“Haibatullah Akhundzada has been appointed as the new leader of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) after a unanimous agreement in the shura (supreme council), and all the members of shura pledged allegiance to him,” the insurgents said in a statement.
It added that Sirajuddin Haqqani, an implacable foe of US forces, and Mullah Yakoub, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, were appointed his deputies.
Haibatullah was one of two deputies under Mansour, who was killed in a US drone strike on Saturday, the first known American assault on a top Afghan Taliban leader on Pakistani soil.
Mansour’s killing is a major blow to the militant movement just nine months after he was formally appointed leader following a bitter power struggle, and sent shockwaves through the leadership.
Haibatullah’s appointment comes after the Taliban’s supreme council held emergency meetings that began Sunday in southwest Pakistan to find a unifying figure for the leadership post.
Taliban sources told AFP the supreme council members were lying low and constantly changing the venue of their meetings to avoid new potential air strikes.
President Obama heads to Japan this week for an historic visit to Hiroshima, site of the world’s first use of a nuclear weapon, and one of the United States’ most enduring shameful acts. The corporate media has hailed the visit as an important step in strengthening bilateral relations between the US and Japan. Indeed, it certainly is that as the US seeks to reassert its hegemony in an Asia-Pacific region increasingly being seen as the sphere of influence of China.
However, Obama’s arrival in Japan also highlights the deeply hypocritical and cynical attitudes of US policymakers, and President Obama himself, when it comes to the relevant issues. He is not expected to formally apologize for the needless slaughter of more than 200,000 Japanese citizens (mostly civilians), nor is he going to address the lingering policy-related effects of the war such as the highly unpopular US military occupation of Okinawa. In fact, it seems Obama is unlikely to touch on anything of substance. But there are indeed numerous subjects which merit close scrutiny.
First and foremost, one must consider the fact that for 70 years the United States has maintained a permanent military presence in Japan, one which is deeply reviled by the majority of the people of Japan, especially the citizens of Okinawa who regularly and continuously protest the US occupation. And while Obama and his counterpart, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will discuss the continued friendship and partnership between the two countries, the reality is that it remains a master-client relationship. There will likely be much discussion of past, present, and future, without any admission of guilt either on the side of the US for its horrific war crimes nor by Japan for its unrestrained aggression against China, Korea, and the rest of the Asia-Pacific. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”
Interestingly, the question of nuclear weapons will likely also not be addressed in a substantive way. There may indeed be some discussion of the subject in general terms, but it will be veiled in the typically flowery, but utterly vacuous, Obama rhetoric. Given the opportunity, an intrepid reporter might venture to ask the President why, despite winning the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples [and] vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons,” he has presided over an administration that will spend more than $1 trillion upgrading, modernizing, and expanding the US nuclear arsenal.
Perhaps even more uncomfortable might be a question about why the allegedly anti-nuclear president who waxed poetic about disarmament as a student at Columbia University has spent two terms in office providing tens of billions in aid to nuclear-armed Israel, raising the amount of US aid to Tel Aviv to historic levels. In 2014, the Obama administration also enthusiastically signed a new nuclear deal with the UK which, according to Obama himself, “intends to continue to maintain viable nuclear forces into the foreseeable future… [America needed to aid Britain] in maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent.” So much for disarmament.
And while Obama and his coterie of spin doctors shape his anti-nuclear legacy with talk of a nuclear deal with Iran – a country that has no nuclear weapons – the cynicism is impossible to ignore. Obama has in fact done everything to promote nuclear proliferation including the absolutely insane new US missile “defense” system in Eastern Europe which, almost by definition, forces Russia to upgrade and expand its own arsenal, including its nuclear stockpile (still the largest in the world) as a countermeasure.
And then there’s the irradiated elephant in the room: Fukushima. The ongoing cover-up of what’s really happening in Fukushima lurks in the background of all discussion about nuclear issues and Japan. No one should hold their breath for even a whisper about this still unfolding environmental catastrophe which the Japanese government has gone to great lengths to dump down the memory hole.
Rather than formally apologizing to the Japanese people for the grave crimes of the US Government, Obama will instead frame his position as “looking forward, not backward,” a hollow platitude that calls to mind the utterly reprehensible decision by Obama not to investigate or prosecute the Bush administration criminals involved in torture. Rather than a heartfelt expression of regret, Obama offers the Trans-Pacific Partnership and an escalation of tensions with China. Rather than working for peace as one might expect of a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Obama instead will continue to champion his “pivot to Asia” strategy which has yielded little in terms of progress but much in terms of US military presence.
President Obama’s visit to Japan, like his allegedly great successes in Iran and Cuba, will change nothing. Obama will say a few words, then leave Japan. He’ll soon leave office with a still more dangerous world than when he entered: more nukes, more wars, more destruction. And this from our Peace Prize President.
Eric Draitser can be reached at email@example.com.
Part 1 of a 2 Part Series
In spite of all the scepticism regarding the long delayed UK Iraq Inquiry into the illegal invasion of Iraq, with predictions (including by myself) that it would be a “whitewash” of the enormity of the lies which led to the near destruction of Iraq, to the presence of ISIS and to probably over a million deaths, The Sunday Times (May 22nd, 2016) is predicting an “absolutely brutal” verdict on those involved. The paper claims that former Prime Minister Tony Blair, his then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Sir Richard Dearlove, former Head of British Secret Intelligence (MI6) are among those who face “serious damage to their reputations.”
Not before time, many will surely be thinking.
The Inquiry, which sat from November 24th, 2009 until February 2nd, 2011, is finally to be published on July 6th, approaching five and a half years since its conclusion. Speculation is that publication of the findings are being further delayed until after the June 23rd British referendum on whether to remain in the European Union. Tony Blair is campaigning on his pal Prime Minister David Cameron’s “remain in” ticket. Confirmation of his murderous misleadings before the referendum would further discredit all he had to say and seriously damage, if not detonate, the “in” campaign.
Anyone reading The Sunday Times piece might well take the view that with or without the published Report, Blair speaking on either side would be tantamount to inviting total destruction of the cause. For instance: ‘A senior source who has discussed the Report with two of its authors has revealed that Blair “won’t be let off the hook” over claims that he offered British military support to … George W Bush a year before the 2003 invasion.’
Jack Straw as Blair’s Foreign Secretary at the time, and senior Generals, are also said to be subject of “some of the harshest criticism” for the UK’s “disastrous stewardship” of the southern port city of Basra and much of the south, post-invasion. “The Report will say that we really did make a mess of the aftermath.”
Those sent in by Blair’s Foreign Office under Straw were “inexperienced”, did not “quite know what they were doing” and: “All the things the British had been saying about how much better we were at dealing with post-conflict resolution than the American came very badly unstuck.” In fact, misjudgement was such that they “had to be rescued by the Americans.”
The Report, according to a knowledgeable former Minister, will be “Absolutely brutal for Straw … it will damage the reputation … of Richard Dearlove and Tony Blair” amongst others.
General Mike Jackson, former head of the army, named ”Darth Vader” by his men, who vowed to leave Iraq better than he found it, and General Sir Nicholas Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff and senior officer in Iraq, 2005-2006, are also believed to be in the firing line, with Houghton said to have consulted his lawyers. Houghton’s objections to criticisms of his roles are alleged to have contributed to delays in the Inquiry’s publication.
Houghton became Chief of Joint Operations in 2006. In 2008 “ … the Iraqi military requested US rather than British assistance to retake Iraq’s second city of Basra from the militia, three months after UK forces had withdrawn from the city.” On September 3rd, 2007 the 550 British forces, hunkered down in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces, had fled the city to the relative safety of Basra airport some miles away.
In recent years, Sir Nicholas has been an enthusiastic cheerleader for the UK bombing Syria.
The Sunday Times also cites the Report’s criticism of the “gloss” with which Blair’s officials adorned “intelligence” regarding Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction and (Blair’s) claim that they could be unleashed “in forty five minutes.” Sir Richard Dearlove and others senior in MI6 “will be criticized for failing to prevent” such fairy stories.
The newspaper’s source also said there will be questions raised: “about the (US-UK) ‘special relationship’ (since) diplomats in Washington, including the then Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer, were ‘not plugged in’ and were ‘bounced along behind the Americans…”
At home, the “Cabinet did not have ‘the full picture’ of what was going on before the invasion (due to) Blair’s informal ‘sofa style’ of government.”
Further, incredibly: “officials were not present to take notes when Blair’s inner circle were making key decision”, leading to predicted criticism of former Cabinet Secretary Lord Turnbull and senior Civil Servants.
Former International Development Secretary, Clare Short, has “told friends she will be attacked.” Ms Short, of course, stated that she had stayed on in her job as she wanted her Department to be involved in rebuilding Iraq after the invasion. No thought of resigning earlier, rather than at the last minute in protest at the whole shameful Blair-Bush intended “supreme international crime”, that of a war of aggression.
The Chairman of the Inquiry, Sir John Chilcot, is said to be personally exercised by the ‘failures of “proper constitutional government.” Indeed.
Whilst Blair and Straw declined to comment to The Sunday Times, “Allies of Blair say it is significant that he has not apologized for lying to the public, because they believe Chilcot will not find that he did.”
Given the mountains of evidence and hard facts already in the public domain, they must surely be the only people on the planet to hold such a view.
As for Chilcot, we await the July 6th with the palest glimmer of hope that at last some justice might be seen to be done and that Blair and all responsible for the ongoing Hiroshima level tragedy that is the whole of battered, bereaved, bleeding, irradiated Iraq might find that there is finally at least the beginning of the basis for legal redress.
As this is finished, it transpires Tony Blair has been speaking today at an event in central London organized by the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics. “He made it clear he would be unapologetic for his role in taking Britain to war in 2003”, reports the BBC. As General Kimmitt stated, of the dead for whom Blair bears such integral responsibility: “They are only Iraqis.”
Charles Anthony Lynton Blair is beyond all shame. However, no matter how widely the guilt is spread, he was Captain of the No 10 Downing Street ship, author of key lies integral to the gargantuan crime and tragedy and thus should shoulder commensurate blame.
Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger’s Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.)
Israeli President Applauds Shin Bet Chemist Doing “God’s Work” Developing Chemical Weapons for Assassinations
The Israeli settler publication, Arutz 7, reported that the Shin Bet gave special merit awards to personnel who excelled in their work. The prime minister and president both attended a ceremony at the President’s House. Pres. Rivlin praised the Shin Bet efforts as “God’s work.” Among those applauded was an assassin who uses chemical and biological weapons in his “creative efforts.”
“A.,” age 32, works as a chemist in the technology division. The text declares that he heads a staff which develops capability for special “deterrence” (an Israeli intelligence euphemism for assassination), using advanced technological-operation methods. He’s shown tremendous initiative and creativity by struggling to meet major challenges in the technology realm. He’s thought to be the top of his field and a font of knowledge for numerous elements of the intelligence apparatus. He’s even known as “Mr. Q” after the name of James Bond’s technology wizard. A nickname which reflects his level of ingenuity and ability to transform something from the realm of the imagination into reality as far as Shabak operations are concerned.
An Israeli security source confirmed that A’s work involves assassinations, including this one Yossi Melman reported, involving the 2004 murder of a Hamas commander through food poisoning.
The Beltway military punditry floats one of its most inflammatory ideas yet, in calls for a preemptive strike against Moscow along with calls to bolster America’s missile defense system.
On Friday, a DC-based think tank issued a report calling for additional funding to advance US missile defense technology to combat what they view as a rising nuclear missile threat from Russia.
Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin scoffed at Western assertions that Russia poses the preeminent threat to the US and NATO, labeling the idea of an attack against the military alliance “the type of thing that only crazy people think, and only when they are dreaming.”
Faced with the need to keep the budget spigot open, a Cold War-inspired Beltway commentariat continues to ratchet up “protective measures” against Moscow’s “aggression,” by installing a missile defense system in Romania and constructing another similar missile defense system in Poland. NATO is now considering deploying permanent troops on the border between Poland and Russia, while undertaking a series of costly and polluting military exercises, steps from Russian lands.
The latest war-drum-beating report is provided by the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, whose scholars Bryan Clark and Mark Gunzinger not only call for spending more money on lasers, railguns, and hypervelocity projectiles, but also posit fail-safe artificial intelligence systems capable of shooting down incoming missiles, again from Russia.
The two note that while existing missile defense systems like the Navy’s Aegis have an automatic mode, the system lacks the kind of sophistication required to counter large incoming salvos. The paper proposed a plan modeled after a pet project of deputy Defense secretary and, coincidentally, a former vice-president of the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, Bob Work, who has led efforts to combine artificial intelligence with unmanned missile defense.
In addition to calling for widely expanding appropriations to upgrade the US missile defense system against a hypothetical Russian attack threat, the think tank analysts suggest preemptive strikes against Russia, China, or any other nation, in the event diplomatic relations deteriorate.
The two spell out their enhanced rules of engagement in text that clearly violates international law, detailing a “blinding campaign” of coordinated strikes against hostile headquarters, satellites and radar, using cyberattacks, jamming, and long-range bombing, in anticipation of an attack.
“The proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used — accidentally or by decision — defies credibility”
This unanimous statement was published by the Canberra Commission in 1996. Among the commission members were internationally known former ministers of defense and of foreign affairs and generals.
The nuclear-weapon states do not intend to abolish their nuclear weapons. They promised to do so when they signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1970. Furthermore, the International Court in The Hague concluded in its advisory opinion more than 20 years ago that these states were obliged to negotiate and bring to a conclusion such negotiations on complete nuclear disarmament. The nuclear-weapon states disregard this obligation. On the contrary, they invest enormous sums in the modernization of these weapons of global destruction.
It is difficult today to raise a strong opinion in the nuclear-weapon states for nuclear disarmament. One reason is that the public sees the risk of a nuclear war between these states as so unlikely that it can be disregarded.
It is then important to remind ourselves that we were for decades, during the Cold War, threatened by extinction by nuclear war. We were not aware at that time how close we were. In this article I will summarize some of the best-known critical situations. Recently published evidence shows that the danger was considerably greater than we knew at the time.
The risk today of a nuclear omnicide—killing all or almost all humans—is probably smaller than during the Cold War, but the risk is even today real and it may be rising. That is the reason I wish us to remind ourselves again: as long as nuclear weapons exist we are in danger of extermination. Nuclear weapons must be abolished before they abolish us.
Stanislav Petrov: The man who saved the world
1983 was probably the most dangerous year for mankind ever in history. We were twice close to a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the USA. But we did not know that.
The situation between the USA and the Soviet Union was very dangerous. In his notorious speech in March 1983, President Reagan spoke of the “Axis of Evil” states in a way that seriously upset the Soviet leaders. The speech ended the period of mutual cooperation, which had prevailed since the Cuba crisis.
In the Soviet Union many political and military leaders were convinced that the USA would launch a nuclear attack. Peter Handberg, a Swedish journalist, has reported of meetings with men who at that time watched over sites where the intercontinental missiles were stored. These men strongly believed that an American attack was imminent and they expected a launch order.
In Moscow, the leaders of the Communist party prepared for a counter attack. The head of the KGB, the foreign intelligence agency, General Ileg Kalunin, had ordered his agents in the world to watch for any sign of a large attack on the Mother Country.
A previous head of the KGB, Jurij Andropov, was now leader of the country. He was severely ill and was treated with chronic dialysis. He was the man ultimately responsible for giving the order to fire the nuclear missiles.
The nuclear arms race was intense. The USA and the Soviet Union were both arming the “European Theater” with medium-distance nuclear missiles. President Reagan’s “Star Wars” program was a source of much anxiety on the Russian side. The belief was that the USA was trying to obtain a first strike capacity. In Russia, a Doomsday machine was planned—a system that would automatically launch all strategic nuclear weapons if contact with the military and political leaders of the country was completely disabled.
The increased risk of war was felt particularly strongly by those in Russia who were ordered to prepare for an immediate response in case of a nuclear attack. The command centre situated in the military city Serpukov-15 was the hub for the vigilance, evaluating reports from satellites in space and radar stations at the borders. Colonel Stanislav Petrov was ordered to take the watch on the evening of September 25, instead of a colleague who had called in sick.
Late in the evening, the alarm sounded. A missile had apparently been fired from the American west coast. Soon two were detected; finally four. The computer warned that the probability of an attack was at the highest level.
Petrov should now, according to the instructions, immediately report that an American attack had been discovered. Against orders, he decided to wait. He knew that if he reported a nuclear attack a global war would be likely. The USA, the Soviet Union, and most of mankind would be exterminated. Petrov waited for more information.
He found it very unlikely that the USA had launched only a few missiles. Petrov was well informed about the computer system and he knew that it was not perfect.
After a long wait the “missiles” disappeared from the screens. The explanation came at last: There was a glitch in the computer system.
Petrov had himself been involved in developing the system. Maybe this special knowledge saved us? Or unusual self-confidence and courage in an unusual individual?
This fateful event became known when a superior officer, who had criticized omissions in Petrov’s records of the evening, told the story on his deathbed. Petrov has received rather little recognition in Russia.
What happened that critical night—and Petrov’s part in the story—is played out in a recent movie by the Danish producer Peter Anthony: “The man who saved the world.”
“Able Archer”: A NATO exercise which could have become the last
Just like the “Petrov incident,” the “Able Archer” crisis was known only to a few military and political leaders in Russia and the USA until decades later. Only in 2013 could the Nuclear Information Service get access to the classified US file. Important documents from Russia and Great Britain are still not available. Why do our leaders feel they need to “protect” us against the truth of the greatest dangers mankind has faced?
“Able Archer” was a NATO exercise carried out in the beginning of November 1983. The purpose was so simulate a Soviet invasion stopped by a nuclear attack. About 40,000 soldiers participated and large troop movements took place.
Similar exercises had been carried out in previous years. The development could be monitored by Soviet intelligence through radio eavesdropping. What was new was that the tension between Soviet and the USA was stronger than before. In the background was the Soviet operation RYAN, an acronym for an attack with nuclear missiles. RYAN had become the strategic plan of the Soviet KGB two years earlier, on how to respond to an expected American nuclear attack. The combination of Soviet paranoia and the rhetoric of President Ronald Reagan did place the world in great danger.
Soviet leaders thought that this exercise could be a parallel to Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa, the military maneuver that suddenly was turned into a full-scale attack on the Soviet Union.
The Soviet leaders placed bomb planes on highest alert, with pilots in place in the cockpits. Submarines carrying nuclear missiles were placed in protected positions under the Arctic ice. Missiles of the SS-20 type were readied.
NATO concluded the exercises after a few days, with an order to launch nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. No missiles were fired, however, and the participants went back home.
After the exercise the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher learnt from the intelligence service how the NATO command had been ignorant of the serious misunderstanding in Russia of the intention of this exercise. She conferred with President Ronald Reagan. It is likely that this information, together with his viewing of the film “The Day After,” caused the conversion of the President which was expressed in his State of the Union message in 1984: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Reagan continued this process up to the famous meeting in Reykjavik in 1986, when he and President Gorbachev for a brief moment agreed to abolish all nuclear weapons before the end of the century.
An interesting and most worrying rendition of how the exercises were perceived in Russia is given in the documentary movie “1983: Brink of the Apocalypse.” The story is based on documents that became available in 2013 and on interviews with some of those who were active on both sides in the situation. Two spies were important in convincing the leaders of KGB that no attack was underway. One was a Russian spy in NATO headquarters who insisted to the KGB that this was an exercise and not a preparation for an attack. The other, a Russian spy in London, gave the same picture.
We can conclude that a lack of insight in the USA and in NATO into the perceptions in the Soviet Union put the world in mortal danger. Did two spies save the world?
A reflection of the danger associated with this NATO exercise plays out in the recent German TV production “Deutschland.”
The Cuba crisis: More dangerous than we knew
Soviet nuclear weapons were placed in Cuba. Fidel Castro and Russia’s generals intended to use them if the USA attacked. A Russian submarine that came under attack carried a nuclear weapon. A nuclear attack on the US was closer than we knew.
The development of this crisis has been described in several American books. “Thirteen Days” by Robert Kennedy is the best known and has also been made into a movie. As the story is so well known I will not repeat it here.
In the reports, we can experience how badly prepared the political and military leadership were for such a situation, and how little these two groups understood each other. The generals saw no alternatives other than doing nothing or destroying Cuba with a full-scale nuclear attack. Robert Kennedy wrote that he even feared a military coup!
The US side had little information about plans and evaluations in Moscow. There was no direct communication between Kennedy and Khrushchev. The final Russian answer to President Kennedy’s proposal was sent from the Russian Embassy to Kennedy by a bicycle messenger! (The “Hot line” was installed after—and because of—the Cuban Missile Crisis).
We know less about what went on in Moscow, but Khrushchev’s memoirs give some information. It seems that the Russian generals were greatly worried about the image and prestige of Russia. “If we give in to the US in this situation how could our allies trust us in the future. How could the Chinese have any respect for us?”
The world knew at the time that the crisis was very dangerous and that a nuclear war was a real possibility. Decades later we know more. Thus, Cuban President Fidel Castro, at a meeting many years later with US Secretary of Defense McNamara, said that if the USA had attacked Cuba, Castro would have demanded that Russian nuclear missiles be launched against the USA.
An American U-2 spy plane was shot down over Cuba during the crisis. Only much later were we informed that another U-2 plane in the Arctic had entered over Soviet territory, misled by the influence of the Northern Light! US fighter planes were sent to protect the U-2 plane. These planes were equipped with nuclear weapons for this mission. Why? Was it possible for the lone pilot to launch these weapons?
We have also belatedly learned that four Russian submarines carrying nuclear torpedoes were navigating close to Cuba. The commanders were instructed to use their nuclear weapons if bombs seriously damaged their vessel. At least one of the submarines was hit by charges that were intended as warnings, but the commander did not know this. The captain believed his submarine was damaged and he wanted to launch his nuclear torpedo. His deputy, Captain Vasilij Alexandrovich Arkhipov, persuaded him to wait for an order from Moscow. No connection was established but the submarine escaped. Arkhipov’s role has been highlighted in a movie which, like the film about Petrov, is called “The man who saved the world.”
What would have been the consequence had the nuclear torpedo hit the US aircraft carrier that led the US operation?
Quite recently, reports have surfaced from the US base on Okinawa, Japan. During the Cuba crisis the order came to prepare for a nuclear attack against the Soviet Union. There was considerable confusion at the nuclear command at the base. An increase in the alarm level from DefCon-2 to DefCon-1 was expected but never came.
A bizarre event, which could have been come from a novel by John le Carré, was called “Penkovsky’s sighs.” Oleg Penkovsky was a double agent who had given important information to the CIA—the US Central Intelligence Agency—about the Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba. He had been instructed to send a coded message—three deep exhalations repeated twice—to his contact were he informed that the Soviets intended to attack. This sighing message was sent during the Cuba crisis to the CIA. The CIA contact, however, realized that Penkovsky had been captured and tortured and the code had been extricated.
Other serious close calls
In November 1979, a recorded scenario describing a Russian nuclear attack had been entered into the US warning system NORAD. The scenario was perceived as a real full-scale Soviet attack. Nuclear missiles and bombers were readied. After six minutes the mistake became obvious. After this incident new security routines were introduced.
Despite these changed routines, less that one year later the mistake was repeated—this time more persistent and dangerous. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the US national security adviser, was called at three o´clock in the morning by a general on duty. He was informed that 220 Soviet missiles were on their way towards the USA. A moment later a new call came, saying that 2,200 missiles had been launched. Brzezinski was about to call President Jimmy Carter when the general called for a third time reporting that the alarm had been cancelled.
The mistake was caused by a malfunctioning computer chip. Several similar false alarms have been reported, although they did not reach the national command.
We have no reports from the Soviet Union similar to these computer malfunctions. Maybe the Russians have less trust in their computers, just as Colonel Petrov showed? However, there are many reports on serious accidents in the manufacture and handling of nuclear weapons. I have received reliable information from senior military officers in the Soviet Union regarding heavy use of alcohol and drugs among the personnel that monitor the warning and control systems, just as in the USA.
The story of the “Norwegian weather rocket” in 1995 is often presented as a particularly dangerous incident. Russians satellites warned of a missile on its way from Norway towards Russia. President Yeltsin was called in the middle of the night; the “nuclear war laptop” was opened; and the president discussed the situation with his staff. The “missile” turned out not to be directed towards Russia.
I see this incident as an indication that when the relations between the nuclear powers are good, then the risk of a misunderstanding is very small. The Russians were not likely to expect an attack at that time.
Close calls have occurred not only between the two superpowers. India and Pakistan are in a chronic but active conflict regarding Kashmir. At least twice this engagement has threatened to expand into a nuclear war, namely at the Kargil conflict in 1999 and after an attack on the Indian Parliament by Pakistani terrorists in 2001. Both times, Pakistan readied nuclear weapons for delivery. Pakistan has a doctrine of first use: If Indian military forces transgress over the border to Pakistan, that country intends to use nuclear weapons. Pakistan does not have a system with a “permissive link”, where a code must be transmitted from the highest authority in order to make a launch of nuclear weapons possible. Military commanders in Pakistan have the technical ability to use nuclear weapons without the approval of the political leaders in the country. India, with much stronger conventional forces, uses the permissive link and has declared a “no first use” principle.
The available extensive reports from both these incidents show that the communication between the political and the military leaders was highly inadequate. Misunderstandings on very important matters occurred to an alarming degree. During both conflicts between India and Pakistan, intervention by US leaders was important in preventing escalation and a nuclear war.
We know little about close calls in the other nuclear-weapon states. The UK prepared its nuclear weapons for use during the Cuba conflict. There were important misunderstandings between military and political leaders during that incident. Today all British nuclear weapons are based on submarines. The missiles can, as a rule, be launched only after a delay of many hours. Mistakes will thus be much less likely.
France, on the contrary, claims that it has parts of its nuclear arsenal ready for immediate action, on order from the President. There are no reports of close calls. There is no reason to label the collision between a British and French nuclear-armed submarine in 2009 as a close call.
China has a “no first use” doctrine and probably does not have weapons on hair-trigger alert, which decreases the risk of dangerous mistakes.
Why was there no nuclear war?
Eric Schlosser, author of the book “Command and Control,” told this story: “An elderly physicist, who had taken part in the development of the nuclear weapons, told me: ‘If anyone had said in 1945, after the bombing of Nagasaki, that no other city in the world would be attacked with atomic weapons, no one would have believed him. We expected more nuclear wars.’”
Yes, how come there was no more nuclear war?
In the nuclear-weapon states they say that deterrence was the reason. MAD—“Mutual Assured Destruction”—saved us. Even if I attack first, the other side will have sufficient weapons left to cause “unacceptable” damage to my country. So I won’t do it.
Deterrence was important. In addition, the “nuclear winter” concept was documented in the mid-1980s. The global climate consequences of a major nuclear war would be so severe that the “winner” would starve to death. An attack would be suicidal. Maybe this insight contributed to the decrease in nuclear arsenals that started after 1985?
MAD cannot explain why nuclear weapons were not used in wars against countries that did not have them. In the Korean war, General MacArthur wanted to use nuclear weapons against the Chinese forces that came in on the North Korean side but he was stopped by President Truman. During the Vietnam war many voices in the USA demanded that nukes should be used. In the two wars against Iraq the US administration threatened to use nuclear weapons if Iraq used chemical weapons. Many Soviet military leaders wanted to use atomic bombs in Afghanistan.
What held them back? Most important were moral and humanitarian reasons. This was called the “Nuclear Threshold.” If the USA had used nuclear weapons against North Vietnam the results would have been so terrible that the US would have been a pariah country for decades. The domestic opinion in the US would not have accepted the bombing. Furthermore, the radioactive fallout in neighbouring countries, some of them allies to the US, would have been unacceptable.
Are moral and humanitarian reasons a sufficient explanation why nukes were never used? I do not know, but find no other.
Civil society organisations have been important in establishing a high nuclear threshold. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War has been particularly important in this regard. IPPNW has persistently pointed at the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and warned that a global nuclear war could end human civilisation and, maybe, exterminate mankind. The opinion by the International Court in The Hague, that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was generally prohibited, is also important.
The nuclear-weapon states do not intend to use nuclear weapons except as deterrence against attack. Deterrence, however, works only if the enemy believes that, in the end, I am prepared to use nuclear weapons. Both NATO and Russia have doctrines that nukes can be used even if the other side has not done so. In a conflict of great importance, a side that is much weaker and maybe is in danger of being overrun is likely to threaten to use its atomic weapons. If you threaten to use them you may in the end be forced to follow through on your threat.
The close calls I have described in this article mean that mankind could have been exterminated by mistake. Only decades after the events have we been allowed to learn about these threats. It is likely that equally dangerous close calls have occurred.
So why did these mistakes not lead to a nuclear war, when during the Cold War the tension was so high and the superpowers seemed to have expected a nuclear war to break out?
Let me tell of a close call I have experienced in my personal life. I was driving on a highway, in the middle of the day, when I felt that the urge to fall asleep, which sometimes befalls me, was about to overpower my vigilance. There was no place to stop for a rest. After a minute I fell asleep. The car veered against the partition in the middle of the road and its side was torn up. My wife and I were unharmed.
But if there had been no banister? The traffic on the opposing side of the road was heavy and there were lorries.
The nuclear close calls did not lead to a war. Those who study accidents say that often there must be two and often three mistakes or failures occurring simultaneously.
There have been a sufficient number of dangerous situations between the USA and Russia that could have happened at almost the same time. Shortly before the Able Archer exercise, a Korean passenger plane was shot down by Soviet airplanes. But what if Soviet fighters had, by mistake, been attacked and shot down over Europe? What if any of the American airplanes carrying nuclear weapons had mistaken the order in the exercise for a real order to bomb Soviet targets? In the Soviet Union bombers were on high alert, with pilots in the cockpit, waiting for a US attack.
What if the fighters sent to protect the U-2 plane that had strayed into Soviet territory in Siberia during the Cuba crisis had used the nuclear missile they were carrying?
Eric Schlosser tells in his book about a great number of mistakes and accidents in the handling of nuclear weapons in the USA. Bombs have fallen from airplanes or crashed with the carrier. These accidents would not cause a nuclear war, but a nuclear explosion during a tense international crisis when something else also went wrong, such as the “Petrov Incident” mentioned earlier, could have led to very dangerous mistakes. Terrorist attacks with nuclear weapons simultaneous with a large cyber attack might start the final war, if the political situation is strained.
Dr. Alan Philips guessed in a study from the year 2003 that the risk of a nuclear war occurring during the Cold War was 40%. Maybe so. Or maybe 20%. Or 75%. But most definitely not zero—not close to zero.
Today the danger of a nuclear war between Russia and the USA is much lower that during the Cold War. However, mistakes can happen. Dr. Bruce Blair, who has been in the chain of command for nuclear weapons, insists that unauthorized firing of nuclear missiles is possible. The protection is not perfect. In general, the system for control and for launching is built to function with great redundancy, whatever happens to the lines of command or to the command centers. The controls against launches by mistake, equipment failure, interception by hackers, technical malfunction, or human madness, seem to have a lower priority. At least in the US, but there is no reason to believe the situation in Russia to be more secure.
The tension between Russia and the USA is increasing. Threats of use of nuclear weapons have, unbelievably, been heard.
But we have been lucky so far.
As I said in the beginning of this paper, quoting the Canberra Commission: “The proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used — accidentally or by decision — defies credibility. The only complete defence is the elimination of nuclear weapons and assurance that they will never be produced again.”
The most important source for this review is the Chatham House Report from 2014 “Too close for comfort.”
Consider this a friendly reminder to President Obama on his way to Hiroshima.
No matter how many years one writes books, does interviews, publishes columns, and speaks at events, it remains virtually impossible to make it out the door of an event in the United States at which you’ve advocated abolishing war without somebody hitting you with the what-about-the-good-war question.
Of course this belief that there was a good war 75 years ago is what moves the U.S. public to tolerate dumping a trillion dollars a year into preparing in case there’s a good war next year, even in the face of so many dozens of wars during the past 70 years on which there’s general consensus that they were not good. Without rich, well-established myths about World War II, current propaganda about Russia or Syria or Iraq would sound as crazy to most people as it sounds to me.
And of course the funding generated by the Good War legend leads to more bad wars, rather than preventing them.
I’ve written on this topic at great length in many articles and books, especially this one. But perhaps it would be helpful to provide a column-length list of the top reasons that the good war was not good.
1. World War II could not have happened without World War I, without the stupid manner of starting World War I and the even stupider manner of ending World War I which led numerous wise people to predict World War II on the spot, without Wall Street’s funding of Nazi Germany for decades (as preferable to commies), and without the arms race and numerous bad decisions that do not need to be repeated in the future.
2. The U.S. government was not hit with a surprise attack. President Franklin Roosevelt had committed to Churchill to provoking Japan and worked hard to provoke Japan, and knew the attack was coming, and initially drafted a declaration of war against both Germany and Japan on the evening of Pearl Harbor — before which time, FDR had built up bases in the U.S. and multiple oceans, traded weapons to the Brits for bases, started the draft, created a list of every Japanese American person in the country, provided planes, trainers, and pilots to China, imposed harsh sanctions on Japan, and advised the U.S. military that a war with Japan was beginning.
3. The war was not humanitarian and was not even marketed as such until after it was over. There was no poster asking you to help Uncle Sam save the Jews. A ship of Jewish refugees was chased away from Miami by the Coast Guard. The U.S. and other nations would not allow Jewish refugees in, and the majority of the U.S. public supported that position. Peace groups that questioned Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his foreign secretary about shipping Jews out of Germany to save them were told that Hitler might very well agree to that but it would be too much trouble and require too many ships. The U.S. engaged in no diplomatic or military effort to save the victims in the camps. Ann Frank was denied a U.S. visa.
4. The war was not defensive. FDR lied that he had a map of Nazi plans to carve up South America, that he had a Nazi plan to eliminate religion, that U.S. ships actually assisting British war planes were innocently attacked by Nazis, that Germany was in fact a threat to the United States. A case can be made that the U.S. needed to enter the war in Europe to defend other nations, which had entered to defend yet other nations, but a case could also be made that the U.S. escalated the targeting of civilians, extended the war, and created more damage than might have been, had it done nothing, attempted diplomacy, or invested in nonviolence. To claim that a Nazi empire could have grown to someday include an occupation of the United States is wildly far fetched and not borne out by any earlier or later examples of other wars.
5. We now know much more widely and with much more data that nonviolent resistance to occupation and injustice is more likely to succeed, and that success more likely to last, than violent resistance. With this knowledge, we can look back at the stunning successes of nonviolent actions against the Nazis that were not well organized or built on beyond their initial successes.
6. The good war was not for supporting the troops. In fact, lacking intense modern conditioning to prepare soldiers to engage in the unnatural act of murder, some 80 percent of U.S. and other troops in World War II did not fire their weapons at the enemies. That those soldiers were treated better after the war than soldiers in other wars had been, or have been since, was the result of the pressure created by the Bonus Army after the previous war. That veterans were given free college was not due to the merits of the war or in some way a result of the war. Without the war, everyone could have been given free college for many years. If we provided free college to everyone today, it would take way more than World War II stories to get people into military recruiting stations.
7. Several times the number of people killed in German camps were killed outside of them in the war. The majority of those people were civilians. The scale of the killing, wounding, and destroying made this war the single worst thing humanity has ever done to itself in a short space of time. That it was somehow “opposed” to the far lesser killing in the camps — although, again, it actually wasn’t — can’t justify the cure that was worse than the disease.
8. Escalating the war to include the all-out destruction of civilian cities, culminating in the completely indefensible nuking of cities took this war out of the realm of defensible projects for many who had defended its initiation — and rightly so. Demanding unconditional surrender and seeking to maximize death and suffering did immense damage and left a legacy that has continued.
9. Killing huge numbers of people is supposedly defensible for the “good” side in a war, but not the “bad.” The distinction between the two is never as stark as fantasized. The United States had an apartheid state for African Americans, camps for Japanese Americans, a tradition of genocide against Native Americans that inspired Nazis, programs of eugenics and human experimentation before, during, and after the war (including giving syphilis to people in Guatemala during the Nuremberg trials). The U.S. military hired hundreds of top Nazis at the end of the war. They fit right in. The U.S. aimed for a wider world empire, before the war, during it, and ever since.
10. The “good” side of the “good war,” the party that did most of the killing and dying for the winning side, was the communist Soviet Union. That doesn’t make the war a triumph for communism, but it does tarnish the tales of triumph for “democracy.”
11. World War II still hasn’t ended. Ordinary people in the United States didn’t have their incomes taxed until World War II and that’s never stopped. It was supposed to be temporary. The bases have never closed. The troops have never left Germany or Japan. There are over 100,000 U.S. and British bombs still in the ground in Germany, still killing.
12. Going back 75 years to a nuclear-free, colonial, world of completely different structures, laws, and habits to justify what has been the greatest expense of the United States in each of the years since is a bizarre feat of self-deception that isn’t attempted in the justification of any lesser enterprise. Assume I’ve got numbers 1 through 11 totally wrong, and you’ve still got to explain how the world of the early 1940s justifies dumping into 2017 wars funding that could have fed, clothed, cured, and environmentally protected the earth.
The British government is providing military training to the majority of nations it has blacklisted for human rights violations, a new report reveals.
In a report published on Sunday, the Independent revealed that 16 of the 30 countries on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)’s “human rights priority” watchlist are receiving military support from the UK despite being accused by London itself of issues ranging from internal repression to the use of sexual violence in armed conflicts.
According to the UK Ministry of Defense, since 2014, British armed forces have provided “either security or armed forces personnel” to the military forces of Saudi Arabia , Bahrain, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Burundi, China, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
Britain is a major provider of weapons and equipment such as cluster bombs and fighter jets to Saudi Arabia in its year-long military aggression against Yemen that has killed nearly 9,400 people, among them over 2,230 children.
Since the conflict began in March 2015, the British government has licensed the sale of nearly $4 billion worth of weaponry to the Saudi kingdom.
British commandos also train Bahraini soldiers in using sniper rifles, despite allegations that the Persian Gulf monarchy uses such specialist forces to suppress a years-long pro-democracy uprising in the country.
Bahraini forces visited the Infantry Battle School in Wales last week, accompanied by troops from Nigeria, the Defense Ministry said.
Nigeria’s top military generals are accused by Amnesty International of committing war crimes by causing the deaths of 8,000 people through murder, starvation, suffocation and torture during security operations against the Boko Haram Takfiri terrorists, according to the report.
Andrew Smith, with the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said Britain should not be “colluding” with countries known for being “some of the most authoritarian states in the world.”
U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday headed for his first visit to Vietnam, a trip officially aimed at sealing the transformation of an old enemy into a new partner to help counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region and viewed by veteran communists in the Asian nation as an attempt by Washington to undermine their one-party rule.
However, there is no apology planned by Obama for the massive U.S. bombing of the Asian nation that killed over 3.6 million people, injured over 5 million, left close to 900,000 children orphans and turned 200,000 women into prostitutes, apart from spraying millions of hectares with highly toxic pesticides that affected over 4 million people. The U.S. intervention also left a million women widowed and 11 million people displaced.
But four decades after the Vietnam war that deeply divided opinion in America, Obama aims to boost defense and economic ties with the country’s communist rulers while also prodding them on human rights, aides say.
His visit has been preceded by a debate in Washington over whether Obama should use the three-day visit starting Monday to roll back an arms embargo on Hanoi, one of the last vestiges of wartime animosity.
That would make Beijing uncomfortable, because its government resents U.S. efforts to forge stronger military bonds with its neighbors amid rising tensions in the disputed South China Sea. But there was no immediate word of a final U.S. decision on the issue.
Vietnam’s government earlier this month said lifting the embargo would show mutual trust and that buying arms from its partners was “normal”.
Bilateral U.S.-Vietnam trade has swelled 10 times over since ties were normalized in 1995 to around US$45 billion now. Vietnam is Southeast Asia’s biggest exporter to the United States, with textiles and electronics the largest volumes.
Washington wants Vietnam to open up on the economic front and move closer militarily, including increased visits by U.S. warships and possibly access to the strategic harbor at Cam Ranh Bay, U.S. officials say.
While Vietnam wants warmer ties, some among the party’s old guard remain suspicious that the U.S. endgame is to undermine their one-party rule.
On May 27, Obama is also scheduled to visit Japan, where he is expected to visit Hiroshima. Again, he has no plans to apologize for the nuclear bombing there.
Pakistan has denounced the US drone strike believed to have killed the Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour.
In a statement issued to the media, Pakistan’s foreign office said the drone strike was a violation of its sovereignty, adding that information about the drone strike was shared with the prime minister and the army chief after the strike.
“It may be recalled that the fifth meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) held on 18th May had reiterated that a politically negotiated settlement was the only viable option for lasting peace in Afghanistan and called upon the Taliban to give up violence and join peace talks,” the statement said.
Afghanistan’s spy agency known as National Security Directorate (NDS), senior officials in Kabul and some militant sources on Sunday confirmed that the Taliban leader was killed after the US drones targeted his vehicle in a remote area of in a remote area of south-west Pakistan, near the Afghan border, on Saturday.
On Saturday, the US Department of Defense announced in a statement that it had mounted the strike against Mansour “in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”
File photo shows a picture of the leader of Taliban militant group, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour.
The Pentagon announced on Saturday that the operation had been authorized by President Barack Obama.
The development comes as relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been tense in recent years over the ongoing militancy.
Senior Afghan officials blame elements inside the Pakistani spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for supporting the Taliban militants and sheltering its leadership, while Islamabad blames the Afghan government for giving shelter to the militants on its side of the border.
Moreover, senior officials in Kabul have been frustrated by what they see as Islamabad’s refusal to honor a pledge to force Taliban leaders based in Pakistan to join negotiations.
They have long blamed Pakistan for turning a blind eye to the Taliban militant group whose leadership is widely believed to be based in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar, near the border.
The Taliban has seen a string of defections ever since the news about the death of its founder and long-time leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, broke in late July 2015.
Mullah Omar died at a hospital in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi in April 2013.
Pakistan, which wields influence on the insurgent group, mediated the first round of direct peace talks between delegates from the Afghan government and the Taliban last summer, but a planned second meeting was canceled after news broke that Taliban’s founder and long-time leader Mullah Omar had died two years ago. In recent months, a four-member group comprising Afghanistan, the United States, China and Pakistan has been attempting to revive the talks.
There have also been growing differences among Taliban elements over the negotiations, with some vowing to fight for power instead of taking part in the talks.
In this UK Column News special, Mike Robinson speaks to Vanessa Beeley about Syria’s “first responder” group, the White Helmets who are being pushed forward for nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. Do they deserve it?
For more background on this, please see our previous interview from November last year: http://youtu.be/mLa9ztvAGWw
Also see Vanessa’s articles on 21st Century Wire:
There is a simple explanation why Washington refuses to proscribe the militant groups Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham as terrorist. Because Washington relies on them for regime change in Syria.
Therefore, Washington and its Western and Middle East allies cannot possibly designate Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham as terrorist; otherwise it would be a self-indicting admission that the war in Syria is a foreign state-sponsored terrorist assault on a sovereign country.
This criminal conspiracy is understood by many observers as an accurate description of the five-year Syrian conflict and how it originated. Syria fits into the mold of US-led regime change wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. However, Washington and its allies, assisted by the Western corporate news media, have maintained a fictitious alternative narrative on Syria, claiming the war is an insurgency by a pro-democracy rebel movement.
That narrative has strained credulity over the years as the putative “secular rebels” have either vanished or turned out to be indistinguishable from extremist groups like al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and so-called Islamic State (also known as Daesh).
Washington asserts that it only supports “moderate, secular rebels” of the Free Syrian Army. British Prime Minister David Cameron has claimed that there are 70,000 such “moderate rebels” fighting in Syria against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. But no-one can locate these supposed pro-democracy warriors.
All that can be seen is that the fight against the Syrian government is being waged by self-professed extremist jihadists who have no intention of establishing “democracy”. Instead, they explicitly want to carve out an Islamic state dominated by draconian Sharia law.
In addition to Jabhat al-Nusra and Daesh, the two other major militant groups, Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, are vehemently committed to forming a Caliphate based on Salafi or Wahhabi ideology. That ideology views all other religious faiths, including moderate Sunni Muslims, as well as Shia and Alawites, as “infidels” fit to be persecuted until death.
Leaders of both Jaysh and Ahrar have publicly declared their repudiation of democracy.
Yet these two groups are nominated as the Syrian “opposition” in the Geneva talks, as part of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC). The HNC was cobbled together at a summit held in the Saudi capital Riyadh in December ahead of the anticipated negotiations to find a Syrian political settlement.
The HNC is endorsed by Washington as official representatives of the Syrian opposition. It is supported by Saudi Arabia, or indeed more accurately, orchestrated by the Saudi rulers since the main components of the HNC are Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham. Other major sponsors of the militant groups are Qatar and Turkey.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, also plays an important part in the charade of furnishing an opposition composed of extremists who demand the Syrian government must stand down as a precondition for talks. This maximalist position is one of the main reasons why the negotiations have come unstuck, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Another basic reason is that the HNC members have been involved in breaching the cessation of violence the US and Russia brokered on February 27, as a confidence-building measure to assist the talks process in Geneva.
That Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham have not observed the shaky ceasefire is a corollary of the fact that both groups are integrated with al-Qaeda-affiliated terror organizations, al Nusra and Daesh, which are internationally designated terrorist organizations.
The UN excluded al-Qaeda franchises from the ceasefire when it passed Security Council Resolution 2254 in December to mandate the purported Syrian peace talks. In that way, Syria and its foreign allies, Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have been legally entitled to continue offensive operations against the extremists in parallel to the Geneva process.
The offensive on the terror groups should include HNC members Jaysh and Ahrar. Both groups have publicly admitted to fighting alongside both Nusra and Daesh in their campaign against the Syrian army. All of these organizations have been involved at various times in bloody feuds and turf wars. Nevertheless, they are at other times self-declared collaborators.
Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are also well-documented to having engaged in massacres and barbarities as vile as the other higher profile terror outfits.
Only last week, Ahrar al-Sham was responsible for the massacre of women and children in the village of Al-Zahraa, near Aleppo, according to survivors. The group has carried out countless no-warning car bombings in civilians neighborhoods. It claimed responsibility for a bombing outside the Russian base at Idlib earlier this year, which killed dozens.
Jaysh al-Islam has publicly admitted using chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians in recent weeks, also near Aleppo, Syria’s second city after the capital Damascus, and currently the key battleground in the whole conflict.
The same jihadist militia is allegedly linked to the chemical weapon atrocity in August 2013 in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, when hundreds of civilians, including children, were apparently killed from exposure to Sarin gas. That attack was initially blamed on Syrian government forces and it nearly prompted the Obama administration to order direct military intervention on the pretext that a “red line” was crossed. Until that is, Moscow steered a ground-breaking deal to decommission chemical weapons held by the Syrian state. It later transpired that the more likely culprit for the East Ghouta atrocity was the Jaysh al-Islam militants.
A former commander of the group, Zahran Alloush, once declared that he would “cleanse” all Shia, Alawites and other infidels from the Levant. Many Syrian civilians later rejoiced when the “terrorist boss” – their words – was killed in a Syrian air force strike on December 25. Notably, Saudi Arabia and Turkey vehemently protested over Alloush’s death.
It is irrefutable from both their actions and self-declarations that Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are by any definition terrorist groups. Certainly, Russia and Iran have officially listed both as such.
But not so Washington and its allies. Earlier this month, a Russian proposal at the UN Security Council to proscribe Jaysh and Ahrar was blocked by the US, Britain and France. An American spokesperson told the AFP news agency that it rejected the Russian motion because it feared the tentative Syrian ceasefire would collapse entirely. This is an unwitting US admission about who the main fighting forces in the Syrian “rebellion” are.
This week US Secretary of State John Kerry made an extraordinary claim which, as usual, went unnoticed in the Western media. Kerry said the US “still has leverage in Syria” because if the Syrian government does not accept Washington’s demands for political transition then the country would face years of more war.
Kerry’s confidence in threatening a war of attrition on Syria is based on the fact that the main terror groups are directly or indirectly controlled by Washington and its regional allies in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are essential to the terror front that gives Washington its leverage in Syria. But the charade must be kept covered with the preposterous denial that these groups are not terrorists.