Prime Minister David Cameron must examine financial links between UK-allied Gulf regimes and terror groups, or risk facing awkward questions about Conservative Party links to “rich Arab Gulf individuals,” says former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown.
Speaking on ITV’s Lorraine program on Tuesday, Ashdown – who is also a former soldier and has served as an ambassador to Afghanistan and Bosnia – said he is deeply concerned about how terrorism and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) are being funded, and the UK government’s response to this.
“Who is arming ISIS, who is providing safe havens for ISIS? To get there you have to ask questions about the arms everyone’s sold in the region, the role of Saudi Arabia in this. I think there are some very big questions and we have to be careful,” Ashdown said.
He said there had been a “failure to put pressure on the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to stop funding the Salafists and Wahhabists,” and said he is worried “about the closeness of the Conservative Party and rich Arab Gulf individuals.”
He hinted the strategic priorities of the UK in Syria are the wrong way around. “I think we should be impatient about the removal of ISIL and I think we should be more patient about the removal of Assad.”
Ashdown’s calls for a proper investigation into terror funding by the West’s Arab allies echo, to some extent, those of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Speaking to the House of Commons last Wednesday, the Labour leader urged Parliament to take more action to clamp down on institutions which provide “vital infrastructure” to the terror group in Syria and Iraq.
Corbyn said one of the main ways to stop IS from functioning is to cut off its resources, suggesting the EU would also need to play a part in suffocating the organization.
“Surely a crucial way to help defeat ISIL is to cut off its funding, its supply of arms, and its trade,” Corbyn said during prime minister’s questions (PMQs).
“Can I press the prime minister to ensure that our allies in the region, indeed all countries in the region, are doing all they can to clamp down on individuals and institutions in their countries who are providing ISIL with vital infrastructure?”
A Russian Mi-8 helicopter came under attack while conducting a search and rescue operation, searching for the crew of the downed Su-24 in Syria. One naval infantry soldier was reported killed, the helicopter destroyed by mortar fire.
The Russian General Staff said that two Mi-8s were involved in the operation to save the crew of the downed Su-24.
One helicopter has been shot down, its crew evacuated to the Russian base at Hmeymim.
“A search and rescue operation involving two Mi-8 helicopters was carried out, charged with evacuating the pilots from the landing site. During the operation, as a result of small-arms fire, one of the helicopters was damaged, and forced to make a landing on neutral territory. One naval infantry soldier was killed,” Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoi, the head of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, told reporters on Tuesday.
The officer noted that the “personnel from the search and rescue team and the helicopter’s crew have been evacuated and are now located at the Hmeymim air base. The downed helicopter was destroyed by mortar fire from territory controlled by armed gangs.”
“The search and rescue operation tasked with finding the crew of the downed Russian bomber continues,” Rudskoi added, emphasizing that the territories in which the operation was conducted is believed to be controlled by radical rebel groups.
A Russian Su-24 Fencer jet crashed in Syria earlier in the day with two people aboard. Ankara claims that its F-16s shot down the plane because it violated the country’s airspace. Russia has countered Turkey’s accusations, President Vladimir Putin saying that the aircraft was 0.6 miles away from the Turkish border when it was shot down.
According to the Russian leader, the crashed aircraft was not posing any threat to Turkey when it was struck by an air-to-air missile from the Turkish jet.
The Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, has released a grateful video, where they openly thank the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which the US has touted as a “moderate opposition group”, for supplying them with US-made anti-tank TOW missiles (“Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided”).
A recently released video shows an Al-Nusra Front field commander thanking the FSA commanders for giving his forces TOW missiles, according to a report released by the Iranian news agency FARS.
The agency reminds readers that the two groups, the Al-Nusra and the FSA, formed an alliance in March, the Army of Conquest, or Jaish al-Fatah in Arabic, to fight against the forces of President Assad.
Since then, they have fought together “at almost every single battle in Aleppo, Lattakia, Hama, and Idlib Governorates of Syria.”
Through this alliance several militant groups like the Al-Nusra Front and the Ahrar al-Sham movement have been given access to FSA’s US-made heavy weaponry, which has been supplied to the militant group by the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
According to the agency’s estimates, Saudi Arabia sent 500 TOW missiles to Al-Nusra directly last month.
The US, however, claims that it is just supplying aid and weapons to FSA or the so-called moderate militant groups in Syria.
The BGM-71 TOW is one of the most widely-used guided anti-tank missiles. The weapon is used in anti-armor, anti-bunker, anti-fortification and anti-amphibious landing roles.
TOW missiles are used by the armed forces of more than 40 countries and are integrated in over 15,000 ground, vehicle and helicopter platforms worldwide.
The problem with America’s “anti-ISIS coalition” is not a matter of poor planning or a lack of resources. It is not a matter of lacking leadership or military might. The problem with America’s “anti-ISIS coalition” is that it never existed in the first place. There is no US-led war on ISIS, and what’s worse, it appears that the US, through all of its allies, from across the Persian Gulf to Eastern Europe and even within Washington itself, are involved in feeding ISIS, not fighting it.
Going from Syria itself, outward according to geographical proximity, we can trace ISIS’ support all the way back to Washington itself. And as we do, efforts like the “talks” in Vienna, and all the non-solutions proposed by the US and its allies, appear ever more absurd while the US itself is revealed not as a stabilizing force in a chaotic world, but rather the very source of that chaos.
Within Syria itself, it is no secret that the US CIA is arming, training, funding and equipping militant groups, groups the US now claims Russia is bombing instead of “ISIS.” However, upon reading carefully any report out of newspapers in the US or its allies it becomes clear that these “rebels” always seem to be within arms reach of listed terrorist organizations, including Jabhat al Nusra.
Al Nusra is literally Al Qaeda in Syria. Not only that, it is the terrorist organization from which ISIS allegedly split from. And while the US has tried to add in a layer of extra plausible deniability to its story by claiming Nusra and ISIS are at odds with one another, the fact is Nusra and ISIS still fight together on the same battlefield toward the same objectives.
And while we’ll get to who is propping up these two terrorist groups beyond Syria’s borders, it should be noted that the US and European media itself has reported a steady flow of weapons and fighters out from its own backed “rebel” groups and into the ranks of Nusra and ISIS.
Articles like Reuters’ “U.S.-trained Syrian rebels gave equipment to Nusra: U.S. military” give at least one explanation as to where ISIS is getting all of its brand new Toyota trucks from:
Syrian rebels trained by the United States gave some of their equipment to the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front in exchange for safe passage, a U.S. military spokesman said on Friday, the latest blow to a troubled U.S. effort to train local partners to fight Islamic State militants.
The rebels surrendered six pick-up trucks and some ammunition, or about one-quarter of their issued equipment, to a suspected Nusra intermediary on Sept. 21-22 in exchange for safe passage, said Colonel Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, in a statement.
Before this, defections of up to 3,000 so-called “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) “rebels” had been reported, even by the London Guardian which claimed in its article “Free Syrian Army rebels defect to Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra” that:
Abu Ahmed and others say the FSA has lost fighters to al-Nusra in Aleppo, Hama, Idlib and Deir al-Zor and the Damascus region. Ala’a al-Basha, commander of the Sayyida Aisha brigade, warned the FSA chief of staff, General Salim Idriss, about the issue last month. Basha said 3,000 FSA men have joined al-Nusra in the last few months, mainly because of a lack of weapons and ammunition. FSA fighters in the Banias area were threatening to leave because they did not have the firepower to stop the massacre in Bayda, he said. Advertisement
The FSA’s Ahrar al-Shimal brigade joined al-Nusra en masse while the Sufiyan al-Thawri brigade in Idlib lost 65 of its fighters to al-Nusra a few months ago for lack of weapons. According to one estimate the FSA has lost a quarter of all its fighters.
Al-Nusra has members serving undercover with FSA units so they can spot potential recruits, according to Abu Hassan of the FSA’s al-Tawhid Lions brigade.
Taken together, it is clear to anyone that even at face value the US strategy of arming “moderate rebels” is a complete failure and that to continue proposing such a failed strategy is basically an admission that (in fact) the US seeks to put weapons and trained fighters directly into the ranks of Al Nusra and other hardcore terrorist groups. Of course, in reality, that was the plan all along. So even before our journey leaves Syria, we see how the US is feeding, not fighting terrorism, completely and intentionally.
And of course, before many of the fighters even reach the battlefield in Syria, they have spent time training, arming up and staging in Turkey and Jordan. There has been a lot of talk in Washington, London and Brussels about establishing safe havens in Syria itself for this army of rebel-terrorists, but in reality, Turkey and Jordan have served this purpose since the war began in 2011. All the US and its allies want to do now is extend these safe havens deeper into Syrian territory.
But before that, a steady stream of supplies, weapons and fighters have been pouring over the border, provided by the Persian Gulf monarchies (Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular) and with the explicit complicity of the Turkish government.
German broadcaster Deutsche Welle videotaped hundreds of trucks pouring over the Turkish border, bound for ISIS in Syria as part of its story, “ISIS and Turkey’s porous borders” (video here). It was not a scene one would describe as “smuggling” behind the back of Turkish authorities, but rather a scene reminiscent of the Iraq War where fleets of trucks openly supported the full-scale invasion of Iraq by America’s military.
Turkey’s borders aren’t merely porous, they are wide open, with the Turkish government itself clearly involved in filling up the fleets of supply trucks bound for ISIS on a daily basis.
In recent days, as Russia has begun decimating fleets of these trucks, and in particular, oil tankers that, instead of bringing supplies into Syria, are stealing oil for export beyond Syria’s borders, there has been talk about just who this oil is being sold to. Turkey’s name comes up yet again.
Business Insider in its article “Here’s How ISIS Keeps Selling So Much Oil Even While Being Bombed And Banned By The West” reveals:
Most of the oil is bought by local traders and covers the domestic needs of rebel-held areas in northern Syria. But some low-quality crude has been smuggled to Turkey where prices of over $350 a barrel, three times the local rate, have nurtured a lucrative cross-border trade.
And if some readers don’t find the argument that ISIS sustains itself from within Turkish territory entirely convincing, perhaps a direct admission from the US State Department itself might help. Its Voice of America media network recently reported in an article titled “US, Turkey Poised for Joint Anti-ISIS Operation, Despite Differences” that:
Some have even suspected the Turkish government of cooperating with IS, making allegations that range from weapons transfers to logistical support to financial assistance and the provision of medical services. The Cumhuriyet daily this week published stories that alleged Turkish Intelligence was working hand-in-hand with IS. A former IS spy chief told the paper that during the siege of the Syrian city of Kobani last year, Turkish Intelligence served McDonald’s hamburgers to IS fighters brought in from Turkey.
Some analysts say the pending border operation could help silence some of the criticism.
That the US is still working openly with Turkey despite increasing evidence that Turkey itself is sustaining ISIS in Syria, indicates that the US itself is also interested in perpetuating the terrorist group’s activities for as long as possible/plausible.Eastern Europe
Those nations in Eastern Europe who have either joined NATO or now aspire to, also appear to be directly involved. The large torrent of weapons needed to sustain ISIS’ terrorism within Syria cannot, as a matter of managing public perception, appear to be coming entirely from US arsenals themselves (though hundreds of TOW missile systems and M16s do regularly show up in the hands of Nusra, ISIS and other terrorists organizations). Instead, Soviet bloc weapons are needed and to get them, the US has tapped NATO members like Croatia and aspiring NATO member Ukraine to help arm its ISIS legions.
In 2013 it was revealed by the New York Times in their article Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A. that:
Although rebel commanders and the data indicate that Qatar and Saudi Arabia had been shipping military materials via Turkey to the opposition since early and late 2012, respectively, a major hurdle was removed late last fall after the Turkish government agreed to allow the pace of air shipments to accelerate, officials said.
Simultaneously, arms and equipment were being purchased by Saudi Arabia in Croatia and flown to Jordan on Jordanian cargo planes for rebels working in southern Syria and for retransfer to Turkey for rebels groups operating from there, several officials said.
One wonders how many of these weapons “coincidentally” ended up in Nusra or ISIS’ hands.
More recently, the NATO-installed junta in Ukraine has been implicated not in supplying weapons to ISIS by proxy, but supplying them to ISIS much more directly after a high-profile bust was made in Kuwait implicating Kiev.
International Business Times reported in its article “Ukraine Weapons To ISIS? Kiev Denies Charge After Islamic State Terrorists Caught In Kuwait” that:
The Ukrainian military has denied knowledge of how its weapons made it into the hands of Islamic State group terrorists. Lebanese citizen Osama Khayat, who was arrested this week in Kuwait with other suspects, said he purchased arms in Ukraine that were meant to be delivered to the militant group in Syria via smuggling routes in Turkey.
Perhaps readers notice a pattern. Washington is using its vast global network and allies to arm and fund terrorists in Syria, supported by massive logistical networks flowing through Turkey and to a lesser extent, Jordan. Everyone from America’s allies in Kiev and Zagreb, to Riyad and Doha, to Ankara and Amman are involved which goes far in explaining just how ISIS got so powerful, and why it still remains so powerful despite its widening war on what appears to be the entire world.
The United States
And all of this brings us back to Washington itself. Surely Washington notices that each and every single one of its allies is involved in feeding, not fighting ISIS. When each and every one of its allies from Kiev to Ankara are involved in arming and supplying ISIS, Washington not only knows, it is likely orchestrating it all to begin with.
And proving this is not a matter of deduction or mere implications. Proving this requires simply for one to read a 2012 Department of Intelligence Agency (DIA) report (.pdf) which openly admitted:
If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).
If, at this point, one is unclear on just who these “supporting powers to the opposition” are, the DIA report itself reveals it is the West, NATO (including Turkey) and its allies in the Persian Gulf.
This Salafist (Islamic) principality (state), or ISIS for short, was not an indirect consequence of US foreign policy, it was (and still very much is) a concerted conspiracy involving multiple states spanning North America, Europe, and the Middle East. It could not exist otherwise.
While Russia attempts to reach westward to piece together an inclusive coalition to finally put an end to ISIS, it is clear that it does so in vain. Washington, Brussels and their regional allies in the Middle East have no intention of putting an end to ISIS. Even today, this very moment, the US and its allies are doing everything within their power to ensure the survival of their terrorist armies inside of Syria for as long as possible before any ceasefire is agreed to. And even if a peace settlement of some sort is struck, all it will do is buy Syria time. No matter how much damage Russia and its genuine coalition consisting of Iran, Iraq and Lebanon deal ISIS within Syria, the networks that fed it from Turkey, Jordan, the Persian Gulf, Eastern Europe and Washington itself remain intact.
One hopes that these networks can be diminished through the principles of multipolarism within the time being bought for Syria through the blood, sacrifice and efforts of Syrian soldiers and Russian airmen.
Ulson Gunnar is a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer.
Commenting on the origins of the Islamist terrorism plaguing the Middle East, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad noted that terror groups including Al-Qaeda and ISIL have been able to find fertile soil in Iraq as a result of US interventionism, with Saudi oil money and their poisonous Wahhabi ideology nurturing the groups and helping them grow.
Interviewed by Italy’s RAI UNO television, Assad was asked to respond to accusations made by some Western analysts that his government was at least partly responsible for ISIL’s creation.
“Actually,” the president retorted, “according to what some American officials, including Hillary Clinton, have said, Al-Qaeda was created by the Americans with the help of Saudi Wahhabi money and ideology. Of course, many other [US] officials said the same… ISIL and al-Nusra are offshoots of Al-Qaeda. Regarding ISIL, it started in Iraq; it was established in Iraq in 2006… and the leader of ISIL today – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – he was in American prisons, and he was put in New York in their prisons, and then he was released. So it wasn’t in Syria; it didn’t start in Syria. It started in Iraq, and it started before that in Afghanistan… And Tony Blair recently said that yes, the Iraq War helped to create ISIL. Their confession is the most important evidence regarding your question.”
Moreover, according to Assad, ISIL has no natural incubator in Syria, given the country’s long-standing ideology of secular nationalism, religious tolerance and ethnic and religious co-existence prior to the war.
“If you want to talk about the strength of Daesh,” the president noted, “the first thing you have to ask is how much of an incubator, a real, natural incubator, you have in a certain society. Up to this moment, I can tell you that Daesh does not have a natural incubator, a social incubator, within Syria.”
At the same time, Assad warned, if ISIL’s poisonous ideology grows roots and becomes chronic, “this kind of ideology can change the society.” In the president’s words, the terrorists, who have been “supported…in different ways since the beginning of the crisis” by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, “and of course the Western policy that supported [them] in different ways since the beginning of the crisis,” will lose their strength once they lose the support of their benefactors.
“They can be strong as long as they have strong support from different states, whether in the Middle East or the West,” Assad suggested.
Asked to comment on the deadly attacks which took place in Paris earlier this month, the president once again sent his condolences, condemning the “horrible crime” and noting that Syrians like few others can understand the terror of seeing “innocents being killed without any reason and for nothing…. We’ve been suffering from that for the past five years.”
Assad emphasized that “we feel for the French as we feel for the Lebanese a few days before that, and for the Russians regarding the airplane that’s been shot down over Sinai, and for the Yemenis.” At the same time, the president voiced his hope that the Western world would find compassion for the victims of terror from all these attacks, and not “only for the French.”
Political Settlement Requires an Accurate Definition of the Opposition
Commenting on the potential for a political settlement to the Syrian crisis, the president emphasized that there could be no discussions on any timetable for settlement so long as the terrorist threat was not dealt with. Otherwise, Assad noted that a year and a half to two years would be enough to create mechanisms for a new political system, including a new constitution, and guidelines on referendums, parliamentary and presidential elections.
Regarding disagreements with Western powers over who can be defined as the legitimate opposition, Assad explained that people who hold machineguns in their hand cannot be considered legitimate opposition. “That’s the case in every other country. Whoever holds a machinegun and terrorizes people and destroys private or public property or kills innocents –he is not the opposition. Opposition is a political term. Opposition can be defined not through your own opinion; it can be defined only through elections –through the ballot box.”
According to the president, only the Syrian people, via elections, can determine who they consider the real opposition. “If you want to talk about my own opinion, you can be opposition when you have Syrian grassroots, when you belong only to your country. You cannot be opposition while you are formed as a person or as an entity in the foreign ministry of another country or in an intelligence office of another country. You cannot be a puppet; you cannot be a surrogate mercenary; you can only be a real Syrian.”
Refugee Crisis Hitting Syria Just as Hard as Its Hitting Europe
Asked to comment on the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have fled Syria for Europe in recent months, Assad emphasized that “everyone who leaves this country is a loss to Syria… We feel the suffering, because every refugee in Syria has a long story of suffering within Syria, and that’s what we should deal with by asking the question: ‘Why did they leave?'”
According to the president, Syrians leave “for many reasons. The first one [is] the direct threat by terrorists. The second is the influence of terrorists in destroying infrastructure and affecting the livelihood of those people. But the third one, which is as important as the influence of terrorists, is the Western embargo on Syria.” Assad emphasized that many people would go back to Syria in a heartbeat, “but how can he go back… while the basics of his life, his livelihood, has been affected dramatically?… The Western embargo and terrorism have put these people between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
Asked by his interviewer whether he considered the Syrian war to be a religious war, the president made clear that this was actually a war with “people who have deviated from real religion; mainly, of course, from Islam, toward extremism, which we don’t consider as part of our religion. It’s a war between the real Muslims and the extremists. Of course, [the radicals] give it different titles –a war against Christians, a war against other sects…but the real issue is the war between them and the rest of the Muslims, the majority of whom are moderates.”
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | November 19, 2015
Mass murder, as that which just occurred in Paris, is always distressing, but that does not mean we should stop thinking.
Isn’t it rather remarkable that President Hollande, immediately after the event, declared ISIS responsible? How did he know that? And if he was aware of a serious threat from ISIS, why did he not take serious measures in advance?
Within days of Friday 13, French forces assaulted an apartment with literally thousands of bullets being fired, killing a so-called mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Just how are you instantly elevated to the rank of “mastermind”? And if security people were previously aware of his exalted status, why did they wait until after a disaster to go after him?
Well, the ugly underlying truth is that, willy-nilly, France for years has been a supporter of ISIS, even while claiming to be fighting it. How do I know that? Because France’s foreign policy has virtually no independence from America’s. It could be described as a subset of American foreign policy. Hollande marches around with his head held stiffly up after getting off the phone at the Élysée Palace, having received the day’s expectations from Washington. He has been a rather pathetic figure.
So long as it is doing work the United States wishes done, ISIS remains an American protectorate, and regardless of Hollande’s past rhetoric, he has acted according to that reality. But something may just have changed now.
It is important to note the disproportionate attention in the West to events in Paris. I say disproportionate because there are equally ugly things going on in a number of places in the Middle East, but we do not see the coverage given to Paris. We have bombs in Lebanon and Iraq. We have daily bombings and shootings in Syria. We have cluster bombs and other horrors being used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. And of course, there are the ongoing horrors of Israel against Palestinians.
We have endless interviews with ordinary people in Paris, people who know nothing factual to help our understanding, about their reaction to the terror, but when was the last time you saw personal reactions broadcast from Gaza City or Damascus? It just does not happen, and it does raise the suspicion that the press’s concern with Paris is deliberately out of proportion. After all, Israel killed about twenty times as many people in Gaza not very long ago, and the toll was heavily weighted with children, many hundreds of them. Events in Paris clearly are being exploited for highly emotional leverage.
Leverage against what? Arabs in general and Muslims in particular, just part of the continuing saga of deliberately-channeled hate we have experienced since a group of what proved (after their arrest) to be Israeli spies were reported on top of a truck, snapping pictures and high-fiving each other as the planes hit the World Trade Center in 2001. What those spies were doing has never been explained to the public. I’m not saying Israel is responsible for 9/11, but clearly some Israeli government interests were extremely happy about events, and we have been bombarded ever since with hate propaganda about Muslims, serving as a kind of constant noise covering the crimes Israel does commit against Palestinians and other neighbors.
It is impossible to know whether the attack in Paris was actually the work of ISIS or a covert operation by the secret service of an ISIS supporter. The point is a bit like arguing over angels on a pinhead. When you are dealing with this kind of warfare – thugs and lunatics of every description lured into service and given deadly toys and lots of encouragement to use them – things can and do go wrong. But even when nothing goes wrong in the eyes of sponsors for an outfit like ISIS, terrible things are still happening. It’s just that they’re happening where the sponsors want them to happen and in places from which our press carefully excludes itself. Terrible things, for example, have been happening in the beautiful land of Syria for four or five years, violence equivalent to about two hundred Paris attacks, causing immense damage, the entire point of which is to topple a popularly-supported president and turn Syria into the kind of rump states we see now in Iraq.
A covert operation in the name of ISIS is at least as likely as an attack by ISIS. The United States, Israel, Turkey, and France are none of them strangers to violent covert activities, and, yes, there have been instances before when a country’s own citizens were murdered by its secret services to achieve a goal. The CIA pushed Italian secret services into undertaking a series of murderous attacks on their own people during the 1960s in order to shake up Italy’s “threatening” left-wing politics. It was part of something called Operation Gladio. Operation Northwoods, in the early 1960s, was a CIA-planned series of terrorist acts on American civilians to be blamed on Cuba, providing an excuse for another invasion. It was not carried out, but that was not owing to any qualms in the CIA about murdering their own, otherwise no plan would have ever existed. The CIA was involved in many other operations inside the United States, from experiments with drugs to ones with disease, using innocent people as its subject-victims.
There have been no differences worth mentioning between Hollande’s France and America concerning the Middle East. Whatever America wants, America gets, unlike the days when Jacques Chirac opposed the invasion of Iraq, or earlier, when de Gaulle removed France’s armed forces from integration within NATO or bravely faced immense hostility, including a coup attempt undertaken by French military with CIA cooperation, when he abandoned colonialism in Algeria.
If anything, Hollande has been as cloyingly obsequious towards America’s chief interest in the Middle East, Israel, as a group of Republican Party hopefuls at a Texas barbecue fund-raiser sniffing out campaign contributions. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Hollande honored four Jewish victims of the thugs who attacked a neighborhood grocery store with France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honor. I don’t recall the mere fact of being murdered by thugs ever before being regarded as a heroic distinction. After all, in the United States more than twenty thousand a year suffer that fate without recognition.
Israel’s Netanyahu at the time of the Charlie Hebdo attack actually outdid himself in manic behavior. He barged into France against a specific request that he stay home and pushed himself, uninvited, to the front row of the big parade down the Champs-Élysées which was supposed to honor free speech. He wanted those cameras to be on him for voters back home watching.
Free speech, you might ask, from the leaders of Egypt, Turkey, the UAE, and Israel, who all marched in front? Well, after the free-speech parody parade, the Madman of Tel Aviv raced around someone else’s country making calls and speeches for Jewish Frenchmen to leave “dangerous” France and migrate “home” to Israel. It would in fact be illegal in Israel for someone to speak that way in Israel to Israelis, but illegality has never bothered Netanyahu. Was he in any way corrected for this world-class asinine behavior? No, Hollande just kept marching around with his head stiffly up. I guess he was trying to prove just how free “free speech” is in France.
But speech really isn’t all that free in France, and the marching about free speech was a fraud. Not only is Charlie Hebdo, the publication in whose honor all the tramping around was done, not an outlet for free speech, being highly selective in choosing targets for its obscene attacks, but many of the people marching at the head of the parade were hardly representatives of the general principle.
France itself has outlawed many kinds of free speech. Speech and peaceful demonstrations which advocate a boycott of Israel are illegal in France. So a French citizen today cannot advocate peacefully against a repressive state which regularly abuses, arrests, and kills some of the millions it holds in a form of bondage. And Hollande’s France enforces this repressive law with at least as much vigor as Israel does with its own version, in a kind of “Look, me too,” spirit. France also has a law which is exactly the equivalent of a law against anyone’s saying the earth is flat: a law against denying or questioning the Holocaust. France also is a country, quite disgracefully, which has banned the niqab.
Now, America’s policy in the Mideast is pretty straightforward: subsidize and protect its colony Israel and never criticize it even on the many occasions when it has committed genuine atrocities. American campaign finance laws being what the are, politics back home simply permits no other policy. The invasion of Iraq, which largely was intended to benefit Israel through the elimination of a major and implacable opponent, has like so many dark operations backfired. I call the invasion a dark operation because although the war was as public as could be, all of America’s, and Britain’s, supposed intelligence about Iraq was crudely manufactured and the reasons for undertaking an act which would kill a million people and cripple an entire country were complete lies.
America’s stupid invasion created new room for Iran to exert its influence in the region – hence, the endless noise in Israel and Saudi Arabia about Iran – and it led directly to the growth of armed rabble groups like ISIS. There were no terrorists of any description in Saddam’s Iraq, just as there were no terrorists in Gadhafi’s Libya, a place now so infested with them that even an American ambassador is not safe.
Some Americans assert that ISIS happened almost accidentally, popping out of the dessert when no one was looking, a bit like Athena from the head of Zeus, arising from the bitterness and discontents of a splintered society, but that view is fatuous. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens by accident in this part of the world. Israel’s spies keep informed of every shadowy movement, and America always listens closely to what they say.
It is silly to believe ISIS just crept up on America, suddenly a huge and powerful force, because ISIS was easy for any military to stop at its early stages, as when it was a couple of thousand men waving AK-47s from the backs of Japanese pick-up trucks tearing around Iraq. Those pick-up trucks and those AK-47s and the gasoline and the ammunition and the food and the pay required for a bunch of goons came from somewhere, and it wasn’t from Allah.
A corollary to America’s first principle about protecting Israel is that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in Israel’s neighborhood that is not approved, at least tacitly, by the United States. So whether,
in any given instance of supply and support for ISIS, it was Israel or Saudi Arabia or Turkey or America – all involved in this ugly business – is almost immaterial. It all had to happen with American approval. Quite simply, there would be hell to pay otherwise.
As usual in the region, Saudi Arabia’s role was to supply money, buying weapons from America and others and transshipping them to ISIS. Ever since 9/11, Saudi Arabia has been an almost pathetically loyal supporter of America, even to the extent now of often cooperating with Israel. That couldn’t happen before an event in which the majority of perpetrators proved to be Saudi citizens and which led to the discovery that large amounts of Saudi “go away” money had been paid to Osama bin Laden for years. But after 9/11, the Saudis feared for the continuation of their regime and now do what they are told. They are assisted in performing the banking function by Qatar, another wealthy, absolute state aligned with the United States and opposing the rise of any possibly threatening new forces in its region.
Of course, it wasn’t just the discoveries of 9/11 that motivated Saudi Arabia. It intensely dislikes the growing influence of Iran, and Iran’s Shia Muslim identity is regarded by Sunni sects in Saudi Arabia in much the way 17th century Protestantism was viewed by an ultramontane Catholic state like Spain. The mass of genuine jihadists fighting in Syria – those who are not just mercenaries and adventurers or agents of Israel or Turkey or the Saudis – are mentally-unbalanced Sunni who believe they are fighting godlessness. The fact that Assad keeps a secular state with religious freedom for all just adds to their motivation.
ISIS first achievement was toppling an Iraqi government which had been excessively friendly to Iran in the view of Israel, and thereby the United States. Iraq’s army could have stopped them easily early on but was bribed to run away, leaving weapons such as tanks behind. Just two heavy tanks could have crushed all the loons in pick-up trucks. That’s why there was all the grotesque propaganda about beheadings and extreme cruelty to cover the fact of modern soldiers running from a mob. ISIS gathered weapons, territory, and a fierce reputation in an operation which saw President al-Maliki – a man disliked by the United States for his associations with Iran and his criticism of American atrocities – hurriedly leave office.
From that base, ISIS was able to gain sufficient foothold to begin financing itself through, for example, stolen crude sold at a discount or stolen antiquities. The effective splitting up of Iraq meant that its Kurdish population in the north could sell, as it does today, large volumes of oil to Israel, an unheard of arrangement in Iraq’s past. ISIS then crossed into Syria in some force to go after Assad. The reasons for this attack were several: Assad runs a secular state and defends religious minorities but mainly because the paymasters of ISIS wanted Assad destroyed and Syria reduced in the fashion of Iraq.
Few people in the press seem to have noted that ISIS never attacks Israel or Israeli interests. Neither does it attack the wheezingly-corrupt rulers of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic equivalent of ancient Rome’s Emperor Nero. Yet those are the very targets a group of genuine, independent warrior-fundamentalists would attack. But ISIS is not genuine, being supplied and bankrolled by people who do not want to see attacks on Israel or Saudi Arabia, including, notably, Israel and Saudi Arabia. ISIS also is assisted, and in some cases led, by foreign covert operators and special forces.
There does seem to be a good deal of news around the idea of France becoming serious in fighting ISIS, but I think we must be cautious about accepting it at face value. Putin is reported as telling ship commanders in the Mediterranean to cooperate and help cover the French aircraft carrier approaching. Hollande keeps calling for American cooperation too, as Putin has done for a very long time, but America’s position remains deliberately ambiguous. A new American announcement of cooperation with Turkey in creating a “safe zone” across the border with northern Syria is a development with unclear intentions. Is this to stop the Kurds Erdogan so despises fighting in the north of Syria from establishing themselves and controlling the border or is it a method for continued support of ISIS along the that border? Only time will tell.
I do think it at least possible Hollande may have come around to Putin’s view of ISIS, but America has not, and the situation only grows more fraught with dangerous possibilities. I’ve long believed that likely America, in its typically cynical fashion, planned to destroy ISIS, along with others like al-Nusra, once they had finished the dirty work of destroying Syria’s government and Balkanizing the country. In any event, Israel – and therefore, automatically, America – wants Assad destroyed, so it would be surprising to see America at this point join honestly with Putin and Hollande.
America has until now refused Russia any real support, including such basic stuff as sharing intelligence. It cooperates only in the most essential matters such avoiding attacks on each other’s planes. It also has made some very belligerent statements about what Russia has been doing, some from the America’s Secretary of Defense sounding a lot like threats. Just the American establishment’s bully-boy attitude about doing anything which resembles joining a Russian initiative does not bode well.
After all, Putin has been portrayed as a kind of Slavic Satan by American propaganda cranking stuff out overtime in support of Ukraine’s incompetent coup-government and with the aim of terrifying Eastern Europe into accepting more American weapons and troops near Russia’s border, this last having nothing to do with any Russian threat and everything to do with America’s aggressive desire to shift the balance of power. How do you turn on a dime and admit Putin is right about Syria and follow his lead?
And there are still the daily unpleasant telephone calls from Israel about Assad. How do you manoeuvre around that when most independent observers today recognize Assad as the best alternative to any other possible government. He has the army’s trust, and in the end it is the Syrian army which is going to destroy ISIS and the other psychopaths. Air strikes alone can never do that. The same great difficulty for Hollande leaves much ambiguity around what he truly means by “going to war against ISIS.”
It is an extremely complicated world in which we live with great powers putting vast resources towards destroying the lives of others, almost killing thousands on a whim, while pretending not to be doing so. We live in an era shaped by former CIA Director Allen Dulles, a quiet psychopath who never saw an opportunity for chaos he did not embrace.
The only way to end terror is to stop playing with the lives of tens of millions in the Middle East, as America has done for so long, and stop supporting the behaviors of a repressive state which has killed far greater numbers than the madmen of ISIS could dream of doing, demanding instead that that state make peace and live within its borders. But, at least at this stage, that is all the stuff of dreams.
I generally feel that the questioning by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now could be a lot stronger, but today, she did ask a good question of Rep. Barbara Lee: “The U.S. has just sealed, the Obama administration, yet another arms deal with Saudi Arabia, in the last year signed the biggest arms deals in the history of the world with Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia behind a lot of the militant activism from al-Qaeda to ISIS. Do you condemn these sales?”
This is Lee’s full response: “Well, first, we need to reduce the sale of arms throughout the world. Also, I think when you look at the—for example, trying to rid Iran of the ability to develop nuclear weapons, we engaged in a strong, robust diplomatic effort. Many years ago, I introduced the first resolution calling for the end of no contact policy, for a special envoy and for us to begin to negotiate with Iran the elimination of their program of developing nuclear weapons. So far, those negotiations and that Iranian deal has worked. And so I think that we need to move in that direction in terms of diplomacy, in terms of trying to seek global peace and security without selling arms to all countries, because what you will have is an arms buildup throughout the world, and then weapons will be pointed at—each country will have weapons—of course, a nuclear weapon is the ultimate weapon—pointed in all directions. And so, we need to determine ways, as the president has done with regard to Iran, ways in which to engage to reduce the threats and to reduce the sale and the use of force and armaments and military weapons, because these can only make the world more dangerous.”
Notice Lee does not condemn the weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, she doesn’t utter the word “Saudi”. Instead, she talks about alleged Iranian nuclear weapons designs — a total staple of officialdom — and speaks generally against arms sales.
Nor do the hosts highlight this. Juan Gonzalez, who I think often asks more probing questions that Goodman, immediately proceeded to ask a somewhat fawning question: “And I’m wondering what advice you might have to parliamentarians in France now, as France is going through the same kind of crisis that this country went through after the attacks of 2001. The president is now seeking authorization from the French Parliament for extraordinary measures in his country. What advice might you give to the parliamentarians of France?”
We’re not going to get very far if we’re looking to politicos for leadership who can’t condemn policies like the U.S. government has to the Saudis. And we’re not going to get very far if presumably tough, independent programs like “Democracy Now” can’t keep officials accountable about that.
British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has taken aim at the Western-led anti-ISIL strategy, criticizing Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s input in the conflict, while raising questions over the legality of the overall Western approach.
The Labour leader accused Turkey of acting in its own self-interest and undermining the campaign against ISIL through its bombing of Kurdish groups, who have previously been considered to be some of the most effective fighters against ISIL.
Corbyn, who strongly favors a political solution to the conflict, also questioned whether some Saudi organizations were involved in the funding and supporting of ISIL through the supply of weapons and sales of oil. The Labour leader told Sky News:
“I also think we have to ask some questions about the way in which ISIL has received weapons, has received money, has been able to sell oil, has been able to export it and the role that other countries have played in this. [This includes] the way in which Turkey has been bombing Kurdish positions on the border and the way in which Saudi Arabia, maybe not at government level, but certainly at aid-level, has been providing support to ISIL.”
‘At the End We’ll Need a Political Solution’
Instead of boosting military efforts, Corbyn called for greater diplomatic efforts to improve the political situation in Syria.
“In the long run there has to be a much wider political settlement in the whole region and in the Middle East, otherwise we’re going to get more of this as time goes on,” he said.
“At the end of the day, all wars have to end by a political discussion and political solution to it.”
Following the Paris terrorist attacks and France’s decision to increase its bombing campaign on the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa, Corbyn said he was doubtful the attacks alone would bring about a solution.
“I don’t think that bombing is necessarily going to bring about the solution that they believe it might.”
“There’s going to be civilian casualties from the bombing of Raqqa,” he added, noting that a combined international diplomatic approach involving the West, Russia and other regional powers would be the most effective way of coming to a resolution in the conflict.
“I think far more hopeful are the talks that took place in Vienna over the weekend, including Russia, the United States, European Union and of course the neighboring countries. I think the solution actually lies in creating some kind of acceptable government in Syria that can in turn then hopefully deal with the problem with ISIS, or ISIL.”
The opposition leader has refused to back British military intervention in Syria, arguing that he would not support such an action without a UN mandate, while he also raised questions over the legality of the UK’s shoot to kill drone program, which has been credited with killing infamous ISIL figure Mohammed Emwazi, also known as Jihadi John.
The US State Department has signed off on the deal to sell $1.29 billion worth of smart bombs to Saudi Arabia, according to the Pentagon. The 22,000 bombs are to be used in the Saudis’ military campaigns in Yemen and Syria.
The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, in charge of overseeing foreign arms sales, said in a statement that deal with the Saudis has been approved. The US Congress still has 30 days to block the deal, but is unlikely to do so.
The agency said that the sale would keep the Royal Saudi Air Force from running out of weapons, as well as provide sufficient weapons stocks for its military campaign in Yemen and Syria.
“This acquisition will help sustain strong military-to-military relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, improve [the ability of Saudi forces to work] with the United States, and enable Saudi Arabia to meet regional threats and safeguard the world’s largest oil reserves,” the statement said.
According to RT website, the $1.29 billion deal consists of 22,000 smart and general purpose bombs, which include 1,000 GBU-10 Paveway II laser guided bombs, as well as over 5,000 Joint Direct Attack Munitions kits, which convert older bombs into precision-guided weapons via GPS.
The sale comes after President Barack Obama promised in May to work with Persian Gulf Arab States on increased security cooperation, particularly “on fast-tracking arms transfers… counter terrorism, maritime security, cybersecurity and ballistic missile defense.”
Persian Gulf States have shown increased interest in US weaponry following the nuclear agreement reached with Iran in July.
In October, the US government approved an $11 billion sale to Saudi Arabia for up to four Lockheed Martin Corp.’s warships, along with weapons, training and logistics support. In September, Washington approved a $5.4 billion sale of 600 advanced Patriot missiles to Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen for 236 days now to restore power to fugitive President Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The Saudi-US aggression has so far killed at least 6,579 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.
Despite Riyadh’s claims that it is bombing the positions of the Yemeni national military, Saudi warplanes are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.
President Vladimir Putin says he’s shared Russian intelligence data on Islamic State financing with his G20 colleagues: the terrorists appear to be financed from 40 countries, including some G20 member states.
During the summit, “I provided examples based on our data on the financing of different Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) units by private individuals. This money, as we have established, comes from 40 countries and, there are some of the G20 members among them,” Putin told the journalists.
Putin also spoke of the urgent need to curb the illegal oil trade by IS.
“I’ve shown our colleagues photos taken from space and from aircraft which clearly demonstrate the scale of the illegal trade in oil and petroleum products,” he said.
“The motorcade of refueling vehicles stretched for dozens of kilometers, so that from a height of 4,000 to 5,000 meters they stretch beyond the horizon,” Putin added, comparing the convoy to gas and oil pipeline systems.
It’s not the right time to try and figure out which country is more and which is less effective in the battle with Islamic State, as now a united international effort is needed against the terrorist group, Putin said.
Putin reiterated Russia’s readiness to support armed opposition in Syria in its efforts to fight Islamic State.
“Some armed opposition groups consider it possible to begin active operations against IS with Russia’s support. And we are ready to provide such support from the air. If it happens it could become a good basis for the subsequent work on a political settlement,” he said.
“We really need support from the US, European nations, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran,” the president added.
Putin pointed out the change in Washington’s stance on cooperation with Moscow in the fight against the terrorists.
“We need to organize work specifically concentrated on the prevention of terrorist attacks and tackling terrorism on a global scale. We offered to cooperate [with the US] in anti-IS efforts. Unfortunately, our American partners refused. They just sent a written note and it says: ‘we reject your offer’,” Putin said.
“But life is always evolving and at a very fast pace, often teaching us lessons. And I think that now the realization that an effective fight [against terror] can only be staged together is coming to everybody,” the Russian leader said.
According to Putin, first of all it should be decided which groups in Syria can be considered terrorist organizations and which can be attributed to an armed, but still legitimate part of the Syrian opposition.
“Our efforts must be concentrated on the battle with terrorist organizations.”
Putin also disagreed with Western criticism of Russia’s actions in Syria, where the country has been carrying out a large-scale air campaign against Islamic State and other terror groups since September 30.
“It’s really difficult to criticize us,” he said, adding that Russia has repeatedly asked its foreign partners to provide data on terrorist targets in Syria.
“They’re afraid to inform us on the territories which we shouldn’t strike, fearing that it is precisely where we’ll strike; that we are going to cheat everybody,” the president said.
“Apparently, their opinion of us is based on their own concept of human decency,” he added.
Putin told the media that Russia has already established contact with the Syrian opposition, which has asked Moscow not carry out airstrikes in the territories it controls.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir says his country will continue supporting the Takfiri militant groups operating to topple the Damascus government as long as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is in power.
Speaking on the sidelines of the international peace talks on the Syria crisis in Vienna, Austria, on Saturday, Jubeir said the Riyadh regime only backs a political process that envisages President Assad’s removal from power.
“We will support the political process that will result in him (Assad) leaving or we will continue to support” Syria’s foreign-backed opposition in order to topple the Syrian leader “by force,” said the top Saudi diplomat.
The fresh round of talks on the Syria crisis opened in Vienna on Friday and ended on Saturday. Senior representatives from 17 countries, the United Nations, European Union as well as the Arab League were in attendance.
According to an official statement issued at the end of the meeting, the world diplomats seeking to find a solution to the Syria crisis would meet again in “approximately one month” to review progress towards a ceasefire and the start of a political process in the crisis-hit country.
The participants also agreed on a set calendar for a transition government in Syria within six months and elections in 18 months.
The parties to the international peace talks in Syria remain at loggerheads over the role that Assad would play in Syria’s political process.
While some countries, including the US and its allies, press for the removal of Assad as part of a solution to the Syrian crisis, others, notably Iran and Russia, say only the Syrian nation can decide over the matter.
Saudi Arabia has long been among the major supporters of the terror groups operating against the Syrian government since March 2011. The violence fueled by the foreign-backed Takfiris has so far claimed over 250,000 lives.
The previous round of talks on the crisis in Syria was held in the Austrian capital on October 30. At the end of the day-long talks, the participants agreed on respecting Syria’s national unity and sovereignty as well as uprooting terrorism in the violence-plagued Arab country.
Jubeir had repeated the same comments ahead of the October 30 round of Vienna talks, saying Riyadh sees no role for Assad in Syria’s political future.
However, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi lashed out at the Saudi official for his statements, saying Riyadh is not qualified to participate in efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria as the kingdom is shedding the blood of people elsewhere.
Jubeir “who has no clue how diplomacy and politics work, should keep his mouth closed and keep his country out of a matter that is none of its business,” Zoubi added.
Europe sees Vienna talks positive
European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has described as “very good” the latest round of international talks on the Syrian conflict in Vienna.
“The process can definitively start” toward reaching a settlement for the nearly five-year conflict in Syria, Mogherini told journalists at the end of the day-long talks held in the Austrian capital on Saturday.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said the Vienna meeting had resulted in an agreement to convene meetings between the opposition and the incumbent Damascus government, and enforce a ceasefire by January 1.
The Russian-made S-300 missile defense systems in Iran will prevent the US from exerting political pressure on Tehran and will strengthen Russia’s positions in the region, especially at a time when Moscow is leading a successful counterterrorism campaign in Syria, TV Channel Zvezda reported.
The United States fully understands that “Russian and Chinese weapons in the Middle East dramatically alter the balance of power in the region and beyond,” the media outlet quoted Ruslan Pukhov, who heads the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, as saying.
The S-300, believed to be one of the best missile defense systems in the world, has already demonstrated what it is capable of –not in military, but rather political terms.
For instance, the S-300 served as a potent deterrent in Syria in 2012, the media outlet stated. Three years ago Washington decided not to strike Damascus-led forces among other things because the Syrian Army had a number of these surface-to-air missile batteries in service. The Americans, according to Zvezda, did not want to see the S-300 in action.
American experts say that S-300 systems in Iran will ultimately create a no-fly zone for the F-16s and F/A-18s over the country, the media outlet noted. The B-2s and F-22s are capable of operating in areas guarded by the S-300 for a limited amount of time since the Russian-made missile defense system can easily change its location within hours.
“This missile defense system could deny access to the airspace over the Persian Gulf. … It could almost completely neutralize Turkey’s military capabilities. Israel and Saudi Arabia will automatically lose their air supremacy and will be unable to carry out airstrikes in the region as well as some parts of Syria,” he noted.
Moscow and Tehran signed an $800-million deal for the delivery of five S-300 missile systems in 2007. In 2011, Iran sued Russia in the Geneva Arbitration Court after Moscow suspended the contract in 2010, citing a UN Security Council resolution that placed an arms embargo on Tehran.
Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted the S-300 delivery ban in April 2015, shortly after the P5+1 group of international negotiators and Iran reached a framework nuclear agreement to remove all economic sanctions against Tehran in exchange for its pledge to ensure that all nuclear research in the country will be for peaceful purposes.