Over 400 civilians have been killed in in the first year of US-led anti-ISIS airstrikes, including 58 non-combatants who were being held in an Islamic State prison for offenses such as buying cigarettes, a major study claims.
The study was carried out by the Air Wars transparency group and written by former BBC Panorama and Newsnight journalist Chris Woods.
The study cites 57 incidents where there is publicly available evidence of civilian deaths by coalition military action.
“Despite claims by the US-led coalition that its airstrikes in Iraq and Syria are ‘the most precise and disciplined in the history of aerial warfare,’ there are clear indications from the field that many hundreds of non-combatants have been killed,” Woods writes in the report’s key findings.
According to Air Wars, the largest single death toll was that of 58 non-combatants on December 28, 2014, in Al Bab, Syria, when an airstrike hit an Islamic State headquarters which doubled as a prison.
Among the dead at Al Bab are believed to be four women and a number of teenagers, with some of those killed thought to have been imprisoned for buying cigarettes.
In another incident in February 2015, Ibrahim al-Mussul, a farmer in his sixties, and his two daughters were allegedly killed in an airstrike near the town of Shadadi, Syria, close to an oilfield targeted by the coalition.
“Their bodies were shredded. We found Ibrahim’s hand next to the house, and we were still collecting bits of flesh and body parts into the early hours of the following morning,” an eyewitness said.
Writing on the challenges of collating casualty numbers, Air War’s Syria researcher Kinda Haddad explained in one section of the report: “Civilians are dying in unacceptable numbers as a result of military action by so many different actors in both Syria and Iraq.
“It’s not just the coalition, but also government troops; a large number of different opposition forces; Shia’a and Kurdish militias; and of course Islamic State or Daesh.”
The study also notes that the UK Ministry of Defence, in particular, amends and changes its reporting of incidents, making it difficult to assess what is happening on the ground.
“The Ministry of Defence has on occasion significantly amended or even removed earlier copy, making the process of accurately tracking some reports difficult,” the study found. “The UK also does not report on airstrikes in Syria carried out by British air crews embedded with allied forces.”
“The coalition has often spoken of the power of Daesh propaganda as a weapon, and how it must be countered. Yet at the same time, the coalition’s near-total denial of having caused civilian casualties continues to damage its own credibility,” the report claims.
Air Wars said the proper reporting and investigation of civilian deaths by coalition action should be undertaken and that such an initiative would make strategic sense.
“Conducting prompt and effective investigations into all credible claims of civilian casualties – and publishing those findings – would go some way towards countering such militant propaganda, while addressing the very real concerns of Iraqi and Syrian civilians on the ground,” they said.
Just a few weeks ago, an act of piracy took place on the high seas, whereby a group of international activists taking part in a humanitarian mission including a member of the Israeli parliament, were captured and detained.
The story didn’t attract much coverage in the MSM. Coverage elsewhere among alternative media outlets ranged from being accurate to downright disingenuous. At best, those taking part were described as what they were – aid workers, artists, journalists and politicians working toward a shared aim of reaching Gaza – and, at worst, were described as terrorists and “agitators.”
The illegally seized boat, the “Marianne,” was part of a convoy of vessels which had set sail from different destinations in European waters, with the aim of reaching Gaza in occupied Palestine.
Needless to say, a group of activists attempting to break an illegal blockade of a country occupied by one of the most powerful armed forces in the world can hardly be viewed as troublemakers.
Nevertheless, the Marianne was halted in its tracks, approximately 100 nautical miles from Gaza by the Israeli navy, which, operating without jurisdiction and in complete disregard of international law, boarded the boat, taking those on board prisoner.
These are the facts, and this is what happened. The wave of propaganda which consequently emanated from some Israeli press offices attempted to divert attention away from the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, to another equally tragic humanitarian crisis in Syria. In a letter presented to activists on board the Marianne after its seizure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that the activists had gotten “lost” on their way to Syria.
Perhaps in reality it was the Israeli navy which had lost its sense of direction (and priorities) by taking control of a boat of civilians in international waters and by then taking them to the Israeli port of Ashdod.
One of the activists on board the Marianne, Charlie Andreasson, was held by the Israeli authorities in Ashdod for six days before finally being released.
I spoke with him recently and he gave me his account of what happened, which does not fit with the official line from Israel that says that the seizure of the Marianne was “uneventful” and non-violent.
I asked him what happened on the night the boat was seized.
“Early in the morning, at about 1:30 a.m., we were contacted by the IDF (Israeli Defence Force). Soon after, two big zodiacs came, but they were painted as the Coastguard without any national marks or flags,” he said.
“By then, we were 100 nautical miles from the coast of Israel, and the coastguard can only operate within 12 nautical miles from its shore. To board our ship was a clear act of piracy, There is no doubt of that, a violation against maritime law as well as international law. After some time with nonsense shouted from the false coastguard boats, telling everybody on board to gather in front of the boat so they easily could easily take control of our boat, as is routinely done to the Palestinian fisherman on an almost a daily basis, a group of Israeli soldiers suddenly were on board,” Charlie said.
“They came, and were not seen by anybody while they were doing so. Nobody would have tried to stop them anyway as we were committed to nonviolent resistance. However, there were four or five masked soldiers, heavily armed and even holding shields while they were approaching us. Somebody was also on top of the roof of the wheelhouse by then. But they were also scared, that we could see clearly in their eyes, and a group of scared young men with lot of guns is not a fun thing. I was the first one who was attacked, over and over again by two Taser guns at the time, and after I was down on my knees they continued with Tasers and also started to beat me with hands and by kneeing me. I started to bleed from my forehead but not much. Five of us were tasered altogether, and the captain was beaten and threatened by a gun if he did not cooperate. One commander came up to me and told me my name several times, just to make sure that I understood that they knew me.”
“It took them about 50 minutes to take control of the Marianne, but several hours before they had the engine running so they could take us to Ashdod. During the whole operation and while we were sitting in one place, watched by soldiers, they were constantly filming us. They were also taking the name Ship to Gaza away from the boat – I guess the name was too scary for them.”
“When it was light enough we could see three frigates, one patrol boat and nine smaller crafts including the white painted zodiacs. Those zodiacs were later pulled up on a frigate.”
Charlie’s account does not surprise me, but was there any resistance from crew members to the Israeli army? As I had been due to travel on one of the boats myself, I had along with others been given extensive ‘non-violent’ resistance training in how to react to the IDF.
“Everybody on board had training in nonviolent resisting, and we all knew what to do and where to be if we were boarded, and everybody stuck to our agreement. When I saw how scared they were when they approached me I declared to them, with a calm voice which surprised myself a bit, that they had nothing to be afraid of, that I had nothing in my hands (and showing my hands for them), that I not was going to touch them or throw anything on them, but also over and over that they were violating international law, that it was an act of piracy, and that they have to go back to their boats and let us continue our journey and that we were no threat for the state of Israel. I do believe that our training made us handle the situation professionally and calmed down the situation. I wasn’t for a moment afraid that any of us would give any excuse for the soldiers to open fire. But then again, you can never know what instructions they have or if any of them would freak out.”
We’ve all heard of accounts of the brutality lived daily by Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli authorities, but what was the treatment of those aboard the Marianne once the ship had been commandeered in international waters?
“Since they initially were so afraid it was clear that they were told by their commanders something that wasn’t true. It might be the reason why they used more violence than necessary as a result of that. They were also afraid of showing their faces, they were masked, and it is probably because they wanted to avoid any legal action when and if they go abroad. But some of them seemed to be a bit curious about us after some time, even if they were prohibited to talk. I guess they wondered what their mission was all about, since it became clear that we presented no threat whatsoever. And, of course, there was the constant filming and the constant lying from the commanders.”
The media has been pretty quiet on the treatment of those who were forcibly taken to Ashdod. What happened to the Marianne upon reaching Israel?
“Hundreds of soldiers and military officials were there, like a freak show and we were the freaks. We were taken one by one, they checked our belongings over and over again, stole my certificates that I need for my profession as a seaman, took our fingerprints, interrogation for two hours, some humiliation stuff, and then drove us to the prison of Givon.”
“We had no right to phone calls, but our lawyer and consul came. One hour a day, or two times 30 minutes, we could spend outside our cells,” Charlie said. “Even when we were sitting two in each cell we had to stand up and get dressed so they could count us several times a day.”
“During the interrogation it was clear that they had a lot of private information about us. The photos the soldiers had of us during the boarding were taken in Gothenburg just before we left for instance. They wanted to know how we got the money for the boat, the mission, how I could afford to join, to what countries I have been. [There were] a lot of lies about how well the Palestinians were treated by them.” Charlie added that it was strange to discuss that matter with them, since he spent a year in Gaza and was there during the 2014 war.
Luckily in this case Charlie and all the other activists were OK. The siege of Palestine continues, however, and while international law is made a mockery of, all efforts should be made to support initiatives such as the Freedom Flotilla and to bring the humanitarian crisis to the forefront of international attention.
Richard Sudan is a London based writer, political activist, and performance poet. He has been a guest speaker at events for different organizations ranging from the University of East London to the People’s Assembly covering various topics. He also appears regularly in the media, and has featured as a guest on LBC Radio, Colourful Radio and elsewhere. His opinion is that the mainstream media has a duty to challenge power, rather than to serve power. Richard has taught writing poetry for performance at Brunel University, and maintains the power of the spoken and written word can massively effect change in today’s world.
The US president has reportedly authorized the Air Force to protect Syrian rebels trained by Washington to fight against Islamic State by bombing any force attacking them, including Syrian regular troops.
Thus the US may become involved in the Syrian civil war on the rebel side.
The change was first reported by US officials speaking on condition of anonymity with the Wall Street Journal Sunday. The first airstrikes to protect American trainees in Syria have already taken place on Friday, July 31, when the US Air Force bombed unidentified militants who attacked the compound of the US-trained rebels.
So far the fighter jets of the anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) US-led coalition have been bombing jihadist targets in Syria’s north and the national air defense units were turning a blind eye to foreign military aircraft in their airspace.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama’s decision reportedly involves inflicting airstrikes against any force that attacks the Syrian rebel armed force being trained by American instructors and armed using money from the US budget, with the officially-proclaimed aim of dealing with the advances of IS.
“For offensive operations, it’s ISIS only. But if attacked, we’ll defend them against anyone who’s attacking them,” a senior military official told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. “We’re not looking to engage the regime, but we’ve made a commitment to help defend these people.”
Neither the Pentagon nor the White House officially commented on the decision about the new broader rules of engagement, Reuters reports. So far the US has been avoiding direct confrontation with the forces of President Bashar Assad.
“We won’t get into the specifics of our rules of engagement, but have said all along that we would take the steps necessary to ensure that these forces could successfully carry out their mission,” said White House National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey, stressing that so far only US-trained forces have being provided with a wide range of support, including “defensive fires support to protect them.”
The Kremlin said that US airstrikes against Syrian troops would further destabilize the situation.
Moscow has “repeatedly underlined that help to the Syrian opposition, moreover financial and technical assistance, leads to further destabilization of the situation in the country,” Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said, adding that IS terrorists may take advantage of this situation.
The US rebel training program launched in May implies military instruction of up to 5,400 fighters a year, Reuters reports. The program is reportedly so hard for the trainees that some candidates are being declared ineligible from the start.
According to the WSJ, the Pentagon has been planning to have 3,000 fighters trained by the end of 2015, but finding applicants without ties to hardline groups turned out to be a heavy task. Reportedly, so far fewer than 60 fighters have been trained.
There are now multiple groups taking part in the Syrian civil war, as Assad’s troops are fighting not only the rebels, but also other militant groups, such as Al-Qaeda’s Syrian wing, the so-called Al-Nusra Front, and IS. The militant groups, in turn, are fighting not only Assad’s troops, but each other too.
“We recognize, though, that many of these groups now fight on multiple fronts, including against the Assad regime, (Islamic State) and other terrorists,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Elissa Smith, stressing though that “first and foremost” the US focuses on combating IS.
However, as a result the US warplanes may end up bombing government troops under the command of a legitimate president, Assad, an act of aggression against a sovereign country that only the UN Security Council could authorize.
September will mark one year that the US-led coalition has been bombing positions of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Although already in November 2014 there were reports that the anti-IS campaign could be nothing else but a move to allow the US military to oust President Assad through less direct means.
In 2013, Damascus narrowly escaped a US-led invasion after Russia brokered an agreement for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons to the international community.
At the time, UK Prime Minister David Cameron lost a bid in the House of Commons to ally British forces with the US military, but now Royal Air Force is bombing positions of IS along with the Americans.
An airstrike of the anti-IS coalition on Assad troops might become a very dangerous precedent and cause a direct military conflict between Washington and Damascus, something that diplomats have managed to avoid since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
It is late July 2015, and the media is abuzz with the news that Turkey will allow US jets to use its bases to bomb Islamic State (ISIS) targets in Syria. There is much talk about how this development is a “game-changer,” and how this is a clear escalation of the much ballyhooed, but more fictional than real, US war on ISIS: the terror organization that US intelligence welcomed as a positive development in 2012 in their continued attempts to instigate regime change against the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad.
The western public is told that “This is a significant shift… It’s a big deal,” as a US military official told the Wall Street Journal. What the corporate media fail to mention, however, is the fact that Turkey has been, and continues to be, a central actor in the war in Syria and, consequently, in the development and maintenance of ISIS. So, while Washington waxes poetic about stepping up the fight against the terror group, and lauds the participation of its allies in Ankara, the barely concealed fact is that Turkey is merely further entrenching itself in a war that it has fomented.
Of equal importance is the simple fact that a “war on ISIS” is merely a pretext for Turkey’s military engagement in Syria and throughout the region. Not only does Turkey’s neo-Ottoman revanchist President Erdogan want to flex his military muscles in order to further the regime change agenda in Syria, he also is using recent tragic events as political and diplomatic cover for waging a new aggressive war against the region’s Kurds, especially Turkey’s longtime foe the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).
In this way, Turkey’s recent moves should be seen as merely a new phase of its engagement in the regional war that it has helped foment. Contrary to western corporate media talking points, Turkey has not just recently become actively engaged in the conflict; Ankara has merely shifted its strategy and its tactics, moving from covert engagement to overt participation.
Same War, New Phase
The immediate justification for the launching of renewed airstrikes by Turkey and the US is the expansion of the war against ISIS. In the wake of the bombing in Turkey’s majority Kurdish town of Suruç, which killed 32 youth activists, the Turkish government has allegedly struck hard against both ISIS and PKK targets. It is against this backdrop that any analysis of the new phase of this war must be presented.
First and foremost is the fact that even if one were to accept the Turkish government’s official story – the suicide bomber was linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) – not at all a certainty, the question of ultimate responsibility becomes central. While Ankara would have the world believe that its hands are clean, and that it is the innocent victim of international terrorism, the reality is that Turkey has done everything to foster and promote the growth of ISIS from the very beginning. As such, it is the Turkish government who must shoulder much of the blame for the Suruç bombing.
Since at least 2012, Turkey has been the principal conduit for weapons flowing into Syria. In June of that year, the NY Times confirmed that the CIA was smuggling weapons to anti-Assad forces from the Turkish side of the border using agents of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, long-time assets of US intelligence. Also in 2012, Reuters revealed that Turkey had “set up a secret base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct vital military and communications aid to Syria’s rebels from a city near the border… ‘It’s the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main coordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom,’ said a Doha-based source.”
It is now also documented fact that Turkish intelligence (MIT) has been an active player in the ongoing campaign to arm and resupply the terror groups such as the al Nusra Front and others. The evidence of this fact was made public by the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet which published video footage along with transcripts from wiretaps confirming what many eyewitnesses have stated: Turkish security forces have been directly involved in shelling and support operations for Nusra front and other jihadi groups in and around Kassab, Syria, among other sites. Many of the very same terrorists who have been armed and supported by the Turkish government are today being held up as enemies of Turkey, and rationalization of the need for Turkish military intervention.
So, with the inescapable understanding that Turkey’s government is the primary supporter and sponsor of terrorist groups in Syria, the justification for war becomes flimsy at best. But, if it’s not about fighting terror, then what exactly is Ankara’s objective? What does it hope to gain?
At the top of Erdogan’s agenda is using ISIS as a pretext for effecting the regime change in Syria that he has failed to bring about for these past four years. Despite providing weapons and cash, training sites and political cover, Turkey’s terror proxies have been roundly defeated by the Syrian Arab Army, Hezbollah, and allied forces. As such, Erdogan now needs to provide the overwhelming military superiority required to get the job done. This means air support and a “No Fly Zone” along the Turkey-Syria border, one which ostensibly will allow Turkey to fight ISIS, but in actuality is a means of securing territory for the terrorists who otherwise have been unable to do so. It is a de facto military intervention into Syria. Perhaps not even de facto, but outright declaration of war – a clear war crime.
Secondly, the alleged war on ISIS is a politically expedient cover for Erdogan to wage a full-scale war on the Kurds, and the PKK specifically. Within hours of announcing the new phase of the war, Turkish forces were bombing Kurdish targets in Syria and Iraq, effectively declaring war on both countries, in blatant violation of international law, to whatever extent such a thing still exists. Indeed, Erdogan made his position quite clear when he stated, “It is not possible for us to continue the peace process with those who threaten our national unity and brotherhood.” Essentially, Erdogan has declared war on all Kurds of the region.
Perhaps most important, and almost never discussed in the West, is the simple fact that Turkey is perpetuating an outright myth in their supposed strategy to create “Islamic State-free zones” along the border; Turkey plans to work with “moderate opposition” and “Free Syrian Army” in this endeavor. However, the fact remains that there is really no such thing as the “moderates,” and those terrorists that had at one time been labeled such have all either gone home, fled the country, gone over to the Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, or are now fighting under the ISIS banner. And so, by stating such a plan, Erdogan is unwittingly admitting what this author has already reported numerous times – Turkey acts as military muscle for ISIS and al Qaeda in Syria and now Iraq.
But of course, were Turkey the only relevant party, these developments would not be of nearly the same global significance. Rather, it is the participation and collusion of the US and NATO that makes this troubling escalation far more dangerous.
Making Overt the Covert War
As of writing, NATO has not yet been convened to discuss Turkey’s war on Syria and the Kurds, though Ankara has called for the meeting under Article 4 of the NATO treaty which provides for consultation, but not necessarily collaborative military action. However, regardless of how the meeting proceeds, Turkey has been given overt support in its war by the US, which is, in effect, NATO.
Although the US feigns concern for the Kurds and the expansion of the war, Washington has in fact endorsed Turkey’s policy. White House spokesman Alistair Baskey noted that the US “strongly condemns” recent attacks by the PKK, reiterating the fact that Turkey is an important US and NATO ally. As Obama’s close adviser on national security matters Ben Rhodes stated, “The US, of course, recognises the PKK specifically as a terrorist organisation. And, so, again Turkey has a right to take action related to terrorist targets.”
While it would appear that Washington is taking a measured approach, cautiously supporting Turkey while trying to limit the scope of the operation, that illusion is merely for appearance’s sake. In fact, the Brookings Institution just last month issued a policy paper entitled Deconstructing Syria: Towards a regionalized strategy for a confederal country, which brazenly laid out a plan to, as political analyst Tony Cartalucci astutely pointed out, “divide, destroy, then incrementally occupy” Syria using the pretext of ISIS and terrorism. And that is precisely what we’re witnessing now.
But neither Cartalucci, nor this author, nor any other colleagues who have predicted this turn of events are clairvoyant. Rather, this development was very much expected. As noted above, those terrorists who now provide the rationale for a new war were the very same ones openly supported by the countries now waging the war. It was clear at the time that this would be their ultimate role. Sadly, the world has not effectively mobilized to stop this imperialist war thus far.
The question remains: will Syria survive? The answer depends on the continued resolve of the Syrian Arab Army and its allies, and on the global Resistance’s capacity to organize itself to effectively oppose the Empire in Syria and beyond.
WASHINGTON — The US armed forces are using a growing number of mercenaries or contractors to operate lethal drone attacks as regular troops are increasingly unwilling to do so, experts told Sputnik.
“‘Private contractors’, mercenaries, have been involved in US drone surveillance and attack for some time, certainly with the CIA, and most probably not only in intelligence analysis, but also in the roles of pilots and sensor operators,” KnowDrones.com Coordinator Nick Mottern told Sputnik on Friday.
The sensor operators are the people who pull the trigger to launch Hellfire missiles and bombs, he said.
Mottern noted the need to hire mercenaries indicates that the US military is not able, for whatever reason, to find enough people within its ranks to do such work.
“This is… because it is involving an increasing amount of killing, and, I suspect, an increasing amount of PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder].”
The situation, Mottern continued, presents a major legal problem for the contracting companies and the military alike, because of the question who should be held accountable for the killing going on conducted by drones.
“[T]he critical decisions of identifying ‘the enemy’ are being made by civilians who are under no official chain of command,” he added.
All drone killing remains clearly in violation of international law and US domestic law against assassination, Mottern pointed out.
Yet, “here we have the US paying civilians to do illegal killing without even the legal accountability applied to the US military,” he said. “[T]he mercenaries are accountable only to their employers who most assuredly are encouraging high kill totals to ensure continued contracts. “
This lack of accountability and of any clear chain of command “obviously means dramatically increased jeopardy for the people under surveillance and drone attack; that is a dramatic increase in the number of people being killed and terrorized,” Mottern explained.
The unwillingness of the US military to comment on this situation is evidence of its illegality, the activist argued.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), Mottern said, has documented up to nearly 6,000 people killed by US drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, not including those killed in Afghanistan before 2015, or those killed by drone attacks in Iraq, Libya or possibly Syria.
“The extent of drone surveillance, killing and terrorism going on is very likely far beyond what is documented by [the BIJ figures],” Mottern warned.
Upstate Drone Acton activist Ed Kinane told Sputnik on Friday that the scale of drone operations and the amount of carnage they will inflict looks likely to increase in coming months.
“The problem isn’t ‘lack of personnel’; the problem is an overabundance of opportunities for surveillance and killing — thanks to the US military’s drive for assassination, intervention and invasion,” Kinane said.
The continued and increasing cycles of war generate further profit for major defense contractors in the United States and its close allies, Kinane claimed.
“More war equals more profit, [therefore] perpetual war equals perpetual profit [and] more regional instability equals more opportunities to secure control over resources of fractured nations,” Kinane argued.
The intelligence analysts now employed by the Pentagon will likely eventually be involved in domestic police and intelligence work as well, Kinane predicted.
The rulers of the two most powerful authoritarian regimes in the Middle East are launching major wars to reconfigure the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has declared war by proxy on Iran, announcing full-scale military mobilization within Israel (July 27 -29) and organizing the biggest political campaign of ultra Zionist Jews in Washington.
The purpose of this two-pronged propaganda blitz is to defeat the recently signed US-Iranian agreement and start another major Middle East war. Ultimately, Netanyahu intends to take care of his ‘Palestinian Problem’ for good: complete the conquest and occupation of Palestine and expelling the Palestinian people from their homeland – the single most important foreign policy and domestic goal of the Jewish state. In order to do this, Israeli leaders have had to systematically campaign for the destruction of the Palestinians regional supporters and sympathizers – Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Iran.
Erodogan’ s Multiple Wars
At the same time, Turkish Prime Minister Erodogan has launched a major war against the Kurdish people and their aspirations for a Kurdish state. This has followed closely on several recent incidents beginning with the bombing (with cooperation from Turkish intelligence ) of a Kurdish youth camp, killing and wounding scores of young secular activists. Within days of the massacre of Turkish-Kurdish youth, Erodogan ordered his air force to bomb and strafe Kurdish bases within the sovereign territories of Iraq and Syria and Turkish security police have assaulted and arrested thousands of Kurdish nationalists and Turkish leftist sympathizers throughout the country. This has all occurred with the support of the US and NATO who provide cover for Erodogan’s plans to seize Syrian territory, displace Kurdish civilians and fighters and colonize the northern border of Syria – under the pretext of needing a ‘buffer zone’ to protect Turkish sovereignty. Such a massive land grab of hundreds of square kilometers will end the long standing support and interaction among Syrian, Iraqi and Turkish Kurdish populations who have been among the most effective opponents of radical Islamist groups.
Erdogan’s newly declared war on the Kurds has complex domestic and regional components (Financial Times 7/28/15, p 9): Within Turkey, the repression is directed against the emerging electoral-political power of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party. Erodogan plans to discredit or outright ban this political party, which had won a surprising number of seats in the recent parliamentary election, call for new elections, secure a ‘majority’ in Parliament and assume dictatorial ‘executive powers’.
Regionally, Erodogan’s invasion of Syria is part of his strategy to expand Turkey’s borders southward and westward and to provide a platform from which Turkey’s favorite jihadi clients can launch assaults on the secular government in Damascus and Aleppo. The bombing of Kurdish villages and camps in Iraq and Syria are designed to reverse the Kurd’s military victories against ISIS and will justify greater repression of Kurdish activists backing autonomy in southeastern Turkey.
Erodogan is counting on Turkey’s agreements with the US and NATO for overt and covert collaboration against the Kurds and against Syrian national sovereignty.
Netanyahu’s Proxy Wars
Netanyahu’s multifaceted political offensive is designed to drag the US into a war with Iran. His strategy operates at many levels and in complex complimentary ways. The immediate target is the nuclear agreement recently signed between the White House and Iran. Part of the longer-term strategy to destroy Iran includes the formation of a coalition of Middle East states, especially Gulf monarchies, to encircle, confront and provoke war with Iran. This political-military strategy is being pushed by leading Zionists within the highest circles of the US Government.
All the major Israeli political parties, and most Israeli voters support this dangerous policy against Iran. The Presidents of the 52 Major American Jewish Organizations in the US have been mobilized to bully, bribe and bludgeon the majority of Congress into following Netanyahu’s dictates. Every US Congressperson is being ‘visited’ and presented with propaganda sheets by leaders, activists and full time functionaries of AIPAC, the Jewish Confederations and their billionaire political donors. All the major US press and TV media parrot Netanyahu’s call for ‘war on the peace accord’ despite massive US public opinion against any escalation of the conflict.
At the highest levels of US Executive decision-making top Zionist officials avoid association with AIPAC’s public polemics and thuggish bluster, all the while promoting their own political-military ‘final solution’ … for eliminating Iran as an adversary to Israeli-Jewish supremacy in the Middle East. In the State Department and Departments of Commerce, Defense and Treasury, US-Israeli agents acting as special Middle East advisers, ambassadors and insiders push Netanyahu’s policies to undermine any normalization of relations between the US and Iran.
A recent proposal written by Professor Phillip Zelikow in the Financial Times (7/23/15, p. 9 ) entitled “To Balance (sic) the Nuclear Deal, Defeat ISIS and Confront Iran” is chilling.
The former ‘Executive Director of the ‘9/11 Commission Investigation Report’, uber-insider Zelikow promotes the formation of an ingenious coalition, in the name of fighting ISIS, but whose real purpose is to “confront Iranian ambitions”. Zelikow’s “coalition” includes Turkey, which will be assigned to attack Iran’s regional allies in Syria and Lebanon (Hezbollah) – all in the name of “fighting ISIS”.
The bland, bespectacled and most respectable Professor Zelikow lays out Netanyahu’s own bloody hit list down to the most minute detail – but tidied up with a thin veneer of ‘confronting ISIS’ to obscure his real agenda. This is no blustering AIPAC thug or open Neo-Con war monger beating the drums…
Zelikow’s ‘anti-ISIS coalition’ will ultimately go after the Iraqi Shia militia and their main supporters among Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – hewing closely to Netanyahu’s strategy!
Zelikow was a major inside advocate of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Twelve years after the US invaded, occupied and destroyed Iraq, Zelikow pops up again to promote a policy of sending US combat troops to serve Israel’s regional interest. He writes, “The military side [of the ‘coalition’] will need more Americans on the ground to offer meaningful combat support among the coalition”. (FT ibid).
Zelikow is clearly aware of US public opinion in favor of diplomacy with Iran and against the US engaging in more ground wars in the Middle East, when he writes that a ‘military effort is not an alternative to diplomacy.” Zelikow and his bosses in the Israeli Foreign Office know any US military intervention with such a “coalition” would lead to the destruction of the US-Iran Agreement and another major ground war with US troops fighting for Israel once again!
Considering his position as a highly connected insider, Zelikow’s attempts to sabotage the Iran-US agreement presents a far greater danger to world peace than all the noisy lobbying by the 52 Zionist organizations active in Congress.
Zelikow has been a highly influential security adviser to the US Executive and State Department since the early 1980’s under Reagan. He was appointed ‘special adviser to the State Department’ in 2007, a position held earlier by Neo-Con operative Wendy Sherman and followed by war-monger, Victoria Nuland. In 2011 President Obama appointed him to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.
He came to national prominence when President Bush appointed him Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission where he directed the highly controversial (and highly censored) 9/11 Commission Report against much public opposition. The appointment was made after Bush first choice of Henry Kissinger had created a media storm – Kissinger was never a serious choice with an insider-gatekeeper like Zelikow waiting in the wings. He was a controversial choice because of his role as intimate advisor to Condaleeza Rice and his authorship of the notorious Bush national security strategy promoting pre-emptive war, published in September 2002.
Phillip Zelikow suppressed any discussion of Israel’s role as a major catalyst for US involvements in the Afghan and Iraq wars. As executive-director of the 9/11 Commission Report, Zelikow assumed the role of editor and censor. He ignored the history of Israeli Mossad operations in the US, especially in the run-up to the attack on September 11, 2001. The report made no mention the fake ‘moving’ van filled with Israeli spies arrested on September 11, 2001 while celebrating and photographing the destruction of the World Trade Center complex. Nor did he discuss the quiet ‘deportation’ of the Israeli agents. The report contains no discussion of the scores of phony Israel “art students” who operated in South Florida around US military installations and in the vicinity of the apartment of the alleged 9-11 hijackers. They too were quietly arrested and deported.
He also suppressed discussion of the Defense Department’s ‘Able Danger Project’, which showed US intelligence awareness of the hijackers presence and activities much earlier dating back to 1997.
In October 2001, the first ‘anthrax attack’ occurred – first sickening and killing a photojournalist at a scandal sheet in Florida. National news programs featured an interview with… the re-packaged ‘al Qaeda’ and ‘bioterrorism’ expert Professor Zelikow (his lack of Arabic and scientific credentials notwithstanding…) who declared the anthrax to be ‘weapons grade’ and ‘definitely from a state sponsored military lab’, implying Iraq. (He was correct in the ‘military lab’ part of his declaration – only the facility was the US Weapons Lab at Fort Detrick. Zelikow’s role in accusing the embargoed and beleaguered regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of the anthrax hysteria was crucial in the public build-up for the case to invade Iraq, echoed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s call for the destruction of Iraq. Master-performance complete, ‘scientist’ Zelikow’s interview (among others) has disappeared from the ‘web’.
Zelikow’s ‘expertise’ (such as it is) and usefulness to Israel derives from his articles on the political usefulness of ‘false flags’ and catastrophes – events concocted or instigated by imperialist powers to push a traumatized public into unpopular wars and draconian domestic police state policies. His work has centered on the manipulation and exploitation of ‘events’ to push public policy – and include the Cuban Missile Crisis, the re-unification of Germany, policing Northern Ireland, (but not Middle East studies or bio-weaponry’). His expertise is in the historical use of the ‘public myth’- whether the Riechstag Fire or Pearl Harbor. In Foreign Affairs, November-December 1998, he co-authored an article with the current US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, entitled Catastrophe Terrorism where a ‘watershed event’ could result in ‘horror and chaos’ pushing the US public to accept the destruction of ‘their civil liberties, wide-spread surveillance, detention and use of deadly force…’
Zelikow continues to push the “false flag” script: In 2001 with the “anthrax hysteria” and now with the “Iran threat hysteria” . . . What is not surprising is that in both instances he hews closely to Israel’s strategic goal of utterly destroying countries, which have opposed Israel’s dispossession, occupation and expulsion of Palestinians – Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon and now Iran.
Zelikow is a long-term, major asset for Israel, working quietly and effectively while the AIPAC bullies break down the doors of Congress. He never held a prominent position in the Cabinet or White House post like the brazen Zion-Cons Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby, Perle, Abrams and Levey who aggressively pushed the country into war with Iraq. Wolfowitz and company have scuttled back into obscurity under the cover of lucrative private positions while Zelikow continues to work inside pushing the Iran war agenda out of the limelight.
Zelikow’s role is far more discrete and important to Israel over the long haul than the loudmouths and thugs of AIPAC and other Zionist fronts. On the surface he pursues his academic and university administrative career (an excellent cover) while repeatedly inserting himself into crucial public discussions and quietly assuming strategic positions to advise on events or policies which have ‘turning point’ consequences and where his deep ties to Israel are never discussed.
Zelikow has one asset, which his bullying and blustering Zionist comrades lack and another which he shares with them. Zelikow is a great con-man – claiming knowledge about anthrax, Middle East relations, and military strategy. He spouts …. pure unadulterated rubbish with authoritative finesse!.. Claiming legal and investigative expertise he controlled the 9/11 Commission Report and denied the American people any open and relevant discussion of the event. He even likened the Commission Report skeptics to ‘an infection’ within American public opinion – apparently relying on his ‘expertise’ in biological warfare…
What Zelikow does have in common with the raging bulls of Zionism is his constant resort to vituperation against any country or movement identified as a target by Israel. He consistently refers to the secular government of Syria (under attack by jihadi terrorists) as a “terrorist regime”. He calls the Iraqi militia fighting ISIS “Shia torture squads”. This is part of a build-up to push the US into ground war for Israel against Iran and its allies.
Unlike Turkey’s Erodogan who uses his own armed forces to launch an all-out war to dispossess, terrorize and colonize ethnic Kurdish territories in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, Israel’s Netanyahu relies on his overseas (US) high level operatives to set in motion the wheels of war. Within days of attacks of September 11, 2001, Israel’s leading mouthpiece in the US Senate, Joseph Lieberman presented the roadmap for US wars for the next decade and a half – declaring that “the US must declare war on Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon and Iran”, despite the complete absence of these countries’ involvement in the event.
Is he a prophet or just a highly successful agent? Zelikow will push for a ‘coalition’ of Middle East dictators and monarchs to fulfill Israel’s dream as dictated by Joseph Lieberman in September 2001. This is a dream of waging devastating war against Iran leading to its partition, similar to the de facto partition of Iraq, Syria and Libya, resulting in a Middle East forever ravaged by sectarian strife, foreign occupations, balkanized and devoid of any possibility of regaining civilized life. Israel can then carry out its brutal final solution: the dispossession and expulsion of all Palestinians and establishment an expanded, purely Jewish state – surrounded by unspeakable destruction and destitution…
Erodogan expands ‘Turkoman frontier’ into Syria and Iraq – despite the fact that Turkey has never shown any interest in the Turkoman minorities. To that end, he allies with ISIS terrorists to uproot Kurds, everywhere extending into Turkey. Erodogan, like, Netanyahu, wants a ‘pure’ ethnic state – one Jewish, the other Turkish! Both brutal leaders have no regard for the sovereignty of neighboring states, let alone the security of their civilian populations. Both depend on the military support of the US. Both are in the process of igniting wider and more destructive wars in the Middle East. Netanyahu and Erodogan want to reconfigure the Middle East: Turkey seizes Kurdistan and Syria; Netanyahu expands military dominance in the Persian Gulf through the destruction of Iran.
These two leaders appear to hate each other because they are so similar in arrogance and action… But according to Professor Zelikow, the US will step in ‘god-like’ to ‘mediate’ the different power grabs among what he mindlessly refers to as the ‘partners of the coalition’.
WASHINGTON — The United States’ weapons and logistical support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen signals that Washington is backing Riyadh’s goal to crush Houthi rebels despite UN calls for a political solution, experts told Sputnik on Friday.
The United States is providing intelligence and refueling support to enable a four-month-old Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels and allied forces.
On Thursday, Washington decided to provide Riyadh with $500 million in ammunition to replenish stocks used up in the campaign.
“The Saudis want an extended war that leads to a Houthi defeat, and the United States is effectively backing that strategy with the arms deal,” Charles Schmitz, a specialist on Yemen at the Middle East Institute told Sputnik.
“The Saudis don’t want a political settlement; they want a Houthi surrender,” he added.
This week’s $500 million weapons deal, which includes ammunition, tracers, artillery shells and mines, is meant to resupply the Saudi military in its campaign against Houthi rebels, according to the State Department.
The sale was approved as Saudi Arabia has come under criticism for human rights abuses and violations of the international law of war by targeting and killing civilians in Yemen.
The conflict has claimed the lives of at least 1,900 civilians and has injured more than 4,000, according to the UN, while leaving 80 percent of the country in need of humanitarian assistance.
“The new sale by the United States of $500 million of munitions to Saudi Arabia is yet another example of how America is actually an active combatant in the Saudi war on the people of Yemen,” Haykal Bafana, Managing Director of Bafana Advisory, told Sputnik from Sana.
“Whether the US munitions are distributed by Riyadh for use by its Yemeni proxy forces or by the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] itself, the effect is similar: the United States is contributing actively to the deaths of more Yemenis,” Bafana added.
The multi-front war in Yemen pits Houthi rebels and loyalists of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi’s Sunni forces, tribes and south Yemen secessionists based in Aden.
Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula and the ISIL have also taken advantage of the situation to strengthen their hold in Yemen.
Saudi trained Yemeni proxies loyal to former president Hadi have recently pushed Houthi forces from Aden as several humanitarian ceasefires and political talks have broken-down.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has delayed a pledge to provide $274 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen as the UN and Riyadh discuss the terms of the assistance, the UN’s humanitarian chief said this week.
The World Food Program (WFP) has slashed by half its food assistance for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon due to a funding crisis.
Muhannad Hadi, the WFP’s regional director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, announced the decision on Friday.
Hadi said the international community must help the food assistance branch of the United Nations to continue its drive to keep refugees from going hungry.
The WFP official further urged international donors to increase their contributions, otherwise “it will be only a matter of months before we face the same situation again.”
The WFP said that the most vulnerable of the Syrian refugees living outside camps in Jordan will receive USD 14 per person in August while the rest will get only USD 7 each.
The agency will also provide the Syrian refugees in Lebanon with USD 13.5 per month, which is half of their initial entitlement.
The development comes as the WFP is currently underfunded and needs USD 168 million to keep helping Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey through October.
Syria has been grappling with a foreign-sponsored crisis since March 2011. The violence fueled by Takfiri terrorist groups has reportedly left over 230,000 people dead so far.
More than 4 million Syrians have left their country since the beginning of the conflict, according to latest figures released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Lebanon is home to 1,172,753 Syrian refugees while Jordan hosts more than 629,000 refugees, with about 100,000 housed in refugee camps and the rest living in Jordanian communities.
In a joint report published on July 23, the WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned of worsening food insecurity in the Arab country, saying that the ongoing crisis is pushing more people into poverty and hunger.
Approximately 9.8 million Syrians are estimated to be “food insecure,” with 6.8 million of them “severely food insecure,” according to the report.
The road to war is paved with a thousand lies. A fresh fib was tossed on the lie-cluttered warpath to Syria, when it was announced that the U.S. and Turkey would create a “safe zone” inside of Syria — supposedly to be aimed against ISIS.
This “safe zone” is a major escalation of war, but it was described in soft tones by the media. In reality a “safe zone” is a “no-fly zone,” meaning that a nation is planning to implement military air superiority inside the boundaries of another nation. It’s long recognized by the international community and U.S. military personnel as a major act of war. In a war zone an area is made “safe” by destroying anything in it or around that appears threatening.
Turkey has been demanding this no-fly zone from Obama since the Syrian war started. It’s been discussed throughout the conflict and even in recent months, though the intended target was always the Syrian government.
And suddenly the no-fly zone is happening — right where Turkey always wanted it — but it’s being labeled an “anti-ISIS” safe zone, instead of its proper name: “Anti Kurdish and anti-Syrian government” safe zone.
The U.S. media swallowed the name change without blinking, but many international media outlets knew better.
For instance, the International Business Times reported “ [the safe zone deal]… could mark the end of [Syrian President] Assad…”
And the Middle East Eye reported:
“…[the safe zone] marks a breakthrough for Turkey in its confrontation with the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria. If the no-fly zone does come into being it will be a body blow for Assad and his supporters”
Even U.S. media outlets acknowledged that the primary goal of Obama’s safe zone ally, Turkey, was defeating the Kurdish fighters and the Syrian government, both of whom have been the most effective fighters against ISIS.
Syrian regime change is also the goal of the ground troops who will be filling the void left by ISIS, who the New York Times labeled “relatively moderate Syrian insurgents,” a telling euphemism.
The New York Times confirmed the goals of the safe zone allies:
“…both the Turks and the Syrian insurgents see defeating President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as their first priority…”
If the Syrian government wasn’t the target of the safe zone, then Syrian government troops would be the ones to control the safe zone post ISIS, as they did before ISIS. And if regime change wasn’t the target, then the Syrian government would have been consulted and coordinated with to attack ISIS, since Syria is involved with heavy fighting against ISIS in the same region that the safe zone is being carved out.
These steps weren’t taken because the “safe zone” plan is much bigger than ISIS.
Obama hasn’t detailed who the “relatively moderate” fighters are that will control the safe zone, but it’s easy to guess. We only have to look at the Syrian rebels on the ground who are effective fighters and control nearby territory.
The most powerful non-ISIS group in the region recently re-branded itself as the “Conquest Army,” a coalition of Islamic extremists led by Jabhat al-Nusra — the official al-Qaeda affiliate — and the group Ahrar al-Sham, whose leader previously stated that his group was “the real al Qaeda.” The Conquest Army actively coordinates with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and is also populated with U.S.-trained fighters.
These groups share the ideology and tactics of ISIS, the only difference being their willingness to work with the United States and Turkey. It’s entirely likely that once the “safe zone” operation starts, many ISIS troops will simply change shirts and join Jabhat al-Nusra, since there is no principled difference.
Obama knows that the foreign ground troops controlling the “safe zone” are targeting the Syrian government; consequently, U.S. military planes will be acting as the de-facto air force for Al-Qaeda against the Syrian government.
Thus, direct military confrontation with the Syrian government is inevitable. President Assad is already attacking ISIS in the area that the U.S.-Turkey alliance wants to make “safe” via its coordinated military operation. Syrian fighter jets will eventually be targeted, since the goal is to allow extremist groups a “safe zone” to continue their attacks on the Syrian government after ISIS is dealt with.
This danger was also acknowledged by the New York Times:
“Whatever the goal, the plan [safe zone] will put American and allied warplanes closer than ever to areas that Syrian aircraft regularly bomb, raising the question of what they will do if Syrian warplanes attack their partners [“relatively moderate rebels”] on the ground.”
The answer seems obvious: U.S. and Turkish fighter jets will engage with Syrian aircraft, broadening and deepening the war until the intended aim of regime change has been accomplished.
This is exactly how events developed in Libya, when the U.S.-NATO led a “no-fly zone” that was supposedly created to allow a “humanitarian corridor,” but quickly snowballed into its real goal: regime change and assassination of Libya’s president. This epic war crime is still celebrated by Obama and Hillary Clinton as a “victory,” while Libyans drown in the Mediterranean to escape their once-modern but now obliterated country.
If Obama’s goal in Syria was actually defeating ISIS, this could have been achieved at any time, in a matter of weeks. It would simply take a serious and coordinated effort with U.S. regional allies, while coordinating with the non-allies already fighting ISIS: Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah.
If Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan were involved in the fight on ISIS it would be quickly strangled of cash, guns, and troops, and be massively out-powered. War over.
The only reason this hasn’t happened is that the U.S. and its allies have always viewed ISIS as a convenient proxy against Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran, not to mention leverage against the Iran-friendly government of Iraq.
Turkey remains the biggest obstacle to defeating ISIS, since it’s been helping it for years. ISIS has long used the Turkish border to escape Syrian government attacks, seek medical assistance, and get supplies and reinforcements. ISIS is so welcomed inside Turkey that ISIS promotes Turkey on social media as the international transit hub for jihadis wanting to join ISIS. Turkish immigration and customs looks the other way as does the Turkish border control.
In discussing the “safe zone,” the U.S. media always ignore the concept of national sovereignty — the basis for international law. The boundaries of countries are sacred from the standpoint of international law. The only just war is a defensive one. When one country implements a no-fly zone in another country, national boundaries are violated and international law is broken by an act of war.
The Obama administration is aware of the above dynamics, but has again tossed caution to the wind as he did in 2013, during the ramp up to its aborted bombing campaign against the Syrian government.
A U.S.-Turkish no-fly zone will deepen an already regional war: Iran and Hezbollah have recently ramped up direct support of the Syrian government. As Turkish and the U.S. military enter the war space for the first time, confrontation is inevitable. Confrontation is the plan.
“Black Friday: Carnage in Rafah,” a new report by Amnesty International, has drawn international media attention with its accounts of destruction and suffering during four days of the Gaza conflict last year. Headlines worldwide announce charges of Israeli war crimes, and photos present readers with towering columns of smoke, smoldering ruins and grieving Palestinians.
It is a story of suffering on a massive scale, but in reporting this narrative The New York Times has chosen to look not at Gaza and its agony but, once again, at Israel. Thus we find an article that gives focus to Israeli losses—a soldier missing in action, his comrades at arms and his bereaved family. The photo is of two Israeli parents grieving by a tombstone.
In her story, “Signs of War Crimes Seen in Israeli Hunt for Ambushed Soldier,” Isabel Kershner imposes this twist on a story of Palestinian suffering and Israeli atrocities by overplaying one element of the narrative: The attacks on the southern Gaza city of Rafah came after Lt. Hadar Goldin was captured on Aug. 1 and were a response to this event.
After Lt. Goldin was seized and taken into a tunnel, the Israeli army put its notorious “Hannibal Directive” into effect. This, in the words of the Amnesty report, is “a controversial command designed to deal with captures of soldiers by unleashing massive firepower on persons, vehicles and buildings in the vicinity of the attack, despite the risk to civilians and the captured soldier(s).”
Kershner builds her story not around the findings of the report, but the capture of Lt. Goldin and the reactions of his family and comrades. Thus, the article opens with the moment his unit realized he was missing, it refers to him throughout and ends with the comments of his grieving parents.
In all, Kershner mentions Lt. Goldin in some 13 paragraphs, nearly half the article. Readers find news of the report in her piece, including the most vehement condemnations by Amnesty officials, but her angle undercuts the thrust of the document. (Readers might want to compare accounts in The Independent, Al Jazeera or Newsweek, among others.)
The report is the work of Amnesty and Forensic Architecture, a British research group. It presents a meticulous analysis of the attacks on Rafah from Aug. 1 through Aug. 4 last year, describing numerous assaults that left at least 135 dead, including 75 children. It contains chilling accounts of events on the ground: desperate attempts to escape, strikes on ambulances and residents blasted into fragments.
The investigation found “overwhelming evidence that Israeli forces committed disproportionate, or otherwise indiscriminate attacks, which killed scores of civilians in their homes, on the streets or in vehicles, and injured many more.” It goes on to say, “In some cases there are indications that they directly fired at and killed civilians, including people fleeing.”
These findings provide “strong evidence” of “serious violations of international humanitarian law,” the report states, as well as “other war crimes.” Kershner, however, attempts to cast doubt on the aims of the report in one sentence that steps outside the bounds of reporting into editorializing.
She writes, “[The report] tries to offer the most detailed reconstruction of the events of Black Friday to date, in hopes of bolstering allegations against Israel that are now the subject of a preliminary investigation before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.”
In other words, Kershner says, Amnesty and Forensic Architecture are motivated by a desire to delegitimize Israel, and their analysis is merely an attempt to be “the most detailed.”
It seems that the Times was reluctant to tell this story. The problem, once again, was how to report the news of yet another damning report and at the same time to shield Israel, and so we have an awkward piece, one that tries to mesh two opposing narratives: the fate of Lt. Goldin and the disclosure of Israeli war crimes in Rafah.
The result is a confusing combination of reporting and obfuscation, a frequent outcome of the Times’ effort to serve Israeli interests over those of the reading public.
A federal judge has rejected a legal challenge from a Guantanamo Bay inmate who said his continued imprisonment was unlawful since President Barack Obama had declared an end to the war in Afghanistan. The detainee has been held for 13 years.
The challenge brought by lawyers for detainee Muktar Yahya Najee al-Warafi said the Obama administration’s statement that the war in Afghanistan had come to an end made their client’s detention unlawful under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force of 2001. The authorization provides legal justification for imprisoning foreign fighters captured overseas.
The plaintiff’s argument also pointed to President Obama’s January 2015 speech declaring that “our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.”
The Washington, DC federal judge, Royce Lambert, wrote in his 14-page opinion that the president’s statement notwithstanding, the government had offered “convincing evidence the US involvement in the fighting in Afghanistan, against Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces alike, has not stopped,” and that al-Warafi’s detention remains legal.
“A court cannot look to political speeches alone to determine factual and legal realities merely because doing so would be easier than looking at all the relevant evidence,” Lambeth wrote, according to a report by the Associated Press. “The government may not always mean what it says or say what it means.”
Brain Foster, a lawyer for al-Warafi, said the judge’s opinion amounted to “a rubber stamp for endless detention” and would review the opinion to decide whether to appeal.
Foster also took to Twitter to say al-Warafi had worked in medical clinics in Afghanistan, a position that would provide him with protection under The Geneva Conventions.
Al-Warafi, a Yemeni, was captured in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance in 2001 before being detained by the US at Guantanamo in 2002.
More than 700 inmates have been held at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, at a cost of more than $5 billion, since it opened in 2002 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The facility has been mired in scandal throughout its history, with allegations of torture, force feeding and sexual abuse.
There are still 116 detainees at the prison. Speaking at national security conference in Aspen, Colorado on July 24, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said it “doesn’t make fiscal sense” to keep Guantanamo open.
Johnson said that it costs nearly $900,000 per year to house each prisoner at Guantanamo, amounting to a total cost of more than $100 million per year. In comparison, he said the cost of housing an inmate in a high-security federal prison was $80,000.
WHEN you’re in a hole, keep bombing. That’s the message from the Nato forces – meeting in Brussels tomorrow to give the green light to Turkey – who seem to know no other way out of the serial military debacles and catastrophes they have launched in the past decade and a half than to continue with them.
In the past few days the prospect of even greater war in the Middle East has come closer, as Turkey escalates its attacks on the Kurdish community, under the pretext of the war against ISIS.
The deal between the US and Turkey allows US use of an airbase close to its ISIS bombing targets in Syria while giving a green light to Turkey to bomb not just ISIS but the Kurds in the PKK.
To many observers, this is in fact the key point of Turkey’s mobilisation. It is determined to crush the Kurds and seems much more concerned with the PKK than with ISIS.
The bombings have ended the ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish state and threaten much greater conflict. Turkey is calling a meeting of its Nato allies to get endorsement for its military action and to try to create a buffer zone inside Syria, whose aim will be to further attack the Kurds.
In truth the Turkish state has aided the rise of ISIS and has repeatedly attacked the Kurds, even though they have been involved in fighting against ISIS.
Any Nato support for Turkey will further deepen the war in Syria, and will not deal with ISIS. The bombing which has already gone on for a year has not been effective in dealing with it, but has simply led to greater bloodshed and dislocation in Syria.
Bombing is not just on the Turkish government’s mind, however. Here in Britain, David Cameron has already tacitly agreed to British pilots bombing Syria under US command – in express contravention of the Commons vote two years ago. There is no military reason for British intervention, it is political, designed to show that Britain can be an effective junior partner to the US.
Now Cameron is campaigning for a further Commons vote to allow the bombing of ISIS in Syria. This is likely to be scheduled for mid September shortly after the results of the Labour leadership election.
The success so far of Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership campaign makes a strong anti war voice a much greater possibility, and makes more likely the defeat of Cameron, given the widespread support for Jeremy and the substantial bloc of SNP MPs, alongside dissent within Tory ranks.
The anti war movement must do everything it can to defeat this move. Stop the War is asking all our groups and members to organise protests, petition and lobby MPs throughout the summer to make sure they are aware of the issues and ready to vote against war in September.
Bombing and intervention have only exacerbated the problems in the Middle East. They have arguably led to the increase in terrorism we are seeing today. ISIS grew as a result of the wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria, aided by countries who now urge further war – especially Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
One of the main sources of ISIS support seems to be the destroyed state of Libya, locked in division and civil war, with rival factions claiming to be the government. Even Cameron isn’t stupid enough to call for more bombing there – after the damage he and his allies did in 2011, when more than 30,000 died. Instead he is intending to put in military ‘advisers’ there.
Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe, the US and Britain are carrying out military manouevres in Ukraine this week, in a test of strength with Russia.
Next week is the 25th anniversary of the start of the first Gulf War. War has been pretty continuous since then, in the Middle East, in the former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan and Africa.
And every time they try to solve the problems which they created with their last interventions, they create more.