The Qatari authorities have accused Saudi Arabia of jeopardizing the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca of Qatari pilgrims by refusing to guarantee their safety.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have been boycotting Qatar since June 5, accusing it of backing extremist groups and of ties to Shiite Iran, in the region’s worst diplomatic crisis in years.
On July 20, Riyadh said that Qataris wanting to perform this year’s hajj would be allowed to enter the kingdom for the pilgrimage, but imposed certain restrictions.
The Saudi hajj ministry said Qatari pilgrims arriving by plane must use airlines in agreement with Riyadh.
They would also need to get visas on arrival in Jeddah or Medina, their sole points of entry in the kingdom.
The Qatari Islamic affairs ministry, in a statement published by the official QNA news agency on Sunday, said the Saudi side had “refused to communicate regarding securing the pilgrims safety and facilitating their Hajj.”
The ministry accused Riyadh of “intertwining politics with one of the pillars of Islam, which may result in depriving many Muslims from performing this holy obligation”.
According to the statement, 20,000 Qatari citizens have registered to take part this year. The ministry said it denied Saudi claims that Doha had suspended those registrations.
“The distortion of facts is meant to set obstacles for the pilgrims from Qatar to Mecca, following the crisis created by the siege countries,” the Qatari ministry added, referring to Saudi Arabia and its allies.
Some Gulf media claimed the Qatari statement was a call for the “internationalization” of the management of the hajj season, which is run by the Saudi authorities.
“Any call to internationalize [the management of] hajj is an aggressive act and a declaration of war,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Arabiya news channel on July 30.
But Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani described the claims as “media fabrications.”
“There has not been a single statement by a Qatari official concerning the internationalization of hajj,” he told Al-Jazeera news channel.
Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee on July 31 said it will complain about the Saudi restrictions to the United Nations, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation.
“Anti-Qatar rhetoric… threatens the security of Qatari pilgrims,” the committee said in a statement.
The hajj, a pillar of Islam that capable Muslims must perform at least once in a lifetime, is to take place this year at the beginning of September.
Saudi Arabia and its allies Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties and imposed sanctions on Doha in June, including the closure of their airspace to Qatari airlines.
The four Arab states accuse Qatar of supporting extremists and of growing too close to Shiite-dominated Iran, the regional arch-rival of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.
Qatar denies the allegations and accuses the Saudi-led bloc of imposing a “siege” on the tiny emirate.
The Taliban insurgents have blown up a water dam in southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan as the group has unleashed an unprecedented violence in key southern provinces during the recent days.
According to the local security officials, the incident took place earlier today in the remote part of Shorabak district.
Provincial police spokesman Zia Durani confirmed that a water dam was detonated by the Taliban insurgents using explosives materials.
Durani further added that the dam was constructed in a remote part of Shorabak district which was playing a key role in irrigating the agricultural lands.
He said thousands of acres of land and gardens were irrigated by the dam and its destruction has sparked panic among the residents who are saying that their land will be harmed if it is not reconstructed immediately.
The Taliban insurgents group has not commented regarding the report so far.
Kandahar has been among the relatively calm provinces in southern Afghanistan during the recent years but the security situation of the province, particularly, the remote districts have started to deteriorate during the recent months and after the Taliban militants increased their focus on key southern provinces after they launched their spring offensive in April this year.
A car bombing targeted the Iraqi Embassy in central Kabul on Monday, followed by gunfire, Afghan police officials said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The attack was still underway as witnesses reported hearing gunshots and several subsequent explosions in the area of the embassy. Details were sketchy as police cordoned off the area of the firefight.
Two police officials told The Associated Press that the car bomb exploded outside the embassy, followed by an attempt by gunmen to enter the building, which is located in the center of the Afghan capital. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Interior Minister spokesman Najib Danish told the AP that the Iraqi diplomats were safe and had been rescued. He said it’s believed three gunmen were involved in the attack.
A police officer in the area, who identified himself only as Abdullah, said the gunfire was initially intense but was now sporadic. The area was surrounded by armored vehicles and a large contingent of police and Afghan soldiers.
More than an hour later, witnesses reported hearing another powerful explosion and saw black smoke billowing skyward. It wasn’t immediately clear what had caused the last explosion.
At least one eyewitness, a store owner who goes by the name of Hafizullah — many Afghans use only one name — said he saw the bodies of two policemen on the ground before armored personnel carriers and police arrived to cordon off the area.
“The explosion was so strong. I was so afraid,” said Maryam, a woman crying near the site of the attack said. She said she works at the nearby office of Afghanistan’s National Airline Ariana.
The Iraq Embassy is located in a part of the city known as Shahr-e-Now, which lies outside the so-called “green zone” where most foreign embassies and diplomatic missions are located and which is heavily fortified with a phalanx of guards and giant cement blast walls.
By comparison, the Iraqi Embassy is located on a small street in a neighborhood dominated by markets and businesses.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, though both the Taliban and an Islamic State affiliate have previously carried out such attacks in Kabul.
After Iraqi forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, recaptured the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group earlier in July, the Iraq Embassy had called reporters to its offices in Kabul to express concerns that the local IS affiliate might stage large-scale attacks elsewhere to draw away attention from the militant group’s losses in Iraq.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The US-led coalition on Thursday announced it would no longer support the operations of the Syrian armed opposition group known as Shuhada al-Qaryatayn, or “Shuq,” since the group engaged in activities other than fighting the Islamic State (IS).
“The coalition only supports the forces committed to fighting IS,” said Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, as he gave an update to reporters on the fight against the extremist group in Iraq and Syria.
The colonel stated the Shuhada al-Qaryatayn group would no longer receive the backing of the US for having objectives “not consistent with defeating IS.”
“One of our partner forces unilaterally, without the US or coalition permission or coordination, conducted patrols outside of the agreed de-escalation zone and engaged in the activities not focused on fighting IS” in southern Syria, Dillon noted.
This is the first time the US has cut ties with a Syrian opposition group with which they were coordinating.
Dillon acknowledged Shuq’s role as a partner to the Coalition on the ground and confirmed the US is in talks with the fighters to recover equipment provided in the war against IS.
While Dillon could not confirm, Shuq militants are believed to have attacked forces loyal to the Syrian government north of the al-Tanf area.
Dillon did suggest fighting the regime could be one their objectives, which is “not in line with the Coalition’s focus on defeating IS.”
The Shuq group, an armed force comprised of local Arab fighters and affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), remains in al-Tanf, one of three official border crossings between Iraq and Syria.
The move is likely related to the Trump administration’s decision to suspend the CIA program set up in 2013 under former President Barack Obama to equip and train certain vetted rebels against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Dillon stated the US would continue to support “vetted forces that are committed to fighting IS,” without providing further details.
The spokesman highlighted the success of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has retaken 45 per cent of Raqqa, IS’ de facto capital in Syria.
The operation has been ongoing for over 50 days, and SDF troops gained 23 square kilometers of terrain over the past week despite “stiff and sporadic resistance.”
“The distance between the western and eastern axis is less than a kilometer,” Dillon said, noting they would gain full control of southern Raqqa once they link up.
He also mentioned there are less than 2,000 IS militants left in Raqqa.
As for Iraq, Dillon highlighted there had been no airstrikes in Mosul for nearly two weeks, and last Tuesday marked the first day without Iraqi security forces casualties in the city.
The Coalition spokesman revealed they estimate less than 1,000 extremists remain in the strongholds of Hawija near Kirkuk, as well as Tal Afar, north of Mosul.
He also claimed a thousand of them are in al-Qaim at the border with Syria.
A Hezbollah fighter stands at a watch tower at Juroud Arsal, the Syria-Lebanon border, July 29, 2017.Ali Hashisho
BEIRUT (Reuters) – About 8,000 people have registered to leave the Lebanese border region near Arsal for a rebel-held area of Syria as part of a local ceasefire between Hezbollah and the Nusra Front, a security source in Lebanon said on Sunday.
The ceasefire came into effect on Thursday and will involve the departure of all Nusra militants from the area around Arsal along with any of the civilians living in the area’s refugee camps who wish to leave with them.
Reporting By Angus McDowall, editing by Larry King
Would you go to war against your fellow Americans to show your support for President Donald Trump? For the last several months, that’s exactly what broadcaster Alex Jones—a favorite of the president—has been calling for.
In his radio show, on YouTube and on his Infowars website, Jones—who never met a conspiracy theory he didn’t like and who has pushed the notion that Sandy Hook was faked—has been announcing that the United States is on the verge of a bloody second civil war. Like the radio DJs in Rwanda, Jones has been egging on his conservative listeners and viewers—an estimated 2.7 million people monthly—to kill more liberal fellow citizens over their political differences.
Jones is hardly alone in promoting this scary, emerging narrative on the right. The theme gained momentum after the shooting at the congressional baseball game last month. The day before the attack, on June 13, right wing broadcaster Michael Savage, host of syndicated show The Savage Nation, warned that “there’s going to be a civil war” because of “what this left-wing is becoming in this country.” After the baseball field shooting the next day, he said that he “know[s] what’s coming, and it’s going to get worse.” Savage also said of the shooting that “this blood is on [Democrats’] hands.”
After the shooting, Newt Gingrich opined on Fox that “we are in a clear-cut cultural civil war.” Former GOP speechwriter Pat Buchanan wrote that the appointment of a special prosecutor and political street clashes presage a “deep state media coup” and that the nation is “approaching something of a civil war,” and it’s time for Trump to “burn down the Bastille.”
But few commentators can match the relentless hysteria and reach of Jones. His recent YouTube video titles telegraph the tone: “Get Ready For CIVIL WAR!” and “First Shots Fired in Second US Civil War! What Will You Do?” and “Will Trump Stop Democrats’ Plan for Violent Civil War?”
Jones’s followers have already turned broadcaster words into violent action. Last year, Edgar Maddison Welch drove from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., to fire on a pizza restaurant Jones had been saying was a front for Democratic pedophiles and Satanists. Court records indicate he had been talking to his friends about Jones’s theories before he went on his mission. In 2014, a right-wing couple, self-described Infowars fans Jerad and Amanda Miller from Indiana, killed two police officers after posting screeds on Infowars. Jones later theorized that the shooting was a false flag intended to discredit the right.
Media Matters for America (MMA), a progressive research organization, has staff assigned to track Jones Infowars shows daily. According to spokesman Nate Evans, right-wing media has been advocating violence more since Trump was elected, but Jones “has been particularly crazy about it.”
Among the statements MMA has culled from his broadcasts in recent months are the following:
On June 23, he accused “the left” of starting civil war and offered to personally execute convicted traitors because, he said, “I’m not going to sit here and just call for stuff without actually being part of it.” In the same broadcast he said, “I don’t need some coming-of-age deal to kill a bunch of liberals,” but “we have to start getting ready for insurrection and civil war because they’re really pushing it.”
On June 15, he warned “you kick off Civil War 2, baby, you’ll think Lexington and Concord was a cakewalk.” The day before, he implicated himself and his listeners: “You’re trying to start a civil war with people. You’re taking our kindness for weakness. Do you understand the American people will kill all of you? You understand? We are killing machines, you fools.… But I can shoot bull’s-eye at 400 yards, dumbass. I mean, they have no idea who they’re messing with.”
In a May 13 broadcast, he warned that “leftists want a war,” so “cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war.”
Jones has also called for extrajudicially arresting former FBI DIrector James Comey and Hillary Clinton and has encouraged Trump to use the military against dissenters. “I’d support the president right now moving against these people physically,” he said in a June 13 broadcast. “I mean, let’s be honest. We’re in a war. I would support the president making a military move on them right now.”
This is not the first time Jones has attracted attention by advocating violence against federal officials. In April, he let loose with a rant on California Democrat Adam Schiff, the ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee looking into Trump’s Russian connections. The profanity laced transcript was also homophobic and included an explicit threat of bodily harm.
“I’m not against gay people. OK. I love them, they’re great folks. But Schiff looks like the archetypal cocksucker with those little deer-in-the-headlight eyes and all his stuff,” Jones said. “And there’s something about this fairy, hopping around, bossing everybody around, trying to intimidate people like me and you, I want to tell Congressman Schiff and all the rest of them, ‘Hey, listen, asshole, quit saying Roger and I’—and I’ve never used cussing in 22 years, but the gloves are off—‘listen, you son of a bitch, what the fuck’s your problem? You want to sit here and say that I’m a goddamn, fucking Russian. You get in my face with that, I’ll beat your goddamn ass, you son of a bitch. You piece of shit. You fucking goddamn fucker. Listen, fuckhead, you have fucking crossed a line. Get that through your goddamn fucking head. Stop pushing your shit. You’re the people that have fucked this country over and gangraped the shit out of it and lost an election. So stop shooting your mouth off claiming I’m the enemy. You got that you goddamn son of a bitch? Fill your hand.’ I’m sorry, but I’m done. You start calling me a foreign agent, those are fucking fighting words. Excuse me.”
Tim Johnson, a Media Matters for America Research Fellow, who tracks Jones says that the civil war theme is a new one, and probably related to the fact that Barack Obama is no longer president, offering a clear, single enemy. “He needs something new, and so it’s that criticism of Trump equals civil war,” Johnson said.
An attorney with expertise in federal law told Newsweek at the time that Jones’s threats at Schiff appeared to break a federal law, U.S. Code Title 18, Section 115, which makes it illegal to threaten to assault a U.S. official and provides a penalty of up to six years in prison.
After Newsweek published that legal analysis, Jones publicly pulled back, and posted a video attempting to clarify his remarks as “clearly tongue-in-cheek and basically art performance.”
Federal officials are not known to have contacted him or looked into the matter.
Regime change advocates are in continued meltdown mode.
Last week’s announcement of Trump’s shutting down the CIA’s covert weapons and aid program to anti-government insurgents in Syria – a move now widely interpreted as marking the end of the years long US push for overthrowing Assad – has deep state hawks and their media allies throwing repeat public fits and tantrums inalltheusual op-ed pages and cable news panels (though it appears the Pentagon is still ramping up its presence in Syria, ostensibly to fight ISIS). Even John McCain found time, a day after announcing his diagnosis with brain cancer, to compose a statement which said: “If these reports are true, the administration is playing right into the hands of Vladimir Putin.”
On Monday night Trump gave confirmation of the closure of the program while taking issue with The Washington Post’s reporting:
The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad…..
Utilizing zero evidence, the Post described the president’s decision as “a move sought by Moscow” in yet another cheap attempt at playing the Russia card. Appeasement of Moscow in Syria is now a central talking point of the pro regime change enthusiasts now attacking Trump. But in the midst of such unsightly neocon weeping, wailing gnashing of teeth (actually a welcome spectacle) we can glean more information of things only previously discussed in the classified halls of Langley or the Pentagon.
For example, David Ignatius penned an unhinged column immediately after the news broke last week (he laments the US didn’t give jihadist “rebels” anti-aircraft missiles!) which reveals new information based on a quote from a defense official with knowledge of the CIA program:
Run from secret operations centers in Turkey and Jordan, the program pumped many hundreds of millions of dollars to many dozens of militia groups. One knowledgeable official estimates that the CIA-backed fighters may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies over the past four years.
“Massive, dangerous, and wasteful”
Whether this estimate of Syrian troop death toll is low or high, it offers a rare confirmation that the CIA program was theprime driving force which fueled and escalated the war and its massive bloodshed since nearly the beginning. It is important to remember that the prevailing wisdom coming out of the DC echo chamber had perpetually cast the US as “on the sidelines” of a fundamentally internal Syrian drama. Though Obama ordered the covert program which “killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers” (and who knows how many civilians?) his legacy has been continually framed as the reluctant humanitarian warrior who didn’t do enough.
The New York Times, among many others, constantly promoted the lie that the CIA program was minuscule and inconsequential, and near daily reporting on Syria over the past years conveniently glossed over the massively budgeted program altogether. ButTrump’s tweet further provides rare highest level confirmation that the program was “massive” (according to Snowden documents given to the Washington Post, “one the agency’s largest covert operations, with a budget approaching $1 billion a year”).
Importantly, Trump’s tweet also called it “wasteful”. As a recent report in the Financial Times reminds us, the CIA not only ran a US weapons pipeline into Syria, but actually payed salaries of “rebel commanders” and others. That’s right… your tax dollars at work funding jihad in Syria!:
One rebel commander who asked not to be named said US support had been waning for months but noted that the rebels had been given their salaries as normal last month. Still, he believed the decision was final. “The CIA’s role is done,” the rebel commander said.
As for Trump calling the program “dangerous”, this is probably the most immediately self-evident part of his description. He had campaigned on the promise to disentangle the US from Syria on the basic common sense idea that getting in bed with Syria’s so-called “moderate rebels” was tantamount to supporting al-Qaeda. In June 2016 he controversially tweeted the following:
The story, from the conservative Breitbart website, says the State Department received a memo from an intelligence agent who claimed al Qaeda in Iraq, a group that splintered off to form ISIS, was one of the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”
Based on the memo, the article claims that the Obama administration backed ISIS by setting up a program to train Syrian rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad.
That ISIS was fueled and strengthened through the US, Saudis, Turks and allies flooding the Syrian battlefield and its jihadists with cash and weaponry is now beyond dispute, confirmed by many of the very people with direct knowledge of the program: from the US ambassador to Syria to former DIA chief Michael Flynn to then Vice President Biden to General Martin Dempsey to members of Congress and many others. Here is Gen. Michael Flynn, long before he had any association with the Trump campaign, speaking to Al Jazeera about the 2012 Pentagon secret memo Trump tweeted about:
Confront the Russians! CIA’s Afghan Jihad 2.0
Meanwhile, we’ve recently pointed to the obvious comparison (and have been doing so for years) between the CIA’s Syria operation, called Timber Sycamore, and ‘Operation Cyclone’ – the 1980’s CIA program to arm Afghan and Arab mujahideen fighters against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Whereas recent covert action in Syria fueled the rise of ISIS, covert action of the 1980’s produced the original Frankenstein of global jihad, including al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and spawned an entire generation of veteran terrorists. And now we can behold the spectacle of angry national security state insiders rant about the end of their beloved Syrian jihad, which like the 1980’s, had Russia as a prime target.
Who can forget the chilling words of former deputy and acting director the CIA, Michael Morell, issued in a Charlie Rose interview nearly a year ago?:
Morell: We need to make the Iranians pay the price in Syria; we need to make the Russians pay the price.
Rose: We make them pay the price by killing Russians and killing Iranians?
Morell: Yes. Covertly. You don’t tell the world about it. You don’t stand at the Pentagon and say we did this. But you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran. I want to go after those things that Assad sees as his personal power base. I want to scare Assad. I want to go after his presidential car. I want to bomb his offices in the middle of the night. I want to destroy his presidential aircraft. I want to destroy his presidential helicopters. I want to make him think we are coming after him.
Ironically, Michael Morell joined the CIA in 1980, just as Operation Cyclone was getting started in central Asia – and even after personally witnessing the progression of how the US backed Afghan jihad became an international terror scourge by the 90’s and early 2000’s, Morell remains an apologist for arming mujahideen, but this time in Syria. As Tucker Carlson recently commented while citing Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, “people would rather provide support to Al Qaeda than give up their idea of regime change in Syria.”
Concerning the original Afghan jihad, it’s a little known fact that CIA support for the mujahideen did not completely dry up until well into the 1990’s. According a report in The Guardian from the end of that decade:
American officials estimate that, from 1985 to 1992, 12,500 foreigners were trained in bomb-making, sabotage and urban guerrilla warfare in Afghan camps the CIA helped to set up.
Since the fall of the Soviet puppet government in 1992, another 2,500 are believed to have passed through the camps. They are now run by an assortment of Islamic extremists, including Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted terrorist.
The US government understood in real time that it had set up camps for training terrorists. In what was probably the first ever US government classified report to identify Osama Bin Laden as a terrorist threat, a 1993 paper (now declassified) called “The Wandering Mujahidin: Armed and Dangerous,” admitted the increasingly global “jihadist movement” was spawned from “US support of the mujahidin.” The report produced by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research noted that the “support network that funneled money, supplies, and manpower to supplement the Afghan mujahidin” in the war against the Soviets, “is now contributing experienced fighters to militant Islamic groups worldwide,” and concluded the following:
The alleged involvement of veterans of the Afghan war in the World Trade Center bombing [February 1993] and the plots against New York targets are a bold example of what tactics some former mujahidin are willing to use in their ongoing jihad. US support of the mujahidin during the Afghan war will not necessarily protect US interests from attack.
The late Congressman Charlie Wilson with CIA-supported Jalaluddin Haqani. After 9/11 Haqani was sought by the US military as a close associate of Osama Bin Laden and terror network leader. Image: Charliewilsonswar.com
The intelligence officials who run such programs (far away from scrutiny of the public) understand quite well the consequences their actions will produce, yet they willingly proceed anyway. Morell, who has lately been a constant critic of Trump’s refusal to go to war with Russia inside Syria, is a prime example of such arrogance and is representative of the deep state’s long running war against Trump. But another Michael (and close confidant of Morell’s), who has a deeper connection to the CIA’s original Afghan jihad, has this week stepped out of the shadows to confront Trump over pulling the plug in Syria.
Who is Michael G. Vickers?
Mike Vickers recently added his voice to the chorus of frustrated pundits raging against Trump’s closure of the CIA’s Syria program. He wrote this week in the Washington Post:
Abandoning the goal of removing Assad from power will place the United States on the side of not only the barbaric Syrian regime, which has American blood on its hands dating to the early 1980s, but also Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. This is strategic folly.
Even with his impressive sounding bio as former assistant secretary of defense for special operations, low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities and undersecretary of defense for intelligence during the Bush and Obama administrations, Vickers will not be recognizable to most. He is the quintessential man behind the scenes – hugely influential and powerful in the national security bureaucracy and shaping military action abroad over the past four decades, yet largely out of the public eye.
Michael G. Vickers is a key US strategist who funded Afghan jihadists in the 1980’s and jihadists in Syria after 2011.
But he might be more recognizable as portrayed in the 2007 movie, Charlie Wilson’s War, (based on George Crile’s 2003 investigative book by the same name) which depicts Congressmen Charlie Wilson’s role in organizing US support for the Afghan jihad:
CIA’s Afghan Jihad Mastermind
Vickers was considered the CIA’s top strategic mastermind tasked with choosing weapons systems and implementing guerrilla warfare strategies for the various mujahideen groups fighting the Soviets in the 1980’s war. This of course included supplying mass quantities of Raytheon’s Stinger heat-seeking anti aircraft missiles to Afghan commanders like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and others now considered notorious terrorists by the West. Hekmatyar was a close ally of Bin Laden and had a reputation of throwing acid in women’s faces should they be caught participating in public life. After 9/11 Charlie Wilson admitted that he “lived in terror” that one of the hundreds of Stinger missiles which were never recovered (and whereabouts still unknown) would be used to take down a civilian airliner.
According to Crile’s exhaustively researched book, Vickers was the CIA’s chief strategist that made it all happen, even expanding the weapons program beyond all historical precedent in the mid-80’s:
He [Vickers] was confident that the Stinger would add a lethal new dimension to the anti-aircraft mix that was already beginning to pay off. He had gone to great lengths to make sure the Afghans would be properly trained. In the past, U.S. trainers had taught the Pakistanis how to use the new weapons, and the Pakistanis had then instructed the mujahideen. This time Vickers proposed that the American specialists go into the camps dressed like mujahideen to personally supervise the training.
…Now that the anti-aircraft strategy was in place, Vickers insisted that his master plan, spelling out precise how the CIA should support the Afghans for the next three years was complete.
And like with the more recent Syria covert program, the massive Afghan jihad program had to be carefully shielded from public view:
And so all of Vickers’s calculations had to take into account maneuvers with Swiss bank accounts, shadowy purchasing agents, safe houses, phony corporations, contracts, lawyers, disguised boats, fleets of trucks, trains, camels, donkeys, mules, warehouses, disguised satellite-targeting studies, and secret payments to the families of the fighters.
…By the beginning of 1986 Vickers realized he was calling the shots on 57 percent of the Directorate of Operations’ total budget. He had by then grown accustomed to running the biggest CIA paramilitary campaign in history.
We all know how this ended up: an unprecedented rise in international Islamic terrorism as a permanent fixture on the world stage, horrific mass casualties of civilians in sophisticated terror bombings, the installation of the radical Taliban government in Afghanistan, the rise of al-Qaeda, and the 9/11 attacks. According to Crile the CIA was well aware of the nasty jihadist nature of the Afghan rebels it was dealing with at the time, and like with Syria of more recent years, it was warned of what would come and proceeded anyway.
Vickers: From Afghan to Syrian Jihad
With not a hint of shame, bashfulness, or recognition of the twisted irony of it all, Vickers actually invoked his prior experience overseeing the Afghan jihad in his recent Washington Post op-ed:
President Ronald Reagan understood the potential of covert proxy wars to alter global power balances. Through stepped-up support for the Afghan mujahideen and other anti-Communist movements, and other, complementary strategic policies, he won the Cold War. It took the Carter and Reagan administrations more than five years to come up with a war-winning strategy (work that I helped to lead as a CIA officer) against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The same could be done in Syria today.
At the very least, this might serve to educate the public of how the intelligence and national security deep state works: these guys never go away, criminality is rewarded (Vickers was literally praised as thinking “like a gangster” for his ability to implement nasty guerrilla tactics on shifting battlefield environments in a 2007 Washington Post profile), and it’s often the same guys running the show behind the scenes of ugly covert interventions which only serve to make the world less safe for Americans.
Vickers himself, as Defense Under Secretary for Intelligence until 2015, oversaw aspects of US covert action in Syria. The man has literally gone from overseeing the CIA’s covert support of Afghan mujahideen to overseeing US support for jihadists in Syria to now declaring war on Trump. The deep state has gone full circle here. But it’s our sincere hope that America finally defeats all the jihadists and their enablers both at home and abroad.
FILE PHOTO – Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif looks out the window of his plane after attending a ceremony to inaugurate the M9 motorway between Karachi and Hyderabad, Pakistan February 3, 2017.Caren Firouz
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office on Friday over undeclared assets, plunging the nuclear-armed South Asian nation into political turmoil after a period of relative stability.
Sharif swiftly resigned but in a statement his spokesman said there were “serious reservations” about the judicial process after the court ordered a criminal probe into his family over corruption allegations stemming from the “Panama Papers” leaks of international offshore companies.
Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, which won a majority in parliament in 2013, is expected to name a new prime minister to hold office until elections due next year.
Among allies mooted to replace Sharif are Defence Minister Asif Khawaja, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Petroleum Minister Shahid Abbasi.
The ouster of Sharif, 67, who has now served as premier on three separate occasions, also raises questions about Pakistan’s fragile democracy. No prime minister has completed a full term in power since independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
The court verdict marks a major political victory for opposition leader Imran Khan, a former cricket star who last year threatened mass street protests unless Sharif’s wealth was investigated. Khan had pounced on the leaking of the Panama Papers, which revealed Sharif’s family had bought posh London apartments through offshore companies.
“Today the people of Pakistan got real justice, a new chapter has begun,” Jehangir Khan Tareen, a member of Khan’s opposition PTI party, said outside the court.
Khan himself is also under Supreme Court investigation on allegations he failed to declare sources of income, a charge he denies.
The court also ordered a criminal investigation into the assets of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, one of Sharif’s closest allies, who has been credited with steering the economy to its fastest pace of growth in a decade. Earlier state-run TV and other media reported Dar had been disqualified.
Senator John McCain brought down the latest Republican health-care plan early Friday morning.
In a moment of high drama on the Senate floor, the Arizona senator, stricken with brain cancer and railing against his party’s secretive legislative maneuvering, provided the decisive vote against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposal to partially repeal the Affordable Care Act. The amendment fell, 51-49, thwarting once again the GOP’s longstanding efforts to deliver on a central campaign promise. Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also voted against the bill, continuing their opposition to the GOP’s partisan repeal effort. But it was McCain who surprised the Senate, breaking with his party after earlier helping it on a key procedural vote.
Had it succeeded, the amendment would have cleared the way for passage of legislation that would set up negotiations with the House on a final bill to send to President Trump’s desk. With its failure, Republicans are once again stuck searching for a plan that can unite the party’s narrow majority in the Senate and staring at the possibility of having to work with Democrats to modify rather than roll back the health law.
Immediately after his amendment went down, a distraught McConnell scrapped further votes on the bill and said it was “time to move on” from the GOP’s repeal effort. “This is clearly a disappointing moment,” the majority leader said. “Yes, this is a disappointment. A disappointment indeed.” McConnell offered no way forward for the party, instead turning to Democrats and suggesting it was time they offered their ideas for fixing the current law. President Trump, meanwhile, suggested on Twitter he would “let Obamacare implode” before seeking a bipartisan deal. “3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down,” he wrote. “As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!”
Democrats tried to refrain from gloating over what appeared—for the moment—to be a major victory in the fight to save the Affordable Care Act. “We are not celebrating. We are relieved,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said.
The McConnell bill, titled the Health Care Freedom Act, would have scrapped Obamacare’s mandates requiring most people to buy insurance and most businesses to offer it to their employees. It would have also defunded Planned Parenthood for a year, delayed for three years an excise tax on medical devices, and increase allowable contributions to health-savings accounts. The proposal would have made it easier for states to obtain waivers from Obamacare requirements, although it would have maintained, protections for people with preexisting conditions
Dubbed the “skinny repeal,” the McConnell plan was a far cry from fulfilling the Republican Party’s longstanding promise to fully repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement. In May, the House narrowly passed a replacement plan that became so unpopular Republican senators rejected it out of hand.
But the task of writing their own proposal proved no easier for the party’s slim majority in the upper chamber. McConnell first proposal, drafted in secret and broadly similar to the House bill, faced defections from both moderates and conservatives. It fell seven votes shy of a majority earlier in the week. Republicans similarly voted down an amendment favored by conservatives that would have repealed more of Obamacare without a replacement.
What McConnell came up with instead was, by the party’s own admission, the “lowest common denominator” of what 50 Republican senators could agree to. And in an inversion of ordinary legislative motivations, it only stood a chance of passage once a group of senators secured assurances from House Speaker Paul Ryan that the skinny repeal would not immediately become law.
Late Thursday afternoon, McCain and Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin held a surreal press conference to denounce a policy that, just hours later, two of them would vote to advance. They said they would only vote for the skinny repeal as a means to an end—a vehicle to set up a House-Senate conference committee that would allow Republicans another chance to work out a broader replacement bill. “The skinny bill as policy is a disaster. The skinny bill as a replacement for Obamacare is a fraud,” Graham declared.
I need assurances from the speaker of the House, and his team, that if I vote for the skinny bill, it will not become the final product,” he continued. “If I don’t get those assurances, I am a no, because I am not going to vote for a pig in a poke, and I’m not going to tell people back in South Carolina that this product actually replaces Obamacare, because it does not. It is a fraud.”
Before the senators spoke, the House had already alerted its members to be prepared to vote on the Senate’s bill in the coming days and set in motion a process for expediting its consideration on the floor. But Ryan reluctantly relented, issuing a public statement and then assuring the senators in a phone call that the House would not immediately take up the bill but would move to establish a conference committee.
“Senators have made clear that this is an effort to keep the process alive, not to make law,” he said. “If moving forward requires a conference committee, that is something the House is willing to do.”
Democrats pleaded with their Republican colleagues to reject Ryan’s offer. “Don’t delude yourself that this bill won’t become law. There is a very good chance that it will,” Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut warned on the Senate floor. He excoriated Republicans for unveiling their bill just hours before the vote, and he likened the underlying policy to “arson.” “This process is an embarrassment,” Murphy said. “This is nuclear-grade bonkers what is happening here tonight.”
“This bill, the Democrat continued, “is lighting the American health care system on fire, with intentionality.”
Ryan’s assurance was enough to win over Graham and Johnson. Days removed from a speech decrying his own party’s handling of health care, McCain was not so quick to commit and said he would first need to consult with Arizona’s governor, Doug Ducey.
In floor speeches, Democrats directly appealed for his vote, knowing that with Collins and Murkowski against the bill, McCain’s opposition would be enough to sink the bill. Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, who, like McCain, is undergoing treatment for cancer, implored him to “vote your conscience, vote with us” to defeat McConnell’s bill.
McCain answered the Democrats’ pleas. A vote planned for shortly after midnight on Friday was delayed by more than an hour after top Republicans—first McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence—huddled with the Arizonan in an effort to change his mind. But McCain, trying to live up to his maverick image one more time, would not budge.
He voted against the amendment, preserving at least temporarily the top domestic legacy of the man who defeated him for the presidency. Applause broke out briefly in the Senate chamber, and the plan went down in defeat.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has softened the policy opposing China’s claims — which expand to nearly the entire South China Sea — causing alarm among neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, which also hold partial claims
The Philippines tried Wednesday to reassure Southeast Asian neighbours about its proposal to partner with Beijing in oil exploration in the disputed South China Sea, promising to consult them on any plans.
President Rodrigo Duterte has softened his predecessor’s policy opposing China’s claims — which expand to nearly the entire sea — causing alarm among neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, which also hold partial claims.
On Monday Duterte said his government was in talks with China over joint drilling for natural resources in the sea, reversing years of tensions.
But Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Wednesday the Philippines would consult its nine fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members about the proposal.
“It will not be a unilateral action from the Philippines because the premise of the president is peace and stability, and unilateral action by anybody leads to destabilisation,” he told reporters.
“There will also have to be consultations with the whole ASEAN because we want to keep the stability there.”
Duterte, 72, has played down his country’s maritime dispute with China in favour of billions of dollars in trade and investment from Beijing.
He has also refused to use as leverage a UN-backed tribunal’s ruling last year which rejected Beijing’s claims to most of the sea.
His predecessor Benigno Aquino had sought the ruling and in 2015 suspended Philippine exploration activities at Reed Bank, where Manila’s claims overlap those of China.
Under Aquino the Philippines had forcefully challenged China through legal and diplomatic avenues including ASEAN events.
Aquino rallied ASEAN to put up a united front against Beijing’s reclamation and island-building activities in the sea — a policy that Duterte reversed.
At an April summit ASEAN under Duterte’s chairmanship released a statement that failed to condemn China’s push to control most of the sea.
The South China Sea will be on the agenda as Cayetano meets his ASEAN counterparts in Manila next week.
Cayetano refused to say if the joint China-Philippines oil and gas exploration would be in specific areas of the sea also claimed by ASEAN members Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
Taiwan also claims almost the entire area, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas reserves, but is not an ASEAN member.
Negotiations for a joint exploration had “peaked” during Duterte’s visit to Beijing in May where he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he intended to drill for oil in the South China Sea, according to Cayetano.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, visiting Manila on Tuesday, said Beijing was open to joint development.
The Iraqi army and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), not the US, should take the credit for the recent liberation of Mosul from the Daesh terrorist group, Iraqi Vice-President Nouri al-Maliki said on Friday.
Iraqi Vice-President Nouri al-Maliki has hit back at US attempts to claim the credit for the recent liberation of Mosul, emphasizing the leading role that the Iraqi army and people’s militia played in the operation to free the city of Daesh terrorists.
“They [the United States] say – and I regret this and reject this – that the victory is their achievement because they led this war, but really this is a victory of the Iraqi army. Yes, they supported us with their aviation, but the main credit belongs to the Iraqi soldiers, the people’s militia, Iraq’s air force,” Maliki told RIA Novosti.
Al-Maliki also reiterated Baghdad’s gratitude to the People’s Mobilization Forces (PMF) for helping to defeat Daesh, and the government’s opposition to the establishment of US bases on Iraqi soil.”The US doesn’t have the right to say that people’s militia, which is comprised of the sons of Iraq, of whom 20,000 have been killed and wounded, are terrorists. If it weren’t for the people’s militia, there wouldn’t be any Sunnis or Shiites left.”
“Iraqi society is against foreign bases on our territory… I told the Americans, ‘It’s not in your interests to return to Iraq in order to establish military bases again,'” al-Maliki said.
Nikolai Sukhov, researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Eastern Studies and Vice-President of the International Middle Eastern Studies Club, told RIA Novosti that al-Maliki’s statement is a reflection of an anti-American mood in Iraqi society.
“Such statements are a reflection of prevailing anti-American sentiments in the country, which have remained since the American act of aggression which overthrew Saddam Hussein and plunged the country into chaos.”
“Different groups in society may relate to the Saddam regime differently, but many see that over the past decade the country has become fragmented and destroyed. Many people have suffered great hardships, lost loved ones. Anti-American sentiments exist both among Shiites and Sunnis. Being the Vice-President of a country where the majority of people hold anti-American sentiments, he can’t say anything else,” Sukhov said.
The operation to liberate Mosul was launched in October 2016 and was declared victorious by Iraqi President Haider Abadi on July 9. Mosul, formerly Iraq’s second city, was overrun by Daesh terrorists in 2014 and was a key stronghold for the Islamists.Al-Maliki said that Iraqi forces are still fighting some remaining terrorists and the huge task of rebuilding the city is just beginning.
“The armed forces tried not to destroy the city more than was necessary in order to complete the operation, everyone knew the battle could drag on, eventually it lasted nine months. We could have surrounded the city, but the problem was that its inhabitants would have starved. Frankly, the military losses are huge — about 20,000 dead and wounded in the armed forces and police. The victory is not conclusive; there are still some small pockets in the city where terrorists are hiding and there are sleeper cells in Diyala too,” the Iraqi Vice-President said.
Iraqi forces are trying to clear Islamic State (IS) fights from areas of northern Iraq, March 9, 2017. (Photo: Hadi Mizban / AP)
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Clashes broke out on Thursday between the Iraqi Nineveh Guards and the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Mosul. Several injured were sustained, security sources said on Friday.
The Nineveh Guards is an Iraqi Sunni battalion supported by Turkey while the PMF is a Shia force backed by Iran.
Security sources told Kurdistan 24 the clashes erupted Thursday evening northeast of Mosul in the al-Thaqafiya complex neighborhood, near the Mosul University.
According to the sources, clashes ensued after a confrontation between the groups lead to fist fights. The fighting escalated when they opened fire on each other, injuring several troops on both sides. Kurdistan 24 could not confirm the exact number of the casualties.
It is the first case of in-fighting between the Iraqi forces since the full liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) was announced on July 10, 2017.
Many political analysts have previously warned the defeat of IS in Mosul would usher in an era of rivalry between separate forces hoping to gain more power and influence in the area.
Witnesses told Kurdistan 24 the clashes provoked panic among the local population, causing many to close their shops.
There were also reports of forces arriving in the area in a bid to manage the situation.
According to local sources, clashes broke out after a group of Nineveh Guards tried to intervene and mediate a dispute between two PMF factions, which led to the shooting. Kurdistan 24 could not independently verify the accuracy of the information.
The Nineveh Guards is comprised of Sunni volunteers and ex-army officers led by the former Governor of Mosul Atheel al-Nujaifi.
The Hashd al-Shaabi is a Shia militia force established at the end of 2014 following the emergence of IS and the fall of Mosul. The group was primarily created to protect Shia shrines in southern of Iraq from the attacks carried out by the jihadist group.
Both the Nineveh Guards and the PMF were supposed to remain outside of Mosul, Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi often stated.
Many Sunni leaders are wary of the widespread accusations against the PMF, the latter denying committing abuses during the military operations to retake Fallujah, Tikrit, Baiji, and Ramadi in the past two years.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – The son of Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada died on Thursday carrying out a suicide attack in the province of Helmand in southern Afghanistan, one of the insurgent movement’s main spokesmen said.
Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, died driving a vehicle laden with explosives into an Afghan military base in the town of Gereshk, north of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, the Taliban’s main spokesman for southern Afghanistan, said.
He said Abdur Rahman had been a madrassa student but had wanted to carry out a suicide attack. “He succeeded in his mission last Thursday,” he said.
Taliban fighters drove three captured Humvee vehicles into checkpoints during heavy fighting around Gereshk on Thursday.
One senior Taliban member, close to Haibatullah’s family, said Abdur Rahman had enrolled as a suicide bomber before his father became leader of the Taliban last year and had insisted on continuing after his father took office.
Mullah Haibatullah took over leadership of the Taliban after his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour died in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May, 2016.
“Before this, a number of close relatives and family members of previous supreme leaders had conducted suicide bombings but Sheikh Haibatullah has become the first supreme leader whose son sacrificed his life,” the senior Taliban member said.
A government official said security authorities were investigating the incident and could not confirm that Mullah Haibatullah’s son had been killed.
The incident in Gereshk came as fighting in Helmand, source of most of Afghanistan’s opium crop, has intensified in recent days following the end of the harvest season.
The insurgents control much of the province and threaten Lashkar Gah but government forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes, have launched an operation to drive them back from around the provincial capital.
In addition to the fighting in Helmand, there have also been reports of heavy fighting in other areas of the country, from Kunduz and Baghlan province in the north to Farah province in the west.
Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Michael Perry
Kosachev noted that Washington accuses Russia of meddling in the Syrian conflict while it has “a program on equipping the opposition in a sovereign country with the goal of toppling the Assad regime”
MOSCOW, July 20. /TASS/. A decision to shut down the US Central Intelligence Agency’s program to equip and train moderate opposition in Syria opens new opportunities for Russian-US cooperation in war on terror, Russian senator Konstantin Kosachev wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday.
“Certainly, this is the long-awaited and excellent news. No doubt, such a turn creates new opportunities for Russian-US cooperation in anti-terror in that country,” said Kosachev, who heads the Russian Federation Council’s (upper house of parliament) International Affairs Committee.
Kosachev noted that Washington accuses Russia of meddling in the Syrian conflict while it has “a program on equipping and military training the opposition in a sovereign country with the goal of toppling the Assad regime.”
On July 19, US President Donald Trump decided to shut down the CIA’s covert program to arm and train the so-called moderate opposition in Syria fighting against government forces, the Washington Post wrote citing US officials.
US increased number of military posts in PKK/PYD-held territories in Syria to ten
By Levent Tok, Mohamad Misto and Selen Temizer
The U.S. has increased the number of military posts in the terrorist PKK/PYD-held Syrian territories to ten.
According to Anadolu Agency reporters, a U.S. military point has recently been established in PKK/PYD-held areas in northern Syria.
Washington had set up two airbases in PKK/PYD-held Rmeilan district in the northeast of Al-Hasakah province in October 2015 and Harab Isk village in southern Kobani in March 2016.
While the Rmeilan airbase is large enough for cargo planes to land, Harab Isk base is only used by military helicopters.
While a part of the U.S. military aid to PKK/PYD goes through Iraqi border by land, the other part is shipped to the region through the Rmeilan airbase.
These “field-type” military points are usually hidden for security reasons, making it hard to be detected, according to Anadolu Agency reporters.
Apart from the military points, the U.S. also uses some other places which are hard to be detected like residential areas, PKK/PYD camps, easily transformed factories as operational points.
The U.S. forces keep the construction of operational points hidden by declaring some areas as “prohibited area” in northern Syria, the reporters say.
There are contact officers for airstrikes and artillery shelling, military consultants, training officers, operational planning officers and military units to engage in active conflicts in eight military points.
The equipment in the military points includes artillery batteries with high maneuverability, multi-barrel rocket launchers, various mobile equipment for intelligence and armored vehicles such as “Stryker” for general patrols and security.
Military points in Al-Hasakah
There are also three military points in Al-Hasakah, the latest of which was established in the northern district Tal Baydar.
According to the reporters, 100 U.S. Special Forces soldiers have been deployed to Tal Baydar within the scope of the fight against the Daesh terrorist group.
There are also foreign soldiers from the U.S.-led coalition stationed in the old farm district of Tal Tamir, which is located south of Resulayn near the Syrian-Turkish border.
There are also 150 U.S. Special Forces units in Ash Shaddadi district, south of Al-Hasakah, with a view to backing PKK/PYD during anti-Daesh operations.
Military points in Manbij
The U.S. has established two operational posts in Manbij in 2016 when PKK/PYD captured the district.
One of these posts is located in Ayn Dadad town in the district, which can be used by U.S. Special Forces for patrols against the Free Syrian Army (FSA) units rescued during the Turkish Euphrates Shield Operation.
The other military unit is located in Usariye town, west of Ayn Dadad with the purpose of protecting PKK/PYD units against FSA.
Military points in Raqqah
There are also three military posts in the northern province of Raqqah.
Along with U.S. special forces units, French special forces are stationed in a military post located in Mistanur hill, south of Kobani.
Around 200 U.S. soldiers and 75 French special forces units are also stationed in the PKK/PYD base in Ayn Issah town in northern Raqqah.
A military post in the town of Sirrin in Kobani is also used for airbornes. PKK/PYD is supplied with military equipment and ammunition through this post.
This post also serves as a communication center of the anti-Daesh coalition and used for disrupting Daesh communications.
PYD, the Syria offshoot of the terrorist organization PKK, is in control of Al-Hasakah in the east, northern Raqqah, Manbij, to the east of Aleppo, Afrin and Tal Rifaat districts.
Recognized by the U.S. as an ally in the fight against Daesh, PKK/PYD militants run under the name of the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) in the war-torn country.
Despite the fact that the militants were given SDF uniforms, some of them wear uniforms with banners of Abdullah Ocalan, jailed head of PKK terrorist organization in Turkey.
The New York Times’ Tim Arango took what could have been an interesting topic for war journalism—Iran’s increased role in Iraq—and morphed it into a revisionist history of American and Saudi involvement in the Middle East. In doing so, Arango paints the U.S. as a noble, freedom-loving nation on a mission to improve the lives of average Iraqis, and Iran as a sinister imperial force working to expand its sphere of influence across the region.
Arango sets the table by citing examples of Iranian influence in Iraq, framing the disparate motives at work. He suggests that the U.S. invaded Iraq for pro-democratic purposes, while Iran’s response to this unilateral invasion (which its government, of course, vehemently opposed) is portrayed as sinister and plotting:
When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure — about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent — were poured into the cause.
From Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq, a former enemy against which it fought a war in the 1980s so brutal, with chemical weapons and trench warfare, that historians look to World War I for analogies. If it succeeded, Iraq would never again pose a threat, and it could serve as a jumping-off point to spread Iranian influence around the region.
There’s so much unmitigated ideology at work in these two passages, we need to take a minute to break it down. Let’s begin with the controversial assertion that the “[U.S.] saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East.”
This was the public relations talking point the U.S. gave for invading Iraq, but was it true? Does Arango provide any evidence or link to an analysis that shows it to be true? Dove beauty products tells me their mission is to empower women, but it seems far more likely it’s really to sell soap and that this line is marketing pablum. This is a distinction a freshman PR student can make, but evidently not Arango who, for some reason, thinks the same administration that repeatedly lied about Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction and Saddam’s links to al Qaeda was on the up-and-up about the pro-democracy motives behind their devastating invasion.
If one wants to know what role democracy played in Bush administration officials’ decision, perhaps Arango could have asked Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security advisor, secretary of state and key architect of the war. In an interview with ABC in 2011, Rice was crystal clear that “we didn’t go to Iraq to bring democracy to the Iraqis. And I try in the book to really explain that that wasn’t the purpose.”
So, did the U.S. see Iraq “as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East?” Or did it really not care either way?
As I noted in FAIR last month, nominally down-the-middle reporters are allowed to mind-read U.S. policy makers’ motives so long as they conclude that those motives were noble and in good faith. Never are reporters allowed to ascribe sinister motives to U.S. officials—this is only permissible when covering America’s enemies— which Arango does in the next paragraph, insisting that “from Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq.”
Note that the U.S. did not seek to make Iraq a “client state,” but rather a “democracy.” Big bad Iran however (which not only had nothing to do with the invasion and openly opposed it), was plotting all along to exploit the U.S. invasion to establish a puppet regime. It’s a masterful work of 180-degree reality inversion.
The second thing wrong with the opening frame is that Arango mentions the “4,500 American lives lost” and the “$1 trillion spent” but makes no mention of the 500,000 to 1 million Iraqis killed. He mentions the use of chemical weapons but doesn’t say who used them—it was Iraq, not Iran. He also omits the country that supplied them to Saddam: the United States.
Throughout the piece, Arango couches subjective opinions on Iran’s sinister motives as something “analysts” say or believe. Yet the only analyst he actually interviews, Ali Vaez, works at the U.S-government-funded International Crisis Group and provides a vague quote about the Iran-Iraq war shaping Iran’s leadership.
Everything Iran does is painted as proactive, sinister aggression and everything the U.S. and Sunni monarchies do is done in reaction to this aggression. Take this dubious passage: “[Iran]’s dominance over Iraq has heightened sectarian tensions around the region, with Sunni states, and American allies, like Saudi Arabia mobilizing to oppose Iranian expansionism.”
So here we have “Sunni states, and American allies, like Saudi Arabia” “mobilizing to oppose” “Iranian expansionism.” There is no “Sunni expansionism” or “American expansionism” or “Saudi expansionism”—“expansionism” (whatever that means) is the purview of Iranian aggressors. Saudi Arabia flooding Salafist fighters into post-invasion Iraq is never mentioned. Saudi and Qatari backing of Salafist militias in Syria since at the very least 2011 is never mentioned. The U.S. invasion is not framed as “expansionism.” Iran always draws first blood, while Gulf monarchies, painted as the besieged victims of the Shia empire, are always reacting, “mobilizing to oppose Iran expansionism.”
The Times’ flubbed analysis has to be seen within the wider context of American designs in the region. Arango’s article serves primarily to advance the “Shia crescent” concept pushed by Gulf monarchies, neocons, Israel, and liberal foreign policy hawks. This narrative conjures a specter of Iranian influence from Tehran to Beirut, with total regional domination on the horizon. Stopping this sinister plot is the primary pretext for increased military involvement of the U.S. in eastern Syria, where American special forces have set up a de facto base and attacked Syrian and Iranian military assets. It’s also Israel’s justification for its stepped-up military activity in Syria, where it has been backing anti-Hezbollah, anti-government rebels in Southern Syria. The Times article, whether by accident or intent, props up the entire moral and political framework for increased U.S. militarism in Syria and Iraq as territorial ISIS faces its final months.
The problem with Arango’s analysis is not that Iran’s increased role in Iraq isn’t a story; it certainly is. It’s the revisionist notion that Iran had hatched a devious plot from “day one” of the U.S. invasion rather than react to shifting forces on the ground from an instinct to survive—especially after watching its two neighbors get invaded by the U.S. and its arch regional enemy, Saudi Arabia, fund and arm Salafist mercenaries throughout the Middle East. Throw in the absurd, debunked notion the U.S. was motivated by a desire to spread democracy and what you have is a deeply cynical piece of pro-Pentagon myth-making, instead of an informative look at Iran’s increased regional influence.
Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst at FAIR and contributing writer for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJohnsonNYC.
U.S. imperialism has finally found the enemies it has been searching for all these years. Most of the world’s people are already in some form of resistance to Washington’s bullying. Love of war is what makes the U.S. truly exceptional. Domestically, “only an opposition that fights for a potential world war with Russia is acceptable to Washington.”
Last week, a large number of people celebrated the origins myth of the US nation-state. The US government grants workers the day off every July 4th. And every July 4th, millions of people give thanks to the slave owners and traders who led the charge to separate from the British Empire. The date of July 4th, 1776 is celebrated each year as the initial marker of the “freedom” and “liberty” that supposedly shaped the nation thereafter. However, in 2017, the crumbling state of the US ruling system has made it increasingly difficult to propagate the big lie that is US exceptionalism.
Of course, any discussion about the lie of US exceptionalism must begin with Black America. Frederick Douglas’s famous speech is starkly relevant today. Although Black America is not under the regime of formal chattel slavery, the system that enslaved Black America remains the dominant one. US imperialism continues to resign the majority of Black Americans to a life of economic insecurity and state terror. Black Americans die nearly every day at the murderous hands of the police and make up nearly half of the inmates residing in the largest prison system in the world. And the majority of Black American communities in the US possess a net worth of zero.
“US imperialism continues to resign the majority of Black Americans to a life of economic insecurity and state terror.”
The legacy of slavery and white supremacy affects each and every part of the US social structure. An enormous empire built by African slaves not only brings super profits to a new generation of slave owners, but also super crises. Nearly eighty percent of the entire population is mired in a state of imminent poverty while seventy percent of all wealth is siphoned to just 1 percent of the population. Washington spends trillions of dollars each year waging war abroad. These conditions have created a perfect storm where at any moment the US capitalist economy could become engulfed by a crisis worse than 2008.
The myth of US exceptionalism maintains that the “American” nation-state governs the most civilized and advanced society in the world. A lie as deep as US exceptionalism, then, can only be upheld by a steady dose of force and deceit. The US military state provides the force, keeping tabs on every living person in the world and leveling the most brutal forms of state terror against oppressed nations. The corporate media and political class provide the deceit. These organs of misinformation hide truth from sight and create convenient narratives devised to distract the population, the most popular today being that Russia “hacked” its way into the US elections to help elect Donald Trump.
“Seventy percent of all wealth is siphoned to just 1 percent of the population.”
The ruling class must protect the myth of US exceptionalism at all costs. It has always trembled collectively at the prospect of the myth being exposed for the lie that it is. In the 20th century, socialism and national liberation throughout the colonized world presented such a dire threat to the sanctity of the rule of capital that the US was compelled to wage a bloody “Cold War” on every nation that sought to overthrow the yoke of colonialism and capitalism. The US supported brutal, fascist movements all over the world to ensure the spread of socialism was muted and destroyed. Domestically, Black liberation, national liberation, and radical labor movements were systematically repressed. Labor union and Black political leaders were divided along class lines, with an opportunist section given privileged treatment in the Democratic Party while revolutionary leaders faced imprisonment, exile, or death.
Yet the suppression of revolutionary resistance in the US has not stopped the decline of US exceptionalism worldwide. The US-led system of imperialism is crumbling under the gravity of its own contradictions. Economic stagnation and political illegitimacy constrain the ability of the rulers to maintain their grip over the world at large. The US share in global GDP continues to decrease while China’s share has increased exponentially over the last two decades. Nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America — regions historically seen as US property — have opted to economically develop their societies along the path of Chinese integration. And Russia’s ground-breaking cooperation with China in recent years means that there are now two big powers in the world willing to provide alternatives to US political and economic dominance.
“The US share in global GDP continues to decrease while China’s share has increased exponentially over the last two decades.”
Such dramatic shifts in the global body politic have required the US to spend more and more on the military to maintain dominance. This has also meant that fewer resources are devoted to the needs of workers and oppressed people in the US mainland. The 2016 elections revealed the widening cracks in the armor of US imperialism’s domestic project of austerity coupled with enormous military spending abroad. In 2016, polls showed low approval ratings for the corporate media and even lower ratings for Congress. A majority of people have become sick and tired of corporate politics. The populist messages of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders thus attracted more voters than the ruling class expected during the Presidential elections.
Donald Trump’s victory further exposed the decrepit state of US imperialism to the world. Not only did a racist billionaire make his way to the most extolled seat in the White House, but the US ruling class also made a conscious decision to oppose Trump for his position on war and peace. The US ruling class has opposed Trump on the basis of his unproven ties to Russia while failing to provide any alternative to war, austerity, or racist immigration policy. That’s because the US ruling class has no interest in fighting these policies at all. Doing so would invalidate their existence as a class. Only opposition that fights for a potential world war with Russia is acceptable to Washington. Trump’s success has thus hastened the demise of US exceptionalism.
“A majority of people have become sick and tired of corporate politics.”
US imperialism has reached a dead-end in all facets of its rule. Capitalist economic decline has led to a condition of mass misery in its US and Western power centers. New formations such as Jeremy Corbyn’s rise in the UK Parliament signal that working and poor people will not take unmitigated exploitation and theft without a fight. US imperialism is losing its grip over the oppressed beyond its borders and nothing short of nuclear annihilation can stop China and Russia from replacing it. Washington’s uncontrollable chaos since Trump’s elections only further proves that any solution to the crisis will have to be formulated independently of the institutions and ideologies of the ruling class.
That is where the people come in. US imperialism’s current state is bleak and its future bleaker, but only the people can change the course of history. The general condition of the system has given much cause for workers and oppressed people all over the US to be suspicious and resentful of the very notion that the US is above the rest of humanity. An idea based in the enslavement and genocide of entire peoples and nations now has little to offer anyone outside of the rich, let alone the most oppressed sectors of society. But resentment and suspicion alone cannot transform the political and economic landscape. Active and organized leaders imbued with revolutionary ideas and sustainable organizations are needed to finish the job of laying a system of oppression to rest, especially one as expansive as imperialism. Just how this will occur is up for urgent discussion. What is certain is that the ruling class will continue to dig its grave until the people are prepared to choose the only path capable of burying it: revolution.
IT has been a year since we thwarted the bloodiest terrorist attack in the history of the Republic of Turkey. Turkey has proven its resilience, ability to recover and strength in the course of last year.
It is essential to make an evaluation of the past year and look forward. First of all, we should remember what we have been through.
What happened that night was an attack on the Turkish state by traitors, who infiltrated the Turkish military, who are loyal to a deranged man who sees himself as the “imam of the universe.”
We were confronted with murderers, who bombed their own national Parliament, destroyed the headquarters of police special forces that fight at the forefront against terrorist organisations, driven tanks over unarmed civilians, fired from fighter jets and attack helicopters.
We have never before been through such brutality in our history. This terrorist network killed 250 of our citizens and left more than 2,000 injured.
Going back, two sources of pride emerged from this bitter experience. The first one is the courage and determination of the Turkish people.
Our citizens from all backgrounds and political views took to the streets against the putschists. Our television channels continued broadcasting despite the threats and raids by coup plotters. The Turkish nation became one.
Second, the Turkish nation showed the entire world that it defended democracy and will continue to do so. My people demonstrated that only the governments taking office through democratic processes and the will of the people would rule Turkey, not the armed groups.
The strongest legitimacy is the democratic one. We passed this tough democracy test as a country.
But the question that my grandchild asked me with all her naivety that night will never fade away from my mind or anyone else’s: “Grandpa, aren’t these our soldiers?” Indeed, what kind of mind-set would drive a person to attack his own people, institutions, symbols and leaders in such a brutal manner?
The answer underlies the nature of the treachery network we are facing. That night, we were confronted with a crime network, blindly following the orders of ringleader Fetullah Gülen via a professor of theology. We are talking about a treacherous gang that failed to grasp the notion of the glorious millennial history of Turkish soldiers, saluting the manager of a company owned by the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ) and the ostensible owner of a school operated by the same organisation, at the military base they used as their headquarters.
As a matter of fact, my government had actually unmasked Fetullah Gülen and taken action accordingly. We had already been exerting efforts to unveil the existence of this structure inside the state and had made significant progress to this end.
However, the July 15 coup attempt bitterly revealed that the threat we are facing is beyond our estimation, that it is much deeper and more vital. The magnitude of the plot masterminded by Fetullah Gülen for the past 40 years to seize control of the Turkish state was exposed.
FETÖ members, following the orders of Fetullah Gülen, had acted unnoticed inside the capillaries of the system and reached almost all power centres like an infection caused by a virus that gradually takes over the vital organs of a body.
Comprehensive administrative, criminal and legal investigations have been conducted throughout the year since July 15, 2016. Extensive evidence has been reached on this structure that masterminded and implemented the coup attempt.
The evidence has demonstrated that we are facing a heretical, esoteric belief system built by Fetullah Gülen. The schools and dorms of the organisation operated as brainwashing and recruitment centres.
The Turkish nation proved to the world that democracy is not a cheap victory but is precious enough to die for its sake. Our primary duty is to take necessary measures to prevent it from happening again. Eventually, Turkish democracy was targeted and our democracy won. So our aim and endeavours will be to take the necessary steps in time to crown our democracy.
About the author: H.E. Binali Yildirim is the 27th and current Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey and the leader of the Justice and Development Party since May 2016.
Azerbaijan’s Silk Way Airlines transports weapons with diplomatic clearance for Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Congo
In December of 2016 Dilyana Gaytandzhieva found and filmed 9 underground warehouses fullof heavy weapons with Bulgaria as their country of origin in Eastern Aleppo.
By Dilyana Gaytandzhieva Twitter/@dgaytandzhieva
At least 350 diplomatic Silk Way Airlines (an Azerbaijani state-run company) flights transported weapons for war conflicts across the world over the last 3 years. The state aircrafts of Azerbaijan carried on-board tens of tons of heavy weapons and ammunition headed to terrorists under the cover of diplomatic flights.
Documents implicating Silk Way Airlines in arms supplies were sent to me by an anonymous twitter account – Anonymous Bulgaria.
The leaked files include correspondence between the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Azerbaijan to Bulgaria with attached documents for weapons deals and diplomatic clearance for overflight and/or landing in Bulgaria and many other European countries, USA, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, to name a few.
According to these documents, Silk Way Airlines offered diplomatic flights to private companies and arms manufacturers from the US, Balkans, and Israel, as well as to the militaries of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and the military forces of Germany and Denmark in Afghanistan and of Sweden in Iraq. Diplomatic flights are exempt of checks, air bills, and taxes, meaning that Silk Way airplanes freely transported hundreds of tons of weapons to different locations around the world without regulation. They made technical landings with stays varying from a few hours to up to a day in intermediary locations without any logical reasons such as needing to refuel the planes.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations, operators, transporting dangerous goods forbidden for transportation by air by civil aircrafts, must apply for exemption for transportation of dangerous goods by air.
According to the documents, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry has sent instructions to its embassies in Bulgaria and many other European countries to request diplomatic clearance for Silk Way Airlines flights. The embassies sent diplomatic notes to the Foreign Ministry of the relevant country to request such exemption. The Foreign Ministry sent back a note signed by the local civil aviation authorities giving exemption for the transportation of dangerous goods.
The requests for diplomatic clearance included information about the type and quantity of the dangerous goods – heavy weapons and ammunition. However, the responsible authorities of many countries (Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Turkey, Germany, UK, Greece, etc.) have turned a blind eye and allowed diplomatic flights for the transport of tons of weapons, carried out by civil aircrafts for military needs. Under IATA regulations, the transport of military cargo by civil aircrafts is not allowed. To get around this legality, Silk Way Airlines applied for diplomatic exemption through local agencies.
U.S. sends $1 billion worth of weapons
Among the main customers of the “diplomatic flights for weapons” service provided by Silk Way Airlines are American companies, which supply weapons to the US army and US Special Operations Command. The common element in these cases is that they all supply non-US standard weapons; hence, the weapons are not used by the US forces.
According to the register of federal contracts, over the last 3 years American companies were awarded $1 billion contracts in total under a special US government program for non-US standard weapon supplies. All of them used Silk Way Airlines for the transport of weapons. In some cases when Silk Way was short of aircrafts due to a busy schedule, Azerbaijan Air Force aircrafts transported the military cargo, although the weapons never reached Azerbaijan.
The documents leaked from the Embassy include shocking examples of weapon transport. A case in point: on 12th May 2015 an aircraft of Azerbaijan Air Forces carried 7,9 tons of PG-7V and 10 tons of PG-9V to the supposed destination via the route Burgas (Bulgaria)-Incirlik (Turkey)-Burgas-Nasosny (Azerbaijan). The consignor was the American company Purple Shovel, and the consignee – the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan. According to the documents, however, the military cargo was offloaded at Incirlik military base and never reached the consignee. The weapons were sold to Purple Shovel by Alguns, Bulgaria, and manufactured by Bulgaria’s VMZ military plant.
According to the federal contracts registry, in December of 2014 USSOCOM signed a $26.7 million contract with Purple Shovel. Bulgaria was indicated as the country of origin of the weapons.
On 6th June 2015, a 41-year old American national Francis Norvello, an employee of Purple Shovel, was killed in a blast when a rocket-propelled grenade malfunctioned at a military range near the village of Anevo in Bulgaria. Two other Americans and two Bulgarians were also injured. The US Embassy to Bulgaria then released a statement announcing that the U.S. government contractors were working on a U.S. military program to train and equip moderate rebels in Syria. Which resulted in the U.S. Ambassador in Sofia to be immediately withdrawn from her post. The very same weapons as those supplied by Purple Shovel were not used by moderate rebels in Syria. In December of last year while reporting on the battle of Aleppo as a correspondent for Bulgarian media I found and filmed 9 underground warehouses full of heavy weapons with Bulgaria as their country of origin. They were used by Al Nusra Front (Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria designated as a terrorist organization by the UN).
Another U.S. contractor involved in the same program for non-US standard military supplies is Orbital ATK. This company received $250 million over just the past two years. Information as to what type of weapons and to whom those weapons were supplied is classified.
According to the documents, Orbital ATK transported weapons on 6 diplomatic Silk Way Airlines flights in July and August of 2015 flying the route Baku (Azerbaijan)-Tuzla (Bosnia and Herzegovina)-Baku-Kabul (Afghanistan). The weapons were exported by IGMAN j.j. Konjic, (Bosnia and Herzegovina) commissioned by Orbital ATK. The consignee was the National Police of Afghanistan. Interestingly, all these diplomatic flights with weapons had technical landings and a 7 h 30 min stop at Baku before their final destination – Afghanistan.
Military aircrafts of Azerbaijan transported 282 tons of cargo (PG-7VL and other grenades) on 10 diplomatic flights in April and May 2017 to the destination Baku-Rijeka (Croatia)-Baku. The consignor was the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, and the consignee – Culmen International LLC, USA. This same company has been awarded two contracts ($47 million each) along with other contractors for non-US standard weapon supplies on 18 February 2016 and 19 April 2017 respectively. Culmen International LLC has also signed a $26.7 million contract for foreign weapons with the Department of Defense and a $3.9 million contract for newly manufactured non-US standard weapons.
Chemring Military Products is another main contractor in the program for non-US standard weapon supplies to the US army through diplomatic Silk Way Airlines flights. This military supplier has 4 contracts for $302.8 million in total. The weapons were purchased from local manufacturers in Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania and according to documents transported to Iraq and Afghanistan via diplomatic flights.
One of those flights in particular, on 18 October 2016, carrying 15.5 tons of 122 mm rockets bought by Chemring in Belgrade, Serbia, was diverted from its destination – Kabul, and instead landed in Lahore, Pakistan. After a 2-hour stop, the aircraft took off to Afghanistan. The only possible explanation for the extension of the flight by a thousand kilometers is offloading in Pakistan, even though documents stated that the cargo was destined for Afghanistan.
The largest non-US standard weapons supplier to the US army is Alliant Techsystems Operations-USA with contracts totalling $490.4 million. In December of 2016, this company transported tons of grenades (API 23×115 mm, HE 23×115 mm, GSH 23×115 mm) from Yugoimport, Serbia to the Afghani Defense Ministry on diplomatic flights to the destination Baku-Belgrade-Kabul.
Saudi Arabia – sponsor and arms distributor
Besides the USA, another country that has purchased huge quantities of Eastern-European weapons and exported them on Silk Way Airlines diplomatic flights is Saudi Arabia. In 2016 and 2017, there were 23 diplomatic flights carrying weapons from Bulgaria, Serbia and Azerbaijan to Jeddah and Riyadh. The consignees were VMZ military plant and Transmobile from Bulgaria, Yugoimport from Serbia, and CIHAZ from Azerbaijan.
The Kingdom does not buy those weapons for itself, as the Saudi army uses only western weapons and those weapons are not compatible with its military standard. Therefore, the weapons transported on diplomatic flights end up in the hands of the terrorist militants in Syria and Yemen that Saudi Arabia officially admits supporting.
The Arab Kingdom also distributes military cargo to South Africa – a region plagued by wars over the control of the wealth in gold and diamonds found in African countries.
On 28 April and 12 May this year, Silk Way carried out two diplomatic flights from Baku to Burgas-Jeddah-Brazzaville (Republic of Congo). The military cargo on-board of both flights was paid for by Saudi Arabia, according to the documents leaked from Azerbaijan’s Embassy to Bulgarian sources. The aircraft made a technical landing at Jeddah airport with a 12 h 30 min stop for the first flight and 14 h stop for the second one.
The aircraft was loaded with mortars and anti-tank grenades including SPG-9 and GP-25. These very same weapons were discovered by the Iraqi army a month ago in an Islamic State warehouse in Mosul. Islamic State jihadists are also seen using those heavy weapons in propaganda videos posted online by the terrorist group. Interestingly, the consignee on the transport documents, however, is the Republican Guards of Congo.
In February and March of 2017, Saudi Arabia received 350 tons of weapons on Silk Way diplomatic flights flying to the route Baku-Belgrade-Prince Sultan-Baku. The cargo included 27 350 psc. 128-mm Plamen-a rockets and 10 000 pcs. 122 mm Grad rockets. The consignor was Tehnoremont Temerin, Serbia to order by Famеway Investment LTD, Cypruss.
On 5 March 2016, an Azerbaijan Air Force aircraft carried 1700 pcs. RPG-7 (consignor: Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan) and 2500 pcs. PG-7VM (consignor: Transmobilе Ltd., Bulgaria) for the Defense Ministry of Saudi Arabia. Diplomatic flights from Burgas Airport to Prince Sultan Airport on 18 and 28 February 2017 each carried a further 5080 psc. 40 mm PG-7V for RPG-7 and 24 978 psc. RGD-5. The weapons were exported by Transmobile, Bulgaria to the Ministry of Defense of Saudi Arabia. Such munitions and RPG-7 originating in Bulgaria can often be seen in videos filmed and posted by the Islamic State on their propaganda channels.
UAE is another Arab country that has purchased Eastern European weapons which are not compatible with its military standards and were apparently re-supplied to a third party. On three flights to Burgas-Abu Dhabi-Swaihan in March and April of 2017, Silk Way transported 10.8 tons of PG7VM HEAT for 40 mm RPG-7 on each flight with technical landing and a 2-hour stop in Abu Dhabi. The exporter is Samel-90, Bulgaria, the importer – Al Tuff International Company LLC. The latter company is involved with Orbital ATK LLC, which is the Middle East subsidiary of the American military company Orbital ATK. Although the ultimate consignee is the UAE army, the documents of the flight reveal that the sponsoring party is Saudi Arabia.
On 26 February 2016, an Azerbaijan Air Force aircraft took off from Baku and landed in UAE, where it loaded two armored vehicles and one Lexus car. The request for diplomatic clearance indicated the payment as cash – US dollars. The aircraft landed in North Sudan and, the next day, in the Republic of Congo. The exporter was Safe Cage Armour Works FZ LLC, UАЕ and the receiving party was the Republican Guards of Congo. The sponsoring party, however, was Saudi Arabia.
Diplomatic Flights carry deadly white phosphorus
White Phosphorus is an incendiary weapon whose use is very controversial due to the deadly harms it can inflict. On 31 March 2015, Silk Way transported 26 tons of military cargo including white phosphorus from Serbia (exporter: Yugoimport) and 63 tons from Bulgaria (exporter: Arsenal). On 22 March, another 100 tons of white phosphorus were exported from Yugoimport, Belgrade to Kabul. No contract is attached to the documents of those flights.
On 2 May 2015, a Silk Way aircraft loaded 17 tons of ammunition, including white phosphorus, at Burgas airport. The exporter was Dunarit, Bulgaria. The aircraft made a technical landing and a 4-hour stop at Baku before reaching its final destination – Kabul. The consignee was the Afghani police. No contract is attached as proof.
Baku – international hub for weapons
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense was repeatedly the consignee of weapons which it actually did not receive. On 6 May 2015, an Azerbaijani military aircraft flew to Burgas (Bulgaria)-Incirlik (Turkey)-Burgas. It carried aviation equipment from Bulgaria to Turkey with the consigner: EMCO LTD, Sofia, and consignee – Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan. However, the cargo was offloaded in Turkey and never reached Azerbaijan.
Some of the weapons that Azerbaijan carries on diplomatic flights were used by its military in Nagorno-Karabakh against Armenia. In 2016, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of using white phosphorus. Armenia denied the allegations and in turn accused Azerbaijan of fabrication, as the only piece of evidence was based on a single unexploded grenade found by Azerbaijan’s soldiers. According to the documents from the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Sofia, white phosphorus munitions were carried on a diplomatic flight via Baku the previous year.
Baku plays the role of an international hub for weapons. Many of the flights make technical landings with stops of a few hours at Baku airport or other intermediary airports en-route to their final destinations. Moreover, these types of aircrafts flying to the same destinations do not typically make technical landings. Therefore, a landing for refueling is not actually required. Despite this, Silk Way aircrafts constantly made technical landings. A case in point: in December of 2015 Silk Way carried out 14 flights with 40 tons of weapons on each flight to the destination Ostrava (the Czech Republic)-Ovda (Israel)-Nososny (Azerbaijan). The exporter is not mentioned in the documents while the receiver is consistently the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan. Strangely, the aircraft diverted and landed at Ovda airport (a military base in Southern Israel), where it remained for 2 hours.
In 2017, there were 5 flights from Nish (Serbia) via Ovda (Israel) to Nasosny (Azerbaijan). Each flight carried 44 tons of cargo – SPG Howitzer, RM-70/85. The consignor is MSM Martin, Serbia, the consignee: Elbit Systems, Israel, and the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan. All aircrafts landed in Israel and stayed for 2 hours en-route to Azerbaijan.
The same Israeli company Elbit Systems on a flight from Barno (the Czech Republic) via Tel Aviv (Israel) to Bratislava (Slovakia) re-exported armored vehicles (TATRA T-815 VP31, TATRA T-815 VPR9). They were sent by Real Trade, Prague to Elbit Systems. The ultimate consignee, however, was the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan. The aircraft landed in Tel Aviv and then in Bratislava, where the cargo was imported by another company – MSM Martin, Slovakia. It is not clear why the plane flew from Europe to Asia and then back to Europe with the same cargo on-board. Ultimately, it did not reach its final destination – Azerbaijan. This type of aircraft, IL 76TD, can carry cargo of up to 50 tons. This one carried only 30 tons according to the documentation provided. Therefore, it could carry additional cargo of 20 tons. Since the flight was diplomatic, it was not subjected to inspection.
A military coup after a diplomatic flight to Burkina Faso
Some diplomatic flights carry weapons for different conflict zones crossing Europe, Asia and Africa. Such is the case with two Azerbaijan Air Forces flights to the destination Baku-Belgrade-Jeddah-Brazzaville-Burkina Faso on 30 August and 5 September 2015. The consignors were CIHAZ, Azerbaijan, and Yugoimport, Serbia. The consignee was the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Congo. The aircraft made two technical landings – in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
The 41.2-ton cargo from Baku and Belgrade included: 7, 62 mm cartridges, 12 pcs. sniper rifles, 25 pcs. М12 “Black Spear” calibre 12,7х108 mm, 25 psc. RBG 40×46 mm/6M11, and 25 pcs. Coyote machine gun 12,7х108 mm with tripods. The same heavy machine gun appeared in videos and photos posted online by militant groups in Idlib and the province of Hama in Syria a few months later. The aircraft also carried: 1999 psc. M70B1 7,62х39 mm and 25 psc. М69А 82 мм. On 26 February 2016, a video featuring the same М69А 82 mm weapons was posted to Youtube by a militant group calling itself Division 13 and fighting north of Aleppo.
Interestingly, the aircraft that carried the same type of weapons landed in Diyarbakir (Turkey), 235 km away from the border with Syria. Another type of weapon, RBG 40 mm/6M11, which was from the same flight and supposedly destined for Congo too, appeared in a video of the Islamic Brigade of Al Safwa in Northern Aleppo.
After Turkey, the aircraft landed in Saudi Arabia and remained there for a day. Afterwards it landed in Congo and Burkina Faso. A week later, there was an attempted military coup in Burkina Faso.
300 tons of RPG-s, machine guns and ammunition for the Kurds
In March of 2017, over 300 tons of weapons were allegedly sent to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Northern Syria. Six diplomatic flights transported 43 tons of grenades on each flight from VMZ Military Plant, Bulgaria, to the Defense Ministry of Iraq. There are no contracts applied, however. On 28 March, 82 tons of cargo (AKM 7,62×39 mm and AG-7) were sent from Otopeni (Romania) to Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan). The consignor was Romtechnica S.A., the consignee – again the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad. No contracts are provided for this flight either.
On 16 March 2016, yet another Silk Way diplomatic flight carried 40 tons of military cargo from Slovenia to Erbil: the exporter is ELDON S.R.O., Slovakia, the importer – Wide City Ltd. Co, Erbil, the final consignee – the government of Kurdistan.
Wide City Ltd. Co has three offices – in Limassol (Cyprus), Sofia (Bulgaria) and Erbil. The office of the Bulgarian company Techno Defence Ltd is at the address in Sofia. On the website of the company, the owner of Techno Defense Ltd Hair Al Ahmed Saleh claims that he has an office in Erbil and that his company manufactures Zagros weapons in Azerbaijan (K15 zagros, 9×19 mm and automatic K16 zagros). These types of Zagros weapons appeared in propaganda footage posted by the military wing of the Kurdish PKK party, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey. The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev is also an ethnical Kurd.
I reached out to all sides concerned involving my investigation. However, I have not received any comment.
Tal Afar (IraqiNews.com) The Islamic State has declared its runaway supreme leader dead, announcing it was going to name a successor soon, a source in Nineveh province said, the latest episode in clashing, unconfirmed reports around the leader’s survival.
Alsumaria News quoted a local source Tuesday saying that IS made a brief statement in the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, in which it confirmed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death without adding further details except stressing an imminent declaration of a successor and a call upon fighters to remain resilient.
Chaos flared in Tal Afar following the declaration, according to Alsumaria News’s sources. Infighting among Baghdadi’s loyalists and opponents broke out, prompting the group to carry out wide-scale arrests and to impose a curfew at most of the town.
No official Iraqi authority confirmed the reported statement, but it came one day after Alsumaria News said the group reversed a ban on discussing Baghdadi’s death and a 50-lashes punishment prescribed for the violation. The group had earlier, according to sources, executed a top preacher and a close aide to Baghdadi who inadvertently brought up the issue of his death during an emotional sermon.
Since Iraqi government forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, launched a major offensive in October to retake Mosul, IS’s largest bastion in Iraq, clashing speculations around Baghdadi’s survival were plentuous. Russia said it was 100% sure Baghdadi was killed in a strike in Syria last month, but its declaration was met with skepticism from the United States and other countries.
On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared final victory over Islamic State members in Mosul, saying the recapture of the city was an end of the self-styled “caliphate” declared by Baghdadi in 2014.
The Washington Post article by David Rothkopf (“America’s declining global influence,” Commentary, July 2) might have been better titled “Influence of America’s declining journalistic and academic integrity.”
Rothkopf first recycles the discredited allegation that “Russia hacked the election,” which at most would mean accessing Hillary Clinton’s unsecured State Department online browsing library plus leaked information, and sharing with the American public information that it had the right to know. Electronic vote manipulation (hacking) was not even alleged, but in fact was done not by Russia but the Democratic National Committee, which stole possibly a dozen Democratic primary elections from Bernie Sanders, as indicated by several statistical analyses.
Rothkopf continues his propaganda barrage, an all-too-familiar prelude to U.S. aggression, with repeated nonsense that Vladimir Putin invaded Georgia and Crimea. These were urgent countermoves against U.S./NATO incursions right up to Russia’s borders (imagine Russia moving into British Columbia).
In Crimea, the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s Sebastopol naval base was allowed 25,000 troops under treaty with Ukraine, which were there already. Putin obviously wouldn’t welcome NATO as Russia’s next-door neighbor, but no invasion was needed. Crimeans were unreceptive to neoliberal austerity, resource privatization and International Monetary Fund debt imposed upon Ukraine by the U.S.-engineered coup in Kiev, and quickly voted by a 97 percent majority to join the Russian Federation.
In 2008, U.S.-allied Georgian President Saakashvili invaded South Ossetia, a buffer territory straddling the Caucasus mountains, jointly administered by Russia, Georgia and Ossetians. Putin quickly swatted this down and restored Russia’s self-protective buffer.
0800041 – Project Cannikin Review – 1971 – 13:00 – Color – This video reviews Project CANNIKIN, a nuclear test conducted on Amchitka Island, Alaska, at 11:00 a.m., Bering Standard Time, on November 6, 1971. CANNIKIN, a slightly less-than-five-megaton device, was the largest underground nuclear test conducted in the United States. CANNIKIN was conducted to proof test a warhead for the Spartan missile, a Safeguard Ballistic Missile Defense Program.
The video shows the nuclear device and instrumentation canister being lowered into the shaft, detonation sequences, and test effects. A long-range view of water turbulence after the detonation is shown, but no tsunami or large ocean wave was observed or recorded. Numerous ground shock waves are shown at normal speed and as seen by high-speed, slow-motion cameras located at various sites on the island. Surface effects at ground zero and other island locations were filmed one day after the test. Approximately 38 hours after the test, a subsidence crater, approximately 1.5 miles in diameter and 55 feet deep, began to form.
Many scenes in the video have no sound intentionally; no material was deleted.
The three underground nuclear tests conducted on Amchitka Island, Alaska, were as follows:
LONG SHOT, October 29, 1965, shaft, Vela Uniform Project, approximately 80 kilotons
MILROW October 2, 1969, shaft, weapons related, approximately 1 megaton (Mt)
CANNIKIN, November 6, 1971, shaft, weapons related, less than 5 Mt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A magnitude 6.0 earthquake that struck off North Korea in the Sea of Japan does not appear to have been caused by a nuclear test, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, citing initial reports.
Major Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said initial indications showed that the earthquake was not caused by a North Korean nuclear test because of the location and depth of the quake.
Davis added that the Pentagon would continue to study the seismic activity.
Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Jonathan Oatis
They don’t call it Russian roulette for nothing. Get a six-shooter, load it with a single bullet called Destiny, spin the chamber, point the barrel an inch above your ear, any ear – now wait or don’t wait – now squint or don’t squint – think or don’t think – now flashback or don’t – now weep or unweep – now breathe and don’t breathe now laugh and don’t laugh so dammit what the heck you waiting for – pull the goddamn trigger!
Pot luck, you’re still alive.
You lost five pounds of sweat in just under a minute. But you’re alive.
Now it’s Putin’s turn. Shootin’ hootin’ tootin Putin – it’s his turn.
You hand him the gun. He takes it. He looks down at you even though he’s shorter than you. How the hell does he do that, you wonder?
“Where I come from, we only play this game after a good lunch and a nice afternoon nap in the buff, if you know what I mean”, he tells you without blinking. You argue over whether you need nerves of steel or nerves of cloud to play Russian roulette – Putin says you need neither. “When there’s a gun to you head, the process of thinking is too slow – you must therefore act out of instant instinct”. You argue some more about whether instinct is faster than thought – and again Putin wins that argument. He feels sorry for you so he shares a few secrets with you, telling you that you must handle the bullet like you would a wild bull before you insert it into the gun’s chamber. “You bully the bullet into submission and force it to forget that it has horns”, he adds. “Right before you insert the bullet into the hole, you must instruct it to sleep long and dream of gun-less orgies. You must also tell yourself in no uncertain terms that you are the sole god of this bullet, that you control its movements and final destination”.
Listening to him, all you can do is nod at his metaphoric deconstructionism. He tells you that your will to live must be multiplied by infinity to win at Russian roulette. You measure his words with utter care and quietly marvel at his Napoleonic guru-ism. Yet still, there’s something about him that bothers you and you want to know what it is so you start another argument about mind over matter until you hit a massive self-made scatological wall. He cracks a barely perceptible grin at your stained and smashed argument; all the while, his blue lentil eyes are fixed on yours.
Nothing that you say can beat down Putin’s sobriety – nothing distracts his focus from your eyes and all his words to you come with a certificate, a calculator and a map. You will see things his way whether you like it or not. Because he has seen the shortest distance between two points while you were still scanning the horizon.
But will his mental powers serve him in your dual? You’ve already pulled the trigger and you lived. Now it’s his turn – and he knows it.
You watch him with fiendish interest as he holds a single bullet in his palm. “Never kiss a bullet before using it”, he says. “Never romanticize death. Challenge it”.
Swiftly and with no further ceremonials, you watch him inset the pacified bullet into an empty chamber. A perfect snug fit and a perfect little gun hum issues. You expect him to spin and close the chamber and point the gun, but he surprises you with pulling out four more bullets from his pocket. He squeezes a firm fist around them and turns silent towards you, watches your mouth caught between dropping to the floor and gasping as he rapidly places all four bullets inside empty chamber pods, spinning the chamber with flare, spinning it close to his ear as if waiting for the right musical note to hit first before he expertly, precisely stops the spinning. Which he does in a heartbeat.
You watch him put the loaded gun to his head.
Now his lean finger is on the swooning trigger.
Now his eyes are looking at you and looking through you to the great unfathomable beyond – possibly beckoning the empty gun tunnel to harmoniously meet his architectural brain. Possibly wedding his soul to nothingness. Possibly folding the white handkerchief of time with his thoughts.
You look at him in devastated amazement as he stands there present yet not – stands there pointing gun at his own head and looking at you looking at him and nothing but him.
It’s a five-bullet Russian roulette game that only the cultivated Merlin and Lao Tzu did one time ever play. It’s the five-pointed star of war that Putin is silently devouring. Five bullets in a six-shooter – five tunnels stuffed with death and one vacant birthing canal . Studying him, you can tell that working the five-to-one odds is not an oddity in Putin’s world. This is not the first time he’s performed the five-bullet routine. He is not showing you reckless bravado, he is showing you pure unadulterated confidence. Cold, quiet confidence. Extremely comfortable confidence.
You experience time passing slow as your agonized eyes are glued to his finger on the trigger. Your nerves are rattled. Putin’s suspended non-action simply devastates you. You want to throw yourself at his feet and implore him to stop tormenting your bated breath. He can see a terror in your eyes and he is disgusted by your weakness. By your lack of faith in life; in human potentialism. And as your lips are about to open in pleading speech, his finger pulls the trigger and his head in slo-mo ducks right before the spark of gunpowder flashes the barrel and a whistling bullet comes speeding an inch over his bent head and right over the bridge of your own nose – disappearing silently into the empty distance…
And not by fickle chance.
“There’s always a rogue bullet”, he calmly says to you as you stand there shaking in palpitating misery. “Always account for that when you spin the chamber”, he says poker-faced. You look at him and you hate his guts and all you can do is start another argument with him about whether ducking is cowardice or intelligence, knowing very well that any second now, he will be winning yet another argument.
A blow has been dealt to the prestige of Australia’s special forces with in-kind damages likely to follow for the reputation of the Australian Army as a whole. At first, it might seem tempting to think of these kinds of events as isolated incidents that do not speak to a more widespread problem within the Army’s special operations community. But misconduct on the battlefield also speaks to a wayward shift in a military force’s broader operating culture. Along with the Maywand District murders and the Panjywai massacre, what these new allegations levelled against Australian soldiers in Uruzgan will come to symbolise is the ultimate failure of Western militaries to adapt to a fight where the decisive battle was the human terrain.
According to our military leaders, the reason for Australia’s presence in Uruzgan province between 2001 and 2014 was to “clear, hold and build” a Taliban-free Afghanistan. Per counterinsurgency doctrine, by providing an enduring sense of physical security to local Afghans, the “hearts and minds” as well as the rifles and trigger-fingers of fighting-aged males in Uruzgan would eventually be won over.
At some point it seems that this strategic guidance either failed or was wholly ignored.
While Special Operations soldiers had earlier played a kind of “guardian angel” role in support of their regular counterparts in the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force, as the Afghan war dragged on, that role became increasingly aggressive.
An upsurge in “direct action” operations began to distract from efforts to secure the population. By 2010, much of the task group was solely focused on so-called “high-value targeting” — the coalition’s effort to kill or capture an ever-growing list of local Taliban “commanders”.
As a former Special Operations Task Group member drily put it to me, the new penchant for fly-in fly-out missions conducted out the side of a Black Hawk saw the entire concept of operations switch from “clear, hold and build” to “land, kill and leave”.
Of course, operating in this manner was never going to defeat the Taliban. Insurgencies are complex adaptive systems capable of surviving the deaths of leaders. As David Kilcullen writes in Counterinsurgency: “decapitation has rarely succeeded [and] with good reason — efforts to kill or capture insurgent leaders inject energy into the system by generating grievances and causing disparate groups to coalesce”.
All this considered then, by channelling an apparent “shoot first, never ask questions at all” ethos, there’s a good argument to be made that much of SOTG’s work in the final years of the Afghan War was counter-productive.
A new kind of warfare
In many ways, the sunset years of operations in Afghanistan marked a transitional moment in the Australian way of war — one which saw our special forces transformed into the hyper-conventional juggernaut it has become today.
In other Western forces, the over-emphasis on “conventionalised” operations — that is heavy-hitting operations which deviate from the subtle and indirect approach of yesteryear — has had similar results on the ground.
The New Zealand SAS is currently reeling from allegations that its members carried out “revenge raids” against civilians. US Navy SEAL Teams have now been linked to extra-judicial killings and corpse desecration on the battlefield. In Britain too, the story is much the same. Reports of “rogue” SAS troopers and battlefield executions. Civilian casualties. A Ministry of Defence probe into war crimes allegations.
Incident by incident, this is how the war in Afghanistan was lost.
A legacy of failure
Despite more than a decade and a half of sustained military effort, today Taliban and other extremist groups cover as much as 40 per cent of the country.
Certainly, where our own efforts are concerned, the data is clear. Australia’s war in Afghanistan was a failure. According to the Institute for the Study of War, districts like Shah Wali Kot (where Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith’s VC-winning charge took place) are now categorised as “high confidence Taliban support zones”.
Elsewhere, the observable metrics on the ground speak for themselves. In 2002, US intelligence estimated the Taliban’s strength at 7,000 fighters. As of 2016, that number has increased to 25,000. As this year’s spring fighting season begins, the Taliban still control roughly a quarter of Afghanistan.
Lost our way
More than anything, what these new revelations demonstrate is that somewhere along the way our military, and our special forces in particular, simply lost the ability to effectively counter an insurgency.
Once upon a time, “the best of the best” were trained to operate like “phantoms” — treading lightly and prudently alongside their local partners.
Today, however, the legacy they will leave behind in the minds of Afghans will be a brutal one. The civilian cost of the Special Operations Task Group’s operations in Afghanistan is now apparent for all to see.
[Bandar Bush and the “Fat Pig of Qatar” implemented the CIA’s terrorist-jihadi recruitment drive in Syria as a favor to Barack Obama. After the failure of Obama’s WMD “red line”, when it had become plainly obvious just how much of a disaster that effort was creating, the Saudis replaced Bandar bin Sultan as the head of Saudi intelligence, and handed the entire operation over to the Qataris. Now that Obama has turned into Trump, and Trump has publicly performed the homo-erotic sword-dance of love with the Saudis, the Saudis have confidently laid the entire Syrian quagmire and the absolutely failed war on terror at Qatar’s doorstep.
Sure, Qatar IS responsible for at least half of this mess…but the other half belongs to the King of Saudi Arabia and all of his royal minions.]
On June 21, the US Department of State announced it was “mystified” by the bullying of the State of Qatar by, among others, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who had broken diplomatic relations, closed all borders, airspace and sea lanes in an attempt to shut down their neighbor’s economy.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Corker (R-Tenn.), taking a cue from the State Department, announced he would block all future arms sales to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries until they resolved their differences, a move that lays the onus mostly on Saudi Arabia, which has large, pending arms deals still to be contracted.
Senator Corker also recognised that the accusation that Qatar funds terrorism was only a pretext for punishing Qatar for its strongly pro-American policies; policies that the neighbors view as a threat despite their need for American protection.
The countries that ganged up on Qatar, a long-standing American ally that is home to a number of US military bases, fear that the smallest Gulf state had embarked on a path to modernisation based on the American model that could upend the established regional autocratic order.
They saw that the aim of the Qatari experiment — from the US universities housed on the Qatar Foundation’s Education City campus to its invention of a pan-regional investigative journalism tradition at Al Jazeera — has been to create people-power: Training millions at home and across the region to think, debate and challenge the status quo of autocrats who buy American friends while supporting repression and extremism at home.
Long unhappy with Qatar’s modernisation, its neighbors created the current crisis to undo what they perceive as a threat to the regional status quo. Their list of demands would, if accepted, reduce Qatar to a vassal state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia worse than what it endured from independence in 1971 to 1990. Qatari society in that period could best be described as a “lite” version of Saudi Wahhabism.
With few exceptions, Qatari women could not get a driver’s license, and churches were banned. Following my arrival in late 1995, several senior clerics told me that they chafed under these restrictions, which they described as against the real teaching of Mohammed Abdul Al Wahhab. When asked why they tolerated them, the reply was always the same: “We are afraid of the Saudis.”
Fortunately for Qatar, it differed from Saudi Arabia in one other crucial aspect: Governance. Unlike the Al Saud family, the ruling Al Thani family adhered more closely to the traditional bedouin constitutional order. The family chose the ruler through consensus with the governed. Qatar had already declared its de facto independence in 1990 when it realised that Saudi Arabia could not defend itself, let alone the GCC, after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Rather, Saudi Arabia had to call the Americans, something the Qataris could do themselves. Relations with Saudi Arabia deteriorated and then turned toxic when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE conspired to support an attempted plot. It failed.
Qatar then embarked on the most radical modernisation policies in regional memory by choosing the institutions and liberal values of the United States as a model. By early 1996, the Emir lifted all press censorship and even abolished the Ministry of Information, making Qatar the only Arab state without a ministry responsible for censorship.
To improve education, Qatar enlisted RAND Corporation to advise on reforming K-12 schools. After explicitly stating that American universities were the world’s gold standard, the Emir’s consort, H H Sheikha Moza bint Nasr, led an effort that brought six of the most prestigious American universities to establish branch campuses in Doha.
Qatar insisted that they come as true branch campuses having a seamless relationship with the home campus, with complete academic freedom teaching the same curriculum exactly as at the home campus (for example, mixed classes). Qatar welcomed Georgetown University to set up its fabled School of Foreign Service in Qatar as an explicitly Jesuit institution.
Since then, Qatar Foundation has established many educational and social institutions that have brought Qatari women into a more equal status than any of its neighbors. Seventy percent of all Qatari graduates are women. Qatar established a municipal council with elected members early in 2000 under universal suffrage. Women got the vote on the same day as the men. This, in a society that remains as privately pious and conservative as any of its neighbors.
Religious freedom also thrives in Qatar. In early 1996, the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially allowed a priest to come to Doha to celebrate Holy Week and Easter and tend to his communicants. The Foreign Ministry arranged for the priest (now the patriarch of Jerusalem) to meet with the prime minister and have an audience with the Emir. Today, seven churches openly occupy a large plot donated by the government in a Doha suburb.
To the dismay of other regional ruling families, Qatar’s Emir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani never disguised his unabashed love for being an Arab and his belief that the peoples of the Arab world deserved better governance. He set the example of what free speech and free press can accomplish. He established Al Jazeera out of the remnants of the BBC Arabic service, which had been shut down by the Saudis.
He made Qatar the hub for a decade-long series of international conferences where Arab intellectuals could meet and exchange views without fear of the secret police of their countries.
We all failed to anticipate the Arab Spring because we were looking for the intellectual ferment in the wrong places. Qatar had assumed the intellectual role of Andaluz and we never noticed. When the counter revolution violently overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected government, Doha made the cardinal sin of agreeing with the United States publicly by expressing concern about this backward step.
The repressive states of the Arab world, meanwhile, all sought American protection while subliminally fostering hatred toward the liberal values about which we lectured them. The hatreds they created interacted with repression to formulate a deadly mix that led to 9/11, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Now that the American lectures are officially over, the repressive countries turned all their fury on Qatar as a surrogate for espousing the values and institutions of the United States. Americans should not stand idly as its neighbors punish Qatar for its belief in these American values.
Patrick N Theros has previously served as US ambassador to Qatar in the second Clinton administration and is currently president of the US-Qatar Business Council, a private sector organisation that provides a forum for discussion of key economic, commercial and other issues of interest to American companies doing or planning to do business in Qatar.
BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:45 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) carried out a rare series of airstrikes over the eastern countryside of Lebanon’s Beqa’a Governorate, Tuesday, targeting the positions of Al-Qaeda linked rebels in the ‘Arsal Barrens.
Beginning at dawn on Tuesday, Syrian jets were seen carrying out airstrikes over the western slopes of the Qalamoun Mountains, inflicting heavy damage on a Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham hideout near the town of ‘Arsal.
Syrian jets would continue to cross over into Lebanese airspace during the day, as their forces prepare for a massive offensive in the Qalamoun Mountains.
According to a military source in Damascus, the Syrian Arab Army’s 4th Mechanized Division and Hezbollah are amassing a large force in western Damascus to launch the third and final phase of the Qalamoun Mountains offensive, which will target the Qarah and Faleeta barrens.
The liberation of Mosul from Daesh terror group (outlawed in Russia) opens the way to a potentially dangerous collision between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah against Saudi Arabia, Israel and their allies backed by the United States, analysts told Sputnik.
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Mosul fell under control of terrorists in 2014 and was since then Daesh key stronghold in Iraq. The operation to recapture the city was launched in October 2016 by the Iraqi troops backed by the US-led international coalition.
The eastern part of the city was liberated in January, and on Sunday, the Iraqi armed forces regained control over the rest of the city.On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi flew to a military base near Mosul to proclaim the capture of the city. However, airstrikes, shelling and other heavy clashes continued to erupt in western Mosul on Tuesday in renewed fighting, despite Abadi’s claim of victory in Iraq’s second-largest city.
Amnesty International said the battle to liberate Mosul had already proved to be e a “civilian catastrophe” and estimated more than 5,800 noncombatants had been killed in the western part of the city. Amnesty also accused US-led coalition forces of violating international law, but the US commander of those forces rejected the charge.
Foreign affairs analyst and political commentator Dan Lazare told Sputnik on Tuesday that the fall of Mosul would not lead to rapid peace and stability in the region, but would open the way to a potentially very serious clash between Syria and Iran against the Saudis and their allies instead.
“The liberation of Mosul is obviously a triumph for the Abadi government. But now that the Islamic State is fading, the upshot is likely to be a stepped-up international showdown in Syria,” Lazare said.
However, the resurgence of the Syrian government and the important role played by Shia militias in Iraq in rolling back Daesh offer Iran and Syria the chance to link up on a continual secure corridor through Iraq, Syria and southern Lebanon all the way to the Mediterranean, Lazare pointed out
“Iran’s goal [is] to open a supply corridor through Iraq and on to western Syria and southern Lebanon,” he said.
However, Saudi Arabia and Israel were both enemies of Syria and both countries feared such a westward extension of Iranian influence, Lazare remarked.
“The Saudis and Israelis are both opposed, one because it would strengthen the ‘Shi’ite crescent’ and the other because it would reinforce its arch-enemy Hezbollah. Both are therefore determined to stop it, which means the United States is too,” he said.
If Iran and Syria could succeed in establishing such a coherent corridor across their territories and northern Iraq over the next few months, then Saudi Arabia and Israel backed by the United States could face different possible responses, but most of them involved high risk deployments in Syria and Iraq that could rapidly lead to military clashes, Lazare warned.Lazare said the geography of the region limited the military options that the United States and its allies could pursue in Syria to try and prevent establishment of firm Syrian government control over the disputed territories, supported by Hezbollah and Iran.
“So what will they do? Try to head off a Shi’ite advance at Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria on the Euphrates? Step up bombing of Syrian government forces in Daraa province in the extreme southwest? Or channel aid to Al Qaeda-led forces in Idlib province in the north?” he suggested.
Trump has vowed to contain Tehran even while he is under intense political attack at home for his efforts to seek improved relations with Russia, Lazare acknowledged.
“It is hard to believe that Washington will do nothing as Iran extends its security umbrella all the way to the Mediterranean,” he said.
Trump’s enemies on both left and right in the United States were openly opposed to Iran and try and force him into taking military actions against it, Lazare cautioned.
“If [the US government] does nothing, the Democrats and neocons… will have a field day accusing Trump of doing Putin’s bidding while the CIA will no doubt dig up yet another email pointing to the Trump campaign’s ‘collusion’ with Russia,” he said.
However, Trump’s options to counter the growth of Iranian influence through Syria were very limited short of war, Lazare noted. He had already exercised the option of firing cruise missiles against a Syria airfield and any attack by the United States or allied aircraft against Syrian or Iranian aircraft risked provoking a full-scale war with either of those countries.
“Trump will be under intense pressure to respond. But how — by shooting down another Syrian jet or bombing another Syrian air field? World wars have started over less,” he recalled.
Lazare compared the growing tensions between the two major strategic alignments in the Middle East as comparable to the confrontations between huge international alliances that set off World War I after the assassination of the Austrian Hapsburg heir Franz-Ferdinand in 1914 in Sarajevo.”Indeed, it seems just like someone was taking a potshot at a couple of Hapsburg’s in Sarajevo,” he said.
Lazare warned that any relatively small incident or future terrorist attack or assassination could set off a far wider clash of the rival coalitions across the region.
IS REMAINS THREAT
While Shia-Sunni and pro-Iran versus pro-Saudi and Israeli tensions mounted in the Middle East, Daesh was likely to continue to pose an international terrorist threat for some time to come, Independent Institute Center for Peace and Freedom Director Ivan Eland warned.
“The taking of Mosul undermines the Islamic State’s claim to run a caliphate, but it does not end the threat. The group will go back into guerrilla/terrorist status and continue fighting,” he said.
Eland predicted Daesh would try and revert to terror attacks around the world to compensate for the loss of its heartland areas held over the past three years in Iraq and Syria.
“Continued terror attacks outside the Iraq/Syria theater including the West are likely. The threat will not be eradicated until the underlying causes are alleviated,” he advised.
Eland therefore warned that that IS would encourage further terror attacks by its supporters throughout Europe and elsewhere in the coming months.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with a Syrian man [probably al-Nusra], who was wounded in the ongoing violence in Syria as he visits a military hospital located in the Golan Heights near the border with Syria on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Since the Syrian conflict erupted almost three years ago hundreds of Syrians have received treatment in Israeli hospitals. (AP Photo/Menahem Kahana, Pool
Secret Details of Trump-Putin Syria Cease-
fire Focus on Iranian Proxies
But experts doubt whether the U.S.-Russian pact can be enforced.
A confidential U.S.-Russian cease-fire agreement for southwestern Syria that went into effect Sunday calls for barring Iranian-backed foreign fighters from a strategic stretch of Syrian territory near the borders of Israel and Jordan, according to three diplomatic sources.
President Donald Trump hailed it as an important agreement that would serve to save lives. But few details of the accord have been made public.
U.S. Defense Department officials — who would have responsibility for monitoring the agreement — appeared to be in the dark about the pact’s fine print.
The pact is aimed at addressing demands by Israel and Jordan — the latter is a party to the agreement — that Iranian forces and their proxies, including Hezbollah, not be permitted near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which separates Syria from Israel, or along the Jordanian border.
But former U.S. diplomats and observers question whether the agreement is truly enforceable, expressing doubts that Russia could act as a reliable guarantor for a cease-fire involving the Syrian regime, Iran, and its proxies.
“The question is, ‘Who is going to enforce that?’ Is Russia going to take on the responsibility for telling Iran what to do?” said Gerald Feierstein, a veteran U.S. diplomat who retired last year, noting that a peace deal without Iranian buy-in is untenable. “Iranians are much closer to Assad’s position on the way forward in Syria than the Russians are.”
And they have far more leverage. “It’s the Iranians and their proxies who are doing a bulk of the fighting inside Syria,” he told Foreign Policy.
With Iran in the driver’s seat, seasoned U.S. diplomats expressed doubts that the Kremlin could deliver on its promises. “The key to the survival of the Assad regime is Iran, not Russia,” said Fred Hof, a former State Department special advisor for transition in Syria. “Are the Russians trying to rush this [agreement] through without a firm understanding with the regime and without clear understanding of what the ‘or else’ is?”
Since May, the Russians have failed to persuade Iranian-backed militia groups or the Syrian regime to respect a “deconfliction zone” that American commanders had declared near a U.S. outpost in southeastern Syria. Although U.S. officers informed their Russian counterparts about the zone around Tanf, Iranian-backed militias and Syrian fighter jets ignored the warning and moved toward U.S. special operations forces and their Syrian Kurdish and Arab allies. As a result, U.S. aircraft shot down a Syrian fighter jet and an Iranian-made drone and struck Iranian-backed militias in the area.
Given the track record so far, “Why should we believe that it will be different under this cease-fire?” one congressional staffer asked.
An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qasemi, reacted coolly to the pact, saying it contained some “ambiguities” and that “no agreement would be successful without taking the realities on the ground into account.”
“Iran is seeking Syria’s sovereignty and security so a cease-fire cannot be limited to a certain location,” Qasemi was quoted saying by Tasnim News Agency.
Not everyone was so pessimistic. Andrew Tabler, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said southwestern Syria’s relative calm — and Washington’s continued influence among U.S.-trained opposition factions fighting President Bashar al-Assad — make it a natural proving ground for U.S. and Russian cooperation.
If successful, such cooperation could be employed in other parts of the country. “I think it’s worth a try,” Tabler said. “If we’re going to test something, this is a good place to test it.”
The pact — detailed in a Memorandum of Principle for De-escalation in Southern Syria — established a cease-fire between Syrian government forces and armed opposition groups that came into force on Sunday. It calls for transforming southern Syria below Quneitra and Suwayda into an exclusion zone for fighters of “non-Syrian origin,” including Iranian troops, their proxies, and fighters linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State, which have a limited presence in the area.
“This could be designed mainly to reassure the Israelis that these elements would not be operating in proximity to the Golan Heights,” said Hof, who is now at the Atlantic Council.
The accord calls for maintaining existing governance and security arrangements in opposition-held areas in southwestern Syria, a provision aimed at dissuading Syrian government forces from retaking territory in the area. But some observers said the arrangement could also help turn a de facto partition of southern Syria into a permanent one. “This entrenches Syria’s partition further,” one diplomatic observer said.
The accord also calls for the unimpeded access for humanitarian aid workers and for the creation of conditions for the return of refugees from southwestern Syria. Jordan has received more than 650,000 registered Syrian refugees since the conflict began more than six years ago.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced Monday the establishment of a monitoring center in Jordan, but State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert declined to confirm any specifics. “Mr. Lavrov likes to talk a lot,” she said.
A State Department official told FP that the United States and Russia are still trying to work out the details of the pact, “including how to monitor the cease-fire, the rules that would govern the southwest de-escalation area, and the presence of monitors.”
“We are looking at various options for the monitoring arrangement in which information can be exchanged and violations resolved,” the official said.
When asked if she was optimistic about the cease-fire holding, Nauert demurred. “Perhaps optimism is too strong a word. But I think it is promising, in a certain sense, we have been able to get the cease-fire underway,” she said.
The White House did not respond to queries about the cease-fire deal.
The agreement — finalized following Trump’s recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin — calls for more coordination among the former Cold War superpowers in the fight against terrorists in Syria. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that the pact may serve as a model for further cooperation in northern Syria and provides the “first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria.”
It also marked a recognition by Moscow that a separate effort to negotiate a cease-fire in Astana, Kazakhstan, with Iran and Turkey was foundering. On May 4, the three powers signed an agreement to establish four so-called “de-escalation zones” throughout Syria. But they have been unable to agree on whose forces would monitor those cease-fires.
“Not necessarily a brilliant deal for the Russians,” one diplomatic source said. “I suspect that after the humiliating failure of Astana, Putin needed a ‘success’ to announce and divert attention from Astana failure.”
The cease-fire would be overseen by officials from the United States, Russia, and Jordan at a monitoring cell in Amman, Jordan. Israel is not a formal party to the pact but has been actively involved behind the scenes in the discussions leading up to the agreement.
Hof said the provision for a joint monitoring center resembles a plan put forward by former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to coordinate efforts to confront extremists in northwestern Syria. “[U.S. Central Command] was very, very, very skeptical about that when it was first proposed,” Hof said. “They feared being hoodwinked by the Russians into some kind of attack on an urban area that would produce massive civilian casualties.”
In fact, it appears that the military was not consulted this time around. On Monday, BuzzFeed Newsreported that top Pentagon officials were not involved in the planning or briefed on their role in the arrangement.
A military officer confirmed to FP that the Pentagon and Centcom have very little information about the proposed cease-fire and said, “We’re getting to that level of understanding this week.”
American aircraft rarely operate in southwestern Syria, but “we’ll certainly respect the cease-fire,” the officer said, adding that the U.S. military hasn’t decided if it would fly combat air patrols to enforce any agreement.
The more likely situation would see a “remote” monitoring agreement, where U.S. military personnel would sit together with Russian officers at the proposed facility in Amman, the officer said, though “we have to figure out exactly what it means, and we have to figure out what the terms of reference are between the Russians and us and if the Syrians are even a party to it.”
U.S. troops won’t be working directly with Iranians or Syrians, however. “Our operating assumption is if the Iranians and Syrians will want to be informed, the Russians are going to be the intermediary on all things,” the officer said.
“The United States remains committed to defeating ISIS, helping to end the conflict in Syria, reducing suffering, and enabling people to return to their homes,” Trump’s national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, said last Friday, referring to the Islamic State. “This agreement is an important step toward these common goals.”
But questions lingered about its workability.
The region is occupied by several armed opposition groups backed by the United States, Turkey, Jordan, and Persian Gulf states and also includes small pockets of forces loyal to al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The United States exercises little influence over such extremist groups, making them potential spoilers.
On July 9, Trump tweeted that the Syrian cease-fire seems to be holding. For Moscow, the pact placed Putin in the role of peacemaker, even as Russia continued to provide air support for Syrian offensive operations.
“This is a sop for Russia,” said Joshua Landis, a Syria scholar at the University of Oklahoma. “The Americans can’t police this situation.”
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s advisers recruited two businessmen who profited from military contracting to devise alternatives to the Pentagon’s plan to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, reflecting the Trump administration’s struggle to define its strategy for dealing with a war now 16 years old.
Erik D. Prince, a founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, have developed proposals to rely on contractors instead of American troops in Afghanistan at the behest of Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, his senior adviser and son-in-law, according to people briefed on the conversations.
On Saturday morning, Mr. Bannon sought out Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon to try to get a hearing for their ideas, an American official said. Mr. Mattis listened politely but declined to include the outside strategies in a review of Afghanistan policy that he is leading along with the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster.
The highly unusual meeting dramatizes the divide between Mr. Trump’s generals and his political staff over Afghanistan, the lengths to which his aides will go to give their boss more options for dealing with it and the readiness of this White House to turn to business people for help with diplomatic and military problems.
Soliciting the views of Mr. Prince and Mr. Feinberg certainly qualifies as out-of-the-box thinking in a process dominated by military leaders in the Pentagon and the National Security Council. But it also raises a host of ethical issues, not least that both men could profit from their recommendations.
“The conflict of interest in this is transparent,” said Sean McFate, a professor at Georgetown University who wrote a book about the growth of private armies, “The Modern Mercenary.” “Most of these contractors are not even American, so there is also a lot of moral hazard.”
Last month, Mr. Trump gave the Pentagon authority to send more American troops to Afghanistan — a number believed to be about 4,000 — as a stopgap measure to stabilize the security situation there. But as the administration grapples with a longer-term strategy, Mr. Trump’s aides have expressed concern that he will be locked into policies that failed under the past two presidents.
Mr. Feinberg, whose name had previously been floated to conduct a review of the nation’s intelligence agencies, met with the president on Afghanistan, according to an official, while Mr. Prince briefed several White House officials, including General McMaster, said a second person.
After selling his stake in Blackwater in 2010, Mr. Prince mustered an army-for-hire for the United Arab Emirates. He has cultivated close ties to the Trump administration; his sister, Betsy DeVos, is Mr. Trump’s education secretary.
If Mr. Trump opted to use more contractors and fewer troops, it could also enrich DynCorp, which has already been paid $2.5 billion by the State Department for its work in the country, mainly training the Afghan police force. Mr. Feinberg controls DynCorp through Cerberus Capital Management, a firm he co-founded in 1992.
Mr. McFate, who used to work for DynCorp in Africa, said it could train and equip the Afghan Army, a costly, sometimes dangerous mission now handled by the American military. “The appeal to that,” he said, “is you limit your boots on the ground and you limit your casualties.” Some officials noted that under the government’s conflict-of-interest rules, DynCorp would not get a master contract to run operations in Afghanistan.
A spokesman for Mr. Feinberg declined to comment for this article, and a spokesman for Mr. Prince did not respond to a request for comment.
The proposals Mr. Prince presented, a former American official said, hew closely to the views outlined in his Journal column — in essence, that the private sector can operate “cheaper and better than the military” in Afghanistan.
Mr. Feinberg, another official said, puts more emphasis than Mr. Prince on working with Afghanistan’s central government. But his strategy would also give the C.I.A. control over operations in Afghanistan, which would be carried out by paramilitary units and hence subject to less oversight than the military, according to a person briefed on it.
The strategy has been called “the Laos option,” after America’s shadowy involvement in Laos during the war in neighboring Vietnam. C.I.A. contractors trained Laotian soldiers to fight Communist insurgents and their North Vietnamese allies until 1975, leaving the country under Communist control and with a deadly legacy of unexploded bombs. In Afghanistan until now, contractors have been used mainly for security and logistics.
Whatever the flaws in these approaches — and there are many, according to diplomats and military experts — some former officials said it made sense to open up the debate.
“The status quo is clearly not working,” said Laurel Miller, who just stepped down as the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. “If the United States is going to chart a way forward towards a sustainable way of protecting our national security interests, it is important to consider a wide range of options.”
Despite Mr. Bannon’s apparent inability to persuade Mr. Mattis, Defense Department officials said they did not underestimate his influence as a link to, and an advocate for, Mr. Trump’s populist political base. Mr. Bannon has told colleagues that sending more troops to Afghanistan is a slippery slope to the nation building that Mr. Trump ran against during the campaign.
Mr. Bannon has also questioned what the United States has gotten for the $850 billion in nonmilitary spending it has poured into the country, noting that Afghanistan confounded the neoconservatives in the George W. Bush administration and the progressives in the Obama administration.
Mr. Kushner has not staked out as strong a position, one official said. But he, too, is sharply critical of the Bush and Obama strategies, and has said he views his role as making sure the president has credible options. Mr. Mattis has promised to present Mr. Trump with a recommendation for a broader strategy this month.
Like General McMaster, Mr. Mattis is believed to support sending several thousand more American troops to bolster the effort to advise and assist Afghan forces as they seek to reverse gains made by the Taliban. But he has been extremely careful in his public statements not to tip his hand, and has not yet exercised his authority to deploy troops.
Aides and associates say that while Mr. Mattis believes that Mr. Prince’s concept of relying on private armies in Afghanistan goes too far, he supported using contractors for limited, specific tasks when he was the four-star commander of the Pentagon’s Central Command.
“No one should diminish the role that they play,” Mr. Mattis, then a general, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2012. “It is expensive, but there are places and times where having a contract force works well for us, as opposed to putting uniformed military to do, whether it’s a training mission or a security guard mission.”
The Pentagon has developed options to send 3,000 to 5,000 more American troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, with a consensus settling on about 4,000 additional troops. NATO countries would contribute a few thousand additional forces.
“It seems likely that the new strategy in Afghanistan will look a lot like what was proposed at the end of 2013,” said James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral who served as NATO’s top military commander.
Some critics say the increase will have little effect on the fighting on the ground. In May, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, testified that the situation in Afghanistan would probably deteriorate through 2018 despite a modest increase in American and NATO forces.
Asked in June by reporters in Brussels about that analysis, Mr. Mattis responded curtly, “They’re entitled to their assessment.”
György Soros’s immigration plan is being implemented in Brussels and it is correct if the Hungarians know about it, “said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the ongoing governmental poster campaign on Friday in the 180-minute Kossuth radio show. “We will not decide who we accept”, as well as the distribution of migrants, “the prime minister said.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán interviews the 180-minute program at Radio Kossuth’s Radio on July 7, 2017.MTI Photo: Balázs Mohai
One of the points of György Soros’s plan is to bring millions of migrants per year to Europe every year, “said the head of government, who spoke of the planned European asylum authority as the second point of his billionaire plan, which, as he said, would take over authority from national authorities.
“We will not decide who we accept”, as well as the distribution of migrants, “the prime minister said.
Everyone knows that in the case of immigration, Hungary is right
According to Viktor Orbán, everybody knows that immigration is right in Hungary – this is a “commonplace” in Europe – and almost every Prime Minister knows it privately. But Europe is governed not by people, but by public opinion makers who, in terms of their ideological and financial interests, are linked to liberalism and are opposed to their own countries, “he added, pointing out that European politics are increasingly demanding the abolition of migration, So that the turn occurs.
Everyone knows, “he said,” that distributing migrants is not a solution. In Libya, it would be necessary to stop those who are staying there, and those who are illegally staying here must be transported from the continent and “not split between them like a bad Fekete Péter card game.”
He believes that when Europe talks about the distribution of immigrants, it is interpreted in Africa as an invitation.
In Libya, Viktor Orbán also said that he should not have killed the former leader of the North African country, Moammer Gaddafi. No one claims that Libya had a flawless democratic government, but at least government – he said, calling it a “European mental illness” that calls for the principles applied by the West in the various civilizational areas that are in our hands, thus destroying the stability of these countries. While Gaddafi was alive, there was no migration to the people because he had an Italian-Libyan agreement, he pointed out, summing up: Europe’s leaders have a responsibility for the emerging situation. He also said that the European armed forces would have to defend the northern coast of Libya.
With regard to NGOs, NGOs, the head of government said that Italy is now facing what Hungary is doing since 2015: these international networks when the main route of migration to the Balkans was the same as in Italy. These organizations are financed by György Soros, supporting illegal border crossings, criminals and terrorists – said Viktor Orbán, who said that these “obvious facts” were not only recognized by the Hungarian leftist press and by György Soros, “persistent” Hungarians.
The Prime Minister expects that more and more people will reject the Soros plans, “we are waiting for the next member of our club for Italy”.
Hungary is a Christian country belonging to Europe
With regard to the fact that Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, made a parallel between today’s migration situation and the 1956 Hungarian refugee wave, the Prime Minister reacted: in 1956, Western European governments would have failed to say that Hungarians did not They belong here culturally. Hungary is a Christian country belonging to Europe and who would deny this fact either now or before, “could bear the mark of assassin on his forehead,” he said.
When the Hungarians had to flee, no one had crossed the borders, but, accepting the instructions of the border guards, “went well to the refugee camps in Austria”, where they had been staggered for years before their distribution. “But getting started, firing the fences …, crossing the borders, openly announcing that they are in violation of European and national law and telling where they want to go and nobody can stop them, back in 1956, It was not like that, “he explained.
Speaking of Donald Trump’s visit to Warsaw last night, the Prime Minister said it was important that the US president decided to speak his first serious public speaking speech in Central Europe in the Polish capital.
He also pointed out that the United States and Central Europe are in a position of convergence in migration: borders must be protected, migrants must be arrested.
On the subject of energy policy, it drew attention to the rivalry that stems from the United States and Russia’s desire to sell gas in Europe. Hungary as a buyer can access both American and Russian gas, and if there is competition, buyers get cheaper for the goods, so “to compete for the money that sells gas in Europe, we will buy the cheapest,” he said.
Viktor Orbán’s statement by Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern on the divisions of the Visegrád Four (V4) commented: it is never lucky if in politics people blend their desires with reality. He understands that Austrians are hurt that they are not involved in V4 cooperation, “anyway, such an unrelated country is Austria,” which, though a gifted state – as it is high in living standards – but “in the foreign policy sense”.“It is not worth our Austrian friends to hope to break the unity of V4,” he said.
Next week, starting with wet water, he said: Hungary has never organized such an event, it is a test of strength, “we look at what we are capable of”. He highlighted the developments in Budapest related to the Budapest – such as the Margaret Island, as well as the refurbishment of swimming pools and flood protection investments – which could hardly have been possible without a sport event or at least not in two years.
DAVAO, Philippines — When a warrant was issued for the arrest of 19 police officers implicated in the murder of Rolando Espinosa Sr., a town mayor accused of drug crimes in the Visayas region of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte scoffed.
“I can’t leave these officers behind,” Duterte said. “If they are convicted? No problem. They can call me and say they have been convicted, and I’ll tell the judge to pardon them all. … Any policeman or military man charged [with] killing those bastards, they will have my protection. You can charge them with anything.”
Since Duterte launched his “war on drugs” after taking office almost a year ago, he has repeatedly offered protection to police and vigilantes who have murdered thousands of suspected drug users and dealers.
But the Philippines’ culture of impunity toward vigilantism — even celebration of it — stretches back far beyond Duterte, and the United States is a lot more implicated in it than it claims. Today’s drug vigilantes are descendants of Cold War civilian groups that hunted down communist rebels, with the likely assistance of Washington.
Today, the godfather of Filipino vigilantism lives in relative obscurity. Franco Calida no longer arms civilians to hunt down communist rebels. He has removed the 1986 Cobra movie poster that hung behind his office desk, showing Sylvester Stallone brandishing a Jatimatic submachine gun under the caption, “Crime is a disease. Meet the cure.” It’s been replaced by a picture of him meeting Mother Teresa.
The 75-year-old retired general is now the vice mayor of Hagonoy, a provincial southern town. Calida is nostalgic as he parades newspaper clippings from the 1980s, peering at them through his glasses as he recalls all the foreign journalists who used to come to him for interviews. He lays out old photographs, pointing out names like a grandfather introducing his grandson to long-dead relatives.
‘A dose of their own medicine’
Both Calida and Duterte made their names in Davao, the main city of the southern Philippines — and a killing field in the early 1980s. Communist rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA) controlled most of the city, extorting “revolutionary taxes” from residents and indiscriminately killing police officers to obtain their guns.
The NPA was founded in 1969 as an armed faction of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Landless peasants and others angered by government corruption and lingering American colonial influence began a campaign of guerrilla warfare to topple the central government and recover land stolen by powerful landlords and oligarchs. Although confined to the hinterlands in the beginning, the NPA quickly grew and set its sights on Manila, the capital.
Davao became a laboratory for the NPA’s urban warfare methods. The NPA formed hit squads called “sparrow units” to assassinate policemen, soldiers, suspected informants, and other foes. Their name came from their ability to move swiftly and strike precisely. The NPA also enforced strict rules against lumpin, a local term used to describe activities it considered undisciplined, such as gambling, prostitution, and drinking alcohol. Soon the city was known as the murder capital of the Philippines.
By 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos perceived the threat to be so imminent that he declared nationwide martial law. Despite Marcos’s attempts, the NPA only increased in strength, assassinating members of state security forces and bombing government buildings. Marcos used this opportunity to consolidate power and deploy the army to target supposed communists and stifle political dissent. Abuses by the military further invigorated the rebels.
By 1986, the people of Davao had had enough and decided to organize their own resistance. The anti-communist movement they formed was called Alsa Masa, meaning “masses arise” in Filipino.
The origins of Alsa Masa aren’t exactly clear. One version points to a tire repairman in the squatter district of Agdao named Rolando Cagay, a former communist sympathizer who had become disillusioned with the NPA’s terror tactics. In April 1986, Cagay sought revenge for the death of one of his friends and called on the people in his community to rise up against the communists. Three months later, Cagay says, Lt. Col. Franco Calida would come to Davao as the city’s newly appointed military commander and offer support for the movement.
Franco Calida, 75, the mastermind behind Alsa Masa, is currently the Vice-Mayor of Hagonoy, a small, provincial town in the south of the Philippines. (Photo Credit: BRENNAN WEISS)
Calida, however, rebuts that story. He says he could sense the growing anti-NPA fervor when he came to Davao in July 1986 and used Cagay to recruit civilians for a genuine people’s movement against the communists.
“When I organized Alsa Masa, I was thinking that it should not be a military project actually,” Calida told me. “I thought we had to look for a civilian and place him there as a leader. I was telling [Cagay] what to do.”
It’s likely, however, that there is some truth to both versions. What’s clear is that Calida, with funds from the local government, provided eager civilians with guns to defend themselves and threatened rebels with surrender or death. He organized pulong-pulong, community meetings in which he would hand out anti-communist propaganda. Calida says Delfin Lorenzana, then a commander of the Army’s 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion, often accompanied him during these meetings. Today, Lorenzana is the secretary of defense, a member of Duterte’s cabinet, and a loyal ally in the war on drugs.
“The only way to beat the communists was to give them a dose of their own medicine,” Calida told me.
However Alsa Masa started, its image as a movement of the masses was effective propaganda. Calida relied on Jun Pala, a local radio commentator, to intimidate dissenters and threaten NPA members live on air. People in Davao were told that if they didn’t join the movement, they would be considered communists. (Years later, Pala would become highly critical of Duterte, then the mayor of Davao. He was assassinated in 2003, allegedly under Duterte’s orders.) Initially, Alsa Masa was “more closely supervised and substantially less abusive” than the vigilante groups it would later inspire, but its activities still “included harshly coercive practices and several instances of extrajudicial execution,” according to Ronald May’s 1992 account of the group.
The fact that gun-toting civilians openly threatened to kill suspected enemies — and that military and government officials sanctioned such behavior — made Alsa Masa a unique and unprecedented force in the Philippines.
As Calida ramped up anti-communist rhetoric, issuing guns to civilians and empowering them to hunt down rebels with impunity, President Corazon Aquino appeared willing to make compromises with the NPA. Early in her presidency in 1986, she ordered the release of hundreds of political prisoners, pursued peace negotiations, and even offered amnesty to rebels. Later, however, she would take a much more hard-line approach — with, Filipino activists allege, the covert backing of the U.S. military.
Fmr. General John Singlaub at a press conference in Washington, D.C. in 1986. (Photo credit: Getty Images)
The American connection
Retired U.S. Gen. John Singlaub, who ran covert anti-communist operations in Vietnam and provided aid to the Nicaraguan contras, caused a flurry of speculation when he arrived in Manila in 1986. He was officially in the country as a private citizen hunting for the famed Yamashita treasure supposedly left behind by the Japanese during World War II, but many Filipinos believed he was actually organizing support for Alsa Masa and trying to persuade the Aquino administration to take a tougher stance against the communists.
Singlaub held private meetings with high-level officials in Manila and Mindanao. Among them was Calida, who was no stranger to counterinsurgency operations. He had spent a year in the United States training at Fort Lee in Virginia and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where one of his courses included a unit on counterinsurgency warfare.
U.S. Gen. Robert Schweitzer and Col. Alexander McColl, fresh from counterinsurgency operations in Central America, visited the Philippines at the same time as Singlaub’s visit, according to archives at Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, a human rights group in Metro Manila. Ray Cline, a former CIA analyst, often accompanied Singlaub.
Stephen Solarz, then a Democratic congressman from New York, even paid a visit to Davao. After meeting Cagay (nicknamed Boy Ponsa), Solarz gave the Alsa Masa recruiter his business card and scribbled a message of praise: “To Boy — A great and courageous friend of freedom!”
There is no conclusive evidence linking these officials to the formation of Alsa Masa or U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in the Philippines. But from Vietnam to Afghanistan, Angola to Nicaragua, the United States had already been involved in numerous Cold War-era anti-communist operations. If the United States was involved, it wouldn’t have been the first time the Americans ran counterinsurgency operations in the Philippines. A few years after World War II, U.S. intelligence officers helped the Philippine government fight the Hukbalahap, a communist guerrilla army originally formed to counter colonial Japan.
A message of praise left for Rolando Cagay (alias Boy Ponsa), by Stephen Solarz, then a Democratic congressman from New York, during his visit to Davao in the late 1980s. (Photo Credit: BRENNAN WEISS)
At the time of the visits by various American officials, Aquino began to embrace tougher measures against the communists. She scrapped her plans for reconciliation and called for increased military action. Alsa Masa increasingly reflected the American low-intensity conflict approach to insurgency warfare — a strategy the United States had used to suppress previous uprisings in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Central America.
Aquino would later fly to Davao to give the ultimate endorsement of Alsa Masa, praising the group for being “the example in our fight against communism.”
Aquino’s legitimation of vigilante violence had dire consequences. Shortly after her visit, death squads inspired by Alsa Masa sprung up around the country, freely roaming the Philippine countryside, committing abuses, and killing with impunity. Not even the central government could control their spread.
“Tolerating or encouraging paramilitaries may initially seem like a useful stopgap measure against an otherwise unbeatable enemy, but these groups can quickly grow strong and weaken the state from within, so that it becomes extremely difficult to eradicate or even restrain them later on,” Benjamin Lessing, a professor at the University of Chicago who studies armed conflict mostly in Latin America, wrote to Foreign Policy in an email.
Groups like Tadtad, Pulahan, and Nakasaka were especially brutal and followed extreme religious rituals. They often beheaded NPA suspects and mutilated their slain bodies. Sometimes they would even practice cannibalism or drink the blood of their victims.
Local political dynasties in the Philippines have long controlled entire villages and towns, and still do. The central government’s acceptance of vigilantism in the 1980s played into the hands of these powerful families, which used vigilantes as private armies to keep power. The consequences of this kind of dynastic politics were underscored in 2009, when armed men connected to a prominent political family in Maguindanao killed 58 people, including journalists and civilians, to prevent an opposing political family from filing papers to challenge its rule in upcoming local elections.
By mid-1987, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines tallied at least 50 vigilante groups nationwide. Extrajudicial killings, massacres, forced disappearances, and destruction of property were widespread. Although Alsa Masa gradually disbanded as the communist threat died down in Davao in the early 1990s, the culture of violence would remain.
Later that decade, a death squad would emerge under Duterte’s watch as mayor of Davao. The Davao Death Squad focused on eliminating street crime and illegal drugs and used Alsa Masa-style intimidation tactics as a sort of social cleansing. Members of the group — allegedly paid and directed by Duterte — did not openly admit involvement like those in Alsa Masa, but they were just as brutal.
Approval for the present drug war is remarkably high at 78 percent, according to a survey conducted in April. Like Alsa Masa, it began in Davao with Duterte’s death squads. Although the group was responsible for more than 1,400 extrajudicial murders of criminals, street children, drug addicts, and political opponents, it was widely accepted. At least the streets are safer, supporters would say.
Today, Calida is a staunch defender of Duterte’s drug war, although he denies that the government endorses extrajudicial killings and calls for those who commit crimes to be prosecuted. Violence is not the solution to drugs, he says.
“It was a different situation in Davao before. Alsa Masa fought the NPA because it was a war. They used violence against the people, killing innocent people,” Calida said.
But inside a culture that embraces vigilantism, the lines of war are blurred. A society that accepts vigilantism “strengthens the hand of leaders, who can then choose between state and extra-state coercive apparatuses without worrying too much about being exposed as having supported illegal armed groups,” Lessing wrote. Like the NPAs, drugs are killing people, too. Duterte, after all, says they’re destroying the country.
Cagay, who allegedly began the Alsa Masa movement, agrees. Now the captain of Barangay (the Filipino equivalent of a subdivision or village) Leon Garcia in Davao, the community’s highest-elected official, Cagay is eager to tell me stories from the 1980s and makes unabashed references to his experiences threatening communists. But these days, his focus is on the scourge of drugs.
Rolando Cagay shows off photos in Davao in April from his days as one of the most prominent members, or as he claims, the founder, of Alsa Masa. (Photo Credit: BRENNAN WEISS)
“Violent solutions could be good in eliminating some problems like drugs because if you’re an abuser, you’re already insane,” Cagay said. “These people shouldn’t be given a chance to live.”
For many people of Cagay’s generation, extrajudicial violence is not inherently wrong, but a legitimate way to fight a greater evil. “This is a population [in Davao] that’s used to the culture of violence and killings,” said John Bengan, a professor in the department of humanities at the University of the Philippines Mindanao.
Davao has been subject to insurgencies, bombings, and high levels of homicide and crime. If violence is used to address such problems, people will generally support it, even if it risks unleashing an entirely new dilemma. Such thinking paved the way for Alsa Masa in the 1980s. Today, it fuels support for the drug war. “People are saying they support [Duterte] because for the first time you can walk in the streets without being bothered by a lot of criminals,” said John Castriciones, undersecretary for operations at the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
But as Duterte threatens to expand martial law nationwide, such an acceptance of violence could have even more devastating implications. After clashes broke out between Islamist rebels and the Philippine military in Marawi City in May, Duterte declared martial law in the whole of Mindanao. He has since proposed extending it to other areas should there be a “spillover” of violence, triggering fears of a resurgence of widespread human rights abuses.
Meanwhile, people in Davao remain calm. They’ve been through this before.
“We’ve seen the worst,” said Stella Estremera, the editor in chief of the Sun Star newspaper in Davao. “We know what it takes for the city to be livable.”
The Chinese troops, extending the Indian logic which permits Indian troops to enter disputed area of Doklam, will be able to step into the Indian side of Kashmir.
The Chinese experts are blaming India of entering the area disputed by Bhutan and China. In a response to China who is making efforts to construct a road in Doklam, which connects Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet.
Long Xingchun, director of the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University, stated that if India was approached to defend Bhutan’s territory then it will be limited only to undisputed zones. He further stated that applying India’s logic, if Pakistan requests then a third country’s army can enter the disputed area of India and Pakistan.
As the West has huge business dealings with China, Beijing can make the Doklam controversy international as western countries will support China.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that the future of Syria and its president lies in the hands of the Syrian people, not the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“The US Secretary of State is not a citizen of Syria and has no right to talk about its future and the fate of its president. This shall only be decided by the Syrian people”, Putin was heard saying during a press conference of the G20 summit in Hamburg.
He stressed that the US stance towards Syria has not drastically changed, although it has become more pragmatic, adding that the United States also played a certain role in decline of violence in the country.
He then spoke about a positive understanding on the issue of reaching a ceasefire agreement in the southwest of Syria and invited his Jordanian and Israeli partners to cooperate, pointing out that Syrian territorial integrity has to be preserved at all costs.
He also revealed that Russia maintains contacts with several Kurdish factions in Syria, despite not having that close relations with these factions as US does, noting that Russia stands on preserving Syria’s unity and territorial integrity, which makes its position on the Kurdish a bit different than that of the US.
On the issue of settlement of the Syrian crisis, Putin said Russia will continue with its policy of restoring peace and stability to the country and will keep cooperating with its Syrian, Iranian and Turkish partners, noting that the Syrian issue has been thoroughly discussed with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the summit.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, center, shakes hands with army officers upon his arrival in Mosul to declare victory over ISIS in the city on Sunday, July 9, 2017. Iraqi Prime Minister’s Press Office / AFP – Getty Images
Iraq PM Abadi Arrives in Mosul to Declare
‘Victory’ over ISIS
BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has arrived in Mosul to declare victory over ISIS in the city, his office said.
Small pockets of fighting were still ongoing near the Tigris river, but the militants are expected to be defeated, a spokesman told NBC News.
“The commander in chief of the armed forces (Prime Minister) Haider al-Abadi arrived in the liberated city of Mosul and congratulated the heroic fighters and the Iraqi people for the great victory,” said a statement from his office.
If you find this statement antisemitic, if you disagree with the facts and statistics that identify American Jews as heavily dominating or fully controlling American Media, Banking, the Judiciary and American Culture (Hollywood/Education/Book Publishing) – controlling through the Jewish lobby our Congress, the Senate, the Pentagon, Policing and Intelligence Agencies as well – if you are still in denial of the above facts, then this article is not for you. I advise you therefore to go fuck yourself as far away from here as possible. The above facts are not up for debate, they are easily verifiable and by now common knowledge even among the uninformed, as evidenced a-plenty by the incessant chatter on this subject on local and worldwide Social Media outlets.
What is up for debate, however, is how much longer will the American masses remain asleep to the biggest threat of all to our nation by Jewish influence and caprice. Will Americans sleep right through the destruction of the First Amendment at the corrosive hands of American Jews seeking to silence criticism of everything Jewish and Israel because the cat is now out of the bag on Social Media: an unruly platform that cannot be controlled without a fisty dictatorship? Will the American masses freely and passively give up their fundamental right to free speech to appease the tyranny of the Jewish minority? Or is it that Americans under the reign of Trump are too distracted by the hostilities and divisions of Identitarian Politics to even notice this? (Fashionable Identity Politics that’s been introduced, no less, by Jews and Jew-centric agents into our current political zeitgeist). Are American masses really that unattentive and absent-minded to even note that the pernicious Jews are fast making it a crime to speak ill of the self-styled, self-proclaimed Chosenites in any form or measure right here in the United States, the land of freedom itself? Are Gentile citizens even aware of the aggressive Jewish campaign seeking censorship of their Internet Free Speech that’s already currently gaining traction in our congress – as indeed it has already successfully done so in the UK parliament?
Instead of writing the long list of what Global Jewry are currently endeavoring on behalf of their headquarters in Tel Aviv, I’d like to refer you here to Alison Weir’s latest epic article on the nefarious moves that the Jews in DC are making towards criminalizing any negative speech regarding Jews and Israel, globally, not just Continentaly.
Yes, Jewish power exists. It is not a figment of a twisted imagination nor the delusion of a tin-hatter high on drugs. It is simply so. Jewish power exists. In glaring abundance. Therefore it must be rationally examined and critiqued as one would any other brand of dominant power. Jewish power is not exempt from thorough investigation, cynical or otherwise. Why should it be? After all, openly examining and analyzing power is the hallmark of a sanguine democracy.
In a country where flag-burning and unfettered criticism of the President is part and parcel of the First Amendment, why is it that criticism of Israel and questioning its history and even its ‘right to exist’ is deemed highly immoral, socially criminal and utterly unacceptable? This is definitely not the democracy that Americans have died and live for. Yet, this is exactly what has been happening for quite some time and not a pip squeak of objection about this from anyone on Capitol Hill has been heard – not one politician has defended the First Amendment in the face of the Jewish Lobby. Curiously too, not many voters have demanded that their sacred right to Free Speech be protected by their Representatives in DC. Begs the question here: is it the enduring Jewish mass-brainwash of Americans, or is it American mass low self-esteem that allows their resolve and dignity to be so downtrodden under the boot of Jewish cultural terrorism?
Perhaps it’s a combination of both.
Yet, lately, where politicians have failed to protect Free Speech, it is notable that a growing number of citizens themselves are countering the Jewish assault on Free Speech by speaking even louder and more frequently about it on Social Media. Fortunately, they too are gaining traction. We are seeing an increasing number of Americans from a vast spectrum of ethnicity, age, class and religion bypassing the Jew brainwash despite it having deluged the American psyche in all areas of American life for decades. A quick and cursory view of Social Media clearly indicates Jews are not popular on Social Media: Social Media being the platform that provides the most uncensored freedom of speech. Witless Jewish leaders have noted this and are now therefore hyper-aggressively attempting to censor the Internet to protect the so-called sensitivities of their tyrannical minority – even if it means massacring the most vitally important Amendment in our constitution: the First Amendment.
These American citizen critics of Jews are not necessarily pro Palestinian – most don’t even care what goes on in Occupied Palestine. They are not KKK members, though undoubtedly a small minority are. These American rebels are patriots resisting the covert occupation of their minds as well as their nation by a fifth column that answers to a foreign country. This rebellion is not about religion or class, it is a genuine rejection of tyranny under any guise. If the Buddhists were doing the same to our country as the Jews currently are, these patriots would be just as staunchly against the Buddhists.
Curiously, calling these American rebels antisemitic, as the Jewish Internet Army is so fond of doing, appears to be having little to no effect – might as well be hitting these rebels on the head with a wet noodle. The holocaust serum does not seem to be working on a growing chunk of American Gentiles the way it used to – hence the current focused Jewish activism on suppression, censorship and criminalization of their critics on Social Media.
Instead of debating Gentile criticism of Israel and winning their case thusly, Jews instantly knee-jerk towards emotional smears and tyrannical purging of opposing ideas. Why is that?! Time and again they do this. This patterned and unpleasant behaviorism certainly creates plenty of room for doubt regarding their intentions and appreciations of true American values, especially the values treasured and enshrined in the First Amendment. Perhaps they are not aware what history has shown us plenty: attempting to crush political freedom of thought and intellectual liberty eventually leads to revolt, often violent.
The colonial Brits controlled the Chinese masses by numbing them with opium, encouraging and making it available in every nook and cranny of Chinese life. They controlled the humongous Chinese population through the power of ‘dreaming’: through fantastical opium dreams, one could say. The Jews in America, on the other hand, have chosen a different route: that of the emotion of ‘fear’. Incessant fear. Fear being the most powerful mind-trap, virtually impossible to shake off once it takes a hold. Fear, being an emotion that especially cancels out the ability to rationalize or hold steady one’s legs: virtually no different in effect than how alcohol effects perception and body. To impose Jewish taboos, therefore, the Jews have opted to booze up the masses with fear; aggressively encouraging and promoting the politics of fear on a daily basis. And to their credit, utilizing ‘fear’ has shown great success for quite some time.
But, then the Internet came along… and never before has there been such an explosion of shared information and uncensored ideas in human history.
No doubt the advent of the internet and the deluge of information has Global Jewry in a panic. In the past, they have relied on the MSM, on Jew-centric cultural gatekeepers and compromised politicians to keep the Jewish narrative dominant. But the internet and the profound popularity of Social Media platforms have thrown a spanner in the Jewish brainwash works. So now they are vigorously working to shred the sacred First Amendment because a minority refuses to debate in good-faith other opposing points of view. It appears that Jews would rather suppress than submit their evidence and case for inspection. This is the height of intellectual cowardice.
This abhorrent, regressive abnormality must stop – must be stopped.
Did we fight communism for decades at great loss in blood, treasure and soul just to have Jews take over all major aspects of American life and censor our free speech as the commies would have surely done if they’d won the war and occupied the US?
We are literally on the threshold of Jewish Orwellian control of information, criminalizing all cynicism and criticism of their narrative. Of course Jews have a protected right to their world view, and so it should be; but they have no right to impose their view on others, especially through corruption and political gangsterism. No minority has this right, regardless of how ‘superior’ they may perceive themselves to be.
The immense benefits of The Golden age of Enlightenment in the Western hemisphere and all the great cultural literature that has been written and read for the purpose of liberating the human mind, and especially for the purpose of understanding and celebrating the complex emotions of the individual: these are all currently under attack by organized Jewry. Who would have thunk that some 70 years after the holocaust and WW2, our freedom of thought would be endangered to this extent in the 21st century by the ‘rescued’ Jews themselves? Yet here we are….
Oh come on, America! Your taxes and soldiers used for the service of Israel is one thing, but your freedom of speech is utterly and absolutely non-negotiable! It is unconscionable, soulless treason to give this freedom up for anything or anybody’s sake! It is both unconstitutional and highly immoral for a tyrannical minority to subvert and dictate the boundaries of discourse to the general masses.
I encourage my fellow citizens and all lovers of freedom and democracy (warts and all) to call a spade a spade: the Jewish menace and criminal intentions towards the First Amendment must be confronted loud and clear – and often. This is the only way to preserve our shared national liberty, and indeed our intimate, personal dignity.
The Middle East. Could there be a more perilous place on Earth, including North Korea? Not likely. The planet’s two leading nuclear-armed powers backing battling proxies amply supplied with conventional weapons; terror groups splitting and spreading; religious-sectarian wars threatening amid a plethora of ongoing armed hostilities stretching from Syria to Iraq to Yemen. And that was before Donald Trump and his team arrived on this chaotic scene. If there is one region where a single spark might start the fire that could engulf the globe, then welcome to the Middle East.
As for sparks, they are now in ample supply. At this moment, President Trump’s foreign-policy agenda is a package of contradictions threatening to reach a boiling point in the region. He has allied himself firmly with Saudi Arabia even when his secretaries of state and defense seem equivocal on the subject. In the process, he’s come to view a region he clearly knows little about through the Saudi royal family’s paranoid eyes, believing staunchly that Shia Iran is hellbent on controlling an Islamic world that is 85 percent Sunni.
Trump has never exactly been an admirer of Iran. His growing hostility toward Tehran (and that of the Iranophobic generals he’s appointed to key posts) has already led the US military to shoot down two Iranian-made armed drones as well as a Syrian jet in 12 days. This led Moscow to switch off the hotline between its operational center at the Khmeimim Air Base in Syria and al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, the major American military facility in the region. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, at the time the Syrian warplane was hit by the US fighter, Russia’s Aerospace Forces were carrying out missions in Syria’s airspace. “However,” it added, “the coalition command did not use the existing communication line…to prevent incidents in Syria’s airspace.”
At the same time, the incorrigibly contradictory Trump has not abandoned his wish to cultivate friendly relations with Russia, whose close economic and military ties with Iran date back to 1992. The danger inherent in the rich crop of contradictions in this muddle, and Trump’s fervent backing of the Saudis in their recent threats against neighboring Qatar, should be obvious to all except the narcissistic American president.
No one should be surprised by any of this once Trump inserted himself, tweets first, in the violent and crisis-ridden Middle East. After all, he possesses an extraordinary capacity to create his own reality. He seems to instinctively block out his failures, and rushes headlong to embrace anything that puts him in a positive light. Always a winner, never a loser. Such an approach seems to come easily to him, since he’s a man of tactics with a notoriously short attention span, which means he’s incapable of conceiving of an overarching strategy of a sort that would require concentration and the ability to hold diverse factors in mind simultaneously.
Given this, he has no problem contradicting himself or undermining aides working to find a more rational basis for his ever-changing stances and desires on matters of import. These problems are compounded by his inability to connect the dots in the very complex, volatile Middle East where wars are raging in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, or to assess how a move on one diplomatic or military front will impact a host of interconnected issues.
The Iran Factor
Let’s examine how complicated and potentially treacherous all of this is. In the early days of the Trump administration, an outline of its Middle Eastern strategy might have appeared something like this: The White House will pressure the Sunni Arab states to commit their cash and troops in a coordinated way to fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) under the leadership of the Pentagon. Along with this, the State Department and the Pentagon would explore ways to break Moscow’s military and diplomatic alliance with Tehran in a bid to end the Syrian conflict and bolster the fight against ISIS.
This reflected a lamentable ignorance of the growing strength of the ties between Russia and Iran, which share borders on the Caspian Sea. This relationship dates back to August 1992 when Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s government signed a contract to construct and operate two nuclear reactors near the Iranian city of Bushehr. The two countries then inked an agreement to build two new reactors at the Bushehr site, with an option for constructing six more at other locations later. These were part of a partnership agreement signed in November 2014 and overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Military cooperation between the Kremlin and Tehran can be traced back to 2007 when Iran inked a $900 million contract for five Russian S-300 long-range missile batteries. Because of United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program in 2010, those missile deliveries were suspended. However, three months before Tehran signed its landmark nuclear deal with six world powers, including Russia and the United States, in July 2015, Moscow started shipping an upgraded version of the S-300 missiles to Iran.
In September 2015, the Kremlin intervened militarily in Syria on the side of President Bashar al-Assad. By then, Iran had long been aiding the Syrian government with weapons and armed volunteers in its five-year-old civil war. This led Moscow and Tehran to begin sharing military planning over Syria.
Two months later, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Tehran for a summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum and met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who praised him for “neutralizing Washington’s plots.” Khamenei also suggested that economic relations between the two countries could “expand beyond the current level.” To the delight of Iranian leaders, Putin relaxed an export ban on nuclear equipment and technology to their country.
In August 2016, Tehran let the Kremlin use Hamadan Air Base in western Iran to launch air strikes on a wide range of targets in Syria, thereby enabling the Russian air force to cut flying time and increase payloads for its bombers and fighter jets. Just as Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, Moscow-based Sputnik Newsreported that Tehran was considering buying Russian fighter jets, while the two countries were discussing a joint venture that would allow Iran to manufacture Russian helicopters under license.
Next, let’s turn to Donald Trump. In his 2016 campaign run, Trump’s animus toward Iran sharpened only after he imbibed the apocalyptic and Islamophobic views of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn who would become his first national-security adviser. In Flynn’s fixation on the threat of “radical Islam,” with Iran as his linchpin nation in plots against the West, he conflated Iranian-backed Shia radicalism with Sunni jihadism. In the process, to fit his rabid thinking he ignored the theological and other differences between them.
Though Flynn was soon pushed out of the White House, President Trump mirrored his views in a speech at an anti-terrorism summit of 50 leaders from Arab and other Muslim countries during his May visit to Riyadh. In it he went on to lump Iran and the Sunni jihadis together as part of the same “evil” of terrorism.
On June 7, Trump’s claim visibly shattered. On that day, six ISIS gunmen and suicide bombers, dressed as veiled women, attacked the Iranian Parliament complex and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, killing at least 17 people and injuring more than 50. These attacks were in line with a video ISIS operatives in eastern Iraq had posted in Persian on their social-media networks three months earlier, containing the threat: “We will invade Iran and return it to Sunni control.”
Less than two weeks later, Iran fired six Zolfaghar ballistic missiles from its western provinces over Iraqi airspace at an ISIS command center and suicide car bomb–making facility near Syria’s eastern city of Deir el-Zour, 370 miles away. It coordinated the attack with Iraq, Syria, and Russia.
ISIS Targets Shias, Whether Iranian or Saudi
Within months of declaring its caliphate in Mosul, Iraq, in June 2014, ISIS sent operatives into Iran after gaining recruits among the predominantly Sunni ethnic Kurds of that country. And well before the Obama administration geared up to help the government in Baghdad fight ISIS, Iran had trained, funded, and armed Iraqi Shia militias to push back that group.
When it came to selecting targets in the Saudi kingdom, the ISIS branch there chose mosques of the Shia minority. The first of these suicide bombings occurred in May 2015 in al-Qadeeh village in Eastern Province during Friday prayers, and left at least 21 people dead and more than 80 injured. In an online statement, ISIS took credit, claiming that “the soldiers of the Caliphate” were responsible and forecasting “dark days ahead” for the Shias.
Recently, Shias in Saudi Arabia have been alarmed by the incendiary speeches of the preachers of the Wahhabi version of Islam, the official faith of the kingdom. This sub-sect is named after Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab (1703-1792), who vehemently opposed the Shia practice of praying at the shrines of their saints and calling on such holy spirits to intercede on their behalf with Allah. He was convinced that there should be no intermediaries between the believer and Allah, and praying to a human being, dead or alive, however holy, was tantamount to polytheism, and therefore un-Islamic. He and his followers began demolishing Shia shrines. Today’s ISIS ideologues agree with Wahhab’s views on this and denounce Shias as apostates or heretics who deserve to be killed.
Within Shia Islam, there are four sub-sects, depending on how many of the 12 Imams—or religious leaders of the highest rank—a Shiite recognizes as such. Those who recognize only the first Imam Ali are called Alawis or Alevis (and live mainly in Syria and Turkey); those who do so for the first five Imams are known as Zaidis (and live mostly in Yemen). The ones who recognize seven Imams are called Seveners or Ismailis and are scattered across the Muslim world; and those who recognize all 12 Imams, labeled Twelvers, inhabit Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Lebanon. Twelver Shias also believe that the last Imam, the infant Muhammad al-Qassim, who disappeared around 868 AD, will return someday as al-Mahdi, or the Messiah, to bring justice to the world.
It was this aspect of Iranian Shiism that the 29-year-old Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammad bin Salman, recently anointed Crown Prince and successor to his 81-year-old father King Salman, focused on in an interview with Dubai-based, Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV. When asked if he saw a possibility for direct talks with Iran, which he regards as the puppet-master of the Zaidi Houthi rebels in Yemen against whom he launched an American-backed war two years ago, he replied, “How can I come to an understanding with someone, or a regime, that has an anchoring belief built on an extremist ideology?”
Only a clueless person would bet on President Trump parsing Shia Islam or grasping the basic doctrine of Wahhabism. By contrast, nobody would lose a bet on him instantly tweeting the latest thought that crosses his restless mind on any Middle Eastern subject.
The Saudis Target Qatar
To complicate regional matters further, the first crisis of the post-Trump visit involved not Iran or Shias but Qatar, a tiny Sunni emirate adjoining Saudi Arabia. Its transgression in Saudi eyes? It has had the temerity to maintain normal relations with Iran across the Persian Gulf. It is worth recalling that during his trip to Riyadh, President Trump had met with Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the emir of Qatar. And before that meeting, he had even proudly bragged: “One of the things that we will discuss is the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the US,” adding, “for us, that means jobs and it also means, frankly, great security back here, which we want.”
A couple of weeks later, the Saudis suddenly severed Qatari diplomatic and economic ties, with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt following suit. Saudi royals were clearly hoping to engineer a regime change in that country as a step toward the destabilization of Iran. In response, Trump promptly rushed to tweet: “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!”
Soon after he accused Qatar of being a “funder of terror at a very high level” and, backing the Saudis to the hilt, demanded that the emirate should cut off that supposed cash flow. A rejoinder came from none other than the American ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, when she retweeted a US Treasury Department statement praising Qatar for cracking down on extremist financing.
In the ensuing welter of statements and rebuttals, as the Trump administration fell into disarray over policy on Qatar, one thing remained solid: the sale of “beautiful military equipment”—up to 72 Boeing F-15 fighter jets to that emirate for $21.1 billion, a deal approved by the Obama administration in November 2016. On June 15th, Defense Secretary James Mattis signed off on a $12 billion deal for the sale of up to 36 of those fighter jets. “Our militaries are like brothers,” declared a senior Qatari official in response. “America’s support for Qatar is deep-rooted and not easily influenced by political changes.”
In fact, military cooperation between Doha and Washington began in early 1992 in the wake of the First Gulf War. A decade later the Qatari-American military relationship received a dramatic upgrade when the Bush administration started preparing for its invasion of Iraq. Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler at the time, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, refused to let the Pentagon use the state-of-the-art operations facility at al-Kharj Air Base it had built up for air strikes against Iraq.
That was when Qatar’s emir came to Washington’s rescue. He allowed the Pentagon to transfer all its equipment from al-Kharj to al-Udeid Air Base, 25 miles southwest of Doha, the Qatari capital. It would become the US military’s key facility in the region. At the time of the latest crisis, al-Udeid held no less than 10,000 American troops and 100 Royal Air Force service personnel from Great Britain, equipped with 100 warplanes and drones. Air strikes on ISIS targets in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq are launched from this base.
In his rashness, Trump has imperiled all this, despite mediation efforts by Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. His enthusiastic backing of the Saudis in their perilous quest to take on Iran, which may end up destabilizing Saudi Arabia itself, also holds the possibility of armed conflict between the planet’s two leading nuclear powers.
The Saudis’ Big Problem With a Tiny Neighbor
Worse yet, policymakers in Washington failed to notice a fundamental flaw in the sectarian terms in which Saudi Arabia has framed its rivalry with Iran: a stark Sunni versus Shia clash. Tehran refuses to accept such a playbook. Unlike the Saudis, its leaders constantly emphasize the common faith of all Muslims. Every year, for instance, Iran observes Islamic Unity week, a holiday meant to bridge the gap between the two birthdays of Prophet Muhammad, one accepted by Sunni scholars and the other by Shia ones.
On this issue, Iran’s record speaks for itself. With cash and weapons, it has aided the Palestinian group Hamas, which is purely Sunni since there are no Shiites in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. It has maintained cordial relations with the transnational Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic movement that originated in 1928 in overwhelmingly Sunni Egypt. The Saudis, once its prime financial and ideological backer, fell out with the Brotherhood’s leadership in 1991 when they opposed the stationing of US troops on Saudi soil on the eve of the First Gulf War.
Since then, the Brotherhood has renounced violence. In June 2012, its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, won the first free and fair presidential election in Egyptian history. His overthrow by Egypt’s generals a year later was applauded by Riyadh, which promptly announced a $12 billion rescue package for the military regime. By contrast, Tehran condemned the military coup against the popularly elected president.
In March 2014, Saudi Arabia declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, something the United States has not yet done (though the Trump administration is engaged in a debate on the subject). Riyadh’s hostility toward the Brotherhood stems largely from the fact that its followers are anti-monarchical, believing that ultimate power lies with the people, not a dynasty. As a result, the Sunni Brotherhood has cordial relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which held parliamentary and presidential elections even during its eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s. In the latest presidential election, conducted on the eve of Trump’s arrival in Riyadh, the incumbent moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani won, decisively beating his conservative rival.
Riyadh has recently issued an aggressive list of demands on Qatar, including the closing of the influential Doha-based al-Jazeera media network, the limiting of its ties to Iran to trade alone, and the withdrawal of Turkish troops from a base on its territory. This ultimatum is set to fail on economic grounds alone. Qatar shares the North Dome-South Pars natural gas field with Iran. It is the largest field of its kind in the world. Its South Pars section, about a third of the total, lies in Iran’s territorial waters. The 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 provides Qatar with more than three-fifths of its gross domestic product (GDP) and most of its export income. With a population of 2.4 million, Qatar has a per capita GDP of $74,667, the highest in the world. Given all this, Doha cannot afford to be adversarial towards Tehran.
Qatar’s 12-year-old sovereign wealth fund, operating as the Qatar Investment Authority, has assets worth $335 billion. A third of these are invested in the emirate, but the bulk is scattered around the globe. It owns the Santa Monica–based film production company Miramax. It’s the fourth largest investor in US office space, mainly in New York and Los Angeles. It also owns London’s tallest building, the famed Harrods stores, and a quarter of the properties in the upscale Mayfair neighborhood of London. Its Paris Saint-Germain Football Club has won four French soccer league titles and it’s the largest shareholder in Germany’s Volkswagen AG. Little wonder that, in response to the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, no Western leader, aside from Trump, has sided with Riyadh, which has been stunned by this diplomatic setback.
Tellingly, Riyadh failed to persuade even the neighboring smaller monarchies of Kuwait and Oman, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, to follow its lead in boycotting Qatar. In addition, no matter what Trump tweets, Riyadh has a problem increasing its pressure on Doha because of the massive American military presence in that country, a crucial element in the Pentagon’s campaign against ISIS, among other things.
A Formula for Disaster
In retrospect, it’s clear that the four members of the anti-Qatar axis rushed into their drastic action without assessing that tiny country’s strengths, including the soft power exercised by its pan-Arab al-Jazeera satellite TV network. Unsurprisingly, their governments banned al-Jazeera broadcasts and websites and closed down its bureaus. Elsewhere in the Arab world, however, that popular outlet remains easily accessible.
As a littoral state, Qatar has a large port on the Persian Gulf. Within a week of the Riyadh-led boycott of Qatar, three ships, carrying 350 tons of fruit and vegetables, were set to leave the Iranian port of Dayyer for Doha, while five cargo planes from Iran, loaded with 450 tons of vegetables, had already landed in the Qatari capital.
So far nothing has turned out as the Saudis (or Trump) anticipated. Qatar is resisting and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has flatly refused to withdraw his troops from the emirate, increasing the Turkish military presence there instead.
From all this, an overarching picture emerges: that the impulsive Donald Trump has met his younger counterpart, Prince Muhammad bin Salman, equally impulsive and blind to even the medium-term consequences of his aggressive initiatives. In addition, in an autocratic monarchy without free speech, elections, or representative government (and with an abominable record on human rights violations), he lacks all checks and balances. The shared obsession of the prince and the president with Iran, which neither of them is able to comprehend in its complexity, has the potential for creating a true global crisis. If anything, the pressure on Trump in his imagined new world order is only increasing to do the Saudis one better and push a regime-change agenda in a big way when it comes to Iran. It’s a formula for disaster on a breathtaking scale.
THE four anti-terror Arab states have termed Qatar’s rejection of their demands as a diabolical and disrespecting effort at obscuring Doha’s support for terrorism.
In a joint statement issued early Friday, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt affirmed that obstinacy of the Qatari government and its rejection of the demands made by the four states reflect the extent to which it is linked to terrorist organizations and its continuous effort to sabotage and undermine security and stability in the Gulf and region and to harm the interests of the peoples of the region, including the Qatari people.
The statement was issued after the four countries received Qatar’s response from Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad.
Meanwhile, UAE Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted on Friday that Qatar’s acting as a victim will not obscure its support for terrorism, reported Al Arabiya.
The solution for Qatar crisis is not in New York or Washington but in Riyadh, he added.
Gargash said there were “conspiracies that were woven, tapes that were spread and bloodshed that was spilled that cannot be ignored.”
The following is the text of statement issued by the anti-terror Quartet:
“Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt affirm that the obstinacy of the Qatari government and their rejection to the demands made by the four states reflect the extent to which they are linked to terrorist organizations and their continuous effort to sabotage and undermine security and stability in the Gulf and the region and to harm the interests of the peoples of the region, including the Qatari people.
The four countries stress that the Qatari government has thwarted all diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, which confirms its intransigence and is rejection to any settlement, reflecting its intention to continue its policy aimed at destabilizing the security of the region.
The four countries also extend their thanks and appreciation to Sheikh Sabah for his efforts to resolve the crisis with the Qatari government .
The four countries also disapprove of the lack of tact and respect for the diplomatic principles expressed by the Qatari government toward the kuwaiti efforts in leaking the list of demands, in order to thwart its efforts and to return the crisis to the starting point in a clear disregard to all diplomatic norms that require respect for the role of the mediator, and an official response in the context of conventional diplomatic channels, not through the media.
The four states assert that the justified demands that were made were the result of the hostile Qatari government practices, and their continued transgression, particularly in regard to the Riyadh Agreement signed by Qatari in 2013, the Supplementary Agreement and its Executive Mechanism in 2014.
The four countries express their deep surprise over the unjustified refusal of the Qatari government to the list of legitimate and logical demands aimed at fighting terrorism, preventing in embrace and financing, combating extremism in all its forms for the sake of world peace, and safeguarding Arab and international security,
The Quartet confirms its commitment to the contents of Article 12 of the list, which states that. “All requests shall be approved within ten days from the date of their submission; otherwise they shall be null and void.
All political, economic and legal measures shall be taken in the form they deem appropriate in a manner that preserves their rights, security and stability and protects their interests from the hostile policy of the Qatari government.
The four countries also emphasize that the Qatari people are an integral part of the Gulf and Arab system.”
As the Middle Eastern States split between the partisans and adversaries of clericalism, Washington, Moscow and Beijing are negotiating a new deal. Thierry Meyssan evaluates the impact of this earthquake on the Palestinian, Iraqi-Syrian and Yemeni conflicts.
The diplomatic crisis around Qatar has frozen several regional conflicts and disguised the attempts at resolution by others. No-one knows when the curtain will rise, but it should reveal a region which has been profoundly transformed.
1— The Palestinian conflict
Since the expulsion of the majority of Palestinians from their homes (the Nakhba, 15 May 1948) and the refusal by the Arab peoples to accept this ethnic cleansing, only the separate Israëlo-Egyptian peace treaty of Camp David (1978) and the promise of a two-state solution at the Oslo agreements (1993) have partially modified the situation.
However, when the secret negotiations between Iran and the United States were revealed, Saudi Arabia and Israël decided to talk in their turn. After 17 months of secret meetings, an agreement was reached between the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques and the Jewish state . Israël made this a reality by the participation of Tsahal in the war in Yemen  and the transfer of tactical atomic bombs .
Let’s remember that this agreement anticipated the evolution of Saudi Arabia so that its society would remain Salafist and its institutions would become secular. It also anticipated the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan (which will be the subject of a referendum in September) and the exploitation of the gas fields in the « Empty Quarter » (which straddles Saudi Arabia and Yemen, thus explaining the currrent war) and those of Ogaden (thus explaining this week’s withdrawal of Qatari troops from the Djibouti frontier).
Finally, Egypt has decided to hand over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, as she had promised to do last year. By doing so, Riyadh has recognised de facto the Camp David agreements, which specifically manage the status of these territories. Israël confirms that it has obtained the Saudi guarantees.
Let us observe that the Egyptian decision was not taken under Saudi pressure (Riyadh had attempted, in vain, to block deliveries of oil and then a loan of 12 billion dollars), but because of the Gulf crisis. The Saudis have officialised their break with the Muslim Brotherhood, a decision which had been brewing since the transmission by President al-Sissi of documents attesting to a project for a coup d’etat by certain members of the Brotherhood against them. At first, Arabia believed it could differentiate between the good and bad Muslim Brothers. It had already accused Qatar of supporting the putschists, but the situation evolved peacefully on that occasion. As from now, Riyadh intends to fight the Brotherhood in its entirety, which will force it to review its position concerning Syria.
The transfer of these islands, which have been Egyptian since the London Convention of 1840, makes little sense other than to allow Saudi Arabia to implicitly recognise, 39 years after the fact, the Egypto-Israëli agreements of Camp David.
From its own side, Teheran has extended a welcome to the political directorate of Hamas (which is mainly composed of members of the Muslim Brotherhood) both in the name of solidarity with the Palestinian cause, and because it shares the same concept of political Islam.
The next step will be the etablishment of public commercial relations between Riyadh and Tel-Aviv, as announced in The Times of 17 June (Israëli companies will be permitted to work in Arabia, and the airline company El-Al will be allowed to use Saudi airspace) , then the recognition of the peace initiative of Prince Abdallah (Arab League, 2002) and the establishment of diplomatic relations (Prince Walid ben Talal would become their ambassador) .
This project could bring peace in Palestine (recognition of a Palestinian state and compensation for the refugees), in Lebanon (withrawal from the Shebaa farms), and in Syria (cessation of support for the jihadists and withdrawal from the Golan).
The Golan question will be particularly difficult because the Netanyahu administration – not without provocation – has declared its total annexation, while the United States and Russia reacted violently to the expulsion of the UN forces tasked with observing the disengagement (FNUOD) and its substitution by al-Qaïda . However, it is not impossible that during the war on Syria, Washington or Moscow may have promised Tel-Aviv that they would not modify the status quo in the Golan.
This project of general settlement reflects the method of businessmen Donald Trump and Jared Kushner – creating an economic situation which imposes political change. It will of necessity run into the opposition of the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas), and the triangle of political Islam – Iran, Qatar and Turkey.
2— The Iraqi-Syrian conflict
All of the region’s actors agree that today, Iraq and Syria form one single battlefield. But the Western powers, who are still clinging to the lies of the Bush Jr. administration (even though they admit the stupidity of the weapons of mass destruction charge against Saddam Hussein) and the romantic narrative of the « Arab Springs » (even though they admit that this movement never made any attempt to bring freedom, but on the contrary, to impose political Islam), stubbornly persist in considering them as separate.
We refer our readers to my book Right Before our Eyes for information on how the war began . Nonetheless, from the beginning of the Qatar crisis, the war in Iraq and Syria is limited to –
the fight against Daesh (Mossul and Rakka) and
the fight against Turkey (Baachiqa and Al-Bab) .
What is obvious for everyone in the region is that since the accession to power in Beijing by President Xi Jinping, bearer of the project for the two Silk Roads, Washington has been pushing for the creation of a « Sunnistan » straddling Iraq and Syria. In order to acheive this goal, it has financed, armed and supervised Daesh in order to cut the communication route between Beirut-Damascus-Baghdad-Teheran and Beijing.
For four months, the Trump administration has been studying and negotiating the ways in which they might modify these policies and conclude a partnership with Pekin instead of continuing the current confrontation .
While on the ground we see a series of contradictory events – since the beginning of the Qatar crisis, the Iraqi and Syrian armies have suddenly advanced. They have liberated the frontier territories previously held by Daesh and are now on the verge of establishing their junction (in other words, reconnecting the Silk Road). The two armies are now separated only by two hundred metres of land controlled illegally by the US army .
As for the combats in Southern Syria, they have miraculously come to a halt. A cease-fire has been uniltaerally proclaimed by Damascus in Deraa. In reality, Moscow and Washington have given the assurance to Tel-Aviv that Syria will only allow the deployment of Russian troops, and not the Iranians or the Lebanese Hezbollah.
To make a long story short, if the Pentagon follows the orders from the White House, most of the conflict should end. There would only remain the Turkish occupation of Iraq and Syria, on the model of the Turkish occupation of Cyprus, which the European Union finally accepted. The United States and Saudi Arabia, who were the enemies of Iraq and Syria, will once again become their allies.
3— The Yemeni conflict
The Yemenis could be the ones who pay for this current evolution. While it is apparent that Saudi Arabia entered the war in order to set up a government favourable to the joint exploitation of the oil fields of the « Empty Quarter », and for the personal glory of Prince Mohamed Ben Salman, it seems that the help given by Iran to the Houthis and to ex-President Saleh diverts the gaze of the Arab countries and the « international community » from the crimes for which they are responsible.
It’s a time for taking sides, and almost everyone has opted for Saudi Arabia and against Qatar and its Turkish and Iranian allies. What was positive in Palestine, Iraq and Syria proves to be negative in Yemen.
Since 5 June and the rupture of diplomatic relations between Riyadh and Doha, the chancelleries are all preparing for a possible war, even if Germany is the only country to have spoken of this publicly. This situation is all the more surprising because Qatar – and not Saudi Arabia – is the observer for NATO .
Resignations come one after the other in Doha, from the US ambassador Dana Shell Smith to the selector of the national football team Jorge Fossati. Not only have the states aligned with Riyadh broken off their commercial relationships with the emirate, but numerous companies without any particular links with the Gulf have done the same in the face of the risk of war. This is, for example, the case of COSCO, the largest Chinese maritime company.
In any case, and despite justified historical claims, it would seem impossible for Saudi Arabia to annex Qatar when it was opposed to the annexation of Kuwaït by Iraq for the same reasons. One rule has been imposed on the world since British decolonisation – no-one has the right to touch boundaries laid by London. The unique aim of this rule is to maintain the insoluble problems for the new independent states. In this way, London maintains de facto the perpetual dependency of these states on British rule. Indeed, the pending arrival of 43,000 Pakistani and Turkish soldiers to defend Qatar should reinforce its position.
HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — The United States and Russia have reached agreement on a cease-fire in southwest Syria, three U.S. officials said Friday as President Donald Trump held his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The deal marks a new level of involvement for the U.S. in trying to resolve Syria’s civil war. Although details about the agreement and how it will be implemented weren’t immediately available, the cease-fire is set to take effect Sunday at noon Damascus time, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the cease-fire publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Jordan and Israel also are part of the agreement, one of the officials said. The two U.S. allies both share a border with the southern part of Syria and have been concerned about violence from Syria’s civil war spilling over the border.
The deal is separate from “de-escalation zones” that were to be created under a deal brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran earlier this year. The U.S. was not a part of that deal. Follow-up talks this week in Astana, Kazakhstan, to finalize a cease-fire in those zones failed to reach agreement.
Previous cease-fires in Syria have collapsed or failed to reduce violence for long, and it was unclear whether this deal would be any better.
Earlier in the week, Syria’s military had said it was halting combat operations in the south of Syria for four days, in advance of a new round of Russia-sponsored talks in Astana. That move covered southern provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida. Syria’s government briefly extended that unilateral cease-fire, which is now set to expire Saturday — a day before the U.S. and Russian deal would take effect.
The new agreement to be announced Friday will be open-ended, one U.S. official said, describing it as part of broader U.S. discussions with Russia on trying to lower violence in the war-ravaged country. Officials said the U.S. and Russia were still working out the details as Trump and Putin concluded their more than two-hour meeting on Friday.
The U.S. and Russia have been backing opposing sides in Syria’s war, with Moscow supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad and Washington supporting rebels who have been fighting Assad. Both the U.S. and Russia oppose the Islamic State group in Syria.
The U.S. has been wary of letting Iran gain influence in Syria — a concern shared by Israel and Jordan, neither of which wants Iranian-aligned troops amassing near their territories. A U.S.-brokered deal could help the Trump administration retain more of a say over who fills the power vacuum left behind as the Islamic State is routed from additional territory in Syria.
Though U.S. and Russian officials had been discussing a potential deal for some time, it didn’t reach fruition until the run-up to Trump’s meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit in Germany, officials said.
Before Trump’s meeting with Putin — his first with the Russian leader — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled that Syria’s civil war would be high on the agenda. Tillerson said in a statement before departing for Germany for the meeting that the U.S. remained open to cooperating with Russia through “joint mechanisms” to lower violence in Syria, potentially including no-fly zones.
“If our two countries work together to establish stability on the ground, it will lay a foundation for progress on the settlement of Syria’s political future,” Tillerson said on Wednesday.
Moscow reacted angrily when the U.S. downed a Syrian jet last week after it dropped bombs near the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces conducting operations against the Islamic State group. Russia warned its military would track aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition as potential targets over Syria and suspended a hotline intended to avoid midair incidents.
Protesting MP claims deal violates Article 33 of Jordanian Constitution
By Suzanna Goussous
Activists protest against the gas deal with Israel in front of Parliament on Tuesday (Photo by Suzanna Goussous)
AMMAN — Jordanian activists on Tuesday decried “Parliament’s silence” over the gas deal with Israel which was signed by the state-owned National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) in September last year, arguing that the deal would “reduce Jordanian investments in the country that benefit the Jordanian youth”.
As MPs met in an extraordinary session, dozens of Jordanians from several political parties and blocs gathered in front of the Parliament to protest “Parliament’s silence” on the gas deal, which has seen postponement of discussions.
“Many investments can be implemented with the money from the gas deal. We could have provided Jordanian youths with many opportunities,” Hisham Bustani, director of the National Jordanian Campaign Against the Gas Agreement with the Zionist Entity, said.
Abdelmajeed Dandees, a member of Al Wihda Popular Party, said the demonstration was to condemn the role of MPs who did not deliver the “people’s message” regarding an issue of national importance.
“Today, we voice our anger towards this Parliament. This is part of a series of events against the gas deal and against promoting ties with Israel,” Dandees said.
The gas deal, if approved, will create further economic and political“burdens” for the people, the activist continued.
Mohammad Absi, head of the anti-normalisation campaign, said that, despite the previous Parliament’s rejection of the gas deal by a clear majority, the current Parliament “has been avoiding discussions of the consequences of approving the gas deal”.
“It is not enough anymore to deal with memorandums here and there. We demand a unified, clear answer. By being silent about the gas deal with Israel, we are mortgaging the country for 15 years,” he told The Jordan Times.
Absi added: “We have reached the point where some MPs view the gas deal as a normal contract and many also justify signing the deal with the Zionist entity. We have contacted many members, but have not yet received a clear response.”
The campaign has also been contacting the Parliamentary Energy Committee. Many committee members have stated they are personally against the gas deal and its conditions, Absi said, adding they hope the committee will deliver its disapproval of the treaty to Parliament.
MP Saleh Armouti (Amman, 3rd District), who joined the demonstration, said the gas deal violates Article 33 of the Jordanian Constitution.
The article states that no treaty that involves financial commitments to the state treasury, or public or private rights of Jordanians, shall be valid unless approved by the National Assembly. The article also states that under no circumstances shall any secret terms be contained in any agreement.
Armouti told The Jordan Times that “approving the gas deal signed with Israel serves Zionist policies in the region”.
Islah (Reform) Bloc submitted a proposal to discuss the gas deal in the extraordinary session held on Tuesday, among 15 other pieces of legislation.
He described people’s rejection of the deal as “valid”, since there are alternative energy sources from Aqaba and other areas in Jordan, as well as from Algeria and Qatar.
“Jordan imports gas from Aqaba to Egypt. We also have solar and wind energy sources. With the deal, we are funding the Zionist entity with $10 billion,” the MP told The Jordan Times, adding that “we will work towards the cancellation of this deal and the Wadi Araba Peace Treaty”.
Hanadi Dweik, of the Nationalistic Movement Party (Al Haraka Al Qawmiyyah), said MPs must not approve the deal, as it “makes the normalisation of ties more domestic and acceptable”.
NEPCO, however, previously stated that the gas deal will help save Jordan around $600 million per year.
Since Saddam Hussein’s Invasion of Kuwait, GCC states have collectively established a strong alliance with Israel. This alliance is currently focused on the destruction of Iran and the elimination of Iranian influence throughout the Middle East (and Central Asia). Both Israel and GCC countries are scared livid of the Iranian regime, its influence in their states and are therefore necessarily committed to this common goal. But this is a strategic mistake – for both GCC states and Israel. They have confused Iran’s regime with ordinary Iranians. Their beef is with the Mullahs NOT Iranians. This is a strategic blunder.
The Palestinian Factor
For decades Israel and the ‘whole’ Arab world were blood enemies. Arab league members provided over $250 Million in funds to support the Palestinians since the ‘60s, and successfully organized an embargo with their oil supplies in the 1970’s to place pressure on Israel (and its allies: US and Europe).
But, in 1990, there was a tidal shift in alliances. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Yasser Arafat (then PLO Chairman) came out and publicly supported Hussein; and Kuwait’s Palestinian population rose in support of the Iraqis during the invasion. And not long after the U.S. led liberation, the Kuwaitis expelled 450,000 Palestinians. The Palestinian population in these booming Persian “Gulf Arab” states has now dwindled by about 90% since 1990, replaced by Pakistanis and Filipinos.
Kuwait’s allies: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and other Persian Gulf Monarchs or Sheikhdoms or dictators (depending on your point of view) have rationalized that Palestinians were and still are a national security risk and should not be trusted – nor supported.
Payback against Saddam Hussein did not take long. Ironically, Saddam Hussein who was once supported to the tune of billions of dollars by these same states in his war with Iran was also in their cross hairs. And within a decade, or so the U.S. stationed itself in Qatar, and transported troops through Kuwait to decimate his regime. Hussein had not only failed to follow to destroy Iran, but had turned against them!
In politics it seems – the enemy of my enemy is my friend! In fact, the opening with Israel came on the heels of the Madrid Conference in 1991 that contributed to the countries’ ofﬁcial, rapprochement with Israel. Most of the ‘brokerage’ in these relationships has developed through close relations with Jewish organizations in the United States. There is now an odd sense of solidarity arising out of the knowledge that Iraqi Scud missiles had fallen on both Riyadh and Tel Aviv.
In 1994, the GCC canceled its boycott of companies and countries that maintained economic ties with Israel. In 2005 the same Gulf States announced normalization measures with Israel. The Bahraini foreign minister conﬁrmed that his country had decided to cancel the boycott of Israeli goods, and the Qatari foreign minister called on Arab nations “to respond positively to the step taken by Israel.” He noted that “full diplomatic relations between Qatar and Israel may be possible even before a comprehensive Israeli withdrawal from the territories.”
And while this decade long strategic shift was occurring, the British government sold its stake in BP basically to a combination of Jewish Bankers (Rothschilds Holdings 39%) and Gulf State Investment Organizations like for example the Kuwait Investment Organization (21.6% by 2005). BP now, is basically an arm of these states, while employing and banking primarily British executives and banks.
And Israel’s government, for its part is enabling Israeli companies to indirectly contribute to the security of these dictatorships through training of local armed forces and by offering advanced (homeland security-related) advanced products, as long as they are perceived not to harm Israel’s strategic competitive advantage. Israel already has access to markets in the Gulf; the boycott is not applied if the products do not carry an Israeli label.
Israel’s covert relations with the United Arab Emirates were partially exposed by the late-November 2010 leak of diplomatic cables by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks that uncovered the “secret and persistent dialogue” between the two countries.
There are numerous formal and informal visits between the nations (and with Turkey among the crowd). Whether or not there are formal relations, i.e. embassies, it’s very clear that there is a strong alliance in place. Israelis and Sheikhdoms are ONE.
The Iran Factor
Iran’s Mullahs have long been an adversary to these Arab dictators. It is not clear why? It is true that Shiites comprise the majority of the populations in most of this region – including Saudi Arabia’s oil rich Eastern provinces. Democratic reforms, in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain …you name it…would result in Shiite led majorities, just like Iraq. There is real fear in these ruling Arab elites when it comes to ‘democratic reforms’. But what exactly the Mullahs did to deserve this status is unclear? Yes, Iran did bomb Kuwaiti tankers – but that was during the war when Kuwait was exporting Iraqi oil…and Iraq had just bombed Iranian oil installations. And okay, there is a territorial dispute over islands in the Persian Gulf. So what??
What is strange for me is that there is frequent intermarriage, migration, bilingualism, and commerce between Iranians and many of these GCC states and citizens. Indeed besides the indigenous Shiite populations in the states around the Persian Gulf, there are over 400,000 Iranians residing in places like Dubai, roughly one third of its urban population…performing core functions in the area. Iranians, (the people of Iran), are a huge regional asset.
Despite all this, in recent years what has tied the Gulf states to Israel more than anything else is their ever-growing mutual fear of Iran. Israel today, represents the enemy of not only the Palestinians but also Iran’s Mullahs. An alliance between these “(Persian) Gulf Arab” states and Israel has been established with a clear objective of undermining Iranian influence and “suppressing” Palestinian ambitions.
According to Wikileaks published US State Department cable, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, repeatedly implored Washington to target the Iranian nuclear sites—in his words: to “cut off the head of the snake while there was still time.”
It is an open secret that these Gulf countries maintain contacts with Israel—mainly through the sharing of intelligence. In the summer of 2010 it was again reported (although the reliability of these claims is uncertain) that Saudi Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs V : 1 (2011) Arabia would allow Israeli warplanes to use its airspace in the event of an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. Israeli military gear was even delivered to Saudi Arabia in preparation for an eventual attack on Iran.
Sami al Faraj, president of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies and a consultant to Kuwait and other GCC states, said recently that the “GCC states have been engaged in consultations and intelligence exchange with Israel, particularly regarding the Iranian threat.” Indeed, in the eyes of Arab rulers of the Gulf, it may seem that Israel can be vital to Gulf security, as the US is now leaving Iraq and Afghanistan.
Containing Iran’s quest for what is viewed as a ‘hegemonic role’ in the Persian Gulf is the main concern of the Arab monarchies, committed as they are to the preservation of their regimes. After the Islamic Revolution, terror and subversion became Tehran’s primary means of enforcing its regional policy and boosting its inﬂuence. In most cases, as with the covert Iranian “sleeper cell” uncovered in Kuwait (with links to Bahrain) in April 2010, it was hard to prove Iranian involvement; thus, Iran can deny any connection to such activity, while maintaining open diplomatic relations with the Gulf states it is covertly targeting.
On the one hand, the Mullahs have conveyed that they see themselves as partners for all Gulf States. On the other, their actions have been hardly reassuring on the western side of the Gulf. Iran has questioned the legitimacy of regimes, explicitly threatened to shut the straits of Hormuz, and to target strategic facilities in the Gulf States. It has conducted ominous military maneuvers and played a negative role in events in Iraq and Yemen. Moreover, Iran has occupied what the GCC consider to be their land (Abu Musa and the Tunb Islands). The Mullahs even went so far as to declare Bahrain as the fourteenth district of Iran (reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s rhetoric regarding Kuwait).
For their part, the GCC governments recognize the difﬁculties facing the international community in stopping Iran on its way to nuclear weapons capability and want to avoid angering their increasingly powerful neighbor—and prefer to do what is necessary behind the scenes – indirectly if you will. Netenyahu’s brazen verbal attack on Iran is heralded by its ‘tacit allies’ and further amplified on Qatar’s Al Jazeera TV throughout the Middle East during peak viewing periods.
There is a genuine concern that an Iranian bomb will enable the Mullahs to set the future political, economic, and strategic agenda in the region. Similar concerns stem from the possible outcome of an Israeli and/or American military operation aimed at thwarting Iran’s nuclear capability, namely, a massive and widespread Iranian retaliation. Although GCC countries support a ‘comprehensive’ diplomatic solution to the crisis with Iran, they fear it will be at the expense of their interests and result in American recognition of Iran’s dominance in the Gulf.
Today’s Proxy Wars
In the absence of an overt war, Israel and its Arab allies have decided to fight Iran’s mullahs by proxy. The overall plan is to ‘contain’ Iran – i.e. surround Iran while ensuring Iran’s economy is held back with sanctioning. This is a systematic policy of weakening Iran and sucking Iranian blood. Meanwhile, of course they (and their surrogates) are running off with Iran’s treasure in the Caspian Sea and limiting Iranian oil and gas exports in favor of their own exports. In addition, sanctions have served to enable GCC countries to act as trading points for ‘sanction busting’ – reselling sanctioned goods to Iran at inflated prices and essentially profiting from Iran’s demise.
Interestingly, Israel and GCC states enjoy excellent relations with Azerbaijan. And BP, their joint prime investment vehicle, owns (and operates) the key oil pipeline across Azerbaijan and is the major operator of oil and gas platforms in the Caspian Sea (in what is actually Iranian water).
It is reported that Israel has a number of air bases inside Azerbaijan, with fighter jets ready for orders to attack Iran at any time. Azerbaijan now also is tacitly supporting Azeri separatists inside Iran.
GCC states have begun funding Al-Ahwazi separatists and Jundallah (Baluchi) separatists. While Israel too, has been funding Kurdish separatists.
But the clearest expression of this proxy effort is in Syria. I will grant you that the Syrian affair is much more than a proxy fight with Iran. Yes, both Israel and GCC states (like Qatar) have a clear objective of running major gas pipelines across Syria (and Lebanon too) to the Turkey to export their newly discovered resources. And yes, Turkey too has partnered with them and built the Nabucco pipeline to Europe with 40% excess capacity with this objective in mind.
What apparently started as a legitimate attempt to join the Arab spring and fight for democratic rights in Syria has transpired into a mercenary led ‘civil war’, with considerable entry of ‘foreign fighters’ in the fray. The Syrian government recently handed a list of names of citizens from 19 countries accused of joining Syria’s rebels: Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Chad, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, Yemen and Chechnya. Since Chechnya is not a country, but a republic of the Russian Federation, the list likely contains names of Russian citizens…too. According to CNN reports, the strangest part of all of these fighters is that Jabhat al-Nusra — the radical Islamic group that has become the opposition’s best fighting force. The lead author of a new analysis of the group, which is backed by al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), told CNN that al-Nusra now has 5,000 fighters and is willing to watch Syria burn to secure an al-Qaeda foothold in the region!
In July, Dutch photo journalist Jeroen Oerlemans and British photographer John Cantlie were captured and held hostage in Syria for a week by rebel militants. They claimed that several of their captors spoke English with recognizable regional British accents, like Birmingham and London. And in August, Syrian rebel commanders reportedly became concerned over the numbers of hardline Islamists entering Syria from other Muslim-majority countries.
Beyond these proxy wars, there is clear indication that a direct war may in fact be in the cards. This past year, both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have opened new pipelines bypassing the Strait of Hormuz. The new links more than double the total pipeline capacity bypassing the strait to 6.5m barrels a day, or about 40 per cent of the 17m b/d that transits Hormuz. GCC states are clearly preparing for a conflict, although their preparations are NOT yet complete. Interestingly, Iraq too has a pipeline across Saudi Arabia to al Muajiz on the Red Sea to deliver its oil and by pass the Persian Gulf. One fascinating fact is that Saudi Arabia’s Al Muajiz Port on the Red Sea was developed for a total shipping capacity of 10 Million barrels a day!
A Major Strategic Blunder
The problem with this complete strategic realignment is that core populations of these GCC states are inherently pan-Arabist. Which means that once the ‘people’ of these states figure out that there is an ‘overt’ realignment between their leaders and Israel, there is the potential for a massive back-clash domestically. This could be further fueled by natural ‘Arab Spring” type democratic yearnings among the populations of these GCC states – and not only might there be a massive shift in government in the GCC states, but Israel too risks losing partners that it has invested heavily in.
Secondly, an overt war with Iran would only accelerate the demise of these regimes – not sustain them. The deal so far with their suppressed populations has been to exchange economic gains for political gains. If war breaks out there will naturally be rationing and military drafts. This sort of instability will only make them further vulnerable.
Thirdly, I believe a calculation that makes Iran their enemy is fundamentally flawed. The Mullahs in Tehran do not represent Iran or Iranians. In fact the Mullahs in Iran are enemies of Iranians too. In fact most Iranians see the Mullahs as ‘Arabs’ i.e. imposed on Iran; and indeed many senior regime leaders were born in Iraq – not even Iran.
These sheikhs need to remember that Iran’s current role in the region is a derivative of wars ‘started’ by GCC states – not Iranian aggression. Remember, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran – with support, encouragement and financial backing from GCC states. The minutes of his meetings with King Fahd in Egypt is now public record. The loan balances Iraq had to GCC states is also public record that came out as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. You can’t hide it. And any insecurity these monarchs feel from the legitimate demands of their populations should NOT be confused with Iranian meddling. Iranians have become a scapegoat – when the real problems are elsewhere. Iranians did NOT put the Mullahs in power – the West did. That is public record too.
Fourthly, Iran (especially after the war with Iraq and two neighboring wars) has now developed a formidable defense establishment, and its own (in house) weapon systems. This strategic posture cold provoke an outright war, and just like the war with Iraq – there is a real possibility that the GCC states could come out on the short end of their own stick. After two years of a proxy war versus Iran in Syria, there is no clear conclusion. Assad remains in power. The joint Israeli/GCC/Turkey plan is to then extend the war to Lebanon and then Iran. But what if the GCC states get ‘stuck’ in Syria? Have they succeeded? Will the west come to the rescue again? Or let’s put it another way, is there a vital strategic interest in Syria that the U.S. must defend? Will the U.S. risk bankruptcy for Syria? I doubt it.
The truth is, that while this all seemed like a good idea (and everyone was angry at Saddam Hussein the Palestinians) it may not be a great idea today. Once one domino starts to fall through a public uprising for democracy – with ‘no’ push from Iran (May I add, there are many radical actors in the Middle East – Hamas, Hizbullah, al Qaeda, you name it…) – in any single one of these GCC countries, all these Sheikhs, or Monarchs or Dictators could all fall. This is something they need to learn from the former “Shah of Iran” – who had grandiose strategic ideas but did not establish a strong domestic political infrastructure that was vitally necessary to carry out his ambitions. The Sheikhs need to understand that they can do NOTHING without the heartfelt support of their citizens.
These GCC countries need to understand what their core strategic interest is. Does Iran represent a strategic threat? If so, why? And does that mean that GCC states need to align with Israel?
I would argue that it is in the “world’s” national interest to topple the regime in Iran – but not do anything to alienate the people of Iran or cause division among Iranians. That to the extent GCC states can be aligned with Israel or indeed any other country (Indonesia, Brazil etc.) to topple the regime in Tehran – that this would a fundamental strategic win for everyone. But beyond that any permanent alliance with Israel will be counterproductive to their interests and stability. This is not meant as a negative statement about Israel, it’s just a strategic reality. Israel has nothing to offer these regimes except exposure to radical forces. (Look at who they are partnering with in Syria?) And in fact Qatar could have pumped its natural gas across Syria – even without a proxy war in Syria or the balkanization of Syria, or the death of 60,000 Syrians. When the dust settles on all this, it will not be pretty. There were other ways to bring democracy to Syria without arming these sorts of rebels and radicals.
In fact, the most vital strategic ally every GCC state can have is a transformed Iranian government – their neighbor – that can police the neighborhood with them and help them make democratic transitions without a great deal of pain. Petty fights over small deserted islands, or sectarian considerations should not distract quality strategic thinking. Iran can offer them a huge market, can offer them regional stability, and also access to even bigger markets in Central Asia. Israel on the other hand is a strategic liability. So what if the Jewish lobby in Europe or the U.S. is helping them get access to cable TV distribution, and helping them buy soccer (football) teams – how is that of value to the people (the actual citizens) of GCC states? The Sheikhs are being shaked down for cash, buying over-priced assets. There is no real strategic, sustainable gain in getting VIP seats to major games.
It is true that before the West toppled the Shah, Britain persuaded America to align strategically with it and invest in Alaskan Oil while Britain exploited North Sea oil – both of which were expensive to extract, AND needed sustained high oil prices. Toppling the Shah also meant shutting off Iran’s exports for over 10 years! Today, America is being ‘pushed’ into becoming an energy ‘power house’ with net energy exports for the first time in over 30 years. But it is a mistake to believe that this will result in a strategic realignment. The Obama administration so far has refused to ‘play’ in Syria in concert with Israel, Turkey or the GCC. And the Obama administration is focused on ‘reducing imports’ NOT maximizing exports i.e. reducing America’s oil dependency. The GCC is mistaken if they believe “Saudi-Americanization” will shift U.S. policy. And if the GCC are really shrewd, they will notice that in fact the U.S. has been protecting Iran’s Mullahs – not undermining them…and vice-a-versa. Iran today lists Iraq and Afghanistan as major export clients (both dominated by the U.S. military, while apparently there are global sanctions on Iran). The Mullahs are an expression of U.S. foreign policy.
What do these Sheikhs really have to show for all the money they have invested in the West? Indeed, governments in the West view them as great candidates for hosing, and use all these opportunities to sell the Sheikhs billions of dollars of inflated priced arms – and junk government bonds to undermine their own domestic spending. They are being hosed. They are the ones being used…by Israel and the West!
And they have to face it, democratic yearnings in the region are unstoppable. The Mullahs will fall, and their dictatorships are at risk (and it is not because of Iran). These dictators can become Monarchs like the Queen of England – even if there are a ton of Catholics in Britain!
There is a better path to peace, stability and prosperity – they need to see it – but their strategic calculations are completely wrong.
On 23 June 2017, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, inaugurated the construction works for that section of the gas pipeline, Turkish Stream, passing through deep seas.
A decision was made to go ahead with this project when President Putin visited Turkey on 1 December 2014. Construction had been interrupted in August 2015 for tariff reasons, but in the context of the war in Syria, it should allow Russian gas to be delivered to Turkey. Parting from there, it could also serve as a transit for Russian gas to the European Union, replacing the plan for the South Stream pipeline, blocked by Brussels.
Estimated at six billion dollars, Project Turkish Stream provides for the construction of two pipelines with a capacity of delivering 15.75 billion m3 of gas every year. The first pipeline must be completed in 2018 and the second at the end of 2019.
Whilst President Putin stressed that this timetable should be adhered to, it is extremely rare that such works are completed so rapidly. This has only been possible due to the personal investment made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is thus seeking thus to free himself of US economic protection.
The conflict with Qatar is fundamentally about the possibility of democracy in the Arab world. That’s why Saudi and Trumpian autocrats are on the same side.
I’m in Crikey last Friday with a piece on the crisis over Qatar. I talk about some of the scary parallels with the First World War – my original title was “Sarajevo on the Gulf” – and I try to get at what Saudi Arabia and its allies are really on about:
When Saudi Arabia is accusing someone else of Islamic extremism, it’s pretty clear that something else is really going on. Qatar’s real sins, in the Saudis’ eyes, seem to be threefold:
It has tried to maintain good relations with Iran, thereby, at least to some extent, opting out of the Saudi narrative of perpetual conflict between Sunni and Shiite Islam;
It has provided funding and other support for the Islamic political movement the Muslim Brotherhood, which was overthrown by the current military regime in Egypt and is aligned with both Hamas in Gaza and the Turkish government; and
It is the home of news network Al Jazeera, which is funded by the Qatari royal family and provides generally independent and politically neutral reporting on Middle East issues.
I quote Gideon Rachman’s bon moton the Arab Spring: “The good news is that this is the Arab 1989. The bad news is that we are the Soviet Union.” There are also links to a number of other commentators who have said similar things, to which I would now add, at the top of the list, this piece by Hugh Miles in yesterday’s Observer. It’s well worth a few minutes of your time.
Miles headlines with the story of Al Jazeera, which he explains very well, but even more importantly he shows the connection between my second and third points above:
What [Saudi Arabia and its allies] find particularly distasteful is the widely propagated view, shared by the Qatari leadership, that sooner or later Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas will come to power across the whole region, propelled either by revolution or democratic elections. …
Given that on the few occasions Sunni Arab countries have been able to hold free and fair elections Islamist parties have usually won, even though they are not often allowed to take or hold power for long, Qatar’s assumption that one day they will come to power is not unrealistic. But for Qatar’s neighbours it is heretical.
This is the vital point to appreciate. But if your understanding of “Islamist” is that it’s roughly equivalent to “terrorist” or perhaps “extremist fundamentalist” (if, say, you’re Gerard Henderson), then the quoted passage makes no sense. On any conceivable test, the Saudi regime is much more extreme in its fundamentalism, and more closely linked to the terrorists of Da’esh/IS or Al-Qaeda, than the Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas.
The big thing about groups like the Muslim Brotherhood is not just that they believe in some sort of political Islam – that’s normal for the region – but that they have popular support and are trying to bring about democratic change. As Miles puts it:
Arabs generally are fed up with their corrupt and useless unelected governments and are ready for any alternative in future, as long as it looks nothing like the past. Many Sunni Arabs, liberals and Islamists alike, find al-Jazeera’s democratic, Islamist discourse and optimistic vision of the future much more inspiring than the visions their widely hated and feared governments are peddling.
That’s not to say that the Brotherhood and its sister parties would necessarily remain democratic if they took power. But so far their record is a lot better than that of their opponents. The potential is there to bring political Islam within the democratic tent, in much the way that the Christian Democrat parties did for political Christianity in the period after the Second World War.
And that’s what forms the common bond between the Saudis and the hard right in the United States – both the neoconservatives and the Trumpian nationalists. Both are committed to the view that Islamic democracy is impossible; the Saudis because it threatens their autocracy, the Americans because it means admitting the Arabs to the status of real political players.
As novices to the world of Mideast intrigue, President Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner are being led by Israel and Saudi Arabia into a dangerous confrontation with Iran, explains former British diplomat Alastair Crooke.
U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One for Israel, the next stop in Trump’s international tour, at King Khalid International Airport, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP/Evan Vucci)
The Israeli website Debka, though not always reliable in some respects, nonetheless, occasionally, can give useful glimpses into the Israeli calculus: Here it is expressing somewhat unusual enthusiasm, even open rapture, about a recent political event: “The Saudi king’s decision to elevate his son Mohammed bin Salman … is not merely the internal affair of the royal hierarchy, but a game-changing international event.
The king’s son is ready to step into his allotted place in a new US-Arab-Israeli alliance established by President Trump in May, along with the UAE, Egyptian and Israeli leaders that will seek to dominate Middle East affairs. Israel will be accepted in a regional lineup for the first time alongside the strongest Sunni Arab nations who all share similar objectives, especially the aim to stop Iran” [emphasis added].
“A game-changing international event”?
Why exactly are these Israelis so excited; why should the elevation of bin Salman, known by the initials MbS, be such a game-changer? Is there here something new?
And how come the dismissal of Prince Nayef, whom MbS replaced as crown prince and who was a Western favorite, barely ruffled a leaf in protest?
On the face of it, not much has changed. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s (and his father’s) obsession with Iran is well known. The Israeli PM (like his father before him) believes that Iran is the precursor to a new Jewish Holocaust.
It was not always like this, however: the Ben Gurion doctrine of courting regional minorities to Israel’s side (including Iran), was only “flipped” when the Israeli Labour Party won parliamentary elections in 1992.
In short, Iran’s subsequent identification with Satan by the Israeli government effectively was a domestic Israeli political need of the electoral moment: switching from the Arabs as “enemy” – in order for Rabin to make peace – required, in public terms, that Iran become the “far enemy” – the new existential threat to “plucky little” Israel’s survival, versus the now peace-partnering Arabs.
Netanyahu however, is a true “believer” (in Iran’s murderous intentions) and tried to corner President Obama into destroying Iran, by threatening America that either you do it (bomb Iran) – or, Israel shall (which effectively amounted to making America “do it” anyway). Obama demurred, and avoided Bibi’s binary threat to him of “war or war” by rather unenthusiastically negotiating a JCPOA with Iran – and thus re-balancing the region.
A New Strategic Situation
So what has changed? Iran has just re-elected President Hassan Rouhani who upholds the JCPOA and who actively engages with the West, and does not exude any clear and present danger to Israel, or the region (ISIS and al-Qaeda apart). “Nothing to see here”: aside from some jostling with U.S. partner forces for future influence in Syria.
Clearly, however, Debka does espy something new in the strategic situation. And they may be right. Ostensibly, on the surface, things may look the same, but two dynamics seem to be conflating that may account for official Israel’s high excitement. (It is not just Debka that is on a high – several senior intelligence and security officials at the recent Herzaliyia security conference, were also selling the imminent strategic change meme.)
One of the two conflating dynamics which might help us understand the enigma of Israeli satisfaction is this: a well-known Arab journalist wrote recently of a dinner held some months ago in the Gulf (with prominent Gulf guests), at which an unnamed former Arab Prime Minister was quizzed about MbS’ prospects of becoming king. What he said shocked the gathering. Some expressed their incredulity.
Donald Trump holds a sword and sways with traditional dancers during a welcome ceremony at Murabba Palace, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20, 2017. (AP/Evan Vucci)
He said bluntly: if MbS wanted to come to the throne, he would need America’s blessings. He would need to offer them something that no one had offered before – that no one had dared to offer before. And what was that, the journalist asked the former PM that MbS must offer: “He must recognize Israel. If he does that, the U.S. will support him. They’ll even crown him themselves.”
In one of the Sherlock Holmes detective stories, Holmes’s solution to a particular mystery rested on “the dog did that did not bark in the night.” Holmes’s point was why had the dog not barked when its nature is to bark.
It is common knowledge that the U.S. has been firmly committed to Prince Nayef succeeding King Salman. The authoritative Saudi insider and blogger Muhtahidd has tweeted that the U.S. sent messages last year to MbS warning that he should not seek to supplant Nayef. In July 2016,
Mujtahidd tweeted that Secretary of State John Kerry had told MbS that Nayef continuing as Crown Prince was a “red line” for the U.S.
Why then did the U.S. “dog” not bark on the night that MbS seized the succession, just before dawn? We have heard not one tiny growl on Nayef’s behalf. In fact, a trawl through Mutahhid’s early tweets lays it all bare … if one bothers to connect the dots.
The main actor in this drama is Mohammad bin Zayed (MbZ), the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, who according to Mutjtahidd recognized MbS’ ambition from early on, and saw in him an instrument by which MbZ could gain personal influence through becoming kingmaker in Saudi Arabia. From the outset MbZ apparently urged MbS to obtain America’s support for him becoming king – via the channel of Israeli full support.
In tweets from May 2, 2016, Mujtahhid describes MbZ’s advice to bin Salman: first, seize the succession to the throne before King Salman dies; second, gain U.S. favor by moving the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia away from religious values – away from values that reinforce an Islamic identity, and third, expand ties with Israel.
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)
Mujtahidd developed the third element in his tweets – ties to Israel – by saying that it began “shyly” as a lead-in to direct contacts. Senior Saudis were to be encouraged to participate in debates with Israelis (i.e. appearing on Israeli TV channels), while highlighting a common interest in combatting Iran and fighting “terrorism.”
MbZ was also reported by Mujtahidd as advising MbS to please Israel by supporting President Sisi of Egypt (with whom the Israelis have a close relationship) – and finally, Mujtahidd reports MbS (again in July last) that Netanyahu had met with MbS at Aqaba, three months earlier.
All of Mujtahidd’s points made over a year or more have been borne out in practice: The Saudi succession has been seized before the king has died; MbS has paraded his “opposition to religion” and Vision 2030 has emphasized a more secular, liberal economic identity for Saudi Arabia; Sisi has been supported (in spite of political differences); and Saudi ties to Israel have become incrementally more visible.
Mujtahidd is clear: There is no “big bang” shock recognition of Israel planned, but a continuing incrementalism (Israeli use of Saudi airspace, institution of telephone links, etc.).
On the one hand, Israel may be seeing the ambition and opportunism of two young men (MbZ and Mbs), but what “bakes the cake” for Israel, is the background, long-term dynamic of the declining legitimacy the Gulf “system” of monarchical, non-representational rule — a vulnerability exacerbated by financial tightening: an austerity that promises to limit Saudi ability to buy out popular disaffection.
This – the declining standing of Sunni authority and the leadership of Islam which the Saudis claim to be theirs and theirs alone – is what MbS and MbZ wish to reverse. Qatar was the first victim of their insistence on complete obedience.
Crosscurrents of Change
It was the “Arab Awakening” that initially fanned secular alienation with the absolute nature of the monarchial system, but then the Muslim Brotherhood doctrine of the Umma (the whole community of Muslims bound together by ties of religion) as sovereign, undermined it further, but from the Islamic stance. A left and a right punch. Also, the revisionist history of the first Islamic State, presented by ISIS, shreds Saudi’s religious credentials completely.
This is the combination that may be provoking such Israeli excitement: The ambition and opportunism of two young crown princes, coupled by their desire to restore Sunni authority (and the obedience of subordinate states) by mobilizing the Sunni world in a “jihad” against Iran and “terrorism,” must be music to some Israeli ears.
President Donald Trump talks to reporters before a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP/Evan Vucci)
And this is the rabbit hole down which President Trump has fallen. It matters little whether the primary motive for Trump’s Riyadh fiesta was pecuniary, or whether it was triggered by son-in-law Jared Kushner’s ambitions. Either way, Trump has embraced pushback against Iran (and seemingly, regime change, as Rex Tillerson has implied). In fact, Trump seems to be surrounding himself more and more with anti-Iranian advisers. He seems to like the notion of leading an alliance of the U.S., Israel and the two Crown Princes pushing back against Iran and its “terrorism.”
The Shi’a — pilloried by the Sunni Establishment as discontents, rejectionists and revolutionaries — have over a thousand-year history. Language changes, but the Shi’a as (false) innovators, apostates, heretics – and now “terrorists” – are as old as Islam. Terrible persecutions have ensued over the centuries. And Shi’a Islam is no insignificant 10 percent minority — in the Arab heartland, it is more like 60-40 percent. In the northern crescent, it is some 100 million Shi’i to 30 million Sunnis. And Sh’ism is undergoing a profound revival.
What interest of America will be served by intruding into these ancient animosities? MbS, MbZ and Netanyahu may be American “allies,” but their interests are not America’s. The former might be happy for America to spill its blood in fighting their fights. But why should Trump want to do that?
Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum and writes for Consortium News, where this editorial first appeared.
A few days after the Washington threats against Damascus in the event of the use of chemical weapons, a video of this type of attack emerged on Twitter. Russian diplomacy expects a “massive” propaganda campaign.
“As we announced a few days ago, a propaganda campaign on” the use of chemical weapons by Damascus “has begun,” wrote in a Facebook message on 2 July the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Russian Foreign Minister Maria Zakharova.
She accompanied her message with a video that circulates on social networks, in which a man claims to be in a hospital in eastern Goutha, near Damascus. The latter claims that the people he filmed inhaled chlorine gas, the victims of an attack perpetrated by the Syrian government.
“There will be more and more videos of this kind, of varying quality. Some will be rather bad like this one, others will be Hollywood level, “warns the Russian official, adding that there would be” a lot of lies “, and that the planned campaign was” massive. “
On 1 July, a Syrian rebel group accused the government army of using chlorine gas against its fighters, east of Damascus. An activist from the Failaq al-Rahman group quoted by the Reuters news agency said that about 30 people had been taken “suffocated following the attack at Ain Tarma in the eastern Ghouta”.
The Syrian Army denied the allegations in a state-run statement saying it had not “used chemical weapons in the past and never expected to do so.”
Washington accuses Damascus of preparing a chemical attack, Moscow says it is targeted by this “provocation”
A few days earlier, on 26 June, the United States said it had information that the Syrian government could carry out a chemical attack in the near future, warning Bashar al-Assad about the “heavy consequences” Face if it came to implement this project.
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Donald Trump about the possibility of joint action against Syria in the event of such an attack.
But Russian diplomacy had not let pass the Washington accusations, formulated “without proofs”. Maria Zakharova described them as “massive provocation on the military and informational scale” targeting not only Syria but also Russia.
She added that Moscow had “concrete” data demonstrating that the “staging” of a series of chemical attacks in two Syrian localities was underway.
These other accusations intervene while the Syrian Arab army reaps the military successes. It has recently taken control of the entire area extending from Rassafa in southern Raqqa province to Ithraya in eastern Hama province. It has also totally liberated Aleppo , former fief of Daesh.
The U.S. war on terror is creating more terrorists and will further destabilise the Middle East. Only in Syria could Trump’s military determination potentially contribute to a negotiated solution, says Kristin Helberg
Donald Trump and the Middle East – the mere thought of it is enough to give you bellyache. In the war on terror, the new U.S. president is only making things worse. He’s fighting with the wrong methods (air strikes on residential areas) and the wrong allies (Saudi Arabia, Gulf monarchies and Egypt’s al-Sisi) against a vaguely defined phenomenon (“Islamist terror”), the origins of which he does not understand. All that matters is the bogeymen are the right ones and America will be “great again”.
Arab potentates should buy American weapons and use them to fight “the terror”. How practical then, that when it comes to terrorists, it is each to his own: Muslim Brothers and Hamas, Shia demonstrators, frustrated youngsters or critical bloggers, Iran, Qatar or Hezbollah. Anyone who questions my power is evil – whether with attacks or online, at protest rallies or on Al Jazeera – in the Middle East, terrorists are branded with such ease.
The problem with this instrumentalised anti-terror battle is not only that it affects many innocent people, but that it ignores the root of the evil: the hopelessness of a locally-dependent, but internationally informed generation of 15 to 35-year-olds. They represent the majority population in their home nations and are being denied the chance to live a self-determined life in dignity and freedom. As long as kleptocratic regimes do nothing to reduce this frustration and suppress it using force, the next eruption is pre-programmed.
Breeding ground for more extremism
The war against IS cannot be won with military means alone. Air strikes and advancing militias may drive IS functionaries from Mosul and Raqqa, but they won′t vanquish them. On the contrary. The violence that accompanies the “liberation” – such as the U.S. attack on a school building full of refugee families in the Syrian city of Mansoura on 21 March resulting in 200 deaths, or the torture and execution of Shia militiamen in Iraq – generates fury, desperation and the desire for revenge – the perfect breeding ground for more extremism.
Washington′s new policy of “zero tolerance ” against the leadership in Damascus: U.S. President Trump recently threatened Bashar al-Assad that he would ″pay a high price″ were he to use chemical weapons again. The U.S. administration assumes that preparations are already underway for such an attack. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has said there are signs that a chemical weapons attack is in the offing, designed to kill a maximum number of civilians, including children
The outcome of this campaign is therefore uncertain, first and foremost in Syria. After all, unlike in Iraq, in Syria it is not clear what will come on the heels of IS. Instead of a united front, there is rivalry between various war coalitions: those who drive IS out first take control, wherever that area might be. This is the reason for the wrangling in eastern Syria, where four alliances are advancing against IS.
Firstly, coming from the northeast are the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – dominated by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which has close links to the PKK – advancing on Raqqa as America′s most important ally. Secondly, pushing from the south are the rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) supported by the U.S., Britain and Norway and trained by American special units on the al-Tanf border crossing. Thirdly, rebel groups to the north supported by Turkey are preventing IS territories from falling under Kurdish control. And fourthly, approaching from the west are forces loyal to Assad: regime troops, Hezbollah, various militias, Iran and Russia.
Because these forces have been pulled out of contested areas in Idlib, Aleppo, Hama and territory around Damascus, these were declared de-escalation zones in early May with the aim of freezing battle fronts in the west, in order to have capacities in the east. Only the southern province of Daraa – also a de-escalation zone – is being bombarded by the regime more heavily than ever.
Fighting over Syria′s bread basket and its oilfields
So what is happening in the east of Syria, this sparsely populated stone desert? The province of Deir al-Zor, with its eponymous capital, carries economic significance as the nation’s bread basket and main oilfield site. Cereal and cotton crops grow here and it is also the location of reserves of both natural gas and Syria’s modest crude oil deposits.
United against IS: coming from the northeast are the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – dominated by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which has close links to the PKK – advancing on Raqqa as America′s most important ally. Pushing from the south are the rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) supported by the U.S., Britain and Norway and trained by American special units on the al-Tanf border crossing. Rebel groups to the north supported by Turkey are preventing IS territories from falling under Kurdish control. And approaching from the west are forces loyal to Assad: regime troops, Hezbollah, various militias, Iran and Russia. Yet, unlike in Iraq, it is not clear in Syria what will replace IS
Regime troops, rebels and IS have therefore been fighting for years over the city, the western part of which is to this day controlled by Assad and has been occupied by IS since 2014. Another key area is the border to Iraq, which is of interest to all parties. To Assad, to win back the entire national territory and revive trade routes such as the Baghdad-Damascus highway; to Tehran, to create a land route from Iran via Iraq, Syria and Lebanon: to the U.S. to prevent the aforementioned and no longer leave the Syrian-Iraqi border area to the jihadists as a retreat zone.
Ruthlessly asserting their interests
The readiness of each group to ruthlessly assert its interests is great. Assad’s troops are advancing, sending armed drones and fighter bombers to stop the U.S. alliance. Washington is attacking pro-regime convoys and shooting down drones and fighter bombers belonging to the Assad coalition to protect its own troops in al-Tanf and its allies, the SDF and FSA. Russia is escalating the situation verbally, but appears not to want any direct confrontation with the USA. And therein lies an opportunity. After all, Trump’s determination is shifting the system of coordinates in which Syria has been stuck – with no prospect of a negotiated solution – for years.
In contrast to his predecessor Obama, Trump and Putin speak the same language. Threats are issued and bombs dropped when their own interests need defending. That is dangerous, but it also brings a deterrent along with it that often leads to diplomatic breakthroughs. A monstrous imbalance – Obama hesitated, Putin reacted and Assad killed at will – could become a solution-oriented pragmatism.
Neither Trump nor Putin are concerned with Assad as an individual. Trump wants to force back the influence of Iran, something that is also too much for the Russians in Syria. Both want to stabilise Syria without investing much. They realise that things cannot continue with Assad in the long-term and to this end, opposition, rebels and activists must be included.
Targeting Assad: “Should these attacks force Assad to enter into serious negotiations over a transfer of power, much would be gained. It’s just a great pity that these days in the Middle East, a vague chance of peace arising from ignorance is a reason to be positive,” writes Kristin Helberg
Moscow is already seeking contact with local councils in the de-escalation zones, to secure its own influence during a transition phase. Is this enough to bring peace? Certainly not. But instead of risking an open confrontation with Trump, Putin might choose to encourage his protege Assad to make concessions.
And before the nuclear deal lands on the rubbish dump of history and Trump’s “best friends” in Riyadh become megalomaniacs, Tehran could see itself forced to constructively cooperate over a new order in Damascus, if it is to be involved at all.
The competition for Syria’s IS territories will continue to escalate, the odd aircraft will be shot down as Assad opponents celebrate their victories. Of course for Trump this isn’t about protecting people, after all the international anti-IS coalition killed more civilians in May than the regime. Nevertheless, in the eyes of many Syrians, targeted attacks on Assad’s war machine are the first meaningful intervention in this conflict, because damage is being inflicted on military structures and not civilians.
Should these attacks force Assad to enter into serious negotiations over a transfer of power, much would be gained. It’s just a great pity that these days in the Middle East, a vague chance of peace arising from ignorance is a reason to be positive.
British soldiers in Afghanistan are alleged to have killed civilians and falsified reports of who did the shooting. Picture: AP
The Sunday Times
Members of Britain’s Special Air Service are alleged to have covered up evidence that they killed unarmed Afghan civilians in cold blood and falsified mission reports in a potential war crimes scandal that the government has tried to keep secret.
The allegations have emerged in classified multi-million-pound Royal Military Police investigation Operation Northmoor, which has been run from a secure underground bunker in Cornwall for the past 18 months.
Senior military police and defence sources with detailed knowledge of the investigation have said evidence gathered of war crimes by the SAS was “credible”. Part of the inquiry is said to have focused on one squadron, described as a “rogue” unit.
A source close to Operation Northmoor says there is strong evidence that unarmed Afghan civilians, suspected of being Taliban insurgents, were murdered rather than captured during night raids on their homes.
In one 2011 case under investigation, special forces soldiers are alleged to have handcuffed and hooded some of the victims before later shooting them dead.
The detectives gathered evidence that appears to show top-secret SAS mission reports had been doctored to make it look as if its Afghan special forces partners, rather than the British regiment’s soldiers, had carried out the shootings. This meant the killings were not investigated at the time.
Operation Northmoor is said to have acquired drone and other video footage, nicknamed “kill TV”, that shows British soldiers opening fire and contradicts the SAS account that their Afghan partners were responsible. An examination of bullets from some of the bodies revealed they were of a type used by the SAS.
Northmoor also acquired photographs, taken by the SAS, of shooting scenes in which the victims are holding a Makarov pistol — a weapon favoured by the Taliban leadership — that was allegedly planted by the special forces unit to give the false impression that the person they had shot was an armed Taliban commander rather than a civilian.
Operation Northmoor, set up in 2014, was investigating dozens of alleged unlawful killings between 2010 and 2013 by special forces and had become one of the largest military police investigations, with more than 100 RMP officers involved.
The inquiry had been expected to take several more years, with provision to continue to late 2021. But the Operation Northmoor team was instructed by the Ministry of Defence to conclude most cases by this northern summer. A military police source said this demand meant the team did not have enough time to investigate properly.
The source said there was a desire in the MoD “to just make it go away”. He believes officials were desperately trying to “avoid any of the detail of the accusations getting into the press and thereby undermining, in their view, national security, public trust, (and) work with allies”.
A senior Whitehall source revealed the MoD and the army’s most senior generals had regarded the evidence of “mass executions” emerging from Operation Northmoor as “credible and extremely serious”. The source said it was “seen as a potential disaster for the government” so there were attempts “to keep it under control by reducing the scale of the investigation”.
In February, British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced the Operation Northmoor inquiry, which included lesser offences of false imprisonment and assault, would be reduced by 90 per cent in months.
Now the inquiry’s workload has been slashed from an initial investigation into 52 deaths to one case of unlawful killing.
It is understood the one case that survived the cull is an investigation into the alleged shooting of four family members during a night raid on their homes in Qala-e-Bost, east of Lashkar Gah, southern Helmand province, in February 2011. It is the only case of the 52 alleged killings subject to a civil claim, and the details were expected to become public.
In a series of Skype interviews, family members and local officials have claimed that at least two of the four victims had been held at gunpoint and handcuffed with plastic ties before being shot dead.
The RMP is arranging to travel to Afghanistan to interview the witnesses.
It is understood many of the killing allegations in Northmoor related to special forces’ night raids, which became a key tactic in the later stages of the Afghanistan war. The aim was to break down the Taliban leadership by waging a relentless campaign of raids in which suspected insurgents would be plucked from their beds at night and taken to detention centres.
However, British Army officers said in interviews that they believed the SAS raids were often based on unreliable intelligence and raised suspicions that the soldiers set out to kill rather than capture Taliban suspects in contravention of the rules of engagement. The officers said this led to the shooting of innocent civilians with no connection to the Taliban insurgency.
One former SAS officer has suggested that what at times was in effect a “shoot to kill” policy may have been caused by frustration in the ranks that those captured would be freed soon afterwards without yielding useful intelligence.