1.  To take part in the cessation of hostilities, armed opposition groups will confirm – to the United States of America or the Russian Federation, who will attest such confirmations to one another as co-chairs of the ISSG by no later than 12:00 (Damascus time) on February 26 2016 – their commitment to and acceptance of the following terms:

  • To full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, adopted unanimously on December 18, 2015, ‑ including the readiness to participate in the UN-facilitated political negotiation process;
  • To cease attacks with any weapons, including rockets, mortars, and anti-tank guided missiles, against Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and any associated forces;
  • To refrain from acquiring or seeking to acquire territory from other parties to the ceasefire;
  • To allow humanitarian agencies, rapid, safe, unhindered and sustained access throughout areas under their operational control and allow immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need;
  • To proportionate use of force (i.e., no greater than required to address an immediate threat) if and when responding in self-defense.

2.  The above-mentioned commitments will be observed by such armed opposition groups, provided that the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and all forces supporting or associated with the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic have confirmed to the Russian Federation as co-chair of the ISSG by no later than 12:00 (Damascus time) on February 26, 2016 their commitment to and acceptance of the following terms:

  • To full implementation of UN Security Resolution 2254, adopted unanimously on December 18, 2015, including the readiness to participate in the UN-facilitated political negotiation process;
  • To cease attacks with any weapons, including aerial bombardments by the Air Force of the Syrian Arab Republic and the Aerospace Forces of the Russian Federation, against the armed opposition groups (as confirmed to the United States or the Russian Federation by parties to the cessation of hostilities);
  • To refrain from acquiring or seeking to acquire territory from other parties to the ceasefire;
  • To allow humanitarian agencies, rapid, unhindered and sustained access throughout areas under their operational control and allow immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need;
  • To proportionate use of force (i.e., no greater than required to address an immediate threat) if and when responding in self-defense.

The Russian Federation and the United States, as co-chairs of the ISSG and ISSG Ceasefire Task Force, are prepared to work together to ensure effective communications and develop procedures necessary for preventing parties participating in the cessation of hostilities from being attacked by Russian Armed Forces, the U.S.-led Counter ISIL Coalition, the Armed Forces of the Syrian government and other forces supporting them, and other parties to the cessation of hostilities.

All parties further commit to work for the early release of detainees, particularly women and children.

Any party can bring a violation or potential violation of the cessation of hostilities to the attention of the Task Force, either through the OSE or the co-chairs. The OSE and Co-Chairs will establish liaison arrangements with each other and the parties, and inform the public generally about how any party may bring a violation to the attention of the Task Force.

The United States and the Russian Federation as co-chairs confirm that the cessation of hostilities will be monitored in an impartial and transparent manner and with broad media coverage.

Latest Terror Wave Moves Pres. Ghani To Reject “Peace Talks” with Mansour’s Taliban

[Spokesman for Mansour’s group took immediate responsibility for the attack upon Defense Ministry.]

Dozens killed, wounded in

Afghanistan suicide attacks

dna

Afghan security personnel stand guard as firefighters clean the site of a suicide bombing near the gate of Ministry of Defence in Kabul on February 27, 2016.(AFP)

The attack in Kabul, occurred as defence ministry workers were leaving their offices.

A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up near the Afghan defence ministry in Kabul on Saturday, causing heavy casualties just hours after an attack in the eastern province of Kunar killed 13 people and put prospects for new peace talks in doubt.

The attack in Kabul, which occurred as defence ministry workers were leaving their offices, killed as many as 12 people and wounded eight, according to a ministry statement, although Kabul police said nine people had been killed and 13 wounded. Witnesses at the scene, where a large plume of smoke spiralled into the sky, said they had seen a number of bodies on the ground.

The area was sealed off as police and army vehicles surrounded the blast site. “I wanted to cross the bridge when I heard an explosion,” said a witness who gave his name as Zulgai. “I went to the area … there were damaged cars and shattered windows everywhere.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack which the movement’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said killed 23 officers and wounded 29 others. He said there were no civilian casualties. The high-profile attack came as officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China have been pressing for a resumption of the peace process interrupted last year between the Western-backed government in Kabul and the Taliban.

But it remains unclear whether the Taliban, struggling to contain deep internal divisions, will take part in direct peace talks that the four-nation group hope will be held in Islamabad as early as next week.

In a statement issued after the attack in Kunar, President Ashraf Ghani said his government would not conduct peace talks with groups that killed innocent people and said security forces would step up the fight against terrorism.

The Taliban, fighting to restore hardline Islamist rule in Afghanistan, has conducted a series of attacks in Kabul and other areas this year and has pressed its military campaign in the southern province of Helmand, where it has forced government troops to pull out of a number of districts.

Earlier on Saturday, a suicide bomber killed a local militia commander and at least 12 others outside the governor’s compound in Asadabad, the provincial capital of Kunar, near the border with Pakistan.

Provincial Governor Wahidullah Kalimzai said the bomber rode up on a motorcycle to the entrance of the compound and blew himself up, wounding at least 40 people. “Most of victims were civilians and children who were either passing by or playing in the park,” he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the apparent target of the attack, a tribal elder and militia commander named Haji Khan Jan, was among the dead. He had been closely involved in a number of operations against the Taliban in his district in 2015.

(updated)–Chinese Press Reports 130 Taliban Surrender Arms To Govt

Taliban Afghanistan

130 Taliban militants give up fighting in N. Afghanistan: official

xinhua_logo

Source: Xinhua  

MAIMANA, Afghanistan, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) — About 130 Taliban rebels renounced violence and surrendered to the government in Afghanistan’s northern province of Faryab on Sunday, the provincial governor said.

“We sincerely welcome our 130 brothers who denounced the violence and joined the peace and reconciliation process today,” governor Sayyed Anwar Saadat told audience at a welcoming ceremony held here.

The local government will spare no efforts to help the former insurgents to rejoin their families and provide them with jobs, the official added.

The surrendered had been active in Khwaja Sabz Poosh district in the province, 425 km northwest of Kabul.

They also handed over dozens of rounds of weapons and ammunition to the security authorities at the ceremony.

Taliban militants fighting the government have yet to make comments.

More than 10,000 Taliban militants have laid down arms and joined the government-backed peace and reconciliation process over the past six years, according to Afghan officials.

Former Pres. Musharraf Admits That BOTH INDIA AND PAKISTAN Use Taliban Terrorists

[With three out of four of the primary Afghanistan antagonists working together at the same time, it is at long last, finally possible for them to find a way to break free of the bonds of their thirty year war.  This admission by General Musharraf must be acceptable to most of Pakistan’s serving and retire generals, otherwise he would not have made it, especially in The Guardian.  High-ranking officials from the Indian govt, like Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, have also made admissions of fighting terrorism with terrorism, using outfits like Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen, although it has only been admitted through veiled references to such policies (SEE:  Remember the Ikhwan?).  If all sides would just openly admit to such policies in the past, as well as in the present, then it would be possible to separate all Taliban into pro or anti-peace inclinations.  Knowing whether Mullah Mansour is Pakistan’s man, or India/Afghan man, or even a wild card, Russian man, helps us to know which peacemaking efforts are with genuine peace-seekers, or just with more hired killers.]

[SEE:  The Indian Art of Turning Jihadis Into Anti-Jihadis and the War On Pakistan]

 

ISI cultivated Taliban to counter Indian action against Pakistan: Musharraf

Pervez Musharraf
AFP_Former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf has called for an end to militant proxies in neighbouring Afghanistan, said a report published on The Guardian.

In the interview, Musharraf admitted that during his tenure as the head of state, Pakistan had tried to undermine the government of former Afghan president Hamid Karzai because Karzai had helped “India stab Pakistan in the back”.

However, the former army chief was of the view that the time had come to fully cooperate with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai who he believed was the last hope for peace in the region.

“In President Karzai’s times, yes, indeed, he was damaging Pakistan and therefore we were working against his interest. Obviously we had to protect our own interest,” Musharraf said.

“But now President Ashraf Ghani has come and he is trying to restore balance in Afghanistan. We must totally cooperate with him.”

During his first few months in office, the Afghan president has sought to improve ties with Pakistan. Ghani not only called off a weapons deal with India, but also sent troops to fight against anti-Pakistan militant groups in eastern Afghanistan. The arrival of six Afghan army cadets in Pakistan for training in a sign of increased cooperation was the most welcome development for Musharraf.

Pakistan first offered to train Afghan forces back in 2010, but then Afghan president Hamid Karzai had dismissed the offer as a non-starter till Pakistan rebuilt confidence by addressing Kabul’s concerns about its involvement with militants. Instead, Karzai sent cadets to India, where the retired army general believes they were “indoctrinated” against Pakistan.

Musharraf made repeated allusions at what is now widely accepted among diplomats and analysts: that the nominal western ally assisted both Nato forces in Afghanistan and the Taliban they were fighting against in a bid to counter the perceived influence of India.

“Pakistan had its own proxies, India had its proxies, which is unhealthy. I do admit this, it is most unhealthy. It is not in favour of Afghanistan, or Pakistan or India. It must stop,” he said.

ISI spies cultivated Taliban, says Musharraf

 

The former army chief said spies in Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) had given birth to the Taliban after 2001 because the government of Ghani’s predecessor had an overwhelming number of non-Pashtuns and officials who were said to favour India.

“Obviously we were looking for some groups to counter this Indian action against Pakistan,” he said. “That is where the intelligence work comes in. Intelligence being in contact with Taliban groups. Definitely they were in contact, and they should be.”

Pakistan’s powerful military remains deeply wary of India. The two countries have fought three wars and came close to a fourth in 2001. The Himalayan region of Kashmir has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan since independence in 1947.

Insisting that he does not loathe India, Musharraf, however, expressed his bitterness over what he called western bias towards Pakistan’s arch rival.

“India is the greatest democracy, promoter of human rights and democratic culture’? All bullshit,” he said. “There is no human rights. The religion itself is anti-human rights. In the rural areas, if even the shadow of an untouchable goes on a pandit, that man can be killed.”

Undeterred in his stance that India, through its Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), supports terrorists in Balochistan and tribal areas to vanquish Pakistan, the former president said: “The RAW of India, the ISI of Pakistan have always been fighting against each other since our independence. That is how it continued, it continues now also…It must stop, but it can only stop when leaderships on both sides show the will to resolve disputes and stop confrontation in favour of compromise and accommodation.”

I’m very proud of the army: Musharraf

 

The former army strongman came back to Pakistan in March 2013 after four years of self-imposed exile to run in the May general election, vowing to “save” the country from Taliban violence and economic ruin.

But he was barred from running in the election, and was then put under house arrest and hit with numerous criminal cases — including treason, the first former army chief to face the charge.

Despite the setbacks, he said he has no regrets about returning and says that he has the army to thank. “I’m very proud of my institution. Whatever they are doing to help me, to protect the honour and dignity of their ex-chief, I’m proud of that,” he said.

Pentagon Equips Afghan Air Force With Toys, NO THREAT To US Equipment

A-29s and MD-530s deployed to support Afghan forces in Nangarhar

Khaama

By Khaama Press

https://i2.wp.com/www.khaama.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/A-29-Super-Tucanos.jpg

The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan will have further capabilities expansion with the deployment of two fixed-wing and two rotary-wing close-air support combat aircraft.

According to the Afghan defense officials, the aircraft have been handed over to the 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan National Army (ANA) forces.

The officials further added that the aircraft include two A-29 Super Tucanos and

Two MD 530F Cayuse Warriors

The commander of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) Gen. Syed Sulaiman Shah told reporters in Nangarhar airport that the A-29s can carry heavy weapons to target the anti-government armed militants.

He said the A-29s can carry out precise airstrike using laser technology and can four types of weapons, 250 kgs of bombs, guided and unguided rockets.

Gen. Shah also added that the aircraft will be controlled by two pilots and can fly with low speed and altitude to precisely find and attack the targets.

The commander of 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan National Army (ANA) forces Gen. Mohammad Zaman Waziri said the deployment of aircraft will have a vital role to support the ground forces.

This comes as the commander of the Afghan Air Force Major General Abdul Wahab Wardak said Thursday that the A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft will start combat operations with the Afghan Air Force from the month of March.

The A-29 is a multi-role, fixed-wing aircraft that will provide the Afghan air force with an indigenous air-to-ground capability and aerial reconnaissance capabilities to support the country’s counterinsurgency operations.

Eight Afghan Air Force pilots completed their training late last year and graduated from a program hosted by the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in United States and will return to Afghanistan for combat.

Afghan Forces Take Heavy Toll On Taliban In Farah

Nearly 100 Taliban insurgents killed, wounded in ongoing Farah operations

Khaama

By Khaama Press

Afghan-army-operations-4

The Taliban militants have suffered heavy casualties in ongoing military operations by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in western Farah province of Afghanistan.

According to the local security officials, the operations are being conducted in various districts where anti-government armed militants are having presence and conduct insurgency activities.

An Afghan army official said at least 40 Taliban insurgents have been killed during the operations so far and around 50 others have sustained injuries.

The Taliban militants group has not commented regarding the report so far.

The Afghan National Security Forces have stepped up counter-terrorism operations as the Taliban-led insurgency has been rampant across the country during the recent months.

Taliban militants continue to their deadly attacks despite efforts to end the ongoing violence through reconciliation process.

Nearly 30 people were killed and over 50 others were wounded in two separate suicide attacks in eastern Kunar and capital Kabul on Saturday.

Syria ceasefire process on despite US sabotage attempts, Russia says

Syria ceasefire process on despite US sabotage attempts, Russia says

times of india

Reuters

Syria ceasefire process on despite US sabotage attempts, Russia says

MOSCOW/BEIRUT: Russia said on Thursday the Syria ceasefire process was under way despite what it said were attempts by some US officials to sabotage it, while reiterating that Russian warplanes would continue pounding what it called terrorist groups.

The “cessation of hostilities” agreed by the United States and Russia is due to take hold on Saturday morning from midnight. Damascus has agreed to the deal, as has the main opposition alliance, though it is only ready to commit for two weeks given its deep reservations.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said “some US officials” had tried to “sabotage” the ceasefire plan “by interpreting it from such cardinally different points.”

“By and large, a number of (US) officials in fact attempted to call into question the agreements reached, which were approved by the two presidents,” she told a news briefing on Thursday. “It actually looked like sabotage.”

Commenting on the current state of interaction with Washington, she said: “We are in contact with American officials, the process is underway and is very active … We have an exchange of information, our military are in contact.”

Officials in Moscow have been unnerved by a statement by US secretary of state John Kerry shortly after the ceasefire plan was reached that Washington was also considering an unspecified “Plan B”.

There is no “Plan B” on Syria’s ceasefire and will not be one, RIA new agency quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying.

The cessation of hostilities plan does not include Islamic State or the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate that is widely deployed in opposition-held areas. The opposition has expressed fears government forces backed by the Russian air force will continue to attack rebels under the pretext of targeting Nusra.

Zakharova hit out at unspecified “western media creating an impression … that Russia will stop its operation against Islamic State, the Nusra Front and other terrorist groups”.

“There was no talk of ending the fight against terrorism, there is no such talk and there won’t be any,” she said.

Russia, Syrian army pound rebels

Meanwhile, Russian warplanes bombed Syrian rebel-held areas in northwestern Syria and government forces pounded a suburb of the capital on Thursday, ahead of a planned halt to fighting which rebels predicted Damascus and Moscow would ignore.

Opponents of President Bashar al-Assad say they expect the government to press on with its advance, by branding opposition fighters al-Qaida militants unprotected by the truce.

Damascus has agreed to the deal, as has the main opposition alliance, though it is only ready to commit for two weeks given its deep reservations. But the government and its allies will be permitted to forge on with strikes against jihadist militants of Islamic State and an al-Qaida-linked group, the Nusra Front.

The government also says the agreement could fail if foreign states supply rebels with weapons or insurgents use the truce to rearm.

Fighting in the final days before the truce has focussed on Daraya, a besieged suburb of the capital held by fighters the government describes as Nusra militants but rebels say are from other groups, and on the northwest near the Turkish frontier.

Four months of Russian air strikes turned momentum Assad’s way in a 5-year-old war that has killed more than 250,000 people, created the world’s worst refugee crisis and seen Islamic State fighters declare a “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq.

The multi-sided civil war has drawn in most regional and global powers, with Western countries, Arab states and Turkey forming a coalition against Islamic State while also backing rebels fighting to overthrow Assad. Russia and Iran support him.

Barrel bombs

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group that monitors the conflict, said army helicopters dropped at least 30 “barrel bombs” on Daraya on Thursday. Assad’s opponents say the army drops oil drums filled with explosives and shrapnel to cause indiscriminate harm in rebel areas.

The government blamed groups linked to Nusra for firing mortars into residential areas of Damascus, killing at least one person.

A spokesman for rebels in southern Syria predicted Daraya would be the first place where the truce would collapse.

“They want to exploit the ceasefire and focus their fire on Daraya to take it. This will be the first breach. We won’t accept it,” said Abu Ghiath al-Shami, spokesman for the Alwiyat Seif al-Sham group, part of a rebel alliance in the south.

A Syrian military source also signalled that Damascus would not cease fighting in Daraya.

“There is evidence that the ones there are Nusra Front. They found documents, books, flags that point to the Nusra Front being in Daraya,” the military source said. “In any place where there is Nusra Front, we will continue operations.”

Fighting has also escalated in the last two days in the northwestern province of Latakia, where Free Syrian Army groups backed by Assad’s foreign enemies operate close to Nusra fighters and other jihadists.

“The regime wants to try to retake all of northern Latakia before Feb. 26,” said Fadi Ahmad, spokesman for the First Coastal Division rebel group, speaking to Reuters from the area.

Very fierce battles

“The battles are very fierce. Yesterday, there were heavy battles in the part of rural Latakia that is still with us,” he said, adding he did not expect the government or its Russian allies to abide by the truce: “Three minutes ago I saw a Russian plane in the sky hitting us here in rural Latakia.”

The Syrian military source also said operations were taking place in the northern Latakia area.

Recapturing areas of Latakia province at the Turkish border has been a top priority for Damascus and its allies since Russia began its strikes. It is one of several areas where the government has made major gains this year.

Rami Abdulrahman, director of the observatory, confirmed heavy air strikes in northern Latakia on Wednesday and Thursday. He predicted the presence of the Nusra Front and like-minded groups would give the government grounds to press on with fighting there under the agreement.

One of the main purposes of the cessation of hostilities is to allow aid to reach civilians, especially in besieged areas cut off from supplies.

A UN air-drop of food to 200,000 people in the besieged city of Deir al-Zor failed on Wednesday, with all 21 palettes dropped by parachute either damaged, landing in no-man’s land or unaccounted for, a UN World Food Programme spokeswoman said.

UN advisor Jan Egeland nevertheless said the cessation of hostilities could rescue the civilian population from “the abyss” and end the “black chapter” of sieges.

Assad told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday his government was ready to help implement the halt to fighting. The two leaders nevertheless stressed the importance of an “uncompromising” fight against Islamic State, the Nusra Front and other jihadists not party to the truce.

US President Barack Obama on Wednesday said he was cautious about raising expectations, but if some progress were made that would lead to a political process to end the war.

United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said he would announce on Friday a date for a new round of talks between Syria’s warring parties. The last talks were called off this month before they got under way, with rebels saying they could not talk while government troops advanced and Russia bombed.

The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia told Reuters on Wednesday it would abide by the plan to halt fighting but reserved the right to respond if attacked. The YPG is an important partner in the U.S-led coalition fighting Islamic State, but has also been fighting other insurgent groups in northwestern Syria near Aleppo, and is considered an enemy by Nato member Turkey.

Syria’s Truce a Ray of Hope

truceSyria’s Truce a Ray of Hope

Khaama

By Khaama Press

By Manish Rai

The United States and Russia are backing a cessation of hostilities agreement in war-torn Syria which has been accepted by most of the parties involved in the conflict. This is the second ceasefire plan recently which calls on the warring parties to stop fighting but specifically excludes the Islamic State and the Al Qaeda franchise Al Nusra Front. This time there is lot of expectations from this agreement as Russia and America have agreed to act as direct guarantors and monitors of the cessation of hostilities. The agreement states violations of the ceasefire will be reported on a hotline to a special task force co-chaired by America and Russia which will have power to determine a group can no longer be deemed party to the agreement, and so once again open to military attack. This assurance from two global superpowers has raised the hope for success of this agreement between different warring parties and Syrian government. Moreover this agreement endorsed by both US and Russia states that. All opposition groups signing up to the ceasefire will not only cease to use weapons or to gain territory, but also allow “rapid safe and unhindered” access to humanitarian convoys in areas under their control. If this is implemented well on the ground it will act as the major relief and lifeline for Syrian civilians trapped in the besieged areas.

If monitored well and adhered to, this agreement will not only lead to a decline in violence, but also support a political transition to a government that is responsive to the desires of the Syrian people. But still questions has been raised on this agreement like- Some Syrian opposition forces said the exclusion from the agreement of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front was problematic because it could be used as a pretext for attacks on rebel groups and civilians in opposition-held areas. It was pointed out that al-Nusra is not only present in Idlib, but also in Aleppo, in Damascus and in the south in association with moderate rebel forces. But to avoid this kind of attacks from Syrian government the moderate opposition should totally alienate themselves from Nusra Front. Because the Syrian moderate opposition has to understand that being a partner with Nusra Front even on limited fronts will harm their credibility and image. So this is the best time to abandon Nusra. The Syrian conflict is on the verge of resembling a mini-World War III. Since World War I, never have as many actors with rival agendas and operations been involved in a conflict as they are in that of Syria. If this conflict is not contained and resolved soon, it carries the potential to result in direct military clashes, either by accident or by design, between some of the main regional and international actors, with horrendous global ramifications. Moreover US Secretary of State John Kerry recently said it would be hard to hold the country together if the fighting did not stop.

So every party involved in the conflict has to understand that there is no military solution and only one thing which can work is talks and negotiations. First thing which is required for any meaningful dialogue which can lead to any kind of political solution is cessation of fighting on the ground. This cessation of hostilities will also closely affect Syria’s neighbourhood, most notably Turkey. The Kurdistan Worker’s Party armed wing YPG has announced that it will abide by the cessation of hostilities. Turkey, as a member of the International Syria Support Group, is also expected to buy into and abide by the cessation of hostilities. So this agreement can also lead to drop into violence between Turkey and Syrian Kurds which are in conflict after Turkey airstrikes on YPG recently. One thing that should also be taken into consideration is that a key part of the agreement is full implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254, which states “including the readiness to participate in the U.N.-facilitated political negotiation process”. The resolution calls for the government and the opposition to start formal negotiations on a political transition aimed at establishing credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance. So this agreement is the first step in direction of formal peace talks.

Members of the 17-nation group backing Syria’s peace process are to meet in Geneva Friday to work out further details of the agreement, which is then expected to be endorsed by the UN Security Council. There are hopes a successful ceasefire will lead to the resumption of peace talks that collapsed in Geneva earlier this month. Members of the 17-nation group backing Syria’s peace process are to meet in Geneva on Friday to work out further details of the agreement, which is then expected to be endorsed by the UN Security Council. The UN is expected to convene all of the Syrian factions that accepted the plan to begin negotiating on the future of a unified Syrian state. Then a comprehensive political framework can be work out that includes reform of Syrian institutions, formation of a new government, the identification of “terrorist groups” and a plan for elections. At this point, almost any peace plan would be better than the current war. Every proposal is not without its challenges, downsides or risks. But it would be far better than the status quo and more practical than any of the other alternatives. This agreement paved the way for a more durable ceasefire and resumption of peace talks which can lead to a better future for Syria and its people.

(Author is a columnist for Middle-East and Af-Pak region and Editor of geo-political news agency ViewsAround (VA) can be reached at manishraiva@gmail.com)

Deconstructing Syria—strategy for a “confederal country”

[The following seems to be the latest in a long line of schemes and intrigues directed against the people of Syria.  First, they gave them the civil war, now, they are insisting on giving them a regional war.  In June, Zionist/American war council Brookings Institute boldly proclaimed the following war plan for the division of Syria.  It was to begin with US Special Forces occupying a strip of land in Northern Syria, then basically, daring anybody to do anything about it.  Now that Putin and Assad have checkmated that plan, will the Pentagon chest-beaters have the brass balls to try it anyway?]

Deconstructing Syria—Towards a regionalized strategy for a confederal country, June 2015

Sep 30, 2015Russia begins airstrikes in Syria “at the request of Bashar alAssad

America’s ‘Plan B’ for Syria Has a Very Ugly Past

defense one

Dividing Middle Easterners along ethno-religious lines has a deeply troubled history. There’s little reason to believe similar ‘last-ditch’ plans for Syria would be any different.

A tentative ceasefire between warring parties in Syria is set to come to force on Saturday (Feb. 27), but the international community remains skeptical that it will hold. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has warned that if the ceasefire fails, the US might have to consider a Plan B—namely a partition of Syria.

“This can get a lot uglier,” Kerry told the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.“It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer.”

It’s the first time Kerry has spoken publicly about partition—which he is not yet advocating—but there have been plenty of murmurings of this so-called last-ditch solution.

Israel has expressed similar doubts that the ceasefire will hold. Defense minister Moshe Ya’alon suggested that Syria is “going to face chronic instability for a very, very long period of time” that could result in a number of enclaves, such as “Alawistan,” “Syrian Kurdistan,” “Syrian Druzistan,” and so on. Ram Ben-Barak, director-general of Israel’s Intelligence Ministry, went as far as to describe partition as “the only possible solution.”

Some suggest a partition plays into Russia’s hands (paywall); Britain has accused Russia of trying to carve out an Alawite mini-state in Syria.

As countries interested in protecting their own interests consider carving up Syria, the history of partition in the region highlights the problem with dividing people along ethno-religious lines.

Syria is no stranger to partition

This year marks the centenary of the Sykes-Picot agreement, where Britain and France secretly split up the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire between themselves after World War I. Iraq, Transjordan, and Palestine came under British influence, Syria and Lebanon under French power.

But the preliminary divisions in this treaty highlight the problem of dividing people by sectarian affiliations. For example, the proposals envisioned Lebanon as a haven for Christians and the Druze, while Syria was to be a place for Sunni Muslims. As political economist Tarek Osman points out, these secretion divisions weren’t necessarily a reflection of reality on the ground.

The French and British employed the colonial policy of divide-and-rule for their own economic and ideological purposes. Some go as far as to blame the Sykes-Picot agreement for the current problems in Syria, and the rest of the Middle East, today.

“The artificiality of state formation has caused numerous conflicts over the last few decades,” Henner Fürtig, director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at GIGA research institute in Hamburg, told Deutsche Welle. “These questions haven’t been solved for a century and burst open again and again, in a cycle, like now with the ISIS advance in northern Iraq.”

These divisions would later be quashed under anti-colonialist struggles, which called for a united Arab world against imperialist powers, and then later brutally suppressed in the 1980s and 1990s by what Osman describes as the “Arab world’s strong men,” including Hafez Assad, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Gaddafi. Osman argues these cracks and divisions didn’t disappear, they came to the forefront at 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

Ayse Tekdal Fildis, assistant professor in the Department of Political Sciences at Halic University in Istanbul, also blames artificial divisions imposed by French imperialists, arguing: “The process of political radicalization was initiated during the era of the French mandate, the legacy of which was almost a guarantee of Syria’s political instability.” CNN’s Fareed Zakaria used this argument to explain why Syria is imploding, and why Western powers should stay out of Syria.

Others are less convinced with the argument that those borders are the sole factor for the political instability in Syria today.

Sarah El Sirgany, a journalist and fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, told al-Jazeera that “to trace every event, mishap, war, conflict or even agreement back to the Sykes-Picot agreement would be giving it more than it deserves.” She argues a lot has happened since then, governments have been overthrown and world powers have shifted, while others point to other treaties as important contributing factors.

Who will own what?

Advocates for partition point to the relative success of the Dayton accords in 1995, which formally ended the three-and-a-half year war in the Balkans. Leaders of Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia signed an agreement that preserved Bosnia as a single state, but divided it into two parts. The accord created a federal system; the Muslim-Croat federation would represent 51% of the country, while a Serb republic would hold the remaining 49%.

More than 200,000 died before the peace deal was reached. Bloomberg columnist Marc Champion, who describes the Dayton as an “imperfect solution” to end the bloodshed, calls for a similar temporary partition of Syria. A map created by Columbia University’s Gulf/2000 Project shows how difficult that could be. Each color represents different groups in Syria, which at times overlap.

Critics warn that a partition of Syria could require the mass displacement of different ethnicities, which could to the kind of horrors during the India-Pakistan partition.

The 1947 partition of colonial India divided it into two separate states; Pakistan, with a Muslim majority, and India, with a Hindu majority. Thomas Carlson, assistant professor of Middle Eastern History at Oklahoma State University, points out that “around 15 million Hindus and Muslims were on the wrong side of the line and were forced to flee for their lives. Hundreds of thousands were killed.”

These borders do not always last. The artificial state of Pakistan could not hold, with isolated East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh in a bloody war of independence. The border between Iraq and Syria, established by Sykes-Picot, lasted a long time—from when when it was created until ISIL established its own so-called Islamic State connecting large areas of the two countries in 2014. The Kurds have had their own autonomous region in Iraq since the US invasion in 2003.

The lessons of past partitions suggest those who have the most to lose are minority groups who don’t wield significant political power. While finding peace in Syria is proving to be very hard, dividing people by ethnicity or sectarian affiliation is no quick fix in the long run, either.

Gazprom Signs New Black Sea Gas Memorandum with Italy and Greece

Gazprom, Edison and DEPA sign memorandum on gas supplies over Black Sea bottom

ukraine today

Gazprom, Edison and DEPA sign memorandum on gas supplies over Black Sea bottom (AP photo)

The purpose of the agreement is to organize the southern route of Russian gas supplies to Europe

Gazprom, Italia’s Edison and Greek DEPA signed a memorandum on gas supplies from Russia over the Black Sea bottom from third countries to Greece and from Greece to Italy, the Russian gas holding said on Wednesday, according to Russian news agency TASS.

The purpose of the agreement is to organize the southern route of Russian gas supplies to Europe, according to the report.

The agreement reflects interests of the parties in the route of Russian natural gas deliveries across the Black Sea via third countries to Greece and from Greece to Italy, Gazprom said. The parties intend to maximize deliverables of work performed by Edison and DEPA within the ITGI Poseidon project [Turkey-Greece-Italy interconnector pipeline –TASS].

“Development of intra-European gas transport capacities is an important component of improving reliability of supplies of natural gas, including the Russian one, to consumers all over Europe,” Chief Executive Officer of Gazprom Alexey Miller was quoted as saying.

The agreement was signed after the meeting of Miller and Italy’s Economic Development Minister Federica Guidi in Rome on Wednesday, according to TASS.

Reporting by UNIAN

Forced Mass-migration—the Cruelest Form of Asymmetrical Warfare?

Asymmetrical weapons of war: Mass-migration and co-opting of the European Union

Russia-Today

562ba193c46188124b8b458b Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen. A regular pundit on RT and other networks her work has appeared in major publications: MintPress, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News and many others.Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. She is the author of Arabia’s Rising – Under The Banner Of The First Imam
© Leonhard Foeger
A disposable pawn in a grander game of chess, the EU stands these days at the mercy of a very potent threat: destabilization by mass-migration.

With wars raging across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the world has grown accustomed, desensitized to the litany of human tragedies: the death, the maiming, the human exodus which terror’s armies generated… In blood and on fire, countries were seen to fall to the hands of barbaric militias, the products we were told of regimes’ inability to reform their institutions.

In light of this ongoing tragedy, I want to discuss the by-product of war – the mass migration the likes of ISIS and its sisters in arms have worked so very hard to manifest, so that their patrons and financiers could wield a new weapon of mass-destabilization, co-opting governments to do their bidding.

Please understand that I am referring to migration per se… I am not arguing the validity, rights, or legitimacy of war refugees’ plight. My interest here is solely focused on the phenomenon war created, this grand human tragedy which certain powers have weaponized to serve unscrupulous imperialistic ambitions.

Mass migration, it needs to be said, has long been exploited by devious entities as part of a new military genre: asymmetrical warfare.

In a powerful essay published in Strategic Insights, Kelly Greenhill defined such a tactic under “coercive engineered migrations,” noting: “those cross-border population movements that are deliberately created or manipulated in order to induce political, military and/or economic concessions from a target state or states.”

Elaborating on her theory she went on to add: “Coercive engineered migration is often embedded within mass migrations strategically engineered for dispossessive, exportive, or militarized reasons. It is likely, at least in part as a consequence of its embedded and often camouflaged nature, that its prevalence has also been generally under-recognized and its significance, underappreciated. Indeed, it is a phenomenon that for many observers has been hiding in plain sight.”

Ms. Greenhill’s insight certainly puts Europe’s refugee crisis under a very different light.

Of course the covert nature of such a manipulation takes nothing away from the intrinsic reality war refugees are experiencing as they seek refuge, and asylum away from the canons, and the bloodshed. Hiding in the shadow of a very real human tragedy, stand war profiteers and puppeteers.

Ludicrous you say? Impossible you argue? Let us look at Turkey and its president’s warning to Germany of a refugee invasion should Berlin fail to “play” the dutiful ally in the Middle East. Has anyone noticed how quickly the German Chancellor went from a there will be no direct intervention in Syria, to a let’s throw military caution to the wind and commit whatever, for however long it takes, regardless?

Murat Yetkin, a columnist for Hurriyet solved that political disparity in December 2015 when he noted the convenient timing of Chancellor Merkel’s volte face in Syria. He writes: “The increase in military cooperation within NATO countries against ISIL and the piling up of NATO forces near Turkey’s border with Syria take place in parallel with the recent deal between Ankara and the Brussels over Syrian refugees and the re-activation of Turkey’s EU accession bid.”

Coincidental? I think not. I believe the right word is coercion.

Faced with a refugee deluge, the EU is being  simply co-opted in doing some powers’ bidding. But what powers, and whose bidding?
Here is one theory: the United States of America – the neocon state by excellence, the ultra-liberal in democratic clothing.

As Washington continues to push for the fragmentation of the Middle East to better rise a supra-national superpower (or so it thinks) would it be that far-fetch to imagine the US would coerce its “allies and partners” into political and military submission? Have we forgotten how systematically and thoroughly the US spied on EU officials in the name of control?

Andrew Korybko recently made an inspired observation when he pointed to Erdogan’s refugee chess game in Sputnik this February. He writes: “The recently released minutes from a November meeting between Erdogan and the EU prove that the Turkish strongman is manipulating the immigrant flow into Europe for strategic ends.”

“We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria anytime and we can put the refugees on buses,” President Erdogan told EU officials last November.

Who is playing whom now?

Here is a twist though: while the US might for now sit as chief orchestrator, we ought to remember that money could still unbalance this equilibrium, in which case Saudi Arabia might soon rise as a main stake holder … and then what?

So while Westerners are busy demonizing all foreigners, maybe the real threat lies not with refugees per se, but the games of covert destabilization so-called friendly nations are waging against their governments.

Colored revolution anyone?

Saudi Master and His Poodles Order Citizens To Leave Lebanon

[Lebanon refuses to be ruled by this arrogant war criminal.]

Saudi Piles Pressure on Lebanon for Siding With Iran 

abcnews_logo_v2

Saudi Arabia has lashed out at Lebanon, cutting off billions of dollars of aid and telling its citizens to leave the country, after Beirut sided with Iran in the fallout over the execution of a Saudi Shiite cleric, in a diplomatic dispute that threatens Lebanon’s struggling economy.

The tension reflects the worsening Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Middle East, which is driven by regional powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Iran, who are fighting proxy wars in Syrbia, Yemen and, to a lesser extent, in Iraq.

Saudi’s punitive measures against Lebanon began last week after the Lebanese foreign minister, Gibran Bassil, an ally of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, declined to support Saudi resolutions against Iran during two meetings of Arab and Muslim foreign ministers.

The resolution sought to condemn Iran over attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions following Riyadh’s execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr in early January.

Riyadh announced Friday it was halting $4 billion in aid grants due to what it described as stances taken by Lebanese officials which “were not in harmony with the ties between the two countries.”

This week, Saudi Arabia called on its citizens not to travel to Lebanon for safety reasons and ordered those staying there to leave. Its Gulf allies Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar predictably followed suit, issuing similar warnings. The United Arab Emirates also banned its citizens from traveling to Lebanon and withdrew a number of diplomats from the country.

Lebanon’s political elite is deeply divided between two powerful Saudi and Iran-backed coalitions. The spat has exacerbated divisions among Lebanon’s notoriously fractious politicians, who traded accusations over the billions of dollars lost. Lebanon has been without a president since May 2014 and parliament has failed to elect a new head of state because of lack of a quorum.

Concerns have been sparked that further steps could be taken by Saudi Arabia and its neighbors, such as gulf airlines halting flights to Beirut or the eviction of thousands of Lebanese who work in the oil-rich region, a move that would have a devastating effect on Lebanon’s crumbling economy.

There are some half a million Lebanese living in the gulf. They transfer billions of dollars to their home country in remittances, giving a boost to Lebanon’s economy, which has among the highest debt in the world — currently standing at $70 billion or 145 per cent of GDP.

Lebanese economist Louis Hobeika said the eviction of Lebanese migrant workers in the gulf would be the most damaging move Saudi could make. Yet, he suggested that such retaliation would be mutually harmful. “Lebanese hold key positions in companies and it is not very easy to replace him,” he said.

Some analysts say Saudi Arabia is going to deport some foreign workers anyway as projects in the kingdom are cancelled due to falling oil prices.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday before a Cabinet meeting, Economy Minister Alain Hakim urged calm. He said Lebanese should not “panic before any measures by gulf states because such fears harm our economy.”

Local media reports say some worried citizens were changing their accounts in Lebanese pounds to U.S. dollars but officials say people should not worry about the pound since the Central Bank can defend it with its $40 billion foreign currency reserves.

Central Bank governor Riad Salameh told the daily Al-Akhbar that “markets did not show any fears and were very normal this week.”

Saudi officials say they want Lebanon to “fix the mistakes” but did not say how they can be fixed.

“Mistakes were made in two international arenas,” said Saudi ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Assiri. “What is wanted now is for the side that made the mistake to fix it.”

Some local media reports in Lebanon have argued that the Saudis may be applying pressure to secure the release of a member of the royal family held in Lebanon since October on drug charges.

Abdul-Mohsen al-Waleed Al Saud , was detained in Beirut after authorities seized two tons of amphetamine Captagon pills before they were loaded onto his private plane. On Wednesday, a Lebanese prosecutor indicted Al Saud of dealing and using drugs.

Other analysts suggest Saudi Arabia may be seeking to compensate for its declining hold over Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia’s influence has been dwindling in Lebanon since early 2011, when pro-Saudi prime minister Saad Hariri was ousted by Hezbollah and its allies. For the past two years, the Saudi-backed March 14 coalition has failed to see one of their leaders elected president. Now they are nominating legislator Suleiman Franjieh, a friend of Assad and a close ally of Hezbollah, for the country’s top job.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to back Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, is benefiting from recent victories against Saudi-backed insurgents in Syria.

“Saudi Arabia (is) feeling for a good reason that its influence in Lebanon is on the decline,” said Ayham Kamel, a Middle East expert with the political risk and consulting firm, Eurasia Group.

“The Saudi message is don’t think you can translate victories in Syria and control the system in Lebanon. We have plenty of leverage through our economic muscles,” Kamel said.

an end…to the behavior of…supporting terrorism in Syria

Shaaban.. an end should be put to behavior of countries supporting terrorism in Syria

SYRIAN RADIO AND TV

 

Shaaban

Presidential Political and Media Advisor Bouthaina Shaaban on Thursday said that an end should be put to the behavior of the countries supporting terrorism in Syria, pointing out that the Syrian government has been working since the beginning for finding a political solution to the crisis.

Shaaban told Russia Today TV, on the sidelines of the Valdai International Discussion Club on the Middle East held in Moscow, that the Turkish and Saudi regimes as well as other sides are supporting and fostering terrorism in Syria,saying that “a matter that must meet an end as the US stance regarding these sides should be clear as the Russian’s.”

She clarified that the Syrian government has been working since the beginning of the crisis for finding a political solution yet “the oppositions” , which have flourished and grew in these countries targeting Syria, are the sides that foil each endeavor on the track of putting an end to the bloodshed, adding that “when they went to Geneva it was clear that those coming from Riyadh are the sides who foiled Geneva3 and that is why we do not take what they say into consideration because they are part of the problem and we hope that they become a part of the solution.”

She stressed that Syria has announced its acceptance on the Russian-US agreement on the cessation of fighting actions and showed readiness to work with the Russian side to implement this agreement and go ahead in combating ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups.
Shaaban clarified that Russia wants to implement this agreement and it means what it says, indicating the Syrian-Russian cooperation in counterterrorism, whose results are obvious through the deadly hits directed to the terrorists in Syria.

She said that the problem in applying this agreement lies in the US intention and whether it really wants to join Russia in combating terrorism in Syria and wants to put an end to the bloodshed along with finding a political solution, referring to the doubts that have emerged regarding the latest statements of the US Secretary of State John Kerry.

She noted that the announcement of the date of the Legislative Elections in Syria is Constitutional and it is normal that these elections will be held in their due date, stressing that this issue has nothing to do with Syria’s acceptance of the Russian-US agreement on the cessation of fighting actions in Syria.

Greece and Cyprus Begin Prep Work For Undersea Electric Service

[Israeli, Greek and Cypriot leaders to build a joint gas pipeline]

Greece-Cyprus sea cable route mapped out

The first phase of the reconnaissance study and seabed mapping to identify the optimum route for a proposed high-voltage subsea power cable, known as the EuroAsia InterConnector, connecting Cyprus to Greece, has been completed.

Odin Finder a 50-metre long research vessel, owned and operated by Italian company GAS S.r.l, set out to map out the best route for the cable, late January.

The vessel explored, mapped and gathered information on the exact route of the 518km-long subsea cable from Vasiliko to Crete and from there on to the Peloponnese and forward to Piraeus on mainland Greece.

Next, the Odin Finder will carry out a detailed mapping of one of the most “difficult” sections of the subsea ‘electricity highway’ between Cyprus and Israel. Specifically, it will be researching the sea zone south of Vasiliko – at a distance of 20 to 40 kilometres from the coast – an area known for its marked seabed dips, and seek the best spot from which the cable will pass through the Cyprus arc, an arcuate depression located in the southern reaches of the island, considered to be in collision between the African and Eurasian plates.

The EuroAsia InterConnector project is initiated by the DEI-Quantum Energy joint venture, a partnership between DEI, the public power corporation of Greece, and Quantum, operator of hydroelectric and power stations in the Republic of Serbia.

The project is included in the revised list of 195 Projects of Common Interest (PCI), issued on November 18 by the European Commission. It offers significant economic and geopolitical benefits to the involved countries and contributes to the EU target for 10% of electricity interconnection between member states.

Where the Middle East Goes?

Where the Middle East Goes?

valdai

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, right, arrive for a news conference after the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting in Munich, Germany.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, right, arrive for a news conference after the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting in Munich, Germany.
Luck or failure of the Syria settlement in a large extent would determine the fate of the entire region, because long ago the internal Syrian conflict acquired the regional and global status.
Despite the relevance of the question where the Middle East is moving, it is difficult to give a confident and convincing answer. The process of devolution of the Middle East region has gone too far. It is based on three historically caused crises. Firstly, there is a systemic crisis of the nation states, which could not withstand the challenges of globalization. Not by chance it has become a habit to speak about the end of the Sykes-Picot regional architecture, “engineered” by the European powers – Great Britain and France, who did not believe in the self-government ability of the former vilayets of the defeated Ottoman Empire.

Secondly, there is an identity crisis, which was the result of decades of internal contradictions accumulation. Finally, thirdly, it is the crisis of the world order, emerged after the end of the Cold war.

Many of the politically stagnant Middle Eastern regimes failed to adapt to rapidly changing conditions and to respond adequately to the new challenges. Especially difficult became the situation in those countries of the region, which are considered “deeply divided”. Not by chance, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, became the scenes of a deep internal rift that split their sectarian, ethnic, clan, geographical, tribal links. In many ways, the intervention of Western and regional players contributed to sharp deterioration of the conflicts.

What awaits the Middle East states, sinking in internal conflicts: a peace settlement and the transition to the new development direction, the conservative stabilization, continuation or even escalation of conflicts, the disintegration and secession, formation of new states? Today, despite the enormous efforts of the local elites and the international community, the situation in many of these countries remains acute. And the most tragic result of the turbulent process was the seizure of a large part of the territory of Iraq and Syria by the most terrible and inhumane terrorist groups – ISIS (Daesh), Jabhat al-Nusra (affiliated with al-Qaeda), and some others. Virtually the whole international community now is strongly against ISIS.

However, if you focus on the bloody internal conflict in Syria, the question is which groups should be considered as terrorist and which are not. This issue continues to divide the participants of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), including Russia and the United States. In recent months, Russian diplomacy has tried in vain to convince the Western and regional partners that such big and heavy- armed anti-government Islamist groups as Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam belong to terrorists. This met a consistent resistance from our partners. Representatives of those two groups were even invited to the Saudi capital Riyadh in December to the meeting of the Syrian opposition groups. Leader of Jaysh al-Islam Mohammed Alloush was among the members, elected to the Supreme Commission for Negotiations.

Our partners argue that Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam are not homogeneous and their inclusion into the list of terrorist organizations leads to their further radicalization, and thrust them into the arms of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. At one of the “round tables” one prominent Saudi journalist said that without Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam Syrian opposition simply would not exist. Western states and regional powers are insisting on their support. Now, it seems, Russia no longer insists on its previous assessments. Manifestation of Moscow’s flexibility was the inclusion into the US-Russian statement on Syria of 22 February of the formula of the complete exclusion from the ceasefire regime of ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and “other terrorist organizations, recognized as such by the UN Security Council.” But the chances that the US would “miss” the recognition of the UN Security Council of Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam as terrorist organizations, are close to zero.

Let’s note, that the US always comes down hard with criticism against Russia for alleged attacks against moderate opposition instead of ISIS. However, as Aron Lund reminds in an article published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, most recently in Iraq the US indiscriminately launched missiles and bombed al-Qaeda and other oppositional Sunni groups that did not have any relation to it, branding them all as “terrorists”.

There is the question of what to do, if among the moderate opposition forces would be groups of Jabhat al-Nusra, which are often mixed with other opposition units. It can benefit from the fact that there are less foreign jihadists (about 20%) than in ISIS. Can the US and Russian experts jointly define the territory held by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra? Is it possible to make it with the required degree of accuracy? It is necessary, because the peace process is at stake.

At the same time from the cease-fire regime could be excluded not only the two above-mentioned terrorist groups, but also those groups of the moderate opposition, which by the deadline won’t inform about their readiness to join the ceasefire. The Syrian army and its allies, including Russian Aerospace Forces, can continue fighting against them. The main opposition groups have already confirmed their readiness for a ceasefire, but they have put a number of preconditions, in the spirit of UN Security Council Resolution #2254 of 18 December 2015: removal of cities sieges by government forces, ensure humanitarian help access, termination of shelling of civilians, release of prisoners. The Syrian government does not put forward preconditions, although the opposition also laid siege of towns and villages. Among the loyalists there is a wide-spread opinion that the armed opposition can take advantage of the removal of the sieges to regroup their forces and then to resume fighting against the Syrian army. In this context, particular importance has the monitoring of mutual cessation of hostilities.

Of particular importance is the cooperation between Russia and the United States in the framework of the so-called ISSG Ceasefire Task Force. Not less important is monitoring of unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to suffering peaceful population. This aid is supplied by Russia in considerable quantities. Of 7 districts where by the ISSG decision the humanitarian aid should be delivered, two are under siege by ISIS, two more – by rebel groups, supported by the West, the Arab Gulf States and al-Qaeda, and the rest three – by government forces and their allies, including Hezbollah.

In general, cooperation between Russia and the US on Syria is one of the major achievements of the process which has received a sensational development. There are concessions not only by Moscow but also by Washington. Even when adopting the UN Security Council Resolution #2254 of 18 December, on the insistence of Russia and China references to president Bashar al-Assad were excluded from the text. He also was not mentioned in the joint statement.

It seems that luck or failure of the Syria settlement in a large extent would determine the fate of the entire region, because long ago the internal Syrian conflict acquired the regional and global status. Can the fragile agreements between Washington and Moscow develop into full-scale cooperation with the plague of the XXI century – international terrorism?

Vitaly Naumkin is President of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS); Professor; Corresponding Member, RAS.

Russia Pours $200 Million Heavy Weapons Into Armenia—(eat that, Turkey)

Russia details USD200 million arms sale to Armenia

Jane's

Russia is exporting the TOS-1A to Armenia as part of a USD200 million export package detailed on 18 February. Russia has also sold the TOS-1A to Armenia’s regional arch-rival Azerbaijan. Source: Russian MoD

The Armenian military will receive artillery, anti-tank and air-defence systems, and other equipment valued at USD200 million, according to documents published by the Russian government on 18 February.

The deal is seen as an effort to partially offset earlier Russian weapons sales to Azerbaijan, with which Armenia is engaged in a protracted territorial dispute and ‘frozen conflict’.

According to a Russian-Armenian export credit agreement made public on February 18 the purchase list includes BM-30 Smerch 300 mm multiple rocket launchers (MRLs); TOS-1A 220 mm thermobaric MRLs; 9M113 Konkurs (AT-5 ‘Spandrel’) anti-tank guided missiles; RPG-26 shoulder-fired anti-tank rockets; Igla-S (SA-24 ‘Grinch’) manportable air defence systems (MANPADs); and Avtobaza electronic warfare systems.

The deal will also allow Armenia to upgrade its T-72 tanks with 1A40-1 fire control systems; new B-84 and UTD-20 engines for its tanks and infantry fighting vehicles; and acquire additional engineering, communications, and transportation equipment.

Qatari Taliban (Mansour’s Gang) Waiting For Invite To Play Nice

Afghan peace process: Taliban await invite to Islamabad talks 

express tribune

PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Afghan Taliban said on Wednesday the group is awaiting a formal invitation for direct talks with officials of President Ashraf Ghani’s administration. A day earlier, the so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group, which is composed of top officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States, said that Islamabad would host direct talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives by first week of March.

“We’ve seen reports in the media about [direct] talks, but the Political Office and the Islamic Emirate have no information about this,” said Dr Muhammad Naeem, a spokesperson for the Taliban’s Political Office in Qatar.

The Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, endorsed Dr Naeem. “We’ve not received anything officially; we only heard it from the media,” he told The Express Tribune by phone.

President Ghani and Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani had extended a formal invitation to Taliban groups and Hizb-e-Islami to come to the negotiating table. But the Taliban said they have not received any such invitation.

“Since we do not have any information, anything [comment] about our formal response to media reports will be premature,” Dr Naeem told The Express Tribune by phone from Doha.

Asked if the Afghan Taliban still insisted on their pre-conditions for talks, Dr Naeem said their demands were genuine. The group has called for reopening of their political office in Qatar; lifting of international sanctions on their top leaders; release of prisoners; and an end to propaganda in Afghanistan.

“These are not conditions. These are are realities, and problems could not be solved without this [meeting these demands],” Dr Naeem said.

He described the presence of ‘foreign invaders’ as the real problem and said the Taliban have always said that the basic solution to the problem was to an end to the invasion and enforcement of the Islamic system. He warmed that the situation could further complicate if the issue of invasion persisted.

Meanwhile, sources close to the Taliban’s Qatar office said the group’s political negotiators have expressed serious reservations over the use of the term ‘Taliban groups’ in the statements issued after Tuesday’s quadrilateral talks.

“If they [quadrilateral group] use ‘Taliban groups’ it means they want to create rifts in the ranks of the Islamic Emirate,” they said.

Further, the negotiators have reacted angrily to the ‘threatening posture’ adopted by some Afghan government leaders including fresh remarks by Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar. Atmar said on Wednesday that the “Taliban have limited time to take a decision on joining peace talks.”

Hizb-e-Islami considering invite

While the Taliban say they have not received an invite to the Islamabad talks, The Express Tribune has learnt that a formal invitation has been sent to Hizb chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who is weighing up the offer.

“We are considering the offer,” Hizb’s political affairs head Dr Ghairat Baheer told The Express Tribune.  Diplomatic sources revealed that Rabbani has spoken with Baheer and an invitation was extended.

Mullah Mansour Taliban Sneak Back Into Kunduz—14 Dead

Taliban and security forces in Kunduz

Syrian Ceasefire Possible By Weekend

Obama cautious on Syria plan as opposition yet to commit (Updated)InternationalA boy carries an opposition flag as rebel fighters and civilians gather during the arrival of an aid convoy of Syrian Arab Red Crescent and United Nation (UN) to the rebel held besieged town of Kafr Batna, on the outskirts of Damascus

Obama cautious on Syria plan as opposition yet to commit (Updated)

Cyprus mail

 

By Jeff Mason and Tom Perry

US President Barack Obama expressed caution on Wednesday about a plan to stop fighting in Syria, while the main opposition group said it had yet to commit to the deal.

Combatants are required to say whether they will agree to the “cessation of hostilities” by noon on Friday (1000 GMT), and to halt fighting at midnight Saturday.

The United Nations hopes the planned halt in the fighting will provide a breathing space for Syrian peace talks to resume.

The last round in Geneva broke up earlier this month without progress after the Syrian government launched a Russian-backed offensive on the city of Aleppo, where more fighting was reported on Wednesday.

Obama told reporters in Washington that if some progress was made in Syria, that would lead to a political process to end the five-year-old war there.

Although U.S officials have raised the question of a political transition in Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia, shows no sign of stepping aside.

The Saudi-backed HNC, which groups political and armed opponents of Assad, said on Monday it had “given its acceptance of international efforts for a cessation of hostilities”.

But HNC chief negotiator Mohamad Alloush said on Wednesday that the council had not yet decided whether to commit to the deal, underlining rebel doubts over a deal they fear will not prevent Russian air strikes against them.

The deal does not include Islamic State or the Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate which is widely deployed in opposition-held areas.

“How can (Russia) offer guarantees while it is part of the problem?” said Alloush, who heads the political office of the Jaish al-Islam rebel group, in an interview with the pro-opposition Orient TV station.

The Syrian government, its war effort buoyed since September by the Russian air force, has accepted the cessation of hostilities agreement announced on Monday.

Assad told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that his government was ready to help implement the deal.

Putin and Assad, who held a telephone conversation, stressed the importance of a continued “uncompromising” fight against Islamic State, the Nusra Front and other militant groups.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he had spoken to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and their teams would meet in the next day or so to discuss the planned ceasefire.

“I am not here to vouch that it’s absolutely going to work,” Kerry said in Washington. While there had to be a diplomatic solution at some point, the question was whether the time is ripe, he added.

He asked whether Russia and Iran would work “in good faith” to bring about a political transition in Damascus.

TELEPHONE DIPLOMACY

Putin has embarked upon a round of telephone diplomacy, speaking to Assad, the Saudi king, the Iranian president and the Israeli prime minister. The Kremlin described the calls as an effort to explain the substance of the US-Russia-brokered ceasefire.

The Russian Defence Ministry said it had significantly reduced the intensity of its air strikes in Syria in the past two days in areas where armed groups had expressed their readiness to join the ceasefire.

Russian state media have presented the fact that Moscow helped broker the potential ceasefire as a sign that Russia matters again on the world stage and has shrugged off what it has cast as U.S.-led efforts to isolate it over the Ukraine crisis.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he feared the ceasefire plan would do little more than benefit Assad.

Turkey has grown increasingly frustrated by the international response to the Syrian war, incensed by a Russian intervention which has tipped the balance of power in favour of Ankara’s arch-enemy Assad and by U.S. support for a Kurdish militia it sees as a hostile insurgent force.

“If this is a ceasefire that is up to the mercy of Russia, which has brutally attacked the moderate opposition and aligned with Assad under the pretext of fighting Islamic State, we fear that the fire pouring over innocent people will never stop,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.

The United Nations said it was ready for a huge aid effort if the fighting stops.

“We are now standing by … waiting for the signal,” a UN spokesman said.

The war has killed more than 250,000 people and left 4.5 million hard to reach with humanitarian aid, the U.N. says.

The United Nations carried out its first airdrop of humanitarian aid to the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor on Wednesday, delivering 21 tons of relief to civilians besieged by Islamic State.

The Syrian army and Islamic State fought fierce battles on Wednesday near Aleppo, where an attack by the jihadist group has cut the main land route to the city.

A government military source denied reports the town of Khanaser had fallen to Islamic State, although its fighters were firing on it from nearby positions.

Islamic State is escalating its assaults on government-held areas. The attacks appear to be a preemptive move, the military source said, because the militants expect to come under more pressure from the Syrian army soon.

Quashing Rumors, Russian Govt Transfers 10,000 AK-47s to Afghan Govt

[SEE:  Putin to team up with the TALIBAN to wipe out Islamic State – and give them WEAPONS]


Russia’s Ambassador to Kabul Alexander Mantytskiy (left) hands an AK-47 to Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar (center) during a ceremony on Wednesday. Rahmat Gul / AP

KABUL, Afghanistan — A cargo plane laden with 10,000 AK-47s landed in Kabul on Wednesday, the first part of a major Russian military aid package aimed at helping Kabul contain a resurgent insurgency.

The delivery came almost three decades after the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan in humiliation after a 10-year occupation. The anniversary of the withdrawal on February 15 was commemorated as a national holiday across Afghanistan.

The assault rifles — ubiquitous weapons in war-ravaged Afghanistan — are part of a large package of Russian military aid that also includes helicopters and heavy weapons, Afghan National Security Council spokesman Tawab Ghurzang told NBC News.

This is the first direct military assistance to Afghanistan from Russia since the Taliban was toppled in 2001, he added.

Related: Why Russia Keeps Thousands of Troops at Afghan Border

Russia largely stayed out of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks triggered an invasion by a U.S.-led coalition. But Russia’s role has been important for the U.S.-led mission in the country, with Moscow allowing the supplies for the alliance’s forces to travel through its territory.

 

A convoy of armored personnel vehicles cross the Soviet-Afghan border during the withdrawal of the Red Army from Afghanistan in May 1988. AFP / AFP/Getty Images

Qatar Taliban Hold Fast To Demands—NO TALKS until demands met

image

“The precondition of the Taliban including complete withdrawal of the foreign forces from Afghanistan, official recognition of Taliban’s political office in Qatar, removal of Taliban from United Nations terrorist blacklist, halt to the arrest and elimination of Taiban, and release of the Taliban inmates from prisons.”

Afghan Taliban insist on preconditions as direct talks expected in early March 

Khaama

By Khaama Press

The Taliban group representatives based in Qatar insist on preconditions of the group as direct talks between the Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban is expected to take place in the first week of March.

Admitting that the group is unaware of the potential upcoming direct talks with the Afghan government, a spokesman for the group’s political office in Qatar, Mohammad Naim told Radio Free Europe (RFE) that they have not changed their preconditions for joining the peace process, which he had announced at the Pugwash research center in Doha on January 23.

The precondition of the Taliban including complete withdrawal of the foreign forces from Afghanistan, official recognition of Taliban’s political office in Qatar, removal of Taliban from United Nations terrorist blacklist, halt to the arrest and elimination of Taiban, and release of the Taliban inmates from prisons.

Pakistan has offered to host the first round of direct talks between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives following the conclusion of the fourth round of Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) meeting on Tuesday.

“The QCG member states invite all Taliban and other groups to participate through their authorized representatives in the first round of direct peace talks with the Afghan government expected to take place by the first week of March 2016,” according to a joint statement by QCG.

The statement further added that the fifth round of the QCG meeting will take place in Islamabad immediately after the first round of direct peace talks.

The delegations were led by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing and U.S. Charge d’Affaires, David Lindwall.

Obama Courts Chaos With His Taliban Fantasy

Getty_052514_ObamaAfghanistan-e1401237437567
Obama at Bagram

Obama Courts Chaos With His Taliban Fantasy

canmua

Wall Street Journal

Hussain-Haqqani-110x110
Mr. Haqqani, the director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., was Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., 2008-11.

Lt. Gen. John Nicholson, the recently nominated commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, has confirmed what many of us have feared. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his Jan. 28 confirmation hearing that security in Afghanistan is worsening.

The Taliban are emboldened by the prospect of a U.S. withdrawal. On Monday the United Nations reported that 2015 civilian casualties from terrorist attacks in Afghanistan reached an all-time high since 2001, a 4% increase over 2014.

The Obama administration pins its hopes on China and Pakistan persuading the fundamentalist Islamist group to negotiate the end of its insurgency. Yet the Taliban’s main demand—the establishment of what they deem to be an Islamic order—is nonnegotiable. They talk not with the intention of giving up fighting but to regroup and attack again.

Liberal Americans, encouraged by the Taliban’s main backer, Pakistan, assume that there is a deal to be made. This is the same mirage the U.S. has pursued since the Taliban emerged in 1993 out of the anti-Soviet mujahedeen movement and initially found favor among many Afghans disenchanted by the corruption and lawlessness of the first post-Soviet regime.

The Clinton administration believed the Taliban’s aspirations were limited to asserting ethnic Pashtun supremacy and were nationalist, not Islamist, in nature. The Taliban’s subsequent ruthlessness and imposition of Islamic law once they took power didn’t get the Clinton administration’s full attention until 1998, when the group’s decision to host Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda resulted in U.N. sanctions. That left Pakistan as the only country with full diplomatic relations with the Taliban regime.

Then, as now, a Democratic administration tried to negotiate with the Taliban through Pakistan. This time, too, the Taliban’s precondition seems to be that the U.N. withdraw the post 9/11 resolution that froze the movement’s assets—estimated in 2001 to be $100 million in the U.S. alone, with additional assets in Gulf states and in Pakistan—and limited international travel by its leaders. The Taliban have since increased their assets to at least $400 million through drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom and by extorting U.S. and Afghan-government contractors.

Although Pakistan felt compelled to join the international coalition against al Qaeda and the Taliban after 9/11, it never severed ties with the Taliban. Most Taliban leaders ended up on the Pakistani side of the 1,398-mile-long Pakistan-Afghan border. Some of them secured protection from tribes straddling the two countries; and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) protected others, who lived openly in Quetta and Peshawar.

The ISI wanted to keep using the Taliban as an Afghan proxy in Pakistan’s perennial competition for influence with India. The U.S. couldn’t or wouldn’t move against the fugitive Taliban leaders for fear of violating Pakistan’s sovereignty. (The search for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was a one-time exception.)

The Obama administration initially spoke of coercing Pakistan into giving up support for the Taliban. In 2011 then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Pakistan couldn’t keep “snakes” in its backyard.

The very next year, President Obama announced a schedule for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. That made the Taliban and their Pakistani backers intransigent; they knew that all they had to do was wait. With another U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan by the end of 2016, leaving a small force of some 5,500, it is no wonder that Taliban attacks in provinces bordering Pakistan have increased.

The Obama administration’s decision to negotiate with the Taliban through Pakistan was embraced by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani after his election in 2014. China, Pakistan’s major international supporter, was brought in as a facilitator, arranging meetings in Beijing between the Taliban and the Afghan government. China was expected to broker a deal involving Kabul, Islamabad and Pakistan’s Afghan proxies.

Yet Pakistan may no longer be able even to bring a unified Taliban movement to the negotiating table. The Taliban have splintered, and factions affiliated with ISIS have emerged to compete with groups tied to al Qaeda. Although the Taliban continue to depend upon the ISI for money, training and arms, it is becoming clear that at least some Taliban leaders would rather follow an independent course.

Former Taliban negotiator Tayeb Agha reportedly resigned last year after the election of new Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, saying Taliban leaders should relocate to Afghanistan from Pakistan to “preserve their independence.”

This is not the only reason talks will likely fail. Afghan security forces and intelligence services don’t trust Pakistan because of the haven it provides the Taliban. The Taliban look upon ISI with suspicion because of its connection with the U.S.—further diminishing Pakistan’s capacity to broker peace in Afghanistan.

Faced with international pressure as well as growing internal threats from the Pakistani Taliban, Pakistan has cleared out some known jihadist sanctuaries in the border region of North Waziristan, depriving Afghan groups such as the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network of their historical base of operations. The assumption in Washington is that Pakistan wouldn’t like to see the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan.

But a similar assumption in 1993 was shown to be naïve as the Taliban marched into Kabul with full Pakistani backing. Neither is there any sign today that Pakistan’s military is willing to give up its decades-long pursuit of paramountcy over Afghanistan. So unless the U.S. is willing to keep sufficient troops in Afghanistan, the outcome of the “fight and talk” policy now being pursued by the Taliban and the U.S. will only feed chaos. Or a return of the Taliban as a fait accompli when the troops finally leave.

 

DNA Test Results Prove That Ankara Bomber Was Turkish National, NOT SYRIAN

DNA matching proves gov’t falsely identified Ankara suicide bomber

todays zaman

 

DNA matching proves gov’t falsely identified Ankara suicide bomber

The photo released by the Turkish authorities as showing the Ankara bomber. (Photo: Cihan)

TODAY’S ZAMAN | ANKARA

As 14 of the 21 suspects detained as part of the investigation into last week’s deadly car-bomb attack in Ankara were arrested on Monday, a Turkish news portal has said the DNA analysis reveals that the government has falsely announced the suicide bomber.

The attacker is not Salih Neccar as was claimed by the government but rather Abdulbaki Sömer, as was announced by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), the Cumhuriyet daily’s news portal said on Monday.

It became clear that the attacker was Abdulbaki after the DNA sample taken from Sömer’s father, Musa Sömer, matched with the DNA sample of the attacker, the news portal said.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, less than 24 hours after the attack, that Neccar, a Syrian national who he said is a member of the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), had conducted the attack with the PKK’s collaboration.

TAK, which is linked to the PKK, claimed responsibility for the attack a day after Davutoğlu’s statement, saying the perpetrator is Abdülbaki, a 26-year-old Turkish national born in the eastern city of Van.

A car laden with explosives was detonated next to military buses last Wednesday as they waited at a traffic light in the administrative heart of Ankara, killing 28 and injuring 61.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which is conducting the investigation into the attack, had referred 14 of the suspects to court for arrest while releasing the remaining seven on Sunday evening.

All those referred to court were arrested on charges of aiding a terrorist organization, forgery on official documents and fraud by a penal court of peace on duty.

Interior Minister Efkan Ala argued, during an interview on the NTV on Sunday, that the PKK’s TAK claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing to whitewash the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Sönmez’s father was summoned to Ankara and gave a DNA sample. According to a report in the Hürriyet daily on Monday, the father said in a previous statement that the person in the photograph released by the authorities that purportedly shows Neccar is actually of his son.

The father’s statement had already increased the probability that Sönmez presented himself as Neccar when he came to Turkey from Syria.

Commenting on the controversy over the identity of the Ankara bomber, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said following a Cabinet meeting on Monday that the name of the bomber “may be different but that does not change the reality.”

Kurtulmuş said it is clear that the bomber entered Turkey in the summer of 2014 from a region controlled by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

“That was the information we had when announcing the bomber’s identity. We identified that person as such based on his fingerprint and personal information he had provided previously. It is clear that he entered Turkey from a PYD-controlled region in summer 2014. That was what we had then. Now, it is the duty of the prosecutor investigating the incident to determine whether his real identity was different or not,” he said.

CHP blasts gov’t for intelligence failure

Levent Gök, the parliamentary group deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has harshly criticized the government for having failed to properly identify the perpetrator.

“How could you have failed to [previously] determine his [perpetrator’s] connection with the terrorist organization if he is already registered [in official documents],” Gök demanded to know at a press meeting in Parliament on Monday.

Arguing there is no definite information about the identity of the perpetrator of the attack, the CHP deputy called on the government to unearth the real identity of the attacker and say how he entered Turkey.

Gök also blasted the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) for a failure in intelligence saying, “The intelligence has totally failed.”

He also accused the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) of profiling and closely monitoring opposition deputies instead of fighting against terrorism.

Gök also blasted Davutoğlu’s statement that security measures would be tightened in Ankara, accusing the government of failing to grasp the size of the terrorist threat the country is faced with.
Noting the AK Party has been in power for almost 14 years, Gök said, “Such an unserious attitude can not be accepted.”

Interior Minister Ala had said in the interview with NTV that TAK’s statement about the suicide bomber should not be taken seriously.

Neccar was identified based on fingerprint analysis in computer programs, said the minister, adding that the perpetrator entered Turkey from Syria’s Amude region in 2014.

According to Ala, Neccar registered with Turkish authorities after his arrival in Turkey.

TAK said the bombing was in response to the policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and said it would continue its attacks.

The Alternate Universe of the American Political System

 

HuffingtonPost

  • Dave Pruett Former NASA researcher; Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, James Madison University

2016-02-21-1456086346-6719795-political4.jpg

The Iowa Caucus, New Hampshire Primary, and South Carolina GOP Primary are now in the rear-view mirror. Jeb Bush has bailed from the presidential race. It’s time to pause and take political stock.

Of the four leading candidates — Donald Trump and Ted Cruz from the GOP, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders from the Dems — three are anti-establishment.

Only Clinton is an establishment candidate. The others surf a giant wave of voter anger that rises from a sense of betrayal.

The establishment narrative states that America, although troubled, remains sound. We can fix what ails us by tinkering at the margins.

The anti-establishment narrative howls that our democracy is fundamentally broken. Only by a political sea-change — some say “revolution” — can we right the floundering ship of state. If the aggregate support for anti-establishment candidates indicates our plight, get out the life rafts.

— Three anti-establishment candidates —
— Three competing political universes —

Trump: Trump appeals most to Americans who favor authoritarian leaders. He struts about as a strong man who will make the trains run on time and America great again. But history’s strong men have always needed scapegoats. Trump will bring to heel those who have dragged America down. He’ll deport 11.3 million illegal immigrants who are stealing our jobs, “bringing drugs, … bringing crime,” and “raping.” And he’ll ban all Muslims from entry to the US. Once elected, he won’t need our help. To hear Trump talk, most of us are losers anyway. He’s a billionaire, by definition a winner. Like Russia’s Vladimir Putin — his political soul mate — Trump floats above the rules. Rules and decency — and facts for that matter — are for losers.

Cruz: Cruz’ mottos are “government is the problem” and “to God be the glory,” making him the darling of the tea party and the religious right. Cruz proposes to eliminate most of the regulatory and safeguard functions of government. Corporate income taxes? End them. The IRS? Abolish it — along with the Departments of Energy, Education, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development. The Environmental Protection Agency? Gut it, if not kill it. Net neutrality. No. Regulations on carbon to combat climate change? No need; climate change is a “hoax.”

What does Cruz stand for? The death penalty, fiscal austerity, “free” trade, carpet-bombing ISIS, and anything to do with extracting oil or gas: the Keystone XL pipeline, expanded fracking, and offshore drilling.

The world according to Cruz is eerily familiar: it conforms to the extreme libertarian agenda of fossil-fuel magnates the Koch Brothers. Not surprising. Since 2011, Cruz has received more than $1 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, and his super PAC “Keep the Promise” has netted a whopping $15 million from Texas oil billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks.

The god Cruz glorifies is a strange one, devoid of compassion. Immigration or sentencing reform? Not a chance. Affordable health care? Repeal it. A minimum wage? Absolutely not. And a Texas-sized prison-industrial complex to warehouse illegal immigrants.

Sanders: To social democrat Sanders, we’re in trouble because our politics and economy have been hijacked — by Wall Street bankers and corporate billionaires (like those funding Cruz). The system has been rigged to benefit a handful of oligarchs. America has become the richest third-world country on the planet. Only those at the very top — the 1% — enjoy the wealth.

Electing the “right” candidate, in Sander’s view, will not by itself right the ship of state. Wresting control of our democracy from the clutches of the oligarchs will take all of us — engaged in non-violent political revolution.

Which alternate universe is closest to our reality?

Forty-nine years ago, at New York’s Riverside Church, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his most important, stinging, and controversial speech: “Beyond Vietnam.” In it, he held a mirror to the American soul, asking us to confront our nation’s “triple evils”: racism, militarism, and extreme materialism. Many of King’s followers turned against him. A year later he was dead, his message too disturbing to the national psyche.

Echoes of King’s “Beyond Vietnam” linger in Sander’s stump speeches. Racism, Sanders acknowledges, is institutionalized in America, which incarcerates more citizens per capita — predominantly people of color — than any other country in the world.

America remains constantly at war, feeding the insatiable appetites of the neocons and military-industrial complex while draining its economic resources and life’s blood. The result of such sacrifice? The complete destabilization of the Middle East, giving rise to ISIS, and the militarization of municipal police forces.

Big banks, deregulated during the Clinton presidency, succumbed to greed and developed predatory lending practices. The result: the “Great Recession” of 2008, from which we have yet to recover. And in the guise of “free-trade” pacts like NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), multinational corporations scour the globe for the cheapest labor and the lowest taxes, driving down wages worldwide and offshoring American jobs.

Sander’s meteoric rise suggests that King’s disquieting message about America’s evil triad — racism, militarism, greed — is finally taking root, almost 50 years late. Why now? Since 2008 America’s white lower and middle classes have felt the economic oppression to which people of color have long been subjected. During a riveting moment in the last Democratic debate, Clinton and Sanders both eloquently discussed a disturbing new trend: uneducated, middle-aged white Americans are dying at unprecedented rates from suicide and substance abuse, ostensibly from economic uncertainty and stress. Neoliberal capitalism has turned cannibalistic; it is feeding on our lower and middle classes.

America’s political options are four-fold: 1) tinker around the margins, 2) elect a strong man, 3) gut government and embrace an uncompassionate god, or 4) look ourselves squarely in the mirror, take stock of the real evils, and roll up our sleeves.

Of these options, the fourth is by far the most difficult. It’s also the only option that has a remote chance of saving us from ourselves.

Ending America’s Perpetual Wars Could End America

Appearing on ‘The Empire Files,’ retired U.S. Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson told Abby Martin that the Abu Ghraib torture photos inspired him to speak out against U.S. imperialism.

By @KitOConnellLawrence Wilkerson,

Lawrence Wilkerson, a critic of Bush administration detainee policies and a former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, gestures duirng an interview with the  Associated Press in Washington, Monday, Nov. 28, 2005.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Lawrence Wilkerson, a critic of Bush administration detainee policies and a former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, gestures duirng an interview with the Associated Press in Washington, Monday, Nov. 28, 2005. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and national security advisor during the Reagan administration. Wilkerson is an outspoken critic of the current US foreign policy.

WASHINGTON — Disgusted by the infamous Abu Ghraib torture photos, an assistant to the Bush administration now speaks out against the excesses of American empire.

“I knew that the United States had been involved in heinous activities,” explained retired U.S. Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, during a Dec. 11 interview with journalist Abby Martin on her TV show, “The Empire Files.”

“I never knew in any time in our history where those bad things had not only been authorized by the highest levels in the land, but encouraged by the highest levels in the land.”

In addition to his service in the military, Wilkerson was an assistant to Colin Powell, when Powell was the national security advisor during the Reagan administration. When Powell became secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration, Wilkerson served as his chief of staff until the news of the impending leak of torture photos caused a break between Wilkerson and the administration.

After a lengthy legal battle, on Friday the ACLU forced the Pentagon to release 200 more photos of torture and war crimes by U.S. military personnel, but thousands more remain classified.  Under President Barack Obama, many of Bush’s policies have expanded, with the U.S. military now involved in local conflicts or stationed at bases in over 100 countries, including throughout Africa.

In his interview with Martin, Wilkerson asserted that the military-industrial complex, which President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans about in his famous 1961 farewell address, sustains the U.S. economy and has permeated every facet of American government and society. “We aren’t going to correct this until something serious happens to correct the ship of state, which might also sink the ship of state,” Wilkerson warned.

“Today, the purpose of U.S. foreign policy is to support the complex in the national security state that is fueled, funded, and powered by interminable war and the ramifications thereof,” Wilkerson explained, later noting: “Capital is the driving force of the world.”

According to his analysis, corporate and commercial interests are steering the “ship of state” in the direction of unsustainable growth, which in turn requires an ever-expanding war machine. Even when military officials retire, they frequently become lobbyists or even members of the media, where they continue to promote an agenda that leads to endless war.

U.S. intelligence agencies also serve this corporate agenda, Wilkerson added, bending their reports to fit the needs of Wall Street to create more military action. As examples, he cited the falsified reports of weapons of mass destruction that led to a deadly, genocidal war in Iraq.

Similarly, Wilkerson cited the controversial, disputed reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on his own population. In his own investigation of these reports, Wilkerson personally interviewed a variety of intelligence officials, but found that none could confirm that Assad had used chemical weapons. In fact, he said, “the evidence looked more strongly for other parties than the president,” such as rebel forces.

Wilkerson told Martin that U.S. actions in Ukraine and the Middle East are driven by a proxy war between the United States and Russia, and a similar cold war-style conflict with China. The conflict in “isn’t about al-Qaida or the Taliban anymore,” he explained, but rather conflict with these other superpowers over control over resources like oil and water.

Chillingly, he added that, “The U.S. presence in Afghanistan, I will predict right now, will not go away for another half century … And it will grow.”

The former military leader argued that little short of a revolution can change the destructive growth of U.S. empire. “Empire never has enough, that’s the nature of imperial power,” he said.

Watch “’This Ship is Sinking’ Says Former Bush Official” from “The Empire Files”:

S

Turkey Prepares Inescapable Trap, for itself

erdogan buffoonTurkey’s increasingly desperate predicament poses real dangers

the new zealand herald

Turkey is confronting what amounts to a strategic nightmare as bombs explode in its cities, its enemies encroach on its borders and its allies seemingly snub its demands.

As recently as four years ago, Turkey appeared poised to become one of the biggest winners of the Arab Spring, an ascendant power hailed by the West as a model and embraced by a region seeking new patrons and new forms of governance.

All that has evaporated in the wake of the failure of the Arab revolts, shifts in the geopolitical landscape and the trajectory of the Syrian war.

Russia, Turkey’s oldest and nearest rival, is expanding its presence around Turkey’s borders – in Syria to the south, in Crimea and Ukraine to the north, and in Armenia to the east. On Saturday, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced the deployment of a new batch of fighter jets and combat helicopters to an air base outside the Armenian capital, Yerevan, 25 miles from the Turkish border.

Blowback from the Syrian war in the form of a string of suicide bombings in Istanbul and Ankara, most recently on Wednesday, has brought fear to Turkish streets and dampened the vital tourist industry.

The collapse of a peace process with Turkey’s Kurds has plunged the southeast of the country into war between Kurds and the Turkish military just as Syrian Kurds carve out their own proto-state in territories adjacent to Turkey’s border.

The economy is in the doldrums, hit by fears of instability and by sanctions from Moscow targeting such goods and revenue sources including Turkish tomatoes and tourism in retaliation for the downing of a Russian plane in November.

Worries that the tensions could escalate further are spreading, both in Turkey and in the wider international community, prompting French President François Hollande to warn on Friday that “There is a risk of war between Turkey and Russia.”

“Turkey is facing a multifaceted catastrophe,” said Gokhan Bacik, professor of international relations at Ankara’s Ipek University. “This is a country that has often had problems in the past, but the scale of what is happening now is beyond Turkey’s capacity for digestion.”

A rift with the United States, Turkey’s closest and most vital ally, over the status of the main Syrian Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), has further exposed Turkey’s vulnerability. A demand by President Recep Tayyep Erdogan that Washington choose between NATO ally Turkey and the YPG, its main Syrian ally in the fight against the Islamic State, was rebuffed by the State Department this month, despite Turkish allegations that the YPG had carried out the bombing in Ankara.

On Saturday, Turkey dug in, demanding unconditional support from the United States. “The only thing we expect from our U.S. ally is to support Turkey with no ifs or buts,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told journalists in Ankara.

Turkey now stands completely isolated, trapped in a maze of quandaries that are partly of its own making, said Soli Ozel, professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.

“It has so alienated everyone it cannot convince anyone to do anything,” he said. “It is a country whose words no longer carry any weight. It bluffs but does not deliver. It cannot protect its vital interests, and it is at odds with everyone, including its allies.

“For a country that was until very recently seen as a consequential regional power, these facts strike me as quite disastrous,” he added.

Most immediately, Turkey is agonizing over the fast-changing dynamics along its southern border with Syria, where Russia is bombing, Kurds are advancing and the rebels it has supported against President Bashar Assad for the past five years are facing defeat.

Sending troops into Syria, as Ankara has hinted it might, would risk a confrontation with Russia that Turkey would almost certainly lose. The downing of a Russian plane in November was, in retrospect, a major miscalculation, analysts say, one that has hamstrung Turkey’s ability to project its influence into Syria and prevented it from flying missions there even in support of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State.

Not to intervene would mean bowing to the inevitability of an autonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Syria bordering Turkey’s own restive Kurdish region, as well as the defeat of the rebels Turkey had hoped would topple Assad and project Turkish influence into the Arab world.

For now, Turkey has confined its response in Syria to artillery shelling against the advancing Kurdish forces and efforts to reinforce the rebels. A rebel fighter in the border town of Azaz, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the issue is sensitive, confirmed multiple reports that Turkey has facilitated the deployment of several hundred rebel fighters from the province of Idlib into Aleppo, via Turkish territory.

At the same time, Erdogan has sought, without success, to revive pressure on the United States to agree to long-standing Turkish proposals for the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria that would protect Syrian civilians who have sought refuge from the fighting along Turkey’s border.

Most observers think direct Turkish intervention unlikely, at least for now. There is no public support for a war and no support for one within the Turkish armed forces. A group of more than 200 academics signed a petition last week urging Turkey not to go to war in Syria, and the military has publicly stated that it is not willing to send troops across the border without U.N. Security Council approval.

But that has not deterred Erdogan from continuing to threaten action, drawing supposed red lines and seemingly digging Turkish policymakers deeper into a hole from which there is no obvious escape. He recently said the fall of rebel-held Azaz to the advancing Kurds would be a “red line” and vowed that Turkey would not allow the creation of a refuge for militant Kurds in Syria.

Turkey’s predicament is not entirely self-inflicted. Some of the broader global trends – such as Russia’s increasing assertiveness and the United States’ waning interest in the Middle East – could not readily have been foreseen when Turkey set about crafting its ambitious foreign policy earlier in the decade, analysts say.

But Erdogan appears to have misjudged the extent to which the shifting parameters have constrained Turkey’s room to maneuver, according to Henri Barkey, a Turkey expert at the Wilson Center in Washington.

“Erdogan has mismanaged foreign policy because of hubris,” Barkey said. “He was overconfident in 2010 that Turkey was the darling of the world, and that went to his head. There are setbacks that are not of his doing, but how he managed those setbacks are his doing.”

At a time when Erdogan is also confronting unforeseen challenges to his domestic ambitions, notably his plans to amend Turkey’s constitution to enhance his presidential powers, further Turkish missteps cannot be ruled out, said Bacik, the professor in Ankara.

“I’m not saying that Turkey has lost its mind and is poised for war, but the posture in Ankara is very strange and could lead to surprises,” he said. “What’s happening in Syria is a question of survival for Erdogan, so it is not possible to rule anything out.”

“For Turkey,” he added, “there is no good scenario from now on.”

Washington Post

“Good Taliban” Sajna Group Blows-Up Army Centerpiece School In Tiarza Right After Gen. Abbasi Visit

school-bombing WANA


“Good Taliban” Sajna Group Blows-Up Army Centerpiece School In Tiarza Right After Gen. Abbasi Visit

Peter Chamberlin

Two weeks after the latest Pentagon/CIA assault upon a tribal jirga, and attempt to kill Sajna Mehsud, his group blows-up a highly symbolic, Pak Army-built girls school in S. Waziristan.  Why would one of Pakistan’s “good Taliban” stage such an assault upon progress in his own area, especially just one month after the Tiarza Road opening, after it had been shut-down for 7 years, due to constant terrorism?

According to the quote given below, there were 14 Mehsud tribal elders killed there, along with four Waziri elders, in the latest attack upon Sajna (SEE:  Senior TTP leader still alive? Drone ‘targeting’ Sajna kills 18 militants)–Feb 03, 2016.

“Of the TTP men killed today, 14 belong to the Mehsud tribe and four to the Wazir tribe.”

The Wazirs meeting Sajna with the Mehsuds were no doubt representing the militia of recently-killed Waziri big boss, Mullah Nazir (SEE: Paramilitary Pretense, Who Controls the Predators?).  It is remarkable that Sajna had managed to persuade the leaders of the forcefully-displaced Mehsud tribe to meet with him and the Wazirs, knowing that both sides were working to establish peace and to build cooperation with Pak Army development efforts to build FATA.  For accomplishing this, the CIA pronounced a death sentence upon him and 18 other men, which the Pentagon carried out.

This is NOT THE FIRST TIME that drones have attacked Sajna meeting with an ongoing tribal jirga, and NOT THE FIRST TIME that Sajna has been prematurely pronounced dead from a drone attack.  On NOV. 25, 2015, after he had been elected the new chief of TTP, the NY Times announced Sajna’s first execution, “Pakistani Taliban Commander Reported Killed in Drone Strike in Afghanistan.”  A dozen tribal leaders are reported to have shared his death that time around.

Then, Pakistan accuses US of ‘scuttling’ Taliban talks with drone strike, summons ambassador, was the official Army/govt response given to this particular drone assassination:

“The government of Pakistan does not see this drone attack as an attack on an individual but as an attack on the peace process,” Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar, Ali Khan said. 

“Brick by brick in the last seven weeks we tried to evolve a process by which we could bring peace to Pakistan and what have you (the US) done?  You have scuttled it on the eve, 18 hours before a formal delegation of respected ulema (religious scholars) was to fly to Miranshah and hand over this formal invitation.”

Yesterday, a showpiece Army-built school for girls within the S. Waziristan Development Zone was blown-up, with the known spokesman for the Sajna Group claiming credit.  If Sajna had really been the pro-govt “good Taliban,” then why would his group have struck against the centerpiece of govt peacemaking/development?  This is what the Wazirs and people like Sajna and his dead boss Wali ur-Rehman, and the likewise executed Mullah Nazir had been working so hard to build for their people, but the Pentagon opposed it every step of the way, with every drone at its disposal.

Pakistan had a deal in place to exchange development for peace, but the Pentagon did not want Peace in Pakistan, it wanted WAR.  The Pakistani Taliban had to continue attacking the Pakistani Army, until the Pak Taliban agreed to cut their ties with the Afghan Taliban.  Neither the Pak Army, nor “peaceniks” like Sajna could be allowed to scuttle America’s war against the Pak Army, for that is exactly what we are witnessing.  But Sajna, or the surviving members of his large militia have NOT attacked Pakistan’s peace project in order to please the Americans, since Pakistan’s FATA development projects, including the highways, were built with American money, along with matching funds from the UAE.

Yesterday’s attack upon the Army girls school was obviously a revenge attack, for two attempts upon his life and for killing his brethren.  For the last attempt to kill him, there were allegedly four drones firing Hellfire missiles upon the Jirga location (SEE: US drone strike ‘kills 40’ in Pakistani tribal region – BBC News–Mar 17, 2011).

 Peter Chamberlin
peter.chamberlin@hotmail.com


Mehsud group announces separation from TTP

D I KHAN :  Mehsud Taliban group has announced its dissociation from Tehreek e  Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Current lighting an organized conspiracy of the TTP gang went into the invisible hands  (TTP) spokesman. Azam Tariq.—Mehsud group announces separation from TTP

“We considered kidnappings , extortion, any property damage and explosions are haram.”

Feb. 20, 2016

Militants blew up part of a newly constructed government school in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region late on Friday night, a spokesman for a wing of the Pakistani Taliban said on Saturday, the latest in a string of attacks on educational institutions.

No one was hurt in the blast in Pakistan’s restive tribal belt, but 18 labourers working on the site were abducted, said Azam Tariq, a spokesman for an arm of the Pakistani Taliban known as the “Sajna” group, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

[Article on website infested with malware, had to use a proxy service to get the following article opened.]

Development: GOC head visits South Waziristan

express tribune

WANA: General Officer Commanding (GOC) Major General Azhar Saleh Abbasi visited Tiarza area of South Waziristan Agency and inspected the progress of development schemes. He also held a detailed jirga with tribal elders.

The development schemes included mosques, a hospital, middle and high schools, water supply schemes, a sports stadium and reopening of Band Kota Bridge after a period of eight years.

All schemes have been executed after the repatriation of internally displaced persons (IDP) who were forced to abandoned homes for military Operation Rah-e-Nijat in 2009.

Abbasi accompanied by high-ranking officers such as Brigadier Wajid Aziz, Commandant Major Saadat, Assistant Political Agent Nawab Safi and others visited almost all the schemes where officials briefed the GOC about the execution of the projects.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2016.

Russia Strengthens Erebuni Airbase in Armenia With Fighter Jets, Helicopter

Russia Strengthens Erebuni Airbase in Armenia With Fighter Jets, Helicopter

sputnik

A new group of MiG-29 and MiG-29S multirole fighter jets as well as a Mi-8MT military transport helicopter have been deployed to the Russian airbase in Armenia, the press service of the Russian Southern Military District said on Saturday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — A new group of MiG-29 (NATO reporting name: Fulcrum) and MiG-29S fighter jets as well as a Mi-8MT (NATO reporting name: Hip) military transport helicopter have been deployed to the Russian Erebuni airbase in Armenia, the press service of the Russian Southern Military District said on Saturday.

“The fourth-generation fighters and a Mi-8MT will be assembled by airbase technicians and put on combat duty in near future,” the press service said in a statement.

“The first flights of newly-arrived MiG-29s are expected to begin in mid-March,” the statement said.

The district’s Erebuni base in Armenia was formed in 1995 and the MiG-29 Fulcrum multirole fighters were deployed there in 1998. In July 2001, the units at Erebuni were incorporated into an air division of the Russian 102nd Military Base in Gyumri.

In December, several attack Mi-24P (NATO reporting name: Hind) and Mi-8MT helicopters were transferred to the base.

Russian pilots are expected to begin helicopter flights from the base in the first quarter of 2016, according to the Southern Military District’s press service.

Iranian oil En Route To Europe and Russia

Atlantas tankerTotal chartered the VLCC Atlantasmarinetraffic.com

ATLANTASAtlantas

Iran sends first oil shipment to Europe since sanctions end

world oil

By ANTHONY DIPAOLA, HASHEM KALANTARI

TEHRAN, Iran (Bloomberg) — Iran loaded its first cargo of oil to Europe since international sanctions ended, signaling more supplies will add to the global glut of crude.

A tanker for France’s Total was being loaded at Kharg Port while vessels chartered for Chinese and Spanish companies were due to arrive later Sunday, an Iranian oil ministry official said. A tanker hired by a Russian company hadn’t arrived, and was still expected, the official said. The official didn’t identify the companies that had hired the other three tankers and didn’t name the vessels. Total declined to comment.

Iran is trying to rebuild its oil production after sanctions were lifted in January, with plans to boost output and exports by 1 MMbpd this year. Supply deals were signed with Total and Hellenic Petroleum SA of Greece. Oil prices have dropped 11% this year, partly on anticipation of the increased supplies.

Iran is planning three initial shipments to Europe carrying 4 MMbbl of oil with 2 MMbbl going to Total and the rest to companies from Spain and Russia, Roknoddin Javadi, managing director of National Iranian Oil Co., said on Saturday, according to the Iranian oil ministry’s news service Shana.

Total, Spanish refiner Compania Espanola de Petroleos and Russia’s Lukoil PJSC all booked cargoes of Iranian crude to sail from Kharg Island to European ports, according to shipping reports compiled by Bloomberg earlier this month. The vessels included one very large crude carrier, a tanker capable of carrying 2 MMbbl of crude, and two smaller Suezmax-sized vessels with capacity of about 1 MMbbl each.

Monte ToledoSpain’s Cepsa booked the Suezmax Monte Toledo—(marinetraffic.com)

DISTYA AKULALukoil’s trading unit Litasco booked the Distya Akula—(vesselfinder.com), according to fixture data compiled by Bloomberg. The Atlantas is scheduled to head for European ports, the Monte Toledo for Spain and the Distya Akula for Constantza, Romania, the data show. No one answered a phone call to Litasco’s office in Geneva on Sunday.

“The loading operation of the three tankers at Kharg terminals will be done within 48 hours,” Pirouz Mousavi, managing director of Iran Oil Terminals Co., told semi-official Mehr news agency on Sunday. The company hasn’t loaded tankers for Europe in four years because of sanctions, he said.

Pakistan won’t sell Saudi Arabia a nuclear bomb, but North Korea might.

[SEE:  Saudi Spokesman Announces That the King Has Purchased Nukes, Testing Is Imminent]

Punggye ri Nuclear Test Site

 

One of the gravest concerns about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon is that it will set off a nuclear arms race in the region, whereas Iran’s acquisition of the bomb prompts its neighbors to follow suit. As President Obama warned in 2012, if Iran gets nuclear weapons, “It is almost certain that other players in the region would feel it necessary to get their own nuclear weapons.”

No country is seen as more likely to go nuclear in response to Iran doing so as Saudi Arabia, Iran’s long-standing rival in the region. Saudi officials have done little to tamp down such fears, instead indulging them repeatedly. Just last month, Prince Turki bin Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief, told a South Korean conference: “Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too.”

With a few exceptions, nearly everyone who fears that Saudi Arabia will acquire a nuclear weapon nonetheless concedes Riyadh wouldn’t build a bomb itself. Instead, the general consensus has long held that Saudi Arabia would purchase off-the-shelf nuclear weapons from Pakistan. Indeed, concerns about a secret Saudi-Pakistani nuclear pact date back to the 1970s and 1980s, and have become especially prevalent over the past decade and a half.

As I and others have long argued, this notion is far-fetched. While Saudi Arabia would want to buy a nuclear arsenal from Pakistan, Islamabad has no reason to sell nuclear weapons to Riyadh.

To begin with, Pakistan already worries that its arsenal is too small to survive an Indian or American counterforce strike. Moreover, selling Saudi Arabia nuclear weapons would result in unprecedented backlash from most of the international community, including both the United States and China, Pakistan’s major patrons. It would also enrage Iran, who is well positioned to retaliate against Pakistan in numerous ways, from supporting separatists in Balochistan to further cozying up to India.

Any remaining concerns about whether Pakistan would sell Saudi Arabia nuclear weapons were seeming put to rest back in April, when Islamabad refused to participate in the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. If Pakistan refused to send in even a symbolic contingent of troops to participate in the Saudi-led mission, it certainly wouldn’t give Riyadh its most valuable military assets.

But while Saudi Arabia couldn’t purchase a nuclear weapon from Pakistan, it might have more luck with North Korea. In fact, there are a number of compelling reasons to believe North Korea might be amenable to such a request.

Most obviously, North Korea has a troubling history of proliferating nuclear technology, including to the Middle East. There have long been persistent (albeit largely unconfirmed) rumors that North Korea has provided Iran with nuclear technology, and Pyongyang also helped Syria build a nuclear reactor (which Israel destroyed in airstrikes in 2011). More generally, North Korea has a long track record of selling advanced military technology like ballistic missiles to numerous pariah nations.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia would be an extremely valuable patron for North Korea. Currently, Kim Jong-un is trying to improve the economy especially for North Korean elites in order to shore up support for his rule. This effort has been made extremely difficult by the more hardline stance China has taken against North Korea ever since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

Pyongyang has been scrambling to find suitable replacements for China, but so far it has had little luck. Russia appears to want to improve ties with North Korea, but its growing financial woes will limit its ability to provide North Korea with enough economic assistance to offset the loss of Chinese aid. Meanwhile, South Korea appears intent on limiting its economic relationship with North Korea absent significant concessions from Pyongyang on the latter’s nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia would face none of these constraints. Unlike South Korea, Saudi Arabia is not overtly threatened by North Korea’s nuclear program. And unlike Russia, it does not face enormous financial difficulties.

In fact, Saudi Arabia is awash in petrodollars, boasting the third largest foreign currency reserves in the world after only China and Japan. Although it has been using these to soften the impact of lower oil prices, it still has $708 billion in FX reserves, more than enough to provide significant support for North Korea.

Saudi Arabia could also provide North Korea with other kinds of valuable assistance. For instance, foreign workers make up over half of Saudi Arabia’s labor force, and North Koreans working in Saudi Arabia could provide the Hermit Kingdom with another significant source of hard currency. Indeed, this is one of the Kim regime’s favorite tactics for skirting international sanctions. As the Asan Institute of Policy Studies has explained: “Earnings are not sent back as remittances, but appropriated by the state and transferred back to the country in the form of bulk cash, in clear violation on UN sanctions.”

Some estimate that as many as 65,000 North Koreans are working abroad in 40 different countries, and that this number has doubled or even tripled since Kim Jong-un took power. Yet, according to Asan, Saudi Arabia doesn’t even rank in the top ten nations in terms of North Korean laborers. Changing that would be a huge boon to the Kim regime.

Finally, besides hard cash, North Korea faces a chronic energy shortage, with China accounting for nearly 90 percent of North Korea’s energy imports in recent years. Saudi oil and natural gas could significantly reduce North Korea’s reliance on China for its energy needs, while also helping to stimulate the North Korean economy.

All of this suggests that if Saudi Arabia purchases off-the-shelf nuclear weapons, they are more likely to come from North Korea than Pakistan.

Zachary Keck is the managing editor of The National Interest. You can find him on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.

Purchased Nukes, Testing Is Imminent—(PROBABLE HOAX)

“There doesn’t appear to be any “Superstation 95.1” operating in the New York City area (as the web site claimed): a list of radio stations in New York only recognized WAOI in the Rochester area as broadcasting on that frequency. No social media accounts were linked to any Superstation 95.1, and links from the web site to Facebook led to default plug-in pages (not active or existing accounts for any radio station).”—snopes.com

64cd5fc4f5bc6730d92d5c2a957adb10_XL

In a shocking development, Saudi Arabia has now publicly admitted they possess NUCLEAR BOMBS.  The bombs will protect the ground invasion of Syria by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. . . which puts the Russians in the unenviable position of having to use nuclear weapons to defend themselves and Syria.

Speaking in a television interview Dahham Al-‘Anzi of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was discussing why many in the Arab world feel the need for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be removed from power, and that a ground invasion was not only necessary, but is going to take place!

In the context of the pending invasion, Dahham Al-‘Anzi outlined the missiles, planes and other war-fighting equipment the Kingdom has acquired and then revealed “We have a nuclear bomb” and asked the TV Interviewer, “Why do you think we have all these weapons?” He then answered his own question “to protect Arabs and Muslims.”

Not content to have revealed this staggering information, Dahham Al-‘Anzi went further and stated “We may test it within weeks.”

 

The stunned TV Interviewer said “This is breaking news, I haven’t heard this before” to which Dahham Al-‘Anzi replied “This isn’t breaking news, the super powers have known about this for awhile.”

 

There is much more information coming in regards to this story, we are getting the info out as fast as we can given the intense need to verify and corroborate it before we report.

RUSSIAN TROOPS IN SYRIA TO BE OVER-RUN

With Saudi Arabia presently hosting military “exercises” with some 300,000 troops in the northern part of its country, and Turkey massing tanks and troops in the southern part of their country, it is becoming clear that Syria will be over-run within hours once the Saudis (and their coalition) and the Turks, strike from both the north and the south.

Russia has a policy of using tactical nuclear weapons if they are faced with being over-run.

When the ground ivasion of Syria begins — likely within days — Russia will have to make one of two choices:

  1. Strike with tactical nukes to defend themselves, OR;
  2. Be totally humiliated by being over-run by a bunch of Arab camel jockeys with filthy rags on their heads.

If Russia strikes, then it is clear that Saudi Arabia will use full-sized nuke(s) against the Russian base at Latakia and perhaps even against the country of Russia itself!  In either case, if someone nukes Russian troops, it is clear Russia will strike back.

The question is, who?

Does Russia strike Riyadh, Mecca and Medina – which would rid the world of much trouble from a religion with stone age values and barbarc rituals and practices?  Or does Russia strike both Saudi Arabia AND Turkey since both are attacking?

And if Russia uses tactical nukes INSIDE SYRIA, and Saudi Arabia launches from outside Syria, what will the US and NATO do?

Neither the US nor NATO want a nuclear war with Russia.  No sane person wants a nuclear war with anyone!

But what will the US do?  The US is in an impossible predicament:

1) If the US strikes Russia, Russia will strike back – and millions of us in both countries, die.

2) If the US fails to strike back, then no US ally will ever believe our promise to defend them!

A SET-UP

In either case, we here in the US, and our brethren in Russia, are being set up to destroy each other, by a group of Muslim fanatics.  We should not fall into a trap where Christian USA and Christian Russia do battle over Muslim madmen in the Middle East.

Perhaps a better choice would be for the US, Russia and China to meet together and agree to jointly wipe out the entire Middle East in one, huge strike of intercontinental ballistic missiles.  All three countries are sophisticated enough to achieve “Time-On-Target” arrival of our missiles, so all their cities detonate at precisely the same time.  It would actually be merciful; they wouldn’t know what hit them.

Once the radiation clears, we would go in jointly, re-establish the oil systems, and equally divide the spoils amongst ourselves.

This would wipe out a barbaric group of troublemakers who have done NOTHING but bring misery and death to the world for centuries. Remember, these people have been in that area for several thousand years yet in all that time, they never knew there was oil under them and never knew how to look for it.  It wasn’t until we in the west came and discovered the oil that they began to reap the benefits of the civilized world.

Our ingenuity and advanced societies enabled the Arabs to gain riches beyond the dreams of avarice, and allowed their people to become educated, live in homes instead of tents and drive cars instead of Camels. (Although there are still a few who choose to live in tents and drive Camels to this very day!)

But make no mistake, a tiger cannot change its stripes.  On the surface, they dress well and speak well, but beneath the surface, their true nature and the culture it has spawned, remains the same.  Greedy, shifty, corrupt, barbarians!

Want proof? How have they repaid the west for discovering the oil beneath their lands which made them rich?  They engage in price-fixing to squeeze the most money out of us as they can.  They recruit, train and equip barbarians to wage “Jihad” invade peaceful peoples and destroy sacred antiquities.  They codify in their laws, hideous practices of beheadings, stoning, mutilation.

Let’s be clear: Just because it is “law” doesn’t raise it above barbarism.  In that same light, just because they dress in expensive clothes,  are educated in the finest schools, live in homes instead of tents, drive cars instead of Camels and enjoy all our high technology inventions, doesn’t raise them from barbarism.  True nature cannot be changed.

A coordinated strike by the US, Russia and China would cleanse the world of filthy, brutal, savagery.  It would insure the peace for hundreds of years, and secure all of our energy needs for longer than that.

Perhaps this last item is the best option for the civilized world.

While this is not a choice that we here at a radio station can make, or carry out, we know what our choice would be if it were within our lawful power to do so.  Since it is not within our lawful power, we will simply wait to see what actions are undertaken by those we vest with the lawful authority to act.

 

$8billion Russian Arms Sales To Iran Expected To Hit US Roadblocks

Russian sale of warplanes to Iran in contravention of arms embargo, US says

Russia plans to sell Iran up to $8 bn worth of weapons: reports

payvand iran

Source: Islamic Republic News Agency

Moscow plans to sell Iran state-of-the-art warplanes, tanks and missile systems, Russian state media said Wednesday – a haul that could reportedly total up to $8 billion. The deal to sell an unspecified number of Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets to Tehran could be sealed by the end of the year, according to RIA Novosti. The news agency cited an unnamed Russian defense official.


Sukhoi Su-30 (photo by Sergey Krivchikov)

 

(CORRECTION) Russia denies reports on dispatching S-300 systems to Iran Feb 18 — defense ministry

Russia denies reports on dispatching S-300 systems to Iran Feb 18 — defense ministry

tass russian news

Боевые стрельбы ЗРС С-300 на полигоне. Архивное фото

Russia on Thursday to send to Iran first complex S-300

MOSCOW, February 17. /TASS/. Russia’s Defense Ministry has denied reports on the alleged dispatch of the S-300PMU-2 Favorit missile systems from Astrakhan to Iran on February 18.

Earlier, media outlets announced that the first batch of the S-300 systems would be dispatched to Iran on Thursday. The reports claimed that the Iranian defense minister was expected to be present at the ceremony held behind closed doors.

“The beginning of deliveries of the first consignment of Favorit missile systems cannot take place since the Iranian side has not paid the price enshrined in the contract as of February 16,” a high-ranking representative of the Russian Defense Ministry told TASS on Wednesday commenting on these media reports.

“Therefore, the presence of the Iranian defense minister in Astrakhan at the mythical ceremony of dispatching the first Favorit systems to Tehran is out of the question,” he added.

Russia and Iran signed a contract on the delivery of five S-300 battalions in 2007. However, in the autumn of 2010 then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev banned the supply of these systems to Tehran. The contract worth more than $800 million was annulled and the advance payment returned to the Iranian side.

Iran filed a $4 billion lawsuit in the Court of Arbitration in Geneva over breach of the contract. According to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, Moscow persuaded Tehran to withdraw the lawsuit after “long and tough negotiations.”

In the spring of 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted the ban on S-300 delivery to Tehran.

India—No patrols with US in South China Sea

India: No patrols with US in South China Sea

philstar

 (The Philippine Star)


Vessels of the Philippine Navy and the United States 7th Fleet steam in formation in South China Sea during exercise Balikatan 2010. US Navy/Mark Alvarez, file

 

DELHI – India clarified yesterday it was not launching joint patrols with the US in the South China Sea.

The clarification came in the wake of India’s expressing its displeasure at Washington’s announcement of sale of F-16 aircraft to India’s long-time regional rival Pakistan.

The clarification was also issued after the US and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) voiced concern over China’s militarization of the South China Sea.

“We have denied it. There are no joint patrols,” said Anil Wadhwa, secretary for the East of India’s Ministry of External Affairs at the start of the Delhi Dialogue VIII forum here.

The event theme is “ASEAN-India Relations: A New Paradigm.”

In a press statement issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs last Feb. 13, the Indian government expressed dismay over the US move allowing the sale of fighter planes to Pakistan.

“We are disappointed at the decision of the Obama administration to notify the sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan,” MEA said in a statement posted on its website. “We disagree with their rationale that such arms transfers help to combat terrorism. The record of the last many years in this regard speaks for itself,” it said.

“The US ambassador will be summoned by the MEA to convey our displeasure,” it added.

This developed as reports from the US-ASEAN summit quoted Southeast Asian leaders as expressing concern over China’s militarization of the South China Sea.

“In their discussions, the leaders expressed collective concern over continued militarization in the South China Sea, which they recognized as a core issue in region,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said after Monday’s US-ASEAN Summit with President Barack Obama.

Coloma sent notes of the meeting to Manila-based reporters who covered Aquino’s final attendance at the US-ASEAN special summit in Rancho Mirage in California.

Washington’s destabilizing role in South China Sea

Commentary: Washington’s destabilizing role in South China Sea

Xinhua net


Patrol vessel Haixun-21 arrives in Yongxing Island of Sansha City on the South China Sea, south China, April 22, 2015. (Xinhua file photo/Guo Qiuda)

BEIJING, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) — After failing to get its way at the first U.S.-ASEAN summit in California, Washington appears ready to grasp at anything that could be used against China.

And the media hype over China’s deployment of a surface-to-air missile system in Yongxing Island, part of the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea, just provided Washington a much-needed excuse to once again criticize Beijing for its alleged role in “militarizing” the region.

For starters, China has indisputable sovereignty over the Xisha Islands and deploying limited and necessary national defense facilities on China’s own territory has nothing to do with militarization in the South China Sea.

China has repeatedly made it clear that it has no intention to militarize the region. Its activities are mainly for maintenance purposes, improving the living conditions for the stationed personnel there and providing more public goods in the region.

With trillions of dollars’ worth of goods traversing the patch of water every year, the South China Sea is vital both to global trade and to China’s development. Beijing has no reason to disrupt one of its own crucial arteries of trade.

Meanwhile, the United States, which has become fixated on the South China Sea since Washington announced a pivot to the Asia-Pacific, has been the primary source of destabilization in the area.

It has conducted a slew of naval and air patrol trips in the vicinity of the China-owned islands, which is in clear violation of China’s sovereignty, not to mention international law.

In addition, it has also reopened military bases in the Philippines, in a move widely interpreted as stirring up tension in the region.

Furthermore, some countries in the region are taking more provocative measures to press for illegitimate territorially claims ever since the U.S. put the South China Sea on its radar.

If there were a ranking for destabilizers in the South China Sea, there’s no doubt Washington would top the list.

China’s practices in the region are defensive in nature, and it sees direct talks between rival claimants rather than military means as the best way to resolve any dispute.

For the sake of regional stability and the common good, let’s hope the United States honor its previous commitment of not taking sides on the issue or stirring up tensions. Only then can the South China Sea be home to calm waters.

 

Preparing To Watch the Saudi Monarchy Get Flushed Into the Septic Tank of History

U.S President Barack Obama reaches out to shake hands with King Salman of Saudi Arabia at the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.

Start Preparing for the Collapse of the Saudi Kingdom

defense one

Saudi Arabia is no state at all. It’s an unstable business so corrupt to resemble a criminal organization and the U.S. should get ready for the day after.

For half a century, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been the linchpin of U.S. Mideast policy. A guaranteed supply of oil has bought a guaranteed supply of security. Ignoring autocratic practices and the export of Wahhabi extremism, Washington stubbornly dubs its ally “moderate.” So tight is the trust that U.S. special operators dip into Saudi petrodollars as a counterterrorism slush fund without a second thought. In a sea of chaos, goes the refrain, the kingdom is one state that’s stable.

But is it?

In fact, Saudi Arabia is no state at all. There are two ways to describe it: as a political enterprise with a clever but ultimately unsustainable business model, or so corrupt as to resemble in its functioning a vertically and horizontally integrated criminal organization. Either way, it can’t last. It’s past time U.S. decision-makers began planning for the collapse of the Saudi kingdom.

In recent conversations with military and other government personnel, we were startled at how startled they seemed at this prospect. Here’s the analysis they should be working through.

Understood one way, the Saudi king is CEO of a family business that converts oil into payoffs that buy political loyalty. They take two forms: cash handouts or commercial concessions for the increasingly numerous scions of the royal clan, and a modicum of public goods and employment opportunities for commoners. The coercive “stick” is supplied by brutal internal security services lavishly equipped with American equipment.

The U.S. has long counted on the ruling family having bottomless coffers of cash with which to rent loyalty. Even accounting today’s low oil prices, and as Saudi officials step up arms purchases and military adventures in Yemen and elsewhere, Riyadh is hardly running out of funds.

Still, expanded oil production in the face of such low prices—until the Feb. 16 announcement of a Saudi-Russian freeze at very high January levels—may reflect an urgent need for revenue as well as other strategic imperatives. Talk of a Saudi Aramco IPO similarly suggests a need for hard currency.

A political market, moreover, functions according to demand as well as supply. What if the price of loyalty rises?

It appears that is just what’s happening. King Salman had to spend lavishly to secure the allegiance of the notables who were pledged to the late King Abdullah. Here’s what played out in two other countries when this kind of inflation hit. In South Sudan, an insatiable elite not only diverted the newly minted country’s oil money to private pockets but also kept up their outsized demands when the money ran out, sparking a descent into chaos. The Somali government enjoys generous donor support, but is priced out of a very competitive political market by a host of other buyers—with ideological, security or criminal agendas of their own.

Such comparisons may be offensive to Saudi leaders, but they are telling. If the loyalty price index keeps rising, the monarchy could face political insolvency.

The Saudi ruling elite is operating something like a sophisticated criminal enterprise.

Looked at another way, the Saudi ruling elite is operating something like a sophisticated criminal enterprise, when populations everywhere are making insistent demands for government accountability. With its political and business elites interwoven in a monopolistic network, quantities of unaccountable cash leaving the country for private investments and lavish purchases abroad, and state functions bent to serve these objectives, Saudi Arabia might be compared to such kleptocracies as Viktor Yanukovich’s Ukraine.

Increasingly, Saudi citizens are seeing themselves as just that: citizens, not subjects. In countries as diverse as Nigeria, Ukraine, Brazil, Moldova, and Malaysia, people are contesting criminalized government and impunity for public officials—sometimes violently. In more than half a dozen countries in 2015, populations took to the streets to protest corruption. In three of them, heads of state are either threatened or have had to resign. Elsewhere, the same grievances have contributed to the expansion of jihadi movements or criminal organizations posing as Robin Hoods. Russia and China’s external adventurism can at least partially be explained as an effort to re-channel their publics‘ dissatisfaction with the quality of governance.

For the moment, it is largely Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority that is voicing political demands. But the highly educated Sunni majority, with unprecedented exposure to the outside world, is unlikely to stay satisfied forever with a few favors doled out by geriatric rulers impervious to their input. And then there are the “guest workers.” Saudi officials, like those in other Gulf states, seem to think they can exploit an infinite supply of indigents grateful to work at whatever conditions. But citizens are now heavily outnumbered in their own countries by laborers who may soon begin claiming rights.

For decades, Riyadh has eased pressure by exporting its dissenters—like Osama bin Laden—fomenting extremism across the Muslim world. But that strategy can backfire: bin Laden’s critique of Saudi corruption has been taken up by others and resonates among many Arabs. And King Salman (who is 80, by the way) does not display the dexterity of his half-brother Abdullah. He’s reached for some of the familiar items in the autocrats’ toolbox: executing dissidents, embarking on foreign wars, and whipping up sectarian rivalries to discredit Saudi Shiite demands and boost nationalist fervor. Each of these has grave risks.

There are a few ways things could go, as Salman’s brittle grip on power begins cracking.

One is a factional struggle within the royal family, with the price of allegiance bid up beyond anyone’s ability to pay in cash. Another is foreign war. With Saudi Arabia and Iran already confronting each other by proxy in Yemen and Syria, escalation is too easy. U.S. decision-makers should bear that danger in mind as they keep pressing for regional solutions to regional problems. A third scenario is insurrection—either a non-violent uprising or a jihadi insurgency—a result all too predictable given episodes throughout the region in recent years.

An energetic red team should shoot holes in the automatic-pilot thinking that has guided Washington policy to date.

The U.S. keeps getting caught flat-footed when purportedly solid countries came apart. At the very least, and immediately, rigorous planning exercises should be executed, in which different scenarios and different potential U.S. actions to reduce the codependence and mitigate the risks can be tested. Most likely, and most dangerous, outcomes should be identified, and an energetic red team should shoot holes in the automatic-pilot thinking that has guided Washington policy to date.

“Hope is not a policy” is a hackneyed phrase. But choosing not to consider alternatives amounts to the same thing.

 

 

Sarah Chayes is senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law and South Asia Programs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She is the author of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. She previously was special adviser to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff … Full Bio

Alex de Waal is executive director of the World Peace Foundation and a research professor at The Fletcher School. Considered one of the foremost experts on Sudan and the Horn of Africa, his scholarship and practice has also probed humanitarian crisis and response, human rights, HIV/AIDS and … Full Bio

The Saudi Terrorist “Rehabilitation” Scam—Munasha

[SEE: THE ELEVEN—Saudi Guantanamo Veterans Returning to the Fight ; Yemen–al-Munasaha , Saudi Re-Education ; Guantanamo and The Saudi Rehabilitation Program Behind AQAP–(Intentional, or Major Fowl-UP?) ; Al-Qaeda In Arabian Peninsula Formed By Saudi Guantanamo/”Rehabilitation” Graduates ]

The Problem With Saudi Arabia’s ‘Terrorist’ Re-education

ForeignPolicyLogo

By Eric Eikenberry, David Andrew Weinberg, James Suzano

gettyimages-462345144_2-12
GETTY

The Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care is supposed to rehabilitate terrorists. It isn’t working — and it’s allegedly being used to imprison critics of the kingdom.

On Jan. 2, Saudi Arabia conducted a mass execution of 47 individuals convicted on terrorism charges. Among those executed was a prominent dissident Shiite cleric, as well as a Sunni ideologue for al Qaeda. The Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was a harsh critic of the Saudi government and a lead supporter of demonstrations that gripped the Shiite-majority district of Qatif in 2011. His execution escalated already heightened regional tensions, sparking a row between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has seen the downgrading of diplomatic relations and further volatile protests.

Lost amid this controversy was the question of how Saudi Arabia draws the line between dissent and incitement of terrorism — in short, it often doesn’t. Activists, nonviolent dissidents, and human rights defenders all run the risk of being labeled “terrorists” by Riyadh. Recently, the government even appears to have sent one internationally recognized human rights defender to a terrorist rehabilitation center designed for al Qaeda sympathizers.

On Dec. 9, 2015, progressive Saudis celebrated the release of Mohammed al-Bajadi, a highly regarded human rights activist who had been imprisoned since 2011. Bajadi co-founded the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), which documented human rights abuses while advocating for significant governing reforms, including the establishment of a constitutional monarchy, before its dissolution by court order in March 2013. Authorities imprisoned him on a number of charges, among them founding an unlicensed organization and defaming Saudi Arabia’s reputation. Amnesty International has labeled him a “prisoner of conscience.”

But other well-sourced Saudis claimed that his path to release wasn’t quite so direct. Multiple members of the Saudi reformist community, and Al-Bahrain Al-Youm, a Gulf-focused news agency, wrote that he underwent a pre-release stay in al-munasiha, or “counseling.” Saudi human rights defenders told us that Bajadi received this counseling at the Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care, the kingdom’s showcase terrorist rehabilitation center.

Established in 2006, the center is a feather in the cap for its namesake, the current crown prince and interior minister, who parlayed a campaign to root out domestic al Qaeda cells in the mid-2000s into favored access to the Obama administration. Under the guidance of the Interior Ministry, religious militants and their sympathizers at the center receive ideological counseling in the form of direct re-education from — and structured debate with — approved Islamic scholars. Additionally, the center provides prisoners with psychological care and vocational training, with the aim of eventually reintegrating the onetime extremists into Saudi society.

Saudi officials use the center as a PR tool to burnish the kingdom’s counterterrorism credentials, though the program has occasionally met with skepticism. A 2009 piece in Time described it as the “Betty Ford Center for terrorists,” and in 2015 the New York Post portrayed its appointments as “cushy.”

A more substantive critique, articulated in a 2010 Rand report, noted that the program is heavy on the “ideology” and light on the “re-education.”

A more substantive critique, articulated in a 2010 Rand report, noted that the program is heavy on the “ideology” and light on the “re-education.” The program’s counselors reportedly seek less to disabuse imprisoned militants of their hard-line views than to reinforce the primacy of the Saudi state in determining the appropriate use of violence.

These programs may also fail to keep determined extremists from re-engaging in terrorism following their release. When IS claimed credit for a suicide bombing last October at an Ismaili mosque in the southern Saudi city of Najran that killed two and injured 25, the bomber was described in mainstream accounts as a graduate of the Mohammed bin Nayef Center. In September 2014, Saudi police arrested 88 suspected al Qaeda operatives; 59 of them, according to a CBS News report, had gone through the reform regimen before their release. Several months later, 47 of the 77 individuals detained for their alleged connection to an Islamic State attack on a Saudi Shiite mosque were found to be former inmates of the center, according to a member of Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council. The figures can be read as an embarrassing admission by the government and a worrying indictment of the center’s methods and effectiveness.

Bajadi would be a curious candidate for terrorist rehabilitation, however. Before the 2013 court order shut down ACPRA, its members had advocated for principles that al Qaeda and the Islamic State’s partisans eschew, including greater elected representation and granting women the right to drive.

Saudi rights defenders we spoke to claimed that at least two other activists had also spent time at the center, which would mark a troubling trend. True, physical conditions there are reportedly more pleasant than those of typical prisons in the kingdom: They include access to a swimming pool, art therapy, and a sparsely guarded prison yard. But the alleged housing of human rights defenders at the facility seems emblematic of a broad failing in Saudi Arabia’s strategy for combating terrorism.

At the core of that failure is the kingdom’s conflation of peaceful dissent with violent extremism, a trend that has risen along with bin Nayef’s star. In 2011, as the prince assumed more power within the Interior Ministry, the Saudi government began to try human rights activists in its anti-terrorism tribunal, known as the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC). In March 2014, the Interior Ministry, under bin Nayef’s leadership, announced major new counterterrorism regulations in partnership with other ministries. These regulations equated several basic elements of free expression or rights advocacy with terrorism. They also criminalized other peaceful activities, such as participating in demonstrations, signing petitions, advocating atheism, or damaging the state’s reputation.

This catch-all approach has engendered a sustained campaign of arrests by bin Nayef’s ministry, one that is systematically decimating the nonviolent human rights community and stacking the deck against any future moderation within society. As one anonymous source informed Human Rights Watch in 2014, “Just talking to you now is considered terrorism — I could be prosecuted as a terrorist for this conversation.”

To add to the irony of all this, many of the activists dragged before the terrorism tribunal were working to end radicalization within their communities.

In July 2014, an SCC judge invoked anti-terrorism regulations to sentence human rights attorney Waleed Abu al-Khair, a vocal proponent of peaceful political change, to 15 years in prison on a range of vague charges, such as “inflaming public opinion” and “harming public order.” Abdullah al-Hamid, an imprisoned ACPRA member and associate of Bajadi, stated at the conclusion of a 2012 hearing that “the growing existence of violence and extremism cannot be dealt with and controlled without allowing the people to express their opinion in a peaceful manner.” He is currently serving an 11-year sentence. These men, at least, have not been housed in the Mohammed bin Nayef Center.

Given the terrorist rehabilitation program’s questionable record on ideological re-education, one would think the anti-radicalization messages these men espouse would be welcome.

Given the terrorist rehabilitation program’s questionable record on ideological re-education, one would think the anti-radicalization messages these men espouse would be welcome. Their imprisonment, on the other hand, should push us to examine what sorts of ideological messages Saudi Arabia promotes at home and abroad. There is still no indication, for instance, that Saudi Arabia has finally finished removing materials that the State Department calls “disparaging to religions other than Islam” from government-published school textbooks. In addition, Saudi Arabia continues to provide official state perks to clerics notorious for spouting religious intolerance.

These two dynamics collided in the case of Mikhlif al-Shammari, a human rights defender who received five years in prison from the SCC on charges of “sowing discord.” A Sunni, Shammari had campaigned to end discrimination against Shiites and was even convicted by a separate court in 2014 of “stirring up public opinion” after he prayed alongside prominent Shiites in a gesture of solidarity against sectarian hatred.

Shammari spent 45 days in a hospital in 2012 after his son Adel shot him four times. The New York Times reported that Adel had spent two years at the kingdom’s center for rehabilitating extremists but, according to his father, “was even more radical than before” when he got out. The Times noted that Adel had previously been detained and questioned by the police for five days “and soon began telling the rest of the family that their father had become an infidel.”

While Saudi rights activists are frequently banned from traveling overseas, including at the end of long prison sentences, before his re-education  the Times reported that Adel “had no trouble traveling to the Philippines and then to Iraq” when he sought to join the insurgency there. As his father told the Times: “If you’re in Al Qaeda, they reason with you, give you money, a car, a wife.”

What can Washington do about this? The local campaign that advocates for granting Saudi women the right to drive declared on Twitter in 2014 that history “will never forgive” the United States if it supports bin Nayef’s bid to become a future Saudi king; he was promoted twice last year, putting him next in line to the throne. Yet, as “America’s favorite Saudi official,” bin Nayef receives extraordinary access to the White House and other branches of the U.S. government, even as Saudi society winces under his ministry’s repressive practices and an opportunistic counterterrorism architecture that bears his name.

Local rights defenders like Bajadi certainly do not belong in a terrorist rehab center. Indeed, it is difficult to envision Saudi Arabia moving in a pluralistic, moderate direction without them. Ultimately, American counterterrorism efforts in the region run the risk of being reduced to a Sisyphean exercise of whack-a-mole until Saudi Arabia can be persuaded to empower its threatened community of moderate, nonviolent rights advocates rather than crushing them.

China Allegedly Moves ABM Batteries To Woody Island In East China Sea

WOODY ISLAND Paracels WOODY ISLAND, Paracels     16°50’03.0″N 112°20’15.0″E

[Woody Island is not in the S. China Sea, but is instead, in the E. China Sea, representing a whole new set of antagonists.  It will probably not be long before the same thing happens down south.]

Report: China deploys missiles to disputed island in South China Sea

usa_today_long

President Barack Obama has called for “tangible steps” to reduce tensions in the South China Sea, after a two day summit with Southeast Asian leaders concerned at Beijing’s military build-up. Video provided by AFP Newslook

 

China deployed missiles to a disputed island in the South China Sea, according to a statement from Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, even as President Obama called for reduced tensions in the region at the conclusion of a summit with Southeast Asian leaders.

Commercial satellite imagery picked up the deployment, Fox News reported. The network said it obtained imagery from ImageSat International (ISI) showing two batteries of surface-to-air missile launchers and a radar targeting arrays on the island.

“The Taiwanese Defense Ministry has learned of China’s deployment of surface-to-air missiles on the Woody Island in the Paracel Islands,” the statement from Taiwan said, according to CNN. Taiwan’s military “is closely monitoring further development of the situation,” the statement said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi downplayed the incident. “We believe this is an attempt by certain Western media to create news stories,” Wang said..

Speaking of the building of infrastructure including light houses and weather stations, Wang said: “All of those are actions that China, as the biggest littoral state in the South China Sea, has undertaken to provide more public goods and services to the international community and play its positive role there.”

China, Taiwan and Vietnam all claim Woody Island as their own, according to Fox.

The U.S. recently challenged China’s territorial claims in the Parcel Islands, sending the Navy missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur within 12 miles of one of the islands claimed by China. China responded by calling the move a violation of Chinese law.

The South China Sea has become hotly contested as China and other nations in the region seek to control trade routes and mineral deposits in the area. China has complicated the regional tensions further by building new “islands” in the sea by piling sand on reefs and then constructing military installations.

“We discussed the need for tangible steps in the South China Sea to lower tensions, including a halt to further reclamation, new construction and militarization of disputed areas,” Obama said in his concluding statement Tuesday after the meeting with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“I reiterated that the United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, and we will support the right of all countries to do the same.”

Contributing: The Associated Press 

Saudi Money Gathers Together 350,000 Soldiers From 20 Countries In Northern Saudi

Saudi Arabia amasses 350,000 troops in massive show of military firepower

MORE than 2,500 warplanes, 20,000 tanks and 450 helicopters have assembled as Saudi Arabia flexes its military muscles at Iran, Syria and Russiay David Trayner / Published 16th February 2016.

Saudi jets, soldiers and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
GETTY  
ACTION MAN: Saudi jets and soldiers – and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Armed forces from 20 countries have gathered for the “largest and most important” military drill in the history of the Middle East – dubbed “Northern Thunder”.

Many of the nations involved cut diplomatic ties with Iran after a mob attacked the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran and the exercises are seen as a veiled threat to the Islamic Kingdom’s Middle Eastern rival.

The mammoth 18-day manoeuvres – which involve four times as many troops as the British Army – come as .

Saudi Arabian special forces
GETTY   SAUDI SAS: Saudi Arabia is preparing to send special forces to Turkey – ready to invade Syria

“It will serve to boost fighting capabilities”

Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri

Gulf nations and other allies – such as Pakistan, Jordan, Chad and Sudan – are taking part in the drill, which will involve ground, naval and air forces.

Saudi Arabia said Northern Thunder would send the message it and its allies “stand united in confronting all challenges and preserving peace and stability in the region”.

Neither the US nor any western nation was invited to take part.

Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri said: “It will serve to boost fighting capabilities, exchange information, benefit from experiences and expertise and enhance coordination between the participating countries.”

Saudi army artillery fire shells towards Yemen from a post close to the Saudi-Yemeni border
GETTY   BOOM: Saudi artillery fire shells across the border with Yemen

Turkey’s Man In Mosul Lobbies Washington For Second Chance To Surrender the City

“The former governor of Nineveh…and the brother of Iraqi Vice President Usama al-Nujaifi…he was sacked in May, when a majority of Iraqi MPs voted to fire him for corruption and complicity in the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State.”—The Enemy You Know and the Ally You Don’t

Ex-Mosul chief opens DC bureau to represent Iraq’s Sunnis

Shia powers hope to change Iraq’s demography following elimination of Daesh, Atheel al-Nujaifi asserts

Ex-Mosul chief opens DC bureau to represent Iraq’s Sunnis

By Idris Okuducu

ERBIL, Syria

Atheel al-Nujaifi, a leading member of Iraq’s Sunni Hashd al-Watani (“People’s Mobilization”) group, has announced that his organization had opened an office in Washington D.C. to serve as the voice of Iraq’s Sunni-Muslim community.

“We want to communicate directly with all countries of the world with a view to reversing longstanding prejudices against Sunni Muslims,” al-Nujafi, who served as governor of Iraq’s northern city of Mosul (now held by the Daesh militant group) from 2009 to 2015, told Anadolu Agency.

“Our people [Iraq’s Sunni Muslims] have recently gone through a difficult period,” he said. “We want our voices to be heard by the world.”

“We want the U.S. and EU to hear about the difficult conditions we have been facing,” he added.

“The central government in Iraq is Shia-led, so our [i.e., Iraqi Sunnis’] contacts with other countries aren’t strong,” al-Nujafi said. “This is what led us to open a representative office in the U.S. capital.”

He went on to assert that the Shia-led Baghdad government was opposed to his organization’s new Washington bureau.

“Iraqi Shias don’t want Sunnis to have close ties with other countries,” he said.

Al-Nujafi went on to point out that Hadi al-Amiri, a commander of the Badr Brigade (an affiliate of the Hashd al-Shaabi organization, an umbrella of Iraqi Shia armed groups), had recently said his forces would take part in planned operations to retake Mosul from Daesh.

However, al-Nujaifi said, “the international coalition [against Daesh], along with many Sunnis, have expressed their opposition to Shia militias taking part in any future campaign to retake Mosul”, which, he added, “should not be turned into a sectarian [i.e., Sunni vs. Shia] conflict”.

Al-Nujaifi went on to allege that certain Shia powers hoped to change Iraq’s traditional demography following the elimination of Daesh.

“That’s why these Shia powers are so eager to join the conflicts in Iraq. They want to extend their control on the ground,” he said.

Noting that he remained in close contact with “prominent people” in Daesh-held Mosul, al-Nujaifi added, “People there are suffering; they need food and medicine. And they say they will support a future operation [to retake the city].”

In mid-2014, Daesh overran Mosul before declaring a self-styled “caliphate” in parts of Iraq and Syria.

Located in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province, Mosul is the country’s second largest city.

HOT HEADS Pushing Syria Towards Regional War Seem To Be Cooling Their Rhetoric

Saudi Arabia and Turkey rolling back on rhetoric to send troops into Syria

the independent

Officials say they will wait to see if a planned ceasefire transpires and for a sign-off from the US-led coalition.

 

Saudi Arabia and Turkey appeared Monday to be rolling back rhetoric on sending troops to Syria, as officials said they’d wait to see if a planned cease-fire transpires and for a sign-off from the US-led coalition.

A Saudi diplomat said Sunday that Saudi Arabia was “very serious” about sending ground troops into Syria, but will first wait to see whether plans for a pause in hostilities agreed by the United States and Russia transpires.

However, speaking in Riyadh, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir also said late Sunday that the decision whether to have a ground component on the ground is up to the US-led coalition.

“The timing is not up to us,” he said.

Turkey is also considering sending in ground troops, the Saudi diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

The Saudi force would be made up of special forces soldiers but details are still being planned, he said.

An already tangled conflict has become more complex even as world powers push for a pause in hostilities due to be implemented later this week. Russia has been bombing from the air as Syrian government forces, including Iranian and Iraqi fighters, close in on Aleppo.

An array of rebel groups backed by the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been losing ground.

The “disarray” has spurred Saudi to action, the diplomat said, adding that Riyadh wanting to both counter Islamic State militants and Iranian influence in the country.

“Time is running out,” he said. “We are waiting for the peace process to end. We believe it will fail and when it does the situation will be completely different.”

He said Saudi Arabia and Turkey are largely “on the same page” but that Ankara is also focused on countering Kurdish forces inside Syria.

“The Turkish government has made some progress in their thinking, they realized Daesh is a threat,” the diplomat said, using an Arabic acronym for Isis. “But they are also using this as a time to eliminate the Kurdish groups.”

Turkey has been shelling Kurdish forces this weekend after they seized an airbase in northern Syria, leading to appeals from US officials for a de-escalation.

Turkish Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz Monday denied that Turkish forces had entered Syria following a complaint by the Syrian government to the UN Security Council. It claimed that Turkish forces were among 100 gunmen that entered the country on Saturday.

“It’s not true,” Yilmaz said according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. “There is no thought of Turkish soldiers entering Syria.”

That statement jarred with the Saudi diplomat’s comments. He said Saudi officials discussed the possibility of sending troops with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, during a recent three-day visit to Saudi Arabia.

“Turkey isn’t against the ground troops, but they want to say ‘we gave the peace process a chance’,” he said.

He said a force would only consist of special forces, and the size of it is still being planned.

Yilmaz confirmed that a decision had been reached for Saudi Arabia to send four F-16 fighter jets to Turkey’s Incirlik air base.

“The Kingdom’s deployment of aircraft to the Incirlik air base in Turkey is part of this campaign,” foreign minister Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh Sunday, Reuters reported. “The kingdom’s readiness to provide special forces to any ground operations in Syria is linked to a decision to have a ground component to this coalition against Daesh in Syria – this US-led coalition .”

Washington Post

Russia and Saudi Strike Compromise On Oil Production, Despite Threatened Confrontation In Syria

[When this news broke this morning, the price of oil began to fall precipitously, a.k.a., to crash (SEE CHART).  One thing that we can read into this news is that Russia and Saudi Arabia would not be working together in an attempt to stabilize world oil markets if they were seriously contemplating war against each other in Syria.  Very little in our manufactured reality is actually real, especially anything coming from Western media sources.  But this says nothing about Turkish intentions in Syria, which are probably indifferent to oil price fluctuations and extremely hostile towards Russia.]

chart

Oil edges ahead on news of output freeze

dunya news DUNYA NEWS

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April advanced 50 cents to $33.89 per barrel

LONDON (AFP) – Oil crept higher Tuesday on news that Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Qatar and non-OPEC member Russia have agreed to freeze their crude production at January levels.

In late morning London deals, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April advanced 50 cents to $33.89 per barrel.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery added 35 cents to $29.79 a barrel from Monday s closing level.

Energy giants Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed Tuesday to freeze oil output at January levels during a meeting in Doha, the Qatari oil minister said.

The Saudi and Russian oil ministers, along with their Venezuelan and Qatari counterparts, “agreed to freeze the production at (the) January level provided that other major producers follow suit,” said Qatar s Energy Minister Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada, who is acting president of the OPEC oil cartel.

However, analysts said the market response was muted because some traders had hoped for a reduction in oil output to curb the vast supply glut.

“It is a conditional agreement to freeze crude production at January levels,” City Index analys Fawad Razaqzada told AFP.

“The news has actually disappointed the market slightly because some people had hoped to see a cut rather than a production freeze.

“So, in the short term, oil prices may come under some pressure. Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction and if other major producers follow suit then at the very least it should help to prevent oil prices from suffering further big falls.”

Iraqi Forces Report ISIS in Mosul Degraded and Drugged, Turns To Child Soldiers

ISIS relying on child soldiers, drugged fighters as grip on Mosul slips

foxnews

Iraqi forces making progress in effort to retake Ramadi from ISIS

 

As the battle for its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul looms, an increasingly desperate ISIS has replaced much of its depleted senior ranks with child soldiers and drugged foreign fighters ill-equipped to use what’s left of the terrorist army’s stolen armaments, according to both Kurdish and national intelligence sources.

Since ISIS captured Iraq’s second-largest city in June 2014, near daily skirmishes with Kurds and Iraqi national forces, as well as coalition air attacks, have taken a heavy toll on the battle-hardened former military officers who formed the terrorist army’s backbone. The attacks, as well as the 20-month isolation of Mosul, also have left ISIS weaponry destroyed or degraded, say experts.

“ISIS is really stupid. If they weren’t stupid they wouldn’t join ISIS.”

– Kamal Kirkuki, spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party

“In the beginning they had powerful weapons they stole from the Iraqi Army, but over time the coalition strikes have destroyed such weapons,” Jaffar Ibrahim Eminki, deputy speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, told FoxNews.com. “And ISIS is being defeated at many strategic points.”

Baghdad has said the fight to retake Mosul will happen this year, although U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee the city will not be recaptured in 2016.

“Securing or taking Mosul is an extensive operation and not something I see in the next year or so,” Stewart said, while not discounting the possibility the effort could begin much sooner.

While Kurdish and Iraqi forces prepare to attack, with U.S. forces on hand to train them, each day that passes weakens ISIS forces holed up in and around the city, said Kamal Kirkuki, spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party. The main reason, he said, is that the former Saddam Hussein Sunni loyalists — who turned to ISIS when the nation’s Shia majority took over — are dwindling.

“At the beginning, the Da’esh was all former Iraq military and Baath party leaders. They had experience, top bomb tech specialists and most were very skilled,” Kirkuki said, explaining many of those original professionals have since died in the battle. “The new ones who have contacted them online and come to join have much less experience.”

ISIS in Iraq is propping up its fighting ranks by bringing in more “reserve fighters” – many as young as 13 – but who have little or no combat experience, according to Kurdish military leaders who clash frequently with the terrorist army on the frontlines around Kirkuk.

An example of ISIS’ lack of battlefield know-how came in a recent battle in northwest Kirkuk, according to Kirkuki. Leaders from the Kurdish Peshmerga forces reported that ISIS had planted scores of IEDs between the two opposing frontlines, prompting the Peshmerga soldiers to circle around and attack from behind.

“They were waiting for us face-to-face and they didn’t think of that option, something so simple,” Kirkuki said. “ISIS is really stupid. If they weren’t stupid they wouldn’t join ISIS.”

The costly mistake was taken as evidence that no seasoned military experts were advising the ISIS forces. While ISIS remains in control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria, the U.S-led coalition airstrikes and local ground forces have killed a number of senior leaders in recent months. Although there are no official figures on the exact number of ISIS fighters killed, the Pentagon reported more than 20,000 had been taken out as of October last year – 5,000 more than just three months earlier.

Late last year, the Iraqi interior ministry announced that numerous key members had been killed, including Abu Ahmad al-Alwani, a former officer in Saddam’s Republican Guard; high-ranking commander Abu Saad al-Anbari, who was said to be running the Islamic police in Iraq’s Anbar province; key security and intelligence leader Abu Arkan al-Aemeri and Russian missile-making expert Abu Omar.

U.S. Special Operations forces last year killed prominent ISIS commander Abu Sayyaf, who was believed to have supervised the terror group’s black market oil and gas trade, and a year ago it was reported that half of ISIS’ top commanders serving on the ruling council — including former Iraqi Army lieutenant colonel Abu Muslim al-Turkmani and a key aide to ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi named Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi — had been killed.

ISIS has compensated for the loss of seasoned soldiers by drugging those it radicalizes or forces into service, said a Peshmerga official stationed near Mosul Dam, some 30 miles up the Tigris River from Mosul.

“ISIS is using special tablets, the fighters take the drug and they don’t know where they are or what they are doing. They are just shooting and fighting,” he said. “They lose their minds. Some can be shot 20 times before they go down.”

The drug is known as Captagon, a meth-like variant of the banned pharmaceutical Fenethylline, and is manufactured in large quantities primarily in Lebanon and neighboring Syria, where it is sold to ISIS via middle men.

Cali Estes, founder of The Addictions Coach, said the drug is referred to as the “Super Soldier Pill” because it can last up to 48 hours and causes users to be full of energy, impervious to pain, and “in a sense removes any barriers they would have to fighting and getting killed.”

“There is no second-guessing, they just go in and kill,” Estes continued.

ISIS’ increasing brutality to its own fighters has not gone unnoticed by onetime supporters, who believed the Sunni army could protect them from the Shia government. The two sects of Islam have been at odds since the earliest days of the faith in the 7th century.

“The Sunni people have been pushed by the Shiite Iraqi government a lot. They were looking for a window to help, so at the beginning when ISIS came in they thought it would help them against the sectarian government so they joined them,” explained the official. “There were villages of them. They thought at the beginning that ISIS was very good, but then since started to realize they were not human.”

Steven Nabil contributed to this report.

World Powers Do Not Want To Solve ME Crises

World powers are reluctant to solve ME crises: Salam

daily star LEB


French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (L) greets Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam as they meet for bilateral talks at the 52nd Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on February 13, 2016. / AFP / THOMAS KIENZLE

BEIRUT: The Middle East is living in a state of chaos as major world powers are reluctant to find radical solutions to the current crises, especially in Syria, Prime Minister Tammam Salam said Sunday.

“Major powers have and still are maneuvering … remarks we heard yesterday [from world leaders] regarding Syria assures us that we cannot be optimistic, as the situation is actually getting worse,” Salam said from Germany, wrapping up his visit at the 52nd Munich Security Conference.

He said that the influx of Syrian refugees in Europe had worsened due to world powers ignoring the problem years ago when it was contained in Syria’s neighboring countries. The Lebanese premier added that the current situation could have been prevented had more political and diplomatic efforts been exerted earlier on in Syria.

The UNHCR says that over 3 million Syrians have fled to the country’s closest neighbors, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Around 6.5 million are also said to be displaced within Syria. The U.N. agency has registered around 1.1 million refugees in Lebanon alone. However, the Lebanese government puts the actual number much higher, placing massive pressure on an already weak infrastructure.

Europe began witnessing a wave of immigrants and refugees, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, entering its territory late last year, before nations began tightening border controls. Many have ended up in Scandinavia, Germany and Eastern Europe, or have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea attempting to reach Greece and Italy by boat.

Salam touched on the repercussions that Lebanon is facing due to the large number of refugees on its soil, saying that donor countries have not always upheld their commitments made in conferences that aim to help Syria’s neighbors handle the crisis.

“I hope that commitments made in [The Supporting Syria and the Region] London conference are applied, where donations reached $11 billion,” Salam concluded, calling for the establishment of a special body to overlook implementations.

Salam said that combatting extremism and terrorism in the region should take place through support for moderation.

“The key to this issue is achieving a peaceful settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on the two-state solution,” Salam said.

The premier retuned to Beirut later Sunday.

Saudi Arabia moves troops to Turkey as ‘base for Syria invasion’

Saudi Arabia moves troops to Turkey as ‘base for Syria invasion’

times of india

Saudi Arabian soldiers during a military parade. (AP file photo)
Saudi Arabian soldiers during a military parade. (AP file photo)

Saudi Arabia is sending troops and fighter jets to Turkey’s Incirlik military base ahead of a possible ground invasion of Syria. The Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, confirmed the deployment in a statement to the Yeni Safak newspaper on Saturday, days before a temporary ceasefire is due to come into force.

“Saudi Arabia declared its determination against Daesh — the Arabic term for Islamic State (ISIS) — by saying that they were ready to send both jets and troops,” he said. “At every coalition meeting we have always emphasised the need for an extensive result-oriented strategy in the fight against the Daesh terrorist group,” he added.

“If we have such a strategy, then Turkey and Saudi Arabia may launch an operation from the land,” he said.

He confirmed that planes and military personnel were being sent to Incirlik, in Adana near the Syrian border, but said numbers had not been confirmed. Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, said Russia’s intervention would not help Assad stay in power in an interview published on Saturday. “There will be no Bashar al-Assad in the future,” he told a German newspaper.

Cooperation with Turkey could prove problematic if Saudi Arabia follows its definition of “terrorists” to include Kurdish fighters, who have been one of the most effective forces against ISIS on the ground.
Cavusoglu’s statement also raised the possibility of conflict between Turkey and Russia, which he accused of hitting the so-called Islamic State with only 12 per cent of its air strikes. “Russia’s target is supporting Assad, we all know that,” he added. “But the question is this: Who will stop Russia doing that?”

Ash Carter, the American defence secretary, said on Friday that he expected the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates to send commandos to help recapture Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold and de facto capital of Raqqa.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey are among Assad’s foreign opponents who have been supplying selected rebel groups with weapons via a Turkey-based operations centre. Some of the vetted groups, mainly part of the Free Syrian Army, have received military training overseen by the US Central Intelligence Agency.

In the wake of Saudi Arabia’s proposal to send in ground troops on Thursday, the Russian prime minister claimed the move could spark a new world war.

“A ground operation draws everyone taking part in it into a war,” he told the newspaper Handelsblatt. “The Americans and our Arab partners must consider whether or not they want a permanent war.”

Russia started its intervention in September at the request of Assad, Vladimir Putin’s long-term ally, to support the Syrian regime. The Kremlin has repeatedly claimed it is bombing “terrorists” but has been condemned by the UN and the international community for evidence it is predominantly targeting civilian areas held by anti-government rebels.

Taliban Continue To Vandalize Electrical Transmission Lines

[1st, pylons were blown, cutting power from Tajikistan to Kabul, now lines from Turkmenistan have been cut ( SEE:  Taliban Attacks Afghan Electric Power Grid—January 27, 2016).]

Insurgents snap power transmission line in Faryab

Pajhwok

 
Feb 14, 2016

MAIMANA (Pajhwok): Taliban have snapped power transmission line importing 30 megawatts of electricity from Turkmenistan in the Khwaja Sabz Posh district of northern Faryab province, officials and residents said on Sunday.

A shopkeeper in Maimana, Mohammad Rasul, told Pajhwok Afghan News all his family members did not sleep a wink last night when the mercury dipped to -15. They have only one electronic heater at home.

Khaja Sabz Posh district chief, Abdullah Masoomi, said the insurgents had fired three rockets at the power pylon in Gorzad area. After being failed to hit the pylon, they opened machinegun fire at the transmission line and cut it.

Since Saturday evening, power supply had been suspended to Daulatabad, Shirin Tagab, Khwaja Sabz Posh and Pushtunkot districts and Maimana, the provincial capital, he said.

If security of the area was ensured, a technical team would restore the power supply today, said the provincial head of Da Afghanistan Breshna Shirkat, Abdul Hamid.

Afghan National Army (ANA) personnel had been sent to the area to protect the technical team, said the spokesman for the 1st Brigade of the 209th Shaheen Military Corps, Maj. Reza Rezaee.

Damullah Noorul Haq, introducing himself as Taliban-designated district chief for Pashtunkot, said the government had banned fuel transportation to insurgent-controlled areas.

If the government did lift the ban within 24 hours, the fighters would set alight fuel tankers, target trade goods and more transmission lines in the province, he warned.

On the other hand, Faryab Governor Syed Anwar Sadat said the security personnel were responsible for the ban on transporting fuel tgo areas where it was used against the government.

myn/mud

Greek Authorities Arrest 3 British-Iraqis Driving 2 Vanloads of Guns and Ammo In Alexandroupolis

Another caravan with weapons identified in Office Gardens

faros 24 gr

Eventually Evros made weapons transport crossroads for Syria.

A few hours after the arrest of the two Iraqis in Alexandroupolis, who hid weapons in their caravan Police identified another camper with weapons to Customs Gardens and also Iraqi driver.

More specifically, after investigations caravan arrived in the area of ​​Customs, identified four arms 22aria with binoculars and hundreds of thousands of bullets, to be hidden in a special crypt.

troxospito elas

Naturally, and this event has sounded the alarm to the relevant departments and already made inquiries to see if the two incidents are connected, but also to clarify the case.

The caravan of both Iraqis and the cache of weapons

faros 24 gr

New elements are constantly coming to publicity about the case of two Iraqis arrested yesterday afternoon in the port area of ​​Alexandroupolis, carry guns and bullets in a caravan.

troxospito irak

In a special crypt port identified three 357 magnum revolvers and 15 pistols 22aria, together with 27 000 balls.

The caravan was for several days in a parking space in the area and had entered into discreet surveillance by law enforcement authorities, as a 35 year old Iraqi national England lived all this time in the city hotel.

Yesterday arrived in Alexandroupolis and the second partner also 36 years English Iraqi nationality and started to cross the border, but were arrested.

Is Erdogan Going Rogue?

FALSE TRUCE

south front analysis

21A good news was received recently that after five hours of intense negotiation on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, an agreement was reached between the major powers on a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria within the next week.

According to the agreement:

The (International Syria Support Group) members agreed that a nationwide cessation of hostilities must be urgently implemented, and should apply to any party currently engaged in military or paramilitary hostilities against any other parties other than Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra, or other groups designated as terrorist organizations by the United Nations Security Council. The ISSG members commit to exercise influence for an immediate and significant reduction in violence leading to the nationwide cessation of hostilities.

Yesterday, it was discovered that a massive shipment of ground-to-ground “Grad” missiles has been sent by the US allies, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to rebels fighting against the Syrian government.

Reuters reported: ‘It is excellent additional fire power for us,’ said one of the commanders, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter. The second rebel commander said the missiles were being used to hit army positions beyond the front line. ‘They give the factions longer reach,’ he said.

Assad’s enemies have been supplying vetted rebel groups with weapons via a Turkey-based operations center. Some of the vetted groups have received military training overseen by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Likewise yesterday was reported that the Turkish army has shelled Syrian government forces and Kurdish targets near the city of Azaz in northwestern Syria, including an air base recently retaken from Islamist rebels.

Anatolia news agency reports that the Turkish military hit Syrian government forces on Saturday, adding that the shelling had been in response to fire inflicted on a Turkish military guard post in Turkey’s southern Hatay region.

The Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions has continued for more than three hours almost uninterruptedly, a Kurdish source told RT, adding that the Turkish forces are using mortars and missiles and firing from the Turkish border not far from the city of Azaz in the Aleppo Governorate.

The Turkish Government confirmed that the Turkish military had shelled Kurdish militia targets near Azaz on Saturday. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told a press conference: “Today retaliation was taken under the rules of engagement against forces that represented a threat in Azaz and the surrounding area.”

He also demanded that Kurdish forces left the area. Turkish Armed Forces fired shells at PYD positions in the Azaz area.

Turkey-artillery-border

Earlier on Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu threatened Syrian Kurds with military action, saying that Turkey will resort to force against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) if it considers the step “necessary.”

“As I have said, the link between the YPG and the PKK is obvious. If the YPG threatens our security, then we will do what is necessary,” Davutoglu stated.

The US has urged de-escalation between the two sides.

“We have urged Syrian Kurdish and other forces affiliated with the YPG not to take advantage of a confused situation by seizing new territory,” State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement. “We have also seen reports of artillery fire from the Turkish side of the border and urged Turkey to cease such fires.”

What does it mean? Does the US State Department spokesperson urge Syrian Kurdish and Government forces not to liberate its own land from terrorists and Turkish invaders?

ARE TURKEY AND SAUDI ARABIA GETTING OUT OF US CONTROL?

DO THEY WANT TO PROVOKE THE GLOBAL WAR BY ANY MEANS?

DO THE US AND EU CLEARLY UNDERSTUND WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE MIDDLE EAST?

Turkish 2nd Army Massing On Syrian Border

Military Analysis: The Turkish 2nd Army. Invasion Force for Syria?

south front analysis

Border-Guardian-or-Invasion-Force

Amid Turkish preparations for a military intervention in Syria, main stream media and think tanks prefer to provide political speculations and local rumors instead of facts and analysis. SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence stands on another ground and provides an exclusive paper studying the Turkish military grouping which will be likely used in this operation. We also recommend that you view an exclusive video ‘Foreign Policy Diary – Turkey’s military intervention to Syria, which covers the possible results of this act of aggression.

Written by Brian Kalman exclusively for SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence. Brian Kalman is a management professional in the marine transportation industry. He was an officer in the US Navy for eleven years. He currently resides and works in the Caribbean.

Introduction

Recent public comments by the Turkish government have hinted at a possible invasion into Syrian territory to “stabilize” the situation and secure Turkey’s national security. Significant clashes between Turkish army and security forces with elements of the YPG and PKK, which have exacted a costly toll on the Kurdish civilian population have been raging in southern Turkey and northern Syria in recent months. Russian satellite surveillance and human intelligence employed by both Russian and Syria in the region have confirmed the build-up of troops and material on the border.

It is reasonable to believe that Turkey is preparing to salvage its failed policy of supporting Islamic fundamentalist mercenaries and terrorist groups in Syria by invading and establishing a safe area for these groups along its southern border with Syria, while at the same time dealing a crushing blow to the Kurdish forces that have been successful in fighting them. Turkey is not only trying to topple the Assad government in Syrian, but is also trying to liquidate the Kurdish threat both in Iraq and Syria, as well as within its own borders.

Turkey’s membership in NATO complicates its plans of invasion. Unless Turkey is itself attacked, the NATO alliance is not obligated to defend the nation. Turkey will have to engineer a provocation that frames it as the target of an aggression either by Kurdish forces from beyond its borders or by Syrian or Russian forces combating its terrorist allies in Syria. Such a false flag provocation in not outside of the realm of possibility. When a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian Su-24, claims that the bomber had strayed into Turkish airspace for a number of minutes and ignored radio warnings from the Turkish aircraft were proven to be patently false. A year earlier in 2014, an audio recording of Turkish officials, including the head of the Security Service (MIT), Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Foreign Minister and the Undersecretary to the Foreign Minister discussing staging an attack on the Tomb of Suleiman Shah (a sovereign piece of Turkish territory) in Syria and using it as a pretext to intervene in Syria were leaked anonymously on YouTube. The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan responded by banning YouTube in Turkey, in affect giving support to the recordings authenticity. Now that the Syrian government has the upper hand militarily, gaining back territory and destroying, surrounding or pushing back various Turkish-backed terrorist forces, Turkey may be ready to engineer a new excuse to invade.

Possible-Invasion-Force

It is most likely that elements of the Turkish Second Army are positioned along the southern border with Syria, and will form the nucleus of any invasion force. The 2nd Army is responsible for defending Southwestern Turkey. Its headquarters is based in Malatya, with approximately 100,000 troops under its command. The army is comprised of three corps, the 4th, 6th and 7th which are composed of the following units:

  • 3rd Tactical Infantry Division
  • 28th Mechanized Infantry Brigade
  • 58th Artillery Brigade
  • 1st Commando Brigade
  • 2nd Commando Brigade
  • 5th Armored Brigade
  • 39th Mechanized Infantry Brigade
  • 106th Artillery Regiment
  • 34th Border Brigade
  • 16th Mechanized Brigade (Diyarbakır)
  • 20th Armored Brigade
  • 70th Mechanized Infantry Brigade
  • 172nd Armored Brigade
  • 2nd Motorized Infantry Brigade
  • 6th Motorized Infantry Brigade
  • 3rd Commando Brigade
  • 107th Artillery Regiment

It is not known how many elements of the 2nd Army have been committed to the build-up of forces on the border, nor how many elements of other Armies of the Turkish Armed Forces have been temporarily attached to this possible invasion force. Additional commando or mechanized units could be pooled from other military districts and added to the core of mechanized infantry, armor and artillery forces of the 2nd Army. It is surmised that most of the 2nd Army has been committed to a possible invasion or a limited offensive operation against the forces of the YPG all along the border. The map below shows the position of these units:

map

Military-Equipment

Photographic evidence shows that the mechanized and armored forces being used in the internal operations against the Kurds within Turkey and Syria and also the incursion into northern Iraq, are composed of relatively modern tanks and infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). Reports have recently been made public that over 1,000 pieces of military equipment, likely consisting of MBTs, IFVs, self-propelled and towed artillery and their prime movers, as well as trucks and light vehicles have been massing in staging areas just north of the border. Turkish military spokesmen have stressed that they have positioned approximately 30 percent of the Turkish land forces along the border with Syria.

The troops belonging to these units are highly trained and motivated. They have been engaged in fighting in the border regions for many years and know the territory well. They have also been engaged in fighting the irregular forces of the PKK in urban areas for decades. The forces assembled are equipped with modern, effective combat arms and equipment that has been proven in battle.

From video and photographic evidence, Turkey has deployed at least the following types of equipment:

MBTs:

  • M-60T (Turkish version of the Israeli Sabra Mk.II).Turkey has 170 M-60-Ts in service. This modernized and up-gunner version of the M-60, is an Israeli design. It boasts better armor protection than the M-60A3, as well as a more powerful 120mm main gun and better fire-control and imaging systems.
A modernized M-60T (Sabra Mk. II) on maneuvers.

A modernized M-60T (Sabra Mk. II) on maneuvers.

  • M-60 ATT and A3. Turkey has 762 of these U.S. designed tanks in service. This is a sound tank design, but is not on par with later generation MBTs. Armored units, possibly of the 5th, 20th or 172nd Armored Brigades utilizing large numbers of these tanks have been seen deploying to the southern border in the previous weeks. They were used during incursions into Syria and Iraq in earlier operations to combat Kurdish forces in both nations.
M-60 ATT/A3s deployed in northern Iraq in 2015, most likely of the 172nd Armored Brigade.

M-60 ATT/A3s deployed in northern Iraq in 2015, most likely of the 172nd Armored Brigade.

  • Leopard 2A4. Turkey has 354 of these highly capable German manufactured tanks. It does not appear that these MBTs are in use by any of the armored units currently deployed in operations against the Kurds in the south of the country, nor incursions into Syria or Iraq. It is most likely that these more capable MBTs are with units tasked with guarding Turkey’s border with Russia and the Caucasus, where they would have to fight against a much more capable adversary, utilizing more modern and capable MBTS and Anti-Tank (AT) weapons.

IFVs:

  • FNSS ACV-15. Based on the Turkish Army’s experience with the U.S. M113, the ACV-15 is an indigenous design that has many variants including APCs, Mortar Carriers, Ambulances, and ARVs. The IFV is equipped with a 25mm cannon.
A recent photograph of a mechanized unit equipped with ACV-15s assembled in the Turkish town of Suruc, approximately 100 miles north of the Syrian city and stronghold of ISIS, Raqqa.

A recent photograph of a mechanized unit equipped with ACV-15s assembled in the Turkish town of Suruc, approximately 100 miles north of the Syrian city and stronghold of ISIS, Raqqa.

MRAPs:

  • Kirpi (Hedgehog). Turkey acquired MRAPs after the U.S. invasion of Iraq exhibited the weakness of most light vehicles when confronted with IEDs and urban ambush. Turkey has between 200 and 600 MRAPs of this indigenous design.
Turkish Army Kirpi MRAP on duty somewhere in southern Turkey.

Turkish Army Kirpi MRAP on duty somewhere in southern Turkey.

  • Approximately 1200 of these small MRAPs exist in the Turkish Land Forces inventory. These are small utility vehicles much like the Russian Tiger or U.S. HUMMV; however they have increased survivability against mines and IEDs, as they were purpose built to deal with these threats. They are widely used by all Turkish land forces, including border and internal security forces.
Cobras being utilized by a Turkish Army Border Brigade in southern Turkey.

Cobras being utilized by a Turkish Army Border Brigade in southern Turkey.

Self- Propelled Artillery:

  • T-155 Firtina self-propelled howitzer. The T-155 was the product of a joint venture with South Korea to develop a more modern self-propelled howitzer. The South Korean variant is known as the K9. The Turkish Firtina makes use of the chassis and 155mm/L52 gun of the South Korean K-9, but uses an indigenous turret design, and navigation, communications and fire-control systems. There are at least 280 units in service with the Turkish Army.
T-155 self-propelled howitzers on the firing line. 

T-155 self-propelled howitzers on the firing line.

  • M-52T self-propelled howitzer. A major modernization program was conducted in the 1990s to modernize a weapons system that was developed in the 1950s by the United States. The vehicle was up-gunned from a 105mm howitzer to a German produced 155mm L39 gun. Turret design was modernized and electronics systems were brought up to modern standards including communications and fire-control. There are at least 360 units in service.
M-52Ts being moved into forward positions via prime movers in recent weeks. This is faster, more efficient and aids in overall maintenance when moving military hardware over long distances.

M-52Ts being moved into forward positions via prime movers in recent weeks. This is faster, more efficient and aids in overall maintenance when moving military hardware over long distances.

Air-Defense Artillery:

  • Atilgan and Zipkin short range AA missile system. These pedestal mounted air defense systems (PMAD) have been mounted on various vehicles, including the ubiquitous ACV-15 and M-113. They can fire Igla or Stinger short range anti-aircraft missiles. They are deployed with mechanized and armored units to give them their own short range defense against both low flying fixed wing and rotary wing attack aircraft.
This Atilgan unit appears to be based on an M-113 chassis. It is forward deployed with a tank platoon equipped with M-60 ATT/A3s. This picture was taken in 2015 in northern Iraq.

This Atilgan unit appears to be based on an M-113 chassis. It is forward deployed with a tank platoon equipped with M-60 ATT/A3s. This picture was taken in 2015 in northern Iraq.

Possible-Strategic-Aims-of-a-Turkish-Invasion

The most obvious strategic aim of a Turkish invasion into Syrian territory would be to secure a sizable “safe zone” for Turkish-backed insurgents and terrorist forces in northern Syria. Not only would this salvage the Turkish proxies for future use, possibly in guerilla style attacks and acts of terrorism against Syria, but would more importantly drive a wedge between the Kurdish YPG forces in Northwestern Syria (north of Idlib Province) and those located in the Northeastern Syria (east of Jarabulus).

Zone of the expected Turkish military invasion

Zone of the expected Turkish military invasion

The Turkish government is determined to make sure that the YPG does not gain control of the Kurdish dominated regions in an unbroken area all along the border. The YPG has recently been successful in attacks against Turkish-backed terrorists in small offensives in this “wedge” between YPG areas of control. These offensives have been backed by Russian air operations and with airdrops of weapons and ammunition in recent weeks. It is most likely the prospect of greater territorial gains by the Kurds that the Turkish Army will be deployed to prevent. How the Turkish military command plans to carry out such an operation successfully, and how the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Russia will respond will determine the course of the conflict and undoubtedly the odds of a wider war.

Possible-Tactical-Employment-of-Forces

An initial observation of the forward deployment of Turkish Army units along the border with Syria gives hints as to their tactical employment in a possible invasion. Two armored brigades and two mechanized brigades are positioned just north of the border, adjacent to the area that is currently controlled by various terrorist groups and militias under the umbrella of support of the Turkish regime, and that lies in between the YPG dominated areas. Their axis of advance would cover, approximately the area between Azaz and Jarabulus, and would probably not extend beyond the depth of 20 to 25 miles (30 to 40 km).

Two armored and two mechanized brigades, representing approximately 15,000 to 20,000 men would be able to mount a fast assault. These units are highly mobile, flexible, and self-sufficient and pack a great deal of offensive power. They would most likely be aided by elements of at least one commando brigade. They could cover the 20-25 mile distance quickly and consolidate the area rapidly, and would be maintaining short lines of communication and supply. Fixed wing and rotary wing attack aircraft would be assigned to provide air cover to the ground operation. The initial assault would most certainly be followed up by the advance of infantry and border patrol units to establish and provide internal security for the long haul.

Aleppo_final

Click to see the full-size map

The unknown variable for the Turkish military planners is the reaction of the Russian forces deployed within Syria, at the request of the only legitimate government of that country. Will the Russian air forces deployed in Syria react to thwart the incursion of a hostile force that aims to directly undermine the sovereignty of Syria? Will Russian air defense forces based at Khmeimim airbase or naval vessels positioned offshore fire upon Turkish aircraft that violate the sovereign airspace of Syria engaged in providing air cover for Turkish ground forces, and that could possibly threaten the Russian position in Latakia? There are a number of unknown variables that present immense uncertainties in the Turkish strategic calculus when planning such an undertaking.

The recent Russian snap drills by forces in the Southern Military District, which included the participation of airborne and air transport units, was a clear message to Turkey that Russia was prepared to defend her borders and her national interests in Syria. This is only the latest in a series of clear messages by the Russian leadership that it will not tolerate a Turkish sabotage of its campaign in Syria to restore order and to stabilize the situation in the country. The question remains, does the Erdogan regime believe that the potential benefits of setting up a de-facto safe haven for its proxies in Syria outweigh the potential of direct military conflict with Russia?

Conclusions

The determination of the Erdogan regime to undermine the sovereignty of Syria by supporting, both logistically, materially and monetarily various factions of Islamic fundamentalist mercenaries and terrorist groups, has only harmed the security of Turkey and strengthened the position of their long time enemy the Kurds. The past five years have enriched the bank accounts of the Erdogan family and their cronies through the illegal oil trade, human trafficking of refuges, and the smuggling of arms; however, the Turkish people have suffered from a bloody crack-down on the Kurdish minority in the south of the country, terrorist bombings, an assault on civil rights, press censorship and the erosion of Turkish-Russian relations to a level not seen since the darkest days of the Cold War.

This policy of intervention in the affairs of both Syria and Iraq, the support of a multitude of Islamic terrorist groups, and the undermining of neighboring countries to the benefit of a ruling elite in Turkey has been disastrous. It may turn out in the end that Turkey itself has been the most negatively affected by Erdogan’s misguided policies. NATO and Europe as a whole have been undermined, and it remains to be seen how much longer even they will tolerate the situation. Is NATO ready to be dragged into a war with Russia as a result of Turkey’s aggressive and misguided foreign policy? A pretext for invasion that casts Turkey as the victim will have to be engineered by the Erdogan regime prior to any incursion south in order to maintain NATO support.

By bringing to light, in embarrassing detail, the Erdogan regime’s illegal activities in direct support of internationally recognized terrorist groups and the illegal plunder of the oil resources of Syria and Iraq and the establishment and operation of the logistics network that facilitates the sale of the oil at great profit to the Erdogan family itself, Russia has laid the truth bear to the world. In so doing, they have also allowed Erdogan a way to back off the stage, so to speak, and abandon his misguided aspirations in Syria. Continued support by NATO and the United States in light of the ugly realities of Turkey’s actions in the conflict, will only undermine both parties’ legitimacy in the eyes of the international community.

Turkey most definitely has the military power in place to successfully carry out a limited invasion to establish a terrorist safe zone and to prohibit the consolidation of the entire northern border under the control of the Kurds; however the costs if this invasion is contested by Russia and Syria nullify any potential benefits. In short, further efforts to salvage a disastrous foreign policy on the part of the Erdogan regime through force of arms will only hasten their political isolation and destruction. The Turkish people deserve better, and as political opposition continues to grow in the government and on the street, a disastrous invasion just may push the current regime out of power. This would be a positive development; however, the very real possibility of a Turkish incursion developing into a wider war would prove disastrous to the entire world.

European Powers Must Help Repatriate Syrian Refugees—President Bashar Assad

Syria’s Assad: Europe Must Help Refugees Return

telesur

President Bashar Assad has long accused international powers of backing insurgent groups and seeking to destabilize the country.
President Bashar Assad has long accused international powers of backing insurgent groups and seeking to destabilize the country. | Photo: Reuters

Syria’s president says the West is responsible for the massive movement of refugees.

Syrian President Bashar Assad urged Europe Friday to play a role in helping refugees return to his country when fighting ends.

Assad called on European nations “which have been a direct cause for the emigration of these people, by giving cover to terrorists in the beginning and through sanctions imposed on Syria, to help Syrians return to their country.”

The Syrian government has long accused international powers of backing insurgent groups and seeking to destabilize the country.

“I would like to ask every person who left Syria to come back,” Assad told AFP.

However, he noted, “They would ask ‘why should I come back? Has terrorism stopped?'”

During the same interview, Assad vowed to continue the fight against terrorism, while engaging in United Nations brokered negotiations.

“If we negotiate, it does not mean that we stop fighting terrorism. The two tracks are inevitable in Syria,” he said.

Peace talks are on hold until February 25, though earlier Friday a group of 17 nations agreed to continue to back negotiations. In a statement, the International Syria Support Group said fighting in Syria could end within a week if Assad and major insurgent organizations backed their peace plan.

Speaking to AFP, Assad said he has “fully believed in negotiations and in political action since the beginning of the crisis.”

Syria’s civil war has left more than 250,000 people dead since the conflict broke out in 2011. Over 11 million Syrians have been displaced by fighting.

Pentagon Commandos Into Syria?—Arab Special Forces Coming In the Back Door To WWIII

[THE ARAB GULF STATES PLANNING A JOINT ARMY OF 100,000 MENHas “Islamic NATO” Already Materialized Right Before Our Eyes?]

S Arabia providing commandos for Syria: US

Carter Says UAE Will Put Special Forces in Syria

abcnews_logo_v2

secdef carterThe Associated Press
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, second right, shakes hands with British Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon during a Counter-ISIL Coalition Ministerial meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter expects Thursday’s three-hour gathering of defense ministers from more than two dozen countries to endorse a new U.S. plan for prosecuting the war. The ministers were expected to issue a joint statement at the conclusion of their meeting at NATO headquarters. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

 

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says a key Persian Gulf ally has agreed to send special forces soldiers to Syria to assist in the development of local Sunni Arab fighters focused on recapturing Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s capital.

Carter made the comment after meeting Friday at his Brussels hotel with his counterpart from the United Arab Emirates.

Carter declined to say how many Emirati special forces would go to Syria. He said they would be part of an effort led by the United States and bolstered by Saudi special forces to train and enable local Arab fighters who are motivated to recapture Raqqa.

The U.S. war plan for fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is designed to unseat the extremists in Raqqa and Mosul, which is the group’s main stronghold in northern Iraq.

Carter also told reporters that however the proposed suspension of Syrian civil war hostilities is implemented, as announced in Munich, the U.S. will continue combating IS in Syria.

“There is no cease-fire in the war against ISIL,” Carter said. “Let’s be clear about that.”

Diplomats meeting in Munich, Germany fell short early Friday in organizing a truce in the Syrian civil war but agreed to try to work out details and implement a temporary “cessation of hostilities” in a week’s time. The foreign ministers from the International Syria Support Group managed to seal an agreement to “accelerate and expand” deliveries of humanitarian aid to besieged Syrian communities beginning this week.

Carter said the US military will not participate in those aid deliveries.

U.S. and Russia are to lead a working group meeting Friday to work out aid delivery details.

Five years of conflict have killed more than a quarter-million people, created Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II and allowed the Islamic State to carve out its own territory across parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

Overall, the United Nations says almost half a million people are besieged in Syria. Since the beginning of 2015, Syria’s government had approved just 13 inter-agency aid convoys, out of 113 requested, the U.N. reported last month.

 

India Claims To Be Leaving Syria’s Al-Furat Field Once Again (ISIS’s Deir ez-Zor Asset)

SYRIAN GAS AND OIL MAP

ONGC exits Syria due to ISIS threat

“ONGC chairman Dinesh K. Sarraf says he cannot risk the lives of his colleagues.”

India abandons Syrian oil fields

27th Apr 2013

Since the Syrian President has lost control over the country, the oil blocks in question have been taken by the rebels.

“ONGC Videsh (OVL) consortium (under the ONGC Nile Ganga BV (ONGBV) banner), which includes FulinInvestments Sarl, a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Company International (CNPCI) and Syria’s Al FuratPetroleum Co. has pulled out of the war torn northern part of Syria for the sake of the safety of its personnel and equipment. The consortium exercised its force majeure right in consultation with the government of Syria and moved its corporate offices to Dubai.”