NEW YORK, September 30. /TASS/. US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said a naval blockade of Russia was an option for limiting Russia’s role on the global energy market, Washington Examiner quoted him as saying.
“The United States has that ability, with our Navy, to make sure the sea lanes are open, and, if necessary, to blockade … to make sure that their energy does not go to market,” Zinke was quoted as saying during an industry event in Pittsburgh hosted by the Consumer Energy Alliance.
According to the paper, the minister said that the use of the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, technology gave Washington an advantage over Russia and Iran because its reduced Washington’s dependence on foreign hydrocarbons.
At the same time, Zinke said the Russian economy strongly relied on oil and gas revenues.
“I believe the reason they are in the Middle East is they want to broker energy just like they do in eastern Europe, the southern belly of Europe,” he said.
According to the Interior Secretary, Washington was also considering economic measures to put pressure on Russia and Iran in order to squeeze them out of the global energy market.
“The economic option on Iran and Russia is, more or less, leveraging and replacing fuels,” Zinke said. “We can do that because … the United States is the largest producer of oil and gas.”.
Iraqis demanded better public services and jobs in a demonstration in Basra on Friday. (AP)
The “ordered departure” of the consulate was announced Friday
I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks: Pompeo
NEW YORK: The United States on Friday shut its consulate in the protest-hit southern Iraqi city of Basra, blaming “indirect fire” by Iran-backed forces and warning its rival of retaliation for any damage.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered that all but emergency staff leave Basra, with consular duties to be taken over by the embassy in Baghdad.
Basra has been rocked by weeks of demonstrations by Iraqis protesting unemployment and government inefficiency in the oil-rich south.
Pompeo, who has made rolling back Iranian influence in the region a top priority, blamed militias linked to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards for “indirect fire” — which usually means rockets or artillery — against the US consulate.
“I have advised the government of Iran that the United States will hold Iran directly responsible for any harm to Americans or to our diplomatic facilities in Iraq or elsewhere and whether perpetrated by Iranian forces directly or by associated proxy militias,” he said in a statement while in New York to attend the UN General Assembly.
“I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks,” he added.
Ruled by Shiite clerics, Iran has a strong influence in Iraq, especially in the country’s Shiite-majority south.
Iran’s consulate itself was earlier burned down during the protests, although no one was injured and Tehran quickly opened a new mission.
Iran’s foreign ministry earlier called US allegations of fomenting violence in Basra “astonishing, provocative and irresponsible.”
Speaking at the General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also dismissed the US criticism of involvement in its neighbor, questioning why Washington itself was involved in a country so far away.
Earlier this month three mortar rounds also hit the fortified Green Zone area in Baghdad, home to the US embassy, without causing injuries and with the perpetrators unclear.
Diplomatic security is a key priority for the United States and Pompeo, who as a congressman went on the offensive against former secretary of state Hillary Clinton over a deadly attack on the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
A new report tracking the roots, spread and effects of violent Islamist extremism found that 121 groups that share elements from a common ideology are now operating worldwide. Their activities resulted in the deaths of 84,000 people – nearly 22,000 of them civilians – in 66 countries in 2017, the report found.
In remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Thursday that Islamist extremism is “global and growing.”
“It didn’t begin with al Qaeda; nor will it end with the defeat of ISIS,” Blair said.
The “Global Extremist Monitor,” which was produced by Blair’s eponymous non-profit, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, drew on hundreds of English-language news sources that reported on incidents of violent extremism in 2017. There were a total of 7,841 attacks – an average of 21 per day –in 48 countries, it said, with war-torn Syria topping the list of countries most affected by violent extremism. Overall, Muslims were the most frequent victims of deadly attacks.
Twenty-nine violent Islamist groups were actively engaged in conflict in Syria in 2017, the report said, with ISIS responsible for 44 percent of all attacks. Half of all civilian fatalities recorded globally were documented in Syria.
A separate, recent UN report said there are between 20,000 and 30,000 ISIS fighters still operating across Iraq and Syria, though its self-proclaimed physical caliphate has been all but eliminated.
Blair, who was Britain’s prime minister at the time of the September 11 attacks, and under whose leadership the country engaged alongside the U.S. in the Iraq war, called on the international community to rely less on security measures and more on soft power and development initiatives to combat violent extremism.
“Security measures obviously have in many ways been effective and must remain in place,” he said. “But the reality is, security alone will only slow the violence.”
In a panel discussion following Blair’s presentation, counterterrorism and insurgency expert Bruce Hoffman echoed his remarks, saying security, countermeasures and kinetics have “an absolutely vital role,” but added, “to actually break the cycle of recruitment and regeneration that is sustaining these groups, you have to target…education, countering the falsehoods, and, of course, building local leadership,” Hoffman said.
Fellow panelist Farah Pandith, who served during the Obama administration as the State Department’s first-ever special representative to Muslim communities, said action and investment were especially urgent as groups like ISIS broaden their recruitment efforts for operational gain.
“It is not just about young men; it’s also about young women,” she said. “ISIS and other groups…have understood very smartly that it isn’t useful for them to just look at one part of the population; they need to look at everyone.”
“So they’re looking at men and women, girls and boys,” Pandith said.
The report identified 181 female suicide bombers in 2017.
In his call for global commitments, Blair stressed the importance of investment in public and private education systems to promote religious tolerance and literacy.
“The essential thing, in my view, is to deal with the ideology,” Blair said, “and not just the violence.”
Russia reportedly transferring electronic warfare systems to Latakia, which Moscow says will hamper Israel’s ability to strike
Russia will transfer two to four S-300 air defense missile systems to Syria within the next two weeks, the Russian news website Kommersant reported Tuesday, citing a source familiar with the details. The amount of systems may increase in the future.
The Assad regime will use the systems to defend Syria’s coastline and its borders with Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, the report said. According to the official, Russia may end up transferring up to eight systems to Syria, depending on the circumstances.
Russia, he said, would also use electronic warfare systems to prevent the activation of satellite tracking systems along Syria’s coast, making it harder for Israel to conduct airstrikes. And Russia will equip Syrian anti-aircraft units with Russian tracking and guidance systems to prevent mishaps in which Syria downs Russian aircraft.Israel’s security cabinet convened Tuesday morning to discuss the diplomatic crisis with Russia ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s departure to attend the UN General Assembly session in New York, where he is expected to bring up the row with Russia with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu discussed the deployment of the S-300s with Putin on Monday. The Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu told the Russian president that putting advanced weapons systems in irresponsible hands would increase dangers in the region. Netanyahu added that Israel will continue to protect its security and interests.
Netanyahu also reiterated Israel’s position that Syria was responsible for the downing of the plane last week, which killed 15 Russian airmen. The prime minister added that Iran also bore responsibility as it was destabilizing the area.
Russia, however, “proceeds from the premise that the actions of the Israeli Air Force were the main cause of the tragedy,” the Kremlin said in a statement after Putin’s phone call with Netanyahu.
Putin told Netanyahu that supplying the surface-to-air missile system to the Assad regime is “intended to thwart any potential threat to the lives of the Russian military service members fulfilling the tasks of combatting international terrorism,” the Kremlin said.
WASHINGTON (AP) – The president of the United States, Donald Trump, revived the motto ‘America for the Americans’ of the so-called “Monroe Doctrine (1823)” before the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN), ensuring that it will not allow foreign influence on the continent.
“Here in the Western Hemisphere we are committed to maintaining our independence from the expansionist spirit of foreign powers,” declared the president of the United States in New York.
Referring to the mantra of the so-called Monroe Doctrine that imposed the political and economic desires and whims of Washington in several countries of the continent, Trump pointed out that his government will not allow any other regional influence than the United States.
“We are going to reject the interference of foreign nations in this hemisphere and in our affairs. The United States recently strengthened its laws to better scrutinize foreign investments for defense reasons in the face of security threats, “the president said.
The UN General Assembly broke into giggles, then outright laughter when US president Donald Trump made a grandiose claim about his administration’s successes.
At the beginning of his speech on Tuesday, Trump rolled out a line familiar to White House watchers: “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any other administration in history,” he said.
“The Chinese government did not approve a request for a port visit to Hong Kong by the USS Wasp. We have a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, and we expect that to continue,” the consulate said.
The amphibious assault ship had been due to stop in Hong Kong next month, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed US military officials.
The Chinese foreign ministry declined to comment on the refusal, saying only that China approved port visits on a case-by-case basis. The vessel is part of a group based in Sasebo in Japan and operating in the Indo-Pacific region.
In 2016, China denied a request for a US carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis to visit Hong Kong during heightened tensions over the South China Sea.
This time the rejection comes as China and the United States are locked in a trade war, with the US and then China imposing tariffs on each other’s goods.
In New York, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a gathering of US business representatives that Washington’s repeated attacks on Beijing threatened the “total destruction” of four decades of gains in China-US relations.
Washington also decided last week to impose sanctions on a unit of the Chinese defence ministry and its director for buying advanced weapons from Russia.
In response, China recalled a navy commander from a visit to the US and postponed a military dialogue between the two countries.
Beijing also summoned US ambassador to China Terry Branstad and acting US defence attaché David Menser to protest against the sanctions.
The ministry said the US had no right to interfere in defence cooperation between China and Russia, and the US sanctions had seriously damaged China-US military relations.
“We will not let Iran get away with using a proxy force to attack an American interest” (Image: GETTY )
The threat follows a mortar attack earlier in the month on the American Embassy in Baghdad, which the US blamed on Iranian supported militia.
Mr Pompeo told CNN on Friday: “We have told the Islamic Republic of Iran that using a proxy force to attack an American interest will not prevent us from responding against the prime factor.
“We will not let Iran get away with using a proxy force to attack an American interest.
“Iran will be held accountable for those incidents.”
When asked if this could mean a military response, Mr Pompeo said: “They’re going to be held accountable”.
On September 7, a number of mortar shells exploded near the US embassy in Baghdad, inside the city’s highly fortified ‘Green Zone’.
In response to the attack, the White House released a statement on September 11 blaming Iranian backed militia, saying: “Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq which it has supported with funding, training and weapons.”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry hit back, describing the statement as “astonishing, provocative and irresponsible”.
Mr Pompeo also accused Iran of backing terror groups across the Middle East. (Image: GETTY )
Mr Pompeo also appeared to accuse Iran of backing terror groups across the Middle East.
He argued Iran has been “the world’s largest state sponsor of terror for quite some time”.
He said: “They have armed militias, the Lebanese Hezbollah, militias in Iraq; they’re arming the Houthis in Yemen, launching missiles in the Gulf states.”
He also claimed Iran is “responsible for the arming and training of these militias”.
“That threat is the Trump administration’s sense of entitlement to destabilise the world” (Image: GETTY )
Last month the US State Department created the Iran Action Group, with Mr Pompeo stating at its launch that the “Iranian people and the world are demanding that Iran finally act like a normal nation”.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif responded on Twitter, saying: “It is true there is a real threat to our region and to international peace and security.
“That threat is the Trump administration’s sense of entitlement to destabilise the world.
“The US must start acting like a normal state” (Image: GETTY )
“The US must start acting like a normal state.”
Iran was rocked by anti-regime and anti-corruption protests in December 2017 and January 2018.
Around 26 people were killed in clashes between protestors and security forces.
The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday directed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Dawn staffer Cyril Almeida to appear before the court in the next hearing of a treason case.
The case, which was filed by civil society member Amina Malik through Advocate Azhar Siddique, seeks action against Sharif under treason charges for allegedly trying to defame state institutions in an interview to Dawn, as well as action against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for allegedly not honouring his oath of office by disclosing the minutes of a National Security Council (NSC) meeting to Nawaz.
Noting that Cyril Almeida had failed to appear in the last three hearings of the case, the three-judge bench — headed by Justice Mazahir Ali Naqvi — told the journalist’s lawyer that they would issue non-bailable arrest warrants for him so that he could be taken into custody and presented in court.
The lawyer asked the judges to issue bailable arrest warrants instead of non-bailable arrest warrants, and said he was sure Almeida would appear in court in the next hearing.
The judges asked the lawyer if he could guarantee that the journalist would appear in the next hearing without a doubt, to which the lawyer said he could not provide such a guarantee.
The court subsequently ordered that the journalist’s name be placed on the no-fly list and non-bailable arrest warrants be issued for him, saying he must appear on October 8.
The court also raised questions over Nawaz Sharif’s absence from the proceedings, to which the lawyer said that he was set to appear but was unable to do so because of the mourning period for his wife Begum Kulsoom Nawaz’s passing.
The judges directed that the ousted premier appear before the court in accordance with law and summoned him on Oct 8.
Former PM Abbasi, represented by lawyer Naseer Bhutta, was present in today’s hearing. Earlier in September, the LHC had issued bailable arrest warrants for Abbasi for not appearing in court.
Soon after the publication of Sharif’s interview, Indian media had blown up his remarks, terming it an admission on part of the former prime minister that non-state actors from Pakistan were involved in the Mumbai attacks in which terrorists had killed more than 150 people and injured over 300 others in about a dozen shooting and bombing attacks in different localities.
The NSC, after a meeting, had issued a statement saying: “The participants observed that it was very unfortunate that the opinion arising out of either misconceptions or grievances was being presented in disregard of concrete facts and realities. The participants unanimously rejected the allegations and condemned the fallacious assertions.”
It is pertinent to mention that the NSC statement had not named Nawaz while addressing the controversy around the ‘misleading’ comments about Mumbai attack. Soon after the NSC meeting, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in a press conference had clarified that the NSC had in fact condemned “misreporting” and not his party’s supreme leader’s statement.
The petitioner has contended that after an NSC meeting held to discuss Sharif’s “misleading” statement, Abbasi had met the ousted premier and conveyed to him the concerns of the military leadership, adding that this act had been a violation of Abbasi’s oath as PM as he was not bound to allow his personal interest to influence his official conduct.
The petitioner had pleaded that Sharif had committed sedition by rejecting the NSC statement and was liable for action as per the Constitution and the Pakistan Penal Code, and also sought action against Abbasi for violation of oath through his disclosure of the minutes of the NSC meeting to Sharif.
Court had issued notices to Sharif, Abbasi and Almeida to appear in court for hearing of the case which had been adjourned since June due to elections on Abbasi’s request.
BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:20 A.M.) – An attack drone belonging to the jihadist rebels targeted a group of Syrian Arab Army (SAA) soldiers in the northern countryside of the Latakia Governorate on Friday.
According to the Russian Reconciliation Center, a jihadist attack drone that was launched from the Jisr Al-Shughour District of Idlib struck a group of Syrian Arab Army soldiers near the town of Qala’at Marza.
At least eight soldiers were wounded as a result of this jihadist attack, the chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties, Vladimir Savchenko, said on Friday evening.
“Eight Syrian servicemen were wounded in the settlement of Qalaat Marza in the Latakia governorate that came under shelling by militants,” Savchenko statd.
“An unmanned aerial vehicle operated by militants was downed in this area,” he added.
Map published by the Ministry of Defense related to the incident has just occurred. The big red-white circle is the Russian Khmeimim airbase, with blue circles above it – the targets that Israel has attacked in Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry has published detailed information regarding the IL-20 reconnaissance aircraft shot down by the Syrian air defense system in the Mediterranean on Sept. 17.
Speaking at a press conference today, Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said:
” Today, we shared details of what happened to the Russian Space Forces IL-20 aircraft off the Syrian coast on Sept. 17. We will announce the minutes This tragedy is based on data extracted from the radar and the Plotto air information display system, “said Konashenkov.
Israel provided false information about the area
According to Konashenkov, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has provided Russia with false information about the area in which it conducted air strikes in Syria, causing the IL-20 commander not to move the aircraft to safety, In the end, it was shot down by the Syrian air defense.
The Israeli military initially announced that it planned to attack several “industrial facilities” in northern Syria, close to the existing IL-20 area. Therefore, the Russian command asked the IL-20 to return to Khmeimim base. However, Israel almost immediately attacked Latakia.
” During the dialogue through the hotline, representatives of the Israeli Air Force said the targets assigned to Israeli aircraft were in northern Syria, but you can see on maps, Israeli air strikes on Latakia – a province in the west, not in northern Syria – Latakia is located on the west coast.
The false information provided by the Israeli officials about the strike zone has led the IL-20 to insufficient time to move to the safe zone, “said Konashenkov.
Israel warns Russia too late
During the press conference, Konashenkov said that the Israeli Air Force had issued a warning at the start of the strike, rather than warning Russia. This has violated the bilateral 2015 agreement between the two sides to prevent similar incidents in Syrian airspace.
” Israel does not tell Russian forces about the offensive, but gives the right word at the moment they start attacking, which clearly violates the Israeli-Israeli 2015 agreement to prevent it. Stop the conflicts between the armed forces of the two countries in Syria, “said Konashenkov.
According to Konashenkov, the Israeli Defense Ministry is presenting a tape recorder demonstrating that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) issued a warning to Russia about a planned air strike on targets in Syria at the time of the accident. IL-20 was shot down.
” The dialogue is done in Russian.” The Russian Defense Ministry has recorded the dialogue,“Konashenkov said.
According to information released at the press conference, the IL-20 crew hit a rocket-high level after being hit by missiles, and pilots on Israeli F-16 fighters used Russian aircraft. “shield” to avoid Syria’s air defense missile.
When the Syrian defense responded to the first attack, Israeli fighters switched on the radar jamming system and retreated to prepare for another attack.
One of these aircraft approached the Syrian coast, and the Russian IL-20 aircraft was preparing to land.
The IL-20 has a radar reflectivity area larger than the F-16, which makes it a target for Syrian air defense, since they use a differentiated anti-Russian system. At the time, the Syrian air defense misidentified the IL-20 as a group of Israeli fighters.
Mr Konashenkov also dismissed the Israeli Air Force’s (IDF) statement that its fighters had reached Israel’s airspace when Syrian troops fired anti-aircraft missiles at Russian aircraft.
In fact, after receiving information about the shooting down 10 minutes, the Israeli F-16 fighter jets left the area.
” The Israeli military has committed serious and unprofessional negligence – two factors that led to the shooting of the IL-20 ,” Konashenkov said, adding that the error in the case was “entirely false.” Israel.
In addition, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry said Israel’s fighter jets posed a direct threat to any passenger or transport aircraft that might be present in the area at the time. The IL-20 was shot down.
Israel has had “an ungrateful reaction”
Also at the press conference, Mr Konashenkov criticized Israeli negligence for seriously violating the spirit of cooperation between the two countries, underscoring that Russia had never broken its commitment to the deal. sudden
Moscow has always alerted Israel about its activities and has never used its anti-aircraft capabilities against Israel, even as Israeli attacks have sometimes put Russian troops at risk.
Russia has reported to Israeli Air Force 310, while Israel has reported 25 times to Russia, although in its 18 months alone, its fighters have carried out 200 air strikes. targets in Syria.
“This is a tremendous response to all that Russia has done to Israel and its people recently, ” said Konashenkov.
Earlier, the Russian military had supported Syria’s military operations in the Golan Heights to ” ensure no shelling attacks on Israeli territory “, thereby permitting Lien’s peacekeeping forces. The United States resumed patrols in the disputed Syrian-Israeli border after a six-year hiatus.
Russia has also made sure that Iranian-backed groups pull out of the Golan Heights, retreat more than 140 kilometers east of Syria, to a “safe haven for Israel”. Mr. Konashenkov said this was done at the request of Tel Aviv.
“A total of 1,050 soldiers, 24 rocket launchers and tactical missiles, and 145 units of ammunition and military equipment have been withdrawn from the area, ” a Defense Ministry spokesman said.
In addition, the Russian Defense Ministry supported the preservation of the sacred and sacred sites of the Jews of Aleppo. Despite putting the task force in danger, Russia organized a search for Israeli servicemen killed in past conflicts in areas where Syrian forces were battling IS at the time. there.
Many people are unaware of the risks of blowing with compressed air. It can be difficult to understand that air can be dangerous. In its original state, compressed air consists of regular air, but it is no longer regular air when it has been converted to compressed air. Compressed air has a higher pressure than regular, atmospheric air, which means that there are a number of potential risks if it is handled incorrectly.
President Hassan Rouhani says the United States wants to cause insecurity in Iran with the help of “small mercenary states” in the region, but that the Islamic Republic is ready to confront them. Rouhani’s remarks in Tehran Sunday before leaving for New York to attend the UN General Assembly came a day after terrorists attacked a military parade in Ahvaz in southwest Iran, killing 25 people.
Ahvaz Terror Attack
(collage by Iranian daily Sazandegi)
“Americans want Iran to have no security. They want to create chaos and turmoil and set the conditions so that they can return to the country one day and take charge as they did in the old days, but none of these is possible,” the president said.
“These are unattainable dreams and America will never achieve any of these goals,” Rouhani added.
He touched on Washington’s hostile policies toward Iran, including its withdrawal from an international nuclear deal with Tehran under “delusional excuses,” putting a nation under strain.
“Our people will resist and the government has prepared itself for this confrontation,” he said, adding that everyone will “join hands to put these difficult times behind us with the grace of God.”
“The Americans will regret what they did because they made a very wrong choice”, the president added.
Source: Iranian daily Farheekhtegan
Rouhani also said the US is provoking regional states against Iran, citing the terrorist attack in Ahvaz, which also left scores of people, including women and children, injured.
“It is entirely clear to us who did it, who they are and where they are affiliated to,” he said.
“The sponsor of all these small mercenary countries in the region is America. Americans are provoking them and providing the right conditions for them to commit these crimes,” Rouhani added.
Source: Iranian daily Esfahan Emrooz
The president said these acts will have no effect on the will and direction of the Iranian nation which “has stood up and resisted much bigger crimes.”
Terrorists opened fire on people watching a military parade held to mark the invasion of Iran by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1980s.
The Saudi-backed al-Ahvaziya terror group, which is based in Europe, has claimed responsibility for the assault.
Headline by Iranian daily Jomleh: “Saudi Arabia’s footprint in Ahvaz’s bloody incident”
Rouhani said as long as Saddam was alive, the group used to be a mercenary of the former Ba’ath regime, but they switched their fealty to a “southern Persian Gulf state” which has undertaken to provide the terrorists with funds, weapons and political assistance.
Members of the terror group, he said, had lived inside Iraq for years but Iran granted them amnesty after the end of the Iraqi-imposed war in 1988. Nevertheless, “they have never regretted or stopped their crimes,” he added.
Source: Iranian daily Mardomsalari
Rouhani described the Saturday attack, especially in a city which “valiantly withstood eight years” of attacks by Saddam’s forces, a “big crime” which will not go unpunished.
“Iran’s answer to these crimes will be within the framework of law and the country’s national interests,” he said as he paid tribute to the residents of Ahvaz.
“In the early months of the war, there were days when cannonballs would smash into the streets of Ahvaz and I saw them, but the residents did not evacuate the city and stayed put and resisted,” he recounted.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Rouhani hit out at the US for abusing the UN which Trump reportedly plans to use for a series of speeches to push a hard line against Iran.
A year after he shocked his counterparts by threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea in his inaugural UN address, Trump is expected to outline his confrontation with Iran, global trade and his “America first” view of foreign policy.
Trump lawyer calls for ‘revolution’ in Iran
Speaking in New York on Saturday, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed that US sanctions were working in Iran and that the coercive measures could lead to a “successful revolution.”
“I don’t know when we’re going to overthrow them,” he told a meeting of Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) terrorist group. “It could be in a few days, months, a couple of years. But it’s going to happen.”
Giuliani’s comments contradicted the Trump administration’s pronouncements that it was not seeking a government change in Iran.
Washington has long been supporting the MKO. In 2012, the US State Department removed the group from its list of designated terrorist organizations.
Nevertheless, the anti-Iran grouplet is listed as a terrorist entity by much of the international community. Its members fled Iran in 1986 for Iraq, where it enjoyed the support of the Saddam regime.
[The Al-Ahwazin terror group (Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, ASMLA) has recently been rescued from obscurity by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, when he denounced Iranian “assassination operations in the heart of Europe”. He was referring to recent
The terror attack Pompeo referred to was the 2017 execution in Netherlands of one escaped terrorist leader/bomber, Ahmad Nissi, the self-exiled Iranian-Arab expatriate, leader of the Al-Ahwazin terrorist group, the group which took credit for the attack upon Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.]
“According to the report, Ahmed Nisi, one month before the assassination, carried out a confidential visit to Saudi Arabia with the bard of bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, a former head of the intelligence agency (intelligence and security) in the city of Geneva.
During this meeting, Bandar bin Sultan negotiated with Ahmad Nissi regarding the allocation of facilities and military logistics to equip Al-Ahwazin forces in southern Iran and urged him, in the event of a possible military attack on Iran, by the separatist leader The Arabs, in conjunction with the separatist forces of Al-Ahwaziyun, will intensify the military movements in southern Iran, providing the area of insurgency and separation of this part of our country.”–The assassination of Ahmad Nissi in the Netherlands was carried out by the Revolutionary Guard’s Qods Force
I liked it when he said, “These cases are complicated and difficult to prosecute, but if you’re serious about doing them, you can.” Doesn’t that describe the situation perfectly? It can be done if we set our minds to it. We need to get started and make that happen.
Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.
— Napoleon Bonaparte
The modern power elites thrive by forgetting any regrettable past. This amnesia is easy at Harvard, where the legal fiduciaries operate in secret and need not answer for their acts. They are the antipodes of the selfless institutional servants who built Harvard and other great American enterprises, and they bear close watching.
This handbook, CD, and website, produced from a USIP grant, describes proven strategies and tactics for nonviolent political movements. Based on first hand experience in Serbia and Georgia, the resources provide easily accessible lessons and best practices to front-line practitioners engaged in struggles for freedom around the world.
Kenya an exception to failure of US military aid in Africa, study finds
Recce Squad members called in to flush an armed thug out of a house in Muthaiga, Nairobi in 2014. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP NATION
Assessment shows US military aid to African countries appears to have actually worsened conflicts during the Cold War era.
Kenya is cited as a seemingly rare example of an African country whose security forces have performed more effectively as a result of US assistance.
Study says GSU performed more competently than other units responding to the Westgate Mall attack in 2013.
Advertisement By KEVIN J. KELLEY, NEW YORK,
US assistance to security forces in African countries has failed to quell political violence on the part of insurgents or terrorists, a think tank has concluded in pair of new studies.
The analyses conducted for the US Defence Department and the US Africa Command reveals that multi-billion-dollar efforts during the past 25 years to train national security forces in Africa have been “highly inefficient.”
During the Cold War era, US military aid to African countries appears to have actually worsened conflicts, the assessment adds.
But when provided in conjunction with United Nations peacekeeping operations, US military aid “has had a significant impact on the incidence of political violence,” adds the assessment carried out by the California-based Rand Corporation.
The studies do not examine specific conflicts, but Kenya is cited in one of the analyses as a seemingly rare example of an African country whose security forces have performed more effectively as a result of US assistance.
“The Kenyan security units that have worked closest with US officials have demonstrated their capacity for counterterrorism, including in challenging contexts,” this evaluation finds. Kenyan troops that received US training “performed well in Amisom operations — for example, successfully retaking territory from Al-Shabaab,” the Rand study team adds.
In addition to supporting KDF contingents deployed in Somalia, the US has focused on enhancing the capacity of Kenyan police, including through the creation of specialised anti-terrorism units, this country-specific report notes.
US assistance has also been directed to institutional police reforms following the 2007-2008 “outbreak of communal violence in which the police were heavily implicated,” the study says.
“Similarly,” the study adds, “the elite paramilitary police General Services Unit, which has received substantial US support, performed more competently than other units responding to the Westgate Mall attack in 2013, although the overall security forces’ response was plagued by ‘significant shortcomings’.”
Kenyan police forces became “less politicised and more professional” due in part to US assistance from 2008 to 2013, “resulting in better performance in the 2013 elections,” the Rand assessment states.
“Also, some evidence suggests that, following US training, the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit is carrying out fewer extrajudicial killings, collecting better evidence, and making more arrests than in the past.”
The study acknowledges, however, that there are continuing reports of human rights abuses by this and other Kenyan security units.
Moreover, the country’s current leadership “appears to be backsliding on some of the reforms made since 2008.”
Stephen Watts, an author of both Rand studies, tempered the positive appraisal of KDF operations in Somalia following a query from the Nation.
An email message to Mr Watts pointed to UN reports of KDF responsibility for the deaths of several Somali civilians.
The message also recalled findings by UN experts in 2016 that some KDF troops stationed in or near Kismayo were collaborating with Al-Shabaab in circumventing the international embargo on charcoal exports from Somalia.
“We should have been a little more precise in the wording of our judgment of Kenya’s performance in Somalia,” Mr Watts replied.
“We were arguing that there is evidence to suggest that Kenyan forces demonstrated improvements in their operational capabilities, and some of the units that seemed particularly capable were those that cooperated most closely with US trainers and advisers.”
PUL-I-KUMRI, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents killed so many Afghan security forces in 2016, an average of 22 a day, that by the following year the Afghan and American governments decided to keep battlefield death tolls secret.
It’s much worse now. The daily fatalities among Afghan soldiers and policemen were more than double that last week: roughly 57 a day.
Seventeen years after the United States went to war in Afghanistan, the Taliban is gaining momentum, seizing territory, and killing Afghan security forces in record numbers.
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Last week was especially bad, with more than 400 killed, according to an account by diplomats. But even the average numbers in recent months — from 30 to 40 a day, according to senior Afghan officials — represent a substantial upswing from two years ago and appear unsustainable in a country that has been shattered by decades of war.
The growing losses have made recruiting fresh soldiers more important than ever, but also harder than ever. Most days at the Afghan Army’s recruitment center in Helmand, the southern province that has seen the war’s worst fighting, there are only two or three applicants, said Abdul Qudous, the center’s head.
“Sometimes we don’t see any recruits for weeks,” he said. “People don’t want to join the army any more because the casualties are too high.”
This is not just a matter of lives lost, which reverberate through families already traumatized by decades of war. It is also a sign that the stalemate between the Taliban and government forces is tipping in the insurgents’ favor. Throughout this year, the Taliban have owned the initiative against government forces who have been spread thin and rooted to the defensive. The security forces have repeatedly had to call on the small American contingent here — and its considerable air power — to rescue them from trouble.
In a war of attrition, the momentum is all with the Taliban, who seem to have no trouble replenishing their forces.
Dramatic footage made on the spot shows the moment assailants opened fire at troops participating in an Iranian Army parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz.
The video emerged shortly after the attack took place. A trembling camera records soldiers lying on the ground while multiple gunshots are heard in the background. Several seconds into the footage, troops wearing body armor and carrying assault rifles are seen crawling through the area.
Warning! Footage contains scenes you may find disturbing.
A controversy around the presence – or not – of an American military base on Tunisian soil. According to the Washington Post, the United States reportedly “secretly extended its global network of drone bases to North Africa,” including Tunisia, “to conduct spy missions in neighboring Libya.” Drones, which would take off from the Tunisian base since late June and have “a key role in the US air offensive against Sirte, a stronghold of the Islamic State” in Libya. But Tunisia denies this information.
The categorical denial came from Farhat Horchani, the Minister of Defense. ” The era of military bases is over, ” he says, before adding: ” Tunisia is a sovereign country and will not host foreign bases . ”
He recalled that his country had opposed international military intervention in Libya.
No US base in Tunisia, but bilateral cooperation in the fight against terrorism, specify the authorities. Tunis has acquired reconnaissance aircraft and drones ” to control the border with Libya “. The Ministry of Defense also recognizes that US military are present in Tunisia to train ” members of the Tunisian army in the use of developed tools and control systems at the border “.
These denials have not necessarily convinced citizens. ” Simple hacks or rumors based? “Asks the newspaper Le Quotidien for example.
Since the attacks of 2015, Tunisia has considerably expanded its military partnership with the United States. It has also obtained the status of major ally non-NATO member. A status that allows it enhanced cooperation with Washington, especially in the development and purchase of arms
معلومات لمراسل الميادين تفيد بأنّ موسكو رفضت التقرير الذي قدمه الوفد العسكري الإسرائيلي حول إسقاط الطائرة “إيل 20″، والذي يحمّل الطرفين الروسي والسوري مسؤولية إسقاط الطائرة. Information to the correspondent of the fields that Moscow rejected the report submitted by the Israeli military delegation on the downing of the plane “El 20”, which holds the Russian and Syrian parties responsible for dropping the plane.
القيادة العسكرية الروسية لم تعلق على نتائج زيارة الوفد الإسرائيليThe Russian military leadership did not comment on the results of the Israeli delegation’s visit
أفادت معلومات لمراسل الميادين في موسكو بأنّ روسيا رفضت التقرير الذي قدمه الوفد العسكري الإسرائيلي حول إسقاط الطائرة “إيل 20”. According to information from the Moscow correspondent in Moscow, Russia rejected the report presented by the Israeli military delegation about the downing of the El-20 plane. وأشارت الملعومات إلى أنّ روسيا طالبت تل أبيب بإجراء تحقيق جديد حول إسقاط الطائرة. Russia has demanded that Tel Aviv conduct a new investigation into the downing of the plane. ووفقاً لهذه المعلومات فإنّ التقرير الإسرائيلي يحمّل الطرفين الروسي والسوري مسؤولية إسقاط الطائرة، ويشير إلى أوامر خاطئة أصدرها الروس ما أدى إلى تعرض الطائرة للنيران السورية. According to this information, the Israeli report holds the Russian and Syrian parties responsible for dropping the plane, and refers to the wrong orders issued by the Russians, which led to the exposure of the aircraft to the Syrian fire. وذكرت معلومات مراسل الميادين أنّ التقرير يقول إن الطائرة كانت تتجسس على الفرقاطة الفرنسية اوفيرن قبل أن تغير وجهتها جنوبا. The report says the plane was spying on the French frigate Overne before changing its destination south.
لم تنطلِ على الروس الحيلةُ الإسرائيلية التي أرادت تل أبيب من خلالها تلبيس الجانب السوري التهمة بإسقاط طائرة الاستطلاع “إيل 20”. The Russians did not think of the Israeli trick that Tel Aviv wanted through which the Syrian side was accused of shooting down the El-20 reconnaissance plane.القيادة العسكرية الروسية لم تعلق على نتائج زيارة قائد سلاح الطيران الإسرائيلي عاميكام نوركين والوفد المرافق له إلى موسكو ما يعني أنها ظلت متمسكة بموقفها ومفاده أن الطيارين الإسرائيليين يتحملون كامل المسؤولية عن نكبة “ايل 20” ومصرع من كان على متنها. The Russian military leadership did not comment on the results of the visit of the commander of the Israeli Air Force Amikam Norkin and his delegation to Moscow, which means that it remained steadfast in its position that the Israeli pilots bear full responsibility for the disaster of “Il 20” and the death of those on board.وما يدعم هذا الموقف أن الرئيس فلاديمير بوتين لم يبدِ نية في لقاء العسكريين الإسرائيليين الذين كان يفترض أن ينقلوا له التعازي بالمصاب. What supports this position is that President Vladimir Putin did not show any intention to meet with the Israeli soldiers who were supposed to convey his condolences to the wounded.الخارجية الروسية هي الأخرى لم تفوت الفرصة لتؤكد مجدداً اتهامها (لإسرائيل) بالمسؤولية عن الحادثة. The Russian Foreign Ministry also did not miss the opportunity to reiterate its accusation (of Israel) of responsibility for the incident.وكما قالت المتحدة باسم الدبلوماسية الروسية ماريا زاخاروفا فإنه “من العار الاختباء وراء ظهور أولئك الذين يوفرون الأمن للجميع، بمن فيهم الإسرائيليين، وبأدائهم هذا الواجب لا يستطيعون الحيود عن الرصاصة التي لم تطلق عليهم”. As the United Nations said on behalf of Russian diplomat Maria Zakharova, “It is a shame to hide behind the appearance of those who provide security for all, including the Israelis, and in doing so they can not break away from the bullet that has not been fired at them.” أما الإسرائيليون فقد أصدروا بياناً مقتضباً بعد مغادرتهم موسكو قالوا فيه إنهم قدموا تقريراً مفصلاً حول روايتهم لملابسات الحادثة، وأن الجانبين أكدا ضرورة الحفاظ على آلية تفادي الاشتباك في سوريا. The Israelis issued a brief statement after leaving Moscow saying that they provided a detailed report on their account of the circumstances of the incident, and both sides stressed the need to maintain the mechanism of avoiding engagement in Syria.وكالعادة تحدثوا عن الخطر الإيراني ونقل أسلحة استراتيجية إلى “حزب الله” – أسطوانة مشروخة لم تعد تقنع الروس. As usual, they talked about the Iranian threat and the transfer of strategic weapons to Hezbollah – a broken cylinder that no longer convinces the Russians.ولعل تكذيب الأمين العام لـ”حزب الله” السيد حسن نصر اللّه للادعاءات التي تذرع بها الإسرائيليون في عدوانهم على اللاذقية وضع الأمور في نصابها الصحيح الذي ينسجم مع ردة الفعل الروسية على إسقاط طائرتهم. The denial of the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Mr. Hassan Nasrallah, to the allegations made by the Israelis in their aggression against Latakia put things in perspective, which is consistent with the Russian reaction to the downing of their aircraft.وردة الفعل هذه غير مسبوقة! This reaction is unprecedented!الكل في روسيا أدانوا بصوت واحد التورط الإسرائيلي في الحادثة. All in Russia condemned in one voice the Israeli involvement in the incident.حتى بعض الإعلام الروسي المعروف بميوله (لإسرائيل) وجد نفسه محرجاً ولم يكن بوسعه تجاهل الأمر. Even some well-known Russian media (of Israel) found himself embarrassed and could not ignore it.بدا المشهد الإعلامي في روسيا وكأن الجميع تلقوا تعليمات مباشرة “من فوق” لإدانة التصرف الإسرائيلي، أو أضعف الإيمان انتقاده. The media scene in Russia seemed as if everyone had received direct instructions “from above” to condemn Israeli behavior, or the weakest faith to criticize. في هذه الأجواء جرت زيارة العسكريين الإسرائيليين إلى موسكو، زيارة لم تحظ بتغطية إعلامية روسية. In this atmosphere, the Israeli military visited Moscow, a visit that did not receive Russian media coverage. فهل نشهد تحولاً في تعامل روسيا سياسياً وإعلامياً مع إسرائيل بعد حادثة “ايل 20” أم أنها مجرد تنفيس للاحتقان؟ Are we witnessing a shift in Russia’s political and media dealings with Israel after the IL-20 incident, or is it just a vent for congestion?
Following a show of force by the US Marine Corps in Syria, Russia has backed off its earlier threats to conduct operations inside the deconfliction zone, an area of strategic significance for the Russians, the Syrians, and the Iranians.
The Russians appear to have backed off their earlier threats after the US Marine Corps sent them a clear message.
The Pentagon, US Central Command, and Operation Inherent Resolve have all confirmed that Russia has stayed out of the deconfliction zone and is no longer insisting on conducting operations or launching precision strikes in the area near the At Tanf garrison, where US Marines are based.
Russia warned the US twice on September 1 and again on September 6 that the Russian military, together with Syrian and pro-regime forces, planned to carry out counterterrorism operations inside the 55-kilometer deconfliction zone. It accused the US and its coalition partners of harboring terrorists.
Immediately following Russia’s threats, the US Marine Corps conducted a live-fire demonstration at the At Tanf garrison to drive home the point that the US military did not need Russia’s help eliminating terrorists.
“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria, or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” the US Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown previously told Business Insider, adding: “The United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition, or partner forces as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances.”
“The US does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy ISIS in the At Tanf deconfliction zone, and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” he added.
In the nearly two weeks since, the Russians have not contacted the US military about operations inside the deconfliction zone, an area the Syrians and the Russians want to access to build a strategic land bridge between Tehran and Damascus.
The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.
On Monday evening, four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean, a statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday. The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region,” it said.
The military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.
“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile,” the statement said.
Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.
The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,” the statement said.
The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.
A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.
Israel did not comment on the reports about the air raid in Syria, which is consistent with its usual policy on such matters. Israeli officials earlier acknowledged hundreds of airstrikes conducted in Syria over the past years. Israel claims its interventions are necessary to fight the Iranian presence in its neighboring country.
The pro-Erdoğan Turkish Yeni Şafak daily claimed on Wednesday that US President Donald Trump and US Vice President Mike Pence are pondering a “crusade,” saying the US is run by the “lunatics of a deviant sect.”
“The world is facing the attacks of the Zionist-Christian sect of evangelicalism. The ‘superpower’ US is run by neocon evangelicals who espouse wiping out humanity to get to paradise. The lunatics of this deviant sect, US President Trump, who can shake the markets with a tweet, and his deputy Pence are a threat to humanity,” said the daily in its lead story.
“If Pence becomes president, it will pave the way for the US turning into a religious state,” the daily asserted, adding that Trump has been using the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey to get the support of evangelicals in the November 2018 congressional elections.
Yeni Şafak’s story was also shared on the websites of the Sabah, Takvim and Akşam newspapers, which are run by people close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Turkey has been experiencing a currency crisis since its relations with the US administration were dramatically strained over a court decision to put American pastor Brunson under house arrest after almost two years in pretrial detention rather than release him as demanded by the US administration.
Following the court ruling, Trump and Pence threatened to impose “large sanctions” on Turkey if Brunson were not freed.
After declaring economic sanctions on two Turkish ministers on Aug. 1 for their role in Brunson’s continuing detention, Trump on Aug. 10 ramped up his attack on Turkey by doubling US tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports to 20 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
“Some unaware people among us think that their target is Tayyip Erdoğan. No, the target is Turkey. The target is Islam,” Erdoğan said on Aug. 26, linking regional conflicts and the ongoing currency crisis in Turkey to previous attempts to invade Anatolia.
Erdoğan on Aug. 20 said, “attacks against the Turkish economy are no different than attacking the adhan [call to prayer] and the flag.” (turkishminute.com)
There’s plenty of proof that the U.S. Government protects Al Qaeda in Syria. Right now, America is protecting Al Qaeda’s main center throughout the world, which is the province of Idlib in Syria. This protection is part of a bigger picture, no merely isolated phenomenon.
For example: the key point of difference between the Obama Administration in America and the Putin Administration in Russia, regarding the establishment of a cease-fire in the Syrian war, was that Obama refused to allow Al Qaeda in Syria to be bombed during the proposed ceasefire, but Putin insisted that both Al Qaeda in Syria and ISIS in Syria must continue to be bombed during the ceasefire. Obama was protecting Al Qaeda in Syria, but Putin insisted upon bombing Al Qaeda and not only ISIS during any ceasefire there. (See the proof at that link, and you will also understand why Obama was protecting Al Qaeda in Syria.)
Right now, the U.S. Government and some of its allies are threatening to go to war against Russia if Russia will bomb the world’s highest concentration of Al Qaeda terrorists. Those terrorists are located in the only province of Syria that has always preferred Al Qaeda and ISIS to the Government of Syria’s secular President, Bashar al-Assad. That’s Idlib province, which now is Al Qaeda central, like Afghanistan used to be before 9/11 (and for which the U.S. bombed Afghanistan right after 9/11).
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A 30 July 2017 speech makes this clear. The speech wasn’t given by an opponent or critic of the U.S. Government, but by a high official of the U.S. Government who speaks for the President of the United States on Syria and who has been doing this not only under Trump, but under Obama. This official is the neoconservative and rabidly anti-Assad and anti-Iranian and pro-Saudi and pro-Israeli Brett McGurk, who is U.S. President Trump’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, at the U.S. Department of State. He publicly acknowledged that “Idlib province is the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11, tied directly to Ayman al-Zawahiri. … Leaders of Al Qaeda who make their way to Idlib province often do not make their way out of there.” He acknowledges there that Idlib is like the pre-9/11 Afghanistan was. McGurk, who consistently supports Sunni Saudi Arabia against Shiite Iran, blames Shiite Iran for Al Qaeda, and for everything that Al Qaeda does. He gives as his reason for blaming Iran, Iran’s having been insufficiently hostile toward Al Qaeda members. (One can say the same about any Muslim-majority nation, but especially regarding Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni-Muslim ones, particularly because Al Qaeda is itself an intensely Sunni organization, not at all Shiite.)
Likewise, the neoconservative scholar Kyle Orton wrote on 21 July 2017 (just days before that U.S. official, McGurk, spoke) saying that Al Qaeda threatens to apply terrorism against Iran if Iran goes too hard against Al Qaeda, and yet Orton also said that Iran is to blame for what Al Qaeda does.
In other words: Iran is in fear of Al Qaeda, and yet (according to Orton and the U.S. Government, including McGurk) Iran is responsible for Al Qaeda — that’s actually the official U.S. viewpoint, crazy though it sounds (and it can be understood only by understanding the broader picture).
The fact that Al Qaeda is totally a Sunni operation, and the fact that Al Qaeda believes that all Shia should be killed, are simply being ignored by U.S. officials. 9/11 is instead blamed on Shiites, though its perpetrators (other than Bush, Cheney and their friends) were almost entirely fundamentalist-Sunni Saudis, and none at all were Shiites, from anywhere.
Orton cites the Obama-Trump Administrations’ McGurk as providing support for his view that Iran needs to be conquered, and that, as the Trump Administration says and the Obama Administration had said, “Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world today.” Not Saudi Arabia, but Iran (which the Saud family have sworn to destroy). The U.S. Government blames Iran, regardless of the evidence, and blames it for everything bad in and from the Middle East. The U.S. Government know better, but lies.
Putin, Erdogan, and Rouhani, met in Tehran on September 7th to discuss the threat by Trump (from condemnation backed not only by Trump’s allies but by the ‘humanitarian’ agencies of the U.N.), the Trump Administration’s threat to go to war against Russia for ‘humanitarian’ reasons if Russia assists Assad’s effort to exterminate the jihadists in Idlib. Russia didn’t want World War III, and so this meeting in Tehran occurred. TIME magazine headlined on September 7th, “Presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran Meet to Plot Future of Syria Ahead of Battle for Last Rebel Stronghold” and reported that “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a cease-fire and an end to airstrikes in the northwestern province of Idlib, something that wasn’t immediately accepted by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.”
No public announcement was made of what had been agreed-to at the conference. On September 9th, the Wall Street Journal reported that, “President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has approved the use of chlorine gas in an offensive against the country’s last major rebel stronghold, U.S. officials said.” So, the Trump Administration was continuing its planned false-flag operation to have its terrorists in Idlib unleash an Idlib chemical-weapons attack that’s been set up to be blamed against Assad as an excuse for the U.S. and its allies to launch WW III against Syria, Iran, and Russia in order ‘to protect civilians’ in Idlib.
On September 10th, I headlined “Prelude to World War III” and argued why, “Unless Syria will simply hand its most heavily pro-jihadist province, Idlib, to adjoining Turkey, which claims to have 30,000 troops there and is planning to add 20,000 more, World War III will probably happen soon.” I argued there that:
The way for the plan to avert that outcome to be carried out would be:
Assad and Putin both will announce that due to the complaints from the U.S. Government and from the United Nations and from the Turkish Government, Syria will give up Idlib province, and will construct on the border between it and the adjoining areas of Syria, a DMZ or De-Militarized Zone, so that not only will the residents in Idlib be safe from any attack by Syria and its allies (such as America and its allies have been demanding), but Syrians — in all the others of Syria’s provinces — will likewise be safe against any continued attacks by the jihadists that have concentrated themselves in Idlib.
This way, Turkey’s President Erdogan can safely keep his 50,000 troops in Idlib if he wishes; America’s President Trump can claim victory in Syria and finally fulfill his long-promised intention to end the U.S. occupation of (most of the jihadist-controlled) parts of Syria (which they’ve occupied), and maybe WW III can be avoided, or, at least, postponed, maybe even so that people living today won’t be dying-off from WW III and its after-effects.
Also on September 10th, Erdogan headlined a WSJ op-ed, “The World Must Stop Assad: If the Syrian regime attacks Idlib, the result will be a humanitarian and geopolitical disaster.” He argued from Trump’s standpoint. Erdogan now had 50,000 Turkish troops in Idlib. And yet, Russia had already begun a very limited bombing campaign in Idlib. But Turkey’s troops weren’t being hit. Nor were the jihadists being hit that were in place awaiting their camp to be bombed and that had set up the chemical weapons to go off there and so to serve as Trump’s excuse for WW III to begin in Syria.
It was now several days after the September 7th meeting, and yet Trump’s plan for WW III still couldn’t yet be exercised; the excuse for it was still not present. For some reason, a limited cease-fire appears to have been occurring in Idlib.
Evidently, Erdogan had persuaded Putin (if he even really needed persuading — given Trump’s threat, Putin himself might have come up with this plan) that Turkey was going to assume responsibility for Idlib. Russia’s minor bombings in Idlib were just for show, so as not publicly to reveal that Erdogan’s proposal (if it originated with him, instead of with Putin) had won out at the September 7th meeting. If that plan had been publicly first espoused by Putin, then the U.S. side would far more likely have condemned it; but, coming from NATO member Turkey, the U.S. side would be able to present implementation of “Turkey’s position” as being ‘a win for The West’.
But what was the September 7th agreement that was reached in Tehran, really? What was the plan that Putin, Rouhani, and Erdogan, agreed-to?
Clearly, Assad was opposed to it — at least in public. My argument that it would help him and Syria was not publicly shared by him, at all. Whatever the Tehran plan was, with 50,000 Turkish troops now in Idlib, Syria might now, indeed, ultimately have to cede Idlib (the world’s highest-intensity jihadist center) to Turkey.
On September 11th, Peter Korzun at the Strategic Culture Foundation (which favors Russia and its allies, including Syria), argued
Syria needs Idlib — the last stronghold of the jihadists and the shortest route from Latakia to Aleppo. The M5 international highway crosses Idlib, linking Turkey and Jordan through Aleppo and Damascus. Control of the province would greatly facilitate the negotiations with the Kurds and strengthen Syria’s position at the UN-brokered Geneva talks. If the negotiation process succeeds, the only territories left to liberate would be the zone controlled by the US, such as the al-Tanf military base and the surrounding area, the northern parts of the country under Turkish control, and small chunks of land still held by ISIS.
On that same day, SyriaNews.cc (another pro-Syrian site) poured forth venomously against Erdogan for his statements. Linking to this, that commentator said:
“objecting to a major operation there because it would likely cause a major exodus of refugees across the border, with extremists potentially sneaking in with refugees.”
Double whammy to have you keeled over with laughter…or should that be tears.
Concerns for refugees??!! Erdogan steals their organs. Refugee camps in Turkey became harvesting centers for it.
The U.S. alliance is, indeed, now referring to not only Al Qaeda in Idlib but also ISIS in Idlib as being ‘rebels’ and ‘refugees’; and Erdogan does, too. That’s the U.S. side’s propaganda. That SyriaNews commentator was correct to be appalled at it. Erdogan and the U.S. side are accurately represented there. But this does not necessarily mean that Russia and its allies (especially Syria) cannot win with this strategy that’s being condemned by Assad, and by Strategic Culture Foundation, and by Syria News. If that strategy turns out to be the one that I proposed on September 10th, I think that they will win with it. Certainly, for Syria to retain Idlib would be horrible both for Syria and for Assad (who has always been loathed by the residents there, who see him as being either a Shiite or an atheist).
And Erdogan is in both camps — America’s and Russia’s — and playing each side against the other, for what he wants. But he could turn out to be the biggest loser from ‘his’ success here.
If he exterminates Idlib’s jihadists, then the U.S. side will condemn him for it. But if he instead frees those jihadists to return to their home-countries, then both sides will condemn him for having done so.
The biggest apparent ‘winner’ from all this, Erdogan, could thus turn out to be the biggest real loser from it. And the biggest apparent ‘loser’ from it, Assad, could turn out to be the biggest real winner from it.
NEWS UPDATE: On Friday, September 14th, Turkey’s Yeni Safak newspaper bannered “Idlib locals flee to Turkish-controlled areas for safety”, and reported that, “The locals of Syria’s Idlib have started to flee as fears of a looming offensive by the Assad regime and his allies grip the province.” They also headlined “Turkey deploys more armored vehicles to Syrian border”, and reported that, “More military reinforcements including tanks, according to reports from the ground arrived at the Syrian border in Turkey’s southern Hatay province.” These reports are consistent with the plan’s being for Turkey to segregate-out the active jihadists in Idlib so as for Russia and Syria to slaughter those. Another headline there was from Reuters, “Turkey’s Erdoğan, Russia’s Putin to meet in Sochi on Monday”, and this suggests that there is extremely close coordination between Putin and Erdogan on the plan as it proceeds forward. Russian intelligence knows where the al Qaeda and U.S. chemical weapons are located. Presumably, the goal is to kill all the other jihadists first, and then to leave till the end the killing of the ones who are operating the Al Qaeda and U.S. false-flag event. Idlib will remain in Syria. Erdogan doesn’t want it.
*Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010
Men in camouflage and carrying large packs and ‘assault rifles’ were video recorded illegally entering the US at the Chilton Ranch in Arizona. This area is known as ground zero for illegal entry into the US for drug cartels, smugglers, and illegal aliens. Jim Chilton, 79, is a fifth-generation cattleman who has repeatedly warned the government not to leave long stretches of the southwest border secured by nothing more than a barbed-wire fence. Concealed cameras along trails through his 5,000 acre ranch prove the point better than words. A U.S. Border Patrol agent was shot by smugglers in a remote section of Chilton’s ranch in June 2018. [In spite of brave talk in Washington DC about stopping illegal immigration, the government has done nothing to stop this armed invasion. Why do we have soldiers in over a hundred countries in the world but none at the Chilton ranch?] -GEG
Video footage from a ranch in Arizona shows thousands of illegal aliens marching into the United States uninterrupted because there is no border wall, nor border patrol, to stop them.
Jim Chilton, 79, owns a 50,000-acre ranch situated on the U.S.-Mexico border, which has become a hotspot for illegals crossing into the country.
Security camera footage from as recently as 2018 shows individuals in camouflage toting large backpacks and in some cases what appears to be military-style assault rifles walking through his ranch into the States incident free. They even attach the military-style assault rifles to horses.
Certain shots show illegal immigrants pouring into the country literally by the dozen.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Chilton carries a pistol and a rifle while tending his cattle to “ward off the drug smugglers who encroach on his land.”
Typhoon makes landfall in China after killing 59 in Philippines
Elaine Yu with Purple Romero in Tuguegarao
Typhoon Mangkhut killed at least 25 people in the Philippines as it smashed homes and left behind torrents of floodwater
Typhoon Mangkhut killed at least 25 people in the Philippines as it smashed homes and left behind torrents of floodwater (AFP Photo/TED ALJIBE)
Hong Kong (AFP) – Typhoon Mangkhut slammed into mainland China late Sunday after leaving a trail of destruction in Hong Kong and Macau and killing at least 59 people in the northern Philippines.
The world’s biggest storm this year felled trees and sent skyscrapers swaying in high-rise Hong Kong, injuring more than 200 people there before making landfall on the coast of Jiangmen city, in southern China’s Guangdong province.
Provincial authorities said they evacuated a total of 2.37 million people and ordered tens of thousands of fishing boats back to port before the arrival of what Chinese media has dubbed the “King of Storms”.
Mangkhut left large expanses in the north of the main Philippine island of Luzon underwater as fierce winds tore trees from the ground and rain unleashed dozens of landslides.
Hong Kong weather authorities issued their maximum alert for the storm, which hit the city with gusts of more than 230 kilometres per hour (142 mph) and left 213 people injured, according to government figures.
As the storm passed south of Hong Kong, trees were snapped in half and roads blocked, while some windows in tower blocks were smashed and skyscrapers swayed, as they are designed to do in intense gales.
The Philippines was just beginning to count the cost of the typhoon which hit northern Luzon on Saturday. The death toll jumped to 59 on Sunday evening, police said, as more landslide victims were discovered.
Authorities said they would continue efforts in the morning to dig out a group of roughly two dozen miners who are feared dead after their bunkhouse was hit by a landslide near the northern city of Baguio.
In the town of Baggao the typhoon demolished houses, tore off roofs and downed power lines. Some roads were cut off by landslides and many remained submerged.
Farms across northern Luzon, which produces much of the nation’s rice and corn, were swamped by muddy floodwater, their crops ruined just a month before harvest.
“We’re already poor and then this happened to us. We have lost hope,” 40-year-old Mary Anne Baril, whose corn and rice crops were spoilt, told AFP.
“We have no other means to survive,” she said tearfully.
– Flooding in Hong Kong and Macau –
An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people.
The latest victims were mostly people who died in landslides, including a family of four. In addition to those killed in the Philippines, a woman was swept out to sea in Taiwan.
In Hong Kong, waters surged in the famous Victoria Harbour and coastal fishing villages, from which hundreds of residents were evacuated to storm shelters.
Some roads were waist-deep in water with parts of the city cut off by floods and fallen trees.
In the fishing village of Tai O, where many people live in stilt houses built over the sea, some desperately tried to bail out their inundated homes.
“Floodwater is rushing into my home but I’m continuously shovelling the water out. It’s a race against time,” resident Lau King-cheung told AFP by phone.
The government warned people to stay indoors but some ventured out, heading to the coast to take photos.
A couple with a child were seen by an AFP reporter taking pictures on a pier known as a popular Instagram spot as waves surged and almost submerged it.
Others stayed at home but were terrified by smashing windows in their apartments.
“The entire floor and bed are covered in glass,” one resident told local broadcaster TVB after her bedroom window shattered. “The wind is so strong.”
Almost all flights in and out of Hong Kong were cancelled. Schools in the city will be shut Monday.
In the neighbouring gambling enclave of Macau, all 42 casinos shut down for the first time in its history.
As the storm moved past Macau to the south, streets became submerged under water gushing in from the harbour.
Emergency workers navigated the roads on jet-skis and dinghies, rescuing trapped residents.
The government and casinos are taking extra precautions after Macau was battered by Typhoon Hato last year, which left 12 dead.
Speaking on the House floor on September 13, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard accused the Trump administration of protecting al-Qaeda terrorists in Idlib. According to the congresswoman, this amounts to the betrayal of the American people and victims of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks in the US.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) called out President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence for allegedly protecting al-Qaeda* in Idlib, Syria, while speaking in the House on September 13.
“Two days ago, President Trump and Vice President Pence delivered solemn speeches about the attacks on 9/11, talking about how much they care about the victims of al-Qaeda’s attack on our country. But, they are now standing up to protect the 20,000 to 40,000 al-Qaeda and other jihadist forces in Syria, and threatening Russia, Syria, and Iran, with military force if they dare attack these terrorists,” the congresswoman stressed.
Gabbard qualified the Trump administration’s handling of the Idlib problem as nothing short of “betrayal of the American people” and most notably, “the victims of al-Qaeda’s attack on 9/11 and their families.”
“For the president, who is commander in chief, to act as the protective big brother of al-Qaeda and other jihadists must be condemned by every member of Congress,” she emphasized.
While Damascus is preparing to launch an advance on Idlib, the last terrorist stronghold in Syria, which accommodates, according to some estimates, up to 70,000 jihadi militants, Washington continues to issue threats against Syrian government forces and their allies trying to pressure them into abandoning the operation.In late August, National Security Adviser John Bolton expressed suspicions that the Assad government could resort to the use of chemical arms in Idlib and threatened Damascus with a “strong” response.
The Syrian government has repeatedly pointed to the fact that it destroyed its chemical weapon stockpiles as well as chemical weapon production facilities between September 2013 and August 2014 under the supervision of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which was verified by the OPCW in January 2016.
Commenting on the upcoming offensive on the terrorist-held province, President Trump tweeted on September 3 that “President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib province.”
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!
”The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!” he claimed.
“What we told, you know, the Syrians, the Russians and the Iranians was, well, twice we have warned you not to use chemical weapons; twice you have used it, and twice President Trump has acted. Don’t test us again,” Haley said in an interview with Fox News, referring to chemical incidents in Khan Sheikhoun and Douma and subsequent missile strikes against Syrian government forces by the US and its allies.
However, no evidence has been presented so far to confirm the involvement of Damascus and its allies in the incidents so far. Likewise, there has been no proof presented backing the claim that the Syrian government is going use poisonous substances in the region.In contrast, the Syrian Foreign Ministry and Russian Ministry of Defense are citing evidence of a potential terrorist-arranged chemical provocation being coordinated in Idlib province. It was reported that the White Helmets NGO had smuggled a large shipment of poisonous substances to Ahrar al-Sham warehouses in Idlib.
Meanwhile, Damascus is amassing forces to launch an attack against Idlib, which is home to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham*, an umbrella terrorist organization led by al-Nusra Front*, an al-Qaeda associated group in Syria.
For its part, Russia is holding talks on the situation in the region with Iran and Turkey as well as with other players within the framework of the UN Security Council and on the Geneva platform.
*Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, al-Nusra Front (Jabhat Fatah al-Sham), al-Qaeda are terrorist groups, banned in Russia.
Seventeen years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US government and media outlets have decided that Al-Qaeda is now a rebel group worthy of our sympathy. The cynical narrative change is par for the course, experts told RT.
As somber newspaper headlines mark the anniversary of the devastating attacks, some commentators have pointed out that the terrorist group accused of murdering 3,000 Americans seventeen years ago is now occupying northeastern Syria – with the US threatening to take military action if the “rebels” are evicted from the region by the Syrian army and its allies.
I’ll never reconcile how the biggest post-9/11 hawks turned into the biggest boosters of the jihad in Syria.
It’s the 17th anniversary of 9/11 and the media has honored it by referring to Al Qaeda’s largest affiliate in history in Syria’s idlib as “rebels” and mourning their looming defeat. So weird pic.twitter.com/g4Vzvwwe23
The United States has spent an estimated $1.5 trillion on its Global War Against Terrorism, launched in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, but the United States now seems to find itself providing diplomatic cover – not to mention excellent press – to the terrorists that it once vowed to eradicate.
The majority of Syria’s Idlib province is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a State Department-designated terrorist group that is regarded as indistinguishable from Al-Qaeda. But the US has signaled that it will respond militarily to any efforts by Damascus to evict the internationally-recognized terrorist group from its last stronghold in Syria, with the New York Times even fawning over the jihadists as “a de facto governmental authority, facilitating trade across the long border with Turkey and organizing aid deliveries.” What happened?
Even as social media fills up with maudlin GIFs vowing to “Never Forget” the September 11 attacks, one of the reasons that Al-Qaeda has been able to remain in Idlib is because Americans have actually “forgotten,” analysts say.
“A lot of time has passed since 9/11. They got Osama bin Laden and people have moved on, and they have other issues that they’re focusing on,” former Pentagon official Michael Maloof told RT. According to Maloof, many Americans are now preoccupied with domestic scandals like “Russian collusion,” and they’re “not focused on the extent to which the Trump administration is providing backing and support to Al-Qaeda today in Syria. And it’s really tragic.”
However, those who are paying attention are “tired of the lies,” Willy Wimmer, a former state secretary to the German defense minister, told RT.
“I think the public in the West is tired of the lies of their own government concerning Al-Qaeda, or other terrorists groups.” He noted that it’s an open secret that the US, UK, France, Saudi Arabia and Gulf states provide direct and indirect support to “rebel” groups that under normal circumstances would be considered terrorists.
What’s the endgame?
But what does the United States hope to gain from deterring an attack on Al-Qaeda’s last enclave in Syria?
Washington’s threats of military action are a way of preserving a “modicum of influence” in Syria, Maloof said. “The US is looking at Idlib and support for Al-Qaeda to maintain influence and try to deflect attention away from domestic problems.” He added that the US is using the excuses of “humanitarian disaster and chemical weapons” to justify its military activity in the country.
“They’re going to go kinetic if there’s an attack in Idlib,” Maloof predicted.
Wimmer warned against trying to overthink Washington’s shocking change of heart concerning Al-Qaeda. “You can’t look at US foreign policy under logical terms,” he said.
“These groups are used to topple whole regions, not only Syria but also other countries, and at the end we fight against a threat that was organized by our own governments. And I think people are tired of this.”
He noted that the US has “danced on its own argument” by accusing Russia of using anti-terrorism operations as a false pretext for getting militarily involved in Syria, adding that unlike Russia and Iran’s presence in the country, “under all legal terms, there is no justification for a US presence in Syria under international law.”
Exercises to demonstrate coalition’s ability to ‘deploy rapidly, assault a target with integrated air and ground forces’
By Michael Hernandez
The U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition began war games Friday in eastern Syria in what it said are exercises aimed at honing “warfighting skills for counterterrorism operations”.
The games were launched out of the at-Tanf garrison near the Iraqi border and included an aerial assault and about 100 U.S. troops who will conduct a live fire exercise before departing the airbase.
“Our forces will demonstrate the capability to deploy rapidly, assault a target with integrated air and ground forces and conduct a rapid exfiltration anywhere in the OIR [Operation Inherent Resolve] combined joint operations area,” Navy Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said in a statement.
“Exercises like this bolster our defeat-ISIS capabilities and ensure we are ready to respond to any threat to our forces.”
Urban was using another name for Daesh.
The U.S. is de-conflicting the exercises with Russia using established protocols, the command said.
Despite the stated “counterterrorism” aim of the exercises, CNN reported they are actually a direct response to Russian military threats.
Moscow reportedly sent a written note to the U.S. on Thursday warning that it would carry out “precision strikes” on militants around the at-Tanf area despite a roughly 55-kilometer (34-mile) deconfliction zone around the base.
“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war. However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend U.S., coalition or partner forces, as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances,” CNN quoted Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson as saying.
It is unclear how long the exercises will last, but the outlet reported they could go on for days.
BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:10 A.M.) – Yemeni Minister of Legal Affairs Abdulrahman Al-Mukhtar claimed that US aggression blocked the United Nations Security Council and International Criminal Court (ICC) from mounting a ‘war crimes’ investigation into the Dahyan bombing, at a press conference in Sana’a on Monday.
“We, in the Republic of Yemen, recognise that it is impossible for the Security Council to adopt a resolution to refer war criminals to the International Criminal Court,” Al-Mukhtar said.
The minister was referring to the Saudi-led airstrike on hit a bus full of children in northern Yemen’s Dahyan. As a result, 51 people, including 40 children, lost their lives.
The UN has called for an independent investigation into the incident.
The fate of a remote U.S. military base in southern Syria captures the contradictions at the heart of President Trump’s Iran policy.
The tiny outpost at Tanf, surrounded by vast desert, was established during the battle against the Islamic State. But its purpose changed last year when Iranian-backed forces began bearing down on the isolated garrison.
U.S. officials feared that a small, exposed force of special operators there could be overrun as Iran, fighting in support of the Syrian government, sought to lock down a land route to Damascus and the Mediterranean Sea. U.S. strikes on the encroaching forces risked pulling the Pentagon further into Syria’s civil war.
But for some senior aides, the tense encounters around Tanf were an opportunity: a chance to bolster an operation that had become an accidental bulwark against Iran, and launch a larger campaign against Tehran’s military reach in the region.
The fraught White House deliberations, which began last May and still continue today, illustrate the confusion that has characterized Trump’s response to Iran’s political and military influence across the Middle East, now at a high-water mark from Syria to Yemen and beyond.
From the moment his administration put Tehran “on notice” in a dramatic warning days into his presidency, Trump has promised in the most bellicose terms since President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” to act decisively against Iran.
“No matter where you go in the Middle East, wherever there’s a problem, Iran is right there,” Trump said during a news conference last month, blaming Tehran as he had many times before for fueling “violence, bloodshed and chaos” across the region.
So far, Trump’s strategy has centered on his opposition to the 2015 agreement to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which he has described as “the worst deal ever.” The president’s decision on Tuesday to withdraw from the pact will force the White House and the Pentagon to shift focus to blunting Iran’s influence on battlefields across the Middle East.
For a president and his increasingly hawkish foreign policy team, the coming months could be pivotal. Trump will have to reconcile his tough rhetoric on Iran with his oft-stated desire to pull back from the Middle East and withdraw from Syria.
Nowhere is the gap between word and action clearer than at Tanf.
For U.S. allies in the region and the Iran hawks, the desert outpost has become a barometer of America’s willingness to stand up to Iranian influence. The U.S. presence at Tanf also raises a tough question for Trump: How much blood and treasure is he willing to risk to counter Iran’s military reach?
‘Like Mars out there’
The focus on Iran at Tanf began as something of an accident.
In 2016, the U.S. military was making progress against Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, when President Obama approved a small training program for Syrian forces just across the border in Jordan. The Pentagon proposed inserting the U.S.-backed fighters at Tanf, which had been recaptured from militants that year.
One selling point of the desert outpost was its isolation. Surrounded by miles of sand, it was relatively easy to defend.
“It’s like Mars out there,” a senior U.S. official said. “Just desert and a road.”
Initially, the plan was to move the forces at Tanf and their American advisers north along the border with Iraq, where they would link up with other U.S.-backed units fighting the Islamic State and help recapture a strategic border crossing at Bukamal.
But before they could move out, Iranian-backed troops aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government advanced toward the Iraqi border, obstructing the planned U.S. move northeast.
Rather than fight their way through enemy lines, the U.S.-backed troops and their American advisers stayed put. A small team of U.S. soldiers, who initially cycled through the outpost on 24-hour missions, began hunkering down for longer stretches lasting days and even weeks.
The hazy mission at the Tanf base quietly shifted from battling the Islamic State, which gradually lost its tiny foothold in the area, to countering the growing Iranian presence.
Not only were the U.S. troops at Tanf helpful in protecting a nearby refugee camp, but many officials said they also could be used to interrupt shipments of weapons, personnel or funding from Iran to the Assad government in what military officials had long characterized as Tehran’s “land bridge” across the Middle East.
Completing the supply line would augment Iran’s air route, helping Tehran build up its military infrastructure in Syria and posing a sharp threat to U.S. ally Israel.
Soon, Iranian-backed forces began challenging the American position in a bid, U.S. officials believed, to reclaim a nearby border crossing and link up with sister forces in Iraq.
Last May, U.S. warplanes fired on a column of troops loyal to Assad, including Iranian-backed militiamen, who were headed toward the outpost. A few weeks later, U.S. aircraft struck the forces again after they fortified their position near Tanf. Then in June, the U.S. military shot down two Iranian drones around Tanf.
“It was a scary few weeks,” a senior State Department official said of the attacks, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk about internal discussions.
The Pentagon boosted air surveillance over the base and gave the troops there antitank weapons to better defend against an armored Iranian assault.
In a sign of nervousness on both sides, U.S. officials received a secret letter, delivered through the Swiss government, from Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, multiple current and former officials said. Soleimani was a frequent presence with militia units on the front lines, a hardened fighter U.S. officials saw as the embodiment of Iranian ambitions.
The State Department eventually responded, telling the Iranians that the U.S. military would destroy any Iranian-backed forces that got within 30 miles of the base.
Inside the White House, officials who wanted to do more to counter Iranian influence began pushing to expand the security bubble around the Tanf base. The most ambitious plans called for creating a safe zone where the U.S. military could train a force to challenge Iran and the Assad regime in southern Syria.
“It certainly looked like it was a pivotal moment on who was going to come out victorious on the policy — the ones that really wanted to take the fight to the Iranians in Syria and those that didn’t,” the State Department official said.
But the bolder military plans ran into resistance from the Pentagon and, more significantly, Trump’s conflicting desires.
Trump had loaded his administration with Iran hawks, including short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn and then-CIA director Mike Pompeo. He also forged close ties with Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states that were sounding the alarm about Iran.
Trump has taken small steps to blunt Iran’s aggression, imposing new financial penalties on Iranian affiliates and slapping a new terrorism designation on the Revolutionary Guard Corps. In a move symbolizing an effort to replace Iran’s influence with support from U.S. allies, diplomats have orchestrated a renewal of Saudi ties with Shiite-led Iraq.
Again and again, Trump has boasted about his toughness on Iran. In a recent Fox News interview, he insisted that the Iranians had toned down their “death to America” rhetoric since he moved into the White House and suggested that his threats of force had moderated Iran’s maneuvers in the Persian Gulf. “We haven’t seen their little boats circling our ships in the ocean lately,” he said.
But Trump just as often has appeared unwilling to risk an open conflict with Iran, gravitating to his opposition to the nuclear deal during discussions about the larger Iran strategy, current and former officials said.
In recent weeks — and sometimes even in the same news conference — he has talked about staying at Tanf to block Iran and expressed support for leaving Syria entirely.
“We will have a strong blockage to the Mediterranean, which to me is very important — because if we don’t, you have Iran going right to the Mediterranean. Not going to have that,” he said in a briefing in which he had also declared: “We’re going to be coming home relatively soon.”
Those clashing messages have left U.S. allies in the Middle East “chagrined,” said a former senior U.S. diplomat in the region. “They’re worried that we’ll leave . . . and about the message that sends to Iran.”
Trump has been adamant in private conversations with his top national security aides: the U.S. priority is defeating the Islamic State and getting out of Syria, not battling Iran.
“Whenever they bring up Syria, he says ‘I want Syria to be Putin’s problem.’ Whenever they bring up Iraq, he says ‘What’s the least I can do,’” a former U.S. official said. “The actions don’t mesh with what could be a larger strategy against Iran.”
‘Get off the sidelines’
Trump’s top military leaders are also reluctant to expand the mission in Syria and check Iran, worried about the safety of troops scattered across the region.
From the 1983 bombings of the Marine barrack in Beirut to guerrilla attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq after 2003, groups backed by Iran are blamed for hundreds of U.S. military deaths.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whose combative approach to Iran led to his early departure from the military in 2013, has described Iran as a chief threat in the Middle East. But he also has acted to keep the impulses of the administration’s Iran hawks in check and has argued for reorienting the military to deal with more pressing threats from a rising China and increasingly aggressive Russia. Mattis’s main focus of late has been preparing for possible conflict with North Korea.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Joseph L. Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, have advocated building up partner forces that might make it harder for Iranian-backed militias to operate.
It’s too soon to say whether Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, an outspoken advocate of regime change, will seek to challenge those instincts.
In the wake of Trump’s decision on the nuclear deal, the White House this past week condemned new attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia by Iranian-linked groups. In Yemen, U.S. officials have been seeking new ways to disrupt shipments of missile parts to Houthi rebels battling a Saudi-led military coalition there.
“It is time for responsible nations to bring pressure on Iran to change this dangerous behavior,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Any action the United States might seek to take is almost certain to have negative costs, potentially increasing risks to U.S. personnel.
In Syria, the big question is what, if anything, stays behind at Tanf if Trump follows through with his promise to get U.S. troops out of Syria.
Former envoy Dennis Ross, who has advised presidents of both parties on the Middle East, said the United States may be pulled into a regional conflict if no action is taken to constrain Iran in Syria, and conflict erupts between Iran and Israel, which could appeal for U.S. help. On Thursday, Israel launched the latest in a series of escalating attacks against Iranian targets in Syria
“That is a war that you know how it starts but you don’t know how it ends,” he said. “Rather than waiting, why not get off the sidelines?”
Nusra Front is the Sunni Muslim al-Qaida offshoot which is currently fighting the Iranian-backed axis of Bashar Assad and Hezbollah in Syria.
By JPOST.COM STAFF
Israeli soldiers stand atop tanks in the Golan Heights near Israel’s border with Syria. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel has opened its borders with Syria in order to provide medical treatment to Nusra Front and al-Qaida fighters wounded in the ongoing civil war, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The prominent American newspaper reported that Nusra Front, the Sunni Muslim al-Qaida offshoot which is currently fighting the Iranian-backed axis of Bashar Assad and Hezbollah, “hasn’t bothered Israel since seizing the border area last summer” along the Golan Heights.
While Israel views al-Qaida and its allies as enemies, it is far more disturbed by what it views as an even bigger menace – Iran and its proxies. According to The Wall Street Journal, this attitude has caused tension with the United States, which has also targeted al-Qaida and Nusra Front fighters in Syria.
Amos Yadlin, the former military intelligence chief who is currently in the running to be defense minister should the Zionist Union, led by Isaac Herzog, succeed in defeating incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the elections next week, told the Journal that Hezbollah and Iran “are the major threat to Israel, much more than the radical Sunni Islamists, who are also an enemy.”
“Those Sunni elements who control some two-thirds to 90% of the border on the Golan aren’t attacking Israel. This gives you some basis to think that they understand who is their real enemy – maybe it isn’t Israel,” Yadlin is quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying.
The fact that the Israel-Syria border area along the Golan Heights has remained largely quiet has sparked accusations among supporters of embattled President Bashar Assad that the Sunni Islamist alliance, which includes al-Qaida, is backed by Israel.
“Some in Syria joke: ‘How can you say that al-Qaida doesn’t have an air force? They have the Israeli air force’,” Assad told Foreign Affairs magazine earlier this year. “They are supporting the rebels in Syria. It is very clear.”
Israel has denied actively aiding al-Qaida, though it makes no secret of its determination to thwart Hezbollah’s attempts to establish a foothold near the Golan frontier from whence it could harass the North.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has stated repeatedly his contention that Iran is seeking to open a new front against Israel from the Syrian Golan Heights.
Earlier this year, an air strike attributed by international media reports to Israel struck and killed 12 Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah operatives in Quneitra, Syria, near the Israeli border.
In retaliation, Hezbollah guerillas launched a missile attack near the Har Dov region straddling the Lebanon-Israel border weeks later, killing two Israeli soldiers.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, which has claimed the lives of upwards of 200,000 people, Israel has provided medical assistance to nearly 2,000 Syrians.
The Wall Street Journal quoted “an Israeli military official” who said that most of those treated were armed rebels fighting the regime.
“We don’t ask who they are, we don’t do any screening,” the official said. “Once the treatment is done, we take them back to the border and they go on their way.”
“We will respond against the ICC and its personnel to the extent permitted by US law.We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States.We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, andwe will prosecute them in the US criminal system.We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.
We will take note if any countries cooperate with ICC investigations of the United States and its allies, and we will remember that cooperation when setting US foreign assistance, military assistance, and intelligence sharing levels.
We will consider taking steps in the UN Security Council to constrain the court’s sweeping powers, including ensuring that the ICC does not exercise jurisdiction over Americans and the nationals of our allies that have not ratified the Rome Statute.”
Full text of US national security adviser’s speech lashing out at the International Criminal Court and Palestinians.
Below is John Bolton’s speech on Monday to the Federalist Society in Washington, DC:
I am here to make a major announcement on US policy toward the International Criminal Court, or ICC.
After years of effort by self-styled “global governance” advocates, the ICC, a supranational tribunal that could supersede national sovereignties and directly prosecute individuals for alleged war crimes, was agreed to in 1998. For ICC proponents, this supranational, independent institution has always been critical to their efforts to overcome the perceived failures of nation-states, even those with strong constitutions, representative government, and the rule of law.
In theory, the ICC holds perpetrators of the most egregious atrocities accountable for their crimes, provides justice to the victims, and deters future abuses. In practice, however, the court has been ineffective, unaccountable, and indeed, outright dangerous. Moreover, the largely unspoken, but always central, aim of its most vigorous supporters was to constrain the United States. The objective was not limited to targeting individual US service members, but rather America’s senior political leadership, and its relentless determination to keep our country secure.
The ICC was formally established in July 2002, following the entry into force of the Rome Statute. In May 2002, however, President George W Bush authorised the United States to “un-sign” the Rome Statute because it was fundamentally illegitimate. The ICC and its prosecutor had been granted potentially enormous, essentially unaccountable powers, and alongside numerous other glaring and significant flaws, the International Criminal Court constituted an assault on the constitutional rights of the American people and the sovereignty of the United States.
In no uncertain terms, the ICC was created as a free-wheeling global organization claiming jurisdiction over individuals without their consent.
According to the Rome Statute, the ICC has authority to prosecute genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression. It claims “automatic jurisdiction,” meaning that it can prosecute individuals even if their own governments have not recognized, signed, or ratified the treaty.
Thus, American soldiers, politicians, civil servants, private citizens, and even all of you sitting in the room today, are purportedly subject to the court’s prosecution should a party to the Rome Statute or the chief prosecutor suspect you of committing a crime within a state or territory that has joined the treaty.
To protect American service members from the ICC, in 2002 Congress passed the American Service-Members’ Protection Act, or ASPA, which some have branded “The Hague Invasion Act.”
This law, which enjoyed broad bipartisan support, authorises the president to use all means necessary and appropriate, including force, to shield our service members and the armed forces of our allies from ICC prosecution. It also prohibits several forms of cooperation between the United States and the court.
I was honoured to lead US efforts internationally to protect Americans from the court’s unacceptable overreach, starting with un-signing the Rome Statute. At President Bush’s direction, we next launched a global diplomatic campaign to protect Americans from being delivered into the ICC’s hands. We negotiated about 100 binding, bilateral agreements to prevent other countries from delivering US personnel to the ICC. It remains one of my proudest achievements.
Unfortunately, we were unable to reach agreement with every single nation in the world, particularly those in the European Union, where the global governance dogma is strong. And last fall, our worst predictions about the ICC’s professed and overly broad prosecutorial powers were confirmed.
In November of 2017, the ICC prosecutor requested authorisation to investigate alleged war crimes committed by US service members and intelligence professionals during the war in Afghanistan – an investigation neither Afghanistan nor any other state party to the Rome Statute requested. Any day now, the ICC may announce the start of a formal investigation against these American patriots, who voluntarily went into harm’s way to protect our nation, our homes, and our families in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
The ICC prosecutor has requested to investigate these Americans for alleged detainee abuse, and perhaps more – an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.
Today, on the eve of September 11th, I want to deliver a clear and unambiguous message on behalf of the president of the United States. The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.
We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC.
We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.
The United States bases this policy on five principal concerns about the court, its purported authority, and its effectiveness.
First, the International Criminal Court unacceptably threatens American sovereignty and US national security interests. The prosecutor in The Hague claims essentially unfettered discretion to investigate, charge, and prosecute individuals, regardless of whether their countries have acceded to the Rome Statute.
The court in no way derives these powers from any grant of consent by non-parties to the Rome Statute. Instead, the ICC is an unprecedented effort to vest power in a supranational body without the consent of either nation-states or the individuals over which it purports to exercise jurisdiction. It certainly has no consent whatsoever from the United States.
As Americans, we fully understand that consent of the governed is a prerequisite to true legal legitimacy, and we reject such a flagrant violation of our national sovereignty.
To make matters worse, the court’s structure is contrary to fundamental American principles, including checks and balances on authority and the separation of powers. Our founders believed that a division of authority among three separate branches of government would provide the maximum level of protection for individual liberty.
The International Criminal Court, however, melds two of these branches together: the judicial and the executive. In the ICC structure, the executive branch – the Office of the Prosecutor – is an organ of the court. The framers of our constitution considered such a melding of powers unacceptable for our own government, and we should certainly not accept it in the ICC. Other governments may choose systems which reject the separation of powers, but not the United States.
There are no adequate mechanisms to hold the court and its personnel accountable or curtail its unchecked powers when required.
ICC proponents argue that corrupt or ineffective judges can be removed by a two-thirds vote of parties to the Rome Statute and that a prosecutor can be removed by a majority vote.
However, I ask everyone in the room today: would you consign the fate of American citizens to a committee of other nations, including Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and entities that are not even states, like the Palestinian Authority?
You would not. I would not. And this Administration will not.
The ICC’s Assembly of States Parties cannot supervise the court any more than the United Nations General Assembly can supervise the UN bureaucracy.
Recent allegations of mismanagement and corruption among ICC personnel make this perfectly clear. The first prosecutor elected by the Assembly of States Parties attempted to protect a high-ranking government official from prosecution, assisted a businessman with links to violations in Libya, and shared confidential court documents with Angelina Jolie.
In short, the International Criminal Court unacceptably concentrates power in the hands of an unchecked executive, who is accountable to no one. It claims authority separate from and above the constitution of the United States.
It is antithetical to our nation’s ideals. Indeed, this organisation is the founders’ worst nightmare come to life: an elegant office building in a faraway country that determines the guilt or innocence of American citizens.
Second, the International Criminal Court claims jurisdiction over crimes that have disputed and ambiguous definitions, exacerbating the court’s unfettered powers.
The definitions of crimes, especially crimes of aggression, are vague and subject to wide-ranging interpretation by the ICC. Had the ICC existed during the Second World War, America’s enemies would no doubt be eager to find the United States and its allies culpable for war crimes for the bombing campaigns over Germany and Japan.
The “crime of aggression” could become a pretext for politically motivated investigations. Was the mission of US Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan a crime of aggression? What about the US and coalition strikes in Syria to protect innocent children from chemical weapons? How about US military exercises with allies and partners around the world? Or Israel’s actions to defend itself on countless occasions?
In the years ahead, the court is likely only to further expand its jurisdiction to prosecute ambiguously defined crimes. In fact, a side event at the Assembly of States Parties recently included a panel discussion on the possibility of adding “ecocide”, environmental and climate-related crimes, to the list of offenses within the court’s jurisdiction.
And here we come directly to the unspoken but powerful agenda of the ICC’s supporters: the hope that its essentially political nature, in defining crimes such as “aggression,” will intimidate US decision-makers and others in democratic societies.
As we know, the ICC already claims authority over crimes committed in States Parties, even if the accused are not from nations that have acquiesced to the Rome Statute.
The next obvious step is to claim complete, universal jurisdiction: the ability to prosecute anyone, anywhere for vague crimes identified by The Hague’s bureaucrats.
Third, the International Criminal Court fails in its fundamental objective to deter and punish atrocity crimes. Since its 2002 inception, the court has spent over $1.5bn while attaining only eight convictions.
This dismal record is hardly a deterrent to dictators and despots determined to commit horrific atrocities. In fact, despite ongoing ICC investigations, atrocities continue to occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Libya, Syria, and many other nations.
The hard men of history are not deterred by fantasies of international law such as the ICC. The idea that faraway bureaucrats and robed judges would strike fear into the hearts of the likes of Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Stalin, and Gaddafi is preposterous, even cruel. Time and again, history has proven that the only deterrent to evil and atrocity is what Franklin Roosevelt once called “the righteous might” of the United States and its allies – a power that, perversely, could be threatened by the ICC’s vague definition of aggression crimes.
Thus we see paradoxically that the dangers of the International Criminal Court stem from both its potential strength and its manifest weakness.
Fourth, the International Criminal Court is superfluous, given that domestic US judicial systems already hold American citizens to the highest legal and ethical standards. US service members in the field must operate fully in accordance with the law of armed conflict. When violations of law do occur, the United States takes appropriate and swift action to hold perpetrators accountable. We are a democratic nation with the most robust system of investigation, accountability, and transparency in the world. We believe in the rule of law, and we uphold it. We don’t need the ICC to tell us our duty or second-guess our decisions.
ICC proponents argue that robust domestic judicial systems are fully consistent with the court because of the so-called complementarity principle. According to its supporters, the ICC functions only as a “court of last resort”. If nations have taken appropriate steps to prosecute perpetrators of crimes, the ICC will take no further action.
And yet, there is little precedent for the ICC to determine how to apply the complementarity principle. How is the ICC prosecutor to judge when this principle has been met? Under what circumstances will the ICC be satisfied? How much sensitive documentation would the ever-toiling bureaucrats in The Hague demand from a sovereign government? And, who has the last word? If it’s the ICC, the United States would manifestly be subordinated to the court.
If the ICC prosecutor were to take the complementarity principle seriously, the court would never pursue an investigation against American citizens, because we know that the US judicial system is more vigorous, more fair, and more effective than the ICC. The ICC prosecutor’s November 2017 request, of course, proves that this notion, and thus the principle of complementarity is completely farcical. The ICC prosecutor will pursue what investigations it chooses to pursue, based upon its own political motives, and without any serious application of the complementarity principle.
Fifth, the International Criminal Court’s authority has been sharply criticised and rejected by most of the world. Today, more than 70 nations, representing two-thirds of the world’s population, and over 70 percent of the world’s armed forces, are not members of the ICC.
Several African nations have recently withdrawn or threatened to withdraw their membership, citing the disproportionate number of arrest warrants against Africans. To them, the ICC is just the latest European neocolonial enterprise to infringe upon their sovereign rights.
Israel too has sharply criticised the ICC. While the court welcomes the membership of the so-called “State of Palestine”, it has threatened Israel – a liberal, democratic nation – with investigation into its actions to defend citizens from terrorist attacks in the West Bank and Gaza. There has also been a suggestion that the ICC will investigate Israeli construction of housing projects on the West Bank.
The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel. And today, reflecting congressional concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel, the State Department will announce the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office here in Washington, DC.
As President [Ronald] Reagan recognised in this context, the executive has “the right to decide the kind of foreign relations, if any, the United States will maintain”, and the Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. The United States supports a direct and robust peace process, and we will not allow the ICC, or any other organisation, to constrain Israel’s right to self-defence.
In sum, an international court so deeply divisive and so deeply flawed can have no legitimate claim to jurisdiction over the citizens of sovereign nations that have rejected its authority.
Americans can rest assured that the United States will not provide any form of legitimacy or support to this body. We will not cooperate, engage, fund, or assist the ICC in any way. This president will not allow American citizens to be prosecuted by foreign bureaucrats, and he will not allow other nations to dictate our means of self-defence.
We take this position not because we oppose justice for victims of atrocities, but because we believe that perpetrators should face legitimate, effective, and accountable prosecution for their crimes, by sovereign national governments.
In April of 2016, it was right here, at the Mayflower Hotel, that President Trump gave his first major foreign policy address during his campaign. At that time, candidate Trump promised he would “always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else”.
Today, it is fitting that we reassert this fundamental promise within these walls. This afternoon, we also make a new pledge to the American people.
“If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly. We will take the following steps, among others, in accordance with the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act and our other legal authorities:
We will negotiate even more binding, bilateral agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering US persons to the ICC. And we will ensure that those we have already entered are honoured by our counterpart governments.
We will respond against the ICC and its personnel to the extent permitted by US law. We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.
We will take note if any countries cooperate with ICC investigations of the United States and its allies, and we will remember that cooperation when setting US foreign assistance, military assistance, and intelligence sharing levels.
We will consider taking steps in the UN Security Council to constrain the court’s sweeping powers, including ensuring that the ICC does not exercise jurisdiction over Americans and the nationals of our allies that have not ratified the Rome Statute.
This administration will fight back to protect American constitutionalism, our sovereignty, and our citizens. No committee of foreign nations will tell us how to govern ourselves and defend our freedom. We will stand up for the US constitution abroad, just as we do at home. And, as always, in every decision we make, we will put the interests of the American people first.
The Iraqi military announced Thursday that they had launched airstrikes on Daesh in Syrian territory amid Damascus’ efforts to eliminate the last pockets of the terrorist group.
“Fulfilling the orders of the commander-in-chief of the [Iraqi] Armed Forces … Iraqi F-16 jets successfully carried out an airstrike on the Syrian territory,” the statement said, as quoted by the Al-Sumaria broadcaster.
As the Iraqi military reported Thursday, the country’s jets destroyed a Daesh “operations room” in Syria, killing several fighters.
“According to intelligence, those terrorists who were killed were planning criminal operations using suicide vests and intended to target innocents in the next few days inside Iraq,” the military said in a statement.
According to a recently released UN report, approximately 30,000 Daesh members are operating in Iraq and Syria despite having lost the overwhelming majority of the territory they occupied over the past few years. A lot of them are believed to be in hiding or keeping an otherwise low profile. The report, however, has failed to mention the presence of al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria, who have been fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad for years.READ MORE: UN Report Claims Daesh Has 30,000 Fighters Between Iraq and Syria
Iraq has been carrying airstrikes against Daesh positions in Syria with the authorization of the Syrian government. Meanwhile, Syrian government military forces are continuing their offensive against the remaining terrorists in Syria.
Following a series of sweeping counterterrorism operations, the Syrian government and Russia, the US-led coalition and the Iraqi authorities have managed to liberate over 90 percent of the territory Daesh had earlier seized.
Turkey has reportedly begun building a site for the advanced Russian-built S-400 air defense missile system, regardless of strong opposition from the United States to the plan and warnings that Ankara should not buy the anti-aircraft platform.
Business and financial television news network CNBC, citing a source with firsthand knowledge of an intelligence report covering the subject, reported that the assessment was conducted a month ago, and it includes satellite imagery of a concrete launch facility as well as bunkers.
The source further noted that the work at the site fits the pattern for Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
The report gave no indication about where the site is located in Turkey.
A number of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states have criticized Turkey over its planned purchase of the S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, stating that move could jeopardize Ankara’s acquisition of F-35 fighter jets.
On July 15, the top American Air Force general in Europe warned that the Turkish government’s plan to purchase Russian S-400 systems would give the advanced air defense shield deep insight into the US radar-evading F-35 fighter jets.
“Anything that an S-400 can do that affords it the ability to better understand a capability like the F-35 is certainly not to the advantage of the coalition,” General Tod Wolters, who is also the NATO Allied Air Commander, said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emphasized that Ankara would utilize sophisticated S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems if necessary.
“We will not just buy the S-400s and place them in a storehouse. We will use them if need be. These are defense systems. What are we going to do with them if not use these defense systems? Are we going to depend on the United States again? We have been demanding them for years, but the answer given to us has been: The [US] Congress is not allowing. We are tired of this,” he said in remarks broadcast live by private Turkish-language TGRT Haber television news network on June 12.
Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in the Turkish capital Ankara on April 3 that they had agreed to expedite the delivery of S-400 missile systems. The delivery is expected to start between late 2019 and early 2020.
Turkey’s English-language Hurriyet Daily News newspaper reported on December 29 last year that the loan deal for four S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries had been signed in Ankara.
The developments came only two days after Sergey Viktorovich Chemezov, the Chief Executive Officer of Russian state corporation Rostec, told the Kommersant daily newspaper that Russia would supply Turkey with four batteries of S-400, worth $2.5 billion each, and Moscow was expected to begin the first deliveries in March 2020.
Chemezov added that Turkey would pay 45 percent of the cost of the agreement up front, while Russia would provide loans to cover the remaining 55 percent.
The S-400 system, whose full name is the Triumf Mobile Multiple Anti-Aircraft Missile System (AAMS), is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away. It has previously been sold only to China and India.
Turkey is striving to boost its air defense, particularly after Washington decided in 2015 to withdraw its Patriot surface-to-air missile system from Turkey’s border with Syria, a move that weakened Turkey’s air defense.
Before gravitating towards Russia, the Turkish military reportedly walked out of a $3.4 billion contract for a similar Chinese system. The withdrawal took place under purported pressure from Washington.
Ankara’s ties with its Western allies in NATO have been strained over a range of issues.
Erdogan has been critical of Washington for supporting Kurdish groups in Syria that he says are responsible for terror attacks inside Turkey.
The Turkish leader has also slammed American officials for rejecting his requests to hand over Fethullah Gulen, a powerful opposition figure living in the US, whom Ankara accuses of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt.
By David S. Cloud and Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times
More than 100 U.S. Marines were sent as reinforcements to a remote coalition outpost in southern Syria on Friday after Russia threatened to attack militants in the area, the Pentagon said.
The troops were flown by helicopter to the base at Tanf — a small town near Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan. The base is used by U.S. special forces to train Syrian fighters who are confronting Islamic State militants.
Moscow has sent messages to the U.S. in recent days, warning that Russian military and Syrian government units were planning an attack on what they refer to as terrorists near Tanf, U.S. officials said.
The Russian threats may be a way of testing U.S. resolve to keep troops in Syria now that President Bashar Assad’s forces, backed by Russian troops and warplanes, have succeeded in defeating rebels everywhere except Idlib province and areas of eastern Syria controlled by the U.S. and its allies.
U.S. military officials bluntly warned Russian and Syria not to go forward with an attack within a 35-mile-wide security zone that the U.S. maintains around Tanf, a key strategic outpost.
“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” said Lt. Col. Earl Brown, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command. “However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend U.S., coalition or partner forces.”
Russia is Assad’s top international backer; its support, including aircraft, special forces and mercenaries, enabled his military to reverse the course of his country’s seven-year civil war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.
Successive Russian-backed campaigns over the last two years have seen the government retake every major opposition bastion, offering fighters who refused to lay down their arms safe passage to Idlib.
Central Command said the troops sent to Tanf would conduct a multiday exercise using live ammunition.
“Our forces will demonstrate the capability to deploy rapidly, assault a target with integrated air and ground forces and conduct rapid exfiltration,” said Capt. William Urban, the chief Central Command spokesman.
U.S. officials who work on the Syria issue have said in recent days that the administration is now resolved to stay in Syria longer than President Trump previously indicated, to finish the fight against Islamic State but also to see the withdrawal of Iranian fighters.
Previously, Trump said he wanted American troops out of Syria as soon as possible, and has redirected millions of dollars meant to help rebuild Syria to other projects.
Russian warplanes have been carrying out intense airstrikes in Syria’s northwest, pounding rebel-held areas in Idlib province and surrounding regions that have become the last sanctuary for the opposition.
Russian military officials first informed the U.S. on Sept. 1 through a special communication channel “that they intended to enter the At Tanf deconfliction zone to pursue terrorists,” Brown said.
That was followed by a letter sent Thursday to Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, the commander of U.S. forces in Syria, warning that Russia planned to carry out “precision strikes” near Tanf against Islamic State fighters, a warning that prompted Funk to speed up plans to dispatch additional troops to the base.
“The U.S. does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy [Islamic State] in the At Tanf deconflicition zone, and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” Brown said.
Pentagon officials said that Russia’s threat to carry out precision strikes suggested it might be contemplating use of airstrikes, missiles, long-range artillery or bombardment from Russian naval vessels in the Mediterranean against Tanf.
Such an attack might prompt the U.S. to respond with punishing reprisals using similar weapons, especially if a Russian attack caused casualties to the U.S. or its allies, officials said.
Moscow has previously agreed not to enter the zone around Tanf, Brown said. “We expect the Russians to abide by this agreement.”
Administration officials are at least giving lip service to the need for a stronger diplomatic push, in part because of the competing agendas of numerous factions fighting in the region.
On Friday, for example, the presidents of Iran, Russia, and Turkey, all of whom have fighters in Syria, held a summit in Tehran to plot their next moves. But Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani failed to agree on a cease-fire, apparently dooming any effort to slow an Assad assault on Idlib and the probably devastating toll it would take on several million civilians who live in the area.
Turkey, which has largely backed opposition forces, sought the cease-fire. Putin rejected it, claiming that the possible fate of civilians was being used as a “pretext” to ease pressure on what he called terrorists.
Also Friday, at the United Nations, the Syrian ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, declared his government was determined to move on rebel-held Idlib to wipe out what he called factions associated with “terrorist groups.”
“The situation is as it is now in Idlib because the countries sponsoring terrorism do not want to distinguish between terrorists and armed opposition,” he said, a likely allusion to U.S.-backed Kurdish forces or Syrian rebels whom the Assad government accuses of being affiliated with Al Qaeda.
“In case the armed terrorist groups refuse to lay down weapons, refuse to leave Syrian territory to go back to where they came from, the Syrian government is prepared,” Jaafari said.
Russian jets began an intense barrage on Idlib province and surrounding regions earlier this week, hours after Trump warned on Twitter that Assad “must not recklessly attack Idlib Province.” U.S. officials have warned that the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces against the enclave would result in U.S. reprisals.
An attack in February by Russian mercenaries on another U.S. base in eastern Syria was repulsed by U.S. airstrikes and artillery barrages, resulting in dozens of Russian casualties. The Russian government denied any role in the attack.
Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issues statement after ambiguous comments about Saudi king and crown prince
Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a statement after his ambiguous comments about Saudi king Salman (pictured) and crown prince.
A rare video of a senior Saudi royal speaking to protesters in London stirred controversy about potential discord in the ruling family ranks, forcing the prince to issue a clarifying statement.
In the nearly two-minute clip, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud seems to ask the protesters why they’re complaining to him and other family members rather than his brother and nephew – the king and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He later says he hopes wars in “Yemen and elsewhere” will “stop as soon as possible.”
Some Saudis have interpreted the comments as an attempt to distance himself from the leadership, while others see it as a show of support.
The ambiguous remarks are striking for a Saudi royal and come at a delicate time for the young crown prince. At home, the government this summer put on hold a plan to sell shares in the state oil giant Aramco, a key pillar of the crown prince’s blueprint to transform the kingdom’s economy.
Elsewhere, the imprisonment of several prominent women’s rights activists has undercut his reputation abroad as a reformer and the war in Yemen waged since 2015 is showing no signs of abating.
The royal family keeps internal affairs private, and it is extremely rare for any disagreements to be publicly aired.
Late Tuesday night, Prince Ahmed issued a brief, official statement, saying that he was merely clarifying that “the king and the crown prince are responsible for the state and its decisions.”
The statement was published on the front page of several Saudi newspapers on Wednesday. “It is not possible to interpret what I said in any other way,” he said.
Opponents of the government saw his words differently. London-based dissident Saad Al-Faqih – long a thorn in the monarchy’s side – hopped on television to interpret the video as criticism of the king and crown prince coming from “one of the most respected people in the family.” Anonymous Twitter accounts began spreading a hashtag pledging allegiance to Prince Ahmed as king.
Prince Ahmed is one of the only surviving sons of the kingdom’s founder and was once viewed as a potential candidate for the throne. As a full brother of King Salman, he’s also one of the “Sudairi Seven,” a powerful faction within the family.
The edited clip, shot at night in London, shows Prince Ahmed addressing a small group of protesters.
“What do all of Al Saud have to do with this?” the prince says, accompanied by the Saudi ambassador to the UK. “Certain individuals, maybe they’re responsible. What’s the family got to do with it?”
When a protester asks who’s responsible, Prince Ahmed says the king and the crown prince.
Some of the words on the video aren’t audible, and sections are missing. Clips are edited together.
At one point, somebody asks the prince, a former Saudi interior minister, about Yemen. A Saudi-led coalition has been waging war against the Houthi rebels there for more than three years.
Prince Ahmed’s choice to engage the protesters in dialogue was “proof of his morals and humility,” Prince Sattam bin Khalid wrote on Twitter. “This video clip counts for us, not against us,” he said. “Everything that he said represents us.”
US/Turkey “ISIL-free zone”, TURKEY’S LINE IN THE SAND
[Between Trump’s “No Fly Zone” and Turkey’s Mare-Jarablus Line, Turkey and the US have effectively sealed Syria’s Northern border. If Putin plays along with Erdogan and Trump then the Kurds would be in possession of their protected enclave. Assad would not let this stand…Stay Tuned for the final outcome.]
The Washington administration is increasing arms support to the YPG/PKK terror group by using the conflict in Idlib for its own political and military interests
The U.S., taking advantage of the rising tensions in last-opposition-held stronghold of Idlib, is sending military reinforcements to areas occupied by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terror group east of the Euphrates River in Syria.
It delivered 200 truckloads of ammunition on Tuesday to Syria’s Raqqa, which is currently under the occupation of the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The U.S has supplied the YPG terror organization with more than 5,000 truckloads of weapons to allegedly use in the fight against Daesh, despite Ankara’s warnings that the group is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror organization.
Washington escalates warning to Assad
The White House on Tuesday warned, “If Syrian President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its allies will respond swiftly and appropriately,” in an attempt to escalate chaos in the region.
President Donald Trump in the past year and a half has twice ordered U.S.-led air strikes against targets in Syria in response to what Washington called the Assad government’s use of chemical weapons against civilians.
On Tuesday, Russian warplanes bombed several areas in Idlib, raising worries of a major assault by the Assad regime forces and its allies.
Located near the Turkish border, Idlib is home to more than 3 million Syrians, many of whom fled from other cities following attacks by regime forces.
Pentagon’s no-fly zone strategy
The Washington administration, which intends to maintain a permanent presence in Syria, has completed the construction of three advanced radar systems in Syria’s Hasakah-Tal Baidar countryside along with the Ayn al-Arab and Sarrin regions, and has set up 13 portable and fixed observation-intelligence radar systems.
Pentagon’s preparation for a no-fly-zone indicates that the U.S. administration also wants to interfere in Turkey’s military operations to ensure the safety of PKK terrorists after Ankara’s successful ops conducted in Syria’s Hasakah, Qarrah Chouk Mountains and Iraq’s Sinjar.
US trains 40,000 terrorists
In January, the U.S.-led international coalition against Daesh announced that it would establish a 30,000-strong new border security force, funded by Saudi Arabia, with the SDF — the U.S.-backed group that is largely controlled and manned by the PKK/PYD terrorist organization in Syria. The U.S. and its allies have also trained around 40,000 PKK terrorists since 2015.
The purpose of Washington is to put pressure on the Damascus regime to approve a PKK autonomy in the region.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. The PKK has been conducting armed violence in the southeastern part of Turkey since 1984. More than 40,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the three-decade long conflict.
IDF gives urgent treatment to Syria refugees, June 30, 2018.. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
The Israeli army has admitted, for the first time, that it provided large amounts of cash, weapons and ammunition to Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights.
While the IDF maintains that it was not intervening in Syria’s civil war, on Monday it confirmed that as part of Operation Good Neighbor Israel had been regularly supplying Syrian rebels near its border with light weapons and ammunition in order to defend themselves from attacks and a substantial amount of cash to buy additional arms.Through Operation Good Neighbor, which was launched in 2016 the Israeli military had provided over 1524 tons of food, 250 tons of clothes, 947,520 liters of fuel, 21 generators, 24,900 palettes of medical equipment and medicine.
Reports first surfaced of Israel providing arms and cash to rebel groups several years ago, with the regime of Bashar Assad claiming that Israel had been providing arms to terror groups and its forces had regularly seized arms and munitions with inscriptions in Hebrew.
According to reports Israel had been arming at least seven different rebel groups in Syria’s Golan Heights, including the Fursan al-Joulan rebel group which had around 400 fighters and had been given an estimated $5,000 per month by Israel.
“Israel stood by our side in a heroic way,” the group’s spokesperson, Moatasem al-Golani, told the The Wall Street Journal in a January 2017 report. “We wouldn’t have survived without Israel’s assistance.”
The army believes that the decision to provide weapons and cash to the rebel groups along the border with Israel’s Golan Heights was the right decision.
Israel’s aim in providing the weapons and cash to rebel groups throughout Operation Good Neighbor which shut down once the Assad regime retook control of the Golan Heights in July, was to keep troops belonging to Hezbollah and Iran away from Israel’s Golan Heights.
The Syrian army, backed by Russian air power and Iranian backed Shiite militia fighters, have been recapturing large swathes of territory and is now believed to have control over 70% of the war-torn country.
While Syrian troops have once again been deployed to the border with Israel, in order to prevent an escalation between the two enemy countries, Russian military police have been deployed along the Golan Heights border along with UN Peacekeepers.
Israel has warned against Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and has stressed time and again that Syrian soil can not serve as a forward operating base by Iran and that the war-torn country cannot be a waystation for arms smuggling to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
While Israel’s military had been carrying out operation against Iranian targets in Syria for several years, it’s extent only became public after an Israeli Air Force F-16 which was taking part in retaliatory strikes was downed by Syrian air defenses in February.
Last year Former Israel Air Force head Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amir Eshel stated that the IAF carried out 100 airstrikes in Syria over the past five years.
On Monday the military announced that in the past year and half alone, Israel has carried out 202 strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria.
The following is an eerie political parallel and comparison of our present day dilemma. It is more than an ironic parallel that choices made over time will lead up to the very real possibility of Democrats taking back the majority control of Congress and eventually the presidency.
It’s almost as if Democrats are being ‘given back’ control of the House and the Senate to yet again undo all of the horrendous mistakes which have brought this country to a point in time when the uber rich control a tremendous, obscene amount of wealth and power.
Looking back through recent history we see that the Reagan and Bush/Cheney administrations were put into place to “give” humongous tax breaks to wealthy people, protect corporations against culpability, roll-back laws and regulations, decimate crucial federal oversight departments (both Reagan and Bush/Cheney tried to abolish the Department of Education, the EPA and other departments too numerous to list here). After each one of these administrations engineered their dastardly deeds, Democrats were elected (Clinton and Obama) to clean up the overwhelming messes put in place by and for the wealthy of this nation by Republicans and the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus.
Presidents Reagan, Bush/Cheney, and now Trump/Pence have tried to roll back restrictions on corporations who gladly and in a purposefully wanton, unrestrained, malicious manner continue to pollute our environment without care or regard for long-term health affects to millions of human beings. We are witness to a Trump administration more than willing to trample and overturn long-fought-for laws and regulations which protect our very fragile environment. His administration is trying to break the records of both Reagan and Bush/Cheney in taking this country to a very dangerous place in many ways. Each one of these presidents were and are as malleable as soft clay and easily molded by the power brokers.
Reagan effectively read cue cards scripted for him and was fully supported by the modern day “robber barons,” such as Walter Annenberg, et al. George W. Bush abdicated his presidency to the total control of Dick Cheney. Fast forward to present day, we now have Trump in place who is a pawn willing to bend himself into a pretzel for the elitists who claim residency in the United States for the primary purpose of taking full advantage of humongous tax breaks.
Most troubling of all are the appointments to the Supreme Court by Republican administrations which have had, and will continue to impact and have very serious, deleterious repercussions to this nation for decades to come.
Among the dozen or so guests US Ambassador Frank Wisner was escorting to Bhutan for a holiday was Richard Holbrooke, former US ambassador to the UN. Wisner had invited a few Indian friends to the long hall of Roosevelt House to meet the group. The year was 1996. The ebb and flow of conversation was interrupted when Holbrooke raised his hand like a Japanese tour leader. “Silent” he whispered audibly. He walked to the far end of the hall to talk on the telephone.
He returned with his mouth full of news. “US-Taleban romance is over” he announced with authority. Until the previous day the US was operating on the assumption that the Taleban were the most organized and muscular group in Afghanistan, who could be relied upon to stabilize the country. TAPI or the Turkmenistan-Afghan-Pak-India gas pipeline would then begin to look feasible to the US oil company, UNOCAL – the principal reason for the Afghan conflict.
What the US had not bargained for was the brutality with which the Taleban applied Shariah law on Afghan women. A series of prime time features on Taleban cruelty against women, telecast by the CNN’s Christiane Amanpour created a sensation in Washington. Without any waste of time, the US decided to distance itself from the Taleban. US officials supportive of the UNOCAL project, did not conceal their disappointment. “US gender politics has scuttled a strategic initiative”.
Fast forward to the great Tajik leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud (the lion of Panjshir valley) addressing the European Union in Brussels, in early spring 2001. He alerted the EU leaders of the information his anti-Taleban Northern Alliance had collected: Al Qaeda, helped by the Taleban, were planning a major attack on the US mainland. For this audacity, Massoud was to pay with his life. On September 9, two days before the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, Massoud was assassinated at his hideout on the Tajik border. It is interesting that the two Tunisian suicide bombers who had approached Massoud disguised as journalists travelled on passports forged in Brussels, the city where Massoud exposed the plot which turned out to be 9/11. At whose behest was Massoud killed?
Had the financial crisis of 2008 not weakened the West, there may have been different scripts for many regions, including Afghanistan. But given the ground realities, President Barack Obama settled on July 2011 as the date on which US troops would begin to withdraw. In August 2011, precisely a month after the Afghan withdrawal date was announced, the Syrian theatre was opened up. Coordination or chaos?
In a paper for the Observer Research Foundation in September 2010 I had argued that Obama’s exit plans were a pipedream. Do Americans have an endgame planned? Can a superpower, in a theatre of strategic importance, have a linear exit plan when multiple strategic options present themselves? US has been extremely watchful of a nuclear Pak. Is it now willing to walk away leaving the world’s only “Islamic” bomb unmonitored? Let’s not forget, Afghanistan has been the US watch tower on this count.
Moreover, a US being bled by an endless war suits all powers in the region. Demanding American departure but doing everything to keep it tied down in Afghanistan is an elementary game everyone is playing. Would interests in Pakistan wish the logistical supply line from the Karachi harbour to Afghanistan past Baluchistan to dry up? It is a regular source of incalculable earnings.
Would not a possible US departure cause Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia and China to contemplate the Afghan real estate as a huge vacuum which each power must rush to fill up before the next one does? Here is a recipe for the mother of all civil wars.
Are the Americans likely to walk away simply because they are exasperated? After having spent a trillion dollars, losing thousands of lives, losing face – so soon after their reversal in Syria – are they really contemplating withdrawal? Will the bosses of UNOCAL suck their thumbs now? Will the priceless poppy fields of Helmand, the oil in the North, the unexplored mineral wealth now become a Russian asset?
Of course not. Absence of consistency has been one of the constants in US policy on Afghanistan. To cloak this inconsistency, amplified in the time of Trump, we have strange reports coming out of the White House. Before Steve Bannon, the President’s chief strategist was shown the door in August 2017 he had drawn the President’s attention to an outlandish proposition put forward by Eric Prince, the founder of Blackwater, the world’s biggest provider of private armies.
At a strategy session in Camp David, Trump’s best and brightest considered the plan: Afghanistan should be administered exactly as the British controlled India – under a viceroy. Is former US ambassador to Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad, to be that Viceroy? He is an ethnic Afghan and is being tipped as special Envoy which is what the Viceroys were.
Of course, the senior military brass around Trump shot down the first Prince proposal. But with Trump beginning to look vulnerable, all manner of risky adventures are being contemplated. The other day National Security Adviser John Bolton leaked the alarming news that Syria was about to launch a chemical attack in Idlib. How did he know? From Hezbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah’s speech last Sunday? Nasrallah said “data indicates that preparations are underway to stage a new chemical incident in Idlib”. This is the western ruse to launch an aggression on Syria.
Meanwhile, there are statements by Iranian Supreme leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, Russian Foreign Ministry and reports by independent journalists like Robert Fisk that militant groups like Jabhat al Nusra, trounced in Syria, are being secretly airlifted to Northern Afghanistan. There are unconfirmed reports of a Chinese retaliation, raised in the Wakhan Corridor to block terrorism, being transported from Afghanistan. An air strike on the Afghan-Tajik border killed eight militants. According to the Afghan spokesman Khalil Asir, the origin of the aircraft remains unclear. Strange things are happening.
US Presidents have been known to dramatically divert attention when faced with internal crises. Is some catastrophe being manufactured to protect Trump?
FAIRBANKS — The shock and awe of 9/11 gives way to reasoned analysis. Sixteen years of reflection and research concludes the official version of the New York City and Pentagon attacks is a cover story. It’s a finger-pointing ploy that exposes rot at the heart of the American empire. Authors of the 9/11 Commission Report now admit it ignores pertinent facts. We can surmise such omissions aim to hide the truth.
A false-flag event is a staged attack intended to catalyze an outcome. James Fetzer, a former Marine Corps officer and professor of philosophy, applied the label early on. Fetzer takes his doubts to the next level with a provocative analysis of the twin towers’ destruction. He presents evidence that shows micro-nuclear bombs, less than a kiloton in size, and located in the basements, caused the buildings’ collapse.
James Corbett, a researcher based in Japan, reminds his audience that on Sept. 10, 2001, the day before the attacks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that the Pentagon had lost $2.3 trillion. Coincidental or preplanned, skilled psychopaths use a crisis to hide earlier crimes.
Field McConnell, a Marine Corps and Northwest Airlines pilot turned whistleblower, revealed in 2006 that airliners are fitted with Boeing Honeywell Uninterruptible Auto Pilots, software that transfers cockpit control to a remote site. Confidential to that point, the technology mocks the tale of Arabs hijacking airliners. McConnell’s contacts in civilian and military aviation lend credibility to his team’s scenario.
The crimes of 9/11 are among the most successful false-flags ever devised. The events in New York City and Washington, D.C., provided a calculated pretext for a score of illegal military invasions and occupations. The perpetrators’ real agenda was to spark national vengeance so our troops would do their bidding.
Nuclear bombs are the only known technology with the power to vaporize a target. Based on the known mass of each tower, the resulting rubble piles were vastly undersized. The majority of each building was turned to micron-sized dust, drifting through lower Manhattan, over the Hudson River and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. Video supports witness accounts of pyroclastic clouds of hot dust moving like a nuclear bomb’s base surge.
As late as February 2002, thermal imaging revealed hot spots in the basements below the rubble pile. Cleanup vendor Bechtel Corp. issued a news release about working conditions, saying subsurface temperatures were as high as 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Photos from Ground Zero’s cleanup operation show mechanical claws pulling molten steel from a basement level.
In the immediate aftermath, the U.S. Geological Survey sampled soil at 35 locations in the vicinity of Ground Zero. Radioactive isotopes produced by nuclear explosions were found throughout collection zones, interior and exterior. Identification revealed heavy metals and radioactive elements: strontium, barium, lead, zinc, tritium, uranium, vanadium, chromium, manganese, antimony and molybdenum. EPA safety limits were significantly exceeded for all samples. Despite the hazards, the area was declared safe for workers and nearby residents.
As of June 2016, Newsweek reported 6,378 people with multiple cancers linked to 9/11. Epidemiologists who study health outcomes estimate 400,000 New Yorkers are likely to develop cancers or cognitive impairments that can be traced to 9/11. These include first responders, city workers, business owners and residents.
Oddly missing from the 9/11 Commission Report and most media: an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) cut electricity and communication lines. It also ignited fires that gutted hundreds of vehicles. Seismographs detected ground explosions; accounts of victims in basements with “hanging and melted skin” (also seen in Japanese A-bomb injuries); World Trace Center 7’s (47 stories) late-afternoon, free-fall collapse.
If the official story ignores extreme heat and explosions in the basements, acute radioactivity, specific trauma, seismic records, witness accounts, EMP effects and rampant cancer among those in close proximity, can it be trusted? I believe a more realistic scenario uses micro-nukes to vaporize the towers. Mayor Michael Bloomberg sought to censor fallout awareness by requiring permits to possess Geiger counters. He backed down under a barrage of criticism.
Distrust of the official story ramped up when then President Bush said anyone with doubts was a traitor. More recently, Bill Clinton angrily denounced an audience member for suggesting the federal government played a role in 9/11. And yet the cumulative weight of evidence suggests just that.
The cover story sold to Americans is bolstered by frequent doses of televised hypnosis. Slipping orthodoxy’s chokehold, independent journalists such as James Fetzer, James Corbett, Field McConnell and others chronicle uncomfortable facts about 9/11. As America’s awareness reaches critical mass, the criminal cadre that orchestrated 9/11 is working overtime to maintain the trance. Shake it off.
Douglas A. Yates is a former Marine Corps photographer who lives in Ester.
Coalition cut secret deals with Al-Qaida fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash, AP investigation finds
The Associated Press
Again and again over the past two years, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States has claimed it won decisive victories that drove Al-Qaida militants from their strongholds across Yemen and shattered their ability to attack the West.
Here’s what the victors did not disclose: many of their conquests came without firing a shot.
That’s because the coalition cut secret deals with Al-Qaida fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. Hundreds more were recruited to join the coalition itself.
These compromises and alliances have allowed Al-Qaida militants to survive to fight another day — and risk strengthening the most dangerous branch of the terror network that carried out the 9/11 attacks. Key participants in the pacts said the U.S. was aware of the arrangements and held off on any drone strikes.
The deals uncovered by the AP reflect the contradictory interests of the two wars being waged simultaneously in this southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula.
In one conflict, the U.S. is working with its Arab allies — particularly the United Arab Emirates — with the aim of eliminating the branch of extremists known as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. But the larger mission is to win the civil war against the Houthis, Iranian-backed Shiite rebels. And in that fight, Al-Qaida militants are effectively on the same side as the Saudi-led coalition — and, by extension, the United States.
“Elements of the U.S. military are clearly aware that much of what the U.S. is doing in Yemen is aiding AQAP and there is much angst about that,” said Michael Horton, a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. analysis group that tracks terrorism.
“However, supporting the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against what the U.S. views as Iranian expansionism takes priority over battling AQAP and even stabilizing Yemen,” Horton said. The AP’s findings are based on reporting in Yemen and interviews with two dozen officials, including Yemeni security officers, militia commanders, tribal mediators and four members of Al-Qaida’s branch. All but a few of those sources spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals. Emirati-backed factions, like most armed groups in Yemen, have been accused of abducting or killing their critics.
Coalition-backed militias actively recruit Al-Qaida militants, or those who were recently members, because they’re considered exceptional fighters, the AP found.
The coalition forces are comprised of a dizzying mix of militias, factions, tribal warlords and tribes with very local interests. And AQAP militants are intertwined with many of them.
One Yemeni commander who was put on the U.S. terrorism list for Al-Qaida ties last year continues to receive money from the UAE to run his militia, his own aide told the AP. Another commander, recently granted $12 million for his fighting force by Yemen’s president, has a known Al-Qaida figure as his closest aide.
In one case, a tribal mediator who brokered a deal between the Emiratis and Al-Qaida even gave the extremists a farewell dinner.
Horton said much of the war on Al-Qaida by the UAE and its allied militias is “a farce.”
“It is now almost impossible to untangle who is AQAP and who is not since so many deals and alliances have been made,” he said.
The U.S. has sent billions of dollars in weapons to the coalition to fight the Iran-backed Houthis. U.S. advisers also give the coalition intelligence used in targeting on-the-ground adversaries in Yemen, and American jets provide air-to-air refueling for coalition war planes. The U.S. does not fund the coalition, however, and there is no evidence that American money went to AQAP militants.
The U.S. is aware of an Al-Qaida presence among the anti-Houthi ranks, a senior American official told reporters in Cairo earlier this year. Because coalition members back militias with hard-line Islamic commanders, “it’s very, very easy for Al-Qaida to insinuate itself into the mix,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under the terms of the briefing.
More recently, the Pentagon vigorously denied any complicity with Al-Qaida militants.
“Since the beginning of 2017, we have conducted more than 140 strikes to remove key AQAP leaders and disrupt its ability to use ungoverned spaces to recruit, train and plan operations against the U.S. and our partners across the region,” Navy Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, wrote in an email to the AP.
A senior Saudi official commented by saying that the Saudi-led coalition “continues its commitment to combat extremism and terrorism.”
An Emirati government spokesman did not reply to questions from the AP.
The coalition began fighting in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis overran the north, including the capital, Sanaa. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are determined to stop what they consider a move by their nemesis, Iran, to take over Yemen, and their professed aim is to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Al-Qaida is leveraging the chaos to its advantage.
“The United States is certainly in a bind in Yemen,” said Katherine Zimmerman, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “It doesn’t make sense that the United States has identified Al-Qaida as a threat, but that we have common interests inside of Yemen and that, in some places, it looks like we’re looking the other way.”
Within this complicated conflict, Al-Qaida says its numbers — which U.S. officials have estimated at 6,000 to 8,000 members — are rising.
An Al-Qaida commander who helps organize deployments told the AP that the front lines against the Houthis provide fertile ground to recruit new members.
“Meaning, if we send 20, we come back with 100,” he said.
The well-known commander communicated with AP via a secure messaging app on condition of anonymity because he had no authorization from the group to talk to the news media.
A farewell dinner for Al-Qaida
In February, Emirati troops and their Yemeni militia allies flashed victory signs to TV cameras as they declared the recapture of al-Said, a district of villages running through the mountainous province of Shabwa — an area Al-Qaida had largely dominated for nearly three years.
It was painted as a crowning victory in a months-long offensive, Operation Swift Sword, that the Emirati ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, had proclaimed would “disrupt the terrorist organization’s network and degrade its ability to conduct future attacks.”
The Pentagon, which assisted with a small number of troops, echoed that promise, saying the mission would weaken the group’s ability to use Yemen as a base.
But weeks before those forces’ entry, a string of pickup trucks mounted with machine guns and loaded with masked Al-Qaida militants drove out of al-Said unmolested, according to a tribal mediator involved in the deal for their withdrawal.
The U.S. has killed Al-Qaida’s top leaders in a drone strike campaign that accelerated in recent years. But in this victory — as in the others touted by the coalition — the mediator said armed U.S. drones were absent, despite the large, obvious convoy.
Under the terms of the deal, the coalition promised Al-Qaida members it would pay them to leave, according to Awad al-Dahboul, the province’s security chief. His account was confirmed by the mediator and two Yemeni government officials.
Al-Dahboul said about 200 Al-Qaida members received payments. He did not learn the exact amounts, but said he knew that 100,000 Saudi rials ($26,000) were paid to one Al-Qaida commander — in the presence of Emiratis.
Under the accord, thousands of local tribal fighters were to be enlisted in the UAE-funded Shabwa Elite Force militia. For every 1,000 fighters, 50 to 70 would be Al-Qaida members, the mediator and two officials said.
Saleh bin Farid al-Awlaqi, a pro-Emirati tribal leader who was the founder of one Elite Force branch, denied any agreements were made. He said he and others enticed young Al-Qaida members in Shabwa to defect, which weakened the group, forcing it to withdraw on its own. He said about 150 fighters who defected were allowed into the Elite Force, but only after they underwent a “repentance” program.
The clearing of Al-Qaida from Shabwa and other provinces did not completely take place without fighting. Clashes erupted in some villages, usually with Al-Qaida remnants that refused to play ball.
One former Al-Qaida member told the AP that he and his comrades turned down an offer of money from the Emiratis. In response, he said, an Elite Force squad besieged them in the town of Hawta until they withdrew.
Overall, deals that took place during both the Obama and Trump administrations have secured Al-Qaida militants’ withdrawal from multiple major towns and cities that the group seized in 2015, the AP found. The earliest pact, in the spring of 2016, allowed thousands of Al-Qaida fighters to pull out of Mukalla, Yemen’s fifth-largest city and a major port on the Arabian Sea.
The militants were guaranteed a safe route out and allowed to keep weapons and cash looted from the city — up to $100 million by some estimates — according to five sources, including military, security and government officials.
“Coalition fighter jets and U.S. drones were idle,” said a senior tribal leader who saw the convoy leaving. “I was wondering why they didn’t strike them.”
A tribal sheikh shuttled between AQAP leaders in Mukalla and Emirati officials in Aden to seal the deal, according to a former senior Yemeni commander.
Coalition-backed forces moved in two days later, announcing that hundreds of militants were killed and hailing the capture as “part of joint international efforts to defeat the terrorist organizations in Yemen.”
No witnesses reported militants killed, however. “We woke up one day and Al-Qaida had vanished without a fight,” a local journalist said, speaking to AP on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Soon after, another accord was struck for AQAP to pull out of six towns in the province of Abyan, including its capital of Zinjibar, according to five tribal mediators involved in the negotiations.
Again, the central provision was that the coalition and U.S. drones cease all bombings as AQAP pulled out with its weapons, the mediators said.
The agreement also included a provision that 10,000 local tribesmen — including 250 Al-Qaida militants — be incorporated into the Security Belt, the UAE-backed Yemeni force in the area, four Yemeni officials said.
For nearly a week in May 2016, the militants departed in trucks. One of the mediators told the AP that he threw the last of the departing fighters a farewell dinner among his olive and lemon orchards when they stopped at his farm to pay their respects.
Another mediator, Tarek al-Fadhli, a former jihadi once trained by Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, said he was in touch with officials at the U.S. Embassy and in the Saudi-led coalition, keeping them updated on the withdrawal.
“When the last one left, we called the coalition to say they are gone,” he said.
‘We will unite with the Devil’
To think of Al-Qaida as an international terror group is to miss its other reality. For many Yemenis, it is simply another faction on the ground — a very effective one, well-armed and battle-hardened.
Its members are not shadowy strangers. Over the years, AQAP has woven itself into society by building ties with tribes, buying loyalties and marrying into major families.
Power players often see it as a useful tool.
Hadi’s predecessor as Yemen’s president, long-ruling strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, set the model. He took billions in U.S. aid to combat Al-Qaida after the 9/11 attacks, even as he recruited its militants to fight his rivals. Hadi’s current vice president, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a military chief for decades, also has been accused of enlisting jihadis.
In that light, it would almost be more startling if the militants were not involved against the Houthis, especially since Al-Qaida militants are extremist Sunnis seeking the defeat of the Shiite rebels.
Al-Qaida militants are present on all major front lines fighting the rebels, Khaled Baterfi, a senior leader in the group, said in a previously unpublished 2015 interview with a local journalist obtained by the AP.
Last month, Baterfi said in a Q&A session distributed by Al-Qaida that “those at the front lines for sure know of our participation, which is either actual fighting with our brothers in Yemen or supporting them with weapons.”
Al-Qaida has reduced attacks against Hadi’s and Emirati-linked forces because assailing them would benefit the Houthis, Baterfi said.
The branch is following guidance from Al-Qaida’s worldwide leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, to focus on fighting the rebels, another top AQAP member said in written answers to the AP.
In some places, militants join battles independently. But in many cases, militia commanders from the ultraconservative Salafi sect and the Muslim Brotherhood bring them directly into their ranks, where they benefit from coalition funding, the AP found. The Brotherhood’s Yemen branch is a powerful hard-line Islamic political organization allied to Hadi.
Two of the four main coalition-backed commanders along the Red Sea coast are allies of Al-Qaida, the Al-Qaida member said. The coalition has made major advances on the coast, currently battling for the port of Hodeida.
Video footage shot by the AP in January 2017 showed a coalition-backed unit advancing on Mocha, part of an eventually successful campaign to recapture the Red Sea town.
Some of the unit’s fighters were openly Al-Qaida, wearing Afghan-style garb and carrying weapons with the group’s logo. As they climbed behind machine guns in pick-up trucks, explosions from coalition airstrikes could be seen on the horizon.
An AQAP member interviewed in person by the AP in May viewed the video and confirmed the fighters belonged to his group. His affiliation is known from his past involvement in AQAP’s rule over a southern city.
The impact of the intertwining of Al-Qaida fighters with the coalition campaign is clearest in Taiz, Yemen’s largest city and center of one of the war’s longest running battles.
In the central highlands, Taiz is Yemen’s cultural capital, a historic source of poets and writers and educated technocrats. In 2015, Houthis laid siege to the city, occupying surrounding mountain ranges, sealing the entrances and shelling it mercilessly.
Taiz residents rose up to fight back, and coalition cash and weapons poured in — as did Al-Qaida and Islamic State group militants, all aimed at the same enemy.
One liberal activist took up arms alongside other men from his neighborhood to defend the city, and they found themselves fighting side by side with Al-Qaida members.
“There is no filtering in the war. We are all together,” said the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said commanders received weapons and other aid from the coalition and distributed it to all the fighters, including Al-Qaida militants.
Abdel-Sattar al-Shamiri, a former adviser to Taiz’s governor, said he recognized Al-Qaida’s presence from the start and told commanders not to recruit members.
“Their response was, ‘We will unite with the devil in the face of Houthis,’” al-Shamiri said.
He said he warned coalition officials, who were “upset” but took no action.
“Taiz is in danger,” al-Shamiri said. “We will get rid of the Houthis and we will be stuck with terrorist groups.”
The activist and officials in the city said one of the main recruiters of Al-Qaida fighters is Adnan Rouzek, a Salafi member tapped by Hadi to be a top military commander.
Rouzek’s militia became notorious for kidnappings and street killings, with one online video showing its masked members shooting a kneeling, blindfolded man. Its videos feature Al-Qaida-style anthems and banners.
Rouzek’s top aide was a senior Al-Qaida figure who escaped from a prison in Aden in 2008 along with other AQAP detainees, according to a Yemeni security official. Multiple photos seen by the AP show Rouzek with known Al-Qaida commanders in recent years.
In November, Hadi named Rouzek head of the Taiz Operations Rooms, coordinating the military campaign, and top commander of a new fighting force, the 5th Presidential Protection Battalion. Hadi’s Defense Ministry also gave Rouzek $12 million for a new offensive against the Houthis. The AP obtained copy of a receipt for the $12 million and a Rouzek aide confirmed the figure.
Rouzek denied any connection to militants, telling the AP that “there is no presence of Al-Qaida” in Taiz.
Another coalition-backed warlord is on the U.S. list of designated terrorists due to his ties to Al-Qaida.
The warlord, a Salafi known as Sheikh Aboul Abbas, has received millions of dollars from the coalition to distribute among anti-Houthi factions, according to his aide, Adel al-Ezzi. Despite being put on the U.S. list in October, the UAE continues to fund him, al-Ezzi told the AP.
The aide denied any links to militants and dismissed his boss’s designation on the U.S. terror list. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that “Al-Qaida has fought on all the front lines alongside all factions.”
Right after the AP team spoke to him in Taiz, the team saw al-Ezzi meeting with a known senior Al-Qaida figure, warmly hugging him outside the home of another former AQAP commander.
Aboul Abbas runs a coalition-funded militia controlling several districts in Taiz. A 2016 video produced by Al-Qaida shows militants in black uniforms with Al-Qaida’s logo fighting alongside other militias in districts known to be under his control.
A former security official in Taiz said militants and Aboul Abbas’ forces attacked security headquarters in 2017 and freed a number of Al-Qaida suspects. The officer said he reported the attack to the coalition, only to learn soon after that it gave Aboul Abbas 40 more pick-up trucks.
“The more we warn, the more they are rewarded,” the officer said. “Al-Qaida leaders have armored vehicles given to them by the coalition while security commanders don’t have such vehicles.”
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – An Islamic Jihad representative in Tehran praised the Islamic Republic for disrupting the expansion of the Zionist regime of Israel in the region.
Speaking to reporters in Iran’s northern city of Rasht on Tuesday, the representative of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement in Iran, Nasser Abu Sharif, said the Zionists had been making advances in areas as far as Beirut before victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1978.
“After establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the condition of Zionists in the region changed greatly and the process of their expansion came to a full halt,” he added.
Unlike the humiliated Arab governments that rely on the US and Israel, Iran has kept to the resistance path and has been countering superpowers in a dignified manner, Abu Sharif underlined.
While Iran has changed the equations in the region, the Zionist regime is begging for survival, the Islamic Jihad envoy noted, pointing to Israel’s humiliating defeats in the wars against Lebanon and Gaza.
He further hailed Iran for remaining resolute in its support for the anti-Israeli resistance movement, saying the Islamic Republic chose the right path in the same year that Egypt signed a peace treaty with Zionists.
In comments in January, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei underlined that “Palestine is an important issue of the Muslim World which has been often ignored”.
Speaking to participants of the 13th Conference dedicated to the Parliamentary Union of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Tehran, Ayatollah Khamenei had reminded that Palestine is a collective: a country and a history.
“Palestine extends from the river to the sea, and al-Quds (Jerusalem) is undoubtedly its capital. This recent move by the US officials–who have recently been acting more blatantly towards Quds– won’t get anywhere and their moves won’t bear results,” the Leader noted.
In December 2017, US President Donald Trump officially declared the disputed city of al-Quds Israel’s capital, despite warnings from around the world that the measure risks triggering a fresh wave of violence in the Middle East.
Russia launched checks Tuesday after its space chief said an air leak on the International Space Station last week could have been deliberate sabotage.
Space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin said the hole detected Thursday in a Russian space craft docked at the orbiting station was caused by a drill and could have been done deliberately, either back on Earth or by astronauts in space.
Astronauts used tape to seal the leak after it caused a small loss of pressure that was not life-threatening.
“There were several attempts at drilling,” Rogozin said late Monday in televised comments.
He added that the drill appeared to have been held by a “wavering hand.”
“What is this: a production defect or some premeditated actions?” he asked.
“We are checking the Earth version. But there is another version that we do not rule out: deliberate interference in space.”
A commission will seek to identify the culprit by name, Rogozin said, calling this a “matter of honour” for Russia’s Energiya space manufacturing company that made the Soyuz.
‘Not a meteorite’
Previously Rogozin had said the hole in the side of the Soyuz ship used to ferry astronauts was most likely caused from outside by a tiny meteorite.
“We have already ruled out the meteorite version,” Rogozin said late Monday.
A Russian MP who is a former cosmonaut suggested that a psychologically disturbed astronaut could have done it to force an early return home.
“We’re all human, and anyone might want to go home, but this method is really low,” Maxim Surayev of President Vladimir Putin’s ruling party, told RIA Novosti state news agency,
“If a cosmonaut pulled this strange stunt—and that can’t ruled out— it’s really bad,” said Surayev, who spent two stints on the ISS.
“I wish to God that this is a production defect, although that’s very sad, too—there’s been nothing like this in the history of Soyuz ships.”
The hole is in a section of the Soyuz ship that will not be used to carry astronauts back to Earth.
A space industry source told TASS state news agency that the spacecraft could have been damaged during testing at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan after passing initial checks and the mistake was then hastily covered up.
“Someone messed up and then got scared and sealed up the hole,” the source speculated, but then the sealant “dried up and fell off” when the Soyuz reached the ISS.
Energiya will carry out checks for possible defects on all Soyuz ships and Progress unmanned ships used for cargo at its production site outside Moscow and at Baikonur cosmodrome, RIA Novosti reported Tuesday, citing a space industry source.
The ISS is one of the few areas of Russia-US cooperation that remains unaffected by the slump in relations between the countries and Washington’s sanctions.
Russia’s rockets used for launching spacecraft and satellites have suffered engine problems.
Currently on the ISS are two cosmonauts from Russia and three NASA astronauts as well as one German astronaut from the European Space Agency.
President Trump told Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis that he wanted to “fucking kill” Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, according to a new book by veteran journalist Bob Woodward.
“Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump told Mattis in a phone call following a chemical weapons attack in April 2017 that left more than 80 civilians in Syria dead.
Although Mattis initially told Trump that he would move forward with the plan, he immediately told a staffer that they would take a more “measured” approach.
“We’re not going to do any of that,” Mattis told a senior aide after the phone call. “We’re going to be much more measured.” The national security team proceeded to construct plans for the April 2017 retaliatory missile strike on a Syrian air base.
Additionally, the book details a January meeting with the National Security Council where Trump called into question having a large U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula.
There, the U.S. maintains a special intelligence operation in the region that allows the U.S. to spot a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds, in comparison to 15 minutes from Alaska. But Trump openly challenged why the U.S. was using government resources in the area.
“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Mattis told Trump.
After Trump left the meeting, a frustrated Mattis compared Trump to an elementary or middle school student.
“Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader,’” Woodward writes.
Mattis also defended former Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., during a dinner with Trump and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., after Trump inaccurately accused McCain of being a coward for accepting an early release from a Vietnam prisoner-or-war camp. McCain actually refused to accept an early release and was instead subjected to torture.
“No, Mr. President, I think you’ve got it reversed,” Mattis said in response.
According to Woodward, multiple top advisers have been concerned by Trump’s behavior on multiple occasions, including Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly. Woodward wrote that Mattis joked with friends about Trump’s habit of going down rabbit holes on topics such as immigration and the media.
“Secretaries of defense don’t always get to choose the president they work for,” Mattis said.
Meanwhile, Kelly reportedly told colleagues Trump was “unhinged” and an “idiot.” He also allegedly said working at the White House was “the worst job I’ve ever had.”
Our leaders’ criticisms of Assad and Putin smack of hypocrisy.
It looks as if the Syrian conflict could be about to grind to its miserable, attritional close. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces are encircling Idlib province, while the Russian navy is building up strength off Syria’s Mediterranean coast. They look set to launch an offensive on the last remaining holdout of anti-Assad forces in Idlib, hitherto a so-called de-escalation zone that has provided refuge for hundreds of thousands of Syria’s millions of displaced people alongside an estimated 70,000 anti-Assad fighters. As Walid al-Moualem, Syria’s foreign minister, put it: ‘We are at the final stage of solving the crisis in Syria and liberating our whole territory from terrorism.’
If that does come to pass – and there is no certainty it will, given Idlib borders Turkey, which is vigorously and potentially militarily opposed to any offensive – there will be very little to celebrate. After over seven years of an increasingly internationalised civil war, sparked by domestic, anti-Assad protesters before it was stoked and warped off course by a cack-handed US-led Western intervention, and then re-directed with Russia’s entry in 2015, the Syria that emerges will look pretty much the same as the one that first fractured in 2011. It will be ruled by Assad and the minority Alawites, with support from several other minority groups, in latent opposition with a restive Sunni majority. The country will look very different, of course: the ruins where cities stood, the dried-up fields where irrigation once promised crops, and the millions of people without habitation in a place they once called home. There are no winners here. And there are certainly no good guys.
Yet, such is the fog of moralising that has long engulfed the Syrian catastrophe that some still seem to think blame can be laid easily and simply at the door of the evil Assad and his wicked accomplices: Iran and, especially, Russia. It suits their one-baddie-fits-all narrative. As they present it, Syria is a tale of Russian-backed brutality, writ large in indiscriminate aerial bombardments and alleged chemical attacks, leaving many more civilians dead than actual combatants. A tale of the bad guys slaughtering good ‘moderate’ rebels, and many more innocents besides.
You can hear the narrative now in the warnings to Russia emanating from US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who called the prospective Idlib offensive ‘an escalation of an already dangerous conflict’, and said: ‘The world is watching.’ You can hear it in the leaked reports that the US has drawn up a preliminary list of Syrian chemical weapons facilities to strike if Russia and Assad overstep the mark. And you can hear it, too, in the shrill Western commentary, where this blood-bathed endgame is no more than what Vladimir Putin wants as he seeks ‘to ensure Assad’s survival and seal an epic Russian strategic victory over the US… whatever the cost in human life and suffering’.
But you don’t have to be a fan of a despot like Assad, or Putin’s Russia, to see that in Syria, and indeed in Iraq, an arena of conflict entwined with Syria’s own, this moralised, Manichaean narrative is unsustainable. For a start, Idlib really is a ‘rebel’ stronghold. The inverted commas are necessary, because those the West calls rebels within Syria, it calls terrorists without. Because that is what the majority faction, and many of the smaller factions, that make up the anti-Assad forces comprise: hardline, militant Islamists who would happily sponsor a terror attack in Paris or London.
This is not Russian or Syrian propaganda. It is estimated that in the Idlib province right now, there are 70,000 rebels, dominated by the Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) faction, which is in control of about 60 per cent of the the province. HTS is actually a rebrand of the earlier jihadi militia al-Nusra Front, which, up until recently, was affiliated with al-Qaeda. This is why the Idlib province was described last year as ‘the largest al-Qaeda safe haven since 9/11’. Not by Assad or Putin, but by Brett McGurk, the senior US envoy to the international coalition then fighting ISIS. McGurk’s assertion was backed up by the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who admitted last week that ‘no one doubts that Al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda are terrorists… and terrorists identified by the UN need to be defeated’.
Likewise, no one doubts that the Syrian offensive against HTS and its jihadi frenemies will be horrific, with many civilians likely to be killed and whole towns reduced to rubble. This is what happens when ground forces deploy heavy artillery from afar, and fighter jets bomb from on high. It is what happens when relatively small rebel groups deliberately thread themselves through a civilian populace. It is what happens when troops do move in to clear out areas, but only after the aerial bombardment has all too literally paved the way. We know this because it has happened before in the countless, drawn-out sieges that have marked the decisive phases of the conflict in Iraq and Syria.
Yet all those in the US and the UK now wringing their hands over what Russia-backed Syrian forces threaten to do in Idlib, just as they did in Aleppo or Eastern Ghouta, seem to ignore the fact that the US-led coalition did exactly the same in Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. The tactics and strategy were near identical. The bombing was merciless, the ruination near total. Amnesty International revealed that in Mosul alone, nearly 6,000 civilians lost their lives at the hands of what UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, called ‘one of the largest urban military operations since the Second World War’. Yet few in the West have issued ‘stark warnings’ to the US about its conduct, or talked darkly of war crimes. Instead, the Mosul offensive was sanctioned, not to mention half concealed, on the grounds that the elimination of ISIS was worth the collateral damage.
This is not to justify Assad and Russia’s largely blithe disregard for civilian life. It is to point out the moral highground currently occupied by too many in Western foreign-policymaking circles is built on the blood and dust of that interlinked war waged by the US and its allies against ISIS, an Islamist terror group that differs from HTS/al-Nusra Front only in its lack of political astuteness. That is, it is to point out that the bloody mess of Syria and Iraq does not and cannot provide the morality play Pompeo or the broadsheet bombardiers want it to. Rather, it is yet another testament to the folly of Western interventionism. The folly of those who continue to believe, despite the Iraq War in 2003, despite the Libyan conflict in 2011, that they are best placed to decide the fate of distant peoples.
Damascus, SANA – US Senator Richard Black doubted that the US political approach has achieved any benefits for the American people, while this approach has resulted in destroying the Middle East, adding that the terrorism that struck the US on 9/11 and the terrorism targeting Syria today are one and the same.
In a statement to journalists following a meeting with Presidential Political and Media Advisor Bouthaina Shaaban on Sunday, Black said that Syria has the right to reclaim all its territory without exception and to live in peace after years of war.
He said that the US should work with Syria to liberate the people of Idleb who are being used by terrorists as human shields, stressing that the West must understand that the “militants” in Idleb are all affiliated to Jabhat al-Nusra which is part of Al Qaeda.
The Senator said that there is a movement in the US administration that works towards prolonging the war in Syria, warning against the threats posed by the reported plans of the British intelligence to stage a chemical attack in Idleb and blame Syria for it in order to justify attacking it.
Black called on Western state to put an end to the economic sanctions imposed on Syria, holding the consecutive US administrations responsible for the chaos in the Middle East and the destruction in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen.
He hoped that US foreign policy would shift from harming the Middle East to helping it, and that it would use more diplomacy and less military force.
The Senator said he feels safe among Syrians as long as the extremists – who are recruited from more than 100 countries, trained, funded, then set loose by Western intelligence agencies to spread terrorism – are being eliminated.
For her part, Shaabam asserted that the terrorism targeting Syria today is the same terrorism that targets humanity everywhere, and all the governments must stand against it.
She said that after eight years of the war on Syria, the world now has respect and love for this country and its leadership and people due to the way they defended it and their convictions and unity.
Shaaban said she is glad to meet Senator Black who is a defender of the Syrian position and Syria’s right to defend itself.
She also welcomed all the free voices in the world who call for the independence of peoples, noting that there are many noble individuals who do not accept what Syria is being subjected to, and their voices need to be made heard by honest and free media.
More than 200,000 Americans have died from overdoses related to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2016, and scientists have been searching hard for new, non-addictive painkillers that could safely replace these drugs. Now, a team of researchers publishing in Science Translational Medicine says that’s exactly what they have — a new, highly effective painkiller that doesn’t have any apparent addictive qualities.
The drug, called AT-121, targets the same powerful pain-relieving mu opioid receptors in the brain that traditional painkillers do, but with one key difference: It also latches on to a second group of receptors, called nociception receptors, that block the brain’s addiction-forming response.
“It’s really exciting to see that this compound exhibits a dual action,” Mei-Chuan Ko, Ph.D., a pharmacology professor at Wake Forest University and senior author of the new study on rhesus monkeys, tells Inverse. “Because of that, it is both safe and non-addictive.”
Traditional painkillers bind only mu receptors, which are located on neurons throughout the brain and spinal cord, Ko says. Once activated, mu receptors trigger a molecular cascade inside cells that leads to pain relief. They’re the same ones that are responsible for the “runner’s high” that occurs when natural pain-relieving molecules are released by the body. But opioid drugs like morphine also activate other proteins in the same signaling pathway that cause constipation and a decrease in breathing rate as well as an increasing tolerance over time.
Nociception receptors, however, counteract some of the effects of mu receptors — crucially, the experience of pleasure that eventually leads to addiction in the brain. Activating both pathways seems to increase pain relief while blocking euphoria, Ko says.
The drug, tested in monkeys, was 100 times better at reducing pain than morphine. Monkeys that got a small dose of AT-121 were willing to keep their tails in uncomfortably warm water at 50°C (122°F) for several minutes, whereas they needed a much higher dose of morphine to do the same. The monkeys also self-administered a variety of drugs, such as cocaine and oxycodone, but they were no more likely to self-administer AT-121 than a saline solution, which is a promising indication of their non-addictiveness, says Ko. Moreover, the drug did not cause any breathing problems like traditional opioids do.
Other pain researchers have tried to find similar workaround drugs in the past. Some have tried to alter the chemical structure of oxycodone so that it crosses the blood-brain barrier more slowly, while others are developing drugs that won’t have certain side effects like decreased breathing rates. But most of the alternatives still generate a mild high that could predispose people to addiction, Ko says.
His team hopes to perform more detailed studies to determine the best dose and formulation of the drug before continuing on to human clinical trials. But that may still take another two to three years, Ko admits. “This is a completely new chemical,” he says.
Lockheed Martin’s social media appeal to send them the best photos of its products went horribly awry, as unimpressed Twitterati responded with gruesome images of the horrors of war.
The world’s largest defense contractor and one of the top defense manufacturers posted a tweet last week, asking Twitter users to send them an “amazing photo” of a Lockheed Martin item. It is unclear what the company expected to receive, given that it produces deadly weapons of war, but the campaign backfired spectacularly.
The “amazing photos” Lockheed received show what appear to be parts of their own missile that struck a Yemeni school bus, killing dozens, as well as children’s school backpacks covered with blood. The initial tweet was deleted, but screenshots taken by vigilant users are circulating on social media.
Lockheed Martin has now deleted the first tweet. The weapons maker takes PR & perception seriously. Which is why it funds, pseudo-academic, lobby groups, such as @cepa, @AtlanticCouncil,@gmfus etc. Many prominent, war-focused, media commentators are funded by these entities. pic.twitter.com/rI9aMXjDbh
Lockheed’s initial tweet coincided with reports that one of their 500-pound laser-guided MK 82 bombs was used in a Saudi-led coalition airstrike on a school bus in Yemen earlier this month. The attack left more than 50 dead, most of them children. The same bomb made headlines in 2016 when the Saudi-led coalition bombed a community hall in Sanaa where a funeral was taking place, killing more than 140 people and wounding 525 others.
The US has repeatedly come under fire from NGOs and even US lawmakers to stop arms supplies to the Saudis, who are leading the bombing campaign in Yemen. Despite this, the Pentagon went on to award Lockheed Martin key contracts to supply weapons to the coalition.
The Saudi-led coalition’s actions have been repeatedly condemned by rights groups and the UN. It has left behind thousands of civilian casualties and has triggered a humanitarian disaster in Yemen. More than 22 million Yemenis need assistance, with 60 percent of the population lacking food and more than half of the country left without basic medical services.
MOSCOW, August 23. /TASS/. Russia has recorded flights of unidentified helicopters delivering weapons to the Taliban (a movement outlawed in Russia) and the Islamic State (a terror group outlawed in Russia) units active in Afghanistan, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing on Thursday.
“We would like to once again point to the flights of unidentified helicopters in northern Afghanistan, which deliver weapons and ammunition to local ISIL [the former name of the Islamic State group – TASS] units and Taliban members cooperating with the group. In particular, the Afghan media and local residents say that such helicopters were seen in the Sar-e Pol Province,” the Russian diplomat said.
“This is happening in close proximity to the borders of Central Asian states, while many of the IS militants active in Afghanistan come from those countries,” Zakharova pointed out.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman also said that the Afghan security agencies, as well as the Command of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, did not react to those helicopter flights. “In this regard, the question arises – who is behind these flights, who provides weapons to the terrorists and secretly creates springboards for them near the southern borders of the CIS and why is it happening at all, given NATO’s actual control of Afghanistan’s airspace,” Zakharova said.
Ab Qadir Sediqi@qadir_sediqi #AFG. Reportedly, unidentified helicopters dropped packages in #Taliban controlled areas in #Kohistanat district of Sar-e Pul province, in northern #Afghanistan.
It may seem paradoxical that any American interest would seek to deliberately prolong the Afghan quagmire. Costing trillions of dollars to the national debt, one would think that US planners are anxious to wind down the war and cut their immense losses. Not so, it seems.
Like the classic 1960s satire film, Dr. Strangelove, and how he came to “love the A-bomb”, there are present-day elements in the US military-security apparatus that seem to be just fine about being wedded to the mayhem in Afghanistan.
That war is officially the longest-ever war fought by US forces overseas, outlasting the Vietnam war (1964-75) by six years – and still counting.
After GW Bush launched the operation in October 2001, the war is now under the purview of its third consecutive president. What’s more, the 17-year campaign to date is unlikely to end for several more years to come, after President Donald Trump last year gave the Pentagon control over its conduct.
This week saw two developments which show that powerful elements within the US state have very different calculations concerning the Afghan war compared with most ordinary citizens.
First, there was the rejection by Washington of an offer extended by Russia to join a peace summit scheduled for next month. The purpose of the Moscow conference is to bring together participants in the war, including the US-backed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani, as well as the Taliban militants who have been fighting against American military occupation.
Washington and its Afghan surrogate administration in Kabul said they would not be participating because, in their view, such a dialogue would be futile.
The US refusal to attend the Moscow event, after previously showing an apparent interest, drew an angry response from Russia. Russia’s foreign ministry said the “refusal to attend the Moscow meeting on Afghanistan shows Washington has no interest in launching a peace process.”
One suspects that US reluctance is partly due to not wanting to give Moscow any additional international standing since Russia’s successful military intervention in Syria and its leading role in mediating for peace there.
It also seems incongruous that only last week the US-backed Ghani administration offered to call a ceasefire with the Taliban to mark the Muslim religious festivities of Eid al-Arafat. If President Ghani can see fit to call a truce with the militants, then what is so objectionable about sitting down with them in Moscow?
Another, more sinister, development was the disclosure this week by the Russian foreign ministry that it had tracked large-scale weapons supplies to militant groups in Afghanistan’s northern region. The foreign ministry said the weapons were dropped off by unidentified military helicopters.
What’s more, the helicopters were apparently given flight clearance by the US military forces and their Afghan national army charges. There can be only one conclusion: the Pentagon or the CIA are complicit in arming insurgents whom they are supposed to be trying to defeat. This is not the first time that such clandestine trafficking of weapons by US forces in Afghanistan has been reported by the Russian foreign ministry.
Similar skulduggery involving US military with terror groups in Syria has also been documented.
Recall too an interview given at the end of last year by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai who said categorically that US military commanders were responsible for cultivating Islamic State (IS, ISIS or Daesh) terrorist networks in his country. These groups seem to be separate in intent from the Taliban factions.
Ironically, US commanders have recently accused Russia of supplying weapons to Taliban fighters. Moscow and the Taliban have both separately denied any such link.
Such claims by Washington seem more plausibly an attempt by the Pentagon to muddy the waters of their own complicity in arming illegal militant groups in Afghanistan.
The question is: why would US forces want to aid and abet militants and prolong a war that has cost the American taxpayer trillions of dollars? Why would Washington spurn an opportunity to participate in the Moscow-convened summit scheduled for September 4, which is aimed at finding a peaceful settlement to the conflict?
In short, what US interests are there in prolonging this appalling war?
While the occupation of Afghanistan by US troops is a deadweight for the American national economy and citizen-taxpayers – adding up to $5 trillion to the country’s total debt load of $21 trillion – we have to bear in mind that for weapons manufacturers and suppliers, the war is a boon. It keeps the military-industrial complex humming with super profitable business. Companies like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, which are among the top lobbyists to Congress, using a coldly rational logic would not want this war to stop. Ever. Their corporate interests are starkly divergent from ordinary US citizens and foot-soldiers on the ground. So what if the nation is $21 trillion in debt when mega profits are being scooped up by executives and shareholders of the weapons companies?
It is also well-documented that the CIA depends on lawlessness in Afghanistan to run its trillion-dollar opium drugs racket. As with the notorious Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam war, the CIA uses global drugs trafficking as a way to fund its “black operations” in others parts of the world, finances that are kept hidden from political oversight by Congressional lawmakers.
A third incentive for American imperial planners to keep Afghanistan in turmoil is that it allows the US to mobilize and weaponize proxy armies for the purpose of harrying Russia and Iran. Afghanistan has a border with Iran to its west and it is a spearhead into Russia’s southern flank. For the US, having a base for militants with which to penetrate and destabilize either Iran or Russia is a strategic asset, not at all a strategic loss. Especially now given that Iran and Russia have succeeded in routing the US-backed jihadist bases in Syria.
Indeed, Russia has already explicitly expressed the concern that a lawless Afghanistan presents a direct security threat to its national interests.
So, yes, by any normal reckoning, Afghanistan has been a catastrophe for US citizens, as well as of course for millions of Afghanis who have lost loved ones, homes, jobs, and livelihoods only to eke a subsistence in grinding poverty.
But in a more sinister reckoning, there are powerful American interests which view the suffering and calamity of Afghanistan as a lucrative, strategic venture that must be kept going.
Afghanistan may be a seething swamp of suffering. But it’s a swamp that is at the same time spawning immense advantages for a select few overseeing US imperialist interests. That makes the tragedy of the country more poignant. Heinously, crucial incentives are not to stop the war, but to keep it going.
Finian Cunningham is a former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages.
What is known at the moment about the situation at the defense enterprise in the Nizhny Novgorod region
The Investigative Committee organized a check on the incident at the Sverdlov Defense Plant in Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novgorod Region.As stated on the site of the enterprise, which produces explosives and aircraft bombs, on August 31 at the factory there was a clap in the mine disposal shop.According to the interlocutors of “Privolzhye”, two workers of the plant were killed, another area of burns is 100%, four more employees of the company are currently missing.The information is being updated.
In social networks, the Dzerzhin people write that they were informed by the emergency notification system that on August 31 at 9:52 there was a fire in the territory of the Sverdlov plant. “There are no threats to its spread, as well as to the life and health of the city’s residents. The situation is under the control of the government of the Nizhny Novgorod region, the city administration and special formations, “- informed the population of Dzerzhinsk.
On the official site of FSUE “Zavod im. Ya.M. Sverdlov “says that there was a clap in the building of the utilization of mines. At the moment the shop is cordoned off, the fire brigade is watering neighboring buildings and territory to prevent the spread of fire. “We will inform about the development of events in addition,” the press service of the plant informs.
The Office of the Investigative Committee for the Nizhny Novgorod region has organized an audit. It is also reported that the plant was “cotton and smoke” during technical work. Investigators of the department for investigation of especially important cases and criminalists were sent to the plant. According to SUSK, due to the fact that the employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations continue to work at the scene of the incident, the inspection of the shop is difficult.
On the site of the Ministry of Emergency Situations it is said that the fire and rescue units went to the plant in the rank of fire number 3. “The established grouping of forces and means is enough. Information on the victims is being specified. Valery Sinkov, the head of the EMERCOM of Russia for the Nizhny Novgorod region, is working on the spot, “the ministry’s website says.
Accurate information about the number of dead and injured is not called either in the hospital emergency medical service Dzerzhinsk, nor in the EMERCOM of Russia, nor in the management of the IC of the RF for the Nizhny Novgorod region.
According to the interlocutors of Kommersant in Dzerzhinsk, at the moment it is known that two people were killed, another worker was burnt by 100%, four are reported missing. “Interfax” reported that three people were killed, three of them were injured and three were not found alive yet.
Sources “Kommersant” told that the explosion occurred in the shop number 19 body 200. Presumably, the explosive substance exploded ammonal. According to sources, in this building not the plant itself was engaged in ammunition disposal, but a third-party firm, affiliated with the company’s management.
TASS, citing a source in law enforcement agencies, writes that there is a threat of a re-explosion due to a fire.
The regional department of Rospotrebnadzor began laboratory research of air near houses near the Sverdlov plant, the press service of the ministry reported.
“The results will be reported additionally,” the supervisory authority said.
This year, incidents occurred at the Sverdlov plant. So on April 5, four tanks with methanol off the rails due to the widening of the track gauge. The interlocutors of Kommersant claimed that the tank capsized and the toxic liquid was spilled. However, later in Rostekhnadzor “b-Privolzhye” was informed that there was no dangerous substance filling.
In July, the media reported that an explosion occurred at the plant and one of the shops collapsed. However, the company was informed that the non-working part of the production building collapsed, there were no injuries and the equipment was not damaged either.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it was “astonished” at a Reuters report that Iran had moved missiles to Iraq and that the article was “without evidence”, but stopped short of denying its contents.
FILE PHOTO: A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran September 27, 2017. Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY/File Photo
“Iraq is not obliged to respond to media reports that lack tangible evidence backing up their claims and allegations,” the ministry said in a statement.
“All state institutions in Iraq uphold Article 7 of the constitution, which prohibits the use of Iraqi land as a base or passage to be used in operations targeting the security of other states.”
Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources told Reuters that Iran had given ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq and was developing the capacity to build more there.
The Iraqi government and military declined to comment at the time. In Sunday’s statement, the Foreign Ministry said it was “astonished at the allegations” contained in the report.
Iran on Saturday rejected the report, which it said aimed to hurt Iran’s ties with neighbors.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter he was “deeply concerned” by news that Iran was transferring ballistic missiles into Iraq. He urged Iraqi leaders to form a new government quickly after a May 12 parliamentary election.
Any sign Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
It would also embarrass France, Germany and Britain, the three European signatories to the nuclear deal, as they have been trying to salvage the agreement despite new U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.
Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Dale Hudson
BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:20 P.M.) – The Russian Aerospace Forces were redirected from Iraq’s airspace on Friday and forced to reroute over Iran, air traffic observers reported this afternoon.
According to the reports, a Russian Tu-154M was traveling from Moscow to the Syrian coastal province of Latakia, when the Iraqi government made the decision to block the warplane’s flight over their airspace. No reason was cited by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense for blocking this Russian warplane. The Russian warplane is reportedly making another attempt to fly across Iraq in order to reach the Latakia Governorate in western Syria.
US soldiers ride in a helicopter at a military base north of Mosul, Iraq, Jan. 4, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Kalin
Iraqi Shiite politicians and armed groups close to the parties in power disagree over the international coalition’s announcement that it will keep its forces in the country.
Iraq’s political circles are divided over the recent US-led coalition’s announcement that its military forces will remain in Iraq indefinitely.
Coalition spokesman Col. Sean Ryan said Aug. 19, “We’ll keep troops there as long as we think they’re needed.” Once the Islamic State (IS) is defeated, the country will still need help stabilizing, “so that’s one of the reasons we’ll maintain a presence.”
The announcement came two days after the US State Department warned citizens against traveling to Iraq because of “terrorism and armed conflict.”
Some opposition voices against the US presence in Iraq have seemed less harsh in recent months, though they say the extension must be approved by the Iraqi parliament. But members of some armed groups affiliated with Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) — an umbrella military organization with ties to Iran — absolutely reject the US presence in Iraq. One PMU faction, the Hezbollah Brigades, said the US administration is hiding “ulterior hostile motives” by keeping its forces in Iraq.
At the official government level, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is heading a caretaker government, has yet to comment on the US announcement. However, Ihsan al-Shamri, an adviser in Abadi’s office, defended the US decision. “There are no changes regarding the presence of US forces in Iraq,” Shamri told Al-Monitor. “The government is negotiating with the US side on changing the missions of US military advisers from the stage of war to the stage of peace.”
He added, “As the war against IS has ended, it’s necessary to change the mission of those [US advisers] to cope with the new post-victory period.” Shamri further said, “[Abadi] is now thinking about preventive security. … This is why the talks [with the international coalition] are focused on the US providing training, armament and intelligence to the Iraqi armed forces, namely information on [the situation] on Iraqi borders with neighboring countries.”
Back in April, the international coalition announced that major combat operations against IS in Iraq had ended. The coalition declared it would deactivate the land forces’ command headquarters in the country and shift its role from supporting combat operations to developing Iraq’s military-related capabilities.
The Pentagon estimates 5,200 US troops are deployed in Iraq to provide training and consultations to Iraqi security forces. However, media outlets talk about the presence of more than 7,000 US troops.
Saad al-Matlabi, a member of the State of Law Coalition led by Nouri al-Maliki, said that although Abadi apparently thinks otherwise, “The decision to keep the US forces in Iraq doesn’t fall under the prerogatives of the [administration], whose powers are executive.” Rather, he told Al-Monitor, “This decision should be discussed in parliament.”
He added, “We should ask Abadi, who says [the decision] falls within the Strategic Framework Agreement [SFA] of 2008, according to his associates: Under which article of this agreement does the decision to extend the US presence in Iraq fall?”
Matlabi believes the agreement is defunct, as the US refused to activate it when IS occupied a third of Iraq’s territory in June 2014.
Shamri, Abadi’s adviser, disagrees.
“Washington had [temporarily] frozen the SFA following disputes with former Prime Minister Maliki. But the US reactivated the agreement after Abadi came to power, and thus [all talks] are ongoing now under the framework of the SFA.” Because of this, he said, “The decision to keep the US forces in Iraq doesn’t need to be submitted to parliament.”
As the Shiite armed factions have reduced their threats to US forces deployed at military bases in Iraq, it seems no military clashes will erupt between the two sides anytime soon. Yet the factions still reject the US presence, and their positions often fluctuate depending on relations between Tehran and Washington. They could resume their threats if relations between US President Donald Trump’s administration and Iran continue their downward spiral.
Hassan Salem, the head of parliament’s al-Sadiqoun Bloc (which is affiliated with PMU faction Asaib Ahl al-Haq), believes Iraq’s position should be determined by legislators. Yet he called on Abadi not to bow to the US decision to keep forces in Iraq. The armed factions still consider the US an “occupying” state that negatively affects Iraq.
On Aug. 20, Salem distributed to reporters a statement that said Abadi “must respect the people’s will and refuse to succumb to US pressure to keep its forces [in Iraq].”
Found in:iraqi parliament, international coalition, haider al-abadi, is, pmu, us troops, us-iraqi relations
Omar al-Jaffal is an Iraqi writer and poet. He is an editor of Bayt and Nathr, two intellectual magazines that are published in Iraq. He is also the chief editor of Al-Aalam al-Jadid, an electronic newspaper.
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