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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

Israel plans to install Dahlan instead of Abbas

MEMO | June 29, 2017

A leading Israeli writer revealed yesterday an Israel-Egypt-UAE plan to install Mohamed Dahlan as the leader of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip instead of Mahmoud Abbas.

In an opinion piece in Haaretz, Zvi Bar’el said that while Hamas would remain in control of security and not be demilitarised, at least “Israel would have a partner in Gaza who supports reconciliation” with the Zionist state.

Dahlan, he pointed out, is the Palestinian president’s “political rival” and if the plan succeeds it is expected that Abbas would be “pushed into a dark corner”, leaving the former Fatah official free to move against him. The endgame could see Dahlan installed as Abbas’s successor at the top of the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and the PLO.

According to Bar’el, Egypt will ease the siege of Gaza by opening the Rafah Border Crossing for people and goods. The UAE, meanwhile, will fund a power station on the Egyptian side of the border near Rafah; a port is also a possibility. Dahlan is very close to the governments in Cairo and Abu Dhabi.

“It’s still too early to assess whether this plan will be fully implemented,” he wrote, “and if Hamas will agree to place Dahlan at the head of the Gaza government, a step that could all but sever Gaza from the West Bank, especially given the long feud between Abbas and Dahlan.” On the other hand, the writer pointed out, if the plan does come to fruition, it could make an Israeli-Egyptian dream come true. A “state of Gaza” could become a reality with Dahlan at its head, something that, for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, is “the plan’s key”.

If the plan succeeds, said Bar’el, it would “neutralise” the role of Qatar and Turkey in Gaza. He described Israel’s policy of “what’s good for Hamas is bad for Israel, and what helps Gazans strengthens Hamas” as a “failed concept”. Instead, he clearly believes that this “new strategy” which places the people of Gaza first should be given serious consideration.

Observers point out that it is significant that Bar’el refers to “Gazans” and “people of Gaza” rather than Palestinians in Gaza. “This,” said one, “tries to convince the world that ‘Gazans’ are somehow not Palestinians and all actually belong in the Gaza Strip. The reality is that most of the residents of Gaza do not originate there; they come from places inside what is now Israel and are refugees by design, not choice.”

“The Gaza Strip” is a relatively recent term, he added. “It’s only been used since the Nakba of 1948, prior to which the land was simply part of historic Palestine.”

Read also:

Hamas delegation reaches ‘understandings’ with Egypt and meets Dahlan reps

Dahlan behind differences between Egypt and Fatah

June 29, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US to keep arming Syria Kurds after Raqqah: Mattis

Press TV – June 27, 2017

Defense Secretary James Mattis says the United States will continue to provide weapons to Kurdish fighters in Syria after the campaign to dislodge Daesh (ISIL) terrorists from Raqqah is over, an announcement that would further infuriate Turkey.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Germany on Monday, Mattis said the US would try to recover the weapons supplied to the Syrian Kurds, but added it would depend on when or where the next mission is.

“We’ll do what we can,” he said when asked if all the weapons would be returned.

The comments marked the first time the Pentagon chief has publicly talked about the US pledge to take back the arms from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

In a letter to his Turkish counterpart Fikri Isik on Thursday, Mattis sought to ease Turkey’s security concerns, saying the US would provide Ankara with a monthly list of weapons and equipment supplied to the YPG.

Mattis also reassured Turkish officials that arms given to the Syrian Kurds would be taken back.

The Trump administration’s decision last month to arm the YPG roiled Turkey, which views the fighters as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

The initial arms deliveries began at the end of May, with the Pentagon saying they included small arms and ammunition. But officials have indicated that 120 mm mortars, machine guns, and light armored vehicles were also likely going to Syria.

Early this month, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which the YPG is a major component of, launched an operation to drive Daesh out of the northern city of Raqqah, the de facto capital of the terror group in Syria.

“We’re going to equip them for the fight. If they have another fight and they need, you know, the light trucks that they’ve been using … we’ll get them that,” Mattis said.

The provision of arms depends, he said, on the battle and what weapons the Kurds need. “When they don’t need certain things any more, we’ll replace those with something they do need.”

Turkey fears the weapons provided to the Kurdish fighters in Syria will end up in the hands of PKK militants operating in Turkey. The US also considers the PKK a terrorist organization and insists it would never arm that group.

Mattis said the battle against Daesh was growing more complex as it moved into the Euphrates River Valley, underscoring the importance of maintaining communication with Russia.

So-called “deconfliction” hotlines have been used by the US and Russia to notify each other where they are operating in order to avoid accidents.

In recent weeks, the Russians have threatened they would not use the deconfliction lines after the US shot down a Syrian government warplane.

Mattis said communications with Russia were taking place at several military levels to insure that aircraft and ground forces were safe.

‘US won’t be drawn into Syria war’

Despite the increasingly complicated battlefield, the Pentagon chief asserted that the US would not be drawn into the Syrian conflict. “We just refuse to get drawn into a fight there in the Syria civil war, we try to end that one through diplomatic engagement.”

The US will not fire “unless they are the enemy, unless they are ISIS,” Mattis said, using another acronym for the Daesh terror group.

The comments came shortly before White House spokesman Sean Spicer accused the Syrian government of making “preparations” for a chemical attack against civilians.

Spicer warned that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian military would “pay a heavy price” if they went ahead with the alleged plan.

State Department officials, who would “typically” be consulted before such statements are made, told the Associated Press that they had been caught “completely off guard” by the statement.

The AP report also said that the content of Spicer’s statement “didn’t appear to be discussed in advance with other national security agencies.”

A US-led coalition has been active in Syria since late 2014, bombing purported Daesh targets and training local militants to carry out assaults against the group as well as pro-government forces.

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

US faces historic setback in the Middle East

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | June 23, 2017

The bloc of four Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia that imposed an embargo against Qatar on June 5 has finally presented their charter of demands. An AP dispatch, lists the 13 demands. The most striking demands include Doha reducing ties with Iran, severing relationships with Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, closing a Turkish military base in the country, and shuttering state broadcaster Al Jazeera and several news outlets.

Interestingly, Qatar is also expected to “consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.” All this means that abject, unconditional capitulation by Qatar only will satisfy its ‘big brothers’ – nothing less. By the way, there is also a timeline to comply – within the next 10 days – or else the demands get ratcheted up.

To my mind, Qatar will have no difficulty to see this is nothing short of a thinly-veiled push for ‘regime change’. The regime’s response can only be that these Arab bigwigs can go and hang themselves.

What happens next? Simply put, the (Sunni) Muslim Middle East is about to split and the historic schism will have profound consequences for regional and international security.

Make no mistake, this latest development also signifies a slap on the face for the Trump administration. Only last Tuesday, US state department warned Saudi Arabia to resolve the standoff without any further delay lest direct US intervention became necessary, doubting the stance taken by Riyadh (which is widely regarded as carrying the imprimatur of the new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman) and showing broad empathy with Qatar (where the US Central Command is headquartered.) Curiously, the US spokesperson also had alluded to Saudi Arabia’s past involvement in terrorism “whether it’s through terror financing or other means”.

Evidently, Saudi pride has been touched to the quick and Riyadh has taken exception to the US censuring. Without doubt, these demands are a show of defiance at Washington, too. This is all now going to become a protracted crisis in all likelihood, which will seriously debilitate the US’ regional strategies – unless of course Qatar crawls on its knees — and weaken its war against the ISIS.

To be sure, Turkey will take great exception to the Saudi demand that its so-called military base in Doha should be shut down unceremoniously. President Recep Erdogan will see this demand as an intolerable affront to Ottoman legacy. The VOA reported on Thursday that Turkey has been moving food and troops to Qatar in a big way.

Quite obviously, the crux of the matter is that the virus of Arab Spring is hibernating in Qatar and it threatens to become an epidemic someday again, threatening the autocratic regimes in the Middle East. Only Turkey, Iran and Israel are immune to the virus of democratic empowerment. Evidently, Al Jazeera and the Muslim Brotherhood are driving the sheikhs crazy in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain and threaten the military dictatorship in Egypt.

The credibility of the US on the ‘Arab Street’ is now irreparably damaged. For President Donald Trump all this becomes a big political embarrassment domestically. (Bloomberg ) It remains to be seen how the US can afford to sustain its belligerent posturing in Syria and Iraq much longer without any regional allies from the Arab world.

The Trump administration’s containment strategy against Iran seems destined to collapse even before its launch and Trump’s pet project of the ‘Arab NATO’ looks a macabre joke. Can the US ever restore its hegemony over the Muslim Middle East? Doubtful. A big slice of modern history of the western hegemony over Arabs is breaking away and drifting toward the horizon. To be sure, Russians are coming!

June 23, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

US, allies sponsor Daesh: Adviser to Syria’s Assad

Bouthaina Shaaban, political and media adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Press TV – June 18, 2017

A political and media adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accused the US and its allies of financing and arming the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in a bid to tear the region apart and deplete its resources.

Bouthaina Shaaban made the remarks in a statement to journalists after meeting with visiting China’s Special Envoy for Syria Xie Xiaoyan and the accompanying delegation in Damascus on Saturday.

While the US and its allies sponsor Daesh, the alliance supported by Russia and China stands against the expansion of terrorism in the Arab country, Shaaban said.

Russian and China, two of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, have vetoed resolutions against the Syrian government that is battling foreign-sponsored terrorists since 2011.

There are UNSC resolutions, under which those responsible for committing, organizing and supporting terror acts as well as facilitating the movement of terrorists must be held accountable, but these motions have not been implemented at all, the Syrian official noted.

UNSC Resolution 2253, adopted unanimously in December 2015, covers asset freeze, travel ban, arms embargo and listing criteria for Daesh, al-Qaeda militants and “associated individuals, groups, undertaking and entities.”

Elsewhere in her remarks, Shaaban said that the Syrian army and its allies had recently managed to reach the Syria-Iraq border and “dealt a severe blow to the terrorists” through unified efforts, underlining the importance of strengthening communication between the two neighbors in that regard.

Washington’s agenda intersects with that of Daesh, which serves the interests of Israel, she added.

The Syrian official also denounced as unjustified the US deployment of rocket launchers to southern Syria and its attacks on the army positions.

Earlier this week, Russia said the US had deployed the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers from Jordan to its base in the Syrian town of At-Tanf, warning that the equipment could be used against Syrian government forces.

Additionally, on two occasions in June and May, US warplanes attacked a Syrian military position near At-Tanf, killing an unspecified number of people and causing some material damage.

The US claimed that the Syrian forces who came under the attack posed a threat to its forces in Syria.

The Syrian army denounced the assaults, saying they demonstrated US support for terrorism, at a time when the Syrian army and its allies were making gains against Daesh militants.

June 18, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel and the Trump Administration Use Saudis for the Next ‘Controlled Chaos’ Project

Sputnik – 14.06.2017

Amid the ongoing diplomatic row between Qatar and a number of Arab states and increased tensions in the Persian Gulf, Sputnik Turkiye talked to Hamide Yigit, a Turkish political analyst and an expert in Middle Eastern affairs, who explained what role the Trump administration will play in this conflict.

Hamide Yigit, a Turkish political analyst and expert in Middle Eastern affairs who has written a number of research papers on the Middle Eastern crises, commented to Sputnik Turkiye on the ongoing diplomatic row in between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and its impact on the region.

The expert stressed that the Trump administration is trying to fully re-carve the Middle Eastern strategy of the Obama administration, which was based on the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, by betting on the control over radical Islamist forces from a new unified center. That is why Trump has focused his new foreign policy line on Saudi Arabia, she said.

“We could say that Trump has signalled a new stage in American Middle Eastern policy after the failure of the Middle Eastern policy of the previous administration, which bet on the structures affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and left the legacy of a weakened US position in Syria against Russia’s strengthened influence in the region,” Hamide Yigit told Sputnik.

The new political line of President Trump, she further elaborated, is aimed at focusing on the Persian Gulf and pivoting towards Saudi Arabia. Such a strategy, however, poses certain difficulties for the US, as Saudi Arabia has suffered both political and economic defeats in Syria and Yemen.

However on the other hand, the polycracy among the jihadists in Syria has hampered US plans in that country. Thus the Trump administration decided to set up a unified control center for dealing with the radical Islamists but opted for the exclusion of Qatar from this system in favor of Saudi Arabia.

The dual power among jihadists, the expert explained, creates certain problems which could escalate into a confrontation. Hence the US has chosen Saudi Arabia to host a center which will incorporate all the levers of a hybrid war.

The crisis in the Persian Gulf, Hamide Yigit told Sputnik, is one of the latest US projects aimed at creating so-called “controlled chaos” in the region.

“At this particular moment it is hard to forecast how long this crisis will last. However if this US’ project, which provokes the escalation of tensions in the region, proves a success, it might hit a serious blow to Turkish positions in the region,” the expert explained.

In current conditions, she further said, Turkey should be aimed at maximum rapprochement with Iran and Russia, up to its accession into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

On the Iran’s example it is clearly seen how the project of the “controlled chaos” has been started in Syria and gradually embraced other countries of the region. Hence Hamide Yigit suggested that the relations between the Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf monarchies and Iran will aggravate even further.

The warnings of a number of experts that the Syrian war will further spill over to Iran are visibly becoming a reality. Iran is being virtually dragged into this war, the expert said.

Earlier Israel repeatedly made certain steps aimed at drawing Iran into this war, but the US kept preventing it, the political analyst said.

Now Saudi Arabia is provoking the escalation of tensions. It might certainly want to incite a large-scale conflict as its mere existence is directly dependent on the US-backed project of a large-scale war in the Middle East, Hamide Yigit concluded.

June 14, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 2 Comments

UAE paid $3bn to finance coup attempt in Turkey: Report

Press TV – June 13, 2017

The United Arab Emirates financed a high-profile coup attempt last year in Turkey and paid about three billion dollars to the putschists, a columnist in a Turkish daily has claimed.

Mehmet Acet, a columnist for Yeni Safak daily, said on Tuesday that Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu meant the United Arab Emirates when he recently hinted at a Muslim country that spent billions to topple the Turkish government in the coup in July 2016.

Cavusoglu said in recent remarks that a foreign country funneled money to the putschists while making efforts to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“We know that a country provided $3 billion in financial support for the coup attempt in Turkey and exerted efforts to topple the government in illegal ways. On top of that, it is a Muslim country,” said the Turkish foreign minister, as quoted by Acet.

Acet elaborated on his claims in an interview to the Turkish media, saying sources in the Turkish Foreign Ministry had confirmed that the country behind the coup was indeed the United Arab Emirates.

“The minister did not name the country. However, sources from the foreign ministry have confirmed that it was the UAE,” Acet told Daily Sabah newspaper.

Other sources have also claimed that a media magnate close to the government in Abu Dhabi had indeed transferred money to Turkey weeks before the coup was carried out. They said the money had been funneled to elements loyal to Fethullah Gulen, a cleric based in the United States who is accused by Ankara of masterminding the coup attempt.

Right after the coup was declared over on July 16 last year, Turkey launched a massive crackdown to hunt the plotters. The widening action then led to more than 40,000 arrests. More than 100,000 people have also been discharged from their jobs.

Turkey has not directly accused a country of having a role in the coup, which killed over 250 people. However, Cavusoglu’s remarks come amid a widening diplomatic standoff in the Persian Gulf region. Turkey has been defending Qatar against allegations of terrorism by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates while it has repeatedly endorsed Qatar’s support for senior officials from the Muslim Brotherhood, a popular party outlawed in Egypt since three years ago under pressure from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Ankara and Abu Dhabi are also at odds over the situation in Libya, where the two countries support different sides of the conflict.

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | 3 Comments

Qatar crisis sets in motion realignments

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | June 11, 2017

Four days have passed since the terrorist strikes in Tehran but Iran has not retaliated with any “surgical strike” against Saudi Arabia – and, typically, there isn’t going to be any. The political leadership pointed the accusing finger at Saudi Arabia, US and Israel. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that the terror strikes “will only increase hatred for the governments of the United States and their stooges in the region like the Saudis.” However, Iran will not react in a hurry, given the crisis over the Saudi-Qatar standoff that is fraught with profound consequences for regional politics.

Interestingly, Iran signed another agreement on Saturday with Boeing, the American aircraft manufacturer, to buy 30 passenger planes in a $3 billion deal, with an option to buy another 30 aircraft at a later stage. This is on top of the $16.6 billion deal with Boeing negotiated in December. Tehran is piling pressure on the Trump administration because Boeing needed the approval of the US Treasury for the deal with Iran. Put simply, Tehran hopes to draw the US into an engagement process that incrementally deepens and broadens, which derails the Saudi-Israeli agenda to incite a US-Iran confrontation.

Iran is generating export business for American companies, which holds the potential to create jobs in their thousands in the US economy. This becomes a template, ironically enough, of President Trump’s ‘America First’ doctrine. It is a ‘win-win’ formula, because Iran’s economy also badly needs western investments and capital, especially the oil industry. Over and above, if American companies begin operating in the Iranian market, it will give impetus to European business and industry too.

Having said that, Iran’s regional policies remain on track, no matter the Trump administration’s pressure tactic and rhetoric. Iran scored a signal victory in the weekend with Syrian government forces supported by Iran-backed militia reaching the strategic border crossing with Iraq at Al-Tanf. (See my blog The scramble for control of Syrian-Iraqi border.) In immediate terms, the route for the US-backed fighters in the south to move into the strategically important Deir Ezzur province (which is also rich in oil deposits) now comes under the control of the Syrian government forces.

Meanwhile, Tehran is re-establishing high-level contacts with the leadership of Hamas. On Saturday, Hamas announced that a delegation led by its newly-elected leader Ismail Haniyeh (who recently replaced Khaled Meshaal) will be visiting Tehran. Iran’s ties with Hamas came under strain after Meshaal left Damascus (where he was living in exile for several years) to relocate himself in Doha, by way of displaying his solidarity with Qatar and Turkey in the Syrian conflict.

Hamas’ reunion with Tehran’s ‘axis of resistance’ is significant, since Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar has come under pressure from Saudi Arabia to snap its links with the Brothers. It meshes with Iran’s support for Qatar in its rift with Saudi Arabia as well as promotes Iran’s desire for partnership with Turkey. Turkish President Recep Erdogan continues to patronise Hamas, despite that being the principal discord in Turkish-Israeli relations.

On the other hand, Iran’s warming of ties with Hamas puts pressure on Saudi Arabia and Israel at a time when the mutual comfort level between Riyadh and Tel Aviv has been rising lately, with the Trump administration actively promoting the idea of an Arab-Israeli normalization.

Jared Kushner’s (Trump’s Orthodox Jew son-in-law and top advisor on foreign policy) thesis, which is the current US policy in the Middle East, is that a “from the outside-in” approach to Middle East peace – namely, signing of peace treaties between the Arab states and Israel to generate goodwill and new diplomatic relations, which in turn will help advance Palestine-Israel settlement – as against the traditional “inside-out” approach that gives primacy to peace between the Palestinians and Israelis as the necessary first step that will facilitate an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Trump’s mission to Riyadh last month was at the behest of Israel, which has been pushing the narrative that the existential fear of Iran is bringing the Gulf Arab monarchies and Israel closer together. Of course, Israeli calculation is that peace treaties between the Gulf Arab regimes and Israel (on the pattern of Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan) will ultimately render the Palestinian cause obsolete and completely ease the pressure on Israel to accommodate Palestinian aspirations and demand for a fully independent state.

Significantly, while reporting on Hamas leader Haniyeh’s forthcoming visit to Iran, the influential Tehran Times newspaper made the following observation:

  • While the Syrian crisis has driven a wedge between Tehran and Turkey since 2011, the rift between Arab caliphates have led them into an ad-hoc alliance that some believe represents the best chance to mend fences.  
  • Turkey and Iran back Qatar and have links with the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Suffice to say, Iran’s move to bring Hamas into the ‘axis of resistance’ threatens to undermine the game plan that Israel has been working on (via Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, fellow Orthodox Jew, associated with Trump’s organization.) All three countries – Qatar, Turkey and Iran – sense that the current US-Israeli-Saudi offensive against “terrorism” is actually the metaphor for an all-out assault on the Muslim Brotherhood, branding it as a “terrorist” organization, which in turn is ultimately aimed at driving Hamas into the political wilderness and thereby scattering the Palestinian resistance movement once for all.

To be sure, both Turkey and Iran have taken note that at the end of the day, the Muslim Middle East has shown reluctance to join Saudi Arabia’s ant-Qatar front — including Jordan, which is sitting on the fence, merely resorting to the cosmetic move of downgrading the diplomatic ties with Qatar, despite its need for Saudi goodwill. Of course, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia have ostentatiously dissociated themselves from the Saudi strategy to isolate Qatar. Indeed, Turkey has forcefully rejected the Saudi embargo against Qatar — “We will not abandon our Qatari brothers,” said Erdogan at an Iftar meal in Istanbul on Friday, while addressing his party colleagues.

June 11, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The US Hand in the Libyan/Syrian Tragedies

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks at a United Nations Security Council Session on the situation in Syria at the U.N. in New York on Jan. 31, 2012. [State Dept. Photo]
By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | June 9, 2017

Police investigations and media reports have confirmed that two of the bloodiest terrorist attacks in Western Europe — the coordinated bombings and shootings in Paris in November 2015, which killed 130 people, and the May 2017 bombing of the arena in Manchester, England, which killed 23 — trace back to an Islamic State unit based in Libya known as Katibat al-Battar.

Since those attacks, a number of analysts, myself included, have characterized them as a form of “blowback” from NATO’s disastrous campaign to depose Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. By turning Libya into an anarchic staging ground for radical Islamist militants, that intervention set in motion the deadly export of terror back into Western Europe.

But such a Eurocentric critique of NATO’s intervention misses the far greater damage it wreaked on Syria, where nearly half a million people have died and at least 5 million refugees have had to flee their country since 2011. U.S., British and French leaders helped trigger one of the world’s great modern catastrophes through their act of hubris in seeking another “regime change” – the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad – in Syria.

A decade ago, Libya was a leading foe of radical jihadis, not a sanctuary for their international operations. A 2008 State Department memo noted that “Libya has been a strong partner in the war against terrorism.” It gave the Gaddafi regime credit for “aggressively pursuing operations to disrupt foreign fighter flows,” particularly by veterans of jihadist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

All that came to an end in 2011, when armed rebels, including disciplined members of al-Qaeda and Islamic State, enlisted NATO’s help to topple Gaddafi’s regime.

Western leaders ignored the prescient warnings of Gaddafi’s son Seif that “Libya may become the Somalia of North Africa, of the Mediterranean. . . .You will see millions of illegal immigrants. The terror will be next door.” Gaddafi himself similarly predicted that once the jihadis “control the Mediterranean . . . then they will attack Europe.”

Subsequent terrorist attacks in Europe certainly vindicated those warnings, while discrediting the so-called “humanitarian” case for waging an illegal war in Libya. But the predicted jihadi efforts to “control the Mediterranean” have had far graver repercussions, at least in the case of Syria.

A recent story in the New York Times on the genesis of recent terror attacks on France and Britain noted in passing that the Islamic State in Libya, composed of “seasoned veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan,” was “among the first foreign jihadist contingent to arrive in Syria in 2012, as the country’s popular revolt was sliding into a broader civil war and Islamist insurgency.”

A former British counter-terrorism analyst told the newspaper, “some of the baddest dudes in Al Qaeda were Libyan. When I looked at the Islamic State, the same thing was happening. They were the most hard-core, the most violent — the ones always willing to go to extremes when others were not. The Libyans represented the elite troops, and clearly ISIS capitalized on this.”

These Libyan jihadists leveraged their numbers, resources, and fanaticism to help escalate Syria’s conflict into the tragedy we know today. The mass murder we now take for granted was not inevitable.

Extremist Violence in Syria

Although Syria’s anti-government protests in the spring of 2011 turned violent almost from the start, many reformers and government officials strove to prevent an all-out civil war. In August 2011, leaders of Syria’s opposition wisely declared that calls to arms were “unacceptable politically, nationally, and ethically. Militarizing the revolution would . . . undermine the gravity of the humanitarian catastrophe involved in a confrontation with the regime. Militarization would put the revolution in an arena where the regime has a distinct advantage and would erode the moral superiority that has characterized the revolution since its beginning.”

Largely forgotten today, the Assad regime also took serious steps to deescalate the violence, including lifting the country’s state of emergency, disbanding the unpopular National Security Court, appointing a new government, and hosting a national dialogue with protest leaders.

But on August 18, 2011, the same Western leaders who were bombing Gaddafi announced to the world that “the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” Further energizing Syrian militants, Libyan rebels were just then in the midst of conquering Tripoli with NATO’s help.

“That is an ominous sign for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “Already there are signs Libya is giving inspiration to the rebels trying to oust Mr. Assad. . . . Syrian protesters took to the streets chanting ‘Gadhafi tonight, Bashar tomorrow.’ . . . The Libyan episode may serve simply to sharpen the conflict in Syria: both spurring on the dissidents and strengthening Mr. Assad’s resolve to hold on.”

Stoking war in Syria was not an unintended consequence of the Libyan campaign, but a conscious part of the longstanding neoconservative ambition to “remake the map of the Middle East” by toppling radical, nationalist and anti-American regimes. The same Journal article described the grandiose aims of some Washington interventionists:

“Beyond Syria, a new dose of energy provided by Libya’s uprising could ripple out to other nations in the region. In particular, U.S. officials hope it will reinvigorate a protest movement that arose inside Iran in 2009 to challenge President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election. . . Syria has served for 30 years as Iran’s closest strategic ally in the region. U.S. officials believe the growing challenge to Mr. Assad’s regime could motivate Iran’s democratic forces.”

Instead of motivating Iran’s democrats, of course, the Syrian conflict motivated Iran’s hardliners to send Revolutionary Guard units and Hezbollah proxy forces into the country, further destabilizing the region.

Following the gruesome murder of Gaddafi in the fall of 2011, Libyan zealots quickly began fueling other terrorist conflicts, ranging from Mali to the Middle East, with arms looted from Gaddafi’s vast stocks.

“The weapons proliferation that we saw coming out of the Libyan conflict was of a scale greater than any previous conflict — probably 10 times more weapons than we saw going on the loose in places like Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan,” observed an expert at Human Rights Watch.

A United Nations investigation determined that “Transfers of arms and ammunition from Libya were among the first batches of weapons and ammunition to reach the Syrian opposition.” It also stressed that Libyan weapons were arming primarily “extremist elements,” allowing them to gain territory and influence at the expense of more moderate rebel groups.

Spreading the War

As early as November 2011, Islamist warlords in Libya began offering “money and weapons to the growing insurgency against Bashar al-Assad,” according to the Daily Telegraph. Abdulhakim Belhadj, commander of the Tripoli Military Council and the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an al-Qaeda affiliate, met secretly with Syrian rebel leaders in Turkey to discuss training their troops. (In 2004, he had been the victim of a CIA kidnap plot and rendition from Malaysia to Libya.)

The commander of one armed Libyan gang told the newspaper, “Everyone wants to go (to Syria). We have liberated our country, now we should help others. . . This is Arab unity.”

In April 2012, Lebanese authorities confiscated a ship carrying more than 150 tons of arms and ammunition originating in Misrata, Libya. A U.N.-authorized panel inspected the weapons and reported finding SA-24 and SA-7 surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank guided missiles, and a variety of other light and heavy weapons.

By that August, according to Time magazine, “hundreds of Libyans” had flocked to Syria to “export their revolution,” bringing with them weapons, expertise in making bombs, and experience in battlefield tactics.

“Within weeks of the successful conclusion of their revolution, Libyan fighters began trickling into Syria,” the magazine noted. “But in recent months, that trickle has allegedly become a torrent, as many more have traveled to the mountains straddling Syria and Turkey, where the rebels have established their bases.”

A Syrian rebel told the newsweekly, “They have heavier weapons than we do,” including surface-to-air missiles. “They brought these weapons to Syria, and they are being used on the front lines.”

A month later, the London Times reported that a Libyan ship carrying more than 400 tons of weapons bound for Syria, including SAM-7 anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, had docked in Turkey. Such weapons particularly compounded the suffering of civilians caught up in the war. As France’s foreign minister told reporters that October, rebel-held anti-aircraft missiles were “forcing (Syrian government) planes to fly extremely high, and so the strikes are less accurate.”

According to later reporting by Seymour Hersh, most such Libyan weapons made their way to Syria via covert routes supervised by the CIA, under a program authorized by the Obama administration in early 2012. Funding and logistics support came from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The CIA supposedly avoided disclosing the program to Congress by classifying it as a liaison operation with a foreign intelligence partner, Britain’s MI6.

Word of the operation began leaking to the London media by December 2012. The CIA was said to be sending in more advisers to help ensure that the Libyan weapons did not reach radical Islamist forces.

Of course, their efforts came too late; U.S. intelligence officials knew by that time that “the Salafist(s), the Muslim Brotherhood, and (al-Qaeda)” were “the major forces driving the insurgency.” The influx of new arms simply compounded Syria’s suffering and raised its profile as a dangerous arena of international power competition.

Libya’s arms and fighters helped transform the Syrian conflict from a nasty struggle into a bloodbath. As Middle East scholar Omar Dahi noted, “the year 2012 was decisive in creating the present catastrophe. There were foreign elements embroiled in Syria before that date . . . but until early 2012 the dynamics of the Syrian conflict were largely internal. . . . Partly in . . . appropriation of weapons pumped in from the outside and partly in anticipation of still greater military assistance, namely from the West, the opposition decided to take up arms.

“The decision — militarization — had three main effects. First, it dramatically increased the rate of death and destruction throughout the country. . . . By mid-2012, the monthly casualties were almost in excess of the total in the entire first year of the uprising. Militarization gave the Syrian regime a free hand to unleash its full arsenal of indiscriminate weaponry. . . Perhaps most fatefully, the advent of armed rebellion placed much of the opposition’s chances in the hands of those who would fund and arm the fighters. . . . It was then that the jihadi groups were unleashed.”

The collateral victims of NATO’s intervention in Libya now include 6 million Libyans attempting to survive in a failed state, millions of people across North Africa afflicted by Islamist terrorism, 20 million Syrians yearning for an end to war, and millions of innocent Europeans who wonder when they might become targets of suicidal terrorists. There is nothing “humanitarian” about wars that unleash such killing and chaos, with no end in sight.

June 10, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ISIS Was “Allegedly” Behind the London Bridge Attacks, Who Is Behind ISIS?

By Michel Chossudovsky | Global Research | June 6, 2017

London’s tabloids have gone into high gear with vivid descriptions of the attacks and the tragic loss of life. Seven killed and 48 wounded.

“ISIS has claimed responsibility for the depraved attack in London Bridge as chilling video shows three jihadis calmly strolling past a pub while in the midst of the van and knife rampage that killed seven and critically injured 21.” ( The Sun, June 5, 2017)

ISIS has claimed responsibility, Is there a pattern?

Without exception, Al Qaeda or ISIS were allegedly behind the Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Manchester and London Bridge terror attacks,  which served to spearhead a wave of Islamophobia across Western Europe, while also providing a pretext for the introduction of drastic police state measures:

“The twisted killers are seen calmly walking through Borough Market moments before they launched a stabbing attack on pubgoers while shouting “this is for Allah”, having already driven a van into crowds.” The Sun, June 5, 2017)

The statement of Prime Minister May (three days before the UK elections) points in the direction of an organized hate campaign against Muslims:

[The Manchester and London attacks] …are bound together by the single, evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division, and promotes sectarianism. It is an ideology that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam. It is an ideology that is a perversion of Islam and a perversion of the truth.

… It will only be defeated when we turn people’s minds away from this violence – and make them understand that our values – pluralistic, British values – are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.  (emphasis added),

“Perversion of the Truth”? Lies, fabrications, omissions. What the British media in chorus fails to mention is that both ISIS and Al Qaeda are creations of US intelligence, recruited, trained and financed by the US and its allies including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Israel and Jordan.

The Islamic State (ISIS) was originally an Al Qaeda affiliated entity created by US intelligence with the support of Britain’s MI6, Israel’s Mossad, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Presidency (GIP), Ri’āsat Al-Istikhbārāt Al-’Āmah ( رئاسة الاستخبارات العامة‎).

The origins of Al Qaeda date back to the Soviet-Afghan war. The Koranic schools in Afghanistan used to train Al Qaeda recruits were financed by the CIA, using textbooks published by the University of Nebraska. That’s where the “evil ideology of Islamist extremism” referred to by PM May originated: The “Global War on Terrorism” is a lie, “Islamic terrorism” is a product of US foreign policy which claims to be spreading “Western civilization”:

the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.

The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system’s core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books,..

 

afgh-Textbook jihad

Picture above is translated as follows: “Jihad – Often many different wars and conflicts arise among people, which cause material damages and loss of human life. If these wars and disputes occur among people for the sake of community, nation, territory, or even because of verbal differences, and for the sake of progress…”

This page is from a third-grade language arts textbook dating from the mujahidin period. A copy of the book was purchased new in Kabul in May 2000.

… Published in the dominant Afghan languages of Dari and Pashtun, the textbooks were developed in the early 1980s under an AID grant to the University of Nebraska -Omaha and its Center for Afghanistan Studies. The agency spent $ 51 million on the university’s education programs in Afghanistan from 1984 to 1994.” (Washington Post, 23 March 2002)

The ISIS is a terrorist paramilitary entity created by US intelligence. It has nothing to do with the tenets of Islam. The ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorists are the foot soldiers of the Western military alliance in Syria who are fighting a secular government. While America claims to be targeting the ISIS, in reality it is protecting the ISIS.

Britain’s Role in the “War on Terrorism”

There is evidence that British SAS Special Forces were dispatched to Syria in 2011 to integrate the ranks of the so-called moderate Al Qaeda rebels. Special Forces often hired through a private mercenary company on contract to NATO or the Pentagon were embedded within most paramilitary rebel formations, According to Elite UK Forces (the website of the SAS)

Reports from late November last year [2011] state that British Special forces have met up with members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the armed wing of the Syrian National Council. The apparent goal of this initial contact was to establish the rebel forces’ strength and to pave the way for any future training operations.

More recent reports have stated that British and French Special Forces have been actively training members of the FSA, from a base in Turkey. Some reports indicate that training is also taking place in locations in Libya and Northern Lebanon. British MI6 operatives and UKSF (SAS/SBS) personnel have reportedly been training the rebels in urban warfare as well as supplying them with arms and equipment. US CIA operatives and special forces are believed to be providing communications assistance to the rebels.

British MI6 were actively involved, collaborating with the CIA:

As the unrest and killings escalate in the troubled Arab state, agents from MI6 and the CIA are already in Syria assessing the situation, a security official has revealed.

Special forces are also talking to Syrian dissident soldiers [Al Qaeda].

They want to know about weapons and communications kit rebel forces will need if the Government decides to help.

“MI6 and the CIA are in Syria to infiltrate[rebel ranks]  and get at the truth,” said the well-placed source.

“We have SAS and SBS not far away who want to know what is happening and are finding out what kit dissident soldiers [Al Qaeda] need.” Syria will be bloodiest yet, Daily Star, January 1, 2012  (emphasis added)

The air campaign launched by Obama in 2014, which had the full support of the United Kingdom, was intent upon destroying Syria and Iraq rather than “going after the terrorists”. There is ample evidence that the Islamic State is protected by the US-led coalition.

The inflow and delivery of weapons and supplies are coordinated by the Pentagon in liaison with America’s allies.

US military aid is channelled to Al Qaeda as well as to ISIS-Daesh.

The US has also used the illegal weapons market  to channel vast amounts of weapons and military hardware to the Syrian “rebels”.

With regard to the Manchester and London terror attacks, this relationship between the ISIS and its Western State sponsors (including the intelligence services of the British government) cannot be swept aside.
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The blowback thesis is a red herring. The debate on the so-called causes of terrorism has focussed on “Blowback or Extremism?” Neither.
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Who are behind the terrorists? The role of the State Sponsors of Terrorism (including Her Majesty’s Government) is something which has been carefully overlooked.

The State sponsors of ISIS-Al Qaeda are now heralded as the victims of ISIS-Al Qaeda, an absurd proposition. Those who are funded and supported by Western intelligence services are now said to be fighting back.

The ISIS nonetheless has a certain degree of independence in relation to its State sponsors. That is the nature of what is called an “intelligence asset”.  But an “intelligence asset” is always on the radar of the intelligence services.

The British government through its intelligence services is known to have covertly supported several Al Qaeda affiliated entities including the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which was linked to the Manchester bombings.

The “Liberation” of  Tripoli was carried out by “former” members of the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which is affiliated to Al Qaeda.  These “former” Al Qaeda affiliated brigades constituted the backbone of the “pro-democracy” rebellion, which was supported by NATO.

Within the ranks of the LIFG rebels, US Navy SEALS, British SAS and French legionnaires disguised in civilian rebel garb, were reported to be behind major operations directed against key government buildings including Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in central Tripoli.

“Highly-trained [British Special Forces] units, known as ‘Smash’ teams for their prowess and destructive ability, have carried out secret reconnaissance missions to provide up-to-date information on the Libyan armed forces.” (SAS ‘Smash’ squads on the ground in Libya to mark targets for coalition jets, Daily Mirror, March 21, 2011)

And in the wake of NATO’s war Libya, these pro-democracy LIFG Al Qaeda affiliates have joined the ranks of the ISIS.

Washington’s Regime Change for Syria: Install the Islamic State

It is worth noting that the release of the Hillary Clinton email archive as well as leaked Pentagon documents confirm that the US and its allies are supportive of ISIS.

Moreover, a  7-page Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document dated August of 2012, points to US complicity in supporting the creation of an Islamic State.(Excerpt below)

 

Concluding Remarks

Despite the evidence, it is very difficult for people to accept the fact that their own government is supporting terrorism.

Most people will dispel this as an impossibility. But it is the forbidden truth.

The established consensus is that the role of a government is to protect its people. That myth has to be sustained.

The media’s role is to ensure that the truth does not trickle down to the broader public.

If that were to occur, the legitimacy of Western heads of State and heads of government would collapse like a house of cards.

The governments of the countries whose citizens are the victims of terror attacks are supporting ISIS-Daesh through their intelligence services.

June 7, 2017 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments