Britain is fighting at least seven covert wars in the Middle East and North Africa, outside of any democratic oversight or control. Whitehall has in effect gone underground, with neither parliament nor the public being allowed to debate, scrutinise or even know about these wars. To cover themselves, Ministers are now often resorting to lying about what they are authorising. While Britain has identified Islamic State (among others) as the enemy abroad, it is clear that it sees the British public and parliament as the enemy at home.
Britain began training Syrian rebel forces from bases in Jordan in 2012. This was also when the SAS was reported to be ‘slipping into Syria on missions’ against Islamic State. Now, British special forces are ‘mounting hit and run raids against IS deep inside eastern Syria dressed as insurgent fighters’ and ‘frequently cross into Syria to assist the New Syrian Army’ from their base in Jordan. British special forces also provide training, weapons and other equipment to the New Syrian Army.
British aircraft began covert strikes against IS targets in Syria in 2015, months before Parliament voted in favour of overt action in December 2015. These strikes were conducted by British pilots embedded with US and Canadian forces.
Britain has also been operating a secret drone warfare programme in Syria. Last year Reaper drones killed British IS fighters in Syria, again before parliament approved military action. As I have previously argued, British covert action and support of the Syrian rebels is, along with horrific Syrian government/Russian violence, helping to prolong a terrible conflict.
Hundreds of British troops are officially in Iraq to train local security forces. But they are also engaged in covert combat operations against IS. One recent report suggests that Britain has more than 200 special force soldiers in the country, operating out of a fortified base within a Kurdish Peshmerga camp south of Mosul.
British Reaper drones were first deployed over Iraq in 2014 and are now flown remotely by satellite from an RAF base in Lincolnshire. Britain has conducted over 200 drones strikes in Iraq since November 2014.
SAS forces have been secretly deployed to Libya since the beginning of this year, working with Jordanian special forces embedded in the British contingent. This follows a mission by MI6 and the RAF in January to gather intelligence on IS and draw up potential targets for air strikes. British commandos are now reportedly fighting and directing assaults on Libyan frontlines and running intelligence, surveillance and logistical support operations from a base in the western city of Misrata.
But a team of 15 British forces are also reported to be based in a French-led multinational military operations centre in Benghazi, eastern Libya, supporting renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar. In July 2016, Middle East Eye reported that this British involvement was helping to coordinate air strikes in support of Haftar, whose forces are opposed to the Tripoli-based government that Britain is supposed to be supporting.
The government says it has no military personnel based in Yemen. Yet a report by Vice News in April, based on numerous interviews with officials, revealed that British special forces in Yemen, who were seconded to MI6, were training Yemeni troops fighting Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and also had forces infiltrated in AQAP. The same report also found that British military personnel were helping with drone strikes against AQAP. Britain was playing ‘a crucial and sustained role with the CIA in finding and fixing targets, assessing the effect of strikes, and training Yemeni intelligence agencies to locate and identify targets for the US drone program’. In addition, the UK spybase at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire facilitates US drone strikes in Yemen.
Britain has been widely reported (outside the mainstream media) as supporting the brutal Saudi war in Yemen, which has caused thousands of civilian deaths, most of them due to Saudi air strikes. Indeed, Britain is party to the war. The government says there are around 100 UK military personnel based in Saudi Arabia including a ‘small number’ at ‘Saudi MOD and Operational Centres’. One such Centre, in Riyadh, coordinates the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen and includes British military personnel who are in the command room as air strikes are carried out and who have access to the bombing targets.
The UK is of course arming the Saudi campaign: The British government disclosed on 13 October that the Saudis have used five types of British bombs and missiles in Yemen. On the same day, it lied to Parliament that Britain was ‘not a party’ to the war in Yemen.
A secret ‘memorandum of understanding’ that Britain signed with Saudi Arabia in 2014 has not been made public since it ‘would damage the UK’s bilateral relationship’ with the Kingdom, the government states. It is likely that this pact includes reference to the secret British training of Syrian rebels in Saudi Arabia, which has taken place since mid-2015. Operating from a desert base in the north of the country, British forces have been teaching Syrian forces infantry skills as part of a US-led training programme.
In Afghanistan, the public was told that British forces withdrew at the end of 2014. However, British forces stayed behind to help create and train an Afghan special forces unit. Despite officially only having ‘advisors’ in Afghanistan, in August 2015 it was reported that British covert forces were fighting IS and Taliban fighters. The SAS and SBS, along with US special forces, were ‘taking part in military operations almost every night’ as the insurgents closed in on the capital Kabul.
In 2014, the government stated that it had ended its drone air strikes programme in Afghanistan, which had begun in 2008 and covered much of the country. Yet last year it was reported that British special forces were calling in air strikes using US drones.
Pakistan and Somalia
Pakistan and Somalia are two other countries where Britain is conducting covert wars. Menwith Hill facilitates US drone strikes against jihadists in both countries, with Britain’s GCHQ providing ‘locational intelligence’ to US forces for use in these attacks.
The government has said that it has 27 military personnel in Somalia who are developing the national army and supporting the African Union Mission. Yet in 2012 it was reported that the SAS was covertly fighting against al-Shabab Islamist terrorists in Somalia, working with Kenyan forces in order to target leaders. This involved up to 60 SAS soldiers, close to a full squadron, including Forward Air Controllers who called in air strikes against al-Shabab targets by the Kenyan air force. In early 2016, it was further reported that Jordan’s King Abdullah, whose troops operate with UK special forces, was saying that his troops were ready with Britain and Kenya to go ‘over the border’ to attack al-Shabaab.
The RAF’s secret drone war, which involves a fleet of 10 Reaper drones, has been in permanent operation in Afghanistan since October 2007, but covertly began operating outside Afghanistan in 2014. The NGO Reprieve notes that Britain provides communications networks to the CIA ‘without which the US would not be able to operate this programme’. It says that this is a particular matter of concern as the US covert drone programme is illegal.
Even this may not be the sum total of British covert operations in the region. The government stated in 2015 that it had 177 military personnel embedded in other countries’ forces, with 30 personnel working with the US military. It is possible that these forces are also engaged in combat in the region. For example, the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, has said that in the Gulf, British pilots fly US F18s from the decks of US aircraft carriers. This means that ‘US’ air strikes might well be carried out by British pilots.
Britain has many other military and intelligence assets in the region. Files leaked by Edward Snowden show that Britain has a network of three GCHQ spy bases in Oman – codenamed ‘Timpani’, ‘Guitar’ and ‘Clarinet’ – which tap in to various undersea cables passing through the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf. These bases intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies, which information is then shared with the National Security Agency in the US.
The state of Qatar houses the anti-IS coalition’s Combined Air Operations Centre at Al Udeid airbase. The government says it has seven military personnel ‘permanently assigned to Qatar’ and an additional number of ‘temporary personnel’ working at the airbase. These are likely to be covert forces; the government says that ‘we do not discuss specific numbers for reasons of safeguarding operational security’.
Similarly, the government says it has six military personnel ‘permanently assigned’ to the United Arab Emirates and an additional number of ‘temporary personnel’ at the UAE’s Al Minhad airbase. Britain also has military assets at Manama harbour, Bahrain, whose repressive armed forces are also being secretly trained by British commandos.
Kenya and Turkey
Kenya hosts Britain’s Kahawa Garrishon barracks and Laikipia Air Base, from where thousands of troops who carry out military exercises in Kenya’s harsh terrain can be deployed on active operations in the Middle East. Turkey has also offered a base for British military training. In 2015, for example, Britain deployed several military trainers to Turkey as part of the US-led training programme in Syria, providing small arms, infantry tactics and medical training to rebel forces.
The web of deceit
When questioned about these covert activities, Ministers have two responses. One is to not to comment on special forces’ operations. The other is to lie, which has become so routine as to be official government policy. The reasoning is simple – the government believes the public simply has no right to know of these operations, let alone to influence them.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told parliament in July that the government is ‘committed to the convention that before troops are committed to combat the House of Commons should have an opportunity to debate the matter’. This is plainly not true, as the extent of British covert operations show.
Similarly, it was first reported in May that British troops were secretly engaged in combat in Libya. This news came two days after Fallon told MPs that Britain was not planning ‘any kind of combat role’ to fight IS in Libya.
There are many other examples of this straightforward web of deceit. In July 2016, the government issued six separate corrections to previous ministerial statements in which they claimed that Saudi Arabia is not targeting civilians or committing war crimes in Yemen. However, little noticed was that these corrections also claimed that ‘the UK is not a party’ to the conflict in Yemen. This claim is defied by various news reports in the public domain.
British foreign policy is in extreme mode, whereby Ministers do not believe they should be accountable to the public. This is the very definition of dictatorship. Although in some of these wars, Britain is combatting terrorist forces that are little short of evil, it is no minor matter that several UK interventions have encouraged these very same forces and prolonged wars, all the while being regularly disastrous for the people of the region. Britain’s absence of democracy needs serious and urgent challenging.
twitter – @markcurtis30
Swedish politicians, who are known for their penchant for multiculturalism and diversity, have been found to be the most loyal allies of Hungarian-American business magnate George Soros who chairs the Open Society Foundation, leaked documents reveal.
The Open Society Foundation was found to have hired a consulting firm to evaluate members of the European Parliament and assess their support of the foundation’s values until the end of their tenure in 2019, Swedish news outlet Fria Tider reported, referring to the leaked document.
An itemized list of European MPs indicated that Swedish politicians are by far the most loyal to George Soros’ political ambitions. As many as 13 of the 20 Swedish MEPs (equivalent to 65 percent) were classified as “loyal allies.” Remarkably, the list of Swedish Soros loyalists includes representatives of parties from both ends of the political spectrum, who happen to be opponents on the home arena.
Among others, Lars Adaktusson of the Christian Democrats Party, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt of the Conservative Party, Peter Ericsson of the Green Party, Fredrick Federley of the Center Party and Soraya Post of the Feminist Initiative, were pointed out as loyalists. On the opposite side of the list, Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Hungary were placed, with only 2 of 21, 1 of 11 and 1 of 21 Soros loyalists among its MEPs.
Previously, 86-year-old financier George Soros, was found to have sponsored Swedish far-left activists Expo to train leftists within the framework of the pan-European election campaign.
Additionally, Swedish entrepreneur Daniel Sachs was found to receive a grant from Soros for combatting “nationalism” during the 2014 parliamentary elections. In 2014, millions of dollars were handed out to various European organizations by the Open Society in an attempt to manipulate the outcome of the elections held in Europe that year, Fria Tider earlier reported, citing the DC Leaks portal, where some 2,500 documents from the Open Society were made public.
In 1992, Soros became famous in Sweden after an extensive currency speculation affair against the Swedish krona, which subsequently triggered a mass shift of deposits to other currencies for fears of the krona’s collapse. In 1998, six years thereafter, Soros was invited to Sweden. In addition to a dinner with the Royal family, a meeting with Swedish magnate Peter Wallenberg and a lecture at the School of Economics, he also held a lecture to at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The desert town of Agadez in Niger is currently best known as a stop on the people-smuggling route between West Africa and Europe, but it is about to take its place in the geopolitical stage as the American military has announced it will build a drone base on its outskirts. Reportedly costing U.S. taxpayers as much of $100 million, the base is just the latest American play for military supremacy in Africa — Niger is the only country in that volatile region of the continent prepared to risk allowing Washington a base for its MQ-9 Reapers, the even more lethal successor to the notorious Predator drone.
While the U.S. is strengthening its military capabilities in the region, it is also forging deeper ties with Niger’s repressive government. President Mahamadou Issoufou was re-elected in March with a laughably high 92% of the vote. Suspicions about the legitimacy of the landslide win are warranted, considering the run-up to the election was marred by the jailing of a pro-opposition pop singer, the barring of nearly a quarter of voters from the race, and the fact that the opposition coalition withdrew its candidate, Hama Amadou, from the contest. The opposition cited unfair treatment between the two candidates, not least because Amadou was put in jail on spurious charges of “baby trafficking” and forced to campaign from behind bars. Issoufou’s American partners, however, promptly issued a laughable press release congratulating Issoufou on his win and reaffirming the US’s commitment to its “partnership with Niger on security, development, and democratic governance.”
The people of Niger have less to be pleased about. While President Issoufou and his military enjoy the lucrative revenue that comes with inviting the American military to pursue the endless War on Terror on Nigerien soil, everyday Nigerians continue to suffer. As the United Nations Human Development Index makes clear, Niger is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Issoufou, for his part, seems to forget who he is meant to be representing, especially as he continues to grant French energy company Areva tax breaks as it mines uranium in the north of the country. No matter that the local population is affected by radiation without benefiting from the extraction taking place in their midst.
Far from being the exception, Niger is simply the latest in a long line of countries happy to take greenbacks in exchange for allowing the U.S. to pursue its hegemonic designs for Africa. Across the continent in Djibouti, to take just one example, Ismail Omar Guelleh has turned his tiny country – barely bigger than the state of New Jersey – into a massive multi-nation military base, with U.S. and Chinese warships nestled alongside each other. It is, according to American ambassador Thomas Kelly, a modern day equivalent of Casablanca in the 1940s. Specifically, he cites “all the different nationalities elbowing each other” and “all the intrigue”.
Like Niger, Djibouti exploits the “island of stability” narrative to make itself indispensable to international partners. Sadly, the money earned from all the military bases in the country does not trickle down to the population. 42% of Djiboutians live in extreme poverty, and another 48% are unemployed. Meanwhile, the U.S. turns a blind eye to “electoral hold-ups” like Guelleh’s re-election earlier this year. Washington said little in 2010, when President Guelleh amended the constitution to permit himself to seek his third and now fourth term in office. In the U.S. foreign policy calculus, it seems allegiance to autocrats will always trump the democratic commitment to human rights and popular sovereignty from the moment fuzzy words like “terrorism” or “security” come into play.
Sadly, this pattern goes back decades in Africa. The Reagan administration helped Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré – dubbed ‘Africa’s Pinochet’ – into power and helped keep him there with millions of dollars in military aid and training for his bloodthirsty secret police. Habré, of course, was put on trial in Senegal in 2015 for crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes, and his historic conviction this year marked one of the rare instances when an African dictator has truly faced justice for their actions. In 2011, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak enjoyed $1.3 billion in aid from American partners and was seen as “an ideal partner for the United States, as long as Washington focused on stability in the present without much thought about long term implications.”
The “long term implications” are where Washington’s one-track mindset ends up burning American policymakers time and time again. Instead of helping to reinforce stability in any part of the world, be it West Africa, Central America, or the Middle East, US-backed dictators eventually fall. Their abuses, combined with the collateral damage wrought by U.S. actions (especially drone strikes), help stoke and perpetuate the grievances that allow the very terrorist groups Washington is targeting to thrive. As American aid and support goes to leaders that crush dissent and subvert the democratic order, as Issoufou is doing in Niger, the invariable result is widespread resentment against the U.S. and the West more generally.
Blaise Compaoré, the former president of Burkina Faso – a “key hub of the U.S. spying network” – is only one of the most recent to fall. Despite the fact that Compaoré’s early years in power were marked by a cozy relationship with Muammar Gaddafi and accusations that he sent mercenaries to fight United Nations peacekeepers in Sierra Leone, the U.S. security community embraced him as a partner. After a popular uprising in the streets of Ouagadougou blocked Compaoré’s attempt to extend his 27 years in power, the onetime army officer fled to Ivory Coast, leaving behind not only a tumultuous political legacy but also an impoverished country not altogether [free] from terrorist attacks like those conducted by al-Qaeda in January.
By getting into bed with African dictators, the U.S. simply sets up future problems for itself while ensuring life gets no better for the continent’s most vulnerable populations.
It should be personal to all of us. Yemen, regularly portrayed as the poorest nation in the Arab world, is proving itself to be the richest in courage, resourcefulness and resilience.
Ever since March 2015, some of you may have noticed how oil-rich Saudi Arabia, with the United States at its side, have been waging genocidal war against the Yemeni people.
Yemen are a people under attack by an undeclared super-power coalition comprised of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, US, UK, EU, UAE and Israel. As in Iraq, while the Yemeni people are under attack from super-powers, they are simultaneously being collectively punished by the illegal sanctions imposed by a corrupt United Nations body.
Sanctions imposed by resolution 2216, against 5 named individuals, on the pretext of legitimizing an illegitimate fugitive ex-president, Saudi Arabia and Washington’s hand-picked puppet leader, Mansour Hadi, who demanded that neighbouring Saudi Arabia bomb his own people – even after Hadi had resigned twice from an already over-extended presidential term, before fleeing to his alma mater in Riyadh.
UN sanctions imposed upon 5 named individuals yet being exploited by the US/UK/EU backed Saudi coalition to collectively starve and punish 27 million Yemeni people.
This fact has been consistently omitted and waxed over by western political appeasers and ethically challenged mainstream media apologists – and their ignorant and conceded omission is one of the primary reasons why this conflict has been allowed to go from bad to worse.
To compare Saudi Arabia’s belligerent actions in Yemen to Nazi Germany’s undeclared wars of aggression prior to WWII is no exaggeration. In fact, one could make the argument that this Saudi-US joint venture is much worse, and a far more dangerous precedent. Likewise, the failure of a corrupt UN (who effectively sold Saudi Arabia its seat on at the head of the UN Human Rights Council ), led by an impotent Secretary General in Ban-ki Moon, to censure Saudi Arabia for its flagrant violation of international law, the Nuremberg Principles and the entire Geneva Convention content and implied framework – leaves the UN in the exact same position as the League of Nations in 1938.
This is most certainly the case on paper, and with each passing moment we are nudging ever closer to geopolitical déjà vu.
This is one of the most egregious war crimes we’ve seen so far in Yemen, and considering what Saudi Arabia has already done to date, this is off the scale. On the 9th October 2016, the Saudi ‘coalition’ targeted one of the biggest public halls in Yemen’s capital Sanaa.
Officials said two air strikes hit the grand hall of ceremonies, where a post funeral gathering was held to receive condolences for the late Ali bin Ali al-Ruwaishan, the father of Interior Minister, Jalal al-Ruwaishan.
A total of 4 missiles were launched into crowds of civilians. The first strike, two missiles tore into the hall and surrounding areas leaving dozens dead and dying. Then, as funeral-goers clambered over the smouldering rubble to rescue the injured, Saudi coalition planes returned for the double tap air-strike, targeting the civilian rescuers.
Yesterday, the under secretary of the Public Health Ministry in Yemen told journalist and Middle East commentator, Marwa Osman, the death toll had risen to 458 and hundreds more injured. In an interview with RT, Osman went on to describe, 213 bodies were reported as charred, burned beyond recognition, 67 bodies were completely dismembered and 187 bodies torn apart by shrapnel. The brutality of this attack is evident from the horrific photos that appeared on social media very quickly after the event, as Yemenis were reeling from the scale of the massacre.
Yemen civil defence and army recovering bodies from the Saudi coalition bombed ceremony hall in Sanaa (Photo: Yemen the Forgotten War)
The hundreds more injured have been described as “bleeding to death in the streets“. The following report came in from Sanaa hours after the attack:
“Saudi-American airstrikes targeted the biggest hall in Sanaa. The hall was hit by 4 missiles, 2 air-strikes. When rescuers went to the aid of the dying and injured Saudi jets attacked for the second time in their double tap operation. It’s impossible to count the deaths. Officially they are saying less than 500 but many more are dying because they can’t be treated due to the absence of medical supplies and hospital facilities. This is entirely due to the UN sanctions and effective land, air and sea blockades. The hall is 2km from our home and 150m from my university but luckily, today I was not there.
Yesterday we killed several mercenary leaders in Mareb and Saudi commanders so today they are taking their revenge on the innocent people” ~ information supplied to Vanessa Beeley of 21st Century Wire.
According to Hassan Al Haifi, writer, academic and political commentator, living in Sanaa, the Saudi attack was deliberate:
“The mourners were paying tribute to General Jalal Al-Rouishan, Min of Int, who hails from a leading family of Khowlan Al-Tayyal Tribe, a leading and powerful Yemeni tribe.”
Al Haifi commented that this was a cynical and brutal attack by the Saudi coalition, intending to kill as many Ansarullah and Ali Abdullah Saleh officials and supporters as possible. A number of Saleh’s closest friends and allies were killed by the strikes along with a smaller number of Ansarullah members. Al Haifi, himself should have been at the ceremony but had been delayed and fortunately was not there when the Saudi jets launched their missiles into the throngs of mourners.
Saudi air-strike on Sanaa (Photo supplied to 21st Century Wire from Yemen)
The US State Department immediately swung into damage limitation mode and cranked up their hypocrisy to protect their Saudi coalition military industrial complex clients. John Kirby even deployed the “self-defence” terminology usually reserved for their other regional, arms guzzling ally with close links to Al Qaeda, Israel.
The bloodshed and suffering of the Yemeni people was reduced to an obscene game of semantics by a cold and calculating US State Department, as their multi billion dollar arms industry registered obscene trading levels with the Saudi coalition in 2015. In the first 21 months of Saudi-US illegal war on Yemen, US arms sales worth $33 Billion were closed Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) entities according to Defense News. In total, America’s Nobel Peace Chief Barack Hussein Obama has offered to sell $115 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia since taking office in 2009 – more than any previous US administration, according to a recent report.
Not to be left out of the party, Britain has also sold more than £3.7 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia since Saudi’s illegal war of aggression began.
In truth, many of these estimates are conservative and do not include many more hundreds of millions in ancillary costs, staffing, support contracting and engineering.
Even though they’ve been completely redacted by the western media, and also by the myriad of Gulf monarchy media outlets, the real heroes of this conflict are the Yemeni people.
In their reductionist way of thinking and categorizing the world outside of their shores, Americans refer to Middle East populations in sectarian terms – because this is they way they would like to see the world, but it couldn’t be any further from reality. To Americans, the Yemeni war is all because of “Iranian-backed Shia Houthi Rebels.” The first US Congressman ever to say that in public probably read it directly off an AIPAC policy briefing sheet. That’s the sad reality still in Washington – information-poor (and lobby cash-rich) elected representatives are only able to see the world through the Israeli lens.
The reality is much more complex than just “the Houthis.” A genuine Arab Spring has taken place in Yemen and the US and Saudi response was simply to try and crush the people. But the people have resisted fiercely, and together. Unlike other neo-colonial ventures like Iraq and Afghanistan – the people of Yemen have united to a large degree and are determined to realize their own vision of self government. This is something that has been written off by everyone in the US establishment – from the President all the way down the political food chain.
The UK/US built, House of Saud, is waging a genocidal war of aggression that has already destroyed entire swathes of Yemeni cultural heritage and decimated entire communities, particularly in the northern, traditionally Ansarullah (Houthi) held areas such as Saada and Hajjah. This was by design. By now, we can see clearly how this was yet another ethnic cleansing programme being endorsed, fuelled and defended by the United States and her allies in the UK, EU, Israel, and of course the neighbouring Gulf States, the majority of whom participated in this dirty war. Oman, a lone, moderate, and independent thinking gulf state, has remained neutral, providing a degree of support to the Yemeni people. […]
The height of US hypocrisy was on full display during a US State Department press briefing where the already discredited US spokesman John Kirby shameless danced around a mass-murder by Saudi Arabia – whose airstrikes are supported logistically by the United States. This is the definition of criminality unchecked. Watch:
Author Vanessa Beeley is a special contributor to 21WIRE, and since 2011, she has spent most of her time in the Middle East reporting on events there – as a independent researcher, writer, photographer and peace activist. She is also a volunteer with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. See more of her work at her blog The Wall Will Fall.
For further background on Saudi ‘s war of aggression please read 21WIRE article: UN Whitewashing Saudi Coalition War Crimes and International Human Rights Violations
A man who rejected an offer from MI5 to become an informant has been convicted of planning to join Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in a secretive trial at the Old Bailey.
Secret justice, which many claim is at odds with the most fundamental principles of British law, is becoming increasingly normalized.
The latest trial of this kind was that of Somali-born Anas Abdalla, who was alleged to have attempted to smuggle himself out of the UK in 2013 to join IS.
Abdalla was found in a truck full of cannisters at Dover and claimed he was trying to escape years of harassment by MI5 officers who were attempting to recruit him.
The secrecy order specifically pertained to “any evidence which is called by the prosecution which confirms or denies any allegation of contact, or attempted contact, between MI5 and [Abdalla],” and “any allegation… that [Abdalla] would not be allowed by MI5 to live and progress normal expectations and achievements in life.”
Given the level of secrecy, it not is not possible to report on the specific evidence, but Abdalla was convicted of preparing to join IS.
It emerged during the trial that Abdalla had come to believe the security services had caused his girlfriend to leave him, his bank card to stop working and jobs to fall through.
“This is the stuff of nightmares from which there is no escape. This is what happens when you are targeted by the security services and decline to cooperate,”Rajiv Menon QC told the jury as part of Abdalla’s defence.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interview with the French TV this week almost entirely dwelt on the Syrian situation – fighting in Aleppo, in particular. Putin was frank about the US’ doublespeak – especially, its covert dealings with Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, and the calculated hour-long attack by US jets on a Syrian military base two weeks ago in tandem with ground operations by Islamic State fighters. The interview is an eye-opener. (Transcript)
Given the complete breakdown of trust in Russian-American dealings on Syria at the diplomatic and political level, it is hard to see what purpose would be served in the FM-level meeting being scheduled in Lausanne on Saturday, involving Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia and the US. (Middle East Eye )
Perhaps, one ray of hope could be that the UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura’s formula that the rebel fighters, including those belonging to Nusra, be allowed safe passage to evacuate from Aleppo with their weapons so that the fighting can somehow be brought to an early end. Russia favors the idea and it seems Turkey is on board, too. Moscow has taken Tehran’s okay as well. If Mistura’s formula takes wings, there could be ceasefire in Aleppo.
But the broad thrust of the Russian-Iranian-Syrian campaign cannot conceivably be anything short of taking control of Aleppo. The one factor that goes in favour of some positive tiding coming out of Saturday’s meeting is that the Obama administration has run out of options on Syria and Washington is under compulsion to be seen as ‘proactive’ on Syria. (Times )
The control of the Syrian air space by Russia means that any military intervention may risk confrontation with Russia. Besides, US-Turkey relations too are on a roller coaster and without Turkey’s cooperation, Americans can’t go very far on Syria. On Wednesday, President Recep Erdogan warned Washington that Turkey will “resort to very serious steps” if the Obama administration drags its feet on the extradition of the Islamic cleric Fetullah Gulen. (Sputnik )
The following excerpts of an Iranian commentary (Fars news agency) bring out the US’ predicament:
- US officials are terrified to see eastern Aleppo fall into the hands of Syrian armed forces. They are furious about the allied forces of Iran, Syria, Russia and Hezbollah hitting its so-called “moderate rebels,” who are heavily armed and backed by the Pentagon… who have long been working with Al-Nusra and ISIL, shared their western arms supplies with these two groups and staged joint military operations with them everywhere in Aleppo, and every day you see one of them declares formal allegiance to either Al-Nusra or ISIL; the last one was Jund Al-Aqsa half of whom joined Al-Nusra on Sunday and the rest arrived in Raqqa on Wednesday to join the ISIL. The only way to stop the crushing defeat of its terrorists at the hands of the Syrian army and its allies is for Washington to establish a no-fly zone, which they cannot.
Clearly, the threats by US Secretary of State John Kerry to put Russia and Syria on trial for ‘war crimes’ and to impose fresh sanctions against Moscow over the Aleppo fighting, etc. – and, least of all, the veiled threat that US may have a ‘Plan B’ – are turning out to be bluster. With Russia’s decision to establish a full-fledged naval base at Tartus and a “permanent deployment” of Russian air force in the Hmeimin air base, it becomes a high-risk venture for the US to challenge Russian supremacy in Syria. Moscow’s politico-military objective in the 2-3 months that lie ahead will be to forestall even an interventionist US president such as Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, the realignments in regional politics also strengthen Russia’s position. Egypt’s decision to join hands with China and Venezuela to support the Russian resolution on Aleppo at the UN Security Council in the weekend – and, more important, to oppose the French resolution demanding end to air attacks on Aleppo (which Moscow vetoed) – has strained Egypt-Saudi Arabia relations. Since the vote, the Aramco, government-owned Saudi oil company, suspended oil aid to Egypt. The Saudi ambassador to Egypt left Cairo on Wednesday for consultations in Riyadh, prompting speculation about chill in Saudi-Egyptian ties. Russia is due to hold its first-ever military exercise on Egyptian territory next week.
To the vast majority of Americans, the Syrian crisis (as well as the state of affairs in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, etc.) is merely a distant blip on a cluttered radar screen. Competing with issues affecting an individual’s daily life like wages, taxes, and free trade, that small portion of the American population who hasn’t completely zoned out of the political and current-events sphere is increasingly overtaken with the necessities of survival. Those who are able to devote enough time to the Syrian crisis are confronted with an unprecedented onslaught of propaganda demonizing the Syrian government and the Syrian president as “killing his own people,” “brutal,” and “genocidal.” The Syrian people are also victims of the propaganda war as being obsessed with religion, divided, and opposed to their government.
As they are presented by the U.S. media, the Syrian people, like most other people across the world are completely dehumanized. In American media, Syrians are not human. They are numbers. 100 died today. 86 died the day before. Syrians are not mothers or sons. They are not fathers or little children, grandparents. They are blips on a screen and data in a spreadsheet. At least, this is how they are presented to an increasingly hardened American public, a nation that is becoming more and more desensitized to death, destruction, and degradation both at home and abroad.
Having recently concluded a trip to the Middle East, I can safely say that the claims made by Western media are the opposite of the truth.
While my visit centered in Lebanon, we had frequent opportunities to talk with ordinary Syrian citizens either visiting Lebanon or fleeing the ravages of the war in their home country. Indeed, Syrians and Syrian refugees were plentiful in Beirut and many would openly speak about the horrors visited upon them by the West’s proxy war and their trials outside Syria.
What is so important about the fact that these Syrians were being interviewed in Lebanon is the unique benefit of talking with someone not living in their home country because one knows with relative certainty that the person speaking has nothing to lose or gain by giving a false perception of the government. After all, one of the frequent accusations leveled by the Western media is that, whenever one speaks to a Syrian actually living in Syria is that they are handicapped by that person’s fear of retribution from the Syrian government. According to this train of thought, if a man criticized Assad in Syria, he might be subject to arrest and then, of course, torture, execution, and “barrel bombs.”
But that is not the case in Lebanon. In Lebanon, even the most vocal anti-Assad Syrian can speak his mind and be safely out of Assad’s reach. Indeed, even out of ear shot by the Syrian government. A Syrian in Lebanon can speak his piece and do so safely in the knowledge that the alleged “brutal dictator” cannot reach him.
That being said, out of all the Syrians I met and spoke to – refugees and visitors, Muslim and Christian, male and female – not one of them supported the “rebels” and all of them – 100% – fully supported their government and Bashar al-Assad. These individuals had nothing but hate for the terrorists and nothing but love for Assad and the Syrian government.
This point needs to be stressed. These individuals were not under threat of a tyrant ready to arrest them if they spoke out against him. They were free of Assad. They could spit on his portrait if they wanted and there is nothing the Syrian government can do to them. Instead, they expressed an incredible amount of pride in their country, their government, and their President.
So, with that in mind, if Assad and the Syrian government are “barrel bombing” their own citizens, committing genocide against the Syrian people, and killing civilians indiscriminately, and if Syrians are free to speak their mind about Assad in Lebanon, why couldn’t I find one Syrian who wanted Assad to “step down” or for terrorists to bring them the “freedom and democracy” the West keeps yapping on about? Perhaps I was looking in the wrong places or perhaps the information coming from Western governments and their media mouthpieces are simply propaganda. Personally, I’ll put my money on the latter.
One striking aspect of Beirut in the context of the Syrian crisis is that one does not necessarily have to seek out the Syrians in order to speak to them. If one only wears a necklace, t-shirt, or bracelet with the Syrian flag, they will come to you. Any indication of solidarity with their country, especially exhibited by a Westerner (even better, an American) and a man who speaks only one word of English will stop whatever he is doing so that he can have a conversation with the foreigner, even if that conversation is done by body language, hand gestures, broken English, interpreters, or Google Translate alone.
Others more skilled in the English language are willing to have long discussions about their experiences, their support for the government, and their hatred for the terrorists infecting their country. They would tell tales of watching people they knew killed in front of them and having lost family or very close friends at the hands of America’s “moderates.” Indeed, in Syria, as well as in the diaspora of the last 5 years, it seems impossible to speak with a single Syrian who has not lost someone close to them.
The sheer magnitude of the crisis is unimaginable in scale, much in the way that the horrors inflicted upon the Syrian people by America’s democracy loving cannibals are beyond the comprehension of most Western audiences. But despite all the bloodshed, loss, and terror perpetrated on Syria by the United States, the Syrian spirit remains and the Syrian people remain some of the kindest, friendliest, and most hospitable people on the face of the earth.
In addition, Syrians remain a seemingly highly informed audience despite the fact that their country has been crippled by warfare for the past five years and that they themselves have been turned into refugees. Knowledge not only of their own situation, but about the players behind it and the developments taking place in Europe and America is common and, while American audiences watch the 24 hours news cycle in utter befuddlement as to the events taking place in Syria, Syrians are profoundly aware of just who is responsible for the crisis their country is facing.
While Americans chalk the crisis up to the “they have been fighting for thousands of years” line or accept the propaganda that Syria is facing a civil war, Syrians know that what they are facing is a proxy war against their government, against their very way of life, and against Russia. Syrians are fully aware of the fact that the terrorists beheading their way across the country are funded by Saudi Arabia, facilitated by Turkey and Israel, and trained by the United States. They are fully aware that there are no “moderates” fighting against the Syrian government and that the United States is responsible for creating the ISIS terror organization it is claiming to fight.
All of this may come as a surprise to Americans but, in Syria, it is well known.
With that in mind, it is an extraordinary thing that Syrians can welcome foreigners visiting their country with such patience and forgiveness. It is truly amazing that Syrian refugees struggling to survive in a foreign country is willing to sit with a citizen of the very country that destroyed his home and killed his family members, smoke hookah with him, and discuss his homeland. It is an unbelievable act of understanding and forgiveness for a man not to judge an American as the enemy and to separate the American people from their government. I was personally struck by the genuine kindness shown to me by people who have been given every legitimate reason to do otherwise.
What the United States is doing to Syria is truly shameful and immoral but, despite the horrors the U.S. and NATO countries have visited upon Syria, the people have refused to give in.
As Mark Twain said,
Damascus has seen all that has ever occurred on earth, and still she lives. She has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand empires, and will see the tombs of a thousand more before she dies.
Judging by the people I met, I am inclined to agree with him.
Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, and The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President.