Security camera video shows the shocking moment a teenager caught a toddler after she fell from an Istanbul building. Two-year-old Dora Muhammed, a Syrian national, fell from a second-floor open window, according to local news outlets. She was caught by 17-year-old Feuzi Zabaat, who worked nearby and noticed she was about to fall. Dora’s father, Yusuf Muhammed, reportedly gave Zabaat a 200 Turkish Lira reward for saving his daughter’s life.
DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates, a key member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, is scaling back its military presence there as worsening U.S.-Iran tensions threaten security closer to home, four western diplomatic sources said.
The UAE has pulled some troops from the southern port of Aden and Yemen’s western coast, two of the diplomats said, areas where the Gulf state has built up and armed local forces who are leading the battle against the Iran-aligned Houthi group along the Red Sea coast.
Three of the diplomats said Abu Dhabi preferred to have its forces and equipment on hand should tension between the United States and Iran escalate further after attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf and Tehran’s downing of a U.S. unmanned drone.
“It is true that there have been some troop movements … but it is not a redeployment from Yemen,” a senior Emirati official told Reuters, adding that the UAE remains fully committed to the military coalition and “will not leave a vacuum” in Yemen.
The official would not provide details on the movements, the numbers involved or specify whether it was happening inside or outside Yemen, where the alliance intervened in 2015 to try to restore the government ousted from power by the Houthis.
Asked whether tensions with Iran were behind the move, the Emirati official said the decision was more related to a holding ceasefire in Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, now held by the Houthis, under a U.N.-led peace pact reached last December.
“This is a natural progression,” the official said, reiterating the UAE’s support for U.N. efforts to implement the deal in Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, to pave the way for talks to end the war.
Hodeidah became the focus of the war last year when the Western-backed, Sunni Muslim coalition tried to seize the port, the Houthis’ main supply line. Under the Stockholm deal, which has yet to be fully implemented, both the Houthis and pro-coalition Yemeni forces would withdraw from Hodeidah.
Two of the diplomats said progress on Hodeidah made it easier for the UAE to scale back its presence in Yemen to reinforce defenses at home in the wake of attacks on four oil tankers off the UAE coast in May that was followed by strikes on two more vessels in the Gulf of Oman a few weeks later.
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Washington and Riyadh have publicly blamed Iran for the explosive blasts, a charge Tehran denies. A UAE investigation said a state actor was behind the attacks, which have not been claimed by anyone, but Abu Dhabi has not named any country.
Washington is in talks with allies for a global coalition to protect vital oil shipping lanes in and near the Strait of Hormuz and the subject was broached during a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia and the UAE last week.
In his meeting with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Pompeo pressed him on increased maritime security. “We’ll need you all to participate, your military folks,” he said.
The UAE has a smaller army compared to bigger regional allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It has around 63,000 active military personnel, 435 tanks and 137 warplanes, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said in a report released this year.
The UAE has called for de-escalation of tensions in the region which have raised concerns about a direct military confrontation that could spark a war in the region.
The Houthis have stepped up missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities, further fuelling tensions. The group denies being a puppet of Iran and says its revolution is against corruption.
Diplomats said if needed the UAE can always send troops back to Yemen, where Abu Dhabi has built strong local allies with tens of thousands of fighters among southern separatists and coastal plains fighters.
The Yemen conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the country to the verge of starvation, is largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi and Iran.
Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin in Riyadh and Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Toby Chopra
Fracking has been an “unmitigated disaster” for shale companies themselves, according to a prominent former shale executive.
“The shale gas revolution has frankly been an unmitigated disaster for any buy-and-hold investor in the shale gas industry with very few limited exceptions,” Steve Schlotterbeck, former chief executive of EQT, a shale gas giant, said at a petrochemicals conference in Pittsburgh. “In fact, I’m not aware of another case of a disruptive technological change that has done so much harm to the industry that created the change.”
He did not pull any punches. “While hundreds of billions of dollars of benefits have accrued to hundreds of millions of people, the amount of shareholder value destruction registers in the hundreds of billions of dollars,” he said. “The industry is self-destructive.”
The message is not a new one. The shale industry has been burning through capital for years, posting mountains of red ink. One estimate from the Wall Street Journal found that over the past decade, the top 40 independent U.S. shale companies burned through $200 billion more than they earned. A 2017 estimate from the WSJ found $280 billion in negative cash flow between 2010 and 2017. It’s incredible when you think about it – despite the record levels of oil and gas production, the industry is in the hole by roughly a quarter of a trillion dollars.
So, questionable economics is not exactly breaking news when it comes to shale. But the fact that a prominent former shale executive – who presided over one of the largest shale gas companies in the country – called out the industry face-to-face, raised some eyebrows, to say the least. “In a little more than a decade, most of these companies just destroyed a very large percentage of their companies’ value that they had at the beginning of the shale revolution,” Schlotterbeck said. “It’s frankly hard to imagine the scope of the value destruction that has occurred. And it continues.”
“Nearly every American has benefited from shale gas, with one big exception,” he said, “the shale gas investors.”’Related: China Launches World’s First Smart Oil Tanker
The industry is at a bit of a crossroads with Wall Street losing faith and interest, finally recognizing the failed dreams of fracking. The Wall Street Journal reports that Pioneer Natural Resources, often cited as one of the strongest shale drillers in Texas, is largely giving up on growth and instead aiming to be a modest-sized driller that can hand money back to shareholders. “We lost the growth investors,” Pioneer’s CEO Scott Sheffield said in a WSJ interview. “Now we’ve got to attract a whole other set of investors.”
Sheffield has decided to slash Pioneer’s workforce and slow down on the pace of drilling. Pioneer has been bedeviled by disappointing production from some of its wells and higher-than-expected costs.
But, as Schlotterbeck told the industry conference in Pittsburgh, the problem with fracking runs deep. While shale E&Ps have succeeded in boosting oil and gas production to levels that were unthinkable only a few years ago, prices have crashed precisely because of the surge of supply. And, because wells decline at a precipitous rate, capital-intensive drilling ultimately leaves companies on a spending treadmill.
Meanwhile, as the financial scrutiny increases on the industry, so does the public health impact. A new report that studied over 1,700 articles from peer-reviewed journals found harmful impacts on health and the environment. Specifically, 69 percent of the studies found potential or actual evidence of water contamination associated with fracking; 87 percent found air quality problems; and 84 percent found harm or potential harm on human health.
The health impacts have been a point of controversy for years, pitting the industry against local communities. The industry largely won the tug-of-war over fracking, beating back federal and state efforts to regulate it. However, the story is not over.Related: Philadelphia Refinery Explosion To Boost Gasoline Prices
In many cases, there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence pointing to serious health impacts, but peer-reviewed research takes time and has lagged behind the incredible rate of drilling. Now, the public health research is starting to catch up. Of the more than 1,700 peer-reviewed studies looking at these issues, more than half have been published since 2016.
One need not be an opponent of fracking to recognize that this presents a threat to the industry. For instance, a spike of a rare form of cancer has cropped up in southwestern Pennsylvania recently. The causes are unclear, but some public health advocates and environmental groups are pointing the finger at shale gas drilling, and have called on the governor to stop issuing new drilling permits. The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, said the request was “ridiculous.” The region is right at the heart of high levels of shale drilling, so any regulatory action coming in response the public health outcry could impact drilling operations. Time will tell.
In the meantime, poor financials are the largest drag on the shale sector. “And at $2 even the mighty Marcellus does not make economic sense,” Steve Schlotterbeck, the former EQT executive said at the conference. “There will be a reckoning and the only questions is whether it happens in a controlled manner or whether it comes as an unexpected shock to the system.”
By Nick Cunningham, Oilprice.com
Brennan commended Trump for avoiding an attack that would have harmed over a hundred people, claiming that it would have created more problems.
“I do applaud Trump’s decision not to carry out what would have been a disproportionate strike that would have led to about 150 or so fatalities and that could have had a dangerous escalatory spiral following it that could have brought that region to greater military conflict. So I do think that Trump recognized that he needed to explain to his critics exactly why he pulled back.”
He also pointed out that while he has been an outspoken critic of the president, he still thought that it was impressive that Trump stopped the attack.
“And again, I give him credit, and I rarely do that, but I give him credit for being almost the adult in the room because of the war hawks like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo who are pushing toward this confrontation that is not in anyone’s interest, especially the United States,” Brennan said.
Watch the video below:
….proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019
However, he claimed that there will be consequences on the country for shooting down the American drone.
“I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world,” Trump wrote. “Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”
Hong Kong anti-extradition law protesters flocked to the city’s legislature on Friday morning, blocking roads around the government complex before surrounding police headquarters in Wan Chai as some moved east to Revenue Tower.
Student groups had vowed to escalate their actions if authorities did not answer to their demands by 5pm on Thursday. Clad in black, many stayed overnight at the rear of the legislature.
Addressing crowds outside police headquarters, pro-democracy lawmakers Lam Cheuk-ting and Au Nok-hin both said Secretary for Security John Lee and Police Commissioner Stephen Lo must step down after tear gas was unleashed against demonstrators last Wednesday.
“Stephen Lo cannot ignore the incidents since June 12 – we must insist on our demands: absolve arrested protesters, investigate police’s abuse of power,” Au said.
The moment #NoToChinaExtradition protesters retook a key thoroughfare outside #HongKong gov’t HQ just before 11am on Friday, halting traffic on Harcourt Road.https://t.co/KEBD2CW4eW pic.twitter.com/rA1vb1xKVu
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) June 21, 2019
Demosistō’s Joshua Wong also addressed crowds, chanting “Stephen Lo, come out” and “John Lee, dialogue.”
Senior superintendent Yu Hoi Kwan told reporters that there were no plans for a clearance operation as yet, but the occupation around their headquarters had affected the deployment of emergency services. She urged the crowd to disperse.
Jeers and chants of “release the righteous,” “retract,” and “shame on police thugs” were heard as crowds swelled.
The government announced on Thursday night that the Central Government Offices would close on Friday due to “security considerations.”
A police spokesperson said they respected #NoToChinaExtradition protesters’ peaceful rally & there was “no clearance operation” imminent. But she said the occupation at police HQ had affected the deployment of emergency services: https://t.co/KEBD2CW4eW Screenshot: RTHK. pic.twitter.com/JqrKGyhnQo
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) June 21, 2019
Legislative meetings have also been cancelled.
The latest occupation comes after weeks of protests against legal amendments proposed in February to allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements – notably China.
The bill was suspended until further notice last Saturday owing to recent unrest and at the request of pro-establishment lawmakers. Taiwan had also made it clear that it would not receive the murder suspect who triggered the proposal if the new law was pushed through.
Tsang Chui-mei, a 47-year-old visual artist, told HKFP she thought the extradition protests had become an opportunity to unite people from all walks of life: “All of the messages are from online. There is no single organiser or leader, it’s better this way,” she said. “All Hong Kong citizens have a right to ask for freedom.”
Lance Yan, a 48-year-old illustrator, told HKFP he joined the protest on Friday to protect young protesters in case of clashes: “We have a responsibility to protect them so that they’re not alone,” he said.
Twenty-three-year-old Celia Lai, who works in marketing, told HKFP she attended the protest on Wednesday but considers herself a “coward” for failing to go to the front lines: “I want to do more this time,” she said.
Dozens of anti-extradition law protesters have gathered outside the legislature on Friday morning, though many of them have spent the night there. The occupation is a reaction to the gov’t who did not respond to their demands the day before.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) June 21, 2019
“We don’t have a leader this time,” she said in reference to the 2014 Umbrella Movement led by student groups. “It’s more pure and self-motivated, and people are acting on their own will and they’re more determined.”
Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s early June 2019 summit in Moscow with People’s Republic of China (PRC) Pres. Xi Jinping seems likely to have a disproportionate influence on the next phases of the crises unfolding in the greater Middle East, and therefore on the future of the region.
The escalating confrontation between Iran and the US is both influencing and influenced by the mega-trends set by Russia and the PRC.
Although the key meetings took place on June 5, 2019, the seeds of the new joint strategy were already planted during the May 13, 2019, summit in Sochi between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. They went over all the key topics in preparation for the Putin-Xi summit.
On June 5, 2019, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping met in Moscow and decided to not only markedly upgrade the bilateral relations and alliance of their countries, but to use the new relations in order to shape the long-term posture of the entire Eastern Hemisphere in their favor. Emphasis was to be put on the Eurasian Sphere (the Kremlin’s high priority) and the New Silk Road (the Forbidden City’s high priority), as well as the Korean Peninsula which is most important for both.
One of the first major confrontations with the US by Russia and the PRC was to be over the greater Middle East. The main reason was the advance negotiations with all key oil producers — including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran — on substituting the petrodollar with a basket of currencies where the yuan, the euro and the ruble dominate. Using the currency basket would enable the sellers and buyers to go around the US-imposed sanctions and quotas. Indeed, Beijing and Moscow were now enticing the oil producers with huge, long-term export deals which were both financially lucrative and politically tempting by offering guarantees for the well-being of the participating governments.
The crux of the proposal is regional and includes flagrant disregard of the US sanctions on Iran.
However, the key to the extent of the commitment of both Beijing and Moscow lies in the growing importance and centrality of the New Silk Road via Central Asia.
Persia had a crucial rôle in the ancient Silk Road, and both the PRC and Russia now expect Iran to have a comparable key rôle in the New Silk Road.
The growing dominance of heritage-based dynamics throughout the developing world, including the greater Central Asia and the greater Middle East, makes it imperative for the PRC to rely on historic Persia/Iran as a western pole of the New Silk Road. It is this realization which led both Beijing and Moscow to give Tehran, in mid-May 2019, the original guarantees that Washington would be prevented from conducting a “regime change”.
Therefore, even though both Russia and the PRC were not satisfied with the Iranian and Iran-proxy activities and policies in the Iraq-Syria-Lebanon area, it was far more important for them to support Iran, and also Turkey, in their confrontations with the US in order to expedite the consolidation of the New Silk Road.
Tehran and its key allies in “the Middle Eastern Entente” — Turkey and Qatar — are cognizant of the core positions of Russia and the PRC. Since mid-May, Tehran and, to a lesser extent, Ankara and Doha, were appraised by Moscow and Beijing of their overall direction of political decisions. Hence, since early June 2019, Tehran has felt confident to start building momentum of Iranian assertiveness and audacity.
Tehran has been raising its profile in the region.
Tehran insists that it is now impossible to make decisions, or do anything else, in the greater Middle East without Iran’s approval. On June 2, 2019, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, touted the new strategic posture of Iran. “The Islamic movement has affected the entire world and on top of that, it has succeeded in intimidating the American hegemony and Zionism,” he said. Bagheri attributed the new influence of Iran to the acquisition of regional strategic depth; that is, reaching the shores of the Mediterranean.Related: The Top 50 Oil & Gas Companies Of 2019
“At the advent of the fifth decade of Revolution, it should be noted that the expansion of the strategic depth of Iran has brought about new and undisputed conditions that today no issue in West Asia can be solved without Iran’s participation.” No outside pressure, particularly US pressure, could, he said, compel an Iranian withdrawal and a reversal of its surge. “The Iranian nation will not retreat in the slightest from its position on the country’s defensive capabilities and will turn enemy’s threats to golden opportunities to develop core achievements of the Revolution, especially in the defensive and missile sectors.”
Senior IRGC commanders with political affiliations repeated the message over the coming days. On June 7, 2019, Brig.-Gen. Morteza Ghorbani, an adviser to the Chief of the IRGC, called on the region’s Muslim countries to join Iran. Instead of “seeking the wishes and objectives of the global arrogance and the Zionists”, all Muslim countries should back Iran, Ghorbani explained, because “together, we can establish an Islamic superpower”.
On June 10, 2019, Mohsen Rezaei, the Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council and a former Chief of the IRGC, stressed Iran’s regional prowess. The Americans “are aware that Iran’s military strength is at a point where if they take the smallest action, the whole region will be set on fire. … We are moving towards becoming a regional power and that is costly for America.” On June 12, 2019, Maj.-Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, the senior Military Aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene‘i, stressed that with Iraq and Syria, Iran has created an unassailable bloc. “The pivot of Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Mediterranean [region] is an economic, political, security and defensive axis against the Zionist regime and the US,” Safavi explained. “Iraq and Syria strategically play a complementary rôle to Iran.”
Little wonder that Tehran has also made clear that Iran intends to stay in Syria long after the war is over despite the misgivings of the Kremlin.
Damascus accepts Tehran’s position, and should now be expected to reject all US-Israeli pressure to compel Iran to withdraw or even reduce the size of its forces. “Damascus has no intention of turning away Iran’s military assistance or demanding an Iranian troop withdrawal,” Syrian senior officials told their Russian counterparts in early June 2019.
At the same time, although he is wary of confronting Iran directly, Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad demonstrated his displeasure with the Iranian presence. In early June 2019, for example, he rejected flagrantly Tehran’s initiative for HAMAS and Syria to reconcile on account of the HAMAS cooperation with Iran and the HizbAllah against Israel. Assad justified the refusal by arguing that the HAMAS remained part of the Muslim Brothers’ networks which had been fighting Damascus since the late-1970s and which continued to sponsor jihadist forces.
Meanwhile, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force continued to expand the Iranian strategic deployment in Syria. Most important was the completion, in the first week of June 2019, of the forward emplacement of ballistic missiles in addition to the deployments in southern-western Iraq and nearby in Iran. The Iranians maintained Qods Force missile sites (as distinct from storage sites for the HizbAllah) — mainly Fatah-110 and Zulfiqar SSMs — at the T-4 airbase in Homs province, in Jubb el-Jarah east of Homs, in al-Safira near Aleppo, and in the Al-Kiswah area south of Damascus. In early June 2019, the Qods Force brought Toophan-1 anti-tank missiles to the T-4 airbase. These are all areas and installations that Israel has bombed repeatedly. Yet, the Qods Force keeps repairing the damage and redeploying new weapons and missiles; an expression of their growing importance to the forthcoming regional war.
Russia has accepted the Iranian presence up to a point.
In early 2019, the Kremlin formulated a worst-case scenario focusing on maintaining a Russian presence along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean (beyond the Aleppo-Damascus highway) while blocking US/Western encroachment. Moscow is cognizant that such an area of influence along the shores of the Mediterranean also means blocking the vital arteries of transportation which both Iran and Turkey are determined to establish.
In early June 2019, the Russians demonstrated the point that the western zones are Russia’s, and only Russia’s. Toward this end, the Russians compelled the Syrian military to force the Pasdaran, HizbAllah and Afghan Fatemiyoun units out of the Syrian base in Latakia.
Meanwhile, the cooperation between Iran and Turkey has expanded as agreed, but faster than expected.
Starting late May 2019, senior officials of both countries increased the number of bilateral visits in a concentrated effort “to find common ground in which Turkey helps Iran overcome the consequences of US sanctions”. By June 1, 2019, Iran and Turkey established a “new anti-sanction financial mechanism” with priority given to increasing the imports of natural gas and oil from Iran (with some of the oil laundered as Iraq-origin from Kirkuk). Iran and Turkey also agreed to protect mutual trade and economic ties, including the establishment of a joint bank, in the face of US sanctions. As well, both countries finalized an agreement to restart direct cargo train and passenger/tourist train services between Tehran and Ankara.
On June 8, 2019, Iranian Pres. Hassan Rouhani had a lengthy phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Reçep Tayyip Erdo?an. They finalized and formulated the new era in bilateral relations, ranging from economic cooperation to effecting regional dynamics.
Rouhani opened by emphasizing the importance of the expansion of relations between Iran and Turkey in the global and all-Islamic spheres. “Development of relations and cooperation between Iran and Turkey, as two powerful effective countries in the world of Islam, is important for stability and security of the region.” He pointed to the instability and bloodshed in countries such as Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Afghanistan, and invited Erdo?an to work with Iran to resolve conflicts throughout the Muslim world. “Together, Iran and Turkey can cooperate with other friendly, brotherly countries to put an end to this regretful process and resolve the issues of the region and the world of Islam as well.” Rouhani said that Iran was most interested in markedly expanding bilateral economic cooperation, including providing highly-subsidized oil and gas to Turkey, while using national currencies in trade transactions to avoid the US sanctions.
In his response, Erdo?an largely agreed with Rouhani and reiterated Turkey’s commitment to confronting the US. Closer bilateral cooperation was a must. “As two brotherly, friendly countries, cementing of relations between Iran and Turkey can be beneficial for both nations and the region.”
Erdo?an concurred that it was imperative to “enhance bilateral relations in all fields, especially in economy and trade”, and agreed with Rouhani on “the importance of using national currencies in trade”. He termed the US “unilateral sanctions against Iran” as “tyrannical”. Hence, Turkey “will never accept these cruel sanctions and seek to increase our friendships and cooperation with Iran”. Erdo?an agreed that both countries must influence the region and “the world of Islam”. Erdo?an concluded: “Iran and Turkey can play a greater rôle by expanding their engagement and cooperation in the development of regional stability and security and counter-terrorism.”
Both Presidents agreed to escalate their joint anti-Kurdish campaign, as well as better coordination of their activities in Iraq and Syria.
By the time of the Rouhani-Erdo?an conversation, Turkish and Iranian forces were already engaged in a comprehensive anti-Kurdish offensive for more than a week.
The raids and bombings were conducted both in northern Iraq and along their mutual border. At first, the heaviest fighting took place in Turkey’s Igdir province, close to the borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan Autonomous Region. The Turkish forces then moved to the Aralik district, close to the Turkish-Iranian border. At that point, the IRGC conducted a parallel operation in Chaldoran County bordering Igdir-Aralik. The Turkish and Iranian forces continued to move southward along the border, destroying the Kurdish pockets between them.
Meanwhile, Turkey launched a major offensive, Operation Claw, into Iraqi Kurdistan. As a separate element of the operation, the Turkish forces conducted deep raids closely coordinated with the Iranian forces. Most important were the attacks against PKK positions in the Hakurk mountainous region near the Iraqi border with Iran. The Iranian forces have been preventing the Kurds from escaping across the Iranian border as in previous Turkish raids. IRGC forces also clashed with Kurdish groups; both the Iranian-Kurdish PJAK and the Turkish-Kurdish PKK forces usually based in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Iranian raids, which include crossing of the Iraqi border, were coordinated with heavy air-strikes by the Turkish Air Force of the nearby regions of Zap and Qandil.
Concurrently, Qatar, on behalf of the bloc, challenged and effectively neutered the Mecca summits from within. The Qatari Prime Minister Abdallah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani participated in all three summits on May 30-31, 2019.
Despite the Saudi-led GCC boycott on Qatar, he had a most courteous exchange with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin ‘Abd al-’Aziz al Sa’ud. The main reason for Qatar’s presence in Mecca was to obtain and relay messages from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin ‘Abd al-’Aziz al Sa’ud (aka MBS) and his close partner the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (aka MBZ) to Tehran.
The key message was that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States did not want war with Iran, and would do whatever they could to prevent the US from launching one. Both MBS and MBZ noted that the US was stopping short of direct confrontation, with the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group remaining out in the Arabian Sea rather than venturing across the Strait of Hormuz and into the Persian Gulf as US carriers had done in the past.
Tehran, however, would not legitimize any stand of either MBS or MBZ even though Tehran welcomed their message as transferred by Doha. Therefore, within days after the end of the summits, Qatar started to openly criticize and contradict the Mecca Summits’ resolutions and communiqués. Doha thus flagrantly shattered the delicate consensus which Riyadh had worked so hard to create, including the Saudi statement that “reconciliation with Qatar [is] possible” given the right circumstances.
On June 2, 2019, Doha asserted that the Mecca communiqués reflected “America’s policies on Iran” and not the self-interests of the region’s states. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, who also attended the Mecca summits, criticized the declaratory refusal to negotiate with Iran even though Doha passed secret messages to Iran throughout the summits. “The statements condemned Iran but did not refer to a moderate policy to speak with Tehran,” he said on Al Jazeera TV. “They adopted Washington policy towards Iran, rather than a policy that puts neighborhood with Iran into consideration.” Al-Thani argued that any cooperation with Tehran should be based on “non-interference in other countries”.
On June 5, 2019, Iranian Pres. Hasan Fereidun Rouhani coordinated policies in a phone conversation with the Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Rouhani reiterated that Iran was not interested in a war with the US or anybody else. However, should “any foolish anti-Iranian act start in the region”, Iran would deliver “a firm response” which would harm the Arabian Peninsula more than anybody else. War would be futile, he noted. “Regional problems don’t have a military solution and we believe that threat, pressure, blockade, and economic sanction are wrong approaches in relations between governments.” Rouhani hailed Qatar’s stance because it contributed to easing regional tensions. “Certainly, any meeting will be ineffective, unproductive and even harmful, if it doesn’t draw regional countries to each other,” Rouhani affirmed Doha’s policy.
Sheikh Tamim responded by emphasizing that the policies and stances of Tehran and Doha were “close to each other” on most issues. He reiterated that Doha believed that “dialogue is the only way to ease tensions,” and that Doha wanted “to expand ties with Iran in all areas”. Sheikh Tamim concluded that all Qataris are “appreciating Tehran for supporting [Qatar] during the blockade”.
Apprehensive of the specter of a US escalation, Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Thani traveled to London on June 9, 2019, to try and get “a friendly message” across to Washington. He warned the US not to fall into the trap set by MBS and MBZ. He explained that the “Saudi and Emirati plan to impose stability on the region by supporting authoritarian governments and military councils in Africa, Egypt, Libya, and throughout the Arab world was a recipe for chaos”. These “policies are [only] creating more terrorism, conflict and chaos in the Middle East and Africa”.
For its own good, the US must not be part of the scheme. Discussing the situation in the Persian Gulf, Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Thani noted that “while Qatar respects US policy towards Iran, it cannot fully support it because Qatar views the matter from a regional perspective”. He criticized Washington’s stance. “The current US position on Iran lacks any indication of a way forward, or any type of positive or constructive message.” Doha did “not want to see any confrontation between the two powers, US and Iran, because we are stuck in the middle,” he concluded.
But the US kept escalating its covert war with Iran, both in the Persian Gulf and in Syria. The extent of the escalation and the focusing on objectives of great importance for Iran could not but lead to Iranian harsh reaction.
First came escalation of the campaign against the transfer of oil along the long desert road stretch between Deir ez-Zor and Damascus. Since the beginning of the war, Damascus had been purchasing oil from whomever controlled the oilfields east of the Euphrates, be it DI’ISH or the US-sponsored Kurdish PKK/YPG/SDF forces. As well, with the opening of the road from Iran via Iraq, the Iranians increased the shipment of oil in tanker-trucks. Since the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) would not strike and shut down the lucrative oil trade, the US chose to rely heavily on the jihadist forces being trained and equipped in the al-Tanf area.
According to tribal leaders in the Deir ez-Zor area, the US launched at first “a campaign … to prevent smuggling [oil] from areas under SDF control in Deir ez-Zor to the Syrian regime by way of ferries across the river”. The first major escalation took place in the early morning hours of May 31, 2019. Jihadist forces near al-Shuhayl opened heavy machinegun fire on four tanker-barges ferrying oil across the Euphrates. When the ambush failed to cause any tangible damage, US combat helicopters and strike aircraft showed up and strafed the barges, blowing up three of them and causing at least four fatalities.
Although the US denied that the May 31, 2019, attack took place, the mere involvement of US forces compelled the US to change tactics. The emphasis moved to on-land raids and ambushes along the desert stretch north of al-Tanf, the vast Badiyah al-Sham (eastern desert) area. There, properly trained and equipped light forces could, on their own, strike and burn the tanker trucks moving in small convoys. As well, there was no question of conflict of interests with the US-proxy Kurdish forces. According to Syrian military officials, “the ISIL’s movements have taken place in line with US’ objectives to exert pressure on the Syrian Army and its allies in Syria”. The officials stressed that “the US is trying to help the ISIL block roads leading to Badiyah due to Badiyah’s strategically important oil and gas reserves”.Related: Pompeo Makes Hard Claim: Strait Of Hormuz Will Remain Open
The main jihadist operations were taking place between Eastern al-Sukhnah and Deir ez-Zor, including the important T-3 Pumping Station and the Palmyra area. Some of these jihadist forces were using HUMMER-type vehicles in addition to the ubiquitous Japanese-made light trucks. Starting June 3, 2019, the jihadists used US-made TOW anti-tank missiles to strike Syrian armored combat vehicles escorting the tankers. The first such strike took place in the Jabal Bishri area.
By June 7, 2019, the jihadists had escalated their concentrated attacks on the traffic in the main desert route, hitting both Syrian and Iranian vehicles, and not just oil tankers and their escorts. The jihadists deployed several hundred fighters from the camps in the al-Tanf area, compelling the Syrian military to divert forces from their anti-DI’ISH operations in the Baqouz region in Eastern Euphrates province. The jihadist forces were operating over wider areas including the area of Jabal al-Bashri in south-eastern Raqqa, al-Dafinah in southern Deir ez-Zor, between Palmyra and al-Sukhnah, and the surrounding areas of al-Tanf in Eastern Homs. On June 11, 2019, the jihadists launched their first attack on the western axis of the T-3 Pumping Station near Palmyra. The jihadists also stormed army positions near the desert road east of Palmyra, causing heavy damage and numerous casualties.
By mid-June 2019, the intensity and frequency of jihadist ambushes had increased still further. These ambushes, Syrian defense officials explained, “are well-coordinated and [a] proof that the terrorist group possesses the ability to wreak havoc inside the country”. By now, according to these officials, there were some 2,000 to 3,000 jihadist fighters in the entire Badiyah al-Sham region who were living off the main US-sponsored bases in the al-Tanf area. The escalation has strategic impact because the Syrian military has had to divert reinforcements earmarked for the major offensive in Idlib (the last major pocket of the US-sponsored al-Qaida affiliated jihadists, both Syrian and foreign) to secure the desert roads.
Then, as promised to the jihadist fighters by the US recruiters in March 2019, on June 2, 2019, the US-proxy Kurdish authorities running the al-Hawl camp released more than 800 women and children — all families of DI’ISH fighters — and handed them to their families who happened to live in the al-Tanf area. This was the first such transfer of non-combatants and more were expected soon.
Meanwhile, a “mysterious” escalation took place in the northern part of the Persian Gulf.
On June 5, 2019, huge fire consumed a storage facility for oil products at the Shahid Rajaee port in southern Hormozgan Province. Located west of Bandar Abbas, the Shahid Rajaee port is Iran’s largest container shipping port. Reportedly, a vehicle used for transporting shipping containers exploded and caught fire. Since there were oil products near the site of the explosion, the blaze spread quickly to several tanks and storage sites and caused heavy damage to the port. The spreading fire set off huge explosions which shot fireballs and heavy smoke high into the air.
On June 7, 2019, six Iranian merchant ships were set ablaze almost simultaneously in two Persian Gulf ports.
First, five ships “caught fire” in the port of Nakhl Taghi in the Asaluyeh region of Bushehr Province. Three of these ships were completely burned and the two others suffered major damage. Several port workers and sailors were injured. As well, at least one cargo ship burst into flames and burned completely at the port of Bualhir, near Delvar. The fire was attributed to “incendiary devices” of “unknown origin”. The local authorities in Bushehr Province called the fires a “suspicious event” and went no further.
In Tehran, senior Iranian officials first attributed the incident to “fires caused by high temperatures”. Subsequently, they pointed out to statements by Iranian opposition activists in Europe (NOT the MEK) who “made the connection between the mysterious fires that hit the Iranian ships and the sabotage” of the tankers in Fujairah. Several diplomats in Tehran reported that the local grapevines were attributing the fires to “expert mercenaries” of “unknown origin”. “Knowledgeable Iranians” opined, the diplomats reported, that “ferocious revenge” was only a question of time.
Indeed, in the early morning hours of June 13, 2019, two large tankers were repeatedly attacked and set aflame in the middle of the Gulf of Oman. Both tankers were subsequently abandoned by their crews and left to drift, burn and sink. By end of the day, there were conflicting reports whether they already sank. The tankers did not sink and most of the flames died down on June 15, 2019. Hence, efforts started tow the tankers to UAE ports.
A few hours before the attack, a US MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) observed IRGC fast attack boats, most likely from the nearby Bandar-e-Jask naval base, gather and advance toward the area where the tankers would be struck. When the Iranians noticed the UAV, they launched a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile. The missile overshot, narrowly missed the MQ-9, and crashed into the water. However, the UAV was pulled away from the scene so that there would be no evidence of the attack that unfolded shortly afterwards.
Both tankers were subjected to repeated attacks over three hours in order to ascertain their destruction. The Norwegian owned MT Front Altair was first hit by a torpedo attack which stopped it and started a small fire. The Front Altair was then subjected to two cycles limpet-mine attacks which caused at least three major explosions and set the tanker aflame. The Japanese owned Kokuka Courageous was also subjected first to a torpedo attack which breached the hull above the water line. Over the next three hours, the Kokuka Courageous was subjected twice to limpet-mine attacks, as well as a couple of 107mm rockets (most likely launched from an IRGC Seraj-1-class fast attack boat), which also set the tanker aflame. Both tankers were first hit in the engine-room area so that they stopped. The main tanks were then repeatedly bombed until they burned out of control.
The predominantly Russian crew of the Front Altair was rescued by an Iranian vessel and brought to a nearby port in Iran. The predominantly Filipino crew of the Kokuka Courageouswas rescued by local tugboats and then moved to the US destroyer Bainbridge. Tehran continued to insist that all 44 crew members of both tankers were rescued by the Iranian Navy and safety authorities.
The initial expert analysis of the attacks strongly suggested a professional operation.
“These appear to be well planned and coordinated attacks,” wrote shipping experts in the Gulf States. They noted that the two tankers were first hit in close proximity to the engine room and thus were stopped. They were then subjected to strong explosions at or below the waterline. Such explosions were most likely caused by limpet-mines similar to those used in Fujairah on May 12, 2019. The USS Bainbridge reported that it saw “an unexploded limpet mine on the side of one of the ships attacked in the Gulf of Oman”. The next day, a US UAV spotted an IRGC Zulfiqar-class fast attack boat approaching the tanker where the crew removed the unexploded mine. The experts concluded that “a state actor is responsible” for the attack.
In all likelihood, the strike was carried out by members of the Sepah Navy Special Force, an independent Takavar unit of the IRGC Navy, and/or foreign Shi’ite jihadists trained by them. The attackers operated from the military port in Bandar-e-Jask in the Southern Hormozgan Province of Iran. The mother ship of the Fujairah attackers was believed to have sailed from Bandar-e-Jask. The IRGC Navy base was established there in 2008. Several years later, it was expanded to include the headquarters of the Iran Navy’s 2nd Naval District. Bandar-e-Jask is the home base of a unit of the IRGC’s Ghadir midget submarines, a wide variety of IRGC fast attack boats, (including the Seraj-1 and Zulfiqar classes), and long-range UAVs used for operations over the Persian Gulf. The Ghadir midget submarines are equipped with the Jask-2 anti-ship missiles and Valfajr torpedoes (which might have been used to attack the two tankers).
The initial media coverage of the incident was of significance.
The first reports came rather quickly on the Iranian Al-Alam News Network which broadcasts in Arabic and covers the entire Arabian Peninsula. Al-Alam reported that two “giant oil tankers” had come under “attack”, that “two explosions” took place, and that the tankers were aflame. These reports were then picked up by the Persian-language Iranian media; first the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News and then the propaganda channel, Press TV, which broadcasts in several languages worldwide. Only then the media in the Middle East and the global media started to pay attention to the strike.
Subsequently, official Tehran began addressing the issue; warning Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States against hastily attributing the attack to Iran. “All regional states should be careful not to be entrapped by deception of those who benefit from instability in the region,” Iranian Government Spokesman Ali Rabie said. “The Iranian Government is ready for security and regional cooperation to guarantee security, including in the strategic waterways.”
The attack on the tankers in the Gulf of Oman cannot be seen in isolation.
They were part of a comprehensive policy against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, but timed in the aftermath of the attacks on the Iranian ports. In early April, a three-phase escalating war plan was drawn under Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani in order to deprive the West of access to the Arabian Peninsula’s oil if US sanctions persisted and Iran could no longer sell oil.
The first phase was to signal Iran’s resolve and might; the second, sinking tankers transferring oil from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, as well as blocking the Strait of Hormuz; and the third was to destroy the entire oil and gas infrastructure throughout the Arabian Peninsula. In late-April 2019, Maj.-Gen. Mohammed Hossein Bagheri alluded to the Iranian resolve. “If our oil fails to go through the Strait, others’ crude will not either,” Bagheri warned. The Fujairah attack and the Gulf of Oman attack corresponded with the first two phases of Soleimani’s plan. The third was also to come.
The attack on the Japanese owned Kokuka Courageous was fortuitous because it happened just as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting Tehran in effort to convince Tehran that US Pres. Donald Trump was serious about comprehensive negotiations with Iran. On June 13, 2019, Abe met with Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamene‘i who set the tone for Iran’s harsh policies.
After pleasantries, Abe told Khamene‘i that the primary objective of his visit was to convey a special message from Pres. Trump. “I would like to give you a message from the President of the United States,” Abe told Khamene‘i. Khamene‘i exploded and told Abe his mission was doomed and futile from the very beginning. “We have no doubts about your goodwill and seriousness, but with regard to what you relayed from the US President, I see no merit in Trump as a person to deserve the exchange of any messages, and I do not have any answer for him and will not give him any either,” Khamene‘i replied.
Khamene‘i then addressed the nuclear issue, repeating the falsehood of his own fatwa forbidding nuclear weapons. However, Khamene‘i stressed that the US or the EU had no say in whether Iran would or would not have nuclear weapons. “We are against nuclear weapons and my fatwa bans their development. However, you should know that if we decide to develop nuclear weapons, the United States will be unable to do anything,” Khamene‘i told Abe.
According to the Mehr News Agency, Abe delivered five specific requests from Trump to Khamene‘i. Mehr cited “Trumps’ five requests and the Leader’s direct answers to them:
“Trump: The US is not intended to change the regime in Iran.
“Leader: This is a lie for if the US could do that it would but this is what US is not capable of doing.
“Trump: We want to re-negotiate nuclear issues.
“Leader: Iran held talks with the US for five to six years over nuclear issues and reached a conclusion but the US withdrew from the deal. This is not reasonable to re-negotiate things with a country who has ruined all the agreements.
“Trump: The US seeks to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons.
“Leader: We disagree with nuclear weapons and I have announced it Haram in a Fatwa but you should know that if we wanted to make nuclear weapons the US could not prevent us.
“Trump: The US is ready to start honest negotiations with Iran.
“Leader: We do not believe in that, since honest negotiations are far from a person like Trump. Honesty is rare among American officials.
“Trump: Holding talks with the US will make Iran improve.
“Leader: Under the mercy of God, we will improve without having negotiations with the US and despite the imposed sanctions.”
The other important meeting Prime Minister Abe had was with Pres. Rouhani. According to Rouhani, they discussed “stability and security of the region”. Most important was Abe’s reiteration that Japan remained interested in purchasing Iranian oil despite the sanctions. “Japan’s willingness to continue purchase of oil from Iran and to boost financial, scientific and cultural cooperation will be a guarantee for development of ties,” Rouhani stated.
Ultimately, Russia and the PRC were the prime, long-term beneficiaries of the brewing crisis in the Persian Gulf.
Both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping were in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, on June 14, 2019, for the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Rouhani was also participating. After the attack on the tankers, the US attention again focused on the Persian Gulf and away from the escalation of the confrontation with the PRC and Russia.
Meanwhile, both Putin and Xi were, in Bishkek, leading the dramatic strengthening of both the Eurasian Sphere and the New Silk Road. The US handling of both the trade/tariff war with the PRC, and the Persian Gulf crisis, as explained by Rouhani, had convinced Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Central Asian leaders in attendance to seek closer ties with Russia and the PRC. The SCO was further enthused by the decision, announced by Xi Jinping, to divert major PRC investment funds from the US to Central Asia and the New Silk Road. Indeed, Russian and PRC officials defined the Xi-Putin-Modi meeting in Bishkek as being “vital for re-shaping the world order” and as a major setback to the US attempt to dominate the forthcoming G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
Meanwhile, Tehran continued to prepare for an escalation to come. On June 14, 2019, Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi led a senior delegation to Damascus where it met with leaders of Palestinian terrorist organizations, HizbAllah and other Shi’ite jihadist factions. In the meeting, the Palestinian leaders emphasized the “interconnected rôle of the resistance axis’ forces and countries in the region in confronting schemes and threats that target Iran, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon”. Indeed, Egyptian senior intelligence officials now claim that the recent launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip was conducted by “regional elements” tied with “the attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.”
Concurrently, Qods commander Qassem Soleimani continued traveling clandestinely throughout the Middle East, preparing his extensive and growing forces, both Iranian and Iran-proxy, for a direct clash with the US and its allies should Khamene‘i give the order.
By Yossef Bodansky via Defense & Foreign Affairs
Officials said the president had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries.
The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off, a senior administration official said. Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, the official said.
[For Mr. Trump, “judgment time is coming” on how to respond to Iran.]
The abrupt reversal put a halt to what would have been the president’s third military action against targets in the Middle East. Mr. Trump had struck twice at targets in Syria, in 2017 and 2018.
It was not clear whether Mr. Trump simply changed his mind on the strikes or whether the administration altered course because of logistics or strategy. It was also not clear whether the attacks might still go forward.
Asked about the plans for a strike and the decision to hold back, the White House declined to comment, as did Pentagon officials. No government officials asked The New York Times to withhold the article.
The retaliation plan was intended as a response to the shooting down of the unmanned, $130 million surveillance drone, which was struck Thursday morning by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, according to a senior administration official who was briefed on the military planning and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential plans.
The strike was set to take place just before dawn Friday in Iran to minimize risk to the Iranian military and civilians.
But military officials received word a short time later that the strike was off, at least temporarily.
The possibility of a retaliatory strike hung over Washington for much of the day. Officials in both countries traded accusations about the location of the drone when it was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile launched from the Iranian coast along the Gulf of Oman.
Mr. Trump’s national security advisers split about whether to respond militarily. Senior administration officials said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; John R. Bolton, the national security adviser; and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, had favored a military response. But top Pentagon officials cautioned that such an action could result in a spiraling escalation with risks for American forces in the region.
Congressional leaders were briefed by administration officials in the Situation Room.
The destruction of the drone underscored the already tense relations between the two countries after Mr. Trump’s recent accusations that Iran is to blame for explosions last week that damaged oil tankers traveling through the strait, the vital waterway for much of the world’s oil. Iran has denied that accusation.
Iran’s announcement this week that it would soon breach one of the key limits it had agreed to in a 2015 pact intended to limit its nuclear program has also fueled tensions. Mr. Trump, who pulled the United States out of the 2015 pact, has vowed that he will not allow Tehran to build a nuclear weapon.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump insisted that the United States’ unmanned surveillance aircraft was flying over international waters when it was taken down by an Iranian missile.
“This drone was in international waters, clearly,” the president told reporters on Thursday afternoon at the White House as he began a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. “We have it all documented. It’s documented scientifically, not just words.”
Asked what would come next, Mr. Trump said, “Let’s see what happens.”
Iran’s government fiercely disputed the president’s characterization, insisting that the American drone had strayed into Iranian airspace. Iran released GPS coordinates that put the drone eight miles off the country’s coast, inside the 12 nautical miles from the shore that Iran claims as its territorial waters.
Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in a letter to the Security Council that the drone ignored repeated radio warnings before it was downed. He said that Tehran “does not seek war” but “is determined to vigorously defend its land, sea and air.”
Congressional Democrats emerged from the president’s classified briefing in the Situation Room and urged Mr. Trump to de-escalate the situation. They called on the president to seek congressional authorization before taking any military action.
“This is a dangerous situation,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “We are dealing with a country that is a bad actor in the region. We have no illusions about Iran in terms of their ballistic missile transfers, about who they support in the region and the rest.”
Iran’s destruction of the drone appeared to provide a boost for officials inside the Trump administration who have long argued for a more confrontational approach to Iran, including the possibility of military actions that could punish the regime for its support of terrorism and other destabilizing behavior in the region.
But in his public appearance, Mr. Trump initially seemed to be looking for a way to avoid a potentially serious military crisis. Instead of directly accusing the leaders of Iran, Mr. Trump said someone “loose and stupid” in Iran was responsible for shooting down the drone.
The president said he suspected it was some individual in Iran who “made a big mistake,” even as Iran had taken responsibility for the strike and asserted that the high-altitude American drone was operating over Iranian air space, which American officials denied.
Mr. Trump said the episode would have been far more serious if the aircraft had been a piloted vehicle, and not a drone. It made “a big, big difference” that an American pilot was not threatened, he told reporters.
Last year, Mr. Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear pact with Iran, over the objections of China, Russia and American allies in Europe. He has also imposed punishing economic sanctions on Iran, trying to cut off its already limited access to international trade, including oil sales.
Iran has warned of serious consequences if Europe does not find a way around those sanctions, though it has denied involvement in the attacks on tankers near the vital Strait of Hormuz. On Monday, Iran said it would soon stop abiding by a central component of the nuclear deal, the limit on how much enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile.
Both Washington and Tehran said the downing of the drone occurred at 4:05 a.m. Thursday in Iran, or 7:35 p.m. Wednesday in Washington. The drone “was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz,” the United States Central Command said in a statement. “This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”
Iran’s ability to target and destroy the high-altitude American drone, which was developed to evade the very surface-to-air missiles used to bring it down, surprised some Defense Department officials, who interpreted it as a show of how difficult Tehran can make things for the United States as it deploys more troops and steps up surveillance in the region.
Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, the Air Force commander for the Central Command region in the Middle East, said the attack could have endangered “innocent civilians,” even though officials at Central Command continued to assert that the drone was over international waters. He said that the closest that the drone got to the Iranian coast was 21 miles.
Late Thursday, the Defense Department released additional imagery in an email to support its case that the drone never entered Iranian airspace. But the department incorrectly called the flight path of the drone the location of the shooting down and offered little context for an image that appeared to be the drone exploding in midair.
It was the latest attempt by the Pentagon to try to prove that Iran has been the aggressor in a series of international incidents.
Iran’s foreign affairs minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said in a post on Twitter that he gave what he said were precise coordinates for where the American drone was targeted.
“At 00:14 US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace,” he said in a tweet that included coordinates that he said were near Kouh-e Mobarak. “We’ve retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down.”
Mr. Trump’s comments on Thursday afternoon in the Oval Office reflected the longstanding tension between the president’s desire to be seen as tough on the world stage and his campaign promise to make sure that the United States did not get tangled in more foreign wars.
The president has embraced a reputation as someone who punches back when he is challenged. Only months into his tenure, Mr. Trump launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an air base in Syria after a chemical weapon attack.
But he has often talked about ending American involvement in long-running conflicts abroad, describing his “America First” agenda as having little room for being the world’s police force. In a tweet in January, he said he hoped that “Endless Wars, especially those which are fought out of judgement mistakes” would “eventually come to a glorious end!”
According to Iranian news media, a foreign minister spokesman there said that flying a drone into Iranian airspace was an “aggressive and provocative” move by the United States.
Hossein Salami, the commander in chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said crossing the country’s border was “our red line,” the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported.
“We are not going to get engaged in a war with any country, but we are fully prepared for war,” Mr. Salami said at a military ceremony in Sanandaj, Iran, according to a translation from Press TV, a state-run news outlet. “Today’s incident was a clear sign of this precise message, so we are continuing our resistance.”
Iranian news media said the drone had flown over Iranian territory unauthorized, and reported that it had been shot down in the Hormozgan Province, along the country’s southern coast on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
Both the United States and Iran identified the aircraft as an RQ-4 Global Hawk, a surveillance drone made by Northrop Grumman.
“This was a show of force — their equivalent of an inside pitch,” said Derek Chollet, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs during the Obama administration, speaking of Iran’s decision to shoot down the drone.
James G. Stavridis, who retired as a four-star admiral after serving as the supreme allied commander at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, warned that the two countries were in a dangerous game that could quickly spiral out of control. He described Iran’s downing of the drone, which costs about $130 million, as a “logical albeit highly dangerous escalatory move by Iran.”
Donald Trump has said “you’ll find out” when asked if he was planning a military response to Iran’s shooting down of a US drone – words that appeared to be an effort to cool mounting tensions.
Speaking to reporters on the day the Iranian military shot down a US drone in the Strait of Hormuz, the president said he believed Tehran may have erred and that he believed a “a general or somebody” mistakenly ordered the attack.
Asked he was planning to respond military, he said people would “find out”. Asked he was being pressured by others in his administration, the president, who was meeting in the Oval Office with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, said this was not the case.
“We beat the caliphate. We took back the 100 per cent of the caliphate. At 99 per cent, Justin, I said we’re going to get out we’re going to start peeling back and everybody went crazy because it was 99, and so I said all right, so we’ll finish it up. So we got 100 per cent. And we’re pulling that back out of Syria. We’re pulling a lot of people back.”
Mr Trump’s tone appeared in contrast to a number of members of his administration, among them secretary of state Mike Pompeo and national security advisor John Bolton, who have adopted a hardline stance towards Iran, since the president last year pulled the US out of the Iran Nuclear Deal.
The incident comes amid increasing tensions between Tehran and Washington over Iran’s nuclear programme
drone, warning of the consequences of such “provocative” measures, state TV reported.
“Any such violations of Iran’s borders are strongly condemned … We warn of the consequences of such illegal and provocative measures,” said ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shot down the drone on Thursday morning amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over its collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.
US and Iranian officials gave different accounts of the incident: the Guard said it shot down a RQ-4 Global Hawk over Iranian airspace, while a US official said the downing happened over international airspace in the Strait of Hormuz.
The different accounts could not be immediately reconciled.
General Hossein Salami said also that Iran did “not have any intention for war with any country, but we are ready for war”.
Previously, the US military alleged Iran had fired a missile at another drone last week that was responding to the attack on two oil tankers near the Gulf of Oman. The US blames Iran for the attack on the ships; Tehran denies it was involved.
In recent weeks, the US has sped an aircraft carrier to the Middle East and deployed additional troops to the tens of thousands already in the region.
In From Yemen, Iranian-allied Houthi rebels have launched bomb-laden drones into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions could push the US and Iran into an open conflict, some 40 years after Tehran’s Islamic Revolution.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and continuing to consult our partners and allies,” Sanders said.
The Houthi’s Al-Masirah satellite news channel claimed the rebels targeted a power plant in Jizan, near the kingdom’s border with Yemen, with a cruise missile.
Saudi state media and officials did not immediately report a missile strike Thursday.
A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis since March 2015 in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation now pushed to the brink of famine by the conflict.
In recent weeks, the Houthis have launched a new campaign sending missiles and bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia.
Additional reporting by Reuters
Like the proverbial general always fighting the last war, liberals remain trapped in the past, unable to adapt to rapidly unfolding kinetic developments. The problem is that not only is this general fighting the last war, but the general can no longer distinguish between right and left and has lost any semblance of a moral compass.
The Spanish ambassador to the United Nations, Agustín Santos Maraver, called out the UK for their military installations in Gibraltar during a scathing speech to the UN Committee on Decolonization on Monday.
ALSO ON RT.COMGibraltar spits fury as Spanish warship tells UK vessels to leave its ‘territorial waters’Santos reiterated that Spain sought the return of Gibraltar and the “illegally occupied” cape, adding that the British military presence remained “at the heart” of the decolonization debate.
Meanwhile, patrol ship Vasily Bykov of the Russian Navy has docked at the port of Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in North Africa. The refueling visit suggests that the Spanish authorities are more comfortable with the Russian military than with the presence of its former colonial foe, Britain.
Spain has repeatedly come under pressure from its NATO allies to stop allowing Russian warships to refuel in Ceuta. The government of conservative PM Mariano Rajoy caved in and halted the practice in 2016, but it was resumed after the 2018 election victory of socialist PM Pedro Sanchez.
ALSO ON RT.COMCarrier battle group never planned to call at Spanish port – Russian Defense MinistryBritain has controlled Gibraltar since 1704, after capturing the territory in the War of Spanish Succession. Spain has repeatedly tried to reclaim the peninsula. While the issue has been somewhat dormant since 1982, when the membership of both the UK and Spain in the European Union made the border symbolic, it has resurfaced following the “Brexit” referendum.
The wounds of the attacking tanker were not large, and the unexploded magnetic mine wreckage was clearly visible. The Iranian dinghy was brought close to the cannon.
[Some industrious Internet user found the following picture of a limpet mine, which very closely matches the imprint left on the side of the ship, except that whatever was attached there didn’t have suction cups, it had magnets. This brings up the question of how long the mine would have had to be attached to the ship to leave permanent marks from weathering? But the forensic evidence shows 2 1/8th inch pop-rivets.]
[NOTICE POP-RIVET STICKING OUT FROM SHIP’S SURFACE, UNDER TAPE MEASURE.]
[2nd POP-RIVET in 10:00 position, SEEN MORE CLEARLY IN NEXT PHOTO.]
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has a term of endearment for Iran’s enemies, “The B-Team.”
The “B-Team” consists of U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister (nee Dictator) Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and the UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed.
When we look seriously at the attacks on the oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman this week the basic question that comes to mind is, Cui bono? Who benefits?
And it’s easy to see how the B-Team benefits from this attack and subsequent blaming Iran for it. With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran opening up a dialogue on behalf of U.S. President Donald Trump the threat of peace was in the air.
And none of the men on the B-Team profit from peace in the Middle East with respect to Iran. Getting Trump to stop hurling lightning bolts from the mountain top the B-Team guided him up would do nothing to help oil prices, which the Saudis and UAE need/want to remain high.
Bin Salman, in particular, cannot afford to see oil prices drop back into the $40’s per barrel. With the world awash in oil and supply tight, even with OPEC production cuts, Bin Salman is currently on very thin ice because of the Saudi Riyal’s peg to the U.S. dollar, which he can’t abandon or the U.S. will abandon them.
Falling oil prices and a rising dollar are a recipe for the death of the Saudi government, folks. Iran knows this.
Netanyahu and Bolton don’t want peace because the U.S. fighting a war with Iran serves the cause of Greater Israel and opens up the conflict in the hopes of regime change and elimination of Iran.
Bolton, as well, is finally feeling the heat of his incompetence and disloyalty to Trump, according to John Kirakau at Consortium News.
Of course, a more rational person might conclude that Bolton has done a terrible job, that the people around him have done a terrible job, that he has aired his disagreements with Trump in the media, and that the President is angry about it. That’s the more likely scenario.
Here’s what my friends are saying. Trump is concerned, like any president is near the end of his term, about his legacy. He said during the campaign that he wanted to be the president who pulled the country out of its two longest wars. He wanted to declare victory and bring the troops back from Afghanistan and Iraq. He hasn’t done that, largely at the insistence of Bolton. Here we are three years later and we’re still stuck in both of those countries.
Second, my friends say that Trump wants to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen war, but that Bolton has been insistent that the only way to guarantee the closeness of the U.S. relationships with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is to keep providing those countries with weapons, aerial refueling planes, and intelligence support.
So, couple the attacks on these tankers with the timing of Abe’s visit and the vote on Rand Paul’s bill to end selling arms to the Saudis in support of their war in Yemen (which flew through the Senate thanks to this attack getting a number of senators to change their vote at the last second) and we have a perfect cui bono.
That’s the entire B-Team’s motives distilled down to a couple of drones flying in to create a casus belli which saves Bolton’s job, keeps the weapons flowing to the murderous Saudis and creates an opportunity for Netanyahu to feed Trump bad information via his ‘intelligence’ services.
The rush to judgment by the usual suspects in the Trump administration should be all the proof you need that we’re looking at a set up to get Trump to fly off the handle which he, so far, hasn’t done.
Remember, Trump wants lower oil prices. He wants a weaker dollar and lower interest rates. He needs the frackers in Eagle Ford and Permian to keep raising output but they keep bleeding red ink. He’s fighting the Fed as well as former directors of the FBI, CIA and ODNI via his new attorney general, William Barr.
His approval rating is high and he’s going after his political enemies now. But a potential war in the Middle East is a real problem for him.
And this is where Moon of Alabama’s Bernard comes in with his excellent analysis of the current situation vis a vis Iran. The whole article is worth your time but the money-shot, as it were, is right here:
To say that the attacks were provocations by the U.S. or its Middle East allies is made easier by their evident ruthlessness. Any accusations by the Trump administration of Iranian culpability will be easily dismissed because everyone knows that Trump and his crew are notorious liars.
This cat and mouse game will now continue and steadily gain pace. More tankers will get damaged or even sunk. Saudi refineries will start to explode. UAE harbors will experience difficulties. Iran will plausibly deny that it is involved in any of this. The U.S. will continue to blame Iran but will have no evidence to prove it.
Insurance for Middle East cargo will become very expensive.Consumer prices for oil products will increase and increase again. The collateral damage will be immense.
All this will gradually put more pressure on Trump.
Don’t forget that the U.S.’s sanctions on Iran makes it difficult for Iran to insure its cargoes. So, even if a company or country wanted to still do business with NIOC, they can’t because they can’t get insurance on the cargo.
It’s been a real problem that Iran had to solve by having its own fleet of tankers which it also insures domestically to keep what oil it can export flowing. So it only makes sense to begin hitting the rest of the world via the same weapons being used against Iran.
But as Trump has ratcheted up the pressure he’s put Iran in the exact position that makes them the most dangerous. Acting through deniable proxies Iran can now drag this out as a low-grade conflict far longer than Trump can bear politically.
They don’t need to shut down the Strait of Hormuz. They just have to screw with its enemies’ ability to make a living. The political pressure that will come to bear on a global economy imploding because of instability in the flow of oil is not something a butcher like Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is capable of handling.
Bernard calls Trump’s administration ‘notorious liars’ and that’s the key. People can look no further than the ludicrous and inept handling of the regime change operation in Venezuela and see the mendacity first hand.
That operation was so bad, culminating in the pathetic “Bay of Fat Pigs” coup attempt, that it has left every country that backed Bolton and Pompeo’s play there, including Trump himself, looking like morons.
You don’t embarrass the narcissists who inhabit high-level government offices and not suffer in some way. This is why I give a lot of credence to John Kirakou’s conclusion that Bolton being one approved candidate away from unemployment.
Firing Bolton and having Abe and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas go to Tehran are good will gestures. But Trump has let his B-Team badly mismanage this situation in the same way that he let Bolton and Pompeo mismanage Kim Jong-un and North Korea.
No one believes he’s capable of peace or showing shame. He’s left himself in no position to climb down from this position without the help of Iran itself.
This is exactly the argument I made in April of 2017 after his missile strike on Syria over a “beautiful piece of chocolate cake.” He revealed himself to be both tactically and strategically incompetent.
He has to come groveling to them now. But he won’t. And Iran and its benefactors, Russia and China, have no incentive to come to him. He can’t keep his promises since he’s not really in charge of policy. As Ayatollah Khamenei pointed out on Twitter (oh, the irony):
Trump thought the B-Team was giving him negotiating leverage. But what happens to your leverage when the other person takes his chips, walks away from the table and says, “No. I won’t deal with you.”
So now the screws will be put to everyone. Trump pushed Erdogan of Turkey away over the S-400 and Putin called in his marker forcing Erdogan to end his support for Al-Qaeda in Idlib. That campaign will be slow and excruciating but it will eventually grind them out.
Iran has been handed all the cards they need to become the exact thing Pompeo, Trump and the B-Team have been accusing them of being but now with the cover of deniability and asymmetry. All of the things Moon of Alabama laid out are now going to happen even if Trump fires Bolton, pulls troops out and lifts the oil embargo on Syria, etc.
Netanyahu will scream bloody murder and up the ante until Putin slaps him down. Because now that Trump has made it clear he doesn’t want war with Iran we know there’s a limit to what Bibi can incite.
If Trump was serious about war with Iran it would have already been declared. The smoke, however, is blowing in a different direction.
Iran will retaliate here just to make the point that they can. They will make Saudi Arabia and the UAE pay the biggest price directly while Trump finally has to start thinking things through or his presidency will end badly next year.
The war of attrition against the fragility of the Western financial system will enter the next stage here. Iran, China and Russia will now, sadly, activate the weapons they have been holding back for years, hoping that Trump and his B-Team would come to their senses.
This is what happens when you let the B-Team overplay your hand for you against people who are 1) smarter and 2) more patient than you are.
And, frankly, I don’t blame them one bit. Because as the only thing that American power brokers understand is strength. And you have to hit them between the eyes with a stick to get them to respect you.
U.S. military planes will have access to the island based on “cooperation” agreements signed under Lenin Moreno’s administration.
“Galapagos is Ecuador’s natural aircraft carrier because it ensures permanence, replenishment, interception facilities and is 1,000 kilometers from our coasts,” he assured, explaining that now U.S. military planes will also have access to it based on “cooperation” agreements signed under Lenin Moreno’s administration to “fight drug trafficking.”
On September 2018, a Lockheed P-3 Orion intelligence-gathering plane from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency began to operate from Ecuador. While a Boeing 707 aircraft from the U.S. air force, carrying a long-range radar surveillance and control center (AWAC), will now also be “patrolling” the Pacific. Both operations are reminiscent of those made by the U.S. government from the Base in Manta from 1999 to 2009.
“A base means permanence, there will be no permanence of anyone, the P3 and Awac will meet periods no longer than a week,” Jarrin argued. Yet he himself said on Aug. 27, 2018, that “the important thing is to recognize that everything that the base did in its time, can now be done by just one plane, because of the advance of technology.”
Despite the technicalities of such “cooperation” any presence of foreign armies in Ecuadorean territory is unconstitutional. According to article five of the 2008 Constitution, Ecuador declares itself as a territory of peace, where “the establishment of foreign military bases or foreign installations for military purposes will not be allowed. In addition, it is prohibited to cede national military bases to foreign armed or security forces.”
NO, señor ministro. Galápagos NO es un “portaaviones” para uso gringo. Es una provincia ecuatoriana, patrimonio de la humanidad, suelo patrio.
Que su alma de vasallo pueda llegar a estos extremos, describe muy bien el Gobierno al que representa.
¡Hasta la victoria siempre! pic.twitter.com/BFnMTE8INt
— Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) June 12, 2019
No, Mr. Minister. Galapagos is not an “aircraft carrier” for the gringos to use. It is an Ecuadorean province, world heritage, patriotic ground.
In what seems like an attempt to appease critics, the defense official, emphasized that the readjustments to the airfield will be paid by the U.S. Yet once again history warns that this is no sort of “assurance.”
In 1942, as the U.S. was just entering World War II both in the Pacific as the western front, another right-wing government in Ecuador allowed the U.S. army and navy to use the Island of Baltra, in the Galapagos, as an airfield. An airstrip was constructed, houses, barracks, movie theaters and dining halls for the armed personel and families, all paid by the U.S.
However, in 1946 as the U.S. left they bombed and destroyed everything leaving nothing behind for the Ecuadoreans.
[Eleven years ago, There Are No Sunglasses posted our first article, dated, July 10, 2008, IRAN WAR RESOLUTION, co-sponsor ‘SELL-OUTS”…nothing ever changes in America’s “ZIONAZI” GOVERNMENT, Israeli puppets just keep hammering away, trying to start a true “war of aggression” against the Iranian government.]
Neither side is stopping the tit-for-tat escalation.
Radio Farda – A fire broke out at a facility used for storing oil products at the Shahid Rajaee port on Iran’s Gulf coast on Wednesday, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.
According to the report a vehicle used for transporting shipping containers short distances, known as a reach stacker caught fire and because there were oil products nearby, the blaze quickly spread.
Firefighters were on the scene trying to control the blaze, which was accompanied by explosions, according to IRNA, which quoted local officials saying that the blaze is under control. But the agency added that due to the nature of material involved there is no certainty that a flare up will not happen again.
IRNA said that only one person has been injured and taken to hospital.
A picture posted by IRNA showed a cloud of black smoke forming above palm trees.
Shahid Rajaee, west of Bandar Abbas, is Iran’s largest container shipping port.
As the strategic port of Shahid Rajaee, north of the Strait of Hormuz, was still dealing with the effects of a huge fire that caused serious destruction, Iranian media reported2 that six Iranian ships were ablaze in several ports in the southern part of the country.3
The Iranian Republic News Agency reported that on June 7, 2019, four merchant ships caught fire in the port of Nakhl Taqi (Taghi) in the Asaluyeh region of Bushehr Province. Three ships were burned entirely, while two others in Asaluyeh suffered major damage. While the governor of Asaluyeh claimed the fires were extinguished without anyone harmed, the head of the emergency rooms in Bushehr Province said that several civilians and sailors had been injured and brought to hospitals in the region. The mayor of the town of Delvar, near the port of Bualhir, confirmed that one vessel in the port burned completely.4
The Farsi-language broadcasts on Voice of America TV from Washington referred to these cases as a “suspicious event” and noted that it occurred a month after four oil tankers were damaged off the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.6 Euronews in Persian made the connection between the mysterious fires that hit the Iranian ships and the sabotage on the shores of the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf.7
The mysterious fires occurred one day after the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Norway – whose ships were attacked near the Fujairah port on May 12, 2019 – submitted an initial report to the United Nations Security Council on June 6.8 The document called the tanker attack “sophisticated and coordinated,” and said it was apparently carried out by a “state actor” with “significant operational capacity.” The report – which the United States and France also helped prepare – did not specify the name of the state responsible. Although the UAE and Saudi Arabia initially blamed Iran for the attack, Iran was not mentioned in the document, possibly as part of the effort to calm the winds and enable diplomatic activity to allay U.S.-Iranian tension and perhaps even renew the negotiations between them. At the same time, the Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, declared, “We believe that the responsibility for this action lies on the shoulders of Iran. We have no hesitation making this statement.”9
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and other officials expressed confidence that Iran was behind the attack near the Strait of Hormuz. Bolton, while visiting the United Arab Emirates, said, “There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind in Washington who’s responsible for this.” The operation, he added, was carried out with “naval mines almost certainly from Iran.” The American fleet also closely monitored several Iranian ships, from which the attack was apparently conducted by divers from the navy of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGCN).
The United States may choose to reveal the plentiful information accumulated on Iran’s direct responsibility for the oil tanker attacks off the port of Fujairah. At present, it still is not clear whether the burning of the Iranian boats is related, and constitutes, as several foreign media have hinted in Farsi, some kind of retaliation.
* * *
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Three people were missing and two injured on Tuesday after a blast on an oil tanker caused a fire while it was pumping oil in the southern Russian port of Makhachkala, Russia’s Transport Ministry said.
The port is functioning as normal despite the incident, the RIA news agency cited the Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transportation as saying.
The fire occurred on the VF-Tanker 16 vessel, which is owned by the Volga shipping agency, part of the UCL Holding transport group’s shipping division.
Russian news agencies said the three missing people had been killed.
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Maxim Rodionov; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Heavens)
The black and white surveillance video is exceedingly grainy. It shows what U.S. military officials say is an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp patrol boat bobbing alongside the Kokuka Courageous, one of the two tankers damaged by explosions Thursday in the Gulf of Oman that the Trump administration blamed squarely on Iran.
In the 1:39-minute video, released late Thursday by the U.S. Central Command, several crew members aboard the Gashti-class patrol boat appear to be removing an object from the hull of the tanker before the boat then backs up and motors away. The video is far too fuzzy to discern what the object is. But according to the U.S. military officials, the Iranian crew members removed one of their own unexploded limpet mines to hide evidence of their involvement in the explosions. The officials said several Iranian patrol boats had rushed to the Kokuka Courageous to rescue crew members who had abandoned ship in rafts and told the Iranians about the unexploded mine.
The video was released a few hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared in a statement: “It is the assessment of the U.S. government that the Islamic Republic of Iran was responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today.”
Pompeo said the assessment was based on “the intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”
“One has to keep asking the question, well, if it isn’t Iran, who the hell is it?” Anthony Cordesman, a strategic analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Newsweek. “You come up with the possibility that ISIS carried out the attack as trigger to turn two enemies — the United States and Iran — against each other. Or you’re watching Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates create an incident that they can then use to increase the pressure on Iran.”
Ayham Kamel, the head of Middle East analysis for the Eurasia Group, an international risk analysis consultancy, said recent attacks by Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels on Saudi oil installations are now threatening the kingdom’s core security concerns.
“The Saudis are alarmed,” Kamel told a conference call Friday. “Their response is going to be to try to pressure the U.S. into action.”
Others have pointed to the possibility that Thursday’s attacks, as well as the attacks on four tankers in the same waters a month ago, were so-called “false-flag” operations carried out by Israel, another arch foe of Iran, to make Iran appear responsible. And some observers have even suggested the attacks may have been directed by hawkish members of the Trump administration as a pretext to launch military operations against Iran.
“The U.S. track record on ginning up evidence for war is not good,” William Church, a former military investigator for the United Nations Security Council. “It lied in the run-up to the Vietnam war [by inventing a North Vietnamese attack on a U.S. Navy ship in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964], and it lied about WMD [weapons of mass destruction] before the Iraq war. So when these tanker attacks happen, we have to ask why and what’s the motivation in addition to examining the evidence.”
Church pointed to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last May, its reimposition of economic sanctions on Tehran and Trump’s recent denial of sanctions waivers to eight of Iran’s biggest oil customers under the president’s policy of “maximum pressure,” aimed at forcing to negotiate a new nuclear deal under terms more favorable to the United States. Church also noted that Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, has openly called for regime change in Iran.
With regard to the video, Church said much more needs to be known before any conclusions about Iranian responsibility can be drawn. “The video means nothing,” he told Newsweek. “We need to know how it was taken, when was it taken, what was the total sequence. Then you’d have to talk to the people in the video to get their view of what happened. I would check to see if the video was doctored. You would need to do everything that a trained investigator would do.”
Church, who also served for many years as a U.S. intelligence officer in the Middle East and East Africa, acknowledges that the Iranians have the Gashti-class patrol boats. But he notes that Iranian Navy, not the Revolutionary Guards, have the closest naval base to the site of the attacks, suggesting a possible discrepancy in the U.S. Central Command’s description of the Iranian craft’s affiliation. He also points out that the video does not make it clear which of the two stricken tankers is depicted.
In addition, Church said it’s not clear whether limpet mines caused the explosions in either tanker. Limpet mines are usually attached by divers to the hulls of ships at the water line. There have been some reports that crew members aboard one of the tankers saw a flying object, possibly a drone, heading toward the ship before the explosion occurred, raising the possibility that a drone delivered the explosives.
“Drones and limpet mines are a dime-a-dozen out there in the Middle East,” he said. “Everybody has them. So we need to know a lot more that what the video shows us.”
Church also says it’s not clear why, in the latest attacks, Iran would target tanks belonging to Norway and Japan, two of Iran’s best oil customers. “They’ve been shipping to these countries for decades,” he said. “Why would they do that?” Church says an independent investigation of the attacks is needed to determine responsibility.
Cordesman, who believes the Iranians are probably behind the attacks, says under Iran’s increasingly dire economic circumstances, attacking long-standing customers makes perfect sense. “You push your customers into realizing that their supplies are threatened and then have them react against the United States,” he said. “So to get that reaction, you provoke it.”
Oil prices have been given a convenient reprieve on the eve of OPEC’s decision as to whether it will extend the supply cuts at a time when demand growth is slowing. Thanks to alleged attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, not only are the speculators once again redirecting their attention from demand and trade wars, but insurance prices are bound to skyrocket and help push oil up for a longer period – even if speculators have a very short attention span for geopolitical provocations.
The Tanker Incident: The Hidden Truths Behind Conflict Escalation
As expected, and despite actual intelligence or evidence of any kind, the Trump administration is squarely blaming Iran, with Israeli media most vociferously jumping on the bandwagon.
Trump’s ‘expert take’ on this can be summed up in a way that no Western world leader would even conceive of doing; not even George W. Bush. As statements of major foreign policy consequences are typically delivered on Twitter during this administration, Trump said it was the government’s “assessment” that Iran was behind the attack. An “assessment”, in this world, means absolutely nothing and is not based on intelligence. It is based purely on political capital.
The fact is that there is no evidence of Iranian involvement either in this attack or in the sabotage of tankers, which was horribly overplayed in the media, last month.
The only truths we have to work with here are the following:
– Early Thursday, a Norwegian-owned tanker and a Japanese-owned vessel underwent apparent attacks while transiting through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf of Oman.
– The Norwegian tanker was carrying Qatari ethanol to Taiwan; the Japanese vessel was carrying methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore.
– The Norwegian ship experienced three explosions, while the Japanese ship caught fire.
– Both the US Navy and the Iranian naval forces responded to distress calls from the vessels, while the Iranian naval forces rescued crew members from both.
– The attacks were well-planned and well-coordinated, as well as being extreme precision attacks, clearly designed to cause minimal real damage. They were designed to be highly visible, but not to destroy vessels or cargo, or to take lives.
– The Japanese ship had a hole caused by an unidentified type and make of artillery shell, which was discovered on the ship, according to the ship’s owners. The methanol cargo was not harmed. The ship is not in danger of sinking.
– The Norwegian tanker reported three explosions onboard, and no reports of incoming artillery or torpedoes. A US navy source reported seeing an unexploded limpet mine on the side of the vessel, which could account for the nature of these explosions. Limpet mines are attached magnetically. However, the ship’s owner in the case refutes this account entirely.
In this case, the weaponry tells us nothing. Limpet mines are naval weapons, but anyone can get their hands on them, and in the era of globalization, they change hands many times over. The US has released images it claims proves that Iran was behind what was a mine blast on the Norwegian ship; but, again, the owners of the ship – meaning eyewitnesses – refute this.
Even our deepest sources inside royal circles in Saudi Arabia do not believe that this was a state actor attack perpetrated by Iran. That sentiment, however, will never be made public as it is not in the interests of either Saudi Arabia or the UAE to pin this attack on anyone but Iran or its Houthi allies from Yemen. The Saudis and the UAE have high-level back channels with Iran, as we have mentioned before.
Nor would Iran attack a Japanese ship at exactly the time that the Japanese prime minister was visiting Tehran. There is absolutely no benefit in such an escalation, in such a manner, for Iran.
Always look to the beneficiaries, and not to the media espousing unintelligible statements from world leaders with clear agendas.
It is highly irresponsible of the Trump administration to lay the blame squarely on Iran for these alleged attacks. The media has forgotten conveniently that there is still no conclusive evidence that Iran was involved in last month’s attacks, either.
There are many beneficiaries in this game, from Israel and even Russia to the Saudi-UAE band and the Trump administration. We know without a doubt from our assets in Riyadh that MBS and MBZ are both attempting to escalate tensions without having them escalate to the point of actual conflict. This is a difficult balance to maintain, especially with MBS and his itchy trigger finger, which worries MBZ, his UAE mentor.
But the precision of this attack is what is most telling, which was accomplished with a fair amount of finesse that did no major damage in the end. It was meant to be visible and specifically to escalate tensions.
At least two high-level intelligence consultants for major hedge funds tell us that the nature of the attack, the motives and an assessment of historical precedents would more readily indicate Israeli intelligence involvement, which does not always suggest involvement at the political level.
Both the Mossad and AMAN (Israeli military intelligence) have been masters of sabotage when it comes to Iran. Together with American intelligence, Israeli intelligence has launched a number of sabotage operations aimed at taking down Iran’s nuclear projects, including sabotage of equipment and even through the Stuxnet computer virus. The Mossad has also taken out key Israeli scientists in its sabotage operations.
The Israeli intelligence apparatus is keen to ensure that tensions remain escalated with Iran and that Trump does not become complacent, as he did soon after last month’s attacks on four oil tankers in the same region. Those attacks, for which accusations that Iran was involved have not been proven, were followed by high-level rhetoric coming out of Washington, but then a clear pullback and cool-down when the trade war with China quickly took center stage again. There will be more such attacks if Trump fails to get the world on board with this Iran narrative, though the next round of precision attacks may be different in nature.
Oil speculators are already growing skeptical after the attacks: While oil prices shot up on news of the tanker attacks, by Friday morning they were paring some of those gains on the poor oil demand picture. They are still focusing more on fundamentals, and the trade war with its threat of global recession is still the key factor. But the fact is, if certain forces desire conflict with Iran, they will force it, with or without evidence. It seems fairly easy to get the media on board with this in 2019.
Lam told a press conference on Saturday that she will suspend indefinitely all work on the bill. Her administration will now hold consultations with various parties before deciding how to proceed.
The bill would have allowed for the extradition to mainland China of Hong Kong, foreign, and Chinese nationals living and visiting the territory. However, it has faced months of criticism from legal and business bodies over fears it would threaten Hong Kong’s status as a financial hub.
The Japanese operator ship operator of one of two oil tankers attacked near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday said that sailors on board its vessel, the Kokuka Courageous, saw “flying objects” just before the attack, suggesting the tanker wasn’t damaged by mines.
That account contradicts what the U.S. military has said as it released a video it says shows Iranian forces removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the two ships in the suspected attack.
Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, Yutaka Katada, president of Kokuka Sangyo Co, said he believes the flying objects seen by the sailors could be bullets, and denied possibility of mines or torpedoes because the damages were above the ship’s waterline. He called reports of mine attack “false.”
Katada said the crew members also spotted an Iranian naval ship nearby, but did not specify whether that was before or after the attacks. The tanker survived the first attack that hit near the engine room, followed by another causing damage to the star-board side toward the back.
Meanwhile, Japan’s defense minister said the government has no intention of sending Japanese troops to respond to attacks on a Japanese-operated oil tanker in the Middle East.
All 21 Filipino crewmembers of the vessel were rescued and were now on a U.S. warship.
Takeshi Iwaya told reporters at a news conference that the situation is not considered an imminent threat to Japan.
Iwaya said Japan doesn’t think the so-called “Self-Defense Force has a necessarily role to play at this point and we don’t plan to send them to the Strait of Hormuz region in response to the attacks.”
The Afghan security forces targeted a compound of Lashkar-e-Taiba group in Kunar province killing at least 3 foreign terrorists.
The 201st Silab Corps in a statement said the 2nd Brigade of Silab Corps conducted artillery strikes on Lashkar-e-Taiba compound in ASmar district on Wednesday.
The statement further added that the compound belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Majid alias Adalat.
The security forces killed 3 foreign terrorists of the group and wounded 5 more during the operation, the 201st Silab Corps added.
The anti-government armed elements have not commented regarding the operation so far.
Japanese trade minister Hiroshige Seko said Thursday that two tankers carrying “Japan-related” cargo were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz.
Hiroshige Seko said on Thursday that all crew members were safely rescued. He said the government has set up a task force and that the government has informed the shipping industry to use precautions.
The Japan Shipowners’ Association said one of the two ships attacked is a Panamanian-registered chemical tanker belonging to its Japanese member and was on its way to Singapore and Thailand, not to Japan.
It said all 21 Filipino crew members were uninjured.
The attacks came as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was wrapping up a two-day trip to Iran with a mission to ease tensions between Tehran and Washington. The timing of the attack was especially sensitive while Abe’s high-stakes diplomacy mission was underway.
On Wednesday, after talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Abe warned that any “accidental conflict” that could be sparked amid the heightened U.S.-Iran tensions must be avoided.
No one has claimed responsibility or explained how the tankers were attacked.
Benchmark Brent crude spiked at one point by as much 4% in trading following the attack, to over $62 a barrel, highlighting how crucial the area remains to global energy supplies. A third of all oil traded by sea passes through the strait, which is the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf.
The latest incident in the region comes after the U.S. alleged that Iran used mines to attack four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah last month. Iran has denied being involved, but it comes as Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen also have launched missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.
Cmdr Joshua Frey, a 5th Fleet spokesman, said the U.S. Navy was assisting the two vessels that he described as being hit in a “reported attack.” He did not say how the ships were attacked or who was suspected of being behind the assault.
Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, preliminarily identified one of the vessels involved as the MT Front Altair, a Marshall Islands-flagged crude oil tanker. The vessel was “on fire and adrift,” Dryad added. It did not offer a cause for the incident or mention the second ship.
The firm that operates the Front Altair told The Associated Press that an explosion was the cause of the fire onboard. International Tanker Management declined to comment further saying they are still investigating what caused the explosion. Its crew of 23 is safe after being evacuated by the nearby Hyundai Dubai vessel, it said.
The second vessel was identified as the Kokuka Courageous, operated by Tokyo-based Kokuka Sangyo Co. It was carrying 25,000 tons of methanol. BSM Ship Management said it sustained hull damage and 21 sailors had been evacuated, with one suffering minor injuries. Iranian state television said 44 sailors from the two tankers have been transferred to an Iranian port in the southern province of Hormozgan.
Earlier reports stated that 44 people have been rescued from the two tankers
TASS, June 13. The Front Altair tanker owned by Norwegian Frontline, which was attacked near the coast of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, has sunk, Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen TV channel reports.
Earlier, Iran’s Press TV channel reported that Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous tanker registered in Panama had come under attack in the Gulf of Oman. Sounds of explosions were heard in the ships’ location. Harbors in Pakistan and Oman have received SOS-signals from the crews of the ships that were attacked. At the same time, Arab media notes that the ships were struck by torpedoes. Oman coast guard spokesman Nasser Selin confirmed this information to the Norwegian Dagbladet newspaper. He also said that the incident had taken place in the Iranian territorial waters. Both the company and Oman are in close contact with the Iranian authorities.
Front Altair’s crew is primarily made up of Russian, Georgian and Filipino nationals, all sailors are out of danger, Norway’s Verdens Gang tabloid reports, citing a vessel owner’s spokesperson.
“All 23 people who were on board are in safety. They were sent to a different ship in the area,” the company said. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department told TASS that it was verifying the reports on the Russian sailors aboard the burning tanker.
Iranian emergency services have rescued forty-four sailors from two tankers that were attacked, the attack caused a fire on the vessels. According to Reuters, the US naval force ships are in the area of the incident.
Oil tanker ‘on fire’ after being hit by ‘torpedo’ in Gulf of Oman
A torpedo may have been used in an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
One of the vessels – Front Altair – is “on fire and adrift”, maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global said.
It was carrying 75,000 tonnes of a petrochemical feedstock called naphtha when it was attacked at 5am UK time, the company added.
Petrochemical division CEO, Wu I-Fang, said all 23 crew had been rescued.
One crew member was slightly injured.
Iranian search and rescue teams picked up 44 sailors from the two tankers and took them to the Iranian port of Jask, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
The US navy is providing assistance, saying it was “aware of the reported attack” and had received “two separate distress calls” earlier this morning.
United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations – part of the Royal Navy – said it was investigating.
All major Gulf stock markets dropped following the news.
This latest incident follows allegations from the US that Iran used mines to attack four oil tankers off the Emirati port of Fujairah last month.
Iran has denied being involved.
The Gulf of Oman lies at the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz – a major strategic waterway through which a fifth of global oil consumption passes after being produced in the Middle East.
by Stephen Lendman
Refugee camps in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon are fertile grounds for jihadist recruitment. US war on the Syrian Arab Republic created the gravest refugee crisis since WW II.
The US uses ISIS, al-Nusra, and other jihadists as imperial foot soldiers, aided by Pentagon-led terror-bombing.
Endless war in Syria, now in its ninth year, rages because the US rejects resolution, and the supply of jihadists is plentiful. No matter how many are eliminated, lots more take their place.
One of the dirty secrets about the war is that the US and its imperial partners recruit, arm, fund, and train jihadists, using them as proxy foot soldiers.
Deplorable conditions leaves refugees in camps vulnerable to recruitment as a possible way to relieve their suffering, shifting them from one horrific situation to another of no return in most cases.
According to Russian National Defense Management Center General Mikhail Mizintsev, conditions at the Rukban and al-Hol refugee camps in Syria are inhumane, saying:
“All fundamental norms of international law are violated in (camps) controlled by the US. The situation at…Rukban and Al-Hol (is) critical.”
“By artificially creating inhuman conditions at the refugee camps on the illegally occupied territories in Syria, the US is creating a basis for the return of terror organizations with the goal of maintaining instability in the country and the region.”
Head of Russia’s reconciliation center in Syria General Viktor Kupchishin added the following;
Conditions in refugee camps controlled by the US are responsible for “10 (to) 20 people dy(ing) each day” because of lack of food, medical care, and overall inhumane conditions.
After visiting the al-Hol camp in May, ICRC President Peter Maurer said he was “shocked” by stories “of children and women dying in big numbers because of all the difficulties.”
Good faith efforts by Russia to aid Syrian refugees return to liberated areas are largely rejected by US authorities.
The Obama regime and now Trump prevent conflict resolution. Russia’s General Staff earlier accused the Pentagon of training terrorists at its illegally established 55-square km At Tanf area base in southern Syria.
Russia’s General Staff called the area a staging ground for US armed struggle against the Syrian government, using ISIS and other terrorists, Kurdish YPG fighters used for the same purpose in northern areas near Turkey’s border.
Jihadists recruited from refugee camps and by other means are supplied with heavy and other weapons by the US, European countries, Israel, Turkey, the Saudis, and their imperial partners – including tanks, large-caliber mortars, HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems, anti-aircraft artillery and missiles, along with training on how to use CWs.
US-supported terrorists in Pentagon/CIA controlled camps recruit refugees to join their ranks. Denied food, clean water, and other essentials to life leaves them vulnerable to an alternative they hope improves their current status.
Western media largely ignore reality on the ground, pretending what’s gone on throughout the war is a US-led noble cause.
Tens of thousands of jihadists have been recruited from scores of regional, Western, and other countries to wage it — financed by the US, NATO, the Saudis, and their imperial partners.
In 2017, AMN News reported about a “pro-ISIS school in Indonesia recruit(ing) child fighters for Syria jihad.”
Tens of thousands of displaced Syrian children are vulnerable to recruitment. Social media are used to recruit jihadists.
In April, Russia’s main intelligence directorate (GRU) head Igor Kostyukov said ISIS and al-Qaeda are promoting their extremism and recruiting fighters in Latin America at “jihadist training camps and hideouts in the region” — the CIA likely behind what’s going on, perhaps Israel’s Mossad as well.
Kostyukov explained that Latin America’s six million Muslims make the region a fertile ground for recruitment.
The same goes for other areas with large Muslim populations. Islam is a major world religion with an estimated 1.8 billion adherents, mainly in the Middle East, Central and South Asia, along with parts of Africa.
Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) head Alexander Bortnikov said jihadist cells in Europe, Central and Southeast Asia, Libya, elsewhere in Africa, and Afghanistan pose a major threat.
Trump’s earlier claim about the US “knocking the hell out of ISIS” ignored Washington’s support for the terrorist group it created, along with al-Qaeda, its al-Nusra offshoot in Syria, and other jihadist groups.
The US didn’t wage war in Syria to quit, Pentagon forces operating from numerous bases in the country.
They’re used as platforms for endless aggression, some as training camps for jihadists as well, recruited globally, including from refugee camps the US controls.
In his emotional testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Stewart at times broke down in tears, shouting at the lawmakers and calling them “shameful.”
“I can’t help what think what an incredible metaphor this room is… a filled room of 9/11 first responders and front on me, a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one… shameful,” said Stewart at the outset of his remarks. A little over half of the 14-member subcommittee members were present, mostly Democrats.
Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2010, over opposition from some Republicans who balked at its $7 billion price tag. The act was reauthorized in 2015 for 90 years. But a portion of the law — the Victim Compensation Fund — was only funded for five years, through the end of 2020. The fund aimed to provide necessary financial support for the thousands who suffered serious medical issues, including a spate of cancer diagnoses, after the 2001 attacks.
Dr. Jacqueline Moline, Chair of Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention at Hofstra’s School of Medicine, testified before the panel that currently, more than 11,000 types of cancer have been reported since the attacks on 9/11, ranging from , an aggressive form of brain cancer, to debilitating lung cancers.
Several members of the New York congressional delegation, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, both Democrats, and GOP Rep. Peter King, have introduced the Never Forget the Heroes Act of 2019 to reauthorize the Victim Compensation Fund. It also has the support of New York’s two senators, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Stewart has long been a champion for the cause, first devoting an entire episode of “The Daily Show” to the political debate over the Zadroga Act back in 2010. He’s since become one of the most vocal advocates for 9/11 responders, repeatedly defending the right to health care coverage for those who responded and ran toward the falling towers.
Stewart was disgusted by the small number of members assembled for Tuesday’s hearing, calling the showing an “embarrassment to this country” and a “stain on this institution.”
“You should be ashamed of yourselves for not being here,” he added. “Accountability appears to not be something that occurs in this chamber.” Stewart expressed concern that such legislation like the Never Forget Act would just be punted like a “political football” and attached to riders in massive budget bills.
“Why this bill is not unanimous consent is beyond my comprehension,” Stewart admonished. He also lambasted Congress for those that consider the measure a “New York” issue.
“More of these men and woman are going to get sick and they’re going to die, and I’m awfully tired of hearing this is a ‘New York issue.’ Al-Qaeda didn’t shout ‘death to Tribeca.’ They attacked America,” Stewart remarked.
After a more than five-minute-long tirade against congressional inaction on the issue, the audience in the hearing room gave the comedian a standing ovation.
Stewart’s testimony was not the first to bring members of Congress and the audience to its feet. Luis Alvarez, a retired NYPD detective and 9/11 responder, also testified before the House panel. He is set to begin his 69th round of chemotherapy Wednesday to treat the cancer he was diagnosed with after the World Trade Center fell.
“This fund isn’t a ticket to paradise, it’s to provide our families with care,” said Alvarez. “You all said you would never forget. Well, I’m here to make sure that you don’t,” Alvarez said to a room of loud applause.
All of Peter’s latest articles are found here:
- 2014/9/4 What Is The Truth About ISIS?
- Mar 2, 2009, https://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/links-to-peters-articles/israeli-deception-and-barbarity/
- Mar 2, 2009, https://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/links-to-peters-articles/israel-is-americas-hands/
- Mar 2, 2009, https://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/links-to-peters-articles/bandar-bush-and-the-saudi-sell-out-of-the-arab-world/
- https://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/2008/08/12/can-an-ex-kgb-general-save-america-from-itself/–(reposted 11/18/2015)
- 18 July, 2008, We Need A War Plan https://countercurrents.org/chamberlin180708.htm
- Jul 11, 2008
- Jul 11, 2008, https://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/undamming-the-river-of-hypocrisy/
- Jul 11, 2008, https://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/the-world-must-die-so-that-israel-can-be-saved/
- Jul 10, 2008,
- 2008/07/10, https://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/fighting-mind-control/
- May 31, 2008, https://www.globalresearch.ca/manufactured-reality-two-steps-forward-one-step-back/9139
- 23 May, 2008, The World Must Die So That Israel Can Be Saved https://countercurrents.org/chamberlin230508.htm
- 17 May 2008 https://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=3131&action=edit
- April 27, 2008, https://www.globalresearch.ca/evolving-us-military-agenda-black-hole-in-bush-s-brain/8818
- Apr. 09, 2008, Breaking Through the News Filter http://www.informationliberation.com/?id=25093%20breaking%20news%20filter
- FEBRUARY 25, 2008, https://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/repaying-the-puppet-masters/
- February 5, 2008, Gladio – Death Plan For Democracy https://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2008/02/05/gladio-death-plan-for-democracy-by-peter-chamberlin/
- 1-28-8, Unimaginable Intentional
Human Suffering https://rense.com/general80/unimag.htm
- 6 January 2008, https://www.globalresearch.ca/osama-and-the-cia-sponsored-war-on-terrorism-americans-are-being-killed-by-american-trained-islamists/7733
- 12-31-7, https://rense.com/general79/depdv.htm
American Intifada Or Democratic Revolution?
- 9-28-7, The Zionist Brainwashing Of America https://rense.com/general78/antisem.htm
- 8-19-7, Neoconservatism –
Fascist Zionism https://rense.com/general77/neneo.htm
- October 21, 2007, https://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/self-censorship-or-lobby-intimidation/
- 29 July 2007, https://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2007/07/29/helplessly-hopeless-by-peter-chamberlin-psy-ops/
Peter Chamberlin has been actively opposing all non-defensive war most of his life. Peter’s first petition (as a teenager) was a success in his local community, raising several hundred signatures protesting Nixon’s scapegoating of Lt. Calley for the My Lai incident. He has been very active since 1982 writing letters to newspapers and magazines, as well as to recalcitrant national leaders, speaking-out against war, nuclear war, and the impending violent collapse of the Western empire (that is now at hand). Chamberlin has had several hundred letter-to-editors printed in this time, followed by one hundred or more Internet articles. Peter started There Are No Sunglasses in June of 2008.
Editor: Zhang Jianfeng 丨China Plus
Note: The following article is taken from the Chinese-language “Commentaries on International Affairs”.
The director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department, Kiron Skinner, recently courted controversy by claiming that competition between China and the United States was the result of a clash of civilizations, saying it’s “a fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology.” Her sensationalist rhetoric is an embarrassment to American political circles and has made the State Department a laughing stock internationally.
Skinner’s view is based on the work of the late Harvard political professor Samuel Huntington, who first came up with his theory about a clash of civilizations in an article carried by Foreign Affairs magazine in 1993 after the end of the Cold War. He further expounded on his theory in his book “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order”, which was published in 1996. Huntington tried to analyze the conflicts between civilizations, and warned the West against trying to reshape other civilizations in its own image. He advocated conversation, understanding, and cooperation between civilizations, and the development of a new multipolar and multicultural world order instead of a single, universal culture. Skinner’s remarks about Huntington’s theory indicate that she has misinterpreted its message.
Skinner said the battle of ideas between China and the United States was a fight the United States hasn’t had before. But is that really true? After the 9/11 terrorist attack, the United States launched two wars in the Middle East and introduced discriminating policies against Muslims. At the time, there was no talk about a clash of civilizations: at the time, Huntington’s theory was considered politically incorrect, because it doesn’t regard Western values as universal and would therefore fail to help justify the belief that the United States must be a beacon of civilization for the world.
Even more mind-boggling was Skinner’s remark that “It’s the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian,” which was an attempt to differentiate China-U.S. competition with the confrontation between America and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
That such racist rhetoric was emerging from the State Department triggered panic among American elites, many of whom were quick to denounce it. But in reality, it epitomizes the Cold War thinking and cultural hegemony that persists in the mindset of some Americans. This mindset is leading some sections of the American polity to draw a dividing line, a new type of Iron Curtain, across the world. The United States has always boasted about being the most orthodox representative of Western civilization. But its actions show that its idea of civilization is little more than the un-restrained and ruthless competition of the law of the jungle. This mindset informs not only American foreign policy, but has led to extreme divisions within American society itself.
The U.S. State Department is said to be developing a strategy to manage its relations with China that are based on the idea of “a fight with a really different civilization.” This kind of backward thinking only hurts the United States and the American people. The world has no universal civilization. It is home to a mix of vibrant cultures that are the result of thousands of years of accumulated history. For thousands of years, Eastern and Western civilizations have benefited tremendously from taking a respectful and tolerant approach towards each other. Those who stir up conflict in the name of civilization are doomed to be cast aside by the judgement of history.
When helicopters touched down in the mountains in early March at the start of the deadliest battle for Americans in Afghanistan, the infantrymen who rushed out immediately came under surprisingly intense fire. Bursts from rifles and machine guns were joined by explosions from well-placed mortar rounds, a coordinated mix of firepower that is one mark of a capable military force.
Specialist Wayne Stanton, a 10th Mountain Division soldier who was wounded in the skirmish, later paid his foes a soldier’s grudging compliment. ”They knew what they were doing,” he said.
The Taliban and Al Qaeda resistance near Gardez was a bracing display for fighters who, despite their appearance as a ragged band of fanatics, had achieved a level of competence that American military officials say was on par with the world’s best guerrilla forces. It also demonstrated the degree to which Osama bin Laden and other jihad leaders had turned Afghanistan’s network of training bases and guest houses, typically described as terror schools, into a sort of two-tiered university for waging Islamic war.
Details of the training emerge in hundreds of documents and thousands of pages collected from those schools by reporters from The New York Times, and from interviews with American government and military officials.
The documents — including student notebooks, instructor lesson plans, course curriculums, training manuals, reference books and memorandums — show that one tier, by far the busiest, prepared most of the men who enlisted in the jihad to be irregular ground combatants, like those who repulsed the 10th Mountain Division’s helicopter-borne assault. The other provided a small fraction of the volunteers with advanced regimens that prepared them for terrorist assignments abroad.
American military instructors who reviewed the documents said the first tier of instruction was sophisticated in a conventional military sense, teaching, one said, ”a deep skill set over a narrow range” that would reliably produce ”a competent grunt.” The second tier was similarly well organized, albeit with more sinister curriculum.
Implicit in the split levels of training was the Islamic groups’ understanding of the need for different sets of skills to fight on several, simultaneous fronts: along trench lines against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan; against armor or helicopter assaults from conventional foes in Chechnya; as bands of foot-mobile insurgents in Kashmir, Central Asia or the Philippines; and as classic terrorists quietly embedded in cities in the Middle East, Africa, the former Soviet Union and the West.
To instill these diverse lessons, the schools applied ancient forms of instruction — teachers pushing students to copy and memorize detailed tables and concepts — to modern methods of killing. Michael R. Hickok, a professor at the Air War College in Montgomery, Ala., said they used ”Islamic pedagogy to teach Western military tactics.”
Evident as well in the documents, which were translated for The Times, were signs that in developing martial curriculums, the groups were cannily resourceful in amassing knowledge. Some lessons were drawn from manuals from the former Soviet Union. Others, the use of Stinger missiles or Claymore mines, were derived from instruction underwritten by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1980’s, when Washington backed the Afghan resistance against Soviet occupation.
In the years after the Soviets withdrew and American money evaporated, the groups aggressively cribbed publicly available information from the United States military and the paramilitary press. Ultimately, American tactics and training became integral parts of the schools.
One camp, used by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, gave instruction in movements by four-man fire teams that was modeled after formations used by the United States Marine Corps, according to military instructors who reviewed it. The Uzbeks also used reconnaissance techniques long taught at the Army’s Ranger School in Fort Benning, Ga. Other documents show that jihadi explosives training covered devices and formulas lifted from a Special Forces manual published in 1969.
While these materials are available through open sources, from on-line booksellers to rural gun shows, military officials said it was a feat to digest far-flung sources, translate them into Arab and Asian languages and assemble them in an orderly way. Bomb-making instruction, for instance, combined the electrical engineering necessary to make detonation systems with Vietnam-era Army formulas for home-brewed explosives, then was translated into Arabic, Uzbek and Tajik. ”It indicates a tremendous amount of filtering and organization to get to that,” an American military instructor said.
Moreover, notebooks from several camps demonstrate that even in courses taught in different languages and hundreds of miles apart, many lessons were identical, sharing prose passages, diagrams and charts. This was an important achievement, military officials said, as it created compatibility between members of what essentially became an Islamic foreign legion.
It also marked a significant advance beyond training that the United States sponsored for Afghans in the 1980’s.
”One of the problems we had against the Soviets was getting the mujahedeen to be uniform,” said an American official familiar with that movement. ”We couldn’t get them on the same page. When you went to one valley, they fought one way. When you went to the next, they fought another. To the extent these guys were able to level the training and make it consistent, they were on the right track.”
Afghanistan’s dozen or so jihad schools were hard, spartan places, compounds with dusty classrooms in arid mountains or on the sun-baked steppe where men hunched over note pads and applied an ageless form of learning to guerrilla war. Outside were obstacle courses and mazes of barbed wire and trenches for infantry drills. Inside, men slept on mats in buildings made of mud.
Jihad groups had the means to reproduce lesson plans in bulk, and distribute them in neat folders, as most modern militaries do. But they chose not to, opting instead to have students copy material by longhand, meticulously following instructors who stood before the class. Dr. Charles P. Neimeyer, a dean at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., said camps treated each student ”like a monk in a monastery in the Middle Ages.”
From these carefully scribed records, dropped or discarded last fall by recruits and the veterans who trained them, a pattern emerges.
The core curriculum began simply. It opened with classes in Kalashnikov rifles, the hardy series of automatic weapons designed in the Soviet Union after World War II and since then exported worldwide. The weapons were the predominant arms in Taliban and Qaeda formations, and the jihadis, like American recruits learning to master M-16’s, studied their history, design and operation. Then they turned to PK machine guns, 82-millimeter mortars and the RPG-7, a shoulder-fired rocket effective against armored vehicles and trucks.
Each class began with a modicum of history then plunged into important facts: names of components, steps to dismantle and clean them, characteristics of different munitions, steps to clear misfires and jams.
Together, the classes served as infantry weaponry 201, a course mastered by rote.
Students copied sections on how to fine-tune a rifle sight at short range to ensure accuracy at longer distances, a procedure known as zeroing. They recorded sections on directing rockets or controlled bursts of bullets and tracers at moving targets, on the ground or in the air. They reviewed several different shooting scenarios, scribbling down technical solutions for each.
The training, Professor Hickok said, was ”a lot more sophisticated than a bare-bones, simple, ‘Here is your weapon, go forth.’ ”
American tactics instructors who reviewed the notebooks were similarly impressed. ”They have standardized targets throughout their program of instruction,” one said. ”That’s good stuff. That’s professional. It shows you have standards, you have some level of shooting that’s acceptable and not.”
Most students also trained on the tripod-mounted heavy machine guns and antiaircraft pieces, which Afghan soldiers use to spray flak at planes but also to control roads, valleys and mountain passes. Some received classes covering the Dragunov, a sniper rifle with a telescopic sight.
Others studied portable antiaircraft missiles, including the American Stinger, the British Blowpipe and the Russian Grail. American officials have said concerns about these weapons in certain regions of Afghanistan kept coalition airplanes at high elevations, — out of the missiles’ range, during sorties. (One American military official said a Stinger or Blowpipe was fired at a pair of United States Navy aircraft last fall. The pilots took evasive actions. The missile passed narrowly between them.)
Veterans also led their charges through demolition instruction covering mines and grenades, as well as TNT and plastic explosives. This training — seen in notebooks from Mazar-i-Sharif and Al Farouk, where the Talib from California, John Walker Lindh, trained — was geared for combat rather than terrorism, said American instructors who reviewed it. It surveyed the equipment and skills needed to mine roads, create obstacles or destroy infrastructure on the battlefield.
”It’s not like, ‘How can you sneak an explosive onto a plane?’ ” a senior instructor with extensive demolition experience said. ”It shows how you could blow up a bridge before it’s crossed by the infidel regiment.”
Similarly, lessons on booby traps — rigging explosives for surprise detonation, as when a pedestrian steps on a pad and closes an electric circuit, or crosses a trip wire and releases a time fuse’s pin — resembled classes for American marines and soldiers, who are taught to create makeshift weapons for ambushes and defensive positions.
”That’s the poor man’s B-52, the booby traps,” the instructor said. ”They’re effective; they’re cheap and fairly easy to rig. The instructions in these notebooks would work.”
But other subjects, which appear menacing in student notes — briefcase bombs, truck bombs or bombs that would detonate when a spring is depressed in a couch or bed — lacked enough detail to be effective, the instructors said. Their inclusion most likely served a clever purpose: giving students a sense of esprit with terrorists who had struck American embassies in Africa and military barracks in the Middle East.
”Most of that stuff with demolitions is motivational,” the senior instructor said. ”They’ve had huge successes with truck bombs against us, so they are going to use the truck bomb in the curriculum to reinforce the success, even if they do not realistically expect each of these guys to use a truck bomb. It reinforces their way of doing business. It reinforces their heritage.”
As the jihad camps grew during the 1990’s, recruits arrived from at least 15 nations and speaking more than a half-dozen languages, conditions that posed a challenge for a force hoping to be cohesive. The documents show that the Islamic groups developed a uniform training program that assimilated recruits with different cultures and skills.
Reviews of notebooks from in or near Kunduz, Kabul, Rishkhor, Mazar-i-Sharif and Kandahar turn up the same hand-drawn diagrams for classes in weaponry, map reading, celestial navigation, trench digging, mortar employment and demolition.
The similarities bridge social differences and speak of the jihad’s effective network. ”The classes have the same prearranged instructor scripts, because you see the exact same classes being given in different years, different regions, different languages,” said an American tactics instructor.
Another added: ”This is why you can take so many different ethnic groups — foreigners, Afghans, people from either side of the Hindu Kush — and you can put them together, and they can fight together. They all have the same basic skills.”
Moreover, the lessons were what curriculum experts call ”modular,” meaning self-contained. A student need not complete Lesson A to be ready for Lesson B. ”That’s a pretty sophisticated way to do this curriculum,” said Professor Hickok, who reviewed several notebooks. ”It makes the curriculum pretty adaptable.”
It also allowed instructors to mix and match lessons for each jihad group’s particular needs.
Recruits of the Pakistani group Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen received instruction in M-16’s, American-made rifles they could encounter while fighting in Kashmir, the disputed territory divided between Pakistan and India. Students trained to fight in Central Asia or Afghanistan, where M-16’s are all but nonexistent, skipped these weapons.
In the end, the camps avoided almost entirely the painstaking rituals of state-run militaries: the weeks spent on proper wearing of uniforms, or marching, or procedures of garrison life and administration. They remained focused on jihad indoctrination and fighting skill.
”They are leaving the bureaucracy out, and teaching them a couple of basic things very, very well,” one instructor said. ”It is a classic saying: Master the basics; become brilliant at the basics. If you take care of those, when the time comes for combat, you’ll do better than okay.”
American officials estimate that 20,000 men received this training since Mr. bin Laden moved from Sudan to Afghanistan in 1996. Today they are scattered. Many died in airstrikes. Others were taken prisoner. Some were executed by the Northern Alliance. How many remain, and how organized they are, is unknown.
Although standard jihad training prepared recruits for ground combat, the line between guerrilla and terrorist could often grow fuzzy. Basic courses provided a martial foundation, and government officials said that with initiative and further study, the graduates could develop specialized terrorist skills, much as Timothy McVeigh, once a conventional American infantryman, later built the truck bomb that killed 168 people in Oklahoma City.
Al Qaeda and other groups did not leave this evolution entirely to chance. They were trying to do more than use guerrilla insurgents to topple Muslim governments they saw as secular or corrupt. They had declared war against infidels and were eager to carry the battle to where the infidels lived.
To further this end, students with special abilities were identified in basic camps and sent to courses that prepared them for more difficult missions. ”We look at it as sort of being a winnowing process,” an American official said. ”There is sort of a scouting process going on.”
Only a very small fraction of the jihadis are thought to have received the higher level of training, government officials say, but it was enough to improve the guerrilla forces and to turn loose a resourceful breed of killer on the larger world.
”Afghanistan,” said Michael A. Sheehan, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator during the last years of the Clinton administration, ”was the swamp these mosquitoes kept coming out of.”
There were two tracks: one for advanced infantry techniques, another for terror.
Infantry classes refined battlefield skills. One course, detailed in a notebook from Kunduz, was intermediate-level instruction in 82-millimeter mortars. Another, described in a syllabus found in Kabul, taught advanced land navigation. A third described using global positioning satellites and a scientific calculator to plot artillery firing data.
Records showed that as guerrillas advanced, their roles sometimes blurred. A series of courses, taught by Harkat and repeatedly described as a curriculum for ”commandos,” included instruction in sniping, interrogation, first aid, escape, evasion and hand-to-hand combat — all infantry tasks. But as the course progressed, its objectives grew darker, including ”how to kill a policeman” and ”traps, murder and terrorist moves.”
Other courses also had military or terrorist applications, including one in espionage and another in secure communications, which has been effectively used by terrorist cells abroad.
Some lessons were wholly dedicated to terror.
Bomb-making instruction included recipes for brewing explosives and crude poisons from readily obtainable substances, including making an explosive booster beginning with a paste of ground aspirin and water.
The class further covered the manufacture, handling and storage of nitroglycerin, HMDT, C-4 and C-3. One document began with an explanation of the instructor’s goals.
”God Almighty has ordered us to terrorize his enemies,” it reads. ”In compliance with God’s order and his Prophet’s order, in an attempt to get out of the humiliation in which we have found ourselves, we shall propose to those who are keen on justice, fighting against those who oppose them and those who diminish them until they receive fresh orders from God. To those alone, we present: ‘Rudimentary Methods in the Manufacturing of Explosive Materials Effective for Demolition Purposes.’ ”
Instructors included enough electrical engineering — uses of diodes, resistors, switches and more — to help students plan the wiring, power sourcing and fuses required to spark an explosive charge. Notebooks also included tips for putting familiar objects to nefarious use, like converting a hand set for a radio-controlled toy boat into a remote detonator. Government officials said those methods would work, in the right person’s hands.
”This isn’t for everybody,” a senior American military instructor said. ”This is for somebody who is smart.”
Dr. Kamal Beyoghlow, a professor at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College in Quantico, Va., and a former counterterrorism officer at the State Department, said the curriculum reflected care and deliberation.
”The lesson is very well organized, extremely organized,” he said. ”It is the work of a methodical hand.”
The jihad groups clearly were proud of it, and eager to pass its lessons around. One notebook ended with an Arabic passage: ”We ask you, dear brother, to spread around this document on all the mujahedeen. Do not keep what you know a secret, if you please.”
Graduates from courses like those — resourceful, smart men who have used simple materials to produce bombs that destroyed two American embassies and crippled a Navy warship — are the jihadis the government most fears, particularly if they were to expand their capabilities to include nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
The American-led coalition says it has turned up no evidence that the men had reached this point, although they were actively educating themselves in the subject. But current and former officials warned that even if they lacked the technology or skill to make such weapons themselves, they still might deliver a terrifying blast. ”What worries me,” Mr. Sheehan said, ”is their ability to get their hands on a weapon someone else has put together.”
Experts also said they feared that bomb-making skills taught in advanced classes would be sufficient for making a ”dirty bomb,” in which spent radioactive material could be lashed to high explosives for a mildly radioactive blast.
Officials said papers from Kabul explaining uses of radioactive isotopes in agriculture and medicine, found in the same rooms as the explosive notebooks, indicate research into precisely that sort of weapon.
All successful military organizations study one another, sizing up threats, identifying weaknesses, copying weapons and tactics. The jihad groups were no exception.
Law enforcement officials have described a multivolume set of terrorist instructions, dubbed the Encyclopedia of the Afghan Jihad, as a sort of master guide for the camps. Parts of the encyclopedia were found by The Times at four training sites, and officials said parts of its explosives section were incorporated into classes at the camps.
But records from students and teachers also show that most jihad courses lasted several weeks to a few months and that rather than covering the encyclopedia’s breadth, stayed intensely focused on small sets of skills. To create those classes, the groups relied heavily on an array of sources obtained from the West: military training manuals, American hunting magazines, anarchist manuals, popular action movies, chemistry and engineering textbooks, and Web sites hawking James Bond-like tricks.
Signs of this collection effort are sprinkled throughout their documents. American military trainers who reviewed the jihadi students’ notes quickly identified lessons from their own playbooks, including Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan reconnaissance techniques also used by Army Rangers, or four-man weapon deployments and formations — wedges, columns, echelons, lines — that are the Marine Corps standard.
One senior military instructor noticed a familiar streak of professionalism in class schedules, a carefully selected mix of lectures, demonstrations and practice. ”Wherever they got this, it was modeled after somebody’s program,” he said. ”It was not made by some guys on some goat farm outside of Kabul.”
He was right. It had been cribbed from an appendix in a Marine Corps manual seeking to standardize sniper training, a copy of which was found with terrorist course schedules in a Harkat house in Kabul.
American influence also appears in jihadi explosives courses. For instance, chapters from the ”Improvised Munitions Handbook,” a United States Army manual published in 1969, were found by a Times reporter in the same Kabul guest house. Ink tracing on its pages show that it had been translated into Arabic. The manual, according to its introduction, was intended ”to increase the potential of Special Forces and guerrilla troops by describing in detail the manufacture of munitions from seemingly innocuous locally available material.”
It seems to be fulfilling its mission. The manual’s diagram for using a laundry pin as part of a trip-release firing circuit was used in the basic demolition instruction at the Farouk camp. Other lessons, including how to make an antipersonnel bomb from a light bulb, were found in an advanced demolition notebook. (The light bulb device is similar to a weapon shown in a scene in the Burt Reynolds movie ”The Longest Yard.” The jihadis translated the manual to learn an additional step, as well as a way to use bulbs as detonators in larger bombs.)
This sort of resourcefulness is reminiscent of another Afghan war, current and former officials said. In the 1970’s the Soviet Union trained a cadre of Afghan Army officers in its military academies, teaching them leadership and tactics. When the Soviet Army came in, many switched sides.
”These officers knew the Soviet Union’s armor doctrine, and when the Russians tried to go up the valleys, some of them were right there, directing ambushes,” said Dr. Joshua Spero, a professor at Merrimack College in Massachusetts and former Central Asia military planner for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
But officials also noted that the breadth of the camps’ curriculum search resulted in uneven quality. Some material was well-chosen, some not. Harkat had obtained a copy of ”The Poisoner’s Handbook,” a book commonly sold by survivalist stores in the United States. Its information is insufficient for making mass-casualty weapons. ”It’s nonsense,” one official said.
(The effort resembled some attempts to gather nuclear materials. Officials said, for instance, that Al Qaeda members have been duped by swindlers and sold bogus goods.)
Officials also said even useful references could be problematic. One said that while cautious handlers could use some Special Forces bomb recipes, others would endanger themselves. ”People have had to be scraped off of their ceilings after trying these things,” he said.
The jihadis seemed to know this. One notebook warned: ”Make sure that first aid kits are available at all times in order to deal with any mishaps that might result from the performance of this experiment.”
Whatever the shortfalls, the two tiers of training worked.
The small number of graduates of the top tier have struck American targets in Africa, the Middle East, Washington and New York. In 1999 customs officers caught another alumnus, Ahmed Ressam, with a functional bomb and plans to explode it at Los Angeles International Airport.
The battle near Gardez demonstrated that when American soldiers come down from the sky and fight within machine-gun range, the guerrillas have the training to turn them back. Two days after Specialist Stanton’s unit withdrew, American soldiers again came under fire from machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, this time as they tried to recover the body of Petty Officer Neil Roberts, a Navy Seal.
By the end of that day, seven Americans were dead.
An American Manual in Al Qaeda Explosives Lessons
Jihad groups designed training from a range of sources, including a United States Army Special Forces manual that, according to its introduction, shows ”methods for fabricating explosives, detonators, propellants, shaped charges, small arms, mortars, incendiaries, delays, switches and similar items from indigenous materials.” Parts of the manual were found in a Harkat house in Kabul, including a translated section that inspired instruction in a makeshift light-bulb bomb (at top); another section, for designing a clothespin tripwire to detonate an explosion, was incorporated into demolition training at Al Farouk, where John Walker Lindh, the American Talib, trained.
Melakou Tegegn, Kampala– The Janjaweed is a militia force set up by Bashir in the late 1990s to terrorize the population of Southern Sudan from supporting the SPLA. They committed untold crimes against the civilian population ostensibly for harbouring the forces of SPLA, a liberation movement at the time.
It was well known in Khartoum at the time that among other crimes that the Janjawit committed include kidnapping women and children from the villages of South Sudan, bring them to Khartoum and Omdurman and sell them at a price of $100 for the women and $50 for the children. Hassan El Bashir’s Janjaweed sold human beings as slaves in the 21st century and Bashir’s Sudan is a member of the UN, AU and the Arab League.
Sudan has special ties with Saudi Arabia and the Saudis always have a say even in the internal affairs of Sudan. At the beginning of the 1980s, a leader of a Muslim religious sect by the name Mahmud Taha opted for reforming Islam and political reforms than the military rule of Jafar El Nimiery.
He had a large following particularly among the youth. The Saudis were more worried about the rhetoric to reform Islam though they were also uncomfortable as regards Taha’s agitation for political reforms. In the eyes of the Saudis Taha was more dangerous than the Seitan himself that they pushed for his physical elimination.
Nimiery’s satanic public prosecutor, a certain Mushkeshfa, brought charges of sedition against Taha upon which Nimiery’s kangaroo court passed a death sentence. Taha was quickly hanged and a clamp down was ordered against his followers.
Where does Sudan stand in the new alignment of forces in the Middle East and Gulf?
Sudan’s elite identifies itself more with the Arab World than Africa. It is largely believed that an ordinary person Sudan thinks that he/she is an Arab than black African. Sudan has a long standing relationship particularly with Saudi Arabia. Bashir kept his loyalty to the Saudis in his foreign policy.
He even contributed troops in the Saudis’ madness in Yemen. Somehow, the alliance equation in the Middle East and Gulf changed when the Saudis stopped seeing Iran eye to eye.
With the arrival of Trump in the White House, the Israelis who had been really worried by the non-belligerent policy of Barrack Obama as opposed to the heretofore US unquestioned commitment to supporting Israel, seemed to hit the iron when it is still hot when they, in unison with Trump, crafted a new alliance for forces in the Middle East and Gulf which in the main aimed at weakening or obliterating Iran.
The obedient Trump pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and declared his belligerence towards Iran. The Saudis on their part formed a new alliance with the United Emirates and Egypt and declared war on the Houtis in Yemen. This new alignment has reached a tacit understanding with Israel that Iran is a dangerous enemy for the region.
Now what has this regional context got to do with the crisis in Sudan?
In the wake of the 1974 people’s revolution in Ethiopia, the ‘Provisional’ Military Council stepped in to prevent the formation of a republic as demanded by the people and set up its own military dictatorship and the ‘provisional’ Military Council last for 17 years. Sudan’s third revolution (the earlier two being the ones in 1964 and 1985) began by its heroic people who sacrificed in the face of Beshir’s bullets.
When it is no longer possible to sustain Beshir’s regime, the Janjaweed disguised as a military council ‘removed’ Beshir from power and promised a transition towards a civilian government. That was exactly what the military council in Ethiopia did in 1974. However, very much like what it was in Ethiopia, the people did not believe the military and continued with their struggle for a republic.
That led to a bloody confrontation upon which the infamous ‘red terror’ was launched by the military that cost the lives of tens of thousands of young militants. What we witnessed last week in Khartoum is a similar scenario.
But, the development in Sudan was different in one way: the military declared its allegiance with the revolution with the people until the head of the junta visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, the trio who are bogged down in the war they fanned in Yemen.
But, why this about-turn by the military council?
It was blatantly clear that this happened after the visit to the trio. Undoubtedly, cash and promise have been stashed in the junta’s pockets by the trio with clear instruction to crush the revolution which is considered as setting bad precedence in the region.
Curiously enough one personality among the junta played a crucial role in socking the streets of Khartoum with blood: the leader of what euphemistically renamed as the Rapid Support Forces, Mohammed Hamdan Dagolo. Dagolo has previously led the Janjaweed that committed untold crimes in first in South Sudan and later in Darfur and is the most loyal to the Saudis and Egypt.
This is one monster well known for his past atrocities that is now head of the Rapid Support Forces. Before the crack down on protesters, it was Dagalo who gave the warning that the clam down would start. Apparently, it was his troops that committed the massacre on the eve of Eid al Fetir. With that communication broke down with the representatives of the protesters and the military vowed to continue with the clamp down.
Now, Ethiopia’s premier, Abiy Ahmed, well reputed for his peace overtures towards Eritrea and as a peace-maker in the region, intervened to broker between the junta and protesters. But, is the junta serious when they welcome Abiy? Then why did they arrest one of the protest leaders after he had a talk with Abiy? We are forced to ask if the Janjaweed know what brokering peace involves. Or is this its own way of ‘confidence building measure’?
Undoubtedly, Sudan social, economic and political problems are beyond the junta’s capacity to handle. That indeed will compel them to disguise their lack of capability with the use of force and will still continue implementing the instructions by the trio.
Sisi used massive force to quell the Egyptian revolution but did not bring peace at all and Egypt’s economy is performing badly. Undoubtedly, the performance of Sudan’s junta will perhaps be much worse than Sisi’s. Indeed, Sudan’s future is gloomy unless a speedy shift toward democracy and freedom is made.
Will Abiy Ahmed ever convince the junta to move away from the diktats of the trio and commit themselves to freedom and democracy? The Sudanese revolution will nevertheless continue as the people have no option than fighting for democracy. “They have nothing to lose but their chains” as the famous saying goes.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – In line with the Taiwan Travel Act (TTA) implemented in 2018, the U.S. has sent a large number of military and law enforcement officials to Taiwan to engage in bilateral talks focused on security in the Indo-Pacific.
The intelligence consulting platform and publishing agency, Stratfor, reported on June 7 that a delegation numbering over 100 representing the U.S. armed forces and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrived in Taipei for a five day visit.
The delegation is reportedly scheduled to attend a closed door seminar Monday and Tuesday next week, where they are likely to meet top Taiwanese law enforcement officials and officials representing Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense.
News of the delegation’s dispatch and arrival in Taiwan comes only days after the sudden announcement that the U.S. was in the final stage of talks to provide Taiwan with US$2.6 billion worth of tanks and missiles, in order for the country to maintain its defensive capabilities against any potential attack from China.
The weapon’s sales to Taiwan are in line with the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary in April. The TRA states that the U.S. is obligated to provide for Taiwan’s defensive needs to resist coercion or threats from China.
The article from Stratfor notes that the arrival of the U.S. military and law enforcement officials will coincide with the presidential primary of the Democratic Progressive Party, which is holding public polls June 10-14. The timing of the delegation might serve to boost support for Taiwan’s incumbent, Tsai Ing-wen.
In Pictures: ‘No to China extradition’ – Hong Kong protest against controversial new law sees huge turnout
Hundreds of thousands have joined a mass protest against the Hong Kong government’s controversial extradition bill, in what organisers have said could be the biggest protester since 500,000 rallied against national security legislation in 2003.
Crowds swelled as protesters were asked to leave Victoria Park in Causeway Bay before the 3pm start time to ease to overcrowding.
Police opened up all lanes on Hennessey Road a few hours later after initially refusing to do so.
The MTR also enacted crowd control measures, with protesters still leaving Victoria Park as late up to four hours after the start time.
Bringing Hong Kong Island to a half, demonstrators chanted “Scrap the evil law,” “Oppose China extradition” and “Carrie Lam resign” in reference to the Chief Executive.
Lam declined to answer questions at a public appearance in Ocean Park on Sunday afternoon.
The protesters marched towards the legislature over an issue that has underscored divisions in society over trust in the legislature and the Chinese judicial system.
Hong Kong’s government first proposed legal amendments in February to allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements, most notably China and Taiwan.
The plan would enable the chief executive and local courts to handle extradition requests without legislative oversight and could reach a final vote before the current legislative period ends in July. The government has said the law will allow it to close a legal “loophole.” But lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland.
HK Lau, a retired civil servant in his 60s, told HKFP he believed the passing of the extradition law would mean the end of the One Country Two Systems principle: “Communist China has never changed,” he said. “If anything has changed it is that they are richer and more powerful, and now it’s spreading.”
Karen Chan, a university student, told HKFP she thinks the government has neglected public opinion on the extradition proposals and calls the bill “nonsense”
“I know it’s difficult to change the mind of the Hong Kong government, but I hope that the protest today can arouse some international concern about it through the power of mass media,” she said.
Secondary school teacher Gary Chiu told HKFP that many of his friends did not attend the march either because they felt the government would not listen to their concerns or because they did not have any business interests to protect. This is his second time attending an anti-extradition protest.
Chiu added he wanted the bill to be scrapped and for Lam to resign: “Hong Kong is now becoming a battlefield between an authoritarian state and the free world. Remember, when one is enslaved, all are not free, so we urge the international society, the US government and the EU, to keep pressuring the Hong Kong government and the Chinese government,” he said.
An office secretary, who declined to reveal her identity for fear of reprisal from central authorities in the event the extradition bill passes, told HKFP she is not usually concerned with politics but came out on Sunday because of the extradition bill’s broad implications on all sectors of society.
“We do care about justice in Hong Kong,” she said. “And we do have concerns about safety as well, many people were disappeared in China and we heard about it from the news.”
The march was organised by the Civil Human Rights Front – a coalition of pro-democracy groups. They invited participants to wear white to represent “light” and “justice.”
The pro-democracy camp’s convenor, Claudia Mo, told RTHK on Sunday that Lam was pushing the extradition bill at the behest of Beijing: “The apparent grand plan, complete with the Greater Bay Area scheme, is to assimilate Hong Kong into the vast hinterland. The idea is to, ultimately, disappear Hong Kong, or at least to change it into one of the numerous Chinese cities… like a little boat, Hong Kong is sinking fast, but we’re not taking this lying down, we have to put up a fight.”
The pro-Beijing New People’s Party has said it still supports the government’s extradition but respects Hongkongers’ free speech. It called for “formal and long-term rendition agreements” with countries such as China.
Police are remaining on guard on Sunday after two petrol bomb attacks against their Wan Chai headquarters and Happy Valley station on Friday. A man has been charged in connection with the incident and three others have been released on bail. Police said there was no connection found to the protests.
Seven people were arrested at the anti-extradition protest on Sunday – one for assault near the flyover at Canal Street and six others for criminal destruction, including theft at a street stand, police said.
In April, tens of thousands of Hongkongers took to the streets in protest of the proposal as democrats have sought to hinder the bill’s progress at the legislature. The government is fast-tracking the bill’s movement through the legislature, insisting that it arrive at the main chamber by Wednesday in the hope it will pass before the summer break next month.
Additional reporting: Tom Grundy.
Vivalla, ÖrebroGottsunda, UppsalaAlby, BotkyrkaFittja, BotkyrkaHallunda/Norsborg, BotkyrkaHusby, StockholmRinkeby/Tensta, StockholmRonna/Geneta/Lina, SödertäljeAraby, VäxjöKarlslund, LandskronaNydala/Hermodsdal/Lindängen, MalmöRosengård söder om Amiralsgatan, MalmöSödra Sofielund (Seved), MalmöBergsjön, GothenburgBiskopsgården, GothenburgHammarkullen, GothenburgHjällbo, GothenburgLövgärdet, GothenburgTynnered/Grevgården/Opaltorget, Västra FrölundaHässleholmen/Hulta, BoråsNorrby, Borås
“According to information provided to Aftonbladet, the police work on the theory that the explosion has been directed at a motorcycle gang.”–Aftonbladet
A major explosion hit an apartment building in Linköping, southern Sweden, on Friday morning, with around 15 ambulances dispatched to the scene and 20 people injured.
Divers on speedboats ‘planted explosives on oil tankers’, report says
Investigators believe a series of attacks on oil tankers in a United Arab Emirates port were led by a foreign state – with divers on speedboats planting mines on the vessels.
Their report suggests the attacks looked like a “sophisticated and co-ordinated operation carried out by an actor with significant operational capacity, most likely a state actor”.
The US has recently accused Iran of being responsible, but the country was not named in the report.
Four tankers from the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Norway were hit on 12 May off the Emirati coast – and it is believed limpet mines were placed below the waterline to ensure vessels were incapacitated but not sunk.
Pictures released with the report showed large holes in the hulls of the ships.
Early findings of a joint investigation were revealed to the UN Security Council behind closed doors on Thursday.
Scientific and naval experts using tanker debris, radar data and the precisely placed explosive charges are leading the investigation.
On Thursday, Abdallah al Mouallimi, the Saudi ambassador to the UN, said Tehran was behind the attacks.
“We believe the responsibility for this attack lies on the shoulders of Iran,” he told reporters after the briefing, echoing the assessment of US national security adviser John Bolton, who blamed Iran last week.
Tehran denies the accusations.
Albright typifies the arrogance and hawkishness of Washington blob.
How to describe U.S. foreign policy over the last couple of decades? Disastrous comes to mind. Arrogant and murderous also seem appropriate.
Since 9/11, Washington has been extraordinarily active militarily—invading two nations, bombing and droning several others, deploying special operations forces in yet more countries, and applying sanctions against many. Tragically, the threat of Islamist violence and terrorism only have metastasized. Although Al Qaeda lost its effectiveness in directly plotting attacks, it continues to inspire national offshoots. Moreover, while losing its physical “caliphate” the Islamic State added further terrorism to its portfolio.
Three successive administrations have ever more deeply ensnared the United States in the Middle East. War with Iran appears to be frighteningly possible. Ever-wealthier allies are ever-more dependent on America. Russia is actively hostile to the United States and Europe. Washington and Beijing appear to be a collision course on far more than trade. Yet the current administration appears convinced that doing more of the same will achieve different results, the best definition of insanity.
Despite his sometimes abusive and incendiary rhetoric, the president has departed little from his predecessors’ policies. For instance, American forces remain deployed in Afghanistan and Syria. Moreover, the Trump administration has increased its military and materiel deployments to Europe. Also, Washington has intensified economic sanctions on Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, and even penalized additional countries, namely Venezuela.
U.S. foreign policy suffers from systematic flaws in the thinking of the informal policy collective which former Obama aide Ben Rhodes dismissed as “The Blob.” Perhaps no official better articulated The Blob’s defective precepts than Madeleine Albright, United Nations ambassador and Secretary of State.
First is overweening hubris. In 1998 Secretary of State Albright declared that “If we have to use force, it is because we are America: we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.”
Even then her claim was implausible. America blundered into the Korean War and barely achieved a passable outcome. The Johnson administration infused Vietnam with dramatically outsize importance. For decades, Washington foolishly refused to engage the People’s Republic of China. Washington-backed dictators in Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran, and elsewhere fell ingloriously. An economic embargo against Cuba that continues today helped turn Fidel Castro into a global folk hero. Washington veered dangerously close to nuclear war with Moscow during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and again two decades later during military exercises in Europe.
U.S. officials rarely were prepared for events that occurred in the next week or month, let alone years later. Americans did no better than the French in Vietnam. Americans managed events in Africa no better than the British, French, and Portuguese colonial overlords. Washington made more than its share of bad, even awful decisions in dealing with other nations around the globe.
Perhaps the worst failing of U.S. foreign policy was ignoring the inevitable impact of foreign intervention. Americans would never passively accept another nation bombing, invading, and occupying their nation, or interfering in their political system. Even if outgunned, they would resist. Yet Washington has undertaken all of these practices, with little consideration of the impact on those most affected—hence the rise of terrorism against the United States. Terrorism, horrid and awful though it is, became the weapon of choice of weaker peoples against intervention by the world’s industrialized national states.
The U.S. record since September 11 has been uniquely counterproductive. Rather than minimize hostility toward America, Washington adopted a policy—highlighted by launching new wars, killing more civilians, and ravaging additional societies—guaranteed to create enemies, exacerbate radicalism, and spread terrorism. Blowback is everywhere. Among the worst examples: Iraqi insurgents mutated into ISIS, which wreaked military havoc throughout the Middle East and turned to terrorism.
Albright’s assumption that members of The Blob were far-seeing was matched by her belief that the same people were entitled to make life-and-death decisions for the entire planet. When queried 1996 about her justification for sanctions against Iraq which had killed a half million babies—notably, she did not dispute the accuracy of that estimate—she responded that “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it.” Exactly who “we” were she did not say. Most likely she meant those Americans admitted to the foreign policy priesthood, empowered to make foreign policy and take the practical steps necessary to enforce it. (She later stated of her reply: “I never should have made it. It was stupid.” It was, but it reflected her mindset.)
In any normal country, such a claim would be shocking—a few people sitting in another capital deciding who lived and died. Foreign elites, a world away from the hardship that they imposed, deciding the value of those dying versus the purported interests being promoted. Those paying the price had no voice in the decision, no way to hold their persecutors accountable.
The willingness to so callously sacrifice so many helps explain why “they” often hate us, usually meaning the U.S. government. This is also because “they” believe average Americans hate them. Understandably, it too often turns out, given the impact of the full range of American interventions—imposing economic sanctions, bombing, invading, and occupying other nations, unleashing drone campaigns, underwriting tyrannical regimes, supporting governments which occupy and oppress other peoples, displaying ostentatious hypocrisy and bias, and more.
This mindset is reinforced by contempt toward even those being aided by Washington. Although American diplomats had termed the Kosovo Liberation Army as “terrorist,” the Clinton Administration decided to use the growing insurgency as an opportunity to expand Washington’s influence. At the 1999 Rambouillet conference Albright made demands of Yugoslavia that no independent, sovereign state could accept: that, for instance, it act like defeated and occupied territory by allowing the free transit of NATO forces. Washington expected the inevitable refusal, which was calculated to provide justification for launching an unprovoked, aggressive war against the Serb-dominated remnant of Yugoslavia.
However, initially the KLA, determined on independence, refused to sign Albright’s agreement. She exploded. One of her officials anonymously complained: “Here is the greatest nation on earth pleading with some nothingballs to do something entirely in their own interest—which is to say yes to an interim agreement—and they stiff us.” Someone described as “a close associate” observed: “She is so stung by what happened. She’s angry at everyone—the Serbs, the Albanians and NATO.” For Albright, the determination of others to achieve their own goals, even at risk to their lives, was an insult to America and her.
Alas, members of the Blob view Americans with little more respect. The ignorant masses should do what they are told. (Former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster recently complained of public war-weariness from fighting in Afghanistan for no good reason for more than seventeen years.) Even more so, believed Albright, members of the military should cheerfully patrol the quasi-empire being established by Washington’s far-sighted leaders.
As Albright famously asked Colin Powell in 1992: “What’s the use of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” To her, American military personnel apparently were but gambit pawns in a global chess game, to be sacrificed for the interest and convenience of those playing. No wonder then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell’s reaction stated in his autobiography was: “I thought I would have an aneurysm.”
When asked in 2003 about the incident, she said “what I thought was that we had—we were in a kind of a mode of thinking that we were never going to be able to use our military effectively again.” Although sixty-five years had passed, she admitted that “my mindset is Munich,” a unique circumstance and threat without even plausible parallel today.
Such a philosophy explains a 1997 comment by a cabinet member, likely Albright, to General Hugh Shelton, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “Hugh, I know I shouldn’t even be asking you this, but what we really need in order to go in and take out Saddam is a precipitous event—something that would make us look good in the eyes of the world. Could you have one of our U-2s fly low enough—and slow enough—so as to guarantee that Saddam could shoot it down?” He responded sure, as soon as she qualified to fly the plane.
For Albright, war is just another foreign policy tool. One could send a diplomatic note, impose economic sanctions, or unleash murder and mayhem. No reason to treat the latter as anything special. Joining the U.S. military means putting your life at the disposal of Albright and her peers in The Blob.
Anyone of these comments could be dismissed as a careless aside. Taken together, however, they reflect an attitude dangerous for Americans and foreigners alike. Unfortunately, the vagaries of U.S. foreign policy suggest that this mindset is not limited to any one person. Any president serious about taking a new foreign-policy direction must do more than drain the swamp. He or she must sideline The Blob.
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.
Hong Kong braces for big crowds and high emotions as June 4 vigil for Tiananmen crackdown coincides with anger over extradition proposal
- Organisers expect as many as 180,000 people, equal to ‘peak levels’
- June 4 Museum swamped with visitors – including many from the mainland
Hong Kong is bracing for a momentous June 4 commemoration, with as many as 180,000 people expected for a candlelight vigil, calls for student localists to return to the rallies, and a new Tiananmen movement museum flooded with visitors.
and the current controversy over a proposed bill that would allow Hong Kong to hand over fugitives to mainland China and other jurisdictions with which it has no extradition deal.
According to the alliance, the largest turnouts came in 2012 and 2014, when at least 180,000 people gathered to mourn the victims of Tiananmen and call for democracy in mainland China.
Some local student leaders continued to call for a boycott, as they had in recent years when resentment against the mainland was running strong.
But Lee remained optimistic about the turnout, saying the alliance and student groups still shared the common goal of achieving justice for the victims and an end to Beijing’s one-party rule.
“Today is a memorable day for many people. For the SAR government, it shows that Hong Kong is a very free place,” Lam said.
“I hope any public gathering today can be conducted in a quiet and orderly manner.”
“People still remember and feel strongly about what happened 30 years ago,” Lee said.
“And the bill reminds people that we should fight against the regime for Hong Kong, which essentially echoes the dissatisfaction against Beijing’s suppression 30 years ago.”
The results of a survey released on Monday by the University of Hong Kong showed that more than 60 per cent of the 1,013 Hongkongers polled believed their actions helped push democracy on the mainland forward. The result was 6 percentage points higher than last year, according to the university’s Public Opinion Programme.
Since it was relocated to a 1,100 sq ft flat in Mong Kok on April 27, the museum has had about 3,700 visitors from home and abroad.
“On a usual day, we have 80 to 100 visitors, but in recent days, daily visits jumped to 200 to 250,” Lee said.
Xu Hao, a 32-year-old construction worker from Sichuan province, flew in for the commemoration on June 1 and made a trip to the museum.
“This is my first time in Hong Kong,” Xu said. “I learned more about June 4 last year, and from the information online, I got to know the alliance, the museum and the vigil.”
On Monday, Xu held a shirt showing the Goddess of Democracy that he bought as a souvenir from the museum and said he was touched by how Hongkongers stood up for the protesters in Beijing in 1989.
“I do worry that such commemorations will no longer be allowed in Hong Kong in the future, because even under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, Hong Kong is increasingly similar to mainland China,” Xu said, referring to the framework under which Beijing governs the city.
He was also pessimistic about any June 4 tributes on the mainland.
Many things will fade away as time passes if we continue to maintain the status quo
He added that he felt uncomfortable about what he called the government’s suppression of free thought after he had learned more about the world outside.
“I hope the younger generation, and people in places like Hong Kong, where all this information is accessible, can work together to preserve and promote the memories [of June 4],” he said.
might be coming the museum’s way, particularly if the extradition bill was passed and politically sensitive issues like June 4 became taboo subjects.
Fire services were recently called to the museum after a report of leaking gas was filed – although the museum did not have any gas pipes.
“We believe it’s a false report but we have to come and check,” a firefighter told a Post reporter at the scene.
It was not the first act of intimidation against the museum, which was forced to be relocate from Tsim Sha Tsui after a series of disputes with the building’s owners over its operations.
Twenty days before the opening at the new location, the museum’s door was broken and the power system was damaged. A week later, places near the museum had walls smudged with faeces. Protesters who declined to disclose their identities accused the museum of violating the building’s usage guidelines.
On the museum’s opening day, fire services were called and groups of men in black outfits gathered outside, claiming that they were there to “sweep tombs”.
“In the past, people who didn’t like us would try to push us out by legal means. But now, the harassment has reached an unlawful and even criminal level,” Tsoi said.
“Just like the candlelight vigil, the museum is a significant political banner of Hong Kong, which on one hand makes it difficult for those in power to cleanse the memories of June 4, and on the other hand, reflects the uniqueness of ‘one country, two systems’,” Tsoi said.
Palestinians are being asked to pay the price to preserve the thrones of the oil families
Who is the main enemy of Arabs: Israel or Iran? This was never a question that was entertained in the Arab world – until recently.
The majority of Arabs understood that they – primarily the Palestinians, but also Lebanese, Syrians, Egyptians and Jordanians – have been victims of Israeli aggression.
Less understood is the fact that Israel has targeted the Arab world’s religious and ethnic diversity by seeking to mobilise divisons, initially by targeting Arab Jews for recruitment to its cause, but also by supporting separatist sectarian and ethnic projects. For example, its support – whatever the merits of the movements – and alliance with Lebanese Maronite separatists, Iraqi Kurds, and South Sudanese separatists.
The establishment of Israel in 1948 introduced a predatory state that began to raid and invade its neighbours immediately. After conquering much of Palestine, Israel launched numerous cross-border raids against its neighbours, including the full-scale invasion of Gaza and Egypt in 1956.
A history of invasions
Since then, Israel has invaded and raided Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon multiple times, in addition to attacks in Tunisia, Sudan and Iraq – not to mention its 1973 downing of a Libyan civilian airliner.
It did all of this while continuing to oppress the Palestinian people through expulsion, military occupation, land theft and racist colonial laws. This earned Israel the hatred and ire of most Arabs, except for those dictatorial Arab regimes who conspired with it.
Iran, in contrast, has not invaded an Arab country in recent history – though it funds armed groups across the region – and was in fact invaded by Iraq in the 1980s. Saddam Hussein launched a war at the behest of the ruling oil families of the Gulf and Western imperial interests, who were threatened by the 1979 Iranian Revolution that overthrew the Shah.
In line with the Israeli strategy to divide the Arab world along ethnic and sectarian lines, propaganda from Saddam and the oil families stressed the Persianness of Iran
The Shah was a feared ally of the ruling oil families. In addition to the anti-Arab ideology that permeated Iranian culture under the Shah, he made claims on parts of the United Arab Emirates, occupying several UAE islands in 1971, and claimed Bahrain as part of Iran until 1970. These imperial claims never stood in the way of Iran’s close political and military alliance with Arab Gulf regimes; the Shah enjoyed friendly coverage in their official media.
In line with the Israeli strategy to divide the Arab world along ethnic and sectarian lines, propaganda from Saddam and the oil families during the 1980s war stressed the Persianness of Iran (which has an Arab population) against the Arabness of Iraq and the Gulf states (which have Persian populations) – but it did not include even a whiff of sectarian propaganda against Shiism, nor was Iran presented as the major enemy of all Arabs or compared with the Israeli enemy.
Saddam’s propaganda harkened back to the dawn of Islam, dubbing his invasion “Saddam’s Qadisiyyah” – a reference to the Battle of Qadisiyyah fought in 636 between Arab Muslims and the Sasanian Empire, in which the Arabs defeated the Zoroastrian Persians. The war bankrupted Iraq, and early Iraqi victories turned into defeats by the end of the war, leading Saddam to resent the oil families, who had abandoned him by then.
In retribution, Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. This led the US to invade the Gulf in 1991 and to invade Iraq in 2003, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. In 2004, Iran quickly established strong connections with Iraq’s emergent new rulers, set up by the occupying Americans who, in line with Israeli strategy, insisted on establishing a sectarian and ethnic arrangement in post-invasion Iraq.
Iran’s new close relations with Iraq alarmed the Gulf regimes, especially Saudi Arabia, which launched a sectarian campaign against Iran and Shia Muslims, Persian and Arab alike. Beginning in 2004, the Arab peoples were subjected to unprecedented propaganda identifying Iran and Shia as the main enemy of Arabs.
Fifteen years on, this campaign has cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, Lebanese, Syrian and Yemeni lives – sacrificed at the altar of the oil families – and it is now demanding that the Palestinian people give up all their rights in order to preserve the oil families’ thrones.
The campaign was inaugurated by Gulf ally King Abdullah II of Jordan, who announced in 2004 the formation of a Shia “crescent” extending from Iran through Iraq and Syria to southern Lebanon. The campaign agitated against Shia populations in the Arab world and Iran, claiming they were “worse” than the colonising Israelis. That Israel was a close ally of the Shah and an enemy of the Iranian Revolution was hardly coincidental.
A ‘common interest’
Thus began the attempt to redefine Iran, rather than Israel, as the main enemy of the Arabs. Wars were launched in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria to destroy ecumenical life across the Arab world and advance Israeli hegemony. Israel, which was kicked out of Lebanon in 2000, reinvaded in 2006 to destroy Hezbollah, but was again defeated.
Terrified by this defeat, the oil families and their Western sponsors quickly began to fund and arm anti-Shia groups in Iraq and Lebanon– and later in Syria and Yemen – that continue to wreak havoc and cost hundreds of thousands of Arab lives of all religious denominations.
As a result of the Western-backed and Gulf-funded militias in Syria, who took over large swaths of the country and opposed the Syrian regime on a sectarian basis – a development that changed the direction of the Syrian revolt that had started initially as a non-sectarian call for democracy against dictatorship – Iran and Hezbollah were invited to help the regime stave off these attacks.
In the summer of 2013, both Iran and Hezbollah came to the assistance of the Syrian regime, providing battlefield support after the large successes of the sectarian militias. These interventions added more fuel to the Gulf propaganda against Iran and Shiites, which had preceded them by a full decade.
By 2019, Israel was declared a main ally of Arabs against Iran, as per the February conference in Warsaw. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Arab countries were “sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.” The major obstacle to integrating Israel fully in this new alliance remained the Palestinian people.
In addition to the sectarian horrors launched across the region, the price to neutralise the perceived Iranian threat was to be paid also by Palestinians. It is in this context that the oil families became the main subcontractors of US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century,” which requires that Palestinian rights be liquidated once and for all and that the principle of Zionist settler colonialism in Palestine, Syria and swaths of southern Lebanon be accepted, recognised and celebrated by all Arabs.
But why would Palestinians and other Arabs pay the price to preserve the thrones of Gulf rulers? Iran, at worst, could only threaten unpopular Gulf regimes, while Israel continues to threaten the entire Palestinian people – indeed, all Arabs.
Betting on making Arabs see non-existent Iranian threats and attempting to blind them to the real Israeli ones is a risky business at best, regardless of the amount of propaganda saturating the Gulf-owned Arab media. Trump’s business acumen, or lack thereof, can do very little to minimise this risk.
The government of Hong Kong has rejected a warning from the U.S. Department of State that it could be penalized if it does business with a specific tanker, the Pacific Bravo, which is believed to be under way for China.
According to the Bravo’s Equasis record, she is operated by Chinese state-owned giant COSCO Shipping, and her registered owner shares a working address with a COSCO entity in Dalian. The Bravo was purchased by a holding company, transferred to COSCO’s management, reflagged and renamed in January.
A U.S. official told Reuters that the real owner of the Bravo is the Bank of Kunlun, itself a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corp.’s banking division, CNPC Capital. State-owned Bank of Kunlun is believed to be the main financial institution for business transactions between China and Iran.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Hong Kong’s Commerce and Economic Development Bureau told Bloomberg that the city complies strictly with the UN Security Council sanctions on Iran. The UN’s limits on Iranian trade fall far short of the sweeping U.S. sanctions measures, and the spokesperson noted that the UNSC imposes no “restrictions on the export of petroleum from Iran.”
Until the Trump administration reimposed strict American sanctions on Iran last August, China and India were Iran’s largest overseas customers for oil. While they have halted shipments, there are signs that the trade could resume. A tanker with a transshipped cargo of Iranian oil offloaded at a terminal in Zhoushan, China earlier this month. In India, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who just won reelection – is expected to begin talks with Iran to buy its oil using rupees rather than dollars for payment. By using rupee-denominated payment, India would bypass restrictions on the use of the American financial system for trade with Iran.
US-UAE defence deal comes into force amid Iran tension
The deal was announced after US National Security Adviser John Bolton visited the UAE amid increasing regional tensions.
The United States and the United Arab Emirates announced on Wednesday that a mutual defence cooperation agreement had come into force, amid increasing tensions between Washington and Tehran.
“The DCA [Defense Cooperation Agreement] will enhance military coordination between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, further advancing an already robust military, political, and economic partnership at a critical time,” a joint statement said.
“The United States and the United Arab Emirates share a deep interest in promoting prosperity and stability in the region.
“The DCA will advance that interest by fostering closer collaboration on defence and security matters and supporting efforts by both nations to maintain security in the Gulf region.”
US national security adviser John Bolton was in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, meeting his Emirati counterpart, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Riyadh’s regional rival Tehran dismissed the accusation as “laughable”.
This came on the eve of emergency Arab and Gulf summits called by Saudi Arabia to discuss the standoff and ways to isolate Tehran.
Two Saudi oil tankers, among four vessels, were the targets of mysterious acts of sabotage off the UAE this month, and Iran-aligned Yemeni rebels have stepped up drone attacks on the kingdom – one of which resulted in the temporary shutdown of a major oil pipeline.
Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of being the mastermind behind the Yemeni rebels’ attack on the pipeline, while an investigation has been launched into the attacks on ships off the UAE.
On Friday, US President Donald Trump bypassed Congress to sell $8.1bn in arms to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies, citing the alleged threat from Iran.