A Turkish court has issued a secrecy order for the proceedings of the trial of former officials accused of intercepting arms which were being transferred in 2014 from the country to the militants fighting the Syrian government.
Suleyman Bagriyanik, the former chief public prosecutor for the Adana region in southern Turkey, prosecutors Ozcan Sisman, Aziz Takci, and Ahmet Karaca, as well as Adana’s previous provincial gendarmerie commander Ozkan Cokay, were allegedly involved in searching Turkish Intelligence Service (MIT) trucks engaged in transporting the weapons to the foreign-backed militants. Local security forces found the trucks were taking not only a consignment of arms but also MIT personnel.
The five went on trial in the capital, Ankara, on Thursday, but the court was swift to subject the session to the gag order.
The former senior law enforcement authorities were accused last year of “attempting to overthrow the Turkish government by using force and violence or attempts to destroy the government’s function totally or partly,” and “getting intelligence over the politics and security of the state.”
Turkish opposition daily Cumhuriyet posted a video on its website on May 29, purportedly showing trucks belonging to the Turkish intelligence agency carrying weapons to the Takfiri terrorists operating in Syria.
Back in July, the office of the chief public prosecutor in Turkey’s southern province of Tarsus sought life imprisonment terms for the former officials.
The center-left paper integrated videos in a June report, implicating the MIT in ensuring safe passage into Syria for the terrorists of the notorious Takfiri group of Daesh, which is fighting both the Syrian government and the violence-ravaged country’s people.
The footage showed drivers admitting that they were “doing their duty to the state” by helping the militants bypass the territory near the heavily-defended Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria.
Syria has been struggling with an implacable militancy since March 2011. The US and its regional allies – especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey – have been widely accused of supporting the militants operating inside Syria.
In broad daylight on May 2, 1997, 50 armed men set upon a television station in Istanbul with gunfire. The attackers unleashed a fusillade of bullets and shouted slogans supporting Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Tansu Ciller. The gunmen were outraged over the station’s broadcast of a TV report critical of Ciller, a close U.S. ally who had come under criticism for stonewalling investigations into collusion between state security forces and Turkish criminal elements.
Miraculously, no one was injured in the attack, but the headquarters of Independent Flash TV were left pock-marked with bullet-holes and smashed windows. The gunfire also sent an unmistakable message to Turkish journalists and legislators: don’t challenge Ciller and other high-level Turkish officials when they cover up state secrets.
Former Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller
For several months, Turkey had been awash in dramatic disclosures connecting high Turkish officials to the right-wing Grey Wolves, the terrorist band which has preyed on the region for years. In 1981, a terrorist from the Grey Wolves attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in Vatican City.
But at the center of the mushrooming Turkish scandal is whether Turkey, a strategically placed NATO country, allowed mafiosi and right-wing extremists to operate death squads and to smuggle drugs with impunity. A Turkish parliamentary commission is investigating these new charges.
The rupture of state secrets in Turkey also could release clues to other major Cold War mysteries. Besides the attempted papal assassination, the Turkish disclosures could shed light on the collapse of the Vatican bank in 1982 and the operation of a clandestine pipeline that pumped sophisticated military hardware into the Middle East — apparently from NATO stockpiles in Europe — in exchange for heroin sold by the Mafia in the United States.
The official Turkish inquiry was triggered by what could have been the opening scene of a spy novel: a dramatic car crash on a remote highway near the village of Susurluk, 100 miles southwest of Istanbul. On Nov. 3, 1996, three people were crushed to death when their speeding black Mercedes hit a tractor.
The crash killed Husseyin Kocadag, a top police official who commanded Turkish counter-insurgency units. But it was Kocadag’s company that stunned the nation. The two other dead were Abdullah Catli, a convicted fugitive who was wanted for drug trafficking and murder, and Catli’s girlfriend, Gonca Us, a Turkish beauty queen turned mafia hit-woman.
A fourth occupant, who survived the crash, was Kurdish warlord Sedat Bucak, whose militia had been armed and financed by the Turkish government to fight Kurdish separatists. At first, Turkish officials claimed that the police were transporting two captured criminals.
But evidence seized at the crash site indicated that Abdullah Catli, the fugitive gangster, had been given special diplomatic credentials by Turkish authorities. Catli was carrying a government-approved weapons permit and six ID cards, each with a different name. Catli also possessed several handguns, silencers and a cache of narcotics, not the picture of a subdued criminal.
When it became obvious that Catli was a police collaborator, not a captive, the Turkish Interior Minister resigned. Several high-ranking law enforcement officers, including Istanbul’s police chief, were suspended. But the red-hot scandal soon threatened to jump that bureaucratic firebreak and endanger the careers of other senior government officials.
Grey Wolves Terror
The news of Catli’s secret police ties were all the more scandalous given his well-known role as a key leader of the Grey Wolves, a neo-fascist terrorist group that has stalked Turkey since the late 1960s.
A young tough who wore black leather pants and looked like Turkey’s answer to Elvis Presley, Catli graduated from street gang violence to become a brutal enforcer for the Grey Wolves. He rose quickly within their ranks, emerging as second-in-command in 1978. That year, Turkish police linked him to the murder of seven trade-union activists and Catli went underground.
Three years later, the Grey Wolves gained international notoriety when Mehmet Ali Agca, one of Catli’s closest collaborators, shot and nearly killed Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981. Catli was the leader of a fugitive terrorist cell that included Agca and a handful of other Turkish neo-fascists.
Testifying in September 1985 as a witness at the trial of three Bulgarians and four Turks charged with complicity in the papal shooting in Rome, Catli (who was not a defendant) disclosed that he gave Agca the pistol that wounded the pontiff. Catli had previously helped Agca escape from a Turkish jail, where Agca was serving time for killing a national newspaper editor.
In addition to harboring Agca, Catli supplied him with fake IDs and directed Agca’s movements in West Germany, Switzerland, and Austria for several months prior to the papal attack. Catli enjoyed close links to Turkish drug mafiosi, too. His Grey Wolves henchmen worked as couriers for the Turkish mob boss Abuzer Ugurlu.
At Ugurlu’s behest, Catli’s thugs criss-crossed the infamous smugglers’ route passing through Bulgaria. Those routes were the ones favored by smugglers who reportedly carried NATO military equipment to the Middle East and returned with loads of heroin. Judge Carlo Palermo, an Italian magistrate based in Trento, discovered these smuggling operations while investigating arms-and-drug trafficking from Eastern Europe to Sicily.
Palermo disclosed that large quantities of sophisticated NATO weaponry — including machine guns, Leopard tanks and U.S.-built Cobra assault helicopters — were smuggled from Western Europe to countries in the Middle East during the 1970s and early 1980s. According to Palermo’s investigation, the weapon delivers were often made in exchange for consignments of heroin that filtered back, courtesy of the Grey Wolves and other smugglers, through Bulgaria to northern Italy.
There, the drugs were received by Mafia middlemen and transported to North America. Turkish morphine base supplied much of the Sicilian-run “Pizza connection,” which flooded the U.S. and Europe with high-grade heroin for several years.
[While it is still not clear how the NATO supplies entered the pipeline, other investigations have provided some clues. Witnesses in the October Surprise inquiry into an alleged Republican-Iranian hostage deal in 1980 claimed that they were allowed to select weapons from NATO stockpiles in Europe for shipment to Iran. [Iranian arms dealer Houshang Lavi claimed that he selected spare parts for Hawk anti-aircraft batteries from NATO bases along the Belgian-German border. Another witness, American arms broker William Herrmann, corroborated Lavi’s account of NATO supplies going to Iran. [Even former NATO commander Alexander Haig confirmed that NATO supplies could have gone to Iran in the early 1980s while he was secretary of state. “It wouldn’t be preposterous if a nation, Germany, for example, decided to let some of their NATO stockpiles be diverted to Iran,” Haig said in an interview. For more details, see Robert Parry’s Trick or Treason. ]A Vatican Mystery
Italian magistrates described the network they had uncovered as the “world’s biggest illegal arms trafficking organization.” They linked it to Middle Eastern drug empires and to prestigious banking circles in Italy and Europe.
At the center of this operation, it appeared, was an obscure import-export firm in Milan called Stibam International Transport. The head of Stibam, a Syrian businessman named Henri Arsan, also functioned as an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to several Italian news outlets.
With satellite offices in New York, London, Zurich, and Sofia, Bulgaria, Stibam officials recycled their profits through Banco Ambrosiano, Italy’s largest private bank which had close ties to the Vatican until its sensational collapse in 1982. The collapse of Banco Ambrosiano came on the heels of the still unsolved death of its furtive president, Roberto Calvi, whose body was found hanging underneath Blackfriar’s Bridge in London in June 1982.
While running Ambrosiano, Calvi, nicknamed “God’s banker,” served as advisor to the Vatican’s extensive fiscal portfolio. At the same time in the mid- and late 1970s, Calvi’s bank handled most of Stibam’s foreign currency transactions and owned the building that housed Stibam’s Milanese headquarters.
In effect, the Vatican Bank — by virtue of its interlocking relationship with Banco Ambrosiano — was fronting for a gigantic contraband operation that specialized in guns and heroin. The bristling contraband operation that traversed Bulgaria was a magnet for secret service agents on both sides of the Cold War divide.
Crucial, in this regard, was the role of Kintex, a Sofia-based, state-controlled import-export firm that worked in tandem with Stibam and figured prominently in the arms trade. Kintex was riddled with Bulgarian and Soviet spies — a fact which encouraged speculation that the KGB and its Bulgarian proxies were behind the plot against the pope.
But Western intelligence also had its hooks into the Bulgarian smuggling scene, as evidenced by the CIA’s use of Kintex to channel weapons to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in the early 1980s. The Reagan administration jumped on the papal assassination attempt as a propaganda opportunity, rather than helping to unravel the larger mystery.
Although the CIA’s link to the arms-for-drugs traffic in Bulgaria was widely known in espionage circles, hard-line U.S. and Western European officials promoted instead a bogus conspiracy theory that blamed the papal shooting on a communist plot.
The so-called “Bulgarian connection” became one of the more effective disinformation schemes hatched during the Reagan era. It reinforced the notion of the Soviet Union as an evil empire. But the apparent hoax also diverted attention from extensive — and potentially embarrassing — ties between U.S. intelligence and the Turkey’s narco-trafficking ultra-right.
Fabrication of the conspiracy theory might have even involved suborning perjury. During his September 1985 court testimony in Rome, Catli asserted that he had been approached by the West German BND spy organization, which allegedly promised him a large sum of money if he implicated the Bulgarian secret service and the KGB in the attempt on the pope’s life.
Five years later, ex-CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman disclosed that his colleagues, under pressure from CIA higher-ups, skewed their reports to try to lend credence to the contention that the Soviets were involved. “The CIA had no evidence linking the KGB to the plot,” Goodman told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Friends of the Wolves
Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, the CIA station chief in Rome at the time of the papal shooting, had previously been posted in Ankara. Clarridge was the CIA’s man-on-the-spot in Turkey in the 1970s when armed bands of Grey Wolves unleashed a wave of bomb attacks and shootings that killed thousands of people, including public officials, journalists, students, lawyers, labor organizers, social democrats, left-wing activists and ethnic Kurds. [In his 1997 memoirs, A Spy for All Seasons, Clarridge makes no reference to the Turkish unrest or to the pope shooting.]
During those violent 1970s, the Grey Wolves operated with the encouragement and protection of the Counter-Guerrilla Organization, a section of the Turkish Army’s Special Warfare Department. Headquartered in the U.S. Military Aid Mission building in Ankara, the Special Warfare Department received funds and training from U.S. advisors to create “stay behind” squads comprised of civilian irregulars.
They were supposed to go underground and engage in acts of sabotage if the Soviets invaded. Similar Cold War paramilitary units were established in every NATO member state, covering all non-Communist Europe like a spider web that would entangle Soviet invaders. But instead of preparing for foreign enemies, U.S.-sponsored stay-behind operatives in Turkey and several European countries used their skills to attack domestic opponents and foment violent disorders.
Some of those attacks were intended to spark right-wing military coups. In the late 1970s, former military prosecutor and Turkish Supreme Court Justice Emin Deger documented collaboration between the Grey Wolves and the government’s counter-guerrilla forces as well as the close ties of the latter to the CIA.
Turkey’s Counter-Guerrilla Organization handed out weapons to the Grey Wolves and other right-wing terrorist groups. These shadowy operations mainly engaged in the surveillance, persecution and torture of Turkish leftists, according to retired army commander Talat Turhan, the author of three books on counter-guerrilla activities in Turkey.
But the extremists launched one wave of political violence which provoked a 1980 coup by state security forces that deposed Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit. The Turkish security forces cited the need to restore order which had been shattered by rightist terrorist groups secretly sponsored by those same state security forces.
Cold War Roots
Since the earliest days of the Cold War, Turkey’s strategic importance derived from its geographic position as the West’s easternmost bulwark against Soviet communism. In an effort to weaken the Soviet state, the CIA also used pan-Turkish militants to incite anti-Soviet passions among Muslim Turkish minorities inside the Soviet Union, a strategy that strengthened ties between U.S. intelligence and Turkey’s ultra-nationalists.
Though many of Turkish ultra-nationalists were anti-Western as well as anti-Soviet, the Cold War realpolitik compelled them to support a discrete alliance with NATO and U.S. intelligence. Among the Turkish extremists collaborating in this anti-Soviet strategy were the National Action Party and its paramilitary youth group, the Grey Wolves.
Led by Colonel Alpaslan Turkes, the National Action Party espoused a fanatical pan-Turkish ideology that called for reclaiming large sections of the Soviet Union under the flag of a reborn Turkish empire. Turkes and his revanchist cohorts had been enthusiastic supporters of Hitler during World War II.
“The Turkish race above all others” was their Nazi-like credo. In a similar vein, Grey Wolf literature warned of a vast Jewish-Masonic-Communist conspiracy and its newspapers carried ads for Turkish translations of Nazi texts.
The pan-Turkish dream and its anti-Soviet component also fueled ties between the Grey Wolves and the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN), a CIA-backed coalition led by erstwhile fascist collaborators from East Europe.
Ruzi Nazar, a leading figure in the Munich-based ABN, had a long-standing relationship with the CIA and the Turkish ultra-nationalists. In the 1950s and 1960s, Nazar was employed by Radio Free Europe, a CIA-founded propaganda effort.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the shifting geopolitical terrain created new opportunities — political and financial — for Colonel Turkes and his pan-Turkish crusaders. After serving a truncated prison term in the 1980s for his role in masterminding the political violence that convulsed Turkey, Turkes and several of his pan-Turkish colleagues were permitted to resume their political activities.
In 1992, the colonel visited his long lost Turkish brothers in newly independent Azerbaijan and received a hero’s welcome. In Baku, Turkes endorsed the candidacy of Grey Wolf sympathizer Abulfex Elcibey, who was subsequently elected president of Azerbaijan and appointed a close Grey Wolf ally as his Interior Minister.
The Gang Returns
By this time, Abdullah Catli was also back in circulation after several years of incarceration in France and Switzerland for heroin trafficking. In 1990, he escaped from a Swiss jail cell and rejoined the neo-fascist underground in Turkey.
Despite his documented links to the papal shooting and other terrorist attacks, Catli was pressed into service as a death squad organizer for the Turkish government’s dirty war against the Kurds who have long struggled for independence inside both Turkey and Iraq.
Turkish Army spokesmen acknowledged that the Counter-Guerrilla Organization (renamed the Special Forces Command in 1992) was involved in the escalating anti-Kurdish campaign. Turkey got a wink and a nod from Washington as a quid pro quo for cooperating with the United States during the Gulf War.
Turkish jets bombed Kurdish bases inside Iraqi territory. Meanwhile, on the ground, anti-Kurdish death squads were assassinating more than 1,000 non-combatants in southeastern Turkey. Hundreds of other Kurds “disappeared” while in police custody. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the European Parliament all condemned the Turkish security forces for these abuses.
Still, there was no hard evidence that Turkey’s security forces had recruited criminal elements as foot soldiers. That evidence surfaced only on Nov. 3, 1996, when Catli died in the fateful auto accident near Susurluk.
Strewn amidst the roadside wreckage was proof of what many journalists and human rights activists had long suspected — that successive Turkish governments had protected narco-traffickers, sheltered terrorists and sponsored gangs of killers to suppress Turkish dissidents and Kurdish rebels.
Colonel Turkes confirmed that Catli had performed clandestine duties for Turkey’s police and military. “On the basis of my state experience, I admit that Catli has been used by the state,” said Turkes. Catli had been cooperating “in the framework of a secret service working for the good of the state,” Turkes insisted.
U.S.-backed Turkish officials, including Tansu Ciller, Prime Minister from 1993-1996, also defended Catli after the car crash. “I don’t know whether he is guilty or not,” Ciller stated, “but we will always respectfully remember those who fire bullets or suffer wounds in the name of this country, this nation and this state.”
Eighty members of the Turkish parliament urged the federal prosecutor to file charges of criminal misconduct against Ciller, who was serving as Turkey’s Foreign Minister, as well as Deputy Prime Minister. They asserted that the Susurluk incident provided Turkey “with a historic opportunity to expose unsolved murders and the drugs and arms smuggling that have been going on in our country for years.”
The scandal momentarily reinvigorated the Turkish press, which unearthed revelations about criminals and police officials involved in the heroin trade. But journalists also were victims of death squads in those years. The violent attack on Independent Flash TV was a reminder. Prosecutors have faced pressure, too, from superiors who are not eager to delve into state secrets. [Ultimately, the corruption case against Ciller was covered up.]
Across the Atlantic in Washington, the U.S. government did not acknowledge any responsibility for the Turkish Frankenstein that U.S. Cold War strategy helped to create. When asked about the Susurluk affair, a State Department spokesperson said it was “an internal Turkish matter.” He declined further comment.
In late August 2013, the Obama administration lurched to the brink of invading Syria after blaming a Sarin gas attack outside Damascus on President Bashar al-Assad’s government, but evidence – reported by investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh – implicates Turkish intelligence and extremist Syrian rebels instead.
The significance of Hersh’s report is twofold: first, it shows how Official Washington’s hawks and neocons almost stampeded the United States into another Mideast war under false pretenses, and second, the story’s publication in the London Review of Books reveals how hostile the mainstream U.S. media remains toward information that doesn’t comport with its neocon-dominated conventional wisdom.
In other words, it appears that Official Washington and its mainstream press have absorbed few lessons from the disastrous Iraq War, which was launched in 2003 under the false claim that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was planning to share hidden stockpiles of WMD with al-Qaeda, when there was no WMD nor any association between Hussein and al-Qaeda.
A decade later in August and September 2013, as a new war hysteria broke out over Assad allegedly crossing President Barack Obama’s “red line” against using chemical weapons, it fell to a few Internet sites, including our own Consortiumnews.com, to raise questions about the administration’s allegations that pinned the Aug. 21 attack on the Syrian government.
Not only did the U.S. government fail to provide a single piece of verifiable evidence to support its claims, a much-touted “vector analysis” by Human Rights Watch and The New York Times – supposedly tracing the flight paths of two rockets back to a Syrian military base northwest of Damascus – collapsed when it became clear that only one rocket carried Sarin and its range was less than one-third the distance between the army base and the point of impact. That meant the rocket carrying the Sarin appeared to have originated in rebel territory.
There were other reasons to doubt the Obama administration’s casus belli, including the irrationality of Assad ordering a chemical weapons strike outside Damascus just as United Nations inspectors were unpacking at a local hotel with plans to investigate an earlier attack that the Syrian government blamed on the rebels.
Assad would have known that a chemical attack would have diverted the inspectors (as it did) and would force President Obama to declare that his “red line” had been crossed, possibly prompting a massive U.S. retaliatory strike (as it almost did).
Plans for War
Hersh’s article describes how devastating the U.S. aerial bombardment was supposed to be, seeking to destroy Assad’s military capability, which, in turn, could have cleared the way to victory for the Syrian rebels, whose fortunes had been declining.
Hersh wrote: “Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’: two wings of B-52 bombers were shifted to airbases close to Syria, and navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles were deployed.
“‘Every day the target list was getting longer,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The Pentagon planners said we can’t use only Tomahawks to strike at Syria’s missile sites because their warheads are buried too far below ground, so the two B-52 air wings with two-thousand pound bombs were assigned to the mission. Then we’ll need standby search-and-rescue teams to recover downed pilots and drones for target selection. It became huge.’
“The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had’, the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.”
According to Hersh, the administration’s war plans were disrupted by U.S. and British intelligence analysts who uncovered evidence that the Sarin was likely not released by the Assad government and indications that Turkey’s intelligence services may have collaborated with radical rebels to deploy the Sarin as a false-flag operation.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan sided with the Syrian opposition early in the civil conflict and provided a vital supply line to the al-Nusra Front, a violent group of Sunni extremists with ties to al-Qaeda and increasingly the dominant rebel fighting force. By 2012, however, internecine conflicts among rebel factions had contributed to Assad’s forces gaining the upper hand.
The role of Islamic radicals – and the fear that advanced U.S. weapons might end up in the hands of al-Qaeda terrorists – unnerved President Obama who pulled back on U.S. covert support for the rebels. That frustrated Erdoğan who pressed Obama to expand U.S. involvement, according to Hersh’s account.
Hersh wrote: “By the end of 2012, it was believed throughout the American intelligence community that the rebels were losing the war. ‘Erdoğan was pissed,’ the former intelligence official said, ‘and felt he was left hanging on the vine. It was his money and the [U.S] cut-off was seen as a betrayal.’”
‘Red Line’ Worries
Recognizing Obama’s political sensitivity over his “red line” pledge, the Turkish government and Syrian rebels saw chemical weapons as the way to force the President’s hand, Hersh reported, writing: “In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability.
“‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training – including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there. Erdoğan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics – the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoğan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond [to small chemical weapons attacks] in March and April.’”
The dispute between Erdoğan and Obama came to a head at a White House meeting on May 16, 2013, when Erdoğan unsuccessfully lobbied for a broader U.S. military commitment to the rebels, Hersh reported.
Three months later, in the early hours of Aug. 21, 2013, a mysterious missile delivered a lethal load of Sarin into a suburb east of Damascus. The Obama administration and the mainstream U.S. press corps immediately jumped to the conclusion that the Syrian government had launched the attack, which the U.S. government claimed killed at least “1,429” people although the number of victims cited by doctors and other witnesses on the scene was much lower.
Yet, with the media stampede underway, anyone who questioned the U.S. government’s case was trampled under charges of being an “Assad apologist.” But we few skeptics continued to point out the lack of evidence to support the rush to war. Obama also encountered political resistance in both the British Parliament and U.S. Congress, but hawks in the U.S. State Department were itching for a new war.
Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a bellicose speech on Aug. 30, 2013, amid expectations that the U.S. bombs would start flying within days. But Obama hesitated, first referring the war issue to Congress and later accepting a compromise brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin to have Assad surrender all of his chemical weapons even as Assad continued denying any role in the Aug. 21 attacks.
Obama took the deal but continued asserting publicly that Assad was guilty and disparaging anyone who thought otherwise. In a formal address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2013, Obama declared, “It’s an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.”
Suspicions of Turkey
However, by autumn 2013, U.S. intelligence analysts were among those who had joined in the “insult to human reason” as their doubts about Assad’s guilt grew. Hersh cited an ex-intelligence official saying: “the US intelligence analysts who kept working on the events of 21 August ‘sensed that Syria had not done the gas attack. But the 500 pound gorilla was, how did it happen? The immediate suspect was the Turks, because they had all the pieces to make it happen.’
“As intercepts and other data related to the 21 August attacks were gathered, the intelligence community saw evidence to support its suspicions. ‘We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular.
“‘Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey – that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’
“Much of the support for that assessment came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack. ‘Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts. Operations are always so super-secret in the planning but that all flies out the window when it comes to crowing afterwards. There is no greater vulnerability than in the perpetrators claiming credit for success.’”
According to the thinking of Turkish intelligence, Hersh reported, “Erdoğan’s problems in Syria would soon be over: ‘Off goes the gas and Obama will say red line and America is going to attack Syria, or at least that was the idea. But it did not work out that way.’”
Hersh added that the U.S. intelligence community has been reluctant to pass on to Obama the information contradicting the Assad-did-it scenario. Hersh wrote:
“The post-attack intelligence on Turkey did not make its way to the White House. ‘Nobody wants to talk about all this,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘There is great reluctance to contradict the president, although no all-source intelligence community analysis supported his leap to convict. There has not been one single piece of additional evidence of Syrian involvement in the sarin attack produced by the White House since the bombing raid was called off. My government can’t say anything because we have acted so irresponsibly. And since we blamed Assad, we can’t go back and blame Erdoğan.’”
Like the bloody U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the near U.S. air war against Syria in 2013 is a cautionary tale for Americans regarding the dangers that result when the U.S. government and mainstream media dance off hand in hand, leaping to conclusions and laughing at doubters.
The key difference between the war in Iraq and the averted war on Syria was that President Obama was not as eager as his predecessor, George W. Bush, to dress himself up as a “war president.” Another factor was that Obama had the timely assistance of Russian President Putin to chart a course that skirted the abyss.
Given how close the U.S. neocons came to maneuvering a reluctant Obama into another “regime change” war on a Mideast adversary of Israel, you can understand why they are so angry with Putin and why they were so eager to hit back at him in Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
The trouble with arrogance is that it is intellectually blinding; and the trouble with being intellectually blind is that you fail to see your own contradictions – no matter how preposterous those contradictions may be.
The arrogant ones we are referring to here are the United States and its Western allies. In the past week, Washington has been up in arms about Russia’s decision to step up its military support for the government of Syria. The Americans are calling on Moscow for “clarification” and are getting all hot under the collar about what they say is unwarranted Russian support for the “regime” of Bashar al-Assad.
This finger-wagging from Washington comes at the same time that a US-led military coalition continues to bomb Syria for nearly 12 months.
This week, US warplanes striking Syria were joined by fighter jets from Australia for the first time in those operations, which are allegedly aimed at hitting the Islamic State terror group within the country. France and Britain are also expected to soon join the bombing runs inside Syrian territory.
Now hold on a moment. Let’s get this straight. The US and its allies have appointed themselves to carry out air strikes on a sovereign country – Syria – without having approval from the government of that country, or without a mandate from the UN Security Council.
Thus, the legality of these US-led air strikes – which have resulted in numerous civilian casualties – is therefore of highly dubious status, if not constituting flagrant violation of international law.
Yet the arrogant Western powers, led by the US, have the temerity to lecture Russia about its decision to supply weapons to the government of Syria.
As Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed out, the military equipment being sent to Syria is consistent with long-standing and legal bilateral agreements between the two allied countries. Russia and Syria have been allies for nearly 40 years.
There is nothing untoward going on – unlike the Western aerial bombing campaign.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin went further in defending the military aid to Syria by saying that it was necessary to help its ally “fight against terrorist aggression”.
For the past four years, the Syrian national army has been battling against an array of foreign mercenaries whose main formations comprise al Qaeda-linked terror groups, such as Al Nusra Front and Islamic State. Putin is correct when he says that the Syrian government forces are the primary fighting front against the jihadist terror networks.
If Western countries are serious about defeating these same terror groups – as they claim to be – then they should be supportive of the Syrian government, as Russia is.
America’s top diplomat John Kerry says that Russia’s support for Syria will “exacerbate and extend the conflict” and will “undermine our shared goal of fighting extremism”. His Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov rightly dismissed Kerry’s objection as “upside-down logic”.
Arrogance not only blinds to contradictions; it evidently leads sufferers of the condition to speak nonsense.
Here’s how the New York Times this week reported the Russia-Syria development:
“The move by Russia to bolster the government of President Bashar al-Assad, who has resisted Mr. Obama’s demand to step down for years, underscored the conflicting approaches to fighting the Islamic State terrorist organisation. While Mr. Obama supports a rival rebel group to take on the Islamic State even as he opposes Mr. Assad, Russia contends that the government is the only force that can defeat the Islamic extremists.”
Note the arrogance laden in those words. With breezy casualness, the Western view is that the Syrian leader has “resisted Mr. Obama’s demand to step down for years”.
Again, just like the presumed “right” to bomb a sovereign country, it is an American presumed right to decide whether a leader of another state should stand down.
Who are the Americans or any other government to decide something that is the prerogative of the Syrian people? At this point, it should be mentioned by the way that the Syrian people voted to re-elect President Assad by a huge majority – nearly 80 per cent – in the country’s last election in 2012.
But here is the fatal contradiction in the logic of the US and its Western allies. According to the New York Times, Obama “supports a rival rebel group to take on the Islamic State even as he opposes Mr. Assad”.
That proposition is simply not true. In fact, it is delusional. Even the Americans have elsewhere admitted that there is no “rival rebel group” in Syria. After years of pretending that the West was supporting “moderate rebels” in Syria, the reality is that the war against the Syrian state has been waged by jihadist extremists covertly armed and bankrolled by the US and its allies, Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Former director of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, in an interview with the Al Jazeera news channel back in July, candidly admitted that Washington was well aware that it was supporting the Islamic State and other terror groups as the main anti-government forces. It was a “willful decision” said Flynn because Washington wanted regime change in Syria.
Regime change, it needs to be emphasized, amounts to criminal interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. And regime change is something that Washington and its European allies are all too habitually complicit in, as with Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011 and Ukraine in 2014, to mention just a few.
From that “willful decision” by Washington, Syria has been plunged into four years of unrelenting war with a death toll of some 240,000 people. Over half its 24 million population has been displaced, with hundreds of thousands surging towards Europe in desperation. Terrorism has now become an even greater regional security problem threatening to tear other countries asunder through sectarian violence.
So, when Washington and its Western allies pontificate to Russia about terrorism and what to do or not to do in Syria, they are best ignored with the contempt they deserve. Arrogant, blind and criminal are not qualifications for international leadership.
The US’ obsessive insistence that “Assad must go” is the most dangerous expression of American arrogance in years.
White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest channeled President Obama’s famous chant that “Assad must go” when he claimed during a regular press briefing that:
“The international community has decided that it’s time for Assad to go. He clearly has lost legitimacy to lead. He has lost the confidence of those citizens of his country — at least the ones that — or I guess I should say particularly the ones that he is using the resources of the military to attack.”
The arrogance on display is both stupefying and dangerous. The problem in Syria isn’t, nor ever has been, President Assad – it’s always been the US’ arrogance in dictating demands and then militarily enforcing them after they’ve been rejected.
Syria’s ills are directly traceable to the failure of American foreign policy in the Mideast. The US rabidly went on a regime change streak that began during the Bush years, with former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe for NATO General Wesley Clark revealing in his 2007 memoirs that a senior general showed him a memo and said:
“‘Here’s the paper from the Office of the Secretary of Defense [then Donald Rumsfeld] outlining the strategy. We’re going to take out seven countries in five years.’ And he named them, starting with Iraq and Syria and ending with Iran.”
Earlier that year, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote an expose in The New Yorker in which he detailed, among other proposed regional regime change specifics, that the Bush Administration was planning to use the Muslim Brotherhood to launch a Gulf-funded sectarian war against the Syrian government.
At the time, the reason was supposedly because of Damascus’ closeness to Tehran, but later information as reported by The Guardian reveals that the decision to build a Friendship Pipeline between Iran, Iraq, and Syria in 2010, and Damascus’ rejection of a similar one from Qatar, likely had a lot to do with why the anti-government terrorist plan was pushed forward for activation the year after.
Beginning in 2011, the Mideast was rocked by the so-called “Arab Spring”, which Russian General Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov would in hindsight categorize as a theater-wide Color Revolution during an official conference on the topic last year in Moscow.
What the US had wanted to do is overthrow all of the Mideast’s republics (even those allied with the US such a Egypt) in order to bring a transnational Muslim Brotherhood clique to power in each of them that would thus make it a lot easier to control the entire region.
Think of it as the neocons’ version of a 21st-century communist party, but directed towards control of the Mideast and not Europe (which has the EU for that).
The Gulf Monarchies were not targeted because of their staunch pro-American allegiance and the potential that any domestic disruption would have in upsetting the US’ economic interests there.
Between the pro-American Gulf Monarchies and the pro-American EU thus lay a handful of republics that weren’t so firmly under the US’ sway (or not at all influenced by it like Syria), so in order for the US to securely control the broad swatch of Afro-Eurasia stretching from Iceland to Yemen, it needed to overthrow those governments, ergo the “Arab Spring” Color Revolutions.
The People’s Will
But something went wrong as it always does with the US’ plans, and it was that the Syrian people wholeheartedly rejected the Muslim Brotherhood’s ploy at regime change, instead favoring to preserve the secular and multicultural society that Syrian civilization is historically known for.
For this simple reason, the Color Revolution attempt was a dismal failure from the very beginning, hence why the US and its allies (notably Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia) sought to transform it into an Unconventional War by arming their proxies and ordering them to escalate their soft coup attempt into a hard one.
The resultant Hybrid War that’s been raging for the past four and a half years is thus a manifestation of the US’ geopolitical obsession for regime change. Far from realizing that the people had resoundingly rejected such an approach from the very beginning, the US and its allies dug in by reinforcing their proxy elements inside the country and allowing foreign fighters to flood into Syria via the Turkish border.
Amidst this external onslaught being launched against them, the Syrian people continued to bravely soldier on and democratically show the rest of the world that they supported their government.
A constitutional referendum in 2012 passed by an 89% margin and with the participation of 57% of the population, while President Assad was reelected in 2014 with 88.7% of the vote in which 73% of the electorate took part.
Both sets of numbers trump the civil society participation and political legitimacy of Western countries and their leaders, and as President Assad once said, there is no way he could remain in office during this war if he didn’t truly have the support of the vast majority of the population.
It’s also telling that most of the country’s refugees haven’t fled the country, but have instead decided to stay in their homeland and seek safety under the protection of the Syrian Arab Army, which currently provides security to around 80% of Syria’s citizens.
Be that as it is, the US and its allies stubbornly ignored the people’s will, and instead continued to blindly pump weapons and fighters into the country in clear confirmation of the adage that insanity is “repeating the same thing over again but expecting different results”.
Ground Zero In The War On Terror
All of those fighters and weapons that the US and its allies were shipping into Syria were bound to lead to some major problems, chief among them the rise of ISIL, but this was actually predicted and supported by the US government a couple years ago. Judicial Watch published a declassified report that it received in May from a Freedom Of Information Act request that proves that the Pentagon’s Defense Information Agency thought that:
“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).”
This bombshell dovetails with what Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riyad Haddad recently said in an interview where he accused the US of using terrorism to promote regime change in his country. President Putin followed up at the CSTO summit by warning countries of the risks inherent in employing double-standards towards terrorists and directly or indirectly using them to further certain tactical objectives.
In order to stem the tide of terror that the US unleashed in the Mideast, Russia is rapidly moving forward with assembling an inclusive anti-ISIL coalition, and President Putin is expected to use his keynote speech at the UN General Assembly later this month to make his case that the situation is far too pressing to care about regime change, and that the world must unite in supporting Syria as it fights on its behalf on the frontlines against terror.
American arrogance got the world into this mess, but if you ask Russia, it’ll be Syrian humility that gets it out in one piece.
Today’s lesson in how propaganda works: The rumor mill turns a trickle of a story early this week about “thousands” of Russian soldiers deploying to Syria any day — a wholly unsourced story originating on an Israeli website — into a torrent of hyperventilating about the “Russian invasion” of Syria.
Today neocon convicted felon Eliot Abrams took to the Council on Foreign Relations website to amplify the Israeli article (again with no sources or evidence) to a whole new and more dramatic article ominously titled “Putin in Syria.” Abrams adds “reporting” by Michael Weiss, who has long been on the payroll of viscerally anti-Putin oligarch Michael Khodorkovsky, without revealing the obvious bias in the source. Never mind, all Weiss adds to Abrams’ argument is that the Pentagon is “cagey” about discussing Russian involvement in Syria before again referencing the original (unsourced) Israeli article.
See how this works? Multiple media outlets report based on the same totally unsourced article and suddenly all the world’s writing about the Russian invasion of Syria.
Now the White House has gotten into the game. According to an article by Agence France Press, the White House is “monitoring reports” that the Russians are active in Syria.
What reports? The article does not say nor does the White House. Presumably the White House is referring back to the original (unsourced) Israeli article.
But in the category of never let a good “crisis” go to waste, the White House, which began bombing Syria last August in violation of both international and US law, has declared that any Russian involvement in the Syria crisis would be “destabilizing and counterproductive.”
Apparently a year of US bombs is not “destabilizing.”
This is where the hypocrisy is so thick you could cut it with a knife. The US is illegally bombing Syria, illegally violating Syrian sovereignty, illegally training and equipping foreign fighters to overthrow the Syrian government, and has backed radical jihadists through covert and overt programs.
ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria were solely the products of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq under false pretenses — the lies of the neocons — and after a year of US bombing ISIS seems as strong as ever while scores of civilians are killed by US attacks.
All of this is perfectly fine and should never be questioned. But even the hint that the Russians, who have had to contend with their fair share of radical Islam and are much closer to Syria than the US, may have an interest in joining the fight against ISIS is met with hysterical reproaches by a White House that admits it has no evidence.
What is the White House afraid of? While the stated goal of the Obama Administration is to defeat ISIS, the real, long-term goal is to overthrow Assad. The Russians disagree with the US insistence that Assad’s departure must be the starting point of any political settlement of the crisis. The Russians have long ago come to understand that Assad may be key to saving Syria from the kind of jihadist chaos that has engulfed Libya after its “liberation” by the US and its allies.
That is why the US government is flirting with the (unsourced Israeli) rumors of a massive Russian invasion of Syria. Regurgitated cries that the Russians are coming may serve to divert attention from another failed US intervention in the region.
One might think that if the US was serious about defeating ISIS it would welcome involvement from Russia and Iran, both of which would like nothing more than to see the back of the Islamic State. One might think if the US was serious about defeating ISIS it would rethink its “Assad must go” policy and allow the one force that has the most incentive to defeat ISIS — the Syrian Arab Army.
Yet the US will only work with the same states that have trained, funded, and turned a blind eye to the radical Islamic fighters as they have poured into Syria over the past four years — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, etc.
Conspiracy-minded people must be wondering why the US is so reluctant to accept assistance from forces that so earnestly and with such military capacity seek the end of ISIS while partnering with those forces that have done so much to create ISIS.
In part 2 of the “ISIS Conspiracy” series, Brandon Martinez of Non-Aligned Media unravels the intricate web of deceit and double-dealing that lies behind the manufactured ISIS phenomenon, and shows how the US and Israel have for decades plotted behind the scenes to implode the Middle East.
The Guardian is currently providing us with a good example of what is often called the “problem-reaction-solution” method of controlling public discourse.
Step One: Find, create, emphasise, or de-contextualise a problem
In this case, the “refugee crisis”, currently screaming from the front pages of most mainstream media outlets. The unanimity and hysteria should immediately alert us to a potential agenda. Yes, of course there are thousands of refugees and their plight is appalling. Yes the way they are being received by the EU is predictably callous and racist. But this is what happens when you start imperialist wars, and even the Guardian admits it’s not new. The MSM has been content to ignore the plight of displaced Libyans since 2011, displaced Iraqis since 2003, displaced Syrians and Ukrainian since 2014.
So we need to ask why the western media are suddenly headlining this ongoing human tragedy? Why the blatant attempts to create mass hysteria through manipulation of basic human emotions – fear (of the alleged incoming hordes of displaced people) and outrage (for their plight)?
Is it because the media and its masters are suddenly discovering their humanity and conscience? Well, it’s always possible, but I think we’d be unwise to make that a first assumption. And in fact, a more likely answer presents itself in the Guardian’s response to the crisis it has chosen this moment to define…
Step 2: Reaction
First thing to note is how, in the media narrative, the plight of these displaced people is entirely removed from any real geopolitical context. Note that nowhere in its prurient and emotive rolling coverage of overturning dinghies, private funerals, mass-marches, tent-camps in shopping malls, endless “personal stories” from unsourced individuals, does the Guardian refer to the fact that western war mongering created this crisis in its entirety.
Likewise, in the latest “Guardian View“, the anonymous author offers only elision, flimsy images of unspecified ‘conflicts’ and ‘repressive and failed states’…
There is a wide arc of conflict-ridden, repressive and failed states running from the Middle East, round the Horn of Africa and along the southern Mediterranean coast. There are tens of millions of people living in that region who might reasonably decide that the only future for them and their families lies in Europe….
He mentions Libya has “unravelled” but avoids discussion of how and why. He implies – without compromising himself enough to actually state – that the Syrian refugees are fleeing Assad, not “coalition” bombs….
The optimism of the Arab spring is spent. Colonel Gaddafi was a tyrant, yet Libya has unravelled violently in the aftermath of his removal. The refusal to intervene against Bashar al-Assad gave the Syrian president permission to continue murdering his people
Apparently in New Guardianspeak drone attacks, air strikes and the funding of insane jihadists = “reluctance to intervene”, and it’s our wimpy pacifism that’s causing all the problems out there – not our bombs, drones and lunatic jihadists.
(Not just in Guardianspeak either – in fact a disturbingly similar “this is because we did nothing” meme is being sold by Boris Johnson in the Telegraph. This ‘coincidence’ of opinion pieces is even more suggestive of a pre-planned agenda rollout).
Which neat bit of reality-inversion leads us nicely on to….
Step 3: Solution
“Much more must be done,” screams the Guardian’s headline. But what does this “more” actually mean? The anonymous author – assigned the task of selling this ‘solution’ to the Guardian’s core readership – sets it out obliquely, but obviously enough.
Although it is essential in discussion of the current crisis to remember the legal distinction between refugees – seeking sanctuary from imminent danger – and the wider category of people who migrate in search of a better future for themselves and their families, it is also important to acknowledge that, in places where economic activity, law and order are breaking down, the line between the two categories is technically and ethically hard to draw.
Translation: the problem isn’t going away until we fix the failed states that the refugees/migrants are fleeing from, and of course…
Since Syria’s plight is the most immediate moral and strategic problem, that is where Europe must begin the search for solutions.
Ah, and what might the ‘solutions’ entail, oh non-agenda-driven anonymous Guardian sage?
The increase in refugee numbers heading for the EU describes a collapse of hope among millions of Syrians, many displaced in neighbouring countries, that their home will be safe again in their lifetime. To begin restoring that hope will inevitably mean international intervention of some kind.
“Intervention of some kind”? By western armed forces you mean? Yes indeed he does…
The establishment of credible safe havens and the implementation of a no-fly zone must be on the table for serious consideration. Russia, as the state with most influence over Assad, must somehow be convinced to rein him in. EU powers must be prepared to spend more of their efforts and resources fostering the conditions for ceasefire.
“Implementing a no-fly zone” in a foreign country is basically a declaration of war against that country. So, by amazing coincidence, the solution to the current refugee crisis being so mercilessly hyped in the media, is the very same war with Syria that the PTB have been trying to sell to the masses since 2012. Incredible isn’t it! And about as convincing as a snake oil salesman turning up at your door day after day touting the same cure for different diseases. Want to save the Kurds? Bomb Syria! Want to stop ISIS? Bomb Syria! Want to save the helpless refugees?…
But this time they are hoping we’ll forget our earlier scepticism and buy it, because we’ll be so scared the ‘disposessed’ hordes will get us…
The need for Europe to develop a coherent account of its place in the wider world has often been discussed as the goal once internal matters are settled, but that moment keeps being deferred. Yet the rest of the world is not waiting. Its fearful dispossessed are rattling Europe’s gates.
Right there is the heart of the message. ‘The EU has to get behind the US agenda, support and even assist with an invasion of Syria, maybe also implement other as yet unspecified legislation to bring us inline with the US – or be swamped by the ‘fearful dispossessed’.’
Fear porn in other words, but carefully laced with faux compassion. Everything else you read or see in the MSM is about planting this idea the collective mind. They are trying to create the meme that the refugee crisis is suddenly (and inexplicably, but never mind that), so huge and so impossible to manage, so threatening to European security, to domestic economies and everything else we care about that bombing Assad and thereby starting a proxy war with Russia actually looks like the better alternative.
This – and not any kind of compassion – is why the MSM is wall-to-wall with increasingly implausible, hysterical and unexamined refugee stories. This is why pictures of a little boy’s funeral “emerge” inexplicably on to the pages of the Guardian. The fact his family were not fleeing from Syria, but from Turkey – a NATO member, currently brutalising its own Kurdish population – is not going to make any difference at all.
It’s not a well-deserved crisis of conscience over displaced people, however much we might like to think it is. It’s the final push to get us to approve the Empire’s longstanding bid to wipe out yet another centre of opposition to its hegemony.
If there was the smallest doubt about the real agenda behind the “refugee crisis”media meme it’s been entirely eliminated in the hours since this piece was published. Since then we have had BBC revelations that UK ministers are looking to put British troops on the ground in Syria, followed by Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, echoing the anonymous editorial quoted above almost word for word.
After a few paras of requisite and formulaic sentiment about poor dead little Aylan Kurdi, and a few more of drivel about how austerity Britain with its 40% cuts in public services will find a magic money well to help the displaced people, Freedland delivers the kicker
Action for refugees means not only a welcome when they arrive, but also a remedy for the problem that made them leave. The people now running from Syria have concluded that it is literally uninhabitable: it is a place where no one can live. They have come to that conclusion slowly, after four years of murderous violence. To make them think again would require action a thousand miles away from the level of the district council, an international effort to stop not just the killers of Isis but also Bashar al-Assad’s barrel bombs.
It doesn’t matter that little Aylan’s family had been living in Turkey for three years, or that the Turks have a worse human rights record than Syria when it comes to the Kurds. It’s irrelevant that the barrel bombs are no more Assad’s than the poison gas the tame media also lied about last time they wanted to prime us for war.
From Regional War, “Regime Change” to Global Warfare
2015 has become a year of living dangerously.
Wars are spreading across the globe.
Wars are escalating as new countries are bombed and the old are ravaged with ever greater intensity.
Countries, where relatively peaceful changes had taken place through recent elections, are now on the verge of civil wars.
These are wars without victors, but plenty of losers; wars that don’t end; wars where imperial occupations are faced with prolonged resistance.
There are never-ending torrents of war refugees flooding across borders. Desperate people are detained, degraded and criminalized for being the survivors and victims of imperial invasions.
Now major nuclear powers face off in Europe and Asia: NATO versus Russia, US-Japan versus China. Will these streams of blood and wars converge into one radiated wilderness drained of its precious life blood?
Living Dangerously: The Rising Tide of Violent Conflicts
There is no question that wars and military threats have replaced diplomacy, negotiations and democratic elections as the principal means of resolving political conflicts. Throughout the present year (2015) wars have spread across borders and escalated in intensity.
The NATO allies, US, Turkey and the EU have openly attacked Syria with air strikes and ground troops. There are plans to occupy the northern sector of that ravaged country, creating what the Erdogan regime dubs a ‘buffer zone’ cleansed of its people and villages.
Under the pretext of ‘fighting ISIS’, the Turkish government is bombing Kurds (civilians and resistance fighters) and their Syrian allies. On Syria’s southern border, US Special Forces have accelerated and expanded operations from their bases in Jordan on behalf of the mercenary terrorists – funded by the monarchist Gulf States.
Over 4 million Syrians have fled their homes as refugees and over 200,000 have been killed since the US-EU-Turkey-Saudi-sponsored war against the secular Syrian government was launched four years ago.
Dozens of terrorist, mercenary and sectarian groups have carved up Syria into rival fiefdoms, pillaged its economic and cultural resources and reduced the economy by over ninety percent.
The US-EU-Turkish military intervention extends the war into Iraq, Lebanon and…. Turkey – attacking secular governments, ethnic minority groups and secular civil society.
The feudal, monarchist Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have invaded Yemen with tanks, launching air strikes against a country without any air defenses. Major cities and towns are devastated. Saudi ground troops and armored carriers are killing and wounding thousands – mostly civilians. The brutal Saudi air and sea blockade of Yemen’s ports have led to a humanitarian crisis, as ten million Yemenis face starvation deliberately imposed by a grotesque and obscenely rich monarchy.
The Yemeni resistance fighters, driven out of the major cities, are preparing for prolonged guerrilla warfare against the Saudi monsters and their puppets. Their resistance has already spread across the frontiers of the absolutist Saudi dictatorship.
The brutal Israeli occupation troops, in collaboration with armed ‘settler’ colonists, have accelerated their violent seizure of Palestinian lands. They have stepped up the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Bedouins, Druze and Christian inhabitants replacing their communities with racist ‘Jews-only’ colonial settlements.
Daily assaults against the huge ‘concentration camps’ of Gaza accompany an armed blockade of land, air and water, preventing the reconstruction of the tens of thousands of homes, schools, hospital, factories and infrastructure, destroyed by last year’s Israeli blitzkrieg.
Israel’s continued annexation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian territory precludes any diplomatic process; colonial wars have been and continue to be Israel’s policy of choice in dealing with its Arab neighbors and captive populations.
Africa’s wars, resulting from earlier US-EU interventions, continue to ravage-the Continent. Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Libya are riven by bloody conflicts between US-EU backed regimes and armed Islamic and nationalist resistance movements.
Throughout North and Sub-Sahara Africa, US-EU backed regimes have provoked armed upheavals in Libya, Nigeria (Boko Harem), Egypt (ISIS, Moslem Brotherhood et al), Chad, Niger, South Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere.
Imperial client Egyptian and Ethiopian dictators rule with iron fists – financed and armed by their EU and US sponsors.
Imperial wars rage throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Hundreds of experienced Baathist Iraqi military officers, who had been expelled or jailed and tortured by the US Occupation army, have now made common cause with Islamist fighters to form ISIS and effectively occupy a third of Iraq and a strategic swath of Syria.
There are daily bombings in Baghdad undermining its US client. Strategic advances by ISIS are forcing the US to resume and escalate its direct combat role
The US-Baghdad retreat and the defeat of the US-trained Iraqi military in the face of the Baathist-Islamist offensive is the opening salvo of a long-term, large-scale war in Iraq and Syria. The Turkish air-war against the Kurds in Iraq will escalate the war in Northern Iraq and extend it into southeast Turkey.
Closer to ‘home’, the EU-US-backed coup (‘regime change’) in Kiev and the attempt to impose dictatorial-pro-West oligarchic rule in Ukraine have detonated a prolonged civil-national war devastating the country and pitting NATO’s proxies against Russian-backed allies in the Donbas.
US, England, Poland and other NATO powers are deeply committed to pushing war right up to Russia’s borders.
There is a new Cold War, with the imposition of wide-ranging US-EU economic sanctions against Russia and the organizing of major NATO military exercises on Russia’s doorsteps. It is no surprise that these provocations are met with a major counter-response – the Russian military build-up. The NATO power grab in Ukraine, which first led to a local ethnic war, now escalates to a global confrontation and may move toward a nuclear confrontation as Russia absorbs hundreds of thousands of refugees from the slaughter in Ukraine.
The US puppet regime in Afghanistan has faced a major advance of the Taliban in all regions, including the capital, Kabul.
The Afghan war is intensifying and the US-backed Kabul regime is in retreat. US troops can scarcely advance beyond their bunkers.
As the Taliban military advances, its leaders demand total surrender of the Kabul puppets and the withdrawal of US troops. The US response will be a prolonged escalation of war.
Pakistan, bristling with US arms, faces a major conflict along its borders with India and permanent war in its semi-autonomous Northwest frontier states with Islamist and ethnic Pashtu guerrilla movements backed by mass regional political parties. These parties exercise de facto control over the Northwest region providing sanctuary and arms for Taliban militants operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Armed ethno-religious conflicts persist in western China, Myanmar and northern India. There are large-scale popular resistance movements in the militant northeast Thailand opposed to the current military-monarchist dictatorship in Bangkok.
In the 21st century, in South and Southeast Asia, as in the rest of the world, war and armed conflicts have become central in resolving ethnic, social, tribal and regional differences with central states: diplomacy and democratic elections have been rendered obsolete and inefficient.
Latin America – On the Verge
Burgeoning violent extra-parliamentary right-wing movements, intent on overthrowing or ‘impeaching’ elected center-left Latin American governments face major confrontations with the state and its mass supporters.
In Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil, US-backed opposition groups are engaged in violent demonstrations, directed toward ousting the elected regimes. In the case of Ecuador, ‘popular sectors’, including some indigenous leaders and sectors of the trade union movement, have called for an ‘uprising’ to oust President Correa. They seem oblivious of the fact that the hard-right oligarchs who now control key offices in the three principal cities (Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca) will be the real beneficiaries of their ‘uprisings’.
The resurgent Right envisions violent ‘regime change’ as the first step toward ‘wiping the slate clean’ of a decade of social reforms, independent regional organizations and independent foreign policies.
‘Civil war’ may be too strong a word for the situation in Latin America at this time – but this is the direction which the US-backed opposition is heading. Faced with the mess and difficulty of dislodging incumbent regimes via elections, the US and its local proxies have opted for the choreography of street violence, sabotage, martial law and coups – to be followed by sanitized elections – with US-vetted candidates.
War and violence run rampant through Mexico and most of Central America. A US-backed military coup ousted the popularly elected, independent President Zelaya in Honduras. The ensuing US-proxy regime has murdered and jailed hundreds of pro-democracy dissidents and driven thousands to flee the violence.
The 1990’s US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ in El Salvador and Guatemala effectively blocked any agrarian reform and income redistribution that might have led to the rebuilding of their civil societies. This has led to over two decades of mass disaffection, the rise of armed ‘gangs’ numbering over 100,000 members and an average of six to ten thousand homicides a year with El Salvador becoming the ‘murder capital of the hemisphere’ on a per capita basis. The annual murder toll under the US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ now exceeds those killed each year during the civil war.
The real ‘carnage capital’ of the hemisphere is Mexico. Over 100,000 people have been murdered during the decade-long, US-backed ‘war on drugs’ – a war which has become a state-sponsored war on the Mexican people.
The internal war has allowed the Mexican government to privatize and sell the crown jewels of the national economy – the petroleum industry. While thousands of Mexicans are terrorized and slaughtered, the US and EU oil companies are curiously shielded from the drug lords. The same Mexican government, its police, officials and military, who collaborate with the drug lords in dividing up the billions of drug dollars, protect foreign oil companies and their executives. After all, narco-dollars are laundered by banks in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and London to help fuel the speculation!
From Regional to Nuclear Wars
Regional and local wars spread under the shadow of a looming world war. The US moves its arms, planes, bases and operations to the Russian and Chinese borders.
Never have so many US troops and war planes been placed in so many strategic locations, often less than an hour drive from major Russian cities.
Not even during the height of the Cold War, did the US impose so many economic sanctions against Russian enterprises.
In Asia, Washington is organizing major trade, military and diplomatic treaties designed to exclude and undermine China’s growth as a trade competitor. It is engaged in provocative activities comparable to the boycott and blockade of Japan which led to the Second World War in Asia.
Open ‘warfare by proxy’ in Ukraine is perhaps the first salvo of the Third World War in Europe. The US-EU-sponsored coup in Kiev has led to the annexation of Western Ukraine. In response to the threat of violence toward the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea and the loss of its strategic naval base on the Black Sea, Russia annexed Crimea.
In the lead-up to the Second World War, Germany annexed Austria. In a similar manner the US-EU installed a puppet regime in Kiev by violent putsch as its own initial steps toward major power grabs in Central Asia. The military build-up includes the placement of major, forward offensive military bases in Poland.
Warsaw’s newly elected hard-right regime of President Andrzej Duda has demanded that Poland become NATO’s central military base of operation and the front line in a war against Russia.
Wars and More Wars and the Never-ending Torrents of Refugees
The US and EU imperial wars have devastated the lives and livelihoods of scores of millions of people in South Asia, North and Sub-Sahara Africa, Central America, Mexico, the Balkans and now Ukraine.
Four million Syrian refugees have joined millions of Afghan, Pakistani, Iraqi, Yemeni, Somali, Libyan, Palestinian and Sudanese refugees fleeing US-EU bombs, drones and proxy mercenaries ravaging their countries.
Millions of war refugees escape toward safety in Western Europe, joining the millions of economic refugees who have fled free market destitution in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, the Balkans and other EU satellites.
Panic among the civilian population of Western Europe sets in as hundreds of thousands cross the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Balkans.
Droves of refugees perish each day. Tens of thousands crowd detention centers. Local labor markets are saturated. Social services are overwhelmed.
The US builds walls and detention camps for the millions trying to escape the harsh consequences of imperial-centered free markets in Mexico, narco-terror and the fraudulent ‘peace accord’-induced violence in Central America.
As Western wars advance, the desperate refugees multiply. The poor and destitute clamber at the gates of the imperial heartland crying: ‘Your bombs and your destruction of our homelands have driven us here, now you must deal with us in your homeland’.
Fomenting class war between the refugees and ‘natives’ of the imperial West – may not be on the agenda . . . for now, but the future for ‘civil’ society in Europe and the US is bleak.
Meanwhile, more and even bigger wars are on the horizon and additional millions of civilians will be uprooted and face the choice of starving, fleeing with their families or fighting the empire. The ranks of seasoned and infuriated resistance fighters are swelling in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere.
The US and EU are becoming armed fortresses. US police deal with the marginalized citizenry as an occupying army, assaulting African-Americans, immigrants and dissidents – while looting poor communities . . . and protecting the rich…
War is everywhere and expanding: No continent or region, big or small, is free from the contagion of war.
Imperial wars have spawn local wars . . . igniting mass flights in a never-ending cycle. There are no real diplomatic success stories! There are no enduring, viable peace accords!
Some pundits may protest this analysis: They point to the recent US – Cuba rapprochement as a ‘success’. They conveniently forget that the US is still subverting Cuba’s biggest trading partner, Venezuela; that Washington’s major regional proxies are demanding regime change among Cuba’s allies in Ecuador, Brazil and Bolivia and that Washington is increasingly threatening Cuba’s alternative markets in Russia and China. The vision of the US flag flapping in the breeze outside its embassy in Havana does little to cover Washington’s iron fist threatening Cuba’s allies.
Others cite the US – Iran peace accord as a major ‘success’. They ignore that the US is backing the bloody Saudi invasion of neighboring Yemen and the massacre of Shiite communities; that the US has provided Israel with a road map detailing Iran’s entire defense system and that the US [Israel] and EU are bombing Iran’s Syrian ally without mercy.
As for the US – Cuba and Iranian agreements– are they enduring and strategic or just tactical imperial moves preparing for even greater assaults?
The war epidemic is not receding.
War refugees are still fleeing; they have no homes or communities left.
Disorder and destruction are increasing, not decreasing; there is no rebuilding the shattered societies, not in Gaza, not in Fallujah, not in the Donbas, not in Guerrero, not in Aleppo.
Europe feels the tremors of a major conflagration.
Americans still believe that the two oceans will protect them. They are told that placing NATO missiles on Russia’s borders and stationing warships off China’s shores and building electrified walls and laying barbed wire along the Rio Grande will protect them. Such is their faith in their political leaders and propagandists.
What a packet of lies! Inter-continental missiles can ‘rain down’ on New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
It is time to wake up!
It is time to stop the US – EU headlong race to World War III!
Where to start? Libya has been irrevocably destroyed; it is too late there! Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are aflame. We are being plunged deeper into war while being told we are withdrawing! Ukraine sucks in more guns and more troops!
Can we really have peace with Iran if we cannot control our own government as it dances to the Israelis tune? And Israel insists on war – our waging war for them! As the Israeli war criminal General and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once told some worried American Zionists: “Trouble with the US? We lead them by the nose…!”
Just look at the terrified families fleeing carnage in the Middle East or Mexico.
What is to be done?
When will we cut our losses and shake off the bonds of these war makers – foreign and domestic?
A senior Iranian lawmaker has slammed recent remarks by a top US military commander on Iraq’s disintegration, saying Washington seeks to break down the entire Middle East.
“The US has created Daesh based on a calculated scheme in order to realize the Greater Middle East plan and disintegrate the region. That’s why the Americans are bringing up the issue of Iraq’s disintegration,” Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian Parliament (Majlis), said on Sunday.
The Iranian lawmaker’s remarks came after US Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno, who once served as the top US commander in Iraq, said on August 12 that partitioning Iraq “is something that could happen” and “might be the only solution.”
The remarks came as a controversial US Congress bill, the draft of which was released in April, proposes the division of Iraq into three states and allows the Kurdish forces and the Sunni tribesmen to be armed directly without Baghdad’s approval.
The bill stipulates that 25 to 60 percent of the USD 715-million aid money allegedly allocated to Iraq in its war against Daesh will be directly supplied to Sunni and Kurdish forces.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi strongly condemned the comments by the top US military commander as “irresponsible,” saying they reflected “ignorance of the Iraqi reality.”
Iraqi politicians, including members of the parliament, as well as religious leaders have also voiced their opposition to the bill.
Syria no-fly zone
Elsewhere in his remarks, Boroujerdi said that Turkey’s pushing for a no-fly zone over Syria is a “strategic mistake” for Ankara.
He said that the move is a violation of international law as well as sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Arab country.
“Turkey is expected to adopt a policy that will contribute to regional stability and security, not [one that will] lead to instability in the region,” he added.
Turkey has been pushing for a no-fly zone over northern Syria, claiming that such a buffer zone could protect Ankara from Syrian airstrikes against foreign-backed militants.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview last week that he would work with the US to establish what he called a “safe area,” claiming that the buffer zone would protect civilians.
The US has not given the official go-ahead for the plan yet.
Foreign powers are meddling within Syrian political affairs not to defeat ISIS as they claim, but to get rid of a regime they don’t approve of to replace it by God knows what, Catherine Shakdam from the Beirut Centre for Middle East Studies told RT.
RT: The rebels and government forces are fighting not only each other but Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] at the same time. How is this multiple-front conflict affecting attempts to prevent terrorism?
Catherine Shakdam: That’s the main problem. It’s not just that they are fighting each other. I think that there are very different goals as to what foreign powers are trying to achieve in Syria. And for now when it comes to the US for example all Washington seems to want to do is to neutralize and get rid of President Bashar Assad in Syria rather than really fight IS. That’s the main problem. We have foreign powers meddling within Syrian political affairs not to defeat IS as they claim, but rather to get rid of a regime that they do not approve of to replace it by God knows what, because they created a situation and a power vacuum which would essentially allow for Islamist radicals to take over Damascus and I don’t think that anyone would want that.
RT: Iran and Turkey brokered a 48 hour ceasefire between the Insurgents, Assad’s army and Hezbollah. How significant is their diplomatic intervention? Could this move be helpful in resolving the crisis long-term?
CS: There is a real effort here to try to breach differences and to look towards. I’m hoping, diplomacy will actually pave the way for a resolution rather than resort to military intervention. That’s the message that is coming out of Iran and Russia as well. They are all trying to calm the situation, defuse it and try to find a way which would be acceptable for everyone. I think that if indeed the fight of IS takes precedence over everything else then there is no reason why a diplomatic solution could not take place.
The problem is until now Washington’s intent on getting rid of the Syrian president, even though it’s not really their business to decide whether the Syrian people should have him as a president or not. It’s really up to the Syrians to decide for themselves. That’s the main problem – we see foreign powers trying to decide what people should do or shouldn’t do in this case.
RT: The US and its allies are stepping up their support for so-called moderate rebel groups. How could that change what’s happening in your country?
CS: Whenever I hear the US or even Britain talking about supporting moderate Islamists in Syria or anywhere else I tend to cringe. Who are those moderates really? We know those moderates are not so moderate after all. Most of the military aid which actually landed in Syria or even in Iraq landed in the hands of the likes of IS and that’s a worry, because what we are seeing is radicalization of the radicals. And whenever you attempt to fuel, by adding more military power to the situation which is already unacceptable and very volatile, you are making the problem worse here. And they are not trying to go after the ideology, what they are trying to do is militarize the ideology of terror which is of course very dangerous and it’s leading people to wonder who it is that they are serving and who it is they are really trying to support and help because the assistance is going to ISIS as far as I can see.
At a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the White House on Aug. 4, US President Barack Obama stated that Syria needs a “realistic political process” to settle its internal armed conflict, which would “lead to a stabilizing of the country and a transition to a government that is reflective of all the people of Syria.” A few days earlier, the US president had authorized the use of US aircraft to defend the ‘moderate’ Syrian opposition troops (trained by the Pentagon), in case they were attacked by the Syrian army. The Americans have already launched the first air strikes in support of the rebels.
National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey warned that Washington is ready to offer broader military aid to opposition forces in Syria. This will take the Syrian crisis – which has already gone on for four years – to a whole new level: for the first time US forces could be drawn into a direct clash with the Syrian army.
Washington still seeks regime change in Syria and the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power. The Military Times notes that for the first time since the air strikes against Syrian targets began a year ago, the US military now has an ally on the ground. Their small numbers do not bother the US president – what is important is the shift in the wind, and that is strong enough for the Americans to manifest a willingness for direct, armed intervention in Syria.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated at an Aug. 3 2015 press conference in Qatar that America’s plans are counterproductive and hampering the fight against the Islamic State (IS). Russia is pushing for an immediate end to foreign interference in the Syrian crisis and a stop to the bloodshed. Moscow is not offering its unconditional support to any party to this conflict, except for the Syrian people. But the Russians are in no way discounting the threat posed by IS. Russia is providing military and technical support to both Syria and Iraq in order to combat this threat, cooperating with the governments of both countries. “We have every reason to believe that, without this support, this terrorist organization (IS) would have captured hundreds or even thousands more square kilometers of territory,” Russia’s top diplomat stressed.
The US administration prefers to ignore Russia’s role in the battle against the terrorists of the Islamic State, focusing instead on the Pentagon’s statistics. Over the past 12 months, the US and its allies have carried out a total of nearly 6,000 attacks on IS positions (3,570 in Iraq and 2,267 in Syria). During this period, about 17,000 bombs and missiles were dropped and delivered. However, given the current scuffle over the White House being waged between the Democrats and Republicans, it is becoming increasingly difficult for President Obama to explain to voters why the measures his administration has taken against IS have been so ineffective. After all, they have spent a lot of money with nothing to show for it. For example, it costs between $1,000 (for a Predator or Reaper) and $7,000 (for a Global Hawk) per hour to fly a reconnaissance drone.
One quarter of all the staff of the CIA and other intelligence agencies are employed as part of counter-terrorism programs, and that price tag tops $15 billion each year.
But despite all this, IS is only getting stronger. That terrorist pseudo-state has found sources of self-financing (the air strikes have not stopped oil production), is imposing its rule in the vast areas seized last year in Syria and Iraq, and quickly replenishes its ranks depleted by combat casualties, using mercenary ‘jihad warriors’ from around the world. According to US intelligence estimates, IS controls about 30,000 combat troops. IS is gradually carving out a zone of influence in Libya, Egypt, and Afghanistan. This is ultimately less than reassuring, and it leaves the Obama administration increasingly vulnerable to criticism from his Republican opponents.
Meanwhile President Obama is maintaining his insistence on a regime change in Damascus. And in its relations with Baghdad, the current US administration is more fearful of Tehran’s growing influence in Iraq than the actual threat posed by IS. The White House has still not made up its mind what is more important in the Middle East – fighting against the growing power of IS terrorists or continuing its own confrontation with both Syria and her backer, Iran.
Meanwhile, America’s Arab allies in the Gulf will not commit themselves to anything beyond declaring their intention to fight IS. Saudi Arabia has engineered a war with Yemen in order to prevent Iran’s influence from expanding there. By destroying Yemen’s Shiite Houthis, Riyadh is striking a blow at Tehran, which, it must be said, is providing quite substantial support to the government of Iraq in its confrontation with the forces of the Islamic State in the east. It is telling that, under the onslaught of Shiite militias, IS is pulling back and losing the areas it had previously occupied in Iraq’s eastern regions on the Iraqi border.
Obama’s decision to render military support to the pro-American opposition in Syria looks like a calculated maneuver. There is now a danger that America’s NATO allies might also enlist in this adventure. Air strikes will be launched from air bases in Turkey, so if Syria decides to retaliate, the war will then spill over that country’s borders.
Information has already come to light about the actions of British special forces in Syria. The Sunday Express reports that more than 120 British military elite units, dressed in black and flying IS flags, have attacked Syrian government forces. Both the armed-conflict zone in Syria, as well as the scale of NATO’s intervention in that country, are expanding under the guise of combating terrorist factions. This threatening sequence of events suggests the possibility that the Libyan scenario could be repeated.