Video showed American special forces came under fire as they approached the building, and a helicopter took out the gunmen from the air.
Another video showed US Delta Force operators advancing on the compound across open ground.
A third film showed a missile strike that flattened the compound following the raid in north-west Syria at the weekend.
There were also before-and-after photographs, and a senior military official said the compound now resembled a “parking lot.”
General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said “fighters from two locations in the vicinity of the compound began firing on US aircraft participating in the assault” before they were destroyed.
He said four men and two women were killed by US forces inside the compound. Two children who were taken into a tunnel by Baghdadi as he fled were “under the age of 12,” he said.
General McKenzie said Baghdadi may have fired, or attempted to fire a weapon at US forces from the tunnel before detonating a suicide vest, killing himself and the two children.
“He crawled into a hole with two small children and blew himself up while his people stayed on the ground,” the general said. He could not confirm Donald Trump’s suggestion that Baghdadi was “whimpering and crying” in the moments before he died.
General McKenzie said the Kurds had given valuable “early intelligence” before the raid, but the raid was “US only.”
Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr drives a car as he joins anti-government demonstrators gathering in the central holy city of Najaf, October 29, 2019. Photo: Haidar Hamdani / AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr joined protesters in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf on Tuesday, warning he plans to join forces with the a rival parliamentary bloc to unseat the government of Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
The influential cleric’s comments come as protests continue across Iraq, leading to widespread violence and fatalities.
Sadr has already withdrawn his backing for the government in the wake of the protests and has called for fresh elections. He accused Iraq’s top politicians of being under the influence of foreign powers – particularly arch rivals Iran and the United States.
In a sign of shifting political allegiances to come, Sadr held out an offer of cooperation with Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Iraqi parliament’s powerful al-Fatih bloc.
His tweet came in response to Abdul-Mahdi’s letter on Tuesday in which the Iraqi PM asked Sadr to cooperate with Amiri if he wants the PM to resign.
“I ask brother Hadi al-Amiri for cooperation in order to withdraw trust from you,” Sadr told Abdul-Mahdi in his tweet. “As we will also work on modifying the constitution and changing the Iraqi High Electoral Commission and its regulations.”
Sadr is head of the Sayirun alliance, the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament. He is also head of the Saraya al-Salam militia, which is part of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) umbrella, also known as Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic.
In his letter to Sadr, Abdul-Mahdi goaded the Sayirun leader “to meet al-Amiri and decide on forming the new government in order for me to resign”.
“I can’t go in front of the parliament and hand over my resignation to the parliament, as other steps need to be considered according to the Iraqi constitution,” he added.
In order to hold snap elections, the president of Iraq has to approve an official request from Iraqi PM to dissolve the parliament, and parliament must vote on its own dissolution, according to article 64 of the Iraqi constitution.
In yet another attempt to quell the protests, Abdul-Mahdi announced a further package of reforms on Tuesday evening concerning garbage collection, sanitation, and flood-prevention – far removed from the demands of the protesters.
At least 74 people have been killed since the protests resumed on Friday, according to the most recent figures from the Human Rights Commission.
Footage submitted to Rudaw English depicts violent clashes between protesters and security forces in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on Monday night, October 28, 2019. Credit: submitted
A wave of unrest spilled over southern Iraq earlier this month as Iraqis took to the streets to demand action on unemployment, poor services, and rampant corruption. At least 157 people were killed in the first nine days of the month, according to the United Nations.
Protests resumed on Friday after the Shiite religious observance of Arbaeen – only this time the protesters are demanding is a “revolution” to sweep away the old Islamic parties.
In a statement on Tuesday, the United Nationals Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) condemned the violent repression of demonstrations.
“The special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, condemns in the strongest terms the rising number of deaths and injuries during the demonstrations engulfing many parts of Iraq,” UNAMI said.
Hennis-Plasschaert reminded the Iraqi government that “violence is never the answer” and that “national dialogue is urgently needed to find prompt and meaningful response”.
The UNAMI statement comes after a bloody night in the holy Shiite city of Karbala on Monday, as security forces used live ammunition to disperse protesters, killing dozens and wounding hundreds.
“Witness reports indicate that live fire was used against demonstrators, causing high numbers of casualties,” the statement added.
According to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, at least one protester was killed and around 190 wounded.
“One protester died, while 142 security members and 50 protesters wounded in Karbala province on Monday night,” the statement reads. “While 140 protesters detained, but 80 of the detainees released and 60 remained in custody.”
The Associated Press put the figure at 18 killed and hundreds wounded.
Ali al-Bayati, a member of Iraq’s Independent High Human Rights Commission, published an open letter to Iraqi President Barham Salah on Monday claiming a war had broken out in Karbala.
“To his Excellency the President, the guardian of the constitution and the people, you stated today that Iraq will not accept a war between America and Iran. Do you realize that there is a war on our Iraqi soil, not somewhere else, and between its children? It happened in Karbala,” Bayati said in a Facebook post.
He embedded a video appearing to depict masked men, wearing vests and helmets, beating a man in an alley.
Despite the violent response of security forces, the protests are ongoing in several provinces of Iraq.
President Trump on Sunday announced that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the elusive Islamic State commander, died during a U.S. military operation in Syria, an important breakthrough more than five years after the militant chief launched a self-proclaimed caliphate that inspired violence worldwide.
“Last night, the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice,” Trump said in a televised announcement from the White House. “He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone.”
In what the president called a “dangerous and daring” nighttime operation, helicopters inserted a team of American Special Operations troops into a volatile area of northwest Syria, where they began an assault on a militant compound culminating in a retreat by Baghdadi into an underground hideaway. There, in a “dead-end tunnel,” Trump said, the militant leader detonated an explosive vest, killing himself and three of what were believed to be his at least six children.
The high-risk operation brings a dramatic end to a years-long hunt for the man who spearheaded the Islamic State’s transformation from an underground insurgent band to a powerful quasi-state that straddled two countries and spawned copycat movements across several continents.
At its peak, the Islamic State controlled an area the size of Great Britain, boasting a massive military arsenal and a formidable financial base it used to threaten the West and brutalize those under its control. While the group gradually lost territory to U.S.-backed Syrian and Iraqi fighters, officials cautioned that it remains a potent insurgent force, even after Baghdadi’s death.
Officials said U.S. intelligence had tracked the militant leader, a onetime academic and veteran jihadist who spent a year in a U.S.-run prison in Iraq, to a redoubt in Syria’s Idlib province, a restive area near the border with Turkey that is home to an array of extremist groups. A critical piece of information on Baghdadi’s whereabouts came from a disaffected Islamic State militant who became an informant for the Kurds working with the Americans, according to a U.S. official who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive operation.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose troops have fought alongside U.S. forces, indicated that they had provided intelligence for the operation.
“For five months there has been joint intel cooperation on the ground and accurate monitoring, until we achieved a joint operation to kill Abu Bakir al-Bagdadi,” its commander, Gen. Mazloum Abdi, said on Twitter, using an alternate spelling of the terrorist leader’s name.
Trump has been accused of abandoning the Kurds following a decision to pull back most U.S. forces in northern Syria, who had provided a deterrent against Turkish forces threatening an attack from across the border. Officials on Sunday suggested that Baghdadi’s death would not affect plans to curtail, or at least alter, the military mission in Syria.
A senior official from Iraq’s intelligence service, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence, said the arrests and interrogation of people close to Baghdadi also helped yield his location, information that was provided to the Americans.
U.S. intelligence is tracking six Islamic State individuals in the line of succession to Baghdadi, the U.S. official said. It’s as though Baghdadi were the CEO and the six were his “executive VPs,” the official said.
They are dispersed, but U.S. intelligence “generally” knows where they are. The hope is that intelligence gleaned from the material recovered in the raid will help U.S. forces “roll up . . . the leadership cadre” in the coming months.
The ideal time to act is when the leadership ranks are in chaos, as they are now, the official said, and militants’ likely movements or communications provide opportunities to target them.
“We’ll keep picking away,” the official added.
Vice President Pence, speaking to CBS, said he and Trump were first informed on Thursday of the likelihood that Baghdadi would be at the target site, which the United States had been monitoring for some time. The president authorized the mission on Saturday morning.
Officials said that two U.S. service members were lightly wounded in the operation and that additional militants were killed, including two women — identified as Baghdadi’s wives — who were wearing explosive vests.
The raid comes as the United States scrambles to adjust its posture in Syria in the wake of Trump’s declaration earlier this month that he would pull out nearly all of the approximately 1,000 troops in Syria amid a Turkish offensive against Syrian Kurdish troops who have been the Pentagon’s main battlefield partner there. But evolving plans now call for a larger residual force that could mean a substantial ongoing campaign.
It also comes as the president faces impeachment proceedings over his role in withholding military aid to Ukraine and as the campaign for the 2020 presidential election intensifies.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien, speaking to NBC, said it was “a good day for the United States, for our armed forces, and for the president.”
During his remarks, Trump thanked Syrian Kurdish forces and nations including Russia and Turkey.
Trump described a harrowing operation that involved firefights before and after U.S. personnel, ferried in under the cover of darkness in eight helicopters, touched down in Idlib province. While the intent of the operation had been to capture Baghdadi, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper told CNN, he moved underground when U.S. forces called on him to surrender, where he detonated his device.
Officials said the military had taken DNA samples from Baghdadi’s remains and had quickly conducted visual and DNA tests to determine his identity. Nearly a dozen children were removed from the site, Trump said. It was not clear where they were taken.
“Baghdadi was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward running and crying,” he said.
Baghdadi’s actions during the operation could not be immediately verified.
A second official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational details, said that troops from Delta Force, an elite military unit, conducted the operation from a base in Iraq with support from the CIA and Kurdish forces.
The DNA material needed to identify Baghdadi was voluntarily provided by one of his daughters, the official said.
In his remarks, Trump appeared to relish the opportunity to mark a major foreign policy achievement, reiterating his claims of having single-handedly defeated the Islamic State and making no mention of the Obama administration’s steps to set in motion the campaign that culminated in a series of ground battles that deprived the Islamic State of territory and cash.
Esper, in a separate interview with ABC, praised Trump for making the “bold decision” to authorize the raid and said U.S. forces had rehearsed for several weeks.
Russia immediately cast doubt on the sense of triumph in Washington.
“An increase in the number of direct participants and countries, which have allegedly joined this ‘operation,’ each of them with totally contradictory details, cause well-grounded questions and doubts that it has really been carried out, and that, what’s more, it has been successful,” said the Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, according to the Interfax news agency.
Trump praised his military and intelligence officials for the operation, which he said he watched from the White House Situation Room on Saturday evening — following a round of golf in the afternoon — with Pence, Esper, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior officials. News that Baghdadi was killed — announced as “jackpot,” from the commander on the ground, according to O’Brien — came around 7:15 p.m. Trump issued a tweet two hours later after U.S. helicopters touched down in Iraq, writing, “Something very big has just happened.”
During the group’s extremist reign, many more Iraqis and Syrians were killed or brutalized. Militants also enslaved women and children from Iraq’s Yazidi minority.
The operation served as a reminder of the grim series of events set off by the rise of the Islamic State and the sophisticated global propaganda and recruitment network that enabled. Among the high-profile acts of global violence the group inspired were the 2015 attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. The group also used its financial and political power to establish foreign affiliates in places such as Libya. The Pentagon continues attacks against Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Although Baghdadi, 48, a native of the Iraqi city of Samarra, was not the first leader of the evolving militant organization that eventually became the Islamic State, he oversaw its rise to global prominence in 2014 as it took advantage of instability and weak governance to roll across Iraq and Syria.
Despite publicly declaring an ambitious extremist vision that same year, Baghdadi remained a distant, reclusive figure even to his supporters. In recent years, he has attempted to usher the organization into a renewed underground phase, urging followers in an audio message last month to attempt to break imprisoned brethren out of jail.
Baghdadi appears at a mosque in Mosul, Iraq, according to a video posted online in 2014. (Reuters)
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), ranking minority-party member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was among the Democrats who paired accolades for a successful operation with a warning about the potential impact of Trump’s larger Syria policy.
“The concern of this hasty withdrawal is that we’re going to lose that connectivity with the Kurds in terms of intelligence gathering,” Reed said in an interview. “I think that’s going to be a very significant loss going forward.”
Earlier in the day, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who spoke to reporters at the White House, voiced support for Trump’s decision to back away from a full withdrawal from Syria and said the president had told him of his desire to get Baghdadi.
His death “is a game changer in the war on terror,” Graham said.
Faysal Itani, a scholar at the Atlantic Council, said the Islamic State’s militant activities had not been enabled by any special powers of Baghdadi but by conditions that remain unchanged in Iraq and Syria, suggesting its potential to rise once more.
“ISIS’s success is rooted in state failures, sectarian divides, military and intelligence experience drawn from the Baathist security state it emerged from, and an ideology that is coherent and, for some, compelling,” Itani said, referring to the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein, the former leader of Iraq.
Liz Sly in Los Angeles, Souad Mekhennet in Germany, Sarah Dadouch in Beirut, Kareem Fahim in Istanbul, Mustafa Salim in Baghdad and Shane Harris, Joby Warrick and Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.
Vice President Mike Pence announced Thursday that Turkey has agreed to a cease-fire to allow the Kurdish forces it was battling to safely withdraw from an area in northern Syria. (Oct. 17) AP, AP
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is preparing to send tanks and armored vehicles to Syrian oil fields, according to a U.S. official – a stunning reversal of President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the war-torn country after he declared victory over ISIS.
The deployment of heavy armor to Syria would represent a significant escalation in the fight, requiring a contingent of additional troops to operate and maintain the vehicles, as well as forces to protect their bases.
A Defense Department official said the Pentagon is sending additional forces to northeastern Syria to prevent the oil fields from falling back into the hands of ISIS. Both officials were not authorized to speak publicly.
The move represents an acknowledgement that ISIS remains a threat despite Trump’s declaration that the militant group has been vanquished. Monday, Trump backtracked on his order that all U.S. forces be withdrawn from Syria, saying a “small” number of troops would remain.
By Thursday, the Pentagon was planning for a significant escalation.
“Very, very confusing U.S. policy,” said Seth Jones, a national security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Kurdish forces controlled much of northeastern Syria until two weeks ago. After an Oct. 6 phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey invaded Syria, pushing the Kurds south.
Now Russian troops, which are in Syria to bolster the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and Turkish forces are operating in the region previously patrolled by U.S. and Kurdish forces.
Expert: Move aimed at Russia and Syria, not ISIS
Sending Abrams battle tanks and Bradley armored vehicles would mark a new stage in the five-year campaign against ISIS. Newsweek first reported the plans to send armor to the region.
The composition of the additional forces and the type of equipment to be sent to Syria is still being worked out, the U.S. official told USA TODAY. Placing heavily armored vehicles in Syria would require more logistical personnel to support them than the previous force of American commandos needed, the official said.
The deployment of armor is aimed at Russia and Syria, not ISIS, said Nicholas Heras, an expert on Syria with the Center for a New American Security. He said the U.S-led coalition against ISIS had succeeded in keeping oil from the militant group, using a combination of U.S.-led airstrikes and the Syrian Democratic Forces, made up largely of Kurds, on the ground.
“This move would either indicate that the U.S. military believes that it cannot depend on the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) to protect the oil fields, and instead cut a deal with Russia and Assad behind America’s back, or that the U.S. expects Assad and Russia to try to take the oil by force,” Heras said.
“Pure and simple,” he said, “the Pentagon is making contingencies for a big fight with Russia for Syria’s oil.”
A nuclear war between India and Pakistan could, over the span of less than a week, kill 50-125 million people—more than the death toll during all six years of World War II, according to new research.
A new study conducted by researchers from CU Boulder and Rutgers University examines how such a hypothetical future conflict would have consequences that could ripple across the globe. Today, India and Pakistan each have about 150 nuclear warheads at their disposal, and that number is expected to climb to more than 200 by 2025.
An animation showing the spread of smoke in Earth’s atmosphere following a nuclear war between India and Pakistan in 2025. (Credit: Charles Bardeen/NCAR)
The picture is grim. That level of warfare wouldn’t just kill millions of people locally, said CU Boulder’s Brian Toon, who led the research published today in the journal Science Advances. It might also plunge the entire planet into a severe cold spell, possibly with temperatures not seen since the last Ice Age.
His team’s findings come as tensions are again simmering between India and Pakistan. In August, India made a change to its constitution that stripped rights from people living in the long-contested region of Kashmir. Soon after, the nation sent troops to Kashmir, moves that Pakistan criticized sharply.
“An India-Pakistan war could double the normal death rate in the world,” said Toon, a professor in the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). “This is a war that would have no precedent in human experience.”
He came of age during the height of the Cold War when schoolchildren still practiced ducking-and-covering under their desks. As a young atmospheric scientist in the early 1980s, he was part of a group of researchers who first coined the term “nuclear winter”—a period of extreme cold that would likely follow a large-scale nuclear barrage between the U.S. and Russia.
And despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, Toon believes that such weapons are still very much a threat—one that’s underscored by current hostilities between India and Pakistan.
“They’re rapidly building up their arsenals,” Toon said. “They have huge populations, so lots of people are threatened by these arsenals, and then there’s the unresolved conflict over Kashmir.”
In his latest study, he and his colleagues wanted to find out just how bad such a conflict could get. To do that, the team drew on a wide range of evidence, from computer simulations of Earth’s atmosphere to accounts of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945.
Based on their analysis, the devastation would come in several stages. In the first week of the conflict, the group reports that India and Pakistan combined could successfully detonate about 250 nuclear warheads over each other’s cities.
There’s no way to know how powerful these weapons would be—neither nation has conducted nuclear tests in decades—but the researchers estimated that each one could kill as many as 700,000 people.
A map showing the changes in the productivity of ecosystems around the world in the second year after a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. Regions in brown would experience steep declines in plant growth, while regions in green could see increases. (Credit: Nicole Lovenduski and Lili Xia)
Most of those people wouldn’t die from the blasts themselves, however, but from the out-of-control fires that would follow.
“If you look at Hiroshima after the bomb fell, you can see a huge field of rubble about a mile wide,” Toon said. “It wasn’t the result of the bomb. It was the result of the fire.”
For the rest of the globe, the fires would just be the beginning.
The researchers calculated that an India-Pakistan war could inject as much as 80 billion pounds of thick, black smoke into Earth’s atmosphere. That smoke would block sunlight from reaching the ground, driving temperatures around the world down by an average of between 3.5-9 degrees Fahrenheit for several years. Worldwide food shortages would likely come soon after.
“Our experiment, conducted with a state-of-the-art Earth system model, reveals large-scale reductions in the productivity of plants on land and of algae in the ocean, with dangerous consequences for organisms higher on the food chain, including humans,” said study coauthor Nicole Lovenduski, an associate professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and a fellow of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR).
Toon recognizes that the scope of such a war may be hard for people to wrap their heads around. But he hopes that the study will show people around the world that the end of the Cold War didn’t eliminate the risk of global nuclear war.
“Hopefully, Pakistan and India will take note of this paper,” he said. “But mostly, I’m concerned that Americans aren’t informed about the consequences of nuclear war.”
The study also included CU Boulder coauthor Jerry Peterson, a professor emeritus in the Department of Physics. Other coauthors represent Rutgers University, the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Federation of American Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and University of California, Los Angeles.
Inside the protests rocking nations around the globe
Protests are roiling cities across the world as fed-up citizens take to the streets to vent their grievances — both peacefully and violently — about economic conditions, government corruption and crippling tax hikes.
Hong Kong has been gripped by more than 20 weeks of violent clashes — while in Barcelona, old wounds have reopened as protesters once again demand Catalonia be recognized as a country separate from Spain.
Lebanon, meanwhile, appears to be on the brink of disastrous civil unrest again.
Here’s a look at some of the flareups.
Schools in Santiago, Chile, were closed Monday and only one line of the capital city’s mass-transit system was working as protesters skirmished again with police and troops.
Many grocery stores were closed, with long lines at those that were open.
In a televised statement Sunday night, President Sebastián Piñera imposed another curfew and extended the country’s state of emergency in hopes of deterring more protests.
“[The protesters] are at war against all good-willed Chileans who want to live in a democracy, with liberty and peace,” Piñera said.
The street violence broke out Friday after a weeks-long dispute with the government over a 3.5% raise in subway fares to $1.17, following a 2.5% boost in January.
The protest began modestly on Oct. 5, when students began jumping turnstiles in defiance of the fare increase.
But things turned violent last week and five people have been killed in clashes. At least 156 police and 11 civilians have been injured.
Protesters set fire to the headquarters of an energy company and torched a clothing factory and supermarket.
The Chilean government declared an emergency Saturday and deployed tanks to the streets for the first time since 1990, when the country returned to democracy after years under a military dictatorship.
Spain’s Supreme Court on Oct. 14 sentenced the Catalan leaders to up to 13 years behind bars for their part in a 2017 effort to declare independence for the region. Around half of Catalonia’s 7.5 million residents want to break away from Spain to create a new European country.
Last Monday, thousands of protesters shut down the airport, canceling flights.
Throughout the week, local police say, protesters hurled gasoline bombs and other projectiles at them, while setting fires around the city. Cops hit back with rubber bullets, tear gas, batons and water cannons.
On Friday, about a half-million people attended a peaceful demonstration, but riots broke out later in the day.
The crowds ignited fires, including near the Plaza de Catalunya at the top of the tourist hot spot Las Ramblas.
“The streets will always be ours!” they screamed.
Spanish Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez warned that those who caused disturbances would face justice. The cost of protest-related damages in the city has exceeded $1.7 million, according to CNN.
Catalonia’s leader, Quim Torra, said Monday that the protests won’t cease until the Spanish government listens to separatists’ demands.
Hong Kong police on Monday fired tear gas at demonstrators, who amassed to mark three months since a gang assault on activists at the Yuen Long mass-transit station.
The clashes came a day after widespread violence, in which tens of thousands of people marched through the Kowloon district and demonstrators flung incendiary bombs at cops, torching stores and the entrances to transit stations.
Hong Kong has been battered by five months of often-violent protests amid fears that mainland China is tightening its grip on the semiautonomous region — the worst political crisis since Britain handed its colony back to China in 1997.
The demonstrations began in opposition to an extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China to stand trial.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she would withdraw the bill, but the rallies turned into a broader push for more democratic reforms.
Protesters are demanding universal suffrage, an independent probe into alleged police brutality, amnesty for those arrested in the skirmishes and an end to the labeling of the protests as riots.
The clashes have seen police fire rubber bullets and even some live rounds, while activists have hurled bricks and gasoline bombs.
Facing escalating mass protests, the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday approved a package of economic reforms and a 2020 budget without new taxes, hoping to appease people in the streets.
Protests swelled in the hours after the announcement, however, as many demonstrators scorned the package as “empty promises.”
The country’s perilous economic situation reached fever pitch last week when the government proposed a host of austerity measures — sending hundreds of thousands of people into the streets.
Demonstrators say they’re angry at corruption within the government and have called on Hariri, President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to step down.
The capital of Beirut has been gripped by five days of protests, with strikes over corruption, austerity measures and a $6 monthly tax on WhatsApp voice calls.
The country’s public debt of about $86 billion is the equivalent of more than 150% of its gross domestic product, according to the BBC, one of the highest debt loads in the world.
A deepening political crisis has devastated the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti, where protesters have called on President Jovenel Moïse to step down.
Thousands of citizens wreaked havoc in the capital of Port-au-Prince on Sunday amid the nation’s devastating fuel shortage and spiraling inflation. Haitians have called for Moïse’s resignation since August, citing shortages and widespread corruption.
Moïse has previously rejected calls for his resignation, saying he would not leave the country in the “hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers.”
Protester Jean Ronald said, “Jovenel is incapable and incompetent, he must pack his bags because Haiti must live.
“It is not normal to live in such an unequal country,” Ronald added, standing in front of the float of self-proclaimed prophet Mackenson Dorilas, a controversial religious leader. Dorilas was sanctioned by the Haitian ministry of faiths in 2018 after saying he could cure AIDS with a bed bug remedy.
Since coming to power in 2017, Moïse has incurred the wrath of an opposition movement that refuses to recognize his election victory. A journalist who was covering the protests was recently found dead in his car of gunshot wounds.
As Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continue their blockade of Qatar, the pair often justify their campaign by accusing Doha of sponsoring terrorism. Most analysts have cast this claim as hypocritical, given Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s history of links to extremist groups from Afghanistan to Yemen.
Emirati and Saudi officials have also highlighted Qatar’s long-standing support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a political movement that, however controversial, no Western government has designated a terrorist organization. Further, Bahrain, a member of the anti-Qatari bloc, has accepted Islamic Minbar, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, as a legitimate political actor. Saudi Arabia too has cooperated with the Muslim Brotherhood at times, including with al-Islah, a Yemeni militia and political party affiliated with the political movement. Despite these contradictions, some of the allegations against Qatar merit further investigation.
Whereas Saudi Arabia and the UAE face accusations that they do far too little to prevent money from flowing to terrorist groups, Qatar seems to prefer a much more direct role in its interactions with militants. The peninsular monarchy has long financed Hamas, first listed as a “foreign terrorist organization” by the United States in 1997. Meanwhile, the Taliban, some of whose factions also appear on the US list, has maintained an office in Doha since 2013; Washington has often used this office to facilitate negotiations with the Taliban.
Some policymakers, including former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al- Thani, also suggest that Doha funneled money to al-Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria during the first years of the civil war in its rush to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Qatar’s decision to pay a hefty ransom for Qatari hostages held by the Iranian-funded Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah, another American-labeled terrorist group, further angered Saudi Arabia and the UAE. At the same time, officials in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have engaged with the Taliban for far longer than their Qatari counterparts, even recognizing the Taliban’s regime prior to the start of Washington’s war on terror. In addition, several news agencies have reported on cooperation between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and offshoots of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen.
The boycott of Qatar likely has less to do with Qatar’s tendency to incorporate militants into its foreign policy, than with Qatari officials’ backing of groups at odds with Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s own convention-flouting agendas. While Qatar does sponsor militants, the reductive Emirati and Saudi narrative ignores Qatar’s history of funding political parties that have never resorted to violence, among them affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Despite the extent of Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s ulterior motives for boycotting Qatar and the two regional powers’ own role in terrorism financing, the breadth and depth of Qatari officials’ contacts with Western-designated terrorist groups corroborates quite a bit of what Emirati and Saudi leaders allege. In fact, anecdotal evidence indicates that Qatar’s engagement with these organizations has continued in the years after the Emirati and Saudi-imposed boycott. In July, The New York Times reported on a call between a Qatari-linked businessman and the Qatari ambassador to Somalia, implying that the terrorist group al-Shabaab had attacked Emirati targets in Somalia in support of Qatar’s national interests.
While it is circumstantial evidence at best, the call — if confirmed — would further implicate Qatari officials. Nonetheless, Qatar seems far from alone. The UAE has also engaged with al-Shabaab, receiving much of the charcoal that the group exports through smugglers.
Though the Emirati and Saudi allegations about Qatar’s relationship with certain Western-designated terrorist groups have proved more or less accurate, these claims belie the complexity of Qatar’s foreign policy and the dividends that it has yielded. Qatar officials’ contacts with militants have allowed the country’s diplomats and intelligence officers to act as intermediaries in prisoner swaps between these groups and the United States. Qatar’s extensive ties to Syrian insurgents enabled the country to facilitate the 2014 release of Peter Theo Curtis, an American hostage held by al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, the al-Nusra Front. Moreover, the Taliban’s Doha office hosted the negotiations that led to American prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl’s return from imprisonment in Afghanistan the same year.
Qatar has also leveraged these ties to play a role in resolving the Greater Middle East’s most divisive conflicts, brokering ceasefires between Hamas and Israel, and even overseeing peace talks between the Taliban and the US. Qatar has also facilitated peace talks between factions in Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen in the past. The ongoing blockade notwithstanding, Qatar’s connections with militants in Palestine, insurgents in Afghanistan and rebels in Syria have resulted in tangible diplomatic benefits.
In some ways, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have attempted to emulate Qatar’s foreign policy. Both countries, which, unlike Qatar, provided diplomatic recognition to the Taliban’s government in Afghanistan in the 1990s, have tried to lubricate peace talks between the insurgents and Washington. Nevertheless, Qatar has managed to outcompete Saudi Arabia and the UAE in this regard, and Emirati and Saudi diplomats will find themselves hard pressed to outmaneuver Qatar there.
The multifaceted nature of Qatar’s relationship with Western-designated terrorist groups has helped the country avoid the all-encompassing penalties affecting the pariah states that the US has deemed “state sponsors of terrorism,” namely Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Sudan. American officials concluded an agreement on combating terrorism financing with their Qatari counterparts a little over two years ago, and the US seems more concerned that the dispute between Qatar and its neighbors could undermine US-led counterterrorism efforts in the Persian Gulf as a whole than about Qataris’ particular ties to militants. For their part, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have their own work to do to mitigate American concerns about terrorism financing on their territory.
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The longer the row between Qatar and its rivals in the Persian Gulf persists, the more the two sides will trade accusations about state-sponsored terrorism. Qatar’s unique ties to an ever-growing range of terrorist groups seems likely to keep drawing scrutiny in any case, but Doha has so far been adept at taking advantage of its special relationships with controversial non-state actors, the dangers of blowback notwithstanding. If the last few years have taught Qatar any lessons, officials in Doha have likely learned that their controversial strategy has worked to their advantage, suggesting that Qatar’s leadership will likely continue working with Western-designated terrorist organizations.
For many years now I have focused a considerable amount of analysis on the subject of Syria, with an emphasis on the country’s importance to the global elites as a kind of geopolitical detonator; the first domino in a chain of dominoes that could lead to a war involving international powers. I believe this war will develop on multiple fronts, most importantly on the economic front, but it could very well turn into a shooting war involving numerous actors.
Syria is so important, in fact, that the establishment has been careful to smother all discussion about what is really going on there in a fog of propaganda. And make no mistake, BOTH Republicans and Democrats as well as eastern and western governments are participating in the lies and misdirection. Obviously, the first and most important lie is a multi-sided one, and we can’t continue forward until it’s dissected – I am speaking of the lie of US involvement in the region.
Lie #1: The US Has Legitimacy In The Original Syrian Conflict
First, most people reading this should know by now that US covert intelligence agencies (among others) were the force behind the “revolution” in Syria against the Bashar al-Assad. The majority of the fighters coming into the region were trained and equipped in Jordan in camps run by western agencies. The program was called “Operation Timber Sycamore” and was launched in different stages from 2011-2013.
It’s clear according to the evidence that the Arab Spring and the conflict in Syria were products of global establishment meddling in the area. Weapons were funneled from the Libyan crisis into the hands of “rebels” that infiltrated Syria, and equipment directly provided by the US found its way into the hands of groups that would eventually become what we now know as ISIS. The Obama Administration, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, John Bolton and many others were intimately involved in Timber Sycamore. The war in Syria was entirely engineered from behind the scenes.
The bottom line: The US has no legitimacy there.
In the Liberty Movement we talk about this conspiracy fact often, but I don’t think many people consider the wider implications. Was the purpose merely to overthrow Assad? Was it about installing a government that was hostile to Russia? Was it to lure Iran into a vulnerable position? Was it all about oil? The answer is no to most of these questions. These are surface explanations that do not satisfy the facts on hand. There is far more to Syria than meets the eye.
Lie #2: The Original Conflict In Syria Is The Current Conflict
Let’s distill this down to some primary facts: The US and other nations created ISIS and deliberately destabilized Syria. The establishment then tried to convince the American public to support the use of military forces in the region to back the insurgents and the civil war they created. This initial plan failed.
Then, the establishment used the terror groups they created in Syria as an argument for why the US needed to send troops into Syria. This plan partially succeeded, but failed overall to generate public support for wider US involvement.
Kurdish tribes in northern Syria were then forced to defend themselves against the spread of the ISIS plague. The Kurds fought bravely to defend their homes from the terror threat that western agencies had conjured, losing 11,000 fighters in the process. They seem to be the only innocent people involved in the entire affair. They joined the US as allies under the assumption that the US goal was to destroy ISIS. This was NOT the US goal. Not under Obama, nor under Trump. The real goal has always been to use ISIS as an excuse to maintain a US presence in Syria (we will get to why in a moment).
Today, the war has shifted once again. This time, Turkey is invading Syria with claims that the Kurds present an existential danger. The reality is that the Turkish government has sought to erase all Kurdish culture from Turkey and Northern Syria since the 1970’s, including banning the Kurdish language and Kurdish dress and Kurdish names. Even the words “Kurd” and “Kurdish were eventually banned. The Kurds responded by forming the PKK and calling for a sovereign Kurdish state which would allow them to live without oppression. The Kurds did not turn to direct action until the 1980’s after many years of totalitarian subjugation.
The Turkish invasion today is made possible by the rather convenient surprise pull-back of US forces from the northern border. Now, there is yet another excuse for wider involvement in Syria. The US is not out of the war; the war is just getting started. Each time the Syrian problem starts to fade and it looks like it will be resolved, something else happens which triggers another explosion of fighting. This is not a coincidence.
Lie #3: The Trump Administration Is Pulling US Troops Out Of Syria
This is not happening, and anyone who believes Trump is actually ending US involvement has been duped. It’s also not the first time we’ve heard promises from Donald Trump on an end to the wars in the Middle East.
Over a year ago Trump proclaimed that he would be pulling the troops out of Syria, yet, only a week later it was determined that they would remain. Recently Trump made the claim again, and only days later the Pentagon admitted that US troops were only going to be shifted back from the border while the Kurds, our former allies, would be attacked by Turkish forces. Turkey’s military spokesman has said that they will “correct the demographics changed by the YPG (Kurdish defense units much like citizen militias) in Northeast Syria”. In other words, the goal is ethnic cleansing, and as the Armenian genocide teaches us, the Turks are no strangers to ethnic cleansing.
Trump is not the only world leader to pull this kind of stunt, either. Vladimir Putin did the same thing in 2016, announcing an end to military action by Russia in Syria and a removal of troops, only to keep Russian forces there and well entrenched. The Russian presence has done little to prevent a flurry of Israeli air strikes against Syria, nor have they acted to prevent the Turkish invasion, so we must question what exactly Russia is still doing there as much as the US?
These constant fake-outs on a Syrian withdrawal are meant only for the general public as a way of pacifying concerns, and it seems to be working. To this day many people still believe that Trump had pulled US troops out of Syria (or is withdrawing them right now) and Putin pulled Russian troops out after “defeating ISIS”. None of this ever happened. If you tell a big lie enough times the uneducated masses will start to adopt it as the truth.
Lie #4: The International Community Is Sincerely Worried About A Kurdish Genocide
Wow, it truly warms my heart to witness the sudden international outpouring of support for the Kurds in Syria. Establishment rags like the Washington Post and the New York Times, the EU government, the Israeli government, even Trump himself are all announcing their support for the Kurds and admonishing Turkish actions. They are all ready to enforce sanctions or even go to war in the name of defending the Kurdish people. How noble…
The truth is, none of these agents of despair have any concern for the Kurds, and they will do nothing to save them until it’s too late. Later, they will act, but not to save any remaining Kurds. A Kurdish genocide is only a means to an end. And here we start to see the entire reason for the Syrian crisis unfold…
Lie #5: The Kurds Are Not Our Concern, Or, They Are “Getting What They Deserve”
On the flip side of the paradigm, I’m seeing the Trump cult making some outlandish arguments (as they always do) to rationalize the president’s bizarre and abrupt policy actions. The first argument claims that “it’s about time” that a president “stood against the deep state” and ended US involvement in Syria, and we should let Turkey and the Kurds sort out their own mess. I would repeat the fact that Trump is not leaving Syria or any other nation in the Middle East with a US military presence. He is only pulling troops back and leaving the door open to Turkish attack.
I would also point out once again that it is not “their mess”, it is a mess created by western governments including the US.
The Kurds lost tens of thousands of fighters battling ISIS, and the Turkish incursion into Syria seems to be taking advantage of their weakened defenses. This is a situation the US created. The Turkish invasion is a DIRECT result of the destabilization of Syria, and Trump’s pullback from the northern border was the icing on the cake. It acted as a form of permission by the US that Turkey could now do whatever they wanted (for a time).
I am also seeing the narrative that the Kurds are “getting what they deserve”.
Some argue that the Kurds were stupid for trusting the US government as an ally and now they are reaping the consequences. This is hardly a valid assertion. Punishing the victims of a con for being conned is not the American way. At least, it shouldn’t be the American way. Also, the Kurds are not the real target of this disinfo campaign; conservatives are the target, and they’re falling right into the trap. I believe this is a propaganda narrative designed to make conservatives sound like sociopaths.
Trump’s claim that the Kurds were “not really our allies” as they “did not help us during WWII”, and that they were only defending their homes rather than supporting our efforts against ISIS shows an insane (but calculated) disinformation campaign designed to make conservatives look monstrous and untrustworthy. If Trump was really against the “deep state” he would not try to tarnish the image of our only legitimate allies in the region.
Finally, another narrative being spread around is that because the Kurds have a socialist form of governance, they deserve to be wiped out. I would remind the people making this claim that the Kurds are not trying to force their political ideologies on anyone, and Turkey’s Erdogen is a classic totalitarian who has tightened his grip on the nation using every trick in the book, including a false flag coup attempt. Socialists or not, the Kurds don’t deserve ethnic cleansing.
Yes, the US should not have been in Syria in the first place, but then again, we ARE in Syria, and it doesn’t look like we’re leaving, so if we’re going to be there we might as well do some good with our presence and act as a deterrent to an obvious Turkish attempt to erase the Kurds (our allies who fought a terrorist threat the US GOVERNMENT FUNDED) from the area. Of course, it’s too late for that now…
What Is Really Going On In Syria?
If you’re not buying the mainstream narrative, you might be wondering why Donald Trump would suddenly abandon the Syrian border allowing Turkey to invade? You also might be wondering why he would then immediately threaten to “crush” Turkey with economic sanctions and place “thousands of US troops” on the ground if his goal was to end US involvement in Syria? The answer is in the macro-picture. That is to say, we have to ask the most important of all questions – Who benefits?
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, geopolitical events are being exploited by the globalist establishment as distraction and cover for their controlled demolition of the economy. They need scapegoats for the implosion of the Everything Bubble, an implosion they started in 2018 with liquidity tightening policies that has now accelerated into a full-blown financial crisis. The Turkish invasion of Syria may be the pinnacle distraction event.
With engineered chaos in Syria, Trump’s globalist handlers can achieve a historic level of chaos while avoiding direct culpability. What do we get when we combine all the elements listed above along with lies on both sides of the political paradigm? Well, we get a rationale for war. We also get yet another event which makes Trump look like a bumbling villain and conservatives look like fools or soulless robots.
By extension, any tensions with Turkey suggest the beginning of the end for NATO. As I predicted in January of 2019, it appears that Turkey, a key component of the western alliance, is about to exit. This furthers the globalist goal of the deterioration of the west; the decline of the old world order making way for their “new world order” in which Eastern powers will play a larger role in conjunction with certain European elements. This is a dynamic globalists like George Soros have publicly and proudly discussed in the past.
The Kurds may also be a direct target of the globalist agenda. In a declassified CIA document titled ‘The Kurdish Minority Problem’, the agency indicated that the establishment has seen the Kurds as an unknown factor (which they don’t like) that is fiercely independent (which they really don’t like) as far back as the 1940’s. The CIA suggests that the Kurds are an uncontrolled element that could make establishment goals in the region difficult to achieve.
In the 1970’s the US manipulated the Kurds into actions against Iraq, which was amassing forces against the Shah of Iran and threatening to invade Kurdish occupied lands. Once the Shah was removed from power by Iranian revolt, the US abandoned support for the Kurds. The Iraqi government used the opportunity to attempt genocide against them using chemical weapons sold to them by the US government. History does indeed seem to repeat.
I suggest that because the Kurds are a tribal force of millions that might oppose the globalist agenda in the Middle East, they may have been slated for erasure, and this latest event is merely one of a long series of events designed to kill off the Kurds. Or, at the very least, killing the Kurds is a bonus for the establishment.
Beyond the Kurdish issue, a renewed Syrian crisis and EU opposition to Erdogen could lead to another flood of Muslim migrants into Europe. The last time this happened it sent the EU into an economic and political tailspin. It also opens the door to more fear in Europe and provides extra cover for a financial crash there.
And, ultimately, the Turkish invasion provides a perfect excuse to draw a number of opposing camps into a single place in close proximity, The possibilities for the globalists are endless. The Kurds are turning to Assad for aid and protection from Turkey. Iran is a military ally of Assad. Russia is still heavily involved in the area, and so is the US and Israel. I think anyone with any intelligence can see where this is headed.
If the globalists are successful in turning Syria into the center of the world by encouraging a Turkish invasion with a US troop pull back from the border, they would be killing multiple birds with one stone.
They get a renewed rationale for wider US military involvement within the year. They get increased economic uncertainty as major powers fight over the dynamics of the region. They get a scapegoat for the crash of the Everything Bubble as the potential for wider economic or kinetic war rises. They get a scapegoat in Donald Trump and his conservative supporters, who will not only take the blame for the economic crisis, but also any tragedy that befalls the Kurds. And finally, they get a rationale for the end of NATO, which would be the next step in ending the old western world order.
This clears the path for the introduction of a fully global and completely centralized new world order; a world without economic or national borders in which the elites govern openly rather than from behind the curtain.
One “mistake” (or false flag) could ignite a conflagration between the nations involved. This is why the EU, the Russians, the Israelis and Trump all suddenly care so much about the Kurdish plight. They CREATED the Kurdish plight, and now they are going to use it to turn Syria into a massive powder keg. Syria is an artificially manufactured “linchpin”, as DARPA would call it. It is designed to provide catastrophe while maintaining plausible deniability for the establishment. Trump’s actions in Syria may seem random, but they make perfect sense when we understand that he is serving a greater agenda. The US “withdrawal” is not a withdrawal, it is a prelude to a bigger conflict which benefits the globalist cabal.
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Ovidio Guzman Lopez, son of drug boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman,
Mexico’s botched mission to capture an alleged drug-peddling son of narcotics kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán started with an arrest warrant from a federal judge in Washington, DC, his lawyer told The Post on Friday.
Eight people were killed when Mexican agents stormed a home in the country’s drug-infested Sinaloa state Thursday with an arrest warrant for Ovidio Guzman Lopez but abandoned the job when they were outgunned by cartel gunmen.
Lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman, who represented Lopez’s infamous kingpin father, confirmed to The Post that the warrant came out of DC — although he said details of what went down afterward are still murky.
“It’s unclear what exactly happened,” he said, but “Ovidio is safe and not in custody.
“As soon as the smoke clears, we’ll endeavor to figure out exactly what happened here.”
The Mexican national guard released Lopez following his brief capture when it led to an all-out cartel war — sparking wild gun battles throughout Sinaloa which killed eight people and injured another 21.
Guzman Lopez and his brother Joaquin Guzman Lopez were charged with drug trafficking in the US District Court of Columbia in 2017. The indictment was unsealed in February of this year.
Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said Friday he backed the decision to let Lopez go free, telling reporters it “was made to protect the citizens.”
Mexico’s defense secretary decried the botched operation by the country’s army and national guard, which he said was meant to pave the way for US extradition. He said Mexican cabinet officials were not made aware of it beforehand.
“The group responsible for this action, in eagerness to achieve positive results, acted in a hasty manner, with poor planning,” Secretary of Defense Luis Cresencio Sandoval told reporters in Culiacan on Friday.
In July, a Brooklyn federal judge sentenced El Chapo — the once-powerful leader of the Sinaloa cartel — to life in prison after he was convicted on a slew of drug-trafficking charges.
The following video details the contents of a Department of Defense document entitled “INTERNMENT AND RESETTLEMENT OPERATIONS” or FM 3-39.40. The document is 325 pages long and is signed by JOYCE E. MORROW Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. It was created in 2010 however it has just recently been leaked to the public via the internet and can now be downloaded from multiple sources. In the description below you will find a download link for the document. I encourage you to download it yourself and verify everything that is being said here.
The document outlines military procedures for internment and resettlement of civilians and it describes the layout and administration of interment camps. It clearly states on page 38 that it applies within U.S. territory and specifically addresses the detainment of U.S. citizens as is indicated by the identification procedures for new prisoners on page 146 which states that social security numbers are to be recorded along side their photograph and fingerprints. Included in the list of organizations which may be involved in these internment operations are the Department of Homeland Security, the FEMA, the Department of Defense and the United Nations.
On page 56 the document outlines the responsibilities of Psychological Operations officers within the camps among which it states that a Psyop officer “Develops and executes indoctrination programs to reduce or remove antagonistic attitudes. and Identifies political activists.” On page 281 the document goes into more detail regarding the role Psychological Operations within the camps specifically in regards to pacifying the population and insuring cooperation.
On page 238 it gives the conditions for the use of deadly force in such camps, among the justifications for lethal force it includes to “terminate an active escape attempt”. That point right there should make it clear that these camps are not benevolent disaster relief type facilities.
On page 244 the document calls for the use of snipers during riots to quote “scan a crowd and identify agitators and riot leaders for apprehension and fire lethal rounds if warranted”.
On page 260 it shows the basic layout for a facility focusing on detainment. It is depicted with interrogation areas, tribunal areas and mortuaries. Each detainment facility is designed to hold 4000 prisoners and they are depicted with multiple levels of barbed wire separating compartments within the facilities with a double barbed wire fence enclosing them and 24 guard towers.
On page 261 it depicts the layout for what they call civilian resettlement facilities, which are designed to house 8,000 people. And though it uses the word resettlement the plans show multiple levels of barbed wire dividing the sections of the facility and double barbed wire fencing on the outside as well as 16 guard towers.
On page 262 the layout for facilities designed for what they call non-compliant prisoners is shown. These camps are designed to hold up to 300 prisoners, they have 3 interrogation centers and are guarded by 13 guard towers.
Now if there is any question whether these plans are active or are just theoretical this should settled by the fact that the U.S. army has been running ads for job positions in these camps since 2009 and apparently they are still hiring.
If you look in the description you’ll find all the links you need to verify this information.
It’s important to note here that this document was created in 2010, which was under the Obama administration, and it predates the NDAA of 2012 which authorized military detainment of U.S. citizens. This clearly shows a long term agenda at work.
WHEN LAFARGE, ONE of the world’s leading producers of building materials, acquired a cement plant in the north Syrian town of Jalabiya in 2007, it was with the hope of expanding into the Middle Eastern markets. The French company—which became LafargeHolcim after merging with a Swiss firm in 2015—spent over a billion dollars renovating the factory, one of the largest foreign investments in Syria’s history and, at the time, a notable example of the political rapprochement between the country and France after years of severed diplomatic ties during Jacques Chirac’s presidency. Inaugurated with great pomp in the presence of Eric Chevallier, the French ambassador to Syria, the plant began operations in 2010.
The next year, the country descended into civil war. Other multinationals, such as French oil and gas giant Total, pulled out of Syria to ensure compliance with European sanctions. Lafarge decided to tough it out. Five years later, following revelations by Syrian news site Zaman Al Wasl in February 2016, the French newspaper Le Monde published my investigation showing that, to secure the passage of trucks carrying employees, cement, fuel, and raw materials to and from the factory, the multinational had allegedly paid “taxes” to a number of armed groups from 2013 to 2014, including the Islamic State organization—or ISIS.
Faustian bargains with unsavoury groups aren’t unusual for international companies desperate to keep goods flowing in a conflict (cellphone makers in Africa have been accused of striking deals with armed groups for access to mines). But “L’affaire Lafarge,” as it is known in France, might be one of the rare times when, as the cost of doing business, a corporation found itself indirectly funding international terrorism.
LAFARGE’S TROUBLES IN Syria began in 2013, when armed groups started to close in around the cement plant. Checkpoints appeared on the road connecting the plant to the border town of Kobani, then taken over by Kurdish fighters of People’s Protection Units, the armed wing of Syria’s Democratic Union Party. Raqqa, located less than ninety kilometres from the factory, fell into the hands of rebels of the Free Syrian Army and allied Islamist groups. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took control of the city later that summer; in January 2014, it reached Manbij, a town sixty-five kilometres east of the plant, where most Lafarge employees were housed. The plant was finally evacuated in September 2014, after it was seized by ISIS jihadists.
An independent internal inquiry commissioned by the company found that payments were made through third parties “in order to maintain operations and ensure safe passage of employees and supplies to and from the plant.” Lafarge also made at least one payment to release kidnapped employees, as I reported in Le Monde in June 2016. As a consequence of the inquiry into these allegations, Eric Olsen resigned as chief executive of LafargeHolcim in April 2017. Nine months later, the Paris prosecutor placed Lafarge’s former CEO Bruno Lafont under formal investigation for a terrorist offense—a first for a company listed in the CAC 40, the French stock market index.
While the judicial investigation is still ongoing, Lafarge was indicted last June for financing a terrorist enterprise, endangering lives, and breaching an embargo. In a memorandum to the investigative judges, the initiators of the criminal complaint against Lafarge—Sherpa, a law association devoted to fighting financial crimes; the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights; and eleven former employees—argued that, if the actions committed by ISIS in northeastern Syria between 2012 and 2015 are considered crimes against humanity, then the French company “acted as an accomplice.” According to Sherpa, Lafarge paid out more than $19 million in protection money. Prosecutors are today investigating the possibility that some of that cash may have financed the 2015 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. The “amount and duration” of Lafarge’s payments, according to investigators, likely helped perpetuate ISIS’s existence in Syria, allowing it to “plan and carry out violent operations in the area and abroad, including in France.”
Bruno Pescheux, CEO of Lafarge Cement Syria during the war, admitted that up to $100,000 (US) a month was funnelled to armed groups by go-between Firas Tlas, a Syrian businessman and former shareholder in the plant. Pescheux explained to the judges that Tlass “talked with the rebel factions and paid a small contribution so that our employees [did] not get into trouble at the checkpoints.” The name of “Daesh”—as ISIS is also known—surfaced for the first time on payment lists in November 2013. Pescheux estimated that it would have received around $20,000 (US) per month.
Assessing whether or not Lafarge is guilty of corrupt practices will prove complicated, an employee of an NGO working on these issues explained to me. By international convention, bribery and corruption laws apply primarily to cases involving non-state actors and domestic or foreign public officials. But Lafarge’s payments were not made to members of a state. They were made to armed factions in a context of war and statelessness. “This situation,” said the employee, “bears resemblance to a mafia system where the company is allowed to function in exchange for a percentage paid to an illegal organization with protective functions for the company, in this case armed groups. If we accept this rationale, we could speak of racketeering and Lafarge would seem to be a victim of the system in place.”
The analysis could change if ISIS, which established a caliphate across parts of Iraq and Syria during the years in question, is treated as an entity that intended to function like a state. “ISIS taxes transporters of goods for passing through checkpoints,” explained Wassim Nasr, a journalist specializing in jihadist movements, for the international news channel France 24. “Revenues were managed by Bayt Al-Mal [the Islamic Finance Ministry], which managed the revenues collected or distributed in different provinces of the Islamic State,” said Nasr. Even the dealers Lafarge dealt with in order to buy oil paid a license and taxes to ISIS.
Such confusion is why Lafarge has not yet been prosecuted for bribery. “We could go beyond a legal definition and understand corruption in a broader sense, as breaches of probity requirements in making facilitation payments for instance,” recommends Laurène Bounaud, general delegate at Transparency International, a leading non-governmental anti-corruption organization. It’s a grey area, she suggests, that should be seen as a red flag. “Companies forced to make these payments,” says Bounaud, “should pull out and alert the competent authorities.”
Lafarge didn’t. Its compliance measures—which included a code of conduct warning employees that bribery or corruption could lead to criminal charges or termination—failed to steer the company’s decision-making. “During the war in Syria, Lafarge had internal control systems, such as safety committees that held meetings on a very regular basis. They proved to be ineffective,” says Marie-Laure Guislain, head of litigation at Sherpa. LafargeHolcim, which admitted in a 2017 communiqué that “significant errors of judgement were made that contravened the applicable code of conduct” in Syria, acknowledged the weaknesses in its compliance program and asserted they had been “corrected.”
Two pieces of legislation now exist to help with that vigilance. In December 2016, a law came into effect requiring French companies to evaluate their corruption risks, train employees accordingly, and establish whistleblower mechanisms. The law also created an anti-corruption enforcement agency, the Agence française anticorruption. Non-compliance can now be punishable by fines of up to a million euros.
A second law, adopted in March 2017, is intended to safeguard employees’ lives. It requires large French companies to “map the risks throughout their supply chains and with all of the companies that they directly or indirectly control,” explains Björn Fasterling, head of the accounting, control, and legal affairs department at France’s EDHEC Business School in a post on the NYU Stern School of Business blog. The law threatens severe penalties for a company that fails to take these measures, including civil liability—“which means it could be sued to provide compensation to cover the effect of any harm that would have been prevented by the exercise of due diligence,” explains Anne-Marie Lévesque from Ergon, a consultancy firm with a focus on human rights.
“These two news laws are complementary,” says Bounaud. “They are both based on threefold requirements: risk mapping, regular monitoring, and a whistleblowing policy allowing employees to report on any problems or risks in their company. The novelty is that companies won’t set up these measures out of goodwill. They are legally binding.”
ONE OF THE big unknowns in the Lafarge case is the possible complicity of the French state. Christian Herrault, Lafarge former deputy general operating manager, has claimed that Eric Chevallier, the French Ambassador for Syria, “knew about the racketeering” and said “you should stay; the unrest will not last.” Chevalier said he had “no memory of these meetings” with Herrault.
Did the French government push Lafarge to stay, thinking the crisis would not last? Did it think that Bashar Al-Assad would soon be replaced by the Syrian National Council, which was set up after the uprising against the Assad regime erupted in 2011 and was recognized by President Hollande in November 2012 as “the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people and as future government of a democratic Syria”? Syria specialist Fabrice Balanche said in an interview that “the plant operated in a ‘liberated area,’ which encouraged France to show it could pursue an economic activity.” As possible proof of these aligned interests, shortly after the Islamic State group finally attacked and took control of the Lafarge plant in the fall of 2014, France allegedly asked the US to not bomb the factory. “Rather than suing Lafarge, we should question the politics of France in Syria,” Balanche added.
“This case illustrates the West’s pragmatic blindness. It thought we were dealing with an acceptable opposition, so it was rather less principled about possible breaches of business ethics,” is how a former French diplomat who served in Syria explained it to me. “Also, France closed its embassy in Damascus in early 2012 to denounce the repression of the demonstrations by Al-Assad. Several other European countries followed suit. After that, we had no direct information of what was taking place. We could not rely on the information that came from embassies of EU countries that had stayed, despite regular coordination meetings. There was a minimum of information given and sometimes even misinformation. Lafarge was among key information providers about the situation on the ground,” he added.
Lafarge’s then security chief Jean-Claude Veillard said that he kept the French intelligence services abreast of conditions in the area. He even informed the Directorate of Military Intelligence, which reports directly to the French president. Had he apprised these intelligence services of the payments his employer was making to armed groups controlling the area, including ISIS, to keep the plant running? Veillard replied to the judge that he did not do “any sorting” of the information.
“From the beginning, Lafarge’s cement factory has been a political instrument in French foreign policy toward Syria. It was used by President Nicolas Sarkozy to reinforce the ties between the two countries after the diplomatic freeze imposed by his predecessor and the EU after the assassination of Rafik Hariri,” explained the French diplomat who served in Syria. “During the war, the French government had aligned interests with Lafarge: preserve the assets, having in mind the post-war reconstruction and the future contracts to win in a quasi-monopoly situation,” he added. Pescheux himself hinted that one motive for the illegal payments was the post war need for reconstruction, which the World Bank estimated at up to 200 billion dollars (US). “We thought that, when everything was over,” Pescheux said in 2017, “there would be at least be a cement plant that could provide cement to rebuild Syria.”
Dorothée Myriam Kellou is an award-winning French journalist and filmmaker based in Paris. Her reporting was awarded the TRACE International Prize for Investigative Reporting. She is currently developing Algeria, Out of Place, a documentary about forced resettlement during the Algerian War of Independence.
This essay is featured in Boston Review’s Fall 2018 issue Evil Empire.
Imagine an empire with a massive security sector, one barely accountable to the democratic will. This coercive system, though appearing self-perpetuating, represents an elite echelon’s efforts to protect and consolidate power. It employs so many people that its maintenance and funding is necessary, not because of the dictates of national security, but simply to keep all its workers from becoming “superfluous.” With a repressive apparatus notorious for its abuses, this security sector fosters the very domestic opposition it is designed to combat.
The idea that fundamental differences in approaches to incarceration drove the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union strikes an odd chord from our current vantage point.
This outline, to some readers, may sound similar to the military-industrial complex—and its cognate prison-industrial complex—in the United States today. But this description actually comes from George Kennan’s foundational article “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” which appeared in Foreign Affairs, under the byline X, in 1947. Kennan, perhaps more than anyone else, shaped the rhetoric of the Cold War in a way that made it seem preordained, inevitable. He is most often remembered for calling out the supposedly innate qualities of Russian culture—spiritual deprivation, cynicism, and conformity—upon which communist ideology had been grafted. This combination, he argued, was destined to conflict with the innate qualities of Americanism—its freedom of worship, its emphasis on individuality, and its support of business. But the dominance of the security sector was another persistent motif in Kennan’s work; he dedicated five paragraphs of “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” to the “organs of suppression.” Secret police lurked everywhere, the narrative went, and prisons were the Soviet Union’s primary feature. By 1953, under Joseph Stalin, 2.6 million people were locked up in the gulag and over 3 million more were forcibly resettled— a total of around 3 percent of the population kept under state control. Kennan’s point, like those of other foundational Cold War tracts, was clear: unlike the United States, the Soviet Union was brutally repressive.
The idea that fundamental differences in approaches to incarceration drove the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union strikes an odd chord from our current vantage point. Today 2.3 million people are locked up in the United States, and an additional 4.5 million are on parole or probation, for a total of around 2 percent of the population under state control. While much has been written about how legal changes and racial politics led to the carceral state, it is also helpful to see how Cold War confrontation further contributed to the United States’ own gulag.
In the same year Kennan published as X, the National Security Act created the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Council—the building blocks of the national security state. By 1950, in order to further counter the perceived Soviet threat, a top secret but widely known report argued that a blank check for the permanent war economy was needed to establish an offensive global posture. The report, “United States Objectives and Programs for National Security”—better known as NSC 68—planted the vocabulary that became the Cold War’s discursive kudzu. Though Kennan himself diverged from its predictions, NSC 68 echoed his formulations, contrasting the importance of U.S. “lawfulness” to Soviet expedience and absolutism.
NSC 68 drew much of its rhetorical power from carceral imagery. “The Soviet monolith,” it maintained, “is held together by the iron curtain around it and the iron bars within it, not by any force of natural cohesion.” The United States thus had to embark on a massive “build-up of political, economic, and military strength” to take advantage of the Kremlin’s “greatest vulnerability,” its relationship with the Soviet people. “That relationship,” NSC 68 charged, “is characterized by universal suspicion, fear, and denunciation.” At its core were “intricately devised mechanisms of coercion” from which the Kremlin’s power derived. The report went on to propose that the “artificial mechanisms of unity” of the Soviet police state would crumble if challenged from outside, which is what the cornucopia of U.S. national security spending would do. Though NSC 68 did not make specific recommendations regarding defense expenditures, the Truman administration almost tripled defense spending as a percentage of the gross domestic product between 1950 and 1953 (from 5 to 14.2 percent).
The widely shared images of repression in Soviet society became the preeminent security tools to protect the United States against Soviet expansionism.
The pathway toward the permanent war economy of NSC 68’s vision was not direct. It was contested in Congress and in public opinion. Critics rightly feared the emergence of a “garrison state,” a term that has been largely lost today. The necessary shifts entailed liberals accommodating conservatives. As historian Michael J. Hogan detailed, to find a way for fiscal conservatives to accede to the new appropriations that capital-intensive war-making would require in the atomic age, it was necessary for New Dealers to give up hope for continuously robust social-welfare appropriations. After the issuance of NSC 68, debate in Congress over appropriations taught conservatives to “decouple” the national security state “from the economic and social policies of the New Deal,” according to Hogan. New tax increases would cover the costs of coercion abroad but not of health, education, and welfare at home. The size of the budget for bombers and submarines would continue to increase, but the size of the social wage would not follow suit. New Dealers pushed “security” to the forefront of the national agenda in the first place by insisting that the government could protect citizens from unpredictable risks; now they were trapped in a cage of their own making.
The result was the military-industrial complex, as Dwight Eisenhower called it in his 1961 farewell speech. He wanted to highlight the entanglement of the military, arms manufacturers, and members of Congress, which he felt was imperiling democratic decision-making over the size of the military, its deployments, and its ever-increasing budget. Eisenhower also worried that a tradition of individual liberty would be difficult to reconcile with a national security state. But while his critique and terminology were indeed useful, Eisenhower was concerned only with the threat from abroad, failing entirely to see what the security state was already accomplishing at home.
From the 1940s through the 1960s, figures in the black freedom struggle—from W. E. B. Du Bois to Jack O’Dell—had been highlighting how the national security state’s coercions threatened not just individual freedoms but collective ones. As the United States increasingly accused its own citizens of being subversives, assuming them to be guided by a foreign power, the widely shared images of repression in Soviet society—prisons, exile, staged trials, and the “police apparatus”— became the preeminent security tools to protect the United States against Soviet expansionism. The United States imprisoned communists and black radicals such as Benjamin J. Davis after a series of highly publicized trials. Others, such as Claudia Jones, faced incarceration and then deportation. Reading NSC 68’s invocation of prisons and police as the kernel of the vulnerability of the Iron Curtain, then, it is impossible not to sense the paradox of U.S. global leadership. Emily Rosenberg has called it the “central dilemma” of NSC 68: “how to advocate ‘freedom’ by greatly enlarging the state’s capacity for coercion.”
The goal of the Kennedy administration’s Office of Public Safety was to make police in dozens of countries the preeminent tool in the fight against communist subversion.
The fear of Soviet expansion and the resulting political instability largely outweighed this philosophical question. One of Eisenhower’s own aides, for example, wanted him to emphasize the “worldwide tendency for orderly societies to break down into mob-ridden anarchies.” And it was this concern that became the overriding motivation of the Kennedy administration’s foreign policy. Not three weeks after Eisenhower’s farewell speech, Secretary of State Dean Rusk declared that a “mobile, substantial, and flexible U.S. capability for operations short of general war is essential.” Eisenhower adversary General Maxwell Taylor urged Kennedy to adopt this New Frontier policy, which, in practice, meant a focus on “counterinsurgency,” with police forces as the “first line of defense” against mob-ridden anarchies around the world, particularly those ginned up by subversives.
The Kennedy administration lodged its new police assistance program in the Agency for International Development, calling it the Office of Public Safety. The program, which was overseen directly by high-ranking National Security Council officials, consolidated and funded what had been a sprawling, poorly resourced, and inefficient set of operations to train, equip, and advise police in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The goal was to make police in dozens of countries the preeminent tool in the fight against communist subversion. The Office of Public Safety’s advisors were experienced law enforcement experts, many of whom spent the immediate aftermath of World War II in the occupations in Germany, Italy, Korea, and Japan. After observing authoritarian police and prison systems firsthand, these experts developed a contrasting commitment to political independence of police and aimed to achieve it through more decentralized organizational reform, technical upgrading, and internal discipline. Their goal was to bolster and educate security forces in “developing countries,” and thanks to the constant stream of funding NSC 68 inaugurated, police trainees from other countries quickly learned about “police service under autocratic rule.”
But the effort to reject shadowy secret police—and the subversion model that U.S. national security experts feared the Soviets were exporting—was two-faced. The purpose of public safety assistance, advisors insisted, was to enhance democracy. And they aimed to foster respect for constituted authority among the citizenry by making the police efficient and technically adept. As the Office of Public Safety developed and implemented its curriculum, it bequeathed the most modern forms of U.S. policing to the world. Yet with no trace of irony, these lessons detailed how Soviet secret police sent advisors to “vassal” countries to “pull the strings” of the local security apparatus. Moreover, to ensure the mission stayed on course, a number of authoritarian German and Korean officers, especially those known for their exquisite anticommunism, became key U.S. assets in bolstering the security forces in other countries. It was as if the United States thought that to fight creeping authoritarianism, expert authoritarians had to be on hand.
It was as if the United States thought that to fight creeping authoritarianism, expert authoritarians had to be on hand.
Public safety officers, for example, consistently claimed to teach how not to torture suspects during interrogation. And they introduced new counterterrorism techniques. That meant, by Nixon’s presidency, showing trainees how improvised bombs were built—to demonstrate, they claimed, how to disarm them. But in both these examples, techniques of repression could easily be reverse-engineered. Many of these aid-recipient countries—from Uruguay to the Philippines—went on to practice harsh forms of policing while paramilitary death squads emerged in others, such as Guatemala. The U.S. image of Soviet repression was mirrored in U.S. client states.
To understand how these public safety advisors then advanced punitive modernization and the carceral state at home, we must return again to 1947. At the very moment the National Security Act took effect, another crucial document in the history of U.S. law enforcement emerged. The President’s Committee on Civil Rights had been investigating how law enforcement could safeguard civil rights, especially black civil rights, in the United States. The committee’s report to President Harry Truman, To Secure These Rights, advocated for what Mary Dudziak has labeled “cold war civil rights.” It was necessary to ameliorate racial inequality, this argument went, because the Soviet Union frequently invoked lynching and racial abuses to highlight U.S. hypocrisy.
Although the committee was unflinching in its assessment of how the fundamental civil right to the safety of one’s person had been violated frequently (Japanese, Mexicans, and African Americans, as well as members of minority religions, suffered the most), it also understood these problems of racial injustice to be the effect of white extrajudicial violence and “arbitrary” individual actions by cops, particularly in the South. Its solutions were thus focused on strengthening law enforcement and assuring its adherence to due process and administrative fairness. Similar to Kennan, the committee (and the generation of reformers it influenced) believed it was possible to use the tools of policing and prisons fairly, unlike in the Soviet Union.
Political scientist Naomi Murakawa has shown, however, that by framing the problem as arbitrary and as growing out of lawlessness, the committee effectively ruled out the systematic and legally enshrined character of racial abuse. What made it predictable, rather than arbitrary, was its consistent object: racially subjugated peoples. By diminishing the structural aspects of the abuse of minorities, liberal law enforcement reformers opened the door to a wider misunderstanding of what needed to be reformed. The response the committee endorsed—to enact procedural reforms and modernize law enforcement in the United States—rode the high tide of police professionalization initiatives that would crest in the following decades, and which called for a well-endowed, federally sanctioned anticrime apparatus. As historian Elizabeth Hinton and Murakawa have argued, this effort to reform law enforcement and codify its procedures actually made it more institutionally robust and less forgiving, contributing to the country’s march toward mass incarceration.
U.S. empire abroad found its replica in the War on Crime at home: to break the political syzygy of an authoritarian state apparatus in Sacramento or Saigon, police needed to be technically adept, flush with cash, and insulated from political machinations.
What is less understood, however, is the fundamental mismatch between what reformers and police chiefs imagined reform to look like. For liberal reformers, injustice looked like a lynch mob. For many police experts, steeped in Cold War ideology and trained in counterintelligence, it looked like the Soviet secret police. Mob rule had to be avoided, but so too did centralized authority over police objectives. Underlying reasons for what police did daily, and to whom, was not the concern of either party.
Command-level cops across the United States, after all, were quick to absorb the lessons and perspectives of public safety officers. In policing’s professional literatures, CIA officials published articles on topics such as policing in the Soviet Union, which emphasized the centralized governing hierarchy. The fact that Soviet police at the lowest level enacted the tyranny ordered at the top resonated with a generation of U.S. police reformers who had watched corrupt political machines in U.S. cities be dismantled. Police reformers thus demanded that police answer primarily to their own professional guidelines, free from political interference. In this way, the negative model of the authoritarian state was misleading: it may have prevented centralized dictatorial rule, but it left police power largely insulated. And so Cold War U.S. empire abroad found its replica in the War on Crime at home: to break the political syzygy of an authoritarian state apparatus in Sacramento or Saigon, in Wichita or Tokyo, police needed to be technically adept, flush with cash, and insulated from political machinations.
This cohered in the mid-1960s as rioting in U.S. cities and towns caught police underprepared, and officers beat and killed participants and bystanders alike. High-ranking officials in Washington, D.C., and many state capitals turned to the reform experts most familiar with riot control and street protest: public safety advisors. The 1968 anticrime bill thus followed a familiar Cold War model: it funded new federally coordinated riot-control training programs—training that mimicked what the Office of Public Safety urged overseas—and it authorized the purchase of huge supplies of tear gas as well as other technical instruments, from radios to helicopters to tanks.
A revised approach to riot control was but one result of the War on Crime. With a bureaucratic frame of mind that had its closest analog in the military-industrial complex, the “prison-industrial complex” was born out of its zeal for spending on the penal sector. Strategic planning of the best way to utilize those resources fell second. Moreover, by leaning so heavily on Cold War rationales, elected officials and law enforcement leaders started treating criminals as interchangeable with political subversives, thus eschewing rehabilitation efforts, as Micol Seigel has argued. If criminal propensity was similar to the dedication to a cause that marked political radicalism, rehabilitative efforts were pointless.
In 1969 two special investigations concluded that prisons were already ineffective at rehabilitation. New York researchers declared prisons to be hotbeds of radicalism, “more fertile breeding grounds for crime than the streets.” Federal research findings, endorsed by James V. Bennett, the retired Federal Bureau of Prisons director, were less caustic but corroborated fears of increasing crime due to the failings of prisons. Bennett was a lifelong reformer; earlier in his career, he had advocated for flexibility in sentencing, educational programs for prisoners, and other hallmarks of rehabilitation. But he and his staff also worked closely with the public safety program, advising prisons in Guatemala and Thailand, and he had spent a few years in occupied Germany learning how to dismantle an authoritarian system. Though Bennett continued to push for educational programs, the final recommendation of his investigation was to dedicate greater resources to incarceration, expand the number of guards, and upgrade the training they received.
The effort to reform law enforcement and codify its procedures actually made it more institutionally robust and less forgiving, contributing to the country’s march toward mass incarceration.
The War on Crime was a creature of federalism. Federal appropriations for upgrading police, courts, and prisons came embroidered with a commitment that no usurpation of local authority or discretion would result. Policing remained decentralized. Even when police killed unarmed people during unrest, causing public complaint, police were protected; outrage could be an orchestrated communist plot, the thinking went, intended to take control over law enforcement by undermining its autonomy. In this way, the reform effort preserved the petty despotism of the nightstick and localized tyranny of the police chief that was at the root of the racial crisis. By insulating police from federal oversight or control, while also affording them increased resources, particularly for capital-intensive repressive technologies, the War on Crime allowed the underlying structure of Jim Crow policing to persist.
In the end, U.S. police came to see extreme lawfulness—of which they were the sole arbiter—as the rejoinder to Soviet repressiveness, and a vastly inflated penal system as the bureaucratic shield against subversives on U.S. streets. Yet, seeing where it has gotten us—and what we have sacrificed in the process—it is hard not to compare our current system to “organs of suppression.” The prison-industrial complex of the present is marked by aggressive and technologically advanced policing, brutal conditions of incarceration, civic exclusion, and fiscal penalties that extends far beyond time served. It has metastasized despite crime declining in the same period. Just as key analysts of the impasse between the Eastern bloc and the United States found that repression seemed to persist for its own sake behind the Iron Curtain, Americans might question the purpose of the contemporary criminal justice system at home.
What made the early Cold War vision of Americanism distinct from that of totalitarianism was that the Soviet police answered directly to political leaders, whereas in the United States police had, by midcentury, mostly thrown off the shackles of the political machine that dictated their terms of employment. This independence remains important for democracy. But as crime continues to decline and appropriations for police continue to grow, the question of democratic control over the instruments of public safety becomes urgent, for public safety appears now to be the instrument for the control of democracy. Law enforcement leaders have become, as Kennan claimed they were in Russia, “masters of those whom they were designed to serve.”
Russia agreed to look into the September aerial attack on the Saudi Aramco oil facilities and will condemn whoever was behind it, but will not take sides in the feud between Riyadh and Tehran, President Vladimir Putin says.
Russia treasures its cordial ties with both Iran and Saudi Arabia, and is equally sensitive to each side’s concerns, Putin told reporters from three Arabic-language broadcasters when asked for his take on the recent strike on Riyadh’s oil processing facilities in Abqaiq.
On the one hand, Moscow maintains “close contacts with the leadership of Saudi Arabia, including the Crown Prince [Mohammad bin Salman],” who asked the Russian leader if his country could help establish crucial facts about the incident.
And while Russia is ready to assist the Saudi fact-finding effort, such contribution – as well as friendly relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – will never come at the expense of the long-standing ties with neighboring Iran, “a big country” that “has existed on its territory for thousands of years [and] has its own interests.”
Russia will never be friends with one country against another. We build bilateral relations that rely on positive trends generated by our contacts; we do not build alliances against anyone.
Likewise, Moscow will not take on the “unrewarding” role of a mediator in the Riyadh-Tehran feud, Putin said, adding that the he believes the two nations are capable of solving their disputes without a middleman.
Syrian government forces were poised to enter the northeastern Syrian cities of Kobani and Manbij on Sunday, October 13 after a deal with the Syrian Democratic Forces to fight against Turkey-backed rebels.
Kobani official General Ismet Sheikh Hasan said that Russian and Syrian government troops could enter Kobani and Manbij by Sunday night to help secure the cities from a Turkish incursion.
“We did everything we could,” he said. “We have called upon the West [and] the Arab Union but no one is coming to help, so we have no one other than ourselves to defend [Kobani]. Kurdish youth should come and defend their homes, and people should not abandon their homes – this is our land. It looks like this is the fate of the Kurds, to go through this each time.”
Neither the SDF or Russia have confirmed such an agreement exists.
Syrian state news agency SANA reported that SAA units were moving north to “confront” Turkish forces.
Earlier on Sunday, Turkey said its forces had secured the M4 highway, about 30 km into Syrian territory and a major supply line for the area.
A deal between the SDF, regime and Russia could see the Syrian Arab Army and pro-government militias enter Manbij and Kobani as early as Sunday in a bid to stop the progress of Syrian rebels in the north. Other reports have put the timeline within 48 hours, meaning Turkey-backed forces would have an additional two days to secure their positions, potentially cutting off Manbij from SDF strongholds in the east.
Earlier Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that the Pentagon had received information that the SDF, which it had backed for years in the war against Islamic State, was preparing to strike a deal with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the Russians.
Ankara considers the SDF and its People’s Protection Units (YPG) wing to be an arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey, and Erdogan has for months been threatening to attack northeast Syria.
The Syrian regime and its Russian ally consider all Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, even those not aligned with jihadist groups, to be terrorists.
Fighters backed by Turkey and pro-regime forces had flanked Manbij on Monday before Turkey’s incursion began.
[From Editor-created Syrian Google map below, it is undeniable that both the northern and southern jihadi hideouts are located in the center of US-protected areas. The northern jihadi stronghold is centered around Idlib and Aleppo…the southern jihadi stronghold is centered on illegal US military base built at At-Tanf, Syria and US-protected Rukban refugee camp on Jordan border.]
Acontingent of U.S. Special Forces was caught up in Turkish shelling against U.S.-backed Kurdish positions in northern Syria, days after President Donald Trump told his Turkish counterpart he would withdraw U.S. troops from certain positions in the area. A senior Pentagon official said shelling by the Turkish forces was so heavy that the U.S. personnel considered firing back in self-defense.
Newsweek has learned through both an Iraqi Kurdish intelligence official and the senior Pentagon official that Special Forces operating on Mashtenour hill in the majority-Kurdish city of Kobani fell under artillery fire from Turkish forces conducting their so-called “Operation Peace Spring” against Kurdish fighters backed by the U.S. but considered terrorist organizations by Turkey. No injuries have been reported.
Instead of returning fire, the Special Forces withdrew once the shelling had ceased. Newsweek previously reported Wednesday that the current rules of engagement for U.S. forces continue to be centered around self-defense and that no order has been issued by the Pentagon for a complete withdrawal from Syria.
The Pentagon official said that Turkish forces should be aware of U.S. positions “down to the grid.” The official could not specify the exact number of personnel present, but indicated they were “small numbers below company level,” so somewhere between 15 and 100 troops. Newsweek has reached out to the Pentagon for comment on the situation.
The Turkish Defense Ministry issued a statement in response to Newsweek’s report, denying that its military had targeted U.S. forces. The ministry affirmed that “Turkish border outposts south of Suruc came under Dochka and mortar fire from the hills located approximately 1,000 meters southwest of a U.S. observation post.”
“In self-defense, reciprocal fire was opened on the terrorist positions of the attack. Turkey did not open fire at the U.S. observation post in any way,” the statement added. “All precautions were taken prior to opening fire in order to prevent any harm to the U.S. base. As a precaution, we ceased fire upon receiving information from the U.S. We firmly reject the claim that U.S. or Coalition forces were fired upon.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had long warned he would storm the border to establish a so-called “safe zone” and, after the White House announced Sunday that U.S. troops would stand aside, he launched the operation earlier this week.
In its Sunday statement, the White House had said that U.S. troops “will no longer be in the immediate area” as Turkey and allied Syrian rebels commenced their assault. During Friday’s press conference, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army General Mark Milley said that U.S. personnel were “still co-located” save for “two small outposts” near the border with Turkey. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said 50 Special Forces personnel had been repositioned ahead of the Turkish and allied Syrian rebel assault.
The U.S. first partnered with the largely Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces in 2015 to battle the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) as the country shifted its support away from an increasingly Islamist opposition seeking the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The group proved effective in beating back the jihadis, but the U.S.’ decision was opposed by Turkey, a NATO member that has faced off with a decades-long insurgency by Kurdish separatists.
Turkey remains the last major sponsor of the Syrian opposition, made up largely of members of the country’s Syrian Arab majority, and has mobilized up to a thousand fighters from these forces, along with hundreds of its own troops, in order to seize territory currently administered by a majority-Kurdish autonomous administration that spans the country’s north and east. This self-governing entity has not been recognized by Ankara nor the central government in Damascus, which has secured much of the rest of the country’s territory with the help of Russia, Iran and allied militias.
The Pentagon has repeatedly urged Turkey to halt its operations and, though he initially signaled support for Erdogan’s plans following their phone call Sunday, Trump has since threatened to sanction the Turkish economy if the country’s military action did anything “off limits.” While the president has repeatedly called for an end to the costly, “endless wars” launched by his predecessors in the Middle East and beyond, he also warned he may send more troops to Syria if the situation was not resolved.
On Thursday, Trump tweeted that he had “one of three choices: Send in thousands of troops and win Militarily, hit Turkey very hard Financially and with Sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds!”
0830 UTC Oct 11 UPDATE: As usual when something happens in Middle East waters, the story is changing with each passing hour. Now it’s probably SABITI tanker, suffering explosions and fire, but it may well be SINOPA, nevertheless. Now it’s rockets that hit tanker, maybe 2, maybe 5 of them. At least 2 cargo tanks are breached, according to latest.
According to AIS, SINOPA was hit, not SABITI. No AIS from SINOPA so far, while SABITI latest AIS timed 0800 UTC Oct 11, showed her under way heading south, speed 8.6 knots, not far from SINOPA.
The only sure thing in these waters, it seems, is the sun, rising east and going down west, the rest is always a guess. Maybe this or maybe that, maybe happened maybe not, maybe it’s just maybe or maybe it’s more or less probably.
SABITI (IMO 9172040, dwt 149999, built 1999, flag Iran, owner NITC) story is similar to that of SINOPA –,AIS history deleted, last port of call Evyap Turkey in April, resurfaced on Oct 11, near SINOPA. The ship probably (maybe) switched AIS on to smokescreen accident and disorient media.
Crude oil tanker SINOPA suffered explosion in cargo tanks area, followed by fire, in reportedly, early morning Oct 11, while sailing in Red sea SW of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Understood from Iranian sources, hull was breached, oil is leaking from cargo tank or tanks into the sea. Tanker was sailing to Suez, most probably from Iranian oil terminal in Persian Gulf. Tanker history track is missing, with Dalian recorded as last port of call, in April this year. After that date, no AIS records are visible. AIS reappeared on Oct 8 in Red sea, so SINOPA is one of those ghost NITC tankers, dodging the US sanctions.
Latest AIS signal was recorded at around 1330 UTC Oct 10, tanker was moving at 8.6 knots speed in Suez Canal direction.
Crude oil tanker SINOPA, IMO 9172038, dwt 159691, built 1999, flag Iran, owner NITC.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi announced today that the Iranian oil tanker “Sabiti” has been targeted twice in the eastern Red Sea.
“Investigations by the National Iranian Oil Tankers Company (NIOC) show that the tanker was damaged when it was targeted twice in half an hour near the corridor in the east of the Red Sea,” Mousavi said in a statement.
He pointed out that “during the past few months there have been other acts of sabotage against Iranian oil tankers in the Red Sea, where investigations are currently being carried out on those involved in these incidents.”
Moussaoui expressed concern over the pollution caused by the oil spill from the damaged tanker tanks.
He pointed out that the investigation will continue on the details and elements behind the serious incident and will be announced after reaching the results.
An Iranian tanker belonging to the National Oil Tankers Company (NOC) was hit earlier in the day by an explosion that hit the structure of the tanker, 60 miles from the Saudi port of Jeddah.
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The long-awaited operation launched by Turkey into northeastern Syria extended far beyond what was initially expected by military observers who predicted Ankara would likely embark on limited action.
In the first hours of Operation Peace Spring, Turkish air raids across the border reached as far as Qamishli in the east and further west of Kobane.
Mutlu Civiroglu, a Washington-based Middle East analyst, told Al Jazeera the scale of the attack surprised many analysts.
“They’ve already hit 300km length and 50km depth, almost all major cities are hit,” Civiroglu said.
Soner Cagaptay, Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s research programme director, told Al Jazeera Turkey’s assault at this point was focused on Arab-majority towns.
“I think that’s quite a smart choice for Ankara because of the fact that Turkish troops will be more welcome in Arab-majority areas, given how friendly Turkey has been towards the Arab population,” Cagaptay said.
He said Turkey will continue to drive a wedge between Kurdish-controlled territory as a strategy to undermine the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and weaken the political authority that controls the border region with Turkey.
The SDF is spearheaded by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers to be linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has operated inside Turkey for decades. The PKK has been branded a “terrorist” organisation by Turkey and several other countries.
Turkish security analyst and former special forces soldier Necdet Ozcelik told Al Jazeera he expects the first phase of Turkey’s operation will only last about 10 days, or a couple of weeks maximum, with the goal to take control of the area between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain.
The offensive will also involve thousands of Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels providing ground support for Turkish commandos and its regular soldiers.
Civiroglu said two scenarios were likely to unfold: Turkey intensifying ground operations, or the operation being halted because of condemnation from the international community.
“Trump is under pressure, the Turkish government is under pressure, the UN Security Council will meet today … The world is not buying arguments of the Turkish government,” he said.
“The SDF always wanted good relations [with Turkey] … Kurdish sympathy is very strong, that’s why there’s strong diplomatic efforts to put an end to this.”
The possibility remains that Syrian government forces of President Bashar al-Assad may try to capture the main city of Manbij, if the United States decides to withdraw its troops from there without giving early warning to the Turks.
“In this case, the Syrian army may try to capture Manbij before the Turkish forces or the FSA,” Ozcelik said.
“We might be seeing some sort of tension, or maybe limited confrontation, between the FSA elements and the Assad regime forces in Manbij area, but not in the eastern part.”
The SDF responded to Turkey’s military action with artillery attacks and rockets fired into Turkish territory.
SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said on Twitter the Kurdish fighters would not allow Turkish troops to advance further. “We will use all our possibilities against Turkish aggression,” he said.
Ozcelik said the Kurds were no match for the advancing Turkish-led forces.
“The YPG elements are composed of a lot of PKK ideology people, and they forcibly recruited many people who did not have serious military experience,” he said. “I’m expecting a lot of defections from the YPG side, so the Turkish military is going to take advantage of that.”
Robert Wesley of the Terrorism Research Initiative told Al Jazeera that Turkey will also suffer setbacks considering how vast the area is that it wants to control.
“It will require huge amounts of direct military engagement from the Turkish side,” Wesley said.
“The use of the FSA, that will also be limited [because] these groups are not really well-trained. They don’t have a strong track record with more sophisticated defences.”
Turkey may not have the appetite for sustaining significant casualties, Wesley said, which a serious military encounter with the SDF would necessitate.
“I don’t think either side is particularly well prepared for the engagement,” he said.
The biggest challenge for the SDF is not having a weapon system that can counter Turkish air attacks, Civiroglu said.
“[Even so] they have said they will defend themselves until the end,” he noted.
Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned Ankara after the Turkish operation began to stress that Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity be respected.
The Kremlin said it would not interfere further in Syria after years of supporting Assad’s forces against rebel groups, but cautioned Turkey not to take any steps that would destabilise the region.
Cagaptay said Moscow has no choice but to back Turkey’s move. “The most Russia will do is to voice support behind closed doors, even though they may publicly criticise the operation,” he said.
He said the Kremlin may even be welcoming Ankara’s military action.
“The [Syrian] regime and Russia consider Turkey a threat, so by provoking Turkey to attack Kurds really Russia is hitting two birds with one,” Cagaptay said. “Hitting Kurds, trying to make Kurds dependent on Russia, at the same time allow Turkey to suppress the Kurds, not allow them to make gains.”
Even if Turkey is successful in securing its so-called “safe-zone” to return about two million Syrian refugees, there will be major challenges ahead, observers said.
The complex issue of containing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) fighters who are still active in the region must be addressed by Turkey.
As seen by the suicide attack claimed by the armed group in Raqqa on an SDF intelligence base, killing 13 people, ISIL may be defeated militarily but sleeper cells are still prevalent.
“It’s unfamiliar territory for Turkey,” Civiroglu said. “It’s Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Christians, and Yazidis of the region [who] fought these people.”
“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces . . . having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”—The administration’s announcement
Turkey’s President Erdogan announced the launch of military Operation Peace Spring, supported by Syrian rebels and opposition forces against terrorists, in northern Syria where Ankara aims to establish a safe zone and relocate Syrian refugees.
October 9, Wednesday
Turkish military targets Tal Abyad
Turkish military is using howitzers on targets in Tal Abyad town as part of Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria, Anadolu Agency reported.
Tal Abyad is 100 kilometres from Ras al Ayn in northeastern Syria, near the border with Turkey.
Turkey launched military Operation Peace Spring on Wednesday, with the first air strikes hitting the border town of Ras al Ayn.
Turkish troops and the newly-regrouped Syrian National Army (SNA) began Operation Peace Spring in northeastern Syria, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.
The operation aims to protect Syria’s territorial integrity and save the people of the region from the grip of terror, Erdogan tweeted at the start of military action in Ras al Ayn in northeastern Syria.
The Turkish president said the operation will neutralise terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone that will facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their homes.
“We will preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists,” Erdogan said.
#OperationPeaceSpring will neutralize terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes.
We will preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists.
Tens of thousands of Syrian fighters have been mobilised to take part in a Turkish offensive that appeared imminent against PKK/YPG militants in Syria, spokesman for Anwar al Haq, a small faction within the Free Syrian Army said.
The Syrian fighters, most of them from northwestern areas backed by Turkey since previous offensives in 2016 and 2018, were gathered in a former refugee camp in the Turkish border town of Akcakale.
They belong to FSA, a coalition of groups backed by Ankara, which is now regrouped as the SNA.
At least 18,000 fighters are due to participate in the first stage of the Turkish offensive, according to Abdelrahman Ghazi Dadeh.
He said 8,000 would target the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad and 10,000 the town of Ras al Ain, Dadeh told journalists in Akcakale.
An undetermined number of additional fighters were also expected to be mobilised for an assault on Kobane.
All three towns in northeastern Syria are controlled by YPG.
According to Dadeh, FSA officers accompanied by Turkish soldiers carried out reconnaissance along the border on Wednesday in preparation for the assault.
Trump says moved troops out ahead of Turkish operation
US President Donald Trump said his country’s troops should never have been in the Middle East and the US moved “our 50 soldiers out” ahead of imminent Turkish operation in northern Syria.
Trump, however, said Turkey must take over captured Daesh members “that Europe refused to have returned.”
“The stupid endless wars, for us, are ending!”
Trump said the US has spent $8 trillion “fighting and policing in the Middle East.”
“We went to war under a false and now disproven premise – weapons of mass destruction. There were none. Now we are slowly and carefully bringing our great soldiers and military home.”
Erdogan talks to Putin over Turkish operation
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin discussed in a phone call Turkey’s planned operation into northeastern Syria, the Turkish presidency said, as Ankara gears to launch its cross-border offensive.
In the call, Erdogan told Putin that the Turkish incursion will contribute to peace and stability in the country and open the way for the political process to resolve the conflict, the presidency said in a statement.
PKK/YPG ‘wants to divide Syria’ – Turkey’s FM
Turkey will inform all relevant countries, including the Syrian regime, about its planned offensive into northeastern Syria, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
He said, “There’s a terror organisation on our southern border. This poses serious threats to our security. We often confiscate American weapons inside our own borders. Those were given to the YPG.”
He said the YPG and the PKK are the same terrorists who also oppress the local people.
“Over 300,000 Syrian Kurds were sent to Turkey as refugees because they disagreed with them,” he said.
“This is a separatist terrorist organisation and wants to divide Syria, while we support Syria’s territorial integrity. So, we’ve decided to start an operation against them,” Cavusoglu said.
Turkey, US discuss steps for Syria ‘safe zone’
Senior Turkish and US officials discussed measures for the formation of a “safe zone” in northeastern Syria and possible steps after a Turkish offensive in the region, broadcaster NTV said, as Ankara poised to launch its operation.
Ibrahim Kalin, an aide to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien in a phone call that Turkey’s operation aimed to clear its border of militants and to ensure the return of Syrian refugees, NTV said.
‘Rally behind Turkey’ – Top Erdogan aide tells global community
Turkish military forces, together with the recently branded Syrian National Army will cross the Syrian border “shortly,” President Erdogan’s communications director said early on Wednesday, as a surprise withdrawal of US troops made way for the Turkish operation.
In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Turkish Presidency Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said the US has borne the brunt of the anti-Daesh campaign for a long while.
“Turkey, which has NATO’s second-largest army, is willing and able to take the lead now and drive it home, bringing millions of refugees back to Syria in the process,” Altun wrote.
“At this critical juncture, the international community must rally behind Turkey’s rebuilding and stabilisation efforts,” he added.
“The Turkish military, together with the Free Syrian Army, will cross the Turkish-Syrian border shortly,” he said.
Syria opposition coalition throws support behind Turkey
The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces said it is ready to fight against terrorism with Turkey.
The coalition late on Tuesday reaffirmed its commitment to fighting terrorism in all its forms and cooperating with its partners to defeat terrorist organisations.
The umbrella organisation, also known as the Syrian National Coalition, “is ready to combat terror in cooperation and joint action with the brothers in Turkey so as to safeguard the national interests of the Syrian people with all their Arab, Kurd, Turkmen, Assyrian, and other components,” it said in a statement.
“The coalition hopes these efforts will succeed in finding a solution that will ensure the defeat of the PYD [YPG] militia and the trans-border terror groups that turned this region into a hotbed of chaos, violence, and terrorism,” it added.
U.S. troops start pullout from along Turkey’s border in Syria
Syria’s Kurds accused the U.S. of turning its back on its allies and risking gains made in the fight against the Islamic State group as American troops began pulling back on Monday from positions in northeastern Syria ahead of an expected Turkish assault.
Syrian Kurdish fighters warned that Washington’s abrupt decision to stand aside — announced by the White House late Sunday — will overturn years of achievements in the battle against ISIS militants. In a strongly-worded statement, they accused Washington of failing to abide by its commitments to its key allies.
Trump tweeted on Monday, “WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out.” In the series of tweets, Trump also blamed his European allies for treating the U.S. as “suckers” for not taking ISIS prisoners.
….including capturing thousands of ISIS fighters, mostly from Europe. But Europe did not want them back, they said you keep them USA! I said “NO, we did you a great favor and now you want us to hold them in U.S. prisons at tremendous cost. They are yours for trials.” They…..
There was no immediate confirmation from the White House of U.S. troops clearing positions in areas in northern Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, also said American troops have started pulling back, and a video posted by a Kurdish news agency showed a convoy of American armored vehicles apparently heading away from the border area of Tal Abyad.
Erdogan spoke hours after the White House said U.S. forces in northeastern Syria will move aside and clear the way for an expected Turkish assault — raising concerns about the fate of Kurdish fighters who fought alongside American forces in the yearslong battle to defeat the Islamic State group.
“Following our conversation last night (with Trump), the withdrawal has started as expressed by the president,” the Turkish leader said.
Erdogan did not elaborate on the planned Turkish incursion but said Turkey was determined to halt what it perceives as threats from the Syrian Kurdish fighters.
The White House, in a statement that was silent on the fate of Kurds, said U.S. troops “will not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area,” in northern Syria.
There are about 1,000 U.S. troops in northern Syria, and a senior U.S. official said they will pull back from the area — and potentially depart the country entirely, should widespread fighting break out between Turkish and Kurdish forces.
The White House statement on Sunday also said Turkey will take custody of foreign fighters captured in the U.S.-led campaign against IS who have been held by the Kurdish forces.
The Kurds have custody of thousands of captured Islamic State militants. They include about 2,500 highly dangerous foreign fighters from Europe and elsewhere — their native countries have been reluctant to take them back — and about 10,000 captured fighters from Syria and Iraq.
Kurdish officials have expressed concerns of a possible breakout by IS prisoners in case of fighting in the area.
Asked about the White House comments, Erdogan said that both Turkey and the U.S. were working separately to see “what steps can be taken” so that foreign fighters in prison can be repatriated.
“This is being worked on,” he said.
Erdogan has threatened for months to launch the military operation across the border. He views the Syria Kurdish forces as terrorists and a threat to his country as Ankara has struggled with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.
In the U.S., Republicans and Democrats have warned that allowing the Turkish attack could lead to a massacre of the Kurds and send a troubling message to American allies across the globe.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, as the Kurdish-led force is known, said the American pullout began first from areas along the Syria-Turkey border. The Syrian Kurdish Hawar news agency and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also say American troops were evacuating positions near the towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad on Monday.
“The American forces did not abide by their commitments and withdrew their forces along the border with Turkey,” the SDF said in its statement. “The Turkish military operation in northern and eastern Syria will have a huge negative effect on our war against” IS, it added.
Mustafa Bali, the SDF spokesman, tweeted that his group is not expecting the U.S. to protect northeastern Syria. “But people here are owed an explanation regarding the security mechanism deal and destruction of fortifications,” he said.
In an agreement between Ankara and Washington, joint U.S and Turkish aerial and ground patrols had started in a security zone that covers over 125 kilometers (78 miles) along the Turkey-Syria border between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn. The SDF had removed fortification from the areas, considered a threat by Turkey, and withdrawn with heavy weapons.
But Turkey and the U.S. have disagreed over the depth of the zone, with Ankara seeking to also have its troops monitor a stretch of territory between 30 and 40 kilometers deep (19 to 25 miles). Erdogan has continued to threaten an attack.
The Kurdish-led fighters have been the main U.S.-backed force in Syria in the fight against IS and in March, the group captured the last sliver of land held by the extremists, marking the end of the so-called caliphate that was declared by IS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014.
“We will not hesitate for a moment in defending our people” against Turkish troops, the Syrian Kurdish force said, adding that it has lost 11,000 fighters in the war against IS in Syria.
It said IS sleeper cells are already plotting to break free some 12,000 militants detained by Syrian Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria.
The Kurdish fighters also control the al-Hol camp, home to more than 70,000 people, including at least 9,000 foreigners, mostly wives and children of IS fighters.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that Ankara is determined to ensure the survival and security of Turkey “by clearing the region from terrorists. We will contribute to peace, peace and stability in Syria.”
A Syrian Kurdish woman waves the flag of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) during a demonstration against Turkish threats in the town of Ras al-Ain in Syria’s Hasake, near the Turkish border, October 6, 2019. Photo: Delil Souleiman / AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Condemning the US decision to withdraw troops from northeast Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said Monday they would defend the Kurdish-majority region, known to Kurds as Rojava, “at all costs”.
The pledge comes hours after US President Donald Trump gave his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan the greenlight to launch an air and ground operation east of the Euphrates River – controlled by the US-backed SDF.
Mustafa Bali, a senior SDF official, accused US forces of failing to fulfil their responsibilities as allies in the war against the Islamic State group (ISIS), “leaving the area to turn into a war zone”.
The SDF was the main coalition partner in the ground war against ISIS, responsible for retaking the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa in 2017 and the last ISIS holdout of Baghouz in March this year. The SDF lost more than 10,000 fighters.
“The SDF is determined to defend NE Syria at all costs,” Bali said.
“US forces on the ground showed us that this is not how they value friendship & alliance. However, the decision by the @POTUS is about to ruin the trust and cooperation between the SDF and US built during the fight against ISIS. Alliances are built on mutual trust,” Bali tweeted.
“We are not expecting the US to protect NE #Syria. But people here are owed an explanation regarding security mechanism deal, destruction of fortifications and failure of US to fulfill their commitments.”
In an English-language press statement released on Monday, the SDF said: “Despite all the efforts we did to avoid conflict, our commitment to the security mechanism agreement and taking necessary steps on our end, the US forces did not carry out their responsibilities and have withdrawn from border areas with Turkey.”
“Turkey’s unprovoked attack on our areas will have a negative impact on our fight against ISIS and the stability and peace we have created in the region in the recent years. As the Syrian Democratic Forces, we are determined to defend our land at all costs. We call on our Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, and Syriac people to strengthen their unity and stand by the SDF in defense of their land,” the statement added.
Kurdish forces had agreed to dismantle their land defenses along the border after Washington and Ankara agreed to set up a so-called ‘safe zone’.
Erdogan had lobbied to create a 32 kilometer-deep buffer zone, where he hoped to resettle up to three million Syrian refugees currently hosted by Turkey. The Kurds have resisted the idea, calling for a shallower zone and for the resettlement to be limited only to those native to the region.
The SDF did however agree to move their defensive positions nine to 15 kilometers from the border.
Now that the SDF has lost its defensive assets along the border, resentment toward the US is running high.
“The [White House] statement tonight on Syria after Trump spoke with Erdogan demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of anything happening on the ground. The ‘United States’ is not holding any ISIS detainees. They are all being held by the SDF, which Trump just served up to Turkey,” tweeted Brett McGurk, the former special presidential envoy to the global coalition to defeat ISIS.
The White House statement issued late on Sunday indicates Turkey will be placed in charge of ISIS prisoners and that American force will stand aside to allow the Turkish operation to take place.
“Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial caliphate by the United States,” the office of the White House Press Secretary said.
“The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS (Islamic State) territorial “Caliphate,” will no longer be in the immediate area.
The SDF affiliated news agency Hawarnews published a video of American forces withdrawing from the border area.
Ibrahim Kalin, the Turkish presidential spokesperson, tweeted that the invasion of northeast Syria would serve two purposes – to eliminate members of the “terrorist group”, referring to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), and clear a safe border area that would allow safe return of Syrian refugees.
“Turkey supports Syria’s territorial integrity and political unity. Has no interest in occupation or changing demographics. The PKK/YPG did that to northeast Syria. Time to correct it. Turkey fights against a terrorist organization that has also killed and oppressed the Kurds,” he added.
Same old, same old. The “disgruntled citizens” (TM) take to the street to demonstrate against an oppressive government. How do you know the Sorosian Western warmongering globalists are involved? Please read the following report [aka blatant propaganda] from the BBC [Biggest and Best Calumny] and I will have further comments to follow:
“Iraq protests: Death toll nears 100 as unrest enters fifth day
The death toll from ongoing anti-government protests in Iraq has risen to almost 100, according to the country’s parliamentary human rights commission.
The unrest entered its fifth day on Saturday, with five people killed in the latest clashes in Baghdad.
The security forces are again reported to have used live rounds.
Demonstrators say they are taking a stand against unemployment, poor public services and corruption.
The protests are seen as the first major challenge to Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi’s fragile government, nearly a year since he came to power.
The authorities have been trying to control the protests through curfews and a near-total internet blackout.
An emergency session of parliament failed to go ahead on Saturday afternoon.
What’s the latest?
The daytime curfew in Baghdad was lifted on Saturday, and smaller groups of protesters began to renew their action.
The city’s Tahrir Square has been the focal point of protests, but it was blocked on Saturday, according to local news agencies.
The violence has also affected majority Shia Muslim areas in the south, including Amara, Diwaniya and Hilla. A number of deaths were reported on Friday in the southern city of Nasiriya, about 320km (200 miles) away.
A total of 540 protesters have been arrested, of whom nearly 200 remain in custody, the human rights commission said.
It also said more than 3,000 people had been injured.
What’s been the reaction?
On Friday, Prime Minister Mahdi vowed to respond to protesters’ concerns but warned there was no “magic solution” to Iraq’s problems.
He said he had given his full backing to security forces, insisting they were abiding by “international standards” in dealing with protesters.
Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, urged the government to respond to the demands for reform, saying it had “not answered the demands of the people to fight corruption or achieved anything on the ground”.
The UN and US have expressed concern over the violence, and urged the Iraqi authorities to exercise restraint.
Why is this happening now?
Corruption, unemployment and poor public services are at the heart of the discontent faced by young Iraqis today. The unrest began spontaneously with no formal leadership in mostly Shia areas in the south, and quickly spread.
Iraq has the world’s fourth-largest reserves of oil, but 22.5% of its population of 40 million were living on less than $1.90 (£1.53) a day in 2014, according to the World Bank. One in six households has experienced some form of food insecurity.
The unemployment rate was 7.9% last year, but among young people it was double that. And almost 17% of the economically active population is underemployed…..
The country is also struggling to recover after a brutal war against the Islamic State group, which seized control of large swathes of the north and west in 2014.
Living conditions remain dire in many conflict-affected areas, with insufficient services.”
Greencrow says: Read the above report carefully. It’s as if the brutal US/UK/NATO war against Iraq in the early 2000’s had never happened. It’s never mentioned as a possible cause or contributing factor of the poverty [in an “oil rich” country] unemployment and lack of leadership in the country. No. The Iraqis brought this all on themselves. Or, more specifically, the Shia Iraqis.
Americans, British and their NATO vassals bombed the country to smithereens with radioactive [depleted uranium] bombs…thus polluting the air, soil and water for millennia. Targeted assassinations of Iraqi leaders, scientists and intellectuals by Mossad thugs took place under the cover of the wartime chaos.
A huge embassy [the biggest foreign embassy ever built in the history of the world] was set up by the Americans in central Baghdad [“The Green Zone”] This “embassy” is actually a military base, staffed with stay-behind American soldiers to rule the country under cover of a pliable Iraqi puppet leader/government. But something happened on the way to the usual circus “destroyed vassal state”.
The Cheney/Bush US government that carried out the heinous attack and destruction of Iraq under the massive lie “Weapons of Mass Destruction” made a number of ethnocentric/racist errors. First, they thought that all Iraqis were the same. They never took into account the Sunni/Shia religious divide within the country that had been a fact of life for centuries. Helloowww!?
Prior to the American/NATO invasion, Saddam Hussein [a Sunni] was the American puppet-du-jour. Once the Americans killed him and replaced him with a leader from the far more numerous Shia…[tactical error #1] then their problems controlling Iraq really began.
The Shia are a muslim religious sect that spans the Middle East from Iran [where it is the national religion] across Iraq and beyond. The Shia, particularly in Iran, have been offering their considerable military, political power and support to their fellow Shia in Iraq. That’s what the above colour revolution is meant to rectify. The new Iraqi leader was not “toting that barge and lifting that bale” enough for American/UK/NATO liking. He was, in particular, refusing to sanction USrael attacks on Syria from Iraqi soil.
So, now the USraelis are back to Square One in Iraq. They need to oust a recalcitrant Iraqi leader, even if it means reducing the slowly recovering country to ruins again. The only problem with that strategy is…the Iraqis and indeed all the indigenous peoples of the Middle East are so much wiser now than they were in the early 2000’s. They know that proxies and phony “Colour Revolution” uprisings are the name of the game for the West. They have formed strategic military alliances with the Russians and others. The Iranians, in particular, know that if they don’t support the neighbouring Iraqi co-religionists in their efforts to kick out the squatters…they will be next…so they’re eager to provide support.
For, as George W. Bush once astutely [sarc] said: “Fool me once, shame on….? You Can’t Get Fooled Again!
A deadly opening attack. Nearly untraceable, ruthless proxies spreading chaos on multiple continents. Costly miscalculations. And thousands — perhaps hundreds of thousands — killed in a conflict that would dwarf the war in Iraq.
Welcome to the US-Iran war, which has the potential to be one of the worst conflicts in history.
Washington and Tehran remain locked in a months-long standoff with no end in sight. The US has imposed crushing sanctions on Iran’s economy over its support for terrorism and its growing missile program, among other things, after withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal last year; Iran has fought back by violating parts of the nuclear agreement and downing an American military drone.
To hear President Donald Trump tell it, that last incident brought the US within 10 minutes of launching warplanes and dropping bombs on Iran. Had Trump gone through with the planned strike, it’s possible both nations would now be engaged in a much more violent, much bloodier struggle.
Importantly, both country’s leaders say they don’t want a war. But the possibility of one breaking out anyway shouldn’t be discounted, especially since an Iranian insult directed at Trump last month led him to threaten the Islamic Republic’s “obliteration” for an attack on “anything American.” In other words, Tehran doesn’t have to kill any US troops, diplomats, or citizens to warrant a military response — it just has to try.
….Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry & Obama!
Which means the standstill between the US and Iran teeters on a knife edge, and it won’t take much to knock it off. So to understand how bad it could get, I asked eight current and former White House, Pentagon, and intelligence officials, as well as Middle East experts, how a war between the US and Iran might play out.
The bottom line: It would be hell on earth.
“This would be a violent convulsion similar to chaos of the Arab Spring inflicted on the region for years,” said Ilan Goldenberg, the Defense Department’s Iran team chief from 2009 to 2012, with the potential for it to get “so much worse than Iraq.”
Iranian forces could bomb an American oil tanker traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for the global energy trade aggressively patrolled by Tehran’s forces, causing loss of life or a catastrophic oil spill. The country’s skillful hackers could launch a major cyberattack on regional allies like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.
That last option is particularly likely, experts say. After all, Iran bombed US Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 and killed more than 600 US troops during the Iraq War. Taking this step may seem extreme, but “Iran could convince itself that it could do this,” Goldenberg, now at the Center for a New American Security think tank in Washington, told me.
At that point, it’d be nearly impossible for the Trump administration not to respond in kind. The recommendations given to the president would correspond to whatever action Iran took.
If Tehran destroyed an oil tanker, killing people and causing an oil spill, the US might destroy some of Iran’s ships. If Iran took out another US military drone, the US might take out some of Iran’s air defenses. And if Iranian-backed militants killed Americans in Iraq, then US troops stationed there could retaliate, killing militia fighters and targeting their bases of operation in return. The US could even bomb certain training grounds inside Iran.
It’s at this point that both sides would need to communicate their red lines to each other and how not to cross them. The problem is there are no direct channels between the two countries and they don’t particularly trust each other. So the situation could easily spiral out of control.
Messaging “is often more important than physical action,” Jasmine El-Gamal, formerly a Middle East adviser at the Pentagon, told me. “Action without corresponding messaging, public or private, could most certainly lead to escalation because the other side is free to interpret the action as they wish.”
Which means the initial tit-for-tat would serve as the precursor to much more bloodshed.
“What are we going to be wrong about?”
You may have heard the phrase “the fog of war.” It refers to how hard it is for opposing sides to know what’s going on in the heat of battle. It’s particularly difficult when they don’t talk to one another, as is the case with the US and Iran.
Which means that the way the US and Iran interpret each other’s next moves would mainly come down to guesswork.
Eric Brewer, who spent years in the intelligence community before joining Trump’s National Security Council to work on Iran, told me that’s when the Pentagon and other parts of the government rely heavily on their best-laid plans.
The problem, he noted, is that wars rarely play out as even the smartest officials think they will. A guiding question for him, then, is “what are we going to be wrong about?”
Here’s one scenario in which the US might get something wrong — and open up the door to chaos: After America launches its first set of retaliatory strikes, Iran decides to scatter its missiles to different parts of the country.
Now the Trump administration has to figure out why Iran did that. Some people in the administration might think it’s because Tehran plans to attack US embassies, troops, or allies in the region and is moving its missiles into position to do so. Others might believe that it was merely for defensive reasons, with Iran essentially trying to protect its missile arsenal from being taken out by future US strikes.
Without a clear answer, which interpretation wins out comes down to which camp in the Trump administration is the most persuasive. And if the camp that believes Iran is about to launch missile strikes wins, they could convince the president to take preemptive action against Iran.
That could be a good thing if they were right; after all, they’d have made sure Iran couldn’t carry out those planned attacks. But what if they were wrong? What if the other camp guessed correctly that Iran was merely moving its missiles around because it was scared the US would strike once more? In that case, the US would have bombed Iran again, this time for essentially no reason — thus looking like the aggressor.
That could cause Iran to retaliate with a bigger attack, setting off a spiral that could end in full-scale war.
Tehran could just as easily read that buildup as preparation for a US invasion. If that’s the case, Iranian forces could choose to strike first in an effort to complicate the perceived incursion.
Of course, cooler heads could prevail in those moments. But experts say the political pressures on both Washington and Tehran not to be attacked first — and not to be embarrassed or look weak — might be too strong for the countries’ leaders to ignore.
“Unintended civilian casualties or other collateral damage is always possible, and it is not clear that this administration — or any administration — understands what Iran’s own red lines are,” El-Gamal, now at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, told me. “As such, the greatest risk of a full-blown war comes from one side miscalculating the other’s tolerance” for conflict.
If that proves true, and the US and Iran officially escalate their fighting to more than a few one-off attacks, it’s war.
What the US-Iran war might look like
At this point, it’s hard to be very precise about a hypothetical full-blown conflict. We know it would feature a series of moves and countermoves, we know it’d be very messy and confusing, and we know it’d be extremely deadly.
But unlike with the path to war, it’s less useful to offer a play-by-play of what could happen. So with that in mind, it’s better to look at what the US and Iranian war plans would likely be — to better understand the devastation each could exact.
How the US might try to win the war
The US strategy would almost certainly involve using overwhelming air and naval power to beat Iran into submission early on. “You don’t poke the beehive, you take the whole thing down,” Goldenberg said.
The US military would bomb Iranian ships, parked warplanes, missile sites, nuclear facilities, and training grounds, as well as launch cyberattacks on much of the country’s military infrastructure. The goal would be to degrade Iran’s conventional forces within the first few days and weeks, making it even harder for Tehran to resist American strength.
That plan definitely makes sense as an opening salvo, experts say, but it will come nowhere close to winning the war.
“It’s very unlikely that the Iranians would capitulate,” Michael Hanna, a Middle East expert at the Century Foundation in New York, told me. “It’s almost impossible to imagine that a massive air campaign will produce the desired result. It’s only going to produce escalation, not surrender.”
It won’t help that a sustained barrage of airstrikes will likely lead to hundreds of Iranians dead, among them innocent civilians. That, among other things, could galvanize Iranian society against the US and put it firmly behind the regime, even though it has in many ways treated the population horribly over decades in power.
There’s another risk: A 2002 war game showed that Iran could sink an American ship and kill US sailors, even though the US Navy is far more powerful. If the Islamic Republic’s forces succeeded in doing that, it could provide a searing image that could serve as a propaganda coup for the Iranians. Washington won’t garner the same amount of enthusiasm for destroying Iranian warships — that’s what’s supposed to happen.
Trump has already signaled he doesn’t want to send ground troops into Iran or even spend a long time fighting the country. That tracks with his own inclinations to keep the US out of foreign wars, particularly in the Middle East. But with hawkish aides at his side, like National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, there’s a chance they could convince him not to look weak and to go all-in and grasp victory.
But the options facing the president at that point will be extremely problematic, experts say.
The riskiest one — by far — would be to invade Iran. The logistics alone boggle the mind, and any attempt to try it would be seen from miles away. “There’s no surprise invasion of Iran,” Brewer, who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, told me.
The geography is also treacherous. It has small mountain ranges along some of its borders. Entering from the Afghanistan side in the east would mean traversing two deserts. Trying to get in from the west could also prove difficult even with Turkey — a NATO ally — as a bordering nation. After all, Ankara wouldn’t let the US use Turkey to invade Iraq, and its relations with Washington have only soured since.
It’s for these reasons that the private intelligence firm Stratfor called Iran a “fortress” back in 2011. If Trump chose to launch an incursion, he’d likely need around 1.6 million troops to take control of the capital and country, a force so big it would overwhelm America’s ability to host them in regional bases. By contrast, America never had more than 180,000 service members in Iraq.
And there’s the human cost. A US-Iran war would likely lead to thousands or hundreds of thousands of dead. Trying to forcibly remove the country’s leadership, experts say, might drive that total into the millions.
That helps explain why nations in the region hope they won’t see a fight. Goldenberg, who traveled last month to meet with officials in the Gulf, said that none of them wanted a US-Iran war. European nations will also worry greatly about millions of refugees streaming into the continent, which would put immense pressure on governments already dealing with the fallout of the Syrian refugee crisis. Israel also would worry about Iranian proxies targeting it (more on that below).
Meanwhile, countries like Russia and China — both friendly to Iran — would try to curtail the fighting and exploit it at the same time, the Century Foundation’s Hanna told me. China depends heavily on its goods traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, so it would probably call for calm and for Tehran not to close down the waterway. Russia would likely demand restraint as well, but use the opportunity to solidify its ties with the Islamic Republic.
And since both countries have veto power on the UN Security Council, they could ruin any political legitimacy for the war that the US may aim to gain through that body.
The hope for the Trump administration would therefore be that the conflict ends soon after the opening salvos begin. If it doesn’t, and Iran resists, all that’d really be left are a slew of bad options to make a horrid situation much, much worse.
How Iran might try to win the war
Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart left his post as the No. 2 at US Cyber Command earlier this year, ending a decorated four-decade career. Toward the end of it, he spent his time at the forefront of the military intelligence and cybersecurity communities.
If anyone has the most up-to-date information on how Iran may fight the US, then, it’s Stewart.
“The Iranian strategy would be to avoid, where possible, direct conventional force-on-force operations,” he wrote for the Cipher Brief on July 2. “They would attempt to impose cost on a global scale, striking at US interests through cyber operations and targeted terrorism with the intent of expanding the conflict, while encouraging the international community to restrain America’s actions.”
In other words, Tehran can’t match Washington’s firepower. But it can spread chaos in the Middle East and around the world, hoping that a war-weary US public, an intervention-skeptical president, and an angered international community cause America to stand down.
That may seem like a huge task — and it is — but experts believe the Islamic Republic has the capability, knowhow, and will to pull off such an ambitious campaign. “The Iranians can escalate the situation in a lot of different ways and in a lot of different places,” Hanna told me. “They have the capacity to do a lot of damage.”
Take what it could do in the Middle East. Iran’s vast network of proxies and elite units — like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — could be activated to kill American troops, diplomats, and citizens throughout the region. US troops in Syria are poorly defended and have little support, making them easy targets, experts say. America also has thousands of civilians, troops, and contractors in Iraq, many of whom work in areas near where Iranian militias operate within the country.
US allies would also be prime targets. Hezbollah, an Iran-backed terrorist group in Lebanon, might attack Israel with rockets and start its own brutal fight. We’ve heard this story before: In 2006, they battled in a month-long war where the militant group fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel, and Israeli forces fired around 7,000 bombs and missiles into Lebanon.
About 160 Israelis troops and civilians died, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and about 1,100 Lebanese — most of them civilians — perished, per Human Rights Watch, a US-headquartered advocacy organization. It also reports about 4,400 Lebanese were injured, and around 1 million people were displaced.
But that’s not all. Iran could encourage terrorist organizations or other proxies to strike inside Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf nations. Its support for Houthis rebels in Yemen would mostly certainly increase, offering them more weapons and funds to attack Saudi Arabia’s airports, military bases, and energy plants.
Experts note that the Islamic Republic surely has sleeper cells in Europe and Latin America, and they could resurface in dramatic and violent ways. In 1994, for example, Iranian-linked terrorists bombed the hub of the Jewish community in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and injuring roughly 300 more.
That remains the largest terrorist attack in Latin America’s history, and the possibility for an even bigger one exists. Last year, Argentina arrested two men suspected of having ties with Hezbollah.
But Chris Musselman, formerly the National Security Council’s counterterrorism director under Trump, told me the US and its allies may have the most trouble containing the proxy swarm in Western Africa.
“We could see a conflict that spread quickly to places the US may not be able to protect people, and it’s a fight that we are grossly unprepared for,” he told me, adding that there’s a strong Hezbollah presence in the region and American embassy security there isn’t great. Making matters worse, he continued, the US isn’t particularly good at collecting intelligence there, meaning some militants could operate relatively under the radar.
“This isn’t really a law enforcement function that US can take on a global scale,” he said. It would require that countries unwittingly hosting proxies to lead on defeating the Iranian-linked fighters, with US support when needed.
The chaos would also extend into the cyber realm. Iran is a major threat to the US in cyberspace. Starting in 2011, Iran attacked more than 40 American banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. The attack made it so the banks had trouble serving its customers and customers had trouble using the bank’s services.
In 2012, Iran released malware into the networks of Saudi Aramco, a major oil company, which erased documents, emails, and other files on around 75 percent of the company’s computers — replacing them with an image of a burning American flag.
In the middle of a war, one could imagine Tehran’s hackers wreaking even more havoc.
“I would expect them to have begun selected targeting through socially-engineered phishing activities focused on the oil and gas sector, the financial sector and the electric power grid in that order,” Stewart wrote. “There may be instances now where they already have some persistent access. If they do, I expect they would use it, or risk losing the access and employ that capability early in the escalation of the crisis.”
“When you combine this increase with past destructive attacks launched by Iranian-linked actors, we’re concerned enough about the potential for new destructive attacks to continue sounding the alarm,” Christopher Krebs, a top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, told Foreign Policy on July 1.
All of this — proxies striking around the world, cyberattacks on enterprise — would happen while Iran continued to resist conventional American forces.
In the Strait of Hormuz, for instance, Iranian sailors could use speedboats to place bombs on oil tankers or place mines in the water to destroy US warships. The Islamic Republic’s submarines would also play a huge part in trying to sink an American vessel. And the nation’s anti-ship missiles and drones could prove constant and deadly nuisances.
Should US troops try to enter Iranian territory on land, Iranian ground forces would also push back on them fiercely using insurgent-like tactics while the US painfully marches toward Tehran.
Put together, Brewer notes succinctly, a US-Iran war would be “a nasty, brutal fight.”
Aftermath: “The worst-case scenarios here are quite serious”
Imagine, as we already have, that the earlier stages of strife escalate to a major war. That’s already bad enough. But assume for a moment not only that the fighting takes place, but that the US does the unlikely and near impossible: It invades and overthrows the Iranian regime (which National Security Adviser Bolton, at least, has openly called for in the past).
If that happens, it’s worth keeping two things in mind.
First, experts say upward of a million people — troops from both sides as well as Iranian men, women, and children, and American diplomats and contractors — likely will have died by that point. Cities will burn and smolder. Those who survived the conflict will mainly live in a state of economic devastation for years and some, perhaps, will pick up arms and form insurgent groups to fight the invading US force.
Second, power abhors a vacuum. With no entrenched regime in place, multiple authority figures from Iran’s clerical and military circles, among others, will jockey for control. Those sides could split into violent factions, initiating a civil war that would bring more carnage to the country. Millions more refugees might flock out of the country, overwhelming already taxed nations nearby, and ungoverned pockets will give terrorist groups new safe havens from which to operate.
Iran would be on the verge of being a failed state, if it wasn’t already by that point, and the US would be the main reason why. To turn the tide, America may feel compelled to help rebuild the country at the cost of billions of dollars, years of effort, and likely more dead. It could also choose to withdraw, leaving behind a gaping wound in the center of the Middle East.
In some ways, then, what comes after the war could be worse than the war itself. It should therefore not be lost on anyone: A US-Iran war would be a bloody hell during and after the fighting. It’s a good thing neither Trump nor Iran’s leadership currently wants a conflict. But if they change their minds, only carnage follows.
“The worst-case scenarios here are quite serious,” Hanna told me.
Supporters of the Houthis participate in a march to mark the 5th anniversary of the Houthis’ control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on 21 September 2019 [Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency]
The Saudi-led coalition fighting against Yemen’s Houthis has dismissed claims made by the movement that it captured thousands of troops fighting on behalf of Saudi Arabia during a cross border raid in the Najran province which allegedly took place in August – although news outlets reported the incident as having taken place last week.
At a press conference yesterday, Saudi coalition spokesperson, Colonel Turki Al-Mali denounced the claims were “theatrical” and part of “attempts to mislead” the international and regional media, describing it as a “disinformation campaign”.
Al-Malki asserted that in fact the Houthis had been repelled by coalition forces along the Saudi-Yemen border and that over 1,500 Houthi fighters had been killed over the past few weeks.
The coalition aired its footage purportedly showing air raids on Houthi targets in the Kitaf district in the group’s stronghold of Saada province.
The press conference coincided with the Houthis announcing that they will be releasing 350 prisoners, including three Saudis, as part of a UN supervised peace initiative.
Footage from the Houthi raid is still circulating on social media amid growing concerns over Saudi Arabia’s ability to defend itself especially after the attacks on its Aramco oil facility in the middle of September.
The Houthi claims come nearly two years after a senior US military adviser publicly highlighted worryingly high casualty rates and poor training and sustainment practices within Saudi Arabia’s National Guard.