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.

Keep updated: Sign up to our newsletter

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:

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.


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.


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)