The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) decided on October 3 that it does have jurisdiction to hear cases against legal persons. However, member of tribunal Judge Walid Akoum objected to the decision because it allows for the prosecution of Lebanese political parties.
Old habits die hard and the STL was unable to change its old ways or deviate from the path that the rulers of the United Nations Security Council designed for it. An appeals panel issued a decision so dangerous that it prompted one of the members of the panel, Judge Akoum, to dissent (then sign it). But he did register his reservations, warning: “The present proceedings are already delicate. To this we now add a decision that potentially permits contempt charges to be brought against political parties, Lebanese institutions, associations or any other actors that are recognized as legal persons. In my view, there is no reason to do so.”
Akoum’s statement and the panel’s decision yesterday are in relation to the prosecution of Al-Akhbar newspaper and Al-Jadeed TV as well as the two colleagues, Ibrahim al-Amin and Karma al-Khayat on charges of contempt of court. The charges were brought against them for publishing information about secret witnesses on whose testimonies the prosecution relied to issue indictments.
The STL’s Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri had issued a decision on July 24 stating that the Tribunal prosecutes individuals, not legal persons (corporations, institutions, political parties, states, entities…), therefore concluding that the STL has no personal jurisdiction to prosecute Al-Jadeed TV. He decided to proceed with the prosecution against Khayat, but not the company for which she works.
Lettieri’s decision constituted a positive development in the Tribunal’s track record of problematic and politicized decisions. However, the appeals panel consisting of the presiding judge, Janet Nosworthy, and members Judge Akoum and Judge Ivana Hrdlickova – Judge Rapporteur – reversed this decision. It expanded, once again, the jurisdiction of the tribunal, reiterating that it is not restricted to the prosecution of individuals accused with assassinating former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, but includes the prosecution of legal persons as well.
What Akoum talked about goes beyond the prosecution of Al-Jadeed TV now and Al-Akhbar in the coming weeks and months. It also goes beyond talks of freedom of opinion and expression and of violating Lebanese sovereignty. It primarily has to do with the process of promoting the Tribunal even before the decision to establish it was issued in 2007 by claiming that it will not accuse states, political parties or institutions, rather its authority is restricted to the prosecution of individuals.
The political translation of yesterday’s decision is that the Tribunal can now prosecute Hezbollah and not just certain members within the party.
Clashes took place in eastern Lebanon on Sunday afternoon, as a group of militants attacked a Hezbollah checkpoint, the Lebanese National News Agency reported.
There were conflicting media reports on Sunday evening over the number of wounded and killed in the attack in the outskirts of Britel, in the Baalbek region.
According to the NNA, there were several casualties on the side of the armed militants.
News channel LBCI, which identified the militant gunmen as members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, said there were injuries on both sides, while radio station Sawt Lubnaan said at least two Hezbollah fighters had been killed.
Sawt Lubnaan also reported that the army had not intervened until late, and that the clashes had relatively subsided by 5:00 pm.
The NNA also reported clashes outside of Yuneen, and the sound of rockets or bombs near some villages east of Baalbek.
Eve’s Thoughts | October 3, 2014
One month ago I came to Beirut the capital of Lebanon. Here and all over the country, where ever you go, you constantly meet Syrian refugees as well as Iraqis.
Lebanon a country with a population of only 4 and a half million native citizens has taken in about 1.2 Million Syrian refugees and the number is growing still. Already since the beginning of the second Gulf War countless Iraqi refugees have entered the country fleeing violence, chaos and destruction at home. While many of these Iraqi refugees have sought and found asylum in Western countries, there are still an estimated 100,000 Iraqi refugees inside Lebanon, most of them are unregistered and without legal rights.
These enormous numbers of refugees have had a large impact on Lebanese economic conditions. Rents for working class housing have sky-rocketed, since the refugees now, according to some Lebanese friends, rent all the available spaces, with six or more people occupying a single room paying several times the rent that has been asked of Lebanese tenants before the Syrian civil war. At the same time wages have fallen drastically, since the the refugees are ready to work for far lower pay.
This, however, is not the only reason why there also more and more hostile feelings against the refugees in this country. Sunni refugees are often suspected by both Christian and Shiite Lebanese of sympathizing with or even supporting the radical Islamists, like ISIS which is called the Da’esh here or the Al Nusra front or other Al Qaeda affiliated groups.
Public anger has then increased enormously after the Da’esh had, in a cross-border raid, taken over the Lebanese village of Arsal, which also houses a large camp for Syrian refugees and the local army station. 29 soldiers and policemen were captured, some of the Sunni captives were released, while those of other sects and religions are still kept as hostages.
Two of the captives so far have been murdered by beheading. Although the first soldier murdered was a Sunni man, there are still great fears of the public outrage that the murders might lead to sectarian violence.
But this is exactly what nobody wants here in Lebanon the long decades of civil war are still a recent and horrifying memory. And therefore great efforts are made both by individuals as well as by political parties and groups to diffuse sectarian distrust and fear which might lead to hatred and violence.
An example of these strenuous efforts are those of the parents of the murdered soldiers as reported about the family of Abbas Medlej, a Shiite family:
The family of the Lebanese soldier who was executed by ISIS Saturday called for unity against takfiri groups, saying citizens need to support the state and the Army, not slip into civil strife.
“Our choice remains as is, Lebanon a country of coexistence for all its components,” said the statement by the family of Abbas Medlej Saturday night, appealing for calm.
“The terrorist act that killed our son Abbas is a crime against all Lebanese; Shiites, Sunnis, Christians and Druze.”
The Medlej family called for Lebanese to prevent “takfiris from penetrating into our national fabric,” and thus stop them from achieving their goal of division among the Lebanese…
Similarly the family of the other executed soldier, Ali Al-Sayed, a Sunni, as reported by Lebanese News :
In a bid to challenge rising sectarian tensions, the families of the two Lebanese soldiers executed by ISIS joined together in prayer Friday.
The family of Ali Al-Sayed traveled from north Lebanon to the Al-Ansar, near Baalbek, to offer condolences to the relatives of Abbas Medlej.
Medlej and Sayed were both kidnapped by ISIS during the Arsal clashes last month and were later beheaded by the fundamentalist group.
The two families, one Sunni and one Shiite, gathered for a joint prayer at the village’s mosque led by the Baalbek and Hermal Mufti Sheikh Bakr al-Rifai, who stressed on the importance of “Muslim unity and coexistence.”
And then there are the statements of religious Hezbollah leaders like the Head of Hezbollah’s religious committee, Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek, who, along with Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan and a delegation from Hezbollah, visited the Baalbek town of Al-Ansar to offer condolences to the relatives of Lebanese Armed Forces soldier Abbas Medlej:
Sheikh Yazbek told LBCI that martyrs Ali Al-Sayyed and Abbas Medlej represent the entire Lebanese nation, stressing that Lebanese authorities should exert more efforts to face terrorism.
Sheikh Yazbel also stated that terrorism does not differentiate between Shiites, Sunnis, and Christians, urging Lebanese citizens to unite their efforts in order to face this threat.
Hezbollah, as both a political party and a Shiite militia, has before been considered not a friend but competition to the Lebanese army. But in spite of everything the Lebanese people of all creeds and political sides try to do, the country isn’t safe.
There are forces at work, which do not originate in Lebanon, forces which do their utmost to inflame tensions and in doing so to create conditions for a new civil war.
The Lebanese daily The Daily Star writes in its English edition on September 25:
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: There are reports that ISIS is looking to create trouble and instability via the sleeper cells it is believed to have implanted across the country.
Lebanese security sources said that ISIS was trying to create strife in areas in Lebanon’s north, south and the Bekaa Valley in order to undermine the country’s stability.
The starting point of this plan was the five-day clashes in Arsal, which have since been followed by sporadic incidents in north Lebanon such as gunmen opening fire on a Lebanese Army position Tuesday, leading to the death of soldier Mohammad Khaled al-Hussein…
As Islamist militants fighting in Syria search for different ways to get hold of supplies needed in the ongoing war there, Lebanese political factions have been forced to mobilize to keep pace with the fast-moving developments.
For the first time in a long time, the various Lebanese security bodies have decided to join efforts in their fight against terrorism.
This has been made all the more urgent since senior security sources revealed that ISIS has been intensifying its efforts to create pockets of support across the country…
The security authorities have warned that ISIS and the Lebanese branches of the Nusra Front and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades have united in order to establish a haven in the border area stretching from the north through the Bekaa Valley to the Shebaa farms in the south.
According to reports, if ISIS is to conduct attacks in these areas, they will be led by a figure known as Sheikh Abu Hasan al-Ramlawi.
Ramlawi – who goes by a nom du guerre – is a Palestinian who holds a Jordanian passport. Security forces marked him as an important figure because he used to mobilize Islamists in Deraa in southern Syria, before moving to an area closer to Lebanon.
Ramlawi is believed to have moved toward the Syrian part of the Golan Heights and Shebaa until he reached the area’s Lebanese Sunni villages, where he has reportedly been working on forming armed groups.
As a result of the sensitive location of this area, Hezbollah is believed to be monitoring the situation closely.
There are fears that Israel might try to take advantage of these developments to target Hezbollah. Some even believe that Ramlawi may have been coordinating with Israeli secret service agency Mossad in order to manipulate events in Syria.
Such reports pushed Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah to give a speech Tuesday emphasizing the party’s position on the war against terrorism, while rejecting Lebanon’s participation in an international anti- ISIS coalition. Nasrallah also called on the Lebanese government to negotiate from a position of strength with the Islamist militants from ISIS and Nusra Front who are holding at least 21 soldiers and policemen…
But even the travesty of the kidnappings seems to pale in comparison to dramatic developments predicted to be on the horizon.
In a statement, Sheikh Sirajuddine Zureiqat, a spokesman of Al-Qaeda-affiliated group the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, said he would be coming to Beirut soon. This statement was dismissed by Nasrallah in his speech.
Zureiqat is believed to now be with the Lebanese captives, which if true would be a dangerous indicator that the Nusra Front, ISIS and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades are starting to unify within Lebanon.
The threat posed by ISIS’ alleged sleeper cells is being taken sufficiently seriously that it prompted Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt to make a tour around Wadi al-Taym – a predominantly Druze area very close to the Syrian border – over the weekend.
The move comes as the Druze community is reporting feeling directly threatened by these extremists groups. As the area that the groups are believed to be interested in contains large numbers of Druze, it is natural to fear that the Druze would be displaced were the groups to take over. Therefore the targeting of the Druze in Shebaa is being prepared for.
The Lebanese government also senses the danger that the country is in, and is fully aware of the complications ahead. One senior political source compared the expected turmoil to the aftermath of Israel’s invasion in the summer of 1982.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam wants to get through the crisis with as little fallout as possible, and he is currently in New York working on ensuring Lebanon has a safety net amid the regional turmoil.
From Syrians, both Sunni Muslim and Christian, that I met here in Beirut and during my one-week stay Syria I have heard nearly the same words again and again in helpless sighs: “We are like pawns, who are used in a game by outside powers who play with us. But we do the suffering and dying.”
The Lebanese are very close to feeling the same helplessness, being tossed around by ruthless forces in their power games, forces which have no regard for the livelihood, the safety, the dignity and the lives of most human beings, forces who are ready to go over mountains of dead bodies to reach their aims.
In an interview published Friday, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz addressed the prospect of a future war with Hezbollah by threatening to “take Lebanon and knock it back 70 or 80 years, in all areas.”
Discussing how the next war would play out, Gantz also stated that it was possible the Israeli army would “need to capture Lebanese territory.”
In a separate interview also published today, Gantz claimed Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah understands that Israel “know[s] to do in Lebanon what we did in Gaza”.
According to the UN, during ‘Operation Protective Edge’ the Israeli military killed around 1,500 civilians, including more than 500 children. More than 11,000 civilians were injured, and some 60,000 housing units destroyed or damaged.
This US-engineered Coalition is in for some surprises. With few common goals, it has thrust itself into battle against the most determined players in the region and beyond.
The airwaves are still heaving with spin two days after US airstrikes against Syria.
Undoubtedly the attacks were timed to occur on the eve of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, so ‘Coalition’ partners could cluster behind the decision to bomb a sovereign state, uninvited.
The irony, of course, is that they are doing so at the UN – the global political body that pledges to uphold international law, peace and stability, and the sanctity of the nation-state unit.
The goal this week will be to keep the ‘momentum’ on a ‘narrative’ until it sinks in.
On day one, heads of state from Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, the UK and France were paraded onto the podium to drum in the urgency of American strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Jabhat al-Nusra and other militant groups inside Syria.
Every American official – past and present – in the White House rolodex was hooked up to a microphone to deliver canned sound bites and drive home those ‘messages.’ In between, video-game-quality footage of US strikes hitting their targets was aired on the hour; clips of sleek fighter jets refueling midair and the lone Arab female fighter pilot were dropped calculatingly into social media networks.
The global crew of journalists that descends annually on the UN for this star-studded political event, enthused over US President Barak Obama’s ability to forge a coalition that included five Arab Sunni states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain and the UAE.
Few mentioned that these partners are a mere fig leaf for Obama, providing his Syria campaign with Arab and Muslim legitimacy where he otherwise would have none. Not that any of these five monarchies enjoy ‘legitimacy’ in their own kingdoms – kings and emirs aren’t elected after all – and two of these Wahhabi states are directly responsible for the growth and proliferation of the Wahhabi-style extremism targeted by US missiles.
Even fewer spent time dissecting the legality of US attacks on Syria or on details of the US ‘mission’ – as in, “what next?”
But with a mission this crippled at the outset, it didn’t take long for an alternative view to peek through the thick media fog.
On the ground in Syria, dead civilians – some of them children killed by US bombs – muddied the perfect script. Confused Syrian rebels – many who had called for foreign intervention to help crush the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – demanded to know how these airstrikes were meant to help them.
Sunni Arabs would be radicalized by these strikes, they warned, as ideologically sympathetic citizens of the Arab coalition states took to their information channels and swore revenge for airstrikes against ISIL and al-Nusra.
The Syrian government, for the most part, remained mute – whether to save face or because they could ‘smell’ the gains coming. Contrary to Washington’s prevailing narrative, privately the story was that the US had informed the Assad government of both the timing and targets of the attacks in advance.
Sources say that the US even provided ‘guarantees’ that no Syrian military or government interests would be targeted. A Reuters exclusive claiming that the US went so far as to provide assurances to Iran, suggests this version is closer to the truth. When US airstrikes against Syria were on the table a year ago, the various parties went through a similar game of footsies. Last September, the Americans backed off – allegedly because of communications from their adversaries that even a single US missile would trigger a warfront against Israel. This time, Washington needed to know that scenario was not going to be activated, and this week they offered the necessary guarantees to ensure it.
Although the Russians and Iranians have publicly lashed out at the illegality of US strikes, they do not seem too worried. Both know – like the Syrian government – that these air attacks could be a net gain for their ‘Axis.’
Firstly, the United States is now doing some useful heavy-lifting for Assad, at no real cost to him. The Syrian armed forces have spent little time on the ISIL threat because their focus has traditionally been on protecting their interests in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Hama – and the countryside in these areas – as well as towns and cities around the Lebanese and Jordanian borders. That changed when ISIL staged successful attacks on Mosul and created new geopolitical urgency for Assad’s allies – which triggered some major Syrian strikes against ISIL targets.
But to continue along this path, the Syrians would have to divert energy and resources from key battles, and so the American strikes have provided a convenient solution for the time being.
Secondly, the Syrians have spent three years unsuccessfully pushing their narrative that the terrorism threat they face internally is going to become a regional and global problem. The US campaign is a Godsend in this respect – Obama has managed to get the whole world singing from the same hymn sheet in just two months, including, and this is important, the three states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – most instrumental in financing, weaponizing and assisting ISIL and other extremist militias inside Syria.
Syria, Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and a host of like-minded emerging powers are pleased about this new laser focus on jihadi terror and for the accompanying resource shift to address the problem.
Thirdly, the US has now been placed in the hot seat and will be expected to match words with action. For three years, Washington has overlooked and even encouraged illegal and dangerous behaviors from its regional Sunni allies – all in service of defeating Assad. With all eyes on America and expectations that Obama will fail in his War on Terror just like his predecessors, the US is going to have to pull some impressive tricks from its sleeves.
Ideally, these would include the shutting down of key border crossings (Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon); punishing financiers of terror and inhibiting the flow of funds and assistance from Washington’s regional allies; cutting off key revenue streams; tightening immigration policies to stem the flow of foreign fighters; disrupting communications networks of targeted terrorist groups; broader intelligence sharing with all regional players; and empowering existing armies and allied militias inside the ‘chaos zone’ to lead and execute ground operations.
Thus far, there are signs that some of these things are already happening, with possibly more to come.
Now for the fun part. The Syrians, Iranians and Russians do not fundamentally trust Washington or its intentions. The suspicion is that the US is on another one of its regime-change missions, displaying its usual rogue-state behavior by violating the territorial integrity of a sovereign state under false pretenses, and that it will shortly revert to targeting the Syrian government.
While they can see clear gains from the current level of US intervention – as distasteful as they find it – they are watching carefully as events unfold.
If there is the slightest deviation from the ‘guarantees’ provided by the US, this trio has plenty of room to maneuver. Iran, for one, has dallied with the Americans in both Iraq and Afghanistan and they know how to cause some pain where it counts. The Russians, for that matter, have many playgrounds in which to thwart US ambitions – most urgently in Ukraine and in Afghanistan, from which the US hopes to withdraw billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment by the end of 2014.
All understand that Washington has just assumed a risky public posture and that many, many things can go wrong. The Sunni Arab fig leaf can disappear in a nano-second if domestic pressures mount or revenge attacks take place internally. Information could leak about continued assistance to terrorist militias from one or more of its coalition partners – a huge embarrassment for Washington and its wobbly Coalition. ISIL will almost certainly act against coalition partner soft-targets, like carrying out further kidnappings and executions. Continued airstrikes will almost definitely result in a growing civilian casualty count, turning those ‘hearts and minds’ to stone. Syrian rebels could swiftly turn against the US intervention and radicalize further. Massive displacement caused by airstrikes could exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. And as in all other past US military War-on-Terror adventures, terrorism could thrive and proliferate in quantum leaps.
As Moscow-based political analyst Vladimir Frolov noted to the Washington Post : “The United States has underestimated the complexity of the situation before, so let’s just wait until they run into problems.”
The idea that US military engagement could continue for the long-term is unlikely given the myriad things that can go wrong fast. Obama is going to be reluctant to have his last two years in office defined by the hazardous Syrian conflict – after all, he was to be the president who extracted America from unessential wars.
But the most compelling reason that this Coalition will not pass the first hurdle is that its key members have entirely different ambitions and strategic targets.
Over a decade ago, these US-engineered coalitions were wealthier, less-burdened and shared common goals. Today, many of the coalition members face domestic economic and political uncertainties – and several states are directly responsible for giving rise to ISIL. How can the Coalition fight ISIL and support it, all at once?
What’s missing is a formula, a strategy, a unified worldview that can be equally as determined as the ideological adversary it faces.
Down the road, we will discover that the only coalition able and willing to fight extremism does indeed come from inside the region, but importantly, from within the conflict zone itself: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. For starters, they are utterly vested in the outcome of their efforts – and would lead with political solutions alongside military ones. Those elusive boots-on-the-ground that everyone is seeking? They live it. Pit that group against Obama’s Coalition-of-the-Clueless any day and you know which side would win handily.
The question is, can this Coalition stomach a solution it is working so hard to avoid? Will it partner with vital regional players that were foes only a few months ago? It is doubtful. That would require a worldview shift that Washington is still too irrational to embrace.
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Nasrallah speaks on July 25, 2014, in the southern suburbs of Beirut. (Photo: Al-Akhbar – Haitham Moussawi)
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday said his group could never be a part of an anti-ISIS coalition led by “the source” of all terrorism in the world, the United States.
The international coalition, which began illegal airstrikes in Syria for the first time Tuesday, was created to safeguard the interests of the United States, not to fight terrorism as it claims, Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
“In our opinion, America is the mother of terrorism, the source of terrorism. If there is terrorism anywhere in the world, look at America,” the secretary-general said.
“America provides complete support for the terrorism of the Zionist state. It supports Israel militarily, financially, legally, and even provides it veto in the United Nations Security Council.”
Nasrallah continued: “He who dropped the atomic bomb on the people of Japan, and who killed [relentlessly] in Vietnam and elsewhere, and who stood by [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu in the 50 day war on Gaza … is not qualified ethically or morally to present itself as a leader of a coalition to fight terrorism.”
The comments come as the United States and allied Arab dictatorships began launching unauthorized airstrikes against jihadi targets in Syria, drawing rebukes from Damascus’s allies Iran and Russia.
Nasrallah brushed off criticism that his opposition to the coalition translated into support for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), noting that he has repeatedly denounced the extremists and called for their elimination.
The reality that many of those included in the anti-ISIS coalition have been financing the jihadi militants they are currently fighting in Iraq and Syria forces people of the region to question the motives of their actions, he added, referring to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Lebanon is one of 10 Arab countries that has pledged support to the coalition, a membership that Nasrallah said he opposed.
“Never did [US President Barack Obama] say we are coming to defend minorities or Muslims or Christians …,” Nasrallah said.
“So we will not fight in a coalition that serves US interests and not the interests of the people of the region.”
In Nasrallah’s last speech on August 15, he noted that the United States only decided to get involved in the fight against ISIS when the jihadis approached Iraq’s Kurdish region, which is strategically important to the West. … Full article
What follows is an approximate transcription of an interview with Ken O’Keefe, a peace activist from London.
Press TV: Do you see this as a project that the United States really wants to stop this terrorist group or not?
O’Keefe: Absolutely not, and I find it laughable that anybody would even consider the United States to be seriously interested in ending terrorism.
We have had over 13 years of this farcical war on terror, all of it built on lies, from the false-flag of 9/11 to the non-prosecution of Osama bin Laden because the FBI admitted that there was no evidence linking him to 9/11, from every policy since the invasion, occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq; the attack on Libya, destroying that country; attempting to fully destroy Syria, all of this is terrorism – terrorism on a grand scale!
Let’s throw in Israel and its genocide against the Palestinians, the use of white phosphorus, depleted uranium and all sorts of other weapons of mass destruction against a civilian population in Gaza, which is comprised of over 900,000 children, and you find that the United States is without question the number one terrorist of the 20th and 21st century.
How in the world can anyone seriously believe that the United States has any interest in ending terrorism?
It is the ultimate terrorist.
Its little boogeyman creations of al-Qaeda, ISIS, ISIL – whatever the hell they call themselves tomorrow – is nothing more than the boogeyman necessary to justify this military industrial complex which is running roughshod over the world.
Press TV: Does the killing of an American citizen always trigger a specific type of a reaction from the United States?
O’Keefe: These beheadings have largely been debunked.
At the very least the people that are being executed in these videos are not alive.
We know when you execute somebody by cutting off their head when their heart is still beating blood will pour forth very profusely. This is not the case with these videos.
It also is one massive manipulation to suggest that the life of one or two Americans somehow justifies yet another invasion and occupation in which we have destroyed three countries at the very minimum in terms of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
We have largely caused the breeding grounds for so-called terrorism all around the region.
It beggars’ belief that anyone would be manipulated in yet another policy in which invasion, bombing, occupation and ultimately destruction of entire areas is somehow going to make the world a better place.
We have seen this all before and the United States is repeating its same role as it has been and it will make for more blood and more guts and more misery, and ultimately a breeding ground for those who see the West for what it is: absolutely hypocritical.
The West has no moral authority whatsoever.
It is in no position at all to discuss any issue regarding morality because it is the most corrupt and most violent of all peoples on this planet.
The West is the problem, not the rest of the world.
Our little boogeyman that we create will stop once we stop having the power through the global reserve currency of the US dollar to be able to pay these psychopaths to run around and behead and so on and so forth.
Press TV: What kind of precedent does this send? – Because US President Barack Obama has basically sent a message to the Syria government that if the Syrian government attacks any of their airplanes that they will take out their anti-aircraft system, basically that they would be under attack.
What does this mean when you’re talking about a sovereign country that another country has the right to go in and do whatever they want? – Whether they agree or disagree with the way that government does this business. What type of precedent does this set?
O’Keefe: It is not a precedent at all.
We have already been bombing Pakistan, Yemen. We have been running around the world and basically in a lawless kind of way have been carrying out policies including executions of anyone anywhere anytime based on the so-called president of the United States having a meeting and declaring somebody to be a terrorist.
This even includes American citizens. There is no sovereignty of nations. There is no international law.
This so-called intelligence analyst, this intelligence analyst seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that it was the United States which supported the Mujahideen which became al-Qaeda, which morphed into the al-Nusra Front, then ISIS, ISIL, IS – whatever the hell you want to call it – has been funding these people, training these people, providing bases, training in Jordan and also in Turkey, their little proxies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Kuwait have been funneling money and arms.
And now we’re being told that they are going to be training these so-called moderate factions of resistance in Syria in Saudi Arabia. That bastion of moderate behavior, the Wahabi Saudi Arabia regime, one of the most offensive – if not the most offensive regimes – on the planet, a place that we give weapons and we give cover to, political cover, media cover.
The idea that an intelligence analyst could be so oblivious and so completely incompetent at its own field that he does not recognize that the United States having supported, armed, trained, coddled and protected all these terrorists for decades now is beyond belief.
He cannot be so stupid, surely, not to know that the United States has an inherent interest in propping up continuously one boogeyman after another to justify what I said earlier, the military industrial complex, the goal of full spectrum dominance, military bases all around the world, and people with half a brain know this.
Press TV: We are looking at this type of scenario that it seems to repeat itself time and time again, especially if we are looking at a post-9/11 world. As you have said, we see boogeyman after boogeyman sort of being created.
I want to look at then the American people and do you think that this time they had to take it or it appears that the extremist nature that ISIL is presenting itself was something that it had to be that extreme in order to shake the American people up, who are extremely war-weary but because of the extent of the violence that they’re seeing that actually they will get on the bandwagon for another war in the region?
O’Keefe: What we have really is an amazing point in human history in which the sleeping masses that are literally mind-controlled through many different mechanisms from childhood in schools are brainwashed with all sorts of rubbish.
Even the pledge of allegiance which I said, along with every other school kid, ends with “liberty and justice for all”.
We have been indoctrinated with such incredible insanity that it becomes a reality for us, and many Americans are still caught up in that as are many people around the world.
But we also have at this time a growing number of people who are recapturing the ability to think for themselves and to recognize the history of both the United States and the West in general, and also the crimes of others – let us not be oblivious to the crimes of others.
But at the end of the day I come from the West and what we can see is that my birth nation, the United States, is the number one terrorist. This is simply not debatable.
I understand that many people are still being conned into believing this nonsense, the latest boogeyman creation, but ever-growing numbers of people are not buying it. They are not. And this is extremely promising and a necessary step for us to create a better world.
If we really wanted to end ISIS we would cut off their funding. And if we wanted to we could help the Iraqi government and the military and they could wipe them out in no time with a little bit of genuine financial support to be able to do what they need to do.
Iran would be an excellent partner in this. I would encourage Iraq to invite Iran in to help them wipe them out, because Iran definitely has an interest in ending real terrorism. That is why the foreign minister all too rightly said we are not all too convinced that America is serious about it. I think he is way too diplomatic, quite frankly.
But at the end of the day the United States is not serious about ending terrorism. It thrives on terrorism. Many Americans are growing to understand this.
Press TV: What scenario is this setting up, Ken, if we are looking at on the one hand, as you said that the United States does not really want to end terrorism, and on the other hand they are directly once again involved in the region, not that they were not in the region but now more directly in Iraq and again Syria.
What is this setting up? Tell me, how do you see this basically? How are you reading what is going to happen with the United States getting involved with this situation with ISIL? What is it? Do you think that they really want to destroy them because perhaps they have served their purpose or no, do they just want to see this chaos continue in the region?
O’Keefe: Chaos in the region is extremely advantageous.
The Project for a New American Century and Clean Break is an important document to read also.
Also, Oded Yinon’s strategy for Israel in the 1980s made it very clear that Iraq was target number one because of its strong Arab nationalist dictatorship.
Ultimately in the overall scheme you have this fantasy agenda of greater Israel: Israel expanding as the next great empire into Iraq, into Syria, Lebanon, also in part of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. This is their goal and it is a psychopath’s goal.
Right now all of this chaos that you see in that region fits perfectly in line with strategy papers. The policy is being carried out exactly as it was written. And the seeds of sectarian hatred and divide, which are necessary to fracture the people of the region so that they will be in a weakened state and therefore be subject to the real intention and goal, is again to expand the Israeli empire.
Ultimately this is all going to fall flat on its face but right now the chaos that is being sown is extremely advantageous for the powers that be.
An Israeli spy drone crashed inside Lebanon on Saturday, the Lebanese army and state media reported.
The National News Agency said the remote control plane went down in the Marjayoun district of southeastern Lebanon due to a mechanical malfunction.
It is now being inspected at an army base.
“Today (Saturday) at 10:30 am, an Israeli drone fell at Mazraat Sarde region in Marjayoun while violating the Lebanese [air space],” an army statement read.
Israeli spy drones and fighter jets violate Lebanese airspace on a daily basis.
The Lebanese army issued a statement earlier Saturday saying that a spy drone had entered Lebanese airspace Friday at 10:15 pm and flew around the south for several hours before returning to the occupied territories at 7:00 am.
In February, an Israeli drone crashed on the Blue Line, the UN-demarcated line between Lebanon and occupied Palestine.
Israeli soldiers illegally crossed into Lebanese territory during that incident to retrieve the wreckage.
Israeli aircraft regularly cross into Lebanese airspace, and the border area in southern Lebanon has been the scene of tense standoffs in the past.
The Blue Line was drawn up in 2000 by the UN after Israeli troops withdrew from most of south Lebanon after a 22-year occupation.
Israel still occupies the Shebaa Farms area in southeast Lebanon.
The Obama administration, working through the Russian government, has secured an agreement from the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad to permit U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets in parts of Syria, according to a source briefed on the secret arrangements.
The reported agreement would clear away one of the chief obstacles to President Barack Obama’s plan to authorize U.S. warplanes to cross into Syria to attack Islamic State forces – the concern that entering Syrian territory might prompt anti-aircraft fire from the Syrian government’s missile batteries.
The usual protocol for the U.S. military – when operating in territory without a government’s permission – is to destroy the air defenses prior to conducting airstrikes so as to protect American pilots and aircraft, as was done with Libya in 2011. However, in other cases, U.S. intelligence agencies have arranged for secret permission from governments for such attacks, creating a public ambiguity usually for the benefit of the foreign leaders while gaining the necessary U.S. military assurances.
In essence, that appears to be what is happening behind the scenes in Syria despite the hostility between the Obama administration and the Assad government. Obama has called for the removal of Assad but the two leaders find themselves on the same side in the fight against the Islamic State terrorists who have battled Assad’s forces while also attacking the U.S.-supported Iraqi government and beheading two American journalists.
In a national address last week, Obama vowed to order U.S. air attacks across Syria’s border without any coordination with the Syrian government, a proposition that Damascus denounced as a violation of its sovereignty. So, in this case, Syria’s behind-the-scenes acquiescence also might provide some politically useful ambiguity for Obama as well as Assad.
Yet, this secret collaboration may go even further and include Syrian government assistance in the targeting of the U.S. attacks, according to the source who spoke on condition of anonymity. That is another feature of U.S. military protocol in conducting air strikes – to have some on-the-ground help in pinpointing the attacks.
As part of its public pronouncements about the future Syrian attacks, the Obama administration sought $500 million to train “vetted” Syrian rebels to handle the targeting tasks inside Syria as well as to carry out military ground attacks. But that approach – while popular on Capitol Hill – could delay any U.S. airstrikes into Syria for months and could possibly negate Assad’s quiet acceptance of the U.S. attacks, since the U.S.-backed rebels share one key goal of the Islamic State, the overthrow of Assad’s relatively secular regime.
Just last month, Obama himself termed the strategy of arming supposedly “moderate” Syrian rebels “a fantasy.” He told the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman: “This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”
Obama’s point would seem to apply at least as much to having the “moderate” rebels face down the ruthless Islamic State jihadists who engage in suicide bombings and slaughter their captives without mercy. But this “fantasy” of the “moderate” rebels has a big following in Congress and on the major U.S. op-ed pages, so Obama has included the $500 million in his war plan despite the risk it poses to Assad’s acquiescence to American air attacks.
Neocon Wish List
Without Assad’s consent, the U.S. airstrikes might require a much wider U.S. bombing campaign to first target Syrian government defenses, a development long sought by Official Washington’s influential neoconservatives who have kept “regime change” in Syria near the top of their international wish list.
For the past several years, the Israeli government also has sought the overthrow of Assad, even at the risk of Islamic extremists gaining power. The Israeli thinking had been that Assad, as an ally of Iran, represented a greater threat to Israel because his government was at the center of the so-called Shiite crescent reaching from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut and southern Lebanon, the base for Hezbollah.
The thinking was that if Assad’s government could be pulled down, Iran and Hezbollah – two of Israel’s principal “enemies” – would be badly damaged. A year ago, then-Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren articulated this geopolitical position in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.
“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.
More recently, however, with the al-Qaeda-connected Nusra Front having seized Syrian territory adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights – forcing the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers – the balance of Israeli interests may be tipping in favor of preferring Assad to having Islamic extremists possibly penetrating directly into Israeli territory.
Direct attacks on Israel would be a temptation to al-Nusra Front, which is competing for the allegiance of young jihadists with the Islamic State. While the Islamic State, known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, has captured the imaginations of many youthful extremists by declaring the creation of a “caliphate” with the goal of driving Western interests from the Middle East, al-Nusra could trump that appeal by actually going on the offensive against one of the jihadists’ principal targets, Israel.
Yet, despite Israel’s apparent rethinking of its priorities, America’s neocons appear focused still on their long-held strategy of using violent “regime change” in the Middle East to eliminate governments that have been major supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas, i.e. Syria and Iran.
One reason why Obama may have opted for a secretive overture to the Assad regime, using intelligence channels with the Russians as the middlemen, is that otherwise the U.S. neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies would have howled in protest.
The Russian Hand
Besides the tactical significance of U.S. intelligence agencies arranging Assad’s tacit acceptance of U.S. airstrikes over Syrian territory, the reported arrangement is also significant because of the role of Russian intelligence serving as the intermediary.
That suggests that despite the U.S.-Russian estrangement over the Ukraine crisis, the cooperation between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been extinguished; it has instead just gone further underground.
Last year, this growing behind-the-scenes collaboration between Obama and Putin represented a potential tectonic geopolitical shift in the Middle East. In the short term, their teamwork produced agreements that averted a U.S. military strike against Syria last September (by getting Assad to surrender his chemical weapons arsenal) and struck a tentative deal with Iran to constrain but not eliminate its nuclear program.
In the longer term, by working together to create political solutions to various Mideast crises, the Obama-Putin cooperation threatened to destroy the neocons’ preferred strategy of escalating U.S. military involvement in the region. There was the prospect, too, that the U.S.-Russian tag team might strong-arm Israel into a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
So, starting last September – almost immediately after Putin helped avert a U.S. air war against Syria – key neocons began taking aim at Ukraine as a potential sore point for Putin. A leading neocon, Carl Gershman, president of the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, took to the op-ed pages of the neocon Washington Post to identify Ukraine as “the biggest prize” and explaining how its targeting could undermine Putin’s political standing inside Russia.
“Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents,” Gershman wrote. “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.” At the time, Gershman’s NED was funding scores of political and media projects inside Ukraine.
By early 2014, American neocons and their “liberal interventionist” pals were conspiring “to midwife” a coup to overthrow Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych, according to a phrase used by U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in an intercepted phone conversation with Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who was busy handpicking leaders to replace Yanukovych.
A neocon holdover from George W. Bush’s administration, Nuland had been a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and is married to prominent neocon Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for a New American Century which prepared the blueprint for the neocon strategy of “regime change” starting with the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The U.S.-backed coup ousted Yanukovych on Feb. 22 and sparked a bloody civil war, leaving thousands dead, mostly ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. But the Gershman-Nuland strategy also drove a deep wedge between Obama and Putin, seeming to destroy the possibility that their peace-seeking collaboration would continue in the Middle East. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit.”]
New Hope for ‘Regime Change’
The surprise success of Islamic State terrorists in striking deep inside Iraq during the summer revived neocon hopes that their “regime change” strategy in Syria might also be resurrected. By baiting Obama to react with military force not only in Iraq but across the border in Syria, neocons like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham put the ouster of Assad back in play.
In a New York Times op-ed on Aug. 29, McCain and Graham used vague language about resolving the Syrian civil war, but clearly implied that Assad must go. They wrote that thwarting ISIS “requires an end to the [civil] conflict in Syria, and a political transition there, because the regime of President Bashar al-Assad will never be a reliable partner against ISIS; in fact, it has abetted the rise of ISIS, just as it facilitated the terrorism of ISIS’ predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq.”
Though the McCain-Graham depiction of Assad’s relationship to ISIS and al-Qaeda was a distortion at best – in fact, Assad’s army has been the most effective force in pushing back against the Sunni terrorist groups that have come to dominate the Western-backed rebel movement – the op-ed’s underlying point is obvious: a necessary step in the U.S. military operation against ISIS must be “regime change” in Damascus.
That would get the neocons back on their original track of forcing “regime change” in countries seen as hostile to Israel. The first target was Iraq with Syria and Iran always meant to follow. The idea was to deprive Israel’s close-in enemies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas, of crucial support. But the neocon vision got knocked off track when Bush’s Iraq War derailed and the American people balked at extending the conflict to Syria and Iran.
Still, the neocons retained their vision even after Bush and Cheney departed. They also remained influential by holding onto key positions inside Official Washington – at think tanks, within major news outlets and even inside the Obama administration. They also built a crucial alliance with “liberal interventionists” who had Obama’s ear. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Dangerous Neocon-R2P Alliance.”]
The neocons’ new hope arrived with the public outrage over ISIS’s atrocities. Yet, while pushing to get this new war going, the neocons have downplayed their “regime change” agenda, getting Obama to agree only to extend his anti-ISIS bombing campaign from Iraq into Syria. But it was hard to envision expanding the war into Syria without ousting Assad.
Now, however, if the source’s account is correct regarding Assad’s quiet assent to U.S. airstrikes, Obama may have devised a way around the need to bomb Assad’s military, an maneuver that might again frustrate the neocons’ beloved goal of “regime change.”
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Syrian media accused Arab governments Tuesday of giving Washington prior agreement for military action against jihadists, with one daily calling for Damascus to form an alternative alliance with Moscow and Tehran.
The commentary comes ahead of talks in Saudi Arabia on Thursday between Secretary of State John Kerry and US regional allies on joint action to tackle the threat posed by the Islamic State group in both Syria and Iraq.
“Washington, which used the false pretext of weapons of mass destruction to enter the region militarily in 2003 and draw new geopolitical lines… is returning today under a new false pretext, the fight against terrorism,” said the Al-Baath newspaper.
“The Arabs meanwhile, are absent from every decision and are playing secondary roles,” it added.
The Baath party daily was referring to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 in which notoriously the alleged chemical and biological weapons that were used to justify the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime were never found.
Kerry is set to meet foreign ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and the six Gulf Arab states in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
The talks are part of US efforts to build a coalition to tackle ISIS, which has seized large tracts of territory in both Syria and Iraq, and carried out abuses including the decapitation of Syrians, Iraqis, Lebanese and two American journalists.
On Sunday, the Arab League pledged to take “necessary measures” to confront ISIS, and said it was ready for “international cooperation on all fronts.”
But Syria, and its ally Iran, will not be present at the talks in Saudi Arabia, and Damascus fears efforts to tackle ISIS will involve air strikes on its territory without its permission.
State-run newspaper Al-Thawra warned: “The United States is setting the stage to bring new wars to the region.
“Its local partners are ready to carry out its orders without even knowing the details of the American plan,” it added.
Government daily Tishrin questioned why Kerry and US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel were coming to the region “when the Arab League has already given its prior agreement for a new war in the region organized by the United States.”
A newspaper called for the formation of an alternative “Russian-Iranian-Syrian coalition” against the jihadists to that being put together by Washington.
“Western and regional governments are excluding the nations that really want to fight terrorism,” it said, charging that the US-led coalition included nations that “support terrorism financially, military and logistically.”
Damascus considers all rebel groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad “terrorists” and has long accused the rebels’ supporters, particularly Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, of funding “terror.”
Similarly, critics opposed to US involvement in the conflict with ISIS have pointed out that Washington in partnership with its Gulf allies, including Saudi Arabia, played a role in the formation and expansion of extremist groups like ISIS by arming, financing and politically empowering armed opposition groups in Syria.
On Monday, a study by the London-based small-arms research organization Conflict Armament Research revealed that ISIS jihadists appear to be using US military issue arms and weapons supplied to the so-called moderate rebels in Syria by Saudi Arabia.
Here is an article with lots of useful information about how “indiscriminate” Israel’s weapons really are. This interests me a great deal because I have been raising problems about the interpretation of international law used by leading human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, on this point since the 2006 Lebanon War.
At that time I got into a dispute with HRW’s Middle East policy director, Sarah Leah Whitson, who argued that Hizbullah was committing war crimes by definition when it fired rockets at Israel, even if it hit military targets, because those rockets were primitive and inherently inaccurate. By contrast, Israel’s missiles were not inherently inadmissible because they were considered by HRW to be precise (see my articles here and here.) That was clearly nonsense in 2006. During the war, Israel dropped millions of cluster munitions – little bomblets that serve effectively as land mines – all over southern Lebanon, endangering the whole civilian population of the area.
But Norman Finkelstein recently pointed out the more general problem with this view:
By this standard, only rich countries, or countries rich enough to purchase high-tech weapons, have a right to defend themselves against high-tech aerial assaults. It is a curious law that would negate the raison d’être of law: the substitution of might by right.
It may not be entirely surprising that HRW and others interpret international law in a way that serves rich and powerful western states, however many civilians they kill, and criminalises developing states, however few civilians they kill. The current fighting in Gaza illustrates this point in dramatic fashion. Some 95% of the Israelis who have been killed during the fighting are soldiers; some 75% of the Palestinians who have been killed are civilian.
But this Guardian article adds another layer of insight into HRW’s dubious distinctions. Ignore the irritating framing of the article, which suggests that the high Palestinian death toll may be down to human or systems errors. Experts discount this theory in the article and also point out that Israel is often not checking whether its shooting is accurate. In short, it gives every indication of not taking any precautions to ensure it is hitting only military targets (or rather targets it claims are military in nature) – that recklessness makes it fully culpable.
But we also have experts here who make the point that much of Israel’s precise weaponry is not precise at all.
Andrew Exum, a former US army officer and defence department special adviser on the Middle East, who has studied Israel’s military operations, says this:
There are good strategic reasons to avoid using air power and artillery in these conflicts: they tend to be pretty indiscriminate in their effects and make it difficult for the population under fire to figure out what they’re supposed to do to be safe.
“Pretty indiscriminate”! So doesn’t that mean Israel was committing war crimes by definition every time it made one of those thousands of air strikes that marked the start of Operation Protective Edge, and that it is continuing to make now?
But it’s not just strikes from the air that are the problem. There’s more:
However, military analysts and human rights observers say the IDF is still using unguided, indirect fire with high-explosive shells, which they argue is inappropriate for a densely populated area like Gaza …
[Israel's 155m howitzer] shells have a lethal radius of 50 to 150 metres and causes injury up to 300 metres from its point of impact. Furthermore, such indirect-fire artillery (meaning it is fired out of direct sight of the target) has a margin of error of 200 to 300 metres.
Read that again: a margin of error of up to 300 metres, plus a lethal radius of up to 150 metres and an injury radius of 300 metres. So that’s a killing and injury zone of close to half a kilometre from the intended “precise” site of impact. In a territory that is only a few kilometres wide. In short, the main shell Israel is using in Gaza is entirely imprecise.
Set aside what Israel is trying to do in Gaza. Let’s assume it is actually trying to hit military targets rather than being either reckless about hitting civilian targets or deliberately trying to hit civilians, as much of the evidence might suggest.
Even if we assume total good faith on Israel’s part that it is trying to hit only Hamas and other military sites, it is clear it cannot do so even with the weaponry it has. The inherent imprecision of its arsenal is compounded many fold by the fact that it is using these weapons in densely built-up areas.
So when are we going to hear HRW or the UN’s Navi Pillay stop talking about proportionality or Israel’s potential war crimes, and admit Israel is committing war crimes by definition?
Israeli occupation forces snuck into Lebanon and abducted a shepherd from the southeastern town of Shebaa at dawn Wednesday, one day after they stole a herd of goats from the same area, state media reported.
Ismail Khalil Nabaa was kidnapped in Shebaa and taken to the nearby occupied Shebaa Farms area.
UNIFIL is working to secure his release, Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA ) said.
The owners of the kidnapped herd, Mohammed Khalil Nabaa and Khodour Hamdan, said they had escaped an Israeli ambush on Lebanese territory on Tuesday.
The report did not speculate over why Israeli forces kidnapped the goats and shepherd.
MP Qassem Hashem called Nabaa’s kidnapping a violation of national sovereignty and international charters, NNA reported.
“The Zionist enemy continues its aggression, abducts Lebanese shepherds and seizes their flocks. The UNIFIL must fully perform its duty,” the NNA quoted him as saying.