American Resistance To Empire

North Korea missile went 10 times higher than space station

Image: North Korea launches suspected ICBM into Sea of Japan

South Koreans watch news coverage of North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch in Seoul on Wednesday. Kim Hee-Chul / EPA

Kim Jong Un’s latest ballistic missile test flew 10 times higher than the International Space Station and twice as high as any satellite in low-earth orbit, according to South Korea’s military.

Although analysts were scrambling Wednesday to learn what they could about the North Korean launch, Pyongyang said it had tested a new type of missile, named the Hwasong-15.

Dictator Kim’s secretive state claimed it was carrying a “super-large heavy warhead” that was capable of striking the entire U.S. mainland. But analysts say that based on the current evidence it’s hard to prove or debunk the Pyongyang’s claim that it can now hit faraway American targets such as New York or Washington, D.C.

The North Koreans have now test-fired missiles 18 times since President Donald Trump took office in January. Tuesday’s launch was the first for more than two months.

Western officials agreed it appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, which flew further than any other demonstrated by the North.

It was fired on what is called a “lofted” trajectory, meaning it was aimed at a steep angle and traveled very high but landed relatively close to its launch site.

Reaching an altitude of around 2,800 miles above the Earth’s surface, according to South Korea, it crashed down in the Sea of Japan around 600 miles away from where it was fired.

“It went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken,” Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters at the White House.

Some experts believe that if North Korea aimed the rocket at a lower angle, as it would in an attack scenario, this range could be stretched to some 8,100 miles — theoretically putting the entire East Coast in range.

“If we extrapolate this test we think it would give North Korea the capability to reach Washington, D.C.,” according to John Nilsson-Wright, a senior research fellow at London’s Chatham House think tank.

North Korea fires ballistic missile in new test2:10

However, to build a weapon capable of hitting the U.S. a long-range rocket is just one piece of the puzzle.

North Korea would also need to develop a reentry vehicle robust enough to protect the warhead from the intense heat produced by traveling through the Earth’s atmosphere at speed. It also needs to miniaturize a nuclear weapon small and light enough to fit on the missile without reducing its range.

Boasts aside, it hasn’t publicly demonstrated either of these.

“We still don’t know the ability of North Korea to put a warhead on a long-range missile and fire it with accuracy,” Nilsson-Wright said.

The North said the missile tested Tuesday was tipped with a “super-large heavy warhead” but analysts said there’s no way to know for sure.

“We just don’t know what was on the front end of this thing,” said Tom Plant, director of the Proliferation and Nuclear Policy program at the Royal United Services Institute, another London-based think tank.

According to a statement from Michael Elleman, a ballistic missile analyst at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, “a viable ICBM capable of reaching the West Coast of the U.S. mainland is still a year away, though North Korea continues to progress.”

Whatever North Korea’s current capability, Tuesday’s launch should come as no surprise to the international community. The country has repeatedly stated its aim of building a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the U.S.

But most analysts say that even if it achieved that goal it would likely not want to start using these weapons unless it was attacked first. Rather, according to many experts, it wants to acquire nukes as a deterrent against the U.S. trying to topple Kim’s regime.

“North Korea is just marching toward where it’s headed. There’s no sign it will stop before it gets there,” Plant said. “But North Korea is not suicidal and this does not look like a first-strike weapon.”

North Korea has said in public statements that it wants an official end to the Korean War. The conflict was halted by a 1953 armistice but no peace treaty has been signed. It also wants nothing short of full normalization of relations with the U.S. and to be treated with respect and as an equal in the global arena.

Copy-Cat Killer In Reno Fails To Pull-Off Vegas-Style Massacre…He Was His Only Victim

Police: Reno’s Montage shooter is dead; resident recounts hiding until police arrived

Editor’s note: This is a breaking news story and is being updated as new details are learned. 

Final update, 11:16 p.m.: 

Gunfire rained down onto Sierra Street from the eighth floor of The Montage condominiums in downtown Reno on Tuesday night. The shooter also barricaded himself and a hostage inside an apartment.

That suspect died shortly after being taken into custody after an RPD and Washoe County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team breached the room. RPD Deputy Police Chief Tom Robinson said the suspect’s motive is unclear at this time.

It’s unknown if the suspect was shooting at anything or anyone in particular but Robinson said there is one injury related to the incident. The woman who’d been held hostage has no reported injuries.

“She’s obviously traumatized and shaken up,” he said.

Robinson couldn’t confirm the exact make and model of the gun the suspect used, but he said it was a shoulder-fired rifle with 20 to 50 rounds of ammunition.

The suspect fired bursts of five to eight shots at a time, with gaps between bursts lasting minutes.

Officers said gunfire came from the building for roughly a 30 minute period. Dozens of police and emergency vehicles filled the blocks surrounding the Montage.

Officers in the intersection of Fourth and Sierra streets were barricaded behind their vehicles, assault rifles drawn.

As of now, it can only be confirmed that the suspect was firing at Sierra Street. Robinson said officers on the ground at the time of the shooting saw “sparks and spatter” coming off the asphalt as bullets struck the ground.

He said investigators will check the surrounding areas and buildings for signs of additional bullet holes.

Vick Wowo, an 18th-floor resident of The Montage, heard gunshots and a loud bang vibrate through the building.

“I was the most shook when I heard the gunshots,” Wowo said. “I don’t have a gun, don’t own a gun, never shot a gun so hearing that four times was kind of nerve wracking.

He told his girlfriend Becky Moser to hide in the closet while he hid behind the couch and peeked out the windows facing the Whitney Peak Hotel.

From his condominium, he could see three police snipers on the hotel roof, pointing down toward the eighth floor. Knowing they were ten floors above the shooter made them feel a little safer, he said.

“To be honest, the most comforting element was being made aware through the intercom system,” he said.

Montage security sent a message to all residents telling them to stay in their units or avoid the building. Wowo said his biggest fear was multiple shooters, but since the chaos ended, he feels relieved.

“We’re not nearly as shook as we should’ve been,” he said. “But, I think we’re almost numb to it even when it’s right in your damn building. … Back to business, you know. Just hanging out watching TV now.”

As the SWAT team worked its way up to the eighth floor, it evacuated as many of the residents it could but many were told to shelter in place.

Jill Flanzraich lives on the eighth floor of the Montage. She first heard gunshots when she was watching TV.

“Foolishly, I opened the door. The SWAT team was there and told me to get back inside,” said Flanzraich in an interview with the RGJ.

She spent the next hour hiding in a closet in her bathrobe talking with her daughter on the phone.

At about 8:20 p.m. there was a loud explosion and the fire alarms went off, Flanzraich said.

Flanzraich said she questioned whether she should leave her apartment but worried the shooter might be out there.

But then a police officer banged on her door and said, “Get out. Get out. Get out.”

The police officer walked her through a smoke-filled hallway and down the stairs.

Flanzraich made it to the lobby where she joined the other residents who had been evacuated.

Karl Fiebiger, a seventh-floor resident of The Montage, quickly evacuated his condominium after police told him they had secured the seventh, ninth and ground floor of the tower. Police told him the shooter was on the eighth floor and they worried stray bullets could penetrate windows and floors.

“Honestly I knew the shooter was close, I could feel the windows vibrate, I could hear things falling from walls,” Fiebiger told the RGJ. “So I was pretty glad to evacuate because I knew I wasn’t in the safest situation if bullets started flying.”

He grabbed shoes, a jacket, his laptop and a photo of his parents, then headed for the elevator. He reached his car in the parking garage and drove to a friend’s house in south Reno.

“I just hope I can get back in tonight,” he said after reports came in that the suspect was in police custody. “No reason not to sleep in my own bed. … It’s my bed, I’m not going to get chased out of it.”

Fiebiger said he feels more anxious than scared and it took a while for the reality of the situation to set in.

“I guess this is the country we live in now,” he said.

Robinson said little is known about the suspect or his hostage, but described him as being in his mid-to-late 20s.

It’s also unclear whether they were residents of the Montage.

Mike Pavicich, in town on business from Las Vegas, was walking down Fourth Street in front of the Eldorado when shots first rang out.

Pavicich’s wife was a nurse who was called in to work after Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire on a music festival from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Casino.

“When you heard it’s coming from above it reminds you of the guy shooting from Mandalay Bay … it’s scary you know? This is the same kind of town,” Pavicich said.

Paddock, who owned a home and briefly lived in Reno with his girlfriend Marilou Danley, also owned a condo at The Montage until December 2016.

Robinson said police don’t yet know if this was a copycat incident of the Las Vegas shooting, but he said officers suspect that mental issues might have contributed to the shooting.

He said radio chatter during the incident suggested that the suspect may have been seeing things.

“It’s too soon to know for sure,” Robinson said. “Maybe it’s a little bit of everything.”

9:54 update: 

Vick Wowo, an 18th-floor resident of The Montage, heard gunshots and a loud bang vibrate through the building.

“I was the most shook when I heard the gunshots,” Wowo said. “I don’t have a gun, don’t own a gun, never shot a gun so hearing that four times was kind of nerve wracking.

He told his girlfriend Becky Moser to hide in the closet while he hid behind the couch and peeked out the windows facing the Whitney Peak Hotel.

From his condominium, he could see three police snipers on the hotel roof, pointing down toward the eighth floor. Knowing they were ten floors above the shooter made them feel a little safer, he said.

“To be honest, the most comforting element was being made aware through the intercom system,” he said.

Montage security sent a message to all residents telling them to stay in their units or avoid the building. Wowo said his biggest fear was multiple shooters, but since the chaos ended, he feels relieved.

“We’re not nearly as shook as we should’ve been,” he said. “But, I think we’re almost numb to it even when it’s right in your damn building. … Back to business, you know. Just hanging out watching TV now.”

Karl Fiebiger, a seventh-floor resident of The Montage, quickly evacuated his condominium after police told him they had secured the seventh, ninth and ground floor of the tower. Police told him the shooter was on the eighth floor and they worried stray bullets could penetrate windows and floors.

For about fifteen minutes, Fiebiger said he heard multiple gunshots inside the building and saw broken glass and windows.

“Honestly I knew the shooter was close, I could feel the windows vibrate, I could hear things falling from walls,” Fiebiger told the RGJ. “So I was pretty glad to evacuate because I knew I wasn’t in the safest situation if bullets started flying.”

He grabbed shoes, a jacket, his laptop and a photo of his parents, then headed for the elevator. He reached his car in the parking garage and drove to a friend’s house in south Reno.

“I just hope I can get back in tonight,” he said after reports came in that the suspect was in police custody. “No reason not to sleep in my own bed. … It’s my bed, I’m not going to get chased out of it.”

Fiebiger said he feels more anxious than scared and it took a while for the reality of the situation to set in.

“I guess this is the country we live in now,” he said.

9 p.m. update: Deputy Police Chief Tom Robinson said the shooter is dead.

8:45 p.m. update: Before the shooter was taken into custody, he had been firing from an east-facing window of the Montage apartment complex onto Sierra Street below.

It’s unclear if the suspect was shooting at anything or anyone but he had barricaded himself in the 8th floor apartment with a woman that officers are considering a hostage.

The woman is uninjured, but the suspect was shot. Officers from RPD and Washoe County breached the apartment. Aside from the suspect, Robison said at least one other person has been injured in the hand.

Robison said little is known about the suspect or his hostage, but described him as being in his mid-to-late 20s.

It’s also unclear if they were residents of the montage.

Residents inside the montage at the time of the shooting were advised to shelter in place.

He did say that mental issues may have been a factor. Radio chatter during the incident alluded that the suspect may have been seeing things.

Jill Flanzraich lives on the 8th floor of the Montage.  She first heard gunshots when she was watching TV.

“Foolishly, I opened the door. The SWAT team was there and told me to get back inside,” said Flanzraich in an interview with the RGJ.

She spent the next hour hiding in a closet in her bathrobe talking with her daughter on the phone.

At about 8:20 there was a loud explosion and the fire alarms went off, Flanzraich said.

Flanzraich said she questioned whether she should leave her apartment but worried the shooter might be out there.

But then a police officer banged on her door and said, “Get out. Get out. Get out.”

The police officer walked her through a smoke-filled hallway and down the stairs.

Flanzraich made it to the lobby where she joined the other residents who had been evacuated.

8:31 p.m. update: Deputy Chief Tom Robinson of the Reno Police said a team of officers went to the 8th floor of the apartment building to engage the shooter.

Robinson said the shooter is a young adult. He said he doesn’t think the shooter suffered life-threatening injuries.

Residents were evacuated while others sheltered in place, Robinson said. It may take some time to get residents back into their rooms.

Police will keep roads closed in downtown area for the time being.

8:30 p.m. update : Police said the suspect has been detained.

8:15 update: Dusty Wunderlich, a resident of the Montage in downtown Reno, said he started hearing shots being fired when he got home.

He said the sound of shots being fired has been “sporadic over the last 30 minutes.”

“I am alone,” he said in a text message. “I have my lights turned off and listening to the scanner. I am armed which gives some peace of mind. It’s intense when the shots go off but trying to keep a level head.”

Wunderlich said he heard shots fired around 6:45 p.m.

8 p.m. update: 

A suspect is barricaded inside the Montage. A SWAT team is staging.


7:52 p.m. update: 

Officers are staying behind their vehicles facing towards the Montage apartment building with assault weapons drawn in the intersection of Fourth and Sierra Streets.

Mike Pavicich, in town on business from Las Vegas, was walking down fourth in front of the Eldorado when he heard gunshots ring out.

He said he ran into Frank Korshoff near the intersection of Sierra and fourth. Frank had been on top of the Eldorado’s garage when shots rang out.

“When you heard it’s coming from above it reminds you of the guy shooting from Mandalay Bay … it’s scary you know? This is the same kind of town,” Pavicich said.

Pavicich ‘s wife was a nurse who was called in the night of the Vegas shooting.

He was waiting to meet a friend to go climbing. He looked over the edge of the garage and saw officers with rifles drawn heading towards the Montage. He was ushered out of the garage and has been sheltering at the Eldorado since.

Original story:

There’s an active shooter in the montage apartments. Trooper Chris Kelley with The Nevada Highway Patrol said shots have been heard from the apartment complex for the last 20 minutes.

Dozens of police cars are surrounding the complex with ambulances and swat vehicles.

Islamist Mob Forces Pak. Govt. Back-Down Over Changes To Blasphemy Laws

Water Cannon, Tear Gas: 4,000 riot police sweep away violent Islamist protest in Pakistan

pakistan, islamabad, Tehreek-e-Labaik, Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labaik, Islamist party, Zahid Hamid, protest, protest in pakistan, terrorist, terrorism

Operation halted



* Policeman martyred, over 200 people, including police officers, injured in abortive attempt to disperse religious protesters camped at Islamabad-Rawalpindi junction

Syria Blasts Arab League Under ‘Sheikhdoms’

Syrian regime says Arab League under ‘sheikhdoms’

After body condemns Iranian policies and Hezbollah

(ANSAmed) – BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 21 – The Syrian government on Tuesday lashed out at the Arab League for the final declarations of a meeting held Sunday in Cairo, in which the body condemned Iran for destabilizing policies in the region and the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah movement, which it accused of terrorism.

A Syrian foreign ministry source was quoted by state-run news agency SANA as saying that the Arab League has become ”a tool steered by the money of the oil sheikhdoms against the interests of the [Arab] nation and its existence and common security in implementation of the dictates of the nation’s enemies”. ”Those who have provided all forms of support to the Takfiri terrorism and are practicing genocide against the brotherly Yemeni people don’t have the credibility to talk about the Arab national security as they are the real threat jeopardizing the interests of the nation and the Arab national security,” the source continued. After calling the ‘Arab Springs’ a ”conspiracy”, the Syrian foreign ministry source claimed that the Arab people ”know very well what Hezbollah and Iran have done in the course of confronting the Takfiri terrorism and know the sacrifices they have made to foil this conspiracy and resist the Zionist expansionist aggression”. (ANSAmed).

Russian Ambassador To Lebanon Supports Lebanese Self-Determination

Russian ambassador supports Lebanese self-sufficiency


BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri Friday met with the ambassador of the European Union and of Russia, who stressed the importance of the Lebanese government functioning without external interference.

After meeting with Hariri at his Downtown residence, Russian Ambassador Alexander Zaspekin said that the Lebanese government and state institutions must be “effective in the social and economic fields in preparation for … upcoming parliamentary elections,” a statement from Hariri’s office quoted him as saying.

Zaspekin said that the proper functioning of institutions was crucial to ensure that the Lebanese people decided the fate of the country “without external interference.”

The Russian ambassador added, in response to a question, that Russia was working within the framework of the International Support Group for Lebanon to guide the country to self-sufficiency, saying that concessions would have to be made by all parties.

“As Speaker Nabih Berri has said, each side must concede as part of the road to reach common ground,” the ambassador reportedly said.

Zaspekin also said that France and Egypt’s roles in resolving the political crisis did not constitute an intervention in Lebanon’s internal affairs, but rather were helping to “mediate.”

France has played a leading role in easing the political crisis following Hariri’s resignation from the premiership on Nov. 4, engaging in high-level diplomacy with Lebanese and Saudi officials. Egypt has reportedly played a lesser role.

In his meeting with EU Ambassador Christina Lassen, Hariri reportedly discussed the latest developments in the country and EU-Lebanon relations.

After the meeting, Hariri’s office reported that Lassen welcomed Hariri’s return and expressed hope for “constructive dialogue” between the various parties, which takes into account the country’s stability, unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty.

“Lebanon’s independence and stability is a priority for the EU amid regional unrest,” Lassen was quoted as saying in a statement.

She also reportedly affirmed the EU’s support for parliamentary elections to be held in spring, in addition to the Lebanese Army and security agencies.

Hariri also met with Philippe Lazzarini, the Deputy United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, and discussed the U.N.’s activities in Lebanon with him.

The prime minister also reportedly received a cable of congratulations from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the occasion of Independence Day, “in which he wished the Lebanese people greater stability and prosperity,” the statement said.

Local media reported that Hariri may have held other meetings Friday on the sidelines.

The flurry of meetings comes two days after Hariri returned to Lebanon, following an 18-day absence from the country, at the outset of which he resigned from the premiership.

The Nov. 4 resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh threw Lebanon into political crisis while sending shock waves through the region. However, major political blocs have expressed optimism over the last few days.

More Muslim-On-Muslim Carnage In Egypt…200+ Dead

At least 200 reportedly killed in Egypt mosque attack

Egyptians walk past bodies following a gun and bombing attack at the Rawda mosque, roughly 40 kilometers west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish, on November 24, 2017. A bomb explosion ripped through the mosque before gunmen opened fire on the worshippers gathered for weekly Friday prayers, officials said.  Stringer / AFP/Getty Images


EL-ARISH, Egypt — Militants bombed a Sufi mosque and fired on worshippers in the volatile Sinai Peninsula during Friday prayers,  killing at least 200 people in what appeared to be the latest attack by the area’s ISIS affiliate, Egyptian state news agency MENA reports.

The extremists attacked the al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd, 25 miles from the North Sinai provincial capital of el-Arish, opening fire from four off-road vehicles on worshippers inside during the sermon, three police officers said.

Victims were being transferred to local hospitals, they added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief reporters. They said the ISIS militants had blocked escape routes from the area by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads.

Egypt’s state news agency reported the casualty toll, citing “official sources,” revising it upward several times following the officials’ initial reports. MENA said 130 people were also wounded in the attack.


Egyptians gather around bodies following a gun and bombing attack at the Rawda mosque, roughly 40 kilometers west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish, on November 24, 2017.

Stringer / AFP/Getty Images

The attack was the largest single targeting of Egyptian civilians and the first on a large mosque congregation since the ISIS affiliate began its campaign of violence against the state following the military’s 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president.

MENA reported that Egypt’s presidency declared a three-day mourning period for the attack, as President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi convened a high-level meeting of security officials.

Cairo’s international airport boosted security following the attack, with more troopers and forces seen patrolling passenger halls, conducting searches and manning checkpoints at airport approaches.

Security forces have been battling militants in northern Sinai for years, but attacks to date have focused on military and police assets, although assassinations of individuals ISIS considers government spies or religious heretics are not uncommon.

In September, ISIS militants ambushed a police convoy in Sinai, killing 18 police and wounding seven others in one of the deadliest attacks this year in the restive region bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The ongoing violence in Sinai shows the resilience of the militants there in the face of a years-long campaign to eradicate them by the military and police, which between them command far superior firepower, air support, heavy armor and larger numbers.

Hundreds of soldiers and militants have been killed in the conflict, although exact numbers are unclear as journalists and independent investigators are banned from the area.

Egypt is also facing a growing number of attacks by militants in its Western Desert, including an attack last month that killed 16 police, according to an official tally issued by the Interior Ministry. Security officials have told journalists that dozens more, including high-ranking counterterrorism officers, perished in the Oct. 20 attack some 84 miles southwest of the capital, Cairo.

Saudi Allegedly Using “Blackwater” Mercenaries To Torture Arrested Royals

‘American mercenaries are torturing’ Saudi elite rounded up by new crown prince – and billionaire Prince Alwaleed was hung upside down ‘just to send a message’



  • Source in Saudi Arabia says American private security contractors are carrying out’interrogations’ on princes and billionaires arrested in crackdown 
  • Detained members of Saudi elite have been hung by their feet and beaten by interrogates, source says
  • Among those hung upside down are Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an investor worth at least $7 billion who is being held at Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton
  • Arrests were ordered three weeks ago by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
  • Source claims mercenaries are from ‘Blackwater’, a claim also made by Lebanese president
  • But its successor firm denies it has any operations in Saudi Arabia whatsoever and says its staff abide by U.S. law
  • Americans who commit torture abroad can be jailed for up to 20 years 

Saudi princes and billionaire businessmen arrested in a power grab earlier this month are being strung up by their feet and beaten by American private security contractors, a source in the country tells

The group of the country’s most powerful figures were arrested in a crackdown ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman three weeks ago as he ordered the detention of at least 11 fellow princes and hundreds of businessmen and government officials over claims of corruption.

Just last month, the Crown Prince vowed to restore ‘moderate, open Islam’ in the kingdom and relaxed a number of its ultra-conservative rules, including lifting a ban on women driving. can disclose that the arrests have been followed by ‘interrogations’ which a source said were being carried out by ‘American mercenaries’ brought in to work for the 32-year-old crown prince, who is now the kingdom’s most powerful figure.

‘They are beating them, torturing them, slapping them, insulting them. They want to break them down,’ the source told

‘Blackwater’ has been named by’s source as the firm involved, and the claim of its presence in Saudi Arabia has also been made on Arabic social media, and by Lebanon’s president.

The firm’s successor, Academi, strongly denies even being in Saudi Arabia and says it does not engage in torture, which it is illegal for any U.S. citizen to commit anywhere in the world.

The Saudi crown prince, according to the source, has also confiscated more than $194 billion from the bank accounts and seized assets of those arrested.

Highest profile prisoner: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was hung upside to 'send a message' after being lured to a meeting with the crown prince. He is worth at least $7 billion

Highest profile prisoner: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was hung upside to ‘send a message’ after being lured to a meeting with the crown prince. He is worth at least $7 billion

Round-up: Dozens of princes, senior officials and businessmen, including cabinet ministers and billionaires, have been detained in a function room of the Ritz Carlton. Now a source says they are being subjected to torture by American mercenaries

Round-up: Dozens of princes, senior officials and businessmen, including cabinet ministers and billionaires, have been detained in a function room of the Ritz Carlton. Now a source says they are being subjected to torture by American mercenaries

Strongman: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, seen as he attended a glittering investment conference in the hotel now being used as a prison, ordered in the mercenaries, the source claimed, and takes part in interrogations personally 

Strongman: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, seen as he attended a glittering investment conference in the hotel now being used as a prison, ordered in the mercenaries, the source claimed, and takes part in interrogations personally

The source said that in the febrile atmosphere in the kingdom, Prince Mohammed has bypassed the normal security forces in keeping the princes and other billionaires at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh.

‘All the guards in charge are private security because MBS (Mohammed Bin Salman) doesn’t want Saudi officers there who have been saluting those detainees all their lives,’ said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.

‘Outside the hotels where they are being detained you see the armored vehicles of the Saudi special forces. But inside, it’s a private security company.

‘They’ve transferred all the guys from Abu Dhabi. Now they are in charge of everything,’ said the source.

The source said that Salman, often referred to by his initials MBS, is conducting some of the interrogations himself.

‘When it’s something big he asks them questions,’ the source said.

‘He speaks to them very nicely in the interrogation, and then he leaves the room, and the mercenaries go in. The prisoners are slapped, insulted, hung up, tortured.’

The source says the crown prince is desperate to assert his authority through fear and wants to uncover an alleged network of foreign officials who have taken bribes from Saudi princes.

The source said that the name ‘Blackwater’ is being circulated as providing the mercenaries.

The controversial private security company, however, no longer exists under that name and is now Academi.

A spokesperson for Constellis, Academi’s parent company, denied the claims.

The spokesperson told that it has no presence in Saudi Arabia and does not carry out interrogations.

‘Constellis through Academi does not now or have we ever provided interrogative services,’ they said.

‘We do not provide security services in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), we have no contact or connection with any government official or private party regarding this allegation.’

When asked if Academi workers were involved in any kind of violence during these interrogations, the spokesperson said: ‘No. Academi has no presence in KSA. We do not have interrogators, nor do we provide any interrogators, advisors or other similar services.’

They added: ‘Academi does not participate in interrogative services for any government or private customer. Academi has a zero tolerance policy for violence. We operate legally, morally, ethically and in compliance with local and US laws.’

The name Blackwater, however, has previously surfaced in the Middle East in the wake of the round-up.

Presence: The Ritz Carlton in Riyadh is said to be guarded by Saudi special forces but inside, the interrogations are said to be carried out by American contractors. Blackwater's successor firm, Academi, denies any involvement

Presence: The Ritz Carlton in Riyadh is said to be guarded by Saudi special forces but inside, the interrogations are said to be carried out by American contractors. Blackwater’s successor firm, Academi, denies any involvement

Lebanese link: Saad Hariri, who quit as Lebanon's prime minister, was said to be being held in Saudi Arabia by 'Blackwater' guards by his country's president  - but he deleted the tweet

Lebanese link: Saad Hariri, who quit as Lebanon’s prime minister, was said to be being held in Saudi Arabia by ‘Blackwater’ guards by his country’s president  – but he deleted the tweet

Endorsement: The 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has received backing from President Trump 

Endorsement: The 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has received backing from President Trump

Harsh treatment: Trump hinted at the interrogations when he tweeted his support for the arrests

Harsh treatment: Trump hinted at the interrogations when he tweeted his support for the arrests

The Lebanese President tweeted that the country’s former prime minister Saad Hariri was being detained in Riyadh by Blackwater guards, but later deleted the tweet.

‘Lebanese authorities have unconfirmed information that the Blackwater firm is guarding Hariri and his family – not official Saudi security forces,’ Michel Aoun, the President of Lebanon, tweeted last Wednesday.

A high-profile Saudi twitter account, @ Ahdjadid, which posts what is said to be inside information, also claimed Salman has brought in at least 150 ‘Blackwater’ guards.

Saudi whistleblower Ahdjadid tweeted: ‘The first group of Blackwater mercenaries arrived in Saudi Arabia a week after the toppling of bin Nayef [Salman’s predecessor as crown prince].

‘They were around 150 fighters. Bin Salman sent some of them to secure bin Nayef’s place of detention and the rest he used for his own protection.’

The abuse claims were also raised recently in an article in the New York Times.

A doctor at a hospital in Riyadh and a US official told the Times that as many as 17 detainees had needed medical treatment.

But Fatimah Baeshen, spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, told the newspaper that the arrests were for ‘white collar’ crimes and that the country’s public prosecutor was ensuring that the arrests are ‘complying with the relevant laws and regulations’.

In his name: The arrests carry the authority of King Salman, but have made his son Prince Mohammed unquestionably the most powerful man in the kingdom

In his name: The arrests carry the authority of King Salman, but have made his son Prince Mohammed unquestionably the most powerful man in the kingdom

Among those arrested on allegations of corruption is Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the Saudi King’s nephew who is worth more than $17bn according to Forbes, and owns stakes in Twitter, Lyft and Citigroup.’s source claims the crown prince lulled Alwaleed into a false sense of security, inviting him to a meeting at his Al Yamamah palace, then sent officers to arrest him the night before the meeting.

‘Suddenly at 2.45am all his guards were disarmed, the royal guards of MBS storm in,’ said the source.

‘He’s dragged from his own bedroom in his pajamas, handcuffed, put in the back of an SUV, and interrogated like a criminal.

‘They hung them upside down, just to send a message.

‘They told them that “we’ve made your charges public, the world knows that you’ve been arrested on these charges.”‘

After the arrests, a picture was given to of the Saudi royals sleeping on thin mattresses in the ballroom of the five star Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.

A US State Department source told the New York Times Salman was ‘behaving recklessly without sufficient consideration to the likely consequences of his behavior, and that has the potential to damage US interests.’

However, the arrests drew praise from President Donald Trump, who tweeted that he had ‘great confidence in King Salman and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia’ after the corruption crackdown earlier this month.

Torture by a US citizen abroad has only been prosecuted in America once.

In 2008 the Boston-born son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor was found guilty by a US court of horrific torture.

The jury in Miami found Charles ‘Chuckie’ Taylor Jr. guilty on all eight counts brought against him, including allegations he and his cohorts tortured victims in Liberia by applying electric shocks to their genitals, burning them with hot irons and melting plastic and rubbing salt in their open wounds.

At the time Sigal Mandelker, the then deputy assistant attorney general with the crime division of the U.S. Department of Justice, said: ‘It sends a very powerful message to human rights violators worldwide that they are not welcome here.’

Taylor was arrested at Miami International Airport in 2006 and pleaded guilty to a charge of lying about his father’s identity on a passport application.

He was later indicted for torturing victims when he was the commander of a paramilitary security force called the Antiterrorist Unit – known as the ‘Demon Forces’ – that protected the elder Taylor while he was president of Liberia.

Turning point in the Syrian conflict

syrian conflict map

Pentagon budget calls for $143 million buildup at Jordan air base

Turning point in the Syrian conflict

Eurasia Review

Turning point in the Syrian conflict

Ahead of the meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vladimir Putin welcomed President of Syria Bashar Assad in Sochi and acquainted him with heads of the Defense Ministry and the General Stff, who also came to the meeting on military construction and the State Armament Program.

Eurasia Review reports in its article Why Assad Made A Surprise Visit To Russia that the surprise visit of Syrian President Bashar Assad to Sochi this week, and his meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, is a true turning point in the Syrian conflict. It preceded a summit of the Russian, Iranian and Turkish leaders in the Black Sea resort on Wednesday, a meeting in Riyadh of the Syrian opposition and the resumption of the Geneva peace talks before the end of the month, and the planned Syrian People’s Congress for national reconciliation in Russia early in December.

The warm and cordial welcome extended to the Syrian president by Vladimir Putin and senior Russian officials — mainly generals led by the Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, who were taking part in defense-related talks — sends strong signals that, for Russia, Assad is not only part of the solution for Syria, but also a legitimate leader who the Kremlin expects to stay in power for some years.

After the meeting, Putin had phone conversations with the leaders of Middle Eastern countries and US President Donald Trump. It is clear that Putin is not going to lose the lead in Syria, and has a precise strategy in his head. Moscow insists on accepting Assad as leader until presidential elections are held, and he has the right to nominate himself for two terms under the draft constitution.

Assad’s visit took place two days before a meeting in Sochi between Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani. The Putin-Assad meeting aimed to assure other parties concerned in the Syrian conflict that Russia, Iran and Turkey are agreed on a political settlement and the transition of power based on what the Syrians determine for their future government; in his meetings with Erdogan and Rouhani, Putin speaks on behalf of Russia and Syria at the same time.

Riad Hijab, head of Syria’s main opposition bloc, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), resigned on Monday before a conference in Saudi Arabia this week aimed at unifying the groups opposed to Assad. He gave no reason, but there is concern in the HNC over growing international pressure to force them to accept that Assad will remain in power.

A whole new phase has started, with the Syrian government recovering control of its borders after the demise of Daesh in Syria and Iraq. Last month, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said 92 percent of Syrian territory was free from Daesh control. Almost a year after the launch of the Astana talks, agreement was reached to set up de-escalation zones in Idlib, Homs, Eastern Ghouta and southwestern Syria.

With the Syrian army regaining control of more than 85 per cent of the country, and a plan to expand the southern de-escalation zone to the Jordanian and Israeli borders, the war in Syria is almost over.

The surprises keep coming in Syria, one after the other. They reflect radical changes in the local, regional and international dynamics that have long governed the conflict. After the Syrian army’s recovery of the Daesh-held town of Abu Kamal in the east, it has now taken control of many areas in the south, bordering Jordan, for the first time in five years, during which the border was closed.

The armed opposition to Assad is in complete disarray, and the external opposition are exerting their efforts to unify their stands for the coming conferences in Sochi and Geneva. Russia regards the de-escalation zones as a turning point in resolving the crisis by separating the armed opposition from terrorist factions.

Jordan’s central geographic location in the heart of the Middle East determines its foreign policy, and it is an important partner for both the West and Russia, as well as other countries. I believe Jordan is doing its best to maintain good relationships with all countries, especially those with high stakes in the Middle East; regional security is important to it, but Jordan also seeks to balance relations in line with its own national interests.

The de-escalation zones, which have been so successful in reducing violence, were proposed by Jordan in March and April this year, to pave the way for a ceasefire. Jordanian security officials and military officers had secret meetings in northern Jordan with their American, Russian and Syrian counterparts to establish an operations center to monitor and control the de-escalation zones. The plan for the zones was agreed after a thorough discussion at the regional level — Jordan, Israel and Syria — along with Russia and the US. Russia was not accepted in the beginning, but Jordan insisted on including Russians because they are key players in the peace process and the guarantors of a truce and a political settlement.

Did Trump Offer To Strike Pakistan’s TTP Targets In Afghanistan?

Pakistan welcomes US offer to target militants in Afghanistan

Pakistani officials have seen the offer a good omen for regional cooperation to tackle the terrorism

ISLAMABAD – Ahead of the visit of the US Defence Secretary, Pakistan has welcomed an American offer to take action against terrorists involved in cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, the Voice of America radio service reported on Wednesday.

The news outlet added that Pakistani officials have seen the offer as a good omen for regional cooperation to tackle terrorism.

The offer has been extended by General John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan.

It is expected that US Defence Secretary James Mattis will land in Islamabad on December 3 to get the support of Pakistan for implementing the US recent policy on Afghanistan. The strategy aimed at pushing the Taliban for talks by defeating them in the war.

Pakistan has been stressed on defusing the Afghan tension by holding dialogues between the militants and the Afghan government.

Earlier, it rife in the media that US military chief Gen Joseph Dunford would also visit Pakistan before Mattis but his visit is not confirmed yet.

Talking to VOA, Pakistan Army’s spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said that his country has always offered and sought cooperation to improve border security.

“Unilaterally Pakistan, having cleared all areas on Pakistan side, has restored the writ of [the] state, including steps like enhancing [troop] presence along the border [with Afghanistan], establishing new forts and posts and has also started to fence the border to deny freedom of movement to illegal crossers and terrorists.” Ghafoor explained.

During a press conference on Monday, General John Nicholson said his offer was meant to discourage Pakistan’s army from attacking civilians across the Afghan border while responding to cross-border attack by terrorists.

“We have also offered if they [Pakistan] have a concern about anything on this side of the Durand Line [the border] to let us know and we will act against it so that it is not necessary for cross-border shelling to occur,” said the U.S. general.

Last week, Afghan officials claimed that Pakistani forces allegedly fired hundreds of mortar shells for several days on villages into the Afghan border province of Kunar.

Fake Bin Laden Raid Document Both Validates and Debunks Charge of Iran/Al-Qaeda Collusion

Translated Doc Debunks Narrative of Al Qaeda-Iran “Alliance”


Exclusive: Media fell into neoconservative trap, again.

Imam Khomeini Street in central Tehran, Iran, 2012. Credit: Shutterstock/Mansoreh

For many years, major U.S. institutions ranging from the Pentagon to the 9/11 Commission have been pushing the line that Iran secretly cooperated with Al Qaeda both before and after the 9/11 terror attacks. But the evidence for those claims remained either secret or sketchy, and always highly questionable.

In early November, however, the mainstream media claimed to have its “smoking gun”—a CIA document written by an unidentified Al Qaeda official and released in conjunction with 47,000 never-before-seen documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The Associated Press reported that the Al Qaeda document “appears to bolster U.S. claims that Iran supported the extremist network leading up to the September 11 terror attacks.” The Wall Street Journal said the document “provides new insights into Al Qaeda’s relationship with Iran, suggesting a pragmatic alliance that emerged out of shared hatred of the United States and Saudi Arabia.”

NBC News wrote that the document reveals that, “at various points in the relationship… Iran offered Al Qaeda help in the form of ‘money, arms’ and “training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon in exchange for striking American interests in the Gulf,” implying that Al Qaeda had declined the offer. Former Obama National Security Council spokesman Ned Price, writing for The Atlantic, went even further, asserting that the document includes an account of “a deal with Iranian authorities to host and train Saudi-Al Qaeda members as long as they have agreed to plot against their common enemy, American interests in the Gulf region.”

But none of those media reports were based on any careful reading of the document’s contents. The 19-page Arabic-language document, which was translated in full for TAC, doesn’t support the media narrative of new evidence of Iran-Al Qaeda cooperation, either before or after 9/11, at all. It provides no evidence whatsoever of tangible Iranian assistance to Al Qaeda. On the contrary, it confirms previous evidence that Iranian authorities quickly rounded up those Al Qaeda operatives living in the country when they were able to track them down, and held them in isolation to prevent any further contact with Al Qaeda units outside Iran.

What it shows is that the Al Qaeda operatives were led to believe Iran was friendly to their cause and were quite taken by surprise when their people were arrested in two waves in late 2002. It suggests that Iran had played them, gaining the fighters’ trust while maximizing intelligence regarding Al Qaeda’s presence in Iran.

Nevertheless, this account, which appears to have been written by a mid-level Al Qaeda cadre in 2007, appears to bolster an internal Al Qaeda narrative that the terror group rejected Iranian blandishments and were wary of what they saw as untrustworthiness on the part of the Iranians. The author asserts the Iranians offered Saudi Al Qaeda members who had entered the country “money and arms, anything they need, and training with Hezbollah in exchange for hitting American interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.”

But there is no word about whether any Iranian arms or money were ever actually given to Al Qaeda fighters. And the author acknowledges that the Saudis in question were among those who had been deported during sweeping arrests, casting doubt over whether there was ever any deal in the offing.

The author suggests Al Qaeda rejected Iranian assistance on principle. “We don’t need them,” he insisted. “Thanks to God, we can do without them, and nothing can come from them but evil.”

That theme is obviously important to maintaining organizational identity and morale. But later in the document, the author expresses deep bitterness about what they obviously felt was Iranian double-dealing in 2002 to 2003. “They are ready to play-act,” he writes of the Iranians. “Their religion is lies and keeping quiet. And usually they show what is contrary to what is in their mind…. It is hereditary with them, deep in their character.”

The author recalls that Al Qaeda operatives were ordered to move to Iran in March 2002, three months after they had left Afghanistan for Waziristan or elsewhere in Pakistan (the document, by the way, says nothing of any activity in Iran before 9/11). He acknowledges that most of his cadres entered Iran illegally, although some of them obtained visas from the Iranian consulate in Karachi.

Among the latter was Abu Hafs al Mauritani, an Islamic scholar who was ordered by the leadership shura in Pakistan to seek Iranian permission for Al Qaeda fighters and families to pass through Iran or to stay there for an extended period. He was accompanied by middle and lower-ranking cadres, including some who worked for Abu Musab al Zarqawi. The account clearly suggests that Zarqawi himself had remained in hiding after entering Iran illegally.

Abu Hafs al Mauratani did reach an understanding with Iran, according to the Al Qaeda account, but it had nothing to do with providing arms or money. It was a deal that allowed them to remain for some period or to pass through the country, but only on the condition that they observe very strict security conditions: no meetings, no use of cell phones, no movements that would attract attention. The account attributes those restrictions to Iranian fears of U.S. retribution—which was undoubtedly part of the motivation. But it is clear Iran viewed Al Qaeda as an extremist Salafist security threat to itself as well.

The anonymous Al Qaeda operative’s account is a crucial piece of information in light of the neoconservatives’ insistence that Iran had fully cooperated with Al Qaeda. The document reveals that it was more complicated than that. If Iranian authorities had refused to receive the Abu Hafs group traveling with passport on friendly terms, it would have been far more difficult to gather intelligence on the Al Qaeda figures who they knew had entered illegally and were hiding. With those legal Al Qaeda visitors under surveillance, they have could identify, locate and ultimately round up the hidden Al Qaeda, as well as those who came with passports.

Most of the Al Qaeda visitors, according to the Al Qaeda document, settled in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan Province where the majority of the population are Sunnis and speak Baluchi. They generally violated the security restrictions imposed by the Iranians. They established links with the Baluchis—who he notes were also Salafists—and began holding meetings. Some of them even made direct contact by phone with Salafist militants in Chechnya, where a conflict was rapidly spiraling out of control. Saif al-Adel, one of the leading Al Qaeda figures in Iran at the time, later revealed that the Al Qaeda fighting contingent under Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s command immediately began reorganizing to return to Afghanistan.

The first Iranian campaign to round up Al Qaeda personnel, which the author of the documents says was focused on Zahedan, came in May or June 2002—no more than three months after they have had entered Iran. Those arrested were either jailed or deported to their home countries. The Saudi Foreign Minister praised Iran in August for having transferred 16 Al Qaeda suspects to the Saudi government in June.

In February 2003 Iranian security launched a new wave of arrests. This time they captured three major groups of Al Qaeda operatives in Tehran and Mashad, including Zarqawi and other top leaders in the country, according to the document. Saif al Adel later revealed in a post on a pro-Al Qaeda website in 2005 (reported in the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat), that the Iranians had succeeded in capturing 80 percent of the group associated with Zarqawi, and that it had “caused the failure of 75 percent of our plan.”

The anonymous author writes that the initial Iran policy was to deport those arrested and that Zarqawi was allowed to go to Iraq (where he plotted attacks on Shia and coalition forces until his death in 2006). But then, he says, the policy suddenly changed and the Iranians stopped deportations, instead opting to keep the Al Qaeda senior leadership in custody—presumably as bargaining chips. Yes, Iran deported 225 Al Qaeda suspects to other countries, including Saudi Arabia, in 2003. But  the Al Qaeda leaders were held in Iran, not as bargaining chips, but under tight security to prevent them from communicating with the Al Qaeda networks elsewhere in the region, which Bush administration officials eventually acknowledged.

After the arrests and imprisonment of senior al Qaeda figures, the Al Qaeda leadership became increasingly angry at Iran.  In November 2008, unknown gunmen abducted an Iran consular official in Peshawar, Pakistan, and in July 2013, al Qaeda operatives in Yemen kidnapped an Iranian diplomat. In March 2015, Iran reportedly released five of the senior al Qaeda in prison, including Said al-Adel, in return for the release of the diplomat in Yemen.  In a document taken from the Abbottabad compound and published by West Point’s Counter-Terrorism Center in 2012, a senior Al Qaeda official wrote, “We believe that our efforts, which included escalating a political and media campaign, the threats we made, the kidnapping of their friend the commercial counselor in the Iranian Consulate in Peshawar, and other reasons that scared them based on what they saw (we are capable of), to be among the reasons that led them to expedite (the release of these prisoners).”

There was a time when Iran did view Al Qaeda as an ally.  It was during and immediately after the war of the mujahedin against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. That, of course, was the period when the CIA was backing bin Laden’s efforts as well. But after the Taliban seized power in Kabul in 1996— and especially after Taliban troops killed 11 Iranian diplomats in Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998—the Iranian view of Al Qaeda changed fundamentally. Since then, Iran has clearly regarded it as an extreme sectarian terrorist organization and its sworn enemy. What has not changed is the determination of the U.S. national security state and the supporters of Israel to maintain the myth of an enduring Iranian support for Al Qaeda.


Gareth Porter is an independent journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of numerous books, including Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (Just World Books, 2014).

Hariri Back In Beirut, Withdraws Resignation

[Hariri says postpones resignation upon Aoun’s request]

Hariri back in Beirut to tackle political crisis

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived in Beirut late Tuesday night, 17 days after he announced his shock resignation from Riyadh where his stay had raised fears over his freedom of movement and the country’s stability. Upon arriving at Beirut airport shortly before midnight, Hariri was received by a number of security officers before he headed in a convoy to the tomb of his late father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, on Martyrs’ Square in central Beirut where he paid his respects on the eve of Lebanon’s Independence Day.

“I tell the Lebanese ‘Thank You,” MTV quoted Hariri as saying.

The prime minister had flown from Paris via Egypt and Cyprus, where he held talks centering on maintaining stability in Lebanon.

Hariri’s return had been anxiously awaited by Lebanon’s top leaders across the political spectrum and people because it held the key to resolving the mystery over his resignation and probably setting the stage for a new political era in Beirut.

In Cairo, Hariri discussed with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the latest developments in Lebanon and the region as well as bilateral relations, a statement from Hariri’s media office said.

Speaking to reporters after the closed-door meeting with Sisi in Cairo, Hariri underlined Lebanon’s need to commit to its policy of dissociation toward regional conflicts. “The lengthy discussion with President Sisi was about stability in Lebanon and the need to have in Lebanon and the region a dissociation policy toward regional crises,” he said, thanking Sisi for Egypt’s support for Lebanon’s stability.

Hariri refrained from talking politics, saying he would announce in Lebanon his political stance on the crisis sparked by the mysterious circumstances surrounding his Nov. 4 resignation speech.

Referring to Lebanon’s 74th Independence Day to be celebrated Wednesday, Hariri said: “Inshallah, the Independence Day tomorrow [Wednesday] in Lebanon will be a celebration for all the Lebanese. As I have said in Paris, I’ll announce my political position in Lebanon and I will not talk politics now.”

Before flying to Beirut, Hariri visited Cyprus, where he held similar talks with President Nicos Anastasiades.

Hariri’s visit to Cairo came as Sisi was reportedly seeking to mediate a solution to the Cabinet standoff in Lebanon that would involve withdrawing Hariri’s resignation.

Hariri arrived in Cairo from Paris where he had been since last Saturday at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron, who was trying to mediate with Saudi Arabia in the crisis caused by Hariri’s resignation.

While Hariri was in Cairo, Sisi telephoned President Michel Aoun, who thanked the Egyptian president for his efforts in tackling the crisis caused by Hariri’s resignation, a statement from Aoun’s media office said.

During the telephone conversation, the two leaders underlined the “importance of maintaining security and political stability in Lebanon,” the statement said.

Aoun has not accepted Hariri’s resignation, saying that he would wait for the prime minister to return to Lebanon before making any decision on the matter.

Following the independence festivities, Hariri is expected to present his resignation letter to Aoun at Baabda Palace Wednesday or Thursday, as stipulated by the Constitution, and explain the reasons and circumstances behind his dramatic decision.

Meanwhile, Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri received cables from U.S. President Donald Trump on the occasion of Independence Day. “The United States greatly values the long-standing cultural, familial, political and economic relationship between our two peoples and our two countries,” Trump said in his cable to Aoun, according to a statement released by Aoun’s media office.

“Lebanon has been a strong partner with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism,” he said.

In the lead up to Independence Day celebrations, Aoun also received cables from Saudi King Salman bin Abdel-Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

Aoun implicitly hit back at Arab states that accused Lebanon of failing to comply with the dissociation policy toward regional conflicts, as a result of Hezbollah’s deep involvement in the 6-year-old war in Syria and its alleged role in other regional conflicts.

In a televised speech addressing the nation on the eve of Lebanon’s 74th independence anniversary, Aoun called on Arab countries to deal with Lebanon with “wisdom and rationalism” to prevent destabilizing it and urged the Arab League to undertake an initiative to resolve the Lebanese crisis.

“We … have adopted a totally independent policy, we have avoided entering into disputes, and we have called – and are still calling – for dialogue and harmony among Arab brothers because in internal wars there is inevitable loss for the victorious as well and as for the defeated, and the two statuses are meaningless because the great loss befalls the nation,” he said.

“Lebanon has dissociated itself but unfortunately, the others have not dissociated themselves and their influence from it,” Aoun added.

Recalling the influx of “terrorist groups” on Lebanon’s eastern border following the outbreak of the war in Syria in 2011 and “a history filled with [Israeli] aggression and devastating wars,” against Lebanon, Aoun said that throughout all those periods and milestones, Lebanon has paid the highest prices, striving to ward off the specter of sedition.

Aoun stressed that Lebanon would not heed any decision aimed at inciting internal strife. “Lebanon has only received the fallout of clashes and the shrapnel of explosions, and it is vain to deal with the fallout unless the door of conflicts is shut,” he said. “In all cases, Lebanon will not obey any opinion, advice or decision that drives it toward internal strife, and those who wish Lebanon well would help it consolidate its unity because it is its safety valve.”

The president said that the Cabinet crisis caused by Hariri’s resignation presented the Lebanese with a “shocking test,” praising the Lebanese for their unity in overcoming it.

“It is in this context that the recent governmental crisis occurred, with the problem that surrounded it. It is true that it has passed, but it was absolutely not a transient issue because it put the governance and the Lebanese people through a shocking test and a challenge as large as the great national issues that cannot be disregarded or tolerated,” he said.

“Is it permissible to have overlooked a matter of national duty imposed on us to bring back our prime minister to his country in order to perform what he is bound to do by the Constitution and norms, whether to resign or not, on the land of Lebanon?”

Saudi officials have denied Aoun’s accusations that Hariri was held against his will in Riyadh since he announced his resignation.

Commander of Iranian Forces In Syria/Iraq Announces End of ISIS, the Caliphate

Gen. Soleimani to Iran Leader: ISIS Completely Defeated in Iraq, Syria

A top Iranian commander says the ISIS terrorist group is now completely defeated in Iraq and Syria.

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ Quds Force Major General Qassem Soleimani has, in a letter to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, congratulated him on the defeat of ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria. The full text of the message follows.

In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Verily, We have granted thee a manifest Victory (Translator’s note: The statement is a verse from the Holy Quran)

To the respected and brave Leader of the Islamic Revolution

Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei

Hello and greetings,

Six years ago, a dangerous [wave of] sedition similar to the ones during the era of Imam Ali, which stripped Muslims of the opportunity to truly understand and savour pure Islam, swept across the Islamic world like a tornado, but this time it was complicated and tainted with the poison of Zionism and hegemony. The dangerous and poisonous sedition was triggered by the enemies of Islam in a bid to start the flames [of tension and crises] in the Muslim world and pit Muslims against one another. An evil move under the title “The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)” (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS) managed, in the very early months, to mislead dozens of Muslims youths from both countries [into joining it] in a very effective manner and brought a very dangerous crisis upon Iraq and Syria. It captured hundreds of thousands of kilometres of the territory of these countries along with thousands of villages, cities and key provincial capitals and destroyed thousands of workshops and factories and the countries’ infrastructure such as roads, bridges, refineries, wells, oil and gas pipelines, power stations and other facilities. They also destroyed with bombs or burned important cities along with their invaluable historical artefacts and national civilization.

Although the extent of the damage cannot be assessed, initial surveys put the losses at $500 billion.

In this incident, very heinous crimes, which cannot be displayed, were committed, namely the decapitation of children, skinning men alive in front of their families, taking innocent girls and women captive and raping them, burning people alive and the mass beheading of hundreds of youths.

A number of the Muslim people of these countries, perplexed by the poisonous storm, were killed by the Takfiri criminals’ razor-thin daggers, and millions of others abandoned their homes and were forced to flee to other cities and countries.

Amid this dark sedition, thousands of Muslims’ mosques and holy centres were destroyed or devastated, and in some cases they (ISIS terrorists) detonated mosques with Imams and worshippers inside.

More than six thousand deceived youths blew themselves up in the name of Islam in suicide attacks or with explosives-laden vehicles at Muslims’ squares, mosques, schools, and even hospitals and public places. As a result of these criminal acts, scores of innocent men, women and children were martyred.

By the admission of the highest American official who is currently the president of the country, all these crimes were engineered and orchestrated by authorities and organizations affiliated with the United States. Moreover, the incumbent US leaders are pressing ahead with this approach.

In addition to God’s grace and the special attention of the Prophet Mohammad and his respected Household which thwarted this dark and perilous plot, the wise leadership and prudent guidelines of Your Excellency and of senior religious figure Ayatollah Ali Sistani resulted in the mobilization of all resources to counter this poisonous hurricane.

Incontrovertibly, the resistance of the Iraqi and Syrian governments and the perseverance of the two countries’ armies and youth, especially the Popular Mobilization Units, and the youth of other countries together with the strong and pivotal presence of Hezbollah led by Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah played a pivotal role in defeating this dangerous phenomenon.

Definitely, the invaluable role of the nation and government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, especially the respected president, parliament, the Ministry of Defense and military, law enforcement and security agencies of our country in supporting the governments and nations of the above-mentioned countries should not be ignored.

I, as a humble soldier instructed by Your Excellency [to serve] in this battlefield, with the completion of the operation to liberate Abu Kamal as the last stronghold of ISIS, and the lowering of the flag of this American-Zionist group and the hoisting of the Syrian flag, declare the end of the domination of this cursed wicked entity, and on behalf of all commanders and little known devotees [serving] on this scene and thousands of Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese Afghan and Pakistani martyrs and troops who were injured and disabled while defending holy shrines and who sacrificed their lives to safeguard the lives and honour and sanctities of Muslims, I congratulate Your Excellency and the great Iranian nation and the oppressed nations of Iraq and Syria and other Muslims of the world on this very big an determining triumph, and I kneel before God Almighty and bow my head in supplication to thank Allah over this great victory.

Lebanese Army placed at ‘full readiness’ to counter ‘Israeli enemy

Lebanese Army placed at ‘full readiness’ to counter ‘Israeli enemy’

Lebanese Army placed at ‘full readiness’ to counter ‘Israeli enemy’
The head of the Lebanese Army has asked the military to be at “full readiness” to face “the Israeli enemy” at the southern border. The announcement comes as Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, vow to tighten their grip on Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia.

The army needs to be prepared to “confront the threats and violations of the Israeli enemy and its hostile intentions against Lebanon,” Joseph Aoun said on Tuesday. He also urged the army to cooperate with United Nations forces in Lebanon under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, adopted to resolve the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.

The statement comes after Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that “Israeli targeting still continues and it is the right of the Lebanese to resist it and foil its plans by all available means,” according to Reuters.

President Aoun’s remarks were echoed by Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who also cautioned Tel Aviv against sparking a war. Lebanon is ready to act, but will do its utmost to prevent Israel from an invasion, he told RT last week. “We should restrain Israel from starting a war exactly because Lebanon is sure to win it,” he said.

Lebanon is undergoing a deep political crisis after its Prime Minister Saad Hariri abruptly resigned on November 4 in a televised statement from Saudi Arabia. In his resignation address, Hariri accused Iran and Shiite Hezbollah militia of sowing strife in Arab countries.

The Arab League called an emergency meeting in Cairo on Sunday, blaming Iran for destabilizing the region. The alliance also described Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, but stopped just short of threatening any action against either. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Arab League’s secretary-general, said its members may reach out to the UN Security Council to discuss possible steps against the Islamic republic.

Later, Tehran dismissed the Arab League statement on Iran, saying it was “full of lies” and the product of Saudi “pressure and propaganda.” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi called on Saudi Arabia to stop its “barbaric attacks” in Yemen. He also called on Riyadh to drop its embargo on Qatar, a country which has close ties to Tehran.

President Aoun defended Hezbollah, saying his country had been subject to Israeli invasions for decades and therefore had the right to protect itself. Aoun rejected “insinuations accusing the Lebanese government of partnering in terrorist acts.”

“Lebanon has confronted Israeli aggressions from 1978 until 2006 and has been able to liberate its territories,” he added, as cited by National News Agency.

Saudi Arabia, a regional arch-rival of Iran, has recently demanded that the Lebanese government pressurize Hezbollah to disarm, and also threatened to take action against Iran’s “aggressive” involvement in the affairs of Yemen and Lebanon. Speaking to Reuters last Thursday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said Riyadh is “reacting to that aggression and saying enough is enough.”

The bellicose statements from Saudi Arabia notably coincided with comments made by Israel’s top political and military brass. On Sunday, Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israeli Army Radio that cooperation “with the moderate Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, is helping us curb Iran.” Steinitz added that his country, which fought Arab nations in several wars, is “usually the party that is not ashamed” of such ties.

The disclosure comes days after Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, chief of staff of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), said that Tel Aviv is willing to contribute to “a new international alliance” in the Middle East, which is determined “to stop the Iranian threat.”

READ MORE: Riyadh ‘fuels terrorists, wages war’ while Tehran works on regional peace process – Iranian FM

He said that, while Israel does not planning on striking Hezbollah, it is ready to share intelligence on Iran with Saudi Arabia. Tel Aviv and Riyadh do not have diplomatic ties with each another.

Earlier this week, Iran reiterated once again it is determined to bring lasting peace to Syria, while its Gulf neighbors are sparking tensions in the region. Tehran has been working with international partners such as Russia and Turkey to ensure ceasefire in Syria and pave the way for political reconciliation, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Sunday.

At the same time, Riyadh “fuels terrorists, wages war on Yemen, blockades Qatar [and] foments crisis in Lebanon,” Zarif tweeted. The Iranian diplomat posted his statement after a new round of talks with his Russian and Turkish counterparts, Sergey Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusoglu, respectively who met in Antalya, Turkey, on Sunday to discuss the Syrian conflict.

Does Pentagon Have CIA Permission To Wage War On Its Afghan Opium?

Nicholson Announces War On Drugs In Afghanistan

Resolute Support Commander General John Nicholson sends out a serious warning on Monday to the Taliban to lay down their arms and join the peace process.


Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan John Nicholson said a well-planned raid against drug producing facilities was carried out in Helmand on Sunday and that for the first time an F-22 bomber was used in combat in Afghanistan.


This targeted a drug producing facility in Helmand. In addition a B52 bomber was also used to target another compound. He said this completely “levelled the compound”.

He said the US-Forces and NATO will attacking drug producing and trafficking organizations and tells Afghans they will not only stand by the country in the fight against terrorism but will also stand by them in fight against drugs.

Nicholson said the Taliban is using drugs to finance their war machine.

He said the Taliban has increasingly become a criminal organization in the country and are resorting to kidnapping and drug smuggling to make money.

He warned that if Taliban does not come to the peace talks tables the security forces and coalition will continue to fight them.

Nicholson said “just like terrorism, heroin is a global problem”.

He made it clear that they were not striking farmers but targeting Taliban and that such anti-drug operations were carefully planned so as to avoid collateral damage. “All precautions were taken ahead of Sunday’s raid,” he said.

Raising the issue of Daesh, Nicholson said Daesh remains the “number one target” in Afghanistan. He said: “Hunting down and killing their leaders will not stop”, adding that Daesh was still carrying out an aggressive recruiting program.

He did however state that there were no signs of Daesh fighters from Syria or Iraq “migrating to Afghanistan.”

Putin Pisses the Jews Off, Refuses To Follow Netanyahu’s Orders In Syria

Israel May Demand Iran Leave Syria, but Russia Sets the Rules of the Game

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad upon his arrival at the Kremlin in Moscow, October 21, 2015. AFP

Amos Harel

For Moscow, the presence of Iranian troops is legitimate – Assad himself invited them

A single brief statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday cleared up the strategic picture in southern Syria and the entire region. Three days after the signing of the agreement between Russia, the United States and Jordan about the cease-fire arrangements there, Lavrov disavowed the section of the accord that says foreign forces will be kept out of Syrian territory. Iran’s presence in Syria is legitimate, he said, and therefore Russia did not promise to compel the Iranians to withdraw their forces from the country.

This claim by Moscow, which also applies to the Russian forces there, rests on Iran and Russia having been invited into Syria by the Assad regime. This invitation by the Syrian sovereign ostensibly bestows legitimacy on the presence of these countries’ military forces in Syria, even with Russia conveniently ignoring the ongoing atrocities the Assad regime has been committing against its own citizens for the past six and a half years.

The only thing the Russians agreed to was a stipulation that the Iranians and the Shi’ite militias that answer to them would be kept five kilometers from the lines of contact with the rebels. For Israel, this means that the Iranians will be on the Golan Heights, just five to 10 kilometers from the border, depending on what areas are held by the rebels. This is the reason for Israel’s disappointment with the agreement, a feeling that has only intensified in the wake of Lavrov’s statement.

The Russian foreign minister’s statement contained another hidden message: Moscow will be the one that decides what happens in Syria. The total lack of an American response to Lavrov’s comments, so soon after State Department officials boasted at a press briefing about the section of the agreement regarding the withdrawal of foreign forces, proves yet again who’s really running the show in Syria.

The reason for Russian support of Iran, despite Russia’s generally close and positive ties with Israel, is simple: The Iranians, and especially their Hezbollah proxies, are providing the Russians and the Assad regime with the ground forces upon which the regime’s survival hinges. Keeping the current regime in power is mission number one for the Russians, because that way they can maintain all the advantages – an image of power, a Mediterranean seaport at Tartus, potential trade deals – inherent in an Assad victory. Russia does not intervene or protest when Israel reportedly bombs a Hezbollah weapons convoy in Syria (as long as the airstrike doesn’t harm Russian troops), but is has no reason to exert itself to meet all of Israel’s demands about keeping the Iranians out of Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week that Israel is not bound by the tripartite agreement, and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman repeated his warning that Israel will not sit back and allow Iranian entrenchment in Syria nor let Syria become a forward position against Israel, adding, “Whoever hasn’t understood this yet would do well to understand it.”

What do the Israeli warnings refer to specifically? Brigadier General (res.) Assaf Orion, a senior scholar at the Institute for National Security Studies think tank and former head of the IDF General Staff strategy department, says Iran has been waging war on Israel for some decades now via proxies. “But now, for the first time, the Iranians appear to be preparing to put in significant infrastructure in Syria – army bases, a seaport, weapons manufacturing plants, permanent military forces. When Israel says it won’t accept this, it is trying to dictate new rules of the game. More so than in the past, for Israel the northern front has become one long continuous front in which the border between Syria and Lebanon is completely blurred. We’ll have to ask ourselves: When exactly does the moment come when we respond?”

This week, Britain’s The Guardian offered a perceptive description of the Middle East mood. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s announcement of his resignation, under Saudi pressure, sparked tension throughout the region that links seemingly unrelated events. In fact, these various undercurrents have been moving for some time, and now they have risen to the surface.

The paper’s Middle East analyst, Martin Chulov, connects the dots between Hariri’s resignation, the Iraq-Iran takeover of Kirkuk on the Kurdistan border, the purges in Saudi Arabia, the famine afflicting millions due to Yemen’s civil war, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels firing a missile at the Riyadh airport. All of these things, he writes, are manifestations of a power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran that is now reaching a peak all across the area between Beirut and Sanaa.

The multi-pronged Saudi move – involvement in wars in Syria and Yemen, political maneuvers in Lebanon, efforts to isolate Qatar, efforts to limit the influence of extremist Wahhabi clerics, the plans to build a colossal “city of the future,” the IPO of oil company Aramco, along with many other ambitious initiatives – is being overseen by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Assaf Orion believes the prince “has got too many balls in the air. It’s a systems overload that requires extraordinary command and control in tandem with long-term planning. I’m not sure the prince can sustain it without dropping any of the balls.”

To an outside observer, Saudi Arabia calls to mind what Churchill called Russia – “a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” The series of moves set in motion by the crown prince, particularly the resignation that was forced upon Hariri, was met with some surprise in Israel, elsewhere in the region and in the West. Israeli military experts are also skeptical of the Saudis’ ability to advance their goals with their military capacity. Despite the purchase of billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry from the U.S. and other countries, the Saudis have performed poorly in combat in Yemen. And they have played a fairly minor part in the international coalition’s fight against ISIS. The Saudis’ big plans have to fully come up against hard reality, and when it does happen, the encounter is liable to be painful.

Gaza unstable

As far as security goes, a threat of escalation on the Gaza border hung over the country this week. The security assessment was that Islamic Jihad would try to stage a reprisal for the destruction of the attack tunnel in late October in which 12 operatives from Islamic Jihad and Hamas were killed. Here, the prime minister and defense minister warned of a severe response while simultaneously taking practical steps, including the deployment of Iron Dome missile defense systems in the center of the country. The decision to quickly deploy the missile defense batteries was dictated to the army at the cabinet meeting by Netanyahu. The cabinet ministers backed Netanyahu’s action, saying he was entitled to put wider safety margins in place when the situation could rapidly deteriorate.

Islamic Jihad in Gaza did not immediately respond to the killing of its men, apparently because of moves by Hamas and, according to Palestinian sources, by Egypt too, to restrain it. Shortly after the tunnel strike, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas began implementing their reconciliation agreement and PA police officers were stationed at the border crossings between Gaza and Israel for the first time in a decade.

But things have gotten more complicated since then. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is in no rush to transfer the money that he promised to Hamas to pay civil servants’ wages and to upgrade the electricity supply. The reopening of the Rafah crossing, the main avenue of departure from Gaza, is also being held up due to disputes between the parties. Under these circumstances, Hamas has less motivation to rein in Islamic Jihad. Things could get even worse if the entire reconciliation process gets stuck and Hamas goes looking for someone to blame for Gazans’ disappointed hopes of an improvement in their harsh living conditions.

Saudi Arabia has its fingers in the pie here, too. Two weeks ago, at the height of the upheaval in the kingdom, Abbas was urgently summoned to Riyadh. After the visit, his spokesman said the two parties view the reconciliation agreement with Hamas “100 percent the same way.” Since then, the PA has sharpened its demand that Hamas completely cut off ties with Iran and that its military wing submit all of its weaponry to Ramallah’s authority. Abbas’s aggressive new posture, evidently inspired by Saudi prodding, is angering the Egyptians, who acted as the patrons of the reconciliation process.

Syrian Troops Liberate Last ISIS Stronghold, Yet US Forces Dig-In For Long Haul

After fall of last town, IS loses grip over Iraqis

With ISIS Practically Defeated, US Military Plans To Remain In Syria Anyway

Syrian Democratic Forces via AP

In this picture taken on Monday Oct. 16, 2017 and provided by The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces outlet that is consistent with independent AP reporting, shows Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, sit on their pickup as they prepare for the last battle against the Islamic State militants, in Raqqa, Syria.

BEIRUT — Pro-government forces defeated the Islamic State group in its last major stronghold in Syria, state media and a monitoring group reported on Sunday, leaving the militants to defend just strips of desert territory in the country and a besieged pocket outside the capital, Damascus.

Also Sunday, more than two dozen civilians were killed as government forces and rebels traded fire across fronts in Damascus and Homs, Syria’s third largest city.

The intensified violence is testing an accord by Russia, Turkey, and Iran to suppress fighting in Syria ahead of the resumption of political talks in Geneva between the government and opposition, set for Nov. 28.

Eight civilians were killed in rebel shelling on Homs, which also put the city’s al-Walid flour mill out of service, Syria’s SANA news agency reported. It added that another two were killed by shelling or rocket fire on Damascus.

At least 17 civilians were killed in government shelling and airstrikes on the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, which remain under opposition control, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Right monitoring group. The Civil Defense search-and-rescue group, more popularly known as the White Helmets, said one of its volunteers was killed in the line of duty by a rocket.

Residents in the Ghouta region have suffered under an immense government bombardment since rebels tried to storm a military position nearby Tuesday. At least 77 civilians have been killed, according to the Observatory.

The battle with IS for Boukamal, on the border with Iraq, featured its share of feints and ruses, with the militants pulling out of the town ten days ago only to attack it again and threaten to trap pro-government forces inside.

But the militants could not hold it against a coalition of regional forces from Lebanon to Pakistan, organized under Tehran’s leadership to fight the war in Syria. A statement by a shared media outlet for the forces said Iranian Revolutionary Guards Gen. Qasem Soleimani personally directed the operations, and published a video of him posing for photos with fighters celebrating the victory.

Holding Boukamal will be an important strategic objective for the government and its sponsor Iran, which is shifting militias under its authority across both sides of the border.

Pro-government forces were combing the town for booby traps, Syria’s SANA news agency reported.

Units from Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces militias, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, and the Syrian Army all fought in the battle for Boukamal, according to various statements and interviews with the groups and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, which also reported the militants’ defeat at Boukamal.

Iranian Brig. Gen. Khayrallah Samadi was killed by a mortar shell, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported Saturday.

IS has suffered consecutive defeats at the hands of separate but simultaneous offensives in Iraq and Syria by the Russian-backed Syrian forces and allied militias as well as U.S.-backed Iraqi and Syrian fighters.

Despite its recent defeats, the extremist group’s media apparatus has remained active and its fighters are likely to keep up their insurgency from desert areas.

Associated Press writer Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.

No N. Korean Nukes On ICBM’s, Until Kim’s Boys Solve Terminal Reentry Problem

[SEE: If N. Korea Can Deliver A Nuke Into Space, Can It Survive Reentry?]

People watch a launching of a Hwasong-12 strategic ballistic rocket aired on a public TV screen at the Pyongyang Train Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017© AP Photo/ Jon Chol Jin

The South Korean foreign intelligence service has reported that North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program has hit a snag, as the communist country has run into difficulty developing reliable atmospheric re-entry technology that would allow their missile to return from Earth’s orbit.

The report came from the National Intelligence Service (NIS), who met behind closed doors with the South Korean National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee on Thursday. According to an anonymous parliamentary source with Yonhap News, NIS claims that the DPRK will not have a functional ICBM until they can overcome this hurdle.

“[The NIS said that] the North had recently carried out a few missile engine tests, but it is still not at a stage where it can complete its ICBM development,” the anonymous source told Yonhap.

North Korea has not launched a missile since September, but in July 2017 they undertook two high-profile tests of the Hwasong-14 ICBM. The tests were both successes, with the latter test demonstrating that the Hwasong-14 could potentially hit any part of the continental United States.

But to reach that far, the Hwasong-14 would need an effective reentry vehicle. The second tested missile made it into space just fine, but the reentry vehicle broke into pieces when it attempted its return to Earth.

This is less a fault in North Korean engineering and more evidence of how difficult reentry vehicles are to build: they must be able to protect the warhead from temperatures of 12,600 degrees Fahrenheit (7,000 degrees Celsius) and speeds topping out at Mach 24 (roughly 18,500 mph).

Not only do reentry vehicles take considerable technical knowhow to build, the NIS said, they also require a variety of specialized and expensive components. The intense regimen of international sanctions levied against North Korea by the US, UN, EU, and others have thus slowed the construction of a reentry vehicle by the DPRK.

The NIS also said that US military pressure, such as the deployment of aircraft carriers to the Korean Peninsula and the buzzing of North Korean airspace with strategic bombers, is a major contributor to Pyongyang’s hesitancy to test another missile.

Another unusual factor, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is that North Korea typically refrains from testing missiles in the last quarter of the calendar year. Nobody is really sure why this is the case; it may just be a coincidence.

But they will launch again, the NIS insisted. It’s only a matter of time.

A functional ICBM is seen as crucial for North Korea, as currently they have very weak leverage against the US directly — they can only threaten US allies like South Korea and Japan. An ICBM would give them leverage over the US mainland, which could potentially drive a wedge between South Korean and US security interests.

Two-Faced Trump Spokeswoman Carelessly Boasts That the US Doesn’t Need UN Approval To Wage War In Syria

Nikki Haley: US ready to ‘fight for justice’ in Syria without UN approval

The US does not consider itself constrained by the United Nations Security Council and might seek “justice” in Syria on its own terms, the US representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, has said. The US took similar action in Libya in 2011.

“With the unity of this council, or alone, unrestrained by Russia’s obstructionism, we will continue to fight for justice and accountability in Syria,” Haley said, blasting Russia’s vetoing of the draft resolution on the extension of the Syrian chemical weapons probe on Friday.

The draft, proposed by Japan, envisioned the “technical extension” of the probe for another 30 days. Explaining Russia’s decision to block the resolution, Russian UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya said that there is no sense in prolonging the mission if some glaring flaws in its work are not amended.

“There can be no other way after the JIM’s [the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism] leadership disgraced itself with its fictitious investigation into the sarin use incident in Khan Shaykhun and signed off on baseless accusations against Syria,” he said.

Haley went on to accuse Russia of showing no flexibility in negotiating the conditions of the probe, claiming that Moscow had only “dictated and demanded” while the US had “incorporated elements of the Russian draft” into its own in the hopes of reaching a consensus.

Russia vetoed the US draft on Thursday, with Nebenzya calling it “unbalanced” and solely designed to discredit Russia and its role in the Syrian settlement. Haley subsequently accused the Russian mission of ignoring the US delegation’s attempts to contact it before the vote.

Haley’s remarks on the impossibility of reaching the Russian mission provoked an angry reaction from Moscow, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov calling it “fake diplomacy.” Lavrov said that “it seems we are witnessing a new phenomenon in international relations, as now, apart from fake news, there is also fake diplomacy.”

The rival draft was co-sponsored by Russia and China, and “aimed at the extension and qualitative improvement” of the fact-finding mission, according to Nebenzya. However, it also failed, gaining the support of only four Security Council members.

While both Russia and the US used their veto powers on the respective resolutions, Haley accused Moscow of obstructing the work of the UNSC and its efforts to find “the truth.”

Saudi Royal “Purge” Is Young Prince Shaking-Down Relatives For 70% of Their Wealth

[Saudi Kingdom Holding plans to sell two hotels in Beirut – sources
Kingdom Holding]

Reports: Saudi prisoners to be freed in exchange for 70% of their wealth

Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal [Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud/Facebook]

According to the Financial Times (FT) the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed Bin Salman, is negotiating a settlement with some of the country’s most well-known figures who have been detained under corruption charges since the beginning of the month.

In some cases, Saudi officials are demanding 70 per cent of the suspect’s wealth in exchange for their release.

It was widely suspected that Bin Salman’s anti-corruption purge was part of a wider strategy to raise money for the country’s depleting treasury, which has grappled with a recession triggered by prolonged low oil prices.

Read: Saudi UN envoy: anti-graft detainees to get due process

According to the Wall Street Journal, the purge, which saw more than 1,200 bank accounts frozen, had their sights on seizing up to $800 billion in cash and assets.

People negotiating the deal with the prisoners are keen to secure their release by signing over cash and corporate assets, reported the FT.

“They are making settlements with most of those in the Ritz,” said one adviser. “Cough up the cash and you will go home.”

Officials investigating the allegations of corruption are looking to seize at least $100 billion though the target is said to be $300 billion.

While the round up has backing from many of the country’s young population, who perceive the older princes and businessman of being corrupt, it has spooked the international business community.

Reports that the detainees are being tortured by Saudi security officials are likely to raise further concerns over the crackdown. Saudi whistleblowers have alerted that Bin Salman, who is personally overseeing the detention, orders the guards to “beat” the prisoners who are being held at the Ritz Carlton hotel.

Kashcol @coluche_ar

MBS is available daily at the Ritz from 6.30 am to 10 pm and oversees investigations.
MBS still deals with a very high estimate of Muttab bin Abdullah and Alwaleed so they think he will be released.
But after he left, he ordered the interrogators to beat them.

It is also alleged that two of most high-profile prisoner Waleed Bin Talal and Mutaib bin Abdullah, who is a potential challenger to the throne, are being tortured.


Walid bin Talal tried to commit suicide by cutting off the veins of his hands have been treated and save his life.
After that everything was pulled in the rooms except beds and blankets.
The newborn is particularly beaten and I do not know why MBS’s hatred is.
Meteb bin Abdullah is currently accused of a criminal case for a military strike on the cigarette fire.
MBS trampled the dignity of his family
15:18 – 14 Nov 2017

Kingdom of UAE Traficking In (US?) Arms In Somalia

[US approves $2 billion arms sale to UAE]

UAE violates UN arm embargo in Somalia

In a protest against the creation of a UAE military base in Somalia, banners read “No to military bases, no to aggression” outside the UAE embassy in London, UK, on 2 March 2017.

According to monitors, the continuous support of some foreign countries for terror in Somalia threatens peace and security due to the possible return of piracy off the Somali coast.

The report said that it had enough proofs that a UAE ship could have been carrying illegal weapons and banned materials to Somali before it was intercepted and kidnapped.

The report noted that EU drones recorded the Emirati ship changed its route, got closer to Somali beaches, two small boats approached it and exchanged shipments with it.

In addition, the report explained that the UAE’s activities in the Somali city of Barbara, saying: “The plans to build an Emirati military base in Barbara are going on very quickly,” noting that the monitors asked the UAE reports whether building the base does not violate the arms embargo, but the UAE did not respond.

The monitors said that building a foreign military base includes moving weapons to the region and this is a violation of the weapons embargo, stressing that any foreign contribution to the official Somali institution in the country must get their agreement.

READ: Somalia turns down $80m to cut ties with Qatar

Hariri and Wife Are Now In Paris…Two Of Their Kids Are Still In Riyadh

PM Hariri’s office confirms he is in Paris

PARIS – The Associated Press

PM Hariri’s office confirms he is in Paris

The office of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said on Nov. 18 he has arrived in Paris with his wife from Saudi Arabia without mentioning two of his children.

The statement says Hariri will meet French President Emmanuel Macron later and have lunch with him along with his wife, Lara, and older son Hussam.

The statement did not mention Hariri’s younger son, Abdul-Aziz, and daughter Loulwa.

Lebanese local media outlets say Hariri’s younger children are still in Saudi Arabia where they are attending school.

Hariri’s older son, Hussam, studies in Britain and arrived in Paris to meet his parents.

Hariri’s cousin and close aide, Nader Hariri, was seen walking into the Paris residence on the morning of Nov. 18. Nader Hariri told the local LBC TV that he arrived alone in Paris without other family members from Lebanon.

Hariri’s resignation in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia Nov. 4 has thrown Lebanon into a serious political crisis. Lebanese President Michel Aoun refused to accept it, accusing the Saudis of holding him against his will.

The United States is not fighting against terrorists in Syria, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag

This Saturday, April. 29, 2017 still taken from video, shows an American soldier looking out of an armored vehicle in the northern village of Darbasiyah, Syria© AP Photo/ APTV

United States Not Combating Terrorism in Syria – Turkish Deputy PM

The United States is not fighting against terrorists in Syria, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said Thursday, commenting on the deal on withdrawal of Daesh terror group militants from the Syrian city of Raqqa.


ANKARA (Sputnik) — On Monday, the BBC news outlet reported that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias had allowed about 250 Daesh terrorists to leave Raqqa in October.

“There has been no question of an open struggle against terrorists. Otherwise, Washington would not cooperate with one terrorist organization in the fight against the other. This is unthinkable but it is the fact. If it was the question of a real fight against terrorists, the US would need to cooperate with a strong country like Turkey,” Bozdag said, as quoted by the Anadolu news agency.

He added that the agreement between the Syrian Kurds and Daesh terrorists during the operation in Raqqa had been reached with the consent of the United States.

On Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that the SDF, dominated by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), “brokered a deal” with Daesh to evacuate a large number of its members from Raqqa.

Ankara considers the YPG to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which is listed as a terror group in Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Syria Shows Warehouses Full of US/Western Weapons Seized From Daesh In Deir ez-Zor

DAESH Weapon© Sputnik/ MORAD SAEED

Warehouses Full of US-Made ‘Lethal Weapons’ Found by Syrian Army (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

The Syrian Army has liberated new quarters of Deir ez-Zor from Daesh terrorists. During the operation the army found large warehouses with a huge number of lethal weapons. The Syrian military source told Sputnik Arabic what exactly these warehouses were storing.

According to the Syrian military source there were a lot of US-made weapons and military equipment of Western European and Israeli production. Apart from M-16 automatic rifles there were TOW anti-tank missile systems and 155 mm US field guns.

“There were also Hummers, which were either used to transport people or were stuffed with bombs inside ready to explode. Israeli intelligence reconnaissance aircraft and a modern Israeli protective suit for conducting sapper work have also been found,” the source told Sputnik Arabic.

The source also said that tech for air and ground reconnaissance, satellite communications and bags with C-4 explosives were also discovered inside these warehouses.

There were also boxes with ammunition and weapons stored in the underground shelters, while tanks and cars were covered with a camouflage net to protect against Russian and Syrian airstrikes.

The Inside Syria Media Center website quoted Syrian Brigade General Ali al-Ali as saying that the United States illegally delivered at least 1,500 trucks with weapons and military equipment to terrorists in Syria between June 5 and September 15 of this year.

Although Washington said that these weapons were intended for US allies, they always fell into the hands of terrorists, the general said.

Warehouse of Daesh weapons
© Sputnik/ MORAD SAEED
Warehouse of Daesh weapons

According to the website, the Austrian Glock 19 pistol is the most popular weapon among Daesh militants. Back in 2014, terrorists posted execution videos, in which those pistols were used.

Later it was discovered that these pistols were delivered to Iraqi law enforcement bodies in 2003-2004.

 DAESH Weapon
© Sputnik/ MORAD SAEED
DAESH Weapon

According to the brigade general, the M-16 assault rifles became a symbol of crisis in Syria. The Syrian Army has repeatedly found boxes containing weapons that read “US Property.” Hence statements suggesting  that these were Chinese copies are probably incorrect.

DAESH Weapon
© Sputnik/ MORAD SAEED
DAESH Weapon

Furthermore, the Syrian Army on a number of occasions found the light automatic FN FAL rifle, which is a weapon used by the NATO. This rifle is equipped with a sniper scope and is generally used in urban dwellings.

In addition, Daesh terrorists have also used Heckler & Koch’s MP5 submachine gun, popular with US and European law enforcement agencies.

Once Again, Phantom Bombers Target Jamiat-e Islami Afghan Leaders In Kabul…30+ Killed

[SEE: Mourners of Yesterday’s Kabul Protesters Deaths Attacked By Suicide-Bombers At Funeral]

“Noor, a senior leader of the Tajik-dominated Jamiat-e Islami party, has been an outspoken critic of Ghani and the National Unity Government.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Noor blamed an “evil circle” inside the government for the attack.
“Our fight against terrorists and terrorism and for justice will continue and such actions, the perpetrators of which are known, will not deter us,” he said.
It is not the first time that top officials in the Jamiat political group have been targeted by attackers.
Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, who heads Jamiat, survived an attack at a funeral in Kabul in June where suicide bombers tore through a row of mourners. Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah also escaped unharmed.”–[At least 14 dead in suicide attack outside Kabul political gathering]

At least 30 people killed in Afghanistan suicide attack

The suicide attacker targeted a wedding hall in Kabul where a political gathering was taking place inside, officials say.

The suicide attack was the latest in a wave of violence in Afghanistan that has killed and wounded thousands of civilians this year. November 16, 2017.
The suicide attack was the latest in a wave of violence in Afghanistan that has killed and wounded thousands of civilians this year. November 16, 2017. ( Reuters )

A suicide attacker blew himself up outside a wedding hall in Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 30 people and wounding several others, officials and witnesses said.

The attack apparently targeted a political gathering underway inside the hall.

Daesh claimed responsibility on the terrorist group’s news agency, Amaq. The Taliban denied involvement.

Supporters of Atta Mohammad Noor, the powerful governor of the northern province of Balkh and a vocal critic of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, had been holding an event inside the hall at the time of the blast.

“After lunch as we were exiting the hall a huge explosion shook the hall, shattering glass and causing chaos and panic,” said Harun Mutaref, who was at the gathering.

Journalist Bilal Sarwary has more from Kabul.

“I saw many bodies including police and civilians lying in blood.”

The bomber tried to get into the building but was stopped at the security checkpoint where he detonated his device, Kabul police spokesman Abdul Basir Mujahid said.

“A number of our police personnel are among the casualties,” Mujahid added.

Governor of Balkh province not present

Governor Noor was not at the event, one of his aides said.

Noor is a senior leader of the Tajik-dominated Jamiat-e Islami party.

He is a critic of Ghani and the National Unity Government, and has hinted that he may run in the 2019 presidential election.

Noor recently called for the return of Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, who fled to Turkey in May after he was accused of raping and torturing a political rival in 2016.

Earlier this year, Noor met Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq, a senior figure in the mainly Shia Hazara ethnic community, and Dostum in Turkey to form the “Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan.”

Lebanon’s Hariri shackled by bigger outside forces

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Nothing so encapsulated the political shackles in which Saad al-Hariri has operated as Lebanon’s prime minister as the way he resigned in a televised statement made from Saudi Arabia.

Cars pass next to a poster depicting Saad al-Hariri, who has resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister, in Beirut, Lebanon,, Lebanon, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Every major decision by the unlikely politician was determined by factors beyond his control. He entered politics after the 2005 assassination of his father and his resignation served the agenda of Riyadh.

The dependence of their leaders on powerful external patrons is nothing new in Lebanon, where regional powers from Saudi Arabia to Iran have long tussled for geopolitical advantage.

But the case of Hariri, who many Lebanese think was summoned to the Saudi capital, coerced into resigning and put under house arrest – which he has denied – underscores an instance of external pressure extreme even by Lebanon’s high standards.

In an interview on Sunday, he said he will return to Lebanon in the coming days and might reconsider his resignation. Even if he does, the events of the past 10 days show how decisions taken beyond Lebanon’s borders would still define his role.

His shock resignation statement on Nov. 4, which has thrust Lebanon into a new political crisis, included a laundry list of Saudi complaints about the behavior of Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, Riyadh’s main political adversaries.

Iran and Hezbollah, Hariri said, are “sowing strife” in the Arab world.

As Riyadh’s ally at a time of its enemies’ ascendancy, Hariri was already playing Lebanon’s intricate political game from a position of weakness.

A year ago, after spending years abroad, he agreed to join a national unity government with President Michel Aoun, a former rival and Hezbollah ally, that included Hezbollah itself.

It was a compromise he said was necessary to end Lebanon’s sectarian-tinged political paralysis and one that was personally difficult, as Hariri accuses Hezbollah of the assassination of his father, Rafik al-Hariri.

He seemed committed to that compromise until the moment he flew to Riyadh on Nov. 3, telling officials of discussions planned for his return the following Monday.

Saudi Arabia had previously accepted Hariri’s political bargain in Lebanon. But Iran’s trumpeting of its successes along with Hezbollah in the wars in Syria and Yemen at the expense of Saudi allies may have altered Riyadh’s calculation.

A day after traveling to Riyadh, Hariri appeared on television reading a statement of resignation.


Hariri’s career was built on the backing of Gulf states, the deployment of his family fortune – spending large amounts of it in Lebanon to finance a media network and charitable gifts to secure widespread support – and feelings of respect among many Lebanese for his late father.

In his resignation address, Saad said: “We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri”.

A poster depicting Saad al-Hariri, who has resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister is seen in Beirut, Lebanon, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

In Lebanon’s sectarian system, the prime minister must always be a Sunni Muslim and Rafik made his family pre-eminent among Lebanese Sunnis.

Rafik carved out a business empire in Saudi Arabia with the backing of its ruling family and returned to Lebanon to rebuild when the civil war there ended in 1990, serving twice as prime minister. The car bomb that killed Rafik gave Saad little choice but to adopt a previously unsought role as political leader.

Before being plunged into Lebanon’s volatile politics, Saad had led a playboy lifestyle running his father’s business. He was raised in Saudi Arabia and has Saudi nationality.

Outrage at Rafik’s killing helped Hariri’s movement to electoral victory five months later and he installed a political ally as prime minister, not taking the post himself until 2009.

It was the first government headed by factions opposed to the influence of Syria – and by extension Damascus’ allies Iran and Hezbollah – since the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war.

That opposition came to a head in 2008 when the government tried to seize Hezbollah’s telecommunications network, triggering street battles in Beirut that the heavily armed Shi‘ite Muslim movement won.

A poster depicting Saad al-Hariri, who has resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister is seen in Beirut, Lebanon, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Qatar brokered a compromise, with Hariri becoming head of a coalition government that included Hezbollah. But Hezbollah pulled out in 2011, bringing down the administration.


As tensions rose over the war in neighboring Syria, Hariri left Lebanon, spending most of the ensuing years abroad until he returned months before joining a new government last year.

But his sway – and that of his family’s regional patron Saudi Arabia – had diminished. The formation of last year’s government was widely seen in Lebanon as an acknowledgement of the political dominance of Iran and Hezbollah.

Saudi Arabia’s own apparent impatience with Hariri became evident in the fortunes of the family company – Saudi Oger – whose billions had underpinned their political role in Lebanon.

With a new dispensation in Riyadh under King Salman and his ambitious son Prince Mohammed, and a fall in oil prices damaging its finances, the Saudi government seemed less willing to roll out big state projects to enrich some allies.

When Hariri’s first stint as premier ended in 2011, he said in a newspaper interview: “In Lebanon it’s never over for anyone”.

A source in his camp said a compromise to bring him back to Beirut as prime minister was still possible if Aoun distanced himself from Hezbollah’s regional role.

Such a statement by Aoun might give some satisfaction to Saudi Arabia, but it would seem to leave Hariri no stronger than before.

After so public a departure, especially one delivered from abroad, his dependence on Riyadh has been made especially visible. His enemies in Lebanon even mocked his Arabic during his resignation speech as being more Saudi than Lebanese.

And the posters of him that have appeared across Beirut with the slogan “We are with you” looked less like statements of mass support than solidarity with a political hostage.

Reporting by Angus McDowall; editing by Mark Heinrich

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

“Foreign Agent” News Sputnik Publishes Drone Film of ISIS Troop Columns Fleeing Russian Bombing

Russian MoD Releases Photos Proving US-Led Coalition Refused to Strike Daesh

The Russian Defense Ministry has said that US forces had refused to carry out airstrikes against Daesh (ISIS) terrorists who were retreating from Syria’s town of Abu Kamal.

The operation to liberate Syria’s eastern town of Abu-Kamal has shown that the US-led coalition has been directly supporting Daesh terrorist group, according to the Defense Ministry.

The ministry has published photos showing that the armed extremists were leaving Abu Kamal leaving for the Syrian-Iraqi Border. The Russian forces command has offered the US-led coalition to conduct a joint operation to destroy columns of terrorists on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river. However, offers have been rejected, according to a statement from the Russian military.

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The Ministry of Defense of Russia publishes an indisputable confirmation that the United States provides cover for combat-capable ISIG units for use in advancing American interests in the Middle East:

“The operation carried out at the end of last week by Syrian government troops to liberate Abu-Kemal with the support of the Russian Air Force Committee revealed the facts of the direct interaction and support of the terrorists of the IGIL by the” international coalition “led by the United States.

On photographs taken on November 9, 2017 by Russian unmanned vehicles, it was recorded how the armed formations of IGIL, escaping from the blows of Russian aviation and government troops, leave from Abu Kemal in the direction of the Wadi al-Sabha crossing on the Syrian-Iraqi border.

The command of the Russian grouping of forces twice appealed to the command of the US-led “international coalition” with a proposal to conduct joint actions to destroy the retreating columns of the IGIL on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

However, the Americans categorically refused to air strike against the terrorists of IGIL, referring to the fact that, according to them, the militants “voluntarily surrendered to them prisoners” and now fall under the provisions of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

At the same time, the commands of the command of the Russian group: why are the Igilovs regrouping in the zone under the control of the international coalition to launch new attacks on Syrian troops in the Abu Kemal region, the Americans could not answer anything.

Moreover, for the safe withdrawal of IGIL militants retreating from Abu Kemal from the attacks of government troops, the coalition aviation tried to interfere with the Russian military aircraft operating in the area.
To this end, the attack aircraft of the “coalition” entered the airspace over the 15-kilometer zone around Abu-Kemal to impede the work of Russian military aircraft.
Although the ban on flights in this zone of aircraft of the US-led “coalition” was previously agreed and approved by the Center for Joint Air Operations at the El-Udejad airbase in Qatar.

Such actions by the “coalition” show that the rapid advance of the Syrian troops in Abu Kemal disrupted the US plans to create “pro-American” authorities beyond the control of the Syrian government to manage the territories on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.

In the role of local “pro-American” forces allegedly controlling the city, the IGIL fighters themselves, which were “repainted” in the colors of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDS), should be acted upon, as evidenced by the flags used in the city of Abu Kemal used by the SDS.

These facts are indisputable evidence that the United States, imitating for the world community an irreconcilable fight against international terrorism, in fact provide cover for combat-capable units of the IGSF to restore their combat capability, regroup and use them in promoting American interests in the Middle East “

Saad Hariri’s Resignation Video Was Obviously Coerced

The Prime Minister of Lebanon’s Unnerving Interview


Saudi Arabia appears ready to sacrifice the country in its reckless bid to confront Iran.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who has resigned, is seen during Future television interview, in a coffee shop in Beirut, Lebanon November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi
In the Middle East, the parlor game of the moment is guessing whether Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s prime minister—or is it ex-prime minister?—is literally, or only figuratively, a prisoner of his Saudi patrons. In a stiff interview from an undisclosed location in Riyadh on Sunday, Hariri did little to allay concerns that he’s being held hostage by a foreign power that is now writing his speeches and seeking to use him to ignite a regional war. He insisted he was “free,” and would soon return to Lebanon. He said he wanted calm to prevail in any dispute with Hezbollah, the most influential party serving in his country’s government.

Since Hariri was summoned to Saudi Arabia last week and more or less disappeared from public life as a free head of state, rumors have swirled about his fate. On November 4, he delivered a stilted, forced-sounding resignation speech from Riyadh. Michael Aoun, Lebanon’s president, refused to accept the resignation, and Hezbollah—the target of the vituperative rhetoric in Hariri’s speech—deftly chose to stand above the fray, absolving Hariri of words that Hezbollah (and many others) believe were written by Hariri’s Saudi captors.

The bizarre quality of all this aside, the underlying matter is deadly serious. Saudi Arabia has embarked on another exponential escalation, one that may well sacrifice Lebanon as part of its reckless bid to confront Iran.

Foreign influence seeps through Middle Eastern politics, nowhere more endemically than Lebanon. Spies, militias, and heads of state, issue political directives and oversee military battles. Foreign powers have played malignant, pivotal roles in every conflict zone, from Iraq and Syria to Yemen and Libya. Lebanon, sadly, could come next. Even by the low standards of recent history, the saga of this past week beggars the imagination, unfolding with the imperial flair of colonial times—but with all the short-sighted recklessness that has characterized the missteps of the region’s declining powers.

Saudi Arabia, it seems, is bent on exacting a price from its rival Iran for its recent string of foreign-policy triumphs. Israel and the United States appear ready to strike a belligerent pose, one that leaders in the three countries, according to some reports, hope will contain Iran’s expansionism and produce a new alignment connecting President Donald Trump, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The problems with this approach are legion—most notably, it simply cannot work. Iran’s strength gives it a deterrence ability that makes preemptive war an even greater folly than it was a decade ago. No military barrage can “erase” Hezbollah, as some Israel war planners imagine; no “rollback,” as dreamed up by advisers to Trump and Mohamed bin Salman, can shift the strategic alliance connecting Iran with Iraq, Syria, and much of Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia, as the morbid joke circulating Beirut would have it, is ready to fight Iran to the last Lebanese. But the joke only gets it half right—the new war reportedly being contemplated wouldn’t actually hurt Iran. Instead, it would renew Hezbollah’s legitimacy and extend its strategic reach even if it caused untold suffering for countless Lebanese. Just as important, a new war might be biblical in its fire and fury, as the bombast of recent Israeli presentations suggests. But that fire and fury would point in many directions. Iran’s friends wouldn’t be the only ones to be singed.

Saudi Arabia’s moves have gotten plenty of attention in the days since Mohamed bin Salman rounded up his remaining rivals, supposedly as part of an anti-corruption campaign. Hariri was caught in the Saudi dragnet around the same time. It seemed puzzling at first: For years, Saudi Arabia had been angry with Hariri and his Future Movement, its client in Lebanon, for sharing power with Hezbollah rather than going to war with it. Riyadh was clearly displeased with Hariri’s pragmatic positions. He had learned the hard way, after several bruising political battles and a brief street battle in May 2008, that Hezbollah’s side was the stronger one. Rather than fuel a futile internecine struggle, Hariri (like the rest of Lebanon’s warlords) opted for precarious coexistence.

Once it became clear that Hariri could do nothing to prevent Hezbollah’s decisive intervention in the Syrian civil war, Saudi Arabia cut off funding for Hariri, bankrupting his family’s billion-dollar Saudi construction empire. It also ended its financial support for the Lebanese army, cultivating the impression that it considered Lebanon lost to the Iranians and Hezbollah.

Now, Saudi Arabia has steamed back into the Lebanese theater with a vengeance. It dismisses Hezbollah as nothing but an Iranian proxy, and, in the words uttered by Hariri in his resignation speech, wants to “cut off the hands that are reaching for it.” In what must be an intentional move, it has destroyed Hariri as a viable ally, reducing him to a weak appendage of his sponsors, unable to move without the kingdom’s permission. Mohamed bin Salman won’t even let him resign on his home soil. If Hariri really were free to come and go, as he insisted so woodenly in his Sunday night interview, then he would already be in Beirut. Even his close allies have trouble believing that threats against his life prevent him from coming home, and the Internal Security Forces, considered loyal to Hariri, denied knowledge of any assassination plot.

The Saudis have fanned the flames of war, seemingly in ignorance of the fact that Iran can only be countered through long-term strategic alliances, the building of capable local proxies and allies, and a wider regional alliance built on shared interests, values, and short-term goals. What Saudi Arabia seems to prefer is a military response to a strategic shift, an approach made worse by its gross misread of reality. In Yemen, the Saudis insisted on treating the Houthi rebels as Iranian tools rather than as an indigenous force, initiating a doomed war of eradication. The horrific result has implicated Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the United States, in an array of war crimes against the Yemenis.

Hariri has clearly tried to balance between two masters: his Saudi bosses, who insist that he confront Hezbollah, and his own political interest in a stable Lebanon. On Sunday night, he appeared uncomfortable. At times, he and his interviewer, from his own television station, looked to handlers off camera. The exchange ended abruptly, after Hariri implied that he might take back his resignation and negotiate with Hezbollah, seemingly veering from the hardline Saudi script. “I am not against Hezbollah as a political party, but that doesn’t mean we allow it to destroy Lebanon,” he said. His resignation does nothing to thwart Hezbollah’s power; if anything, a vacuum benefits Hezbollah, which doesn’t need the Lebanese state to bolster its power or legitimacy.

One theory is that the Saudis removed Hariri to pave their way for an attack on Lebanon. Without the cover of a coalition government, the warmongering argument goes, Israel would be able to launch an attack, with the pretext of Hezbollah’s expanded armaments and operations in areas such as the Golan Heights and the Qalamoun Mountains from which they can challenge Israel. Supposedly, according to some analysts and politicians who have met with regional leaders, there’s a plan to punish Iran and cut Hezbollah down to size. Israel would lead the way with full support from Saudi Arabia and the United States. Even if this theory proves true, there’s no guarantee Israel would play along. Riyadh’s miscalculation in Yemen suggests it’s likely to misread the situation in Lebanon and Israel.

Short of seeking actual war, Saudi Arabia has, at a minimum, backed a campaign to fuel the idea that war is always possible. While a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran wouldn’t shift the balance of power back toward the kingdom, it would upend still more lives in a part of the world where the recently displaced number in the millions, the dead in the hundreds of thousands, and where epidemics of disease and malnutrition strike with depressing regularity. Short of direct war, Riyadh’s machinations will likely produce a destabilizing proxy war.

If Hariri were a savvier politician, he could have used different words; he could have refused to resign, or insisted on doing so from Beirut. But he is an ineffective leader in eclipse, unable to deliver either as a sectarian demagogue or a bridge-building conciliator. Saudi Arabia’s plan to use him to strike against Iran will fail. Just look at how willfully it has misused and now destroyed its billion-dollar Lebanese asset. It’s a poor preview of things to come in the Saudi campaign against Iran.

US Media Resurrecting Dragon of Communism, To Frighten Superstitious American Children

By Stephen Lendman

It infests America like a malignant tumor, exceeding the worst of the post-WW I “Red Scare” and its repeat following WW II.

Beginning in 1938, House Un-American Activities Committee witch-hunt hearings into alleged disloyalty and subversive activities became headline news.

Starting in the late 1960s, more of the same followed by the renamed House Committee on Internal Security.

Notorious McCarthyism in the 1950s was a demagogic smear campaign against prominent figures, slandering them, ruining careers, even accusing General George Marshall of being “soft on communism.”

Notable Hollywood figures were blacklisted. McCarthyism was baseless slander, unscrupulous fear-mongering, and political lynchings.

Harvard Law School dean Ervin Griswold once called McCarthy “judge, jury, prosecutor, castigator, and press agent, all in one.”

Modern-day Russophobia includes a second Cold War, Russia under Vladimir Putin again considered the “evil empire,” relentless Washington and media Russian bashing, along with endless congressional and special counsel witch-hunt investigations suggesting the worst, revealing nothing.

Russia expert Stephen Cohen said “(w)e’re in the most dangerous confrontation with Russia since the Cuban missile crisis.”

He underestimated the threat. It’s much worse now than then. Jack Kennedy explained he “never had the slightest intention of” attacking or invading Cuba.”

Obama was no Jack Kennedy. Nor is Trump, his administration and Congress infested with neocons, Democrats as ruthlessly dangerous as Republicans.

The late political theorist Sheldon Wolin once called undemocratic Dems the “inauthentic opposition,” as infested with neoliberal Russophobic neocons as the Republican party.

Virtually everyone in Washington is part of the anti-Russia crowd, Bernie Sanders among them, a progressive in name only.

During his presidential campaign, he sounded like a modern-day Joe McCarthy, shamefully claiming “the evidence is overwhelming” that Russia “help(ed) elect the candidate of their choice, Mr. Trump, to undermine in a significant way American democracy.”

In a YouTube video, he repeated the Big Lie, saying “the US intelligence community has concluded that Russia played an active role in the 2016 election with the goals of electing Donald Trump as president.”

“The Trump campaign had repeated contacts with the senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”

The phony “dossier” showed Russian agents able to “blackmail” the White House. Like most others in Congress, Sanders is a cold and hot warrior, a self-serving con man, supporting wealth, power and privilege like the rest of Washington’s political establishment, pretending otherwise. states:

“Bernie supports enforcing economic sanctions and international pressure as an alternative to any direct military confrontation when dealing with Russia.”

“To temper Russian aggression, we must freeze Russian government assets all over the world, and encourage international corporations with huge investments in Russia to divest from that nation’s increasingly hostile political aims.”

“The United States must collaborate to create a unified stance with our international allies in order to effectively address Russian aggression.”

“(T)he United States should isolate Putin politically and economically…The entire world has got to stand up to Putin.”

Shocking stuff, exposing the real Bernie Sanders, not the persona he publicly displays!

Former CIA counterintelligence official/whistleblower John Kiriakou was invited to participate in a European Parliament panel – then removed at the last moment because panelist Winnie Wong, co-founder of People for Bernie, refused to appear with him, Kiriakou saying:

“(S)he didn’t want the appearance of Bernie Sanders appearing to endorse the Russian media.”

Kiriakou hosts a Sputnik News radio show called Loud & Clear, why she objected, supporting Sanders’ Russophobia.

Kiriakou remarked saying “American politics rear(ed) its ugly head in Brussels.” No problems arose when he appeared on another panel with Cuba’s EU ambassador.

It’s the “red scare all over again,” Kiriakou explained. Anything remotely connected to Russia is toxic. Failing to be Russophobic in Washington is a likely career-ender, much like what happens to Israeli critics.

Intense anti-Russian sentiment in America risks the unthinkable – possible catastrophic nuclear war, humanity’s survival at stake.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at


My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

Saudi Arabia’s Desperate Gamble

Saudi Arabia’s Desperate Gamble

Furious over defeat in Syria, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince is gambling again, arresting rivals at home and provoking a political crisis in Lebanon, but he may lack the geopolitical chips to pull off his bet, says ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke.

By Alastair Crooke

It is always tempting. The Syrian war is coming to an end, and the losses to those who bet on the losing side – suddenly in the glare of the end-game – become an acute and public embarrassment. The temptation is to brush the losses aside and with a show of bravado make one last bet: the masculine “hero” risks his home and its contents on a last spin of the wheel. Those in attendance stand in awed silence, awaiting the wheel to slow, and to trickle the ball forward, slot by slot, and to observe where it comes to rest, be it on black, or on the blood-red of tragedy.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump join Saudi King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, May 21, 2017, to participate in the inaugural opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Not only in romances, but in life, too. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has wagered all on black, with his “friends” – President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) and Trump himself daring MbS on. Trump, in his business life, once or twice has staked his future on the spin of the wheel. He too has gambled and admits to the exhilaration.

And in the shadows, at the back of the gaming room, stands Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. The idea of going to the casino was his, in the first place. If the hero lands on black, he will share in the joy, but if it is red … never mind: Bibi’s home is not forfeit.

Let us be clear, MbS is severing all the various fetters that hold the Saudi kingdom together and intact. Saudi Arabia is not just a family business: it is also a confederation of tribes. Their diverse interests were attended to, primordially, through the composition of the National Guard, and its patronage. The latter henceforth reflects, no longer, the kingdom’s diverse tribal affiliations, but the security interests of one man, who has seized it for himself.

Ditto for the various cadet branches of the al-Saud family: the carefully judged sharing out of spoils amongst the many family claimants is finished. One man is clearing the table of everybody’s smaller stakes. He has snapped the wires connecting the Court to the Saudi business élite – and is slowly slicing away the Wahhabi religious establishment, too. They have been effectively kicked out of the partnership, which they founded jointly with ibn Saud, the first monarch of Saudi Arabia who ruled during the first half of the last century, also known as King Abdul Aziz. In short, no one has a stake left in this enterprise, but MbS – and no one it seems, has rights, or redress.

Why? Because MbS sees the Saudi political and religious leadership of the Arab world slipping, like sand, through the king’s fingers, and he cannot bear the thought that Iran (and the despised Shi’a), could be the inheritor.

Transforming Saudi Arabia 

Saudi Arabia, therefore, has to be transformed from a sleepy, declining kingdom, into an instrument for blunting Iranian power. This, naturally resonates with an American President who seems, too, more and more preoccupied with reasserting U.S. prestige, deterrence and power in the world (rather than adhering to the non-interventionist narrative of the Campaign). At The American Conservative’s conference in Washington last week, editor Robert Merry, a staunch realist and prolific author, mourned that: “There is no realism and restraint in American foreign policy in the Trump era.”

Saudi defense minister, Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud

All wars are costly, and money is needed (and is being seized accordingly through MbS’s arrest of his rivals on corruption charges). But Saudi Arabia traditionally (since the Eighteenth Century), has waged all its power struggles via one particular (and effective) tool: fired-up Wahhabi jihadism. And that, in the wake of the Syrian debacle, lies discredited, and no longer available.

So now, Saudi Arabia has to craft a new instrument, with which to confront Iran: and the Crown Prince’s choice is truly ironic: “moderate Islam” and Arab nationalism (to counter non-Arab Iran and Turkey).  Mohammad Abd-el Wahhab must be turning in his grave: “moderate” Islam in his rigorous doctrine, led only to idolatry (such as that practiced by the Ottomans), and which, in his view, should be punished by death (see here).

In fact, this is the riskier part of MbS’s gamble (though seizing Prince Walid bin Talal’s mammoth fortune has grabbed most attention). King Abdel Aziz faced armed rebellion, and another king was assassinated for departing from the Wahhabist principles on which the state was founded – and for embracing westernized modernity (viewed by pure Wahhabis as idolatry).

The gene of Wahhabist fervor cannot be exorcised from Saudi society by simply commanding it gone.  (Abdul Aziz finally only overcame it, by machine gunning its adherents, dead).

But, embracing “moderate Islam” (i.e. secular Islam), and threatening to confront Iran, probably was done with one eye on wooing President Trump to support MbS’s ousting of his cousin, Prince Naif, as Crown Prince – and the other eye on the P.R. potential to portray Iran as “extremist” Islam to a White House whose world view of the Middle East has been shaped by Bibi Netanyahu whispering in the ear of Jared Kushner, and by the prejudices of a circle of advisers disposed to see Iran in terms of one singular understanding, rather than in its diverse aspects. Netanyahu must be congratulating himself on his clever ploy.

Netanyahu’s Coup

No doubt about it: it has been a coup for Netanyahu. The question though, is whether it will turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory, or not: whichever it is, it is highly dangerous to throw grenades into combustible material. This U.S.-Israeli-Saudi-UAE project is, at bottom, an attempt to overturn reality, no less – it is rooted in a denial of the setback suffered by these states by their multiple failures to shape a New Middle East in the Western mode. Now, in the wake of their failure in Syria – in which they went to the limits in search of victory – they seek another spin of the roulette wheel – in the hope of recouping all their earlier losses. It is, to say the least, a capricious hope.

President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the United Nations General Assembly (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

On the one hand, Iran’s strength across the northern Middle East is not tentative. It is now well rooted. Iran’s “strategic space” includes Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen – and increasingly – Turkey.  Iran has played a major role in defeating ISIS, together with Russia. It is a “strategic partner” of Russia, while Russia now enjoys broad sway across the region. In a word, the political heft lies with the north, rather than with the weakened, southern tier.

If there be some notion that Russia might be induced to “rein in” Iran and its allies across the region to mollify Israeli concerns, this smacks of wishful thinking. Even if Russia could (and it probably cannot), why should it? How then will Iran be rolled-back? By military action? This, too, seems a stretch.

Israel’s military and security echelon, in the wake of the 2006 war on Lebanon, is likely only to contemplate a war (with anyone other than Palestinians), that is short (six days or less); does not result in heavy Israeli civilian or military casualties; and can be won at a low cost. Ideally, Israel would also expect full American buy-in (unlike in 2006). The Pentagon has little appetite for putting boots on the ground again in the Middle East, and Israelis are aware of this. And Saudi Arabia alone, cannot threaten anyone militarily (as Yemen has amply demonstrated).

Can Saudi Arabia squeeze Lebanon economically and impose political pressure on any Lebanese government? Of course: but economic pressure likely will hurt the Sunni, middle and business classes, harder than the 44 percent of the Lebanese population who are Shi’a.  Generally, the Lebanese have an aversion to external interference, and American sanctions and pressures will be more likely to unite Lebanon than divide it. (This is the old, old story of imposed sanctions.) And at a guess, the Europeans will neither willingly support the de-stabilization of Lebanon nor the abandonment of JCPOA, the 2015 agreement to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

So what may be the outcome? At a guess, Saudi Arabia, already a society with many repressed tensions, may simply implode under the new repression (or MbS might somehow be “removed” before the tensions combust). America and Israel will not emerge strengthened, but rather will be viewed as less relevant to the Middle East.

Robert Malley, the former Middle East adviser in the last administration, warns of the danger of a potential regional explosion: “Fear is the one thing preventing it—but could also precipitate it.”

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.

Saudi purge may lift lid on mega arms deal


Saudi purge may lift lid on mega arms deal


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has launched a major corruption crackdown.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has launched a major corruption crackdown.
Richard Spencer,Sean O’Neill


Britain’s biggest-ever arms deal faces renewed scrutiny after Saudi Arabia placed it at the centre of an urgent criminal investigation as part of the kingdom’s anti-corruption drive.

One of the hundreds of princes, ministers and businessmen held in the country’s unprecedented purge of senior figures is Prince Turki bin Nasser, the royal at the centre of the so-called al-Yamamah scandal, The Times has been told.

The Saudi decision to investigate the 43 billion pound ($AU74b) deal has created political pressure for Britain to re-open its investigation into al-Yamamah, which was halted on the orders of Tony Blair as prime minister in 2006.

Sir Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, said it was “an indictment of our foreign policy” that Saudi Arabia was now ahead of Britain in looking at the corruption claims that have swirled around the arms deal for years.

“The ugly truth behind this was never revealed,” said Sir Vince. “It is embarrassing that Saudi Arabia is now leading us on transparency.

“The Serious Fraud Office should reopen this case. The Foreign Office and SFO must also fully co-operate with this investigation.

“It is almost a decade since I sought thorough debates in Parliament to have this properly investigated, but the Government of the day and the official opposition sought to maintain secrecy.”

Britain's then Prime Minister Tony Blair in Riyadh in 2001.
Britain’s then Prime Minister Tony Blair in Riyadh in 2001.

Ann Clwyd, a Labour MP who has aired concerns about the deal since the 1990s, said she would be raising the Saudi inquiry with the foreign affairs committee.

“I hope the SFO will offer its full co-operation with any new investigation and I would urge them to become involved,” said Mrs Clwyd. “We have been waiting for many years for someone to finally lift the lid on this.”

The al-Yamamah deal involved the sale of arms, particularly fighter planes, by BAE Systems, the former British Aerospace, to Saudi Arabia over two decades from the 1980s.

The series of contracts was sealed with huge support from the government of Margaret Thatcher.

But the path was also allegedly smoothed by multi-million dollar “commissions” to middlemen, most notably Prince Turki, a former deputy head of the Saudi Royal Air Force.

The SFO opened an investigation into the deal in 2004 but that was halted two years later after Saudi Arabia put intense pressure on the government, fearful at the damage it was doing to the Gulf country’s reputation.

If Saudi obstacles to the investigation have been removed, the way is clear for Britain to resume its inquiry.

The investigation is part of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s crackdown on corruption at the highest levels, although he has also been accused of using the purge to clear his path to succeeding his father as king.

A senior source confirmed to The Times that Prince Turki, a grandson of King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, was among those being detained.

He added that the al-Yamamah deal was being re-investigated.

“It is accumulation of many corruption cases dealt with in one night,” the source said of the prince’s purge.

“Some are known, but have been ignored for years like the al-Yamamah scandal, and Prince Turki bin Nasser.”

The Saudi attorney-general has said that in total he is investigating misappropriated sums in excess of dollars 100 billion.

The SFO, which was ordered to shut down its criminal inquiry into the al-Yamamah deal by the Blair government in 2006, declined to comment last night (Friday).

A spokeswoman for BAE Systems said: “We will co-operate in full with any investigation”.

– The Times

Even Prince Bandar Gets Caught In Prince’s Net

Several detainees taken to hospital with torture injuries, while sources tell MEE scale of crackdown is bigger than authorities have revealed

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has overseen arrest of hundreds of people, including senior royals, ministers and tycoons (AFP)
David Hearst's picture


Some senior figures detained in last Saturday’s purge in Saudi Arabia were beaten and tortured so badly during their arrest or subsequent interrogations that they required hospital treatment, Middle East Eye can reveal.

People inside the royal court also told MEE that the scale of the crackdown, which has brought new arrests each day, is much bigger than Saudi authorities have admitted, with more than 500 people detained and double that number questioned.

Members of the royal family, government ministers and business tycoons were caught up in the sudden wave of arrests orchestrated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, under the banner of an anti-corruption drive.

Some, but not all, of the top figures arrested were singled out for the most brutal treatment, suffering wounds to the body sustained by classic torture methods. There are no wounds to their faces, so they will show no physical signs of their ordeal when they next appear in public.

Some detainees were tortured to reveal details of their bank accounts. MEE is unable to report specific details about the abuse they suffered in order to protect the anonymity of its sources.


Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s prince of chaos

The purge, which follows an earlier roundup of Muslim clerics, writers, economists and public figures, is creating panic in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, particularly among those associated with the old regime of King Abdullah, who died in 2015, with power then passing to his half-brother, King Salman.

Many fear the primary purpose of the crackdown is a move by MBS to knock out all rivals both inside and outside the House of Saud before he replaces his 81-year-old father.

On Wednesday night, seven princes were released from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, where they had been held since Saturday. The top royals have been moved to the king’s palace, sources told MEE.

The crown prince’s cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, who continues be under house arrest, has had his assets frozen, the Reuters news agency reported. Sons of Sultan bin Abdulaziz have also been arrested and had their assets frozen.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the US, pictured here in 2007, is among those arrested (AFP)

One of the most famous is Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former Saudi ambassador to Washington and confidant of former US president George W Bush.

There is no word on his fate, but Saudi authorities said that one of the corruption cases they are looking at is the al-Yamamah arms deal, in which Bandar was involved.


Things that go bump in the night in Riyadh

Bandar bought a hamlet in Oxfordshire, in a picturesque area of central England, and a 2,000-acre sporting estate with part of the proceeds from kickbacks he received in the al-Yamamah arms deal, which netted British manufacturer BAE £43bn ($56.5bn) in contracts for fighter aircraft.

As much as $30m (£15m) is alleged to have been paid into Bandar’s dollar account at Riggs Bank in Washington and the affair led to corruption probes in the US and UK, although the case was dropped in the UK in 2006 after an intervention by then-prime minister Tony Blair.

Also among those arrested is Reem, the daughter of Al-Waleed bin Talal, the only woman to be targeted in the latest roundup.

Bank accounts frozen

To prevent others from fleeing, MBS has ordered a freeze on private bank accounts. The number of account closures and those banned from travel is many times the number of people who have been arrested, sources in Riyadh told MEE.

No one expected a crackdown of this scale and against princes of such seniority in the House of Saud, which is why so many of those detained were caught red-handed and had no time to flee.

Many of those arrested are being held at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel (AFP)

The purge against other members of the royal family is unprecedented in the kingdom’s modern history. Family unity, which guaranteed the stability of the state since its foundation, has been shattered.

The last event of this magnitude was the overthrow of King Saud by his brother Prince Faisal in 1964. At one point in that saga, Prince Faisal ordered the National Guard to surround the king’s palace, but the king himself was never vilified.

His exit was dignified and all the senior figures, including Faisal himself, waved him goodbye at the airport.

Mohammed bin Salman vowed before becoming crown prince: “I confirm to you, no one will survive in a corruption case – whoever he is, even if he’s a prince or a minister.”

Today, however, the sons of all four key men in the House of Saud who comprised the core of the family through the last four decades have been targeted. They are the sons of King Fahd bin Abdulaziz, King Abdullah, Prince Sultan and Prince Nayef.

This represents an unprecedented attack on the position and wealth of the pillars of al-Saud, including the three most prominent figures of the ruling Sudairi clan.

King Saud, pictured, was forced to abdicate by his brother, Prince Faisal, in 1964 (AFP)

King Salman is one of seven Sudairi brothers, the clan that has dominated the kingdom for the last 40 years. The other surviving Sudairi is Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, who has been sidelined.

Salman only gained the throne because two of his four full brothers, Sultan and Nayef, died as crown princes.

Even then his accession was a close-run thing, as MEE has previously reported. King Abdullah died before a decree writing Salman out of the line of succession could be signed and published.

Public humiliation

In Bedouin culture, the attack on his cousins will not be forgotten or forgiven. Their public humiliation, as well as the freezing of their assets, is seen as a blow to their honour, which surviving members of their family are duty bound to avenge.

The crown prince’s attack on leading business figures is equally risky.

One of those rounded up on Saturday was Bakr bin Laden, the head of Saudi Arabia’s biggest construction company. He had managed the biggest construction programmes for decades through a series of sub-contractors he paid directly.

Bin Laden was rich enough to absorb the costs, before he in turn had to “bribe” officials in the government to get paid for the original work and the contract they had agreed.

Once you remove the man or the company at the top of the sub-contractor pyramid, no one beneath him gets paid, thus risking throwing the entire construction industry into disarray. The same happened to Saudi Oger, the company owned by Saad Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon, which was declared bankrupt on 31 July.

Some of the ministers MBS promoted have also been caught by the purge.


Saudi Arabia detains more than 200 people in widening crackdown

Adel Fakeih, a former minister of planning and the economy, spearheaded the rollout of bin Salman’s ambitious privatisation drive called Vision 2030.

He was also key in the announcement of Neom, a proposed mega-city backed by $500bn in government money to be built on the shores of the Red Sea.

Fakeih, a former mayor of Jeddah, was arrested on 4 November. The same fate was suffered by Adel al-Torifi, the crown prince’s information minister.

Symbolically, the announcement of Neom was made at the Ritz Carlton hotel, where the princes have been detained since Saturday.

Many of Mohammed bin Salman’s colleagues must now be asking themselves how long they have before the ambitious prince turns on them.

By hitting the foundations of the unity of the family, as well as the oligarchs, and targeting independent Islamic scholars and public figures, MBS is turning his guns on the traditional pillars of the Saudi state, one analyst said.

“So far, the Saudi kingdom has used chaos as a policy in its near abroad, either in Iraq, Syria or in Yemen. However, it is now implementing the chaos theory at home too, and no one, least of all the prince himself, can be sure of what will now happen,” an informed person in Riyadh said last night.

“The stability of the kingdom was built on three pillars: the unity of the al-Saud family, the Islamic character of the state and the flourishing loyal domestic business community. By hitting all three simultaneously, the risk of the kingdom sinking into the sand is very high,” he said.

Joint Statement by the President of the United States and the President of the Russian Federation


Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 11, 2017

President Trump and President Putin today, meeting on the margins of the APEC conference in Da Nang, Vietnam, confirmed their determination to defeat ISIS in Syria. They expressed their satisfaction with successful U.S.-Russia enhanced de-confliction efforts between U.S. and Russian military professionals that have dramatically accelerated ISIS’s losses on the battlefield in recent months.

The Presidents agreed to maintain open military channels of communication between military professionals to help ensure the safety of both U.S. and Russian forces and de-confliction of partnered forces engaged in the fight against ISIS. They confirmed these efforts will be continued until the final defeat of ISIS is achieved.

The Presidents agreed that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. They confirmed that the ultimate political solution to the conflict must be forged through the Geneva process pursuant to UNSCR 2254. They also took note of President Asad’s recent commitment to the Geneva process and constitutional reform and elections as called for under UNSCR 2254.

The two Presidents affirmed that these steps must include full implementation of UNSCR 2254, including constitutional reform and free and fair elections under UN supervision, held to the highest international standards of transparency, with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate. The Presidents affirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, unity, independence, territorial integrity, and non-sectarian character, as defined in UNSCR 2254, and urged all Syrian parties to participate actively in the Geneva political process and to support efforts to ensure its success.

Finally President Trump and President Putin confirmed the importance of de-escalation areas as an interim step to reduce violence in Syria, enforce ceasefire agreements, facilitate unhindered humanitarian access, and set the conditions for the ultimate political solution to the conflict. They reviewed progress on the ceasefire in southwest Syria that was finalized the last time the two Presidents met in Hamburg, Germany on July 7, 2017.

The two presidents, today, welcomed the Memorandum of Principles concluded in Amman, Jordan, on November 8, 2017, between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America. This Memorandum reinforces the success of the ceasefire initiative, to include the reduction, and ultimate elimination, of foreign forces and foreign fighters from the area to ensure a more sustainable peace. Monitoring this ceasefire arrangement will continue to take place through the Amman Monitoring Center, with participation by expert teams from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Russian Federation, and the United States.

The two Presidents discussed the ongoing need to reduce human suffering in Syria and called on all UN member states to increase their contributions to address these humanitarian needs over the coming months.

In addition, President Trump noted that he had a good meeting with President Putin. He further noted that the successful implementation of the agreements announced today will save thousands of lives‎.

If Not For Obama’s Aggression, Russia and the West Would Still Get Along

[It still confounds me that we hear so much talk about “war with Russia”, or World War III today, when it was only yesterday that we were working hand in hand, more or less, against world terrorism. We claim to be fighting a war against terrorism, yet we ally ourselves with the worst of the terrorists, from Libya, to Syria, to Pakistan, using them as proxy forces to unbalance the world. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that our war on terror has only served to multiply terrorism throughout the world to levels never seen before. Trump and Putin should follow through on their promises to eliminate ISIS, as well as al-Nusra in Syria, while offering joint protection to Lebanon against another invasion by anybody.]

Bear truths: Russia should still be engaged

by U.S. policy

As the investigations, congressional hearings and media continue to reveal the state of play between the Russians and President Donald Trump, his associates and relatives during and after the 2016 campaign, it is important to understand just what is on the other side of the table in President Vladimir Putin and Russia.

The 100th anniversary this year of the Russian revolution is a good place to start in assessing what Mr. Putin sits on top of as ruler of that country. The 1917 event was perhaps the most determinative of the 20th century, including World War II. Stalinist Russia’s dogged, bloody defense of the Russian homeland was arguably what bled the Germans dry in their efforts to conquer Europe.

Mr. Putin, like every Russian czar, wants most of all to stay on top of the Russian heap. To do this, he employs a combination of economic tools, repression and occasional flag-waving opportunities. These latter sometimes involve sticking his and Russia’s fingers in the eyes of the United States. He took Crimea back. He is still smarting over the incorporation by the West of former Soviet satrapies into NATO and the European Union. Americans’ and others’ forays into Ukraine were a bridge too far.

But Russia is no military threat to the United States. It is too shaky internally to take that on. Mr. Putin is faced with a level of economic inequality behind him, particularly between Moscow and St. Petersburg and the rest of his country, that is stunning. Oil and gas prices have nudged higher, but the glory days of Russian prosperity fueled by that phenomenon are well over and the Russian economy still cries out for honesty and diversification.

The United States has no policy toward Russia. Our leaders are paralyzed by fear of what special counsel Robert Mueller and the other interrogators may disinter.

There is political business that could be done with Russia now. The Russian people are tired of the fighting and cost of Moscow’s involvement in the combat in eastern Ukraine. Mr. Putin has nothing to worry about politically. His domestic opponents are brave, but unimpressive, and constitute no threat to his continued rule. If Mr. Trump were up to it, now is a decent time to launch a dialogue on areas of potential cooperation — rebuilding Syria, calming the burgeoning Middle East conflict between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, how to approach an expanding China, what to do about North Korea, relimiting nuclear weapons — that could become fruitful.

Russia is no threat to America, although it does need to be told to bridle its interference in our elections. But it is there, and we need a policy, apart from domestic political maneuvering, toward it. That policy is still missing.

UK Cab. Min. Fired For Visiting Golan Hospital That Also Treats Al-Nusra Wounded

UK minister brought down by hospital in the Golan Heights


International development secretary Priti Patel broke the rules on travelling to the occupied territories and did not disclose meetings with top Israeli officials

An Israeli medic tends to a wounded young Syrian young boy at Ziv Hospital, which perches on a rocky hilltop in the upper Galilee town of Safed. Patients are transferred there from the emergency field clinic whose controversial funding has is likely to cost UK cabinet minister Priti Patel her job. Menahem Kahana / AFPAn Israeli medic tends to a wounded young Syrian young boy at Ziv Hospital, which perches on a rocky hilltop in the upper Galilee town of Safed. Patients are transferred there from the emergency field clinic whose controversial funding has is likely to cost UK cabinet minister Priti Patel her job. Menahem Kahana / AFP

Benjamin Netanyahu claims personal ownership of an Israeli initiative to treat Syria’s civil war victims at a medical facility established in the occupied Golan Heights.

Speaking in London last week, he described his trips to the area as fighting has raged. “Even though we won’t intervene [in Syria] we put a field hospital next to our fence on the Golan Heights and took in thousands of wounded, including women and children, who have suffered terrible things.”

British government rules state that aid money cannot be spent in developed countries. As Israel’s per capita GDP last year was $33,000 that rules out direct expenditure.

Other government rules stipulate that government ministers should not travel to the occupied territories with Israeli assistance. Yet Ms Patel took up the invitation to inspect the operations in the Golan from the Israeli military.

The tour was one further revelation that helped seal the fate of the daughter of East African Indian immigrants. Overnight reports said she failed to disclose that she had met the director general of Israel’s foreign ministry, Yuval Rotem, in New York and public security minister Gilad Erdan in London.

Earlier this year Israeli officials disclosed an American non-government outfit would step in to administer the programme. That change in structure could help attract aid targeted at Syrians in the way that British resources assist Syrians in Turkey and elsewhere.

However, Alistair Burt, Mrs Patel’s deputy, said the proposal had been rejected on two grounds : the Golan heights is occupied territory and the British government does not fund the Israeli military.

Even if a third party interface had been found there is no denying the military character of Operation Good Neighbour.

Both combatants and civilians are admitted to the emergency field hospital before the IDF transfers those needing further treatment elsewhere. The majority go to Nahariya’s Western Galilee Hospital while a fifth go to Ziv Medical Centre in Safed.

The director of Ziv Hospital, Dr Salman Zarka, has welcomed outside support for treatment of Syrians in the Israeli facility, including a grant sponsored by the artist Anish Kapoor. Last month, Dr Zarka said, “We have treated more than 1,000 Syrians of all ages who needed our help over the past four years,” he said.

Two alternative explanations have been provided for the controversy surrounding Mrs Patel.

Stephen Pollard, a well-connected British political reporter, has suggested that Britain’s foreign office had provoked the row to scupper a joint British-Israeli aid initiative in Africa.

Nadhim Zahawi – an MP on the parliamentary foreign affairs committee – told the BBC ‘s Newsnight programme that Mrs Patel was targeted because she campaigned for Brexit in the EU referendum.

US Brands Russia Today “Foreign Agent”, Russia Gives American Media Same Treatment

Russia to amend law to classify U.S. media ‘foreign agents’

Washington orders RT America to register as foreign agent by Monday

Washington orders RT America to register as foreign agent by Monday
Washington will apply its Foreign Agents Registration Act to RT America, the channel has announced. The Department of Justice has given the broadcaster until Monday to register as a foreign agent, otherwise the channel’s head faces arrest and its accounts could be frozen.

The piece of legislation was adopted in the US in 1938 to counter pro-Nazi agitation on US soil. Washington has made the decision to apply the act towards the company that supplies all services for RT America on its territory, including TV production and operations. Just over 400 entities are currently registered under the legislation, but it does not include a single media outlet.

In September, the DOJ sent a letter to the company, claiming it is obligated to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) due to the work it does for RT. The law demands the disclosure of the channel’s confidential data, including the personal data of its staff. The move “will have serious legal consequences” and “compromise the safety of [RT] employees,” the Russian Foreign Ministry previously explained.

RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, said on Thursday that the timeframe provided for the company by the DoJ is a “cannibalistic deadline.” She previously said that the channel was being forced into “conditions in which we cannot work” in the US, and called Washington’s demand an attempt to “drive [RT] out of the country.”

While RT America will comply with the DOJ’s demand and register as a “foreign agent,” the company will challenge the decision in court, Simonyan said. Refusing the order could result in the arrest of RT America’s head, as well as the seizure of assets, rendering broadcasts impossible, she added.

“We believe that the demand does not only go against the law, and we will prove it in court – the demand is discriminative, it contradicts both the democracy and freedom of speech principles. It deprives us of fair competition with other international channels, which are not registered as foreign agents,” Simonyan said.

Simonyan had said the decision put freedom of speech in the US under question. RT has been under pressure for showing the American audience “a different point of view,” the editor-in-chief added.

READ MORE: Labeling RT a foreign agent amid ‘witch hunt’ in US may pose real threat to its staff – Moscow

The Department of Justice’s decision is “a dirty political game,” the chair of Russia’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Senator Konstantin Kosachev told journalists on Thursday. Saying that particular Russian media has been “selected” by US lawmakers, the senator called the move “an obviously discriminatory measure.” He went on to point out that there are “dozens and even hundreds” of foreign media operating in the US, including TV channels financed by foreign states, but none of those have been targeted.

The decision has nothing to do with setting up due process, Kosachev said. It is rather aimed at media which broadcast content “inconvenient” for US authorities. This means sharing information on its foreign and domestic policies, he explained, calling the decision an “infringement of freedom of speech.”

Moscow earlier warned that the US move towards the Russian channel would trigger reciprocal measures in regards to American media working in Russia. “If someone starts to fight dirty, perverting the law by using it as a tool to eradicate the TV station, every move aimed against the Russian media outlet would be repaid in kind,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Did Trump “GREEN LIGHT” A Saudi/Israeli Invasion of Lebanon?

[The following describes the perfect world-affecting FALSE FLAG scenario, financed with limitless petrodollars, utilizing top of the line military fireworks.  Saudi attempts to declare military technology in the hands of Yemenis as an Iranian “act of war” are asinine in the extreme, considering that all of the weapons killing Syrians and their friends flow through Saudi/US hands.  By that logic, Russia has every right to bomb Riyadh for the Al-Nusra killing of Russian Lt. Gen. Valery Asapov.]


“First, a week ago, Mr. Hariri unexpectedly flew to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, without any of his close advisers. A day later, he announced his resignation on Saudi television, something he had shown no signs of planning to do.

Hours later, on Saturday evening, a missile fired from Yemen came close to Riyadh before being shot down. Saudi Arabia later blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the missile, suggesting that they had aided the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen to fire it.

Before the world had a chance to absorb this news, the ambitious and aggressive Saudi Arabian crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the arrest of hundreds of Saudis, including members of the royal family.”

Case of Missing Lebanese Prime Minister Stirs Tensions in the Middle East

Posters in Beirut of the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, who resigned from his post last week in an announcement on Saudi television. Credit Joseph Eid/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A week after the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, flew to Saudi Arabia and announced his resignation, what seemed at first like a bizarre domestic political dispute is escalating tensions in the Middle East and threatening to become a flash point in the struggle for power there.

On Friday, Mr. Hariri remained stranded in Saudi Arabia. The Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah said the Saudis were holding him against his will, while the Saudis have said there was a plot to assassinate him.

Fractious Lebanese politics and interference in them by Saudi Arabia, Iran and a host of other powers are nothing new, but the Hariri case has become part of a high-stakes buildup of tension that is fueling anxiety about whether the region is on the verge of war.

The United States on Friday urged calm, with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson warning “against any party, within or outside Lebanon, using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country,” a message apparently aimed at Hezbollah as well as Saudi Arabia.

As events in the region have unfolded over the past week, each more surprising and bewildering than the last, world leaders, analysts and diplomats have scrambled to figure out what is behind them and whether they are all connected, and even, as some analysts fear, whether they are part of a broader plot to spark a war between Israel and Hezbollah that would risk a wider conflagration.

First, a week ago, Mr. Hariri unexpectedly flew to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, without any of his close advisers. A day later, he announced his resignation on Saudi television, something he had shown no signs of planning to do.

Hours later, on Saturday evening, a missile fired from Yemen came close to Riyadh before being shot down. Saudi Arabia later blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the missile, suggesting that they had aided the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen to fire it.

Before the world had a chance to absorb this news, the ambitious and aggressive Saudi Arabian crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the arrest of hundreds of Saudis, including members of the royal family, in what is either a crackdown on corruption, as Saudi officials put it, or a political purge, as outside analysts have suggested.

It then emerged that the week before, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, who has been sent on missions both to Israel and Saudi Arabia, had visited Riyadh on a previously undisclosed trip and met until the early morning hours with the crown prince.

Even before these events unfolded, analysts and officials in Lebanon and around the region had been increasingly anxious about a volatile combination: an impulsive, youthful Saudi leader escalating threats to roll back growing Iranian influence, an equally impulsive Trump administration signaling broad agreement with Saudi policies, and increasingly pointed warnings from Israel that it may eventually fight another war with Hezbollah.

Some Israeli officials have said over the past year, both publicly and in meetings in Washington, that Hezbollah had grown too powerful, that it was time to strike a decisive blow against it, and that they were preparing for war — even as others insisted the country did not want a conflict now.

On Friday afternoon, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, declared in a televised speech that Saudi Arabia had asked Israel to attack Lebanon, after essentially kidnapping Mr. Hariri, who had been part of a unity government that included Hezbollah.

“I’m not talking here about analysis, but information,” he said. “The Saudis asked Israel to attack Lebanon.”

He provided no evidence of his claim, but Western and regional analysts have also said that, given all the confusing and unexpected events and unpredictable players, they could not entirely rule out such a scenario.


President Emmanuel Macron of France meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on Thursday. Credit Saudi Press Agency, via Reuters

There have long been fears that now that the Syrian war — in which Hezbollah played a decisive role, gaining new influence, power and weapons — is almost over, Hezbollah’s enemies might seek to cut it down to size, and that an empowered Hezbollah would push back hard.

Addressing Saudi Arabia, Mr. Nasrallah said, “Don’t set a goal of destroying Hezbollah because you can’t.” But if Saudi Arabia’s goal was to force Hezbollah to leave Syria, he said: “No problem. Our goal there has been achieved. It’s almost over anyway.”

Also on Friday, President Emmanuel Macron of France left Saudi Arabia after a brief, last-minute meeting with the crown prince.

During the unexpected two-hour visit on Thursday, tacked on to a trip to Abu Dhabi to open a new branch of the Louvre museum there, Mr. Macron “reiterated the importance France attaches to Lebanon’s stability, security, sovereignty and integrity,” the French president’s office said. He also discussed “the situation in Lebanon following the resignation of Prime Minister Hariri,” his office said, but provided no further details.

At a news conference in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, before the meeting, Mr. Macron said he did not share Saudi Arabia’s “very harsh opinions” of Iran.

“It is important to speak with everyone,” Mr. Macron said.

France has longstanding interests in Lebanon, a former colony, and Mr. Macron was invited to Saudi Arabia by Prince Mohammed.

A new war is unlikely, analysts said. Saudi Arabia, which is mired in a military conflict in Yemen, is seen as lacking the capacity to start another, while Israel, which has talked about reducing the new influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the region, has said it does not want a war now.

But some have warned that the increased tensions could provoke an economic crisis or even war accidentally. Miscalculations have started wars before, as in the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

In Lebanon, concerns have mounted that Mr. Hariri may, in effect, be a hostage of the Saudi government.

President Michel Aoun of Lebanon told the Saudi chargé d’affaires in Beirut, Walid Bukhari, that the manner of Mr. Hariri’s resignation was “unacceptable,” and a consortium of countries and organizations interested in Lebanon’s stability said they had met on Friday with Mr. Aoun, who called for Mr. Hariri’s return.

Mr. Hariri said in his resignation speech that he was quitting because of what he said was Iran’s disproportionate influence in Lebanon through its ally, Hezbollah, which is part of the unity government he headed. But he had shown no signs of planning to resign before his sudden trip to Riyadh, and so far the political fallout has harmed him and his party more than Hezbollah.

The consortium, the International Support Group for Lebanon, issued a statement expressing “concern regarding the situation and prevailing uncertainty in Lebanon” and calling for Lebanon to be “shielded from tensions in the region.”

The group’s members — including the United Nations, Britain, China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States, as well as the European Union and the Arab League — are not all on the same side of some issues in the region, so the statement seemed to reflect a high level of concern about tensions.

Mr. Hariri, a dual citizen of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, met the ambassadors of Britain and the European Union and the chargé d’affaires of the American Embassy on Wednesday and Thursday at his Riyadh residence.

Other Western diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said those envoys, too, had the impression that Mr. Hariri could not speak freely. Saudi Arabia, which ordered its citizens on Thursday to leave Lebanon, has denied he is being held against his will.

Correction: November 10, 2017
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated where President Emmanuel Macron of France met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. They met in Riyadh, not in Abu Dhabi.


Saad Hariri Held In Riyadh, While Saudis Try To Name Brother Bahaa As New P.M.

“The Hariri family refused to accept the invitation to Riyadh to swear allegiance to Baha Hariri as a successor to his brother Saad.” 


Aoun Raises Concerns Over Circumstances Surrounding Hariri’s Resignation


President Michel Aoun on Friday expressed concern over the circumstances surrounding the situation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the wake of his resignation amid reports that he is being held in Saudi Arabia, the National News Agency said.

Aoun reiterated his concern over “the circumstances surrounding the situation of Hariri and the necessity of its unraveling,” Aoun told members of the International Support Group for Lebanon whom he received at the Presidential Palace.

During his meeting Aoun, tackled Lebanon’s position over the recent developments following the resignation of Hariri from abroad, and the circumstances of such an announcement.

He reassured ambassadors over “the awareness and solidarity manifested by Lebanese leaders at this delicate stage in the history of Lebanon, and their keenness to strengthen national unity which may help maintain the security and financial stability in the country,” NNA said.

UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Philippe Lazzarini spoke on behalf of the group, praising the stances of Aoun, and his success in controlling the situation in the wake of the resignation.

“Members of the international group support the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, and stress the importance of national unity,” Lazzarini said.

The Ambassadors stressed “their countries’ support for the President and their readiness to help find appropriate solutions to the current crisis.”

Since Hariri’s resignation on Saturday, Aoun has been holding series of meetings with foreign and Arab officials.

On Friday he received a number of officials including the Saudi Charge d’Affaires Walid al-Bukhari in addition to other figures.

Aoun told the Saudi envoy that the circumstances of Hariri’s resignation were “unacceptable,” reports said.

For his part, Bukhari did not make any statement after his meeting with Aoun.

“Finalizing the resignation is put on hold until the return of PM Hariri, and until the real reasons for his decision are revealed,” Aoun said.

Hariri announced in a televised speech from Saudi Arabia on Saturday that he was stepping down, citing Iran’s “grip” on Lebanon and threats to his life.

His resignation raised questions about the fate of Hariri, who also holds Saudi nationality, as it coincided with the announcement in Saudi Arabia of an anti-corruption purge in which dozens of princes, ministers and businessmen have been rounded up.

Second Saudi Prince Found Dead (from extreme loss of blood) In 24 Hours?

Second Saudi prince dead in 24 hours?

Twitter is abuzz with the reports of death of yet another Saudi prince. Prince Abdul Aziz, 44, was the youngest son of King Fahd.  | Posted by Bijin Jose
Prince Abdul Aziz (Photo: Twitter/@muntaser_buz) Prince Abdul Aziz (Photo: Twitter/@muntaser_buz)

Hours after the death of Mansour Bin Muqrin, son of former crown prince Muqrin al-Saud, Twitter is abuzz with the reports of death of yet another Saudi prince.

The ArabicAlIthad News later quoted a Saudi Royal Court release saying that the Saudi royal family mourned the death of the prince who died at 44. It however did not cite a reason for the death.

Prince Aziz (44) was the youngest son of King Fahd and was reportedly arrested on Sunday.

The news of the arrest and a subsequent gunfight came from various sources and earlier reports suggested that Abdul Aziz was hospitalised. The al-Masdar news network first reported the news of his death and later removed it.

The rumours of death began doing the rounds after few verified accounts broke the news.

Meanwhile, other reports said that Aziz was killed in a gunfight while allegedly resisting arrest.A report on TheDuran website however did not mention a gunfight but only said ‘died during an attempted arrest’.


A Saudi prince has died in a helicopter crash near the border of Yemen on Sunday afternoon.

Prince Mansour Bin Muqrin, a member of the House of Saud and son of former crown prince Prince Muqrin al-Saud, was the appointed Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

Mansour Bin Muqrin was also the governor of Asir, a southern province in Saudi Arabia. Muqrin was traveling with several other government officials who were also killed in the crash, state TV Ekhbariya reported.

Prince Mansour Bin Muqrin

The helicopter crash came after Saudi Arabia arrested nearly a dozen princes, and several other former and current officials in a crackdown by the government’s new anti-corruption committee on Saturday night.

Among those arrested is Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the richest people on the planet and a major investor in marquee brands of the world.

Trump Lands $84 Billion Chinese Fracking Contract For West Virginia

[Does this relieve Trump of all the promises he made to put West Virginia coal-miners back to work?]

FRACTRACKER, GAS/OIL producing area marked in orange/yellow.

China Energy to invest $83.7 billion in West Virginia

BEIJING, China (WSAZ) — China Energy Investment Corporation Limited has signed an agreement with the West Virginia Dept. of Commerce on an $83.7 billion plan to invest in shale gas development and chemical manufacturing projects in West Virginia.

The Memoradum of Understanding was signed Thursday in Beijing, witnessed by President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

West Virginia Secretary of Commerce H. Wood Thrasher and China Energy President Ling Wen signed the MOU.

“This is a great day for the state of West Virginia,” Gov. Jim Justice said. “I’ve been saying for the last couple months that the tides are turning in West Virginia and this is proof. Today is another sign as we joined with my good friend President Trump to announce the largest investment in our state’s history.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) also released a statement Thursday morning, saying, “I am thrilled Secretary Thrasher and China Energy have signed the Memorandum of Understanding today in Beijing. I have always said that West Virginians are the hardest working people in the world. I’m glad China Energy recognizes this and is working with us to create jobs and economic growth in our state.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said early Thursday morning, “Expanding Appalachia’s energy infrastructure, including developing a regional storage hub and market for natural gas liquids, will have a transformative effect on our economy, our security, and our future. From driving growth and creating jobs to maximizing America’s energy potential, the benefits for West Virginia and the country from this new investment will be significant and long-lasting.

“That’s why I worked diligently to expand West Virginia’s energy infrastructure and bring this investment to our state, advocating for it with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretaries Perry and Ross. I’m excited to continue working with the administration, and state, local and private-sector leaders to keep this effort moving forward,” Sen. Capito said.

China Energy is the world’s largest power company, with more than 200,000 employees.

Bin Salman Reading the Shia Press Now?

Bin Salman is in danger; royal family may overturn him

(AhlulBayt News Agency) – A hard-working account on Twitter published a series of tweets about the situation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, especially after the recent attack on the Peace Palace in Jeddah, where Mujtahid said bin Salman was present inside the palace at the moment of the attack [Palace guards killed in Saudi shooting in Jeddah–Oct. 7–ed.].
What is remarkable about this time is the information he has given about what is happening within the royal family and the growing resentment of the young prince.He is known for his data on the Saudi royal family, but his identity is still unknown and speculation.

In his account, Mujtahid pointed to Bin Salman’s horror, shifts in his personality and growing hostility towards him within the family, explaining where he disappears most of the time.

Bin Salman was not injured in the recent attack on the royal palace in Jeddah, although he was present at the palace and was not far from the incident. He pointed out that the guards’ handling of the attack was not professional and that Bin Salman does not consider the palace a safe place.

It was considered that bin Salman was living before the attack a state of horror and anxiety and turmoil, and this incident came to increase horror and turmoil because of his belief that the parties to the family behind him.
Causes of fear and threat

He explained the reasons for the horror and turmoil experienced by bin Salman divided into two groups:

The first group belongs to him personally, and the second group is related to his family.

In recent months, he has undergone major changes in his behavior, program and daily practices that have affected his brain and psychology and made him shaky. These changes have affected Bin Salman’s own confidence, his daring to meet important figures and his ability to make a decision, as well as his inability to resist blackmail

The other change that took place was the great shift in the positions of the Saud family, where 95% of the Saud family were against it, most of whom were either satisfied with reality or indifferent. Most of them had previously been indifferent to their actions because there was no evidence of their impact on them personally, Low mental abilities that do not absorb the danger of the future

Al-Wa’i of the Al-Saud family was reassured that Ibn Nayef was a safety valve because he is known for his commitment to the policy of his predecessors towards the cohesion of the family and towards scientists, tribes and other countries. However, in recent months, after the dismissal of Mohammed bin Nayef, One of them personally

Promise these things as follows:

The first is the acquisition of Ibn Salman and his small circle on all projects, deals and concessions through NESMA and the Public Investment Fund and his personal influence

He said that according to the family estimate if Ibn Salman continued in this acquisition will remain only salary, which is not enough pocket money and does not equal anything in front of other means. Which angered the members of the family more according to Mujtahid is that those close to Ibn Salman from outside the family became their share of thefts more than the share of the princes, and their influence is stronger than the influence of the princes.

The second is their feeling of insecurity after the imprisonment of Ibn Nayef, the prison of the officers and the judges affiliated with him, the imprisonment of Abdulaziz bin Fahd and other emirs, and the majority of them being prevented from traveling.

Third, their fear of losing the entire government because of the chaos in the economy and the Yemeni and Qatari coffers and arrests and alienation and normalization, which provokes the community and opens the door to armed rebellion.

Mujtahid stressed that these reasons led to the issue of the Crown Prince being a hot issue within the family and a lot of confusion in the internal councils and the voices of calling for the coup against him and the situation.

He pointed out that many of them fell to get around Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz and pressure on Mteb bin Abdullah so as not to accept the abdication of the National Guard, which is currently led to avoid the exclusive bin Salman all the armed forces.

Saudis Weave A Tale of Intrigue To Justify Starting War Against Hezbollah/Lebanon

Jubeir Says Yemen Missile ‘Launched by Hizbullah’ as Sabhan Warns Lebanese

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Monday announced that the latest missile that was fired at Riyadh’s international airport was “an Iranian missile, launched by Hizbullah, from territory occupied by the Huthis in Yemen.”

“We see this as an act of war,

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia said on Monday that Lebanon had declared war against it because of attacks against the Kingdom by the Lebanese Shi‘ite group Hezbollah.

Saudi Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan told Al-Arabiya TV that Saad al-Hariri, who announced his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister on Saturday, had been told that acts of “aggression” by Hezbollah “were considered acts of a declaration of war against Saudi Arabia by Lebanon and by the Lebanese Party of the Devil”.


Hariri Leaves Saudi Arabia for UAE Visit

[But, can Hariri then leave Saudi puppet-state UAE?]


Prime Minister Saad Hariri has traveled to Abu Dhabi from Riyadh, three days after announcing his shock resignation, to hold talks with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Future TV said on Tuesday.

The television channel added that the meeting between the two men is scheduled at noon.

Hariri stunned the Lebanese with his resignation on Saturday and a haltingly delivered televised statement from the kingdom fueled speculations.

In the speech, he accused Iran of meddling in Arab affairs and Iran-backed Hizbullah of holding Lebanon hostage.

Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah speculated on Sunday that Saudi Arabia had forced Hariri to resign amid the deepening Saudi-Iran rivalry.

Al-Arabiya: Interference on Hariri’s Convoy Carried Out with Iran-Made Equipment

Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan had said Saturday that the alleged assassination plot was unveiled by Hariri’s security detail.

The Internal Security Forces issued a statement later on Saturday distancing itself from unconfirmed media reports about the alleged plot.

“As for what is being circulated through media outlets, social networking websites and news websites about an attempt to assassinate PM Saad Hariri that was foiled by the ISF Intelligence Branch, the ISF Directorate General clarifies that neither it nor the Intelligence Branch are the source of the circulated reports,” the ISF said.

Terrorists On Motorbikes Murder Pakistani Diplomatic In Jalalabad

Pakistani diplomatic staffer shot dead in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad

ISLAMABAD/KABUL: A Pakistani diplomatic staffer was shot dead by unidentified assailants in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Monday, confirmed the Foreign Office of Pakistan (FO).

Unknown assailants shot Rana Nayyar outside his residence in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, family sources told Geo News.

The FO condemned the killing of the staffer in the eastern city of the war-ravaged country and demanded increased security from Afghan authorities for its diplomatics staff and missions in the country.

Pictured is deceased Pakistani diplomatic staffer, Rana Naiyyer. — Geo News

The unidentified assailants were riding motorbikes, diplomatic sources say.

“When he went to the hospital he was pronounced dead,” said Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan Zahid Nasrullah Khan.

Nangarhar governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani confirmed the deadly attack.

“Police have launched an investigation into the incident. No arrests have been made so far,” Khogyani told AFP.

Khan said he had “absolutely no idea” why Nayyar, a father of five, was targeted.

Rana Nayyar had been working as an assistant at the Pakistan Consulate in Jalalabad, Dr. Mohammad Faisal, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Office said, condemning the “gruesome murder.”


The foreign ministry statement added that Rana had finished “his three-year tenure in Jalalabad and was due to return to Headquarters”.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif also condemned the attack and asked the Afghan authorities to provide security to Pakistani diplomats in the country.

Pakistan’s foreign secretary also summoned Afghan charge d’affaires to the Foreign Office and lodged a strong protest with him over the killing, Faisal said.

The Afghan charge d’affaires was also handed a protest note, he added.

The incident comes a few months after two Pakistani diplomats working at the same consulate in Jalalabad were kidnapped and later freed.

Earlier in January 2016, Daesh claimed a suicide attack on the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, with a gunbattle which lasted several hours.

Afghan officials had said all three attackers and at least seven members of the security forces died during the attack

The attack, which came amid efforts to restart the stalled peace process with the Taliban, resembled similar assaults on diplomatic missions in the country.

Names of Some of the Royals That the Boy-King Doesn’t Like

Crown Prince Salman is heading the newly formed anti-corruption committee that has rounded up princes and businessmen (AFP)
Areeb Ullah's picture

In the dead of night, Saudi forces surrounded the compounds of several prominent princes across the Gulf kingdom, in a move to clamp down on corruption.

Under the auspices of the newly formed anti-corruption committee, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, prominent Saudi princes and businessmen are now being held in the lavish Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh.


Just last week the Ritz Carlton was host to some of the world’s leading investors, as Salman attempted to tell the world his vision for a post-oil Saudi Arabia.

The individuals detained include 11 princes, four current ministers and tens of former ministers.

Among those held are Abdullah al-Sultan, who is commander of the Saudi Navy, and Khalid al-Mulheim, the former director general of Saudi Arabian airlines.

But who are some of the other individuals that have been rounded up in the latest alleged move against corruption in the Gulf Kingdom?

Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal

Prince Walid bin Talal owns sizeable shares in Newscorp, Twitter and Citigroup via his Kingdom Holdings company (AFP)

Known for his flamboyance and philanthropy, multi-billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is the grandson of Ibn Saud, the first Saudi king,

He is also the grandson of Riad al Solh, Lebanon’s first prime minister.

According to Forbes, Talal is worth $18bn and chairman of the Kingdom Holding Corporation.

He owns sizeable shares in numerous companies, including Newscorp, Citigroup, 21st Century Fox and Twitter.

In 2015, Talal was criticised for offering to buy Bentley cars for Saudi pilots involved in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. He also took to Twitter to describe Donald Trump as a “disgrace” during the US presidential election.

Prince Miteb bin Abdullah

Prince Miiteb bin Abdullah was the last remaining member of the late King Abdullah’s Shammar branch of the Saudi family to have an important post in Saudi Arabia (AFP)

Born in 1953, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah headed the Saudi Arabian National Guard, an elite internal security force originally based on traditional tribal units run by his father for five decades.

Trained at Sandhurst military academy in Britain, he was the son of the late King Abdullah, and was once thought to be a leading contender for the throne.

He is also the last remaining member of the Shammar branch of the Saudi royal family to retain an important position.

Officially named as the National Guard’s commander in 2010, his position was consolidated in 2013 when the National Guard was given its own ministry, where he was named minister.

Abdullah’s business interests are thought to include ownership of the prestigious Hotel de Crillon in the centre of Paris, which French newspaper Le Figaro reported that he bought in 2010 for $354m.

Bakr bin Laden

Bakr Bin Laden is chairman of Saudi Arabia’s largest construction firm (Screengrab)

Described  in Der Spiegel magazine as being the “true ruler of Jeddah,” Bakr bin Laden is the chairman of Saudi Bin Laden group, the largest construction company in Saudi Arabia.

Born in 1945 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, bin Laden attended the University of Miami in Florida and is said to keep a low profile.

Even so, bin Laden is viewed as being a political heavyweight in Jeddah and major powerbroker inside the city.

He is also the older brother of Osama bin Laden and has been pivotal in the Saudi Bin Laden group’s increased income.

Khalid al-Tuwaijri

Khalid al-Tuwaijri was the highest ranking non-prince under the court of King Abdullah before being ousted (Screengrab)

Famously known as being the highest ranking non-prince in Saudi Arabia, Khalid al-Tuwaijri was chief of the royal court of Saudi Arabia under the late King Abdullah.

Born in 1960, Tuwaijri studied law in Saudi Arabia. He obtained a masters degree in political sciences in the United States another in Islamic criminal law in Saudi Arabia.

Tuwaijri created many enemies, earning him the nickname of octopus as he controlled who was and wasn’t allowed to have an audience with King Abdullah.

He was also pivotal in helping formulate Saudi’s foreign policy, from helping oust Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, to sending troops to support the Bahraini monarchy.

His fall from grace, however, came after King Salman ascended to the throne in 2015, whereupon he was sacked from his position.

Saleh Kamel

Saleh Kamal is known as being the father of Islamic Finance globally (Screengrab)

Worth more than $2bn according to Forbes magazine, Saleh Kamel is the chairman and founder of the Dallah al Barakah group, one of the Middle East’s largest conglomerates.

He is viewed as being Saudi Arabia’s leading businessman and served as chairman and on numerous boards of companies.

Kamel, however, is better known for helping pioneer Islamic finance, serving as chairman of Al-Baraka, which operates Islamic banks throughout the Middle East, as well as in Pakistan and Indonesia. He promoted Islamic banking to numerous world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Kamel is also known for his philanthropic efforts, and his son most recently donated $10m to Yale University to establish an institute that focuses on Islamic law.

Alwaleed al-Ibrahim

Alwaleed al Ibrahim is chairman of the Middle East broadcasting corporation (screengrab)

Born and raised in Saudi Arabia with his eight brothers, Alwaleed al-Ibrahim is the CEO of the commercially successful Middle East Broadcasting Centre, otherwise known as MBC.

After launching MBC in 1991, which became the Arab world’s first commercially successful channel, Ibrahim went on to found a series of other entertainment channels.

He later launched Al-Arabiya in 2003 with the stated goal of being an alternative to the Doha based Al Jazeera.

Despite known as being the owner of MBC, a leaked Wikileaks cable alleged that King Fahd’s youngest son and his nephew, Abdulaziz bin Fahd, control Al-Arabiya’s editorial line.

Texas Gun Owner Stopped Mass-Murder Rampage In Rural Baptist Church…26 Killed

Texas Gun Owner Stopped Church Shooting Rampage

Photo of Anders Hagstrom

Anders Hagstrom
Justice Reporter

 church shooting in Sutherland Texas was stopped after a local gun owner grabbed his rifle and began returning fire at the shooter, police announced Sunday.

Police say the shooter, who has been identified as 26-year-old Devin P. Kelley of New Braunfels, Texas, walked inside the church and opened fire just before 11:30 a.m. local time. Kelly killed at least 26 people before an unidentified gun owner forced him to flee by grabbing his own rifle and returning fire, Texas Rangers announced Sunday.

“At approximately 11:20 this morning a suspect was seen at a Valero gas station in Sutherland Springs, Texas,” Police Maj. Freeman Martin told reporters. “He was dressed in all black. That suspect crossed the street to the church, exited his vehicle and began firing at the church.”

“That suspect then moved to the right side of the church and then continued to fire,” he continued. “That suspect entered the church and continued to fire. As he exited the church, a local resident grabbed his rifle and engaged that suspect. The suspect dropped his rifle, which was a Ruger AR assault-type rifle and fled from the church.”

“Our local citizen pursued the suspect at that time,” Freeman said. “A short time later law enforcement responded that [the] suspect [was] right at the Wilson/Guadalupe County line … and was found deceased in his vehicle. At this time we don’t know if it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound or if he was shot by the local resident. We know he’s deceased in the vehicle. ”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, confirmed that 26 people were killed and as many as 30 other wounded in the shooting. The death toll makes the attack the deadliest shooting at a place of worship in American history.

“We all know what happened here today. It’s something we all say does not happen in small communities,” Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said at a Sunday evening press conference. “Today we found out that it does.”

The victims ranged from five to 72 years old, officials said. First responders found 23 dead bodies inside the church, two more outside, and one person who was transported to a hospital but later died.

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After Firing Hariri and Arresting Prince Walid, Can Saudis Control Beirut?

[The young Saudi coup-planner wanted Hariri out of the way, but he could not simply hand Lebanon over to his rival, Prince Walid (SEE REPORT BELOW).  The question remains…can Saudi money maintain control over Beirut without either Hariri or Walid?]

[SEE:  Hariri’s Resignation–The Opening Shot Of The Latest Saudi/Zio War On Lebanon ; ‘Hariri’s resignation ordered by Trump, Saudi crown prince’ ; Rafik Hariri’s Business Dealings More Relevant Than Beirut Phone Records ; Rafik Hariri and Nasrallah Were Prepared To Work Together Before Beirut Assassination ]

(Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September-October 2002, pages 58, 70 –Letter From the Levant)

Saudi Prince Walid Ibn Talal—Lebanon’s Next Prime Minister?



By Sami Moubayed


Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri is in the hot spot once again, facing a barrage of criticism for the country’s prolonged economic stalemate. This time, however, his accusers are not members of the Lebanese opposition, but Saudi Prince Walid Ibn Talal. The prince, who is half-Lebanese—on his mother’s side—and carries a Lebanese passport, is the grandson of Lebanon’s first post-independence prime minister, Riad al-Solh. Today more than ever, Prince Walid sees himself as the political heir of his grandfather, who is known as the father of post-French Mandate Lebanon.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Riad’s daughter Alia, a journalist with the an-Nahar newspaper, became involved in the day-to-day politics of the civil war. Since then, the Solh family has distanced itself from the complex web of Lebanese politics. Recently, however, Prince Walid has given several indications that he plans to involve himself more seriously in Beirut politics. This has sent shockwaves throughout the Lebanese capital and prompted Prime Minister Hariri to fire back and defend a post he held from 1992 to 1998 and fought so dearly to regain in 2000.

Alia, Prince Walid’s aunt, established a name for herself as a fervent opponent of Syria and managed to appeal to those who shared her political vision. Prince Walid, however, is following a different strategy, presenting himself as a potential ally of Damascus and as someone who strives to resurrect Lebanon through economic, rather than political, emancipation. During the late President Hafez Al-Assad’s lifetime, Walid invested heavily in Syria, and made many friends in the secret corridors of Damascus. Following the ascendancy of President Bashar Assad in 2000, Prince Walid increased his investment in Syria and is on excellent terms with its young leader. The Saudi tycoon, ranked as the world’s fifth richest man, presides over a fortune estimated at $20 billion, and has invested heavily in Lebanon as well since the civil war ended in 1990. He rebuilt Beirut’s electricity network after the Israelis bombarded the Lebanese capital in 1999, and has invested in the reconstruction of downtown Beirut, particularly in a posh neighborhood of restaurants and cafés named after his grandfather. Throughout the 1990s, the prince described himself as a friend of Lebanon, never expressing a desire to embark on a political career there. In March 2002, however, he gave a television interview sharply critical of Prime Minister Hariri’s economic policies.

The Hariri cabinet has no economic reform plan, Walid charged, pointing out that, under Hariri, the country’s $30 billion national debt represented 170 percent of the GDP, with a budget deficit equivalent to 16.5 percent. These numbers, Walid said, were an indicator that economic reform is not working and should be altered. If Hariri continues in this direction, the prince added, foreign debt would amount to 200 percent of GDP in the very near future. “Now is the time for the current government to wake up, face the truth and be frank with itself and its people,” he said. Describing as “inadequate” Hariri’s promise that Lebanon’s economic growth rate would increase between 1 and 2 percent in 2002, Walid argued that, even if it were achieved, it would not relieve the country’s economic burdens.

Hariri’s allies snapped back that five-year plans were outdated socialist measures that cannot be applied to Lebanon. On instructions from the prime minister, they spearheaded a campaign against the prince, arguing that he had no right to interfere in Lebanese politics and that his suggestions for reform were unacceptable. They capitalized on the fact that he is a Saudi citizen and not 100 percent Lebanese, and, in the words of Finance Minister Fouad al-Siniora, charged that Walid “is a businessman of the private sector and does not know about the public one.”

Walid added insult to injury by showing up in Beirut on the eve of the Arab Summit and meeting with President Emile Lahoud, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, Sunni Mufti Rashid Qabbani and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. He snubbed the prime minister, however, refusing to pay him the customary guest call. The prince then went into closed session with President Lahoud, whose relations with Hariri also are strained, and was awarded the Lebanese Republic’s highest Order of Merit at a ceremony attended by everyone except the prime minister.

Prince Walid antagonized Hariri even further by giving a controversial interview to the Beirut newspaper al-Afkar çn which he expressed his desire to assume a position of authority in Lebanon. When asked whether he would vie for the office of prime minister, Walid replied that this would be considered in due course, “when the time is right.”

Hariri, who was expecting a firm denial from the prince, was shocked at Walid’s response. Enraging the prime minister even more, al-Afkar published a front-page photo of Walid captioned, “His Excellency Prince Walid Ibn Talal” rather than “His Highness,” as is the customary reference to royals.

Kor was Prince Walid done yet. Appealing directly to Beirut’s Sunni Muslims—1he bulk, if not all, of Hariri’s prime loyalists—the prince, who regularly contributes to a variety of charitable organizations, donated $2 million for the construction of a grand mosque in downtown Beirut. (Ironically, Hariri accused Walid of trying to buy off Beirut public opinion.)

ýhen, acknowledging the sensitive topic of Arab street opinion on Palestine, the prince promised to invest heavily in the reconstruction of the occupied territories and donate to the victims in the Jenin refugee camp. That promise sent his popularity skyrocketing in Sunni neighborhoods. Hariri, on the other hand, the usual benefactor, has failed to make such a public gesture toward Palestine.

Al-Afkar, which has turned anti-Hariri, compared those lobbying against Walid’s donations to the Zionist lobby that blocked his donations to New York following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The “Beiruti lobby,” according to Walid, are a “small and confused segment of society” who pursue “personal rather than nationalistic objectives” and who were pressured to speak out “by a certain party that is known to all in Lebanon.”

Before challenging Prime Minister Hariri’s authority, Prince Walid surely received a go-ahead signal from senior decision makers in Riyadh. Hariri, after all, is Saudi Arabia’s number one man in the Middle East, and a challenge to his regional authority from within the House of Saud is a dangerous precedent that cannot go unnoticed. Either the Lebanese prime minister has fallen from grace and the Saudis are starting to search for an alternative, or Prince Walid launched his campaign on his own, without prior support from Riyadh. If this is the case—which is unlikely—Walid will be pressured by his uncles to back down. If the alternative explanation is true, then Hariri’s days as prime minister of Lebanon apparently are numbered.

Walid’s allies in Saudi Arabia, however, are few. Unlike Hariri, who is ever loyal to the Saudi royals, Walid, as one of them, can speak out and voice his opinion about what he sees as wrong. He repeatedly has called for the democratization of Saudi Arabia and has criticized Saudi royals who at one point or another were business associates of Hariri. Walid’s strongest ally and patron is King Fahd, but, given Fahd’s deteriorating health, he must rely on the less visible yet equally strong backing of Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader.

The crown prince, however—who is close to Walid and has endorsed many of his projects and quests—will find himself in a tight spot between his nephew and Hariri. Abdullah, at the height of his glory today, has no time to become involved in Walid-Hariri disputes. Since his February 2002 peace initiative Abdullah has become the most strategic regional decision-maker in the Arab world. Losing Hariri at such a critical stage could hamper his efforts for peace, which need as much regional backing as possible. Abdullah cannot afford an offended Lebanon.

Nor, on the other hand, can he afford to alienate one of the royal family’s most prominent members, and one who could be of great help to his rise to power in the event of King Fahd’s passing. Therefore, Abdullah equally cannot afford an offended Prince Walid.

üt the moment, with the crisis just beginning to unfold, many options still are available to Hariri, Walid, and Crown Prince Abdullah. While the latter refused to interfere in the entire affair, Hariri has left it to his associates to defend him. Walid, however, has embarked on a public relations campaign, personally appealing to the people of Lebanon and emphasizing that he is bound to the country by patriotic, familial, and financial commitments. His vow not to step down no matter how harsh the media campaign against him recalls Hariri’s own words in 1992, when he emerged as a newcomer to Beiruti politics and marketed himself as prime minister in waiting. The real estate and development tycoon was a stranger to the Lebanese public, a nobody in the world of politics, and had lived all his life abroad. But he came at a time when the Lebanese were looking for change and desperate for an alternative.

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.

Palace Coup In Saudi Arabia As Boy Who Would Be King Has 11 Royals Arrested

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Vocal Trump-Hater, Arrested for Corruption


Prince Alwaleed bin Talal attends the traditional Saudi dance known as 'Arda', which was performed during Janadriya culture festival at Der'iya in Riyadh February 18, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal attends the traditional Saudi dance known as ‘Arda’, which was performed during Janadriya culture festival at Der’iya in Riyadh February 18, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a bitter and vocal rival of U.S. President Donald J. Trump, has been arrested in the royal family’s sweeping anti-corruption crackdown. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz has arrested and removed a slew of corrupt and prominent officials, including dozens of princes and former ministers.

Al Arabiya, a Saudi state-run news outlet, reported bin Talal was among those arrested. People’s Pundit Daily (PPD) confirmed he was one of at least 11 princes arrested.

The billionaire chairman of Kingdom Holding Co. was once a business associate of President Trump. But his “America First” platform was a direct threat to the less reputable members of the Saudi royal family and the two engaged in a very public feud.

During the Republican nomination, Prince Alwaleed took to Twitter to call the then-frontrunner a “disgrace” in response to him calling for a temporary moratorium on Muslim immigration to the United States. He called on him to drop out of the race and proclaimed that he would never win.

Of course, he did win in an electoral vote landslide over the prince’s preferred candidate — Democrat Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump fired back at bin Talal at the time, tweeting that he wouldn’t be able to control U.S. politicians with “daddy’s money” when he was elected.

Worth noting, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did not and is not allowing any Muslim refugees into their country. They’ve denied entry to all but a select few Sunni Muslims fleeing the violence in Yemen.

Nevertheless, Prince Alwaleed has an invested hand in Big Media and Big Business in the U.S., including corporate giants like Citigroup, Apple, 21st Century Fox and Twitter, among many others despite his controversial history. As even the liberal D.C.-based The Hillpointed out, bin Talal’s $10 million check after September 11, 2001 was rejected by then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani over previous controversial remarks on Israel.

It has also been alleged that he has ties to terrorism and has funded terror groups. A whopping 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis and top al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th 9/11 hijacker, previously implicated Prince Alwaleed by name, as well as other Saudi government officials.

READ ALSO — Hey Saudi Royal Family: Keep Your Blood-Soaked Hands Out of Our Elections

Moussaoui claimed bin Talal and others financed al-Qaeda, which was an embarrassing disclosure made during a segment on “Special Report” hosted by Fox News anchor Bret Baier. In addition to being a “major investor in the parent company” of Fox News, Prince Alwaleed is a very close friend of Rupert Murdoch and his family.

While the Saudis called the allegation “delusional” and pointed to Moussaoui’s own lawyer’s assertion that he was incompetent, it is well-known that Osama bin Laden was the son of a wealthy Saudi Arabian contractor who had close ties to the Saudi royal family.

Worth noting, shortly after the report was filed by James Rosen, Prince Alwaleed announced his company was dumping most of its stake in Murdoch’s News Corp., down from 6.6% to 1%.

Not insignificant, President Trump was also a vocal supporter of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA. The bill permitted the families of September 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, which Barack Obama vetoed. The U.S. Congress dealt the former president his first veto-override on JASTA.

President Trump also supported the release of a 28-page 2002 congressional report on the terror attacks, which confirmed long-held suspicions that some of the hijackers had ties to members of the Saudi government.

Senior Taliban Deputies To Rebel Mullah Rasoul Allegedly Killed In Kunduz

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

Senior Taliban commanders among several killed in Kunduz and Faryab

Several Taliban militants were killed or wounded in the latest counter-terrorism operations of the Afghan national defense and security forces in the northern parts of the country.

According to the Afghan military, the operations were conducted in the past 24 hours in the vicinity of Kunduz and Faryab provinces.

The 209th Shaheen Corps in the North said at least two senior commanders of the Taliban group were among those killed.

A statement by Shaheen Corps said at least six Taliban insurgents were killed during the operations in Esa Khel village located in Chahar Dara district of Kunduz.

The statement further added that two senior commanders of the group identified as Mullah Tufan and Qari Zahir were among those killed.

At least thirteen Taliban insurgents were also wounded during the operations and ten different types of landmines were confiscated during the operations, Shaheen Corps added.

In the meantime, Shaheen Corps of the Afghan army said at least eight Taliban insurgents were killed and twelve others were wounded during the airstrikes in northern Faryab province.

The airstrikes were conduted in Sherin Islam Qalam, Zaqoom, and Tapa-e-Qeshlaq vilages located in Khwajah Sabs Posh and Sherin Tagab districts, the statement said.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far.

Hariri’s Resignation–The Opening Shot Of The Latest Saudi/Zio War On Lebanon

Formation of Coalition Gov’t, Success for Lebanese People: Iran’s Velayati

A senior adviser to Iran’ Leader has praised the victories of the Lebanese government and stressed the imminent defeat of all terrorists, extremists and Takfiri movements in the region.

Lebanese PM Hariri resigns, stresses ‘Iran’s hands will be cut off’

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri attends a general parliament discussion in downtown Beirut, on October 18, 2017. (Reuters)

Lebanon – Hariri’s Resignation – The Opening Shot Of The Saudi War On Hizbullah

Four days ago we asked: Is The “Moderate Al-Qaeda” Set To Target Hizbullah?. The implied answer in that piece was “Yes, the war is coming to Lebanon.”

Today the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri resigned with a statement issues from Saudi Arabia on the Saudi Arabian TV station Al Arabia (video). This is the opening shot of the war.

The Saudi-Israeli-U.S. axis will lose this war while Iran and Russia will win from it.

Earlier this week the extremely sectarian Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan had threatened Hizbullah in Lebanon and announced surprises:

Firebrand Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan on Monday called for “toppling Hizbullah” and promised “astonishing” developments in “the coming days.”

Referring to his Sunday tweet about the Lebanese government, the minister said: “I addressed my tweet to the government because the Party of Satan (Hizbullah) is represented in it and it is a terrorist party. The issue is not about toppling the government but rather that Hizbullah should be toppled.”

“The coming developments will definitely be astonishing,” al-Sabhan added.

While the fighting in Syria and Iraq was ongoing, Lebanon was kept at peace. With the wars ending Lebanon is again the place where proxy fights are carried out. In mid October Joseph Bahout predicted this development:

Regionally, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are now seeking ways to compensate for the loss of Syria as a place where they could defy and bleed Iran. A renewed desire to reverse their regional fortunes could lead them to try regaining a foothold in Lebanon. The Gulf states, Israel, and the United States do not want Iran to reap the benefits of a victory in Syria. If ever they seek to rebalance the regional relationship with Tehran in the Levant, the only place to do so would be Lebanon, despite the many risks that would accompany such an effort.In such an event, and despite its reticence to jeopardize its Lebanese sanctuary, Hezbollah could have no choice but to accept such a challenge, especially if there is an Israeli component to it.

Lebanese politics are regulated by a complicate agreement. The Sunni camp, financed by the Saudis, holds the position of Prime Minister. The position of the President is held by the Christian former general Michel Aoun. The position of Speaker of the Parliament is held by the leader of the Shia Amal movement Nabih Berri. Two month ago Berri had proposed elections to a new parliament before the end of the year. An election would likely diminish the Sunni position.

Saad Al-Hariri was put into the prime minister position after a long quarrel in Lebanon that had reignited when Saad’s father Rafic Hariri, the former PM, was assassinated. Hizbullah was accused of that assassination but an Israeli plot seemed more likely.

The Hariri family made its money as owner of Saudi Oger, a construction company in Saudi Arabia. The Hariris have Saudi passports. Business has gone bad under Hariri junior. In July Saudi Oger closed shop and the former billionaire family is rumored to be bankrupt. The Saudi rulers sponsors them.

Hariri had recently assigned a Lebanese ambassador to Syria. After Monday’s announcement by Thamer, Hariri was visited in Beirut by Ali Velayati, a top advisor of the supreme leader Khamenei of Iran. The Saudis did not like either. They sent a private jet and hauled Hariri to Riyadh. There the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman gave Hariri his resignation statement (written by Thamer?) to be read by him on Saudi TV.

Irony alert: The Lebanese PM (with a Saudi passport) resigns on order of Saudi Arabia, in Saudi Arabia, on Saudi Arabian TV. In his Saudi written resignation statement (excerpts) he accuses Iran of foreign meddling in Lebanese politics.

(Hariri also suddenly claims that there was an assassination planned against him in Lebanon. This is nonsense. He needs an excuse to stay away from Lebanon and from the wrath of his followers. Saudi media are trying to create some fantastic story from that assassination claim. But there is nothing evident to back it up.)

The resignation of Hariri is intended to provoke a constitutional crisis in Lebanon and to prevent new parliament elections. The further Saudi plan is likely to evolve around these elements:

  • The Trump administration will announce new sanctions against Hizbullah and against Lebanon in general.
  • The Saudi government will slip some of its al-Qaeda/ISIS proxy fighters from Syria and Iraq into Lebanon. It will finance local Lebanese terror operations.
  • There will be new assassination attempts, terror attacks and general rioting by Sunni extremist elements against Christians and Shia in Lebanon.
  • The U.S. will try to press the Lebanese army into a war against Hizbullah.
  • Israel will try to provoke and divert Hizbullah’s attention by new shenanigans at the Lebanese and Syrian border. It will NOT start a war.

The plan is unlikely to succeed:

  • The Lebanese people as a whole have no interest in a new civil war.
  • The Lebanese army will not get involved on any specific side but will try to keep everyone calm.
  • Sanctions against Hizbullah will hit all of Lebanon, including Sunni interests.
  • A new Sunni prime minister will be found and installed, replacing the resigned Saudi puppet.
  • Russian and Iranian economic interests will find a new market in Lebanon. Russian companies will engage in Lebanese gas and oil extraction in the Mediterranean and replace U.S. involvement.

The miscalculated Saudi/U.S./Israeli plan against Hizbullah can be understood as a helpless tantrum after their defeat in Syria and Iraq.

Iraqi troops have, against strong U.S. protest, cleared ISIS from border areas with Syria. Some Iraqi militia have crossed the border and are helping Syrian troops to take the last ISIS controlled settlement of Abu Kamal. This will finally open a direct road from Syria to Iraq and beyond. The U.S. had planned to take Abu Kamal with its Kurdish/Arab proxy forces in the area and to block that line of communication. The Syrian government forces are racing against that. For the fourth day in a row Russian Tu-22M3s long range bombers have supported the fight with large raids flown directly from Russia. Hizbullah re-injected thousands of its fighters. This massive force will overwhelm ISIS defenses. Syria will win the race and the fight.

The Saudi sponsored Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has been suffocated and its existence has ended. Some elements of it will continue as a desert terrorist group – nasty but with little overall effect.

Iraq has regained its national sovereignty. It defeated ISIS, the Kurdish encroachment on Arab territory and all attempts to reignite a civil war. The fighting in Syria against al-Qaeda, as well as Turkish, Israeli and U.S. interference, will continue for another year. But it is very likely that the strong alliance of Syria, Iran, Russia and Hizbullah will win this fight. Syria is damaged but will survive as a whole and independent country.

The now launched war on Hizbullah and thereby Lebanon will likely have a similar outcome.

In their manic attempts to push back against perceived Iranian (and Russian) influence the Saudis and the U.S. have enabled Iran (and Russia) to gain better and more secure standing that they could ever have hoped to achieve otherwise. Why the Saudis think that their new adventure in Lebanon will have a different result is beyond me.

Israeli Press Pretends That Israeli Forces Prepared To Strike Al Nusra In Golan

[SEE: Israel acknowledges it is helping Syrian rebel fighters]

In Rare Move, Israel Says Ready to Protect Syrian Druze Town Under Attack by Islamic Militants


Israeli security forces had to prevent Israeli Druze from entering Syria after 9 were killed and dozens wounded in Nusra Front attack

Jack Khoury, Noa Shpigel and Yaniv Kubovich

Druze men in Israel gather at the Syrian border after they heard about clashes in the Syrian Druze village of Khadar, on November 3, 2017.

Druze men in Israel gather at the Syrian border after they heard about clashes in the Syrian Druze village of Hadar, on November 3, 2017. JALAA MAREY/AFP

The Israeli army issued a statement on Friday morning declaring that it will intervene militarily to prevent the occupation of a Druze town in the Syrian Golan heights which has come under attack by the Islamic militant group Nusra Front.

The statement follows heavy fighting in the town Khader, approximately 3 kilometers from the Israeli border, including a car bomb that killed at least nine people and injured 23 others.

According to the IDF statement, the intervention is being made out of a commitment to the Druze population of the town.

“The IDF is prepared and ready to help the villagers and prevent damage or occupation of the village out of a commitment to the Druze population,” the statement said.

“The allegations of Israeli involvement and assistance to global jihad elements in the fighting on the Golan Heights are groundless,” the statement added.

Sheikh Mowafak Abu Tariff, the chief spiritual leader of the Druze in Israel, and former minister Saleh Tarif with Northern Divison commander Yoel Strick, November 3, 2017.

Sheikh Mowafak Abu Tariff, the chief spiritual leader of the Druze in Israel, and former minister Saleh Tarif with Northern Divison commander Yoel Strick, November 3, 2017.Website Al-Masader

A resident of the Druze border town of Majdal Shams in Israeli territory was slightly wounded by light-arms fire as part of the fighting and was treated for his injuries.

About 150 Druze, residents of the Golan Heights and Galilee, are demonstrating near the Israeli-Syrian border. Police and IDF forces have blocked traffic to areas near the border fearing an attempt to break though and cross the border fence.

The mayor of the Druze town of Majdal Shams, near the border in the northern Golan Heights, Dolan Abu Salah, told Haaretz that residents are in touch with the IDF and the army understands the great sensitivity of the situation.

Sheikh Mowafak Abu Tariff, the chief spiritual leader of the Druze in Israel, arrived in Majdal Shams and met with senior IDF commanders on the scene.

The Salafist Nusra Front said the organization has begun an operation “to remove the blockade” on the villages on the Syrian Golan Heights and Mount Hermon front. In a statement, the groups said it had no intention of harming the residents of the village of Khader or their property, nor “those who interfere in the war.” Al-Nusra warned the residents not to fight alongside the Syrian regime and warned them of the results of any such support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Ali Maadi called on Friday morning for Druze to come to the Golan and help. “The time of truth has come. Our brothers in Khader are surrounded, we need to defend our brothers,” he said.

Smokes billows from the southern Syrian Druze village of Khadar on November 3, 2017 as seen from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.

Smokes billows from the southern Syrian Druze village of Khadar on November 3, 2017 as seen from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.Jalaa Marey / AFP


The Democrat Party Just Imploded…Thanks to Hillary

Adriana Cohen: Donna Brazile, Liz Warren say DNC, Hillary Clinton worked to sabotage Bernie Sanders



The rats are abandoning the sinking ship.

And that ship — listing hard and about to capsize — is the S.S. Hillary Clinton. The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee has become so top-heavy with scandals lately that some of her own party’s biggest names are not only jumping overboard, they’re firing torpedoes at her.

Yesterday in a bombshell expose, the former interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Donna Brazile, made headlines by confirming that Clinton, her campaign and the DNC were all in cahoots against Bernie Sanders. Something many suspected, especially after the John Podesta email dump last spring.

Brazile outlined how the DNC under an ineffective Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who handed control over to the Clinton camp, effectively subverted democracy by denying Sanders a fair chance. She explained that former President Barack Obama left his party $24 million in debt — giving Clinton a chance to co-opt the party apparatus by paying off most of that debt.

Sanders supporters are livid — as they should be. Even U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren took a stand against Clinton yesterday — and given her usual waffling that should tell you something. When asked during a CNN interview if the Clinton campaign and DNC rigged the election against Sanders, Warren responded “yes.”

No nuance, no dancing around the question, just a hard left hook — to the former leader of the Democratic Party.

Clinton’s political days are numbered and now that she’s lost Brazile and Warren, expect others to pile on. She will be hard-pressed to find anyone who will feel sorry for her.

After all, her unraveling is her own doing.

Had Hillary gracefully accepted defeat last November and not loudly accused Donald Trump of colluding with Russia, we probably wouldn’t know now the extent of her own quite possibly criminal interaction with Russian agents. We might never have known about that scurrilous, largely discredited dossier of anti-Trump smears her campaign commissioned. And the scandalous sale of U.S. strategic assets in the Uranium One deal, on her watch as secretary of state, for which her foundation and her husband received hefty Russian payoffs, would largely be forgotten, brushed under the rug by a Clinton-friendly media and Obama’s Justice Department.

Dishonesty, hypocrisy and corruption are now the hallmarks of Clinton’s legacy, and Democrats, no doubt fearful that Clinton might cost them yet another election cycle in 2018, are abandoning that scurvy ship.

Adriana Cohen is a Boston Herald columnist, radio host and syndicated columnist. Follow her on Twitter @AdrianaCohen16.

ISIS Is A Virus

The attack in New York is born out of weakness, not strength — and we need to react as such.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images


Sayfullo Saipov left a chilling note behind in the truck he allegedly used to kill eight people in Manhattan on Tuesday. “The Islamic State,” he wrote, “will endure forever.”

Law enforcement officials do not yet know whether the attack was coordinated by ISIS leadership in the Middle East. But it’s clear from the note that Saipov intended it to be a sign of the group’s power and global reach.

But the strike isn’t proof of the Islamic State’s strength. It’s a sign of its growing weakness.

The Islamic State’s biggest claim to fame — its territorial empire in Iraq and Syria, or “caliphate” — has all but collapsed thanks to a US-led military campaign. With its self-proclaimed capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa falling in October, the group now has no choice but to give up its dreams of controlling an actual state and instead redouble its efforts to plan and inspire terrorist attacks around the globe.

This means carrying out attacks it planned centrally, like the November 2015 attack on the Bataclan nightclub in Paris that killed 130, as well as encouraging supporters to launch attacks on their own volition, like the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in June 2016 that killed 49.

So long as the ISIS brand continues to hold some appeal for disaffected young men around the world, then, you can expect to see a regular drumbeat of attacks — both in the United States and, even more worryingly, in Europe. ISIS’s online recruiters will be working overtime to make it seem as if the loss of its empire isn’t as significant as it is.

The only question is whether the attacks give the group the propaganda wins they want — or, more precisely, whether Western media and governments help hand it to them.

How ISIS’s decline leads to more terror

Three years ago, ISIS controlled a swath of territory roughly the size of Great Britain. It controlled several major population centers in both Iraq and Syria, including Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and Raqqa, which ISIS used to administer the broader empire.

This territory gave ISIS tremendous resources. It recruited both volunteers and conscripts, extorted ordinary citizens, and plundered oil reserves and ancient artifacts to fill its coffers. Perhaps most notably, it gave ISIS a powerful veneer of legitimacy in the eyes of radicals. The goal of all jihadist groups, including both ISIS and al-Qaeda, is to establish a caliphate governed by a strict interpretation of Islamic law. ISIS claimed to have actually done so. The caliphate became its calling card, the single best resource for growing its power.

“When they declared the caliphate, their legitimacy came to rest on the continuing viability of their state,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told me in an interview.

Today, the territory is all but gone — and with it, ISIS’s most valuable resources. According to a June 2017 estimate by IHS Markit, a defense analysis firm, ISIS has lost 60 percent of its territory and a whopping 80 percent of its revenue since January 2015. It no longer controls a single major population center; the loss of both Mosul and Raqqa to US-backed local forces earlier this year was particularly devastating.

“The Islamic State’s remaining caliphate is likely to break up before the end of the year, reducing its governance project to a string of isolated urban areas that will eventually be retaken over the course of 2018,” Columb Strack, a senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit, said in a press release announcing their findings. “Three years after the ‘Caliphate’ was declared, it is evident that the group’s governance project has failed.”

ISIS propaganda and strategy have changed markedly as a result. As military defeat became inevitable, the group quietly shifted from encouraging Western recruits to travel to Syria toward telling them instead to attack targets at home. The July 2016 edition of Dabiq, ISIS’s English-language propaganda magazine, encouraged recruits to “wage jihād by himself with the resources available to him (knives, guns, explosives, etc.).”

The logic here, according to terrorism experts, is very clear: ISIS needed to recover from the caliphate’s wreckage.

“The Islamic State’s rapid pace of violence may come at a time when they need to find a new home for the brand,” writes Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “Successful attacks attract investors.”

The goal of international attacks, centrally directed and inspired ones alike, is to show potential recruits and funders that ISIS still remains deadly and relevant despite the loss of territory. And as ISIS’s territory continues to decline, they are likely to keep happening and perhaps even escalate.

“We have to expect that as the capital of the caliphate has now fallen, there are going to be increasing efforts to show that they remain dangerous and lethal,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told the Washington Post on Tuesday night after an FBI briefing.

But experts say that the effect of these attacks — their ability to successfully communicate strength to ISIS’s target audience — depends on the reaction of the West.

If President Trump overreacts by singling out Muslims for discriminatory policies, or if there are a wave of anti-Muslim hate crimes across the US, ISIS will have new fuel for its narrative that the West and Islam are incompatible.

A more measured response, experts say, is more likely to defuse ISIS’s strength in the long term than any crackdown. The group’s new strategy can be more effectively countered by continuing to quietly roll back the group’s territorial holdings and using normal law enforcement mechanisms to arrest its sympathizers than by harsh new immigration policies and civil liberty restrictions.

“They have a terrible brand. So part of what we need to do is simply avoid making mistakes that will let them present themselves as a defender of Muslims,” Gartenstein-Ross told me. “We need to make sure Muslims continue to overwhelmingly reject ISIS.”

Time is not on ISIS’s side.

Fresh Terrorist Attack Near World Trade Center…Gunman In Truck Kills 6

[New York attack: At least six killed by man driving truck]

In this photo provided by the New York City Police Department, officers respond to a report of gunfire along West Street near the pedestrian bridge at Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. (Martin Speechley/NYPD via AP

New York shooting Live updates: Motorist hits civilians, opens fire in Manhattan near World Trade Center


New York shooting Live updates: So far, it remains unclear if anyone was injured in the shooting. More details are awaited.


By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi

A paramedic looks at a body covered under a white sheet along a bike path, Tuesday Oct. 31, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)


New York City police on Tuesday said that a motorist drove onto a busy bicycle path and hit struck several people in Lower Manhattan, a few blocks away from the World Trade Center site and memorial, news agency AP reported. As per the police, the motorist, later came out of the vehicle screaming and started firing from something that appeared to be a gun.

Earlier, reports came out that police are responding to reports of gunfire. According to a tweet posted by New York Police Department, one person was taken in custody. NYPD further advised public to avoid West Side Highway Area.

Large number of police vehicles were seen in Manhattan near West Street and Chambers Street.

It still remains unclear whether anyone was injured in the incident, but as per eyewitness quoted by AP, several people were seen bleeding on the ground. A photographer from the news agency also said that at least two bodies were seen lying motionless on the path beneath tarps.

More details are awaited.