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Russia: Syria held back fire as Israel used civilian aircraft as cover in Homs raid

Press TV – October 15, 2021

Israel has once again used civilian aircraft as a shield against Syrian air defense systems during its attacks on the Arab country, says a Russian general.

“On October 13, from 23:35 to 23:39, four F-16 tactical fighters of the Israeli Air Force entered Syrian airspace in the US-occupied al-Tanf zone in Homs Province and struck a phosphate ore processing plant in the Palmyra region,” Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit, deputy head of the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of Warring Parties in Syria, said at a briefing.

Kulit said the Syrian military, however, decided not to target the Israeli jets that carried out the strike in central Syria because there were two civilian airliners in the sky at the time.

“The Syrian military leadership decided not to use air defense systems, since at the time of the Israeli aviation attack, two civilian passenger aircraft were in the zone of destruction of the anti-aircraft systems,” Kulit said, Sputnik news reported.

The Syrian Defense Ministry announced earlier that the Wednesday attack killed one soldier and injured three others.

Israel has repeatedly used civilian aircraft as a shield against Syrian air defense systems in its aggression against the Arab country.

In February, an Airbus A320 with 172 passengers on board was forced to make an emergency landing at the Russian-operated Hmeimim Air Base during an Israeli attack.

Back in 2018, Israel had to apologize for using a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft as a shield during an attack, causing a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile to shoot down the Russian aircraft instead and kill 15 Russian and two Syrian service members.

Israel’s Wednesday attack came just days after Syria’s air defenses thwarted an Israeli missile attack on a military air base, known as T-4, in Homs, shooting down most of the incoming projectiles.

That aerial assault had been initiated from the direction of the al-Tanf area as well, with Syrian official news agency SANA reporting that it wounded six soldiers and resulted in some material losses.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups.

Israel frequently targets the positions of the Syrian military and its allies, who are fighting against the foreign-backed terrorists wreaking havoc in the Arab country.

October 15, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | 3 Comments

Washington’s Assembly Line for Retraining Soldiers in Syria Isn’t Stopping

By Valery Kulikov – New Eastern Outlook – 25.09.2021

According to the Syrian news agency SANA, on September 19, US Air Force helicopters transported two new groups of militants to their base in Al-Shaddadah in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria, for retraining. There were about 60 people in total who had previously fought in the ranks of the terrorist group ISIS.

These militants were transported from a prison in the city of Qamishli, where they were guarded by Kurds from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after ISIS’s defeat in 2019. The majority of these prisoners have Iraqi citizenship, and among them are also Saudi Arabians and Tunisians. According to SANA sources, at least three former ISIS members have held senior positions in its regional structure in the past. One of them presided over the police force in Deir ez-Zor, another headed penitentiary facilities, and the third was responsible for finances.

SANA elaborates that they will undergo retraining at the US military base in order to later integrate into puppet groups under the label of the “Army of Free Tribes,” which are used by the US command to conduct subversive operations in northeastern Syria.

It is notable that this is not the first such US operation to organize “retraining courses” for Islamist militants at its bases in Syria. For example, on August 7, 40 ISIS supporters were transported to a base controlled by the US Armed Forces in Al-Shaddadah. As reported by the Syrian media, the terrorists, among whom were an ISIS “spy group leader” and “explosives specialist,” were moved to the military base from prisons under the control of the Kurdish SDF. It was stressed that the terrorists “were armed and received logistical support for the perpetration of further acts of terrorism, the target of which could be populated areas, sites occupied by the Syrian army, and infrastructure.”

On June 21, US Air Force helicopters transported yet another group of militants to Al-Shaddadah from the Es-Sanawiya prison, situated in the administrative center of Al-Hasakah. They were also preparing to join the Army of Free Tribes group, which the United States uses to conduct operations in northeast Syria.

Prior to this, in April no less than 70 other former mercenaries from the ranks of ISIS were transferred from Ghuwayran prison, which is also controlled by SDF fighters, to the pro-Western coalition base at Al-Tanf where the borders of Syria, Iraq, and Jordan meet.

Mehmet Ali Güller, the Turkish author of “ISIS. Black Terror,” writes that ISIS has always been a “convenient enemy” for the USA and has served as a “skeleton key” for doors, which Washington has wanted to open.

Another Turkish publication, Milliyet, emphasizes that the USA has constantly signaled the need to focus on the fight against ISIS, but it has never acted with the aim of destroying it. The USA used ISIS to change the map of the region, reconstruct it, establish the space for a terrorist mini-state, and partition and destroy the region’s states. Somewhere there was ISIS, and somewhere “Al-Qaeda” or “Khuras al-Din”. In other words, the USA has never seriously fought against the by-products of its own creation, which have appeared under different names. The publication emphasizes that the USA only ever acted with the consideration of exploiting them in their own interests and for their own benefit.

Any supporting information about secret ties between the USA and ISIS should not surprise anyone, since even The Washington Post writes that the leader of ISIS, Amir Mohammed Said Abel-Rahman al-Mawla, also known as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Kurashi, previously performed the role of informant for the US military in Iraq. An in-depth investigation of the support that several Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA, provide to jihadist groups in Syria can be found in “The Secret War in Syria” by Maxim Shae, an expert on covert operations, intelligence and US foreign policy.

Not only does the USA continue to conduct “retraining” for former ISIS fighters and other extremist groups in “its own interests,” but it also supplies them with weapons. The aim of such US actions is extremely simple: to prepare a new detachment of radical pro-American groups that will perform the rough work of Special Force units. And the results of these actions are already plain to see: on September 17, the militants cut off the power supply across Damascus and sabotaged a gas pipeline to the South near Deir Ali. In addition to disabling the pipeline, according to Reuters and Al-Ikhbariya there have been attempts to blow up two power lines in the Khuran district of Damascus.

Besides training ISIS fighters at American military bases in Syria, the US-backed SDF abduct civilians to force them to fight in their ranks, carry out raids on Syrian cities, and wreak havoc in the country. Thus, on September 20, as reported by SANA news agency, the SDF executed another raid on houses in the town of Abu Hamam in Deir ez-Zor during which they abducted nine local residents, who were taken in an unknown direction. It is reported that the militants indiscriminately opened fire to disperse some people who were trying to recapture the abducted residents, sowing panic among the civilian population. Windows were also broken in several houses. The kidnapping was carried out with the support of the US military.

In order to avoid allegations against the US Air Force of killing civilians, the Pentagon plans to train SDF militants in independent operations with the use of military aircraft. For this, training in aviating and using T-6 Texan aircraft and MD-500 helicopters was organized at the Al-Kafr base. For this purpose, according to the available data, three such aircraft and two helicopters have already been delivered to the American base.

Furthermore, as El Mundo and many other Western media have already reported, US militants who have undergone “special training” are actively deployed in Syria, along with mercenaries from the American private military company Academi, to guard and transport convoys with stolen Syrian oil to Iraq.

Meanwhile, it should be recalled that US military personnel are in Syria illegally, violating the norms of the UN Security Council. Washington funds the militants through a program of assistance to the “Syrian opposition” and is using them to retain its positions in the Syrian oil fields.

These illegal and predatory actions on behalf of Washington must ultimately be subject to a legal assessment by the international community and be stopped!

September 25, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

US Expulsion from West Asia Region is Inevitable: IRGC

Al-Manar | September 24, 2021

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has issued a statement on the anniversary of Sacred Defense, saying that the United States has no choice but withdrawal from the West Asia region.

The IRGC issued a statement on Friday to commemorate the anniversary of the Iraqi Saddam regime-imposed war on Iran and the beginning of Sacred Defense by the Iranian nation against the Baathist regime of Saddam, which was sponsored and fully backed by Western powers between 1980-1988.

The statement said that after 41 years since the start of the imposed war, which was sponsored and supported by the world powers, the nation has grown more resilient and the country has solidified its defensive power.

The IRGC added that the imposed war ended while even a handspan of Iranian soil was not given to the enemy.

It also noted that the western powers continued non-stop to conspire against Iran over the past 33 years since the end of the imposed war.

The Guards also said that the power of hegemonic powers such as the United States, which supported Saddam’s regime, was declining while they made wrong calculations and invaded Islamic countries of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“But today, after more than twenty years [since the occupation of Afghanistan by the US and NATO], we are witnessing the humiliating escape of the Americans from Afghanistan and at God’s willing, we will see their expulsion from West Asia in the near future,” the IRGC statement read.

September 24, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , | 2 Comments

Israel’s airstrikes in Syria aren’t newsworthy for Western media, as a consequence civilians continue to suffer

By Eva Bartlett | RT | August 22, 2021

Israel again illegally bombed Syria last week, violating Lebanese airspace to do so and putting at risk the lives of untold numbers of civilians. And following this, crickets in the media, again.

On Thursday, just after 11pm, Israeli missiles targeted the vicinities of Damascus and Homs, according to a statement from the Syrian army. Russia’s Reconciliation Center for Syria said Israel did so via six planes which fired 24 guided missiles at Syria.

In its attack on Syria, Israeli missiles put two passenger airplanes in Syrian and in Lebanese airspace at risk, particularly the 130 civilians and flight crew on a Middle East Airlines flight coming from Abu Dhabi to Beirut. Flight trackers show the plane abruptly changed course to avoid being targeted.

Flashback to 2018, when Israel attacked Syria using the cover of a Russian plane – whose presence was legal in Syria, having been invited by the Syrian government, contrary to the invading Israeli plane. Syrian air defense missiles responded to the threat, downing the Russian plane.

Just last month, Israel attacked Syria on multiple occasions, including during Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest times for Muslims.

The reality is that Israel’s bombings of Syria are so routine that this latest attack is hardly ‘news’ and it is hard to make it newsworthy to write about. I’ve written about such attacks before, including noting (February 2021): “Israel’s military chief of staff boasted earlier about hitting over 500 targets in just 2020 alone.”

But each attack is, in my opinion, newsworthy, because each of them affects, if not kills, civilians.

Surely, it would be newsworthy if the routine bombings of a neighboring sovereign country were committed by, say, Russia or China. The entirety of Western media and all of the internet would be livid and demanding accountability.

Israel’s pretext when bombing Syria is usually that it is, “targeting Iranian-backed fighters,” a charge gleefully reprinted in media and by sources supporting the fall of the Syrian government.

In reality, reports claim, Thursday’s bombings killed four Syrian civilians, including at least one youth.

The psychological terror

British journalist Vanessa Beeley, who lives in a heavily populated suburb on the outskirts of Damascus, tweeted of feeling the impacts of the bombings.

Now imagine all of the people in the vicinity feeling that impact, not knowing if that night they would finally be struck. That’s the thing we don’t hear much of if these attacks even make any media coverage: how they impact on civilians, even those not directly injured but terrorized by them.

I know very well of the terror of being near a site Israel has just bombed. And although I have many anecdotes from my three years of living in Gaza, one rather poignant incident involved me sleeplessly musing on the rooftop of the simple central Gazan home I lived in on a hot August 2011 night. I wrote:

“I am watching sporadic shooting stars when the first F-16 appeared from the direction of the sea. Three more follow. The roar is normal, F-16s are normal, and reading in the news the next day that some part of Gaza was bombed is normal. They continue eastward and a bombing seems imminent. It is. A thick cloud of black smoke blots the dim lights of houses in eastern Deir al Balah where the F-16s have struck.”

I went on to write about the planes attacking the city of Khan Younis to the south, and suddenly, bombing close to me.

“Two massive blasts, the house shakes. They’ve bombed somewhere near the sea, which is only a few hundred meters away. Concrete dust flutters down upon us. There is a sustained honking in Gaza that everyone recognizes as make way, we’ve got another victim here.”

And, if I may dwell on this one simple anecdote, I remarked on how the men in the house tried to appear calm and cool but, while we were all accustomed to such random bombings and either put on a brave face or genuinely stop flinching, they do still affect you deeply.

“Every time one of those f***ing F-16s flies over us, it’s a reminder of the last war, or of previous attacks, or of random bombings, or of friends and family martyred in their sleep, cars, homes… Every time those F-16s intentionally break the sound barrier to create a bomb-like sonic boom, everyone within range instinctively remembers their own personal horror at whichever Israeli war or attacks.”

I have more terrifying, all night long bombing memories, with massive bombs landing nearby, including just tens of meters away. Those were during the 2008/9 war on Gaza. With the above account, I want to emphasize how these terrors occur on any random day, but will never be heard of in the media.

But it isn’t just the already bad enough bombings. The psychological terror aspect includes the near-continuous presence of drones overhead.

After Israel’s latest bombing of Syria, I spoke with Lebanese journalist Marwa Osman. She emphasized how Israel’s violation of Lebanese airspace is an almost daily occurrence.

“All day, you can hear them [Israeli drones]. It causes a nervous breakdown for any human to keep listening to this all day. I can’t even imagine what they feel in Gaza when they have them all the time overhead.”

If you haven’t ever been under one, much less tens, of military drones, you won’t know how deeply disturbing hearing them is. It is hard to concentrate with such an ominous cacophony constantly overhead.

When in early August, in what the Israel army claimed was a “retaliation” attack, Israel fired artillery shells at the Khiam region of southern Lebanon, Osman was at her home less than one kilometer from the bombings. She spoke of the terror of her children. “I found one of them hiding under the sink, I found two of them hiding in my bedroom near the closet because they thought this was the safest place to be.”

Limited condemnations, but continued status quo?

Lebanon’s minister of defense condemned Israel’s recent attack and has, “called on the UN to deter Israel from carrying out airstrikes on Syria using Lebanese airspace.” Russia and Iran have on more than one occasion condemned the attacks, rightly noting they violate international law and Syria’s sovereignty. And of course the Syrian government condemns such attacks every time they occur.

But in spite of this, the condemnations get limited notice and the status quo continues. In a day or two, or a week or month, there will be another such Israeli attack that will, again, be deemed not newsworthy.

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Palestine (where she lived for nearly four years).

August 23, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, War Crimes | , , | 10 Comments

US has NO mandate to keep troops in Syria & it’s interpretation of international law is ‘ridiculous’: Russian ambassador

By Jonny Tickle | RT | August 10, 2021

Washington has no legal mandate to keep its armed forces in Syria, and the presence of American soldiers in the country contradicts the 2015 UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire and a political settlement.

That’s according to the Russian embassy in Washington, which responded to a tweet by Wayne Marotto, the official military spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the American campaign in the Middle East to defeat ISIS.

Writing on social media, Marotto said that the US has a “clear mandate under international law” to keep boots on the ground in Syria.

On Monday night, the Russian Embassy publicly disagreed.

“It’s a matter of fact that US armed forces have no legal mandate to stay in Syria. Your interpretation of UNSCR 2254 is just ridiculous. Please, read the document thoroughly,” the diplomatic mission said, including a link to the text.

Passed in 2015, UNSCR 2254 calls for all parties to immediately end attacks against civilian targets but allows offensives against groups determined to be “terrorists” by the UN Security Council, such as ISIS. It also planned to create a Syrian-led political transition with free and fair elections.

As things stand, both Moscow and Washington have troops on the ground in Syria. The Russian operation began in 2015, after Syrian President Bashar Assad requested military aid from the Kremlin, in a legal move. However, according to international law, the US military presence is an illegal occupation, because the American troops entered the country without an invitation from the government.

August 10, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 9 Comments

Why Americans No Longer Trust the Biden Administration

By Ron Paul | August 2, 2021

For libertarians – and even many non-libertarians – it’s not shocking to discover that a US Administration lies and deceives the electorate. For government on all levels, lying to the American people is as American as apple pie. Sometimes the liars are held to account for their deception, but most often they are not.

Watching these early months of the Biden Administration it’s hard not to think that lying, deceiving, and manipulation is rising to a whole new level.

Take “ending the endless war” in Afghanistan. President Biden was cheered for achieving what even Donald Trump could not deliver: an end to the pointless 20 year – and several trillion dollar – war in Afghanistan. By the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we were told, the war would be over.

The only people furious about this decision were the bombmakers at Raytheon and the rest of the military-industrial complex and the laptop warriors in the Beltway think tanks. It turns out, they really didn’t need to worry.

The US is not finally leaving the Afghan people alone to run their country as they see fit. Just this week, Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced that the US is increasing – not ending – its airstrikes on Afghanistan. The US would be pulling regular military troops out of the country (though likely keeping CIA, Special Forces, and mercenaries on the ground), but it would continue to bomb Afghanistan using “over the horizon” facilities from the Persian Gulf.

I’m sure that makes Afghan victims of US bombs feel much better.

Then last week Biden announced an “end of the US combat mission” in Iraq by the end of the year. While we’ve heard that line before, still it seemed like good news. However, as usual, the devil was in the details. While the “mission” was over, the US troops would remain in-country in an “advisory role.” This is despite the fact that the Iraqi Parliament formally requested last year that US troops leave the country.

Biden has bombed anti-ISIS militias supported by the Iraqi government twice this year (so far).

The 900 US troops illegally occupying Syrian territory would also remain in-country, the Biden Administration announced last week.

Also, just over a week ago President Biden told us that if we got the vaccine we would not get Covid. Then a few days later his own CDC released data from a Massachusetts study showing that 78 percent of the people who caught Covid were fully vaccinated. Is it any wonder Americans have lost all faith in “the science” as it pours forth from the politicized “scientists” in charge of US public health institutions?

The US mainstream media has morphed into a de-facto arm of the Biden Administration, however, covering up for all of these lies and word-games and holding precisely no one in government accountable. So much for a free media acting as a check on government power.

In fact, any “enemy” country overseas with such a subservient press would be targeted for a State Department color revolution.

Governments lie. We understand that. It is the nature of politics and power. In the absence of independent institutions to hold government accountable, however, such lies become indistinguishable from facts, and soon “freedom” itself becomes slavery, as Orwell wrote. Let’s hope more of America wakes up soon.

Copyright © 2021 by RonPaul Institute

August 2, 2021 Posted by | Deception | , , , , | 3 Comments

Informed sources: Raid on Israeli-managed vessel was retaliation for Israeli raid on Syria

Press TV – July 30, 2021

Informed sources have told Al-Alam television that an attack on an Israeli-managed petroleum products tanker off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea that killed two crew members was in response to an Israeli missile attack on Syria that killed two resistance forces.

The Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned ship, came under attack about 152 nautical miles (280 km) northeast of the Omani port of Duqm on Thursday, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which provides maritime security information.

In a statement on Friday, Zodiac Maritime, the Israeli-owned firm managing the oil tanker, claimed that two crewmen, a Briton and a Romanian, had been killed in the assault.

“Details of the incident are still being established and an investigation into the incident is currently underway. We continue to work closely with the UKMTO and other relevant authorities,” London-based Zodiac said on its website.

It also said it was “not aware of harm to any other personnel” than the British and Romanian crewmen who were allegedly killed.

According to Refinitiv ship tracking, the medium-size tanker was headed to Fujairah, a port and oil terminal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), from Tanzania. Earlier on Friday, the firm described the incident as suspected piracy, but the UKMTO categorized it as not piracy-related.

The company said the vessel was now sailing under the control of its crew and on its own power to a safe location with a US naval escort.

In recent months, several other Israeli ships have come under apparent attacks on various maritime routes across the world. Earlier in the month, a fire broke out on an Israeli-owned cargo ship after it was struck by an “unidentified weapon” in the northern Indian Ocean. Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen television network said the Israeli vessel had been on route to the coast of the UAE when it was attacked.

Back in February, an Israeli-owned ship was hit by an explosion in the sea of Oman. In April, another Israeli ship came under attack off the coast of the UAE.

The attacks come against a backdrop of the Israeli regime’s various assaults on cargo ships across the Persian Gulf region and elsewhere.

July 30, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 4 Comments

Syrian air defense units intercept Israeli missiles near Damascus, thwarting THIRD raid in a week – Russian MoD

RT | July 26, 2021

The Syrian military has intercepted two missiles fired by Israeli fighter jets at Damascus suburb of Sayyidah Zaynab over the weekend, successfully thwarting the third such airstrike in a week, using Russian-made air defense systems.

The airstrike was carried out from outside the Syrian airspace, around 5:40am Sunday morning, when two Israeli F-16 jets fired two guided missiles, targeting unspecified facilities in the town of Set (Sayyidah) Zaynab some 10km south of Damascus.

Syrian air defense units – equipped with Russian-made Buk-M2E systems – successfully intercepted both of them, the head of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria, Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit, said in a daily briefing.

On Wednesday night, two Israeli F-16 jets fired four guided missiles from Lebanese airspace at Syria’s Homs province. All of them were shot down, also using Russian-made Buk-M2Es.

On Monday night, four Israeli jets penetrated Syrian airspace through the area of At-Tanf on the Jordanian border, controlled by the US military, and fired eight missiles into Aleppo province. Seven of them were reportedly shot down by Buk-M2 and Pantsir-S systems, but the remaining one struck a scientific research facility in the town of Safira.

While Israeli officials rarely acknowledge such raids, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) warplanes routinely rained down missiles on Syrian territory over the past years, under the pretext of self-defense against the “Iranian threat.”

Damascus has always protested the repeated attacks as blatant acts of aggression, while Russia, Turkey and Iran recently jointly condemned Israeli raids as violations of sovereignty and international humanitarian laws.

July 25, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Iraqi politicians slam Turkey’s interventionist remarks, vow strong response

Press TV – July 22, 2021 

A number of Iraqi politicians and lawmakers have reacted to recent interventionist remarks by Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu during his recent visit to the city of Sirnak in southeastern Turkey, vowing a strong response to any infringement of the Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity.

According to a report by Rudaw news agency on Thursday, during his visit to Sirnak, the Turkish minister claimed that establishing peace in Muslim countries, including Iraq and Syria, was Turkey’s responsibility.

Soylu’s comment reverberated widely through social media platforms, enraging Iraqi people and politicians.

Ra’ad Hussein, representative of Saairun Alliance affiliated with Iraq’s influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said the sovereignty of Iraq is beyond all considerations and the positions of the Sadr movement in this regard are clear.

“The Sadr movement is totally Iraqi and has no links to foreign countries, and it prefers the interests of Iraq over all interests, and to this end, the head of al-Sadr’s bloc decided to withdraw from the elections,” Hussein said.

“Our position is firm, which means that we will sever ties with any of the neighboring or regional countries if they do not have a positive attitude towards Iraq,” he added.

Hussein underlined that such statements, whether made by Turkish or other officials, are unacceptable and no one will ever be able to encroach on a single inch of Iraqi soil.

Iraqi Shia cleric Ammar al-Hakim took to Twitter on Wednesday, calling on neighboring countries to respect Iraq’s sovereignty.

Hakim, who heads Iraq’s National Wisdom Movement political bloc, said, “Achieving peace in the region and the world comes through the interaction of states among themselves in accordance with international covenants and cooperation based on the foundations of mutual relations and common interest.”

He added, “It is not allowed to compromise the sovereignty of Iraq and for its land to be infringed,” without making any direct reference to Turkey.

Meanwhile, Iraqi MP and member of the Law Coalition, Kadhem Finjan al-Hamami, reacted to Turkish minister’s remarks, saying that the Turkish provocations were not the first of its kind in clear reference to Turkey’s deforestation of Kurdish areas and the continuous attacks on the Iraqi territory under the pretext of fighting Kurdish separatists.

“There have been no reactions from the Iraqi government or the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) towards all these attacks on Iraqi lands,” he said, adding that the Turkish government believes that “Iraq and the neighboring countries are a subject of the Ottoman Empire.”

July 22, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Israel Was First Nation to Skyjack A Civilian Airliner

By Donald Neff | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs | November/December 1994, Pages 71-72

It was 40 years ago that Israel conducted the first skyjacking of a civilian airliner. On Dec. 12, 1954, Israeli warplanes forced a Syrian Airways Dakota passenger craft carrying four passengers and five crewmen to land at Lydda airport inside Israel.1 The passengers were interrogated for two days before international protests, including strong complaints from Washington, finally convinced Israel to release the plane and its passengers.2

Moshe Sharett, who as Israel’s foreign minister had to explain the incident to the international community, was privately appalled by it. He recorded in his diary: “I have no reason to doubt the truth of the factual affirmation of the U.S. State Department that our action was without precedent in the history of international practice. What shocks and worries me is the narrow-mindedness and the short-sightedness of our military leaders. They seem to presume that the state of Israel may—or even must—behave in the realm of international relations according to the laws of the jungle.”3

The purpose of the unprecedented skyjacking, according to Sharett, was Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan’s ambition “to get hostages in order to obtain the release of our prisoners in Damascus.”4 The reference was to an incident that had occurred four days earlier. Five Israeli soldiers were captured retrieving tapping devices on Syrian telephone lines on the Golan Heights inside Syria. Israel expressed outrage at the imprisonment of the soldiers but Syria refused to release them. 5

Israeli passions were riled even further the next month when one of the Israeli soldiers, Uri Ilan, son of a former Mapam member of parliament, committed suicide in jail on Jan. 13, 1955. Although the Israeli press loudly charged Syria with torture, an examination by the United Nations showed “no signs of physical ill-treatment.”6

But still Syria refused to release the prisoners, pointing out that Israel was holding Syrian civilians prisoner. The impasse contributed to an even graver incident toward the end of the year. On Dec. 11, 1955, Israel sent two paratroop battalions backed by artillery and mortar batteries under the command of Ariel Sharon, later Israel’s defense minister, against Syrian military posts at Buteiha Farm and Koursi near the northeast shore of Lake Tiberias.

It was Israel’s largest military raid inside Syria up to that time and resulted in 56 Syrian deaths, including three women, and nine wounded. Significantly Israel also took 30 prisoners, whom it later used as hostages to exchange for the four Israelis held by Syria.The United States expressed its “shock” at the raid and supported a resolution by the United Nations Security Council that unanimously condemned Israel for its “flagrant violation” of the armistice agreement.8

French Ambassador to the U.N. Herv Alphand observed that the condemnation resolution of Israel was “the strongest ever passed by the council.”It was the fifth time the council had condemned, censured, called on and otherwise passed resolutions critical of Israel.

Israel insisted the raid was simply in retaliation for Syrian troops firing at an Israeli patrol boat on Lake Tiberias the previous day, in which there had been no casualties. But the explanation was widely disbelieved. Canadian General E.L.M. Burns, the chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization, bluntly wrote:

“No one with any knowledge of military affairs would believe that such an elaborate, coordinated attack had not been planned well before, and probably rehearsed. Certainly it was not improvised in a few hours…. The reasons given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement were only an excuse, and not a very good one.”10

In fact, like most major actions in the Middle East, there was far more than just retaliation behind the raid. At the time, it was widely suspected that Israel’s main motive in launching the heavy attack was primarily to punish Syria for keeping the four Israeli soldiers prisoners. But it turned out that was just one of the reasons. Israeli historian Benny Morris reports that primarily the attack was meant as a provocation to goad Egypt into attacking Israel and thus start a war. “This,” wrote Morris, “was the thinking behind the strike.”11

The timing was dictated by two events during the previous three months: Egypt and Syria had signed a mutual defense pact on Oct. 20, 1955, and on Sept. 27 Egypt had announced its historic “Czech” arms deal, shocking Israel by the fact that Egypt was about to start receiving massive quantities of Soviet weapons. In the event, Egypt did not respond to the attack on the Golan and Israel had to wait nearly another year before taking on itself the burden of attacking Egypt to start a war.

ANOTHER MOTIVE

There was also another motive behind the attack. It had to do with Israel’s long- term policy to establish exclusive control over Lake Tiberias, the biblical Sea of Galilee, which lay within Israeli territory, and the three demilitarized zones (DMZs) that lay along the Israeli-Syrian frontier in the Jordan Valley.

Palestinians and Syrians insisted on fishing in the lake and were a constant source of friction, especially during mid-November to mid-April, which marked the official fishing season. Israel denied Arabs had any rights to fish there, citing the fact that the Mandate governments over Palestine and Syria had agreed in the 1920s that the frontier followed the east shore of the lake at a distance set back 10 meters parallel to the water.

However, the Arabs countered that under Anglo-French agreements of Feb. 3, 1922, June 23, 1923 and Feb. 2, 1926, Syrians were given “the same fishing and navigation rights on Lakes Huleh and Tiberias… as the inhabitants of Palestine” and also the right to “enjoy grazing, watering and cultivations rights” and to “cross the frontier freely.”12

Nonetheless, Israel insisted on keeping Arab fishermen away from the lake, by force if necessary. It further lacerated relations with Syria by chasing Palestinian farmers out of the DMZs near the lake in violation of the truce of 1949, which held the farmers should be allowed to remain. Israel’s forceful takeover of the DMZs left the Palestinian farmers and fishermen denied access to their fields or fishing grounds embittered and angry. A later UNTSO chief of staff, Norwegian General Odd Bull, who served during the 1960s, wrote:

“I imagine that a number of those evicted settled somewhere in the Golan Heights and that their children have watched the land that had been in their families for hundreds of years being cultivated by Israeli farmers. From time to time they opened fire on these farmers. That, of course, was a violation of the armistice agreement, though I could not help thinking that in similar circumstances Norwegian peasants would almost certainly have acted in the same way. In the course of time all the Arab villages [in the DMZs] disappeared.”13

So too did the Arab fishermen. In 1967 Israel conquered the whole area, including the Golan Heights, and chased out all of the Arabs. It is Israel’s continuing occupation of this land that today remains the major impediment to peace between Israel and Syria.

Recommended Reading:

Bull, Odd, War and Peace in the Middle East: The Experiences and Views of a U.N. Observer, London, Leo Cooper, 1976.

Burns, Lt. Gen. E. L. M., Between Arab and Israeli, New York, Ivan Obolensky, 1962.

Chomsky, Noam, The Fateful Triangle, Boston, South End Press, 1983.

*Chomsky, Noam, Pirates & Emperors: International Terrorism in the Real World, Brattleboro, VT, Amana Books, 1986.

Khouri, Fred J., The Arab-Israeli Dilemma, Syracuse, NY, Syracuse University Press, 1985.

Morris, Benny, The Birth of the Palestine Refugee Problem, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Morris, Benny, Israel’s Border Wars: 1949-1956, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1993.

*Neff, Donald, Warriors at Suez: Eisenhower Takes America Into the Middle East, Brattleboro, VT, Amana Books, 1988.

Rokach, Livia, Israel’s Sacred Terrorism: A Study Based on Moshe Sharett’s Personal Diary and Other Documents, Belmont, MA, Association of Arab-American University Graduates, Inc., 1980.

Von Horn, Carl, Soldiering for Peace, New York, David McKay Company, Inc., 1967.

Notes:

New York Times, 12/13/54.

2 Associated Press, New York Times, 12/15/54.

3 Rokach, Israel’s Sacred Terrorism, pp. 20-21. For an analysis of Sharett’s lengthy diaries, see “Secrets of State: An Analysis of the Diaries of Moshe Sharett,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Autumn 1980, pp. 35-57.

4 Chomsky, Pirates and Emperors, p. 84.

5 Morris, Israel’s Border Wars, p. 366.

6 Burns, Between Arab and Israeli, p. 109.

Ibid., p. 108; Morris, Israel’s Border Wars, p. 366n.

8 Resolution 111. The text is in Tomeh, George J., United Nations Resolutions on Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: 1947-1974, Washington, DC, Institute for Palestine Studies, 1975, p. 137; the text of the U.S. statement is in Boudreault, Jody and Eric Fortin, U.S. Official Statements: The Golan Heights, Washington, DC, Institute for Palestine Studies, 1993, pp. 27-28.

9 Neff, Warriors for Jerusalem, 118.

10 Burns, Between Arab and Israeli , p. 108.

11 Morris, Israel’s Border Wars, p. 364.

12 Khouri, The Arab-Israeli Dilemma, p. 194.

13 Bull, War and Peace in the Middle East, pp. 50-51.

*Available through the AET Book Club

Donald Neff is author of the Warriors trilogy on U.S.-Middle East relations and of the unpublished Middle East Handbook, a chronological data bank of significant events affecting U.S. policy and the Middle East on which this article is based. His books are available through the AET Book Club.

July 19, 2021 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Russia’s about-face on Syria’s Idlib is the opening gambit of a larger diplomatic chess game

By Scott Ritter | RT | July 17, 2021

The Russian vote at the UN Security Council in favor of extending a humanitarian air corridor into Syria has been touted by the US government as a victory of American diplomacy. Moscow might have other ideas.

In a rare display of diplomatic cooperation, the US and Russia agreed last week on a one-year extension of the UN Security Council authorization for humanitarian aid supplies to reach northern Syria through the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the border with Turkey.

The Biden administration had made the extension of this authorization its highest priority when it came to US-Syrian policy. For its part, Russia had long been hesitant to allow such an extension, insisting it should be replaced by cross-line humanitarian deliveries.

It’s been alleged that the Bab al-Hawa crossing point was being used to resupply Islamic militant groups opposed to the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad that are operating inside Idlib province, which borders Turkey.

Russia’s vote in favor of the extension for up to 12 months took many observers by surprise, given Moscow’s past objections.

The US media called it a victory for the Biden administration, underscoring the importance of the June summit meeting between the US president and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Geneva, Switzerland. The US made Syria, and in particular the issue of continued access by humanitarian organizations to refugee camps located in Idlib, a high priority at that meeting. The fact that Moscow and Washington have reached a compromise on the operation of the Bab al-Hawa crossing, from the perspective of Russia, was a clear sign regarding the efficacy of the Geneva process.

“We hope that it might be a turning point that is indeed in line with what Putin and Biden discussed in Geneva,” Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters after the vote.

The situation, however, is far more complicated than the zero-sum diplomatic game being promoted in the US mainstream media. Idlib isn’t just a repository of internal refugees from the decade-long civil conflict that has wracked Syria since 2011 – it is the final redoubt of foreign-backed Islamic militants who have been waging a bloody fight against the Russian-backed Syrian government. The Islamic militant groups, many of which are allied with Al-Qaeda, once controlled much of the Syrian countryside and were operating in the suburbs of the Syrian capital of Damascus.

The decision by the Russian government to intervene militarily on the side of Assad in September 2015 helped turn the tide against the Islamic militant forces. Over the course of the next three years, the Syrian army, backed on the ground by Hezbollah and pro-Iranian militias, and in the air by the Russian Air Force, was able to recapture all of the militant-held territory save for the last remaining bastion in Idlib.

The situation inside Idlib is complex, with the various factions among the Islamic militants fighting among themselves to establish primacy. Many of these groups, including Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), are reportedly reliant upon foreign support for their survival and have been linked to both Turkey and the US in terms of serving as an anti-Assad proxy force. Recent claims by the exiled Turkish mafia leader Sedat Peker regarding the alleged shipment of “billions of dollars” worth of military equipment disguised as humanitarian aid to HTS and other anti-Assad groups operating inside Idlib only reinforced the concerns of the opponents to keeping the Bab al-Hawa crossing open.

There is a real humanitarian crisis ongoing inside Idlib, where millions of Syrian citizens remain housed in refugee camps that are little more than tent cities erected in open fields. The refugees are totally dependent upon international aid groups for the essentials of life, including food, water, shelter and medicine. With the restoration of central government control over much of Syria, however, and the willingness on the part of the Syrian government to resettle these refugees back in their original homes without any threat of retribution or retaliation, there is a growing sentiment among the Russian and Syrian government that the refugees have become little more than political pawns used by Syria’s many enemies, including Turkey and the US, to create the perception of a despotic regime while fostering continued instability inside Idlib that serves as an engine to motivate and recruit new anti-Assad fighters.

This reality served as the core argument underpinning the Russian objection to keeping the Bab al-Hawa crossing open. There is another reality, however, which also guided the Russian decision, namely the lack of a viable military solution to the problem of Idlib. Russia and the Syrian government are committed to a course of action that has the Syrian government asserting control over the totality of Syrian sovereign territory – including Idlib.

While Russia and Syria continue to conduct airstrikes against Islamic militant positions inside Idlib, and the Syrian army and its allies likewise exert pressure on Islamic militant forces on the ground, the feeling in both Moscow and Damascus is that the problem of Idlib cannot be resolved through force of arms unless one is willing to unleash a bloodbath that would cause more problems than it would solve.

The key to a solution in Idlib is for both Turkey and the US to recognize the futility of continuing to use it as a base of anti-Assad activity, and to finally give up on their dreams of regime change in Damascus. Such a policy change, however, will not happen overnight and will require considerable diplomatic cooperation on the part of all parties involved – including Russia. The Russian agreement to keep the Bab al-Hawa crossing open for another year, when seen in this light, represents the opening round of a lengthy diplomatic battle over the future of Idlib, Syria and the Middle East as a whole.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘SCORPION KING: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.’ He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector.

July 17, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 4 Comments

The progressive civil war over Syria and Assad exposes an astonishing lack of intellectual curiosity by some on the American Left

By Scott Ritter | RT | July 7, 2021

Truth and politics are often mutually exclusive concepts when dealing with the progressive American Left. This unfortunate fact is being driven home in spades in an ongoing spat between two lefty online personalities.

Anyone following Aaron Maté (149K followers on Twitter); The Young Turks (TYT, with 440K followers as an institution, and as many followers each tracking the activity of co-hosts Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian); the comedian Jimmy Dore (274K followers); or any number of other Twitter personalities whose online paths have crossed with any of the above; knows these left-leaning social media stars have been engaged in a vicious feud. Full disclosure, I have appeared on both Maté’s podcast, Pushback, as well as The Young Turks radio show. At issue is Syria and, more pointedly, the contention by both Uygur and Kasparian that Maté is shilling for President Bashar Assad.

A tale of two narratives

The sheer drama and vitriol which has emerged as a result of this feud has been entertaining for those who get a kick out of leftwing internecine warfare. Maté’s use of Jimmy Dore’s popular online program The Jimmy Dore Show as a platform for promoting his arguments has torn the scab off old wounds created when Dore left The Young Turks and struck out on his own, appears to underpin at least some of Uygur and Kasparian’s anti-Maté invective. However, more interesting is the fact that, as Maté pointed out in a recent interview with The Hill, the progressive wing of the American Left has hit a brick wall over the issue of Syria. Criticism of Assad has run up against the lies used to sustain US military hegemony in the Middle East.

“I think,” Maté noted, “that that meltdown reflects just like a general hostility they [The Young Turks] have towards people who are upholding actual progressive values and upholding actual journalism standards.” While the smear campaign waged by Uygur and Kasparian has been as unconscionable as it has been factually wrong, the fact that there is controversy among the progressive wing of the American political Left should not surprise anyone.

As Maté observed, “[t]he reason why they slandered me at that time is because I was in Syria and Syria is a, you know, touchy subject for many people on the Left. It has been divisive.”

Syria is a touchy subject, especially for progressives who primarily focus on notions of human rights and democratic values. Maté has come under attack for taking a contrarian stance on two of the most hot-button issues surrounding Assad: allegations of chemical weapons use, and the suppression of political free will through the conduct of elections designed to keep the reins of political power in Syria firmly in his hands. (It should be pointed out that Maté is joined by other outstanding progressive journalists, including Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Rania Khalek, and many others whose informative work predates Maté’s on the issue of Syria.)

Chemical weapons, denial and disproval

If there is a case to be made that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own population, it has not yet been made by anyone. The most widely cited incident in terms of casualties (i.e., the primary discriminator for any argument seeking to label Assad a “mass murderer”) is that which occurred in the early morning hours of August 21, 2013, in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. While the number of casualties involved remains unclear (estimates range from 281 to 1,729 people killed, with the higher figure largely agreed to be problematic), what is not up for dispute is the fact that, as the official UN report into the incident concluded, there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Sarin gas was used in the Ghouta incident.

While the UN was precluded by mandate from allocating responsibility for the attack, the US government, together with other organizations such as Human Rights Watch, aggressively asserted that the Syrian government was solely to blame. These claims, however, were not backed up by the science on the ground. A detailed forensic analysis of the rocket used in the Ghouta attack – an improvised 330mm-to-350mm rocket equipped with a large receptacle on its nose to hold chemicals—by Richard Lloyd, a former United Nations weapons inspector, and Theodore Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, undermined the claims made by the US government assigning culpability for the attack. Not only were the weapons used not included in the arsenal of chemical weapons declared by the Syrian government to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) which oversaw the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons capability between 2013-2014, but the short range of the weapon made its being fired from government-held territory impossible.

Seymor Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, published an article in the London Review of Books in December 2013 which outlined a case for Turkish complicity in helping arm the rebels with Sarin nerve agent. Hersh’s claims were vindicated by Turkish media reports, quoting Turkish members of parliament, who outlined the factual case sustaining Hersh’s key point that the Turkish government was behind the Ghouta attack. New analysis of the Ghouta attack reinforces the findings of Lloyd and Postol, assigning a 96% probability that the Sarin attack of August 21, 2013, was carried out by anti-Assad rebels. Moreover, this finding is supported by video evidence, authenticated on June 21, 2021, which shows the rebels firing the Sarin-filled rockets on the day in question. Long story short – the Sarin attack used by President Assad’s opponents as evidence of his status as a mass murderer was not the work of the Syrian government.

Allegations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government are numerous, as is the mountain of evidence which shows these claims to be as false as the ones made regarding the Ghouta attack. Central to the ongoing TYT-Maté dispute is the Douma incident of April 7, 2018, where once again the Syrian government was accused of employing chemical weapons against civilians, killing scores. The US government used the allegations as justification to launch air strikes against the Syrian government. The US case for military action, always weak, was further undermined by reporting from Maté that exposed the lies of the OPCW in bending to US pressure to falsify evidence in order to sustain the justification for US airstrikes.

The attention Maté received as a result of his outstanding reporting on Douma considerably raised his profile – he was invited to testify at an Arria-Formula Meeting at the UN Security Council in September 2020 on the Douma controversy. But it also opened him up to attacks by TYT, with co-host Kasparian deriding Maté as “the guy who denies that Syrian children were killed with chemical attacks.”

What Kasparian and her co-host Uygur get wrong is the fact that Maté does not deny anything, he simply reports the facts, which sustain the truth about the Douma attack – that it was a false-flag incident perpetrated by the Syrian rebels. Similar to what transpired at Ghouta in August 2013 – which set up the Syrian government to be attacked by the US in retaliation.

Intellectual incuriosity

However, one of the big problems with Maté’s reporting for the progressive wing of the American Left is that, in order to embrace it, they would need to radically alter their view about the legitimacy of the Assad regime, something they are loath to do. The formulation which sustains the current policy position of the progressive Left on Assad is that he is a brutal dictator who has, and will again, use chemical weapons against those who oppose him. The simplicity of this line of argument is that, so long as one can sustain the narrative that Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people, delving into a fact-based discussion about whether or not he is a brutal dictator is avoided by the logic that any man who uses chemical weapons against his own people is, by definition, a brutal dictator.

The reporting done by Maté and others on the allegations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government has, by proving these allegations wrong, undermined the foundational argument used to sustain the notion of Bashar Assad as a brutal dictator. Stripped of this core argument, Assad’s critics are now called upon to venture into uncharted waters (at least for them) and examine the personal biography of the man they detest, the circumstances surrounding his rise to power, and the nature of his political struggle against deeply entrenched special interest groups opposed to meaningful political reform.

They would also have to examine the complicated relationship between Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood, and the role played by the Turkish government in promoting Muslim Brotherhood activities inside Syria. Any honest evaluation of Syria under Bashar Assad would also be compelled to look at the role of the drought that ravaged Syria between 2006-2011, collapsing the agricultural industry and forcing some 1.5 million rural Syrians to seek refuge in major urban centers such as Homs, Aleppo, and Damascus. The role played by Saudi Arabia in channeling reconstruction money into Syria would also need further examination, along with how this money was used to build mosques promoting Saudi-backed Salafist Islam that ran counter to the secular ideology of the Assad regime.

Lastly, the role played by the US, both in terms of destabilizing the entire region by invading Iraq in 2003, and the role that conflict had on radicalizing Islamic resistance inside Syria would have to be considered. As would the decision, following the Arab Spring of 2010-11, to begin providing training, money, weapons and other support to anti-Assad forces backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers.

The resulting civil conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced several million Syrians from their homes. The involvement of Iran, Hezbollah and Russia on the side of Syria, when combined with the false allegations of chemical weapons use by the Assad government, made it easy for the progressive wing of the American Left to condemn these interventions. However, that ignores the reality that, unlike every other foreign military presence inside Syria, these came at the invitation of the Syrian government and, as such, have a legitimacy under international law the others cannot claim. When the chemical weapons allegations are stripped away, the moral foundation for opposing Iranian, Hezbollah and Russian intervention collapses.

The fact of the matter is that the reporting by Maté and others deconstructed the lies about the Syrian government’s role in the chemical weapons attacks alleged by the US, OPCW and Syrian opposition and, simultaneously, exposed the dearth of intellectual curiosity on the part of Assad’s critics – especially among the ranks of the progressive Left. The antics of The Young Turks in attacking Maté, Dore, and anyone else (including myself) who dares seek a fact-based discussion about the true nature of Syria and its president only highlights how far many mainstream American progressives have fallen when it comes to Syria. Their claims to embrace fact and intellectual curiosity in the exploration of complex social, political, and economic issues fall flat when it comes to who rules Damascus.

Whether they can recover from this collapse of moral authority and lack of intellectual integrity is unknown. The answer hinges on their willingness to re-engage with a clean slate that allows all arguments to be heard and discussed free of the kind of rancor shown to Maté by The Young Turks. As of this writing, I wouldn’t hold my breath. But in the end, it does not matter – if the Syrian reality could survive US-backed jihadists, it will survive the fiction based, angst-driven antics of an American political elite that has become irrelevant and inconsequential in any universe except the one it currently occupies for its own edification and entertainment.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘SCORPION KING: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.’ He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector.

July 8, 2021 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment