Aletho News


NATO’s Syria War Footing Under Cover of Migrant Crisis

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 15.02.2016

The US-led NATO alliance is dispatching warships to the Mediterranean to allegedly help ease Europe’s refugee crisis. However, a closer look at the naval vessels in the NATO mission shows that this is no refugee rescue attempt – but rather a full-on war mobilization.

The timing comes just as US-Russian diplomatic talks on the Syrian crisis reach a make-or-break moment, suggesting that NATO is preparing military action in league with Turkey in order to salvage the covert war for regime change in Syria.

That war has seen rapidly mounting losses for the United States and its allies who have been fueling clandestine proxy militias to topple the Assad government since March 2011. Those losses have escalated since Russia began its aerial bombing campaign four months ago to help stabilize the allied Syrian state of President Bashar al-Assad.

After a meeting with NATO ministers in Brussels on Thursday, the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that «without delay» the Standing Maritime Group 2 would be dispatched and «will be tasked to conduct reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance of the illegal [refugee smuggling] crossings in the Aegean Sea in cooperation with relevant authorities».

Significantly, in addition to the Aegean Sea crossing, the NATO mission will be tasked with monitoring the Syrian-Turkey border, again allegedly to combat human trafficking of refugees. That purported surveillance implies that the NATO vessels will be operating in the East Mediterranean, near Cyprus, where the Standing Maritime Group 2 is normally based.

«Mr Stoltenberg said reconnaissance and intelligence gathering was also being stepped up at the Turkey-Syria border», according to the BBC.

The mobilization has been ordered by NATO Supreme Commander General Philip Breedlove. Breedlove has distinguished himself previously for his rabid Cold War-style rhetoric against Russia. His new role, ostensibly, as a concerned humanitarian does not seem fitting.

The New York Times reported«Gen. Philip M Breedlove of the United States Air Force, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, has ordered ships to the Aegean, Mr Stoltenberg said. The vessels are from Canada, Germany, Greece and Turkey, officials said».

Breedlove is quoted by the NY Times as saying: «This mission has literally come together in the last 20 hours, and I have been tasked now to go back and define the mission. We had some very rapid decision making and now we have to go out to do some military work».

The NATO military commander appears to be dissembling. Last week, NATO reported that the Standing Maritime Group 2 had just completed «extensive» training operations with the Turkish navy in the East Mediterranean, according to the alliance’s own website.

The same group of vessels are now being sent allegedly on a «refugee rescue» mission. It beggars belief that General Breedlove, the top NATO military planner, claims that «this has literally come together in the last 20 hours».

Comprising the NATO Standing Maritime Group 2 are three ships: FGS Bonn (Germany), HMCS Fredericton (Canada) and a Turkish Barbaros vessel. These are heavy-duty warships, bigger than destroyer class, each bristling with an array of weaponry, including anti-aircraft, anti-ship, anti-submarine and anti-missile firepower.

When the NATO naval group – which is described as a «rapid reaction force» – conducted its exercises last week in the East Mediterranean, the maneuvers included drills with Turkish F-16 fighter jets and corvettes.

Britain’s Independent newspaper cites NATO’s secretary-general Stoltenberg as saying that the naval mission will involve five ships and that more vessels may be included.

The Independent added: «The extent to which the NATO vessels will interact with refugee boats remains unclear. NATO diplomats said that rather than direct intervention, intelligence gathered about people-smugglers is likely to be handed over to Turkish coastguards to allow them to combat the traffickers more effectively».

Stoltenberg said that the objective was «not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats» but about contributing «critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks».

If NATO ships are not there to interact with refugee vessels, then what are they for?

The notion that heavy-duty warships are sent to tackle human trafficking gangs is also not plausible. The traffickers rarely make the crossing on the overcrowded boats with the refugees. After the extortionate fees are handed over on Turkish shores, the boats are pushed out to sea by the traffickers who then disappear inland.

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was also attending the NATO meeting in Brussels. He said of the new putative rescue mission: «There is now a criminal syndicate that is exploiting these poor people and this is an organized smuggling operation. Targeting that is the way that the greatest effect can be had… That is the principal intent of this».

The apparent humanitarian intentions of this NATO mission lack credibility. As the BBC noted«The decision marks the security alliance’s first intervention in Europe’s migrant crisis».

The question is: why now? Last year, more than 3,000 people perished in Mediterranean crossings and up to one million entered the EU. So, why is NATO suddenly finding a sense of urgency now in allegedly tackling Europe’s refugee problem? It doesn’t add up.

More glaringly incongruous is the vast mismatch in vessel types and the supposed humanitarian naval purpose. The Standing Maritime Group 2 is a war operation, not a coastguard formation.

Another clue is that the mission has been initiated by NATO members Germany and Turkey. Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Turkey where she publicly backed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s calls for Russia to halt its military operations in Syria. Merkel iterated the NATO propaganda line that Russian bombing has «inflicted civilian suffering» and is responsible for the latest surge in people fleeing the Syrian city of Aleppo to Turkey’s border.

Russia’s successful military support for Syrian government forces has enabled dramatic strategic gains against the anti-government militia, most of whom are al-Qaeda-linked foreign terror brigades who have been infiltrated and weaponized by the US and its NATO allies, including Turkey and regional partners Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In a separate report this week, the New York Times disclosed that Washington and its allies are under increasing pressure from Russia’s military success in Syria. In a startling admission the NY Times reported: «The Russians have cut off many of the pathways the CIA has been using for the not-very-secret effort to arm rebel [read «terror»] groups, according to current and former [US] officials».

Losing the covert war in Syria because of Russia’s intervention, Washington is thus considering «Plan B», added the NY Times, which means «a far larger military effort directed at Assad».

The losing dynamic of the US-led covert war in Syria also explains why frustrations between Washington, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are bursting into the public sphere, with Erdogan in particular rebuking the Americans in speeches this week.

The deployment of NATO warships to the Mediterranean under the cover of «stemming Europe’s refugee crisis» may be a sop from Washington to Turkey to feign a more muscular response to the covert military losses in Syria, and thereby shut Erdogan up for a bit.

There again, it could be a sign of the adverted Plan B, and a real military contingency toward more direct US-led NATO intervention in Syria. Time will tell.

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

NYPD wants to make “resisting arrest” into a felony

By Cory Doctorow | boingboing | February 14, 2016

It’s no secret that “resisting arrest” is the go-to excuse for violence committed against suspects by corrupt cops — it’s practically a running gag.

But if NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton gets his way, resisting arrest will offer near-perfect impunity to his force’s most violent and sleazy officers, who will be able to threaten anyone who complains about gratuitous violence during arrests with long prison sentences and felony records.

The Commission has suggested that he will be able to curb abuses of the new powers by having the police investigate fellow officers who lay higher-than-average resisting arrest charges in the course of their duties.

In theory, a resisting arrest charge allows the state to further punish suspects who endanger the safety of police officers as they’re being apprehended; in practice, it gives tautological justification to cops who enjoy roughing people up. Why did you use force against that suspect, officer? Because she was resisting arrest. How do I know you’re telling the truth? Because I charged her with it, sir.

Consider a few recent would-be felons:

* Chaumtoli Huq, former general counsel to NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, who was charged with resisting arrest for waiting for her family outside the Times Square Ruby Tuesday’s.

*Jahmil-El Cuffee, who was charged with resisting arrest after he found himself on the receiving end of a head-stomp from a barbarous cop because he was allegedly rolling a joint. (“Stop resisting!” cops screamed at him as he lay helpless, pinned under a pile of officers.)

*Denise Stewart, who was charged with resisting arrest after a gang of New York’s Finest threw her half-naked from her own apartment into the lobby of her building. (They had the wrong apartment, it turned out.)

*Santiago Hernandez, who was charged with resisting arrest after a group of cops beat the shit out of him following a stop-and-frisk. “One kicks me, he steps back. Another one comes to punch me and he steps back…They were taking turns on me like a gang,” Hernandez told reporters.

*Eric Garner, who no doubt would have been charged with resisting had the chokehold from Daniel Pantaleo not ended his life first.

NYPD Has a Plan to Magically Turn Anyone It Wants Into a Felon [Andy Cush/Gawker]

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Hillary Clinton And The Syrian Bloodbath

Clinton’s role in Syria has been to help instigate and prolong the Syrian bloodbath, not to bring it to a close.

By Jeffrey Sachs | Mint Press | February 15, 2016

In the Milwaukee debate, Hillary Clinton took pride in her role in a recent UN Security Council resolution on a Syrian ceasefire:

But I would add this. You know, the Security Council finally got around to adopting a resolution. At the core of that resolution is an agreement I negotiated in June of 2012 in Geneva, which set forth a cease-fire and moving toward a political resolution, trying to bring the parties at stake in Syria together.

This is the kind of compulsive misrepresentation that makes Clinton unfit to be President. Clinton’s role in Syria has been to help instigate and prolong the Syrian bloodbath, not to bring it to a close.

In 2012, Clinton was the obstacle, not the solution, to a ceasefire being negotiated by UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan. It was US intransigence – Clinton’s intransigence – that led to the failure of Annan’s peace efforts in the spring of 2012, a point well known among diplomats. Despite Clinton’s insinuation in the Milwaukee debate, there was (of course) no 2012 ceasefire, only escalating carnage. Clinton bears heavy responsibility for that carnage, which has by now displaced more than 10 million Syrians and left more than 250,000 dead.

As every knowledgeable observer understands, the Syrian War is not mostly about Bashar al-Assad, or even about Syria itself. It is mostly a proxy war, about Iran. And the bloodbath is doubly tragic and misguided for that reason.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the leading Sunni powers in the Middle East, view Iran, the leading Shia power, as a regional rival for power and influence. Right-wing Israelis view Iran as an implacable foe that controls Hezbollah, a Shi’a militant group operating in Lebanon, a border state of Israel. Thus, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel have all clamored to remove Iran’s influence in Syria.

This idea is incredibly naïve. Iran has been around as a regional power for a long time–in fact, for about 2,700 years. And Shia Islam is not going away. There is no way, and no reason, to “defeat” Iran. The regional powers need to forge a geopolitical equilibrium that recognizes the mutual and balancing roles of the Gulf Arabs, Turkey, and Iran. And Israeli right-wingers are naïve, and deeply ignorant of history, to regard Iran as their implacable foe, especially when that mistaken view pushes Israel to side with Sunni jihadists.

Yet Clinton did not pursue that route. Instead she joined Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and right-wing Israelis to try to isolate, even defeat, Iran. In 2010, she supported secret negotiations between Israel and Syria to attempt to wrest Syria from Iran’s influence. Those talks failed. Then the CIA and Clinton pressed successfully for Plan B: to overthrow Assad.

When the unrest of the Arab Spring broke out in early 2011, the CIA and the anti-Iran front of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey saw an opportunity to topple Assad quickly and thereby to gain a geopolitical victory. Clinton became the leading proponent of the CIA-led effort at Syrian regime change.

In early 2011, Turkey and Saudi Arabia leveraged local protests against Assad to try to foment conditions for his ouster. By the spring of 2011, the CIA and the US allies were organizing an armed insurrection against the regime. On August 18, 2011, the US Government made public its position: “Assad must go.”

Since then and until the recent fragile UN Security Council accord, the US has refused to agree to any ceasefire unless Assad is first deposed. The US policy–under Clinton and until recently–has been: regime change first, ceasefire after. After all, it’s only Syrians who are dying. Annan’s peace efforts were sunk by the United States’ unbending insistence that U.S.-led regime change must precede or at least accompany a ceasefire. As the Nation editors put it in August 2012:

The US demand that Assad be removed and sanctions be imposed before negotiations could seriously begin, along with the refusal to include Iran in the process, doomed [Annan’s] mission.

Clinton has been much more than a bit player in the Syrian crisis. Her diplomat Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi was killed as he was running a CIA operation to ship Libyan heavy weapons to Syria. Clinton herself took the lead role in organizing the so-called “Friends of Syria” to back the CIA-led insurgency.

The U.S. policy was a massive, horrific failure. Assad did not go, and was not defeated. Russia came to his support. Iran came to his support. The mercenaries sent in to overthrow him were themselves radical jihadists with their own agendas. The chaos opened the way for the Islamic State, building on disaffected Iraqi Army leaders (deposed by the US in 2003), on captured U.S. weaponry, and on the considerable backing by Saudi funds. If the truth were fully known, the multiple scandals involved would surely rival Watergate in shaking the foundations of the US establishment.

The hubris of the United States in this approach seems to know no bounds. The tactic of CIA-led regime change is so deeply enmeshed as a “normal” instrument of U.S. foreign policy that it is hardly noticed by the U.S. public or media. Overthrowing another government is against the U.N. charter and international law. But what are such niceties among friends?

This instrument of U.S. foreign policy has not only been in stark violation of international law but has also been a massive and repeated failure. Rather than a single, quick, and decisive coup d’état resolving a US foreign policy problem, each CIA-led regime change has been, almost inevitably, a prelude to a bloodbath. How could it be otherwise? Other societies don’t like their countries to be manipulated by U.S. covert operations.

Removing a leader, even if done “successfully,” doesn’t solve any underlying geopolitical problems, much less ecological, social, or economic ones. A coup d’etat invites a civil war, the kind that now wracks Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. It invites a hostile international response, such as Russia’s backing of its Syrian ally in the face of the CIA-led operations. The record of misery caused by covert CIA operations literally fills volumes at this point. What surprise, then, that Clinton acknowledges Henry Kissinger as a mentor and guide?

And where is the establishment media in this debacle? The New York Times finally covered a bit of this story last month in describing the CIA-Saudi connection, in which Saudi funds are used to pay for CIA operations in order to make an end-run around Congress and the American people. The story ran once and was dropped. Yet the Saudi funding of CIA operations is the same basic tactic used by Ronald Reagan and Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s (with Iranian arms sales used to fund CIA-led covert operations in Central America without consent or oversight by the American people).

Clinton herself has never shown the least reservation or scruples in deploying this instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Her record of avid support for US-led regime change includes (but is not limited to) the US bombing of Belgrade in 1999, the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Iraq War in 2003, the Honduran coup in 2009, the killing of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, and the CIA-coordinated insurrection against Assad from 2011 until today.

It takes great presidential leadership to resist CIA misadventures. Presidents get along by going along with arms contractors, generals, and CIA operatives. They thereby also protect themselves from political attack by hardline right-wingers. They succeed by exulting in U.S. military might, not restraining it. Many historians believe that JFK was assassinated as a result of his peace overtures to the Soviet Union, overtures he made against the objections of hardline rightwing opposition in the CIA and other parts of the U.S. government.

Hillary Clinton has never shown an iota of bravery, or even of comprehension, in facing down the CIA. She has been the CIA’s relentless supporter, and has exulted in showing her toughness by supporting every one of its misguided operations. The failures, of course, are relentlessly hidden from view. Clinton is a danger to global peace. She has much to answer for regarding the disaster in Syria.

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli Soldiers Push Man from Wheelchair following Shooting

IMEMC News & Agencies – February 15, 2016

A video released by a Palestinian, immediately after Israeli forces shot and critically injured a 14-year-old girl, shows Israeli forces assaulting bystanders.

In the video, an Israeli soldier pushes a disabled man in a wheelchair backwards, flipping the man and his wheelchair over. Two more Palestinians rush to the disabled man’s aide, while Israeli forces charge forward at other bystanders, setting off a stun grenade.

The video shows Israeli forces attacking and threatening Palestinians who were attempting to get near Yasmin al-Zarou, who was shot near an Israeli checkpoint in Hebron city, according to Ma’an.

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Video | , , , , | Leave a comment

UK to outlaw boycotts of Israeli settlement goods

MEMO | February 15, 2016

ukpalestinepnnPublic bodies in Britain are to be prevented from boycotting “unethical” goods, such as those from illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine, under a plan expected to be announced later Monday, local media reported.

Publicly funded institutions such as local municipalities and universities will face “stiff penalties” if they bar products from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco or West Bank settlements, The Independent newspaper reported, citing ministers.

The proposals – due to be announced by Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock – are being put forward on the grounds that bans on products are harming community relations and fuelling anti-Semitism.

“The new guidance on procurement combined with changes we are making to how pension pots can be invested will help prevent damaging and counter-productive local foreign policies undermining our national security,” Hancock told The Independent.

Some public bodies around the U.K. have refused to buy goods from Israeli settlements in recent years and they would have to reverse those decisions under the plans.

In Leicester, a city in the East Midlands, elected officials agreed in 2014 that the municipality would not buy settlement produce. That year the devolved government in Scotland issued a notice discouraging trade and investment with settlements by Scottish councils.

The government’s plan was criticized as an attack on local democracy.

Amnesty International’s Economic Relations Program Director Peter Frankental said the proposal could encourage human rights abuses.

“All public bodies should assess the social and environment impacts of any company with whom they choose to enter into business relationships,” he told The Independent. “Where’s the incentive for companies to ensure there are no human rights violations such as slavery in their supply chains, when public bodies cannot hold them to account by refusing to award them contracts?”

Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights — lands occupied by Israel in 1967 — are considered illegal by the international community and a major impediment to peace with Palestinians.

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

ISM calls for internationals to volunteer in Palestine

 International Solidarity Movement | 15th February, 2016

Occupied Palestine – Today, Palestinians are facing an enormous amount of pressure in their lives due to the growing violence of Israeli forces. They face restrictions of movement, daily harassment, intimidation and attacks at hands of Israeli occupying forces and extremist settlers. ISM is a Palestinian-led movement; our actions are initiated on the invitation of Palestinians, following their lead and wishes. We, as internationals, are needed to monitor human rights violations and show our support for the popular struggle.

Since the beginning of October, Israeli occupation forces increased their abuse of power by carrying out a series of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians, in a manner that is completely unjustified and, in most cases, constituting crimes of war. Israeli politicians have fueled the motivation to kill Palestinians by making open statements encouraging Israeli citizens to become executioners. In addition, Israeli forces are applying measures of collective punishment towards the families of Palestinians who are killed in this unlawful manner. Over 170 Palestinians have been killed since October, many of them children. On February 14th alone Israeli forces shot dead 5 Palestinians, including 3 children, and critically wounded a 14-year-old girl in al-Khalil.


Israeli forces conducting intimidating military patrol as schoolgirls walk down the street in the Old City of al-Khalil

With more volunteers, ISM could more effectively fulfill our commitments to the Palestinian communities we work with, such as walking with schoolchildren and monitoring checkpoints. A larger team also opens up the possibilities of working in more locations and regions where international presence can be useful.

Our presence in Palestine is crucial, because we witness and document what we see and can show the world what is happening on the ground. We do our best to prevent Palestinians from being harassed, and more importantly, we show them we are there in solidarity with them.

In Al-Khalil (Hebron), we need volunteers to walk children to school and monitor checkpoints where students and teachers cross on their way to and from school. Palestinian parents of kindergarten children living in H2 (the area completely controlled by the Israeli military with constant presence of soldiers and settlers) fear to send their children to school without internationals to accompany them. Children in the neighborhoods in H2 routinely face harassment and intimidation from Israeli forces and settlers, and Israeli forces deploy tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated metal bullets regularly against schoolchildren at some of the checkpoints ISM monitors.

One of our volunteers walks a group of children to school in al-Khalil

One of our volunteers walks a group of children to school in al-Khalil


Young schoolboy looks on as Israeli forces body search his teacher just outside their school in al-Khalil

In occupied East Jerusalem, many Palestinian families face the constant threat of having their homes demolished by Israeli forces. As a way of showing support and sharing their story, we go to these families to document their situation and report it in the media. In the old city of Jerusalem, some Palestinian families also face eviction, like in the case of grandma Nora; all part of a plan to replace Palestinians in the old city by Israeli settlers. Part of our job is to make sure that these cases don’t stay unknown to the world by reporting them on our website and sharing it on social media.

In Ramallah and its surroundings, we monitor the Friday popular marches. Palestinian popular committees all over the West Bank organize regular demonstrations where ISM is called to participate. We work alongside popular resistance to the occupation, providing international presence and documentation at protests and actions facing attack by Israeli military forces. Sometimes, Palestinians ask us to accompany them to the military court. We attend hearings of their family members or friends in an attempt to show them that they are not alone.


Demonstrators gathered at night around the fire in the ongoing protest tent opposing the closed military zone in al-Khalil


9-year-old girl being rushed from the scene after Israeli forces shot her with live ammunition in the arm during their attack on the weekly Friday demonstration in Kafr Qaddum

In Tulkarm and its surroundings, thousands of Palestinians cross the checkpoints everyday to go to work in Israel. The conditions of the crossing are tiring and humiliating for the workers, who arrive several hours before the opening of the gates and have to stand in line in order to be on time for work. Since October, the university of Tulkarm has also been witnessing many violent attacks on campus from the Israeli forces, in which several students were injured with teargas and live ammunition. The ISM team monitors and reports on these Human Rights violations.

A large part of ISM’s work has always involved documenting the violence and impacts of the occupation and the Palestinian struggle against it, working to produce and share media to an international audience to build awareness and global opposition to Israel’s unjust, illegal occupation.

ISM volunteers work amplifying Palestinian voices of resistance while in Palestine and especially after returning to our home countries around the world.


5 children who were forced out of their home in Jerusalem after it was demolished; the ISM team met with their family to learn and share their story

When you come to Palestine, try to bring a camera and your laptop if you have one, as both are extremely useful for media work. To plan your trip to the West Bank, please read our traveling information. We ask our volunteers to commit for a minimum of two weeks after completing our two day training, but keep in mind that we always prefer to have volunteers stay for longer periods of time.

Please note that we cannot sponsor people or otherwise facilitate anyone’s entry into Gaza; the information contained here and in our travel and training pages applies to our work in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.

When you decide to come to Palestine to join ISM, or if you have any further questions not covered in our page on joining us in Palestine, please contact or call the phone number for the training coordinator once you have entered Palestine at 059 530 7448

In solidarity,

ISM Team

ISM volunteers raising Palestinian flag in front of the Apartheid wall.

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , | 1 Comment

British schoolboy questioned for wearing ‘Free Palestine’ badge

MEMO | February 15, 2016

free-palestine-logo-badgesA schoolboy has been questioned by anti-terrorism police because he wore a “Free Palestine” badge to school, The Independent newspaper reported.

Rahmaan Mohammadi’s teachers at Challney High School for Boys in Luton referred him to police under Prevent – the controversial government anti-radicalisation programme.

The pupil was also wearing pro-Palestine badges and wristbands. He had previously requested permission to fundraise for children affected by the Israeli occupation.

Mohammadi said he had previously been warned by police not to talk about Palestine in school, and claimed that staff members approached his 14-year-old brother and pressured him to tell him to “stop being radical”.

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Islamophobia | , , , | 5 Comments

Senior Israeli officials urge sectarian partition of Syria

Press TV – February 15, 2016

Officials with the Israeli regime, which is already widely accused of supporting Takfiri militants wreaking havoc in Syria, have called for the partition of the Arab country along sectarian lines.

Ram Ben-Barak, the director general of Israel’s Intelligence Ministry, said the proposed breakup was “the only possible solution” to the conflict in Syria.

“I think that ultimately Syria should be turned into regions, under the control of whoever is there – the Alawites where they are, the Sunnis where they are,” Ben-Barak told Israel’s Army Radio on Sunday.

Israel’s Minister of Military Affairs Moshe Ya’alon, who was in Munich to meet with European counterparts and Jordan’s King Abdullah, also echoed Ben-Barak’s remarks.

“Syria as we have known it will not be united anew in the foreseeable future, and at some point I reckon that we will see enclaves, whether organized or not, formed by the various sectors that live and are fighting there,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

Ya’alon also voiced doubt that a ceasefire plan for Syria agreed upon recently would succeed.

After negotiations in Munich, diplomats from a working group of 17 countries, including the US, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, agreed Thursday to establish a temporary “cessation of hostilities” in Syria within a week.

The International Syria Support Group (ISSG) also called for rapid humanitarian access to besieged Syrian towns.

The Israeli officials’ statements come as reports say Israel has been supporting the militants fighting the government of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

The Israeli regime has set up hospitals near the border with Syria to treat the injured militants coming in from the battlefield there. Locals in the occupied Golan Heights have also intercepted Israeli vehicles transporting injured militants on the road between al-Sheikh Mountain and the village of Majdal Sham.

The Israeli calls for dividing Syria was raised as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, two regional sponsors of militant groups in Syria, have in recent weeks voiced their interest in launching a ground operation inside the country.

On February 12, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told CNN that Riyadh is ready to deploy special forces to Syria if the US-led coalition, carrying out airstrikes in the country since September 2014, decides to take such a move.

The idea of a possible participation in ground operations in Syria was first raised on February 4 by Ahmed Asiri, a spokesman for the Saudi Defense Ministry.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has dispatched warplanes to the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, claiming that the move is in line with the fight against Daesh terrorists in neighboring Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said Ankara and Riyadh could launch a ground operation in Syria “if there is a strategy.”

The United States has welcomed the Saudi offer, while it has been met with strong criticism from Syria and its allies.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem has said that any “ground intervention on Syrian territory without government authorization would amount to an aggression that must be resisted.” He has also warned that potential aggressors would return home in a “wooden coffin.”

Russia, Iran and Iraq have also warned against the deployment of foreign ground forces in Syria.

The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria, which flared up in March 2011, has killed some 470,000 people and left 1.9 million injured, according to the so-called Syrian Center for Policy Research.

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why the Syria ceasefire is a long shot

RT | February 14, 2016

An end to the Syrian conflict is desperately needed. But the latest plan for a cessation of violence is unlikely to take hold, as the deal struck by international powers is based on fundamentally opposing premises.

In short, Washington and its allies want regime change, while Russia and Iran insist that President Bashar Assad and his government are the legitimate ruling authorities in Syria. All sides are mandated by UN resolutions to respect the sovereign will of the Syrian people – to determine the political future of their country.

But the Western powers and their regional partners, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar in particular, are insisting – explicitly or implicitly – on their objective of ousting Assad. This premise of unlawful interference in the affairs of a sovereign state is the crux of the problem, and why the latest seeming agreement for a nationwide truce is as thin as the paper it is written on.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced the proposal for a cessation of hostilities following six hours of negotiations with 15 other member states belonging to the International Syria Support Group in Munich last Friday. The truce is supposed to come into effect later this week.

The truce outlined in an ISSG communique does not apply to two militant groups: Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL/ISIL or Daesh) and the Jabhat al Nusra Front. Both are linked to Al Qaeda and are officially listed by international governments as terrorist organizations. The provision also exempts “other terror groups” but does not specify the names. This is a major loophole in the proposed truce deal which will make its application extremely problematic if not infeasible. That loophole also alludes to the foreign-backed nature of the conflict in Syria.

Following the Munich communique, the Syrian government and its Russian ally both said that their combined military operations against terror groups would continue.

President Assad vowed that his armed forces were moving ahead with their offensive, backed by Russian air power, to “retake the whole country.” He said the battle for the northern city of Aleppo – the country’s largest – was crucial to “cut off terrorist supply routes from Turkey.”

Given the delineation of terror groups in the Munich communique and in recent UN resolutions (2249 and 2254), it would appear incontestable that the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies have every right to maintain the military momentum.

Yet Syria and Russia’s continued offensive around Aleppo over the weekend provoked recriminations from Western powers. Western media coverage tended to portray the continuation of military operations as a bad faith breach of the tentative truce.

Reuters news agency reported: “Russia keeps bombing despite Syria truce; Assad vows to fight on.”

Secretary Kerry expressed irritation when he said: “If the Assad regime does not live up to its responsibilities and if the Iranians and the Russians do not hold Assad to the promises that they have made… then the international community obviously is not going to sit there like fools and watch this. There will be an increase of activity to put greater pressure on them.”

Kerry even warned that “greater pressure” could involve foreign troops being sent into Syria, without naming from which countries, saying: “There is a possibility there will be additional ground troops.”

The top American diplomat made the comments while attending the Munich Security Conference along with several world leaders, held the day after the truce deal was brokered by the ISSG. Kerry told delegates ominously: “We hope this week can be a week of change. This moment is a hinge point. Decisions made in the coming days, weeks and months can end the war in Syria. Or, if the wrong choices are made, they can open the door to even wider conflict.”

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also addressed the Munich conference, but he warned that any ground invasion in Syria by foreign forces ran the grave risk of unleashing an all-out war.

Over the weekend, it was reported that Saudi F-16 warplanes are to begin flying out of Turkey’s NATO base at Incirlik, allegedly on combat operations against the Islamic State terror group in Syria. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that a combined Saudi-Turkish ground force was ready to intervene in Syria, and there were reports of cross-border Turkish artillery shelling of Syrian Kurdish sites.

The nub of the proposed truce is that Syria and Russia are legally entitled to eradicate ISIS, Al Nusra and related groups. Strategically, too, it can be argued that the defeat of such illegally armed insurgents is a priority task in creating conditions for an end to the five-year conflict.

However, “the related terror groups” also include many other militants whom Western governments and Western media mendaciously refer to as “moderate rebels.” So, while the Syrian Arab Army and Russian fighter planes can legitimately make the case that these groups are to be targeted, Washington and its allies will deceptively allege that Moscow is attacking “moderate rebels.”

This is a risible fiction constructed by Western governments, their regional partners and the Western media. It is well documented that groups like Jaish al-Islam, Jaish al-Fateh, Ahrar al-Sham and Farouq Brigade – heavily sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Qatar – are integrated with the officially recognized Al Qaeda terrorist organizations. Even the so-called “secular” Free Syrian Army – much championed by Washington – is in league with ISIS and Al Nusra, as are the Turkmen brigades openly supported by the Turkish government.

US government-owned news outlet Voice of America described the terror-rebel connection in the following delicate way: “The Munich deal writes out any cessation of hostilities for not only the Islamic State but [al Qaeda] affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra or other groups deemed terrorists by the UN Security Council. Some of those groups, aside from IS, have been battlefield allies of other rebel factions around Aleppo.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post admitted that Jabhat al-Nusra “in some instances fights alongside rebel forces supported by the United States and its allies.” The Post article added that even in the event of a truce taking hold: “The United States and its partners would continue their current level of equipping and training the opposition so as not to leave the rebels at a disadvantage if the cessation of hostilities collapses.”

The cessation that Washington has assiduously tried to craft is not premised on finding a genuine end to the conflict. Rather, it is evidently a tactical pause to afford proxy forces on the ground badly needed respite from the Syrian-Russian onslaught. That onslaught is threatening to wipe out the myriad terror- and terrorist-related brigades.

That’s why John Kerry has been so concerned to stymie Russia’s intervention. That intervention ordered by President Vladimir Putin less than five months ago is wiping out terror assets that Washington and its allies have invested in for regime change in Syria over five years. That investment is going up in smoke, and that is also why Washington and its regional partners Turkey and Saudi Arabia are reserving a direct military contingency – in order to salvage their regime-change project.

The proposed cessation in Syria is a long shot that will miss the mark of bringing peace to the war-devastated country. Because Washington and its allies are not interested in peace. They want regime change – by hook or by crook.

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkish Army Shells Kurds in Syria Near Border for Third Day in a Row

Sputnik – 15.02.2016

The Turkish Armed Forces have again shelled the positions of the Kurdish forces of self-Defense in northern Syria, Turkish Foreign Ministry press secretary Tanju Bilgic said Monday.

On Saturday, Turkish forces began shelling the positions of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria’s Aleppo region.

Turkish forces bombed a village and an airbase that were recently captured by Kurds, Al Mayadeen TV reported Saturday. Prior to being captured by the YPG, the village and the airbase belonged to al-Nusra Front terrorist organization.

On Sunday, NTV channel reported citing a military source that Turkish forces have continued to shell YPG positions in Syria killing two Kurdish fighters.

“This morning there was an attack on our border point in the province of Hatay. According to operative information, the shelling came from the [the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party’s] positions. We opened return fire,” Bilgic said at a briefing.

Later, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu claimed that Turkish forces had shelled Kurds’ positions in northern Syria as a “retaliatory measure.”

On Sunday, the Syrian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon slamming Ankara over the shelling. Syrian authorities have called on the UN to take measures to ensure security and “put an end to the crimes of the Turkish regime.”

Turkish PM Demands Syrian Kurds Abandon Minneh Airport or Face Destruction

Sputnik – 15.02.2016

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has again put forward an ultimatum against the self-defense forces of Syrian Kurds, demanding they abandon the Minneh Airport in northern Syria near the Turkish border or it would destroy the facilities.

“We will not allow the city of Azaz to fall… [The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party] must leave the airport, and if they don’t then it will be brought to complete ruin,” Davutoglu told journalists on a flight to Ukraine.

Turkey’s Actions on Syrian Border Unacceptable – Russian Foreign Ministry

Sputnik – 15.02.2016

Turkey’s actions on the border with Syria are completely unacceptable, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Monday.

“We have directed these issues several times to the [UN] Security Council, as well as during our talks with our American colleagues and during the Vienna group meetings. It is completely unacceptable what is now occurring on the Turkish-Syrian border,” Zakharova told RT television channel.

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment