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New Study Provides Yet More Proof Of Saudi State Sponsorship Of ISIS

During the same week Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) admitted to the The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that Saudi nationals have funded terror groups, a prominent Georgetown University counterterrorism expert and field researcher has published his findings based on extensive interviews with former ISIS members which identifies Saudi Arabia as a key source of the now defunct Islamic State’s prior rapid growth. 

The findings were summarized in the Government and Technology Services Coalition’s Homeland Security Today online journal, and authored by Georgetown University professor Ahmet Yayla, who during the past four years has interviewed over 40 ISIS defectors in Turkey while conducting on the ground research along Syria’s border.

Yayla’s findings entitled, To Truly Fight Terror, Counter Salafist Jihadist Ideology First, confirm that:

“The majority of the ISIS shaykhs (imams and teachers) who were preaching in ISIS-controlled territories and schools were from Saudi Arabia.”

Though documentation on Saudi Arabia’s role in financing global jihad has been abundant over the past years of war in Syria and Iraq, Professor Yayla’s field research provides yet further empirical confirmation and proof of Saudi Arabia’s role in fueling both ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorism. 


Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). Image source: Getty via Daily Express

The study focuses specifically on ‘Salafist jihadism’ – a term often used interchangeably with Wahhabism – as “the same root” shared by both al-Qaeda and ISIS:

Salafism is usually described as an ultraconservative, puritanical, grim and fundamentalist branch within Sunni Islam established on the teachings of the 13th-century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, whose ideas were introduced by puritanical scholar Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the Arabian Peninsula during the mid-18th Century. Wahhab advocated a return to the traditions of the first generations of Muslims (the salaf).

And as also summarized in a 2016 New York Times investigation, ISIS terrorists rely on official Saudi religious instruction books as primary sources informing their ideology.

Professor Yayla writes:

ISIS and al-Qaeda appropriate foundational texts of al-Wahhab, including The Book of Monotheism (Kitab at-Tawhid), in their curriculum, in their Sharia (ideological) training in military camps, online training and the school systems they control.

Additionally, several ISIS defectors I interviewed specifically told me how al-Wahhab’s Kitab at-Tawhid was the chief and the most important part of their training, a book also widely and historically adopted by today’s Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, I observed that Salafist literature and books were adopted by terrorists including al-Qaeda for their indoctrination and training during the investigations I carried out as a counterterrorism police chief in Turkey.

Notably, one of Saudi Arabia’s most visible sheikhs – who recently held the title of ‘Imam of Kaaba, the Grand Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca’ – admitted that ISIS is a product of Saudi Salafi/Wahhabi Islam, which has been described by scholars and historians alike as the official state religion of Saudi Arabia, despite MbS’ feigning confusion over the issue during his recent Atlantic interview.

Professor Yayla writes further while citing the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI):

Sheikh Adel al-Kalbani, the former Imam of Kaaba, the Grand Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca, and a Salafi himself, openly and sincerely admitted that “ISIS is a true product of Salafism” and we must deal with it with full transparency.

But the key section of the summary study Homeland Security Today, which links the highest levels of the Saudi state (including Saudi princes) with ISIS terrorism is worth quoting in full.

According to the below excerpt from the summary findings, Saudi Arabia spreads Salafist terror ideology “all over the world”:

“The fact is, some Saudi princes, clerics, and charities for decades have been pouring out billions of dollars to promote their understanding of Islam, Wahhabism. They have found willing partners among the vulnerable populations in the Central Asian and Afghan-Pakistani regions, Africa, the Balkans and even in Europe. These funders indirectly assist ISIS and al-Qaeda-friendly organizations to fast-track their recruitments process on their behalf. In the leaked U.S. embassy cables, it was openly addressed that Saudi Arabia was ‘a critical source of terrorist funding’ where the money is mostly spent on training of Wahhabi clerics, production and distribution of Wahhabi textbooks, media outreach and donations to local schools or cultural centers.

Thanks to the Saudis spreading Salafism all over the world, these terrorists reach ideologically ripe people among their targeted groups who are already educated by the Wahhabis.

For a more comprehensive and effective long-term counterterrorism policy, the world should understand that regardless of the political costs and outcomes there is no true dealing of jihadi terrorism without countering the Salafist jihadist ideology. The majority of the ISIS shaykhs (imams and teachers) who were preaching in ISIS-controlled territories and schools were from Saudi Arabia and hence had the kunya of ‘al- Jazrawi.’ Wahhabi teachings around the world with Saudi-supported Imams have established the grounds for easier jihadist terrorism recruitments.”

Though MbS was clearly lying as well as attempting to dodge the topic altogether when he awkwardly told Jeffrey Goldberg, “There is no Wahhabism, we don’t believe we have Wahhabism,” he was right about one thing: the US itself led the way in promoting the spread of Wahhabi jihad near the end of the Cold War.

The crown prince was recently quoted by the Washington Post while in DC: “Mohammed said that investments in mosques and madrassas overseas were rooted in the Cold War, when allies asked Saudi Arabia to use its resources to prevent inroads in Muslim countries by the Soviet Union.”

And MbS repeated these comments to The Atlantic: “This is what America wanted us to do.”

Trump Pins Medal of Honor Upon Disgraced and Disowned Navy Seal, Ignoring Interservice Dispute

Trump awards Medal of Honor to Navy SEAL accused of war crimes

“SEAL Team 6 added Slabinski to the “rock of shame,” a list of former members of SEAL Team 6 who were no longer welcome to visit the command. Already barred from serving at SEAL Team 6, Slabinski was now physically banished.”

The Crimes of SEAL Team 6

On May 7, the White House announced that President Donald Trump would award a retired SEAL Team 6 sniper the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor.

Normally, the presentation of the Medal of Honor is a solemn and meaningful recognition of bravery and heroism. But the announcement of the award for Britt Slabinski — and the concurrent decision to give the same award to John Chapman, a deceased Air Force combat controller — came after a yearslong campaign to recognize disputed events 16 years ago on a remote mountain in Afghanistan. The awards have exposed a rift in the special operations community, a long-running argument pitting the Air Force against the Navy SEALs. More significantly, the decision to award a Medal of Honor to Slabinski represents the enduring failure of the SEALs, the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House to reckon with the dark history of SEAL Team 6 in the post-9/11 wars. All these authorities have refused to conduct any meaningful or robust oversight of a group of elite commandos who have committed war crimes abroad and gone to great lengths to cover them up.

On March 3, 2002, a small SEAL Team 6 reconnaissance team led by Slabinski landed atop Takur Ghar, a 10,000-foot peak above the Shah-i-Kot valley in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. The mission was part of the U.S. military’s Operation Anaconda, a multi-day effort to squeeze out and kill the last large group of Al Qaeda militants and Taliban fighters hiding in the valley. As it attempted to land, the helicopter took fire from Al Qaeda fighters, and SEAL Neil Roberts fell from the back of the helicopter. The helicopter was heading back to a nearby base when Slabinski and his team realized they had lost a teammate.

For two hours, SEAL Team 6 and officers from the Joint Special Operations Command scrambled a rescue force to recover Roberts. Again their helicopter took fire as it landed near the top. Slabinski and his team, including John Chapman, rushed out amid small arms fire from the Al Qaeda militants. The team split and Chapman was hit two minutes after engaging the militants. With additional teammates severely wounded, and believing Chapman was dead, Slabinski ordered his SEAL team to retreat down the mountain. A quick reaction force, consisting mostly of Army Rangers, then engaged in a pitched battle for control of Takur Ghar, as Slabinski called in airstrikes from his position down the side of the mountain. Ultimately, Roberts, Chapman, and five others were killed over the course of the battle, which became known as Roberts Ridge.

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Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, who died at the battle of Roberts Ridge, March 3,  2002, in Afghanistan.   Photo: U.S. Air Force

These details are largely agreed upon. Chapman and Slabinski both received service crosses, the military’s second-highest award. After Roberts’s body was recovered, the military determined that he had been mutilated, a horrific act that led SEAL Team 6 operators to engage in a cycle of vengeance against enemy fighters in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

From practically the moment Slabinski and his team returned to Bagram Air Base, others in the special operations community questioned whether he had erred in his assessment that Chapman was dead and retreated with a member of his team still alive.

In 2016, after the Pentagon began reassessing silver stars and service crosses awarded during the war on terror, the Air Force put together forensics and drone video that they claimed showed Chapman got up after Slabinski and the SEALs retreated and continued to fight, alone and outnumbered, before succumbing to his wounds.

The SEALs disagreed, and Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski, the commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare, pushed for an upgrade for Slabinski’s service cross. Both current and former military members say the inter-service fight between the SEALs and the Air Force special operations command has been ugly and unbecoming. According to a Navy officer, the SEALs made several efforts to block an upgrade for Chapman, infuriating the Air Force.

Presentations of the Medal of Honor are almost always fraught with questions about whether the awards are handed out to make those involved in operations feel better about a loss of life. There’s “always some kind of solace sought in decorating someone with the award,” said one of Slabinski’s former leaders at SEAL Team 6, who spent more than 30 years in Special Operations. “A lot of it has to do with politics and rank and stature and always, in my opinion, the more dynamic and public the screw-up, the more likely it is that someone is going to get highly decorated.”

Another of Slabinski’s former teammates said 25 years of experience as a SEAL convinced him that the award system for valorous action has little integrity. “One of my commanders told me point-blank: The bigger the fuck-up, the bigger the award.”

The retired SEAL leader, who studied the battle at Roberts Ridge extensively for the military and discussed the events with Slabinski, said the issue was not whether Chapman or Slabinski were deserving of a medal upgrade, but why the military was motivated to extend that honor so many years later. “This is the madness of the Medal of Honor,” he said. “Rarely is it granted when things go well.”

By awarding both Chapman and Slabinski the Medal of Honor, the Pentagon presents an impossible version of what happened on Roberts Ridge. By awarding it to Chapman, the military endorses the view that Chapman survived his initial injuries and fought with valor after Slabinski and his SEAL team retreated down the mountain. If that’s true, then Slabinski left his teammate behind, violating the first rule of special operations. By awarding Slabinski the Medal of Honor, the military essentially ignores the Chapman narrative and supports the notion that Slabinski’s actions that day were heroic.

Both versions of what happened at Takur Ghar cannot be true. But the argument over how Slabinski determined Chapman was dead, and when Chapman may have died, is really a distraction from the true significance  of what came down from Takur Ghar after the battle for Roberts Ridge.

Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski led the push for Britt Slabinski’s Medal of Honor and promoted him after he was barred from SEAL Team 6 for suspected war crimes.   Photo: U.S. Navy

No one pushed for the upgrade more than Szymanski, according to both current and former Navy officers. Members of SEAL Team 6 have told me they believe the award is meant, in large part, to help validate and cover up a series of ultimately fatal decisions taken by Szymanski and other senior SEAL Team 6 officers.As the SEAL Team 6 operations officer at Bagram Air Base, Szymanski was the mission planner for Slabinski’s reconnaissance team. Szymanski and his superior officers effectively limited Slabinski’s options, forcing him to land on what they later discovered was a well-established enemy position, rather than allowing the team to land lower on the mountain and clandestinely patrol the top. The former unit leader who served several years with Szymanski said he had no doubt that his former teammate pushed for the upgrade to assuage his own guilt about putting Slabinski and his team in what became a disastrous position.

Slabinski’s military career did not end on March 4, 2002. He spent another 12 years in the military, almost all of it at SEAL Team 6, where he ended up as a senior enlisted leader. For many, he was a legendary SEAL. Inside the secret world of what the military refers to as a “Tier 1” unit, however, Slabinski is part of another legacy, one which also stems from what happened during Roberts Ridge. That legacy involves Szymanski as well.

In the days after Takur Ghar, Slabinski and others in SEAL Team 6 sought “payback” for Roberts, Chapman, and the other casualties. Slabinski later told author Malcolm MacPherson, in a taped interview obtained by The Intercept, that a few days after the battle, his team ambushed and killed nearly two dozen Al Qaeda fighters headed toward the Pakistan border. After the militants had been killed, Slabinski described a form of “therapy”:

I mean, talk about the funny stuff we do. After I shot this dude in the head, there was a guy who had his feet, just his feet, sticking out of some little rut or something over here. I mean, he was dead, but people have got nerves. I shot him about 20 times in the legs, and every time you’d kick him, er, shoot him, he would kick up, you could see his body twitching and all that. It was like a game. Like, ‘hey look at this dude,’ and the guy would just twitch again. It was just good therapy. It was really good therapy for everybody who was there.

Audio from an unpublished interview with Britt Slabinksi conducted by Malcolm MacPherson, author of a 2005 book on the battle of Roberts Ridge.

For almost four years after Roberts Ridge, SEAL Team 6 intentionally limited Slabinski’s battlefield exposure. The trauma from Roberts Ridge was clear — and Slabinski has said that he still sees fighters moving in slow motion from that day.

In 2007, Slabinski was sent back to Afghanistan as a squadron master chief, which made him the senior noncommissioned officer of Blue Squadron. His two-year assignment at Blue came as the SEAL Team 6 leadership began receiving reports that small groups of SEALs were committing what they believed were war crimes: cutting, mutilating, and otherwise desecrating enemy fighters with knives and custom-made hatchets. In addition, SEAL Team 6 operators were “canoeing” dead or dying enemy targets — firing bullets at close range to the top of the skull, splitting it open at the forehead and exposing the brain matter.

In late 2007, members of Blue Squadron were twice investigated by Naval Criminal Investigative Service and JSOC. The first investigation resulted from allegations that a SEAL had attempted to behead a Taliban fighter in southern Afghanistan after Slabinski told his men he wanted a “head on a platter.” As I reported in 2017, Slabinski told his superiors and later investigators that there had been no beheading, saying there was “no foul play.” A former investigator with direct knowledge of the case told me that it was clear from the beginning of the beheading investigation that SEAL Team 6 had brought in NCIS to conclude that no war crime had occurred. “We knew we’d been called in to give them the result they wanted — that everyone was clean,” the former Navy officer said. The NCIS investigation was part of the cover-up.

Shortly after the beheading incident, Slabinski’s team was accused of killing unarmed men in an operation. That investigation, too, resulted in the SEALs being cleared.

Three years later, in 2010, Slabinski was up for a promotion when SEAL Team 6 decided to re-examine his tour with Blue Squadron. The command confirmed that Slabinski had in fact covered up the attempted beheading. Slabinski also admitted he had given an illegal order for his men to shoot all males on an operation regardless of whether or not they were armed, according to a person with direct knowledge of the investigation. Ultimately, however, the military concluded all the men killed during that operation were armed. As a result of these inquiries, a group of 10 SEAL Team 6 leaders later voted unanimously to ban Slabinski from ever serving at the command again. After Slabinski’s admission, the most senior enlisted member of SEAL Team 6 told him, “That’s not what we’re about. We can’t have you here.”

As I reported in 2017, one of Slabinski’s former superiors said: “To this day, he thinks the guys turned on him. Well, they did. What we didn’t do was turn him in. You will step over the line and you start dehumanizing people. You really do. And it takes the team, it takes individuals to pull you back. And part of that was getting rid of Britt Slabinski.”

Naval Special Warfare has consistently stated that the allegations against Slabinski and SEAL Team 6 are “unfounded,” and that each has been “previously investigated and determined to be not substantiated.” Despite months of my repeated inquires to SEAL Team 6 and Naval Special Warfare, no one would answer a simple question: If no crimes had been committed, why bar Slabinski from SEAL Team 6? Syzmanski and Slabinski did not respond to requests for comment.

The answer lies in how effective and widespread the culture of lies and cover-ups has been at SEAL Team 6. In each of Slabinski’s 2007 investigations, both NCIS and JSOC found no evidence of violations of the laws of armed conflict, as they describe war crimes. But three years later, a small group of unit leaders quickly substantiated the allegations and even secured a confession. The command thus demonstrated that it was perfectly capable of determining the truth for internal purposes — and once again proved it was unwilling to expose even its pariahs to external scrutiny or justice.

After learning that he would never again serve at SEAL Team 6,  Slabinski was thrown a lifeline by Szymanski, then commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group 2, who selected him to be his command master chief. His career should have been over, yet he was given a promotion. Some inside SEAL Team 6 were stunned. From their perspective, Szymanski had willingly requested a suspected war criminal to be his senior noncommissioned officer. When asked why he would bring in Slabinski after he was thrown out of SEAL Team 6 for alleged war crimes, a SEAL Team 6 leader told me that Szymanski told his fellow SEALs that their community could not shun a war hero.

In their time commanding Group 2, Szymanski and Slabinski helped craft what has become the unofficial Navy SEAL creed, which ends with this:

I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men. Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.

In 2015, after he retired, Slabinski gave an on-the-record interview to the New York Times in which he denied giving the illegal order to shoot any man. He also implied that it was his leadership and discipline that prevented the near-beheading in 2007. In the view of senior SEAL Team 6 leaders, Slabinski had lied. Even worse, he’d done so while speaking to the press. For that sin, SEAL Team 6 added Slabinski to the “rock of shame,” a list of former members of SEAL Team 6 who were no longer welcome to visit the command. Already barred from serving at SEAL Team 6, Slabinski was now physically banished.

“That’s what’s wrong with my community,” a former SEAL Team 6 leader told me last year. “Our sense of what’s right and what’s wrong is warped. No one was upset that he ordered a beheading or all the men shot even if they were unarmed. They were mad because he spoke to the New York Times and lied.”

One of the regulations governing military awards, including the Medal of Honor, states that “no medal, cross, or bar, or associated emblem or insignia may be awarded or presented to any person or to his representative if his service after he distinguished himself has not been honorable.”

By the military’s own standard, Slabinski should have been disqualified from the Medal of Honor for his actions in subsequent deployments to Afghanistan. But Slabinski’s dishonorable actions are only a part of a much larger problem. Senior officers of SEAL Team 6 bear the ultimate responsibility, both for tactical failures, such as the decisions that placed Slabinski’s team at the top of Takur Ghar, and for leadership failures, for turning a blind eye to a broad pattern of war crimes and other military misconduct. For 15 years, as SEAL Team 6 senior officers and leaders received reports that their operators were skinning, scalping, canoeing, and otherwise mutilating enemy corpses with custom-made hatchets in Afghanistan and Iraq, they either ignored the warnings or helped cover them up.

“By giving Slabinski the award, you close the door on our criminal history,” said the former SEAL Team 6 leader. “The cover-up wins. You’ve closed this ugly part of our command’s history, and everyone gets away with it. What everyone learns from this is that cover-ups work — don’t say anything bad about your teammates, keep quiet and we’ll get through it. It’s disgraceful.”

Correction: May 22, 2018

A previous version of this article stated that John Chapman’s Medal of Honor was announced by the White House on May 7  along with Britt Slabinski’s. Although Chapman’s medal had been approved, it has not yet been formally announced. 

Top photo: An undated official portrait of retired Master Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Britt K. Slabinski.

Syrian Diplomat Accuses US-led Coalition Of Bombing Oil Wells

Syrian Diplomat Accuses US-led Coalition Of Bombing Oil Wells

Jet fighter

The U.S.-led coalition is deliberately bombing oil wells in Syria to punish Damascus and make it pay millions of dollars to restore work at those fields, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told Russian news outlet Sputnik on Wednesday.

“They made it necessary to spend tens of millions of dollars to resume work at these [oil] fields,” Mekdad was quoted as saying by the Russian outlet.

Russia and Iran support the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the complex Syrian conflict, which is now in its eighth year.

Heightened tensions in Syria last month highlighted the geopolitical risk premium in oil prices and started the oil price rally which has continued this month with the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. The increased probability of open conflicts in the Middle East as local players and global powers vie for influence has stoked fears over losses of crude oil supply from the key oil export region in the world.

Syria is not a major oil producer, but its strategic position in the Middle East and the various proxy conflicts within its territory add additional geopolitical risk premium to oil prices when tension escalates.

Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded that Iran withdraw all forces under Iranian command throughout the entirety of Syria, end support to Middle East terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and end its military support for the Houthi militia and work towards a peaceful political settlement in Yemen.

“Whether Iranian forces or Hezbollah withdraw or stay in Syria is not up for discussion because it’s the (business) of the Syrian government,” Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV quoted Syria’s Mekdad as saying on Wednesday.

“The U.S. is no longer the indispensable nation in the Middle East — it’s Russia. Putin has more control in this powder keg than American experts like to admit,” Sean McFate, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, wrote in a commentary for CNBC this week.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

Zionist Terrorist Air Force Warns Syrian Govt. NOT TO DEFEND ITSELF Against IDF Attacks

[SEE: Israel Becomes “Al-Qaeda’s Air Force” In Syria–Joins Arab Coalition, Then Bombs Syrian Govt. Targets]

A senior Israeli Air Force officer has said that his country’s military aircraft will continue to operate in Syrian airspace for as long as is deemed necessary.

“We’re not doing this because we’re aggressive, but because we constantly have to be actively defending the state of Israel,” the senior officer said, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity on Wednesday.

“This is the only thing preventing offensive measures by Iran,” he added.

The officer also warned Syria not to use its air defenses against Israeli warplanes. “All batteries that fire on Israeli aircraft will be destroyed. All batteries that do not fire on us will not be destroyed,” he said, noting that “this policy will continue.”

On Tuesday, the commander of the Israeli Air Force declared that Israel had become the first country in the world to use its US-made F-35 fifth-gen stealth fighter in combat.

“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East and have already attacked twice on two different fronts,” Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin was quoted as saying by Israeli media.

Syrian-Israeli relations were brought to a boiling point earlier this month after the Israeli Air Force hit what it said were Iranian targets in Syria, following an alleged rocket attack against Israeli military positions in the occupied Golan Heights.

Earlier this year, Israeli jets repeatedly struck Syria’s T-4 air base, which Tel Aviv claimed contained “Iranian bases in Syria.”

On Wednesday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad told Sputnik that the possibility of withdrawing Iranian military advisers and Hezbollah militia was “not even on the agenda of discussion, since it concerns the sovereignty of Syria.”

The Israeli Air Force has regularly violated Syrian airspace throughout the course of the Syrian civil war. Damascus has called these incursions acts of aggression and vowed to continue to “repel any aggression against Syria, regardless where it will take place.”

Source: Sputnik