American Resistance To Empire

Bigshot American General Whines That Russia Is Impediment To World Domination

[SEE: Is American economic survival dependent upon its ability to lay waste to the world?]

“When the veil of the shared artificial reality, that has been woven by Western psyop specialists, is torn asunder and cast aside, then all the world will understand that the turmoil that has been unleashed had nothing to do with any Nation’s national security and everything to do with maintaining Western corporate profits.”

Russia ‘threatens our ability to dominate’ – US general to Congress

Russia ‘threatens our ability to dominate’ – US general to Congress
The US is seeking to contain Iran’s rising influence in the Middle East and fend off challenges to Washington’s hegemony posed by Russia and China, the top general commanding US forces in the region told Congress.

General Joseph Votel, head of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), briefed the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) on Tuesday on the efforts against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and the wars in Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. All of which fall under the purview of CENTCOM, “the only geographic combatant command executing active combat operations,” Votel pointed out.

The US has partitioned the globe into six combatant commands. Under this arrangement, CENTCOM’s area of responsibility extends from the Libyan border with Egypt to Pakistan’s border with India, and from Kazakhstan’s border with Russia to Sudan.

From Votel’s 45-page prepared testimony, it was apparent that the US regards Iran as the biggest challenge in the region, followed by Russian and Chinese efforts to chip away at Washington’s hegemony.

“An increase in Russian surface-to-air missile systems in the region threatens our access and ability to dominate the airspace,” Votel complained at one point, discussing Syria.

Unlike the US forces present in that country, Russian forces are in Syria at the invitation of the government in Damascus. Votel argued that the legal basis for the presence of US troops was the “collective self-defense of Iraq” from IS.

“The principle reason we are in Syria is to defeat ISIS, and that remains our sole and single task,” Votel told the lawmakers, echoing last week’s remarks by President Donald Trump.

Declaring the IS largely defeated, Votel cautioned that “Sunni populations remain vulnerable to identity-based recruitment” into terrorist groups, adding that “impressionable youth in this tumultuous region, seeking community and justice, are highly susceptible to extremists’ teachings.”

Votel made no acknowledgment of any role Russia’s intervention in Syria has played in the demise of IS. Rather, the general had some harsh words for Moscow, accusing Russia of playing “arsonist and firefighter,” fueling the conflict in Syria and then “claiming to serve as an arbiter to resolve the dispute.” As Votel explained, Moscow was offering diplomatic alternatives to “Western-led political negotiations” in Syria and Afghanistan.

Russia’s influence in the Central Asian countries that were formerly parts of the Soviet Union is “problematic,” as that could “limit US engagement options” and endanger NATO’s supply lines into Afghanistan, Votel said.

The general described Russia and Iran as “historic rivals” who nonetheless share interests, “including an overarching desire to sideline, if not expel, the US from the region.” The Russian and Persian empires did fight a series of wars over the Caucasus from 1651 to 1828. Iran was an ally of Washington from the 1953 CIA coup to the 1979 Islamic revolution, at which point the two countries became bitter enemies.

This is reflected in Votel’s testimony, in which he refers to common Washington tropes about Iranian imperialism and the “Shia crescent” from Iran to Lebanon. However, the CENTCOM chief seemed to backtrack from the previous narrative about the war in Yemen being instigated by Iran, choosing to describe it as a civil war in which Iran intervened to harm its regional rival Saudi Arabia.

“The conflict in Yemen has opened opportunities for Iran, which continues to provide support to the Houthis with the aim of building a proxy to pressure the Saudi-led coalition and expand its sphere of influence,” Votel said. He also revealed that the US has increased the number of advisers to the Saudi military over the past year, which should “help mitigate incidents of avoidable civilian casualties in Yemen.”

The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting in Yemen since March 2015, without much success.

Though Votel explicitly denied that Washington’s mission in Syria is to counter Iran, he said that the US should “build [a] strong relationship” with the Iraqi military and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) “to impede Iran’s objectives in establishing lines of communications in these critical areas.”

Intervention by the US-led coalition and “regional powers” – by which Votel presumably meant Turkey – has already “blocked Assad’s ability to recapture major portions of northern Syria,” the general said, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

He also talked about “ad-hoc democratic organizations” that have been established in territories liberated from IS by the SDF, which rely on US and coalition funding for survival. Continued funding would “help them maintain popular support and set conditions for enduring, stable governance,” said Votel.

However, US efforts to work with the Kurds in northern Syria have been threatened by the recent Turkish military incursion into the Kurdish-held district of Afrin. While the Kurdish militia that are there are not part of the US-backed SDF, there are family and tribal ties between them.

“Our alliance with Turkey is paramount,” Votel said, “but we must continue to urge restraint as their actions have clearly increased risk to our campaign to defeat ISIS.“

The CENTCOM chief also argued that Moscow and Tehran are seeking an end to the Syrian war because they are pouring “billions of dollars” in aid into Damascus.

Yet, in the same hearing, he argued that Russia “has to admit it is not capable or that it doesn’t want to play a role in ending the Syrian conflict,” and that Moscow’s role was “incredibly destabilizing.” No explanation was offered for the discrepancy.

Both Major Taliban Factions Promise To Support and Protect TAPI Project

[Both of the warring Taliban factions of Anti-Taliban Mullah Rasoul and Primary Afghan Taliban under Mullah Akhundzada have allegedly sworn to defend TAPI and its construction as a new vital Afghan national asset, according to Chinese media, but, don’t forget that China has made huge “Silk Road” committments to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, not to mention its gigantic CPEC project (China Pak. Ec. Corridor).  It may be true now, that both warring Afghan Taliban factions have agreed to protect the TAPI effort, but let either side overwhelm the other, or strike a one-party “peace” deal w/the Afghan govt., and all bets are off…back to terrorism/sabotage as usual.]

Statement of Islamic Emirate concerning launch of TAPI project in Afghanistan

The TAPI Project – an important regional economic project which was originally initiated during the reign of the Islamic Emirate – is among the industrial and economic projects that have faced delays due to the American occupation of Afghanistan.

As the authorship privilege of this project is earned by the Islamic Emirate and since the documents and agreements signed between the Islamic Emirate and other sides involved in the TAPI project are still present and because most of the TAPI implementation area is under the control of Islamic Emirate [Taliban claim authorship of TAPI since the only contracts ever signed on the 20-year old dormant project were signed with them.–ed.], therefore the Islamic Emirate declares its policy towards the said project in the following lines:

1 – The Islamic Emirate views the project as a vital foundational economic element for the country and considers its proper implementation as good news for the Afghan people.

2 – The Islamic Emirate declares its support for the implementation of the said project passing through areas under our control and calls all sides involved to be mindful of the principled policy of the Islamic Emirate.

3 – Since Kabul regime holds international record in corruption and during their rule, no important project has ever been undertaken without financial corruption, embezzlement and theft, hence it will also orchestrate extensive corruption in this project. Therefore if the Islamic Emirate – during the implementation of the project – gets hold of resources proving embezzlement and corruption by officials of the regime and squandering of rights of the people, the Islamic Emirate will act to stop such actions. It also hopes that the involved sides will be vigilant in this regard so that this national project does not face complications and delays.

4 – Since this project is purely industrial and economic and the American invaders do not have any economic or military interests in it, therefore it is entirely possible that the Americans – for their vested interests – will create indirect problems for the project like how they created issues for the Mes Ainak project. The contract for extraction work was signed with the Chinese (MCC) company in 2008 however the project has yet to begin any practical work.

The TAPI project is the second most important foundational project after Mes Aynak which can positively impact the economic growth of the Afghans. The Americans can never tolerate any such project and program which is in the interest of the Afghans. Therefore the Islamic Emirate proposes to all sides – excluding the Kabul regime – involved in the TAPI project to take a pact of security and non-jeopardization from America through the United Nations or some other respected organization before beginning any work otherwise it is not far that the said project will face similar delays as the Mes Aynak project due to American meddling.

5 – The Islamic Emirate deems it its responsibility to revive foundational economic and reconstruction work in the country and asks international constructional companies to help the Afghans in this regard. The Islamic Emirate will in return not withhold any support for them.


Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

07/06/1439 Hijri Lunar

04/12/1396 Hijri Solar                    23/02/2018 Gregorian

US Pushes Surrender To Israel of Token Slice of Lebanon +Undersea Rights To Gas and Oil

The Lebanese rejection of the American proposal on sea oil and Block 9 was reaffirmed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, stressing that “we can not abandon a grain of dust on land or a point of water in the sea.”


Al-Jumhuriyah learned that Berri informed US Secretary of State David Satterfield of this position. Moreover, he stressed that the area of ​​the 860 km 2 in the sea (Block 9) is not only the property of Lebanon and its territorial waters and sea borders, More than 500 km 2 south, is also the property of Lebanon. Therefore, neither Israel nor a single millimeter is within this Lebanese area. “

It is also known that Satterfield is also aware of Lebanon’s rejection of what was called in Ain al-Tina “the process of circumventing Lebanon, whether by trying to bite its maritime borders or trying to bite its land borders.” After Lebanon received Satterfield from the United States to resolve the 13 points on land, The Americans proposed barter between land and sea, on the basis of “we give you in righteousness to give us into the sea.”

This is what the Americans have pointed out at the parity between the Lebanese and Israeli sides in some ground points, that is, sharing it under the title that its area is not more than 25 meters (yards) and the sharing removes the cause of tension between Lebanon and Israel on this point. However, this is a very dangerous proposition. Simply accepting the abandonment of the 12 meters on land, which already extends to the sea, means abandoning an area of ​​more than 300 and 400 km 2 in the sea and its wealth [The deceptive US/Israeli proposal was for Leb. to give the Zionist entity a narrow, 12 meter wide strip of Lebanese soil, ignoring the fact that the undersea property associated w/that slice of land extended 200 nautical miles out into the Med.–ed.].

“We said what we have in terms of our adherence to our rights. And it was clear to us that all the proposals made by the Americans come in the Israeli interest at the top of their goals, and do not want more than that. And President Berri was clear in his refusal to circumvent Lebanon, and pass a rule for us and what you have for us. “

New War Emerging In Syria, Or Just A Stirring of the Cauldron?

Protesters in front of the Russian consulate in Istanbul on Thursday during a demonstration against the air strikes and shelling by Syrian government forces in Ghouta. The writer says the external powers which had earlier been entrusted with the resp
Protesters in front of the Russian consulate in Istanbul on Thursday during a demonstration against the air strikes and shelling by Syrian government forces in Ghouta. The writer says the external powers which had earlier been entrusted with the responsibility of ending the Syrian conflict are now fuelling it.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Conflict transformed into more direct war between foreign powers eyeing new order

The idea that the Syrian conflict was “winding down” was so widely believed that even sober-thinking analysts found it difficult to challenge. But what a difference a week can make. The war, instead, has reached a new peak.

Within the space of a few days, Syrian rebels shot down a Russian jet, Kurdish fighters downed a Turkish helicopter and pro-government groups attacked US-backed forces.

Meanwhile, the United States killed tens of pro-Assad fighters and more than a dozen Russian citizens, the Syrian army shot down an Israeli F-16, and Israel downed an Iranian drone and launched its largest air strikes on Syria in decades.

All that happened against the background of intensive regime attacks on opposition pockets in Ghouta and Idlib, which led to the death of an estimated 1,000 civilians in one week alone. No, war in Syria is far from winding down. Instead, the last week has demonstrated how it has become a lot more complicated.

The mistake of that hitherto highly optimistic outlook rested on its proponents’ sole focus on internal Syrian dynamics, ignoring the emerging secondary conflicts between regional and international powers over the ruins of the country. Foreign powers now dictate the form of the war, according to their own priorities.

How that all began was when the nature of the relationship between local groups – both government and rebel – and their foreign patrons altered, with the effect being to put the latter in the driver’s seat in the conflict. The most salient evidence of this came when local groups were pressured to shift their priorities and join in a race between the US and Russia to recapture territories held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in north-eastern Syria.

In the meantime, the lack of willingness and support from the rebels’ backers – because of shifting interests in foreign capitals – made the survival of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime an unchallenged reality. This has transformed an armed rebellion meant to effect political transition into a fight simply for survival by the rebels.

Seen this way, the war is no longer about securing Syria’s future; it is about entrenching the old regime and the great contest of big powers on the plains and in the mountains of Syria.

The end of the military campaign against ISIS was, indeed, the final and decisive factor in this altered environment. Although ISIS still retains pockets of control and is capable of launching asymmetric attacks across the country, the group has lost the vast majority of its territory.

Many foreign powers in Syria were thus happy to announce victory over the terrorist group and to adopt new policies accordingly. Consequently, the end of the war against ISIS has ushered in secondary conflicts among foreign powers, which have sought to enforce and/or expand their zones of influence.

For the US, this has revolved around maintaining its presence in north-eastern Syria to stabilise captured areas, improve its leverage for a political transition and contain Iranian influence. The attacks recently by pro-regime forces against US troops along the Euphrates River, in turn, were aimed at minimising that very US influence and stripping it of the resources it controlled.

Although the exact make-up of the attacking force remains unclear, it is widely assumed that both Russia and Iran were directly involved. While this incident was not completely driven by foreign actors, the support and encouragement of foreign parties were what allowed it to occur. Just as importantly, it demonstrates a contest between outside interests taking place on Syrian soil.

Away from the north-east, the country is now divided into areas of influence between the key external powers. Some have a physical military presence in their areas (namely, the US, Turkey, Russia and Iran), while other areas are under symbolic influence (namely, by Israel). Attempts to change the de facto front lines of those areas can be made either by mutual consent or force. And they are being so attempted. For example, the ongoing Turkish-led operation against Kurdish forces in Afrin is being conducted with the blessing of Russia, which pulled back its troops and lifted the enforcement of its no-fly zone. The battle is driven entirely by Ankara’s desire to eliminate the perceived threat posed by the Kurdish-led Democratic Union Party along the Syria-Turkey border. Rebels taking part in the Afrin operation are widely perceived as proxies working on behalf of Turkish interests.

And on another front, consider the clashes involving Israel. These incidents between Israel and Iran-backed forces have erupted because Teheran has been attempting to forcibly expand its influence in southern Syria along the Israel-Syria disengagement lines. Israel does not have a military presence inside Syria and has clearly designated its front lines as no-go zones for pro-Iran militias. The confrontations began after an Iranian drone penetrated Israel’s airspace. Israel retaliated by attacking the base from which the drone was launched. In response, the Syrian regime then downed an Israeli F-16 fighter jet. That then provoked Israel’s biggest air strikes on Syria in decades. Israel, which has enjoyed a relatively quiet front line with Syria for decades, is unlikely to have wanted to foment trouble for itself. This implies that Iran may have been behind the recent clashes.

The Syrian war has long been a proxy conflict motivated by internal Syrian dynamics. But recent developments illustrate that it has been transformed into more direct war between foreign powers hoping to create a new order in Syria.

These externally driven conflicts will unlikely provoke all-out, direct confrontations between foreign powers, but the deepening direct involvement of these actors and their attempts to play off each other for more leverage means confrontations will continue.

In short, the external powers which had earlier been entrusted with the responsibility of ending the Syrian conflict are now the ones fuelling it.

Russian forces Guarding Afrin crossing as new government fighters arrive

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (4:40 P.M,) – The 3rd batch of Syrian popular forces made it into the northwestern city of Afrin through al-Ziyara crossing to help defend the predominantly-Kurdish region from the Turkish aggression.

The first two batches have entered Afrin during the past few days as per an agreement concluded earlier between the Syrian government and Kurdish factions.

Last month, Turkey and its proxy militants have launched a full-scale offensive on Afrin region with the aim to ‘liberate the area from the terrorist Kurdish militiamen”.

The arrival of the Syrian forces will definitely make things harder for the already troubled Turkish-backed militants who failed to make substantial gains on the ground.

Meanwhile, members of the Russian military police were seen escorting the convoys at the Ziyara crossing in order to prevent the Turkish military from targeting the crossing as it was the case a few days ago when the 1st batch arrived.

Anti-Russian Propaganda vs Anti-Western Propaganda…which one wins?

Natalie Nougayrede: a victim of the propaganda system she doesn’t think exists

IAN SINCLAIR deconstructs the former executive editor of Le Monde’s assertion that propaganda is what ‘they’ — Russia and other official enemies — do, not something the West dirties its hands with.

Guardian columnist and leader writer Natalie Nougayrede wrote an op-ed last month examining propaganda in our supposed age of “lies and distortion.”

Focusing on “Russian propaganda” and “Russian meddling” in the West’s political systems, Nougayrede argued “citizens who live in an authoritarian, disinformation-filled environment deal daily with the reality of propaganda in ways we can’t fully experience, because we live outside of it.”

The former executive editor of Le Monde newspaper in France couldn’t be clearer. Propaganda is what “they” — Russia and other official enemies — do, not something the West dirties its hands with.

In actual fact, as academics David Miller and William Dinan argue in their 2007 book A Century of Spin, sophisticated propaganda has played a central role in Western societies, particularly the United States, since the early 20th century. US dissident Noam Chomsky calls this “thought control in a democratic society.”

As the “father of public relations” Edward Bernays explained in his 1928 PR manual, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society … it is the intelligent minorities which need to make use of propaganda continuously and systematically.”

This echoes the thoughts of another influential intellectual of the period, Walter Lippmann, who believed the elite needed to be protected from the “bewildered herd” — the general public. How? By “the manufacture of consent.”

Indeed the term “public relations” is itself a brilliant bit of spin, with Bernays noting: “Propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans … using it [in 1914-18]. So what I did was to try to find some other words. So we found the words Council of Public Relations.”

As the quotes from Bernays and Lippmann highlight, Dinan and Miller say: “Public relations was created to thwart and subvert democratic decision making” — to “take the risk of out of democracy,” to paraphrase the title of the seminal 1995 book written by Australian academic Alex Carey.

With the US and UK at the heart of the global advertising and marketing industries and corporations funding think tanks and huge lobbying efforts, today the general public faces hundreds of thousands of talented professionals spending billions trying to influence their thoughts and actions.

For example, in 2013, The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg reported that, between 2002 and 2010, conservative US billionaires had covertly provided £86 million to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change.

“Americans are now being exposed to more public relations than ever before,” Sue Curry Jensen, professor of media and communication at Muhlenberg College, wrote on The Conversation website last year.

Western governments become especially interested in manipulating public opinion during wartime. In 1990, we had the confected story about Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait throwing babies out of incubators, masterminded by the US PR firm Hill & Knowlton.

In the late 1990s, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service carried out Operation Mass Appeal aimed at gaining support for sanctions and war against Iraq.

Stories were planted in the foreign media “with the intention that they would then feed back into Britain and the US,” British historian Mark Curtis explained in his book Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses.

In 2002-3, the British government carried out a long campaign, complete with dossiers, sexed-up intelligence and dirty tricks at the United Nations, to persuade the British public to back the invasion of Iraq — what Curtis calls “a government propaganda campaign of perhaps unprecedented heights in the post-war world.”

In 2011, the public was told that Nato intervention in Libya was essential to stop Libyan government forces massacring civilians in Benghazi.

Five years later, the House of Commons foreign affairs committee’s investigation into the UK role in the conflict concluded that “the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence.”


As George Orwell once said: “Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks the whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns somersaults when there is no whip.”

The military itself is a huge source of propaganda. In 2016, the Mirror reported that the British armed forces employ 122 press officers and spend £41.4m  on press and public relations.
Across the pond the Pentagon spends “nearly £431m annually on public relations” in an attempt “to shape public opinion,” according to Chatham House’s Micah Zenko.

It is likely US propaganda is directed at the UK population as well as the public. For example, in 2010, Wikileaks published a US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) memo proposing how European support for Nato mission in Afghanistan could be sustained.

Concerned that “indifference” to the war in nations like France and Germany “might turn into active hostility,” the memo recommends “a consistent and iterative strategic communication program across Nato troop contributors.”

This will create “a buffer” to future opposition, thus “giving politicians greater scope to support deployments in Afghanistan.”

“Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanising the ISAF [International Security Assistance Forces] role in combating the Taliban,” the CIA notes.

“Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories… could help to overcome pervasive scepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission.”

Though the liberal view is of a media that is cantankerous and highly critical of power, some basic facts suggest something else is going on. “Research indicates that as much as 75 per cent of US news begins as public relations”, Curry Jansen notes.

Investigative journalist Nick Davies confirmed similar figures for the UK press in his 2008 book Flat Earth News. In addition, in the US there are now five PR people for every reporter.

More broadly, Chomsky has long noted that mainstream news media play a key role in relaying corporate and government propaganda to the general public. In their book Manufacturing Consent Edward Herman and Chomsky highlight an “observable pattern of indignant campaigns and suppressions, of shading and emphasis, and of selection of context, premises, and general agenda” which “is highly functional for established power and responsive to the needs of the government and major power groups.”

This brings us back to Nougayrede, who has been spreading fake news and propaganda about the West’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.

In August 2015, she wrote in the Guardian that President Obama has “refrained from getting involved in Syria,” noting that “the US has this year found only 60 rebels it could vet for a train-and-equip programme.”

In the real world, mainstream newspaper reports had already noted the US and UK had been working with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to send in hundreds of tons of weapons to Syrian rebels.

Moreover, in June 2015, the Washington Post estimated that the CIA Timber Sycamore programme in Syria — “one of the agency’s largest covert operations” — was spending £720m a year and had trained and equipped 10,000 rebels.
Pushing for Western military intervention in July 2015, Nougayrede highlighted what she saw as the hypocrisy of the anti-war left in the West, saying “there have been no significant street demonstrations against the war that Assad and his allies have waged on Syrian civilians.”

Chomsky explored the laser-like focus many intellectuals had for the crimes of opposite states in his 1992 book Deterring Democracy. “Fame, Fortune and Respect await those who reveal the crimes of official enemies,” he noted, while “those who undertake the vastly more important task of raising a mirror to their own societies can expect quite different treatment.”

There are, of course, very real consequences for those criticising the government in authoritarian states, so it’s understandable why commentators living under oppressive governments might toe the party line.

Nougayrede, on the other hand, continues her Western power-friendly crusade against the West’s official enemies freely of her own volition, no doubt thinking she is a questioning, adversarial commentator — a perfect illustration of the power of Western propaganda.

As George Orwell once said, “Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks the whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns somersaults when there is no whip.”

You can follow Ian Sinclair on Twitter on @IanJSinclair.

Covert Afghan Defense Forces Use “False Flag”, a.k.a., “Gladio” Tactics To Falsely Implicate Taliban

Painting by Anthony Freda


“False flag terrorism” occurs when elements within a government stage a secret operation whereby government forces pretend to be a targeted enemy while attacking their own forces or people. The attack is then falsely blamed on the enemy in order to justify going to war against that enemy.


“Gladio was set up after WWII as a clandestine group of operatives that were to be activated in the event of a Soviet invasion of Europe. Their plan quickly evolved into a program of political repression and manipulation directed by NATO and the CIA. What could go wrong? For decades Gladio carried out widespread terrorist attacks, assassinations and electoral subversion in democratic states such as Italy, France and West Germany, but were portrayed to the public as Communist or Left Wing terror attacks. Thanks to corrupt media disinformation and lies, the facts of this operation have been kept hidden from the public.“– Operation Gladio And The False Flag Muslim Terror Hoax


[Pentagon/CIA Repackages Afghan Govt. Terrorist Force As “The Renouncers”–(updated) NYT Highlights Taliban Split and Afghan Govt Sponsorship of Mullah Rasoul Faction–(updated) ]

FILE: Members of the Afghan security forces take position during an operation against Taliban in Helmand province in April 2017.

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan — A white unmarked Toyota pickup truck carries 10 armed young fighters to a frontline. All are dressed like Taliban fighters, with most wearing black or dark green khet partug — a long loose tunic and baggy pants. All are wearing the distinctive black or white turbans preferred by the Taliban.

They, however, are not Taliban. As members of a secretive Afghan government militia, their mission on a cold February morning is to infiltrate groups of insurgent fighters along a tense frontline in the restive southern province of Helmand.

As they speed along a twisting rural road past fields, orchards, and clusters of mud houses, only one of them agrees to briefly talk.

He requests not to be identified by name because the Taliban are actively pursuing and targeting members of the force, which is locally called Sangorian.

“We are proud of what we are doing. We turn insurgent tactics against them and fight them in the same civilian dress they wear,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “My only regret is that we sometimes scare civilians because they mistake us for the insurgents.”

Sangorian, named after a Turkish television soap opera about undercover operatives, claims credit for defeating Taliban attempts to overrun Helmand’s capital, Lashkar Gah. The insurgents virtually besieged it for months in 2016.

Estimated to now number between 500 and 1,000 fighters, the militia was created alongside the Bost Unit by the Afghan secret service, the Directorate of National Security.

“We have always inflicted harm on the enemy. We have killed their fighters and captured their weapons and ammunition,” the Sangorian member said. “This is why the enemy is keen to retaliate. They often use heavy weapons to attack our units.”

The Taliban killed at least 16 Sangorian members in an attack on a check post in Helmand’s Gereshk town on February 10. “Three of our brothers turned their guns on militia members after infiltrating one of their important camps,” a Taliban statement said.

Communist-era former general turned lawmaker Abdul Jabbar Qahraman is all praise for Sangorian. As Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s operational commander for Afghan forces in Helmand two years ago, he reportedly oversaw the formation of Sangorian.

“They were so successful that our enemies began to fight among themselves,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “Their sabotage within the enemy ranks prompted many Taliban commanders to mistrust each other so much that they began to surround themselves with bodyguards to prevent possible attacks from rivals.”

After the drawdown of most international troops by the end of 2014, the Taliban scored major territorial gains in Helmand, Afghanistan’s largest province, strategically located near Iran and bordering Pakistan. By early 2016, the insurgents controlled or contested 12 of the region’s 14 districts and were threatening to overrun the entire province by besieging Lashkar Gah. The city of an estimated 300,000 residents is home to important government departments and major military encampments.

Qahraman says it was Sangorian’s operations behind insurgent lines in the strongholds of Sangin and Musa Qala districts that prevented the Taliban from overrunning the provincial capital.

“As a former army general, I can tell you confidently that they played a major role in preventing the fall of Lashkar Gah to the enemy,” he said.

Not everyone in Lashkar Gah, however, is happy about Sangorian’s success. Some residents whisper of alleged abuses by the militia — claims the authorities reject, saying they have received no formal complaints of misconduct.

During nearly 40 years of war, Helmand’s residents have repeatedly seen government militias turn into marauding thugs. Civilians and politicians are now worried Sangorian will follow the same path.

Lawmaker Attaullah Afghan leads Helmand’s provincial council. He says that after performing their main task of preventing the fall of Lashkar Gah, Sangorian members no longer need to to work undercover.

“The people of Helmand now want Sangorian and other similar groups to wear the uniform of forces commanded by the Directorate of National Security,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan.

Omar Zhwak, the spokesman for Helmand’s governor, says the government is already working on such a plan.

“We are working on building them up in terms of education, discipline, and equipment to bring them on par with other forces,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “They have proved very useful.”

Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Mohammad Ilyas Dayee’s reporting from Lashkar Gah, Helmand.

Helmand's security chief Abdul Jabar Qahraman (C) surrounded by police and army officers.

Helmand’s security chief Abdul Jabar Qahraman (C) surrounded by police and army officers.

Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency has initiated a secretive unit in southern Helmand Province with the aim of taking advantage of divisions within the Taliban movement.

According to government officials, the goal is to weaken the increasing threat posed by the insurgency by using the Taliban’s own tactics. The militants have boasted of placing agents among security forces to carry out so-called insider attacks.

The initiative comes at a time when fledgling Afghan forces are struggling to stop the Taliban from taking over large swathes of Helmand and other areas across the country.

Abdul Jabbar Qahraman, President Ashraf Ghani’s special envoy for security affairs in the southern province, gave confirmation of the existence of the unit, whose members wear no uniform, but he declined to elaborate.

“The idea for the creation of the new contingent, which dresses like local Helmandis, was mine,” said the official, a former commander who fought for the Soviet-backed government in southern Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Helmand police chief Abdul Rahman Sarjang said the 300-strong unit, created and equipped by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), had conducted several operations and has so far proved a success.

The NDS headquarters in Kabul did not respond to several requests for comment, although an official — who declined to be identified — at the agency in Helmand confirmed the unit’s existence and the broad outlines of how it operates.

The Taliban themselves have confirmed the unit’s existence but dismissed claims that it was successful in exploiting internal divisions, calling such suggestions “propaganda.”

“It is true that this contingent exists and operates mysteriously in some parts of Helmand,” said Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, the Taliban’s main spokesman in southern Afghanistan. “We have very strong intelligence and find those who want to infiltrate our ranks.”

The NDS unit further complicates the situation in Helmand, a traditional stronghold of the Taliban and the center of the opium trade. In addition the insurgency, Helmand is a web of tribal and factional conflicts.

Deceit and double-cross have become commonplace in Helmand, and government forces are often the victim. In January, four rogue policemen killed nine comrades and stole their weapons before deserting to join the insurgents.

Afghan and NATO officials have frequently spoken of the difficulties faced by the Afghan National Army — a largely Dari-speaking force relying heavily on recruits from northern Afghanistan — in operating in Pashto-speaking Helmand.

One provincial official said the unit operates in Musa Qala and Nawzad, two central districts that government forces abandoned in February, as well as Marjah and Nad Ali, where the government maintains only tenuous control.

“Now the Taliban do not believe each other. They believe their colleagues may be infiltrated by the Afghan intelligence agency,” he said.

Despite a relative lull in recent weeks allegedly due to the annual opium harvest, Helmand has witnessed months of heavy fighting. Government forces have been forced to abandon several districts and regroup around the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

But the unit’s reported successes have come at a price, according to local officials.

“It is a very good achievement by the Afghan government and has created splits within the Taliban,” said Attaullah Afghan, a member of Helmand’s provincial council. But, he said, officials have received dozens of complaints from residents in districts like Nawzad and Khanishin.

“The Taliban are abusing ordinary people and even arresting some of them as spies for the Afghan government,” he said.

According to local sources, a battle between rival Taliban fighters in the Nad Ali and Marjah districts that killed as many as 30 fighters on May 8 was set off by the special NDS unit.

They said members of the unit attacked a checkpoint manned by insurgents loyal to Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, creating the impression that they were on the side of Mansour’s main rival, Mullah Mohammad Rasul.

The Taliban denied the fighting was between rival factions but did cite “bandits newly armed by Jabbar Qahraman.”

“There is currently no fighting in the area, and the entire region has been cleansed of these newly formed bandits,” Ahmadi said in a statement.

With reporting by Mohammad Stanekzai for Reuters

Syrian Militias Beat Erdogan To Afrin, Dealing Setback to Turkey

People waving Syria’s flag and portraits of its president, Bashar al-Assad, and the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, Abdullah Ocalan, as a convoy of pro-Syrian government fighters arrives in Syria’s northern enclave of Afrin on Thursday. Credit Ahmad Shafie Bilal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

ISTANBUL — Militias loyal to the Syrian government swept into the northwestern enclave of Afrin on Thursday in support of Kurdish militias, reclaiming the territory and stealing a march on Turkish forces that have been battling toward the city for nearly a month.

Television broadcasts and social media postings showed crowds celebrating in the main square of the city of Afrin, waving flags and holding posters of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is imprisoned in Turkey on terrorism charges.

The entry into Afrin of forces loyal to Mr. Assad — the result of a deal between the Syrian government and Kurdish militias, with the backing of Iran and Russia — has harmed Turkey’s ambitions in Syria. It is one of many setbacks that Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has experienced throughout the seven-year Syrian civil war.

“It’s not something Turkey is happy with at all,” said Michael Stephens, who studies the Middle East at the Royal United Services Institute in London. “It limits Turkish strategic options.” Turkey has made it clear that if attacked by pro-government forces, its forces will strike back, he said.

Turkey began its incursion into Afrin a month ago, saying it wanted to clear the enclave of Kurdish militias, which it says are affiliated with Mr. Ocalan’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., which has long waged a separatist insurgency in Turkey.

Turkey mobilized hundreds of C.I.A.-trained Syrian Arab fighters from the opposition Free Syrian Army to spearhead its attack, and bombarded the enclave with jets and artillery fire.

But Turkish forces have struggled to make headway against the well-prepared Kurdish fighters. In a month of fighting, Turkish forces have lost 32 soldiers. They have taken several dozen villages along the Turkish border, but have yet to reach the main cities.

The Syrian government has opposed the Turkish action from the start, accusing it of a breach of Syrian sovereignty, but Russia, which controls Syrian airspace, opened airspace to Turkish war planes.

Syrian and Kurdish officials suggested from the start that the Syrian government could move in to help the Kurdish forces.

Ibrahim Hamidi, a Syrian journalist for the London-based Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, reported on Wednesday that senior Russian and Syrian government officials met with Saban Hamo, the leader of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G., in the city of Aleppo to work out a deal.

The head of the Syrian government forces’ security committee, Brig. Gen. Malek Alia, attended the meeting along with the head of the Russian Army Reconciliation Center in northern Syria, Mr. Hamidi reported.

In separate meetings on the opposing side, American and Turkish officials gathered to work out a solution for the town of Manbij, he added. Mr. Erdogan has demanded that Y.P.G. forces also be removed from Manbij, where United States forces have a base and work with the Y.P.G. in its fight against the Islamic State. Mr. Erdogan has threatened to expand the Afrin operation to attack the town, straining United States-Turkish relations.

The Kurdish militias have welcomed Syrian government support in their fight against Turkish forces but risk losing their autonomy. Brusk Haska, a military official in the Y.P.G., said in an electronic message earlier this week that they would accept any help for their forces in Afrin.

“We welcome any force that comes to protect Afrin and the civilians from the Turks NATO aggression,” he wrote. “We are part of Syria and not part of the regime, we still have our own administration but we welcome any party coming to protect us.”

Turkish officials insisted their operation would continue and expressed skepticism about the Syrian government’s intentions.

“If they enter to clean P.K.K./Y.P.G. out, there is no problem,” Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said, using the acronyms for the Turkish and Syrian Kurdish groups. “But if the regime enters to protect the Y.P.G. there, no one can stop us.”

Turkey’s defense minister, Nurettin Canikli, said on Thursday that he doubted that the pro-Syrian government militias advancing to Afrin were capable of subduing the Kurdish militias, which is Turkey’s goal.

“The armed units allegedly sent to Afrin by the Syrian regime have no capacity to change the result of the antiterror struggle we have been waging in that region, and they never will have,” the Anadolu news agency reported Mr. Canikli’s telling journalists during a military ceremony in the province of Kayseri. “Whoever sides with terror will become our target.”

Turkish analysts pointed out that Russia was manipulating the players from behind the scenes. “Russia is not outside the process, rather it is at the center of the deal,” said Kerim Has, a lecturer at Moscow State University. He said that Russia was using the Turkish assault on Afrin to force the Syrian government and the Kurds to work together. “The stick is Turkey and now the P.Y.D. will sit around the table on Moscow’s terms,” Mr. Has said, using the acronym for the political arm of the Y.P.G.

Mr. Erdogan has defended the Afrin incursion as necessary for Turkey’s national security, but he has also promised that it would allow some of the 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to return home. His aim has been to forge a buffer zone along Turkey’s border that would be cleared of Kurdish militants and that could be occupied by Syrian Sunni forces who have been in the forefront of the opposition to Mr. Assad.

Many Free Syrian Army fighters joined the operation, hoping to be able to return to their homes in villages in northern Syria. They have, however, suffered scores of casualties and are no closer to that aim.

Yet the proposal for the Syrian government to take control of Afrin could also offer Mr. Erdogan a way out, as the situation becomes increasingly complicated.

“He can claim victory or some kind of strategic gain if Assad works against P.Y.D. control in the area,” said Mr. Stephens, the analyst in London. “Then he can withdraw in respect for Syrian sovereignty whilst saying to his public that a critical border security issue has been dealt with.”

He added: “Turkey’s strategic position was always quite weak, and they are playing for tactical gain.”

UNIFIL Slams Israeli War Rhetoric, Affirms Strategic Partnership w/Lebanese Army


UNIFIL Slams Israeli Blames, Affirms Strategic Partnership with Lebanese Army


UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti slammed Israeli media reports accusing the peacekeeping forces of failing to carry out their duties, saying the reports are “inaccurate,” the National News Agency reported on Friday.

“UNIFIL is aware of these media reports which contains clear inaccuracies. UNIFIL is working around the clock and carrying out some 450 operational activities each day. We have close coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces, almost 40% of our activities are carried out at night,” said Tenenti.

He stressed saying “the UNIFIL highly values its strategic partnership with the Lebanese army mainly in the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. The Lebanese army is an integral part in preserving the calm and stability in the UNIFIL area of operations.”

Israeli media have accused the peacekeeping forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) of becoming an “excuse for Hizbullah and the Lebanese government to violate UN resolution 1701.”

Israel fought a month-long war against Hizbullah in 2006, killing more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Resolution 1701 was adopted to end the war, calling for full respect of the Blue Line.

The Lebanese/Israeli “Line In the Sand” Is Drawn In the Water

Gas fields: Enough reason for Israeli-Lebanese war?

While this gas field quarrel might not bring about the next Israeli war, the ever-increasing presence of Iran and its militias in the southern Syrian border with Israel does not bode well for Lebanon

Robert Frost, the famous American poet, concludes his poem “Mending Walls” with the assertion that “good fences make good neighbors”. While this might generally be the case, for both Lebanon and Israel, it seems that neither a fence nor border demarcation can keep these two nations from a recurrent conflict.

In the past, Israel has on many occasions attacked Lebanon due to the latter’s inability to prevent non-state actors, such as the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and later Hezbollah, from launching attacks into its territories. The last such Israeli act was in July 2006, when the Israeli Army launched a 33-day attack against Lebanon and Hezbollah. However, the peace that has dominated the border between these two countries for over 12 years is at risk of collapsing again, but this time the confrontation has moved to the territorial waters.

Just recently, following an arduous and less-than-transparent process, the Lebanese government issued licenses to an oil and gas consortium (Total S.A, Eni International BV, and JSC Novatek) to commence exploration and production in blocks 4 and 9, the latter block being partly disputed by Israel, which claims that 860 sq km of the 1,742 sq km belongs to her. Instead of simply referring this maritime border dispute to international arbitration, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman took to the offensive, describing Lebanon’s move as a “very challenging and provocative conduct”.

To many, Lieberman’s words could be a preamble to an all-out military confrontation that would involve Hezbollah and its regional patron Iran. Yet despite the potential of such an apocalyptic scenario unraveling, most of the signs and current circumstances seem to indicate otherwise. While Israel certainly has the military advantage in any potential showdown, a dispute over a gas field that could be considered somewhat normal is not sufficient reason for Israel to fully mobilize its forces and disrupt the resounding peace that has dominated its northern border with Lebanon for a long time now.

The Syrian crisis with the presence of an assortment of pro-Iranian forces in Syria operating under the direction and support of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG) is the real threat to Israel, a threat that the Israeli army has until now tried to contain through its use of airstrikes. Yet if such tangible Iranian threats against Israel and the downing of its F-16 fighter jet by the Syrian air defense were not enough to go to war in Syria, would a measly gas field suffice?

For Iran’s vessels in Lebanon and the region, the gas war is imminent, with Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah assuring that his party and their cache of missiles will rain down on any Israeli attempt to steal Lebanon’s valuable resource. Nasrallah’s statements were naturally meant to leverage his party’s supposed role as the protector of Lebanon against the omnipresent Israeli aggression and to divert attention further from the fact that his forces are fully engaged in defending the Assad regime and thus have put their war with Israel on the backburner.

More importantly, no sooner had the gas dispute arisen between Israel and Lebanon than the United States took swift diplomatic measures to deescalate the situation. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had announced his intention to visit Lebanon, dispatched his acting Assistant for Middle East Affairs David Satterfield to both Lebanon and Israel. Satterfield delivered a clear message that such a maritime dispute need not develop into an open conflict.

Equally, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his warmongering cabinet waste no chance to hurl threats of using military force, the political reality currently unfolding within Israel is preventing such threats from becoming a reality. As it stands, Netanyahu is under investigation by the police, who have recommended to the Israeli attorney general to press charges against the head of the Likud party for bribery, fraud, and corruption. Consequently, if such a scenario does prove to be the case, Netanyahu will have to step down as prime minister, and the country will head for early parliamentary elections, during which no Israeli politician would be able to advocate going to war.

Nevertheless, while this gas field quarrel might not bring about the next Israeli war, the ever-increasing presence of Iran and its militias in the southern Syrian border with Israel does not bode well for Lebanon. While Hezbollah might prefer to use Syria as a battleground and avoid a showdown in Lebanon, which would afflict its Shiite constituency, ultimately a spillover is inevitable, one that will endanger Lebanon’s newly discovered natural resources as well as its people.

China, Saudi, Turkey Join Forces To Defend Pakistan From Trump’s Threatened Economic Sanctions

Saudi Arabia, China, Turkey blocked US move against Pakistan at Financial Action Task Force: Report


  • The FATF is a global body that combats terrorist financing and money laundering.
  • The US says Pakistan is not taking action against terror groups like the Haqqani network and the Taliban.
  • The report said Saudi Arabia was acting on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

(File photo for representation)

WASHINGTON: China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — the three close allies of Pakistan — have joined hands to block a move by the Trump administration to place Islamabad on an international terror-financing watch list, a US media report said.
While Pakistan has claimed a victory of sorts, the US was working behind the scenes during the ongoing Paris meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) so as to take action against the country which it believes has not acted against terrorist financing and the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions.

The Wall Street Journal which first reported about the development said this was one of the “rare disagreements” between Saudi Arabia and the administration of President Donald Trump.

Saudi Arabia, it said was acting on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The report said the US is still trying for the FATF to take a decision on this by today.

Pakistan yesterday claimed it had foiled US-led efforts to place it on a terror financing watch-list after the country was granted a three-month reprieve by the Paris-based international watchdog FATF.

The FATF, a global body that combats terrorist financing and money laundering, met in Paris amid reports that the US with support of some European allies was trying to place Pakistan on a list of countries that financially support terrorism.

“The officials said the US effort, which included pressure on the Saudis, raised the possibility of a fresh vote on action against Pakistan as soon as Thursday. The Pakistanis were scrambling to shore up support,” the WSJ report said.

Noting that the Trump administration is angry with Pakistan’s inadequate efforts to combat terror groups, the daily said the US has sought to ratchet up pressure on Islamabad.

Last month, it froze some $2 billion in security assistance to Pakistan.

The US says Pakistan is not taking action against terror groups like the Haqqani network and the Taliban. Islamabad has denied those allegations.

China, Pakistan’s all-weather ally, has repeatedly blocked efforts by India, the US and the UK to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar a terrorist under the Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee.

Pakistan being added to the “list of countries deemed ‘high risk’ for doing too little to curb terror financing,” would have a financial implication for the country.

As a result of this inclusion, banks, other lenders and international companies seeking to do business with Pakistan could rethink financial ties, putting a damper on its already struggling economy, the daily said.

The FATF meeting is expected to continue till tomorrow.

Yesterday, US state department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the FATF is expected to take a decision by today on adding Pakistan to the ‘grey list’ of countries not doing enough to comply with terrorist-funding regulations.

Turkey Opens Fire on Regime Forces In Afrin

[The arrival of popular forces to support the people of Afrin … The forces of the Turkish regime target them with artillery]

The arrival of popular forces to support the people of Afrin … The forces of the Turkish regime target them with artillery

“The forces of the Turkish regime aimed at artillery where the presence of the Popular Forces upon arrival in the area Afrin, as well as targeting media delegations that keep pace with the arrival of the Popular Forces.

He pointed out that the Popular Forces deployed immediately upon arrival in the Afrin area in the points and centers specified to contribute to support the people defending their villages and homes against the attacks of terrorists “Daash” and the aggression of the Turkish regime and its mercenaries of terrorist organizations Takfiri.”–SANA NEWS

Turkey Opens Fire on Regime Forces In Afrin

Wednesday, 21 February, 2018 – 07:00
A wounded man is treated at a medical post in the besieged town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta on Tuesday [Bassam Khabieh/Reuters]
Ankara, Beirut, Moscow – Saeed Abdel-Razek, Nazeer Rida, Raed Jaber
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that his country managed to thwart a possible deployment of Syrian regime forces into the northwestern Afrin region.

“There was a movement towards Afrin by Shiite militias which were interrupted after they were shelled,” Erdogan said at a joint news conference alongside his Macedonian counterpart Gjorge Ivanov in Ankara.

He added that the militias were forced to go back after artillery shooting. “This file is closed for now,” he confirmed.

The Turkish president also said that it was impossible to give any terrorist organization a chance in Afrin.

“They would pay a heavy price for it,” Erdogan warned.

The arrival of pro-Syrian regime forces to the Kurdish Afrin area constituted on Tuesday an important development that adds to the existing conflict in Syria.

Turkey’s Anadolu agency reported that the withdrawal of the pro- Assad terror groups came when they were about 10 km away from Afrin.

On Tuesday, Syrian state television showed a convoy of pro-government fighters entering Afrin to help Kurds confront a Turkish assault.

As Damascus and Turkey were on the verge of triggering off a military clash, Russia was speeding its steps to avoid any confrontation between both forces.
Russia called on Ankara to start a direct dialogue with Damascus to reach a deal concerning Afrin.

Moscow had earlier denied having participated in any negotiations related to previous agreements between the Syrian regime and the Kurdish forces in Afrin, saying it prefers a direct dialogue between Ankara and Damascus.

Separately, deadly air strikes and artillery fire launched by Syrian regime forces against Damascus’ eastern Ghouta since last Sunday killed more than 200 civilians and wounded tens others.

The UN said “the humanitarian situation of civilians in Syria’s east Ghouta is spiraling out of control,” and called for a permanent ceasefire.

“Six hospitals have been struck over two days in the Syrian rebel enclave, putting three out of service and killing several people,” the United Nations said.

The Syrian opposition condemned on Tuesday the aggression on Ghouta, threatening to withdraw from the UN-sponsored peace talks.

“It is clear that the Damascus regime has no interest to engage in any dialogue,” said Nasr Hariri, head of the Syria Negotiation Commission representing opposition groups.

Washington’s Islamist Assets Being Relocated Once Again, This Time To Southeast Asia

The Tuzla Airlift–Sometimes History Refuses to Be Silent

America’s “Islamists” Go Where Oilmen Fear to Tread

ISIS–Professional Military Force, Projecting Power Where US Troops Cannot Go
Manufacturing Justification for the NATO Takeover of Central Asia–Smashing Greater Central Asia – (Part One)

Smashing Greater Central Asia—Part II
Smashing Greater Central Asia—Part III, Phantom Threats
Smashing Greater Central Asia – (Part IV)–Smashing Systematically

MANILA (Reuters) – Foreign Islamic State fighters forced out of Syria and Iraq have been arriving in the Philippines with the intent of recruiting, and they have plans to attack two Philippine towns, the head of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group said on Tuesday.

More than 1,100 people were killed last year when pro-Islamic State militants attacked and held the Philippine city of Marawi for five months, leading to massive destruction across the scenic lakeside town.

That could happen in other cities if Congress fails to pass a law to allow Muslims in the southern Philippines to run their own affairs, according to Ebrahim Murad, leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a separatist group which signed a peace deal with the government in return for greater autonomy.

“Based on our own intelligence information, foreign fighters who were displaced from the Middle East continued to enter into our porous borders and may be planning to take two southern cities – Iligan and Cotabato,” Murad said.

The two cities are 38 km (24 miles) and 265 km (165 miles) respectively from Marawi.

Murad said fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Middle East were known to have entered the Philippines, including a Middle Eastern man holding a Canadian passport.

That man went to a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, notorious for kidnapping and piracy, Murad said.

Murad said militants had been recruiting fighters in remote Muslim communities, exploiting delays in the passage of legislation aimed at addressing long-standing Muslim grievances, the Bangsamoro Basic law (BBL).

“These extremists are going into madrasas, teaching young Muslims their own version of the Koran, and some enter local universities to influence students, planting the seeds of hatred and violence,” he said.

Such a scenario would be a major headache for the military, which is fighting on multiple fronts on the southern island of Mindanao to defeat home-grown Islamic State loyalists, bandits and communist insurgents.

Mindanao is under martial law.

The military has said remnants of the militant alliance that occupied Marawi were trying to regroup and were using cash and gold looted from Marawi to recruit.

Murad’s statement echoed those of President Rodrigo Duterte, who last month urged lawmakers to pass the BBL, or face re-igniting war with separatists after two decades of peace.

“We cannot decisively win the war against extremism if we cannot win the peace in the halls of Congress,” Murad said.

Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel

America’s Historical Cultural Violence and Adulation of Military Forces

Our Hyper-Militarized Nation Has Bred The Endless and Violent Bloodbaths We Have At Home

The recent shooting deaths Wednesday at a Parkland Florida High School point to an even more extensive epidemic of killing children and innocent people. Our glorification of the military and the use of mechanized and industrial violence to solve conflicts is not new. But it has gotten tremendously worse: in fact, since post 9/11 it has become atrocious. Our worship of military weapons, policy, and brutal vengeance of a dehumanized enemy has cultivated Parkland and Las Vegas shootings.

Therefore it should come as no surprise Nikolas Cruz was arrested wearing a crimson JROTC sweatshirt. The military methods cultivated overseas have come back home.

Statements that other countries are primitive and violent and have been fighting since the beginning of time does not describe them. It defines us. There is no other country on the planet with a history of violence like ours: internally and externally.

wrote in October that a nation unable to create anything meaningful to negate the multiple mass shooting deaths of children is criminal in itself. And based on the past and current behavior of our “misleadership” in Washington we will have another bloodbath on our hands soon.

Since the founding of this country, violence and madness have not ceased. From the genocide of Native Americans, the establishment of capitalism through the terrorism and slavery of Blacks, the murder of labor activists, and peaceful protesters.

Blacks are murdered relentlessly by criminal cops in the street, or they are locked in cages at disproportionate rates for committing non-violent crimes. By the evidence, we may hesitate to say how much better things are because we’ve had a two-term Black president.

Going from a noose and a tree to a cop’s gun, and a plantation to a prison industrial complex system doesn’t qualify as progress.

Whether it is violence or murder in hate crimes directed at Muslims, the killing of abortion providers, or a cattle rancher in Nevada taking up arms against the government, one thing should be clear. Violence is the American way at home and more specifically abroad.

It is self-evident with our history of violence, and a  population of 326,766,748  that owns 300 million guns, we have all the evidence of a crisis.

But what gets missed is that all young people have seen around them are adult leaders in their nation continually resorting to force, violence, and murder to coerce or resolve grievances. These acts of state-sanctioned violence have produced a generation born and bred on war. That is what our war propaganda culture has created.

Anyone born in 1990 has grown up in a hyper-militarized country that bombed countries overseas and killed over hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Endless war is all they’ve seen. Bombing wedding parties, hospitals, and schoolchildren creating disease and displacement, as well as establishing a worldwide torture regime.

These are the images children have grown up with and have been normalized: the message is, this is ok. Deadly force and violence are rationalized.

This normalization is the reality we have also given our youth through Hollywood.  Zero Dark Thirty with its pro-torture message that torture led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. The racist revenge fest of American Sniper lacks any context other than-  the only good Iraqi is a dead Iraqi.

Peter Maas is correct in calling these political films. “The problem is that the film (American Sniper) does not attempt to tell us anything beyond Kyle’s limited comprehension of what was happening. More than a decade after America invaded and occupied Iraq, and long after we realized the war’s false pretense and its horrific toll, we deserve better.”

There is a historical ignorance as well as a lack of nuance in these films questioning our countries motives or the portrayal of Muslims’s as anything but the other. These movies are war propaganda for our youth. In fact, they are used as indoctrination films and recruitment tools for the military to our young.

The disturbing trend of military recruiters on high school campuses is a grave concern. High school students have a one dimensional perspective of a military that is uncontrolled and misdirected. Recruiters prey primarily in Chicago schools with high black and brown populations with little economic opportunity.

The Chicago Chapter of Veterans for Peace is a counter to JROTC and on-campus recruiters. Their program Education Not Militarization is to bring awareness that CPS is one of the most militarized school systems in the country. Their focus is on non-violent conflict resolution and restorative justice. Despite cries that the military model provides an excellent foundation for high school students: the military’s core message and method is violence.

Chris Hedges describes how Dwight Mcdonald’s 1946 essay The Root is Man describes how militarized superpowers cannibalize their youth through propaganda.

Macdonald detailed in his 1946 essay “The Root Is Man” the marriage between capitalism and permanent war. He despaired of an effective resistance until the permanent war economy, and the mentality that went with it, was defeated.

The state, whether in the capitalist United States or the communist Soviet Union, eventually devoured its children. And it did this by using the organs of mass propaganda to keep its populations afraid and in a state of endless war. It did this by insisting that human beings be sacrificed before the sacred idol of the market or the utopian worker’s paradise. The war state provides a constant stream of enemies, whether the German Hun, the Bolshevik, the Nazi, the Soviet agent or the Islamic terrorist. Fear and war, Macdonald understood, was the mechanism that let oligarchs pillage in the name of national security.

There is a strong linkage to a militarized superpower, and it’s violent society. We do not need to point blame towards violent video games or movies as the worst influences on our children. The reality is the violent and deadly methods through force and war provided by their country, and its leaders are all the influence they will ever need.  Perhaps a dual focus and concentrated effort to eliminate the militarized weapons and guns on our streets. And the arms and weaponry we bring into other countries.

Syrian Army Strikes Deal w/Kurds To Oppose Turkish Army In Afrin?–updated

[Turkey warns it may hit Syrian troops in Kurdish enclave]

[SEE: Afrin: Kurdish fighters ‘strike deal’ with Syrian army ‘Syrian forces to back YPG’ in fight against Turkey ]

Popular forces will arrive Afrin within hours,

to support the steadfastness of its people in the face of the aggression of the Turkish regime


SANA correspondent in Aleppo reported that groups of the Popular Forces will arrive in Afrin area to support the steadfastness of their people in the face of the aggression carried out by the forces of the Turkish regime on the city and its inhabitants since the 20th of last month.

The correspondent pointed out that the arrival of the Popular Forces to the area of ​​Afrin will strengthen the steadfastness of the people and their resistance to the Turkish aggression, which targets infrastructure, private and public property and economic and service facilities.

The correspondent added that the involvement of the popular forces in resisting the Turkish aggression comes within the framework of supporting the people and defending the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria and thwarting the attempt of the regime of Erdogan and his mercenaries from the terrorist organizations to occupy the region.

For more than a month, the Turkish regime has been brutally attacking the Afrin area, causing the death and injury of hundreds of civilians through the use of various types of weapons and missiles, including internationally banned chlorine, as well as the systematic destruction of infrastructure, property and archaeological sites by its forces and terrorist organizations.

US/Zionist Maldivian Puppet Former Pres. Tries New Ride To Power On “China Scare”

[SEE: Western Fake News Dept. and One of Their Fake Assaults Upon “Democracy”…This Time In the Maldives ; Saudi Arabia Buying Maldives’ Island For Islamist Training Facility?Zionist International Frees Sycophant Puppet Former President In Maldives ]

China will ‘take action’ if India sends troops to crisis-hit Maldives – state media

Indian project to set up Navy radars in Maldives under cloud

Maldives faces Chinese ‘land grab’ over unpayable debts, ex-leader warns

Political crisis worsens cash-strapped island nation’s plight

YUJI KURONUMA, Nikkei staff writer

Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed (Photo by Yuji Kuronuma)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Massive debts threaten to force the Maldives to cede territory to China as early as 2019, former President Mohamed Nasheed said, warning that a flawed presidential election this year would lead to a Chinese takeover of the island nation.

“We can’t pay the $1.5 to 2 billion debt to China,” Nasheed told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview in Sri Lanka. He argued that the Indian Ocean country, known mostly as a tourist destination, takes in less than $100 million a month in government revenue.

Nasheed, who held office from 2008 to 2012, fled to the U.K. in 2016 following his arrest and conviction under anti-terrorism laws for ordering the arrest of a judge. He now splits his time in exile between there and Sri Lanka.

As of January, obligations to China accounted for “nearly 80%” of the Maldives’ foreign debt, according to Nasheed. Much of the money went into infrastructure, including roads, bridges and airports. But these are “vanity projects,” according to Nasheed: “roads going to nowhere, airports that [will sit] empty.” All the while, the Maldives’ debts are accruing interest at high rates, Nasheed said.

The country must start making payments on this debt by 2019 or 2020, according to the former leader. If the Maldives falls behind, China will “ask for equity” from the owners of various islands and infrastructure operators, and Beijing will then “get free hold of that land,” he said.

“Without firing a single shot, China has grabbed more land than the East India Company at the height of the 19th century,” Nasheed said, alleging that the Asian economic powerhouse has taken over “16 islands already” under the Maldives’ current president, Abdulla Yameen. “This land grab exercise hollows out our sovereignty,” he argued. Nasheed did not provide any names of the islands he alleged China had taken.

This sign marks the site of a Chinese-financed project to build a bridge connecting the Maldivian capital of Male with a nearby airport island. (Photo by Yuji Kuronuma)

Once ports have been built on the islands, “these commercial infrastructures can very easily become military assets,” according to Nasheed. Such conversions are “very simple,” he said, pointing to a naval base China established in the East African nation of Djibouti last August — its first military installation abroad.

Yameen’s Chinese-backed government has cracked down on political opposition over the past several years. But on Feb. 1, the Maldives’ Supreme Court tossed out Nasheed’s conviction and ordered the release and reinstatement of opposition lawmakers. The government responded by declaring a state of emergency and throwing two justices in jail. The rest of the court has since reversed its decision, and the government has sent envoys to China and elsewhere to garner international support.

Nasheed on Feb. 6 urged India to send a military-backed envoy to resolve the crisis. New Delhi has responded by increasing its naval presence in international waters around an hour from the Maldivian capital of Male but has shied away from stronger steps. Though the former president said he would leave military strategy to the “professionals,” he insisted that the Maldives needs “assistance.”

“We need to release the judges,” he said. “We need the government to abide by the court ruling.”

Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping. © Reuters

Pakistan Lends Thousands of Troops Saudi Arabian Anti-Iranian Forces, Commanded By Former Pak. Army Chief

Payback time for Pakistan as Saudi bills come due
Pakistan and the Saudi Dominance

Is the Pakistani Army Obligated To Fight for Saudi Arabia?
Saudi King announces $100 million to Pakistan
Saudis Continue To Manipulate Pakistan

[Pakistani troops to Saudi, where they will serve at the forefront of the mad Saudi King’s anti-Iranian forces, now under the command of the former Pak. Chief of Army (SEE: Pakistan OKs Former Gen. Sharif Command of Saudi “Anti-Terrorist” –Anti-Shia– Forces).]

Pakistan to send more troops to Saudi Arabia: ISPR

Saudi Ambassador Nawaf Saeed Al-Maliki met with Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa at Pakistan Army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday. (ISPR)

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: The Pakistan Army is sending a contingent of troops to Saudi Arabia on a training and advice mission, the media wing of the Pakistan Armed Forces said in a statement on Thursday.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said it is part of the ongoing cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
“Troops already there will not be employed outside KSA. The Pakistan army maintains bilateral security cooperation with many other GCC/regional countries,” the statement said.
Before the announcement, Nawaf Saeed Al-Maliki, ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, met Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, chief of army staff (COAS), on Thursday at Pakistan Army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi.
“Matters of mutual interest including the regional security situation were discussed during the meeting,” the ISPR press release said.
“Pakistan and Kingdom have decades-long ties and cooperation in the field of defense, so it is important for the continuation of strategic relations,” Zafar Jaspal, professor at the school of politics and international relations in Quaid-e-Azam University, told Arab News.
“This development will not have an impact on Islamabad’s relations with any other country because the army clarified that these troops will only be on a training and advice mission,” Jaspal said.
Hasan Askari, a leading Pakistani political analyst, told Arab News that the announcement of sending more troops “reaffirms the policy of military cooperation between the two countries that has a long and positive history.”
“Pakistani troops already stationed in Kingdom work just within the limits of Saudi Arabia, so it should not be matter of concern for any other country,” Askari said.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy close cooperation in diverse fields including defense cooperation. Armed forces of both countries regularly conduct military exercises; defense officials from Pakistan and the Kingdom also travel to each other’s county and share their experiences.
On Dec. 12, Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Aysh, Saudi deputy defense minister, visited Pakistan and met with the Pakistani defense minister and military officials.
During the visit, Khurram Dastgir Khan, Pakistani defense minister, proposed an all-encompassing strategic cooperation agreement to deepen defense ties between the two countries.

Who Sanctions the US When It Meddles In Foreign Elections?…NO ONE.

US sanctions, baffled Russians, hot air and history

[This analysis was written for the Unz Review]

So, finally, the suspense is over.  Kind of.  The US Treasury has finally released the list of Russian entities and individuals which could (conditional!) be sanctioned by the US Treasury in compliance with the H.R.3364 – Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.  These two short excerpt from the report show why I say “could”:


Now let’s translate all this in plain English: the US took a copy of the Kremlin telephone book, then a copy of Forbes and created a new list combining both.  Then the US proclaimed that these entities and individuals are not under any sanctions yet, but are candidates for such sanctions.

Does that make *any* sense to you *at all*?!

Well, if it does, stop reading and enjoy your unique gifts.  If it does not, then don’t feel bad as this makes no sense whatsoever for anybody in Russia either.  Oh how I wish modern technologies would make it possible for me to post here all the recent interviews, articles, talk-shows and public statements made in Russia for the past 24 hours!  To say that the Russians are baffled is, really, an understatement.

Two things are noteworthy: first, this list completely ignores one of the most important realities of Russian politics: that the real, dangerous, opposition to Putin is not from the people (who support him at anywhere between 60% to 80%+) or from the Russian media (which, while often critical, does not represent a real threat to him) or even the Duma (whose opposition parties are critical of the Kremlin, but who are very careful about criticizing Putin himself lest they lose support from the people) .  For years now I have been explaining that the real opposition to Putin is a) inside the ruling elites, including the Presidential Administration and the Government and b) big money: banks, oligarchs, etc.  I call this (informal) opposition the “Atlantic Integrationists” because what these pro-western globalists want is for the AngloZionist Empire to accept Russia as an equal partner and to have Russia fully integrate the US-controlled international financial and security structures: WTO, NATO, EU, G7/8, etc.  Very roughly speaking you could think of them as the “Medvedev people” (but you could also say that the Ministers in charge of the Russian economy all fall into this category, as do almost all the heads of Russian banks).  I call the (informal) group supporting Putin the “Eurasian Sovereignists“.  These are the folks who see the future of Russia in the South, East and even North, who want to pull Russia out of the AngloZionist international financial and security structures and who want a truly sovereign Russia to contribute to a new truly multi-polar world in collaboration with countries like China or the other BRICS countries.  Very roughly you could call these people the “Putin people” (but you could also say that figures such as Ivanov, Rogozin, Shoigu and a few others are key personalities).

This is important because the this list of (potentially sanctioned) people makes absolutely no distinctions between these two groups.  Check out this article on RT entitled “Major Russian bank will no longer service defense industry over US sanctions fears“.  It quotes the Alfa Bank CEO Mikhail Fridman whose net worth is estimated at $16.2 billion by Forbes, as saying that the magazine that Alfa-Bank was cutting ties with the Russia’s defense industry, adding, “What can we do?”.  Now look at the list, Appendix II, entry #23.  Do you see who is there?  Yup, the very same Mikhail Fridman!

Now let me add this: in the current political climate in Russia, to have bank accounts in the West is considered shameful and unpatriotic and that is something which even most dishonest and hypocritical Eurasian Sovereignists can hardly afford for political reasons (that does not mean that some don’t try, they do, but at a great political risk).  In contrast, among Atlantic Integrationists, whose power and influence does not depend on public opinion, having assets abroad is much less dangerous and, therefore, much more common.

Now that the US Treasury has released this “list of marked individuals” (and their families, relatives or associated corporate entities) for potential, unspecified, future sanction, who do you think will freak out most, the Eurasian Sovereignists or the Atlantic Integrationists?  Then look a step further and forget about the US for a second: Russia is trying hard to work with the Europeans in many join projects.  What do you think the creation of such a list will have on joint ventures between EU and Russian businessmen?  I predict two things:

  1. It will place a great deal of pressure on EU corporations not to do business with the Russians and, therefore, it will further place the EU and the US on a collision course.
  2. It will hurt the Atlantic Integrationists where it hurts them the most: in their financial interests.

Frankly, if I was paid to think long and hard about how to come up with the dumbest and most self-defeating foreign policy decision for the USA I could never do better than what the Trump Administration and Congress have just done.  This is, by the way, something which all Russian analysts agree with.  What they don’t agree with are the reasons for that seemingly completely and terminally stupid move.  Here are the various schools of thought in Russia on that account:

Group One: “the slap in the face of Russia”:

They believe that the sole intention was to insult and humiliate Russia by basically declaring that all the top Russian people are gangsters.  According to them, there ain’t much the US can do to Russia other than to continue a petty war of insults and harassment (like the expulsion of Russian diplomats and the seizure of Russian consular buildings in the USA).

Group Two: “it’s all internal US politics”:

That groups says that this has nothing to do with Russia at all.  According to them, the US economy is doing well under Trump, the Democrats have nothing to use against him so all they do is continue to hammer the “Russian threat” fairytale to which Trump responds with deliberately ineffective and totally symbolic actions which make it look like he is anti-Russian when in reality he is quietly sabotaging the Democrats’ attempts at truly worsening relations with Russia and preventing the Democrats from playing the “Russian threat” card against Trump.

Group Three: “Трамп Наш” (Тrump is ours):

No, nobody in Russia seriously believes that Trump is a Russian agent or is somehow “owned” by Russia, but they say that as a joke, always laughing.  But what they do mean is that deep down Trump is a friend of Russia and is actually helping Russia and Putin.  How?  By taking all sorts of measures which only hurt the USA while very powerfully helping Russia (for example, by forcing Russian oligarchs to bring their foreign assets back to Russia).  Some even go as far as saying that this list is most damaging to the people opposed to Putin and that it gives him a pretext to fire them all after the Presidential elections in Russia.  Far from considering Trump a bumbling idiot, this group sees him as a consummate politician who is actually creating the circumstances to really hurt his (real) enemies and help his (real) friends.

Group Four: “Наших бьют!” (Our people are under attack!):

This is the group which doesn’t care at all why the US is doing this or that, no matter how clumsy.  All they care about is that this is yet another attack on “our people” (meaning Russian individuals or corporate entities) and that means that Russians should “circle the wagons” and come to the rescue of those thus attacked.  This group most vociferously demands retaliatory steps from the Kremlin.  They are a vocal minority.

Group Five: “Филькина Грамота” (Botched document produced by clueless idiots [very approximate translation!])

This is the group which basically says that it is all much more simple and no complex explanations are needed: the Trump Administration and Congress is composed of clueless idiots who have no idea what the hell they are doing and who just like to produce some policy decisions just to look like they still matter in world where they really don’t.  Putin himself seems to be in this last group as he officially called this latest US document “complete stupidity“.

Frankly, in my experience the decision making process in the USA is almost never the result of the efforts of single actor.  In fact, US political decisions are the “sum vector” of the effect of many different vectors acting together to produce a sum vector which sometimes looks nonsensical but which is still the logical result from the joint effect of all the vectors which determined it.  In other words, all the explanations above could be right, albeit to various degrees.  This being said, I strongly favor the last one as, like Putin, I have come to the conclusion that the Empire is run by stupid, ignorant ideologues who live in a world totally detached from reality.

What is absolutely certain is that this latest move by the USA is, again, a dream come true for Putin and his supporters, especially right before the elections.

First and foremost, this is clearly an attack on “our guy” and even on “all of us” and this triggers a very strong reaction of support from the people.  Furthermore, it separates all Russians into basically two camps: first, Putin supporters and, second, those who are so totally sold out to the USA (like Ksenia Sobchak) that they would even hand back Crimea just in order to be friends with the West.  The first group must roughly include, oh, let’s say 95%-98% of the population, the 2nd one about 2%-5%.

Second, it is now clear that every Russian oligarch (along with his family members and colleagues) has a big bullseye painted on his back and that he now should hurry to place his assets in the only location were the Empire cannot seize them: inside Russia.

Third, a lot of those oligarchs and civil servants who more or less actively opposed Putin and his policies now need to come back to him and, with hat in hand and with a groveling tone, need to make amends and beg for his pardon and mercy.  They placed their bets on the AngloZionists and they lost.  Now they need to come back to papa and beg for clemency (they will probably get it too).  This right before the elections is very helpful indeed even if nobody doubts the outcome of these election to begin with.

To sum it all up: the latest move is a true blessing for Putin and Russia in both economic and political terms and the only ones really hurt by all this are the Atlantic Integrationists (who are really going through some very bad times anyway).

The paradox: US sanctions – a  blessing in disguise?

Let’s think about what the USA has been doing over the past couple of years.  Officially, the USA has been trying to “isolate” Russia.  But isolate from exactly what?  From Peru?  Or maybe from cultural exchanges with Morocco?  Hardly.  When the USA says that it wants to isolate Russia it means cut Russia off from the western markets (trade), the western financial system (credit) and the western political elites (fora).  These sanctions were supposed to hurt Russia precisely because Russia was, at least in part, dependent on trade with the EU, credits from western financial institution and her participation in G8 (now G7) type of events.  Putin predicted that it would take 2 years for Russia to recover from these sanctions (and the concomitant drop in energy prices) and he was right: Russia not only created new trade ties, but also finally began investing in her internal market, she found credits elsewhere (China) and in terms of fora, it really turned out that the G7 without Russia was more or less like the Council of Europe or, for that matter, the UN Security Council: useless.  Instead, world leaders began booking flight and visiting Moscow.  Now the latest US sanctions are putting an immense amount of pressure on Russian oligarchs to bring their money back home.  It sure looks to me that US sanctions made it possible for Putin to do something he might never have been able to do without them: to seriously begin reforming Russia (which badly needed such reforms).  Remember, Eurasian Sovereignists are just that – sovereignists; whereas Atlantic Integrationists are just that – integrationists.  By “cutting off Russia from the West” – whose agenda did the USA really hurt, the integrationists or the sovereignists?  Could it be that Putin owes his immense popularity, and Russia her success, at least in part to US sanctions?

The fundamental theory of deterrence holds that “deterrence is in the eye of the beholder”.  In other words, I cannot assume that what would deter me would also deter you.  In order to deter you I need to understand what your goals and values are.  I submit that when the US elites decided to sanction Russia (putatively to deter her from further resisting the Empire) they made a fundamentally wrong assumption: that Russia was ruled by Atlantic Integrationist types who would be horrified and deterred.  Instead, these sanctions ended being a blessing for the Eurasian Sovereignists who used these sanctions to paralyze the Atlantic Integrationists, to push through much needed reforms and basically eliminate the pro-Western opposition.  In so many ways Russia is still a mess and a struggling country, but thanks to US sanctions none of that will have any impact at all on the next Presidential elections in Russia and the Eurasian Sovereignists are more powerful than ever before.  Thank you, Uncle Shmuel!

Possible Russian reactions:

Whatever the reasons for all this nonsense, this does beg some kind of reaction from Russia and I think that judging by all the similar situation in the recent past, the Russian reaction is fairly easy to predict.

First, there will be no grandiose gesture or loud hyperbolic statements out of the Kremlin.  Putin jokingly deplored that his own name was not on the list, Peskov said that this was a hostile act, a few Russian Duma members canceled planned trip to the USA and Russian commentators expressed various degrees of dismay and disgust.  But, all in all, this is very, very little.  As usual, this will be completely misunderstood in the West where the culture is roughly “if your enemy slaps you in your face, you have to immediately slap him back lest you look weak“.  In most of Asia (and the Middle-East, by the way), the norm is totally different: “if your enemy slaps you in the face you step back and plan how to bring him down in the long run because what matters is not the short-lived posturing, which can be even dangerous and counter-productive, but playing the long run and winning“.  You could say that in the West the attention span and long-term planning is counted in days or weeks, while in Asia and the Middle-East it is counted in years and decades.  So while there might not be anything particularly photogenic or quote-worthy coming out of the Kremlin, a few Russians did drop hints of what the Russian policy will be: “good luck to the Americans trying get anything major done on the planet without our support“.  And just to make that point clear to those who can connect the dots, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, speaking on the Russian TV channel Rossiya One, declared that the Director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Sergei Naryshkin, recently traveled to the USA and met with some high level US personalities (including, according to US sources, CIA Director Mike Pompeo).  As Newsweek wrote, Naryshkin would be “the Russian spy chief behind 2016 election hacking campaign” which various nutcases even called an act of war. He is on the very top of all these sanctions list, but there he is, traveling inside the USA and meeting with top US officials.  Why did Antonov leak this?  Simply to show that for all the huffing and puffing and hyperbolic grandstanding from the USA, the reality is that the USA and Russia are still very much working together because they really cannot afford not doing so (as I write these words I got a link to a WaPo article now saying that Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and even Colonel-General Korobov, the head of the Main Directorate of the General Stuff (GU GSh), the military intelligence service (ex-GRU) also took part in this trip to the USA.)

So that is the real Russian message to the USA: you need us a heck of a lot more than we need you because you need to work with us or else you won’t get anything done, we are still willing to work with you, but if you go crazy then your global interests will suffer much more than our ours; for all your hot air, you have been working with us all along and if you go overboard with the nonsense we will first reveal the extend of our collaboration and, if that is not enough to cool you down, we will terminate it.

There is no doubt in my mind that for most inhabitants of the AngloZionist Empire the notion of the almighty USA needing the struggling (and economically comparatively small) Russia more than Russia needs the USA is laughable.   These folks would say something like that: “what is the Russian share of the gross world product, how many aircraft carriers does Russia have and what is the Russian weight in international financial institutions? And how is your vodka-soaked Ruble doing anyway, buddy?!”  The Russians wouldn’t reply much of anything, most would just smile in contempt and think something along the lines of “when is the last time you got anything successfully done, you dumb pompous ass“.  That’s fundamentally fine since this message is really not destined to ideological drones but to those in power in the USA who are aware of the real scorecard of Uncle Sam and who realize that right now it is the Empire, not Russia, which is almost completely paralyzed, and isolated (oh irony!) on all levels.

Conclusion one: the Empire’s main export is hot air

Many of my friends and readers send me various articles with all sorts of quotes by US officials and I have a really hard time explaining to them that they should stop listening to this endless bombastic verbiage.  Not only because the vast majority of officials making these statements are both stupid and ignorant, but because the main export of the AngloZionist Empire nowadays is hot air.  We saw that recently with the grand statements about Kurdistan or, for that matter, the plans “A”, “B”, “C” and “D” about Syria: all delivered with the same final gravitas.  This is counter-intuitive, I will admit that.  After all, when the President of the nuclear superpower, a three star general or any other senior official takes the floor to make an official statement, we automatically tend to assume that what they say matters, especially if they are surrounded by flags and many exited reporters.  But it really doesn’t. Especially not when the “other guy” (the Russians and the Chinese) come from a culture which frowns upon loudmouthed histrionics: “make my day, punk” is just not an (Eur-)Asian way of delivering threats.

I don’t mean to suggest that we should ignore the Empire, most definitely not, but we should look at what the Empire actually does and more or less ignore it’s constantly running narcissistic commentary.  When the Empire promises to do something right, it usually lies.  When it promises to do something wrong, these are usually empty threats.  So what’s the point of paying so much attention to these promises?

Conclusion two: learning optimism and caution from history

If we look at world history we can always see the same phenomenon taking place: when things go well, the elites are united, but as soon as things go south, the elites turn on each other.  The reason for this is quite simple: elites are never as united as they pretend to be.  In reality Empires, and any big country, really, are run by a coalition of elites who all benefit from the established order.  They can hate each other, sometimes even kill each other (SA vs SS, Trotskyists vs Stalinists, etc.), but they will work together just like crime families do in the mob.  But when a real, profound, crisis becomes undeniably apparent, these ruling elites typically turn on each other and when that happens, nobody is really in charge until, eventually, the entire system comes tumbling down or a new main ruler/group emerges.  Right now the AngloZionists elites are locked into a huge struggle which is likely to last for the foreseeable future.  However, we need to be aware that such a situation can also be used by a previously less visible party to make a move and seize power.  That is exactly how Putin came to power, pushed by the Russian security services even while Eltsin was still the nominal head of state.  This also fully applies to the Ukraine which is also run by a group of people whose main current contribution to the world scene is hot air.  But that could change very, very fast.  This is why while I recommend more or less ignoring the hot air coming out of the top US (or Ukie) officials, I would keep an attentive eye on the level right below them, especially the US (or Ukie) military.  Finally, we should never confuse the inability to get anything done with the inability to make things worse: the latter does not flow from the former.  Nazi Germany was basically defeated in Stalingrad (Feb 1943) but that did not prevent it from murdering millions more people for another two and a half years before two Soviet soldiers placed the Soviet flag on top of the Reichstag.  We are still far away from such a “Reichstag flag” moment, but we sure are witnessing the AngloZionist “Stalingrad” taking place before our eyes.

The Saker

Author Coll Documents Unbroken Chain of American idiocy in Afghanistan

Author Coll chronicles American idiocy in Afghanistan

Directorate S, the sequel to Ghost Wars, provides an inside look at the gradual diminution of American hopes in its longest running war, writes Heather Mallick.

- In this May 27, 2016 file photo, Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan. "The U.S. could not make things go its way in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan," writes Heather Mallick. "Part of the reason was Directorate S, a secret covert unit within ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency that had long been backing the Taliban, though Pakistan always denied it."
– In this May 27, 2016 file photo, Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan. “The U.S. could not make things go its way in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan,” writes Heather Mallick. “Part of the reason was Directorate S, a secret covert unit within ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency that had long been backing the Taliban, though Pakistan always denied it.”  (Allauddin Khan / AP)

The never-ending war in Afghanistan looks very much like the Vietnam War, except that the U.S. got out of Vietnam. It took them eight years but they were done.

I accept that all the U.S. learned from this was to make the same mistakes again. War is generational, just like child abuse, I hear.

Canada, canny enough to avoid the Vietnam catastrophe, stayed in the mountains of Afghanistan hunting with the U.S. and 59 NATO allies for nothing definable, permanent or even temporarily reachable. At least we left in 2014. The war has now been dragging on for 18 years.

In 2004, journalist Steve Coll wrote Ghost Wars, a fine history of the CIA, Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden, right up to that last sunny day, Sept. 10, 2001. He has just published a tragic sequel, Directorate S, about what happened next, the CIA’s failure at spycraft and good sense.

The U.S. could not make things go its way in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan. Part of the reason was Directorate S, a secret covert unit within ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency that had long been backing the Taliban, though Pakistan always denied it.

There was no common cause between the U.S. and Pakistan, never had been. The U.S. doesn’t actually have common cause with anyone beyond temporary self-interest. It’s not in the nature of the beast.

When Coll introduces us to the mediocre men — only five of 73 people were female — in charge of the world’s most militarized nation, it becomes clear that the CIA and the military are still in VietnamThink. They believe the world is American in its outlook and thinks in American ways. This is untrue, also dumb.

The world isn’t rooting for Americans, very much the opposite. Why had ISI — or rather, Directorate S — let bin Laden live in an Abbottabad compound since 2005? Maybe it just felt like it. Maybe it thought it would prevent al Qaeda from attacking Pakistan. Or maybe it treasured the world’s most successful terrorist.

The CIA’s parallel to ISI, a counterterrorism centre known as CTC, was not a desirable place to work until 9-11 made it so. It was like any bureaucracy forced to adapt fast: as Coll writes in his deadpan way, it was mismanaged, underpaid, overworked, filled with rivalries, couldn’t run terror watchlists, didn’t get along with the FBI, just your standard workplace really.

The Americans misunderstood Afghan tribalism, just as they didn’t grasp the difference between Sunni and Shiite when they invaded Iraq. “All you have to do is win,” a general was told by the Obama White House, meaning, one supposes, erase the Taliban. It was a comedy of errors, minus the comedy.

Coll gives us an inside look at the gradual diminution of American hopes. Be like us, they said as they gave Afghans lessons in democracy, a supreme irony now that American democracy seems to be getting distinctly wobbly.

The exemplar of failure, Coll writes, was an investigation into an extraordinary phenomenon on the battlefield: insider murders. U.S.-led forces were being shot by their fellow Afghan soldiers. The 2009 slaughter of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan was just the start.

In 2012, a quarter of all fatalities were in-house. It was unique in warfare and could not be explained. The Americans had to hire armed guards as “guardian angels” to surveil its own army, effectively creating a ludicrous double army to stand and stare at itself.

Investigators found that the Afghan killer soldiers weren’t just reacting to cultural outrages like Qu’ran burning. It was more than that.

They had simply changed their minds about which side they were on. It often happened during Ramadan when Afghans expiated religious guilt by shooting Americans in the head.

“In theory, cultural misunderstanding might be overcome through training,” Coll wrote. But if the “broad, fertile belief” was that American soldiers were enemy occupiers, the only answer to that was for the Americans to give up and go home.

Daily journalism isn’t sufficient. One must read books like this — by Coll, Jane Mayer, Jeremy Scahill, Masha Gessen — thick with money and disgrace. As nations crash and stumble, I hope there are always subterranean writers like these laying down the history — both the detail and the overview — of what is really going on.

What is going on is terrible, but at least we find out later how truly terrible it was. Then, I take it, the process repeats itself.

Is There a ‘Secret US Hand’ Supporting Daesh in Afghanistan?

Commenting on the claim made by the Iranian military that the US has provided direct assistance to Daesh in Afghanistan, political analyst Ahmad Wahid Mozhda told Sputnik that many Afghan politicians and ordinary Afghans are saying the same thing. According to the observer, the US’s likely goal is to cause problems for the country’s neighbors.

Speaking to Sputnik Dari, Ahmad Wahid Mozhda, a political scientist and former Mujahedeen commander, explained that many Afghans believe in the presence of a ‘mysterious foreign hand’ in their country helping to consolidate Daesh’s position.

“Many members of Afghanistan’s parliament, as well as ordinary citizens, are saying that Daesh terrorists are being brought here by unidentified helicopters. There is a great deal of evidence to support this,” Mozhda said. “Afghans believe in a kind of ‘mysterious hand’ working to strengthen Daesh’s positions,” he added.

Mozhda challenged the US’s long-standing assertion that fighting terror was its main mission in Afghanistan, and pointed out that in its 17 years of fighting, the US has not only suffered significant material and personnel losses, but has not been unable to win this war. On the contrary, he noted, the number of terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan has grown exponentially.”It’s worth keeping in mind that when the US sent its forces to Afghanistan in 2001, their main goal was the destruction of al-Qaeda, which at that moment was the only terrorist group in the country. 17 years have passed, and now Afghanistan has over twenty terrorist groups….Why, with the US having spent a trillion dollars on this war, and the international coalition losing about 4,000 troops, has the war not ended?…Why did [even a] 150,000-strong international coalition troop presence fail to ensure Afghanistan’s security?”

Mozhda also pointed to the steep rise in drug production in Afghanistan since 2001. “The Americans are saying that drugs fuel terrorism, and that [terrorists] receive income from drug production. Over the past 17 years, there has not been any serious struggle against drug production and drug trafficking in Afghanistan, even though this serious problem clearly exists.”

An Afghan farmer harvests opium sap from a poppy field in the Surkh Rod district of Nangarhar province. (File)
An Afghan farmer harvests opium sap from a poppy field in the Surkh Rod district of Nangarhar province. (File)

All this, the observer says, “gives rise to a number of questions regarding the fight against terrorism, which has not been successful in Afghanistan.”Ultimately, Mozhda indicated that concerns from Iran and other countries with the possibility of US intrigue in Afghanistan were fully justified, since unlike the Taliban, which limits its activities to one country, Daesh is bent on destabilizing the entire region. “Unlike the Taliban, who did not have an international program, Daesh’s goals are to create problems in neighboring countries, including China or the Central Asian countries.”

In this light, “the goal of supporting terrorism in Afghanistan is to create a threat to the countries of the region – to Iran, Russia and China, countries which have difficult relations with the USA,” the analyst concluded.

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a blast in Jalalabad, Afghanistan
© REUTERS/ Parwiz
Afghan security forces inspect the site of a blast in Jalalabad, Afghanistan

Last week, Iranian Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff Mohammad Baqeri accused the US of transferring Daesh militants from their crumbling caliphate into Afghanistan. “When the Americans realized that Daesh and [other] terrorist groups lost the territories they had previously occupied in Iraq and Syria, they transported them, by various means, to Afghanistan, and we are now witnessing the explosions, terror and new crimes being committed in Afghanistan,” the officer said.

The Iranian military’s claims follow on similar charges made earlier Russian officials, as well as remarks late last year by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who called Daesh a “tool” used by Washington to pursue its broader goals in the region.

`Why America doesn’t win wars anymore

Why America doesn’t win wars anymore

An expert explains why the US struggles with modern wars.

Former President George W. Bush addresses the nation aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln May 1, 2003, as it sails for Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, CA.


A month into his presidency, Donald Trump lamented that the US no longer wins wars as it once did.

“When I was young, in high school and college, everybody used to say we never lost a war,” Trump told a group of US governors last February. “Now, we never win a war.”

Dominic Tierney, a professor at Swarthmore College and the author of multiple books about how America wages war, may know the reason why.

He believes the US can still successfully fight the wars of yesteryear — World War-style conflicts — but hasn’t yet mastered how to win wars against insurgents, which are smaller fights against groups within countries. The problem is the US continues to involve itself in those kinds of fights.

“We’re still stuck in this view that war is like the Super Bowl: We meet on the field, both sides have uniforms, we score points, someone wins, and when the game ends you go home,” he told me. “That’s not what war is like now.”

The US military is currently mired in conflicts in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. It’s hard to see any end in sight — especially an end where the United States is the victor, however that’s defined.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Alex Ward

During his first year in office, Trump got the US more deeply involved in wars, with the goal of defeating terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia. But has this put the US on course to end these fights?

Dominic Tierney

Victory may be asking a lot.

Since 1945, the United States has very rarely achieved meaningful victory. The United States has fought five major wars — Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan — and only the Gulf War in 1991 can really be classified as a clear success.

There are reasons for that, primarily the shift in the nature of war to civil conflicts, where the United States has struggled. Trump himself recognized this: He said on the campaign trail numerous times that we used to win wars and we don’t win anymore. And he has promised to turn the page on this era of defeat and said that we were going to get sick and tired of winning.

But will he channel that observation into winning wars? I doubt it.

The nature of war continues to be these difficult internal conflicts in places like Afghanistan, where the United States has struggled long before Trump ever dreamed of running for president.

Alex Ward

So what constitutes victory in war today, and has that changed from the past?

Dominic Tierney

The famous war theorist Carl von Clausewitz argued that war is the continuation of politics by other means. So war is not just about blowing things up — it’s about achieving political goals.

The United States, up until 1945, won virtually all the major wars that it fought. The reason is those wars were overwhelmingly wars between countries. The US has always been very good at that.

But that kind of war has become the exception. If you look around the world today, about 90 percent of wars are civil wars. These are complex insurgencies, sometimes involving different rebel groups, where the government faces a crisis of legitimacy.

The US has found, for various reasons, that it’s far more difficult to achieve its goals in these cases. The three longest wars in US history are Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan — all from recent decades, all these complex types of civil wars.

Alex Ward

On its face, this seems to be a paradox: The US can win on the battlefield against a major military force, but we can’t seem to win these smaller wars.

Dominic Tierney

Yes. And even more surprising: It’s when the US became a superpower and created the best-trained, strongest military the world has ever seen, around 1945, that the US stopped winning wars.

The answer to the puzzle is that American power turned out to be a double-edged sword.

The US was so powerful after World War II, especially after the Soviet Union disappeared, that Washington was tempted to intervene in distant conflicts around the world in places like Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

We ended up intervening in countries where we had little cultural understanding. To illustrate this, in 2006 — at the height of the Iraq War — there were 1,000 officials in the US embassy in Baghdad, but only six of them spoke Arabic.

In addition, the US military has failed to adapt to this new era of war. The US military has this playbook for success against countries: technology, big-unit warfare, and so on. And when we started fighting insurgents, it was natural that we would turn to that same playbook.

Alex Ward

So we might not have much cultural understanding of the places where we’re fighting, but we have greater technology and better fighting forces. Why can’t we overcome this obstacle?

Dominic Tierney

The reason, again, comes down to the difference between an interstate [more traditional] war and a counterinsurgency, or nation-building mission.

One difference is that we cannot easily see the enemy. In an interstate war, the enemy is wearing uniforms, we know where they are on a map. In a counterinsurgency they are hiding in the population.

Now, the US military is capable of hitting any target with pinpoint accuracy using the latest hardware. But what if we don’t know where the enemy is? A lot of that technology, which is really impressive, turns out to be irrelevant.

Alex Ward

It seems like we have two problems here. We haven’t corrected our way of thinking to deal with insurgencies or civil wars, and then we keep getting involved in those kinds of wars, despite the fact that we’re ill-prepared to deal with them.

Why do we keep falling into this trap?

Dominic Tierney

One answer is we basically believe in illusions — the idea that nation-building and counterinsurgency will be avoided.

Look at Iraq, where the United States believed it could topple Saddam Hussein and basically leave as quickly as possible. We would overthrow the tyrant and then the Iraqi people would be free to create their own democracy. That was based on massive overconfidence about what would happen after Hussein fell.

So why do we go to war if we hate counterinsurgency and we struggle at it? The reason is the White House convinces itself it doesn’t need to stabilize or help rebuild a country after a war. But it’s not just the Bush administration — think of the Obama administration too.

Barack Obama was a very thoughtful president and talked at length about his foreign policy thinking. At the heart of the Obama doctrine was “no more Iraq War.” And yet he basically made the same mistake in Libya, where there was very little planning for what would occur after Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown in 2011. In fact, Obama went on the record saying that the Libya intervention was his worst mistake a president.

Alex Ward

So if it really is a bunch of wishful illusions and incorrect assumptions, how do we avoid that? We have tons of evidence that things don’t go our way when we get involved in these kinds of wars. We don’t seem to learn from our mistakes.

Dominic Tierney

We don’t learn very well from history. Presidents convince themselves that the next time will be different.

The lesson Obama took from Iraq was not to allow any US ground forces to get involved in nation-building. Since Obama was willing to support regime change, the end result was going to be the overthrow of Qaddafi with no real plan to stabilize Libya.

If a thoughtful president like Obama — who was very cognizant of the errors of Iraq — can do that, it suggests that any president would be capable of doing that.

Alex Ward

It seems like one of the problems is that we’re involving ourselves in these wars with little preparation. How do we solve that?

Dominic Tierney

We need better language training, cultural training, more resources for special forces — and that would mean less money spent on nuclear attack submarines, for example.

Second, once we improve America’s ability for stabilization missions, we deploy the US military with greater care and fight fewer wars. That means when we do fight, we have a better plan to win the peace.

Alex Ward

But then there’s another problem: Sometimes groups like ISIS arise, and US leaders and many Americans want the military to take them out. So when the president is faced with the option to target a group like ISIS with airpower, some would argue that it’s better, politically, to do that.

Dominic Tierney

The US doesn’t think several moves ahead. The US military is good at taking out bad guys. But the removal of the bad guy creates a power vacuum, and that power vacuum is filled by somebody else.

In Afghanistan, we created disorder and then the Taliban returned — the power vacuum there was also filled by ISIS. And in Iraq, the vacuum was filled by militant groups, most notably al-Qaeda in Iraq. In Libya, the vacuum was filled by a complicated range of militant groups.

The mood in the US is: “We just killed ISIS, let’s go home and close the book on the ISIS war.” Well, there’s more to the story.

Alex Ward

The Trump administration says it will pay less attention to defeating terrorists and will now focus more on battling back growing Chinese and Russian power.

That new strategic focus means we’ll change the kinds of weapons we buy and the kind of training our troops do. But I don’t see the US stopping its fight against terrorism. Does this preparation for a different style of war — while still fighting another — put the US in an awkward position?

Dominic Tierney

I think it does.

There is a desire to shift from difficult nation-building missions toward countering great-power challengers like Russia and especially China. But this isn’t very new. The Obama administration wanted to pivot to Asia and the China challenge. And then what happened? We ended up being engaged against ISIS.

I tend to think that the pivot to China is sort of like Waiting for Godot — it never arrives. And I think the United States is going to get drawn back into these civil wars and these kinds of messy conflicts, particularly in the broader Middle East. The odds of conflict between the US and China are very low; the odds of the US engaging in another civil war in the next five years are extremely high.

Alex Ward

Based on this conversation, victory in war seems to be how we define it, or, rather, will it to be. The US sets its victory goals low, but we don’t even meet those lower goals. Why can’t we get over this hump?

Dominic Tierney

We’re still stuck in this view that war is like the Super Bowl: We meet on the field, both sides have uniforms, we score points, someone wins, and when the game ends you go home. That’s not what war is like now. Now there are tons of civilians on the field, the enemy team doesn’t wear a uniform, and the game never ends. We need to know there’s no neat ending.

The costs of this problem have been so catastrophic for the United States, in the form of thousands of military lives and billions of dollars spent. It’s time we fundamentally rethink our vision of what war is.

Tillerson says Hezbollah ‘part of political process’ in Lebanon

Tillerson says Hezbollah ‘part of political process’ in Lebanon

AMMAN: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday conceded that Iran-backed Hezbollah is part of the “political process” in Lebanon, appearing to soften Washington’s tone ahead of a visit to the country.
“We support a free, democratic Lebanon free of influence of others, and we know that Lebanese Hezbollah is influenced by Iran. This is influence that we think is unhelpful in Lebanon’s long-term future,” Tillerson said at a press conference in Jordan.
“We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon.”
Hezbollah — the only faction to have retained its weapons after Lebanon’s civil war — is a member the Lebanese government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Despite being branded a “terrorist” organization by the United States and targeted with economic sanctions, Hezbollah has risen to play a decisive role in regional conflicts including Syria.
The US Justice Department in January announced the creation of a special task force to investigate what it called “narcoterrorism” by the powerful movement.
The United States levied sanctions in early February against six individuals and seven business with alleged links to Hezbollah financier Adham Tabaja.
In the wake of the crisis Lebanon’s political players — including Hezbollah — agreed to stick to the country’s official policy of “disassociation” to stay out of regional conflicts.
Tillerson is due to meet Lebanon’s political leadership Thursday as part of a tour of the Middle East.

The Taliban Make Apparently Sincere Offer of Peace To the American People

Letter of the Islamic Emirate to the American people!

The American people, officials of independent non-governmental organizations and the peace loving Congressmen!

With the hope that you will read this letter prudently and will evaluate the future of American forces and your profit and loss inside Afghanistan in light of the prevailing realities alluded to in the following lines!

The American people!

You realize that your political leadership launched a military invasion of our country 17 years ago. This invasion was not only contrary to the legal and national norms of our own sovereign country but also a violation of all international rules and regulations, but still the following three main points were put forward by your authorities to justify this illegitimate invasion:

  1. Establishing security by eliminating the so called terrorists inside Afghanistan.
  2. Restoring law and order by establishing a legal government.
  3. Eradicating narcotics.


However let us analyze how successful your war-monger leaders were in achieving the above three slogans in this illegitimate war?


Increased insecurity and fighting:

In 2001 when your ex-president George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan, his justification for that felonious act was the elimination the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) and Al-Qaeda.

But despite continuing this bloody war for seventeen years and accepting huge casualties and financial losses, your current president Donald Trump – to continue the illegal 17 year old war in Afghanistan – acknowledged increased insecurity and emergence of multiple groups instead of the single unified Islamic Emirate (Taliban).

This was stated by Trump while declaring his new war strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia on 23rd August 2017 and seventeen years later, again ordered the perpetuation of the same illegitimate occupation and war against the Afghan people. Since your authorities admit the presence of multiple warring factions inside Afghanistan, it verifies our claim that by invading Afghanistan and overthrowing a unified responsible government of Taliban, the Americans have merely paved the way for anarchy in the country.

No matter what title or justification is presented by your undiscerning authorities for the war in Afghanistan, the reality is that tens of thousands of helpless Afghans including women and children were martyred by your forces, hundreds of thousands were injured and thousands more were incarcerated in Guantanamo, Bagram and various other secret jails and treated in such a humiliating way that has not only brought shame upon humanity but is also a violation of all claims of American culture and civilization.

In this lopsided war and as confirmed by your own military authorities, 3546 American and foreign soldiers have been killed, more than 20,000 American forces injured and tens of thousands more are suffering mentally but in reality the amount of your casualties is several times higher and is deliberately being concealed by your leaders. Similarly this war has cost you trillions of dollars thus making it one of the bloodiest, longest and costliest war in the contemporary history of your country.


Chaos and the most corrupt regime:

Even though it is not the duty of America to draft laws and suggest systems for other countries but nevertheless, the second excuse of George W. Bush for the invasion of Afghanistan was to establish a supposed legitimate government. But despite seventeen years of war costing thousands of American and coalition lives and billions of dollars, such a system has taken root in Afghanistan which has achieved the following administrative, legal, military and political records:

Number one internationally in administrative and financial corruption.

Number one internationally in violating human rights.

Number one internationally in usurping of land and embezzling international aid.

Number one internationally in violence against women, etc. etc.

The latest example of the corrupt regime formed in the wake of American invasion is the presence of a two-headed system which is unparalleled in the established laws of forming a government throughout the world.


Production and expansion of narcotics:

The third justification of George W. Bush to invade Afghanistan was the prevention and eradication of narcotics. Let us examine the amount and levels of production and expansion of the narcotic trade in Afghanistan after seventeen year war effort?

According to the data provided by UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes) – prior to the American invasion – poppy was cultivated only on 185 hectors land of Afghanistan and only in areas controlled by anti-Taliban forces whereas the level of heroin addiction among Afghans was next to nil. But following the American invasion of Afghanistan, poppy cultivation skyrocketed from 185 hectors to 328,000 hectors while under the shadow of seventeen year occupation, the number of drug addicts has reached 3 million people.

On 21st December 2017, the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes) reported that drug production increased by 87% and poppy cultivation increased by 63% during the year 2017, thus mounting the total production of narcotics to 9000 metric tons.


The American people!

You proclaim to be a developed and civilized nation of the world. Since the imposed government in Afghanistan is established by you therefore we leave it to your judgment to decide – according to your logic and conscience – whether the present system and its pertinent changes, insecurity, chaos and 87% increase in narcotics are reforms or crimes against humanity?

Your authorities proclaim that tens of billions of dollars have been spent on various reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. Of course this is the same money which is collected from you as taxes and revenues, but here it has been distributed among thieves and murderers.

Do you agree that the hard earned money of your labor should be wasted on such a corrupt system where in only one criminal case, $900 million were stolen from Kabul Bank by corrupt officials?

Do you consider it the rule of law in American culture and lexicon where the first deputy of a government is a person involved in the felonious act of sexual assault on a 70-year-old man besides hundreds of other crimes against humanity?

Is this the civilization, modernity and rule of law proclaimed by you in the world?

Were your 3546 forces killed in Afghanistan to establish and empower such a system?

Can your scholars, intellectuals and unbiased analysts produce an answer to our questions?

You must understand that our people are living, watching and closely analyzing all these calamities and that is why the regime working under the shadow of your military support and the corrupt elements assembled therein are not looked upon as a legitimate government rather they are considered a band of usurpers, looters, mafia warlords and drug-dealers while at the same time, the resistance against them is considered their legal, moral and national obligation. The people working alongside you to impose this system are committing treason against our nation and national interests. On the other hand, the people who waging armed resistance against your corrupt regime are the defenders of their homeland, national interests, sovereignty as well as their dignity and they are revered by the Afghan masses as their heroes. That the American media is propagating against the Afghan resistance and labelling them as foreign terrorists instead of Afghan freedom fighters, all of this is baseless propaganda aimed at concealing their own humiliating defeat. To repudiate this propaganda, we only want to say that had there been any chance of success in Afghanistan with foreign support, the American invaders and their coalition forces would definitely have succeeded due to enjoying the political and military support of a powerful country like the United States of America as well as the support of a well-equipped military alliance like NATO.


The People of America!

We would like to summarize our message to you in the following words:

The Afghans who are fighting your forces and any other invader today, this is their legal, religious and national obligation. However mighty and well-equipped your forces might be, even if supported by the entire world, this resistance will be sustained by the Afghan people due to their religious, legal and national obligation. This resistance is considered by Afghan masses as a sacred responsibility of defending their creed and country. To relinquish this sacred obligation is considered by them as abandoning Islam and all human values and this disgrace is never acceptable for any valiant Muslim Afghan individual.

Afghans have continued to burn for the last four decades in the fire of imposed wars. They are longing for peace and a just system but they will never tire from their just cause of defending their creed, country and nation against the invading forces of your war-mongering government because they have rendered all the previous and present historic sacrifices to safeguard their religious values and national sovereignty. If they make a deal on their sovereignty now, it would be unforgettable infidelity with their proud history and ancestors.

Afghanistan is a country which has maintained its independence throughout its several thousand year history. Even in the 19th and 20th century when most Muslim countries were occupied by the then European imperial powers, Afghanistan was the only country in the region to preserve its independence and despite an eighty year imperialistic endeavor, the British failed make them accept occupation. It is the same inherent zeal and historic succession in the hearts and minds of Afghan masses which presently inspires this empty-handed nation to continue protracted resistance against your occupying forces. This is not exaggeration rather irrefutable reality that today the valiant Afghan self-sacrificial attackers are competing among themselves to carry out martyrdom seeking attacks against your invading forces.

This national religious resistance of the Afghans is not a futile war, rather it is progressing everyday as various parts of the country are liberated. At this moment the head of SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) acknowledged that sixty percent of Afghan territory is under the control of Taliban (Islamic Emirate).

In 2001 during the American invasion of Afghanistan, a number of world countries came under the influence of misleading propaganda by your officials and supported the warring strategy of the then president George W. Bush. But today we see that your government has lost that international support as a number of your coalition partners have withdrawn their forces from our country by discerning the prevailing realities and they are currently seeking a political solution. The international community at large is now backing our justified resistance against the illegitimate American occupation. If your government is still insisting on perpetuating the war in Afghanistan by conjuring excuses, it will further undermine American prestige in the world.

The People of America!

In the American society where the main source of power is the masses and the authorities are elected by public votes, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – as representatives of the will of Afghan nation – asks the American people and the peace loving Congressmen to put pressure on your authorities and demand an end to the occupation of Afghanistan because stubbornly seeking the protraction of this war and existence of a corrupt and ineffective regime here in Kabul will have dreadful consequences for the region and particularly for the stability of America herself.

The Afghan masses feel pity for the whole American nation because they are being sacrificed and are losing respect through the world with each passing day solely due the war-mongering policies of a few war-mongering officials.

Your intellectuals, peace loving Congressmen and independent chiefs of civil organizations should question your authorities as to why the American people are so insecure and detested at home and abroad despite their international prestige?

For how long will your modern country and your children continue to be sacrificed for the war-mongering policies of a few war-mongering officials?

And what eventual benefit will these warring policies bring for your country?

The American People!

Your president and his military and political officials following his war policies still speak the language of war in Afghanistan. They intentionally release fake statistics for the sake of their vested interests and misguide you and the world by throwing dust in your eyes. The reality is that in contemporary world, the use of force and arms has been replaced by peaceful dialogue and wars cannot be won with lies.

Only in past September – in accordance with Trump’s new strategy – American forces used all their new powers and carried out 751 air strikes. You should ask your Generals that despite using such force, have you retaken even a single inch of land from the Taliban or have they become even more powerful.

If you do not understand the inexperienced policies of president Trump and his war-monger advisors, then look no further than his irrational decision of shifting the American embassy to from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which brought America in opposition with 128 countries of the world.

Truly it is humiliating for a civilized people like you to be confronted with such a decisive international majority. It was only due of the pursuit of policies of force which pitted majority of the world countries against America, and your authorities are still insistent upon that ridiculous policy!!

The Islamic Emirate had asked America from the very beginning to solve her issues with the Islamic Emirate through talk and dialogue. The use of force has adverse consequences, and you might have now discerned the bitter consequences of American aggression against Afghanistan. If the policy of using force is exercised for a hundred more years and a hundred new strategies are adopted, the outcome of all of these will be the same as you have observed over the last six months following the initiation of Trump’s new strategy.

According we still believe that it is not too late for the American people to understand that the Islamic Emirate – as representative of its people – can solve its problems with every side through healthy politics and dialogue. Needless use of force only complicates the issues by creating new dimensions which gradually move out of the realm of control. The Islamic Emirate is a regional power with deep roots which cannot be subdued by sheer force. The chances of dialogue however are not exhausted. The American people must understand that the Islamic Emirate understands its responsibility and can play a constructive role in finding a peaceful solution for issues but this can never mean that we are exhausted or our will has been sapped. It is our policy that logic should be given a chance before the use of force. Whatever can be achieved by logic, should not be relinquished due to the use of force. It is the moral obligation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to inform you, the American masses, about these realities.

We must state that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan undertakes legitimate efforts for the independence of our homeland. Having a sovereign country free from any foreign occupation is our natural and human right. Seeking freedom of our homeland and establishing an Islamic system conforming to the creed of our people can never be called terrorism by any law of the world. It is worth mentioning that we have no agenda of playing any destructive role in any other country and we have practically proven over the past seventeen years that we have not interfered in any other country. Likewise we will not allow anyone else to use Afghan territory against any other country. War is imposed on us, it is not our choice. Our preference is to solve the Afghan issue through peaceful dialogues. America must end her occupation and must accept all our legitimate rights including the right to form a government consistent with the beliefs of our people. After gaining independence, we would like to have positive and constructive relations with all countries of the world including our neighboring countries. We welcome their assistance and support in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of our country. We want to play a beneficial role in regional and world peace and stability, provide high standard education and employment opportunities for our people and guarantee all human and legal rights of every child, woman and man, secure our youth from drugs and all other moral indecencies, provided job opportunities to every individual such that they not leave their homeland or seek refuge abroad.

In brief, insisting on prolonging the war in Afghanistan and maintaining American troop presence is neither beneficial for America nor for anyone else, rather it endangers the stability of the entire world. This is irrefutable reality which is only rejected by your arrogant authorities. If you want peaceful dialogue with the Afghans specifically and with the world generally, then make your president and the war-mongering congressmen and Pentagon officials understand this reality and compel them to adopt a rational policy towards Afghanistan!

This will be the most constructive step for the stability of your people, the Afghans as well as the whole world.

Our only obligation is to convey (the message) to you!

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

28/05/1439 Hijri Lunar

25/11/1396 Hijri Solar                    14/02/2018 Gregorian

1st Assault Upon the NSA…Many More To Follow

1 wounded, 1 in custody in shooting at entrance to NSA headquarters

There is an ongoing investigation involving three people who have reportedly been shot outside NSA headquarters. Buzz60

One person was injured Wednesday in a shooting outside the entrance to the super-secret National Security Agency in Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., according to authorities. A suspect was reported to be in custody.

In video taken by WUSA-TV, a black SUV with bullet holes in the windshield is shown slammed against a concrete barrier near the gates of the NSA, which is located on the grounds of Fort Meade in Maryland. Video footage from WRC-TV shows police surrounding a handcuffed man sitting on the ground near the vehicle.

Fort Meade garrison spokeswoman Cheryl Phillips confirmed by phone that one person was injured in the shooting outside the base and taken to the hospital.

“NSA police and local law enforcement are addressing an incident that took place this morning at one of NSA’s security vehicle entry gates. The situation is under control and there’s no ongoing security or safety threat,” an NSA statement said.

President Trump was “briefed on the shooting at Ft. Meade,” and the White House offered thoughts and prayers to those who have been affected, spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said.

It was not immediately clear if the incident was directly connected to NSA or NSA personnel, but it shut down traffic along stretch of Route 32 by the campus, preventing NSA workers who use that route from entering the grounds.

At least one suspect appeared to be in custody, WRC-TV reports.

A spokesperson for local authorities said NSA law enforcement was in charge of the investigation into the shooting.

The NSA collects, processes and disseminates intelligence information from foreign electronic signals for national foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes.

It also oversees codebreaking and monitors federal government computer networks to counter cyberterrorism.

Despite prominent highway signs, drivers occasionally take the wrong exit and end up at the tightly secured gates. Most motorists then carefully follow the orders of heavily armed federal officers and turn around without getting into more trouble.

In 2015, two people were shot by NSA police when they disobeyed orders outside the heavily secured campus. One driver died at the scene after NSA police opened fire on a stolen sports utility vehicle. Authorities later said the two people had stolen a car from a man who picked them up for a party at a motel.

In 1993, a gunman opened fire outside the entrance to the Central Intelligence Agency in Virginia, killing two CIA employees in their cars and wounding three others. After a four-year manhunt, the gunman, Pakistani national Aimal Kasi, was tracked down in Pakistan by a joint CIA-FBI team and returned to the U.S. He was founded guilty of first-degree murder and executed in 2002.

Contributing: Associated Press

Local Lashkar?, “Peace Committee”?, Taliban? Ignite Blood Feud In DI Khan, Pakistan

Taliban Office Burning Dera Ismail Khan


At least 80 detained, DPO transferred after DI Khan tragedy

Published: February 7, 2018
Members of Wazir tribe set ablaze offices of Aman Lashkar. SCREENGRAB

Members of Wazir tribe set ablaze offices of Aman Lashkar. SCREENGRAB

PESHAWAR: At least 80 were arrested on Wednesday in Dera Ismail Khan while the District Police Officer (DPO) transferred after a mob, belonging to Ahmadzai Wazir tribe, set ablaze offices of Aman Lashkar.

According to Commissioner DI Khan Abdul Ghafoor Baig, angry mob of the Wazir tribe set offices of the group and two cars in Madina Colony on fire to protest the alleged murder of a young man by a member of Aman Lashkar.

Family of the deceased, Idrees, claimed his car had crashed into the accused’s vehicle resulting in a heated-argument between the two parties. Later a member of Aman Lashkar opened fire on Idrees and his family – killing the young man and injuring his brother.

DI Khan incident: K-P police chief told to file response today

Following the incident, Wazir and other tribes of South Waziristan demanded immediate arrest of the suspect, threatening to stage a protest.

A statement from the office of DI Khan Deputy Inspector-General Police Syed Fida Hussain said the suspect had surrendered himself as the police were in search of two other suspects involved in the murder.

He added that the individuals who were part of the mob that burned down properties will also be prosecuted according to the law.

The statement also said that the individuals, who reacted in the aftermath of the murder, by burning down properties, shall also be dealt with harshly and according to the law.

Deobandi terrorists’ offices put on fire in DI Khan, Waziristan

Reacting to the killing of a youth from South Waziristan Agency, enraged mob stormed the offices of Deobandi terrorist group and set on fire two compounds and vehicles in Dera Ismail Khan on Tuesday, sources said.

Family members of the deceased, Idrees Wazir, alleged that he had quarrelled with a Deobandi militant commander belonging to Mehsud tribe after a road accident in the city two days ago.
They said that both sides agreed to a patch up following the accident. They said that Deobandi militants, who had offices in the main city, killed Idrees on February 4. Following the killing of Idrees, the tribesmen of Ahmadzai Wazir residing in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan held a protest and set up a camp.
Their fellow tribesmen from Wana, the administrative headquarters of South Waziristan Agency, also rushed to Dera Ismail Khan and joined the protest. The killing of Idrees sparked anger among his fellow tribesmen in Wana and other parts of South Waziristan Agency.
Sources said that the angry tribesmen blocked the Bannu Road to every kind of traffic. They said that the ‘pro-government peace committee members’ opened fire on an inn, owned by a local businessman Ghazi Khan, that killed Idrees Wazir.
Police say action will be taken against them for taking law into hands
Sources said that following the murder, Wazir tribesmen took the body of Idrees to GPO Chowk and staged protest. However, they dispersed peacefully after the authorities assured them of action.
On Tuesday, the tribesmen again took to the streets and attacked the compounds of the so-called peace committee in Madina Colony. Unruly mob torched two compounds and two vehicles on the occasion.
Separately, police in a statement said that a group resorted to firing after a spat between youths in the Sheikh Yousaf Adda area of the district on February 4. The statement said that the firing left one youth dead while another was injured.
It said that local police immediately registered FIR of the incident on Tuesday morning and arrested the main suspect, Sher Khan Mehsud, while they were striving to arrest the other suspect.
The statement said that on Tuesday afternoon, the complainant party attacked the property of their rivals and took law into their hands. “We are taking action against those, who took law in their own hands,” it added.
The video and footages of the incident went viral on the social media that showed that a mob chanting slogans against the militant group was torching properties. The tribesmen were seen hurling stones at the burning vehicles outside the compound.
About a year ago, it was reported that the Deobandi militants had opened offices in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Militant groups in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata have changed their modus operandi to initiate their activities in the name of peace committees.

A tribal council of Wazir and Mehsud tribespeople decided to set fire to the Taliban office after authorities failed to arrest militants.
A tribal council of Wazir and Mehsud tribespeople decided to set fire to the Taliban office after authorities failed to arrest militants.

Protesters angry over the killing of a young man have set fire to what they claim was a Taliban office in the northwestern Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Tribal leaders in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s southern city of Dera Ismail Khan say hundreds of Pashtun tribespeople torched the office of a pro-government Taliban commander on February 6.

Local police, however, says they have arrested one of the accused and cautioned residents against taking the law into their own hands.

Zafar Wazir, a tribal leader, says a tribal council of Wazir and Mehsud tribespeople decided to set fire to the office after authorities failed to arrest militants loyal to Taliban commander Misbah Mehsud, whom they blame for the February 4 killing of realtor Idrees Wazir.

“The victim’s father had identified these Taliban as the perpetrators of his killing [in a police report],” he told Radio Mashaal. “Two cars were also burned at the Taliban office, and the protesters found weapons and fake license plates at the site.”

The incident comes amid a Pashtun protest in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Since February 1, thousands of Mehsuds and Wazirs have been joined by fellow Pashtuns from across the northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to demand justice and an end to their oppression.

The protest was prompted by the unlawful killing of shopkeeper Naqeebullah Mehsud in what authorities have confirmed was a gunbattle staged by the police.

Pakistan’s northwestern Pashtun belt — comprising FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and northern districts of southwestern Balochistan Province — has paid a steep price for serving as the epicenter of the global war on terrorism for more than a decade.

Zafar Wazir says the protesters in Dera Ismail Khan were dispersed after local authorities assured them they would soon arrest the suspected murderers.

“If the suspects are not arrested swiftly, our protest will mushroom into something much bigger,” he said.

Shafiullauh Wazir, another tribal leader, says they only wish for justice.

“We want the government and the state to fulfill its responsibilities and immediately nab the real culprits,” he told Radio Mashaal. “We will go forward in accordance with the law. If the killing of our youth doesn’t stop immediately and we are denied justice, our protests will continue,” he said.

In a statement late on February 6, police in Dera Ismail Khan said they had arrested the main suspect, Sher Khan Mehsud, and are trying to arrest another, Atta-ur Rehman.

The statement also said the police are searching for those who set fire to buildings and vehicles. “We will not allow anyone to take the law into their hands,” the statement said.

Several protesters told Radio Mashaal they had been assured the alleged killers would be arrested soon.

Misbah Mehsud or anyone affiliated with his group has not commented on the incident.

Pakistani media reports suggest Misbah Mehsud and his followers were seen as pro-government militants after they splintered from the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in 2008. The group was one of several small Taliban splinter groups operating in Dera Ismail Khan and neighboring Tank district in recent years.

SYRIA…the Arena.

But the stage is set for sustained enmity across the Syrian theatre, – most pointedly between Tehran and Tel Aviv – and the law of unintended consequences means that any missteps could set off a dangerous conflagration, one that would be unlikely to stay within Syria’s borders.

Syria: New rules of the game?

Syria: New rules of the game?
Julien Barnes-Dacey
twitter-icon @jbdacey

As Syria’s civil war heads towards an end game, wider international fault lines are sharpening. Only Russia has the power to stop escalation but it is yet to choose its course.

Even by the standards of the long-standing Syrian conflict, the events of the past week have been dizzying: US clashes with pro-regime forces; Israel’s widening airstrikes and the Syrian downing of an Israeli fighter jet; deepening Turkish conflict with Syrian Kurds; all to the backdrop of intensified regime attacks on opposition pockets in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib.

But while these developments highlight the chaotic violence still characterising the war in Syria, they also point to the ongoing transformation of the conflict from a battle for control of the state to a theatre for increasingly overt confrontation between external actors. Syria’s civil war has long been a proxy conflict for wider interests but as the internal battle approaches an end-game the country risks being subsumed by even more direct international battles.

The most visible manifestation of this new phase is the deepening conflict pitting Iran, which has entrenched itself across Syria in support of Bashar al-Assad, against the US and Israel, both of which are set on containing Tehran’s widening influence. The Trump administration has openly adopted an anti-Iran policy and staked out an accompanying long-term, albeit limited, military presence in north-eastern Syria (where it is already present due to the anti-ISIS fight). This US positioning has been accompanied by an increasingly active posture by the Israeli government. Israel has grown ever more worried by the perceived Iranian threat on its north-eastern border and has intensified its campaign of military strikes.

Last week’s clashes saw pro-regime forces attack US troops along the Euphrates river, prompting a fierce US counter-offensive that killed an alleged 100 fighters. While the exact make-up of the attacking force remains murky, with some reports of a significant Russian mercenary presence, Iranian involvement is widely assumed. Days later Tehran deployed an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace, provoking an intense Israeli military response against Iranian targets in Syria but also resulting in Syria’s first successful downing of an Israeli fighter jet. These incidents represent the sharpest clashes yet across this emerging fault line.

For the moment no side appears to want to provoke all-out conflict, as demonstrated by mutual climbdowns following an initial series of reprisals. For Iran a head-to-head confrontation would threaten its enhanced position in Syria. Israel, meanwhile, would face the possibility of a barrage of missiles in any conflict, not just from Syria but also from neighbouring Lebanon given the cross-border presence of Iran’s key ally Hezbollah. From the US perspective there is no appetite to fully embrace another Middle Eastern war.

The law of unintended consequences means that any missteps could set off a dangerous conflagration

Recent events may now establish some moderating rules of the game similar to those maintaining an uneasy calm between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. But the stage is set for sustained enmity across the Syrian theatre, – most pointedly between Tehran and Tel Aviv – and the law of unintended consequences means that any missteps could set off a dangerous conflagration, one that would be unlikely to stay within Syria’s borders.

Further north, meanwhile, a separate cycle of external escalation is also under way. Here Turkish forces are stepping up their fight against Syrian Kurds in Afrin as Ankara aims to prevent the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish zone. This now represents Turkey’s key strategic priority in Syria. Like the US, Turkey’s occupation of parts of the country is not new, but the intensified focus of its attention threatens wider reverberations. Turkey’s advance against core Kurdish-held areas is coming at a high price, with 10 soldiers killed and a military helicopter downed on one day alone last week.

Significantly, the campaign is likely to deepen the protracted Turkish-Kurdish conflict across northern Syria, but also within Turkey itself given Ankara’s ongoing fight against the PKK and that group’s cross-border ties with Syrian Kurds. It also risks placing NATO allies, Turkey and the US, in direct conflict. Turkey has demonstrated unprecedented hostility towards the US for arming Syrian Kurds under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and has threatened to move eastwards from Afrin towards Manbij, an SDF-controlled town with a US military presence. This would mark a significant escalation.

Set to this backdrop the question of Assad’s control of the state – long the central driver of conflict in Syria – appears increasingly marginalised. While both the US and Turkey have a long-stated goal of transition, neither is now meaningfully focused on this ambition (despite occasional rhetorical flourishes suggesting otherwise and an emerging US policy aimed at economically squeezing the Assad regime). Israel, meanwhile, has indicated no desire to inject a policy of regime change into its anti-Iran posture.

Damascus appears to be exploiting this dynamic to push ahead with attempts to forcefully consolidate control over as many opposition-controlled areas as possible. Its forces cannot move on US and Turkish-backed areas in northern Syria but they are unleashing unbridled devastation on Eastern Ghouta and Idlib. This intensified violence – and accompanying humanitarian chokehold – does not represent a deepening of the civil war, but a continued step towards its bloody denouement in Assad’s favour across core areas of the country.

This outcome is unlikely to be immediately challenged by the intensifying external overlay. But some still hope that widening foreign intervention will eventually rebound on Assad. Deepening US and Turkish interventions could, in time, result in stepped-up campaigns against regime influence, particularly if the US does get sucked into a deeper confrontation with Iran.

Much now depends on Russia, which, despite its role as the pre-eminent external military power in Syria, has largely sat on the sidelines of recent events. It has downplayed reports of Russian casualties and sought to avoid becoming a direct actor in the confrontations. Russia’s on-the-ground presence and singular ability to talk to all sides of this multilayered conflict gives it important veto power over much of what is happening but also a role as a possible arbiter. But to date there has been minimal mediating action aimed at blunting sharpening fault lines. Russia has instead apparently sought to play its different allies off each other – the Israelis versus the Iranians and the Syrian regime, the Kurds, and the Turks against each other – in a bid to further strengthen its own strategic position. This is a perilous game that will need to change if these forces are to avoid coalescing into something more dangerous.


$88.2 Billion For Iraq, the Cost For Reconstruction of Just One of America’s Wars

Iraq: Reconstruction will cost $88.2 billion

Iraqi soldiers patrol the streets of Mosul as the operation to retake the city from Daesh terrorists continues on 16 May 2017 [Yunus Keleş/Anadolu Agency]

Iraqi soldiers patrol the streets of Mosul as the operation to retake the city from Daesh terrorists continues on 16 May 2017 [Yunus Keleş/Anadolu Agency]

Rebuilding Iraq after years of war and economic turmoil will cost $88.2 billion, the director-general of the country’s planning ministry, Qusay Abdulfattah, told an international conference in Kuwait today.

About $22 billion will be required in the short term and $65 billion in the medium term, Reuters reported Adulfattah saying at the conference, which was arranged to discuss Iraq’s reconstruction. The housing sector has the most urgent need for funds, he added.

Since the US-led “War on Terror” and the subsequent invasion of Iraq in 2003, the country has suffered constant unrest and division, most recently as a result of fighting to recapture land held by Daesh.

Millions of people were displaced, in particular in the Sunni north, as a result of the battles and thousands were killed.

The government has announced plans to hold elections this year however Sunni blocs have called for these to be postponed until internally displaced persons are able to return to their homes and registered to partake in the voting.

Israel’s Fourth Generation Fighter Jet Shot Down by Russian S-200 Air Shield

Israel’s Fourth Generation Fighter Jet Shot Down by Russian S-200 Air Shield


Israel's Fourth Generation Fighter Jet Shot Down by Russian S-200 Air Shield

TEHRAN (FNA)- One of the most advanced fighter jets worldwide used by the Israeli Air Force to attack Syria was shot down by an old Soviet-made S-200 ground-to-air missile, a Russian media outlet reported on Sunday.

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik quoted the website of Aviation Analysis Wing as reporting that the Syrian air defense units targeted the modern Israeli F16 fighter jet by a S-200 missile defense system designed in soviet era in the 1960s.

The Israeli Air Force’s F16 is a forth generation fighter jet equipped with modern electronic system.

Field sources in Damascus province said on Saturday that the Syrian Army’s air defense units confronted the third wave of Israeli air raids in the Western part of Damascus province.

The sources said that air defense units repelled the third round of Israeli airstrikes on army positions in al-Dimas region, tracking and destroying the Israeli air-to-surface missile before hitting the target on the ground.

In the meantime, the AMN reported that the Israeli Air Force fired several missiles at a number of military points near the occupied Golan in Western Ghouta, adding that the Syrian forces tracked two of the fired missiles.

Meantime, the Israelis claim that they halted the raids. “Our operation has been terminated,” spokesman for the Israeli army announced a few minutes ago.

Also, Israeli media reported that Tel Aviv called on Washington and Moscow to meddle and take control over the situation.

The Syria’s state-run SANA said that a situation of fear and anxiety covered the Northern part of occupied Palestine.

SANA reported on Saturday that the Syrian air defense units confronted the second raid of Israeli fighter jets in Damascus province airspace.

The news agency further quoted a military source as saying that the air defense units repelled the Israeli jet’s fresh attack on army positions in the Southern part of the country.

Israel’s Channel 2 also reported that the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv had temporarily halted air traffic.

The Syrian military had hit at least one Israeli F-16 aircraft that attacked positions inside Syrian territory, sending it down in flames and smoke.

Over the past years, Israel has frequently attacked targets in Syria, often claiming that it hit positions or convoys belonging to Iran. This is while Iran has no military presence in Syrian territory, only offering advisory military assistance to the Syrian government fighting an all-out foreign-sponsored militancy.

Damascus stressed on Thursday that the repeated Israeli attacks on Syria are a continuation of Israel’s aggressive approach represented by supporting terrorist groups to prolong the crisis in Syria and to raise the morale of the terrorists.

In a letter sent to the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council, Syria’s Foreign Ministry stressed that the continuation of Israel’s attacks only serves to support terrorist groups and to prolong the crisis in Syria.

“The government of the Syrian Arab Republic reiterates its warning to Israel on the serious repercussions of its attacks on Syria, its continued support for armed terrorist organizations, and its continued occupation of the Arab territories, including the occupied Syrian Golan, and it holds Israel fully responsible for that,” it said.

It further went on to condemn the Tel Aviv regime’s latest attack in which Israeli aircraft launched missiles from the Lebanese airspace on an area in Damascus countryside.

The letter noted that the attack coincides with “the launching of more than 1,000 rockets and mortar rounds during the past few days on neighborhoods, suburbs, diplomatic missions, service facilities, and churches in Damascus and other cities, where dozens of civilians were killed and hundreds others were wounded, most of them women and children.”

The letter concluded by calling on the UN and the Security Council to condemn such actions and to take firm and immediate measures to halt those attacks.

Pentagon Denies Ordering Islamists At Taqba Dam To Open Floodgates and Destroy Pontoon Bridge Near Deir Ezzaur

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The Russian accusation of the US-led coalition’s possible involvement in the destruction of a key bridge over the Euphrates River in Syria are false, Pentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon told Sputnik on Friday.

“This accusation is absolutely untrue, without merit and false,” Pahon said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier on Friday that a sudden rise in the water level has destroyed a key bridge over the Euphrates that separates government and US-backed militant forces in Syria’s east, suggesting this could have been intentional.

READ MORE: US Military Presence in Syria Intended to Thwart Russia, Iran — Experts

The 210-meter (689ft) long bridge near the Syrian city of Deir Ez-Zor was built by the Russian military last September to move troops to the eastern bank controlled by rebel forces allied with the US-led coalition.

The Russian Defense Ministry-affiliated Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) newspaper reported that Euphrates waters suddenly rose by several meters on January 6, causing the current to gain in speed significantly.The paper reported that as a result, the bridge was destroyed the next day. An investigation by Syrian experts found that the abrupt rise in the water level was caused by the intentional opening of floodgates at the Tabqa Dam in the territory held by groups controlled by the US-led coalition. The probe concluded there was no need to dump waters.

“It cannot be ruled out that this was a barbaric attempt by the US side to use someone else to prevent Syria’s lawful government from holding its positions on the left bank of the Euphrates River,” the ministry’s paper said.

The Russian ministry said some 8,000 vehicles could have crossed the bridge daily. It could hold heavy armored vehicles, such as tanks, infantry fighting vehicles or mobile rocket launchers.

Yemen Destroys Saudi/US PATRIOT Missile Battery In Taiz

The file photo of a Yemeni missile being fired at a Saudi target (Photo by al-Masirah)
The file photo of a Yemeni missile being fired at a Saudi target (Photo by al-Masirah)

The Yemeni army, supported by allied fighters from the Houthi Ansarullah movement, has managed to successfully destroy a missile system run by Saudi Arabia’s mercenary forces in Yemen’s southwestern province of Ta’izz, a report says.

Brigadier Aziz Rashed, the deputy spokesman for the Houthi-allied army, told Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that the Friday attack completely destroyed the American-made MIM-104F (PAC-3) missile system installed near the port city of Mokha.

He further said that the missile launched by Yemeni forces hit the target with high precision and totally destroyed the advanced air shield. He added that the attack had paved the way for a larger operation to clean Yemen’s western coast of the presence of the Saudi-led forces.

There was no immediate comment from Saudi officials on the missile attack.

On February 1, al-Masirah reported that Yemeni forces army forces, backed by Popular Committees, had launched a locally-designed Qaher M-2 ballistic missile against the Om al-Rish military base, run by the Saudi-led military coalition, in Yemen’s central province of Ma’rib.

Yemeni forces’ missile attacks are part of a national retaliation campaign against the Saudi aggression.

Brigadier Aziz Rashed, the deputy spokesman for the Houthi-allied Yemeni army (file photo)

Since March 2015, the Saudi regime, together with a coalition of its allies, has been heavily bombarding Yemen as part of a brutal campaign against its impoverished southern neighbor. It has been attempting unsuccessfully to reinstall Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.

The Saudi campaign has killed at least 13,600 people since its onset. Furthermore, much of the country’s infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and factories, has been reduced to rubble in the Saudi war.

Famine and outbreaks of cholera and diphtheria are other results of the Saudi-led war.

Besides defending Yemen against the Saudi aggression, Ansarullah has also been running state affairs in the capital, Sana’a, in the absence of an effective administration.

Russian Arms Magnate Makes Bullshit Offer/Taunt To Sell S-400 Missile System To US

Russia might sell S-400 systems to US if Americans feel insecure

Russia might sell S-400 systems to US if Americans feel insecure
The head of Russia’s strategic defense industry corporation Rostec says Moscow is ready to sell S-400 air defense systems to any nation that feels insecure and wants to seal its airspace, including the US if it wants to.

Just before the end of the year, Moscow agreed to supply S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries to Ankara, making Turkey the first NATO member state that will integrate Russian technology into the North Atlantic defense structure once the $2.5 billion order is delivered. On Wednesday, Sergey Chemezov, head of the Russian state conglomerate Rostec, extended the offer to purchase S-400 Triumf, or the SA-21 Growler as it is known by NATO, to the Pentagon.

“The S-400 is not an offensive system; it is a defensive system. We can sell it to Americans if they want to,” Chemizov told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) when asked about the strategic reasoning behind the S-400 sale to Turkey.

The S-400, developed by Russia’s Almaz Central Design Bureau, has been in service with the Russian Armed Forces since 2007. The mobile surface-to-air missile system which uses four projectiles can strike down targets 40-400 km away. The deployment of S-400 batteries to Syria served as one of the pillars to the successful Russian anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) campaign.

While the Almaz Bureau is currently developing S-500 systems, foreign orders to purchase the S-400 have skyrocketed. Besides China and Turkey, who are awaiting order deliveries, India, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are currently negotiating to purchase the Russian military hardware.

The growing demand can be attributed to the high reliability and long history of the S missile defense system family. The S-200, designed by Almaz in the 1960s, still serves many nations today. On Saturday, a Syrian S-200 Vega medium-to-high altitude surface-to-air missile was allegedly used to intercept an Israeli F-16.

“When the political situation in the world is tense, every country tries to ensure its security and, of course, to ensure the safety of its airspace. That is why the demand for missile defense systems is high,” Chemezov told WSJ in an interview published Saturday. “Many countries would like to buy such systems, and we have many orders. I am not saying that we do not compete with Americans — of course we do. But according to my information, our system is better.”

The direct competitor of S-400 is American Patriot surface-to-air missile system. But the Russian system can detect airborne targets at a range of 600 km, and hit them at 400 km, whereas for the Patriot those ranges are 180 km and 130 km respectively. Both have a minimum range, too, after which a target can no longer be intercepted. For the S-400 it is two km against the Patriot’s 10 km. The speed of the target is another key factor. The S-400 can hit a mark that moves at up to 17,280 km/h, while the Patriot can only manage 7,920 km/h. Furthermore, while both systems have similar reaction speeds of less than 10 seconds, the S-400 is faster to deploy, going from travel to combat mode in about five minutes, whereas the Patriot takes 25 minutes.

With that in mind, Chemezov somewhat ironically offered the US some Russian-engineered protection for its skies. “There is really no issue from the strategic point of view. And I don’t see any problems for Russia from the point of view of security,” he noted.

“On the contrary, if a country is capable of ensuring the safety of its airspace, it will feel more secure,” Chemezov said. “And those who might have intentions to attack this country will think twice.”

Syrian Foreign Ministry Slams US Deir Ezzor Airstrike As “War Crime” and Defense of Terrorist Units

[SEE:  Today’s Drama Centers Around the Syrian Al-Tabiya Gas Field, 100 Syrian Soldiers Killed For GasSyrian Press Reports US Occupiers Defend Al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda) Against Syrian Army Assault…100 Syrian Soldiers Killed ]

Damascus: The international coalition aggression on Deir Ezzor affirms US low intentions against Syria

Damascus, SANA- Syria said that the new barbaric aggression carried out by forces of the so-called “international coalition” led by the US on the northeastern countryside of Deir Ezzor reveals the real purpose of this alliance and Washington’s role in supporting Daesh (ISIS) terrorist organization.

“Within the framework of its aggressive policy against the Syrian Arab Republic, forces of the US-led coalition on Thursday 8/2/2018 committed a brutal massacre against Syrian popular forces which were confronting Daesh, that still maintains a presence under the protection of the coalition and its militias in the area between the villages of Khasham and al-Tabiya in the northeastern countryside of Deir Ezzor,” Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said in a letter sent to the UN Secretary General and Security Council President.

It added that US aircrafts have targeted popular forces which were in a clash with Daesh terrorists, claiming the lives of dozens, injuring many others and causing massive damage in the area.

“This new aggression, which represents a war crime and a crime against humanity and a direct support to terrorism, affirms the nature of the low US intentions against the sovereignty of Syria, the unity of its land and people and the US exploitation of the pretext of fighting terrorism to establish illegal bases on the Syrian territory,” the letter added.

On the US desire to preserve its troops on Syrian soil, the Ministry said “this illegitimate presence is undoubtedly aims to continuing the support provided to Daesh and illegal militias, as well, to establish safe areas for them and obstructing any real and serious effort to combat terrorism in addition to prolonging the crisis extent in Syria to serve its interests and those of Israel and its agents of terrorists and murderers.”

“The government of the Syrian Arab Republic calls on the UNSC to condemn the massacre and hold the international coalition responsible for the killing and wounding of thousands of civilians, including children, women and elderly and to pay compensation to the families of the victims,” the Ministry affirmed.

It concluded by saying that the Syrian government renews demands for dissolving that illegal coalition as it is “a force of protection and support to terrorism,”  adding that the Syrian institutions and forces will continue to carry out their responsibilities regardless of the sacrifices in order to prevent the US coalition from achieving its declared terrorist objectives.


Israeli Press Confirms Syrian Shoot-Down of IDF F-16s Over Syria

[Israel Downs Iranian Drone, Strikes Syria; Israeli F-16 Shot Down]

More than one Israeli aircraft was injured during the response of our air defenses to a new Israeli aggression ..

The media of the enemy recognizes the fall of an aircraft

IDF F-16


The air defense media in the Syrian Arab Army have faced an aggression by the Israeli enemy against some military positions in the central and southern regions.

A military source said in a statement to SANA that “the Israeli enemy at dawn today a new aggression on one of the military bases in the central region, where he addressed the means of air defense and hit more than one aircraft.”

The source pointed out that the Israeli enemy has returned to its aggression on some sites in the southern region and responded to our air defenses and failed aggression.

The new Israeli aggression came less than 12 hours after the General Command of the army and the armed forces announced that the terrorists of the organization “Da’ash” and its affiliated groups had been uprooted from large areas in the enclave, southeast of Khanasser in the countryside of Aleppo to the west of Sinjar, in the countryside of Hama.

The Israeli aggression comes as a continuation of a similar attack carried out by the US coalition in support of the “Da’ash” organization last Thursday, targeting popular forces fighting the terrorist organization and the Qusd groups between the villages of Khasham and Tabiya in the northeastern suburb of Deir Ezzor.

The Israeli media confirmed the fall of one of the aircraft, where it admitted to drop the Syrian air defenses to the F-16 / over the Galilee region of occupied Palestine and the injury of pilots confirmed the closure of parts of Israeli airspace in front of the aircraft after the plane was shot down.

There were reports from within occupied Palestine of warning sirens in Israeli enemy settlements, a state of panic, an escape of settlers, the opening of shelters in Israeli settlements and the closure of all roads leading to settlements north of the occupied territory.

The enemy media said Israel had asked Russia and the United States to intervene urgently to contain the situation.

These means confirmed that the downing of the F-16 aircraft over the occupied Palestinian territories is a fait accompli in Israeli superiority.

The Israeli enemy and the American coalition have intervened more than once to support the terrorist organizations that are collapsing under the blows of the army and the allied and allied forces. Dozens of field and intelligence reports confirm the close ties between them and their conspicuous coordination, not to mention the finding of Israeli and American weapons inside terrorist hideouts in many areas.

US Once Again Claims Drone Assassination of TTP Leader Khan Saeed Mehsud, a.k.a., Sajna Sajna

[Pakistani Taliban Commander Reported Killed in Drone Strike in Afghanistan Dec 13, 2015 ]

Sources say Khan Saeed Sajna had ties with Pakistani military and was the biggest supporter of Haqqani network.


Khan Saeed Sajna, the Mehsud splinter group leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan, sources from Afghan government said. 

In Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, he was accused of being the closest to Pakistani military and the biggest supporter of Haqqani network.

The Express Tribune meanwhile reported that Khan Saeed Mehsud alias Sajna was killed in a drone strike in Margha area of Barmal in Afghanistan early Friday morning.

He was killed along with his nephew Ismail and two guards, The Express Tribune quoted sources.

This comes after Afghan and US forces have increased their airstrikes against militants.

In a recent move, the US Air Force B-52 bomber targeted Taliban hideouts in Badakhshan province, in bordering areas with China and Tajikistan.

Kandahar Police Chief General Abdul Raziq this week said all terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan have safe havens in Pakistan.


Syrian airspace closed to Turkey for fourth day

No Turkish Armed Forces helicopters or warplanes have entered Syrian airspace since Feb. 4, the day after a Russian plane was shot down in the area of Idlib, opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet said.

The newspaper cited a report saying that Russia was introducing a new air defence system and saying that the Turkish air force was expecting to be allowed back into Syria to support the ongoing Turkish military campaign in the Afrin region after the installation was completed.

Syrian opposition fighters are thought to have downed the Russian Su-25 fighter jet using a shoulder-mounted ground-to-air missile system, the newspaper said, and Russia had closed Syrian airspace while installing a counter-system.

Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdağ said on Monday night that Afrin’s airspace was open, but security sources told Cumhuriyet that Turkish warplanes and helicopters had only been patrolling the Turkish side of the Syrian border and not crossing since then.

The Turkish military has not mentioned any air operations in its daily reports since the morning of Monday Feb. 5, Cumhuriyet said.

AlJazeera Expose of “Israel Lobby” On Hold Due To the Financial Power of American Jews

[Below are the first two installments of the 4-part AlJazeera British Israel Lobby Expose.]


Qatar Promised U.S. Jewish Leaders: Al Jazeera Documentary on D.C. ‘Israel Lobby’ Won’t Air

The Qataris told the Jewish leaders last year they won’t air the film, but last week, pro-Israel groups received letters from Al Jazeera asking to respond ahead of its release

WASHINGTON – Qatar’s leaders have assured Jewish-American organizations that Al Jazeera’s documentary on the Israel lobby in the United States will not be aired, five sources in pro-Israel circles in Washington told Haaretz.

The sources said the Qatari leaders gave their assurance in late 2017 not to air “The Israel Lobby,” a move that was part of the emirate’s campaign to improve its image in the American Jewish community.

Last week a number of pro-Israel organizations in the United States received letters from Al Jazeera informing them that their employees would appear in the documentary.

The film is based on the work of an undercover reporter who gained access to pro-Israel organizations in 2016 and videotaped their employees at work. The documentary is similar to one that Al Jazeera aired last year on Britain’s Israel lobby. Al Jazeera gave the organizations three weeks to reply to their quotes that will appear in the film.

Last week’s letters caught the organizations by surprise amid rumors in recent months that Qatar’s leaders would block Al Jazeera from showing the film. Haaretz has confirmed that Qatar indeed made such an assurance months ago, but in light of the letters sent by Al Jazeera last week, it was not clear if the Qataris would adhere to it.

Last October, Al Jazeera acknowledged that it had sent an undercover reporter into pro-Israel organizations in Washington. The announcement followed a ruling by the British media regulator Ofcom, which rejected complaints against Al Jazeera’s film on the British Israel lobby and said the work was not misleading or anti-Semitic.

The announcement of an upcoming report on the U.S. Israel lobby came only two months after Qatar hired Nick Muzin, a Washington lobbyist and former adviser to Texas Senator Ted Cruz, for improving the emirate’s standing in the United States, particularly in the Jewish community.

Muzin began arranging meetings between the country’s leaders and leaders of Jewish American organizations. There, the Qataris rejected that they supported Hamas and other terror organizations, and touted their cooperation with Israel on rebuilding Gaza following the 2014 war.

Shortly after Al Jazeera announced that the new documentary would be shown, Jewish-community officials asked Muzin to see if he could use his ties with the Qataris to stop the airing. One of them, Noah Pollak, a political consultant working with a number of pro-Israel groups, warned Muzin that if the documentary were broadcast as planned, it would sink his efforts to improve Qatar’s image with U.S. Jews.

Muzin brought up the issue with the Qataris and by late October received verbal assurance that the film would not be aired. No written assurance was provided, and only a few people were informed of the agreement. One source told Haaretz that the Qatari emir himself helped make the decision.

Muzin and Pollak declined to comment for this article, and no comment was received from Al Jazeera by the time of publication.

Since late October there had been no new reports about the Al Jazeera documentary – until the letters arrived last week.

Meanwhile, Muzin’s work for the Qataris expanded. In January he helped arrange visits to the emirate by renowned New York attorney Alan Dershowitz, Zionist Organization of America President Mort Klein and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who is known as a strong supporter of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Dershowitz and Klein said their flights were paid for by Qatar, and Klein told Haaretz that he brought up Al Jazeera’s coverage of Israel during a two-hour meeting with the emir. Other Jewish leaders who visited Doha in recent months also asked senior Qatari officials if they could change Al Jazeera’s negative coverage of Israel.

When Muzin’s company, Stonington Strategies, was first hired by the Qataris in the summer, it was reportedly receiving $50,000 a month for Muzin’s work. Recent filings to the Justice Department, however, show that starting on November 1, Stonington’s monthly payment from the Qataris jumped to $300,000 – half of which was reserved for “contractors” working for the company on the Qatari project.

Last week a Qatari delegation visited Washington as part of a strategic dialogue between Qatar and the Trump administration. Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani held an event at the American Enterprise Institute where he was asked by Haaretz about the Jewish-American leaders’ request to change Al Jazeera’s Israel coverage.

“Regarding Al Jazeera coverage, in Qatar’s constitution it’s very clear that the government should not interfere in the media,” he replied. “But Al Jazeera also should comply with the international standards and with any code of conduct. And there are clear mechanisms if anyone is complaining about Al Jazeera coverage.”

The foreign minister also mentioned the Ofcom ruling in favor of the network, adding that “there were some complaints been filed against Al Jazeera in the United Kingdom and it’s been proved that Al Jazeera followed the professional standards.”

In recent days, after the letters from Al Jazeera arrived, some of the pro-Israel organizations asked Muzin to see if his assurances from the Qataris had turned out false, or if Al Jazeera was acting independently without consent from Qatar’s leaders. Muzin told them he was discussing the issue with the Qataris and didn’t think the film would be broadcast in the near future.

Today’s Drama Centers Around the Syrian Al-Tabiya Gas Field, 100 Syrian Soldiers Killed For Gas

[The airstrikes hit near Deir Ez Zaur, at Al Tabiyah Shamyyah and Khsham.  Click on the map for larger version.]

[SEE: Syrian Press Reports US Occupiers Defend Al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda) Against Syrian Army Assault…100 Syrian Soldiers Killed]

The Latest: Russian says US strike in Syria an assets grab

This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows a civil defense worker carrying a wounded man after airstrikes hit a rebel-held suburb near Damascus, Syria, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. The Syrian Observatory for HumaThe Associated Press
This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows a civil defense worker carrying a wounded man after airstrikes hit a rebel-held suburb near Damascus, Syria, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says waves of airstrikes hit at least five neighborhoods in the Eastern Ghouta suburb, the only remaining rebel stronghold near the capital, Damascus. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

2:55 p.m.

The Russian military says a U.S. strike on government-backed troops in eastern Syria reflects Washington’s efforts to make a grab for the nation’s economic assets.

The overnight attack, which killed about 100 according to a U.S. military, came when hundreds of attackers launched an assault on U.S.-backed forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces who were accompanied by U.S. advisers in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday the U.S. strike wounded 25 pro-government Syrian volunteers. It noted that the government-backed Syrian forces had failed to coordinate their action with the Russian military prior to launching the mission.

It said the incident “again showed that the U.S. is maintaining its illegal presence in Syria not to fight the Islamic State group, but to seize and hold Syrian economic assets.”


2:40 p.m.

Syrian rescue workers and activists say at least 19 civilians, including a medic and children, have been killed in relentless government strikes on the opposition-held region near the capital Damascus.

The Syrian Civil Defense, known as White Helmets, has recorded at least 19 civilians killed Thursday in at least six towns in the eastern Ghouta area in a combination of artillery and airstrikes. Eastern Ghouta has an estimated 400,000 residents, who are also trapped by a tightening government siege and critical shortage of medical supplies and food.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said it has documented at least 23 civilians killed so far. It said the dead includes a medic and at least three children and eight women.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to hear a briefing on Thursday and then hold closed-door consultations on the growing humanitarian crisis in Syria and calls for a 30-day cease fire.


11:15 a.m.

Syria’s state media say the U.S.-led coalition has bombed government-backed troops in eastern Syria, citing reports of dozens killed and wounded.

The official state news agency SANA reported on Thursday that the overnight attack hit tribal fighters in Khusham, a town in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province.

SANA says the local fighters were battling IS militants and the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the area. The U.S. military said late Wednesday it launched airstrikes on Syrian government-backed troops after as many as 500 attackers began what appeared to be a coordinated assault on the SDF accompanied by U.S. advisers in Deir el-Zour province.

SANA called it an “aggression.” The state Al-Ikhbariyah TV said there were reports that dozens were killed.


1:30 a.m.

Turkish officials say the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran will meet in Istanbul to discuss peace efforts for Syria.

The officials said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed to the summit during a telephone call on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear when the Istanbul meeting would take place.

The Turkish officials said two leaders also agreed that efforts to create “observation posts” in Syria’s Idlib province as part of a “de-escalation” agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran should gain momentum.

They discussed the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta, just outside Damascus, where dozens have been killed in aerial strikes in the past few days.

The officials provided the information on condition of anonymity in line with government rules.

Syrian Press Reports US Occupiers Defend Al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda) Against Syrian Army Assault…100 Syrian Soldiers Killed

[American helicopters carrying terrorists summoned from the dam camp south of Hasaka to an unknown destination]

Obama’s “al-CIA-da” Strategy–Fight ISIS To Give Al-Nusra Time To Grow Strong
Russia Reveals Obama’s Bombing ISIS Hoax—We Bombed Nothing
Now the truth emerges–how the US fueled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq
Syrian/Russian Counter-Offensive Stops CIA-Coordinated Al-Nusra Terrorist Advance

(US coalition) launched an aggression against popular forces fighting terrorists (Daqsh) and (Qd) in the countryside of Deir al-Zour

[Western version of this event: US troops in Syria call in strikes after ‘unprovoked’ attack by regime forces]

Deir al-Zour

In a new aggression and in an effort to support terrorism, the US-led coalition forces targeted popular forces fighting the Da’ash and Qusd terrorists in Deir Ez-Zour.

The US-led coalition forces attacked the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) in the southern town of Khasham and Tabiya in the north of the country.

The correspondent pointed out that the aggression of the coalition also caused great destruction in the region.

Washington has led an alliance outside the UN Security Council under the pretext of fighting the terrorist organization “calling” the terrorist since August 2014, during which time it attacked more than once the positions of the Syrian Arab Army and its allies at a time when reports confirm the alliance’s support for terrorism. To carry out its terrorist attacks on army posts and its allies and residential communities in the Syrian Badia.

Former Saudi Official, Charged In Lebanese Court For “Sowing Discord”

Judge Accepts Lawsuit Accusing Saudi Minister of ‘Sowing Discord’


A Lebanese judge on Tuesday accepted to look into a lawsuit filed against firebrand Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan, who was in charge of the Lebanon file during Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation crisis.

“Beirut First Examining Magistrate Ghassan Oueidat has decided to accept the lawsuit filed by liberated captive Nabih Awada through his lawyer Hassan Bazzi against Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan on charges of sowing discord among the Lebanese, inciting them to strife and disrupting Lebanon’s ties with a foreign state,” the National News Agency said.

Awada had served time in Israeli prisons.

“The lawsuit was filed on January 31 and Judge Oueidat has decided to proceed with the lawsuit and will soon set a date for Sabhan’s interrogation,” NNA added.

The fiercely anti-Iran Saudi minister has been suspected of playing a key role in the hurried and ultimately unsuccessful resignation of Hariri in November.

For days before Hariri’s surprise resignation, which the kingdom is widely believed to have orchestrated, al-Sabhan issued threats against Lebanon’s government as well as Iran and its ally Hizbullah via Twitter, unnerving many Lebanese who feared being dragged into the forefront of the Saudi-Iranian rivalry.

On Twitter, al-Sabhan has referred to the Iranian-backed Hizbullah — which means “Party of God” in Arabic — as the “Party of Satan.”

A few days before Hariri’s resignation, al-Sabhan warned in an interview with Lebanon’s MTV that there would be “astonishing” developments to “topple” Hizbullah. He also said that Lebanon’s government — headed by Hariri — would be dealt with as a hostile government that’s declared war against Saudi Arabia because of Hizbullah’s power-sharing role.

“It is up to (Lebanon’s) leaders to decide whether it is a state of terror or peace,” al-Sabhan wrote on Twitter two days after Hariri’s resignation. Mediation by France, a close ally of both Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, helped reverse the resignation and return Hariri to his post.

According to media reports, al-Sabhan is no longer in charge of the Lebanon file.

A Turkish War of America’s Making

A Turkish War of America’s Making

The Trump administration’s muddled messaging to Turkey on US efforts to uproot ISIS in Syria has inflamed tensions between two NATO allies. But while Trump’s actions have complicated a vital regional relationship, they are only the latest evidence of the incoherence that characterizes America’s Syria policy.

ANKARA – As Turkey intensifies its military campaign against Syrian Kurdish fighters, it is tempting to blame the violence on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s strident jingoism and xenophobia. After all, Erdoğan has long warned that Turkey would never tolerate a Kurdish military presence on the country’s southern border; the recent offensive would seem to suggest that his words are being met with action.

The Year Ahead 2018

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And yet, while Erdoğan may have ordered “Operation Olive Branch,” the real culprit is the United States’ myopic focus on vanquishing regional jihadism. Bereft of a coherent Syria policy, successive US administrations have obsessed over targeting the Islamic State (ISIS) without considering the full ramifications of their actions. Turkey’s incursion into northwestern Syria is just one consequence.

In July 2012, when the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) took over a string of Syrian border towns, Turkey was alarmed. The PYD is the Syrian branch of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a guerrilla-style war against Turkey’s government since 1984.

Initially, the US shared Erdoğan’s concerns. In August 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that, “Syria must not become a haven for PKK terrorists.” But after ISIS captured large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, America found in the PYD a useful ally. Soon, the US was providing weapons and training to the PYD’s armed wing.

Angered by these moves, Erdoğan sought assurances that American support for the Kurds would be temporary, and that Kurdish fighters would not cross the Euphrates river. But, after the Turks received the guarantees they wanted, the well-armed Kurds crossed the Euphrates anyway.

Then, in August 2016, Vice President Joseph Biden publicly admonished the PYD fighters, warning that they would lose US support if they did not retreat. But the militants never fell back, and the US continued to arm and train them. In April 2017, an incensed Erdoğan declared that the Obama administration had “deceived” Turkey on the PKK. “I don’t believe the Trump administration will do the same,” he predicted.

But Erdoğan was misled once again. Despite reportedly promising that US weapons transfers would halt, President Donald Trump has not changed course, and American arms continue to flow to the Kurds.

For these reasons, Turkey’s leaders have lost faith in anything the US government says. The two countries cannot even agree on the contents of a presidential phone call, as their conflicting accounts of a conversation last month illustrates.

How did relations between two NATO allies reach such a low point?

Much of the answer can be traced to President Barack Obama’s refusal to deploy combat troops against ISIS, in favor of a light footprint using local forces aided by US airstrikes and training. This approach was first tried in Iraq, but backfired when the Iranian-supported Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) seized territory. The consequences of that decision, which the US has largely chosen to ignore, will come to a head in April, when PMF commanders plan to run in Iraq’s parliamentary election.

In Syria, the Kurds have proved to be a more reliable proxy. But their allegiance to the US has come at a cost. Obama was willing to overlook their fighters’ ties to the PKK, using subtle hairsplitting to differentiate between indistinguishable groups. Never truly appreciating Erdoğan’s apprehension, Obama chose to address Turkey’s concerns only superficially.

When Trump came to office, his lack of interest in details and inclination to grandstand exacerbated tensions. A key feature of Trump’s presidency has been his desire to ingratiate himself with guests by offering what he cannot deliver (as he did during a recent meeting with congressional Democrats on immigration). This penchant to please appears to have resulted in Trump making promises to Erdoğan that the Pentagon decision-makers guiding America’s Iraq and Syria policies never intended to keep.

But, unlike US lawmakers, Erdoğan has an army that marches at his discretion. And Turkey views the PKK as an existential threat, and regards the PYD as its Syrian lethal appendage. America’s muddled messaging, delivered by a president unskilled in policy nuance or diplomacy, has inflamed a critical relationship, and in turn, jeopardized the fight against ISIS. Despite Trump’s State of the Union claim that ISIS is nearly defeated, some 3,000 fighters remain in Syria, occasionally even capturing territory.

In short, America’s policy is self-defeating. Not only is it emboldening adversaries such as Iran and its PMF proxies; it is also imperiling some 2,000 US soldiers who are working with the Kurds in Syria.

Obama’s instincts were not wrong. Full-scale invasions rarely succeed in uprooting jihadist threats. But America’s subcontracting of its battles to local fighters in Syria has created new perils. If Trump is to break with the past and earn the credit he is claiming, the US must find a new way to achieve its security goals without deploying entire divisions. At the moment, however, the US is offering Turkey – and the region – only incoherence and more empty promises.

FREE SYRIAN ARMY Recently Captured MANPAD Missile and Launcher, Near Cinderes, Syria

#FSA Samarkand Brigade captured a MANPAD near Cinderes, #Afrin from #YPG. ÖSO Semerkant Brigade announces that Aphrin has captured MANPAD in Cinderes region !!


Heavy weaponry to be sent to PYD/PKK seized in NW Syria

Syrian armed opposition group says it has seized fuel tanker carrying huge cache of arms in Aleppo

A Syrian armed opposition group on Sunday said it had seized a fuel tanker carrying a huge cache of arms in Syria’s Aleppo province, .

In a post published on its social media account, the Syrian opposition Nour al-Din al-Zenki’s members said they seized the vehicle during an operation in the rural area of western Aleppo near Aqil Mountain.

The group stated that the weapons were initially supposed to be sent to the PYD/PKK terrorist organization in Afrin, where the Turkish military and Free Syrian Army are engaged in fighting terrorist groups.

Nour al-Din al-Zenki published a video and pictures purporting to show the fuel tanker loaded with heavy weapons.

The seized weapons include RPG-7 rocket launchers, infantry rifles, 7.62-millimeter machine guns and its ammunition — jointly produced by NATO member countries — automatic weapons, a large amount of ammunition and anti-aircraft weapons, according to the opposition group .

No information on who is behind the shipment of the weaponry was provided.

Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to clear PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin in northwestern Syria.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and the region as well as to protect the Syrian people from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council decisions, self-defense rights under the UN Charter and respect for Syria’s territorial integrity.

Western Fake News Dept. and One of Their Fake Assaults Upon “Democracy”…This Time In the Maldives

Supreme Court orders Nasheed’s release in landmark ruling

Mohamed Nasheed, a secularist politician in a 100% Sunni Muslim population (400,000), is a darling of the West. In order to get the support of western anti-Muslim Zionists’ – Nasheed now claims that he was dumped on gunpoint by the pro-Islamist security forces for ordering the arrest of Chief Justice of Criminal Court, Abdullah Mohamed. Nasheed claims that Abdullah Mohamed had released one of Nasheed’s critics, Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmad. Dr. Jameel Ahmad was arrested for accusing Nasheed’s government being cahoot with the Zionist regime and that Israel tourists were corrupting country’s Islamic culture.”–

[Poor little Maldives is another victim of Western/Saudi subversion, in this case, running all the way to the President, an Islamic Maldivian president, who openly spoke for the Zionist entity and its American/British backers (SEE: Maldives: ‘Pro-Israel President booted out’–).  Mohamed Nasheed has been in prison since being overthrown in a coup d’etat. Now, in this latest coup of sorts, it is against Nasheed and his political Islamists, with the sitting President of Maldives, once again undoing the plot of the Internationalists and their boy-toy (the former president), by arresting the Judges who intended to release Nasheed’s jailed supporters from Parliament, who would then give him a majority, while simultaneously impeaching sitting Maldives President Abdulla Yameen.  In reality, this is just another contrived event in another Western color revolution, stage-managed by the Fake News department of the Western media.]

Maldives Crisis LIVE: President justifies emergency; says decree is to investigate ‘coup’ of Supreme Court ruling



File photo of Maldives President Abdulla YameenMaldives President Abdulla Yameen

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen on Monday declared a state of emergency for 15 days and cracked down on opposition leaders and Supreme Court judges. Security forces broke into the Supreme Court to arrest two Supreme Court judges, including the Chief Justice, early on Tuesday.

Under the terms of emergency, judges are no longer granted special privileges if they are facing arrest. The emergency decree gives the government sweeping powers to make arrests, search and seize property and restricts freedom of assembly, right to strike and right to privacy.

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“Certain rights will be restricted (but) general movements, services and businesses will not be affected,” the president’s office said in a statement about the emergency.

Soon after the declaration, security forces stormed into the Supreme Court building to arrest Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and judge Ali Hamid. Former Maldives president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has also been arrested.

Yameen had earlier defied a Supreme Court ruling that nine jailed opposition leaders must be released.

Here are the LIVE updates: 

16:43 PM

Maldives’ President Abdulla Yameen has called the Supreme Court’s order unconstitutional.  In an official statement, Yameen also noted that the justices cannot be held accountable.

He shared that although the law is of the paramount significance, no one should be beyond the reach of having themselves subject to investigation.

15:13 PM

The US calls on President Yameen, the army, and police to comply with the rule of law, implement the Supreme Court ruling and the rulings of the criminal court, ensure the full and proper functioning of the Parliament, and restore constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people and institutions of the Maldives: US State Department

Read full story here

15:10 PM

US says it is “troubled” and “disappointed” by the declaration of a state of emergency in Maldives

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said: The US is troubled and disappointed by reports that Maldivian President Yameen has declared a state of emergency

13:40 PM

Former President Mohamed Nasheed requests India to send envoy to resolve crisis


Russian Aerospace Forces Su-25 Shot Down By Syrian Rebels Using Western MANPAD (SAM Surface to Air Missile)





Russian pilot killed after plane downed over Syria

The Russian defence ministry confirmed the Su-25 aircraft was shot down over Idlib province and said the pilot was killed “in fighting against terrorists.”

A picture taken on Feb 3, 2018, shows smoke billowing from the site of a downed Sukhoi-25 fighter jet in Syria’s northwest province of Idlib. (OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP)

SARAQIB, Syria: A Russian pilot was killed on Saturday (Feb 3) in fighting with Islamists after his warplane was downed over northwest Syria, Russia’s defence ministry and a monitor said.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a powerful jihadist-dominated alliance, said it had shot down the plane on an affiliated media channel but made no mention of the pilot.

“We were able to bring down the Russian warplane with a shoulder-fired missile above Saraqib in Idlib this afternoon,” said Mahmoud al-Turkmani, who according to the statement heads HTS’s “air defence brigade.”

He said the attack was in retaliation for a ferocious bombing campaign by Russian warplanes over Idlib.

HTS, which is dominated by Al-Qaeda’s former affiliate, controls Idlib and has sought to fight back a ferocious Russian-backed assault by Syrian government troops.

An AFP correspondent who arrived at the crash site on Saturday saw what appeared to be the charred remains of the plane, including a wing with a red star still visible.

Firefighters arrived to put out flames that had been spewing dark smoke into the wintry Syrian sky.The Russian defence ministry confirmed the Su-25 aircraft was shot down over Idlib province and said the pilot was killed “in fighting against terrorists.”


“A Russian Su-25 aircraft crashed during a flight over the Idlib de-escalation zone. The pilot had enough time to announce he had ejected into the zone,” the defence ministry said.

“The pilot was killed in fighting against terrorists,” it said, quoted by Russian agencies.

It added that “according to preliminary reports, the plane was shot down by a portable anti-aircraft missile system.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the jet was downed near the town of Saraqib in Idlib and the pilot parachuted to the ground.

He was killed clashing with rebels as they tried to take him hostage, said the Britain-based Observatory.

“There have been dozens of Russian air strikes in the area over the past 24 hours. This plane was also carrying out raids there,” said Abdel Rahman.

The Observatory said 20 people, including eight children, were killed on Saturday during a bombardment on Saraqib and surrounding villages.

Syria’s uprising broke out in 2011 with protests against Assad’s rule but has since morphed into a complex war drawing in global powers.

Moscow began conducting air strikes in Syria in September 2015, and its intervention has swung the nearly seven-year conflict firmly in the favour of its ally in Damascus.

Opposition factions have shot Syrian regime planes in the past, but the downing of Russian aircraft is much rarer.

Turkey shot down a Russian warplane in November 2015, leading to the worst crisis in ties between the two countries since the end of the Cold War

And in August 2016, a Russian military helicopter was shot down over Syria and all five people on board were killed.


Russia has been spearheading a more than year-long diplomatic push to try to freeze fighting in coordination with fellow regime ally Iran and rebel backer Turkey.

Ankara has supported an array of rebel groups to fight Syria’s government, the Islamic State jihadist group, and Kurdish militia that it has blacklisted as “terrorists.”

On Jan 20, Turkey and allied rebel fighters began an offensive on the Syrian enclave of Afrin, held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Seven Turkish soldiers were killed on Saturday as part of the assault, including five who died in a single attack on a tank, the Turkish army said.

The losses mark the highest toll in a single day for the Turkish army in operation “Olive Branch.”

The Observatory has also counted 104 allied rebels and 102 YPG fighters killed since the offensive began, as well as 68 civilians.

Ankara has denied targeting civilians as part of its Afrin offensive.

Mourners on Saturday gathered in Afrin to commemorate victims of the operation, including female fighter Barin Kobani whose badly mutilated body appeared in a shocking video earlier this week.

The footage sparked accusations by her family and Kurdish officials that she was “defiled” by Turkish-backed rebels.

The opposition’s government-in-exile said on Saturday it had opened an investigation into the matter.

Thousands of people protested on Saturday in France against operation “Olive Branch,” gathering in Strasbourg and Paris to condemn the assault.

They held posters that read “Defend Afrin” and “Erdogan assassin,” in reference to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

China To Build and Equip Afghan Army Base In Wakhan Corridor of northern Afghanistan

[China denies it’s planning a military base in AfghanistanChina supports new Afghan military base near its border with Tajikistan]

The Wakhan Corridor of Badakhshan province in northern Afghanistan, where witnesses have reported seeing Chinese and Afghan troops on joint patrols. (AFP photo/Gohar Abbas)
The Wakhan Corridor of Badakhshan province in northern Afghanistan, where witnesses have reported seeing Chinese and Afghan troops on joint patrols. (AFP photo/Gohar Abbas)

Worried about militants sneaking into a restive Chinese region from war-torn Afghanistan, Beijing is in talks with Kabul over the construction of a military base, Afghan officials say.

The army camp will be built in Afghanistan’s remote and mountainous Wakhan Corridor, where witnesses have reported seeing Chinese and Afghan troops on joint patrols.

The freezing, barren panhandle of land — bordering China’s tense Xinjiang region — is so cut off from the rest of Afghanistan that many inhabitants are unaware of the Afghan conflict, scraping out harsh but peaceful lives.

However, they retain strong links with neighbors in Xinjiang and, with so few travelers in the region, local interest in the Chinese visitors has been high, residents told AFP on a recent visit there.

China’s involvement in the base comes as President Xi Jinping seeks to extend Beijing’s economic and geopolitical clout.

The Chinese are pouring billions of dollars into infrastructure in South Asia. With Afghanistan’s potential to destabilize the region, analysts said any moves there would be viewed through the prism of security.

Beijing fears that exiled Uighur members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) are passing through the Wakhan into Xinjiang to carry out attacks.

It also worries that Islamic State  group militants fleeing Iraq and Syria could cross Central Asia and Xinjiang to reach Afghanistan, or use the Wakhan to enter China, analysts say.

Afghan and Chinese officials discussed the plan in December in Beijing, but details are still being clarified, Afghan defense ministry deputy spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh said.

“We are going to build it (the base) but the Chinese government has committed to help the division financially, provide equipment and train the Afghan soldiers,” he told AFP recently.

A senior Chinese embassy official in Kabul would only say Beijing is involved in “capacity-building” in Afghanistan.

NATO’s U.S.-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan declined to comment. But U.S. officials have previously welcomed China’s role in Afghanistan, noting they share the same security concerns.

Joint patrols

Members of the Kyrgyz ethnic minority in Wakhan told AFP in October they had been seeing Chinese and Afghan military patrols for months.

“The Chinese army first came here last summer and they were accompanied by the Afghan army,” said Abdul Rashid, a Kyrgyz chief, adding that he had seen vehicles flying Chinese flags.

The Afghan army arrived days earlier “and told us that the Chinese army would be coming here”, he said, adding: “We were strictly told not to go near them or talk to them and not to take any photos.”

Rashid’s account was confirmed by other Kyrgyz, including another chief Jo Boi, who said the Chinese military spent almost a year in Wakhan before leaving in March 2017.

Both Chinese and Afghan officials deny the claims, with China’s defense ministry telling AFP that the “Chinese army is not engaged in any military operation in the Wakhan Corridor”.

With little access to the corridor, Kabul provides almost no services to those who live there — but the Chinese, Boi said, have been bringing “a lot of food and warm clothes”.

“They are very good people, very kind,” he told AFP.

After their March visit, he said, they returned in June for roughly a month. “Since then they come every month… to distribute food.”

Economic interests

China fears militancy could threaten its growing economic interests in the region, Ahmad Bilal Khalil, a researcher at the Kabul-based Center for Strategic and Regional Studies, told AFP.

“They need to have a secure Afghanistan,” he said, estimating Beijing had provided Kabul with more than $70 million in military aid in the past three years.

It recently flagged the possibility of including Afghanistan in the $54-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) linking western China to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan.

“The anti-terrorism motivation is an important one but it’s not as important as the bigger move to boost the CPEC,” said Willy Lam, a political analyst in Hong Kong.

Kabul is also keen for Beijing to have a “more active role”, Andrew Small, author of The China-Pakistan Axis, told AFP.

It hopes China will use its “special relationship” with Islamabad to encourage the Pakistani military, who wield significant influence over Afghanistan’s insurgents, to “force the Taliban into peace talks”, Small said.

“In the end China has vastly greater financial power than anyone else. So having them engaged… may end up being critical to the country’s basic economic viability,” he said.

Ohio Medicine Goes Midieval On Healthcare, Mandating Little To No Pain Relief For the Worst Spinal Surgeries

[For anyone who understands the pain inflicted upon a person from spinal fusion surgery, or any of the new, invasive spinal surgeries and therapies, the following post reads like a horror story.  I had it done a few years ago, from ribcage to pelvic bone, 2 titanium rods and 28 screws, +8 hrs. surgery, to alleviate chronic, acute lower back pain.  There were some complications, mostly because of my size, which caused entirely new pain, effectively transferring one pain to other locations.  I had to run double the normal doses of pain meds for 6 weeks, before it let up enough to return to normal pain meds.  After that, I went to straight Tylenol, in order to avoid entering the state drug-monitoring program, the same one for all drug-offenders, or others with criminal tendencies (New Ohio rules limit some opioid prescriptions to 7-day supplies).  At least we are not in Germany, where patients evidently are told to embrace their pain, instead of eliminating it (After Surgery in Germany, I Wanted Vicodin, Not Herbal Tea).]

Ohio Imposes Strict Rule on Workers’ Back Surgery, Opioids

Ohio residents with work-related back injuries must in most cases try remedies like rest, physical therapy and chiropractic care before turning to spinal fusion surgery and related opioid painkillers.

By JULIE CARR SMYTH, Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio residents with work-related back injuries in most cases must try remedies like rest, physical therapy and chiropractic care before turning to spinal fusion surgery and prescription painkillers under a groundbreaking new guideline that is partly meant to reduce the overprescribing of opioids but isn’t sitting well with everyone.

Washington, Colorado and Minnesota already restrict injured-worker payments for the surgery, officials said, but the Ohio policy, which went into effect Jan. 1, goes further by embedding an opioid warning specifically into its surgical restriction. The state has been among the hardest hit by the overdose crisis, which many experts say stems largely from addictions to prescription painkillers that can progress into heroin use.

At issue is a procedure in which portions of the patient’s spine are fused permanently to address certain conditions, including degenerative disc disease and severe chronic low back pain. Injured Ohio workers get such surgery about 600 times a year.

The new rule at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, the nation’s largest state-run injured-worker fund, requires an injured worker to undergo at least 60 days of alternative care — while avoiding opioid use, if possible — before resorting to spinal fusion surgery, with a few exceptions for the most severe back injuries. By including the opioid warning, it’s a more aggressive restriction than other states that also decline to pay right away for the surgery.

Daniel Resnick, a Madison, Wisconsin-based neurosurgeon and president of the North American Spine Society, said the Ohio rule is overly broad and will result in added hurdles for those in need of spinal fusion surgery.

“Lumbar fusion works extremely well for a few things,” he said. “It doesn’t work well for everything, and it doesn’t work well for every patient, but in those cases where it’s appropriate, this is an unsophisticated rule that’s going to add an administrative burden — added time, added costs — for the patient. They’ll be futzing around wasting two months rather than getting the effective treatment they need.”

But the bureau defends the decision.

Studies have shown that fewer than half of patients are able to return to work after the surgery and that it is often ineffective or followed by complications. Afterward, workers’ pain oftentimes continues — or even gets worse.

“We now have better knowledge of who responds better to surgery, and we also know that some patients actually require more opioid medication after surgery than they did before surgery,” said Terrence Welsh, the Ohio injured worker bureau’s chief medical officer.

That’s exactly the opposite of what injured worker funds want. A survey by CompPharma last year showed workers compensation insurers view opioids and addiction as the industry’s most pressing concern. Their spending on opioids topped $1.5 billion in 2015.

An Associated Press review of more than a decade of opioid prescription data from injured-worker systems in three states — Ohio, California and Texas — found varying degrees of success. The information was provided to the AP through public records requests.

The analysis showed:

— Ohio has touted that 44 percent fewer injured workers received opioids in the past five years, saving $46 million in drug costs, as rules were imposed allowing denial of reimbursement for opioid prescriptions if physicians are believed to be overprescribing or otherwise failing to follow “best medical practices” in treating injured workers. Data showed much of that decline coincided with the steep drop in the overall number of injured workers in the state — from 81,000 in 2007 to 38,000 in 2016. The percentage of injured workers on prescription narcotics over that time fell seven percentage points, from 75 to 68 percent.

— In Texas, opioid prescriptions for workers decreased more than Ohio, as the number of injured workers fell from 183,000 in 2007 to 119,000 to 2016, or 35 percent, while the percentage of workers on opioid prescriptions fell 11 percentage points, from 63 percent to 52 percent.

— In California, the trend contrasts with Ohio, as data for the same time period showed the percentage of workers on opioid prescriptions rose slightly, from 35 percent to 37 percent, but that was as the injured worker population rose 12 percent, from 332,000 to 368,000.

Chris Tomshack, CEO and founder of HealthSource, a large chiropractic-clinic chain, said narcotic use has been found to increase 41 percent in patients who received fusion surgery and to continue over two years in three-quarters of patients.

“Non-invasive treatments for chronic back pain, including chiropractic care, have proven to deliver better outcomes for most patients based on numerous studies,” said Tomshack, a physician. “Ohio is taking the lead with its BWC ruling, which will reduce lost productivity and costs to the state, and most importantly, improve the healing process for injured workers.”


Associated Press data journalist Michelle Minkoff in Washington contributed to this report.


What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire?

The Brzezinski Interview with Le Nouvel Observateur (1998)

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid
to the Mujahiddin began during 1980,that is to say, after the Soviet
army invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the reality,
closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was
July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for
secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And
that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to
him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military
intervention [emphasis added].

Q : When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that
t hey intended to fight against secret US involvement in
Afghanistan , nobody believed them . However, there was an element
of truth in this. You don’t regret any of this today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had
the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you
want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the
border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: “We now have the
opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war” [emphasis

Q: And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism,
which has given arms and advice to future terrorists?

B : What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the
collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation
of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Q : “Some agitaed Moslems”? But it has been said and repeated :
Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today…

B: Nonsense! It is said that the West has a global policy in regard to
Islam. That is stupid: There isn’t a global Islam. Look at Islam in a
rational manner, without demagoguery or emotionalism. It is the
leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is
there in common among fundamentalist Saudi Arabia, moderate
Morocco, militarist Pakistan, pro-Western Egypt, or secularist Central
Asia? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries…

US Justice Pursuing “Open Season” On Russians Globally, Prompting Kremlin To Warn Citizens of Plot

Russia warns citizens to rethink foreign travel because US ‘hunting’ for Russians to arrest around world

Moscow’s foreign ministry issues statement calling American justice system ‘biased’

  • Tom Embury-Dennis, @tomemburyd

Russia has warned its citizens to rethink travelling abroad because, it claims, the US is “hunting” for Russians to arrest around the world.

The travel warning, which was issued by Moscow’s foreign ministry, cautioned Russians face a serious threat of arrest by other countries at Washington’s request, after which they could be extradited to America.

“Despite our calls to improve cooperation between the relevant US and Russian authorities… US special services have effectively continued hunting for Russians around the world,” the statement said.

“Considering these circumstances, we strongly insist that Russian citizens carefully weigh up all the risks when planning trips abroad.”

It claimed more than 10 Russians had been detained in foreign countries with US involvement since the start of 2017.

It pointed to at least four Russians arrested on US cybercrime charges in Spain, Latvia and Greece. US action against suspected Russian cyber criminals surged to a record high last year.

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Russia opposition leader Alexei Navalny detained by police at anti-Putin protest

Seven Russians were arrested or indicted in 2017 in America and abroad, compared to an average of two a year in the preceding six years.

The ministry pointed to the case of Stanislav Lisov, accused of creating a computer virus that targeted customers of financial institutions, causing millions of dollars of damage, who was extradited from Spain to the US last year.

It mentioned earlier cases as well, including the detention of Roman Seleznev for cybercrime in the Maldives in 2014, which it described as a kidnapping by American agents. Seleznev, who is the son of a Russian politician, was later convicted of hacking by a Seattle court.

The statement, published on Thursday, also warns Russian citizens that upon extradition they will face biased treatment at the hands of the US justice system.

The US State Department declined to comment on the Russian travel advisory. But it comes amid a number of American investigations into Russian attempts to influence or impede the 2016 presidential election.

And while the US has not made an explicit link between its prosecutions of Russian hackers and the election, some of those arrested have said they were being asked by the FBI to confess to hacking the email server of the Democratic National Congress.

Additional reporting by Reuters

Israel Planning “Gas Piracy” Over Lebanon’s Offshore Natural Gas Bonanza?

[Israel is infuriated over Lebanon’s easy acquisition of several Major Oil companies for gas exploration, while Israel, just next door, has been unable to find one Big Oil driller or contractor since 2012 (BIG OIL Doesn’t Like the Stench of Zionist Gas–No One Is Willing To Partner with IsraelDec 5, 2012).]


Israeli minister says Lebanese claim on gas field “provocative”

A map shows the offshore block 9, center, which Israel claims, at the Energy ministry, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. Lebanon’s Energy Minister Cezar Abi Khalil has vowed the country will go ahead in its oil and gas exploration tender near its maritime border with Israel despite Israeli claims the block 9 field belongs to it. The Lebanese Cabinet approved in December 2017 licenses for three international companies to carry out exploratory drilling off for the 10 offshore blocks to determine whether oil and gas exist in the area. (Hussein Malla/Associated Press)
BEIRUT — Lebanon’s energy minister vowed Thursday that Beirut will go ahead with oil and gas exploration near its maritime border with Israel, despite Israeli claims to the field that provoked wide condemnation in the tiny Arab country.Cesar Abi Khalil’s comments to The Associated Press came a day after Israel’s defense minister described as “very provocative” Lebanon’s offshore oil and gas exploration on the countries’ maritime border and suggested that Lebanon had sought bids from international companies for a gas field “which is by all accounts ours.”

The Israeli official’s comments drew sharp condemnation from the militant Hezbollah group and Lebanese officials, including Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Western ally, who described Lieberman’s comments as a “blatant provocation that Lebanon rejects.”

In December, the Lebanese Cabinet approved licenses for three international companies to carry out exploratory drilling off the Lebanese coast. The licenses will allow Italy’s Eni, France’s Total and Russia’s Novatek, who bid for two of Lebanon’s 10 offshore blocks, to determine whether oil and gas exist.

“We consider this statement as an aggression on Lebanon’s sovereignty to practice its natural right to explore our oil resources,” Abi Khalil said in his office. He added that the block that is on the border with Israel is “inside Lebanese territorial waters and Lebanon demarcated maritime borders in accordance with international laws.”

Abi Khalil said Beirut had informed the United Nations by giving locations of its border after it was demarcated. Abi Khalil said the three companies will begin drilling in 2019 and depending on what they find, the country will put forward more blocks for oil companies to bid for.

A major find in Lebanon’s southernmost waters could raise the possibility of a dispute with Israel, which is developing a number of offshore gas deposits, with one large field, Tamar, already producing gas, and the larger Leviathan field set to go online next year.

There are over 800 square kilometers (300 square miles) of waters claimed by the two countries, which are technically in a state of conflict. Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006.

“We will use all available means to protect our rights in our Lebanese waters,” Abi Khalil said.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “We’re encouraging everybody to use diplomatic means to address these issues.”

“We support the right of both Lebanon and Israel to exploit their maritime resources in accordance with the international Law of the Sea,” he told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York.

“We encourage both countries to continue efforts to address the delimitation of their respective maritime exclusion zones . and the exploration of their natural resources in a manner that does not give rise to tensions” but instead “builds confidence through dividends of cooperation,” Dujarric said.

The World the Cold War Built

The World the Cold War Built

A new book says the conflict began in the late 19th century and subsumed even World War II as our defining event.


Public Domain

The Cold War: A World History, Odd Arne Westad, Basic Books, 662 pages

In a new introduction to his classic novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John le Carré evokes memories of the early days of the era that came to be known as the Cold War, when he served in the intelligence service at the British Embassy in West Germany, located in what was then the capital city of Bonn. As the wall separating East and West was being erected in Berlin there was no real sense of a transition from the “hot” war that had ended in 1945 to the new “cold” one, he recalls. Instead, World War II was seen in retrospect as a distraction. “Now that it was over, they could get on with the real war that had started with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and had been running under different flags and disguises ever since,” writes le Carré.

From the perspective of Harvard University Professor Odd Arne Westad, who was a boy in Norway in the 1960s when le Carré was stationed in the British Embassy in Bonn, it was indeed the Cold War—and not the Second World War—that defined the political history and the intellectual zeitgeist of the 20th century and that shaped the evolution of its international system. As Westad reminds us, the term “cold war” was coined by George Orwell in 1945 to denote the capitalist-socialist antagonisms between the United States and the USSR after the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Westad goes beyond that characterization and contends that the Cold War was an ideological clash between socialism and capitalism that was born from the global economic, social, and technological transformations of the late 19th century—peaking between 1945 and 1989 against the backdrop of the geostrategic confrontation between the world’s two superpowers and the rise of a bipolar international system. Then in the late 20th century, in response to the global economic, social, and technological transformations of that period, this grand ideological clash went through a process of slow decline and was finally met with sudden death, although its consequences can still be with us, according to Westad.

Thus does Westad place the Cold War into a hundred-year perspective that subsumes other seminal events of the last century, including World War II, into a rather neat framework. There is something intellectually and emotionally disorienting about this. At times it seems that the author is relegating Auschwitz and Hiroshima into historical footnotes and treating Adolf Hitler as an extra, not as one of the star villains, in his grand epic. Indeed, the way Westad integrates World War II into his historical narrative flies in the face of the common storyline we are familiar with: that it was a conflict between freedom and oppression, between the values of the liberal West and those of its ideological foes, the two military dictatorships of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

But, if the global ideological conflict during the hundred years from the 1890s to the 1990s was between socialism (Westad uses that term interchangeably with communism) and capitalism, World War II had very little to do with that grand struggle. It was strictly about defeating German and Japanese expansionism in Europe and Asia. As you read about how the United States and the USSR made their diplomatic and military moves in that very hot war—such as the American development of the atomic bomb or the Soviet response to the 1944 Warsaw uprising—you get the impression that those occupying the White House and the Kremlin were more concerned about how their policies would play in Moscow and Washington than about how they would affect the dictators in Berlin and Tokyo.

In Westad’s narrative, the United States and the USSR were “accidental allies” in a global war brought on by their mutual enemies. It was a shotgun marriage shaped by their immediate needs and not an alliance based on long-term cooperation aimed at advancing common causes—like, for example, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization over the past half century. According to this script, our hero could have had a one-night stand with the socialist behemoth, but he could only marry a member of the capitalist tribe.

Westad does not speculate about what would have happened if Japan had not attacked the United States and Russia had not invaded Germany, and his socialism vs. capitalism narrative does not seem to hold when one considers that Hitler’s policies were driven by his fierce anti-communism (which also identified Judaism with Bolshevism), and yet a fierce anti-communist leader such as Winston Churchill would not consider allying his country with Nazi Germany in a common struggle against the Soviet Union. At the same time, the notion that the great confrontation between the socialist bloc and the capitalist nations was inevitable may explain why U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s hopes of cooperating with the Soviet Union in a new international order of peace, freedom, and human rights proved to be a mere fantasy.

In a way, what makes The Cold War: A World History such an original work and absorbing mind teaser is its challenge to the way we think about the not-so-distant past, taking a hundred-year perspective that, for example, does not view the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 as a defining event of the Cold War but as a diplomatic interlude that helped avert a direct military confrontation between the Soviets and the Americans. After all, why read a 720-page book that chronicles the history of a period that is quite familiar to most of us? Is there really anything more that can be said or written about, say, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis?

Probably not. And Westad doesn’t provide much new information about that crisis. But he places it in the context of his grand narrative, suggesting that in the global struggle between socialism and capitalism, the Soviet Union, the carrier of the socialist torch, lost the most in that tense standoff. According to Westad, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev “believed that Communism was on the up worldwide, and that his historic role was to steer the Soviet Union through a period in which, through the laws of history itself, the global balance of forces tipped in its direction.” But he also knew that a nuclear war would destroy that historical achievement, and hence he had to back down because “he wanted to celebrate the triumph of Communism, not eulogize at its funeral pyre.”

There is a lot of Hegel and a certain amount of historical determinism in Westad’s approach. Reality is capable of being expressed in rational categories, and the great puppeteer of history forces us to play our predictable role in his show. In this view the social and economic upheavals that left Europe unhinged at the end of the 19th century made it inevitable that socialism and capitalism would clash and in the process transform not only European politics but the entire international system.

To paraphrase the title of Luigi Pirandello’s famous play, Six Characters in Search of an Author, two ideologies were in search of respective political powers that would promote them. They found them in the rising United States and the new Bolshevik Russia, both being transformed into supercharged empires with powerfully felt international missions. And this occurred just as the ideological divide between capitalism and socialism was being sharpened.

The two empires evolved as part of an epoch of European predominance, embracing concepts of modernity, including the expectation that the European Enlightenment project could and should spread worldwide. But they parted ways when it came to defining that project.

The notion of a civil war that had engulfed Europe following the French Revolution, giving rise to competing ideologies and political movements, is not original. That civil war lasted 200 years, from 1789 to 1989, when another Hegelian political philosopher informed the world that history had come to an end (a pronouncement that Francis Fukuyama would have to dial back significantly as events engulfed it). Similarly, several astute observers of international relations had predicted at the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century that the United States would emerge as one of the world’s two leading powers and warned that a confrontation between the American sea power and the Russian land power would take place sooner or later. In some respects, that competition may be ongoing.

Yet there is something contrived in Westad’s suggestion that power and ideology were destined to merge and drive this global conflict, with American liberal internationalist Woodrow Wilson adhering to the belief that it was the mission of the United States to set the world right; and the Russian Communist Vladimir Illich Ulyanov, or Lenin, intent on employing his nation’s power to spread the Marxist gospel worldwide. According to this view, these competing messianic impulses created the conditions for the ensuing Cold War.


But there was nothing inevitable about the United States intervening in the Great War on the side of the Entente Powers or about the Bolshevik takeover of Russia, and, as Westad himself points out, American and Russian involvement in World War II came in response to Japanese and German aggression that threatened their respective core interests. At the same time, neither capitalism nor socialism ever constituted a coherent ideology; nor were the political movements seeking to represent these principles ever in agreement on what capitalism or socialism actually stood for. Even today, major differences exist between so-called Anglo-Saxon capitalism and the German social-market model, or between Scandinavian-style socialism and the model embraced by France, not to mention the moribund Soviet one. And most of the contemporary economic systems tend to follow a mix of capitalist and socialist policies.

Westad recognizes these complexities and seems to lament the failure of the European social-democratic movements of the pre-World War II era to promote their ideological perspectives as an alternative to both America’s wild capitalism and communism. But by incorporating the Cold War into a hundred-year global ideological epic struggle, Westad designs a theoretical straightjacket that he then tries to escape as he chronicles the more nuanced history of the actual Cold War. As he points out, in many cases national interests, not ideologies, drove the policies of Washington and Moscow, not to mention those of their respective partners and other global players.

And when American and Soviet leaders became too fixated with ideological considerations, disasters tended to ensue, whether in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, or Latin America. Hence the Kennedy brothers’ obsession with the supposed threat of Fidel Castro to the advancement of capitalism in the hemisphere mirrored Khrushchev’s romanticizing of the Cuban leader as a successor to the Russian revolutionaries of 1917. This helped shape American and Soviet policies that almost led to a nuclear war between the two superpowers.

Imagine: A guerrilla fighter turned military dictator ruling over a Caribbean island—in a way, a nobody in the larger scheme of things—playing a leading role in a Cold War drama with the potential to destroy civilization. Historians and political scientists still debate whether Cuba’s Castro, Vietnam’s Ho, Yugoslavia’s Tito, or even China’s Mao were first and foremost leaders of nationalist movements or really in the main promoters of the communist ideology. There are no simple answers, but it seems that when American and Russian policymakers examined international developments through their ideological spectacles and regarded them as acts in the grand global battle between capitalism and socialism, the result most often was decisions that ultimately harmed their national interests.

The American intervention in Vietnam constitutes a prime example of that kind of strategic miscalculation by a great power that was determined to view what was taking place in Southeast Asia through the ideological prism of the Cold War despite clear evidence that Ho Chi Minh was defending the national legacy of Vietnam against outside incursions and wasn’t striving to expand the reach of communism in the region.

It isn’t difficult to spin many scenarios under which Washington could have made a pragmatic deal with Ho Chi Minh serving the long-term interests of both the United States and North Vietnam. Indeed, following the U.S. military withdrawal from the country, Communist Vietnam ended up going to war against Communist Cambodia, which eventually led to a military confrontation with Communist China, reflecting the national interests of these regional players. That also explains why Vietnam, still ruled by a communist regime, has been strengthening its ties with the United States as part of a strategy to contain the common challenge of Chinese expansionism.


Westad’s discussion of the Cold War competition in South Asia and the Middle East highlights the other side of American and Russian interventions in the Third World: governments and political movements masquerading as proponents of socialism or capitalism in hopes of drawing the two superpowers to their side. It would be a distortion to argue that Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser or India’s Indira Gandhi—or for that matter the Vietnamese, Egyptians, Brazilians, Saudis, Iranians, and Israelis—did not care about whether socialism or capitalism would become the dominant global force. But consideration of national interests and not ideological fervor explains why these and other Third World leaders and governments aligned themselves at one point or another with either Washington and Moscow or embraced the posture of “non-alignment.”

Indeed, after coming to power in the 1950s, Nasser hoped the United States would help advance his Arab nationalist agenda, but when that didn’t happen he sought support from the Soviets, which placed him in the position of a Moscow ally. But Moscow was never sure. The question of whether Nasser and other Arab nationalist leaders were genuinely committed to socialism preoccupied Soviet leaders, who commissioned numerous studies concluding that Arab societies were still in the bourgeoisie stage of political development but could reach the revolutionary promised land in the future.

But Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, decided that Egypt’s national interests would best be served by switching to the American side in the Cold War and by adopting capitalist economic policies. Before changing Egypt’s foreign policy orientation, however, Sadat launched a military attack against Israel in 1973 that led to one of the most dangerous moments in the relationship between Egypt’s protector, the Soviet Union, and Israel’s ally, the United States. But it also created an opening for Washington to act as a diplomatic mediator between Egypt and Israel and to eventually ensure that Cairo would emerge as one of America’s leading partners in the region.

It therefore may not be surprising that the discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict at the time was framed as an extension of the Cold War, with the assumption that when the superpower rivalry would come to an end Arabs and Israelis would probably make peace, as would Indians and Pakistanis, and Ethiopians and Somalis, and that international politics could be explained by treating these and other conflicts as subplots in the big epic of socialism vs. capitalism. But 25 years after the Cold War’s end, Arabs and Israelis are still fighting; tensions rise and fall between India and Pakistan, now nuclear powers, over Kashmir and other issues; and developments in the Horn of Africa, in the former Yugoslavia, in the former Soviet Union, and of course, in the Greater Middle East, have ignited new national, ethnic, sectarian, and tribal wars. Even expectations that the reunification of Germany and the creation of the European Union would help re-energize the Enlightenment project in the aftermath of the Cold War have failed to materialize.

Westad gives much credit to Mikhail Gorbachev for the end of the Cold War and criticizes the United States for failing to bolster the last Soviet leader’s effort to reform communism and making things worse by launching wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But here he misses an important point: The bipolar nature of the international system during the Cold War (to which he devotes all of two pages), sustained by the threat of nuclear annihilation, helped maintain peace in Europe, ensured that hot wars such as those in Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East would come to an end, while setting constraints on the ability of the superpower partners to draw those powers into new and dangerous regional conflicts.

In fact, that bipolar system, for all of its dangers and fears, engendered certain checks and balances on the use of military power by the Americans and the Soviets. The United States would have not invaded Iraq and promoted its Freedom Agenda in Libya and the rest of the Middle East if the Soviet Union were still around, providing protection for Saddam Hussein and its other satellites in the region. By way of illustration, compare the sense of chaos and anxiety that dominates the international system today with the kind of order and stability provided by the bipolar system. You don’t have to feel nostalgic about the Cold War to recognize what we are missing now.

Leon Hadar, a TAC contributing editor, writes regularly for National Interest Online, Asia Times, Haaretz, and Quillette.