Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Monbiot Is a Hypocrite and a Bully

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | January 15, 2018

It is time for George Monbiot’s legion of supporters to call him out. Not only is he a hypocrite, but he is becoming an increasingly dangerous one.

Turning a blind eye to his behaviour, or worse excusing it, as too often happens, has only encouraged him to intensify his attacks on dissident writers, those who – whether right or wrong on any specific issue – are slowly helping us all to develop more critical perspectives on western foreign policy goals than has ever been possible before.

I do not lightly use such strong language against Monbiot, someone I once admired. But his column this week drips with hypocrisy as he accuses the right wing media of being the real villains when it comes to “no-platforming”. Monbiot writes:

But perhaps the real discomfort is that the worst no-platforming of all takes place within our newspapers. In the publications most obsessed with student silliness, there is no platform for socialism, no platform for environmentalism, no platform for those who might offend the interests of the proprietors. …

I believe that a healthy media organisation, like a healthy university, should admit a diversity of opinion. I want the other newspapers to keep publishing views with which I fiercely disagree. But they – and we – should also seek opposing views and publish them too, however uncomfortable this might be.

What free speech advocate would disagree with that? Except it is Monbiot himself who has been using his prominent platforms, at the Guardian and on social media, to discredit critical thinkers on the left – not with reasoned arguments, but by impugning their integrity.

Denied a platform

It started with his unsubstantiated claim that scholars like Noam Chomsky and the late Ed Herman, as well as the acclaimed journalist John Pilger, were “genocide deniers and belittlers”. It now focuses on childish insinuations that those who question the corporate media’s simplistic narrative on Syria are Assad apologists or in Vladimir Putin’s pay.

But worse than this, Monbiot is also conspiring – either actively or through his silence – to deny critics of his and the Guardian’s position on Syria the chance to set out their evidence in its pages.

The Guardian’s anti-democratic stance does not surprise me, as someone who worked there for many years. I found myself repeatedly no-platformed by the paper – even while on its staff – after I started taking an interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict and writing about the discomforting issue of what a Jewish state entails. My treatment is far from unique.

Now the paper is denying a platform to those who question simplistic and self-serving western narratives on Syria. And Monbiot is backing his employer to the hilt, even as he professes his commitment to the publication of views he fiercely disagrees with. That’s the dictionary definition of hypocrisy.

‘Selfless’ White Helmets?

The latest installment of the Guardian and Monbiot’s long-running battle to silence Syria dissidents arrived last month when Olivia Solon, the paper’s technology writer living in San Francisco, developed a sudden and unexpected expertise in a controversial Syrian group called the White Helmets.

In the western corporate media narrative, the White Helmets are a group of dedicated and selfless rescue workers. They are supposedly the humanitarians on whose behalf a western intervention in Syria would have been justified – before, that is, Syrian leader Bashar Assad queered their pitch by inviting in Russia.

However, there are problems with the White Helmets. They operate only in rebel – read: mainly al-Qaeda and ISIS-held – areas of Syria, and plenty of evidence shows that they are funded by the UK and US to advance both countries’ far-from-humanitarian policy objectives in Syria.

There are also strong indications that members of the White Helmets have been involved in war crimes, and that they have staged rescue operations as a part of a propaganda offensive designed to assist Islamic extremists trying to oust Assad. (Solon discounts this last claim. In doing so, she ignores several examples of such behaviour, concentrating instead on an improbable “mannequin challenge”, when the White Helmets supposedly froze their emergency operations, in the midst of rescue efforts, apparently as part of a peculiar publicity campaign.)

Guardian hatchet job

Whatever side one takes in this debate, one would imagine that Monbiot should have a clear agenda in support of hearing evidence from all sides. One might also imagine that he would want to distance himself from Solon’s efforts to tie criticism of the White Helmets to a supposed “fake news” crisis and paint those critical of the group as Putin-bots. According to Solon:

The way the Russian propaganda machine has targeted the White Helmets is a neat case study in the prevailing information wars. It exposes just how rumours, conspiracy theories and half-truths bubble to the top of YouTube, Google and Twitter search algorithms.

Those are the same algorithms that have been changed in recent months to make sure that prominent leftist websites are increasingly difficult to find on internet searches and their writers’ views effectively disappeared.

Yet Monbiot has been using social media to promote Solon’s cheerleading of the White Helmets and her hatchet job against on-the-ground journalists who have taken a far more critical view of the group.

As set out by Prof Tim Hayward, the Guardian’s response to criticism of Solon’s piece has been typical. The comments section below the article was hastily closed after many criticisms were voiced by readers. The journalists who were singled out for attack by Solon were denied a right of reply. A group of concerned academics led by Hayward who submitted their own article, which detailed publicly available evidence to counter Solon’s simplistic account of the White Helmets, were ignored. Meanwhile, the Guardian’s editors and the reader’s editor have ignored all efforts by these parties to contact them.

Given his claim to be an uncompromising defender of free speech and a fierce advocate of providing platforms to those who can back up their arguments with evidence, however discomforting, one might have assumed that Monbiot would at the very least have lobbied on behalf of Hayward and his fellow scholars. But not a bit of it. Yet again he has joined the dogs of the corporate media baying for blood. Instead he turned to Twitter to claim Hayward and Piers Robinson, an expert on propaganda, had “disgraced” themselves.

Undermining climate concerns

The many tens of thousands of leftists who defend Monbiot, or turn a blind eye to his hypocrisy, largely do so because of his record on the environment. But in practice they are enabling not only his increasingly overt incitement against critical thinkers, but also undermining the very cause his supporters believe he champions.

Climate breakdown is a global concern. Rewilding, bike-riding, protecting bees and polar bears, and developing new sustainable technologies are all vitally important. But such actions will amount to little if we fail to turn a highly sceptical eye on the activities of a western military-industrial complex ravaging the planet’s poorest regions.

These war industries fill their coffers by using weapons indiscriminately on “enemy” populations, spawning new and fiercer enemies – while often propping them up too – to generate endless wars. The consequences include massive displacements of these populations who then destabilise other regions, spreading the effect and creating new opportunities for the arms manufacturers, homeland security industries, and the financial industries that feed off them.

A true environmentalist has to look as critically at western policies in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela and many other areas of the globe as he does at UK policy in the Welsh hills and the Lake District.

All indications are that Monbiot lacks the experience, knowledge and skills to unravel the deceptions being perpetrated in the west’s proxy and not-so-proxy wars overseas. That is fair enough. What is not reasonable is that he should use his platforms to smear precisely those who can speak with a degree of authority and independence – and then conspire in denying them a platform to respond. That is the behaviour not only of a hypocrite, but of a bully too.

January 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US, Israel step up hybrid war in Syria

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | January 9, 2018

The Russian airbase in Syria, Hmeimim, and the naval base at Tartus came under simultaneous drone attack on Saturday. The advanced Russian air defence system thwarted the attack. A wave of 13 drones was involved, and, interestingly, three of them were brought down intact.

After forty-eight hours of careful analysis of the incident, the Russian Defence Ministry in Moscow came out with a statement on Monday:

  • During the hours of darkness Russian air defense facilities made clear 13 remoted unknown small-sized air targets approaching the Russian military assets. Ten combat UAVs were approaching Russia’s Hmeymim air base and three more — the logistics center of Tartus.
  • Engineering solutions used by terrorists when attacking Russian facilities in Syria could have been received only from a country with high technological potential on providing satellite navigation and distant control of firing competently assembled self-made explosive devices in appointed place. (TASS )

The countries with such “high technological potential” and capability for “Satellite navigation and distant control” which are involved in the proxy war in Syria are just two in number – United States and Israel. Take your pick. To my mind, it is improbable that Israel, despite its bravado, would dare to attack Russia.

In sum, there was a spiteful American attack on Russian “assets” on the Christmas Day of the Russian Orthodox Church. The statement in Moscow was made after evaluation of the 3 drones that have been captured. Its fairly explicit tone is meant for the folks in Pentagon. To be sure, Pentagon suo moto came out with a pre-emptive statement deflecting the blame to Syrian rebels. That is an act of plausible deniability, since there are rebel groups operating in northern Syria. But they are al-Qaeda affiliates, who are American and Israeli proxies. The RT has a tongue-in-cheek rejoinder, here, to the Pentagon disclaimer.

Why is the US contesting the Russian bases in Syria? The point is, these Russian bases are located in Latakia province along the Mediterranean coast. And the US military objective is to gain access to the Mediterranean coast for the Kurdistan enclave it is creating in Syria without which the enclave will be landlocked and dependent critically on supply routes via Turkey or Iraq, apart from being economically unviable (although it is an oil-rich region of Syria.)

The Saudi establishment daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Monday that the Trump administration is planning to grant diplomatic recognition to the Kurdistan enclave in northern Syria (which is of the size of Lebanon.) The idea is to create a permanent foothold for the US and Israel in a strategic, economically self-sufficient independent Kurdistan where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Syria meet, and which may eventually reach Iran’s western border with northern Iraq.

But the US-Israeli strategy will remain a pipedream if the Kurdistsn is land-locked and continues to be challenged by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Hence the criticality of creating an access route to the Mediterranean via Latakia province.

Russia and Turkey understand the US intentions perfectly well. That explains their latest move to clear the al-Qaeda affiliate groups that are ensconced in the Idlib province adjacent to Latakia. The Syrian government forces and its allied militia with Russian air support are advancing on Idlib in an operation that began last week. Idlib is a fairly big province and some protracted fighting is needed to vanquish these al-Qaeda groups. On Sunday, Syrian government forces captured a strategic town, Sinjar, which brings them within 20 kilometers of the sprawling air base at Abu Zuhour in Idlib. By the way, the highway connecting Damascus and Aleppo also passes through eastern Idlib.

Turkey is cooperating with Russia in clearing Idlib of the al-Qaeda groups. (Idlib borders Turkey.) Indeed, Turkey is staunchly opposed to the US efforts to create a Kurdistan in northern Syria. President Recep Erdogan openly threatened last weekend that Washington will “never be able to turn northern Syria into a terror corridor,” vowing to “hit them (US) very hard. They should know that we are determined on this. Areas that they consider as part of the terror corridor could turn out to be their graves.”

Conceivably, the recent attempts by the US and Israel to stir up turmoil within Iran is linked to all this. The US-Israeli game plan is to get Iran bogged down in internal issues. The Syrian and Iraqi governments are dependent on Iran and Hezbollah to do the heavy lifting in the war against the US-backed al-Qaeda and ISIS groups.

Tehran understands the US-Israeli strategy. The Iranian regime is highly experienced in defeating the US and Israel covert operations. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei understands that the Syrian conflict is also an existential battle for Iran. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders are on record that the choice is between fighting the US-Israeli proxies in Syria and Iraq or fighting them on Iranian soil.

How will Moscow react to the US-backed drone attack on its bases? A permanent solution lies in retaliating against the American forces and inflicting heavy casualties – like in Beirut in 1983. If a few dozen American body bags arrive in Washington from Syria, President Trump is sure to say, ‘Enough is enough, boys, come home.’

But the problem is that the US is fighting a “hybrid war”, embedded within the Kurdish militia and cannot be targeted easily. Pentagon has also inserted “contractors” (American mercenaries) so that political risk is minimized.

Therefore, Russia’s option will be to step up the operations to cleanse Idlib province of the al-Qaeda groups backed by US and Israel once and for all. Indeed, Nikki Haley will begin howling in the UN on Israeli instructions alleging “war crimes.”

Of course, as they say, all is fair in love and war and there is another option open to the Russians or Iranians, too – equipping the Afghan Taliban with drones. But they are unlikely to go that far — as of now, at least.

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Did BBC team responsible for faked footage of Syrian chemical attack travel under terrorist protection?

 By Catte | OffGuardian | January 6, 2018

Most of our readers are now more than familiar with the bizarre events surrounding the BBC Panorama program Saving Syria’s Children. We’ve already returned to this story several times. The possibility that this program presented faked footage of a non-existent chemical attack by government troops on a school in Syria has been meticulously documented by independent researcher Robert Stuart over several years.

But a further twist to the story seems to show that the crew who filmed this questionable footage were being escorted and protected during their sojourn in Syria, by members of a jihadist terrorist group affiliated to Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda and ISIS.

The evidence, on the face of it, seems damning.

Ten minutes, 18 seconds into the program (which can be seen here) the film crew record a car journey, with the two British doctors featured in the program, to “see what medical care is available for children closer to where the fighting is”. At one point the journalist Ian Pannell can be heard in voice over saying:

Western journalists have been targeted in Syria, so I have to travel with my own security. The doctors are able to be more low key and take their own vehicles.

As he speaks we see Pannell himself, presumably filmed by his cameraman Darren Conway, in a car, part of a convoy, accompanied by armed men. We also see the hood of one of the cars in the convoy several times and pretty clearly. It has a logo on it. This is it:

The inset on the right is the logo of Ahrar-al-Sham.

In case you’re wondering, this is the same Ahrar-al-Sham identified by a Human Rights Watch report in October 2013 as participants in the killing of women and children (see “You Can Still See Their Blood” – Executions, Indiscriminate Shootings, and Hostage Taking by Opposition Forces in Latakia Countryside.). The report details the slaughter of nearly 200 civilians “including 57 women and at least 18 children and 14 elderly men” by opposition forces including Ahrar al-Sham on August 4 2013.

It was just 19 days after this massacre – on August 23 – that Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway (now an OBE) apparently decided Ahrar-al-Sham were the go-to ’security’ guys for them. The documentary further shows Pannell, Conway and their chums being waved through ISIS road blocks without a hitch. This is the same ISIS who – allegedly – had declared war on all westerners and were prone to cutting off their heads (though in 2013 this hadn’t become the media meme it later became). Our boys are apparently welcome deep in ISIS territory, with no worries about repercussions.

This is probably explained by the fact Ahrar-al-Sham, according to Stanford University’s Mapping Militant Program, “worked with the Islamic State (IS) until January 2014″.

But maybe the contact with terrorists was fleeting and almost accidental? Well, below are two images that tell a story. The top one is a screencap from Saving Syria’s Children. The man outlined in red is the “Fixer/Translator” for the program, Mughira Al-Sharif, and he is shown driving Pannell’s convoy car (Pannell himself can be seen second from right next to the window in the back). Mughira is seen again in the bottom image in a photograph taken the same day and shared on Instagram. Also with him in this pic, and looking remarkably chummy, are two members of the Ahrar-al-Sham security detail who can be seen in Pannell’s car. Mughira described these men in his Instagram post as ‘friends’. That post was subsequently deleted.

(Above) Fixer/Translator Mughira Al-Sharif driving Ian Pannell’s convoy saloon car in Saving Syria’s Children. Pannell is second from right. (Below) Al Sharif poses with two of the Ahrar al-Sham men in an Instagram post of the same day, describing them as “friends”. The post was subsequently deleted.

Let’s be clear – these “friends’ of Mughira’s could well have taken part in the recent slaughter discussed above, and must, at very least, be assumed to support the mass murder of innocent people. And this man Mughira is employed by Pannell as his guide and helper in making their documentary.

Why are a supposedly distinguished and professional BBC journalist and his crew working with allies of ISIS? Why are they using them as their ‘security’? Why are they comfortable tooling round Syria in a car festooned with jihadist logos? Why did they end up producing a documentary using highly questionable footage to promote UK intervention against the elected government of Syria?

Did neither they nor their employers at the BBC realise what they were doing?

Or did they know and think it was just dandy?

When is the BBC – and Ian Pannell and Darren Conway(OBE) – going to answer these and the many other questions hanging over this program and their credibility?

January 6, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

US, Israel in ‘covert’ deal to counter Iran after it defeats their extremist groups

Sputnik – December 30, 2017

A US National Security Council (NSC) source has confirmed to Sputnik that Tel Aviv and Washington have worked out a plan to counter “malign Iranian activities.” Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Mohammad Marandi, a political analyst and professor at the University of Tehran, explained why the US and Israel are so hostile towards Iran.

Sputnik: What is your take on the so-called Iranian threat that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump are looking to confront now? What could they be truly trying to achieve by demonizing Iran?

Mohammad Marandi: They have always been demonizing Iran; they have always [harbored] hostility towards the country. When the Israeli regime occupied Lebanon and the Iranians supported the national liberation movement which ultimately led to the creation of Hezbollah, that led to the ultimate defeat of the regime and its withdrawal from the country. And Iran took support for Palestinian people and Iran’s opposition from the beginning of the revolution to apartheid, whether in apartheid South Africa or in Palestine. That was also an enormous reason to show antagonism towards Iran.

I think more recently, though, Israeli support for extremist groups in Syria, this was carried out alongside countries like Saudi Arabia. Even now we see that al-Qaeda, the al-Nusra Front, is still [located alongside] the Syrian-Israeli border and the Israeli regime continues to treat their wounded militants. And on that part of the joint border we still have ISIS (Daesh) and as we all know the Israelis have never attacked the ISIS (Daesh) coalition alongside its border.

So, the Israelis have been trying to weaken Syria and I think that over the last couple of years with the help of Hezbollah, Russia, Iran and others the gradual defeat of the extremist groups both in Syria and Iraq have led to a situation where the Israelis feel weakened. But I don’t think that any meetings between the United States and Israel will come up with anything new because they have been cooperating all along alongside with Saudi Arabia for many years now.

Sputnik: The plan also aims to target Iran’s activities across the Middle East. So, if implemented, what consequences could it entail for the region in local conflicts?       

Mohammad Marandi: Yes, this is again, I think, a very important point because it’s contrary to what we see in the Western media, which is usually either silence or a very misleading representation. US allies in the region, alongside the United States, supported ISIS [Daesh]. Even though, I still speak to some Americans [and they express] outrage. If you look at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) documents of 2012 that were partially released by Judicial Watch, they speak about US allies in the region supporting extremist groups in Syria and [they] have had the upper hand according to that document, from almost the very beginning of the fighting. And these groups were focused on the border between Syria and Iraq.

We know that later on, those groups were named ISIS, or they called themselves even after that Islamic State. And the United States, according to General [Michael] Flynn [former DIA director and former national security adviser to President Trump] who was the head of that organization [DIA] — later in an interview with Al Jazeera he admitted — that the United States took a willful decision to support its allies in the region. And there is a host of other evidence as well, such as WikiLeaks documents and emails which stated that Saudi Arabia and others supported ISIS in 2014. So then, of course, we have the admission of former US Secretary of State [John] Kerry who had a secret meeting with Syrian opposition activists admitted that the United States allowed ISIS to advance on Damascus in order to put pressure on President Assad.

So, the United States is deeply involved in allowing ISIS to rise; they were deeply involved in, of course, al-Qaeda, the al-Nusra Front, […] And, of course, Israel, as I’ve pointed out, has been involved in supporting al-Qaeda and has been silent regarding the presence of ISIS on its border. So, Iran has helped the Syrian government to defeat extremist groups. Of course, the Russians, Hezbollah, all of these countries, all of these groups together [won] this victory over extremism and if Syria had fallen, without any doubt Iraq would had fallen.

Iraq was on the verge of falling despite the fact that ISIS had a large number of troops fighting the Syrian government. If they had defeated the Syrian government, they would have sent a lot more troops into Iraq and it would have fallen. And of course Lebanon would have faced a very new and dangerous situation with these extremists. So Iran’s support for the Iraqi government and the Syrian government helped defeat these extremist groups and this is a major point of contention between Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia and, of course, the United States. […]

 

December 30, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Are the Leading State Sponsors of Terrorism?

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 28.12.2017

As 2017 draws to a close, it is difficult to be optimistic about what will be coming in the new year. The American President, whose margin of victory was certainly based on his pledge to avoid unnecessary wars, has doubled down on Afghanistan, refuses to leave Syria even though ISIS has been defeated, and is playing serious brinksmanship with a psychopathic and unpredictable regime in Pyongyang. The White House has also bought into the prevailing largely fabricated narrative about a Russia and has decided to arm Ukraine with offensive weapons, which has already resulted in a sharp response from Moscow and will make détente of any kind between the two leading powers all but impossible in the upcoming year.

But, as I have observed before, the red hazard light that continues to be blinking most brightly relates to Washington’s relationship with Iran, which has unnecessarily deteriorated dramatically over the past year and which brings with it collateral problems with Russia and Turkey that could trigger a much wider conflict. I say unnecessarily because all the steps taken to poison the relationship have come out of Washington, not Tehran. The Trump administration refused to certify that the Iranians had been in compliance with the nuclear agreement negotiated in 2015 and has since escalated its verbal attacks, mostly at the United Nations, claiming that the regime in Tehran is the major source of terrorism in the world and that it is seeking hegemony over a broad arc of countries running westward from its borders to the Mediterranean Sea.

The only problem with the allegations being made is that none of them is true and, furthermore, Iran, with limited military resources, poses no serious threat to gain control over its neighbors, nor to attack the United States or Europe. The invective about Iran largely derives from Israel and Saudi Arabia, which themselves have hegemonic ambitions relating to their region. Israel’s friends in the US Congress, media and White House have not surprisingly picked up on the refrain and are pushing for military action. Israel has even threatened to bomb any Iranian permanent presence inside neighboring Syria.

A recent detailed analysis by former US intelligence officers has demonstrated just how the claim that Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism is almost completely fabricated. The analysis explains how these false narratives are contrived and how they become part of the Washington background noise. The White House’s recent National Security Strategy Report for 2018 stated that “Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, has taken advantage of instability to expand its influence through partners and proxies, weapon proliferation, and funding.” But another US government report, the annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 cites no actual terrorist incidents initiated by Iran in that year. In fact, the most recent terrorist incident attributed to Tehran was in 2012, and that was retaliatory against Israel, which was at the time assassinating Iran’s scientists and technicians and attacking its computer systems.

America’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s has recently claimed that it is hard to find a “terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it.” But in reality, the overwhelming majority of terrorist groups in the region, to include ISIS, Al-Qaeda and al-Nusra, are Sunni Muslims, who believe Iran’s Shi’ism is heretical, and are both tied to and funded by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States. The Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) is indeed an ethnic Iranian terrorist group, but it has been funded and supported by Washington and Tel Aviv to carry out attacks inside Iran.

The reality is that terrorism, defined by the United Nations as “criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public,” is most employed at the state level by the United States and its allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, not by Iran. All have used violence directed against civilians in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, and all three have supported organizations that fit the definition of terrorists. Iran may indeed be guilty of actions that much of the world disapproves of, but it is not the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism as has been alleged.

December 28, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

US runs training camps for Syria militants: Russian general

Press TV – December 27, 2017

The Russian military top brass says militants, including those with the Takfiri Daesh terror group, are receiving training in US bases in Syria, adding the terrorists have been instructed to “destabilize” the Arab country.

In an interview with Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda daily on Wednesday, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov said the US had turned its military base near the town of al-Tanf in southeastern Syria into a training camp for militants.

Asked about the situation at the US-run al-Tanf base, he replied, “According to satellite and other surveillance data, terrorist squads are stationed there. They are effectively training there.”

General Gerasimov also accused the US of using a refugee camp outside the town of Shaddadah in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah Province as a training center for the Daesh remnants, including those evacuated from the terror outfit’s former stronghold of Raqqah.

“This is essentially ISIS (Daesh),” he said. “They change their colors, take different names – the ‘New Syrian Army’ and others. They are tasked with destabilizing the situation.”

On December 16, Russia’s Reconciliation Center for Syria revealed Washington’s training activities for members of the so-called New Syrian Army, composed of various terrorist groups, at the Shaddadah camp.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Gerasimov estimated that there are currently some 350 militants in al-Tanf and about 750 others in al-Shaddadah,

He further noted that the Russian military had been watching the US training activities at the al-Tanf base “for several months.”

The official also stressed that the Pentagon has so far failed to provide any explanation for its military presence at the al-Tanf base after Daesh’s defeat, saying, “So far, their answers have been ambiguous.”

The town of al-Qaryatayn in Syria’s Homs Province risked falling into the hands of the anti-Damascus militants if the Russian forces had not intervened, according to Gerasimov.

“We took timely measures… They have suffered a defeat, these forces were destroyed. There were captives from these camps. It is clear that training is underway at those camps,” he added.

Nusra terrorists to be wiped out next year

Meanwhile, the Russian general predicted that the operation to eliminate members of the al-Nusra Front militant group in Syria will be completed in 2018.

Next year’s developments in Syria will include “the completion of eliminating militants from Jabhat al-Nusra and its affiliates,” he pointed out.

After losing all the territories under their control in Syria and Iraq, the Daesh terrorists have fled to Libya and southwestern Asia after being defeated in Syria, Gerasimov added.

“Some of them return to countries, from which they illegally arrived. The bulk of them flee to Libya, to southwestern Asian countries,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also commented on the issue, saying the main part of the anti-Daesh battle in Syria was over.

“Now, of course, the main anti-terrorist objective is the defeat of Jabhat al-Nusra,” Lavrov said at a meeting with Ahmad Jarba, leader of Syria’s opposition Tomorrow movement.

He warned that the al-Nusra terrorsits have been “are still resisting … because they have been receiving assistance from abroad” to fight against the Syrian government forces.

“We are seeing positive changes in Syria. A decisive blow has been dealt on the IS [Daesh]. And although some militants who have fled the battlefield are trying either to regroup in Syria or to flee abroad,” he added.

Russia, Syria in close defense cooperation

General Gerasimov said the Russian military advisers assist nearly all units of the Syrian forces in planning counter-terrorism operations.

“We cooperate closely with the Syrian government troops, our advisers are attached to nearly all units,” he said.

Russian jets have been conducting air raids against Daesh and other terrorist outfits inside Syria at the Damascus government’s request since September 2015.

President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Moscow now sees no need for a heavy military presence in Syria, but it will continue its counter-terrorism battle in the Arab state “if necessary.”

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Did Obama Arm Islamic State Killers?

By Daniel Lazare | Consortium News | December 21, 2017

Did Barack Obama arm ISIS? The question strikes many people as absurd, if not offensive. How can anyone suggest something so awful about a nice guy like the former president? But a stunning report by an investigative group known as Conflict Armament Research (CAR) leaves us little choice but to conclude that he did.

CAR, based in London and funded by Switzerland and the European Union, spent three years tracing the origin of some 40,000 pieces of captured ISIS arms and ammunition. Its findings, made public last week, are that much of it originated in former Warsaw Pact nations in Eastern Europe, where it was purchased by United States and Saudi Arabia and then diverted, in violation of various rules and treaties, to Islamist rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The rebels, in turn, somehow caused or allowed the equipment to be passed on to Islamic State, which is also known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, or just the abbreviation IS.

This is damning stuff since it makes it clear that rather than fighting ISIS, the U.S. government was feeding it.

But CAR turns vague when it comes to the all-important question of precisely how the second leg of the transfer worked. Did the rebels turn the weapons over voluntarily, involuntarily, or did they somehow drop them when ISIS was in close proximity and forget to pick them up? All CAR will say is that “background information … indicates that IS [Islamic State] forces acquired the materiel through varied means, including battlefield capture and the amalgamation of disparate Syrian opposition groups.” It adds that it “cannot rule out direct supply to IS forces from the territories of Jordan and Turkey, especially given the presence of various opposition groups, with shifting allegiances, in cross-border supply locations.” But that’s it.

If so, this suggests an astonishing level of incompetence on the part of Washington. The Syrian rebel forces are an amazingly fractious lot as they merge, split, attack one another and then team up all over again. So how could the White House have imagined that it could keep weapons tossed into this mix from falling into the wrong hands? Considering how each new gun adds to the chaos, how could it possibly keep track? The answer is that it couldn’t, which is why ISIS wound up reaping the benefits.

But here’s the rub. The report implies a level of incompetence that is not just staggering, but too staggering. How could such a massive transfer occur without field operatives not having a clue as to what was going on? Was every last one of them deaf, dumb, and blind?

Not likely. What seems much more plausible is that once the CIA established “plausible deniability” for itself, all it cared about was that the arms made their way to the most effective fighting force, which in Syria happened to be Islamic State.

This is what had happened in Afghanistan three decades earlier when the lion’s share of anti-Soviet aid, some $600 million in all, went to a brutal warlord named Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar was a raging bigot, a sectarian, and an anti-western xenophobe, qualities that presumably did not endear him to his CIA handlers. But as Steve Coll notes in Ghost Wars, his bestselling 2004 account of the CIA’s love affair with Islamic holy war, he “was the most efficient at killing Soviets” and that was the only thing that mattered. As one CIA officer put it, “analytically, the best fighters – the best-organized fighters – were the fundamentalists” that Hekmatyar led. Consequently, he ended up with the most money.

After all, if you’re funding a neo-medieval uprising, it makes sense to steer the money to the darkest reactionaries of them all. Something similar occurred in March 2015 when Syrian rebels launched an assault on government positions in the northern province of Idlib. The rebel coalition was under the control of Jabhat al-Nusra, as the local branch of Al Qaeda was known at the time, and what Al-Nusra needed most of all were high-tech TOW missiles with which to counter government tanks and trucks.

Arming Al Qaeda

So the Obama administration arranged for Nusra to get them. To be sure, it didn’t provide them directly. To ensure deniability, rather, it allowed Raytheon to sell some 15,000 TOWs to Saudi Arabia in late 2013 and then looked the other way when the Saudis transferred large numbers of them to pro-Nusra forces in Idlib. [See Consortiumnews.com’sClimbing into bed with Al-Qaeda.”] Al-Nusra had the toughest fighters in the area, and the offensive was sure to send the Assad regime reeling. So even though its people were compatriots with those who destroyed the World Trade Center, Obama’s White House couldn’t say no.

“Nusra have always demonstrated superior planning and battle management,” Yezid Sayigh, a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said a few weeks later. If the rebel coalition was successful as a whole, it “was entirely due to their willingness to work with Nusra, who have been the backbone in all of this.”

Scruples, assuming they existed in the first place, fell by the wayside. A senior White House official told The Washington Post that the Obama administration was “not blind to the fact that it is to some extent inevitable” that U.S. weapons would wind up in terrorist hands, but what could you do? It was all part of the game of realpolitik. A senior Washington official crowed that “the trend lines for Assad are bad and getting worse” while The New York Times happily noted that “[t]he Syrian Army has suffered a string of defeats from re-energized insurgents.” So, for the master planners in Washington, it was worth it.

Then there is ISIS, which is even more beyond the pale as most Americans are concerned thanks to its extravagant displays of barbarism and cruelty – its killing of Yazidis and enslavement of Yazidi women and girls, its mass beheadings, its fiery execution of Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, and so on.

Yet U.S. government attitudes were more ambivalent than most Americans realized. Indeed, the U.S. government was strictly neutral as long as ISIS confined itself to attacking Assad. As a senior defense official told the Wall Street Journal in early 2015: “Certainly, ISIS has been able to expand in Syria, but that’s not our main objective. I wouldn’t call Syria a safe haven for ISIL, but it is a place where it’s easier for them to organize, plan, and seek shelter than it is in Iraq.”

In other words, Syria was a safe haven because, the Journal explained, the U.S. was reluctant to interfere in any way that might “tip the balance of power toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting Islamic State and other rebels.” So the idea was to allow ISIS to have its fun as long as it didn’t bother anyone else. For the same reason, the U.S. refrained from bombing the group when, shortly after the Idlib offensive, its fighters closed in on the central Syrian city of Palmyra, 80 miles or so to the east.  This was despite the fact that the fighters would have made perfect targets while “traversing miles of open desert roads.”

As The New York Times explained: “Any airstrikes against Islamic State militants in and around Palmyra would probably benefit the force of President Bashar al-Assad. So far, United States-led airstrikes in Syria have largely focussed on areas far outside government control, to avoid the perception of aiding a leader whose ouster President Obama has called for.” [See Consortiumnews.com’sHow US-Backed War on Syria Helped ISIS.”]

Looting Palmyra

The United States thus allowed ISIS to capture one of the most archeologically important cities in the world, killing dozens of government soldiers and decapitating 83-year-old Khalid al-Asaad, the city’s retired chief of antiquities. (After looting and destroying many of the ancient treasures, ISIS militants were later driven from Palmyra by a Russian-backed offensive by troops loyal to President Assad.)

Obama’s bottom line was: ISIS is very, very bad when it attacks the U.S.-backed regime in Iraq, but less so when it wreaks havoc just over the border in Syria. In September 2016, John Kerry clarified what the administration was up to in a tape-recorded conversation at the U.N. that was later made public. Referring to Russia’s decision to intervene in Syria against ISIS, also known by the Arabic acronym Daesh, the then-Secretary of State told a small knot of pro-rebel sympathizers:

“The reason Russia came in is because ISIL was getting stronger.  Daesh was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus and so forth, and that’s why Russia came in, because they didn’t want a Daesh government and they supported Assad. And we know this was growing. We were watching. We saw that Daesh was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage, that Assad might then negotiate. Instead of negotiating, he got … Putin in to support him. So it’s truly complicated.”  (Quote starts at 26:10.)

“We were watching.” Kerry said. So, by giving ISIS free rein, the administration hoped to use it as a lever with which to dislodge Assad. As in Afghanistan, the United States thought it could use jihad to advance its own imperial interests. Yet the little people – Syrian soldiers, three thousand office workers in lower Manhattan, Yazidis, the Islamic State’s beheading of Western hostages, etc. – made things “truly complicated.”

Putting this all together, a few things seem clear. One is that the Obama administration was happy to see its Saudi allies use U.S.-made weapons to arm Al Qaeda. Another is that it was not displeased to see ISIS battle Assad’s government as well. If so, how unhappy could it have been if its allies then passed along weapons to the Islamic State so it could battle Assad all the more? The administration was desperate to knock out Assad, and it needed someone to do the job before Vladimir Putin stepped in and bombed ISIS instead.

It was a modern version of Henry II’s lament, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” The imperative was to get rid of Assad; Obama and his team had no interest in the messy details.

None of which proves that Obama armed ISIS. But unless one believes that the CIA is so monumentally inept that it could screw up a two-car funeral, it’s the only explanation that makes sense. Obama is still a congenial fellow. But he’s a classic liberal who had no desire to interfere with the imperatives of empire and whose idea of realism was therefore to leave foreign policy in the hands of neocons or liberal interventionists like Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

If America were any kind of healthy democracy, Congress would not rest until it got to the bottom of what should be the scandal of the decade: Did the U.S. government wittingly or unwittingly arm the brutal killers of ISIS and Al Qaeda? However, since that storyline doesn’t fit with the prevailing mainstream narrative of Washington standing up for international human rights and opposing global terrorism, the troublesome question will likely neither be asked nor answered.


Daniel Lazare is the author of several books including The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace).

December 21, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

SYRIA: US War Crime in Jabal Al Tharda, Deir Ezzor and the Implausible Denials

By Prof. Tim Anderson | 21st Century Wire | December 17, 2017

On 17 September 2016 a carefully planned US-led air raid on Jabal al Tharda (Mount Tharda), overlooking Deir Ezzor airport, slaughtered over 100 Syrian soldiers and delivered control of the mountain to DAESH / ISIS. After that surprise attack, the terrorist group held the mountain for almost a year, but did not manage to take the airport or the entire city. US-led forces admitted the attack but claimed it was all a ‘mistake’. However uncontested facts, eye witness accounts and critical circumstances show that was a lie. This article sets out the evidence of this crime, in context of Washington’s historical use of mercenaries for covert actions, linked to the doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’.

Syrian eyewitness accounts from Deir Ezzor deepen and confirm this simple fact: the US-led air raid on Syrian forces at Jabal al Tharda on 17 September 2016 was no ‘mistake’ but a well-planned and effective intervention on behalf of the terrorist group ISIS (DAESH in Arabic). After days of careful surveillance a devastating missile attack followed by machine gunning of the remaining Syrian soldiers helped ISIS take control of the strategic mountain, that same day.


Colonel Kanaan on the mountain. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

Mercenary forces – like ISIS and the other jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria – were a staple of US intervention during the early decades of the cold war, deployed in more than 25 conflicts, such as those of the Congo, Angola and Nicaragua. Whatever their claimed aims and ideologies, they allowed for the ‘multiplication’ of US power and were associated with the doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’, where the ‘formal’ denial of the mastermind role in covert operations minimised damage to domestic public opinion and international relations (Voss 2016: 37-40).

That doctrine was discussed during the 1976 Church Committee hearings into CIA covert operations (especially assassinations and coups) and resurfaced during the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s (Hart 2005; Dorn 2010). The key idea behind the doctrine is to be able “to use violence without directly incriminating the [contracting out] regime” (Ron 2002). The use of terrorist proxy armies in Iraq and Syria, both overtly and covertly supported by US forces, is thoroughly consistent with this history.

By September 2016 a US-led coalition had been active in both Iraq and Syria for more than two years, supposedly to help Iraq fight ISIS, but without permission to enter Syria. The foreign powers tried to side-step that legal problem by claiming the invitation from Iraq allowed them to conduct cross border raids against ISIS (Payne 2017). By this time the Russian air force had been assisting Syria for almost a year against multiple terrorist groups, all of them, as senior US officials would admit (Biden in RT 2014 and Usher 2014; Dempsey in Rothman 2014), armed and financed by the US and its allies.


Syrian solider at the front line against ISIS, on the Euphrates. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

Contrary to the stated aims, there is little evidence the US-led group did anything to fight ISIS in Syria. Washington’s group sat back and watched ISIS twice take over Palmyra (in 2015 and 2016), then did nothing to help the Syrian Army take back Palmyra and Deir Ezzor. Most US activity focused on bombing Syrian infrastructure and helping a Kurdish-led separatist force (the SDF) replace ISIS in the city of Raqqa. On the other hand, the 17 September air raid positively helped ISIS in attempts to wrest the remaining parts of Deir Ezzor from the Syrian Army.

US, Australian, British and Danish forces quickly admitted their role in that attack, but claimed the slaughter of over 100 Syrian soldiers was a ‘mistake’. Now mistakes in war do happen. However they are usually associated with a single, unprepared incident. This attack was well-planned, sustained and achieved a key objective in the attempt to drive ‘the Syrian regime’ from Deir Ezzor. Assisting extremists create an ‘Islamic State’ in eastern Syria, US intelligence wrote back in August 2012, was “exactly” what Washington wanted so as “to weaken the regime in Damascus” (DIA 2012).

One year later, as Syrian forces re-took the whole of Deir Ezzor city from ISIS, I spoke with the commanding officer at Jabal al Tharda on that day, Colonel Nihad Kanaan, one of 35 survivors of the US-led attack. He confirmed US admissions that surveillance aircraft had overflown the mountain days before. He also said that the Syrian Army had held the mountain for many months and that their position was clearly marked with Syrian flags. One year later he still showed shock at recalling attack aircraft return to finish off his wounded comrades, with line-of-sight machine-gunning (Kanaan 2017).

That Washington could block most western media from serious study of this treacherous attack, simply by saying ‘sorry, mistake’, is testament to the near absence of critical media voices, at a time of war. The surprise attack was treacherous, not only to the Syrians whom the US had promised to not attack, but to the western populations who mostly believed what their governments said: that they were in Iraq and Syria ‘to fight ISIS’.

It was not that the denials over the crime at Jabal al Tharda were particularly ‘plausible’, just that they had been made. Formal denial was enough, it seems, to stop the western corporate and state media in its tracks. The practice of ‘plausible deniability’ was never so much intended to fool those familiar with the facts, as it was to set up a shield of formal denial which might be used to deflect or discredit ‘potentially hostile’ investigations (Voss 2016: 40; Bogan and Lynch 1989: 205). In past and present propaganda wars, less importance is given to independent evidence than to insistent repetition, denunciation and distraction.

This paper is a prosecuted case, not reportage where one side says this and the other side says that. I have announced my conclusion at the outset and intend to demonstrate that case with evidence. I also support the idea that readers are entitled to see all evidence, including the cover story of the criminals. However in this case the crime and its authors, I suggest, can be convincingly established by uncontested facts. Review of the Syrian perspective simply helps deepen our understanding of the conflict.

1. Uncontested facts

There are eight elements of this massacre where the facts are virtually uncontested:

1: First, the attack was on the forces of a strategic opponent, whom the US wished to overthrow, weaken or ‘isolate’;

2:  Second, there was no semblance of provocation;

3: Third, this was a well-planned operation, with days of advance surveillance;

4: Fourth, the attack was sustained and effective, meeting conventional military objectives;

5: Fifth, there was both immediate and longer term benefit to ISIS;

6: Sixth, the US gave false locality information to the Russians before the attack, and their ‘hotline’ to Russia was defective during the attack;

7: Seventh, the US made false claims about being unable to identify Syrian troops;

8: Eighth, the US ‘investigation’ was hopelessly partisan, self-serving and forensically useless; there was no attempt to even contact the Syrian side.

Let’s look at each element in a little more depth

ONE: the attack was on a strategic opponent

Syrian forces were seen as adversaries. This was no ‘friendly fire accident’. The political leadership of the US-led operation had called for the dismissal or overthrow of the Syrian Government and had provided material support to armed opponents of the Government since mid-2011. The terrorist group ISIS had a campaign to create an Islamic State in the region and that objective was shared by Washington. US intelligence, in August 2012, had expressed satisfaction at extremist plans for a “salafist principality” (i.e. an Islamic State) in eastern Syria, “in order to isolate the Syrian regime” (DIA 2012).

The US had not admitted providing finance and arms to ISIS / DAESH, but several senior US officials acknowledged in 2014 that their ‘Arab allies’ had done so (Anderson 2016: Ch.12). After the attack US and Australian officials referred to their victims as forces aligned with the ‘Syrian regime’ (Johnston 2016; Payne 2017), reinforcing the fact that the assailants did not recognise Syrian soldiers as part of a legitimate national army.

TWO: no suggestion of provocation

There was no suggestion of any provocation, as had happened in previous ‘mistakes’; for example where a pilot had mistaken gunfire or fireworks for a hostile attack. This attack was premeditated.

THREE: a well-planned operation, with substantial surveillance

All sides agree this was a carefully planned operation, with surveillance days in advance. Colonel Nihad Kanaan, the Syrian Arab Army commanding officer on ‘Post Tharda 2’ (a military post on the second of three peaks of Tharda mountain range) that day, told this writer that US-coalition surveillance aircraft were seen “repeatedly circling” the area on 12 September, 5 days before the attack (Kanaan 2017). US reports confirm this. On the day of the attack the New York Times cited US Central Command saying that “coalition forces believed they were striking a DAESH fighting position that they had been tracking for a significant amount of time before the strike” (Barnard and Mazzetti 2016). A US military report, some weeks after the attack, said a “remotely piloted aircraft” (RPA) was sent to “investigate” the area the day before and two RPAs revisited the same area on the 17th, identifying two target areas with tanks and personnel (Coe 2016: 1).


General Aktham at the bridge to Raqqa, one of many destroyed by US planes. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne wrote that “target identification was based on intelligence from a number of sources”, and that the US-led group had “informed Russian officials prior to approving air strikes on the DAESH position” (Payne 2017). Australian Chief of Joint Operations Vice-Admiral David Johnston pointed out that his country’s contribution to the attack had included “an Australian E7 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control and 2 FA-18 hornet strike fighters” (Johnston 2016).  The Wedgetail E-7 is based on a Boeing 737 and came into operation in 2015. It is an intelligence and control aircraft said to have “tonnes of electronic wizardry” (Military Shop 2014) and to be “the most advanced air battlespace management capabilities in the world” (RAAF 2017). All this speaks of a well-planned and technologically capable operation.

Further, surveillance of the area over two years meant the US group were well aware of the strategic troop placements. Kuwait based Journalist Elijah Magnier, who had followed the battles around Deir Ezzor, said that defence of the airport depended on ‘four interconnected Syrian army positions on the Thardah mountain range. Largely because of these elevated fire power positions the “daily attacks’ by ISIS on the airport had failed (Porter 2016: 6). Fabrice Balanche, a leading French expert on Syria, adds that the Syrian Army had held positions along the Tharda range “from March 2016 until the US air strikes”, when ISIS took control (in Porter 2016: 6).

FOUR: the attack was sustained and effective, meeting conventional military objectives

The attack was carried out for an extended period and destroyed the Syrian Arab Army post, killing more than 100 soldiers and destroying tanks and all heavy equipment (O’Neill 2016; Kanaan 2017). The Syrian commander says the attack “continued for 1.5 hours, from 5.30 to 7pm”, as night fell (Kanaan 2017). There is some disagreement over exact times. Syrian Army Command said the attack began at about 5pm while US CentCom said the attack began earlier but “was halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military” (Barnard and Mazzetti 2016). However the US military confirms that this sunset attack was extended, lasting for just over an hour (Coe 2016: 1).

The Syrian command said at first that 62 soldiers had been killed and 100 injured (RT 2016). Within a short time the numbers killed had been raised to “at least 80” (Killalea 2016). In addition, three T-72 tanks, 3 infantry vehicles and anti-aircraft gun and 4 mortars were destroyed (MOA 2016). A surviving solider said he saw planes “finishing with machine guns our soldiers who tried to take refuge … I saw with my own eyes the death of about 100 soldiers” (SFP 2016).

Colonel Kanaan puts the final number of dead at 123, with 35 survivors (Kanaan 2017). The US side did not bother reporting numbers killed, with General Richard Coe at first mentioning “15 dead regime loyalists” (Watkinson 2016) then late simply saying “Syrian regime/aligned forces were struck” (Coe 2016: 2). There is no report of ISIS forces on the mountain being struck by the coalition aircraft that day; nor any day over the next year.

FIVE: the attack created immediate and longer term benefit to ISIS

The Syrian side made it clear that the massacre had allowed an almost simultaneous ISIS attack on and takeover of the hill. After planes had pounded the Army position on the mountain, ISIS quickly moved in and took full control of the mountain range (FNA 2016a). Within hours they had posted video of themselves standing on the bodies of the Syrian soldiers, killed by the air strikes (Charkatli 2016). The US side failed to comment on the immediate consequence of their attack, but they did not contradict the Syrian and Russian reports. Colonel Nihad Kanaan confirms that, as the US strikes were being carried out, ISIS attacked the Syrian Army post at Thardah 2. Survivors had to flee, as they did not have time to repel the DAESH attack (Kanaan 2017). Syrian Army defences meant that ISIS did not manage to take the airport, but Syrian forces did not retake the mountain until early September 2017, when the Syrian Army broke the siege and began to liberate the entire city (Brown 2017).


Victory! Father and son at Deir Ezzor markets. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

SIX: false information to and delayed communications with Russia

The US military report admits that “incorrect information [was] passed to the Russians” about the locale of the attack. They said:

“the strikes would occur 9 kilometres south of DAZ ‘airfield’. However this information was incorrect, as the strikes were planned approximately 3 to 6 kilometres south of the airfield and 9 kilometres south of Dayr az Zawr city. This may have affected the Russian response to the notification and caused considerable confusion in the DT process” (Coe 2016: 3).

Brigadier General Richard Coe agreed with reporters that this misleading information prevented a Russian intervention: “had we told them accurately, they would have warned us”, he admitted (Porter 2016: 4). Providing false information to Russia was quite consistent with a plan to protect the attack from any unwanted interference.

After that, there was yet another ‘mistake’. The US military admits there was a half hour delay in responding to a Russian alarm (that the US was striking Syrian forces) on their specially constructed ‘hotline’. The US military tried to shift blame for this delay to the Russian caller:

“when the Russians initially called at 1425Z, they elected to wait to speak to their usual point of contact (POC) rather than pass the information immediately to the Battle Director. This led to a delay of 27 minutes, during which 15 of the 37 strikes were conducted” (Coe 2016: 3).

The less benign view of this event was that the ‘hotline’ was left unattended during the attack. Haddad (2017) reported that: “During the attack, a hotline between Russia and US forces was reportedly left unattended for 27 minutes” (Haddad 2017). Certainly Russia had to ring twice to pass on the urgent message (McLeary 2016) and, by that time, the attack was virtually complete.

SEVEN: the US made false claims about non-identification of Syrian forces

The US military apologia relies heavily on claims that, despite their several days of surveillance, they identified “irregular forces” on the mountain. US General Coe claims that “in many ways, the group looked and acted like the (Islamic State) forces we have been targeting for the last two years” (Dickstein 2016). Echoing this story, Australian Vice-Admiral David Johnston, Chief of Joint Operations said

“in many ways these forces looked and acted like DAESH fighters the coalition has been targeting for the last 2 years. They were not wearing recognisable military uniforms or displaying identifying flags or markings” (Johnston 2016).

Colonel Kanaan said they had flags flying. The US military confirms this, admitting that they received a report about sighting a “possible [Syrian] flag … 30 minutes prior to the strike”, but did nothing about it (Coe 2016: 2). Could ‘doing nothing’ have been just another ‘mistake’, in such a well-planned operation? It tends to corroborate the case for a deliberate strike, with some attempt at cover up, for “plausible deniability”.

EIGHT: the US ‘investigation’ was hopelessly partisan

A brief report issued in November exonerated US forces of any wrong doing. It did admit some critical facts, as noted above. But this was the US military investigating itself. US General Richard Coe said:

We made an unintentional, regrettable error, based on several factors in the targeting process” (Watkinson 2016).

The ‘errors’ relied upon were a series of random or ‘human’ mistakes and misidentification of the Syrian troops, supposedly because they were dressed in an irregular way. No attempt was made to contact the Syrian side (Coe 2016; Dickstein 2016). By reference to principles of criminal law some admissions made in this report are important and would be admissible evidence in a criminal trial. But the conclusions of the US report are entirely ‘self-serving’ and ‘recent inventions’ after the event. For that reason they are forensically worthless.

Summing up, the US-led air attack was a pre-meditated, brutal and effective massacre of the armed forces of a declared opponent. It gave an immediate and longer term advantage to one of the terrorist groups the US and its allies (as Biden and Dempsey admitted) were covertly supporting.

Even before we consider the Syrian perspective, uncontested facts destroy the feeble claim that this well planned and treacherous crime was a ‘mistake’. The US military admits that it gave false information to its Russian counterparts, then admits that its ‘hotline’ did not function properly during the attack. Despite all their sophisticated technology and days of surveillance, they pretend they could not distinguish between entrenched Syrian troops and terrorist ISIS gangs. They admit they had a report of a Syrian flag, but claim they just neglected it.

Having carried out a devastating attack on Syrian forces that day, allegedly by ‘mistake’, they did not return even once over the following year to attack the ISIS encampment on the mountain. This is as flimsy a cover story as any criminal has ever presented in court. If the commanders of this appalling massacre ever faced criminal charges, no independent tribunal could fail to convict.


Syrian soldiers at the Eurphrates, October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

2. The cover story

The ‘defence’ case centres around three matters.

First, they say that the 2014 request for assistance against ISIS from the Government of Iraq gave authority to the US coalition to venture into Syria.

Second, they insist that there was no intent to kill Syrian soldiers.

Third, they argue that their slaughter of soldiers was due to poor intelligence and mistaken identification.

Other aggravating factors were random ‘errors’. Then, by way of general excuse, and alluding to the supposed bases of human error, there was reliance on the ‘complexity’ of the situation. US CentCom, in its apologia, said ‘Syria is a complex situation’ (RT 2016); a phrase echoed by Australian Prime Minister Turnbull who said “it is a very complex environment” (Killalea 2016). None of this is compelling but, as was mentioned at the outset, the history of ‘plausible deniability’ rests not so much on its actual plausibility as on formal denials; that is thought sufficient to distract, intimidate and raise doubts.

The US apologia was repeated by its collaborators. Australian involvement in Syria had already been criticised at home (Billingsley 2015). After the attack on Jabal al Tharda, this writer wrote to ask Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about the massacre and the legal basis for Australian air force presence in Syria. Defence Minister Marise Payne responded on 4 May 2017, addressing the legal question in the following way. Australia’s presence in Syria, the Minister claimed, came from a request made by the Government of Iraq for international assistance against DAESH/ISIS:

The legal basis for ADF operations against DAESH in Syria is the collective defence of Iraq … The Government of Syria has, by its failure to constrain attacks upon Iraqi territory originating from DAESH bases within Syria, demonstrated that it is unable to prevent DAESH attacks” (Payne 2017).

Indeed, two Iraqi ministers of foreign affairs had made requests to the UN Security Council in June 2014 (Zebari 2014) and again in September 2014 (al Ja’fari 2014). Those requests referred to “thousands of foreign terrorists of various nationalities” coming across the border from eastern Syria (Zebari 2014). Both requests also stressed the need to respect national sovereignty. So the US-led forces might have relied on this argument, had they helped Syria reclaim its eastern cities and regions from ISIS. However, as discussed above, they did not.

On the general legal authority question there is one relevant matter. The Australian side was not so confident about its own law, before the strike. Two weeks before the attack it was said that the chief of the Australian Defence Forces Mark Binskin had “fears that Australian Defence Force members could be prosecuted in Australian courts for military actions that are legal internationally [sic]” (Wroe 2016). It is not clear why they were considering this matter at that time, two years after they had committed forces to Iraq and Syria.

The general apologia for the massacre relied on a supposed lack of intent. “We had no intent to target Syrian forces,” said Air Force Brigadier General Richard Coe. He blames, in part, the soldiers’ form of clothing. “The group looked and acted like the (Islamic State) forces we have been targeting for the last two years” (Dickstein 2016). In addition, Coe claimed, the soldiers displayed “friendly” interactions with other groups in an Islamic State “area of influence.” He blamed the massacre on “human factors,” including miscommunications and an optimistic view of the intelligence (Dickstein 2016).

Taking the ‘mistake’ cover story at face value (i.e. assuming that the attack was aimed at ISIS, and defending Syrian forces), some western commentators quickly suggested the massacre of Syrian soldiers represented an alarming turn to US coalition air support for the ‘Syrian regime’. Time magazine said “the location of the strike in Deir al-Zour suggested the raid could have been a rare, even unprecedented attempt to assist regime forces battling ISIS”. Similarly, Faysal Itani, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council tweeted: “U.S. airstrikes on ISIS in such close proximity to regime positions are unusual. Arguably constitute close air support for regime” (Malsin 2016). Following the same logic, but in open disbelief, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin asked:

“Why would, all of a sudden, the United States chose to help the Syrian Armed forces, defending Deir Ezzor? After all they did nothing when ISIL was advancing on Palmyra … All of a sudden the United States decides to come to the assistance of Syrian armed forces defending Deir Ezzor?” (Hamza 2016).

Of course, they did not decide to do that, nor did they ‘assist’ Syrian forces. Nor did Russia believe the attack was a mistake. Damascus was also under no such illusions. President Bashar al Assad, invoking the wider antagonistic role of the US, said the surprise attack “was a premeditated attack by the American forces … the raid continued more than one hour, and they came many times” (Haddad 2017).

The US report of November 2016 became the core of explanations from US collaborators in the attack. Australian Vice-Admiral David Johnston gave more detail on Australian involvement in the Jabal al Tharda attack before he presented the official US version of events (Johnston 2016). The coalition air contingent, which included Australian aircraft, had “conducted multiple air strikes against what was believed to be DAESH fighters near Deir Ezzor”, he said. The Australian contingent had included “an Australian E7 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control and 2 FA-18 hornet strike fighters”, along with aircraft from the US, UK and Denmark.  These planes carried out the attack “under the coordination and control of the US combined air operations centre” (Johnston 2016). The Australians were thus deeply involved in intelligence and coordination.

Johnston repeated the self-exonerating conclusions of the US report: “The air strikes were conducted in full compliance with the rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict”. The investigation found that the decisions that identified the targets as DAESH fighters were supported by the information available at the time … [there was] no evidence of deliberate disregard of targeting procedures or rules of engagement” (Johnston 2016). He repeated the line that situation on the ground in Syria was “complex and dynamic. In many ways these forces looked and acted like DAESH fighters … They were not wearing recognisable military uniforms or displaying identifying flags or markings” (Johnston 2016).

A typical shallow Australian media review of the incident would admit that “something went badly wrong”; but then asserted, based more on loyalty than anything else: “no credible person suggest the RAAF pilots committed war crimes; everyone knows things go wrong in war” (Toohey 2016). Yet some independent, more detailed western commentaries expressed stark disbelief at the cover story. David MacIlwain complained about the failure of media scrutiny of Australia’s role in Iraq and Syria, asking why US coalition forces had not returned immediately to the mountain to correct their “mistake” (Macilwain 2016). Lawyer James O’Neill said, far from a mistake, “what happened at Deir Ezzor is entirely consistent with the long-standing American aim of regime change in Syria” (O’Neill 2016).

This “error” which killed over 100 soldiers who were defending Deir Ezzor from ISIS, was the only serious attack on what US coalition forces “believed to be DAESH fighters” near Deir Ezzor city. US-led forces would do nothing to help liberate Deir Ezzor. The ‘innocent massacre’ story just does not accord with known facts

3. The Syrian Perspective

For those not bound by wartime propaganda attempts to demonise or prohibit the ‘enemy’ media (a demand which results in reliance on US, British and French media), a Syrian perspective on the crime at Jabal al Tharda helps deepen our understanding. Sources in this section are Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Iranian and Russian. We can speak of a Syrian perspective from the wider view, concerning the particulars of the attack and of events after that attack.

In the wider view the Syrian side has seen the US as the mastermind of all terrorist groups in Syria, making use of regional allies in particular Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and Turkey. The Syrian armed forces make little distinction between ISIS and the western jihadist groups, which collaborate from time to time and whose members pass from one to the other, depending mainly on pay rates (Lucente and Al Shimale 2015). When Aleppo was liberated ISIS flags were seen alongside those of the al Nusra led coalition (RT 2016). Both international terrorist groups fought together for many years with the other jihadist groups which western governments had tried to brand as ‘moderate rebels’ (e.g. Paraszczuk 2013; Mowaffaq 2015).

The Syrian Government has regularly expressed ‘strong condemnation’ of US attacks on civilians and infrastructure, calling the group a “rogue coalition” which had  added “new bloody massacres” to its record of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” (RT 2017).

US forces mounted several direct attacks on Syrian forces, over 2015-2017. An online investigative group has compiled information of four such attacks, between mid-2015 and mid 2017: on Saeqa airbase in Deir Ezzor (December 2015); on Jabal al Tharda (September 2016); on Shayrat Airbase (April 2017) and an attack on an SU-22 aircraft near Tabqa (June 2017) (MMM 2017). In June 2017 the US group also attacked Syrian forces near the southern al Tanf border crossing (Islam Times 2017). All attacks had different pretexts.

US bombing in Deir Ezzor at the time of the Jabal al Tharda attack (in the name of anti-ISIS operations) was notable for its destruction of infrastructure, in particular the destruction of seven bridges across the Euphrates in September and October 2016 (Syria Direct 2016; SANA 2016). Syrian Army sources told Iranian media that the US aimed to extend its influence in the region and stop the Syrian Army’s advance, as also to cut supply routes between the provinces and separate Deir Ezzor’s countryside from the city’ (FNA 2016a). Syrian General Aktham told me that the US bombing of bridges was to isolate Deir Ezzor, when the city was under siege from ISIS (Aktham 2017).

Direct US support for ISIS had been reported many times in Iraq, over 2014-2015. This was mainly to do with arms drops and helicopter evacuation assistance, as Iraqi forces struggled to contain a strong ISIS offensive. Iraqi MP Nahlah al Hababi said in December 2014 that the US coalition was “not serious” about air strikes on ISIS; she added that “terrorists are still receiving aid from unidentified fighter jets in Iraq and Syria” (FNA 2015a).

In February 2015 there were multiple and more specific reports. The Salahuddin Security Commission said that “unknown planes threw arms … to the ISIL” in Tikrit city (FNA 2015c). Majif al Gharawi, an Iraqi MP on the country’s Security and Defence Commission said that the US was “not serious” in its anti-ISIS fight, and that it wanted to prolong the war to get its own military bases in Mosul and Anbar (FNA 2015b). Jome Divan, member of the Sadr bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said the US coalition was “only an excuse for protecting the ISIL and helping the terrorist group with equipment and weapons” (FNA 2015b). Khalef Tarmouz, head of the al Anbar Provincial Council, told Iranian media that his Council had discovered weapons that were made in the USA, Europe and Israel, in areas liberated from ISIS in the al Baghdadi region (FNA 2015b). Hakem al Zameli, head of the National Security and Defence Committee, reported that Iraqi forces had shot down two British planes carrying weapons for ISIS, and that US planes had dropped weapons and food for ISIS in Salahuddin, al Anbar and Diyala provinces (FNA 2015b).

In other words, within a few months of the US military re-entering Iraq in late 2014, on a ‘fight ISIS’ pretext, there were several reports of exactly the reverse, from senior Iraqi figures. Although these reports were in English, none of them reached the western media. Apparently those channels had no interest in listening to those actually affected by ISIS, or perhaps they just saw it as unthinkable that their own governments were lying to cover up their support for terrorism.

On the Jabal al Tharda massacre, the Syrian Government immediately said that the strike was no mistake but “a very serious and flagrant aggression” which had aided DAESH (Barnard and Mazzetti 2016). President Assad said the troops were deliberately targeted, pointing out that there had been an hour of bombing (Watkinson 2016). “It was a premeditated attack by the American forces, because ISIS was shrinking”, said the Syrian President (Haddad 2016). Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested the attack must have been deliberate:

“Our American colleagues told us that this airstrike was made in error. This ‘error’ cost the lives of 80 people and, also just ‘coincidence’, perhaps, ISIS took the offensive immediately afterwards … [But] how could they make an error if they were several days in preparation?” (Putin in RT 2016).

Russian spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the attack showed the world that “The White House is defending ISIS” (FNA 2016a). More detail was hinted at. President of the Syrian Parliament, Hadiya Khalaf Abbas, said that Syrian intelligence had intercepted an audio recording between the US and ISIS before the airstrike on Deir Ezzor (Christoforou 2016). Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar al Jaafari denounced the attack as a movement from proxy aggression to “personal aggression”, lamenting the US renunciation of the Russian-US agreement of 9 September to combat al Nusra and ISIS (Mazen 2016).


Col Kanaan at the attack site, at Jabal al Tharda. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

The detail of eye-witness evidence gives a fuller picture. In October 2017, as the Syrian Army was liberating Deir Ezzor city, Syrian film-maker Sinan Saed and I interviewed Colonel Nihad Kanaan at Jabal al Tharda, where the attack took place.  He told us they had seen US coalition surveillance aircraft on 12 September. On the day of the attack:

“Five Coalition aircraft began attacking the site. The fifth aircraft had a synchronized [line of sight] machine gun … I had 2 T-72 tanks, 2 BMP tanks, a 57mm gun on its base, and a 60mm mortar on a base. The aircraft first began attacking the arsenal. They did this by circling the site at very close distance. Once they were done targeting the arsenal, they began targeting the soldiers with perfect precision” (Kanaan 2017).


Col Kanaan at the attack site, at Jabal al Tharda. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

He says the raid continued for 1.5 hours, using missiles, bombs and machine guns. As the attack took place, ISIS launched “a very heavy attack” from the north-west shoulder of the mountain, using:

“all types of weapons- 14.5 mm, mortars, BKC machine guns and every other weapon they had. This was happening at the same time. They [ISIS] were attacking the post while the aircraft were bombing from above” (Kanaan 2017).

ISIS was using the US-coalition air strikes as cover as they advanced on the army posts, showing “connection and coordination between the US Coalition and ISIS”. The post fell and the airport was then cut off from the Maqaber road. “Then 2 aircraft bombed the actual airport from the Tharda 2 post” (Kanaan 2017).


Col Kanaan at the attack site, at Jabal al Tharda. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

Colonel Kannan’s group was flying Syrian flags, as the US military would later admit:

“When the Coalition aircraft attacked the post, the post had 3 Syrian flags up – one at the entrance, one in the middle and one at the forefront, and the soldiers were wearing the official military uniforms of the Syrian Arab Army … It is not true what the media reported, that the attack was a mistake. It was very clear that their target was the Syrian army and the Syrian soldiers. The Syrian flags were there, and the Syrian army uniforms were showing, and the site was so obviously belonging to the Syrian army. At the same time, ISIS were attacking us under their cover; the Coalition aircraft didn’t even shoot one bullet at them” (Kanaan 2017).


Eyewitness to the attack, Dr al Abeid in surgery at Deir Ezzor hospital. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

There were other eye witnesses. A wounded solider saw dozens of his comrades being finished off with aircraft machine gunning (SFP 2016). Two days before speaking with Colonel Kanaan I had met Doctor Abd al Najem al Abeid, surgeon and head of Deir Ezzor health. As he rushed to the surgery from a group meeting I asked him a question about which I was embarrassed:

‘have you seen any sign of the US coalition helping remove DAESH [ISIS] from Deir Ezzor?’

I asked it this way because I wanted the answer to an open question for a western audience. But as I asked I also apologised, because I knew that the question, to an educated Syrian, would be rather insulting. He immediately said that the US forces had only helped ISIS and that he had seen the attack on Jabal al Tharda. He watched in shock for more than half an hour, as the aircraft attacked the strategic mountain base he knew was guarding the city (Abeid 2017). After that he rushed off to surgery to dig ISIS drone shrapnel from the abdomen of a young boy.


Children in Deir Ezzor, after liberation by the Syrian Arab Army. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

After the massacre, reports of US forces providing logistic and intel support to ISIS, aiding regroupings and evacuations came from all along the Euphrates in late 2017, as Syrian forces took back Deir Ezzor. In September Press TV reported that the US had evacuated 22 DAESH commanders from Deir Ezzor.

This writer was in the city for 4 days in late October, as it was being liberated. On 26 August a US air force helicopter was reported as taking two DAESH commanders “of European origin” with family members. On 28 August another 20 DAESH field commanders were also taken by US helicopters from areas close to the city (Press TV 2017a). Then in November Muhammad Awad Hussein told Russian media he had seen US helicopters evacuate more DAESH fighters, after an airstrike outside al Mayadin, a city south of Deir Ezzor (Press TV 2017b). The anti-Syrian Government and British-based ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ confirmed that US helicopters were transferring DAESH fighters out of eastern Syria. Four DAESH members, including three Egyptians, and a civilian were taken from a house in Beqres, a suburb of Deir Ezzor which had been used as an arms depot (UFilter 2017).

Lebanese and Iranian media corroborated these reports. US forces were backing up ISIS with intelligence during the Syrian Army troops’ operation to liberate the town of Albu Kamal in Southeastern Deir Ezzur, according to the Secretary-General of Iraq’s al-Nujaba Resistance Movement Sheikh Akram al-Ka’abi. The al-Mayadeen news network quoted Sheikh al-Ka’abi saying that the US forces tried hard to push the Syrian army’s operation in Albu Kamal towards failure, and that US forces were targeting pro-government resistance forces before the AbuKamal battle, in ultimately unsuccessful attempts to block their advances (FNA 2017).

In late 2017 the Russian Defence Ministry announced it had evidence that “the US-led coalition provides support for the terrorist group Islamic State”. The US military had twice rejected Russian proposals to bomb identified ISIS convoys retreating from al Bukamal, saying that they enjoyed the protection of international law. That shielding of the terrorist group and its heavy weapons allowed them to regroup and carry out new attacks (TNA 2017). At the same time the US backed deals by the Kurdish-led SDF militia to allow ISIS fighters and their families to leave Raqqa for other parts of the region (Paterson 2017).

A senior Syrian General in Deir Ezzor confirmed to me helicopter evacuations from three points on the east bank of the Euphrates: south Deir Ezzor, east al Mayadeen and al Muhassan. He also spoke of US satellite intelligence being passed to ISIS. From this catalogue of US coordination and collaboration I asked him: ‘you must feel that you are fighting a US command?’ “100%” he responded (General SR 2017).

4. Assessment

As the Syrian Army liberated eastern Syria, over 2016-2017, the US military tried to slow its advance by a series of covert and overt actions. The massacre of more than 100 soldiers at Jabal al Tharda was one of five direct US attacks on Syrian forces, since 2015. Mistakes do happen in war, but this was no isolated mistake. The US-led attack on this strategic anti-ISIS base, protecting Deir Ezzor city, was a pre-meditated slaughter of Syrian forces which allowed ISIS to advance its plan to take the city. As it happened, Syrian Army defences meant that they did not do that. A series of uncontested facts make it clear this was a well-planned and deliberate strike, in support of ISIS. The US military gave false information to its Russian counterparts about the attack, left their ‘hotline’ unattended and hid evidence that showed they knew Syrian forces held the mountain. Having destroyed Syrian forces on that base, they did not return to attack ISIS on the mountain. Their cover story was weak and, while it served to block investigation by the western media, does not hold up to any serious scrutiny.

No independent tribunal would fail to convict US coalition commanders of this bloody massacre. 

US and Australian denials over their responsibility for the 17 September 2016 massacre at Jabal al Tharda are not credible, on any close examination. However they did serve their immediate purpose. Most of the western corporate and state media was stopped in its tracks. Yet the crime was “entirely consistent with the long standing American aim of regime change in Syria … [and] the Australian Government provided a willing chorus to the regime change demands of the Americans” (O’Neill 2016).

North American, British and Australian arms sales to the chief ISIS sponsors, the Saudis, could proceed without interruption or scrutiny (Begley 2017; Brull 2017). The cold war doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’, as on many previous occasions, helped deflect ‘potentially hostile’ investigations. Nevertheless, I urge closer examination of this crime, using conventional principles of criminal law, considering the uncontested evidence and ignoring the intimidation of war propaganda. Particularly adventurous western observers might even read the Syrian perspective, drawing on Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Iranian and Russian sources. That would help deepen their understandings of the conflict.

Watch video with Prof Tim Anderson in Deir Ezzor,  made by Sinan Saed and Nisreen Al Khadour:

Bibliography

Al Abeid, Abd al Najem (2017) Interview with this writer, Deir Ezzor Hospital, 21 October. Dr al Abeid was, at this time, head of Deir Ezzor Health and a surgeon at the city’s main hospital.

Al Ja’fari, Ibrahim al-Usharqir (2014) ‘Annex to the letter dated 20 September 2014 from the permanent representative of Iraq to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council’, United Nations Security Council, S/201/691, 20 September, online: https://www.justsecurity.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Iraq-Letter-Requesting-US-Help-09202014.pdf

Aktham, General (2017) Interview with this writer, 21 October, Deir Ezzor

Barnard, Anne and Mark Mazzetti (2016) ‘U.S. admits airstrike in Syria, meant to hit ISIS, killed Syrian troops’, New York Times17 September, online: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/18/world/middleeast/us-airstrike-syrian-troops-isis-russia.html

Begley, Patrick (2017) ‘Senate pressures Defence for answers on Saudi Arabian military deals’, Sydney Morning Herald30 March, online: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/senate-pressures-defence-for-answers-on-saudi-arabian-military-deals-20170329-gv996s.html

Billingsley, Anthony (2015) ‘Australian bombs won’t bring peace to Syria, so why do it?’, The Conversation, 31 August, online: http://theconversation.com/australian-bombs-wont-bring-peace-to-syria-so-why-do-it-46674

Bogen, David and Michael Lynch (1989) ‘Taking Account of the Hostile Native: Plausible Deniability and the Production of Conventional History in the Iran-Contra Hearings’, Social Problems, Vol. 36, No. 3 June, pp. 197-224

Brown, Matt (2017) ‘Syria breaks Islamic State siege on eastern city, opens a new phase in the war’, ABC News, 6 September, online: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-06/syria-breaks-is-siege-deir-ezzor-opens-a-new-phase-in-the-war/8876668

Brull Michael (2017) ‘Christopher Pyne Spruiks Aussie Arms To Saudi Arabia As UN Warns Of Impending Yemen Famine’, New Matilda, 13 November, online:https://newmatilda.com/2017/11/13/christopher-pyne-spruiks-aussie-arms-to-saudi-arabia-as-un-warns-of-impending-yemen-famine/

Charkatli, Izat (2016) ‘Video: ISIS militants cheer atop Syrian soldiers killed by US air strikes’, Al Masdar, 18 September, online: https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/video-isis-militants-cheer-atop-syrian-soldiers-killed-us-air-strikes/

Christoforou, Alex (2016) ‘Syrian MP: ‘Syrian intelligence intercepted audio recording between US and ISIS before airstrike on Deir ez-Zor’, The Duran, 26 September, online: http://theduran.com/syrian-mp-syrian-intelligence-intercepted-audio-recording-between-us-isis-airstrike-deir-ez-zor/

Coe, Richard (2016) ‘Memorandum for USAFCENT/CC’, Centcom, 2 November, online: http://www.centcom.mil/Portals/6/media/REDACTED_FINAL_XSUM_Memorandum__29_Nov_16___CLEAR.pdf

DIA (2012) ‘Intelligence report ‘R 050839Z Aug 2012’, Levant Report, August, online: https://levantreport.com/2015/05/19/2012-defense-intelligence-agency-document-west-will-facilitate-rise-of-islamic-state-in-order-to-isolate-the-syrian-regime/

Dickstein, Corey (2016) ‘Investigation: US, coalition airstrikes likely killed Syrian government forces’, Stars and Stripes, 29 November, online: https://www.stripes.com/news/investigation-us-coalition-airstrikes-likely-killed-syrian-government-forces-1.441745

Dorn, Walter (2010) ‘Plausible Deniability Plausible Deniability or How Leaders May Try to or How Leaders May Try to Conceal Their Roles Conceal Their Roles’, ICC Prosecutor presentation, 18 May, Walter Dorn, online:http://walterdorn.net/pdf/PlausibleDeniability_PPT_ICC-OTP_Presentation_Dorn_ReducedSize_18May2010_10June2011.pdf

Fadel, Leith (2016) ‘US Coalition knew they were bombing the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor’, Al Masdar News, 27 September, online: https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/us-coalition-knew-bombing-syrian-army-deir-ezzor/

FNA (2015a) ‘Iraqi Hezbollah: Unidentified Planes Supplying ISIL with Arms from Saudi Arabia’, Fars News Agency, 10 January, online: http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13931020001065

FNA (2015b) ‘Iraq’s Popular Forces Release Photo of Downed US Chopper Carrying Arms for ISIL’, Fares News Agency, 28 February, online: http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13931209001345

FNA (2015c) ‘Iraqi Army Downs 2 UK Planes Carrying Weapons for ISIL’, Fars News Agency, 23 February, online: http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13931204001534

FNA (2016a) ‘Syrian people to file lawsuit against US over Deir Ezzor massacre’, FARS News Agency, 5 October, online: https://www.sott.net/article/330331-JASTA-blowback-Syrian-people-to-file-lawsuit-against-US-over-Deir-Ezzur-massacre

FNA (2016b) ‘Source Discloses Coordination between US, ISIL in Attacking Syrian Army in Deir Ezzur’, Fars News Agency, 18 September, online: http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13950628000914

FNA (2017) ‘Iraqi leader accuses US of providing intel to terrorists’, Fars News Agency, 26 November, online: http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960905001064

General SR (2017) Interview with this writer, Deir Ezzor, 22 October. I have kept this Syrian General’s name private.

Haddad, Tareq (2017) ‘At least 30 dead in Deir ez-Zour after Isis launches biggest attack in Syria for months’, International Business Times, 14 January, online: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/least-30-dead-deir-ez-zour-after-isis-launches-biggest-attack-syria-months-1601091

Hamza (2016) ‘Russia’s ambassador Vitaly Churkin exposes US actions in Syria’, YouTube, 18 September, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4LVLajdhek

Hart, Gary (2005) ‘Intelligence Abuse Déjà Vu’, Huff Post, 21 December, online: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-hart/intelligence-abuse-deja-v_b_12686.html

Islam Times (2017) ‘US Attacks on Syrian Forces in Al-Tanf a Blatant International Law Breach’, 11 June, online: http://islamtimes.org/en/doc/article/644956/

Johnston, David (2016) ‘Vice Admiral David Johnston speaks about the investigation findings’, ABC TV, 30 November, online: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-30/vice-admiral-david-johnston-speaks-about-syria-investigation/8077656

Kanaan, Nihad (2017) Interview with this writer at Mount Tharda (Deir Ezzor, Syria), 23 October. Colonel Nihad Kanaan was the Syrian Arab Army commanding officer at Post Tharda 2 on 17 September 2016.

Killalea, Debra (2016) ‘Syria air strikes mistake: At least 80 dead, Russia, US cast blame’, News Corp, 19 September, online: http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-east/syria-air-strikes-mistake-at-least-80-dead-russia-us-cast-blame/news-story/9470b270a7b4fc3e260878475f8274b3

Lucente, Adam and Zouhir Al Shimale (2015) ‘Free Syrian Army decimated by desertions’, Al Jazeera, 11 November, online: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/11/free-syrian-army-decimated-desertions-151111064831800.html

Macilwain, David (2016) ‘Australia clears itself of blame in Deir ez-Zor bombing, watches on as Palmyra falls to ISIS’, Russian Insider, 12 December, online: http://russia-insider.com/en/aleppo-palmyra/ri18136

Malsin, Jared (2016) ‘How a Mistaken U.S.-Led Air Attack Could End the Syria Cease-Fire’, Time, 18 September, online: http://time.com/4498493/how-a-mistaken-u-s-led-air-attack-could-end-the-syria-cease-fire/

Mazen (2016) ‘Al-Jaafari: US-led coalition aggression on Syria means moving from a proxy aggression into “personal aggression”, SANA, 21 September, online: http://sana.sy/en/?p=88633

McLeary, Paul (2016) ‘Russia Had to Call U.S. Twice to Stop Syria Airstrike’, Foreign Policy, 20 September, online: https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/09/20/russia-had-to-call-u-s-twice-to-stop-syria-airstrike/

Military Shop (2014) ‘WHEN THE “SHIT GOT REAL” FOR AUSTRALIA’S WEDGETAIL’, 1 October, online: https://www.militaryshop.com.au/blog/read/n/WHEN-THE-SHIT-GOT-REAL-FOR-AUSTRALIAS-WEDGETAIL.html

MMM (2017) “Mistakes” behind 4 US attacks on Syrian Forces’, Monitor on Massacre Marketing, 19 June, online: http://libyancivilwar.blogspot.com.au/2017/06/mistakes-behind-4-us-attacks-on-syrian.html

MOA (2016) ‘U.S. ALLIES ‘VOLUNTEER’ TO SHARE (millimetric) BLAME FOR DEIR EZZOR ATTACK’, WorldInWar, 20 September, online: http://www.worldinwar.eu/u-s-allies-volunteer-to-share-millimetric-blame-for-deir-ezzor-attack/

O’Neill, James (2016) ‘Was Syrian air strike a ‘mistake’? and why does Australia loyally plead guilty? Independent Australia, 22 September, online: https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/was-syrian-air-strike-a-mistake-and-why-does-australia-loyally-plead-guilty,9501

Paraszczuk, Joanna (2013) ‘Syria Analysis: Which Insurgents Captured Menagh Airbase — & Who Led Them?’, EA Worldview, 7 August, online: http://eaworldview.com/2013/08/syria-feature-which-insurgents-captured-the-menagh-airbase/

Paterson, Stewart (2017) ‘The Great ISIS exodus: investigation reveals 250 fighters and 3,500 of their family members were driven out of Raqqa in coalition deal and are now ‘spreading across Syria and beyond’, Daily Mail, 14 November, online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5078691/Hundreds-ISIS-fighters-smuggled-Raqqa.html

Payne, Marise (2017) Letter to this writer, 4 May, Marise Payne was at that time the Australian Minister for Defence

Porter (2016) ‘US strikes on Syrian troops: Report data contradicts ‘mistake’ claims’, Middle East Eye, 6 December, online: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-strike-syrian-troops-report-data-contradicts-mistake-claims-1291258286

Press TV (2017a) ‘US Evacuates 22 DAESH commanders from Dayr al-Zawr: report’, 7 September, online: http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/09/07/534383/US-Syria-Daesh-Dayr-Zawr

Press TV (2017b) ‘US airlifted DAESH cmdrs. In Syria to safety: witnesses’, 8 November, online: http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/11/08/541403/Syria-Mayadin-Daesh-commanders-US-airlift

Putin in RT (2016) ‘Putin: West responsible for Middle East instability and terrorism in Europe’ Russian Television, 12 October, online: https://www.rt.com/news/362554-putin-west-syria-war/

RAAF (2017) ‘E-7A Wedgetail’, Royal Australian Air Force, online: https://www.airforce.gov.au/Technology/Aircraft/B737-Wedgetail/?RAAF-yFLAkgbpvuhRf7dG5J3kHi1Q4caywtso

Ron, James (2002) ‘Territoriality and Plausible Deniability: Serbian Paramilitaries in the Bosnian War’, in Bruce B. Campbell and Arthur D. Brenner (2000) Death Squads in Global Perspective: murder with deniability, Palgrave MacMillan, London

Rothman, Noah (2014) ‘Dempsey: I know of Arab allies who fund ISIS’, YouTube, 16 September, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA39iVSo7XE

RT (2014) ‘Anyone but US! Biden blames allies for ISIS rise’, 3 October, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11l8nLZNPSY

RT (2016) ‘US-led coalition aircraft strike Syrian army positions, kill 62 soldiers – military’, Russia Today, 17 September, online: https://www.rt.com/news/359678-us-strikes-syrian-army/

RT (2016a) ‘RT crew’s footage reveals ISIS & Al-Nusra flags planted on Aleppo’s frontline’, Russian Television, 10 October, online: https://www.rt.com/news/362205-aleppo-isis-snipers-exclusive/

RT (2017) ‘Damascus denounces US-led coalition for adding ‘new bloody massacres’ to their ‘war crimes’ record’, Russian Television, 13 November, online: https://www.rt.com/news/409657-damascus-us-led-coalition-massacres/

Safadi, Mowaffaq (2015) ‘Don’t rely on Syria’s ‘moderate’ fighting force. It doesn’t exist’, The Guardian, 17 December, online: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/16/dont-rely-syria-moderate-fighting-force-anti-isis

SANA (2016) ‘US-led coalition continues targeting Syrian infrastructure by destroying al-Syasia bridge in Deir Ezzor’, Syrian Arab News Agency, 7 October, online: http://sana.sy/en/?p=89914

SFP (2016) ‘A Syrian survivor soldier from Deir Ezzour attack: “The U.S.-coalition warplanes were finishing the wounded [Syrian soldiers] by machine gun”’, Syrian Free Press, 22 September, online: https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/deirezzour-saa-survivor/

Syria Direct (2016) ‘US-led coalition destroys two bridges in IS-held Deir e-Zor, leaving civilians in the lurch’, 29 September, online: http://syriadirect.org/news/us-led-coalition-destroys-two-bridges-in-is-held-deir-e-zor-leaving-civilians-in-the-lurch/

TNA (2017) ‘US directly supports IS terrorists in Syria – Russian Defence Ministry’, Tasnim News Agency, 14 November, online: https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2017/11/14/1574055/us-directly-supports-daesh-terrorists-in-syria-russian-defense-ministry

Toohey, Paul (2016) ‘A war crime in Syria with Aussie jets? Unlikely’, News Corp, 24 September, online: http://www.news.com.au/national/a-war-crime-in-syria-with-aussie-jets-unlikely/news-story/cb53e264badc0cc9d99fe747f67ee49f

UFilter (2017) ‘US helicopters transfer DAESH members from eastern Syria’, Uden Filter, 5 November, online: http://ufilter.blogspot.com.au/2017/08/us-helicopters-transfer-daesh-members.html

Usher, Barbara Plett (2014) ‘Joe Biden apologised over IS remarks, but was he right?’ BBC News, 7 October, online: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-29528482

Voss, Klaas (2016) ‘Plausibly deniable: mercenaries in US covert interventions during the Cold War, 1964-1987, Cold War History, Vol 16, No 1, 37-60

Watkinson, William (2016) ‘The US-led coalition said it attacked troops loyal to Bashar al-Assad in error on 17 September’, International Business Times, 29 November, online: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/us-military-admits-it-targeted-killed-loyalist-syrian-forces-by-mistake-deir-ez-zor-1594076

Wroe, David (2016) ‘ Australian forces to expand Islamic State strikes after fears military members could be prosecuted’, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 September, online: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australian-forces-to-expand-islamic-state-strikes-after-fears-military-members-could-be-prosecuted-20160831-gr605c.html

Zebari, Hoshyar (2014) ‘Annex to the letter dated 25 June 2014 from the Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary General’, United Nations Security Council, S/2014/440, online:http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/s_2014_440.pdf

December 17, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When Washington Cheered the Jihadists

By Daniel Lazare | Consortium News | December 8, 2017

When a Department of Defense intelligence report about the Syrian rebel movement became public in May 2015, lots of people didn’t know what to make of it. After all, what the report said was unthinkable – not only that Al Qaeda had dominated the so-called democratic revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for years, but that the West continued to support the jihadis regardless, even to the point of backing their goal of creating a Sunni Salafist principality in the eastern deserts.

The United States lining up behind Sunni terrorism – how could this be? How could a nice liberal like Barack Obama team up with the same people who had brought down the World Trade Center?

It was impossible, which perhaps explains why the report remained a non-story long after it was released courtesy of a Judicial Watch freedom-of-information lawsuit. The New York Times didn’t mention it until six months later while the Washington Post waited more than a year before dismissing it as “loopy” and “relatively unimportant.” With ISIS rampaging across much of Syria and Iraq, no one wanted to admit that U.S. attitudes were ever anything other than hostile.

But three years earlier, when the Defense Intelligence Agency was compiling the report, attitudes were different. Jihadis were heroes rather than terrorists, and all the experts agreed that they were a low-risk, high-yield way of removing Assad from office.

After spending five days with a Syrian rebel unit, for instance, New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers wrote that the group “mixes paramilitary discipline, civilian policing, Islamic law, and the harsh demands of necessity with battlefield coldness and outright cunning.”

Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, assured the Washington Post that “al Qaeda is a fringe element” among the rebels, while, not to be outdone, the gossip site Buzzfeed published a pin-up of a “ridiculously photogenic” jihadi toting an RPG.

“Hey girl,” said the subhead. “Nothing sexier than fighting the oppression of tyranny.”

And then there was Foreign Policy, the magazine founded by neocon guru Samuel P. Huntington, which was most enthusiastic of all. Gary Gambill’s “Two Cheers for Syrian Islamists,” which ran on the FP web site just a couple of weeks after the DIA report was completed, didn’t distort the facts or make stuff up in any obvious way. Nonetheless, it is a classic of U.S. propaganda. Its subhead glibly observed: “So the rebels aren’t secular Jeffersonians. As far as America is concerned, it doesn’t much matter.”

Assessing the Damage

Five years later, it’s worth a second look to see how Washington uses self-serving logic to reduce an entire nation to rubble.

First a bit of background. After displacing France and Britain as the region’s prime imperial overlord during the 1956 Suez Crisis and then breaking with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser a few years later, the United States committed itself to the goal of defeating Arab nationalism and Soviet Communism, two sides of the same coin as far as Washington was concerned. Over the next half-century, this would mean steering Egypt to the right with assistance from the Saudis, isolating Libyan strong man Muammar Gaddafi, and doing what it could to undermine the Syrian Baathist regime as well.

William Roebuck, the American embassy’s chargé d’affaires in Damascus, thus urged Washington in 2006 to coordinate with Egypt and Saudi Arabia to encourage Sunni Syrian fears of Shi‘ite Iranian proselytizing even though such concerns are “often exaggerated.” It was akin to playing up fears of Jewish dominance in the 1930s in coordination with Nazi Germany.

A year later, former NATO commander Wesley Clark learned of a classified Defense Department memo stating that U.S. policy was now to “attack and destroy the governments in seven countries in five years,” first Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. (Quote starts at 2:07.)

Since the United States didn’t like what such governments were doing, the solution was to install more pliable ones in their place. Hence Washington’s joy when the Arab Spring struck Syria in March 2011 and it appeared that protesters would soon topple the Baathists on their own.

Even when lofty democratic rhetoric gave way to ominous sectarian chants of “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the coffin,” U.S. enthusiasm remained strong. With Sunnis accounting for perhaps 60 percent of the population, strategists figured that there was no way Assad could hold out against religious outrage welling up from below.

Enter Gambill and the FP. The big news, his article began, is that secularists are no longer in command of the burgeoning Syrian rebel movement and that Sunni Islamists are taking the lead instead. As unfortunate as this might seem, he argued that such a development was both unavoidable and far from entirely negative.

“Islamist political ascendancy is inevitable in a majority Sunni Muslim country brutalized for more than four decades by a secular minoritarian dictatorship,” he wrote in reference to the Baathists. “Moreover, enormous financial resources are pouring in from the Arab-Islamic world to promote explicitly Islamist resistance to Assad’s Alawite-dominated, Iranian-backed regime.”

So the answer was not to oppose the Islamists, but to use them. Even though “the Islamist surge will not be a picnic for the Syrian people,” Gambill said, “it has two important silver linings for US interests.” One is that the jihadis “are simply more effective fighters than their secular counterparts” thanks to their skill with “suicide bombings and roadside bombs.”

The other is that a Sunni Islamist victory in Syria will result in “a full-blown strategic defeat” for Iran, thereby putting Washington at least part way toward fulfilling the seven-country demolition job discussed by Wesley Clark.

“So long as Syrian jihadis are committed to fighting Iran and its Arab proxies,” the article concluded, “we should quietly root for them – while keeping our distance from a conflict that is going to get very ugly before the smoke clears. There will be plenty of time to tame the beast after Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions have gone down in flames.”

Deals with the Devil

The U.S. would settle with the jihadis only after the jihadis had settled with Assad. The good would ultimately outweigh the bad. This kind of self-centered moral calculus would not have mattered had Gambill only spoken for himself. But he didn’t. Rather, he was expressing the viewpoint of Official Washington in general, which is why the ultra-respectable FP ran his piece in the first place.

The Islamists were something America could employ to their advantage and then throw away like a squeezed lemon. A few Syrians would suffer, but America would win, and that’s all that counts.

The parallels with the DIA report are striking. “The west, gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition,” the intelligence report declared, even though “the Salafist[s], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [i.e. Al Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency.”

Where Gambill predicted that “Assad and his minions will likely retreat to northwestern Syria,” the DIA speculated that the jihadis might establish “a declared or undeclared Salafist principality” at the other end of the country near cities like Hasaka and Der Zor (also known as Deir ez-Zor).

Where the FP said that the ultimate aim was to roll back Iranian influence and undermine Shi‘ite rule, the DIA said that a Salafist principality “is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

Bottle up the Shi‘ites in northwestern Syria, in other words, while encouraging Sunni extremists to establish a base in the east so as to put pressure on Shi‘ite-influenced Iraq and Shi‘ite-ruled Iran.

As Gambill put it: “Whatever misfortunes Sunni Islamists may visit upon the Syrian people, any government they form will be strategically preferable to the Assad regime, for three reasons: A new government in Damascus will find continuing the alliance with Tehran unthinkable, it won’t have to distract Syrians from its minority status with foreign policy adventurism like the ancien régime, and it will be flush with petrodollars from Arab Gulf states (relatively) friendly to Washington.”

With the Saudis footing the bill, the U.S. would exercise untrammeled sway.

Disastrous Thinking

Has a forecast ever gone more spectacularly wrong? Syria’s Baathist government is hardly blameless in this affair. But thanks largely to the U.S.-backed sectarian offensive, 400,000 Syrians or more have died since Gambill’s article appeared, with another 6.1 million displaced and an estimated 4.8 million fleeing abroad.

War-time destruction totals around $250 billion, according to U.N. estimates, a staggering sum for a country of 18.8 million people where per-capita income prior to the outbreak of violence was under $3,000. From Syria, the specter of sectarian violence has spread across Asia and Africa and into Europe and North America as well. Political leaders throughout the advanced industrial world are still struggling to contain the populist fury that the Middle East refugee crisis, the result of U.S.-instituted regime change, helped set off.

So instead of advancing U.S. policy goals, Gambill helped do the opposite. The Middle East is more explosive than ever while U.S. influence has fallen to sub-basement levels. Iranian influence now extends from the Arabian Sea to the Mediterranean, while the country that now seems to be wobbling out of control is Saudi Arabia where Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman is lurching from one self-induced crisis to another. The country that Gambill counted on to shore up the status quo turns out to be undermining it.

It’s not easy to screw things up so badly, but somehow Washington’s bloated foreign-policy establishment has done it. Since helping to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, Gambill has moved on to a post at the rightwing Middle East Forum where Daniel Pipes, the group’s founder and chief, now inveighs against the same Sunni ethnic cleansing that his employee defended or at least apologized for.

The forum is particularly well known for its Campus Watch program, which targets academic critics of Israel, Islamists, and – despite Gambill’s kind words about “suicide bombings and roadside bombs” – anyone it considers the least bit apologetic about Islamic terrorism.

Double your standard, double the fun. Terrorism, it seems, is only terrorism when others do it to the U.S., not when the U.S. does it to others.

December 8, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman on Syria, Lebanon and Other Issues

By Stephen Lendman | The People’s Voice | November 28, 2017

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova (MZ below) believes the “presence of ISIS in Syria is coming to an end” – maybe so but the US-supported terrorist threat in the country remains, not ending as long as Washington wants war, not peace.

MZ stressed that US-led forces “provid(e) cover to the extremists, ISIS in particular.” Surprisingly, the BBC reported their evacuation from Raqqa under US-led “supervision.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Washington of supporting ISIS and other terrorists while claiming to be combating them.

“(N)ot only (did US-led aerial operations refuse) to launch strikes on the terrorists, but also created obstacles for the Russian Aerospace Forces as they tried to attack the targets in the specified area,” MZ explained.

Russian operations are key to Syria’s liberating struggle – Washington’s rage for endless war and regime change the greatest obstacle.

MZ: “I would like to digress and speak from the heart for a moment. I will say it in plain Russian without any professional jargon.”

“It’s about (Washington) providing cover to the terrorist militants. We provide numbers and facts. We talk about trends in fighting terrorism, and we analyze how the militants and terrorists were withdrawn, shielded and emboldened by the US-led coalition.”

This type straight talk is absent in the West, the BBC report a rare exception, nothing from US media on what’s going on – supporting US aggression, blaming victims for its high crimes.

MZ criticized Defense Secretary James Mattis’ Big Lie – claiming US forces in Syria have UN permission to be there. No such permission exists, no Security Council authorization.

Americans and their rogue allies are hostile invaders, aggressors, massacring civilians, destroying vital infrastructure, pretending to be combating terrorists they support.

Washington “intends to hold part of Syrian territory for as long as (it) wish(es). The goal behind this approach is to achieve the desired settlement result by force,” said MZ – aiming to oust Assad and destroy the country’s sovereignty.

Moscow is following events in Lebanon, in the wake of PM Saad Hariri’s forced resignation and detention under house arrest in Riyadh.

On Friday, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil met with Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.

“Russia’s position on Lebanon remains unchanged. We strongly support the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of this friendly country and we believe that the Lebanese people should resolve all issues on their national agenda on their own, and we are against any outside interference that threatens to upset the existing political and religious balance in Lebanon,” said MZ.

US-led NATO troops are cooperating with ISIS in northern Afghanistan, MZ explained, “transporting” them aboard “unidentified helicopters… providing them with weapons…”

“Once again, this raises questions about the true aims of the foreign military presence in Afghanistan,” MZ stressed.

She commented on increasing opium production in the country. A UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said it nearly doubled since last year.

Pre-9/11, the Taliban eliminated most of it. Production flourishes in areas under US occupation. ISIS fighters sell it to raise revenues.

“The opiate industry in Afghanistan has become a key source for fueling terrorist activities, which further destabilizes that country and beyond,” said MZ.

Russophobia is active in Madrid, regime officials falsely accusing Moscow of involvement in Catalonia’s declaration of independence.

“Remarks by Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis that Russia allegedly seeks to weaken Spain are particularly dismaying,” said MZ.

She blasted his spurious accusation, “picked up from dubious sources,” she said.

Along with other issues, MZ commented on Russia’s lower house State Duma legislation regarding foreign media in the country – creating a legal framework for responding to Washington forcing RT America to register as a foreign agent.

Russia was “forced to… reply to the openly repressive (US) actions,” MZ explained.

US hostility toward Russia is greater than any previous time in memory, risking conflict between the world’s dominant nuclear powers, a potential doomsday agenda Washington appears to be pursuing.

-###-

Stephen Lendman can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

November 28, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

There’s light at the end of Syrian tunnel

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | November 24, 2017

For the 330,000 dead souls of Syria it may be small comfort that the bloody conflict in their homeland is drawing to a close, finally, but it is brilliant news nonetheless.

Although there has been a struggle against terrorism on Syrian soil, the struggle was quintessentially geopolitical. The decades-long US agenda – at least, dating back to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – was at the core of it. That agenda, which sucked in regional and extra-regional powers, has conclusively failed. Therefore, it is the regional settlement that becomes crucial at this stage.

Peacemaking makes strange bedfellows because protagonists are jockeying for position to secure their interests. The trilateral summit in Sochi between Russia, Iran and Turkey on Wednesday can be regarded as a celebratory event insofar as Russia and Iran have not only ‘won’ the Syrian war but also cemented the ‘defection’ of Turkey to their side. The locus of Middle East politics itself has shifted. This is one thing.

Equally, Russian diplomacy has effectively ‘neutralized’ Saudi Arabia and encouraged that country to ‘sanitize’ the Syrian opposition groups who are under its influence and nudge them toward swallowing the bitter pill and drop their persistent pre-condition that President Bashar al-Assad cannot be part of any solution to the Syrian problem.

With Qatar and Jordan having already moved to a ‘neutral position’ on their own accord in the recent months – each for its own reasons of self-interest – and with Egypt all along being fully behind the Russian leadership, there is no regional state that is any longer in the business of prolonging the fratricidal war by putting up proxy groups.

Except, of course, Israel. But then, Israel is a small country and non-Muslim and lacks the clout to influence the prevailing winds or to create new facts on the ground in Syria. The Russian President Vladimir Putin who spoke to all key regional leaders and (US President Donald Trump) on Tuesday night in a flurry of ‘telephone diplomacy’ pointedly ignored Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu who then had to initiate a request to the Kremlin to solicit a briefing by Putin. (Putin graciously obliged.) But it was a signal of displeasure to ‘Bibi’ from the Kremlin as well as a warning to behave responsibly in the period ahead.

Added to the Saudi back-tracking in Lebanon, Israel has been virtually put out of business. Besides, the fact of the matter is that ISIS has been defeated and the Syrian army controls over 98 percent of territory (according to Russian estimates.) There is already talk of a winding down of the Russian military presence in Syria before the end of the year.

So, how will the post-conflict scenario look in Syria? The Sochi summit provided some signposts. There are five main ‘takeaways’.

  • Turkey has a deal with Russia and Iran to accept Assad’s continuance as leader through the transition – and even beyond (more of that below) – and in return, President Erdogan scored a major victory in keeping the Kurds from inclusion in the settlement.
  • The troika – Russia, Iran and Turkey – will be in the driving seat to shepherd the Syrian parties to the negotiating table in Geneva where the UN will notionally preside over the talks. The three countries will decide the participants for the upcoming Syrian Dialogue to be held in Sochi in early December to discuss a constitution and deliberate on the broad contours of a settlement.
  • The troika will also continue to be the ‘guarantor powers’ ensuring the ceasefire and will coordinate the maintenance of security within Syria through the uncertain period ahead. But the so-called ‘de-escalation zones’ as such will be an interim measure, which will be disbanded once the transition is complete. That means, there is no scope for external powers to carve out ‘spheres of influence’ on Syrian territory.
  • A US withdrawal from Syria becomes inevitable, no matter what Defence Secretary James Mattis might say or not. In fact, an open-ended US military presence (such as in Afghanistan) will be possible only through the establishment of a puppet government in Syria, which is inconceivable.
  • Russia has emerged as the Master of Ceremonies. This is not at all surprising since Russia is the only power on earth which has networking with all protagonists within Syria, in the region and internationally. The Russians displayed a masterly performance in optimally conducting ‘coercive diplomacy’. It is an incredible feat that they entered the Syrian conflict only in September 2015 but turned the tide of the war within a short period of time, went on to crush the ISIS, and consolidated Assad’s position as the unassailable future leader – all within a matter of two years flat – and are now putting together the nuts and bolts of a settlement almost suo moto, while also carrying along the ‘losers’ in the war and altogether eschewing triumphalism.

Trump himself appears to be on board Putin’s settlement formula, which is of a unitary Syrian state and a democratically government that comes out of UN-supervised elections in which all Syrians (including Assad) can contest. (To jog memory, the Trump-Putin statement on Syria after their meeting in Da Nang even made a reference to Assad.)

Indeed, there are grey areas still. The most important one involves the continued presence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, the militia supported by Iran and Hezbollah who have been the real source of strength on the ground for the Syrian government. But it is unrealistic to expect the Syrian army to handle the security all by itself through the delicate period of transition. There are terrorist groups present on Syrian soil, as the massive attack in Damascus today shows.

The bottom line is that the above becomes a non-issue if Assad remains in power because as the democratically elected leader of a sovereign country, it will be his prerogative to seek help from any quarter to strengthen national security. And the plain truth is that there is no credible opposition figure who can rival Assad in a free and fair election in Syria. If anything, the 7-year bloody civil war strengthens Assad’s appeal to the Syrian people cutting across religion or sects as the only bulwark against instability and chaos. To my mind, all that Assad needs is a level playing field in the nature of an inclusive democratic process.

Russia and Iran insisted throughout that it is for the Syrian people to elect or reject candidates in a democratic election. Turkey has now virtually identified with that principled stance. In a very significant remark, Turkish President Recep Erdogan said after the Sochi summit that he does not rule out resuming contacts with Assad in the coming period. The principle that it is simply not for outsiders to prescribe the political future of Syria is only going to get wider regional and international acceptance. In fact, one can visualize even European countries re-establishing ties with Damascus in a near future.

November 27, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mainstream Media’s double-betrayal of Libya

By Adam Garrie Adam Garrie | The Duran | November 26, 2017

The Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya whose most prominent leader was Muammar Gaddafi, even after he relinquished titular status, was a country that moulded itself on the unique Third International Theory. This new ideology combined elements of traditional Arab Nationalism, the socialist model of Yugoslavia, direct democracy and pan-Africanism.

As detailed on his Green Books, Gaddafi’s official ideas helped develop Libya from a state which in its pre-revolutionary days had virtually no modern infrastructure, little modern housing, no real modern irrigation or sewage systems, low levels of literacy and a very low life expectancy, to one which attained the highest living standards in Africa history, where housing was either cheap or free, education and healthcare were free, petrol and car ownership was subsidised by the state, food was cheap and plentiful and where a highly elaborate man made river made the desert bloom.

But above all of these achievements, Gaddafi’s revolutionary leadership helped close the gap between Arabism and the pan-African liberation movement.

Gaddafi’s foreign policy could not be easily pinned-down into any specific geo-political bloc. He was his own man and the foreign policy of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya reflected this.

Libya was the only Arab state to support Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, apart from Syria and likewise, one of the few states in the wider Muslim world to support the socialist Yugoslav government in its war against terrorism and fascism during the 1990s.

As Gadafi became increasingly ostracised by Arab League governments who loathed his independent streak in foreign policy and moreover, resented Libya’s general independence from the western financial system, Gaddafi turned increasingly little to the prodigal Arab world and more towards Africa.

Gaddafi supported every major African liberation movement on the continent, even those who were rejected by both China and the Soviet Union. South Africa’s Nelson Mandela maintained a lifelong friendship with Gaddafi whom he called ‘Brother Gaddafi’, as did many Africans.

But Gaddafi did more than support liberation movements in Africa. Because the economic boom Gaddafi created required a larger labour force than Libyans could provide, Gaddafi invited many black Africans to work in the Arab state. They were paid incredibly well, not just by African but international standards and they became integrated into Libyan society in spite of their racial backgrounds. While most of the black Africans who came to Libya were Muslims, some Christians also come and they were treated with the same courtesy as Muslims.

This was Libya then. Today, Libya is a failed state with several governments and many terrorist groups and piratical gangs competing for land, resources and influence. Among the first casualties of Libyan society when NATO invaded, was the safety of the black population. From the beginning of the NATO led war, black men and women in Libya were beaten, tortured, physically molested in other unspeakable ways and of course many more were killed. Those who could escape, did so, with many dying of dehydration in the desert, during the process.

Shortly after 2011, captured blacks became literally enslaved by various Takfiri gangs ruling Libya. This trend is nothing new, all that has changed is that the price of a black slave has recently gone up from the low hundreds or a few barrels of oil, to at most, the mid hundreds.

It has only been since the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq that the western mainstream media has paid any attention to the tragic condition of black men and women in Libya. From 2011 until very recently, very little was ever said about this tragic development.

While some welcome this apparent about face from the mainstream media, I would urge caution. It was the mainstream media that lied constantly about Libya in the prelude to NATO’s deadly invasion in 2011.

It was the mainstream media that failed to state that those in 2011 causing agitations in Benghazi were al-Qaeda terrorists, many of whom were trained and transported to Libya by western governments. It was the mainstream media that made up a total lie about Libya, saying that the armed forces gave the drug Viagra to soldiers and told them to go on a raping spree. This outlandish allegation had zero basis in fact.

It was the mainstream media that failed to tell its gullible viewers that Libya was transformed by Gaddafi from a wasteland into a sophisticated society with high living standards and a population with extremely long life expediencies. More to the point, it was the mainstream media which dismissed early reports that black people in Libya, would be among the first victims of the war.

With the western powers on the losing side of the wars in Syria and to a degree, in Iraq also, many of the terrorists who have not been killed will flee to Libya. Many already have reached Libya which is effectively the next stop on the ‘jihad express’.

Because of this, western media outlets are looking for an angle to justify further military intervention in Libya. Moreover, with the secular Libyan House of Representatives making gains against terrorists thanks to the leadership of Khalifa Haftar and the Libyan National Army, many are worried that the western backed puppet government in Tripoli called the Government of National Accord, may lose what very little power it has. Haftar by contrast is openly supported by Egypt and has had many high-level meetings with Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

If Haftar is able to gain further success in his war against terrorism, it would be another sign that the west has lost control of a country they once successfully destroyed.

If the western mainstream media did not care about the black population of Libya when they cheered on the terrorists who killed and enslaved them, why should they care now? The logical answer is that they do not care any more now than they did when they had a chance to explain why a war on Libya would unleash a plague of racist violence on a stable country. The mainstream media are now, simply looking for a new narrative to justify further war on a country whose only stable, secular factions are those operating independently of the west.

November 27, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment