The head of a prominent Syrian Kurdish militia said Turkish military deployments in northwestern Syria amount to a ‘declaration of war,’ Reuters reports. ‘These [Turkish] preparations have reached level of a declaration of war and could lead to the outbreak of actual clashes in the coming days,’ YPG commander Sipan Hemo told Reuters. ‘We will not stand idly by against this potential aggression.’ The YPG, a Kurdish acronym for ‘People’s Protection Units,’ is the armed wing of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), and one of the main groups within the U. S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF launched an operation to expel the Islamic State from its de facto capital of Raqqa in early June, taking territory along the Euphrates River to the south of the town, and just this week punching through the ancient Rafiqah Wall that surrounds Raqqa’s Old City. Turkey, for its part, was apoplectic over the American administration’s decision to not only work with, but arm, the Syrian Kurds, and as late as April outright threatened military action. Indeed, clashes broke out over the period of several days between the two sides soon after that threat in late April; the exchange left 11 Kurdish fighters dead.
On Saturday, president Trump signed three more executive orders aimed at fighting terrorism and corruption. They follow yesterday’s order for a temporarily ban on immigrants from certain countries entering the U. S. Today’s actions are as follows: EO #1: Implementing a five year lobbying ban on administration officials. “This is something I’ve talked about a lot on the campaign trail… and now we’re putting it into effect,” said Trump. EO #2: Calling for a reorganization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council. EO #3: Calling on military leaders to present a report to the president in 30 days that outlines a strategy for defeating ISIS. “This is the plan to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, in other words ISIS. I think it’s going to be very successful.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 28, 2017.
One day after Julian Assange officially revealed for the first time that the source of hacked Podesta and DNC emails in Wikileaks’ possession is not Russia, in the second excerpt from the John Pilger Special, to be broadcast by RT on Saturday Julian Assange accuses Hillary Clinton of misleading Americans about the true scope of Islamic State’s support from Washington’s Middle East allies. As previously reported, in an August 17, 2014 email made public WikiLeaks last month, Hillary Clinton, who had served as secretary of state until the year before, urges John Podesta, then an advisor to Barack Obama, to ‘bring pressure’ on Qatar and Saudi Arabia, ‘which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIS and other radical Sunni groups.’ “I think this is the most significant email in the whole collection,’ Assange, whose whistleblowing site released three tranches of Clinton-related emails over the past year, told Pilger in the interview. ‘All serious analysts know, and even the US government has agreed, that some Saudi figures have been supporting ISIS and funding ISIS, but the dodge has always been that it is some ‘rogue’ princes using their oil money to do whatever they like, but actually the government disapproves. But that email says that it is the government of Saudi Arabia, and the government of Qatar that have been funding ISIS.’ As recounted by RT, Assange and Pilger, who sat down for their 25-minute interview at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where the whistleblower has been a refugee since 2012, also talked about the conflict of interest between Clinton’s official post, her husband’s nonprofit, and the Middle East officials, whose stated desire to fight terrorism may not have been sincere.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 4, 2016.
Mustafa Denktas had twin sons. One of them, a Kurdish militant, was killed fighting the Turkish army in 2012. Denktas was still in mourning when news arrived three weeks later that the other son had met the same fate. Back then Turkey’s war with separatist Kurds, however bloody and protracted, was essentially a domestic issue. Now it’s an international conflict. When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent his army into Syria last month, he wasn’t just striking a blow against Islamic State: a second goal was to stop Kurds from creating a de facto state. That’s the element of Erdogan’s Syrian gambit that poses the biggest political risks. It threatens to ensnare his soldiers in a civil war that’s already lasted 5 1/2 years, and drive a wedge between Turkey and its NATO allies – especially the U. S., which considers the Syrian Kurds an ally against Islamic extremists. When Moody’s Investors Service cut Turkey’s rating to junk last week, it cited ‘the persistence of geopolitical threats’ among other reasons. Erdogan is trying to stem a tide that turned more than two decades ago, when war in Iraq left Kurds in charge of that country’s oil-rich north. Since 2011, civil war has given a similar opportunity to Syrian Kurds, who now control of much of the territory along the 900-kilometer border with Turkey. Among the world’s largest ethnic groups without a state of their own, the Kurds can now glimpse a viable one.
Donald Trump’s most recent foreign policy speech, in which he explained how he would deal with the Islamic State (ISIL) and the Middle East in general, contained multitudes – everything good and everything questionable about his brand of ‘America First’ nationalism. Here is Trumpism on full display, the common-sensical and the nonsensical intertwined. While I realize a presidential election campaign is not the time for nuance, it behooves us to pull apart these disparate strands if we want to understand this moment in our history. He starts out by defining the problem: the series of attacks that have horrified the world and flummoxed our law enforcement agencies. And what’s notable here is that he just doesn’t talk about what’s going on overseas, as you might expect in a speech ostensibly about foreign policy: he talks about San Bernardino and Orlando alongside Paris and Brussels. In short, he brings it all home. This underscores his entire orientation: it’s what ‘America First’ is all about. Why should Americans care about ISIL? Well, folks, says Trump, it’s because they’re attacking us right here on the home front. Contrast this with the usual neocon-Hillaryite politically correct gobbledygook: we have to spread Democracy and Goodness throughout the Middle East! They don’t have gay rights in Afghanistan! We must defend the ‘international order’! There’s the problem: ISIL. So what caused it? Trump’s answer: ‘The rise of ISIS is the direct result of policy decisions made by President Obama and Secretary Clinton.’
Remember ‘We’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here’? That was the justification for the worldwide war on terrorism the Bush administration trumpeted in the early days of the post-9/11 era. Keeping in mind that the American people don’t really care about what goes on thousands of miles away, and that the purpose of our foreign policy is – ostensibly – to keep us safe here at home, the Bushies and their neocon Praetorian Guard always kept their focus on the threat that was supposedly hanging over our heads: another 9/11. As that Old Right prophet Garet Garrett put it some sixty years ago, US foreign policy was rationalized to the public with ‘a complex of vaunting and fear,’ and this was the fear part. But now we hear that the latest iteration of the Terrorist Threat – ISIS – is losing ground in Syria, its home base: some 12 percent of its territory has been lost to a combination of opponents, and the Caliphate, we’re told, is shrinking. So does that mean the Terrorist Threat is abating, and we can get back to living our lives? Heck no! As CNN reports: ‘IHS [Information Handling Services] senior analyst Columb Strack says that ‘as the Islamic State’s caliphate shrinks and it becomes increasingly clear that its governance project is failing, the group is re-prioritizing insurgency.’ ‘He told CNN: ‘As a result, we unfortunately expect an increase in mass casualty attacks and sabotage of economic infrastructure, across Iraq and Syria, and further afield, including Europe.’ ‘In other words, ISIS is going to become a more ‘traditional’ terror group, boasting of its international reach to attract recruits and bolster morale as it loses ground in Iraq and Syria.’ So let’s see if I have this straight: we fought them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here, but now that we’re winning over there they’re coming over there. Got that?
When I first heard that Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) under President Obama, was rumored to be on Donald Trump’s short list for the GOP vice presidential nomination, my ears pricked up. I wrote about Flynn here, and Antiwar.com has covered thecontroversy surrounding the 2012 DIA report that warned the Obama administration that its policy of regime change in Syria would lead to the rise of a Sunni Islamic ‘caliphate’ in Syria – a warning that fell on deaf ears. Flynn was forced out of his job as DIA director because, he says, his views ‘did not fit the narrative.’ But what narrative is he talking about? In order to understand this intramural fight within the highest levels of the intelligence and military communities, we have to go back to the Bush administration, and the Iraq war. As the US was fighting a losing battle against Iraqi insurgents, Gen. David Petraeus arose to show us the way forward, and the myth of the successful ‘surge’ was born. The Petraeus strategy was to recruit Sunni tribesmen in the Iraqi hinterlands bordering Syria to fight al-Qaeda, to win their ‘hearts and minds.’ In reality, this meant putting them on the American payroll: we’ll never know how many millions of taxpayer dollars went to financing this effort, but no doubt it was a considerable sum. As the tribes took on al-Qaeda, the ‘surge’ was declared a success – but the blowback wasn’t long in coming. These same tribes soon turned against the central government in Baghdad, and their American protectors, while the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq migrated across the border to Syria, where they became the core of what morphed into ISIS. Those Sunni ‘hearts and minds’ were now pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ‘caliph’ of the Islamic State. The Petraeus strategy was the logical extension of the Bush administration’s ‘Sunni turn,’ which Seymour Hersh writes about here:
Late Thursday evening, the Wall Street Journal reported, 51 State Department officials signed a statement condemning U. S. policy in Syria in which they repeatedly call for ‘targeted military strikes against the Damascus government and urging regime change as the only way to defeat Islamic State.’ ‘In other words,’ as Zero Hedge summarized, ‘over 50 top ‘diplomats’ are urging to eliminate [Syrian Pres. Bashar al] Assad in order to ‘defeat ISIS’, the same ISIS which top US ‘diplomats’ had unleashed previously in order to … eliminate Assad.’ This gordian knot created by United States foreign policy – and intensified by that same policy – means not only could war with Syria be on the horizon, but if that happens, the U. S. could be facing a far more serious threat. While discontented officials used what’s known as the ‘Dissent Channel’ -’an official forum that allows employees to express opposing views,’ State Department spokesman John Kirby explained in the WSJ – Saudi government officials employed more direct means to press their interests with the U. S. in Syria. In a meeting with President Obama on Friday, Saudi foreign minister Adel al Jubair asserted, ‘Saudi Arabia supports a more aggressive military approach in Syria to get Assad to agree to a political solution,’ as CBS’ Mark Knollertweeted. Of course, this meeting and the push for increased military force couldn’t be more timely to drum up public support, as a heated national debate has ensued following the deadly attack on an Orlando nightclub purportedlycarried out by Omar Mateen – who pledged loyalty to ISIS as he killed 49 people and wounded over 50 others.
Global military spending increased to $1.7 trillion in 2015, with the U. S. being the biggest spender by a wide margin. A new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Instituteshows that military expenditures across the globe climbed by 1 percent from the previous year, the first such increase since 2011. The growth was driven by spending in Central and Eastern Europe, Asia and Oceania, and some states in the Middle East, according to the study. Overall, military expenditures were equal to 2.3 percent of the global gross domestic product. The data is culled from various sources, including a questionnaire that is sent out annually to national governments. Some countries, such as China, do not participate and estimates are used. A handful of countries, including Cuba and Uzbekistan, are excluded due to a lack of trustworthy data. The report attributes the uptick in spending to a number of complex conflicts currently playing out around the globe, including: the battle against the Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria; Chinese expansion in the South China Sea; the Saudi-led war in Yemen; heightened fears of Iran’s military; and Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continued support of separatists in Ukraine.
Russia has promised to protect Kurdish fighters in Syria in case of a ground offensive by Turkey, a move that would lead to a ‘big war,’ the Syrian group’s envoy to Moscow said in an interview on Wednesday. ‘We take this threat very seriously because the ruling party in Turkey is a party of war,’ Rodi Osman, head of the Syrian Kurds’ newly-opened representative office said in Kurdish via a Russian interpreter. ‘Russia will respond if there is an invasion. This isn’t only about the Kurds, they will defend the territorial sovereignty of Syria.’ Conflicting interests in Syria have created a dangerous new phase in the country’s five-year war, even as world powers struggle to implement a truce agreement. Turkey fears Kurdish gains along its border will morph into an autonomous state and inspire similar ambitions among its own Kurdish minority. But a ground intervention risks conflict with Russia, which backs the Kurds militarily, and would anger the U. S., which sees the group as a major ally in the fight against Islamic State. Turkey has been shelling Syrian Kurdish forces since the weekend, and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu blamed them for a bombing in Ankara that killed 28 people on Wednesday. ‘We are continuing to liberate our territory and it would go faster if it wasn’t for Turkey,’ Osman said. Russian warplanes are providing support for the Kurdish offensive, which is aimed at securing full control of the Turkish border, while Russia has also promised to support the Syrian Kurds’ goal of federal status, he said.
Even considering that no one is fit to be president – in that no one should be able to command a state, which rules by threatening and committing violence against innocents – Hillary Clinton is especially unfit. No one who has done what she has done as a government official should be rewarded with power. Many things in her career could impose this special disqualification. Her vote for George W. Bush’s criminal and lie-based Iraq war, for example, would be more than enough to rule her out. That political ambition now prompts her to express regret for her vote should count for nothing, especially in light of what is to be discussed below. When she says she learned her lesson, she lies. Likewise, her declaration of open-season on Syrian President Assad gave a boost to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates. But if no other horrors were on her record, one should be enough to bar her from office: Libya. It would be hard to find a better example of how one person can wreak havoc on a society and create far-ranging catastrophes beyond.
BERLIN – Containing the scourge of Islamist terror will be impossible without containing the ideology that drives it: Wahhabism, a messianic, jihad-extolling form of Sunni fundamentalism whose international expansion has been bankrolled by oil-rich sheikhdoms, especially Saudi Arabia. That is why the newly announced Saudi-led anti-terror coalition, the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism, should be viewed with profound skepticism. Wahhabism promotes, among other things, the subjugation of women and the death of ‘infidels.’ It is – to quote US President Barack Obama’s description of what motivated a married couple of Pakistani origin to carry out the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California – a ‘perverted interpretation of Islam,’ and the ideological mother of jihadist terrorism. Its offspring include Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and the Islamic State, all of which blend hostility toward non-Sunnis and anti-modern romanticism into nihilistic rage. Saudi Arabia has been bankrolling Islamist terrorism since the oil-price boom of the 1970s dramatically boosted the country’s wealth. According to a 2013 European Parliament report, some of the $10 billion invested by Saudi Arabia for ‘its Wahhabi agenda’ in South and Southeast Asia was ‘diverted’ to terrorist groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
The Republican wing of the War Party – and their Democratic doppelgangers – sure are having a field day over the San Bernardino massacre. At last they have a superficially plausible rationale for invading Syria and sticking Uncle Sam’s foot into yet another hopeless Middle Eastern quagmire – and they can cite poll numbers in favor of their half-baked war plans. And yet if we look at the facts of the San Bernardino case, there is absolutely zero evidence that ISIS was in any way involved in masterminding the murder spree of an American citizen and his Pakistani immigrant wife. We have this from no less an authority than the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Not only that, but Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik had been planning their terrorist spree long before ISIS became the latest fave rave on the jihadi hit parade. As the New York Times reports: ‘Syed Rizwan Farook, the man at the center of last week’s massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., might have plotted an attack as far back as 2012 with one of his longtime friends, senior law enforcement officials said Wednesday. In addition, the F. B. I. revealed Wednesday that Mr. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were discussing jihad and martyrdom online in 2013 before they were married and she came to the United States. ‘The new timeline suggests that the couple were considering violent action before the Islamic State rose to prominence in 2014 and began trying to inspire sympathizers to carry out attacks in the West.’ The jihadi version of Bonnie and Clyde were radicalized ‘quite a long time before their attack,’ Bloomberg News quotes FBI Director James Cromey as saying – and well before the rise of ISIS. Apparently the two were canoodling online well before their marriage, with the topic of discussion being the romance of martyrdom in the service of jihad. So even if we flattened Raqqa, and made it glow in the dark – as Ted Cruz wants to do – this would do exactly nothing to prevent future terrorist attacks. It would make a lot more sense to bomb San Bernardino – which is to say, no sense at all. And of course the same people who want us to occupy Syria in response to the San Bernardino attack are now screaming that the piddling ‘reforms’represented by the USA Freedom Act, which marginally reined in US spying on Americans, were responsible for the inability of law enforcement to nip the murder plot in the bud. Yet the new timeline we’re being presented with contradicts this scenario: Farook and his bride-to-be were planning this well before the Snowden revelations and the passage of the Freedom Act.
The bloody terrorist attacks in Paris had their genesis not only in the poor Muslim suburbs of France and Belgium, and on the battlefields of Syria, but also in NATO’s operation to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The Libyan strongman gave the West fair warning at the time that his ouster would give an enormous boost to radical jihadists. Because no one in power listened, thousands have died in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Mali and now France. Among the many extremist groups running wild in Libya today is the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh). Headquartered in the city of Sirte – the late Col. Gaddafi’s hometown on the central Mediterranean coast -the ISIS colony now hosts as many as 3,000 foreign fighters who enforce their iron rule over a 150-mile stretch of the country’s coast. ISIS also has a strong presence in northeastern Libya, around the towns of Derna and Benghazi. Since Gaddafi’s fall in 2011, Libya has exported thousands of its own extremists to support jihad in other countries. In Syria, one group of Libyan supporters of ISIS went by the name of Katibat al-Battar al Libi. One of its leaders was none other than Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected organizer of the recent Paris attacks. His connection to those Libyan fighters in Syria was first established back in January, before the killings in Paris, by Belgian researcher Pieter van Ostaeyen. On Jan. 15, Belgian police killed two members of the radical organization in the town of Verviers, where they were said to be planning a major terrorist attack.
In the wake of the ISIS terrorist attack on Paris, President Barack Obama declared that his administration has the right strategy on ISIS and will ‘see it through’. But the administration is already shifting its policy to cooperate more closely with the Russians on Syria, and an influential former senior intelligence official has suggested that the administration needs to give more weight to the Assad government and army as the main barrier to ISIS and other jihadist forces in Syria. Obama’s Europeans allies as well as US national security officials have urged the United State to downgrade the official US aim of achieving the departure of Bashar al-Assad from Syria in the international negotiations begun last month and continued last weekend. Such a shift in policy, however, would make the contradictions between the US interests and those of the Saudis, who continue to support jihadist forces fighting with al-Qaeda’s Syria branch, al-Nusra Front, increasingly clear. Russia had proposed to the United States in September that the United States and Russia share intelligence on ISIS and exchange military delegations to coordinate on joint steps against ISIS. The initial Obama administration response was to reject either intelligence sharing or joint planning with Russia on Syria out of hand. The reasoning was that the Russians were engaged primarily, if not exclusively, to shore up the Assad regime, which was unacceptable to Washington. Secretary of State John Kerry declared on 1 October: ‘What is important is Russia has to not be engaged in any activities against anybody but ISIL. That’s clear. We have made that very clear.’ But that was before Paris. The fallout from that attack has changed the political vectors pushing and pulling Obama administration policy. The most obvious shift came two days after the attacks and just hours after Obama announced new intelligence arrangements with France. CIA director John Brennan reversed the earlier US decision to reject intelligence sharing with Russia on Islamic State. Revealing that he had had several conversations with his Russian counterpart since the beginning of Russia’s air offensive in Syria, Brennan said the ISIS threat ‘demands’ an ‘unprecedented level of cooperation’ among international intelligence services. Brennan said he and his Russian counterpart had begun exchanging intelligence focused primarily on the flow of terrorists from Russia into Iraq and Syria but that now US-Russian cooperation needed to be ‘enhanced’.
Ankara knows perfectly well that the Russian Su-24 bomber did not violate Turkish airspace and by no means posed any threat to the country, geopolitical analyst and former World Bank economist Peter Koenig, pointing to the fact that Washington has demonstrated its solidarity with Turkey. Since the very beginning of the Russian military operation in Syria, Russia’s mission was absolutely clear to the international community: Moscow joined in response to the official request from Damascus to fight against terrorism as well as to protect the sovereignty of the Syrian nation. “Russia’s mission was clear to all the 19 nations which attended the G20 meeting some 10 days ago in Antalya, Turkey, when the entire group unanimously decided to cooperate in fighting the Islamic State (IS – or Daesh, according to its Arabic acronym),” geopolitical analyst and former World Bank economist Peter Koenig emphasizes in his recent piece for Global Research.
War is the great clarifier, and in the case of the battle against Islamist insurgents, including ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria, the downing of the Russian war plane by the Turkish military has demonstrated this principle quite dramatically. The US and its NATO allies, including Turkey, claim to be fighting ISIS, otherwise known as the ‘Islamic State,’ but the Turks’ main fire has beendirected at the Kurds and the Syrian regime itself. Turkey has been the main conduit for aid to the Islamic State, and the Turkish intelligence agency has long collaborated with Islamists in the region. The US, for its part, has attacked ISIS positions, and yet Washington’s insistence that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must go has undermined their ostensible goal of destroying the Islamic State: most of the Americans’ resources have gone into buttressing the ‘moderate’ Islamist opposition. These ‘moderates’ include, incredibly enough, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda, who have forged an alliance with US-backed rebels in a joint effort to overthrow Assad. On the other hand, the Russians have been unequivocal about their war aims: the elimination of the jihadists from Syrian territory. This has meant supporting the only viable alternative to jihadist rule: the Assad regime. Working in conjunction with government forces, Russian war planes have devastated jihadist positions and aided the Ba’athist regime in its effort to regain territory.
Judicial Watch has – for many years – obtained sensitive U. S. government documents through freedom of information requests and lawsuits. The government just produced documents to Judicial Watch in response to a freedom of information suit which show that the West has long supported ISIS. The documents were written by the U. S. Defense Intelligence Agency on August 12, 2012 … years before ISIS burst onto the world stage. Here are screenshots from the documents. We have highlighted the relevant parts in yellow: Why is this important? It shows that extreme Muslim terrorists – salafists, Muslims Brotherhood, and AQI (i.e. Al Qaeda in Iraq) – have always been the ‘major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.’ This verifies what the alternative media has been saying for years: therearen’t any moderate rebels in Syria (and see this, this and this).
November 2015 – UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations Security Council on Friday adopted a resolution, drafted by France, calling on countries around the world to take ‘all necessary measures’ to fight the Islamic State. The 15-to-0 vote came a week after the terrorist attacks in Paris, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility, and just hours after the deadly siege of a hotel in Bamako, the capital of Mali, by Islamic militants. The French ambassador, Franois Delattre, told the Security Council after the vote that the resolution ‘recognizes the exceptional nature of the Daesh threat,’ using an Arabic acronym for the group. Russia voted for the measure, which signaled a rare diplomatic convergence. For four years, Russia and the West have sparred over the war in Syria, with the Kremlin staunchly backing the government and Western powers backing the opposition. Russia has floated its own counterterrorism proposal, but it would require coordination with the governments of the affected countries – meaning, in Syria, the administration of President Bashar al-Assad. That idea is anathema to the West.
In the wake of the Paris atrocities, the murderous thugs that run the hellhole they style as the ‘Islamic State’ have now threatened to attackWashington and New York City. The threats appeared around the same time a fake Syrian passport surfaced near the body one of the suicide bombers who blew himself up outside the soccer stadium in Paris. This discovery has prompted 31 governors to say they do not want Syrian refugees to be located into their states. The House of Representatives also passed legislation aiming to block the arrival of Syrian refugees without more stringent vetting. Which brings us to the question of whether banning Syrian refugees is all that an effective way to protect Americans against terrorism. Earlier in the week, I wrote that not one single act of terrorism in the United States has been caused by a refugee. Let’s just say that my claim got some pushback. So let’s delve further into the data. Surprisingly, there is very little scholarly research on how refugees and terrorism might be related. The most relevant study is ‘No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Refugees, Humanitarian Aid, and Terrorism,’ published in the journal Conflict Management and Peace Sciencein 2013. In that article, two political scientists – Seung-Whan Choi of the University of Illinois and Idean Salehyan of the University of North Texas – look at terrorism data from 154 countries between 1970 and 2007. They found ‘evidence that countries with many refugees are more likely to experience both domestic and international terrorism.’ Alarming? Maybe not.