Delusions on Syria prevail in official Washington
Tulsi Gabbard is one brave Congresswoman. She has challenged her party and the president saying that it’s time for Washington to halt its “illegal, counter-productive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad. I don’t think Assad should be removed. If Assad is removed and overthrown, ISIS, al Qaeda, Al Nustra, these Islamic extremist groups will walk straight in and take over all of Syria … they will be even stronger.”
Indeed, Washington’s senseless policy in Syria has been hanging out there like overripe fruit for quite some time with the mainstream media instead marching at lockstep to the tune being whistled by a large disengaged and unaccountable White House. Gabbard might go one step further to ask why Syria is the way it is in the first place since that would question Administration priorities under Democrats as well as Republicans, both of which have emphasized eliminating al-Assad for no conceivable reason that has anything to do with actual American interests.
Much has been made of Washington groupthink, which is the concept that when a meeting of senior staffers is held everyone will veer towards a point of view that is being espoused by whoever called the meeting, be they the president or one of the cabinet secretaries. It is also reflected in the output of foundations and think tanks, which rely on government access as well as funding from beneficiaries of the war economy. Current groupthink, rejected by Gabbard, is that removing al-Assad is somehow an essential precondition for any settlement of Syria’s torment.
Another prevalent groupthink that is sometimes linked to the Syria issue is that Russia’s Vladimir Putin is somehow a reincarnation of Josef Stalin and that today’s Russia is actually the Soviet Union, ready, willing and able to expand into Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Though considerable opposition to those two viewpoints can be noted in the alternative media it is not listened to in the White House.
Yet another kind of groupthink prevails within the government bureaucracies themselves, compounding the problem. From my own experience, analysts at CIA very often were scrupulous in their judgements on developments overseas but a funny thing would happen at Agency headquarters as information made its way from the ground floor up to the seventh floor where the political appointee mandarins would preside. It would become politicized and any viewpoints diametrically opposed to what prevailed at the consumer level in Congress and in the White House would be mitigated or even excised. Such is the nature of bureaucracy, which exists to support the status quo and inter alia requires a satisfied audience to prosper.
And the press fails to do its part to correct the listing ship. The rubbish that appears in the mainstream media under the rubric of “informed opinion” bears a large part of the blame because it continues to create a mythical magical kingdom in which Americans all wear white hats and go about slaying dragons because it is good for the whole wide world, even if those heathens don’t appreciate it. That is what Americans like to think about themselves apparently, all contrary evidence notwithstanding.
A piece on Syria that appeared in the Washington Post before Christmas exemplifies precisely what is wrong with the punditry that shapes the narrative that appears to drive the national consensus on what to do about terrorism and related issues. It is “Obama and Kerry’s wishful thinking on Syria,” by Frederic C. Hof, currently a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center. Hof was an army officer who had extensive service in the Middle East. He is, somewhat uncharacteristically, an actual expert on the Arab world and speaks Arabic. He joined the State Department in 2009 after an interlude in the private sector as the President and CEO of AALC, limited company, an international business consulting and project finance firm formerly known as Armitage Associates LC. In 2012 Hof served as President Barack Obama’s Special Adviser for Transition in Syria.
Hof is a bright and highly competent guy whose professional life has been closely linked to the U.S. government version of reality, a reality in which Washington calls the shots and is empowered to “draw red lines.” Relative to the U.S., all other governments are either client states or adversaries who can be disregarded or bullied into compliance. In October he wrote: “With regard to ISIL, a professional ground combat component provided by regional powers is desperately needed to work with coalition aircraft to sweep this abomination from Syria and permit a governmental alternative to the Assad regime to take root inside Syria. With central and eastern Syria free of both the regime and ISIL, an all-Syrian national stabilization force can be built. Western desires for a negotiated end to the Syrian crisis would be based, under these circumstances, on more than a wish and a hope. The United States should neither seek nor shy away from confrontation with Russian forces in Syria. Moscow will not like it if its client’s ability to perform mass murder is impeded. Russia will not be pleased if ISIL, its false pretext for military intervention in Syria, is swept from the table. Ideally, Russia will not elect to escort regime aircraft on their mass homicide missions. And it would be difficult for even Russian President Vladimir Putin to articulate outrage if ISIL is crushed militarily. But if Russia seeks out armed confrontation with the United States in Syria, it would be a mistake for Washington to back down. People like Putin will push until they hit steel. And he will not stop in Syria.”
The op-ed is saying several things, which most likely reflect the Washington consensus on foreign policy. First, it advocates a U.S. leading role in Syria in support of a currently non-existent and unlikely to exist regional force to fight ISIS thereby creating an alternative government enabling the removal of al-Assad from power and winding up with a “Western desired” democracy. Second, it characterizes Russia as supporting “mass homicide” in Syria and urges the U.S. to confront it militarily if necessary as Moscow is intent on expansion. That means that Syria somehow has become a vital American interest, important enough to go to war with Russia.
Hof’s more recent foray in the Post makes a number of similar points. First, that the Syrian civil war cannot end as long as al-Assad remains in power is described as an “objective truth” that adversaries like Russia and Iran refuse to accept. Al-Assad is described as a “barrel bomber in chief.” Iran, in particular, should “grasp the chance to become a normal state.” Hof likens the Syrian, Iranian and Russian leadership to Hitler thirty years ago in that they are being given a pass by the West and avers that they “know that Assad is the single greatest obstacle to a united front against Islamic State.” Iran is motivated by propping up a client state while Russia is into the game desirous of “humiliating the United States by preserving Assad.” The op-ed goes on to claim that delaying action for thousands of Syrians will mean “people slaughtered, maimed, stampeded, starved, tortured and raped by Assad’s people” and reiterates the call for “professional ground forces… under U.S. command” to deal simultaneously with both al-Assad and ISIS.
Given all of the above, it is no wonder that many of us find American foreign and national security policy incomprehensible. First of all, by what Act of God does the United States have a Special Adviser for Transition in Syria? Why does that position even exist? How would the White House react if the Chinese or Russians were to create a similar bureaucracy tasked with subverting the manifestly corrupt U.S. institutions and even arming “rebels” to do the job?
One suspects that antagonism towards Damascus is rooted in the fact that the United States government have been working hard in a neoconservative driven effort supported by Israel to subvert the Syrian regime ever since President George W. Bush signed the Syria Accountability Act in 2004. Al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons on his own people is frequently cited as a justification for armed intervention, but there is considerable controversy over the incident at Ghouta in 2013, with many observers believing that the attack was staged “false flag” by the rebels possibly aided by the Turkish intelligence service to implicate the Syrian government. And it is easy to forget that before Syria under al-Assad became an enemy it was considered friendly, having participated in the U.S. led coalition that ousted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991 and also having supported Washington’s counter-terrorism “rendition” program post-9/11.
It is simplistic to see everything as a problem created by the Syrian government, Russia and Iran, all of whom have been described as “adversaries” of the United States even though they are actively fighting ISIS. That label would be comforting if one were a reader of the Rupert Murdoch media but Tehran’s and Moscow’s desire to stabilize the Syrian government position as a prelude to negotiations for a settlement is not exactly wrongheaded, as Congresswoman Gabbard has noted. And any narrative’s thrust more-or-less depends on where one starts. To my mind the blame for the mess in Syria and Iraq coupled with the rise of ISIS should be put squarely where it belongs: at the White House under our two most recent presidents and their advisers. The rot began in 2003 when Iraq was invaded. At that time both Baghdad and Damascus were quiet, stable and terrorist free even if they were not democracies. Neither threatened the United States and neither threatens the U.S. to this day, which makes one wonder at why al-Assad has been elevated to enemy-in-chief status by the White House and media.
The inside the beltway dismissal of Iran and Russia is classic Washington groupthink. Iran may indeed not be a “normal” nation, but that just might be due to threats against it emanating from the United States and Israel since the foundation of the Islamic Republic in 1978. We are currently witnessing the U.S. Congress and Israel cranking up the pressure to defeat implementation of the nuclear program agreement recently signed with Tehran, an effort that suggests that no matter what it does or doesn’t do Iran will never be seen as normal or even acceptable by most of the power-brokers in Washington.
And the denigration of Russia is another given, complete with the often heard but ridiculous claim that Moscow is out to “humiliate” the U.S., which often comes coupled with a reference to Hitler. Russia may have a government that is not to our liking but it has a serious and legitimate interest in preventing the spillover of Islamic insurgency into its own heavily Muslim southern federated states. Creating a cartoon image of Vladimir Putin as someone who has to be taught a lesson even though he has in fact been a largely realistic, restrained and rational player in his foreign policy, is not a serious argument. Stating that Russia is only interested in propping up a client and enabling mass murder is both sloppy and does not allow for other considerations that might actually be both sensible and legitimate while a willingness to confront major power Russia militarily over unimportant Syria is something closely akin to madness. And attributing all the mayhem in Syria to its government is similarly myopic in that it ignores the other players on the ground, to include groups supported by America’s nominal Arab and Turkish allies that the United States calls “terrorist.”
The apparent willingness among policy makers to put U.S. troops on the ground in Syria against both its government and ISIS flies against all reason given the poor track record of White House initiated military interventions over the past fifteen years. The creation of a “stabilization force” without any current Syrian government participation is laughable as even President Obama has conceded that the identification and deployment of “moderate rebels” is a bit of a fantasy. And Syria is not taking place in a vacuum. Afghanistan is rapidly sliding back under Taliban control, Iraq is chaotic and its closest friend is Iran while Libya is anarchical. Another intervention? No thanks.
None of these buildings collapsed into their own footprint at near-freefall acceleration, so why did the World Trade Center buildings?
FedEx staff at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris have complained about “irresponsible” security drills after finding explosives in a ripped package in transit from the US to Tunisia. After the bombs turned out to be fake, airport personnel were told they were part of US anti-terrorist exercises.
A pressure cooker with nuts and bolts was discovered by employees of FedEx, the American courier service, at the airport on January 22, French media reported Thursday, citing sources.
After further inspection, the company staff also found other packages with devices that resembled explosives and detonators, said Frederic Petit, FedEx employees’ representative for the CGT union.
The employees immediately called police, saying that there was “imminent danger” at the airport, Petit added. The officers arrived with dogs and X-ray machines to inspect the devices.
But a security source at the airport said the devices were decoys bound for the US embassy in Tunisia as a part of training exercise.
“This type of delivery is not common, but sometimes takes place,” the source told AFP. “This is just the first time that a package has been opened.”
However, this explanation didn’t satisfy FedEx employees in the wake of the recent deadly attacks in French capital in November.
“No one was aware of this cargo,” said Petit, adding that these drills are “irresponsible, especially in the very state of emergency” declared after the attacks in Paris when Islamic State terrorists killed 130 people.
FedEx workers have reportedly decided to call for a prohibition on sending such parcels without notice, due to the security situation in France.
Jack Letts © Amaze with our planet / YouTube
A 20-year-old boy accused of being the first white Briton to join Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) has distanced himself from allegations suggesting he is a terrorist, calling the claims “awkward.”
More than one year ago, Jack Letts – dubbed ‘Jihadi Jack’ – converted to Islam and traveled to Syria. He has since been accused of fighting for IS, but his family has dismissed these reports, insisting he is carrying out “humanitarian work.”
It is also claimed that Letts is now living under the name Abu Mohammed and has a wife and son.
In private Facebook messages seen by the Independent, Letts denied the claims and said: “It’s sort of awkward when the media thinks your ISIS and you’re not.”
“Maybe they got bored worrying about what colour socks certain celebrities wear and took out the frustration on me? [sic]” he wrote on the social media site.
The suspected terrorist then went on to accuse the media of publishing lies about him because of his faith.
“The formula with the media is simple: English guy became Muslim + went to the Middle East + followed Islam = ISIS + eats babies x evil,” he said.
“It doesn’t help, admittedly, that bare [lots of] different people have used my fb account [some of whom are extreme etc.. and only got my password through one guy I stupidly trusted].”
Responding to allegations that he has been in contact with Omar Hussain, the former supermarket worker from High Wycombe who left Britain to fight for Isis in 2014, Letts said: “I just read that I met with some guy called umar in some article. First time I learn this amongst the other lies [sic].”
Mocking tabloid newspaper reports, he added: “One of the funniest articles was the one were the last sentence was ‘Jack Letts and ISIS have been contacted for comment. Like me and ISIS have like a shared office in which we receive requests for comment and were still thinking about whether to reply or not.”
Earlier this week, Letts’ mother Sally dismissed reports suggesting her son is a terrorist, saying they are “absolutely ridiculous.”
“He is not a member of ISIS, he is very probably not the first white convert that has gone out there. He does not have a son and is not known as Abu Mohammed,” she told the Evening Standard.
“We spoke to him yesterday and he said he had never had a weapon in his life. He went out there for humanitarian purposes to help kids in Syrian refugee camps.
“It is not as if he is hiding – he tells us what he has for breakfast. All this is absolutely ridiculous, it is shocking,” his mother continued.
‘Did talk passionately about ISIS’
However, according to the Mail Online, Letts is a frontline fighter for the terrorist group.
One anonymous source, believed to be a friend of Letts, claimed he started to “talk passionately about ISIS” after he befriended a group of Muslim boys at school.
“He started befriending a group of Muslim boys at the school and that exposed him to Islam. I noticed he started becoming very preachy and was using Arabic, which was strange because I only ever saw him as a typical Oxford boy,” the source told the paper.
“He did talk passionately about ISIS, but I always assumed he meant he opposed them, not that he would join them.”
Some 800 British citizens are thought to have traveled to Iraq and Syria and there are growing fears about them returning to the UK to plot terror attacks in Britain.
Earlier this month, Home Secretary Theresa May announced nearly 400 of the 800 Britons who traveled to Syria since the start of the civil war have returned.
“Since the start of the conflict in Syria, more than 800 people from the UK who are of national security concern are thought to have travelled to the region, and we believe that around half of those have returned. Those who have travelled include young women and families,” May told the House of Commons.
‘Great need to strengthen EU’s response to terror’
In a report published on Monday, International police agency Europol warned that IS is preparing to bring mayhem to the streets of Europe, similar to the suicide bombings and shootings which left 130 people dead in Paris in November.
Apart from the jihadist group’s main bases in Syria, it has “smaller-scale training camps in the EU and Balkan [region],” Europol found.
The report says there is “every reason” to expect another IS-led terror attack in the coming months, as the group has a new “combat style capability.”
“There is every reason to expect that IS, IS-inspired terrorists or another religiously inspired terrorist group will undertake a terrorist attack somewhere in Europe again, intended to cause mass casualties amongst the civilian population,” Europol said in the report.
In a statement, Europol stressed that the threat of further terror attacks in Europe remains high, but added that there is a “great need” within the EU to “strengthen our response to terror.”
The publication of Europol’s report comes after the release of IS’ new propaganda video, showing the alleged Paris attackers participating in murders in a desert.
ISIS and similar terrorist groups are US creations, used as imperial foot soldiers in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.
A video attributed to ISIS warned of attacks on US and European cities, saying “revenge has started… blood will flow. There will be no safety in this world from our guns and bullets and explosives.”
Nothing suggests it’s credible. Any nation, organization or individuals can produce videos saying anything.
ISIS claimed responsibility for last November’s Paris attacks. Evidence strongly indicates state-sponsored false flag responsibility – Western fear-mongering to enlist support for endless wars and homeland crackdowns on fundamental freedoms, a sinister US-led plot.
No evidence points to ISIS’ involvement in what happened. Current threats attributed to the group, claiming intended expanded global attacks, focusing on Europe, reflect state-sponsored deception.
Western officials and echo-chamber media are responsible for willful deceit, including Europol (European police) director Rob Wainwright.
On Monday, he claimed ISIS “developed a new combat style capability to carry out a campaign of large-scale terrorist attacks on a global stage” – no credible evidence supporting his claim.
State-sponsored fear-mongering substitutes for hard facts. Claiming ISIS intends going “global” is propaganda rubbish. Endless repetition gets most people to believe it.
Wainwright’s claim appeared strategically timed to coincide with an alleged ISIS video, again claiming responsibility for last November’s Paris attacks – showing them participating in murders at an undisclosed location, allegedly before entering Europe ahead of the Paris false flag, CIA operatives and their French counterparts likely sharing joint responsibility.
Europol’s report was willful deception, fear-mongering, claims without independently verifiable evidence, saying: “IS is preparing more terrorist attacks, including more ‘Mumbai-style’ attacks (an earlier false flag) to be executed in member states of the EU, and in France in particular, (mainly aimed at) soft targets” – for greater fear-mongering impact.
ISIS’ strength depends entirely on US-led NATO, Saudi-led rogue Arab states and Israeli support.
Europol claiming it developed an “external action command,” able to conduct “special forces-style attacks” has no credibility given its dependence on nations indicated as targets for support.
Headline-making “terrorist” attacks invariably are state-sponsored, groups or individuals named as perpetrators having nothing to do with them, patsy victims of Western imperialism.
Most ordinary people in allegedly targeted countries are out-of-touch, uninformed, indifferent, and easily duped by state-sponsored propaganda – raging to support imperial lawlessness.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
The New York Times has exposed a long-standing CIA partnership with Saudi Arabia, whose latest endeavor is a program to arm Syrian rebels authorized by President Obama in early 2013. Under the “Timber Sycamore” program the Saudis provide funding and purchase weapons for Syrian rebels, while the CIA trains them in secret camps in Jordan.
The Saudi-CIA partnership dates back many years, and involves the British secret service. During the years when Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, the Saudis poured money into the Afghan mujahedeen as it fought Soviet forces, matching U.S. funding dollar for dollar. The mujahedeen funding was run through CIA-managed bank accounts in Switzerland. Those accounts were said to be part of the “Al Yamamah” program, dating to 1985, in which the British and the Saudis used an oil-for-arms barter deal to create massive offshore “black” accounts, including in the Cayman Islands, to bankroll and arm a wide array of global insurgencies. These accounts provided a major source of funds in the Afghan war against the Soviets.
This revelation by NYT adds additional weight to the allegations made in a book by Mike Springmann, former head of the US visa section in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from1987-1989. In Visas for al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts that Rocked the World, Springmann details how, “during the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, the CIA would move those operatives from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and then to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into an organization that is synonymous with jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.”
In an exclusive interview with Sputnik News, Springmann shared his first-hand experience of issuing US visas to would-be terrorists, a flagrant violation of US law.
“I know. I was there. I issued the visas,” Springmann told Sputnik News.
Upon his arrival at Jeddah, Springmann found that, as a visa officer, he was expected to winnow over a hundred applications a day, separating them into “issuances,” “refusals,” and what he later termed, “free passes for CIA agents.”
“One day,” Springmann recalls, “Eric Qualkenbush, the [then] CIA Base Chief, stopped me while I was walking on the consulate’s huge compound. He had a request. Could I issue a visa to one of his agents, an Iranian whose family owned an Oriental rug store? Eric said, ‘Mike, make it look good (wink, wink). We want him in Washington for consultations.’”
Springmann told Sputnik News he had almost daily battles with Jay Freres, the Consul General, along with several other CIA officials, who would consistently demand visas for people that law and regulation would ordinarily require him to refuse. He also had running fights with applicants who told him to approve their visas or they would complain to Freres, and have him overruled.
Most of these that Springmann now considers ‘unsavory types’ did, in fact, receive visas to go to the USA for training, debriefing, and other purposes. In enabling their passage, American government officials violated the Immigration and Nationality Act, as well as many regulations codified in the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, says Springmann. As a purported guardian of US immigration principles, he objected to the blatant violations of law and regulation. His objections fell on deaf ears.
Springmann details that eventually he came to realize that his Consular Section job duty in Jeddah was primarily to secure visas for CIA agents, i.e., foreigners recruited by American case officers.
“As I later learned to my dismay, the visa applicants were recruits for the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union’s armed forces. Further, as time went by, the fighters, trained in the United States, went on to other battlefields: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.”
But why would the CIA rely on a “genuine” state department visa employee when they could have easily planted one of their own into the Consular Section? According to Springmann, “at Jeddah, to the best of my knowledge, out of some twenty US citizens assigned to the consulate, only three people, including myself, worked for the Department of State. The rest were CIA or NSA officials or their spouses.”
The explanation to the above question was simple if cynical, Springmann told Sputnik News : it had to be an arms-length operation, to avoid exposure of the CIA program and to blame visa violations, if they became known, on “incompetent” office clerks, including himself.
The Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency collaborated in sending innocent workers like Springmann to Jeddah, a location that handled some forty-five-thousand visa applications annually. If a visa officer processed the paperwork and didn’t ask awkward questions about the applicants, that officer would keep his job. If the visa officer strictly followed the law, resisting illegal pressure to overlook those who did not have a legitimate reason for traveling to the United States, that employee “wasn’t with the program” and could be exposed to dismissal as an incompetent, an occurrence that eventually happened to the author.
“My name was on the visa plate that stamped applications to enter the United States, making me personally responsible for my actions,” he said. “In our spook-ridden Jeddah consulate, I sometimes found it was a daily battle to do my job,” he remarked, offering examples of two such battles.
“Two Pakistanis came to me for a visa. According to their story, they were traveling on a Commerce Department– organized trade mission to an automotive parts exhibition in the United States. However, they couldn’t name the trade show or identify the city in which it would be held. I denied their visa request. Within sixty minutes, Paul Arvid Tveit called and demanded visas for these same Pakistanis. I explained the reasons for my refusal, citing § 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Foreign Affairs Manual. Ignoring the law and regulation, Tveit went to Justice Stevens and the visas were issued.”
“Then, a political officer demanded a visa for a Sudanese who was a refugee from his own country and unemployed in Saudi Arabia. Following the letter and the spirit of the law, I refused. She immediately went to Justice, and a visa was issued. When I later asked Justice why he authorized a visa to someone with no ties to the Sudan or the kingdom, he replied simply ‘national security,’ a phrase without legal definition.”
The dubious games played by the CIA in the name of “national security” are common in many Foreign Service posts, Springmann contends. “In a subsequent conversation with Celerino Castillo, a former Drug Enforcement Agency official, I learned that the CIA’s involvement in the visa process was a successful program of long-standing in Latin America, he stated, adding that, it was also “I presume, a model for Saudi Arabia. South of the border the Agency would slip passports and applications from its contacts into packages sent to the local US consulate or embassy by travel agents. Sandwiched between legitimate applications, ‘Agency assets’ would not be carefully examined by consular officers and would thus get a free ride to the United States.”
A Visa for the Blind Sheikh
Likewise, Springmann says, it was a CIA “consular officer” at Khartoum in Sudan who issued a tourist visa to Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, later linked to the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The “blind” Sheikh had been on a State Department terrorist watch list when he was issued the visa, entering the United States by way of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Sudan in 1990.
Springmann believes the sheikh attempted to obtain a US visa from him via a proxy. The author states that he turned the application down.
The former state department employee pointed out to his superiors that, according to US law, passport and visa crimes are federal offenses, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The maximum prison sentence is increased to 15 years if the offense is connected to drug trafficking, and to 20 years if connected to terrorism.
In a chance meeting, Joe Trento, a journalist at the Public Education Center in Washington, DC, put into perspective for Sprigmann what had been really going on with the CIA in Jeddah.
“It wasn’t a garden variety visa fraud as I had once thought, but something much more serious: it was a ‘visas for terrorists program,’ set up to recruit and train (in the United States) murderers, war criminals, and human rights violators for combat in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. These men became the founding members of al-Qaeda, the Arab-Afghan Legion.”
“Former President Jimmy Carter and his National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, began the campaign to assemble these goons to engage in blowing things up and shooting things down, preferably with Soviet soldiers inside.”
But the Saudis and other regional players in the “jihad” did not want those “saddle-tramps” on their soil, fearing that they would eventually use their newly acquired skills to promote “regime change” at home. That explains the reason many of these recruits were sent to the US, Springmann says, where there were up to 52 induction and training centers, the primary one in Brooklyn, New York City.
During his two years in Jeddah, Springmann says, he wrangled daily with intelligence officers who staffed and ran the US consulate.
“These were the people who arranged for recruiting and training what were then the mujahedeen, who later became al-Qaeda, who then transformed themselves into ISIS. I saw, but didn’t recognize, their start at Jeddah. We’ve all seen their later development and what happens when the intelligence services control foreign policy and diplomacy: the people they assembled aided the breakup of Yugoslavia, the destruction of Iraq, the collapse of Libya, and the savaging of Syria.”
Springmann attempted to protest the illegal visa practices at the highest levels of government for over 20 years, but was repeatedly stonewalled. During that time, he says, the Arab-Afghan Legion, created by the CIA to undermine the Soviet Union, has been marching from strength to strength.
Aftermath of the Shankill Road Bombing © Wikipedia
Northern Ireland’s police watchdog is investigating allegations that the IRA operative who planned the 1993 Shankhill Road bombing was an MI5 informant who gave intelligence that could have helped security forces stop the atrocity.
Nine civilians, including two children, were killed in the attack on a fish shop in Belfast’s loyalist heartland in 1993. The bombing became one of the most notorious atrocities of The Troubles, prompting a wave of sectarian revenge murders in its wake.
Some 23 years after the attack, allegations have surfaced that sensitive documents stolen by the Irish Republican Army in a 2002 raid on the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) headquarters in Castlereagh show that the terrorist who planned the bombing was a British intelligence agent codenamed “AA.”
Excerpts of the stolen files indicate that AA had extensively briefed his Special Branch or MI5 handlers on the objective and timing of the bombing, which had been designed to stoke sectarian anger by murdering the leader of loyalist terror group the Ulster Defense Association (UDA).
UDA chiefs had planned to meet above the fish shop on the day of the attack, but postponed at short notice. Although they escaped the blast unharmed, it killed Protestant shoppers and one of the bombers, IRA member Thomas Begley.
The initial plan had been to light a fuse just long enough for civilians to be evacuated from the site and for the bombers, who were disguised as delivery men, to flee. But the bomb exploded as Begley approached the shop’s counter amid a group of customers.
Establishing a motive
The allegations concerning AA, which were first reported by the Belfast-based newspaper Irish News, raise the question of precisely what British intelligence officers knew in the run-up to the atrocity.
Observers suggest UK intelligence officers either allowed a botched bombing of civilians to play out or failed to intervene quickly enough to stop the atrocity.
The police ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael Maguire, has confirmed he is examining the allegation.
“We have received a complaint. It centers on two concerns: Did the RUC have information which would have allowed them to prevent the bombing and was the subsequent investigation compromised; [and] did the police ‘fail to deliver justice to the families of those who lost their lives in the bombing?’” he said.
“We will seek to establish if this is something we should investigate, and if so, when we could begin this work.”
History of collusion
The police ombudsman’s inquiry began after relative of one of the Shankill Road bombing’s victims approached the watchdog, asking about AA.
The Castlereagh documents are believed to reveal that AA was passing information back to his handlers on details of the IRA plot to target senior UDA members, including the location and date of the bombing.
The documents stolen by the IRA in its raid on the RUC Castlereagh offices gave the codenames of British agents inside Republican terrorist groups, and a year later the IRA “stood down” one of its operatives, which it identified as AA after comparing the RUC documents with its own intelligence.
Investigators examining the case will look to ascertain whether information from the British agent could have been given to the UDA leadership to make sure their meeting was rescheduled and whether there is evidence to show British intelligence operatives allowed the attack to go ahead to protect AA as their source.
Relatives of the bombing’s victims have called for a full investigation.
Charlie Butler, who lost three relatives in the Shankill Road bombing, said he and other families would be “devastated” if the allegations are accurate.
“Collusion is not a nice word for anyone but when it is collusion with innocent people losing their lives to protect someone else there has to be a line drawn to say that is wrong,” he told BBC News.
“[The security forces] were there to do a job, to protect people. If they knew about [the bombing] then they should pay.”
The claims are the latest in a long line of allegations of collusion between terror groups and security forces on both sides of The Troubles.
In addition to the case involving AA, Northern Ireland’s police watchdog is investigating murders in the 1980s and 1990s of at least 20 alleged IRA informers whose family members believe they were used as scapegoats to cover the tracks of the security forces’ prominent IRA agents.
On Tuesday, Jan. 12 a big explosion took place in the heart of Istanbul’s tourist district of Sultanahmet. The explosion was caused by a suicide bomber who blew himself up next to a group of mainly German tourists, instantly killing ten and injuring 15 others. Soon, the bomber was identified as a Saudi born Syrian man who had recently entered Turkey and had registered himself as a refugee only days prior to his suicide mission.
According to the Turkish authorities the man was linked to the Islamic State group (IS, or ISIS/ISIL), making this the terrorist group’s fourth deadly suicide bombing in Turkey in one year. Previous attacks that have been ascribed to – but haven’t been claimed by – IS occurred in Diyarbakir in June, Suruc in July and Ankara in October, with a total death toll of around 140.
What set this latest attack apart from the others, however, is the explicit targeting of foreign nationals holidaying in Turkey. Previous attacks were all directed against Kurdish groups and their supporters, indicating a spillover from the wars in Syria and Iraq where Kurdish forces are seen as some of the most effective and reliable opponents of IS.
The Kurdish groups and organizations targeted by the Islamic State group were at the same time actively opposing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). This sparked rumors of the terror group being in cahoots with the Turkish government. Accusations ranged from the two parties actively cooperating with each other to the government’s willful neglect of the safety of its Kurdish citizens.
That the Turkish government considers the Kurds at home and abroad as a bigger threat to the national security than IS has never been a secret. Moreover, the fact that IS is fighting against two of Turkey’s key enemies in Syria – the Assad government and local Kurdish forces – means that Turkey has always been hesitant about seriously and directly confronting the jihadists.
Questions and irregularities
It is in this context that the attack in Istanbul seems out of place. Why would the Islamic State group risk antagonizing one of the few parties in the region with which it has at least some shared goals? What is there to be gained from dealing a blow to Turkey’s already hampered tourist industry and forcing the country’s hand in taking a firm stance against the terrorist group?
There are a number of questions and irregularities that come up when looking at the facts that have thus far come out.
The first matter is the timing of the attack. If the aim of the attack is to hit Turkey by targeting its US$30 billion tourist industry, the bomber couldn’t possibly have chosen a worse time than a cold Tuesday morning in mid-January. The site of the attack is the exact location where during the holiday season thousands of tourists line up every day to visit the Blue Mosque. The number of victims would undoubtedly have been many times higher if the attack would have taken place a few months later, with an absolutely devastating effect on Turkey’s tourist industry.
Then there is the matter of the bomber’s identity. Mere hours after the attack the identity of the man who blew himself to pieces was already known and released. Nabil Fadli was a 28-year-old, Saudi-born Syrian man who had joined IS’ ranks after the terror group had occupied his hometown of Manbij, north of Aleppo.
According to unnamed Turkish officials Fadli had been part of a plot to attack the New Year’s celebrations in Ankara, but this mission had to be aborted after two of his collaborators were exposed and arrested. Fadli moved to Istanbul where he registered himself as a refugee, in the process giving away his fingerprints that would eventually lead to his identification as the bomber one week later.
The curious thing is, why would a member of the Islamic State group who has come to Turkey with the intention of committing a suicide bomb attack make himself known to the authorities – especially after two of his companions have just been arrested? Why have your picture and fingerprints taken and give away the address where you’re staying – which he did, according to the official reports – instead of laying low for a few days before executing the plan for the attack?
Finally, there is the curious issue of IS never actually having claimed responsibility for the attack. Nor for any of the other attacks mentioned above, which all have been attributed to the terrorist group by the Turkish government. The past year has seen a sting of terror attacks committed by the Islamic State group outside of the territories that are under its control – from Jakarta to Paris, Tunis to Beirut – and each and everyone of them has been claimed by the terror group. Oddly enough, not a single attack in Turkey that has been ascribed to IS has actually been claimed by them.
Raising these questions and irregularities is not done for the purpose of pointing fingers at one party or another. They simply serve as a mental exercise to remind one that, especially when entering the realm of terror and counterterrorism, the reality is rarely how it is presented to the public.
Shifting the blame
The day after the attack, Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested that “certain powers could be using Daesh,” while referring to the Islamic State group by its Arab acronym. Which“certain powers” he had in mind became clear when anonymous government sources told Reuters that Fadli might have been “coerced by the PYD or by Syrian intelligence into the Istanbul bombing.”
These baseless allegations serve no other purpose but to frame the party of the Syrian Kurds, the Democratic Unions Party, or PYD, as the terrorist organization Turkish authorities claim it to be. Immediately after the Ankara bombings in October, similar attempts at spreading false propaganda were made. Prime minister Davutoglu coined the term “cocktail terrorism” and claimed on national television that the attack was the work of a coalition between the PYD, the Islamic State group, Syrian secret services and the PKK.
The Istanbul attack, regardless of who did it, will be used as propaganda by all the parties involved. For Turkey, which had come under increasing international pressure for failing to step up against IS, the attack firmly places them once again at the heart of the anti-terror coalition dominated by the US and Europe. Reports about retaliation attacks against IS in which supposedly 200 terrorists were killed in cross border artillery fire – an incredible (literally) high number – are meant to erase all doubts that Turkey is now seriously confronting IS.
The attack has also provided Turkey with the necessary pretext to launch attacks further into Syria, at the town of Manbij – the bomber’s hometown – to be precise. This is a highly strategic target because it’s location in the heart of the proposed “security zone” Turkey has wanted to establish for a long time. Coincidentally, Manbij is also the next stop for a coalition of Kurdish forces and their allies who have been gaining significant ground at the cost of the Islamic State group after a recent string of important victories.
Judging from the news, the Istanbul attack has certainly led to renewed efforts by the Turkish government to confront and attack IS. Targets in Syria have been hit, and dozens of alleged IS members have been arrested in the country. However, the fact that part of the blame has been tried to be placed on the Syrian Kurds shows that, besides a deeply tragic event, the suicide attack is at the same time a good opportunity to frame the public perception and pursue a very specific political agenda.
Joris Leverink is an Istanbul-based political analyst and writer with an MSc in Political Economy. He is an editor for ROAR Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter via @Le_Frique.
Canadians should be hanging their heads in shame.
Our government is guilty of the most egregious criminal acts as defined by Nuremberg Principles, and we are bona fide members of the State Sponsors of Terrorism club.
When our government bombs the sovereign state of Syria without the consent of President al-Assad and without United Nations Security Council approval, we are committing war crimes of the highest order.
When we support and fund foreign mercenary terrorists that are invading Syria, we are state sponsors of terrorism. There are no “moderate” terrorists. The mercenaries are all being paid and enabled by the West and its allies, including Turkey (a NATO member), Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan.
On all counts we are guilty. We are war criminals and state sponsors of terrorism.
The popular refrain that “Assad must go”, echoed by Canada’s Defense Minister, Harjit Sajjan, is in itself an endorsement of criminality. Regime change operations are criminal according to international law.
A soft power complex that disseminates lies and confusion is seemingly sufficient to make gullible western audiences accept criminality, even as the pretexts for previous illegal invasions invariably reveal themselves to be self-serving fabrications.
Hussein didn’t have WMD, but Western sanctions before the pre-meditated Iraq invasion willfully destroyed water treatment facilities and subsequently killed almost two million people, including about half a million children.
Gaddafi wasn’t “bombing his own people” or destroying Libya. The West and its proxies did the killing. The bombing in Libya – in support of al Qaeda ground troops – targeted and destroyed civilian infrastructure, including the Great Man-Made River Project. The bombs and the foreign terrorist ground troops killed Libyans, including Gadaffi, but Western propagandists and “confusion mongers” always portray an inverted version of reality to justify their atrocities.
Likewise for Assad – he is defending his country from foreign terrorists, not “killing his own people” – the Western invaders are killing Assad’s people.
Assad is not starving his own people either. Recently the discredited Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) fabricated a story alleging that Assad was starving people in Madaya. Evidence has recently emerged, however, that Western-supported rebels have been stockpiling food and selling it to civilians at exorbitant prices. Again, Western military forces target civilians – with a view to killing and/or demoralizing them—for “strategic” purposes. Vanessa Beeley decodes the intentional misrepresentation of the Madaya psy op. by listing investigative questions that should have been asked to find the truth, but were not.
War crimes perpetrated by the West are always dressed in mantles of respectability. MSM spokespeople, all of whom have conflicts of interest, paint civilian murders as “collateral damage”. Some commentators use the phrase “collateral murder”, but more accurately the military doctrine of slaughtering civilians is mass murder. The 9/11 wars are all pre-meditated, the false pretexts are carefully manufactured by State Departments, Public Relations agencies, and intelligence agencies, and the mass murder is intentional. The 9/11 wars generate unforeseen developments, but the invasions and occupations were not and are not “mistakes”, as some commentators would have us believe.
NATO destroys, loots, and creates chaos so that it can impose its hegemony. Again, it’s an inversion of the ridiculous lie of “spreading democracy”. The destruction also serves to create waves of refugees that serve to destabilize other countries — Europe is arguably being destabilized with a view to keeping the EU subservient to the U.S oligarch interests. Interestingly, countries not being “sacrificed” include Israel and Wahhabi Saudi Arabia – and neither country is accepting refugees/imperial crime victims either.
All of these pre-meditated invasions point to a larger picture. Humanity is being sacrificed for the illusory benefit of the criminal 1% transnational oligarch class. If Western populations were to awaken to the barbaric crimes being perpetrated in their names, they would rightly bow their heads in shame.
The shame would be a strong foundation for shaking off the shackles of lies and war propaganda, and for withdrawing our consent to these crimes against humanity.
So now the Russian President is a cold-blooded assassin, as well as Europe’s “new Hitler”, the saboteur of civilian airliners, sponsor of drug abuse in sports and the friend of Middle East butcher-dictators.
Can the list of demonic epithets for the Russian leader get any longer? Just when you think it couldn’t, the good old British master of dirty tricks pulls out the “evil assassin” card.
Putin is fingered for ordering the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former member of Russia’s security service FSB.
The British so-called public inquiry published this week only said Putin “probably” ordered the killing of Litvinenko in London nearly 10 years ago. But the intended innuendo implanted in the public mind is plain: Putin is an assassin.
As the Russian Foreign Ministry said in derisory response to the British report, it is all so predictable. The politicization of a criminal matter is so flagrantly transparent, it is almost cringe-making in its clumsiness.The inquiry was ordered by the British government in October 2014, and is anything but “public”. It is based on secret evidence presented behind closed doors by anonymous British intelligence figures.
No verifiable proof worthy of a proper legal court is presented. It is based entirely on “circumstantial”, that is subjective, inference by a former British judge sitting in private, but who is then given ample media exposure to broadcast his “findings”. To call this a “judicial ruling” is a farce and an insult to the public’s intelligence.
Yet following the announcement of the inquiry’s “conclusions”, the British government immediately censured Russia over “a blatant and unacceptable breach of international law”. This is not only typical British arrogance, it is a dangerous, reckless misuse of a country’s dubious legal procedures to project an international political jurisdiction.
There is plenty of hard evidence for Russia or any other state to accuse the British prime minister of war crimes given his country’s illegal interference in Libya and Syria. But what gives Britain the right to accuse Russia’s head of state of murder, especially based on such flimsy “circumstantial” evidence? Britain’s disrespect for international norms in this regard is a new low in dirty tricks.
The corny Cold War stereotypes of “ex-KGB spies seeking revenge” is the first giveaway that this is a “psyops job”, in addition to the scripted political reaction by the British government. This latest smear fits consistently with the long-running running Western-led propaganda vendetta against Vladimir Putin.
As alluded to above, the smears include Putin wanting to militarily over-run Europe to revive the Soviet Empire, to the shooting down of the Malaysian MH17 airliner over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 with 298 dead, to Russia’s air force support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. Even though the latter instance is legitimate aid to an allied country which is actually being attacked by Western-backed terrorist mercenaries for regime change.Of the many absurdities in the British report on the death of Litvinenko, perhaps the main one is the alleged use of radioactive Polonium as a lethal poison. Two named former FSB agents are accused in the British report of having tipped the toxin into Litvinenko’s pot of tea during a private meeting at a posh London hotel. How very English. Death by a cup of tea!
The meeting did take place in November 2006. Three weeks later, Litvinenko died in a London hospital from internal organ failure apparently due to poisoning from the Polonium.But if, as the British claim, it was the work of cold-blooded, professional Russian assassins under orders from their bosses in the Kremlin the fatal contradiction in this claim is that the apparent murder was carried out with extraordinary amateurishness.
Traces of radioactive polonium were allegedly found in the London hotels where the accused Russian men stayed and even the planes they travelled on. If professional assassins were to use radioactive poison they would keep the lethal dose in a lead capsule to prevent emission of radioactivity. Our putative Russian assassins in London must have been throwing the deadly substance around themselves like aftershave, if we are to believe the findings of the British judge.
On the contrary, what careless radioactive traces in hotels, planes and elsewhere strongly suggest is that someone was laying an incriminating path to frame up the Russian men. And even at that we don’t really know if traces of radioactivity were actually found because, as noted the un-public nature of the British inquiry was based entirely on secret, unverifiable “evidence”.
This is the same kind of legal “standard” that the West uses to accuse Russian warplanes of bombing hospitals in Syria or Russian tanks rolling across Ukraine – with no verifiable evidence. It’s all down to politicized assertion and bombast.
Litvinenko defected from Russia to Britain in 2000 after he was sacked from the Russian FSB for unprofessional misconduct. He became a British citizen and worked for Britain’s state intelligence MI6. It sounds as if Litvinenko was an expedient opportunist, making nice money as an anti-Putin media writer, from which he was able to buy a fashionable house in London.
He was a valuable asset to the British owing to the very public allegations he made and they were able to broadcast for smearing Putin and other Russian government officials with corruption claims. As a former “Kremlin spy”, the propaganda value that the British state exploited through Litvinenko was considerable.But then came an even more valuable propaganda opportunity for the British – Litvinenko’s death.
Who is to say that his British handlers did not bump off the Russian “former spy” with their own supply of radioactive polonium? And given Litvinenko’s personal umbrage with the Russian government for being sacked from the FSB, he could be relied on by the British to give a plausible-sounding death bed statement imputing Putin for his demise.
The putative scenario of Litvinenko’s alleged assassination by Russian agents under the direction of the Kremlin was like an investment for the British. The propaganda dividends have paid out since his death in 2006 with recurring media stories impugning Vladimir Putin.
The timing of the latest big dividend – actually openly accusing Putin of ordering assassination – is another cause for suspicion that the British “public inquiry” is just the latest twist in a long-running smear campaign.
British media are calling for more sanctions to be imposed on the Russian government and for extradition warrants to be issued. However, British officials are quoted as saying that they are constrained because of the “sensitive timing” in relation to the peace talks due to take place in Geneva next week over Syria.
“We have other fish to fry with the Russians,” said one official in explaining why the British authorities may not take more legal action against Moscow over the Litvinenko case.
The “other fish to fry” is a veiled reference to extracting concessions from Russia over Syria where the British objective is regime change against President Assad.
This has all the hallmarks of a time-honored British psychological operation. Pile up the smears to then undermine the moral authority of your opponent in order that concessions can be extracted.
For the British, Alexander Litvinenko is definitely worth more dead than alive.
The father of Quinn Schansman, the only American citizen to die in the 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, has asked Secretary of State John Kerry to release the U.S. data that Kerry cited in claiming precise knowledge of where the suspected anti-aircraft missile was fired.
One of the mysteries of the MH-17 case has become why the United States – after asserting that it possessed information implicating ethnic Russian rebels and the Russian government – has failed to make the data public or apparently even share it with Dutch investigators who are leading the inquiry into how the plane was shot down and who was responsible.
Quinn Schansman (Photo from Facebook)
Quinn Schansman, who had dual U.S.-Dutch citizenship, boarded MH-17 along with 297 other people for a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014. The 19-year-old was planning to join his family for a vacation in Malaysia.
In a letter to Kerry dated Jan. 5, 2016, Thomas J. Schansman, Quinn’s father, noted Kerry’s remarks at a press conference on Aug. 12, 2014, when the Secretary of State said about the Buk anti-aircraft missile suspected of downing the plane: “We saw the take-off. We saw the trajectory. We saw the hit. We saw this aeroplane disappear from the radar screens. So there is really no mystery about where it came from and where these weapons have come from.”
Yet, where the missile launch occurred has remained a mystery in the MH-17 investigation. Last October, when the Dutch Safety Board issued its final report on the crash, it could only place the launch site within a 320-square-kilometer area in eastern Ukraine, covering territory then controlled by both Ukrainian and rebel forces. (The safety board did not seek to identify which side fired the fateful missile).
Meanwhile, Almaz-Antey, the Russian arms manufacturer of the Buk systems, conducted its own experiments to determine the likely firing location and placed it in a much smaller area near the village of Zaroshchenskoye, about 20 kilometers west of the Dutch Safety Board’s zone and in an area under Ukrainian government control.
In the days immediately after the shoot-down, Kerry and other senior U.S. officials pointed the finger of blame at ethnic Russian rebels who were resisting a military offensive by the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev. The Russian government was faulted for supposedly giving the rebels a powerful Buk anti-aircraft system capable of downing a civilian airliner flying at 33,000 feet.
But – in more than 18 months since the tragedy – the U.S. government has never made public its alleged evidence, while Russia has denied supplying the rebels a Buk system and the rebels have asserted that they did not possess functioning Buk missiles.
An Anguished Father
Thomas Schansman, who lives in The Netherlands, wrote to Kerry, noting that “celebrating Christmas and New Year without my son Quinn Schansman, was difficult for my family and myself” and then pressing the Secretary of State to release U.S. information about the case.
“It is my understanding, that neither the Dutch government nor the Dutch Safety Board [DSB] have officially received the radar information from the US that you referred to. It is not included in the [DSB] report and it is not in the public domain,” Schansman wrote.
“On behalf of the bereaved parents and to assist in the pursuit of justice, I would like to request that the United States provides the DSB with the radar data you referred to at the press conference and all other available and relevant information (like satellite data and infrared satellite data) that is in your government’s possession.
“I would be most grateful if the United States either directly or through NATO would publicly hand over to the Dutch Safety Board radar and satellite data of the minutes before and after the crash. … This would enable the DSB to reopen the investigation and include a chapter with this information, which is essential for a successful criminal prosecution. I count on the support of the government of the United States to find and prosecute those responsible for my son and your citizen’s death.”
Kerry has yet to reply although a U.S. consular official, Pamela J. Hack, sent Schansman a letter dated Jan. 14, expressing condolences for his son’s death and saying “We expect that you will receive a separate response … from Washington.”
A Rush to Judgment
In the days after the shoot-down, Kerry took the lead in accusing the ethnic Russian rebels (and implicitly their supporters in Moscow) of shooting down MH-17. Just three days after the tragedy, Kerry made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows to leave little doubt that the rebels and Russians were at fault.
After mentioning information gleaned from “social media,” Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “But even more importantly, we picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”
Two days later, on July 22, 2014, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a “Government Assessment,” also citing “social media” seeming to implicate the rebels. Then, this white paper listed military equipment allegedly supplied by Russia to the rebels. But the list did not include a Buk missile battery or other high-powered anti-aircraft missiles.
The DNI also had U.S. intelligence analysts brief a few select mainstream reporters, but the analysts conveyed much less conviction than their superiors may have wished, indicating that there was still great uncertainty about who was responsible.
The Los Angeles Times article said: “U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 [the designation for a Russian-made anti-aircraft Buk missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.”
The analysts’ uncertainty meshed somewhat with what I had been told by a source who had been briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts shortly after the shoot-down about what they had seen in high-resolution satellite photos, which they said showed what looked like Ukrainian military personnel manning the battery believed to have fired the missile.
The source who spoke to me several times after receiving additional briefings about advances in the investigation said that as the U.S. analysts gained more insights into the MH-17 shoot-down from technical and other sources, they came to believe the attack was carried out by a rogue element of the Ukrainian military with ties to a hard-line Ukrainian oligarch. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’s “Flight 17 Shoot-Down Scenario Shifts” and “The Danger of an MH-17 Cold Case.”]
Creating a Pariah
But, officially, the U.S. government never retracted or refined its initial claims. It simply went silent, leaving in place the widespread belief that the ethnic Russian rebels were responsible for the atrocity and that the Russian government had been highly irresponsible in supplying a powerful Buk system to the rebels.
That Western conventional wisdom convinced the European Union to join the U.S. government in imposing economic sanctions on Russia and treating President Vladimir Putin as an international pariah.
As the U.S. government clammed up and hid the evidence that it claimed to possess, it became clear that U.S. intelligence agencies lacked evidence to support Kerry’s initial rush to judgment blaming the rebels and the Russians.
Despite intensive overhead surveillance of eastern Ukraine in summer 2014, U.S. and other Western intelligence services could find no proof that Russia had ever given a Buk system to the rebels or introduced one into the area. Satellite intelligence – reviewed both before and after the shoot-down – only detected Ukrainian miltary Buk missile systems in the conflict zone.
One could infer this finding from the fact that the DNI on July 22, 2014, did not allege that Buks were among the weapons systems that Russia had provided. If Russian-supplied Buks had been spotted – and the batteries of four 16-foot-long missiles hauled around by trucks are hard to miss – their presence surely would have been noted.
But one doesn’t need to infer this lack of evidence. It was spelled out in a little-noticed Dutch intelligence report from last October citing information from the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD). Dutch intelligence, which as part of NATO would have access to sensitive overhead surveillance and other relevant data, reported that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine – capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet – belonged to the Ukrainian government.
MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014. MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country.”
But the intelligence agency added that the rebels lacked that capacity, having only short-range anti-aircraft missiles and a few inoperable Buk missiles that had been captured from a Ukrainian military base. “During the course of July, several reliable sources indicated that the systems that were at the military base were not operational,” MIVD said. “Therefore, they could not be used by the Separatists.”
In other words, it is fair to say – based on the affirmative comments from the Dutch MIVD and the omissions from the U.S. “Government Assessment” – that the Western powers had no evidence that the ethnic Russian rebels or their Russian allies had operational Buk missiles in eastern Ukraine, but the Ukrainian government did have several batteries of such missiles.
It also would have made sense that Ukraine would be moving additional anti-aircraft systems close to the border because of a feared Russian invasion as the Ukrainian military pressed its “anti-terrorism operation” against ethnic Russians fighters, who were resisting the U.S.-backed coup of Feb. 22, 2014, which had ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych, whose political base was in the east.
According to the Dutch Safety Board report, a Ukrainian warplane had been shot down by a suspected air-to-air missile (presumably from a Russian fighter) on July 16, 2014, meaning that Ukrainian defenses were probably on high alert. The Russian military also claimed that Ukraine had activated a radar system that is used to guide Buk missiles.
I was told by the intelligence source that U.S. analysts looked seriously at the possibility that the intended target was President Putin’s official plane returning from a state visit to South America. His aircraft and MH-17 had similar red-white-and-blue markings, but Putin took a more northerly route and arrived safely in Moscow.
Other possible scenarios were that a poorly trained and undisciplined Ukrainian squad mistook MH-17 for a Russian plane that had penetrated Ukrainian airspace or that the attack was willful provocation designed to be blamed on the Russians.
Whoever the culprits and whatever their motive, one point that should not have remained in doubt was where the missile launch occurred. Kerry said repeatedly in the days after the tragedy that U.S. intelligence had detected the launch and knew where it came from.
So, why did the Dutch Safety Board have to scratch its head about the missile coming from somewhere in a 320-square-kilometer area, with the Russian manufacturer placing the launch site about 20 kilometers further west? With the firing location a key point in dispute, why would the U.S. government withhold from a NATO ally (and investigators into a major airline disaster) the launch point for the missile?
Presumably, if the Obama administration had solid evidence showing that the launch came from rebel territory, which was Kerry’s insinuation, U.S. officials would have been only too happy to provide the data. That data also could be the only precise radar evidence available. Ukraine claimed that its principal radar systems were down at the time of the attack, and the Russians — while they asserted that their radar screens showed another plane closing on MH-17 — did not save the raw data.
Thomas Schansman noted in his letter to Kerry: “the DSB [Dutch Safety Board] stated that it did not receive the (raw) primary radar data from any State. …. The UN Security Council Resolution 2166 explicit[ly] requested Member States to provide any requested assistance and cooperate fully with the investigation. The (raw) primary radar data is crucial for determining cause, and for identifying and prosecuting those responsible for this heinous act.”
Despite the strange evidentiary gaps and the U.S. failure to present the proof that it claims to possess, the West’s “conventional wisdom” remains that either the ethnic Russian rebels or the Russians themselves shot down MH-17 and have sought to cover up their guilt. Some of this certainty comes from the simpleminded game of repeating that Buk missiles are “Russian-made,” which is true but irrelevant to the issue of who fired the missiles, since the Ukrainian military possesses Russian-made Buks.
Despite the lack of U.S. cooperation in the investigation – and the failure of Western intelligence to detect Russians or ethnic Russian rebels with a Buk battery in eastern Ukraine – the Dutch criminal prosecutors who are working closely with the Ukrainian government say they are taking seriously allegations by bloggers at a British Web site called Bellingcat who have identified Russian soldiers assigned to a Buk missile battery as prime suspects in the shoot-down.
So, the possibility remains that this Dutch-led investigation – in coordination with the Ukrainian government – will indict some Russian soldiers even as the U.S. government withholds its data that could resolve such key questions as where the fateful missile was fired.
An indictment of Russian soldiers would make for more useful anti-Putin propaganda and would be sure to produce another chorus of denunciations against Moscow from the mainstream Western media. But such a development might do little to resolve the mystery of who really shot down MH-17, killing Quinn Schansman and 297 other people aboard MH-17.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
The attorney for one Virginia resident accused of backing ISIS says the plot was manufactured by three government informants. He claims federal agents are targeting Muslim Americans for fake terror plots, so they could take credit for stopping them.
“They had three informants in this case that were looking for people to get in trouble,” Ashraf Nubani told reporters on Tuesday, after the preliminary court hearing for Mahmoud Amin Mohamed Elhassan, arrested Friday on charges of aiding and abetting terrorism.
Elhassan, 25, is a US permanent resident of Sudanese origin. The government charges him of aiding Joseph Hassan Farrokh, 28, who allegedly wanted to join Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). The federal complaint against the men says that Farrokh planned to travel via Richmond International Airport, to Jordan and then to Syria.
Nubani argued that the entire plot was cooked up by federal law enforcement, eager to present itself as doing something to stop terrorism.
“They create cases, and then they prevent them from happening,” Nubani said.
According to the complaint against Farrokh and Elhassan, three government informants were involved in the plot. One of them, identified only as CHS#3, is a convicted felon who received a reduced sentence in exchange for his cooperation. He has worked for the FBI since 2012, receiving over $10,000 in compensation.
Another informant, CHS#1, posed as an “ISIL facilitator” who told Farrokh he could help him join the terror group overseas. The third informant, identified as CHS#2, was introduced as a trusted “brother,” member of the terror group.
At a meeting in November, the informants told Farrokh he would need to swear an oath of allegiance, known as the Bay’ah, to the self-proclaimed Caliphate. It was CHS#1 who read out the oath, with Farrokh repeating after him.
Farrokh was arrested on January 15 at the Richmond International Airport, and charged with providing material support to a terrorist organization. Elhassan, a taxi driver who took Farrokh to a nearby shopping center – from which Farrokh took another cab to the airport – was arrested in Woodbridge, Virginia later in the day. Federal agents said he lied to them about Farrokh’s intentions, and charged him with aiding and abetting, as well as lying to the government.
Elhassan came from a “regular family,” Nubani said, according to the Washington Post, adding that “some people are Islamophobic, and they’re whipping up fear against Muslims.”
Investigative reporters have been pointing out for years that the majority of alleged terrorist plots foiled by the FBI involve FBI’s own informants acting as masterminds, catalysts and facilitators, leading along or entrapping suspects who are often mentally ill or socially inept.
FBI entrapped suspects in almost all high-profile terrorism cases in US