Washington failed to attend the latest international conference hosted by Moscow, where 11 nations discussed ways of bringing peace to Afghanistan. The US branded it a “unilateral Russian attempt to assert influence in the region.”
Friday’s meeting is the latest in a series of similar events in the Russian capital that have grown from trilateral consultations between Russia, China, and Pakistan held in December of last year into talks involving the majority of the Afghan region’s powers. The latest included Russia, China, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. An invitation was sent to Kabul’s patron, America, but was rejected.
“I think just to end it, we just felt that these talks – it was unclear to us what the purpose was,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Tuesday, in explaining the US’ absence.
“It seemed to be a unilateral Russian attempt to assert influence in the region that we felt wasn’t constructive at this time,” he noted.
Moscow responded by saying it “could not comprehend” the US’ reason for snubbing the gathering.
Participants in the event reiterated their support for a peaceful transition in Afghanistan, while calling for Kabul to be supported in moving in that direction.
“A call has been sent to the Taliban movement to abandon its line for a military solution of the Afghan conflict in favor of direct talks with the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on the issue of national reconciliation,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the conference.
The statement added that more consultations in this format will follow, while noting that Moscow has offered to host them again.
Moscow and China have separately been trying to persuade the Taliban to focus less on Kabul and more on the more imminent threat – the advances of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group.
Washington has criticized such initiatives, citing the Taliban’s record of waging guerilla warfare against the Afghan government, while downplaying the threat posed by IS in Afghanistan. The US military reported in February that the joint efforts of Afghan troops and US-led international forces have reduced IS’ presence in the country to less than 1,000 fighters, according to Voice of America.
According to Russia’s estimate, the jihadist group has at least 3,500 fighters in Afghanistan, which Moscow says Kabul and its allies are not doing enough to eradicate.
The conference in Moscow comes a day after the US dropped its most powerful conventional bomb on a suspected IS hideout in Afghanistan, marking the first time the weapon has been used in combat. It was not immediately clear whether this signified a shift in Washington’s view of the threat posed by IS affiliates in Afghanistan.
Hezbollah on Sunday has condemned the awful crimes committed by terrorist ISIL group which targeted churches in Egypt’s Tanta and Alexandria, killing and injuring dozens of innocent civilians.
In a statement released by the party’s Media Relations office, Hezbollah offered condolences to victims’ families, calling for uniting efforts to confront terrorism in the region.
“This continuous and escalating killing carried out by criminal gangs in the name of religion is one of the greatest catastrophes our Ummah (nation) has been witnessing,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah pointed out that such crimes were planned for by major powers and regional countries which have been offering different kinds of support to terrorists, in a bid to sow discord between the region’s peoples who have lived together for centuries.
Furthermore, the Lebanese resistance party stressed that targeting faithful people in churches during Palm Sunday is a savage act which indicates that these groups have no humanity.
This crime “comes as a part of a big scheme to displace Christians from Sinai and other areas across Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, paving the way for sectarian and ethnic federalization in favor of the Zionist enemy,” Hezbollah warned.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah voiced support for Egypt and its people, urging all sides to realize the seriousness of the “great conspiracy targeting our Ummah,” and to unite efforts in confronting terrorists along with their regional and international sponsors.
The United States has launched on Friday morning dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles at an airbase in Syria in response to this week’s alleged chemical attack that it has blamed on the Syrian government, the pentagon announced.
The US military launched about 60 Tomahawk missiles against several targets on al-Shayrat air base 38 kilometers southeast of the city of Homs. They were reportedly fired from the USS Ross and USS Porter, Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The strikes targeted aircraft and infrastructure, including the runway, but not people, US officials told NBC. But a Syrian military source was quoted by state TV as saying that the US missile strike has “led to losses.”
Syrian military personnel, as well as equipment, were evacuated from the airfield in prior to the late Thursday US missile attack, media report. The missile strike damaged runways, towers and traffic control buildings at the airbase, but personnel had been evacuated and equipment was moved ahead of the strike, ABC said on Friday citing eyewitness reports.
Governor of Homs Province Talal al-Barazi said that the Shayrat Airfield plays a key role in supporting Syrian government forces in their fight against ISIL terrorists.
“The Syrian army and armed forces are fighting terrorism, especially in the east of Homs. And recently significant progress has been reached, gas fields have been liberated as well as the city of Palmyra and its surroundings. This base to the east of Homs plays a key role in supporting military operations against ISIL, particularly in the eastern part of Homs,” al-Barazi said in a phone interview.
“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” US President Donald Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” Trump said.
“There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons,” he stated without providing a shred of evidence to back his claim.
The allegations of chemical arms use are still made against Syria even as the dismantling of the country’s entire stockpile of chemical weapons as well as relevant production facilities was supervised by the UN.
Foreign-backed militants have repeatedly used chemical weapons against Syrian troops, some of which have been verified by UN officials, but the attacks have often been ignored by Western governments.
US Congressman Tulsi Gabbard said that Trump’s decision to conduct the missile strike against a Syrian airfield was a mistake that will escalate tensions with Russia and lead to more civilian casualties. “This escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia — which could lead to nuclear war,” Gabbard stressed.
Russia will demand urgent UN Security Council meeting after US missile strike at an airbase in Syria, Victor Ozerov, the chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on Defense and Security, told Sputnik.
“Russia will first of all demand an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council. This can be regarded as an act of aggression on the part of the US against a UN state,” Ozerov said.
“After this incident the already clouded relations with the US will somewhat worsen,” Ozerov told Sputnik, adding that the missile attack will likely be “a very bad example for the armed opposition in Syria, which could put under question the agreements reached with the opposition, including in Geneva.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement after the US attack that there were no discussions or prior contacts between the United States and Moscow ahead of the missile strike on the Syrian base.
Their arrival was announced as the UK hosts a conference of defense ministers from countries involved in the coalition fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
The 20 trainers – who are likely to be special forces soldiers – will teach so-called ‘moderate’ fighters infantry skills, combat first aid and other battlefield tactics.
The existing deployment is thought to be made up of around 500 soldiers from the 4 Rifles infantry regiment, which is based near the Kurdish-held city of Erbil alongside specialist soldiers from the Royal Engineers and Royal Signals.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has previously stated that anyone receiving UK training would be vetted to ensure that no knowledge was passed on to jihadist groups.
The deployment of UK special forces has come under increasing scrutiny, with critics claiming that it has now become the basic form of UK military operations and as such should be brought under democratic oversight.
The UK is one of the few countries which flatly refuses to comment on covert military activities to either the media or to questions by elected lawmakers in parliament.
Calls for a new war powers act have been backed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, among others, who made his case to the Middle East Eye website in August.
“I’m very concerned about this because [former Prime Minister] David Cameron – I imagine [Prime Minister] Theresa May would say the same – would say parliamentary convention requires a parliamentary mandate to deploy British troops. Except, and they’ve all used the ‘except,’ when special forces are involved,” Corbyn said.
His comments were immediately attacked by former soldier-turned-Tory MP Bob Stewart, who told the Times that the PM must have the opportunity to deploy troops “when they think it’s crucial.”
President Obama’s announcement of a waiver for arming unspecified rebel groups in Syria came shortly before the terrorist group Islamic State launched a massive attack on Palmyra. Syrian President Bashar Assad believes it was no coincidence, he told RT.
“The announcement of the lifting of that embargo is related directly to the attack on Palmyra and to the support of other terrorists outside Aleppo, because when they are defeated in Aleppo, the United States and the West, they need to support their proxies somewhere else,” he said.
“The crux of that announcement is to create more chaos, because the United States creates chaos in order to manage this chaos,” Assad added.
He added that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) forces “came with different and huge manpower and firepower that ISIS never had before during this attack, and they attacked on a huge front, tens of kilometers that could be a front of armies. ISIS could only have done that with the support of states. Not state; states.”
In the interview, the Syrian leader explained how his approach to fighting terrorism differs from that of the US, why he believes the military success of his forces in Aleppo was taken so negatively in the West, and what he expects from US President-elect Donald Trump.
The full transcript of the interview is below.
RT: Mr. President, thank you very much for agreeing to speak with us.
President Bashar al-Assad: You’re most welcome in Damascus.
RT: We start with Aleppo, of course. Aleppo is now seeing what is perhaps the most fierce fighting since the war started almost six years ago here in Syria, but the Western politicians and Western media have been largely negative about your army’s advance. Why you think this is happening? Do they take it as their own defeat?
B.A.: Actually, after they failed in Damascus, because the whole narrative was about “liberating Damascus from the state” during the first three years. When they failed, they moved to Homs, when they failed in Homs, they moved to Aleppo, they focused on Aleppo during the last three years, and for them this is the last most important card they could have played on the Syrian battlefield. Of course, they still have terrorists in different areas in Syria, but it’s not like talking about Aleppo as the second largest city which has the political, military, economic, and even moral sense when their terrorists are defeated. So, for them the defeat of the terrorists is the defeating of their proxies, to talk bluntly. These are their proxies, and for them the defeat of these terrorists is the defeat of the countries that supervised them, whether regional countries or Western countries like United States, first of all United States, and France, and UK.
RT: So, you think they take it as their own defeat, right?
B.A.: Exactly, that’s what I mean. The defeat of the terrorists, this is their own defeat because these are their real army on the ground. They didn’t interfere in Syria, or intervened, directly; they have intervened through these proxies. So, that’s how we have to look at it if we want to be realistic, regardless of their statements, of course.
RT: Palmyra is another troubled region now, and it’s now taken by ISIS or ISIL, but we don’t hear a lot of condemnation about it. Is that because of the same reason?
B.A.: Exactly, because if it was captured by the government, they will be worried about the heritage. If we liberate Aleppo from the terrorists, they would be – I mean, the Western officials and the mainstream media – they’re going to be worried about the civilians. They’re not worried when the opposite happens, when the terrorists are killing those civilians or attacking Palmyra and started destroying the human heritage, not only the Syrian heritage. Exactly, you are right, because ISIS, if you look at the timing of the attack, it’s related to what’s happening in Aleppo. This is the response to what’s happening in Aleppo, the advancement of the Syrian Arab Army, and they wanted to make this… or let’s say, to undermine the victory in Aleppo, and at the same time to distract the Syrian Army from Aleppo, to make it move toward Palmyra and stop the advancement, but of course it didn’t work.
‘ISIS could only attack Palmyra the way it did with supervision of US alliance’
RT: We also hear reports that Palmyra siege was not only related to Aleppo battle, but also to what was happening in Iraq, and there are reports that the US-led coalition – which is almost 70 countries – allowed ISIL fighters in Mosul in Iraq to leave, and that strengthened ISIL here in Syria. Do you think it could be the case?
B.A.: It could be, but this is only to wash the hand of the American politicians from their responsibility on the attack, when they say “just because of Mosul, of course, the Iraqi army attacked Mosul, and ISIS left Mosul to Syria.” That’s not the case. Why? Because they came with different and huge manpower and firepower that ISIS never had before during this attack, and they attacked on a huge front, tens of kilometers that could be a front of armies. ISIS could only have done that with the support of states. Not state; states. They came with different machineguns, cannons, artillery, everything is different. So, it could only happen when they come in this desert with the supervision of the American alliance that’s supposed to attack them in al-Raqqa and Mosul and Deir Ezzor, but it didn’t happen; they either turned a blind eye on what ISIS is going to do, and, or – and that’s what I believe – they pushed toward Palmyra. So, it’s not about Mosul. We don’t have to fall in that trap. It’s about al-Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. They are very close, only a few hundred kilometers, they could come under the supervision of the American satellites and the American drones and the American support.
RT: How strong is ISIS today?
B.A.: As strong as the support that they get from the West and regional powers. Actually, they’re not strong for… if you talk isolated case, ISIS as isolated case, they’re not strong, because they don’t have the natural social incubator. Without it, terrorists cannot be strong enough. But the real support they have, the money, the oil field investment, the support of the American allies’ aircraft, that’s why they are strong. So, they are as strong as their supporters, or as their supervisors.
RT: In Aleppo, we heard that you allowed some of these terrorists to leave the battleground freely. Why would you do that? It’s clear that they can go back to, let’s say, Idleb, and get arms and get ready for further attacks, then maybe attack those liberating Aleppo.
B.A.: Exactly, exactly, that’s correct, and that’s been happening for the last few years, but you always have things to lose and things to gain, and when the gain is more than what you lose, you go for that gain. In that case, our priority is to protect the area from being destroyed because of the war, to protect the civilians who live there, to give the chance for those civilians to leave through the open gates, to leave that area to the areas under the control of the government, and to give the chance to those terrorists to change their minds, to join the government, to go back to their normal life, and to get amnesty. When they don’t, they can leave with their armaments, with the disadvantage that you mentioned, but this is not our priority, because if you fight them in any other area outside the city, you’re going to have less destruction and less civilian casualties, that’s why.
‘Fighting terrorists US-style cannot solve the problem’
RT: I feel that you call them terrorists, but at the same time you treat them as human beings, you tell them “you have a chance to go back to your normal life.”
B.A.: Exactly. They are terrorists because they are holding machineguns, they kill, they destroy, they commit vandalism, and so on, and that’s natural, everywhere in the world that’s called as terrorism. But at the same time, they are humans who committed terrorism. They could be something else. They joined the terrorists for different reasons, either out of fear, for the money, sometimes for the ideology. So, if you can bring them back to their normal life, to be natural citizens, that’s your job as a government. It’s not enough to say “we’re going to fight terrorists.” Fighting terrorists is like a videogame; you can destroy your enemy in the videogame, but the videogame will generate and regenerate thousands of enemies, so you cannot deal with it on the American way: just killing, just killing! This is not our goal; this is the last option you have. If you can change, this is a good option, and it succeeded. It succeeded because many of those terrorists, when you change their position, some of them living normal lives, and some of them joined the Syrian Army, they fought with the Syrian Army against the other terrorists. This is success, from our point of view.
RT: Mr. President, you just said that you gain and you lose. Do you feel you’ve done enough to minimize civilian casualties during this conflict?
B.A.: We do our utmost. What’s enough, this is subjective; each one could look at it in his own way. At the end, what’s enough is what you can do; my ability as a person, the ability of the government, the ability of Syria as a small country to face a war that’s been supported by tens of countries, mainstream media’s hundreds of channels, and other machines working against you. So, it depends on the definition of “enough,” so this is, as I said, very subjective, but I’m sure that we are doing our best. Nothing is enough at the end, and the human practice is always full of correct and flows, or mistakes, let’s say, and that’s the natural thing.
‘West’s cries for ceasefire meant to save terrorists’
RT: We hear Western powers asking Russia and Iran repeatedly to put pressure on you to, as they put it, “stop the violence,” and just recently, six Western nations, in an unprecedented message, asked Russia and Iran again to put pressure on you, asking for a ceasefire in Aleppo.
RT: Will you go for it? At the time when your army was progressing, they were asking for a ceasefire.
B.A.: Exactly. It’s always important in politics to read between the lines, not to be literal. It doesn’t matter what they ask; the translation of their statement is for Russia: “please stop the advancement of the Syrian Army against the terrorists.” That’s the meaning of that statement, forget about the rest. “You went too far in defeating the terrorists, that shouldn’t happen. You should tell the Syrians to stop this, we have to keep the terrorists and to save them.” This is in brief.
Second, Russia never – these days, I mean, during this war, before that war, during the Soviet Union – never tried to interfere in our decision. Whenever they had opinion or advice, doesn’t matter how we can look at it, they say at the end “this is your country, you know what the best decision you want to take; this is how we see it, but if you see it in a different way, you know, you are the Syrian.” They are realistic, and they respect our sovereignty, and they always defend the sovereignty that’s based on the international law and the Charter of the United Nations. So, it never happened that they made any pressure, and they will never do it. This is not their methodology.
RT: How strong is the Syrian Army today?
B.A.: It’s about the comparison, to two things: first of all, the war itself; second, to the size of Syria. Syria is not a great country, so it cannot have a great army in the numerical sense. The support of our allies was very important; mainly Russia, and Iran. After six years, or nearly six years of the war, which is longer than the first World War and the second World War, it’s definitely and self-evident that the Syrian Army is not to be as strong as it was before that. But what we have is determination to defend our country. This is the most important thing. We lost so many lives in our army, we have so many martyrs, so many disabled soldiers. Numerically, we lost a lot, but we still have this determination, and I can tell you this determination is much stronger than before the war. But of course, we cannot ignore the support from Russia, we cannot ignore the support from Iran, that make this determination more effective and efficient.
‘Stronger Russia, China make world a safer place’
RT: President Obama has lifted a ban on arming some Syrian rebels just recently. What impact do you think could it have on the situation on the ground, and could it directly or indirectly provide a boost to terrorists?
B.A.: We’re not sure that he lifted that embargo when he announced it. Maybe he lifted it before, but announced it later just to give it the political legitimacy, let’s say. This is first. The second point, which is very important: the timing of the announcement and the timing of attacking Palmyra. There’s a direct link between these two, so the question is to whom those armaments are going to? In the hands of who? In the hands of ISIS and al-Nusra, and there’s coordination between ISIS and al-Nusra. So, the announcement of this lifting of that embargo is related directly to the attack on Palmyra and to the support of other terrorists outside Aleppo, because when they are defeated in Aleppo, the United States and the West, they need to support their proxies somewhere else, because they don’t have any interest in solving the conflict in Syria. So, the crux of that announcement is to create more chaos, because the United States creates chaos in order to manage this chaos, and when they manage it, they want to use the different factors in that chaos in order to exploit the different parties of the conflict, whether they are internal parties or external parties.
RT: Mr. President, how do you feel about being a small country in the middle of this tornado of countries not interested in ending the war here?
B.A.: Exactly. It’s something we’ve always felt before this war, but we felt it more of course today, because small countries feel safer when there’s international balance, and we felt the same, what you just mentioned, after the collapse of the Soviet Union when there was only American hegemony, and they wanted to implement whatever they want and to dictate all their policies on everyone. Small countries suffer the most. So, we feel it today, but at the same time, today there’s more balance with the Russian role. That’s why I think we always believe the more Russia is stronger – I’m not only talking about Syria, I’m talking about every small country in the world – whenever the stronger Russia, more rising China, we feel more secure. It’s painful, I would say it’s very painful, this situation that we’ve been living, on every level; humanitarian level, the feeling, the loss, everything. But at the end, it’s not about losing and winning; it’s about either winning or losing your country. It’s existential threat for Syria. It’s not about government losing against other government or army against army; either the country will win, or the country will disappear. That’s how we look at it. That’s why you don’t have time to feel that pain; you only have time to fight and defend and do something on the ground.
‘Mainstream media lost credibility along with moral compass’
RT: Let’s talk about media’s role in this conflict.
RT: All sides during this war have been accused of civilian casualties, but the Western media has been almost completely silent about the atrocities committed by the rebels… what role is the media playing here?
B.A.: First of all, the mainstream media with their fellow politicians, they are suffering during the last few decades from moral decay. So, they have no morals. Whatever they talk about, whatever they mention or they use as mask, human rights, civilians, children; they use all these just for their own political agenda in order to provoke the feelings of their public opinion to support them in their intervention in this region, whether militarily or politically. So, they don’t have any credibility regarding this. If you want to look at what’s happening in the United States is rebellion against the mainstream media, because they’ve been lying and they kept lying to their audiences. We can tell that, those, let’s say, the public opinion or the people in the West doesn’t know the real story in our region, but at least they know that the mainstream media and their politicians were lying to them for their own vested interests agenda and vested interests politicians. That’s why I don’t think the mainstream media could sell their stories anymore and that’s why they are fighting for their existence in the West, although they have huge experience and huge support and money and resources, but they don’t have something very important for them to survive, which is the credibility. They don’t have it, they lost it. They don’t have the transparency, that’s why they don’t have credibility. That’s why they are very coward today, they are afraid of your channel, of any statement that could tell the truth because it’s going to debunk their talks. That’s why.
RT: Reuters news agency have been quoting Amaq, ISIL’s mouthpiece, regarding the siege of Palmyra. Do you think they give legitimacy to extremists in such a way? They’re quoting their media.
B.A.: Even if they don’t mention their news agencies, they adopt their narrative anyway. But if you look at the technical side of the way ISIS presented itself from the very beginning through the videos and the news and the media in general and the PR, they use Western technique. Look at it, it’s very sophisticated. How could somebody who’s under siege, who’s despised all over the world, who’s under attack from the airplanes, who the whole world wants to liberate every city from him, could be that sophisticated unless he is not relaxed and has all the support? So, I don’t think it is about Amaq; it’s about the West adopting their stories, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly.
RT: Donald Trump takes over as US President in a few weeks. You mentioned America many times today. What do you expect from America’s new administration?
B.A.: His rhetoric during the campaign was positive regarding the terrorism, which is our priority today. Anything else is not priority, so, I wouldn’t focus on anything else, the rest is American, let’s say, internal matters, I wouldn’t worry about. But the question whether Trump has the will or the ability to implement what he just mentioned. You know that most of the mainstream media and big corporate, the lobbies, the Congress, even some in his party were against him; they want to have more hegemony, more conflict with Russia, more interference in different countries, toppling governments, and so on. He said something in the other direction. Could he sustain against all those after he started next month? That’s the question. If he could, I think the world will be in a different place, because the most important thing is the relation between Russia and the Unites States. If he goes towards that relation, most of the tension around the world will be pacified. That’s very important for us in Syria, but I don’t think anyone has the answer to that. He wasn’t a politician, so, we don’t have any reference to judge him, first. Second, nobody can tell what kind of pattern is it going to be next month and after.
‘Western countries only sent aid to terrorists’
RT: The humanitarian situation in Syria is a disaster, and we hear from EU foreign policy chief, Madam Mogherini, that EU is the only entity to deliver humanitarian aid to Syria. Is that true?
B.A.: Actually, all the aid that any Western country sent was to the terrorists, to be very clear, blunt and very transparent. They never cared about a single Syrian human life. We have so many cities in Syria till today surrounded by and besieged by the terrorists; they prevented anything to reach them, food, water, anything, all the basic needs of life. Of course, they attack them on daily basis by mortars and try to kill them. What did the EU send to those? If they are worried about the human life, if they talk about the humanitarian aspect, because when you talk about the humanitarian aspect or issue, you don’t discriminate. All the Syrians are humans, all the people are humans. They don’t do that. So, this is the double standard, this is the lie that they keep telling, and it’s becoming a disgusting lie, no-one is selling their stories anymore. That’s not true, what she mentioned, not true.
RT: Some suggestions say that for Syria, the best solution would to split into separate countries governed by Sunni, Shi’a, Kurds. Is it in any way possible?
B.A.: This is the Western – with some regional countries’ – hope or dream, and this is not new, not related to this war; that was before the war, and you have maps for this division and disintegration. But actually, if you look at the society today, the Syrian society is more unified than before the war. This is reality. I’m not saying anything to raise the morale of anyone, I’m not talking to Syrian audience anyway now, I’m talking about the reality. Because of the lessons of the war, the society became more realistic and pragmatic and many Syrians knew that being fanatic doesn’t help, being extreme in any idea, I’m not only talking about extremism in the religious meaning; politically, socially, culturally, doesn’t help Syria. Only when we accept each other, when we respect each other, we can live with each other and we can have one country. So, regarding the disintegration of Syria, if you don’t have this real disintegration among the society and different shades and spectrum of the Syrian society, Syrian fabric, you cannot have division. It’s not a map you draw, I mean, even if you have one country while the people are divided, you have disintegration. Look at Iraq, it’s one country, but it is disintegrated in reality. So, no, I’m not worried about this. There’s no way that Syrians will accept that. I’m talking now about the vast majority of the Syrians, because this is not new, this is not the subject of the last few weeks or the last few months. This is the subject of this war. So, after nearly six years, I can tell you the majority of the Syrians wouldn’t accept anything related to disintegration, they are going to live as one Syria.
RT: As a mother, I feel the pain of all Syrian mothers. I’m speaking about children in Syria, what does the future hold for them?
B.A.: This is the most dangerous aspect of our problem, not only in Syria; wherever you talk about this dark Wahhabi ideology, because many of those children who became young during the last decade, or more than one decade, who joined the terrorists on ideological basis, not for the like of money or anything else, or hope, let’s say, they came from open-minded families, educated families, intellectual families. So, you can imagine how strong the terrorism is.
‘Being secular doesn’t protect a nation from terrorist ideology’
RT: So, that happened because of their propaganda?
B.A.: Exactly, because the ideology is very dangerous; it knows no borders, no political borders, and the network, the worldwide web has helped those terrorists using fast and inexpensive tools in order to promote their ideology, and they could infiltrate any family anywhere in the world, whether in Europe, in your country, in my country, anywhere. You have secular society, I have secular society, but it didn’t protect the society from being infiltrated.
RT: Do you have any counter ideology for this?
B.A.: Exactly, because they built their ideology on the Islam, you have to use the same ideology, using the real Islam, the real moderate Islam, in order to counter their ideology. This is the fast way. If we want to talk about the mid-term and long-term, it’s about how much can you upgrade the society, the way the people analyze and think, because this ideology can only work when you cannot analyze, when you don’t think properly. So, it’s about the algorithm of the mind, if you have natural or healthy operating system, if you want to draw an analogy to the IT, if you have good operating systems in our mind, they cannot infiltrate it like a virus. So, it’s about the education, media and policy because sometimes when you have a cause, a national cause, and people lose hope, you can push those people towards being extremists, and this is one of the influences in our region since the seventies, after the war between the Arabs and the Israelis, and the peace failed in every aspect to recapture the land, to give the land and the rights to its people, you have more desperation, and that played into the hand of the extremists, and this is where the Wahhabi find fertile soil to promote its ideology.
RT: Mr. President, thank you very much for your time, and I wish your country peace and prosperity, and as soon as possible.
B.A.: Thank you very much for coming.
RT: This time has been very tough for you, so I wish it’s going to end soon.
B.A.: Thank you very much for coming to Syria. I’m very glad to receive you.
RT: Thank you.
Is there a way the United States or one of the Islamic State’s admitted state sponsors could be airdropping supplies without triggering suspicion? How has modern airdrop technology and techniques evolved that might make this possible?
When asking these questions, they must first be understood in the context that:
(A.) According to Wikileaks, within the e-mails of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton it was acknowledged that the governments of two of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were providing material support to the Islamic State (IS);
(B.) That according to the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) (PDF), the US and its allies sought to use a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria as a strategic asset against the Syrian government, precisely where the Islamic (Salafist) State (principality) eventually manifested itself and;
(C.) That the fighting capacity of the Islamic State is on such a large and sustained level, it can only be the result of immense and continuous state sponsorship, including a constant torrent of supplies by either ground or air (or both).
Within this context, we can already partially answer these questions with confirmed statements made by another of America’s closest allies in the region, and a long-time NATO member, Turkey.
It was a May 2016 Washington Times article titled, “Turkey offers joint ops with U.S. forces in Syria, wants Kurds cut out,” that quoted none other than the Turkish Foreign Minister himself admitting (emphasis added):
Joint operations between Washington and Ankara in Manbji, a well-known waypoint for Islamic State fighters, weapons and equipment coming from Turkey bound for Raqqa, would effectively open “a second front” in the ongoing fight to drive the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, from Syria’s borders, [Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu] said.
And clearly, by simply looking at maps of the Syrian conflict over the past 5 years, the supply corridors used by the Islamic State, via Turkey, to resupply its region-wide warfare were significant until Kurdish fighters reduced them to one, now the epicenter of a questionable Turkish military incursion into northern Syria.
With the Islamic State’s ground routes hindered, is there another way the US or at the very least, admittedly its Islamic State-sponsoring allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar could deliver food, ammunition, weapons and even small vehicles to the militant group, still held up in Syria’s eastern city of Al Raqqa?
The answer is yes.
Modern American Airdrop Capabilities
A system developed years ago for the United States military called Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) allows cargo aircraft to release airdrops of supplies from as high as 25,000 feet and as far from a drop zone as 25-30 kilometers. A Global Positioning System (GPS) and an airborne guidance unit automate the drop’s trajectory to land within 100 meters of a predetermined drop zone. The system also makes it possible to release several drops at once and have them directed toward different drop zones.
The US military has already received this system and it has been in use for years. At least one Persian Gulf state has taken delivery of the system as well, the United Arab Emirates.
Defense Industry Daily would report that in 2013, the UAE would order the system for use with its C-130H and C-17 aircraft. The same report would note that the system is used by several other NATO allies.
The US has admittedly used this system to drop supplies to both Kurdish fighters and anti-government militants in Syria, including at least one instance where supply pallets ended up “accidentally” with the Islamic State.
In addition to airdrops made by large, manned cargo aircraft, the US has admittedly used drones to drop supplies across the region, the Guardian would admit.
The US Already Makes Airdrops to the Islamic State
The Washington Post in a 2014 article titled, “U.S. accidentally delivered weapons to the Islamic State by airdrop, militants say,” claims:
The Islamic State has released a new video in which it brags that it recovered weapons and supplies that the U.S. military intended to deliver to Kurdish fighters, who are locked in a fight with the militants over control of the Syrian border town of Kobane.
The Washington Post also admits (emphasis added):
The incident highlights the difficulty in making sure all airdrops are accurate, even with GPS-guided parachutes that the Air Force commonly uses. Airdrops of food and water to religious minorities trapped on mountain cliffs in northern Iraq in August hit the mark about 80 percent of the time, Pentagon officials said at the time.
This (and similar incidents) may represent an accident in which JPADS performed poorly. Or it could represent an intentional airdrop meant to resupply Islamic State terrorists with the Washington Post article attempting to explain away how GPS-guided airdrops could “accidentally” end up in enemy territory.
Reports from Qatari-based Al Jazeera claim the US has also dropped weapons to militants other than Kurdish fighters. In an article titled, “US drops weapons to rebels battling ISIL in Syria,” Al Jazeera claims:
The US has reportedly dropped weapons to rebel fighters in Syria as the UN Security Council considers dropping food and medicine by air to civilians.
It also claims that:
The weapons supplies were airdropped to rebels in Marea, a town in the northern province of Aleppo, on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.
“Coalition airplanes dropped … ammunitions, light weapons and anti-tank weapons to rebels in Marea,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the SOHR head, said.
The Guardian would also admit to the US carrying out similar airdrops in Syria.
Knowingly Dropping Supplies into Terrorist-Held Territory
And more recently, there has been a push to drop supplies into eastern Aleppo in an attempt to prolong the fighting and prevent the complete collapse of a militant presence there, specifically using JPADS, according to the Guardian.
Another Guardian article reveals that US drones have previously been used to make airdrops in the region and might be used again to create an “air bridge” to militant-held areas of Syria.
However, even most US and European sources have admitted to a heavy presence of Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise in the city, Jabhat Al Nusra, a designated foreign terrorist organization even according to the US State Department.
If the US would seriously consider airdropping supplies to Al Qaeda to prolong fighting and to continue confounding Syrian forces, why wouldn’t they also airdrop supplies to the Islamic State to do the same?
With the ability to drop supplies from as high as 25,000 feet and from as far away as 25-30 kilometers (and possibly even further as was envisioned by future designs), the US or its allies could appear to be resupplying what it calls “moderate rebels” on one part of the battlefield, while diverting a percentage of its drops into Al Qaeda or Islamic State territory. Drones could also be utilized to create “air bridges” harder to detect than those created using larger cargo aircraft.
With the Islamic State’s fighting capacity still potent both in Iraq and Syria, and with Kurdish fighters sealing off ground routes along the Syrian border, unless Turkey within its “buffer zone” is passing weapons onward to the Islamic State, what other means could this terrorist organization be using to resupply its regional war effort, if not by air?
For those seriously committed to defeating the Islamic State and other armed groups operating within Syrian territory, answering this question will bring peace and security one step closer.
President-elect Donald Trump has named retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as his new national security adviser, according to a close source. The former DIA chief has been criticized in US circles for refusing to take an anti-Russian stance.
The 57-year-old three-star general, who once ran the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), is considered a controversial figure in US circles for a number of reasons. In May, he claimed in an Al Jazeera interview that the rise of Islamic extremism in the Middle East, including the emergence of Al-Nusra Front and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria, was not the result of chance or ignorance – but of calculated thinking.
General Flynn dismissed Al Jazeera’s suggestion that the Obama administration had simply overlooked the DIA’s analysis, instead arguing that the government had “turned a blind eye” on his agency on purpose.“I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision,” the former DIA chief said, referring to a highly-contentious 2012 DIA memo.
The Pentagon veteran, who was a key figure in the Bush administration’s War on Terror, also lambasted Washington for criticizing Russia’s plans to fight Islamic State in Syria. Flynn told RT in October that he strongly believes that “Russia and the United States working together and trying to work with the other partners that we all have in this region can come up with some other solutions.”
“We have to understand as Americans that Russia also has foreign policy; Russia also has a national security strategy. And I think that we failed to understand what that is,” said the former DIA chief.
Flynn was heavily criticized for taking this position. In a Washington Post interview, Dana Priest tried to portray him as a supporter of Russia, and therefore the antithesis of everything Washington stands for. The interviewer grilled Flynn about a trip he had taken to Moscow, when he was among the speakers and panel guests at an RT conference celebrating its first 10 years on air, and met with President Vladimir Putin. When Priest questioned Flynn about his opinion of RT, the general replied that he didn’t see a difference between the work of RT and US news networks like MSNBC and CNN.
In US circles, the Pentagon veteran is seen by some as representing the legacy of firebrand former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. As the former commander of special ops in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is considered to be “one of the most influential figures in the dramatic post-9/11 expansion of the role of US Special Operations forces globally,” the Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill wrote in September.
Appointment to the post of national security adviser does not require confirmation by the Senate, and the choice of the former DIA chief was merely a rumor until it was confirmed on November 18 by NBC, which spoke to an official close to the transition.
Flynn will be replacing Susan Rice, and is considered to be part of Donald Trump’s cabinet reshuffle that aims to reflect a tougher stance toward both friends and rivals. Flynn was DIA chief in 2012-2014, but reportedly left early due to clashes with senior Obama officials. He is also known for proposing an overhaul of the DIA that was met with opposition.
The controversial figure and Trump loyalist is perhaps best known to the American public for making incendiary remarks about Islam in past tweets, such as the one claiming that it is “rational” to fear Muslims.
There continues to be anxiety about what the new US president will do on a whole series of issues, including, but not limited to, Syria, Iran, and Russia. Trump is expected to make his first international appearance at this summer’s G20 and NATO summits.
On the heels of damning WikiLeaks revelations, the Clinton Foundation has confirmed allegations that it received a $1 million ‘gift’ from Qatar without telling the State Department, breaking a signed agreement requiring it to reveal all foreign donations.
The payment, which was first revealed in an email exchange with Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta a month ago, has just been officially confirmed by the Foundation. The check was reportedly a gift to former President Bill Clinton in 2011 for his 65h birthday. A meeting was to take place between him and Qatari officials at some point, according to an email published last month. It is not clear if this ever took place, however.
Earlier in 2009, when Clinton became Secretary of State, she had to sign an agreement to prevent any conflicts of interest which stipulated that her influential global foundation could not receive any support from foreign sources without her notifying the State Department, according to Reuters. This was intended to ensure transparency and combat public perception that US foreign policy could be dictated by foreign money.
The agreement was also designed to give the State Department time to examine donations and raise any concerns in cases when a foreign entity wanted to “increase materially” the funding for any of the Foundation’s programs.
However, Clinton kept the $1 million check from Qatar a secret. While Foundation officials declined to confirm its existence last month, with just days to go before the election, the daily WikiLeaks revelations, and the FBI’s relaunched investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server gaining momentum, its spokesman, Brian Cookstra, finally admitted to receiving the money, though he insisted that the sum did not qualify as a “material increase” in Qatari support of the foundation.
When Cookstra was asked by Reuters what the Foundation considered an increase in funding, he refused to specify, only saying that the Qatar donations were intended for “overall humanitarian work.”
For additional comments, Reuters tried to contact the Qatari embassy, the Clinton presidential campaign and Bill Clinton personally, but received no response from any.
Although Cookstra said the sum did not constitute an increase in funding, there is evidence of at least eight other countries besides Qatar whose donations can clearly be construed as an ‘increase in funding.’ This includes the UK, which tripled the sum slated for the Foundation’s health project to $11.2 million in the years 2009-2012.
When questioned by Reuters last year, Cookstra admitted that a complete list of donors hadn’t been published since 2010. In other cases, the Foundation said that there was either no increase in funding, or that a particular donation had simply slipped past unnoticed, and should have been caught earlier.
The only thing that’s certain, and spelled out on the Foundation’s website, is that it received up to $5 million from the Gulf Kingdom over the years. However, the Foundation appears to want all of this to be relegated to the past. It promised in August that, if Hillary becomes president, it will stop accepting money from all foreign governments and close down any ongoing programs sustained by those funds.
According to Foundation records and testimony, the Qatar money continued to come in at “equal or lower” levels after 2009, but it declined to specify the differences in the funding before and after that period, or if it had changed significantly after Clinton took on the post of secretary of state.
A former Foundation fundraiser details some $21 million raised for Bill Clinton’s birthday in another email.
The Foundation’s somewhat forced admission that it had received Qatari money comes shortly after a recently leaked email exchange between Clinton and her campaign manager, John Podesta, from 2014 startlingly revealed that she was aware Qatar and Saudi Arabia are directly funding Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] terrorists. This was discussed at length in John Pilger’s exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that airs on RT on Saturday and can be viewed in full here.
The WikiLeaks founder points to clear evidence that Clinton knew about her donors’ questionable dealings as early as several years back. The 2014 email from Clinton to Podesta says “that ISIL, ISIS is funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar – the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar,” according to Assange.
Assange admitted to Pilger, “I actually think this is the most significant email in the whole collection.”
“And perhaps because Saudi and Qatari money is spread all over the place, including into many media institutions, all serious analysts know, even the US government has mentioned or agreed with that some Saudi figures have been supporting ISIS, funding ISIS. But the dodge has always been, that’s… what… it’s just some rogue princes using their cut of the oil money to do what they like, but actually the government disapproves. But that email says that – no, it is the governments of Saudi and the government of Qatar that have been funding ISIS.”
Pilger and Assange go on to discuss Clinton as a “cog” in a greater machine involving big business, banks, and “a network of relationships with particular states.” According to Assange, she is “the centralizer that interconnects all these different cogs.”
Israel has condemned a “shameful” event hosted by the British House of Lords in which Jews were blamed for the Holocaust and Israel was compared to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
The session marked the launch of the Balfour Apology Campaign ahead of the Balfour Declaration centenary. The 1917 declaration pledged British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
A spokesperson for the Israeli embassy said the gathering “gave voice to racist tropes against Jews and Israelis alike.”
According to the Times, an audience member was applauded after suggesting Hitler only decided to kill Jews after being provoked by anti-German protests led by a rabbi, Stephen Wise, in New York.
“[He] made the boycott on Germany, the economic boycott… which antagonized Hitler, over the edge, to then want to systematically kill Jews wherever he could find them.”
The speaker also said Rabbi Wise told the New York Times in 1905 there were “6 million bleeding and suffering reasons to justify Zionism.” This quote is often used by Holocaust deniers to suggest the figure of 6 million Jews later killed by the Nazis was a myth.
The audience member – reportedly a member of the anti-Zionist strictly Orthodox Neturei Karta sect – also compared Israel to IS.
“Just as the so-called Jewish state in Palestine doesn’t come from Judaism. This Islamic State in Syria is nothing with Islam. It is a perversion of Islam just as Zionism is a perversion of Judaism.”
Another audience member said, to applause: “If anybody is anti-Semitic, it’s Israelis themselves.”
David Collier, a blogger who attended the session, says he “witnessed a Jew-hating festival at the heart of the British estate.”
The event run by Baroness Tonge, a former Liberal Democrat MP who sits as an independent, and the Palestinian Return Centre.
Tonge reportedly made no attempt to challenge the comments.
She has run into trouble for her own anti-Israeli outbursts and resigned as the Lib Dem whip after claiming the state of Israel was “not going to be there forever.”
The House of Lords event was also run by the Palestinian Return Centre.
Campaigners are calling on Britain to apologize for the Balfour Declaration and show remorse for its “past colonial crimes” in Palestine.
On October 21, on the initiative of the UK, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) met to discuss the recent situation in Aleppo. The discussions demonstrated a huge divergence of opinions and views on the realities in Aleppo and the Syrian crisis as a whole.
HRC has been reviewing the Syrian file for more than four years now, but regrettably its assessments are becoming a far cry from reality due to the efforts of certain states, including those who call themselves the “Friends of Syria”, to politicize the matter. The current session has been a case study in this.
Instead of supporting the fight against international terrorism, the initiators of the HRC special session, as a matter of fact, tried to let the terrorists off the hook, save them from defeat and allow them to regroup and continue to commit atrocities in Syria. There is no other explanation for the fact that a HRC draft resolution didn’t demand the terrorists and militants cease hostilities, obstructing humanitarian access, using civilians as human shields, and stop preventing residents and medical workers from leaving the city via established humanitarian corridors.
Moreover, these countries tried to blame Russia for most of the developments in East Aleppo, while failing to pressure the rebels to abide by the ceasefire and respect humanitarian efforts. In fact, the whole situation in East Aleppo is held hostage to the terrorists designs.
Against this backdrop, the crimes committed by the US-led coalition are being silenced, despite their devastating strikes on civilians and Syrian army units. They are also systematically destroying the economic infrastructure in the Syrian Government-controlled areas (perhaps to make Syria depend on financial assistance for post-conflict reconstruction?). Now, it seems that ISIL fighters are being deliberately squeezed from Iraq’s Mosul into Syria.
Even more perplexing was the voting on Russia’s amendments to the HRC draft resolution. UK, France, Belgium and several other Western and Gulf countries flatly refused to admit the existence of foreign assistance to terrorists in Syria, to recognize the need to separate the jihadists from the moderate opposition (which is the subject matter being discussed by experts in Geneva as a follow-up to the recent multilateral talks in Lausanne) and to support the efforts of UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to remove the jihadists from eastern Aleppo. Such a stance suggests that the public rhetoric of those governments on the need to fight international terrorism in Syria does not reflect their true intentions and goals.
Our Western partners should understand that using HRC for attaining their own political goals is counterproductive and discredits this vital human rights agency and the doctrine of human rights as a whole. We hope that they will eventually see reason, stop supporting the jihadists and start fighting against them, facilitate the separation of terrorists from the moderate opposition, help oust Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies from Aleppo, stop supplying terrorists with arms and recruits, and promote the continuation of inter-Syrian talks to eventually settle the conflict in Syria. It has to be understood that if al-Nusra leads the opposition on the battlefield, it will call the tune at the talks on the side of the opposition. We must not allow them dictate to Syria and the world.
On its part, Russia will continue working towards a political settlement in Syria through talks between Damascus and the opposition based on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and compliance with UN Security Council resolutions.
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
The US military has dramatically increased the number of its airstrikes in Libya in less than a month, new data shows, further cementing President Barack Obama’s record of taking more military action than any other American president.
American fighter jets and drones stationed aboard the amphibious assault vessel USS Wasp off the Libyan coast, have so far carried out 324 airstrikes in the country, according to data by the Pentagon’s Africa Command, which leads the operation.
This is more than two times the 161 air raids that the US had carried out in Libya until September 21.
According to a report by Reuters, American aircraft had conducted more than 30 strikes across Libya between Saturday and Monday.
Washington began the air campaign on August 1, under the pretext of taking out the Daesh (ISIL) Takfiri terrorists, who rose to power in the oil-rich country after the NATO-backed ousting and death of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Initially, the White House had claimed that the bombing campaign would be focused on the Libyan coastal city of Sirte, which fell to Daesh last year, and would end in a few “weeks.”
However, Obama silently extended the prolonged campaign for another month in late September.
The military intervention is likely to continue over the next months, as indicated by a US military official in a Fox News interview on Monday.
“We continue to work with GNA (the Government of National Accord) aligned forces as they clear through Sirte and we now have better intelligence,” the official told Fox on the condition of anonymity.
In addition to the bombing campaign, US troops have also been “in and out” of Libya, according to Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Gordon Trowbridge.
The Obama administration has set a new record in terms of military intervention abroad, carrying out airstrikes and ground operations in at least seven countries, namely Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Libya.
Earlier this year, Obama regretted meddling in Libya as his “worst mistake,” because it led to a power vacuum that gave rise to terrorist groups in the country.
“People don’t trust Hillary Clinton, and no one can agree on why,” begins a sympathetic piece on the Democratic Party presidential candidate in Fast Company last July.
In a CNN poll that same month, only 30 percent of Americans believed Clinton to be “honest and trustworthy.”
If voters don’t know what to make of Clinton or how to read her, the blame may lie directly with the candidate herself. In an April 2013 speech made public by WikiLeaks last week, Clinton confided:
Politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be. But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.
That last “public vs. private” comment quickly made the media rounds, and confirmed – for her critics – Clinton’s deliberate duplicity on a number of policy positions.
WikiLeaks has provided an opportunity to delve into some of these, so let’s take a look at one very prominent feature of Clinton’s foreign policy agenda: Syria, a country that stands at the center of a potential global confrontation today.
Not a Syrian uprising; a regime change plan
A 2012 email released by WikiLeaks last year shows that, behind the scenes, Clinton’s State Department was calculating its Syria policy using entirely different metrics than its publicly-stated narrative of supporting reforms and rejecting violence:
It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria that makes it possible for Iran to undermine Israel’s security — not through a direct attack, which in the thirty years of hostility between Iran and Israel has never occurred, but through its proxies in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, that are sustained, armed and trained by Iran via Syria. The end of the Assad regime would end this dangerous alliance. Israel’s leadership understands well why defeating Assad is now in its interests.
The email, written by an unidentified person and included within the WikiLeaks ‘Clinton archive,’ lays out a plan:
Washington should start by expressing its willingness to work with regional allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to organize, train and arm Syrian rebel forces. The announcement of such a decision would, by itself, likely cause substantial defections from the Syrian military. Then, using territory in Turkey and possibly Jordan, US diplomats and Pentagon officials can start strengthening the opposition… Arming the Syrian rebels and using Western air power to ground Syrian helicopters and airplanes is a low-cost high payoff approach.
Arming a Syrian rebellion from outside the country was already a consideration “from the very beginning,” according to a recent WikiLeaks release of a June 2013 speech by Clinton:
So, the problem for the US and the Europeans has been from the very beginning: What is it you – who is it you are going to try to arm. And you probably read in the papers my view was we should try to find some of the groups that were there that we thought we could build relationships with and develop some covert connections that might then at least give us some insight into what is going on inside Syria.
Certainly, we know that by early 2012, the Obama and Erdogan administrations had struck a deal to establish a rat-line transporting weapons and ammunition from Libya to Syria – via the CIA and MI6, and funded by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The attack on the US consulate in Benghazi which killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens was only a temporary setback. Weapons and financial assistance to militants in Syria, however, continued to flow from America’s regional allies without any US push-back, even though Washington clearly knew arms were being siphoned to extremists.
A declassified DIA document from August 2012 circulated to Clinton’s State Department states plainly that “the Salafist, Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (Al-Qaeda in Iraq) are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” and that “the West, Gulf countries and Turkey support the opposition.”
But if US Special Forces were involved in driving arms and fighters into Syria in early 2012, the groundwork would have had to have begun many, many months before. The US military’s unconventional warfare (UW) strategy requires that target-state population perceptions are first “groomed” into accepting an armed insurrection, using “propaganda and political and psychological efforts to discredit the government”… creating “local and national ‘agitation’”… helping organize “boycotts, strikes and other efforts to suggest public discontent”… before beginning the “infiltration of foreign organizers and advisors and foreign propaganda, material, money, weapons and equipment.”
You get an idea of how this “propaganda” and “grooming” works in a June 2011 email from Clinton’s recently-departed Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter, who openly calls for fabricating sectarian narratives to incite Syrian protestors:
This suggests US should be making much more of the ways in which Syrian regime is simulating violence. Can’t we call for a meeting of the UNSC where we do not call for action but simply present information along the lines of what is recounted below so as to ‘bring it to the attention of the Council’ in a way that then has greater credibility globally? Making the point repeatedly that the regime wants this to look like/turn into sectarian violence? At the very least that can be broadcast back into Syria in various ways that will encourage protestors. There is an information war going on; we can do much more to elevate and legitimate the truth.
This is business as usual for a US State Department well-versed in sowing sectarian discord in the Middle East – all while publicly denouncing sectarian strife. A WikiLeaks email from 2006 shows that this thinking was already well-entrenched in Foggy Bottom, with a focus on “exploiting vulnerabilities” – particularly “sectarian” ones – inside Syria.
Fueling the sectarian Jihad
By late 2011, US intelligence had assessed that Al-Qaeda was operating inside Syria. This information was public, but not widely disseminated. Instead, Clinton’s team focused heavily on flogging the narrative that “Assad must go” because of his government’s widespread human rights violations.
Clinton liberally used the “humanitarian” pretext to advance a regime change agenda – pushing, behind the scenes, for increased assistance to militants and direct US military intervention, while publicly decrying the escalating violence inside Syria.
But did she give a toss about keeping Syrians safe? The evidence suggests otherwise. In this new WikiLeaks release of a speech to the Jewish United Fund in August 2013 – “flagged,” incidentally, by her staffers who worried about its content – Clinton outlines one possible Syria policy option:
One way is a very hands off, step back, we don’t have a dog in this hunt, let them kill themselves until they get exhausted, and then we’ll figure out how to deal with what the remnants are. That’s a position held by people who believe there is no way, not just for the United States but others, to stop the killing before the people doing the killing and the return killing are tired of killing each other. So it’s a very hands off approach.
To any observer of the foreign-fueled Syrian war of attrition, it looks very much like Clinton opted for this course of action.
And given that Washington’s allies in the Syrian fight consisted mainly of head-chopping, jihadist foot soldiers, Clinton’s scenario of a killing field to keep all sides “exhausted” may have even been the starting plan.
These fighters came equipped with a militant, sectarian mindset courtesy of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar – under the supervision, of course, of a CIA that cut its teeth doing the exact same thing with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan.
A WikiLeaks email sent from Hillary Clinton to her now-campaign chief John Podesta in August 2014 shows that the former Secretary of State is fully aware that her allies were partial to supporting terrorists:
While this military/paramilitary operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are, of course, two staunch US allies in the region that host American military bases and, apparently, also support ISIL.
Another October 2013 Clinton speech “flagged” by her campaign staff, and released by WikiLeaks this week, has her saying:
The Saudis and others are shipping large amounts of weapons – and pretty indiscriminately – not at all targeted toward the people that we think would be the more moderate, least likely, to cause problems in the future.
The State Department knows all too well that both fighters and weapons are fungible in the Syrian militant marketplace. It is a key reason the US has always resisted naming those groups it considers “moderate” rebels. Arms and supplies to US-backed groups have often found their way to ISIL and Al-Qaeda, with photo evidence aplenty making the social media rounds.
Despite these loaded disclosures, Clinton and other US policymakers still flog outdated narratives about an “evil Syrian regime killing innocent civilians” while ignoring the narrative they know to be true: bloodthirsty jihadists armed to the teeth by ideologically-aligned US allies.
This Syrian conflict – privately, at least – is about regime change at all costs for the hawkish side of the policy establishment which includes the CIA, Pentagon brass and Clinton. Publicly, however, it’s still about “crimes against humanity” – whatever that means today.
Earlier this month, Clinton began to publicly reveal that truth in advance of the November presidential election. Reuters reports Clinton as saying “removing President Bashar al-Assad is the top priority in Syria.”
She is also once again touting a “no-fly zone” over Syria – much as she did with Libya. In yet another speech ‘flagged’ by her campaign and released by WikiLeaks – this one delivered to Goldman Sachs at their CEO conference in June 2013 – Clinton explains:
To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk – you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians. So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.
So Clinton is advocating for a no-fly zone despite the fact that she recognizes she’s “going to kill a lot of Syrians.” Which then puts that other speech of hers about letting Syrians “kill themselves until they get exhausted” into context.
Her only regional allies in this endeavor will be the Saudis and Qataris, who we now know support ISIL and other terrorists inside Syria. We also know that Clinton will continue to ignore this indiscretion – not because of what she says, but because of what she does.
Her public-versus-private position on the Saudis, after all, has been bandied about since the 2010 WikiLeaks State Department cables were released.
In 2009, a secret WikiLeaks cable signed off by then- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reads, in part:
Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide… Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT (Laskhar-e Taiba), and other terrorist groups… It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.
Yet by 2011, Clinton was ushering through the biggest weapons sale to Saudi Arabia in US history – a massive $67 Billion arms dump into the epicenter of global terror.
Clinton is not averse to cashing in on Saudi riches for her and her family’s foundation either. The Clinton Foundation has received millions of dollars from Saudi, Qatari and other Gulf sources, despite the role their governments have played in funding global Jihad. And her campaign manager’s brother, Tony Podesta, just signed on to furnish the Saudi government with very expensive public relations services earlier this year.
There is something schizophrenic about Hillary Clinton’s compartmentalization of issues that speaks to the very competence of her judgment. Her whole private-versus-public-positions shtick is antithetical to the transparency, process and accountability demanded by democracy.
She speaks of her Iraq “mistake,” yet we have still not heard what lessons she has learned. And it grates, because we can see she has repeated them again and again, in Libya and in Syria.
The “public” Hillary Clinton supports self-determination, freedom and human rights for Syrians. The “private” Hillary Clinton supports the wholesale massacre of Syrians by a closely allied network of depraved sectarian terrorists – in order to weaken Iran and strengthen Israel.
If you’re one of those Americans who don’t trust her, you have good reason. At this point it is hard to ascertain if Clinton herself knows what her truth is anymore.