Ukraine’s Right Sector leader Dmitry Yarosh said his radical movement rejects the Minsk peace deal and that their paramilitary units in eastern Ukraine will continue “active fighting” according to their “own plans.”
The notorious ultranationalist leader published a statement on his Facebook page Friday, saying that his radical Right Sector movement doesn’t recognize the peace deal, signed by the so-called ‘contact group’ on Thursday and agreed upon by Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia after epic 16-hour talks.
Yarosh claimed that any agreement with the eastern militia, whom he calls “terrorists,” has no legal force.
In his statement, Yarosh claimed that that the Minsk deal is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution, so Ukrainian citizens are not obliged to abide by it. Thus if the army receives orders to cease military activity and withdraw heavy weaponry from the eastern regions, the Right Sector paramilitaries, who are also fighting there “reserve the right” to continue the war, he said.
The Right Sector paramilitary organization continues to deploy its combat and reserve units, to train and logistically support personnel, while coordinating its activities with the military command of the Ukrainian army, paramilitary units of the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry, he said.
The breakthrough Minsk agreement was reached on Thursday following marathon overnight negotiations between Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia, and offer hope the fighting in Eastern Ukraine may come to an end. The talks were part of a Franco-German initiative. President Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Kiev and Moscow before meeting the Russian and Ukrainian leaders at the negotiating table in Minsk.
Several senior US and French officials, including US Senator John McCain, entered Syria illegally – without proper visas – on separate occasions, thus violating the country’s sovereignty, Syria said in a complaint submitted to the United Nations.
The list of officials also included former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and former US diplomat Peter Galbraith, according to a letter dated December 30 cited by Reuters and AFP.
In the letter, Syria’s UN ambassador Bashar Ja’afari urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council to put additional pressure on governments to implement “the necessary measures against their nationals who enter Syrian territory illegally.”
“Such actions are a blatant violation of Syria’s sovereignty and of the resolutions of the Security Council concerning Syria,” Ja’afari said.
The letter included complaints from “certain journalists and prominent figures” entering Syria illegally, pointing out McCain’s visit to the country in June 2013, as well as Kouchner’s visit in November 2014 and Galbraith’s in December 2014, along with other US political and military leaders.
Former Kuwaiti politician Walid Tabtabai is also mentioned as making an illegal visit in September 2013.
At the time, McCain’s spokesperson only confirmed that the former Republican presidential candidate visited Syria in May 2013 to meet with Syrian rebels.
McCain responded to the complaint by downplaying the accusations, and in turn accusing Syrian President Bashar Assad of the “massacre” of his own people.
“It is a sad but unsurprising truth that the Assad regime is less concerned with its massacre of more than 200,000 men, women and children than it is my visit with those brave Syrians fighting for their freedom and dignity,” McCain’s statement said. “The fact that the international community has done virtually nothing to bring down this terrible regime despite its atrocities is a stain on our collective moral conscience.”
According to earlier media reports, McCain crossed into Syria in May 2013 from Turkey with General Salem Idris, who was in charge of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, and stayed there for several hours before returning.
During the visit, the senator met with leaders of Free Syrian Army units in Turkey and Syria.
McCain’s visit created a media storm, especially after a picture surfaced of him posing with allegedly IslamicState-linked jihadists (formerly ISIS/ISIL).
The original claim came from Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, who accused McCain of unknowingly meeting with Islamic State fighters.
Among the Senator’s other controversial visits was a trip to Ukraine in December 2013 amid mass anti-government protests. During the visit, McCain met with Ukrainian opposition leaders in the country’s capital of Kiev, voicing his support for the protests, adding that he saw Ukraine’s future with Europe.
Also, back in 2011, McCain visited Benghazi to meet the Libyan rebels, calling them “my heroes.” McCain boldly stated that the fall of the ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi would inspire people all over world – including in Russia – which raised eyebrows globally.
“We believe very strongly that the people of Libya today are inspiring the people in Tehran, in Damascus, and even in Beijing and Moscow,” said McCain.
McCain’s travel tendencies landed him on Russia’s black list in March, part of Russia’s retaliation against US-led sanctions. The list bans the Senator along with other individuals from traveling to Russia as well as freezes any of his assets there.
Syria’s government and opposition will hold talks in Moscow on the resolution of the Syrian crisis, advisor to the Syrian president Bouthaina Shaaban told RT Arabic.
Syria and Russia agreed that the “intra-Syrian dialogue will begin in Moscow,” Shaaban told RT Arabic during an interview in Damascus on Thursday.
She elaborated that Damascus has been in consultations with Moscow regarding “the starting point of this dialogue, its objectives, and mechanisms for its implementation, as well as the composition of its participants”.
Prospects for using Moscow as a venue for contacts between the two sides of the Syrian conflict were a focus of talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN Secretary General’s special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on Thursday, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. During the meeting which took place in Basel, Switzerland the two parties agreed that anti-terrorism efforts are the top priority in the intra-Syrian talks.
Last month Russia’s President Vladimir Putin met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem for the first top level talks between the two countries since the start of Syrian civil war in 2011. The two discussed “bilateral relations” behind closed doors in the Black city resort of Sochi on November 26, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
“The timing of the visit plays an important role. It was the first meeting with President Putin since the beginning of the crisis in Syria. This visit was symbolic and at the same time very productive,” stressed Shaaban.
The president’s political and media advisor explained that during the consultations, Moscow and Damascus agreed on the “principle approaches of stopping this war waged against us.”
“Both parties understand that for the revival of Syria it must put an end to terrorism,” she elaborated.
The social and humanitarian situation in the Arab Republic is “complex”, the Syrian top official noted. She expressed regret that some Arab and regional forces as well as those of “international terrorism” have joined against Syria in the war she believes is “inequitable.”
‘US want twenty years of war to eliminate ISIS? ’
Shaaban criticized the US for its move to create a coalition “outside the UN Security Council and outside the boundaries of international law”. She reiterated Syria’s stance on the US-led airstrike targeting IS militant positions in the Arab nation – that they are an illegal intervention and do not respect the sovereignty of Syria.
She cited President Bashar Assad’s statement that these air strikes fail to provide any tangible result, while the main fight against the terrorists is carried out on the ground.
IS militants – formerly ISIS, also known by the Arabic acronym Daʿish –have “covert international support that enables to transfer weapons and give financial aid to terrorists,” Shaaban admitted.
High-level experts work for these terrorists she stated questioning from where they came.
“Therefore, in dealing with IS militants we will rely on our own capabilities, a new coalition that is being created between Russia, Syria, and countries” that stick to their statements and promises.
“At the same time, the West, in my personal opinion, pursues other objectives, participating in the [US-led] coalition. The West, above all, is trying to save the US military industry, attracting finances of the Gulf Arab countries in order to save relevant US companies,” she said.
The top official explained that this is the reason “they say that it will take ten or even twenty years to destroy IS militants.”
“… to destroy 30,000 IS militants the US needs twenty years of war?” she questioned.
Syria which has a history amounting to 10,000 years has seen many conflicts and wars, but it will stand, while IS militants and other terrorist groups are bound to fall, Shaaban said.
Who is to blame for the proliferation of extremist groups in Syria? The West often points a finger at Assad and his allies, but two secret US documents tell a different story.
It is difficult to find US officials directly claiming that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is in league with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but you will find plenty who will allude to it using specious reasoning:
US Secretary of State John Kerry is one of many who have sought to encourage this narrative:
“There is evidence that Assad has played footsie with them (ISIL), and he has used them as a tool of weakening the opposition. He never took on their headquarters, which were there and obvious, and other assets that they have. So we have no confidence that Assad is either capable of or willing to take on ISIL.”
That logic forms the basis of several key arguments used by Syria’s opponents to suggest a covert and symbiotic relationship between the Syrian government and Islamist extremists. They go something like this:
• Assad encouraged the growth of militants to create an either-or dilemma for Syrians who want him deposed, but who fear “what comes next.”
• Assad released militants from prison in 2011 so that they would overwhelm secular moderates.
• Proof of this is that the Syrian Army does not attack ISIL targets.
• Assad has a close history with militants – he sent hundreds over the border into Iraq to join the insurgency against US forces and is now suffering blowback.
But as a global confrontation with ISIL mounts, an entirely different picture has begun to emerge. The US-led coalition’s five Arab Sunni partners are providing little less than fig-leaf cover for airstrike operations. NATO has been unable to wrest – to date – a commitment from Turkey to enforce serious border security to stop militants from crossing over into Iraq and Syria. In recent weeks, Western media has unleashed a flurry of articles pointing to Qatar’s role in funding extremists.
Clearly, America’s Sunni Arab and Turkish allies are approaching the “ISIL Project”’ with something less than enthusiasm.
On Thursday, US Vice President Joe Biden let the cat out of the bag. During a speech at Harvard University, Biden told his audience:
“Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks… the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world … we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them.”
He, of course, failed to mention Washington’s own arming, training and funding activities coordinated with these very same allies. Predictably, Biden was forced to “apologize” for his undiplomatic comments over the weekend.
But just last month, during a hearing in the US Senate for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, Senator Lindsey Graham asked: “Do you know of any major Arab ally that embraces ISIL?”
To the surprise of many, Dempsey countered: “I know of major Arab allies who fund them.”
The revelations keep flowing from once tight-lipped Western sources. According to US news reports, current and former officials now say wealthy Gulf donors are the source of early funding:
“These rich individuals have long served as ‘angel investors’ for the most violent militants in the region, providing the ‘seed money’ that helped launch ISIS and other jihadi groups… Former U.S. Navy Admiral and NATO Supreme Commander James Stavridis says the cash flow from private donors is significant now and was even more significant in the early fund-raising done by ISIS and al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front,” NBC’s Robert Windrem wrote in an article.
And on Saturday, the UK’s former Assistant Chief of the Defense Staff General Jonathan Shaw, who specialized in counter-terrorism and security policy and retired in 2012, told The Telegraph :
“This is a time bomb that, under the guise of education, Wahhabi Salafism is igniting under the world really. And it is funded by Saudi and Qatari money and that must stop.”
The ‘Assad-has-encouraged-extremism’ argument
Has the Syrian government exploited extremism while at the same time fighting a three-year nationwide military campaign to thwart it? Perhaps. Politics are opportunistic by nature.
But the narrative about Assad encouraging Islamist militancy has always failed to note the historic role of armed Islamists in Syrian “rebellions.”
A US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document that was declassified in 2012 provides a starkly different reading of events leading up to the controversial “Hama massacre” of 1982. It tells a story remarkably similar to events in Syria beginning in early 2011. Here is a montage of quotes from the document:
“In early 1979, encouraged by the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood developed a plan to trigger a similar popular revolution in Syria to oust (Hafez) Assad. The massacre of 50 Alawite cadets, on 16 June 1979 at the Artillery School in Aleppo, signaled the start of the MB offensive.”
The Syrian MB regroups for a “new round of fighting” in late 1980, announces the formation of an “Islamic Front”’ and increases cooperation with the Sunni (Baathist) government of Iraq which had helped the MB covertly in 1979-80 to oust Assad.
“The plan, apparently developed by the leadership of the Syrian MB and probably coordinated with Iraq, centered on two complementary actions. The first was a full-scale revolt by the city of Hama, a traditional Brotherhood stronghold and the location of its covert headquarters in Syria. Once this rebellion was unleashed, similar uprisings were to take place in Aleppo, Damascus and other major cities, accompanied by a general strike designed to paralyze Syria…”
“Simultaneously, a sophisticated worldwide propaganda campaign was to be launched supporting the rebellion and emphasizing its victories and the wholesale desertion of Army units to the rebel side. Press releases were to be made in Europe and the US, while propaganda broadcasts against Syria were to be carried by the Phalange-controlled Voice of Lebanon and the Iraqi-controlled Voice of Arab Syria.”
“At least 100 militants were transported from Jordan, where they had taken refuge, into Iraq where they probably received training prior to their movement into Syria… Sometime after this, the infiltration of ‘Secret Apparatus’ militants began from staging areas in Iraq, and to a lesser degree from Turkey, where others had fled. During the interim period, a number of terrorist bombings and shootings took place in Syria to demonstrate the Brotherhood/dissident Alawites ability to strike at the government.”
“As a result of Syrian security actions, the MB was forced to prematurely unleash the Hama rebellion with the hope that it might spark widespread fighting in other cities… The rebellion would also force the Damascus government to become even more oppressive. The Brotherhood leadership believed this would, in turn, cause greater alienation of the Assad government from the Sunni Muslim majority and within the Alawite community.”
“On February 2, following a clash between the MB and Syrian security forces, the loudspeakers atop the mosque minarets in Hama called on the people to begin a Jihad (Holy Struggle) against the government. The appeal also told the people that arms were available at specified mosques. At about the same time, teams of the MB’s ‘Secret Apparatus,’ some in army uniforms, moved to attack preselected government targets in the city.”
“Despite the propaganda reporting, the uprising in Syria had never spread outside of Hama, although some limited bombings had taken place in Damascus and elsewhere… The total casualties for the Hama incident probably number about 2,000. This includes an estimated 300-400 of the Muslim Brotherhood’s elite ‘Secret Apparatus’… The Syrian dissidents’ modus operandi will continue to be terrorism, particularly bombings and assassinations.”
WikiLeaks: Syria’s government and terrorism
On February 24, 2010, a Cable classified as ‘Secret’ was dispatched from the US Embassy in Damascus to the CIA, DIA, National Security Council, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Office of Homeland Security and a smattering of key US embassies in the Middle East and Europe.
It details the communications between Syria’s General Intelligence Director (GID) Ali Mamlouk who dropped in on a meeting between Syria’s Vice Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad and a US delegation, headed by State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin.
The participants discuss possible future security and intelligence cooperation on issues related to terrorism, particularly on the Syria-Iraq border.
What is notable about this US-framed communiqué is that the American delegation does not take any of the Syrian officials in the room to task for “encouraging and coordinating” the passage of extremist fighters from Syria into Iraq to participate in an insurgency against US forces. This accusation has become a key narrative advanced by Washington in recent years, so why not challenge the Syrians face-to-face when the opportunity is there?
According to the Cable, Benjamin says “the two countries should still work to cooperate on immediate threats facing both the U.S. and Syria, including the proliferation of takfiri groups in the region, such as al-Qaeda, and stopping the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.”
The Syrian response? According to the US Cable:
“Mamlouk said the foreign fighters come from a large number of Arab and Muslim countries and that the Syrians detain ‘large numbers plus their local facilitators.’ As an example, Mamlouk said he handed over 23 Saudis detained in Syria to Saudi Prince Muqrin last year.”
The US delegation even acknowledges the fact that the Syrians have been helpful:
“Benjamin commended Mamlouk on reducing the flow of foreign fighters, while encouraging further progress.”
And the Syrians offer additional cooperation, provided that Damascus takes the lead in these efforts:
“Miqdad interjected that the issue of foreign fighters using Syrian soil is a matter of national security for Syria. ‘We have zero tolerance,’ he said. Miqdad said Syria needs the cooperation of other countries, namely those from which the terrorists are coming. ‘If we can close this circle – with us, you, and other countries – we will succeed,’ he concluded.”
The Cable does reveal some interesting information about Syrian strategies in dealing with terrorism, which Mamlouk says differs considerably from the American approach:
“The GID Director said Syria had been more successful than the U.S. and other countries in the region in fighting terrorist groups because ‘we are practical and not theoretical.’ He stated Syria’s success is due to its penetration of terrorist groups. ‘In principle, we don’t attack or kill them immediately. Instead, we embed ourselves in them and only at the opportune moment do we move.’ Describing the process of planting embeds in terrorist organizations as ‘complex,’ Mamlouk said the result had yielded been the detention of scores of terrorists, stamping out terror cells, and stopping hundreds of terrorists from entering Iraq.
Mamlouk acknowledged some terrorists were still slipping into Iraq from Syria. ‘By all means we will continue to do all this, but if we start cooperation with you it will lead to better results and we can better protect our interests,’ he concluded.”
War of words
The tactics described by Mamlouk explain, in part, why Syrian forces today do not typically launch assaults on terrorist groups unless there is an immediate and direct threat to its military strategy of maintaining control over key areas and disrupting rebel supply lines.
While groups like ISIL are viewed as a security threat, they have not always posed an imminent one.
For the better part of the Syrian conflict, ISIL has not controlled the “priority zones” of the Syrian Army.
Those areas have always been Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and their surrounding countryside (Rif), with Quseir and Qalamoun, Daraa, Tal Kalakh and other border towns playing an important role. When ISIL fighters have been present in those areas, the Syrian Army has fought them – as in Qalamoun and the Damascus suburbs.
In early 2014, pro-opposition writer and researcher A.J. Tamimi questioned in detail accusations of collaboration between the Syrian government and ISIL/al Nusra. Among his many points, Tamimi notes:
“One must ask what the regime would gain strategically by constantly bombing ISIS strongholds in Raqqa province, or ISIS strongholds elsewhere, for that matter, located far beyond the frontlines. As in the wider east of Syria, the regime lacks ground forces to launch an offensive to retake any territory in Raqqa province, and must depend on airlifts from elsewhere to maintain its remaining airbases. Hence, the regime is focusing its airstrikes where it has some real expectations of advancing: most notably in Aleppo city.”
Nevertheless, the Syrian air force did take immediate action when ISIL escalated in Mosul in June, which changed the geopolitical dynamic well beyond the Syrian-Iraqi border. Kerry is misleading when he suggests that Assad will not strike ISIL headquarters: this is about timing and gains from both a military and political perspective – not necessarily a response that trigger-happy Americans can understand.
As for accusations that the Syrians have released militants from their prisons to “populate” ideologically extremist rebel groups that will make Assad look like an angel… You can’t have it both ways – political prisoner releases were initiated to defuse conflict and demonstrate leniency. Were some of these prisoners “extremists” of the variety that man Islamist rebel groups? Almost certainly. But that was the Sunni constituency that the Syrian government was also trying to placate in the early days.
Even today, after grueling “reconciliation” negotiations, the Syrian government is allowing these very rebels to “go free” after they lay down their arms – this, according to volunteers involved in negotiations from Homs to Rif Damascus. What is to stop these same “reformed rebels” from hopping over to al-Raqqa and taking up bigger arms? Should the Syrian government kill them instead? How does one win in a situation like this?
Critics of Syria’s prisoner releases should be reminded of the “Big One” carried out by the Americans in 2009 when they allegedly freed future ISIL ‘Caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from an Iraqi prison.
Does anyone have the right to point fingers after that monumental gaff? The fact is – from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, from Turkey to the United States, from Iraq to France – there appears to be plenty of complicity in fueling ISIL and the jihadi phenomenon. Is Syria complicit too? It depends who is asking – and why.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She tweets @snarwani
This US-engineered Coalition is in for some surprises. With few common goals, it has thrust itself into battle against the most determined players in the region and beyond.
The airwaves are still heaving with spin two days after US airstrikes against Syria.
Undoubtedly the attacks were timed to occur on the eve of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, so ‘Coalition’ partners could cluster behind the decision to bomb a sovereign state, uninvited.
The irony, of course, is that they are doing so at the UN – the global political body that pledges to uphold international law, peace and stability, and the sanctity of the nation-state unit.
The goal this week will be to keep the ‘momentum’ on a ‘narrative’ until it sinks in.
On day one, heads of state from Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, the UK and France were paraded onto the podium to drum in the urgency of American strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Jabhat al-Nusra and other militant groups inside Syria.
Every American official – past and present – in the White House rolodex was hooked up to a microphone to deliver canned sound bites and drive home those ‘messages.’ In between, video-game-quality footage of US strikes hitting their targets was aired on the hour; clips of sleek fighter jets refueling midair and the lone Arab female fighter pilot were dropped calculatingly into social media networks.
The global crew of journalists that descends annually on the UN for this star-studded political event, enthused over US President Barak Obama’s ability to forge a coalition that included five Arab Sunni states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain and the UAE.
Few mentioned that these partners are a mere fig leaf for Obama, providing his Syria campaign with Arab and Muslim legitimacy where he otherwise would have none. Not that any of these five monarchies enjoy ‘legitimacy’ in their own kingdoms – kings and emirs aren’t elected after all – and two of these Wahhabi states are directly responsible for the growth and proliferation of the Wahhabi-style extremism targeted by US missiles.
Even fewer spent time dissecting the legality of US attacks on Syria or on details of the US ‘mission’ – as in, “what next?”
But with a mission this crippled at the outset, it didn’t take long for an alternative view to peek through the thick media fog.
On the ground in Syria, dead civilians – some of them children killed by US bombs – muddied the perfect script. Confused Syrian rebels – many who had called for foreign intervention to help crush the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – demanded to know how these airstrikes were meant to help them.
Sunni Arabs would be radicalized by these strikes, they warned, as ideologically sympathetic citizens of the Arab coalition states took to their information channels and swore revenge for airstrikes against ISIL and al-Nusra.
The Syrian government, for the most part, remained mute – whether to save face or because they could ‘smell’ the gains coming. Contrary to Washington’s prevailing narrative, privately the story was that the US had informed the Assad government of both the timing and targets of the attacks in advance.
Sources say that the US even provided ‘guarantees’ that no Syrian military or government interests would be targeted. A Reuters exclusive claiming that the US went so far as to provide assurances to Iran, suggests this version is closer to the truth. When US airstrikes against Syria were on the table a year ago, the various parties went through a similar game of footsies. Last September, the Americans backed off – allegedly because of communications from their adversaries that even a single US missile would trigger a warfront against Israel. This time, Washington needed to know that scenario was not going to be activated, and this week they offered the necessary guarantees to ensure it.
Although the Russians and Iranians have publicly lashed out at the illegality of US strikes, they do not seem too worried. Both know – like the Syrian government – that these air attacks could be a net gain for their ‘Axis.’
Firstly, the United States is now doing some useful heavy-lifting for Assad, at no real cost to him. The Syrian armed forces have spent little time on the ISIL threat because their focus has traditionally been on protecting their interests in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Hama – and the countryside in these areas – as well as towns and cities around the Lebanese and Jordanian borders. That changed when ISIL staged successful attacks on Mosul and created new geopolitical urgency for Assad’s allies – which triggered some major Syrian strikes against ISIL targets.
But to continue along this path, the Syrians would have to divert energy and resources from key battles, and so the American strikes have provided a convenient solution for the time being.
Secondly, the Syrians have spent three years unsuccessfully pushing their narrative that the terrorism threat they face internally is going to become a regional and global problem. The US campaign is a Godsend in this respect – Obama has managed to get the whole world singing from the same hymn sheet in just two months, including, and this is important, the three states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – most instrumental in financing, weaponizing and assisting ISIL and other extremist militias inside Syria.
Syria, Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and a host of like-minded emerging powers are pleased about this new laser focus on jihadi terror and for the accompanying resource shift to address the problem.
Thirdly, the US has now been placed in the hot seat and will be expected to match words with action. For three years, Washington has overlooked and even encouraged illegal and dangerous behaviors from its regional Sunni allies – all in service of defeating Assad. With all eyes on America and expectations that Obama will fail in his War on Terror just like his predecessors, the US is going to have to pull some impressive tricks from its sleeves.
Ideally, these would include the shutting down of key border crossings (Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon); punishing financiers of terror and inhibiting the flow of funds and assistance from Washington’s regional allies; cutting off key revenue streams; tightening immigration policies to stem the flow of foreign fighters; disrupting communications networks of targeted terrorist groups; broader intelligence sharing with all regional players; and empowering existing armies and allied militias inside the ‘chaos zone’ to lead and execute ground operations.
Thus far, there are signs that some of these things are already happening, with possibly more to come.
Now for the fun part. The Syrians, Iranians and Russians do not fundamentally trust Washington or its intentions. The suspicion is that the US is on another one of its regime-change missions, displaying its usual rogue-state behavior by violating the territorial integrity of a sovereign state under false pretenses, and that it will shortly revert to targeting the Syrian government.
While they can see clear gains from the current level of US intervention – as distasteful as they find it – they are watching carefully as events unfold.
If there is the slightest deviation from the ‘guarantees’ provided by the US, this trio has plenty of room to maneuver. Iran, for one, has dallied with the Americans in both Iraq and Afghanistan and they know how to cause some pain where it counts. The Russians, for that matter, have many playgrounds in which to thwart US ambitions – most urgently in Ukraine and in Afghanistan, from which the US hopes to withdraw billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment by the end of 2014.
All understand that Washington has just assumed a risky public posture and that many, many things can go wrong. The Sunni Arab fig leaf can disappear in a nano-second if domestic pressures mount or revenge attacks take place internally. Information could leak about continued assistance to terrorist militias from one or more of its coalition partners – a huge embarrassment for Washington and its wobbly Coalition. ISIL will almost certainly act against coalition partner soft-targets, like carrying out further kidnappings and executions. Continued airstrikes will almost definitely result in a growing civilian casualty count, turning those ‘hearts and minds’ to stone. Syrian rebels could swiftly turn against the US intervention and radicalize further. Massive displacement caused by airstrikes could exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. And as in all other past US military War-on-Terror adventures, terrorism could thrive and proliferate in quantum leaps.
As Moscow-based political analyst Vladimir Frolov noted to the Washington Post : “The United States has underestimated the complexity of the situation before, so let’s just wait until they run into problems.”
The idea that US military engagement could continue for the long-term is unlikely given the myriad things that can go wrong fast. Obama is going to be reluctant to have his last two years in office defined by the hazardous Syrian conflict – after all, he was to be the president who extracted America from unessential wars.
But the most compelling reason that this Coalition will not pass the first hurdle is that its key members have entirely different ambitions and strategic targets.
Over a decade ago, these US-engineered coalitions were wealthier, less-burdened and shared common goals. Today, many of the coalition members face domestic economic and political uncertainties – and several states are directly responsible for giving rise to ISIL. How can the Coalition fight ISIL and support it, all at once?
What’s missing is a formula, a strategy, a unified worldview that can be equally as determined as the ideological adversary it faces.
Down the road, we will discover that the only coalition able and willing to fight extremism does indeed come from inside the region, but importantly, from within the conflict zone itself: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. For starters, they are utterly vested in the outcome of their efforts – and would lead with political solutions alongside military ones. Those elusive boots-on-the-ground that everyone is seeking? They live it. Pit that group against Obama’s Coalition-of-the-Clueless any day and you know which side would win handily.
The question is, can this Coalition stomach a solution it is working so hard to avoid? Will it partner with vital regional players that were foes only a few months ago? It is doubtful. That would require a worldview shift that Washington is still too irrational to embrace.
Follow @snarwani on Twitter
It is heartbreaking this week, despite the insatiable Signals Intelligence fiefdoms exposed by Edward Snowden, to see our elected lawmakers scrabbling for yet more mass surveillance of UK citizens.
Time and time again we are told Islamic extremists are threatening our very way of life and time after time the evidence before our eyes is that our only real threat is the home grown, party political poodles of the police state.
In this case all the emergency ‘Data Retention and Investigation Powers’ bill (DRIP) will do, if passed into law, is bring what European lawmakers say could be illegal activities of British data retention within the law. Worried that they will be prosecuted for stealing data about who innocent citizens are communicating with and when, they are rushing to shift the legal goalposts so they are no longer breaking it, hoping that crimes they already committed will be overlooked.
What a blatant abuse of power by our lawmakers. Labour’s bloodhound MP Tom Watson rightly smelt a rat when he spotted House of Commons timetables being shifted around but Downing Street knows which side its bread is buttered. Confirmation that the emergency DRIP bill was about to be bounced through parliament was handed to the London media almost 24 hours before it was announced to the Members of Parliament who have to scrutinize and vote on it in a matter of days.
And you can see why they tell the press before they tell parliament too. London’s mainstream media have forgotten how to pose questions to the securocrats. Even when earlier this week, former Director General of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove told the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) that the Islamic terror threat to Britain was grossly inflated, and that ‘Britons’ Cameron included presumably, ‘spreading blood-curdling terrorism messages should be ignored.’ By the end of the week that, was all forgotten and the Islamic threat had expanded again so much that emergency legislation was now necessary to sacrifice our freedoms by Monday.
The 7/7 bombings? Big questions never asked, let alone answered
Nine years ago this week, London saw four devastating bomb attacks which killed 56 people on three London Underground trains and a bus. To mark the occasion graffiti was daubed on the Hyde Park 7/7 memorial, saying “Blair lied thousands died” and “Four innocent Muslims”. These are views which, though quite common on the streets, particularly of Leeds where three of the four alleged bombers came from, they are never articulated in the British mass media at all.
Questions, objections and evidence raised by the long standing July 7th Truth Campaign, families of the victims and some of those caught up in the attacks still hits a cold hard wall of police, government and security service silence. Nine years and fifty broken families on, national media discussion has been reduced to safe questions about amounts of compensation money paid to families and how far to curtail civil liberties to stop ‘this kind of attack,’ as if it’s all done and dusted, ever happening again.
When the government’s so-called ‘narrative’ was published in May 2006 researchers immediately spotted glaring errors with the alleged bombers journey into London. Home Secretary John Reid was forced into the House of Commons to announce that the train the police said they caught did not run that morning. Although the official story had it they were ‘clean skins,’ it later transpired MI5 had been following them for years. Those were just two in a series of shameful omissions and embarrassing errors in a police investigation and Home Office narrative with a frighteningly short shelf life.
The London Underground CCTV cameras bristling every few yards on the tube and every bus has several, so why were no CCTV pictures ever produced which showed any of the alleged bombers in or getting onto the bombed trains or bus? Verint Systems, an Israeli firm, won the private CCTV contract five months before the attack but no questions appear to have been asked during their vetting, despite Verint’s group chairman, Kobi Alexander, running off with tens of millions of dollars, wanted by Interpol, the FBI and Wall Street regulators the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
On the morning of 7/7, Associated Press in Jerusalem reported Israel’s then Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who happened to be in London that day, had received a warning from Scotland Yard before the bombs went off. Bibi changed his plans and stayed in his hotel, the report said, instead of setting off for a conference he was due to be attending at the Great Eastern Hotel at Liverpool Street Station.
Later that day, and subsequently on the BBC’s 2009 ‘Conspiracy Files’ documentary the Israeli embassy denied getting that warning but in the German newspaper ‘Bild am Sonntag’, Mossad chief Meir Dagan confirmed – yes they got the warning and passed it to Netanyahu in his hotel before the bombs went off. Even more embarrassing than this inability to get the story straight was that the official Home Office narrative, as well as all the evidence produced at the inquest, said there was no warning: the bombings were a surprise attack.
Former police officer Peter Power, sacked from his job in the Dorset constabulary after fiddling his expenses, appeared across global television on 7/7 representing his private security firm ‘Visor Consultants’. He described a terror drill exercise he was supposedly conducting that morning envisaging bombs at the same three tube stations where the real bombs went off.
With 275 stations on the London tube network, the chances of this really being as he said, a coincidence, come out around 275 to the power of three multiplied by the number of days in the year, 365 – around a cool eight billion to one, Peter. He described it on one TV network that day as a ‘spooky coincidence.’ An oblique reference perhaps to ‘spooks,’ the nickname given to the secret services?
He subsequently revealed to the BBC that his ‘terror drill’ had been sponsored by event organizers and publishers Reed Elsevier who, until 2007, ran Britain’s biggest arms fair, the Defence Security Equipment Exhibition (DSEI), where private military companies advertise everything, right up to fighting nuclear wars for you, and by the way torture equipment is openly on sale.
The proper judicial procedure would have been a public inquiry into the attacks, which would consider evidence systematically in front of a jury. Instead an inquest, designed to investigate a single death was convened in October 2010 under Lady Justice Heather Hallett, but her all-important jury was mysteriously missing. As the inquest dragged on through 52 separate hearings, survivors, and families of the victims, complained their big questions were not being addressed.
Previous attacks in public places and on public transport across Europe such as the 1980 Bologna railway station bomb, which killed 85 people and the 1985 Brabant Supermarket massacres which killed 16, have been conclusively traced to NATO intelligence by parliamentary enquiries in Italy, Belgium and Switzerland.
If the spooks had planted the 7/7 London bombs, it would not be the first time the network of NATO & Swiss secret services known as the ‘Club of Berne’, have done so. Under the guise of national security, they live a publicly funded life far from democratic oversight, and have been proven to run secret armies, immune from prosecution, in structures that run parallel to the regular armed forces.
“You had to attack civilians, the people, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game,” stated NATO Operation Gladio soldier, Italian fascist Vincezo Vinciguerra. The objective, he explained from jail in a 1992 BBC Timewatch documentary, was “to force the people to turn to the state to ask for greater security.” Back in the 1980s the fake enemy was the Soviet Union, today it’s Islamic Extremists.
Controversial privacy law blasts pedophile enquiry questions out of the news
On the same day of this week’s ninth anniversary of 7/7, Home Secretary Theresa May announced in the House of Commons two enquiries into elite pedophile rings believed to be rooted in Westminster, connected to prominent public figures and said to have been centered around Elm Guest House in South West London. But May’s first choices to lead these enquiries are entirely unsuitable establishment figures themselves. The first, Peter Wanless, was Principle Private Secretary to three cabinet ministers including Michael Portillo and the second, Lady Butler-Sloss’s brother was attorney general when the abuse was allegedly taking place.
With all talk of who will or will not head up pedophile enquiries forgotten, the new emergency, we are being told by Prime Minister David Cameron, is that if terrorists were to attack Britain in the near future, like another 7/7, he would not want to say he had not done everything to stop them. But what Cameron isn’t saying is that his DRIP law will also help the secret state to keep a close eye on victims of child abuse, whistleblowers and their support networks.
What if this week’s real emergency is that criminals inside the Metropolitan police and secret state have known about and facilitated child abuse rings, used for political blackmail, for decades; that the two enquiries Home Secretary Theresa May set up this week might have their pliable leadership, overturned and get some real teeth, as the recent Hillsborough Independent Panel did. That the ‘well respected’ public figures that protected Jimmy Savile, Cyril Smith and the rest may be about to be winkled out and jailed at last.
Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist.
Nearly 95 per cent of terrorist arrests have been the result of FBI foiling its own entrapment plots as a part of the so-called post-9/11 War on Terror, a new study revealed.
According to the report entitled ‘Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution’, the majority of arrests involved the unjust prosecution of targeted Muslim Americans.
The 175-page study by Muslim advocacy group SALAM analyzes 399 individuals in cases included on the list of the US Department of Justice from 2001 to 2010.
“According to this study’s classification, the number of preemptive prosecution cases is 289 out of 399, or 72.4 percent. The number of elements of preemptive prosecution cases is 87 out of 399, or 21.8 percent. Combining preemptive prosecution cases and elements of preemptive prosecution cases, the total number of such cases on the DOJ list is 376, or 94.2 percent,” the report concluded.
The authors define ‘preemptive prosecution’ as “a law enforcement strategy adopted after 9/11, to target and prosecute individuals or organizations whose beliefs, ideology, or religious affiliations raise security concerns for the government.”
Nearly 25 percent of cases (99 of 399) contained material support charges. Another almost 30 per cent of cases consisted of conspiracy charges. More than 17 per cent of the analyzed cases (71 of 399 cases) involved sting operations. Over 16 percent of cases (65 of 399 cases) included false statement or perjury charges, and around six percent of cases involved immigration-related charges.
According to the report, since 9/11 only 11 cases posed “potentially significant” threat to the United States.
“Only three were successful (the [Tamerlan and Dzhokhar] Tsarnaev brothers and Major Nidal Hasan), accounting for 17 deaths and several hundred injuries,” the paper says.
One of the FBI’s strategies involved “using agents provocateur to actively entrap targets in criminal plots manufactured and controlled by the government.”
“The government uses agents provocateur to target individuals who express dissident ideologies and then provides those provocateurs 25 with fake (harmless) missiles, bombs, guns, money, encouragement, friendship, and the technical and strategic planning necessary to see if the targeted individual can be manipulated into planning violent or criminal action,” the report concluded.
The government could also choose to use “minor ‘technical’ crimes,” such as errors on immigration forms, an alleged false statement to a government official, gun possession, tax or financial issues, etc., to go after someone for their “ideology.”
“What they were trying to do is to convince the American public that there is this large army of potential terrorists that they should all be very-very scared about. They are very much engaged in world-wide surveillance and this surveillance is very valuable to them. They can learn a lot about all sorts of things and in a sense control issues to their advantage,” Steven Downs, an attorney for Project SALAM, which issued the report, told RT. “And the entire legal justification for that depends on there being a war on terror. Without a war on terror they have no right to do this. So they have to keep this war on terror going, they have to keep finding people and arresting them and locking them up and scarring everybody.”
In the conclusion, authors of the report offered the US government several recommendations that the DOJ “should employ” to change the present unfair terrorism laws. A total of seven recommendations call on the US government to accurately identify people who offer material support for terrorism, strengthen the “entrapment” defense in the courts; abolish “terror-enhanced sentencing” that triples or quadruples jail time in cases linked to terrorist acts; disallow secret court proceedings, and to immediately notify defendants if any evidence in their case is derived from secret surveillance.
Washington is supplying some Syrian rebels with both “lethal and non-lethal” aid, according to National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who confirmed the longstanding suspicion that the Obama administration is arming anti-Assad forces.
The US is “the single largest contributor of humanitarian assistance, providing over $1.7 billion” in assistance, Rice told CNN.
“That’s why the United States has ramped up its support for the moderate vetted opposition, providing lethal and nonlethal support where we can to support both the civilian opposition and the military opposition,” she said.
Previously, American officials claimed that the US sent only non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, saying they were concerned that if US arms, especially sophisticated ones like portable anti-aircraft missiles, were sent to Syria, they might end up in the hands of terrorists. Media reports, however, suggested that the CIA was secretly involved in training rebel groups and assisting Saudi Arabia and Qatar in smuggling arms to the rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Rice emphasized Washington’s desire to play a more pro-active role in the Syrian conflict by getting Congress approval for more assistance to the rebels in the war that has been ongoing for three years and claimed upward of 160,000 lives.
The aid of hundreds of millions of dollars given by the US since the start of the civil war in 2011 has all gone toward humanitarian assistance, she insisted.
Although details about the specifics of aid and training provided to opposition forces are usually avoided by US officials in interviews, President Barack Obama announced his Syria plans in a foreign policy speech at West Point military academy in late May.
Rebels “offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators,” the president said. Now it’s up to Congress to support the idea of and green-light more aid, as is stipulated in the War Powers Act.
In mid-May, Obama met with the leader of the Turkey-based opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, and boosted US aid to the Syrian opposition by $27 million.
In the interview, Rice defended the president’s foreign policy, which some critics in the US believe to be passive and overcautious. She insisted that Washington retains strong ties with partner nations and a strong global position.
“I think the fact of the matter is we’re living in complex times, there are many different challenges that the United States and the world faces. But our leadership is unmatched. Our role is indispensable,” she said.
The confirmation of America’s lethal aid to the Syrian opposition comes on the heels of the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Iraq, a country torn apart by raging sectarian violence, which takes dozens of lives daily.
Syria has suffered greatly in the three-year civil war, but its government remains stable and its military is gaining ground in the fight against various opposition forces, many of them foreign Islamists.
There has been a “significant increase” in the number of UK Afghanistan veterans seeking treatment for mental disorders, a charity has said. The number is likely to rise as the British military prepares to withdraw from the country this year.
The charity Combat Stress has released new statistics to the British press on the number of UK war veterans seeking help for mental trauma. It documents a 57 percent rise in referrals in 2013 of veterans who have served in the Afghanistan conflict.
There were over 358 cases last year, in comparison with 228 referrals for Afghanistan-related mental trauma in 2012. At the moment, the charity is supporting over 660 Afghanistan veterans, but the organization expects the number to rise with the full withdrawal of US-led NATO troops scheduled for the end of this year.
According to the charity’s research, most veterans do not usually seek mental help until over a decade after serving in the army. However, in the case of Afghanistan veterans, the charity has found the average time lag has fallen as low as 18 months.
Commodore Andrew Cameron, the chief executive of Combat Stress, told The Guardian newspaper that mental disorders take time to present themselves, and as such the UK should be ready for a dramatic increase of cases off the back of the 13-year Afghan conflict.
“These statistics show that, although the Iraq war ended in 2011 and troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan later this year, a significant number of veterans who serve in the armed forces continue to relive the horrors they experienced on the front line or during their time in the armed forces,” Cameron said.
Combat Stress estimates that a large proportion of the 42,000 people who served in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq may develop some form of mental disorder in the coming decade. Conditions range from post-traumatic stress disorder to depression, and the veterans’ struggle against these disorders can “tear families apart,” Cameron said.
The charity says that even now it is still taking on cases from veterans of the Falklands War (1982) and the Gulf war (1990-1991).
According to figures by the BBC at least 453 members of the UK Armed Forces have been killed in Afghanistan since the US-led NATO invasion in 2001. The last of the alliance forces stationed in the country at set to be withdrawn at the end of this year.
However, Washington is pushing for a security pact to be signed by the Afghan government that will allow for a contingent of troops to remain in Afghanistan to aid in the security effort after alliance troops pull out.
Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the pact, but presidential elections were held this year in April and both the frontrunners have said they are prepared to put pen to paper on the deal.
A journalist was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in prison by a Saudi criminal court for “disobeying the ruler” and claiming in televised remarks that the Saudi kingdom incites terrorism, state media reported.
Local media identified the convicted as Wajdi Al-Ghazzawi, who was also accused of contacting an unnamed “enemy of Saudi Arabia at the time (2009) and receiving a suspicious sum of money from it,” according to SPA news agency.
Reports suggested that Ghazzawi was accused of taking money from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2009, a time of tension between Tripoli and Riyadh.
Ghazzawi, the court in Riyadh said, was guilty of “disobeying the ruler on a television programme, inciting sedition… discrediting the kingdom and claiming that terrorism and Al-Qaeda were created by Saudi Arabia.”
He was also charged with spreading excerpts of the televised remarks on the internet and of accusing the Saudis “of insulting residents and denying them their rights,” SPA reported.
The court also instituted a 20-year travel ban on Ghazzawi, in addition to barring him from appearing in any media.
Gaddafi, a long-time foe of Saudi Arabia during his four-decade rule in Libya, was killed by rebels in 2011 following the NATO-led ouster of his regime. In 2004, US and Saudi news outlets accused Gaddafi of allegedly plotting to assassinate Saudi King Abdullah, who was crown prince at the time, AFP pointed out.
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia passed a broad law that deems those that “disturb the public order” as terrorists.
It defines terrorism as “any act carried out by an offender… intended to disturb the public order… to shake the security of society…stability of the state… expose its national unity to danger… suspend the basic law of governance or some of its articles,” according to its text, as cited by Human Rights Watch.
Terrorists can also be considered those individuals who “insult the reputation of the state or its position… inflict damage upon one of its public utilities or its natural resources,” or those who attempt to force “governmental authority to carry out or prevent it from carrying out an action, or to threaten to carry out acts that lead to the named purposes or incite [these acts].”
The legislation, made up of 40 clauses, allows security forces to arrest and detain suspects for up to six months with the possibility to extend the confinement for another six months. Suspects are allowed to be held incommunicado for 90 days without the presence of their lawyer during the initial questioning.
Washington knew Syrian rebels could produce sarin gas but “cherry-picked” intel to blame President Assad for the Aug. 21 attack on Ghouta, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed, citing senior US security sources.
The report was published in the London Review of Books after two of Hersh’s regular publishers, The New Yorker and The Washington Post, turned the article down.
Hersh, whose Pulitzers were for his exposes on American military misconduct in the Iraq and Vietnam wars, got his information on Syria from whistle-blowing acting and former intelligence and military officers, who for security reasons were not identified in the report.
According to Hersh’s findings, months before the chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus, which almost prompted US air strikes on Syria, “the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports… citing evidence that the Al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity.”
The attack took place on August 21, the same day UN inspectors arrived in Damascus to investigate allegations of use of chemical weapons. The casualty figures have ranged from several hundred to more than 1,400 deaths.
Before the attack, the Obama administration repeatedly described the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a “red line,” which would signal the US could intervene in the conflict.
Hersh wrote that he does not believe that the intelligence data, pointing at the rebels’ having capability for making sarin, could have in any way escaped the White House’s attention.
“Already by late May, the senior intelligence consultant told me, the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on Al-Nusra and its work with sarin,” he wrote.
Obama’s laying the blame for the nerve gas attack on Assad’s forces, completely disregarding Al-Nusra as a suspect in the case, is thus described in the report as the administration’s having “cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.”
“The cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war,” Hersh wrote.
It’s because of the lack of sufficient evidence against Assad that Obama quickly abandoned his plan for military strikes.
“Any possibility of military action was definitively averted on 26 September when the administration joined Russia in approving a draft UN resolution calling on the Assad government to get rid of its chemical arsenal,” the report reads. “Obama’s retreat brought relief to many senior military officers. (One high-level special operations adviser told me that the ill-conceived American missile attack on Syrian military airfields and missile emplacements, as initially envisaged by the White House, would have been ‘like providing close air support for al-Nusra’.)”
The investigative journalist then points at an annual budget for all national intelligence programs, leaked to the media by Edward Snowden and partly published by The Washington Post. According to the document, by the time of the Eastern Ghouta chemical attack, the NSA “no longer had access to the conversations of the top military leadership in Syria, which would have included crucial communications from Assad, such as orders for a nerve gas attack”. That puts to question the confidence with which Obama spoke of Assad’s responsibility for the deaths.
The same document described “a secret sensor system inside Syria, designed to provide early warning of any change in status of the regime’s chemical weapons arsenal”. Hersh wrote it was suspicious that the US intelligence received no alarm, if the Assad forces really prepared for an attack.
Hersh also analyses the news coverage of the chemical gas attack investigation, pointing to instances when the media outlets omitted the information that suggested there could be other suspects, beside Assad.
The UN September 16 report, confirming the use of sarin, contained one part that noted that the organization’s experts did not have immediate access to the attack sites controlled by rebels, so potential evidence could have been manipulated there. The passage was largely ignored in the news.
Following the release of the report, the spokesman for Director of National Intelligence, Shawn Turner, denied the report’s major point – that the US knew of the rebel group being capable of creating sarin.
“We were clear with The Washington Post and Mr. Hersh that the intelligence gathered about the 21 August chemical weapons attack indicated that the Assad regime and only the Assad regime could have been responsible,” Turner told Buzzfeed. “Any suggestion that there was an effort to suppress intelligence about a nonexistent alternative explanation is simply false.”
Hersh has remained unconvinced by the denial and has summed it up with a warning against ignoring alleged Al-Nusra’s chemical weapons potential.
“While the Syrian regime continues the process of eliminating its chemical arsenal, the irony is that, after Assad’s stockpile of precursor agents is destroyed, Al-Nusra and its Islamist allies could end up as the only faction inside Syria with access to the ingredients that can create sarin, a strategic weapon that would be unlike any other in the war zone. There may be more to negotiate.”
Australian citizen David Hicks suffered torture and brutal beatings at the hands of guards at Guantanamo prison. Breaking the gag order that was a condition of his release, Hicks spoke to RT about his ordeal and how he was coerced into pleading guilty.
38-year-old David Hicks spent over five years in Guantanamo Prison accused of aiding terrorists. He was eventually convicted under the 2006 Military Commissions Act for “providing material support to terrorism” and released in 2007 after pleading guilty. Hicks has filed to have the convictions overturned, alleging his plea was made under duress and he had no other choice but to confess.
During his six years at Guantanamo, Hicks says he was subjected to both mental and psychological torture, forced to take injections and brought to the brink of suicide by the prison staff.
“Myself and everyone else were tortured on a daily basis,” Hicks said. “That ranges from typical physical beatings to a whole range of psychological ploys. There was medical experimentation that was very scary to be subjected to.”
The staff at Guantanamo forced inmates to take pills and injections, and they would face beatings if they resisted, Hicks said. The prisoners were never informed as to the nature of the drugs they were made to take.
Hicks said that being white and Australian gave him a privileged position in the prison, allowing him to avoid some of the physical abuse that went on.
“Being white and, more importantly, English being my first language, that allowed me to communicate with the guards and probably talk my way out of being beaten and tortured more – this is the guards, so it’s separate to interrogation – versus some of the Arabs and Afghans, who couldn’t speak English at all.”
He described the guards as having “no patience” and when they were frustrated they would beat the inmates until their “bones were broken.”
“Once the detainee was beaten and removed, they’d have to use hoses and scrubbing brushes to remove the blood from the cement floor,” Hicks said.
After almost five years of imprisonment in Guantanamo, Hicks said he had lost the ability “to fight, to have hope, to believe that justice would prevail” and was contemplating suicide.
“Guantanamo is sort of this black hole where supposedly no laws apply except what they decide.”
Setting the record straight
When he was finally offered the chance to leave the prison it came with a price. Australian Prime Minister John Howard sent a message to Hicks’ lawyer, saying that “under no circumstances” would the Australian government allow him to return without entering into some sort of plea.
Hicks was subsequently given the opportunity to sign an Alford Plea – a piece of US legislation that allows a defendant to plead guilty, but without admitting guilt to a particular crime. Upon agreeing to the plea, Hicks was told he would be freed in 60 days.
“I ended up taking that deal, knowing that I could get out in 60 days and back to Australia and deal with it,” said Hicks, who still maintains his innocence.
When he returned to Australia he was put into isolation in an Adelaide prison and had a gagging order placed on him, forbidding him from talk about his experience in Guantanamo.
Six years on, however, Hicks is moving to set the record straight and clear his name of the charges that he claims are legally invalid.
Hicks referred to the case of Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni national also charged with providing material support to terrorists who had the charges overturned after an appeal in a federal court. The court ruled in his favor on the basis that the 2006 Military Commissions Act, under which the charges were made, was flawed and unconstitutional.
“Material support for terrorism is not a recognized crime and if it was, it was applied retroactively anyway,” said Hicks, describing his appeal as a “formality.”
The Northern Alliance in Afghanistan captured David Hicks in 2001 and handed him over to American jurisdiction for a $1,000 bounty. Hicks, a convert to Islam, admitted that he had trained in an al-Qaeda paramilitary camp during his time in Afghanistan, but maintains he never participated in terrorist activities.