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Canadian Troops in Saudi Arabia a Legacy of Support for Iraq War

By Yves Engler | Dissident Voice | September 9, 2020

The revelation that Canadian soldiers have been in Saudi Arabia for 17 years highlights Canada’s ties to the repressive monarchy, contribution to the Iraq war and hollowness of Canadian foreign policy mythology.

Recently researcher Anthony Fenton tweeted, “raise your hand if you knew that there was a ‘Detachment’ of Canadian soldiers serving under US auspices operating AWACS spy planes out of a Saudi Arabian air base since the war on Iraq began in 2003 to THE PRESENT DAY.”

The Canadian soldiers stationed at Prince Sultan Air base near Riyadh represent another example of Canada’s military ties to the authoritarian, belligerent monarchy. Canadian naval vessels are engaged in multinational patrols with their Saudi counterparts in the region; Saudi Air Force pilots have trained in Alberta and Saskatchewan; Montreal-based flight simulator company CAE has trained Saudi pilots in numerous locales; Canadian-made rifles and armoured vehicles have been shipped to the monarchy, etc.

According to DND, Canada’s deployment to Saudi Arabia began on February 27, 2003. That’s four weeks before the massive US-led invasion of Iraq. The Canadians stationed in Riyadh were almost certainly dispatched to support the US invasion and occupation.

In another example of Canadian complicity in a war Ottawa ostensibly opposed, it was recently reported that Canadian intelligence agencies hid their disagreement with politicized US intelligence reports on Iraq. According to “Getting it Right: Canadian Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, 2002-2003”, Canada’s intelligence agencies mostly concluded that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, which was the justification Washington gave for invading Iraq. While CSIS delivered a report to their US counterparts claiming Iraq was seeking nuclear weapons capabilities, more serious analyses, reported the Canadian Press, were “classified ‘Canadian Eyes Only’ in order to avoid uncomfortable disagreements with the U.S. intelligence community which would exacerbate the sensitivities affecting relations at the political level.”

As Richard Sanders has detailed, Canada supported the US-led invasion of Iraq in many ways: Dozens of Canadian troops were integrated in US units fighting in Iraq; US warplanes en route to that country refueled in Newfoundland; Canadian fighter pilots participated in “training” missions in Iraq; Three different Canadian generals oversaw tens of thousands of international troops there; Canadian aid flowed to the country in support of US policy; With Canadian naval vessels leading maritime interdiction efforts off the coast of Iraq, Ottawa had legal opinion suggesting it was technically at war with that country.

As such, some have concluded Canada was the fifth or sixth biggest contributor to the US-led war. But the Jean Chrétien government didn’t do what the Bush administration wanted above all else, which was to publicly endorse the invasion by joining the “coalition of the willing”. This wasn’t because he distrusted pre-war US intelligence or because of any moral principle. Rather, the Liberal government refused to join the “coalition of the willing” because hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets against the war, particularly in Quebec. With the biggest demonstrations taking place in Montréal and Quebecers strongly opposed to the war, the federal government feared that openly endorsing the invasion would boost the sovereignist Parti Québecois vote in the next provincial election.

Over the past 17 years this important, if partial, victory won by antiwar activists has been widely distorted and mythologized. The recent National Film Board documentary High Wire continues the pattern. It purportedly “examines the reasons that Canada declined to take part in the 2003 US-led military mission in Iraq.” But, High Wire all but ignores Canada’s military contribution to the war and the central role popular protest played in the “coalition of the willing” decision, focusing instead on an enlightened leader who simply chose to do the right thing.

The revelation that Canadian troops have been stationed in Saudi Arabia for 17 years highlights our military ties to the Saudi monarchy and warfare in the Middle East. It also contradicts benevolent Canada foreign policy mythology.


Yves Engler is the author of 10 books, including A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation.

September 9, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Film Review | , , , | Leave a comment

At Least 37 Million People Displaced by US War on Terror, Study Finds

Sputnik – 08.09.2020

A new report by the Costs of War Project has found that at least 37 million people have been displaced by the US War on Terror; however, the group warns that the estimate is conservative and the real total could be far higher.

According to a report published on Tuesday by the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, at least 37 million people have been displaced, either internally or been forced to become refugees, in eight different countries as a result of the US War on Terror, begun in 2001.

For comparison, the population of the US state of California is 39.5 million, and the population of Canada is 37.59 million. However, the researchers warn that is a “very conservative” estimate, as the true number could be closer to between 48 and 59 million people.

The report focused on eight conflicts, including declared and undeclared war zones, where the US has carried out military operations under the guise of destroying international terrorism: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and the Philippines.

The group’s data was compiled from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In Afghanistan, some 5.3 million people have been displaced in total since 2001, although this number is in considerable dispute, as the researchers concluded that 2.1 million Afghans had fled the country since 2001, but they also found evidence that as many as 2.4 million had fled just between 2012 and 2019. Another 3.2 million have been displaced internally. The researchers noted, however, that war and civil turmoil in the Central Asian country has continued almost nonstop since the late 1970s.

In neighboring Pakistan, the US war near the Afghan border has displaced some 3.7 million people, including 360,000 refugees abroad and 1.56 million from the border area.

Meanwhile in Libya, where the US supported the 2011 overthrow of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, at least 1.2 million people have been displaced in what the IDMC called a “state collapse trigger[ed] mass displacement.” At the start of 2020, the report notes, 451,000 remained internally displaced, and the civil war continues to rage.

Iraq has the largest total number, with 9.2 million people displaced by several wars. In March 2003, the US launched a massive invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and the brutal counterinsurgency war that erupted afterward had displaced some 4.7 million people by 2007. While the US war in Iraq officially ended in 2011, war erupted again just three years later in 2014, when Daesh roared into existence, and the US once again became involved in major combat operations in Mesopotamia. By 2020, 650,000 Iraqis remained refugees abroad, and 1.4 million had been internally displaced.

In neighboring Syria, where Daesh first established its would-be caliphate amid a civil war raging since 2011, the US became involved at several distinct levels over the years. The report was very truncated in its analysis, looking just at the five provinces where US forces fought on the ground – Aleppo, al-Hasakah, al-Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Homs – and only since 2017.

By those criteria, 7.1 million had been displaced, including 470,000 internally. However, 220,000 of those have been just since October 2019, when the Turkish invasion of eastern Syria pushed 220,000 Kurds from their homes, including 17,900 who crossed the border into Iraq for safety.

However, the report notes that if a different metric were used – one including all of Syria beginning in 2013, when the US started arming Syrian rebel militias – the number of displaced persons increases massively to between 44 and 51 million people.

In Somalia, where the US has waged or supported wars for decades, “virtually all Somalis have been displaced by violence at least once in their life,” the Norwegian Refugee Council is quoted as saying in the report. From a population of 15 million, some 4.2 million have been displaced by US operations, including 80,000 refugees and 3.4 million internally displaced persons.

Like Somalia, Yemen has seen war rage for decades. The US began airstrikes in Yemen in 2002, pursuing al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but conditions deteriorated catastrophically in 2015, when Saudi Arabia and several of its allies, including the US, launched a war against the Yemeni Houthi movement.

The ongoing war, in which Saudi, Emirati and Moroccan aircraft have bombarded the country and supported militias on the ground as well as forces loyal to ousted Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, has displaced 4.4 million people. In 2019 alone, 400,000 more people were displaced. According to the OCHA, 100,000 Yemenis have been killed by combat operations since 2015, and another 130,000 have died from hunger and disease.

The Philippines is the only country on the list not located in southwestern Asia or northern or eastern Africa. However, the US-supported military operations in Mindanao against groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group have displaced some 1.7 million Filipinos, nearly all of them internally.

“In documenting displacement caused by the US post-9/11 wars, we are not suggesting the US government or the United States as a country is solely responsible for the displacement. Causation is never so simple,” the authors note in the report. “Causation always involves a multiplicity of combatants and other powerful actors, centuries of history, and large-scale political, economic, and social forces. Even in the simplest of cases, conditions of pre-existing poverty, environmental change, prior wars, and other forms of violence shape who is displaced and who is not.”

September 8, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Troop Withdrawal from Iraq isn’t an ‘American Retreat’

By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 04.09.2020

The US president is reportedly in talks with Iraq’s Prime Minister to bring the current level of US troops in Iraq down to the level of 2015. This change will see troop number coming down from the current 5200 to about 3500, indicating a US ‘drawdown’ from Iraq following the Iraqi parliament’s resolution to force all US troops out of the country. While, on the face of it, these talks indicate a massive ‘respect for the Iraqi sovereignty’ and Trump’s resolve to end the US’ ‘endless wars’, a deep look at the wider regional and American core strategic interests indicates that not only America’s wars are not ending, the ‘drawdown’ does not mean ending region’s militarization too, although it does have some significance for Trump’s own domestic political interests ahead of elections.

For Trump supporters, he is fulfilling yet another of the promises he made during his previous campaign. He is withdrawing from Afghanistan, is bringing home thousands of troops from Germany and has already withdrawn 500 troops from Syria. While this may bode well politically, strategically he is still continuing America’s wars, particularly against Iran. This was indeed what Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the Pentagon’s Central Command, said in a virtual conference organized by the United States Institute of Peace. To quote him:

“As I look at the theater, we remain focused on Iran as our central problem. This headquarters focuses on Iran, executing deterrence activities against Iran, and doing those things”, adding that “The threat against our forces from Shiite militant groups has caused us to put resources that we would otherwise use against ISIS to provide for our own defense and that has lowered our ability to work effectively against them.”

McKenzie’s comments are very much consistent with what the Trump administration has been trying to do against Iran in the form of re-imposition of arms embargoes, a stubborn insistence that has already become a fiasco, indicating how fast the US is losing its ability to unilaterally design global scenarios.

It is, therefore, imperative to understand that bringing US troops level down does not indicate a step towards an imminent US-Iran normalization. For instance, even if the US troops were there to check Iran’s influence, the US is still very much into establishing its political and economic tentacles in Iraq through non-military means. This is evident from the expanding US economic presence in Iraq to supposedly reduce Iraq’s dependence on Iran for meeting its energy needs.

Five US firms, including Chevron Corp, have already signed agreements with the Iraqi government. These agreements were signed on the sidelines of Kadhimi’s recent visit to the US where he discussed with Trump the future of US troops in Iraq and the continuing need for the training of Iraqi troops. Chevron has already been drilling oil in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. With the second largest US oil company now set to establish itself in the mainland Iraq as well, there remains little gainsaying that the US is rapidly allowing for replacing Iraq’s dependence on Iran with Iraq’s dependence on the US. This is a straightforward case of adding Iraq’s economic dependence to its already military dependence on the US.

According to US officials, this move towards increasing Iraq’s indigenous energy and electricity capacity is a part of the larger plan to wean the country away from Iranian influence and connect it more deeply with Arab countries. “It is vital that Iraq’s electricity grid be connected to the GCC. We’ve been working on this, as I’m sure you know, and there’s more work to be done.  And so that will continue,” a US official was quoted to have said.

Doing this is crucial for the US as Iraq’s dependence on Iran is seen as the key to the latter’s influence in the former. Iraq’s energy sector is dependent on imports from Iran, and even after the US slapped sanctions on Iran’s energy exports, Iraq continues to import natural gas and electricity from Iran under a special waiver that the US has regularly extended. The US wants to change it.

The US State department has already affirmed that “The Government of Iraq, Gulf Cooperation Council, and United States have renewed their full support for the Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority (GCCIA) project to connect the electricity grids of Iraq and the GCC. The United States is committed to facilitating this project and providing support where needed. This project will provide much-needed electricity to the people of Iraq and support Iraq’s economic development, particularly in the southern provinces.”

Accordingly, while announcing commercial agreements worth as much as US$8 billion between US energy companies and the Government of Iraq, the US Secretary of Energy Brouillette emphasized the critical role U.S. private investment will continue to play in Iraq’s energy future and stressed the need for “rapid progress towards energy independence from Iran.”

There is no denying that the US presence in Iraq, military or otherwise, remains Iran-centric. A troop drawdown does in no way indicate a US ‘retreat’ from Iraq because of continuous military tensions and rocket attacks by Iran backed militias. While Iran’s influence in Iraq goes way beyond the Iraqi regime, an enhanced US presence indicates that the US will continue to push against Iranian influence through military (the US would still have more than 3000 troops in Iraq) and politico-economic means.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.

September 4, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

US-led Coalition Withdraws Troops From Iraq’s Taji Military Base Amid Constant Rocket Attacks

By Ilya Tsukanov – Sputnik – 23.08.2020

Iraq’s parliament ordered US forces to withdraw from the country in January, following the drone strike assassination of a senior Iranian commander in Baghdad. On Thursday, in a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, US President Donald Trump promised that US forces would be leaving the country “shortly.”

US forces in Iraq have formally handed the Coalition-occupied area of Camp Taji, central Iraq back to Iraqi security forces, with the handover ceremony signed Sunday, the Coalition has said in a statement.

Describing the withdrawal from the facility as a move which allows the anti-Daesh Coalition to “shift its focus and role,” the Coalition said that “the movement of… military personnel is part of a long-range plan coordinated with the Government of Iraq.”

“This is truly a historic day,” Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve deputy commander Maj. Gen. Kenneth Ekman said of the move. “For the past six years, Camp Taji has served as a primary installation for Coalition partners to train the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Air Force, and the Qwat al-Khasah. The Coalition’s efforts have enabled the Iraqis to train themselves. From this day forward, [the Iraqi Security Forces] will take full responsibilities for the facilities and programs at Taji and continue to use the site to lead and conduct training as part of the mission to defeat Daesh remnants.”

The withdrawal includes the exit of 300 US troops and contractors, and the handover of $347 million in structures and equipment to the Iraqi side, including over 90 million rounds of ammunition.

Sunday’s ceremony follows a string of rocket attacks against the Taji base in recent months, with projectiles repeatedly fired into the facility by Baghdad government-allied Shia militia forces in the wake of the January 3, 2020 assassination of Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad’s international airport.

This week, several militias within Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) threatened to attack US positions throughout Iraq should Baghdad fail to negotiate a withdrawal of the foreign forces. “If an agreement on the expulsion of US forces from Iraq is not concluded in Washington, we reserve the right to target America’s interests in Iraq,” the militias warned.

Roughly 47,000 Iraqi Security Forces personnel have been trained at the Taji base, with the facility situated about 30 km outside Baghdad. At one point, the base contained as many as 2,000 Coalition troops. The Camp Taji facility is the eighth Coalition base to be handed back to the Iraqi side in recent months.

On Thursday, in a meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister, President Trump reiterated to reporters that the US would be leaving Iraq “shortly.”

“We have been taking our troops out of Iraq fairly rapidly, and we look forward to the day when we don’t have to be there,” Trump said, without giving an exact timetable on withdrawal.

An estimated 5,200 US troops remain in Iraq. The US invaded Iraq 2003 and briefly left in 2011 before returning in 2014 to help Baghdad fight Daesh. Tensions between Coalition forces and the PMU escalated dramatically after the assassination of Soleimani, who was responsible for coordinating Iranian assistance to the militias for their fight against the terrorists. Soon after the Iranian commander’s death, the Iraqi parliament ordered US forces to withdraw from the country.

August 23, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | 3 Comments

Iraq’s anti-terror fighters will never surrender to US: PMU chief

Press TV – July 30, 2020

The chairman of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha’abi has highlighted the role of the counter-terrorism force in defending the Arab country against the Daesh Takfiri terror outfit, stressing that it will never give in to the US.

Speaking on Wednesday, Falih al-Fayyadh described the PMU as an Iraqi military institution that is one of the main arms of the country’s national defense system.

The group, he added, abides by the strategy of the national army in its counter-terrorism response.

Fayyadh further said that the PMU is the manifestation of the Iraqi nation’s will, and that those rejecting the anti-terror group are actually seeking to weaken Iraq.

Hash al-Sha’abi made many sacrifices to defend Iraq and would in no way capitulate to the US or any other party, he added.

The PMU is an Iraqi government-sponsored umbrella organization composed of around 40 factions of volunteer counter-terrorism forces, including mostly Shia Muslims besides Sunni Muslims, Christians and Kurds.

In the early days of the Daesh’s reign of terror, PMU fighters played a major role in reinforcing the Iraqi army, which had suffered heavy setbacks against the Takfiri elements.

In November 2016, the Iraqi parliament voted to integrate the PMU into the military in amid US efforts to sideline the group.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Fayyadh referred to the US assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the PMU’s second-in-command, and called for the continuation of the path pursued by the commander.

Muhandis was killed, alongside top Iranian anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, in a fatal US drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump near Baghdad airport on January 3.

Two days later, the Iraqi parliament unanimously approved a bill, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.

The PMU leader emphasized that the Iraqi parliament’s decision is fundamentally linked to the assassination operation, and that the government’s position is in line with that of the legislature on the expulsion of American troops.

Daesh’s back is broken and its self-proclaimed caliphate is destroyed, he said, noting that the Takfiri group’s resurgence in Iraq as an effective force is no longer possible.

Iraq cooperates with all its neighbors, especially Syria, in the fight against terrorism, and attaches great importance to its historical relations with Damascus, Fayyadh pointed out.

He also said that Iraq’s ties with Iran are at their best, adding that Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s recent visit to Tehran and his meeting with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shows the depth of bilateral bonds.

Iranian military advisers — led by General Soleimani — aided Iraqi Armed Forces on Baghdad’s request to reverse Daesh’s gains and ultimately liberate their entire homeland in December 2017.

July 30, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

Ebb and flow of Iran’s influence in Iraq

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | July 27, 2020

Getting caught between a rock and a hard place is an unenviable situation for a politician. A tragic case in modern times was that of Hafizullah Amin, the Cold War era Afghan communist politician who tried to reduce his country’s dependence on the former Soviet Union. The predicament of the present Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has some similarities. Kadhimi’s political dexterity lies in his ability to find his limits and his prudence from going too far.

Kadhimi has strong affiliations with the US and British intelligence dating back to his years in exile, which continued to be nurtured during his 4-year stint as spy chief in Baghdad, which ended in May when the pro-US Iraqi president Barham Salih, a Kurdish politician, nominated him as prime minister.

Kadhimi continues to receive political, security, intelligence, and logistical support from Washington. Kadhimi also enjoys personal rapport with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The strong American backing did help Kadhimi to secure the job of prime minister in May, but essentially, he emerged as a compromise candidate of warring Iraqi political blocs who settled for him as interim arrangement until parliamentary elections take place in coming months.

Through last year, Washington shrewdly fuelled chaotic street protests in Iraq by exploiting the people’s disenchantment with the corruption and venalities of the established political blocs and widespread social and economic discontent. This put the Shi’ite political blocs and Tehran on the back foot and in turn created conditions for Kadhimi’s transition as prime minister.

The big question is how Kadhimi figured as chief of Iraqi intelligence when the US assassinated the head of Iran’s Quds Force Qassem Soleimani and the deputy chief of Tehran-backed deputy chief of Popular Mobilisation Committee at Baghdad airport on 3rd January in drone attacks ordered by President Trump.

Beyond doubt, the US had prior tip-off about Soleimani’s arrival in Baghdad. The Iraqi militia factions have accused Kadhimi of complicity and claim to have compelling evidence. At any rate, the US expects Kadhimi to crack the whip on the Iran-backed militia forces in Iraq. Equally, Washington encourages Kadhimi to reduce Iraq’s economic dependency on Iran and instead seek help and investments from the GCC countries.

Kadhimi is moving in this direction. On June 26, Kadhimi ordered a raid on the headquarters of one of the prominent Iran-backed militia factions south of Baghdad — Kata’ib Hezbollah, whom US officials have accused of firing rockets at bases hosting US troops. Thereby, he displayed his intention to be ‘tough’ on the Iran-backed militia groups.

On July 19, an Iraqi ministerial delegation arrived in Riyadh headed by Finance Minister Ali Allawi and comprising the ministers of oil, planning, electricity, agriculture, and culture, amongst others. Saudi Arabia has expressed willingness to help Kadhimi’s government.

The bottom line is that the US hopes to consolidate a long-term military presence in Iraq and counts on Kadhimi to overcome the resistance to the American occupation from the Iraqi political blocs, popular opinion and, of course the Iran-backed militia groups. But the paradox here is that Washington bets on Kadhimi who lacks a political base to perform as a ‘strongman’.

Why did Tehran acquiesce to Kadhimi’s elevation as Iraq’s prime minister? The US analysts’ narrative is that Iran’s influence in Iraq is on the wane in the recent months after the murder of Soleimani who used to handle Tehran’s security dossier in Iraq. The Iraqi parliament’s confirmation of Kadhimi’s appointment has been touted as a sign of Tehran’s loss of clout in Baghdad.

However, this narrative reflects a self-serving American mindset — ‘You are either with us, or against us’. Whereas, Iran’s regional strategies in Iraq are not one-dimensional. True, Kadhimi couldn’t possibly have been an ideal Iranian candidate for Iraqi prime ministership. Tehran apparently had no intimate history with him. Possibly, Tehran also knew about Kadhimi’s well-established connections with the American and British intelligence.

But having said that, the fact of the matter is that Tehran never really worked to install a proxy in power in Baghdad in all these years since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Iran’s focus is on Iraq’s stability and security, as evident from the alacrity with which it rushed to act as a provider of security when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launched its stunning offensive on Mosul and Tikrit in June 2014. Iran worked in tandem with the US in its anti-ISIS campaign.

The point is, Tehran views Iraq through the prism of its own national security. Tehran had the means to block Kadhimi’s appointment on the floor of the parliament but it chose not to. For, Kadhimi kept lines of communication open to Tehran too, and Iran drew appropriate conclusions from the American experience in Iraq that creating a puppet in Baghdad is an exercise in futility and can only be counterproductive.

Tehran preferred to cast its net wide in the Iraqi society and create organic relationships — not only among the Shia majority but also among Sunnis and Kurds — which explains the spread of its influence, ensuring that no security threats emanate from Iraqi soil as in the Saddam era.

Second, make no mistake, Iraq all along served as a buffer for Iran — a turf where the Americans would get a better understanding of Tehran’s motivations and potentials to be a factor of regional stability.

Third, Tehran sees interesting potentials in Kadhimi being a ‘balancer’ in Iran-Saudi relations.

Indeed, below the radar, the regional security situation is radically transforming. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Moscow last week during which he “delivered an important message (from President Rouhani) to President Putin,”  and held “extensive talks” with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on bilateral cooperation as well as regional and global coordination.

Two days later, Putin discussed Iran’s nuclear program in a phone conversation with President Trump. The influential Tehran Times newspaper since estimated in a lengthy resume that “Putin hasn’t said how he intends to save the Iran nuclear deal. But his nascent efforts highlight a possible revival of diplomatic initiatives between Iran and the U.S., ahead of the expiration of the UN arms embargo on Iran in October.”

Against this backdrop, Kadhimi’s visit to Iran last week, his first as prime minister, marks a defining moment. Kadhimi’s refrain while in Tehran has been that “Iraq would not allow any threat to Iran coming from its territory.” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was rather explicit when he told Kadhimi that the Popular Mobilisation Units (which Iran supports) are a “great blessing for Iraq, and they should be safeguarded.”

Khamenei’s lengthy discourse against the US’ regional policies all but signalled to Kadhimi that Tehran’s support for his government is predicated on the belief that he will not act as a surrogate of Washington. To be sure, Kadhimi has come under pressure to reshape Iraq’s strategic partnership with the US.

Kadhimi has two choices — seek a complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq (or at least significant drawdown), or alternatively, expect the wrath of the Iraqi political system. The choice that Kadhimi makes will determine his own political future. The recent killing of an expert of the Iraqi security establishment suggests that the tide that brought him to power is turning.

July 27, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

War Crimes and War Criminals: Who Will Be Held Accountable?

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | July 23, 2020

There is something unique about how the United States manipulates the “terrorism” label to avoid being accused of carrying out war crimes. When an indigenous militia or an armed insurgency like the Taliban in a country like Iraq or Afghanistan attacks American soldiers subsequent to a U.S. invasion which overthrew the country’s government, it is considered by Washington to be an act of “terrorism.” Terror attacks de facto permit a carte blanche response, allowing virtually anything as retaliation against the parties involved or countries that support them, including the assassination of foreign government officials. But for the attacker, whose perspective is quite different, the incident often could reasonably be described as legitimate resistance to a foreign occupier and much of the world might agree with that assessment.

So, it all comes down to definitions. The United States covers its version of reality through liberal use of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) which more-or-less gives a blanket approval to attack and kill “terrorists” anywhere at any time. And how does one become a terrorist? By being included on the U.S. government’s heavily politicized annual list of terrorist groups and material supporters of terrorism. That was the argument that was used by the United States when it killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in January, that his organization, the Qods Force, was on the “terrorist” lists maintained by State and the Treasury Department and he was therefore held to be guilty of any and all attacks on U.S. military carried out by Qods or by presumed Iranian surrogate militias.

The case made to justify killing Soleimani was considered deeply flawed at the time it took place. Because the United States says something is legal due to a law Congress has passed does not make it so, just as most of the world would consider the U.S. profile killings by drone in Afghanistan and elsewhere, based on nothing more than the assumption that someone on the ground might be a “terrorist,” to be little more than war crimes.

It has recently been revealed that the Trump Administration has issued a so-called “finding” to authorize the CIA to conduct more aggressive cyberattacks against infrastructure and other targets in countries that are considered to be unfriendly. The finding specifically named Iran, North Korea, China and Russia as approved targets and it is of particular interest because it basically left it up to the Agency to decide whom to attack and to what degree. As Washington is not at war with any of the countries named and is essentially seeking to damage their economies directly, the activity undertaken by CIA has constituted acts of war and, by widely accepted legal definition, attacks on countries that are not actually threatening are war crimes.

To counter the negative publicity about Trump Administration actions and to establish a possible casus belli, Washington has been floating numerous stories alleging Iranian, Russian and Chinese “aggression.” The ridiculous story about Russia paying Afghans bounties to kill American soldiers was quickly debunked, so the White House and the captive media are now alleging that Moscow hacker/spies are seeking to steal proprietary information dealing with the development of a coronavirus vaccine. The agitprop coming out of Washington to blame Russia for nearly everything notwithstanding, opinion polls suggest that most of the world considers Washington to be the primary source of global instability, rejecting the assertion by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the U.S. is a “force for good.”

So, it is reasonable to suggest that the United States has been guilty of many war crimes in the past twenty years and has only been shielded from the consequences due to its ability to control the message combined with its power in international fora and its unwillingness to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

But the willingness of the international community to look the other way in support of the war crimes double standard appears to be changing. The ICC, which has had its investigators denied entry to the United States, has been investigating Israeli war crimes even as it also looks at developments in Afghanistan and Iraq involving U.S. forces. Trump’s ban on entry by ICC personnel includes their families even if they are American citizens and it also protects Israel in that ICC investigators looking into the possible war crimes committed by Israeli soldiers and officers as well as the relevant Jewish state’s government officials will also be sanctioned and denied entry into the U.S. In practical terms, the Trump Administration is declaring that Israeli and U.S. soldiers will be regarded as one and the same as they relate to dealings with the ICC, a conceit that is little known to the American public.

The Israelis have responded to the threat from the ICC by compiling a secret list of government officials and military officers who might be subject to ICC issued arrest warrants if they travel in Europe for war crimes committed in Lebanon and Syria as well as of crimes against humanity directed against Palestinians. The list reportedly includes between 200 and 300 names.

That Israel is making a list of people who might be vulnerable to accusations of having possibly committed war crimes is a de facto admission by the government that such crimes were in fact committed. The ICC will soon decide whether to move on the December request by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to investigate both Israel and Hamas over suspicions of war crimes in Gaza and Jerusalem as well as on the occupied West Bank beginning in 2014. The investigation would include “crimes allegedly committed in relation to the use by members of the IDF of non-lethal and lethal means against persons participating in demonstrations beginning in March 2018 near the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, which reportedly resulted in the killing of over 200 individuals, including over 40 children, and the wounding of thousands of others.”

Given the time frame, Israeli government officials and military officers would likely be the first to face scrutiny by investigators. According to Haaretz, the list would almost certainly include “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; former defense ministers Moshe Ya’alon, Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett; former Israel Defense Forces chiefs of staff Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, and current Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi; and the former and current heads of the Shin Bet security service, Yoram Cohen and Nadav Argaman, respectively.”

One wonders who would be included on a comparable list for the United States. There are a lot of lying politicians and sly generals to choose from. As both Israel and the United States do not recognize the authority of the ICC and will almost certainly refuse to participate in any fashion if the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity ever actually make it to the court, any discussion of lists are at this point merely travel advisories for war criminals. The United States will push back and will inter alia certainly attempt to discredit the court using whatever weapons are available, to include sanctions against the nations that support any investigation and trial.

One nevertheless has to hope that the court will persevere in its effort to expose the crimes that continue to be committed by the U.S. and Israel in both Palestine and Afghanistan. Embarrassing Washington and Jerusalem in a very visible and highly respected international forum might be the only way to change the direction of the two nations that more than any other insist that “might makes right.”

July 23, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Iraq to begin construction work on railway link to Iran: Iraqi official

Press TV – July 23, 2020

A senior Iraqi official says that work for a key rail link connecting the country to the neighboring Iran will begin in the very near future.

“The railway between Iran and Iraq through the Shalamcheh link will get going soon,” said Qasim al-Araji, a national security adviser to the Iraqi government, in a tweet posted on Thursday.

The announcement comes just days after a high-ranking Iraqi delegation travelled to Iran to discuss key issues with officials in Tehran.

The announcement by Araji, a former interior minister of Iraq, could be a sign that Iran and Iraq have reached fresh arrangements on how they can finish a project that that has stalled on the Iraqi side of the border for almost eight years.

Iran’s Mostazafan Foundation (MFJ), a semi-governmental charity with years of experience in construction activities, is responsible for funding and execution of the entire project in Iran and Iraq.

Iran has finished its side of the railway, a 17-koilometer link between the cities of Khoramshahr and Shalamcheh. However, MFJ plans for continuing the project into Iraq hit a snag in 2014 when the Arab country became involved in an extensive war on terror.

The $150-million project, which spans 47 kilometers through the two territories to reach the Iraqi city of Basra, has also faced issues like mine clearance inside Iraq.

Once finished, the railway could have major economic and geopolitical implications for Iraq.

It will serve as a major link on Iraq’s transit access through Iran to landlocked countries as of Central Asia and further to India and East Asia.

China also views the link as a major component of its new Silk Road scheme which runs through various territories to reach gateways of Europe, including through Iran, Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean.

July 23, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Iran to launch special trade office in China: Businessman

Press TV – July 21, 2020

Iran is to set up a special office in China to streamline trade activities with the East Asian country.

A senior businessman says major Iranian companies are teaming up to create a trade office in China amid growing economic relations between the two countries.

Gholamhossein Jamili, a board member at Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA), said on Tuesday that the trade office in China would play a major role in protecting Iranian businesses and firms working in the East Asian country against growing restrictions caused by US sanctions.

“We are working to launch this office before the end of the current Christian calendar year,” Jamili was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

The announcement comes amid reports of booming economic relations between Iran and China as the two countries move to finalize a 25-year comprehensive partnership agreement that would massively boost bilateral cooperation in areas like energy, infrastructure, tourism and trade.

China was the top buyer of Iranian oil before the United States introduced its unilateral sanctions on Iran two years ago. However, Beijing is still a top economic partner for Iran and the balance of trade between the two countries hit $20 billion in the year ending March, according to Iranian government data.

Other senior Iranian figures involved in trade with China said that the planned trade office would seek to resolve problems facing Iranian businesses and companies in China.

Majid Hariri, who chairs the Iran-China Joint Chamber of Commerce, said that the office in Beijing would serve as Iran’s economic embassy in the East Asian country.

The official IRNA news agency said the ICCIMA plans similar offices in India, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Iraq, adding that two such offices are being set up in Russia’s Astrakhan and Syria’s Damascus.

July 21, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top Iranian Diplomat Discusses US Troop Pullout With Iraq’s PMF Chief

Sputnik – 19.07.2020

The Iranian foreign minister and the leader of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) discussed the US troop pullout on Sunday.

Mohammad Javad Zarif is currently on a visit to Iraq, where has already held talks with the top leadership.

“Zarif and [Falih] Al-Fayyad, the head of Hashd al-Shaabi [PMF], discussed the legitimate decision of the government, people and parliament of Iraq on the need for American troops to withdraw from this country as well as other issues of mutual interest”, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.

The sides also touched upon the circumstances of the US drone killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and deputy PMF head Abu Mahdi Muhandis.

Zarif’s visit to Baghdad coincided with a rocket attack on the Iraqi capital’s green zone, which houses heavily fortified government facilities and foreign diplomatic missions. A source in the Iraqi security services said that at least two rockets fell near the US embassy inside this zone.

The Iraqi parliament voted to expel all foreign troops from the country in January, shortly after a US precision strike killed Soleimani and Muhandis near Baghdad.

The United States held the two as well as Fayyad accountable for a 31 December attack against its embassy in Iraq, when protesters tried to storm the diplomatic mission’s gates following the funeral of the Kataib Hezbollah militiamen who were killed by the prior American drone strikes.

July 19, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 1 Comment

Powell & Iraq—Regime Change, Not Disarmament: The Fundamental Lie

By Scott Ritter – Consortium News – July 18, 2020

The New York Times Magazine has published a puff piece soft-peddling former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s role in selling a war on Iraq to the UN Security Council using what turned out to be bad intelligence. “Colin Powell Still Wants Answers” is the title of the article, written by Robert Draper. “The analysts who provided the intelligence,” a sub-header to the article declares, “now say it was doubted inside the CIA at the time.”

Draper’s article is an extract from a book, To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq, scheduled for publication later this month. In the interest of full disclosure, I was approached by Draper in 2018 about his interest in writing this book, and I agreed to be interviewed as part of his research. I have not yet read the book, but can note that, based upon the tone and content of his New York Times Magazine article, my words apparently carried little weight.

Regime Change, Not WMD

I spent some time articulating to Draper my contention that the issue with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was never about weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but rather regime change, and that everything had to be viewed in the light of this reality—including Powell’s Feb. 5, 2003 presentation before the UN Security Council. Based upon the content of his article, I might as well have been talking to a brick wall.

Powell’s 2003 presentation before the council did not take place in a policy vacuum. In many ways, the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was a continuation of the 1991 Gulf War, which Powell helped orchestrate. Its fumbled aftermath was again, something that transpired on Powell’s watch as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the administration of George H. W. Bush.

Powell was part of the policy team that crafted the post-Gulf War response to the fact that Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein, survived a conflict he was not meant to. After being labeled the Middle East equivalent of Adolf Hitler whose crimes required Nuremburg-like retribution in a speech delivered by President Bush in October 1990, the Iraqi President’s post-conflict hold on power had become a political problem for Bush 41.

Powell was aware of the CIA’s post-war assessment on the vulnerability of Saddam’s rule to continued economic sanctions, and helped craft the policy that led to the passage of Security Council resolution 687 in April 1991. That linked Iraq’s obligation to be disarmed of its WMD prior to any lifting of sanctions and the reality that it was U.S. policy not to lift these sanctions, regardless of Iraq’s disarmament status, until which time Saddam was removed from power.

Regime change, not disarmament, was always the driving factor behind U.S. policy towards Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Powell knew this because he helped craft the original policy.

I bore witness to the reality of this policy as a weapons inspector working for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), created under the mandate of resolution 687 to oversee the disarming of Iraq’s WMD. Brought in to create an intelligence capability for the inspection team, my remit soon expanded to operations and, more specifically, how Iraq was hiding retained weapons and capability from the inspectors.

SCUDS

One of my first tasks was addressing discrepancies in Iraq’s accounting of its modified SCUD missile arsenal; in December 1991 I wrote an assessment that Iraq was likely retaining approximately 100 missiles. By March 1992 Iraq, under pressure, admitted it had retained a force of 89 missiles (that number later grew to 97).

After extensive investigations, I was able to corroborate the Iraqi declarations, and in November 1992 issued an assessment that UNSCOM could account for the totality of Iraq’s SCUD missile force. This, of course, was an unacceptable conclusion, given that a compliant Iraq meant sanctions would need to be lifted and Saddam would survive.

The U.S. intelligence community rejected my findings without providing any fact-based evidence to refute it, and the CIA later briefed the Senate that it assessed Iraq to be retaining a force of some 200 covert SCUD missiles. This all took place under Powell’s watch as chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

I challenged the CIA’s assessment, and organized the largest, most complex inspection in UNSCOM’s history to investigate the intelligence behind the 200-missile assessment. In the end, the intelligence was shown to be wrong, and in November 1993 I briefed the CIA Director’s senior staff on UNSCOM’s conclusion that all SCUD missiles were accounted for.

Moving the Goalposts

The CIA’s response was to assert that Iraq had a force of 12-20 covert SCUD missiles, and that this number would never change, regardless of what UNSCOM did. This same assessment was in play at the time of Powell’s Security Council presentation, a blatant lie born of the willful manufacture of lies by an entity—the CIA—whose task was regime change, not disarmament.

Powell knew all of this, and yet he still delivered his speech to the UN Security Council.

In October 2002, in a briefing designed to undermine the credibility of UN inspectors preparing to return to Iraq, the Defense Intelligence Agency trotted out Dr. John Yurechko, the defense intelligence officer for information operations and denial and deception, to provide a briefing detailing U.S. claims that Iraq was engaged in a systematic process of concealment regarding its WMD programs.

John Yurechko, of the Defense Intelligence Agency, briefs reporters at the Pentagon on Oct. 8, 2002 (U.S. Defense Dept.)

According to Yurechko, the briefing was compiled from several sources, including “inspector memoirs” and Iraqi defectors. The briefing was farcical, a deliberate effort to propagate misinformation by the administration of Bush 43. I know—starting in 1994, I led a concerted UNSCOM effort involving the intelligence services of eight nations to get to the bottom of Iraq’s so-called “concealment mechanism.”

Using innovative imagery intelligence techniques, defector debriefs, agent networks and communications intercepts, combined with extremely aggressive on-site inspections, I was able, by March 1998, to conclude that Iraqi concealment efforts were largely centered on protecting Saddam Hussein from assassination, and had nothing to do with hiding WMD. This, too, was an inconvenient finding, and led to the U.S. dismantling the apparatus of investigation I had so carefully assembled over the course of four years.

It was never about the WMD—Powell knew this. It was always about regime change.

Using UN as Cover for Coup Attempt

In 1991, Powell signed off on the incorporation of elite U.S. military commandos into the CIA’s Special Activities Staff for the purpose of using UNSCOM as a front to collect intelligence that could facilitate the removal of Saddam Hussein. I worked with this special cell from 1991 until 1996, on the mistaken opinion that the unique intelligence, logistics and communications capability they provided were useful to planning and executing the complex inspections I was helping lead in Iraq.

This program resulted in the failed coup attempt in June 1996 that used UNSCOM as its operational cover—the coup failed, the Special Activities Staff ceased all cooperation with UNSCOM, and we inspectors were left holding the bag. The Iraqis had every right to be concerned that UNSCOM inspections were being used to target their president because, the truth be told, they were.

Nowhere in Powell’s presentation to the Security Council, or in any of his efforts to recast that presentation as a good intention led astray by bad intelligence, does the reality of regime change factor in. Regime change was the only policy objective of three successive U.S. presidential administrations—Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43.

Powell was a key player in two of these. He knew. He knew about the existence of the CIA’s Iraq Operations Group. He knew of the successive string of covert “findings” issued by U.S. presidents authorizing the CIA to remove Saddam Hussein from power using lethal force. He knew that the die had been cast for war long before Bush 43 decided to engage the United Nations in the fall of 2002.

Powell Knew

Powell knew all of this, and yet he still allowed himself to be used as a front to sell this conflict to the international community, and by extension the American people, using intelligence that was demonstrably false. If, simply by drawing on my experience as an UNSCOM inspector, I knew every word he uttered before the Security Council was a lie the moment he spoke, Powell should have as well, because every aspect of my work as an UNSCOM inspector was known to, and documented by, the CIA.

It is not that I was unknown to Powell in the context of the WMD narrative. Indeed, my name came up during an interview Powell gave to Fox News on Sept. 8, 2002, when he was asked to comment on a quote from my speech to the Iraqi Parliament earlier that month in which I stated:

“The rhetoric of fear that is disseminated by my government and others has not to date been backed up by hard facts that substantiate any allegations that Iraq is today in possession of weapons of mass destruction or has links to terror groups responsible for attacking the United States. Void of such facts, all we have is speculation.”

Powell responded by declaring,

“We have facts, not speculation. Scott is certainly entitled to his opinion but I’m afraid that I would not place the security of my nation and the security of our friends in the region on that kind of an assertion by somebody who’s not in the intelligence chain any longer… If Scott is right, then why are they keeping the inspectors out? If Scott is right, why don’t they say, ‘Anytime, any place, anywhere, bring ‘em in, everybody come in—we are clean?’ The reason is they are not clean. And we have to find out what they have and what we’re going to do about it. And that’s why it’s been the policy of this government to insist that Iraq be disarmed in accordance with the terms of the relevant UN resolutions.” (emphasis added, Aletho News )

Of course, in November 2002, Iraq did just what Powell said they would never do—they let the UN inspectors return without preconditions. The inspectors quickly exposed the fact that the “high quality” U.S. intelligence they had been tasked with investigating was pure bunk. Left to their own devices, the new round of UN weapons inspections would soon be able to give Iraq a clean bill of health, paving the way for the lifting of sanctions and the continued survival of Saddam Hussein.

Powell knew this was not an option. And thus he allowed himself to be used as a vehicle for disseminating more lies—lies that would take the U.S. to war, cost thousands of U.S. service members their lives, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, all in the name of regime change.

Back to Robert Draper. I spent a considerable amount of time impressing upon him the reality of regime change as a policy, and the fact that the WMD disarmament issue existed for the sole purpose of facilitating regime change. Apparently, my words had little impact, as all Draper has done in his article is continue the false narrative that America went to war on the weight of false and misleading intelligence.

Draper is wrong—America went to war because it was our policy as a nation, sustained over three successive presidential administrations, to remove Saddam Hussein from power. By 2002 the WMD narrative that had been used to support and sustain this regime change policy was weakening.

Powell’s speech was a last-gasp effort to use the story of Iraqi WMD for the purpose it was always intended—to facilitate the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. In this light, Colin Powell’s speech was one of the greatest successes in CIA history. That is not the story, however, Draper chose to tell, and the world is worse off for that failed opportunity.

Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.

July 18, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

US military convoy blown up in Iraq’s Diwaniyah: Reports

Press TV – July 11, 2020

A US military convoy carrying logistic supplies has been attacked in Iraq on the road between Samawah and Diwaniyah, south of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, local media reports say.

At least three vehicles of the convoy were reportedly destroyed or damaged in the attack which occurred at 10 pm (local time) on Saturday.

Some media reports say the convoy has been targeted by a remote-controlled VBIED.

The convoy was reportedly traveling between the cities of Diwaniyah in Al-Qadisiyyah province and Svehiclein Muthanna province.

The videos and images released of the incident suggest that the vehicles caught fire following the attack.

It is not immediately clear if any casualties were incurred.

The newly formed Iraqi group, Saraya Thawrat al-Eshreen al-Thaniya, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Anti-US sentiments have been running high in Iraq since Washington assassinated top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and the second-in-command of the Iraqi popular mobilization units, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in January.

Following the attack, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill on January 5, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign troops.

Baghdad and Washington are currently in talks over the withdrawal of American troops.

Iraqi resistance groups have vowed to take up arms against US forces if Washington fails to comply with the parliamentary order.

Video footage

July 11, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | 3 Comments