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Washington’s seasonal tidings of Phoenix-style dirty war for Afghanistan

By Finian Cunningham | RT | December 25, 2017

This week saw another deadly bomb attack in the Afghan capital, Kabul, only days after US Vice President Mike Pence promised American troops “victory was in sight.”

This war is far from over, and signs are it will get much worse in the year ahead.

Lurking behind the cheery seasonal tidings brought by Pence lies a forthcoming year of much-increased violence in Afghanistan. Away from the upbeat headlines are portents of ever-deeper involvement by US elite forces in the country’s unrelenting mayhem.

In particular, the US military is moving toward a new strategy under President Trump of unleashing killer units in an apparent bid to drown the Afghan insurgency in blood. It’s a policy America has tried elsewhere, for example, the infamous Phoenix program of assassination during the Vietnam War. The policy usually fails in its stated objectives of “peace and security.”

The “surprise” nature of Pence’s whirlwind visit just before the weekend shows the Central Asian country’s security is on a knife-edge. The unannounced trip by the vice president – his first to Afghanistan – was reportedly “shrouded in secrecy” for security reasons.

Arriving on board a C-17 military plane at the giant US air base at Bagram, then flown by helicopter to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the logistics were an unmistakable indicator of how dangerous the country is. This after 16 years of the most protracted US war ever – supposedly to defeat Taliban militants.

Earlier in September, when US Secretary of Defense James Mattis flew into Kabul International Airport, Taliban insurgents were reportedly able to launch a rocket attack on his aircraft. Mattis and his delegation did not come to harm. This time, however, US officials seemed to be taking no chances with Pence, flying the vice president under cover of darkness to the high-security military airbase.

Wishing troops a “Merry Christmas,” Pence said: “I believe victory is closer than ever before.” He assured American forces that President Trump’s new “fight-to-win strategy” for Afghanistan was “bearing fruit.”

“The results are really beginning to become evident around the country,” claimed Pence after meeting with Ghani. The question is: what “evidence” was he referring to?

It was nearly four months ago, in August, that President Donald Trump announced a new plan for military involvement in Afghanistan. It was something of U-turn on his election campaign pledges last year to wind down American overseas wars.

Under Trump, up to 4,000 troops are to return to the country taking the total US presence there to 15,000. The numbers are set to substantially increase, according to Stars and Stripes, citing US Army Undersecretary Patrick Murphy.

The re-deployment to Afghanistan is still a lot less than the peak numbers during the Obama years when troop levels surged to 100,000. But there seems to be a qualitative shift under Trump marking more deadly involvement.

Trump’s “fight-to-win” strategy suggests US troops are to pursue much more aggressive tactics. Officially, the American military is supposed to be only “advising and training” local Afghan forces. But what the Trump administration is signaling is a return to heavy combat with elite infantry troops.

The Washington Post reported that Pence was briefed by the Afghan officials that “more senior Taliban leaders have been eliminated this year than in all previous years combined.”

If that’s confirmed, that marks a dramatic increase in US combat violence under Trump. It would also tally with Trump’s declared aim to give American commanders in Afghanistan a “freer hand” to carry out missions. This gloves-off policy under Trump has the hallmarks of US troops stepping up assassination squads to go after insurgents.

Another foreboding indicator is that US military journals are reporting, according to Stars and Stripes, elite combat troops being sent to Afghanistan in anticipation of sharper fighting in the Spring season. Those forces include infantry brigades from Fort Carson, Colorado, which are trained in “unconventional warfare” and operating deep inside enemy territory. Unconventional warfare can be seen as a euphemism for extrajudicial killings, torture, and terroristic operations.

The 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team is reportedly replacing forces from the 82nd Airborne Division, who have completed a tour of duty under Trump’s new strategy. The latter are out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, another center for elite killer forces trained in unconventional warfare.

Stars and Stripes quotes Army General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, as saying he is “optimistic” that under Trump’s freer-hand instructions it would “help push the long-stalemated war in favor of the US-backed Afghan government.”

In another sign of the covert operations underway, General Nicholson said: “more than 1,000 Americans would be operating away from bases at any given time once the fighting season begins.” In other words, the Trump administration has signed off on commando-warfare in Afghanistan, not with large troop numbers strewn across the country but with hunter-combat units operating behind enemy lines. In short, elite killer teams.

Given the briefings received by Pence while in Kabul of a seeming dramatic increase in killings of senior Taliban militants, what appears to be underway in Afghanistan is a Phoenix-style assassination campaign similar to what US elite forces carried out in the early years of the Vietnam War. That was where US personnel, along with local forces, went on murder sprees targeting enemy “suspects.” In Vietnam, it is believed that thousands of innocent, non-combatants were assassinated as part of a lethal trawl against militants.

It seems sinister that while Trump is giving US military commanders the green light to expand the war with elite forces operating behind enemy lines, his vice president Mike Pence is crowing about “real progress on the ground.”

It also seems impossibly doomed. Afghanistan is now a foothold for Daesh (Islamic State) as well as the Taliban. The former terror group claimed responsibility this week for the suicide bomb attack outside the Afghan security intelligence headquarters in Kabul, reportedly killing at least 10 bystanders. In recent months, bombings have apparently surged in the capital.

Up to half of all Afghan territory is now under control of insurgent groups. Opium drug production is soaring, and the US-backed state institutions are groaning from corruption.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently claimed that terrorism and lawlessness have flourished during the US presence in his country. Indeed, Karzai said the US forces and terror groups were working “hand in hand” across Afghanistan. He cited cases where militants have been allegedly transported to various parts of the country using US helicopters. Similar claims of US collusion with terror groups have also been made by the Russian government regarding Afghanistan and Syria.

So, just what “progress” the Trump administration is referring to in Afghanistan remains cryptic.

The US-backed regime in Kabul is losing more control of territory, while the country descends further into chaos and violence. More than 30,000 civilians have been killed during 16 years of “Operation Enduring Freedom” launched by Washington in October 2001.

Fiendishly, the Afghan population is set to endure more such American-style freedom with Trump’s dispatch of killer troops.

December 25, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Energy in Palestine – an introduction

By Palestina, Gas en de Palestijnse Revolutie | 25-12-2017

Fifteen gas fields have been found on the coast of Palestine since 1999. With a value of at least two hundred thirty billion dollar, this gas will play an important role in the region. The key question for us is how the gas will influence the Palestinian people and their struggle for liberation. This article is a short introduction to this topic.

Who, what, how much?

The first gas field off the coast of Palestine was found in 1999 and the first flow of gas was realized five years later. Up until today fifteen gas fields have been found that belong to Palestine, six of which are being exploited by ‘Israel’.[1] The total amount of gas is between forty and fifty TCF (trillion cubic feet) and has a minimal value of $230bn.

‘Israeli’ state and exploitation

As a settler-colony and apartheid state, ‘Israel’ has complete control of the gas fields. 40% of the gas will be exported and the remaining 60% will be used for domestic consumption.[2] The sole current export is to Jordan with a total value of fifteen billion dollars. Cyprus, Greece, Italy and the EU also have a joint agreement for the construction of a pipeline to facilitate ‘Israeli’ gas exports to Europe. In regards to domestic consumption the gas makes ‘Israel’ energy independent for the coming decades. ‘Israel’s’ economic position and economic independence are clearly strengthened by the exploitation of the gas fields.

The PA and political parties

The gas has far reaching political consequences. Gas deals with foreign states on the one hand further normalize ‘Israel’ and strengthen its economy. On the other hand gas platforms, pipelines and complicit companies are new targets for the Palestinian resistance and the international solidarity movement. It is only a matter of time before the global BDS movement becomes a significant force against the ‘Israeli’ exploitation of the gas. In this sense, the political meaning of the gas is two-sided or contradictory: on the one hand it strengthens the occupation economy; on the other hand it offers more ways of resistance.

But not all Palestinians have a problem with the Zionist gas exploitation. The Palestinian Authority is as always positive about ‘Israel’ and ‘their’ gas. While the PA canceled a $1.2 billion gas deal with ‘Israel’ in March 2015[3], they offer no resistance to ‘Israeli’ control over the gas. This holds for the gas in Gaza, the Dutch institute SOMO wrote that ‘Israel’ is currently stealing the gas there.[4]

Hamas, who govern Gaza, and the PFLP have been confronting ‘Israel’ about the gas. Mohammed al Zoari, aka ‘the engineer’, was killed in Tunisia in December 2016. He was working on an underwater drone for Hamas to attack gas- and oil platforms.[5] The PFLP rejects all non-Palestinian exploitation of the gas and also agitates against regimes that make gas deals with the Zionist entity.[6][7][8][9]

The Palestinian struggle for liberation in the Netherlands

Noble Energy (United States), Delek Group and Avner (both ‘Israeli’) are the most active companies currently involved with Palestinian gas. Additionally involved is, Royal Dutch Shell (British-Dutch), mainly working on the gas fields on the coast of Gaza. While the PA is in talks with Shell about exploitation of these fields, this is likely never to be a reality. Multiple high-placed ‘Israeli’ scientists and politicians have spoken negatively about a fast exploitation of the Gaza fields. Shell also wants to buy ‘Israeli’ gas to sell in Egypt.[10]

It may be clear that the Dutch movement can play an important role because of the Shell involvement. Add to this that work is being put into constructing a pipeline from Palestine to Europe.[11] With a government that probably wants less dependence on Russian gas[12], Palestinian gas can be flowing through the Netherlands in a decade.

The BDS-movement, especially in the Middle East, is already working on stopping the gas theft. It is our task in the Netherlands to follow this example and stand shoulder to shoulder with activists in Jordan,[13], Turkey[14] and Palestine. We have to struggle in order to guarantee that the resistance will be stronger than the ‘Israeli’ gas profits.

[1] Al-Haq. 2015. ‘Annexing Energy’ report.

[2] Jordan BDS. 2014. ‘$8.4billion to Israel’s treasury from Jordanian citizens’.

[3] Winer, Stuart. 11 maart 2015. ‘Palestinians cancel natural gas deal with Israel’

[4] SOMO. 2017. ‘Beneath troubled waters’ report.

[5] Burton, Fred. 31 December 2016. ‘Mossad’s Fingerprints on a Murder in Tunisia’.

[6] 25 februari 2015. PFLP denounces “treacherous” gas deal (between PA and ‘Israel’) and demands immediate cancellation.

[7] 18 mei 2016. PFLP denounces joint US/Israeli/Greek military exercises, calls for action from Greek popular movement.

[8] 1 juli 2016. PFLP warns of dangerous Turkish-Israeli agreement built on looting the natural gas of the Palestinian people.

[9] 25 oktober 2016. Jordan protests continue against national gas deal with Zionist state.

[10] 21 augustus 2017. Shell ‘to buy Israeli gas’ for Egypt market.



[13] 12 november 2016. (Jordanian) Protesters detained briefly over protest against gas deal with Israel.

[14] 28 maart 2017. BDS Turkey: Turkish-Israeli energy cooperation is unacceptable!

Translation by Samidoun

December 25, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Netanyahu thanks Denmark for cutting aid to Palestinian NGOs

MEMO | December 25, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hailed Denmark’s recent decision to revoke funding to several Palestinian NGOs, Israel’s Walla reported yesterday.

Netanyahu called on all European countries to follow similar measures.

“I call on all the European governments to end their support for organisations that support terrorism and boycotts of Israel.” He stressed: “Denmark has decided to take this step, but it is not the first or the last.”

“We will continue pursuing this line,” he said.

On Friday, the Danish foreign minister, Anders Samuelsen, announced that it would implement a more “rigorous” vetting process for the transfer of funds to Palestinian NGOs.

The move came after Denmark launched a review of its practices in May following a meeting in which Netanyahu urged Samuelsen to revoke Denmark’s funds for Palestinian NGOs, which he claimed were involved in “anti-Israel incitement and promoting boycotts of the Jewish state.”

Netanyahu gave Samuelsen a list of organisations which receive Danish funds that Israel said were linked to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Netanyahu’s remarks came during his weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday during which he said that “Mahmoud Abbas [Palestinian President] has shown no interest in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” President Abbas had previously announced that he won’t accept any peace plan that “is being put forward by the United States.”

The Israeli leader noted during the Cabinet meeting that the US administration believes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the core problem in the Middle East region.

“The root of the general conflict in the Middle East does not lie in Israel, but in Iran and in radical Islam and the terrorism that it inspires,” Netanyahu said.

December 25, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

New details emerge of Saudi Arabia’s treatment of Hariri

Press TV – December 25, 2017

A leading US daily has revealed new details of Saudi Arabia’s degrading treatment of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri during a recent trip to Riyadh, where the Lebanese leader was coerced into reading a prepared resignation speech under conditions similar to that of a captive.

Prime Minister Hariri abruptly declared his resignation from a then-unknown location in Saudi Arabia and from Saudi-owned television on November 4, accusing Iran and Hezbollah of interfering in the region and signaling that that was his reason to quit.

But Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who suspected early on that Hariri hadn’t resigned of his free will, refused to accept his resignation and demanded his return from Saudi Arabia first. Lebanese intelligence sources soon concluded that Hariri was under restrictions in Riyadh.

That drama ended when Hariri returned to Lebanon on November 22 — partially after a diplomatic intervention by France — and rescinded his resignation on December 5.

While some details had already emerged of the circumstances of Hariri’s three-week stay in Saudi Arabia, more appeared in a Sunday report by The New York Times, which used information from “a dozen Western, Lebanese and regional officials and associates of Mr. Hariri” to draw a better picture of what happened to him in Riyadh.

Hariri, who reached a power-sharing deal with Hezbollah in 2016 and who had formerly attempted to convince Riyadh of the need to work with Hezbollah, met with Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior Iranian adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, on November 3.

“That may have been the last straw for the Saudis,” the report said, adding, ” Within hours, Mr. Hariri received a message from the Saudi king — come now — ahead of a meeting that had been scheduled days later.”

A well-connected Lebanese analyst was cited as saying that Hariri was also invited to spend a day in the desert with the prince.

“But when he (Hariri) landed in Riyadh, Saudi officials took Mr. Hariri to his house and told him to wait — not for the king, but for the prince. He waited, from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. No one came,” it said.

The next morning, he was “summoned at 8:30 a.m. to the Saudi royal offices — unseemly early, by the kingdom’s standards.”

Thinking that he would go camping with the prince, Hariri wore jeans and a T-shirt to the Saudi royal offices.

“But instead he was stripped of his cellphones, separated from all but one of his usual cluster of bodyguards, and shoved and insulted by Saudi security officers,” the report said. “Then came the ultimate indignity: He was handed a pre-written resignation speech and forced to read it on Saudi television.”

“Before going on TV, he was not even allowed to go to the house he owns there; he had to ask guards to bring him a suit.”

‘Down the hall from the prince’s office’

Information on what happened between Hariri’s arrival in Riyadh and the resignation is missing. The Times cited Lebanese officials as describing that interval as the “black box.”

“They (the Lebanese officials) said they were reluctant to press Mr. Hariri for details. When asked, one of them said, Mr. Hariri just looked down at the table and said it was worse than they knew.”

Hariri, who runs a private business in Saudi Arabia, was “manhandled” by Saudi officials and was also threatened that he would face “corruption charges,” according to one official.

He read the resignation speech he had been given “from a room an official said was down the hall from the prince’s office.”

‘Our prime minister has been detained’

“Lebanese officials,” the report said, “began making the rounds to puzzled Western diplomats with an unusual message: We have reason to believe our prime minister has been detained.”

Hariri “was eventually placed with Saudi guards in a guesthouse on his own property, forbidden to see his wife and children.”

Some Western diplomats were allowed to meet with the Lebanese prime minister there. “There were two Saudi guards in the room [during those meetings]… and when the diplomats asked if the guards could leave, Mr. Hariri said no, they could stay.”

Opposite effect

The drama was seen as a Saudi attempt to disrupt the political balance in Lebanon to the disadvantage of Hezbollah, which shared power both in the parliament and Hariri’s government with other Lebanese factions.

The Times report pointed to how Mohammed bin Salman was looking to use Hariri as a “pawn” against Iran, “as if he were an employee [of Riyadh] and not a sovereign leader.”

But instead, the Lebanese people of all political inclinations soon came out with massive support for their prime minister, demanding that he safely return and continue work. Hezbollah’s Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also voiced support for Hariri.

The report said Western officials were wondering what Saudi Arabia “hoped to accomplish with all this intrigue.”

“Several do not rule out the possibility that they aimed to foment internal unrest in Lebanon, or even war.”

Mohammed bin Salman has orchestrated a war on Yemen already. Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a number of its allies in pounding Yemen — already the Arab world’s poorest state — causing famine and a cholera epidemic there.

The report said Saudi [Persian] Gulf Affairs Minister Thaber al-Sabhan, who is believed to have been a key figure in the Hariri scheme, “got a withering reception” on a visit later to Washington, where US officials “demanded that Mr. Sabhan explain why Riyadh was destabilizing Lebanon.”

Prime Minister Hariri, in the meantime, has been continuing work with renewed support and stronger unity among Lebanese people and political groups.

“Now, Mr. Hariri remains in office with new popularity, and Hezbollah is stronger than before,” the Times said.

December 25, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Wars for Israel | , , | 3 Comments

Reports on US training ‘ex-terrorists’ in Syria concerning – Lavrov

RT | December 25, 2017

Anti-terrorist missions should not be used to topple governments, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told RT, adding that Moscow has been concerned by recent reports of the US training former terrorists in Syria.

“Attempts to profit from anti-terrorist objectives – which should be common, unified and without double standards – are disturbing,” Lavrov said. These objectives should not be used to promote one’s own agenda, including “changing unwanted regimes,” he added.

Speaking of Russia-US talks on military de-escalation in Syria, Lavrov said he has “mixed feelings” about his western counterpart’s commitment to the Syrian peace process.

“Rex Tillerson used to tell me that the main goal of the US in Syria is defeating ISIS but now it is getting vaguer and vaguer,” the minister added. Instead, the forces are now said to stay in Syria until the start of the political process or, as some US officials claim, the process that involves the resignation of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

As Lavrov put it, “the information claiming that some US military bases in Syria have started to train militants, including former members of terrorist groups, is of course quite concerning.”

Earlier in December, Russia’s Reconciliation Center for Syria released a statement accusing the US-led coalition of creating the so-called ‘New Syrian Army.’ The group allegedly comprises remnants of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), the Al-Nusra Front and other militants, and is based at a refugee camp in north-east Syria located 20 kilometers from Al-Shaddadah town. Local refugees, returning to areas freed from IS, say the refugee camp has been used by the coalition as a training ground for militants for at least the past six months.

December 25, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment