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US begins construction of largest consulate abroad in Erbil

Press TV – July 7, 2018

US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani have broken ground on the largest American consulate building in the city of Erbil.

Barzani said Friday the project shows that “America wants to stay in Iraq, that America wants to remain in Kurdistan, that America wants to develop its ties,” the Kurdish Rudaw Media Network reported.

Silliman, for his part, emphasized that the construction of the biggest US consulate complex, which is one of the most modern facilities, is a “strong symbol of the continued strong relationship” between Washington and Erbil.

The US initially opened a diplomatic office in Erbil in February 2007 and four years later upgraded it to a consulate general.

The new US consulate, which will be built on a 200,000 square meter piece of land, will cost $600 million. The construction project is expected to take four years.

Back in 2009, the US inaugurated the largest and most expensive embassy in the world in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, suggesting that Washington was set for a long haul in the Arab country.

The 104-acre compound is bigger than the Vatican and about the size of 80 football fields. It cost the US $750 million.

Iraq has been wracked by a vicious cycle of violence since the US invasion of the country in 2003, which has destroyed the nation’s infrastructures.

In recent months, Washington has also stepped up its alliance with Kurdish forces active in Syria despite opposition by Turkey that is worried about the formation of an autonomous Kurdish state on its borders.

About 2,000 US troops are deployed to northeast Syria in territories under the control of Kurdish militants amid fears of the war-torn state’s partition.

Last December, US President Donald Trump approved providing weapons worth $393 million to what Washington calls partners in Syria, including the so-called Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

The US measures infuriated Ankara and prompted the country to launch a military campaign against Kurdish forces in Syria.

July 7, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | 2 Comments

Syria Is Now Like the Balkans in 1914

By Jeremy Salt | American Herald Tribune | June 30, 2018

The war in Syria has returned to where it was started in 2011, in Dara’a, close to the Jordanian border and therefore easily accessible to takfiris and weapons shipped in to be used behind the façade of ‘peaceful protests.’ The template had been used in Latin America and the Middle East on many occasions and here it was being used again, with the enthusiastic support of the corporate media.

Having failed in its attempt to overthrow the Syrian government the US is now abandoning those groups described in the corporate media as its ‘allies.’ One such group is the takfiri collective fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, which has been told to expect no help from the US in its collapsing attempt to hold ground in southwestern Syria. Another is the Kurdish SDF-YPG collective in the north, which the US betrayed when signing an agreement with Turkey over Manbij. The Kurds, as an administrative and military force, have been forced out. The town is now being patrolled by Turkish and US military units.

The Kurds can’t say they were not told to distrust the US. They have played their cards hopelessly just about everywhere. When Turkey invaded north-western Syria early this year the Kurds rejected an offer of military assistance from the Syrian government, apparently thinking they could hold their ground against the Turkish army, only to be routed by it and to be driven out of Afrin city.

The US had warned Turkey that Manbij was a red line. However, when the Turks insisted, the US gave in. The YPG is now reconciling with the Syrian government, just as some at least of the betrayed takfiris in the southwest, along the border with Jordan and the armistice line with the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, have been accepting an amnesty offer. Israel is still doing its best to throw the Syrian military off balance, by bombing near Damascus airport and striking at Syria’s Iraqi allies along the eastern border, but to no avail. The army is making a clean sweep and all the southwest will soon be back in the hands of the Syrian government.

Syria’s next target is likely to be the base the US has set up at Al Tanf on the Syrian-Iraqi border. At Al Tanf the US has been retraining and rebranding takfiris into its Maghawhir al Thawra (Commandos of the Revolution) proxy force. Backed by US air power, this force has been attacking Syrian forces outside the ‘deconfliction zone’ the US has unilaterally set up within a 50 km radius of Al Tanf.

The US is still arguing that its forces are needed in Syria to fight the Islamic State. In fact, if the Islamic State continues to exist, it is because of tacit support from the US. The heavy work in destroying the Islamic State was done by the Syrian military and the Syrian and Russian air forces, not the US and not the Kurds, as the corporate media would have its gullible consumers believe. The latest example of a helping hand is the helicoptering of two IS leaders from Twaimin on the Syrian-Iraqi border to the US base at Al Shaddadi, south of al Hasaka.

From Tanf the US continues to attack the Syrian and Iraqi militaries, with air support from Israel. The aim seems to be to control the border and prevent the war in Syria from ending. Donald Trump has blown hot and cold over Syria and even Americans should be asking what their forces are doing there. The US has reached none of its set goals. The Syrian government is still in power and the proxy forces armed and paid by outside governments are being routed. The Kurdish card was played, with the apparent intention of linking up the occupied northeast, predominantly Kurdish, with the Kurdish governorate in northern Iraq, in 2011 only a few steps short of statehood. That is now not going to happen, following the collapse of the independence movement in northern Iraq and the loss of all territory taken by the peshmerga since 2014. The US betrayal of the Kurds in favour of an agreement with Turkey puts the final nail in the coffin.

The US is now staying in Syria to prevent the war from ending. Its withdrawal would signify the complete and humiliating failure of the policy of intervention. The US would be signalling that Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have won and the tripartite axis of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel have failed. The US is now isolated and vulnerable in Syria. It is opposed on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border by military and tribal forces, whose resistance to foreign occupation is being coordinated/monitored by a joint command centre set up in Baghdad by Iraq, Syria and Russia.

If Trump does one of his familiar back flips and announces the withdrawal of US forces from Syria it will be Turkey’s turn to be left isolated and vulnerable not just in north-western Syria or Manbij where the government has repeatedly refused to withdraw its troops, but from Bashiqa, near Mosul, despite the repeated demands of the Iraqi government. Turkish occupation of north-western Syria extends to the town Al Bab, northeast of Aleppo, where an industrial zone is being created. Throughout the occupied region the Turkish flag is being flown, a police force trained and proxy town councils set up. Turkish forces are now present in Manbij, further to the west, and Idlib, where under the ‘deconfliction’ arrangements set up under the Astana negotiations Turkey has set up at least 12 ‘observation’ posts.

Bashar al Assad has said Syria intends to liberate the entire country, as is his constitutional duty, and that all occupying forces that do not voluntarily withdraw will be driven out by force. The Turkish government has said it will not return occupied territory to the Syrian government: to whom it would return this territory is not clear. Following his recent election victory Tayyip Erdogan said he would continue to take measures to ‘liberate’ Syria. As these completely polarized positions indicate, open armed conflict between Syria and Turkey would seem inevitable sooner or later. The main Turkish opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), strongly opposed to intervention in Syria, had said it intended to repair the relationship with the government in Damascus, a process that would inevitably have entailed the withdrawal of Turkish forces but that exit route has now been closed off.

Syria is now a cross between the Balkans in 1914 and Europe 1930-39. The combination of irresponsible outside powers and the violent groups they are backing inside Syria but cannot necessarily control have created a tinderbox. One more spark and the entire region could be blown sky high.

Jeremy Salt has taught at the University of Melbourne, Bosporus University (Istanbul) and Bilkent University (Ankara), specialising in the modern history of the Middle East. His most recent book is “The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.)

June 30, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ups and Downs of Rebuilding Aleppo, Mosul

Veterans Today | June 23, 2018

Aleppo and Mosul, cities that endured some of the worst urban warfare in the 21st century, have quite different liberation stories, but they are alike in the way media treated them with oblivion once the post-war struggle began.

Both the Syrian city of Aleppo and Iraq’s Mosul found themselves gripped in fierce battles in late 2016. Syrian forces were trying to liberate the eastern part of Aleppo from militant groups to end the mortar shelling, which was killing civilians in the western half, and to begin rebuilding the war-ravaged districts of the city. An ambitious Russia-backed effort to evacuate civilians from the warzone set up humanitarian corridors. It was the US-backed Iraqi battle for Mosul, however, that captured the Western media’s favor as a heroic struggle to liberate civilians from Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL), while the war in Aleppo was presented in a markedly different light.

‘Bombing kitten sanctuaries’ in Aleppo

It’s no secret that the mainstream media coverage of eastern Aleppo’s liberation – more often termed as the “siege” or the “fall of Aleppo” in the West – focused exclusively on alleged atrocities of the Syrian Army rather than the full picture. Reports tugged at the emotional strings of the viewers, describing children’s hospitals, schools and blood banks destroyed in the government bombing. However, they failed to mention that the former schools and hospitals often housed militant mortars, while the “last hospital in Aleppo” was destroyed multiple times as MSM readily cited militant-linked sources without verifying them.

But perhaps the most absurd of the stories spun by the media during the battle was the “bombing” of the cat sanctuary in the city. The home for orphaned felines, which was run by Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, who was referred to as an “ambulance driver” and “the Catman of Aleppo,” was repeatedly brought into the spotlight, highlighting the hardships of the rebel-held parts of the city. In November 2016, the Catman reported that the facility was “bombed,” and several cats and a dog, aptly named Hope, were killed. The incident was squarely pinned on President Bashar Assad’s air forces and Russia. The next alleged attack on the sanctuary came with the MSM’s weapon of choice – chlorine – according to the owner, who was eventually safely evacuated from Aleppo.

The man eventually settled in the militant-held western countryside of Aleppo, opening a new kitten sanctuary. The feline facility, sadly, has not received much media attention ever since. As the battle for Aleppo ended, the media largely lost its interest in the city, forgetting about the civilians who are now working hard to rebuild a peaceful life.

Hushed strikes on Mosul

The chaotic battle for Mosul, where IS terrorists ruthlessly used civilians as human shields amid relentless US-led coalition bombing, was no less of a tragic story of suffering, but the absence of evacuations for civilians made the city warfare particularly extreme. When it came to coverage, however, the MSM mostly picked military advances while the toll of the fighting was covered in a hushed and infrequent manner.

While footage and photos of the city, taken by a few real reporters on the ground, showed the vast destruction and carnage, no widespread outrage was to be seen in the aftermath of mass civilian casualties reported. Warnings from international human rights groups, including the UN bodies, which highlighted the dire refugee situation and apparent disregard for “collateral damage” by the coalition, were also left largely unaired.

But as the battle ended and the city was pronounced liberated from IS, the story of Mosul’s struggles was seemingly cut short in the media once and for all.

But what happened next?

The battle for Aleppo ended in the very end of 2016, and the city has been vigorously striving to get back to peaceful life ever since. The cafés have reopened, the World Cup is broadcasted, and people are celebrating holidays – of several different religions – in peace.

The Old City’s Sheraton Hotel, which was turned into a Syrian Army barracks during the battle, was restored to its former glory and is open for guests.

The city is rebuilding, roads have been long cleared of rubble, and they are getting new asphalt.

Mosul, which was liberated nearly a year ago, presents a more chilling picture. The authorities still haven’t managed to collect the dead – militants, civilians and those who fought against IS.

Last week, Mosul was visited by Hollywood superstar and Special Envoy of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Angelina Jolie, who found the “worst devastation” there that she has seen in her 17 years representing the UN watchdog. The streets of Mosul’s Old City are still laying in ruins, and the stench of decomposing corpses is still in the air.

“There are bodies in this rubble that stay here and you can smell the bodies and some of them have family members that are here and they are unable to move them,” Jolie said, walking the streets where the “liberators” made the last push against IS terrorists.

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie visits the Old City in West Mosul, Iraq June 16, 2018. © UNHCR / Andrew McConnell

Surely, life is picking up in Mosul, yet at a very slow pace, with destruction seen in the background of every photo.

Iraqi workers repair a building in Mosul on March 15, 2018. © Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP

Restoring hope & heritage

Historical sites in both cities sustained massive damage during the fighting. An iconic landmark of Mosul, the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, was blown up by IS militants a month before the city was recaptured by the coalition. The monument was effectively reduced to rubble, and, nearly a year after, it remains in the same state – showing only signs of further deterioration and weathering.

The destroyed Grand al-Nuri Mosque is seen in the Old City of Mosul on January 17, 2018. © Ari Jalal / Reuters

Aleppo Citadel, on the other hand, not only endured the battle for the city, but it actually played one of the key roles in it, serving as a stronghold for Syria’s defenders once again. While the monument was damaged during the fighting, restoration – and demining – works were launched almost immediately after the city’s liberation. Now it’s open for everyone again.

Another iconic landmark of the city – the Umayyad Great Mosque – was less lucky and sustained way more serious damage, getting pierced with shrapnel and having one of its minarets toppled. While more work needs to be done, it looks way better now – and it actually serves its purpose.

June 23, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | Leave a comment

How Pro Israel Neocons Pushed for War in Iraq (Alison Weir)

If Americans Knew | June 11, 2018

Israel partisans in the Bush administration played a central role in pushing the U.S. into the disastrous Iraq war. The video gives specifics and cites the following resources:

“White Man’s Burden,” by Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz, April 3, 2003: http://iakn.us/2ggApnF

“Perles of Wisdom for the Feithful,” by Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz, October 1, 2002: http://iakn.us/2hkzdzo

“The Bush Neocons and Israel,” by Kathleen and Bill Christison, Counterpunch, December 2002: http://iakn.us/2h1ajEi

“Neo-Cons, Israel and the Bush Administration,” by Stephen Green, Counterpunch, February 2004: http://iakn.us/2ggBcVi

“The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel​” by Dr. Stephen J Sniegoski: http://iakn.us/2geT2mJ​

“The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War” by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad: http://iakn.us/2hoz4Hn

“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt: http://iakn.us/2gfPFAR

Some additional books with information on this topic:

“Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market​” by Janine R. Wedel: http://iakn.us/2hoBKEW

“Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton”​ by Diane Johnstone: http://iakn.us/2gojmhO

Wedell discusses the “massive and concerted ​’information​’ effort conducted by the Neocon core and their associates, with crucial participation from certain columnists and reporters, that was essential in taking the United States to war in Iraq​.”​

“​….​ beginning in the mid-1970s, they employed methods ranging from the creation of alternative intelligence; to might-be-authorized, might-not-be authorized diplomacy; to setting up pressure groups; to suspending standard government process, always contesting government information, assessments, and expertise. These methods—perfected over the years—would be deployed in full force in the Neocon core’s effort to take the United States to war in 2003.​”

Johnstone states: “… the neocons gained notoriety as architects of the disastrous invasion of Iraq. The main thinker behind this war was Bush’s Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Paul Wolfowitz​…”

“… two veterans of the defunct PNAC, William Kristol and Robert Kagan, returned in 2009 to found the Foreign Policy Institute (FPI). Robert Kagan is the current leading neocon theorist and the husband of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, instigator of the Ukrainian coup in early 2014.​​​”

For information on the early roots of the Israel lobby, please see Alison Weir’s book, “Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel”: http://iakn.us/AOBJ-book

More information at http://ifamericaknew.org/us_ints/neoc…

For information on the efforts against Iran, please see http://iakn.us/2gUjFif and http://iakn.us/2gUls6T

UPDATE: On December 11, Code Pink said they would post Alison’s testimony on their website. Although we are disappointed that this information was not included in the live-feed testimonies given on Dec. 1-2 in Washington DC, covered by some news media, we’re pleased that it will be on their site.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Oil for Israel: The Truth about the Iraq War, 15 Years Later:
http://iakn.us/2FPFpaF

June 13, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraq receives dozens of advanced T-90 battle tanks from Russia

Press TV – Jun 7, 2018

The Iraqi military has received dozens of more advanced T-90 battle tanks from Russia under a major deal struck between Moscow and Baghdad last year.

The Iraqi Defense Ministry, in a statement released on Thursday, announced that it had taken delivery of 39 tanks, adding that the armored fighting vehicles had been distributed between two battalions of an army brigade.

The statement said that Iraqi military personnel had already been trained by Russian experts on how to operate the battle tanks.

Iraqi Army Chief of Staff General Othman al-Ghanimi said on February 19 that his country’s army had received 36 Russian-made T-90 battle tanks.

The T-90 is a third-generation Russian battle tank built upon the time-proven Soviet T-72 design.

It is among the best-selling tanks in the world, and known for its firepower, enhanced protection and mobility.

The T-90 features a smoothbore 2A46M 125mm main gun, which can fire both armor-piercing shells and anti-tank missiles.

The advanced tank also features sophisticated armor, ensuring all-round protection of the crew and critical systems, including explosive reactive armor and active infrared jammers to defend it from inbound rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles and other projectiles.

Indian, Algerian and Azerbaijani militaries have purchased hundreds of T-90 battle tanks in past years. Kuwait, Vietnam and Egypt have also expressed strong interest in buying the tank.

The Iraqi military plans to reinforce its fleet of M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks with T-90s. A large number of American M1A1 Abrams tanks have been damaged in the fight against Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

June 7, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Iraqi voters undermine Trump’s Iran strategy

Muqtadar al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri, both anti-American, finished first and second in elections held on the day Trump scrapped the Iran nuclear deal

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | May 24, 2018

In an ironic twist, May 12, which was the deadline for US President Donald Trump’s decision on the Iran nuclear deal, also happened to be the day the Iraqi parliamentary elections took place.

Yet no one seemed to take note of the symbolism. In the event, the Iraqi election results seriously hinder Trump’s agenda of rolling back the Iranian presence in the northern tier of the Middle East comprising Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Of these three countries, Iraq is arguably the most crucial theatre of contestation between the United States and Iran. The fate of the Iranian presence and Iranian capacity to influence the politics of the entire Shi’ite arc will be critically dependent on its standing and influence in Baghdad. The stakes have never been as high as they are today.

To be sure, the Iraqi election results that were formally announced on Sunday constitute a stunning setback for Trump’s containment strategy against Iran. Washington had bet heavily on the alliance led by Prime Minister Heidar al-Abadi to win, but it has been relegated to third place, winning only 42 seats in the 329-member parliament.

Anti-American tilt

Worse still, two staunchly anti-American alliances – led by Muqtadar al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri – secured first and second places respectively.

Coalition making will be a long drawn out process, but what is clear is that the next government in Baghdad will have a pronounced anti-American tilt and the probability is high that it could evict US troops and contractors totaling 100,000 in Iraq.

While Amiri leads the powerful Iran-aligned militia groups known as the Popular Mobilization Force, Sadr’s surge is really bad news for the Americans. Sadr’s Mahdi Army has the blood of hundreds of Americans and Brits on its hands.

In the expert opinion of the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution: “His (Sadr’s) victory has turned America’s Iraq policy upside down, and Washington now faces a severe political crisis in a country where it has invested substantial blood and treasure … His movement gave rise to many of the Shiite militia groups that committed atrocities against Americans and that today dominate Iraq – as well as the front lines of the war in Syria, where they have fought US forces. These groups have been pivotal to securing the Assad regime’s survival as well as enhancing Iran’s influence in the region.”

In the coming weeks and months, Tehran will play a key role in the negotiations for the formation of the next government in Baghdad. During earlier such moments, Tehran and Washington had tacitly agreed on compromise candidates – prime ministers Abadi and Nouri al-Maliki respectively – but the scope for such accommodation is non-existent today.

Western analysts make much out of Sadr’s nationalistic outlook to give it an anti-Iranian tweak, but that betrays wishful thinking. Sadr is indeed a mercurial personality and tends to lean toward “red Shi’ism” in his outlook on Iraq’s political economy. His alliance partners are communists and secularists.

The Iran-Sadr connection

But significantly, he met Amiri on Monday and said later in a statement: “The process of government formation must be a national decision and importantly, must include the participation of all the winning blocs.”

Again, much has been made out of Sadr’s visit to Saudi Arabia last year and his meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but in reality, the warming relationship between Baghdad and the Persian Gulf states – Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar – runs only skin deep.

On the other hand, Iranians and Sadr’s family go back a long way. Sadr lived in Tehran in exile for many years. Meanwhile, reports say Tehran is bringing on board the two main Iraqi Kurdish parties – KDP and the PUK – who feel aggrieved that the US connived with Abadi’s crackdown in Kirkuk last October, to align with Amiri.

All in all, Tehran can afford to weigh the pros and cons of many options open to it.

It is entirely conceivable that Tehran might even choose to settle for another government led by Abadi as the figurehead of a staunchly pro-Iranian power structure. Ever since the regime change in Baghdad following the US invasion in 2003, Tehran has made sustained and intense efforts to cultivate wide-ranging political partnerships with Iraqi groups across the religious, ethnic and political spectrum.

It is preposterous to fantasize that Baghdad is about to move out of Iranian orbit.

The bottom line is that a new coalition government in Baghdad over which Iran enjoys political leverage may well set a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops. The Trump administration must prepare for such an eventuality since it has left Tehran in no doubt that continued US military presence in Iraq poses an existential threat of “regime change.” Trust Tehran to pull out all the stops – short of directly targeting US troops – to undermine the American influence in Iraq.

On the other hand, a well-grounded military footing in Iraq is an absolute pre-requisite for the Pentagon to conduct its operations at the present scale in northeastern Syria, given the imponderables in Turkey’s continued cooperation. In these circumstances, it is hard to see how Trump is going to realize his dream to get Iranians to vacate from Iraq or Syria.

May 24, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli Parliament Reportedly Considers Promoting Kurdish State

Sputnik – May 22, 2018

Israeli MPs have reportedly discussed a bill that outlines the means by which Israel may help Kurds build their state in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, which would support Tel Aviv. According to one of Israel’s radio stations, the bill had been submitted to the Knesset by two Israeli right-wing parties, namely Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. The radio quoted Yoav Kish as saying that given the Kurdish minority living in the aforementioned countries, which are generally hostile to Israel, the proposed move would play into the hands of the Israeli state.

“There is a reason that Israel was the first to publicly congratulate moves toward Kurdish independence in northern Iraq,” Kish added.

Back in 2017, Israel became the only country to support the Kurdish plebiscite which endorsed the Kurds’ secession from Iraq – a development that was vigorously criticized around the world.

Back then, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Tel Aviv backed what he called “legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own.” Alongside political backing, Israel was reportedly a major buyer of Kurdistan’s oil and the top investor in the region in 2017.

The Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum that took place on September 25 triggered changes in the region. More than 90 percent of the voters who took part in the plebiscite backed the independence from Baghdad. Iraqi authorities declared the referendum illegal, while Turkey and Iran vehemently criticized the plebiscite and threatened to impose tough sanctions on Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital Erbil.

Read more:

Tensions Rising Between Syrian Army, Kurds Amid Creation of US Bases – Reports

May 22, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US Coalition Killed Nearly 12 Times More Civilians in Mosul than did ISIS

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | May 17, 2018

WASHINGTON – Just a few months after the U.S. declared ISIS in Iraq “defeated,” a new study has concluded that the U.S.-led battle to remove Daesh (ISIS) from Mosul, once Iraq’s second-largest city, ultimately killed nearly 12 times the number of civilians than were killed by the infamous terror group.

The study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, surveyed 1,200 households in Mosul for cases of civilian deaths by intentional violence since Daesh first occupied the city in 2014. The leading causes of reported deaths were found to have been direct results of the U.S.-led coalition battle to remove Daesh, with airstrikes accounting for around 40 percent of all reported civilian deaths and explosions accounting for another 34 percent.

Together, deaths attributable to the coalition accounted for 373 of the 505 total deaths reported. In contrast, the study found that only 22 civilian deaths, accounting for those killed by beheadings and gunshot wounds, were attributable to Daesh.

While only around 500 civilian deaths were reported by the households surveyed, the study’s authors noted that these figures are likely an underestimate — citing a high probability of survivor bias, the concentration of air strikes in the western part of the city, and the fact that many Mosul civilians had fled the city prior to the survey.

Beyond the imbalance in civilian death tolls caused by the U.S. coalition and Daesh, Gilbert Burnham of Johns Hopkins University, the study’s lead author, pointed out that another key conclusion was the inaccuracy of the coalition airstrikes, which had long been advertised domestically as highly precise, and the coalition’s extensive use of “scorched earth” warfare.

Burnham told The Telegraph:

The high-velocity, high-explosive weapons have a huge range and using these weapons in tightly packed urban areas is a major risk. You might be targeting snipers or a group of [Daesh] fighters but if they’re closely surrounded by large numbers of civilians you can expect substantial casualties.”

He added:

There’s always collateral damage and that’s recognized in the Geneva Convention and in warfare. But the more powerful the weapons become, the larger the area of potential collateral damage. That raises a whole question of proportionality.”

Indeed, much of Mosul still remains reduced to rubble, with an unknown number of bodies still hidden under collapsed buildings and debris. Just last month, the bodies of 22 children were pulled from a pile of rubble in the western part of the city, the area most heavily targeted by coalition strikes.

Humanitarian concerns or war crimes?

Though the findings of this study are troubling, it is hardly the first to examine the deaths of civilians during the U.S.-led operation to “liberate” the city of Mosul. A previous report, published by the United Nations in November of last year, found that the coalition was responsible for the deaths of one in four civilians, with an estimated 2,521 civilians killed and 1,673 wounded during the military operation.

While it found the U.S.-led coalition to be responsible for fewer deaths than this more recent study, the UN report raised similar concerns about the coalition’s use of “imprecise, explosive weapons, killing thousands of civilians,” further suggesting that the coalition’s bombing tactics “may constitute [a] war crime.” Such concerns about war crimes have also been raised by human-rights groups, such as Amnesty International, which has criticized the coalition’s use of unnecessary force and practice of indiscriminately targeting civilians.

Despite concern over the coalition’s bombing tactics and the resulting civilian casualties, the Pentagon has long been dismissive of such concerns, shifting from denial to defiance over the high death toll. For instance, in responding to criticism over a single strike that killed hundreds of civilians in Mosul, the Pentagon cited video footage of Daesh forcing hundreds of civilians into the buildings the U.S. later bombed as “provoking the attack” — essentially admitting that the U.S. knew those buildings were full of civilians but chose to bomb the location anyway.

Aside from likely U.S. complicity in war crimes that led to the deaths of scores of civilians in Mosul, the U.S.-led coalition has also admitted to using white phosphorus, a chemical weapon, during the battle for Mosul. In June of last year, U.S.-led coalition member New Zealand’s Brig. Gen. Hugh McAslan told NPR that “we have utilized white phosphorous to screen areas within West Mosul to get civilians out safely.”

Though the chemical weapon is authorized for use to illuminate targets and create smokescreens, its use is not authorized to do so near civilian populations, particularly dense urban centers like Mosul. Furthermore, video footage showing white phosphorus bombs in the center of the Mosul suggest that the chemical was not being used a “smokescreen” to help shield escaping civilians from view but was rather part of the coalition’s bombing strategy.

In addition, despite all the carnage the U.S. coalition brought on Mosul in its bid to drive out Daesh, Daesh militants are still present in the city, suggesting that the “defeat” of Daesh in Mosul was not quite what it was made out to be. On Sunday, three Daesh militants were caught in Mosul, followed by two more who were arrested yesterday.

While Mosul is certainly better off under the control of the Iraqi government as opposed to foreign-funded terrorist groups, this latest study adds more evidence to the charge that the U.S.-led coalition’s actions in Mosul were hardly grounded in the humanitarian concern that the U.S. government so frequently invokes when justifying the use of its military abroad.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

May 17, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 4 Comments

Israel creates special Facebook page to sway Iraq’s public opinion: Report

Press TV – May 7, 2018

Israel’s foreign ministry has launched a Facebook page uniquely dedicated to efforts to sway the public opinion in Iraq in favor of the Tel Aviv regime, a new report says.

Analysts believe that the measure taken on Sunday is in line with the Israeli regime’s attempts to whitewash its blood-stained image in the Arab world and the continuation of attempts by Tel Aviv to improve relations with some Arab countries in the region.

Unnamed diplomats in Jerusalem al-Quds said the Arabic-language page would serve as “some sort of digital embassy” to Iraq, despite the fact that Israel still formally considers Iraq an enemy state.

According to the diplomats, Israel has in recent months stepped up efforts to reach out to Iraq, alleging that Iraqis are interested in establishing ties with the regime.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post quoted Yonatan Gonen, who heads the Arabic branch in the Israeli foreign ministry’s digital diplomacy division, as claiming that the decision to create a special Facebook page for Iraqis – called “Israel in the Iraqi Dialect” – was aimed at providing the Iraqi audience with more information about Israel.

The ministry’s director general, Yuval Rotem, also claimed that the plan to launch a “digital embassy” for Iraqis was in response to “the growing interest” that the Arab world was showing in Israel.

The latest measure by Israel comes after reports revealing that some Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, have been taking steps to mend fences with Israel despite the generally heinous image of the Quds-usurping regime among the Arab nations.

In an interview with the Atlantic published on April 2, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recognized Israel and stressed that Israelis were entitled to their own land.

He said that the kingdom had no problems with Jews and that “there are a lot of interests we share with Israel.”

One month earlier, Saudi Arabia had opened its airspace to Air India flights to and from the Israeli-occupied territories, adding concrete evidence to the long-running reports of warming Riyadh-Tel Aviv relations.

An unnamed official with the Palestinian Authority (PA) also revealed in March that top Israeli and Saudi officials had held a series of secret Egypt-brokered meetings in Cairo.

The talks between Israeli and Saudi officials took place at a luxury hotel in Cairo, with Egyptian officials present, dealing with the economic interests of Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, particularly in the Red Sea region, according to the official.

He also warned that the Israel-Saudi détente was harming the Palestinians.

On Friday, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates participated in the 101st Giro d’Italia cycling competition launched in Israel.

The Palestinian Olympic Committee (POC) called on the national committees of the two Persian Gulf Arab countries to withdraw their two cycling teams from the event, which it described as “a disgrace to anyone who stands behind it or participates in it.”

May 7, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Pompeo Rocks the Middle East: Lessons from a Former CIA Officer for the Secretary of State

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | May 7, 2018

Former Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo has recently completed his first trip to the Middle East as U.S. Secretary of State. Perhaps not surprisingly as President Donald Trump appears prepared to decertify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) limiting Iran’s nuclear program creating a possible casus belli, much of what Pompeo said was focused on what was alleged to be the growing regional threat posed by Iran both in conventional terms and due to its claimed desire to develop a nuclear weapon.

The Secretary of State met with heads of state or government as well as foreign ministers in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan during his trip. He did not meet with the Palestinians, who have cut off contact with the Trump Administration because they have “nothing to discuss” with it in the wake of the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

During his first stop in Riyadh, Pompeo told a beaming Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir that Iran has been supporting the “murderous” Bashar al-Assad government in Damascus while also arming Houthi rebels in Yemen. He noted that “Iran destabilizes the entire region. It is indeed the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world…”

In Israel, Pompeo stood side by side with a smiling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said “We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region, and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East remains. The United States is with Israel in this fight. And we strongly support Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself.”

At the last stop in Jordan, Pompeo returned to the “defend itself” theme, saying regarding Gaza that “We do believe the Israelis have a right to defend themselves and we are fully supportive of that.”

One hopes that discussions between Pompeo and his foreign interlocutors were more substantive than his somewhat laconic published comments. But given the comments themselves, it is depressing to consider that he was until recently Director of the CIA and was considered an intellectually brilliant congressman who graduated first in his class at West Point. One would hope to find him better informed.

Very little that surfaced in the admittedly whirlwind tour of the Middle East is fact-based. Starting with depicting Iran as a regional and even global threat, one can challenge the view that its moves in Yemen and Syria constitute any fundamental change in the balance of power in the region. Iranian support of Syria actually restores the balance by returning to the status quo ante where Syria had a united and stable government before the United States and others decided to intervene.

Israeli claims repeated by Washington that Iran is somehow building a “land bridge” to link it to the Mediterranean Sea are wildly overstated as they imply that somehow Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are willing to cede their sovereignty to an ally, an unlikely prospect to put it mildly. Likewise, the claim that Iran is seeking to “dominate the region” rings hollow as it does not have the wherewithal to do so either financially or militarily and many of its government’s actions are largely defensive in nature. The reality is that Israel and Saudi Arabia are the ones seeking regional dominance and are threatened because a locally powerful Iran is in their way.

Support by Tehran for Yemen’s Houthis is more fantasized than real with little actual evidence that Iran has been able to provide anything substantial in the way of arms. The Saudi massacre of 10,000 mostly Yemeni civilians and displacement of 3 million more being carried out from the air has been universally condemned with the sole exceptions of the U.S. and Israel, which seem to share with Riyadh a unique interpretation of developments in that long-suffering land. The U.S. has supplied the Saudis with weapons and intelligence to make their bombing attacks more effective, i.e. lethal.

Pompeo did not exactly endorse the ludicrous Israeli claim made by Benjamin Netanyahu last week that Iran has a secret weapons of mass destruction program currently in place, but he did come down against the JCPOA, echoing Trump in calling it a terrible agreement that will guarantee an Iranian nuclear weapon. The reality is quite different, with the pact basically eliminating a possible Iranian nuke for the foreseeable future through degradation of the country’s nuclear research, reduction of its existing nuclear stocks and repeated intrusive inspections. Israel meanwhile has a secret nuclear arsenal and is a non-signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty without any demur from the White House.

The Israeli-Pompeo construct assumes that Iran is singularly untrustworthy, an odd assertion coming from either Washington, Riyadh or Tel Aviv. It also basically rejects any kind of agreement with the Mullahs and is a path to war. It is interesting to note that the Pentagon together with all of America’s closest allies believe that the JCPOA should stay in place.

And then there is the claim that Iran is the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism. In reality that honor belongs to the United States and Israel with Iran often being the victim, most notably with the assassination of its scientists and technicians by Mossad agents. Israel has also been targeting and bombing Iranians in Syria, as has the United States, even though neither is at war with Iran and the Iranian militias in the country are cooperating with the Syrians and Russians to fight terrorist groups including ISIS as well as those affiliated with al-Qaeda. The U.S. is actually empowering terrorists in Syria and along the Iraqi border while killing hundreds of thousands in its never-ending war on terror. Israel meanwhile has agreements with several extremist groups so they will not attack its occupied Golan Heights and also seeks to continue to destabilize the Syrians.

Pompeo also endorsed Israel’s “fight” against the Gazan demonstrators and pledged that America would stand beside its best friend. As of this point, Israel has used trained army snipers to kill forty-three unarmed protesting Palestinians. Another 5,000 have been injured, mostly by gunfire. No “threatened” Israelis have suffered so much as a broken fingernail and the border fence is both intact and has never been breached. Israel is committing what is very clearly a war crime and the United States Secretary of State is endorsing the slaughter of a defenseless people who are imprisoned in the world’s largest open-air concentration camp.

Donald Trump entered into office with great expectations, but if Mike Pompeo is truly outlining American foreign policy, then I and many other citizens don’t get it and we most definitely don’t want it.

*(Mike Pompeo meets with Israeli Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, April 2018. Image credit: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv/ flickr)

May 7, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US Court Finds Iran Liable for 9/11

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | May 2, 2018

A US court has just handed down the verdict that the Islamic Republic of Iran owes the families of those who died on 11th September 2001 6 billion dollars in damages.

It behooves us to point out that no one, anywhere, ever accused Iran of being behind the 9/11 attacks for over a decade afterwards. The attempt to shift the blame to Iran has been a slow developing situation. The idea was first floated by James Woolsey, former head of the CIA, in 2015.

The official position of the United States government is that 19 people (15 Saudi Arabians, 2 Egyptians, 2 Emiratis and a Lebanese man) hijacked the planes and flew them into their targets. Whether or not you subscribe to this view, the introduction of Iran as some kind accomplice is a massive contradiction. One that makes very little sense.

This isn’t the first time a civil case has attempted to attribute blame for 9/11. A similar civil case was brought against Saddam Hussein, during the build up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Hopefully this verdict doesn’t presage yet another war in the Middle East.

Perhaps the most telling part is that Saudi Arabia, the country allegedly home to 15 of the 19 people allegedly guilty of the crime, remains untouchable. No sanctions. No rebukes. They’re not on the “state sponsor of terrorism” list (Iran is). A case brought against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, filed by a different group of victims’ families and blaming them for 9/11, was thrown out of court.

Is “guilt for 9/11” simply a weapon to be deployed against anyone America deems an enemy? How much respect for the victims, or their families, does that show? How much respect for the truth?

Certainly, this verdict will get far more press coverage than the new petition, filed on behalf of a third group of victims’ families, demanding a new investigation of 9/11.

May 2, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

US to Build World’s Largest Consulate Facility in Iraqi Kurdistan – Reports

Sputnik – 23.04.2018

US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman and Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani led the groundbreaking ceremony for the world’s largest US consulate in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, local media reported Monday.

As of now, the United States rents buildings from local residents and business owners in Erbil’s district of Ainkawa to house its consulate, which opened in February 2007 and was upgraded to a consulate general in 2011, the Rudaw news agency reported.

“The new consulate building demonstrates that the United States will stand with the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, as they build a future that will be brighter than the past,” Silliman said at the ceremony, as quoted by the media outlet.

The ambassador also called for strengthening US-Kurdish business relations.

Barzani, in turn, thanked Silliman and congratulated him on the decision to start construction.

“We see it as a significant and valuable step, and hope that it will be finished successfully at its schedule time,” he said.

​Barzani also stressed that the development of relations between the United States and the Kurdistan Region lay “in the framework of the diplomatic relations it has with Iraqi federal government.”

The estimated cost of the new US consulate building is $600 million. It will be built on 200,000 square meters (2,152,782 square feet) of land on Erbil-Shaqlawa highway.

April 23, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | 1 Comment