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American Resistance To Empire

Saudi/Israeli Moves Reveal Old Plan to Re-plant the US Hitman Dahlan Over Gaza

Report: Saudi Arabia paid Egypt $25bn for Red Sea islands

How Israel gains from Egypt-Saudi Red Sea islands deal–AlJazeera

The Gaza Bombshell Feb 10, 2009

Older Article Reveals Plan to Re-plant the US Hitman Dahlan and Abbas in Gaza, Riding In On Israeli Tanks

 

The Dahlan Plan: Without Hamas and

Without Abbas

True, the plan leaves Hamas in control of security and doesn’t demilitarize it, but in Mohammed Dahlan, Israel would have a partner in Gaza who supports reconciliation

Zvi Bar’el


PA President Mahmoud Abbas, left, with then-Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, during better times in 2006, in Ramallah. Kevin Frayer/AP

While Israel counts the meager hours of electricity allocated each day to Gaza’s 2 million people, a complex arrangement is being cooked up between the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Gaza and Jerusalem. The purpose is to make Mohammed Dahlan, a political rival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, government chief in Gaza, lift most of the closure imposed on the Strip by Egypt and Israel, build a new power station in Egyptian Rafah funded by the UAE, and later build a port.

If this political experiment succeeds, Abbas will be pushed into a dark corner and Dahlan will act to take his place, either by elections or de facto recognition of his leadership. Egypt is already sending diesel fuel to Gaza at market prices, but without the taxes imposed by the Palestinian Authority. The UAE has earmarked $150 million to build a power station, and Egypt will soon gradually open the Rafah crossing to people and goods.

It’s still too early to assess whether this plan will be fully implemented, and if Hamas will agree to place Dahlan at the head of the Gaza government, a step that could all but sever Gaza from the West Bank, especially given the long feud between Abbas and Dahlan. On the other hand, if the plan does come to fruition, it could make an Israeli-Egyptian dream come true.

For Egypt, the plan holds the promise of an end to Hamas’ cooperation with terror groups in Sinai, and it would give Egypt a way out of the closure it has imposed on Gaza and the possibility of opening the Gaza market to Egyptian goods. For Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, the plan’s key is the appointment of Dahlan, who is close to Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, as head of the “state of Gaza.”

If the appointment is made, it will ensure a split between Gaza and the West Bank that will make it very difficult to negotiate over the future of the territories. But contrary to the situation now, Israel will have a legitimate partner in Gaza. The lifting of the closure, which would no longer mean much after Egypt opened the Rafah crossing, would give Israel another diplomatic dividend that could reduce international pressure, especially by the United States and even if only partially, for Israel to move ahead on negotiations.

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Thus, with all due caution, we can say that if the plan is implemented, it will ensure a fine profit for all sides, except for Abbas and Palestinian aspirations to establish a state. True, the plan leaves Hamas in control of security and doesn’t demilitarize it, but Israel would have a partner in Gaza who supports reconciliation with Israel. Qatari and Turkish involvement would be neutralized in the Strip, while Egypt and the UAE, Israel’s new friend, would shore up the agreement if breached.

Anyone who supports “the economy first” as a way around a diplomatic solution, like Netanyahu, Lieberman and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, should embrace this agreement. But so far, not a peep has been heard from Israel. The government, which has already learned from the electricity crisis that it can’t evade responsibility for the Strip, is held captive by the failed concept that what’s good for Hamas is bad for Israel, and what helps Gazans strengthens Hamas. Israel would rather prepare for the next violent clash in the summer, just as long as it doesn’t have to initiate anything or be seen as letting Hamas rule, even though Israel long ago recognized Hamas’ control in Gaza as an advantage.

According to the plan, Israel wouldn’t even have to recognize the new government that would be established in Gaza, and so it wouldn’t have to appear concerned over Abbas’ standing. After exactly 10 years, a fifth of the entire period of the occupation, Gaza has been under closure. Now there might be a chance to change the concept and try a new strategy in which Gazans will be the most important thing, not the status of the Hamas leadership or Israel’s prestige.

Zvi Bar’el

Haaretz Correspondent
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.798157?=&ts=_1498823646314

Qatar and the Goliaths of the Gulf

Qatar and the Goliaths of the Gulf

By Owei Lakemfa

THE Goliaths of the Gulf including power house, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates gave tiny Qatar thirteen demands which they know the latter cannot comply with.  Some of them, such as demanding Qatar pays compensation for “its policies” are so outlandish and open-ended that even those making them cannot specify what they want or mean. It is as unreasonable as that. The choice they offer the tiny peninsular is not compliance with their ‘demands’ but the type of lethal poison Qatar wants administered on it. To boot, it has until this weekend to comply.

To me, the  most outrageous demand is that Aljazeera, the  television network and its affiliate stations across the Middle East be shut down. It is an affront on the media worldwide and  a  bestial attack on the fundamental freedom of speech. The mass media, is mass culture, it is one of the primary ways Europe and America, control the world. The fear of the Goliaths is  not Qatar, but the ideas  Aljazeera has helped to spread. The Gulf states and their principals are uncomfortable with Aljazeera, the first Third World media that professionally, financially  and competently, competes, and challenges the media hegemony of the West. With millions of viewers  across the world, Aljazeera joined the ranks of the BBC, VOA, Sky News and  CNN in setting the agenda for humanity.  Generally, the mass media is so powerful that in many cases, it can control minds and condition how people think or react.  While the gun  can control a person  temporarily, the media can  persuade and convince a person permanently. The English trite that the pen is mightier than the sword, holds true even with the development of nuclear weapons. This is a major reason why big, powerful countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and their masters, are afraid of tiny Qatar.

To enslave a person, you need to enslave his mind, strip him of his past and convince him that he has no history and that he owes his present and future to you.  That was what colonialism did to the colonised peoples. To achieve this, the colonisers depended a lot on the written and spoken word. It is that monopoly, a media like Aljazeera is challenging. To understand how the West manipulates humanity through the media, listen to its language. For instance, when rebels fight a government, the insurgents are called rebels while  the  government side are called ‘government troops’. But in Syria, the Western media calls the rebels ‘Free Syria Army’ or troops,  while the government troops are referred to as “regime troops’ or ‘Assad forces’. If foreigners are jailed for crimes in the West and America,  they are referred to as ‘prisoners’ But if foreigners are jailed for crimes in North Korea, they are called ‘hostages’.

Generally, the Gulf Goliaths naked attempt to muzzle the press has gone unchallenged. Those who claim they are champions of free speech and press freedom have mainly kept quiet. In fact, some of them characterise this brutal attack on press freedom as  a ‘family affair’.

There are a dozen other demands. The second  demand is that Qatar cuts ties with Iran by shutting down its diplomatic missions in Doha, expels its military attache and reduces trade ties with Teheran. This is a direct challenge to Qatar’s sovereign rights and  an attempt to sharpen, rather than bridge the sectarian divide between the Sunni and Shiite in the Muslim world.

The third is that Qatar shuts down the Turkish military base that is under construction. Here, the first point is that the Turkish troops in Qatar are a few hundred with a projected increase to  1,000.  This is in  comparison with the 11,000 American troops stationed in the country at the Al Udeid Airbase. The Base itself was constructed by Qatar in the 1990s at the cost of $1 Billion and in every ten minutes, an aircraft takes off or lands at the Base. This is a reflection of how busy this base is; it is the largest American Base in the Middle East. The Gulf giants are not interested in such a huge American military presence, but are worried that a handful of troops from a fellow Muslim country is based in Qatar.  The demand is both a challenge to that country’s sovereignty, and an invitation that Qatar stripes itself of any reliable military defence in case of aggression. If this were to happen, then it can be raped at will by neigbours and brothers who are already starving Qataris.  Part of the plan might also be to cause disaffection in the country, trigger an ‘Arab Spring’ and destroy Qatar as was done to Libya and Syria, and is being done to Yemen.

The  fourth and fifth demands are   that Qatar cuts  all ties with “terrorist” organisations and stops funding them .  Listed  are ISIL and the Al Nusra Front,  organisations which the Gulf giants making the demands initially funded and supported in Syria as ‘freedom fighters’   They did not provide evidence that after their  change of mind on both terrorist organisations, Qatar continues to fu

nd them. They also provide no evidence of Qatari support for al-Qaeda. The organisations Qatar was ordered to cut  links with include the  Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s former ruling party led by President Mohammed Morsi, overthrown on July 3, 2013 by ruling dictator, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The demand that Qatar distances itself from the Brotherhood seems a concession the big boys  are making to the stone age dictator in Cairo. Also, the demand that Qatar abandons Lebanon’s Hezbollah, is a  gift to Israel.   Hezbollah, the ‘Party of God’ led by Hassan Nasrallah is the most effective fighting force in Lebanon which in 2000, forced Israel out of Lebanon.

The  sixth and seventh  demands are  that  Qatar hands over ‘terrorists’ and fugitives  taking shelter in the country, and revokes their citizenship where they have been given. Primarily, the Gulf giants want Qatar to hand over political refugees like those of the Muslim Brotherhood to their home countries where they face imprisonment or death.

Meanwhile, the Trump Presidency  is playing both sides; encouraging the Goliaths to suffocate Qatar, while simultaneously, selling sophisticated arms to the latter. The United States is the friend of the mouse and ally of the rat; it divines invisibility for the cockroach, and to the hen, the  power of detecting the  invisible. This to the world’s most powerful country, is ‘The Art of the Deal’. It is business without conscience, politics without principles and relationship without morals.

China Donates Thousands of Sniper Rifles and Automatic Weapons to Philippines

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the Philippine Army Scout Rangers at their headquarters at Camp Tecson in San Miguel township, north of Manila, Philippines Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016
© AP Photo/ Bullit Marquez

The Fight for Marawi: China Donates

Thousands of Weapons to Philippines

 

 

 

China has supplied a batch of weapons to the Philippines to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s crusade against Islamist terror groups in Marawi, after Duterte proclaimed that he would seek assistance from sources other than the United States.

 

A shipment of assault and sniper rifles was delivered to the Philippines from China on Wednesday as a gesture of assistance in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf and Maute terrorist groups that took control of the Philippines city of Marawi last month. Both groups have pledged allegiance to Daesh.

The donation, reportedly worth $7.35 million, “highlights the new era in Philippine-Chinese relations,” according to Duterte, who earlier pledged to turn to China and Russia for assistance instead of the United States.

“We are almost on bended knees sometimes because of lack of equipment. It is a good thing we have a good friend like China who is very understanding,” Duterte said during a ceremony in which he recieved the shipment.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, who formally handed over the weapons, said a “second batch” of weapons is going to be delivered soon.

“The donation is not big but it is big in the sense that it marks a new era in relations between our two militaries,” the ambassador said.

The following day, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China is going to continue to provide the Philippines with “necessary assistance,” during a visit by his counterpart, Alan Peter Cayetano.

“Yesterday the first batch of emergency assistance was delivered to the Philippines,” the ambassador said. “In the future, in keeping with the Philippines’ needs, we will continue to provide necessary assistance and help,” he added.

The ambassador also pledged to provide support for reconstruction efforts in Marawi.

Nearly 400 people have been killed, including 290 militants and 70 troops, after a large group of Daesh-linked militants took over Marawi, a city on the southern island of Mindanao. Most of Marawi’s 200,000 residents have fled and much of the city is in ruins, officials say.

The whole island is currently under martial law, which Duterte says he won’t lift until the island is safe.

After Mosul–The coming break-up of Iraq and end of the Middle East

[The following is a long but very insightful article, which goes a long way towards explaining the “go for broke” attitude of all of the power players in Syria, especially the Saudis.]

Nafeez Ahmed's picture

The battle against IS is a war no one will win. Here’s the real battle we should be worrying about – and fighting

All eyes are on the battle for Mosul. Will the coalition defeat the Islamic State (IS) or not? In the end, it won’t matter. If we have learned anything from the last 14 years of fighting the “war on terror” in Iraq, it is that today’s hard-won victories can very quickly metamorphose into tomorrow’s epic disasters.

Whether you’re pro or anti-war, the facts speak for themselves: the toppling of Saddam Hussein created a vacuum that was filled by al-Qaeda extremists, who previously had no presence in Iraq, and who rapidly transformed and expanded into the apocalyptic force known as the Islamic State.

As states become weaker, unable to cope with environmental, energy and economic challenges, the vacuum is being filled by extremists

But the very nature of the battle for Mosul is one sign among many revealing that the Middle East as we know it no longer exists, and will never return. The region is deep in the throes of an irreversible geopolitical transition to a new, unstable disorder.

Before 9/11, several neo-conservative strategists saw their role as marshalling US imperial power to accelerate the break-up of the Middle East. In reality, the Middle East that we know is breaking up under the pressure of deeper, slow-working biophysical processes: environmental, energetic, economic. These processes are unravelling the power of regional states from behind the scenes.

As states become weaker, unable to cope with their fundamental environmental, energy and economic challenges, the vacuum is being filled by extremists. But intensifying the fight against extremists doesn’t deal with those deeper issues. Instead, it is producing more extremists.

The war in Mosul will be no exception.

From Fallujah to Mosul

“It’s Fallujah on a grander scale,” said Ross Caputi, a former US marine who participated in the second siege of Fallujah in November 2004.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of horror stories about civilian casualties coming out of Mosul. An aid worker friend of mine was trying to recruit volunteer doctors to work in a surgical unit in Erbil, where many of the more serious cases were being redirected. She told me the situation is worse than it’s being portrayed in the media.”

Caputi’s concerns are corroborated by the findings of AirWars, whose February casualty report says that the US-led coalition is now killing more civilians in air strikes than Russia. In the first week of March, the group found that between 250 and 370 civilians were killed by US-led coalition forces storming western Mosul, exponentially higher than the US count of just 21 civilian deaths from bombing since November 2016.

Although the Russians have killed more overall, Airwars noted that Iraqi government operations to recapture east Mosul from IS “came at significant cost to non-combatants trapped in the city. During January, claimed civilian deaths from Coalition actions more than doubled compared to December”.

The war on Mosul is the culmination of a longer sectarian war that preceded the emergence of IS. The US-backed Iraqi government has, since inception, marginalised the Sunni minority. As the Sunni insurgency against the occupation escalated, US and Iraqi authorities together painted it as little more than an extremist uprising by fanatics. In reality, it was the occupation itself that radicalised the insurgency and pulled al-Qaeda into its vortex.

Caputi saw first-hand as a soldier in Fallujah that the insurgency in 2004 was not, at that time, dominated by al-Qaeda. Instead, according to him, on the pretext of targeting al-Qaeda insurgents, the US military was for the most part targeting and killing Iraqi civilians.

An explosion is seen as US marines of the 3/5 Lima company carry out operations in Fallujah in November 2004 (AFP)

He describes one astonishing example: when doctors at the main hospital in the city announced that US bombing had led to significant civilian casualties, the US military officially saw them as a “terrorist-supportive staff” and the hospital itself as “little more than a nest of insurgent propagandists” – because “they had used the facility to issue claims of non-existent civilian casualties”.

Eventually, US troops moved to take control of the hospital on the eve of the main US assault on Fallujah. This, Caputi recalls, was considered an “information operations” success for the US.

The US military’s destruction of Fallujah was accompanied by the role of the central Shia Iraqi government in painting the predominantly Sunni town as a hotbed of extremism.

The war on Fallujah never came to an end. Armed by the US, Iraqi forces have intermittently attacked and bombed Fallujah almost daily since 2012. These operations stepped up after the city had been captured by IS in January 2014.

In this period, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad allowed al-Qaeda operatives to move freely across the border, to augment the Iraqi insurgency against American forces. This policy, which continued through to 2012, contributed to the destabilisation of Iraq.

But al-Qaeda would not have been able to intensify this foothold in Iraq if not for the deeply sectarian violence of the US military and Iraqi government towards the Sunni minority, as exemplified in Fallujah, that led some among them to accept IS as a “lesser evil” – and led some to become radicalised enough to join the movement.

The warning

US officials were warned of this outcome early on during the occupation. Yet they and their Iraqi counterparts have learned little from this recent history.

According to Anne Speckhard, director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism and the Pentagon consultant who designed the psychological and religious portions of the detainee rehabilitation programme in Iraq, terrorists were recruiting and training prisoners inside Camp Bucca.

The US began trying to intervene and deradicalise those it could, but the rehabilitation programme she designed was never actually implemented.

US soldiers stand guard in front of Iraqi prisoners of war at Camp Bucca in April 2003 (AFP)

Among the prisoners was IS’s founder and leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Other top IS commanders were also detained at the prison  – Abu Ayman al-Iraqi, Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi, Abu Muslim al-Kharasani, Fadel al-Hayali, Mohammad al-Iraqi, Mohammad Abd al-Aziz al-Shammari and Khalid al-Samarrai.

But the military sweeps that had put al-Baghdadi and others into the Bucca detention camp were indiscriminate – part of an invasion and occupation that targeted Iraqi civilians wholesale, and disproportionately targeted Sunnis. According to Speckhard, the internal estimates by US authorities in late 2006 confirmed that only 15 percent of the detainees at Camp Bucca were “true extremists and adherents to the al-Qaeda ideology”.

When Speckhard interviewed former prisoners of Camp Bucca in Jordan in 2008, she discovered that US officials had never meaningfully implemented the detainee rehabilitation programme. The former prisoners told her that imams handpicked by the authorities would stand outside the fence of the prison, reading Islamic verses, while detainees laughed and spat at them. “This was not the engagement I had envisioned,” she said.

Speckhard said not much abuse was reported at Camp Bucca. “Prisoners told me they were tortured by Iraqis and very happy to have fallen into our hands rather than theirs as a result,” she said.

But others – including former soldiers and prisoners – speak of the abuses at the prison firsthand. Anecdotal evidence like theirs would suggest that, under US tutelage, Camp Bucca, which held 24,000 mostly Sunni prisoners, was the site of systematic abuse and torture so brutal that it resulted in death.

A 2004 US Army classified report, released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 2006, documented the existence of 62 separate investigations into allegations of prisoner abuse at US detention centres across Iraq, including Camp Bucca.

When Speckhard interviewed former prisoners of Camp Bucca, she discovered that US officials had never meaningfully implemented the detainee rehabilitation programme

The eye-watering list of abuses is hard to read, and would have made Saddam proud: physical and sexual assaults, mock executions, threatening to kill an Iraqi child to “send a message to other Iraqis,” stripping detainees, beating them, shocking them with a blasting device, throwing rocks at handcuffed Iraqi children, choking detainees with knots of their scarves, and interrogations at gunpoint.

But there were deeper issues at play. Major General Douglas Stone, then commanding general of the Detainee Task Force, began authorising “quick releases of detainees putting them through a four-day programme that basically checked a lot of boxes and only engaged them superficially, if at all,” said Speckhard. “That may have been fine for the 85 percent who were not adhering to the militant jihadi ideology.” But it had no affect at all on the hardcore.

Middle East Eye contacted General Stone for comment but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.

At the time, Speckhard recalls, she warned General Stone that the rehabilitation “will only work if the politics of Iraq support it. A man who joined the militant jihad because you killed his sister may agree to give up engaging in violence, but if you kill his brother next, he’ll go right back to it.”

Divide and rule

“The mass releases were done to keep the Sunni tribes happy,” she said. “We were releasing the detainees to support the Awakening, to build up the Sunni insurgency against al-Qaeda.”

But the US military hadn’t decided to mass release these prisoners as a kindness. There was a dubious, dangerous strategic context:

The Awakening represented a US-led effort to mobilise Sunni tribal leaders against al-Qaeda in Iraq. It was believed that the mass release of Iraqi detainees would help engender confidence in American intentions with the Sunni tribes, and augment them with manpower. But US intelligence agencies also knew that many of those who would go on to fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq under the Awakening were often themselves former al-Qaeda sympathisers.

It was classic counterinsurgency strategy – attempt to break the resistance by turning parts of the resistance against itself. As I previously reported for MEE, elements of the strategy are described quite candidly in an insightful RAND Corporation report commissioned by the US Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Army Capability Integration Centre, published in 2008.

What I didn’t emphasise in that story is that the RAND report explicitly acknowledged that its proposed “divide and rule” strategy to exploit Sunni-Shia sectarian tension across the region was then being implemented in Iraq by US forces. US forces must use covert strategies to sow “divisions in the jihadist camp. Today in Iraq such strategy is being used at the tactical level,” said the report.

Iraqi school children look at a poster distributed by the US army offering $5 mn dollars for the capture of al-Qaeda operative Abu Mussab Zarqawi in March 2004 (AFP)

The report elaborated on what exactly this meant in Iraq: the US was forming “temporary alliances” with al-Qaeda-affiliated Sunni “nationalist insurgent groups” that had fought the US for four years in the form of “weapons and cash”. Although these nationalists “have cooperated with al-Qaeda against US forces” in the past, they were now being supported to exploit “the common threat that al-Qaeda now poses to both parties”.

The idea was to fracture the insurgency from within, by co-opting its wider support base in the Sunni population. It sounds clever in theory, but in practice we now know that the strategy sowed the seeds of the birth of IS.

But the Americans had made their bed, and they were laying in it. While funnelling support to a whole spectrum of disgruntled Sunni jihadists with various past affiliations to al-Qaeda, the US was simultaneously backing the central Shia government of Iraq. Both sides in receipt of US support were heightening sectarian tensions. And the Iraqi government in particular increasingly displayed a brutal contempt for the Sunni minority. In this context, the US strategy was doomed from the start.

“Since withdrawing from Iraq, the anti-Sunni sectarian bias of the Iraqi government under [then prime minister Nuri al-]Maliki and Shia security forces became emboldened,” Speckard said.

“Under Maliki, Iraqi authorities even profiled and arrested top Sunni politicians. This reinforced biases within the Sunni tribes, and increased the sorts of sectarian resentments that led a minority of Sunnis to support IS. These were the same sentiments that originally fuelled support for al-Qaeda. Of course, the sectarian violence of the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, compounded this problem.”

The next insurgency

While IS atrocities in Fallujah, Mosul and beyond, have undermined its traction amongst local Sunnis, atrocities by the US-backed anti-IS coalition are alienating the population in the long-run.

“On the whole, I don’t think people in Mosul look at the anti-IS coalition as their heroic saviours, although I do think they’ve changed their assessment about IS being the lesser evil,” Ross Caputi said.

Iraqis displaced from Mosul wait to receive aid at a camp in the Hamam al-Alil area south of the embattled city on 11 March 2017 (AFP)

“Last year, both in Fallujah and Mosul, anti-IS forces were holding these cities under siege, while IS was forbidding anyone from trying to escape, trapping everyone inside as human shields. Consequently, food prices skyrocketed and people soon started to starve. The non-profit that I work for was able to smuggle some food into Mosul, and we didn’t see any feelings of support for IS.”

In early 2014, IS was tolerated by some as a fringe part of a diverse uprising against the US-backed central government. IS crimes have changed that. So the coalition might well succeed in killing off the terror group’s remaining chain of command in Iraq. But will this be the end of the war?

One top Kurdish intelligence official doubts it. Lahur Talabany, a senior counter-terrorism official in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), believes that even if IS is defeated in Mosul, the group will continue and escalate its insurgency from mountains and deserts.

“Mosul will get taken … I think it is the asymmetric warfare that we need to be worried about,” he said.

While IS might disband, another more extreme group would probably emerge in its place if nothing is done to resolve Iraq’s deepening sectarian tensions. “… Maybe not Daesh (Islamic State), but another group will pop up under a different name, a different scale. We have to be really careful,” Talabany told Reuters.

‘These operations are creating the context for a long-term insurgency against the Iraqi government and Iranian influence throughout the region’

– Ross Caputi 

“These next few years will be very difficult for us, politically … We know some of these guys escaped.

“They are trying to send people out for the next phase, post-Mosul, to go into hiding and sleeper cells.

“You have to try and find them when they go underground, you have to try and flush out these sleeper cells. There will be unrest in this region for the next few years, definitely.”

Caputi agrees that a “victory” in Mosul could just be the beginning of a prolonged conflict, but he is sceptical of talk of “sleeper cells”. If the strategy is to kill every single last IS member, it will fail, he warns. And that’s why the current operation will not end the war – because it’s not dealing with the conditions that created IS in the first place.

“These operations are creating the context for a long-term insurgency against the Iraqi government and Iranian influence throughout the region,” Caputi told me. “The phenomenon of IS is more the product of several historical, social, and political conditions, which this war against IS has done nothing to change. Since those conditions are still there – injustice, poverty, political repression – I expect we’ll see continued insurgency… Sunni Iraqis will remain second class citizens under this government and they will not stand for it.”

System failure

Meanwhile, the conditions that laid the groundwork for the rise of IS are worsening. Those conditions include what’s happened on the surface of geopolitics: the destruction of Iraqi society under decades of war and occupation; the collapse of Syria into internecine warfare due to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s comprehensive destruction of civilian infrastructure, and atrocities by extremists who have increasingly captured the rebel movement with the support of the Gulf states and Turkey.

But accelerating the conflict from behind the scenes are fundamental biophysical processes unfolding across the region.

I have studied these processes and published my findings on them in a new scientific monograph, Failing States: Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence, published by SpringerBriefs in Energy.

Among my findings is that IS was born in the crucible of a long-term process of ecological crisis. Iraq and Syria are both experiencing worsening water scarcity. A string of scientific studies has shown that a decade-long drought cycle in Syria, dramatically intensified by climate change, caused hundreds and thousands of mostly Sunni farmers in the south to lose their livelihoods as crops failed. They moved into the coastal cities, and the capital, dominated by Assad’s Alawite clan.

Meanwhile, Syrian state revenues were in terminal decline because the country’s conventional oil production peaked in 1996. Net oil exports gradually declined, and with them so did the clout of the Syrian treasury. In the years before the 2011 uprising, Assad slashed domestic subsidies for food and fuel.

While Iraqi oil production has much better prospects, since 2001 production levels have consistently remained well below even the lower-range projections of the industry, mostly because of geopolitical and economic complications. This weakened economic growth, and consequently, weakened the state’s capacity to meet the needs of ordinary Iraqis.

Drought conditions in both Iraq and Syria became entrenched, exacerbating agricultural failures and eroding the living standards of farmers. Sectarian tensions simmered. Globally, a series of climate disasters in major food basket regions drove global price spikes. The combination made life economically intolerable for large swathes of the Iraqi and Syrian populations.

Outside powers – the US, Russia, the Gulf states, Turkey and Iran – all saw the escalating Syrian crisis as a potential opportunity for themselves. As the ensuing Syrian uprising erupted into a full-blown clash between the Assad regime and the people, the interference of these powers radicalised the conflict, hijacked Sunni and Shia groups on the ground, and accelerated the de-facto collapse of Syria as we once knew it.

From this maelstrom, as billions of dollars of funding poured in from the Gulf states and Turkey into the financing of armed rebels – most of which ended up empowering the most extremist factions – the monstrosity known as Islamic State emerged.

Meanwhile, across the porous border in Iraq, drought conditions were also worsening. As I write in Failing States, Collapsing Systems, there has been a surprising correlation between the rapid territorial expansion of IS, and the exacerbation of local drought conditions. And these conditions of deepening water scarcity are projected to intensify in coming years and decades.

An Iraqi man walks past a canoe siting on dry, cracked earth in the Chibayish marshes near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah in 2015 (AFP)

The discernable pattern here forms the basis of my model: biophysical processes generate interconnected environmental, energy, economic and food crises – what I call earth system disruption (ESD). ESD, in turn, undermines the capacity of regional states like Iraq and Syria to deliver basic goods and services to their populations. I call this human system destabilisation (HSD).

As states like Iraq and Syria begin to fail as HSD accelerates, those responding – whether they be the Iraqi and Syrian governments, outside powers, militant groups or civil society actors – don’t understand that the breakdowns happening at the levels of state and infrastructure are being driven by deeper systemic ESD processes.

Instead, the focus is always on the symptom: and therefore the reaction almost always fails entirely to even begin to address earth system disruption.

So Assad, rather than recognising the uprising against his regime as a signifier of a deeper systemic shift – symptomatic of a point-of-no-return driven by bigger environmental and energy crises – chose to crack down on his narrow conception of the problem: angry people.

Equally, the Syrian resistance saw the problem as little more than the nefarious, corrupt and extractive nature of the oppressive Assad regime, without noticing that his regime was now being undone by deeper, biophysical processes that – even without his regime – will continue to unfold.

And so, as Syria has become a failed state, no one is dealing with the very escalating process of earth system disruption that is driving human system destabilisation across the region. This is not surprising. If anything acts as an impediment to dealing with root causes, to re-building environmental resilience, new energy systems and enhancing social and political empowerment – it is war.

The slow demise of the old oil order

This myopia still afflicts officialdom in Iraq, which is not as far down the road of systemic state failure as Syria. US and Iraqi officials are pinning their hopes on the ephemeral dream of converting the country into a booming oil producer, capable of pumping out profitable petroleum at a rate to rival its neighbour, Saudi Arabia.

It is, quite literally, a pipe dream.

In my new study, I cite robust data showing that Iraq’s conventional oil production is forecast to peak within a decade, by around 2025, before declining. This means that after 2025, the principal source of the central government’s revenues will begin to concertedly decline.

It will only be a matter of time, in this context, before the state – without identifying a new and sustainable source of income – will be forced to retract. In this scenario, we may see the central government increasingly unable to maintain basic social expenditures, which are already deeply strained. On a business-as-usual trajectory, Iraq as we know it is headed for full-blown systemic state failure by approximately 2040.

Excess natural gas burns at the Bin Omar natural gas station in January 2017, north of the southern Iraqi port city of Basra (AFP)

This is a conservative projection that, in my view, is likely to be accelerated by the amplifying feedback between underlying ESD processes of conventional oil depletion, climate change, water scarcity, and agricultural crisis; and the HSD processes of US-backed state-sectarian repression, intensifying geopolitical competition, and a long-term sectarian insurgency from IS, al-Qaeda or other actors.

In short, while earth system disruption slowly and quietly unravels state power, short-sighted responses result in human system destabilisation, leaving the vacuum to be filled increasingly by those seeking autonomy from the central government, and the extremists who are at open war with it.

It’s not just Iraq and Syria who sit on the path of systemic state failure. Other countries in the region exhibit similar dynamics.

Yemen

In Yemen, for instance, conventional oil production peaked in 2001 and has now virtually collapsed according to the latest data. As of August 2016, net exports of oil have reduced to “a trickle” and have so far stayed that way

Post-peak Yemen, like Syria and Iraq, exhibits similar features of intensifying water and food scarcity. Electricity production is intermittent, and nationwide fuel shortages are routine, forcing factory closures and prompting foreign companies and international organisations to suspend operations, withdrawing capital and personnel.

The UN says nearly 500,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition in Yemen (AFP)

As livelihoods are destroyed, the geopolitics of the ongoing conflict involving US and UK support for Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign, and the persistent Houthi rebellion, are serving to erase whatever remnants of civil society remain. Now 12 million Yemenis are at risk of starvation, and 7.3 million have no idea where they will find their next meal.

This means not only that the state’s main source of revenues is almost obsolete, but that its capacity to respond to the crisis in a way that is not simply reactive to the symptoms has been fatally inhibited.

The Gulf states are next in line. Collectively, the major oil producers might have far less oil than they claim on their books. Oil analysts at Lux Research estimate that OPEC oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 70 percent. The upshot is that major producers like Saudi Arabia could begin facing serious challenges in sustaining the high levels of production they are used to within the next decade.

A new peer-reviewed study in the journal Energy Policy by Dr Steven Griffiths, vice president for research at the Masdar Institute for Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, corroborates these concerns. Dr Griffiths points out that OPEC countries in the Middle East and North Africa in particular may have exaggerated their proven reserves. He notes evidence that “Kuwait’s proved reserves may be closer to 24 billion barrels [than the 101 billion barrels cited by OPEC] and Saudi Arabia’s reserves may have been overstated by as much as 40 percent”.

Another clear example of exaggeration is in natural gas reserves. Griffiths argues that “resource abundance is not equivalent to an abundance of exploitable energy”.

While the region holds substantial amounts of natural gas, underinvestment due to subsidies, unattractive investment terms, and “challenging extraction conditions” have meant that Middle East producers are “not only unable to monetise their reserves for export, but more fundamentally unable to utilise their reserves to meet domestic energy demands”.

This is particularly prominent in the Gulf states: “The GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries, for instance, have substantial associated and non-associated natural gas reserves, but all GCC countries with the exception of Qatar are now faced with a shortage of domestic natural gas supply.”

Griffiths thus concludes that “stated proved hydrocarbon reserves in the MENA region can be misleading with regard to the outlook for regional energy self-sufficiency”.

Food threat

While this “does not necessarily imply an imminent shortage of oil, it does raise the question about peak conventional oil”. He goes on to spell out the potentially destabilising implications: “MENA countries that have historically relied on resource rents to support social, political and economic agendas face risks regarding their actual timelines for implementing reforms needed for their ‘post-oil’ economies.”

Oil depletion is only one dimension of the ESD processes at stake. The other is the environmental consequence of exploiting oil.

Over the next three decades, even if climate change is stabilised at an average rise of 2 degrees Celsius, the Max Planck Institute forecasts that the Middle East and North Africa will still face prolonged heatwaves and dust storms that could render much of the region “uninhabitable”. These processes could destroy much of the region’s agricultural potential.

In September 2015, an image captured from NASA’s Aqua satellite showing the dust storm over the Middle East (AFP/NASA-Terra Modis)

The Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD) reports that the Middle East is already experiencing a persistent shortage in farm products, a gap that has widened steadily over the last two decades. Across the region, food imports now run above $25bn a year on a net basis.

If nothing is done to address these challenges, the period from 2020 to 2030 will see Middle East oil exporters experiencing a systemic convergence of climate, energy and food crises. These crises will weaken their capacities to deliver goods and services to their populations. And the process of systemic state failure we are seeing unfold in Iraq, Syria and Yemen will extend across the region.

Broken models

While some of these climate processes are locked in, their impacts on human systems are not. The old order in the Middle East is, unmistakeably, breaking down. It will never return.

But it is not – yet – too late for East and West to see what is actually happening and act now to transition into the inevitable future after fossil fuels.

The battle for Mosul cannot defeat the insurgency, because it is part of a process of human system destabilisation. That process offers no fundamental way of addressing the processes of earth system disruption chipping away at the ground beneath our feet.

It is not too late for East and West to see what is actually happening and act to transition into the inevitable future after fossil fuels

The only way to respond meaningfully is to begin to see the crisis for what it is, to look beyond the dynamics of the symptoms of the crisis – the sectarianism, the insurgency, the fighting – and to address the deeper issues. That requires thinking about the world differently, reorienting our mental models of security and prosperity in a way that captures the way human societies are embedded in environmental systems – and responding accordingly.

At that point, perhaps, we might realise that we’re fighting the wrong war, and that as a result no one is capable of winning.

As the old oil order in the Middle East collapses over the next few years and decades, governments, civil society, business, and investors have an opportunity to build grassroots, post-fossil fuel structures that could pave the way for new forms of ecological resilience and economic prosperity.

This essay was amended on 16 March 2017  and 21 March 2017 to clarify quotes attributed to Dr Anne Speckhard. 

 Nafeez Ahmed PhD is an investigative journalist, international security scholar and bestselling author who tracks what he calls the ‘crisis of civilisation.’ He is a winner of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian reporting on the intersection of global ecological, energy and economic crises with regional geopolitics and conflicts. He has also written for The Independent, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique and New Internationalist. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Iraqi residents flee their neighbourhood to safer locations during a heavy dust storm in an eastern district of Mosul on 2 December 2016 as soldiers of the Iraqi Special Forces battle against Islamic State (IS) group (AFP).

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Young Saudi Prince Pulls-Off Palace Coup Under Cover of 18 Israeli Warplanes

[US Demands That Young bin Salman Accept Israeli Sovereignty Before Allowing Saudi Palace Coup]

 

18 Israeli fighter jets landed in

Saudi Arabia to prevent coup

 

Deposed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz
(AhlulBayt News Agency) – 18 Israeli fighter jets along with two Gulfstream aircraft landed in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to prevent any hostile or military moves by former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz who was replaced with Saudi King Salman’s son.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz announced on Wednesday his decision to replace Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz with his own son, Mohammed bin Salman.

After the decision was announced, the Israeli air force sent 18 of its fighter jets, including F16I, F15CD and F16CD, along with two Gulfstream aircraft, two tanker airplanes and two C130 planes, special for electronic warfare, to Saudi Arabia at the demand of the new crown prince bin Salman to block his cousin (bin Nayef)’s possible measures.

According to a royal decree, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, was also named deputy prime minister, and shall maintain his post as defense minister, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.

Saudi media announced that King Salman has called for a public pledge of allegiance to the new crown prince in the holy city of Mecca on Wednesday night.

The SPA also confirmed that 31 out of 34 members of Saudi Arabia’s succession committee chose Mohammed bin Salman as the crown prince.

Just days ago, the Saudi king stripped Nayef of his powers overseeing criminal investigations and designated a new public prosecution office to function directly under the king’s authority.

In a similar move back in 2015, the Saudi king had appointed his nephew, then deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef as the heir to the throne after removing his own half-brother Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud from the position.

Under the new decree, King Salman further relieved Mohammed bin Nayef of his duties as the interior minister. He appointed Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef as the new interior minister and Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Salem as deputy interior minister.

Mohammed Bin Salman is already in charge of a vast portfolio as chief of the House of Saud royal court and chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, which is tasked with overhauling the country’s economy.

The young prince was little known both at home and abroad before Salman became king in January 2015.

However, King Salman has significantly increased the powers of Mohammed, with observers describing the prince as the real power behind his father’s throne.

The power struggle inside the House of Saud came to light earlier this year when the Saudi king began to overhaul the government and offered positions of influence to a number of family members.

In two royal decrees in April, the Saudi king named two of his other sons, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Prince Khaled bin Salman, as state minister for energy affairs and ambassador to the United States, respectively.

Late April, media source disclosed that Mohammad bin Salman has literally bribed the new US administration by paying $56m to Donald Trump.

According to reports, bin Salman is paying off the US to buy its support for finding a grip over the crown.

“Since Uncle Sam’s satisfaction is the first step for the Saudi princes to get on the crown, paying off Washington seems to be a taken-for-granted fact,” Rami Khalil, a reporter of Naba’ news website affiliated to the Saudi dissidents wrote.

He added that since the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) is like a sword over the head of the al-Saud, they have no way out but to bribe the US, noting that the Yemen quagmire is also another reason for Riyadh to seek Washington’s support.

Also, a prominent Yemeni analyst said earlier this month that the US has been paid several trillion dollars by Saudi Arabia to protect its crown, adding that Riyadh has recently bribed Washington’s support for the Yemen war with $200bln.

“Washington has asked for more money to defend the Saudi regime and Riyadh has recently paid $200bln to the US for the costs of its support for the war in Yemen,” Saleh al-Qarshi told FNA.

“This is apart from the huge amounts of money that Saudi Arabia pays to the US treasury for protecting its crown,” he added.

According to al-Qarshi, former Saudi Intelligence Chief Turki al-Feisal revealed last year that his country has bought the low-profit US treasury bonds to help the US economy.

As the defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman has faced strong international criticism for the bloody military campaign he launched against neighboring Yemen in 2015 amid his rivalry with bin Nayef, the then powerful interior minister.

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 14,000 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in Yemen also announced that more than a thousand Yemenis have died of cholera since April 2017 as Saudi Arabia’s deadly campaign prevented the patients from travelling abroad for treatment and blocked the entry of medicine into the war-torn country, continues hitting residential areas across Yemen.

Despite Riyadh’s claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

According to several reports, the Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen has drove the impoverished country towards humanitarian disaster.

Nearly 3.3 million Yemeni people, including 2.1 million children, are currently suffering from acute malnutrition. The Al-Saud aggression has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

The WHO now classifies Yemen as one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world alongside Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and Iraq.

US Demands That Young bin Salman Accept Israeli Sovereignty Before Allowing Saudi Palace Coup

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

US demands bin Salman shows obedience

to Israel before becoming Saudi King

 

The US is demanding that newly anointed Saudi Crown Prince must show absolute obedience to the Israeli regime for Washington to help him ascend to power as the king, a dissident Saudi prince has revealed.

 

Saudi Prince Khalid Bin Farhan al-Saud, who lives in Germany, has revealed what he says are the US conditions for helping Mohamed Bin Salman to become King of Saudi Arabia before his father’s death.

Writing on Twitter, Khalid said he obtained the information from an informed source within Saudi Arabia’s ruling family.

The alleged conditions include “absolute obedience to the US and Israel and carrying out whatever they ask him to do.” Three other conditions, claimed Khalid, are stated in return for helping Bin Salman take the throne before the death of his father: “Working to settle all Gaza residents in north Sinai as an alternative homeland and Saudi Arabia along with the UAE will afford the needed funds; getting rid of Hamas and whoever supports it; and getting Sanafir Island from Egypt.”

Bin Farhan said that the last condition would make the Gulf of Aqaba international waters instead of Egyptian territorial waters, which would facilitate Israeli regime’s shipping to and from the port of Eilat. It would also help the Israeli regime to carry out a project planned to operate in parallel to the Suez Canal. A retainer of around $500 million is also involved, he claimed.

The prince said that this issue split the ruling family even before the death of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz in 2015, as a wave of royal decrees ousted several officials from within the royal family and others.

Israeli regime upbeat about bin Salman

The assertions by the dissident Saudi prince came after Israeli regime’s espionage minister called on Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Riyadh to establish full diplomatic relations. Speaking at the Herzliya conference on Thursday, Israeli regime’s espionage minister Yisrael Katz asked King Salman to invite Netanyahu to Riyadh and to send newly appointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Tel Aviv in return.

.Israeli regime’s war minister Avigdor Lieberman, also called for “full diplomatic and economic relations” with Saudis at the conference

Israeli regime’s communications Minister Ayoub Kara also on Wednesday pointed to Saudi Arabia’s naming of Mohammed Bin Salman as its new crown prince, saying he hoped the change would accelerate the kingdom’s rapprochement with the Tel Aviv regime.

“Salman’s appointment means more economic cooperation in the Middle East (West Asia), and not just regarding oil,” Kara said in a statement.

The Israeli regime has also been supportive of the Saudi-led blockade on Qatar Arabia. Tel Aviv has repeatedly called on Doha not to give asylum to key Palestinian resistance figures, including Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Azmi Bishara.

During a tour of the West Asia region last month, US President Donald Trump flew directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv in a flight dubbed a “historic moment” in what was seen as a step towards bringing Israelis and Saudis closer.

Bin Salman backs ties with Israeli regime

Sources in Riyadh state that, Crown Prince Mohammed strongly believes Saudi Arabia should have a normal relationship with Israeli regime in the future. Analysts believe this unholy alliance is meant to, among other things, counter the Islamic Republic of Iran and the axis of resistance in the West Asia region.

Saudi Arabia, whose rulers brand themselves as custodians of the two holy Islamic sites in Mecca and Medina, is rushing to move from covert to open ties with the Israeli regime unmindful of its unprecedented war crimes, genocide, atrocities against Palestinians and occupation of Palestinian territories especially the third holiest Islamic site, the al-Aqsa Mosque.

US SEC/DEF Boasts That Syria Obeyed Trump’s Warning, Since Gas Attack Never Happened

U.S. says its warning appears to have

averted Syrian chemical attack

 

 

By Phil Stewart and David Dolan | BRUSSELS/ISTANBUL

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday that the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad appeared so far to have heeded a warning this week from Washington not to carry out a chemical weapons attack.

Russia, the Syrian government’s main backer in the country’s civil war, warned that it would respond proportionately if the United States took pre-emptive measures against Syrian forces to stop what the White House says could be a planned chemical attack.

The White House said on Monday it appeared the Syrian military was preparing to conduct a chemical weapons attack and said that Assad and his forces would “pay a heavy price” if it did so.

The warning was based on intelligence that indicated preparations for such a strike were under way at Syria’s Shayrat airfield, U.S. officials said.

“It appears that they took the warning seriously,” Mattis said. “They didn’t do it,” he told reporters flying with him to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

He offered no evidence other than the fact that an attack had not taken place.

Asked whether he believed Assad’s forces had called off any such strike completely, Mattis said: “I think you better ask Assad about that.”

Washington accused Syrian forces of using the Shayrat airfield for a chemical weapons attack in April. Syria denies this.

The intelligence that prompted the administration’s warning to Syria this week was “far from conclusive,” said a U.S. official familiar with it. “It did not come close to saying that a chemical weapons attack was coming,” the official said.

The intelligence consisted of a Syrian warplane being observed moving into a hangar at the Shayrat airbase, where U.S. and allied intelligence agencies suspect the Assad government is hiding chemical weapons, said a second U.S. official.

Mattis said Syria’s chemical weapons threat was larger than any single location. “I think that Assad’s chemical program goes far beyond one airfield,” he said.

U.S. and allied intelligence officers had for some time identified several sites where they suspected Assad’s government may have been hiding newly made chemical weapons from inspectors, another U.S. official familiar with the intelligence said.

The United States launched cruise missile strikes on Shayrat in April in response to the deaths of 87 people in what Washington said was a poison gas attack in rebel-held territory.

The Syrian government did not comment on the White House warning, although state-run al-Ikhbariya television station said the allegations were fabricated.

RUSSIA WARNING

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow will respond if the United States takes measures against Syrian government forces.

“We will react with dignity, in proportion to the real situation that may take place,” he said at a news conference in the city of Krasnodar.

Lavrov said he hoped the United States was not preparing to use its intelligence assessments about the Syrian government’s intentions as a pretext to mount a “provocation” in Syria.

Russian officials have described the war in Syria as the biggest source of tension between Moscow and Washington and say the April cruise missile strike ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump raised the risk of confrontation between them.

In Washington, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, credited Trump with saving Syrian lives.

“Due to the president’s actions, we did not see an incident,” Haley told U.S. lawmakers. “I would like to think that the president saved many innocent men, women and children.”

Although the number of people killed in suspected chemical attacks is a small portion of the total dead in Syria’s civil war, estimated at close to half a million, footage of victims writhing in agony has caused particular revulsion.

On the Syrian battlefields, Turkish artillery bombarded and destroyed Kurdish YPG militia targets after the group’s fighters opened fire on Turkish-backed forces in northern Syria.

The United States supports the YPG in the fight against Islamic State in Syria, while NATO ally Turkey regards them as terrorists indistinguishable from Kurdish militants carrying out an insurgency in southeast Turkey.

The Turkish army said YPG machinegun fire on Tuesday evening targeted Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army rebels south of the town of Azaz. Artillery struck back in retaliation, a Turkish military statement said.

The boom of artillery fire could be heard overnight from the Turkish border town of Kilis, broadcaster Haberturk said.

Ankara was angered by a U.S. decision in June to arm the YPG in the battle for Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa.

(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun, Tulay Karadeniz and Omer Berberoglu in Turkey, Sabine Siebold in Krasnodar, Russia and John Walcott in Washington; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Dan Grebler, Grant McCool)

 

Afghan Air Force mysteriously drops weapons supply to ISIS-Khorasan 2 days ahead of blasts in Pakistan: Russia

[Russia Reports More Incidents of Outside Helicopters Rescuing Besieged TalibanNighttime Helicopters spotted landing in Taliban areas, Once Again]

 

 Afghan Air Force mysteriously drops

weapons supply to ISIS-Khorasan 2 days

ahead of blasts in Pakistan: Russia

 

 

 

Afghan Air Force mysteriously drops weapons supply to ISIS-Khorasan 2 days ahead of blasts in Pakistan: Russia

Afghan air force has mysteriously dropped supplies at an area recently taken by ISIS in the north of Afghanistan, Russian media has reported.

The mysterious supply that was surely aimed at bolstering the militant group sporadically targeting Pakistan was confirmed by the locals in Afghanistan to Voice of America Dari Afghan (VOA Dari).

Moreover, the popular perception regarding the role of Afghanistan in carrying out subversive activities across Pakistan becomes closer to reality as the suicide bomber that ripped himself in Quetta was identified as Abu Usman Khurasani – an Afghan national.

It is not just Pakistan raising questions about why the militant outfit ISIS-K was being aided by Afghanistan but Russian foreign ministry was also baffled at the airdrops and it took notice of the activity.

READ MORE:   How China-Afghanistan military ties secure Pakistan from NDS – RAW nexus

A statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova confirmed that Afghan, U.S. and NATO officials were inquired to provide a “rational explanation” about reports of unidentified helicopters providing support to ISIS-K militants in Afghanistan.

“We’ve taken note of new reports about unmarked helicopters ferrying the fighters of ISIS Afghan branch, as well as weapons and munitions for them, in eastern Afghanistan,” said Maria Zakharova during a press briefing on Wednesday.

“Some reports say that shortly before this, unmarked helicopters delivered over 50 armed extremists to reinforce the fighters who were preparing an offensive on Tora Bora, as well as a container full of weapons and munitions,” she added blowing the lid off ostensible Afghan efforts to wipe out terrorism.

READ MORE:   Terrorist from Afghanistan arrested from Capital Islamabad
Russian Foreign Ministry's (June 22, 2017) statement, on how US provided critical supplies to ISIS-K in Afghanistan
Russian Foreign Ministry’s (June 22, 2017) statement, on how US provided critical supplies to ISIS-K in Afghanistan

It must be mentioned that most of the leadership of Tehreek-e-Taliban was enrolling itself in ISIS-K to strengthen it against their former outfit and to destabilise Pakistan, currently revamping its economy through the multi-billion dollars China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, that is hurting Pakistan’s arch-rival, India.

A recent spate of suicide bombings in Pakistan and role of Afghan-supported ISIS-K becomes more suspicious as commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan Gen John Nicholson Jr divulged in February that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakis­tan served as the core fighting group for the militant Islamic State (IS) group as TTP militants in Orakzai tribal agency joined the relatively new terrorist group.

READ MORE:   US is not winning war in Afghanistan: Defence Secretary Jim Mattis

The general, who leads over 13,000 international troops, 8,400 of them American, briefed American lawmakers on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and told that the IS, which in Afghanistan was called the Islam State Khorasan Province, comprised fighters mainly from existing militant groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Primarily, their membership had come from the TTP, which was a Pakistan-based opponent of the Pakistani state, he said.

Pakistani Forces ‘Providing Weapons’ To Taliban In Border Regions

Police officials in Paktia province say Pakistani military forces help the Taliban ‘in fight against Afghan security and defense forces’.

 

Thumbnail

A police commander in Paktia province, in Afghanistan’s east, on Tuesday said Pakistani military forces ‘are supplying heavy weapons to Taliban fighters in areas along the Durand Line – the de facto border between Afghanistan and Pakistan – in order to attack Afghan security forces’. 

The militants are stationed in parts of Dand-e-Patan district, said Gen. Abdulwase, commander of 203 Thunder Army Corps in the district.

“How do they (the Taliban) find weapon in the Zero Point (of the Durand Line), how are they equipped, how do they find personnel and where are they supported from? Pakistan is simply deceiving the world. But the world knows that Pakistani government is providing all these facilities to the Taliban,” he said.

He said the security forces will clear the district of Taliban and will cut off the supply lines of the militants, he said.

Wase said that so far over 110 Taliban fighters have been eliminated during the battles with the security forces.

“At least 115 enemy fighters were killed and 70 others wounded. They attacked us twelve times in past few days but we repelled all their attacks,” he added.

According to him, the Pakistan government does not want the supply line to be cut off.

The security forces launched a military operation in Dand-e-Pathan district one month ago, killing more than 150 Taliban militants.

Afghan forces have claimed that they had inflicted heavy toll to the Taliban in the district.

The security forces said Taliban militants attack the Afghan security forces across the Durand Line, an allegation the Taliban termed as baseless.

Freighter Was On Autopilot When It Hit U.S. Destroyer, Destroyer Slowed Down

 

[U.S. warship stayed on deadly collision course despite warning]

source

 

Freighter Was On Autopilot When It Hit

U.S. Destroyer

USS Fitzgerald did not detect container ship

U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald arrives at its mother port US Naval Yokosuka Base, Kanagawa

U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald arrives at its mother port US Naval Yokosuka Base, Kanagawa / Getty Images

BY:

The deadly collision between a U.S. destroyer and a container ship June 17 took place while the freighter was on autopilot, according to Navy officials.

The Philippines-flagged cargo ship ACX Crystal was under control of a computerized navigation system that was steering and guiding the container vessel, according to officials familiar with preliminary results of an ongoing Navy investigation.

Investigators so far found no evidence the collision was deliberate.

Nevertheless, an accident during computerized navigation raises the possibility the container ship’s computer system could have been hacked and the ship deliberately steered into the USS Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer.

A more likely explanation is that collision was the result of an autopilot malfunction, or the autopilot’s warning signals, used to notify the ship’s operators, were missed.

The destroyer was severely damaged when the protruding undersea bow of the cargo ship struck Fitzgerald on the right side. Seven sailors died as a result and the captain and two others were injured. It was the Navy’s worst accident at sea.

The two ships hit about 64 miles off the coast of Japan.

The collision occurred at around 1:30 a.m. local time but was not reported by the freighter’s crew until around 2:25 a.m. Investigators believe the time lag was the result of the crew not realizing they had hit another ship.

Commercial ship autopilot systems normally require someone to input manually the course for the ship travel. The computer program then steers the ship by controlling the steering gear to turn the rudder.

The system also can be synchronized with an electronic chart system to allow the program to follow courses of a voyage plan.

Tracking data broadcast from the Crystal as part of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) shows the ship changed course by 90 degrees to the right and slightly reduced its speed between around 1:32 a.m. and 1:34 a.m. After that time, the data shows the ship turned to the left and resumed a northeastern coarse along its original track line.

Private naval analyst Steffan Watkins said the course data indicates the ship was running on autopilot. “The ACX Crystal  powered out of the deviation it performed at 1:30, which was likely the impact with the USS Fitzgerald, pushing it off course while trying to free itself from being hung on the bow below the waterline,” Watkins told the Free Beacon.

The ship then continued to sail on for another 15 minutes, increasing speed before eventually reducing speed and turning around. “This shows the autopilot was engaged because nobody would power out of an accident with another ship and keep sailing back on course. It’s unthinkable,” he added.

Watkins said the fact that the merchant ship hit something and did not radio the coast guard for almost 30 minutes also indicates no one was on the bridge at the time of the collision.

By 2:00 a.m., the freighter had turned around and headed back to the earlier position, according to the tracking data.

The officials said the Crystal eventually came upon the stricken Fitzgerald.

The Fitzgerald’s AIS data was not available so its track was not reported publicly.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson traveled to Japan to oversee the transfer of the fallen sailors.

“There are multiple U.S. and Japanese investigations underway to determine the facts of the collision,” Richardson said in a statement. “Our goal is to learn all we can to prevent future accidents from occurring. This process will unfold as quickly as possible, but it’s important to get this right.”

According to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, initial reports on the incident indicate no crew member was manning the controls in the pilot house of the Crystal when it hit the Fitzgerald.

After impact, the freighter’s was not immediately aware that it had collided with anything and continued sailing. The ship’s crew then realized it had been in a collision and sailed back to try to determine what had happened.

Transport safety authorities and coast guard investigators in Japan on Thursday announced the data recorder from the Crystal had been secured, the Associated Press reported. The freighter is currently docked in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The Navy and Coast Guard are investigating the incident. The Fitzgerald is currently at its home port of Yokosuka naval base. The investigation is expected to be completed in several months.

For the Navy, investigators are trying to determine why the ship’s radar and other sensors did not detect the Crystal in time to take steps to avoid the collision.

The Fitzgerald is equipped with the AN/SPS-64 advanced military navigation radar, and also uses a commercial radar system to enhance the shipping traffic picture of ships in its vicinity.

Navy ships operate radar systems to detect approaching ships or submarines. Lookouts posted on the bridge are responsible for detecting ships that pose a risk of collision.

Additionally, all commercial ships over 300 tons are required under international rules to operate AIS location data. AIS information from Crystal should have been monitored by sailors on the bridge of the Fitzgerald.

The sailors aboard the 505-foot-long Fitzgerald waged what officials said was a heroic battle about the ship to seal off flooding after the collision.

“We were struck by the stories of heroism and sacrifice—by both the sailors on board and their families back home—as they fought the damage to their ship and brought her back to Yokosuka,” Richardson said.

The ship was not in danger of sinking but was listing to one side and was able to remain under its own power.

The bodies of the seven dead sailors were found in sealed off areas of the ship on Sunday after it reached port.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet told reporters the Fitzgerald suffered extensive flooding and damage caused by a large puncture below the waterline on the starboard side underneath the pilot house.

The ship’s commander, Cmdr. Bryce Benson was airlifted by Japanese coast guard helicopter. Two other injured sailors also were evacuated. All appear to have injuries that are not life threatening.

The officials said Benson was in his stateroom at the time of the collision.

The Fitzgerald was commissioned in 1995 and has a crew of some 300 crew members. It has a top speed of 30 knots and is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, SM-1 anti-ship and anti-submarine missiles, as well as machine guns and torpedoes.

The Crystal was built in South Korea, is 730 feet long and capable of carrying up to 2,858 shipping containers.

The Crystal is classified as a mid-size container ship part of the Asia Container Express or ACX, an Asian container shipping trade subsidiary of NYK Line, a global shipping division of Japan’s Mitsubishi.

‘An attack on free thought’–Middle East Eye responds to Saudi demands

‘An attack on free thought’: Middle East

Eye responds to Saudi demands

 

 

David Hearst/Editor-in-Chief, Middle East Eye

*Middle East Eye is independent of any government or movement and is not funded by Qatar
*MEE covers the area without fear or favour

*Saudi-led demands for media to close are designed to strangle independent views

*Gargash is frightened of a free press

A Saudi coalition of states has placed 13 demands on Qatar to lift their blockade, including the closure of Al Jazeera and what it states are publications and websites “directly or indirectly supported by Qatar”.

The list from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt also calls for Qatar to cut all ties with Iran, pay compensation to the petitioning states for “victims and losses” due to Qatari foreign policy and a 10-year “mechanism” to ensure Qatar sticks to the deal.
The media organisations the petition claims are “supported” by Qatar include Arabi21, al-Araby al-Jadeed, Sharq and the London-based Middle East Eye.
Qatar has 10 days to accept the demands, it said.
David Hearst, Middle East Eye’s editor-in-chief, said his organisation is not funded by Qatar – or any other state or group – and is here to stay.
“Middle East Eye is independent of any government or movement and is not funded by Qatar,” he said.
“Maybe the fate of Al Jazeera will depend on talks between the government of Qatar and its neighbours. But Middle East Eye is here to stay.
“MEE covers the area without fear or favour, and we have carried reports critical of the Qatari authorities, for instance how workers from the subcontinent are treated on building projects for the 2022 World Cup.”
On Thursday, the UAE’s foreign minister Anwar Gargash accused Al Jazeera of being a “news broadcast for the Muslim Brotherhood”.
“It is a mouthpiece for extremism. It has whitewashed personalities that have become symbols for terrorism.”
Hearst said these claims, and the petition’s demands for other media to close, were designed to strangle independent views.
“Obviously this is an attack on anyone in the Middle East who dares to offer an independent opinion,” he said.
“Mr Gargash is frightened of something we in Britain call a free press. The only media he knows is one whose editorial line he can dictate and whose journalists he can buy. I have news for him. That world is disappearing.”

Russia blasts U.S. “threat” over possible Syria chemical attack

Russia blasts U.S. “threat” over possible

Syria chemical attack

 

 

 

In an image provided by the U.S. Air Force, an F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Aug. 12, 2015, as the U.S. launched its first airstrikes by Turkey-based F-16 fighter jets against ISIS targets in Syria.

AP/Handout

MOSCOW — A senior Russian lawmaker on Tuesday dismissed the United States’ warning about a potential chemical weapons attack in Syria as an “unprecedented provocation,” and the Kremlin called the accusations against Syria’s government “unacceptable.”

In a stern warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad Monday night, the White House claimed “potential” evidence that Syria was preparing for another chemical weapons attack.

Assad has denied responsibility for the April 4 attack in the rebel-held Idlib province that killed dozens of people, and Russia, Assad’s key backer, sided with him.

Days later, President Trump launched a cruise missile strike on a Syrian government-controlled air base from which U.S. officials said the Syrian military had launched the chemical attack.

Frants Klintsevich, first deputy chairman of the defense and security committee at the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, on Tuesday accused the United States of “preparing a new attack on the positions of Syrian forces.” In comments to state-owned RIA Novosti, he added: “Preparations for a new cynical and unprecedented provocation are underway.”

Speaking later in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Mocow considers “such threats against the Syrian leadership to be unacceptable.”

British Foreign Minister Michael Fallon, however, told the BBC on Tuesday that the U.K. government would support any U.S. military action in case of a Syria chemical attack.

“As always in war, the military action you use must be justified, it must be legal, it must proportionate, it must be necessary. In the last case it was,” Fallon said.

“If the Americans take similar action again, I want to be very clear — we will support it.”

In an ominous statement issued with no supporting evidence or further explanation, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that the U.S. had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

He said the activities observed were similar to preparations taken before April 2017 chemical attack  that killed dozens of men, women and children, and warned that if “Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

The strike ordered by Mr. Trump on the Syrian airbase in retaliation for that attack was the first direct American assault on Syrian forces, and Mr. Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president just several months earlier.

Mr. Trump said at the time that the chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun had crossed “many, many lines,” and put the blame squarely on Assad’s forces.

Syria reiterated its insistence that it had never used chemical weapons, and blamed opposition fighters for stockpiling the chemicals. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory.

Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of the conflict, with the U.N. blaming three attacks on the Syrian government and a fourth on the Islamic State group.

Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, added Monday on Twitter: “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”

The U.N. Security Council is meeting on Tuesday morning on Syria, expected to be briefed by Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura on political developments, CBS News’ Pamela Falk reports, and Council members will consider new information on chemical weapons attacks, during consultations following the meeting, diplomats said.

 

U.S. warship stayed on deadly collision course despite warning

U.S. warship stayed on deadly collision

course despite warning – container ship

captain

FILE PHOTO: The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, is towed into the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan June 17, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo
By Tim Kelly | TOKYO

A U.S. warship struck by a container vessel in Japanese waters failed to respond to warning signals or take evasive action before a collision that killed seven of its crew, according to a report of the incident by the Philippine cargo ship’s captain.

[Did the Arleigh-Burke Navy masterpiece refuse to yield to the Philippine container ship or was the ACX CRYSTAL at fault?  From the Google Map below, it would seem that the destroyer nearly came to a stop in the path of the Crystal.  Was there something on the cargo ship that the Navy was trying to intercept?]

https://fusiontables.google.com/DataSource?docid=1GGbErcKpS_OKWge8EN5U-aNSSO2EtC87-auJfdA7#map:id=3

Multiple U.S. and Japanese investigations are under way into how the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the much larger ACX Crystal container ship collided in clear weather south of Tokyo Bay in the early hours of June 17.

In the first detailed account from one of those directly involved, the cargo ship’s captain said the ACX Crystal had signaled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald “suddenly” steamed on to a course to cross its path.

The container ship steered hard to starboard (right) to avoid the warship, but hit the Fitzgerald 10 minutes later at 1:30 a.m., according to a copy of Captain Ronald Advincula’s report to Japanese ship owner Dainichi Investment Corporation that was seen by Reuters.

The U.S. Navy declined to comment and Reuters was not able to independently verify the account.

The collision tore a gash below the Fitzgerald’s waterline, killing seven sailors in what was the greatest loss of life on a U.S. Navy vessel since the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen’s Aden harbor in 2000.

Those who died were in their berthing compartments, while the Fitzgerald’s commander was injured in his cabin, suggesting that no alarm warning of an imminent collision was sounded.

A spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, the Fitzgerald’s home port, said he was unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.

The incident has spurred six investigations, including two internal hearings by the U.S. Navy and a probe by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) on behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board. The Japan Transport Safety Board, the JCG and the Philippines government are also conducting separate investigations.

Spokesmen from the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), U.S. Coast Guard and ship owner, Dainichi Invest, also declined to comment. Reuters was not able to contact Advincula, who was no longer in Japan.

The investigations will examine witness testimony and electronic data to determine how a naval destroyer fitted with sophisticated radar could be struck by a vessel more than three times its size.

Another focus of the probes has been the length of time it took the ACX Crystal to report the collision. The JCG says it was first notified at 2:25 a.m., nearly an hour after the accident.

In his report, the ACX Crystal’s captain said there was “confusion” on his ship’s bridge, and that it turned around and returned to the collision site after continuing for 6 nautical miles (11 km).

Shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows that the ACX Crystal, chartered by Japan’s Nippon Yusen KK (9101.T), made a complete U-turn between 12:58 a.m. and 2:46 a.m.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; Editing by Alex Richardson)

UAE Monsters Run Secret Torture Prisons For United States In Yemen

MUKALLA, Yemen (AP) — Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaida militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the “grill,” in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Senior American defense officials acknowledged Wednesday that U.S. forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses. Interrogating detainees who have been abused could violate international law, which prohibits complicity in torture.

The United Arab Emirates and Yemeni forces run a secret network of prisons where prisoners are brutally tortured. The U.S. has questioned some detainees, and have regular access to their testimony — a potential violation of international law. (June 21)

The AP documented at least 18 clandestine lockups across southern Yemen run by the United Arab Emirates or by Yemeni forces created and trained by the Gulf nation, drawing on accounts from former detainees, families of prisoners, civil rights lawyers and Yemeni military officials. All are either hidden or off limits to Yemen’s government, which has been getting Emirati help in its civil war with rebels over the last two years.

The secret prisons are inside military bases, ports, an airport, private villas and even a nightclub. Some detainees have been flown to an Emirati base across the Red Sea in Eritrea, according to Yemen Interior Minister Hussein Arab and others.

Several U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the topic, told AP that American forces do participate in interrogations of detainees at locations in Yemen, provide questions for others to ask, and receive transcripts of interrogations from Emirati allies. They said U.S. senior military leaders were aware of allegations of torture at the prisons in Yemen, looked into them, but were satisfied that there had not been any abuse when U.S. forces were present.

“We always adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct,” said chief Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White when presented with AP’s findings. “We would not turn a blind eye, because we are obligated to report any violations of human rights.”

In a statement to the AP, the UAE’s government denied the allegations.

“There are no secret detention centers and no torture of prisoners is done during interrogations.”

Inside war-torn Yemen, however, lawyers and families say nearly 2,000 men have disappeared into the clandestine prisons, a number so high that it has triggered near-weekly protests among families seeking information about missing sons, brothers and fathers.

Looking out over part of Aden Central Prison, known as Mansoura

None of the dozens of people interviewed by AP contended that American interrogators were involved in the actual abuses. Nevertheless, obtaining intelligence that may have been extracted by torture inflicted by another party would violate the International Convention Against Torture and could qualify as war crimes, said Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University who served as special counsel to the Defense Department until last year

At one main detention complex at Riyan airport in the southern city of Mukalla, former inmates described being crammed into shipping containers smeared with feces and blindfolded for weeks on end. They said they were beaten, trussed up on the “grill,” and sexually assaulted. According to a member of the Hadramawt Elite, a Yemeni security force set up by the UAE, American forces were at times only yards away. He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

“We could hear the screams,” said a former detainee held for six months at Riyan airport. “The entire place is gripped by fear. Almost everyone is sick, the rest are near death. Anyone who complains heads directly to the torture chamber.” He was flogged with wires, part of the frequent beatings inflicted by guards against all the detainees. He also said he was inside a metal shipping container when the guards lit a fire underneath to fill it with smoke.

Like other ex-detainees, he spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested again. The AP interviewed him in person in Yemen after his release from detention.

The AP interviewed 10 former prisoners, as well as a dozen officials in the Yemeni government, military and security services and nearly 20 relatives of detainees. The chief of Riyan prison, who is well known among families and lawyers as Emirati, did not reply to requests for comment.

Laura Pitter, senior national security counsel at Human Rights Watch, said the abuses “show that the US hasn’t learned the lesson that cooperating with forces that are torturing detainees and ripping families apart is not an effective way to fight extremist groups.” Human Rights Watch issued a report Thursday documenting torture and forced disappearances at the UAE-run prisons and calling on the Emirates to protect detainees’ rights.

Amnesty International called for a U.N.-led investigation “into the UAE’s and other parties’ role in setting up this horrific network of torture” and into allegations the U.S. interrogated detainees or received information possibly obtained from torture. “It would be a stretch to believe the US did not know or could not have known that there was a real risk of torture,” said Amnesty’s director of research in the Middle East, Lynn Maalouf.

Defense Secretary James Mattis has praised the UAE as “Little Sparta” for its outsized role in fighting against al-Qaida.

U.S. forces send questions to the Emirati forces holding the detainees, which then send files and videos with answers, said Yemeni Brig. Gen. Farag Salem al-Bahsani, commander of the Mukalla-based 2nd Military District, which American officials confirmed to the AP. He also said the United States handed authorities a list of most wanted men, including many who were later arrested.

Al-Bahsani denied detainees were handed over to the Americans and said reports of torture are “exaggerated.”

18 secret prisons in Yemen controlled by the United Arab Emirates

The network of prisons echoes the secret detention facilities set up by the CIA to interrogate terrorism suspects in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In 2009, then-President Barack Obama disbanded the so-called “black sites.” The UAE network in war-torn Yemen was set up during the Obama administration and continues operating to this day.

“The UAE was one of the countries involved in the CIA’s torture and rendition program,” said Goodman, the NYU law professor. “These reports are hauntingly familiar and potentially devastating in their legal and policy implications.”

The UAE is part of a Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition meant to help Yemen’s government fight Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who overran the north of the country. At the same time, the coalition is helping the U.S. target al-Qaida’s local branch, one of the most dangerous in the world, as well as Islamic State militants.

A small contingent of American forces routinely moves in and out of Yemen, the Pentagon says, operating largely along the southern coast. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has escalated drone strikes in the country to more than 80 so far this year, up from around 21 in 2016, the U.S. military said. At least two commando raids were ordered against al-Qaida, including one in which a Navy SEAL was killed along with at least 25 civilians.

A U.S. role in questioning detainees in Yemen has not been previously acknowledged.

Inside a secret prison in Yemen

A Yemeni officer who said he was deployed for a time on a ship off the coast said he saw at least two detainees brought to the vessel for questioning. The detainees were taken below deck, where he was told American “polygraph experts” and “psychological experts” conducted interrogations. He did not have access to the lower decks. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation for discussing the operations.

Senior U.S. defense officials flatly denied the military conducts any interrogations of Yemenis on any ships.

“We have no comment on these specific claims,” said Jonathan Liu, a CIA spokesman, adding that any allegations of abuse are taken seriously.

This Yemeni man says his son was detained and has since disappeared.

The Yemeni officer did not specify if the ‘Americans on ships’ were U.S. military or intelligence personnel, private contractors, or some other group.

Two senior Yemen officials, one in Hadi’s Interior Ministry and another in the 1st Military District, based in Hadramawt province where Mukalla is located, also said Americans were conducting interrogations at sea, as did a former senior security official in Hadramawt. The three spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the U.S. role.

The AP learned the names of five suspects held at black sites who were said to have been interrogated by Americans. The Yemeni official on the ship identified one of the detainees brought there. Four others were identified by former detainees who said they were told directly by the men themselves that they were questioned by Americans.

One detainee, who was not questioned by U.S. personnel, said he was subject to constant beatings by his Yemeni handlers but was interrogated only once.

“I would die and go to hell rather than go back to this prison,” he said. “They wouldn’t treat animals this way. If it was bin Laden, they wouldn’t do this.”

___

Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor and Desmond Butler in Washington and Ahmed al-Haj and Maad al-Zikry in Yemen contributed to this report.

___

Follow Maggie Michael on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mokhbersahafi

US Claims That Pentagon Would Welcome Effective Syrian Effort To Defeat ISIS

US would welcome effective Syrian effort

to defeat IS

 

 

By robert burns, ap national security writer

 

The U.S. military coalition fighting the Islamic State would welcome a concerted effort by the Syrian government or its Iranian-backed partner forces to defeat IS in its remaining strongholds in eastern Syria, a U.S. spokesman said Friday.

Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the coalition, told reporters at the Pentagon that the U.S. goal is to defeat IS wherever it exists. If others, including the Syrian government and its Iranian and Russian allies, want to fight the extremists as well, then “we absolutely have no problem with that,” he said, speaking from Baghdad.

“If it looks like they are making a concerted effort to move into ISIS-held areas, and if they show that they can do that, that is not a bad sign,” Dillon said, referring to forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. “We are here to fight ISIS as a coalition, but if others want to fight ISIS and defeat them, then we absolutely have no problem with that.”

Washington severed diplomatic relations with Syria during the Obama administration, which insisted that Assad “must go.” More recently, Assad has strengthened his position, regaining key territory from weakened opposition forces.

The battlespace in Syria is getting more crowded and complex as IS-held territory shrinks, raising questions about how the various parties will interact or avoid one another. Syrian government troops, for example, have reached the Iraqi border in an area where IS leaders have been gathering. The area is far from the main battle lines of Syria’s civil war.

The U.S. so far has shunned any cooperation with Assad and has partnered instead with local Arab and Kurdish forces in fighting IS. Those local forces, which the U.S. calls the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, are currently fighting to recapture the extremists’ self-declared capital of Raqqa.

Last weekend, for the first time, the U.S. shot down a Syrian fighter jet that had dropped bombs near the SDF. Two other times this month the U.S. has shot down Iranian-made drones in southern Syria that were deemed to pose a threat to U.S. and partner forces.

Key remaining IS territory includes the cities of Deir el-Zour and Abu Kamal, along the Euphrates River Valley.

Dillon said that as Syrian government forces move toward Abu Kamal, “if they want to fight ISIS in Abu Kamal and they have the capacity to do so, then that would be welcomed. We as a coalition are not in the land-grab business. We are in the killing-ISIS business. That is what we want to do, and if the Syrian regime wants to do that and they’re going to put forth a concerted effort and show that they are doing just that in Abu Kamal or Deir el-Zour or elsewhere, that means that we don’t have to do that in those places.”

Saudis Prevent Suicide-Bomber Attack Upon Mecca’s Grand Mosque

Saudis ‘foil suicide attack’ on Mecca’s

Grand Mosque

 

Rubble of collapsed building in Mecca. Photo: 23 June 2017
Reuters  The building collapsed after a suicide bomber blew himself up, the Saudi interior ministry said

Saudi Arabia says it has foiled a “terrorist action” against the Grand Mosque in Mecca – Islam’s holiest site.

A suicide bomber blew himself up when security forces surrounded the building he was in, the interior ministry says.

The building collapsed, injuring 11 people, including police officers. Five other suspected militants have been taken into custody, officials say.

Millions of Muslims from around the world have gathered in Mecca for the end of Ramadan.

Saudi officials released no further details about the foiled attack.

TTP Terrorist Remnants Murder 40 In Parachinar and Quetta, Pakistan

 

By Gul Yusufzai and Javed Hussain | QUETTA/PARACHINAR, Pakistan

Bombs killed at least 40 people in Pakistan on Friday, with a suicide car bomber killing 13 in the southwestern city of Quetta, and two blasts later claiming at least 27 lives in the northwestern town of Parachinar, officials said.

A separate gun attack on police in the southern megacity of Karachi killed four officers on Friday evening, a security official said.

Seven police officers were among those killed in the first attack, in Quetta, which happened when police stopped the car to search it at a checkpoint.

Abdul Razzaq Cheema, director general of police in Baluchistan province, of which Quetta is capital, told Reuters the bomber had detonated a car packed with explosives.

At least 13 bodies were taken to hospital, along with 19 wounded people, said Wasim Baig, a spokesman for the Civil Hospital in Quetta. Nine security officials were among the wounded, said Fareed Sumalan, a doctor at the hospital.

Jamaat ur Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack in a message sent to Reuters by its spokesman, Asad Mansur.

“Our attacks will continue until a true sharia system is enforced in Pakistan,” the spokesman said, referring to Islamic law.

Islamic State (IS) also claimed responsibility for the attack in a message sent to journalists. Jamaat ur Ahrar and IS have jointly claimed responsibility for past attacks in Pakistan.

In the evening, several hundred kilometers to the northeast, two explosions in the town of Parachinar killed at least 27 people and wounded 120, a government official told Reuters.

The blasts were in a market and within three minutes of each other, senior government official Wazir Khan Wazir said. Parachinar is near the border with Afghanistan.

Many people were at the market buying food for iftar, the evening meal with which Muslims break the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan ends this weekend.

No group claimed responsibility for the Parachinar blasts.

POLICE THE TARGET?

In Baluchistan, provincial government spokesman Anwar ul Haq Kakar said the Quetta car bomb went off near the office of the inspector general (IG) of police.

“It’s possible the IG office was the target, or the assailants were trying to enter the cantonment which is close by,” he said, referring to an army housing area.

An official from Baluchistan’s bomb disposal unit said the car had contained up to 95 kg of explosives.

Television footage showed emergency workers rushing to the debris-strewn scene as security officials cordoned it off.

Quetta is about 100 km (60 miles) east of the border with Afghanistan.

Resource-rich Baluchistan province has been plagued by violence for years. Separatist rebels are battling government forces while Taliban and other militant Islamist groups also operate there.

Baluchistan is also a main center of Chinese-backed “Belt and Road” infrastructure and energy projects involving some $57 billion worth of investment across Pakistan.

Militants loyal to the Islamic State group abducted and killed two Chinese nationals in Quetta last month.

That attack prompted Pakistan to boost security for Chinese nationals and other foreigners in the province, which is already one of the most militarized regions in the country.

Late on Friday, in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and financial capital, four police were shot dead as they were observing the iftar meal to break the daily Ramadan fast, local TV and a security official said.

(Additional reporting by Saad Sayeed in Islamabad, Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Jibran Ahmed in Peshawar; Editing by Robert Birsel and Andrew Roche)

 

Syrian Minister Says US War on ISIS “Fake”

Syrian Minister Says US War on ISIS

“Fake”

 

 

Syrian Minister Says US War on ISIS Is Fake

The Syrian information minister says the US has waged a mock battle against ISIS in Syria and its military tactics only serve the interests of the terrorists fighting against Syrian government forces.

Mohammad Ramez Tourjman dismissed as baseless the US claims about targeting ISIS positions in Syria and said unlike the crushing missile strikes of the Islamic Republic on the terrorists’ positions in Syria, the US has not yet taken any practical steps in its alleged war on terror.

“It’s widely known that the US is involved in the Syrian war just to save its face,” he said in an interview with Tasnim, adding Washington is indirectly supporting the militants by shooting down the Syrian government’s jet in southern Syria.

Tourjman also said, “Our investigations into the military measures of the US-led coalition over the past few years reveal that the coalition has not yet managed to hamper ISIS advance. This comes as the Axis of Resistance inflicted a heavy blow on the terrorists in general and ISIS in particular over a short span of time. The blow has forced ISIS into retreat in Iraq and Syria. This shows, unlike the US-led coalition, the Axis of Resistance is completely serious in its war on terror.”

The Syrian information minister stressed that the US and its regional ally, Israel, plan to divide the whole region particularly Syria into smaller parts, but the Axis of Resistance and Russia are against the plot by putting their focus on preserving the integrity of the whole region.

“The shoot-down of the Syrian jet by the US-led coalition was not unprecedented. Several weeks ago the US-led coalition targeted Syrian army which was advancing on its war against ISIS in southern Syria. The attack sparked Russia’s protest, but the protest couldn’t stop the US from targeting the Syrian jet,” he added.

He called for stronger warnings to the US and its allies to make them understand the fact that their wrong measures would not go unpunished.

“The US-led coalition’s repeated gestures of defiance against Russia are putting Russia’s credibility to the test. The Syrian jets target ISIS which is widely regarded as a terrorist group across the world. The United Nation Security Council has listed ISIS as a terrorist group. So the US move to hamper Syrian army and its allies’ operations against ISIS has no legal bases. It shows that the US is just seeking to accomplish its own project to divide the region,” he added.

The Syrian minister also said Russia should continue to slam the US-led coalition for its repeated attacks on the Syrian army’s positions and added, after the US targeted Deir ez-Zor airport, Moscow and Washington signed an agreement to prevent similar attacks in the future, but the US broke the deal by launching further attacks on Syrian army.

“Russia’s strong reaction can send this clear message to the US that it must take war on ISIS seriously. Meanwhile, the US must understand that its repeated attacks on Syrian army’s positions would have serious consequences. So, I think the attacks on the Syrian army could be stopped only if the US faces the iron will of Syrian nation and Axis of Resistance or is forced to sign a binding agreement with Russia,” he concluded.

Defeating the unipolar empire

Defeating the unipolar empire

 

Russia’s patience with the illegal actions of the US and the coalition it leads in Syria is wearing thin.

The statement released by the Russian Ministry of Defence after the US downed a Syrian jet in Syrian airspace announced that “it has ended its interaction with the US side under a memorandum for preventing incidents and providing for safe flights during operations in Syria”.
That’s just the beginning of the statement.

What follows is more relevant to the present discussion.

Russia had made a similar announcement back in April when the US fired Tomahawk missiles on a Syrian airbase but this is different.

The announcement this time goes further.

It is followed by strong words which stand in stark contrast with the diplomatic language Russia had been using to engage the US-led coalition ever since it entered the Syrian war-theatre in September 2015.

These strong words were much-needed.

As reported by Tass, the statement went on to say: “The shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet in Syria’s airspace is a cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty.

The US’ repeated combat operations under the guise of ‘combating terrorism’ against the legitimate armed forces of a UN member-state are a flagrant violation of international law, in addition to being actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic”.

It didn’t say that the US was actually facilitating the terrorists under the “guise of combating terrorism”, though that would have been more apt.

But the statement did go on to say something which is far more serious than that: “Any aircraft, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected in the operation areas west of the Euphrates River by the Russian air forces will be followed by Russian ground-based air defence and air defence aircraft as air targets”.
Wow!

Despite being aware of the two-faced terrorist-friendly regime-change game the US is playing in Syria, Russia had been somewhat tolerant of the illegal operations carried out by the US-led coalition in Syria, though they were as much a violation of Syrian sovereignty then as they are now.

Has Russia been encouraged to take a tougher stance because its alliance with Iran and the Syrian government forces has the upper hand in Syria now?

Reports from Syria indicate that the proxy terrorist groups are on the run and the Syrian government and its allies are marching on, bringing chunks of Syrian territory under their control.
Iraq is cooperating with Syria to secure their common border.

Peace deals with opposition groups in de-confliction zones agreed upon by Russia-Turkey-Iran with the Syrian government have further strengthened the capacity of Syrian allies to confront the mother of all monsters on Syrian soil.

This is something that Russia did everything in its power to avoid.

But the futility of efforts to bring the US around to a peaceful resolution of the conflict through negotiations is becoming clearer by the day.

Trump’s election promise of cooperating with Russia in Syria was obviously a hoax as his administration has done no such thing.

On the contrary, it has upped the ante against the Syrian government and its armed forces.
It is obvious that calling the US a partner hasn’t helped matters and that ISIS is certainly not a ‘common enemy’.

Time and time again, under the guise of combating terrorism, US intervention has targeted the Syrian government forces and facilitated the terrorist groups.

This is nothing new for the global badmash but a tried and tested regime-change strategy.
I’m sure the leadership of Russia knew it all along but kept chanting the ‘American partners’ mantra to cajole the US to the negotiating table.

Besides, taking on all the enemies at once would have created bigger problems.

Now that the tables in Syria have decidedly turned in favour of the Syrian government, and it has become abundantly clear that the US is in no mood to back off from using terrorist proxies as a tool against the Assad regime and facilitating them in very possible way, Russia is expected to give teeth to its principled position.

In Beijing to attend the BRICS Foreign Ministers Summit earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: “All countries should respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and coordinate any actions ‘on the ground’ with Damascus”.

Hopefully, as the Syrian government and its allies liberate more territory from the clutches of proxy terrorists, we would see Russia join its Iranian and Syrian allies in calling out the two-faced US intervention in the country for what it is.

The non-confrontational approach it has followed so far has only emboldened the global badmash to continue its sordid game in Syria and so many other places, and even start new ones as in the case of Philippines.

It is time the multipolar leaders called a spade a spade.

In my opinion, the value-free non-confrontational approach, that seems to have captured the imagination of multipolar leaders, needs to take a backseat for the moment.

It had a positive impact and it will again be useful in the coming days to bring more states to the multipolar fold.

But given the increasingly aggressive posture of the US and its determination to escalate conflicts around the globe, a new approach is needed to defend and build world peace.

Determined actions to frustrate the imperial machinations of the US on the ground should be matched with strong words.

The China-Russia nexus must not only articulate their vision for a new international order but also expose the hurdles that stand in its way without mincing any words.
After all, how can we create a better world without clearly identifying the biggest problem that plagues it?

The shared values and core principles of the multipolar world should provide the foundation for a more concerted consolidation of relations within the bloc and the basis of relations with new entrants and potential partners.

As world powers, both China and Russia must engage with each and every country in the world but it is time that their all-encompassing engagement became more focused to isolate the menace that is Uncle Sam.

Reports from Syria indicate that the proxy terrorist groups are on the run and the Syrian government and its allies are marching on, bringing chunks of Syrian territory under their control.

US Promises To Reclaim Weapons From Kurds After ISIS Is Removed From Syria

Turkey’s defense minister warned on Friday that Ankara would retaliate against any threatening moves by the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria and welcomed a U.S. pledge to take back weapons from the group after the defeat of Islamic State.

Washington sees the YPG as an essential ally in the campaign to defeat Islamic State in its Raqqa stronghold. Ankara considers it a terrorist group tied to militants who have fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey since the mid-1980s.

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik told broadcaster NTV a letter sent to him by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis regarding the weapons given to the YPG was a “positive step” but “implementation is essential”.

Turkey has said supplies to the YPG have in the past ended up in PKK hands, describing any weapon given to them as a threat to its security. Isik warned of retaliation for any action by the Syrian militia.

“Any move by the YPG toward Turkey will be answered immediately,” the minister said.

“Threats that might emerge after the Raqqa operation are already being evaluated. We will implement steps that will completely secure the border,” he added. “It is Turkey’s right to eliminate terror threats across its borders”.

The fight for Raqqa began two weeks ago, putting pressure on Islamic State, which also faces defeat in its Iraqi stronghold, Mosul.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday Turkey had sent reinforcements, including troops, vehicles and equipment into Syria, toward areas south of Azaz town, which is held by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels. The YPG controls areas south of Azaz.

A rebel from a Turkish-backed group has also said Turkey sent in more forces but there has been no confirmation from officials in Ankara.

Turkey opened an offensive in northern Syria in August last year, sending tanks and warplanes across the border to support Syrian rebels fighting both Islamic State and the YPG.

It helped them carve out a big portion of northern Syria, helping ensure the YPG and its allies could not link the 400-km (250-mile) stretch of territory they hold in the north and northeast with the pocket they hold west of Azaz.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Can Sezer; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans, Larry King)

Taliban’s ‘safe havens’ inside, not outside Afghanistan, Pakistan tells UNSC

[SEE: Proving Pakistan Right…Afghanistan Is Harboring Hostile TTP Terrorists ]

Taliban’s ‘safe havens’ inside, not outside

Afghanistan; Pakistan tells UNSC

 

 

Taliban’s ‘safe havens’ inside, not outside Afghanistan; Pakistan tells UNSC

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan has told the UN Security Council that the Afghan Taliban’s “safe havens” are inside, not outside, Afghanistan, given the large areas they control in that war-torn country.

Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN said during a debate on Afghanistan that the resilience of the insurgency led by the Taliban cannot be explained away by convenient references to external ‘safe havens’ or ‘support centers’.

Pakistan, she asserted, was committed not to allow its territory to be used for terrorism against other countries. Pakistan’s Zarb-e-Azb and the subsequent Raddul Fassad military operations had succeeded in eliminating all terrorist and militant groups from its tribal territory bordering Afghanistan.

She told the 15-member Council that Pakistan is “implementing border controls, including the fencing and monitoring of vulnerable sections of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.”

In response to some provocative remarks made by her Afghan counterpart during the debate, she said that “As a country that continues to host over two million Afghan refugees, Pakistan expects the gratitude and not hostility from the Afghan government.”

She said “today there is every reason for the Afghan parties, and their friends, to pursue the path of a negotiated peace. All of them face a common threat from Daesh and the terrorist groups affiliated with it.”

“Among them, the TTP and the Jamat-ul-Ahrar target Pakistan from their bases in Afghanistan.”

“There is no other country, which will gain more from peace in Afghanistan,” Ambassador Lodhi said.

USCENTCOM Gives-Up Fake News Business In Central Asia

[CENTCOM’S LAST POST LEFT ON INTERNET ARCHIVES, March 15, 2015]

[Evidently, it had become impossible for Pentagon psy-warriors to paint a “Rosy” image of US actions and intentions in Central and Southern Asia…

Sometimes “Bullshit Artists” drown in their own filth.]

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Pentagon/CIA Repackages Afghan Govt. Terrorist Force As “The Renouncers”–(updated)

[The Afghan Govt, beginning in the Karzai Administration, has been trying to cultivate its own army of counter-terrorists (anti-Taliban) for a very long time.  The Afghan Govt. first tried to open a line of communications to Mullah Omar through the Pakistani Taliban (Suspicions grow about Afghan support for TTP2011/09/11).  That effort was forcefully ended when US Special Forces intercepted a column of Afghan Spec. Forces, escorting TTP spokesman Latif Mehsud in Logar province, Afghanistan (US Special Forces Forcibly Halt Karzai’s Peace Negotiations Once Again). 

This comes after the Afghan intelligence services had helped the CIA and India build the Tehreek e-Taliban Pakistan (Dissecting the Anti-Pakistan Psyop).  By releasing selective agents like Abdullah Mehsud, who had been reconditioned in Guantanamo, and Taliban legend Mullah Dadullah, who had been held at Bagram Prison, “back into the wilds” of FATA territory, through the wilderness of Eastern Afghanistan, the CIA and friends were able to dominate the growing Taliban movement of Pakistan. 

Following this foray into creating a counter-Taliban (one which would attack Pakistani targets instead of fighting alongside the real Taliban), the CIA developed a capability to manipulate the Afghan Taliban movement, using agents like Mullah Adbul Qayoum Zakir (a.k.a., Mullah Rasoul, ISN #008)), who had been remolded at Gitmo, and instilled with a mission to subvert and split the Afghan Taliban, in order to give Afghan forces better odds on the battlefield.  The covert CIA “black art” of creating “jihadis”, a.k.a., mujahedeen has advanced on the Afghan battlefield through the adaptation of the Indian/Israeli reverse-jihadi lessons to their own program (SEE: The Indian Art of Turning Jihadis Into Anti-Jihadis and the War On Pakistan2015/07/05).]

The lessons learned in this Afghan/American/Indian/Israeli/British endeavor enabled the spy agencies to indirectly control or influence Taliban operations in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Through this successful playing of the Taliban leaders against each other (otherwise known as the “Taliban split”), an operation which was first introduced into Helmand Province by British intelligence agents Michael Semple and Mervyn Patterson (SEE:  ‘Great Game’ or just misunderstanding?), but forcefully ended by US intervention.

Today, after consolidating the anti-Taliban program, first started by Semple and Patterson, now under American control, we see the rise of the followers of Mullah Mohammad Rasoul, a.k.a., “the Renouncers”, as they are reported by the NYT.]

 

Afghan Government Quietly Aids Breakaway Taliban

Faction

 

Attack described in (Taliban Civil War Continues To Rage In Helmand, As Mullah Rasoul and Mullah Habitullah Trade Suicide-Bombs):

“The fighting last week began when the mainstream Taliban attacked a Renouncer base in Gereshk, one of the few areas outside Helmand’s provincial capital, Lashkar Gah…Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, the spokesman for the mainstream Taliban in southern Afghanistan, said the group they had attacked in Gereshk was a unit trained and equipped by the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence agency.He said it had no affiliation with the Taliban... a border police official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, said that among the units guarding the entrances to Lashkar Gah is a Renouncer unit trained and equipped by the National Directorate of Security.

“Further complicating the picture in Helmand are groups known as the *Sangorians,”

[7 killed, 6 wounded in Helmand suicide blast
Jan 10, 2017
“The suicide bombing took place on Haji Khodaidad residence. A National Security Directorate (NDS) unit was also stationed at home which was known as Sangorian.”]

“’Rasoul’s group are supported by the government forces, they operate very freely in government controlled areas,’ said Haji Ajab Gul, another former governor of the district. ‘They can come to the main town of Shindand and target people they dislike.'”

[The level of Afghan support for Renouncer fighters in Helmand remains an unknown factor, even though fighting in Nangarhar reveals coordination against ISIS terrorists, apparently affording the anti-ISIS fighters Afghan air support (SEE: Govt Air and Ground Forces Apparently Back-Up Afghan Taliban Assault Upon ISIS In Nangarhar).  Perhaps the clearest indication given yet, of coordination of Afghan and “Renouncer” forces in the fight against ISIS can be seen in the airstrikes in Paktia Province, after the capture/surrender of TTP spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan (TTP Spokesman Sells-Out Former Mehsud Comrades For Drone Assassination In Paktika).]

Afghan government says Mullah Omar dead–29 July 2015

Taliban’s head of Qatar office resigns over leadership dispute–4 August 2015, Qatar News Service

Taliban Shootout Perhaps Claims Life of CIA/ISI Strawman Taliban Leader Akhtar Mansour2015/12/04

Taliban -vs- Anti-Taliban War Heats-Up In Herat In Western Afghanistan2015/12/09

Mysterious arrest of Taliban supreme leader’s arch rival in PakistanMarch 22, 2016

“A top dissident Taliban leader and arch rival to Taliban supreme leader has been arrested in Pakistan, days after he favored talks with the Afghan government, provided that Mullah Akhtar is not available in the talks.”–Khaama

The Anti-Taliban-Taliban Continues Its Challenge To Mansour’s Legitimacy2016/03/24

Senior Afghan Taliban proposes US talks–7 April 2016, Al Jazeera

The Pentagon Peace Ploy Enters A New Phase With the Flipping of Mullah Rasoul2016/04/08

Anti-Taliban of Mullah Rasool Warn of Pakistani Conspiracies, Argue That Mullah Mansoor Dead2016/04/15

Mullah Mansour Reportedly Killed Again—This Time By Drone In Balochistan2016/05/22

Afghanistan Sponsoring Guantanamo Taliban Mullah Rasoul?2016/05/25

Interview with Mullah Rasool on Reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan Government2016/06/09

The New Neo-Taliban–Taliban’s 3rd Incarnation2016/11/09

“appearance of the Islamic State and the Qatari office closure are interrelated by a role of Doha in these events, which made it clear to Islamabad and to other members of the Quartet that it will not be possible to pacify Afghanistan without Qatar….a tacit cooperation between Islamabad and Doha is taking place in order to overcome Taliban’s fragmentation…Secret contacts between representatives of Iranian intelligence service and some field commanders of the “Taliban” movement have alarmed the Pakistani leadership and Arabian monarchies, especially the KSA and the UAE.”

“On September 2015, IRGC operatives met with Mullah Mansour.”

The IRGC messengers established contact with Mullah Mansour’s main rival, a former Taliban military wing commander Kayyum Abdul Zakir. The Pakistani Intelligence Service confirms that this field commander is receiving weapons and ammo assistance, which means that the talks were fruitful…Tayeb initiated the Hazara Shia militia training in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are traditional Hazara residences. After preparations, they are being sent to join a fight in Syria, Iraq and Yemen (siding with Houthis).”

“An Afghani analog of the Lebanese “Hezbollah” is being formed. The IRGC is implementing this model in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, for the sake of which there is cooperation with the Taliban. The latter and Tehran’s common task is to limit, or better yet to destroy the spread of IS locally. Or rather that part of Taliban’s field commanders that remain under Qatar’s control and sphere of influence.”

 

 

 

Trump Appoints A Registered Lobbyist For Saudi Royals To White House Commission

[ What Explains Trump’s Sharp About-Face on Saudi Arabia? ; Saudi government inks more lobbyists as Congress could revisit 9/11 bill in lame duck ; K Street huddles with Trump transition ]

Trump appointee is a Saudi government

lobbyist

 

 

Richard Hohlt earning six figures from kingdom bent on influencing Trump

 By Carrie Levine

President Donald Trump talks with Saudi King Salman as they pose for photos with leaders at the Arab Islamic American Summit, at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Jordan’s King Abdallah II stands at right.

Evan Vucci/AP

One of President Donald Trump’s newest appointees is a registered agent of Saudi Arabia earning hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby on the kingdom’s behalf, according to U.S. Department of Justice records reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.

Since January, the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry has paid longtime Republican lobbyist Richard Hohlt about $430,000 in exchange for “advice on legislative and public affairs strategies.”

Trump’s decision to appoint a registered foreign agent to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships clashes with the president’s vow to clean up Washington and limit the influence of special interests.

Trump singled out lobbyists for foreign governments for special criticism, saying they shouldn’t be permitted to contribute to political campaigns. Hohlt is himself a Trump donor, though his contributions came before he registered to represent Saudi Arabia.

“I will issue a lifetime ban against senior executive branch officials lobbying on behalf of a FOREIGN GOVERNMENT! #DrainTheSwamp,” he tweeted in October.

Key advisory body

The commission is essentially a part-time advisory body responsible for making final recommendations to the president of candidates for the prestigious White House fellowships, which President Lyndon B. Johnson created in 1964.

The candidates are usually accomplished professionals with sterling resumes. Fellows are typically given jobs in the White House and federal agencies. Past White House fellows include Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas and CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta.

Hohlt said he is one of 19 commissioners who met over a weekend this month to interview the fellowship candidates — the commission’s only formal duty annually.

Hohlt stresses he has never lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Saudi Arabia, which has aggressively courted Trump since he became president in January.

“That is not my role,” Hohlt said.

What role, then, does he play?

According to Hohlt’s disclosures with the Department of Justice, he registered to lobby for Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry in October and “provides them with advice on legislative and public affairs strategies.” He disclosed no direct contacts with government officials on the Saudis’ behalf as of April 30, the date covered by the latest Department of Justice report.

Hohlt said he was largely brought in to offer advice on overarching strategy and how the legislative process works.

He did directly contact some congressional offices in late May and June regarding an arms sale, he said, and those contacts will be disclosed in his next disclosure report, as required.

Hohlt added that he’s working for the Saudis without a formal contract. If the Saudis asked him to lobby for something the Trump administration opposed, “I’d say I’m not going to work on it,” Hohlt said.

For example, he said, the administration was in favor of the arms deal.

Trump strikes deals with Saudis

Trump’s first foreign trip as president came in May, when he visited Saudi Arabia.

While there, Trump touted the “tremendous” deals he said he struck with the Saudis, including an expanded arms agreement valued at $100 billion. During elaborate ceremonies, the Saudis heaped plaudits. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir praised Trump and praised his “vision,” “strength” and “decisiveness.”

Hohlt said he disclosed his Saudi lobbying job to Trump officials during the vetting process before his appointment.

White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said she had “nothing to add” in response to questions from the Center for Public Integrity about Trump’s appointment of Hohlt, including whether the Trump administration was aware Hohlt worked as a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry.

Love referred the question of whether the administration was aware of Hohlt’s representation of the Saudis to the White House fellows office, which did not respond to a request for comment.

Upon taking office, Trump issued an executive order on ethics that included, among other things, a lifetime ban on executive branch appointees engaging in work that would require registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, among other restrictions on lobbyists.

The law, known as FARA, is the same law that mandates disclosure of Hohlt’s work for Saudi Arabia.

Trump’s executive order doesn’t apply to part-time appointees such as Hohlt. Nonetheless, some government ethics experts still say the appointment presents a jarring contrast with the president’s statements.

And despite Trump’s order, he has issued ethics waivers to lobbyists who have taken full-time positions with the administration, including, for example, Michael Catanzaro, a former energy company lobbyist who is now a special assistant to the president and adviser on energy policy. The waiver allows Catanzaro to participate in matters on which he lobbied.

Trump donor

Hohlt is a Trump donor. He contributed $2,700, to Trump’s campaign in August and $5,000 to Trump’s transition in September, the maximum amounts permitted. Those contributions came before he registered to represent Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry in October.

Nonetheless, “Appointing someone who is registered under FARA as doing work for Saudi Arabia does seem odd at a time when he’s made a very big deal about not having people leave the government and then do work where they have to register under FARA,” said Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign reform organization.

Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in Saint Louis, said, “There is truth to the slogan that personnel is policy. And so he’s appointing this lobbyist for Saudi Arabia to a commission that then recommends people for important positions.”

Hohlt also lobbies for numerous corporate clients. This year, he’s been registered to lobby on behalf of oil giant Chevron, the Motion Picture Association of America and a division of tobacco giant Altria, among others.

Asked about any potential conflict of interest, Hohlt pointed to the extremely part-time nature of his fellowship commission appointment.

“I guess I’m an old-fashioned lobbyist,” Hohlt said. “I know how to separate lobbying and not lobbying.”

Turkey Reinforces Anti-Kurdish Forces In Northern Aleppo, Kurds Dig-In

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (2: 00 P.M.) – Turkish Special Forces arrived, today, at northern Aleppo countryside to shore up its proxies in what might be a new crackdown against the Kurdish forces.

The reinforcements – greatly welcomed by local residents – were deployed to help the Turkish-backed Euphrates Shield – a coalition of FSA-affiliated factions – expel the Kurdish fighters from Tal Rifaat and other nearby towns as battles between the two warring parties re-erupted recently.

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has vowed to use force to drive out the Kurds from the towns and villages they had seized earlier, accusing them of ethnic cleansing against the indigenous Arab inhabitants.

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Even though Turkey has officially declared the end of the Euphrates Shield Operation (aimed at securing the borders against the Kurds as well as Islamic State), its proxies are still controlling large swathes of territories along the borders to prevent both the Kurds and ISIS from threatening the Turkish national security.

Iran Blasts US Sec. State Tillerson Call For “Peaceful Transition” of Iranian Govt

Iran protests against Tillerson ‘transition’

remarks

 

 

FILE- In this June 13, 2017, file photo, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pauses while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was released by North Korea in a coma last week after almost a year and a half in captivity, died Monday, June 19, his family said. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

TEHRAN: Iran has called in the Swiss charge d’affaires, who looks after U.S. interests, to protest against comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson backing “peaceful transition” in the Islamic republic.

The administration of President Donald Trump has taken an increasingly hawkish position towards Iran since taking office in January but Tillerson’s testimony to a Congressional committee last week appeared to be the first expression of support for a change of government.

“The Swiss charge d’affaires was summoned to the foreign ministry to be a handed a strong protest from the Islamic Republic of Iran against the comments by the U.S. secretary of state…. which were contrary to international law and the U.N. charter,” ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi told Iranian media.

Alongside Monday’s summoning of the Swiss envoy, Iran also sent a protest letter to U.N. chief Antonio Guterres, the ISNA news agency reported.

In last Wednesday’s testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tillerson accused Iran of seeking “hegemony” in the Middle East at the expense of U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia.

“Our policy towards Iran is to push back on this hegemony… and to work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government,” the U.S. top diplomat said.

“Those elements are there certainly, as we know,” he added, without elaborating on the groups he was referring to.

Iran was, with North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, part of the “axis of evil” that the George W. Bush administration earmarked for “regime change” after it took office in 2001.

But when Saddam’s ouster in the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 triggered a deadly insurgency that continues to this day, the policy fell out of favour.

In his testimony, Tillerson also raised the possibility of imposing sanctions on the whole of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s main military force and a major player in the country’s economy.

Currently, Washington has only blacklisted the Guards’ foreign operations arm — the Quds Force — and some individual commanders.

“We continually review the merits, both from the standpoint of diplomatic but also international consequences, of designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in its entirety as a terrorist organisation,” Tillerson said.

The Guards have played a major role in training Shiite militias in Iraq that are a significant force in the fightback against ISIS, and have also trained thousands of “volunteers” to battle alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria.

The United States has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since the aftermath of the Islamic revolution of 1979 and its interests are looked after by Switzerland.

Russian TV Films F-16 Harassing Defense Minister’s Plan, Warned-Off By Su-27 Fighter

https://www.rt.com/news/393327-russia-defence-ministry-plane-nato/

Russian Su-27 warns off NATO F-16 trying

to approach defense minister’s plane over

Baltic (VIDEO)

 

A NATO F-16 fighter jet has tried to approach the Russian defense minister’s plane above the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea. The plane was warded off by a Russian Su-27 escorting the minister’s aircraft.

Russian plane was en route to the city of Kaliningrad, a western Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, where Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu is scheduled to discuss security issues with defense officials on Wednesday.

The incident was first reported by journalists of Russian state news agencies on board Shoigu’s plane.

While one NATO aircraft tried to approach the Russian airplane, a Russian Su-27 fighter jet got in its way and tilted its wings, apparently showing its arms. The F-16 then flew away.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that he has no information about the incident.

“It’s probably better to ask the Defense Ministry,” Peskov said in answer to journalists’ questions.

The alliance was not aware that the Russian Defense Minister was onboard, a NATO representative told TASS, stating that the F-16 made a “standard” check as Shoigu’s plane did not identify itself.

“We consider the actions of Russian pilots during the encounter as safe and professional,” the representative said.

On Shoigu’s way back from Kaliningrad, his escort was bolstered by several Su-34 jets, according to reporters. A number of NATO planes followed the Russian Defense Minister’s plane at a distance without making attempts to get any closer.

On Monday a US RC-135 spy plane flying toward the Russian border made a “provocative turn” toward a Baltic Fleet Su-27, which had been scrambled for an interception mission.

The encounters of Russian and US warplanes over the Baltic Sea waters have apparently become more frequent lately. A Russian fighter jet intercepted a small group of US warplanes, including Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker military refueling aircraft, two B-1 bombers and one B-52, during the BALTOPS (Baltic Operations) annual training exercise on June 10.

Earlier in June, the Russian military intercepted another B-52 bomber in the same area, and escorted by an Su-27 fighter away from Russian territory.

US Jet Shoots-Down Another Iranian Drone Near al-Tanf/Al Waleed border crossing

Syria conflict: US jet ‘downs Iranian-made

drone’

  • 20 June 2017
 F15E Strike Eagle (file photo)Image copyright AFP  An F15E fighter plane shot down the drone near Tanf, in southern Syria, the US military said

A US jet has shot down an Iranian-made drone operated by forces backing the Syrian government in the south of the country, American officials say.

The drone was thought to be armed and threatening US-led coalition troops on the ground, officials said.

It was shot down near Tanf, an outpost of the US-led coalition.

This is the latest incident in the skies over Syria, after the US shot down a Syrian fighter plane on Sunday and another drone earlier this month.

The F-15 plane downed the drone around 00:30 on Tuesday (21:30 GMT Monday) north-east of Tanf, according to a US military statement.

The incident underscores the growing tensions in the region as a battle develops for the control of eastern Syria, BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says.

Former Ambassador Ford to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Gave Syrians False Hope–(FULL TEXT)

Ford to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Gave Syrians

False Hope

 

 

Ford: The Kurds will pay the price of their trust in the Americans … Obama did not leave Trump a lot of options.  Said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that Iran and Hezbollah were spared Assad and wanted to crush the Syrian opposition

London: Ibrahim Hamidi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former US President Barack Obama has left little choice for President Donald Trump to change the rules of the game to reduce Iran’s influence in Syria, the last US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, told Asharq Al-Awsat in London, pointing out that the Iranians would push the Americans to withdraw. From eastern Syria and withdrew from Beirut in 1983 and Iraq.

Ford said the Kurds would pay dearly for their trust in the Americans, and that the US military was using them only to fight a “preacher” and would not use force to defend them against Syrian regime forces or Iran and Turkey. “What we do with the Kurds is immoral and a political mistake,” he said. Ford left Damascus in 2012, but remained America’s envoy to Syria until he resigned in 2014 and became a research fellow at the Middle East Research Center in Washington and a professor at Yale University.

 

Here is the text of the talk, which was held in London yesterday:

* Let’s start with a pivotal point, your visit to Hama in June 2011. Why did you go? Do you think the decision was wise?

– The questions are two. why did you go? The answer is easy. We had information that Hama was besieged and the army encircled the city and we were worried about violence in the demonstration the next day. I went Thursday to witness the violence if it happened to know who started it because the question in Washington would be: Who started the violence? The demonstrators or the government? If they asked me from Washington and I said I do not know because I am in Damascus they will not accept my answer. I also thought that if I sent diplomats from the embassy it would not be as effective as if I had gone myself.

My visit also includes a message to the Syrian government that we are taking the issue seriously and should not send the army into the city. Hama has a tragic history as it is known. I did not seek approval from the US State Department. I just said I was going. I sent to Jeffrey Feltman (Assistant Secretary) Wednesday and said I was going to Hama Thursday and demonstrations on Friday.

Q: Did you inform the Syrian government?

– We sent a note saying we would send a diplomatic car with four diplomats. I did not say I would be among the diplomats. And arrangements with the Syrian Foreign Ministry, including the obligation to inform them 48 hours ago, and if there is no objection, we proceed with the implementation of what we have said. So I traveled, although I did not expect to be allowed into Hama.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There was also French Ambassador Eric Chevalier?

– Yes in a different car.

Q: Was it a wise decision?

There are two aspects. Positive and negative. Positive, my visit has shown the Syrians that we are interested in human rights issues. So far, when I meet Syrians they say to me: I went to Hama, thank you. Also, I knew a lot about the opposition from the visit. Before that, we did not know how organized they were. They have their own security, a unified command, and an economic relief agency for families. This was not the reason we went, but I learned.

There are two passions to go. First, the Syrian government used my visit to support its propaganda that the Syrian revolution was an external conspiracy. Second, one of my students at Yale writes a thesis about it: My visit and other work in Syria in 2011. Encouraged the protest movement to grow, but the Americans were not ready to send the army to help the Syrians. This means that we have given the Syrians false hope.

* False hope?

 

– Do you know the story of Hungary in 1956? In the Cold War. (President Dwight) Eisenhower and the Soviet President (Nikita) Khrushchev. At that time, the Hungarians demonstrated in Budapest. Before that, there was American propaganda to help people and demonstrate against communism in Eastern Europe, including Hungary. The West was sympathetic to them. The Hungarians rose in November 1956 during the Suez Canal crisis. Of course, the Americans did not do anything. The Hungarians were crushed by the Soviet army and there were victims, arrests and disappearances. For the Hungarians, it was a terrible experience. Some people say that the visit you made and (Ambassador) Chevalier was like what happened in Hungary: we gave people hope and then we left them. It was never our intention. As you know I always said in Damascus, the US military did not come. I have often discussed with opponents. I told everyone: After the Iraq war, the US military will not come to your aid. I told the people in Hama: Stay peaceful. If there is violence, the US military will not come.

Some people have heard my message, but not everyone. Which meant there was encouragement even if it was not intended. My answer is, I do not think the Syrians demonstrated and rebelled because they wanted to help America, but to get Assad out of power. They demonstrated in the streets not because of America, but because of what they saw in Egypt and Tunisia.

Then, in August, there was a discussion in the White House, and then President Barack Obama announced that Assad should step down. what happened?

– I was not sure about the meeting, but they called me from Washington to tell me in Damascus. The debate lasted weeks before that. I was against Obama’s statement.

* Why?

 

Is Assad legitimate?

There were dozens of meetings. They sent me the meeting agenda in Damascus on the eve of Obama’s speech. After the meeting, a senior White House official called me. He tried to call the secure phone but did not work in Damascus. It was a hangover. Then call me on an unsecured regular phone. He said: Robert, do you remember the subject we were discussing in a regular way? I said yes. He said: “We have had other meetings and we believe that the issue is about the special decision we will make. Do you know what I’m talking about? I said yes. He said: What do you think? I said: Nothing will change here in the government. May change the protest movement, but certainly will not lead to major political changes. I could not say: Assad will not step down because I know that Syrian intelligence is listening to me.

“Would you be safe if we did?” He said. I said: Sure I’ll be fine. Repeat as saying: Are you sure. I said: Because of the Russian veto, there will be no problem and my life will not be in danger. I added: You know that this position will ultimately achieve the goal I have come to, that is, talk with the government. He said: We understand that.

This is the error you have made. I should have said: No, Obama should not say so. But because I know there is political pressure in Washington, I said to him: Yes, I will be in a safe position.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] A US official told me that he was at the meeting and opposed Obama’s saying that Assad should implement his military decision to step down.

– I should have said to the high official: If you are not able to implement the permit, you must remain silent.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Six years later, did you expect Assad to remain in power despite everything that happened in the country?

– The end of 2013. I thought that the war of attrition would be harsh on the regime and they would negotiate a deal. Some will ask for amnesty and go to Algeria, Russia or Cuba, and there will be a coalition government that includes perhaps (the head of the National Security Bureau) Ali Mamluk or (the head of the General Intelligence) Mohammed Dib Zitoun under the leadership of a former deputy president Farouk al-Sharaa with the opposition and the independents.

However, because the Syrian regular army will be weak, the regime will accept to save itself in return for abandoning the families of Assad and Makhlouf.


[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you really think that the regime will end?

– Yeah. This is the biggest political mistake he has committed. I did not expect Iran and Hezbollah to send thousands of fighters. I did not expect Hezbollah to sacrifice its reputation in the Arab world for Assad. I thought they would negotiate a political coalition first. This is the biggest political mistake we have committed. We never expected that.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did you think that the militarization of mobility was a correct decision?

Until I left Damascus in March, I was asking for political dialogue. I even thought that because of my position in the fall of 2011, I would have problems in Congress. I’ll tell you how he started talking about militarism. Even when the embassy closed and I returned to Washington in March 2012, we were saying: dialogue and dialogue and no violence. We have been adhering to the initiative of Kofi Annan (former international envoy) with six points. They did not call for violence to stop negotiations. Of course, it failed.

Then, Fred (Hoff, the US envoy) went to Congress to present his testimony. In that debate as he was speaking, a member of Congress was asked about violence: Do you think it is justified for the Syrians, the protest movement and the opposition to use violence? Farid said: When someone comes to your house to pick you up and then you are tortured and killed, it is normal to use violence against your family. This is understandable.

It was the first time an American official said that he was “OK” to use violence against the regime. We were surprised when we heard him say that. We seemed to have crossed a red line.

 

This made Congress happy because they heard what they wanted to hear. On the other hand, it was not possible to continue: No to violence, only to dialogue, especially with continued escalation, explosive drums and chemical weapons. This is some of the destroyed Homs.

* I resigned from your position at the end of February 2014. Before that there was a debate in Washington about arming the opposition and the Free Army at the end of 2012?

– When Fred Hoff passed the line, it seemed to me that we had to do what we could to put pressure on the regime, especially after the failure of Annan’s plan. In May, the international observer mission, Robert Maude, failed. Back then, I went to Washington and visited (CIA Director) David Petraeus in May 2012. I knew him from Iraq and we worked together. I said: Greater effort must be made in Syria and attention must be paid to the infiltration of terrorists from Iraq. We must think about helping the moderates, pressuring the regime and stopping the progress of extremists. That means, you should help the moderates. Petraeus looked at me. He is intelligent and not stupid. He did not say much, just said: Let me talk to my group in the CIA about this.

* Then he made a proposal to arm the opposition?

Two months later, I spoke to Clinton and interviewed the CIA. There was agreement on what to do. Must help the moderates.

* With weapons?

– Yes, with weapons. In June and July I spoke to Clinton about the matter. I expected to reject this and we will not arm the opposition because this is a major change in our policy and we want dialogue, the Geneva Declaration, a negotiated solution and a national transition authority. I expected the meeting to be difficult with Clinton, but the reality was that it immediately agreed to end the “victory front” and support the moderates with arms and aid to support the citizens in order to pressure the regime to accept the Geneva Declaration.

You know what she said?

* What?

 

 

– She also said: We will have more influence on the opposition to accept a political negotiated solution. The meeting with Clinton was easy. I did not know the details. An American journalist said: Clinton met with Petraeus in June and talked to her about it before she met him. So neither of them told me about it.

Obama rejected Clinton and Petraeus’ recommendation to arm the opposition?

– did not refuse, but put the recommendation in the drawer. In American culture it means rejection.

* The CIA secret program began after that?

– I have to be careful. I can not talk about the secret program. What can be said: the debate continued on several occasions in the months following to 2013. At that time, there were reports that the regime used chemical weapons in small quantities in the province of Aleppo and the countryside of Damascus. There were reports that al-Qaeda and al-Nasra were becoming more widespread. And (John) Kerry got Obama’s approval in 2013. His first meeting was about Syria. And talked with him about arming the opposition and Obama’s rejection. Kerry said: This must be done. I said: The president did not agree. He went to Obama and talked about it. He returned and said to me: I have approval from Obama to provide non-lethal aid to the opposition. Food, communications, medicine and clothing, but not a weapon. I asked: What about the weapon?

 

Kerry said: Weapon, no. But he asked me to start immediately. Kerry then announced at a meeting of “Friends of Syria” in Rome with the head of the “coalition” Moaz Khatib. The first batch arrived at the end of March and came from Kuwait.

What about arming? When did he start?

 

– The first Washington Post report on the CIA program appeared in September 2013. I will just say that my press sources were excellent. I did not read anything wrong in my article. Then the articles began to appear after September. And then Ben Rhodes (White House official) said after the chemical use in 2013, that President Obama decided to «take additional steps» without specifying.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But Assad remained until 2017?
– No, I expected that the (regular) army will shrink back to the defensive lines and then in the war of attrition, some soldiers will leave and then will negotiate. Got a little bit. But they left the border in 2012. We thought that the worse the military situation, some people within the system will say: Let’s start negotiating.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Have you put a list of those who accept any solution?

– We set up a list of three circles in the system: the narrow circle, the second circle, and the third circle. I asked the opposition to prepare a list. It does not matter if Americans have a list. What is important is that the opposition has a list. I spoke to opponents to present a “black list” of people you believe should be deported. I was very upset, because the opponents travel a lot and when we ask for the list, they say, “We want you to intervene and we want an air embargo. I was saying: We are not talking about an air embargo, but a negotiated solution with the regime.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Washington did not want to change the regime, but rather a negotiated solution.

– In 2013, I told the Syrian opposition: You should be open to Assad. If you convince Assad to change the head of air and military intelligence, political security and public intelligence. If the head of the Central Bank and the Minister of Finance changes, and then appoints independents instead of Assad’s control, his survival can be accepted. Gosh!. They said: This is impossible.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] So, Washington accepted Assad’s survival in 2013, contrary to the statements?

– Yeah. Because the Geneva negotiations were making no progress. I expected the Geneva negotiations to be doomed to failure, especially because of Iranian support. I did not expect Russian support. With Iranian support, I expected Assad to remain, so I left office.
* In September 2013, she participated in the Kerry negotiations with his Russian counterpart

 

Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on the chemical agreement. Was the deal: Assad remains in exchange for giving up the chemical?

– No, vice versa. There was a meeting between Kerry and Lavrov about the chemical and I was present. The subject was not the chemical, but the Geneva negotiations and the political transition. We asked for the meeting and the Russians accepted the meeting. Kerry said: We do not want the collapse of the state. This is not our goal. We just want a transitional government and are ready to negotiate. “We want the Syrian army and the free army to work together to fight terrorists like Nasra and terrorists,” Lavrov said in a humiliating way. Kerry said: Sergey. That’s what we want too. Lavrov: So they agree. Kerry: But this can not be done with Assad’s presence and there must be a transitional body through negotiation. But the Free Army can not expect to include the Syrian army without change in government. This is impossible. Lavrov: If you try to change Assad, the whole system will collapse. We said: Well, this is about negotiation so we can achieve the goal without it. Lavrov: If you think we’ll take the lion and offer asylum, you’re wrong. Kerry said: We do not want that, but we want a negotiated and transitional solution.


[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did you think that Lavrov used Kerry?

– Yeah. I told Kerry after signing the chemical deal: The Syrian government will be cheated. You know they will fool us. They (in Damascus) are not honest, and always cheat. Kerry said: This goes back to the Russians. The Russians will prevent the regime and the most important thing is the investigation and control system. Kerry said the Russians had agreed to a transparent process of inquiry. I told Kerry: The details of the verification is important because the Syrian regime will cheat.

* What has changed?

 

– At the beginning of 2013 expected to go to Assad and then took the battle of the short and entered the “Hezbollah” in a large and non-dynamic war and then used a chemical signal of military pressure. By the end of 2013, what happened? The chief of staff of the “Free Army” Salim Idris and the pillars faded and emerged «Ahrar Cham» and «Nasra». And the “Free Army” in the south has not made any progress. The chemical used. The Iranians are sending more militias. Iraqis come to Syria. There was a big recession.

In contrast, there was no US escalation. Therefore, the Iranian position will advance. Assad may retreat, but he will remain in Damascus and the coast. We believed that in a recession, Assad would keep Damascus, the coast, Homs and Hama, but he would not take Aleppo and would not go east. That is, we expected to divide the fait accompli. Which we did not expect, in 2014 and 2015. More Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans and Hezbollah, and then Russia sends its air force.

* Account error?

– Yes we had to expect it. It was a big mistake. We did not expect stagnation because it was in favor of Assad.

Why did not Washington change the recession?

The lion won. He is victorious, or he thinks so. Maybe in ten years it will take all the country.

 

The regime will not be held accountable for chemical weapons, fighting, torture, “explosive drums”, refugees and displaced persons. No accounting. Assad may not visit Paris or London, but no one will go to Damascus to take regime officials to the Hague trial? no one. The system may take some time to recover a shield. Sooner or later he will go to Idlib. The Russians will help him and go to Qamishli and conclude an agreement with Iran and Turkey to destroy the Kurds.

Q: What about the Americans? Will not protect the Kurds?

– Do you think the Americans will fight in Qamishli?

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Americans support the Kurds to liberate Al-Raqqa from “urging”.
– Have you heard of an American official or read an American statement saying: We will defend the “West of Kurdistan” after the defeat of “Da’ash”?

* No? what does it mean?

– Is this by accident? They will not defend the Kurds against the Assad forces.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are they using the Kurds to liberate Al-Raqqa?

– Yeah. So, I think that what we’re doing with the Kurds is not only politically stupid, but immoral. Americans used the Kurds for many years under Saddam Hussein. Do you think the Americans will treat the “Democratic Union” and the “People’s Protection Units” in a different form than former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (when he abandoned them)? Frankly, US officials told me that. Syrian Kurds make the biggest mistake in their confidence in Americans.

Do you think US officials are using the Kurds?

– Yes, in a tactical and temporary manner and will not use the US military to defend the “West of Kurdistan” as an independent region in the future of Syria.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But for the first time, the US military defended its allies in the Syrian Badia and the Al-Tanf camp against Iran’s allies.

– Why did they do that? Not to push Assad to reach a political and negotiated solution, but to defend the opposition fighters who are fighting “dashing.” There is a difference between fighting a “push” and seeking a concession from Assad on the future of Syria. Last thing, Trump management will not do this.

* It has been said that the management of Trump two priorities: to fight «urging» and reduce the influence of Iran and control over eastern Syria will achieve both?

– Some officials in Washington believe this, but the Americans will soon know that Iran will step up and that America will not have the patience and the military power to make a counter-escalation.


* what does it mean?

– The Americans will withdraw. As you know, we withdrew from Beirut in 1983 and withdrew from Iraq as well.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think that the Iranian Crescent will retreat?

– There is an “Iranian crescent” which exists and cannot be defeated in eastern Syria. Iranian influence comes in Syria from western Syria, Damascus airport, the relationship between Tehran and Damascus, and Iran’s support for the regime in Damascus.

How can the Iranian Crescent be defeated?

– by imposing a negotiated solution on Assad and the opposition. But Iran and Russia are giving support to the regime, taking Aleppo and destroying it. For the first time since 2012, the Assad forces on the borders of Iraq and not the Kurds.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are they Iranian forces?

– True, Afghans, Iranians and Iraqis ….

What is Iran’s goal?

– The Iranians want to end the Syrian opposition once and for all. The military solution only. They prefer a route that passes through western Kurdistan, Raqqa, Aleppo and then to Lebanon. If the Syrian Kurds surrender, it will be acceptable. But the condition of full surrender and taking instructions from Damascus otherwise the Kurds will destroy and the Turks will be happy and cooperate with Iran against the Kurds.

* What is the ultimate goal of Trump?

– He wants to reduce Iranian influence so I heard from one of Trump’s advisers a few weeks ago, but does not know that the game is over. They were too late. Obama has not left Trump’s management a lot of options to achieve its goal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NYT Highlights Taliban Split and Afghan Govt Sponsorship of Mullah Rasoul Faction–(updated)

Taliban Civil War Continues To Rage In Helmand, As Mullah Rasoul and Mullah Habitullah Trade Suicide-Bombs

Afghanistan Sponsoring Guantanamo Taliban Mullah Rasoul?

Pakistan Arrests Mullah Rasoul After He Outs CIA/ISI Taliban Mansour

TOLO NEWS Identifies Mullah Rasoul Faction As Pro-Peace Talks vs Pro-Pakistani Taliban of Mullah Mansour

Mullah Dadullah Front, Guantanamo, and the New, New Taliban

UAE/Afghan Investigators Claim Quetta Taliban Ordered “The Hit” On UAE Officials In Kandahar

 

 

Afghan security officials patrolling an area after a suicide bomb blast that targeted a checkpoint run by the breakaway Taliban faction known as the Renouncers, in the district of Gereshk in Helmand Province last week. Credit Watan Yar/European Pressphoto Agency

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — It was a particularly bitter fight in the heavily contested district of Gereshk in Helmand Province. The adversaries deployed suicide attackers, roadside explosives and a magnetic bomb stuck to the undercarriage of a commander’s car, amid pitched firefights that went on for several days last week.

When it was over, at least 21 people were dead on both sides — and all were members of the Taliban.

As a result, Gereshk remained one of the few places in the province still mostly under the Afghan government’s control, thanks to a breakaway Taliban faction that has become a de facto ally of the government.

Infighting among the Taliban is nothing new. But Afghan officials have now chosen sides, with a policy that amounts to “If you can’t beat them, at least help their enemies do so.”

In recent months, the government has quietly provided the breakaway faction — popularly known as the Renouncers — with weapons, safe passage and intelligence support in their fight against the mainstream Taliban. The result has been a series of successes in areas where the government has otherwise suffered repeated defeats, particularly in Helmand, a southern province where the mainstream Taliban still control 90 percent of the territory.

The Renouncers are followers of Mullah Mohammad Rasoul, who split with the main Taliban group after revelations in 2015 that the former Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, had long been dead. Mullah Rasoul and his followers were angered that Mullah Omar’s replacement, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, had kept the death a secret.

After Mullah Mansour was killed in an American airstrike last year, his successor, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, antagonized the Rasoul faction even more, especially by choosing a hard-line member of the Taliban’s Haqqani wing, Sirajuddin Haqqani, as deputy leader in charge of military operations.

While they have been most active in Helmand Province, other Renouncer factions have engaged in bitter fights with the mainstream Taliban in Shindand District of Herat Province, in the northwest, and in the western provinces of Farah and Ghor.

Photo

An ambulance carrying the body of a suspected militant who was killed in a suicide bomb blast in Helmand last week. Gereshk is one of the few places in the province still mostly under the Afghan government’s control. Credit Watan Yar/European Pressphoto Agency

 

The fighting last week began when the mainstream Taliban attacked a Renouncer base in Gereshk, one of the few areas outside Helmand’s provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, that are not under Taliban control. The base, near an Afghan Army base, was struck by a pickup truck loaded with explosives and driven by a suicide bomber, killing 11 of their fighters, according to Hamidullah Afghan, a local police official. He said the authorities helped evacuate those Renouncers who were wounded to a hospital in Lashkar Gah.

In retaliation, the Renouncers began their own suicide attack against the Taliban at a bazaar in the district, according to Abdul Salam Afghan, a spokesman for the Helmand police. In all, 11 of the Renouncers and 10 of the mainstream Taliban were killed in the fighting, which was still flaring this week in the area of the bazaar, in Seminar Dasht village.

Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, the spokesman for the mainstream Taliban in southern Afghanistan, said the group they had attacked in Gereshk was a unit trained and equipped by the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence agency. He said it had no affiliation with the Taliban.

Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, the spokesman for the Renouncer faction, denied that the group was government-supported, saying that it was a popular movement spurred by resentment toward the mainstream Taliban.

“The reason they targeted us with a car bomber is the Taliban are afraid of us, because we are enhancing our influence in Helmand and the people realize now the Taliban are getting financial support from Iran and Russia,” Mullah Niazi said. “They have lost touch with the grass roots.”

He said the group had also fought against the Taliban in Ghor and Farah provinces. “We have told the residents not to allow Taliban to stay in their villages, and if anyone is found giving shelter to the Taliban, their homes will be burned to ashes,” Mullah Niazi said.

Government officials in Helmand publicly deny any support for the Renouncer faction. But several police officials there confirmed that the government had helped transfer wounded Renouncers to the hospital after the fighting last week. And a border police official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, said that among the units guarding the entrances to Lashkar Gah is a Renouncer unit trained and equipped by the National Directorate of Security.

The intelligence agency pays the fighters salaries equivalent to $150 to $300 a month, as well as supplying them with food, weapons and vehicles, the official said.

Photo

Afghan forces patrolling the district of Pachir Agham near Tora Bora, in Nangarhar Province. Last week, the Islamic State scored a symbolic victory against the Taliban by taking control of the cave and tunnel complex in the area. Credit Ghulamullah Habibi/European Pressphoto Agency

 

The mainstream Taliban are worried that the Renouncers, who dress and look like other Taliban, have been infiltrating their ranks. In May, they claimed to have arrested 90 such infiltrators in Helmand, who they said were involved in assassination plots against the mainstream group.

Further complicating the picture in Helmand are groups known as the *Sangorians,

after a popular television drama that depicts a hero wandering the mountains and fighting evildoers, disguised in local garb. These groups, according to local officials, are recruited and trained by the intelligence agency, but dress as Taliban and infiltrate into Taliban-controlled areas to fight behind their lines.

Far to the north in Herat Province, the Taliban has made its most serious inroads in Shindand District. There the Taliban shadow governor, Mullah Samad, brought in reinforcements from other provinces to fight against the local leader of the breakaway faction, Nangyal (who like many Afghans uses only one name).

Nangyal was defeated and surrendered to the government, which then helped him reorganize his forces as a Renouncer group aligned to Mullah Rasoul, and return to the fight against the mainstream Taliban, according to Abdul Hameed Noor, a former governor of Shindand.

“Rasoul’s group are supported by the government forces, they operate very freely in government controlled areas,” said Haji Ajab Gul, another former governor of the district. “They can come to the main town of Shindand and target people they dislike.”

Last month, the Afghan Army detected a buildup of mainstream Taliban forces planning an attack on followers of Mullah Rasoul in another part of Herat Province, and government forces thwarted the assault with a pre-emptive strike, according to Lal Muhammad Omarzay, the governor of Adraskan District, where the clash took place.

“We do not have any direct contacts with Mullah Rasoul’s group, but we do not fight them either,” Mr. Omarzay said. “They do not face us, and we do not face them either.”

In several parts of the country, the Taliban also have to contend against the Islamic State in Khorasan, followers of the extremists in Iraq and Syria. The group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is particularly strong in parts of eastern Nangarhar Province, but it also has had a presence in Ghor, Farah and other areas. Most of those elements began as Taliban factions that turned against the mainstream group.

Last week, the Islamic State scored a symbolic victory against the Taliban by taking control of the Tora Bora cave and tunnel complex, once used by Osama bin Laden as a hide-out. The Afghan military said on Sunday that it was in the process of ousting the militants from the area.

 

*Sangorian

7 killed, 6 wounded in Helmand suicide blast
Jan 10, 2017
“The suicide bombing took place on Haji Khodaidad residence. A National Security Directorate (NDS) unit was also stationed at home which was known as Sangorian.

Civilians paying the price in Taliban conflict 
16 July 2007|
“’One evening the Taliban came into our village mosque. They preached about jihad and said we should support the jihad either financially or by our blood,’ said Haji Khodaidad, who left his home in Helmand’s Kajaki District two months ago.”

Bagram: The First Ever Prisoner List (The Annotated Version)
Haji Khodaidad, prisoner number ISN 3778
, Bagram, Helmand Province,
released June 2010

 

 

US Downing of Syrian Jet Escalates, As Russia Warns That US Aircraft Now Targets

[It is no stretch of the imagination to say that we could possibly be at war with Russia within two or three days.  Maybe now the world is about to see conclusively which side fights ISIS and which side protects them, since both Syria and the Pentagon have claimed that they were attacking ISIS at the time of the Syrian bombing (SEE:  Pentagon Claims Its Mercenaries Were the Ones Hitting ISIS, NOT the SyriansSana Reports Syrian Aircraft Shot-Down While Attacking ISIS Position, By Coalition Aircraft ).]

https://therearenosunglasses.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/665e6-2605084.jpg

VS-

https://i1.wp.com/www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/imgs/mcdonnell-douglas-fa18-hornet-multirole-fighter.jpg

Russia warns it will treat US-led coalition

jets in parts of Syria as targets after US

downed Syrian plane

 

 

By Luis Martinez

The Russian Defense Ministry blasted the U.S.’ shooting down of a Syrian regime fighter jet as a “massive violation of international law” and said it will begin treating U.S.-led coalition jets flying west of the Euphrates River in Syria as targets.

The ministry’s comments Monday came after a U.S. Navy fighter jet on Sunday shot down a Syrian fighter jet that had dropped bombs on Syrian rebel forces who are fighting ISIS in the country.

It was the first time the U.S. has engaged in air-to-air combat in Syria, signaling an escalation of the conflict. It is is also the first time an American aircraft has shot down any other country’s aircraft in air-to-air combat since 1999 during the Kosovo air campaign when a U.S. Air Force F-16 shot down a Serbian Mig-29.

Russia, which is backing the Syrian government regime in its civil war against rebel forces, slammed the U.S. action as a violation of Syria’s sovereignty.

“Repeated combat actions by U.S. aviation under the cover of counterterrorism against lawful armed forces of a country that is a member of the U.N. are a massive violation of international law and de facto a military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The Ministry also warned that any coalition aircraft flying west of the Euphrates “will be tracked by the Russian ground and air anti-aircraft defense systems as air targets in the areas where Russian aviation is on combat missions in the Syrian sky.”

Sunday’s downing of the Syrian jet occurred in an area southwest of the Euphrates River. And the U.S.-led coalition conducts missions in areas west of the Euphrates River near Manbij and Al Bab, two towns retaken from ISIS by U.S.-backed rebel forces.

The coalition said in a statement that its focus is on fighting ISIS, not the Syrian regime or Russian forces, but that it will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces coming under attack.

The incident occurred in the town of Ja’Din, south of Tabqa, Syria, which had recently been retaken from ISIS by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an umbrella group of Syrian Kurdish and Arab rebel forces supported by the U.S. in the fight against the terrorist group.

SDF came under attack from regime forces in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad around 4:30 p.m. Syria time. A number of SDF fighters were wounded in the assault, and the SDF soon left Ja’Din.

Coalition aircraft conducted a show of force overhead that stopped the initial pro-regime advance towards the town.

“Following the pro-Syrian forces’ attack, the coalition contacted its Russian counterparts by telephone via an established ‘deconfliction line’ to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing,” said a statement from Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS.

“At 6:43 p.m., a Syrian regime SU-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters south of Tabqah and, in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet,” said the statement.

The Syrian pilot is believed to have been able to eject from the aircraft, according to a U.S. official.

But the Russian Defense Ministry contradicted the coalition claim that the air-safety hotline had been used and noted that there were Russian aircraft in the area when the Syrian plane was shot down.

The Ministry said it would stop its participation in the deconfliction line, much as it did following American cruise missile strikes in Syria in April. But at that time, U.S. and Russian military forces continued use of the air safety hotline for Syria despite Russia’s announcement that it would stop participating.

Ja’Din, where Sunday’s incident occurred, is approximately two kilometers north of an established deconfliction area.

The U.S.-led coalition in its statement stressed its goals in Syria and that it will defend its partnered forces.

“The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces from any threat,” it said. “The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated.”

The downing of the Syrian jet is the latest escalation between the U.S.-led coalition and pro-regime forces in the country.

Over the last four weeks, the U.S. has conducted three airstrikes on pro-regime Assad forces backed by Iran that have moved into a de-confliction zone around the town of at Tanf in southwest Syria, which is the location of a coalition training base for local forces fighting ISIS.

Philippines Claims Maute Terrorists Nearly Mopped-Up

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/dod/jsotf-p.htm  

AFP: 225 Maute terrorist killed in Marawi

Siege nearing end

Gov’t now in control of 96 barangays in Marawi City – AFP

by Mike Crismundo and Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Butuan City — The government is in control of the 96 urban and rural barangays in war-torn Marawi City and is now focusing on the remaining portions of the city’s four barangays where an estimated 100 members of the Maute terror group are still hiding.

This was disclosed by Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) late Saturday afternoon who also revealed that the ground troops already recovered several firearms, cache of live ammunition, communication facilities, and computers left by the Maute terror group in the war zone.

President Duterte, who ended his five-day private time by visiting troops in Barangay Bancasi, Butuan City, Saturday afternoon, said that the Marawi siege was not a result of failure of intelligence but admitted that the government has become soft when it comes to dealing with rebels.

Firearms recovered from terrorists in Marawi City are inspected by (from left): Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. (Malacañang photo | Manila Bulletin)Enemy guns

The President said the Maute group was able to stock up on their arms and ammunition before challenging the government by laying siege in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, on May 23.

“It was not a question of failure on the part of the government. We have adopted a very soft policy towards rebels,” he stressed.

“This came about because nagdadala sila ng baril eh (They were bringing firearms). And since we are thinking of getting peace with the MNLF and MILF, ang laro ng armas diyan (the existence of firearms there), we took it for granted,” Duterte said, referring to the Moro rebel groups Moro Islamic and Moro National Liberation Fronts.

Padilla declined to divulge the number of combat maneuvering troops now penetrating the four barangays in Marawi City as tactical movement is still ongoing.

He also did not give the exact number of casualties on the side of the Maute terror group and even from the government forces as fighting, which is now on its 28th day, still rages.

“We don’t want to give you the numbers for the meantime and probably after clearing operations, we can already determine the exact figures,” he said.

He said air strikes will continue to cripple the remaining enemy positions and also to protect the troops on the ground.

Padilla also said ground commanders are verifying reports that the three Maute brothers were reportedly killed during the clashes. “We are still assessing and validating these reports as of this time,” he said.

“Masigasig ang ating mga sundalo na matapos na ito, we’re nearing to a conclusion” he said, but refused to give the timeline to newsmen when the Marawi crisis will end.

The AFP spokesman also reiterated that the AFP is not blocking relief goods going to various evacuation centers in Lanao. “Our ground troops never blocked convoy delivering relief goods to Marawi evacuees,” he said.

Padilla and AFP Public Affairs Office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo were with other top AFP and PNP officials when President Rodrigo Duterte, accompanied by Defense Secretary Delfin Lrorenzana, visited the officers and men of the AFP and PNP at Camp Bancasi here late Saturday afternoon, June 16, 2017.

FAILURE OF INTELLIGENCE

President Duterte disclosed that the Maute group was surreptitiously bringing firearms into Marawi City that the government was not able to keep count.

The President also said that the siege was not a failure of intelligence because in case Maute members were seen bearing firearms and pretended to be members of the MILF or MNLF, the standing order was to try and talk to them to avoid trouble.

He also said that this enabled the Maute group to stock up on their arms and ammunition in Marawi City.

“But all the while, itong (the) Maute, with the connivance of politicians there, were stockpiling,” Duterte said, adding that the group was just waiting for a reason and the right timing to stage their attack.

“Kaya hindi maubos ang mga bala at napakarami. Magputok ng isa ang gobyerno, ang ibabalik sa atin lima (That’s why it seems like they are not running out of ammunition. We fire once, they return it five times),” he said.

“So parang (it was like an) endless supply when Maute rose to fight the government,” he continued.

ISIS FIGHTERS

Duterte also said that there is a conglomeration of Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in Marawi City coming from Syria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Saudi Arabia.

“The fighting is going on, it is winding up but at the cost of so many soldiers also. And that is the danger of Maute and ISIS. Bantay kayo diyan. Mahirap kalabanin ‘yung taong gustong mamatay (Watch out for that. It’s hard to fight with people who want to die),” he said.

Duterte also confirmed intelligence reports on terrorists killing anyone who does not practice the religion of Islam.

“They have so corrupted the name of God in a form of religion to kill many innocent persons and to destroy for nothing,” he added.

The Chief Executive said the government is ready to find the root of the problem and finish it even if it means using all available resources.

“We have to use the air assets now because we are up against fighters, nanggaling ‘yan diyan sa Middle East (who came from the Middle East), and learned the art of brutal killing,” he said.

“Susunugin ka, putulan ka ng ulo, kung anu-ano. ‘Pag hinayaan natin ‘yan na ganoon, patay ang Pilipino (They will torch you, behead you, anything. If we let them, then the Filipino will die),” he added.

According to Duterte, Islam is welcome in the country but warned about ideology which came from the Middle East.

“We welcome Islam. [Pero] Itong Islam na imported ang ideology galing ng Middle East, anak na ng–talagang huwag tayong magpauna dito (But the Islam with ideology imported from the Middle East–we should not let that enter),” Duterte said.

“Mauna na lang tayo (Let’s just get ahead of them first) and let’s just resolve the problem or problems afterwards, we can discuss it,” he added.

NO APOLOGIES

Duterte also said that he will not be making any apologies for the ongoing conflict in Marawi as the citizens brought the problems on themselves.

This came after some Maranao and traditional leaders in Marawi and Lanao del Sur asked the President if they may be allowed to negotiate with the Mautes to end the hostilities.

According to Duterte, the leaders don’t need his permission as they brought the problem upon themselves when they chose not to report the situation to the authorities early on.

“You do not need my permission to do that. Ang problema kasi nito (The problem here is), little did they realize that they are dealing with ISIS already,” the President said.

“I am not apologizing for anything there because they brought the problem on themselves. Bakit hindi nila sinabi sa pulis, sa akin, sa Armed Forces na may mga foreign trade na pabalik-balik ‘yan (Why didn’t they report to the authorities or to me that there were foreign elements going back and forth in the city),” he added.

But if it were up to him, Duterte reiterated that he will not negotiate with the terrorists as the war has already resulted in the death of 59 government troopers.

“If they go to the Maute to talk about what? Surrender? O ano lang, areglo? Ganon na lang (or negotiate? Then what? That’s it)?” Duterte asked.

“Paano ‘yung patay ko (How about the the government troops who have died)? How about the murderous rampage of — ‘yung natamaan ng mga sniper nila (those who were hit by their snipers)?

INMATES SKIP MEAL

KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato — Inmates at the district jail here skipped one meal to be able to raise funds to buy relief goods for evacuees displaced by the ongoing conflict in Marawi City.

Jail warden Supt. Simeon Dolojo, said more than 1,400 inmates of the Kidapawan district jail here decided to skip their one meal ration and were able to raise some P28,000 out of their P20 per meal allocation which was used to purchase rice, noodles and sardines which they repacked as relief goods.

The relief goods will be delivered to the regional office of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Koronadal City which will send the relief goods to Marawi City. (With a report from Joseph Jubelag)

Iran Repays ISIS Terrorist Attacks In Tehran w/Ballistic Missile Barrage In Syria

TEHRAN – Late on Sunday Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps fired six missiles into eastern Syria, targeting Islamic State strongholds in retaliation for the recent ISIS-claimed terrorist attacks in Tehran.

The national TV showed footages of missile attacks being launched from western Iran.

“In the operation, code-named Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Destiny), the Guards launched six medium-range ballistic missiles at various targets in ranges between 650km to 700km,” Tasnim news agency quoted IRGC spokesman Ramazan Sahrif as saying on Monday.

Targeting “headquarters and gathering centers of Takfiri terrorists” in the Deir al Zour region of eastern Syria, the missiles used the Iraqi airspace.

The IRGC spokesman says the missile operation “is just a very small part of the capability of Iran’s punitive force against the terrorists and its enemies.” “The missiles were launched in coordination with Syria beforehand,” the IRGC official said.

The IRGC launched the missiles from western provinces of Kermanshah and Kurdistan, home to Sunni Kurdish populations.
“The missile firings from the two Sunni-majority provinces at headquarters of Daesh terrorists carries the massage of unity of all Iranians in the face of terrorists,” Sharif added.

The missiles successfully hit the targets, Sahrif said.

The missile operation “is just a very small part of the capability of Iran’s punitive force against the terrorists and its enemies,” Sharif further noted.

Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC aerospace unit, hailed the missile raids, saying any more evil act against Iran will result in “costly consequences”.

“Our enemies should know that Tehran is not London or Paris,” Hajizadeh stated, a reference to the European capitals coming under numerous terrorist attacks over the past years.

Iran vowed quick revenge after ISIS suicide bombers and gunmen stormed the parliament and the mausoleum of Imam Khomeini on June 7, killing 18 and injuring at least 56.

In a statement after the attacks, the IRGC issued a statement vowing avenge. “The spilling of any pure blood will not go unanswered,” read part of the statement.

Also, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, head of the Iranian armed forces, pledged “unforgettable lessons” to terrorists and their backers after the Tehran assault.

Former IRGC chief Mohsen Rezaei tweeted, “This was just the beginning of the revenge. Harder slap is underway”.
Rezaei also called the missile attacks “the message of Iran’s authority” to “supporters of terrorism.”

Iran had earlier implicitly suggested that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, its chief regional foe, had insinuated the terrorist attacks in Tehran.
The operation comes just days after the U.S. Senate passed the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act by an overwhelming margin, a new sanctions legislation which targets Iran’s ballistic missile program and applies sanctions against the IRGC.

The attack also sends a clear warning signal to Saudi Arabia which has been for some time trying to test Iran’s patience.
“Saudi Arabia and other countries supporting terrorism should know that the Islamic Republic has no joking with anybody,” senior MP Alaedin Boroujerdi said on Monday.

“We have entered a new phase of fighting terrorists in the region,” added Boroujerdi, chairman of the parliamentary national security and foreign policy committee.

AK/PA

Pentagon Claims Its Mercenaries Were the Ones Hitting ISIS, NOT the Syrians

[SEE: Sana Reports Syrian Aircraft Shot-Down While Attacking ISIS Position, By Coalition Aircraft ]

U.S. shoots down Syrian fighter

jet over Syria

 

 

By Luis Martinez

A U.S. Navy fighter jet shot down a Syrian regime fighter jet on Sunday that had dropped bombs on Syrian rebel forces fighting ISIS in Syria.

The U.S.-led coalition said in a statement that it’s focus is on fighting ISIS, and not fighting the Syrian regime or Russian forces, but it will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces coming under attack.

The incident occurred in the town of Ja’Din, south of Tabqa, Syria, which had recently been retaken from ISIS by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an umbrella group of Syrian Kurdish and Arab rebel forces supported by the U.S. in the fight against the militant group.

SDF came under attack from regime forces in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad around 4:30 p.m. Syria time. A number of SDF fighters were wounded in the assault, and the SDF soon left Ja’Din.

Coalition aircraft conducted a show of force overhead that stopped the initial pro-regime advance towards the town.

“Following the Pro-Syrian forces attack, the coalition contacted its Russian counterparts by telephone via an established ‘de-confliction line’ to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing,” said a statement from Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS.

“At 6:43 p.m., a Syrian regime SU-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters south of Tabqah and, in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet,” said the statement.

Ja’Din is approximately two kilometers north of an established East-West SDF-Syrian Regime de-confliction area.

In the statement, the coalition stressed its goals and that it will defend its partnered forces.

“The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces from any threat,” it said.

“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated,” it added.

The shootdown is the latest escalation between the U.S.-led coalition and pro-regime Assad forces in Syria.

Over the last four weeks, the U.S. has conducted three airstrikes at pro-regime Assad forces, backed by Iran, that have moved into a deconfliction zone around the town of at Tanf in southwest Syria, which is the location of a coalition training base for local forces fighting ISIS.

Sana Reports Syrian Aircraft Shot-Down While Attacking ISIS Position, By Coalition Aircraft

Army general command: international

coalition air force targets an army’s

warplane in Raqqa countryside

 

Damascus, SANA-The Army general command announced on Sunday that the air force of the so-called “international coalition” targeted one of the army’s warplanes in al-Rasafah region in Raqqa southern countryside while it was carrying out a combatant mission against ISIS terrorist organization, causing it to down and missing its pilot.

The General command said in a statement that the flagrant aggression undoubtedly affirms the US real stance in support of terrorism which aims to affect the capability of the Syrian Arab army- the only active force- along with its allies that practice its legitimate right in combating terrorism all over Syria.

“The attack stresses coordination between the US and ISIS, and it reveals the evil intentions of the US in administrating terrorism and investing it to pass the US-Zionist project in the region.” The statement added.

It affirmed that such aggressions would not affect the Syrian Arab army in its determination to continue the fight against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations and to restore security and stability to all Syrian territories.

Mazen

Iraqi Shia Fighters Capture Other Side Of US-Occupied Tanf, Syria Border Crossing

Iraqi forces capture border crossing to

Syria from IS

 

 

Iraqi forces captured Saturday a border crossing point to Syria from the Islamic State group, increasing pressure on the extremists and getting closer to meeting up with Syrian troops and their allies who reached the border earlier this month for the first time in years.

Tribal forces and border police, supported by Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition aircraft, took part in the operation to take the al-Waleed crossing, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said in a statement.

Al-Waleed, in the far west of Iraq, fell to the Islamic State group in 2015, giving the militants full control of the Iraq-Syria border, which they vowed to erase as part of their ambition to build their caliphate.

Saturday’s push by Iraqi troops came nearly three weeks after Iraq’s paramilitary forces — mostly Shiite fighters with close ties to Iran referred to as the Popular Mobilization Forces — reached the Syrian border in northeastern Iraq.

In recent months the militants have been coming under increasing pressure in Iraq and Syria where they have lost vast parts of the land they declared as a caliphate in Syria and Iraq in June 2014.

U.S. troops and Syrian opposition fighters control the Tanf area on the other side from al-Waleed. Earlier this month, Iranian-sponsored pro-Syrian government forces outflanked U.S. advisers and rebels holding the Tanf border crossing to establish their own link to Iraq for the first time in years. The Iraqi side is still held by IS.

Syrian troops in the area are preparing to march on Islamic State positions to the north, in the Euphrates River Valley.

The push by Iraqi forces came as the Syrian military announced Saturday the cessation of all combat operations in the southern city of Daraa for 48 hours in support of national reconciliation efforts after days of violence in the area.

The announcement comes days after the contested city witnessed some of the worst fighting in months amid fears by opposition activists that the government will try to take Daraa, where the country’s civil war began in 2011.

In a statement, the army’s General Command said that all combat operations will stop as of Saturday 12 p.m. (0900 GMT) for 48 hours. A “de-escalation agreement” brokered by Iran, Russia and Turkey in May has brought hardly any relief to the city, activists said. The agreement covers four zones in Syria where the rebels are fighting pro-government forces.

The Syrian government cites national reconciliation efforts when a deal has been reached with local gunmen to give up fighting against the state in return for amnesty. Saturday’s announcement came amid ongoing talk in neighboring Jordan to calm the situation in southern Syria.

A western diplomat said in Beirut this week that the U.S., Russia and Jordan were holding closed-door meetings in Amman to halt the fighting between rebels and the government in southern Syria.

The three nations are debating the boundaries of a cease-fire line between the government and rebels in what is hoped to be a comprehensive agreement that would delineate the control of border crossings with Jordan, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

In the northern city of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State group, a U.S.-backed Syrian force entered new neighborhoods east and west of the city adding that they were able to free dozens of civilians who were trapped in the fighting.

IS has been preventing civilians from leaving Raqqa in an apparent attempt to use them as human shields.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces launched an offensive to capture Raqqa from the extremists on June 6, under the cover of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition. SDF fighters have captured at least three neighborhoods from IS since then.

The SDF said in a statement posted on social media Saturday that its fighters have now entered the western neighborhoods of Bareed, Hiteen and Qadissiya, as well as the eastern neighborhood of Bayatra.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks Syria’s war, says airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition since June 6 have killed 117 civilians and wounded hundreds.

————

Szlanko reported from Irbil, Iraq.

Morocco Leads the Mavericks, Refusing To Bend To Saudies/Emiratis On Qatar

[SEE: Saudi Fear of “2nd Arab Spring” Forces Bahrain To Suspend ‘Al Wasat’ News For Telling Truth About Moroccan Protests]

Qatar: How the Tables Are Turning

in The Gulf

 

 

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani
Photo credit : Reuters

Rabat – Amidst harsh sanctions and a long list of demands from its neighbors, Qatar’s ability to thrive under pressure may prove to be problematic for Saudi Arabia.

As Saudi Arabia and its coalition attempt to wait out Qatar, the recent spat in the Gulf continues to become more and more global, and severely against Saudi Arabia’s favor.  In the past week alone, two other powers in the region – Iran and Turkey – have made moves to bolster Qatar’s defense in the midst of their diplomatic crisis.

Unsurprisingly, Iran has been doing everything in its ability to prevent Qatar from caving in and giving into their neighbors’ demands (which ultimately include ending their cordial relationship with Iran altogether). Tehran has kept its pledge to continuously provide food to the Gulf nation, and according to Iranian State Media, has been making regular shipments of 90 to 100 tons of food to counter the effects of a potential food shortage.  In regards to Tehran’s aid pledges, Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi has stated, “We will continue deliveries as long as there is demand.”

Turkey, on the other hand, has decided to take an even more bold approach to the situation.  In addition to similar food pledges made by Iran, Turkish parliament approved legislation last Wednesday which would substantially increase their military presence in Qatar.

Arrangements for a Turkish military presence in the Gulf have been in the works since 2014 when Ankara set up its military base in Qatar. While the base is currently rather small and has never housed more than 150 military personnel, steps were put in place at the time of the base’s conception to eventually escalate the troop count to a much more potent 3,000.

Now with Qatar facing much more hostility than ever, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking the opportunity to flex Ankara’s muscles and build up the Turkish military’s capabilities in the region to its intended capacity.

Despite the several Arab states which have severed ties with Qatar, several more have expressed their solidarity with the latter, including Morocco. While Morocco has remained neutral in this dispute, they have been providing aid in order to help relieve pressure off of Qatar.  Furthermore, Morocco has made multiple statements expressing interest in mediating this dispute, and this served as a main talking point during French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Rabat earlier this week.

Additionally, in a move which will no doubt frustrate Riyadh, the United States signed a deal with Qatar which will provide the latter with dozens of F-15 fighter jets – a deal worth nearly 12 billion USD. It is unclear exactly why Washington would make a move that is so openly supportive of Qatar, especially after agreeing to sell over 100 billion USD worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, and in light of President Trump’s tweets praising the decisive actions against Doha.

Although, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Washington is attempting to secure their fruitful partnership with the Gulf nation. After all, Qatar is hosting the largest American military presence in the Middle East at The Al Udeid Air Base, which houses over 10,000 personnel.

And yes, while President Trump did make several tweets praising Saudi Arabia and accusing Qatar of funding terrorism at a “very high level”, The United States has officially taken a position of indifference and is encouraging both parties to settle their feud through dialogue, and for good reason. Washington has large stakes on both sides, and it would be wise for the Americans to try to act as a mediator in this conflict, rather than show favoritism toward one side and risk provoking the other.

While the situation was rather dire for Doha in the beginning, it certainly seems that it is up to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC to make the next move. Several countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, France, and Russia are pleading the GCC to end this dispute as peacefully as possible, but Saudi Arabia and its allies in this matter have shown no signs of backing down.

However, in vain of the harsh actions we’ve seen, Qatar has been able to survive without much of a problem. Qatar produces more than enough oil and gas to keep its economy running indefinitely, and with the defense from Turkey and a newly-found steady food supply, Doha has no reason at the present to bow to the whims of Riyadh.

As of now, it seems that the Arab states against Qatar have been left with very few good options. The most likely thing they will do is just to abandon their course of action and seek to mend their relationships with Doha. It may not be next week or next month, but eventually, the status quo will be restored without Qatar having to make any real changes.

The simple fact of the matter is that there is very little to gain for any Arab state by cutting off relationships with such a valuable partner like Qatar – especially if doing so is not having its intended effects. Time is money, and by attempting to wait out Qatar, and ultimately making conditions in the Gulf worse, the rest of the GCC is only making business with themselves and the rest of the world harder for themselves.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity. 

© Morocco World News.

Trump’s Jewish Advisors Pushing Pentagon For Wider War On Syria/Iran

White House Officials Push for Widening

War in Syria Over Pentagon Objections

White House Officials Push for Widening War in Syria Over Pentagon Objections

A pair of top White House officials is pushing to broaden the war in Syria, viewing it as an opportunity to confront Iran and its proxy forces on the ground there, according to two sources familiar with the debate inside the Donald Trump administration.

Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, and Derek Harvey, the NSC’s top Middle East advisor, want the United States to start going on the offensive in southern Syria, where, in recent weeks, the U.S. military has taken a handful of defensive actions against Iranian-backed forces fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Their plans are making even traditional Iran hawks nervous, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has personally shot down their proposals more than once, the two sources said.

The situation in southern Syria has escalated in recent weeks, after a U.S. warplane shot down an Iranian-made drone that had attacked U.S. forces on patrol with Syrian allies near an American outpost at al-Tanf. The drone attack came after two U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed Shiite militias, which had moved too close to the Americans’ garrison.

Despite the more aggressive stance pushed by some White House officials, Mattis, military commanders, and top U.S. diplomats all oppose opening up a broader front against Iran and its proxies in southeastern Syria, viewing it as a risky move that could draw the United States into a dangerous confrontation with Iran, defense officials said. Such a clash could trigger retaliation against U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Syria, where Tehran has armed thousands of Shiite militia fighters and deployed hundreds of Revolutionary Guard officers.

Mattis, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Brett McGurk, the U.S. diplomat overseeing the anti-Islamic State coalition, all favor keeping the focus on pushing the Islamic State out of its remaining strongholds, including the southern Syrian city of Raqqa, officials said. “That’s the strategy they’ve signed off on and that’s where the effort is,” said one defense official.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

The Pentagon has publicly asserted it has no intention to fight forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, unless provoked.

“The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime or pro-regime forces but remains ready to defend themselves if pro-regime forces refuse to vacate the de-confliction zone,” U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, said in a June 6 statement.

It’s not the first time Mattis and Dunford have found themselves having to push back against White House proposals for aggressive action they consider ill-conceived and even reckless. Earlier, the two opposed a tentative idea that would have sent a large U.S. ground force into Syria to oust the Islamic State instead of relying on local Syrian Kurd and Arab fighters backed by U.S. commandos.

The latest disagreement coincides with a months-long White House review of Iran policy, which includes an examination of the role of Iranian military officers and proxies supporting the Syrian regime, as well as the multilateral nuclear agreement with Tehran. The broad policy assessment has exposed divisions in the administration over when and where to counter Iran, officials said.

“I don’t think we have a serious Syria strategy or a serious Iran strategy, and they have to go together,” said Danielle Pletka, senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, who criticized the previous administration’s policy on Iran as weak. “Syria is Iran’s soft underbelly. Iranians have proven to us over and over again, they’re committed to keeping Assad in power. The idea of pushing back on Iranians in Syria is a wise one, but what is the end game?”

For Iran hawks in and outside the administration, the civil war in Syria represents a pivotal moment that will determine whether Iran or the United States exerts influence over Iraq and Syria. These Iran hawks fear that if Washington stands by, Tehran will emerge as the dominant player with a land corridor through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

But pursuing a wider war against Iranian-backed fighters in Syria would be “both unnecessary and extraordinarily dangerous,” said Colin Kahl, who served as national security advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden.

Targeting Iranian proxies in Syria would aggravate relations with Shiite-ruled Iraq and “blow up the strategic relationship” with Baghdad, Kahl said. And it would put thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq at risk of retaliation from Shiite militia just when U.S.-led forces are close to defeating the Islamic State.

“It’s unnecessary because the contest with Iran in Iraq and Syria is not something that will be won or lost in the next couple of months,” Kahl said.

President Donald Trump has employed tough rhetoric against Iran that seems to signal plans to confront Tehran, though the administration has yet to take any dramatic action along those lines. Although touted as a speech aimed at unifying the Muslim world, Trump’s address in Saudi Arabia in early May made clear the United States was going to take sides in the Middle East’s sectarian struggle, choosing to back Sunni Arab states in an effort to isolate Shiite-ruled Iran. The Gulf monarchies and Israel have welcomed Trump’s vows to push back against Iran.

Some administration officials have argued for taking on Iran in Yemen too, by expanding support for the Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi rebels, who enjoy backing from Iran. Like Syria, however, a larger U.S. role in Yemen’s civil war carries an array of risks, and experts say treating Yemen as a proxy war with Iran could backfire badly. In their fight against the Houthi rebels, forces loyal to ousted President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and the Saudi-led coalition that backs them, have worked with local actors with suspected ties to al Qaeda.

It is unclear where National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster falls in the debate over how to respond to Iranian proxies in Syria, but he likely sides with Mattis and the Defense Department’s position given his own military background. McMaster has also had previous run-ins with Cohen-Watnick and Harvey, both of whom work for him, but at times have sought to go around him.

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had hand-picked 30-year-old Cohen-Watnick, who is viewed as too inexperienced by some of his colleagues and distrusted by some at the CIA, and Harvey, who was a military intelligence advisor to now-retired Gen. David Petraeus when he was commander in Iraq. Cohen-Watnick reportedly “told other administration officials that he wants to use American spies to help oust the Iranian government,” according to a recent New York Times article.

McMaster tried to move Cohen-Watnick to a different job within the NSC when he took over as national security advisor. To save his job, Cohen-Watnick appealed to two key advisors — Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner — who then asked Trump to block the move.

Harvey has also tried to outmaneuver his boss. He tried to get so-called Obama holdovers fired from the National Security Council by appealing to the president and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon. But McMaster refused.

While officials argue in Washington over strategy and vie for influence in the administration, events on the ground in Syria are moving quickly, raising the potential of an inadvertent conflict. The pro-Assad fighters, a mix of Shiite militias, Syrian troops, and Lebanese Hezbollah militia along with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps advisors, have continued to venture close to the U.S. forces at the al-Tanf base despite warnings to keep clear.

U.S. military officers said they will not hesitate to hit Iranian proxies if American special operations forces are endangered.

“If our folks are on the ground and they’re threatened, we will use air power, whether it’s against regime forces or pro-regime forces,” one officer said.

This article was published jointly with Just Security.

Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

The Reverse Brzezinski–The Ultimate Eurasian Dilemma

[The Reverse Brzezinski: The Ultimate Eurasian Dilemma (II)]

The Reverse Brzezinski: The Ultimate

Eurasian Dilemma (I)

By Andrew KORYBKO (USA)

The Reverse Brzezinski: The Ultimate Eurasian Dilemma (I)

Introduction:

A global shift in US strategy is currently underway, with America transitioning from the ‘world policeman’ to the Lead From Behind mastermind. This fundamental shift essentially entails the US moving from a majority forward-operating military to a defensive stay-behind force. Part of this transformation is the reduction of the conventional military and its replacement with special forces and intelligence recruits. Private military companies (PMCs) are also occupying a higher role in the US’ grand strategy. Of course, it is not to say that the US no longer has the capability or will to forward advance – not at all – but that the evolving US strategy prefers more indirect and nefarious approaches towards projecting power besides massive invasions and bombing runs. In this manner, it is following the advice of Sun Tzu who wrote that “supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” The outcome is a mixture of Color Revolutions, unconventional warfare, and mercenary interventions that avoids the direct use of US combat troops while relying heavily on regional allies’ proxy involvement. This results in the promotion of American policy via oblique methods and the retention of relative plausible deniability. Importantly, the absence of conventional forces is thought to reduce the risk of a direct confrontation between the US and Russia, China, and Iran, the primary targets of these proxy wars.

The Eurasian-wide plan of strategic destabilization and state fracturing owes its genesis to Zbigniew Brzezinski and his Eurasian Balkans concept. The US is flexible in practicing this concept, and it does not meet a dead end if the destabilization encounters an obstacle and cannot be advanced. Should this occur, as it has in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq, and possibly soon in the South China Sea, the stratagem evolves into maximizing the chaos within the launch pad states that are positioned on the doorsteps of the Eurasian Powers. The idea is to create ‘black holes’ of absolute disorder in which Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran are “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” intervene. Ideally, the US prefers that its intended targets are sucked into a quagmire that bleeds them dry and destabilizes them at home, per the example of the Soviet-Afghan War which Brzezinski conspired over 30 years ago. Moving away from the expansive Eurasian Balkans and reverting to the roots of ‘Afghan anarchy’ is the nature of the Reverse Brzezinski, and it poses the ultimate dilemma-like trap for the Eurasian Powers.

The Afghan Prototype:

US-sponsored mujahedin in 1984 (Afghanistan).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The US’ experience in training and arming the Mujahideen to bring about and manage the Soviet-Afghan War can be seen as the first foray into the Lead From Behind strategy. The US worked hand-in-hand with Pakistan and other Muslim states to sow the seeds of chaos in Afghanistan (including the creation of the international mercenary organization Al Qaeda), thus creating a strategic destabilization so tempting that the Soviet Union could not resist the urge to intervene. This was the goal all along and it was a resounding success. It also the pinnacle of Cold War-era proxy warfare that meshed perfectly with the international balance of power at the time. It was so successful that it is credited as one of the contributing factors to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. This altered the global power balance and resulted in the US’ unipolar moment. During this period of time, the Afghan Lead From Behind prototype was no longer seen as necessary because the US now had the power, will, and opportunity to project power directly and forcefully all across the world.

The Unipolar Moment of Shock and Awe:

Drunk with power after emerging victorious from the Cold War, the US began a spate of military interventions beginning with the First Gulf War. Although marketed as a multilateral operation, the US was the primary participant in the warring coalition. Within a few years, the US was then bombing Serbian positions in Bosnia before initiating a unilateral NATO war in Serbia’s Kosovo province. It was the bombing of Serbia that awakened Russian decision makers to the need to defend their country from future threats, thus beginning a commitment towards modernizing its defense industry in order to deter a direct American/NATO attack against Russian interests. Nonetheless, this did not result in an immediate change, and in the meantime, the US’ power had yet to climax.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US undertook military operations and a subsequent occupation of Afghanistan, a country situated halfway across the world and near the Heartland of Eurasia. This massive expansion of American military might and reach inside the continent was unprecedented, yet even that did not mark the highlight of the post-Cold War era. The epitome of the unipolar moment was actually the 2003 Shock and Awe campaign in Iraq. During that time, the US massively bombarded Iraq in a show of force definitely made to remind the rest of the world of the US’ sole superpower status. It also deployed incredible amounts of troops and weaponry into the Mideast. Ironically enough, the subsequent financial and opportunity costs of the war and occupation would play a strong role in decreasing American power and allowing other countries such as Russia and China to catch up in challenging and defending against the US within their own spheres of interest.

Map of the Eurasian Balkans “war on terrorism” from the book The Grand Chessboard by Brzezinski. page 124. 1997

The Eurasian Balkans:

It was at the middle of the unipolar moment in 1997 that Brzezinski authored “The Grand Chessboard” in which he laid out the US’ geostrategic priorities for Eurasia and how to best achieve them. He postulated that it was imperative for the US to retain a commanding influence over Eurasia, and that one of the best ways to do this was to prevent collusion between Russia and China. The strategic ‘Balkanizing’ of societies across the Eurasian landmass is a pivotal means of destabilizing the entire continent. If taken to its logical end, it is envisioned to create a tidal wave of ethnic, religious, and political anarchy that can crash into and dismember the diverse civilizations of Russia, China, and Iran. In some aspects, the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and their chaotic aftermath can be seen as following the philosophic dictates of this principle. The US has also historically undertaken regime change operations as a method of advancing continental destabilization and pushing Western power deeper into Eurasia.

Regime Change:

Regime change has always been a characteristic of American foreign policy, owing back to the covert overthrow of the Syrian government in 1949. Since then, it has been estimated that the CIA has overthrown or attempted to overthrow over 50 governments, although it has only admitted to 7 of them. Regime change can be either direct or indirect. Pertaining to the former, one can look at the examples of Panama in 1989 or Iraq in 2003, whereas the latter can be witnessed by the 1953 Iranian coup or the trail of Color Revolutions.

As can be evidenced from the recent Ukrainian coup, regime change today can be as cheap as only $5 billion, a fraction of the cost that it would have taken to directly overthrow Yanukovich and invade the country. Additionally, owing to international circumstances and the resurgence of Russian military might and will, it may not have been possible for the US to do so without risking a major war. Therefore, covert regime change operations are seen as preferable when the interests of other Great Powers are at stake. It is very important for the new leadership to have perceived legitimacy within the international community following the coup. Seeing as how Western democracy is viewed as a legitimate governing standard, pro-Western Color Revolutions are the optimal method of regime change among targeted states not currently practicing this form of government.

Color Revolutions:

Color Revolutions are outside-supported pro-Western coups. They specifically use the tools of social media and NGOs to infiltrate societies, increase their ranks, and expand their efficiency after the regime change operation has been commenced. Because they typically manipulate large groups of people, they create the illusion of a broad grassroots movement of disaffected masses rising up against a tyrannical dictatorship. This misleading perception enables the coup attempt to gain wide support and acceptance among the Western community, and it also denigrates the legitimate authorities that are trying to put down the illegal overthrow. The manipulation-prone masses are drawn to the street movements largely as a result of Gene Sharp’s tactics, which adroitly seek to amplify social protest movements to their maximum possible extent.

This new method of warfare is extremely effective because it presents a startling dilemma for the affected state – does the leadership use force against the civilian protesters (de-facto human shields unaware that they are being politically manipulated) in order to strike at the militant Right Sektor-esque core? And with the eyes of the Western media following the developments, can the government afford to be isolated from that community of nations if it legally defends itself? Thus, Color Revolutions present a strategic Catch-22 for the targeted government, and it is therefore not difficult to see why they had been deployed all across the post-Soviet space and beyond. They have replaced ‘traditional’ CIA coup action and have become the modus operandi of covert regime change.

To be continued…

Andrew Korybko is the American political correspondent of Voice of Russia who currently lives and studies in Moscow, exclusively for ORIENTAL REVIEW.

UAE Ambassador Takes the Lead In Zionist Domination of American Foreign Policy

[SEE:  Hacked Emails Show Top UAE Diplomat Coordinating With Pro-Israel Think Tank Against Iran]

Qatar Cannot Have It Both Ways

By Yousef Al Otaiba

13 June 2017

Wall Street Journal

 

It is a striking and dangerous contradiction: Qatar invests billions of dollars in the U.S. and Europe and then recycles the profits to support Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and groups linked to al Qaeda. Qatar hosts the American military base from which the U.S. directs the regional war against extremism, yet it also owns media networks responsible for inciting many of the same extremists.

When the United Arab Emirates and like-minded countries took diplomatic and economic measures against Qatar last week, it was not done lightly or in haste. Rather it was prompted by the accumulation of years of bewildering Qatari behavior that poses a direct threat to the U.S., U.A.E. and Qatar itself. If Qatar sows the wind, it will reap the whirlwind.

President Trump said it well on Friday: “the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding [of extremism]. . . . For Qatar, we want you back among the unity of responsible nations.”

Qatar can no longer have it both ways. It must now decide whether it is “all in”—or not—in the fight against extremism and aggression.

For years, Qatar has supported and sheltered extremists. In the mid-1990s, it harbored the notorious terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who became one of the principal plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks. Today it hosts and promotes the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, as well as Khaled Mashal, leader of Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

Last week the U.A.E. and other states designated Mr. al-Qaradawi, along with 58 others and 12 organizations, as providing material support for terrorists. Many live in, operate from, or receive backing from Doha. Some are linked directly to the ruling family. They will not be lonely—along with Iran, Qatar has the unseemly distinction of having one of the world’s highest concentrations of internationally designated terror financiers.

A 2015 Wall Street Journal article noted: “For years, Islamist rebel fighters from Libya and Syria traveled to Qatar and returned with suitcases full of money.” Doha has provided financial and logistical support to the Nusra Front (now known as Tahrir al Sham), the Syrian branch of al Qaeda. The Manchester suicide bomber was associated with an al Qaeda-aligned militia in Libya supported by Qatar.

The Financial Times reports that two months ago Qatar paid a hostage ransom of as much as $1 billion to a variety of terror organizations in Syria and Iraq that are subject to sanctions, including Iran’s local Hezbollah franchise. In Egypt, Qatar has given a blank check to the Muslim Brotherhood, the launching pad for many of the most violent Islamist groups.

And just when responsible nations are focusing attention on confronting radicalization in all of its forms, Qatar-owned media, led by Al Jazeera, continue to incite violence and fanaticism across the Arab world. Like a twisted version of “The Daily Show,” the cleric al-Qaradawi has used his TV program to promote a fatwa encouraging suicide bombers, as well as to defend the killing of American soldiers in Iraq as a “religious obligation.”

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in May: “General [John] Abizaid was convinced that Al Jazeera was working against our troops and actually providing information to our enemies. There was concern about—broader concern about Al Jazeera providing a platform for terrorists.”

The comments by Mr. Gates, who led the Pentagon under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, demonstrate that Qatar has been a festering concern for Washington across parties and administrations. The Bush administration began the concerted global effort to target terrorist financing. The Obama administration concluded in 2016 that Qatar “lacks the necessary political will and capacity to effectively enforce” laws against terror financing. Obama officials also considered pulling a U.S. fighter squadron from the Al Udeid air base over Qatari refusal to take action against terrorist financiers.

The American presence at Al Udeid is critical to protecting U.S. and allied interests in the Middle East. While the current measures against Qatar remain in place, the U.A.E. and America’s other friends in the region will continue working closely with the U.S. military to sustain the base’s full war-fighting capabilities. We also welcome U.S. involvement in facilitating a diplomatic resolution that will allow Qatar, a neighbor and treaty ally, to return to the community of responsible nations.

What must Qatar do? It should first acknowledge what the world already knows: Doha has become a financial, media and ideological hub for extremism. Then it must take decisive action to deal once and for all with its extremist problem—to shut down this funding, stop interfering in its neighbors’ internal affairs, and end its media incitement and radicalization.

With terrorists rampaging through the streets of European cities and hatching plots against targets in the U.S., there can be no equivocation, no hedging and no delay in taking on the radical menace. Qatar cannot own stakes in the Empire State Building and the London Shard and use the profits to write checks to affiliates of al Qaeda. It cannot plaster its name on soccer jerseys while its media networks burnish the extremist brand. It cannot be owners of Harrods and Tiffany & Co. while providing safe haven to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Yousef Al Otaiba is the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the U.S.

UAE/Afghan Investigators Claim Quetta Taliban Ordered “The Hit” On UAE Officials In Kandahar

Chef was given USD 30,000 to carry out bombing that killed UAE Ambassador in Afghanistan, finds probe

[SEE: Did the Divided Afghan Govt Just Blow-Up In Kandahar?–Or Is It Open War w/Pakistan’s ISI? ; It Looks Like the ISI Hit Both the UAE Govt and the Afghan NDS In Kandahar ]

[Why did the Taliban want to bomb UAE dignitaries (SEE: No role in ‘Dubai initiative’: Qatar-based Taliban leaders)?  The “Dubai initiative” undoubtedly referred to the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar (Qatar Reminds US Administration That Taliban Office In Doha Was America’s Idea), the source of the Taliban split, which resulted in the Taliban civil war, which still rages today in northern and eastern Afghanistan (Taliban Civil War Continues To Rage In Helmand, As Mullah Rasoul and Mullah Habitullah Trade Suicide-Bombs).]

https://i2.wp.com/middleeastpress.com/english/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/01/Police-Arrest-20-Over-Kandahar-Explosion-At-Governor-House.jpg SOURCE

Afghanistan asks Pakistan to hand over

suspects of Kandahar attack

 

Afghanistan asks Pakistan to hand over suspects of Kandahar attack

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan has asked Pakistan to handover three people, who, it claims, are behind the deadly bomb attack in Kandahar in January that had killed the UAE ambassador and five other diplomats, the Afghan spy chief said in Kabul on Thursday.

The attack in the heavily-guarded governor guest house had killed 12 people and injured several others including Kandahar governor Humayun Azizi. The Taliban had denied involvement and had described the attack as the result of internal rift in the Kandahar administration.

Ambassador Juma Mohammed Abdullah al-Kaabi and the diplomats were on a mission to carry out humanitarian, educational and development projects in Kandahar, the Taliban birthplace.

Kandahar police chief Gen Abdul Raziq had blamed the Haqqani Network while the Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar had claimed that the attack was planned ‘outside’. General Raziq had left the guest house just minutes before the bomb ripped through the guest house.

Dubai Police Deputy Chief Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim had, however, disputed the claims by the Afghan security officials and said the Afghan officials were responsible.

“The Afghan security official are directly responsible for the incident to the UAE ambassador and mission members, who died or were injured, because the explosives were planted inside the guesthouse where people can enter only through security clearance,” General Tamim said on his official Twitter days after the attack.

The Afghan intelligence chief Masoom Stanikzai told a news conference in Kabul on Thursday that the guest house cook Syed Mehboob Agha had planted the explosives. He said the cook had traveled to the Pakistani border town of Chaman and had met three people there, claiming that $30,000 and a house in Pakistan had been offered to the cook.

Sanikzai declined to reveal nationality of the suspects but “we have formally asked Pakistan to handover the three men to the Afghan government”. The NDS posted video of Stanikzai’s presser on its official Facebook page.

“We have shared all evidence with Pakistan and are hopeful about the progress,” the NDS chief said.

He said the Afghan and foreign investigators have reached the conclusion that Taliban had carried out the attack. He said the cook, who has been arrested, has admitted his action.

He said the cook had brought the explosives with the help of one of his assistants and had attached it to a sofa.

There had been hectic activities after the Kandahar bombing and President Ashraf Ghani had also visited the UAE along with National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar and Stanikzai to discuss the investigation into the blast.

Just days after the attack, the Taliban had also sent a group of their Qatar-based political representatives to Abu Dhabi to personally deny involvement in the attack and to assure they would help the investigation.

The UAE national security adviser had visited Islamabad and Kabul as part of discussion to find out the culprits.

There was no statement from the investigators of other countries including the US,UK and UAE, who were also part of the investigations.

Gulf crisis seen widening split in Syria rebellion

FILE PHOTO: Rebel fighters from the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement carry their weapons as they move towards their positions near Morek frontline in the northern countryside of Hama, Syria, March 16, 2015. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi/File Photo
By Tom Perry and Suleiman Al-Khalidi | BEIRUT/AMMAN

Confrontation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia is creating unease among Syrian rebels who expect the crisis between two of their biggest state backers to deepen divisions in the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

Together with Turkey and the United States, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been major sponsors of the insurgency, arming an array of groups that have been fighting to topple the Iran-backed president. The Gulf support has however been far from harmonious, fuelling splits that have set back the revolt.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar a week ago, accusing it of fomenting regional unrest, supporting terrorism and getting too close to Iran, all of which Doha denies.

It is the biggest rift among Gulf Arab states in years.

“God forbid if this crisis is not contained I predict … the situation in Syria will become tragic because the factions that are supported by (different) countries will be forced to take hostile positions towards each other,” said Mustafa Sejari of the Liwa al Mutasem rebel group in northern Syria.

“We urge our brothers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar not to burden the Syrian people more than they can bear.”

The Syrian rebellion can ill afford more internal conflict.

The opposition has been losing ground to Damascus ever since the Russian military deployed to Syria in support of Assad’s war effort in 2015. Assad now appears militarily unassailable, though rebels still have notable footholds near Damascus, in the northwest, and the southwest.

In the fractured map of the Syrian insurgency, Qatari aid has gone to groups that are often Islamist in ideology and seen as close to the Muslim Brotherhood – a movement that is anathema to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

Turkey, which has swung firmly behind Qatar in the Gulf crisis, is thought to have backed the same groups as Qatar in northern Syria, including the powerful conservative Islamist faction Ahrar al-Sham.

Qatar is also widely believed to have ties to al Qaeda-linked jihadists of the group once known as the Nusra Front, which has rebranded since formally parting ways with al Qaeda and is now part of the Tahrir al-Sham Islamist alliance.

While Qatar has officially denied Nusra ties, it has mediated the release of hostages held by the group including Americans, Greek Orthodox nuns and members of the Lebanese security forces.

Saudi aid has meanwhile been seen as targeted more closely at groups backed through programs run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency – programs in which Qatar has also participated even as it has backed groups outside that channel.

The United Arab Emirates has also played an influential role in that program, together with staunch U.S. ally Jordan. These powers wield more influence in southern Syria than the north.

NORTH-SOUTH SPLIT

“It will increase the split between north and south, as the north is mainly funded by Qatar and Turkey, and the south is supported by Jordan and the (U.S.-led) coalition,” said an opposition source familiar with foreign support to the rebels.

A second opposition source, a senior rebel official, said the Gulf crisis “will certainly affect us, people are known to be with Saudi, or Qatar, or Turkey. The split is clear.”

Adding to rebel concerns, the crisis has also nudged Qatar closer to Iran, which has sent planes loaded with food to Doha. “Any rapprochement between Qatar and Iran, or any other state and Iran, is very concerning for us,” the rebel official said.

A senior Turkish official said it was very important that the Qatar crisis did not take on “further dimensions”.

“These developments will have certain effects on the developments in Syria, its effects will be seen on the field. The elements which Qatar supports may slightly weaken on the field,” the official said.

Opposition sources fear the Gulf crisis could spark new bouts of conflict, particularly in the Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus where the Saudi-backed Jaish al-Islam has been fighting the Qatari-backed Failaq al-Rahman intermittently for more than a year. That quarrel has helped government forces regain parts of the area.

The four Arab states that have turned against Qatar last week issued a list of dozens of people named as terrorists with links to Qatar, including prominent Islamist insurgent Sheikh Abdullah al-Muhaysini, a Saudi national based in Syria known for mobilizing support for jihadist groups.

The U.S. Treasury last year blacklisted him for acting on behalf of and supporting the Nusra Front, saying he had raised millions of dollars for the group.

(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun in Turkey; writing by Tom Perry; editing by Peter Graff)

 

Marching toward a wider war in the Middle East

Marching toward a wider war in the

Middle East

 

 

Behind the bitter political warfare in Washington and the endless media flogging of hysterical claims of Russian interference in the election with the supposed collusion of Donald Trump, very real wars in the Middle East are threatening to coalesce into a regional and even global conflagration with ominous implications for the peoples of not only the region, but the entire planet.

These two fields of battle are by no means unconnected. The US ruling establishment is bitterly divided over US foreign policy and, most decisively, its war strategy. Behind the anti-Russia hysteria, the opposition to Trump on the part of the Democratic Party and significant layers of the Republicans is bound up with a determination to prevent him from in any way weakening the escalation of US aggression against Moscow, in particular over Washington’s drive for regime change in Syria.

The Trump administration and the cabal of recently retired and active duty military officers who effectively steer its foreign and military policy have spelled out with increasing clarity a policy directed at planning war with Iran in preparation for confrontation with China. This was the unconcealed agenda of Trump’s trip last month to Israel and Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s two major regional enemies.

The administration’s stated aim of forging an anti-Iranian, NATO-like alliance with the Sunni oil sheikdoms of the Gulf Cooperation Council has translated into a de facto state of war imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt against Qatar, which has been subjected to an all-out economic blockade. The Saudi monarchy, the principal ideological and financial sponsor of Islamist extremism, has—with Trump’s blessings—absurdly cast its attack on Qatar as a crusade against terrorism. The real issues are Qatar’s ties to Tehran and its reluctance to join the anti-Iranian war drive.

Turkey, meanwhile, has sided with the Qatari regime, sending food and taking steps toward establishing a military base on the small gas-rich Qatar Peninsula. Ankara had fallen out previously with Saudi Arabia and its allies over its opposition to the military coup that toppled Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. These tensions have been exacerbated by charges that the UAE funneled billions of dollars into Turkey to support the abortive July 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Amid this spiraling regional conflict, there is a seeming element of incoherence in the Trump administration’s policy. Qatar hosts the strategically vital al-Udeid air base along with some 10,000 US troops. The base is used to carry out airstrikes from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan, all in the name of a campaign against terrorism and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in particular.

With Iraqi forces, backed by a murderous US bombing campaign, close to conquering Mosul, a once great city turned to rubble, and Washington’s Kurdish proxies advancing under similarly devastating air cover into the Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIS is being driven out of its last two major strongholds.

These apparent victories, however, spell not the end of the latest US war in the Middle East, but rather its increasingly dangerous transformation and escalation.

In a report that could accurately be characterized as “straight from the horse’s mouth,” the New York Times published an article over the weekend titled “Beyond Raqqa, an Even Bigger Battle to Defeat ISIS and Control Syria Looms.” The author is Anne Barnard, who since the beginning of the US-orchestrated war for regime change six years ago has served as a faithful conduit for the CIA and Pentagon and a cheerleader for the US-backed, Al-Qaeda-linked “rebels” employed in the attempt to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Barnard’s article indicates that the Pentagon and the CIA view the crusade against ISIS as a sideshow, a useful pretext for pursuing US imperialist interests in Syria and throughout the region. The battle against the Islamist militia, itself the product of the succession of US wars from Iraq to Libya and Syria, is being eclipsed, she writes, by a conflict in southeastern Syria “with far more geopolitical import and risk.”

Barnard refers to this unfolding military confrontation as the “21st-century version of the Great Game,” a telling historical reference to the protracted rivalry between British imperialism and the Russian empire for dominance over Central Asia. Precisely such predatory aims are involved in Syria, where Washington seeks to overthrow the Assad regime and replace it with a puppet government, as a means of isolating and preparing for war against Iran, which it sees as a rival for hegemony in the energy-rich and strategically vital regions of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia.

The focus of this new stage in a Syrian war that has killed hundreds of thousands and turned millions into refugees is a desert outpost run by US and British special forces commandos in al-Tanf, Syria’s southeastern border crossing with Iraq that controls the main highway between Damascus and Baghdad.

The Pentagon is using the base to train so-called rebels, ostensibly to fight ISIS, but in reality to turn against the Syrian regime. It has unilaterally declared a 34-mile radius surrounding the base a “deconfliction zone,” using this as the pretext for launching three separate airstrikes—the latest on June 8—against militias aligned with the Damascus government. It also recently shot down what it claimed was an armed drone operated by pro-regime forces.

Meanwhile, in the US-backed siege of ISIS-controlled Raqqa to the north, Washington’s Kurdish-dominated proxy ground forces have deliberately left ISIS an escape route to the south so that its fighters can join in the attack on the government-held half of Deir ez-Zor, a city of 200,000 in eastern Syria.

In a blow to the unfolding US war strategy, pro-regime forces have fought their way east to the Iraqi border between the US base at al-Tanf and the ISIS-held border town of al-Bukamal on the Euphrates river. The Pentagon had claimed that its aim is to prepare the “rebels” it is training to take the town from ISIS. This would serve to consolidate US domination of the border area, opening the way for a drive up the Euphrates and ultimately the partition of Syria in preparation for an all-out war for regime change.

The Syrian advance has disrupted US attempts to cut off supply routes linking Syria to Iraq and, further east, to Iran. Iraqi Shiite militias, backed by Iran, have reportedly moved toward the Syrian border.

As the New York Times article makes clear, this is a matter of strategic importance to US imperialist aims. “…[W]hat is really at stake are even larger issues. Will the Syrian government re-establish control of the country all the way to its eastern borders? Will the desert straddling the Syrian-Iraqi border remain a no man’s land ripe for militant control? If not, who will dominate there—forces aligned with Iran, Russia or the United States?”

One would never suspect that what is being described is a sovereign country. The US operation in Syria and Iraq is emerging clearly as the axis of a new imperialist carve-up of the Middle East after a quarter century of US wars that have laid waste to much of the region and left the rickety nation-state system imposed by the former colonial powers in shambles. Just as with earlier such colonial carve-ups, the resulting antagonisms pave the way toward world war.

“With all these forces on a collision course, several recent escalations have raised fears of a direct confrontation between the United States and Iran, or even Russia,” the Times notes.

The logic of the US intervention in Syria points toward a marked escalation of US military force to reverse the tactical defeats the Pentagon has suffered on the Iraqi-Syrian border. That such an offensive may provoke a direct military confrontation with “Iran, or even Russia” will not be unwelcome to dominant layers within the US ruling establishment that see war as the essential instrument for reversing the protracted decline of US capitalism’s global hegemony.

For masses of working people in the Middle East, the United States and across the planet, however, these developments pose a mortal threat. This threat can be answered only through the building of a mass antiwar movement uniting the international working class on the basis of a fight to put an end to imperialism and reorganize society on socialist foundations.

Bill Van Auken

Taliban Civil War Continues To Rage In Helmand, As Mullah Rasoul and Mullah Habitullah Trade Suicide-Bombs

The first attack was carried out against fighters from Mullah Adbul Rasoul’s faction, while the second was against Mullah Haibatullah’s men.

Thumbnail

In an apparent revenge attack, a Taliban fighter from Mullah Rasoul’s group detonated his explosives among a group of fighters from rival Taliban group led by Mullah Haibatullah, killing at least four. 

According to a provincial government spokesman, a suicide bomber from Mullah Rasoul’s break away faction detonated explosives while among a group of fighters from Mullah Haibatullah’s group.

At least five Taliban fighters were killed and four wounded in the initial suicide car bombing that took place early Wednesday in Gereshk – this was against Mullah Rasoul’s men.

In the revenge attack, four were killed and two were wounded.

A source from Mullah Rasoul’s group confirmed the first incident but would not provide details.

The breakaway Taliban faction appointed its own leader following the death of founder Mullah Omar and the subsequent appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mansour.

At the time, Mullah Rasoul says he and his supporters tried hard to convince Mullah Mansour to step down and let the new leader be appointed by consensus – but they say he refused.

Mullah Rasoul is believed to have a few hundred loyal fighters who are mostly found in the south and south-eastern parts of the country.

My 2014 Research On ISIS–What Is The Truth About ISIS?

[Thanks to my friends at Countercurrents, the following article was preserved, perhaps my most important piece of research.  It was mysteriously deleted from NoSunglasses.]

 

What Is The Truth About ISIS?

By Peter Chamberlin

04 September, 2014
Countercurrents.org

A detainee appears before the Multinational Forces Review Committee. This is one of Camp Bucca’s programs that help detainees to reintegrate into Iraqi society. (Department of Defense photo/Pfc. Amie J. McMillan)

An instructor provides a mathematical lesson to detainees at the theater internment facility in Camp Bucca, Iraq. The class is part of the educational opportunities available to the detainees to help them get a better job and serve as an example for their community upon their release. (Department of Defense photo/Pfc. Amie J. McMillan)

What is the truth about ISIS?

Is it an ISIS/ISIS a pseudo-gang, working for the CIA, or is it merely a bi-product of the US/Saudi strategic union? There has not yet been another serious explanation put forth, other than this, to explain their meteoric rise to sudden terror stardom in 2014, when they were “being kept on life support” in mid-2012. Despite the non-serious explanations offered by some serious mis-informers to the contrary (State Dept, Al-Arabiya), “bank robberies, extortion and kidnapping” do not explain the sudden mobility, or capability to mount continual operations, by a small army of thousands of men, with an apparently limitless supply of modern weaponry, spread-out over 2-1/2 states (still working on Lebanon). Such an army could NOT exist without a state sponsor.

In trying to use the Internet as primary (only) source, we first learn that there are many questions that are nearly impossible to answer effectively there, because of the constant “scrubbing” (deleting) of information that is embarrassing to the owner of the Internet (USA), or to its minions. It is not even necessary to delete articles there to hide them, a simple extra space or extra letter in the title link will nullify all further links made back to the article of embarrassment.

In addition, researchers must rely upon Google Translate to unlock all articles in the foreign press, effectively turning most translations into gibberish. For an English researcher wanting to locate specific articles in Arabic, or other tongues, there is also that annoying foreigner habit of adding their own letters to words (words with multiple spellings), thus making a nearly impossible task even harder.

Nonetheless, I continue to pursue the origins of the “Islamic State” or the history of its leaders, looking for the smoking guns to tie the movable “false flag” to its state benefactors. From the evidence that still remains on the Web, I soon discovered that the ISIL leadership (photos and history below) has links to Iraqi internment Camp Bucca…but, this is a story with many holes.

By my own “guesstimate,” ISIS is the result of a failed US Army behavioral modification program at Camp Bucca, Umm Qasr, Iraq, between 2007 and its closure in 2009.

If it is true that alleged ISIS leader “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi” was ever in Camp Bucca then he went through the Camp 134 Process, subjecting him to a “behavior modification” process, part of a “proactive counterinsurgency strategy” for detention operations (according to Detention Operations, Behavior Modification, and Counterinsurgency, from the US ARMY COMBINED ARMS CENTER). If al-Baghdadi or other ISIS members were at Bucca, they were herded through a dividing process, which identified the “unreconcilable” insurgents, in order to sequester them away from the general population. “Moderates or former extremists moving toward moderation” were separated for special treatment intended turn them away from extremist beliefs, before “releas[ing] them to return to their homes as “moderate missiles of the mind.” The mission at Bucca was to

“modify the behavior of detainees so that when they reenter Iraqi society, they are no longer threats to the Iraqi government and coalition forces but rather agents of change for the future of Iraq.”

Before pursuing the question of the truth about ISIS, we must ask whether this behavior modification process successful, or did it have an unanticipated opposite result? It seems pretty obvious from our perspective that graduates of the ISIS program went on to become the world’s most notorious terrorist army, a grave threat to world peace? Was this the result of a failed overt detainee/prisoner strategy, or was this the intended result? Was the US Army training terrorists at Bucca, or did its proactive counterinsurgency strategy for detention operations” to turn the prison system into “a legitimate arena for counterinsurgency actions“ backfire miserably, producing a generation of terrorist-jihadis like the world has never seen?

Consider what follows to be “hole-filler” in that storyline, hopefully helping readers to link the terrorists back to their state sponsors.

ISIS: Who is former Imam Abu Omar Al Baghdadi and the top ISIS leaders?

Saudi Al-Arabiya provided the graphic answer below (making the text automatically suspicious). Click on the photo or the Arabiya link to view readable text.–

1- Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—-BUCCA
2- Abu Ayman al-Iraqi—-BUCCA
3- Abu Ahmad al-Alwani
4- Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi—-BUCCA
5- Haji Bakr—-BUCCA
6- Abu Fatima al-Jaheishi

What is significant about Camp Bucca?

It was the primary site for an experimental US Army behavioral modification program, Task Force 134, “Detention Operations Process,” which got into detainees homeS and their lives, as well as reconditioning their heads.

DR AMI M. Angell–rehabilitation programme leader at Camp Bucca.

“I think our efforts were successful. In fact, so successful that three previous Al Qaeda operatives [see confirmation by Dr. Angell] went through all the programs, were released, and then returned to work the programs as civilians.” (1)

“They were guided by a psychiatrist and art instructor nick
named Picasso – once an Al-Qaeda operative and a detainee at Camp Bucca.” (2b)–[“They discussed issues such as violence and Iraq’s future, before expressing their feelings in art.” ]

FURTHER TESTIMONY FROM DR. ANGELL–

“The spare time led some to start radical religious classes so some moderate detainees were converted into extremists. ‘When we came up with rehab programmes as a solution, the American military was very against it,…They didn’t understand why we are spending money on rehab when we are going to leave the country eventually.’–“The Art of Rehabilitating Terrorists” (2)

“The rehab programme won the support of US Marine Major-General Douglas Stone. Initial funding was enough for ‘religious rehabilitation’ for only 30 detainees. She brought in well-respected imams to teach them about the Quran. ‘We saw a thirst for education as the other detainees all wanted to know what the 30 learnt,’ said Dr Angell.–[confirmation comes from former Bucca detainee Adel Jasim Mohammed.via Al Jazeera (below)–ed.] ‘Because many of them were uneducated, those who went for the classes were shocked to learn that what they had thought of Islam was flawed. ‘They didn’t question what people told them and didn’t even understand the reasons for many things, from washing hands and feet before prayers to why they pray.’ (2a)

“They discussed issues such as violence and Iraq’s future, before expressing their feelings in art. They were guided by a psychiatrist and art instructor nick named Picasso – once an Al-Qaeda operative and a detainee at Camp Bucca.” (2b)

Through Dr. Angell’s program, a “moderate” Imam was brought in to teach religious classes at “Bucca Freedom School.” He was given a list of religiously inclined detainees and allowed to pick 10-12 to mentor closely, with allegedly moderate ideas. Those special students were allowed to hold religion classes for hundreds of students. For all we know, that list of religious trainees formed the basis for the “Islamic State.” Again, intentional, or the biggest “cluster-fuck” of all time?

US Iraq jail an ‘al-Qaeda school’–“Former inmates of Camp Bucca say military prison was training ground for extremism.

Adel Jasim Mohammed, a former detainee of Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr, said that US officials did nothing to stop radicals from indoctrinating young detainees at the camp.

“Extremists had freedom to educate the young detainees. I saw them giving courses using classroom boards on how to use explosives, weapons and how to become suicide bombers,” Mohammed said.

“For the Americans we felt it was normal. They did not stop them [the radicals].”

…In 2005, an extremist was sent to our camp. At first, Sunnis and Shias rejected his teachings. But we were told that he was imposed by the prison authority,” he said.

“He stayed for a week and recruited 25 of the 34 detainees – they became extremists like him.”

Was this visiting scholar of radical Islam the same man who now calls himself Emir of the self-declared “Caliphate”?

Abu Bakr Baghdadi allegedly took the helm of “Al Qaida In Iraq,” after the death of the terrorist leader known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June 2006

The combined real and fake histories of Abu Bakr Baghdadi paint a portrait of an Iraqi from Ramadi in Anbar Province, who was allegedly a scholar of Islam with a master’s degree and a PhD in Islamic studies from University of Islamic Sciences in Baghdad. He was allegedly captured by American forces sometime in 2003, before allegedly being released to the Iraqis in 2004. All articles repeating the claim that Baghdadi was held at Camp Bucca until its closure, can be traced back to this article from The Daily Beast. There is no information to be found on the Internet to fill in the gaps about his his time with the Iraqis, revealing where (or even if) he was held, but we know for certain that the only known photo of the man whom the Western media call “al-Baghdadi” came from the Iraq Min. of Interior. We cannot know for certain that the man held and released by American forces back then is the same man who now calls himself “Caliph Ibrahim.”

How ten months at US run Camp Bucca in 2004 transformed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi into a ruthless foe

“Many of us at Camp Bucca were concerned that instead of just holding detainees, we had created a pressure cooker for extremism.”–James Skylar Gerrond, a former compound commander at Camp Bucca in 2006 and 2007

Critics of the facility say it had in effect become a terror training institute, run by resentful inmates under a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

“It is al-Qa’ida central down there,” said Sheikh Ali Hatem Suleiman, a tribal leader from Anbar province. “What better way to teach everyone how to become fanatical than put them all together for scant reason, then deprive them?”

[SEE: Behind the Scenes: Walking amid 2,000 al Qaeda suspects ]

The Battle Behind the Wire–Rand Corp].

Reform School for Radicals, Marisa L. Porges
July 1, 2011

To varying degrees, these initiatives also include religious education, from one-on-one meetings with local religious leaders who discuss ideological sources of radicalization to group sessions that review the Quran and Islamic law. In Iraq, the “Countering Extremism with Enlightenment”, or Tanweer program, was modeled after early efforts in Saudi Arabia. Clerics and social workers led a religious dialogue to advance moderate views of Islam while promoting civic duties associated with Iraqi democracy.

US risks fanning violence as it opens gates of Iraqi detention camps–April 19, 2009

On Aug. 19, 2009, a series of massive car-bombs announced the rebirth of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)–Scores dead as Baghdad rocked by series of massive explosions

Sept. 17, 2009, Camp Bucca Detention Center Closes in Iraq…thousands of inmates are set free in southern Iraq, near the Kuwaiti border.

“An Air Force C-17 carrying the last group of 180 detainees lifted off from the Basra airport headed to Camp Cropper.”

AL-QAIDA IN IRAQ ON THE ROPE

The following is also taken from the July 22, 2008 al‐Qa`ida’s Road In and Out of Iraq. Analysis from West Point expert on Iraq, Dr. Michael Knights–

” AQI is a wounded organization….foreign fighters are now trying to leave the country.”

That was Dr. Knights’ opinion on AQI in July 2008, the following is his assessment on July 31, 2012–

“The Sunni insurgencies (plural) are being kept on life support.”

“It is clear that AQI has benefited from an unprecedented infusion of trained terrorist manpower. Many of the released persons spent time planning inside detention facilities like Camp Bucca and Camp Cropper, specifically so they could launch a smarter, stronger insurgent effort one day.”

In this testimony by Dr. Knights before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on December 12, 2013 (SEE: The Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Iraq), he referred to a previous article that he had written on February 24, 2012 for the West Point Center for Combating Terrorism (which has apparently been erased from the Internet, for some reason), called “Back with a vengeance: Al-Qaeda in Iraq rebounds.” This article is cited frequently by researchers who search for the roots of “Islamic State.” It described a spent organization, headed for the great dust bin of history, far different from the supercharged terrorist organization that is tearing across Iraq and Syria, as described in Knights’ August 27, 2014 testimony (SEE: ISIL’s Political-Military Power in Iraq).

The following excerpts come from that erased assessment–

“By the middle of 2010, Al-Qaeda in Iraq was dead on its feet. The organization suffered critical setbacks in late 2006 and early 2007 as Sunni Arab tribal militias – the Sahwa (Awakening) – turned against Al-Qaeda. In parallel the U.S.-led military effort protected the Sahwa and executed high-tempo remorseless counter-terrorism operations that ripped Al-Qaeda in Iraq to pieces. The group’s foreign volunteers and money started to dry up. Al-Qaeda cells began to process of disintegrating into local criminal franchises that now kidnapped and extorted to pay their salaries rather than fund insurgency. In April 2010 Al-Qaeda in Iraq lost its two most senior leaders – AQI emir Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and war minister Abu Ayyub al-Masri – and stood in the verge of “disintegration” according to the US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno. In a press conference on June 4, 2010, Odierno noted: “Over the last 90 days or so, we’ve either picked up or killed 34 out of the top 42 Al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders.”

“By early 2012 it was clear that the deaths of AQI’s senior leaders were a watershed event that unfolded just as the movement sought to find a new way to operate in Iraq. Numerous processes have unfolded since Al-Qaeda’s defeat in 2006-2009, including the release of large numbers of experienced militants from U.S. detention facilities, changes in the balance of foreign and Iraqi fighters within the movement, the withdrawal of U.S. forces, and determined attempts by Al-Qaeda in Iraq to learn from its mistakes. These changes crystallized in the year after the deaths of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, culminating in a successful re-launch of the movement in April 2011 and a significant recovery of operational space within Iraq’s Sunni Arab communities. The movement appears to have rationalized its near-term objectives and synchronized its propaganda with the mounting concerns of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs.”

THE SAUDI CONNECTION–

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq terrorist group and the Levant (EIIL) affiliated to Al-Qaeda, captured in Iraq, confessed to having direct links with the government of Saudi Arabia.

ABDULLAH AZZAM BRIGADES

Majid al-Majid was Saudi chief of the Ab.Azzam Brigades in Lebanon until his arrest and death in custody of Lebanon’s Army.

“Funding for the Sunni insurgency comes from private individuals within
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.”–Iraq Study Group Report

al – Qa`ida’s Road In and Out of Iraq,

“Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt were the source of most of the foreign fighters detained in Camp Bucca, Iraq….As of April 7, 2008, the United States was holding 251 foreign fighters at Camp Bucca, Iraq. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria each contributed 19 percent of those fighters. Libyans comprise only 3 percent.”
“Foreign Fighters contributed approximately 75 Percent of suicide bombers between August 2006 and August 2007.”
“The plurality of suicide bombers entering Iraq between August 2006 and August 2007 were Saudi.“]

“Sheikh Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi” was installed as head of Mujahideen Shura Council, the precursor of “Islamic State” in January of 2006. Was this the same man as Abu Bakr Baghdadi, even though he was supposedly incarcerated at Bucca at the time? Abdullah Azzam Brigades was spun-off from AQI in the process. A precursor to Al Nusra Front, “Al Nusra wal Jihad fi Bilad al Sham” split-off from AbAzzam in 2005, taking initial credit for the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

Lebanese officials say Beirut suicide bomber, his accomplice are Saudi citizens

Atrash Investigation: Two Saudi Suicide Bombers on the Loose

CONCLUSION–

Why is it that no researchers have asked the question “How did AQI suddenly acquire enough money and equipment to turn a failing terrorist entity into an “Islamic Caliphate” overnight?” Even if they did bully the Free Syrian Army and take their weapons,pull-off a “string of bank robberies,” kidnappings and extortion, AQI could never have come up with enough cash to run an army, or to buy a fleet of shiny new Toyota trucks, or to become one of the best-paying employers in the Middle East, without being on some state’s payroll.

peter.chamberlin@hotmail.com

“Kingfish” Salmon Plans New Attempted Bribery Session w/Iraqi PM On Weds.

[Saudi Arabia has provided the lion’s share of suicide-bombers and terrorists since the beginning of the 2nd Gulf War (SEE:  al‐Qa`ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq: A First Look at the Sinjar Records).  Gulf “royals” and Sunni terrorists have intentionally sabotaged the democratically-elected Iraqi govt, since the beginning.  Iraqi resistance to this sabotage is sold to the public as the denial of Sunni rights, in order to turn the world against the PM of Iraq.  If Salmon manages to bribe al-Abadi into turning away from Syria, then the Saudi/UAE sabotage may continue.]

King Salman to Receive Iraqi PM

Wednesday in Jeddah

 

 

Saudi

Jeddah – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz will meet Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Wednesday in Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia’s Arab Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the meeting would see discussions over bilateral relations and regional developments.

Abadi’s official trip to Saudi Arabia comes following a visit conducted by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir to Baghdad on February 25.

An official at the Iraqi foreign ministry said the two countries were holding “honest” discussions over regional matters and they were seeking to further boost bilateral relations.

In earlier remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Nizar Khairallah, the first deputy of the Iraqi foreign ministry, said that the two countries were facing common challenges, including the fight against terrorism.

He underlined in this regard the importance of bilateral cooperation between Baghdad and Riyadh to bolster intelligence efforts.

Khairallah noted the presence of shared interests in opening the land borders between the two countries, as well as resuming the direct flight routes between the two capitals.

Prominent Iranian General Suleimani Makes Historic Crossing Over Iraqi Border Into Syria

Prominent Iranian general makes surprise

visit to Iraqi-Syrian border

 

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:45 P.M.) – The prominent Iranian commander of the Al-Quds Force, Major General Qassem Suleimani, made a surprise visit to the Iraqi-Syrian border this week to meet with military personnel from the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Popular Mobilization Units (Hashd Al-Sha’abi), Liwaa Fatemiyoun, and Hezbollah.

General Suleimani’s visit to the Syrian government-held crossing in southeast Homs marks the first time the Al-Quds commander has crossed into Syria from Iraq’s Al-Anbar Governorate.

Unlike the Iraqi Army, the pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (Iraqi paramilitary) are heavily influenced by Iran’s military; this is one of the reasons why General Suleimani is often pictured with them in Iraq.

The Syrian government forces and their allies launched an important offensive in the southeastern countryside of the Homs Governorate this month, targeting the occupied border-crossings into Iraq’s Al-Anbar Governorate.

Qatar Reminds US Administration That Taliban Office In Doha Was America’s Idea

[The Taliban office in Qatar was an Obama directive, honored by “Fat Pig of Qatar“(SEE:  Karzai Announced New Taliban Peace Talks At Noon—By 3:00 pm American Diplomats Had Undermined ThemJun 19, 2013 ).  The Doha initiative effectively split the Afghan Taliban and ignited a Taliban civil war, by blocking Karzai’s covert negotiations with the Taliban (w/Pakistan’s help), by arresting those Afghan Taliban leaders attempting to negotiate with Afghanistan, outside of US control (SEE: Arresting Taliban To Cover America’s Ass ; Understanding the New Afghan Paradigm ; US Special Forces Forcibly Halt Karzai’s Peace Negotiations Once AgainOct 12, 2013). 

IT IS UNDENIABLE that Qatar created the Taliban office as a favor to the US Administration.  By enabling this American sabotage of real Afghan peace talks, Qatar served as the hands of the CIA, just as Bandar bin Sultan had sabotaged Syria’s anti-terror war under CIA direction.]

FAISAL AL-TIMIMI/AFP/GETTY

Amid mixed messages from Washington on the Saudi-led campaign to diplomatically isolate Qatar over allegations of terror sponsorship, the Qatari government has claimed its hosting of the Taliban’s “political office” came in response to a U.S. request.

Qatari special envoy on counterterrorism Mutlaq Al Qahtani told Al Jazeera that Qatar permitted the Taliban to set up shop in 2013 “by request of the U.S. government” to “facilitat[e] the talks between the Americans, the Taliban, and the government of Afghanistan.” The decision, he said, was part of Qatar’s “open-door policy, to facilitate talks, to mediate, and to bring peace.”

Al Jazeera is owned by the Qatari government and partially funded by the Qatari royal family. Qatar is also host to the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East, a facility that houses 11,000 American personnel and provides a base for airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Bonnie Kristian

Pro-Israel Protest Turns to Riot…ZERO Arrests.

Left-Wing Zionists Attack the Police in

Minnesota Rally!

Pro-Israel Protest Turns to Riot.

Pro-Israel Protest Turns to Riot.

Wow.

If this isn’t one of the best illustrations of jewish privilege, I don’t know what is.

A pro-Israel / anti-Trump rally degenerated in Minnesota when “protesters” started threatening and attacking police officers when told to leave private property.

One officer was injured in the confrontation.

How many arrests? Zero.

Cases like this are why I’m done with white people who lecture us Blacks about our “culture” or about how we need to “just listen to police officer” and “stop breaking the law”.

FUCK people who say that when shit like this happens.

Jews and whites can literally insult and threaten law enforcement and not even get convicted of a fucking crime, but if a Black person takes their wallet out, he “should have been more careful” and deserves to get shot.

When Black people protest, the media calls it a “riot”.

When jews / zionists / white liberals attack the police, the media calls it a “peaceful protest”.

Fuck this prejudiced society.

Riyadh plan falling apart after Trump flip-flop and Turkey ruse

Cool Qatar: Riyadh plan backfires after

Trump flip-flop & Turkey ruse

 

Cool Qatar: Riyadh plan backfires after Trump flip-flop & Turkey ruse

Saudi Arabia’s standoff against Qatar was fraught with miscalculations and comically ill-conceived notions from the start. But now the crisis is becoming a threat to Riyadh’s own prominence and security in the Middle East.

“Almost all relationships begin and continue as mutual forms of exploitation, a mental or physical barter, to be determined when one or both parties run out of goods.”   – English-American writer, W. H. Auden.

This Ramadan will surely be remembered in the Middle East by Saudi Arabia’s inflated idea of a new zealous relationship formed with the US. Following Donald Trump’s ‘Arab Summit’ visit in May, Riyadh is reinvigorated with a new sense of importance and power, and has indulged itself on just how far warm sentiments from the Trump administration can take its new government and its struggle against Iran, an enemy of convenience that gives Saudi Arabia an important role in the region. But who needs the other more? The Saudis or the Americans?

In recent days, Saudi Arabia’s bold plan to isolate tiny Qatar in a bid to get it to agree to Riyadh’s geopolitics appears to be coming off the rails. But worse than merely suffering a modicum of humiliation when Riyadh inevitably climbs down and admits its zany plan didn’t come off, there are signs that the attempt to destabilize Qatar is going to backfire. Indeed, King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s new, inexperienced government has yet to recognize, let alone even understand an important maxim in politics: ‘When in a hole, stop digging’.

Read more

© Naseem Zeitoon

Although the cataclysmic errors of going ahead with such ill-conceived plans – like backing extremists groups in Syria – could be blamed on his predecessor, his brother King Abdullah who died in 2015, Salman must accept responsibility for other mistakes, like the beleaguered campaign in Yemen, which shows no signs of ending. And now Qatar.

It’s as though the Saudis are simply incapable both of effective military strategy or any form of sage diplomacy; blinded by delusional ideas of their own capabilities and power, they blunder ahead with scant regard of the consequences, even towards themselves.

“Most worrying is that Saudi Arabia and the UAE may repeat the mistakes that were made when the Saudi leadership decided to launch a war in Yemen,” said Yezid Sayigh, a Beirut-based senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “They had no clear political strategy, based their action on false assumptions, have incurred heavy financial costs and a growing human toll, and are probably now worse off in terms of their security,”according to Livemint.com

Indeed, the swift 180-degree turn by Trump, who started off entirely behind the Saudi move but ended on a more cautious note, must have really hit Riyadh hard. After the Pentagon more or less put Trump straight on Qatar and the implications of this tiny country going rogue, the architects of this foolhardy plan were confronted by a stark reality: ‘We’ve gone too far.’

And they really have. In a matter of days, the reality has hit home: not only is Trump and Tillerman now calling for Saudi Arabia to back down on the siege, but it appears that the requisite premise of the entire idea – that the US would militarily defend the Kingdom’s huge borders – is also folly. Suddenly, the veiled threats of Saudi Arabia going further beyond just the blockade look disingenuous when any skirmishes that may result on Saudi’s borders will have to be dealt with by its own army.

Erdogan, the real Sultan of Swing

But it gets worse. If the Saudis massively over-estimated the support their masterplan would muster from the US, they also underestimated that another wild card in the region would swiftly run to the aid of Qatar: Turkey.

I recently argued about the significance of Qatar merely starting a debate about whether Iran is really a threat and how Qatar’s refusal of the Saudis using Iran as a pretext to hang its entire geopolitical strategy on is detrimental to Riyadh. But a ‘third way’ is already happening now and this is entirely the Saudi’s fault.

Previously this alternative strand of joined-up-thinking was contained and confined to only Qatar as the underhand control that Saudi Arabia has on media in the entire region is almost absolute and succeeds in muffling any such debate, according to a recent report by Wikileaks.

But now, with the Saudi move – despite it being planned in advance, right down to the planted op-eds in US newspapers about how Qatar is the problem in the region to countering terrorism – the third way is very much a real, living beast. It is a trilogy of those who consider Saudi Arabia – as opposed to Iran – as the threat, a group made up of Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood itself.

Incredibly, the West – perhaps even Trump himself – has to accept some responsibility for this. Just three days before Trump gave his speech in Riyadh before over 50 heads of state of Muslim countries, where he denounced Iran and Hezbollah, Turkish President Erdogan left Washington DC entirely empty handed. I initially speculated that Trump’s people could not trust Erdogan and I stand by this. But there was more to it than that. Trump’s people could not give what the Turkish President wanted in Syria as it might have upset the Saudis; the best kept secret in the Middle East is that the Saudis intensely dislike Erdogan and were hoping that the attempted coup in July of 2016 would have ousted him. Erdogan flew back to Ankara from Washington empty-handed, realizing that he will never be part of the powerful elite and should look East.

Qatar’s $1bn ransom to jihadists & Iran aided Gulf states’ decision to cut ties – media https://on.rt.com/8dsy

Few Western commentators in the region understand that Turkey supporting Qatar is payback to Trump and the Saudis, as the real ideology that Erdogan supports (apart from his own Sultan-like autocracy) is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is universally loathed by the Saudis. By giving Qatar the support it needs, Erdogan believes he cashes in big time – as if Qatar gave in to pressure, it would have left Turkey as the only real player who supports the pan-Arab Islamic group. He gets a new role in the Middle East as a dangerous ally of two hated creeds in one blow: the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. Erdogan suddenly becomes more than just a wild card, but a figure to fear more than merely a leader of a rogue state in terms of how the Turkish leader can impact Saudi stability.

Yet even Erdogan will pay a very high price for this cavalier play and not just with the expected withdrawal of Saudi and UAE investment in Turkey. but more how Moscow will now treat him, given that he has proven to Putin that he simply cannot be trusted by defiantly going against the wishes of Russia to stay neutral. “If Erdogan enters the Qatar conflict head on, he will be going against Russia’s legitimately stated position of neutrality,”argued The Duran. “If Erdogan jumps into the Gulf he will at once isolate himself from Wahhabi Saudi, the secular Arab world (which he is already largely hated in), Russia and the United States.”

The heart of the beast

But did you ever wonder if you were being told all the story? In the Middle East disputes are never what they seem. There is always a hidden agenda and the Qatar calamity is no exception. We are lead to believe that the heart of the dispute is the funding of terrorist groups. A hilarious notion if we are to examine that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have both funded ISIS and its affiliates, at some stage of the Syrian war.

The greatest fear that the Saudis have is that their omnipotent role as leader of the GCC countries will be undermined by debate, which is sparked by this new trilogy, which will force other countries to look closely at Iran and ask is it really a threat to the region or more of a fake foe being used to keep a house of cards standing – a point I made in my earlier article, which has since been confirmed by a number of respected, leading journalists covering the Middle East.

David Hearst is editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye, who was previously chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian. He also writes that the spat has nothing to do with “funding terrorism or cosying up to Iran. In fact the Emiratis do a roaring trade with Iran, and they are part of the coalition accusing Qatar of siding with Tehran”.

“Their real demands” he continues, “which were conveyed to the Emir of Kuwait – who is acting as an intermediary – are the closure of Al Jazeera, de-funding of Al Arabi al Jadid, Al Quds al Arabi, and the Arabic edition of Huffington Post.”

So, it may well be that the trilogy of Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood has actually been created by Saudi Arabia’s blundering- which just adds to the gargantuan failure of the plot. But what is really at the core of the Saudi plan is to silence all debate which questions the Saudis. It’s really that simple. If you can’t buy media, then simply threaten the state which owns it to have it shut down.

In reality though, they are doing the opposite and actually making Qatar cool and creating more debate than ever.

Inevitably, the coming days might see the UAE cutting off its gas pipeline from Qatar but in the weeks to come keep an eye open for a curiously high number of Opeds about Qatar’s human rights record and how this should prevent it from hosting the world cup in 2022.

Although Trump faked out his Saudi hosts over taking a bold stand against Qatar, there is still some time before either Riyadh or Washington “run out of goods”.

Martin Jay is based in Beirut and can be followed at @MartinRJay

Martin Jay
Martin Jay is an award winning British journalist now based in Beirut who works on a freelance basis for a number of respected British newspapers as well as previously Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle TV. Before Lebanon, he has worked in Africa and Europe for CNN, Euronews, CNBC, BBC, Sunday Times and Reuters. Follow him on Twitter @MartinRJay

Understanding the diplomatic storm left in the wake of Trump’s World Tour

Understanding the diplomatic storm in the

Gulf in the wake of Trump’s West Asia visit

Saudi Arabia, egged on by the US president, targets Iran and resists Qatar’s soft-power approach.

Mandel Ngan/AFP

Long-simmering tensions between Saudi and Qatari rulers burst like a thunderclap. The Saudis and two Gulf allies suddenly moved to sever diplomatic ties by withdrawing diplomats, also cutting off land, sea and air access to Qatar and blocking Qatari websites and broadcasts.

Though the trigger for this crisis was reports of a speech by Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on May 22, its roots lie in the Arab Spring upheavals of 2011 and aftermath. Unlike his fellow Gulf monarchs, Tamim’s father Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani backed the popular uprisings, angering King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi dynasty, administering 2 million sq km of the Arabian Peninsula, could not tolerate a puny sheikhdom pursuing a foreign policy opposed to its own. Its latest dramatic step, orchestrated with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, is designed to bring Qatar in line with the Big Brother of the Gulf.

The state-run Qatar News Agency’s report of the speech delivered by Emir Tamim in Doha was instantly noted by the media in the region. As summarised by Saudi-owned, Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV channel, the Qatari ruler endorsed the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah, noted that US President Donald Trump’s rule will not last long, adding “There is no wisdom in harbouring hostility towards Iran.”

Within hours, condemnation poured in from social and traditional media outlets in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain. Qatar’s repeated explanations that its news agency had been hacked, that its emir made no such statements, were ignored. To prove its case, the Qatari government could have distributed the verbatim transcript of the ruler’s address, but did not.

In Washington, Trump tried to take credit for the blockade, tweeting, “They [Saudis] said they would take hard line on funding extremism and all reference was pointing to Qatar.” By contrast, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis called for calm, offering to help defuse the crisis. After all, Qatar has hosted the Pentagon’s regional headquarters at Al Udeid Air Base since 2002, housing 10,000 troops and used to bomb Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.

It’s crucial to consider the context of Tamim’s speech. He had a cordial meeting with Trump in Riyadh on May 21 and during photos, Trump said that it was “an honour” to be with him, referring to Qatar’s plans to buy “some beautiful US military equipment.” Two days later, the emir addressed 650 National Service military graduates in Doha, an appropriate occasion to discuss military affairs. Therefore he may have referred to the US-Saudi military cooperation agreement and Trump urging Gulf States to build an alliance against Iran, described by the emir as an “Islamic power.”

Looking inwards

Those spewing anti-Qatar rhetoric overlook that both the House of Saud and the Al Thani dynasty belong to the ultra-conservative Wahhabi subsect within Sunni Islam, the difference that Wahhabi preachers do not regulate Qatar’s social life. It’s also worth noting that Qatar joined the Saudi-led military coalition against the Shia Houthis in Yemen in March 2015.

Another material fact: Qatar shares the North Dome–South Pars gas field with Iran. At 9,700 square kilometers, the field is the largest of its kind in the world, with its South Pars section, about a third of the total, lying in Iran’s territorial waters. Aggregate recoverable gas reserves of this field are the equivalent of 230 billion barrels of oil, second only to Saudi Arabia’s reserves of conventional oil. Income from gas and oil provide Qatar with more than 60 percent of its GDP and roughly 85 percent of export income. Qatar’s population of 2.5 million has a per-capita GDP of $74,667, among the world’s highest.

Rising state revenue enabled Emir Hamad to financially help terns of thousands of Lebanese who lost homes and businesses during the Israeli-Hezbollah War in 2006. After the Hamas-Israeli War in the Gaza Strip in November 2012, he stepped in to aid Hamas and displaced residents of Gaza. By then, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal had moved the party headquarters from strife-torn Damascus to Doha. Emir Hamad’s generosity received massive publicity, thanks to the pan-Arab Al Jazeera satellite channel he had set up in 1996, much to the chagrin of Saudi royals.

Whereas Hamas is a terrorist organisation, according to the United States and the European Union, that is not the case with Saudi Arabia. Only in March 2014 did Riyadh declare the transnational Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, with the UAE following later that year.

From the mid-1950s to 1990, Saudi Arabia was the prime financial and ideological backer of the Brotherhood, which originated in Egypt in 1928. This stopped when Brotherhood leaders opposed the stationing of American troops on Saudi soil on the eve of the US-led coalition’s military campaign to oust occupying Iraqis from Kuwait in 1991.

Since then the Brotherhood has renounced violence. Its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, won the first free and fair presidential election in Egyptian history in June 2012. Though his first foreign trip was to Riyadh, his hosts never forgave him for visiting Tehran to attend the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in August. Two months later, Emir Hamad met Morsi in Cairo, and his government invested $6 billion in Egypt’s infrastructure projects.

The military coup against Morsi in 2013, denounced by Doha, was applauded by Riyadh. The hostility of Saudi and Emirati royals towards the Brotherhood stems from the fact that the Brotherhood’s leaders demonstrated that Sharia rule could be established in a Muslim country by ballot, reiterating that ultimate power lies with the people, not a dynasty. That explains why the Sunni Brotherhood feels at one with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a predominantly Shia country.

When Qatar, then ruled by Emir Tamim after his father’s abdication in June 2013, refused to abandon its pro-Brotherhood policy in March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha. They restored diplomatic ties in January 2015 after the emir compelled some foreign Brotherhood activists to leave for Turkey, which remains pro-Brotherhood, and silenced others.

A new element in this go-around is the Trump factor. “What is happening is the preliminary result of sword dance [of Trump],” tweeted Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, referring to Trump’s participation in a dance with Saudi King Salman.

Saudi-American love

However, the seed for Saudi-American love-in was laid in mid-March when Trump lunched with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman at the White House. A glimpse of the joint Saudi-American plan for Iran could be gleaned during the prince’s 1 May television interview. “We know we are a main target of Iran,” he said. “We are not waiting until there becomes a battle in Saudi Arabia, so we will work so that it becomes a battle for them in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.”

That statement, combined with the June 2 New York Times report, headlined “CIA Names the ‘Dark Prince’ to Run Iran Operations, Signaling a Tougher Stance,” signals that the US Central Intelligence Agency and the Saudi intelligence agency Al Mukhabarat al Aamah may be poised to launch a dirty-tricks campaign to promote regime change in Iran.

Riyadh’s latest action against Qatar seems to be a preamble to launching a regional cold war against Iran. But this move is likely to throw Qatar into Iran’s arms in order to survive. The Saudi press reports that Rouhani telephoned Emir Tamim, likely offering to meet Qatar’s need for imported food and medicine.

The growing cordiality between Qatar and Iran will jeopardise the future of the Pentagon’s Al Udeid Air Base. The ill-informed, impulsive Trump is opening a Pandora’s Box by aligning his administration unequivocally with an autocratic Saudi monarchy, which has no track record of showing strategic probity politically, diplomatically or in its use of military force on its own.

Dilip Hiro is the author of A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Middle East (Interlink Publishing Group, Northampton, MA). His latest book is Indians in a Globalizing World: Their Skewed Rise (HarperCollins India)

This article first appeared on YaleGlobal Online.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.

Saudi Arabia is Destabilizing the World

Saudi Arabia is Destabilizing the World

 

Thousands of hardline Muslims rallied in Jakarta on Friday, October 14, 2016, in protest against the city’s ethnic Chinese and Christian governor, further fuelling ethnic tensions ahead his failed re-election bid in February. (SCMP)

Just a few months ago, the governor of Indonesia’s largest city, Jakarta, seemed headed for easy re-election despite the fact that he is a Christian in a mostly Muslim country. Suddenly everything went violently wrong. Using the pretext of an offhand remark the governor made about the Koran, masses of enraged Muslims took to the streets to denounce him. In short order he lost the election, was arrested, charged with blasphemy, and sentenced to two years in prison.

This episode is especially alarming because Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, has long been one of its most tolerant. Indonesian Islam, like most belief systems on that vast archipelago, is syncretic, gentle, and open-minded. The stunning fall of Jakarta’s governor reflects the opposite: intolerance, sectarian hatred, and contempt for democracy. Fundamentalism is surging in Indonesia. This did not happen naturally.

Saudi Arabia has been working for decades to pull Indonesia away from moderate Islam and toward the austere Wahhabi form that is state religion in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis’ campaign has been patient, multi-faceted, and lavishly financed. It mirrors others they have waged in Muslim countries across Asia and Africa.

Successive American presidents have assured us that Saudi Arabia is our friend and wishes us well. Yet we know that Osama bin Laden and most of his 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, and that, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a diplomatic cable eight years ago, “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

Recent events in Indonesia shine a light on a Saudi project that is even more pernicious than financing terrorists. Saudi Arabia has used its wealth, much of which comes from the United States, to turn entire nations into hotbeds of radical Islam. By refusing to protest or even officially acknowledge this far-reaching project, we finance our own assassins — and global terror.

The center of Saudi Arabia’s campaign to convert Indonesians to Wahhabi Islam is a tuition-free university in Jakarta known by the acronym LIPIA. All instruction is in Arabic, given mainly by preachers from Saudi Arabia and nearby countries. Genders are kept apart; strict dress codes are enforced; and music, television, and “loud laughter” are forbidden. Students learn an ultra-conservative form of Islam that favors hand amputation for thieves, stoning for adulterers, and death for gays and blasphemers.

Many of the students come from the more than 100 boarding schools Saudi Arabia supports in Indonesia, or have attended one of the 150 mosques that Saudis have built there. The most promising are given scholarships to study in Saudi Arabia, from which they return fully prepared to wreak social, political, and religious havoc in their homeland. Some promote terror groups like Hamas Indonesia and the Islamic Defenders Front, which did not exist before the Saudis arrived.

Eager to press his advantage, King Salman of Saudi Arabia made a nine-day trip to Indonesia in March, accompanied by an entourage of 1,500. The Saudis agreed to allow more than 200,000 Indonesians to make the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca each year — more than come from any other country — and sought permission to open new branches of their LIPIA university. Some Indonesians are pushing back against the Saudi assault on their traditional values, but it is difficult to deny permission for new religious schools when the state is not able to provide decent secular alternatives. In Indonesia, as in other countries where the Saudis are actively promoting Wahhabism — including Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bosnia — the weakness and corruption of central governments create pools of rootless unemployed who are easily seduced by the promises of free food and a place in God’s army.

The surging fundamentalism that is transforming Indonesia teaches several lessons. First is one that we should already have learned, about the nature of the Saudi government. It is an absolute monarchy supported by one of the world’s most reactionary religious sects. It gives clerics large sums to promote their anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic brand of religious militancy abroad. In exchange, the clerics refrain from criticizing the Saudi monarchy or its thousands of high-living princes. Saudis with close ties to the ruling family give crucial support to groups like Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS. This fact should be at the front of our minds whenever we consider our policy toward the Middle East — including when we decide whether to side with the Saudis in their new dispute with neighboring Qatar.

Saudi Arabia’s success in reshaping Indonesia shows the importance of the global battle over ideas. Many in Washington consider spending for cultural and other “soft power” projects to be wasteful. The Saudis feel differently. They pour money and resources into promoting their world view. We should do the same.

The third lesson that today’s Indonesia teaches is about the vulnerability of democracy. In 1998 Indonesia’s repressive military dictatorship gave way to a new system, based on free elections, that promised civil and political rights for all. Radical preachers who would previously have been imprisoned for whipping up religious hatred found themselves free spread their poison. Democracy enables them to forge giant mobs that demand death for apostates. Their political parties campaign in democratic elections for the right to come to power and crush democracy. This is a sobering reality for those who believe that one political system is best for all countries under all circumstances.

The Saudi campaign to radicalize global Islam also shows that earth-shaking events often happen slowly and quietly. The press, focused intently on reporting today’s news, often misses deeper and more important stories. Historians of journalism sometimes point to the northward “great migration” of African-Americans after World War II as an epochal story that few journalists noticed because it was a slow process rather than one-day news event.

The same is true of Saudi Arabia’s long campaign to pull the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims back to the 7th century. We barely notice it, but every day, from Mumbai to Manchester, we feel its effects.

Saudis Sowing Sectarian/Political Discord In Indonesia

[Saudi Arabia is destabilizing the world]

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/06/11/saudi-arabia-destabilizing-world

Pro-Ahok protest in Bali, Indonesia, May 11 Photo credit: NEWSCOM

 

THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

Despite having the largest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia seldom troubles others and so draws little attention in the West. But last month’s imprisonment of the governor of the capital, Jakarta, on charges of blasphemy has properly brought it to the front pages. It may signal that the world’s third-largest democracy is sliding into authoritarian or Islamist rule.

The jailed governor is Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, universally known as “Ahok,” who is ethnic Chinese in a country with abundant anti-Chinese prejudice and Christian in a country that is 88 percent Muslim. Nevertheless, last year he had a 70 percent approval rating and was widely expected to return to the governor’s mansion in this April’s election. You can find an abundant assortment of photographs on social media, including some from the courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca, featuring people with signs that declare, “I am a Muslim and I support Ahok.”

However, at a campaign rally last September Ahok referred to al-Maidah 51, a verse of the Koran warning Muslims against taking Jews or Christians as allies, which he said was being misused by some clerics to assert that Muslims may not vote for him. Several days later, a mendaciously edited video of the talk, omitting some of his key words, went viral on the Internet. The semi-official Indonesian Ulema Council issued a fatwa accusing him of blasphemy, and the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI)—a radical group hitherto noted mainly for attacking Muslim minorities, churches, and liquor stores and nightclubs that didn’t pay them enough protection money—called for demonstrations demanding that he be tried and imprisoned, or executed. One demonstration drew over a million people in Jakarta, and Ahok was charged and tried, though he continued to canvass votes, commuting daily between the campaign trail and the trial.

The campaign was ugly. Anies Baswedan, a comparatively moderate former education minister and Ahok’s chief opponent, took to wearing conspicuously Islamic clothing and gave a speech at the FPI’s headquarters, sitting alongside its leader, Rizieq Shihab. Radical preachers declared that Muslims were forbidden to vote for a non-Muslim, and several mosques displayed signs stating that Ahok voters could never have an Islamic burial. The governor continued to seek votes, but on April 19, he lost 58-42 percent.

The day after the vote, when it could not help him politically, the prosecution dropped some of the charges against Ahok and recommended that he be given the very light sentence of probation plus a one-year suspended jail term. But on May 9, the five judges ignored the prosecutors’ recommendation and sentenced Ahok to two years in prison. The following day, three of those judges were promoted by the Indonesia Supreme Court.

The verdict has split the country in a way not seen in decades. There are widespread demonstrations defending Ahok, but many of his supporters are too afraid to speak out. The president and the national police have been at odds with the military. Tensions within divided families are so high that people may refuse to be in the same room with one another or attend each other’s weddings. There is widespread fear that Indonesia may lapse into authoritarian government.

The Islamist surge has exposed growing radicalization in Indonesia’s population, especially among the young, and especially in the universities, with the exception of the State Islamic Universities, which are usually bastions of moderation. This radicalization is often led by a well-funded Saudi network of schools, scholarships, imams, and mosques determined to wrest Indonesians away from local interpretations of Islam, which have usually encouraged democracy and peaceful relations between religions. The country’s two largest Muslim organizations were formed a century ago as explicit counters to Saudi Wahhabism, and they have urged the government to curb Saudi influence.

The national police have been cracking down on radicals. In the last few months, Rizieq Shihab, FPI’s leader, has himself been investigated for blasphemy after reports that he denigrated the Holy Trinity. He has also been questioned concerning allegations that he insulted Pancasila, the official state ideology, Sukarno, Indonesia’s revered first president, and Indonesia’s currency (by claiming that the new banknotes featured Communist symbols). Rizieq has spent the last month in Saudi Arabia, partly to avoid police questioning, but on May 30, the police charged him under the pornography law for allegedly sending sexually explicit messages to Firza Husein, who has been arrested for treason on suspicion that she was trying to orchestrate a coup through her role as an organizer of the mass demonstrations. Meanwhile, the government has announced that it will ban the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

But the opposition to Ahok extended beyond radicals. Many ordinary Muslims believed that he had deliberately insulted them and this genuine religious sentiment has been manipulated by senior politicians, the military, and other elites, who also likely funded the radicals. The FPI does not have the money or other resources to organize massive demonstrations with thousands of buses, lunch boxes, and neatly printed signs and T-shirts.

Russia Charges US-led Coalition Colluding With Daesh In Syria

 

The commander of Russian forces in Syria says Deash made a deal with Kurdish forces to leave villages near Raqqa.

 

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The Russian military on Friday accused the U.S-led coalition in Syria of providing safe corridors for Daesh to leave the area around its stronghold of Raqqa, the Associated Press reported.

Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russian forces in Syria, said Daesh made a deal earlier this month with the Kurdish forces to leave two villages southwest of Raqqa and move toward Palmyra.

Surovikin said the U.S-led coalition along with the allied Kurds “collude with the leaders of Daesh, who surrender the areas under their control and head to provinces where Syrian government forces operate.”

“There is an impression that under the slogan of fighting international terrorism in Syria the Americans are using IS (Daesh) to offer resistance to government forces’ advances,” AP reported him as saying.

According to Surovikin, Russian forces had struck several Daesh convoys as they were leaving Raqqa.

Surovikin also reportedly criticized the U.S for trying to block Syrian government forces from taking control of the country’s southern border, AP reported.

He said that Syrian government troops had secured territorial gains in the southern Suwayda province near the Jordanian border, but encountered resistance from the U.S.-led coalition.

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military’s General Staff also questioned the U.S role in Syria, AP reported.

“Having declared the goal of fighting international terrorism, the coalition strikes Syrian troops while letting IS militants exit the encircled areas unhampered, thus boosting terrorist groupings around Palmyra and Deir el-Zour,” he said.

“It raises a question why they do it and what their real goals are.”

Russian Fighter Jets From Kaliningrad Scramble To Escort B-52 and B-1B Lancer bombers over the Baltic Sea

ECHOES OF THE COLD WAR

Incredible moment Russian fighter jets

intercept US B-52 bombers in dramatic

incident over the Baltic Sea

 

Russia said the SU-27 took off from an airbase in its European enclave of Kaliningrad

US Air Force has released dramatic images showing a Russian warplanes which had been scrambled to intercept American B52 bombers.

SU-27s were deployed to head off US B-52 and B-1B Lancer bombers over the Baltic Sea capable of carrying a nuclear weapons.

A US long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, left, being shadowed by a Russian twin-engine fighter aircraft Su-27, right, during the BALTOPS 2017 exercises over the Baltic Sea

EPA  A US long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, left, being shadowed by a Russian twin-engine fighter aircraft Su-27, right, during the BALTOPS 2017 exercises over the Baltic Sea

Russian air defence systems detected the US bomber on Tuesday but the extraordinary images have just been released.

Russia said the SU-27 took off from its Baltic Fleet air defence unit, which is based in the European enclave of Kaliningrad.

The US military said its aircraft was in international airspace and declined immediate comment on the Russian plane’s actions.

A US Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber, left, from the 28th Bomb Wing is intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter aircraft during exercise BALTOPS near Russian airspace

Photoshot   A US Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber, left, from the 28th Bomb Wing is intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter aircraft during exercise BALTOPS near Russian airspace

Air Force spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said: “We can confirm that the U.S. Air Force B-52 was operating in international airspace but we don’t have any information to provide at this time regarding the behaviour of Russian aircraft.”

NATO members such as Britain regularly report scrambling jets to intercept Russian nuclear-capable bombers flying close to their air space.

It is less common for Russia to report using its fighters for the same reason.

Mindanao’s Terrorist Infestation

Black smoke comes from a burning building after the government troops’ continuous assault with insurgents from the so-called Maute group, who has taken over large parts of the Marawi City, Philippines June 9, 2017. Photo: Reuters

The Big Read –

Danger close: Mindanao, and the terrorists

next door

 

 

 

SINGAPORE — The Singapore Government has long warned of the dangers of the Islamic State (IS) terror group gaining a foothold in the region, particularly in Southern Philippines where an insurgency has simmered for decades.

Those warnings have now taken an ominous tone, after the Philippines confirmed that foreign fighters are involved in the ongoing siege by groups affiliated with IS in Marawi city on Mindanao island — just over three hours by air from Singapore.

In the words of Philippine Solicitor-General Jose Calida, the unrest in Mindanao has “transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists who heeded the clarion call of the Islamic State to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq and Syria”.

IS, which is losing grip on territories in the Middle East, has long harboured ambitions of controlling territory in South-east Asia. This is evident from its establishment of Malay-based combat unit Katibah Nusantara and previous attempts to direct foreign fighters to Poso in the Sulawesi islands of Indonesia.

“There was an attempt to do so in Poso but this was neutralised by the Indonesian Army and Police through Operation Tinombala (from March last year to present),” said Mr Jasminder Singh, a senior analyst with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

He said that most of the foreign fighters, including Uighurs, fled to Mindanao.

“While it (IS) failed in Indonesia so far, it seems to have some degree to success in the Philippines,” he added.

The so-called tri-border area of Mindanao, Sabah and Sulawesi — where policing is poor and movement of people and arms hard to track — represents a particularly appealing location for IS to plant its flag towards its long-term claims to a caliphate.

Concurrently, the difficulty of travelling to the Middle East these days and the ease of movement in and out of Southern Philippines make it an attractive and convenient destination for IS sympathisers and fighters.

“What we are witnessing in the Philippines is that it has become the centre for international terrorists to group together, a whole-of-terrorist approach, similar to what was seen in the tribal regions of Pakistan, and even to some extent in Iraq and Syria, and now in parts of Afghanistan,” said Mr Singh.

“If these terrorists are allowed to group, the danger would be that future terror attacks in South-east Asia or around the world will be planned from the Mindanao area.”

The bigger concern, however, is that IS will take root in the region and wreak havoc over the long term.

“We have a clear realisation that if the situation in Marawi and Mindanao is allowed to escalate or entrench, it will pose decades of problems for Asean (Association of South-east Asian Nations) cities,” Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said last weekend after hosting a luncheon discussion for 22 visiting ministers and their representatives on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD).

Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam had warned in April that Mindanao could become a sanctuary for returning fighters from the Middle East, noting that “arms seem to move fairly easily into that area” in Southern Philippines.

A month later, hundreds of IS-linked militants besieged Marawi city, setting fire to buildings, taking hostages and killing civilians with a brutality that shocked many.

THE MARAWI SEIZURE

Mindanao is the only region with a significant Muslim minority in largely-Catholic Philippines and the city of Marawi itself is predominantly Muslim.

For decades, the Mindanao region has been roiled by Islamic separatists, communist rebels, and warlords, offering fertile ground for IS’ ideology to take root.

Security officials in the Philippines said that all four of the country’s pro-IS groups have sent fighters to Marawi with the intention of establishing the city as a South-east Asian “wilayat” — or governorate — for the radical group.

The Marawi seige came just months after security forces attacked the mountain lair of Isnilon Hapilon, a long-time leader of Abu Sayyaf militant group.

He had sworn allegiance to IS in 2014, and quickly got other groups to join him, including the Maute group, run by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute from a well-known family in Marawi.

In a video that surfaced last June, a Syria-based leader of the group urged followers in the region to join Hapilon if they could not travel to the Middle East to fight for IS. Hapilon was named IS’ South-east Asia leader last year.

Philippine and Indonesian intelligence sources said that over the past few months, his forces recruited foreign fighters and Marawi locals. Hapilon, they said, brought 50 to 100 fighters to join Maute’s 250 to 300 men, while two other radical groups, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines, together brought at least 40 militants with them.

On May 23, four days before the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the militants launched their attack when Philippine forces made an abortive attempt to capture Hapilon in Marawi.

After the military retreated, about 400 militants quickly fanned out across the city, riding trucks mounted with heavy machine guns and armed with rocket launchers and high-powered rifles. They attacked the jail and nearby police station, seizing weapons and ammunition, according to accounts from residents. The militants also destroyed a Shia mosque and razed a Catholic church.

As the shock of how a few hundred fighters managed to subdue an entire town reverberated across the region, President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in Mindanao, home to 20 million people.

So far, according to the military, the death toll stands at 20 civilians, 120 rebels and 38 members of the security forces. More than 2,000 people remain trapped in the centre of Marawi, with no electricity and little food and water.

The response by the Philippine government appears to be too late, too little.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted at the start of the conflict that security forces were surprised when dozens of gunmen appeared on the streets of Marawi after the government failed to capture Hapilon.

This is also not the first time the Maute group had attacked civilian targets, according to Ms Sidney Jones, who is director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta and an expert on radical movements in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Last September, the Maute group bombed a night market in Mr Duterte’s hometown of Davao, but the threat was not recognised by the government then.

“In terms of the intelligence monitoring and security-provision in the ground, it is now clear that there have been lapses by former President Benigno Aquino III’s administration and now current President Rodrigo Duterte’s government,” said Dr Graham Ong-Webb, a research fellow at RSIS. He noted that Maute was formed in 2013 but the public came to know of it only this year.

“How could the presence of a relatively new militant group, at least 100-strong, go generally unnoticed or not be taken seriously from the beginning? This is a wake-up call not only for the Philippines but the rest of South-east Asia,” he added.

EASY TO GET IN AND OUT

Various groups in the southern Philippines have been fighting for a separate Islamic state since the 1970s, with round after round of peace talks breaking down. It is clear Maute, Abu Sayyaf and other groups took advantage of local frustration arising from decades of clashes with Manila and the slow pace of the local peace process to recruit members.

“There has been a prolonged history of conflict between the local Muslims and the central government with most of the issues remaining unresolved,” said Mr Singh of RSIS. “Prior to Jemaah Islamiyah and IS, there were conflicts involving the Moro National Liberation Front, Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf Group, not to mention many other smaller groups.”

While the main trigger for militants in Mindanao is specific and local, the conflict there has drawn foreign fighters from Malaysia, Indonesia, and even Chechens and Arabs with IS’ encouragement.

Last year, a group of Malaysian militants in the Philippines set up Katibah Al Muhajir — Battalion of Migrants — in response to the failure of South-east Asian recruits to travel to the Middle East to join IS.

“While it has been attracting South-east Asians, the IS presence in the Philippines also seems to have attracted those from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia,” said Mr Singh.

“Mindanao is seen as territory of the Khilafah and the ease of access to the Philippines makes it the ideal place to go for jihadi fighters… there is a new modus operandi that involves bringing together different nationalities for a common cause, which is the signature of IS in Iraq and Syria and this seems to being replicated in Philippines and possibly in South-east Asia.”

All these could make Mindanao not just a local battlefield, but transform the island into a magnet for global IS fighters as well as a staging ground for future attacks in the region.

“The conflict in Marawi is regionally and globally reinforcing. Thus, the spillover is a two-way phenomenon. People from the outside of Marawi are going inside, and people from the inside are going outside,” said Mr Ahmad El-Muhammady, a lecturer of Islamic studies and political science at the International Islamic University Malaysia who has interviewed militant detainees.

“These people have local contacts,” he said. “They can inspire the locals, which could be their friends and relatives.”

Just as worryingly, the conflict might also inspire South-east Asian nationals to stage attacks in their own countries, Mr El-Muhammady added.

All one needs to look at is the social media accounts of IS-sympathisers to see how they share and propagate ideologies. The takeover of Marawi, said Ms Jones, was greeted with euphoria by extremists in Indonesia and other territories.

As it is, old jihadist networks in the region are experiencing a resurgence, including old players from the Jemaah Islamiyah days.

While in the last few years, South-east Asians radicalised by IS ideology on the Internet tended to travel to the Middle East to join the fight there, they now only need to go a hop and skip away to Mindanao to support IS through its local proxies there.

“As the Islamic State dwindles in parts of the Middle East, we have to monitor the shift of the group’s centre of gravity to Mindanao, which, if left unchecked, can become the new headquarters for growing influence across parts of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand,” said Dr Ong-Webb, adding that he will not be surprised to see more foreigners getting involved in the conflict between IS-inspired elements and the Philippine’s forces on the ground.

“By affiliating themselves with the Islamic State, organisations such as the Maute group are globalising what could otherwise have remained a localised problem in the Philippines. What the Philippines government is compelled to do at this stage is to decisively put down the Maute group to deny it the clout it can gain,” he added.

That will be easier said than done.

Even if the Armed Forces of the Philippines succeed in taking back Marawi, said Dr Ong-Webb, the Maute group and other insurgents can easily move to other parts of Mindanao, which is about 140 times the size of Singapore. That is a large area for security forces to police, martial law or not.

Making the situation even harder to contain is the region’s porous borders — with family, language and religious ties that go back centuries.

“We must not forget that Mindanao falls in the tri-border area which covers Sabah and Sulawesi as well,” said Mr Singh. “This area is under-policed and serves as an ecosystem unto itself and a safe haven.”

In 2013, about 200 militants from the self-styled Sulu Sultanate in the southern Philippines invaded a small village in Lahad Datu with the purpose of reclaiming Sabah, before they were quelled by Malaysian security forces. While the Malaysian government has taken steps since then to step up security around the area, kidnappings for ransom by the Abu Sayyaf have continued.

Ultimately, what all these mean is that if IS takes root in Southern Philippines, it will make it easier for the group to direct attacks in South-east Asia, including in Singapore.

“A new template seems to be evolving and developing,” said Mr Singh, “where terrorists can slip in and out of Mindanao, and once an order is given, say by IS Central to attack any targets in the region, it may be carried out.”

RESPONSE BY GOVERNMENTS

South-east Asian governments now face the double whammy of dealing with returning militants from the battlegrounds of Iraq and Syria, as well as those who can export terror from the highly-accessible island of Mindanao.

This threat of foreign fighters is grave simply because of the “unsecured back door” from the Southern Philippines to Malaysia and Indonesia through the porous borders for the three countries around the Sulu Sea, said Dr Ong-Webb.

At the Shangri-La Dialogue last weekend, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines agreed to mount trilateral sea and air patrols in the Sulu Sea to prevent militants from crossing.

Singapore also stands ready to participate in the patrols and help in intelligence and other areas, said Dr Ng.

The United States and the Asean have also offered assistance, but analysts say countries in the region have been slow to act and the effectiveness of joint patrols could be limited by the complexity of the environment.

“The Sulu Sea littoral is very porous with plenty of small-craft movement, and this makes the identification and monitoring of vessels difficult,” said naval analyst Ridzwan Rahmat.

“In addition, the maritime landscape is littered with small islands that would enable militants to mask their movements or to hide,” noted Mr Ridzwan, who works for defence consultancy Jane’s by IHS Markit.

Mr Joseph Franco, a research fellow with RSIS’ Centre of Excellence for National Security, said that it would be difficult to seal the Sulu Sea off without impinging on everyday trade.

“Even in piracy hotspots like the Horn of Africa, the challenge is to win against pirates on land, in their strongholds,” he added.

“On the open seas, naval forces are already reactive. We need to address the challenge of seaborne non-state armed groups on land before they even cast off to sea.”

Observers stress that governments in the region must recognise the complexity of the problem.

Mr Hernan Longo, a counter terrorism programme officer at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, stressed that no country can deal with modern terrorism alone.

He said it is crucial to have stronger cooperation in intelligence, law enforcement and programmes to deal with the use of technology for terrorist propaganda, recruitment and mobilisation of funds.

Governments need to keep up with the agility of extremist groups, he added.

“For any border control strategy to be effective, it requires simultaneously enhancing air surveillance and land ports, simply because criminals are adaptive; and the moment a particular route is shut down for them, they would swiftly look for … more vulnerable ones,” he said.

Military interventions alone are not a long-term solution to terrorism, as some extremist groups can trigger such a response from the government as a way to weaken peace talks, added Mr Longo, who is based in Bangkok.

It is necessary to take a sustained approach to address the decades-long conflict arising from social and economic grievances in Mindanao, he said, adding that there is also a need for a long-term peace process to deal with the evolving threat of IS-affiliates in the area.

“The relevant parties involved in the decades-long peace process should persist on it. In conjunction with other criminal justice measures, this reduces the risk of people turning to violence,” he added.

Arabs Scapegoating Qatar For What They All Did

Qatar ‘not prepared to change its foreign policy’ –AL JAZEERA

“Foreign minister says Qatar has never experienced such hostility even from an enemy country.”

Qatari FM to visit Moscow amid crisis–ARAB NEWS

 

How Saudi Arabia and allies strong-armed

Qatar, blindsided US

 

 

Reuters

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

DUBAI: One of the first signs of the crisis in which four Arab states have cut ties with Qatar+ came in a phone call from an anxious government adviser to a Reuters journalist early on May 24.

In the 6.00am call, he denied Qatar’s emir made comments reported by the state-run news agency criticising hostility to Iran, sympathising with three Islamist groups, accusing Saudi Arabia of adopting an extremist ideology that fosters terrorism and suggesting Donald Trump may not last long as US president.

The adviser repeated a statement released hours earlier which said the news agency had been hacked, seeming unaware that Reuters had already reported the denial.

The unusual timing of the call and the adviser’s haste to get the message across pointed to Qatar’s deep concern about the impact the remarks attributed to the emir could have.

As anger mounted in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Qatar’s foreign minister tried to limit the fallout.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told a news conference that Qatar, host to the biggest US military base in the Middle East, wanted to maintain brotherly ties with its powerful neighbours in a region critical to world energy supplies.

To outside observers, it was unclear whether the Qatar News Agency had indeed been hacked or whether an editor had published remarks which the emir later regretted saying.

But to Qatar’s neighbours the question was irrelevant: the comments reflected the broad lines of Qatar’s independent-minded foreign policy, which critics say has destabilised the region through its alliance with Islamist armed groups and cordial ties with Iran.

Officials in the Gulf say the comments marked a turning point, prompting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to cut relations with Qatar in the biggest diplomatic shock in the region for years.

Trouble evident

For Riyadh, trouble was also evident elsewhere.

Some Qatari-funded anti-Saudi websites had begun reporting on what they said were calls for protests against the kingdom’s rulers, stirring memories of the Arab Spring revolutions that toppled the leaders of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

“They (Qataris) hired (financed) influential Saudi preachers, religious figures, journalists and academics to incite against Saudi Arabia,” one Gulf source told Reuters. “The Saudis had had it with Qatar. The Qataris keep channels open with Iran in various capitals and they campaign against the Egyptian state.”

The Saudis had reached a “dead end” with Qatar and decided for the first time in 20 years to take action to damage its neighbour’s interests, the source added.

Qatar denies inciting unrest in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere.

Another factor that pushed the four Sunni states over the line, according to Gulf officials, was last month’s visit to Saudi Arabia by Trump, who has reversed the policies of predecessor Barack Obama, thrown his weight behind the kingdom and its allies and expressed misgivings about Iran.

No sooner had Trump left Riyadh than the United States’ partners in the region moved against Qatar and its young emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, another American ally.

A series of flashpoints across the region in the days following Trump’s visit heightened tensions that had been building for months and removed any hope among Qatar’s neighbours of peeling it away from Iran and the Islamist groups it has engaged with for years.

Those tensions spilled into the public arena less than 48 hours after the Qatari emir took part in the Riyadh summit attended by Trump which was meant to showcase US support for solidarity of Sunni Muslim nations.

The alleged hacking incident came days after Qatar complained it was the target of “an orchestrated barrage” of criticism by unknown parties, in the run-up to Trump’s visit.

“After the Tamim speech, things went up an extra notch,” a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

“The catalogue is so wide… It is an accumulation,” Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs told Reuters. “It could have happened in March, it could have happened in December. But it was bound to happen. It was something that was ready to explode.”

Gargash confirmed there were several major irritants that sped up the process. These included the comments attributed to the emir, UAE accusations that Qatar has undermined the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and Qatar’s handling of a hostage crisis involving 24 members of the ruling elite in which it paid ransom money to Islamist groups in Iraq an Syria.

An annual phone call to mark the start of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan between Tamim and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on May 27 aggravated the situation further. Iran’s Shi’ite-led government and Saudi Arabia’s Sunni rulers compete for influence in the region and Jean-Marc Rickli, a Geneva-based risk analyst, called that a “diplomatic mistake (which) Saudi Arabia and the UAE jumped on”.

Kuwait’s emir offered to mediate but when Tamim attended an iftar (fast-breaking) Ramadan meal with him on May 30, Tamim left early, apparently unwilling to discuss the row, a Kuwaiti newspaper editor regularly briefed by officials told Reuters.

Rolling meetings

The decision to cut ties with Qatar took shape in a rolling series of meetings over several weeks, said a Gulf Arab source.

But a second source said an important moment came last Saturday when Saudi King Salman and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, met for iftar in Jeddah. It is likely that Egypt came on board two days later, during a visit to Cairo by the Saudi foreign minister.

At dawn on Monday, those governments and Bahrain made a series of rapid fire announcements, revealing the move’s careful orchestration and pre-planning.

A Western diplomat in Doha said the move was “clearly tied” to Trump’s visit, suggesting it had emboldened Saudi Arabia and the UAE to act.

“The opportunity presented itself with the Trump visit and Trump’s presidency in general,” a former US ambassador to Doha told Reuters, suggesting the move had been in the works for two or three months.

“This is well choreographed. Everything came together at the same time.”

US officials were blindsided by Saudi Arabia’s decision to sever ties with Qatar, current and former US officials told Reuters.

A senior administration official said Washington had no indication at the Riyadh summit that the move was about to happen but on Tuesday morning Trump directly waded into the dispute by praising the Arab powers’ decisions+ against Qatar.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have mainly portrayed the move as a step to combat what they call Qatar’s funding for terrorists.

“We want a black-and-white approach to terrorist financing,” said Gargash from the UAE Foreign Ministry. “We know the ABCs of dealing with terrorism. One of these ABCs is: You never feed the crocodiles.”

Trump’s tweets suggested he agreed with that view: “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!” the president wrote.

During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!

…extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!

The Pentagon, however, mindful of the US military base in Qatar, renewed its praise for Doha after Trump’s intervention — showing again how US officials are walking a tightrope as Trump’s tweets raise questions about existing policy and the scripted talking points used to explain it.

Reports that Qatari officials paid hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran-backed groups in an April deal to free 26 of its citizens kidnapped in Iraq last year has also been an irritant in relations between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatar denies trying to pay ransom money to secure the release of the hostages, although foreign minister al-Thani said it sent money “to support the authorities in the release of Qatari abductees”.

Russia + Saudi Arabia + Qatar, Except When In Syria

Libyan General Khalifa Haftar

How is it that Russia can support the same proxy group as the UAE in Libya, even though Dubai and Riyadh are fighting against Russian interests in Syria, struggling to topple the Assad government?  The Russian “tap dance” in Syria, to avoid striking American and UAE jets operating illegally over Syria, is complemented by an opposite mirror image foreign policy in North Africa, where Russia and UAE support the eastern coalition of Gen. Khalifa Haftar and the Libyan National Army.

Haftar Attacks Qatar as Russia Supports EgyptMay 30, 2017

“Haftar said that Qatar, in addition to other states that he refused to mention, were handing large sums of money to the terrorist militias, adding that he had ordered that foreigners should not be allowed to carry arms inside Libya.”

“The Libyan army recorded the arrival of citizens from Chad, Sudan and other African and Arab states to the country. They entered Libya due to lack of control over the borders. They received money from Qatar, as well as other countries and terrorist groups.”

Rival faction challenges Libya’s U.N.-back government in Tripoli

The United Nations and European Union warned against attempts to create parallel institutions and reiterated their backing for the U.N.-negotiated deal that formed a Government of National Unity (GNA) in Tripoli

 

BREAKING–Syrian Army overruns US-backed rebels, recaptures strategic hilltop

BREAKING: Syrian Army overruns

US-backed rebels, recaptures strategic

hilltop

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (5: 15 P.M.) – The Syrian government forces continue to advance against US-backed rebel groups in the Syrian Desert, in spite of the recent US airstrikes which aim at curbing the troops from advancing towards the Iraqi borders.

Today, the Syrian Army, backed by allied forces, managed to regain control the strategic Dakwah hilltop following fierce clashes with the US-backed, FSA-affiliated rebel factions.

Last Monday, Osoud al-Sharqiyah rebel group shot down a SyAAF fighter jet, killing its pilot in Dakwah area.

Located some 60 km to the east of Damascus at a height of 920 meters, the Dakwah hilltop served as a major bastion for the Islamic State, but then taken over by FSA-affiliated factions when ISIS jihadists were forced to withdraw at the beginning of the year.

The area retains a strategic importance as a juncture linking the southern and northern parts of the desert land spanning to the east of the capital.

Yesterday, the Army troops recaptured the large hilltop of Tal al-Abd before advancing from the nort

Iranian Authorities Interrogate Female Terrorist Captured In Assault At Khomeini Shrine

 

 

TEHRAN, Jun. 08 (MNA) – One of the perpetrators of the terrorist attack on Imam Khomeini Shrine has been arrested alive and is in custody of intelligence forces, Iran’s parliament security chief Alaeddin Boroujerdi said Wednesday.

Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi made the remark in a televised interview with IRIB last night, adding “six assailants on Imam Khomeini Shrine and parliament were killed and one female terrorist was arrested at the shrine and is currently being interrogated by intelligence forces.”

He went on to add, “ISIL had sent dozens of terrorist cells to Iran these past few years, but our intelligence and operational bodies had their every move from Syria’s Raqqa or Iraq’s Mosul under constant surveillance.”

“Saudi Arabia’s silence on Tehran’s terrorist attacks is questionable,” he said.

Boroujerdi further stressed that the attacks in Tehran proved the necessity of combating terrorism hundreds of kilometers away from Iranian borders.

In the same program on IRIB, the secretary deputy of Iran Supreme National Security Council, Reza Seifollahi, said the assailants of the twin attacks against Iran’s parliament and Imam Khomeini Shrine in Tehran on Wednesday were from different parts of Iran who had joined ISIL and been cooperating with them in the areas under the control of this group in Syria and Iraq.

“ISIL finds the advisory, military and intelligence assistance of the Islamic Republic highly effective for the elimination of the terrorist group. That is why these people, following the recent losses of the ISIL in Syria and Iraq, had returned to their country to commit such treachery against Iranian people.”

Seifollahi further stressed that there is no cause for concern, adding “intelligence and security bodies are in constant effort to sustain Iran’s national security at the country’s borders and even beyond borders.”

Heshmatollah Falahatpishe, member of National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, also said that 98 percent of ISIL terrorist plots against Iran has been neutralized, adding “the neutralization process of ISIL terrorist plots in Iran is several orders of magnitude more successful than similar measures in other countries in the world.”

Iran’s parliament and mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran were hit in near-simultaneous attacks that have killed 13 people and wounding 52 according to the head of Iran’s Emergency Medical Services. Terrorist group ISIL has claimed responsibility for both attacks. A third attack had been foiled by security forces before being carried out.