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‘US statements are fake, not Libyan money’: Moscow rebuffs accusations of printing counterfeit dinars

RT | May 30, 2020

Moscow printed dinars for Libya in accordance with a government contract, so Washington’s claims of it being fake money have nothing to do with reality, according to Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

The US State Department announced on Friday that $1.1 billion worth of “counterfeit, Russian-printed Libyan currency” was seized in Malta earlier this week.

Moscow confirmed the dinars were indeed printed by Russian state-owned company Goznak, but it was done in accordance with a contract it signed with the Central Bank of Libya in 2015. The order was fully paid for by the Libyan side, it was announced.

Following the NATO-backed removal of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and years of chaos, Libya is now run by two rival governments, which both have their own central banks. Moscow said it sent money to Benghazi, which is controlled by the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar, because the head of the local bank was appointed by the democratically elected parliament. The seized money was essential for stabilizing the troubled Libyan economy, the ministry added. “Therefore, it’s the American statements that are false, but not the Libyan dinars.”

Washington, which backs the UN recognized Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), has labeled the LNA and its bank “an illegal parallel entity.”

Moscow reiterated its stance that the conflict in Libya should only be solved behind the negotiations table, calling upon the sides to lay down arms and start talking.

May 30, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

The Destruction of Libya in 2011

Tales of the American Empire | May 28, 2020

The American empire wanted to oust Muammar Gaddafi for decades. He remained in power as he carefully balanced interests in Libya’s complex tribal society and kept the military under control. Gaddafi was popular since he invested Libya’s oil wealth improving the lives of Libyans rather than in Western banks. Before its 2011 destruction, Libyans were the wealthiest in all of Africa. President Obama chose to destroy Libya despite meeting with Gaddafi after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. His Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the strongest advocate for this war crime. When later asked about Gaddafi’s death, she laughed and exclaimed: “We came, we saw, he died.”

______________________________________

“General Wesley Clark: Wars Were Planned – Seven Countries in Five Years”; Democracy Now; March 2007; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RC1M…

“Goldman Sachs Lost 98% of Libya’s $1.3B Sovereign Wealth Fund Investment”; Agustino Fontevecchia; Forbes ; May 31, 2011; https://www.forbes.com/sites/afonteve…

“Hillary Emails Reveal True Motive for Libyan Intervention”; Brad Hoff; Foreign Policy Journal ; Jan 6, 2016; https://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/…

“French President Emmanuel Macron says destroying Libya was a mistake”; CGTN Africa; 2017; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMjOJ…

“The Obama Administration Destroyed Libya”; Ted Carpenter; The National Interest ; Sept 16, 2019; https://nationalinterest.org/blog/ske…

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

Failures in Syria and Libya fuel coup speculations against Erdogan

By Paul Antonopoulos | May 20, 2020

Turkish media has been full of speculation of a potential coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, including from state-run Anadolu Agency, and other major outlets like Sabah and Haberturk. Erdoğan already survived a 2016 coup attempt against him that he blames on his ex-ally, Fethullah Gülen, who leads the FETÖ Islamic movement. It is likely that Erdoğan will conduct another purge of the Turkish military.

Although the 2016 coup was orchestrated mostly by the Air Force, it appears that one of the first victims could have been Rear Admiral Cihat Yaycı. On May 15, Yaycı was demoted from the Chief of Staff’s to the General Staff, prompting him to resign from the military completely on Monday. Although some speculated it could have been because of the coup rumors circulating, Yaycı proved to be one of the most loyal Chief of Staff’s to Erdoğan and played a significant role in purging so-called FETÖ elements from the Turkish military.

It is likely that Yaycı was actually demoted because of Turkey’s complete failure to project its power in the Eastern Mediterranean. Yaycı is known as the architect of Turkey’s “Blue Homeland” theory that aims to annex Greece’s Eastern Aegean islands and maritime space. To achieve the “Blue Homeland,” Ankara in November 2019, with recommendation from Yaycı, sealed the “Marine Jurisdictions” maritime boundary delimitation deal with Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood Government of National Accords (GNA) to split Greek maritime space between Turkey and Libya.

However, since the signing of the deal with the Tripoli-based GNA, Ankara’s power projections in the Eastern Mediterranean have only weakened Turkish influence. Turkey had not expected for Greece to expel the GNA ambassador from Athens, one of the first NATO and EU countries to do so. In reaction, Greece recognised the GNA’s rival, the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives who appointed Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar to command the Libyan National Army against Turkish-backed jihadists who fight for the GNA.

Greece’s shift in recognition shows another flashpoint in rivalry with so-called NATO ally Turkey and rapidly changed dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean. Haftar currently controls about 90% of territory and 60% of the population, prompting Turkey to send 5,000 Syrian jihadists to support the GNA, who have regained some lost territory in recent weeks.

But this is going to change as it appears massive simultaneous operations against the GNA and Turkish-backed jihadists in Syria’s Idlib province are set to begin in the coming weeks. Turkey as the sole backers of jihadist forces in Libya and Idlib will find this extremely difficult to deal with as it faces an economic crisis.

A detailed report by New Economy found that “Turkey’s probability of bankruptcy is extremely high,” along with its three big banks of Garanti, Akbank and the Mustafa Kemal Atatürk-founded İşbank. “The country’s commercial banks, its last stronghold, have dried up from foreign exchange currency,” meaning that Turkey has nearly no money for its import and export companies.

Another report found that failed wars against Libya and Syria have been a major problem for its economy, making Turkey’s bankruptcy probability over 30% in the forthcoming period, putting them behind only Venezuela and Argentina, but “without having the US embargo that Venezuela has, nor the vast debt that Argentina brings.”

Most startling however for Turkey is that it has to find $80 billion by August, according to New Economy, or else it faces bankruptcy.

“There is also the additional 0.5-1 billion dollar cost per month for the wars in Syria and Libya, which seems to exacerbate the existing situation, leading to a huge state budget hole and escalating the probabilities of bankruptcy,” the report said.

With major economic problems in Turkey, Ankara paid Syrian jihadists in Libya only one month’s worth of wages and then ended all payments. This has prompted the jihadists to make videos urging other Syrians not to go to Libya and fight. Meanwhile, Turkey’s aggression has prompted Greece to renew diplomatic relations with Syria, become actively involved in Libya, and strengthen relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who oppose Turkish influence in the Arab world.

Yaycı’s ambitious “Blue Homeland” project forced Greece to become involved in Libya and Syria that it previously had no interest in, and it is now actively a part of an alliance that is opposing Turkish influence in the region. With Greece actively opposing Turkish influence in Libya, France has also taken a stronger interest and openly opposes the GNA now. What began as a plan to carve up Greece’s maritime space has now turned into a debacle that sees French involvement against the GNA and EU recognition of the Muslim Brotherhood government waning.

Egypt is now threatening to directly use its military to defeat the GNA rather than just supply Haftar’s forces. The UAE has promised to continue airstrikes against the GNA and funding mercenaries for Haftar. Saudi Arabia is also funding mercenaries. Greece and France are involved in the EU’s Operation Irini to stop maritime deliveries of arms to Libya. In March, Haftar’s political representatives signed with Syria a Memorandum of Understanding to start diplomatic relations. Syria and the Libyan National Army are also preparing likely simultaneous operations against jihadists in their respective countries.

This is all happening while Turkey faces a very serious threat of bankruptcy and rumors of a coup attempt. Therefore, it is likely that Yaycı was demoted by Erdoğan for masterminding and pushing for the “Blue Homeland” that has ended in catastrophic failure for Turkey.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

May 20, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Greece’s Renewed Relations with Syria Further Isolates Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean

By Paul Antonopoulos | May 7, 2020

On Tuesday, the Greek Foreign Ministry finally announced a restoration of relations between Greece and Syria and assigned former ambassador to Syria and Russia, Tasia Athanassiou, as a Special Envoy of Greece’s Foreign Ministry for Syria. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias confirmed this from his Twitter. The appointment of Athanassiou is extremely strategic as she was Greece’s ambassador to Damascus from 2009 to 2012, meaning she is already familiar with Syria and their authorities.

The Greek Foreign Ministry said that contacts will be made for the “international aspects of Syria and related humanitarian action, as well as coordination of actions in view of the ongoing efforts to rebuild Syria.”

Although the Foreign Ministry claims that the suspension of diplomatic relations “was dictated by the security conditions,” we know it was ordered by former Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in December 2012 under orders from NATO and the European Union who were, and in some instances, still are backing jihadists against the secular government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Greece became a country ruled by European banker, EU, and NATO puppets from 2010 onwards when on May 2 of that year, the so-called socialist government of George Papandreou signed the first of three bailout packages with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF. This caused a 25% contraction of the Greek economy, an unemployment rate of 27% and skyrocketed poverty. Any semblance of Greek independence in domestic and foreign policy was lost.

However, moving to 2020, the economic and geopolitical situation in Greece and its surrounding region has drastically changed. Diplomatic sources quoted by Kathemirini, one of Greece’s oldest and most respected newspaper, said that the decision to appoint a Special Envoy for Syria is part of Greece’s steady activity in the Eastern Mediterranean and the wider region. According to the sources, Greece’s increased desire in contributing to efforts in resolving the Syrian crisis was stated by Dendias in his meetings with the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Otto Pedersen.

Therefore, a major reason for the reopening of relations with Syria is to further tilt the balance of power in the East Mediterranean in Greece’s favor against Turkey, especially at a time when Ankara does not have a single ally in the region, with the exception of the besieged Muslim Brotherhood government in Libya that is nearly collapsed because of the Libyan National Army’s assault.

The reopening of relations between Athens and Damascus comes at a time when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is making a strong push for a “Blue Homeland” that aims to annex Greece’s Eastern Aegean islands and maritime space. Turkey for nine years attempted to oust Assad from power through various means, including an unsuccessful invasion attempt of Idlib province earlier this year, as well as its continued support for terrorist organisations. In addition, Erdoğan is propping up the Muslim Brotherhood government in Libya by importing jihadists from Syria to the North African country.

Although Erdoğan has failed in all of these endeavours, Turkey still remains a major threat, even at a time when it is facing economic catastrophe with the Turkish lira at a near record low to the U.S. dollar and Turkey’s three largest banks, Garanti, Akbank and İşbank, on the verge of bankruptcy. Even with this looming economic disaster, Turkey still manages to find the funds to violate Greek airspace on a daily basis, send weapons to Libya and fund terrorist organizations in Syria.

As the Eastern Mediterranean becomes a potential major warzone because of Turkey’s aggression, Greece is now renewing relations with old friends. Hafez al-Assad, previous president of Syria and father to Bashar al-Assad, pledged that if Turkey was ever to go to war with Greece, Syria would automatically open a new front in southern Turkey in support of Greece.

Athens however is not completely independent from NATO and the EU. This suggests that although renewing relations with Syria is absolutely critical in protecting its sovereignty, perhaps Greece has gotten approval from the EU and/or NATO to do this.  Greece is perhaps the most important of the very few European countries that have maintained or reopened relations with Syria because of its history of friendly relations, as well as thousands of years of religious, cultural, financial and ethnic ties.

It can be suggested that as the war in Syria begins to end, continued only by Turkey’s refusal to stop backing terrorist organizations in Idlib, the EU wants to try and take advantage of lucrative reconstruction contracts that will be on offer and investment opportunities. It is unlikely that European companies will win reconstruction contracts, but the reality is that Assad has survived the near 10-year efforts to have him removed, and is not going anywhere. Greece could be used as an outlet for the EU to open dialogue and relations with Damascus again.

This is only speculative, but what is for certain is that by reopening relations with Syria, Greece is consolidating the emerging East Mediterranean order and opposes Turkish hegemony in the region. Greece will always have close relations with Cyprus, and has also entered a military alliance with Egypt, supports the Libyan National Army against Turkish-backed forces, and has strong military and energy ties with Israel. Relations with Syria have essentially finalized the strangulation of Turkey’s attempted hegemony of the Eastern Mediterranean and made it the most isolated country in the region – despite Athens’ insistence on improving ties with Ankara if it finally abandons its aggressive foreign policy.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

May 7, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

“Turkey lied to us.” Syrian Mercenaries in Libya are Desperate to Leave

By Lindsey Snell | The Investigative Journal | April 27, 2020

“I just got back from Libya yesterday,” said Zein Ahmad*, a Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) militant in Afrin. “But I had been trying to leave for more than a month.” When the Libyan National Army (LNA) neared Tripoli in April 2019, the rival UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli called on Turkey for military support.

Turkish forces began heavily recruiting militants from SNA factions in Syria to fight on their behalf, and began flying hundreds to Libya every week. The exact number of Syrian militants Turkey has sent is unknown, but estimates range from 5,000 to 17,000. Flights carrying Syrians to Libya continue, despite the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ahmad is a member of Ahrar al-Sharqiya, an SNA faction notorious for its bad treatment of civilians and a tendency to fight other SNA factions in the areas they invade. Ahmad had been based in Afrin with the faction since Turkey’s Operation “Olive Branch” in 2018. The Turkish invasion of Afrin led to the deaths of hundreds of civilians and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Ahrar al-Sharqiya has been accused of widespread war crimes in the city, including looting, murder, kidnapping, and serial rape.

When asked if he believed in Turkey’s mission in Afrin, Ahmad laughed. “I was a mercenary going to Afrin, and I was a mercenary going to Libya. There is no jihad. The jihad ended when [the Syrian opposition] lost Aleppo to Assad in 2016. Since Aleppo, it has been just money for us. We don’t care who we are fighting.”

Ahrar al-Sharqiya’s atrocities spread beyond Afrin when, in October 2019, Turkey launched Operation “Peace Spring” on North and East Syria. Ahrar al-Sharqiya militants stopped the vehicle of Syrian Future Party leader Hevrin Khalaf at a checkpoint they’d constructed along Syria’s M4 highway. The militants pulled Khalaf from her car, bludgeoned her, dragged her by her hair, and shot her five times. They posted video of the attack on their social media accounts.

Ahmad won’t comment on the assassination of Hevrin Khalaf or any of the other war crimes his and other Turkish-backed factions have been accused of in recent times. “I know the groups did bad things in Afrin when we entered the city,” Ahmad said. “But I never did, personally. I never looted when I was in Afrin. But I did loot when I was in Libya. We all did. They stopped paying us.”

The Syrian militants in Libya were promised salaries ranging from $2000-3000 per month, but reports from militants in several factions suggest the GNA has not kept up with payments as promised. One Hamza Division member said he’s been paid $2000 every month and a half rather than every month. Some Faylaq al-Majd members who have been in Libya for more than three months say they were paid once and never again.

“They told us we would be paid $3000 a month. That never happened. The first month we got $2000. The second month, they gave us $1400. The third month, we weren’t paid at all,” Ahmad said. “So we looted. We took copper from the homes, anything gold we could find, anything valuable we could find. And the Libyans with us would take the items and sell them for us.”

A militant from the Hamza Division says that a GNA-affiliated Libyan militant assigned to his group takes the Syrians into shops in Tripoli so they can sell their stolen wares. “Some fighters were looting instead of fighting,” he said. “In fact, many of our fighters were killed because they would steal from homes near the frontlines, and Haftar’s forces would ambush them and kill them.”

Hilal Hesham*, a businessman in Tripoli, has two friends who own shops frequented by the Syrian militants. “One shop owner tried to call the police when the Syrians came in the first time,” he said. “It was obvious the items they had were stolen. But of course, the police did nothing. It is militia rule in Tripoli. The shop owners aren’t happy with their presence, but they are required to do business with them.”

Hesham says he isn’t aware of the Syrian militants physically harming any civilians. “Maybe they realize that in Tripoli, we are all armed,” he said. “But in my mind, these [Syrian] men are extremists, are terrorists, are ISIS. I want to make it clear that I, and many other civilians here, are waiting for the [Libyan National] Army to enter Tripoli.”

***

Zein Ahmad says most of the other promises Turkish forces made to the SNA militants failed to materialize. “They told us first that if we stayed and fought for six months, that we would get Turkish citizenship,” he said. “That was lies. They told us if we died fighting in Libya, our families would get Turkish citizenship. Now that so many Syrians have died in Libya, we know this is also a lie.”

Ahmad says that when a fellow Ahrar al-Sharqiya member was killed in a battle in February, his widow in Afrin was given around $8000. “Of course, she did not get the Turkish citizenship,” he said. “She’s living in a camp in Syria with no husband now.”

Ahmad says the Turkish commanders who briefed them on the Libya mission grossly misrepresented the dangers they’d be facing. “They told us it would be minor combat. They said it was safer and easier than fighting in Syria,” he said. “And for the first month, it was. It was great.”

After arriving in Libya, Ahmad stayed in a house in Tripoli with ten other Syrian militants and a Libyan militant who accompanied them whenever they left the house. The house was a well-appointed villa, almost certainly abandoned by its rightful owners when clashes intensified and drew closer.

“Then, after some weeks, heavy battles began. We moved to Salah al-Din. It was worse than in Syria,” Ahmad said. “Bodies fell in the street and no one picked them up. So many Syrians have died.” Ahmad isn’t sure exactly how many Syrians have died in Libya, but says he personally saw more than a dozen killed in battle.

“It was nothing like we are used to in Syria,” Ahmad said. “It’s urban street combat. We don’t have the right weapons or the right skills. We are being slaughtered. And so, many of us started to refuse to fight. Or we’d be taken to the frontlines and hide there.”

Ahmad says that when the Syrian militants began defying orders, Libyan soldiers aligned with the GNA would come and beat them. He says once, when a Syrian had refused to fight three times in a row, a Libyan militiant shot him in the leg.

The number of Syrians desperate to leave Libya is growing by the day. “The last lie that Turkey told us was that we would only have to stay for two months, or three months,” Ahmad said. “But more than three months had passed for my group, and they weren’t letting us back.”

Ultimately, Ahmad was forced to pay his Syrian commander $700 to fly home to Syria. “There were around 100 of us,” he said. “Some paid $500, and some as much as $1000, but then they put us on a plane with the dead and injured and allowed us to return to Syria.”

Ahmad plans to resign from his faction. When asked what he thought the future held for him, he scoffed. “You shouldn’t ask me that. Don’t ask any of us that,” he said. “I don’t even know what the present is going to be for me.”

A Turkish soldier in Tripoli reports a markedly different Libya experience. “Look, everyone is happy,” he said. “All Turkish military here have good morale. And we’re getting good money.” When asked about the situation the Syrian militants are facing in Libya, the Turkish soldier said he didn’t know. “But I heard if they want to return to Syria, they can,” he said.


*an alias

Lindsey Snell is a print and video journalist specializing in conflict and humanitarian crises. She has produced documentary-style videos for MSNBC, VICE, Vocativ, ABC News, Ozy, Yahoo News, and Discovery Digital Networks. Her print work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Daily Beast, al Araby and others. One of her pieces, on Aleppo schools hit by airstrikes, won an Edward R. Murrow award in 2016.

May 2, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

UAE’s Rapprochement With Syria Aimed Against Turkey

By Paul Antonopoulos | March 31, 2020

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the head of United Arab Emirates (UAE), spoke by phone on Friday in the first such communication since the Syrian War began in 2011. This shows a metamorphosis of alliances and geopolitics in the Middle East and the wider region considering the UAE was one of the main backers of terrorist organizations who fought to remove Assad from power. However, for more than a year, the UAE has been sending signals showing a change in policy towards Syria. The phone call was after a long series of rapprochement that began in late 2018 with the reopening of the Emirati embassy in Damascus.

“I have discussed with the Syrian president… updates on the coronavirus. I assured him of the support of the UAE and its willingness to help the Syrian people,” Prince Mohammed said on Twitter. “Humanitarian solidarity during trying times supersedes all matters, and Syria and her people will not stand alone.”

A diplomatic source close to the case was quoted by the Lebanese daily L’Orient-Le Jour as saying the “Westerners, the Americans and French particularly, were against” a Syrian-Emirati rapprochement. According to the diplomatic source, the UAE is trying to gain favours from Moscow and has already won dozens of contracts, including in armaments, gas and infrastructure, but also with space cooperation. This is part of a broader geostrategic context and the stakes go far beyond Syria and the UAE. Rather, the UAE has acknowledged that Russia has taken a greater interest in the region, in particular in Syria and Libya.

Relations between the Gulf monarchies and the United States, traditional allies, have greatly deteriorated in recent years. The gradual disengagement of American forces from the region, but especially the lack of support from Washington against Turkey, made the monarchies with the exception of Qatar, lose the confidence they once had in the United States. According to the diplomatic source quoted by L’Orient-Le Jour, the UAE is trying to get closer to Beijing and Moscow, and the Crown Prince’s phone call to Assad is evidence of that. The call also comes as relations with Iran softened, especially seen with the many Emirati delegations who visited Iran last year, however this has not softened the UAE’s brutal Yemeni policy. None-the-less, this suggests a change in foreign policy that appeals to Moscow.

It appears then that the UAE’s turn around in its Syria policy serves two purposes: first – to strengthen relations with Russia, second – to form an anti-Turkish bloc.

As Turkey actively pursues the establishment of a neo-Ottoman Empire, the UAE is aggressively undermining the project as it opposes the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has openly supported and backed in Syria, Libya and Egypt. The UAE recognized the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization in 2014 after the fundamentalist group made plans to infiltrate and destabilize the Gulf country to take control – the main reason for the ever-increasing deterioration in relations between the UAE and Turkey.

Since then, the UAE has been actively countering Turkish influence across the region. As part of its efforts to create an anti-Turkish block, the UAE have strengthened their relations with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt fear being taken over by Muslim Brotherhood rule. However, the UAE’s pursuit of countering Turkey has not been reduced to only the Islamic world.

Greece, considered the “Old Enemy” by the Turks, received 11 tons of medical aid from the UAE on Thursday, with a Greek government press release stating that relations “began as economic cooperation, but thanks to the trust that was developed, it evolved into a strong bond.” This came as a working meeting of the Greece-UAE Broader Strategic Cooperation Forum was held in Athens on February 19 following the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ visit to UAE. In 2019 and 2020, the UAE and Greece has conducted joint military drills and military heads have been meeting each other often in a clear directive against Turkey.

In Libya, the UAE has not held back in supporting the Libyan National Army in their struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood government in Tripoli, headed by the ethnic Turk Fayez al-Sarraj who has the full backing of Erdoğan. The UAE’s material assistance has been crucial in the success of the Libyan National Army’s battle against Muslim Brotherhood forces, a clear demonstration that the UAE are willing to directly check Turkey’s ambitions to exert its influence and power across the region.

By securing close relations with Greece and directly countering Turkey in Libya, the UAE’s rapprochement with Syria is another step in formulating an anti-Turkish bloc, with itself at the head. While Turkey has acted to strangulate countries who oppose its hegemony in the region, it now appears that it is the UAE who is pressurizing Turkey and isolating it. There is every chance that the UAE will begin sending material aid to Syria that will be crucial in its future battles to expel the Turkish military and their jihadist proxies from Syrian territory. This will once again undermine Turkey’s efforts to dominate Syria and be the main power in the region, a move that Erdoğan would not have expected.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

March 31, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coronavirus hastens an Arab rapprochement

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 28, 2020

A phone call by the UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday signifies in many ways a major development in regional politics.

The official UAE news agency WAM modestly placed the UAE initiative “within the framework of Sheikh Mohamed’s contacts to follow up the humanitarian conditions in sisterly and friendly countries” in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the region.

The agency said the two leader “reviewed precautionary and preventive measures… and the possibility of helping sisterly Syria to fight the virus.” But it added that “Sheikh Mohamed stressed the need for countries to place the humanitarian solidarity over political issues during this common challenge …. [and] affirmed that Syrian – the sisterly Arab country – will not be left alone during these delicate and critical circumstances.”

The report ended by taking note that Assad welcomed the Crown Prince’s “collaborative initiative while praising the UAE humanitarian stance.”

The Syrian news agency SANA succinctly highlighted that the UAE Crown Prince “affirmed that the UAE supports the Syrian people during these extraordinary circumstances, saying that Syria will not remain alone in these critical circumstances.”

Clearly, a serious normalisation process has begun between Abu Dhabi and Damascus and this must be counted as one of the geopolitical fallouts of rampage of coronavirus.

The UAE was one of the main backers of the “regime change” project in Syria and a key promoter of jihadi groups. But a rethink apparently began sometime around late 2016 following the Russian intervention in Syria the previous year, which swung the military balance dramatically in favour of Assad’s government.

The UAE made a course correction once it became apparent that the regime change project had floundered. Its support for the extremist Islamist groups tapered off. Cool realism, which is UAE’s trademark, prevailed. (We see the realism also in the UAE’s disengagement from the Saudi-led war in Yemen.)

Most certainly, President Trump’s detached attitude toward the Syrian conflict would have played its part in the UAE rethink. Among other factors, the UAE’s growing rapport with Russia, involving the two leaderships at a personal level, encouraged the UAE to reassess the Syrian situation from a new perspective. At any rate, the UAE reopened its mission in Damascus in 2018.

Without doubt, one major consideration for the UAE has been the proactive and repeated Turkish military interventions in northern Syria in the period since 2016 starting with Operation Euphrates Shield, which steadily evolved into a Turkish occupation in northern Syria.

The Turkish-Emirati relations have been very poor in the recent years following President Recep Erdogan’s accusation that the UAE had a hand in the 2016 failed coup attempt to overthrow him. Basically, the leitmotif of this discord lies in Erdogan’s kinship with the Muslim Brotherhood, whom the UAE regards as an existential threat.

To be sure, the antipathy toward the Brothers, whom Turkey (and its regional ally Qatar) promotes as the vehicle of the Arab Spring, has been a key factor in the budding UAE-Syria rapprochement — as indeed in the growing rapport between Damascus and Cairo.

Interestingly, Syria finds itself on the same page as the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia in opposing the Turkish intervention in Libya as well. Recently, the Libyan warlord General Khalifa Haftar’s faction (which opposes the Turkey-backed government in Tripoli) was allowed to take over the Libyan embassy in Damascus.

Indeed, the UAE is playing a long game to isolate Turkey (under Erdogan) in the Middle East by drawing together forces in the region that abhor political Islam — Muslim Brotherhood in particular. How far Russia encourages such an alignment in regional politics is anybody’s guess but it won’t be a surprise, given the difficulties Moscow is currently facing in managing the mercurial personality of Erdogan and a possibility that Russian-Turkish relations could be on a collision course any day over northern Syria if a Turkish-Syrian military confrontation in Idlib erupts.

Interestingly, the UAE Crown Prince’s overture to Assad comes within six weeks of a visit by the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergey Naryshkin, a top Kremlin official close to President Vladimir Putin, to Dubai. Tass news agency reported that “that the approaches assessing regional crises and solutions to them (Russia and UAE) are similar or close.”

Interestingly, both Russia and the UAE have direct dealings with the Kurdish separatist groups that operate in Syria and Turkey. No doubt, Russia will view with satisfaction the acceleration of the UAE-Syrian rapprochement. Emirati assistance in Syria’s reconstruction and rehabilitation will come as a big relief to Moscow.

Also, the return of Syria to the Arab family can only enhance Russia’s room for manoeuvre, apart from giving Assad much-needed “strategic depth”. All this helps in the stabilisation of the Syrian situation. Can we expect Syria’s readmission to the Arab League? It’s entirely conceivable.

The bottom line is that the UAE-Syrian normalisation holds the potential to redraw regional alignments. Despite the calamities of the 9-year old conflict, Syria still remains the throbbing heart of Arab nationalism, although, tragically, it came to symbolise in the recent years the deep divisions across the Middle East.

On the ground, besides the tragic loss of lives, Syria has gone through destruction on a colossal scale that would take decades to reverse. Nonetheless, a nascent opportunity arises here for Syria to climb out of the deep divisions and regain its regional standing.

March 28, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Lockerbie’s only convict may be exonerated posthumously

By Dr Mustafa Fetouri | MEMO | March 26, 2020

The only man to be convicted of the infamous Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, died in 2012 and protested his innocence until his final breath. His fellow Libyan and co-defendant, Lamin Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted and is still living in Libya. The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988 killed all 259 passengers and crew on board as well as 11 people on the ground in the small Scottish town of Lockerbie.

Al-Megrahi was not alone in believing that he and his country were innocent of the crime. His family members are determined to clear his name if not prove his complete innocence. His son Ali is leading the family mission and told the BBC that his father was “innocent and had cared more about the victims than himself.”

The family has just won a huge victory with the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC) decision on 11 March that an appeal can be made to the High Court of Justiciary, Scotland’s highest criminal court. The SCCRC had to decide if there are grounds for a posthumous appeal on the basis of a possible miscarriage of justice, among other possibilities. The commission found sufficient grounds to question the 2001 trial that convicted Al-Megrahi. Six grounds for review were considered before it was concluded that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred by reason of “unreasonable verdict” and “non-disclosure”.

This specifically raised serious doubts about the process by which Al-Megrahi was identified and linked to clothes found in the suitcase said to have contained the bomb. According to the SCCRC, “No reasonable trial court could have accepted that Mr. Megrahi was identified as the purchaser.”

The only witness to link Al-Megrahi to the clothes was a Maltese shop keeper named Toni Gauci, who died in 2016. He was a co-owner of a clothes shop in Malta and he testified that he sold the clothes to Al-Megrahi, who denied vehemently that he had ever been to the shop let alone bought anything from the witness. During the trial, this testimony was central to Al-Megrahi’s conviction, although the crown prosecutor, Lord Advocate Peter Frasier, later completely dismissed Gauci as “an apple short of a picnic” and “not quite the full shilling”. Why he accepted his testimony at the special court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in the first place is still a mystery. Could it have been a conspiracy against Muammar Gaddafi and Libya, as the late Libyan leader always claimed? He is not alone in thinking so.

Law Professor Robert Black, who came up with the idea of holding Al-Megrahi’s trial in a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands — the first such occasion in history – now talks of a wider conspiracy to frame Libya. “I think the Scottish prosecution was from the start excessively influenced by the US Department of Justice, FBI and CIA,” Black told me this week when I asked about this possibility. In the late eighties, the US hated Gaddafi for his unrelenting opposition to America’s policies in the Arab world and beyond. He was accused of so many terrorist acts around the world that adding Lockerbie to the list would have been neither difficult to do nor easy to dispute; western media and politicians already projected Gaddafi as a monster capable of any and every evil.

Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi was convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, 23 April 2017 [Twitter]

It later emerged that Toni Gauci received $2 million in return for his testimony against Al-Megrahi before he disappeared from Malta altogether. Many experts think that he was coached on his story to be as convincing as possible. Under Scottish law, it is illegal to reward or coach witnesses in any legal proceedings.

According to Professor Black, the High Court of Judiciary could return its verdict before the 32nd anniversaries of the atrocity on 21 December this year. Meticulous as ever, the now retired professor thinks the court is likely to quash the original verdict and thus exonerate the late Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi posthumously. If that happens, he believes that Al-Megrahi’s family would be “entitled to claim compensation for wrongful imprisonment.” The convicted man spent eight years in prison after his conviction on 31 January 2001 before being released in 2009 on compassionate grounds as he was terminally ill with prostate cancer. However, warned Black, any such claim is likely to be resisted strongly.

At this stage we might feel entitled to ask what should happen to Libya if the verdict goes the way that Al-Megrahi’s family hope. The North African country had to endure crippling economic sanctions imposed by a series of UN Security Council resolutions starting with Resolution 731 passed on 21 March 1992. If Al-Megrahi is vindicated, might Libya also be vindicated and possibly claim compensation for the damage caused by the sanctions? Can it ask for the reimbursement of $2.7 billion paid to victims’ families? Even though the country accepted responsibility for the actions of its “officials” — Al-Megrahi and Fhimah, who was station manager for Libyan Arab Airlines in Malta at the time of the bombing — the money was paid as part of the requirements of the UN Resolutions.

Whatever the Scottish High Court of Justiciary decides later this year, many think that Al-Megrahi and Libya are already exonerated by the fact that the SCCRC has raised serious doubts about the trial and its verdict. Given the obvious US links to the case, it is interesting to note that current US Attorney General William Barr was the acting Attorney General who indicted the two Libyans in 1991. What will he have to say when the Court in Scotland returns its verdict?

March 26, 2020 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , | 1 Comment

Sanders tells New York Times he would consider a preemptive strike against Iran or North Korea

By Jacob Crosse and Barry Grey | WSWS | February 14, 2020

Bernie Sanders has won the popular vote in both the New Hampshire and Iowa presidential primary contests in considerable part by presenting himself as an opponent of war. Following the criminal assassination of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani last month, Sanders was the most vocal of the Democratic presidential aspirants in criticizing Trump’s action. His poll numbers have risen in tandem with his stepped-up anti-war rhetoric.

He has repeatedly stressed his vote against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, reminding voters in the Iowa presidential debate last month, “I not only voted against that war, I helped lead the effort against that war.”

However, when speaking to the foremost newspaper of the American ruling class, the New York Times, the Sanders campaign adopts a very different tone than that employed by the candidate when addressing the public in campaign stump speeches or TV interviews.

The answers provided by Sanders’ campaign to a foreign policy survey of the Democratic presidential candidates published this month by the Times provide a very different picture of the attitude of the self-styled “democratic socialist” to American imperialism and war. In the course of the survey, the Sanders campaign is at pains to reassure the military/intelligence establishment and the financial elite of the senator’s loyalty to US imperialism and his readiness to deploy its military machine.

Perhaps most significant and chilling is the response to the third question in the Times’ survey.

Question: Would you consider military force to pre-empt an Iranian or North Korean nuclear or missile test?

Answer: Yes.

A Sanders White House, according to his campaign, would be open to launching a military strike against Iran or nuclear-armed North Korea to prevent (not respond to) not even a threatened missile or nuclear strike against the United States, but a mere weapons test. This is a breathtakingly reckless position no less incendiary than those advanced by the Trump administration.

Sanders would risk a war that could easily involve the major powers and lead to a nuclear Armageddon in order to block a weapons test by countries that have been subjected to devastating US sanctions and diplomatic, economic and military provocations for decades.

Moreover, as Sanders’ response to the Times makes clear, the so-called progressive, anti-war candidate fully subscribes to the doctrine of “preemptive war” declared to be official US policy in 2002 by the administration of George W. Bush. An illegal assertion of aggressive war as an instrument of foreign policy, this doctrine violates the principles laid down at the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi officials after World War II, the United Nations charter and other international laws and conventions on war. Sanders’ embrace of the doctrine, following in the footsteps of the Obama administration, shows that his opposition to the Iraq war was purely a question of tactics, not a principled opposition to imperialist war.

The above question is preceded by another that evokes a response fully in line with the war policies of the Obama administration, the first two-term administration in US history to preside over uninterrupted war.

Question: Would you consider military force for a humanitarian intervention?

Answer: Yes.

Among the criminal wars carried out by the United States in the name of defending “human rights” are the war in Bosnia and the bombing of Serbia in the 1990s, the 2011 air war against Libya that ended with the lynching of deposed ruler Muammar Gaddafi, and the civil war in Syria that was fomented by Washington and conducted by its Al Qaeda-linked proxy militias.

The fraudulent humanitarian pretexts for US aggression were no more legitimate than the lie of “weapons of mass destruction” used in the neo-colonial invasion of Iraq. The result of these war crimes has been the destruction of entire societies, the death of millions and dislocation of tens of millions more, along with the transformation of the Middle East into a cauldron of great power intervention and intrigue that threatens to erupt into a new world war.

Sanders fully subscribes to this doctrine of “humanitarian war” that has been particularly associated with Democratic administrations.

In response to a question from the Times on the assassination of Suleimani, the Sanders campaign calls Trump’s action illegal, but refuses to take a principled stand against targeted assassinations in general and associates itself with the attacks on Suleimani as a terrorist.

The reply states:

Clearly there is evidence that Suleimani was involved in acts of terror. He also supported attacks on US troops in Iraq. But the right question isn’t ‘was this a bad guy,’ but rather ‘does assassinating him make Americans safer?’ The answer is clearly no.

In other words, the extra-judicial killing of people by the US government is justified if it makes Americans “safer.” This is a tacit endorsement of the policy of drone assassinations that was vastly expanded under the Obama administration—a policy that included the murder of US citizens.

At another point, the Times asks:

Would you agree to begin withdrawing American troops from the Korean peninsula?

The reply is:

No, not immediately. We would work closely with our South Korean partners to move toward peace on the Korean peninsula, which is the only way we will ultimately deal with the North Korean nuclear issue.

Sanders thus supports the continued presence of tens of thousands of US troops on the Korean peninsula, just as he supports the deployment of US forces more generally to assert the global interests of the American ruling class.

On Israel, Sanders calls for a continuation of the current level of US military and civilian aid and opposes the immediate return of the US embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

On Russia, he entirely supports the Democratic Party’s McCarthyite anti-Russia campaign and lines up behind the right-wing basis of the Democrats’ failed impeachment drive against Trump:

Question: If Russia continues on its current course in Ukraine and other former Soviet states, should the United States regard it as an adversary, or even an enemy?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Should Russia be required to return Crimea to Ukraine before it is allowed back into the G-7?

Answer: Yes.

Finally, the Times asks the Sanders campaign its position on the National Security Strategy announced by the Trump administration at the beginning of 2018. The new doctrine declares that the focus of American foreign and military strategy has shifted from the “war on terror” to the preparation for war against its major rivals, naming in particular Russia and China.

In the following exchange, Sanders tacitly accepts the great power conflict framework of the National Security Strategy, attacking Trump from the right for failing to aggressively prosecute the conflict with Russia and China:

Question: President Trump’s national security strategy calls for shifting the focus of American foreign policy away from the Middle East and Afghanistan, and back to what it refers to as the ‘revisionist’ superpowers, Russia and China. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Answer: Despite its stated strategy, the Trump administration has never followed a coherent national security strategy. In fact, Trump has escalated tensions in the Middle East and put us on the brink of war with Iran, refused to hold Russia accountable for its interference in our elections and human rights abuses, has done nothing to address our unfair trade agreement with China that only benefits wealthy corporations, and has ignored China’s mass internment of Uighurs and its brutal repression of protesters in Hong Kong. Clearly, Trump is not a president we should be taking notes from. [Emphasis added].

In a recent interview Ro Khanna, a Democratic congressman and national co-chair of the Sanders campaign, assured Atlantic writer Uri Friedman that Sanders would continue provocative “freedom of the seas” navigation operations in the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea, while committing a Sanders administration to “maintain some [troop] presence” on the multitude of bases dotting “allied” countries from Japan to Germany.

Millions of workers, students and young people are presently attracted to Sanders because they have come to despise and oppose the vast social inequality, brutality and militarism of American society and correctly associate these evils with capitalism. However, they will soon learn through bitter experience that Sanders’s opposition to the “billionaire class” is no more real than his supposed opposition to war. His foreign policy is imperialist through and through, in line with the aggressive and militaristic policy of the Democratic Party and the Obama administration.

The Democrats’ differences with Trump on foreign policy, though bitter, are tactical. Both parties share the strategic orientation of asserting US global hegemony above all through force of arms.

No matter how much Sanders blusters about inequality, it is impossible to oppose the depredations of the ruling class at home while supporting its plunder and oppression abroad.

Sanders is no more an apostle of peace than he is a representative of the working class. Both in foreign and domestic policy, he is an instrument of the ruling class for channeling the growing movement of the working class and opposition to capitalism back behind the Democratic Party and the two-party system of capitalist rule in America.

February 18, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia, War Crimes | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Support for NATO wanes in France, Germany & even US as alliance struggles to maintain unity

RT | February 10, 2020

Public support for NATO has seen a notable decline in France, Germany and the US, according to a new poll. The alliance has suffered from months of budgetary in-fighting and mud-slinging among member states.

While the Pew Research study noted that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization still enjoys general support across member states, it pointed out that several countries “have soured on the alliance.”

Positive views of the transatlantic alliance fell to 52 percent in the United States last year, from 64 percent in 2018, the survey found. In France, support fell to 49 percent, from 60 percent in 2017 and 71 percent in 2009. A figure for 2018 was not available. Germany also saw a drop in public support, which stood at 57 percent in 2019, down from 63 percent in 2018. Positive ratings of NATO among members range from a high of 82 percent in Poland to 21 percent in Turkey.

The decline in public support can be attributed to a number of factors, including months of heated debate over defense spending among member states. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly chastised alliance members for not meeting their military spending commitment of two percent of GDP, while arguing that the United States pays far too much for Europe’s defense.

European states have also been highly critical of the Cold War-era defensive alliance. Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron accused NATO of suffering from “brain death” because of its perceived failure to help maintain global security and resolve world conflicts.

The alliance has also struggled to maintain a united front, most notable in Syria, where Turkey has been at odds with its American allies. Ankara has also locked horns with Athens over the tense military and political situation in Libya.

Founded in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union, NATO has been criticized for being largely obsolete and lacking a clear purpose. Despite billing itself as a defensive alliance, it has participated in a number of disastrous military interventions in the Middle East and North Africa.

February 10, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Russia rejects Turkish narrative on Syria

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | February 7, 2020

The Russian reaction to Turkey’s latest military moves in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib has appeared in the form of a lengthy interview with the government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on February 4, which has since been followed by a formal statement by the foreign ministry on Thursday.

Moscow has underscored that the current Syrian operation in Idlib is about vanquishing the al-Qaeda affiliates supported by Turkey and the western countries.

Lavrov dwelt on the backdrop to the so-called Astana format, which resulted from the collapse of the regime change project of “our Western and other foreign partners” in Syria following the Russian intervention in 2015.

He outlined how the Astana process led to the “de-escalation zone” in Idlib where “terrorist groups herded together”. Russia and Turkey reached specific written agreements spelling out their commitments to oversee Idlib. However, to quote Lavrov,

“Regrettably, so far, Turkey has failed to fulfil a couple of its key commitments that were designed to resolve the core of the Idlib problem. It was necessary to separate the armed opposition that cooperates with Turkey and is ready for a dialogue with the government in the political process, from the terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra, which became Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Both are blacklisted as terrorist groups by the UN Security Council, so neither Jabhat al-Nusra nor the latest version, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, has anything to do in Idlib.”

Even after repeated reminders from Russia, Turkey didn’t act. Equally, Lavrov repeated that the recent Turkish military deployments to Idlib were undertaken without any advance intimation to the Russian side. He said, “We urge them (Turkey) to strictly comply with the 2018 and 2019 Sochi accords on Idlib.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry statement of February 6, as reported by Tass news agency, disclosed that there have been Russian casualties due to the “increasing terrorist activities.” It justified the operations of the Syrian government forces as reaction to “the unacceptable rise in terrorist activities.”

Through the month of December, “over 1,400 militant attacks involving tanks, machine guns, infantry fighting vehicles, mortars and artillery took place.” During the past fortnight alone, “more than 1,000 attacks have been recorded” and hundreds of Syrian troops and civilians have been killed and wounded and the Russian base at Hmeymim came under attack repeatedly.

The foreign ministry statement says, “all this points to an unacceptable increase in terrorist strength in Idlib, where militants have complete impunity and free hands” which left the Syrian government with no alternative but to “react to these developments.”

In a rebuff to Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s demand that the Syrian government should terminate the military operations in Idlib and withdraw, the Russian statement said, “A thing to note is that the Syrian army is fighting on its own soil against those designated as terrorists by the UN Security Council. There can be no interpretations. It is the Syrian government’s right and responsibility to combat terrorists in the country.”

Curiously, both Lavrov’s interview as well as the Foreign Ministry statement drew attention to the transfer of terror groups from Idlib to northeastern Syria and from there to Libya in the recent weeks. The implication is clear — Ankara continues to deploy terrorist groups as tools of regional strategies in Syria (and Libya).

Russia has contacts with all parties in Libya, including Khalifa Haftar. The implicit warning here is that Erdogan will have a high price to pay in Libya where he cannot count on Russian empathy. Turkey is already under withering criticism from EU, France, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, UAE and Saudi Arabia for its military intervention in Libya, especially by deploying its proxy groups from Syria. Turkey’s regional isolation over Libya is now complete.

The Russian Foreign Ministry statement concluded saying, “We reaffirm our commitment to the agreements reached at the Astana talks, which envisage fighting terrorist groups in Syria on the condition of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. We will maintain close coordination with our Turkish and Iranian partners for the sake of achieving lasting stability and security on the ground.”

It is highly significant that the Foreign Ministry statement singled out the “Iranian partners” for reference. On February 5, while receiving the new Iranian ambassador to Moscow, President Putin also said Russia and Iran were “key powerful players” in the fight against global terrorism and will continue their cooperation. Putin added, “(Russia’s) cooperation with Iran within the Astana framework has played an effective role in the settlement of the Syria conflict.”

What emerges is that Moscow senses that behind Turkish president Erdogan’s mercurial behaviour, there is the old pattern of Turkey using terror groups as proxies, with covert support from western powers. Moscow cannot but be aware that the US is making overtures to Erdogan with a view to shift the military balance against Russia and Iran on the Syrian-Iraqi chessboard in the downstream of the killing of General Qassem Soleimani.

Curiously, on Monday, a US appeals court agreed to “pause” a case alleging that Turkey’s state-owned HalkBank evaded US sanctions on Iran. The US Senate Finance Committee member Ron Wyden, a Democrat, has since addressed a letter to the US Attorney General William Barr asking if President Trump had tried to intervene on behalf of Halkbank!

A Reuters report said Senator Wyden asked Barr to detail his interactions with Trump, President Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak (who is also Erdogan’s son-in-law).

The HalkBank scandal implicates Erdogan and family members and an adverse court verdict can be highly damaging politically to the president and his son-in-law who is groomed as a potential successor. (A commentary on the scandal featured in the Foundation for Defense of Democracies authored by a former Turkish member of parliament is here.) The HalkBank case hangs like the sword of Damocles over Erdogan. Washington is adept at using such pressure tactics against recalcitrant interlocutors abroad.

On the other hand, if Trump has done a favour to Erdogan (or anyone for that matter), he’d expect a quid pro quo. And it is to be expected that the Trump administration would visualise that Erdogan’s cooperation can be a game changer in the geopolitics of Syria and Iraq. However, Moscow has kept the line open to Ankara.

To be sure, it is with deliberation that Moscow has highlighted the salience of the Russian-Iranian alliance in Syria where Washington is escalating tensions lately as part of its “maximum pressure” approach threatening Tehran with a region-wide war.

February 7, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sudanese promised jobs in UAE but taken to war in Libya, Yemen

Job seekers wait outside the Amanda travel agency in order to get their money back in Khartoum. (Photo by MEE)
Press TV – February 2, 2020

Sudanese youths have revealed that the UAE pledged them jobs with high salaries in the Persian Gulf small country, but instead took them to Libya which is embroiled in a war between rival groups.

The United Arab Emirates is the key supporter of renegade general Khalifa Haftar which is leading a grueling military offensive against the government in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

Several Sudanese youths have told the Middle East Eye that they were promised to work as security guards in the UAE on a salary of around $2,175 per month, but were instead sent to hostile areas in Libya.

Abdul Rahman Alzaki, a 34-year-old IT engineer, went to visit the Amanda travel agency in the center of the Sudanese capital that had placed the advertisement.

He was told the work was for the Emirati security firm Black Shields and would be located in Abu Dhabi or another UAE city.

Following several job interviews, Alzaki paid around 80,000 Sudanese pounds ($950) to Amanda after he was told the salary had been confirmed and that the travel agency would transport him to the UAE.

He traveled to the Emirates, but his dream soon turned into a nightmare after he discovered that he would in fact be receiving three months of military training and then be sent to Libya or Yemen.

The UAE wanted him and other Sudanese youths to protect oil refineries and strategic locations in the area held by Haftar, he told the MEE.

The UAE is among several countries supporting Haftar in his campaign to oust the UN-recognized government in Tripoli. The Arab country is also a key party to a Saudi-led coalition waging war on Yemen.

Around 3,000 Sudanese are believed to have been deceived by Black Shields, which sub-contracted companies such as Amanda advertising for the Emirati company.

“When we reached the Emirates we realized that we had been cheated, as the company had taken our passports, mobile phones and everything, and sent us to a military training camp called Zayed Military City” in Abu Dhabi, Alzaki said.

The MEE said it visited the Amanda travel agency in downtown Khartoum on Wednesday, but the agency was closed and phone calls to the manager and other employees of the agency went unanswered.

Dozens of job seekers were waiting outside the agency in order to try to get their money back, the online website said.

Boraey Mohamed Ahmed said he and other Sudanese youths had been subjected to extensive cheating by mafia companies working between the UAE and Sudan.

Circulation of the story on social media has ignited protests against the UAE and its policies in Sudan and in the region.

Thousands of Sudanese protesters have waged a wide campaign on social media against UAE policies, calling on the government to maintain the dignity of the Sudanese.

On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside the UAE embassy and the Sudanese Foreign Ministry in Khartoum, demanding the return of the Sudanese youths.

Chanting anti-Emirate slogans, the protesters also called for the return of Sudanese soldiers from the war in Yemen.

Protester Marwa Hassan criticized the policies of the UAE on Sudan and the region as whole.

“Why do they want to use our people as mercenaries in Yemen and Libya, we have nothing to do with their interests in these countries, why are they exploiting the poverty of our youth to use them badly like this,” she shouted.

February 2, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment