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Baghdad seeking ‘substantial’ Russian military & political presence in Iraq – vice-president

RT | July 24, 2017

Russian military and political presence in Iraq would bring balance to the whole Middle Eastern and North African region, Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi vice-president, said during his visit to Moscow.

“It’s well known that Russia has historically strong relations with Iraq, therefore we would like Russia to have a substantial presence in our country, both politically and militarily,” al-Maliki said during his meeting with the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko.

“This way, a balance would be established that would benefit the region, its peoples and its countries,” he added.

The vice president said that Baghdad wants to boost relations with Moscow as it believes “in Russia’s role in solving most of the key international issues as well as improving stability and balance in our region and worldwide.”

Matviyenko, in turn, praised the commitment of the current Iraqi authorities to widening their cooperation with Moscow.

“Russia is also determined to expand its interaction with Iraq both politically and economically as well as in the military-technical sphere, and, of course, on the parliamentary level,” she said.

In his talks with Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, earlier Monday, al-Maliki stressed that a Russian presence in Iraq would bring the balance which couldn’t be “undermined in a political sense in favor of any external party.”

“Today we need Russia’s greater involvement in Iraqi affairs, especially in the energy field. Now when we are done with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Iraq needs investments in energy and trade,” he said.

Earlier in July, the Iraqi authorities announced that the last IS stronghold in the country, Mosul, had been fully liberated from the terrorists, following an eight-months-long campaign backed by the US-led coalition.

Al-Maliki told Lavrov that Moscow and Baghdad “should enhance… cooperation in countering terrorism in the region.”

“We believe that both our countries are targets for terrorists and those who stand behind them,” al-Maliki said.

Moscow supports the efforts of the Iraqi authorities to “normalize the situation in the country, first of all aiming at eradicating the terrorist threat,” Lavrov said.

It’s vital that Baghdad’s struggle isn’t carried out in isolation, but is carried on in the context of international efforts to eradicate the terrorist threat across the globe, including in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and other countries, the Russian FM added.

Al-Maliki is also travelling to St. Petersburg, where he’s expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Deconstructing Trump’s Iran sanctions

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | July 20, 2017

There is an old impish yarn that Moses was stunned to see the two cats he’d put in the Ark trooping out with a bunch of kittens at the end of the tumultuous existential journey. Seeing the old sage’s puzzled look, the adult male shot back, ‘You thought we were fighting?’ This in some ways captures the noisy, implausible games that Iran and the United States play with each other, growling at each other and making us feel worried at times.

President Donald Trump is having a difficult time to differentiate his Iran policies from Barack Obama’s. The Trump administration has twice certified to the Congress that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal – an agreement he vowed to tear up. But, while doing so on Monday, with an eye on the Israeli lobby, it separately imposed sanctions against a clutch of Iranian personalities and entities – so that the optics look appropriately ‘tough’.

Tehran had conveyed a red line to Washington in the weekend that there shall be no sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (which is spearheading Iran’s operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria). The Trump administration understood perfectly well what it implied – namely, that things can overnight hot up for the US on the ground on the Syrian-Iraqi theatre. (For the uninitiated, IRGC-backed militia and American military advisors tacitly collaborate in the liberation of Mosul.)

Tehran understands that Trump is a bluff master. Read the Iranian Foreign Ministry statement here. Clearly, no one is losing sleep in Tehran. Iran’s missile programme is indigenous; nor will US sanctions frighten IRGC’s elite Qud’s Force under the command of its charismatic general Qassem Soleimani to give up the ‘axis of resistance’ in Syria and Lebanon (and Gaza.)

In fact, Majlis passed a finance bill Tuesday increasing the budget allocation for the missile programme and Quds Force each by $260 million.

The Middle East is witnessing a long sunset of the US hegemony. And Iran senses it. So, Tehran is playing its cards astutely through an admixture of strategic defiance and taunts with unspoken overtures seeking meaningful conversation.

Read the transcript, here, of a fascinating interview by National Interest magazine with Iranian FM Mohammed Javed Zarif who is visiting New York. (Zarif already addressed the CFR and was interviewed by CNN’s Fareed Zakariah and the PBS, amongst others.)

Indeed, Zarif virtually choreographed an Iran policy for Trump. Look at his tantalizing remarks:

  • “It took the U.S. longer to clear the purchase of Airbus airplanes than it took for the purchase of Boeing airplanes.”
  • “If it comes to a major violation, or what in the terms of the nuclear deal is called significant nonperformance, then Iran has other options available, including withdrawing from the deal.”
  • “We need to be more careful about the signaling, because we’ve seen that wrong signaling in the past few weeks in our region, particularly after the Riyadh summit, has caused a rather serious backlash in the region—not between U.S. allies and Iran, but among U.S. allies.”
  • “At this stage we are content with simply implementing that (nuclear) agreement… we wanted that agreement to be the foundation and not the ceiling. But in order for that to serve as a solid foundation, we want to make sure that the obligations by all sides have been fully and faithfully implemented. And if we get that, then we have an opening to further progress.”
  • “We don’t see the situation in our region as a winning or losing battle… we believe that the situation in today’s world is so interconnected that we cannot have winners and losers; we either win together or lose together. Obviously, if an administration or a government or a country defines its interests in terms of exclusion of others, then it is defining the problem in a way that is not amenable to a solution.”
  • “We have had a consistent policy of fighting extremism and terrorism, whether it was in Afghanistan during the reign of the Taliban, or, even during the time that the United States was in occupation of Iraq, against terrorist elements who were instigating terror inside Iraq.”
  • “Well, it all depends on the approach that the United States will try, the current administration will try to adopt vis-à-vis Iran. It has to look at Iran as the only country in the region where people stand in line for ten hours to vote. It has to put aside those self-serving assumptions that some members of this administration have repeatedly stated.”
  • “We have a very sober understanding of the situation in the region where we are located, and we hope that the United States can also have such a sober understanding.”

Iran is doing just fine. The genius to optimally put diplomacy to use, with maximum cost-effectiveness, has been Iran’s strategic asset in the politics of the Middle East.

July 20, 2017 Posted by | Warmongering | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Trump shows realism toward Iran

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | July 18, 2017

The United States’ regional strategies in the Middle East face multiple challenges and it needs strong nerves and robust realism not to overreact. Importantly, the temptation to display ‘muscular’ diplomacy must be curbed. Thus, the decision by the Trump administration on Monday to certify for the second time Iran’s compliance with the July 2015 nuclear deal signifies strategic maturity.

However, this judicious decision does not mean that the sea of troubles is receding. The media leak by the Washington Post, attributed to US intelligence officials, exposing that the UAE had pre-planned the rift with Qatar, can only be seen as a display of Washington’s disenchantment with the ‘boycotting states’ (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain) and a gentle warning to them not to exacerbate tensions. The UAE, in fact, was just about to initiate Qatar’s formal expulsion from the GCC when the ‘media leak’ created a new ‘fact on the ground’ and Abu Dhabi hastily beat a retreat.

In geopolitical terms, the rift in the Gulf puts the US in a quandary. Whatever hopes it had of creating an alliance system between the Gulf Arab Sheikhs and Israelis to contain Iran have evaporated. The fallout in the Gulf doesn’t lend itself to resolution easily. Which means two things: a) US’ containment strategy toward Iran has floundered; and, b) US’ regional allies are bogged down in an internal quagmire that preoccupy then for a conceivable future.

Enter Israel. Unsurprisingly, Israel is both despondent and furious that its best-laid plans to confront Iran (with American help) have collapsed. The implications are most serious for the Golan Heights, the Syrian territory under illegal Israeli occupation since the 1967 War. Put simply, Iran is on a roll and with the support of the Shi’ite militia supported by it and Hezbollah, Syrian government forces may push toward territory straddling Golan Heights which Israel had planned as a buffer zone controlled by by al-Qaeda affiliates (with Israeli military backing).

On Sunday, in a sudden outburst, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the recent US-Russian accord on the ‘de-escalation zone’ in Southern Syria. It is a disturbing signal that Israel might be planning a military operation in Syrian territory to consolidate a buffer zone straddling the Golan Heights. Any Israeli invasion is assured of success because of its military superiority. But the question is, what happens thereafter? Without doubt, Syrian government, Iranian militia and Hezbollah will open a ‘resistance front’.

Succinctly put, Netanyahu feels let down that Trump is not unleashing a war on Iran and is piling on pressure at a time when Trump’s popularity is at an abysmally low point and the US media is smelling blood that the investigations over the so-called Russian meddling in the November election is now touching the president’s son and son-in-law as well. The Jewish lobby controls the US media.

Significantly, Al-Masdar News from Beirut reported on Monday that the Russian military has deployed to the proposed ‘de-militarization’ zone in southern Syria. Indeed, the Russian media have shown irritation toward the Israeli belligerence and have questioned Israel’s intentions in consorting with al-Qaeda and ISIS groups.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that the US-Russian accord on ‘de-escalation zone’ in southern Syria was finalized only after making sure that “Israel’s security interests are fully taken into consideration.” Of course, it is possible that Israel has since shifted the goal post, typically. Plan B could be to invade Syria. Or, Israel could be bargaining with the Trump administration to get a bigger say in any Syrian settlement. Or, Israel is aligning with the Russophobes in the Washington establishment who never really warmed up to Trump’s 126-minute dalliance with President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg.

In view of the above, clearly, the Trump administration’s decision Monday to certify on Iran nuclear deal compliance signals that it understands the limits to the US’ capacity to confront Iran in the overall context of regional realignments, which run on several templates:

  • Iran’s dominating presence on the ground in Iraq and Syria;
  • Iran’s unwavering support of President Bashar Al-Assad;
  • The US-Turkish alienation in northern Syria;
  • Turkish-Israeli antipathies;
  • Rift among the US’ Gulf allies;
  • The collapse of the Syrian rebel groups;
  • The impending defeat of ISIS;
  • Stalemate in the war in Yemen; and,
  • The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

Quite obviously, Iran is a serious player in the geopolitics of the ‘Greater Middle East’. The point is, a direct high-level contact between Washington and Tehran will be a ‘force multiplier’ for US diplomacy. Outsourcing to Moscow the job of getting Tehran on board assumes that Iran doesn’t have its own interests. That is far from the case. (Read my opinion piece in Asia Times, Trump’s Iran policies are in a cul-de-sac.)

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ambassador Yakovenko’s comment on the situation in Syria

Ambassador’s view | RT | July 16, 2017

We believe that the current round of Geneva talks is off to a better start due to the participation of all the main opposition platforms – the Riyadh, Moscow, and Cairo groups.

The constitutional reform and the fight against terrorism are priorities, but not forgetting about two other issues (running the country prior to the adoption of a new constitution and holding elections). Eventually, the constitution should reflect the concerns of all ethnic, religious, and political groups of Syria without exception. This is the only way to ensure the stable functioning of the Syrian state and prevent the spread of [the] terrorist threat. Meanwhile, the current constitution provides for a broad range of opportunities to expand the participation of opposition representatives in running the state. We actively support the efforts of UNSG Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to encourage the Syrian parties to engage in a productive conversation on constitutional reforms.

The success of agreements on de-escalation zones, particularly one in southwest Syria signed by Russia, the US, and Jordan on July 7, will make the fight against terrorism more efficient. This opportunity is real now, because the very concept of de-escalation zones provides for separation of the armed opposition from ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and other UN-proscribed terrorist groups. They also help normalize relations between the government forces and the armed opposition. The conditions are thus created for their stopping fighting each other and joining forces against the terrorists. Russia will contribute to this process.

Among other things, the agreements on de-escalation zones provide for stepping up practical cooperation between Moscow and Washington. Our joint efforts to enforce ceasefire in southwest Syria will be coordinated by the Monitoring Center, which Russia, the United States, and Jordan have agreed to establish in Amman. This center will maintain direct contact both with the opposition groups and representatives of the Syrian government. Basically, we keep the doors open to cooperation on further development of the de-escalation concept, while maintaining regular contact with the other key players that can influence developments in Syria. All in all, the July 7 agreement reached between Russia, the US, and Jordan shows that, despite differences in our positions and interests, cooperation is possible for common good. Let’s build on this to make further progress in dealing with jihadist aggression that distorted the entire Syrian situation.

Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko

July 16, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The National Geographic ‘Hell on Earth’ Syria Hoax

By Paul Larudee | Dissident Voice | July 6, 2017

On April 5, 2017, National Geographic released a preview of its film, Hell on Earth: The Fall Of Syria And The Rise of ISIS, by filmmaker Sebastian Junger and producing partner Nick Quested:

The film itself debuted on April 26, 2017, at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and on the National Geographic channel on June 11. Junger and Quested persuaded NG to release the preview early, following the suspected chemical attacks in Syria on April 4.

There are, unfortunately, several problems with the footage in both the preview and the film, as well as with the claims made by the filmmakers and National Geographic. The most glaring of these is that the opening scene of the trailer is a total fraud.

The scene shows a missile destroying a residential building with a thunderous explosion. Imposed over the footage are the words, ALEPPO, SYRIA. The clear implication is that the missile is part of a Russian or Syrian Air Force attack in the battle for Aleppo.

But how would the videographer have known where to position the camera in preparation for such an attack? Surprisingly, there is a logical answer to this question, because there are, in fact, circumstances where victims are told in advance the location and time of a missile strike.

Such a location is Gaza, and the time is when Israeli soldiers call the inhabitants of a house by phone and tell them to get out in 15 minutes or be blown up. That is enough time for a neighbor to film the event, and, in fact, it has been done on multiple occasions in Gaza, such as here, here, here, here, here and here.

But in Aleppo, Syria? Who would call in advance? In this case, the explanation is rather different; i.e., that the footage is not from Aleppo at all, but, in fact, from Gaza and only labeled as Aleppo. The original source footage comes from 2014, and is from the Israeli operation that took more than 2,200 Palestinian lives that summer, long before the Russians started providing air support for the Syrian army:

The use of this footage in the National Geographic preview, falsely labeling the location as Aleppo and implicating the Syrian or Russian Air Force in the destruction, is therefore a shameless and utter fraud.

The second discrepancy is that, according to the filmmakers, the footage in the preview is from the feature film. That may have been true on April 5, when the public had not yet seen the full film, but at some point, someone must have brought the fraudulent footage to the attention of National Geographic, so that they could replace it with a new opening footage. When did this happen? Was it before the debut on April 26, or later? It would be good to know.

But the reaction of the filmmakers is disappointing in the extreme. When faced with proof positive that their film contained a blatant fraud, did no one question the extent to which the entire film might be filled with fraud? Anyone who would so obviously falsify would hardly limit it to a single segment. The footage was clearly chosen for its effect, not its accuracy, and its quiet removal is more a cover-up than a correction.

To what extent, for example, are the rescue portions of the preview and film, featuring the White Helmets, also fraud? Respected US Marine intelligence officer and UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter is convinced that the White Helmets are incompetent in rescue operations, and that their videos are fabrications. Recognized documentary filmmaker John Pilger has called them a “complete propaganda construct”. On occasion, the White Helmets have even been forced to admit the same.

To what extent is the featured family merely acting out the events portrayed and not actually living them? To what extent is it all contrived? These are questions that deserve investigation. More important, how true is the reality that the film tries to portray, whether simulated or not (although if simulated, the filmmakers should say so for the sake of their own integrity, rather than pretending it is genuine)?

The fact is that although half the Syrian population has been displaced by war, the majority have never left Syria. When displaced, they have almost invariably left the areas taken over by “rebels” in order to seek refuge in government controlled areas. Why? Is it because the Syrian government; i.e., the “despised” Bashar al-Assad – despite the disastrous economy and in cooperation with Syrian civil organizations – is somehow housing, feeding, clothing, educating and providing health care to these Syrian citizens? In fact, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees reports that, with the Syrian government reasserting its authority in recovered areas of the country, more than 440,000 displaced persons have returned to their homes.

The film also fails to mention that thousands of “rebel” fighters have laid down their arms, accepted Syrian government amnesty and been allowed to return to their homes. It further omits that the US and its allies could have stopped ISIS by merely denying them funding and arms. Russia was the one that largely put an end to the trafficking of stolen Syrian oil, by bombing the massive convoys of trucks across the Turkish border. No mention of that in the film. The US has avoided serious actions against ISIS and al-Qaeda, and treated them as useful hit men in order to destroy the Syrian military. This made us enablers of the terrorists rather than their eliminators.

As for the filmmakers, the New Yorker reports that “[they] couldn’t get into Syria, so … [the film] was shot by Middle Eastern news outfits, and by activists, witnesses, and citizen journalists.” This is reflected in the credits, which include the Aleppo Media Center, Daryaa [sic] Media Center, Halab News Network and Sham News. These are all affiliates of the White Helmets, which in turn is the front organization for the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, variously called Jabhat al-Nusra, Jabha Fateh al-Sham and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Their lavish funding comes from France, the UK, the US, Qatar and other countries. There is no evidence that any of the footage has been authenticated by the filmmakers themselves, and every reason to think that it has not.

It’s not that the film is totally inaccurate or that it does not do a service by revealing the suffering of refugees. It does. But it also perpetuates the worst western myths about the war, which are feeding a continuation of the suffering and the conflict. The US and its allies are the prime cause of the conflict, not the solution. US policy makers see the destruction of Syria as a positive thing, much as they do Iraq and Libya, and US efforts are directed toward destruction and control, not toward resolution and reconciliation.

If the filmmakers were honest, they would take the evidence of fraud as a sign that they need to review all the footage in the film that they have not authenticated and over which they have not exercised control.  Otherwise, they run the risk of being labeled as propagandists and permanently damaging or ruining their credibility as documentary filmmakers.

Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

Washington’s Devastating Next-stage of the War in Syria

By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 05.07.2017

All the US has to offer to the people of Syria is not hope but destruction, not peace but war, a war that is no longer—and never was—just about Syria. With the passage of time, the actual nature of the war imposed on Syria has become self-evident. Therefore, what we are hearing from Washington these days is no longer sole emphasis on defeating terror outfits such as ISIS; it is rather an emphasis on extending the war beyond Syria to accomplish at least a regime change in Iran, the kind of which the US and its Arab and European allies have been seeking in Syria. ISIS has already attacked Iran once and there is no guarantee that such attacks wouldn’t take place in future in Iran or elsewhere beyond the Middle East. While the West is projecting ISIS’ extended reach to other regions as an outcome of the organization’s exit from Syria and Iraq, the chaos this extended reach would cause will then serve as an invitation, as it did in the case of both Iraq and Syria, to the US to extend its own military presence in the region. Already we have seen fresh deployment in Afghanistan and resumption of drone strikes in Pakistan, indicating the US’ intention of not leaving the region in the near or even distant future.

In this context, plans for an extended military stay in “Syraq” (Syria and Iraq) and even of extending the scope of the war are already being considered in the official US policy making circles. The Foreign Policy magazine reported in mind June that some policy makers in the White House were pushing for extending the Syrian front as a means to use the scenario to militarily confront Iran and finally settle score with the “nexus of evil.” According to the report,

“Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, and Derek Harvey, the NSC’s top Middle East advisor, want the United States to start going on the offensive in southern Syria, where, in recent weeks, the U.S. military has taken a handful of defensive actions against Iranian-backed forces fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

While the report mentions that the idea hasn’t yet found much support in the Pentagon, there is no gainsaying that within the Pentagon’s Syria strategy, there is enough scope for extending the war to the extent of militarily confronting pro-Assad forces, especially Iran. Its recent glimpse came when the US forces shot down an Iranian drone in Syria few days ago. And as Washington Post recently revealed, the US was already making unprecedented strikes against Assad regime and Iranian-backed militia forces and sending warnings to them that “they will not be allowed to confront or impede the Americans and their local proxy forces.”

On the other hand, the fact that the US is willing to go to any extent to protect the anti-Assad forces fighting under its nose is also evident from the way the US is still opposed to seeing Assad in power as Syria’s legitimate ruler. Two thing clearly point to this fact.

First, Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, told House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 28 hearing that the US should decide on its role in Syria for the time when ISIS is driven out, “because a healthy Syria is not with Assad.” Ambassador Haley’s latest remarks at the hearing, titled “Advancing US Interests at the United Nations,” could indicate a possible change in America’s future objectives on Syria. She had previously said that Washington’s priorities in Syria had changed with the new administration, and the US would no longer focus on the removal of Assad.

Second thing that adds to this seeming policy shift is the way the White House is involved in propagating about yet another possible chemical attack in Syria by Assad. On June 26, the White House official stated that Syria was planning another chemical weapons attack and “would pay a heavy price” if it came to pass. Ambassador Nikki Haley quickly chimed in on Twitter saying that any further attack would “be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia and Iran who support him killing his own people.”

The above mentioned change in policy and the preparations being made for extending the war to Iran has also found some support within the Republican ranks. It was only few days ago when a Republican senator Tom Cotton was reported to have said that “the policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran.” The CIA has already expanded its Iranian covert operations (read: in the name of ISIS). The US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, in little noticed comments to the US Congress few days ago also called for “peaceful regime change” in Syria. It is, however, not sure what Tillerson meant by “peaceful”, for the history of US regime change interventions is filled with direct military interventions or covert operations.

Is then Iran the next overt target of the US and its allies? The answer to this intriguing development-in-the-making has to be in the affirmative. It is going to be the culmination of Trump’s policy of ‘isolation of Iran’ that he laid down during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia. There is no gainsaying that this extension of the Syrian war would find ready-made support among many Arab-Gulf states, who would see in this policy a ready-made opportunity to cordon off their only chief rival in the entire region. Not only would they jump on the American bandwagon but also willingly funnel billions of dollars, contributing to transforming the whole region into one living-hell, a hell that wouldn’t take much time to knock on their own doors.

July 5, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Media & establishment push for regime change but ignore consequences – Tulsi Gabbard

RT | June 26, 2017

Most media outlets and politicians often ignore the deadly consequences of US regime change policy, including the rise of Islamic State, according to Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).

“I think that there has been a concerted effort both on the part of some in the media, as well as many in politics, and many in our foreign policy establishment seem to have been advocating for a continuance of these regime change wars, really ignoring the fact of what has been the consequence of these wars in countries like Iraq and Libya and Syria, where each time we have waged these wars, [it] has resulted in the strengthening of terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda or the creation of ISIS [Islamic State, IS, formerly ISIL], and it has resulted in a tremendous amount of suffering and death for the people of these countries,” said Gabbard at a press conference, answering a question from RT.

Gabbard’s remarks come as the Hawaiian representative, who is a former Iraq war veteran herself, tries to build support for the Stop Arming Terrorists Act that she introduced in Congress in January of this year. The bill would prohibit the US from backing armed factions linked to terrorist groups such as IS, Al-Qaeda, and the Al-Nusra Front. It is based on legislation from the 1980s that aimed to stop the CIA from illegally arming the Contra rebels during Nicaragua’s civil war.

“We must stop this madness,” Gabbard said speaking before Congress back in December, stressing, “We must stop arming terrorists.”

The bill has only been supported by 14 other lawmakers so far, however – six Democrats and eight Republicans. A companion bill has also been put forward in the Senate by Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky.

In January, Gabbard set out on a fact-finding mission in Syria, where she visited Damascus and Aleppo. While there, she met with Syrian students, entrepreneurs, academics, aid workers, religious leaders and members of the opposition. She said some of them told her they felt that the originally peaceful anti-government protests in 2011 were hijacked by jihadists “funded and supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the United States.”

“Their message to the American people was powerful and consistent: There is no difference between ‘moderate’ rebels and Al-Qaeda (Al-Nusra) or ISIS — they are all the same,” Gabbard wrote in a blog post, describing the essence of the Syrian conflict as “a war between terrorists under the command of groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda and the Syrian government.”

Read more :

Rep. Gabbard calls on US govt to stop ‘supporting terrorists’ after meeting Syria civilians & Assad

US weapons sold to Saudis contribute to ‘astounding’ Yemen humanitarian crisis – Rand Paul

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

US faces historic setback in the Middle East

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | June 23, 2017

The bloc of four Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia that imposed an embargo against Qatar on June 5 has finally presented their charter of demands. An AP dispatch, lists the 13 demands. The most striking demands include Doha reducing ties with Iran, severing relationships with Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, closing a Turkish military base in the country, and shuttering state broadcaster Al Jazeera and several news outlets.

Interestingly, Qatar is also expected to “consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.” All this means that abject, unconditional capitulation by Qatar only will satisfy its ‘big brothers’ – nothing less. By the way, there is also a timeline to comply – within the next 10 days – or else the demands get ratcheted up.

To my mind, Qatar will have no difficulty to see this is nothing short of a thinly-veiled push for ‘regime change’. The regime’s response can only be that these Arab bigwigs can go and hang themselves.

What happens next? Simply put, the (Sunni) Muslim Middle East is about to split and the historic schism will have profound consequences for regional and international security.

Make no mistake, this latest development also signifies a slap on the face for the Trump administration. Only last Tuesday, US state department warned Saudi Arabia to resolve the standoff without any further delay lest direct US intervention became necessary, doubting the stance taken by Riyadh (which is widely regarded as carrying the imprimatur of the new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman) and showing broad empathy with Qatar (where the US Central Command is headquartered.) Curiously, the US spokesperson also had alluded to Saudi Arabia’s past involvement in terrorism “whether it’s through terror financing or other means”.

Evidently, Saudi pride has been touched to the quick and Riyadh has taken exception to the US censuring. Without doubt, these demands are a show of defiance at Washington, too. This is all now going to become a protracted crisis in all likelihood, which will seriously debilitate the US’ regional strategies – unless of course Qatar crawls on its knees — and weaken its war against the ISIS.

To be sure, Turkey will take great exception to the Saudi demand that its so-called military base in Doha should be shut down unceremoniously. President Recep Erdogan will see this demand as an intolerable affront to Ottoman legacy. The VOA reported on Thursday that Turkey has been moving food and troops to Qatar in a big way.

Quite obviously, the crux of the matter is that the virus of Arab Spring is hibernating in Qatar and it threatens to become an epidemic someday again, threatening the autocratic regimes in the Middle East. Only Turkey, Iran and Israel are immune to the virus of democratic empowerment. Evidently, Al Jazeera and the Muslim Brotherhood are driving the sheikhs crazy in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain and threaten the military dictatorship in Egypt.

The credibility of the US on the ‘Arab Street’ is now irreparably damaged. For President Donald Trump all this becomes a big political embarrassment domestically. (Bloomberg ) It remains to be seen how the US can afford to sustain its belligerent posturing in Syria and Iraq much longer without any regional allies from the Arab world.

The Trump administration’s containment strategy against Iran seems destined to collapse even before its launch and Trump’s pet project of the ‘Arab NATO’ looks a macabre joke. Can the US ever restore its hegemony over the Muslim Middle East? Doubtful. A big slice of modern history of the western hegemony over Arabs is breaking away and drifting toward the horizon. To be sure, Russians are coming!

June 23, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Resist This: The United States Is At War With Syria

By Jim Kavanaugh | The Polemicist |June 20, 2017

The United States is at war with Syria. Though few Americans wanted to face it, this has been the case implicitly since the Obama administration began building bases and sending Special Ops, really-not-there, American troops, and it has been the case explicitly since August 3, 2015, when the Obama administration announced that it would “allow airstrikes to defend Syrian rebels trained by the U.S. military from any attackers, even if the enemies hail from forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” With the U.S. Air Force—under Trump, following Obama’s declared policy—shooting down a Syrian plane in Syrian airspace, this is now undeniable.  The United States is overtly engaged in another aggression against a sovereign country that poses no conceivable, let alone actual or imminent, threat to the nation. This is an act of war.

As an act of war, this is unconstitutional, and would demand a congressional declaration. The claim, touted by Joint Chiefs’ Chairman, Gen. Dunford, that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al-Qaeda provides constitutional justification for attacking the Syrian government is patently false and particularly precious. In the Syrian conflict, it’s the Syrian government that is the enemy and target of al-Qaeda affiliates; it’s the U.S. and its allies who are supporting al Qaeda. The authorization to fight al-Qaeda has been turned into an authorization to help al-Qaeda by attacking and weakening its prime target!

Will President Trump ask for a relevant congressional authorization? Will any Democratic or Republican congresscritter demand it? Is the Pope a Hindu?

Would it make any difference? Why should Trump bother? Obama set the stage when he completely ignored the War Powers Act, the Constitution, Congress, and his own Attorney General and legal advisers, and went right ahead with a war on Libya, under the theory that, if we pretend no American troops are on the ground, it isn’t really a war or “hostilities” at all. Which I guess means if the Chinese Air Force starts shooting down American planes in American airspace in defense of Black Lives Matter’s assault on the White House, it wouldn’t really be engaging in an act of war.

It’s impossible to overstate the danger in these executive war-making prerogatives that Obama normalized—with the irresponsible connivance of his progressive groupies, who pretend not to know where this would lead. In 2012, referring to the precedent of Obama’s policies, Mitt Romney said: “I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now.” Following Obama, for Trump, and every Republican and Democratic president, it now goes without saying.

In terms of international law, as an aggressive, unprovoked aggression against a country that makes no threat of attack on the U.S., it is also patently illegal, and all the political and military authorities undertaking it are war criminals, who would be prosecuted as such, if there were an international legal regime that had not already been undermined by the United States.

Syria is now under explicit attack by the armed forces of the U.S., Turkey, and other NATO states. Sixteen countries have combat aircraft buzzing around Syrian airspace under the effective command of the United States, and a number of them have attacked Syria’s army.

Americans, and certainly self-identified “progressives,” have to be crystal clear about this: American armed forces have no right to be in Syria, have no right to restrict the Syrian government from using any of its airspace, or to prevent it from regaining control of any of its own territory from foreign-backed jihadi armies.

The Syrian state and its allies (Iran and Russia), on the other hand, are engaged in the legitimate self-defense of a sovereign state, and have the right to respond with full military force to any attack on Syrian forces or any attempt by the United States to balkanize or occupy Syrian territory, or to overthrow the Syrian government. Whether and how they do respond will depend on their own military/political calculus, about which they have so far been quite careful and restrained. It would be the height of foolishness, as well as arrogance, for Americans to presume they can bully these actors into submission with an infinite series of discrete aggressions, with no sharp counterattack. Unfortunately, the world has not yet seen the limits of American arrogance.

So please, do not pretend to be shocked, shocked, if Syria and its allies fight back, inflicting American casualties. Don’t pose as the morally superior victim when Americans are killed by the people they are attacking. And don’t be preaching about how everyone has to support our troops in a criminal, unconstitutional, aggressive attack on a country that has not threatened ours in any way. American soldiers and pilots executing this policy are not heroes, and are not fighting to protect America or advance democracy; they are the international equivalent of home invaders, and as such are legitimate targets with no claim to “self-defense.” The only heroic act they could do is refuse their superiors’ illegitimate orders to engage in this aggression.

In response to American attacks, the Syrian Army has every right to strike back at the American military apparatus, everywhere. Every casualty of this war, however big it gets, is the ethico-political responsibility of the attacking party – US. The first responsibility of every American is not to “support our troops,” but to stop this war. Right now. Before it gets worse.

It’s quite obvious, in fact, that the United States regime is deliberately making targets of its military personnel, in the hopes of provoking a response from Syrian or allied armed forces that will kill some Americans, and be used to gin up popular support for exactly the kind of major military attack on Syria and/or Russia and/or Iran that the American people would otherwise reject with disgust. Anyone who professes concern for “our troops” should be screaming to stop that.

It’s also quite clear now that the War on ISIS is a sham, that ISIS was always just a pretext to get the American military directly involved in attacking the Syrian army and destroying the coherence of the Syrian state. If the U.S. wanted to defeat ISIS, it could do so easily by coordinating their actions with, and not against, the forces who have been most effectively fighting it: the Syrian Arab Army, Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah.

Instead, it’s attacking the Syrian army precisely because it has been defeating ISIS and other jihadi forces, and regaining its own territory and control of its own border with Iraq. The U.S. does not want that to happen. At the very least—if it cannot immediately engender that massive offensive to overthrow the Baathist government—the U.S. wants to control part of the border with Iraq and to occupy a swath of eastern Syria. It wants to establish permanent bases from which to provision and protect jihadi armies, achieving a de facto partitioning of the Syrian state, maintaining a constant state of armed attack against the Damascus government, and reducing Syria to a weakened, rump state that can never present any effective resistance to American, Israeli, or Saudi designs on the region.

This is extremely dangerous, since the Syrians, Russians, and Iranians seem determined not to let this happen. Consistent with his own incompetence and his admiration for tough guys, Trump seems to have abrogated authority to his generals to make decisions of enormous political consequence. Perhaps that’s why aggressive actions like the shoot-down of the Syrian plane have been occurring more frequently, and why it’s not likely they’ll abate. There’s a dynamic in motion that will inevitably lead each side to confront a choice of whether to back down, in a way that’s obvious, or escalate. Generals aren’t good at backing down. A regional or global war is a real possibility and becomes more likely with every such incident.

Though most American politicians and media outlets do not want to say it (and therefore, most citizens cannot see it clearly enough), such a war is the objective of a powerful faction of the Deep State which has been persistent and determined in seeking it. If the generals are loath to back down in a battle, the neocons are adamant about not backing down on their plans for the Middle East. They will not be stopped by anything less than overwhelming popular resistance and international pushback.

The upside of these attacks on Syrian forces is that they wipe the lipstick off the pig of the American project in Syria. It’s a regime-change, nation-destroying war that has nothing to do with democracy or human rights, and everything to do with the anti-democratic, chaos-creating designs of the most nefarious regimes in the region and the world. Everyone—European countries who profess concern for international law and stability, and the American people who are fed up with constant wars that have no benefit for them—can see exactly what kind of blatant aggression is unfolding, and decide whether they want to go along with it.

In that regard, any self-identified “liberal” or “progressive” American—and particularly any such American politician—who spent (and may still spend) their political energy attacking Bush, et. al., for that crazy war in Iraq, and who goes along with, or hesitates to immediately and energetically denounce this war, which is already underway, is a political hypocrite, resisting nothing but the obvious.

June 21, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

US backs down as Russia targets US aircraft in Syria

By Alexander Mercouris | The Duran | June 20, 2017

Back in April, in the immediate aftermath of the US cruise missile attack on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base, Russia retaliated by switching off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline between the US and Russian militaries in Syria, which enables these militaries to avoid accidental clashes with each other.

The immediate response to this Russian switching off of the ‘de-confliction’ hotline was a dramatic reduction in US air operations in Syria, as the US air force was forced to scale down its air operations rather than risk a confrontation with the powerful air defence system the Russians have established in Syria.

That this was the case was confirmed by an article in The New York Times dated 8th April 2017, which said the following

The American-led task force that is battling the Islamic State has sharply reduced airstrikes against the militants in Syria as commanders assess whether Syrian government forces or their Russian allies plan to respond to the United States’ cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield this past week, American officials said.

So far, the Russian military does not appear to have taken any threatening actions, such as directing its battlefield radar or air defense systems to confront the Americans, or carrying out aggressive actions in the skies, United States officials said.

But officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning said the commanders needed time to determine whether the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the Russian military would treat the American cruise missile strike as a one-time operation that they would not respond to militarily. As a precaution, the Pentagon is flying patrols in Syrian skies with F-22 jets, the Air Force’s most advanced air-to-air fighter……

Some American and other Western counterterrorism officials have said the missile strike could……… make the fight against the Islamic State in Syria more difficult.

“It seems clear that the strikes will complicate our efforts to pursue our counter-ISIS campaign in Syria,” said Matthew Olsen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “In particular, the ability to carry out U.S. airstrikes in Syria in support of the coalition against ISIS requires some degree of cooperation with Russia, which is now in serious jeopardy.”

Other security experts said that much depended on the Trump administration’s next steps, and how the Assad government and its Russian patrons responded.

“U.S. aircraft operating over Al-Tabqah are already ostensibly in range of the Russian S-400 system at the Humaymin Air Base, and we might see Russia deploy more air defense assets to Syria,” Jeremy Binnie, the Middle East editor of Jane’s Defense Weekly, said in an email. “But if the U.S. makes no moves to threaten Assad’s position, then they may well accept the punishment and move on.”

William McCants, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “The ISIS Apocalypse,” offered a similar assessment. (bold italics added)

The words I have highlighted in this article from 8th April 2017 make clear the difference with the situation today.

After weeks of frantic diplomatic activity the US finally managed to persuade the Russians a few weeks ago to switch the ‘de-confliction’ hotline back on.  In response to yesterday’s US shooting down of the SU-22 the Russians have however now once again switched it off.

However this time the Russians have not only once more switched off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline.  They have also done what they did not do in April by saying that this time they will take “threatening action by directing their battlefield radar or air defense systems to confront the Americans”.

That this is so is explicitly confirmed in the statement made public yesterday by the Russian Defence Ministry

As of June 19 this year, the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation has ended its interaction with the US side under a memorandum for preventing incidents and providing for safe flights during operations in Syria and demands that the US command carry out a careful investigation and report about its results and the measures taken.

The shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet in Syria’s airspace is a cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty. The US’ repeated combat operations under the guise of ‘combating terrorism’ against the legitimate armed forces of a UN member-state are a flagrant violation of international law, in addition to being actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic,” the ministry said.

Russia will regard any flights within the area of its air force group’s operation in Syria as legitimate targets, the ministry stressed.

Any aircraft, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected in the operation areas west of the Euphrates River by the Russian air forces will be followed by Russian ground-based air defense and air defense aircraft as air targets.

……. the coalition command did not use the existing communication line between the air commands of Al Udeid Air Base (Qatar) and Khmeimim Air Base to prevent incidents in Syria’s airspace.  We consider the actions of the US command as a deliberate default on their obligations under the memorandum on on preventing incidents and providing for safe flights during operations in Syria signed on October 20, 2015. (bold italics added)

In other words, the Russian response to the shooting down of the Syrian SU-22 fighter near Taqbah has been much stronger than was the Russian response to the US cruise missile attack on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base.

This is so even though the attack on Al-Shayrat air base attracted massive international media attention, whilst the US shooting down of the SU-22 has attracted very little.

This time however the Russians have announced that they will do precisely the thing which they did not do in April following the US attack on Al-Shayrat air base – and which the New York Times says is very threatening – which is track US aircraft, treating them as targets if they fly west of the Euphrates.

Why have the Russians taken this extraordinary step?

The US claims yesterday justifying the shooting down of the SU-22 aircraft have unravelled.  Even the strongly anti-Assad British based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has confirmed that the SU-22 was not bombing Kurdish forces as the US claims but was bombing ISIS fighters as the Syrians say.

A regime warplane was targeted and dropped in the skies of the al-Resafa area […] the warplane was shot down over Al-Resafa area of which the regime forces have reached to its frontiers today, and sources suggested to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that warplanes of the International Coalition targeted it during its flight in close proximity to the airspace of the International Coalition’s warplanes, which caused its debris to fall over Resafa city amid an unknown fate of its pilot, the sources confirmed that the warplane did not target the Syria Democratic Forces in their controlled areas located at the contact line with regime forces’ controlled areas in the western countryside of Al-Tabaqa to the road of Al-Raqqah – Resafa.

(bold italics added)

Another thing that may have provoked the Russians is that the US has tried to pass off the downing of the SU-22 as caused by Syrian encroachment of an agreed ‘de-confliction area’.

Ja’Din sits approximately two kilometers north of an established East-West SDF-Syrian Regime de-confliction area.

This uses a term – ‘de-confliction area’ – used to describe certain regions of Syria covered by an international agreement reached by Russia, Iran and Turkey in May.

The area where the SU-22 was shot down is not within any of these regions.  Al-Jazeera has provided details of where these four ‘de-confliction areas’, and none of them is close to the territory where the SU-22 was shot down

Zone 1 : Idlib province, as well as northeastern areas of Latakia province, western areas of Aleppo province and northern areas of Hama province. There are more than one million civilians in this zone and its rebel factions are dominated by an al-Qaeda -linked alliance.

Zone 2: The Rastan and Talbiseh enclave in northern Homs province. There are approximately 180,000 civilians in this zone and its network of rebel groups includes al-Qaeda-linked fighters.

Zone 3 : Eastern Ghouta in the northern Damascus countryside. Controlled by Jaish al-Islam, a powerful rebel faction that is participating in the Astana talks. It is home to about 690,000 civilians. This zone does not include the adjacent, government-besieged area of Qaboun.

Zone 4 : The rebel-controlled south along the border with Jordan that includes parts of Deraa and Quneitra provinces. Up to 800,000 civilians live there.Wh

Whilst it is possible that the term “established East-West SDF-Syrian Regime de-confliction area” refers to a term used in some informal agreement between the US and Russia, it seems more likely that the US is trying to unilaterally establish ‘no-go’ areas for the Syrian army, and is using the term ‘de-escalation areas’ to conceal the fact.

If so the Russians will want to put a stop to this practice and this may partly explain the strength of the Russian reaction.

However the single most important reason for the strong Russian reaction is what caused the US to shoot down the SU-22 down in the first place.

As the report from the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights shows, the real reason the SU-22 was shot down was because it was supporting a Syrian army offensive to capture the strategically important town of Rusafa from ISIS.

Rusafa lies south east of Tabqah – the main base of the US backed Kurdish militia in this area – and within striking distance of the main highway between Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, the eastern desert city currently besieged by ISIS.

By capturing Rusafa the Syrian army is now in a position to intercept columns of ISIS fighters who might try to flee Raqqa for Deir Ezzor.

The Syrians and the Russians have in recent weeks complained that the US and the Kurds have been doing nothing to prevent ISIS fighters fleeing Raqqa for Deir Ezzor, and in recent days there have even been reports of movements by Kurdish militia to try to block the Syrian army’s offensive to relieve Deir Ezzor.

The shooting down of the Syrian SU-22 fighter appears to have been intended as a warning to stop the Syrian army from capturing Rusafa, so as to block the Syrian army’s attempt to relieve the pressure on Deir Ezzor.

The Russian warning to the US looks in turn to have been intended to make clear to the US that this sort of interference in the Syrian army’s operations to relieve Deir Ezzor is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

The US has heeded the Russian warning. The various statements made by the US and by various US officials today, though full of the usual bluster about the US defending itself and its allies anywhere and everywhere, in fact clearly signal that the US is backing off.

The key words – as my colleague Adam Garrie has said – are those of Colonel Ryan Dillon, chief U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

As a result of recent encounters involving pro-Syrian regime and Russian forces, we have taken prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria so as to continue targeting ISIS forces while ensuring the safety of our aircrews given known threats in the battle space. (bold italics added)

“Prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria to ensure the safety of aircrews given known threats in the battle space” is code for withdrawal of aircraft from air space where they are at risk of being shot down.

That is what is taking place. Note that Colonel Dillon is careful not to say where the “known threats in the battle space” that are forcing the redeployment of the aircraft are coming from.

The US has no choice. If the Russian decision to switch off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline in April was enough to force the US to reduce sharply its air activity in Syria, the Russian decision to switch off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline and to threaten to treat as aerial targets US aircraft flying west of the Euphrates is a threat the US cannot afford to disregard.

Not surprisingly, shortly before the Russian warning was made public, but probably after it was communicated to the US, the Syrian army captured Rusafa with no further hindrance from the US. Latest reports speak of Syrian army reinforcements flooding into the area.

In the meantime the US is frantically signalling to the Russians its urgent wish to de-escalate the situation. Note for example the markedly conciliatory language of White House spokesman Sean Spicer, and how he repeatedly passed up opportunities to utter words of defiance against Russia or to threaten the Russians with counter-measures during the latest White House press briefing

Q    Thanks, Sean.  How are you responding to this Russian threat to shoot down American planes over Syria?

MR. SPICER:  Well, obviously, we’re going to do what we can to protect our interests. And this is something that we’re going to continue to work with — keep the lines of communication open. And ISIS represents a threat to all nations, and so we’ve got to do what we can to work with partners. And we’re going to continue to keep an open mind of communication with the Russians.

Q    So will the U.S. change its flight patterns or behavior in Syria?

MR. SPICER:  I’m going to refer — I mean, I think this is a question more for DOD to answer. But I think, obviously, it’s important and crucial that we keep lines of communication open to de-conflict potential issues.

Zeke.

Q    Thanks, Sean.  Following up on that — and a second one for you, as well — what would the U.S. government’s response be? Is the White House going to issue a warning to the Russian government if they were to follow through on this threat? It seems that your statement — would that be a provocation or something worse, potentially?

MR. SPICER:  I mean, I think that the escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn’t help anybody. And the Syrian regime and others in the regime need to understand that we will retain the right of self-defense, of coalition forces aligned against ISIS.

Ultimately the situation in Syria is the same as it has been since the US-Russian confrontation in October.

The fact that the Russians have installed a powerful air defence system in Syria incorporating advanced S-400 and S-300VM Antey 2500 missiles means that the US is unable to confront the Russians directly unless it is prepared to risk possibly very serious casualties.

That is an option neither the US military nor the civilian officials of the Obama and Trump administrations are prepared to face. This is because they know the extraordinary dangers such a clash with the armed forces of a nuclear superpower would risk. They also know US public opinion is strongly opposed to the US becoming drawn into such a clash.

What that means is that though the Russians must act carefully so as not to provoke the US into an unnecessary confrontation which would serve no-one’s interests, ultimately it is the Russians who in Syria have the whip hand.

The chess game in Syria is far from over. The game of move and counter-move continues. With the capture of Rusafa the Syrians and the Russians have however just won another important piece.  In the meantime Russia’s warning limits the range of US moves across the Syrian chessboard.

The net result of all these recent moves is that end of the Syrian war may have drawn a little closer.

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

A US-Iran confrontation is just what Israel seeks – and it may get

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | June 18, 2017

The move by the US military to shift for the first time the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) into Syrian territory from Jordan signifies that the Pentagon has created a new fact on the ground. According to the CNN, the deployment will be in the military base in Al-Tanf near Syria’s border with Iraq in the south-eastern region, which is currently an area of contestation between US-backed rebel groups and Syrian government forces.

A Russian Defence Ministry statement in Moscow on Thursday noted that the deployment might suggest a US intention to attack the Iran-backed Syrian government forces. The Russian statement said:

  • The range of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is not enough to support the US-backed units… in Raqqa. At the same time, the US-led anti-terrorist coalition has several times attacked the Syrian government forces near the Jordanian border, so it can be assumed that such attacks will continue, but this time involving the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.

Indeed, such authoritative Russian statements, even while speculative, must be relying on intelligence inputs. Clearly, the US intentions need to be interpreted. One possibility could be that it might actually be a defensive move. The US has so far counted on other protagonists – government forces, Hezbollah, Iran, Turkey and Russia – to exercise absolute self-restraint in not confronting the American forces. This tacit understanding (or pragmatism on both sides) largely worked well so far. Although, US-Russia relations continue to deteriorate, the ‘de-confliction’ arrangement in Syria has worked well so far.

However, war is war and there is nothing like a bit of self-help in such uncertain times. The point is the HIMARS provides an alternate means to hit the adversary if air operations are not feasible for some reason – or is simply a preferable option. From all appearances, the US reportedly has plans to create military bases in southern Syria (similar to what it has done in the northern regions bordering Turkey and Iraq) and, if so, the deployment of HIMARS fits into the plan.

Suffice to say, it all boils down to the big question: What are, going ahead, the Trump administration’s politico-military intentions in Syria? At a press briefing in Baghdad on June 7, Brett McGurk, US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, maintained that the US military presence in and around Al-Tanf (near Syrian-Iraqi border) is purely temporary. While explaining the rationale for the recent US attacks on the Syrian government forces in that area, McGurk claimed that the US mission is to fight the ISIS in Syria and “when the fight against Daesh is over, we won’t be there.” But then, one thing that the Qatar crisis has shown is that the Trump administration can be diabolical.

On the other hand, Syrian government forces are interested in regaining control of their country’s border with Iraq. President Bashar Al-Assad has repeatedly insisted that he intends to regain control of the whole of Syria. And there are sufficient indications that the Syrian government forces are being deployed to regain the vast, vacant, lawless spaces in eastern Syria bordering Iraq. This Syrian military thrust has been interpreted by some commentators as aimed at opening a land route across Iraq all the way to Iran through which Tehran can beef up Hezbollah. The assumption here is that a 1000-kilometre long land bridge connecting Damascus with Tehran (via al-Tanf and Baghdad) serves the purpose.

A commentary by the Brussels-based think tank European Council on Foreign Relations – US must avoid a war with Iran in eastern Syria – cautions the Trump administration that it is bound to lose in any rivalry with Iran over control of the Syrian-Iraqi border. However, Israel is betting on a US-Iranian conflagration and it remains to be seen how far the Trump administration can withstand the pressure from the Jewish lobby.

Meanwhile, latest reports suggest that Iraqi government forces and Sunni fighters have taken control of the border crossing near Al-Tanf inside Iraq (known as al-Waleed border crossing). A Reuters report has interpreted this development as in effect “preventing Iranian-backed forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from receiving heavy weaponry from Iran by using the main highway between Iraq and Syria.” Quite obviously, a US-Iranian contestation is building up in southern Syria.

In sum, Israel might be getting what it seeks, but it is another matter altogether whether it is going to like the final outcome of the struggle between the US and Iran over control of southern Syria near Golan Heights. It is improbable that Iran will give up the ‘axis of resistance’ because it is ultimately about Iran’s own defence. Read an incisive analysis by the Middle East Eye on the joint Israeli-US game plan to work in tandem with ISIS to pile pressure on Iran to pull back from the Syrian and Iraqi theatres — The CIA and Islamic State: Iran’s twin threats.

June 18, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Liars Lying About Nearly Everything

Terrorism supporters in Washington and Riyadh close ranks against Qatar

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • June 13, 2017

The United States has been using lies to go to war since 1846, when Americans who believed in manifest destiny sought to expand to the Pacific Ocean at the expense of Mexico, acquiring by force of arms California and what were to become the southwestern states. In 1898 the U.S. picked up the pieces of a dying Spanish Empire in a war that was driven by American imperialists and the yellow dog reporting of the Hearst Newspaper chain. And then came World War 1, World War 2, and Korea, all avoidable and all enabled by deliberate lying coming out of Washington.

More recently, we have seen Vietnam with its Gulf of Tonkin fabrication, Granada and Panama with palpably ridiculous pretexts for war, Iraq with its nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, Afghanistan with its lies about bin Laden, Libya and its false claims about Gaddafi, and most recently Syria and Iran with allegations of an Iranian threat to the United States and lies about Syrian use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons. And if one adds in the warnings to Russia over Ukraine, a conflict generated by Washington when it brought about regime change in Kiev, you have a tissue of lies that span the globe and bring with them never-ending conflict to advance the American imperium.

So lies go with the American Way of War, but the latest twist and turns in the Middle East are bizarre even by Washington’s admittedly low standards of rectitude. On the 5th of June, Saudi Arabia led a gaggle of Arab and Muslim nations that included the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain to cut off all diplomatic, commercial and transport links with Qatar, effectively blockading it. Qatar is currently isolated from its neighbors, subject to sanctions, and there have even been Saudi threats of going to war against its tiny neighbor. Salman al-Ansari, the president of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee, even tweeted: “To the emir of Qatar, regarding your alignment with the extremist government of Iran and your abuse of the Custodian of the two sacred mosques, I would like to remind you that Mohammed Morsi [of Egypt] did exactly the same and was then toppled and imprisoned.”

It is the second time the Saudis have moved against Qatar. Two years ago, there was a break in diplomatic relations, but they were eventually restored. This time, the principal allegation being directed against Qatar by Riyadh is that it supports terrorism. The terrorist groups that it allegedly embraces are Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s affiliation. Hezbollah and Hamas are close to Iran which is perhaps the real reason for their being singled out as many would call them resistance movements or even legitimate political parties rather than terrorists. And the Iran connection is critical as Qatar has been under fire for allegedly saying nice things about trying to respect and get along with Tehran, undoubtedly somewhat motivated by its joint exploitation with Iran of a vast gas field in the Persian Gulf.

Qatar’s ownership of al-Jazeera also has been a sore point with the Saudis and other Gulf states as its reporting has often been critical of developments in the region, criticisms that have often rankled the Saudi monarchy and the Egyptians. It has been accused of spreading propaganda for “militant groups.” One of the Saudi demands to permit Qatar to again become a “normal” Arab Gulf state would be to close down the network.

The terrorism claims by the Saudis are, of course, hypocritical. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are well known as sponsors of Salafist terrorism, including the funding and arming of groups like ISIS and the various al-Qaeda franchises, to include al-Nusra. Much of the money admittedly comes from private individuals and is often channeled through Islamic charities, but both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been extremely lax in their enforcement of anti-terror and money laundering regulations. In a 2009 State Department memo signed off on by Hillary Clinton it was stated that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” Qatar, meanwhile, has been described as a “permissive environment for terrorist financing.”

The Saudis also have considerable blood on their hands by way of their genocidal assault on neighboring Yemen. In addition, the Saudi Royal House has served as the principal propagator of Wahhabism, the virulently fundamentalist version of Islam that provides a form of religious legitimacy to terror while also motivating many young Muslims to join radical groups.

The falling out of two Gulf Arab regimes might be a matter of relatively little importance but for the unnecessary intervention of President Donald Trump in the quarrel. He has taken credit for the burgeoning conflict, implying that his recent visit to the region set the stage for the ostracizing of Qatar. His twitter on the affair, posted on June 6th, read “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” And he again came down on Qatar on June 9th during a press conference.

Trump’s tweets might well be regarded as simply maladroit, driven by ignorance, but they could also provide a glimpse of a broader agenda. While in the Middle East, Trump was bombarded with anti-Iranian propaganda coming from both Israel and the Saudis. An escalation of hostilities with the intention of starting an actual war involving the United States to take down Iran is not unimaginable, particularly as the Israelis, who have already endorsed the Saudi moves, have been arguing that option and lying about the threat posed by Tehran for a number of years.

A war against Iran would be very popular both with the U.S. congress and the mainstream media, so it would be easy to sell to the American public. The terrorist attack in Tehran on June 6th that killed 17 is being blamed in some Iranian circles on the Saudis, a not unreasonable assumption. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack but it must also be observed that both the Saudis and Israelis have good connections with the terrorist group. But if the possibility of a possible Saudi hand is true or even plausibly so, it guarantees a rise in tension and an incident at sea could easily be contrived by either side to escalate into a shooting war. The United States would almost inevitably be drawn in, particularly in light of Trump’s ridiculous comment on the tragedy, tweeting that Iran is“falling victim to the evil they promote.”

There is also other considerable collateral damage to be reckoned with as a consequence of the Trump intervention even if war can be avoided. Qatar hosts the al-Udeid airbase, the largest in the Middle East, which is home to 10,000 U.S. servicemen and serves as the Combined Air and Space Operations Center for Washington and its allies in the region and beyond. Now the United States finds itself squarely in the middle of a fight between two alleged friends that it doesn’t have to involve itself in, an intervention that will produce nothing but bad results. Backing Saudi Arabia in this quarrel serves no conceivable American interest, particularly if the ultimate objective is to strike at a non-threatening Iran. So the fallback position is to lie about what the support for the aggressive Saudi posturing really means – it is alleged to be about terrorism, which is always a popular excuse for government overreach.

And the ultimate irony is that when it comes to terrorism the United States itself does not emerge without fault. As early as 2011, the U.S. was arming Syrian dissidents from the arsenals in Libya, flying in weapons to Turkey to hand over to the rebels. Many of the weapons, as well as those provided to Iraqi forces, have wound up in the hands of ISIS and al-Nusrah. U.S. advisers training rebels have conceded that it is impossible to determine the politics of many of those receiving instruction and weapons, an observation that has also been made by the Obama White House and by his State Department.

So watch the lies if you want to know when the next war is coming. If the House of Saud, the Israelis and Donald Trump are talking trash and seem to agree about something then it is time to head for the bomb shelter. Will it be Iran or an escalating catastrophe in Syria? Anything is possible.

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments