The mainstream U.S. news media is lambasting the Europeans for failing to stop the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Mediterranean Sea as desperate Libyans flee their war-torn country in overloaded boats that are sinking as hundreds drown. But the MSM forgets how this Libyan crisis began, including its own key role along with that of “liberal interventionists” such as Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power.
In 2011, it was all the rage in Official Washington to boast about the noble “responsibility to protect” the people of eastern Libya who supposedly were threatened with extermination by the “mad man” Muammar Gaddafi. We also were told endlessly that, back in 1988, Gaddafi’s agents had blown Pan Am 103 out of the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The R2Pers, led by then-National Security Council aide Power with the backing of Secretary of State Clinton, convinced President Barack Obama that a “humanitarian intervention” was needed to prevent Gaddafi from slaughtering people whom he claimed were Islamic terrorists.
As this U.S.-orchestrated bombing campaign was about to begin in late March 2011, Power told a New York City audience that the failure to act would have been “extremely chilling, deadly and indeed a stain on our collective conscience.” Power was credited with steeling Obama’s spine to press ahead with the military operation.
Under a United Nations resolution, the intervention was supposed to be limited to establishing no-fly zones to prevent the slaughter of civilians. But the operation quickly morphed into a “regime change” war with the NATO-led bombing devastating Gaddafi’s soldiers who were blown to bits when caught on desert roadways.
Yet, the biggest concern in Official Washington was a quote from an Obama aide that the President was “leading from behind” – with European warplanes out front in the air war – when America’s war hawks said the United States should be leading from the front.
At the time, there were a few of us who raised red flags about the Libyan war “group think.” Though no one felt much sympathy for Gaddafi, he wasn’t wrong when he warned that Islamic terrorists were transforming the Benghazi region into a stronghold. Yes, his rhetoric about exterminating rats was over the top, but there was a real danger from these extremists.
And, the Pan Am 103 case, which was repeatedly cited as the indisputable proof of Gaddafi’s depravity, likely was falsely pinned on Libya. Anyone who dispassionately examined the 2001 conviction of Libyan agent Ali al-Megrahi by a special Scottish court would realize that the case was based on highly dubious evidence and bought-and-paid-for testimony.
Megrahi was put away more as a political compromise (with a Libyan co-defendant acquitted) than because his guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Indeed, by 2009, the conviction was falling apart. Even a Scottish appeals court expressed concern about a grave miscarriage of justice. But Megrahi’s appeal was short-circuited by his release to Libya on compassionate grounds because he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer.
Yet the U.S. mainstream media routinely called him “the Lockerbie bomber” and noted that the Libyan government had taken “responsibility” for the bombing, which was true but only because it was the only way to get punitive sanctions lifted. The government, like Megrahi, continued to proclaim innocence.
A Smirking MSM
During those heady days of bombing Libya in 2011, it also was common for the MSM to smirk at the notion that Megrahi was truly suffering from advanced prostate cancer since he hadn’t died as quickly as some doctors thought he might. Then, in September 2011, after Gaddafi’s regime fell, Megrahi’s family invited the BBC and other news organizations to see Megrahi struggling to breathe in his sick bed.
His son, Khaled al-Megrahi, said, “I know my father is innocent and one day his innocence will come out.” Asked about the people who died in the Pan Am bombing, the son said: “We feel sorry about all the people who died. We want to know who did this bad thing. We want to know the truth as well.”
But it was only after Megrahi died on May 20, 2012, that some elements of the MSM acknowledged grudgingly that they were aware of the many doubts about his conviction all along. The New York Times’ obituary carried a detailed account of the evidentiary gaps that were ignored both during the trial in 2001 and during the bombing of Libya in 2011.
The Times noted that “even some world leaders” saw Megrahi “as a victim of injustice whose trial, 12 years after the bombing, had been riddled with political overtones, memory gaps and flawed evidence. … Investigators, while they had no direct proof, believed that the suitcase with the bomb had been fitted with routing tags for baggage handlers, put on a plane at Malta and flown to Frankfurt, where it was loaded onto a Boeing 727 feeder flight that connected to Flight 103 at London, then transferred to the doomed jetliner.”
Besides the lack of proof supporting that hypothesis was the sheer implausibility that a terrorist would assume that an unattended suitcase could make such an unlikely trip without being detected, especially when it would have been much easier to sneak the suitcase with the bomb onto Pan Am 103 through the lax security at Heathrow Airport outside London.
The Times’ obit also noted that during the 85-day trial, “None of the witnesses connected the suspects directly to the bomb. But one, Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper who sold the clothing that forensic experts had linked to the bomb, identified Mr. Megrahi as the buyer, although Mr. Gauci seemed doubtful and had picked others in photo displays. …
“The bomb’s timer was traced to a Zurich manufacturer, Mebo, whose owner, Edwin Bollier, testified that such devices had been sold to Libya. A fragment from the crash site was identified by a Mebo employee, Ulrich Lumpert. Neither defendant testified. But a turncoat Libyan agent testified that plastic explosives had been stored in [Megrahi’s co-defendant’s] desk in Malta, that Mr. Megrahi had brought a brown suitcase, and that both men were at the Malta airport on the day the bomb was sent on its way.”
In finding Megrahi guilty, the Scottish court admitted that the case was “circumstantial, the evidence incomplete and some witnesses unreliable,” but concluded that “there is nothing in the evidence which leaves us with any reasonable doubt as to the guilt” of Megrahi.
However, the evidence later came under increasing doubt. The Times wrote: “It emerged that Mr. Gauci had repeatedly failed to identify Mr. Megrahi before the trial and had selected him only after seeing his photograph in a magazine and being shown the same photo in court. The date of the clothing sale was also in doubt.” Scottish authorities learned, too, that the U.S. Justice Department paid Gauci $2 million for his testimony.
As for the bomb’s timer, the Times noted that the court called Bollier “untruthful and unreliable” and “In 2007, Mr. Lumpert admitted that he had lied at the trial, stolen a timer and given it to a Lockerbie investigator. Moreover, the fragment he identified was never tested for residue of explosives, although it was the only evidence of possible Libyan involvement.
“The court’s inference that the bomb had been transferred from the Frankfurt feeder flight was also cast into doubt when a Heathrow security guard revealed that Pan Am’s baggage area had been broken into 17 hours before the bombing, a circumstance never explored. Hans Köchler, a United Nations observer, called the trial ‘a spectacular miscarriage of justice,’ words echoed by [South African President Nelson] Mandela.”
In other words, Megrahi’s conviction looked to have been a case of gross prosecutorial misconduct, relying on testimony from perjurers and failing to pursue promising leads (like the possibility that the bomb was introduced at Heathrow, not transferred from plane to plane to plane). And those problems were known prior to Megrahi’s return to Libya in 2009 and prior to the U.S.-supported air war against Gaddafi in 2011.
Yet, Andrea Mitchell at MSNBC and pretty much everyone else in the MSM repeated endlessly that Megrahi was “the Lockerbie bomber” and that Libya was responsible for the atrocity, thus further justifying the “humanitarian intervention” that slaughtered Gaddafi’s soldiers and enabled rebel militias to capture Tripoli in summer 2011.
Similarly, there was scant U.S. media attention given to evidence that eastern Libya, the heart of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion, indeed was a hotbed for Islamic militancy, with that region supplying the most per-capita militants fighting U.S. troops in Iraq, often under the banner of Al-Qaeda.
Despite that evidence, Gaddafi’s claim that he was battling Islamic terrorists in the Benghazi region was mocked or ignored. It didn’t even matter that his claim was corroborated by a report from U.S. analysts Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman for West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.
In their report, “Al-Qaeda’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq,” Felter and Fishman analyzed Al-Qaeda documents captured in 2007 showing personnel records of militants who flocked to Iraq for the war against the Americans. The documents showed eastern Libya providing a surprising number of suicide bombers who traveled to Iraq to kill American troops.
Felter and Fishman wrote that these so-called Sinjar Records disclosed that while Saudis comprised the largest number of foreign fighters in Iraq, Libyans represented the largest per-capita contingent by far. Those Libyans came overwhelmingly from towns and cities in the east.
“The vast majority of Libyan fighters that included their hometown in the Sinjar Records resided in the country’s Northeast, particularly the coastal cities of Darnah 60.2% (53) and Benghazi 23.9% (21),” Felter and Fishman wrote, adding that Abu Layth al‐Libi, Emir of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), “reinforced Benghazi and Darnah’s importance to Libyan jihadis in his announcement that LIFG had joined al‐Qa’ida.”
Some important Al-Qaeda leaders operating in Pakistan’s tribal regions also were believed to have come from Libya. For instance, “Atiyah,” who was guiding the anti-U.S. war strategy in Iraq, was identified as a Libyan named Atiyah Abd al-Rahman.
It was Atiyah who urged a strategy of creating a quagmire for U.S. forces in Iraq, buying time for Al-Qaeda Central to rebuild its strength in Pakistan. “Prolonging the war [in Iraq] is in our interest,” Atiyah said in a letter that upbraided Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for his hasty and reckless actions in Iraq.
After U.S. Special Forces killed Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, in Pakistan, Atiyah became al-Qaeda’s second in command until he himself was reportedly killed in a U.S. drone strike in August 2011. [See Consortiumnews.com “Time Finally Ran Out for Atiyah.”]
However, to most Americans who rely on the major U.S. news media, little of this was known, as the Washington Post itself acknowledged in an article on Sept. 12, 2011, after Gaddafi had been overthrown but before his murder. In an article on the rise of Islamists inside the new power structure in Libya, the Post wrote:
“Although it went largely unnoticed during the uprising that toppled Gaddafi last month, Islamists were at the heart of the fight, many as rebel commanders. Now some are clashing with secularists within the rebels’ Transitional National Council, prompting worries among some liberals that the Islamists — who still command the bulk of fighters and weapons — could use their strength to assert an even more dominant role.”
On Sept. 15, 2011, the New York Times published a similar article, entitled “Islamists’ Growing Sway Raises Questions for Libya.” It began: “In the emerging post-Qaddafi Libya, the most influential politician may well be Ali Sallabi, who has no formal title but commands broad respect as an Islamic scholar and populist orator who was instrumental in leading the mass uprising. The most powerful military leader is now Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the former leader of a hard-line group once believed to be aligned with Al Qaeda.”
Belhaj was previously the commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was associated with Al-Qaeda in the past, maintained training bases in Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks, and was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.
Belhaj and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group denied continued allegiance to Al-Qaeda, but Belhaj was captured during George W. Bush’s post-9/11 “war on terror” and was harshly interrogated by the CIA at a “black site” prison in Thailand before being handed over to Gaddafi’s government which imprisoned and – Belhaj claims – tortured him.
The Times reported that “Belhaj has become so much an insider lately that he is seeking to unseat Mahmoud Jabril, the American-trained economist who is the nominal prime minister of the interim government, after Mr. Jibril obliquely criticized the Islamists.”
The Times article by correspondents Rod Nordland and David D. Kirkpatrick also cited other signs of growing Islamist influence inside the Libyan rebel movement: “Islamist militias in Libya receive weapons and financing directly from foreign benefactors like Qatar; a Muslim Brotherhood figure, Abel al-Rajazk Abu Hajar, leads the Tripoli Municipal Governing Council, where Islamists are reportedly in the majority.”
It may be commendable that the Post and Times finally gave serious attention to this consequence of the NATO-backed “regime change” in Libya, but the fact that these premier American newspapers ignored the Islamist issue as well as doubts about Libya’s Lockerbie guilt – while the U.S. government was whipping up public support for another war in the Muslim world – raises questions about whether those news organizations primarily serve a propaganda function.
Gaddafi’s Brutal Demise
Even amid these warning signs that Libya was headed toward bloody anarchy, the excited MSM coverage of Libya remained mostly about the manhunt for “the madman” – Muammar Gaddafi. When rebels finally captured Gaddafi on Oct. 20, 2011, in the town of Sirte – and sodomized him with a knife before killing him – Secretary of State Clinton could barely contain her glee, joking in one interview: “We came, we saw, he died.”
The months of aerial slaughter of Gaddafi’s soldiers and Gaddafi’s own gruesome death seemed less amusing on Sept. 11, 2012, when Islamic terrorists overran the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. diplomatic personnel. In the two-plus years since, Libya has become a killing ground for rival militias, including some now affiliated with the Islamic State.
As the BBC reported on Feb. 24, 2015, the Islamic State “has gained a foothold in key towns and cities in the mostly lawless North African state [Libya], prompting Egypt – seeing itself as the bulwark against Islamists in region – to launch air strikes against the group. …
“IS has launched its most high-profile attacks in Libya, bombing an upmarket hotel in the capital, Tripoli, in January, and releasing a video earlier this month showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians it had kidnapped. On 20 February, it killed at least 40 people in a suicide bombing in the eastern town of al-Qubbah.”
Now, the chaos that the U.S.-sponsored “regime change” unleashed has grown so horrific that it is causing desperate Libyans to climb into unseaworthy boats to escape the sharp edges of the Islamic State’s knives and other depredations resulting from the nationwide anarchy.
Thus, Libya should be a powerful lesson to Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and the other R2Pers that often their schemes of armed “humanitarianism” can go badly awry and do much more harm than good. It should also be another reminder to the MSM to question the arguments presented by the U.S. government, rather than simply repeating those dubious claims and false narratives.
But neither seems to be happening. The “liberal interventionists” – like their neoconservative allies – remain unchastened, still pumping for more “regime change” wars, such as in Syria. Yet, many of these moral purists are silent about the slaughter of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, Palestinians in Gaza, or now Houthis and other Yemenis dying under Saudi bombs in Yemen.
It appears the well-placed R2Pers in the Obama administration are selective in where that “responsibility to protect” applies.
Samantha Power, now serving as U.S. ambassador to the UN, remains the same self-righteous scold denouncing human rights abuses in places where there are American-designated “bad guys” while looking the other way in places where the killing is being done by U.S. “allies.” As for Hillary Clinton, she is already being touted as the presumptive Democratic nominee for President.
Meanwhile, the MSM has conveniently forgotten its own propaganda role in revving up the war on Libya in 2011. So, instead of self-reflection and self-criticism, the mainstream U.S. media is filled with condemnations of the Europeans for their failure to respond properly to the crisis of some 900 Libyans apparently drowning in a desperate attempt to flee their disintegrating country.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
In this excerpt from Bob Coen and Eric Nadler’s film “Shadow War of the Sahara”, broadcast on the Franco-German channel ARTE charts the rise of the U.S.military’s AFRICA COMAND (AFRICOM). This excerpt reveals why AFRICOM’s chief critic, Libya’s Mohammar Gaddafi, had to be removed from power for the project to succeed.
White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof and Syria No Fly Zone
You might think that after seeing the consequences of their campaign for “freedom and democracy” in Libya, journalists like Nicholas Kristof and “humanitarian campaigners” like Avaaz would have some qualms.
Unfortunately they have learned nothing. They have generally not been held to account, with a few nice exceptions such as this Greenwald/Hussain article. And now they are at it again. Many well-intentioned but naive members of the U.S. and international public are again being duped into signing an Avaaz petition based on fraud and misinformation. If the campaign succeeds in leading to a No Fly Zone in Syria, it will result in vastly increased war, mayhem and bloodshed.
The following illustration shows the sequence and trail of deceit leading to Avaaz’s call for a No Fly Zone in Syria.
The “Source” is unknown at this time. It might be some US agency with or without the approval of the Obama administration. Or it might be another foreign government which seeks, in plain violation of international law, the overthrow the Syrian government. In addition to the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France, Britain and Qatar have each spent hundreds of millions and even billions in heavy weaponry plus 3,000 tons of weapons via Croatia plus arming, training, supplying and paying the salaries of thousands of domestic and international mercenaries sowing mayhem and destruction in Syria.
At this point we do not know but there is a REWARD: $100 finders fee to the first person who can provide credible evidence identifying the SOURCE.
This is an international PR firm. CEO is Jeremy Heimans, a co-founder of Avaaz.
President is Kevin Steinberg, previous CEO of World Economic Forum USA (antithesis of World Social Forum). Their website describes their goal:
“Purpose builds and accelerates movements to tackle the world’s biggest problems.”
In this case the “problem” is reluctance to take over Syrian skies and land.
For a hefty fee, “Purpose” will dupe the public and break down that reluctance.
Toward that end, Purpose created “The Syria Campaign”.
The Syria Campaign
The Syria Campaign began in spring 2014. One of their first efforts was to work to prevent publicity and information about the Syrian Presidential Election of June 2014. Accordingly, “The Syria Campaign” pressured Facebook to remove advertisements or publicity about the Syrian election. Since then Syria Campaign has engineered huge media exposure and mythology about their baby, the “White Helmets” using all sorts of social and traditional media. The campaigns are largely fact free. For example, the Syrian election was dismissed out of hand by them and John Kerry but taken seriously by many millions of Syrians.
The Syria Campaign is managed by Anna Nolan, who grew up in northern Ireland and has very likely never been to Syria. In addition to promoting the White Helmets, Syria Campaign promotes a new social media campaign called “Planet Syria”. It features emotional pleas for the world to take notice of Syria in another thinly veiled effort pushing for foreign intervention and war.
According to their website, The Syria Campaign received start-up funding from the foundation of Ayman Asfari, a billionaire who made his money in the oil and gas services industry.
White Helmets is the newly minted name for “Syrian Civil Defence”. Despite the name, Syria Civil Defence was not created by Syrians nor does it serve Syria. Rather it was created by the UK and USA in 2013. Civilians from rebel controlled territory were paid to go to Turkey to receive some training in rescue operations. The program was managed by James Le Mesurier, a former British soldier and private contractor whose company is based in Dubai.
The trainees are said to be ‘nonpartisan’ but only work in rebel-controlled areas of Idlib (now controlled by Nusra/Al Queda) and Aleppo. There are widely divergent claims regarding the number of people trained by the White Helmets and the number of people rescued. The numbers are probably highly exaggerated especially since rebel-controlled territories have few civilians. A doctor who recently served in a rebel-controlled area of Aleppo described it as a ghost town. The White Helmets work primarily with the rebel group Jabat al Nusra (Al Queda in Syria). Video of the recent alleged chlorine gas attacks starts with the White Helmet logo and continues with the logo of Nusra. In reality, White Helmets is a small rescue team for Nusra/Al Queda.
But White Helmets primary function is propaganda. White Helmets demonizes the Assad government and encourages direct foreign intervention. A White Helmet leader wrote a recent Washington Post editorial. White Helmets are also very active on social media with presence on Twitter, Facebook etc. According to their website, to contact White Helmets email The Syria Campaign which underscores the relationship.
Nicholas Kristof/New York Times
The “White Helmets” campaign has been highly successful because of uncritical media promotion. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times was an advocate of the NATO/US attack on Libya. According to him, villagers who had been shot, injured and their homes destroyed were not bitter, they were thankful! “Hugs from Libyans” is how he viewed it. It was, of course, nonsense, helping to pave the way in the invasion and destruction of the country.
Now Kristof is uncritically promoting the White Helmets, aiding and abetting their political and propaganda message seeking foreign intervention in Syria.
Avaaz is an online lobby organization founded in 2007 by Jeremy Heimans (now CEO of Purpose) and others. Start-up funding was provided by George Soros’ foundation. While Avaaz has promoted some worthy causes, they have been prominent in promoting neoliberal foreign policies in keeping with the U.S. State Department. Accordingly, they had a major disinformation campaign against Venezuela last year.
Avaaz very actively promoted a No Fly Zone in Libya. They are now very actively promoting the same for Syria.
In-depth research and exposure of Avaaz can be found here. The titles give some indication: “Faking It: Charity Communications in the Firing Line”, “Syria: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire”, “Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps for Militarism”.
Avaaz justifies its call for No Fly Zone in part on White Helmets. Given the close interconnections between Avaaz and Purpose, they are surely aware that White Helmets is a media creation. This calls into question their sincerity.
The manipulators rely on emotional images and messages, not facts. They depend on willing partners in the mainstream media who amplify the easy and glib characterizations of who and what is good and bad. The manipulators depend on their audience not asking questions or investigating on their own. In these times of rapid spread of visual and text information via social media, the potential for deceit is huge.
A deal with Iran over its nuclear program would benefit the US as it needs to change its policy in the Middle East, and even build a constructive relationship with critical regional powers, said Hillary Mann Leverett, a former US negotiator with Iran.
RT: Hopes are high that the six world powers and Iran who have been holding talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne will reach a deal by Wednesday evening. What kind of document do you expect to come out of these talks?
Hillary Mann Leverett: I would assume at this point we can still really think of only a vague document coming out of these talks. There does not seem to be agreement on many of the details, much of the substance that would be detailed in the final agreement.
But that is not really the purpose of what they were trying to get by [Wednesday evening]. This was supposed to be a political understanding of what the agreement would entail, and a final agreement then would be drafted by June 30. So my sense is that if we get an agreement it will be focused more on a reaffirmation in a sense of a core bargain that they struck back in November 2013: that the parties would proceed toward resolving this conflict by Iran agreeing in negotiated contacts to constraints on its nuclear program in exchange for comprehensive lifting of sanctions.
And that is where I think the parties have really got stuck, because the comprehensive lifting of sanctions is something that is not technical. It doesn’t involve nuclear physicists at the table, it requires real political will. And I think that’s where we’ve seen the brinkmanship.
RT: If a deal is agreed on, what kind of reaction is it likely to trigger on Capitol Hill?
HL: I think the reaction will be negative, regardless of what the deal is. Some people in Washington, I think, disingenuously claim that it depends on whether it is a ‘good deal’ or ‘bad deal’. But there is no ‘good deal’ for many of the lawmakers in Washington, the 47 senators who sent this letter to Iran, there’s no good deal for them with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their agenda is regime change. They would be happy for an Iran under a kind of Shah, an American puppet, to have nuclear weapons. But they are not really interested in an independent state to have any nuclear weapons. So I think they would oppose any deal.
I think because of that reality, the focus of the talks in this session has been not so much, not I really think at all, on the US sanctions, but how to really put that in its own box and deal with something more internationally. The focus has been on the UN sanctions, which Congress has no say over. The United States could agree to lift UN sanctions in five minutes. I saw it done on Libya; I saw it done on Sudan. The United States can do it in five minutes; they don’t need to consult with anybody in Congress. And that is what I’m talking about in terms of political will.
It’s up to President Obama whether he will agree and literally pick up the phone and call the UN ambassador and say: “Either vote for the lifting of sanctions or abstain.” It’s all he needs to do. That’s a question of political will; the rest of it is really just political posturing.
RT: The Republicans have warned that any deal with Iran might not survive after Barack Obama is out of the White House. Should we expect the US to make a U-turn on Iran in subsequent years?
HL: We’ve actually seen a bad scenario of this happening in the past. In the late 1970s under President Carter, his administration had negotiated the SALT II treaty with Moscow, with the Soviet Union. And the way he sold it was as if it was a “technical agreement,” that we were “imposing meaningful curbs” on the Soviet Union’s strategic capacity. The Congress defeated it. It was a devastating failure for President Carter.
We could potentially be looking at something like that if President Obama plays the same game by saying that he’s essentially going to hold his nose while he is negotiating with Iran and just try to focus on a narrow technical agreement. He needs to make the case, the strategic case why a fundamental realignment of US policies in the Middle East toward the Islamic Republic of Iran is imperative for the United States, that after a decade of disastrous military interventions in the Middle East, the United States needs a different way. It needs a constructive way forward with Iran. But he has not done that. Instead, my concern is that he is following President Carter’s route. Essentially Carter’s view was that the Soviet Union was an unreconstructed adversary, evil empire in a sense, and he was just going to hold his nose and try to get the SALT II treaty passed. Well, he lost the election in 1980, we got Ronald Reagan, and that was the end of that.
RT: If a deal is reached, how is it likely to change regional dynamics for America’s main allies in the region Israel and Saudi Arabia, who both strongly oppose a deal?
HL: I think it will be very good for the United States. After the end of the Cold War, the United States has gone through a period I think some would call of arrogance, essentially trying to impose its dominance on various regions of the world, including the Middle East. And those who want to go along with it, we characterize them as allies, when they are not really allies per se, they are just going along with the United States. What we really need is constructive relationships with each of the critical powers in the region so that they can restrain even the reckless impulses of our so-called allies. It’s not in our interests when Israel bombs Lebanon, Israel bombs Gaza. It’s not in our interest when Saudis invade Yemen. If you have a better relationship with Iran, it will constrain these reckless impulses of even our allies, and allow the United States to get off this dangerous trajectory of trying to impose its own military dominance on the region.
AVAAZ, “White Helmets”, HRW, PHR, Amnesty & More
A massive campaign in support of foreign intervention against Syria is underway. The goal is to prepare the public for a “No Fly Zone” enforced by US and other military powers. This is how the invasion of Iraq began. This is how the public was prepared for the US/NATO air attack on Libya.
The results of western ‘regime change’ in Iraq and Libya have been disastrous. Both actions have dramatically reduced the security, health, education and living standards of the populations, created anarchy and mayhem, and resulted in the explosion of sectarianism and violence in the region. Now the Western/NATO/Israeli and Gulf powers, supported by major intervention-inclined humanitarian organizations, want to do the same in Syria. Is this positive or a repeat of past disasters?
Who are the Humanitarian Interventionists?
Major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the campaign include Avaaz, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), “White Helmets” also known as “Syria Civil Defence, “The Syria Campaign” , Amnesty International etc.. These campaigns are well funded and in accord with the efforts of John McCain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others who are explicit in wanting “regime change” in Syria. Turkey continues to press for the No Fly Zone as the US and Turkey launch another round of training “moderate rebels” at bases in Turkey.
Today March 30, 2015 Avaaz is ramping up its campaign trying to reach 1 million people signing a petition for a “Save Zone” in Syria.
“Life Saving” No Fly Zone?
Avaaz organizer John Tye explained the rationale for the Syria No Fly Zone petition in a lengthy letter. He argues that a No Fly Zone (NFZ) will “save lives” and help “stop the carnage”. In sharp contrast, here is what General Carter Ham, the head of AFRICOM when the ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya was enforced, said on “Face the Nation”
“I worry sometimes that, when people say “impose a no-fly zone,” there is this almost antiseptic view that this is an easily accomplished military task. It’s extraordinarily difficult. Having overseen imposing a no-fly zone in Libya, a force that is vastly inferior in air forces and air defenses to that which exists in Syria, it’s a pretty high-risk operation… It first entails killing a lot of people and destroying the Syrian air defenses and those people who are manning those systems. And then it entails destroying the Syrian air force, preferably on the ground, in the air if necessary. This is a violent combat action that results in lots of casualties and increased risk to our own personnel.”
Recent History of No Fly Zone
The most recent No Fly Zone was that imposed on Libya in March 2011. It was authorized by the UN Security Council after a wave of media reports claiming that Libya was using mercenaries, Libyan troops were engaging in widespread violence and Viagra fueled rape, and finally that the city of Benghazi (population 700,000) were facing massacre and possible ‘genocide’.
Alarming press reports were issued by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, etc.. Avaaz launched an online “Libya No-Fly Zone” petition. These groups rallied public opinion which contributed to the UN Security Council resolution granting USA and NATO right to take over Libyan airspace. That led to a bombing campaign of nearly 10,000 attack sorties over the next eight months, the murder of Qaddafi, deaths of about 30 thousand, downfall of the government and installation of the outside appointed National Transition Council.
Since then there has been an explosion of violence, racism, sectarianism, and chaos. Libyans have experienced a huge decline in security and standards of living. The No Fly Zone which was supposed to “prevent a massacre” has led to vastly greater violence and chaos in Libya and beyond. Fighters and weapons flooded from Libya to Turkey and into Syria, expenses paid by Qatar.
As for the early reports about mercenaries, rape, viagra and looming massacre ….. these have been exposed as false. The mercenaries were fighting on the side of the “rebels”. The massacres were those that followed the NATO destruction. The entire “viagra” story was a fraud.
The details are documented in Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa by Maximillian Forte and Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya by Horace Campbell. Forte devotes one entire chapter to detailing the false manipulation of public opinion by would-be humanitarian organizations.
Avaaz Ignore Results from Libya
Despite writing the long letter in response to specific questions including Libya, Avaaz organizer John Tye avoids any reference to their “Libya No Fly Zone” campaign and the aftermath. This is perhaps understandable but raises questions about sincerity and motivation. Are many members of the public being unwittingly duped into joining the campaign?
Part 2 of this article will examine: What is the evidence of war crimes in Syria? Are the humanitarian interventionists R2P (right to protect) or R4W (responsible for war)?
Rick Sterling is a founding member of Syria Solidarity Movement.
Groups like IS, which could be behind the Bardo Museum shootings, have a long history of collaborating with the West and may have attacked tourists just to maintain their anti-Western façade, says independent political analyst Dan Glazebrook.
RT: Do you think that the Western tourists were targeted on purpose?
Dan Glazebrook: Yeah, I think so. The thing is with ISIS and these groups – they have a long history of collaborating with the West. It’s fundamental to their appeal that they kind of try to present themselves as anti-Western. If you look over the last several years, they’ve been singing from the same song-sheet – whether it’s on Libya, the fight against Gaddafi; Syria, the fight against Assad. We’ve had revelations about fighters’ passage to Syria to go and fight against Assad being facilitated by MI5, by British intelligence. This all came out in the hearings in Mozambique last year. So these guys are on the same page, they are helping to fulfill the West strategic aims of destabilization in the area. … The thousands and thousands people they’ve killed, the vast majority of them have been other Muslims and non-white people. From time to time they have to kill some Europeans and some Westerners in order to maintain this façade of somehow being opposed to the West, whilst they continue to carry out and facilitate the West’s strategic aims.
RT: A large number of Islamic State fighters reportedly come from Tunisia. Why is that?
DG: It was estimated at one point that the actual majority of foreign fighters in Syria were of Tunisian origin, over 3,000… They’ve also fought in Libya; they’ve fought in terrorist campaigns in Algeria. There are many different reasons; part of it is a kind of extremist backlash against the extremist secularism of the previous President [Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali and his predecessor [Habib Bourguiba]. But I think a lot of it is just simply to do with the economics and finances. There is very high unemployment in Tunisia. It is rumored that you can get up to $27,000 a year for going to fight for ISIS… Billions of dollars were put into these sectarian militias to build up these groups by Saudi Arabia and the USA as a bulwark against the resistance axis of Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah. These billions of dollars are still slushing around.
‘Attack might be publicizing Ansar al-Sharia’s merger with ISIS’
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, also commented on the Tunis museum attack.
RT: No one has claimed responsibility for the attack yet. Who in your view is most likely to be behind it?
Brian Levin: The most likely would probably be Ansar al-Sharia which is a radical Salafist terrorist group which started in Tunisia shortly after the Tunisian revolution in January, 2011. It was formed three months later by a fellow named Abu Ayadh. That is the most likely suspect, although, ISIS affiliates are present in neighboring Libya as well.
RT: Do you think the attackers were pursuing any particular goal with this terrible assault?
BL: Yes, I would think that if it is Ansar al-Sharia or if Ansar al-Sharia is using this to publicize some kind of merger with ISIS – this would be the time and the place to do it. Tunisia, as I said, in an area where ISIS has been exporting its brand of radicalism. That is one thing – Tunisia is Western friendly and it has got a strong economy.
RT: Earlier, a warning for tourists had been issued calling on them not to visit certain areas. Is this kind of attack in Tunisia a rare event and just how dangerous is the country for travelers?
BL: There have been advisories put out about travel to Tunisia. Its biggest industries are in fact tourism and minerals. It is a democratic society and it is Western friendly. Its economy is strong [but] it relies on these exports and tourism. And an attack like this could really hurt the economy in a place where there is fragility with respect to the economic situation. Remember again, Tunisia was the success story of the Arab Spring. This is the time and the place where groups like ISIS and Ansar al-Sharia are trying to make radicalism an imprint there and in the neighboring countries as well.
RT: The EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has said that IS was behind the attack. Do you believe that that is likely?
BL: It could be in a sense to the extent that these actors had the same goal… Ansar Al-Sharia is allying itself with the al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa. The fact of the matter is it very well could be ISIS. ISIS does have an imprint in North Africa. One of the things that ISIS had wanted to do even when it was just AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] back in 2004, they wanted to export their terrorism to places like Jordan, and now has an imprint in places like Libya which neighbors Tunisia.
The prime minister of the provisional government set up by the Libya Dawn coalition in Tripoli has said that the ISIS presence in Libya is extremely limited and can be confronted by “dialogue and not arms”.
In an interview with Anadolu news agency in Tripoli, Omar Al-Hassi said that there is a small group of “Islamic State” militants in Libya, one in Darna and the other in the Sirte area. “The Libyan people will never accept extremism or foreign military intervention, because they consider these issues as internal affairs that can be resolved and treated with dialogue,” he insisted.
Pointing out that examples of extremism have existed throughout Islamic history and that such issues must be addressed wisely, he warned against the use of arms. “This could have deadly results and increase tension and calls for revenge.”
The Libyans, said Hassi, need development and peace and want stability and to solve their problems with negotiations. He urged the international community to stop the “genocidal war” waged by renegade General Khalifa Haftar, the army chief of the Tobruk-based rival government.
According to the prime minister, Haftar is waging a war of extermination in the major cities, bombing the most important airports and attacking service institutions, universities and oil wells. “The world,” he insisted, “must unite to stop these attacks that cause us pain.” He called specifically on Turkey to play a role in this and condemned the recent bombing of Ameitikh airport in Tripoli on Monday. “The airport,” he explained, “is used to transport the wounded and receive medical supplies.”
The revelations that US ally Abdelhakim Belhadj is now leading ISIS in Libya should come as no surprise to those who have followed US policy in that country, and throughout the region. It illustrates for the umpteenth time that Washington has provided aid and comfort to precisely those forces it claims to be fighting around the world.
According to recent reports, Abdelhakim Belhadj has now firmly ensconced himself as the organizational commander of the ISIS presence inside Libya. The information comes from an unnamed US intelligence official who has confirmed that Belhadj is supporting and coordinating the efforts of the ISIS training centers in eastern Libya around the city of Derna, an area long known as a hotbed of jihadi militancy.
While it may not seem to be a major story – Al Qaeda terrorist turns ISIS commander – the reality is that since 2011 the US and its NATO allies have held up Belhadj as a “freedom fighter.” They portrayed him as a man who courageously led his fellow freedom-lovers against the “tyrannical despot” Gaddafi whose security forces at one time captured and imprisoned many members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), including Belhadj.
Belhadj served the US cause in Libya so well that he can be seen receiving accolades from Sen. John McCain who referred to Belhadj and his followers as heroes. He was initially rewarded after the fall of Gaddafi with the post of military commander of Tripoli, though he was forced to give way to a more politically palatable “transitional government” which has since evaporated in that chaotic, war-ravaged country.
Belhadj’s history of terrorist activity includes such “achievements” as collaboration with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq, and of course his convenient servitude to the US-NATO sponsored rampage across Libya that, among other things, caused mass killings of black Libyans and anyone suspected of being part of the Green Resistance (those loyal to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya led by Gaddafi). Although the corporate media tried to make a martyr of Belhadj for his alleged torture via the CIA rendition program, the inescapable fact is that wherever he goes he leaves a violent and bloody wake.
While much of this information is known, what is of paramount importance is placing this news in a proper political context, one that illustrates clearly the fact that the US has been, and continues to be, the major patron of extremist militants from Libya to Syria and beyond, and that all talk of “moderate rebels” is merely rhetoric designed to fool an unthinking public.
The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend… Until He Isn’t
There is ample documented evidence of Belhadj’s association with Al Qaeda and his terrorist exploits the world over. Various reports have highlighted his experiences fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and he himself has boasted of killing US troops in Iraq. However, it was in Libya in 2011 where Belhadj became the face of the “rebels” seeking to topple Gaddafi and the legal government of Libya.
As the New York Times reported:
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group was formed in 1995 with the goal of ousting Colonel Qaddafi. Driven into the mountains or exile by Libyan security forces, the group’s members were among the first to join the fight against Qaddafi security forces… Officially the fighting group does not exist any longer, but the former members are fighting largely under the leadership of Abu Abdullah Sadik [aka Abdelhakim Belhadj].
So, not only was Belhadj a participant in the US-NATO war on Libya, he was one of its most powerful leaders, heading a battle-hardened jihadist faction that constituted the leading edge of the war against Gaddafi. Nowhere was this more clearly demonstrated than when the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) took the lead in the attack on Gaddafi’s compound at Bab al-Aziziya. In this regard, LIFG was provided intelligence, and likely also tactical support, from US intelligence and the US military.
This new information about Belhadj’s association with the suddenly globally relevant ISIS certainly bolsters the argument that this writer, among many others, has made since 2011 – that the US-NATO war on Libya was waged by terrorist groups overtly and tacitly supported by US intelligence and the US military. Moreover, it dovetails with other information that has surfaced in recent years, information that shines a light on how the US exploited for its own geopolitical purposes one of the most active terrorist hotbeds anywhere in the world.
According to the recent reports, Belhadj is directly involved with supporting the ISIS training centers in Derna. Of course Derna should be well known to anyone who has followed Libya since 2011, because that city, along with Tobruk and Benghazi, were the centers of anti-Gaddafi terrorist recruitment in the early days of the “uprising” all through the fateful year of 2011. But Derna was known long before that as a locus of militant extremism.
In a major 2007 study entitled “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq: A First Look at the Sinjar Records” conducted by the Combating Terrorism Center at the US Military Academy at West Point, the authors noted that:
Almost 19 percent of the fighters in the Sinjar Records came from Libya alone. Furthermore, Libya contributed far more fighters per capita than any other nationality in the Sinjar Records, including Saudi Arabia… The apparent surge in Libyan recruits traveling to Iraq may be linked the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’s (LIFG) increasingly cooperative relationship with al-Qa’ida which culminated in the LIFG officially joining al-Qa’ida on November 3, 2007… The most common cities that the fighters called home were Darnah [Derna], Libya and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with 52 and 51 fighters respectively. Darnah [Derna] with a population just over 80,000 compared to Riyadh’s 4.3 million, has far and away the largest per capita number of fighters in the Sinjar records.
And so, the US military and intelligence community has known for nearly a decade (perhaps longer) that Derna has long been directly or indirectly controlled by jihadis of the LIFG variety, and that that city had acted as a primary recruiting ground for terrorism throughout the region. Naturally, such information is vital if we are to understand the geopolitical and strategic significance of the notion of ISIS training camps associated with the infamous Belhadj on the ground in Derna.
This leads us to three interrelated, and equally important, conclusions. First, Derna is once again going to provide foot soldiers for a terror war to be waged both in Libya, and in the region more broadly, with the obvious target being Syria. Second is the fact that the training sites at Derna will be supported and coordinated by a known US asset. And third, that the US policy of supporting “moderate rebels” is merely a public relations campaign designed to convince average Americans (and those in the West generally) that it is not supporting terrorism, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
The Myth of ‘Moderate Rebels’
The news about Belhadj and ISIS must not be seen in a vacuum. Rather, it should be still further proof that the notion of “moderates” being supported by the US is an insult to the intelligence of political observers and the public at large.
For more than three years now, Washington has trumpeted its stated policy of support to so-called moderate rebels in Syria – a policy which has at various times folded such diverse terror groups as the Al Farooq Brigades (of cannibalism fame) and Hazm (“Determination”) into one large “moderate” tent. Unfortunately for US propagandists and assorted warmongers however, these groups along with many others have since voluntarily or forcibly been incorporated into Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS/ISIL.
Recently, there have been many reports of mass defections of formerly Free Syrian Army factions to ISIS, bringing along with them their advanced US-supplied weaponry. Couple that with the “poster boys” for Washington policy, the aforementioned Hazm group, now having become part of Jabhat al Nusra, the Al Qaeda linked group in Syria. Of course these are only a few of the many examples of groups that have become affiliated with either the ISIS or Al Qaeda brand in Syria, including Liwaa Al-Farouq, Liwaa Al-Qusayr, and Liwaa Al-Turkomen to name just a few.
What has become clear is that the US and its allies, in their unending quest for regime change in Syria, have been overtly supporting extremist elements that have now coalesced to form a global terror threat in ISIS, Nusra, and Al Qaeda.
But of course, this is nothing new, as the Belhadj episode in Libya demonstrates unequivocally. The man who was once Al Qaeda, then became a “moderate” and “our man in Tripoli,” has now become the leader of the ISIS threat in Libya. So too have “our friends” become our enemies in Syria. None of this should surprise anyone.
But perhaps John McCain would like to answer some questions about his long-standing connections with Belhadj and the “moderates” in Syria. Would Obama like to explain why his “humanitarian intervention” in Libya has become a humanitarian nightmare for that country, and indeed the whole region? Would the CIA, which has been extensively involved in all of these operations, like to come clean about just who they’ve been supporting and what role they’ve played in fomenting this chaos?
I doubt any such questions will ever be asked by anyone in the corporate media. Just as I doubt any answers will ever be furnished by those in Washington whose decisions have created this catastrophe. So, it is for us outside the corporate propaganda matrix to demand answers, and to never let the establishment suppress our voices… or the truth.
Reports that US and British aircraft carrying arms to the Islamic State group – better known as ISIS – have been shot down by Iraqi forces have been met with shock and denial in western countries. Few in the Middle East doubt that Washington is playing a ‘double game’ with its proxy armies in Syria, but some key myths remain important amongst the significantly more ignorant Western audiences.
A central myth is that Washington now arms ‘moderate Syrian rebels’, to both overthrow the Syrian Government and supposedly defeat the ‘extremist rebels’. This claim became more important in 2014, when the rationale of US aggression against Syria shifted from ‘humanitarian intervention’ to a renewal of Bush’s ‘war on terror’.
A distinct controversy is whether the al-Qaida-styled groups (especially Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS) have been generated as a sort of organic reaction to the repeated US interventions, or whether they are actually paid agents of Washington.
Certainly, prominent ISIS leaders were held in US prisons. ISIS leader, Ibrahim al-Badri (aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) is said to have been held for between one and two years at Camp Bucca in Iraq. In 2006, as al-Baghdadi and others were released, the Bush administration announced its plan for a ‘New Middle East’, a plan which would employ sectarian violence as part of a process of ‘creative destruction’ in the region.
According to Seymour Hersh’s 2007 article, ‘The Redirection’, the US would make use of ‘moderate Sunni states’, not least the Saudis, to ‘contain’ the Shia gains in Iraq brought about by the 2003 US invasion. These ‘moderate Sunni’ forces would carry out clandestine operations to weaken Iran and Hezbollah, key enemies of Israel. This brought the Saudis and Israel closer, as both fear Iran.
While there have been claims that the ISIS ‘caliph’ al-Baghdadi is a CIA or Mossad trained agent, these have not yet been well backed up. There are certainly grounds for suspicion, but independent evidence is important, in the context of a supposed US ‘war’ against ISIS. So what is the broader evidence on Washington’s covert links with ISIS?
Not least are the admissions by senior US officials that key allies support the extremist group. In September 2014 General Martin Dempsey, head of the US military, told a Congressional hearing ‘I know major Arab allies who fund [ISIS]’. Senator Lindsey Graham, of Armed Services Committee, responded with a justification, ‘They fund them because the Free Syrian Army couldn’t fight [Syrian President] Assad, they were trying to beat Assad’.
The next month, US Vice President Joe Biden went a step further, explaining that Turkey, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia ‘were so determined to take down Assad … they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad … [including] al-Nusra and al- Qaida and extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world … [and then] this outfit called ISIL’. Biden’s admissions sought to exempt the US from this operation, as though Washington were innocent of sustained operations carried out by its key allies. That is simply not credible.
Washington’s relationship with the Saudis, as a divisive sectarian force in the region, in particular against Arab nationalism, goes back to the 1950s, when Winston Churchill introduced the Saudi King to President Eisenhower. At that time Washington wanted to set up the Saudi King as a rival to President Nasser of Egypt. More recently, British General Jonathan Shaw has acknowledged the contribution of Saudi Arabia’s extremist ideology: ‘This is a time bomb that, under the guise of education. Wahhabi Salafism is igniting under the world really. And it is funded by Saudi and Qatari money’, Shaw said.
Other evidence undermines western attempts to maintain a distinction between the ‘moderate rebels’, now openly armed and trained by the US, and the extremist groups Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. While there has indeed been some rivalry (emphasised by the London-based, Muslim Brotherhood-aligned, Syrian Observatory of Human Rights), the absence of real ideological difference is best shown by the cooperation and mergers of groups.
As ISIS came from Iraq in 2013, its Syrian bases have generally remained in the far eastern part of Syria. However Jabhat al-Nusra (the official al-Qaida branch in Syria, from which ISIS split) has collaborated with Syrian Islamist groups in western Syria for several years. The genocidal slogan of the Syrian Islamists, ‘Christians to Beirut and Alawis to the Grave’, reported many times in 2011 from the Farouk Brigade, sat well with the al-Qaida groups. Farouk (once the largest ‘Free Syrian Army’ group) indeed killed and ethnically cleansed many Christians and Alawis.
Long term cooperation between these ‘moderate rebels’ and the foreign-led Jabhat al-Nusra has been seen around Daraa in the south, in Homs-Idlib, along the Turkish border and in and around Aleppo. The words Jabhat al-Nusra actually mean ‘support front’, that is, support for the Syrian Islamists. Back in December 2012, as Jabhat al-Nusra was banned in various countries, 29 of these groups reciprocated the solidarity in their declaration: ‘We are all Jabhat al-Nusra’.
After the collapse of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ groups, cooperation between al-Nusra and the newer US and Saudi backed groups (Dawud, the Islamic Front, the Syrian Revolutionary Front and Harakat Hazm) helped draw attention to Israel’s support for al-Nusra, around the occupied Golan Heights. Since 2013 there have been many reports of ‘rebel’ fighters, including those from al-Nusra, being treated in Israeli hospitals. Prime Minister Netanyahu even publicised his visit to wounded ‘rebels’ in early 2014. That led to a public ‘thank you’ from a Turkey-based ‘rebel’ leader, Mohammed Badie (February 2014).
The UN peacekeeping force based in the occupied Golan has reported its observations of Israel’s Defence Forces ‘interacting with’ al-Nusra fighters at the border. At the same time, Israeli arms have been found with the extremist groups, in both Syria and Iraq. In November 2014 members of the Druze minority in the Golan protested against Israel’s hospital support for al-Nusra and ISIS fighters. This in turn led to questions by the Israeli media, as to whether ‘Israel does, in fact, hospitalize members of al-Nusra and Daesh [ISIS]’. A military spokesman’s reply was hardly a denial: ‘In the past two years the Israel Defence Forces have been engaged in humanitarian, life-saving aid to wounded Syrians, irrespective of their identity.’
The artificial distinction between ‘rebel’ and ‘extremist’ groups is mocked by multiple reports of large scale defections and transfer of weapons. In July 2014 one thousand armed men in the Dawud Brigade defected to ISIS in Raqqa. In November defections to Jabhat al-Nusra from the Syrian Revolutionary Front were reported. In December, Adib Al-Shishakli, representative at the Gulf Cooperation Council of the exile ‘ Syrian National Coalition’, said ‘opposition fighters’ were ‘increasingly joining’ ISIS ‘for financial reasons’. In that same month, ‘rebels’ in the Israel-backed Golan area were reported as defecting to ISIS, which had by this time began to establish a presence in Syria’s far south. Then, in early 2015, three thousand ‘moderate rebels’ from the US-backed ‘Harakat Hazzm’ collapsed into Jabhat al-Nusra, taking a large stock of US arms including anti-tank weapons with them.
ISIS already had US weapons by other means, in both Iraq and Syria, as reported in July, September and October 2014. At that time a ‘non aggression pact’ was reported in the southern area of Hajar al-Aswad between ‘moderate rebels’ and ISIS, as both recognised a common enemy in Syria: ‘the Nussayri regime’, a sectarian way of referring to supposedly apostate Muslims. Some reported ISIS had bought weapons from the ‘rebels’.
In December 2014, there were western media reports of the US covert supply of heavy weapons to ‘Syrian rebels’ from Libya, and of Jabhat al-Nusra getting anti-tank weapons which had been supplied to Harakat Hazm. Video posted by al-Nusra showed these weapons being used to take over the Syrian military bases, Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh, in Idlib province.
With ‘major Arab allies’ backing ISIS and substantial collaboration between US-armed ‘moderate rebels’ and ISIS, it is not such a logical stretch to suppose that the US and ‘coalition’ flights to ISIS areas (supposedly to ‘degrade’ the extremists) might have become covert supply lines. That is precisely what senior Iraqi sources began saying, in late 2014 and early 2015.
For example, as reported by both Iraqi and Iranian media, Iraqi MP Majid al-Ghraoui said in January that ‘an American aircraft dropped a load of weapons and equipment to the ISIS group militants at the area of al-Dour in the province of Salahuddin’. Photos were published of ISIS retrieving the weapons. The US admitted the seizure but said this was a ‘mistake’. In February Iraqi MP Hakem al-Zameli said the Iraqi army had shot down two British planes which were carrying weapons to ISIS in al-Anbar province. Again, photos were published of the wrecked planes. ‘We have discovered weapons made in the US, European countries and Israel from the areas liberated from ISIL’s control in Al-Baqdadi region’, al-Zameli said.
The Al-Ahad news website quoted Head of Al-Anbar Provincial Council Khalaf Tarmouz saying that a US plane supplied the ISIL terrorist organization with arms and ammunition in Salahuddin province. Also in February an Iraqi militia called Al-Hashad Al-Shabi said they had shot down a US Army helicopter carrying weapons for the ISIL in the western parts of Al-Baqdadi region in Al-Anbar province. Again, photos were published. After that, Iraqi counter-terrorism forces were reported as having arrested ‘four foreigners who were employed as military advisers to the ISIL fighters’, three of whom were American and Israeli. So far the western media has avoided these stories altogether; they are very damaging to the broader western narrative.
In Libya, a key US collaborator in the overthrow of the Gaddafi government has announced himself the newly declared head of the ‘Islamic State’ in North Africa. Abdel Hakim Belhaj was held in US prisons for several years, then ‘rendered’ to Gaddafi’s Libya, where he was wanted for terrorist acts. As former head of the al-Qaida-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, then the Tripoli-based ‘Libyan Dawn’ group, Belhaj has been defended by Washington and praised by US Congressmen John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
Some image softening of the al-Qaida groups is underway. Jabhat al-Nusra is reported to be considering cutting ties to al-Qaida, to help sponsor Qatar boost their funding. Washington’s Foreign Affairs magazine even published a survey claiming that ISIS fighters were ‘surprisingly supportive of democracy’. After all the well published massacres that lacks credibility.
The Syrian Army is gradually reclaiming Aleppo, despite the hostile supply lines from Turkey, and southern Syria, in face of support for the sectarian groups from Jordan and Israel. The border with Lebanon is largely under Syrian Army and Hezbollah control. In the east, the Syrian Army and its local allies control most of Hasaka and Deir e-Zour, with a final campaign against Raqqa yet to come. The NATO-GCC attempt to overthrow the Syrian Government has failed.
Yet violent destabilization persists. Evidence of the covert relationship between Washington and ISIS is substantial and helps explain what Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad calls Washington’s ‘cosmetic war’ on ISIS. The extremist group is a foothold Washington keeps in the region, weakening both Syria and Iraq. Their ‘war’ on ISIS is ineffective. Studies by Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgent database show that ISIS attacks and killings in Iraq increased strongly after US air attacks began. The main on the ground fighting has been carried out by the Syrian Army and, more recently, the Iraqi armed forces with Iranian backing.
All this has been reported perversely in the western media. The same channels that celebrate the ISIS killing of Syrian soldiers also claim the Syrian Army is ‘not fighting ISIS’. This alleged ‘unwillingness’ was part of the justification for US bombing inside Syria. While it is certainly the case that Syrian priorities have remained in the heavily populated west, local media reports make it clear that, since at least the beginning of 2014, the Syrian Arab Army has been the major force engaged with ISIS in Hasaka, Raqqa and Deir eZour. A March 2015 Reuters report does concede that the Syrian Army recently killed two ISIS commanders (including Deeb Hedjian al-Otaibi) along with 24 fighters, at Hamadi Omar.
Closer cooperation between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah is anathema to Israel, the Saudis and Washington, yet it is happening. This is not a sectarian divide but rather based on some clear mutual interests, not least putting an end to sectarian (takfiri) terrorism.
It was only logical that, in the Iraqi military’s recent offensive on ISIS-held Tikrit, the Iranian military emerged as Iraq’s main partner. Washington has been sidelined, causing consternation in the US media. General Qasem Suleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force is a leading player in the Tikrit operation. A decade after Washington’s ‘creative destruction’ plans, designed to reduce Iranian influence in Iraq, an article in Foreign Policy magazine complains that Iran’s influence is ‘at its highest point in almost four centuries’.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya (2006) Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a ‘New Middle East’
Seymour Hersh (2007) The Redirection
Al Akhbar (2011) Syria: What Kind of Revolution?
The New Yorker (2013) Syrian Opposition Groups Stop Pretending
RT (2014) Anyone but US! Biden blames allies for ISIS rise
Iraqi News (2015) American aircraft dropped weapons to ISIS, says MP
Washington Post (2015) Syrian rebel group that got U.S. aid dissolves
David Kenner (2015) For God and Country, and Iran, Foreign Policy
Reuters (2015) Syrian air strike kills two Islamic State commanders
One of the most popular pieces of “information” that is being circulated on the internet and newspapers in my own country of birth, Italy, is an announcement of the imminent arrival of ISIS fighters on our shores. According to United States intelligence agencies, which are not exactly impartial or neutral sources, throngs of Islamic terrorists are about to be shipped to our boot-shaped Mediterranean country from Libya. Panic. Fear. Insecurity. These are the words that are being thrown around like stale bread to the birds. Few column inches in the Italian national press, and elsewhere for that matter, have been devoted to any analysis of the validity of the threats or their inherent origins. Alas, this is a well-known technique: capitalize on those points that suit the needs of international interests and national politicians, and omit the information that really matters. It’s a dirty trick that causes entire populations to be plagued by short-term memory loss.
Sponsoring proxy armies
ISIS was founded in 1999 by a shadowy figure, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He has been reported killed and resurrected numerous times, as has been its successor. Let us not dwell on the first 12 years of ISIS, when it was a spinoff of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Instead, let us fast forward to 2011, when the NATO powers, led by France and the UK, engaged in an aerial offensive against Libya to topple Gaddafi and replace him with a pro-West government. This approach has been standard geopolitical operating procedure for the US and its Western-European allies for decades in places such as Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Brazil, Vietnam, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, Chile and many more, where despotic regimes have been installed after Western-engineered coups. Often, the major powers do not get directly involved or send their own troops to die on foreign lands, because this would have severe repercussions on the standing of politicians in the public opinion. The praxis is to sponsor, fund and arm ruthless bands of “rebels” to fight against an established government. These groups are first funded to serve geopolitical interests, and when they are unwilling to do so any longer, they become an excuse to invade. Once in power, in fact, these groups tend to believe that they can stand on their own two feet without the support of their previous benefactors and often turn against them. Power beckons, and history indeed repeats itself. This is precisely the case with ISIS.
Libya: using the pretext of the Arab Spring
The meteoric rise of ISIS to power is not a coincidence or byproduct of innocent geopolitical mistakes. ISIS was initially created, for the sake of foreign-policy interests, to remove uncooperative governments like those in Libya, and then Syria which arguably became the pivotal point for the rise of ISIS. Until 2011 Libya was largely secular, sovereign, and fairly prosperous; now this country lies in ruins and is portrayed as having been invaded by a horde of foreign “Islamists”. The reality, however, is that France, Italy, the UK, and the US sponsored a small group of discontents to fight Gaddafi in 2011. They called themselves the Shabab, and they later constituted the “Libyan Transitional Council” which is now in government. The Libyan rebels were portrayed to the Western public as being “freedom fighters” who sought greater government accountability and increased liberties. In reality, it almost immediately became apparent that Islamic extremists had taken the leadership of the movement; the western powers were certainly aware of this.
Numerous reports warned that many of the fighters were affiliated with Al-Qaeda, another organization originally made powerful by the US to fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. From the start, the global left had denounced these pseudo-revolutionaries as being violent as well as extreme in their religious zeal: in short, bad news for everybody. Nobody heeded their calls. The demonization of Gaddafi continued in the mainstream Western media, and the glorification and support for the rebels grew to the point when NATO’s governments felt secure that their public would support bombing Libya. So they did. Let us also remember that the Libyan army was sufficiently well trained and disciplined to have almost neutralized the opposition, and it would have done so if NATO had not intervened. In short, if Gaddafi’s government existed today, ISIS might not.
It was not made widely public that many of Libya’s rebels were not Libyans but Iraqis from Al-Qaeda in Iraq. This organization cleverly re-branded itself to confuse the public, and it became ISIS. Abdel Hakim-Belhadj was the commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group that helped NATO to depose Gaddafi. It is almost unknown that Hakim-Belhadj was in fact an al-Qaeda lieutenant, turned double agent after being in the care of the CIA, and released back into operation. “The US was fully aware of and facilitating the delivery of weapons to the Al Qaeda-dominated rebel militias throughout the 2011 rebellion”, as stated by The Citizen’s Commission on Benghazi’s interim report. Far from the US being able to claim ignorance, this program was run and administered by Hillary Clinton, then the Secretary of State.
With NATO’s air support, the Libyan rebels captured Gaddafi (he was murdered by the rebels in a horror show that the mainstream media did not hesitate to broadcast). With Gaddafi gone, Hakim-Belhadj was rewarded by NATO and Washington with the title of Governor of Tripoli. With this position, he ensured the recruitment of Jihadists into Libya and the smuggling of hundreds of them to Syria through Turkey. This would create the backbone of what would eventually, and ironically, be named the “Free Syrian Army”. There is no equivocation on the fact that the very same members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group were flying the Al-Qaeda and ISIS flags following the murder of Gaddafi. This happened “before and during the time they were shipped on to fight in Syria against Bashar al Assad’s government forces – on behalf of those very same NATO-allied agencies” as reported by the 21st Century Wire.
Syria: toppling Assad
One year later, the Free Syrian Army arguably brought us to the brink of World War III by using chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, and they attempted to frame Assad for it. They are the same fighters who were using weapons shipped by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with logistic support from the CIA operating in Jordan, and they were also funded by the Saudis, Qataris and Americans. All of this, despite their benefactors’ knowledge that the weapons were falling in the hands of the Jihadists rather than the secular opposition. With help from the CIA, these governments and that of Turkey sharply increased their support for the Syrian rebels throughout 2013, expanding exponentially an airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against Assad.
With the Jihadization of Damascus having failed, ISIS was born, led by the infamous al-Baghdadi, who was being sponsored just a few months before by the US to fight against Assad. This was achieved through missions coordinated by the likes of John McCain, who to this day maintains that he “knows these people very well” and they “are not terrorists”. The cognitive dissonance does not register in the minds of the majority of the western public. It is not understood that the people who are being paid by the US and NATO in Syria to get rid of Assad are the same people that we must supposedly fight in Libya. Politicians lie, the media parrots, and the populace believes. The infamous “Caliph” al-Baghdadi is now the new bogeyman, the new Bin Laden, the new scapegoat upon which the neocons of the world can capitalize. With Jeb Bush poised to be the leading US Republican candidate for the presidency, the parallels with his brother George W. Bush and his crusade against Al-Qaeda to justify the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are simply too sinister to ignore. It hardly matters whether one believes that ISIS is under direct control of the US or not. The point is that ISIS has achieved its primary role: that of creating an atmosphere of fear that can be exploited and manipulated to justify military and political interventions abroad.
We have to wonder about the goal of ISIS in bombing in Libya. If ISIS really wants to attack Rome, it can easily do so with home-grown members rather than risk the laborious task of smuggling fighters from Libya. Could it be to influence the US elections in favor of a neoconservative? Or to pretend to be fighting ISIS while bombing the pro-Gaddafi militias that have re-taken most of the southern regions of Libya? Whatever the reason, it appears that the support from the US to the supposed enemies of the US is allegedly not waning. The Pentagon is set to send 1,000 troops to aid the Syrian rebels, and in June 2014 Obama requested $500 million from the US Congress to train and arm the group that potentially includes ISIS combatants. This comes amidst claims from an alleged Islamic State commander in Pakistan that the US is directly funding ISIS fighters on the ground there, and from the Iraqi parliament that their army has downed two British military planes that were carrying weapons and explosives to be allegedly air-dropped on ISIS-controlled areas. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the NATO powers are not the only ones who have at least indirectly supported ISIS; Israel too has also thrown its lot with these unsavory characters. For 18 months the Israeli “Defense” Forces provided medical and technical help to opposition groups fighting inside Syria, as observed by the UN peacekeeping missions in the Golan Heights.
If a hand strikes you, do you blame the hand that hit you or the mind that commanded it? The situation with ISIS is similar, and so the real question to be asked is the following: Who is the greatest enemy to our security here, ISIS or the US? For those willing to see, the truth is in plain sight.
Who are you?” the late Muammar Gaddafi once rhetorically asked in a famous speech of his towards the end of his reign; (rightly) questioning the legitimacy of those seeking to over-throw his government at the time, calling them extremists, foreign agents, rats and drug-addicts. He was laughed at, unfairly caricatured, ridiculed and incessantly demonized; a distasteful parody video poking fun at the late Libyan leader even went viral on social media; evidently the maker of the video, an Israeli, thought the Libyan colloquial Arabic word “Zenga” (which means an Alleyway) sounded funny enough that he extracted it from one of Gaddafi’s speeches, looped it on top of a hip-hop backing track and voila… he got himself a hit video which was widely (and shamefully) circulated with a “revolutionary” zeal in the Arab world. We shared, we laughed, he died.
But the bloody joke is on all of us; Gaddafi knew what he was talking about; right from the get-go, he accused the so-called Libyan rebels of being influenced by Al-Qaeda ideology and Ben Laden’s school of thought; no one had taken his word for it of course, not even a little bit. I mean why should we have? After all, wasn’t he a vile, sex-centric dictator hell-bent on massacring half of the Libyan population while subjecting the other half to manic raping sprees with the aid of his trusted army of Viagra-gobbling, sub-Saharan mercenaries? At least that’s what we got from the visual cancer that is Al Jazeera channel and its even more acrid Saudi counterpart Al-Arabiya in their heavily skewed coverage of NATO’s vicious conquest of Libya. Plus Gaddafi did dress funny; why would anyone trust a haggard, weird-looking despot dressed in colorful rags when you have well-groomed Zionists like Bernard Henry Levy, John McCain and Hillary Clinton at your side, smiling and flashing the victory sign in group photo-ops, right?
Gaddafi called them drug-addicted, Islamic fundamentalists; we know them as ISIS… it doesn’t seem much of a joke now, does it? And ISIS is what had been in store for us all along; the “revolutionary” lynching and sodomization of Muammar Gaddafi amid manic chants of “Allahu Akbar”, lauded by many at the time as some sort of a warped triumph of the good of popular will (read: NATO-sponsored mob rule) over the evil of dictatorship (sovereign state), was nothing but a gory precursor for the future of the country and the region; mass lynching of entire populations in Libya, Syria and Iraq and the breakup of key Arab states into feuding mini-statelets. The gruesome video of Colonel Gaddafi’s murder, which puts to shame the majority of ISIS videos in terms of unhinged brutality and gore, did not invoke the merest of condemnations back then, on the contrary; everyone seemed perfectly fine with the grotesque end of the Libyan “tyrant”… except that it was only the beginning of a new and unprecedented reign of terror courtesy of NATO’s foot-soldiers and GCC-backed Islamic insurgents.
The rapid proliferation of trigger-happy terrorist groups and Jihadi factions drenched in petrodollars in Libya was not some sort of an intelligence failure on the part of western governments or a mere by-product of the power vacuum left by a slain Gaddafi; it was a deliberate, calculated policy sought after and implemented by NATO and its allies in the Gulf under the cringe-inducing moniker “Friends of Libya” (currently known as the International Coalition against ISIS) to turn the north-African country into the world’s largest ungovernable dumpster of weapons, al-Qaida militants and illegal oil trading.
So it is safe to say that UNSC resolution 1973, which practically gave free rein for NATO to bomb Libya into smithereens, has finally borne fruit… and it’s rotten to its nucleus, you can call the latest gruesome murder of 21 Egyptian fishermen and workers by the Libyan branch of the Islamic State exhibit “A”, not to mention of course the myriad of daily killings, bombings and mini-civil wars that are now dotting the entire country which, ever since the West engineered its coup-d’etat against the Gaddafi government, have become synonymous with the bleak landscape of lawlessness and death that is “Libya” today. And the gift of NATO liberation is sure to keep on giving for years of instability and chaos to come.
In an interview with the western media misinformation collective that is the BBC, ABC and the Sunday Times in February 2011; the late Muammar Gaddafi told his condescending interviewers; “have you seen the Al Qaeda operatives? Have you heard all these Jihadi broadcasts? It is Al Qaeda that is controlling the cities of Al Baida and Darnah, former Guantanamo inmates and extremists unleashed by America to terrorize the Libyan people…”. Darnah is now the main stronghold for ISIS in Libya.
In a bizarre coincidence (or some sort of cosmic irony); the date on which ISIS chose to release its video of the beheading of Egyptian captives, thereby officially declaring its presence in the war-torn country with three oil fields under its control, (appropriately) marked the 4th anniversary of the start of the so-called Libyan revolution on February 15th, 2011; a more apt “tribute” to commemorate the Western instigated regime-change debacle in Libya could not have been made.
But even long before ISIS became the buzzword, the acrid nature of a “revolutionary” Libya showed in full, sickening splendor almost instantly right after the old regime fell, everything the late Gaddafi was falsely accused of doing was literally perfected to a chilling degree by the so-called rebels; massacres, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, car-bombings, mass arrests, torture, theft of oil and national resources… the whole lot. In 2013; two British pro-Palestine activists, on their way to Gaza with an aid convoy, got to experience first-hand the rotten fruits of the Libyan chapter of the so-called Arab Spring when they were abducted by a motely crew of Libyan revolutionaries-turned-warlords in the city of Benghazi and gang raped in front of their father.
Proponents of Humanitarian Interventions must be patting themselves on the back these days; now that Libya has completed its democratic makeover from a country with the highest standard of living in Africa under Gaddafi’s rule into a textbook definition of a failed state; a godless wasteland of religious fanaticism, internal bloodletting and wholesale head-chopping, in fact Libya became so “democratic” that there are now two parliaments and two (warring) governments; each with its own (criminal) army and supported with money and caches of weapons from competing foreign powers, not to mention the myriad of secessionist movements and militias which the illegal coup against Gaddafi has spawned all over the country while free health care, education and electricity, which the Libyans took for granted under Gaddafi’s regime, are all now but relics of the past; that’s the “Odyssey Dawn” the Libyans were promised; a sanitized version of Iraq sans the public outrage, neatly re-packaged in a “responsibility to protect” caveat and delivered via aerial bombing campaigns where even the West’s overzealous Gulf Co-conspirators Club (GCC), driven by nothing beyond petty personal vendettas against Gaddafi, got to test the lethality of its rusted, American-made military aircrafts alongside NATO on the people of Tripoli and Sirte.
This is what Gaddafi had predicted right from the get-go and then some; the ephemeral euphoria of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions was just too potent and too exhilarating for us to read the fine print; was it a conspiracy or a true revolutionary spirit gone awry? It doesn’t really matter now that ISIS has become the true legacy of Tahrir Square; “they will turn Libya into another Afghanistan, another Somalia, another Iraq… your women won’t be allowed out, they will transform Libya into an Islamic Emirate and America will bomb the country under the pretext of fighting terrorism”, the late Libyan leader had said in a televised speech on February 22nd, 2011, and more prophetic words were never spoken.
America’s “clean war” Libyan prototype proved to be such a success that it was replicated with a wanton abandon in Syria; Paul Bremer’s “Blackwater” death squads of old, which reigned terror all over Iraq, are back… with an Islamic twist; bearded, clad in black and explosives from head to toe and mounting convoys of Toyota Land Cruiser trucks with an ever-expanding, seemingly borderless Islamic Caliphate (that somehow leaves the Zionist regime unencumbered in its occupation of Palestine) set in their sights.
Everyday the Arab World is awakened to a new-videotaped atrocity; steeped in gore and maniacal terror courtesy of ISIS (or IS or ISIL), and countless of other “youtubeless”, albeit more heinous crimes courtesy of America’s very own ever-grinding, one-sided drone warfare; the entire region seesaws between machete beheadings and hellfire missile incinerations. Death from above… as well as below; the War on Terror rears its ugly head once again; to bring in line those nasty terrorists that the West itself funded and sponsored in the name of democracy to destabilize “unsavory” regimes; an unrelenting Groundhog Day that starts with the Responsibility to Protect and ends with the War on Terror, with thousands of innocent lives, typically chalked up to collateral damage, crushed in the process.
This is exactly what Gaddafi foresaw; a Libya mired in utter chaos, civil conflict and western diktats; a breeding ground for Jihadi fundamentalism and extremists… too bad we just laughed his warnings off to an Israeli-made parody tune.
Ahmad Barqawi, freelance columnist and writer.
Canadian military intelligence knew that NATO’s March 2011 intervention in Libya would aid militant theocratic Islamists aligned with al-Qaeda and could create long-term chaos in the country, according to David Pugliese, a reporter with The Ottawa Citizen, who obtained Canadian intelligence documents.
At the time, NATO military leader, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, denied that opposition to the secular leftist Libyan leader Muamar Gaddafi was dominated by rightwing Islamist theocrats, calling the bulk of the opposition forces “responsible men and women.”
But Canadian intelligence was clear-eyed about the nature of the Libyan opposition.
Pugliese revealed that “A Canadian intelligence report written in late 2009 described the anti-Gadhafi stronghold of eastern Libya,” from which the uprising against Gaddafi erupted, “as an epicentre of Islamist extremism.”
And Canadian pilots joked privately that they were part of al-Qaeda’s air force, “since their bombing runs helped to pave the way for rebels aligned with the terrorist group.”
Pugliese reports that just days before NATO’s intervention in Libya,
Canadian intelligence specialists sent a briefing report shared with senior officers. ‘There is the increasing possibility that the situation in Libya will transform into a long-term tribal/civil war,’ they wrote in their March 15, 2011 assessment. ‘This is particularly probable if opposition forces receive military assistance from foreign militaries.’
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper later denied that NATO’s intervention created the chaos that has paralyzed Libya, despite his own military’s warning that there was a good chance it would.
This reveals a dishonest attempt to manipulate public opinion through outright deception, in line with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s efforts to mobilize support for military intervention in Iran by warning in 2012 that Iran was only a year away from making a nuclear bomb when his own intelligence agency had concluded that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”.
Pugliese’s report can be read here.