Sit back, relax, and enjoy the oil thriller – Pepe Escobar

RT
Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of “Globalistan” (2007), “Red Zone Blues” (2007), “Obama does Globalistan” (2009) and “Empire of Chaos” (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is “2030”, also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
UAE Finance Minister and Deputy Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum arrives with Saudi Arabia's Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf and Kuwait's Finance Minister Mustafa al-Shamali ahead of Gulf Central Bank Governors and finance ministers meeting in Abu Dhabi © Jumana El-Heloueh
The famous Hollywood adage – ‘nobody knows anything’ – seems to perfectly apply to the current turbulence in the oil market. So in an effort to clarify where the global oil economy is heading to, let’s engage in a Battle of the Oil Analysts.

Relying on these Oil Analysts (OA) does not necessarily mean you will be handed straightforward answers, but perhaps with some luck you will see a ray of light.

Saudi Arabia is saying that they are raising oil production to 12 million barrels a day. That’s highly debatable. Russia is saying that they can raise oil production to 13 million barrels a day. OA1 cuts to the chase: “Both are bluffing. Prices are still rising. That means no one believes them.”

OA2 kicks in, reminding that, “oil price is holding because of the 1.5 million barrels a day pulled off the market by a strike in Kuwait of about 10,000 workers. That cut their 3 million barrels a day production in half. Now they are going back to work. Yet the price of oil is still rising.”

I had explained before how the oil price was holding over $40.00 a barrel even with concerted Washington pressure over Saudi Arabia to keep it down. Then, OA3 had told me: “that’s because oil demand and supply is tightening.”

But then OA4 came up with a totally different outlook; the whole thing was about ‘The Big Long’, upon which I based my prediction of $45/$50 per barrel when I was in Tehran in November 2011 and the price was approaching $100 a barrel. The Saudis have been supporting the price and while they have plenty of capital to do so at high prices, storage is finite. Aligning with this, OA4 added that: “the market is about to crash, and is only being supported by the financial positions of the Saudi/GCC support operation, now unwinding.”

OA5, predictably, could not agree that the Saudis are supporting the market and about to let it collapse. He elaborated on how “hard it is to predict day-to-day prices. The only way you can know what is happening is to watch by satellite or surface observation the tankers coming out of each exporter, assume they are full, check their names to look up their capacity, and then add up what is leaving each exporter. What they say otherwise means nothing. There are services that do this that cost about $300,000 a year.”

OA6 kicked in with some perspective, explaining what happened in the middle of 2014: “The oil price started to crash with no visible increase in production. The deduction had to be that the surplus in the Gulf – which was the only place where there was a surplus – was being dumped in the market by the Gulf States, under orders from Washington. And this fit geopolitically with the uprising in Kiev as a replay of Afghanistan.”

If there is a consensus amongst most OAs, it is that Saudi Arabia is hurting. OA7 says he’s been “watching the markets, and a lot of this static comes from Iran trying to break into the market. The Gulf States are trying to prevent that as much as possible and trying to cut Iran’s throat.

However, I do not see overall that the situation is deteriorating. Such a severe drop in price restrains production. The amount of excess was not more than about 5 percent of the market; not 20 per cent, as in 1985. It has to be tight now based on macro-logic and that is why a famous Goldman Sachs former trader who picked the collapse is not massively buying.”

Still confused? You should be. Because now another variable kicks in – the rise of US  gasoline demand. OA8 has a fine take on the matter: “I was expecting this in the second quarter, not now. We should be over fifty to sixty dollars a barrel then. Fundamentals always prevail in the end.”

The $2 trillion game

So a credible scenario seems to be a world not exactly awash in crude oil, and with the price of a barrel going up soon. And right at this juncture we find China’s CNPC making a play to become a major shareholder of Rosneft – Russia’s top oil producer, which plans to sell 19.5 percent of its shares.

Predictably, US analysts don’t seem to understand why Rosneft may become a top Russia/Chinese-owned corporation. This has nothing to do with selling oil assets when prices are down; Rosneft shares are doing fine, by the way. It’s about the energy/financial consolidation of the Russia-China strategic partnership – from Pipelineistan (those massive, $300 billion gas deals clinched in 2014) to the close connection of Moscow and Shanghai stock exchanges. Translation: all these sophisticated moves further bypass the US dollar.

Oil, in this complex equation, is just one component. For instance, the Ministry of Economic Development in Moscow works with two basic hypotheses: best case at $40 a barrel, and worst case at $25 a barrel. It is duly preparing for both.

And now comes what could be a potential game-changer: the House of Saud’s “vision” for a  post-oil economy.

These are the basics, as announced by Warrior Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 30, the conductor of the – illegal – war on Yemen that is overflowing with “collateral damage”. Saudi Arabia’s power stems from its possession of Mecca and Medina, and geostrategic “Arab and Muslim depth”; it’s central to global trade, with 30 percent passing through the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf; and the future lies in the creation of a $2 trillion sovereign wealth fund, coming from the sale of 5 percent of shares in Aramco, the number one oil company on the planet.

Riyadh, we got a problem. Assuming that Aramco’s partial IPO will yield that astonishing $2 trillion, and these funds are invested all across the West, Saudi Arabia could collect around $100 billion a year. Not much; in fact, only 1/6 of Saudi Arabia’s GDP in 2015 ($653 billion, of which 70 percent come from oil exports). In a nutshell: this plan will not deliver Saudi Arabia a viable post-oil economy.

As if this was not enough, the oil hacienda is currently invested in two expensive wars – in Yemen (directly) and Syria (indirectly). Crucial: the Warrior Prince de facto conducts both. Moreover, the House of Saud will continue to buy spectacularly costly weapons from the usual suspects – the US, UK and France – like there’s no tomorrow.

Back to our OAs. OA8 says that the Saudis under the Warrior Prince made a major mistake:

“They have now antagonized the Russians and the Americans. Brennan wants their blood no matter what he says as he thinks of them as terrorists. Also, he believes that they have nuclear tipped missiles from Pakistan. The US cannot reconcile themselves to this.”

Moscow, on the other hand, wants friendly relations with Riyadh, but there’s a perception Russia was betrayed at Doha (cutting oil production was a done deal until the Warrior Prince scuttled it on the very day of the signing.)

Which brings us to OA9:

The self-inflicted wound of cutting the oil price by the Saudis for market share is foolish. The time now is to conserve oil and refrain from selling it, awaiting the tripling of the Chinese economy with the Belt and Road plan. Demand in five or ten years would be massive and oil will be then near $200 a barrel.”

So, in the end, our oil thriller will be all about China; Beijing will need to buy all the energy it needs to pursue the completion of the New Silk Roads. Meanwhile, the House of Saud faces a stark choice. Its “post-oil economy” plan will fail, as others before failed. The Warrior Prince must decide which of the superpowers to ally with. If he thinks he can pull it off all by himself, there’s a cab driver gig waiting for him in London. If he can make it to Heathrow in one piece.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

New Armenia Protests, Same US-Backed Mobs

April 27, 2016 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – Another day, another protest in Armenia. And if we were to simply believe the Western media regarding this ‘other protest,’ we might get the impression that the Armenian people are upset with Russian policy and “Putinism.” In reality, the protests are led by the same verified US-proxies exposed at the height of the “Electric Yerevan” protests mid-2015 which sought to undermine and overthrow the current government of Armenia in favor of a pro-Western political front more to Wall Street, London, and Brussels’ liking.

Image: Davit Sanasaryan (sometimes spelled “David” and “Sanasarian”) hasn’t found a US-engineered protest he hasn’t felt compelled to join. He eagerly takes US cash to undermine the stability of his native Armenia, just like US proxies do worldwide. 

The International Business Times in their article, “Armenia-Russia Ties Under Question Amid Fighting, Anti-Moscow Protests,” would report regarding the recent protests that:

At a recent thousand-strong demonstration in the capital of Armenia, Davit Sanasaryan took out a couple of eggs and threw them at the Russian Embassy. 

The gesture provoked both ridicule and approval in this small landlocked country that traditionally values very close ties with its large northern neighbor. “Our protests are not against Russia but against Russian policy and Putinism,” activist and politician Sanasaryan said in an interview with International Business Times last week.

Davit Sanasaryan (also spelled “David Sanasaryan”), among other things, is an opposition politician with the Heritage Party who helped lead the previous US-backed “Electric Yerevan protests in mid-2015. He is also an associate of the Armenian-based National Citizens’ Initiative (NCI), revealed in the NCI’s own news bulletin titled, “NCI Focuses on Armenia’s Mining Sector,” which reports (emphasis added):

NCI associate Davit Sanasarian welcomed the audience with opening remarks. “The exploitation of the Teghut mine is an actual matter and it calls for serious discussions and proper suggestions prior to the undertaking of this project,” he said.

This bulletin alone seems innocuous enough, however, another NCI bulletin would reveal itself to be coordinating with and receiving aid from the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The bulletin titled, “NCI Partakes in a Civil Society Meeting,” states (emphasis added):

The National Citizens’ Initiative (NCI) representatives attended, between 14 and 15 April 2011, the conference entitled “Assisting Armenia’s Civil Society Organizations.” This event was an initiative of the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD) organization and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Yerevan Office, and it was organized with the assistance of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). 

The objective of the conference was to contribute in developing the capacity of Armenia’s civil society organizations by way of cooperation and exchange of know-how with Central and Eastern European civil society associations.

Of course, considering that the US NED is chaired by pro-war corporate-financier representatives, “developing the capacity of civil society organizations” in Armenia was not actually on the agenda. Instead, creating a proxy front with which to control Armenia on behalf of foreign interests was, merely couched behind “civil society.” Sanasarian’s “association” with the NCI in this context, is troubling to say the least.

But Sanasarian’s association with the US NED extends far beyond this. He is also on the board of trustees of the Armenian Institute of International and Security Affairs (AIISA), an alleged think-tank thatis directly funded by the US NED. His position on the board of trustees is revealed in an AIISA bulletin titled, “AIISA’s Third Evening DemSchool: “Challenges to Democracy,”” which claims:

In partnership with the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the third 11-day evening DemSchool was launched at the Armenian Institute of International and Security Affairs with “Challenges to Democracy” heading.

It also stated:

Certificate award ceremony was held on the DemSchool 11th day. David Sanasaryan, member of AIISA Board of Trustees, young politician and activist, also participated in it. 

Added to this, is Sanasarian’s role in the US-backed 2015 protests. It was revealed in mid-2015 that the so-called “Electric Yerevan” protests were in fact led entirely by US-funded and directed nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Sanasarian’s involvement then, again implicates him in coordinating with and receiving aid from a foreign government in a bid to undermine his own government. At the time, US State Department-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) would report in its article, “Armenians Say They’ll Restart ‘Electric Yerevan’ Protest,” that:

At a Yerevan rally attended by several hundred activists on July 17, Rise Armenia leader and opposition Heritage party city councilor Davit Sanasarian said a new campaign against the electricity price hikes would take place from July 27 to July 31, with demonstrators blocking the central streets of Yerevan and other cities around the country. 

“We continue our fight. We will be distributing leaflets from door to door,” Sanasarian said. “We will be successful.”

RFE/RL would inadvertently admit that the protesters were simply using electricity prices as a pretext to come out into the streets and that their next move would be of a more political nature, targeting Armenia’s sitting government. In other words, it was a US-funded color revolution couched behind legitimate concerns regarding utility prices.

Image: Considering the US cash and support behind the leaders of this so-called “protest,” it might as well have been a delegation from the US State Department itself out on the streets of Armenia’s capital, Yerevan.

Considering these extensive ties to US-backing, Sanasarian’s role leading the current anti-Russian protests portrays him not as a ‘politician’ or an ‘activist,’ but as a foreign-funded proxy, and the protests themselves as foreign-engineered meddling, not legitimate dissent. Claims that he is fighting against Russian influence, while all along he is serving as a conduit for Wall Street, London, and Brusssels’ influence touches upon the sort of hypocrisy seen again and again amid engineered protests targeting the many enemies of Western hegemony worldwide.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.

1 killed, 23 injured, explosion rocks police headquarters in Gaziantep, Turkey (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

Published time: 1 May, 2016 06:42
Police officers inspect the scene after an explosion in front of the city's police headquarters in Gaziantep, Turkey May 1, 2016. © Murad Sezer
At least one police officer has been killed after a bomb exploded near a police headquarters in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, according to the city’s governor. At least 23 people have reportedly been injured in the blast.

Footage from the broadcaster Haberturk showed pieces of a wrecked vehicle near the gates of the station. Glass from windows in buildings in the vicinity have also been shattered, while all roads in the area have been closed for security purposes.

 The governor of Gaziantep Ali Yerlikaya said that a law enforcement officer had been killed in the bomb blast. He added that at least 19 police officers and four civilians had been injured.

Police sources confirmed that an explosion rocked the police building and added the explosion was felt all over the city. There were also media reports of gunfire in the area after the bomb exploded.

It is understood that a car bomb detonated just outside the police headquarters, Cumhuriyet reports, while there were media reports of gunfire in the area after the bomb exploded.

The police station is close to a number of government office buildings including those of the governor and the mayor. The area is normally full of people, but was empty early on Sunday morning, according to AP. The International Labor Day demonstrations in the city were cancelled due to the potential security threat, the Dogan news agency reports.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Gaziantep is located in the south of Turkey near the border with Syria, which is controlled by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) forces. Since the emergence of the terror group in the summer of 2014, Gaziantep has been used as a stopping off point for numerous foreign jihadists looking to join up with IS in Syria.

In April, the Turkish authorities detained two alleged IS members in Gaziantep. It was believed the pair was planning suicide-bombing attacks in Gaziantep and other Turkish cities, according to the governor’s office.

Russia Intercepts Another US Plane Flying Near Its Territory

[ Ed. note – This latest intercept, over the Baltic Sea, comes after:

  • the intercept of a US spy plane near Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula on April 21
  • an earlier intercept over the Baltic Sea, on or about April 18
  • the buzzing of the USS Donald Cook, also in the Baltic, on April 12

Intercepts are common, almost routine, but of course these come at a time of heightened tensions, with the US accusing Russia of carrying them out in an “unsafe” manner. At the same time, violence in the Syrian city of Aleppo has ramped up dramatically, with some 200 civilians killed in the past week, this occurring–probably not coincidentally–at the same time as the US has announced it will send some 250 additional ground forces into the country. Meanwhile, the US has rejected a call by Russia for Al-Qaeda-allied rebel groups in Syria to be designated as terrorists. Is all this a prelude to a US ground war in Syria in an effort to topple President Bashar Assad? If it is, we could be on the threshold of World War III.

A passage from an article posted Thursday at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is worth taking note of here. Keep in mind what you’re reading is US government propaganda, so you sort of have to read and dissect between the lines:

Earlier in the year, a coalition of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) troops, Hizballah fighters, and Iraqi Shi’ite militias fought side by side with the Syrian military to break the battle lines of the anti-Assad rebels who have held northern Syria for years. IS took full advantage of this situation and launched its own offensive, capturing large amounts of territory as its fighters pushed west from their strongholds and north toward the Turkish border. Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters to the west also launched an offensive against the struggling anti-Assad rebels, and a small group of those rebels are now trapped.

The rebels in the area east of Azaz had been making gains against IS in early April, but by the middle of the month that progress had now been reversed. While it’s dangerous to ever take the word of jihadist propaganda as truth, the presence of the A-10 in this area would suggest that the United States is providing close air support for the anti-Assad rebels as they push back against IS — a level of coordination between the United States and local ground forces typically reserved for Iraq or eastern Syria.

If the United States is conducting air strikes against IS, and in support of anti-Assad rebels, it may be an attempt to protect the Turkish border and reassure a frustrated NATO ally. However, IS is still making gains. On April 27, there were reports that IS had captured five rebel-held villages, including Dudyan, west of Al-Rai and right on the Turkish border. IS is now close to closing off and destroying the anti-Assad rebels who are defending their most important border crossing — and the only one they still control in northern Aleppo.

What the writer seems to be doing is presenting a justification–or at least it could be construed as that–for  an expanded US military role in Syria. If the Syrian government and its allies had simply left the poor “struggling anti-Assad rebels” alone, and allowed them to continue occupying Aleppo and terrorizing the local population, then none of these terrible things would be happening–this is more or less what we’re being told here, and the article also seems to ply the well-worn talking point that Assad is a “magnet” for jihadists and the that only way to bring peace to the region is by overthrowing him and setting up a “democratic” and pro-Western government in his place.

Just close your eyes, click your heels together three times, and repeat, “It’s all about democracy…” Whether it’s setting up NATO bases on Russia’s border, overthrowing the government of Syria, or sending reconnaissance flights out over the Baltic with their transponders off, just remember–“it’s all about democracy…it’s all about democracy…” ]

***

‘Stay Away from Russian Borders or Keep Transponders on’: Russian Ministry of Defense

RT

Russian Defense Ministry suggests US surveillance planes should either keep their distance from Russian borders while performing flights over the Baltic Sea, or at least keep aerial transponders switched on for identification.

There are two solutions for the US Air Force [operating in the Baltic Sea]: either do not fly near our borders, or turn on transponders for automatic identification by our radars,” Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in an official statement on Saturday.

The statement comes after a Russian fighter jet intercepted a US surveillance plane, which was spotted in international airspace above the Baltic Sea on Friday with the transponder switched off.

The RC-135U reconnaissance plane is frequently trying to sneak up to the Russian border with the transponder off. Our anti-aircraft defense has to order our fighters off the ground simply to visually identify the type of aircraft and its ID number,” Konashenkov explained.

A Russian Sukhoi Su-27 performed a barrel roll within 25 feet from the US plane, with the Pentagon describing the move as “dangerous” and “unprofessional.”

We are already starting to get used to insults coming from the Pentagon regarding the alleged “unprofessional” maneuvers when our fighters intercept the US spy planes near Russian borders.

Yet, all flights of Russian aircraft are held in accordance with international regulations on the use of airspace,” Konashenkov states, adding that another reconnaissance aircraft  Boeing OC-135B – has landed in Ulan-Ude earlier on Saturday under an international “Treaty on Open Skies,”  and “no one raised the fighters to identify it.

Fifteen days prior to this latest incident, on April 14, another Su-27 fighter jet conducted a barrel roll over another US reconnaissance plane, and between April 11 and 12, the USS Donald Cook ship was flown over by Su-24 fighter jets, with the Pentagon releasing footage.

The deputy head of Russia’s Upper House committee for defense and security Frants Klintsevich commented on the frenzy over the latest incidents in Baltic airspace, saying the fizzbuzz has a clear goal – to put a smokescreen for NATO plans to deploy additional troops in Eastern Europe.

It is now completely clear why the United States needed a hype around the interception of the US spy plane over the Baltic Sea and the incident with the destroyer Donald Cook.

It was to prepare the information space for deploying four additional NATO battalions to the Baltic region […] On the tip from US, the North Atlantic alliance continues its strategy of encircling Russia,” Klintsevich said, as quoted by his press service. He also noted that the turmoil began immediately after the latest Russia-NATO Council meeting, throwing into question the expediency of such gatherings.

Moscow has been unhappy with the NATO military buildup on Russia’s borders for some time now, with Russia’s envoy to NATO Aleksandr Grushko stating that Moscow would definitely compensate militarily for an “absolutely unjustified military presence.

According to the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, the permanent presence of large NATO formations at the Russian border is banned. Yet some voices in Brussels are saying that since the NATO troops stationed next to Russia are going to rotate, this kind of military buildup cannot be regarded as a permanent presence.

What’s Behind Saudi Arabia’s Claim To Have Killed 800 Terrorists In Yemen?

saudi_arabia_military

By Brandon Turbeville

As Saudi war crimes and crimes against humanity continue apace in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is now apparently attempting to gain public support and better reception from the viewing audience by painting itself as an enemy of al-Qaeda and ISIS, despite the fact that the feudal monarchy’s reputation for supporting these very same terror organizations has been documented time and again. From Syria and Libya to Yemen, Saudi Arabia has proven itself repeatedly as a funder, organizer, and supporter of ISIS and al-Qaeda while, at home, it has demonstrated that its own government and ISIS are more alike than they are different.

Still, Saudi Arabia is attempting to show that it is, in fact, the enemy of al-Qaeda by issuing claims that the Saudi “coalition” in Yemen has recently fought a large-scale battle against the terror organization and that it was able to capture the city of Mukalla after killing around 800 terrorists.

As AFP reports,

Yemeni troops backed by Arab coalition air strikes killed more than 800 members of al-Qaida in an attack on a southeastern provincial capital held by the group for the past year, the coalition said Monday.

Pro-government forces recaptured an oil terminal as well as the city of Mukalla, which was considered a jihadist stronghold, military sources said.

“The operation resulted… in the death of more than 800 al-Qaida members and some of their leaders,while some others fled,” Arab coalition commanders said in a statement published by SPA, the official Saudi news agency.

AFP notes, however, that the death toll cannot be independently verified and pointed out that no civilian deaths were reported. This latter detail is most questionable to say the least.

What is interesting is that the alleged operation is part of another alleged operation “aimed at securing parts of the country captured by jihadist militants who have exploited a 13-month war between Gulf-backed loyalists and rebels supported by Iran.” The operation itself takes place alongside the UN-brokered ceasefire was enacted on April 11 where jihadist groups are excluded.

What is even more interesting, however, is the description provided by “military officer” sources quoted by the AFP as to the nature of the battle for Mukalla.

As AFP reports,

“We entered the city centre (of Mukalla) and were met by no resistance from Al-Qaeda militants who withdrew west” towards the vast desert in Hadramawt and Shabwa provinces, a military officer told AFP by phone from the city the jihadists seized last April.”

The officer, who requested anonymity, said residents of Mukalla, home to an estimated 200,000 people, had appealed to the jihadists to spare the city the destruction of fighting and to withdraw. Yemeni military sources said Emirati military vehicles were used in the operation and that troops from the Gulf country, a key member of the Saudi-led coalition, were among the forces that entered Mukalla.

AFP could not immediately confirm these reports from officials in the United Arab Emirates.

While it was reported that the coalition members had conducted airstrikes against “AQAP positions” in Yemen, it is important to note that coalition forces admittedly met no resistance when entering Mukalla. Putting aside the fact that the Yemeni people would scarcely be able to tell the difference between AQAP and Saudi Arabian control of their country to begin with, at what point did the Saudis kill 800 AQAP members? Was it in the alleged and unconfirmed airstrikes which apparently kill only terrorists but no civilians?

Is it not extremely convenient that Saudi forces would bomb Yemen back into the Stone Age, allow AQAP to gain vast amounts of territory against Houthi, rebel, and government forces in the process and then retake it from them “without any resistance” shortly after a ceasefire agreement is made that does not include AQAP?

Was the Saudi bombing merely an act of death squad herding or was the Saudi bombing never aimed at AQAP at all? Were the casualties actually civilians simply labeled as terrorists for propaganda purposes? Was there actually a bombing campaign?

What kind of military operation kills 800 militants while, at the same time, faces no resistance from those militants?

All of these questions are relevant and must be asked of any reports suggesting Saudi military action against AQAP in Yemen. While it is impossible to draw concrete conclusions based on the reports currently circulating throughout Western media, considering the nature of the Saudi involvement and their history of supporting terrorism across the world, one must question their motives as well as any claims made by the Saudi government.

Al-Mukalla is a strategic city in the Abyan Governate, a very important territorial gain since it provides access to the coast.

Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 andvolume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, and The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President. Turbeville has published over 650 articles on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s radio show Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV. His website is BrandonTurbeville.com He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.

This article may be freely shared in part or in full with author attribution and source link.

Like israel’s IDF: US Military Investigates And Finds Itself Not Guilty Of War Crimes

Like The IDF: US Military Investigates And Finds Itself Not Guilty Of War Crimes

U.S. Military Investigates And Finds Itself Not Guilty Of War Crimes In Afghan Hospital Bombing

Courtesy of Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres

 

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said on Friday that its attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last October was not a war crime because the attack was not intentional. The military released a redacted 3,000-page internal investigation into the deadly bombing, which destroyed the only free trauma center of its kind in the country’s northern region and killed 42 patients, staffers and caretakers.

“The label ‘war crimes’ is typically reserved for intentional acts,” Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, said on Friday. “The investigation found that the tragic incident resulted from a combination of unintentional human errors and equipment failures, and that none of the personnel knew that they were striking a medical facility.”

Votel specifically cited battlefield fatigue, following several consecutive days of fighting after Taliban forces had taken over the strategic city of Kunduz, and technological issues, which compromised the AC-130 gunship’s GPS sensors and video transmitters used to locate targets. A combination of these factors, he said, led U.S. troops to repeatedly bomb the hospital instead of their intended target, a building 400 meters away.

The military said it punished 16 unnamed service members for mistakes that led to the airstrikes that destroyed most of the hospital. Five of the 16 individuals were removed from Afghanistan. Other disciplinary action included suspension and removal from command, letters of reprimand, counseling, and retraining.

Doctors Without Borders slammed the “administrative punishments” as “out of proportion to the destruction of a protected medical facility, the deaths of 42 people, the wounding of dozens of others, and the total loss of vital medical services to hundreds of thousands of people.”

“The lack of meaningful accountability sends a worrying signal to warring parties, and is unlikely to act as a deterrent against future violations of the rules of war,” the medical humanitarian agency said in a statement shortly after the Pentagon’s announcement.

Medecins Sans Frontieres via Associated Press
The Doctors Without Borders trauma center was in flames after U.S. airstrikes hit it on Oct. 3, 2015.

Since the October attack, the military has taken steps to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future, said Votel. They gave the leadership of Doctors Without Borders — also known as Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF — better contact information to reach U.S. forces, provided 9,000 personnel with additional training on the rules of engagement, and moved to pre-load aircraft computers with the no-strike list, which included the Kunduz hospital. (The AC-130 crew involved in the October attack didn’t have the list, due to an early takeoff.)

Throughout the press briefing on Friday, Votel repeatedly emphasized that the U.S. did not intentionally bomb the Doctors Without Borders facility — possibly an effort to quash rumors circling in Afghanistan that the military knowingly targeted the hospital because some of the patients there were Taliban soldiers.

But intent is not the only consideration in determining whether a military attack is within the laws of war. International law also prohibits “recklessly” launching attacks.

“Under laws of war,  you have to take feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians,” Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International’s Security With Human Rights program, told The WorldPost. “They have acknowledged all of these mistakes — that there were so many things they could have done to prevent this from happening,” she continued. “Twenty-nine minutes of bombing a hospital and no one notices that the wrong building is being bombed — if that’s not recklessness, I don’t know what is.”

The Pentagon’s investigation leaves unanswered several questions about what happened during the Oct. 3, 2015, attack and why it took the military so long to realize its mistake.

In November, Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told reporters that the military realized its mistake less than a half hour into the bombing, after receiving a phone call from Doctors Without Borders, and halted the attack. But the humanitarian agency, which compiled a detailed log of phone calls made during the airstrikes, has said the bombing dragged on for at least an hour, despite multiple calls to U.S. and Afghan contacts. Surviving patients, staffers present that night and local Kunduz residents confirmed the agency’s timeline in interviews with The WorldPost.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières

Doctors Without Borders, which accepts patients from all warring sides but prohibits them from bringing weapons inside its facilities, said it was treating about 20 Taliban patients at the time of the attack.

Some Afghan government officials defended the attack, which only added to speculation that Afghan forces had intended for the U.S. troops to hit the hospital and its Taliban patients.

“That was a time of fighting — some things happen,” Hamdullah Danishi, acting governor of Kunduz, told The WorldPost in February. “I know the Taliban. They are using everywhere as bases. I cannot say if [the hospital] was a military base or not. But they were there, 100 percent.”

President Barack Obama and the U.S. military have ignored repeated calls from Doctors Without Borders for an outside investigation into the attack, which the organization has described as a war crime. Gen. Campbell told reporters in November that the U.S. investigation, as well as a NATO and joint U.S.-Afghan assessment, would provide a “thorough and unbiased inquiry.”

Gen. Votel said on Friday that the officers who conducted the investigation visited the site of the attack in Afghanistan and interviewed more than 65 witnesses. Those officers were selected, he said, because they came from assignments outside Afghanistan and could provide an “objective and independent perspective.”

But Shah, of Amnesty International, rejected the idea that an internal military investigation could produce unbiased results. “We can’t trust an investigation by the U.S. military because you should never ask an entity to just merely police itself,” she said.

The military has allocated $5.7 million to rebuild that hospital and made “condolence payments” to Afghans directly affected by the strikes, Votel said Friday. Over 170 such payments have been made, he said, in sums of $3,000 for those wounded in the attack and $6,000 to families of those killed.

Recipients of condolence payments have told The WorldPost they received similar amounts. One father, who watched in horror as his 9-year-old daughter burned alive in her hospital bed during the attack, said the cash was hardly enough to replace his dead child.

Sophia Jones/The WorldPost
Abdel Qadir, a father of eight who survived the U.S. attack on the Kunduz hospital, holds up an undated picture of his daughter Amina, who burned to death that day. He asked that his face not be shown, out of fear of the Taliban.

Doctors Without Borders has said it does not plan to rebuild or reopen the Kunduz hospital until all warring parties will ensure the safety of its staffers and patients. “We need assurances that we can work according to our core principles and international law,” a spokesperson for the group told The WorldPost last month. “Namely that we can safely treat all people in need, no matter who they are or for which side they fight.”

Without the 92-bed medical clinic in Kunduz that treated Afghans for free, people in need of emergency care in northern Afghanistan are forced to choose between local medical care that many residents say they can’t afford or is unreliable, or risk the hours-long haul to Kabul. There, the Italian-run Emergency hospital treats war-wounded for free. For patients who have lost limbs in mine explosions or suffered critical injuries in firefights, those 200 or so miles from Kunduz to Kabul could be the difference between life and death.

Jessica Schulberg reported from Washington and Sophia Jones reported from Istanbul.

For most israelis, Palestinian lives don’t matter

For most Israelis, Palestinian lives don’t matter

A 24-year-old Palestinian and her teenage brother were shot and killed by Israeli troops after allegedly trying to stab Border Police officers. The police’s version of the events doesn’t add up, but nobody in Israel, including the media, feels the need to ask questions. 

Qalandia checkpoint, where X and her 16-year-old brother Y were killed on Wednesday. (Activestills)

Qalandia checkpoint, where Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail and her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim Salah Taha were killed on Wednesday. (Activestills)

The facts are still unclear, in fact very unclear: the exact number of knives found, the number of bullets shot, the number of meters distance, why exactly they were there. But even if we accept Israel Police’s highly terse account of the events, we are still left with a bottom line: Two Palestinians, Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail, 24, and her younger brother Ibrahim Salah Taha, 16, were shot and killed on the spot by Israeli forces at the Qalandiya checkpoint on Wednesday, while posing no immediate threat to anyone. Even if we accept the police version that the woman attempted to stab them, there is still no justification for shooting the teenager, who the police themselves claim was not brandishing a weapon or close enough to present a threat.

We also know that Israeli mainstream media barely covered the story, didn’t send any reporters to gather eyewitness testimonies and didn’t speak to any Palestinians. A Haaretz report mentions that Palestinians claim that “Israeli forces fired numerous bullets at the two and prevented medics from treating them.” Of course, whether and when medics were able to treat the victims shouldn’t be a matter of Palestinian claims. There are plenty of cameras at what is the busiest checkpoint in the West Bank, there is video footage, probably from several angles. The footage should clarify this, and other aspects that are not a matter of opinion. But Israel Police has not yet released any footage. According to a report in Local Call, police have in the past been quick to release video footage – when it corroborates their version of the events

According to Israel Police spokesperson Luba al-Samri, two suspects – a woman and a youth – approached the vehicular path (instead of the pedestrian path) leading through the military checkpoint and walked towards Border Police officers stationed there, the woman with her hand in her bag and the youth with his hands behind his back. Officers ordered them to halt several times and they began to turn back before the woman threw a knife at an officer. Police and security guards then shot the two, killing them both. The police didn’t specify this but most reports cite that the siblings were 20 meters away from the forces, and they were positioned inside a cement sentry box.

These events didn’t even make it into the evening news in Israel Wednesday night. Except for Joint List MK Dov Khenin, no Israeli politician has expressed dismay or called on the police to release the footage or open an investigation. There hasn’t been any questioning of what the hell happened there. Rather, there has been deafening silence. It’s almost as if it didn’t happen.

There have been numerous similar incidents over the last half a year where Israel has justified the shooting of Palestinian assailants or alleged assailants and Palestinians have insisted it was murder in cold blood.

But this incident, whose factual information still needs to be exposed and reported, strikes me as unique due particularly to the way it was (not) covered in Israeli media and the fact that it was such a brief story that just disappeared.

It’s no surprise that most Israelis generally take the authorities’ version of events at face value, but this time the version of the events isn’t even convincing. And yet no one feels the need to ask questions. No one cares that a 16-year-old kid was shot dead without cause. In the Israeli narrative, the facts don’t seem to make a difference anymore (maybe they never did).

As the incident of IDF soldier Elor Azaria executing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in Hebron demonstrated, even when there is clear documentation of a crime – in that case an execution in broad daylight – there is still a groundswell of Israeli support for the army and state authorities that finds a way around the facts. As Orly Noy pointed out at the time

The number of people who are willing to justify the murder without batting an eyelash is stunning. Our collective moral compass has become so fundamentally twisted that even the most decent of people, those who are not considered extremists, believe that there is nothing wrong with shooting a man as he lies dying on the ground, while finding any way to excuse the act — including claiming that the Palestinian may have been armed with a suicide belt.

In that case, the facts were played around with a little to justify the soldier’s actions, but in the case in Qalandiya on Wednesday, there doesn’t even seem to be a bending of the facts. There is no need to try and justify anything. It doesn’t even matter anymore what exactly happened. In the permanent situation of occupier and occupied, oppressor and resistant, it’s just par for the course

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