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Israeli support for Kurdish statehood is a poisoned chalice

By Mahan Abedin | MEMO | September 12, 2107

With the referendum on proposed Kurdish independence just two weeks away, the stage is being set for the gravest political and potential military crisis in post-Baathist Iraq. Months of intense lobbying by Iranian, Turkish and even American officials and interlocutors has failed to dissuade the Iraqi Kurdish leadership from staging this catastrophically divisive referendum.

In his combative interview with the BBC, the president of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani, left no doubt that the referendum is the first formal step in the march toward full independence. More ominously, Barzani appeared to acknowledge that plans to officially annex Kirkuk may well spark a major war.

Every regional and extra-regional power, including the United States, is opposed to Kurdish statehood, with one exception. Israel. Whilst sections of the Iraqi Kurdish media are jubilant at this rhetorical support, Kurdish leaders will have to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of Israeli support before they formally declare statehood.

While Israel will undoubtedly prove a strong ally of an independent Kurdish state, it is the support it is willing to offer in the run-up to independence that will prove decisive. Even rhetorical Israeli support will drastically inflame the situation and bring the Kurds into armed conflict with the pro-Iranian Shia militias massed to the south of Kirkuk.

A peripheral policy

Israel’s support for nationalist Kurdish movements is strong and long-standing, dating back to the early 1960s. This policy is part of Israel’s “Alliance of the Periphery” doctrine, which in short amounts to developing strong ties to non-Arab states on the periphery of the Middle East with a view to combating the Arab boycott of the Jewish state.

Whilst the periphery doctrine was originally aimed at Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia, with time it expanded to incorporate non-state actors, principally the Kurds, whose quest for statehood Israel has consistently supported for decades.

Analysis centred on the putative “collapse” of the periphery doctrine is likely to prove premature. Whilst it is true that Turkey can no longer be regarded as a reliable Israeli partner, this will motivate Israeli strategists and operatives to seek out and develop new peripheral partners. Moreover, the peripheral policy survived its biggest crisis nearly forty years ago when almost overnight Iran went from an informal Israeli ally to the most vociferous enemy of the Jewish state.

Given this chequered history of missteps and strategic miscalculations, analysts are right to be wary of how useful this periphery doctrine is. However, as long as Israel’s occupation of Palestine continues to draw strong Arab, Muslim and broader international opposition, Israel will seek to identify and develop stealthy means by which to undermine, isolate and eventually exhaust this opposition.

It is in this context that leading Israeli strategists, including former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, push the case for Kurdish independence, primarily by trying to align Kurdish statehood with the interests of the United States and the West in general. This devious perspective is entirely in keeping with the perennial Israeli policy of equating its own core interests with that of the West. In this instance, Israeli diplomacy and wider lobbying efforts will try to sell Kurdish independence to policymakers in Washington, by presenting it as the best long-term strategy to contain Iranian influence in Iraq.

The road to war

Apart from strong rhetorical support, what practical steps can Israel take to support the Iraqi Kurdish quest for statehood? This is a vexing question, as on the face of it Israeli influence in Iraqi Kurdistan is practically non-existent. This author spent the first half of 2009 in Iraqi Kurdistan working as a journalist and despite widespread rumours didn’t uncover any evidence of Israeli involvement in Kurdish affairs.

Yet this influence surely exists, particularly at the security and intelligence level. It is in part due to the Israeli connection that the Kurdish intelligence agency, the Asayish, has developed into one of the most capable intelligence agencies in the Middle East. In keeping with Kurdish national aspirations, the Asayish has grown in reach and capability, not only spying on regional countries, but even managing to run modest operations as far afield as the United Kingdom.

Indeed, qualified Kurdish independence in Iraq now seems all but inevitable. This appears to be the assessment of US intelligence services, Washington’s stated opposition to the issue notwithstanding. Qualified independence in this context implies highly contested statehood, lacking widespread international support and drawing immediate internal and external opposition.

The most immediate opponents to Kurdish statehood in Iraq are the Shia paramilitary forces, who alongside their political patrons in Baghdad, have deep-seated interests in Kirkuk, which is home to a sizeable Shia Turkmen population. The collapse of the Iraqi army in the face of Daesh’s sweeping advance in June 2014 has significantly changed the military security landscape in Kirkuk and the immediate areas to the south, bringing the Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia paramilitaries into dangerously close proximity.

The Shia paramilitaries, organised as Popular Mobilisation Units, reportedly maintain six military bases close to Kirkuk and are poised to engage the Peshmerga militarily should the need arise. From a purely speculative point of view, limited military engagements may follow the independence referendum as a means of deterring the Kurdish leadership from taking further steps toward formal independence.

From a broader strategic perspective, Israeli support for the Kurdish cause is a poisoned chalice for Kurdish nationalists in so far as it makes a sustainable Kurdish state unacceptable to Iran and by extension to its Shia allies in Iraq. But judging from Masoud Barzani’s combative rhetoric, he appears to be willing to take the risk.

Read: Israeli flag will be raised in independent Kurdistan, claims prominent Likud member

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Conflict In Syria Was Always Israel’s War

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | September 4, 2017

After years of fomenting the Syrian conflict from the shadows, the U.S. has recently seemed to back away from its push to militarily intervene in the embattled nation, instead choosing to focus its saber-rattling and destabilization efforts on other theaters. The consequence of this has seemingly been the winding down of the long-running conflict, now entering its seventh year.

Buoyed by Russia, Iran and Lebanon, the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad has managed to retake vast swaths of territory, all while surviving and growing stronger over the course of a largely foreign-funded onslaught. As a result, many of the governments that were instrumental in funding and arming the so-called “moderate” opposition have begun to extricate themselves, unwilling to further test the resilience of Assad or the Syrian people.

With some anticipating the long-awaited conclusion of the Syrian conflict, recent threats from Israel’s government to assassinate Assad by bombing his residence seemed to appear out of the blue. According to the Jerusalem Post, a senior Israeli official accompanying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a recent visit to Russia warned the Kremlin that if Iran continues to “extend its reach” in Syria, Israel would bomb the presidential palace in Damascus.

Israel’s comments should come as no surprise, however, as the foreign-funded and manufactured conflict in Syria was always Israel’s war. The only real surprise is Israel’s growing isolation in pushing for the further escalation of the conflict.

WikiLeaks sheds light on the origins of the war

Though it has successfully avoided being labeled a major player in the effort to oust Assad, Israel has long been the mastermind of the plan, which stems in large part from the long-standing hostilities between the two nations as well as Israel’s own regional ambitions. State Department diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks have shown that in 2006, five years before the conflict in Syria manifested, the government of Israel had hatched a plan to overthrow the Assad government by engineering sectarian strife in the country, creating paranoia within the highest-ranks of the Syrian government, and isolating Syria from its strongest regional ally, Iran.

Israel then passed this plan along to the United States, which would then involve Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Egypt in fomenting the “breakdown” of the Assad regime as a way of weakening both Iran and Hezbollah — with the effect of empowering both Israel and the Gulf monarchies, two seemingly disparate forces in the region that are becoming increasingly allied.

Leaked emails belonging to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton further reveal Israel’s role in covertly creating the conflict and its clear role in securing the involvement of the U.S. and other nations in executing its plan for Assad’s removal. One email, forwarded by Clinton to her advisor Jacob Sullivan, argues that Israel is convinced that Iran would lose “its only ally” in the region were Assad’s government to collapse.

It further stated that “The fall of the House of Assad could well ignite a sectarian war between the Shiites and the majority Sunnis of the region drawing in Iran, which, in the view of Israeli commanders would not be a bad thing for Israel and its Western allies.” This possible sectarian war was perceived as a potential “factor in the eventual fall of the current government of Iran.”

Another Clinton email released by WikiLeaks stated:

“The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad,

Adding

Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly.”

The email also notes:

A successful intervention in Syria would require substantial diplomatic and military leadership from the United States” and states that “arming the Syrian rebels and using western air power to ground Syrian helicopters and airplanes is a low-cost high payoff approach.”

Read the full Wikileaks release below:

Stated plainly, the U.S.’ decision to spend over $1 billion until 2015 to arm Syria’s terrorist-linked “rebels” — and to invoke the assistance of Wahhabi terrorism exporters like Saudi Arabia and Qatar in funneling weapons and funds to these same groups — was spurred by Israel, which not only drafted the original blueprint for the Syrian conflict but guided U.S. involvement by exerting its powerful influence over the foreign policy of that country.

Aiding the Rebels

Israel did more, however, than covertly instigate and guide the funding of opposition “rebels” — having secretly funded and aided opposition groups, including ones with overt terrorist affiliations, over the course of the six-year-long conflict.

Israeli involvement in direct funding and aiding the Syrian “rebels” was suspected for years before being officially made public by the Wall Street Journal in June of this year. The report revealed that Israel, since the beginning of the conflict, had been “supplying Syrian rebels near its border with cash as well as food, fuel, and medical supplies for years, a secret engagement in the enemy country’s civil war aimed at carving out a buffer zone populated by friendly forces.” Israel has also frequently brought wounded “rebels” into Israel for medical treatment, a policy it often touts as a “humanitarian effort.”

These “friendly” forces were armed groups that formed part of or were allied with al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, known for committing atrocities against thousands of Syrian civilians and slaughtering religious and ethnic minorities. Since 2013, al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups have dominated the “eight-square-kilometer separation zone on the Golan.” Israel has stated officially that these fighters are part of the U.S. coalition-supported Free Syrian Army (FSA). However, it has long been known that the vast majority of the groups comprising FSA have pledged allegiance to the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, and that those who still fight under the FSA banner meet with al-Nusra on a daily basis.

Israel’s support for terrorist groups went far beyond medical treatment, food supplies and cash. The Israeli army was also found to have been in regular communication with these terrorist groups and even helped “pay salaries of fighters and buy ammunition and weapons.” In addition, when the positions of the “rebel” groups it funded, armed and paid were in danger of being overtaken by Syrian government forces, Israel stepped in to directly bomb Syrian targets. For instance, in June, Israel attacked several Syrian military positions after claiming a stray mortar had landed within the boundaries of the Golan Heights, part of Syria that has long been occupied by Israel. However, the attack tellingly coincided with Syrian army advancements against the “rebel” groups that Israel has long cultivated as part of the so-called “buffer zone.”

Furthermore, Israel has launched attacks inside Syria “dozens and dozens of times,” according to a recent admission by Netanyahu. Earlier this year, Israel also threatened to “destroy” Syrian air defenses after the Syrian army fired missiles at Israeli warplanes striking targets within Syria.

Also very telling has been Israel’s position on Daesh (ISIS). In June of last year, Israel’s military intelligence chief, Major General Herzi Halevi, openly stated that Israel does not want to see Daesh defeated in Syria — expressing concern about the offensives against Daesh territory and lamenting their “most difficult” situation. Prior to Halevi’s comments, Israeli officials had regularly noted that Daesh conquering the whole of Syria would be preferable to the survival of the Assad government. These comments have been echoed by Israeli and NATO-affiliated think tanks, one of which called Daesh “a useful tool in undermining” Iran, Hezbollah, Syria and Russia — despite Daesh’s barbaric tactics, war crimes, enslavement of women and ethnic cleansing efforts.

Israel’s larger geopolitical agenda

Though Israel’s support of Wahhabi terrorists like Daesh (ISIS) and al-Nusra may seem counter-intuitive, Israel’s overarching purpose in expelling Assad from power is based on strategic geopolitical and economic goals that Israel is determined to meet at any cost. While Israel frequently mentions Iran as the pretext for its involvement in Syria, the strongest motivators for Israel’s participation in the destruction of its northern neighbor are oil and territorial expansion.

One of Israel’s clearest reasons for being interested in the destabilization of Syria is its ability to assert further control of the Golan Heights, an area of Syria that Israel has illegally occupied since 1967 and annexed in 1981. Despite filling the area with illegal settlements and military assets, Israel has been unable to convince the international community, and even its close allies such as the U.S., to recognize its sovereignty over the territory. However, the conflict in Syria has proven beneficial to this end, allowing Israel to send even more settlers into the Golan, an estimated 100,000 over five years.

Israel is largely interested in gaining control over the Golan for economic reasons, owing to the occupied territory’s oil reserves, which are estimated to contain “billions of barrels.” Under the cover of the Syrian conflict, the Israeli branch of an American oil company — whose investors include Dick Cheney, Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch — has been drilling exploratory wells throughout the region, as the Heights’ uncertain territorial status prevents Israel from financially exploiting the resource.

Despite the prohibitions of international law, Israel is eager to tap into those reserves, as they have the potential to “make Israel energy self-sufficient.” Israel has even offered, per the Galant plan, to “rebuild” Syria with billions in U.S. taxpayer dollars in exchange for the Golan Heights — though the plan received a tepid reception from all involved parties other than Israel itself.

As its stands, Assad’s removal and replacement with a government friendly to Israeli and Western interests is Israel’s only real means of claiming the Golan Height’s energy resources for itself.

Pawns blocking Israel’s endgame

Aside from the oil and the territory it seeks to gain in the Golan Heights, Israel is also seeking to expand well beyond that territory in order to more widely exert its influence and become the region’s “superpower.” This ambition is described in the Yinon Plan, a strategy intended to ensure Israel’s regional superiority in the Middle East that chiefly involves reconfiguring the entire Arab world into smaller and weaker sectarian states. This has manifested in Israel’s support for the partition of Iraq as well as Syria, abetted by its support for the establishment of a separatist Kurdish state within these two nations.

This goal, in particular, largely explains Israel’s obsession with curbing Iranian influence in the Middle East, whether in Syria or elsewhere. Iran – more than any other nation in the region – is the most likely to threaten the “superpower” status that Israel seeks to gain for itself, as well as Israel’s loss of monopoly as the region’s only nuclear power.

Given Israel’s compound interests in seeing the removal of Assad and the partition of Syria, it is hardly surprising that Israeli political rhetoric has reached new heights of saber-rattling as Tel Aviv becomes increasingly concerned that the conflict it masterminded could backfire. Prior to the explosive comments regarding Israeli threats to bomb Assad’s residence, an anonymous Israeli government minister blamed the U.S. for backing out of Syria, a move he argued sacrificed Israeli interests:

The United States threw Israel under the bus for the second time in a row. The first time was the nuclear agreement with Iran, the second time is now that the United States ignores the fact that Iran is obtaining territorial continuity to the Mediterranean Sea and Israel’s northern border [through Syria].”

Not only that but Israel has recently vowed to “nullify” the ceasefire deal brokered between Russia and the U.S. with Syrian and Iranian support if it fails to comply with Israel’s needs — an ultimatum based on rather subjective terms given that “Israel’s needs” are hardly static. Israel’s response again shows the perception among officials in Tel Aviv that the Syrian conflict is of primary importance to Israeli geopolitical interests.

Furthermore, given that the response suggested so far by Israeli officials – on more than one occasion – has been to assassinate Syria’s democratically-elected President – the contemplated means of Israel “nullifying” the ceasefire deal will likely have explosive implications. Israel — apparently refusing to accept that the conflict it orchestrated is not going, and may not end, as planned — is now willing to escalate the situation militarily, with or without allies, resorting to dangerous brinkmanship with global implications.

September 5, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Facing Defeat in Syria, ISIS Inexplicably Expands Globally

By Tony Cartalucci – New Eastern Outlook – 11.08.2017

Throughout human history, when a military force and its economic center has been defeated, it contracts, then collapses. For the first time in human history, the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS), has managed to reverse this fundamental aspect of reality – but not without help.

Facing defeat in Syria as government forces backed by its Russian and Iranian allies close in on the terrorist organization, stripping it of territory it seized, it has managed to spread far beyond Syria’s borders, establishing itself in Libya, Afghanistan, and even as far as Southeast Asia where it has seized an entire city in the Philippines’ south, and carried out attacks and conducting activities everywhere from Indonesia and Malaysia to allegedly Thailand’s deep south.

It should be remembered, according to Western governments and their media, the territory ISIS holds in Syria is allegedly providing it with the summation of its financial resources and thus the source of its fighting capacity. According to official statements, the US and its European allies allege that ISIS fuels its fighting capacity with “taxes” and extortion as well as black market oil sales – all of which are derived from territory it holds in Syria.

The Washington Post in a 2015 article titled, “How the Islamic State makes its money,” would note:

Weapons, vehicles, employee salaries, propaganda videos, international travel — all of these things cost money. The recent terrorism attacks in Paris, which the Islamic State has claimed as its own work, suggest the terrorist organization hasn’t been hurting for funding. David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, described the Islamic State last October as “probably the best-funded terrorist organization we have confronted” — deep pockets that have allowed the group to carry out deadly campaigns in Iraq, Syria and other countries.

To explain where ISIS actually makes its money, the Washington Post claims:

Unlike many terrorist groups, which finance themselves mainly through wealthy donors, the Islamic State has used its control over a territory that is roughly the size of the U.K. and home to millions of people to develop diversified revenue channels that make it more resilient to U.S. offensives.

The Washington Post would also claim:

 Its main methods of generating money appear to be the sale of oil and antiquities, as well as taxation and extortion. And the group’s financial resources have grown quickly as it has captured more territory and resources: According to estimates by the Rand Corporation, the Islamic State’s total revenue rose from a little less than $1 million per month in late 2008 and early 2009 to perhaps $1 million to $3 million per day in 2014.

With this territory quickly shrinking and the intensity of fighting against what remains of ISIS in Syria and Iraq expanding, it is seemingly inexplicable as to how ISIS is expanding globally, instead of contracting and collapsing.

The Washington Post’s already implausible thesis regarding ISIS finances – based on official statements from the US Treasury Department and US corporate-funded policy think tanks like Rand – appears to be the only thing contracting and collapsing.

ISIS Enjoys Global Reach Many Nation-States Lack 

Regarding just how expansive ISIS’ global activities are, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson himself would claim in an August 1, 2017 statement that:

I think our next steps on the global war to defeat ISIS are to recognize ISIS is a global issue. We already see elements of ISIS in the Philippines, as you’re aware, gaining a foothold. Some of these fighters have gone to the Philippines from Syria and Iraq. We are in conversations with the Philippine Government, with Indonesia, with Malaysia, with Singapore, with Australia, as partners to recognize this threat, try to get ahead of this threat, and help them with training – training their own law enforcement capabilities, sharing of intelligence, and provide them wherewithal to anticipate what may be coming their direction.

Tillerson made these remarks after noting ISIS’ shrinking holdings in both Syria and Iraq. He claimed in regards to Iraq:

More than 70 percent of Iraqi territory that was once held by ISIS has been liberated and recovered. ISIS has been unable to retake any territory that it has been – that has been liberated, and almost 2 million Iraqis have returned home. And this is really the measure of success, I think, is when conditions are such that people feel like they can return to their homes.

Regarding Syria, Tillerson would claim:

Similarly, over in Syria, we’re assisting with the liberation of Raqqa, which is moving at a faster pace than we originally anticipated.

The steps outlined by Tillerson to combat ISIS sidestep strategic fundamentals like identifying, isolating, and eliminating the economic and financial source of the organization’s fighting capacity, and instead focus on an indefinite justification for global US military operations – particularly across Southeast Asia at a time when the region is incrementally uprooting American influence and replacing it with Eurasian alliances, networks, as well as military and economic blocs.

For ISIS – fueled by resources found only within the boundaries of its meager and shrinking territorial holdings in Syria and Iraq – to be simultaneously fighting the national armies of Syria and Iraq, backed by Iran, Russia, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and allegedly a US-led coalition including dozens of countries, all while expanding its reach worldwide, including full-scale military operations in Southeast Asia, begs belief.

ISIS doing all of this with multi-billion dollar multinational state sponsorship, not only makes much more sense, it is the only explanation.

ISIS is State Sponsored 

Until recently, ISIS territory butted directly against the borders of NATO-member Turkey. In fact, looking at any map of the Syrian-Iraqi conflict with ISIS revealed what appeared to be logistical trails leading directly out of Turkey and to a lesser extent, Jordan.

A 2014 report from Germany’s public broadcaster Deutsche Welle, revealed a torrent of supplies, men, and weapons flowing daily over the Turkish-Syrian border, headed directly toward ISIS territory, directly under the nose and with the complicity of Turkish officials.

The report titled, “‘IS’ supply channels through Turkey,” would note:

Every day, trucks laden with food, clothing, and other supplies cross the border from Turkey to Syria. It is unclear who is picking up the goods. The haulers believe most of the cargo is going to the “Islamic State” militia. Oil, weapons, and soldiers are also being smuggled over the border, and Kurdish volunteers are now patrolling the area in a bid to stem the supplies.

So obvious was the logistical support for ISIS flowing from Turkey, that ISIS flags were clearly visible from the Turkish border throughout DW’s footage.

It was only until Russia’s military intervention in Syria upon Damascus’ request, that these logistical routes were targeted and significant pressure could be placed on ISIS inside Syria, rolling back its fighting capacity.

There is also the fact that ISIS and Al Qaeda along with their various affiliates and allies have swept alleged “moderate rebels” from the battlefield. These are alleged “rebel groups” that have supposedly received hundreds of billions of dollars of support from the US and its allies in the form of weapons, vehicles, training, logistical support, and even covert military support.
ISIS and Al Qaeda’s ability to sweep these forces from the battlefield indicates a fighting capacity driven by even greater financial support. But if ISIS has greater financial support than multi-billion dollar multinational state sponsorship, where is it getting it?
This question, coupled with the obvious fact that ISIS is indeed fueling its fighting capacity from well beyond the borders of territory it occupies, indicates that the US and its allies, including NATO-member Turkey, never were backing “moderate rebels,” and for the entire duration of the Syrian conflict – and even beforehand – were arming and supporting extremists, including Al Qaeda and those affiliates that would later form ISIS itself.

ISIS enjoys a global reach few nation-states could achieve because it is financially, politically, and militarily backed by nations with the resources to obtain that global reach. This includes the US itself, NATO, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which in turn includes nations like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar.

ISIS is America’s Foot in the Door in Southeast Asia 

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments regarding ISIS’ spread into Southeast Asia implied long-term US involvement in the region, including closer involvement with regional police and even military forces. In the Philippines, where US-Philippine relations were spiraling downward, the sudden appearance of ISIS there and the organization’s ability to seize an entire city led directly to justification for not only a continued US military presence in the country, but its expansion.

Other nations across Southeast Asia – including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand – have been incrementally pushing US influence out of the region in favor of stronger and more stable ties with each other and with neighboring China.

Thailand for instance, has begun replacing aging US military hardware with weapon systems from Russia, China, and Europe. Thailand has also begun joint military exercises with China, ending America’s post-Vietnam War monopoly. Thailand and Indonesia have also begun striking a series of economic and infrastructure deals with China, including immense expansions of their respective national railways.

As each nation has taken steps to move the US out of Asia, the US has increased pressure on each respective nation. It has done this through US-funded fronts posing as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and US-backed opposition movements. It also appears to be doing this through the introduction and expansion of ISIS activity in the region.

It should be remembered that it was the US itself that created Al Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the 1980s.

It was also the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), in a leaked 2012 memo, that noted the US and its allies sought the creation of a “Salafist” (Islamic) “principality” (State) in eastern Syria precisely where the Islamic State currently resides. The purpose of creating this terrorist organization was to “isolate the Syrian regime.” Thus, it is all but admitted that ISIS is a tool of US geopolitical manipulation. If it created and used ISIS in Syria to “isolate the Syrian regime,” why would it hesitate to likewise use it in Southeast Asia to reverse its waning fortunes?
The 2012 report (.pdf) states (emphasis added):

If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).

Tillerson’s comments regarding ISIS are in essence, a veiled threat – a threat of long-term chaos sown by ISIS that will continue without expansive capitulation to US interests, including an expanding US military footprint in the region, conveniently in a region the US has long designated as essential toward the geopolitical, military, and economic encirclement and isolation of a rising China.
However, such a ploy cannot unfold if the nations of Southeast Asia both expose this reality, and align themselves with nations truly invested in the defeat of ISIS, including Russia and China – the ultimate targets of America’s geopolitical ambitions and the final destination for America’s global terrorist proxies.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

James Le Mesurier: The Former British Mercenary Who Founded The White Helmets

British ex-mercenary, and founder of the White Helmets, James Le Mesurier, pictured in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo: Twitter/James Le Mesurier)

British ex-mercenary, and founder of the White Helmets, James Le Mesurier, pictured in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo: Twitter/James Le Mesurier)
By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | July 31, 2017

James Le Mesurier, a British ex-mercenary, founded the White Helmets in 2013. The group has been lauded for its “humanitarian” efforts in Syria, but they have actually functioned more as a logistics and propaganda arm of Syria’s al-Qaeda branch, complete with training from Le Mesurier.

Over the past two years, enlightening information has been revealed that thoroughly and unequivocally debunks the “humanitarianism” of the White Helmets in Syria, sometimes referred to as the Syrian Civil Defense.

Since they were founded in 2013, much of Western media has sought to elevate the White Helmets as the “bravest” and most heroic of Syrians. They have been the subject of a Netflix documentary, which won an Oscar, and has consistently been plastered across TV screens in surprisingly well-produced videos showing them removing children from rubble in war-torn areas claimed by Syria’s “rebels.”

However, missing from this unambiguously positive coverage has been the group’s ties to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, their doctoring of footage, their role in executing civilians and their use of children – both dead and alive – as props for producing pro-intervention propaganda. Also absent is how the White Helmets have received over $123 million from 2013 to 2016 from the U.S. and UK governments, as well as Western NGOs and Gulf state monarchies.

While numerous articles have been devoted to dispelling the propaganda that surrounds the group and detailing their shady ties to known terrorist organizations like Syria’s al-Qaeda branch Al-Nusra Front, significantly less attention has been focused on how the group was created, particularly on the man who founded them – James Le Mesurier, a British private security specialist, and former British military intelligence officer.

Le Mesurier’s role in founding the White Helmets and propagating its mythology to a Western audience was exposed in 2015 thanks to the work of independent journalist Vanessa Beeley.

Beeley, who spoke to MintPress News at length for this report, notes that it was Le Mesurier’s “‘realization that humanitarian aid was more effective at maintaining war than an army” that spurred his creation of the organization in order “to maintain public support for another costly war in a country that is, in reality, posing little to no threat to mainland America” or its allies.

James Le Mesurier: from mercenary to “humanitarian”

Though mainstream narratives have suggested that the White Helmets were trained by the Red Cross, the White Helmets were actually founded in March 2013 by Le Mesurier. He, like many officers in the British military, attended the Royal Military Academy, where he graduated at the top of his class, receiving the Queen’s Medal.

He later served in the British Army and operated in a variety of theaters. Most notably, Le Mesurier served as intelligence coordinator for Pristina City in Kosovo soon after the NATO intervention that led to NATO being accused of war crimes for its targeting of thousands of civilians and media.

James Le Mesurier: The British Ex-Military Mercenary Who Founded The White Helmets

Having served the governments of the UK, US, UN and Gulf States, James Le Mesurier was able to very quickly garner financial support from fervent supporters of Syrian regime change. (Sofie Gran/Aspunvik)

By 2000, Le Mesurier left the army and went to work for the United Nations as he had “realized humanitarian aid was more effective” than an army in theaters of war during his time with the British military. He, again, served in a variety of locations, focusing on “delivering stabilization activities through security sector and democratization programs.” According to Le Mesurier, “stabilization activities” refers to the “framework for engagement in ‘fragile’ states” or, in other words, destabilized nations.

Prior to his founding of the White Helmets, Le Mesurier served as Vice President for Special Projects at the Olive Group, a private mercenary organization that has since merged with Blackwater-Academi into what is now known as Constellis Holdings. Then, in 2008, Le Mesurier left the Olive Group after he was appointed to the position of Principal at Good Harbor Consulting, chaired by Richard A. Clarke – a veteran of the U.S. national security establishment and the counter-terrorism “czar” under the Bush and Clinton administrations.

After joining Good Harbor, Le Mesurier became based in Abu Dhabi, where he specialized in risk management, emergency planning, and critical infrastructure protection. He trained a UAE gas field protection force and “ensured the safety” of the 2010 Gulf Cup in Yemen, a regional soccer tournament. But following this work, Le Mesurier claims to have become dissatisfied, wanting to have a more direct impact on the communities he worked in.

He told Men’s Journal in 2014 that it was the idea of using his military training to benefit civilians that truly enthused him: “the idea of being a civilian carrying a weapon and guiding a convoy in a conflict zone — that leaves me cold.”

White Helmets founded through Western funding

When it came time to found the White Helmets in March 2013, Le Mesurier seemed to have simply been in the right place at the right time. According to his own account, he founded the group in Turkey after being “compelled” by Syrians’ wartime stories.

James Le Mesurier: The British Ex-Military Mercenary Who Founded The White Helmets

James Le Mesurier in Istanbul, Turkey.
(Photo: Twitter/James Le Mesurier)

Despite founding the White Helmets in Turkey, he raised $300,000 in seed funding provided by the UK, the U.S. and Japan, which Le Mesurier apparently had no trouble scrounging up. The $123 million dollars that was funneled soon after to the organization by the U.S. and UK governments, along with Western NGOs and Qatar, dispels all notion of the organization’s alleged “impartiality” and “non-partisan” stance on the Syrian conflict stated on their website.

He then used it to train 25 “vetted” Syrians “to deal with the chaos erupting around them.” By September of that year, more than 700 “vetted” individuals were believed to have undergone training under Le Mesurier’s supervision.

However, Le Mesurier’s ties to British military intelligence, mercenary groups and involvement in “stabilization activities” and “democratization programs” suggest that his convenient appearance in Istanbul, Turkey is perhaps not too coincidental. As Beeley noted in an interview with MintPress : “there are very few coincidences in the multi-spectrum, hybrid war that has been waged against Syria by the U.S. coalition since 2011.”

Indeed, the White Helmets were founded when the West was losing on both the propaganda and military front regarding the push for regime change and foreign intervention in Syria. More specifically, as Beeley told MintPress, the group’s founding took place just after “the Syrian government had raised concerns about a terrorist chemical weapon attack in Khan Al Asal against the SAA [Syrian Arab Army].”

It should come as no surprise then that, since their founding, the White Helmets have been instrumental in blaming the Syrian government for any and all subsequent chemical weapons attacks in Syria, acting as both witnesses and responders to events that were later proven to be the work of the armed opposition in Syria or staged. As a result, Beeley argued that it’s well within reason to speculate that the White Helmets were explicitly founded with this purpose in mind.

However, it is Le Mesurier himself who shed light on why the White Helmets were formed at such a crucial point for the foreign-funded opposition. As Le Mesurier noted in a speech delivered on June 2015, in “fragile” (i.e. destabilized) states, security actors – such as mercenaries or foreign armies – have the lowest level of public trust. However, Le Mesurier states that in contrast, those professions with the highest level of public trust in such situations are firefighters, paramedics, rescue workers and other similar types of first responders.

Le Mesurier discusses the White Helmets in June 2015:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/132521006?color=c9ff23&title=0&byline=0&portrait=0

Le Mesurier, however, is not the only figure linked to the British military to take such a perspective. UK Admiral Sir Philip Jones, Chief of Naval Staff, stated last year that “the hard punch of military power is often delivered inside the kid glove of humanitarian relief.” It is for this reason that military actions sponsored by the United States and its allies for the past few decades have often been framed as “humanitarian interventions.”

Thus, the White Helmets were seen as a chance to reclaim the trust that the Syrian opposition fighters had lost, as news of their affiliation with terrorist groups began to spread.

In reclaiming that trust in Western audiences, the White Helmets have done nothing to ease the burden of war in Syria, but have fomented it by underpinning the very propaganda that has kept the conflict raging on for over six years, as well as undermined the ability of the Syrian and Russian governments to secure diplomatic alternatives to continued fighting.

Indeed, despite their claim of “impartiality,” the White Helmets were instrumental in Western attempts to bolster international support for Western intervention and a “no-fly zone” in Syria. However, such intervention will bring much more devastation to Syria, something the White Helmets profess to want to end.

Training the White Helmets

While the White Helmets have successfully been framed as a professionally-trained first responder group active in Syria, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that their training was entirely different. First responders and doctors in other countries have been skeptical about the “aid” the White Helmets have delivered.

For instance, Dr. Leif Elinder, a Swedish pediatrician, told the Indicter that “after examination of the video material [of the White Helmets], I found that the measures inflicted upon those children, some of them lifeless, are bizarre, non-medical, non-lifesaving, and even counterproductive in terms of life-saving purposes of children.”

Other medical doctors have stated that other procedures conducted by the White Helmets as seen in the previously mentioned Netflix documentary were performed so poorly they would have killed the children, who were already deceased when the footage was taken.

In addition, first responder groups have also found flaws with the White Helmet’s trained rescues. Questions have been raised such as: how did the White Helmets know the bodies would be exactly where they found them?; Why are no attacks heard or seen in White Helmet videos – only the “aftermath”?; and why have the White Helmets chosen to “recycle” footage of the people they are allegedly helping?

Thus, if the White Helmets were not actually trained in first aid – as the above suggests – what did Le Mesurier and his team actually train them to do?

According to Beeley, Le Mesurier trained the White Helmets as a military group, as they have been found “working side by side with the Nusra Front and other extremist groups such as Nour Al Din Zinki in East Aleppo, where their ‘humanitarian’ centers were invariably alongside Nusra Front or even in the same building.”

Noting the White Helmet’s lack of paramedic expertise and the numerous photographs showing them carrying weapons, she added that this “confirms that their role has been as military and logistical support for their Nusra Front colleagues.”

However, the training received by the White Helmets likely did not stop there.

Beeley strongly believes that they were given extensive training in the production of propaganda – specifically, trained in camerawork and video production in order to produce videos for the media. She noted that “the sheer number of cameras on site at any one of their rescue productions demonstrates that they are well versed in publicity craft.”

Furthermore, Beeley suggested that the White Helmet’s footage used in their documentary also proves this point:

“The Oscar-winning Netflix documentary that recorded their exploits was based entirely on footage taken by the White Helmets themselves and supplied to the producers of the movie who did not leave Turkey and were therefore unable to verify the authenticity of the footage. The quality of video supplied suggests that the White Helmets were using sophisticated equipment and had been well trained in its use.

Thus, this training has enabled the White Helmets to accomplish two major goals for the governments and organizations that have orchestrated its rise to prominence.

First, as Beeley pointed out, it has facilitated “further proxy military intervention and to incite pseudo-humanitarian outrage from the International community and western public.”

Second, it has allowed the atrocities of the extremist factions that work with the White Helmets to be camouflaged by the “humanitarianism” of the group, which has been instrumental in allowing foreign governments to continue arming and funding these extremist, terrorist organizations with complete impunity.

Le Mesurier, for his part, has apparently become tired of the limelight – perhaps as a result of the thorough debunking of the terrorist-linked organization he fostered. Though still listed as an employee of Good Harbor, Le Mesurier has removed himself from the site of MayDay Rescue, a White Helmets-linked organization he founded, and all mention of him has been erased from the White Helmets website.

August 2, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Turkey, US accuse each other of terror sponsorship in Syria

Press TV – August 1, 2017

Turkey and the United States have been accusing each other of supporting various terrorist groups in Syria.

Brett H. McGurk, the US special envoy to the international coalition against the Daesh terrorist group, has suggested that Turkey facilitates al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria’s Idlib Province.

He said in a speech delivered at a Washington-based think tank on July 29 that Idlib has turned into a “safe zone for al-Qaeda terrorists on the Turkish border,” asking “why and how” a deputy to al-Qaeda’s leader had allegedly managed to travel to the Syrian province.

He said it might not be the best approach for some partners of the US “to send tens of thousands of weapons and turn their faces to the other side as foreign fighters enter this area,” according to reports.

The US, McGurk reportedly said, intended to work with Turkey to have the border closed to recruited militants.

Ankara has strongly denounced McGurk’s “provocative” remarks, accusing Washington of terror sponsorship in Syria by supporting the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant group that has been fighting the central Turkish government since 1984.

“Our reaction to the statements of Brett McGurk, in which he associated Turkey with the presence of terrorist organizations in Idlib, was brought to Mr. McGurk’s attention at a high-level démarche, and his statements, which could be characterized as provocative, were protested,” Turkish media on Monday quoted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Huseyin Muftuoglu as saying.

Muftuoglu also said that the US had to end its support for the Kurdish Democratic Party, aka PYD.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official, who asked not to be named, also told Hurriyet Daily News that Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Sedat Onal had urged the US envoy to “correct” his statements.

The official added that Onal warned that such remarks could harm mutual cooperation between Turkey and the US, which is seeking cooperation with Ankara for the post-Daesh period in Syria.

Syria has been gripped by militancy since March 2011, when a section of the opposition in the country took up arms against President Bashar al-Assad. A vast mix of foreign terrorists soon blended with the armed opposition, joining the fight against the Syrian government.

August 1, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t be Fooled, the CIA was Only Half the Problem in Syria

By Steven MacMillan – New Eastern Outlook – 31.07.2017

The news that President Trump has halted the CIA program to arm and train rebel groups in Syria should be viewed with caution, as the CIA program only represented half of US involvement in Syria.  Even if we take this information as completely accurate, and the CIA will cease to be involved in any covert programs in Syria, there is still a giant arm of US imperialism that is going to be heavily involved in the Syrian conflict for the foreseeable future; namely, the Pentagon.

The notion that the CIA was the only branch of the US establishment involved in the destabilization of Syria is nonsense. The US has always had two operations running simultaneously in Syria, with one being run by the CIA, and other being ran by the Pentagon. As Reuters reported in an article in May of this year, titled: Syrian rebels say U.S., allies sending more arms to fend off Iran threat, military aid has been provided through “two separate channels:”

“Rebels said military aid has been boosted through two separate channels: a program backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), known as the MOC, and regional states including Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and one run by the Pentagon.”

These two programs have often clashed, as was the case last year, when militias armed by the CIA fought against militias armed by the Pentagon.

The Pentagon has been as involved in the disastrous operation to arm and train rebels in Syria as the CIA has, and has contributed heavily to the mess on the ground.

In September 2015 for instance, it was reported that a Pentagon-armed group of rebels – named Division 30 – handed over their weapons to al-Qaeda in Syria, a scenario that was a common outcome from many CIA operations as well. The Pentagon, never shy to blow an obscene amount of taxpayers’ money on imperial matters, has already wasted hundreds of millions of dollars training and arming rebels in Syria, yet Trump only wants to increase the US war budget. 

Trump: The Man of the Military 

Trump’s decision to halt the CIA program was hardly surprising, considering the support Trump has received from large sections of the military. A look at the backgrounds of the individuals that Trump has given cabinet positions reveals Trump’s close relationship with the military.

The Secretary of Homeland Security for instance, John Kelly, is a retired Marine Corps General and former Commander of US Southern Command. Trump’s pick for the Director of the CIA is even more telling, as Mike Pompeo has his roots in the military, graduating from West Point in the 1980s:

“Mr. Pompeo graduated first in his class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986 and served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He also served with the 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry in the US Army’s Fourth Infantry Division.”

Undoubtedly, there are many good forces in the US military (as in any other large organization), and there is nothing wrong with having a military background. But equally, there are also many nefarious forces in the military, and the influence of military-industrial complex is pervasive, constantly agitating for more imperial wars.

With this context in mind, it is hardly surprising that Trump favours the Pentagon program over the CIA one, especially considering the power struggle taking place between the CIA and the military within the US. It should be highlighted that Trump has notcompletely halted all US programs to arm and train militias in Syria, he has merely shutdown one channel.

Pentagon Using Kurds to Balkanize Syria 

The Pentagon has been heavily involved in arming Kurdish forces in Syria, using them as a tool to attempt to Balkanize and fracture Syria into micro-states. In May of this year, President Trump approved a plan – supported by many in the Pentagon – to arm the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), a Kurdish militia operating predominantly in northern Syria.

The YPG is also the controlling militia in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes an array of other militias. In addition to providing arms to the YPG, US special forces have been pictured on the ground in northern Syria working in conjunction with YPG fighters.

When most of the public was distracted by the story of Trump halting the CIA program, footage surfaced showing US armed military vehicles passing through Qamishli – a city in northern Syria on the Turkish border – reportedly on route to Raqqa. The recipients of the vehicles are believed to be either the SDF or US forces directly, who are involved in the battle against ISIS in Raqqa.

If (or when) ISIS is defeated in Raqqa, it will be very interesting to see who ends up controlling the city. It is possible that the Pentagon wants to defeat ISIS in Raqqa, and then hand Raqqa to the Kurds – a scenario that many Kurds would only be too happy with. In March of this year, Saleh Muslim, the co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – the political affiliate of the YPG – said that once ISIS is defeated in Raqqa, the city should be incorporated into a Kurdish state in northern Syria. 

The Pentagon’s support for Kurdish forces is clearly part of a strategy to break the northern part of the country away from control of the Syrian government in Damascus. A subservient Kurdish state in northern Syria (which would probably join with Kurdish zones in Iraq and other countries in the future) would allow the US to have a permanent military presence in Syria, and easy access to the natural resources in the Kurdish region.

The creation of a Kurdish state in northern Syria would of course cause a severe breakdown in relations with NATO member Turkey, given the views of the current Turkish leadership that is. Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group Ankara views as a terrorist organization. Turkey has repeatedly denounced US support for Kurdish groups in Syria, with this being a major source of disagreement between the US and Turkey. It is no coincidence that Turkish state media recently published a list of classified US military bases and outposts in northern Syria, with this information revealing the extent to which the US military is embedded in Kurdish-controlled regions in Syria.

The plan to Balkanize Syria is well on its way, and the Pentagon is leading the charge. How Russia positions herself in the coming months will be crucial for the future of Syria.

July 31, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia adjusts to realities in US politics

“Trump has nothing to do with the anti-Russia campaign and the public remains indifferent, while an improbable coalition of the Congress and the jeering media is orchestrating the chorus.”

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | July 30, 2017

An instance of such monumental patience is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, in Russian diplomacy: Moscow took 179 days to retaliate against former US President Barack Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats on December 30, 2016, ostensibly to show rancour at alleged Russian efforts to interfere with the US presidential election.

The 35 Russian diplomats were “intelligence operatives”, Obama said. He gave them 72 hours to leave American soil, and he impounded two Russian diplomatic compounds as well.

In Moscow, though, President Vladimir Putin responded that Russia wouldn’t retaliate but would decide on further steps only after considering the actions of the incoming new president, Donald Trump.

Putin went on invite the children of American diplomats posted in Russia to a Christmas party in the Kremlin. But he had a master plan.

Putin preferred to start Russia’s discourse with the Trump administration on a creative note. Trump had raised high expectations in Moscow that a brave new world of partnership between Russia and the US might be approaching.

In the months that followed, however, such hopes began dimming even as Russia became a toxic subject in the Washington Beltway.

Nonetheless, residual hope lingered, as Trump deputed state secretary Rex Tillerson to travel to Moscow for talks in April and within the month also received the visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office.

The Russian spirits certainly soared when Trump and Putin held an extraordinary 126-minute meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg where they discussed a range of issues complicating the relationship and yet managed to stay in their positions.

However, the pendulum has now swung to the other extreme with the US Congress passing legislation on further sanctions against Russia. What stunned Moscow is the near-unanimity with which the US lawmakers voted for the bill.

Moscow has drawn two conclusions. First, an intensification of US pressure against Russia is on the cards even as Russophobia has morphed into an anti-Russian mindset. A hardening of the US stance on Ukraine is likely. In Syria, too, Russia is far from a commanding position since several players are, pursuing their own agenda.

The sanctions encompass areas where Russia has the capacity to offer cooperation – energy, defense, mining, railway transport, etc. Curiously, the bill seeks to arm-twist third countries that may be inclined toward developing cooperation with Russia – countries such as India, Vietnam, Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Egypt. Again, real pressure will come if the US begins to tamper with the strategic balance with Russia.

Second, the legislation virtually takes the Russia policies out of Trump’s hands. Moscow trusted Trump’s instincts to improve relations with Russia and hoped that he’d call the shots ultimately.

But that may be about to change. Congress is reducing Trump to a subaltern role. Russia has no means to leverage influence in the US Congress. Trump may find a way to strike back at the Congress but it is small comfort if political tensions consequently rise in Washington.

All in all, therefore, Moscow sees that a normalization of Russia-US relations can be ruled out for a foreseeable future. The Congress can be expected to determine the US policy towards Russia through the Trump presidency – and this will be a policy of strangling Russia.

This grim prospect leaves Russia with no alternative but to recognise the US as a strategic and key challenge to its security.

Thus, Moscow’s decision on July 28 to curb the US diplomatic presence in Russia may seem a timid response. After all, Moscow is only responding to Obama’s harsh decision and is merely seeking reciprocity with a ceiling of 455 diplomats for both countries (which is where Russian tally currently stands.)

But on close examination, Washington has been made to look foolish. While Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats, Putin’s order to slash the number of US diplomatic staff to 455 will affect a few hundred US personnel currently assigned to Russia.

Moscow is signalling that bilateral cooperation has become pointless. Indeed, Trump has nothing to do with the anti-Russia campaign and the American public remains indifferent, while an improbable coalition of the Congress and the jeering media is orchestrating the chorus. But the realities cannot be ignored.

The triumphalism on the Hill will be short-lived, because the potential strategic consequences for US’ core interests and vital interests are yet to sink in. The West’s policy on Russia now onward becomes a point of discord between Washington and the EU.

China, no doubt, gets a huge strategic windfall, since Moscow will seek closer rapprochement with Beijing, especially on security. A Russian observer noted wryly, “we can easily imagine them (Russia and China) holding military drills in the Straits of Florida near Cuba.”

Knowing Putin, Russia’s response will be calibrated. He implied in remarks while visiting Helsinki on Tuesday that Russia will play the long game.

After all, it is not only in the US’ relations with Russia, but also with allies in Europe and Asia – Germany and Japan, in particular – that fault lines have appeared. Russian diplomacy can be trusted to exploit what Germans call the “zeitgeist” – the spirit of our times – as the US’ global influence inexorably declines.

Russia’s cooperation can be crucial to US interests, and Moscow now has an option to cherry pick. Make no mistake, Moscow will exercise its option highly selectively.

July 31, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Al Qaeda “Mysteriously” Metastasizing in Northwest Syria

By Tony Cartalucci – New Eastern Outlook – 30.07.2017

The Washington Post in an article titled, “Al-Qaida in Syria snuffs out competition in northwest,” clumsily reveals what many following the Syrian conflict have known all along – that the so-called uprising never existed, and that the US and its allies are directly arming, aiding, and abetting Al Qaeda in Syria.

The article admits:

Syrian rebels and activists are warning that an al-Qaida-linked jihadi group is on the verge of snuffing out what remains of the country’s uprising in northwestern Syria, after the extremists seized control of the opposition-held regional capital, Idlib, last weekend.

However, the so-called “uprising” has been allegedly supported since 2011 by the US, Europe, and the West’s collective allies across the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars a year in weapons, training, logistics, and even vehicles, and now even direct military support.

This significant support has been reported on numerous times by Western papers, including the Washington Post itself. If such support was truly being given to a secular, pro-democratic opposition inside of Syria, who then has supplied “Al Qaeda-linked jihadi groups” with enough support to meet or exceed it on the battlefield? The answer is, there was never a secular, pro-democratic opposition in Syria.

The Washington Post fails to inform readers that Al Qaeda’s consolidation in the northwest of Syria is a logistical necessity, with the West unable to sustain token opposition groups any further if Damascus and its allies are to be prevented from exercising further control over its own territory before the conflict draws to a relative close.

The Washington Post – in a way – already admits this in its article. It states (emphasis added):

The Nusra Front is one of the many names for the al-Qaida-affiliate that now heads the mighty Hay’at Tahrir al Sham militant alliance — Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee — that seized the city of Idlib, as well as two border crossings with Turkey to feed its coffers. It is also known as HTS.

The Washington Post acknowledges that an Al Qaeda affiliate is sustaining its fighting capacity in Syria through supply lines leading out of Turkey – a NATO member since 1952. It is also a Western ally, with multiple Western nations still supplying the state with weapons, including 86 million British pounds sold to Ankara by the UK. Turkey, alongside Saudi Arabia, represent two state-sponsors of terror contradicting Western narratives revolving around a “War on Terror” allegedly being fought. In fact, it appears that instead of fighting terror, the West is propping up the largest nations on Earth driving it.

Worse than the West fueling terrorism by proxy, the Washington Post also obliquely mentions that militant groups in Syria supported directly by the US CIA are coordinating with the very Al Qaeda-affiliates it claims is “snuffing out” the opposition.

It claims:

Other factions, including many once financed and armed in part by the CIA, kept to the sidelines. They are hoping to win a share of the revenues from the lucrative Bab al-Hawa border crossing, said a Turkey-based opposition activist who liaises with Syrian rebels and their state sponsors. He asked for anonymity so as not to jeopardize his position.

In other words, Al Qaeda-controlled border crossings are being jointly used and exploited by groups “once” financed and armed by the CIA. More likely, this was the case before the conflict even began, with the US simply using Al Qaeda in Syria, just as it had in Afghanistan in the 1980’s, as the global mercenary army of choice to go and do where and what US troops cannot.

The Washington Post’s article appears to be a final attempt to salvage long-exposed disinformation, misinforming the public about the true nature of both the Syrian crisis and the alleged “opposition” fighting it on the West’s behalf. The article concludes, claiming that US programs to arm militants in Syria are drawing to a close, and that the US is “leaving Syria in Russia’s hands.”

In reality, the US will only leave Syria once its options have been fully confounded and exhausted by Syria and its allies. While it may not be able to continue funding terrorists in Syria’s northwest, it still maintains a military presence with US troops and proxies in the nation’s east. It openly plans to occupy these regions – and from them – incrementally expand them until eventually Syria is either dissolved as a unified state, or regime change can eventually be achieved.

Al Qaeda’s “emergence” in northwest Syria, and its dominance of “opposition” groups admittedly funded to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars a year, can only be explained if those hundreds of billions of dollars were actually being fed into Al Qaeda’s hands. Admitting that Al Qaeda now infests Syria’s northwest allows the “opposition” to use any and all tactics required to keep or even claw back territory from forces loyal to Damascus, with papers like the Washington Post tasked  now with obfuscating and ignoring the reality that Al Qaeda does this with logistical routes leading directly into NATO territory, and arms and supplies acquired with NATO complicity.

July 30, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Turkey Needs Russian S-400 System as Shield Against ‘Western Plan’ in Mideast

Sputnik – 26.07.2017

Russia and Turkey are currently at the final stage of negotiations on the delivery of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system to Ankara. According to Turkish security expert Abdullah Ağar, the deal indicates a major shift in Turkey’s policy.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that there is no reason for Washington to be concerned over the Ankara-Moscow talks on the delivery of the S-400 system.

“Why should this be a concern? Each country should take certain measures to ensure its security. How many times have we talked with America, but it did not work out, so like it or not, we began to make plans about the S-400,” Erdogan said at a press conference in Ankara.

The United States recently signaled that Turkey buying the S-400 from Russia would become a major concern for Washington.

“There was a media report that was incorrect. They have not bought the S-400 air defense system from Russia. That would be a concern, were they to do that, but they have not done that,” Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said Saturday at a security forum in Colorado.

Earlier, Pentagon chief James Mattis said that the possible deal raises questions about the technical and operational compatibility of the S-400 with NATO’s standards and Turkey would have to explain for itself the choice of the Russian-made weapon.

According to Turkish defense and security expert Abdullah Ağar, the reason behind the concerns of the US is more than the possible S-400 deal and relates to Turkey’s resoluteness to oppose plans that would “threaten Ankara’s territorial integrity.”

“The situation in the region has significantly changed. As for the last three years, Turkey has come to know the threats it faced as well as the actions of its Western partners in this situation. On the one hand, the West works with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliates in Syria and Iraq. On the other hand, the US and other Western countries support the Gülen movement [FETÖ, designed by Ankara as a terrorist organization] which poses a serious threat to Turkey,” Ağar told Sputnik Turkey.

According to the expert, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the West has been implementing a “plan to re-draw the Middle East map,” which resulted in a growing terrorist threat near Turkey’s border, including the rise of Daesh.

“Such a policy may result in new foreign invasions in the region. Turkey needs a new approach to oppose this policy. The delivery of the S-400 is part of a big puzzle,” Ağar pointed out.

At the same time, the situation should not be reduced to arms contracts and should be taken in its connection to shifts in the global geopolitical balance of power.

“There is a trend that may result in a [global power shift] from the US and Europe towards Asia. The West knows it, but continues to support organizations that pose a threat for Turkey. At the same time, the West doesn’t want to lose Turkey. In such a situation, Turkey is looking for the solution to this puzzle,” the expert said.

Ağar also said that the West is losing Ankara’s credibility due to its policy of supporting groups that want to “tear Turkey apart.”

“Of course, Turkey will not stay bound hand and foot. Otherwise, the country will found itself in a big trouble in the future. There is no special reason for Ankara to give credibility to West’s promises,” the expert said.

Furthermore, Ağar underscored that Ankara was not allowed to deploy US-made Patriot missile defense systems and as a result Ankara decided to focus on cooperation with Russia.

“The S-400 [deal] is part of a bigger picture of [Russia-Turkey] bilateral cooperation in various fields, primarily energy and security. The supplies of the S-400 are a sign that Turkey is drifting away from the Western world,” the expert concluded.

The negotiations on the matter between Russia and Turkey have taken place since 2016. In March, Sergei Chemezov, CEO of Russia’s Rostec Corporation, said Ankara was ready to buy the S-400 systems with a loan granted by Moscow. On July 18, Chemezov said technical issues of the contract for the supply of the S-400 systems to Turkey had been resolved, with only administrative ones remaining.

The S-400 Triumph is a next-generation mobile surface-to-air missile system that can carry three different types of missiles capable of destroying aerial targets at a short-to-extremely-long range. It is designed to track and destroy various types of aerial targets, from reconnaissance aircraft to ballistic missiles.

As of today, Russia has a deal on supplying the system only with China. In addition to Turkey, talks are also underway with India.

July 26, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

The Myth of the Kurdish YPG’s Moral Excellence

By Stephen Gowans | what’s left | July 11, 2017

A barbed criticism aimed at the International Socialist Organization, shown nearby, under the heading “If the ISO Existed in 1865” encompasses a truth about the orientation of large parts of the Western Left to the Arab nationalist government in Damascus. The truth revealed in the graphic is that the ISO and its cognates will leave no stone unturned in their search for an indigenous Syrian force to support that has taken up arms against Damascus, even to the point of insisting that a group worthy of support must surely exist, even if it can’t be identified.

If the ISO existed in 1865.

Of course, Washington lends a hand, helpfully denominating its proxies in the most laudatory terms. Islamist insurgents in Syria, mainly Al Qaeda, were not too many years ago celebrated as a pro-democracy movement, and when that deception proved no longer tenable, as moderates.

Now that the so-called moderates have been exposed as the very opposite, many Leftists cling to the hope that amid the Islamist opponents of Syria’s secular, Arab socialist, government, can be found votaries of the enlightenment values Damascus already embraces. Surely somewhere there exist armed anti-government secular Leftists to rally behind; for it appears that the goal is to find a reason, any reason, no matter how tenuous, to create a nimbus of moral excellence around some group that opposes with arms the government in Damascus; some group that can be made to appear to be non-sectarian, anti-imperialist, socialist, committed to the rights of women and minorities, and pro-Palestinian; in other words, a group just like Syria’s Ba’ath Arab Socialists, except not them.

Stepping forward to fulfill that hope is the PKK, an anarchist guerrilla group demonized as a terrorist organization when operating in Turkey against a US ally, but which goes by the name of the YPG in Syria, where it is the principal component of the lionized “Syrian Democratic Force.” So appealing is the YPG to many Western Leftists that some have gone so far as to volunteer to fight in its units. But is the YPG the great hope it’s believed it to be?

Kurds in Syria

It’s difficult to determine with precision how many Kurds are in Syria, but it’s clear that the ethnic group comprises only a small percentage of the Syrian population (less than 10 percent according to the CIA, and 8.5 percent according to an estimate cited by Nikolaos Van Dam in his book The Struggle for Power in Syria. [1]

Estimates of the proportion of the total Kurd population living in Syria vary from two to seven percent based on population figures presented in the CIA World Factbook. Half of the Kurd community lives in Turkey, 28 percent in Iran and 20 percent in Iraq. A declassified 1972 US State Department report estimated that only between four and five percent of the world’s Kurds lived in Syria [2].

While the estimates are rough, it’s clear that Kurds make up a fairly small proportion of the Syrian population and that the number of the group’s members living in Syria as a proportion of the Kurd community as a whole is very small.


The PKK

Kurdish fighters in Syria operate under the name of the YPG, which is “tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a radical guerrilla movement combining [anarchist ideas] with Kurdish nationalism. PKK guerrillas [have] fought the Turkish state from 1978” and the PKK is “classified as a terrorist organization by the European Union, Turkey and the U.S.” [3]

Cemil Bayik is the top field commander of both the PKK in Turkey and of its Syrian incarnation, the YPG. Bayik “heads the PKK umbrella organization, the KCK, which unites PKK affiliates in different countries. All follow the same leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who has been in prison in Turkey” [4] since 1999, when he was apprehended by Turkish authorities with CIA assistance.

Ocalan “was once a devotee of Marxism-Leninism,” according to Carne Ross, who wrote a profile of the Kurdish nationalist leader in The Financial Times in 2015. But Ocalan “came to believe that, like capitalism, communism perforce relied upon coercion.” Imprisoned on an island in the Sea of Marmara, Ocalan discovered “the masterwork of a New York political thinker named Murray Bookchin.” Bookchin “believed that true democracy could only prosper when decision-making belonged to the local community and was not monopolized by distant and unaccountable elites.” Government was desirable, reasoned Bookchin, but decision-making needed to be decentralized and inclusive. While anarchist, Bookchin preferred to call his approach “communalism”. Ocalan adapted Bookchin’s ideas to Kurd nationalism, branding the new philosophy “democratic confederalism.” [5]

Labor Zionism has similar ideas about a political system based on decentralized communes, but is, at its core, a nationalist movement. Similarly, Ocalan’s views cannot be understood outside the framework of Kurdish nationalism. The PKK may embrace beautiful utopian goals of democratic confederalism but it is, at its heart, an organization dedicated to establishing Kurdish self-rule—and, as it turns out, not only on traditionally Kurdish territory, but on Arab territory, as well, making the parallel with Labour Zionism all the stronger. In both Syria and Iraq, Kurdish fighters have used the campaign against ISIS as an opportunity to extend Kurdistan into traditionally Arab territories in which Kurds have never been in the majority.

The PKK’s goal, writes The Wall Street Journal’s Sam Dagher, “is a confederation of self-rule Kurdish-led enclaves in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey” [6] countries in which Kurdish populations have a presence, though, as we’ve seen, an insignificant one in Syria. In pursuit of this goal “as many as 5,000 Syrian Kurds have died fighting alongside the PKK since the mid-1980s, and nearly all of YPG’s top leaders and battle-hardened fighters are veterans of the decades-long struggle against Turkey.” [7]

In Syria, the PKK’s goal “is to establish a self-ruled region in northern Syria,” [8] an area with a significant Arab population.

When PKK fighters cross the border into Turkey, they become ‘terrorists’, according to the United States and European Union, but when they cross back into Syria they are miraculously transformed into ‘guerrilla” fighters waging a war for democracy as the principal component of the Syrian Democratic Force. The reality is, however, that whether on the Turkish or Syrian side of the border, the PKK uses the same methods, pursues the same goals, and relies largely on the same personnel. The YPG is the PKK.

An Opportunity

Washington has long wanted to oust the Arab nationalists in Syria, regarding them as “a focus of Arab nationalist struggle against an American regional presence and interests,” as Amos Ma’oz once put it. The Arab nationalists, particularly the Ba’ath Arab Socialist party, in power since 1963, represent too many things Washington deplores: socialism, Arab nationalism, anti-imperialism, and anti-Zionism. Washington denounced Hafez al-Assad, president of Syria from 1970 to 2000, as an Arab communist, and regards his son, Bashar, who succeeded him as president, as little different. Bashar, the State Department complains, hasn’t allowed the Syrian economy—based on Soviet models, its researchers say—to be integrated into the US-superintended global economy. Plus, Washington harbors grievances about Damascus’s support for Hezbollah and the Palestinian national liberation movement.

US planners decided to eliminate Asia’s Arab nationalists by invading their countries, first Iraq, in 2003, which, like Syria, was led by the Ba’ath Arab Socialists, and then Syria. However, the Pentagon soon discovered that its resources were strained by resistance to its occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and that an invasion of Syria was out of the question. As an alternative, Washington immediately initiated a campaign of economic warfare against Syria. That campaign, still in effect 14 years later, would eventually buckle the economy and prevent Damascus from providing education, health care and other essential services in some parts of the country. At the same time, Washington took steps to reignite the long-running holy war that Syria’s Islamists had waged on the secular state, dating to the 1960s and culminating in the bloody takeover of Hama, Syria’s fourth largest city, in 1982. Beginning in 2006, Washington worked with Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood to rekindle the Brother’s jihad against Assad’s secular government. The Brothers had two meetings at the White House, and met frequently with the State Department and National Security Council.

The outbreak of Islamist violence in March of 2011 was greeted by the PKK as an opportunity. As The Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov recounts, “The PKK, once an ally of… Damascus… had long been present among Kurdish communities in northern Syria. When the revolutionary tide reached Syria, the group’s Syrian affiliate quickly seized control of three Kurdish-majority regions along the Turkish frontier. PKK fighters and weapons streamed there from other parts of Kurdistan.”[9] The “Syrian Kurds,” wrote Trofimov’s colleagues, Joe Parkinson and Ayla Albayrak, viewed “the civil war as an opportunity to carve out a self-governing enclave—similar to the one established by their ethnic kin in neighboring Iraq.” [10] That enclave, long backed by the United States and Israel, was seen as a means of weakening the Iraqi state.

Damascus facilitated the PKK take-over by withdrawing its troops from Kurdish-dominated areas. The Middle East specialist Patrick Seale, who wrote that the Kurds had “seized the opportunity” of the chaos engendered by the Islamist uprising “to boost their own political agenda” [11] speculated that the Syrian government’s aims in pulling back from Kurd-majority areas was to redirect “troops for the defence of Damascus and Aleppo;” punish Turkey for its support of Islamist insurgents; and “to conciliate the Kurds, so as to dissuade them from joining the rebels.” [12] The PKK, as it turns out, didn’t join the Islamist insurgents, as Damascus hoped. But they did join a more significant part of the opposition to Arab nationalist Syria: the puppet master itself, the United States.

By 2014, the PKK had “declared three self-rule administrations, or cantons as they call them, in northern Syria: Afreen, in the northwest, near the city of Aleppo; Kobani; and Jazeera in the northeast, which encompasses Ras al-Ain and the city of Qamishli. Their goal [was] to connect all three.” [13] This would mean controlling the intervening spaces occupied by Arabs.

A Deal with Washington

At this point, the PKK decided that its political goals might best be served by striking a deal with Washington.

The State Department had “allowed for the possibility of a form of decentralization in which different groups” — the Kurds, the secular government, and the Islamist insurgents — each received some autonomy within Syria. [14] Notice the implicit assumption in this view that it is within Washington’s purview to grant autonomy within Syria, while the question of whether the country ought to decentralize, properly within the democratic ambit of Syrians themselves, is denied to the people who live and work in Syria. If we are to take seriously Ocalan’s Bookchin-inspired ideas about investing decision-making authority in the people, this anti-democratic abomination can hardly be tolerated.

All the same, the PKK was excited by the US idea of dividing “Syria into zones roughly corresponding to areas now held by the government, the Islamic State, Kurdish militias and other insurgents.” A “federal system” would be established, “not only for Kurdish-majority areas but for all of Syria.” A Kurd federal region would be created “on all the territory now held by the” PKK. The zone would expand to include territory the Kurds hoped “to capture in battle, not only from ISIS but also from other Arab insurgent groups.” [15]

The PKK “pressed U.S. officials” to act on the scheme, pledging to act as a ground force against ISIS in return. [16] The group said it was “eager to join the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in return for recognition and support from Washington and its allies for the Kurdish-dominated self-rule administrations they [had] established in northern Syria.” [17]

The only people pleased with this plan were the PKK, the Israelis and the Americans.

“US support for these Kurdish groups” not only in Syria, but in Iraq, where the Kurds were also exploiting the battle with ISIS to expand their rule into traditionally Arab areas, helped “to both divide Syria and divide Iraq,” wrote The Independent’s veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk. [18] Division redounded to the benefit of the United States and Israel, both of which have an interest in pursuing a divide and rule policy to exercise a joint hegemony over the Arab world. Patrick Seale remarked that the US-Kurd plan for Kurdish rule in northern Syria had been met by “quiet jubilation in Israel, which has long had a semi-clandestine relationship with the Kurds, and welcomes any development which might weaken or dismember Syria.” [19]

For their part, the Turks objected, perceiving that Washington had agreed to give the PKK a state in all of northern Syria. [20] Meanwhile, Damascus opposed the plan, “seeing it as a step toward a permanent division of the nation.” [21]

Modern-day Syria, it should be recalled, is already the product of a division of Greater Syria at the hands of the British and French, who partitioned the country into Lebanon, Palestine, Transjordan, and what is now Syria. In March, 1920, the second Syrian General Congress proclaimed “Syria to be completely independent within her ‘natural’ boundaries, including Lebanon and Palestine.” Concurrently “an Arab delegation in Palestine confronted the British military governor with a resolution opposing Zionism and petitioning to become part of an independent Syria.” [22] France sent its Army of the Levant, mainly troops recruited from its Senegalese colony, to quash by force the Levantine Arabs’ efforts to establish self-rule.

Syria, already truncated by British and French imperial machinations after WWI “is too small for a federal state,” opines Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. But Assad quickly adds that his personal view is irrelevant; a question as weighty as whether Syria ought to become a federal or confederal or unitary state, he says, is a matter for Syrians to decide in a constitutional referendum, [23] a refreshingly democratic view in contrast to the Western position that Washington should dictate how Syrians arrange their political (and economic) affairs.

Tip of the US Spear

For Washington, the PKK offers a benefit additional to the Kurdish guerrilla group’s utility in advancing the US goal of weakening Syria by fracturing it, namely, the PKK can be pressed into service as a surrogate for the US Army, obviating the necessity of deploying tens of thousands of US troops to Syria, and thereby allowing the White House and Pentagon to side-step a number of legal, budgetary and public relations quandaries. “The situation underscores a critical challenge the Pentagon faces,” wrote The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Sonne; namely, “backing local forces… instead of putting American troops at the tip of the spear.” [24]

Having pledged support for Kurdish rule of northern Syria in return for the PKK becoming the tip of the US spear, the United States is “providing “small arms, ammunition and machine guns, and possibly some nonlethal assistance, such as light trucks, to the Kurdish forces.” [25]

The arms are “parceled out” in a so called “drop, op, and assess” approach. The shipments are “dropped, an operation [is] performed, and the U.S. [assesses] the success of that mission before providing more arms.” Said a US official, “We will be supplying them only with enough arms and ammo to accomplish each interim objective.” [26]

PKK foot soldiers are backed by “more than 750 U.S. Marines,” Army Rangers, and US, French and German Special Forces, “using helicopters, artillery and airstrikes,” the Western marionette-masters in Syria illegally, in contravention of international law. [27]

Ethnic Cleansing

“Large numbers of Arab residents populate the regions Kurds designate as their own.” [28] The PKK has taken “over a large swath of territory across northern Syria—including predominantly Arab cities and towns.” [29] Raqqa, and surrounding parts of the Euphrates Valley on which the PKK has set its sights, are mainly populated by Arabs, observes The Independent’s veteran foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn—and the Arabs are opposed to Kurdish occupation. [30]

Kurdish forces are not only “retaking” Christian and Muslim Arab towns in Syria, but are doing the same in the Nineveh province of Iraq—areas “which were never Kurdish in the first place. Kurds now regard Qamishleh, and Hassakeh province in Syria as part of ‘Kurdistan’, although they represent a minority in many of these areas.” [31]

The PKK now controls 20,000 square miles of Syrian territory [32], or roughly 17 percent of the country, while Kurds represent less than eight percent of the population.

In their efforts to create a Kurdish region inside Syria, the PKK “has been accused of abuses by Arab civilians across northern Syria, including arbitrary arrests and displacing Arab populations in the name of rolling back Islamic State.” [33] The PKK “has expelled Arabs and ethnic Turkmen from large parts of northern Syria,” reports The Wall Street Journal. [34] The Journal additionally notes that human rights “groups have accused [Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish fighters] of preventing Arabs from returning to liberated areas.” [35]

Neither Syrian nor Democratic

The PKK dominates the Syrian Democratic Forces, a misnomer conferred upon a group of mainly Kurdish fighters by its US patron. The group is not Syrian, since many of its members are non-Syrians who identify as Kurds and who flooded over the border from Turkey to take advantage of the chaos produced by the Islamist insurgency in Syria to carve out an area of Kurdish control. Nor is the group particularly democratic, since it seeks to impose Kurdish rule on Arab populations. Robert Fisk dismisses the “Syrian Democratic Forces” as a “facade-name for large numbers of Kurds and a few Arab fighters.” [36]

The PKK poses as a Syrian Democratic Force, and works with a token force of Syrian Arab fighters, to disguise the reality that the Arab populated areas it controls, and those it has yet to capture, fall under Kurd occupation.

A De Facto (and Illegal) No Fly Zone

In August, 2016, after “Syrian government bombers had been striking Kurdish positions near the city of Hasakah, where the U.S. [had] been backing Kurdish forces” the Pentagon scrambled “jets to protect them. The U.S. jets arrived just as the two Syrian government Su-24 bombers were departing.” This “prompted the U.S.-led coalition to begin patrolling the airspace over Hasakah, and led to another incident… in which two Syrian Su-24 bombers attempted to fly through the area but were met by coalition fighter jets.” [37]

The Pentagon “warned the Syrians to stay away. American F-22 fighter jets drove home the message by patrolling the area.” [38]

The New York Times observed that in using “airpower to safeguard areas of northern Syria where American advisers” direct PKK fighters that the United States had effectively established a no-fly zone over the area, but noted that “the Pentagon has steadfastly refused to” use the term. [39] Still, the reality is that the Pentagon has illegally established a de facto no-fly zone over northern Syria to protect PKK guerillas, the tip of the US spear, who are engaged in a campaign of creating a partition of Syria, including through ethnic cleansing of the Arab population, to the delight of Israel and in accordance with US designs to weaken Arab nationalism in Damascus.

An Astigmatic Analogy

Some find a parallel in the YPG’s alliance with the United States with Lenin accepting German aid to return from exile in Switzerland to Russia following the 1917 March Revolution. The analogy is inapt. Lenin was playing one imperialist power off against another. Syria is hardly an analogue of Imperial Russia, which, one hundred years ago, was locked in a struggle for markets, resources, and spheres of influence with contending empires. In contrast, Syria is and has always been a country partitioned, dominated, exploited and threatened by empires. It has been emancipated from colonialism, and is carrying on a struggle—now against the contrary efforts of the PKK—to resist its recolonization.

The PKK has struck a bargain with the United States to achieve its goal of establishing a Kurdish national state, but at the expense of Syria’s efforts to safeguard its independence from a decades-long US effort to deny it. The partition of Syria along ethno-sectarian lines, desired by the PKK, Washington and Tel Aviv alike, serves both US and Israeli goals of weakening a focus of opposition to the Zionist project and US domination of West Asia.

A more fitting analogy, equates the PKK in Syria to Labor Zionism, the dominant Zionist force in occupied Palestine until the late 1970s. Like Ocalan, early Zionism emphasized decentralized communes. The kibbutzim were utopian communities, whose roots lay in socialism. Like the PKK’s Syrian incarnation, Labor Zionism relied on sponsorship by imperialist powers, securing their patronage by offering to act as the tips of the imperialists’ spears in the Arab world. Zionists employed armed conquest of Arab territory, along with ethnic cleansing and denial of repatriation, to establish an ethnic state, anticipating the PKK’s extension by armed force of the domain of a Kurdish state into Arab majority territory in Syria, as well as Kurd fighters doing the same in Iraq. Anarchists and other leftists may have been inspired by Jewish collective agricultural communities in Palestine, but that hardly made the Zionist project progressive or emancipatory, since its progressive and emancipatory elements were negated by its regressive oppression and dispossession of the indigenous Arab population, and its collusion with Western imperialism against the Arab world.

Conclusion

Representing an ethnic community that comprises less than 10 percent of the Syrian population, the PKK, a Kurdish anarchist guerrilla group which operates in both Turkey and Syria, is using the United States, its Air Force, Marine Corps, Army Rangers and Special Forces troops, as a force multiplier in an effort to impose a partition of Syria in which the numerically insignificant Kurd population controls a significant part of Syria’s territory, including areas inhabited by Arabs in the majority and in which Kurds have never been in the majority. To accomplish its aims, the PKK has not only struck a deal with a despotic regime in Washington which seeks to recolonize the Arab world, but is relying on ethnic cleansing and denial of repatriation of Arabs from regions from which they’ve fled or have been driven to establish Kurdish control of northern Syria, tactics which parallel those used by Zionist forces in 1948 to create a Jewish state in Arab-majority Palestine. Washington and Israel (the latter having long maintained a semi-clandestine relationship with the Kurds) value a confederal system for Syria as a means of weakening Arab nationalist influence in Arab Asia, undermining a pole of opposition to Zionism, colonialism, and the international dictatorship of the United States. Forces which resist dictatorship, including the most odious one of all, that of the United States over much of the world, are the real champions of democracy, a category to which the PKK, as evidenced by its actions in Syria, does not belong.

1. Nikolaos Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria: Politics and Society under Assad and the Ba’ath Party, IB Taurus, 2011, p.1.

2. “The Kurds of Iraq: Renewed Insurgency?”, US Department of State, May 31, 1972, https://2001-2009.state.gove/documents/organization/70896.pdf

3. Sam Dagher, “Kurds fight Islamic State to claim a piece of Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2014.

4. Patrick Cockburn, “War against ISIS: PKK commander tasked with the defence of Syrian Kurds claims ‘we will save Kobani’”, The Independent, November 11, 2014.

5. Carne Ross, “Power to the people: A Syrian experiment in democracy,” Financial Times, October 23, 2015.

6. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

7. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

8. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

9. Yaroslav Trofimov, “The State of the Kurds,” The Wall Street Journal, June 19, 2015.

10. Joe Parkinson and Ayla Albayrak, “Syrian Kurds grow more assertive”, The Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2013.

11. Patrick Seale, “Al Assad uses Kurds to fan regional tensions”, Gulf News, August 2, 2012.

12. Seale, August 2, 2012.

13. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

14. David E. Sanger, “Legacy of a secret pact haunts efforts to end war in Syria,” the New York Times, May 16, 2016.

15. Anne Barnard, “Syrian Kurds hope to establish a federal region in country’s north,” The New York Times, March 16, 2016.

16. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

17. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

18. Robert Fisk, “This is the aim of Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia – and it isn’t good for Shia communities,” The Independent, May 18, 2017.

19. Seale, August 2, 2012.

20. Yaroslav Trofimov, “U.S. is caught between ally Turkey and Kurdish partner in Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2017.

21. Anne Barnard, “Syrian Kurds hope to establish a federal region in country’s north,” The New York Times, March 16, 2016.

22. David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, Henry Holt & Company, 2009, p. 437.

23. “President al-Assad to RIA Novosti and Sputnik: Syria is not prepared for federalism,” SANA, March 30, 2016.

24. Paul Sonne, “U.S. seeks Sunni forces to take militant hub,” The Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2016.

25. Dion Nissenbaum, Gordon Lubold and Julian E. Barnes, “Trump set to arm Kurds in ISIS fight, angering Turkey,” The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2017.

26. Nissenbaum et al, May 9, 2017.

27. Dion Nissenbaum and Maria Abi-Habib, “Syria’s newest flashpoint is bringing US and Iran face to face,” The Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2017; “Syria condemns presence of French and German special forces in Ain al-Arab and Manbij as overt unjustified aggression on Syria’s sovereignty and independence,” SANA, June 15, 2016; Michael R. Gordon. “U.S. is sending 400 more troops to Syria.” The New York Times. March 9, 2017.

28. Matt Bradley, Ayla Albayrak, and Dana Ballout, “Kurds declare ‘federal region’ in Syria, says official,” The Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2016.

29. Maria Abi-Habib and Raja Abdulrahim, “Kurd-led force homes in on ISIS bastion with assent of U.S. and Syria alike,” The Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2017.

30. Patrick Cockburn, “Battle for Raqqa: Fighters begin offensive to push Isis out of Old City,” The Independent, July 7, 2017.

31. Robert Fisk, “This is the aim of Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia – and it isn’t good for Shia communities,” The Independent, May 18, 2017.

32. Dion Nissenbaum and Maria Abi-Habib, “U.S. split over plan to take Raqqa from Islamic state,” The Wall Street Journal. March 9, 2017.

33. Raja Abdulrahim, Maria Abi_Habin and Dion J. Nissenbaum, “U.S.-backed forces in Syria launch offensive to seize ISIS stronghold Raqqa,” The Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2016.

34. Margherita Stancati and Alia A. Nabhan, “During Mosul offensive, Kurdish fighters clear Arab village, demolish homes,” The Wall Street Journal, November 14, 2016.

35. Matt Bradley, Ayla Albayrak, and Dana Ballout, “Kurds declare ‘federal region’ in Syria, says official,” The Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2016.

36. Robert Fisk, “The US seems keener to strike at Syria’s Assad than it does to destroy ISIS,” The Independent, June 20, 2017.

37. Paul Sonne and Raja Abdulrahim, “Pentagon warns Assad regime to avoid action near U.S. and allied forces,” The Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2016.

38. Michael R. Gordon and Neil MacFarquhar, “U.S. election cycle offers Kremlin a window of opportunity in Syria,” The New York Times, October 4, 2016.

39. Michael R. Gordon and Neil MacFarquhar, “U.S. election cycle offers Kremlin a window of opportunity in Syria,” The New York Times, October 4, 2016.

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Syria’s Alleged Sarin-Gas Attack: Questioning a Flawed Investigation

By Scott Ritter | TruthDig | July 5, 2017

In October 2013, only weeks into its mission to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons program, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, received the news that it was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In making the announcement, the chairman of the Nobel committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, emphasized that the OPCW had received the prize not only in recognition of its ongoing work in Syria, conducted under extremely difficult conditions, but also as a tribute to its 16-year mission of ridding the world of chemical weapons.

The director-general of the OPCW, Ahmet Üzümcü, a veteran Turkish diplomat whose geopolitical and disarmament credentials included assignments to NATO and the United Nations, delivered the Nobel Prize lecture in December 2013 upon receiving the award on behalf of the men and women of the organization he led. Not surprisingly, the situation in Syria featured prominently in his speech.

“The [Chemical Weapon] Convention’s achievements make the recent chemical attacks in Syria, which shocked us all, even more tragic,” Üzümcü stated, “for they highlight the manifest security advantages that states adhering to the Convention enjoy—in the sixteen years that the Convention has been in force, no Member State has experienced an attack with chemical weapons.”

On April 4 of this year, events in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun proved Üzümcü wrong, with the release of what was believed to be sarin nerve agent killing dozens of Syrian civilians. The Turkish diplomat’s observation during his Nobel lecture, “Syria has tested us,” proved prescient.

There is little debate that something horrible happened in and around Khan Sheikhun the morning of April 4. There is, however, active debate over precisely what happened and who was responsible. One narrative, embraced by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and France, holds that the Syrian air force dropped a bomb filled with sarin on the center of Khan Sheikhun, releasing deadly gas that killed and injured hundreds while they slept. Another, put forward by the Syrian and Russian governments, has the Syrian air force dropping conventional high explosive bombs on rebel targets inside Khan Sheikhun, one of which struck a building housing a weapons cache that included chemical weapons, inadvertently creating a cloud of poison that killed nearby civilians.

Eyewitness accounts of the physiological effects of this event, whatever its origins, on the citizens of Khan Sheikhun are themselves ambiguous. Some interpret them as supporting the narrative that sarin gas was the culprit, while others (myself included) believe the victim statements and symptoms are more indicative of a chlorine-type agent of the sort known to have been used by anti-regime rebels in the past. The OPCW has emerged as the final arbiter, with the preliminary results of its investigation into the April 4 events proposing that “sarin or a sarin-like substance” was responsible for the deaths and injuries in Khan Sheikhun.

While the OPCW is assiduous in not apportioning blame or responsibility for any incident it investigates, those who point an accusatory finger at the Syrian government, in particular the U.S., the U.K. and France, have cited the OPCW findings as representing de facto evidence of guilt. It should therefore have come as no surprise when the Russian government responded by questioning the impartiality of the OPCW, singling out the team leaders of the OPCW’s fact-finding mission (FFM) in Syria, both of whom happen to be U.K. citizens, as evidence of bias.

The Russians also noted that the OPCW findings were done without any actual on-site inspection of either Khan Sheikhun or the Syrian air base at Shayrat where the alleged chemical weapons were supposedly sourced, relying instead on laboratory analysis of biomedical samples taken from victims who had fled to neighboring Turkey (and raising the possibility of collusion between the Turkish government, which has taken a very strong pro-rebel position, and the Turkish director-general of the OPCW). Russia called for the reorganization of the FFM to include the appointment of “neutral” team leaders and members and a refocusing of its mission to include on-site inspections of Khan Sheikhun and Shayrat air base. On April 20, the OPCW executive committee, led by the delegations of the U.S., U.K. and France, overwhelmingly rejected this proposal, reinforcing the Russian perception of anti-regime bias on the part of the OPCW.

As a former chief weapons inspector with the United Nations in Iraq, I was filled with a sense of déjà vu by the Russian protests against the OPCW. In January 1998, I was heading up an inspection team tasked with conducting very intrusive inspections of sites we believed to hold clues to the fate of Iraq’s unaccounted-for weapons of mass destruction but which were also deemed to be politically sensitive to the regime of Saddam Hussein. At the conclusion of the first day of inspections, the Iraqi government announced that it would no longer cooperate with my team.

Of particular concern for the Iraqis was the large number of American and British citizens on the team, in particular the leader (me). Russia took up the Iraqi complaint in the United Nations Security Council, leading to the imposition of new restrictions on the conduct of certain sensitive inspections involving presidential palaces. The issue of team composition, however, was not acted on; and I was able to continue my work, despite pressure from on high, including from Secretary General Kofi Annan himself, to restrict my involvement. The same held true for my American and British colleagues. What saved our jobs was our professionalism and integrity as inspectors and our strict adherence to our mandate, qualities even the Iraqi government, in the end, was forced to concede.

The U.N. inspection process in Iraq ultimately collapsed because of the interference in our work by the U.S. and U.K. governments; our disarmament mission was corrupted from without by linking it to regime change in Baghdad—not by any unprofessional conduct on the part of the inspectors.

In the more recent case in Syria, I felt a good degree of sympathy and empathy for the two British OPCW inspectors, Steven Wallis and Leonard Phillips, who had been called out by the Russian government. By all accounts, both men are experienced inspectors who came by their appointments not through any affiliation with the circles of foreign policy intrigue emanating from London, but rather through their respective expert qualifications. Phillips came from the commercial sector, starting his career as a research scientist with ICI Chemicals and Polymers after graduating from the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, in 1997 with a degree in chemical engineering. He moved on to Associated Octel, where he worked as a process engineer before joining the OPCW as an inspector in January 2008. Phillips was promoted to inspection team leader in 2011, and he participated in the disarming of Syria’s chemical weapons programs before being appointed a fact finding mission team leader in March 2015.

Wallis served as a warrant officer in the British Army’s Parachute Regiment for four years before leaving the military in 2004 to become a paramedic with the National Health Service. In 2008 he was seconded to a multi-agency training team at the National Police Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Training Center, where he became involved in hazardous materials medical response. In 2010 he joined the OPCW as a health and safety specialist and subsequently served in a number of roles, including mission leader. In March 2015, Wallis was appointed a team leader with the fact-finding mission.

The record of both men in Syria shows the kind of creativity and professionalism one would want in an inspection team leader operating under difficult conditions. Both Phillips and Wallis were involved in the dismantling of the Syrian chemical weapons program and had significant experience operating inside Syria, where conditions were harsh and dangerous. The disarmament inspections they participated in, however, were relatively straightforward affairs, involving verification of declared materials, equipment and facilities, and overseeing their respective disposition and destruction in accordance with a plan of action worked out in cooperation with the Syrian government. These operations were very much in keeping with the procedures and methodologies already in place within the OPCW for inspections of declared chemical weapon storage facilities and chemical weapon destruction facilities.

The disarmament of Syria’s declared chemical weapons inventory was completed in June 2014. The OPCW then took on the task of monitoring Syrian compliance with the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention, setting up two distinct teams. One, the declaration assessment team, or DAT, was tasked with clarifying any issues or discrepancies that might emerge concerning Syria’s declarations of its chemical weapons holdings. The other, the fact-finding mission, or FFM, was given the unenviable job of determining if chemical weapons continued to be used in the ongoing civil war in Syria.

Both the DAT and FFM have experienced considerable challenges in conducting their respective missions. The DAT process is an informal one, in which Syrian cooperation is sought through a series of meetings and site visits. While the OPCW does not attribute responsibility for a chemical weapons attack, the joint investigative mechanism (JIM), set up using resources from both the OPCW and United Nations, does; and in 2016 the JIM issued a report that implicated the Syrian government in several chemical weapons attacks, something the Syrian government strenuously denies. Based upon the findings of the JIM, several new locations were identified as being of inspection interest, and the DAT has taken the lead in obtaining access to these sites by OPCW inspectors, with mixed results.

Since its formation in 2014, the FFM has conducted some 20-odd investigations into possible chemical weapons use in Syria, the most recent of which is its ongoing investigation of the April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhun. Inspections are the bread and butter of the OPCW’s work. Within the range of inspection activities undertaken by the OPCW, perhaps none is more demanding that what is termed investigation of alleged use, or IAU, inspections. The FFM’s mission in Syria consists exclusively of IAU-type inspections.

Before Syria, OPCW-run IAU inspection was a theoretical possibility, not a practical reality. The United Nations had conducted several investigations into the possible use of chemical weapons over the years, most notably during the Iran-Iraq War, in Mozambique in 1992 and in Azerbaijan that same year. Inspections conducted by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) in Iraq included IAU-type investigations, as well as forensic inspections that served as the foundational work for the sampling and analysis (S&A) work that would serve as the heart of the OPCW inspection process.

The gold standard for the conduct of IAU-type inspection was set by the Joint UN-OPCW-World Health Organization (WHO) investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Ghouta, Syria, a suburb of Damascus. This team, led by a veteran Swedish chemical weapons inspector named Ake Sellstrom, produced a report that was virtually unassailable in terms of its scientific and technical findings. One of the reasons for the robust nature of the Sellstrom report was the short time that elapsed between the events in question and the S&A work and related interviews conducted by the team. (Sellstrom benefited from already being deployed in Syria in support of a separate investigation into possible chemical weapons use.)

The primary reason, however, that the Sellstrom report had such credibility was the scientifically sound investigatory techniques used by the inspectors, combined with the unimpeachable methodology used in collecting and managing all evidence associated with the report. The Sellstrom team adhered to the most stringent protocols available, including standard operating procedures developed by the OPCW for S&A operations during inspections. One of the most important concepts underpinning these protocols was the notion of “traceability,” wherein all processes and procedures involved in the inspection were recorded and continuity was maintained for transparency and to withstand future scrutiny. Chain of custody procedures involving sampling were governed by the principle of traceability, under which the retrieval of the samples was recorded and witnessed, the samples sealed, detailed documentation prepared and the samples escorted to the laboratory under inspection team escort.

The Sellstrom standard, however, proved to be difficult to replicate. The FFM confronted this reality during one of its first missions in 2014, investigating a site where the use of chlorine gas was alleged. The team came under armed attack and had to withdraw. “Under these conditions,” OPCW Director-General Üzümcü noted during an address made on the 20th anniversary of the group’s founding, “the choice before the international community is between no investigations at all or investigations that will apply procedures and methods suited to the difficult conditions that we are dealing with in conflict zones.” In short, Üzümcü stated, when it comes to Syria, the Sellstrom standard no longer applied.

This was an odd comment for the director-general to make, given that he is ultimately responsible for establishing a “stringent regime” for collection of samples during the course of any inspection conducted under the auspices of the OPCW. In accordance with its own standard operating procedures and guidelines, OPCW inspectors must be able to demonstrate to all states’ parties that all analysis results have been obtained based upon independent and verifiable bases. The procedures do allow for some flexibility, however, allowing that inspectors must remain open to the realities of specific site conditions and requirements.

The IAU inspection has one and only one goal: to determine the absence of any undeclared scheduled (i.e., proscribed) chemicals at a given site. At the end of the day, for an analysis for absence of undeclared scheduled chemicals to be credible for verification purposes, it must be conducted in accordance with OPCW procedures, fulfilling OPCW quality control/quality assurance criteria, and using the OPCW Central Analytic Database (OCAD) as a reference. Fundamental to this point is the absolute requirement for all sample preparation and analysis conducted as part of inspection to be performed by the inspection team using its own equipment approved for this purpose, in accordance with OPCW standard operating procedures. In the case of an IAU investigation, the inspection team will make use of an “alleged use sample collection kit” that contains the necessary equipment to conduct bulk solid, soil, water, liquid and wipe samples. Of note is the requirement for all items intended to come in contact with the sample to be packed individually for one-time use to prevent potential cross-contamination of samples.

Under the leadership of Steven Wallis and Leonard Phillips, the FFM became the living manifestation of the concept of “flexibility to site conditions and mission requirements.” Samples collected by persons not affiliated with the FFM were accepted by the team, violating the precept of “traceability” that gave the Sellstrom report so much credibility; one example of this breach was the receipt of a weapon that had been recovered by a Russian military unit that subsequent tests revealed to contain sulfur mustard. Phillips, at the head of mission FFM-Alpha, was tasked with investigating the use of chlorine agent in locations in northern Syria that were inaccessible to his team; he developed procedures that permitted a nongovernmental organization, the White Helmets (a volunteer civil defense unit funded and trained by the U.S. and U.K. governments that openly opposes the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad), to locate persons to be interviewed by the FFM, to check the authenticity of any samples and bio-samples provided by the White Helmets, and to make sure the persons interviewed were actually at the site in question.

While these actions were very much in keeping with the guidance of the director-general to develop new procedures suited to the reality of the situation in Syria, they violated every quality control/quality assurance standard set forth under existing OPCW S&A procedures, thereby opening up the findings of the FFM to scrutiny and questioning in a way the Sellstrom report never experienced.

The operations and planning branch of the OPCW’s inspectorate division maintains a 24-hour operations center that includes what is known as the “information cell.” This cell is responsible for collecting all source material regarding worldwide allegations of the use of chemicals as weapons, as well as for assessing the credibility of any source material collected and making judgments regarding the deployment of inspectors in response to this information.

On the morning of April 4, the information cell began monitoring social media and news media reports coming out of Syria regarding an alleged chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhun. Given that the news media reports were largely recirculating the information being put out on social media, the information cell was basically monitoring a single source of information: videos and images published by the White Helmets ostensibly documenting their response to the events in and around Khan Sheikhun.

The graphic nature of these images, combined with the fact that they were being disseminated by an NGO (the White Helmets) with a proven record of cooperating with the OPCW inside Syria, collectively lent the reports enough credence to the information cell for it to recommend that the director-general dispatch the fact finding mission to investigate. The FFM was split into two sub-components; one, headed by Steven Wallis, was deployed to Damascus to coordinate with the Syrian government. The other, headed by Leonard Phillips, was deployed to Turkey, where it reached out to the White Helmets for the purpose of initiating the collection of information and evidence that could be used in any subsequent investigation.

Through information provided by the White Helmets, the FFM element inside Turkey was able to obtain the names of victims from Khan Sheikhun who had been evacuated to Turkey. After coordinating with Turkish officials, the FFM discovered that three of these victims had died and were scheduled for autopsies. Two members of the FFM were able to attend the autopsies and witness the extraction of biomedical samples taken from the victims’ blood, hair, brain, liver and lungs.

It was at this juncture that the haphazard nature of the investigation began to fall apart for the FFM. One of the core tenets of the OPCW is confidentiality—especially with regard to any findings associated with the work of an inspection team. In general, such findings would be made public only at the time the team leader reported to the director-general, and then only after the information had been scrutinized to ensure conformity with confidentiality requirements and OPCW standards of quality control and quality assurance. However, the day after the autopsies took place, Turkish Minister of Health Recep Akdag delivered a public statement that,“based on the test results [of samples taken from the autopsies], evidence was detected in patients which leads one to think they were exposed to a chemical substance [sarin].” The Turkish statement, which noted that the autopsies were “completed with the efforts of … OPCW representatives,” set off a wave of international condemnation of the Syrian government, which cited the Turkish findings as proof that Damascus was to blame for the events in and around Khan Sheikhun. The Turkish government further stated that samples drawn from the autopsies would be dispatched to the OPCW laboratory in Rijswijk, Netherlands, reinforcing the notion of collusion between Ankara and the OPCW.

The Turkish government had set up a decontamination checkpoint in Hatay province, at the border crossing with Syria. Some 34 people claiming to be victims from Khan Sheikhun were processed at this checkpoint before being sent to hospitals in Antakya, Reyhanli and Iskenderun, all in Turkey. Three of these victims subsequently succumbed to their injuries. Of the remaining 31, 10 were identified by the FMM, working together with the White Helmets, as being of investigatory interest. On April 8, the FMM interviewed these survivors and witnessed blood and urine samples being taken. These samples, together with the biomedical samples extracted during the autopsies witnessed by the FFM, were dispatched to Rijswijk later that same day, arriving April 9.

The samples were subsequently divided and dispatched April 10 to two designated laboratories, one in the U.K. and one in France, certified to conduct forensic investigations of inspection samples collected by the OPCW. On April 11, the Turkish Health Ministry again preempted the OPCW by announcing that Turkish labs, in their analysis of the blood samples taken from survivors, confirmed that sarin nerve agent was used in the Khan Sheikhun attacks. The next day, April 12, U.K. Ambassador to the United Nations Matthew Rycroft announced that U.K. specialists had found “sarin or sarin-like” substance in victims’ blood samples. This announcement, when combined with the statement from Turkey the day before, preempted any announcement of the findings by the OPCW of the U.K. designated laboratory, which had reached its preliminary conclusion earlier that day, and significantly undermined any notion of independence on the part of the OPCW in the conduct of its investigation into the Khan Sheikhun incident. (On April 16 the French government released its own assessment of the samples, evaluated at the National Center for Scientific Research, which mirrored that of the British.)

Things only got trickier for the FFM team in Turkey. On April 12 and 13, the team received additional biological-environmental samples, in the form of two dead birds and the hair from a dead goat that the team was told were from the site of the attack; internal organs were taken from the dead birds by the team and forwarded to the OPCW laboratory. Additional environmental samples, in the form of soil and water samples, were turned over to the team by a representative of the White Helmets, who provided the team with photographs and video of the sampling to back up his claim. These samples were sent to Rijswijk on April 21 for processing and subsequent dispatch to designated laboratories for evaluation April 25.

On May 19, the OPCW released a preliminary report on the work of the FFM, including an annotation detailing the findings of the designated laboratories regarding the evaluation of the samples sent by the team. In almost every instance, the laboratory findings showed evidence of “sarin or a sarin-like substance.” Unlike the Sellstrom report on Ghouta in 2013, however, the findings of the FFM were not universally embraced, with Russia in particular questioning the provenance and veracity of the test results, and therefore the credibility of the OPCW itself.

One of the major issues confronting the OPCW in releasing the findings of the FFM is the fact that the inspected states party (ISP), in this case Syria, was removed from the entire process, in violation of the most basic fundamental requirements of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which holds that the ISP is an integral part of the veracity of any inspection; here, the Syrian government was not involved. The CWC specifically notes that the ISP has a right to retain portions of all samples taken; indeed, of the eight portions of each sample created, one is required to be turned over to the ISP, and one kept on site under joint OPCW/ISP seal. This was not done.

Moreover, sampling and analysis operations are the sole purview of trained OPCW inspectors, using “necessary equipment” exclusively drawn from OPCW stores for that purpose. This includes sample vials and bottles, scoops, syringes, wipes and other sampling materials. Each sample taken is supposed to be accompanied by an OPCW sampling and analysis booklet, maintained by the OPCW inspectors, which documents the handling of the sample from collection to final disposition—the very essence of “traceability” that governs the credibility of any findings derived from an assessment of the sample in question.

None of the samples received by the FFM in Turkey, and forwarded to the OPCW for subsequent evaluation in designated laboratories, meets the requirements set forth by the OPCW’s own operating procedures regarding S&A methodology. Even if the FFM accepted at face value the images and videos provided by the White Helmets ostensibly documenting the collection of these samples, the fact that the samples were collected April 4 and only turned over to the FFM on April 12 and 13 creates a week-plus time frame when the location and status of the samples cannot be meaningfully ascertained; the FFM had no way of determining if the samples shown being collected on the White Helmet-provided images and videos were the same material turned over to the FFM.

Moreover, the samples themselves fail to meet any quality control or quality assurance standard set by the OPCW regarding its S&A activities. A cursory examination of the White Helmet videos would show that the collection activity was more theater than real; the individuals conducting the sampling were wearing chemical protective suits suitable for training only (the green suits are clearly labeled “Training”), which means the suits provide no protection from chemical agents. Moreover, there is no scene control, with personnel in full protective ensembles freely mixing with persons having no protection at all. One individual carries a Draeger multi-gas meter, useless in the detection of chemical agents. Samples are thrown haphazardly into a carrying case, and the samples are collected using a single scoop, meaning that there is cross-contamination throughout the process. Cars and motorcycles drive freely through the sampling area, contributing to potential cross-contamination. In short, the videos meant to show the viability of the samples in fact negate their potential utility—these samples should never have been accepted by the FFM, let alone forwarded to the OPCW laboratory for subsequent evaluation at designated laboratories.

As a hazardous materials technician who has trained extensively to operate in a chemical weapons environment (including live agent training at Fort McClellan in Alabama, where I participated in sampling and detection exercises using actual sarin and VX nerve agent), I was appalled by the cavalier approach taken by the White Helmets in conducting their supposed sample collection of sarin-infused material. There was no effort to set up a hot zone (i.e., area of known or suspected contamination), no indication of any meaningful monitoring and detection activity, and no evidence of any effort to decontaminate personnel, equipment or samples.

As a former U.N. chief weapons inspector who has led sampling missions involving great political sensitivity, I was aghast at the collection and handling of what the White Helmets purported to be samples from the chemical attack scene. The samples were virtually unusable as collected—the cross-contamination issues alone should preclude their being used. The lack of any discernable documentation, the lack of any tamper-proof seals, and the lack of viable sampling containers, techniques and methodology likewise meant that anything collected by the White Helmets in the manner indicated on film had absolutely zero inspection utility.

These observations are obvious and self-evident to anyone possessing a modicum of professional training and experience, as certainly the members of the OPCW FFM in Turkey could claim—especially the team leader, Leonard Phillips. When the shock of the nonexistent health and safety standards used by the White Helmets wore off, it became clear to me that this wasn’t simply a scene neutrally depicting the actions of innocents trying to do a good deed. Rather, the videotape of the sampling activities was, like the videos and images of the White Helmets rescuing stricken survivors on April 4, which energized the OPCW information cell into recommending the dispatch of the FFM to begin with, a deliberate effort to deceive. The OPCW fell victim to this deception twice: first in sending the FFM to Turkey, and second in receiving and processing evidence, whether in the form of victims or environmental samples.

But even if one gives the OPCW the benefit of the doubt and forgives its absolute lack of discerning cynicism regarding the work of the White Helmets, the failure on the part of the FFM to adhere to even a modicum of professionalism when considering the samples turned over by the White Helmets is unforgivable. The Russians have singled out the British team leaders of the FFM, in particular Phillips, as being complicit. On the surface, the Russians seem to have a case; it was Phillips, after all, who initiated contact with the White Helmets in 2015, legitimizing their presence in the OPCW inspection process. This embrace of the White Helmets by the OPCW seems to have contributed to its willingness to accept at face value whatever the White Helmets turned over for its use, including videos, samples and victim identification.

Phillips, however, is not the final authority on the work of the FFM in Turkey. This is the purview of the director-general of the OPCW, Ahmet Üzümcü. Before Phillips and his team deployed to Turkey, they were issued an “inspection mandate” by the director-general that detailed the scope of their mission, up to and including the type of equipment to accompany the team. Normally the inspection mandate is an ironclad document derived from the specific authorities enjoyed by an inspection team in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Treaty. But Üzümcü has spoken of the specific need for flexibility in approaching the unique circumstances faced by the FFM. One wonders which specific instructions the inspection mandate for Phillips included—what, for instance, was the nature of the FFM’s relationship with Turkey (not an inspected states party); what was the specific authority given in terms of establishing a working relationship with the White Helmets; and what waivers of procedures and guidelines were granted in terms of sampling and assessment activity?

I have no doubt that Phillips, like his fellow FFM team leader Steven Wallis, is a consummate professional. The notion of an OPCW team leader of his stature deviating from standard operating procedure is virtually unthinkable. At the end of the day, the onus for explaining the conduct of the FFM in Turkey falls on the shoulders of Ahmet Üzümcü. If he indeed provided an inspection mandate with such blatant deviations from the kind of strict procedure-based protocols that give the OPCW its legitimacy, upon whose authority did he do so?

The hand-in-glove relationship between Üzümcü and the governments of Turkey, the United States, the United Kingdom and France that emerges from this process can only lead to the conclusion that, in the desire for regime change in Damascus, the narrow-minded self interests of a few governments, facilitated by an international civil servant lacking the courage to stand up and challenge an abuse of authority by these nations, has led to the discrediting of yet another international disarmament organization.

I witnessed this process firsthand as a weapons inspector with UNSCOM in 1997-1998, when the United States and its British allies exploited the personal failings of the UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler to undermine and ultimately destroy the U.N. disarmament effort on Iraq, all in the name of removing Saddam Hussein from power. Sadly, the same process is being used today regarding the work of the OPCW.

The cooperation of Ahmet Üzümcü in allowing the White Helmets to infiltrate the very inspection processes that gave the OPCW its credibility, and likewise to permit the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Turkey to use this very OPCW investigation process to attack the government of Syria as part of their collective efforts for regime change in Damascus, is a case study in history repeating itself. Ambassador Üzümcü’s cavalier approach toward inspection integrity in the name of “flexibility” has tarnished the once stellar work record of the OPCW and undermined the principles of international peace and security that were inherent in the decision by the Nobel committee to award the organization the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

Russia would do well to stop picking on the two British inspectors, Wallis and Phillips, and instead single out the true culprit in the debacle that has become of the OPCW experience in Syria—Ahmet Üzümcü. His resignation as director-general of the OPCW would be the start of a healing process that would hopefully return the OPCW to the status it once enjoyed as one of the world’s pre-eminent disarmament organizations.

July 7, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Iran says Europe not on agenda of gas exports

Press TV – July 7, 2017

Iran says it has removed an old plan to export natural gas to Europe and is instead focusing on exports to its neighbors as well as India.

Amirhossein Zamaninia, Iran’s deputy minister of petroleum for trade and international affairs, said Europe’s gas market was already saturated with excessive supplies and had thus lost its priority in Iran’s gas export plans.

“Iran’s key priority should be exports to the neighboring states as well as India,” Zamaninia told Iran’s IRNA news agency.

He further emphasized that the landmark nuclear agreement that Iran had sealed with the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany in 2015 and the subsequent removal of sanctions against the Islamic Republic had already provided an appropriate opportunity to pursue plans to export natural gas to the neighboring states.

Iran had for years pursued plans to export natural gas to Europe. A tentative scheme that was developed in cooperation with Nabucco – a consortium led by Austria’s OMV – envisaged piping Iranian natural gas from the southern energy hub of Assaluyeh to Turkey and thereon to Europe. However, Nabucco eventually abandoned Iran in 2008 after complications grew the most important of which were US-engineered sanctions against the Iranian energy sector.

A parallel plan to export Iranian gas to Europe – again through Turkey – has been pursued by Switzerland’s EGL, also known as Elektrizitaetsgesellschaft Laufenburg,

Based on the EGL scheme, the Iranian natural gas would be taken to Greece and Albania through Turkey. It would thereon flow to Italy through a pipeline under the Adriatic Sea before reaching Switzerland. However, this scheme had a fate similar to that of Nabucco.

Over the past few years, Iran had been pursuing exporting natural gas to Kuwait, Oman and Iraq.

In late June, the country started exporting gas to Iraq by virtue of an agreement that was signed in 2013.

Talks over exports to Kuwait and Oman have been presently stalled over technical issues.

An ambitious project to pipe gas to India through Pakistan – that had been in the offing for almost two decades but delayed due to disputes over pricing and the related technicalities – has also been recently revived.

Iran is further exporting about 30 million cubic meters of gas to Turkey which before Iraq was its only export destination since 2001.

July 7, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment