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Mideast States Join Iraq Summit in Blow to US-Led ‘Arab NATO’ Initiative

Sputnik – April 20, 2019

The summit marks a shift in Iraq’s foreign policy, with the country assuming the role of a mediator in the region as US President Donald Trump has revived the Obama-era concept of an anti-Iranian alliance of Gulf nations.

Iraq is hosting a one-day summit, which brings together the country’s neighbours: Syria, Turkey, Jordan, and Kuwait, as well as two long-time rivals – Saudi Arabia and Iran – in a blow to the US-led “Arab NATO” initiative, Press TV reported.

“This is a positive message to all neighbouring countries and the world that Iraq is determined to regain its health and return to its Arab, regional environment and assume its rightful place in the map of the balance of power”, Bashir Haddad, deputy parliamentary speaker said.

The development comes as US President Donald Trump breathed new life into the Obama-era initiative, “Middle East Strategic Alliance”, commonly referred to as “Arab NATO”, to forge an anti-Iran alliance of Gulf nations.

In 2017, the Trump administration suggested creating an alliance to stop what the US called Tehran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East.

The plan, first proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2017, was promoted by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who even met with Qatari officials last year in a bid to deescalate tensions between Doha and Riyadh to push the idea forward.

Aside from the US and Saudi Arabia, the so-called Middle East Strategic Alliance would hypothetically include the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt to counter Iran, deepen defence relations, energy cooperation and deal with regional threats.  However, Egypt reportedly dealt the first blow to the proposal last week, having withdrawn from the initiative over concerns of damaging relations with Iran.

April 20, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

The Fall of Baghdad 16 Years Ago

By Eresh Omar Jamal | The Duran | April 13, 2019

Three weeks into the invasion of Iraq, coalition forces led by the US army entered Baghdad and formally occupied it on April 9, 2003. The city’s infrastructure was seriously damaged. The Al-Yarmouk Hospital in the south received about 100 new patients every hour at the time of fighting. And many treasures at the National Museum of Iraq—from ancient Mesopotamia and early Islamic culture—were stolen or broken while the Iraqi National Library and National Archives housing thousands of manuscripts from civilisations dating as far back as 7,000 years were burned down and many of its items destroyed.

Like it was an attack on the past, the invasion, from when it occurred, has also proved to be an attack on the future of civilisation. But to most Iraqis, that was obvious from the get-go.

In his eyewitness account of “liberated” Iraq in May 2003, Radio France Internationale’s Tony Cross recalled seeing daily protests against the Americans. Of witnessing western boys of 18-25 years-old standing with their tanks and advanced military equipment, looking fearful (and helpful sometimes) of the host population whose language none of them understood. The most interesting contradiction he points to was between the widely held believe among Iraqis that there was a Zionist-American plot to wipe out their history and subdue them through prolonged occupation, versus a 23-year-old US marine’s statement that, “I talked to a few Iraqis yesterday and some of them said that they didn’t really like us being here. But we liberated them, so I hope they appreciate it.”

Years later, ordinary people in the west still don’t understand the true nature of the horror that it brought to Iraq. In an April 2013 poll by ComRes supported by Media Lens, 44 percent of people estimated that less than 5,000 Iraqis had died since 2003, while 59 percent believed that fewer than 10,000 had died—out of 2,021 respondents. The more likely estimate, according to most independent sources, is in excess of one million.

In 2010, WikiLeaks’ disclosure of 391,832 US army field reports of the Iraq War from 2004 to 2009 exposed that the army itself recorded 109,000 deaths among which 66,081 were civilians. Aided by these documents, Iraq Body Count, which has compiled the most comprehensive record of deaths caused by the war, confirmed the death toll to have exceeded 150,000 in 2010 with roughly 80 percent of them being civilians.

The leaks moreover revealed information about the torture of Iraqis, including by British forces. Adding to the worldwide condemnation that followed Seymour Hersh’s disclosure on the gruesome and humiliating torture carried out by American soldiers on Iraqis in Abu Ghraib. In his 2004 report published by The New Yorker, Hersh had earlier shed light on a 53-page report by Major General Antonio Taguba, who wrote that “between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of ‘sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses’ at Abu Ghraib.” That included: “Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomising a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.”

Such brutality naturally created resentment. And that resentment could just as well have inspired the formation of forces such as ISIS and their ferocious treatment of those they saw as their enemy or opponent.

Yet, it was as if no lessons were learned by western governments. Who used the same blueprint of exploiting lies and deceptions to concoct new wars. In the case of Syria, by fostering tensions between Shiites and Sunnis, to cause its government to overreact by increasing paranoia of an imminent coup, and use that to get Islamic extremists to act against the Syrian government.

And also in Libya, through similar destabilising efforts, followed by more direct intervention which overthrew its government and created a quagmire in what was the wealthiest country in all of Africa before the 2011 NATO intervention—a country where less people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands, where there is now a thriving slave market according to the UN.

As former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi warned prior to him being overthrown by NATO—and sodomised with a bayonet and killed by extremist forces on live television—without a unified and stable Libya, there would be no one to control countless migrants from Africa and the Middle East from fleeing to Europe. And that is exactly what happened since, turning American political scientist Samuel Huntington’s theory of Clash of Civilisation now into near reality.

So what should we make of the fall of Baghdad 16 years ago, or the broader invasion and destruction of Iraq, which by now has clearly turned out to be one of the most important events of the 21st century?

One, that greed for power often causes leaders of powerful countries to lie their citizens into waging wars against less powerful nations. And given the nature of modern weaponry, those wars are now costlier in terms of destroying human lives than ever.

Two, this is especially true for democracies, where, as Julian Assange explains, “wars are a result of lies”—lies such as Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, Gaddafi is providing Viagra to his soldiers to rape women, Assad is attacking unarmed Syrian civilians, etc., all of which have now been proven untrue.

Third, had these lies been exposed early enough, there is a chance that all these wars could have been avoided, and millions of lives spared. However, as most mainstream media outlets became the “stenographer of great power”, as John Pilger describes it, opting to spread lies and propaganda, rather than tell truth to the public and report the facts, the exposure of these lies came too late.

Fourth, the public has entered a state of mind where they can repeatedly be lied into wars. Where through some form of mental gymnastics, they seem to convince themselves time and again that: “this time they are taking us to war for humanitarian reasons, not for greed or for power.” Giving the impression that they are suffering from some sort of mass mind-control. Which is the ultimate goal of propaganda.

That is why it is so important for alternative sources to inform the public about the true nature of wars. To record and reveal the real history of events that shape our world and to counter propaganda with facts. Because if we are to learn anything from the Iraq War and its subsequent events, it is that: “If wars can be started by lies, peace can be started by truth.”


Eresh Omar Jamal is a member of the editorial team at The Daily Star, Bangladesh. His Twitter handle is: @EreshOmarJamal

April 13, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Iran, Iraq and Syria considering transnational railway project: Report

Press TV – April 13, 2019

Iraq says negotiations are underway with Iran and Syria to develop a transnational railway line linking the three countries.

Iraqi Republic Railways Company chief Salib al-Hussaini said a summit will be held between the countries to further discuss the matter, the Arabic-language al-Sumeria news website reported on Friday.

The comments made on the sidelines of the joint Syrian-Iraqi committee held in Damascus came a week after Iranian First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri spoke of an initiative to link the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean.

“We will connect the Persian Gulf from Iraq to Syria and the Mediterranean via railway and road,” said Jahangiri, making reference to the construction of a railway linking the Iranian Shalamcheh border region to the Iraqi city of Basra.

The Shalamcheh-Basra railway project is estimated to cost 2.22 billion rials and can link Iran to Syria via Iraq.

Speaking last December, Director General of the Railway and Technical Structures Department at the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (RAI) Mohammad Mousavi said Iran was planning to build a movable railway bridge over the Arvand river as part of the Shalamcheh-Basra project.

Mousavi said the project would effectively link the Iranian cities of Khorramshahr and Abadan along with the Imam Khomeini Port to the Iraqi city.

The railway project was agreed to last month when Iran and Iraq signed five memorandums of understanding for the expansion of bilateral cooperation in various economic and healthcare sectors.

Observers have described the new agreements as a sign of Baghdad’s serious intention of not being “party to the system of sanctions against Iran” as Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi said earlier in February.

Iraq heavily depends on Iran for everything from food to machinery, electricity, natural gas, fruits and vegetables.

Last year, Iran exported $8.7 billion worth of commodities to Iraq, overtaking Turkey with $7.3 billion of exports.

President Hassan Rouhani said last week that Iran and Iraq had plans to expand bilateral trade volume to $20 billion in the future.

Iran and Syria also signed a series of “historic” agreements earlier this year, including a “long-term strategic economic cooperation” deal described as a sign of changing realities in the Middle East.

Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis said the “historic” agreements covered cooperation in fields of industry, trade and agriculture. He called the agreement “a message to the world on the reality of Syrian-Iranian cooperation.”

Iraq and Syria have been expanding political and economic ties with Iran as they seek assistance in the post-war reconstruction of their countries which had large swathes of their territories overrun by foreign-backed terrorist outfits in the past years.

Iran has been offering military advisory support to Iraq and Syria at the request of their governments, enabling their forces to speed up gains on various fronts against the terrorist groups.

April 13, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Iran, Iraq ‘agree on aerial defense cooperation’

Press TV – April 7, 2019

Iran’s top military commander says the country and its neighbor Iraq have agreed to cooperate in the area of air defense to fend off the challenges facing their respective air spaces.

Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri made the announcement to reporters following a meeting in Tehran with his visiting Iraqi counterpart, Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanimi, Tasnim News Agency reported on Sunday.

The cooperation, Baqeri said, will be aimed at confronting aerial threats.

The meeting addressed “the integrated defense of Iran and Iraq’s skies, because we might sense threats coming from the direction of [our] western borders,” he added.

“Accordingly, it was agreed that the countries’ air defense sectors work together and more coordination be made in this regard,” the Iranian commander said.

Baqeri said the two sides also agreed on potential training cooperation, the transferring of Iran’s defensive experiences to Iraq, and joint military exercises. Agreements on these, he added, will be finalized during a future visit by the Iraqi military chief.

Ghanimi was in the Iranian capital as part of a delegation accompanying Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. On Saturday, the delegation met with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.

Baqeri cited the Iraqi commander as saying that Baghdad would be exercising stricter control on the United States’ military presence on its soil.

The American forces are only there to train Iraqis and their activities are under the Iraqi Army’s oversight, Baqeri added, citing al-Ghanimi.

In his meeting with Ghanimi, Ayatollah Khamenei had stressed that the Iraqi government should make sure that US forces leave Iraq as soon as possible.

April 7, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Kill Them Over There, Not Here, Please.

By Jeremy Salt | American Herald Tribune | March 20, 2019

All of us must stand against hatred in all of its forms. – Barrack Obama

Israel mourns the wanton murder of innocent worshippers – Benjamin Netanyahu

White supremacist terrorism must be condemned by leaders everywhere – Hillary Clinton

People of all faiths must condemn these attacks and call out those who encourage Islamophobia. – Madeleine Albright

These are excerpts from some of the messages of condolence sent to New Zealand by ‘world leaders’ after the Christchurch massacre. There is no point in giving more names because all politicians and public figures would say the same, as they should, given the monstrosity of the crime.

Obama, Netanyahu, Clinton, and Albright have been chosen because they have been responsible for acts of murder infinitely greater than the slaughter of 50 Muslims in New Zealand.

The victims of their crimes and the crimes of their political predecessors in the past three decades run into the millions. Brenton Tarrant terrorized Muslims in two mosques in one country. They have terrorized Muslim populations in a number of countries. He has violated New Zealand law. They have violated international law. He will be punished but they never are.

Obama, Netanyahu, Clinton, and Albright have never uttered a word of remorse for the crimes they have committed. Not once has the head of any western government expressed regret for the millions of people killed in Muslim countries over the past three decades, not with Brenton Tarrant’s semi-automatic firearms, but bombs, missiles, and tank fire or, in the case of Syria, with the armed gangs set loose like attack dogs.

When asked whether she thought the ‘price’ paid for the first Gulf War (1991) and the decade of sanctions that followed, which took the lives of 500,000 children, was worth it, Madeleine Albright replied: ‘We think the price is worth it.’

For these governments and politicians, the price is always worth it as long as someone else pays. Even now there is nothing but estimates of how many Iraqis were killed or died as a result of the two wars launched against their country but the figure hovers around three million since 1991.

On top of this are the millions of wounded, many disabled for life, and the children born with deformities because of the use of uranium-depleted weapons.

Senior UN officials described the war and decade of sanctions against Iraq as genocide. No horror was expressed in the media for the enormous crimes that had been committed almost wholly against Muslims, men, women, and children as innocent as Brenton Tarrant’s victims.  Except on the margins, no demands were ever made for those responsible to face justice.

Every Tuesday Obama sat in his office and signed the death warrant for Yemenis or Somalis targeted in drone missile strikes that were totally illegal under international law. Thousands have been killed in these attacks, many if not most of them civilians, men, women and a lot of children. They are all Muslims. Did any of the politicians sending condolences to New Zealand and condemning terrorism ever bend their heads in shame at the killings in Yemen or Somalia and demand moral accountability and legal responsibility?

Has even one of them condemned Benjamin Netanyahu for the crimes committed against Muslims in Palestine, for the massacres of the innocent by sniper fire, missile strike, and artillery fire? Is the killing of Muslim children somehow different in New Zealand and Palestine?

After the destruction of Libya, Hillary Clinton laughed when told Muammar al Qadhafi had been killed, most brutally. This was her war, Obama’s war, a war of deceit that was carried on for seven months, destroying the most developed country in Africa and killing thousands. They were all Muslims. What else did Libya represent but Clinton’s ‘white supremacist terror,’ the same terror that has been delivered across the Muslim world by western governments for the past 200 years.

In Syria an estimated half a million people have been killed in a war orchestrated by western governments and their regional ‘allies.’ Their weapons of choice, the terrorist groups they have armed and financed, have assassinated, massacred and slaughtered in every way possible, thinkable and unthinkable.

Nearly all of their victims have been Muslims. In the face of this slaughter their paymasters, procurers, and enablers have remained morally mute, save for trying to blame the Syrian government for the war they initiated.

Over decades these enormous crimes have forced millions of people out of their wrecked countries. They have fled in all directions. Many have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach the presumed safety of Europe. Boats headed in the direction of Australia, only to be turned back at sea or for the desperate people they were carrying to be locked up in ‘detention centers’ if they managed to slip through. Many sank and many men, women, and children drowned.

Australia was a willing participant in the wars that destroyed their homes yet refused them entry, abusing them as ‘queue jumpers.’ They were locked up behind razor wire in the middle of the desert so the Australian people could not see them and feel sorry for them. All were Muslims and many were children, treated as cruelly as the adults.

No matter how many millions of innocent people are killed in the Middle East, the designation of terrorist is reserved for Brenton Tarrant or the Islamic State, not for the western governments and the gangs they and their regional allies have employed in Syria to do their dirty work.

The same media that has covered up the monstrous crimes committed against Muslims in the Middle East can now talk of nothing else but the danger of white supremacists, not the far greater danger that Muslims around the world have always faced from western governments.

Brenton Tarrant, the Islamic state, Israel, the US and its ‘allies’ and the armed groups they are sponsoring in Syria are all joined at the hip. Terror is terror whether state or individual. Brenton Tarrant now has to face the consequences of what he has done. The politicians who have destroyed Middle Eastern countries don’t.

There is a law for Brenton Tarrant. There is no law for the politicians. Tarrant will be jailed for life for the murder of 50 Muslims. Politicians responsible for the deaths of millions of Muslims never seen the inside of a jail.  We have a system of international law but only in theory. In practice, when the massive crimes of the powerful are involved, it does not work. It is broken.

Claud Cockburn (father of Patrick) called the 1930s the ‘devil’s decade.’ The devils were human, of course: nationalist socialists and fascists destroying Spain, Italian fascists poison- gassing Ethiopians and Japanese fascists slaughtering Chinese. Now, since the 1990s, we have had nearly three devil’s decades.

Today’s western liberal democracies – as they are called – are doing exactly what the fascists did in the 1930s. Instead of Spain, we have Syria. Instead of Guernica, we have hadFallujah. Country after country has been destroyed by these liberal democrats in their grey suits and pastel ties. Do they really need to wear black or brown uniforms for people to recognize them for the killers that they are?

In their pursuit of power, they have no more respect for international law than the fascists and national socialists did in the 1930s. They have no respect for human life over there.

Yet when it comes to the killing of Muslims over here, they, and their outliers in the media are shocked, appalled and outraged at this senseless act of terror. Brenton Tarrant is a sick, depraved and twisted individual but so is Benjamin Netanyahu and so are the politicians responsible for the deaths of millions of Muslims in distant countries. Over there, not here, and that is what counts.

March 21, 2019 Posted by | Islamophobia, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Iranian official rejects US secretary of state’s ‘fabricated’ allegations

Press TV – March 14, 2019

A senior Iranian official has dismissed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent claims about Iran’s regional role as “fabricated,” saying the United States practices fear-mongering in order to sell more arms to the countries in the region.

“Certain US officials, influenced by the Zionist lobby, have been making utmost efforts to intoxicate the atmosphere against Iran,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Thursday.

In a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday, Pompeo expressed concerns over what he called Iran’s “destructive and disruptive activities” across the Middle East region.

Qassemi said US officials were making up allegations against Iran in order to sustain an appearance of crisis in West Asia and thus increase American arms sales to the region.

The Iranian official also censured remarks made by Pompeo in the CERAWeek conference — an annual US oil and gas industry forum — regarding relations between the Islamic Republic and Iraq.

Addressing the conference in Houston on Tuesday, Pompeo had said, “Iran uses its energy exports to exert undue influence all across the Middle East, most particularly today on Iraq.”

Qassemi said Pompeo was angered by the close relations between Iran and Iraq.

“The relations between Iran and Iraq have been established totally based on the will of the two countries’ leaders and nations and [have been] based on mutual respect and trust and shared interests,” he said, adding that neither of the two countries was seeking to impose its will on the other.

On Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani traveled to Iraq at the head of a high-ranking delegation. The state visit featured several meetings between President Rouhani and Iraq’s top leadership, and the signing of memorandums of understanding for the expansion of bilateral ties in various fields, including the energy sector.

On Wednesday, President Rouhani traveled to the Iraqi city of Najaf to meet with senior religious leaders there, including most prominently with Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Rouhani was the first Iranian president ever to meet with Ayatollah Sistani, signifying the depth of bilateral relations between Tehran and Baghdad.

Qassemi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, pointed to the deep-rooted relations between Iran and Iraq and said the two countries had stood by each other during “tough times.”

Earlier, US President Donald Trump had made an unannounced and very brief trip to Iraq in the dark of the night and landed at a military base where he only met US soldiers and no Iraqi officials before he left the country.

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran to US: Era of meddling in other countries over

Press TV | March 12, 2019

Tehran slams the US for sticking to its interventionist policies after an American official sought to cast doubt on the motives of the Iranian president’s trip to Iraq, saying the two neighbors have chosen to build strategic relations based on good neighborliness and seek permission from no one for their choices.

“Iran and Iraq are two independent countries, whose governments have been elected by the votes of the two countries’ people and undoubtedly these two nations…do not need a country with a black record of aggression and warmongering and destruction to make decisions on their behalf from thousands of kilometers away,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Tuesday.

He made the remarks in reaction to claims by US Special Representative Brian Hook about Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s ongoing visit to Iraq.

In an interview with Alhurrha TV on Monday, Hook questioned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s “motives” regarding Iraq and said when the Iranian government does “prioritize his own people so why on earth he would prioritize the welfare of the Iraqi people.”

“President Rouhani coming to Iraq is not in the interest of the Iraqi people”, Hook said, claiming that Iran wants to secure a “military highway” through Iraq to the Western parts of the Middle East to transfer missiles, weapons and fighters across the Middle East.

The Iranian spokesperson dismissed the allegations and said “this American official’s anger is not surprising because it seems that his country has failed to gain a proper position among regional nations despite spending billions of dollars in the Middle East.”

Qassemi emphasized that Washington’s aggressive policies, militarism and interventionism are the main reasons behind its lack of success.

He urged US officials to set aside their decades-long excessive demands and realize that the era of meddling in the affairs of other countries and making decisions for them has come to an end.

Rouhani arrived in Baghdad at the head of a high-ranking politico-economic delegation on Monday on his first visit to the country since 2013. The three-day trip is aimed at solidifying strategic ties despite US efforts to keep the two neighbors apart and curb Iran’s influence in the region.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, Iran and Iraq hailed the Iranian president’s historic visit to Iraq as a “turning point” in efforts to strengthen “strategic” cooperation between the two neighbors based on non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.

During Rouhani’s visit, the two neighbors have inked several agreements on the expansion of bilateral cooperation in various economic and healthcare sectors.

See also:

In joint statement, Iran, Iraq hail ‘turning point’ in ‘strategic’ cooperation

March 12, 2019 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

‘Collateral damage’: The Amiriyah shelter bombing in Iraq should not be forgotten

By Neil Clark | RT | February 13, 2019

On this day in 1991, over 400 people lost their lives when the US dropped two 2,000-pound smart bombs on a Baghdad air-raid shelter. But because it was the ‘good guys’ who did it, the massacre is not remembered as it should be.

‘Collateral damage’. The first time I remember those words being used was in the first Gulf War. There was plenty of ‘collateral damage’ in that conflict. In other words, lots of innocent people were killed.

At around 4:30am on Wednesday February 13, 1991, US F-117 aircraft bombed an air raid shelter in Amiriyah, a suburb of Baghdad, incinerating 408 people, many of them women and children.

“Most of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition,” the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen reported. One poor man said 11 of his family had been in the shelter. Another wept as he said he had lost his wife and children.

The US ‘defense’ was that they had thought the shelter was a command and control bunker. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was using his people as human shields. Yet, as a Human Rights Watch report later noted, the Pentagon conceded that the bunker had been used for civil defense in the Iran-Iraq war, and US officials“gave no warning that they considered its protected status as a civilian shelter to have ended.”

Award-winning anti-war journalist John Pilger noted the interrogation that Jeremy Bowen received when he reported on the crime. “‘Are you absolutely certain it wasn’t a military bunker?” he was asked, or words to that effect. Without any trace of irony the White House spokesperson Martin Fitzwater declared “Saddam Hussein does not share our sanctity for human life.’”

Of course, it’s always a ‘mistake’ or ‘tragic accident’ when the US and its allies commit such terrible crimes, even when it most clearly isn’t. And we are always told we have to ‘move on’ very quickly from these ‘mistakes’ and ‘accidents’.

“Consider the dreadful toll of Iraqi civilian deaths in the intense bombing campaign in the first Gulf War. According to American and French Intelligence reports, over 200,000 died. All this was barely mentioned at the time, even on the BBC and the ‘quality’ press, and is now all but forgotten,” writes David Cromwell of Media Lens, in his book ‘Why Are We The Good Guys?’

The Iraqi press called for the US to be tried for war crimes over the Amiriyah strike. But of course it never happened. In 2001, on the 10th anniversary of the bombing, the US-funded Radio Free Iraq broadcast an interview with an unnamed Iraqi who claimed that there was something not quite right about the air-raid shelter. But even he said he did not know whether or not the bunker was a command and control center and admitted he was not in a “position to give an expert opinion.”

Two years later, the US and its allies assaulted Iraq again – this time falsely claiming that the country possessed WMDs. The second Gulf War has led to the estimated deaths of a further 1mn people.

What is revealing is how the Amiriyah Incineration has – outside of Iraq – disappeared down the memory hole. Let’s suppose that instead of America or one of its allies carrying out the attack it had been Russia, Iran, or another ‘official enemy’. Then we’d never have heard the last of it.

We can be sure that it would have been the subject of at least one major Hollywood film and we’d have annual reminders of the heinous crime. To their credit, the British band Radiohead did write a song about the massacre entitled ‘I Will’ which included the lyric “little baby’s eyes,” but you need to search very hard for other references in popular culture.

Isn’t that shameful?

Because by not remembering the dead of Amiriyah we are saying that those killed by the US and its allies are lesser beings than those killed by its geo-strategic rivals.

It’s not just in Iraq where this has happened.

In April 1999, during the war against Yugoslavia, NATO bombed a convoy of Kosovo Albanians, killing over 60 refugees. At first they tried to blame the atrocity on Yugoslav forces. But when evidence emerged that it was a NATO strike – the alliance claimed that the pilot had believed it to be a military convoy. And of course, the blame for this “tragic accident” was passed on to the ‘official enemy’.

“NATO regrets any harm to innocent civilians, and reminds that the circumstances in which this accident occurred are wholly the responsibility of (Yugoslav) President Milosevic and his policies,” said NATO spokesperson Jamie Shea, sounding just like Martin Fitzwater eight years earlier.

The US-led war in Afghanistan has also been marked by a high level of ‘collateral damage’. On October 9, 2001, just two days after the US and UK began Operation Enduring Freedom, four Afghans working for a UN mine clearing agency were incinerated by a US cruise missile as they slept in the agency’s building in a suburb of Kabul.

“My brother is buried under here. What can we do? Our lives are ruined,” said a distraught Mohammed Afzl as he surveyed the rubble following the US strike.

The bombing of wedding parties became a noted feature of the campaign – 44 people were killed in one such attack in July 2002.

Again, the US tried to blame others – questioning whether it had really been a wedding. It’s a tradition to fire celebratory shots in the air at Pashtun weddings, but the US claimed this was “hostile fire,” so it was ok to bomb. Later, President Bush expressed his ‘sympathy’ to the mourning families and his ‘hope that such kind of accidents won’t happen again’. But of course they did, with great regularity.

Dating back to Amiriyah, we can discern a clear pattern when ‘collateral damage’ occurs:

a) The hit is described as a ‘tragic mistake/accident’, made because we were fighting ‘the bad guys’ (indirectly blaming the ‘bad guys’ for forcing us to be there).

Or…

b) The hit is blamed on the ‘bad guys’ directly. We see this happen in Gaza with the ‘human shield’ claims made by Israel when their bombs kill civilians. Everyone Israel kills is Hamas’ fault, not Israel’s, in the same way that every death during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was the fault of Milosevic.

c) If there is a real outcry, then it’s a case of: don’t worry, we will hold our own internal inquiry! An internal inquiry which of course ends up exonerating the perpetrators.

What we don’t get and what the families of those killed in Amiriyah are still waiting for is justice.

So spare a thought for the 408 today and all the other innocent victims of ‘collateral damage’, because we’re really meant to have forgotten them.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

Trump’s Syria ‘Pullout’ Aimed at Aggressing Iran

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 09.02.2019

US President Donald Trump again this week portrayed his plan to pull troops out of Syria as a “victory homecoming” and “an end to endless wars”. Then, in stepped Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to clarify what’s really going on: it’s a “tactical change” to put Iran in the crosshairs.

The purported pullout is not a return of US military from the Middle East, as Trump has been trumpeting with self-congratulations. It’s more a reconfiguration of American military power in the strategically vital region, and in particular for greater aggressive leverage on Iran.

In his State of the Union speech to Congress this week, Trump talked about giving a “warm welcome home to our brave warriors” from Syria. Supposedly it was “mission accomplished” for the US in defeating the ISIS terror group in that country.

It should be pointed out that ISIS would not have been in Syria or Iraq if it were not for criminal American military interventions, covert and overt, in those countries.

In any case, Trump was proclaiming America “victorious”, and so it was time, he said, to follow up on his order given in December for the 2,000 or so troops (illegally present) in Syria to withdraw.

The day after his nationwide address, Trump reiterated the theme of glorious homecoming at a forum of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, held in Washington DC. This was a two-day gathering of dozens of US allies who have been attacking Syrian territory in the name of fighting terrorists (terrorists that many of these same coalition members, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have been covertly sponsoring.)

“We look forward to giving our warriors a warm welcome home,” Trump again told delegates after informing them that the ISIS caliphate had been virtually destroyed by US forces and partners.

His top diplomat Mike Pompeo, however, assured the gathering that the US was still “leading the fight against terror” and that the planned troop withdrawal from Syria was only a “tactical maneuver”. He said that what Washington wanted was for more regional partners to take over military operations from the US.

When Trump first made the announcement of a troop withdrawal from Syria on December 19, there was immediate pushback from military figures in the Pentagon and politicians in Washington. Together with a proposed drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan by Trump, it was construed that the president was signaling a wholesale retreat from the region.

Since the “surprise” announcement by Trump, lawmakers within his Republican party have been doubling down to prevent any pullout from Syria or Afghanistan. This week, the US Senate voted through legislation to block any abrupt withdrawal, claiming that, contrary to Trump’s assertions, ISIS has not been defeated and still poses a national security threat.

The Pentagon has also been warning of a “resurgence” of ISIS in Syria and Iraq if US forces were to pull out. A Department of Defense document published this week quoted Pompeo. “Following the president’s announcement in December 2018 to withdraw troops from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the policy objectives of defeating ISIS and deterring Iran had not changed.”

In other words, the Pentagon is busily rationalizing for entrenchment in the region, not for a retreat.

Last month, while on a nine-nation tour of the Middle East, Pompeo was at pains to emphasize to America’s Arab client regimes that Trump’s pullout from Syria was a reorganization of military forces, not an overall withdrawal. During his tour, Pompeo renewed Washington’s project to create an “Arab NATO” for the region, with the top priority being to contain Iran. According to Radio Free Europe, he said, “the United States is redoubling efforts to put pressure on Iran.”

Next week, the US has organized a conference to be held in Poland which is dedicated to intensifying international pressure on Iran. The indications are that senior European Union officials will not attend the summit as it is stoking tensions with Tehran at a time when the EU is striving to save the nuclear accord with Iran.

However, the conference in Poland testifies to ramped up efforts by Washington to isolate Iran internationally and provoke instability in the country for regime change. Since Trump walked away from the internationally-backed nuclear accord last year, his administration has been piling on the aggressive rhetoric towards Iran, in particular from his national security advisor John Bolton, as well as Pompeo.

This obsession to confront Iran would explain the real significance of Trump’s supposed pullout plans in Syria and Afghanistan. Both countries have been utter failures for US imperialism. They are a dead loss, despite the self-congratulatory nonsense spouted by Trump.

What the White House is intent on doing, it seems, is redirecting its military forces in the region away from dead-end causes for a more aggressive stance towards Iran. Pompeo’s “clarifications” about Trump’s troop withdrawal makes it clear that what is going on is not a scaling down of American military power in the region, but a reconfiguration.

Trump himself has indicated that too. In a recent interview with the CBS channel, Trump said that US forces would be reassigned from Syria to Iraq where the Pentagon has several large military bases. He explicitly said that the US forces in Iraq would be used to “keep a watch on Iran” and the wider region.

Trump’s braggadocio immediately got him into hot water with the Iraqis. Iraqi President Barham Salih fulminated that the 5,000 or so US troops in his country were there strictly for the purpose of combating terrorism, not for “watching Iran” or any other neighboring country. Other Iraqi lawmakers have been so incensed by Trump’s comments that they are calling for the presence of US forces to be terminated.

Thus, the apprehensions among the bipartisan War Party in Washington and some at the Pentagon regarding Trump’s purported troop pullout from Syria and Afghanistan are misplaced. Trump is not “ending the endless wars” that feed American imperialism and its war-machine economy.

Far from it. The Condo King is simply moving the Pentagon’s real estate around the region in order to get a better view of the planned aggression towards Iran.

February 9, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 2 Comments

Pentagon resists US withdrawal from Syria, claims ISIS might rise again

RT | February 5, 2019

The newest report on US-led operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria admits the terrorist group is down to some 2,000 fighters, but argues continued US presence in the region is needed to prevent its resurgence.

Published on Monday, the report authored by the Pentagon and State Department inspectors-general also blamed Turkey for spoiling the US-backed Kurdish militia’s operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), and predicts no end to strife in the region, going against President Donald Trump’s order to withdraw US troops from Syria.

The report debunked the widely circulated estimate – from June 2018 – that IS had up to 17,000 fighters in Iraq and up to 14,000 in Syria, calling it questionable even at the time. The US-led coalition, known as the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) had “low confidence” in those estimates as of last July, the report said. As of January, CJTF-OIR estimated only 2,000 IS fighters remaining in the group’s last remaining bastion – known at the Pentagon as the Middle Euphrates River Valley (MERV) and located in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border.

The coalition gave conflicting assessments of IS strength and capabilities, reporting at the end of December that it “remains a battle-hardened and well-disciplined force,” with high morale and “unfazed by Coalition airstrikes,” only to say its morale was “trending downward” in January.

Since December, IS has killed several coalition soldiers in ambushes and with roadside bombs. According to CENTCOM, these are “opportunistic attacks” that will allow the militants to claim a propaganda victory.

‘We have to protect Israel’

Even as US troops are pulling out of Syria, President Trump has said he wants to keep some forces in the region “to protect Israel” and “watch Iran.”

“We have to protect other things that we have,” Trump told CBS on Sunday, but said the troops will be “coming back in a matter of time.”

Monday’s report, on the other hand, matches the reasoning of US intelligence chiefs last week that IS will rise again in the absence of US troops – although only in the limited area near its current holdout, rather than Syria and Iraq as a whole.

“You’ve got these divergent narratives,” security analyst Charles Shoebridge told RT. “Trump is speaking from the hip, if you like, he is speaking off the cuff, and it might be what he’s saying is actually a little bit closer to the truth of where the American strategy actually lies.”

The US ‘deep state’ is firmly against withdrawal from Syria, Shoebridge noted.

Turkey blamed for failure of US-backed offensive against ISIS

One of the things the report revealed is that the US-backed militia was presumably on the brink of crushing the last IS holdout in the Euphrates Valley, but had to halt their operation when Turkey threatened to intervene against the Kurdish fighters.

The Kurdish YPG militia makes up more than two thirds of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which the US have used as the main proxy against IS in northeastern Syria. With the YPG busy against the Turks, the Arab component of the SDF was “unable to conduct” offensive operations, and actually lost ground to IS in late October and November, when bad weather prevented coalition airplanes from flying.

It was only in mid-November, when the YPG was back in the fight, that the SDF was able to roll back IS gains, the report said, describing the YPG “paramount to stability and efforts to defeat ISIS.”

The report was also skeptical of Turkey’s offer to take over the battle against IS, noting that with the exception of the 2016 Al-Bab operation, “Turkey has not participated in ground operations against ISIS in Syria since 2017, nor have Turkish forces participated in the fight against ISIS in the MERV, which is approximately 230 miles away from al Bab and the Turkish border.”

Let Syria finish the job?

IS will remain an issue unless Sunni “socio-economic, political, and sectarian grievances are not adequately addressed by the national and local governments of Iraq and Syria,” the soldiers and diplomats argue. Left unsaid is that these grievances are a product of upheaval caused by the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the US support for sectarian rebels in Syria starting in 2011.

Conspicuously absent from the report is the Syrian government, which has fought IS successfully with the support of Hezbollah, Iran and Russia, Shoebridge told RT.

If the SDF strikes a deal with Damascus following the US withdrawal, Shoebridge said, “the Syrian government could fill that vacuum, and continue with their very successful campaign against ISIS themselves.”

February 4, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Death Knell For Syria Pullout: “We Have To Protect Israel” Says Trump

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 02/03/2019

After approaching two months of talk of a “full” and “immediate” US troop withdrawal from Syria, first ordered by President Trump on December 19 — which was predictably met with swift and fierce pushback from beltway hawks including in some cases his own advisers — it now appears the death knell has sounded on the prior “complete” and “rapid” draw down order.

Trump said in a CBS “Face the Nation” interview this weekend that some unspecified number of US troops will remain in the region, mostly in Iraq, with possibly some still in Syria, in order “to protect Israel” in what appears a significant backtrack from his prior insistence on an absolute withdrawal.

“We’re going to be there and we’re going to be staying. We have to protect Israel,” he replied when pressed by CBS reporter Margaret Brennan. “We have to protect other things that we have. But we’re – yeah, they’ll be coming back in a matter of time.” He did note that “ultimately some will be coming home.”

“Look, we’re protecting the world,” he added. “We’re spending more money than anybody’s ever spent in history, by a lot.” Trump’s slow drift and change in tune on the subject of a promised “rapid” exit comes after Israeli officials led by Prime Minister Netanyahu alongside neocon allies in Washington argued that some 200 US troops in Syria’s southeast desert along the Iraqi border and its 55-kilometer “deconfliction zone” at al-Tanf are the last line of defense against Iranian expansion in Syria, and therefore must stay indefinitely.

“I want to be able to watch Iran,” Trump said further during the CBS interview. “Iran is a real problem.” He explained that “99%” of ISIS’s territory had been liberated but that a contingency of US troops must remain to prevent a resurgent Islamic State as well as to counter Iranian influence, for which American forces must remain in Iraq as well.

“When I took over, Syria was infested with ISIS. It was all over the place. And now you have very little ISIS, and you have the caliphate almost knocked out,” the president said. “We will be announcing in the not too distant future 100% of the caliphate, which is the area – the land – the area – 100. We’re at 99% right now. We’ll be at 100.”

However Trump’s invoking Iranian influence as a rationale for staying further contradicts his prior December statement that the defeat of ISIS was “the only reason” he was in Syria in the first place.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How many troops are still in Syria? When are they coming home?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: 2,000 troops.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When are they coming home?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They’re starting to, as we gain the remainder, the final remainder of the caliphate of the area, they’ll be going to our base in Iraq, and ultimately some will be coming home. But we’re going to be there and we’re going to be staying

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that’s a matter of months?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have to protect Israel. We have to protect other things that we have. But we’re- yeah, they’ll be coming back in a matter of time. Look, we’re protecting the world. We’re spending more money than anybody’s ever spent in history, by a lot. We spent, over the last five years, close to 50 billion dollars a year in Afghanistan. That’s more than most countries spend for everything including education, medical, and everything else, other than a few countries.  CBS “Face the Nation” Feb.3 interview transcript

The Pentagon in recent weeks has reportedly been putting logistics in place for a troop draw down from northern and eastern Syria.

Though it remains unclear just how many troops could remain as the majority possibly begin to pullout toward US bases in Iraq, the Tanf base could remain Washington’s last remote outpost disrupting what US defense officials see as a strategic Baghdad-Damascus corridor and highway, and potential key “link” in the Tehran-to-Beirut so-called Shia land bridge.

Foreign Policy magazine has identified this argument as the final card the hawks opposing Trump’s draw down had to play in order to hinder to an actual complete US exit:

“Al-Tanf is a critical element in the effort to prevent Iran from establishing a ground line of communications from Iran through Iraq through Syria to southern Lebanon in support of Lebanese Hezbollah,” an unnamed senior US military source told the magazine.

The Israeli prime minister has pushed hard against the White House pullout plan, and “has repeatedly urged the U.S. to keep troops at Al-Tanf, according to several senior Israeli officials, who also asked not to be identified discussing private talks,” per Bloomberg. The Israelis have reportedly argued “the mere presence of American troops will act as a deterrent to Iran” even if in small numbers as a kind of symbolic threat.

The internal administration debate, following incredible push back against Trump’s withdrawal decision, has made entirely visible the national security deep state’s attempt to check the Commander-in-Chief’s power. And now US presence at al-Tanf represents the last hope of salvaging the hawks’ desire for permanent proxy war against Iran inside Syria.

It appears the deep state has won out over Trump’s initial policy decision once again; but it remains to be seen if, however slowly on what’s clearly a delayed timetable departing from his original plans, all US troops ultimately exit Syria. Until then there’ll be more time and perhaps more provocations the hawks can rely on to effectively ensure full circle return to indefinite occupation in Syria.

February 4, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

President Salih: Trump did not ask Iraq permission to watch Iran

Press TV – February 4, 2019

Iraqi leaders have hit back at Donald Trump after the US president said he plans to keep troops in the country to spy on Iran, with President Barham Salih saying the mission does not have Baghdad’s permission.

Their reaction on Monday came a day after Trump told CBS that US troops would leave Syria and Afghanistan but stay on in Iraq, partly “to be looking a little bit at Iran.”

Trump admitted that staying in Iraq is a “mistake” and that attacking Iran is not an option, but the remarks sparked a new round of demands in Baghdad for US forces to leave the country.

“The Iraqi constitution rejects the use of Iraq as a base for hitting or attacking a neighboring country,” President Salih said Monday.

Salih said US forces were in the country under an agreement between the two countries, but that “any action taken outside this framework is unacceptable.”

The Iraqi president insisted that Trump had not asked Baghdad’s permission for US troops in Iraq to “watch Iran.”

“Don’t overburden Iraq with your own issues,” Salih said. “The US is a major power … but do not pursue your own policy priorities, we live here.”

“It is of fundamental interest for Iraq to have good relations with Iran” and other neighboring countries, Saleh said.

He said US forces were in Iraq to fight terrorism and that he looked forward to hearing Washington’s clarification on the number of troops who were going to stay as well as their mission.

In his interview aired on Sunday, Trump defended his decision to end “endless wars” in Syria and Afghanistan by pulling out US troops from those countries.

However, he said not all of thousands of American forces stationed in Iraq, specially at the Ain al-Asad Air Base in the western Anbar Province, were going to return home.

“And one of the reasons I want to keep it (the base) is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem,” said the American president.

Asked whether he wanted the troops there to “strike” Iran at a later time, Trump responded: “No… All I want to do is be able to watch.”

“We have an unbelievable and expensive military base built in Iraq. It’s perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East rather than pulling up,” he added.

Trump announced in December that all US military troops in Syria would return home in the coming months while the number of US forces in Afghanistan would also be reduced drastically.

Trump made an unannounced stop at Ain al-Asad base on Christmas, in a visit that drew fire from Iraqi officials and their counterparts in Iran and other neighboring countries.

Sabah al-Saadi, a member of parliament in the bloc led by influential anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr, has proposed a bill demanding a US pullout.

Deputy speaker of parliament Hassan Karim al-Kaabi, also close to Sadr, said Monday Trump’s latest remarks have made passing such a law “a national duty” because they are a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and constitution.

The remarks, he said, are a “new provocation,” weeks after the US president sparked outrage in Iraq by visiting US troops without meeting a single Iraqi official.

The Iraqi parliament, he said, will soon pass a bill that will end the ongoing security agreement with Washington as well as the presence of all foreign forces in Iraq.

Kaabi asserted that his country would never become a launchpad for attacks or a US backyard for intelligence gathering against other countries.

Iraqi leaders say there are no American bases on its soil, stressing that only instructors are deployed at Iraqi bases.

Kurdish MP Sarkawt Shams tweeted that the mission of US troops in Iraq was “to help Iraqi security forces against terrorism, not ‘watching’ others.”

“We are expecting the United States to respect our mutual interests and avoid pushing Iraq into a regional conflict,” he said.

Trump’s comments ‘embarrassing’ for Baghdad

Iraq’s former foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari also condemned Trump’s remarks, saying they were embarrassing for Baghdad.

The veteran Kurdish politician warned Iraqi officials that the country would face difficult choices in future following Trump’s controversial statements.

Jaafar al-Husseini, a spokesman for the Iraqi pro-government Kata’ib Hezbollah voluntary forces, warned the Trump administration against mounting offensives against Iran and Syria from Iraq.

He also called on parliament to speed up legislation to drive out foreign forces, warning that the anti-terror force won’t wait long.

The spokesman noted that Iraq’s security agencies should deem American military forces as “appropriate targets” as Iraqi resistance groups already do.

‘Greatest mistake US ever made’

In his interview on Sunday, Trump once again called the US war on Iraq as “one of the greatest mistakes” the United States had ever made.

He also defended his attacks on US intelligence assessments on Iran, saying they tend to miscalculate as they led former President George W. Bush into attacking Iraq by claiming that Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

“President Bush had intel people that said Saddam Hussein in Iraq had nuclear weapons- had all sorts of weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? Those intel people didn’t know what the hell they were doing, and they got us tied up in a war that we should have never been in,” he said.

Last Wednesday, Trump went on a twitter rant to attack his intelligence chiefs’ assessments on Iran’s growing power despite Washington’s pressure campaign following his pullout from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The tweets came in response to Tuesday statements by CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats before the US Senate Intelligence Committee.

Haspel told the panel that despite Trump’s decision last May to withdraw from the nuclear deal, the Islamic Republic had been “making some preparations that would increase their ability to take a step back.”

Coats also acknowledged that Tehran was not seeking to develop nuclear weapons capabilities.

February 4, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment