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Do not barter away India’s national security interests

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 1, 2019

There has been an avalanche of reports in the international media quoting western diplomats and security officials to the effect that India’s “intelligence-led… non-military preemptive strike” on a big terrorist camp in Pakistan on February 26 was all baloney. Apparently, these reports say, there was so such terrorist camp in existence in Balakot.

Incredibly enough, no one in the government cares to set the record straight. The Foreign Secretary had claimed earlier that the strike killed “a very large number of Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists, trainers, senior commanders, and groups of jihadis who were being trained for Fidayeen action were eliminated.”

But surprisingly, the day after the FS spoke, Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor said it was “premature” to provide details about casualties. He would only say that the Indian armed forces had “fairly credible evidence” of the damage inflicted on the camp by the air strikes.

It is important for the government to clarify, because what happened was a defining moment in India-Pakistan relations and in India’s fight against terrorism. The nation has a right to know. No doubt, crossing another country’s borders and attacking its territory is a major escalation. What is the rationale behind such escalation?

Prime Minister Modi says he’s given a “free hand” to the armed forces. Are we to assume that the IAF suo moto acted on February 26? That is inconceivable.

This calls for deep introspection: What is it that the government achieved through the 60-odd hours between the early hours of Tuesday and the evening of Thursday? There is no shred of evidence that Pakistani side is cowed down in fear.

On the contrary, Pakistan insists that it will retaliate against any act of Indian aggression. Prime Minister Imran Khan disclosed in the National Assembly in Islamabad yesterday that in the night of Wednesday-Thursday, the Pakistani military was in a state of readiness to fire missiles into India.

Some of our self styled experts say we’ve “sent a message” to Pakistan that we’ll hit them hard if terrorism continued. How can they be so sure? The Pakistani retaliation with an attack on India the very next day — an act of war by targeting our military installations — discredits their thesis.

The most unfortunate part is that after precipitating the crisis situation on Tuesday, the government ducked and took help from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to “de-escalate” the situation.

Make no mistake, this fateful move has grave implications. The whole world knows that these two petrodollar states are the principal sponsors of terrorist groups who destroyed Syria.

Importantly, how can we possibly overlook that Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and other terrorist organisations in Pakistan have received direct support from these Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia? There is plentiful evidence of it.

An action request cable archived by Wikileaks, documenting the illicit finance activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, stated that “it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.” The cable continues, “Still, donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” It describes Saudi Arabia as “a critical financial support base” for Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other terrorist groups.”

By the estimation of the US state department, LeT and JeM are all but synonymous! As far back as in 1993, the LeT became part of the United Jihad Council, an umbrella group for militant Islamists operating in J&K, and in doing so, it formed a direct alliance with the JeM (which claimed credit for the Pulwama attack recently.)

In fact, another Wikileaks cable confirmed that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been funnelling money not just to LeT but to JeM directly. It says:

“Locals believed that charitable activities being carried out by Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith organizations, including Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Al-Khidmat Foundation, and Jaish-e-Mohammed were further strengthening reliance on extremist groups and minimizing the importance of traditionally moderate Sufi religious leaders in these communities. Government and non-governmental sources claimed that financial support estimated at nearly 100 million USD annually was making its way to Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith clerics in the region from ‘missionary’ and ‘Islamic charitable’ organizations in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ostensibly with the direct support of those governments.”

Saudi Arabia has quite openly held out assurances to Pakistan that it need not go after JeM directly.

Indeed, the most dangerous part of the gambit by the Modi government to let in Saudi Arabia and the UAE into its matrix over Pakistan and Kashmir is that this policy shift is completely of sync with the wider geopolitical struggle unfolding in the region.

Quite obviously, Saudi Arabia wants to win Pakistan over in a tug-of-war game with Iran and is doling out to Islamabad generous financial help and a $10 billion investment plan to to build an oil refinery in the Gwadar port project (which actually puts a major Saudi project on Iran’s border.) The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) recent visit to Pakistan has essentially cemented Pakistan’s inclusion in anti-Iran Arab NATO.

Against this backdrop, how could the Indian policymakers blithely overlook the far-reaching, dangerous implications of consorting with Saudi Arabia and the UAE as partners in its fight against terrorism in J&K fomented by Pakistan?

The most intriguing part is the newfound bonhomie between the Indian elite  and the sheikhs. Put differently, you don’t take help from the wolf to guard the sheep, right? What explains the Faustian deal to allow them to enter the sanctum sanctorum of India’s foreign policy — Kashmir and the matrix of India-Pakistan relations?

Beware of the lure of green money. The Saudis and Emiratis are great operators in Washington, DC. Their fierce lobbying and charm offensives are legion. If they could manipulate the American political class so brilliantly, our oligarchy must be chicken feed.

March 2, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Telling Only Part of the Story of Jihad

By Daniel LAZARE | Consortium News | February 21, 2019

A recent CNN report about U.S. military materiel finding its way into Al Qaeda hands in Yemen might have been a valuable addition to Americans’ knowledge of terrorism.

Entitled “Sold to an ally, lost to an enemy,” the 10-minute segment, broadcast on Feb. 4, featured rising CNN star Nima Elbagir cruising past sand-colored “Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected” armored vehicles, or MRAPs, lining a Yemeni highway.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” she says. “And this is not under the control of [Saudi-led] coalition forces. This is in the command of militias, which is expressly forbidden by the arms sales agreements with the U.S.”

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she adds. “CNN was told by coalition sources that a deadlier U.S. weapons system, the TOW missile, was airdropped in 2015 by Saudi Arabia to Yemeni fighters, an air drop that was proudly proclaimed across Saudi backed media channels.” The TOWs were dropped into Al Qaeda-controlled territory, according to CNN. But when Elbagir tries to find out more, the local coalition-backed government chases her and her crew out of town.

U.S.-made TOWs in the hands of Al Qaeda? Elbagir is an effective on-screen presence. But this is an old story, which the cable network has long soft-pedaled.

In the early days of the Syrian War, Western media was reluctant to acknowledge that the forces arrayed against the Assad regime included Al Qaeda. In those days, the opposition was widely portrayed as a belated ripple effect of the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings elsewhere in the region.

However, in April-May 2015, right around the time that the Saudis were air-dropping TOWs into Yemen, they were also supplying the same optically-guided, high-tech missiles to pro-Al Qaeda forces in Syria’s northern Idlib province. Rebel leaders were exultant as they drove back Syrian government troops. TOWs “flipped the balance,” one said, while another declared: “I would put the advances down to one word – TOW.”

CNN reported that story very differently. From rebel-held territory, CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh described the missiles as a “possible game-changer … that may finally be wearing down the less popular side of the Shia-Sunni divide.” He conceded it wasn’t all good news: “A major downside for Washington at least, is that the often-victorious rebels, the Nusra Front, are Al Qaeda. But while the winners for now are America’s enemies, the fast-changing ground in Syria may cause to happen what the Obama administration has long sought and preached, and that’s changing the calculus of the Assad regime.”

Foreign Policy, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and The New York Times all reacted the same way, furrowing their brows at the news that Al Qaeda was gaining, but expressing measured relief that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was at last on the ropes.

But now that Elbagir is sounding the alarm about TOWs in Yemen, CNN would do well to acknowledge that it has been distinctly more blasé in the past about TOWs in the hands of al Qaeda.

The network appears unwilling to go where Washington’s pro-war foreign-policy establishment doesn’t want it to go. Elbagir shouldn’t be shocked to learn that U.S. allies are consorting with Yemeni terrorists.

U.S. History with Holy Warriors

What CNN producers and correspondents either don’t know or fail to mention is that Washington has a long history of supporting jihad. As Ian Johnson notes in “A Mosque in Munich” (2010), the policy was mentioned by President Dwight Eisenhower, who was eager, according to White House memos, “to stress the ‘holy war’ aspect” in his talks with Muslim leaders about the Cold War Communist menace.” [See “How U.S. Allies Aid Al Qaeda in Syria,” Consortium News, Aug. 4, 2015.]

Britain had been involved with Islamists at least as far back as 1925 when it helped establish the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and both the U.S. and Britain worked with Islamists in the 1953 coup in Iran, according to Robert Dreyfus in “Devil’s Game” (2006).

By the 1980s a growing Islamist revolt against a left-leaning, pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan brought U.S. support. In mid-1979, President Jimmy Carter and his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, armed the Afghan mujahideen — not at first to drive the Soviets out, but to lure them in. Brzezinski intended to deal Moscow a Vietnam-sized blow, as he put it in a 1998 interview.

Meanwhile, a few months after the U.S. armed the mujahideen, the Saudis were deeply shaken when Islamist extremists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca and called for the overthrow of the royal family. While Saudi Arabia has been keen to repress jihadism at home, it has been a major supporter of Sunni extremists in the region, particularly to battle the Shi‘ite regime that came to power in Tehran, also in 1979.

Since then, the U.S. has made use of jihad, either directly or indirectly, with the Gulf oil monarchies or Pakistan’s notoriously pro-Islamist Inter-Services Intelligence agency. U.S. backing for the Afghan mujahideen helped turn Osama bin Laden into a hero for some young Saudis and other Sunnis, while the training camp he established in the Afghan countryside drew jihadists from across the region.

U.S. backing for Alija Izetbegovic’s Islamist government in Bosnia-Herzegovina brought al-Qaeda to the Balkans, while U.S.-Saudi support for Islamist militants in the Second Chechen War of 1999-2000 enabled it to establish a base of operations there.

Downplaying Al Qaeda

Just six years after 9/11, according to investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, the U.S. downplayed the fight against Al Qaeda to rein in Iran  – a policy, Hersh wrote, that had the effect of “bolstering … Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

Under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, policy toward Al-Qaeda turned even more curious. In March 2011, she devoted nearly two weeks to persuading Qatar, the UAE and Jordan to join the air war against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, only to stand by and watch as Qatar then poured hundreds of millions of dollars of aid into the hands of Islamist militias that were spreading anarchy from one end of the country to the other.  The Obama administration thought of remonstrating with Qatar, but didn’t in the end.

Much the same happened in Syria where, by early 2012, Clinton was organizing a “Friends of Syria” group that soon began channeling military aid to Islamist forces waging war against Christians, Alawites, secularists and others backing Assad. By August 2012, the Defense Intelligence Agency reported that “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the [anti-Assad] insurgency”; that the West, Turkey, and the Gulf states supported it regardless; that the rebels’ goal was to establish “a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria,” and that “this is exactly what the supporting powers want in order to isolate the Syrian regime….”

Biden Speaks Out

Two years after that, Vice President Joe Biden declared at Harvard’s Kennedy School:

“Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria… The Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. what were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except the people who were being supplied were al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” (Quote starts at 53:25.)

The fact that Obama ordered the vice president to apologize to the Saudis, the UAE and Turkey for his comments provided back-handed confirmation that they were true. When TOWs turned up in the hands of pro-Qaeda rebels in Syria the following spring, all a senior administration official would say was: “It’s not something we would refrain from raising with our partners.”

It was obvious that Al Qaeda would be a prime beneficiary of Saudi intervention in Yemen from the start. Tying down the Houthis — “Al Qaeda’s most determined foe,” according to the Times — gave it space to blossom and grow. Where the State Department said it had up to 4,000 members as of 2015, a UN report put its membership at between 6,000 and 7,000 three years later, an increase of 50 to 75 percent or more.

In early 2017, the International Crisis Group found that Al Qaeda was “thriving in an environment of state collapse, growing sectarianism, shifting alliances, security vacuums and a burgeoning war economy.”

In Yemen, Al Qaeda “has regularly fought alongside Saudi-led coalition forces in … Aden and other parts of the south, including Taiz, indirectly obtaining weapons from them,” the ICG added. “… In northern Yemen … the [Saudi-led] coalition has engaged in tacit alliances with AQAP fighters, or at least turned a blind eye to them, as long as they have assisted in attacking the common enemy.”

In May 2016, a PBS documentary showed Al Qaeda members fighting side by side with UAE forces near Taiz. (See “The Secret Behind the Yemen War,” Consortium News, May 7, 2016.)

Last August, an Associated Press investigative team found that the Saudi-led coalition had cut secret deals with Al Qaeda fighters, “paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment, and wads of looted cash.” Saudi-backed militias “actively recruit Al Qaeda militants,” the AP team added, “… because they’re considered exceptional fighters” and also supply them with armored trucks.

If it’s not news that U.S. allies are providing pro-Al Qaeda forces with U.S.-made equipment, why is CNN pretending that it is? One reason is that it feels free to criticize the war and all that goes with it now that the growing human catastrophe in Yemen is turning into a major embarrassment for the U.S. Another is that criticizing the U.S. for failing to rein in its allies earns it points with viewers by making it seem tough and independent, even though the opposite is the case.

Then there’s Trump, with whom CNN has been at war since the moment he was elected. Trump’s Dec. 19 decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria thus presented the network with a double win because it allowed it to rail against the pullout as “bizarre” and a “win for Moscow” while complaining at the same time about administration policy in Yemen. Trump is at fault, it seems, when he pulls out and when he stays in.

In either instance, CNN gets to ride the high horse as it blasts away at the chief executive that corporate outlets most love to hate. Maybe Elbagir should have given her exposé a different title: “Why arming homicidal maniacs is bad news in one country but OK in another.”

February 22, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

President Starts a War? Congress Yawns. Threatens to End One? Condemnation!

By Ron Paul | February 11, 2019

Last week’s bipartisan Senate vote to rebuke President Trump for his decision to remove troops from Syria and Afghanistan unfortunately tells us a lot about what is wrong with Washington, DC. While the two parties loudly bicker about minor issues, when it comes to matters like endless wars overseas they enthusiastically join together. With few exceptions, Republicans and Democrats lined up to admonish the president for even suggesting that it’s time for US troops to come home from Afghanistan and Syria.

The amendment, proposed by the Senate Majority Leader and passed overwhelmingly by both parties, warns that a “precipitous withdrawal of United States forces from the on-going fight…in Syria and Afghanistan, could allow terrorists to regroup.” As one opponent of the amendment correctly pointed out, a withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is hardly “precipitous” since they’ve been there for nearly 18 years! And with al-Qaeda and ISIS largely defeated in Syria a withdrawal from that country would hardly be “precipitous” after almost five years of unauthorized US military action.

Senators supporting the rebuke claim that US troops cannot leave until every last ISIS fighter is killed or captured. This is obviously a false argument. Al-Qaeda and ISIS did not emerge in Iraq because US troops left the country – they emerged because the US was in the country in the first place. Where was al-Qaeda in Iraq before the 2003 US invasion the neocons lied us into? There weren’t any.

US troops occupying Iraqi territory was, however, a huge incentive for Iraqis to join a resistance movement. Similarly, US intervention in Syria beginning under the Obama Administration contributed to the growth of terrorist groups in that country.

We know that US invasion and occupation provides the best recruiting tools for terrorists, including suicide terrorists. So how does it make sense that keeping troops in these countries in any way contributes to the elimination of terrorism? As to the “vacuum” created in Syria when US troops pull out, how about allowing the government of Syria to take care of the problem? After all, it’s their country and they’ve been fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda since the US helped launch the “regime change” in 2011. Despite what you might hear in the US mainstream media, it’s Syria along with its allies that has done most of the fighting against these groups and it makes no sense that they would allow them to return.

Congress has the Constitutional responsibility and obligation to declare war, but this has been ignored for decades. The president bombs far-off lands and even sends troops to fight in and occupy foreign territory and Congress doesn’t say a word. But if a president dares seek to end a war suddenly the sleeping Congressional giant awakens!

I’ve spent many years opposing Executive branch over-reach in matters where the president has no Constitutional authority, but when it comes to decisions on where to deploy or re-deploy troops once in battle it is clear that the Constitution grants that authority to the commander-in-chief. The real question we need to ask is why is Congress so quick to anger when the president finally seeks to end the longest war in US history?

February 11, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 11 Comments

Yemen: Hodeida Truce in New Hands as UN Replaces Biased and Ineffective Monitor

By Ahmed Abdulkareem – MintPress News – February 5, 2019

SANA’A, YEMEN — The newly-appointed head of the United Nations mission to monitor Yemen’s truce agreement between the Houthis and the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition, Danish Lt. Gen. Michael Anker Lollesgaard, arrived in Yemen’s capital Sana’a on Tuesday, along with a five-member team, to assume his duty in the country’s Red Sea port city of Hodeida. Lollesgaard succeeds retired Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert.

The development comes after MintPress News revealed on January 24 that the United Nations promised to replace Cammaert, who was leading a UN joint committee tasked with overseeing the truce in Hodeida, a conduit for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid. The replacement of the joint committee’s head was promised in order to save the fragile truce after the Houthis accused Cammaert of pursuing an agenda favoring the Saudi-led coalition, according to a high-ranking Houthi official.

Prior to his replacement, the Houthis boycotted a meeting chaired by Cammaert in Hodeida, accusing him of pushing the Saudi coalition’s agenda after he requested that Houthi forces withdraw eight kilometers outside of Hodeida while asking Saudi coalition forces to withdraw only half a kilometer — giving the coalition an opportunity to quickly occupy Hodeida unopposed, according to a source in the negotiating committee.

In an attempt not to portray the change as a victory for the Houthis, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who announced Lollesgaard’s appointment on January 31, said Cammaert was on a temporary one-month contract and did not resign. However, the decision to appoint a new monitoring chief in Yemen’s key port may give UN envoy Martin Griffiths a chance to succeed, according to observers who spoke to MintPress.

Monday on a UN-hired ship off Hodeida, Cammaert held his final meeting between the Houthis and coalition representatives in an effort to end a month-long stalemate over the implementation of a mutual troop withdrawal from the port city.

Yemenis still see the agreements reached in Sweden as the best chance yet of ending the Saudi war against the poorest country the Middle East, a war that has killed thousands of people since it began in 2015 and pushed 14 million to the brink of famine, according to the United Nations.

In the view of Yemeni analysts who spoke to MintPress, if Saudi Arabia persists in its behavior, no UN envoy or monitor will be able to help reach a peace agreement in Yemen; and, without pressure on the Kingdom, the UN will go on playing a feeble role. Accordingly, the replacement of the head of the UN monitoring mission is regarded as effectively meaningless by many Yemenis.

The Saudi-led coalition appears willing to commit to war as a solution and further fighting will give rise to more disease, famine, and lack of access to humanitarian aid and food commodities. The repercussions will be fast and conspicuous across Yemen.

“Hanging in the balance”

Representatives of the Saudi coalition and the Houthis met in Jordan on Tuesday for a new round of UN-brokered talks on a troubled prisoner-swap deal that was initially agreed on in Stockholm last December. UN envoy Griffiths said the new talks aim to finalize the lists of prisoners and detainees to be released or exchanged.

A source on the negotiation committee told MintPress that the Houthis proposed releasing 400 prisoners from both sides as an initiative to get the talks going. There was no comment from Saudi Arabia on the proposal.

Last week, representatives from the coalition and the Houthis had held a round of UN-brokered negotiations in the Jordanian capital city of Amman to hammer out details of the prisoner exchange. The two sides met separately with the mediators and submitted lists of prisoners they wanted to be released.

Both sides have said repeatedly they remain committed to the agreement, which could see thousands of prisoners released by each side, including hundreds of al-Qaeda and ISIS members who were fighting on behalf of the coalition. So far, however, no breakthrough has been made.

Fears linger that failure of the prisoner exchange would have a knock-on effect on the next round of peace talks, owing to the nature of the list of prisoners made by both sides. Each side presented a list of up to 8,000 detainees to be freed, but many of those detainees on the list are not able to be accounted for, according to a senior official from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The prisoner swap would, therefore, involve a significantly lower number of prisoners, an outcome likely to draw the ire of both sides.

A senior International Committee of the Red Cross official, which will oversee the deal’s implementation, said on Monday that the prisoner exchange was “hanging in the balance,” with trust among the parties “insufficient.” He also indicated that “there is a lot of disappointment on both sides,” adding: “What we now see on both sides is that they don’t have them all [i.e., the listed prisoners] because a lot of them, they probably died during the conflict.”

There are positive signs, however. In a move that could boost ongoing UN-led efforts to save the deal, the Houthis released an ailing Saudi prisoner, Musa al-Awaji, on humanitarian grounds at the end of January. The Saudi coalition also released seven Houthi prisoners who were not part of the negotiated exchange.

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Weapons ending up with terrorists is OK, as long as Obama did it: The world according to CNN

RT | February 5, 2019

A “bombshell” CNN report has revealed that US-made weapons found their way to Al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Yemen. But is anyone surprised? And where was CNN when the Obama administration armed hardcore jihadists in Syria?

The CNN investigation revealed how American-made weapons ended up in the hands of “al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen,” vis-a-vis the US’ coalition partners Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Some of these weapons have also been seized by Iranian-backed militias, CNN claims.

The hardware, referred to as “Beautiful military equipment” by President Trump, was supplied to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who have backed the embattled Yemeni government in its three-year civil war against Houthi rebels. However, CNN claims that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have funnelled the arms to pro-government factions, including the islamist Giants Brigade and the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Abbas brigade.

The shifting frontlines in Yemen ensured that many of these weapons – including wire-guided TOW missiles and mine-resistant armored vehicles (MRAPs) – ended up seized by Houthi militants and Iranian proxy forces. More American weapons still ended up for sale in Yemen’s teeming arms bazaars, where they fetch a higher price than the rusted AK-47s more common to the region.

CNN lays responsibility squarely at the feet of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the Trump administration, which refused to cancel its multibillion dollar arms deals with the Saudis last year, for fear of losing “all of that investment being made into our country.”

The report paints a depressing, but familiar picture. Picking sides in foreign wars has historically proven disastrous for the United States, yet successive administrations have made the same mistakes again and again. The Reagan administration armed Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran, going as far as arranging the sale of anthrax to the Iraqi leader. Both Jimmy Сarter and Ronald Reagan propped up the Afghan mujahideen in their fight against the Soviets in the 1980s. In both cases, US forces would be shot at with the same weapons just two decades later.

Covering for Obama

More recently, in 2014 Barack Obama announced that the US would hand-select and arm ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria, stepping into the country’s bloody civil war. That too would prove disastrous, with troves of US arms ending up in the hands of Al-Nusra and ISIS.

But where was CNN when Obama asked Congress for $500 million to train, arm, and “empower the moderate Syrian opposition?”

CNN was reporting the news verbatim from Obama’s mouth, repeating the phrase “moderate rebels” without the ironic quotation marks that have become necessary since. Obama’s assertion that the rebels offered the “best alternative to terrorists and a brutal dictator” was not questioned, unlike Trump’s continuation of the longstanding US policy of arming the Saudis.

Obama called for funding in June 2014, but Syrian militias had already received support from the CIA for two years at that stage. CNN’s reporting on the covert arms pipeline was scant, didn’t question the credentials of the recipients, and mostly repeated the line of US intelligence officials: “That is something we are not going to dispute, but we are not going to publicly speak to it.”

Few questions were asked as Congress authorized the military support that September, and none were asked a year later as Obama resupplied his chosen rebels in Syria. Instead, Obama’s declaration of support for “the moderate Syrian opposition” was taken at face value and left unquestioned.

The reality in Syria

As CNN repeated the White House line on Syria, the network published just one report hinting that things might be amiss: an investigation by Amnesty International that found Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) militants were armed to the teeth with US-made weapons. The weapons were acquired by IS from local forces armed by the Obama administration, and then used to “relentlessly” target civilians with “small arms, artillery fire and huge quantities of improvised explosive devices.”

While CNN was assuaging the public, the situation on the ground in Syria was anything but moderate. US arms were quickly sold on the black market by ‘moderate rebels’ who either retired from the fight or wanted to turn a quick buck. With morale low, some of these fighters literally handed their weapons to Al-Nusra jihadists in exchange for safe passage away from the frontlines, while more were stolen by the Islamists.

Moreover, one Al-Nusra commander codenamed Abu Al Ezz told the German Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper that his group, and not so-called ‘moderate rebels’, received TOW missiles directly from the US. “The missiles were given to us directly,” he said, adding: “The Americans are on our side.” The commander went on to detail how his fighters had received training from US instructors, and financial support from Saudi Arabia and Israel for capturing specific objectives in Syria.

The Trump administration ended the arms supply program to the Syrian rebels in 2017, a decision that CNN called“a big win for Russia.” The idea that ending material support for terrorists might just be a good thing was not raised, and CNN described the program as “a lifeline” to anti-government forces.

CNN even stuck by its straight-faced use of the term ‘moderate rebels’, despite multiple other news outlets publishing reports of US weapons falling into terrorist hands.

Two months before the 2016 election, CNN absolved Obama of all his sins in Syria by publishing an interview in which the then-president said the situation there “haunts” him constantly. The network blamed external factors for the deteriorating situation in Syria, and ended with a quote from Obama’s press secretary, who said that every one of the former president’s decisions “was squarely within the national security interest of the United States and even advanced our national security interests.”

CNN’s latest exclusive report is a well-researched piece of journalism, fleshed out with on-the-ground reporting from war-torn Yemen. However, given the network’s history in reporting US arms programs, it was much more likely motivated by a desire to score points against Trump than the pursuit of cold truth, no matter who is in charge.

February 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The White Helmets, alleged organ traders & child kidnappers, should be condemned not condoned

By Vanessa Beeley | RT | January 22, 2019

The White Helmets, “volunteers” who reportedly “rescue Syrians from rubble.” Never in history has such a group been so feted by the elite, or received so many awards from institutions acting as extensions of US and UK hegemony.

A recent panel at the UN Security Council in New York revealed the shocking evidence of White Helmet involvement in organ trafficking in Syria. The lucrative trade of human body parts, bones, blood and organs is one of the most protected and hidden harvests of war.

The potential of White Helmet involvement in these nefarious activities raises questions that must be answered. Why were the shocking revelations met by a wall of silence from corporate media present at the panel in New York?

Not one media outlet pursued the subject, preferring to divert onto more comfortable issues that did not challenge the iconization of the White Helmets that has been the default position for virtually all state-aligned media since the establishment of the group in 2013 in Jordan and Turkey.

© Screenshot from the presentation of Maxim Grigoriev

Above is one of the slides from the presentation of Maxim Grigoriev, director of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy, given to the panel and audience at the UNSC in New York, December 2018.

In July 2017, I had interviewed residents of the East Aleppo districts that had been under occupation of the various extremist armed groups and the White Helmets. Salaheddin Azazi was a resident of the Jib Al Qubbeh area (also mentioned in Grigoriev’s presentation).

Azazi went through the details of the November 2016 Nusra Front attack on civilians trying to flee via the Syrian and Russian-established humanitarian corridors which had been spun by the White Helmets into a “regime” bombing raid that resulted in a civilian massacre. It was a complete misrepresentation of reality which was seized upon by corporate media with no fact checking. My full report on that incident and the White Helmet involvement in the massacre and subsequent theft of civilian belongings from the dead and dying is here.

“The bodies of the dead and dying were left unattended for ten hours in the street after the Nusra Front rocket attack that killed 15 civilians. The White Helmets did not help them, they stole their belongings,” Salaheddin Azazi, resident of Jib Al Qubbeh and eyewitness to events on 30.11.2016, said.

Discussing the November 2016 events in Jib Al Qubbeh with residents Salaheddin Azazi and Ammar Al Bakr, July 2017 © Vanessa Beeley

Azazi and another resident, Ammar Al Bakr (on the right, in above photo) described how the White Helmets were the “runners” for the organ traffickers.

“The White Helmet drivers would take the injured or dead bodies to the Turkish border. Many of the injured had light wounds, nothing that needed hospitalization but the bodies would come back without organs,” said Ammar Al Bakr.

“The bodies, dead and alive, would be inspected in the towns on the borders with Turkey before being taken by Turkish vehicles to the hospitals but if the injured civilian was a child or young and strong they would be taken directly to the hospital in Turkey because their organs had greater value,” Azazi told me.

According to both of these witnesses, the bodies were worth $2000 dead and $3000 if alive and this market was dominated by the White Helmet operatives who profited from cross-border organ trafficking.

Other civilians I met in July/August 2017 confirmed the threat of organ theft which hung over them during the almost five-year occupation of East Aleppo districts by the armed groups and their White Helmet auxiliaries. Families spoke to me of hiding their children if they were lightly injured to prevent the risk of them being abducted and taken to one of three hospitals – Omar Abdulaziz, Al Quds and Zarzour – that allegedly specialized in organ theft in East Aleppo, all of which had been taken over by militant gangs early on in the conflict. I was told that “foreign doctors” were operating in these three hospitals and were in charge of organ extraction. In post-liberation Eastern Ghouta, similar stories abounded.

In January 2019, I visited survivors from the Jaysh Al Islam controlled Tawbah Prison in Douma, Eastern Ghouta (known as Repentance Prison). I met with former prisoners in Adra Al Balad who spoke of the torture and violent abuse they had received after being kidnapped from Adra Al Ummaliya in 2013 by Jaysh Al Islam and Nusra Front. Familiar descriptions of the White Helmets were forthcoming:

“Regarding the White Helmets, they are terrorists and Takfiris […] they have nothing to do with Humanity […] when they used to see an injured civilian, they used to finish them off. If you come to “rescue” a man would you slaughter them? The White Helmets and the terrorists are one and the same, they are hand in hand,” said Hassan Al Mahmoud Al Othman, one of the survivors I spoke to about their experiences as captives of Jaysh Al Islam and Nusra Front during the six years that Eastern Ghouta was occupied.

The evidence against the White Helmets is mounting on a daily basis and will only increase as Idlib is liberated or a political resolution is achieved in the last Syrian province effectively controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS) a rebrand of Al Qaeda.

Despite this, Western corporate media and NATO-aligned think tanks, policy influencers and NGOs are stubbornly sticking to the “volunteer hero” script. The Observer recently collaborated with Reader’s Digest to produce a slick homage to the White Helmets “rescued” from Syria by Israel in July 2018, entitled ‘The inside story of Canada’s dramatic rescue of the White Helmets out of Syria.’ It depicts the volunteer “bankers and barbers” as heroes and downtrodden saints fleeing for their lives. A far cry from the image portrayed of organ thieves, child abductors and bone peddlers by the Syrian people who lived under the White Helmet regime of sectarian violence and exploitative abuse.

The White Helmet involvement in the “red market” (a term used to describe the multi-billion-dollar trade in human body parts, tissue and organs) should come as no surprise. James Le Mesurier, the former private security and “democratization” expert who founded the White Helmets in Turkey and Jordan was also present in Pristina, Kosovo in 1999 when he worked under the direction of the notorious Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) and former French foreign minister.

Kouchner’s tenure in Kosovo was plagued by controversy and accusations of involvement in human and organ trafficking masterminded by the Albanian mafia gangs within the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Carla Del Ponte, former chief prosecutor for war crimes in former Yugoslavia, detailed these crimes in her book The Hunt: Me and the War Criminals, which was published in 2008 just after Kosovo declared its independence.

In 2010, an interim report by the Council of Europe vindicated Del Ponte’s claims, which had garnered skepticism and criticism from the NATO-aligned media and spokespeople. Del Ponte persistently complained, at the time, that UN authorities in Kosovo were systematically blocking her investigations into crimes committed by the Kosovo Albanians in the KLA and the rebranded Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC).

James Le Mesurier was responsible for the rebranding of the KLA, linked to Al Qaeda at that stage alongside the Albanian warlords, and their transformation into the Kosovo Protection Corps while they were being accused of running cross-border organ trafficking operations.

A blueprint that Le Mesurier seems to be reproducing with the White Helmets in Syria while attempting to maintain an untarnished White Helmet image, at least in the aligned media and PR circles. In reality, there is an entire billionaire-supported industry of NGOs and influential global transformation institutions protecting the White Helmets’ image.

A network of global carpetbaggers enabling the criminal obfuscation of White Helmet crimes against Humanity and denial of justice to the Syrian people whose accusations against the pseudo humanitarian group are systematically silenced and marginalized by the White Helmet acolytes.

The White Helmets have received an unprecedented number of awards and peace prizes, including the Right Livelihood Award 2016 (RLA), the Atlantic Council Freedom Award 2016, Tipperary Peace Prize 2017, Hollywood Oscar 2017 (one win, one nomination in 2018) and they have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for three years running.

According to the RLA website, they “honour and support courageous people and organisations that have found practical solutions to the root causes of global problems”. There is nothing honourable or courageous about the White Helmet crimes against the Syrian people.

The White Helmets have enabled and participated in organ trafficking, one of the deepest root causes of our global problems but the RLA has made no move to retract their award from this group of criminals, thieves and terrorists. They have ignored petitions and statements from groups of peace activists and academics. Instead, in 2018, they published a counter petition signed by 29 former RLA Laureates calling upon all parties to “stop targeting the White Helmets […] in Syria”.

While blaming Russia for the smear campaign against the White Helmets, the petition informs us that “(White Helmet) work is guided by the inherent dignity of human life.” The RLA claims that the evidence against the White Helmets is “unsubstantiated and does not stand up to scrutiny”. One cannot help but wonder; when did they scrutinize the evidence or listen to the huge number of Syrian civilian testimonies that detail the crimes committed by the White Helmets that are most definitely not guided by the inherent dignity of human life?

What all these US Coalition-aligned organizations fail to understand is that Russian media and UN missions do indeed give a voice to the Syrians who are ignored by media in the West. Russia is not the originator of the claims against the White Helmets.

While these organizations, claiming to support peace in Syria and an end to hostility, continue protecting the White Helmets who are responsible for so much of the misery endured by the Syrian people, they forfeit any credibility and become nothing more than a corrupt extension of US supremacism in the region.

Child exploitation, abuse, human trafficking and organ trafficking – which often goes hand in hand with the former – should never be tacitly condoned or covered up and must always be investigated or we have fallen into a moral vacuum from which there is no escape.

I invite all Western media outlets and “peace” promoting institutions to retract their White Helmet accolades and laurels, and to “scrutinize” the evidence before they too are implicated in one of the most heinous crimes ever committed against victims of war.

Vanessa Beeley is an independent investigative journalist and photographer. She is associate editor at 21st Century Wire.

Read more:

Organ theft, staged attacks: UN panel details White Helmets’ criminal activities, media yawns

January 22, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

After years of speculation, IDF chief admits Israel supplied Syrian rebels with weapons

RT | January 15, 2019

The outgoing IDF chief of staff has spilled the beans on a poorly guarded secret of the Israeli military, that it has supplied Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s government with weapons “for self-defense.”

Gadi Eisenkot, who was the Israeli Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff for the last three years, told the Sunday Times in a farewell interview that Israel had been directly involved in the Syrian conflict on the side of the Syrian rebels, something that Tel Aviv has been reluctant to acknowledge before.

The general, who is retiring from military service, said that Israel supplied rebels at the border with light weapons for the purposes of “self-defense.”

While the direct links between Syrian rebels and Israeli commanders have been officially revealed for the first time, rumors of close military ties between the armed militants and the Israeli government have been circulating for years.

Foreign Policy magazine reported in September that Israel supplied weapons and gave money to at least 12 rebel groups holed up in southern Syria. The arrangement reportedly included Israeli officials also giving $75-per-person monthly allowances to rebel fighters, in addition to the funds their leaders received to procure weapons on the black market.

In return, rebels were expected to deter Hezbollah and Iran proxies from the Israeli-occupied part of the Golan Heights.

The scheme was reportedly in effect throughout Operation Good Neighbor, which officially kicked off in June 2016 and was wrapped up only last November. Within this undertaking, Israel was openly assisting the rebels but claimed that assistance was strictly humanitarian. Israel treated wounded Syrian rebels and their families in its hospitals, provided some 1,524 tons of food, 250 tons of clothes, 947,520 liters of fuel, as well as a huge amount of medical supplies.

However, until recently Israel kept vigorously denying any involvement beyond that. The Jerusalem Post’s report in September on the IDF confirming that it had provided light weapons to Syrian rebels was promptly pulled from its website. The newspaper told RT at the time that it was forced to remove the article by the army’s censor, apparently, “for security reasons.”

In November, Maj. Gen. Gershon Hacohen, a former senior commander with the IDF, revealed that former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had personally met with a group of Syrian rebels, without specifying the time period. Ya’alon was Israel’s chief of defense from 2013 to May 2016.

The Israeli military seems to have finally begun to reveal the scope of its involvement in the Syrian conflict, previously shrouded in secrecy. In an interview with the New York Times, Eisenkot acknowledged that Israel has been waging a large-scale bombing campaign aimed at degrading Iran’s military influence in the region. In 2018 alone, the IDF dropped 2,000 bombs on alleged Iran-linked targets in Syria. Sorties into the neighboring country’s territory became“near-daily events” after PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s government greenlighted the expansion of the operation in January 2017, according to the retiring general.

January 14, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 11 Comments

Israel and the Jihadi Connection

Israel’s complex game with Jihadi terror groups pays off as more and more African states look to Israel for protection

By Richard Galustian | The Duran | November 28, 2018

Earlier this year, with little publicity, the official position of Israel on terrorism was explained by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon:

“I would like to see ISIS rule all of Syria (by inference, the whole region – RG); ISIS and its offshoots do not pose a threat to the Israeli State. Iran remains the main enemy!”

Ya’alon was being disingenuous, but the thinking behind his words is actually clear enough from the words themselves. Put simply, Israel’s relentless emphasis on the supposed threat from Iran is simply a diversionary tactic intended to conceal the continuing realisation of the ‘Greater Israel’ Project.

Ya’alon added:

“Iran is a rogue regime with designs on a regional hegemony. Hezbollah is Iran’s proxy, with the ability to declare war. Iran currently has terror infrastructure in place in five continents: Asia, Africa, Europe and both in South and North America.”

Ya’alon’s last comment refers to Iran as a rogue regime. However experienced Middle East observers will no doubt hesitate after reading the totality of his comments, and will wonder whether in light of them it is actually Israel and the US which should be considered the rogue regimes rather than Iran or indeed anyone else,  other than obviously Israel’s and the US’s staunch ally,  the odious Saudi regime.

Many similar comments of this nature  have been made by senior Israeli officials, but one in particular stands out. This is a speech made at the Herzliya Conference by Israel’s military intelligence chief, Major General Herzi Halevy.  He took Israel’s long-standing position that it “prefers ISIS” over the Syrian government to a whole new level, declaring openly that Israel does not want to see ISIS defeated in any war. As quoted in the Hebrew language NRG site, owned by the Maariv Newspaper conglomerate, Major Gen. Halevy actually expressed worry about the recent offensives against ISIS, expressing concern that military offensives in the last three months had placed ISIS in the “most difficult” situation it has known since its inception or at least since its declaration of a caliphate.

Needless to say most people are not aware that Major Gen. Halevy has in effect become a  spokesperson for ISIS.

So what is going on? 

The short answer is that the real ‘game’ in the region is being played out by and on behalf of Israeli interests. An indirect but nonetheless highly revealing clue has just been provided by the recently developing relationship between Israel and Chad. Chad, located south of Libya in the Sahara, faces a mountain of difficulties which Israel can help it deal with. These range from extreme water scarcity to Chad finding itself on the front line in Africa’s fight against Islamist terrorism, be it in the form ISIS, al-Qaeda or Boko Haram. This supplies the reason for Chadian President Idriss Déby recent visit to Israel, which has taken place 46 years after Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi pressured Chad into breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel in 1972, a step which Chad took even before the big wave of African countries severing diplomatic ties with Israel took place, which happened after the 1973 Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War.

Chad broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 1972 because it believed that it would gain more by forging close ties with Gaddafi’s Libya than by retaining ties with Israel. Obviously since the fall of Gaddafi that calculation has changed.

However another – obviously unacknowledged – reason is almost certainly Chad’s worry that it might find itself facing the same sort of Islamist terrorism in Chad that Syria has recently experienced. After all if Israeli officials can publicly admit to Israel’s de facto support for Islamist terrorism in Syria why should it be any different in Chad?

So the bottom line is that Chad – and no doubt plenty of other countries in the region – find themselves needing Israel’s help to protect themselves from the Frankenstein’s monster of worldwide Islamist terrorism which Israeli and US policies have conjured up. It amounts to the classic protection racket, with countries like Chad looking to Israel to ‘protect’ them from the very Islamist threat Israeli and US policies are themselves creating.

Given that this is so, and given the extent to which the spread of Islamist terrorist groups across the Middle East and North Africa actually serves Israeli and US interests, there is simply no point looking to Israel and the US for a ‘solution’ to the problem caused by them. Certainly no such solution is going to be found in Palermo, site of the latest Libya peace talks. No such solution is going to be found whilst the ‘protection racket’ serves Israel’s regional interests so well. Indeed Déby’s visit to Jerusalem, as does the rush of other African countries restoring relations with Israel, shows the spectacular success of the ’protection racket’.

In view of this it should come as no surprise that all attempts to change it are furiously resisted. Thus in the US “The Stop Arming Terrorists Act” proposed in early 2017 by Representative Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Rand Paul, which sought to prohibit use of US government funds from providing assistance to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, ISIS, and the rest, and to those countries which support these organizations, predictably ran into a wall of opposition. As of November 2017 only 14 out of 435 members of the US House of Representatives were prepared to co-sponsor the bill with Gabbard,  whilst in the Senate Rand Paul could find no co-sponsors at all. 

Given the extremely close ties between the US and Israel, there is in fact no possibility of the bill – at least in the form proposed by Gabbard and Rand Paul – being passed.

Given the strong feelings many in the US have about Islamist terrorism – with memories of 9/11 still fresh – one might suppose that this would be an enormous scandal. However – predictably enough – neither the US media nor the global media seem at all interested in it.

November 28, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Canada Accepts Dozens of White Helmets Evacuated from Syria – Reports

Sputnik – 29.10.2018

Canada has accepted 117 White helmets along with their family members, evacuated earlier in July from war-torn Syria with the help of Israel, CBC News reported Sunday.

In late July, over 400 White Helmets’ activists and their families were evacuated from Syria at the request of Canada, European countries, and the United States amid a full-scale offensive by Syrian government troops against militants and terrorists in country’s southwestern regions.

According to CBC News, the now-former White Helmets will be settled in four provinces, including British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia. The international community reportedly expected to remove up to 1,200 evacuees, including first responders and their families. In the end, only 422 Syrian White Helmets and their families managed to get out last July.

CBC News said, citing evacuees, that hundreds of White Helmets remain in Syria.

Canada’s Foreign Ministry said earlier that Ottawa was in the process of resettling a group of White Helmets members who had to leave Syria, stressing that security screening was completed before members of the Syrian civil defense group can fly to Canada as refugees.

According to Syrian President Bashar Assad, the group is affiliated with al-Qaeda terrorist organization. The Russian permanent mission to the European Union said earlier that the evacuation of the White Helmets from Syria proves that the states organizing the operation were seeking to cover up the provocative actions of the self-proclaimed humanitarian group.

Damascus and Moscow have accused the White Helmets of helping to stage a chemical attack in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta town in April. That attack prompted the United States, the United Kingdom and France to launch more than 100 missiles on multiple targets in Syria one week later.

In late September, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin said that militants as well as White Helmets continued their preparations for plotting chemical attacks to discredit the Syrian government’s troops.

Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen television said Thursday that Militants and the White Helmets group have transported unidentified poisonous materials from the city of Jisr al-Shughur to the settlement of Khirbat al Amud, both located in the rebel-held province of Idlib.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem called Saturday the White Helmets the main tool for staging chemical attacks, adding that this was a terrorist organization created with the financial aid of the UK intelligence.

Muallem reiterated that Syria had destroyed all its chemical weapons arsenals and had not used them.

October 28, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

The Syria Deception, Part 1: Al-Qaeda Goes to Hollywood

Grayzone Project | September 15, 2018

This exclusive Grayzone investigative mini-doc by Dan Cohen exposes the cynical deceptions and faux humanitarianism behind the campaign to sell the dirty war on Syria. It will demonstrate the lengths that the US and its allies have gone to develop new ploys to tug at Western heartstrings and convince even liberal minded skeptics of war that a US intervention was necessary — even if it meant empowering Al Qaeda’s largest franchise since 9/11 and its theocratic allies among the insurgency. Big lies and little children have formed the heart of what is perhaps the most expensive, sophisticated, and shameless propaganda blitz ever conducted. Welcome to the Syria Deception.

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September 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Pentagon to present its own plan of ‘effective war on terror’ in Syria – without Russia

RT | September 8, 2018

Washington has its own plan on how to “effectively” combat terrorism in Syria, the Pentagon has said, adding that the US is not planning to cooperate with Moscow on the issue.

The US military strategists have found what they call a “better, more focused way” to do counterterrorism operations in Idlib, the US Department of Defense said in statement on Saturday. The US military revealed almost no details of its plan as the statement said only that it would involve “using the US capabilities to spot the terrorists – even in an urban environment – and take them out with a minimum of civilian casualties.”

Washington also apparently plans to go at it alone, without working with other actors present in the area as the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, “was not talking about cooperating,” the statement added. He also said that he had not spoken with his Russian counterpart, Army General Valery Gerasimov, since the tensions around the Syrian northern militant-held Idlib province began to rise, adding that the two military officials are also “not scheduled” to talk in the near future.

Instead, the US military once again warned against a government offensive on the province, which is largely controlled by extremists, including the Al Qaeda affiliate known as Tahrir al-Sham (former Al Nusra Front), which it claimed would lead to a “humanitarian disaster.”

“The consequences of a major offensive operation in Idlib will almost certainly be the suffering of a large number of innocent civilians,” Dunford told journalists.

The head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff also slammed the results of the summit between the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran on Syria, which was recently held in Tehran, by saying that the “meeting … failed” without going into further details.

Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani discussed the situation in Syria and in the Idlib province in particular as part of the Astana peace process on Friday. All three nations agree that the threat of radical Islamists in Syria must be eliminated, but differed as to how this should be achieved.

While Iran advocated a strong-arm approach, Turkey objected to such an idea as it feared that a large-scale military operation could provoke a mass exodus of refugees to the neighboring Turkish regions. Eventually, a call for all armed groups in Idlib to lay down arms and seek a political transition was included in the final communique of the meeting. Both Turkey and Iran were, however, critical of the US presence in Syria.

Ankara was also persistent in its opposition to any potential offensive against extremists in Idlib. Turkey plans to stop any “anticipated attacks” on the militant-held province, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday, warning that any operation in Idlib could possibly lead to a “serious humanitarian tragedy.”

“Our aim is to stop airstrikes [in Syria’s Idlib]. We were anticipating attacks, which could have happened,” Cavusoglu said, adding that the clashes in the province “should stop” and the whole issue should be “resolved in line with the agreement and the spirit of Astana.”

September 8, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | Leave a comment

VIPS Tells Media Support for Brennan is Not Unanimous

Consortium News | August 29, 2018

TO: The Media

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

SUBJECT: Support for Brennan Far From “Unanimous”

As former members of the intelligence community, we feel compelled to add our voice to the public debate surrounding President Trump’s revocation of former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance. This action is being falsely portrayed as an assault on Mr. Brennan’s right to free speech.

We note that some of our former colleagues, a number of whom have held prominent intelligence posts, joined the protest against the President’s actions — a phenomenon that provides stark reminder that the United States intelligence community is not a monolith but rather a collection of diverse individuals with a range of opinions on many issues, including what is right and wrong, We the undersigned veteran intelligence professionals agree with President Trump’s decision to strip Mr. Brennan of his clearance.

We also note with irony that several of the former officials protesting the President’s action have themselves been associated with significant misconduct. David Petraeus, who was convicted of sharing highly classified material with his mistress/biographer, is a case in point. As experienced intelligence officers, we believe security clearances should be granted as a sacred trust and not simply a permanent entitlement that comes with a high level job.

Anyone who has read VIPS memos knows we have often expressed opposition to this President’s actions — as we have to those of previous Presidents — on important substantive issues when the intelligence was faulty.

The issue for us is broader than the clearances of Mr. Brennan. We are appalled by the willful misreading by pundits and much of the media of the nature of security clearances. They are certainly not a constitutionally protected right, but a highly conditional privilege. Its granting comes with personal acceptance of restrictions on speech and association: among other things obligating one-time holders to a lifetime pre-publication review of writings that rely on information acquired in performing their official duties.

All of us signed secrecy agreements and accepted the burden of holding a clearance. We surrendered a part of our assumed right to free speech in service of our country’s welfare and safety. Those of us under cover kept secrets from family and friends. We no longer associated freely with foreign nationals; an active clearance carries the requirement to report contacts with them.

Moreover, security classification is provided by Executive Branch authority and is expressed with orders that are subject to change at the will of the current president (the exception to this being the so-called “Q” clearance established by law to protect nuclear weapons secrets, though this is also subject to presidential authority in granting or withdrawing clearance). Federal judges do not have automatic security clearances. Nor do members of Congress. They have access to secret information by virtue of their constitutional office and a presumed “need to know” in order to do their job.

Once a person separates from the intelligence community they can continue to hold a clearance provided they are employed as a contractor working on specific classified programs. There is simply no basis in law entitling anyone to permanent clearance. This includes John Brennan. It goes without saying that individuals who are granted continued clearance out of courtesy to their former high position remain accountable in their conduct, and that the Executive can revoke such clearances at will.

Mr. Brennan’s own record is clearly tarnished. When he was Chief of Station in Saudi Arabia prior to and after the bombing of Khobar Towers in June of 1996, rather than uphold the integrity of existing intelligence he went along with the decision to avoid creating problems with the Saudis. After the attack (which was carried out by Saudi elements linked to Bin Laden and Al Qaeda), Brennan helped push the meme that the culprits were Iran and Hezbollah.

As head of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center in 2003, Mr. Brennan failed to give the State Department complete statistics for terrorist attacks. The initial publication of “Patterns of Global Terrorism” in April 2004 touted a decline in terrorist attacks in 2003 as vindication of Bush Administration policies. The publication later had to be recalled and revised when it was discovered that the CIA had left out a month and a half of data. John Brennan was in charge of that process. Instead of receiving a reprimand, however, he ended up being promoted.

Mr. Brennan has assumed the role of passive spectator in building the fraudulent case to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He has claimed only vague awareness of the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation” program. Physical records tell a different story. Brennan was “cc-ed” on “a minimum of 50 memos” dealing with waterboarding and other torture techniques. Senator Saxbe Chambliss noted that Brennan’s boss, A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, told the Wall Street Journal that Mr. Brennan had a role in setting the parameters of the program and “helping to seek Justice Department approval for the techniques.”

Mr. Brennan also attempted to cover up the truth about the CIA torture. Senator Mark Udall denounced his actions in a floor speech on December 10, 2014, the day after the Senate Intelligence Committee published the Executive Summary of the conclusions of its four-year investigation of CIA torture based on original CIA documents.  The investigation not only revealed almost unbelievably heinous practices, but also demonstrated that senior CIA officials were untruthful in claiming that “enhanced” techniques produced actionable intelligence that could not have been obtained by traditional interrogation practices.  With strong support from President Obama, Brennan, who was the CIA Director, aggressively fought publication of the Senate report.  Here’s Senator Udall:

“The CIA has lied to its overseers and the public, destroyed and tried to hold back evidence, spied on the Senate, made false charges against our staff, and lied about torture and the results of torture. And no one has been held to account. … There are right now people serving at high-level positions at the agency who approved, directed, or committed acts related to the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.”

Mr. Brennan is now publicly insisting that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. What, however, was CIA Director Brennan saying when the alleged Russian meddling was taking place? Did he warn President Obama? Did he warn the leaders of the Congress? According to press reports Mr. Brennan did brief Democrat Senator Harry Reid on ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government and Reid then wrote FBI Director James Comey demanding an investigation. However, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee has said he was not given the same briefing as Senator Reid. Introducing the weight of national intelligence into partisan politics, as Mr. Brennan appears to have done in his official capacity, is forbidden activity.

We have all held clearances and deeply believe in the importance of intelligence officers conducting themselves with professional integrity, particularly with regard to remaining unentangled in party politics. VIPS is comprised of men and women of highly diverse political views, from Republican to Democrat to Independent. We agree on one thing: when a professional intelligence officer obtains classified information they accept an obligation to appropriately report facts without regard to political leanings. This is not about being a Democrat or a Republican. It is about doing the job of unbiased intelligence analysis. That is why VIPS has, over the years, written memos challenging the intelligence basis for policies and decisions of George W. Bush and Barack Obama as well as Donald Trump.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity:  

William Binney, Technical Director, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Richard H. Black, Senator of Virginia, 13th District; Colonel US Army (ret.); Former Chief, Criminal Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General, the Pentagon (associate VIPS)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Larry C. Johnson, former CIA and State Department Counter Terrorism officer

John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Clement J. Laniewski, LTC, USA (ret) (associate VIPS)

Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Near East, CIA and National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

Sarah G. Wilton, Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.); Commander, US Naval Reserve (ret.)

Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) is made up of former intelligence officers, diplomats, military officers and congressional staffers. The organization, founded in 2002, was among the first critics of Washington’s justifications for launching a war against Iraq. VIPS advocates a US foreign and national security policy based on genuine national interests rather than contrived threats promoted for largely political reasons. An archive of VIPS memoranda is available at Consortiumnews.com.

August 30, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment