Extracts of the interview of Muhammad Raad on Al-Mayadeen Channel, May 22, 2015
Journalist: My question is: In your view at Hezbollah, when will this war (Syrian Crisis) end? Could it last for years more?
Mohammad Raad: When the US Administration and the West that orbits around it, and the regional guards and agents who are supporting the armed terrorists, when they take the decision to stop financing (the terrorists) & close the border crossings & prevent sneaking into Syria, the war will end in Syria, and the opportunity for national dialogue will open, (this very dialogue) which was supposed to take place since the beginning of the crisis.
Journalist: Do you mean by ‘the regional agents': Saudi, Qatar, Turkey and Israel?
Mohammad Raad: I mean all those who support the armed terrorists.
Journalist: There is a view that says that Saudi Arabia, whom you always accuse, is still supporting (the terrorists) while other countries have stepped back like Qatar. And that Turkey is still giving a great amount of support to (the terrorists).
Mohammad Raad: Let us talk in general in order to avoid miscalculations and leave the assumptions to those who are concerned. In general, whoever supports, finances & facilitates the terrorists’ sneaking into Syria in order to destroy and sabotage Syria should cease to do so.
Journalist: That means the war might last for years.
Mohammad Raad: Yes, the military option can take some time.
Journalist: Today, after what was achieved in Qalamoun and the great victory you presented in this difficult region where the fighting was fierce, as we understand, today we see that Palmyra might have fallen, yesterday Al Mastouma and other areas fell. It looks like the fighting is a win here then a defeat there, a defeat then a victory, etc. It seems that no one can use military means to resolve the situation in a decisive way.
Mohammad Raad: Sami, now the media and the propaganda machine works on propagating false and hasty news about partial matters that have nothing to do with the strategic movement or even with the battlefield, the very issues which will define the results and the outcome of the war. We have an evaluation of the situation: in Syria, the military situation on the ground is in the favor of the regime and what we witness is a tightening of the (Syrian Arab Army’s) grip on the areas under the regime’s control.
Journalist: How can you explain this to us? The image circulated now in the other media is that the State doesn’t have control over many areas, and there’s a new offensive by the armed terrorists under Fatah Army and other groups. And the armed opposition, or the rebels or the Takfiris or terrorists, whatever you may call them, are achieving big gains on the ground. In your strategic evaluation, how do you see that your side, along with your ally the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, has actually started to achieve strategic gains on the ground?
Mohammad Raad: Before I answer your question, we should remember all the (previous) experiences of false propaganda talking about these terrorists & enlarging their achievements, their numbers, and their situation. Isn’t it about time for the public opinion to realize that this inflated image of the (terrorists) situation is untrue? Take what happened in Qalamoun: how many were the terrorists in Qalamoun? How long did they withstand their positions?
Journalist: Some would also say that they are in the Damascus countryside, in Jobar and in areas adjacent to Damascus, also in Aleppo…
Mohammad Raad: Sometimes there are areas and positions the regime ignores because they are not important, and he (knows he) can contain them whenever he wants. But he goes towards the strategic areas the control of which defines the preservation of the State’s structure. Isn’t it strange, in the opinion of all international observers, that after 4 years and a half, the State’s institutions are still functioning in Syria?
Journalist: Excellent, this is a very good point as the Army has been fighting for more than 4 years; the Syrian diplomacy is still functioning and maybe more actively than before. Now, I saw by myself that there is a head of a Syrian diplomatic mission in Egypt, Dr. Riadh Sneih, at an ambassador level, and he is an ambassador in fact, he was abroad; and the State institutions are still paying salaries, to the Army and even to students, scholarships and others… All this is important.
Mohammad Raad: Can you imagine a state suffering a devastating war like what is happening in Syria, and still you’ll find a traffic police officer issuing traffic violation tickets?
Journalist: It is said for that, Hajj Mohammad Raad, that if it wasn’t for the direct financial support from a country like Iran, maybe the State wouldn’t function until now, in addition to the military support, of course.
Mohammad Raad: This is not a shortfall in Syria’s ability to withstand. Why are alliances forged between countries and forces at the first place? Isn’t it to benefit from them during crises and during difficult times?
It is much emphasized now, and there is an abuse of this feeling that Iran is controlling Syria, while in Syria there is an Army that is still fighting after 4 years so far. This is part of the misinformation image being circulated.
First of all, do not believe that anybody would fight on behalf of anybody else for free. Maybe there will be mutual strategic or tactical interests imposing on two parties to fight on the same field for the same goal, but each party defends its goal within this mutual interest. Iran is supporting Syria also not only as a gratitude for the Syrian stance towards the Saddam imposed 8-years war against Iran, which was financed by all those who are now contributing in the war against Syria. Iran is standing by Syria because Iran is in an alliance with Syria within the same strategic choice, but if it wasn’t for the fact that the Syrian structure is capable of preserving its choice in the stance against (Israel), all the support Syria is receiving wouldn’t be enough to save the situation.
Enough of simplifying the issues; now it is said that we (Hezbollah) are helping the Syrian Army. Of course, we are carrying out an assistant role to the Syrian Army in the areas where we have an interest to be present in, either in defending the Resistance (Hezbollah) or to preserve the Syrian positive position in supporting the Resistance. But why is it that the heroism and bravery of the Syrian Arab Army are neglected, the army that is holding the keys of the battlefield struggle and manages the struggle until now?!
Journalist: Do you fight in the north (of Syria) Hajj Mohammad Raad? like in Aleppo, are there fighters (of Hezbollah)?
Mohammad Raad: I’m not In favour of talking about details, but I can tell you: We fight where we have to fight.
Journalist: And this is what Sayyed Nasrallah said. He recently said that after the last Qalamoun battle, Hezbollah lost 13 martyrs. Can we know the total number of Hezbollah’s martyrs since the beginning of the Syrian war? Approximately? Some say they reached a thousand (martyrs), is this correct?
Mohammad Raad: I do not believe the figure reached this much, but it is nearing five hundred. Five hundred approximately.
Journalist: Nearing five hundred. Less or a bit more? If it is nearing, it means less… Did President Bashar Al-Assad’s administration manage to survive collapsing? Now the talks saying that ‘There is no solution with the Syrian president involved’ are renewed. And even some of the fighters factions, 13 of them, gathered in Turkey recently and raised this slogan again that by force, he will fall. While for the past 4 years and now in the 5th year, he is still here? Will President Assad’s administration survive?
Mohammad Raad: Our belief is that the solution in Syria depends on the presence and the partnership of President Assad in this solution.
Journalist: Him in person?
Mohammad Raad: Him in person.
Journalist: OK. Can you tell us, Haj Mohammad Raad, why president Assad’s allies like Iran & Hezbollah at the utmost, maybe Russia to the same degree as you or less, I don’t know, why do they hold on to President Bashar Al-Assad in person? As some might argue that if President Al-Assad leaves, maybe the situation in Syria would become better. Is he (President Assad) in person the base to any solution for you?
Mohammad Raad: No, we are holding on him because the matter is not about the person, it is about the position and choice this person is committed to. You might say that there might be other persons like him, but this very person who defended Syria due to his commitment to this choice (resistance), why replace him?!
Journalist: It is said that his presence on top of the current Syrian State has maintained this State due to his personal features, his nerves of steel. I hear about this even among your ranks, that due to his calm, while most of his allies have collapsed, the veteran ones and even in Lebanon, he remained… This proves that he should remain in the partnership position to find a solution. But he’s also blamed by his foes inside Syria and abroad to be responsible for where we have reached. I want to know if Hezbollah and Iran (as Russia will not state its position) are insisting on the person of President Assad in any coming solution, whatever happens. There won’t be any solution found without President Assad?
Mohammad Raad: First of all, as long as the Syrian people are holding on to President Bashar Al-Assad, we cannot overlook this Syrian public opinion.
Journalist: Half of the people… More than half of the people are with President Assad?
Mohammad Raad: Of course
Journalist: How do you know? How do we know? Who is measuring the Syrian public opinion for us to know who is with him and who is not?
Mohammad Raad: First: who said there is anybody in the world who would accept his country to be destroyed? The hesitating portion at the beginning of the crisis of the Syrian people now joined those supporting President Assad to stay in power, because they found out that the alternative is the destruction of Syria and the end of its position and role, and making Syria a satellite in the orbit of the West and subjugating it to the Israeli conditions.
Journalist: So in your opinion President Assad is staying until the last day in his term?
Mohammad Raad: And maybe beyond…
Translation : Arabi Souri
Here set out in black and white in the Israeli media is a moral conundrum that western politicians, diplomats and international human rights organisations are resolutely failing to address – and one I have been highlighting since 2006.
It was then that Israel implemented for the first time its Dahiya doctrine – turning Lebanon back to the Stone Age. It launched an horrific assault that wrecked Lebanon’s infrastructure, killed 1,300 Lebanese – most of them, as ever in Israel’s wars, civilians – and made refugees of more than a million inhabitants of the country’s south. The exercise has been repeated in Gaza on a regular basis ever since.
Last month the New York Times kindly published an Israeli press release masquerading as a news report that the Israeli army had photographic evidence that Hizbollah was moving its military bases into villages all over south Lebanon. The evidence was paltry to say the least. And the New York Times, quite bafflingly, said it had not been able to “independently verify” the information, as though it lacked reporters in Lebanon who could visit the sites named by its correspondent in far-away Tel Aviv.
The clear implication of the story was that, when the next war with Lebanon arrives, as the Israeli army keeps promising is just around the corner, Israel will be able to blame Hizbollah when its attacks kill mostly civilians.
As Israel’s Haaretz newspaper pointed out – possibly inadvertently – in a headline, the New York Times was doing Israel’s propaganda work for it: “Israel’s secret weapon in the war against Hezbollah: The New York Times”.
Although the NYT’s propaganda role was noted by several observers, no one seemed to make the point that, if Hizbollah is only now moving its bases into these villages, how can one make sense of the prominent justification for the high civilian death toll in Lebanon in 2006? Then Israel argued – and was backed by the UN and others – that the civilian deaths were a result of Hizbollah’s “cowardly blending” with the civilian population by firing rockets from built-up areas, though no evidence was produced at the time.
Look at what Amos Harel, Haaretz’s military correspondent, writes now:
The [New York] Times reports that Hezbollah, as part of the lessons it drew in the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, moved its “nature reserves” – its military outposts in the south – from open farmland into the heart of the Shi’ite villages that lie close to the border with Israel. That in itself is old news.
Tell that to Jan Egeland, who was the United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs at the time (and later joined Human Rights Watch), as well as all those who echoed his accusation against Hizbollah of “cowardly blending”.
There is another, even more vital point unnoticed by most observers but highlighted in Harel’s report for Haaretz. One of the problems for those at the receiving end of these savage Israeli attacks has been: how to respond. Or rather: how to respond within the confines of international law. While Israel has been doing most of the killing, western politicians, diplomats and human rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been more exercised by the efforts of Hizbollah and Hamas to retaliate in kind.
The international law argument supposedly goes something like this: Israel has the right to defend itself and so long as it is aiming for military targets with its precision armaments and acts proportionately then it is within its rights to launch attacks, whether civilians are killed or not.
The argument’s flip side goes like this: However terrible the suffering endured by their respective populations under this barrage, Hizbollah and Hamas have no right to respond with their imprecise rockets, whether they are aiming for a military target or not, because they cannot be sure their rockets will not hit civilians. In short, anything they fire over the border is a war crime by definition.
If that sounds problematic to you, check out my own public engagement with Sarah Leah Whitson of HRW back in 2006 debating this very issue.
The problem when dealing with asymmetrical confrontations is that traditional interpretations of international law are rigged to the advantage of the stronger, better-armed side.
So how does the Israeli army feel about Hizbollah’s efforts to improve its rockets to avoid this international law problem. Haaretz’s Harel explains what his military contacts have been telling him:
Israel is apparently deeply concerned by Hezbollah’s effort to improve the accuracy of its rockets. The organization has in its possession vast numbers of missiles and rockets – 130,000, according to the latest estimates – but upgrading its capability is dependent on improving the weapons’ accuracy, which would enable Hezbollah to strike effectively at specific targets, including air force-base runways and power stations.
In other words, Israel is “deeply concerned” that Hizbollah might soon be able to operate within the terms of international law as laid down by official arbiters like the UN and HRW.
How is Hizbollah trying to upgrade its rockets? Its allies, Iran and Syria’s Bashar Assad, are trying to deliver more sophisticated weapons to it through Syrian territory. How does Israel feel about this? Harel reports: “Israel is upset at the smuggling of weapons by the Assad regime in Syria to Hezbollah.” In fact, we know Israel is “upset” because it keeps violating Syria’s sovereign air space to launch attacks in Syria to stop convoys it claims are transporting such weapons reaching Hizbollah. It is similarly blockading Gaza to make sure upgraded, precise weapons do not get into Hamas’ hands.
So who will be to blame when Israel gets the next war with Lebanon or Gaza it wants and Hizbollah or Hamas respond by firing their imprecise rockets in retaliation? When Israeli civilians die under those rockets, will Hizbollah and Hamas be responsible or will it be Israel’s fault?
We will doubtless hear the answer from the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and the New York Times soon.
Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah says the resistance movement’s success in forcing Israeli forces out of Lebanon’s soil 15 years ago was a victory for all Lebanese and Muslims.
Nasrallah made the remarks in the southern town of Nabatiyeh on Sunday during a televised speech celebrating the anniversary of the Israeli forces’ withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
He paid tribute to those who sacrificed their lives to bring victory to the resistance movement.
The Hezbollah chief added that if the the resistance movement had not risen against the Tel Aviv regime Israel would have occupied Lebanon.
Hezbollah forced the Israeli military out of the southern parts of Lebanon on May 25, 2000, after more than two decades of occupation.
People in Lebanon consider May 25 as a beginning of dramatic change in the region.
The Lebanese commemorate the day as a national holiday and see it as a transformation that changed the regional equations for good, and put an end to the invincibility myth of the Israeli military.
Nasrallah said after the Israeli regime attacked Lebanon, some groups in Lebanon hesitated to stand against the Zionist regime and even communicated with “the Israelis and considered them allies and friends.”
But, he added, some other Lebanese “did not wait for the Arab League, the United Nations Security Council, the UN, the US or the West. They rather relied on their capabilities, men, heroes and friends in Iran and Syria, and the resistance was launched.”
“This victory was achieved by some of the Lebanese who believed in resistance,” said Nasrallah.
“From the very first day, the resistance believed that it was defending all Lebanese,” he said, adding that “backstabbing and treason did not prevent it from dedicating its victory to all of Lebanon, the Arabs and the world.”
Nasrallah called on the international community and especially on the Lebanese authorities to step up fight against ISIL Takfiri group which is threatening mankind.
Nasrallah said “history is repeating itself” and a scheme spearheaded by ISIL Takfiri group is threatening the Middle East region.
“We are before a danger that is unparalleled in history,” Nasrallah said referring to ISIL terrorist group, adding, “We must understand the threat.”
Nasrallah stressed that all people in the region are facing the threat of the terrorist group, adding, “We are before a threat that does not tolerate the existence of others. All people in the region are facing this barbarous situation.”
The Hezbollah chief stated that remaining silent against the Takfiri threat would be unproductive, adding, “Those who believe that their silence would protect them and their sect are delusional. It is unacceptable to wait and we must take the initiative” against the Takfiri threat.
Nasrallah stressed that those refusing to counter the terrorist group will suffer a lot.
He said the US-led coalition allegedly fighting the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria has not been instrumental in putting an end to the brutalities of the Takfiri group.
“What has the US-led coalition done? The number of their airstrikes throughout a year is much less than the number of Israel’s raids on Lebanon in the  July war or its raids on Gaza,” Nasrallah added.
He urged the Christians in Lebanon to fight the Takfiri group, asking, “Who will protect your women from enslavement and your churches from destruction?”
“We call on everyone in Lebanon and the region to shoulder their responsibilities in the face of the threat and to end their silence and neutrality,” he said, adding, “We call on you to defend your land, sovereignty and people.”
Nasrallah noted that people in the Lebanese city of Arsal are feeling the threat of the Takfiri group every day, calling on the Lebanese government to take action to save the people.
“We are ready to stand by Arsal’s people, but the state must shoulder its responsibility,” he said.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah fighters are present in Syria combating against terrorists, saying, “We are fighting alongside the Syrian army and popular resistance based on our vision that fighting there is aimed at defending everyone in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq.”
He also called on Saudi Arbia, which has been pounding Yemen since March 26, to stop bombarding the impoverished Arab country.
Today, the NY Times published what was essentially an unexpurgated series of IDF intelligence reports claiming Hezbollah had taken over a southern Lebanese town and turned it into a fortress bristling with fortifications. The story, written by Isabel Kershner, features photos and descriptions of intelligence data received directly from the army intelligence unit, AMAN.
At no point in the story does Kershner offer any skepticism about the substance of the material or its origins. Nor does she entertain any thoughts about the ultimate purpose of releasing the material to her. As I read the story, the biggest nagging question was: how did she vet this before publication? Did she get someone to visit the village to confirm details? Did she ask a military analyst or consultant to authenticate the documents proffered her?
The only indication in the report that these issues may’ve been considered is a statement that none of the information “could be independently verified.” You’re damn straight they couldn’t be verified. But how hard did you try?
There is an interview conducted by the Times’ Lebanon correspondent Anne Barnard with a figure representing Hezbollah. He refuses to address the specifics of the intelligence information and only affirms the Islamist movement’s determination to protect Lebanese sovereignty from Israeli attack.
I tweeted these questions to Jodi Rudoren, the paper’s Israel bureau chief, and she replied that since it was not her story I should contact Kershner directly. Given that she’s Kershner’s boss, I found the response odd.
We should also remember that Kershner’s husband is former Jerusalem Post IDF correspondent Hirsh Goodman. He is a researcher at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, a think tank deeply connected to the Israeli military and intelligence apparatus.
I should make clear that I’m not taking any position on the accuracy of the report or the IDF documents. Instead, I’m most disturbed by the process used in putting this story together. The IDF and Israeli intelligence in general is well-known for putting forth false or fraudulent claims. Any Israeli journalist who is half-way honest knows this and would freely concede it. It is incumbent on any self-respecting journalist to authenticate such data before accepting it at face value. I don’t see any indication from the story itself that any of this was done.
Another critical aspect of this story you won’t find mentioned by Kershner is that Hezbollah is a Lebanese resistance movement whose goal, at least concerning Israel, is to defend the nation’s sovereignty. Yes, we can argue about its involvement in Syria diverging from this agenda, but aside from a few skirmishes Hezbollah is not fighting Israel in the Syrian Golan. Not to mention, that the IDF is complaining about Hezbollah fortifying a Lebanese village from attack by Israel. In other words, Hezbollah’s purpose is to defend Lebanese territory. How it does this is not something Israel has a right to complain about.
In the article itself, the IDF sources make crystal clear that their military strategy features an invasion of Lebanon. In other words, the Israeli army is conceding that it intends to violate Lebanese sovereignty. Yet on the other hand it denies Lebanese the right to defend against such an invasion. The army also makes clear Israel’s intent to kill civilians, as it has in numerous invasions and occupation over the decades. The difference this time around is that the IDF is warning beforehand that it intends to do this. It is telling the world that we will do to Lebanon what we did to Gaza. There will be no mercy. No punches pulled. It will unleash the full fury of its arsenal. Civilians will be treated no different than combatants.
In the midst of the massive civilian death toll it will trot out Kershner’s stenography and say: See, we told you so. We warned you that Hezbollah was using civilians as human shields. We warned you in no less a venue than the NY Times that we would have no choice but to decimate the militants along with the civilians. Now, you have no right to complain that we did precisely what we told you we would do.
The reporter quotes her intelligence source making yet another mendacious claim about the history of guerrilla warfare:
“Historically, armed forces have separated themselves from the population, in uniform,” the senior Israeli military official said. “This is not the case here or in Gaza.” He accused Hezbollah of cynically using civilians.
This is not only utterly false in general historical terms (remember the 250,000 dead in Leningrad or the two Warsaw Ghetto uprisings?), it’s false in terms of Israel’s own history. The Palmach and other Jewish resistance groups made extensive use of civilian infrastructure, including synagogues, to hide weapons caches. Military forces use whatever advantage they can muster which benefit their strategic position. If the IDF was in the position of Hezbollah it would do nothing different. In such a case, no one could argue Israel didn’t have the right to do so as long as it was defending its territory from invasion, as Hezbollah is doing. … Full article
A recent article by Jorge Elbaum, the former executive director of DAIA (Delegation for Argentine Jewish Associations), the principle Argentine Jewish umbrella groups, published in the Buenos Aires daily Pagina 12, provides a detailed account of the damaging links between the State of Israel, US Wall Street speculators, and local Argentine Zionists in government and out. Elbaum describes how their efforts have been specifically directed toward destabilizing the incumbent center-left government of President Cristina Fernandez, while securing exorbitant profits for a Zionist Wall Street speculator, Paul Singer of Elliott Management as well as undermining a joint Iranian-Argentine investigation of the 1994 terrorist bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires.
Elbaum’s article was written in response to the death of Alberto Nisman, a Zionist zealot and chief government prosecutor in the terrorist bombing investigation for over 20 years.
The serious issues raised by the political use and gross manipulation of the horrors of the bombing of the Argentine Jewish Community Center shows how Tel Aviv (and its political assets in Argentina and the US) further Israeli power in the Middle East, in particular, by isolating and demonizing Iran. This is important at two critical levels, which this article seeks to highlight.
First of all, Israel attempted to sidetrack the Argentine investigation, by involving some of its powerful Wall Street assets and influential pro-Israel lobbies (the Anti-Defamation League and AIPAC among others). Their purpose was to fabricate ‘evidence’ in order to implicate Iran in the crime and to manipulate their influential assets in Argentina, especially in this case, chief prosecutor Nisman and many of the leaders of DAIA, to accuse the Argentine government of complicity in an ‘Iranian cover-up’.
The second issue, raised by Israel’s intervention in Argentina’s investigation into the bombing, has wider and deeper implications: How Israel promotes its foreign policy objectives in various countries by grooming and manipulating local influential Jewish officials and community organizations. This furthers Tel Aviv’s goal of regional hegemony and territorial aggrandizement. In other words, Israeli political reach extends far beyond the Middle East and goes ‘global’, operating without any consideration of the dangers it inflicts on Jews in the ‘target countries’. To this end, Israel has been creating a worldwide network of Jews, which calls into question their loyalty to the polity of their home countries where they have resided for generations.
The nefarious impact, which Israel’s intervention has on the sovereignty of its ‘target countries’, presents a danger to innocent and loyal Jewish citizens who are not acting as agents of Tel Aviv.
For these reasons it is important to critically analyze the specific characteristics of Israel’s dangerous meddling in Argentina.
The Crisis of the Argentine Justice System: Unsolved Terrorist Crimes and Israeli Intervention
After the anti-Semitic bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, the Argentine judicial and legal system seriously bungled the investigation, despite collaboration from the US FBI and Israel’s Mossad. Argentina’s then President Carlos Menem was an ardent neo-liberal, unconditional backer of US foreign policy and strong supporter of Israel. His regime was still heavily infested with high-ranking police, military, and intelligence officials deeply implicated in the seven-year bloody military dictatorship (1976-83) during which 30,000 Argentine citizens were murdered. Among the victims of this ‘dirty war’ were hundreds of Argentine Jews, activists, intellectuals and militants who were tortured and murdered to the anti-Semitic taunts of their military and police assassins. During this same horrific ‘pogrom’ of Argentina’s committed Jewish activists, the state of Israel managed to sell tens of millions of dollars in arms to the junta, breaking a US-EU boycott. Notoriously, the conservative leaders of the DAIA and AMIA (Argentine-Israel Mutual Association) failed to defend the lives of Jewish activists and militants. After attending meetings with the junta, many conservative Jewish leaders would dismiss the concerns of the families of the disappeared and tortured Argentine Jews, saying: ‘They must have done something…’
The bungled investigation into the 1994 bombing included the arrest of right-wing police officials who were later released and the mysterious loss of vital forensic evidence. Accusations against various foreign regimes and organizations shifted according to the political needs of the US and Israel: First, the Lebanese group, Hezbollah, Israel’s main military adversary during its bloody occupation of southern Lebanon in 1990’s was touted as the responsible party. A few years later, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, prior to the Israeli-backed US invasion of Iraq; then the Palestinians were trotted out, followed by Syria’s Baathist intelligence forces. After the total destruction of Iraq by the US ‘coalition’ and the decline of influential Arab states in the Middle East, the Israelis have settled on Iran as the ‘prime suspect’, coinciding with Tehran’s rise of as a regional power – challenging Israeli and US hegemony.
With the 2001 collapse of Argentina’s version of a kleptocratic, neo-liberal, pro-US bootlicking regime, and in the midst of a dire economic depression, there was a popular upheaval and the subsequent election of President Kirchner bringing a new center-left government to power.
The new government, defaulting on its murderous foreign debt, oversaw Argentina’s economic recovery and a vast increase in social spending which stabilized capitalism. Kirchner also promoted greater independence in foreign policy and sought to enhance Buenos Aires relations with Israel by re-opening the investigation into the bombing and retaining Alberto Nisman, as chief prosecutor.
Nisman, the Mossad, and the US Embassy Connection
In his article, ‘Vultures, Nisman, DAIA: The Money Route’ (Pagina 12, 4/18/15), Jorge Elbaum, points out that chief prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, opened a secret bank account in New York. As Elbaum told prominent figures in Argentina’s Jewish community, Nisman’s campaign to discredit the government’s joint investigatory commission with Iran and demonize the Argentine government was financed, at least in part, by New York’s vulture fund head, Paul Singer, who stood to make hundreds of millions in profit. According to documents, cited by Elbaum, US embassy personnel and leading US Zionist organizations, including the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, led by Mark Dubowitz, as well as Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, fed Nisman fabricated ‘evidence’ and corrected numerous substantive and grammatical flaws in his report purporting to ‘demonstrate’ Argentine’s cover-up of the Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing. However, forensic and legal experts in Argentina have determined that Nisman’s claims lack any legal basis or credibility.
The entire ‘Operation Nisman’ appears to have been orchestrated by Israel with the goal of isolating Iran via fabricated evidence supposed to ‘prove’ its role in the 1994 bombing. The recruitment of Nisman, as a key Israeli operative, was central to Israel’s strategy of using the DAIA and other Argentine – Jewish organizations to attack the Argentine-Iran memo of understanding regarding the investigation of the bombing. Israel pushed US-Zionist organizations to intensify their intervention into Argentine politics via their networks with Argentine-Jewish organizations. The vulture-fund speculator, Paul Singer, who had bought defaulted Argentine debt for ‘pennies on the dollar’, was demanding full payment through sympathetic New York courts. He had funded a special speculators’ task force on Argentina joining forces with Israel, US Zionist organizations and Alberto Nisman in order to manipulate Argentina’s investigation and secure a bountiful return. Nisman thus became a ‘key tool’ to Israel’s regional military strategy toward Iran, to New York speculator Singer’s strategy to grab a billion dollar windfall and to the Argentine right wing’s campaign to destabilize the center-left government of Kirschner-Fernandez.
By acting mainly in the interest of Israel and US Zionists, Nisman sacrificed the Argentine-Jewish community’s desire for a serious, truthful investigation into the bombing leading to identification and conviction of the perpetrators. Moreover, Nisman compromised himself by being a tool for Israel’s foreign policy against the interest of the Argentine government, which he was sworn to serve, and endangered the status of the Argentine Jewish community among Argentines in general by raising questions about their loyalty to their home country.
Fortunately, Argentina has sophisticated, prominent Jewish leaders who see themselves as Argentine citizens first and foremost, including leaders like Foreign Secretary Hector Timmerman who proposed the joint investigation with Iran as well as the former DAIA Executive Director Jorge Elbaum who has played a major role in denouncing Israel’s intervention in Argentine politics. It is citizens, like Elbaum, who have exposed the Israeli government’s role in recruiting and manipulating local leading Argentine-Jews to serve Tel Aviv’s foreign policy interests.
This is in stark contrast to the United States where no major American-Jewish leader has dared to denounce the role of leading Zionist organizations as Israel’s conduit. Furthermore, unlike Argentina, where a sector of the liberal press (Pagina 12) has published critical accounts of Nisman’s fabrications and Israel’s destabilization campaign, newspapers in the US, like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, have continued to present Nisman’s discredited report as a serious investigation by a courageous, ‘martyred’ prosecutor. The US media continues to portray the entire Argentine judicial system as corrupt and argue that Nisman’s death must have been a state-orchestrated crime. The US public has never been presented with the fact that the leading critics of Nisman’s report and his own behavior were prominent Argentine Jews and that Argentina’s foreign minister, Hector Timmerman, organized the Argentine-Iran commission.
That Israel was willing to derail any serious the investigation into the 1994 bombing, which killed and maimed scores of Argentine Jews, in order to further its campaign against Iran, demonstrates the extent to which the self-styled ‘Jewish State’ is willing to sacrifice the interests and security of world Jewry to further its narrow military agenda.
Equally egregious is the way in which Tel Aviv recruits overseas Jews to serve Israel’s interests against that of their own countries, turning them into a ‘fifth column’, operating inside and outside of their governments. That Israeli intelligence has been exposed and denounced in the case of Nisman, has not forestalled nor prevented Israel from continuing this long-standing, practice of dangerous meddling. This is especially evident in the ‘Israel-first behavior’ of leading Jewish American organizations and political leaders who have pledged their total allegiance to Netanyahu’s war agenda against Iran an bought the US Congress to scuttle the peace accord.
It merits repetition: Israel’s widespread practice of recruiting Jewish citizens and officials of other countries to serve as vehicles of Israeli policies has the potential to foment a new and possibly violent backlash, once the greater population has been made aware of such treasonous activities. In this regard, Israel does not represent a bastion of security for world Jewry, but a cynical, manipulative and deadly threat. Perhaps that is Israel’s ultimate strategy – create a backlash of generalized anger against overseas Jews and precipitate massive flight to Israel from countries like Argentina, while the few who remain can be better manipulated to serve Tel Aviv.
A few days ago, on April 23, a crowd of several hundred Argentine Jews met to repudiate the arrogant claims of the established leaders of the DAIA and the AMIA that they represent ‘all Argentine Jews”. This overflow crowd in the auditorium of the telephone workers union proposed to create a ‘collective and democratic space, based on links of solidarity over and above commercial connections.’ The Jewish community in the US would be wise to pay close attention to Argentina’s example.
Deputy head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council Sheikh Nabil Qaouq
An official of Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement has blasted Saudi Arabia’s bid to silence the group’s vocal opposition to its Yemeni aggression, saying Saudi money could not buy Hezbollah’s silence.
“Those who are waging an aggression against Yemen today have also mistaken their calculations and approach towards Hezbollah,” said the movement’s deputy head of executive council, Sheikh Nabil Qaouq, as quoted in a Sunday report by Lebanese Naharnet news website.
He further suggested that the Saudi regime was attempting to silence the group’s vocal opposition to its aggression against its neighbor adding, “They were betting on our silence and on neutralizing us, but they failed to realize that we do not fear threats and that we cannot be sold or bought.”
According to the report, Qaouq went on to emphasize that “Saudi money” can purchase “countries, the UN Security Council, presidents, princes and ministers” but “cannot buy Hezbollah’s silence.”
The development comes as Hezbollah’s Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and other leaders of the movement are locked in a rhetorical battle with the US-backed Saudi kingdom over Riyadh’s military attacks against Yemen.
“Saudi Arabia can threaten figures, dignitaries, scholars and Arab countries, but it cannot threaten the resistance,” Qaouq said, adding, “Their problem with us is that we cannot be bought or sold and we do not fear intimidation. It also lies in the growing role, status and influence of Hezbollah in the regional equations.”
Saudi Arabia’s air campaign against the Ansarullah fighters of the Houthi movement started on March 26 – without a United Nations mandate – in a bid to restore power to the country’s fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
According to reports, some 2,600 people, including women and children, have so far lost their lives in the attacks.
Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem
Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah has blasted the ongoing Saudi military aggression against Yemen, comparing the move to the Israeli atrocities in the besieged Gaza Strip.
“What Saudi Arabia is committing [in Yemen] is identical to what Israel commits in Gaza,” Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem said in a Thursday interview with France 24.
Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip for over seven years, causing a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave. The Israeli regime has also launched three wars on Gaza, the latest of which came in summer 2014, when nearly 2,200 Palestinians were killed and over 11,100 others injured. The 50-day war ended with an Egyptian-brokered truce.
Qassem said the Saudi war “is about attacking infrastructure and shelling civilians.”
Referring to a recent UN Security Council resolution adopted against Yemen’s Houthi movement, the Hezbollah official said, “The Security Council decision in Yemen is unjust, because it looks at one part of the problem, and not at the whole [picture].”
“The Security Council should have stopped the Saudi aggression against Yemen and treated the issues related to the civilians and the wounded and the destruction of infrastructure,” he said.
Qassem also called for a political solution to the crisis in Yemen.
“It (the UN) was supposed to set the steps for a dialogue to reach a political solution. This, the Security Council has not done,” the Hezbollah official said.
During an interview with the Associated Press on Monday, Qassem slammed Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombardment of Yemen as genocide.
Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen started on March 26 – without a UN mandate – in an attempt to restore power to fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. It has drawn widespread condemnation from international rights groups.
Civilians and Yemeni infrastructure have been the target of the Saudi aggression against Yemen.
According to Yemeni sources, around 2,600 people have been killed in the Saudi military campaign over the past three weeks.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen is rapidly deteriorating. Many international aid organizations have sought clearances to dispatch medical and other humanitarian supplies by air and sea to civilians in need.
The buzz word in Washington around the Iran Nuclear Review Bill that was approved unanimously by a Senate committee is “compromise,” parroted even by the White House spokesperson who has let it known that President Obama will endorse it despite some reservations. But, in reality, “compromise” is a code word for “concession,” i.e., appeasement of the anti-Iran hawks in U.S. Congress, as well as Israel.
The big question is, of course, what is behind Obama’s flip flop, notwithstanding his repeated warnings to U.S. Congress to stay out of Iran negotiations or face his veto power? The answer to this question should search beyond the facade of executive versus legislative ‘turf war’ on the Iran nuclear issue and touch the underlying root cause — in U.S.’s geostrategic interest to keep the furnace of Iran nuclear standoff alive instead of extinguishing it.
Indeed, why let a good thing go, perhaps some Washington ‘insiders’ are asking quietly, given the multiple benefits of the nuclear crisis — in sustaining U.S.’s hegemony in Persian Gulf, containing the Iranian power, and appeasing Israel’s need to keep the limelight on Iran indefinitely.
Thus the U.S.’s perpetual self-sabotage of the Iran deal, following last November’s last minute change of heart by Obama, who refused to sign onto an agreement that his own negotiation team had reached. Obama’s excuse then was reportedly that it was premature in light of a new Congress and he had to wait to size up the situation. It now appears that Obama has done that and reached the point that signing any deal with Iran is a bad deal, just as Iran hawks and the pro-Israel lobbyists have been saying for a long time. In other words, Obama’s acceptance of the Iran bill is but a definite sign that the chicken has to roost and, indeed, the emperor has no clothes.
But, of course, without critical lenses, the Iran Nuclear Review Act appears as relatively benign and an exercise in constitutional checks and balances, which is why the polls indicate the majority of American people are in favor of a Congressional role in the Iran deal. It is only when one reads the bill’s fine prints and pays close attention to its details that the real intention of its sponsors to torpedo the nuclear talks becomes apparent.
This is basically an intrusive legislation that impacts the content of negotiations by, for example, creating an issue linkage between nuclear and non-nuclear, e.g., terrorism, issues and conditioning Congress’s approval of the deal on the executive branch’s certificate of Iran’s compliance with the demand to stop funding terrorist groups.
Essentially, this means a revised script for the nuclear talks and the imposition of brand new ‘parameters’ such as terrorism, that have not been part of the intense negotiations; the latter are solely focused on the nuclear issue and, yet, must now due to this bill, expand the requirements for compliance by Iran — to U.S.’s arbitrary demands.
Another aspect of the bill that is equally problematic is that it raises the necessity of White House’s certification that the atomic agency is satisfied with Iran’s compliance on the “possible military dimension” issues which, as we know, raise the prospect of IAEA demands to access Iran’s secret military bases, a taboo from the vantage point of Iran’s military and civilian leadership. In fact, the Supreme Leader in his recent speech drew a red line and categorically opposed any suggestion that Iran would accommodate the West on this matter.
Hence, Iran’s stern negative reaction to the latest developments in U.S. Congress and Obama’s inexcusable turn-around from a critic to an admirer of the Iran bill is a given, raising the prospect that the bill can be a show-stopper and spell doom for the nuclear negotiations. The path ahead is now made doubly more complicated and the new hurdles by U.S. Congress act as so many powerful torpedoes aiming to sink the ship of diplomacy.
Kaveh Afrasiabi, PhD, is a former political science professor at Tehran University and the author of several books on Iran’s foreign policy. His writings have appeared on several online and print publications, including UN Chronicle, New York Times, Der Tagesspiegel, Middle East Journal, Harvard International Review, and Brown’s Journal of World Affairs, Guardian, Russia Today, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Mediterranean Affairs, Nation, Telos, Der Tageszeit, Hamdard Islamicus, Iranian Journal of International Affairs, Global Dialogue.
By Brenda Heard | Aletho News | March 25, 2015
Six months prior to the upcoming UK general election, the Board of Deputies of British Jews published its “2015 General Election Jewish Manifesto.” This forty-page document urges both existing and prospective members of the UK Parliament to support various “policy asks” and to “champion these causes.” The Manifesto was styled after a very similar one created for the 2014 EU elections. Indeed their goals appear the same: to ensure a pro-Israeli agenda in the House of Commons and beyond.
The 2015 Manifesto does include some discussion of faith-based issues, such as underscoring the need of the Jewish community in the UK to be able to provide Kosher meat and to observe the Sabbath. This discussion is a just and valid participation of citizens in their government. The problem arises, however, when the Manifesto equates Jewish and Israeli. With 58 mentions of Israel, the Manifesto, cloaked in blue and white imagery throughout, even boasts a full-page illustration of the British and Israeli flags flying together.
This self-proclaimed “voice of British Jewry” avows a “very strong attachment to the State of Israel.” Yet it is difficult to reconcile this support with such statements as “The UK Jewish community is committed to peace, security, prosperity and equality for Israel, the Palestinians and the wider Middle East” when this statement was penned less than two months after a vicious Israeli onslaught against Gaza, an indiscriminate rampage that in just fifty days killed at least 2,100 Palestinians, some 70% of whom were civilians, including 519 children. A recent report by the American National Lawyers Guild concluded that “both facts and law refute the Israeli self-defense claims” and that Israel had “collectively punished the entire civilian population.” Indeed, Israeli forces intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians, leaving them dead and wounded, homeless and devastated. There has been no peace, no security, no prosperity and no equality for the Palestinians. Not ever.
Yet the Board of Deputies of British Jews expresses unwavering support for Israel. Any resistance to Israeli policy, the Manifesto maintains, should be denounced by the world. The Manifesto offers scant attention to the Palestinian resistance group Hamas, however, noting that the EU had already classified Hamas as a terrorist organisation, one with whom the UK should “refuse to engage.” Two months after the publication of the Manifesto, the EU General Court removed Hamas from the list of terrorist organisations, stating:
“the General Court finds that the contested measures are based not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the internet.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews promptly condemned this “unacceptable” ruling, and called it “an affront to the values of Europe.” The Board statement also used the opportunity to reiterate various accusations against Hamas—characterisations that have for years engendered the very hearsay that was finally rejected by the EU General Court. The Council of the EU soon appealed the court’s decision. The Board cheered the appeal and the efforts taken to ensure the appeal, stating “we commend the European Jewish Congress on all its work in ensuring that this issue remains on top of the agenda in Brussels.” The power of lobbying for Israel.
As for Lebanon, the Manifesto proudly points out that the UK led the EU designation of Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organisation in 2013. But that action was not enough to appease the Board, which urges the UK to lead the campaign to expand that designation to the “entirety” of Hezbollah. The key here is that Israel and its allies have always wanted to destroy all semblance of Hezbollah, as every aspect of the group builds the pride and strength of a Lebanese populace. It is the will to resist Israeli encroachment—the entire culture of resistance in both Palestine and Lebanon—that Israel wants to break. And this is a sentiment of political Israel, not of “British Jewry.” This has nothing to do with the Jewish faith.
Rather similar to the hearsay problem cited by the EU General Court, the accusations hurled at Hezbollah are based on decades of presumptions that Hezbollah is a ruthless entity to be feared and crushed. The fervour to destroy Hezbollah has long been evident in the policies of Israel, the US and the UK. Together, these three bodies have tremendous abilities to create and to seemingly substantiate and certainly to sell the narrative that suits their own agenda. Perhaps it is time to question these fervent accusations.
The Manifesto asserts that Hezbollah has “launched attacks against European and Jewish civilians worldwide” and offers three examples to illustrate this sweeping and unsubstantiated accusation: Buenos Aires (1994), Bulgaria (2012), Cyprus (2013). The responsibility in each of these incidents is far from conclusive.
The Buenos Aires investigation was at once tainted by the immediate involvement of US and Israeli intelligence services. The case was indelibly ruined by layers of corruption within Argentinian services. Even the Guardian acknowledged the investigation to be a “complex saga of mind-boggling intrigue.” Surely the extensive research published in 2008 by historian Gareth Porter should at the very least create reasonable doubt about Hezbollah’s involvement.
Like Buenos Aires, the Bulgarian case investigation was aided by US and Israeli intelligence services. Several reports raise doubts as to the legitimacy of the judgement process, examples of which: Gareth Porter, here and here; Times of Israel ; Haaretz ; Bulgarian FM Vigenin. Despite Israel’s initial finger-pointing at Hezbollah, the investigation revealed compelling forensic evidence of an Al Qaeda-linked suspect, which was mysteriously dropped only to reveal three Lebanese dual-nationals as suspects. The investigation that struggled for answers somehow, with the help of the US and Israel, was able to link those suspects to Hezbollah. How politically convenient.
In an attempt to offer conclusive evidence of an attack-plotting Hezbollah, the Manifesto offers a fear-inspiring quotation from an allegedly self-confessed Hezbollah member who had seemingly bungled surveillance work in Cyprus and was caught out by Mossad. The man’s “handler,” who was “always wearing a mask,” wanted him to pinpoint Kosher restaurants and to track the arrival times of flights from Israel. But why risk doing such surveillance in person? This information is readily available online, even if it required some creative computing skills. The culprit’s narrative reads more like the stuff of a cheap spy novel than it does the operational expertise of a group with more than thirty-years successful experience. Even if the confessor thought he was, in his nervously ever-changing narrative, revealing some truth, who is to say that he was not led by an imposter to believe he was acting under the direction of Hezbollah, when in fact he was not? Mission not so very impossible.
Still, we are meant to believe that in planning such globally significant missions, Hezbollah was careless enough to leave a paper-trail and to choose men who were inept in their tasks and men who would break under police questioning and tell all. And we are meant to believe that the consistent aid of US and Israeli intelligence has always been strictly objective.
This article is not intended to be a full rebuttal to these specific accusations. The point remains that there is at least reasonable doubt. These accusations are on many levels fuelled by a hatred that has burned for decades, a hatred that would stop at nothing to eradicate the Islamic Resistance of Lebanon. But even if you remain unconvinced of their problematic nature, even if you cannot bring yourself to offer Hezbollah the benefit of the doubt, there remains a double standard in this “Policy Ask” from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. How in the name of civilised democracy can the British Government continue to vehemently denounce Hezbollah, yet eagerly champion an Israeli government that routinely practices that which it condemns?
The Manifesto complains, for instance, that Hezbollah arranged surveillance of Jewish people. Yet we find the following boast in the Board’s EU Manifesto:
“As part of the widespread intelligence cooperation between Israel and the EU, Israel is providing essential information to EU officials enabling them to enforce the proscription [against Hezbollah].”
So it is acceptable for Israel to spy on Lebanese, but not vice versa? The Manifesto also complains Hezbollah allegedly exploited dual-nationals and used false identity papers. Yet this technique is an integral component of Mossad, from false identities and false flags in the 1950s, to political military espionage in the 1960s, to international vigilante justice in the 1970s, to fake passports and double agent killing squads in the 1980s, to assassination attempts in the 1990s, to falsified passports and passport fraud, and assassination after assassination in the 2000s.
These activities tend to be forgotten in the wake of repeated wars on the Lebanese and Palestinians. These activities are often subjectively shrugged off as necessary handling of “legitimate” targets, perhaps with a few unfortunate mistakes. Nonetheless, they exhibit a perpetual defiance of the rule of law, a defiance that is made glaringly clear in Israel’s custom of not only indiscriminate, but also deliberate attacks on the civilian population of the Palestinian territories.
After Israel’s 2006 onslaught on Lebanon, the UN Commission of Inquiry emphasised that one third of the Lebanese casualties were children and stated:
“The Commission highlights a significant pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by IDF against Lebanese civilians and civilian objects. . . The Commission has formed a clear view that, cumulatively, the deliberate and lethal attacks by the IDF on civilians and civilian objects amounted to collective punishment.”
Likewise, after Israel’s 2009 onslaught on Gaza, the UN Fact Finding Mission concluded that:
“what occurred in just over three weeks at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”
Following Israel’s 2014 onslaught on Gaza, an Independent Medical Fact-Finding Mission described in detail the reckless, often deliberate targeting of civilians, including the use of the “double tap”: multiple consecutive strikes on a single location that would lead to additional casualties amongst civilian onlookers and rescuers.
Perhaps as much as casualty statistics, this calculated strategy reveals not merely what the Manifesto describes euphemistically as “challenges about integration between different sectors of the population that need to be addressed,” but what one IDF Staff Sergeant described as “contempt for human life.” He was relating a similar tactic ordered by his battalion commander in the West Bank:
“You leave bodies in the field—they told me they did it a lot in Lebanon— you leave a body in the field, and you wait until they come to recover it so you can shoot at them. It’s like you’re setting up an ambush around the body. But those are things I heard about Lebanon. So it happened here [in Nablus], too.”
Contempt for human life happened. Contempt for rule of law happened. Again and again, at the hands of the “democratic state” promoted by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who in the same instance would like to coax British and Europeans to condemn the very victims of that state’s crimes. While their Manifesto offers a few pages pushing Israeli politics, I offer my recently published book, Hezbollah: An Outsider’s Inside View. Based on eight years of getting to know the people who are Hezbollah, this inside view of the Islamic Resistance of Lebanon offers the opportunity to explore for yourself the militants at the horizon. May common sense, not lobbying efforts, shape the concerns of the British people.
Brenda is the founder and director of Friends of Lebanon, UK. She is the author of numerous articles and the recently published Hezbollah: An Outsider’s Inside View. She can be reached at email@example.com.
An annual security report submitted recently to the US Senate by James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, removed both Iran and Hezbollah from the list of terrorism threats to the United States for the first time in years.
The unclassified version of the “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities” dated 26 February, noted Iran’s efforts to fight “Sunni extremists”, including elements affiliated with the Islamic State group who were perceived to constitute the “preeminent terrorist threat to American interests worldwide”.
Last year’s report described the global terrorist activity of Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah group to have increased in recent years to “a level we have not seen since the 1990s”, however this year’s report mentioned the group only once saying it faces a threat from ISIS and Al-Nusra Front near Lebanon’s orders.
Meanwhile, despite removing Tehran from the list, the report described it as source of cyber-attacks and a regional threat to the United States because of its support for Syrian regime President Bashar Al-Assad and its hostile policies against Israel.
Reports that US and British aircraft carrying arms to the Islamic State group – better known as ISIS – have been shot down by Iraqi forces have been met with shock and denial in western countries. Few in the Middle East doubt that Washington is playing a ‘double game’ with its proxy armies in Syria, but some key myths remain important amongst the significantly more ignorant Western audiences.
A central myth is that Washington now arms ‘moderate Syrian rebels’, to both overthrow the Syrian Government and supposedly defeat the ‘extremist rebels’. This claim became more important in 2014, when the rationale of US aggression against Syria shifted from ‘humanitarian intervention’ to a renewal of Bush’s ‘war on terror’.
A distinct controversy is whether the al-Qaida-styled groups (especially Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS) have been generated as a sort of organic reaction to the repeated US interventions, or whether they are actually paid agents of Washington.
Certainly, prominent ISIS leaders were held in US prisons. ISIS leader, Ibrahim al-Badri (aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) is said to have been held for between one and two years at Camp Bucca in Iraq. In 2006, as al-Baghdadi and others were released, the Bush administration announced its plan for a ‘New Middle East’, a plan which would employ sectarian violence as part of a process of ‘creative destruction’ in the region.
According to Seymour Hersh’s 2007 article, ‘The Redirection’, the US would make use of ‘moderate Sunni states’, not least the Saudis, to ‘contain’ the Shia gains in Iraq brought about by the 2003 US invasion. These ‘moderate Sunni’ forces would carry out clandestine operations to weaken Iran and Hezbollah, key enemies of Israel. This brought the Saudis and Israel closer, as both fear Iran.
While there have been claims that the ISIS ‘caliph’ al-Baghdadi is a CIA or Mossad trained agent, these have not yet been well backed up. There are certainly grounds for suspicion, but independent evidence is important, in the context of a supposed US ‘war’ against ISIS. So what is the broader evidence on Washington’s covert links with ISIS?
Not least are the admissions by senior US officials that key allies support the extremist group. In September 2014 General Martin Dempsey, head of the US military, told a Congressional hearing ‘I know major Arab allies who fund [ISIS]’. Senator Lindsey Graham, of Armed Services Committee, responded with a justification, ‘They fund them because the Free Syrian Army couldn’t fight [Syrian President] Assad, they were trying to beat Assad’.
The next month, US Vice President Joe Biden went a step further, explaining that Turkey, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia ‘were so determined to take down Assad … they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad … [including] al-Nusra and al- Qaida and extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world … [and then] this outfit called ISIL’. Biden’s admissions sought to exempt the US from this operation, as though Washington were innocent of sustained operations carried out by its key allies. That is simply not credible.
Washington’s relationship with the Saudis, as a divisive sectarian force in the region, in particular against Arab nationalism, goes back to the 1950s, when Winston Churchill introduced the Saudi King to President Eisenhower. At that time Washington wanted to set up the Saudi King as a rival to President Nasser of Egypt. More recently, British General Jonathan Shaw has acknowledged the contribution of Saudi Arabia’s extremist ideology: ‘This is a time bomb that, under the guise of education. Wahhabi Salafism is igniting under the world really. And it is funded by Saudi and Qatari money’, Shaw said.
Other evidence undermines western attempts to maintain a distinction between the ‘moderate rebels’, now openly armed and trained by the US, and the extremist groups Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. While there has indeed been some rivalry (emphasised by the London-based, Muslim Brotherhood-aligned, Syrian Observatory of Human Rights), the absence of real ideological difference is best shown by the cooperation and mergers of groups.
As ISIS came from Iraq in 2013, its Syrian bases have generally remained in the far eastern part of Syria. However Jabhat al-Nusra (the official al-Qaida branch in Syria, from which ISIS split) has collaborated with Syrian Islamist groups in western Syria for several years. The genocidal slogan of the Syrian Islamists, ‘Christians to Beirut and Alawis to the Grave’, reported many times in 2011 from the Farouk Brigade, sat well with the al-Qaida groups. Farouk (once the largest ‘Free Syrian Army’ group) indeed killed and ethnically cleansed many Christians and Alawis.
Long term cooperation between these ‘moderate rebels’ and the foreign-led Jabhat al-Nusra has been seen around Daraa in the south, in Homs-Idlib, along the Turkish border and in and around Aleppo. The words Jabhat al-Nusra actually mean ‘support front’, that is, support for the Syrian Islamists. Back in December 2012, as Jabhat al-Nusra was banned in various countries, 29 of these groups reciprocated the solidarity in their declaration: ‘We are all Jabhat al-Nusra’.
After the collapse of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ groups, cooperation between al-Nusra and the newer US and Saudi backed groups (Dawud, the Islamic Front, the Syrian Revolutionary Front and Harakat Hazm) helped draw attention to Israel’s support for al-Nusra, around the occupied Golan Heights. Since 2013 there have been many reports of ‘rebel’ fighters, including those from al-Nusra, being treated in Israeli hospitals. Prime Minister Netanyahu even publicised his visit to wounded ‘rebels’ in early 2014. That led to a public ‘thank you’ from a Turkey-based ‘rebel’ leader, Mohammed Badie (February 2014).
The UN peacekeeping force based in the occupied Golan has reported its observations of Israel’s Defence Forces ‘interacting with’ al-Nusra fighters at the border. At the same time, Israeli arms have been found with the extremist groups, in both Syria and Iraq. In November 2014 members of the Druze minority in the Golan protested against Israel’s hospital support for al-Nusra and ISIS fighters. This in turn led to questions by the Israeli media, as to whether ‘Israel does, in fact, hospitalize members of al-Nusra and Daesh [ISIS]’. A military spokesman’s reply was hardly a denial: ‘In the past two years the Israel Defence Forces have been engaged in humanitarian, life-saving aid to wounded Syrians, irrespective of their identity.’
The artificial distinction between ‘rebel’ and ‘extremist’ groups is mocked by multiple reports of large scale defections and transfer of weapons. In July 2014 one thousand armed men in the Dawud Brigade defected to ISIS in Raqqa. In November defections to Jabhat al-Nusra from the Syrian Revolutionary Front were reported. In December, Adib Al-Shishakli, representative at the Gulf Cooperation Council of the exile ‘ Syrian National Coalition’, said ‘opposition fighters’ were ‘increasingly joining’ ISIS ‘for financial reasons’. In that same month, ‘rebels’ in the Israel-backed Golan area were reported as defecting to ISIS, which had by this time began to establish a presence in Syria’s far south. Then, in early 2015, three thousand ‘moderate rebels’ from the US-backed ‘Harakat Hazzm’ collapsed into Jabhat al-Nusra, taking a large stock of US arms including anti-tank weapons with them.
ISIS already had US weapons by other means, in both Iraq and Syria, as reported in July, September and October 2014. At that time a ‘non aggression pact’ was reported in the southern area of Hajar al-Aswad between ‘moderate rebels’ and ISIS, as both recognised a common enemy in Syria: ‘the Nussayri regime’, a sectarian way of referring to supposedly apostate Muslims. Some reported ISIS had bought weapons from the ‘rebels’.
In December 2014, there were western media reports of the US covert supply of heavy weapons to ‘Syrian rebels’ from Libya, and of Jabhat al-Nusra getting anti-tank weapons which had been supplied to Harakat Hazm. Video posted by al-Nusra showed these weapons being used to take over the Syrian military bases, Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh, in Idlib province.
With ‘major Arab allies’ backing ISIS and substantial collaboration between US-armed ‘moderate rebels’ and ISIS, it is not such a logical stretch to suppose that the US and ‘coalition’ flights to ISIS areas (supposedly to ‘degrade’ the extremists) might have become covert supply lines. That is precisely what senior Iraqi sources began saying, in late 2014 and early 2015.
For example, as reported by both Iraqi and Iranian media, Iraqi MP Majid al-Ghraoui said in January that ‘an American aircraft dropped a load of weapons and equipment to the ISIS group militants at the area of al-Dour in the province of Salahuddin’. Photos were published of ISIS retrieving the weapons. The US admitted the seizure but said this was a ‘mistake’. In February Iraqi MP Hakem al-Zameli said the Iraqi army had shot down two British planes which were carrying weapons to ISIS in al-Anbar province. Again, photos were published of the wrecked planes. ‘We have discovered weapons made in the US, European countries and Israel from the areas liberated from ISIL’s control in Al-Baqdadi region’, al-Zameli said.
The Al-Ahad news website quoted Head of Al-Anbar Provincial Council Khalaf Tarmouz saying that a US plane supplied the ISIL terrorist organization with arms and ammunition in Salahuddin province. Also in February an Iraqi militia called Al-Hashad Al-Shabi said they had shot down a US Army helicopter carrying weapons for the ISIL in the western parts of Al-Baqdadi region in Al-Anbar province. Again, photos were published. After that, Iraqi counter-terrorism forces were reported as having arrested ‘four foreigners who were employed as military advisers to the ISIL fighters’, three of whom were American and Israeli. So far the western media has avoided these stories altogether; they are very damaging to the broader western narrative.
In Libya, a key US collaborator in the overthrow of the Gaddafi government has announced himself the newly declared head of the ‘Islamic State’ in North Africa. Abdel Hakim Belhaj was held in US prisons for several years, then ‘rendered’ to Gaddafi’s Libya, where he was wanted for terrorist acts. As former head of the al-Qaida-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, then the Tripoli-based ‘Libyan Dawn’ group, Belhaj has been defended by Washington and praised by US Congressmen John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
Some image softening of the al-Qaida groups is underway. Jabhat al-Nusra is reported to be considering cutting ties to al-Qaida, to help sponsor Qatar boost their funding. Washington’s Foreign Affairs magazine even published a survey claiming that ISIS fighters were ‘surprisingly supportive of democracy’. After all the well published massacres that lacks credibility.
The Syrian Army is gradually reclaiming Aleppo, despite the hostile supply lines from Turkey, and southern Syria, in face of support for the sectarian groups from Jordan and Israel. The border with Lebanon is largely under Syrian Army and Hezbollah control. In the east, the Syrian Army and its local allies control most of Hasaka and Deir e-Zour, with a final campaign against Raqqa yet to come. The NATO-GCC attempt to overthrow the Syrian Government has failed.
Yet violent destabilization persists. Evidence of the covert relationship between Washington and ISIS is substantial and helps explain what Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad calls Washington’s ‘cosmetic war’ on ISIS. The extremist group is a foothold Washington keeps in the region, weakening both Syria and Iraq. Their ‘war’ on ISIS is ineffective. Studies by Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgent database show that ISIS attacks and killings in Iraq increased strongly after US air attacks began. The main on the ground fighting has been carried out by the Syrian Army and, more recently, the Iraqi armed forces with Iranian backing.
All this has been reported perversely in the western media. The same channels that celebrate the ISIS killing of Syrian soldiers also claim the Syrian Army is ‘not fighting ISIS’. This alleged ‘unwillingness’ was part of the justification for US bombing inside Syria. While it is certainly the case that Syrian priorities have remained in the heavily populated west, local media reports make it clear that, since at least the beginning of 2014, the Syrian Arab Army has been the major force engaged with ISIS in Hasaka, Raqqa and Deir eZour. A March 2015 Reuters report does concede that the Syrian Army recently killed two ISIS commanders (including Deeb Hedjian al-Otaibi) along with 24 fighters, at Hamadi Omar.
Closer cooperation between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah is anathema to Israel, the Saudis and Washington, yet it is happening. This is not a sectarian divide but rather based on some clear mutual interests, not least putting an end to sectarian (takfiri) terrorism.
It was only logical that, in the Iraqi military’s recent offensive on ISIS-held Tikrit, the Iranian military emerged as Iraq’s main partner. Washington has been sidelined, causing consternation in the US media. General Qasem Suleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force is a leading player in the Tikrit operation. A decade after Washington’s ‘creative destruction’ plans, designed to reduce Iranian influence in Iraq, an article in Foreign Policy magazine complains that Iran’s influence is ‘at its highest point in almost four centuries’.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya (2006) Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a ‘New Middle East’
Seymour Hersh (2007) The Redirection
Al Akhbar (2011) Syria: What Kind of Revolution?
The New Yorker (2013) Syrian Opposition Groups Stop Pretending
RT (2014) Anyone but US! Biden blames allies for ISIS rise
Iraqi News (2015) American aircraft dropped weapons to ISIS, says MP
Washington Post (2015) Syrian rebel group that got U.S. aid dissolves
David Kenner (2015) For God and Country, and Iran, Foreign Policy
Reuters (2015) Syrian air strike kills two Islamic State commanders
October 26, 2014
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah lists these five reasons why the US-led ‘coalition’ against ISIS is a fraud.
1) The United States is the “mother of terrorism”
2) The US supports Israeli state terrorism against Palestine and Lebanon
3) The US helped cultivate ISIS and other terrorist groups that have besieged Syria
4) The US is not in a moral position to lead an anti-terrorism campaign, considering its own terrorism and support of terrorism
5) The US-led coalition aims to protect US interests at the expense of the interests of the region’s peoples
H/T – Brandon Martinez