Defense Secretary Ashton Carter last October said in a little noticed comment that the United States was ready to take “direct action on the ground” in Syria. Vice President Joe Biden said in Istanbul last month that if peace talks in Geneva failed, the United States was prepared for a “military solution” in that country.
The peace talks collapsed on Wednesday even before they began. A day later Saudi Arabia said it is ready to invade Syria while Turkey is building up forces at its Syrian border.
The U.N. aims to restart the talks on Feb. 25 but there is little hope they can begin in earnest as the Saudi-run opposition has set numerous conditions. The most important is that Russia stop its military operation in support of the Syrian government, which has been making serious gains on the ground.
A day after the talks collapsed, it was revealed that Turkey has begun preparations for an invasion of Syria, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. On Thursday, ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said: “We have good reasons to believe that Turkey is actively preparing for a military invasion of a sovereign state – the Syrian Arab Republic. We’re detecting more and more signs of Turkish armed forces being engaged in covert preparations for direct military actions in Syria.” The U.N. and the State Department had no comment. But this intelligence was supported by a sound of alarm from Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Turkey, which has restarted its war against Kurdish PKK guerillas inside Turkey, is determined to crush the emergence of an independent Kurdish state inside Syria as well. Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan stopped the Syrian Kurds from attending the aborted Geneva talks.
A Turkish invasion would appear poised to attack the Syrian Kurdish PYD party, which is allied with the PKK. The Syrian (and Iraqi) Kurds, with the Syrian army, are the main ground forces fighting the Islamic State. Turkey is pretending to fight ISIS, all the while actually supporting its quest to overthrow Assad, also a Turkish goal.
Saudi Arabia then said on Thursday it was prepared to send its ground forces into Syria if asked. Carter welcomed it. Of course Biden, Erdogan, Carter and the Saudis are all saying a ground invasion would fight ISIS. But their war against ISIS has been half-hearted at best and they share ISIS’ same enemy: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. If the U.S. were serious about fighting ISIS it would have at least considered a proposal by Russia to join a coalition as the U.S. did against the Nazis.
The Prize of Aleppo
The excuse of the Geneva collapse is a ruse. There was little optimism the talks would succeed. The real reason for the coming showdown in Syria is the success of Russia’s military intervention in defense of the Syrian government against the Islamic State and other extremist groups. Many of these groups are supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States in pursuit of overthrowing Assad.
These three nations are all apparently poised for a ground invasion of Syria just as, by no coincidence, the Syrian Arab Army with Russian air cover is pushing to liberate perhaps the greatest prize in the Syrian civil war — Aleppo, the country’s commercial capital. The Russians and Syrians have already cut off Turkey’s supply lines to rebels in the city.
The U.S. cannot stand by and watch Russia win in Syria. At the very least it wants to be on the ground to meet them at a modern-day Elbe and influence the outcome.
But things could go wrong in a war in which the U.S. and Russia are not allies, as they were in World War II. Despite this, the U.S. and its allies see Syria as important enough to risk confrontation with Russia, with all that implies. It is not at all clear though what the U.S. interests are in Syria to take such a risk.
From the outset of Russia’s intervention the U.S. and its allies have wanted Moscow out of the Syrian theater. They seem to be only waiting for the right opportunity. That opportunity may be now — forced by events.
Former U.S. national security adviser and current Obama adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said last October in the Financial Times that, “The Russian naval and air presences in Syria are vulnerable, isolated geographically from their homeland. They could be ‘disarmed’ if they persist in provoking the U.S.”
Turkey’s downing in November of a Russian warplane that allegedly veered 17 seconds into Turkish territory appeared to be very much a provocation to draw Russia into a conflict to allow NATO to drive Moscow out of Syrian skies. But Russia was too smart for that and instead imposed sanctions on Turkey, while urging Russian tourists not to visit the country, which has hurt the Turkish economy.
A Battleground of Empires
As a fertile crossroad between Asia and Africa backed by desert, Syrian territory has been fought over for centuries. Pharaoh Ramses II defeated the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh near Lake Homs in 1247 BCE. The Persians conquered Syria in 538 BCE. Alexander the Great took it 200 years later and the Romans grabbed Syria in 64 BCE.
Islam defeated the Byzantine Empire there at the Battle of Yarmuk in 636. In one of the first Shia-Sunni battles, Ali failed to defeat Muawiyah in 657 at Siffin along the Euphrates near the Iraq-Syria border. Damascus became the seat of the Caliphate until a coup in 750 moved it to Baghdad.
Waves of Crusaders next invaded Syria beginning in 1098. Egyptian Mamluks took the country in 1250 and the Ottoman Empire began in 1516 at its victory at Marj Dabik, 44 kilometers north of Aleppo — about where Turkish supplies are now being cut off. France double-crossed the Arabs and gained control of Syria in 1922 after the Ottoman collapse.
We may now be looking at an epic war with similar historical significance. All these previous battles, as momentous as they were, were regional in nature.
What we are potentially facing is a war that goes beyond the Soviet-U.S. proxy wars of the Cold War era, and beyond the proxy war that has so far taken place in the five-year Syrian civil war. Russia is already present in Syria. The entry of the United States and its allies would risk a direct confrontation between the two largest nuclear powers on earth.
Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the U.N. since 1990. He has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.
Of thousands killed in US drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004, less than one third of the victims have been identified, including a record low number of ten last year, according to an international investigation.
A UK-based not-for-profit organization revealed the figures in the framework of their “Naming the Dead” project. Initially created for tracking US drone strikes in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, the project seeks to identify casualties, calling for accountability for the attacks.
According to project data, of 2,494 people confirmed killed by American drone strikes in Pakistan, only 729 have been identified. In 2015 the names of those killed was extremely small – only ten of 60 allegedly killed by drones.
Five of ten victims were pronounced members of Al Qaeda, another three were named Pakistani Taliban fighters and the last two were aid workers from Western states.
The US carried out 13 drone attacks in Pakistan in 2015, killing about 60 people. While unnamed sources revealed to Naming the Dead that the vast majority of victims in the six attacks were Uzbeks, the data on the rest of those killed remains scarce.
In 2015, Pakistan authorities declined to assist in the identification process of victims, for the first time since the US launched its drone campaign.According to Common Dreams, ISPR, the Pakistani military propaganda division, could have banned the release of data pertaining to the issue. Islamabad has started a military campaign against terrorists and other non-state groups in Waziristan in 2014, preventing data from being leaked.
ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency, is reportedly keeping secret the names of those murdered in drone attacks across the state’s tribal areas. Before 2015, the agency used to provide reporters and officials with the lion’s share of information on casualties, including those caused by American unmanned aerial vehicles.
ISI is still providing journalists with the names of Taliban and al Qaeda members murdered by US drones in Afghanistan.
But, as the Bureau announced, both Afghan and Pakistan officials tend to underestimate the number of casualties in bordering regions. They reported on 700 killed in drone attacks in 2015. In reality, Naming the Dead says at least 100 more people were killed.According to Washington, a total of 411 air and drone strikes were conducted in Afghanistan last year. But that’s all the authorities announced, leaving no specific information of number of killed people there.
Citizens of the world are being asked to dig deep for humanitarian aid to Syria. After five years of war and millions displaced there is an urgent need for the world to lend a hand, we are told.
At a so-called “donor conference” in London this week, British prime minister David Cameron appealed to the rest of the world to stump up $8 billion to help war-torn Syria.
Among the 60 nations attending the confab were the US, France, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Senior figures from these countries were wringing their hands in anguish over the plight of Syrian refugees.
Washington’s top diplomat John Kerry told delegates: “With people reduced to eating grass and leaves and killing stray animals in order to survive on a day-to-day basis, that is something that should tear at the conscience of all civilized people and we all have a responsibility to respond to it.”
UN chief Ban Ki-Moon adjured nations to “take responsibility to end the crisis in Syria”.
Take responsibility for ending the crisis? How about taking responsibility for beginning it?
Cameron, Kerry and the rest of these charlatans should spare us the emotional blackmail. Most of the governments represented at the London conference are the very instigators and perpetrators of Syria’s destruction.
Why should the rest of the world pay for their crimes?
This is not to suggest that people should simply turn their backs on fellow humans in dire need. But let’s get some straight-thinking here.
Those governments and individual politicians who oversaw regime change in Syria should be paying for their violations, either through massive financial reparations or in jail time. And why not both.
The case is irrefutable. The US-led regime-change plot to subjugate Syria goes back several years, according to numerous sources, such as American diplomatic cables released by the whistleblowing site Wikileaks, former French foreign minister Roland Dumas and ex-NATO supreme commander US General Wesley Clark.
It is only largely due to the dutiful dissembling by the Western news media that such criminality might seem rather outlandish. But it is not outlandish. It is documented and provable. Western governments are culpable in a criminal scheme of regime change in Syria, as they have been in countless other unfortunate countries.
From the outbreak of violence in mid-March 2011, the Arab country has been a charnel house of covert war involving the most vile terrorist mercenaries. Those who take ultimate responsibility for the violence are the authors of the regime-change plot in Syria. Top of the list are Washington, London, Paris, as well as their regional client regimes.
With an estimated 250,000 dead and nearly half of the 23 million population turned into refugees, the total war damage to Syria has been estimated to be at least $100 billion. This is what Washington and its allies owe Syria — and no doubt far, far more — and yet these country-destroying rogue states are trying to wheedle money out of world citizens to pay for their criminal excesses, with the emotional plea of “humanitarian aid”.
Washington and its co-conspirators for covert war in Syria want the rest of the world to pay for their criminal scheming by cajoling the UN, the European Union and anyone else who will listen to fork out “humanitarian aid”. Make no mistake this will eventually translate into ordinary taxpayers, workers and families, paying the bill for their governments’ sanctimonious financial pledges.
In other words, Western powers like the US, Britain and France together with their regional client regimes in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, unleash mass murder and mayhem on a once peaceful, sovereign country — and instead of being held to account under international law for their criminal aggression, these rogue states are getting the rest of the world to subsidize their evil enterprise.
The “donor conference” in London this week was the fifth in a series going back to 2012. Last year, the fundraiser fell well short of its appeals. This year, British leader David Cameron went out of his way to give the appeal added urgency.
Writing in the Guardian newspaper, Cameron said: “Sufficient funding to guarantee the basics of life that these refugees need must be the bare minimum expected of us.”
The British premier emphasized the need for more aid given to refugee centers in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, where nearly five million Syrians have been displaced and are languishing in squalid camps.
Cameron’s apparent concern belies his real worry. He doesn’t want any more refugees streaming into Europe and towards Britain. That’s why the British leader is now calling for more international donations and for the cash to be thrown at Syria’s immediate neighbors in order to keep refugees there.
Going back to UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, he told the London conference:
“The situation in Syria is as close to hell as we are likely to find on this Earth.”
Syria is indeed a hell on Earth. Made by people like Cameron and Kerry with whom Ban Ki-Moon was rubbing shoulders with in London this week.
Turkey was represented by prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu who tried to blame the humanitarian crisis on the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and Russia’s military intervention. Davutoglu’s lies are particularly nauseating given Ankara’s role in acting as a conduit for terror brigades infiltrating Syria and his country’s ongoing threats of outright military invasion.
NATO member Turkey’s role in fueling Syria’s refugee crisis through its regime-change machinations is acutely reprehensible. And yet Ankara is to receive $3.4 billion from European Union taxpayers, allegedly to help with stemming the flow of refugees into Europe.
This is just one aspect of the general trend that Washington and its allies are establishing with breath-taking audacity. They have all but destroyed Syria with their covert war using terrorist proxies, and yet they are getting the rest of the world to pay for their crimes.
The cost of war and imperialist crimes was always offloaded on to ordinary people by their rulers. In that regard, nothing much has changed. Except that the scam has become even more brazen.
The US defense chief welcomed reports on Thursday about Saudi Arabia’s willingness to deploy troops in Syria, noting that he would discuss the issue with his Saudi counterpart in Brussels next week.
During an interview with the Saudi al-Arabiya TV channel on Thursday, Saudi military spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri said Riyadh “is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition may agree to carry out in Syria”.
“That kind of news is very welcome. I look forward to discussing that with the Saudi defense minister next week – and other kinds of contributions that Saudi Arabia can make,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told reporters at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
Carter is going to meet defense ministers of 26 countries, which are part of the US-led coalition countering the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) takfiri group in Belgian capital Brussels.
The US defense chief acknowledged that the Saudi government has indicated willingness to do more in the fight against ISIL, which western media reports revealed it receives funds from main regional countries including the Saudi.
“I should mention also Saudi Arabia has indicated a willingness to take the lead in marshaling some Muslim-majority countries,” he said.
Carter said that the Netherlands also pledged to support anti-ISIL operations in Syria last week, in addition to the Dutch government’s existing contributions to the campaign in Iraq.
“You see others stepping up, and the reason why I’m going to Brussels next week is to bring the full weight of the coalition behind accelerating the defeat of ISIL,” Carter said.
United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitaries patrol a small village. The AUC have been responsible for torture, extrajudicial killings, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Photo: Justice for Colombia
Plan Colombia’s 15th anniversary will be celebrated in Washington Thursday. But the legacy of the plan is marked by massacres, mass graves, and death squads.
According to Colombia’s Victims Unit, the number of victims of Colombia’s civil war has surpassed 7 million. This number includes those who have been killed, disappeared or displaced since 1956. For a country of under 50 million citizens, these numbers are staggering, and certainly newsworthy, but apparently not for the mainstream media.
Of course, the violence and human rights abuses in Colombia have constituted inconvenient truths for the Western media as the U.S. has been a major sponsor of the violence and abuses in that country.
Indeed, a notable fact in the Colombia Victims Unit report is that “that the majority of victimization occurred after 2000, peaking in 2002 at 744,799 victims.” It is not coincidental that “Plan Colombia,” or “Plan Washington” as many Colombians have called it, was inaugurated by President Bill Clinton in 2000, thus escalating the conflict to new heights and new levels of barbarity. Plan Colombia is a plan pursuant to which the U.S. has given Colombia billions in mostly military and police assistance.
As Amnesty International has explained, these monies have only fueled the human rights crisis in Colombia:
Amnesty International USA has been calling for a complete cut off of US military aid to Colombia for over a decade due to the continued collaboration between the Colombian Armed Forces and their paramilitary allies as well the failure of the Colombian government to improve human rights conditions.
Colombia has been one of the largest recipients of US military aid for well over a decade and the largest in the western hemisphere. . . . Yet torture, massacres, “disappearances” and killings of non-combatants are widespread and collusion between the armed forces and paramilitary groups continues to this day. . . .
“Plan Colombia” — the name for the US aid package since 2000, was created as a strategy to combat drugs and contribute to peace, mainly through military means….
Despite overwhelming evidence of continued failure to protect human rights the State Department has continued to certify Colombia as fit to receive aid. The US has continued a policy of throwing “fuel on the fire” of already widespread human rights violations, collusion with illegal paramilitary groups and near total impunity.
Furthermore, after 10 years and over $8 billion dollars of U.S. assistance to Colombia, U.S. policy has failed to reduce availability or use of cocaine in the US, and Colombia’s human rights record remains deeply troubling. Despite this, the State Department continues to certify military aid to Colombia, even after reviewing the country’s human rights record.
However, what Amnesty International did not explain are two salient facts.
First, the human rights group does not mention that Plan Colombia was initiated in the midst of peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC guerillas, and actually played a key role in derailing these talks, and with them the prospects for peace – prospects which have only been revived recently.
Second, Amnesty International does not mention that the paramilitaries which continue to collaborate with the U.S.-backed military in Colombia were actually a creation of the U.S. Thus, these paramilitaries were the brainchild of the Kennedy Administration back in 1962 – that is, two years before the FARC guerillas were even constituted.
As Noam Chomsky has mentioned a number of times, Kennedy commenced the U.S.’s counterinsurgency program, of which paramilitaries were a key component, in order to combat the scourge of Liberation Theology unleashed by Vatican II. And indeed, as Chomsky has also noted, the U.S. School of the Americas has bragged about how it helped “destroy liberation theology,” which emphasizes the “preferential treatment of the poor.”
Colombia has been ground zero for this plan which has targeted, among others, Catholic clergy for assassination. Accordingly, as documented by the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, over 80 Catholic clergy have been murdered in Colombia since 1984 — including 79 priests and 2 bishops — for the crime of advocating on behalf of the poor.
One brave Colombian Liberation Priest, Father Javier Giraldo sent a letter in September of 2011 to the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, P. Michael McKinley, imploring him to prevail upon President Barack Obama to reconsider his decision to release millions of dollars in military aid to Colombia in light its abysmal human rights record.
In this letter, Father Giraldo informed the Ambassador that Colombian military’s directive known as EJC 3-10 – a directive based upon General Yarborough’s 1962 recommendation to organize paramilitary groups – is still very much in effect today in the form of paramilitary groups which both the U.S. and Colombian governments attempt to dismiss as mere criminal bands known as “BACRIM.”
According to Father Giraldo, these neo-paramilitary groups, as before, continue to work “in close harmony with the Army and Police” to carry out crimes against humanity, including forced displacement, with the number of internally displaced people in Colombia now at over 6 million; extra-judicial killings which have resulted in the proliferation of mass graves throughout Colombia; and “the systematic crime of forced disappearances, which according to national and international agencies now affects more than 50,000 families.”
And, he also places the responsibility for these continued abuses firmly at the feet of the U.S. Thus, Father Giraldo informs the U.S. ambassador that “[t]he current commanders take part in the same immunity, and impunity and the assistance from your government only reinforces their criminal activity.”
As Father Giraldo explains, the U.S.’s military/paramilitary policy is part and parcel of an unjust economic policy which allows for the unconstrained penetration of Colombia by multinational corporations at the expense of the Colombian people. He states:
The permits issued for mining exploitation to numerous transnational businesses have activated paramilitaries and armed conflict tremendously. They are leaving huge populations of poor people without any land or resources. The destruction of the environment and the destruction of indigenous, campesino and Afro-Colombian communities by these projects are leading to every kind of resistance. This means that the security of these companies and of their destructive projects is only effective with the protection of enormous contingents of paramilitaries secretly co-opted by the armed forces and by the government security agencies, which do not hesitate to murder the leaders of the resistance.
Father Giraldo further describes:
The permanent genocide that is being carried out in Buenaventura, where the neighborhoods and the Community Councils around the port are being invaded by paramilitaries supported or tolerated by the armed forces. They cut people in pieces with horrifying cruelty throwing the body parts in to the sea, if any of them dare to resist the megaproject for the new port. This included the expulsion of people living in the poorest areas and it includes the expropriation of the plots of garbage dumps where these people, in the midst of their misery, have over decades tried to survive.
Not surprisingly, Father Giraldo’s prophetic voice fell on deaf ears, and Obama proceeded with the release of the military aid to Colombia. And, it is the deathly silence over the horrifying human rights situation in Colombia which allows the U.S. to continue its destructive military/economic policy in that country.
Ankara’s refusal to allow Russia to conduct an observation flight over Turkish territory under the Open Skies Treaty confirms Moscow’s concerns that Ankara is supporting the Daesh, which is prohibited in numerous countries including the United States and Russia, on the Turkish-Syrian border, a high-ranking source in the Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
Russian inspectors planned to conduct the observation flight on board an An-30B plane over Turkish territory on February 1-5, but they were refused permission to do so after they arrived in Turkey and announced the flight route.
“This case is of course outrageous because the Open Skies Treaty today is practically one of many mechanisms that continue to operate in the European space and this treaty is valid and allows for acquiring valid information on steps being taken or not being taken by one or another state,” the source told RIA Novosti.
He reminded that in 2015 the West actively accused Russia of illegal activity on the Ukrainian border and NATO member countries requested observation flights over Russian territory, the results of which fully reversed the rumors.
“This once again confirms those concerns that the Russian side has voiced several times on using the Turkish-Syrian border to support Daesh militants,” the source said.
Was he the great businessman, politician, patriot, and visionary his admirers claim, a man who did more than any other to develop an African continent which in the 19th century was imprisoned behind walls of primitiveness, barbarism, superstition and under-development? Or was he in truth a rampant racist and colonialist, a white supremacist who treated a large swathe of Africa as his personal fiefdom, ruthlessly exploiting its people and resources for personal gain and enrichment?
These are the questions that underpin the contested history not just of Cecil Rhodes but European colonialism and empire in toto.
They are questions that have come to the fore in recent weeks over the campaign by students at Britain’s elite Oxford University to have a statue of Cecil Rhodes removed from the building of one if its colleges – Oriel College, to be precise – on the basis that he was a racist and a colonialist, a slaveholder whose veneration is an insult to the countless millions of Africans who suffered unspeakable exploitation and cruelty under Rhodes in the land he ruled, named after him as Rhodesia, which later became Zimbabwe.
Rhodes and other men like him from across the European continent in the 19th century – colonialists, adventurers, soldiers of fortune, administrators, merchants, etc. – arrived and set about the necessary task of introducing civilization and order to savages who’d only ever known spiritual and cultural desolation. This was their belief and the justification employed to plunder and pillage an entire continent, reducing its people to abject misery and despair while indulging in genocidal brutality and barbarity.
On this basis it is not only the statue of Cecil Rhodes that constitutes an offence to decency and justice. Every second grand statue and monument that litters central London and other British towns and cities are statues and monuments to the brutality of colonialism and empire, dripping in the blood of countless human beings whose only crime was to be born African or Indian or Irish in a period when to be such was to be untermenschen in the eyes of people like Cecil Rhodes and the ruling elites in the societies that produced them.
You would automatically think, then, that a campaign to acknowledge the victims of a man like Rhodes would have no problem in achieving its objectives. Alas, you’d be wrong. For in opposition to the campaign to have the statue removed has come threats from wealthy and not so wealthy members of Oxford University’s alumni to withdraw donations to the university unless the statue stays put.
Rhodes, it should be mentioned, was himself a student at Oxford in the 1870s. Upon his death in 1902 he left money to fund an international scholarship at the university. Among the 8,000 students who have since benefited from a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford are Bill Clinton, Bill Bradley, Naomi Wolf, and Rachel Maddow. By this method his legacy has been ‘whitewashed’, along with the history of colonialism he personifies, especially at traditional institutions such as Oxford University, a pillar of the British establishment where a disproportionate number of its political leaders, leading journalists, newspaper editors, and business leaders have been educated.
It’s not only Britain that has this problem of historical legacy, wherein its economic foundations and with them political, cultural, and educational institutions were built on crimes of genocide, slavery, ethnic cleansing, and colonial exploitation. In the United States we have Andrew Carnegie, who rather than exploit Africans and Africa amassed his wealth out of the brutal exploitation of American workers. Yet today Carnegie, a natural born Scotsman, is known as a great philanthropist whose legacy is embodied in the abundance of trusts, endowments, scholarships, colleges, museums, and cultural establishments that are named after him across the world.
Does his philanthropy excuse the barbarity by which he made his fortune? If the workers at the Homestead Steel Mill in Pennsylvania back 1892 could speak to us today about Andrew Carnegie and his legacy, what do you think they would say?
This is why the controversy surrounding the campaign to have Cecil Rhodes’ statue removed from Oxford is so important. It’s about acknowledging the rights of the victims of empire to a semblance of historical justice by refusing to burnish the legacy of men such as Rhodes today. For those who believe that the past belongs in the past and has no bearing on the present or the future, they are hopelessly deluded when we consider the role of Britain and its establishment in the world today. A colonial and empire view of the world continues to underpin British foreign policy, evidenced in its participation in the war on Iraq in 2003, its participation in the destruction of Libya in 2011, its role in destabilizing Syria and the wider Middle East, and its malign role in maintaining Western hegemony as an economic, geopolitical, and military straitjacket, impeding the development of the Global South abroad and upholding the rights of the rich at home in service to a system of injustice sold to us as liberal democracy.
The tunnels are a lifeline for those who live in the beseiged Gaza Strip as they are used to smuggle vital supplies
Director of Political-Military Affairs at Israel’s Defence Ministry Amos Gilad revealed today that the United States has contributed over $100 million to an Israeli-US technology research project aimed at identifying and locating tunnels on the Gaza Strip border.
In an interview with Army Radio this morning, Gilad stated that intelligence information suggests that there are no such tunnels leading into Israeli territory at the moment.
Defence Ministry official Shalom Gantzer dispelled the fears of Israelis living around the Gaza Strip who have claimed to hear digging noises under their houses, saying that these noises are coming from an electric generator.
Israel’s Channel 10 showed interviews on Saturday with those living near the Gaza border area who had recorded the noises with their mobile phones. They claimed that these noises were the sounds of tunnels being dug from Gaza.
A group of MPs have called on the British government to immediately suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia and have demanded an independent inquiry into the war in Yemen, where British arms are thought to have been used against civilians.
In a letter to Development Secretary Justine Greening, the International Development Select Committee urged the UK to cease opposing an inquiry which aims to examine potential breaches of humanitarian law by the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen.
It comes after human rights charities and anti-war groups criticized Saudi Arabia for allegedly bombing civilian targets.
The British government has sold £1 billion (US$1.45 billion) worth of arms to the Saudi government in the past year.
Last week a leaked UN report found Saudi Arabia guilty of breaking humanitarian law. In response the Saudi government set up an internal inquiry.
British MPs say the UK should back an independent inquiry. Members of the committee were shocked to hear the UK had hindered efforts to launch such an investigation in September 2015 when it was proposed by the UN.
“We need an independent, international fact-finding mission to uncover the truth. Until then we should cease selling arms to Saudi Arabia,” wrote committee chair Stephen Twigg.
“All parties to this conflict should review their obligations under international law and undertake to put civilians and humanitarian work above other interests.”
MPs said they had been presented with evidence from the head of UNICEF Yemen, who said the Saudi-led coalition had been involved in bombing campaigns which endangered the lives of civilians.
The committee’s letter was welcomed by activist group Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), which condemned the British government’s actions.
“The humanitarian situation is getting worse and the UK government has been complicit in it. We agree that arms sales need to stop, but they should never have been allowed in the first place.
“Saudi Arabia has a terrible human rights record and has been supported by governments of all political colors for far too long,” said CAAT’s Andrew Smith.
The leaked UN report, obtained by the Guardian last week, found that Saudi airstrikes are breaching international law by hitting civilian targets, including refugee camps, civilian weddings, vehicles, medical facilities and schools.
The UN panel of experts on Yemen used satellite imagery to look at areas before and after bombings, which also targeted an Oxfam warehouse storing equipment for a water project funded by the EU.
Hillary Clinton repeats George Bush and Dick Cheney’s talking points to a tee.
Israeli arms company Elbit Systems and US military contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) have won a £500-million contract to provide aircraft training for the UK military.
The Affinity venture, in which the two are partners, will provide fixed wing training for sections of the UK Armed Forces concerned with aviation.
Affinity’s component is part of a larger deal led by Ascent Flight training and worth £1.1 billion. Ascent is itself a fifty-fifty venture between international arms firms Babcock and Lockheed Martin.
The aim is to deliver flight training up to the year 2033 in line with the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS).
In a statement, Ascent’s director Paul Livingston said: “The award of these contracts marks a key milestone for the fixed wing element of UKMFTS. Modern training aircraft selected specifically to meet the bespoke needs of the UK’s Armed Forces will deliver optimized training alongside high tech simulators and classroom trainers.”
Ministry of Defence (MoD) Procurement Minister Phillip Dunne said the deal was “fantastic news for the future of our military aircrew” and would provide them with “a modern training system which will equip them to deliver on the front line.”
Elbit Systems are well known for their range of drones and the firm is of particular concern among human rights groups.
According to a report by the charity War on Want, the MoD awarded a £1-billion contract to Elbit and its UK partner Thales to develop the Watchkeeper drone. The model is now in service with the military.
The charity argues that Watchkeepers are field tested in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
“Israeli companies such as Elbit will often boast of their competitive advantage in the global arms market due to their extensive ‘testing’ of their weaponry in ‘real life’ situations,” the report says.
© Photo: Youtube/ Russian Defence Ministry
Turkish artillery on Monday shelled a small town in Syria’s northern Latakia province inflicting casualties among civilians, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said.
Earlier in the day, Lebanese Al Mayadeen TV channel reported that one Syrian serviceman was killed and five others were wounded in a shelling from the Turkish territory.
“The Turkish authorities are responsible for artillery shelling of the town of Jabal Oteira in northern Latakia, which caused casualties among peaceful civilians,” the ministry said in statement as quoted by official SANA news agency.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said Monday that it obtained video proof of Syrian civilian areas being shelled from Turkish border posts.The Russian Defence Ministry expects an explanation from NATO, Pentagon and Turkish Armed Forces on the incident. The corresponding statement was made on Monday by the Ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov.
According to the spokesman, the Ministry of Defense recently received the video footage from the Syrian General Staff which shows “self-propelled heavy artillery weapons deployed at the Turkish outpost in question.”