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Saudi Arabia & ‘their Western handlers’ behind Syria peace talks failure – Damascus envoy

RT | December 15, 2017

The ultimatum that President Bashar Assad must go if there is to be peace in Syria, drawn up by the anti-Assad opposition backed by Saudi Arabia and the West, derailed the latest peace talks in Geneva, Damascus’s envoy to the negotiations has said.

The eighth round of Syria peace negotiations in Geneva has ended in failure, after Damascus officials refused to engage in direct talks with the opposition, which continues to demand the removal of President Bashar Assad as a precondition for ending the six-year conflict.

“The Riyadh 2 Communique is a blackmail of the Geneva process,” Syrian government negotiator Bashar Ja’afari told the media, referring to a document adopted during a Syrian opposition summit in the Saudi capital last month. As a result of the conference, attended by 140 participants and backers in the conflict, a communique was adopted insisting that the Syrian president must leave at the start of any transition period following the cessation of hostilities. The conflict has taken more than 400,000 lives.

“Those who drew up the Riyadh 2 statement were the ones who sabotaged this round. I mean by that the other side. I mean the Saudis and the Saudi handlers themselves who are the Western countries. They do not want the Geneva process to succeed.”

Ja’afari insisted that the proposal contradicted previous UN resolutions, and said that outside forces wanted to turn Syria into “another Libya or Iraq.”

The Syrian negotiator also criticized the long-time mediator of the talks, Staffan de Mistura, who on Wednesday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to put pressure on Assad to accept constitutional reforms and fresh elections.

Ja’afari called de Mistura’s words an “error” that could “derail his mandate as a facilitator of the talks, which will have an impact on the Geneva process altogether.”

In turn, de Mistura said that Damascus’s refusal to engage with the opposition delegation, whom it has branded both unrepresentative and envoys of “terrorists,” as “regrettable.”

“Despite a lot of effort by my whole team, day and night with all sorts of creative formula, we did not have real negotiations,” said de Mistura, who earlier suggested that Syria was on the verge of permanent fragmentation. “It is a big missed opportunity, a golden opportunity missed at the end of this year.”

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , | Leave a comment

US-led coalition securing Daesh terrorists, targeting civilians: Syria

Press TV – December 14, 2017

Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates has censured the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh terrorist group, saying the military alliance is indeed targeting civilian facilities and providing the extremists with cover.

In two separate letters addressed to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the rotating president of the UN Security Council, Koro Bessho, on Thursday, the ministry stated that the US-led coalition has been pretending to fight Daesh, but it has, in fact, been transporting the terrorists from one part of Syria to another and securing them.

The letters further noted that Daesh terrorists have been purged from most regions in Syria only through counter-terrorism operations conducted by government troops and allied fighters from popular defense groups.

They also criticized the so-called advocates of human rights and rule of law for turning a blind eye to the atrocities the US-led coalition is perpetrating in Raqqah and Dayr al-Zawr provinces.

Syria’s official news agency, SANA, reported on Thursday that US-led air raids had claimed the lives of at least 23 civilians, mostly children and women, in the al-Jurze Sharqi village of Dayr al-Zawr province the previous evening.

The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

The military alliance has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians. It has also been largely incapable of achieving its declared goal of destroying Daesh.

On October 11, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said the US-led coalition was trying to destroy the Arab country and prolong the armed conflict there.

Muallem stated that Damascus would demand the dissolution of the military contingent, stressing that thousands of Syrian women and children had been killed by coalition airstrikes in Raqqah and Dayr al-Zawr.

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

France’s Macron and Saudi Prince in Artful Deception

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 12.12.2017

A week after French President Emmanuel Macron opened the Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, a painting attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci went on sale for a record $450 million at an auction in New York City.

It was then reported that the buyer turned out to be none other than Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia with whom Macron is said to enjoy a close, personal rapport.

The 500-year-old renaissance portrait of Jesus Christ – entitled ‘Salvator Mundi’ (‘Savior of the World’) – will henceforth go on display in Abu Dhabi’s franchise of the Louvre, presumably on long-term loan from the Saudi monarchy.

The story here is one of the French presidency and the Saudi heir using culture and arts for “soft power” projection – or, less prosaically, as public relations to launder their international image. It also ties in with how Macron is disguising pernicious French meddling in Middle East affairs under the image of being a benign diplomatic broker.

The Louvre in Abu Dhabi, the capital of United Arab Emirates, is the only one anywhere in the world that is an official affiliate to the famous Paris museum of the same name. It opens after 10 years of construction, for which the UAE reportedly paid France over $500 million in order to be able to use the famous Louvre name.

France, the UAE and the closely aligned Saudi rulers stand to gain much international prestige, especially after the Saudi Crown Prince reportedly purchased the most expensive artwork in the world to date by the renaissance master Leonardo Da Vinci. Da Vinci’s other celebrated portrait, the Mona Lisa, is displayed in the Paris Louvre. A certain neat symmetry there.

However, beneath the veneer of classic art lies the grubby, sordid world of politics.

Last weekend, the French president hosted a conference in Paris entitled the International Support Group for Lebanon, whose chief guest was Lebanese premier Saad Hariri. Macron reportedly concluded the summit by saying it was “imperative for foreign powers not to interfere in Lebanese internal affairs”. The implication of that statement was fingering Iran as the culprit of interference through its association with Lebanese coalition government member Hezbollah.

The irony here is that if any country in the region has been guilty of brazenly interfering in Lebanese politics it is Saudi Arabia. Hariri tendered his resignation as prime minister on November 4 after he was summoned to Riyadh by the Saudi rulers who sponsor his Sunni Islam-affiliated political movement in Lebanon. In explaining his surprise resignation, Hariri dramatically and provocatively accused Iran and Hezbollah of plotting to assassinate him.

Hariri has since returned safely to Lebanon and has reversed his earlier resignation announcement. Both Iran and Hezbollah have rejected his claims of intended malice as ridiculous. It seems Hariri was trying to project a well-worn Saudi narrative to criminalize Iran and Hezbollah, whom the hardline Sunni (Wahhabi) Saudi rulers view as “Shia heretics” and regional nemesis – especially after recent military victory in Syria.

Evidently, Hariri is still doing the Saudi rulers’ bidding. Last week before the Paris summit, he told Paris Match in an interview that the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad – an ally of Iran and Hezbollah – wants him dead. He reiterated baseless accusations that Syria had been involved in the assassination of his father Rafic in 2005. The Paris summit a few days later then endorsed Hariri’s demand that Hezbollah, and by extension Iran, must “disassociate” from regional influence. France’s Macron publicly backed this demand.

That brings us to the art of deception. Saudi Arabia’s antagonism against Iran, Hezbollah and Syria is being finessed with French diplomatic sophistry. French President Macron and his foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian are subtly lending credence to Saudi attempts at demonizing Iran and Hezbollah, accusing both for regional instability – when in reality Riyadh and Paris are much more to blame.

Lebanon is only one such instance of Saudi meddling, which is being given a respectable cover by French diplomatic posturing. When Lebanon’s Christian President Michel Aoun and many Lebanese citizens were condemning Saudi rulers for “kidnapping” Hariri during his extraordinary two-week sojourn in Riyadh last month following his resignation, it was France’s Macron who deftly diverted attention from Saudi interference by extending a personal invite to Hariri to visit Paris along with his family. That invitation to Paris for Hariri on November 18 let the Saudis off the hook over claims that they were holding the Lebanese politician under duress.

Another instance of egregious Saudi-French meddling is Syria. The country has been ravaged by a nearly seven-year war that was largely sponsored covertly by Saudi Arabia, France and other NATO allies. That war has only been put to an end by the military intervention of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

In Yemen, the Saudi rulers have devastated the poorest country in the Arab region with a nearly three-year war that has been fueled with massive American, British and French weapons exports. A $3.6 billion arms deal that France signed with Lebanon at the end of 2014 for which the Saudis said they would foot the bill has ended up being diverted to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen, according to L’Observatoire des Armements.

French weapons reportedly include Cougar troop-transport helicopters, Mirage fighter jets, drones, and mid-air refueling tanker planes, which have enabled a Saudi bombing campaign that has been condemned for multiple war crimes from the targeting of thousands of civilians. French weapons also include navy corvettes and patrol boats which have helped enforce the Saudi naval blockade on Yemen. That blockade is inflicting starvation and disease on millions of children.

Given the scope of criminal Saudi-French interference in the region, it is therefore a travesty that these two countries are promoting a narrative seeking to impugn Iran and Hezbollah.

But this travesty is being given credence by an uncritical Western media, and by French President Macron donning an image of a progressive, liberal, cultured politician.

When Macron opened the Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi on November 8 he gave a speech in which he eulogized the “beauty of art” being a source of healing power to overcome “discourses of hatred”. He said the museum would “defend beauty, universality, creativity, reason and fraternity”.

This nauseating self-indulgence sounds rather like pretentious French pseudo-philosophy. A load of lofty-sounding cant which seeks to conceal what are brutal French state interests – weapons sales and fueling conflict – as somehow wonderfully benign and enlightened.

The next day, after his “emotive” speech in Abu Dhabi, Macron made a reportedly unscheduled flight to Riyadh to meet the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This was while Lebanese premier Saad Hariri was still in the Saudi capital, apparently being held against his will.

One week later, on November 15, the Da Vinci portrait, ‘Salvator Mundi’, goes on sale at Christie’s auction house in New York. The buyer remained unknown until last week when the New York Times reported that it was Crown Prince MbS who splashed out the $450 million bid. The question is: was the young 32-year-old Saudi despot acting on advice from his cultured French friend Macron, as a way to gain some good international PR? It certainly smacks of orchestration.

Such profligate spending by the Saudi heir comes at an awkward time when he and his ruling clique have arrested some 200 other Saudi royals in a purported crackdown on corruption and graft. The embarrassment seems to have prompted the Saudi rulers to subsequently deny that MbS is the buyer, claiming instead that it was a cousin of the Crown Prince who was acting as an agent for the Louvre in Abu Dhabi to acquire the venerated art piece.

Whatever the truth about the precise buyer of Da Vinci’s ‘Savior of the World’, it seems clear that the French state and the Saudi monarchy are in any case engaged in a cynical image-laundering exercise. They are exploiting high-brow culture and religious sanctity as a way to project an image of civility and beneficence.

Macron in particular is serving as a sophisticated public relations agent for the Saudi rulers, laundering their badly tarnished image. In return, no doubt, Macron is securing lucrative future French arms sales to the Saudis, as well as to the Emiratis. Saudi Arabia is the top export market for France’s weapons industry.

French weapons-dealing with the Saudis is directly responsible for a slaughter of innocents in Yemen and Syria. And at the same time French diplomatic sophistry is covering up for Saudi subversion of Lebanon’s internal affairs. Yet, the Saudis and their French PR President Emmanuel Macron have the audacity to accuse Iran and Hezbollah of regional interference.

That’s the “beauty of art” indeed. The art, that is, of deception.

December 12, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

What is the link between the UK Foreign Office and terrorist groups in Syria? Vanessa Beeley

goingundergroundRT | December 9, 2017

We speak to investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley about her most recent trip to Syria.

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December 10, 2017 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , | 5 Comments

When Washington Cheered the Jihadists

By Daniel Lazare | Consortium News | December 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing the Damage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deals with the Devil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disastrous Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pentagon quadruples troop levels in Syria to ‘stabilize’ liberated areas

RT | December 7, 2017

The US military has increased the number of troops in Syria from 500 to 2,000, the Pentagon says, adding that the “conditions-based” military presence is justified by the need to “stabilize” liberated areas.

The Pentagon has officially announced that there are now 2,000 troops in Syria – a fourfold increase from the previous figures given. “The United States will continue necessary counterterrorism and stabilization effort,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning said.

“The United States will sustain a conditions-based military presence in Syria to combat the threat of insurgent-led insurgency, prevent the resurgence of ISIS and to stabilize liberated areas.”

Manning claimed that the Iraqi Army and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have liberated about 97 percent “of the people and land” previously controlled by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in Iraq and Syria respectively. He said the campaign to defeat IS is now in a new phase in these countries.

Coalition forces are still needed in the two countries, Manning said, adding that they will now focus on “train, advise and assist” missions. “As the terrorist group continues to lose territory, important work remains to ensure its lasting defeat.”

The US military has repeatedly refused to acknowledge the number of troops and “military advisers” it has fighting alongside anti-government rebel forces. Under the Obama administration, the Pentagon routinely announced foreign troop deployments, but the Trump administration stopped disclosing such information regarding Operation Inherent Resolve. The policy was reversed in the spring of 2017 in order to maintain the “element of surprise” against Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq.

Damascus views the US military engagement in Syria as illegitimate, as there was no official request for intervention from the government. Early in November, Syrian leader Bashar Assad said his government will deal with any “illegal invader force.” He added that the war in Syria will continue until there is a full “recovery of security and stability to all Syrian lands.”

Washington insists its military presence in Syria is lawful and justified by UN mandate. In mid-November, US Defense Secretary James Mattis claimed the United Nations sanctioned the US presence in Syria.

“You know, the UN said that… basically we can go after ISIS. And we’re there to take them out,” Mattis said. Moscow responded by saying the UN cannot greenlight a foreign invasion of Syria, as it is contrary to international law.

Media reports indicate that the US is not planning to leave any time soon. According to the Washington Post, the US wants to keep troops in Syria long after Islamic State is defeated to help the Western-backed SDF establish “new local governance” structures in order to prevent complete victory by the Syrian government and its ally, Iran.

Read more:

Syria fully liberated from ISIS terrorists – Russian MoD

Major blunder: US commander unsure if it’s 4k or 500 troops in Syria

December 7, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Syria Denounces Israeli Aggression on its Territories

teleSUR | December 5, 2107

Syria’s Foreign Ministry has denounced recent Israeli attacks on Syrian territory, strongly condemning Israel’s continuing acts of aggression.

The Yemraya region was struck by Israeli jets Monday night. Another military area in Al-Keswaha was attacked on December 2.

Syrian forces responded to Monday’s attack by firing anti-aircraft missiles at jets targeting government military sites and positions of the Shiite Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah.

The latest developments follow seemingly random attacks on Syria by the Israeli Defense Forces, which regularly target positions near the Golan Heights but have also expanded operations to attack more valuable targets.

The Syrian government says there is evidence of “the coordination, association and alliance that links Israeli terrorism with that practiced by Daesh, the Al-Nousra Front and other terrorist organizations.”

The Foreign Ministry has stated that Tel Aviv provides many extremist groups in the region with logistical, material, health and financial support.

It has called on both the United Nations and the international community to take measures against Israel’s aggression, as well as its support for terrorism in the region.

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

British aid for Syria being funneled to extremists… again

RT | December 4, 2017

The UK government has suspended a foreign aid project in Syria amid allegations that funds are being pocketed by extremists groups. It is yet another report of British taxpayers’ money reaching the wrong hands.

The project seeks to use aid funds from Britain to help officers of the Free Syria Police (FSP) implement order in the region following the Syrian uprising. However, claims that the funds were being diverted to extremists were made in a BBC Panorama program, Jihadis You Pay For. The program, aired on Monday evening, also claims that UK-backed officers were apparently working with courts imposing torture and executions.

The Adam Smith International think tank, which has been managing the project since October 2014, denies any allegations of wrongdoing. It says it had managed taxpayers’ money “effectively to confront terrorism.”

Allegations were also made concerning extremists from the Syrian Al-Qaeda branch, Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front), directly choosing officers for two stations in the country’s north-western Idlib province.

Kate Osamor, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for international development, said Britons will be “outraged” if the allegations turn out to be substantiated. “We need to understand how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office allowed this to happen, and why their mechanisms for properly managing aid projects failed,” she told The Guardian.

She pointed out that the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, which financed the project, operates in dozens more countries which are renowned for their “questionable” human-rights records.

“This investigation is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg: the government must now open up its books so the public can understand the true extent of the problem,” added Osamor.

Funds come from Britain’s £13 billion ($17.5 billion) foreign aid budget, which is mainly under the wing of the Department for International Development. Other departments, however, are also responsible for its spending, including the Foreign Office.

Earlier this year, it was revealed how Britons are donating hundreds of thousands of pounds to Islamist extremists – sometimes without knowing so. According to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, such money represents the extremists’ primary form of income.

The Home Office also found that overseas funding was a “significant source of income” for a small number of suspected radical bodies.

Reports in October also claimed that British charity aid convoys are being used to funnel funds to terrorist organizations in Syria. An FCO spokesman said: “We take any allegations of co-operation with terrorist groups and of human-rights abuses extremely seriously and the Foreign Office has suspended this program while we investigate these allegations.

“We believe that such work in Syria is important to protect our national security interest but of course we reach this judgment carefully given that in such a challenging environment no activity is without risk. That is why all our programs are designed carefully and subject to robust monitoring,” he added, according to the BBC.

December 4, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

No, The US Didn’t Abandon The Syrian Kurds

By Andrew KORYBKO – Oriental Review – 02/12/2017

Trump has ostensibly compromised by promising Turkish President Erdogan that he’ll stop arming the Syrian Kurds.

The US and Turkish leaders spoke by phone last Friday, during which time Trump allegedly gave his counterpart his word that he will stop giving arms to the Syrian Kurds. The Turkish side reported that Trump called the previous policy of arming the YPG “nonsense” and promised to end it, while the official White House readout was more ambiguous and said that he “informed President Erdogan of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria”.

The discrepancy between both side’s interpretation of the conversation prompted the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister to state that the US “would be deceiving the whole world” if it went back on its pledge, while the Pentagon reiterated that it is “reviewing pending adjustments to the military support provided to our Kurdish partners in as much as the military requirements of our defeat-ISIS and stabilization efforts will allow to prevent ISIS from returning.”

In addition, it should be reminded that reports have been circulating that the US might officially acknowledge that up to 2000 of its troops are in Syria, which would be around 4x more than what it previously admitted, and that the Pentagon is moving towards more of an “open-ended” mission in the war-torn country now that Daesh – it’s supposed reason for being there – is defeated. What all of this means is that the US will probably not withdraw from Syria, and there’s a chance that arms shipments to the Kurds might continue.

No matter what Trump may or may not have said to President Erdogan, he’s on record in early April saying that he’s given the US military “total authorization” to do what it wants, so if the Pentagon decides that there’s a need to continue arming the Syrian Kurds, then that’s exactly what the US will likely end up doing. Furthermore, nobody knows the exact terminology that Trump might have used during his phone call, so there’s a chance that he might try to employ a “technical loophole” by selling weapons to the Syrian Kurds instead of “loaning” them like the US is presently doing.

In any case, the unlikelihood of the US military withdrawing from Syria means that the Pentagon could still extend a defense umbrella to its on-the-ground allies, thus staving off a Turkish military intervention and creating the pretext for forming a so-called “air bridge” in the event that the neighboring states attempt to blockade this region like they did to Iraqi Kurdistan. The key difference between the Iraqi Kurds and the Syrian ones is that the former didn’t have 2000 US troops and reportedly 10 American bases on their territory, hence why Washington “betrayed” them.

In addition, Iraq is already an internally partitioned country for the most part due to its “federal” status, while Syria has yet to formally follow in its footsteps, so the indefinitely prolonged US military presence there is designed to advance Washington’s preferred “political solution” by pressuring Damascus, while Trump’s talk about supposedly discontinuing weapons shipments to the Syrian Kurds is meant to give Turkey a “face-saving” excuse for passively accepting what they had previously said would be a clear red line for them.

December 3, 2017 Posted by | Deception | , , , , | Leave a comment

How A Dubious BBC Report Gave Israel The “Green Light” For Last Night’s Attack On Syria

Zero Hedge | December 2, 2107

Syrian state television has confirmed that Israel attacked a military base outside of Damascus overnight on Friday, which Israeli media reports involved both surface-to-surface missiles and airstrikes, while Syria says its air defense systems were engaged and intercepted two missiles. Like other recent strikes inside Syria, the Israeli jets reportedly fired from over Lebanese airspace, in order to avoid both Syrian anti-aircraft missile systems and provoking a Russian response. Though the extent of the damage or casualties is not yet known, Syrian media has confirmed material damage to the base, and other reports indicate mass power outages in some of parts of Damascus occurred immediately after the attack, which SANA says happened at 12:30am local time.

It appears the base is likely the same one featured in a November BBC report which showed satellite images detailing the purported construction and renovation of an “Iranian military base” near El-Kiswah, which lies 14 km (8 miles) south of Damascus. As we’ve noted before, the BBC report was dubiously sourced to “a Western intelligence source” and the story was quickly utilized by Israeli leaders to ratchet up rhetoric in preparing its case before the international community for further attacks on the supposed Iranian targets. Israel has long justified its attacks inside Syria by claiming to be acting against Hezbollah and Iranian facilities and arms depots.

Indeed, BBC itself used ambiguous language in saying the satellite images “seem to show” construction activity at the site referenced by the intelligence source between January and October this year. However, the images don’t actually show much at all related to an Iranian military presence, but merely a series of two dozen large low-rise buildings – likely for housing soldiers and vehicles, which would be expected of any state army or sovereign nation.

Furthermore, the very title of the November piece – “Iran building permanent military base in Syria – claim” – underscores the complete lack of evidence for such a claim, which the BBC notes in the article is “impossible to independently verify.”

Yet in reporting last night’s Israeli strike on Syria, the BBC uncritically referenced its own prior unconfirmed “claim” to paint a picture that Israel is actually taking action against Iran and Hezbollah: “Israel has hit weapons sites before, in a bid to prevent arms being transferred to Syria’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah. Arms convoys in particular have been singled out by the Israeli air force.”

And the BBC followed this with:

Last month the BBC revealed a claim that Iran was building a permanent military base near the town. A series of satellite images showed construction at the location of the alleged base, which was made known to the BBC by a western intelligence source.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously warned that Israel would not allow Iran to establish any military presence in Syria.

So it appears the BBC is playing war propagandist for Israel, instead of including any level of critical inquiry regarding Israel’s unprovoked act of aggression against its neighbor. In short, the BBC spread what it acknowledged to be a mere “claim” based solely on an unnamed “Western intelligence source”. Then Israel used that claim to attack Syria, after which the BBC in circular fashion justified the attack based on its own original dubious “claim”.

Israeli media and politicians are currently using BBC published satellite images as “proof” that Israel attacked an “Iranian base” in Syria last night. Image source: BBC

Meanwhile, just about every major Israeli newspaper in today’s reporting is prominently featuring the prior BBC report as justification for the latest attack on Syria. The Times of Israel provides one such example among many when it says:

The alleged Israeli attack came three weeks after the BBC reported that Iran was building a permanent military base in Syria just south of Damascus. The British broadcaster commissioned a series of satellite pictures that showed widespread construction at the site.

Or see this op-ed in the Jerusalem Post today which references the BBC report as a watershed moment:

The attack raises several questions. Why wait so long to strike the Iranian base? What did “western intelligence sources” hope to accomplish by publishing information on the Iranian base? Why were the Iranians at the site given time to leave by their base becoming so public? The month’s activity appear to be part of a complex game being waged by Iran to entrench itself in Syria and Israel’s attempts to warn the Iranians off. Whatever was taking place at El-Kiswah had plenty of time to be wrapped up and moved if the Iranians were concerned about it being struck. If the reports about Israel’s threats to target sites between 40-60km from the Golan are accurate then it would indicate that the warnings have been manifested.

And nearly every major Israeli media source is also republishing the BBC satellite images as part of their reporting on the overnight strikes.

As we’ve long pointed out, anytime that Israel carries out acts of aggression against Syria, it can just blame Iran or Hezbollah and escape international criticism or condemnation. International media and Western governments have already demonstrated a penchant for towing the Israeli line whenever Iran can be conceivably blamed as a culprit – evidence or no evidence – this as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it official Israeli policy to oppose Iranian presence in Syria.

Yet what key facts do the BBC and others leave out?

On Tuesday Israel’s own Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that there are no Iranian military forces in Syria, but instead merely stuck to acknowledging “Iranian experts and advisers”. In comments to Israel’s Ynet news, Lieberman admitted, “It is true that there are a number of Iranian experts and advisers, but there is no Iranian military force on Syrian land.”

Clearly, Defense Minister Lieberman’s statement flies in the face of claims made by Netanyahu in his speech before the UN General Assembly this year when Netanyahu said, “We will act to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria for its air, sea and ground forces. We will act to prevent Iran from producing deadly weapons in Syria… And we will act to prevent Iran from opening new terror fronts against Israel along our northern border.”

In other words, Israel’s top military chief very publicly contradicted both Netanyahu’s and the BBC’s claims of Iranian military bases on Syrian soil, yet the BBC neglected to mention such essential information. Thus, it appears that the mainstream media is preparing us for war… but sadly, this is nothing new.

December 3, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Intercept Withheld NSA Doc That May Have Altered Course Of Syrian War

If this document had been published sooner, it could have dramatically changed the course of the war by exposing the true face of the “moderate rebels” — and potentially saved tens of thousands of lives. That didn’t happen, and no reason has been given by the Intercept for its delay.

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | October 30, 2017

On Tuesday, the Intercept published a hitherto unknown document from the trove of National Security Administration (NSA) documents leaked by Edward Snowden over three years ago. The document was notable as it shed light on the early days of the Syrian conflict and the fact that, for the past six years, so-called “revolutionary” groups aimed at toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have largely acted as proxies for foreign governments pushing regime change.

The document explicitly reveals that an attack led by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which was intended to mark the anniversary of the 2011 “uprising” that sparked the Syrian conflict, was directed by a Saudi prince. The document proves, in essence, that the armed opposition in Syria – from the earlier years of the conflict – was under the direct command of foreign governments pushing for regime change.

An NSA graphic released by The Intercept outlines Saudi involvement in organizing and supplying Syrian opposition forces for attacks on Syria’s civilian infrastructure.

According to the document, Saudi Prince Salman bin Sultan had ordered the FSA to “light up Damascus” and “flatten” the city’s civilian airport. The Saudis had also “sent 120 tons of explosives/weapons to opposition forces” for the operation. The Saudis, as the document notes, were “very pleased” with the outcome, which claimed at least 60 lives.

The implications of the NSA document are significant. It offers the clearest proof, in the form of official U.S. government documents, detailing the direct relationship between the armed Syrian opposition and foreign governments, and exposing the fact that this relationship existed much earlier than the mainstream narrative on the conflict had previously suggested.

However, the Intercept article regarding the document is unusual for several reasons. First, the report inaccurately claims that the attack launched at the Saudis’ behest did not result in any confirmed casualties. Second, it states that the 2011 uprising in Syria was an organic, “peaceful” movement that led the Syrian government to wage “an open war against their own people” — a narrative that has since been debunked.

Yet, the largest oversight of all is the article’s failure to mention the U.S.’ role in funding the Free Syrian Army, as well as the CIA’s well-documented role in training the FSA and pumping tons of weapons into Syria in order to foment and exacerbate the conflict in its early days. In light of the NSA document’s revelation that the U.S. had been given advance notice of the planned FSA attack – on a civilian target, no less – Washington’s decision to let it proceed clearly suggests that the U.S. was involved in and well aware of the Saudi directives to the FSA. However, the Intercept piece chooses not to mention this crucial context.

Intercept’s three-plus year delay in releasing document

Perhaps even more troubling than the article’s failure to mention the CIA’s well-documented role in backing the Free Syrian Army, now exposed as a proxy force following orders from the Saudi royal family, is the fact that the Intercept had access to this document for nearly three-and-a-half years – deciding to publish only now that the Syrian conflict is effectively over and those pushing for regime change have lost. If this document had been published sooner, it could have dramatically changed the course of the war by exposing the true face of the “moderate rebels” — and potentially saved tens of thousands of lives.

That didn’t happen, however, and no reason has been given by the publication for its notable delay. The Intercept has exclusive publishing rights and an exclusive hold on the content of the Snowden leaks, of which this newly released document is a part. Indeed, the Intercept was founded after the Snowden leaks were made public and its first hires were Glenn Greenwald and Lauren Poitras, the only journalists possessing the full Snowden cache. Those documents now belong to the Intercept’s founder — billionaire eBay founder,  — and his for-profit media company, First Look Media.

Examining Omidyar’s connections to the U.S. political establishment offers a plausible reason for the Intercept’s delay in publishing documents so crucial to understanding the situation in Syria. Omidyar was a frequent guest of the Obama White House from 2009 to 2013, garnering more face-to-face visits with Obama during his two terms than did Google’s Eric Schmidt, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, New York Times owner Arthur Sulzberger and even fellow tech billionaire turned major media owner, Jeff Bezos.

Omidyar also directly co-invested with the U.S. State Department, via USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), in opposition groups that played a key role in overthrowing Ukraine’s democratically elected government in 2014 – a U.S.-brokered regime-change operation that shares some notable similarities with the Syrian conflict. His investments with USAID have continued since the Intercept’s founding, helping fund the NGO’s more recent overseas programs aimed at “advancing U.S. national security interests” abroad.

Also worth noting is the fact that PayPal, of which Omidyar is a major owner, has allegedly been implicated in several of the still-withheld NSA documents for its business relationship with the NSA and its role in the agency’s mass spying program. In addition, former Intercept writers have asserted that Omidyar was “shockingly disinterested in the actual journalism” of the paper, suggesting that the Intercept was created explicitly to delay the release of damaging documents from the Snowden cache until deemed acceptable to the U.S. political establishment and others who stood to lose face were the entire cache to have been made public.

Indeed, another interesting coincidence supporting this thesis is the fact that the Intercept published this latest piece only after the U.S. State Department itself began to report more honestly on the nature of these so-called “rebels.” A day before the Intercept’s story on Syrian “rebels” and the Saudis, the U.S. State Department – for the first time – admitted that “moderate” rebels in Syria had previously used chemical weapons, a charge it had categorically denied for years in order to facilitate laying the blame for any and all chemical weapons attacks in Syria on the Syrian government.

In other words, the Intercept released the document, which effectively destroys Washington’s “moderate rebels” narrative with its own internal documents, only after the U.S. government itself began to unravel that very same narrative.

The Intercept did not respond to MintPress News’ request for comment regarding the timing of the document’s release.

 

Founder’s connections shape Intercept’s journalism

Omidyar’s connection to U.S. regime-change efforts abroad may also explain why the Intercept – until now, that is – has consistently given voice to journalists who have echoed the U.S. establishment regarding the Syrian conflict.

For instance, Murtaza Hussain – the author of this latest Intercept piece – has written numerous stories downplaying the terrorist and Wahhabist elements of the Syrian “rebels.” In the last two years, Hussain has written pieces portraying known Al-Qaeda propagandists, such as Bilal Abdul Kareem, and Al-Qaeda-linked organizations, such as the White Helmets, in an overwhelmingly positive light, failing to mention in both cases the significant evidence tying these entities to known terrorist groups. In another piece, published last August, Hussain gave voice to al-Nusra Front leadership in a lengthy interview that largely whitewashed the group’s Wahhabist leanings and links to terrorist acts in Syria.

Last September, on Twitter, Hussain asserted that Saudi Arabia’s funding of armed factions was not necessarily “good” but that “there is little to indicate they contribute to terrorism.” That last statement has been thoroughly debunked for years, but most recently by Hussain’s own piece on the newly released NSA document.

Hussain is by no means the only Intercept writer who has taken such a pro-opposition stance regarding Syria. A recent Intercept piece on Syria, published in September, committed glaring factual errors on basic facts about the war, while also mistranslating a speech given by Assad so as to link him to American white nationalists. In addition, the paper recently hired Maryam Saleh, a journalist who has called Shia Muslims “dogs” and has taken to Twitter in recent months to downplay the role of the U.S. coalition in airstrikes in Syria. She also has ties to the U.S.-financed propaganda group Kafranbel Media Center, which has close relations with the terrorist group Ahrar al-Sham.

For a paper ostensibly dedicated to “fearless, adversarial” journalism, it is strange that the Intercept gives voice to journalists who echo the U.S. position regarding the Syrian war while rarely publishing the work of journalists who have challenged prevailing Western narratives on that war — journalists who, as the Intercept itself recently revealed, have been right all along regarding the myth of the Syrian “moderate rebel.” Yet, given Omidyar’s political connections and the paper’s handling of the Snowden cache, this unfortunate decision is unsurprising.

December 3, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 3 Comments

Turkey’s Erdogan won’t capitulate

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 2, 2017

As the countdown begins for the trial in a Manhattan federal court next week of the Turkish-Iranian millionaire gold trader Reza Zarrab over violations of US sanctions against Iran, Turkey is hardening its stance. President Recep Erdogan has said that Turkey cannot be prosecuted in a fake court. (See my article in Asia Times, Gold dealer’s testimony puts Erdogan on shaky ground.)

Importantly, on Friday, the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office issued an arrest warrant for a former top CIA official Graham Fuller alleging his involvement in the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July last year. The Turkish security is apparently in possession of information that Fuller was in the country during the coup attempt on July 15 and abruptly left after the coup failed. Fuller participated in a secret meeting of the coup plotters on July 15-16, which was held in the Buyukada Island in the Sea of Marmara off Istanbul.

For the first time, Ankara is inches away from hinting that last year’s was a CIA-sponsored coup attempt, aimed at overthrowing Erdogan’s government. The government has alleged previously that the coup plotters intended to “eliminate” Erdogan.

This is an extremely serious development insofar as Turkey is, in effect, alleging that the spy agency of a major NATO ally, which swears by Article 5 of the alliance’s charter on collective security, actually conspired to overthrow its established government which enjoyed a democratic mandate.

From all indications, Turkish intelligence would have collected a lot of evidence regarding the coup before making the move to seek Fuller’s arrest. At least some of the evidence would also have been provided by friendly countries such as Russia and Iran. We will never know whether the Russian and Iranian intelligence are in possession of hard information pointing at CIA involvement in the coup attempt in Turkey, but the possibility cannot be ruled out. The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif was constantly interacting telephonically with his Turkish counterpart through the fateful night of the coup attempt when things were on razor’s edge.

Ankara announced on Friday that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will be attending the NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Brussels on December 5-6. Cavusoglu is sure to bump into US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. One can only wish to be a fly on the wall at the NATO Hqs. Indeed, if the US plan is to leverage the Zarrab case to pressure Turkey to change course in its foreign policies and revert to its cold-war era role as the West’s junior partner in the region, it may boomarang. Turkey may be preparing to go on the offensive.

Make no mistake, Turkey will follow up on the arrest warrant for Fuller. Fuller was a mentor of the controversial Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen. According to Turkish reports, Fuller had recommended Gulen’s application for the Green Card, which in turn enabled the latter to live in exile in the US for almost two decades after he fled Turkey in 1998. Turkish intelligence keeps a close tab on Gulen’s activities Ankara has often hinted that Gulen is actively in contact with the US establishment.

If Erdogan wants to hit the Americans hard, he won’t have to look beyond next-door Syria. Erdogan’s key advisor Ibrahim Kalin has written in the pro-government Sabah newspaper today that with the defeat of ISIS, the US has no justification to support the Syrian Kurds. To quote Kalin,

  • This question was discussed during a recent phone call between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump on Nov. 24. Trump’s response was affirmative, adding that the huge military support the U.S. is providing to the YPG should have ended before. His statement was contradicted only a few days later by the Pentagon.

There is an implicit warning here that Turkey is drawing a red line. Kalin disclosed in the article that Pentagon is using the pictures of Kurdish women fighters to “romanticize” the US-Kurdish alliance. Kalin wrote, “[It is] a useful instrument to sell propaganda to Western audiences, but an affront to the female body and personality. Among the many ironies of this policy, this one is stunning: America’s best ally in Syria is a Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization that fights against Turkey, a key U.S. ally, and seeks autonomy and eventual independence in Syria.”

The Turkish intelligence has got through to the chief spokesman of the US-backed Kuridsh alliance (known as the Syrian Democratic Front) Talal Silo who has “defected” to Turkey recently. In an interview with the Anadolu news agency today, Silo has spilt the beans, exposing the Pentagon’s nefarious activities in Syria that threaten Turkish national security interests. The transcript of the interview is here.

December 2, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 2 Comments